Batman (1989)

Batman (1989)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release.

Film: If you have been enjoying all those Marvel movies, and other movies based on comic properties you basically have this film to thank.

Tim Burton’s Batman film, released in 1989, wasn’t just a film, it was a phenomenon. Today, the idea of making a super-hero film is an easy one, especially if you have the initials ‘DC’ or the world ‘Marvel’ attached to it. Even non-superhero comic based franchises have successfully launched with things like Riverdale (loosely based on Archie comics), The Walking Dead (based on the Image comics) and the Edgar Wright helmed Scott Pilgrim Vs the World (based on Brian Lee O’Malley’s comic) all finding various degrees of success. Back then, comics were ‘still for kids’ and the idea of making a film that would be successful, based on a comic, wasn’t something taken too seriously. The first two Superman films had set a standard, that like this series of films, the final two didn’t stand up to, and Batman was also a hard character to make a serious film of because most people remembered him as the character from the campy TV series of the 60s.

When the producers had decided to make a film more like the comics rather than the TV show, that was dark, and really tapped into the ideas of justice and fear, and they accidentally found that people who had grown up with both the comics and action films of the 80s were prepared to take it seriously, even though they had director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton, both who gave us the comedy Beetlejuice. The announcement of character actor Jack Nicolson performing the role of the villain The Joker, a perennial favourite from the comics, made ‘proper’ film fans sit up and really take notice, as did the inclusion of other actors like Jack Palance, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough and Pat Hingle.

(NB: I remember being horrified by the casting of Keaton in the title role, and not until I saw him on the cover of an issue of American science fiction film magazine Starlog did I actually see that Warner Bros were taking this film seriously.)

Vicki Vale and Batman

I was already a comic fan when this came out, having been a fan since the early 1970s, and I saw it in a dingy little cinema in a small country called Orange in country New South Wales, and went in a skeptic, but emerged, reborn, as a lover, and I wasn’t alone, as Batmania hit and there possible wasn’t a man or woman on the planet who didn’t have at least one little tiny piece of Batman-based paraphernalia in their cupboards.

The film struck all the right chords at the right time, like Beatlemania before it, and Spicemania soon after… comic nerds weren’t the outcasts anymore, they became historians, and even the comic industry had a temporary boom, with new store and titles popping up all over the place.

…but what is this film about?

Well, (and I’m sure I don’t really have to tell you) this film tells of the Batman (Michael Keaton), a creature of the night who I stills fear into the heart of the crooks of Gotham City with a campaign of fear.

What no-one knows about the Batman is, is that he is actually millionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne, who has started this campaign of justice as he has suffered severe mental trauma as a child when he watched his parents, Thomas and Martha, brutally murdered in front of him.

There’s other shenanigans happening in Gotham city though, as crimelord Grissom (Jack Palance) has decided to have his second-in-charge, the extraordinarily vain Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) taken down by the police for bedding his girlfriend, Alicia (Jerry Hall).

The Joker in his finery

The tip-off goes awry, and instead of being killed by corrupt cop Lieutenant Elkhart (William Hootkins), Napier falls into a vat of chemicals which damages his face so bad that it drives him mad, and he become a self described homicidal artist, The Joker, with an intention, and the means, of killing the citizens of Gotham City.

Batman has to stop his terrible plans, but the Joker isn’t his only problem, as investigative journalists Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) and photographer Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) are hot on the tale of revealing his secret identity…

It’s a classic Batman tale, with the Joker having a nefarious scheme and the Batman requiring some detective work to figure out his game, something some more modern Bat-films have been lacking as he appears to be more a thug who beats up the mentally challenged before locking them up in an asylum where security is obviously lacklustre. It’s a shame these films don’t lean more into the Detective side, when you consider he is ‘the Dark Knight Detective’…

The cast is an interesting mix and are great together, Robert Wuhl providing some surpassingly non-annoying comedy relief, which is occasionally foiled brilliantly by Michael Keaton’s surprising straight man in Bruce Wayne: the ‘give Knox a grant’ line is a set-up that you don’t even know exists until the payoff. Great work from writer Sam Hamm.

Burton’s direction and style drips through the entire proceedings like molasses, sweet and dark, and in combination with Anton Furst’s spectacular design and Danny Elfman’s dark score, it’s like being front row and the sole occupant of a Cure concert. The juxtaposition of Prince’s songs throughout the film make for interesting pops of audible colour that suit the bright appearances of the Joker perfectly, which are both visually and rally appealing and a strange evil light in all the darkness of the good guys and the city in which they live.

One can’t comment on colour within this film without mentioning not just Basinger’s portrayal of Vicki Vale, which is not just another ‘straight man’ role for Wuhl, but also represents us in i converting Bruce Wayne’s tragic backstory. Her appearance in predominantly bright tones and white make her an Angel of salvation not just for the troubled Bruce, but a piece of forbidden fruit for the Joker also.

I could rave about this film forever. I simply love it, and it also reminds me of a time when even though a movie was based on a serialised comic book, which are essentially soap-operas, movies are more story driven and not everything needs to be squeezed into one two hour flick. Nor does it require a cavalcade of other heroes from within the comics to support the main character because they aren’t interesting enough, and most importantly, to watch one film, you don’t need to have seen 30 others and have 2 streaming subscription services to know what’s going on with superfluous characters… it’s doesn’t need to pander to the meme/ Instagram crowd for ‘lols’.

Score: *****

The menu screen for the disc

Extras: There really is an amazing bunch of extras on this Bluray disc:

Commentary by Tim Burton, which really looks at his creative process behind the film and a few little bits and pieces you may have missed upon your initial viewings. It’s an interesting look at his creative process.

On the Set with Bob Kane sees Batman creator Bob Kane on set of the Batman film, talking about his (and Bill Fingers) creations.

Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman sees interviews with comic book writers and artists, like Bob Kane, Stan Lee, Mike Mignola and Harlan Ellison, and comic book historians and filmmakers, including the driving force behind this film, Michael E. Uslan, who wrote The Boy Who Loved Batman.

Shadows of the Bat:The Cinematic Saga

Part 1: The Road to Gotham City looks at the genesis of this Batman film which dated all the way back to when the first Superman film came out in the late 70s.

Part 2: The Gathering Storm looks at the difficult decisions that needed to be made as far as the script and casting is concerned, and how they managed to fulfill them.

Part 3: The Legend Reborn has Tim Burton discuss how he created a legacy for Batman, and maybe even extended the life of the characters popularity.

Beyond Batman is the section all about the making of this particular film, divided into these mini-documentaries: Visualising Gotham: The Production Design of Batman, Building the Batmobile, Those Wonderful Toys: The Props and a gadgets of Batman, Designing the Batsuit, From Jack to the Joker and Nocturnal Overture: The Music of Batman. Individually, these make for fascinating featurettes but altogether they explore everything that makes the gothic design of this film so striking and memorable.

Batman: The Heroes and The Villains looks at all the characters individually, with analyses by actors, writers and fans.

Batman The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence is a look at the obviously removed addition of Robin to the script, that was ultimately scrapped.

In addition, there is also the Trailer and music videos for Batdance, Partyman and Scandalous by Prince

Score: *****

WISIA: Its the ultimate comic book film that didn’t just spawn one comic book movie trend, but two. The film and the extras on this discs should be watched regularly by any movie or comic fan.

The Batplane ready for action

Justice League: Injustice (2021)

Justice League : Injustice (2021)

The cover to Justice League: Injustice.

Film: I really love DC comics. For as long as I can remember I’ve have had DC comics, toys and shirts, but as a company there is one thing that DC has consistently done since the mid-eighties that really gets my goat.

The consistent opposition of Batman and Superman.

Sure, in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight series it made sense, but every quality writer (and hack) has seemed to decide that that opposition, even though Miller’s work isn’t part of regular DC time, is the standard between them.

The murder of Lois Lane hits Superman hard…

I always thought that Batman and Superman were the ultimate team, the brains and the brawn, but the way DC plays Batman now is he’s really not much better than Lex Luthor: a rich man afraid of an alien who demonstrates acts of humanity better than actual human beings, and whose pro-activity makes them a better person than they could ever be.

The Injustice video games are fantastic, and I’ve played them a ridiculous amount of time, and considering the cornerstone of the story in that is that opposition, it might make me somewhat of a hypocrite, but it’s the quality gameplay I remember rather than the story. As a caveat I must admit that in my over 40 years of comics reading I have never read an issue of the DC comic Injustice because I have no interest reading a story based on a game that I payed more attention to the mechanics than the story… please ‘X’ to skip? No problem.

The story has been obviously popular though, and even though it’s a trope that fans love even though it’s been beaten to death, as a collector of the DC Animated Blurays I certainly felt an obligation to purchase it, so here we are.

Injustice is the tale of a fallen Superman. After the Joker kills Lois Lane, and destroys Metropolis, Superman goes crazy-8 bonkers and pulls the heart out of the gleeful Joker, and blames Batman partially for Lois’ death as he never had the stones to properly ‘take care’ of the Joker.

… but not as hard as he hits the Joker.

For some reason, Batman decides that this isn’t justice (even though the Joker has killed and escaped so many times) and the Justice League divides into those who think Superman did wrong, and those who think Superman did something fair and just, and so the battle begins with many surprise deaths at the hands of the rogue Kryptonian.

Who is right? Who is wrong? The conversation will possibly continue long after the story has finished, and this story stars SO many DC characters: Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Green Arrow, and so many more. For a full list, check out the roster of any Injustice video game!

To the credit of the writers, the story doesn’t end up with Batman acquiring some kryptonite but is instead an emotional appeal to the man that Superman once was, and it is far more satisfying. Unfortunately, what is a promising set-up relies on multiverse rubbish and the appearance of Plastic Man and is all executed with probably the worst character design of any DC Animated feature to date.

Score: **

The menu screen to Justice League: Injustice

Extras:

Adventures in Storytelling – Injustice: Crisis and Conflict is a fascinating round table with producers Jim Krieg and Rick Morales, director Matt Peters and writer Ernie Altbacker. It’s a detailed look at the themes and even the politics of the story and entertains and informs thoroughly.

A Preview of Reign of the Supermen and A preview of The Death of Superman are shorts that look at other features from the DC Animated movies.

There is also two animated episodes, Injustice for All parts 1 and 2 from Justice League. Not sure of the connection except for the name, but whatever.

Score: ****

WISIA: Nope, but I’ll play the games again!

The Bat and the Cat discuss their plans to take down the Man of Steel

This review was done with the Australian release of Justice League: Injustice.

Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1 (2021)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of Batman: the Long Halloween Part 1

Film: Sometimes the best Batman stories are the ones that have a limited lifespan. Year one, The Dark Knight Returns and their ilk all stand up and really put Batman on the map, both as a flawed hero and an obsessed human being who’s obsession makes him more a bad guy than a good guy.

Myself and a few friends used to host a podcast called the Nerds of Oz where we predominantly talked about comic movies, but also other nerdy stuff, and one of the members of the podcast crew, Shane, says that this graphic novel/ limited comic series was one that made him really sit up and pay attention to just what Batman can be, and it turned him into an obsessive collector who just two days prior to me watching this Bluray, bought every single Batman ‘66 action figure, vehicle and play set from McFarlane toys.

Batman was a serious part of my upbringing as well. I still have memories, and photos, of me going to school EVERY DAY when I was in kindergarten, dressed in a Batman Halloween costume, and could only be addressed as ‘Batman’ whilst wearing it. When you consider that my stori in relation to Shane’s is 40 years prior, you can tell that Batman consistently been THE superhero that fans want to see on screen, whether it be due to the very fact he is someone who just stood up and said ‘Enough’ in regards to injustice, or whether you’re a furrie who likes to hang out in black leather on rooftops, getting your kicks from beating people up.

The Bat-man himself!

Anyway, this film, Batman: The Long Halloween Part One, is a part of the amazing DC animated features that have been coming out for well over ten years, and personally I think in most occasions have been more entertaining than the Marvel or DC live action movies because they lean much more heavily into the ‘real’ world of the comics, rather than thirty Hollywood writers adapting stories to what they feel the ‘general’ public could digest easily… you know, with that typical lack of respect some production companies have for the cinema going audience.

Dumb it down to make it more palatable to the masses… I’m looking at you, Thor: Ragnarok.

Ok, so I’ll tuck my soapbox aside and look at this film.

Halloween night in Gotham City always brings out the crazies… actually, every night in Gotham brings out the crazies, but Halloween seems to see the population rise.

Batman (Jensen Ackles), Captain Jim Gordon (Billy Burke) and DA Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel) have come together to investigate the murder of the nephew of gangster Carmine ‘The Roman’ Falcone (Titus Welliver), who was about to roll over on the crime family in court.

Problem is though, it’s just the beginning of a series of murders that take place on holidays, and after being hospitalised by the Falcone gang, it might appear that Dent himself is the prime suspect and may be leading a double life… and if you know who Dent becomes, double is exactly the name of his kind of trouble.

Gordon and Batman go to the Calendar Man (David Dastmalchian) in Arkham Asylum, who offers them some cryptic information, but quickly they discover the Joker (Troy Baker) has escaped, and the last thing this investigation needs is a wild card in the deck…

Calendar Man explains the situation.

The first thing I’ll have to say that I really liked about this feature was the new take on the animation style. I got a real ‘Archer’ feel from it, with nice hard black outlines that don’t deter from the realism that it’s going for. There’s a real smoothness to the animation too that makes it almost feel more like live-action, which really gave the story a lot of gravity.

The design of the whole production is really amazing, borrowing styles from Batman the Animated Series, Anton Furst’ s designs from Tim Burton’s Batman and David Mazzucchelli’s art from Batman Year One. It’s weird that they decided to ignore Tim Sale’s style from the comics, but at least that gets seen in the opening credits.

The story is fantastic (so far); it’s a classic gangster/ crime drama, but with Batman villains thrown in for good measure, just to remind you that it takes place in the DC universe. The inclusion of a a-grade villain like Calendar Man is simply exquisite, especially to transform him into an almost Hannibal Lector advisor in the crimes.

I can’t comment on whether or not there was much difference between this and the source material, but I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed the story… let’s hope Part 2 doesn’t screw it up.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release

Extras:

DC Showcase: The Losers is one of the short animated features that they slip on as extras onto these discs, and I love them because, as the title suggests, they ‘showcase’ characters who may not be popular enough to get a full feature. This is not the Losers seen in the 2010 movie of the same name (starring Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Idris Elba) but instead based on the original comics created by Robert Kanigher, which told of Navajo pilot Johnny Cloud and his platoon and their adventures in World War 2. This tale sees them trapped on an island with dinosaurs and a traitor… a lot of fun, and some nice visual tributes to Jack Kirby’s artwork here and there.

A Sneak Peak at the Next DC Animated Movie, Batman: The Long Halloween Part 2 looks at the second part of the story, available on a future release.

There is also previews of other Animated films, such as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. Also from the DC Vault, we have two episodes of Batman the Animated Series; ‘Christmas with the Joker’ and ‘It’s Never Too Late’. I find these extras occasionally irrelevant as most people collecting these discs would be collecting all of DC’s animated product, so ‘previewing; something that came out three years ago seems superfluous, and most of us would already have the episodes on season collections of the series’s. I do appreciate that they try to make the episodes relevant to the story, and I do find myself revisiting them, so I shouldn’t be too harsh.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I’ll have to watch it again when I watch part 2! Seriously thoigh, it’s a good, engaging mystery where Batman is actually being a detective instead of most modern-day iterations where he’s just a thug-like vigilante. I look forward to watching it again!

The whole thing starts with a murder…

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release of the film.

Catwoman (2004)

Catwoman (2004)

Film: I have been a comic fan for well over 35 years, and I have to admit that whenever I hear that one of my favourite characters is coming out in a cinematic form, I admit to be fairly excited by the prospect… OK, more than a little excited: maybe, just maybe, on occasion a little bit of wee does leak out.

More often than not that excitement turns to trepidation as I hear of choices made in the casting department, but after being proven wrong with my doubts about Michael Keaton being able to perform a decent Batman, I concede that some ludicrous decisions can actually work. The argument against that, of course, is Daredevil, two Hulk films, Superman Returns and this film, Catwoman.

Catwoman is a character I have loved since I first read of her in a Batman comic, and as her character evolved over the years from a cat-burgling she-foil for the Dark Knight into a love-interest female Robin Hood of Gotham City I always had hopes of seeing her on the big screen, outside of a Bat-film and on her own, so imagine my excitement when this film was originally announced in 1995 to be written by Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters, as a vehicle for Michelle Pfeiffer after her portrayal of the character in Batman Returns as a psychologically damaged ex-shrinking violet turned super-villain/ spirit of vengeance.

Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in Hollywood, films are put on back-burners and cast and crew are replaced, and scripts are re-written, in this case apparently 14 times (which is a GIANT red flag against quality!). For a film that could have had a real pro-woman stance, the story descended into a story where the main character wanted pretty things, and became involved in a fight against an evil cosmetics company.

This version of Catwoman tells the tale of advertising artist Patience Phillips (Halle Berry), a downtrodden wallflower who works for cosmetic magnate George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) and his wife Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone). After being told her work is not good enough by George, Phillips redoes some artwork in record time and delivers it to him at one of his factories, only to discover their new product Beau-line has disastrous side-effects. Hedare orders his flunkies to kill Phillips and she is flushed out of a sewer pipe, and drowns, only to be brought back to life by the CPR administered by a bunch of cats, led by a cat previously rescued by her, and some magical cat hoodoo.

She returns from deaths as a flesh eating cat zombie… no, sorry, she returns from death with all the powers of the cat: can always land on her feet, can see in the dark, can wield a bullwhip (hang on, cats can’t do that!!) and is so flexible she can lick herself in places normally only others can reach.

Caution: that last idea tragically did not make it into the film.

What she does do though is dress is the sluttiest leather clothes she can find and both foils crimes and commits them at the same time, and eventually is told by a mysterious cat lady, Ophelia (Francis Conroy) that she is the latest in a long line of vengeful spirits that give women super powers (an idea stolen directly from the Crow, along with some of the dialogue). Eventually Catwoman decides to use her powers to defeat the Hedares and stop their evil plans to copy the Joker’s threat from 1989’s Batman film.

This FILM HAS Absolutely NO saving graces. Bad acting, atrocious CGI, over-glossy production design, and a story SO clichéd and… well, crap that I feel that the cavalcade of writers may not have been responsible for it at all, and instead it was actually written by some kind of super-computer programmed to write the worst film ever! I imagine getting caught by your Mum polishing your dolphin to Playstation 1 graphics of Lara Croft would be LESS embarrassing that being caught watching this pile of steaming cat turd.

Now I guess I should clarify some of the comments made in the previous paragraph.

Academy Award winner Berry truly embarrassed herself, and a good percentage of womankind by appearing in this: the quality of her acting in this is nothing short of dull. I am sure that forever more, comics fans who have seen this film will no longer fantasize about her multi-million dollar mams, instead, the dream of slapping her face has replaced it. Singling her out though is unfair though: Bratt was as flaccid as ever, Stone coated her villainy with an air of boredom and the supercool Wilson was as interesting as a high school science teacher. The only actor in this who truly acted to her abilities was Alex Borstein, who other than her portrayal of Lois Griffin in Family Guy is an affront to both words in the term ‘acting profession’.

The CGI was a huge problem here as well. It is a shame that someone like me, who is a proponent of this cinematic artform, can have the barely good enough to be a console game cut-scene images in this film as an argument against his enjoyment high standards of effects. I certainly hope the team responsible didn’t high five each other upon presentation to the director, as to approve this he must have had no standards, or no budget. The surprising thing about either of those options is that Pitof is normally a Special effects supervisor and has works on such films as Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children.

The production design deserves a huge smack in the face as well. Straight up, the worst costume EVER for the character of Catwoman, and considering in the comics at one point she wore a scaly green outfit, that is saying something. Sure it showed off Berry’s great body, but it also showed what a slut looks like at the end of a big night of B and D. The cityscape was lackluster as well, after the amazing designs used in Tim Burton’s Batman films of Gotham City, designed by Anton Furst these were just uninteresting, standard city skylines.

This film received 7 nominations for Razzies, which are the anti Academy Award, and won 4 on them, which, to her credit, Berry went to receive… it seems to me, upon reflection, she was aware of the travesty in which she had taken part.

There is NO doubt that the image is a good one, and is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, but don’t’ don’t imagine anyone will ever test their AV equipment by throwing on a Catwoman DVD! Again, this disc has a really great presentation here in Dolby Digital 5.1 but you will never use it as a standard by which to set other discs.

If I were to give this movie a score at all it would be just for the quality of the disc, but the film is SO terrible, I can’t bring myself to even give it a single star.

Score: 0

Extras: The Many Face of Catwoman is an excellent, if brief, look at all the actresses who have played the character, hosted, as it should be, by Ertha Kitt, and with comments from various comic creators, writers and co-stars (the immortal Adam West) about the history of the feline felon. I have to say my favourite inadvertently funny part of this piece is Halle Berry’s whip trailer talking about her impressive ‘horizontal crack’. OooooKay….

Behind the Scenes Documentary is a traditional BTS piece that briefly discusses the making of the film, with a lot of clips from the film. AT best, it is perfunctory.

The deleted scenes were thankfully, deleted, as it shortened a film that already suffers with far too much padding. I would like to especially point out what absolute GASH the alternate ending is, as well.

There is also a theatrical trailer, and some DVD-rom stuff which involves the installation of something called Interactual Player 2.0 which I am not prepared to litter my laptop’s memory with, so I did not review.

Score: ***

WISIA: Why would one choose to abuse themselves in this way more than once?

R.I.P Ernie Colón: Comic artist

Was very sad this morning to find out that comic legend Ernie Colón had passed away.

Colón was born in Puerto Rico in July 1931, but lived in the US until his passing on the 8th August 2019.

Colón started as a letter for Harvey Comics working on Richie Rich before working as an artist for the same Company.

Throughout his career, he worked for Dc Comics, Marvel Comics, Warren Publishing, Eclipse, Atlas Comics and Valiant, on characters like Amethyst, Dreadstar, Damage Control, Red Sonja, Magnus Robot Fighter and many others.

Tragically, Colón passed away, aged 88 after a year of fighting cancer, but his legacy of over 60 years working in the comics field, not to mention painting, sculpting and other works, has left an indelible mark on the industry.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Colón.

All images (c) copyright their respective owners

Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies (2007)

One from the re watch pile…

Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies (2007)

Film: There is no doubt in my mind that the DC animated films are some of the finest translations of comic stories into another medium. Sure the MCU is pretty cool, and some of the DC live-action movies have been pretty good, but they have a failing in comparison to these animated films from Warner Bros.

The problem with a big budget movie is to be successful, you need to get EVERYONE to see it: comic fans, movie fans, actions fans… football fans… this is why some of the Marvel films are using alternate media to get people to love their films: the rock soundtrack of the Guardians Of The Galaxy films for example, or the liberal and misplaced juxtaposition of comedy and serious action in Thor Ragnarok. The dumbing down of some high concept ideas to get more punters in the door isn’t a new thing: adaptations from book to film have been around sincethe dawn of cinema.

The DC animated movies work so well for comic fans because there is an assumption that the fan base will have a knowledge of the characters so excessive retelling of origin stories don’t exist: if Hawkman turns up in a story, he’s just Hawkman, and we already know what he is capable of.

This film, Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies is based on the story of by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness in the pages of Superman/ Batman comics from the early 2000s, but with occasional tweaks.

The story tells of the ascension to presidency of Lex Luther (voiced by Clancy Brown), who is apparently doing a great job. There are no wars and the economy of the USA is the best is been in years. Crime is down and a majority of superheroes now work for the government, who even have a task force headed up by Captain Atom (Xander Berkeley), and featuring Power Girl (Allison Mack from Smallville), Black Lightning (LeVar Burton), Major Force (Ricardo Chavira) and Katana.

A meteor is heading to earth and President Luther has a plan to destroy it before it hits, and he offers a meeting with Superman (Tim Daly) so he can be the back-up plan if the missiles don’t work, but the meeting is a set-up and quickly Superman is accused of murdering Luther’s superpowered security guard, the supervillain Metallo (John C. McGinley) so he enlists the help of Batman (Kevin Conroy) to prove his innocence.

(By the way, this story links directly to the next Batman and Superman tale: Superman/ Batman: Apocalypse)

This was a pretty cool story in the comics, and it still works today. I imagine some might even find the idea of a self-serving political leader to be more relevant! It still is a pretty cool superhero tale and it features a load of both heroes and villains from cross the DC universe, my only problem with it is if you don’t like Ed McGuinness’ art, you might find the character designs clunky.

I am actually a fan of McGuinness’ work, but I find it works best with brutish characters like his run on Hulk. Here, characters like Power Girl and Starfire lose their softness and instead have the look of a badly made Disney action figure. The brutishness of his style does make Captain Marvel look like a total badass though!

I’m also a huge fan of Shazam! so his appearance here, and under his ‘proper’ name Captain Marvel, is a massive plus for me too.

All in all this is a well executed story but with an art style that whilst super-looking, is far too chunky for this traditional comic art style fan to fully appreciate.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray release of the film with is presented in a perfect 1.85:1 image and a match Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc actually opens with a couple of trailers for the animated Superman Doomsday, Batman Gotham Night and Green Lantern: Emerald Knight . There is also a trailer for the video game Halo Legends and some propaganda about how awesome Bluray is.

There is also a great pile of extras:

A Test Of Minds: Superman and Batman which looks at the relationship that the Man Of Tomorrow and the Dark Knight have had over the years.

Dinner with DCU is a round table with Kevin Conroy, voice director Andrea Romano, DC’s Gregory Noveck and art legend Bruce Timm.

There is also a bunch of shorts docos about DC Characters, comics and animation events like First Look at Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Blackest Night: Inside the DC Comics Event, Wonder Woman The Amazonian Princess, Batman Gotham Knight an Anime Revolution, From Graphic Novel to Original Animated Movie: Justice League The New Frontier and Green Lantern: First Flight – the Animated Movie Sneak Peek.

Finally there are six of Bruce Timm’s favourite episodes of Justice a league Unlimiyed and Superman The Animated Series.

Score: *****

WISIA: I really like all these DC animated features so yeah, it’s a regular respinner at my place even though it’s not my favourite one.

The To Watch Pile’s GoFund Me campaign

You may have heard, like Arnò above, that running a website isn’t free. I don’t mind that either as the To Watch Pile is a passion project and I enjoy doing it cost is something that can accompany ANY hobby.

I want to change things up a little though, and start a comic related podcast, and extend my YouTube stuff up a bit more, but need equipment to do so, and unfortunately I DON’T have the capitol for it.

So, I have started a GoFund Me Page to try and acquire better cameras, microphones and stuff so I can make more content for you to enjoy.

I can’t offer anything in return, but just a bit of spare change thrown towards the TWP will not just keep the doors open a bit longer, but also give me an opportunity to make more engaging content, maybe even with an occasional co-contributor!

The link for the page is right here: https://www.gofundme.com/keep-the-to-watch-pile-website-afloat?pc=ot_co_dashboard_a&rcid=e28632772b5242a08151aafce5b9b0a0

Who Is Wonder Woman?

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.

Score: ****

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.

Score: *****

WIRIA: It’s a gem that is worth re-reading if only for the Dodson’s spectacular art.

Batman and Harley Quinn (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)

The Steelbook cover the the Australian Bluray release of Batman and Harley Quinn

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.

Nightwing and Batman

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.

Harley’s not impressed with being found by Nightwing.

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.

Score: ***

The Australian Bluray menu screen

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.

Score: *****

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.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a DC animated film with Harley Quinn in it: no matter how bad, I’ll be watching it again.

Plantman and Poison Ivy look on in awe at a successful experiment.