- Posted by Johanna on October 17, 2014 at 8:40 am
- Category: Animation
I’ve already listed the 26 episodes contained here on two discs. There are no extras, just clear animation and sound.
The set opens with something of a departure from the usual take on Batman. He’s not operating out of Gotham City at night on his own. Instead, he and a bunch of other heroes and villains — including the Huntress, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Plastic Man, Catwoman, and the Joker — have been kidnapped by Mongul to the desert for a “Death Race to Oblivion!” The whole thing feels like a more serious episode of the Wacky Racers, with similarly exaggerated vehicles. Batman is determined to win to protect Gotham, which surprises the other heroes, who thought he’d have more of a master plan.
The pacing in this series is excellent, as the next episode, “Long Arm of the Law!”, is more of a domestic comedy, a pleasant change from the racing action of the previous installment. After we see how the stretchable hero admires Batman for his self-control, Plastic Man has to take his baby to the art museum to get some “cult-cha and class” (as the redheaded wife? girlfriend? nanny? Ramona puts it). Of course, while there, they stumble into a robbery in progress, which gets mixed with some classic slapstick as Woozy protects the kid and, for extra comedy, a wiener dog named Schnitzel. There’s drama as well, with Kite-Man wanting revenge in a way that involves Benjamin Franklin.
After a coming-of-age story with young hero Blue Beetle in the midst of galactic war (“Revenge of the Reach!”), there’s an over-the-top comedy with the blustery and boisterous Aquaman taking his family on an RV road trip (“Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!”). The series continues to keep a balance between grim and silly, providing a balance and a diversity that other Batman projects can’t always accomplish.
The allusions and all kinds of references, including history (both real and from fondly remembered comics) and other types of stories, makes this series incredibly entertaining for all ages. Plus, the cartooning is just great. Where else can you see Batman temporarily get Plastic Man’s powers, or amazing feats of heroism, or imaginative devices and vehicles?
There’s a JSA reunion and a sidekick mission with Robin, Aqualad, and Speedy and appearances by the Metal Men, Captain Marvel, Detective Chimp, Zatanna, Booster Gold, and surprisingly, since he gets a lot of focus, B’wana Beast. (Given his loincloth-based outfit, that his fight with the bad guy is based around wrestling moves seems particularly appropriate.) Firestorm’s origin in “A Bat Divided!” results in multiple Batmen, including slacker Batman, while Starro makes several appearances leading up to a two-part grand battle with a bunch of possessed heroes.
Before that, “Chill of the Night!” retells Batman’s origin with his parents voiced by Adam West and Julie Newmar. In that episode, Batman goes back in time via the actions of the Spectre (Mark Hamill) and the Phantom Stranger (original animated Batman Kevin Conroy). It’s a surprising high point for what some will wrongly write off as a children’s cartoon. Adam West returns to voice a conflicted Bat-robot in “Plague of the Prototypes!”
The old Batman team the Outsiders — Geo-Force, Katana, Black Lightning, Metamorpho, and Halo — make an appearance before a Flash-centric episode that emphasizes the generations of heroes. There’s a Doom Patrol installment that covers a wide range of the team’s history and a Birds of Prey focus that includes Catwoman, Black Canary, and the Huntress doing a musical number (with some insinuations about male heroes I’m surprised made the show) in order to help restore Batman’s memory, corrupted by a criminal artifact.
We even get to see a short segment with the Haunted Tank and the return of Rainbow Batman. The animators clearly know their old comics, and they’re not afraid of acknowledging all aspects of Batman’s long history. Their use of Bat-Mite is hilarious, since the sprite reads Who’s Who to the readers before giving them a tour through classic Joker stories, even if the “Emperor Joker!” episode ends up a bit gruesome. (Although it is funny that, as the villain puts it, Bat-Mite looks like “someone put a pig in a Bat-suit”.)
Bat-Mite returns in “Batman’s Strangest Cases!”, which assembles three different styles of cartoon: one based on a Mad magazine parody by Harvey Kurtzman and Wallace Wood, one similar to the Bat-Manga by Jiro Kuwata, and the last is a team-up with the Scooby-Doo gang. The final cartoon in the set returns to more straightforward adventure (but with a touch of weird) as the Marvel Family helps out a de-aged kid Batman. Let’s hope we see the final Season Three on Blu-ray soon.
- Posted by Johanna on October 17, 2014 at 8:30 am
- Category: Movies/TV
Finally! Two channels have announced their own direct-to-consumer access sales. In a world of “cord cutters” (people who are fed up with ever-increasing cable costs and so stop subscribing) and “cord nevers” (younger customers who don’t see the need to subscribe to a cable or satellite TV service at all), networks are finally realizing that protecting the cable/dish monopoly in TV provision isn’t in their best interest.
First, HBO announced that 2015 would bring a stand-alone internet streaming service.
Richard Plepler, chief executive of HBO, pointed to 10 million homes in the United States that pay for broadband connections but not a traditional TV service.
“That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO,” he said. “All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.”
HBO already has an HBO Go service set up, but to access it requires a subscription to traditional pay TV. That provides a framework to build on. No word is yet available on what HBO will charge, and that may be the sticking point. HBO costs about $10 a month through cable (depending on the deal), but Netflix or Hulu Plus streaming is $8, with greater variety. We know there are people who are willing to pay HBO directly, mostly just for Game of Thrones, but it remains to be seen if they’ll be consistent subscribers. (If HBO’s service includes lots of past episodes, someone could sign up for a month, binge, and then stop paying. This is why the WWE Network only gives customers the $10/month price if they subscribe for at least six months.)
CBS soon followed suit, but they were willing to say that their plan costs $6 a month. They had to name a price, since it’s available now. The live streaming is only available in 14 large markets, but everyone else can see current programs the day after they air (complete with ads) or access libraries of older programs, including Cheers and Star Trek (with no ads). Sports are *not* included. Since CBS also owns Showtime, expect a similar announcement for that channel soon. CBS has a tougher road than HBO, since with an antenna, you can get their content for free (although not on demand — you’re required to follow their scheduling). Note also that CBS was the only big network not to participate in Hulu — ABC, NBC, and Fox all sell access there.
Many customers have been begging for a la carte subscription models, so they could buy only what they wanted, but if $10 becomes the price point, if you subscribe to only 5 channels monthly, you’d soon be approaching the cost of your cable bill. Plus, you’d be responsible for your own equipment. A Roku box is relatively cheap, and it’s a one-time cost instead of a monthly rental, but the real cost comes with reliable broadband. People who get internet through their cable company will likely find those costs rising quickly to make up for the declining programming subscriptions.
The announcements focus on access through computers and mobile devices, but I’m curious to see which allow for access through devices that connect to your super-large TV screen (such as Roku, AppleTV, Google’s ChromeCast, and so on). Especially if you want to watch with more than one person (old-fashioned, I know), nothing beats the existing equipment setup.
Also, many people are more loyal to particular shows than to networks. People are fans of Man Men, not AMC. Those types already have plenty of ways to access just the particular show they want, with plastic discs, iTunes season passes, or other outlets. It’s going to be tricky, trying to figure out which services have the items you want to watch.
- Posted by Johanna on October 15, 2014 at 8:03 am
- Category: Animation
I used to think of Boomerang as the animation nostalgia channel, with its focus on older, archival programming. However, now it’s changing its focus, with a new direction in the US coming next year and expanded international presence. From the press release:
Turner Broadcasting announced today that its second flagship kids brand, Boomerang, is being re-launched as a global all-animation, youth-targeted network, repositioned with a line-up of timeless and contemporary cartoons programmed for family co-viewing….
Drawing upon the vast resources of the world’s largest animation library — consisting of Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, Cartoon Network, and MGM studios television and theatrical shorts, series, and specials — Boomerang’s on-air schedule will be anchored by such timeless favorites as Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, The Powerpuff Girls, and Scooby-Doo. Along with a slate of newly-acquired contemporary series produced by studios around the world, Boomerang will also introduce a refreshed on-air environment and for the first time offer exclusive original content on the network across its 13 international feeds.
As announced earlier in the year, Boomerang will also be officially offered for ad sales and promotional opportunities in the United States. The official roll-out began in Latin America on Sept. 29 and will continue with Australia on Nov. 3 and all additional territories in 2015.
Outside ads are coming to the network, it gets a new logo, and the aim now becomes families instead of history, but they’re adding original content.
“Boomerang has always been a timeless favorite with multi-generational appeal,” said [Christina Miller, president and general manager, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang (U.S.)]. “We see this as a unique opportunity to not only redefine the family co-viewing experience, but to grow and leverage our overall global kids portfolio and position it across all platforms in conjunction with Cartoon Network.”
Beyond its on-air presence in more than 250 million homes, Boomerang also will be supported with refreshed digital and mobile platforms, including a newly refaced website that features exclusive activities, games, and content to provide a full immersion experience for all visitors. Younger fans will be able to enjoy age-appropriate free games showcasing their favorite characters, while older users can learn more about their favorite characters and series.
It seems that Boomerang will become Cartoon Network 2, focusing on brands families already know. I thought more channels meant more variety, but this matches what is happening with Warner Bros. cartoon release program for home video — more emphasis on products for the kids, with deep dives into their vaults for animation historians or adult viewers nearly non-existent. I guess that’s why, after hinting several years ago, we still haven’t seen the Warner Archive release of the Censored Eleven, originally targeted for 2011.
- Posted by Johanna on October 14, 2014 at 10:39 pm
- Category: Movies/TV
The previously-announced re-release of Tim Burton’s Batman for its 25th anniversary this year has been delayed.
Originally planned for November 11, now only Best Buy will have the set then. All other retailers will sell the Blu-ray starting December 9.
- Posted by Johanna on October 12, 2014 at 7:12 pm
- Category: Comic News
We don’t get anyone trick-or-treating in our neighborhood — no kids around, and it’s too far away for them to travel to us — so we can’t give out comics any more, but when we did, they were always well-received. You have to be careful about which titles, of course, since most corporate superhero comics are no longer appropriate for younger readers, and you don’t want to make any parents mad. But a little work at selection, and you can have a ton of happy children on Halloween night.
To help in this endeavor, Boom! Studios is making a special deal available. They are selling random packs of 50 full-sized KaBOOM! comics (that’s their line of publications for kids) for $19.99 from now until October 22 (so you’ll get them in time for the holiday). Forty cents a comic is a great deal, when you realize they’re normally cover-priced at $4. Titles may include Adventure Time, Regular Show, Peanuts, Garfield, and Herobear and the Kid. With the exception of the last, those are names that kids and parents are already familiar with, a bonus.
If you’d rather give out minicomics, Diamond has made a selection of smaller comics available through comic shops in packs of 20 for $4.99. Titles include Betty and Veronica, Angry Birds, and Plants vs. Zombies. Check with your local store for availability.
It’s part of their Halloween ComicFest event, a sort of poor relation of Free Comic Book Day held the Saturday before Halloween to draw customers into comic book stores. This year, it’s October 25. In participating stores (although I don’t know which ones, since I couldn’t get the locator to work), they’re also giving out full-size comics to visitors, although some of those aren’t suitable for kids. I recommend picking up the Afterlife With Archie or the Scooby-Doo Team-Up, both enjoyable for very different reasons.
- Posted by Johanna on October 8, 2014 at 7:50 pm
- Category: Meta
In case you’re wondering why there hasn’t been very much content here over the last few days, we took a vacation. To sunny (very sunny) California, where we went to Disneyland. We’d been to Walt Disney World (WDW) in Florida several times, but I’d never before seen the original (beta version) park. Here are some photos and thoughts from the trip.
How to Have the Best Time at Disneyland
We have come up with a workable strategy for enjoying an amusement park without killing ourselves. First, wake up much too early. (This is likely because our home 7 AM is only 5 AM here.) This allows for a relaxing, not rushed, start. Eat a good breakfast. Be at the park at opening — you will get to do the most in the first couple of hours while waiting the least.
But first, identify your handful of must-dos. These are the big-ticket rides you are really excited about. (Many other people likely feel the same way.) Read up on the parks before you go, and figure out what you think you’ll like. Head to your most-anticipated first, to start the day on a high point and spend the least time waiting. If you can grab a FastPass to another important attraction along the way, do so.
Ride whatever you can until you start getting tired or grumpy. Then have lunch, then leave. Go take a nap. Wake up, shower, change, and go back later in the day. We found this particularly important, since we are pale Midwesterners, and while we were lucky to have beautiful days, weather-wise, the high 80s temperatures and the sun got to us between 1-3 PM.
We stayed at the Grand Californian, which is excellent if you can afford it. It is the closest hotel to both parks, and it has the one best thing about Disneyland compared to WDW — location. It is actually part of the California Adventure park, which makes it the shortest travel time of any Disney hotel.
Our first day was spent at California Adventure, the newer of the two parks, and one that Disney has been struggling to find an identity for. The most successful bit seems to be Cars Land, which the kids adore. The theming is darned neat, with lots of thought put into a cohesive park section.
Our favorites in this park were
- Radiator Springs Racers — a track ride that KC would go on, because it’s less about the thrills and more about the experience. Fun and involving, with different sections and lots of characters from the Cars movies. The more you know the film, the more I think you’d like this. The most popular ride in the place, from what I could tell.
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree — a whirling ride that was different from what you can find at most parks. Hard to describe, as baby tractors pull you around in a kind of mechanized “crack the whip” game.
- Toy Story Midway Mania! — a more enjoyable shooting game than Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (in the other park), because it’s easier to see what you’re doing and more fun, with pie-throwing animation and such. Enjoyable for all ages. Got to ride this twice thanks to a wonderful park employee who took pity on me after my roller coaster shakedown (see below).
- Golden Zephyr — I rode this elevated spinner at night, which made for a cool breeze and a lovely vision, seeing the park all lit up.
- Soarin’ Over California — We’d done this before in Florida, but it’s still gorgeous. Our first ride, early in the morning, which was a great start to the day.
- Muppet*Vision 3D — although it is the exact same thing as its Florida cousin, the movie print seems clearer.
California Screamin’ was disappointing for me. It’s the big roller coaster (shown in the picture), and if you like coasters, there is at least one of everything in this ride: a full 360-degree upside down loop, corkscrews, drops, and so on. However, I came off it queasy and shaky. I am likely getting too old for the thrills, sadly; if I were younger, I would have adored it. Other thoughts:
- Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! is a drive-through ride where you sit in a car on a track while moving through recreations of scenes from the movie. While I am nostalgic about rides like this in Fantasyland (see below), it seemed disappointing for ride based on a modern movie to take this approach. Reportedly, this is a repurposed “ride a limo like a star” ride that was re-themed when they dropped many of the California-specific attractions. The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure does the “ride through the story” much better. Maybe it’s the music that improves it.
- Each of us has ridden the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror before (in WDW) separately, and so we refuse to do it again. Love the theming leading up to the ride of the abandoned hotel, though, although there’s much less of it here.
- We skipped A Bug’s Land entirely, since it seemed aimed at the kiddies.
Given the timing of our visit, there weren’t a lot of evening shows, but we loved the World of Color. Lights and fountains in front of the big ferris wheel, and parts were even better than fireworks. We were happy that we seemed to be able to do everything we wanted in a day, topped off by the light show, and satisfied when we left.
I suppose it’s the park’s age that makes so many of the queues held outdoors in the sun. It was difficult to get used to, though. We planned two days for this park but really only needed one. Our second day wound up being dedicated to Fantasyland, which made me feel like a kid again, and then breaking early for real vacation relaxation. Our favorites here:
- Pirates of the Caribbean — so much better than WDW. It’s a longer ride with a more exciting boat track (including a couple of drops I did NOT expect). If we weren’t too tired to walk all the way back, I’d ride this a couple more times.
- It’s a Small World — I love this ride. I adore Mary Blair’s designs, and I thought it was neat to see movie characters sprinkled in (Alice in Wonderland in England, Woody and Jessie in the American West, and so on). We rode it twice in a row at night, and it was beautiful. I was impressed that the ride is so much bigger than at WDW, with its own building and several nearby snack areas themed to match.
- The Enchanted Tiki Room — a great place to sit down for a while and admire the kitschy puppeteering. Same goes for Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, although that one is a lot more patriotic. These attractions capture the original imagination and ingenuity that made Disney the powerhouse it is today.
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin — silly but neat for a fan of the film. We took the Railroad over from Main Street, which worked well, and the train is another cool nostalgic ride.
- Our flashback morning, where we rode Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Alice in Wonderland all in a row. They’re all “ride through the story”, but they’re old school and charming. KC particularly liked the way the doors opened to let the cars through to another scene, since it kept you focused on what you were supposed to be looking at. I was sorry to miss Peter Pan’s Flight, but a 30-minute wait is ridiculous. I think, since it’s the first one in the land, people just stop as soon as they get there.
- I should have known better, given my comments about the coaster above, but I started with the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Bad idea. It’s an old ride, and my general response was “these cars need more padding”. You’re sitting on plastic and being jounced around as it clunks through the curves. The kids near me seemed to love it, though.
- The Haunted Mansion had been given a Jack Skellington/Nightmare Before Christmas makeover. I was looking forward to seeing it, but it was disappointing, because the add-ons weren’t as cleverly done as the original ride. I missed those ghosts and tricks. I don’t like the movie as much, so perhaps fans enjoy seeing the characters more.
- Space Mountain had also been ghosted for the holiday, but I didn’t notice much difference. I think the WDW Aerosmith coaster has spoiled me, since it is so smooth and adrenaline-pumping that the other roller coasters seem clunky and jerky in comparison.
- We skipped Big Thunder Mountain (and Frontierland entirely) after not enjoying the other coasters.
- The Indiana Jones Adventure was the top attraction here, in terms of popularity. Even with a Fastpass, we waited a half-hour for four minutes of being shaken in a box. We thought it was more simulator, less track ride (like Star Tours), but no. Not worth the effort, and bad on the back. Disney made a really great move when they acquired Lucasfilm, though, since there was Indy and Star Wars stuff everywhere.
- I was curious about Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, but we were feeling claustrophobic and thought a small vehicle under water wasn’t the best choice.
- Tomorrowland also had a Big Hero 6 preview, but it wasn’t running when we were there due to audio difficulties.
Compared to WDW, Disneyland has a paucity of restaurants, particularly if you’re looking for something sit-down (table service) instead of grab-and-go. However, we did enjoy the Wine Country Trattoria for dinner (in California Adventure), with choices that both I (a gourmet) and KC (who likes food basic) could enjoy. Another day, for lunch, the Carnation Cafe had a great salad with shrimp, avocado, bacon, and blue cheese. Not too heavy but really filling.
It was great getting to compare and contrast rides and try the ones they don’t have in Florida, but I think I’ll stick to WDW in future. There’s much more to do and less crowding, with the greater amount of space allotted to the four parks. Also, more choices of places to stay with a greater range of prices and much better options for dining.
- Posted by Johanna on October 3, 2014 at 4:44 pm
- Category: Comic News
We all agree that the portrait of the comic customer is changing, right? Heck, next week they’re holding an entire conference about the topic. Some readers want to buy digitally, because they don’t have the space for lots of paper issues. Some want to buy only books, because they don’t care for the regularly weekly or monthly comic shop visit or they find the collected edition a more preferable product or, well, they shop on Amazon for better prices. Some are not the traditional aging white male who’s been a fan forever, and these women and people of color and younger readers want different kinds of stories.
One thing that many of these new groups have in common is a lack of buying by habit. Which means that the traditional economics of comics — paying $3.99 for 20 pages of story, as it has become — doesn’t make sense to them. Which is why I’m shocked to hear that DC Comics will soon be charging $4.99 for an issue of Batman. Superhero comics, as a 10-minute read, are already a poor value compared to games or movies or books, many of which can be obtained for similar prices but are enjoyed for a much longer time.
They will provide 30 pages of story for this price, which only leads me to more questions. The reduction to 20 pages came about with the New 52, when DC announced three years ago that they would be releasing all their issues digitally at the same time as print. Digital release means more lead time is needed, since coordination with their digital distributor (ComiXology) and the digital outlets (such as iTunes) was required. Books couldn’t be late and keep this plan running. So since most artists can draw at most a page a day, and since you’d like people to be able to have weekends (to go to conventions, perhaps), that brings us to about 20 pages a month.
If Batman will now have 30 pages a month, who’s putting in the extra? Will the book have more than one story? Or more than one artist?
As Anthony indicates in the piece I linked to, this likely is only the first comic to raise its price. That’s how we got to $3.99. First it was IDW, talking about increased production quality; then it was small indy publishers, who didn’t have huge sales and needed to charge more; and then it was the superhero companies, DC and Marvel. How many more titles will be about $5 in another year? And much further down the declining spiral will we go, as higher prices means dropping sales which means more price increases to make the money the companies (or their West Coast corporate masters) expect?
At the same time, I read that All-New X-Factor, a comic I quite like, will end with issue #20. That’s a shame. However, although I appreciate the book’s writer, Peter David, confirming the news, I was a bit concerned that he seemed to be blaming readers for not buying the comic the “right” way. Apparently, Marvel only cares about sales of single issues, ignoring sales of collections, to determine whether books are profitable enough to continue. (There appears to be some confusion about whether digital sales are included in this calculation or not.)
In today’s world, while I will miss this title, there are already too many comics I want to read for the time I have, so a cancellation may be a cloud with a silver lining. And blaming the customer does nothing to change the behavior that isn’t desired. I think the ship has sailed on trying to convert book or digital comic readers to single issues. There’s just no good reason to go back, and hectoring doesn’t help. I can appreciate how painful it must be to have something you enjoy making (or reading) end, and I hope that the corporate superhero publishers continue to revise their plans to move beyond the traditional issue format.
- Posted by Johanna on October 3, 2014 at 3:46 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Nate Cooper; art by Kim Gee
- PUBLISHER: No Starch Press; $19.95 US
Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress is a useful starting point for the very basics of getting started with your own website, particularly if you want to use WordPress. It’s got a cute comic in it featuring Kim (and her dog Tofu), an artist who wants to put a portfolio on the web. Unfortunately, the two have little to do with each other.
Each chapter has an introductory comic followed by a substantial text section that actually explains the coding. You could read the text and learn all the information without ever needing the comic. (A good idea for later reference, but not much of an argument for the comic pieces being essential.) The text is dense — there’s a lot of material conveyed — but clear and informative. I know having some comic-format material will get this book noticed by potential customers and perhaps attract those frightened by pure text and code, but the comics feel unnecessary, unless you need a friendly virtual hand to sympathize with in Kim.
Even when there is coding content in the comic, it’s mostly panels of a guru telling Kim the same things found in the text. For some reason, her coding work in the comic is set in a forest (?) where Kim crash-landed her spaceship (??) during a dream (oh!). I don’t know why they didn’t just stick with the introductory classroom, unless it was considered too visually boring. By setting up, for example, 404 errors to be drawn as attacking dragons, the art seems to have gone too far the other way, picking metaphors to make for exciting visuals without much connection to the actual content.
Kim Gee’s style is simple and direct, which is helpful in attracting non-comic readers. It deceptively seems like something almost anyone could draw, which matches nicely with the “you can make a website!” tone of the material. The four major chapters cover the most basic HTML, what CSS is, why you want to use WordPress and how it works, and using themes and plugins to customize your WordPress site. If you don’t want to use WordPress, you will find half the book useless, and it may seem like a big ad to you. (I say this as someone who uses a self-hosted WordPress installation on this site. I like the technology, but the book is very enthusiastic about it.)
I liked the book, and I can see it being helpful for a certain type of user, particularly younger ones, so maybe my criticisms aren’t needed. Heck, I’ve been on the web for 20 years (yikes!) and I found the CSS chapter, in particular, useful as a refresher. I just don’t care for the way the two types of content don’t feel fully integrated. I can’t satisfactorily answer to myself the question, “Why did this book need to be a comic?” (The publisher provided a review copy.)