Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Comics Toon Double Feature

As a fan of adventure animation, I've very much enjoyed the recent trend towards direct-to-DVD animated features based on comic books, both old and new. Of course, I love all of the DC Universe animated features, the Hellboy Animated flicks, even the Stan Lee Presents originals, like The Condor and Mosiac. Of the Marvel entries, so far I've only seen the first Avengers film, but I thought it was pretty decent, and plan on checking out the Iron Man and Dr. Strange toons eventually.

Well, last night, I picked up two new additions to the DVD library: Justice League: The New Frontier, based on the graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke, and Turok: Son of Stone, based on the old Dell/Gold Key comic book series of the same name. Both were damned good.

In the case of New Frontier, I must admit that I was a teeny-tiny bit disappointed. Apparently Warner Bros. has mandated a strict 75 minute limit on the running times of their in-house animated features, which meant that a sizeable chunk of Cooke's sprawling, epic graphic novel had to be cut from the animated adaptation. It still works remarkably well, but I was distracted by what was missing. I'm sure that my enjoyment of the film will only increase on subsequent viewings, as I'll be able to concentrate on and appreciate what was left in, rather than dwelling on what was cut out. Voice casting is excellent across the board – one wonders why Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) and Lucy Lawless (Xena) were never cast as Superman and Wonder Woman before, they're so well-suited to the roles. Ditto Miguel Ferrer as the Martian Manhunter and Neil Patrick Harris as the Flash. The only voice I didn't like was David Boreanaz (Angel) as Hal Jordan – but then, Boreanaz has an acting range somewhere between pine and oak.

Turok was a series of huge surprises. The first suprise was that it was clearly based on the original Dell and Gold Key Comics version of the Native American dinosaur hunter and not the later, more familiar to modern audiences, Acclaim Comics/video game incarnations. This is a good thing. The second surprise was the overwhelming amount of R-rated violence in the film. Another surprise was the intelligent, well-structured script by comics writer Tony Bedard, which nicely fleshed out the characters while respecting their history. And the animation, led by veterans of both the DC Universe projects and the cartoon Hellboy franchise, was excellent.

Both films were really top-notch, and I hope that this trend continues for a good, long time. I'm already looking forward to the Batman anime anthology that's next on the DC/Warner's slate. They've apparently lined up a handful of Japanese animators to direct several, interconnected anime-styled shorts that lead up to the new live-action Batman flick, The Dark Knight. I think it's an awesome idea!

Man, wouldn't it be incredible to see my Femme Noir comic adapted to an animated feature?


Charles Gramlich said...

The "Turok" I want to see. I every much enjoyed these when they first came out, and cared not a whit for the revision.

Bill Spangler said...

I did like Boreanaz' performance in NEW FRONTIER, but, even if we call his work a misstep, I think the casting in the DC/Warners animated films has genreally been pretty high. I like the way they pick performers who could play the characters in a live-action movie, not just people with voice acting credits.

Sidney said...

I remember Turok from way back. I have really enjoyed "The Batman" cartoons. They're re-running those on Boom right now and they have some DVD movies in the series including a "Batman vs. Dracula." Good stuff.

Sidney said...

I got to see Turok today. It came in from Netflix this week. I too was kind of surprised at the violence even though I'd read your post, but a great program all in all and good to see it went back to the original.