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.
According to court testimony, the character "Superman" made his first appearance in comic books on April 18, 1938. It happened to be in the first issue of a title called Action Comics, a new anthology book containing several short stories about action heroes with Superman featured on the cover and in the opening story.
Also debuting in that issue were the characters of "Clark Kent", Superman's alter ego, and "Lois Lane", both reporters working for a big-city newspaper called the Daily Star. The Daily Planet, editor-in-chief Perry White, photographer Jimmy Olson, arch villain Lex Luthor, even the name of the planet "Krypton" would not appear until later, added to the Superman mythos as his popularly grew, expanding into his own featured title Superman a year later and then beyond the printed page into other entertainment media: the Fleisher Brothers' animated shorts, a radio series, the Kirk Alyn movie serials and the George Reeves television series.
So, today officially marks Superman and Lois Lane's 75th birthdays.
Happy Birthday, you two!
Perhaps not coincidentally, this week also marked the debut of the third and final official trailer of Superman's latest appearance on the big screen. This new trailer for "Man of Steel" runs three minutes long and features several new scenes including the debut of cinema's newest take on the world of Krypton and the major villain of the film, General Zod as played by Michael Shannon.
And like the trailers before it, it continues to reveal a more grounded, intimate tone to Superman's character. While we certainly get the point that there will be lots of action in the film, we find that the the man who would become Superman has been growing up as a man who fears what mankind will think of him, a boy who is told he isn't even from this planet and at first doesn't realize how he fits in to this world.
All he wants is to be his father's son.
As a result of that scene revealed in the new trailer, featuring Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, much discussion among comic book geeks around the Internet this week has been about the film's screenwriter David Goyer (Blade, the Dark Knight trilogy) and a scene from a comic book story first published in 2009. Superman: Secret Origin was written by Geoff Johns, a superstar writer who's success crafting stories with heart and action for characters such as Green Lantern, Flash and Superman among others has garnered him a huge fan following, and drawn by Gary Frank, whose model for illustrating Superman in this story was obviously inspired by an actor who inspired generations not only for his portrayal of the hero fighting for truth, justice and the American Way but for his courage in his personal life.
The next year, the six issues of Superman: Secret Origin were collected and released as a trade paperback, and Goyer wrote the foreward for it. What fans of the new movie trailer are keying in on are these words from that foreward.
There is a heart breaking moment halfway through the first chapter in which young Clark is told the truth about his heritage. He races out into the night, sobbing, stumbling through the cornfields. Eventually, his foster father, Jonathan, finds him.
He goes on to say:
As I write this, I am midway through my first draft of a new Superman screenplay. It’s a task that has stymied many talented fimmakers in the years since Donner’s film. And for all I know, it will end up stymying me as well.
And the following pages from the first issue of Secret Origin are also being circulated with acknowledgments to Goyer's quote.
I love sharing this because it's given me an ideal opportunity to share with folks who may not read them or who even regard comic books with little significance of the quality, artistry and heart that this medium, occasionally loftily referred to as "sequential art", is capable of.
I think it's awesome and among the reasons why I continue to read comic books enthusiastically every week that new issues come out. It's not everyone's cup of joe, but it is mine.
And, just like he successfully did writing the screenplays for the Dark Knight trilogy, it looks like with "Man of Steel", which opens June 16, Goyer found inspiration from some of the best comic books out there to read.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!