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Reign of the Supermen…26 Years From Page to Screen

Last week–maybe the week before as well (but this last week for sure) I was greeted with a pleasant surprise in an ad. Most advertising is frustrating, deceptive, or otherwise just bugs the sheer heck outta me. This was one of THE BEST ads I can think of in a number of YEARS.

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See…THIS ad prompted me to ACTION. It informed me of this two-day event. Reminded me that this was happening, as I believe I’d seen SOMEthing about it some time back. And it was well-timed, being the Wednesday before the event–providing me with several days to consider and make plans and actually attend the event!

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The Death of Superman came out last July or so, and I enjoyed it overall. It was certainly far superior to 2007’s Superman: Doomsday (which I still hold as primarily worthwhile for its retrospective documentary on the actual comics event).

This "do-over" was good, catching a number of good points from the original comics…while updating, modifying, and adjusting stuff in such a way as to fit it–essentially–into the New 52 continuity, as the last few years of these DC Universe Movie features have been–some based directly on those comics, others drawing inspiration from, and so on.

For me, probably the most stand-out thing about this The Death of Superman was the way it pulled off addressing Lex Luthor as he’s generally been known, and yet the Luthor at the time in the comics was vastly different. I remember that moment in here leaving me chuckling–like "Alright, I was wondering, and that’s good, I like that, that’s awesome!"

In its Return of the King style multiple "epilogues," it also drew from what I feel is one of THE absolute KEY moments of Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman, the heart of that story, and in some ways maybe the entire reason one could do this sort of story. It gives us a voiceover of Bibbo praying, talking to God, asking how it is that He would take Superman…while a washed up old roughneck like him goes on living. It was a scene in the comics that made me cry in 1993, it’s a scene that has brought tears to my eyes multiple times since in re-reading the comics, and darned if it didn’t have my eyes wet in the theater the other day!

[SPOILER WARNING! I’m gonna get into spoilers below with Reign of the Supermen!]

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The biggest draw here for ME, of this double-feature, though, was Reign of the Supermen. Not only the chance to see these on "the big screen," but the fact that it was a chance to see this one a couple days BEFORE the "digital-only" "window" that I so thoroughly DESPISE that has been such a trend lately/for years.

I’m still trying to decide what I think of this one, and perhaps as I’m typing this I’ll better settle it out.

————— [Again, spoiler warning! Stop reading if you care about knowing nothing really about it going into Reign of the Supermen!] —————

Something that really stood out to me quite a bit was the way that the Justice League was involved, as well as the very presence AT ALL of Darkseid.That more than even just the costumes rooted this as a sort of New 52 version of The Death and Return of Superman stuff.

It worked–having Doomsday be a weapon of Darkseid, and Darkseid having been behind Hank Henshaw, and all that. In context of Darkseid being THE big Justice League foe of the New 52 and all that; being the driving force of the "origin" of the League, etc.

But it also turned this into a Justice League story in which Superman had died…rather than being fully at its heart a Superman story.

While I can "appreciate" certain stuff with Darkseid and even like certain visual interpretations…on the whole I just do not care for the character and find the character to be vastly over-used and uninteresting.

We still had key moments adapted into the film. Steel still had a momentary subplot with weapons; Superboy hitting on women; the "visored Superman" still used deadly force; the Cyborg still saved the president and was recognized as the real, one, true Superman; and so on. Scenes had some clever nods to comic covers in montage mode that I really liked. To "just anyone" it was a montage; someone like me that read the individual comics each week as the story originally unfolded across much of 1993, it was an excellent way to acknowledge the original comics without being hung up on them and their story.

While Superman, the Supermen were a primary driving force…I just strongly feel that this could have been just as easily Justice League: Invasion II or some such.

In the end, though, I enjoyed this, especially as I decided that for me at least it’s simply the New 52 version of the death and return story, updated and adapted for the New 52 such that it fit the altered continuity and such, while keeping many of the moments from the comics that were important and informative of the characters. Unfortunately, the biggest disservice was probably done to the Eradicator, with virtually no real character exploration nor explanation. (Why the visor??? The visor wasn’t even really acknowledged! except his being "the visored" Superman)


I’ve missed at least a couple other Fathom Events presentations of DC Universe movies. I’d been very interested in and planning on going to see the Batman: The Killing Joke back in 2016, but was laid off days before and still in a bit of "shock" over the whole situation, and didn’t go. And I’m pretty certain there was at least one other "premiere" in theaters in 2017 and/or 2018.

But it feels "fitting" to see these…and all the better a value for having both together. I think the listing I saw indicated the combined thing was 2 hours 45 minutes or so–which makes for a "longer movie," with an individual 70-74 minute animated feature "short" and a "full length" film running closer to 120 minutes. But unlike most of these "longer movies" in theaters, having these as two movies but back to back…there was a whopping 5-minute "intermission," which was more than enough time to go to the restroom and grab a quick drink. I certainly wish more films would be a bit longer BUT (such as on a cliffhanger) have a brief intermission for using the restroom and such.

I despise this "digital window" on movies. I have never ONCE decided to blow $20 on a digital-only film JUST to have it 2 weeks before it would be available on physical media. It just pisses me off. If "digital" were a completely separate thing and there were NEVER "DVD + Digital" or "Blu-Ray + Digital" or "Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital" combo packs, that’d be a different thing. I refuse to "convert" to digital-ONLY when it’s basically the same price to get the physical media WITH a digital code. (Or for $2-3 difference–cheaper than a single issue of a comic book–it’s negligible for a huge benefit/convenience!)

Even having bought and watched The Death of Superman last year, and even just having seen Reign of the Supermen in the theater…I’ll still be buying the latter in a couple weeks when it’s available.

If you’ve bought/watched The Death of Superman this is a solid continuation. And even if you’re not really a Superman fan but dig Batman and the rest of the Justice League, this is also very much a Justice League thing, and fits with the other recent Justice League animated features, references the Teen Titans, and generally works in that continuity.

It’s taken 26 years…from the original comics to this animated (double) feature. I’m glad to be able to have ’em, all the more as they make a 25+ year old story "new" and "current" again for an entirely new generation!

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DC & Marvel Animation – My Collection

I have an entire shelf dedicated to DC and Marvel animated features and series:

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DC Animated Universe stuff. I’m missing one volume of Batman, all of Batman Beyond, and a couple of the Justice League seasons.

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I’ve kept up (so far) with the Warner Premiere animated films; I started out with the DVDs but eventually switched to blu-ray…sadly, I made the switch when they pretty much QUIT putting tons of extra stuff on the blu-ray that wasn’t on the DVDs.

So far, I think my favorites are probably Batman: Under the Hood, Wonder Woman, The New Frontier, and The Flashpoint Paradox.

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My Marvel collection is significantly smaller…though I’ve contemplated getting some of the Marvel Knights things–Iron Man: Extremis, Astonishing X-Men, etc; can’t really justify that with those on Netflix. I do, however, want to get the other 3 X-Men volumes so that I don’t have to rely on Netflix and just have ’em.

My favorite of these is the Wolverine and the X-Men Complete Series set. I was extremely glad I waited and passed on the $15ish mini-sets. Got the full thing for only about $25! You may notice Planet Hulk‘s there TWICE…I got the blu-ray for 1/4 the price I paid for the DVD, but I like the “slipcase” on the DVD.

A casual ‘review’ of All-Star Superman

allstarsupermanblurayMonths ago—would’ve been around the release of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse—I was rather surprised to learn that the next feature from the DC/Warner Premiere line of direct-to-home-media features would be All-Star Superman. I just didn’t see it.

The title? That was just an imprint DC was trying. Why not give it some other title to reflect the story a bit more? And being such a niche title years in the past that isn’t really affecting continuity anywhere….

But then, that’s actually the beauty of the thing. A self-contained epic. Nothing came before. Nothing comes after. Just a single, closed arc.

allstarsupermanpageoneI loved the opening. One of the things that jumped out at me initially when I’d read the first issue of the comic series back in late 2004 was the way it took just a handful of panels to sum up all you need to know about Superman’s past.

Doomed planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly couple.

It was the embodiment of something I’d read during my undergrad years when I was working on a paper; essentially about the way certain elements of key figures in our popular culture are the same through whatever reimaginings.

This film takes that opening—even maintaining the still-shots on the screen, without animation, perfectly (in my mind) capturing that simple opening of the comic…all the more for not feeling the need TO animate the sequence.

allstarsuperman001The rest of the film follows much of the comics’ path, though in far less detail. A lot of time is spent on Lois’ stint as Superwoman. We’re then moved along into Samson and Atlas’ appearance and challenges, to the Kryptonian astronauts, and ultimately back to Luthor for the big finale.

There are slight  nods to other parts of the series—I spotted Bizarro on some sort of chessboard in the Fortress, for example. And we’re given a brief scene in which Clark visits his father’s grave (though that issue when we saw the death of Jonathan was one of the most powerful issues of this series, to me, particularly in retrospect). We also did not get the Jimmy/Doomsday story. allstarsuperman006

The animation itself wasn’t anything spectacular. Watching the blu-ray didn’t make any kind of noticable difference to me. It wasn’t bad, mind you. I did like the “compromise” on the visual style. Quitely’s got a unique visual style that I often like but just as often take issue with, but I didn’t think it was a style I wanted to see mimicked for animation. (To the opposite, I greatly enjoy Ed McGuiness’ visual style used in animation, as on the first Superman/Batman dvd).

Certain touches of Quitely’s art was clearly adapted for this feature, but it was “softened” somehow, for lack of better phrasing offhand. A lot of lines were removed, so that none of the characters appeared lumpy. This made for a sorta different-looking Superman, who seemed a bit older than I’d usually picture, but not in a bad way.

allstarsuperman003The take on Lois was quite good…no complaints there. I was rather interested in how this Lois somehow visually put me in mind of “Bones,” though that comparison may simply be my limited exposure to Bones.

Other than the simplistic fact that we don’t have Tim Daly, Clancy Brown, or Dana Delany, I have no complaints with the voiceacting. In this case, I don’t think I was familiar with any of the voices involved, except perhaps Ed Asner (Perry White). This unfamiliarity allowed me to simply enjoy this for the story and characters, without distraction of visualizing actors behind the characters.

The story overall really felt like it was almost multiple “episodes” made into an overall whole. Coming from having read the comics, and seeing this as an adaptation of the comics, I didn’t mind the way things sort of jump from one to the next—though I was specifically looking for that, having been slightly “spoiled” by comments made on twitter and facebook prior to my watching this—with people expressing frustration at the story jumping and being disjointed.

I can see that, but as said…I took it in stride, and it didn’t bother me, if only for my knowing about it.

mcduffiecreditUnfortunately, especially as excited as I was to pick this up and watch it, news came through online this afternoon that writer Dwayne McDuffie died. I hadn’t even realized that he wrote the  script for this until today. It did seem sorta strange to not see a dedication to him in the end credits…but of course, his passing was so sudden and unexpected.

The package for this film isn’t anything wonderful. The cover image is rather iconic, though, and certainly gets to the heart of the overall story. I’m not at all impressed at the “extras.” I do enjoy the “teaser” shorts for whatever the next film in the line will be (in this case, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights). The Grant Morrison thing wasn’t all that thrilling—it seemed almost “phoned in,” so to speak. Never have been much a fan of commentaries, and this soon after watching, I’m not at all ready to re-watch with the commentary on, so can’t speak to that. If commentaries are you thing…well, there’s that.

I picked up the Target version, which includes a couple episodes of Superman: The Animated Series. One episode was one I’d just watched from the actual Superman: The Animated Series dvd set in the last couple days; and I’m not interested in the other, as I assume that comes later, and plan to watch the series in order.

All in all, HIGHLY disappointed in the “extras,” given how many extra shorts and features and such have been jam-packed into other recent releases—the discrepency between the “special edition” dvd and blu-ray editions with those is what mainly motivated me to go for the blu-ray this time, when I really should have simply stuck to the DVD.

I’d recommend a purchase for the die-hard fans that’ll watch this a few times. For the casual viewer, I recommend a rental. I think if I was going to give this a hard ‘n fast rating, it’s got a good 6.5 or 7 of 10 from me, primarily penalized by the (lack of) extras.

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