WonderCon 2012: 'Superman vs. The Elite' World Premiere

Saturday, 17 March 2012 07:37 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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WonderCon 2012: 'Superman vs. The Elite' World Premiere

WonderCon 2012 (San Diego Comic-Con’s sister convention) kicked off on Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center and that evening fan’s were treated to the World Premiere of the latest film from DC Universe Animated Original Movies entitled Superman vs. The Elite, which will be available on Blu-ray DVD combo, VOD and digital downloads beginning June 12th.

The PG-13 direct-to-video film series has adapted many classic DC stories in the past including Superman: Doomsday, Justice League: The New Frontier, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Batman: Under the Red Hood, All-Star Superman, and Batman: Year one. The new film is based on the classic Action Comics issue #775, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?” written by popular comic book scribe Joe Kelly with art by Doug Mahnke. The story takes a look at the values Superman stands for and if they are still necessary in our cynical new world.

Superman vs. The Elite begins with a mysterious character watching multi television screens showing different countries at war, common criminals, and even a cameo by DC villain Dr. Light. The character is eventually revealed to be Manchester Black, a powerful psychic who believes that bad guys should be permanently punished for their crimes. The opening credits followed and they featured a Curt Swan style montage that was reminiscent of the old Filmation Superman cartoons from the ‘60s. Next we see a Rocky and Bullwinkle type cartoon featuring Superman and we come to find out that the man of steel has licensed his image out in order to spread his message of truth, Justice and the American way. Lois Lane warns Clark Kent of the dangers of Superman commercializing his image but our hero is needed elsewhere as the Atomic Skull is on the loose. Superman battles Atomic Skull and as he defeats him, he stops himself before killing his enemy. At a meeting at the United Nations, Superman takes part in a debate questioning whether his methods are correct or if villains like Atomic Skull should be killed rather than jailed.

When a conflict breaks out between two warring countries in the Middle East, Superman is dispatched to save the day only to find that Manchester Black is already on the scene and has put the conflict to rest. Black is a cynical and sarcastic anti-hero in stark contrast to Superman but the two get along fine at first. Black introduces Superman to the rest of his team, which call themselves The Elite. In addition to Black, the team includes Coldcast who is capable of controlling electricity, a powerful yet drunk magician named Hat, and Menagerie (A.K.A. Pam) who uses an alien snake like weapon that gives her wings and the ability to shoot projectile serpents. Pam has her eyes on Superman and is not afraid to let everyone know, much to Lois’s dismay. We soon see Black’s origin story and The Elite eventually give the world an ultimatum. If you are a bad guy watch out, because The Elite will kill you rather than arrest you. “You asked for us world, now you got us,” says Black. Superman and Lois head to the Fortress of Solitude and Superman begins to question who he is and what he stands for. Does the world still need a Superman?

When Black kills a terrorist, Superman says that he is not above the law, to which Black replies, “Your country does it all the time!” Lois is soon visited by a stranger who has information regarding Black’s true past and it seems that he’s not exactly who he claims to be. Meanwhile, Clark has returned to Smallville and gets a pep talk from Pa Kent who tells his adopted son that he needs to continue to set an example for others. But when Atomic Skull escapes The Elite stop him from destroying Metropolis and against Superman’s wishes kill Skull with the city cheering them on. Confused and thinking that the world no longer needs him, Superman once again tries to install peace when the two warring Middle Eastern countries begin their conflict once again. However, before they can give peace a chance, The Elite kill the leaders of the two countries. Black then threatens Sups and a final battle between Superman and The Elite is televised from the moon. Superman seemingly stoops to their level using his full range of powers to kill Black’s colleagues and in an uncharacteristic rage of anger the Big Blue Boy Scout threatens to give Black a taste of his own medicine. As he begs for his life, it is revealed that this was all a trick on Superman’s part to show the world that violence is not the answer and our hero has actually killed no one. With the help of Lois, Jimmy Olson, and the Fortress of Solitudes Super-Robots, Superman was able to defeat Manchester Black and The Elite, while at the same time earning back the respect of the world.

When I first heard that the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie was going to be based on Action Comics #775, I wasn’t that excited. But the material really transcends to the medium and author Joe Kelly has done an excellent job of adapting his own material for the screenplay. The story really is relevant to today’s current world and makes for a great and entertaining movie. While Manchester Black and The Elite never interested me that much in the past, they are well used in this film and make me interested in seeing more of Black in the future. Another thing I liked about the film is how Lois is seen really as Superman’s partner in crime, almost the Robin to his Batman. I also enjoyed how Superman is really able to use his full range of powers, which is something that often gets overlooked in other Superman adaptations. The cast of voice actors is excellent including George Newbern who reprises his role as the man of steel from his work on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. In addition to Newbern, NCIS star Pauley Perrette is fantastic as the voice of Lois and Robin Atkins Downes, last heard as Alfred in Justice League: Doom is wonderfully menacing as the voice of Manchester Black, which sounds like a cross between Johnny Rotten and Johnny Depp.

After the film, Gary Miereanu from Warner Bros. Home Video moderated a panel that included the film’s director Michael Chang (Batman: Brave and the Bold), Comic book writer Joe Kelly, and voice actor Robin Atkins Downes. Before the presentation I had a chance to catch up with Joe Kelly and this is what he had to say about having his story adapted for the animated screen. “It’s a total honor for me. I’m really proud of this story and I’m really honored that they asked me to write the screenplay,” said Kelly. “Action #775 means a lot to me, it is one of the highlights of my career and it means a lot to many fans. So to get to see it animated has been wonderful.”

I also asked the comic book scribe why he thought his story has lasted the test of time and is still as relevant today as it was when it was first written. “In general comics are fantasy and one of the fantasies we have is the revenge fantasy, you know that we can take down the bad guy and he will never come back. That is what the anti-hero represents and the idea that Superman can still be relevant in the midst of all of that is what the comic and the film is all about,” Kelly explained. “It doesn’t matter that he is from another planet or can fly, he believes in basic human goodness. That hope is timeless and I think it is critical. So even more now then when we put the story together, it is easy to look around and think everything is so bad but if you hold on to that hope you start to see the good in people and that is why Superman is still relevant today.”

Finally, once the discussion was over and the panel had fielded questions from the audience, we were given one last treat. A sneak peek at scenes from the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie, an adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal work "The Dark Knight Returns," which fans have been demanding to see made into a film practically since DC started producing animated features. Some of the footage was finished and some of it was rough but the montage featured several iconic shots from the graphic novel including an older Bruce Wayne, the female Robin, and Batman flying through the rain, which is featured on the cover of the original comic. The Dark Knight Returns will be released in fall 2012 and while the voice cast has not yet been announced, it is rumored that long-time Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) will once again voice the Dark Knight.

Superman vs. The Elite will be available on Blu-ray DVD combo, VOD and digital downloads beginning June 12th

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