“THIS ISN’T YOUR DAD’S TEEN TITANS! Or, um, your kids’ Teen Titans.”

§ July 20th, 2018 § Filed under dc comics, teen titans, television § 5 Comments

So that surprising f-bomb in the Titans trailer had its intended effect — it’s got everyone talking about the TV show, and the DC Universe streaming service where it will debut soon. I mean, I’m not innocent, I had a couple of laughs (NSFW) about it, so DC got themselves almost Todd-McFarlane-buying-baseballs-levels of free publicity. (It also brought out the usual fellas who object every time a person who isn’t white and/or male is cast in anything.)

Now, I mean despite all that, it looks…you know, at least CW-levels of good (which I realize for some folks isn’t saying much). It does seem awfully dark-ish and gritty-ish at a time when it sort of looks like DC is at least trying to back away from that sort of thing in their media adaptations, which is an odd choice…I mean, aside from the odd choice of having Robin do a swear, of course. I feel like Raven is the breakout character here, not that we saw a whole lot of anyone else, but I can see her being especially appealing to young viewers, which is sort of ironic considering.

My other concern, as a retailer who tries to sell comic books (remember comic books? I’ve got a store full of them), is that if this particular bit of dialogue gets traction in cultural awareness, I could see parents steering kids away from Teen Titans comics in the future…”no, you can’t read that, Robin’s a pottymouth!” I did see this phenomenon with Deadpool after that first movie was released…kids wanted Deadpool comics, parents were all “isn’t that R-rated? NO WAY.” Granted, Deadpool comics are not generally speaking for the tykes, but it appeared this reaction was being fueled by the film and not by any particularly awareness of the comics.

Of course, that’s comparing apples and oranges, one of the most successful R-rated movies in history versus a streaming TV show that may be seen by upwards of tens of viewers. Who knows what impact this show will ultimately have, in a world where there is an enormous surfeit of superhero media, beyond the novelty of being part of a network presented by a comics publisher? Sure, I’ll be watching, because SWAMP THING TV SHOW, DUH. And I am curious about the Titans show, and the forthcoming Doom Patrol show (despite my reservations that Robotman will almost certainly have a “cloaking device” or something that will make him look like a normal human and not an expensive digital effect most of the time). And there are the digital comics, which…sheesh, I’ll just have to give up sleep at this point to keep up with everything.

Some folks were wondering why DC would even do this with the Titans, and…well, like I said, to get attention. I mean, aside from Deadpool, you haven’t really seen superheroes with quite so salty tongues. Plus, maybe DC is spreading their Titans demographics…you’ve got Teen Titans Go! for the younger set, you’ve got this new show for the older audiences, and, as was pointed out to me on the Twitters, there’s Young Justice (brand new Season 3 coming exclusively to the DC Universe streaming service, coincidentally!) for the folks who fall in between. I know seeing the shows divided up like that may seem weird to a lot of us who are fully capable of watching all three (or maybe two) of these shows and enjoying them, but hey, that’s marketing!

It was something of a relief to hear concerns that were more in-story character based about that specific attitude of Robin’s, like “why would he even think that about Batman to begin with?” And friend, if the people in charge of the DC Universe digital comics service are smart, they’ll curate a collection of the “Robin Is Pissed at Batman” genre for the edification of those in need.

Anyway, I’m already signed up, as the per-month price was pretty much just what I wanted to pay, so I expect I’ll be reporting directly upon the service here in short order. Maybe I’ll keep a tally of just how many swears I hear per episode. “OOOOH GET THE BAT-SOAP, SOMEONE’S MOUTH NEEDS WASHING”

“Coverless Plus” isn’t a real grade, but IT SHOULD BE.

§ July 18th, 2018 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 3 Comments

So the other day one of my regulars dropped by with a comic book he’d purchased via mail order, and he wanted my opinion on its grade. It was sold (and indeed, the backing board was marked) as a “9.0,” which works out to be Very Fine to Near Mint in Overstreet Price Guide terms. (It should be noted that this was not a Professionally-Graded-Sealed-in-a-Plastic-Slab comic, but a “raw” (as collectors’ cant would have it) funnybook in a mere bag and board in common use amongst we mere mortals.) Anyway, I gave the book a quick once-over and had to break the news that, given the few spine creases, a couple of which were color-breaking, plus some minor rounding/softness at the corners of the spine, this couldn’t be in VF/NM. At best, maybe a low Fine, or perhaps a VG/F if I hadn’t had my Diet Coke that day. (And since I haven’t had a Diet Coke for a few months, that comic’s darn lucky I didn’t grade it Coverless Plus.)

It sounds like he’ll be able to return it, which is good, but this particular interaction did make me feel a little better about my own grading abilities. It’s…not something that comes terribly easily to me, probably the part of the job that feels most like “work” (aside from the whole “taxes” thing, and having to deal with Ian). Mostly, at the previous place of employment, I didn’t do much with the “grading and pricing back issues” thing. That was left to my old boss Ralph, mostly for the sake of consistency in grading standards and price levels, while I mostly focused on…well, everything else regarding said backstock. I’d check for missing issues, pull stuff out of the back, bag ’em and tag ’em, put ’em in alphabetical order in the To Be Priced boxes, and after Ralph priced them all up, I’d put them all away in their appropriate spots. If someone wanted to know a grade on a certain issue, more often than not all I’d have to do if flip the comic over, look at the sticker on the back where Ralph placed the grade, and then happily reply “Sir, this copy of Saga of Crystar Crystal Warrior #6. guest-starring Nightcrawler of the X-Men, is in VF- condition!” and that would be that. I certainly wasn’t unaware of comic conditions, and could do some general grading, but it just wasn’t my main thing at that shop…someone else did that, while I attended to other duties.

Now that I’m sailing alone on the seas of comics in my own ship…er, store, I can’t depend on Ralph to do that for me anymore. Which isn’t to say I don’t bend his ear once in a while whenever he drops by to ask him some grading questions whenever I find something that stumps me And sometimes he tells me “huh, I’m stumped too,” which makes feel a little better that someone with a lot more direct experience in comic grading can get a bit thrown on occasion. There are so many different things that you weirdos do to your comics that the variety of wear and damage and, um, engine fuel smells, and…er, beginnings of essays that Overstreet’s grading guide never dreamed of, that even old hands need to do a little guesswork and interpretation to put your dime down on a specific condition. It can take a lot of effort, and a not-insignificant amount of concentration, but as time goes by, I think I’m getting better at it. Plus, I find when I do a whole bunch in a row, I get into that “grading groove” and start knocking ’em out at a more reasonable pace.

Don’t get me wrong…grading can be a challenge at times, but it’s still “Mike gets to look at old comics all day and call that his ‘job'” so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. And as I said, my skills are improving…I’m a long way from calling that comic with the holes punched with a pen through the center and the tape and the missing back cover a Very Fine Plus. I know now that’s clearly no better than a VF.

Good thing there wasn’t a Swamp Thing one, else I’d be traveling across the country looking for it.

§ July 16th, 2018 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, retailing § 6 Comments

(NOTE: I’ve been told that these aren’t actually “digest-sized,” which for some reason I got into my head these actually were, similar to the ’80s DC digests. This is why I wanted a copy to look at for myself! Also, I’ve heard from various sources that they’re racked “with the Pokemon and Magic cards near the registers,” and, um, my local Walmarts don’t appear to have those either, unless I’m really missing that particular series of shelves.)

(NOTE TO MY NOTE: So, uh, just ignore every time I call these things “digests,” okay? Thanks!)

So I’ve been trying to track down copies of those Walmart-exclusive DC digests, mostly to have just at least one sample copy I can look at and discuss here on the site, before passing it on to a niece or nephew. Like, I wanted to know the actual dimensions of the thing, its readability at that size (likely extra problematic for me, Mr. Gots Eye Troubles), the paper quality, the story selection, etc. And as it turns out…no dice at two of the Walmarts in my immediate area. Not that I found the DC Digest display bereft of copies, sitting on a shelf somewhere…I couldn’t find any sign that there were any on display at all.

Now, given the, um, state of said local Walmarts, “not finding something” could be said to be the default result of any product search, and it could very well be that they were there, somewhere, diplayed in plain view in a disused lavatory with a sign that read “BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD” Douglas Adams-style, but I checked all the usual spots and didn’t find a thing. So, let us hope that this was a case of the comics finding their target audience (i.e. not me, Elderly Comics Guy) and the empty displays were removed to make room for economy-sized tins of mixed nuts, and not, as was suggested by some Twitter pals, disappeared into the hands of speculators, a possibility I honestly hadn’t considered but…well, yeah, that could’ve happened.

I mean, it’s just as well…these digests are not for me, but to get kids to try out comics. Despite my near-despotic command over comic sales in my area (via my foreboding Camarillo headquarters at Sterling Silver Comics) I realized not every young’un will come through my doors to discover the sublime delights of Swamp Thing and…well, pretty much just that, but kids like comics and if you get them into their hands, they more often than not will devour them. I mean, read them, but get ’em young enough they may very well eat them…it’s just paper, they should be okay. So yes, I’m very much for the idea of getting comics into the hands of new readers via publishing initiatives such as this one. I have zero idea if it’s actually happening around here, since I don’t know if our local Marts of Wals even had ’em, but they’re out there somewhere, presumably getting into young people’s hands and not just being mailed off to Comic Slabbers, Inc. to get graded and traded.

I heard about some comics collectin’ and retailin’ folks getting bent out of shape over these things even existing, for some reason. I mean, yes, there are new stories mixed in with the reprints, but, c’mon, it’s not like DC is going to sit on that Brian Michael Bendis Batman story…that’ll be a trade or a mini-series or something down the line. Or it could just be “there’s something out there I can’t have!” — how dare there be a Collectible Issue #1 of Something we can’t order through our shops. (‘Course, if it were, then we’d hear “$4.99 for a new 12 page story and a bunch of reprints? BAH!”) I mean, whatever…the good these could do versus…basically no valid argument against, I think. Get kids used to the idea of reading comics…that’s a net gain for the industry as a whole! And it’s not like Walmart’s going to “steal” your customers, since most of those kids weren’t going to your shop anyway, but now, maybe, if they decide they want more comics, maybe they’ll seek you out. You never know. And besides, just given my personal experience seeking them out, it’s not like you’re going to find well-curated permanent comic racks in these shops directly competing with you.

Going back to that DC Comics release, i can see a lot of the actual contents of the initial digest wave right there, and it looks like a pretty solid mix of recent-ish stories. Now, the old ’80s DC Comics digest fan in me was kinda sorta hoping for some Silver Age-y or even Bronze Age-ish reprints, but I realize those may come across as a little old fashioned. But man, at the very least I hope they drop some Neal Adams Batman stories into some of these digests, just to blow some kids’ minds. Here’s that Shirtless Batman fighting Ra’s al Ghul you’ve been waiting all six years of your life to read, Little Billy!

Anyway, these digests are fine in theory (assuming others have better luck than me finding them). If it gets some kids to realize that, oh, hey, these just aren’t movie characters, they came from somewhere…good. I hope whoever got their hands on these reads the hell out of them, leaving it with tattered covers and bent pages and happily awaiting even more.

Let me just end this on saying that this pic of an empty digest display pocket (courtesy Twitter pal Joe) leaves me in deep appreciation of some designer’s dark sense of humor, considering the source of the image:

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“For all my super-speed I wasn’t (choke) fast enough!” …Me neither, Superman — me neither.

“Realistically.”

§ July 11th, 2018 § Filed under batman, publishing § 9 Comments

In response to my not-at-all-about-Batman-#50 post from the other day, I’ve had a few folks here and there note that a “these characters get married!” comics event isn’t really the same as a “this character dies!” event, and, well, yeah, sure. There’s more of an implied permanence, I think, with marriage in comics, versus a death in a comic basically having the “well, how will our hero get out of this one?” question implied. (Though maybe that question is implied in the former situation as well…joking, I’m joking.)

However, to clarify my thoughts on the matter…I don’t think the nature of the event itself matters so much as the fact a specific event was specifically marketed and then not delivered. It’s kind of a moot point now, I suppose, as the initial sales window for Batman #50 has come and gone, and hopefully retailers managed to sell the majority of their copies that they almost certainly ordered large-ish numbers on. I mean, yes, realistically, Batman and Catwoman shouldn’t get married, such a major change to iconic characters may be too much…but then again, Superman and Lois Lane are married. And have a kid. And for that matter, Batman has a child as well. Those are all fairly significant changes to the status quo, so yet another marriage didn’t seem entirely out of the question. And besides, all these changes could be swept away in the next series of relaunches/reboots when everyone gets tired of dealing with them.

Like I said, no beef with the story itself, or the tie-in “Prelude to the Wedding” issues and whatnot. But the “invitation” postcards and retailers being encouraged to do in-store celebrations…that’s the sort of thing that seemingly should only be occurring with an event that’s actually happening, not “FAKE-OUT! Nothing’s changed!”

It reminds me in a little way of the Fantastic Four issue where it was promoted as a big deal character death (complete with putting the issue in a black polybag deliberately reminiscent of the “Death of Superman” issue) and it was reasonably clear within the story itself that there wasn’t really any death happening. I wrote about it way back when, and yeah, a character goes missing, and the rest of the team is bummed and thinking he’s dead, but…it just felt like marketing overhyping a minor plot line that would get resolved in short order. I mean, most character death stories are like that, I guess, but this one in particular. Under normal circumstances that issue would have been follwed by the next one emblazoned “THE SEARTH FOR THE HUMAN TORCH!” and then we’d have that goin’ on for four or five issues.

So that’s that. I know a lot of you agree with me that the Batman “event” build-up was misleading, which I appreciate. Everything sold great anyway, so yeah yeah, I know, what are you complaining about, Mike? I just hope it doesn’t encourage more fake-outs: “hey, if we just TELL them that Iron Man is going to lose a leg in isue #12 and then never actually do it…they’re still gonna buy it!”

Okay, no Batman marriage stuff in the next post…I mostly promise!

Steve Ditko (1927 – 2018).

§ July 9th, 2018 § Filed under obituary § 1 Comment


Sometime in the late ’70s, my grandmother gave me a bag of comic books she picked up at a swap meet or thrift store, which included a number of oddball comics I hadn’t seen before. I remember specifically a Classics Illustrated adaptation of Frankenstein (my first exposure to this series), but there were also a handful of first issues from Atlas Comics, which I’d never heard of. Grim Ghost was one, and still remains a favorite to this day…and there was also Destructor #1, the splash page for which was pictured above. I don’t know how much Steve Ditko work I’d been exposed to at that point…I know I had a few Charltons from the period Ditko was working for them, so I probably saw some of his stories there. But I always thought that splash page was a pretty cool drawing. “Hey, this Steve Ditko guy isn’t bad, he should draw more comics.”

I’m a wee bit more knowledgeable about his output now, and about his personal beliefs and artistic standards. He definitely stuck to his guns all the way to the end…I just wish fewer people felt compelled to knock on his door and bother the man in recent years. I mean, he pretty famously wanted to be left alone to work on his comics, right, so, I mean, what were people expecting? “Oh, sure, yes, YOU’RE the one who’s got through to me! You will now be my best friend and I shall reveal to you all my secrets!”

Sheesh. I mean, okay, I admit that deep down I kept a tiny flame alive for Stan Lee and Ditko reuniting for one more Spider-Man story, or that Ditko would finally decide to give one tell-all interview, both of which would surely occur now that flying pig technology has been perfected and Hell finally installed those air conditioners.

Anyway…Steve Ditko. There’s no mistaking his work for anyone else’s, and, especially in his later years, he did it the way he wanted to, beholden to no one’s editorial edict. It was low-hanging fruit to poke fun at some of his odder moments, I admit, but sometimes genius takes you in strange directions, and few geniuses were stranger, or more amazing, than Steve Ditko.

So long, Steve.
 
 

image from Destructor #1 (February 1975) by Archie Goodwin, Steve Ditko and Wally Wood

Spoilers for Batman #50.

§ July 6th, 2018 § Filed under batman § 15 Comments

So you’ve found out that Superman is about to be killed, fighting the alien monster known as Doomsday. Pretty wild, right? I mean, it seems pretty obvious that DC Comics wouldn’t actually kill off Superman…er, would they? There’s a lot of anticipation and promotion building up for the issue where the deed is done. It’s being talked about, not just in the fan press, but on actual real news programs on actual television. It’s popping up on talk shows, in newspapers. You decide…hey, you need a copy of that! You’d better get yourself to the local comic book emporium and…whoa, stand in line to get in? In a huge line? Wrapping around the building? Holy cow, this must be huge! You can’t wait to get your hands on it!

Abd finally, it’s yours! You were lucky enough to get a copy, and at cover price even, despite stores being caught very off guard by the immense demand for a comic they’d placed order numbers for about two or three months prior. And look at that bag! That solemn black bag with the bloody red “S” on the front…that’s gotta mean Superman is dead, right? Defying all laws of collectability, you tear open that bag, marveling at the black armband you can wear to mourn Superman’s passing, at the promotional trading card advertising the forthcoming “Death of Superman” set, at the stamps highlighting characters from this momentous event. All these geegaws and tchotchkes, produced specifically to support the idea that the Man of Steel is gone, sacrificing himself for the greater good.

But the story, the story…! How does it actually happen? Everyone and everything is telling you that Superman dies, but just how exactly does he die? You’d better sit down and read the darn thing…I mean, you opened the bag, might as well. And you pore over the story, flipping through splash page after splash page of this knock-down, drag-out battle with Doomsday, as Superman’s friends and family look on in worry and fear.

And then, there it is. The climactic moment…Superman and Doomsday unleash their mightiest blows upon each other, each felling their opponent with their final exertion of strength. Now, there they both are, silent and unmoving on the ground, the air still with shock from the onlookers. Lois rushes to Superman’s side, tears in her eyes…tears matching the ones in your own eyes as you turn to the story’s final page…

…Whereupon Superman opens his eyes, sits up, puts a firm hand on Lois’s shoulder, and reassures her “Oh, I’m fine, Lois…that was some battle, huh?” Superman then stands, as the crowd that had gathered around the scene lets out an exuberant cheer! “Thanks, everyone! But you’d better stand back while I and the good men and women of the Metropolis emergency services clean everything up! We’ll have our fine city back in tip-top shape in no time!” You look at the final image of the story, with Superman’s smiling face winking at you, the reader, with the concluding caption reading “NEVER the end!” scrolled along the bottom of the panel.

And you wonder…okay, this was pushed as the Death of Superman. All the promotion, all the ads and radio spots and news stories and the cardboard tombstone standees DC sent out, was around the idea that Superman dies. Stores were encouraged to participate in their own homegrown celebrations — or, rather, wakes — for Superman’s passing. And despite all that, despite the endless promises of his demise, no such thing happened. Not to say it was a bad comic, by any means. It was professionally done, entertaining, and presented a kind of extended physical conflict for Superman that was rarely seen in the comics. But, regardless, you feel a little bit like you experienced something of a bait-and-switch, where marketing promised you one thing, but the actual storytellers had something entirely different in mind. That maybe the story should just have been left to work out as it worked out, without the ultimately misleading promises that this was an “event,” an unprecedented occurrence in the Last Son of Krypton’s life, rather than simply another exciting adventure.

There can be red herrings, and fake-outs, and surprise endings in stories, and you think that’s fair play. That’s all part of storytelling. But you think it seems a bit unfair when the marketing pushes the story as being one kind of event, with the implied promise that if you follow that story, the event would be delivered. …Oh well, lesson learned, you’ll be a little more wary of the insidious workings of the hype machine next time. But honestly, what are the chances they’ll try something like this again?

About as on-the-nose of an image as I could find for this Fourth of July.

§ July 4th, 2018 § Filed under popeye § 1 Comment


From the very aptly-named “Patriotic Popeye” from 1957…and I hope you all have a good holiday, where applicable

Progressive Ruin presents…the End of Civilization.

§ July 2nd, 2018 § Filed under End of Civilization § 5 Comments

There it was just a-walkin’ down the street, singin’ “Do wah diddy diddy dum Diamond Comics” — it’s the newest installment of the End of Civilization, seemingly closer than ever, so bust out your copy of the July 2018 Diamond Previews and follow along while there’s still time:

p. 44 – Bully Wars #1:

PRIVATE BULLY L.S. BULL REPORTING FOR DUTY and maybe some hot dogs, SIR:


 
 
p. 100 – Stranger Things #1:


For the full 1980s nostalgia effect, this comic should be in black and white, guest-star Concrete and/or Boris the Bear, and feature plenty of Tom Peterson references.
 
 
p. 104 – Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1:


Now if, TV’s Frank forbid, this particular issue turns out to not be any good, will a future issue of the Mystery Science Theater comic feature Jonah and the ‘bots riffing over pages from the first issue? And if that issue doesn’t work out, the next issue riffs over that issue? Just endless recursion…maybe the Overstreet Price Guide’s first “infinity contents” notation.
 
 
p. 147 – Star Trek Vs. Transformers #1:


If the Enterprise doesn’t transform into a giant robot at some point during this series, I’m calling my congressperson.
 
 
p. 154 – Batman/The Maxx #1:


Ah, I can’t wait to hear all the people who see this on the shelf start reminiscing about how they used to get high and watch Batman and the Maxx on MTV back in the day.
 
 
p. 178 – From Hell Master Edition #1:


Wait, a colorized version of From Hell? This is going to just wreck the market for the From Hell coloring books I’m, um, totally not printing up in the back of my shop.
 
 
p. 196 – Vampirella/Dejah Thoris #1:


“Hey, Dejah, why are we both dressed like this?”

“You know, Vampi, I feel like this is just pure titillation.”

“Well, let’s do something about it!”

VAMPIRELLA/DEJAH THORIS: THE EVENING GOWN AGENDA #1, COMING SOON
 
 
p. 311 – Garfield Complete Works Volume 1 1978-1979 TP:


I can’t believe a comic strip about our 20th President has been running for so long. I’m just afraid some of the political humor from the earlier volumes will seem a bit dated. Here’s hoping for annotations!
 
 
p. 311 – Guide to Groot A Sound Book HC:


Look, there’s only one way this can go, which can’t possibly be what they do with it, but the solicitation text sort of implies it, but there’s got to be other stuff mixed in, like general sound effects and such, but I would love nothing more than if each sound button on this book was just “I AM GROOT” in slightly different inflections. I mean, that’s what it has to be, right?
 
 
p. 332 – Lego Star Wars Ideas Book:


…And a lot of those ideas involve dudes making Star Wars Lego adventures with no girls in them. Hey, it’s a better use of their time than petitions or manifestos no one at Lucasfilm/Disney will ever take seriously ever.
 
 
p. 333 – DC Super Heroes: Super Heroes Say Please! Board Book:


“Ma’am, may I rip off your head and kick it around like a hacky sack, please?”

“Oh my, this young Lobo gentleman is so polite!”
 
 
p. M109 – Universal Monsters Dracula 1 Inch Punk Pin:


Not many people recall Dracula’s short stint as the drummer for False Confession, but we old-timers remember.
 
 
DC Previews p. 48 – Scooby-Doo Team-Up #42:


It’s the all-gorilla Scooby-Doo Team-Up issue! Finally, the shocking sequel to the all-gorilla Swamp Thing annual:


 
 
Marvel Previews p. 2 – Return of Wolverine #1:


What, he was gone? How can we miss you when you won’t go away?
 
 

Special thanks to the bulliest of all bulls, Bully the Little Stuffed Bull, and his pal John for their assistance. Plus, happy 7th birthday to Bully!

Harlan Ellison (1934 – 2018).

§ June 29th, 2018 § Filed under obituary § 3 Comments

A contentious figure, certainly, but very much a talented one, whose writing has loomed large in my life for many, many years. There’s a whole lot one could say about him, good and ill, and no matter your opinion on him, I’m sure it’s entirely justified. Still, it’s going to be weird thinking he’s no longer out there, being angry about something, pissing somebody off, or writing something amazing, or doing all three at once.

So long, Harlan.
 
 

image from Adventure Comics #479 (March 1981) by Marv Wolfman, Carmine Infantino and Dennis Jensen

My question about Red Hood’s current origin status is the worst thing I’ve ever typed.

§ June 27th, 2018 § Filed under cartoons § 5 Comments

I’ve been taking it easy of late, spending my nights watching movies and not thinking about work, health issues, the world in general…you know, this “relaxing” I’ve heard so much about. About a week or so ago I borrowed the animated Batman: Ninja movie from Netflix, which wasn’t very good…it was like having to watch the cut scenes for a video game you weren’t able to play, plus the film was afflicted by a particularly screechy Joker that seemed to occupy 175% of the movie’s runtime. But that got me to pull out some of the previous DC direct-to-home-video animated features that I own and give them a rewatch.

Well, okay, this current spate of rewatches really started with an initial viewing of the new Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay movie, the latest in DC’s “R” rated cartoons for the kiddies. It was…better than I expected it to be, actually. Plenty of action and humor and a surprising callback to the Flashpoint cartoon (which kicked off DC’s current “animated universe” continuity)…it certainly keeps your interest as everyone chases after the story’s MacGuffin (the “Get Out of Hell” card from Gail Simone’s Secret Six run. As I sort of referred to on Twitter a bit ago, the superpowered community in the DC universe is likely aware of concrete evidence of the existence of an afterlife, just from the course of doing their usual business. So, for most of the characters in this film, “Hell” is a very real thing they are desperately trying to avoid, adding an extra layer of…well, dread, I guess, to the proceedings. Anyway, a pretty good film that I’m sure Mom or Dad just threw into the DVD player for Little Billy to watch, resulting in quite the shock.

Hell to Pay has the usual trailers and “sneak peeks” for upcoming DC cartoons, including a new adaptation of “The Death of Superman” (I discussed their previous go at it here). Well, I have a specific complaint about it I’ll make a little farther down this post, but really, DC, you can do better than this:


The next movie I watched was Superman Unbound, the adaptation of that Geoff Johns/Gary Frank Brainiac story. Another good one, I thought…this precedes DC’s animated universe continuity, and I seem to recall saying somewhere or ‘nother at the time that it was a shame the film was setting up a sequel that would probably never come. It also throws in the Clark/Lois romance that 1) establishes that Lois totally knows that Clark is Superman, and 2) ends with Clark’s proposal to Lois, which, again, won’t be followed up on in anything. Probably some folks coming to this movie cold are thrown off by this sudden change in the status quo that is for the most part not reflected in any of the other films. Or just as probably, don’t care, and leave it to big goofs like me who think about things like this too much. Aside from all that…a big, bruising Brainiac that can physically go toe-to-toe with Superman still seems a bit weird to me, but remains an interesting take on the character, differentiating him enough from Lex Luthor so that he’s just not “the smart guy from space” where Lex is “the smart guy from Earth.” My animated Brainiac preference remains the one from the Superman: The Animated Series, however.

Followed that up with a couple of Batman-specific films…Batman: Under the Red Hood gives us, well, the Red Hood, a reborn Jason Todd who comes back under circumstances a lot less Big-Event Heavy than the ones in the original comics. Is Infinite Crisis/Earth-Prime Superboy still the catalyst for Red Hood’s return in post-Flashpoint continuity? Seems like it shouldn’t be. And yes, I feel shame for even wording that question. Aside from all that, I enjoyed John DiMaggio’s deep-voiced Joker…still a maniac, but a more controlled, dangerous maniac, as well as Wade Williams as the entirely-contrasting Black Mask, histrionic and entirely bonkers. The film ends on a remarkably melancholy note, as Todd’s initial venture as Robin the Boy Wonder is recalled. A very downbeat but effective film.

Son of Batman was the next I watched, introducing Damian Wayne to the new animated continuity. I…don’t really have much to say about it, aside from it doing a good job showing why this character was so divisive for comic fans at the start, and progressing this new Robin into a character you want to see more from at the end. And you do see more of him, since as part of the Animated Universe, Damian will pop again…

…such as in Justice League Versus Teen Titans, which I’m currently in the middle of rewatching. Aside from the “Old Comic Fan” disease I’m experiencing due to the incongruity of Cyborg being in the Justice League, and his place in the Titans being taken by the newest iteration of the Blue Beetle, it’s been a fun film. One thing watching this film reminded me of, however, was Superman’s post-New 52 reworked costume that the Animated Universe is using:


It…it just doesn’t look good. I mean, I guess I can live with it, and now that Superman’s costume is now about 99% back to its usual look in the comics, hopefully these cartoons will follow suit. Alas, not in time to keep this costume about of that Death of Superman movie (which the trailer shows Clark running into action and stripping off his shirt to reveal the Superman getup…even though the collar should have clearly been sticking out from underneath his clothing). Ah well, what can you do.

Not sure what I’m going to watch next…there’s that one Batman film with Batwoman, which I know I saw but don’t entirely recall. Or there’s the Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, which I seem to remember being fairly slight as these films go, and not caring for it much. Maybe time for a second try? We’ll see.

So that’s what I’ve been doing, instead of blogging…totally being a couch potato. Sometimes, just for the sake of keeping one’s head on straight, that’s just what you gotta do, so please don’t judge too harshly.

Back soon with more stuff. Thanks for reading, pals.

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