REVIEW: LEGENDS OF THE SUPER HEROES

CAST

Adam West (Return To The Batcave)
Burt Ward (The New Adventures of Batman)
Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Jeff Altman (Highlander 2)
Charlie Callas (Switch)
Gabriel Dell (Earthquake)
Howard Morris (Splash)
Mickey Morton (Starchaser)
William Schallert (Santa Barbara)
A’leisha Brevard (American Pop)
Garrett Craig (The Blue Knight)
Howard Murphy (Satan’s Mistress)
Danuta Rylko Soderman (The 700 Club)
Bill Nuckols (Sunset Cove)
Rod Hasse (Hero at Large)
Barbara Joyce (Hothead)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Ruth Buzzi (Freaky Friday)
Pat Carroll (The Little Mermaid)
Alfie Wise (The Cannonball Run)
Ed McMahon (Bewitched)

On January 18, 1979, NBC aired Legends Of The Superheroes: The Challange, an hourlong special in which Adam West, Burt Ward, and Frank Gorshin reprised their Batman, Robin, and Riddler roles from the campy ’60s Batman series, alongside a cast of legendary TV comedians and generic hunks. The show had the heroes dealing with a series of traps laid by a team of supervillains, with each trap setting the stage for a wacky skit. Intended as a live-action Superfriends, LOTS came off more like a live-action version of Scooby’s All-Star Laff-a-lympics.But even The Challenge wasn’t as wretched at what NBC aired the following week: Legends Of The Superheroes: The Roast, in which the cast of the previous special returned for a series of painfully unfunny sketches and stand-up routines. According to the website TV Obscurities, The Challenge finished 58th out of 59 shows the week it aired, and The Roast finished 62nd out of 63. NBC and Hanna-Barbera’s experiment with live-action superhero slapstick was over.

The Challenge opens with the heroes and villains in their respective lairs, where the former have an orderly meeting, complete with a salute to elderly superhero Retired Man (played by William Schallert, better-known as Patty Duke’s dad on The Patty Duke Show), while the latter have a chaotic meeting complete with random acts of violence and lots of indistinct muttering, captured in an ugly-looking medium-long shot.
The villains seize on a doomsday plot put forward by Dr. Sivana (played by sitcom vet Howard Morris, a.k.a. Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show) and divide up, each tasked to find ways to slow the superheroes down. Sinestro (played by funny-faced comic Charlie Callas) poses as a gypsy and reads Green Lantern’s fortune.The Weather Wizard (played by fast-talking young comedian Jeff Altman) poses as a used-car salesman, and sells Batman and Robin a lemon. The Riddler pretends to be a psychiatrist and gets Captain Marvel to sit on his outdoor couch and talk about his feelings. Finally, the heroes locate the villain’s island hideout, where Batman and Robin hop on Jet Skis and chase the wizard Mordru (an obscure DC bad guy played by former Dead End Kid Gabriel Dell) before heading indoors for an old-fashioned punch-up.
Oddly enough, the cheesiness of the costumes are a point in favor of LOTS: The Roast, where the ridiculousness of everything is part of the concept. At the outset, host Ed McMahon jokes that he hasn’t seen so many crazy costumes since he last “had lunch at Alice Cooper’s house,” and adds that the heroes’ HQ looks like “Truman Capote’s closet.”
The Roast is a beast to sit through. The special includes several corny routines in which McMahon trades quips with guests like Hawkman’s mom (played by showbiz legend Pat Carroll, who jokes that when young Hawkman brought notes home from school, “they were strapped to his leg”) and hulking monster Solomon Grundy (who roars and threatens McMahon whenever he’s reminded of the word “swamp”), and, yet again, Retired Man.
Later, Dr. Sivana shows up, giving Howard Morris a chance to get uncomfortably close to Black Canary’s breasts.…and the inevitable Ruth Buzzi pops up as a gun-toting Aunt Minerva.
Also, gossip-monger “Rhoda Rooter” conducts an interview with the unlikely couple of The Atom and Giganta……and West and Ward participate in an interminable skit where Robin tries to keep Batman from finding out that he totaled the Batmobile. Again, it’s impressive—at least for an old DC devotee like myself—to see how far into the character pool the writers were willing to jump, and it’s not like the level of comedy here was any worse than moist shows of its time.  Hanna-Barbera use the occasion of this special to allow Jeff Altman to do a few minutes of stand-up material as Weather Wizard (complete with storms), and to have comedian Brad Sanders lay down some jokes along the lines of “If Hawkman walked through Harlem, by the time he got to Lennox Avenue, he’d be Kentucky-fried,” in the unfortunate guise of Ghetto Man. The Roast ends with Mordru doing a little song-and-dance routine, changing the lyrics to “That’s Entertainment” to something more villain-friendly……and then the whole affair should’ve been permanently consigned to the ash-heap of TV history. But alas, it was dug back up by warner brothers.
It’s a collectable piece for any DC fan as long as they don’t take it seriously
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REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE: DARK

CAST

Matt Rayan (Constantine)
Jason O’Mara (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Camilla Luddington (The Pact 2)
Nicholas Turturro (Zookeeper)
Ray Chase (Kingslaive)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
JB Blanc (Breaking Bad)
Roger Cross (Arrow)
Colleen Villard (The Avengers: EMH)
Jerry O’ Connell (Sliders)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Jeremy Davies (Sleepy Hollow)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)

All over the world, people suddenly begin panicking as they start to see everyone around them as demonic monsters and end up killing innocents before members of the Justice League stop them. Deliberating about this strange outbreak, most of the League’s members come to the conclusion that magic must be involved in this. Despite his own past experiences with magic, Batman expresses his skepticism and walks out; but as he returns to Wayne Manor to rest, he finds the word “Constantine” written all over the walls.
In a flashback, occultist John Constantine and Jason Blood – engaged the Demons Three in a poker game in Las Vegas for high-end stakes, even offering his home, the House of Mystery, as his part of the pool in exchange for a box of artifacts, including one called the Dreamstone. However, both parties cheated at the game, and when Constantine exposed the Demons’ trickery, they attacked him. Constantine unleashed Jason’s alter ego, the demon Etrigan, who defeated the Demons Three, but not before they swore revenge on him.
Batman visits Zatanna after one of her performances and begins to ask about Constantine. Deadman possesses Batman and tells Zatanna she needs to see John. Zatanna brings Batman to Constantine. The trio narrowly manage to get inside John’s house in time where they are joined by Black Orchid. The group gathers to share information, and after a quick discussion and some argument between John and Zatanna, form a team to investigate the cause and reason for these supernatural occurrences.
The heroes visits a friend of Constantine and Zatanna’s named Ritchie Simpson, but outside the house they find shroud spirits of Death waiting to collect Ritchie’s soul upon his upcoming demise. The team is granted entry by Simpson, who is suffering from a magical cancer and resentful of Constantine for abandoning him to his fate but loans them the Keshanti Key. Constantine and Zatanna look through a man’s memories for the cause of his frenzy, and discover that he was possessed. Batman, Deadman, Constantine, and Zatanna narrowly manage to escape from a conjured beast as the creature consumes its victim, and Zatanna proceeds to destroy the monster.
Returning to Ritchie’s home to identify the ring from the man’s memory, the team finds him about to die with Blood nearby. Batman revives Ritchie with an adrenaline shot to the chest, but he quickly falls into a coma. After being brought to the House of Mystery for interrogation, Blood tells the team that he did not attempt to hurt Ritchie, but was looking for a way into the House of Mystery to find the Dreamstone; created by a sinister magician naming himself Destiny. Ritchie awakens and names Felix Faust as his assailant before falling back asleep.
The group locate Faust’s observatory with help from Swamp Thing. When they infiltrate Faust’s lair, the wizard battles the team, but is ultimately defeated by Zatanna; however, Faust is found to have no involvement in hurting Ritchie. Ritchie awakens and is revealed to have the other piece of the Dreamstone; using it to keep his cancer in remission, but then he is seemingly killed when the Dreamstone brings Destiny back to life. Destiny declares himself a god, destroys the House and departs to sink the United States into chaos; Zatanna saves the group, but passes out from the exertion. The Justice League tries to fight Destiny, but he makes them perceive each other as demonic threats. Etrigan attacks Destiny, but is separated back into Jason Blood and Etrigan. Constantine summons Swamp Thing, who agrees to fight Destiny, while Batman and the recovered Zatanna disable the Justice League.
Constantine tricks Destiny into bringing him and Deadman within his protective shield, allowing Deadman to wound Destiny, before Constantine, Batman, and Blood destroy the Dreamstone and Destiny’s body, leaving Ritchie, whose soul is dragged to Hell by the shroud spirits. Right afterwards, Blood succumbs to his mortal wound from centuries before. Zatanna, Constatine and Etrigan bury Blood’s body near the place of his old village, before Etrigan leaves for parts unknown. Zatanna agrees to join the Justice League, while Constantine declines (knowing Batman won’t approve if he did). The two return to the now-rebuilt House of Mystery, taking a first tentative step to restoring their fractured relationship, and Deadman likewise joins the restored Black Orchid as her soulmate.It’s refreshing to see a simpler, more straightforward, yet still effectively intriguing story-telling pace set by DC’s animated feature titles. JLD continues the trend of it’s predecessor, excelling at brief but complete introductions to some of DC’s more obscure characters, bringing them out of the shadows. The use of the overly popular Batman is very fitting here and die-hard and new fans should find a bunch to like. Animation is solid, the voice-casting is even better.And it’s great to see Matt Ryan back as Constantine.

REVIEW: THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

CAST

Will Arnett (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Zach Galifanakis (The Hangover)
Michael Cera (Juno)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter)
Jenny Slate (The Lorax)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Billy Dee Williams (BAtman)
Mariah Carey (Glitter)
Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Jemaine Clement (Men In Black 3)
Ellie Kemper (21 Jump Street)
Jason Mantzoukas (Bad Neigbours)
Doug Benson (Super High Me)
Zoe Kravitz (Divergent)
Kate Micucci (The Big Bang Theory)
Riki Lindhome (Much Ado About Nothing)
Channing Tatum (Dear John)
Jonah Hill (Cyrus)
Laura Kightlinger (Lucky Louie)
Ralph Garman (Ted)
Chris Hardwick (Terminator 3)

Three years after saving the Lego Universe with Emmet and Wyldstyle, Batman continues fighting crime in Gotham City. During a mission to prevent The Joker from destroying the city, Batman hurts his arch-rival’s feelings by telling him he is not as important in his life as he thinks he is, leading to the Joker to desire seeking the ultimate revenge on him.
The following day, Batman attends the city’s winter gala as his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, to celebrate the retirement of Commissioner Gordon and the ascension of his daughter Barbara as Gotham’s new police commissioner, but is infuriated when she announces her plans to restructure the city’s police to function without the need of Batman. The Joker crashes the party with the rest of Gotham City’s villains, but has all of them surrender to the police. Despite realizing that this makes him no longer relevant to the city’s safety, Batman suspects his arch-rival is up to something and decides to stop him by banishing him into the Phantom Zone, a prison for some of the most dangerous villains in the Lego Universe.
Before he can make plans to acquire the Phantom Zone Projector that Superman uses, Alfred intervenes and advises him to take charge of Dick Grayson, whom Bruce had unwittingly adopted as his ward during the gala to which he eventually agrees and fosters Dick as Robin. The pair manage to recover the Projector from the Fortress of Solitude, before breaking into Arkham Asylum and using it on the Joker. Annoyed at his reckless actions and suspecting that the Joker wanted this to happen, Barbara locks up Batman and Robin. While the Projector is being seized as evidence, Harley Quinn steals it back and uses it to free the Joker, who unleashes the villains trapped within the Phantom Zone to cause havoc upon Gotham, including Lord Voldemort, King Kong, Sauron, the Wicked Witch of the West, Medusa, Agent Smith and his clones, the Daleks, and the Kraken.
Realizing that the city does still need him, Barbara releases Batman and Robin and reluctantly teams up with them as “Batgirl” to stop the Joker, with the team joined by Alfred. Batman soon finds himself able to trust and rely on the others, allowing them to defeat Sauron, but upon reaching Wayne Island, he ditches the team out of fear of losing them like his parents, before confronting Joker alone. Upon seeing that the Batman will never change, Joker zaps him to the Phantom Zone, before stealing the Batcave’s stash of confiscated bombs and heading for the city’s Energy Facility. Arriving in the Phantom Zone, Batman witnesses the harm he has caused to everyone because of his selfishness and slowly accepts his greatest fear when Robin, Barbara and Alfred decide to come to his aid. Making a deal with the Phantom Zone’s gatekeeper, Phyllis, to bring back all the villains in exchange for returning to Gotham City, Batman arrives to save the trio and admits to them his mistakes, requesting their help to save the day.
Seeking to stop Joker from setting off the bombs beneath the Energy Facility, thus causing the plates beneath Gotham to come apart and send the city into the infinite abyss, Batman and his allies team up with the city’s regular list of villains, after they had felt neglected by Joker, with the group successfully sending back the escaped villains to the Phantom Zone. However, Batman fails to reach the bombs in time, the detonation causing the city to split apart. Realizing how to stop the city from being destroyed, Batman reluctantly convinces Joker that he is the reason for being the hero he is, and working together alongside Batman’s friends, the villains, and the city’s inhabitants, chain link themselves together, reconnecting the city’s plates and saving Gotham City.
With the city saved, Batman prepares to be taken back into the Phantom Zone to fulfill his bargain with Phyllis, only to be rejected by the gatekeeper who chooses to let him remain after she saw how much he had changed in order to save everyone. Batman allows the Joker and the rest of his rogues gallery to escape with the confidence that whenever they return, then they’ll be no match for the combined team of himself, Robin, Batgirl, and Alfred.Overall, this is a very enjoyable movie with a gripping story, fantastic animation that tops its predecessor and clever humor. I definitely recommend giving this a watch if you’re a fan of The Lego Movie.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – TASK FORCE X

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MAIN CAST

Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)

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GUEST CAST

Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Juliet Landau (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Donal Gibson (Braveheart)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Chris Cox (Family Guy)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)

mv5bnjk3mti1nzk2of5bml5banbnxkftztywodqzndez-_v1_uy317_cr820214317_al_At Belle Reve Correctional, Floyd Lawton, aka the hitman Deadshot, is being led to execution, displaying defiance for his fate, even towards the priest. Upon entering the execution chamber, however, it is to find another man who hands some official papers over to the warden. After reading them, the warden orders Deadshot to be released and handed over to the newcomer. On the drive away from the prison, Lawton’s savior introduces himself as U.S. Colonel Rick Flagg who wants Deadshot to assist in a top-secret mission. Flagg also reveals that miniature devices have been infiltrated into Deadshot’s body and will kill him if he does not cooperate. The mission is a simple break-in and theft – from the Justice League’s Watchtower HQ.
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They arrive at a warehouse formerly used by Lex Luthor and thus very secure against super-hero surveillance. Lawton is introduced to the rest of “Task Force X”: explosives expert Bette Sans-Souci, a.k.a. “Plastique”; inventor George Harkness, a.k.a. “Captain Boomerang”; and planning expert Temple Fugate, a.k.a. “The Clock King”. With the exception of Flagg, they are all criminals being offered amnesty in exchange for their services. The plan is to infiltrate the Watchtower disguised as members of its support staff, at a time when only three major obstacles are aboard: Green Lantern John Stewart, Captain Atom, and J’onn J’onzz. Flagg warns the other members of Task Force X that there is to be no unnecessary killing. While the others go to the tower, Fugate will stay at base coordinating their progress.
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The first phase goes off perfectly: The squad ambushes a group of four Watchtower staff members before they are teleported up. Once there, Flagg uses a device in a pair of prop glasses in order to cause a computer to break down thus enabling them to proceed without a security check. Deadshot and Plastique then head to the lower levels and into the generator room, while Flagg and Boomerang make their way to the high-security storage area. Plastique sets off a bomb on the reactor to cause a diversion from Boomerang’s breakthrough into the vault. There, Flagg takes control of the “package”: a powerful combat robot called the Annihilator. The damage to the reactor causes a radiation leak and an evacuation is ordered. Captain Atom flies down to contain the reactor explosion and reports to J’onn that it was done intentionally.
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Deadshot and Plastique sprint up to join Flagg and Boomerang and together they and the Annihilator make their way to the bridge. Along the way, they are stopped by Shining Knight, Vigilante, and Atom-Smasher, but manage to defeat them with the Annihilator’s help. Reaching the bridge, they are confronted by J’onn, who easily defeats them until the Annihilator literally tears him in half, disabling him long enough for the team to reach the transporter. J’onn recovers and defeats the Annihilator, but Plastique gets him to stand back by holding a bomb above the throat of an unconscious Atom-Smasher, and he is forced to allow the others to mount the transporter platform. Just as Plastique is about to join them, Captain Atom arrives and tackles her and one of her bombs goes flying. Deadshot detonates it with a shot from his pistol and, in the confusion, three of Task Force X and the Annihilator transport away. Plastique is left behind, severely wounded. J’onn checks the transporter console, which has been sabotaged and blows up before he can trace the coordinates.
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Flagg turns the Annihilator over to Amanda Waller and Tala of Project Cadmus. Before leaving, Waller commends Flagg, telling him his father would be proud of him. Deadshot bids everyone a cheerful goodbye, but Flagg decks him with a punch and informs him that he is to serve in Task Force X for five years before he can go free, otherwise he can go back to prison for execution. Deadshot snidely asks Flagg how Waller is blackmailing him, to which Flagg gives a sneer of contempt and states that he isn’t being blackmailed at all: He is a patriot who serves his country loyally. Aboard the Watchtower, J’onn has discovered that Vance, a member of the bridge crew, passed inside information to Cadmus, using an anti-telepathy device to mask his thoughts. J’onn is tempted to wipe Vance’s mind, but Stewart tells him it would be pointless since Vance has already leaked everything he knows, and they can’t trust any of their staff now.mv5bnjk3mti1nzk2of5bml5banbnxkftztywodqzndez-_v1_uy317_cr820214317_al_Task Force X really does stand as one of the best examples of what Justice League Unlimited had to offer – a show starring a bunch of random characters that found time to tell an engaging story and humanize each of them a bit. Sure, it plays into a grand over-arching plot, but – on its own terms – Task Force X is really just an example of what the DC animated universe did really well. A fun story well told featuring an interesting cast.

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE: ABOSOLUTE JUSTICE

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MAIN CAST

Tom Welling (The Fog)
Allison Mack (American Odyssey)
Erica Durance (The Butterfly Effect 2)
Cassidy Freeman (The Vampire Diaries)
Justin Hartley (This Is Us)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Pam Grier (Jackie brown)
Phil Morris (Star Trek III)
Alessandra Juliani (Man of Steel)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Brent Stait (Androemda)
Britt Irvin (V)
Wesley MacInnes (The Phantoms)

As Chloe Sullivan tries to get in touch with Clark Kent, she finds herself cornered in an alleyway by a man named Sylvester Pemberton, who is wielding a staff that has the ability to control light. As Sylvester attempts to inform Chloe that he is a friend, an assassin known as Icicle attacks and Sylvester is ultimately killed. Chloe and Clark go to the hospital to investigate the truth behind Sylvester, which ultimately leads them to the Daily Planet archive room. There, Clark and Chloe discover documents and an old 16 mm film that identifies Sylvester as part of a team of “criminals”, which includes: Carter Hall, Kent Nelson, Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Ted Grant, Abigail Hunkel, Wesley Dodds, and Al Pratt. In the documentary footage, Sylvester and the rest of his team are systematically arrested, but because of allegations of jury tampering, falsified evidence, and lack of connection all of the individuals are released.

While Clark and Chloe are looking into the criminal group, Icicle tracks down and kills Wesley Dodds. Following Dodds’ death, Clark tracks down Carter Hall, believing him to be Icicle’s next target. Clark finds Hall at a museum; he also finds Kent Nelson, who is mumbling incoherently to himself and clutching onto a small bag. Using his X-ray vision, Clark sees a helmet inside the bag, which turns on its own and looks back at Clark. Having enough of Clark’s questions, Carter sends Clark on his way. Meanwhile, Chloe sends Oliver Queen after Sylvester’s staff. Unfortunately, high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore has already taken the staff. Before Oliver can get the staff from her, Kent shows up and uses the staff to teleport both him and Courtney back to the museum. Here, it is revealed that Sylvester’s team was actually a group of superheroes led by Carter Hall, who went by the codename “Hawkman”. The group called themselves the “Justice Society of America”. Courtney, who was Sylvester’s protégé, Kent and Carter band together to find Sylvester’s killer. As such, Kent places the Helmet of Nabu back on and transforms into “Doctor Fate”.

After investigating Dodds and Pemberton’s deaths, Clark and Chloe believe they have located the killer at the psychiatric ward of Metropolis General Hospital. When they arrive, they find the individual, Joar Mahkent, in a vegetative state and Doctor Fate reading his mind. Doctor Fate then sees Clark’s fate and teleports Clark and himself to the museum. Meanwhile, the real assassin is revealed to be Joar’s son, who is killing the Justice Society members for putting his father in that vegetative state decades earlier. Hired by an organization known as Checkmate, and instructed by Agent Amanda Waller, Icicle sets his sights on Courtney. Oliver tracks down Courtney—who calls herself “Stargirl”—and realizes that she is setting herself up as bait to lure Icicle out. Icicle arrives, but Oliver interrupts Courtney’s plan. As a result, Hawkman grabs Oliver, throws him through the Watchtower window, and then threatens to do worse if Oliver interferes again.

Meanwhile, Checkmate sends Lois Lane an anonymous package that provides her with the truth about the Justice Society. Clark awakens at the museum, where Doctor Fate informs Clark that his fate is to lead a new generation of superheroes, and that he will one day conquer his greatest enemy, Lex Luthor. Oliver and John Jones show up at the museum to rescue Clark, unaware that Hawkman, Doctor Fate, and Stargirl are actually heroes. Banding together, the group splits up into pairs to locate Icicle. While on patrol, Doctor Fate and John Jones are attacked by Icicle. Before Doctor Fate is killed, he uses his abilities to restore John’s Martian powers. While John lies unconscious, Icicle steals Doctor Fate’s helmet and acquires the powers that go with it.

Clark and the others regroup at Watchtower, where Icicle arrives to kill the rest of the Justice Society and avenge his father. At first, Clark, Hawkman, Stargirl, and Green Arrow have trouble taking down Icicle and his new abilities. When John arrives, the group is finally able to defeat Icicle. Afterward, Carter tells Clark that he and Courtney have located the surviving members of the Justice Society, their children, and their protégés in order to build a new team of superheroes for today’s generation. Back at the Daily Planet, Lois publishes her article on the Justice Society, revealing them to be a team of superheroes who were lambasted by the government, and falsely imprisoned. Icicle is transported back to Checkmate, where Agent Waller subsequently kills him after informing Icicle that he was a part of the new Suicide Squad. Afterward, Tess Mercer is revealed to be an agent of Checkmate.

To sum things up the people involved in this episode’s creation did a great job, the performers included. The cold blooded killer was scary. Some dialogs were smart, others hilarious, specially Green Arrow’s ones, and I’m sure the references for comics fans were numerous. There were also plenty of intriguing developments.

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REVIEW: DC SUPER HEROES: THE FILMATION ADVENTURES

 

CAST (VOICES)

Bud Collyer (Flesicher Superman)
Marvin Miller (The Invisibile Boy)
Ted Knight (The Love Boat)

In 1967, the Filmation-produced Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure featured short animated segments with additional DC characters. The Superman and Aquaman segments have previously been released on DVD, and the rest are now available as the two-disc set, DC Super-Heroes: The Filmation Adventures.
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These discs feature three seven-minute episodes each focusing on:

The Atom
The Flash
Green Lantern
Hawkman
The Justice League of America (made up of the above heroes, plus Superman)
Teen Titans (Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy, and Aqualad)

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I’ve never seen these before (I grew up on Super Friends), and it’s hard to not compare them to the Bruce Timm-designed Justice League cartoons, which benefit from 30-odd years of advances in animation techniques (and technology) and storytelling — not to mention a decent budget. The stories are simplistic, the villains’ motivations even more so; lots of footage is re-used, and the heroes are flat. But the action tends to be wild and crazy, in keeping with the comics of the time.
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In fact, a lot of the aspects that stand out when viewing these today are true to the source material. This was deep into the Silver Age at DC, and wild and crazy sci-fi adventure hadn’t yet given way to the more street-level storytelling of the Bronze Age. The excessive narration, while annoying at first, recalls the heavy use of narrative captions to point out exactly what’s going on — how the Flash can run across water, for instance, or reminding us of the name of Hawkman’s mascot Screel (I’m sure I spelled that wrong) even when he calls the bird by name. It also gives the features the feel of a radio play with accompanying visuals.

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Almost every villain is an alien trying to invade the Earth. There’s the occasional mad scientist or mutated creature, and in two of the Green Lantern stories, an alien trying to invade Oa. Only one villain from the comics makes the cut: Evil Star, who appears in one of the Green Lantern shorts. The villains are all one-dimensional, but they’re at least differently one-dimensional. They range from pranksters to military commanders (even the ones shaped like beetles) to mustache-twirling megalomaniacs.

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As far as the video quality is concerned, the shows themselves have been remarkably well-preserved or restored. The opening sequences have fared less well, with plenty of scratches and the occasional problem with the sound. The Flash stars in three segments, and appears in the three Justice League episodes. His civilian ID as Barry Allen is mentioned, but his job as a police scientist is only used as set dressing. (The Atom sequences make the best use of a character’s civilian ID.) Meanwhile, Kid Flash appears in two of the Flash episodes, and the three Teen Titans segments. Wally appears out of costume just once, and the fact that he is Barry’s nephew is not mentioned.
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The Flash’s costume is simplified somewhat for ease of animation, with a plain belt instead of a lightning zigzag, and yellow gloves instead of lightning cuffs around the wrists. (Though the wings on his cowl are clearly wings, not lightning bolts as they appear in Justice League.) Less explicable is the change to Kid Flash’s costume. It’s fairly simple: they reversed the yellow and red. But it’s hard to imagine why. The Flash episodes feature a wide range of uses for super-speed. He and Kid Flash not only run fast, but vibrate through walls, create vacuums, launch themselves into the sky like helicopters, run up the sides of buildings and across oceans, clear rubble and tie things up at super-speed. In doing so, they fight a mutated giant ant (created by radiation, of course!), a mad scientist with what we’d now call a mecha suit (and a number of autonomous robots), and an alien speedster who manages to keep one step ahead of them.

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The Justice League of America segments all involve alien invasions of one sort or another, and all pair up the Flash with the Atom. Despite creative use of his powers in his solo stories, the Flash doesn’t do much more than carry the Atom around in the team-ups. Maybe the cast is too big for the seven-minute length. Kid Flash fares better in the Teen Titans episodes, particularly in “Operation Rescue,” in which he breaks his teammates out of a cell, helps Wonder Girl trip a group of attackers with her lasso, and single-handedly protects the T-Copter during takeoff.
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While the stories are played straight, the villains and situations are also way over the top, making for a great deal of unintentional humor. It would probably be better to watch an episode or two a day, rather than all in one weekend like I did. Still, as I worked my way through the set, there was a sense that anything could happen in the next episode. As groan-inducing as the dialog can be, or the ridiculous situations, it’s hard to deny the fact that these are fun.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: RED SON

CAST (VOICES)

David Lodge (Digimon)
Wendee Lee (Masked Rider)
Jim Meskimen (Frost/Nixon)
Cindy Robinson (Sonic Boom)
Kirk Thornton (Ninja Scroll)

In the 1950s, the Soviet Union reveals its newest asset to be Superman. The sudden revelation of a superpowered alien under Soviet control causes panic in the United States, shifting the focus of the Cold War arms race from nuclear weapons to superhumans. CIA agent James Olsen recruits Lex Luthor, a scientist employed by S.T.A.R. Labs, to destroy Superman. Luthor’s first act is to cause Sputnik 2 to plummet towards Metropolis. After Superman diverts the satellite away from the city, Luthor retrieves his genetic material and creates a monstrous clone of Superman whom Lex Luthor officially names Superman 2 when he is unveiled to Olsen.


Meanwhile, Superman meets Wonder Woman at a diplomatic party, and she becomes smitten by him. Pyotr Roslov, the head of the NKVD and Joseph Stalin’s illegitimate son, is angry that Superman has turned his father’s attention away from him and ended his chances of advancement within the Soviet regime. Pyotr shoots a dissident couple in front of their son for printing anti-Superman propaganda. Stalin dies from cyanide poisoning, and Superman initially refuses command of the Communist Party. However, a chance meeting with Lana Lazarenko, his childhood sweetheart, changes his mind. Superman chooses to use his powers for the greater good and turn his country into a utopia.

The U.S. government sends “Superman 2” to engage Superman, and their duel causes an accidental nuclear missile launch in Great Britain. The clone sacrifices itself to save millions. Luthor murders his research staff at S.T.A.R. Labs and founds LuthorCorp, dedicating his life to destroying Superman. By 1978, the United States is on the verge of social collapse whereas the prosperous Soviet Union has peacefully expanded its influence to nearly every corner of the globe. The cost of this progress is an increased infringement on individual liberties, with Superman fast becoming a Big Brother-like figure; a brain surgery technique that turns dissidents into obedient drones, or “Superman Robots”, is in use. Superman now works with Wonder Woman to save lives as well as govern the Soviet state. Wonder Woman has become enamored of Superman, but he considers her simply as a comrade, and is oblivious to her love for him.

Luthor plans to shrink Moscow, but this plan fails when Brainiac, his collaborator, shrinks Stalingrad instead. Superman intervenes and retrieves both Brainiac’s central processing unit and the tiny city, putting an end to the Brainiac-Luthor cooperation. He is unable to restore Stalingrad and its inhabitants to their proper size. This becomes his one failure and a source of great guilt.

Luthor’s third plan involves Batman, who was the boy orphaned by Pyotr. Batman joins forces with LuthorCorp and Pyotr, now head of the KGB. They capture Wonder Woman and use her as bait for Superman, hoping to sap his powers with rays that imitate the light of Superman’s home planet. The plan works, but Superman convinces Wonder Woman to break free of the lasso that she is tied up with and destroy the generators running the lamps emitting the solar rays of Superman’s home planet. She does, severely injuring herself in the process, but the lamps stop running and Superman’s powers return. Scared that Superman was going to lobotomize him and turn him into a robot, Batman kills himself as a martyr to his cause. Pyotr is turned into a Superman robot, and Wonder Woman no longer has feelings for Superman as he shows little to no regard for her injured condition.

Luthor enacts his fourth plan when he finds a mysterious green lantern found in an alien ship that crashed at Roswell, New Mexico. Brainiac is reprogrammed into Superman’s aide, and the construction of a Fortress of Solitude, located in Siberia and referred to as “The Winter Palace”, begins. Superman’s reign continues with no crime, poverty, or unemployment, but with an ever-present state authority. Superman is committed to “winning the argument” with the U.S., and repeatedly refuses Brainiac’s suggestions of an invasion. Stalingrad remains his one failure, now contained within a protective glass “bottle”. The USA elects Luthor and Olsen as President and Vice President. Using his scientific expertise, massive economic capital and dictatorial powers, Luthor returns prosperity to his country. This is only a part of a more general plan to provoke Superman into invading the United States. Luthor shows Olsen two of his greatest discoveries: the Phantom Zone, a place that super-hearing cannot reach; and the Green Lantern Corps.

Luthor confronts Superman in the Winter Palace. Brainiac yanks Luthor deep into the recesses of the Fortress to be converted surgically into a Superman Robot, claiming that Lex would convince Superman to commit suicide in less than fourteen minutes. Superman agrees that his hand has been forced, and prepares to attack. First Lady Lois Luthor visits Paradise Island to forge an alliance with the Amazon empire, now ruled by an embittered and vengeful Wonder Woman. Superman attacks the East Coast, confronting and defeating the Green Lantern Marine Corps, which is led by Colonel Hal Jordan. The Amazon forces, commanded by Wonder Woman, attack Superman but are quickly defeated, along with a collection of “super-menaces” (including Atomic Skull, Parasite and Doomsday) that Luthor has put together over the years. Brainiac’s spaceship cuts the U.S. Pacific fleet to pieces, and the two superbeings meet at the White House. They are greeted by Lois Luthor with the last weapon, a small note written by Lex that reads, “Why don’t you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?” Realizing he has meddled in affairs that he had no place in, Superman orders Brainiac to end the invasion. Brainiac, however, reveals it has never been under Superman’s control, and instead attacks Superman with green kryptonite radiation. Brainiac is shut down from inside by Luthor, who evaded surgery. As the singularities powering Brainiac’s ship threaten to collapse, Superman rockets it into space, where it explodes. The Earth is saved, but Superman is apparently dead. The Soviet Union falls into chaos, but is soon brought back under control thanks to the Batmen (resistance members who began wearing the costume after Batman’s death). Lex Luthor integrates many of Superman’s and Brainiac’s ideas into the new philosophy of “Luthorism” and forms a “Global United States”. This becomes the defining moment for mankind’s future as it enters an unprecedented age of peace and stability. A benevolent world government is formed and maintained. Luthor presides over a string of scientific achievements, including the curing of all known disease, and colonization of the solar system. Luthor lives for over one thousand years.

At Luthor’s funeral, it is revealed that Superman survived the explosion of Brainiac’s ship and is apparently immortal. Superman attends the funeral wearing a business suit and thick glasses essentially identical to the appearance of Clark Kent, an identity he never adopted in this timeline. Luthor’s widow, Lois, sees this mysterious figure in the crowd and, other than an eerie sense of deja vu, suspects nothing. Superman walks quietly away from the ceremony, planning to live among humans rather than ruling over them.

Billions of years in the future, Earth is being torn apart by tidal stresses from the sun, which has become a red giant. Luthor’s distant descendant, Jor-L, sends his infant son, Kal-L, rocketing back into the past. The final panels of the comic book depict the landing of Kal-L’s timeship in a Ukrainian collective in 1938, effectively causing a predestination paradox (and, thus, making Superman a descendant of Luthor).

 

Superman Red Son is an animated version of Mark Millar’s graphic novel. The artwork is fantastic and the alternate tale of an infant Superman who crash lands on Earth 12 hours earlier in this Universe and therefore lands in Russia rather than America is just awsome. a Great Motion Comic for DC fans.