The DC Showcase of Animated Original Shorts contain no less than four original stories, and four other animated shorts taken from its established series as selected by Bruce Timm. The Code 1 DVD by Warner Home Video presents all the short stories in anamorphic widescreen format with the exception of some in the Special Features in full screen format, with audio in its English language track presented in Dolby Surround 5.1. Subtitles are available in English close captioned, French and Spanish.
Superman/Shazam!: Return of Black Adam is undoubtedly the highlight and the primary reason why I had chosen to pick up this DVD. The longest running of the lot, it gives an updated take on the origins of Captain Marvel, who is bestowed the powers of the gods by the wizard Shazam, and transforms the young orphan kid Billy Batson into Earth's Mightiest Hero, that is unless you're a Superman fan and will take some offense at that. The Last Son of Krypton also got conveniently put into the story since Clark Kent has set up an interview with Billy at Fawcett City, and the introduction of the main villain Black Adam forces a fast tracking of Billy Batson becoming Captain Marvel, as well as to set up a series of battles that allowed for the showcase of powers. It's strangely convenient of course that with such loud fisticuffs the city is actually devoid of people and casualties.
I really hope that one day we just might get to see a live action version of Captain Marvel, if of course Warner Bros is as ambitious and successful as Marvel/Disney in pushing out their comic book property to the big screen.
The Spectre adopts a detective noir format in having the detective Jim Corrigan investigate the killing of a Hollywood media mogul, complete with voiceover narration, a mysterious death, and a femme fatale to boot. It's presented in a stylistically deliberate less than pristine transfer with its fair share of pops, cackles and hiss, but don't let that detract you from the primary function of the showcase and that's to preview the powers of The Spectre, who plays on the minds of the guilty as well as to amp up its creepy factor that somehow went unnoticed.
Green Arrow turned out to be the most entertaining of the lot, since it features a hero without natural superpowers, except for a keen sense of marksmanship with his bow and an assortment of gadgetry arrows. Centered around an airport where Oliver Queen got more than he bargained for when spotting a familiar enemy and ended up protecting a young royalty from getting killed by her enemies, we're treated to wisecracking hero who does have his fair share of losses, as well as a surprise appearance by a certain character in its final stages which made this all the more memorable.
Jonah Hex probably contained the most recognized voices of the lot, with Thomas Jane playing the titular bounty hunter, and Linda Hamilton voicing Madame Lorraine, where the live action version that didn't make it to Singapore was played by Megan Fox. It's the simplest of all stories that introduces us to the seduce then kill modus operandi of the Madame, before Jonah Hex rides into town to demand the whereabouts of one of his bounties. Like the earlier shorts, it's primed to give a brief introduction to the characters and to present a showcase of their abilities, nothing more.
Al the main shorts in this DVD collection are produced and directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, with Warner Bros Animation adopting what I felt was creative and graphical qualities like the Japanese outfit Madhouse that I had at first mistaken for until the credits came rolling.
The Special Features here are yet another series of episodes from the established animated series that DC had already churned out, and included here are those picked by Bruce Timm, which includes:
Jonah Hex - Showdown from Batman: The Animated Series
I don't remember watching this episode before, but essentially it's a Jonah Hex vehicle being introduced to the Batman audience, since the animated series had developed its own loyal following, so it's not unthinkable that another minor character had exploited this opportunity to get himself a leg up in introductions. With Ras Al Ghul as the main villain and the cursory appearance of Batman and Robin to bookend this episode, this brings us back to the wild wild west with a twist at the end as well.
The Spectre - The Chill of the Night from Batman: The Brave and the Bold
I have to admit I haven't seen an episode from the animated Brave and the Bold series until now, and from what I gather, it's firmly set like the comic book series which puts the caped crusader into more mystical stories rather than the reality based ones he's usually in. And from the character designs it's aligned more to the Dick Sprang look, and not only Batman, but his more popular villains from his Rogues Gallery as well. Even the story seemed to be something lifted from an old Batman comic book I've read involving Batman's discovery of the identity of Joe Chill, his subsequent shocking revelation that I remembered leaping out from the comic book panels, and the convenient ending together with a blast from the past origin retelling once again. The Spectre doesn't do anything much here except for his wager with The Phantom Stranger, but this episode boasts of many, many well known casts from the Batman days of old including Adam West as Thomas Wayne, Julie Newmar as Martha Wayne, Mark Hamill as The Spectre and Kevin Conroy voicing The Phantom Stranger. Ah, nostalgia!
Green Arrow - Initiation from Justice League Unlimited
This is one version of Oliver Queen's reluctant join of the Justice League, feeling out of place amongst the big boys (and girls) who have super powers. But a hero always rise up to the occasion when needed, and in this case he gets cobbled together with Green Lantern (Jon Stewart version), Captain Atom and Supergirl in a case involving a rogue Asian state with unmistakable semblance to North Korea and a strong source of nuclear energy emanating from the unnamed country. As a story, it's nothing more than to showcase the Green Arrow's marksmanship and gymnastic ability, and of course the importance of working together as a team versus a collection of individuals. Nice reason too as to why Oliver Queen decided to stick around.
Shazam - Clash from Justice League Unlimited
Contrary to the main short that marquees this DVD collection, this episode from Justice League Unlimited retells how Captain Marvel first met Superman, or vice versa, and how because of their similarities in strength, speed and flying ability, gives Superman that inferior complexity and envy when Captain Marvel inadvertently steals his thunder, and the needless comparisons of course. It's not as cordial as the other tale in this collection, and the two gets to rip a Lex Luthor built city apart in their fisticuffs, which is the highlight naturally. But the frustrating thing about this short is that it's only one half, or one of a series, that leaves you at a cliffhanger because when there's Luthor, there's conspiracy, and what this standalone inclusion does is to whet you appetite to pick up a lot more DVDs, especially of the Justice League Unlimited. We'll see.
And the DVD rounds up with Batman: The Brave and the Bold Trailer (0:32) which curiously promotes Batman as "the greatest bad guy basher", seriously. If you're a fan of Batman and enjoy the frequent team ups he has with other DC Universe heroes, then this series (into its fourth season) should be something worth checking out, since it touts one new super partner per episode.
Watching this on a Sunday morning sure brings back some memories of yesteryears where I would be glued to the television for cartoons such as these!