Back in 2007, Warner Bros. Animation started released direct-to-home video animated movies featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and other heroes published by DC Comics. Most of the films, which each run some 70-odd minutes long, were adaptations of popular graphic novels like The Dark Knight Returns and All-Star Superman. But there are a few, like Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight, that were original scripts rooted in comic book lore.
"New Frontier" figurine
As a life-long DC guy, I’ve enjoyed watching every single one as they are released. Best Buy started including an exclusive toy figurine beginning with the second title Justice League: The New Frontier. As a toy guy and as someone who also loved the original graphic novel, it was easy to decide to pick it up. Since then, Best Buy has gone and offered an exclusive toy figurine for all but one title (Batman: Gotham Knight). So guess who was a sucker getting every single one?
This past weekend, a friend mentioned watching one of them. It was one of the ones released midway in the series. Being as old as I’m getting, I couldn’t remember if I enjoyed it or not.
I watched it again and realized it wasn't one of my favorites.
So, for my own benefit that I can have something to refer to to remind myself which films I enjoyed the most and also to introduce you kind readers to these films, below is a list of the DC Universe Animated Movies currently available to buy or rent and my ratings of each. And as it so happens this may be a good time to explore these. The next title, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, is due out in two weeks. It’s based on a story published in the summer of 2011 that directly leads into that fall’s reboot of DC Comics’ entire line of comic books. Marketed as “The New 52”, every DC Comics title was reset to issue number 1 when a new timeline resulted from the conclusion of the Flashpoint story, making Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all the rest exist in a present day time frame when the public had only been aware of these superheroes for five years. The idea was that this rebooting of origins, simplifying of 70-odd years of back stories and even fashion makeovers of heroes’ uniforms could make it easier and more appealing for brand new readers to jump into comic books, especially given the current Hollywood environment of heavily promoted and popular summer blockbuster movies based on comic book properties.
Before Flashpoint, movies previously produced have mainly been from a selection of popular graphic novels written in the past thirty years. Given the nature of Flashpoint’s role in DC’s publishing work, it wouldn't be surprising at all if the film adaptation served a similar purpose, rebooting the film series to feature stories based on the world of The New 52, perhaps focusing on lesser-known heroes. UPDATE: Confirmed just this morning that, at least initially, it's the former. See more details at the end of my blog.
So maybe this is an opportune moment to chat about these existing films. If you haven’t seen any, I recommend you consider giving my favorite five of the lot a try. They’re shown with comments in CAPS. And they’re really, really good!
Film 1 - Superman: Doomsday (2007) – Good.
Film 2 - Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) – Great!
Film 3 - Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) – Okay. Released the same time The Dark Knight debuted in theatres, a collection of six original short stories presented in various anime-style animation.
Film 4 – Wonder Woman (2009) – Great! An origin story not based on a specific graphic novel.
Film 5 – Green Lantern: First Flight (2009) – Fun! An origin story not based on a specific graphic novel.
Film 6 – Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) – Okay.
Film 7 – Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) – Loved it!
Film 8 – Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) – TOP FIVE
Film 9 – Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010) – Okay.
Film 10 – All-Star Superman (2011) – Great adaptation!
Film 11 – Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011) Good. Another collection of short stories featuring selected members of the Green Lantern Corps, released at the time of Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern film.
Film 12 – Batman: Year One (2011) – TOP FIVE!
Film 13 – Justice League: Doom (2012) – TOP FIVE!
Film 14 – Superman vs. The Elite (2012) – Not my fave.
Film 15 – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One (2012) – AMAZE-BALLS!!
Film 16 – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part Two (2013) – GREAT!
Film 17 – Superman: Unbound (2013) – Okay. More interesting to watch immediately after Apocalyse since this takes place after that story.
And this just in...
As I was putting the finishing touches on this blog, Newsarama posted a tweet from Warner Bros. today confirming that the next DCU Animated movie will indeed take place in DC's New 52 universe. Justice League: War will adapt one of the first New 52 stories, Justice League: Origin, collecting the first six issues of the N52 title and describing how these seven heroes first met and how the Justice League ultimately came to be.
On the one hand, it's about time! N52 debuted almost two years ago, so it makes perfect sense to finally have the heroes' comic book looks and back stories finally align with this popular animated film series. On the other hand, I hated this story! It was mainly the personalities carved out by writer Geoff Johns that disappointed me, and how conflicts between them just felt more contrived for conflict's sake. I was also reading the solo books for The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Batman and Superman as this story was unfolding, and because of the different writers across the books, I also became distracted when many of the heroes' personalities weren't consistent from the solo book to the Justice League book.
So it wasn't a great read for me. But what can I do? I guess just continue to hope that Best Buy goes on including figurines with each new N52 movie so my collection continues to grow. Because as I said, I'm a DC guy. I'm still gonna watch these movies!
Here's the trailer for the new movie, which goes on sale in exactly two weeks.
I’m a DC Comics fanboy.
What that means is that when it comes to choosing a favorite comic book, it’ll be one published by DC Comics. Batman has been my favorite comic book superhero forever, so that explains it.
DC Comics is one of the two biggest publishers of mainstream comic books in the US, the other being Marvel. The tone of Marvel superheroes is generally described as edgier and more relatable to readers than the heroes published by DC, whose characters’ lives tend to have less angst and team up with that “overgrown Boy Scout” Superman. Marvel publishes Spider-Man (always with the hyphen), Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, X-Men and the Avengers. They’re the ones doing awesome box office lately while DC Comics, who in the last few years has turned out the films Jonah Hex, Catwoman, Superman Returns, and Green Lantern, has decidedly not. But DC (and Warner Bros. which owns DC) can claim bragging rights for having the third best opening weekend grossing film, The Dark Knight, which could even be surpassed this summer by its own sequel, The Dark Knight Rises.
But I digress. This blog isn’t about DC or Marvel’s movies. It’s about DC’s comic books, specifically the ones they published in the last seven months.
Back at the end of August and the month of September, DC Comics rebooted its entire line of comic books. DC called it The New 52, referring to the 52 titles they were publishing. Numbering of all their continuing titles were reset to No. 1. For example, August 2011’s issue of Batman #713 became the last issue of the title that ran continuously since 1940 and in September 2011, Batman #1 was released. Also, the universe of DC’s stories was chronologically reset so that stories were told in a world where heroes were introduced just five years previously in the current time. For some characters, like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern, many popular storylines told over DC Comics’ 77-year history still happened somehow somewhere in that five year timespan. For other characters, like Cyborg, Harley Quinn and even the Justice League, their origins were overhauled and rebooted completely. And virtually every hero received a costume makeover.
DC Comics was trying to reinvigorate their brand and also revive their flagging publishing industry that now exists in a world of Kindles and Nooks. As a creative type, I was intrigued with the whole notion while at the same time cynical of the marketing hype. Would it be successful? Would the changes really enhance the legacy or be a failed gimmick in Batman’s history? As a DC fanboy, I had to give it a shot.
That September, I chose 16 of the 52 books to follow: Justice League, Action Comics (featuring Superman), Batman, All-Star Western (featuring Jonah Hex), Wonder Woman, The Flash, Superman, Birds of Prey (featuring an all-women super team including Black Canary), Batgirl, Batwoman, Justice League International, Men of War, Aquaman, Justice League Dark, Voodoo, and I, Vampire. Some of these, like Batman, Batwoman, Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman, I chose because I was already a regular reader. Others, like All-Star Western and Justice League Dark, I chose because the descriptions of their stories intrigued me. And others, like I, Vampire and Men of War, I chose just to try something out of my norm.
These days, stories are mostly told in arcs that run from two to seven issues, so my plan was to try these first story arcs out and decide which titles to continue reading and which to give up on.
This month, the seventh issue for all DC titles were released. And I was still buying 9 of the original 16: Justice League, Action Comics, Batman, All-Star Western, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Superman, Batgirl, and Batwoman. Except for Justice League and Superman, I’m really happy with the stories told in these titles. Are they better than they were before the reboot? In most cases, yes!
Below I share my thoughts about all 16 DC titles, presented in relative order of least favorite to most favorite. If you’re into comics, you’ll be interested. If you’re not, I do hope this makes them interesting!
Voodoo – This is a character DC inherited when it bought Wildstorm Comics. It’s a character I wasn’t familiar with. And I bought the first issue because, frankly, the sexy heroine was drawn really well and I love good girl art. I gave up on it after Issue 2; the story didn’t grab my interest at all.
Justice League International – JLI was a popular satellite team of the Justice League back in the 80s and 90’s. They were brought back in the last few years in a mini-series. I was reading the Booster Gold title before it was cancelled with the debut of The New 52, so I bought this because Booster was gonna be the team’s leader and I’m a fan of Aaron Lopresti’s art. Brought together as a government-affiliated super team, the story in the first six issues didn’t measure up for me.
Men of War – I don’t usually buy war comics so I gave this a try for that reason, to try something new. The first issue I really liked. But after three issues, for a guy who played with Mego Superheroes rather than G.I. Joes as a kid, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
I, Vampire – I really enjoyed reading this title and the artwork in it. But reading issue 2 came at a time when I felt I had to make some financial cutting and this one became a victim. And seeing Twilight everywhere on the ‘net probably didn’t help.
Aquaman – Writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis try to bring the same reboot success they enjoyed with Green Lantern’s rebirth to Aquaman. I liked the adventure and artwork the first four issues delivered. But this Aquaman’s loftiness didn’t hook me like daredevil pilot Hal Jordan’s swagger did. I might pick this up again later tho’ or as a trade paperback.
Justice League Dark – I loved this concept of a super team collecting heroes who delve in magic. And the artwork by Mikel Janin is just right. I enjoyed the first story arc in issues 1-6, telling how the team is formed yet not revealing all the answers. I will probably continue reading more JLD, but I can wait for the collected trade paperback to do that.
Birds of Prey – I’ve been reading BoP for years, since the original one-shots that introduced a team up of Black Canary with Oracle (aka the former Batgirl Barbara Gordon now operating as a secret information broker to the superhero community). So picking up the new No. 1 was a no-brainer. Artist Jesus Saiz really knows how to draw women in a minimalist fashion that I really envy. But I gave up on BoP after the sixth issue mainly not because this is a bad title but because I missed the old Barbara Gordon-Black Canary dynamic.
Superman – Sorry, but what a mess. First, Superman’s new costume, sans the red trunks and now with a military Nehru collar added, hasn’t lent itself to appearing all that appealing to me when drawn. I think the artists are still trying to figure out how best to depict this armored look on a man of steel. (For the record, Jim Lee seems to do the best job, which makes sense since he designed it.) And second, this initial story just got too wordy to follow and enjoy. DC ended up replacing writer-artist George Perez with Dan Jurgens, but after reading his issue 7, it hasn’t gotten better for me. It’s written for a younger audience and I’m old. I may continue for a few more issues to complete this next arc and then be done with it.
Justice League – The artwork by Jim Lee is amazing. But the first story arc, telling how the heroes were brought together five years ago, is busy with action for great action spreads but seems to breeze through telling the story points too fast, especially in the finale. Another title that I think seems to be written for younger audiences. But I will stick with it for another four or five issues because they’ve just added a back-up feature that will tell the origin of DC’s reboot of the hero formerly known as Captain Marvel, Shazam! And being written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, I’m curious.
Batgirl – As I mentioned earlier, Barbara Gordon was a hero known as Batgirl who became a hero known as Oracle. This was after she was paralyzed by a shot to the spine she received from The Joker. Now she’s back to being Batgirl, where her disability was cured in the past two years and she’s returned to her Batgirl costume fighting crime again. Writer Gail Simone, who is one of my favorite comic book writers, continues to use Barbara’s memories of being a parapalegic in her storytelling. It might be a bit of kowtowing to old school fans of the wheelchair-bound Oracle, but I’m enjoying the stories.
Action Comics – Telling the introduction of Superman to Metropolis five years ago, I’m not really sure I’m as enthused about this title as I should be, but the artwork by Rags Morales is fantastic and the writing by Grant Morrison is miles better than the Superman title (and more appealing than his work on Batman earlier).
All-Star Western featuring Jonah Hex – Not a regular western comics reader, I bought the first issue because Jonah Hex was going to be in 1880’s Gotham City. That Batman reference hooked me in and the stories and artwork by Moritat keep me hooked every month.
Batwoman – I’ve been reading Batwoman stories since this version of Batwoman (there’ve been two now) was introduced some years ago. A former police officer, this character has a chip on her shoulder. But perhaps the biggest reason why I’ll continue to buy this title is the artwork and especially the panel layout design by J.H. Williams III. He’s really all the reason I need to continue buying this book.
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A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!