Comic Review: DC Legends The Collection

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!

Score: *****

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.

Score: *****

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.

Secret Origins: The Origin of DC Comics (2010) Review

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. 


Sufficed to say I very quickly ended up with a collection of comics and even though my first comic was a Marvel one, in those days, it was DC that floated my boat, especially Superman and Batman.

…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.

Score: *****


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.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None, unfortunately.

Score: 0

WISIA: Being a comic and a documentary fan, this is a wonderful meeting of the two things, and gets watched possibly once a month.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) Review

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.

Score: ****


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian region B bluray, and is presented in an impressive 1.78:1 image with an amazing DTS-HD 5.1audio.

Score: *****

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!

Score: *****

WISIA: Yes. Again and again.

Justice League Dark (2017) Review

 

One from the to watch pile…

Justice League Dark (2017)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Score: **

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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.

Score: *****

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.

Score: *****

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.

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Nerds of Oz: week ending 10th February 2017

Week Ending 10th February 2017
Mini-haul…
Blurays

This week I grabbed a couple of new releases: the animated Justice League Dark and Ouija Origin of Evil.


Bust/ Statues

Grabbed this cool Harley Quinn (yes, again) Mugshot bust. Normally I’d do a YouTube opening, but I couldn’t resist getting stuck into this straight away!


Board/ Card Games

Picked up a copy of Games Workshop’s Space Hulk. I had this years ago, and saw one quite cheap so I jumped on it. I loved this game in my twenties, this and another called Talisman, and I’m glad to have it again.

Nerds of Oz: Week Ending 4th February 2017

Week Ending 4th February 2017
A few different things this week…

Blurays


Grabbed two new releases from Cinema Cult this week: John Waters’ hilarious Serial Mom and the snakey 70s flick Sssssss.

Comics


Nice bunch of comics this week. Some from my local comics shop and other off eBay, not many of them read, unfortunately!

Slayer Repentless #1 from Dark Horse Comics. I dig the band Slayer, so I couldn’t resist this.

Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 #1 from DC Comics.

Justice League Vs Suicide Squad #6 from DC Comics.

Kamandi Challenge #1 from DC Comics.

Hulk #2 from Marvel Comics.

Infamous Iron Man #4 from Marvel Comics.

Inhumans Vs X-Men #3 from Marvel Comics.


Marvel’s Greatest Comics starring the Fantastic Four #94 from Marvel Comics. Written by Stan Lee with art by John Buscema, this comic reprints Fantastic Four issue 114 from 1971, and is an example, in both art and story, as to why modern comics will never hold up to Marvel’s heyday, and why classics are called ‘classics’. I’m not trying to be facetious there either: it’s not just about art and story. When Buscema drew a comic, every panel was laid out perfectly and the story always read true. There’s a cool back up story by Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby starring the Ant Man too.

READ! Marvel Two-in-One presents the Thing and the Black Widow #10 from Marvel Comics. From 1975 this Chris Claremont shined and Bob Brown drawn book . The Thing gets caught up in a terrorist plot that the Black Widow wouldn’t have had a chance thwarting by herself at all. It’s, sexist, and it the seventies.

READ! The New Mutants #3, 15, 17, 31, 36, 37, 85, 89, 91, 95, 96 and 97. In an effort to reclaim a full set of The New Mutants (I stupidly sold mine several years ago) I have picked up a bunch of issues. Even though none of them are necessarily favourite characters, I always really liked the comic… well, until the later issues when it turned into a badly drawn prequel to X-Force. The early ones with stories by Chris Claremont and art by the likes of Bob McLeod, Bill Sienkiewicz and Mary Wiltshire are so much better than the later ones written by Louise Simonson and art by Rob Liefled, which are just horrible.

Vinyl


Scored a cheap copy of Stranger Things Volume one on blue/ red vinyl. I’m not a great fan of the show, but I LOVED the soundtrack.

Video Games


Grabbed a copy of Fallout 4 for under 20 bucks, brand new! I’m not really big on RPGs so much, but for under 20 I’ll suffer along with it.

Board/ Card Games



I haven’t bought any new games in ages so I thought i’d give a few new ones a go!

Mars Attacks Tabletop Wargame has super simple rules for a super simple fella! I’ve always thought the Mars Attacks trading cards were awesome and the movie is a bit of a hoot, so I’m prepared to give this a full-tilt go!

I also grabbed a two pack of decks for Magic the Gathering. I loved this game when it first came out and thought I’d give this a go.

Harley Quinn’s Greatest Hits Review

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!

Score: ***1/2

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.

Score: ****

WIRIA: Am I gonna read a collection of one of my favourite characters more than once? Of course I am.