Nov 272013
 

Today, I’ll look at my picks for favorite 1990s superhero TV show and movie openings.

My vote for the best 90s openings are “Batman: The Animated Series” and “The Powerpuff Girls.” But I did have plenty of runners-up to choose from…

Captain Planet and the Planeteers

I’ve written about this early 90s eco-conscious series in a previous minorities in cartoons entry. The series has been released to DVD.

X-Men

The 1990s X-Men series that aired on Fox was a lot of people’s first non-comics exposure to the popular mutant superheroes. The series used a lot of plot elements and characters from the comics. The series has been released to DVD.

The Flash

I didn’t watch much of the short-lived 1990 CBS series when it first aired, but did see it in reruns on cable. The series featured Barry Allen as the Fastest Man Alive. The reason (and what killed it, besides its then-expensive special effects) was airing opposite mega-hit series “The Simpsons” and still-somewhat-popular “The Cosby Show.” The series is now available on DVD.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

Another popular Superman take, this series aired in the mid-90s on ABC, and was more focused on being a romantic comedy/adventure series (with superhero elements) than its action-oriented animated counterpart that also aired during this time (“Superman: The Animated Series”). Admit I preferred the cartoon over this series; additionally, “Lois & Clark” often aired opposite other shows I was watching, particularly “The Simpsons.” The series also ran out of steam toward the end of its run; Delta Burke starring as “The Wedding Destroyer” wasn’t a high point, nor was faking viewers out on its initial Lois-Clark wedding, which annoyed viewers and hurt the show’s popularity. Still, the show has a loyal following among many, and its theme song is quite memorable. (And no, I don’t know why they had Clark slick back his hair as Superman, but wear a spitcurl as Clark…)

The entire series is available on DVD.

Darkwing Duck

The popular early 90s Disney series with the “terror that flapped in the night,” parodying various Batman (or 40s mystery-men) tropes. We even got the obligatory “World’s Finest” team-up with Duckburg’s “Superman,” Gizmoduck (from “DuckTales”). Part of the show’s run has been released to DVD.

Spider-Man (1994 TV series)

I enjoyed watching this Spidey series on Fox in the 90s. The theme song’s memorable (and very 90s). The theme even has one of the show’s tropes, seeing Spidey’s webline somehow get cut in half by the villains while he’s in mid-swing.

This one’s also available on DVD.

Freakazoid

Another show I watched while in college oh-so-many years ago, as weird as it was…and short-lived. Kids WB’s execs in the 90s ultimately proved they wanted “Pokemon,” not this or other series of similar appeal, such as “Animaniacs.” Like “Animaniacs,” the opening theme for “Freakazoid” is fun. (“He’s here to save the nation, so stay tuned to this station…if not, we’ll be unemployed” indeed…)

The entire series is at least available on DVD.

Superman: The Animated Series

The fun 1990s Superman animated series featured Dana Delaney as Lois and Tim Daly as Superman. The show also brought various elements from the comics to TV, including Gilbert Gottfried voicing Mr. Mxyzptlk (Mxy in this series was in his Golden Age/Earth-2 purple tuxedo version). Various DC heroes also guest-starred, including the Flash (Wally West, in a “Superman/Flash” race of course) and Aquaman. The opening theme music is nice, even though for some reason the opening on-screen action is just clips from various episodes.

The New Batman/Superman Adventures

A rare example of a post-80s anthology series, this show (running from 1997-2000 on Kids WB) was just combined episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series” and “The New Batman Adventures,” the latter a followup to “Batman: The Animated Series,” but animated in a style more similar to Superman’s show. TNBSA featured its own opening title sequence that’s nicely done.

As far as I know, this opening’s never been included on any home video releases; DVDs give the Batman episodes for this series the “Batman: The Animated Series” opening.

Batman Beyond

Airing on Kids WB from 1999 to 2001, “Batman Beyond” (or “Batman of the Future” as it was called in some countries) featured the adventures of a teenaged protege of the elderly, now-retired Bruce Wayne of 40 years in the future. The opening, however, might possibly scream “the 90s” more than any other opening listed here. Not sure if teens will be getting down to the techno beat (as one part of the opening shows) come circa-2040… that’d be their parents’ (or even grandparents’) music!

The entire series is available on DVD.

Nov 252013
 

Moving on down the list, here’s my favorite superhero TV show/movie openings for the 1980s. By this point, the rise of first-run syndication meant a way around networks’ strict bans on violence, plus deregulation of children’s TV standards led to a wave of half-hour toy ad-like shows (“He-Man,” “Transformers,” “My Little Pony,” etc.).

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

Spidey had gone through a few previous TV shows (both live-action and animated) in the late 70s and early 80s, but this one’s probably the most fondly remembered. At least it is by my sister and I, and other people as well; I’ve seen people at C2E2 dressed up as Firestar, and even the villain Video Man.

The entire series was released to DVD in the United Kingdom, but no sign of a North American release anytime soon.

Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures

The revival of Mighty Mouse helped kick off the start of the more modern style of TV animation writing. My favorite episodes: the return of the Mighty Heroes; the Saturday morning cartoon parody episode (“The Jetstones,” heh); and “Elway and the Tree Weasels” (Alvin and the Chipmunks parodies).

The entire series has been released to DVD as a box set.

Superman (Ruby-Spears)

Superman gained a new stand-alone series in the late 80s, which partially reflected the then-just-revised post-Crisis Byrne version (no Superboy, Krypto, or such on this series), though some older elements still remained (he had his powers since arriving on Earth, for instance). Still, the opening channeled the Christopher Reeve Superman movies’ theme music, as well as Gary Owens (of Space Ghost fame) doing part of the 50s TV show’s opening narration (“faster than a speeding bullet…”)

The entire series was released as a DVD set in 2009.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

One of my favorite openings of this decade is the Ninja Turtles’ theme song. Latter spinoffs’ versions aren’t as catchy, plus the 2000s series’ excessive use of “shell” as an euphemism for “hell” turns up in its theme song—”it’s a shell of a town”? Um, no.

The original 1987 series has been released to DVD by this point, as has various latter spinoffs.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

I had my doubts about including “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” the 80s Filmation series that was a half-hour toy ad, but liked by my childhood self all the same. While I’d consider it “sword and sorcery lite meets sci-fi” rather than a straightforward superhero series, others on Twitter claimed that its use of a few superhero elements should make it count: namely, He-Man having a secret identity as mild-mannered Prince Adam, plus the Captain Marvel-like transformation sequence into He-Man. So for others’ sake, I’ll throw He-Man in. I’ll note He-Man did meet Superman in an early 80s story, where the Man of Steel crosses over from Earth-1 into Eternia’s dimension.

The entire series has been released to DVD.

Batman (1989 movie)

The classic 1989 Michael Keaton film that marked the first widespread media appearance of the modern, darker Batman. For awhile, the opening music seemed to become strongly associated with Batman, at least until “Batman: The Animated Series” and its classic opening came along.

The movie’s available on DVD, of course.

Nov 102013
 

I thought I’d compile a list of what I consider the 10 best opening title sequences for superhero TV shows and movies. I largely went decade by decade in analyzing the best openings, though the 60s or 90s seemed to be the two biggest decades for superhero TV shows (probably the influence of Batman for both decades).

I’ll post the much longer list of runners-up in the future… but for now, here’s my top 10, in chronological order.

The Fleischer Superman shorts

The 40s theatrical Superman shorts produced by the Fleischer Studios (and later Famous Studios) are among the all-time superhero classics. The opening also gave us one of the earliest versions of the famed “Faster than a speeding bullet…” narration.

The Adventures of Superman

The classic 50s live-action TV show starring George Reeves as Superman is highly memorable. Featuring the now-classic “faster than a speeding bullet….” version of the opening narration, as well as adding “the American Way” to the “truth and justice” slogan for the first time.

Mighty Mouse

I wanted to include at least one funny-animal superhero, and the choices came down to Mighty Mouse, Underdog, Atom Ant, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I opted to go for Mighty Mouse, seeing as he’s the oldest of the bunch, plus his theme song’s been referenced in various places, including a remake for his classic 80s animated series. Mighty’s also one of the earliest theatrical animated characters whose shorts appeared on network television, via the anthology series “Mighty Mouse Playhouse” debuting in 1955. Below is the full version of his classic theme song.

Batman (Adam West series)

The classic 60s Batman TV show also has an equally classic opening title sequence. And, of course, the famed one-word theme song…

Spider-Man (60s series)

Spider-Man’s first foray outside the comics also gives us his best opening theme song ever. Even the Simpsons parodied it…

Christopher Reeve Superman movies

While the opening on-screen consists of minimalist zooming credits, the Reeve Superman movies possess the best superhero movie theme music of all time.

Wonder Woman (70s TV series)

The Lynda Carter starring “Wonder Woman” TV series has a nice animated opening (for the 40s and 70s-set versions of the show), as well as a memorable theme song, even if it’s slightly inaccurate—what “satin tights?!”

Batman: The Animated Series

My favorite Batman opening title sequence other than the Adam West version, this opening doesn’t list the show’s title or have any dialogue/credits, but successfully conveys the tone of this series.

The Powerpuff Girls

The Powerpuff Girls’ opening not only shows plenty of action from the girls and covers their origin story, but it’s also an homage to the Adam West Batman series’ opening.

Teen Titans

The 2000s Teen Titans animated series isn’t that long ago, but I feel it should qualify in the future as a classic series. The opening has two versions: one in English, the other in Japanese.

Any thoughts on the list? What’re your choices?

Aug 202013
 

Batman #1 (2011)Last week on Twitter, there was a discussion on how reliant DC and Marvel, the “Big Two” of American comics, are on their various properties. Based on the discussion, I thought I’d look over DC and Marvel’s various franchises myself, to see if “Wolverine Publicity” (as TV Tropes might put it) really holds true.

DC

Going by DC’s November 2013 solicitations, my goal was to find “New 52″ ongoing books that aren’t related to Superman, Batman, the Justice League, or Green Lantern. And here’s the results… the sole ongoing DC books consist of:

  • Animal Man
  • The Green Team
  • The Movement
  • Stormwatch
  • Swamp Thing

That’s all, if you’re looking for mainstream DCU material not tied in any way to Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, or the JLA.

Meanwhile, the Batman books, including ongoing books using characters or settings related to Batman (including villains, sidekicks, etc.), are truly lopsided: a whopping 22 out of 52 DCU-set titles, or 42% of DC’s output! The Bat-books include: Batman; Batgirl; Batwing; Birds of Prey; Catwoman; Nightwing; Detective Comics; Red Hood and the Outlaws; Justice League; Justice League of America; Suicide Squad; Teen Titans; Katana; World’s Finest; Earth-2; Batman/Superman; Harley Quinn; Batman and Robin; Batman: The Dark Knight Returns; Batwoman; Talon; and All-Star Western.

It’s pretty obvious that DC and parent conglomerate Time-Warner rely on Batman a tad too much… which seems to be impacting their media side of things: Batman inserted into the “Man of Steel” sequel, the endless stream of Batman TV cartoons, etc. This lack of variety also doesn’t help DC/Time-Warner in their goal of matching or one-upping Marvel/Disney’s variety of superhero movies. Nor does it make the “New 52″ a very diverse place, especially if one’s not a huge Batman fan.

Assuming $4 an issue, it’d cost $88 a month to follow the entirety of the Dark Knight and his massive entourage of friends, sidekicks, enemies, and even settings (“All-Star Western” takes place in 19th Century Gotham City).

Marvel

Similar to DC above, and using the November 2013 solicitations as a guide, I attempted to find a mainstream Marvel Universe-set book that isn’t currently tied into the Avengers, X-Men, or Spider-Man franchises. Unfortunately, in recent years, Marvel’s gone rather overboard in having made most of its high-profile characters Avengers at some point, and/or using mutant powers as an origin source (thus often tying them to the X-Men books). Thanks to this and other tie-ins, the only Marvel book I could find that meets this criteria is “Nova.” (At least, until Marvel inevitably decides the young hero should join the Avengers or X-Men…)

However, in Marvel’s favor, the Marvel Universe comics aren’t dominated by one franchise to the degree that Batman dominates DC. The Avengers, X-books (even with Wolverine Publicity in force), and Spidey all seem to split up the Marvel Universe pretty evenly. There’s also some books that, while technically still tied to these three, usually stand on their own outside of the forced tie-ins: Fantastic Four, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Deadpool, etc.

Overall, while Marvel could use some diversity of its own, it seems in a better position than DC these days.

Apr 122013
 

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #25Here’s what’s of interest coming out from Marvel for July 2013. Full solicitations are available here.

Comics

  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #25, $4

Trade paperbacks

None.

Comments

I admit my reading of Marvel’s slacked off lately; thus the lack of “picks.” This includes keeping up with Miles Morales’ book. I’ve been attempting to wait for the trade paperback versions of “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” in an attempt to save money (by borrowing them from the public library). There’s also that Barnes and Noble doesn’t carry much of Marvel’s output digitally. However, seeing how glacial trade paperbacks are being released (and again, not easily finding non-Comixology digital Marvel material) isn’t going so well so far.

Marvel’s solicitations seem to be honest, in spite of their current sequel/prequel/mega-crossover-laden nature. (Such as the one for “Thanos Rising” #4: “Thanos kills a lot of people.”)

In anticipation of the eventual “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie, Marvel seems bent on pushing the characters as much as possible lately, presumably to make them familiar to comics fans by the time the movie’s out.

Mar 152013
 

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #24Here’s what’s of interest from Marvel for June 2013. Full solicitations are available here.

Comics

  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #24, on sale June 19, $4

Trade paperbacks

None.

Comments

This month’s Ultimate Spidey brings the Ultimate versions of…Power Pack. In the regular Marvel Universe, they’re a group of kid siblings who fight crime with superpowers. Can only imagine what their “Ultimate” versions will be like (cynical teenagers?).

Feb 152013
 

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #23Here’s what’s of interest from Marvel for May 2013. Full solicitations are available here.

Comics

  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #23, on sale May 15, $4

Trade paperbacks

None.

Comments

Marvel seems well in the grip of the latest mega-storyline, “Age of Ultron.”

This month’s “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” cover seems to mimic the various “Spider-Man No More” stories… plus probably fits the line of various other “a superhero quits” covers, as this blogger notes.

 

Jan 202013
 

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #22Here’s what’s of interest from Marvel for April 2013.

Comics

  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #22, $4

Trade paperbacks

  • Spider-Man: Danger Zone (TPB), $20
  • Spider-Men (TPB), $20
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, volume 3 (TPB), $20

Comments

This month sees mass quantities of whatever the heck “Age of Ultron” is about. In case anyone forgot who Ultron is like I did, here’s his Wikipedia entry. Very long story short, “evil robot.”

Meanwhile, last year’s “Spider-Men” five-part crossover between Peter Parker and Miles Morales is being collected. Not read it (since I was already paying twice a month for “Amazing”), so I’ll be looking forward to the trade paperback.

 

Dec 302012
 

Life With Archie #16Since it’s time for “end of 2012″ lists aplenty, I thought I’d get in as well. And since everything seems to be couched in “best of”/”worst of” lists, I’ll go that route as well. So let’s start off with a look back at the best and the worst of comics over the past year.

Best

  • The wedding of the adult Kevin Keller in “Life With Archie” selling out, as well as One Million Mom’s boycott of “Toys R Us” for carrying the issue backfiring hard. 
  • Similarly, the wedding of Northstar in the “X-Men” comics.
  • “Batwoman” winning a GLAAD award.
  • The present-day Kevin Keller’s own comic, which continued to be entertaining.
  • “Reed Gunther,” a fun Western/light-horror comic. Unfortunately, it’s been canceled.
  • DC Comics selling same-day digital comics through the Nook and Kindle stores. A move away from Comixology’s digital monopoly and their heavily DRMed comics model is a good thing. (Yes, the Nook/Kindle books are still DRMed, but at least they’re actual files one can remove the DRM on and back up…)
  • The 2012 C2E2 show in Chicago. Still fun, even if I could only spend a single day there.
  • Another “Love and Capes” series!
  • “Superman Family Adventures,” the one DC book I’m still reading (unless waiting for the trade paperback for Morrison’s “Action” run counts).
  • Archie’s “New Crusaders” has been enjoyable.
  • Dan Slott’s run on “Amazing Spider-Man,” and Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Miles Morales’ title.

Worst

  • The “Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes” miniseries. Dragged out plotline + my existing dislike of Q (even if he apparently got rather easily captured by Fred Flintstone’s evil cousin, a.k.a. Vandal Savage) + the predictable “reset button” ending rendering it all even more pointless = “hoped that Star Trek/Dr. Who crossover did better with Who fans.” Still, at least this series acknowledged the Kal-El Superboy was a Legionnaire.
  • The shutdown of Graphicly, with the promise of keeping their comics servers up for those that bought books through them…for now, anyway. A big reason I don’t like the Comixology digital model of (basically) paying full price for what amounts to renting comics long-term, as long as the company stays in business/with files tied strongly to a proprietary app. I can only hope the recent move by DC to sell their books as actual digital files via Kindle and Nook stores means Comixology’s glorified-rental model won’t last, and that some changes are in store.
  • The Meaning of Lila” ended its newspaper run. I’m currently reading the strip’s reruns on GoComics.com.
  • DC Comics overall is definitely on this list. Long story short, the “New 52″ reboot bites, and I still wish DC had different, more progressive-minded leadership as a company. To wit:
    • The cancellations of Mister Terrific and Static’s books. As troubled as they were, they could’ve at least tried to keep them around a bit longer, or clear up their writing/editing situations. Instead, they’re both axed to make room for Yet Another Batman-related Book, among other things.
    • DC’s ugly new “Peel” logo.
    • Captain Marvel is now called “Shazam“… and Billy Batson’s been turned into some obnoxious, rude brat.
    • “Watchmen” prequels nobody wanted or needed, despite the otherwise excellent staff involved in producing them.
    • Re-introducing the “New 52″ Earth-2 Alan Scott as gay is OK, albeit at the expense of his now-nonexistent gay son Obsidian, since they’ve also de-aged Alan into his 20s like the rest of the characters in “New 52″ line. (Even Bronze Age DC’s timeline with Superman being 29 wasn’t as extreme as the take in the “New 52″—the JSAers were allowed to age!) However, what happened to Alan’s better half—being killed off right after being introduced—puts this on the “worst” list.
    • Superman being written out-of-character. Clark Kent should never say the words “booty call,” DC. And the “Little Abner” “early days” costume is still dumb.
    • Lois’ treatment in the “New 52″ is still lousy. Given they have a major movie coming out starring, among others, Lois, can’t see DC keeping this up through 2013 (Superman’s 75th anniversary)… then again, this is DC…
    • The Superman-Wonder Woman romance. Bad fanfic/fanboy fantasy ideas given the “green light?” Um, no. Again, “major Superman movie out in 2013″ (see Lois above)…
    • Plenty more I’ve probably missed, but it’s probably easier to read this blogger’s post about DC this year, which sums things up pretty well.

As lousy as the worst of the above could be, the best of comics this year, as always, will leave a much better impression of the medium. I look forward to seeing what 2013 has in store for comics!

 

Oct 252012
 

Robbie RobinsonThis week’s “minorities in cartoons” entry is Robbie Robinson, who’s yet another of the Spider-Man comics’ alliteratively-named characters (though his real first name is revealed to be “Joseph”). Robinson was created by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr., and first appeared in 1967′s “Amazing Spider-Man” #51.

Robinson works at the “Daily Bugle” as an editor, where besides his usual newspaper duties, spends his time trying to serve as the voice of reason to his hot-headed boss, J. Jonah Jameson. Unlike JJJ, Robinson likes Spider-Man, and is supportive of “Bugle” employee Peter Parker.

Per Wikipedia, Robinson grew up in Harlem, and was the classmate of a bully/thug who went on to become a supervillain henchman named “Tombstone.” Robbie also has a son named Randy Robinson (yep, more alliterative naming) who’s a friend of Peter.

In recent comics, Robinson’s been running the “Bugle” in the absence of JJJ, who’s become (for reasons only known to the Marvel Universe’s New Yorker voting public) mayor of New York.

Robbie’s appeared in various non-comics Spider-Man media over the years. His first live-action appearance was in a pilot for the 70s Spider-Man TV show, where he was played by actor Hilly Hicks. Robbie also appeared in the 2000s Spider-Man movies, where he was played by actor Bill Nunn.