Friday, October 30, 2009

Public Enemies DVD: The Bored & The Bland

Making a trio out of my two posts this week, one Superman themed, one Batman themed, here's one for BOTH. Back in 2003, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness started a spectacular comic with a simple premise- get the World's Finest back together in a buddy-superhero comic for the 21st century. The resulting first six issues became the trade collection Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
And is it very good.
I am not here to bash it.
Jeph Loeb may have written for Smallville but he also wrote Teen Wolf, Red Hulk, and S/B, so we're going to forgive him (by we I mean me, and by extension, you).
I am here primarily to bash (and not very hard mind you, I'm very tired) Superman/Batman: Public Enemies The Animated Movie.
Anyone who read my post/freakout over 'Green Lantern: First Flight' will know- I am not a patient man-child. I rushed out and bought it... and I felt ripped off.
I can't believe I did it again! I held off a month, but I went and bought this one, too.
Sight unseen.
I mean, it's based on a comic I really liked! It's from DC Animated universe producer Bruce Timm, and stars Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, and CCH Pounder in their DCAU roles! That's gonna be worth it, right?
It's in the eye of the beholder, buuut... not exactly.
I dug the music. It's bombastic, exciting, great stuff. This is also a VERY well animated movie. They clearly worked their Korean fingers and computers down to the bone... and wires.
This is an action-packed movie.
But I am a very picky monkey.
I've watched it twice, re-read the source matierial, and I would say my biggest difficulty is
that Stan Berkowitz is given a writing credit.
Perhaps I would buy... editor? I mean, the plot is a pared-down version of the comic, the visuals and characters are from the comic, and when the dialogue is only occasionally memorable it is ONLY when it is a DIRECT QUOTE from the comic.
One of my favorite inspired gimmicks in the comic is the internal monologues of Bats (done in somber blue) and Supes (done in sunny yellow). They are buds, but they leave a lot unspoken, and what impressed me most was what Jeph figured they were thinking about each other- the good and bad, the misgivings and the gratefulness. Essentially the WHY of their friendship.
Totally excised! I was expecting at the very least a voice-over here and there to express that stuff... but as my pal Ron (who came up with this blog title, by the by) pointed out- the first thing to get cut in an action movie is the thinky stuff, the motivation, the chattery bits.
Damn you, Berkowitz! You did the same 'writing' on Darwyn Cooke's Justice League: New Frontier adaptation. That is- cutting stuff out and moving things around slightly, presumably so Cooke and Loeb didn't need to be paid as much??
It's not even Berk's fault. He worked on the 94 Spidey cartoon, Supes and Bats animated, Justice League, Legion of Superheroes, etc., etc.- and they ARE all very passable episodes. Run-of-the-mill stuff. Average stuff I didn't have to shell out 22 bucks for!
I really wanted to say good things about the voice cast: they do a credible job with nothing memorable to say. I REALLY wanted to like the supporting cast: Power Girl, Starfire, Black Lightning, CAPTAIN MARVEL for Shazam's sake!
But, for example, John C. McGinley, great actor, plays Metallo: HE ONLY HAS 3 LINES!
Since the Metallo-may-have-killed-the-Waynes sub-plot was excised along with the time-travel sub-plot, the Apokolips sub-plot, the motivations of the heroes Luthor has co-opted, Lois' interview, and dozens of minor characters it... (sigh) it all seems so trimmed that there's nothing left.
You just can't cut that much plot from a six-issue comic book!
On the flip side Black Lightning actually has 6 MORE words than he did in the comic. Instead of "ON IT!" he now shouts "I think I can put up a forcefield!" I didn't know that was Jefferson's power, but thanks for playing, LeVar Burton!
When Superman asks Captain Marvel "Would Solomon have gone to work for Luthor?" we are forced to remember that Billy a) WASN'T with Luthor in the comic and b) Would only work for Luthor if he had the Worm with the Mind of Hitler living in his ear! Geez! And just for the subtitle people: Captain Marvel does not say 'Shizam!'.
Don't worry about it. He's only been a cultural icon for almost a century.
Lastly, Allison Mack as Power Girl. Sweet Mosby. (Sigh) Look, I've got nothing against Smallville's Chloe. She has done the ABSOLUTE BEST WORK a human can do when asked to look small and sad for TEN YEARS!
Why would you make Power Girl, the most brassy, gutsy, bombastic, BIG (yes, those, too) supergal of the DC realm into a mopey indecisive milksop? They actually had to ADD dialogue to make her seem more fretful and cautious. In the comic, she takes absolutely ZERO convincing to quit drug-addled, purple-armor clad President Luthor for our daring duo.
Would YOU need convincing?
This dialogue- when Luthor snarls "I'm the president!" Supes 'quips' "Consider yourself (pause)"
My wife and I look at each other and chorus:
"...Impeached!" Punch.
Very Schwarzenegger.
This is not an awful movie. It is, however, mercilessly uninspired and unworthy of the source material, which, let's face it, was a popcorn comic in the first place.
Somehow I will find the strength to go on.
Mostly by looking forward to next week- my self-imposed Legion of Super-Heroes Klordny Week festival!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Favorite Characters: The Not-So-Dark Knight

"Batman's rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it's certainly no less valid and true to the character's roots as the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy."
-Bat-Mite, to a disgruntled fan in 'Legends of the Dark Mite!'

Since I read Captain Complainy's blog about that glum, failure-to-launch Superman-esque character dragging 'Smallville' down, I thought I should bring to your attention the most UPBEAT version of Batman since Adam West.
Diedrich Bader is the lead in the spectacular WB cartoon series 'Batman: The Brave & The Bold' loosely based on the comic of the same name, in which Batman teams up with one or more less famous heroes of the DC universe.
This character is still recognisably The Bat- smart as a whip, inhumanly competent, ready to spring into action, but... he's nearly... well... cheerful. Not exactly sunny, mind you, but thanks to a wry, sardonic wit and the delight he seems to be taking in his own quips, he's clearly not as far gone as his miserable modern dopplegangers in other dimensions, comic and film alike.
No offense meant, but this guy isn't all alone bemoaning his outcast state- he's putting himself out there.
This guy isn't standing on a rooftop watching his humanity ebb away- he's up there trying to help people.
With this guy, you can understand how it is that Alfred hasn't found his charge hanging by the neck in the Batcave one morning with a note pinned to his own chest that says 'I'll be with Mom & Dad now'.
He still misses his parents. But he's forging ahead. He's making his own future. He's pulling through. AND he seems to be enjoying it. Among other things, he's got a freaking JET. He's got respect. He's got a clear and upright sense of right and wrong. He's thwarting evildoers. And he's got dozens of... colourful... friends.
'Reformed' scaliwag Plastic Man. Rival upstart Green Arrow. Unsettling time-lost bounty hunter Jonah Hex. Crusty veteran Wildcat. Wet-behind-the-ears and true Blue Beetle. Feisty gadabout Huntress.
And what can I say about John Dimaggio's portrayal of Aquaman? The sheer nigh-insane GUSTO of the king of the sea is a delight to hear! I cannot stop gushing from my very blowhole about Aquaman and how much fun he is! I think there may not be a better way to play that role. (The less said about the handsome and awful lad on Smallville the better).
This is a great superhero cartoon. I haven't seen one I enjoyed as much since Justice League Unlimited. Writing, animation, style, story, voices, music and sound- all top drawer.

THIS is a Batman who knows- you can't be so grim all the time when the world is so ludicrous... astounding... and wonderful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Captain Complainy: Not Gay Enough for Smallville

Brace yourselves, people. A show I really care about is on its deathbed and I'm just lashing out at everything today! Lashing out at things that don't deserve to live.
Or when I asked myself another way, HOW many episodes have I enjoyed? In TEN YEARS?
How many were GOOD for me?
There were some cool tornado effects at the end of a first season of lacklustre meteor-freak of the week.
"Rosetta" is season two had, oh, around 5 minutes of sweetness when Dr. Virgil Swan tells Clark his origin. Finally! Krypton! Space! So, can we stop saying 'green meteor rock' now?

Also, damn. Thank you for 5 minutes with an Actor. I almost forgot what they were like. (with apologies to Michael Rosenbaum, John Schneider, Annette O'Toole, and John Glover)
Thanks again, Season 3 for "Perry" as it featured a heck of a great effects shot of a thrown tractor, and a heck of a great guy, Michael McKean. This guy needs to thank God for a sexy wife (see: Annette O'Toole).
Also, I have a sexy wife. Just sayin'.
Season Four offered about 6 seconds of really keen effects of Bart Allen running. And about 70 thousand hours of who gives-a-crap with the witchy Teagues.
And is it wrong that in all of Season 5, an ENTIRE season with everything it had to offer, all I can recall with fondness was Lois' shower scene?Thanks, Erica Durance.
Also, I have a sexy wife. Gotta cover my ass here.
Seriously. And Brainiac stands for Brain Inter Active Construct? Jay-sus, Mary, and Rao, WHY the HELL did they make that into an acronym? And HOW could it spell something in ENGLISH? I CAN'T believe I still get angry about this, but Kryptonian wing-dings... Earth letters... I type it into my head computer and it just keeps spewing nonsense! Brainiac is either an alien proper name or an alien title of veneration depending on which comic you look at, and making it an acronym is JUST CRACK-BRAINED!
Oh, Angry Tangents, where would I be without you?
Writing something of value myself?
Nah. Too lazy.
Season 6 had a redeeming factor besides Mack and Durance.
Season 6 had Green Arrow, and depite the 'cool' sunglasses and hoodie, (why do they shy away from capes, domino masks, and tights? Criminey!) Justin Hartley has the capacity to seem like a superhero.
Season... oh, why do I give a crap? It just goes on and on! Every year as more limbs are shot off (Pa Kent, Ma Kent, Lionel, Lex) this show still can't be stopped from shambling onward. At least Lana used to be there to drag the whole proceedings to a grinding halt in her bitter morass of self-pity... Wait, I meant Thank Krypto, Streaky, Beppo and all the Super-Pets up there in the sky that she's gone.
I keep lapsing into sighs whenever I think about this show. If only I was gay... I think it might better help me tolerate Tom Welling and his emo plodding through year after uneventful year. A block of wood in a red shirt and blue pants (or, nowadays, a Punisher costume???), delivering dull as dishwater dialogue, meaningless mutterings, about 5 seconds of something action-y or special-effecty, then more foot-shuffling and mumbling under a contemporary 'heart-felt' montage. Generally on the subject: 'I wish I wasn't so handsome and god-like. With all these powers and abilities and general splendidness I could have any woman... or man on the globe. I'd better not crack a smile or wear bright colors or do anything fun. People might start to think I was Superman.
And yet Defying Gravity GOT ONE MEASLY SEASON.
Screw you, TV!
I'm just mad, TV, you know I'd never leave you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Now there's a hoopy frood who knows where his towel is!

In the spirit of bookmonkey, I thought I'd blog about a favorite literary character. The first to come to mind (who was NOT first and foremost a television or comic book character) was Douglas Adams' alien hitchhiker from his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series: Ford Prefect.
As Bookmonkey suggested, describing such a character takes three steps: gush about him/her, state why you relate to them, and then say what you admire about them and would like to emulate. That seems very apt indeed, so here goes.
Ford (who went by Ix in school and cannot pronounce his own real name) is an unreliable writer and researcher who got stuck on Earth for 15 years and made, apparently, one friend. Despite his drunken ineptitude, surly disposition, and general uselessness, Ford is the closest thing to an expert on all space-travel and hitchhiking-related activities available to our main character, Arthur Dent (who, admittedly, I am also very fond of). Ford tends to have all the best gag lines, comes up with all the plans (some of which are good), and has all the contacts (even if he can't get along with any of them). In the later books while traveling alone, Ford even manages to do some pretty heroic things, although as he himself would put it:

"My doctor says that I have a malformed public duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fibre and that I'm therefore excused from saving universes."

He was played to the hilt on the radio by Geoffrey McGivern, played splendidly in the TV version by David Dixon (pictured), and played in the movie by Mos Def.

I love Ford Prefect. I love his acerbic wit, his turn of phrase, and his ability to deflate every moment of awe and wonder with a practical assertion. His inability to fit in on Earth is only one facet of his inability to fit in ANYWHERE. As an awkward teen and as the awkward man-child I have become I can relate to him completely. He's an oddball, he's a kook, he's the comic middle ground between Arthur Dent's staid demeanor and the non-functional weirdness that is Zaphod Beeblebrox. Ford can be a spotlight hog, prone to fits of panic, but he generally keeps his head about him in the strangest of situations.

It turns out that Ford is actually a pretty good writer and he's definitely capable of being a true and loyal friend. He's rather more of a loner than I would prefer to be, but I envy his passion for travel and his zest for life in its myriad bizarre forms.

You know, I'm really looking forward to seeing Ford and all the gang again in the recently released Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Book 6 of 3 "And Another Thing..." by Eoin Colfer. I've never read one of his books before, I just really miss Douglas Adams' skewed cosmos and I want very badly to visit it again, in whatever form.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gushy McFanboy: I'm With Stupid

Back from a trip to the Netherlands and a brush with death by plague, I had to blog about something I love and had already planned out a little in advance.
Dan Slott and Ty Templeton collaborated on one of the best Marvel superhero comics it has been my pleasure to read. Ever. Spider-Man & Human Torch: I'm With Stupid is a celebration of the history of Marvel set in 5 different time periods from the frenemy-ship of Johnny Storm and Peter Parker. If I was doing the perfect panel project on this I'd have loads to choose from. Like Aunt May innocently introducing Johnny to Peter (though Johnny is too self-involved to remember they've already met twice). Actually, I just enjoyed the same gag on the DVD of Frasier Season 1, where Niles is too conceited to remember repeatedly meeting Roz.
I'm over the moon about different art styles from Ty in this book: the 1960's space-adventure stuff looks like Kirby (who was REALLY good at freaky cosmic spacey-stuff by-the-by), the She-Hulk dressed up as a French maid captured the style of 1980's Byrne, the stories from the early and late 70's were perfectly of their time and place, too. A chronologically obsessive man would be able to tell you what issues and what MONTH of the seventies these stories were taking place in. Obviously a labor of love from both Dan and Ty.
I dig the story with the role-reversal, where Johnny tackles local crime while Spidey tags along in space with the remainder of the FF and ruins Reed's experiments. Spidey's more of a rookie to space travel and gave me a chortle in the panel below.
"It's called Thursday." LOVE IT! Oh, Ben Grimm.
There's an adventure in guy bonding over a souped-up Spider-Mobile, wild driving culminating in an awesome battle with the commie Red Ghost and his Super-Apes.
It would spoil the story to tell you about the hostess fruit pies (a very ubiquitous advert from '70s Marvel which make a hilarious appearance in this story).
There's hijinks with the Black Cat and her theivery, there's Johnny's extra-fast dispatch of the recurring Spidey villain Vulture ('You're just an old man with fake wings, right?' Wings go up in smoke, Vulture plummets). There's a page devoted to Spidey versus Johnny's nemesis 'Paste Pot Pete', wherein Spidey can't even stop ROFLing at the guy's name long enough to fight him.
And there's the reference to why they DIDN'T have a flashback story set in the mid-nineties: because that whole period had Spidey's CLONE instead of Spidey. "Better to just skip over that whole period, then," advises Johnny to the whole readership beyond the fouth wall.
I have not laughed so much out loud at a comic since Giffen and DeMatteis' 'I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League'. This comic spent equal time on my funny bone and my nostalgia button, and then went on to massage my Guy Love.
Seriously, the best part of this comic is the buddy movie stuff. Written by buds, about buds, for buds.
It reeks of Guy Love and I swear to you, that's no bad thing. As somebody who's glad to have a BFF, I appreciated the tenderness and the banter of a couple of long-time pals.
Here's to another 40 years of Marvel heroes, and another 40 with my real-world friends, too.