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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.
Was sad to see that comics legend Steve Ditko, co-creator Of Spiderman, Dr Strange, and the lesser know, but still important Charlton comics Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, as well as supernatural comic from Defiant Dark Dominion.
I discovered Ditko’s work as a kid with the reprints that Newton comics did in Australia of various Marvel comics, and whilst I was really into the dynamic action of Jack Kirby, I also appreciated the quiet moments that Ditko was able to convey, as well as his depiction of Spidey as a lithe hero, something Kirby perhaps could not have done.
He also had this amazing capacity to add an almost regal, austereness to every panel featuring Dr. strange.
I think the last time I really read a Ditko comic, other than reprints, was in the failed Jim Shooter comic company Defiant, who he drew an amazing comic called Dark Dominion, and his artwork always contained that same calm beauty.
Rest In Peace, Steve, and thank you so much for giving us opportunities to see some amazing artwork.
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…
Comic Book Confidential (1988)
Film: I am and always will be a comic fan. Sure there have been periods of time where I haven’t collection, the post-Image world of the 90s for example (I’m sorry guys, I like the old artwork, and the anime/ graffiti styled artwork of those guys never rubbed me the right way… I want my superheroes to be done by the old masters like Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, John Buscema and their ilk) and recently I’ve become disappointed with the storylines which seem to be repetitive and basically made to sell the movies. I understand it’s a business but there seems to be a creative lull, which has happened before as the history of comics is circular and fad based. Something hot today will not even be published tomorrow.
Hell, as of this review we don’t even have the cornerstone of the Marvel universe, the Fantastic Four being published, and that was once taglined as ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine’.
I do still however get collections of old stuff, and I’m fascinated by the history of the art form too, and my book collection has many ‘history of comics’ books amongst it.
This, however, is Ron Mann’s documentary of the history of comic books and it’s a pretty concise and interesting look at how they came about, but the best thing about this doco is the absolutely essential stories from some of the old men, and young guns, of the industry.
It’s pretty special to know the history of Bill Gaines, and then hear him tell stories himself, and to actually hear my hero, Jack Kirby’s voice, is amazing.
This doesn’t just look at the history of the art of comics, it also takes a walk down the history of comics legacy, and how it was effected by, and how it effected society. There is some great archival footage of the Senatorial Commitee on Juvenile Delinquency and some disturbing stories about court cases where artists and writers were sued for things they wrote or drew.
There is some cool presentations of classic comic covers rarely seen, but occasionally that footage is spoilt by some poorly executed, amateurish animation of the covers which was unnecessary and detracts from the amazing original art.
If you want a brief history of the industry, and one that is American centric as none of the great European or Asian artists really get a look in, this is your place to go, but there is so much more to many of the stories discussed in this doco. Honestly. This doco could do with a 1988 to now sequel!
Ron, are you listening?
Format: This documentary was reviewed with the Australian DVD release which runs for approximately 85 minutes. The film is presented in 4:3 and has a 2.0 audio track, both of which are of various degrees of quality due to the historical nature of some of the footage and audio. It doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment of the film though.
Extras: There is several extra on this disc though the first couple are a bit Kevin Smith indulgent. I guess if you pay someone to turn up you take advantage of the time.
The first note is that this doco from the 80s has a new introduction by Kevin Smith, where he basically points out that even ten years later when his introduction was done, it was still relevant.
A Conversation with Kevin Smith is more ‘ a justification for reading comics by Kevin Smith’ and whilst I get the heart of where it’s coming from I don’t get why I have to justify, or convince someone that adults can read comic, the same as a cricket fan does have to justify to me why he likes it. It doesn’t matter what you dig, just respect each other, and if you think you have to justify your passion to a friend, you need new friends.
Silent Bobs Speaks is a not very funny series of questions aimed at Smith’s ‘Silent Bob’ character. Lame.
There is also a trailer for the film.
The is an interview with director Ron Mann who talks about the making of this film and his career in general.
Last there are text biographies of some of the artists featured in the doco, including Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Jaime Hernandez, Shary Flenniken, Lynda Barry, Victor Moscow, Bill Griffith, Jack Kirby (of course), William M. Gaines, Francoise Molly, Al Feldstein, Art Spiegelman, Sue Coe, Gilbert Shelton, Dan O’Neill, Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman, Harvey Pekar, Spain, Charles Burns and Paul Mavrides. They are single paragraph bios so don’t expect an entire indepth history of each person.
WISIA: I have watched this many times and will probably continue to watch it many more times.
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.
One from the re watch pile…
Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (2013)
Film: I’ve been collecting comics for well over 40 years, and I still love them to death. I do admit that I did have a period in the 90s where I did not buy any, but that was due to Image comics; not the comics or artists themselves as what they did for artists and writers in the industry was long overdue, but the style of their art.
I’m an old school, Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Bernie Wrightson, Richard Corbin, Robert Crumb guy, so these new flashy artists had no interest to me, and when Marvel and DC started emulating their style, I was out!
Thankfully this didn’t last too long and soon I was back in the fold, enjoying the adventures of masked heroes fighting the good fight against evil, and being a bi-fan: that is, I buy both Marvel and DC comics… but why both? Why in a world where most people buy one or the other, would I get comics from both universes?
The answer is this: I love the realism of most of Marvel’s heroes having a basis in science rather than magic, and without a doubt, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four is still the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, even though as of the date of this review it hasn’t been published for several years.
On the flip side of that, I think that DC’s bad guys are greater than Marvel’s. Lex Luther is a great example: in Marvel comics, his equivalent is a good guy, Tony Stark, a weapons manufacturer who became Iron Man. In reality, those sorts of people are seen by the general public as villains, like Luthor. Luther doesn’t hate mankind or want world destruction, he’s xenophobic against Superman.
In reality, what would mankind do if an alien came to earth? Luthor’s actions are probably more accurate. Acceptable? No, but when are mankind’s actions acceptable?
Another DC villain that I think is possibly the greatest villain of all time is Jack Kirby’s Darkseid. Darkseid is the dictator of a world called Apokalips, and is at odds with the ENTIRE DC universe. You Marvel fans think Thanos is something to be concerned about? Darkseid would eat Thanos for breakfast!
Anyway, this documentary, Necessary Evil, sits as a great companion piece to the previous documentary Secret Origins: The History of DC Comics, which was released three years earlier. Necessary Evil is hosted by Christopher Lee (the ultimate super villain?) and has interviews with creative types from all walks of life. From psychologists to actors, including but not limited to director Zach Snyder, screenplay writer Geoff Boucher, co-creator of Harley Quinn Paul Dini, DC editor Bobbie Chase, DC editor in chief Bob Harras and many many more.
The film features clips from comics, cartoons, video games, animated films and major motion pictures, and displays many incarnations of the various villains, and is not just a great history of the villains of the DC universe, but is also an interesting psychological look at why we love heroes, but love villains even more.
Recommended, but it’s really only for the most devout of DC comics fans.
Format: Necessary Evil was reviewed on a region 1 DVD which runs for 99 minutes. The image is presented in a 1.78:1 image and a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, both of which are pretty good.
Extras: The disc starts with a trailer for DC’s We Can Be Heroes incentive (which is a pretty cool cause http://www.wecambeheroes.org), Man of Steel, the video game Batman: Arkham Origins, the DC animated feature Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and the DC animated TV series, Green Lantern, Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and that’s the entirety of the extras.
WISIA: Being a comic nut, I have to admit to watching this many many times.
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…
Teen Titan: The Judas Contract (2017)
Film: Often in movie circles you’ll hear people talk about how great the Marvel cinematic Universe is, or how DC are trying to copy its success, blah blah blah, but the BEST movies about super heroes are often overlooked.
The DC animated movies started in 2008 with somewhat of a whimper with the not-very-good Batman Gotham Knights, and apart from an occasional misstep, these features have been far superior to, well, ANY cinematic film in my opinion. Why is this? Several reasons…
… and I have to admit as being a lifelong comics fan as a justification of some of these reasons.
The first is that the animated features don’t feel the need to give the origin of every single hero they introduce if it doesn’t move the story along. Does Martian Manhunter’s origin tie into the story that is being told? No? They show what he can do, as the why’s and wherefores are incidental.
Another is that even though there are a few costume cosmetic changes, in general the costumes of the heroes are similar to the comics. I do appreciate that blue and yellow spandex may not be the greatest look on film, and that cinematic tone may not read it well, but it’s just comforting to see Batman in blue and grey.
The other thing is, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that these film can be watched as a singular film or as part of their various subsets, without the weight of 36 hours of other movies to prop it up. It’s fine to make a film series, but if some of the films don’t really stand on their own, what’s the point?
Another thing is that there is a regularity of cast that don’t need to change due to age or fitness levels. Kevin Conroy has been playing the animated Batman on and off for years!
Basically I wish DC would abandon their live-action universe and concentrate on these, and their TV series’ like Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash, and maybe their video games.
This one is especially special to me as in the early 80s when the two best comics around were Marvel’s The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans, I was totally in love with both. When Marvel and DC did a crossover with them I almost exploded.
The panel of Cyclops and Robin shaking hands blew my mind!
Anyway, of those early issues of The New Teen Titans, one of the best storylines was The Judas Contract, and apart for a few alterations necessary, such as some Titans roster changes, the plot is very similar.
Our story starts with these stories version of the original Teen Titans: Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash, Bumblebee and Beast Boy, meeting K’oriander, aka Starfire: the future leader of the Titans. We then flash forward to 5 years later (now?) and we meet the current Titans: Starfire, Nightwing (who was the original Robin), the new Robin, Blue Beetle, Raven, Beast Boy (still) and Terra.
A rising threat known as H.I.V.E. and it’s leader Brother Blood are a concern to the Titans, and Nightwing is investigating everything to do with them, but what if one of the Titans is a traitor… working for the assassin, Deathstroke?
As with most of these features, the art direction and story telling is fantastic, and the story moves along at quite the clip. It does vary slightly from the comics due to the aforementioned roster changes, but in essence it tells a great story about teamwork, friendship, Stockholm Syndrome, betrayal and what it takes to be a hero.
The best thing about it is just how dastardly awful Deathstroke is. So many superhero films show the bad guys in, not a positive light, but they certainly seem cooler than the heroes. This film aborts that ideal and Deathstroke is an absolute piece of crap who is totally unlikable, potentially a paedophile and a child beater: in short, a proper villain.
The voice acting in this film was excellent, with special guests like Christina Ricci as Terra, Gregg Henry as Sebastian Blood, Kevin Smith as himself and tragically, Deathstroke was the last role that Miguel Ferrer before he succumbed to cancer.
This was a fantastic film, and I hope another Teen Titans one gets made as the character dynamic makes for great fun, adventurous films.
Extras: As usual, a great bunch of extras appears on this disc:
Titanic Minds: Reuniting Wolfman and Pérez. So I totally fanboyed out when I saw this extra as these guys made amazing comics when they were making New Teen Titans comics. This is a small round table with writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez, two absolute legends of comic history who rebooted the Teen Titans from being a moderately successful team of sidekicks into a group of heroes to rival the justice League, and it became the number 1 comic for a time. These extras get 5 stars JUST for how historically relevant this is.
Villain Rising: Deathstroke explores the history of the character with comments from Wolfman, Pérez and DC Entertainment’s Mike Carlin.
There are three ‘Sneak Peaks’ at other DC Animated films, the forthcoming Batman and Harley Quinn, and previous entries, Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
There is also two episodes of the Teen Titans cartoon, ‘Terra’ and ‘Titans Rising’.
Finally we have a bunch of trailers for the DC All Access App, Justice League Dark, The Jetsons &WED: Robo-Wrestlemania and the video game, Injustice 2. The disc also opens with a trailer for the incoming Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot!
WISIA: Yes. Again and again.