By Scott Tre

Batman will perhaps never escape the shadow of Frank Miller. His take on the character has left such an indelible mark that almost every iteration since has been a variation of what he established. Ironically, as influential as both Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns have been, the latter has never received a proper adaptation in either live-action or animated form. Alas, The DC Animated Universe provides a wonderful platform to explore non-canonical takes on beloved characters. This fall, the highly popular series will welcome Frank Miller’s dystopian (and some would say definitive) take on the caped crusader into the fold. The Hollywood Reporter has recently published photographic evidence of this endeavor.

Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter published 10 newly released images from Bruce Timm’s production of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The 10 stills show a 55 year old Bruce Wayne/Batman, as well as a thirteen year old female robin. So epic is this undertaking, its makers have split it into two volumes. The first, entitled Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 1, will be released in the fall. Part 2 will be released early next year. Peter Weller will be voicing the caped crusader, which is fitting seeing as how both Robocop and Frank Miller’s dystopian version of Batman were essentially riffs on Dirty Harry.

The two part epic will be the 15th film in the DCAU line, which has been rechristened DC Comics Premiere Movies. It’s being directed by Jay Oliva, who’s also storyboarding Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel. The pedigree here is undeniably strong. These ten stills give me faith that Bruce Timm and company will do the single greatest graphic novel of all time justice. I feel that they maintain reasonable fidelity with the artwork of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. If all goes as it should, Batman: The Dark Knight returns should be the single best DC animated film ever. Below I have embedded the animation stills sans the photos of the voice actors.

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By Malice Intended of Planet Ill

A change of major proportions is sweeping through Gotham’s underworld. A shady figure known as The Red Hood (Jensen Ackles) has decided to unite and organize the city’s various dealers under his rule. His violent campaign threatens the livelihood of the Black Mask, Gotham’s first true crime boss in decades.

Black Mask eventually enlists the help of the Joker (John Dimaggio) to maintain his rule. Batman (Bruce Greenwood) immediately springs into action to prevent the war that will surely result. While hot on the Red Hood’s trail, Batman realizes that he may be linked to him in a most unexpected and tragic way.

Batman: Under the Red Hood is the eighth straight to DVD feature from the DC Animated Universe. It adapts two well known storylines from the comics: the controversial “Death in the Family” and the more recent “Under the Hood”. These two story arcs are combined into grim narrative that will definitely satisfy those who prefer the darkest possible iteration of the character.

The visual palette of Batman: Under the Red Hood stays true to the aesthetic established in earlier Bruce Timm productions. Gotham city is almost never seen in daylight, and the mood is very reminiscent of the classic Warner Brothers gangster films of the 30’s. The villains inhabit secret meeting places, while Batman patrols the rooftops, ledges and alley ways. It is not a total facsimile of Batman: The Animated Series, but it is shrouded in a similar mood.

Fight scenes are always a centerpiece of DC Animated Universe productions, and Batman: Under The Red Hood is no exception. Director Brandon Vietti ups the ante in terms of brutality, offering fight scenes that will have viewers wincing in pain as Batman inflicts serious injury on his opponents. The level of ferocity is enhanced by the quick cuts and unusual angles. Though occasionally bloody, none of it is truly gruesome and is done in the style of adventure serial.

The story wallows in the darkest of themes and emotions, offering a Batman that is perpetually grim and racked with guilt; carrying his past sins like baggage. It also takes a decidedly less light hearted view of Batman’s partnerships with those who have fought alongside him as Robin. The concept of child endangerment is never spelled out in the dialogue, but it lurks just beneath the surface. The villains go to greater lengths than we are used to seeing in American animation, administering severe beatings among other acts of terrorism.

Anyone who voices the caped crusader will be standing in the shadow of Kevin Conroy due to his legendary work on Batman: The Animated series. Perhaps realizing this, Bruce Greenwood opts to get in the good graces of fans by imitating Conroy’s vocal inflections. His decision is a good one, and helps to maintain a continuity of sorts with past DCAU productions. Neil Patrick Harris is somewhat inconsequential as Nightwing. John Dimaggio leaves a lasting impression with relatively little screen time. His characterization of the Joker owes much to Heath Ledger.

Batman: Under the Red Hood is the most intense DC Animated original movie yet. It’s every bit as dark and unrelenting as its recent live action counterparts. Those who enjoyed both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight will feel right at home here. It’s the perfect combination of substance and style, showing that animation is just as viable a form of storytelling as any other medium. 4.25 out of 5

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Animator, llustrator, Director, Writer, LeSean Thomas is a celebrated Pop- Artist with a Hip Hop/ Anime-driven aesthetic that is praised by industry veterans and fans of the genre. As a South Bronx NYC native eventually finding his way to Hollywood, his work on projects including the Peabody Award-winning animated series, “The Boondocks,” ( Co-Director/ Supervising Character Designer)has introduced an arm of artistic expression to an audience once only thought to be too remote to penetrate. He’s worked as a staff storyboard artist for Cartoon Network (“BEN10: Alien Force”), Warner Bros animation(“BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD,” “GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT”)and Supervising Character Designer( “SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES.”).

Beyond animation he’s a respected comicbook artist having done ARKANIUM and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES for the late DREAMWAVE PRODUCTIONS.

He currently resides in Seoul, South Korea as staff at JM ANIMATION studios.

He is also currently writing and illustrating a creator-owned graphic novel.



By Scott Tre

This season of The Boondocks has been a roller coaster ride in terms of tone and quality. It’s been all over the place, inspiring any number of reactions from both fans and detractors. At this point, it’s impossible to anticipate what the remaining episodes have in store for us. Perhaps it’s time to just sit back, take it all in and reserve our judgments until after the credits roll on the series finale.

Last night’s episode, “Fundraiser”, is perhaps the most delightful one yet. After binging on contemporary gangster films, Riley decides to stage a Tony Montana style come up in the candy business. He applies what he learns from the movies, determined not to make the same mistakes that befell their main characters. As expected, he shirks Huey’s advice against such action. Riley’s come up is strategic and decisive. He puts together a team and moves on the competition. His business becomes so lucrative that it draws the ire of school administrators and people much higher up the food chain. As the plot thickens, the hard headed Riley adheres to the lessons he learned from the likes of Tony Montana and Henry Hill even after he realizes that real life logic doesn’t function the same as movie logic.

“Fundraiser” goes a long way in proving the theory that The Boondocks functions best when it abandons heavy handed social commentary aimed at “important/black” issues and just has fun. In fact, the less profound it tries to be, the more profound it ends up being. “Fundraiser” is all about America’s gangster fetish, or more importantly how so many people use contemporary crime films as a blueprint for real life hustling. As the situation escalates and becomes violent, Riley refuses to do the “smart thing” and continues to follow in the footsteps of his fictional gangster heroes.

Parallels are also drawn between school fundraisers and the crack game. The kids sell thousands of dollars worth of snacks for “prizes” that in no way compensate them for the time and effort expended. The adults at the top of the operation only care about getting their cut. Almost everyone can be bought off, including the parents who should be questioning the origins of their children’s new found wealth. “Fundraiser” also tackles the way self serving entrepreuners exploit America’s tendency to give money to “worthy causes” without really looking into them.

All of this is done with a myriad of Pop culture references so plentiful that they go beyond the boundaries of popular gangster films. When one of Riley’s underlings befalls the same fate as a certain space pirate, it results in one of the funniest moments in the history of the show. Even funnier is Rileys response to the situation. Unlike other episodes, the shows favorite racial epithet is used sparingly. Restraint is something that is rarely associated with The Boondocks, but “Fundraiser” shows an ample amount of it. There isn’t much here that can be considered “over the top” or “too far” by the shows standards.

Season three of The Boondocks has not established a discernible rhythm, so perhaps it’s time to stop looking for one. The Boondocks has always refused to conform to expectations, a quality that would be highly praised in any other television series. Instead of writing off the entire series on the strength of a single entry, one should stand back and take in the whole picture. Reactionary responses are the province of lazy minds. We beg for entertainment that truly challenges us. When it’s offered, we lament the fact that it was not retooled into something more predictable. Like Riley, we hold on to our ideas of how things should be, rather than looking at them for what they are. Life rarely conforms to our expectations, and neither does The Boondocks.

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By Scott Tre

Warner Bros. Animation is preparing a brand new Thundercats series that will air on Cartoon Network in 2011. The Series will be done in collaboration with Studio4°C, the same Japanese animation studio behind The Animatrix and Gotham Knights. The new series will cover the same Science-Fantasy territory as the original, with updated character designs and the like (The photo that accompanies this story is meant to give us an idea of what to expect). It will be accessible to newcomers while retaining the qualities that endeared the brand to die hard fans.

If those of us who remember and cherish the syndicated series can put nostalgia aside for a moment, it should be plainly obvious that this new series will be better than the original in almost every conceivable way. Better quality writing and animation is a given. We can’t let rose colored glasses shield us from the fact that the syndicated show was essentially a series of 22 minute toy commercials. While the motivations behind this new incarnation are probably no less shrewd, the end product will most assuredly be better. *Thanks to MTV Splash Page for the scoop!

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Aaron McGruder’s controversial animated series returns this May.

Award-winning animated Adult Swim series “The Boondocks” is returning this spring for a third season, skewering suburbia and harpooning hip-hop once more, with its own unique brand of subversive flavor. The show, based on Aaron McGruder’s comic strip by the same name, gets reanimated after a two year hiatus on Sunday, May 2nd at 11:30pm EST.

Creator and executive producer McGruder announced the news on his Twitter feed, several weeks after posting confirmation that the third season was on its way.

The series, produced by Rebel Base in association with Sony Pictures Television, includes the vocal talents of Regina King (“Southland”) as Huey and Riley Freeman; John Witherspoon (“Friday After Next”) as Granddad; Gary Anthony Williams (“Boston Legal”) as Uncle Ruckus; Cedric Yarbrough (“Reno 911”) as Tom Dubois; Jill Talley (“American Dad”) as Sarah; and Gabby Soleil (“Johnson Family vacation”) as Jazmine.

The show’s return will be a welcome dose of touchy, controversial sociopolitical humor and situations “The Boondocks” has become famous for. -Via Crave Online