A Brief Look At Star Trek: The Animated Series

trek animated

Back in the mid ’70s, the Star Trek animated series was literally one of the few outlets that Star Trek fans had when they were in need of new Trek content. This may seem odd given all the video games, books and whatnot that exists today for Star Trek, but in those times the animated series was the closest thing to new Trek. After all, it was executive produced by the original show’s creator Gene Roddenberry, written by many of the original show’s writers and voiced by most of the original actors.

It may seem easy to dismiss the cartoon today by some elitists who criticize the crude animation and simplistic story lines. But there was a bit more to the cartoon than what was on kzinthe surface. Remember these cartoons aired on Saturday mornings and were under strict parental guidelines. Yet, despite the limitations the series stood out. It even won a Daytime Emmy award for “Best Children’s Series”. Many of the scripts were penned by noted sci-fi writers like Larry Niven (who introduced his warlike aliens the Kzinti in the episode “The Slaver Weapon”), David Gerrold, and D.C. Fontana. Even Walter Koenig wrote one script for the series. In many instances, the series followed up with favorite characters like Harry Mudd and situations like the tribbles coming back to infest the Enterprise.

But more importantly, the animated series was  true to the spirit of Star Trek. Amid the children-oriented trappings of the episodes were morality tales and interesting sci-fi concepts. For example, the final episode “The Counter-Clock Incident” dealt with the value of old people and how they can still make a difference. In the episode “Yesteryear”, considered by many to be the best episode, the story examined the reality of losing a pet, which is traumatic to children.

yesteryear

One issue with the series is about whether or not it is considered canon in the Star Trek lore. For years, Gene Roddenberry and other insiders expressed the belief that the cartoon was not canon. However, elements of the show did make their way into Star Trek-related works and even episodes of spinoff shows. For example, a lot of background information about Vulcan and Spock’s youth that was introduced in “Yesteryear” have resurfaced in other Star Trek shows and books like the Star Trek Encyclopedia. Even James Kirk’s middle name, Tiberius, was first revealed in the cartoon and later confirmed in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So, certain features of the animated show were considered canon by Paramount Studios.

Finally, in 2007, the Star Trek official website declared that the show is officially canon. Reinforcing this are statements from Gerrold and Fontana that the show represented the fourth year in the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Think of it this way, the episodes were just simplistic retellings of what actually happened to Kirk and the Enterprise crew during the fourth year.

kirk magicIt is hard to believe that over forty years later, the Star Trek animated series is still looked on fondly by fans. Just like its parent series that it is based on, the Star Trek animated series was more than just a children’s show. At the same time, before the film series and the spinoff TV shows, the animated series was something for fans to treasure and relive the Star Trek viewing experience. It’s regrettable that a new animated show based on Star Trek has not been produced since then. The rich lore of the Star Trek universe will provide so much material for new animated adventures and help keep the fandom thriving much in the same way that Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels has done for the other big sci-fi franchise. This is something for CBS Studios to think about in the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

Lewis T. Grove

Ten Films To Look For In 2016

team cap 2 id42

We’re clearly in the decade of the superhero film and this year’s slate of films reinforces that notion. Yet, there are plenty of other interesting genre films that range from fantasy to solid sci-fi. Here are ten films being released this year that are the most anticipated.

10. Passengers: The two superstars of genre films Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence co-star in this film about a man (Pratt) who wakes up prematurely in a generational starship and awakens a second passenger (Lawrence) for companionship. Given its release date and potentially controversial subject matter (the morality of waking someone up in that situation just to cure loneliness), this film may get lost or get moved to a different date. Still, Passengers sounds like a fascinating film worth watching if done right. (Release Date: December 21)

fantastic beasts9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Inspired by the book by J.K. Rowling and set in the Harry Potter universe, it’s directed by David Yates, who helmed the last few Harry Potter films. Focusing on an adult sorcerer who comes to America and the strained relations between magical and non-magical people (muggles) the trailer captured the mood of the Harry Potter film universe. The question is will it please the die-hard fans who will miss Harry Potter? (Release Date: November 18)

8. The BFG: The latest genre offering from the master filmmaker Steven Spielberg is based on a Roald Dahl fantasy book of the same name about a girl who befriends a friendly giant. It may be off putting to some fans who may want a genre film from Spielberg with more heft, especially those aching for the long-delayed Robopocalypse. However, it’s a Steven Spielberg film and he is arguably the greatest living director around, so The BFG is something worth checking out. (Release Date: July 1)

7. Deadpool: After a long gestating period deadpool poseand a terrible debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with the Mouth gets his own solo film. Thanks to a tireless campaign by star Ryan Reynolds and others, 20th Century Fox finally greenlit the film last year and soon we’ll see if the efforts were worth it. Everyone involved promises that Deadpool will be a no-holds-bar, in-your-face but most of all, a faithfully violent interpretation of the Marvel Comics mercenary with the superhuman healing power thingy. (Release Date: February 12)

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars anthology film comes out a year after the mammoth return of the space fantasy franchise. Eager to cash in on their billion-dollar franchise purchase Disney will increase the Star Wars movie presence with this prequel of sorts that is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Alan Tudyk. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story details the effort of a team of Rebels out to steal the plans of the Death Star. (Release Date: December 16)

star wars rogue one cast

5. Suicide Squad: A film that expands the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), focuses on a group of captured supervillains sent out on a deadly mission by the U.S. government. Highlighted by a Batman (Ben Afflec) cameo and Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and guaranteed scene-stealer Jared Leto as the new Joker, Suicide Squad will explore a darker corner of the DCEU as it gives audiences a unique spin on superhero films. (Release Date: August 5)

suicide Squad

4. Doctor Strange: The second MCU release for 2016 is already making waves on the Internet ever since we got our first glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios is known for not resting on its superhero laurels and Doctor Strange doesn’t seem like an exception based on released concept art, which is quite eerie. Now forging a new storytelling avenue, that of the mystical and horror realm, this live-action presentation of the Marvel Comics character will hopefully be another hit for Marvel Studios. (Release Date: November 4)

doc strange

3. Independence Day: Resurgence: Finally after twenty years, we’re getting the sequel to Independence Day, the smash hit of 1996. Reuniting most of the original cast and newcomers like Liam Hemswoth, director Roland Emmerich picks up the alien invasion story twenty years after the giant alien motherships nearly destroyed humanity and the world. Now armed with hybridized alien tech, humanity, led by Jeff Goldblum, prepares for another confrontation with the aliens when they return to our solar system. (June 24)

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Eagerly awaited ever since this film was announced back in 2013 during Comic-Con, it’s the first live-action meeting between Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and it looks like a monumental event! Not only does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice boast the first encounter between the two but it also has the debut of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and a new Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). The last character may not thrill fans who aren’t too keen with the casting of Luthor, but Affleck’s once-controversial casting has won over many fans. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DCEU will boldly engage the MCU in the Superhero Film War. (March 25)

batman meets superman

1. Captain America: Civil War: The epic throwdown between Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is the centerpiece in the third Captain America film. Loosely based on the Marvel Comics’ mini-series Civil War, this film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, promises to be as hard-hitting and thought-provoking as the last Captain America film. But that’s not all Captain America: Civil War has going for it. The film will also feature the MCU debuts of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Marvel’s flagship hero Spider-Man (Tom Holland) himself. Still, with all this going for Captain America: Civil War can the Russo Brothers beat the director sophomore curse that has plagued the second MCU films done by veteran directors (see Joss Whedon and Jon Favreau)? On the other hand, the Russo Bros.’ Captain America: The Winter Solider was one of the greatest superhero films ever made and showcased their talents as directors so they should be able to repeat their success. (May 6)

cap vs iron man

Other noteworthy genre films coming out this year include: The 5th Wave (Jan. 22), another young-adult sci-fi film about an alien invasion; Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jan. 29), Dreamworks Animation’s martial arts, talking animal saga continues with Jack Black; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (February 5), adaptation of the horror romance of the same name; Midnight Special (March 18), delayed from last year about a father on the run with his superpowered son; The Jungle Book ( April 15), Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic; X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27), apthe sixth X-Men film brings back the rebooted franchise and a new slate of characters, including a mighty foe; The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (June 10), this sequel directed by James Wan reunites the stars from the first frightfest, but many wonder if it can be as scary as the first one; Finding Dory (June 17), Pixar’s sequel to the classic underwater animated film looks just as magical and colorful as the forgetful Dory goes missing; finding doryWarcraft (June 10), director Duncan Jones hopes to beat the video-game movie adaptation with this epic-looking fantasy adventure; Ghostbusters (July 15), a controversial, all-female reboot/remake of the beloved, comedic paranormal hunters; Star Trek Beyond (July 22) the terrible trailer with its Beastie Boys music dampened expectations for the latest Star Trek film, but it could be better than the trailer lets on; The Legend of Tarzan (July 1), David Yates directs this jungle epic starring Margo Robbie and Alexander Skarsgard as the title hero; Pete’s Dragon (August 12), a remake of the Disney classic about a boy and his oversized but cuddly dragon; Gambit (Oct. 7), another live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comic book character starring Channing Tatum; and Assassin’s Creed (Dec 21), stars Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch/Aguilar, a master assassin in this long-awaited, video-game adaptation.

José Soto

Best Of 2015

owen and raptors

defiance bar

Best Sci-Fi TV Show

By the end of its third (and final) season, Defiance had become completely engrossing and well developed thanks to memorable acting and character arcs. It’s too bad that Syfy cancelled the series about a town in the future populated by struggling humans and aliens trying to get along with each other.

Best Horror TV Show

The Walking Dead continues to chomp up the horror competition on TV. It’s been a long road for Rick Grimes and his battered and worn troupe as they battle undead zombies and savage humans, but the show still delivers the chills and excitement.

Best Fantasy Show

4. game of thronesGame of Thrones rightfully won the best drama Emmy, making it one of the few genre shows to accomplish this honor. What helped make the show so captivating is that it outpaced the novels from which it’s based on with new character and plot developments, providing new territory for fans.

Best Cancelled TV Show

Defiance came into its own when it was regrettably cancelled. At least we got three full seasons and the final episode provided for the most part a sense of closure…except will Nolan ever come back from space?

Best Animated Show

Star Wars:Rebels is a fun and engaging TV show that captures the mood of the original Star Wars films as it fills in the gap between the original and prequel films.

Best TV Character

This is a hard one since 2015 featured 6. Jessica jonesmany terrific and memorable characters. With that said the best character has to be Jessica Jones from the TV show named after her. Hard boiled, weary and sporting a tough exterior to mask her pain, Jessica Jones was your typical private detective with superpowers struggling to get by with her life.

Most Missed TV Character

rip tyreeseThe Walking Dead is noted for the constant death of regular characters. Each time this happens, the other characters lose more and more of themselves every time. The slow death of semi-gentle giant Tyreese after he was bitten by a walker wasn’t an exception and came to viewers as a sad surprise.

Best TV Superhero

Thanks to an inspired performance by Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, his alter ego of the Flash has quickly become one of the best superheroes featured on a TV show. Fast, quirky and full of wonder and angst, this version of the Flash combines the traits of many different superheroes and became his own unique character.

flash promo

 

Best TV Villain

The most memorable and unsettling aspect of the Netflix show Jessica Jones was the chilling performance by former Doctor Who actor David Tennant as Kilgrave, the sociopath who can control people with his voice alone. Spoiled, petulant and with a savage streak, Kilgrave was one of the best supervillains ever shown on TV.

kilgrave

Best Fight Scene

The highlight of the second episode of Daredevil (“Cut Man”) and in fact the entire first season was this long, continuous fight scene that took place in a hallway between Daredevil and some Russian thugs. It was brutal and ugly but became a standard bearer for an unforgettable fight scene.

Best Guest Appearance

HauntedEven though Constantine was cancelled earlier this year, that didn’t mean that the title character was forgotten. To fans’ delight, he turned up later this year on Arrow and proved that a cancellation couldn’t keep a good sorcerer down.

Best Sci-Fi Film

There were some great competitors for this category like Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina but Jurassic World just edged them out with its roaring dino action, some food for thought and that unforgettable moment with Owen riding his motorcycle flanked by his raptors sealed the deal.

owen rides with raptors

Best Horror Film

Crimson Peak was a nice throwback to old-fashioned Victorian-era ghost stories that raised viewers hairs while adorned with spooky modern touches.

Best Fantasy/Animated Film

6. inside outOne of Pixar’s two offerings in 2015, Inside Out, quickly won over the hearts of viewers over the summer as they witnessed the inner psyche of a young preteen girl. It was so easy to identify with and delight in the way her inner feelings were represented by such amusing archetypes.

Best Action Film

Director George Miller showed today’s generation of action junkies how to do a real action film without CGI. Mad Max: Fury Road was jammed with non-stop excitement and gasp-inducing action scenes that rarely let up.

mad max chase

Best Superhero Film

Despite its many behind-the-scenes obstacles, Ant-Man defied low expectations, continued Marvel Studios winning streak and proved to be a more fun film than the other Marvel Studios offering, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

3. Antman

Best Superhero on Film

Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, turned out to be the most memorable and fun superhero to star in a superhero film in 2015. He has many downtrodden tropes of a hard-luck superhero like Spider-Man, but witty dialogue and solid acting by Paul Rudd who added just the right amount of humor made Ant-Man a character to watch out for in future films.

Best Film Character

Out of all the characters, old and new, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rey was the most intriguing with a mysterious back story that has yet to be fully revealed. Thanks to Daisy Ridley’s performance and the way she was written, this future Jedi left viewers with a confident impression that she will carry the torch for the Star Wars saga.

rey and bb8

Best Line in a Film

“What a lively day!” Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Film Villain

Indominus Rex was literally the biggest and most terrifying villain/movie monster to come along in some time. His savage rampage across in Jurassic World was one of the reasons why the film became the summer blockbuster of 2015.

I Rex

Best Special Effects

There was so much to choose from this year from the dizzying size proportions of Ant-Man to the practical effects showcased in Mad Max: Fury Road to the rampaging dinosaurs in Jurassic World. But one film stood out above them all and that one was the seventh film of a long-running franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Best Trailer for an Upcoming Film

There were some cool trailers like the one for Independence Day: Resurgence and some Godawful ones like Star Trek Beyond, but the trailer that stuck was one that was leaked out of Comic-Con and forced into general release to the delight of millions as they met the new Joker played by Jared Leto. That trailer was for Suicide Squad.

Biggest Disappointment

Sure there were many truly dreadful films this year like Fant4stic, but Avengers: Age of Ultron has to take the title for biggest disappointment. It’s not a bad film at all, it’s got a lot going for it, but it lacked the energy and fun of the original Avengers film and failed to live up to the buildup.

Best App

Marvel: Future Fight is a true successor and competitor to Marvel: Avengers Alliance with its wide roster of heroes, inventive game play and thrilling graphics.

Best Video Game

Thanks to a sprawling, post-apocalyptic virtual landscape, involving storyline about a parent looking for a lost child and addictive gameplay Fallout 4 gets the honor for the best video game of 2015.

fallout 4

Best Merchandise

Anything with BB-8 🙂

bb8 toy

Best Hallmark Ornament

With Leonard Nimoy passing away bye spock ornamentthis year, this ornament poignantly symbolized the friendship between Kirk and Spock as it recreated their final scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Biggest News Item

2015 started off with the exciting announcement that Spider-Man would now be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the news event that sadly supplanted that later on was the unfortunate passing of Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy. His Spock is a genuine cultural icon and Mr. Nimoy is still missed by us.

 

Fifteen Films To Look For In 2015

hulkbuster

xwing

This year’s slate of genre films looks incredibly thrilling for fans. We have the return of Star Wars, the Avengers and many high-profile sci-fi wannabe epics, plus a slew of fantasy, horror and animated films. Of the many scheduled releases, these are the ones to look for in 2015.

15. Jupiter Ascending

This eye-catching space adventure jupiterfilm starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum can be either a magnificent comeback vehicle for the Wachowskis or another in a long string of flops for the directors after their early success with The Matrix. (Release Date: February 6)

14. Inside Out

Pixar is offering two animated films for 2015 and the first one out is about the emotions of a young girl being played out in her mind by distinct characters. Think of that old Fox show Herman’s Head for the younger crowd. (Release Date: June 19)

WELCOME TO YESTERDAY13. Project Almanac

Usually January is a dumping ground for inferior movies, and found footage films are now considered passé. But Project Almanac has an interesting premise: A bunch of young adults record their discovery of time travel and its negative repercussions. It could go either way. (Release Date: January 30)

12. Monsters: Dark Continent

Even though Gareth Edwards, the monsters dark continentdirector of the first Monsters film, isn’t returning, he is still involved in this sequel that expands the premise of Monsters. Now the alien behemoths have spread throughout the world and this film chronicles a soldier looking for a comrade in monster-infested territory. (Release Date: February 27)

11. Terminator: Genisys

Fans of the Terminator films have been burned by the last two entries in the series. The production team behind this latest entry hope to start afresh with this semi-reboot/sequel that returns Arnold Schwarzenegger as an older version of the killer cyborg. The trailer was a bit offputting, yet somehow intriguing with the idea that the original timeline of the first film has been radically altered and combines elements of Terminator 2: Judgment Day with the original film. (Release Date: July 1)

10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part Two

The final film of The Hunger Games saga promises to deliver the ultimate confrontation between the young victor of the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), and the District 13 rebel forces against the tyrant President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his armies of Panem. (Release Date: November 20)

scott lang9. Ant-Man

This film is probably a case of any publicity is good publicity. Ant-Man has always been an obscure superhero. The only interest in this film was due to director Edgar Wright’s involvement. Awaresness ratcheted up a thousand fold when Wright quit the film and Marvel Studios went through a very public search for a director, any director to take over. It’s easy to right off Ant-Man because of its behind-the -scenes headaches, but this is Marvel Studios, who were able to sell the just-as obscure Guardians of the Galaxy. (Release Date: July 17)

8. The Good Dinosaur

Out of the two Pixar releases for this dinogoodyear, this film seems the more interesting of the two. It’s about dinosaurs for Pete’s sake! And according to publicity material The Good Dinosaur takes place in world where the mighty giant reptiles never died off, making the film a rare alternate history film. Even though it’s had a troubled production, Pixar should be able to pull off another winner. (Release Date: November 25)

7. The Martian

Based on the book by Andy Weir. Ridley Scott directs this outer space survival tale starring Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars. Think of Survivorman in space or rather that underrated cult classic Robinson Crusoe on Mars, but with today’s scientific knowledge and special effects. Hopefully Ridley Scott might have better luck with The Martian than he did with Prometheus. (Release Date: November 25)

6. Chappie

Neill Blomkamp’s third film stars Hugh Jackman and is about a sentient chappierobot finding his way in the world. From the bits shown in the trailer, Chappie might become the latest endearing robot to capture our human hearts in the mode of WALL-E or R2-D2. In any case, this film offers Blomkamp a chance at redemption after Elysium failed to match the success of District 9. (Release Date: March 6)

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

Everyone’s favorite futuristic Road Warrior is back! In the newest Mad Max film, the titular hero is now portrayed by Tom Hardy and is being directed by series creator George Miller. If what has been shown on the trailers is true, we’re going to be treated by the same high-octane road thrills that defined the original films and make the Fast and the Furious films seem pedestrian. (Release Date: May 15)

4. Jurassic World

Dinosaurs never get old on the silver screen! With that said, we’ve been itching for a return to Jurassic Park even though the last film, which came out in 2001, was a bit disappointing. Chris Pratt stars as a park warden in a perfected dinosaur theme park that has a front-seat viewing of dinosaur genetic experiments gone awry. (Release Date: June 12)

raptors

3. Tomorrowland

The newest film by Brad Bird is still a mystery at this point and the teaser released served only to bring up more questions and entice us even more. Bird has proven to be a phenomenal director and the imagery shown in the trailer were beyond entrancing. Fingers crossed that Tomorrowland will be as extraordinary and scintillating as the teaser, well, teased. (Release Date: May 22)

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Yes, this latest Star Wars film is on the top of many anticipated lists for 2015. This is just based on director J.J. Abrams’ credentials and an exciting teaser trailer. But remember how we were all excited when the trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out. Then there is the undeniable fact that Abrams has his critics, especially with his overuse of lens flares. And depending on one’s point of view this is the first Star Wars film not under the guidance of George Lucas. Putting all those reservations aside, it’s freaking great that we’re actually getting a brand new Star Wars films that takes its inspiration from the Original Trilogy. (Release Date: December 18)

m falcon star wars 7

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The Avengers was as influential on superhero films as The Dark Knight and Superman. A large measure of thanks had to go to director Joss Whedon, who crafted a well-balanced character/action piece that was exciting, witty and plain fun. Avengers: Age of Ultron looks like it will take the route of other well-regarded sequels in adopting a darker tone. This came across with the trailer’s use of a chilling rendition of “I Got No Strings”, which accompanied despairing scenes of our distressed heroes as they faced off against the robotic Ultron, voiced unnervingly by James Spader. Also it’s been hinted that the film’s events will lead to 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, which pits superheroes against one another. The takeaway impression is that Avengers: Age of Ultron will not play it safe. (Release Date: May 1)

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In addition to this list there are many more genre films currently scheduled for 2015. Some of the more interesting ones include Predestination (January 9–next week!), a time-travel piece starring Ethan Hawke; Seventh Son (February 6) features Jeff Bridges in a medieval knight story with fantastic monsters and witches; The Divergent Series: Insurgent (March 20), the sequel to last year’s Divergent is also an adaptation of Veronica Roth’s second Divergent novel and stars super popular Shailene Woodley; Home (March 27), Dreamworks Animation presents this sci-fi buddy comedy about aliens invaders; Ex Machina (April 10) marks the directorial debut of 28 Days Later writer Alex Garland in a tale about artificial intelligence; Pan (July 24) is a prequel to Peter Pan featuring Hugh Jackman; Pixels (July 24), Chris Columbus directs this sci-fi comedy about 1980s-era video game characters used by aliens to invade Earth; Poltergeist (July 24), a remake of the Tobe Hooper horror classic; Self/Less (July 31) stars Ryan Reynolds as a dying man whose consciousness is transferred into another body; Sinister 2 (August 21), the sequel to the surprisingly scary Sinister; The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (Sept. 18), based on another popular young reader sci-fi book series, it’s the sequel to last year’s The Maze Runner; Victor Frankenstein (October 2), James McAvoy stars as the infamous scientist while Daniel Radcliffe plays Igor; The Jungle Book (October 9) is a live-action version of the Disney classic adaptation directed by Jon Favreau; Crimson Peak (October 16), a Gothic romance directed by Guillermo Del Toro; and Midnight Special (November 25) is a sci-fi chase film about a father and son who go on run after the son develops special powers.

José Soto

DC Wins The TV War…For Now, Part One

 old DC

One of the great corporate rivalries is the one between the comic book giants Marvel Comics and DC Comics. It’s a competition that has spilled over to other media. When it comes to films, Marvel has won the war on that front due to the monumental successes of their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. However, take a quick glance at the current TV schedule. From looking at that and television history, it’s obvious that DC has won the TV War…for now.

Head Start

In reality, DC had the war won for decades now. This goes way back to the 1950s with the success of the first TV show based on Superman. That would be, of course, the landmark series Adventures of Superman, which starred George Reeves. It’s well known that the series was very popular and helped cement Superman’s legendary status in pop culture. Marvel at that time period didn’t even exist, nor did their most popular heroes because the company was concentrating on non-superhero comic books.

Following the cancellation of Adventures of Superman, the next DC superhero to bask in the television spotlight was Batman. Beginning in 1966, Batman was an instant hit and a genuine pop culture phenomenon. Starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, the show was a decidedly goofy sendup of comic books and introduced characters like the Joker and Catwoman to non-comic book readers. Although, it was and is still popular, many decried the way Batman belittled the Caped Crusader and comic books in general.

wonder woman

In the 1970s, there were a few TV shows and specials based on DC Comics superheroes. The best known was Wonder Woman, starring Lynda Carter and it aired from 1975 to 1979. The show wasn’t as cheesy as Batman, nor as popular, but it was noted for its pro-feminist stance since the title character was a superhuman woman. The women’s lib messages obviously went over the heads of most younger viewers, who were enamored with Lynda Carter and her skimpy outfit.

Other TV shows airing in the 1970s were strictly aimed at children like Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis. In fact, these half-hour programs only aired on Saturday mornings and had limited appeal.

Around this time period, Marvel got into the hulk showact with the premieres of TV shows and TV films based on their characters. The first superhero to make a live-action appearance was Spider-Man, who made non-speaking appearances on The Electric Company. Some of the Marvel TV films and shows were truly awful like Captain America and The Amazing Spider-Man, which thankfully did not last long as a series. But a couple were actually decent like Doctor Strange and Marvel’s biggest hit on TV The Incredible Hulk. Airing in November 1977 and starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, the TV film was a big hit and led to a successful TV series the following year.

Second Wind

superboyThe decade that followed, the 1980s, was slow for comic book properties on TV. After The Incredible Hulk was cancelled in 1982 there wouldn’t be another superhero TV show until the syndicated program Superboy debuted in 1988. Coming after the film disaster Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Superboy was a welcome respite for fans who just wanted to see good, old-fashioned superheroics and teenage angst. Plus, Superboy was a competent place holder until DC and its parent company Warner Bros. could bring out another Superman TV series or film.

On a side note, there were a trio of TV films that continued the Hulk’s adventures and the first two introduced live-action versions of Thor and Daredevil. The Hulk and his alter ego David Banner actually died at the end of the third film, but there were plans to do more TV films. However, those ended after Bixby’s untimely death in 1993.

The humongous success of the film Batman in 1989 helped jumpstart new DC-based TV shows in the 1990s. Not wanting to rest with the success of Superboy, Swamp Thing: The Series premiered on the basic cable channel USA Network in 1990, while a show based on the comic book Human Target aired briefly on ABC in 1992.

old flashThere were two shows that made the largest impact in that decade. They were The Flash and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. The Flash, starring John Wesley Shipp, premiered in the fall of 1990 fresh off the success of Batman and seemed to copy the stylistic direction of the Tim Burton film. Even though it only lasted one season, the show is revered by fans because of its fun stories, dazzling effects, and character work. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, which aired on ABC, was targeted more towards women since it concentrated more on the relationship between Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) and Clark Kent (Dean Cain). The superhero aspects of Superman took a back seat to the romantic shenanigans and it was laden with light humor. Of course, this displeased some fans, but it was still a successful program.

As for Marvel, the 1990s was a decade best left forgotten. There were DOA pilots based on Power Pack, Generation X and Nick Fury. As for the syndicated show Night Man, the less said about it the better.

Animation Dominion

young justiceAs DC dominated the television medium, there was another TV venue that it conquered. That was with their animated TV shows. Since the 1960s, there have been numerous TV shows that aired on Saturday mornings and on syndication based on DC’s superheroes. DC enjoyed early successes like Superfriends in the 1970s, but their animated shows weren’t acclaimed until Batman: The Animated Series premiered in 1992. Boasting memorable characters, villains and plots, the show was a huge hit and led to other superior animated gems like Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League. DC’s animated renaissance probably culminated with the recent Young Justice. It just lasted two seasons, but its smartly written scripts, mature themes, and complex character development won wide appraisals from fans and critics.

In this venue, Marvel actually presented itself as a viable counterpart to DC since the 1960s with series based on Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Avengers and other stalwarts. The results were quite admirable in many instances, but DC on the whole produced more noteworthy animated TV shows.

New Century, New Renaissance

As DC celebrated their animated successes in the 1990s, the live-action field was stagnant after the cancellation of Lois & Clark in 1997. There was an infamous pilot made for the Justice League that thankfully never made it into a series. It can be found on Youtube for anyone that is curious.

The live-action drought ended a few years later in 2001 with Smallville. This long-running show starred Tom Welling as Clark Kent in his teenage years and early twenties. It ran on The WB and later The CW networks and explored many aspects of the Superman mythos while concentrating on Clark’s emotional development and how he came to be Superman. It had its faults like the producers’ insistence of “no tights, no flights”, which meant Clark never put on his iconic Superman suit. (The final episode doesn’t count since he was never fully shown wearing it.) This was strange because many other superheroes featured on Smallville like Green Arrow, the Justice Society and Supergirl were allowed to fully embrace their comic-book roots. The Warner Bros. network tried to capitalize on the success of Smallville with other programs, but weren’t successful. Efforts included the short-lived Birds of Prey in 2002 and a pilot for Aquaman.

Around the time that Smallville came to an end, the superhero genre exploded in theaters. Super hits like The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and The Avengers cemented the permanence of arrowsuperhero films. As it goes, whenever there is a mammoth box office hit, TV executives take notice and follow suit. Warner Bros. and DC took advantage of the heightened interest in superheroes and produced many TV shows. Not all of them bore fruit like pilots for Aquaman and Wonder Woman, or another iteration of Human Target, but others blossomed and are now hit shows. These include Arrow, The Flash, Gotham and to a lesser extent Constantine. And that is just the beginning.

José Soto and Lewis T. Grove

To Be Continued