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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch – Batman: The Animated Series

Of course the first animated series I review here is going to be Batman: The Animated Series, a 1992 children’s animated series that has aged incredibly well. There series is dark, artistic, thematically dense, and unlike anything on children’s television at the time. Collecting numerous awards and nominations throughout its run, Batman: The Animated Series redefined Batman and many other characters for generations.

Kevin Conroy voiced Batman and Bruce Wayne, and started the trend of considering Bruce Wayne as a mask that Batman wore, rather than the other way around. Wayne had a high-pitched and jovial voice, while Batman had a lower pitched rough voice. When alone (or amongst trusted friends) in Wayne Manor or the Batcave, you heard Batman’s voice, whether he was in costume or not. Bruce Wayne’s voice only came out in public when he was out of costume or on the phone as Bruce Wayne. He was Batman, and Bruce Wayne was simply a disguise that he wore for the public.

Mark Hamill voiced The Joker, and quickly became a fan-favorite Joker for a whole generation, perhaps more. Arleen Sorkin voiced Harley Quinn, the series was actually the introduction for the now fan-favorite character. Michael Ansara voiced Mister Freeze, a haunting voice that I will always and forever read his character with. Adam West (yes, the 1960’s Batman), voiced The Gray Ghost, a television hero from Wayne’s childhood. These are just my favorites, but there are many more.

This clip is from the Mask of the Phantasm spin-off film, but it’s the best quality I could find with both Conroy and Hamill as their characters.

Most of the episodes are self-contained, there are a few two-parters, and one or two that reference previous episodes, but it’s generally safe to start at any point and skip around. I recommend starting with the show’s third episode and introduction of Mister Freeze, Heart of Ice. If you’re still wondering how you’d enjoy a children’s show, this is the episode that will change your mind.

Batman: The Animated Series had two spin-off films. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm hit theaters, and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero was direct-to-video. Both are definitely worth watching too. As for the show itself, you can stream Batman: The Animated Series on DC Universe, or buy the complete series on iTunes for $79.99. Batman: The Animated Series is a genre-defining success that still holds up to this day, and I hope you agree!

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Comics Review Video

Batman v Superman: Accidentally Perfect?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not the greatest superhero film, that honor still belongs to Logan, but through a series of odd choices and behind the scenes happenstance, it became the perfect comic book film. Now I know a lot of you probably hated this film, so please bear with me while I explain. Also, I’m referring to the Ultimate Edition (the extended cut) throughout. It restores a lot of character development, and I absolutely agree that the theatrical edition is a waste of time.

The film opens on the traditional Batman origin scene, but that’s the only origin we get throughout the film, which is kind of odd for a film that also features Superman, and introduces Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor. Despite this, a lot of time has passed between that origin and the Batman in the film. It’s never explained why Wayne Manor is in ruins, or why all of the Bat-vehicles have two seats while Robin’s costume sits in memorial with “Haha, joke’s on you, Batman” scrawled on it. It’s safe to say that, despite seeing an origin for Batman, we are missing some critical backstory.

With Ben Affleck done as Batman, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see this backstory, or any further story featuring this Batman after Justice League for that matter. Similarly, though this is a sequel for Man of Steel, watching that film is definitely not a requirement. The ending of Man of Steel overlaps the beginning of Batman v Superman, this time told from Bruce Wayne’s point of view, as embedded below. Really, all you need to know is that Superman is fighting someone who’s probably just as strong as him, and people are dying because of it.

And, that’s kind of the point here, there isn’t much effort given to the backstories of these characters, and it’s not really needed either. Now if you say that sounds terrible for a film, you’re right, but this is exactly how we read comics! People who are drawn in suddenly by issue 37 on the shelves don’t rush out to buy and read issues 1 – 36, they just start with 37. “Who’s this character? I don’t know, but she looks important. Oh cool, she is important!” That’s what reading new comics is like, and this film accidentally invokes that!

Now we know that Ben Affleck is out as Batman, but it looks like Henry Cavill may be out as Superman too, which puts the whole franchise in jeopardy, so there may not be an ending, but that’s just like reading comics too! With the exception of random continuity reboots, these characters’ stories don’t end, you just stop reading them. So again, Batman v Superman has accidentally invoked the experience of reading comics.

Batman v Superman is not a great film, but by having little-to-no character backstories, and quite possibly no future prospects, it has perfectly invoked the experience of reading a comic book. In this way, it is quite possibly the perfect comic book film.

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Comics Review

Batman: Hush

Tell me Batman, you let one Robin die. Want to go for two?

Batman: Hush is a dark and captivating tale by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee. Batman: Hush takes you from the darkest corners of the Dark Knight’s mind to the deepest depths of his soul as he faces his toughest challenge yet. When nothing is as it seems, who can you trust, and will you be able to live with the truth?

The Dark Knight was born of tragedy. The loss of Bruce Wayne’s parents forged an iron-hearted soul within him, one which sought to punish those who would bring tragedy to others, but this dark soul within Wayne was not invulnerable. It would be changed again by tragedy, on the day that both Bruce Wayne and Batman mourned the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin, a death in the family.

Years later, Batman flies through the night sky in pursuit of Catwoman, when a Batarang screams through the night and severs the only tether between the Dark Knight and the sky. He falls hundreds of feet into the maw of Gotham City. Battered, broken, and barely conscious, the Dark Knight is not without his protectors. He is safely returned to the Batcave and diagnosed with a near-fatal skull fracture. Aware of his condition, Batman taps the name “Thomas Elliot” in Morse Code.

Thomas Elliot, a brilliant surgeon and childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, brings him back from his near-death experience. And, for a while, everything appears to be normal. Even a long-desired romance begins to blossom between Batman and Catwoman, as secrets are shared and identities are revealed. In the midst of a romance that should have happened long ago, the Dark Knight is caught off guard by the actions and manipulations of a mysterious man who knows the Dark Knight’s most closely guarded secrets, a man known only as Hush. Batman’s quest for the identity of Hush will bring him to face all of his arch-nemeses, the diamond-crushing strength of Superman, and even the grave of a long-buried companion.

Batman: Hush is a dark, gripping, and powerful tale, written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by Jim Lee. Loeb’s captivating story takes the Dark Knight on a journey of discovery that leads him to face all of his fears and re-defines the depths of his soul, while Lee’s artwork brings the Dark Knight to life in a Noir-ish atmosphere with characterizations and emotions that practically tell the story for themselves.

The story and artwork of Batman: Hush combine to make a reading experience that feels more realistic than your average comic. The story is immersive, with enough detail and depth to make you feel as if you relate to each character and event in some way, and enough mystery and intrigue to captivate your attention throughout the entire novel.

Batman: Hush is a must-have for any fan of the Dark Knight. The Absolute Edition of Batman: Hush, released in October of 2005, features all twelve issues collected in one hardcover volume with oversized border-less pages and makes the perfect addition to any graphic novel collection.

This review was previously published on Splash Panel on September 1, 2006.

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Comics Review

Kingdom Come

He had not turned his back on us. He stands in the sky … faith rewarded. He is returned … and – dear God. The threat of Armageddon hasn’t ended. It’s just begun …

Kingdom Come, a DC Elseworlds masterpiece by writer Mark Waid and artist Alex Ross, is the best graphic novel ever produced by a major comic publisher. A philosophical tale of Armageddon in the DC universe, Kingdom Come is filled with biblical parallels which cast our heroes and antiheroes into haunting roles that we are all too familiar with.

The world of Kingdom Come begins several years after the mainstream continuity of the DC universe. An aged and maddened Joker rampages through the Daily Planet, claiming the lives of ninety-two men and one woman. Magog, a modern-age antihero enraged by Superman’s inaction, arrives at the scene of the massacre and ends the Joker’s life in front of a stunned Superman. The resulting controversy leads the people of Metropolis to choose Magog as the man who would best safeguard their future. They choose the man who would kill over the man who wouldn’t, and this choice will cost them dearly.

Disheartened by the changing times, and unable to change with them, Superman made a decision to turn his back on humanity and live in exile in his Fortress of Solitude. Following Superman’s example, many of the Earth’s greatest heroes similarly retired into exile. In their absence, a new breed of antiheroes, inspired by Magog and completely devoid of any concern for human safety, emerged to conquer anyone who who would oppose their own definition of righteousness. These events set the stage for Kingdom Come.

Ten years later, a relentless attack by Magog and his Justice Battalion on a weary and beaten Parasite leads to a cataclysmic nuclear explosion which destroys the entire state of Kansas. In response to the catastrophe, the safe coexistence between humans and meta-humans is questioned by those with enough authority and firepower to end it, and a derelict hero returns to set right the wrongs that had been committed in his absence. The war has begun, and Armageddon is not far behind.

Kingdom Come‘s haunting and emotional story is told through the eyes of Norman McCay, a Pastor who begins to lose his faith and feels as if he has betrayed his congregation, as he can find nothing to comfort them in this time of crisis. He is guided through time and space by the Spector to bear witness to the events that will lead to Armageddon and to judge those responsible. The weight of this responsibility causes Norman to question the true meanings of humanity, faith, and evil.

Mark Waid’s story offers an imaginative look into the future of the DC universe and effortlessly blends it with the book of Revelation. Biblical scripture from Revelation, foretold by Norman McCay and his dying friend, Wesley Dodds (the former Sandman), is masterfully woven into the story and paints an eerie future for our childhood heroes.

Alex Ross adds his powerful imagination to the story by beautifully illustrating his vision of the future heroes. Ross is legendary for the quality of his artwork, his use of paints, his imaginative vision, and his attention to detail. Kingdom Come is his best work.

Alex Ross’ beautiful artwork fills all two-hundred and twelve pages of this novel, masterfully illustrating every emotion, every struggle, and every sacrifice, while Mark Waid’s story is gripping, passionate, and powerful.

Kingdom Come is a story about what it truly means to be human, and the sacrifices we make in order to achieve what is right. It can easily reach a common ground with any reader, and reach into the soul of even those who perceive themselves to be soul-less.

This review was previously published on Splash Panel on July 6, 2006.

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Nostalgia Photo

Batman Sunshade

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I got bored with of seeing all of those Millenium Falcon sunshades, so I got a Batman one instead for maximum nostalgia.