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Batman: The Brave and the Bold – Battle of the Superheroes (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Batman and Superman. It’s a great combination, like cookies and cream or spaghetti and meatballs or… feel free to insert your own analogy here. The two characters are two of the oldest and most enduring superheroes, both owned by the same company. They also both embody two very different ideals. Batman is a pulp action hero in a silly outfit with gothic trappings, while Superman is an alien from another world dressed in primary colours. Pairing the two up to compare and contrast is great fun.

Battle of the Superheroes focuses on Batman and Superman as friends and colleagues, a portrayal which seems somewhat dated. After all, ever since Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns, the tendency has been to treat the pair as grudging allies rather than bosom buddies. Still, the Silver Age aesthetic of The Brave and the Bold suits this approach well, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the wry enthusiasm of it all.

Superhero team-up time...

Superhero team-up time…

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Superman: The Action Comics Archives, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

It’s interesting to look back that the early Superman stories in Action Comics. Given that Superman has picked up a reputation for being boring or predictable or safe or conservative, it’s amazing just how radical and inflammatory some of these very early Siegel and Shuster adventures are. These early Action Comics strips were undeniably and overtly political, presenting a strong-willed and proactive version of Superman completely unafraid to impose his will on the citizens of the world.

It’s a dramatically different take on the character than the version we’ve come to accept in popular culture, the benign and well-meaning boy scout who plays by the rules. Even Grant Morrison’s affectionate throwback to these early adventures can’t quite capture the same sense of subversive radicalism which presents us with a version of the iconic superhero who does just flaunt the authority of law enforcement or legislature, but often directly challenges it.

Smashing!

Smashing!

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Justice League Unlimited – For the Man Who Has Everything

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. We’re winding down now, having worked our way through the nine animated features, so I’m just going to look at a few odds-and-ends, some of the more interesting or important episodes that the DC animated universe has produced. The one adaptation of his work Alan Moore is actually happy with is well worth a look.

Van, when you were born, it was the happiest day of my life. When I first saw your beautiful little face, your tiny fingers squeezed my hand so tight, like you never wanted to let go. I’ve watched every step, every struggle…I-I’ve… but, Van… Oh, Rao help me… but I don’t think you’re real. I don’t think any of this is-is real…

– Superman confronts the fact that none of this is real

Alan Moore is one of the best comic book writers out there – and he’s perhaps the greatest writer ever to work with the character of Superman. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? is an oft-referenced fond farewell to the Silver Age Superman (which prompted a similar storyline for Batman with Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? in the wake of the character’s recent “death”), but I’ve always preferred his one-shot story For The Man Who Has Everything. Adapted into animated form as one of the first episodes of the relaunched Justice League Unlimited series.

Super-dad!

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Is TV the Natural Medium of Comic Book Adaptations?

It recently surfaced that David E. Kelley (creator of Ally McBeal and The Practice) is working on a Wonder Woman television show. Presumably it will be somewhat less campy than the Linda Carter version. Last month news broke that there are plans for a television version of Neil Gaiman’s epic story The Sandman. Later this month we’re see the airing of a live action version of Robert Kirkman’s critically acclaimed zombie comic book The Walking Dead. Part of me wonders if this is the logical shift in the market. After all, comic books arguably have more in common with television than they do with movies. So is this the real future of these adaptations?

It's a Wonder we didn't think of this earlier...

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Lex is More: Bringing Lex Luthor to the Screen…

I’ve been swamped with real-world work this week, so announcing that Zach Snyder would be directing the new Superman movie and that General Zod would be the primary bad guy on Monday (and a plot synopsis on Tuesday) really threw me for a loop. Anyway, I cobbled together some thoughts on bringing Superman to the big screen. I’ll hopefully have some more general thoughts early next week.

Lex Luthor shouldn’t be so hard to get right on the big screen. I mean, it’s not from lack of trying. The character is more than just Superman’s arch-enemy, he’s a member of his supporting cast. More than the Joker to Batman, Luthor is inexorably linked to the Man of Steel – no matter which enemy is invading Metropolis, Luthor is usually helping them or hindering them or figuring out a way to turn the events to his advantage. As such, he has appeared in all but one of the live action Superman films released over the past three-and-a-half decades, even where he isn’t the main adversary (as in Superman II, where he attempts to manipulate Zod’s vendetta against Superman). And yet, despite being portrayed by two incredibly talented actors – Kevin Spacey and Gene Hackman – the big screen never managed to essence of Luthor’s character. Zack Snyder was earlier this week named director of the Nolan Superman reboot, and although General Zod was named the villain of the film I’d be fairly certain that Luthor will put in an appearance. So, how do you do Lex Luthor right?

Green there and done that?

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Non-Review Review: Superman

Tell me your heart doesn’t skip a beat when you hear the familiar brass of John Williams’ iconic score. Or that you can resist a smile as a small child introduces the movie by opening a comic book and reading aloud. Or that the opening shot of the crystal canyons of Krypton doesn’t make your spine tingle just a bit. Richard Donner’s Superman is perhaps correctly regarded as the father of the whole superhero genre, and deservedly so, but it’s also a stunningly well put together film in its own right. You could argue that this film predates the whole “superhero” genre in Hollywood, and – as such- more deserves classification as a “fantasy” film. And it can certainly stand with the very best of them.

Don't worry, he's trained for this sort of emergency...

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