DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year
DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year is the first — but likely not the last — original animated movie starring the redesigned teen girl versions of DC female heroes and villains.
As a branding program, DC Super Hero Girls has been successful. They found an underserved niche — girls and their parents/adult friends who wanted heroic models for them — and made the most of it. That required redefining some of their best-known characters. For example, Harley Quinn (Tara Strong, in a prominently exaggerated New York accent) is now a scamp with a giant mallet instead of a villain, and Lady Shiva (Tania Gunadi) similarly made a turn for the better. In her case, as with other little-known characters given new prominence, it’s to make sure we have more than just white girls to watch.
The costumes were also redesigned. Supergirl is the only one in a skirt now, and during an early shot of the characters’ shoes running down the hall, all I could think was “look! no heels!” There are no costumes designed to put cleavage on display or thong bottoms on glorified swimsuits, a pleasant change from the comics.
Anyway, the plot of this hour-and-fifteen-minute animated movie is as follows: During Super Hero High’s annual Hero of the Year competition, students (who aren’t just girls — the Flash and Green Lantern Hal Jordan have small roles) are attacked by mysterious, wraith-like invaders. They’re sent by Dark Opal and a female Eclipso, who are trying to recover various gems and artifacts to gain power. Their most desired prize is a Kryptonian crystal Supergirl was given by her now-gone mother.
This setup allows for plenty of action as well as drama. The four lead girls are all facing challenges of their own. Supergirl (Anais Fairweather) is coping with the memory of her departed world, aided by Martha and Jonathan Kent (voiced by Helen Slater and Dean Cain, who play Supergirl’s parents on the TV show). Wonder Woman (Grey Griffin) is struggling with her mother’s high expectations for her. Batgirl (Mae Margaret Whitman) is embarrassed by her dad, Commissioner Gordon, teaching her class. And Bumblebee (Teala Dunn) is having problems with her supersuit. When it runs out of power while she’s in a shrunken state, she has to figure out how to recharge it when all batteries are too big.
There are plenty of interesting cameos for those who know the DC universe. Principal Waller, the voice of authority, is voiced by Yvette Nicole Brown (Community, The Odd Couple). A young Lois Lane (Alexis G. Zall) is reporting on the ceremony and the villain attacks. Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) and Cyborg (Khary Payton) are voiced by the same actors who play them on Teen Titans Go!, a nice bit of crossover continuity.
Hawkgirl, Star Sapphire, Big Barda, Frost (no Killer), Miss Martian, Starfire, and Katana all get lines and things to do. And weirdly, the most prominent teacher we see is Crazy Quilt (Tom Kenny). What an odd choice from the archives!
DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year isn’t amazingly good or something to run right out to get, but for its target, it fills a nice opening and I’m sure kids will love watching it over and over.
As extras, seven short cartoons are included (many of which have been available on YouTube). They’re each about 3 1/2 minutes. (And if you watch them all, you will be heartily sick of hearing “Get Your Cape On”, the series theme song.) I am impressed at how many characters they put in these shorts, making what feels like a well-populated world.
- All About Super Hero High — Bumblebee introduces Wonder Woman to the school
- Fall Into Super Hero High — Harley makes a movie of everyone’s mistakes
- Hero of the Month: Poison Ivy — Ivy’s plants threaten people so she can save them; watch for an ambulatory cactus monster that’s kind of adorable
- Clubbing — Ivy is told to join a club to improve her social skills
- Hero of the Month: Bumblebee — a glimpse at some of her powers
- Saving the Day — the girls have to save Mr. Fox when his jetpack malfunctions
- Hero of the Month: Wonder Woman — images of her powers
(The studio provided a review copy.)