Entry for December 03, 2008: Animation roundup

Although I've blogged a lot lately about genre television, movies, and comic books, I haven't written much about their intersection in animation. While I look forward to the eventual return of The Spectacular Spider-Man, the retro Batman and the Brave and Bold has been entertaining so far, and I think the computer-animated Star Wars: Clone Wars has been underrated by most critics and fans of George Lucas' space opera universe.

It's a pity that the TV networks have been gradually moving away from child-friendly cartoons on Saturday mornings. Just as my nephews are at an age when they enjoy all things related to the DC and Marvel superheroes, including toys and video games, the "big two" publishers' main titles are written for adults, and most of the reruns in prime time are more than a decade old.

The upcoming Wolverine and the X-Men looks promising, at least to fans of the 1990s cartoons and the more recent X-Men Evolution, as well as the live-action movies (Wolverine: Origins is coming next year). I still wish that the various adaptations could get the various cohorts of Prof. Xavier's mutant students correct in terms of their relative ages.

Marvel also has kid-friendly versions of The Avengers and a young Iron Man in the works, while DC's Legion of Superheroes has joined Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans in series to be found only in reruns on the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Fox Kids, or ABC Family.

As an adult fanboy, I look forward to the animated tie-ins to the upcoming Thor and Wonder Woman movies. I'm optimistic about the live-action Asgardian Avenger flick, which currently has Shakespearean director Kenneth Branagh directing and Journeyman's Kevin McKidd under consideration to play the Mighty Thor. (On a side note, I voted for Mark Valley of Keen Eddie and Fringe to play Steve Rogers/Captain America.)

The Amazonian princess has not been done justice since the Lynda Carter series, with a variety of actresses favored for the role and no director or script set, but at least the cartoon looks decent. The live-action Justice League movie has had similar problems getting off the ground (Aussie Megan Gale had been cast as Wonder Woman), even as the deconstructionist Watchmen and Marvel's master plan for an Avengers team-up advance.

Not surprisingly, given Barack Obama's victory in the U.S. presidential election, some fans have named black genre actors for roles such as Doctor Who, James Bond, and Wonder Woman. Hustle's Adrian Lester might be fine as the next incarnation of the time-traveling Gallifreyan, but Colin Salmon is arguably too suave for Ian Fleming's superspy (I'm more a fan of Sean Connery than Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan), just as Daniel Craig is arguably too rough (a bit like Timothy Dalton).

I hope for the day of truly color-blind society and casting, but in the meantime, I think an athletic and high-quality actress of Mediterranean extraction would be better as Diana of Themiscyra. However, Gina Torres from Xena: Warrior Princess, the Matrix trilogy, and Firefly/Serenity) would be better than singer Beyonce Knowles for Wonder Woman, and I still think that Angela Basset would have been better than Halle Berry as the X-Men's Storm.

Speaking of Ororo Munroe and her mate T'challa, Djimon Honsu should make an interesting Black Panther in BET's upcoming animated series. Jennifer Garner, while convincing in action, was too much of the wholesome girl next door to be convincing as a troubled assassin in Daredevil and Elektra.

I also think it's a good idea to work out the supernatural heroes' origins in direct-to-video releases while preparing big-budget features. Marvel is also working on Hulk vs. Thor and Hulk vs. Wolverine videos, while DC is following with Wonder Woman and Green Lantern the successful strategy that brought us Justice League: New Frontier and Batman: Gotham Knight.