Superman vs the Elite (2012) Written by Joe Kelly Directed by Michael Chang Runtime 74 min. 4 out of 5
Upon meeting the Elite, Superman hopes to have found new allies in his quest against evil, but when he discovers they bring a new brand of justice to the table, he must make a stand against them.
That’s basically the premise of the movie and it’s not so much a story with the fate of the planet hanging in the balance, but rather a story about the fate of how villains should be dealt with hanging in the balance. Bottom line is the question: is the world ready to move on from using temporal solutions to stop criminals—super or otherwise—to permanently stopping them by simply killing them?
Superman believes in the potential good in everyone whereas the Elite, led by Manchester Black, believes that if you mess up, you should die to a) bring justice to whatever crime you did, and, b) stop any future chance of it happening again. While in a way you can see where he’s coming from, his black-and-white view of how to deal with evil leaves a lot to be desired. If anything, his view mirrors Superman’s in that justice must come to pass, but Superman also believes in mercy and forgiveness and the idea of learning one’s lesson then trying to make a positive go at things versus getting one shot and if you blow it then that’s it.
Part of this movie asks the question about Superman’s place in our modern society and if his ideals and motives are still relevant. Face it, we live in a very cynical, hard-edged world where people would sooner see the worst in others—while missing the bad in themselves, of course—than acknowledge people’s shortcoming(s) for what they are, try to fix the issue(s), forgive and move on. This is the product of a self-centered society—especially in the West—so self-centered that we won’t even acknowledge we have this issue (or get mad when confronted with it), thus creating the need to produce movies like Superman vs the Elite as, it seems, there are only a few who want to bring it to light.
That’s the deeper stuff. The lighter stuff is this movie has a fairly interesting story to bring the above to pass. I did find it slow in parts. The action sequences were pretty good, especially when Superman starts battling the Elite. I wasn’t a fan of the art direction, though, and have seen better presentations of Superman and his supporting cast in other direct-to-video DC movies.
If it weren’t for the strong themes of this movie, I would’ve given it a three, but because it’s about something important, it gets bumped up a point.
I do recommend this movie if you’re not sure if Superman is still relevant today or if you find him an unrelatable hero. This flick might change that for you. Take a look and decide for yourself.
Superman: Unbound (2013) Written by Bob Goodman Directed by James Tucker Runtime 75 min. 4 out of 5
When Brainiac shows up and threatens to destroy Metropolis, Superman and his cousin Supergirl must rise to the occasion and put an end to a foe that has deep ties to Krypton.
This was a good flick. Hey, it’s Superman and lately DC’s been pulling out all the stops and every time Supes gets the DVD treatment it’s done really well. Supergirl’s presence added a new dimension to the Man of Steel’s animated movie exploits. Giving a quick showcase of her past, what happened to Kandor, and how those events created the motivations behind the Supergirl of this movie proved that sometimes less is more. Also understanding where she was coming from gave Superman a glimpse into a part of himself that he wasn’t really ready to face: the need to sometimes go hard on bad guys for the greater good. Yet, being true to who he was, he was also able to soften Supergirl around the edges, which just goes to show how much you can learn from family.
The animation was smooth, the colors were clear, the action was great and the art was fantastic. The slightly too-long-of-a-face aside, I like the way Superman looked in this. The Clark Kent was so-so. More of a fan of the thick glasses than the more stylish ones, but whatever. In the animated series he had two thin circles for frames and that was it.
Lois looked good, too. My only gripe is, while I understand these movies are being made more and more for adults, there are parents out there who buy these flicks for their kids because a) they’re superheroes, b) it’s cartoons, and having Lois giving Brainiac the finger wasn’t cool. Though I doubt it’ll ever happen, there should be some sort of bold labeling or disclaimer on the package aside from the MPAA rating that lets parents know if there’s content inside that is inappropriate for kids. This “giving the finger” is why I won’t let my kids see this movie now. Something for DC to think about.
As a Superman fan, I’ve been loving all this attention the Man of Steel has been getting lately and since Batman was the focus of so many shows and animated features, giving the Last Son of Krypton a shot and a large amount of screen time helps balance all that out. I also hope DC has plans in the works for other animated movies for other characters, JLA stuff aside.
What can I say? DC and Warner Bros. keep knocking these flicks out of the park. Now, if they translate this awesome sensibility and sensitivity to the comics to the big screen on a consistent basis, then superhero fans will truly be living in a new golden era of superhero cinema.
Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) Written by Brian Azzarello, Josh Olson, David S. Goyer, Greg Rucka, Jordan Goldberg and Alan Burnett Directed by Yasuhiro Aoki, Yuichiro Hayashi, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Jong-Sik Nam and Shojiro Nishimi Runtime 75 min. 4.5 out of 5
Okay, now this is how you do something new with a character and do it right and totally change the formula. Not only was the style of Batman animation changed—this whole movie is done in anime by genuine Japanese anime directors—but also instead of giving us one big story, why not give us six shorter ones in the same universe?
This flick was meant as a bridge between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, giving audiences an in-depth glimpse into Batman’s past and what he’s been up to between those two movies. To make it even sweeter, Kevin Conroy voices Batman for all six short films.
They are (and what I thought):
Have I Got a Story for You –
Premise: A bunch of skater kids relate to each other firsthand encounters with the Dark Knight.
Really good, each story seeming to center around Batman chasing the same thief. The art direction is ridiculous! Did you see the backgrounds in this thing? While the character designs for this vignette were so-so, the backgrounds were insane. What makes this vignette special is it shows how the Batman legend was born, that is, people swapping stories, relating what they thought they saw versus what really happened, and how one tale leads to another until, eventually, Batman is myth and man combined.
Of course, sometimes the facts get straightened out, as per the ending of this story. You’ll have to see for yourself what I mean.
Premise: Two cops take a recently-dropped-off-by-Batman felon to the Narrows for incarceration. There they encounter tons of trouble and Batman comes to the rescue.
This one is much grittier than the previous story, focusing heavily on the cops and gangs. The art is superb and while the backgrounds are more classical animation, the character design is top notch and I really dig how everyone looks in this tale. Batman is boss in this: big, powerful, sleek, tough—wish he looked like this all the time. Well done.
The main point of the story is the question: is Batman an ally? One cop thinks so, the other is skeptical, and the conclusion reached? Well, you’ll just have to see this wicked cartoon for yourself.
Field Test –
Premise: Lucius Fox shows Bruce Wayne some new gear he can use as Batman and he gets a chance to do just that.
How does anyone draw this good? The backgrounds are so realistic it’s upsetting (in that good way). The character design is very classic anime: pointier noses, smaller eyes, very realistic body proportions.
Batman definitely has a unique style to his suit in this; not your classic uniform but it works. I also like the change of pace by showing his eyes instead of having just whites. I think this is the first time Batman’s been animated that way.
All in all, this vignette was great and there is a moral to the story about Batman’s stance on guns and how he understands the need to defend himself against them . . . but not at another’s expense.
In Darkness Dwells –
Premise: When a congregation starts going crazy during a church service, Batman thinks the Scarecrow is to blame. Instead, he’s greeted by someone far more dangerous: Killer Croc! However, Scarecrow is still waiting in the wings.
Visually, this vignette is very comic-book-like. I see glimpses of Mike Mignola’s—Hellboy artist and creator—style though I doubt that the animators were trying to imitate that. It’s just what it reminds me of.
This one was pretty exciting. Lots of action, lots of danger, lots of Batman stopping baddies and getting out of tight situations. Dig it.
Working Through Pain –
Premise: Suffering from a gunshot wound, Batman flashes back to before he donned the cowl and reflects on pain and what it means in his life physically and emotionally.
This one’s pretty gory, but that’s to further cement the point of this tale: pain . . . and what it does for Batman, how he deals with it and how he overcomes it. Giving glimpses into Bruce Wayne’s travels and the training he picked up along the way, we get to see the lengths he went to to perfect his body in the areas of enduring through pain—physical and emotional—something he no doubt knew he needed to do if he was to succeed in his mission. Except, there is one pain he can’t overcome.
Visually, I liked the art style of this one as well.
Premise: Deadshot comes to Gotham and the word is he’s going to assassinate Jim Gordon. When the GCPD catch wind of this, they let Batman know. Batman becomes Gordon’s shadow and resolves to keep his friend safe.
The art direction in this is like a high-end comic book come to life. Really, really liked it. Great line work, crisp images, solid colors, dark and bleak like a Batman comic. Awesome. And that train tunnel? Gotta be a 3D background but it looks unbelievably cool.
The Batman-vs-Deadshot battle is a sweet one, high speed on a train.
The main thrust of this story is about guns and how Batman feels about them. Since it was a gun that killed his parents, it’s a touchy area for him.
All six of these stories were well done, well thought out and well written. I’m proud to be a Batman fan while watching these and I’m equally happy DC tried something new with the character and succeeded in spades. By tying this animated flick into the live action ones, it added a whole new dimension to those stories and to these animated shorts as well.
Comics and graphic novels are super important me, and they molded my storytelling and writing-style very early on in my career. There’s so much you can do with comics that you can’t do in any other medium.
Nowadays, the comic book industry in general is in a state of flux, with eComics and webcomics pushing the standard periodical comic book to the wayside. Graphic novels are a big thing now, with comic companies like DC and Marvel tailoring their story arcs to be collected later. To a point, they’re kind of shooting themselves in the foot in that if the reader knows the periodicals will be collected later for a cheaper price anyway, why buy the more expensive single issues and wait 30 days between each installment? At the same time, graphic novels are a fast-growing market last I checked so if they weren’t profitable, the comic companies wouldn’t do them and only provide one option.
In Europe, it’s mostly graphic novels in terms of publication, and I personally think this is where the overall comics industry is headed.
For me, as much as I enjoy the single issues–especially in the world of minicomics–creating book-length comics adds a level of prestige to the literature that their single-issue version can’t offer even though, technically, each single issue is, nowadays, a chapter in a book-length work. At the same time, these “collected editions of story arcs,” aren’t really graphic novels per se, but collections, and there’s a difference. That’s another discussion altogether so perhaps we’ll do it another time.
I usually have a graphic novel on the go reading-wise and add more to my collection when funds permit. Lately, I’ve been getting more and more into alternative comics as they carry more life, soul and authenticity than the current mainstream comics.
Anyway, here’s my collection. A couple of them are my wife’s, and some are not in these pics because they are by our bedside or elsewhere in the room (remember I said I usually have one on the go? So does the Mrs.).
I thought about taking them all out and arranging them for you, or clearing up the mess around them, but since I’ve always advocated writing should be about honesty, so should what I put on this blog so unlike my showcase pics of my own published books and comics, these are true bookshelf pics as per what Fridays on this blog is for.