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December 04, 2004

"Flood!"

There is something remarkable about Bruce Timm's team on Justice League Unlimited. They understand the depths of the source material they have to work with, and at the same time they made it very clear that their Batman, Superman, and all the rest is in their own universe... that takes nothing away from the full D.C. Universe (or any variation we've seen). This is something different. Something seperate. But it never forgets where it came from.

Tonight's episode, "Ultimatum," embodied this. The source material for what they did came straight out of Keith Giffen's work in the (non-Legion) parts of the D.C. Universe during the late eighties and early nineties, out of the Roger Stern era Superman titles (post-Byrne)... and out of the Super Friends.

And it was glorious. It was entirely consistent, within itself, but it remembered where it came from. Right down to the moralizing at the end of any given Super Friends adventure. ("He's certainly... earnest," Aquaman says. "How about Corny, Superman snaps back. Clearly put out and a little jealous, no less.)

There were tiny touches, in architecture, in echoes of the Legion of Doom, in the names, in throwaway references... and in the final standoff at the end.

It was, to quote X-Play (and many others), a total nerdgasm. And any doubts I had for this repurposing of Justice League are now well and truly gone. These guys know what they're doing.

And how dare they make Aquaman that cool?

September 14, 2004

Stylized art WINS! Whoo hoo!

So, Cartoon Network's Samurai Jack won an Emmy in the category of "Outstanding Animated Program (under one hour)." To do so, they beat out Futurama, The Simpsons, South Park, and Spongebob Squarepants.

I like everything on that list (well, almost everything. South Park has gotten pretty old and tired, and I've never cottoned to Spongebob, though I can accept it's skilled in its own way), but I'm glad to see that when the field of cartoons up for the Emmy is humor, four out of five, it's the dramatic show that actually won. If we're going to start edging towards an America where animation is considered a serious art form, we need to have recognition of artistic achievement that goes beyond "made a good pop culture reference or fart joke."

Yeah, I know. The Simpsons is brilliant. Futurama deserved better its whole run. South Park consistently exceeded its crudity to achieve true commentary and hilarity. Spongebob Squarepants lives in a pineapple under the sea. I grant you all of these things. But just like we're fighting hard to break the idea that "if it's a cartoon, it must be for kids," we need to break the idea that "if it's a cartoon, it has to be about the Funny instead of the Story." Samurai Jack is stylized and beautiful. It employs sophisticated storytelling techniques, frenetic action, true pathos, and gorgeous design. It challenges the viewer all of the time. And while it uses humor sometimes, it's not supposed to be funny all the time.

And it's not arthouse fare. It's meant to be competitive in the mass market.

It's nice there are five good shows up for that Emmy in the first place. It's even nicer The Simpsons or Futurama didn't take it pro forma. And it's nicer still that the show going for the aesthetic instead of sight gags took the prize.

I don't get how I do a snark about Adult Swim and it's not about Venture Brothers.

So, in watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force on Adult Swim (through the power of Tivo), I noticed that Meatwad's added a new shapechange form this week....

Is it me, or did he absolutely turn into Bob the Angry Flower?

Very cool.

September 12, 2004

The unmitigated sensitivity of the 1960s cartoon industry

Heard just now on Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. Yes, I'm still watching Boomeraction. Despite having a Tivo. Go figure.

Falcon 7: Birdman! We've just received disturbing news about your old friend, the Maharajah of Ramadan. He's been kidnapped!

The... Maharajah... of Ramadan....

I suspect he was kidnapped from his Gentleman's Club, where he has lunch every Tuesday with his old friends the Viscount of Ascension Sunday, the Mayor of Yom Kippur, and the Governor-General of the Christmas Shopping Season.

Boomerang is one way to pass a Sunday. That's for sure.

When watching Boomerang on a Sunday, during the Boomeraction block where old action cartoons -- largely Hanna Barbara or Ruby Spears, but with exceptions based on whatever else Turner and Time-Warner managed to purchase so they can run for next to nothing -- it's sometimes fun to play "hey, it's that voice!" The most fun is to play it with Ted Cassidy, who was most famous as Lurch on The Addams Family, though truth be told we don't remember him for his voice on that show. The great thing is, he was gigantic and powerful, and yet he was also a kick-ass voice actor, doing voices on a vast majority of Hanna Barbara's different cartoons (and singing -- singing -- the Adam Ant theme song. It was fun to identify him as Meteor Man in the Galaxy Trio and Frankenstein Junior in the cartoon as the same name. And of course, when he guested on Star Trek as the android Ruk, and shouted with exactly the same voice as Meteor Man that "That was the equation! -- well, it was a great moment of cognitive dissonance. (And made you suspect that James T. Kirk would have sexual relations with Gravity Girl in the next scene.)

Today was the king of such voiceover shenanigans, though. The evil ruler of a shrunken city, on Thundarr the Barbarian, was done with the completely undisguised voice of Fred Flintstone.

Not the original, mind. Alan Reed died some years before Thundarr. But whoever voiced that villain was also the replacement actor for Fred, and was uncannily good at emulating Alan Reed's performance. And he used that same performance on Thundarr.

Years later, Thundarr worked as a mob enforcer for "Dabba Don" Fred Flintstone on Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. I can't help but think this is where they met. And that Barney nailed Princess Ariel. Sure, Barney was married, but dude -- Princess Ariel. I mean, wouldn't you?