Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Look Back at 2008

2008 has come and gone, but what a great year it was for fans of superhero animation! New shows, great movies, and lots of DVDs! Let's take a look back on the past year.

  • January 8: To start the year off on a good foot, WHV releases the first volume of the All-New Super Friends Hour on DVD. This is one of my favourite versions of the show due to its variety of stories and guest stars as well as the safety tips, magic tricks, de-coders and crafts!

    Looking ahead: 2009 begins the same way with The All-New Super Friends Hour Volume Two being released on January 27th.

  • February 26: The second installment in Warner Bros. Animation's DC Universe Original Animated Movies is Justice League: New Frontier, an adaptation of the super popular graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke. Featuring the voices of David Boreanaz, Kyle MacLachlan, Lucy Lawless, Neil Patrick Harris and Jeremy Sisto, this feature length movie focuses on superhero life in the 50s, the Golden Age of comics, as they prepare for the dawning of a new age of superheroes.

    This film is well-received by fans and even receives a Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming One Hour Or More).

  • March 8: Fans say goodbye to The Batman as it ends its five year run on Kids'WB. Although the show had mixed reviews, especially from fans of Batman: TAS, most agree that this final season really improved the show with the inclusion of many of Batman's Justice League pals.

    Throughout its run, The Batman won an Annie Award for Best New Animated Television Show 2004 and two Daytime Emmy Awards, one for Outstanding Achievement In Sound Editing and another for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program.

  • March 8: Sony Pictures Television and Culver Animation team up with Greg Weisman, the man behind the Gargoyles animated series, to bring us Spectacular Spider-Man! The show takes Peter Parker back to his high school days and early days of being Spider-Man and delivers great stories and solid animation. The first thirteen episodes air on what is now known as CW4Kids.

    Looking ahead: The much anticipated second season of Spectacular Spider-Man will debut on January 11, 2009 on Canada's Teletoon network. The second season comes to the US in March on Disney XD.

  • April 5: Fans say goodbye to another DC Animated series this year. Legion of Super Heroes finishes up their second and final season on Kids'WB. The series was thought to have a third season but the plans fell through when Kids'WB was taken over by CW4Kids who didn't want the show in their programming block.

    Looking ahead: While no season set have been released, fans of the show are hoping that 2009 will bring a complete series box set.

  • May 6: Canadian distributor Morningstar Entertainment begins to release DVD versions of old Marvel cartoons. While the rights to shows like The Marvel Super Heroes, the 1982 Incredible Hulk, and Spider-Man: the Animated Series belong to Disney, the distribution rights to previously released VHS were bought by Morningstar.

    Beginning with Spider-Man: the Mutant Agenda, Morningstar releases nine DVDs that contain only two episodes over 2009, most of which are the only DVD releases for shows like Spider-Woman, the 1981 Spider-Man series and the New Fantastic Four.

    Looking ahead: Morningstar will continue with their releases starting with Spider-Man vs. the Vulture on February 7th.

  • June 10: While not everyone's favourite show, Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes gets a complete series DVD box set, which is always a welcome gift for any tv series.

  • July 8: Bridging the gap between Nolan's Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Batman: Gotham Knight features six vingettes, each produced by a different Japanese animation company. Kevin Conroy returns as the voice of the Caped Crusader.

    Many love the film, many didn't like the concept or art direction. But it is a unique milestone in the history of superhero animation as it brings together two of the biggest mediums in modern television, superheroes and anime.

    Looking ahead: Next up in the line of DC Universe Original Animated Movies is Wonder Woman, starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion. The DVD will be released on March 3rd.

  • July 8: The Batman Season Five is released on DVD. This season is the favourite for many fans of the show and completes the DVD collection. Teen Titans Season Five is also released on DVD.

  • August 12: Warner Home Video releases an extra special 2-disc DVD: DC Super Heroes: the Filmation Adventures collects the rotating guest star segments of the Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure that feature Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman, The Atom, Justice League of America and Teen Titans. The cartoons are the first animated appearance for many DC superheroes and is a very important part of superhero animation.

    Looking ahead: There are many more upcoming DVD releases from WHV, including the Fleischer's Superman films, The Zeta Project Season One, and the Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Show.

  • September 2: Marvel Animation and Lionsgate Entertainment release their fifth Marvel Animated Feature on DVD, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. This future tale tells the story of Tony Stark raising the children of the fallen Avengers when all of a sudden, they have to face the greatest threat to humanity - the return of Ultron!

    The film was very well received despite the uncertainty of the fans due to the PG rating and the story focusing on kid versions of the Avengers before the film was released.

    Looking ahead: To make up for this kid-friendly DVD, Marvel and Lionsgate will release Hulk Vs., two all-out brawls between the Hulk and Wolverine and Thor. It will be released on January 27th.

  • September 6: The second new animated series of 2008 for Marvel airs in Canada and proves to be a hit! Wolverine and the X-Men focuses on Wolverine as he tries to rebuild the team after a year of not speaking to each other. There is great writing, great animation, and great action!

    US and UK fans get a few feathers ruffled when Wolverine and the X-Men airs on Latin American networks in August and Canadian networks in September and word is the US and the UK won't get the series until 2009.

    Looking ahead: Canadian network YTV will continue to air new episodes starting January 3rd; Another Canadian network, Teletoon, will begin airing season one starting January 11th; Wolverine and the X-Men will finally come to the US network, Nicktoons, starting January 23rd.

  • November 4: Just in time for Christmas shopping, fans of Batman: the Animated Series were overjoyed with the release of Batman: the Complete Animated Series on DVD. This major box set includes an extra disc full of new bonus features, a full-colour booklet, and really sweet packaging!

  • November 14: Warner Bros. and DC Comics release their brand new Batman series based on the old comic book of the same name, Batman: the Brave and the Bold. The series features Batman teaming up with many different heroes and takes a much lighter tone than previous Batman cartoons. Fans had mixed opinions about the show and after four episode, there is still a variety of different opinions.

    Looking ahead: Cartoon Network will continue to air new episodes from season one starting January 2nd. Brave and the Bold will come to Canada's Teletoon on January 11th.

  • November 21: A special sneak peek at Marvel next animated series, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, is shown on Canada's Teletoon. The series stars a young Tony Stark who has to create his armour to stop Obadiah Stane from taking over his late father's company.

    The jury isn't out yet as to whether this series will be any good. Many fans already don't like it due to the 100% CGI style and the vast departure from story and character.

    Looking ahead: The show joins Wolverine on Nicktoons in April and two Canadian networks, Teletoon and YTV, will air Iron Man in 2009.

  • December 2: To end the year, fans are treated to an extra special Christmas gift, a two-disc soundtrack to Batman: the Animated Series from La La Land Records. The soundtrack feature the scores from six episodes, plus bonus tracks and great liner notes.

    Looking ahead: La La Land Records will be releasing more volumes of Batman: the Animated Series music if the response to this one is good. So buy your copy today!

  • That is 2008 in a nutshell! It has been a great year and it looks like 2009 will be just as good, if not better! There are a few things coming up in 2009 that I didn't mention above: Black Panther is set to air sometime in 2009 on the BET network; Two new animated DVDs, Thor: Tales from Asgard and Green Lantern should be headed our way in the latter half of the year; And we should get more news on new projects like Marvel Anime, Lego Batman, Thor, and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!

    See you in 2009!

    Monday, December 29, 2008

    Clips From This Friday's Batman: B&B

    It has been a few weeks since we have seen new episodes of Batman: the Brave and the Bold, but just recently I have found these two clips from the upcoming episode, Day of the Dark Knight, which is scheduled for Friday, January 2.

    In these clips you will see Batman and Green Arrow in the Medieval Times teaming up with Merlin to stop Morgan Le Fey and the Demon Etrigan from turning everyone in Camelot into stone.

    You will also see Batman in really cool Bat-Armour that is probably included in this episode in order to sell a toy.

    Check out Marvel Animation Age for some hi-res photos from the episode.

    Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Four New Hulk Vs. Clips

    Just in time for Christmas, has released four new clips from the upcoming Hulk Vs. DVD. Just over a month away, Hulk Vs. hits the stores on January 27!

    The first is probably my favourite as it shows just how intense this movie is going to be. It is one minute of the Hulk beating the snot out of Wolverine.

    The second clip is an interview with Nolan North, the voice of Deadpool (and Cyclops on Wolverine and the X-Men). It's a great clip and you get to see a bit more of Deadpool and Omega Red.

    Clip number three shows Thor as he prepares for battle while Odin is in his Odinsleep.

    This last clip shows a little bit more of the plot. Brothers must unite for the common good as they travel to what I am assuming is Niffleheim, the realm of the dishonoured dead. It could also be Hel which is for the dead that are neither honoured or dishonoured. Also in this clip is Ymir, the Ice Giant. UPDATE: Further research revealed to me that it is Hel in this clip because Niffleheim is an ice realm.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Fully Restored Fleischer's Superman Coming to DVD!

    I have just received an eflyer for a new DVD set of Max Fleischer's Superman series from 1941 (click the image on the right to see the ad). While most of you fans probably have all of these cartoons on DVD through cheapo $1 DVDs you can find at Wal-Mart, this one should be of special interest to you since it is a legit release by the company that owns the original masters.

    Warner Bros., who owns DC Comics and the rights to Superman will be releasing a two-disc set collecting all nine Fleischer Superman cartoons and all eight Famous Studios Superman cartoons from 1941-1943 on April 7, 2009. All seventeen cartoons will be fully restored and given the same special treatment as seen with other classic cartoon properties such as Popeye the Sailor and Looney Tunes.

    I should note that Warner Bros. has already released these restored cartoons as bonus features on the re-release DVDs of Superman: the Movie and Superman II from two years ago. But this is the first time they will all be collected together.

    I thought it would be fun to look at the quality of these cartoons. Below I have posted a still from the restored version of Billion Dollar Limited.

    Compare this to the next image, taken from what fans have considered the best print before the restoration, The Complete Superman Collection - Diamond Anniversary Edition DVD from Bosko Video.

    However, since all of these Superman cartoons are in the public domain, any cheap DVD company can release these cartoons. But since none of them have access to the original prints, this is what they look like.

    Even though I have these cartoons in about four different sets, I will definitely be purchasing this set and I encourage all of you to do so as well.

    Pyramids of Terror

    Season: 1
    Episode Number: 1
    Season Episode Number: 1
    Production Number: 4001
    Airdate: September 22, 1979

    Writer: Jeffery Scott
    Director: Bob Richardson

    Voices: Joan Van Ark (Spider-Woman), Bruce Miller (Jeff Hunt), Bryan Scott (Billy Drew), Lou Krugman (Police Chief), Larry Carroll (Detective Miller), Unknown (Kufu), Unknown (Spider-Man).

    Plot: It is revealed that mummies are actually a race of aliens sent to Earth thousands of years ago and set in suspended animation awaiting the moment when the planet is ready for colonization. The time has arrived and there is nothing that Spider-Man can do to stop them. Lucky for everyone, Spider-Woman is here to save the day!

    Review (Warning! Spoilers!): Pyramids of Terror is the first episode in the DePatie-Freleng animated series starring Spider-Woman. Since Spider-Woman's origin is told in the show's theme song, there is no need to expand on that. Instead, we get a nice stand alone episode that introduces us to Jessica Drew and her friends as well as the type of villains she will face in this series, in this case, alien mummies.

    While the animation is a step up from the very limited animation of the 67 Spider-Man series or either of the Fantastic Four series that came before Spider-Woman, it is still quite limited with certain scenes being reused even in this first episode.

    But what makes up for the limited animation is the story. Series writer Jeffery Scott penned an incredible story that reworks history as we know it, featuring alien mummies that have been lying dormant for thousands of years waiting for the right moment to strike.

    And what better way to kick off the series than with a guest appearance by Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man! While the voice actor in this episode is not the same as the 67 Spider-Man, there is obvious influence from original Spider-Man, Paul Soles.

    In this episode, we are also introduced to Jessica's nephew, Billy Drew, and her fellow co-worker Jeff Hunt. These two, as well as the Justice Magazine, were created for this series as Spider-Woman didn't have any supporting cast in the comics.

    While the story is well-written, there are moments that are questionable. Why was Spider-Man in Egypt in the first place? If Spider-Woman's spider-sense can pick up trouble on the other side of the planet, why doesn't it constantly warn her of trouble from all over the world? How on Earth does the helicopter fly around the world so fast? Surely Spider-Man wasn't hanging from the clock tower being shot at by Kufu the Mummy for hours while the helicopter traveled from Egypt to London!

    These questions are forgivable since the writers of children's programming in the 60s and 70s didn't worry about making their shows make sense as much as writers do today. It all falls under the category of camp that makes these old shows enjoyable to watch.

    Back to Episode Guide

    Friday, December 19, 2008

    Major Spectacular Season Two Spoilers!

    Hop on over to Marvel Animation Age for an exclusive list of Spectacular Spider-Man's season two episode titles and descriptions for all thirteen episodes!

    But be warned! MAJOR SPOILERS!

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Specatular Spidey heading to Disney and Canada!

    It looks like Spectacular Spider-Man has found a new home, Disney XD. The network currently known as Toon Disney will relauch itself as Disney XD in an attempt to market itself to young boys. I can't think of a better show to help that process than Spectacular Spider-Man. Disney XD will premiere in March with the first episode of season two.

    And speaking of season two, it looks like Canada will be getting new Spidey first! Teletoon has set Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 10:30am as the season premiere date for Spectacular Spider-Man season two. The season kicks off with Blueprints featuring Mysterio and the Master Planner. The second episode, Destructive Testing, will feature Kraven the Hunter.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    DC Direct Animated Universe Statues

    A nice piece of merchandise to tie in with the Wonder Woman DVD will be coming your way March 2009. It is sculpted by James Shoop.

    This other figure, based on Bruce Timm's Batman from Batman: the Animated Series will be released as part of the Batman: Black and White line of statues from DC Direct on May 31, 2009. The statue is designed by Bruce Timm and sculpted by James Shoop.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Invasion of the Secret Santas!

    Season: 1
    Episode Number: 4
    Season Episode Number: 4
    Production Number: 104
    Airdate: December 12, 2008

    Writer: Adam Beechen
    Director: Brandon Vietti

    Voices: Diedrich Bader (Batman), Corey Burton (Red Tornado, Thomas Wayne), Gary Anthony Williams (Fun Haus), Will Friedle (Blue Beetle), Thomas F. Wilson (Sportmaster), Zachary Gordon (Young Bruce Wayne).

    Plot: Red Tornado attempts to discover the true meaning of Christmas while fighting alongside Batman to stop Fun Haus from ruining Christmas for everyone with his army of robot Santas and toys that come to life!

    Review (Warning! Spoilers!): I am a sucker for Christmas episodes. I love them. And as far as Christmas episodes go, this one is quite good. The main reason this episode falls in the Christmas category is that Red Tornado tries to find out the true meaning of Christmas. A robot trying to be human isn't something new. Star Trek's Data tried to be more human in every other episode. But Brave and the Bold manages to introduce us to Red Tornado, explain his desires and bring conclusion to the story all in under 22 minutes! It is a touching Christmas tale and one I am glad was told.

    The villain for the episode is Fun Haus. Who is Fun Haus you say? You may be more familiar with the name Toyman. Yes, this appears to be the classic Superman villain, but under a different name and guise. It also looks like his design is taken after Jack Nimbell, the second person to take up the Toyman mantle in the 70s. Although Jack Nimbell didn't last long in the comics, his version of the character will forever be known as a founding member of the Legion of Doom on Hanna-Barbera's Challenge of the Super Friends.

    The name Fun Haus comes from FunHaus Games, a toy company that is actually a front for the criminal organization known as the Silicon Syndicate. FunHaus Games was run by the Joker at one time.

    As with any Batman series or movie, it was inevitable that we would see the origin of Batman. While this episode only deals with the death of the Waynes, it is the first time in Brave and the Bold that we get a bit of background on the Caped Crusader.

    I was a little surprised to see this story being told, especially in a Christmas episode. After all, this series is a much lighter take on the hero. Why bother bogging down a light-hearted Christmas tale with Bruce's baggage? But it was an important story to tell because as Red Tornado was looking to be closer to Christmas, Batman was trying to get as far away from it as he could.

    The story of the death of Bruce's parents is altered a bit, taking place on Christmas and treating Bruce like a spoiled brat rather than a perfect family. Changes that will probably upset Batman enthusiasts, but that serve their purpose in the episode quite well.

    While this is probably the most serious episode yet, it wasn't without its share of laughs. Some of my favourite moments include Red Tornado singing Christmas Carols and giving Batman a Christmas gift, Batman riding a deer, Blue Beetle accidentally telling off Batman while trying to stop the Sportmaster, and Blue Beetle inviting Batman over for Christmas dinner to which Batman replies, "Crime doesn't take a holiday. Neither do I."

    DVD Releases:
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Volume One

  • Back to Episode Guide

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Operation Rescue

    Season: 1
    Episode Number: 3
    Season Episode Number: 3
    Production Number: Unknown
    Airdate: Unknown

    Writer: George Kashdan
    Director: Hal Sutherland

    Voices: Ted Knight (Narrator, Mutant Men, Mr. Carter), Jerry Dexter (Aqualad), Julie Bennett (Wonder Girl), Tommy Cook (Kid Flash), Pat Harrington Jr. (Speedy), (Terry Carter).

    Plot: Speedy and Aqualad rescue a young boy from a giant flying monster but end up being captured by a race of Mutant Men. It is up to Kid Flash and Wonder Girl so save the day!

    Review (Warning! Spoilers!): This third and final episode of Teen Titans is a bit different than the previous two. The sci-fi premise that ran through the other episodes is absent, and in its place is a fantasy story about a lost city of Mutant Men. But the biggest difference between this episode and the previous two is the fact that the Titans actually help a teenager which was their mission statement when they formed the group in 1964.

    There are a few notes I'd like to make about the Teen Titans. First, Aqualad actually does something useful in this episode for a change by saving young Terry Carter from drowning. This is very important as his usual super power is getting knocked unconscious.

    Second, Kid Flash uses his super speed to vibrate at the speed of light in order to move through a solid brick wall. Fans of the Flash will know that this as one of his most useful abilities, but there is one little note you may not know: Before the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, the Flash could run faster then the speed of light. After the Crisis, the writers stripped away some of their powers, putting a speed limit of the speed of sound. The ability to vibrate through walls was also taken away, although he has since relearned how to do it.

    Near the end of the episode there is one scene in which Kid Flash and Wonder Girl are holding hands. I was unaware of a relationship between the two and a quick Google search didn't bring forth any results.

    These three Teen Titans episodes are essential viewing for any TT fan and any fan of superheroes. The writing, plots, animation, voice acting and music are a perfect reflection of not only the comic books of the time, but also 60s culture. This, along with the rest of the Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, is a piece of superhero history.

    DVD Releases:
  • DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures

  • Back to Episode Guide

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Zeta Project DVD Information

    Warner Home Video has released this e-announcement about the DVD release for the Batman Beyond spin-off series, The Zeta Project!

    Unlike previous reports of this being a complete series collection, WHV will release all 12 season one episodes, plus the two Zeta appearances from Batman Beyond on two discs. The set is scheduled to hit the store on March 17!

    A trailer for the DVD set has also been released. Watch it here.

    New, Full-Length Hulk vs. Trailer has released a new Hulk vs. trailer! This time, it's a full-length, two point five minute trailer that features more of the Weapon X team, including Deadpool, Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike and Omega Red!

    I don't know about you but I'm getting tired of waiting! January 27 won't get here soon enough!

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    Evil Under the Sea!

    Season: 1
    Episode Number: 3
    Season Episode Number: 3
    Production Number: 103
    Airdate: December 5, 2008

    Writer: Joseph Kuhr
    Director: Michael Chang

    Voices: Diedrich Bader (Batman), John DiMaggio (Aquaman), Wallace Langham (Ocean Master), Kevin Michael Richardson (Black Manta), Dee Bradley Baker (Felix Faust),

    Plot: While investigating strange underwater seismic activity near Atlantis, Batman helps Aquaman defend his city against the combined forces of Black Manta and Ocean Master!

    Review (Warning! Spoilers!): First Batman blasts off into outer space, then he takes a trip to Dinosaur Island, and in this episode he spends his time at the bottom of the ocean in the mythical city of Atlantis! Brave and the Bold continues to impress with its fresh interpretation of Batman which is both fun and exciting, staying true to his character but giving the viewer something they haven't seen before.

    Evil Under the Sea is the series introduction to Aquaman and his world. This Aquaman is different than any other past version of Aquaman. He is pompous, full of bravado and a bit arrogant too. However goofy he may seem at the beginning of the episode, he proves by the end why he was made ruler of Atlantis. John DiMaggio provides the perfect voice for the 'outrageous' character.

    Aquaman's ability to breathe underwater and talk to fish are retained for this series. However, Aquaman has the ability to create objects (ie. Balls, swords, shields) out of water by making the water solid. While Aquaman doesn't have this ability in the comics (his wife Mera does), this is a throwback to the old Aquaman series from the 60s by Filmation in which Aquaman does have this ability to create 'hard water' objects.

    While Aquaman's brother, Orm, did appear in an episode of Justice League, he was not known as Ocean Master due to Bruce Timm believing the name too corny for the series. But Ocean Master isn't too corny for a series where Aquaman flexes his muscles for his kingdom to behold and Batman gets eaten by a giant whale! Always the patsy, Ocean Master is given the same treatment here as Black Manta proves to be the real threat.

    The pre-theme teaser features Batman and the Atom taking down Felix Faust who has threatened to unleash the contents of Pandora's Box. Unfortunately, the Atom has no speaking lines but his display of power was unique and well done. His appearance as the main guest star in a future episode should be excellent.

    Episode three and the series is going strong. I know that this Batman isn't everyone's cup of tea, but the show is solid. Good writing, good animation and tones of fun!

    DVD Releases:
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Volume One

  • Back to Episode Guide