And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

He's a saa-aad Batman...The day I discovered NOVA’s The Elegant Universe was a grand day at around this old Batcave o’ mine. I rejoiced that physicists had finally figured out what we comic book nerds have known for over fifty years: our world is but one of an infinity of universes, operating on parallel levels of what we so blithely call reality. Bully for you, Science. Welcome to the party.

As with so much else, superheroes had a large part in popularizing what was once the esoteric pipe dream of clever sci-fi authors. The Justice League first met their “evil” dopplegangers, the Crime Syndicate of America, back in 1964. And while those original Silver Age comics have…shall we say…mellowed…in their old age, I still respect the CSA’s original motivation for jumping dimensions: sheer boredom at the ease with which they’d conquered their own world. (with the exception of one Alexander “Lex” Luthor). The Justice League cartoon series updated and expanded up this plot to great effect in its second season two-parter “A Better World.” And while this Justice League cartoon was originally meant to be a transition into the series’ third season, life, and a tight production schedule, intervened. It still works as such, but feels oddly out of place coming so far down stream, after I (for one) thought Warner’s Animation department had run this idea into the ground. {More}

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Superman Returns (2006)

"Nope, sorry. We're full up on codpieces today. Some other time."I’ve never been happy with the Man of Steel’s celluloid incarnations for the same reason cited by all the comics industry pros: the damn Boy Scout is a real chore to write, and a stone cold bitch to write well. Years of previous (mis)conceptions about just who and what he is don’t help at all. Neither does the fact that his world (by which I mean this world, of the 1930s) has moved on.

First there’s the Conflict Problem, both Internal and External. Superman’s external conflicts are often hilariously one-sided, while his internal ones have none of Batman’s brooding insanity, none of Peter Parker’s conflicting loyalties…he can’t even match Tony Stark’s problem with intimacy, since it’s not like Supes doesn’t have plenty of opportunities to get some. He appears, or is often written to appear, as a whole and hearty individual in-and-of himself, apart and above the other tortured souls populating his multiverse. And that seems to be okay for everyone involved with creating his adventures, including Bryan Singer. {More}



Justice League (2001)

Strike a pose.The Justice League of America, in its most rarefied form, represents a powerhouse of D.C. comics heaviest hitters, originally created as a marketing gimmick in 1960 by that great creator of gimmicks and Godhead of the silver age, the comics writer Gardner Fox. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

With the success The Batman/Superman Adventures in the late ’90s, and the continued dumbing down of Batman Beyond, the production team of Rich Fogel, Bruce Timm, and Paul Dini set to do the Next Logical Thing: get the fuck off the WB (sure didn’t do Buffy any harm) and throw wide the golden gates of their superhero universe. After all, if two heroes could make such a splash in the admittedly-small pond of American-produced superhero animation, think of what seven might do for the network lucky enough to carry it? {More}



Supergirl (1984)

"I just don't know...you sure you're not staring at my 'S'?"Both comic book and movie begin with Argo City, a civic center blown free from the planet Krypton with its gravity and atmosphere completely intact (take that, laws of physics). I’m gonna out on a limb and assume that the Action Comics team threw in a few pictures with this story. Not so here. Opening with a “bang” is one of the first things to go out the window, despite this film’s nominal connection with the wider Superman franchise. After all, why show us something we can just talk about it? And have Peter O’Toole stand around, waving his magic wand?

O’Toole is Zaltar, Argo City’s apparent savior. See, in this version of the story, Krypton’s death blasted Argo into a funky, negative universe called “innerspace” (narrated by William Shatner). Zaltar’s the guy who figured out how to keep the air in and everyone’s feet on the ground. How? Magic of course, with a little help from the film’s McGuffin: a shinny pokeball, “the omegahedron.”

More than a miniature Unicron, the omegahedron can “create the illusion of life,” power the entire city, provide oxygen and (we assume) nourishment for its numerous inhabitants, and do all of this from the palm of Peter O’Toole’s hand.

Wait. What is this thing (so vital to the city’s basic survival) doing in the palm of Zaltar’s hand, anyway? Oh, he “borrowed” it. I see. Wonderful. This can only end well. {More}