Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dick Giordano 1932-2010

There is very sad news today, award-winning comics legend Dick Giordano has passed away. He began as an artist in the 1950s with Charlton Comics and soon rose to editor-in-chief as he introduced their action hero line and brought in many new talents who would themselves later become legends in the field.

The realistic art style that defined the realism of the 1970s was largely due to his distinctive inking. Any artist he inked became instant dynamic, among them Neal Adams, Dick Dillin and Ross Andru. Some of the best known and loved versions of Batman, Wonder Woman, the Human Target and especially Green Lantern and Green Arrow hold his brilliant lines.

As an editor at DC Comics, Giordano helped to relaunch many of their characters in the 1980s. He helped create their mature imprint Vertigo, brought in talent from the UK like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, and was instrumental in the fight for creators’ rights.

His legacy and inspiration is evident in every facet of the comics industry both inside and outside. We have lost one of the great ones. Dick Giordano will be missed. Rest in peace, sir.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Iron Man Extremis

Iron Man Extremis, written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Adi Granov, - the Motion Comic - comes to iTunes on April 16th. Be there!

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Robert Culp 1930-2010

Television icon Robert Culp was pronounced dead earlier today. Apparently he had fallen while taking a walk in Los Angeles and died. He was 79.

The Emmy-nominated Culp was probably best known for playing opposite Bill Cosby in the groundbreaking "I Spy" in the 1960s and then in the 1980s with William Katt in "The Greatest American Hero." His television career however lasted over five decades including roles on "The Outer Limits," "Trackdown," "The Man from UNCLE," "Columbo" and "Everybody Loves Raymond." He also appeared in many films including Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and The Pelican Brief. Besides acting, Culp also wrote and directed on many of his projects as well.

I actually met the man and had a chance to speak with him for a bit at last year's New York Comic Con. He was friendly, forthcoming and proud of his work. His knowledge of the television field both in front of and behind the camera was phenomenal. It was a pleasure to have had those few moments with such a great man. Robert Culp will be missed.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mighty Avengers #35 Reviewed at Avengers Forever

"Ultron Lives…" - my comic book review of Mighty Avengers #35, by Dan Slott and Khoi Pham, is now online at Avengers Forever.

Alone in Infinite Avengers Mansion, Henry Pym and Codename Blackjack face off against the Avengers’ greatest enemy Utron and his ten billion brides - all this and more - check out my review here:

Also at the AF website, check this out:

"Avengers Assemble… Briefly" - my comic book review of Siege #3, by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, is now online at Avengers Forever.

The real Captain America emerges and assembles a force of Avengers to take on Norman Osborn’s forces in the battle for Asgard, and Thor versus Sentry - all this and more - check out my review here:


If you want to discuss these reviews, these issues or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

And if you'd like to make a donation to keep Avengers Forever online, click here. Thanks!

Avengers Assemble!

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Now This Is More Like It

In my opinion, what's been missing so far in this year's crop of Eurovision entries has been that bizarre campy quality. Lithuania more than makes up for it with "East European Funk" by InCulto. Best I've heard so far too.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Aquaman Returns

My friend Rob Kelly is a guy with a lot of passion. Whether it’s his work or his hobbies, he puts everything he has into it. Case in point – his brainchild the Aquaman Shrine. His love and respect for the Aquaman character knows no bounds and his passion to see Aquaman get the props he deserves is phenomenal.

When the sea king, in his most classic and recognizable form, was set to return in the pages of The Brave and the Bold, Rob set up a campaign to make sure as many folks as possible were both aware of and ordered the issue. Even here at Welcome to Hell I supported the effort.

Yesterday Brave and the Bold #32 came out, featuring the classic Aquaman and Jack Kirby’s The Demon, and here’s my review...

Writer J. Michael Straczynski has been rolling throughout time and space in the DC Universe with his tales in Brave and the Bold, and this issue marks the subtitle on the cover ”Lost Stories of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” to further ensure he wouldn’t be hindered by continuity. Sometimes the complicated soap opera mythology of comics gets in the way of telling stories. If you want to read good stories and worry about that tangled mess – JMS’ Brave and the Bold is for you.

This issue, illustrated by frequent collaborator Jesus Saiz, is no different. This done-in-one story brings the classic Aquaman together with The Demon to stop a decidedly Lovecraftian elder entity from entering our dimension. An excellent short story, “Night Gods” tells the tale of Whitford Crane who is trying to find out if he’s insane or not by digging up his friend’s grave. When captured he relates the story from his point of view. The first two pages have the feel of the old 1970s DC horror comics. I could almost see the Phantom Stranger appearing next, but instead it’s the rather odd pairing of Aquaman and the Demon.

The unlikely duo get together once a year to stop this invasion of an elder god into our world, and poor Whitford is stuck in the middle. While Lovecraft is more in the Demon’s field, the focus is actually more on Aquaman. As a man of the sea himself, Crane has a healthy respect for Aquaman, and his narration lovingly paints him as the dynamic hero he is. The sea king’s underwater fighting prowess and especially his telepathic powers are displayed breathtakingly.

I agree with Rob wholeheartedly that this is the Aquaman we want, and hopefully sales on this issue should tell DC Comics how much we feel this. And even if you’re not an Aquaman fan, or even a comics fan, Brave and the Bold demonstrates what good storytelling is all about. Definitely check it out. Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alex Chilton 1950-2010

Influential rock musician Alex Chilton died earlier today in New Orleans.

Chilton as a teenager was the lead singer of the pop group the Box Tops and later with alternative underground giant Big Star. The bands and performers who would rule the 1980s and 90s would name Big Star as a major influence. The Replacements memorialized Alex Chilton in their song named after him.

Chilton was scheduled to perform with Big Star this weekend at South by Southwest in Austin TX. The man will be missed.

Photo by Philippe Brizard.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

RIP Peter Graves

Veteran television actor Peter Graves was found dead today in his home in Los Angeles. He was 83.

Everyone's individual age and point of reference determines how one knows Peter Graves. He has worked almost non-stop for several decades, with long runs in both TV versions of "Mission: Impossible," as the narrator of "Biography," and was particularly memorable in the two Airplane! movies.

Peter Graves appeared in more than a hundred different television and film roles. We have lost a piece of TV history. He will be missed.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Merlin Olsen Dies

Merlin Olsen passed away yesterday of mesothelioma. He was only 69.

THe NFL Hall of Famer was one of the greatest defensive linesmen of our time when he played for the Los Angeles Rams as part of the 'fearsome foursome,' and then embarked on a successful television career.

Besides commercials and commenatating on football games, he had long-running roles in "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy." He'll be missed.

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Mighty Avengers #34 Review and Chat

"Undone" - my comic book review of Mighty Avengers #34, by Dan Slott and Neil Edwards, is now online at Avengers Forever.

Thor vs. Quicksilver, the Mighty Avengers vs. Loki, the Wasp starts to lose it, everything begins to fall apart, and the deadly Ultron is waiting in the wings - all this and more - check out my review here:


If you want to discuss this review, this issue or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

And don’t forget – Friday evening, March 12th, at 8 PM EST – chat live with other Avengers fans about this issue, this review, New Avengers #62, the Heroic Age, Siege, or anything Avengers-related.

Come to the Avengers Forever Chatroom and check it out!

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Romania Heats Up Eurovision

Another hot entry into this year's Eurovision Song Contest - from Romania, "Playing with Fire" by Paula Seling & Ovi.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Siege #2 Reviewed at Avengers Forever

"Bendis’ Greatest Triumph" - my comic book review of Siege #2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, is now online at Avengers Forever.

Death, mayhem, carnage, evisceration, Thor, Sentry, Osborn, Ares and the Avengers assembled - all this and more - check out my review here:


If you want to discuss this review, this issue or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

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Bad Ronald

Bad Ronald ~ In the early to mid-1970s ABC did tons of TV movies, also known as telemovies or movies of the week. The best of these were low-budget yet very memorable horror thrillers. Warner Home Video has finally released some of these lost classics on DVD in their Archives Collection.

One of these was Bad Ronald, based on the book by science fiction writer Jack Vance, and starring Scott Jacoby (Mario from The Little Girl who Lives Down the Lane) in the title role and Kim Hunter (Zira from Planet of the Apes) as his mother.

Social misfit Ronald accidentally kills one of his tormentors and his equally twisted smothering mother hides him away in a secret room in their house. When Mom heads to the hospital and dies, Ronald falls deeper into dementia. When a family moves into the newly vacant house, and one of the daughters begins dating the victim’s older brother – it gets really creepy as he starts drilling peepholes in walls and pillaging their fridge for food.

A wannabe writer, Ronald, in his loneliness, begins to blur the line between reality and his fantasy world of Atranta, envisioning the daughter as his princess and the boyfriend as an evil duke. When the parents go away for the weekend, Ronald comes out to play, and things take a wild turn into horror movie land and the fun begins.

The stranger living in the walls idea is a classic of the genre, almost as notorious as ‘the calls are coming from inside the house,’ and Bad Ronald is a classic in its own right. I’m glad this is finally out on DVD.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Corey Haim Dead at 38

Fallen teen idol from the 1980s Corey Haim was found dead this morning in Los Angeles, possibly from a drug overdose. The star had increasingly difficult problems with drugs throughout his career.

Haim was most prominently known as one of “The Two Coreys,” (also the name of their recent short-lived reality show) who sometimes along with fellow child star Corey Feldman starred in a number of successful films in the 1980s including The Lost Boys, License to Drive, Watchers and Lucas.

In recent years he had become more of a joke and trivia question answer than anything else, and a poster child for teen stars who can’t make the transition to adulthood. Let’s hope Corey has found the peace he couldn’t find in life.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Gamer ~ An interesting new role for “Dexter” lead actor Michael C. Hall and an old idea for a movie with 21st century gaming trappings make this flick much better than it should be. New spins all around are a good thing it would seem. The problem is it gets old rather quickly even with its shiny new skin.

The story itself, evil computer entrepreneur builds the ultimate virtual game with real people and then takes it a step further – a first person shooter where the player controls a real death row prisoner in a real firefight. This is accomplished through the magic of nanotechnology. Add some good music, some hip stars, and mix, you have Gamer.

There’s not nearly enough of Ludakris, or Kyra Sedgewick who is deliciously diabolical here. Gerard Butler is functional at best as a stereotype Kurt Russell tough guy from a dozen different movies. Michael C. Hall however steals the show as a decidedly un-Dexter-like psychopath. The dance number at the end (no, I’m not kidding) however, is decidedly effed up.

Question – and it’s the flaw that kinda ruins the flick for me, and throws the whole plot into chaos – if you have nanites injected into your brain, wouldn’t it be a simple matter to have a nanite GPS or tracking system? It’s only logical in my mind, but of course it wrecks the most of the story here.

Neat concepts, interesting acting and great soundtrack make this a worthwhile watch, but don’t pay too much for it. Must see for the genre folks.

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Now That's Eurovision

After dreary ballad after dreary ballad, finally The Netherlands offer something more in the spirit of past Eurovision Song Contests. Their entry for this year is the quirky and catchy "Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie)" by seventeen year-old Sieneke.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Random Thoughts on the 82nd Annual Academy Awards

The best, absolute best, part of the whole thing was the opening number with Neil Patrick Harris. After only five minutes with co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, I was bored to sleepy tears. Why the hell couldn’t NPH have hosted? At least I could have stayed awake – and I was even rocking the fast-forward button and was bored with Martin and Baldwin. There was no chemistry and especially no humor. NPH for next year’s show, folks, okay?

I thought the animated bit was brilliant, and as I said, if Up won, it took it out of the running for Best Picture. More bits like this would be welcomed. On the presenters, I found them more engaging and refreshing by far than Martin and Baldwin – why not next time just have a dozen different presenters and no hosts? And why didn’t they have each song performed live on the show? That’s something that folks look forward to – why get rid of it? Hopefully not to make more time for Martin and Baldwin’s nonsense...

The entire presentation for Best Screenplay with Tina Fey and Robert Downey, Jr. was brilliant. If we’re talking about how to make this show better, this is a step in the right direction. But, who dressed Downey? Wow. Also on the right track was the tribute to John Hughes. Double wow.

On the bad side, halfway through the Awards I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the clips that frequently were cut rife with spoilers and misinterpretations. These were done for each acting and Best Picture presentations mostly but I really wonder how the folks involved in those films and performances felt about them. Stanley Tucci was visibly shaken when the clip of his Supporting Actor bit was shown.

Ben Stiller should join Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as unfunny people who should never host the Awards. Mo’Nique gave a near perfect Oscar speech, just enough of what should be in there, and not too much of shouldn’t. I see the tradition of playing folks off when they go too long is still in place – and still very selective. The tribute to Horror was a bit odd. And wasn’t Silence of the Lambs quite some time after The Exorcist? Someone on the Oscar writing staff needs to do their research better.

The intentional inclusions of clips of Martin and Baldwin in the tributes for no other real reason other than they were the hosts were becoming quite irritating as well. Not as much as their actual hosting however. The dancers doing their thing to the scores was no satisfying substitution for song performances, in my opinion. On the other hand, James Taylor singing “In My Life” during the memoriam was a really nice touch, another highlight. But where were Bea Arthur and Farrah Fawcett?

It was cool for me to see two of my favorite directors, Pedro Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino giving away the Best Foreign Film Oscar, a real treat. And what was up with the lamp background? Did the Academy run out of money when it came to stage backdrops?

On the winners, I was glad Michael Giacchino won for Best Score, as he’s my favorite composer these days. I had at least a few of my guesses right. You guys were close but not quite right with the poll to the right, as The Hurt Locker won Best Picture. All in all, this was a tolerable show, not great but not abysmal either. Remember, next year, get Neil Patrick Harris for the whole show.

And oh yeah, go, Sandra!

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Alice's New Adventures in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland ~ This 2010 edition of the Lewis Carroll stories was masterminded by Tim Burton and presents a tale that is both a sequel and a re-imagining of the Alice saga. It’s been highlighted with the best special effects CGI and Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX can offer.

There’s been a lot of hype about this movie, and just like its creative predecessor, Avatar, I had the same thought leaving the theatre – where did the money go? Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s up on the screen, but it’s neither in the writing nor in the acting. The plot is at times slow and boring and at best predictable. Title player Mia Wasikowska and Knave of Hearts Crispin Glover aside, the cast sleepwalks through this special effects extravaganza. Wasikowska is someone to watch.

And those that don’t drift through – Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, both day-glo nightmares given CGI life – overact and hog the screen mercilessly. And none of it is pleasurable. I cringed when either of these two were on screen. Depp is really only likable for a few moments toward the end, but by that time it was too late.

This is a good film, and a visual spectacle that must be seen – preferably in 3-D and in IMAX to get the ful effect, but I couldn’t help thinking it could have been much better. I mean, if you’ve already spent, let’s say, $300 million, why not invest another five mil to get the script up to snuff? The all-too-brief bright and shiny scenes in which we see the young Alice experiencing the original Wonderland adventures made me yearn to have seen more. Perhaps half that and half this dark Burtonesque Wonderland with the adult Alice would have worked better both visually and storywise.

All in all, this is recommended, but on the whole a disappointment of what could have been. The battle at the end is a sight that is on a scale with the end conflict of Avatar. Definitely see it, despite my small quibbles, and see it on the big screen.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. ~ I am never happy when confronted with propaganda presented by the Health Nazis but I always walk into such situations with an open mind. But I have to say that the hard-to-negotiate DVD menu and the lack of proper subtitles did not put me and Food, Inc. off to a good start. The film was based on two books, "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser and "The Omnivore’s Dilemma" by Michael Pollan, both leaders in the Health Nazi movement.

Director Robert Kenner begins by suggesting we have been hoodwinked by the traditional perception of farming, but have we really? Anyone who can read, use the internet or otherwise think and explore for themselves will tell you it’s no secret. There is no conspiracy here, except to the ignorant, otherwise the two books mentioned above would never have been published.

Kenner falls into the Michael Moore school of filmmaking – give your mission statement and then only present facts to back that up and nothing that disproves it. At least Kenner doesn’t set anyone up or make things up, and also unlike Moore, he’s a good filmmaker. His thesis is that fast food is bad. And over an hour and a half goes toward proving that. There is some hard to watch footage here and some rough knowledge but it’s a brutal necessity if we want to continue to eat as we do.

Also, added to the list of things that are bad should be money and technology. It should be noted however, without both of those, this film would not be possible, but they’re still bad. PETA, and the Academy, will love this documentary, and so will Michael Moore, I suspect. I also suspect that Mr. Moore has had his share of fast food as well. And there you go.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Oscar Thoughts and Predictions 2010

First up on the agenda is the wild number of films up for the best Picture Oscar. The Academy is rather transparent in this ploy. Open it up to some super-popular blockbusters and maybe more folks will be interested, root for their favorites and tune in. Ratings equal money, awards for accomplishments be damned – this is America after all.

No matter how many hope for their favorite 'popular' movie, it’s probably not going to win. That’s just not how the Academy works, thankfully. It’s how their publicity people work, but not the Academy. Yeah, Up and Avatar are in the mix, but no one’s voting for them over The Hurt Locker or Precious, trust me.

And there are important oversights this year. Most notable is Sam Rockwell with his acting tour de force in Moon. Oh yeah, I forgot, with rare exception, the Oscars are only for films that came out in the last two months of the year. Oh well, the 'rules' eliminated that one, but what about Anthony Mackie in The Hurt Locker? He acts the ass off Jeremy Renner who is nominated.

And I bet Julia Roberts is steaming that Sandra Bullock cleaned up this year with roles that Roberts turned down, and may even win an Oscar for one. I really hope Julia is on hand for candid reaction shots Sunday night.

Nothing for Watchmen. Wow. I’m really surprised, especially after the way the Academy kissed the butt of one of the worst superhero movies ever, The Dark Knight last year. You’d think they’d have a little something for one of the best. And speaking of genre films – where was Ponyo? Not in foreign or animated. Damn.

Well, enough rambling and bitching. Here are my picks – and let’s keep in mind, these are who I think will win, not who should win...

Best animated film – As much as I’d like to see The Princess and the Frog take it, it’s Up all the way. It’s easily one of the best films in some time. Of course, had Ponyo been here, it would have won.

Best documentary – I think the politically correct Academy will bow to the Health Nazis this year and give it to Food, Inc.

Best song – This one depends on other awards I think. If Jeff Bridges doesn’t get best actor, they’ll give it to “The Weary Kind” to make up for it. And if Up doesn’t get best animated it will take the song here, probably with “Down in New Orleans.” My bet is “New Orleans.”

Best original score – I’m a huge Michael Giacchino fan so my heart leans toward his score for Up but I also think Hans Zimmer’s Sherlock Holmes blows it away. Why wasn’t Giacchino’s Star Trek nominated? That was the best soundtrack of the year easily.

And as much as I’m tempted to pull a Bill Murray from the classic days of “Saturday Night Live,” I do think these categories matter…

Best supporting actor – This is between Christoph Waltz’ chilling Nazi in Inglourious Basterds and the ever-talented Stanley Tucci. I think the Academy will count Tarantino against Waltz and give it to Tucci. Not the way it should be, but the way it will be.

Best supporting actress – No question, if we can’t have the Nazi villain as a winner, we’ll take the evil mother. Mo’Nique is a definite here.

Best actress – I think that Gabourey Sidibe has good odds, but I also think this may be Sandra Bullock’s year.

Best actor – It’s between Jeremy Renner and Jeff Bridges, although it might go to Morgan Freeman for body of work. Renner is young and it’s about time for Bridges. My money is on Jeff Bridges.

Best picture - The Hurt Locker. It’s a hell of a film, powerful, well acted, and brilliantly shot. Kathryn Bigelow deserves it.

Best director – James Cameron, for Avatar. It’s a hard call, but he’ll get it for advancements in film and special effects. But then again, if that were actually how things worked, the Wachowski brothers are owed a few direction Oscars for Speed Racer and the Matrix trilogy. But who says these things are fair. And if I’m right on these first two awards, it should be a happy night in the Cameron/Bigelow household.

There you go, folks, place your bets. See you late Sunday night!

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Eurovision 2010 - Denmark

Sounding like a 1980s pop power ballad, Chanée and N'Evergreen give us "In a Moment Like This", Denmark's entry into the Eurovision Song Contest for 2010.

Intriguing staging and presentation, but perhaps not enough glitz for the contest - but then again, based on what else we've seen so far of the finalists... maybe it is enough.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Frost/Nixon ~ Often memories are powered by significant news events. Everyone remembers where they were when the towers fell. When they heard about Kurt Cobain and about John Lennon, and of course, the granddaddy of such events – where were you when JFK was shot? This movie is like that for me.

Richard M. Nixon, and I’m giving my age away obviously, was the first US President I was aware of. I remember the turmoil of the war protests, and the Vietnam War itself on the news, the Watergate hearings that pre-empted all programming during the day, and the man’s frequent speeches to the nation in prime time. I specifically remember the day Nixon resigned; it was the same day of the first time my parents ever took me to a mall. I remember reading his memoir "R.N.," and I remember watching the David Frost interviews on which this movie was based.

The film is an interesting duel between two men who each have their admirable qualities and serious flaws as well, but I think the words of Kevin Bacon, in the minor role of Nixon bodyguard Jack Brennan, best sum it up as boxers squaring off verbally. This is a duel, not an interview, with two combatants who have underestimated each other tremendously. The intense performances from Frank Langella and Michael Sheen in the title roles make this a must-see film. Recommended.

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The Animated Spectre

DC Showcase: The Spectre ~ Also on the same DVD as Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an animated short featuring one of DC Comics’ oldest, and most violent superhero characters.

Created by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, the Spectre is detective Jim Corrigan, murdered and returned to life to become a spirit of vengeance, dispensing justice in twisted, ironic and omnipotent ways. The most notable stories of this character were presented by writer Michael Fleischer and artist Jim Aparo in the Adventure Comics of the mid-1970s. The feature was eventually discontinued, some believe because of the hyper-violence of the protagonist’s punishments – too intense for the times, but in hindsight, some of the best comics of that era.

The Spectre’s first foray into animation here is brilliance! Writer Steve Niles delivers a film noir punch with a horror intensity that not only makes this character accessible to new audiences but also represents all the things about the Spectre that hardcore comics readers love about him. This is the Fleischer/Aparo Spectre brought to animated (after)life.

And serious props go to whoever thought of stripping the animation with lines and crackles to give the effect of an old movie, beautiful touch. This segment was a masterpiece, and well worth the full price of the entire DVD.

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