So the full Justice League Dark animated movie preview is out there on the internettings, which is a special feature on the soon-to-be-released-in-physical-media-preferred-by-the-old Batman: The Killing Joke DVD and/or Blu-ray that some of you out there seem to be very excited about. Anyway, the video clip I have here is just the short version of said special feature, which you can go out there and find if you’d like, but I wasn’t comfortable just posting it in its entirety:
Of note: Matt Ryan, star of the Constantine TV show and reprised the role on an episode of Arrow is back providing the voice of John Constantine in…Constantine’s first animated appearance, I think? Unless someone hid him in the background of an episode of Teen Titans or something.
Also, Swamp Thing is in the cartoon, his first animated appearance since this cartoon and the one or two sneaky cameos in one or two other DC animated thingies. No voice credit for ol’ Swampy as yet, so I happily throw my hat into that mossy ring. I always imagined him with a sassy valley-girl type voice, as I’m sure all of you have, too.
So the other day I acquired a number of mid-1960s Gold Key comics, including a couple issues of the long-running Bugs Bunny series. Now, for years, it seems as if the Bugs Bunny comics, and the other Warner Bros. animated family of comics from Dell and Gold Key, have been forgotten by God and man and been shown no love in the back issue marketplace. I think, in the nearly three decades I’ve been at this, I’ve had requests for Warner Bros. back issues only a handful of times.
(Wait, I should add a caveat here…there were lots of requests specifically for Marvin the Martian, more often than not for tattoo ideas, and even that went away with the advent of Google Images. But aside from that, very few requests for Warner Bros. comics that could actually be realistically fulfilled, since Marvin 1) never had his own title, and 2) hardly, if ever, appeared in other Dell/GK books as far as I could tell.)
Part of the problem is, unlike the Disney books which had Carl Barks and a few other “name” artists, I don’t believe the Warner Bros. comics ever had their own “Good Rabbit Artist” spurring on collectors to acquire their titles (though it should be noted Barks did draw a Porky Pig story that includes Bugs). As such, I remember having at the previous place of employment issues of Bugs Bunny going back to the ’40s for as cheap as four or five bucks, or even less. I’d often use them as an example as “no, just because a comic book is old doesn’t mean it’s expensive.”
“Then why would you even buy any Bugs Bunny comics for your shop?” you may be wondering. Well, frankly, they were more or less thrown in with the other comics…as I was totaling up the books, I noted to the buyer I wasn’t going to pay much of anything for the BBs as I would likely never sell them, and as he was just looking to unload the whole lot, he was fine with that.
Thus, that is how I ended up with issue #108 from November 1966, featuring the premiere appearance of Honey Bunny:
“Who?” you ask? Well, “Who?” I also asked, and I figured it was just a one-shot character that was never seen again. Here’s another shot of her from inside the book:
I went to that inerrant font of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, and sure enough, there’s an entry on her which has informed me that she actually stuck around in one form or another until the ’90s. Not starring in cartoons (aside from perhaps a cameo here and there), but primarily in the comics and some merchandising, only to be replaced with the arrival of Lola Bunny in the film Space Jam.
And that’s how I found out about an obscure outlier in the Warner Bros. cartoon family, one that had actually seen a bit of use over the course of a few decades without ever significantly crossing over into wider animated visibility and into the general public’s consciousness. I mean, even Gabby Goat only made it into a couple old cartoons, and we all remember Gabby Goat, right?
2. The Pope story is so big, they featured it twice. Unless the Pope is going somewhere after he goes to Zimbabwe, since the destination is cut off in that second article.
3. Well, that’s an unfortunate date. …Even the most innocuous of usage sticks out like a sore thumb now.
4. Honestly, that typesetting. But I’m grateful to this newfangled Digital Versatile Disc technology allowing us to freeze on frames like these for such important projects as, say, looking for injokes or poking some gentle fun.
still from “Superman and Wonder Woman vs. the Sorceress of Time” (1988)
So I finally received my copy of the Batman Vs. Robin animated movie from Diamond this week, and this is some sticker that’s on the box:
Don’t know if that means anything to anybody that hasn’t read the comics…is there any kind of larger media presence for Talon and/or the Court of Owls that I don’t know about, that would make this sticker of use in attracting your average consumer in a Best*Mart? “But Mom, this movie has Talon and the Court of Owls! We have to get it!” Or is it enough that perhaps the very presence of the sticker ballyhooing their presence will pique curiosity: “Huh…these characters are apparently important enough for the manufacturer to go through the extra expense of printing and applying these stickers to the packaging…surely I, as a Blu-ray/DVD consumer, can’t let all that effort go to waste.”
Okay, I’m pokin’ a little fun. But honestly, one would think the promise of “BATMAN VERSUS ROBIN” would be enough get get someone to pull the trigg…OOH, sorry, Bruce, poor choice of words.
The movie itself is fine…not one I’d put on the TV to entertain the four-year-old in your life, because it starts off with a sequence that’s pretty much pure nightmare fuel. But it certainly delivers on the title, and I like the fact that this new movie builds off the previous Bat-imation film that introduced the Damian Wayne character rather than just leaving that as a stand-alone. I know the last couple of Justice League cartoons are effectively in sequence as well, but those are sort of blandish and empty (particularly the recent Throne of Atlantis), while these Batman films have a little more weight to them. There is one significant bump in the road, a flashback sequence that introduces the Court of Owls concept via a bedtime story in the most awkward bit of storytelling you can possibly imagine, but otherwise everything flows well, and violently, enough. I appreciated the clarity of the fight scene choreography, and I hope what I just typed right there turns up as a pull quote in an ad someday.
Anyway, I liked it. I hope they do at least one more to wrap up the Damian storyline…or, even better, maybe they can tackle the whole Batman Incorporated thing. That would be pretty amazing in animation. Plus, they still need to introduce this vital character.
Also rescued from that collection I was talking about a couple of days ago were a few of these Flintstones paperbacks from the mid-1970s:
I like the look of these, particularly that moody cover on The Bedrock Connection. Inside, the artwork (usually alternating pages with the prose, but sometimes sharing a page with some text) was…occasionally off-model, one might say. But it sufficed, I suppose, even if they cheated with similar poses and layouts in the images, like when they followed this pic:
…with this one just two pages later:
I think they’re supposed to be in the same place, but the moon has moved farther away, the house suddenly sprouted another tree and a new window treatment, the rocks at their feet have changed positions, etc. “Suddenly, Fred and Barney found themselves in a parallel dimension, just slightly different from their own. ‘Darn you, Gazoo!’ bellowed Fred.”
Here’s the first page of Gentlemen Farmers, to give you bit of a taste of what these books are like:
“A tall, thin who?” you may be wondering? The Thin Whiteschist Duke himself, David Boulderie? No, it’s this terrifying looking gentleman:
…who seems a bit creepily outside the standard Flintstones model, but not as much as this guy from the first page:
…which looks like some freakish proto-Barney who’s somehow escaped the studio’s round file and has entered the fictional world of the Flintstones to stalk and eventually confront his successor. Kinda like that Simpsons episode where Current Bart confronts Tracey Ullman Show Bart which is something that actually happened I’m assuming, and I didn’t just imagine it.
Anyway, I was posting some of these scans to the Twitter when Twitter pal Teresa asked who the author was. I repliced “Horace J. Elias,” and Teresa discovered that the fella wrote a whole lot of cartoon-related books. I’m assuming that’s an actual guy and not a pseudonym used by the publisher for the army of people they had cranking these out, but I didn’t have much like finding any info on the fellow. I did find this page on one of those ancestry sites which could be him, but I have no idea. Anyway, here’s to you, Horace…you had a good gig writing books based on cartoons, and I’m just a bit jealous.
So I was clued in by one of Johanna’s recent posts that there was a new Justice League animated feature that was going to be available exclusively at Target stores, which seemed to come as a surprise to pretty much everybody. According to this interview with the director, there was a desire for a DC superhero cartoon that maybe skewed a little younger than the usual DC Direct films that could be marketed alongside the toylines, and this was the result.
They really want you to know that this is an “original movie,” since it not only tells you so in a blurb directly printed under the title, but this sticker is affixed to the front of the package as well:
And this sticker is slapped on the box too, reminding you about Superman’s 75th anniversary last year:
As for the cartoon itself…it’s entertaining enough, with plenty of superhero versus supervillain action and a simplistic time-travel plot. The Legion of Super-Heroes are involved, kinda sorta, with Dawnstar and Karate Kid as two potential members of that future super-team who find themselves in the present day, trying to prevent Lex Luthor from using Legion villain the Time Trapper to destroy the Justice League. Dawnstar is given, in addition to her traditional super-tracking powers, some kind of magical glowy energy-healing ability that seems to primarily exist to provide a quick ending to the climactic battle of the movie. Karate Kid’s ability to spot structural flaws are given enough of a flourish to be a visually-interesting super power, and his martial arts skills are given a good showcase in a battle with Robin.
The character designs are New 52-inspired, with too many seams and not enough red trunks:
…though Superman doesn’t have that terrible collar, which is a plus. Bizarro does have red pants in this cartoon, in case you were worried. I should note that Superman’s design, from his costume to his facial features, do fluctuate somewhat throughout the feature, which is a little distracting.
One of the major highlights in the story is when everybody time travels back to Smallville, with the villains attempting to prevent the Kents from rescuing baby Kal-El, and the heroes trying to keep history on track. It’s a very funny, slightly surreal sequence as the good guys and bad guys play keep-away with Baby Kal, who is repeatedly referred to as “Superbaby.” This Silver Age fan approves.
While mostly enjoyable, if slight, there are some minor quibbles with the film, such as Robin’s characterization as a bit of a petulant child (meant to be comic relief, and probably funny to the target (heh) audience, but may grate on old people like you and me). Plus, the Time Trapper’s ultimate gambit, to apparently…wreck stuff around Earth with time vortices, I guess? — doesn’t seem like much of a final battle beyond giving heroes one last action scene to show off their stuff.
One surprising positive: this dude shows up, and though my initial reaction was “oh, no,” he’s actually one of the more entertaining parts of the film:
Yup, that’s the jester-ish Toyman from the ’70s Super Friends cartoons, redesigned into apparently being some kind of robot-toy-thing himself:
…and a brief shot of a display in a 31st century museum gives us his extremely depressing fate:
The original Toyman of the ’70s cartoons was mostly just annoying. I want to know more about this Toyman, who is less annoying and more creepy and / or goofy.
Bonus features on this disc include two of the original Super Friends episodes, both involving some kind of time travel, and I haven’t watched them yet because I’m sure I’ve seen them before and therefore they have already stolen away enough of my life.
Overall it’s a fun cartoon, despite some minor issues, and hopefully will lead to more all-ages original animated features based on DC properties. …By which of course I mean “Swamp Thing.”
So Iron Man 3 was better than Iron Man 2 and neither are a patch on Iron Man No Number but Is Now Referred to As Iron Man 1, but all in all, like I once said about the X-Men film franchise at a time when there were only three X-Men films, that we got three watchable and generally likable Iron Man movies at all is relatively miraculous.
I did have the same problem with this film that I did with the previous installment, that too often during the film I found myself thinking “why am I being shown this when I could be seeing Iron Man doing stuff instead” — particularly during that middle “Tony Stark, Action Spy Detective, Goes to Tennessee” segment of the film. But, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained, and you end up getting more Iron Man armor action than you can handle during the film’s climax, with too brief glimpses of the dozens of different armored suits Stark apparently assembled between sequels.
Okay, the “not enough Iron Man action” is kind of a terrible complaint…Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark carries the show whether he’s in armor or not, and I did enjoy the film. And it’s not as if I was expecting beginning-to-end Iron Man fight scenes…I realize there’s such a thing as “pacing.” When you get right down to it, the amount of Iron Man action was exactly the amount and of the correct quality for the story they were telling, he said as if anyone cared what he thought. I guess the old fanboy in me wanted more Iron Man in action at the height of his powers, outside of struggling against both technological and psychological failures, but I guess that’s what the Avengers movies are for. That this film, along with Downey’s portrayal, makes us like and care about the “civilian” identity as much, if not more so, than the superhero identity, is its real strength. Tony’s a cool dude that sometimes wears super-armor and his movies are fun…what am I complaining about, really?
Also, it’s nice that Bruce Banner was played by the same actor in more than one feature film. The lack of MODOK is points against, however. And, as always, not enough Miguel Ferrer, which is my gripe about pretty much every film.
In other news, I saw the new direct-to-home-video-disc Superman Unbound film, adapting that “Superman meets the REAL Brainiac” story that ran in the comics a couple of years back. …Well, that was certainly a Superman versus Brainiac story, with some neat visuals and an interesting subplot about Superman’s overprotectiveness of people in his life. Plus, the story ends on a big life-changing decision, which would probably have an impact on the sequel they spend time setting up at the very end of the film (a scene placed during the credits, actually) should one ever come, which it won’t.
It was fine, but honestly, though, I wish DC would just straight up adapt some classic Silver Age stories for their direct-to-DVD film program for a change…it’ll never happen, but it’s nice to think about. …At least the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon took care of that need for a few years.
[There may be SPOILERS ahead for The Dark Knight Returns, both animated and comic-ated.]
Now I suspect it’s going to be hard to believe that one can forget a large, gun-totin’ woman named Bruno, topless save for some kind of adhesive swastikas placed over her breasts, and yet this is apparently what happened to me prior to popping in Part Two of DC’s direct-to-DVD/Blu-Ray animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. If I had remembered, I’m sure it would have crossed my mind at least once to ponder “I wonder if they’re actually going to go through with that” or “I wonder if they’ll tone it down a bit.” Instead, it came as a complete surprise to me when Bruno showed up on screen. And it certainly is a different experience seeing Bruno in a four-minute fully-animated action sequence on a 50-inch screen as opposed to seeing a handful of panels in a comic book. And by “different” I mean “that’s going to come as a shock when Mom puts this on for Little Billy and then walks back into the room when Bruno’s onscreen fighting Batman.” Yeah, yeah, it’s PG-13 an’ all, but man, that felt like a bit much. So of course I got a screenshot and shared it with you on my site. You’re welcome.
As for the parts of this cartoon that aren’t about topless Neo-Nazis: what I was really looking forward to was Michael Emerson’s turn as The Joker. Emerson was probably the best part of that TV show Lost, playing an evil and slimy little jerk who was still at least somewhat sympathetic and certainly charismatic, and that performance comes though in this role as well. A bit of Emerson’s voice work on the Joker reminded me of, oddly enough, Paul Lynde, which I’m guessing was likely more coincidental than deliberate, and is certainly not a complaint. (And of course, when one thinks of Paul Lynde in relation to Batman, this comes to mind.) His Joker was definitely creepy and unsettling, and probably the high point of this whole endeavor.
And speaking of the whole endeavor…one of the most intrinsic parts of the original Dark Knight Returns comics was the constant internal dialogue running throughout, revealing each character’s hopes, fears, etc., as well as providing the most affecting and emotional points of the story. When Alfred dies as the Wayne Mansion burns, just seeing him drop onscreen doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of reading Alfred’s “Of course” when the same thing happens in the comic. And when they push the dialogue from the comic’s internal thoughts to the cartoon’s external voice…well, let’s just say having Commissioner Gordon outright say “I think of Sarah…the rest is easy” as part of a retirement speech to a roomful of people lacks the gravitas it has when he repeats it to himself in the comic.
And that whole business with Superman nearly being killed by the atomic explosion, and his subsequent revival. In the cartoon, it’s simply weird and grotesque. In the comic, with Superman’s inner pleading with Mother Earth, there’s that undercurrent of sadness and despair and desire to protect that’s left unspoken, nor even implied, in the adaptation. …I suspect some enterprising group of fans will someday make a reedit of these films, filling in the lost narration themselves, that the cartoons sorely lack.
Not to say that these films are entirely without merit…the big set pieces still work just fine: Batman’s battle with the Mutants leader, the last confrontation with the Joker, the climactic fight with Superman. And even the nearly last bit of business, with Carrie and Clark at Bruce’s grave site…that was pulled off nicely. I also appreciated that they didn’t stray too far from the comic’s 1980s origins, keeping Reagan as President, and there’s even a brief shot somewhere near the end of the film, which of course I can’t locate now, showing a storefront for “VHS / BETA” or something like that. Or maybe I imagined it. You make the call.
Overall, the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns animated adaptation was an interesting experiment, if flawed, with some nice voice work. I understand the choices the filmmakers made…well, my jury’s still out on the Bruno thing, but I guess fans would have complained if she wasn’t there…but in my opinion the loss of the internal dialogues from the comic cut most of the heart out of the story.
Well anyway, if these Dark Knight cartoons do well, maybe we’ll get an animated version of the sequel Dark Knight Strikes Again. That I’d like to see.
If you’re wondering about that Hansi comic, here you go.
So I had a fellow bring by a couple of comics he wanted to sell…an issue of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1960s series) and a copy of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, both of which had these taped to the front covers:
As it turns out, these comics were stored in such a way that the tape essentially dried out, and with only minimal effort these additions came right off, leaving behind only minor discoloration where the tape had once adhered to the paper. And while I offered the customer many times that long ago asking price of two cents apiece, it still wasn’t a whole lot, since the comics otherwise were in what we like to call “previously well-loved condition,” and the customer opted to hang onto them. He did thank me for taking those tags off the covers, and now, here they are, for you to enjoy.
Also, please don’t tape things directly to your comics. Unless you’re going to bring them to me and I can show them on my site and say “look what this person did to his or her comic…can you believe it?”
• • •
In my End of Civilization post from a few days ago, I noted the existence of the Batman and Robin action figures done in the style of Aardman Animation and how I was baffled that such a thing would even exist. Now…well, it is sort of amazing that such a thing is in the world, these Bat-Aardman figures, but I honestly hadn’t realized there are actual animated shorts by Aardman featuring these characters. A quick Googling reveals that this is hardly news to anyone except me, since I 1) cancelled my cable long ago and thus haven’t seen this DC Nation thing, 2) don’t read comic websites aside from my own, because I’m so amazing and perhaps somewhat self-aggrandizing, and 3) don’t really have a third thing. In short, that these animated shorts passed me by is just One of Those Things, I Guess, and since I do enjoy Aardman’s output, I should track ’em down someday.
…this is a thing that is real. Just look at it. …Look at it.
• • •
Normally, I’d just delete spam comments, but this is a comment in French extolling the virtues of hentai, so I just left it after editing out the website address because it made me laugh. YOU WIN, SPAMMERS.
• • •
So I discovered (or, given my usual track record for such things, “found out long after everyone else” — see earlier this post) that our funnybook distributor Diamond Comics apparently has a Twitter account.
Huh. Well. …I mean, I’d happily run that account for them, for, you know, the occasional drop shipment of some coin of the realm, but, well, there might be a conflict of interest there for me.