Monday, September 14, 2015

Justice League shorts

When it comes to cartoons from the Big Two, DC has been the King of comic book based animation for some time now. It started a long time ago with the Superfriends cartoon, continued on into the ground-breaking Batman Animated Series, which then led to such fantastic shows as Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice, and The Brave and the Bold. Really, save for a few notable exceptions, WB/DC has left Marvel's mostly weak animation attempts so far behind, and so long ago, that it's not even a competition. It's so one-sided, it's kind of like how Marvel dominates DC when it comes to the live-action box office.

The question of who is on top is no question at all.

And it wasn't just with the TV shows either, DC has also cornered the market when it comes to Direct Release Full Length Animated Movies too. For just about the entire time they've been making them, these films have been of a much higher quality than the absolute shit Marvel has put out. Again, it's not even close. Some of the DC animated films were almost even real movies, y'know? I mean, if asked, I would actually recommend the Mask of the Phantasm and Under the Red Hood to anyone who might be interested in the genre.

What I'm basically trying to say here is, while DC may not make the best live-action films, they sure as hell can make some great animated ones.

Well... for a time, that is.

Recently their output has fallen off quite a bit, the stories have grown much more wooden, while the animation itself has become much less distinctive, much less stylish, and generally of an all-around poorer quality. That all of this seems to coincide with the controversial launch of the New 52--a line wide reboot of the comic book universe that has never quite taken off--and with Warner Brothers' sudden boner Post-MCU for building its own set of shared universe film franchises, is not really all that surprising.

And thus... Justice League: Gods and Monsters.

Here's a film that is quite unlike either version of DC's animated history, both the old regular continuity (the good version), and the new Nu-52 continuity (the bad version). Not that it's "good" or anything, I'm not saying that, because it's not. What I mean is, this film is set more along the lines of what Marvel comics would call a "What if...?" story, or what in DC terms is know as an "Elseworlds" tale. Succinctly put, it's an Alternate Universe story where Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are all much different from how we usually know them.

Here's a hint for you new kids out there: You can always tell right from the start when it's a darker Alternate Universe set story, because a character will usually have a goatee, or they will be wearing a trench coat. Sharp-eyed readers will have already noticed that this version of Superman has both.

This isn't just dark, kids, it's super dark.

How dark is it?

Well, in this movie Superman is the son of Zod instead of the usual Jor-el, which is shown in a surprisingly rapey origin scene. Before you get too nervous though, I should mention that it only involves Zod inserting his finger into a machine before Jor-el has a chance to, but still... it's kind of creepy. Anyway, as a result of Zod's apparently meaner DNA, Superman is much more of a hard ass in this world. It also seems like he was raised Mexican maybe, or Native American, but they don't really go into it much, so I'm not sure if that is also supposed to be responsible for him snapping necks left and right in this world.

Poke. Annnnd... baby.

This time out Wonder Woman is a child of New Genesis. This is from an old Jack Kirby idea called the New Gods, and it's one of those comic book things that might be too weird for people who aren't used to this kind of stuff, but who knows... maybe not. People embraced Groot, so whatever. The basic idea is that they're these benevolent Space Gods that are kind of based on the Greek Gods a little bit, and they have this Evil Opposite Pantheon headed by Darkseid and his fellow evil Gods. Wonder Woman is the child of the HighFather (King Benevolent God), and she is set to marry Orion, the son of Darkseid, and thus form a bond of peace between the ancient enemies. The twist is, in this story the evilness has been switched (Alternate Universe), and Highfather and his buddies end up betraying Darkseid and his people during the marriage ceremony, total Red Wedding style. As a result, Wonder Woman gets pissed at Dad (it WAS her day, after all), and stomps off to Earth... to fight crime forever, I guess? As origins go, there's some gaps... especially when it comes to her top.

She invests heavily in double-sided tape.

The Batman in this universe is a man named Kirk Langstrom instead of the traditional Random Wayne family member. In the regular DC universe, Kirk takes a formula and is turned into The Man-Bat--who looks pretty much exactly as his name would lead you to expect--but since this is an alternate universe, in this story he took a formula and became a Vampire. I guess that makes sense. Either way, now the criminals of Gotham City aren't just a superstitious and cowardly lot, they're also dinner. A side-note, in this film Kirk has a ridiculous mullet and no one ever mentions how terrible it is. Maybe it's a side effect of his vampirism.

So bad, it even terrifies Batman...

In a nutshell, this is yet another version of a rough and tumble killer Justice League, and just like always, the government finally sets about trying to take them out, because that's a good idea when dealing with mad Gods, especially when you miss the first couple of times. Anyway, carnage ensues, and in the end everyone learns a little bit about themselves... and each other.

Like I said... it's super dark, man, like none more dark. That's how dark it is.

Now, I'm usually a sucker for alternate universe versions--I mean, show me a character with an eye-patch who doesn't normally wear an eye-patch, and, well... you have my attention--so with that in mind, while I wouldn't exactly call Justice League: Gods and Monsters "good", (it's certainly not on par with their older efforts) I will admit that at least it's much better than the last few animated films DC has released. A low bar, sure, so your mileage may vary, like I said, I'm a sucker for Alternate Universe tales, but who knows, maybe you'll like it.

Which brings us to why we're here today...

The usual thing to do with Direct Release Animated Films these days is to put some bonus material on-line, so as a result, we have these three short films. There's one for each character, and I thought I'd take a quick look at them all and then give you my thoughts, because why the fuck not?

You got it? Yeah? All righty then...

Wonder Woman

In this short, it's sex and violence uber alles as Wonder Woman stabs the shit out of a bunch of faceless guys and then lets it be known that she likes to be dominated during sex with Steve Trevor, but hey, in a nice bit of turn-about, not only was Steve the one who needed rescuing, but his costume got torn in a very sexy off the shoulder kind of way. A thin silver-lining, but a silver-lining nonetheless. Then they cap it all off with Wonder Woman initiating some sex atop a bunch of fresh corpses... so, yeah... so darkly awesome, right? I do like the way they have her use the Boom Tube in combat, though. That's a good bit.


This short starts out exactly the way the current batch of folks at WB/DC like their Superman... with a bunch of shit being destroyed. It's weird that they decided to include the part where Superman completely ignores the bus-load of people begging for help, right? It's not just me, right? It's almost as weird as them deciding to make the destruction at the end look almost exactly like the destruction at the end of Man of Steel. Are they re-enforcing that moment as canon by implying it is something that always happens regardless of the timeline? Doubling down on their bullshit, basically? Probably. It doesn't matter, I guess, it's just par for the course. In the end, this short is just more weird decisions for another weird portrayal of the character, but at least that's consistent with the way they've handled Superman the past few years. Anyway, the short ends with Superman heat-visioning a baby to death. I will say that I kind of like the blue suit, red belt, and black boots look. This might be the best looking alternative Superman I've seen in awhile.


Ah... and now the big gun. The favored child. To make what I assume is probably a direct quote from a Warner Brothers Executive (with a hat tip to the Simpsons): "To Batman, the cause of--and solution to--all our franchise problems." In this short, Bat-Mullet is looking for a kidnap victim and finds her in what must be one of the thousands of funhouse/clown themed abandoned warehouses in Gotham City. Is it the Joker? Nope. We're not that lucky. They just couldn't not include Harley Quinn in this shit, right? And of course, its the tiny panties and lingerie Juggalo Princess Harley, too. She's the worst version of them all. You know what surprises me the most? Honestly? As fucked up and stupid-dark as this version of the DC heroes is, how is this not ridiculously popular? Does the fedora-wearing/over-sized bowling shirt crowd of DC fans simply not know this film exists, because they would love it, man. It's seriously right up their alley, and yet, I've hardly heard any raving about it. Weird. Anyway, the short ends with Vampire Batman eating Harley Quinn, because of course it does.

And there you have it.

I honestly don't know why I bothered to write this all up, but here you go... this is what WB/DC wants you to have. And looking it all of this, it just makes me wonder: How the hell did the Flash TV show turn out so awesome and not stupid?

Make Mine Marvel,

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