Monday, January 19, 2009

Go Team Venture!

Last year’s Comic Con had many high points for me, but the high point for most people was the "Venture Bros." panel. Occupying a full size ballroom, it was standing room only to see the people responsible for Adult Swim’s most popular series currently. The room was packed with fans, some in costume to see the series creator and voice of Hank Venture, Chris McCullough, James Urbaniak (Dr Venture), Michael Sinterniklaas (Dean Venture), and Doc Hammer (Dr Girlfriend (!)). I was there to cover the Con, but I was really there as a fan more than anything. I love Venture Bros. Because I used to watch Johnny Quest religiously as a kid and teenager. When I would think back on the show I would think about how odd it was that these two kids (Johnny Quest and Hadji) where constantly being thrown into life-threatening situations and saw more than their fare share of men die at the tender ages of 15 or however old they were. I am pretty sure they even killed some people themselves. It all made me wonder, what the hell were these kids going to be like when they grew up? Actually, Johnny Quest left me with a lot of questions, some of which I probably think of waaay too much…

But that’s neither here nor there. I believe that the people who appreciate Venture Bros. the most are the ones who grew up watching the cartoons and action TV shows that VB takes many of it’s references from. The plot is hysterical in and of itself, but it’s the pop culture references that put the entertainment value of the show over the top. That is not to say that you have to get the references to find the show entertaining, I just think that is how one gets the most out of the show. The strength of the show is in the writing; VB has some of the wittiest, smartest, most natural sounding writing on television. It’s the writing that attracts fans who are not familiar with the references and the source material for the show. I have personally enslaved many of my friends to the show by simply exposing them to one or two episodes that they never would have watched on their own. Once they were taken in by the unparalleled humor of the show, they were hooked.

The best part about the Venture Bros. experience was that the people responsible for making the show are just as funny as the show they produce. The ease with which they interact with each other translates well to the screen. Watching the Venture Bros. panel was very much like watching the show itself. The personalities of the writers and the actors clearly shine through in the finished product; it is a good thing that they have such amazing personalities to do the show. Fortunately for everyone in attendance, a great show makes for a great panel, and the crowd was in stitches for much of the way-too-short time we had with the principle players. They showed a preview of Season Two, which had everyone in attendance foaming at the mouth to see it. At this date Season Two has aired, and it was well worth the wait, living up to the hype built around it at last year’s Con. The best part of the panel was that outside of the panel you could find people like Doc Hammer and James Urbaniak wandering around the Convention floor just like anybody else. Just saying, the same could not be said of Seth Green. Anyway, this year Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick will be at the Con as Special Guests. If this article has sparked any interest in Venture Bros. For you, or if you already a fan, it is well worth it to seek out their company this year. I know I will.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why Bruce Timm is Important to You

Bruce Timm is one of the most important men in my life. I only found this out very recently though. You are probably asking yourself if Bruce Timm is one of the most important men in my life, one would think that I would at least have been aware of him before very recently right? Well, I say in response, you do not know me very well. I am very often ignorant of the people who are responsible for the things that I enjoy the most. And Bruce Timm definitely qualifies as a man who is responsible for a good deal of the most enjoyable, quite frankly highest quality television available since the early 1980’s. Let me guide you through some of the CLASSIC cartoons that Mr. Timm has been a part of.

Mr. Timm is most well known for his involvement with DC’s entire run of animated series, from “Batman: The Animated Series” on. These series all had a good deal of continuity, which is essential to quality, and ran from one to another in a fairly smooth fashion. Batman blended into “Superman: the Animated Series” (with “Batman Beyond” in between), and Superman went to “Justice League”. “Justice League” then went on to become “Justice League Unlimited”, and next the Wonder Woman animated movie that will premier this year. He also executive produced much of “Teen Titans” and was involved with many of the various Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond, and Justice League animated movies that were made during the DC animated series illustrious run. Now, I must say here that I have always been FAR more of a Marvel guy in terms of comic books, but when it comes to cartoons, DC wins in every category by far. The best compliment that I can give to “The Dark Knight” is that it almost was as good as an episode of the original Batman series.

Batman the animated series had a way of giving depth to characters that one wouldn’t think possible. I always said it had the best acting on television, which was especially bad since it was animation. Many of Batman’s villains in this incarnation where portrayed as tragic figures, especially Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and Two-Face. You never knew which way Catwoman was leaning (good or bad) and seemingly, neither did Selena. Harley and Poison Ivy very nearly deserved a show of their own. And then there was the Joker. People will argue this of course, but my favorite incarnation of the Joker is Mark Hamill’s. He was insane, dangerous, murderous, hilarious, and had the best laugh. You could always count on Joker episode to deliver, and it is hard for any series to be consistently good with any character. As for Batman himself, he started out as clearly having a Batman side and a Bruce Wayne side, but as the series progressed, and really, it helps if you think of all the series as one continuous story with different story arcs focusing on different characters, he becomes more Batman-all-the-time. It makes sense however as the dangers they face become more and more serious, and as Superman begins to lose control of his anger…

Ah, but there we encounter the greatest story in the animated series, the evolution of Superman into a real boy, as I like to call it. Superman as we all know is an alien. And all he really wants is to be human. Well, in the animated series Lex Luthor and Darkseid give him his wish, introducing him to two particular human emotions; pride and anger. Over the course of the series, Superman learns that he likes being THE Hero, that he does not like losing, and he does not really know how to handle frustration. One of the most psychologically thrilling storylines is the degradation of Superman’s control over his anger, and the effects it has on the Justice League, and the world in general. If the last Superman had some of that substance it would have been way more interesting. I mean, I enjoyed “Superman Returns” but it just does not stand up to the Superman storylines from the “Justice League Unlimited” series.

Bruce Tim has Produced, Directed, wrote, and Art directed all of these series. These are quality works, and just part of his professional body. I watched all of these shows religiously, and though I still Make Mine Marvel, when it comes to superhero cartoons, nothing surpasses DC’s masterpieces, and it is in large part due to Bruce Timm. It is, in fact, these shows that have pushed me to want to write even more. So, thank you Mr. Timm, for putting out some really good cartoons for all of these years, when a lot of other companies were really half-assing it. Timm’s work has shown me what is possible when people take a fantasy seriously and put hard work into it; a truly great story can be born, and in some cases completely reborn.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Ultimate Battle

Ok here's the deal. We have a Zombie outbreak that spreads Rapidly, and these zombies are strong and fast, and able to spread their Zombie-ness through bites. At the same time a large number of Velociraptors (nee Deinonychus) Escape from Jurassic park to the mainland, and start laying eggs. ALSO at the same time, a huge number of T-100 Terminators armed with laser blasters teleport back from the future with laser blasters to start the Robot Holocaust early. And finally, at the same time the First class of Space Marines is commissioned, complete with all of their hardcore weaponry (think Aliens) and they are deployed across Earth and Space to deal with all of these threats to humanity.

The Zombies are spreading, and the Raptors are breeding. Also, the Terminators picked up the Borg trick of creating Cyborgs, and can "assimilate" living humans. The Zombies can Zombify the Raptors and the humans. No one is sure if the Cyborgs can be zombified, or if Zombies can be assimilated. Apparently, Zombie Raptors can still heal. Space marines have all of the firepower in the universe at their disposal, and can pretty much destroy anything fairly quickly. Also, more classes of Space marines are graduating every month. So I ask you; who wins? Oh, and all sides start with even numbers.