By: Chris Giordano
In the comic book scene, and at least those relating to superheroes, there's the big two: Marvel and DC. After starting to appreciate nerd culture and comics in general throughout the past year, I (for lack of a better term) ‘sided’ with DC. Their heroes are actual people, don't transform, and appear to be more grounded. But this article isn't about that, so let that be. I like DC over Marvel, okay?
I can't really remember who, but someone from either IGN or Kinda Funny - probably Greg Miller, our lord and savior - said it best: Marvel kills it in live-action movies (well.. we'll see what happens in the near future), whereas DC absolutely slays the scene with their animated flicks. I couldn't agree more. However, I believe it's those DC animated movies that are based on original storylines or, I'd even go as far to say those that are coined as being "loosely adapted," is where DC animated movies truly shine.
The inspiration for all this came after watching All-Star Superman. For some context, it was the first and only Superman comic I've read to date, and I absolutely loved it. I was home alone on Saturday night and decided to finally watch it on Netflix. And boy oh boy was it ever a ride. It started off exactly how I remembered it in the comics. Some scientist people are on a mission to the sun, and Death, who was sent by Lex Luther, overtakes their ship and begins to attack. The red cape is coming! (See what I did there?) In comes Superman and they fight, y’know, typical comic stuff. It's a great way to start, really. Anyways, Supes gets too close to the sun and the high levels of radiation start killing his red blood cells. Long story short, he's dying, and doesn't have that much time to live.
From there, the movie continues exactly how the comic does. I was skeptical at first, but after pulling the comic up on my iPad as I was watching it, I was incredibly pleased. Before I go on, let me explain some things first: I state that I would rather watch a DC animated movie over reading a DC comic, and that's true, simply because movies are much more manageable and, well, easier to understand. In my experience, reading a comic takes legitimate effort - you invest your time to read these stories, and as perfectly done they are, there's something about it where I disconnect. This is not to say that I don't like reading comics at all, as I'm currently reading Amanda Conner's run of Harley Quinn and it's absolutely golden, but I digress. I guess it's the fact that you can physically hear them, and physically see them move from frame to frame. Reading a comic is much more in the mind, whereas watching a movie is all.. well.. right in front of your eyes. And for the record, I love both.
But okay, let's get back into it. So yes, the movie continues exactly how the comic does. SPOILERS! Clark Kent is a goofy, clumsy reporter for the Daily Planet, reveals his true identity to Lois Lane, and takes her to Superman's fortress. He gives her powers for her birthday, and for her birthday only. That kiss on the moon! I was so impressed with how the producers of the movie nailed the comic. Like, genuinely, really impressed. But then, about halfway through the movie, the story began to part ways with the original in the comic. There was no millions of Supermen from the future. Superman spent a few frames in Smallville, whereas in the comic he's there for an entire chapter. What really set me off, though, was that there was no Bizarro. The highlight of the comic for me, as it was my first encounter with Bizarro and completely fell in love with the character, was completely cut out in the movie. This was when I started to worry.
To be honest, the second-half of the All-Star Superman movie felt completely rushed. There was the fight with Lex Luthor at the end, but still, my point stands. The beginning was so spot on and I had such high hopes for the ending, but the latter half of the movie was utterly disappointing. Another movie based on a comic was the 2009 Wonder Woman film, based on the "Gods and Mortals" arc of 1987, done by George Perez. This one I can't go into much detail with, as I didn't read the comic, but the movie is quite boring. Maybe I say that after being completely enamoured with Brian Azzarello's current run of the comic, but Perez's story is essentially an origin story of Wonder Woman. But again, after re-watching it a few days ago, it feels rushed and lackluster. The great thing about reading comics is that when an arc ends, everything wraps up and all loose ends are tied. This is what seems to be my main issue with these two movies, is that things don't wrap up as beautifully as they should.
Me love Bizarro in comic. Me am upset Bizarro not in movie.
Which raises the question - why did DC even feel the need to make a movie adaptation of the comic, anyways? To make money? Sure. To tell the story to a wider audience? I guess, but the entire story wasn't there. I feel like they're doing an injustice to the comic fandom by spitting out these half-baked renditions of fantastic stories. It's great to see them adapted into an animated film, but at the same time, it's extremely disappointing to see things fall through. You would think that the writers of the comic would write the film too, right? Maybe they feel like things need to be cut out in order to reach a one and a half hour time limit? I really don't know. I can only speculate.
In 2014, DC released Batman: Assault on Arkham, an original story that takes INFLUENCE from the Batman: Arkham games and incorporates the Suicide Squad. And my god, did this movie ever deliver. It's wildly entertaining, extremely clever and well-done in every aspect - from casting and voice acting to animation to the story. It's truly fantastic, and well, my favorite DCAU movie that I've seen. This movie made me fall in love with the Suicide Squad, and Harley Quinn in particular, to the point where I immediately bought the 2011 comic run of them, as well as the 2014 run of the New Suicide Squad. But there's a difference, with this. There's a difference between taking influence from a story, or in Assault on Arkham's case, a game, and making it into something unique and original, instead of adapting a comic book into a movie.
They absolutely nailed it with Assault on Arkham.
But anyways, the fact that the DC animated movie took a risk with an original story clearly paid off. 2015's Batman vs Robin is said to be based on an original story-line. As well as Justice League: Gods and Monsters which will release near the end of July. After that will come Batman: The Killing Joke, inspired by the comic of the same title. I have yet to read the comic, but I surely will.
I love seeing the DC Animated Universe continue to grow, as their voice acting and animations are always at the highest of qualities. But when it comes to the story, make it original. Make it fun and unique. Personally, I would rather see them take influence from a comic (or a game) and put a spin on it. But if you're going to adapt a comic book into a movie -- especially with the exact same title, -- please, for the sake of us all, stay true in its entirety.