Category Archives: Justice League animated series

‘Justice League Unlimited: The Return’

JLU the return amazo GLs

I’ve had so many favorite TV series over the years, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to “Star Trek” to “Justified.” But as surprising as it may sound, it just might be “Justice League Unlimited” – right up there with another animated series, “Jonny Quest” – that ranks at the top of the list.

“JLU,” as I’m going to refer to it here, ran for 39 episodes over two or three seasons – who could tell, really, the way “Cartoon Network” abused the show with its scheduling? – from 2004 to 2006. The animated series, featuring the work of true artists like Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie, was a continuation of the two-season “Justice League” series, which ran from 2001 to 2004, which itself was a continuation of “Batman” and “Superman” animated series that dated back as far as 1992.

“Justice League” was a fun series, giving us our first “real” look at characters beloved for decades, in personas and performances that defined them for a generation. When I see DC/Warners trying to bring those characters to the screen now in the inadequate “Man of Steel” and unpromising “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice,” I just wish they had given the reins to the people – including voice director Andrea Romano – who brought the characters to life in animation.

I’m rewatching “Justice League Unlimited” now and I might share some thoughts on other episodes with you here. But after watching it today, I have to talk about “The Return.”

JLU cast

If you’ve seen the series – or even if you haven’t – you don’t need me to go into the plot in great detail. But a little context: In “JLU,” Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the other core members of the Justice League decide to expand the roster of the league as seen in the first two seasons. They do so for practical reasons – Superman explains a greater number of heroes can put out more fires, literally and figuratively – but for storytelling purposes, this opens up a wealth of possibilities.

Even though “Justice League” episodes had brought in characters like Dr. Fate and Aquaman, “JLU” not only brought DC A-listers into the fold but B, C and D-listers. Ever want to see Bwana Beast in action? The Creeper? Maybe best of all, The Question? Here’s your first, and probably only, chance. I can’t imagine The Elongated Man is going to show up in one of the big-screen movies.

The first few episodes of “JLU” were intent on showcasing characters other than the core, founding members of the League. The opener, which included Batman and Superman, focused on an emergency response team consisting of Green Lantern, Supergirl, Captain Atom and a reluctant Green Arrow responding to a rampage of a nuclear monster in an Asian country that is less than welcoming to the heroes. Other early episodes featured Wonder Woman teamed with Hawk and Dove, for example.

But it wasn’t until “The Return, an episode that aired in September 2004, that “JLU” hit its stride.

Amazo, an advanced robot that had figured into a “Justice League” episode, is returning to Earth, ostensibly on a mission to kill Lex Luthor, who had betrayed the robot and his creator, Professor Ivo.

JLU the return green lanterns

This meant the League has to protect Luthor from the unstoppable creature, which decimates first the Green Lantern Corps at their home planet Oa, then blasts through a defensive line in space that includes Superman and Green Lantern, then wipes out an airborne troupe that includes Supergirl and Red Tornado – who meets a startling fate – and finally trounces a ground-level line of defenders that include Wonder Woman and Flash.

Finally, it’s down to the Atom – voiced in great fashion by John McGinley – who is locked in an underground lab with Luthor – to come up with a solution.

And he fails.

JLU the return fate amazo

But just as the regrouped Green Lantern Corps arrives to blast Amazo … Dr. Fate shows up with a better solution.

It’s an ending as satisfying as it is unexpected and shows the depth of this series. A little-known DC hero could show up for a cameo, a funny in-joke – or a feat that saves the world.

“Justice League Unlimited” had many great episodes and I might touch on some of those here as I rewatch. But “The Return” showed what the series was capable of.

DC comics film slate: I’ll believe it when I see them

justice league alex ross

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.

Hollywood reporter Nikki Finke recently scooped the rest of the entertainment press with a list purporting to detail Warner Bros. and DC’s plans for big-screen superhero movies in the near future.

Here’s the list:

• May 2016 – Batman v Superman

• July 2016 – Shazam

• Xmas 2016 – Sandman

• May 2017 – Justice League

• July 2017 – Wonder Woman

• Xmas 2017 – Flash and Green Lantern team-up

• May 2018 – Man Of Steel 2

Nope. Not happening.

I mean, in many ways, I wish it would. As satisfying as Marvel’s big-screen universe is, I’d like to see DC comics heroes – the most accessible and familiar heroes in the world, in many ways – finally achieve lift off on screen.

Last year’s “Man of Steel” had so many things wrong with it, and with writer David Goyer and others behind the scenes who are plainly ashamed of superhero names, colorful costumes, origins and storylines, I don’t have much hope for future movies in the series.

And in particular I doubt that the studio can pull this off.

Lookit: WB and DC have only just gotten rolling on “BvsS.” How quickly can they turn around “Shazam,” which is supposed to follow the May 2016 release of “BvsS” by a couple of months?

And if they haven’t been able to figure out a big-screen “Wonder Woman” or “Green Lantern,” how can they pull off an oddity like “Sandman?”

Not to mention the whole “seven movies released within two years” thing. That’s a feat that I’m not sure even Marvel, with its assembly-line methods, could pull off.

I’ll go see whatever DC movies get released in the coming years, no doubt. But I’m afraid I’ll find them as lacking as “Green Lantern” and “Man of Steel.”

And I sure don’t think we’ll see one every few months.

Goyer’s comments shame DC, ‘Superman v Batman’

batman v superman dawn of justice

It gets a bit silly, all the outrage on the Internet.

But then again, people keep saying stupid things.

No matter if they’re fanboys acting like assholes on the topic of female fans or they’re … well, I don’t know how to describe “Man of Steel” screenwriter David S. Goyer, who was all over the web today for really stupid comments he made in a recent interview.

You see, today was supposed to be DC’s big day, announcing the title of that “Man of Steel” sequel coming out – maybe – in a couple of years. It’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” a title so stupid it immediately inspired exactly the opposite reaction that DC must have wanted.

Not only doesn’t the title – really, it’s just too stupid for me to write again – make anyone think that Warner Bros. and DC have their shit together in their efforts to be more like Marvel and create a big-screen universe.

It sounds obvious, even desperate and grasping. I’ve seen it lampooned today as a courtroom drama and Lifetime movie.

Compare that reaction to the Comic Con reveal of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Fandamonium.

Anyway, Warners and DC might have only just begun regretting their title decision when Goyer, who as writer of most of DC’s very uneven efforts to bring its iconic superheroes to life, was widely quoted for some boneheaded remarks he made in a recent Scriptnotes podcast.

First, Goyer insulted the longtime Marvel hero She-Hulk – who, admittedly, does have a silly name – by noting that she was clearly superhero porn and served only as someone to have sex with the Hulk.

I wonder, did Goyer know before today that the characters of Hulk and She-Hulk were cousins? I’m assuming he does now.

Then Goyer went on to say an incredibly stupid thing that shows just how tone-deaf he is.

In talking about Martian Manhunter, a long-established character made popular on the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” animated series a few years ago, Goyer made fun of the character and asked how many people had heard of him.

Of course, most of those in attendance had. Probably surprised by this, Goyer then said:

“How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?”

Really?

In one utterance, Goyer shows his ignorance about Martian Manhunter – a major character from the ONLY truly successful iteration of DC characters in the past decade – and also insults comic book movie fans.

You know, the people who pay to see his movies.

Ross Lincoln summed up Goyer’s attitude nicely on his “The Escapist” blog: Goyer and his partners at Warner Bros. are ashamed they’re making superhero movies.

Think about it. Nolan’s Batman movies, which had some strong points, dwindled to awkward absurdity through Goyer’s scripts. “Man of Steel” was awful. Hell, it couldn’t even see fit to actually call its hero Superman.

It’s sad, really, that three quarters of a century of great characters and stories are squandered in such hands.

 

What we can expect from Ben Affleck’s Batman

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Okay, so Warner Bros. announced on Thursday that Ben Affleck, star of “Daredevil” a decade ago and director of Oscar-worthy “Argo,” would play Batman in the “Man of Steel” sequel for director Zach Snyder and opposite Henry Cavil as Superman.

And yes, there was a lot of online freaking out about Affleck being cast.

I’m old enough to remember the doubters – I was one of them – when Michael Keaton was cast to play Bruce Wayne and Batman for Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.”

He’s a comic actor, they said about Keaton. His chin isn’t superheroic enough. This isn’t even a step up in casting from the campy 1960s TV series.

But Keaton worked, largely because Burton’s Batman was something we hadn’t seen very often: A serious superhero flick. I’d submit Keaton was the best part about that movie, far outshining Jack Nicholson as the Joker.

So what’s the knock on Affleck?

Um .. he’s made some movies that some people didn’t like?

ben affleck daredevil

Okay, Twitter, take a deep breath. Let’s move on to what happens next, namely, what can we expect from “Superman vs. Batman” or whatever the “Man of Steel” sequel will be called, particularly with Affleck’s casting?

Batman is going to take the lead in the sequel. Depending on how long the movie takes place after “Man of Steel,” Superman still might be a green superhero. That means when the two icons meet, it’s likely Batman will have years of experience on Superman. Sure, Superman has super powers. But we’ve seen before that Batman is more than a match for Superman. Kryptonite shard, anyone?

They’ll clash at first. Besides this comic book trope being a standard development – remember the various Avengers fighting before they teamed up on Loki? – I’m betting Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor will be in some kind of deal but Batman will be investigating Luthor. Superman might get involved when he sees Batman hanging around (literally) Metropolis and confronts him. Hey, I’m pretty sure this worked for DC animated universe stories.

They’re definitely building to a “Justice League” movie. I expect Batman to be the experienced leader when they make the “JL” movie and it’s likely Affleck will be in the cowl. Warner Bros. wouldn’t announce a new Batman for just one movie.

There’s a Robin in the future. You don’t have an experienced batman without a sidekick. Maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

Snyder and Warner Bros. are casting older but not too old. Sure, Cavill is several years younger, but Affleck is just 41. Robert Downey Jr. was 43 for the first “Iron Man” movie.

ben affleck as george reeves superman

It’ll be interesting to see how much influence Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight” stories have on the movie, although there have been plenty of good stories of the two iconic heroes and their relationship.

Superhero animation gets no respect on TV

If you’re a fan of “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” on Disney 😄 … 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 😄 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.