Wednesday, March 26, 2008

That (Comic) Book-Leg Guy - Superman: Doomsday

Well, it took 15 months on That Bootleg Blog beat, but I'm now finally ready to explore a side of myself I rarely discuss publicly. I'm a superhero geek.

Yeah, that was about as painful as I thought it'd be.

It began with those 1960s Spider-Man cartoons, continued through various incarnations of Super Friends on Saturday mornings, then peaked during the Bruce Timm-created Batman, Superman and Justice League series that ran, off an on, from 1992-2006.

Yeah, I said "peaked". While I was either in college or a college graduate.

During all those years, I also had a relationship with the comic book industry. I collected for most of the 1980s, before stopping cold turkey. My brother picked up the baton and made the weekly comic shop stops until 1993, so between the two of us, we followed pretend adventures for more than 10 years.

These days, I'm still a sucker for a superhero story. To that end, Warner Bros. has released the direct-to-DVD adaptation of 1992's "Death of Superman" storyline.

In summary, for those of you who've read this far: DC Comics' "Superman" title was at odds with the early '90s ABC television show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. A Lois Lane/Clark Kent marriage arc for the comic book was tabled so that the TV show could do it first and a gaping creative hole opened up. To fill it, the comic book guys decided to "kill" Superman.

I watched this new movie version online last weekend via Netflix Direct on my laptop and it was decidedly…OK.

Superman's nemesis is an unstoppable monster called "Doomsday", who is released from his underground imprisonment by a team financed by Lex Luthor. The monster runs amok, kills (on camera!) everyone in his way, then faces the Man of Steel for a final showdown that ends badly for ol' Supes. The rest of the movie revolves the impact of his death, the emergence of a "new" Superman and the never-ending character development of Lois Lane and Lex Luthor.

My biggest gripe is with the animation. Everything seems…stiff and little off. Superman is given what I think are supposed to be defined cheekbones, but it just makes him look like he's got lightning bolts under his eyes. Luthor is outfitted in an all-white get-up and rocking the mock turtleneck. He looks like a stick of roll-on deodorant. Lois is wearing a skirt that looks more like a belt. I mean, not to get all fanboy, but when Radioactive Man got injected with shrinking serum in issue 234, how come his costume shrinks too?

I'm sure I don't know.

The comic book storyline ran for 52 weeks, introduced four "new" Supermen and was able to more deeply explore concepts of Superman's death and (spoiler alert!) return. In about 80 minutes, the movie does its best, but this streamlined, made-for-TV version seems more concerned with showing off its PG-13 rating ("Supes killed a guy!") than following any continuity. Although, points for the credit "Anne Heche as Lois Lane". Those words, alone, are unintentionally eight kinds of awesome.

Here's your surprise verdict of the week: Kinda fun, but for us hardcore fanboys only.

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