Darkseid In Animation - A Retrospective

Stu

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Teen Titans Go! I admit, I never even had the slightest curiosity about this show. I was a fan of most of the original Teen Titans animated series back in the day as I found it to be an entertaining blend of action, character and humour that was actually incredibly witty, irritating Beast Boy aside. I haven't seen much of the show since it's original airing, and I don't believe I even saw the final season, which seems to have been greenlighted for the sake of producing spins off. I will one day hopefully get around to buying the entire show on Blu Ray, once an affordable version of it is made available here in the UK (I refuse to pay the near £100.00 ebay scalpers are trading at, because Warner Archive can't be arsed with international distribution, sorry!)

However, by the time Teen Titans Go! came around, I deduced it would be a juvenile comedic take on the characters, made on the cheap for a lower aged audience. Most of the reviews I read seemed to agree with this, so I realised it wasn't for me (nor was it ever intended to be). The show seemed to be hurt by the older fans who saw this as a replacement for Young Justice, which it never was, nor intended to be. I assume it has a plethora of merch behind it, is very cheap to produce, and does impressive ratings, because it has a previously unimaginably high episode count for a Cartoon Network show and seems to be still going strong. Good for the show, I say. It seems to be exactly the kind of show Cartoon Network likes, as they've all but given up on action shows. Comedy is there go to now.

I would've happily left it alone until Darkseid's Wikipedia entry (a life saver for these retrospective pieces, it must be said) alerted me that Darkseid appeared in the show, in a two part story. For the sake of completeness, I managed to watch the Darkseid episode. 5 seasons of the show are on Netflix UK, which I believe is the only DC animation content they have, currently. The vast majority of the DC shows are not available to stream in the UK or available on Sky on Demand, for reasons which I assume are related to the DC Universe app... you know, the one they never actually released over here. There's a reason one should collect Blu Rays folks...

Regardless, I watched the Darkseid appearances, and while it in no way inspired me to watch anymore of the show, I did get a few laughs out of the story. Darkseid and comedy is not something one would usually mix together, but the line about Starfire losing her respect for Spider-Man for not fighting Darkseid got a genuine chuckle out of me. As in most younger shows, some of the jokes lingered a little too long, such as Raven crashing Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet, and the time travel gag (although one always, always appreciates a nod to Superman: The Movie)



I was pleasantly surprised to hear how good the original cast still is in this show, and special mention must go to Khary Payton, who is simply awesome in his role as Cyborg. It always sounds like he is having such a blast voicing this character, who has so often become the stereotypical angry black man in more recent times. He is unquestionably my favourite version of Cyborg.

As for Darkseid... not for me this one. I actually thought the gag about him needing a cough sweet was pretty funny, but the story seemed to drag on and kept punching with the same jokes. Weird Al was obviously out of left field casting wise (intentionally) but I was waiting for the story to get to the point by the time very quickly. Bear in mind, these episodes are only 10 minutes long.

Overall? I didn't hate it and I did get one or two genuine laughs... I've sat through worse and while some of the jokes didn't hit, I wasn't groaning at any of them (looking at you, Ultimate Spider-Man).

As for Darkseid fans? This one is for completists only.

Next: New 52
 

Stu

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Apologies for the delay... this is another reminder that we should finish retrospectives before we post them.

--

DC enjoyed many highs with their direct to DVD features, with the vast majority of them being based off some of their most popular, classic stories. Streaming had not quite become the dominant force in home consumption it has now become, and the direct to DVD/Blu Ray market thrived.

However, as Warner Bros. Animation powered on with their Home Video features, DC’s comic book head honchos came together and decided their comic books needed a full on relaunch. Concluding that continuity had become too much of a burden for newer and even long time readers, DC decided a fresh new slate was required. This meant every single comic they published under DC ‘continuity’ would be given a brand spanking new #1 and hopefully bring in a whole new of comic book readers, with new easy to understand stories. I initially was excited at the thought of an Ultimate universe style DC, but I read that they weren’t starting from scratch with this new continuity, they had simply decided that some storylines we’d read as fans happened in this new continuity, and some didn’t. Superman, for example, was given another retold origin (not long after John Bryne's Man of Steel had been retconned by the excellent Superman: Birthright) but Green Lantern and Batman were more or less left alone... the only logical reason I could come up with this, was because they didn’t wish to bruise the egos of Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison by ixnaying their recent popular runs.

I was in and out of comics at the time, but this to me seemed like the worst of both worlds. Classic storylines might be retconned, but there was no new freshness to it for me, beyond their new costumes (we’ll come to that later.)



I will give you Batman as an example, as that was what I was reading mostly at the time. I had long given up trying to deduce a straight line continuity with my dear Dark Knight, but the idea of an early days Batman did appeal to me, as this is my favourite version of Batman (I confess to having little time for Batman's sidekicks, Robin and Nightwing aside.) First meetings with his outstanding rogues gallery would’ve been a book that greatly intrigued me... but the new 52 stated that in this new continuity, none of the characters had been heroes for 5 years, and the big Justice League: Origin storyline took place 5 years before Batman #1 did.

This already felt cluttered to me, and I was only looking at 2 of the new 52 comic books DC announced. Confused, I asked my brother, far more of a DC Comics reader than I, how Wayne had only been Batman for 5 years, but in that time, we’d had Dick Grayson, Jason Todd (who had of course, died and been resurrected) Tim Drake, (who was relegated to becoming Red Robin because Grant Morrison wanted to bring in Damian Wayne) and the current Robin, the aforementioned Damian Wayne. He could not explain it, because no explanation was ever provided by DC themselves. Before an issue had even been read, the timeline lack logic. While I do not expect characters to age in line with the books, and am perfectly happy that Batman will perhaps forever remain as a man in his late 20'ss to mid 30s, it makes no sense to confirm Dick Grayson became Robin as a teenager and is now a young man in his 20s when Batman hasn't aged at all. These half arsed reboots serve no purpose... either treat continuity as an absolute, or don't bother with it at all. (Marvel later tried the same trick with Secret Wars, which in truth, simply made me drop every Marvel book I was reading.)

The other new thing to come out of The New 52 was each character was given a brand new visual revamp, similar to X-Men #1 in 1991, which was the most successful #1 ever (and I believe, to this day, the highest selling issue of a single comic book ever). This helped X-Men sell in massive numbers. That revamp was an undeniable success, which helped launch the awesome X-Men animated series of the 90s and send The X-Men mainstream. There is no doubt in mind this Jim Lee redesign/revamp was inspired by X-Men #1. The difference for me was that while the X-Men suits were new and undeniably cool, the new 52 models all seemed to only slightly alter their existing costumes, adding weird collars and unnecessary lines to their suits, and off course, remove the underpants over their pants. I accept a redesigned costume is a modern evil that plagues both Marvel and DC, but none of the redesigns were exceptionally brilliant, and most seemed like change for the sake of change. Superman, in particular, looked hideous.

Alas, I read Justice League: Origins and thought it was a fairly cookie cutter story, and didn't have any of the impact I felt it should've. It also didn't feel especially new, like say, The Ultimates did when it first came out. I quickly came to the conclusion The New 52 didn't deliver what was required and personally, viewed it at a failure. As someone who struggles to read a lot of DC characters I actually like because they've gone through umpteen revamps, this is one I felt they should've nailed to the finest details. Again, the whole thing felt like change for the sake of change, instead of new.

This brings us to Warner Bros. Animation, and the decision to create a continuity for their Direct to DVD features. In theory it was a wonderful idea, it would save time as models, backgrounds and actors could all return, and this in theory would allow more films to be produced for consumption. It also meant we'd see more characters utilised than just Batman and Superman, which was a common complaint at the time. It only made sense to start with Origin, only the film was dubbed Justice League: War.

I seemed to remember not especially liking or disliking the film when I viewed it, so sat down and watched it again for this very piece and enjoyed it much more than I remembered. By this time the crew had figured out the pacing for their DVD films, which was the main issue in some of their earlier efforts. As mentioned in previous posts, one feels for the creative team, I imagine they were under heavy pressure to follow the book as closely as they could on this one. Credit where credit is due, however, the film is far more interesting than the book.



The animation is very nice, once one gets passed the fact that sadly, the new models are very similar to the comic book, and well... they aren't very nice. Even watching it back when it was first released years back, one got the impression this would look far nicer had they based it upon the classic costumes and of course later films proved this to be true (spoiler alert for a future post: the costumes in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War are some of the best DC models ever and it breaks ones heart to know we may never seen them again.)

The film is well cast, but oddly, the majority of them were recast for later films. While there is nothing especially wrong with the voices, I don't dispute the recasting worked out to be better, in most cases.

Regardless, I've rambled on enough now. Let's get to Darkseid.

I felt his inclusion in Origins was short sighted, as far as villains go, there is nowhere to go but down once they have defeated DC' biggest and best villain. I thought it wiser to perhaps use another rouge, and build up to their chief villain. The film follows the book closely, so naturally, Darkseid was used here.

For fans of his original origin, there is nothing in the film regarding his war with New Genesis, and Earth is simply a planet he wishes to conquer... quite why is never explained, and there is nothing here which suggests he searches for the Anti-Life Equation. He attacks Earth because Green Lantern, Batman and Superman have started discovering the Mother Boxes he has been leaving around Earth and he feels now is the best time to strike. I realise this was probably a runtime omission, but one felt like Darkseid was perhaps not being used to his full potential. A forgivable sin, given how much the film had to do in so little time.



His design is based off the New 52 (naturally). I admit I don't care for it - it functions as it should, but I feel they've messed with a classic suit here, and I don't think Darkseid needed to be made 12 feet tall to be intimidating. This is simply personal preference of course, but I would've preferred a look closer to Kirby than Lee here, but that would go against the point of the film I suppose. I do not feel gold has any place on a Darkseid design, personally. He has a hell of an awesome introduction to Earth as well - even the combined might of the soon to be Justice League knew he was not to be trifled with.

He is voiced by the ever awesome Steve Blum, who is speaking through such a heavy filter one can barely tell it is him. I've nothing but love for Blum, and consider it massively impressive how he can have such range and provide vastly different voices for such different characters - while his CV is filled with impressive roles, his favourites of mine are Wolverine from Wolverine And The X-Men and The Green Goblin from Spectacular Spider-Man - listening to them together, you'd swear it was two different people.

Darkseid's main purpose here is essentially an elongated fight scene, which delivers in droves. It's brutal, and the sight of him getting both of his eyes gouged out did make me wince. He is defeated by the old send him back to Apokolips trick, but he puts up a hell of fight to avoid that boom tube.

It was a fun movie, and the characters did have some chemistry between them. I especially liked the inclusion of Shazam! which did go to some lengths to feel different from the three part Secret Origins from the original Justice League cartoon. I felt it took them a while to find some footing on some of the follow up releases, but I, rather oddly, found myself enjoying most of these movies a lot better the second time around (although I confess, I found Justice League: Throne of Atlantis to be one of the most tedious Justice League stories I'd ever sat through, personally.)

Who would've thought that something that started so positively would end as violently as it did?

Next: I am death.
 

TMC1982

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Darkseid made his animated premiere on the seventh season of Super Friends (The Legendary Super Powers Show). This was also the season where Alan Burnett (Batman: The Animated Series) joined the crew of the show.

View attachment 286404
Frank Welker applied his growly, Dr. Claw voice for Darkseid. That version of him had a creepy obsession with Wonder Woman, who he envisioned as his bride. He also had DeSaad (voiced by René Auberjonois, who would later reprise the role on the DCAU Justice League series) and Kalibak (also voiced by Welker) as his primary henchmen along with the Para-Demons (remained the standards and practices friendly, Para-Drones)..

Mod Note: Post edited to remove linking to copyrighted material.
 
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