Between the Frames.
The Batman Chronicles Volume 1 Comic Review


This year, 2014, is Batman’s 75th anniversary. Yup, the Caped Crusader had been around in some form or another for three fourths of a century. Each “era” of Batman has its own style and tone and each is as drastically different from the previous one as the next. With the plethora of Batman out there, one might be forgiven for not knowing where to start. To someone already familiar with Batman’s mythology through the character’s numerous film and television appearances—whether it be the Nolan films or the theatrical serials of 40’s—The Batman Chronicles Volume 1 might come as a bit of a shock.

The reason for this is that in the era this book collects (roughly the first year of Batman comics) Batman was still being figured out. The first issue—Detective Comics number 27—has no Bat-signal, no Bat-Plane, no Batarangs, and no Batmobile! It appears as if the creators (Bob Kane and Bill Finger, for those who were wondering) were figuring out how the character should work from panel to panel! He’s referred to as “The Bat-man”, “Bat-man”, “Bat Man”, and “Batman” as the first issue goes on, verbally demonstrating the uncertainty as Kane and Finger were discovering this icon as they went. There are a few artistic inconsistencies as well: Batman’s ears seem to fluctuate in size and placement—sometimes they’re long and on the top of his head, sometimes they’re short and situated where his actual ears would be. Ol’ Batsy can’t even seem to decide if he wants to wear gloves in these early pages!

That’s not to say that there aren’t some familiar things—Commissioner Gordon is in the book from the get-go, as is his propensity for leaving the room when people’s backs are turned. Eventually he gains a Batarang and a Bat-plane (originally referred to as a Bat-gyro), though in place of a grappling hook he sports a “silken thread” and his transportation of choice is a regular, sometimes-red, sometimes-black car. But the biggest difference that many fans will gawk at is the fact that Batman’s a straight up killer in this. Yup, Mr. “NoGuns McLetTheJokerLiveAndEscapeAllTheTime” not only allows many of his enemies to perish without making any attempt to rescue them—a decidedly unBatman trait—he guns criminals down! With a gun! That shoots bullets! Out of a gun!


That’s just nuts.

Interestingly, Batman’s first super villain comes in his third issue—Detective Comics number 29—in the form of the generic Doctor Death. Not much to write home about here—he’s just a generic mad scientist archetype with an expendable burly, foreign henchman (in one issue it’s an Arabic man named Jabah, in another it’s a Russian named Mikhail). After encounters with a hooded hypnotist, a vampire, and a “Yellow Peril” Oriental villain, we begin to see more characters that will make a mark on Batman’s history. One of which is Doctor Hugo Strange (who here is a mad scientist archetype with a better-than-usual character design), and the other is—of course—The Joker!

The Clown Prince of Crime doesn’t make his first appearance until a year into Batman’s existence, when the publisher decided that the vigilante’s appearances in Detective Comics were popular enough that he needed his own ongoing series. Thus, Batman number 1 was born, at around the same time Robin was introduced into the franchise. But the Joker’s introductory issue is a doozy, as it’s the most interesting story in the whole collection. It’s easy to see why the character made such an impact—the Joker venom concept is unique and unsettling, as is the Joker’s design itself! Famously, the creators were inspired by the Paul Leni German expressionist film The Man Who Laughs, and Bob Kane was clearly influenced by the character’s demented look in that film. Of course, he brought his own twist to the concept, and history was made. It’s worth noting that the Joker comes off as slightly more moody in this—he smiles a lot, to be sure, but a major early scene shows him frowning at his desk. In fact, he doesn’t make any more jokes than the rest of the characters do (I think Batman has him beat) and doesn’t laugh until the end of the issue!

Reading The Batman Chronicles Volume 1 is a fascinating look into one of the most iconic characters in pop culture history. I had a blast reading through these old stories, which, though they cannot be judged by any modern standards, are inventive, colorful, and charming—if a little rough around the edges. If you’re a hardcore fan of Batman, you probably already have this. If you’re a casual fan of Batman, this book is probably going to be very educational for you. Given the age of the stories, however, it may not be for everyone. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed it and don’t regret my purchase one bit. Recommended.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 Series 10th Anniversary Retrospective

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, here’s a retrospective where we look back at how it was actually pretty rad.

Superman: Unbound Blu Ray Review

Hey, woah, what’s that mixed in there with Striker Eureka and an Ood from Doctor Who? A new shelf? It’s almost like these reviews are being made in a different location than they were before! Haha, nah, that’d be silly.


So, today I’m reviewing Superman: Unbound! I’ve been in love with the DC direct-to-video productions for quite some time now, but I’ve mostly just rented them—I never really found them for a price that I felt justified the expense. And I mean, they’re just an hour and a half. Yeah, there are extras, but I doubt I’ll get the same amount of enjoyment that I would if I were to watch an entire TV show like Justice League. Put simply, the price-to-enjoyment ratio is often off. But that changed when I walked into my local Games Plus store and found this baby for—well, I’ll give you a second to look up at the picture and try to one-up me by figuring it out before I say it. You done? Yeah, it’s FIVE FUCKIN’ DOLLARS. And I had a $1 off gift card so it was only $4. So yeah, the ratio had fixed itself.

The store I got it at sells used DVDs and Blu-Rays that are traded in by customers. That means that somebody bought Superman: Unbound on Blu-Ray for full price, then for some reason decided they didn’t want it and traded it in for Call of Duty or some shit. For starters, that’s a terribly silly thing to do. But THEN, as if it wasn’t ludicrous enough that it was brought in, it apparently sat in the store with its initial price of $15 and nobody bought it for whatever chunk of time it is that these stores wait before dropping it down to bargain bin price levels. This is doubly terribly silly. For the life of me, I can’t discern why this would happen. The movie is great, the case has no defects, and the discs are flawless (it’s a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack). The digital copy is even still in there! Well, their loss is my gain and that’s why I love going to Games Plus. If there’s one in your area (as far as I can tell it’s only a chain that exists in Texas, so that narrows it down) run out to it immediately. Not only do they have great retro and modern games, they have crazy deals like these. But I’ve gone and wasted 403 words! 405! 40… Well, you get the idea.

The film adapts the graphic novel Superman: Brainiac, which as far as I can tell was a retcon of the Brainiac origin story. However, the same basic structure and characterization was retained. I’ve never really read DC Comics—I’m more of a Marvel guy—but I’ve always loved their animated productions. Thus, the image of Brainiac as an alien from another world rather than a sentient computer program from Krypton (as he was in the excellent Superman: the Animated Series) was new to me. However, the film does an excellent job of bringing you up to speed on the mythology that you may have missed (and let’s be honest, there’s 75 years of it so you probably HAVE missed something) without seeming too reboot-y. It makes casual references to past continuity but not so many as to leave a newbie in the dark. One of the ways you can see that it’s an old story told in a new way is in the character designs. This movie came out in early 2013, but the designs feel timeless. Superman, in particular, sports the classic costume but with a color pallet that more closely resembles the then-upcoming Man of Steel film (Just for the record, this is a much better film than that one). Jimmy Olsen has a bow tie like in the old days, but still fits into the sleek world the animators have created. And Lois… well, can we just talk about Lois for a second?

I love, love, love, LOVE Lois’s design in this movie. It’s spectacular. In this particular movie she’s portrayed as snarky and witty (which culminates in one of the most incredible reactions to the villain’s typical “I’m-so-evil” speech) and the design accentuates that to a T. She’s got a shorter haircut than normal and it makes her look more modern—ironic, considering it’s a throwback to older comics.  Her design is great. I love it. I wish I could say the same about Superman’s design.

Superman’s design is pretty great—except for the head. In the film it’s taller and not as square-jawed as other incarnations, and it just looks funky. It looks like they got a moderately sized character’s head and stuck it on his Herculean body. It’s the worst thing about this movie and you get used to it—but still. It just looks off.

The action in the movie is mostly relegated to Supes beatin’ the stuffing out of some robots, but when it does involve humans (or humanoids), the violence takes a turn for bloody. It allows for the violence to seem more visceral—like it’s actually violent. It doesn’t dwell on it, but it’s just enough to make you realize the stakes are high. Hell, an entire PLANET gets destroyed (Not a spoiler, given that’s just part of Brainiac’s character, FYI). It’s not as if you see the people get disintegrated and it’s handled tastefully—just enough to show you how serious Brainiac is. In an age where comic characters are being brutalized excessively just to make things dark and gritty (New 52 anyone?), it’s very nice to see a superhero production where they know how to use violence properly—in service of a storyline rather than violence for violence’s sake.

Oh yeah, there’s also a scene where Superman gets tied up—presumably the source of the “Unbound” title. It lasts for like 5 minutes. That’s kind of like naming Jurassic Park “Jeff Goldblum Talks About Chaos Theory In An Electric Cart”. Whatever.

In conclusion, Superman: Unbound is an excellent buy—especially if you find it for the stupidly cheap price that I did. For that matter, go ahead and buy whatever other DC Direct-to-Video movie you can find. They’re all great.

Batman Beyond Complete Series DVD Review

This is the monolith set of my collection—it towers over EVERYTHING! This box is gigantic—I mean, look at it. It’s about the same size as the complete Batman set Warner Bros. put out, but I don’t have that because it’s damn expensive. This was mighty expensive, too, but the blow was softened because I found it on sale at Best Buy and I had a lot of gift cards with me.  It was a worthwhile purchase to be sure, even if it doesn’t include the Return of the Joker movie or the episodes from the Justice League show that actually wrapped up the story. It’s not a huge issue, though, because the movie is available uncut on Blu Ray for really cheap, and the Justice League sets are also reasonably priced. But I suppose now I should talk about the actual show, eh?

The year is 1999. Batman: the Animated Series, one of the greatest cartoons ever made, had ended. The network came to the creators like Bruce Timm and Paul Dini and asked them to make a batman in the future—their ulterior motive was obviously toys. Well, they hesitated to make something just to sell pieces of plastic to grubby little kids, but decided to make the most out of it. The result was Batman Beyond, a sleeker, sexier version of the Batman mythos which took place in a Japanese-influenced future. This show came on when I was a wee lad—14 years ago, yikes!—and I never really gave it the time of day. I mean, it was obviously a gimmick. Why’d they get rid of the original Batman? Where was Robin? I promptly turned the channel to Pokemon, and I can’t help but regret that I didn’t give the show a fair shake. It’s certainly different, yes, but it pays its respects to the mythology of the original show and manages to go in a lot of really neat directions with its characters, particularly the older Bruce Wayne. 

Even though this show isn’t really “about” Bruce, it’s hard to say that the show isn’t ABOUT Bruce. We discover his legacy through Terry’s eyes, and Bruce is even more surly and irascible than ever. The show reveals the very adult conflict within him, starting from the first episode, where he hangs up the cape after resorting to using a gun in a fight. His life as Batman has driven him away from anything precious he might have had and his age led him to cross a line that he swore against. Thus, he blocks out the world and lives in isolation in his mansion. No Alfred, no Robin, nobody. Just him and his dog Ace. 

You know, for kids!

However, don’t be mislead. This isn’t some talky drama about an old man’s melodramatic descent into madness. Well, not really. There’s gotta be super heroes punching bad guys! That’s where Terry comes in. In order to avenge his father’s death, he steals the upgraded bat suit from the Bat Cave, and sets out as the new Batman. Besides, most of the drama is handled remarkably subtly at times. It’s mostly carried through Kevin Conroy’s astounding performance as old Bruce. Through the most subtle ways you see the years that have worn away at him, and it’s all through his voice. This is why when I think of Batman, I think of Kevin Conroy. And I’m not alone in that, as the recent Arkham Asylum games have proven. He and Mark Hamill, who perfectly embodies the Joker, own their roles in a way that no other actor can ever even attempt to do (By the way, though I mentioned Mark Hamill’s Joker, he’s unfortunately absent for almost all of the series—he doesn’t appear until the aforementioned direct-to-video movie Return of the Joker. I won’t be reviewing it today—but trust me and go get it. Seriously.).

The series benefits from a unique setting (for this type of show, that is) but unfortunately suffers from a lack of classic Batman rogues. There are some very interesting foes, but let’s face it—they’re classic for a reason, they WORK. There are a few that pop up every once and a while, most notably the tragic Mr. Freeze. And hey, they even added in a few extra layers of tragedy! Poor Freeze can’t catch a break.

The DVD set is pretty remarkable. It comes with an art book that shows off some of the backgrounds and model sheets, but ultimately fails to bring that much insight as to the creation of the show. It’s unfortunate, but hey—it’s pretty to look at. The box is, as I said, humongous, and it’s just kind of impressive to simply stare at. The discs are all in one keepcase, and they’re not anything unique to this particular set—they’re just repackaged versions of the individual volumes released previously. It’s nice to have it in one place, though. Oddly enough, with its bulbous size, it saves more space on my shelf than it would be to get the smaller sets. Weird, eh? The picture quality is as good as it’ll get. This is a pre-digipaint show, and it shows it. Due to the way these were filmed—that is, on tape rather than film—it’s unlikely that we’ll ever get a remastering for a Blu Ray. So the specks and occasional haziness is something we’ll just have to put up with. Oh well. There’s a bonus features disc which contains some documentaries and such. It’s a very solid set for a solid show.

In short, Batman Beyond is a show that lots of fans—my pre-pubescent self included—scoffed at, which is a real shame. It’s actually a very excellent show, and that movie—damn, that movie, man. Buy this set and the movie, like now. Do it. 

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1 Blu Ray Review

This box set hasn’t been released in the US. Only in Canada. I had to pay the high import price and the added shipping rate, because it was still cheaper than Disney’s whack-ass strategy of releasing only 3 or 5 episodes at a time on DVD. Add to that that it’s on Blu Ray, and I found the prospect of importing this quite appealing. You should do the same. Well, we’ve gotten that out of the way. Time to talk about the show.

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is an awesome show. It takes the best of the classic Avengers comics and mixes it in with elements of the Ultimate and Cinematic Universe. The result is a version of the Avengers that only reflects the best aspects of the team’s long history. Add to that an incredibly solid serialized storyline, and you have a winning cartoon. There is a downfall, though. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to watch when it’s actually on TV. If you don’t see each episode in order it can get a little confusing. The reprises at the beginning of each episode do a good job of bringing you up to date with the relevant information, but you end up feeling like you’re missing just a little bit. Apparently Disney XD, the channel it runs on, thought the same thing, and they ended the incredibly popular series after season 2, in preparation for a new, more episodic version called Avengers: Assemble. This news came when fans were still sore about the fan-favorite Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon being canceled in the big upheaval when Marvel was transfered to Disney and replaced with the charming but still drastically inferior Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. Many fans, including myself, were understandably disappointed. But the new show has yet to air, and though many will hate it immediately just because it’s not EMH, I for one will try to be open to a new interpretation. It’s easy to be cynical, though, especially when EMH was Marvel’s only real competition, quality-wise, to the incredibly stellar group of shows on Cartoon Network right now, like Young Justice and Green Lantern. It makes a Marvel fan shed a tear, but I’ve rambled about it long enough. Moving on.

I keep mentioning the serialized nature of the storytelling, and that’s a big draw for me. The storyline is complex without ever being convoluted, and makes me feel like I’m reading an actual comic book. The constant trips into the high-concept sci-fi that made the classic Jack Kirby-era comics so great don’t hurt, either. There’s a lot of great stuff here. Radioactive monsters, Robots gone out of control, alien invasions, and time travel shenanigans are par for the course here. It’s enough to put a big, stupid grin on my face, but it could have all been done horribly if the characters weren’t so great. That’s always what’s made Marvel comics stand out, and I love the way they all play off of each other. And of course, in true Marvel fashion, they find any excuse to make the heroes fight each other. It’s great stuff. It’s very easy to recommend the show, but it’s probably better to watch it on DVD or Blu Ray all at once, so it makes more sense.

Speaking of the Blu Ray, it looks great. There’s no video problems at all, since the show was made to be aired in HD. Nothing gets lost here, the colors pop and the lines are crisp. Detail in the backgrounds is crystal clear. The extras are nothing special. There’s a few interviews here, sure, but they don’t really give you any information worth a damn. It’s mostly just promotional stuff. So whatever. This Canadian import is still better than the US release, though, and it plays on American Blu Ray players without any problems as we share a region. It also saves a lot of shelf space, which is refreshing. This is definitely the release to get. 

All in all, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is a show that was canceled prematurely. It deserved so much more, but the Blu Ray here will have to suffice. It’s a shame there’s been no announcement (as far as I can tell) for the Season 2 Blu Ray, but I’ll keep waiting I suppose. This show is worth it. Check it out.

Green Lantern: First Fight DVD Review

I picked this up yesterday at Best Buy for $3. Yep, it was marked way the fuck down because it was the end of the year, and from what I understand it never sold well anyway. I normally prefer to get the Blu Rays of these direct-to-video animated things—animation looks best on Blu, after all—but it was $3.



So I bought it and watched it as soon as I got home. It was WAY worth it.

The movie wisely tells the Green Lantern’s origin story before the opening credits even roll, and the rest is more of an origin story for Sinestro—how he falls from his grace as a Lantern. I guess the Guardians were blind or something, because you could see it coming from the other side of the galaxy. I mean, his name is SINESTRO. SUBTLE ENOUGH FOR YOU GUYS!? Not to mention, the whole time he’s constantly talking about how the Guardians were incompetent. Apparently he was right, because they were too dumb to figure out that Sinestro was going to betray them. Anyway, it all is just an excuse to have awesome superhero space battles. The animation is downright impressive, and with good reason. Most animated projects are outsourced to Korea for budgetary reasons. They’re good, but never really cross over into “impressive” territory. GL:FF was animated in Japan—by Studio Pierrot, if I’m not mistaken (someone please let me know if I am). It shows in the impressive way the characters move and are drawn. At times it looked like it came from a high-end anime production, albeit one with very American character designs. The action scenes, other than being well animated, are fast-paced and never confusing. The story is nothing amazing, it’s some typical space opera superhero stuff, but it’s just so much fun to see the world the characters inhabit. The voice acting is solid, though I kept wishing Killowog was voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson like he is in the current TV series—perfect casting in my opinion. Oh well. 

The DVD’s transfer is flawless, though I imagine it looks even better in HD. The menu is just a static image that’s a variation on the cover art. Nothing remarkable, but it gets the job done. The packaging makes note of the fact that the movie is rated PG-13, most likely to discourage any parents from getting the wrong idea and assuming it’s for children. It’s nothing horrible and trauma-inducing, but it’s pretty clearly intended for an adult audience, with the occasional swear word and even some space drugs (yes, you read that right) and sexual innuendo. It’s honestly all pretty tame and par for the course for these direct-to-video movies, but it’s still kind of bizarre to see this coming out of something animated. Believe me, I’m one of the people who always says animation isn’t just for kids, but it’s just slightly surreal. Maybe it’s because I’m always used to the maturity come solely from the plotting, like Justice League, rather than the injection of “adult” material. Or maybe I’m just overthinking it.

Either way, I need to find a way to end this review.

All in all, Green Lantern: First Flight is an excellent purchase for fans of super heroes or just fans of animation. Try to pick it up on Blu Ray if you can, but if you find it on DVD for the price I did it’s hard to beat such a deal.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, it’s WAY better than the live-action movie.

I felt like drawing so this came out after a few minutes. Didn’t feel like cleaning it up or anything so I just slapped on some color and voila.
I guess she’s an orc or something I dunno
Also Tumblr kinda screwed with the colors and made them brighter, does anybody know how to fix that

I felt like drawing so this came out after a few minutes. Didn’t feel like cleaning it up or anything so I just slapped on some color and voila.

I guess she’s an orc or something I dunno

Also Tumblr kinda screwed with the colors and made them brighter, does anybody know how to fix that

Godzilla’s Obscure Manga History—Part 1

Today we’re gonna be peeling back the chocolate coating of recent times and look into the deep, gooey center of some more manga history. Slightly disgusting metaphor aside, I’d like to mention something that’s rather obscure to the English-speaking world: the Godzilla manga.

All of them. 

I won’t be discussing the American Godzilla comics by Marvel, Dark Horse, or IDW, because, well, you can find out about those anywhere! I’m gonna be talking about the manga, the really obscure stuff that requires a lot of research and work to find. Because I’m such a magnanimous kind of guy, I’m gonna present most of what’s known here so YOU don’t have to find it yourself! You can thank me by sending me money.

I guess the most logical place to start is the only Godzilla manga that’s been published in the US, the adaptation of “Godzilla 1985”—“The Return of Godzilla” outside the US—translated into English by Dark Horse under the annoyingly generic title “Godzilla”. 

I won’t talk a whole lot about it, but it’s a pretty decent manga that adapts the film with some changes into a manga format. This version has, unfortunately, been flipped so it reads left to right, but that’s really all we’re gonna get folks. You can probably find it at a Barnes and Noble if you look hard enough, and of course it’s available online. I’d recommend it, if only because it’s the only Godzilla manga that’s been translated into English. Short of learning Japanese, that’s the best you’re gonna get.

But Japan has had better for a very, very long time. Since the first Godzilla movie was released, in fact! Since then, almost every single Godzilla film has seen a manga adaptation—with a few exceptions, like King Kong vs. Godzilla—in some form or another, sometimes appearing in serialization magazines as one-shots and other times getting a full tankoubon release in which multiple chapters are pulled together into one book. Many of these have not received a tankoubon, though, and as such are incredibly rare and finding information is difficult. 

Before I start attempting to find whatever scraps of information I can and put them into some sort of chronological order, I figure I’d mention two very strange anthology manga: the first being simply titled “The Godzilla Comic”

Yes, that is Godzilla wielding a sword while comforting a fairy-looking lady. And yes, that’s a naked loli holding the Oxygen Destroyer. And yes, it is awesome. Er, the sword part. Not the naked loli part.

If I had to import any Godzilla manga, it’d be this one—because it’s really freakin’ weird. You see, this is an anthology series. Meaning they got a bunch of artists together and asked them to do whatever they freakin’ wanted, leading to some surreal (and awesome) results. And apparently, it was a success, because there’s a sequel.

"The Godzilla Comic Strikes Back: Gigantes the Fire Comic"

Yes, that’s a reference to the original American title of the second Godzilla movie. Yes, they misspelled “Gigantis”. No, I don’t know why. The only scans I could find of the inside are these:

which has a mutant Ghidorah-Biollante hybrid (!!) so I don’t know if they continued that story with the Samurai Godzilla, but hey—they kept the loli!

Isn’t that lovely.

But of course before that there were actual adaptations. Well, I use that term loosely. You see, these were usually one-shots, serving more as advertisements in children’s manga magazines rather than actual retellings of the stories. Very few of these have been reprinted, even in Japan, so they remain a bit of a mystery to us Westerners. 

Oh, and there’s this little image that’s been floating around. Perhaps a manga adaptation of King Kong vs Godzilla was in the works but never saw the light of day?

Well, this has gotten rather wordy and tedious, hasn’t it? Let’s take a breather here, for the sake of everyone’s attention spans. Call it Part 1 or whatever. Next up— the high-quality Shogakukan manga of the Heisei films and on!

New RuroKen

So they’re making a new Rurouni Kenshin anime, AND THE TRAILER IS RIGHT HERE ZOMG

Now, I love Rurouni Kenshin (Though I sorta only watched a little bit of the anime, I prefer the manga for a variety of reasons) but seriously it’s been like 12 years. What caused this sudden resurgence of popularity?

I guess I shouldn’t be complaining, considering RuroKen is flipping awesome.

But I still don’t get it.

Also the character designs look off to me.

Fantastic Four Again

Okay…. comic book deaths.

Why did anyone think this would be different?

The Human Torch is being resurrected for issue 600 of the Fantastic Four after being killed off not even a year ago. I know comic book deaths are never permanent (except maybe Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, and Batman’s parents) but I still can’t help but feel… pissed off. Like, really? You’re doing this again, Marvel? Cap wasn’t enough for you? 

Well, it could be worse. They could be rebooting the entire universe.

There has to be a certain way to portray this in order for me to consider it “good.” They’ve stated that he really DID die (as opposed to when Captain America died but didn’t die), so maybe if they do something like make him have a twisted resurrection or something like that it’d be interesting. But I’m still skeptical.

But it’s still better than what DC’s been putting out lately.

God I f*cking hate DC right now.