A brand new video after a long hiatus… please like and subscribe:
Who Is Wonder Woman
In recent years, Wonder Woman has finally gotten the respect she deserves. That’s in no doubt due to the absolutely amazing reaction from the cinema going public to the Wonder Woman movie starring the spectacular Gal Gadot.
WW has always been one of DC Comics ‘Big Three’, the other two being Superman and Batman, both of whom have been extraordinarily successful in other medium: video games, cartoons, TV shows, movies… but realistically WW has only ever worked before on TV in the seventies, and even then, it took three goes to get that right.
I’m getting ahead of myself through and I should answer the question that is asked by this very trade paperback: who IS Wonder Woman?
Wonder Woman is a character owned by DC comics and was created by William Moulton Marston, and polyamorous psychologist who also invented the polygraph machine, and first appeared in All-Star Comics issue 8 in 1941, with art from Harry G. Peter.
She is a being from the island of Themyscira, a place inhabited by a race of warrior women, and after proving herself through a series of trials, Wonder Woman… or Diana as she is better known, travels to ‘man’s world’ as an emissary of peace.
Now this origin is where Wonder Woman has her problems: over the years, Superman and Batman’s origins have more or less stayed the same, but Wonder Woman’s have occasionally been reinvented, and in that reinvention become a character whose solid foundations are shaky.
Funny enough, though all that change has rocked those very foundations, this trade paperback, collecting Wonder Woman numbers 1 through 4, and annual 1, embraces all that variety and even celebrates it.
This collection has a really interesting introduction by Brian K. Vaughan, the writer of Vertigo’s Y: The Last Man and Image Comic’s Saga which is a real interesting take on the Spirit of Truth.
Story: This story takes place after a massive upset in the DC universe, as Wonder Woman has killed a man known as Max Lord: the founder of Justice League International, and unbeknownst to everyone, a psychic villain with the power to coerce others into doing as he pleases… by breaking his neck.
This story takes up Wonder Woman’s life a full year after that event, and even though she has been exonerated of his murder, she still feels she may no longer be the symbol of hope she professed to be, and so, hands the title of ‘Wonder Woman’ to her younger ‘sister’, Donna Troy.
N.B.: I put the word ‘sister’ in inverted commas as Donna Troy is another character with an origin that has been screwed up over and over and I honestly can’t remember which this one is.
Anyway, Diana has reinvented herself, with the help of Batman and Superman, as Agent Diana Prince and is teamed up with Nemesis, an older DC character at the Department of Metahuman Affairs and gets to face a cavalcade of her enemies, from Cheetah, to Dr Psycho, and even Circe, who even takes on the mantle of Wonder Woman.
Will Diana Prince reveal herself as being the real Wonder Woman, or is the secret identity more important to who she has grown into?
This entire tale of Wonder Woman is a great read, and even though it does have a bunch of guest stars, it never gets bogged down in re-introducing them. Allan Heinberg, a TV and comic writer who is also responsible for the script for the Wonder Woman movie has created a cool spy story, with a bunch of superheroes thrown in for good measure, and it is a heap of fun and runs at a great clip.
Also, it re-invents Wonder Woman without disrespecting what has come before, and even the 60s martial arts master I-Ching gets a mention, as does Diana’s white jumpsuit from the same era.
As a side note: I must admit to having a sly smirk on my mouth when Hercules is re-introduced, and Nemesis refers to him as ‘the REAL one’, as DC’s Hercules appeared in comics over 20 years earlier than Marvel’s more famous one.
Art: Boy, oh, Boy, do I love the art in this book!
There’s is no doubt that I adore the art of Terry Dodson, and when inked by his partner Rachel Dodson, is a perfect storm of super powered heroes that never… Ok, rarely… descends into the anti-storytelling of the nineties books that were cheesecake and beefcake shots. All of the poses of the characters are powerful looking and the story is told really well with some amazing choices of layout.
The redesign of most of the characters fit this story really well. Diana as secret agent looks tough, Hercules looks godlike, Donna Troy, who with a lesser artist would just look like The Diet Coke version of Diana, has her own look and Circe villainy is apparent by the spectacular lighting choices made.
As a side note, there is also a back-up tale by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal with Dave McCaig which is like a revisiting if all the main Wonder Woman characters origins. Frank’s art is as good as it generally is, his superhero bodies are always super-heroic, but occasionally there are some facial expression that look out of place. There’s not really much substance to the story as it is like a sports recap.
WIRIA: It’s a gem that is worth re-reading if only for the Dodson’s spectacular art.
One from the to watch pile…
Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)
Film: Yep, we are back with another one of those DC animated movies, which for me, are far better than any cinematic universe from any comic company. Why? Well basically these animated film live in a world where the origin of a super hero doesn’t necessarily need to be a focus of a film, and nor does there need to be a circle around to reveal the main bad guy was intrinsic to the formation of the good guy.
These films assume you know who Hawkman and other ‘minor’ characters are, and even better, with a rough schedule of three a year (thirdly? Is that the the three-times-a-year version of quarterly?) they can mix up the storylines and have a variety of characters and storylines that don’t require you to have seen 20 hours of previous entries to know what is going on: each film can exist completely by itself without having seen a previous entry.
This entry is almost a sequel to Batman: The Animated Series (TAS), and features not just favourites Batman and Nightwing, but also DC Darling Harley Quinn, along with other fan favourites Poison Ivy, Plantman and Swamp Thing.
In this film, Batman and Nightwing are investigating Poison Ivy and Plantman, who have teamed up with the idea of transforming all the ugly ‘meat’ on the planet (ie you and me) into plantlife by using the research by Alec Holland, who became the half man/ half plant/ all elemental Swamp Thing after an experiment was sabotaged, but Batman needs an ‘in’ to find where Poison Ivy is… and that in is named Harley Quinn, who might know Ivy’s whereabouts due to their friendship.
Nightwing tracks Harley down to a girlie bar where she works dressed up as her evil self, but she’s trying very hard to resist her bad urges and go on the straight and narrow, and become legit. Nightwing follows her home, and after being seduced by her, convinces her to help them, which she does with glee!
Meanwhile, Plantman and Ivy’s experiments aren’t working to what they require, and they decide they need to relocate to the swamp where Swamp Thing was created. With the Trinamic Trio (?) make it in time to stop their nefarious scheme?
From the start you know what you are in for: the Henri Mancini styled goofy, 60s score and the Pink Panther looking antics of cartoonish versions of the lead characters mean that you definitely are not looking at the Batman from previous films like Batman: Bad Blood or Batman: Assault on Arkham Asylum.
The main cast of Batman the Animated Series is back with Kevin Conroy playing ol’ Bats and Loren Lester reprising is role as an older Dick Grayson, who is now Nightwing rather than Robin. Unfortunately, there is no Tara Strong as Harley or Diane Pershing as Poison Ivy in this, but their replacements are surprising: Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch and Criminal Minds’ Paget Brewster.
Melissa Rauch is no Tara Strong, but plays Harley with a great deal of fun, the real winner is a Brewster as Ivy. Do I have a soft spot for Brewster? Yes, so I was pretty excited to see her in this role! She plays Ivy extraordinarily dry and austere towards everything except for Harley.
This film was directed by regular DC animated director Sam Liu and even in adapting the Batman TAS style he still manages to make it his own, which is great considering Batman TAS creator Bruce Tim returns here as the story and script-writer… and he also plays the voice of Justice Leaguer Booster Gold in a particularly funny scene which reveals Nightwing’s opinion of some of the third tier Justice League members.
It’s certainly not the greatest DC animated film, but it certainly sees Harley at her sexiest (in all aspects of the term) and funnest (is that a word?). There are some real great tributes to the Batman 66, the henchman karaoke bar is fantastic, and it’s certainly nice to hear the 90s Batman and Robin back together again.
Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian region B Bluray which runs for 74 minutes and is presented in an impeccable 1.78:1 image with a spectacular English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio.
Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and Justice League Dark before hitting the main menu where there are some pretty cool extras.
A Sneak Peak at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie gives us a sneak peak at Gotham by Gaslight: a DC Animated film I simply cannot wait for. I always loved these ‘Elseworlds’ tales from DC as they are story driven rather than character driven soap operas and don’t require any knowledge of previous tales for a sense of completion.
The Harley Effect looks at the history of the character of Harley Quinn and her inevitable popularity: every one loves a funny, sexy girl with brains… who is maybe just a little bit nuts.
Loren Lester: In His Own Voice is an interesting interview with the actor who has played the animated Dick Grayson/ Robin/ Nightwing, about his career.
There are a few sneak peaks at previous DC animated films: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2 and Batman: Assault on Arkham.
There are also two classic Harley Quinn cartoons from Batman: The Animated Series: Harley and Ivy and Harley’s Holiday.
In addition to the trailers that open the disc, there is also trailers for Justice League and Wonder Woman, the live action movies.
WISIA: It’s a DC animated film with Harley Quinn in it: no matter how bad, I’ll be watching it again.
One from the re watch pile…
Superman/ Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
Film: As a comic fan, I possibly love these DC animated features more than the Marvel movies. I like the fact that every film doesn’t require an origin story of the character, and there is an assumption that the viewer KNOWS who Batman and Superman and Power Girl and whomever else is. Throwing out the need to have an origin story makes for a quicker start to the tale, and the DC universe creators are clever with their introductions as sometimes they are as simple as just sitting at a table in JLA headquarters!
The other thing is unlimited budget. The beautiful thing about animation (and comics) is it takes about the same amount of budget to create one explosion or fifty of them, also, it’s a lot easier to change a cast member when all you hear is their voice.
There is also the fact that they just tell good stories almost every time, and that is because they are based on the stories told in the comics, which were far better than any ‘live action’ adaptation. This in combination with some spectacular character design, and the inclusion of one of Jack Kirby’s greatest creations, Darkseid, and other denizens of his awesome Fourth World Saga characters, make for an epic tale.
During a meteor shower, ‘something’ crash lands in Gotham Harbour, making Batman go to investigate. Batman finds a spaceship of Kryptonian origins, a bunch of kryptonite, and a girl, Kara, the cousin of Superman!
Superman and Batman become an unusual parental unit for Kara, who we quickly find out was sent with baby Superman to protect him on Earth, but her ship was knocked off course, arriving so much later that Superman is now older in body that her, as her ships suspended animation kept her at a 16 year old girl’s age. Unfortunately, Batman’s mistrust causes a rift between them and her.
Meanwhile, on the God-world of Apokalips, the evil ruler Darkseid, is attempting to replace the traitorous Big Barda, who left his royal guard as its captain. He is entrusting Granny Goodness, the trainer of warriors, to find her replacement, but she is repeatedly failing. Darkseid has seen Kara fall from the sky too, and entrusts Goodness to capture her so she can become his new Captain.
Meanwhile, again, Batman has employed Wonder Woman to take her Paradise Island to receive proper training, which Superman agrees to, causing a rift between her and him.
With Kara’s disappointment in both her ‘parents’, once captured she is easily swayed to Darkseid’s manipulations… but will she become Darkseid’s greatest warrior?
This is a really cool story, and it shows a lot of the strong women that DC has to offer all in one story, although as a weird juxtaposition, it also has a bizarre sequence where Kara goes shopping in a Pretty Woman styled sequence, which seems to show that even above all the powers, she’s still ‘just a girl’. I don’t know why such a sequence exists in this film, and the film comes to a sudden stop to show it. I have to admit that when we see what she ultimately decides as her outfit, it’s a nice tribute to Laura Vandervoort’s Smallville outfit.
Another thing I like about it is how it links loosely to the previous Superman/ Batman movie, Public Enemies, with a mention of ‘President Luthor’s impeachment’.
There’s some awesome voice casting in this film as well. Kevin Conroy returns as the angry voice of Batman, as does Tim Daly as Superman. Summer Glau from Firefly performs Supergirl but the most inspired vocal choice is TV legend Ed Asner as Granny Goodness, it makes her look even weirder with his deep attempts at a woman’s voice.
All up, this is certainly one of the better DC animated features and for me being a big Kirby fan, it was a pleasure seeing so many of Kirby’s creations, like Big Barda, Granny Goodness, the Female Furies, Parademons, Hunger Dogs… just so many, on the screen.
Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian Bluray which runs for approximately 78 minutes and is presented in a crisp 1.85:1 visual with an clear cut and crisp DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track.
Extras: The disc opens with previews for Batman: Under the Red Hood and The Lost Boys: The Thirst before making its way to the main menu.
Under the Special Features banner though is a huge bunch of stuff:
DC Showcase: Green Arrow is a cool 10 minute short highlighting Green Arrow. This is a really cool short that introduces the character of Green Arrow and also features other characters like Black Widow, Count Vertigo and Merlyn. DC only made a few of these and it’s disappointing that they dumped them. This features an awesome line up of actors doing the voices too: A Clockwork Orange’s Malcolm McDowell, Captain America: The First Avenger’s Neil McDonough, Scooby Doo’s Grey Delisle, Futurama’s John DiMaggio and Modern Family’s Ariel Winter!
Bruce Timm’s Top Picks features four episodes taken from Superman: The Animated Series: Little Girl Lost Part 1 and 2, and Apokalips Now! Part 1 and 2.
The Fourth World: The New Gods investigates Jack Kirby’s creation of the New Gods in the early 70s, and how important their creation was to DC at the time, and explores Kirby’s history as well, and how important he was to the history of comic books.
New Gods: Mister Miracle Pod is a distillation of Miracle’s origin.
News Gods: Orion Pod is the same as Miracle’s, but for Orion.
Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton explores the history of the character of Supergirl, why she was so important to the DC universe, and why she continues to be relevant and popular today. Unfortunately this was made before the new TV series starring Melissa Benoist so there’s nothing included from that (at this point, Laura Vandervoort was still Supergirl from the Smallville TV show).
There are also trailers for the Lego Universe, the Jonah Hex motion comic, Batman: Under the Red Hood (again), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies.
The final extra is a sneak peak at what was the next release in the DC Animated Features, All-Star Superman.
WISIA: I love these DC animated features, and ALL of them get regularly watched… including this one.
LEGENDS: THE COLLECTION
Many of the greatest comics ever written were done in the 80s and part of that reason was the invention of the mini series or limited series. In these takes, even though the character was ongoing, you got a complete tale of that character. A more educated person would suggest these takes were more story driven than character driven, but I’m not, so I won’t suggest that.
DC were particularly good at it as they crafted more deliberate stories, a habit Dark Horse took up later with their Aliens and Predator mini series’s. DC gave such amazing tales as Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, and of course, the genre and universe re-defining Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The objective of Crisis was to clean up the ‘multiple Earth’ theory that DC had devised so that both their pre-60s relaunch and the earlier stories could exist together, our earth having younger heroes but ‘Earth-2’ having heroes who fought in WW2.
After Crisis occurred, there were many questions left unanswered, and several new series started to re-explain origins of various DC stalwarts, including a brand new Superman title. One of these new titles was a clean-up mini-series called Legends.
Legends was a six issue mini, tied in many other titles, but it still could be read without needing those others, which were more decoration to the core story told in it.
What was Legends about, well, Darkseid makes a bet with the Phantom Stranger that the general populace of Earth would turn on their heroes if opportunity arose, and so, to prove his point, sends his minion Glorious Godfrey, who has to power of coercion, to start creating a scare campaign.
In his nefarious plans he also puts heroes in positions where they seem to cause problems, but Doctor Fate can see what is happening, and bands together a group of heroes to stand up against Godfrey’s ‘Hounds of War’, machines contain humans under his thrall, who are descending upon Washington… can they be stopped?
Many titles came from this series, including a new Wonder Woman, a new Suicide Squad, a new Justice League comic (rebranded as a comedy), a new Flash comic, and fresh minis of both Captain Marvel (Shazam!) and Cosmic Boy.
This collection also has a wonderful introduction by former group editor and director for development for DC, Mike Gold, who talks about how he managed to get the idea together, and how he managed to land John Ostrander, a writer who had a different approach to comics as could be seen by his First Comics published stories of Sargon, Mistress of War and Grimjack.
Story: John Ostrander creates an amazing story that really highlights some heroes that don’t always get much credit, like Robin (even though it’s… bleargh…. Jason Todd), Blue Beetle, Doctor Fate, and his revamped of Task Force X aka The Suicide Squad is a perfect addition. Add to that scripting by Swamp Thing legend Len Wein and you have a winning tale!
Art: The art in this comic is top shelf. My second favourite artist of all time, John Byrne (my first is Jack Kirby) inked by Karl Kesey, the inker who shows off his work best. Sweets for the eyes.
WIRIA: I love this comic and probably drag it out once a year. Finding a collection was a blessing because it meant I didn’t have to touch my individual issues any more.
One from the re watch pile…
Secret Origins: The Origins of DC Comics (2010)
Film: As of the date of this review, I have been a comics fan for 45 years. Every Sunday, as a child in the coastal town of Thirroul, my father would take me to the newsagency down the road so he could grab the Sunday paper, and we would return with a comic for me as well (and once a month, a Famous Monsters magazine), and that turned into a life long addiction to the panelled arts.
Ok, except for during the early nineties when the ‘Image look’ took over and every man and his dog was attempting to ‘draw’ like Rob Liefeld… yuk!
My first comic is emblazoned in my mind: issue 46 of Iron Man where he fought the Guardsman and I remember the cover well. In those days I didn’t know there was a ‘universe’ and I just read comics based on each individual issue.
…and still to this day I declare Superman to be the greatest hero of all, even though he is not created by my favourite comic creator, Jack Kirby: an artist whose talent I adore so much I even named my daughter after him!!
Anyway, DC comics always are close to my heart and I was so happy several years ago when I discovered this doco existed, along with its supporting doco, Necessary Evil, which explores the villains of DC comics, which are far more interesting as characters in general than the good guys.
This documentary, Secret Origins: The Origins of DC Comics, is narrated by Ryan Reynolds, and tells the of DC comics, and thoroughly explores the entire history: the ups and downs, the successful TV shows and films, the cartoons, the merchandise and the comics as well, but not just the history of the characters, also the creators, historians and all the business and style changes throughout the history.
This documentary features interviews with Karen Berger, Neil Adams, Frank Miller, Bob Kane, Marv Wolfman, Dwayne McDuffie, Neil Gaiman… just so many interviews, both new and archival, and all of them relevant and informative.
It also explores the legends of the greatest heroes of the DC Universe: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Watchmen, Swamp Thing and so many others.
The entire film is also illustrated with some of the finest art comics has to offer, and some awesome footage from the films and TV of DC, including some amazing behind the scenes stuff.
If you love DC comics, this is a must watch, and even if you just like any comics from any publisher, this is an incredibly informative and interesting look at the history of comics in general.
Format: The reviewed copy of this documentary was the American, region 1 DVD, which runs for approximately 90 minutes, and it is presented in a 1.80:1 widescreen, of varying quality due to some of the footage being archival, but the comic images and new footage and interviews are clean, and the audio in an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1.
Extras: None, unfortunately.
WISIA: Being a comic and a documentary fan, this is a wonderful meeting of the two things, and gets watched possibly once a month.
One from the to watch pile…
Justice League Dark (2017)
Film: As a teen I read any comic I could get my hands on, and that evolved into me pretty much exclusively reading only Marvel comics. I stopped reading comics in the beginning of the nineties as basically, well, they sucked.
I started reading comics again in the early 2000s. I started with Marvel but drifted to DC, and now read a bit of both. Even though Marvel have nailed down the movies with their cinematic Universe, DC seem to be struggling. The interesting thing though in their animated movies, which are released direct to bluray, are amazing.
The reason is quite simple: there is an assumption that the viewer knows who the heroes are and they don’t feel the need to retell and retell their origin story every time a new one comes out.
I’ve pretty much enjoyed most of them, though their have been a couple that have meandered a little; this is one of them.
Justice League Dark tells of the darker side of the DC universe: when a villain of magical proportions threatens the DC Universe, Batman employs the assistance of those from the darker side of the DCU, including John Constantine and Zatanna, who bring along other magical beings such as Etrigan the Demon, Swamp Thing, Deadman and all the magical powers of the House of Mystery and Black Orchid.
The problem with this story is it’s just not entertaining. The whole thing felt quite flat and dull, and at times I was struggling to maintain any sense of interest. Batman’s inclusion is strictly as lip service to the DCU and even he comes off like he feels like he shouldn’t be there.
That’s not to say the character design and the animation is great, because the film looks fantastic, and I’m really enjoying the character design in these animated features.
Several of the voices will sound familiar as Matt Ryan, who plays the live action TV show Constantine, plays him here too! Zatanna is portrayed by Lara Croft (the video game) actress Camille Luddington and Jason O’ Mara returns as Batman. Most of the voice acting is pretty cool except for one glaringly awful choice which is Nicolas Tutturro as Deadman. I always expected Boston Brand to have an other-worldly voice, not that of an annoying stand-up New Yorker.
Unfortunately this was a big miss for me, but I do hope the JLD return for another adventure, maybe just with a better thought out story, and without the yoke of Batman following them around like a lost dog.
Format: This Australian region B bluray release of Justice League Dark runs for 75 minutes and is presented in an excellent 1.78:1 image with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track of similar quality.
Extras: This disc opens with a trailer for Wonder Woman (the live action one with Gal Gadot) before taking us to the menu screen.
As always with these DC animated films, we are treated to a look at the next film to be released, in this case it being Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. I love the Teen Titans so I for one can’t wait!
The Story of the Swamp Thing looks at the genesis of Len Wein’s creation of Swamp Thing, a DC muck creature created in the 70s who became a staple of DC’s Vertigo line in the 80s and beyond. This has interviews with Wein, artist Kelly Jones, writer Mike Carlin and others and is one of my favourite docos of this type on these discs. Still a shame Alan Moore wouldn’t make any sort of commentary on the character.
Did You Know? is broken into 4 mini docos ‘Constantine Origin’, ‘The Color of Magic’, ‘Black Orchid’ and ‘Deadman Casting’. These are just 30 to 60 second vignettes talking about various aspects of the movie and it’s characters. Interestingly, the casting of Deadman is talkied up when in fact I think his vocal casting was the worst.
Justice League Dark at the New York Comic Con 2016 sees the creators and cast of the film talking about the film. It’s a pretty interesting look at the challenges of making the continuity of these new ‘animated universe’ features. It ends with a pretty good Q and A session too.
There are two other ‘sneak peeks’ for previous releases of Justice League: Doom and Justice League: Gods and Monsters, as well as episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold guest starring Deadman and The Demon.
There is also trailers for the DC All Access App and Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.
WISIA: Whilst it’s not my favourite one of these DC animated features, I’ll probably watch it again just because of Jack Kirby’s Demon making an appearance.
Got a new toy today… check it out!
HARLEY QUINN’S GREATEST HITS
There is no doubt in my mind that DC Comics do female superheroes better than Marvel. Of my top five favourite super heroines, 4 of them are DC: Supergirl, Power Girl, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn. (For full disclosure’s sake, the Marvel heroine is She-Hulk).
I’ve been a fan of Harley Quinn since her first comic appearance in The Batman Adventures issue #12, but I really liked what I saw in the Bruce Timm/ Paul Dini story Mad Love, though they came at a time when I was drifting out of comics because of how awful they had become in the early 90s so I missed out on a whole pile of her adventures until I became re-united with her when her own comic became a part of the New 52 Universe that DC started several years ago. She wasn’t one of the 52 launch titles, but once her comic started, I was well and truly into it. Harley’s actual first appearance was actually in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series as a sidekick of the Joker.
Who is Harley Quinn, I hear you ask? Harley’s origin sees her as a psychologist Harleen Quinzel who was manipulated by the Joker whilst treating him in Arkham Asylum to fall in love with him. The Joker has a firm ‘treat ‘me mean and keep ‘me keen’ ethos and that really works on Harley.
The Joker decided at one point that she cramped his style, so he attempted to kill her but she was rescued by Poison Ivy (another Batman villain) who assisted in her recovery by giving her various plant potions which also made her more limber, and increased her strength and endurance. She is also resistant to most toxins, including the Joker’s laughing gas.
Harley’s popularity also rose from her appearance in the amazing ‘Arkham’ video game series and she has been a cosplay favourite for a while too. Her appearance in the TV show Birds of Prey went by with just a blip, but her portrayal by Margot Robbie in 2016’s film Suicide Squad nailed her look into people’s regular day-to-day wear,
This collection is a series of 8 stories taken from various comics which show the evolution of the character from throwaway gun moll to superhero in her own right (if you have read the Harley Quinn/ Power Girl 6 issue mini series written by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Palmiotti, Stéphan Roux and Justin Gray). Her character goes from flat out villain to crazy fun-loving within a few pages that represent many years, so it’s funny to see just how much the character has evolved to suit the affection the comic loving populace have for her. Some of the stories are only a few pages long and serves as character vignettes, but others really display the character is all her crazy lights!
Story: This being a historical collection, there is a variety of writes who have worked on it: Scott Beatty, Kelly Puckett, Jeph Loeb, Paul Dini, Adam Glass, Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti and Rob Williams, and the stories are presented in historical order. The Rob Williams story is the most recent and clearly sees the film version of the Suicide Squad become a more comic related group and is an interesting look at where Harley’s mind is as far as wanting to be a superhero is concerned, but for me, the Kicked in the Teeth, from 2011’s Suicide Squad #1 by Adam Glass is the most effective story. The least effective story is Jeph Loeb’s The Opera but only because it was a past of a bigger story that was presented over 12 issues, and there are minor subplots unresolved. It’s not a criticism of Loeb’s writing, but more it’s appearance here is a misstep as it is only a snippet of an entire Batman story.
All in all it’s an uneven story collection, but as a character evolution and dissection, it almost works!
Art: As with the story, the art is of varying quality, but is mostly representative of the story it is presenting. Modern comics art legend Jim Lee makes two appearances here, his better art featuring in the The Opera story, but for me, the fun, cartoony are of Mike Parobeck, whose art lends itself to both an animated or a traditional comic style, in the Batgirl: Day One.
Overall though, I really liked all of the art in this collection.
WIRIA: Am I gonna read a collection of one of my favourite characters more than once? Of course I am.
One from the to watch pile…
Batman The Killing Joke (2016)
Film: Batman has never been my favourite superhero, but he’s always been right up near the top. His parliament of villains though, are unsurpassed by any other comic. Characters like Two-Face, the Penguin, Killer Croc, Catwoman and the Joker in different circumstances are Travis Bickle, The Godfather, Hannibal Lector, Lisbeth Salander or Freddy Kruger; since the 80s, the writers of Batman have always given a real cinematic personality to Batman villains.
Specifically this has happened since the 80s because of three comics that took the childlike elements of comics, and made them for adults. These comics all came from DC because in those days, Marvel weren’t anywhere near the same page as DC in terms of understanding that there were now adults who had been reading comics since they were kids and they still waded in the kiddies end of the pool. DC though, struck out with three comics that changed the face of comics: Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and the comic that this DC animated feature is based on The Killing Joke.
The Killing Joke introduces us to Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl, a sidekick who also has somewhat of a crush on him. We explore her and Batman’s relationship in the first act with an investigation into a mobster, and how it grows into something more that just a professional relationship.
After we get that relationship down, we lead into the real horror story which is of the Joker on the loose in Gotham City, and when he maims Barbara and kidnaps her father, Commissioner Gordon, Batman’s investigative powers go into high gear… As does his need for revenge…
In and amongst this story, we get a glimpse into the origin of the Joker… Or one of the many origins he claims, anyway.
The animated version does have a slight difference in the story from the comic, in that they have included more Batgirl as an introduction so what the Joker does to her has more gravity to someone who may enjoy these movies, but don’t necessarily have a large volume of DC Universe knowledge running through there skulls. Within the confines of this feature it works well, and the actual comic itself probably would have been far to short for a feature over an hour, so it’s a welcome addition, though there is clearly two completely separate acts. The thing I found real interesting is that obviously Moore’s resistance to his stories being translated into film or TV have resulted in his name being completely removed from the credits. I can’t say whether this is upon his request or DC’s, but I assume the former is the truth.
This film received a lot of criticism about the relationship between Batman and Batgirl, but I don’t think it’s as bad as they say, and doesn’t really vary from Batgirl’s origins. Almost every incarnation of the comic version of the character have had Barbara become Batgirl due to an obsession with the Dark Knight, and to have her act in that obsession isn’t completely unreasonable. Also, the character has always been of varying age, sometimes she’s a university student, so maybe 18 to 22, or working in a library, and not an ingenue librarian either, but an established one, so we are talking mid 20s to 30… These ages aren’t unreasonable to have a sexual liaison with a man in his late 30s to early 40s.
The animation is great, and lies somewhere between TV animation and a Disney feature, but it does emulate Killing Joke comic artist, Brian Bolland’s art satisfactorily, but obviously, and those that know Bolland’s work will appreciate it would be difficult, not exact to his style. It does replicate his layouts and animates them efficiently.
The voice acting is perfect and reuses the Batman regulars Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker and Tara Strong as Batgirl, and they all complete their roles perfectly. Hamill’s Joker particularly has a comic psychosis too it that is truly disturbing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this take of The Killing Joke, and look forward to, considering the post-credit sequence, a Birds of Prey animated film sometime in the future. Batgirl has always been a favourite of mine, and this was a great introduction to the character!
Format: The review copy of this film was the Australian region B bluray which runs for 72 mins and is presented in an immaculate 1.78:1 widescreen with a Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack.
Extras: These DC animated features almost always have a bunch of features, and The Killing Joke is no exception.
The disc actually opens with a trailer for Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and an ad for the DC Season Pass, which incorporates all the DC TV series’s currently airing like Supergirl, Gotham, Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.
Then we get into the REAL extras, which include trailers for the animated feature Batman: Bad Blood, the film Suicide Squad and the DC All Access App.
From the DC Comics Vault has two cartoons: ‘Christmas with the Joker’ from Batman: The Animated Series and ‘Old Wounds’ from The New Batman Adventures.
We also have Sneak Peeks of their next animated movie, Justice League Dark, and previous releases, The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2 and Assault on Arkham.
Madness Set to Music talks to the composers and cast who worked the score of The Killing Joke.
Batman The Killing Joke: The Many Shades of Joker is a character dissection of the Joker.
WISIA: I really love these animated DC features and they always get watched again just because they are so much better than any comic based live-action film, DC, Marvel or otherwise. They don’t feel they need to retell origin stories over and over, and just tell the tale of heroic deeds and villainous acts.