Monday, October 8, 2007


Marvel’s gotten the jump on DC as far as straight-to-DVD animated features are concerned, inundating comic geeks with lackluster fare such as the Ultimate Avengers flicks and Iron Man.
DC finally got in on the act though, with the okay but not really stellar effort, Superman: Brainiac Attacks. They’ve followed that one up with the decidedly more adult Superman: Doomsday.

The Good:
The gimmicky fat of the original comic book story—particularly the quartet of Super-replacements who pop out of the woodwork once the Last Son of Krypton bites the big one—is wisely trimmed off, paring the tale down to its essentials, and allowing the storytellers to more deeply explore the effect Superman’s apparent death has on Metropolis and those closest to him.
We see how Jimmy, Perry, and of course, Lois, deal with their grief as their beloved champion and friend dies while protecting humanity from the evil forces of destruction, personified by the killing machine known as “Doomsday.”
Here, Doomsday is a merciless juggernaut, bane of innocent deer and doggies called “Biscuit” alike. Oh, and Men of Steel as well.
A tough baddie is key where Superman is concerned, and it’s fortunate that the Doomsday sequence is particularly effective, the action and suspense dealt out with skill and style as the two combatants rumble throughout Metropolis.

And though I do miss Tim Daly as Clark/Superman, genre mainstay Adam Baldwin (seen on The X-Files, Angel, Firefly, and presently, Chuck; Baldwin also voiced Green Lantern Hal Jordan for the Justice League animated series) does a commendable job, edging out early George Newbern (who voices Supes on Justice League) with his vocal performance.
Acing their characters as well are Twin Peaks’ and Reaper’s Ray Wise (as Perry White) and Lost’s and Pushing Daisies’ Swoosie Kurtz (as Martha Kent).
Jimmy’s subplot is also interesting, though perhaps could have benefited with slightly more screen time. (Jimmy is voiced by Adam Wylie, Zack on Picket Fences, and the voice of Brainiac 5 on Legion of Super-Heroes; Entourage fans may remember him as Jay on “One Day In The Valley.”)

Finally, there are also nice tips of the proverbial hat to the Fleischer animated Superman shorts from the 40’s and the Legion of Super-Heroes comic book, as well as a playful swipe at the aborted Superman Lives script written by Kevin Smith, with Smith making a brief, amusing cameo.

The Bad:
I definitely miss Dana Delany as Lois, as Anne (Ally McBeal; Men In Trees) Heche’s interpretation seems strangely insubstantial.
But, as disappointed as I am with Lois, James Marsters (another genre mainstay, having spent considerable time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off, Angel, as well as kicking around Smallville more recently) does a sad-a$$ job as Luthor. (Clancy Brown did such a dead-on, bang-up job as Lex, I still “hear” that resonant voice whenever I read a comic with Luthor in it.)

There’s also the gross underutilization of Cree Summer—who did work on Batman Beyond, but is more (in)famously known for her turn as Foxxy Love on the audaciously hilarious Drawn Together—and John DiMaggio—Brother Blood on Teen Titans, and brilliant and unforgettable as Bender on Futurama. Summer and DiMaggio appear in Doomsday as Mercy and the Toyman, respectively, both characters getting rather limited—and truncated—screen times.
I mean, when you’ve got Foxxy Love and Bender in one movie, you sure as heck ought to use them.
The reimagining of the Toyman here as a sort of Goth loser also doesn’t really hold a candle to the creepfest that is his incarnation on the Superman and Justice League animated series.

The Ugly:
And I thought Supes looking inordinately tired in the first season of Justice League was bad…
Here, the strangely chiseled cheekbones of the Man of Steel make him look rather… odd. It’s a curious design choice that somewhat compromises the hero’s look. Fortunately, the animation’s good, so that sort of makes up for Kal’s ugly mug.

And the Downright Strange:
There is a curious homoerotic vibe that Luthor exudes in Doomsday. How else should one take it when Lex, in the opening VO, uses the word “beautiful” to describe his nemesis?
Then, in a later sequence, after Supes’ “death” at the hands of Doomsday, a bare-chested Luthor apparently traps the Man of Steel in a room equipped with red sunlight generators and wails on the beleaguered hero with a pair of kryptonite gloves, all the while screaming things like “Why did you leave me?! Why?” and, disturbingly enough, “Who’s your Daddy?”
Now, the homoeroticism in this antagonistic relationship has long bubbled beneath the comic books’ four-colour surface, but its presence here just feels very off-key.

It should also be noted that Superman: Doomsday is rated PG-13: there’s action aplenty, extras and supporting characters and animals meet untimely demises, and, when we enter the story, we discover that Superman and Lois Lane have been, well, Superfriends for the past six months; the kind of Superfriends who snuggle and spend the night at each others’ places…
Having said all that, this is the most mature and adult I’ve seen DC animated stuff get, and for the most part, it’s a commendable effort, though it may not exactly be for the kiddie brigade.

Ultimately, I may have a number of issues with DC’s sophomore stab at the direct-to-DVD world, but it’s clearly the best effort to date, taking us to places we’d never reached before in past animated DC works. It also leaves the limp Marvel efforts eating a whole lotta dust.

(Superman: Doomsday DVD cover art courtesy of

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