Category Archives: spectre

The Animated Spectre

DC Showcase: The Spectre ~ Also on the same DVD as Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an animated short featuring one of DC Comics’ oldest, and most violent superhero characters.

Created by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, the Spectre is detective Jim Corrigan, murdered and returned to life to become a spirit of vengeance, dispensing justice in twisted, ironic and omnipotent ways. The most notable stories of this character were presented by writer Michael Fleischer and artist Jim Aparo in the Adventure Comics of the mid-1970s. The feature was eventually discontinued, some believe because of the hyper-violence of the protagonist’s punishments – too intense for the times, but in hindsight, some of the best comics of that era.

The Spectre’s first foray into animation here is brilliance! Writer Steve Niles delivers a film noir punch with a horror intensity that not only makes this character accessible to new audiences but also represents all the things about the Spectre that hardcore comics readers love about him. This is the Fleischer/Aparo Spectre brought to animated (after)life.

And serious props go to whoever thought of stripping the animation with lines and crackles to give the effect of an old movie, beautiful touch. This segment was a masterpiece, and well worth the full price of the entire DVD.

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Justice League: A New Animated Crisis

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths ~ The evil twin premise is one that is as old as the hills, and this specific premise regarding the Crime Syndicate of Earth-Three and the Justice League dates back nearly four decades, and now it comes to animation in this new DVD. The science fiction (and now probable fact with string theory) concept of the multiverse has been a staple of DC Comics’ Justice League for a long time, and Earth-Three’s evil Justice League has become legend and a fan favorite. This story brings both elements together nicely.

The Crime Syndicate – Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring and Johnny Quick – aren’t just our heroes with beards a la “Star Trek,” but are fully realized psychopaths with different origins and backgrounds that only resemble the League. They rule their world with an iron fist and have murdered their world’s heroes, the last survivor of which is ironically Lex Luthor. Luthor escapes to our world to get the JLA to help stop the Syndicate. Hilarity, as they say, ensues.

All the characters involved in this animated feature are very in character with the comics, moreso to the cartoon of a few years back, but the comics as well, and I happily blame writer Dwayne McDuffie. He was a longtime writer in the comics, and a fan before that, but most importantly he was one of the main writers on the two Cartoon network “Justice League” series. Hal Jordan replaces John Stewart as Green Lantern, for no other reason I can think of other than his recent animated feature and upcoming live-action film. While I’m happy to see Hal, he doesn’t mix as well with the animated Flash as one would hope.

But I should note that this is not a continuation of the Cartoon Network series so this are really unjustified observations. To clarify that, this feature has an all-new voice cast. The voice casting is inspired on all levels, especially James Woods as Owlman. My only complaint in that area would be Mark Harmon’s Superman. It just doesn’t work for me – too brash, not confident or heroic enough in my opinion.

Crisis on Two Earths is filled with Easter eggs. One early on is when the two teams first meet, we get to see not only evil counterparts of the Outsiders, but the infamous Justice League Detroit as well. And the Marvel Family! That was a surprise bonus I was not expecting.

McDuffie has added an intriguing mob mentality to the Crime Syndicate organization, making them more of a real syndicate – a welcome twist. The five primary members are now ‘made men’ (and women), captains of their families if you will, and all the other metahumans are under their leadership.

Another Easter egg/twist is the identity of the US President of Earth-Three (let’s just call a spade a spade even though it’s never mentioned in the flick) – Deathstroke. And his teenage daughter Rose who protests against the Crime Syndicate is another. Her twist is even deeper as a romance blooms between her and the Martian Manhunter. Yeah, not only is he older, he’s millennia older.

The families of the made men are made up of numerous evil counterparts of heroes from the Justice League’s world, allowing for not only a myriad of guest appearances, but also evil twisted versions of those characters. But logically I had to wonder, on the regular Earth there are a dozen or more villains to every hero – on this reverse-morality world, shouldn’t it be crawling with heroes? Or did the Crime Syndicate kill them all?

Speaking of killing them all, the story is about more than an evil twin tale or the JLA fighting their evil fascist counterparts, or even about J’Onn making Martian love to the squeaky clean Rose Wilson. The real villain here is James Woods’ Owlman. Batman’s darker opposite number is more than he seems – a sociopath who wants to not only destroy the world, but all worlds, all of reality. His is a philosophical act, the only one that will matter. Man, that’s scary and heavy all at once.

All in all, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an enjoyable romp back into the animated world of the JLA. Fans of the comics, and the TV series will love it, and there’s even enjoyment for mainstream outsiders as well. Recommended. But of course, the real reason to get this DVD is for the Spectre animated short, which I’ll be reviewing shortly…

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Sweating 02: It’s Not Easy Being Green

SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF 02

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Reviewing: Green Arrow: Quiver graphic novel, Green Lantern #151, Green Lantern Secret Files #3, Green Lantern: Brightest Day Blackest Night, Spectre #18, 19, Suicide Squad #10 and Incredible Hulk: The End.

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

Have you seen the video for “Papa Don’t Preach” by Kelly Osbourne yet? Terrible, isn’t it? The sound is a miracle of studio magic and visually it looks like a musical performance from a 1970s variety show, I almost expect the music to stop and Sonny and Cher to come out and do a skit about women’s lib. This is in the top ten, MTV’s playing it constantly. How do they get away with this crap? Easy, Ozzy Osbourne and his MTV reality show are on top of the world right now, he can get away with anything.

Kevin Smith is the Ozzy Osbourne of the comics world. He can get away with anything. Thus is his run on Green Arrow now collected into the graphic novel called “Quiver.” If you’re a Kevin Smith fan and want to try out his comics work, this ain’t the place to start. The man who wrote the most accessible comics movie script ever for the unproduced “Superman Lives” has gone the other way completely for Green Arrow.

If you don’t read comics you’ll be lost from page one on this one. Kevin Smith takes great care in weaving his story through the rocky terrain that is the continuity of the DC universe. In bringing a dead hero back to life and confronting his friends Smith has perfectly used Oliver Queen (deceased), Black Canary (ex-lover), Arsenal (adopted son), Hal Jordan (deceased friend, now the Spectre), Connor Hawke (son, and the new Green Arrow), Batman, the Demon and even Stanley and his Monster without fouling up their current whereabouts like most editors would allow. Smith has done his homework, something most of DC’s editors should do more often.
It’s an epic story worth reading as well. Can’t wait to see what he’s got planned for Spider-Man later this year.

I met Judd Winick at the Philadelphia Wizard Con, for a celebrity (late of the only “Real World” that was entertaining, the one in San Francisco with Puck) he was very laid back and approachable, something that can’t really be said of all comics professionals. He was very excited about his run on Green Lantern and so am I.
I love Winick’s writing style, I’d read anything he wrote. I’d read anything he wrote, if he re-wrote the phone book or Moulin Rouge I’d devour it. Likewise I can’t say I’ve liked everything he’s done with Green Lantern but nonetheless I enjoyed reading it. He has made me like Kyle Rayner, a character I’d previously written off as a cipher.

In Green Lantern #151, a great jumping on point for the series we get a new costume and a new storyline. Folks in New York are going temporarily insane for no reason and Kyle gotta stop them. It’s typical superhero fare but with style. If you’re not reading Green Lantern, pick it up, if only for Judd Winick. The characters feel real and you care about them – if they’re just going to work or hanging out or saving the universe, you’ll still wanna read about them, try it.

If you are into Winick, check out Green Lantern Secret Files #3 for a taste of Kyle Raynor’s fictional comic strip to see what else he can do. You also get a lead story by Ben Raab (who also wrote the incredible Legend of Hawkman earlier this year) ably aping Winick’s style and a pin-up by golden age great and creator of Green Lantern Mart Nodell.

Speaking of the Golden Age Green Lantern, Brightest Day Blackest Night is also on the stands now, it features Alan Scott’s first encounter with Solomon Grundy by Steven T. Seagle who masterfully wrote some of the best Sandman Mystery Theatres recapturing the golden age. We get to see Alan’s first meeting with Doiby Dickles, how he moved to Gotham City, his first female companion Irene Miller, a planeload of Nazis, all this and Solomon Grundy too! This is what Seagle does best, takes existing continuity and builds upon it without changing it. A very satisfying tale for the golden age fan.

Staying with the green theme we next have the Spectre who is now former Green Lantern Hal Jordan. In Spectre #18 we have two distinctly different tales that should have perhaps occupied two different issues. In one we have the continuity heavy story of Abin Sur returning home – too dense for anyone not familiar with the whole Green Lantern mythos but a good story anyway.

Then we have Materna Minxx teaching Jordan’s young niece in a tale worthy of the old Sandman series. It’s magical and fantastic in that way and made me long for Neil Gaiman and the days when comics were written up in Spin magazine; too bad it won’t happen here because of the other intertwined story in the book.

In Spectre #19 we have the return of John Ostrander the writer of the previous (and must read, it’s brilliant) Spectre series. Here we get a wonderful morality tale of good and evil as the Spectre confronts Darkseid over a little girl persecuted by his minions. Why is there evil? Deep stuff. Must read. Ostrander is, as always, an excellent writer.

In Suicide Squad #10 we get a lost tale of our boys in green, Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, where they encounter Rip Hunter and the dinosaurs of the island that time forgot. Rock and Bulldozer recall this special mission in a flashback to 1959. Great story featuring why Rock doesn’t like superheroes and a cameo from Solomon Grundy (him again? He’s having a good month. There’s a tale I’d like to see, when did Easy face off with Grundy??). This is the second flashback issue with Sgt. Rock in this series, why doesn’t DC just bring back Our Army At War already? I’d rather read that than this bad re-wash of Suicide Squad.

Lastly we jump over the fence to Marvel for Incredible Hulk: The End. Writer Peter David wanted one last shot at the character, a chance to tie up all the loose ends from his decade long run on the book – supposedly this was it.
I think Peter David ran out of things to say about the Hulk a long time ago. This wordy poorly overwritten piece of crap cost me $5.95!!! Who do I see at Marvel to get my money back? Nothing is tied up, this is an unneeded sequel to the Maestro story from a few years back, David has come out from his shadow of great comics writer to be labeled a hack with this one. Don’t waste your money.

reprinted from http://www.comicwidows.com