A Look at the DC Animated Universe

August 31, 2015

From very early on I strictly followed my comic book mantra: “Make Mine Marvel!”

I would occasionally venture into the DC comic book universe but it was Marvel that truly held me captive.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, the animated worlds of both these comic book titans was very soft.  And VERY campy. Think back to the Saturday morning cartoon version of the super hero super team the Justice League. They were called the Super Friends.

Ughh!

I gradually drifted away from comics and animated super heroes for more horrifying tales by the likes of King and Koontz and the visual horrors from the masters Carpenter, Hooper and Romero. But as comic books gradually moved towards more adult storylines, fiercer stories, and dark graphic novels,  I dove back in. Even the animated stuff got better.

Having heard recently on a nerdy podcast about how great the DC universe animated movies were, I purchased 5 of them and watched them all. Some with the whole family.

Here’s what I thought of them…

Superman: Doomsday

1102_frontI don’t think I have to yell out spoiler alert here regarding the major event that happens around the DC comic book version of the maniacal villain Doomsday right?! Unless you are a complete comic book noob (and I say that kindly) we all know that Doomsday kills Superman!

Although that major plot point is retained in this animated version, the lead-up to Doomsday’s appearance climaxing up to the battle with Superman are very different.The outcome of the battle is the same but everything post super death are new to the story.

It is a good story, with enough violence to earn this movie a PG13 rating. A first for an animated Superman story. Its not an incredibly captivating story and I was never a big Superman fan. But I loved the print Doomsday comic.

The animated Doomsday did not deliver as well as the animated Dark Knight did but it was good enough for me to give it a 6.5 out of 10

Batman Year One

Batman-_Year_One_Blu-RayNow we’re talking! Another graphic novel that I had devoured over and over again, Batman Year One was a smash hit off the printed page. Hoping to get more from it than I did with Superman: Doomsday I settled in to watch with my youngest son who had not read the comic book.

Briefly, Batman Year One goes into the early starts of crime fighting in Gotham city, not only from our favorite dark detective but also from a Gotham law enforcement agent, Lt James Gordon, fabulously voiced by the great Bryan Cranston of Heisenberg fame.

The parallel career beginnings of both protagonists have their rocky starts, encountering the ultimate scums of Gotham, and leading to a culminating encounter that would eventually result in the mutual respect and cooperation of Law and Vigilante in dealing with even more maniacal villains. Ha ha ha ha ha. You know of who I speak.

gordon-bat-and-gun

Batman Year One earns a solid 9 out of 10.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman_mask_of_the_phantasm_posterMuch praise has been heaped on Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Critically acclaimed although it was a box office failure (it was released theatrically rather than direct-to-video), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is held up as “the best Batman film ever”.

With some great voice work from Kevin Conroy as Batman, a role he would keep for many years, Dana Delany as Bruce Wayne’s love interest Andrea Beaumont, Stacy Keach, Abe Vigoda (still alive as of this writing) and Mark Hamill as the Joker, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was overloaded with heavy weight talent.

It also had a great story, but I found the delivery of the story more in line with Batman The Animated Series and not Batman Year One. Maybe because it is an earlier animated movie, 1993, it still retained the need for a more child like leaning campiness rather than a more adult leaning grittiness.

Maskofthephantasm

Still I gave this a strong 7 out of 10

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Dimg3Wow! In a word, Wow!

Did I say Wow yet?!

I don’t think there can be another DC animated movie that can top this. An incredible screenplay by Judd Winick, who also wrote the “Under the Hood” run in the monthly Batman comic. Wonderfully voiced by Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, and Neil Patrick Harris and produced by Bruce Timm, a veteran of Batman The Animated Series, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and numerous other DC animated ventures.

Batman: Under the Red Hood borrowed heavily from the comic book Under The Red Hood and from the most iconic Joker origin story The Killing Joke. It used a pivotal part of that story, described in this one as “the site of Batman’s first great failure”.

I cannot praise this movie without spoiling this movie, filled with many great elements of the DC canon of Joker, Batman, Robin (1 and 2) and Nightwing.

This is a must watch for any Batman fan. All my kids loved it, although my daughter, a big self proclaimed comic book nerd, could not get past hearing Jake the Dog from Adventure Time every time the Joker spoke.

This was so great a movie it earns a 10 out of 10!

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

3194987-poster-justice-league-the-flashpoint-paradoxOne of the reasons I probably glossed over this title anytime it appeared before me was because I grew up with the Saturday morning version of the Justice League in the 70s and 80s. To simply call it cheesy was being too polite. The JLA back then was creme de la creme cheesy.

So when I saw JLA as part of the title of this adventure, I said “Pass”. Thinking back to Aquaman talking to fish, Flash running around at warp speeds while still apologizing for being late, and Batman with Robin and Superman in a classic smiling superhero hands on hips stance. No thanks.

But thankfully I heeded the reviews and comments online about how this is the greatest DC story ever told.

I had never read the DC comic book version of this story. It was a cross comic story that expanded over multiple titles and 61 issues. But I knew the story in a nutshell. It involved the Flash, time warp and the JLA. At the urging of all nerds online and in podcast I added this title to my purchases and sat to watch it with everyone in my family.

Holy Crap!!!! That was the general consensus from everyone in my living room.

What did this movie have? Bad assery from the least expected character. Arrows through a head, decapitation, blood (so much blood) and the use of the word “Asshole”!!!! This was an adult’s version of the JLA, without a single Wonder Twin in sight! Awesome!

This was another very well casted movie with some returning greats, Kevin Conroy and Dana Delany, as well as Nathan Fillion, Ron Perlman, C Thomas Howell and Justin Chambers as The Flash.

Once again I cannot reveal much plot (or any) without spoiling some incredible surprises. So let me tell you how much I knew before I was convinced to buy this title, The Flash creates an apocalyptic parallel world, a paradox, that must be undone. There, that’s it. Go rent or buy this!!! You will not be disappointed.

Flashpoint-Paradox-first-image-fix

A 10 ++++!

And next year, a very much anticipated and awaited presentation of the animated story of The Killing Joke.

Is it 2016 yet???