Category Archives: animated series

75th anniversary: Superman’s history in 2 minutes

superman 75th anniversary film shot 1

Well, this is kind of wonderful.

To mark the ongoing celebration of Superman’s 75th anniversary – it was 1938 when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s superhero debuted – the people at DC Comics got DC animated universe mastermind Bruce Timm and “Man of Steel” director Zach Snyder to collaborate on a two-minute history of the character.

The look of Superman changes throughout, from the original design of the Man of Steel to the Fleischer animated shorts to faithful cartoon renditions of live-action Supermen like George Reeves and Christopher Reeve.

Some of the great characters and storylines – Bizarro, the death of Superman – are here too, as are many of the great artists.

superman 75th anniversary film family

And this just makes me smile.

See the video here at Entertainment Weekly.


‘Beware the Batman’ beckons


I’ve only seen a couple of minutes of footage of the new Cartoon Network series “Beware the Batman” and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.

The series could be fun if they get the tone right. Goodness knows there’s plenty of animated takes on “Batman” in the past, from the heights of “Batman The Animated Series” to “Brave and the Bold,” which was good silly fun.

If “Beware the Batman” is as dull-looking and featureless as CN’s recent “Green Lantern” CGI series, however, I’m not sure it’s going to engage me.

And what if it does? Cartoon Network traditionally abuses its series, even the great ones like “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited.” The network moves the shows around from one time slot to another with little or no notice. Seasons begin only to end abruptly a few weeks later. Series disappear for months or a year at a time.

So even if “Beware the Batman” were among the best Batman animated series ever … what are the chances Cartoon Network will give it a chance?

The show starts July 13.


Superhero animation gets no respect on TV

If you’re a fan of “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” on Disney XD … well, let’s hope you didn’t get too invested in the show.

News began leaking out in recent days that Disney/Marvel has canceled the series – only part-way through its second season — and will replace it with a new series, “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” in 2013.

It’s not surprising, of course, that Disney/Marvel would like to have an animated series on the air that capitalize on the success of the big-screen “Avengers” movie. What’s confusing is that they already have that, with “A:EMH,” yet they’re flushing the show.

If you haven’t seen it — and I haven’t seen any of season two, not having Disney XD on my cable dial, but I’ve seen all the first-season episodes on DVD — “A:EMH” is a densely-plotted and populated take on the classic “Avengers” comics. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Panther and others take on bad guys ranging from Asgardians to home-grown baddies to invading aliens.

It’s a show that has been quite deliberate in its setting-up of its story arcs, taking several episodes to get all the characters together in NYC. It hasn’t been afraid to take its time with stories, devoting two or more episodes sometimes to a plot.

Which might be part of the problem.

Various websites have noted that Disney/Marvel want more accessible series with more jumping-in points. That might mean more standalone stories.

It definitely means a cast that is pattered after the one in Joss Whedon’s movie. So in the switch to a new series, Black Panther, Ant-Man and Wasp are gone, Black Widow is in and Hawkeye loses his classic purple mask.

This whole thing would be less frustrating to fans if it didn’t seem so familiar: After long runs on Warner Bros.-related TV networks, classic 1990s animated series like “Batman,” “Superman” and “Batman Beyond” were continued in the 2000s in “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” on Cartoon Network.

Yet the WB-owned Cartoon Network repeatedly started and stopped airing the two series. Months would go by without a new episode. “Justice League” ended abruptly, only to be replaced by the better, in my opinion, “Unlimited” series, but that one bounced around the Cartoon Network schedule, disappearing for weeks or months, before finally falling by the wayside.

There are a number of reasons for this, including regime changes at studios and the apparent belief on the part of executives that viewers (many of them young, but many of them older geeks thrilled to see faithful treatment of classic characters like Batman and Captain America as well as animated versions of obscure characters like Blue Beetle) are restless and crave change. That’s why “Justice League” was retooled and it’s probably why “Young Justice,” currently airing on Cartoon Network, looks so different (new cast members and an apparent time shift) in its second season. Heck, the show even has something of a new name, “Young Justice: Invasion.”

I’m convinced there’s an audience out there for a weekly animated series based on classic comic book characters and stories.

I’m equally convinced that once a show has hit its stride, viewers will embrace it rather than push it away.

If given the chance, that is.

Pixar’s ‘Avengers’ and more

This is just too much fun to pass up.

Above, behold: The members of “The Avengers” as Pixar characters.

Artist J.M. Walter posted this re-imagining of the Avengers on the Facebook page the other day and the image has been bouncing around the Interwebs ever since.

Some of the characters are easier to figure out than others. The Hulk, of course, is based on Sully from “Monsters Inc.” And since Samuel L. Jackson contributed the voice of Frozone from “The Incredibles,” why not re-imagine Jackson’s Nick Fury as Frozone?

The only one I haven’t figured out is Hawkeye. Which Pixar character is he taken from?

As an added bonus: The Avengers, known for their late-night meals, inside Edward Hopper’s famous “Nighthawks” painting. This version is by John P. Glynn.


Will we ever see a ‘Justice League’ movie?

I watched “Captain America” on DVD last night and really enjoyed the movie, which brought Marvel’s World War II-era hero to the screen this past summer, all over again. The little sneak peek at next May’s “The Avengers” movie was fun. To say I’m looking forward to “The Avengers” is an understatement. The fourth issue of the “Avengers” comic, the one in which the heroes thawed Captain America and he joined the team, was the first comic book I ever owned, kindly given to me by an older friend.

But as much as I’m looking forward to “The Avengers,” I’m puzzled as to why DC — an arm of Warner Bros. — has been unable to get a “Justice League” movie into gear.

It’s not like “Justice League” can’t be translated into other media besides comic books. The “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” series, set in the animated DC universe created with “Batman the Animated Series,” was a faithful adaptation of the comics. The “Unlimited” series expanded the membership of the League to include dozens and dozens of characters, both delightful and obscure (who would have thought of an entire episode built around hapless blowhard Booster Gold? Yet it was one of the best of the entire series).

And DC has also had good luck with “Justice League” animated in longer form, particularly “Justice League New Frontier,” a retro story based on Darwyn Cooke’s great graphic novel that set the hands of the superhero clock back to the 1950s and introduced Batman, Superman, Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman (not to mention a host of yes, obscure characters). Heck, even TV’s “Smallville” had a version of the League on a TV budget.

So there’s no reason a “Justice League” movie can’t happen, except:

– The Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale “Dark Knight” movies. With the third, “Dark Knight Rises,” coming out next summer, Nolan seems to be ready to wrap up his foray into the character’s world. Much has been made over rumors that Nolan and Bale don’t want their “realistic” Batman to be seen in the same movie with a bunch of other “fantastic” costumed characters. Of course, “Dark Knight Rises” features not only Catwoman and Bane in outfits that would turn heads on most sidewalks. So maybe Nolan is loosening up his standards.

– DC and Warner Bros. can’t seem to get any other characters launched. “Green Lantern” came out this summer and really wasn’t very good. “Wonder Woman” imploded and never got made. “The Flash” has been in the planning stages for years.

– They tried to make a “Justice League” movie a couple of years ago, even picked the cast and began pre-production. Actors like Armie Hammer were fitted for costumes. (Why hasn’t footage or pictures of Hammer in Batman drag shown up online?) But then a writer’s strike happened, production in Australian fell apart and, frankly, I wonder if somebody didn’t lose their nerve. Remember Nolan’s reluctance to have  a bunch of colorful costumed characters in the same room together? Maybe it was catching.

In the time it’s taken for DC and Warner Bros. to make a good “Batman” movie, begin another one, start work on a “Superman” movie and make a mediocre “Green Lantern” movie, Marvel — now part of Disney — has released two “Iron Man” pictures, a good “Hulk” movie, “Thor,” “Captain America” and is putting the finishing touches on “The Avengers.”

Will we ever see the members of the Justice League swooping down from their Watchtower to take on some globe-threatening menace?





New ‘Green Lantern’ has a lot to live up to

For Cartoon Network, Warner Bros and animation producer Bruce Timm, launching a new “Green Lantern” animated series must feel like a tricky thing.

When the computer-animated series went into production, Warner Bros. had a big-screen “Green Lantern” coming, its first attempt to turn WB’s DC Comics stalwart into a big-screen tentpole starring Ryan Reynolds.

The movie probably seemed like a sure thing, another step in establishing a DC franchise in movie theaters much like rival comics publisher Marvel was doing with “Iron Man” and, concurrent to the “Green Lantern” movie, “Thor” and “Captain America.”

But the “Green Lantern” movie, released this summer, was pretty lackluster, while “Thor” and “Captain America” were hits that only built anticipation for next summer’s Marvel team-up movie, “The Avengers.”

All of a sudden, “Green Lantern” — and the Cartoon Network animated series — must have felt a little daunting.

The new show not only had to live down the live-action movie but also live up to “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited,” the Bruce Timm-produced animated series that stand as the pinnacles of comic book animated series.

Yes, I know that Timm and Paul Dini’s “Batman: The Animated Series” is widely regarded as the best animated comic book show. But for me, “Justice League” and especially “Justice League Unlimited” are tops. Really, where else could you get the best — hands down — outside-the-comic-pages adaptation of Superman, Batman and other marquee heroes as well as obscure favorites like Dr. Fate, Black Canary and Bwana Beast, for goodness’ sake?

Cartoon Network previewed the opening episode of “Green Lantern” tonight — the series begins airing regularly next year as part of a DC block — and I have to say that while the show has potential it carries with it more liabilities.

Its computer-animated presentation is workmanlike at best. While a few scenes had some of the visual appeal of “The Incredibles,” for example, more often the show looked like unfinished footage included as a DVD extra. Piggy-looking Green Lantern Kilowog looked plastic. The look of the show needs drastic improvement.

And I’m not sold on the premise of the show either. Remember “Star Trek: Voyager,” the series that pushed a Federation starship to the edge of the galaxy and left it stranded there while the ship and its crew struggled to make their way home?

This is like “Green Lantern: Voyager,” with Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Kilowog stranded millions of miles away from home, facing the Red Lanterns, a cranky group of outlaw ring-wielders.

Maybe it’s an effort to ensure the show and its characters stand on their own, but I’m not digging the idea of a show that will never allow Green Lantern to bump into Superman or Batman. Not to mention the absence of my favorite Green Lantern of all time, John Stewart, the African-American hero who — for all of us who loved “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” — simply is Green Lantern.

When “Green Lantern” comes back next year, I’ll definitely give it a shot. I hope the show has as much imagination as the premise of its title character. It will have to go a long way — and come back from a great distance — to equal previous treatment of the character, however.