Showing posts with label cartoons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cartoons. Show all posts

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Krampus + Lost Venture Bros. = Awesome

So, I'm kind of counting on the fact that my folks never watch the videos I put on here to work in my favor, so... seriously, those of a sensitive nature. Don't click here.

I also don't know how many of you watch The Venture Bros. on Cartoon Network, but its become one of my favorite shows. Just... don't expect me to explain Dr. Girlfriend, or the fact that her voice doesn't phase me anymore at all.

But a few years back, it seems they produced a Christmas Special. I'd never heard of it until today, when The Dug recalled seeing it as it features... The Krampus!

So, if you want to see the first animated appearance of the Krampus in the US that I'm aware of, click here. Just be aware that... Venture Bros. is aimed at non-emotionally-mature adults.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turtles Forever

I actually am watching the "Turtles Forever" movie from CW Kids. And its a really weird take-off on DC "Crisis on Multiple Earths" storylines/ "Crisis on Infinite Earths" in almost any way which counts.

Its also oddly meta for a kid's Saturday morning cartoon. I mean, they just arrived in "Turtle Earth Prime", which is the first issue of the classic Eastman and Laird run on TMNT from the mid-80's.

Eastman and Laird's TMNT was part of why I got into comics as a kid, and its part of why I started wanting to draw. I'm not a huge TMNT nut, but...

I'm kind of freaking out a little bit, because it looks exactly like the comics. And that is real, yo.

Classic TMNT from the 1980's (first issue)

Also, at commercial breaks, the networks keeps advertising "Christmas Buddies", which...

the part of me which loves horrible movies and the part of me that likes cute golden retriever puppies are sort of conspiring to make me watch this thing at some point.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Batman Musical 2

So I got to looking, and there are actually several musical versions of Batman on YouTube.

From "Batman: Beyond". An aged Batman attends a performance of a musical based on his life.

Batman does the Batusi

Batman sings "Am I Blue"

Here's a whole site dedicated to a Batman Broadway show that almost happened. Seriously, this had Tim Burton and other big name people attached.

Which may have been canceled in the wake of this MadTV skit, which in turn was a direct response to where Warner Bros. and Joel Schumacher's inability to reconcile their ideas regarding Batman. See "Batman and Robin" for how that worked out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Batman Sings!

If you didn't see "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" this Friday, woe unto you.

For the season premiere, the producers put together a musical episode, featuring NPH as "The Music Meister".

This is exactly the sort of place where your comic fans who get into comics to see "edginess" and myself part ways. I WANT to see NPH singing as a villain, Gorilla Grodd dancing and Black Canary belting out a tune. If I've one regret, its that the show has a moratorium on using Superman, who I would love to see lighting up the Great White Way.

If you see the episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister" as an option on your DVR, I highly recommend recoding.

By the way, Grey DeLisle did a fantastic job singing. Which I learned should come as no surprise as, in addition to her extensive voice-over career, she has several albums to her name.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

This is happening: Marge Simpson in Playboy

Apparently, this is actually happening.

I am dumbfounded/ amazed/ amused/ probably still not buying Playboy.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Planet Hulk to DVD

It seems Marvel has upped the ante a bit in their animation efforts.

I tried their first few movies and... not good.

Now they are bringing the last story I remember reading and really enjoying from Marvel to the small screen.

No, I do not remember how Hulk becomes articulate. Hopefully the movie will remind me.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Entire Run of Superman Animated Coming in one Package!

In the mid-90's, the Warner Bros. Animated department put their much-loved Batman series on ice and turned to Metropolis as their next port of call.

The cartoon became hugely influential on the comics, which had become mired in the John Byrne/ Marv Wolfman relaunch, quickly missing the forest for the trees. I believe at the time of the cartoon's debut, we had Mullet-Superman who the writers and artists had some kind of funny ideas about what made a Clark Kent for the 1990's. In many ways, its shocking that this era of Superman didn't make me go running from the character altogether.

The cartoon (in addition to my pre-Mullet-tude Superman* reading, the movies, and a few other sources) had as much of an influence on my descent into Super-fandom as anything else. Bruce Timm and crew created an interesting mix of modern-Super elements and classic. Many versions of the characters they created eventually became the standards in the comics (including a redesign of Supergirl which found its way into the comics, and led to the current design). A personal favorite of mine was the handling of Toyman, who they made from a sort of obnoxious mad scientist-type into a creepy little psycho in a plastic doll mask.

You can probably credit voice director Andrea Romano for the insanely good voice acting. Many Superfans consider the voice actors for the program as important to the Superman media world as their movie counter-parts. No doubt Tim Daly was a great mild-mannered Kent and earnest Superman, but the rest were of no small note. While its always sad not to be able actually see Dana Delany, her Lois is now iconic, just as Clancy Brown's baritone Lex Luthor exemplified arrogance and malevolence. I was also quite fond of David Kaufman as Jimmy Olsen, Corey Burton as Brainiac, Malcolm McDowell as Metallo... Anyway, this will get boring very quickly.

Bruce Timm imported the same blocky character design he had developed in the later seasons of Batman: The Animated Series. This worked terrifically well during cross-overs with Batman, btw (I highly recommend the "World's Finest" 3-episode run. Just great stuff.). Metropolis was imagined as an art-deco city of tomorrow, with freeways running between the skyscrapers and the ground often not in view, perhaps in homage to Fritz Lang's film "Metropolis".

I know many folks want to draw some parallels to the 1940's era Fleischer cartoons, and there are some similarities in aspects of the background design, but the 1990's Superman series borrows only loosely from those cartoons, mostly in how some of the action is choreographed and the occasional prop, such as giant airplane, etc...

The episodes tended to introduce villains as new and unique challenges for Superman, with recurring villain Lex Luthor at the center of Superman's world. However, DC Animated also brought The New Gods to television with the entire cast of cult characters and in a bit of inspired stunt casting, Ed Asner as Granny Goodness (and Michael Ironside as "Darkseid", but that's kind of a "well, who else are you going to cast as Darkseid?" option).

But the series also introduced Superman's rogues gallery, a group a lot less well-known than Batman's crew of villains. Toyman, The Parasite, Brainiac, Bizarro, Metallo, Mxyzptlk (perfectly cast with Gilbert Gottfried), Jax-Ur, etc... but also created at least one new villain with "Livewire", who has since made her way into the comics.

The show also introduced other DC heroes, including Steel, Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and more.

Soon, you will be able to order/ rent/ etc... the Superman Animated series in its entirety. Here.

For those of you with Lil' Leaguers in tow, this might be a fine investment. While Superman doesn't have the pop-culture cache of Spider-Man or Batman, I think the cartoon series makes it pretty clear why Superman is a great character, and not the barrel chested cookie cutter superhero that most people assume.

What's often forgotten is that the series actually had a pretty neat line of toys, that found different gadgets, etc... with which to equip the Man of Steel. I have a small collection of the toys, myself, Bizarro being a personal favorite.

The series didn't last very long (less than 60 episodes, I think), and folded into the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, both of which continued the same narrative started in Batman: The Animated series.

*I should point out that the hair wasn't so much the issue as the sort of dull, working-stiff take on Superman that seemed to permeate the post-Death of Superman era. Superman more or less just felt like a stand-in for any generic superhero, only surrounded by the trappings of the Super-verse.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I Love Toy Story. Now in 3D!

There's a snake in my boot!

Seriously, I love "Toy Story". This is great news! I was going to say something about the characters I particularly like, but, heck... it's just that kind of movie that its not necessary.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Superman: Cartoons, Commies, Movie Rumor Repeat, Conspiracy!

80's Superman Cartoon Coming to DVD

In 1988, Ruby-Spears, who was responsible for a lot of the animation folks my age grew up on, put out a Superman cartoon. I've never had opportunity to see it except as clips on YouTube.

It seems that either Austin didn't carry the show, or I wasn't rising early enough on Saturday to catch it. At any rate, the show didn't last long, and has largely been forgotten.

WB's Home Video group must know that the Superman contingency will buy anything with the "S" on it, because they do, in fact, have a steady stream of these sorts of things that have been coming out of the vault since around '03.

According to The Superman Homepage
, the cartoon is getting its due and coming to Home Video in November.

I'm 34 and have a mortgage, so its pretty obvious I should care a lot about this sort of thing, I would think.

Anyway, yes, this thing will find its way into The League's official Superman Library.

Here's the opening for the show.

Italian Commies Love Superman

Apparently Italian Communists have stumbled across Mark Millar's re-telling of the Superman mythos, "Red Son", in which an infant Superman lands in a Stalinist Collective Farm instead of Kansas. Raised in that sort of parallel world of Russia we all learned about from movies like "Firefox" (which was awesome), Kal-El becomes a great Commie Benefactor to his Commie People, fighting off Capitalist Pigs like Lex Luthor (whose wife, Lois, carries a torch for the barrel chested bread-line-stander).

In our actual world, having not learned that Communism failed or turned into N. Korea, the Italian Communist Party (again, this part is real, not a comic) has adopted the Hammer and Sickle Super-Emblem and artwork from the comic for their very own. Luckily, the commies are looking to make a buck off the shirts.

I'd buy that for a lira!

Much more on this here.

It is clear the Commies are failing. They do not offer the shirt in the more prosperous sizes I would need to fit into one of their T's.

Viva America!

Superman Fans Are Panicky Tools

So there's a rumor going around that the next Superman feature will be helmed by the Wachowski Bros., who lost Warner Bros. an untold fortune with the epic fail that was "Speed Racer". Here.

What nobody seems to notice is that this is the same rumor from February. That was debunked back then.

That hasn't kept the Super-nerds from totally freaking out.

Superman of the Muslim Persuasion?

I assure you, if you're a DC fan and don't buy into wing-nut conspiracy theories, this is hilarious.

from our Canadian Friend, Simon.

Oh, heck. This, too.

This is kind of funny and well animated.

Found at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Green Lantern: First Flight

There's a lot of good in the new DCU Animated film, "Green Lantern: First Flight", but one can't really help but find it hard not to wish WB Animation would let these movies run another 20-30 minutes longer to flesh out the story. For this viewer and comic dork, the movies don't give enough time to allow for the details that (a) fans would appreciate, (b) are part of the character's appeal and charm, and (c) probably would help a bit with what feels like 20 pounds of plot crammed into a 5 pound bag. Its understandable during the first few forays into the format, but at some point, it seems like DCU Animated would take a step back and try to figure out how to improve upon their process.

As a DC character with 50-odd years of history behind him, Hal Jordan, The Guardians, and the Green Lantern Corps are one of the more complete mythologies in the comics-verse. As a kid, I remember starting to uncover GL with Emerald Dawn and the GL series which followed (but which went off the tracks almost immediately as DC refused to let the series return to its conceit of Hal Jordan as one of 3600 space policemen). But the pieces were there. Hal, power batteries, Kilowog, a Guardian or two, and the rings... All kind of fascinating stuff. In high school I had a plastic GL ring that glowed in the dark, that I remember leaving in my window so it would always glow a bit at night.

And in watching the film, while I feel they absolutely tried, and that they did a pretty darn good job of making a movie people might enjoy, it was pretty clear that the parties responsible were not GL fans. It's not that they don't like GL, its that they seem to have just not really soaked in GL long before making their movie.

I'm not particularly wound up that after the canon (and required) transfer of the ring from Abin-Sur to Jordan that the team didn't stick to any known canon (be it Silver Age, Emerald Dawn I, or Johns' reinterpretation). But I do want to point out: There were no actual Lanterns in the Green Lantern movie. Not one.

As near as I can tell, somebody decided that the actual Lanterns/ charging device which each individual Corps member is assigned with their ring, would mess up the story they were trying to tell, and so just omitted them for narrative expediency. Not since Alan Rickman uttered "I AM the Half-Blood Prince!" have I been so underwhelmed by how pre-existing material was handled.

It's a single example, but I think a fairly telling one.

I do think it would have behooved the DCU Animation team to stick closer to Johns' reinterpretation of the GL mythos, as the cartoon feels dated even as one watches it, even with Sinestro in his Sinestro Corps togs instead of the classic Blue and Black.

The plot basically fast forwards through Hal obtaining the ring and speeds past Carol Ferris and Ferris Air in order to cut to the chase, but once you're there, the plot (skewed as I may personally find it) is well executed. For those of you not weighed down by GL comic history, it's an engaging tale of a rookie on the learning curve. And maybe the story is a bit tighter than what I think of when I ponder a character like Sinestro or Ch'P.

In many ways, its sort of "Training Day" by way of GL Corps, and that's somewhat accurate to the comics. It's a good tack to take, provides for a bit of intrigue, but GL fans will feel the tick of the clock hands and WB Animation's self-imposed time limits in cutting out any mention of Korugar and the realization of Sinestro's view of the world. That doesn't mean that it doesn't work in the movie, as Sinestro jumps from Corps Member to Antagonist, but the motivation doesn't stick quite as well.

The animation is excellent. It relies on the work of our neighbors from across the Pacific from time-to-time, and often just goes ahead and looks like anime, but I think that's actually pretty great. Its 2009, and if you can't appreciate a little anime in your movie, well, more's the pity. The design work on the costumes completely worked for me, and 90% of the character design. I did NOT like the re-design on Kanjar-Ro, from sharkish freak to semi-generic squid/ bug aliens (but do not get me started on how much I liked the re-design of the Weaponers of Qward). But Ch'p, Kilowog, Arisia, etc... and the Guardians looked great.

The pacing is dead on, the voice acting was very good, even if Kurtwood Smith as Kanjar-Ro was almost distracting in its Kurtwood Smith-ness. I do feel that Meloni was a good choice for Hal Jordan and that Victor Garber is an excellent choice for Sinestro.

I appreciate the work director Lauren Montgomery pulled off with the movie, and I'd be curious to see what she'd do if time and money were available on a Pixar-like scale. She's working with enough constraints to befuddle Mister Miracle, and she's still able to produce work that's setting new standards for storytelling and animation in the long, tough history of super-hero animation.

In the end, GL is often a comic-dorks' comic. Like Superman, its full of obscurities that only readers and fans will know (I only know, roughly, 1/3rd of the Lanterns' names I could know). But for folks coming fresh to Green Lantern, its a sort space opera/ fantasy. If you're looking for science in the science fiction, you will be deeply disappointed. But if you're looking for space-faring, interplanetary adventure, I honestly think the movie works pretty well.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Maxx

The Maxx that I cared about in the 1990's was not the soda shop frequented by the "Saved By The Bell" kids.

I had not read Sam Keith's comic when The Maxx debuted on MTV circa 1994. It was part of the Image onslaught of comics that my wallet couldn't handle, and too many of which focused on art over story or substance in an era when Neil Gaiman was writing Sandman, Grant Morrison was writing The Invisibles, Garth Ennis was starting to make some noise in the US, and ideas like "Kid Eternity" were a viable part of the comic landscape (and, I should mention, Marvel had just done the Clone Wars deal and was close to filing for bankruptcy).

And then, between Beastie Boys videos, I saw the ads for The Maxx.

As it happens once in a while, I was a fan of the cartoon before I was a fan of the comic. I enjoy the Hulk movies, but never get too far with the comics. Same for Iron Man. I suppose one could say I was a fan of the Superman movies and cartoons prior to my interest in the comics, so I guess it applies here, to an extent.

It would be fairly far into the episodes of The Maxx that it would become clear to me that The Maxx was never really intended to be about dimension-hopping superheroics and, instead, was much more about somebody's (I'd suggest Sam Keith's) issues with women. If Superman was the man the Clark Kents of the world wished they could be to impress their Lois, then The Maxx was somebody working out their feelings both about who they wished they could be (still oddly grotesque and sort of slow), mixed in equal parts with who they strongly suspected they appeared to be to the world (a badly dressed hobo in a box with violent tendencies).

The series didn't make it as a cartoon on MTV (and I mourn the loss of an MTV that was trying new things all the time, from The Maxx to Aeon Flux). It did run as a fairly successful creator-owned series at Image for about 35 issues, plus spin-off's and tie-ins'.

The Maxx does not care to debate what the definition of what "Isz" is.

I'm not sure a literal reading of The Maxx, no matter how surreal the material and art, is what Keith had in mind. But its also difficult at times to discern exactly what he was trying to do, exactly, other than create an access point to approach certain characters and stories he wanted to work through. Were the "Isz" the ugly truth trying to drag down The Maxx? If the Outback wasn't real, and the "real world" wasn't real, then...

Anyway, it was a beautiful use of the medium as storytelling device, and the art and layout astoundingly handled, with no choice made arbitrarily.

At one point I had a fairly complete Maxx collection, but I believe it disappeared during a purge a while back. It's a fun read, but I decided to just hang on to the trade apperback collections released a few years ago and available at quality comic shops (and online) from DC.

Its been a long, long time since I read much in the way of The Maxx, but MTV has recently brought the entire cartoon series online. The cartoons are exact panels from the comics, with what I'd consider to be good voice acting. It's a bit of a trippy cartoon. But in the 1990's, when I was surprised if a comic character's costume was even the right color, seeing a comic so literally translated out of the comic format was an absolute revelation.

Click here to see the series online.

The series does touch on subject matter that has become a bit verboten in the ensuing years, at least in part because some of Julie's origin specifics became overused in less than well-handled fashion. But it was also an interesting mix of people behaving like people and a cracked out world of superheroes, wild psychic landscapes and flying whales. All fitting within a specific vision.

Keith would go on to do other series, like Zero Girl, Four Women and others, including a Batman comic series or two. I still feel, when I read his independent work, that he's working his way through something.

Years and years ago, a Maxx Christmas ornament was my first eBay purchase (and visitors to League HQ during the Holiday season can find it on the tree). And a Maxx action figure (with Isz) resides on my desk.

It may be about time I re-watched the cartoon and/ or re-read the series.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Donald Duck, Captain America and Superman gets Syndicated

Captain America

There's been a load of speculation about the 600th issue of Captain America that was released today (two days earlier than the normal comics' delivery day each week). Looks like that speculation can come to an end.

A couple of years back, Cap was shot on the steps of a court house in NYC, and keeled over dead. Since that time, former protege Bucky Barnes, his WWII-era sidekick turned lethal assassin, had put on the cowel, picked up the shield and done his best to fill Cap's boots. What should have been some serious comic-book hackery has, instead, been some of the best storytelling in the Marvel U that I'm aware of (in my humble opinion). Its just been great comics.

Marvel has been happy to try to play up any minor event in their comics in the major news outlets, and did so again today to coincide with the release of today's comic.

I can say no more, but there's a major spoiler after the jump.

Superman Back in the Newspaper Biz

Simon reminded me, so its in the post tonight!, that the upcoming Wednesday Comics from DC is not going to just be appearing in comic shops. DC is taking the format, which I've actually criticized as a throwback, and moving forward to the future for comics. The weekly comic is in an old (very, very old) format of the newspaper broadsheet, with something like a page or two of the story being released each week. Sort of like the old Little Nemo comics or a Flash Gordon comic.

And, yeah, its only a 12-week thing, but I think that's just their test period for both print and online. Oh, and here's some preview art for Wednesday Comics.

BUT... DC is going back to the future. They're also syndicating to USA Today online. What this means is that DC is finally, finally getting online.


I think this is a cool opportunity for DC to dip their toe in the internet waters with their major characters. Sure, I think they should be moving their entire library online, but... babysteps. AND, you guys will, I assume, be able to read at least the Superman comics, and maybe a whole lot more!

Anyhoo, here's the story from USA Today. And here's the DCU Blog article.

Here's some Superman art. Pretty nice!

click for a bigger image. See Supes and Bats in all their glory!

Donald Duck

Apparently last week was Donald Duck's 75th birthday.

Like most kids born after 1935 or so, Donald Duck was an ever present force in my formative years. The pantsless sailor duck was a welcome face on our TV screen and during the occasional 16mm film at school.

Happy 75th, Buddy!

I don't want to take anything away from Donald, but I do remember being maybe a little freaked out by his rage attacks as a kid, and was probably 5 or 6 or so before I found them funny and realized they were intended to be wacky and not vaguely threatening. I think I thought of Donald as an adult, and when adults flipped out when I was very little, I sort of flipped out a little on my own.

needs therapy

It was the Chip'n'Dale/ Donald stuff that I think won me over.

And here's a favorite:

Dude! There's a ton of Disney stuff on YouTube!

Anyway, who doesn't love Donald Duck? I sure do. And just to make matters better, the Duck comics from Disney are something I read from time to time as an adult, so Donald is still with me today, in a slightly less animated form.* Like many, having grown up with Disney characters as such a big part of our entertainment, I may not have a sense of ownership of the characters, but Disney's attempts to make me think of Donald, Mickey and much of the rest of Disney characters as pals has completely worked. When we went to Disneyworld in 2000, I got weirdly excited about having my photo taken with characters, and had a repeat in 2002 or 03 when I attended a conference at Disneyland.

Happy Birthday, Donald! Perhaps this 3/4's of a century, someone at Disney will buy you some pants, pal.

*I think Boom! just landed the Disney contract, so expect more Disney comics soon, if true. At a reasonable price, too!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies

A few years back, DC launched a new series: Superman/ Batman.

It was in the spirit of the old comic series, World's Finest, which had been the series launched in the 1940's which put Superman and Batman in the same comic (it had originally been conceived as "World's Fair Comics", to coincide with the 1939 World's Fair in New York).

Comics are awesome. Oh, yes they are.

After 20 years of Dark Knight Returns inspired animosity, the powers that be at DC finally decided that just because Superman and Batman didn't always agree on methods, etc... they were more interesting as a mismatched pair of cops than they were as Batman being a jerk and Superman just standing there letting Batman rattle on (I mean, seriously... at what point would Superman not just start avoiding the guy?).

So was launched Superman/ Batman, with words and story by Jeph Loeb (the writer of Teen Wolf! and Commando!) and art by Ed McGuinness. McGuinness had come to notoriety through his work on Mr. Majestic, one of several Superman-like titles that popped up in the 90's explosion, and which was eventually folded into the DCU multi-verse (along with the entire Wildstorm Univere). He went on to pencil Superman circa 2001, and I actually have one of his original art pages from the "Our Worlds at War" storyline.

Super Pals

The first storyline was entitled Public Enemies, and drew to a close the long-running storyline set up in the Superman comics when Lex Luthor nabbed the 2000 election, becoming President of the United States. So what happens when he puts out a warrant for the arrest of Superman? And a bounty for his capture? Awesomeness. That's what happens.

Anyhow, I don't want to reveal too much, as DCU Animated is now bringing the story to DVD as an animated movie. The art style is probably as close as they could get to translating McGuinness's unique style to an animated form. They'll probably also have to drop a few elements of the comic tied to continuity, but I'm optimistic that this will be a really fun ride.

The comic was a big, ridiculous action flick sort of thing. Looks like the movie will be more of the same.

Check out a semi-legal trailer here.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

GI Joe Trailer is Go

So, I am not actually excited about the upcoming GI Joe movie, other than seeing The Baroness as something other than a cartoon animated at 8 frames per second.

G.I. JOE trailer in HD

Calvin of Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool is pumped, but I look at this and I see.... Transformers. Big, expensive set pieces, when nobody did the obvious thing and tried to decide if what they were doing (a) was actually reflective of the source, and (b) whether it was stupid or not in the first place, and whether they'd made it somehow stupider.

I don't know. I look at this trailer, and I'm just not sure I can make myself care about this kind of stuff anymore. CG has meant an open gateway for me to think something will be good, but then find myself entirely disappointed. (see: Transformers. Which was stupid.)

Speaking of, here's the trailer for the Transformers sequel, which looks every bit as dumb as the first movie.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bloom County Collected!

Comic publishing company IDW, who made their bones with horror comic "30 Days of Night" has scored a major win, by grabbing the license to reprint the entire run of Berkely Breathed's comic series "Bloom County" in its entirety.

Heidi talks about it here.

It's hard to gauge what an impact the series had on me as a kid, and how much Breathed's absurdist viewpoint impacted how I understood the world beyond Pencewood Drive as I was growing up. I routinely had to check the paper, watch the news or check with my parents as to who certain figures were that appeared in the strip as political or pop culture figures (I wasn't entire sure who Tip O'Neill or Jeane Kirkpatrick might be, for example). Nor was the a-political Steans-Clan much of a place where such figures would have otherwise come up in conversation. This was, of course, all pre-useful-internet.

The political aspect was just a percentage of what one could expect. In order to get Breathed's take to work, he filled his world with rock bands featuring tubas, penguins, and tongue-playing cats. An ex-UT frat boy named, appropriately, Steve Dallas (Breathed introduced the character in a strip in the Daily Texan while attending UT). A personal computer that talked back. A divorcee and his son with a working anxiety closet. And a curious lot of commentary about smoking. The cast was not averse to piloting a wheelchair as they role-played Star Trek. And the ever-wise-for-his-age Milo Bloom. Most of it worked. Not all of it did. But a strip or two later the comic was back to cruising speed.

Bloom County was the comic strip that bridged the period when I sort of lost interest in "Garfield" or "Hi & Lois" and found my interest in even Beetle Bailey dwindling. It was just as I was getting into "The Far Side", but probably pre-dated "Calvin and Hobbes" and others. And as simply brilliant as Gary Larson could be in a single panel, or as much as Watterson could turn from chaotic hilarity in one panel to wistful walks in the meadow the next, Breathed built a world of characters with distinct personality, voices, viewpoints and was able to take on any and all topics from "Knight Rider" to Televangelists to why kids listen to metal instead of Billy Joel.

I'm also a particular fan of Breathed's cartooning style, which would barely survive in the strip sizes of today (think about how blocky strips like "Foxtrot" have become so that the images are legible. Of course, Bloom County was never exactly Prince Valiant, either.). Contemporary to Guisewhite's "Cathy", and her stock five poses, and two faces, Breathed's characters had hair, held deeply descriptive body language in their poses and expressions, and existed in a fish-eyed, detailed environment on Sundays or when Breathed needed room to play. Character design was specific and meaningful. And characters leaned, sprawled across and interacted with their environment.

One of my treasured collections is still the "Complete Calvin and Hobbes". I'm slowly building up a run of the Complete Peanuts. And one day hope to obtain the mammoth Complete Far Side collection as well. But that bookshelf would never feel complete without Bloom County as the main attraction, and the opportunity to flip open the pages and re-visit the residents of that creaky, improbably constructed boardinghouse.

Here's a set of strips that are kind of interesting in light of recent events.

I'm not sure I'd point to Achewood as a direct heir to Bloom County, but the large cast of (animal) characters with separate view points, and who do not have to have their lives invaded by Mary Worth is something of a genetic line, I think. Many compared "Bloom County" to Trudeau's "Doonesbury", and there were some similarities as Doonesbury took on political humor, and occasionally featured non-human players. Both addressed issues in the news beyond the political, but Trudeau's satire was a sort of generational thing, aimed pretty squarely at himself and his peers (as I saw it), where one didn't know what one would expect from Bloom County from week to week, be it Star Trek gags, an attempt to stop Steve's smoking, Opus' engagement to Lola Granola...

The comic is not to everyone's taste (I don't think The Admiral ever cracked a smile at the strip), and these days it reads as a time capsule of the day's headlines, anxieties, fads, phobias and cynicisms that younger readers may not entirely recall or understand. Do they even know the weight of a phrase like "Jim and Tammy"? Or why we thought introducing Bill the Cat to sell merchandise to the masses (as originally presented by Milo) would be hilarious?

If a collection of Bloom County is possible, then perhaps the follow up series of Outland and Opus? And maybe the UT strip, Academia Waltz? Who knows?

Anyhow, I'm pretty excited.

Friday, November 21, 2008


You know what movie I am not embarassed to admit I want to see?


That cartoon about the dog who THINKS he's a superdog. Yup. That one.

The animation looks very good, and the hamster and pigeons made me laugh during the trailer. It may not be Wall-E, but it looks like a good weekend movie for Jamie and me to take in and eat some popcorn.

I have to learn I can't pout about the fact that not every cartoon that comes out is by Brad Bird and/ or Pixar. And this looks like a good starting point.

But I already have tickets to Bond on Saturday, which I want to actually see more than Bolt. So there you go.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Apple goes Super Awesome

iTunes has partnered with Waner Bros./ DC Comics to put a whole mess of cartoons, live-action, etc... online. If you don't already have all of these great shows in another format (say, DVD), then this is a great opportunity.

I'm especially excited to see they've made "The Adventures of Superman" available, starring George Reeves and Phyllis Coates (Noel Neill would join the cast in Season 2, reprising the role she played with Kirk Alyn in the movie serials).

Also, look for:

Batman: The Animated Series
Superman: The Animated Series
Batman Beyond
Super Friends
and the original Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons

Episodes are priced at a very reasonable $1.99, or about $1 less than a comic book.

Go to iTunes and look for DC Classic Animation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A meandering post

Sorry about the lack of substantive posting. But, you know, not a whole lot to report. Jamie and I have been sticking close to the homefront, and not much has been going on.

Mer B.

Facebook is a strange and funny place. Thanks to Facebook, I think Jamie's circle of high school pals is having an impromptu reunion of some sort this fall.

But, I am not without people who once liked me.

This evening an old High School Chum called. For those of you KOHS folks, it was Meredith B., now married and still a Meredith B. Mer sounds great, and it was fantastic to catch up with her. And, yes, she'd found me on Facebook.

In high school I adored Meredith. She was smart, funny and if you were looking for someone to make spot on observational snark, she was your gal. We were in drama together, and were in plays from "The Crucible", to "All My Sons". And she a good actor, too, if I recall.

Meredith's moment of "the show must go on" took place when, in the middle of a show, she was supposed to be breaking ice with an ice pick and neatly stabbed her hand, just above the thumb. Meredith, being Meredith, just stuck her hand in the ice to slow the bleeding and then carried on the scene and then the play. Just one of many, many reasons why I tip my hat to the lady.

She's now in N. Carolina, married to a great guy and mother to three boys. My, how life marches on.

Bagging and Boarding

As for me:

I've been bagging, boarding, boxing and inventorying about 8-9 months worth of comics. Not all bad, but a little tedious. I've also set aside a stack of comics I've decided not to keep in the collection. Not bad stuff, just... it doesn't need to disappear into the closet in a polybag. I can share the wealth, if anyone wants me to send them some comics.

I'm increasingly of the opinion that I need to find a process for shedding some of the stuff I like reading, but won't ever return to. I will want to hang onto Action Comics and Superman, but the stack of Fantastic Four and Black Panther? A good read, sure... but I'm just not all that attached.

I am increasingly more pleased with my Superman comic collection, but its also true that it is a teeny, tiny fraction of the total published Superman comics over the years. There's just so much out there. And so little of it in reprint. With back-issues costing more than a new comic, my purchase of the back issues has to be managed. Lest Ryan go broke and crazy.

Still, it makes it a hobby, I suppose. If I could get my hands on all that stuff easily, what would be the fun?

Web Comics

Which makes me really, really wish Marvel and DC would get their @#$% together on the whole digital comics thing. How wasteful is it to have trees cut down and pulped, paper printed (using noxious chemicals), shipped (using fuel), and taking up space on a shelf, shoved in a plastic bag to take home, and then read in about fifteen minutes or less? And for obsessive guys like me, a ploybag and board?

Digital comics, DC and Marvel. Oh, I'll still pick up my paper copies of my collector titles (Superman, GL, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc...). And I might still pick up trade collections of series that were really good which I'd read online.

I want to love you, monthly installments, but you're killing the earth. You'd be cheaper if you had no physical form until I say you do. I do wonder what the tipping point would be for DC and Marvel before the cost of printing was high enough, and the cost of shipping impacted cost enough that retailers couldn't move the product...?

I wonder how strong web comics proponents (like Lea Hernandez) foresee the whole web-comics thing, if and when it plays out, affecting retailers?

I'm not trying to put the Direct Market out of business. That certainly seems like it would be an unintended side-effect. But I also wonder, if the cost were right, how that might affect the number of actual readers per comic.

Keep in mind, comics used to be shared and traded by kids, so the publishers saw only the profit of one purchase to something like 5-10 actual readers.

I'm just saying.

Ub Iwerks

Also watched a really good documentary on Walt Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks I recorded off Ovation, The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story. If you don't know who Ub Iwerks is/ was, I highly recommend reading up on the man. His contribution to animation is incalculable, and he later turned that same genius to film technology.

The documentary is well done, but seems cleaned up by Disney to make the history fit a little better into Disney's version of things ( I believe they produced or released the doc).

Anyhow, I'm going to be looking at those DVD collections of really inexpensive cartoons to see if they have any of the Iwerks non-Disney cartoons available.

Read here
and here
and here

Completely inappropriate Superman link

Whatever you do, do not click through to read the following article. Especially you, Mom. DO NOT CLICK THROUGH. DO SO AT YOUR PERIL.

Sent, of course, by Randy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Whatever Happened to Bugs Bunny?

Do kids today have a concept of Bugs Bunny?

I ask because, honestly, I don't know. I don't have kids. Several of you Leaguers do, in fact, have the small humans.


A quick glance up and down the TV dial suggests Bugs not only lacks the exposure he once enjoyed, but that, really, he's not on TV at all. The once-ubiquitous trumpets (under the mad direction of Carl Stalling) declaring that it was time for another appearance of Merrie Melodies have been silenced. The concentric circles greeting you with a leisurely looking Bugs munching on a carrot have gone dark. Both have been replaced by 15 years of Power Rangers, 10 years of Pokemon and the decimation of the Saturday morning cartoon block in the wake of the removal of cereal advertisments for children. Not to mention the insertion of "safe" cartoons. Kids now get Rugrats, Dora, Blues Clues and other characters who tend not to shove dynamite down one another's trousers and who always learn a little lesson.

Aren't monsters in-ter-esting?

Because Bugs was on each afternoon and on Saturday mornings, I was in high school before I quit taking Looney Tunes for granted and I realized how much I was a fan. Perhaps it was when Tiny Toons tried to emulate the old Bugs cartoons and came up short in pacing, in witticism, what have you... that I began to appreciate the madcap magic of I. Freleng, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones and others brought to their long-eared alter-ego.

Really... looking back... I think I based my entire relationship with The Admiral from 1988-2000 somewhere along the lines of the typical Bugs and Yosemite Sam cartoon.

Me, the Admiral and the Admiral trying to get me to do chores. Circa 1990.

Mickey Mouse pre-dated Bugs, showing up in 1928, but quickly dropped the wise-guy routine to play straight-man to his friends Donald, Goofy and Pluto. Mickey was your pal, and the rest got to to go off the rails a bit. Bugs, though, never decided to play it straight. He was our secret, private vengeance at the frustrations of dealing with life's insurmountable obstacles.

Also, Bugs taught us the value of the big kiss and hasty retreat. Which actually works pretty well if you can get out of the room in time.

Bugs remained somewhat vain, raised the stakes in any confrontation to absurd and unnecessary levels, and liked to honk out a tune despite the fact he was a bit tone deaf. Also, he had little sense of direction (he SHOULD have taken that left turn at Albuquerque). What wasn't to like, or even to identify with? Under the direction of I. Freleng he was hysterical. Under Chuck Jones... cartoons were never funnier.

Oh, yes. This one.

In the 80's, parents groups decided that Bugs, Wile E. Coyote and Foghorn Leghorn were antisocial and dangerous to kids. It was determined that we kids might take a cue from the cartoon animals on the screen and attempt to drop an anvil on someone. Or stick our fingers in the nozzle of a shotgun to watch the barrel explode in a hunter's face. Or, worse yet, give a manicure to a giant, orange-haired monster in tennis shoes.

I don't know.

The argument did not make sense to me when I was 8. It has become no more clear in the ensuing decades.

In the end, I suspect corporate conservatism ended up doing what the parents groups couldn't pull off. With Warner Bros. maintaining a legal stranglehold on the rights to Bugs and Co., the profits from cartoons as toy commercials became all the more appealing. Rainbow Bright was a 22 minute advertisement for a line of toys, as was GI Joe and Transformers. Bugs could maybe move a few stuffed animals, but... you couldn't move a Bugs Bunny fleet of spaceships.

Add in WB wanting to make Bugs a vanilla mascot instead of the chaotic trickster he'd once been, and what good did it do WB to remind people that Bugs was usually a stinker?

Your reminder that Chuck Jones is a god

It is curious with two separate cable channels dedicated to cartoons and owned by Bugs' corporate proprietor that Bugs seems to get so little exposure. Short of the two feature films, both of questionable merit (Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back in Action), Bugs has recently seemed more like a corporate schill. One wouldn't bat an eye to see the same rabbit who formerly was seen outrunning Hazel the Witch now acting as a pitchman for cell phones.

Seeking to capitalize on the taste for action-adventure cartoons, WB attempted a sci-fi action adventure program with their Looney Tunes stars, Loonatics Unleashed. At least Paul Dini's "Duck Dodgers" revival was pretty funny.

It's odd enough that WB seems unable to broadcast the decades' worth of Bugs cartoons. But the odder still that attempts to revive Bugs seem to fail. Perhaps its the shift in American animation from all-ages comedy to bloated features where celebrity voices are the only draw, or the fact that what animation does appear from domestic animation must be sanitized for the most nervous of parents groups, FCC overseers and WB standards and practices execs. Perhaps there was something to the old factory system of the WB cartoons.

Or maybe the gifted and hilarious animators have moved on to their own projects, from "Foster's Home" to "Venture Bros.". After all, trying to convince the WB that they should use their corporate mascot to shove dynamite down a pirate's trousers probably seems like a professional dead end.

Bugs' expression when working on Elmer in the chair just kills me

In his own way, Bugs is the reminder that the little guy can always stick up for himself. That sometimes, in the face of imminent doom, a little zany chaos never hurt anybody. And it doesn't hurt to be smarter and one step ahead of the people trying to cook you up for their Sunday dinner.

No doubt the cartoons kids are getting today are teaching them important lessons about self-esteem and the virtues of team work. And maybe Bugs' lessons on how to live a life free of constraint by way of cross-dressing and explosives isn't the message folks want their kids to pick up. I don't know. But I do know those cartoons aren't funny. Not remotely. I don't hear peels of laughter from Dora teaching kids the Spanish word for "mountain".

Super Rabbit!

A quick glance at IMDb suggests that Bugs is still working, but I'm not really sure if I've heard of any of these projects (aside from the cameo in the JL: New Frontier movie). If anyone knows where I can see any of these new projects, let me know. In the meantime, I need to start picking up more of the Looney Tunes Golden collections on DVD.

I'm not sure what you people with kids do to ensure that they're getting the best of the best in their television viewing diets. I understand the gut desire to follow the parents' guide to nurturing healthy kids with non-offensive, focus group approved entertainment. And, hey... he was never really meant for little kids, anyway. Watcha few clips and see if you can't appreciate these cartoons all the more as an adult.

Where are ya, Bugs? Some of us still love ya!