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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.
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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.