"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
The new DC Universe Animated movie, Green Lantern First Flight, is basically a cop movie with a sci-fi setting. Its cast includes a wealth of strange-looking aliens and fantastic action scenes that defy the laws of physics (more on that later on) but the basic plot of the film comes out of a million other TV and movie police procedurals, right down to where the hotshot rookie is blamed for a crime he didn’t commit and forced to turn his badge in.
And really, that’s as it should be. That basic premise — “space cop with magic ring” — is one of the most appealing things about the character (really the most appealing thing if you ask me) so to focus on that aspect makes sense. What’s more, it remains a pretty sturdy premise, despite its age. You have to be either really lazy or incompetent to foul it up. Thankfully, the makers of this film are neither, making First Flight an entertaining, if somewhat shallow and unoriginal, film.
The Greenbriar Picture Shows blog takes a fascinating look at the Fleischer Superman cartoons and how they were received when they debuted in the early 1940s. Turns out most exhibitors, critics, and perhaps even the general public, didn’t really know what to make of the character:
Negative comments far outweighed praise throughout 1942 trades I canvassed, and the mainstream press, when it could be bothered, took out hatchets as well. Artistically, Superman shorts are the movie cartoon at its worst. Superman looks and acts like a wooden puppet. So do all his playmates. There is little that his creators—the old Fleischer Studios (now Famous Studios, Inc.) at Miami, Fla.—can do to improve their hero—even King Disney can’t animate human beings satisfactorily, said TIME magazine regarding Volcano in July 1942. There is never any suspense, since Superman always wins, no matter what happens. But his idolators (of all ages) seem satisfied to see him flex his muscles. By December of that year, the novelty of Superman seemed spent. These cartoons are getting to be just cartoons.
(via Cartoon Brew)
“I couldn’t stand boy companions. If the theory behind Robin the boy Wonder, Rory the Superboy, the Sandman’s Sandy, the Shield’s Rusty, the Human Torch’s Toro, the Green Arrow’s Speedy was to give young readers a character with whom to identifiy it failed dismally in my case. The super grownups were the ones I identified with. They were versions of me in the future. There was still time to prepare. But Robin the Boy Wonder was my own age. One need only look at him to see he could fight better, swing from a rope better, play ball better, eat better and live better … He was obviously an “A” student, the center of every circle, the one picked for greatness in the crowd — God how I hated him.”
– Jules Feiffer, The Great Comic Book Heroes
So what is it with Marvel these days taking all their core characters and turning them into sulky teen-agers? First there was Wolverine: Prodigal Son, the Marvel/Del Rey book which attempted to “mangify” the character by turning him into a generic angsty shonen hero — thereby robbing everything that made him interesting to begin with — and now there’s Iron Man: Armored Adventurers, which imagines Tony Stark not as gadabout playboy but nerdy youth.
Let it be known that I did not care much for the Watchmen movie. While it had some already much-discussed merits (the opening credits sequence, some of the performances), I felt the Zach Snyder’s adaptation focused too much on getting the tiny details correct and missed the comic’s grander themes in place of adopting a “kewl” bone-crunching aesthetic — a clear case of not seeing the forest for the blood-smeared smiley buttons if you will. (The possibility that Snyder was being tongue-in-cheek, as some claim, doesn’t make the juxtaposition between the content and the visuals any less jarring.)
So it was with some trepidation that I popped the new Tales from the Black Freighter DVD into my Xbox. For those who don’t know, this is a supplemental animated version of the “Black Freighter” story that runs co-currently in Watchmen alongside the central plot. Rather than excise the sequence completely, the filmmakers decided to create a separate cartoon that supposedly will be incorporated into the final, four-hour (or whatever) version of the film.
Having been so disappointed with the screen adaptation, I expected this to be a dreary more of the same.
If my review of the new Wonder Woman DVD didn’t float your battleship (so to speak), let it be duly noted that critic Noah Berlatsky will be liveblogging his reactions to the film starting at 7:30 tonight, Central time. Should make for a fun evening.
The front cover of the new Wonder Woman animated film has a big sticker on the front letting you know that it’s rated PG-13.
This struck me as notable for two reasons: 1) it’s not often that a studio feels the need to broadcast their movie’s rating in large letters on the front of the packaging; 2) Why in Hera’s name does a Wonder Woman cartoon need to be rated PG-13?
That last question got answered pretty quickly in the opening sequence, as generic Amazons and assorted male (presumably Greek) warriors engaged in bloodsports on a huge battlefield where they quickly commenced to stabbing, hacking, impaling and generally killing each other without pausing for breath.
OK, so I was getting a bit tired of saving up all the good art links and stuff until Friday, so I’ve decided to start to piecemeal it out over the week in short posts like these. Freaky Friday will still be around (assuming folks enjoy it) but will lean more towards the oddball and weird than the obligatory pretty art post.
All clear? Good. Moving on …
Mike Lynch shares some great original art from an old Mad magazine piece, which invited comic strip artists like Charles Schulz and Mort Walker to try their hand at “what they’d really like to do.” I actually remember this bit, but only because it was reprinted in one of those later “Super Specials.”
A couple of days ago Chris Mautner mentioned The New Yorker‘s annual Eustace Tilley Contest, in which artists are invited to reinterpret the magazine’s iconic dandy. Drawn! has skimmed over the gallery of entries submitted so far, and uncovered the terrific Rorschach Tilley, by Marcus Parcus.
See what I did there? I made a pun! I’m so clever and sassy.
Anyway, The New Yorker magazine (and Web site) have announced their second annual Eustace Tilley contest. Perhaps you remember the first one. Perhaps not. Either way, let me remind you of what it all entails:
Eustace Tilley was drawn by Rea Irvin, the magazine’s first art editor, for the cover of the first issue of The New Yorker, in 1925, and has returned for nearly every anniversary issue since. (Louis Menand gives a detailed history of Tilley.) For the past two decades, the magazine has invited contributing artists to reinterpret this iconic dandy, and last year readers contributed to the 2008 Eustace Tilley Contest.
Create your own Eustace Tilley by January 15, 2009, for a chance to win and be featured in an online slide show curated by The New Yorker’s art editor, Françoise Mouly.
All entries must be received by Jan. 15 (i.e. a week from Thursday). Winners will be announced with the release of the anniversary issue on Feb. 2. You can see who’s entered the contest so far here, and view a slide show of some of last year’s winners here. Keep in mind that, if I’m reading the rules right, the magazine owns your art if you do submit.
(Thanks to Bill Kartalopoulos for the link. By the way, when are you going to update your blog again Bill?)