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Showing posts with the label Superhero

PJ Masks: Gekko Saves Christmas/Gekko's Nice Ice Plan (2015)

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The only thing we knew about the animated show PJ Masks before turning on this episode was that it has a lot of toys targeted at the preschool set.

The premise is that three kids turn into animal-themed superheroes at night (once they don the pajamas of the title) and defeat super-villain kids while learning simplistic morals. It's based on a series of French picture books, and the show is a collaboration between Canadian and French animation companies and is distributed in the U.S. by Disney.

It's visually and structurally somewhat reminiscent of Super Why. Each 15-minute story has a clear moral from the beginning and a repetitive structure that will have some kids yelling at the characters in frustration.

In Gekko Saves Christmas, the villain Luna Girl is stealing all the Christmas decorations and presents. Catboy and Owlette easily stall the villain several times, but they need Gekko to take her hoverboard. He's too frightened of failing to really try to stay on the bo…

Teen Titans Go!: Second Christmas (2013) and The True Meaning of Christmas (2015)

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In case you're not a cartoon aficionado, Teen Titans Go! is a wacky comedy starring highly stylized versions of the characters from the original Teen Titans show. It's much, much sillier, and has no or next-to-no continuity.

It is not connected to the previous shows Young Justice (a serious action show about young superheroes) or Batman: The Brave and the Bold (a mix between wacky tropes and serious superhero action), or the current show Justice League Action (mostly comedic superhero action).

Erin covered some of the mixed feelings we, and many fans, have about this show. I'll only add that I am personally inclined to give this a good deal of leeway. I loved the original Teen Titans, but I also like having the option of complete zaniness. Anything that punctures the self-important grimdark that has recently been a big part of DC comics is a good thing.

Okay, on to the episodes!


Second Christmas (2013)

The Titans are celebrating Christmas with enthusiasm: food, decorations, …

WordGirl: Oh, Holiday Cheese (2009)

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WordGirl is my go-to example when I want to argue good superhero stories can be told at any level of maturity. The series is unequivocally targeted at young kids - it's edutaiment, through and through, complete with vocabulary lessons repeated multiple times to the viewer. It's the kind of show you'd expect to be tedious and pedantic. Instead, it's ridiculous fun.

The reason WordGirl works is it understands its genres. The writers clearly understand the conventions of both kids television and superheroes, and they're eager to play with both. They're willing to mock PBS conventions in a good-natured way, and they're more than happy to embrace comic book tropes. The result is a series that plays like a pureed homage to Sesame Street, Powerpuff Girls, and Superman.
The holiday episode is a fine example. After the narrator introduces the episode's special words (curmudgeon and festivity, in case you were interested), the episode shifts to a brief battle be…

DC Holiday Special 2017

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I picked up DC Comics' Holiday Special this year, but it's kind of a rip-off. Unlike the pleasant surprise of last year, most of the tales in this one feel cramped and one-note.

The 90ish-page special opens and closes with a frame story of Clark Kent and Constantine in a bar, arguing with "Bibbo" Bibbowski over whether Superman (or anyone) is really making a difference in the world. Bibbo's an optimist and reassures Clark with a bunch of stories. Not that the stories which follow make any sense in that context.

Most of the stories are just too short to have any impact. I was thinking that I would have rather they had cut one or two and let the others be longer. However, it's not actually that they're all short on space; some of them just aren't paced well for the space they have.

Worst of the bunch: 

There's a weird, surreal, fatalistic Swamp Thing piece that doesn't end with much. Something called Atomic Knights wasn't so terrible in itse…

Toy Review: Holiday Joker

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Christmas With the Joker, the second episode made of Batman: The Animated Series, is something of a guilty pleasure. I know there are some fans who consider it among the series's worst, but I love the episode's spin on the Joker. There's something both endearing and unsettling about his attempts to crack jokes involving destruction and danger. We see him playing more in this episode than we ever would again, poking at Batman with jokes only he seems to understand.

Over the past few years, DC Collectibles has been producing six-inch figures based on the show. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised to see them add a version of the Joker from that episode. It's branded "Holiday Joker," despite the episode's name having "Christmas" in the title (quick! Call Fox News!).

I ordered it and waited, hoping to get it in time for a Christmas review. Unfortunately, I missed it by a few days. Oh, well - there's always this year.


The line this is from is fa…

Teen Titans Go!: Black Friday (2015)

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I wanted to hate this.

I'm getting that out of the way first, so you have some idea of where I'm coming from. On principle, I dislike this series, not so much for its content but for what it represents. I liked the original Teen Titans, as well as Young Justice - the last thing I wanted was a hokey show that reduced the characters and premise to cheap jokes.

So I set out to hate this. But then... then something went wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. This episode elbowed me in the gut, kicked me in the shin, then reached in through my cold chest and violently wrenched my heart away from me. It made me love it, whether I wanted to or not.

That's also a fairly good synopsis of the premise.

As the title suggests, this episode focuses on Black Friday, presented here as the cultural juggernaut it truly is. The Titans are preparing to shop by gorging on turkey. With one exception, they're eagerly awaiting their favorite day of the year, when they'll charge into stores and…

The Flash: The Present (2016) and Arrow: What We Leave Behind (2016)

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I thought I'd package this year's WB DC superhero Christmas episodes together instead of doing them individually. Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow didn't produce holiday episodes, so that leaves us with the original two: Arrow and Flash.

The Flash: The Present (2016)
While the previous seasons of The Flash focused on season-long plot arcs built around evil speedsters trying to kill Barry, the third is built around Savitar, an... ugh. Yeah. At least this time the evil speedster looks different.

I'm going to skip the rehash of Flashpoint, the timeline-breaking event that kicked off the third season. The only part that's actually relevant is that Cisco's brother is dead now.

The episode opens with a flashback to Julian discovering the artifact that turns him into Doctor Alchemy and allows Savitar to manifest (or whatever the hell is going on with that). After that, we jump the present day where Earth-3 Harrison Wells (again, I'm not going to bother) is decorat…

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir: Pire Noël (2016)

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If you like crazy Christmas stuff the way we do, or if you like zany superhero/magical girl hijinks, you should probably go ahead and see if you can find a copy of this on YouTube. This was a ton of fun.

Miraculous (for short) is a CG show from France about two superhero teenagers. Marinette is an aspiring fashion designer, and she transforms into Ladybug. Adrien is a young fashion model, and his superhero identity is Cat Noir. They don’t know each other’s secret, which leads to a classic secret identity plotline where Marinette has a crush on Adrien, but Cat Noir has a crush on Ladybug.

Their powers come from little (alien?) creatures and are channeled through items known as the Miraculouses: Marinette’s earrings and Adrien’s ring. There is a villain (Le Papillon in the original French) who wants to steal these items. In each episode, the villain senses someone feeling a strong negative emotion (anger, fear, jealousy, etc.) and sends an evil butterfly to possess them.

That’s what yo…

Toy Review: Batman Automobilia No. 78: Batman: Arkham Origins Video Game

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This is the second die-cast vehicle I've looked at for Mainlining Christmas, the first being the Batman: Noel Batmobile. These are part of an impressively large line of monthly Batman vehicles from Eaglemoss Collectibles. The line represents stories from all forms of media: comics, the campy 1966 series, various animated incarnations of Batman, and (obviously) video games.

While Batman might not be the first character you think of when you hear Christmas music, he's had his share of holiday misadventures, including the 2013 video game, Batman: Arkham Origins. I was a big fan of the game, so I was excited when Eaglemoss produced a toy version of the Batwing.


Let's start with the magazine. In lieu of actual packaging, each of these comes with a magazine. Actually, I'm a little unclear whether the vehicle or the magazine is technically the accessory, but I doubt anyone shells out $20 for the ten page pamphlet.

As always, this include fold-out schematics and some backgrou…

Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight! (2015)

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I haven't seen enough recent animated programming from Marvel to know whether or not this 73 minute special is in continuity with Avengers Assembled and the like, but I have seen enough to know I don't care. The last generation of Marvel cartoons - Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Spectacular Spider-man, and the short-lived Wolverine and the X-Men - was fantastic, but it all got cancelled when Disney took over. While Mickey has been a great overlord for Marvel's comics, movies, and live-action productions, their animated series have been far less impressive.

This bizarre holiday special does not reverse that trend. To be fair, it has an intriguing premise - Santa Claus, re-imagined as a half-elf/half-ice giant who delivers gifts to all the nine realms, is being hunted by Loki, who's trying to steal his powers. In the right hands, this could have been a fun, zany adventure.

But these are not the right hands. It's pretty clear the people making this wanted to…

Ben 10: Merry Christmas (2006)

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This is the first episode of Ben 10 Lindsay and I have seen, though I was mostly familiar with the premise going in. A kid has the power to transform into ten different aliens, so he uses his abilities to fight various threats.

I hadn't realized the series took place during a cross-country vacation in his grandfather's RV. I'm fairly certain that's intended as a nod to the 70's Shazam series. Ben Tennyson is more than a little reminiscent of Billy Batson, who could likewise call upon otherworldly powers and transform. This series is more or less an update.

This episode begins on a hot summer day while Ben, his grandfather, and his cousin, Gwen (also a series regular - apparently, she uses magic in some other episodes) are driving through Death Valley. After a failed attempt to improve the air conditioner, the RV breaks down. They find a strange door in the desert with cool wind blowing through the cracks. When they go through, they find a wintery town decorated fo…

Arrow: Year's End (2012), Three Ghosts (2013), The Climb (2014), and Dark Waters (2015)

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This is one of those times I stumbled across a few Christmas episodes while watching a series.

I saw Arrow's pilot back when it originally aired. I actually liked it quite a bit on its own merits, but was underwhelmed by the move away from comic book tropes. It felt like a really good dark and gritty take on a superhero origin, but I'd kind of had my fill of those. I decided not to follow it but to pick it up later if I heard it was worth it.

What actually got me back on board was The Flash, which was much more in line with what I wanted from the genre. A handful of crossovers convinced me Arrow would head in a more interesting direction given time. Besides, like I said before, the pilot was actually quite good for what it was.

Years End (2012)

The first Christmas episode occurs a little less than halfway through season one. The season started strong with a few missteps. But a few episodes before Christmas, it took a dive for the worst, and this one doesn't do much to corr…

Batman Automobilia No. 61: Batman: Noel

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Eaglemoss Collections has been producing a line of die-cast Batman vehicles for a while now. I own a handful I've picked up over the past two years to supplement my collection of Batmobiles. This one's getting special attention, however, because the design is lifted from the story, Batman: Noel, a re-imagined version of the Christmas Carol which wedges the Dark Knight into the Scrooge role.


I'll get back to the car in a moment. First, it comes with a very short magazine. It's only ten pages long, counting the four-page fold-out in the middle, but it's heavy stock. The content is intended to provide both information about the car itself and the context of the character at the time.


I like the blueprints, though some of the text in here is a bit absurd. Passages like, "This was a Batmobile designed to handle the snow and ice of a seemingly endless winter." Likewise, there's a complete breakdown of all the crime-fighting gizmos built into the car, almos…

The Flash: Running to Stand Still (2015)

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Watching Christmas episodes in context is a very different experience than tuning in for just a seasonal outing. Unlike most of what we review on this blog, The Flash is a show I watch religiously - it's a fantastic program that delivers classic superhero adventures on the small screen. If you're a comics fan and you're not watching, you owe it to yourself to get caught up. This is one of the best.

I talked about the first Flash Christmas episode last year. Like that one, this primarily exists because the show unfolds in real time, and Central City - like everywhere else - celebrates the holidays. That doesn't mean they didn't go all-out for Christmas, though: even for a series where a psychic gorilla has a recurring role, this one just pushed the limits in terms of genre tolerance.

When I say "genre tolerance," I'm talking about its willingness to incorporate tropes and tones from its source material. There are things you do in comics and animation …

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: It's a Wonderful Smash (2014)

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Remember a few years ago, when Marvel animation was at its peak? In a relatively short period of time, we got Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, all great shows.

Then something went wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Overall, the Disney acquisition of Marvel was a plus. It gave them more money to produce movies and live-action TV series, and the comics actually seem to have benefited. But the quality of their animated programs plummeted. Guess that's the price we have to pay.

This, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Avengers Assemble all appear to be in continuity with each other. And, from what I've seen so far, all of these shows suck.

To be fair, I've only seen two episodes of Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and one was the pilot. But the premise was misguided to begin with, and nothing I've seen suggests they're able to salvage the show.

This episode is, of course, the Christmas one. It opens on Christmas Eve, when the Hulks…

Graphic Novel Review: Batman: Noel

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For a dark avenger, there are a surprising number of famous Batman Christmas stories, including well regarded episodes from severalanimatedseries, a holiday movie, and even a video game. There have been quite a few Christmas comic issues, as well, over the years, but you wouldn't expect anything else from a character who's been around for seventy-five years with multiple titles a large portion of that time.

One of the more iconic Batman holiday stories in his original medium is Batman: Noel, a graphic novel from 2011 that attempts to adapt A Christmas Carol using the Dark Knight as a stand-in for Scrooge and supporting characters in other roles.

This was written and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, who's best known as an artist. After reading Noel, I'm a little torn on whether I think he should have stuck with that. On one hand, there are some great ideas in this story and some clever twists. But there are also a huge number of missed opportunities, poor choices, and a gen…