Wednesday, September 04, 2013

In Which The Warlock Re-Watches a Classic Series...and Names a Winner!

As I've been gearing up for Cold Steel Wardens' official debut, I've found myself going back through and reading through many of the comics and graphic novels that inspired me to write the game in the first place:  Watchmen, obviously, but also Denny O'Neil's run on The Question, Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke, and tons of the other compilations on our bowing bookshelves.

A must-own for any comics fan!
Truly, as much as these comics have influenced me, there's a huge influence out there that's absolutely influenced nearly every comics game since its inception.  I speak, of course, of the DC Comics Animated series Justice League, and its successor, Justice League Unlimited.  I've been watching the series again in my spare time and find that it really holds up spectacularly.

For those who haven't seen it, Justice League started as a spiritual successor to two series:  Batman: The Animated Series (later known as (The New Adventures of Batman and Robin) and Superman: The Animated Series, both of which were helmed by executive producer Paul Dini and animator Bruce Timm.  The pair also collaborated on the underrated (but excellent!) Batman Beyond, which catapulted into the future of a cyberpunk-styled Gotham City.  The pair's signature style permeated the series, with Justice League serving as an extension of Superman and Batman's story, extending out into the wider DC animated world.  Characters from Superman: TAS such as Emil Hamilton and events such as Darkseid's invasion of Earth had effects lasting well into Justice League Unlimited.

While the storylines presented in Justice League/JLU were often riffs on classic storylines, the interplay between characters often overshadows even the most interesting plotlines.  Phil LaMarr's Green Lantern (John Stewart) and Maria Canals' Hawkgirl bear special mention here, as their on-again, off-again romantic interest carries through the whole of the series.  The characters feel authentic, not relying on "easy" answers or the typical "damsel in distress" tropes so common to comic book romances.
JLU was actually my first introduction to The Question.
Jeffrey Combs' interplay with Amy Ackers'
Huntress was exceptional!
It's those sorts of relationships that make JL/JLU's action seem so captivating.  Much of JLU's first (26 episode) season dealt with the shadowy organization known as Project Cadmus spearheading a governmental counter to the ever-expanding Justice League roster.  When Jeffrey Combs' The Question confronts Superman about details found in a Cadmus database, his rage and frustration are palpable.  Kin Shriner's portrayal of Green Arrow particularly stands out as an "everyman" trapped between his liberal sensibilities, his burgeoning relationship with Black Canary, and his duties to the League itself.

Those interpersonal relationships come from spectacular writing from creators who truly know and care about these characters.  I was astounded to see exactly how many current comics writers actually wrote on episodes of JL/JLU.  While the spectacular Dwayne McDuffie helmed a majority of the episodes--especially on JLU--comics luminaries like Warren Ellis, Gail Simone, and Geoff Johns grace several episodes' credits.  These creators made viewers feel and empathize with B- and C-list characters, most of whom wouldn't have gotten a second glance, much less top billing in animation.

If you have a chance, I heartily recommend picking these up or catching them online.  The writing's spectacular, the art holds up beautifully, and the characterizations of these classic DC characters is simply unmatched.  If you like superheroes, you owe it to yourself to watch this classic series.

Oh!  One last thing!  We have a contest winner!

We received quite a few entries for our 400th Entry contest, but the (randomly determined) winner of the PDF prize pack is...

Ben Merrill--our first respondent!  Ben, I'll be in touch in the coming days with your first PDF, with a copy of Cold Steel Wardens for you waiting in the wings.  Congratulations!

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