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We're into two episodes of the Blind Ferret-produced PvP animated series, and it seems like a good time to actually make mention of it and what's going on with it. I subscribed (as I said I would) and went into it with....

...well, with anticipation, because I really like PvP, but also with some dread, as web animation hasn't been All That for me, so far.

Two episodes in, I'm feeling pretty damn good about my purchase.

The second episode, it's worth noting, is an order of magnitude better than the first was. I liked the first episode -- mostly on the strength of Brent's voice actor, who's about as perfect a voice of Brent as we could hope for. But it had issues of execution. The jokes weren't as well timed as I would have liked. Which Kurtz himself copped to. It was a learning experience for everyone.

The second episode, on the other hand, is much better paced. The timing is good, the voice direction is good (Brent and Skull have a couple of conversations where Skull is talking and talking and Brent slides increasing annoyed comments into it -- which could sound clumsy as Hell but... well, doesn't. I laughed in this episode.

More to this point, this episode couldn't have been a PvP strip. Or a series of strips. Oh, I'm confident it could have been adapted to PvP, but much of the strength derives from the vocal performances, which were very solid. This one really used the medium to its advantage, in that regard.

Finally, the two major voice actors for this one -- Brent and Skull -- were just about note-perfect.

Now, I know people weren't happy that Skull was high-pitched in his voice instead of low pitched. I got that. I saw the angry forum posts. I saw the comments in my own post expressing my excitement over the casting of Dino Andrade. I get all that.

All I can say is if you're still a naysayer after Episode 2, then I don't see how you and I could have been reading the same strip all these years. I affirm the right to your opinion, but I just can't get my brain around it. Andrade was, to my mind, perfect in this episode. Skull was exactly who he should have been, and the vocal chemistry between Skull and Brent was absolute gold.

"You have to wait out there. You're my aduuult!!!" God damn, man.

It's not all peaches and cream. The animation hasn't won me, just yet. It's there and it has potential, but a lot of the movement seemed to be there to say "hey, we're moving!" And Jade walking with her arms folded just... I dunno. It didn't look right to me, somehow. In the end, it's web animation -- maybe higher than middle of the road web animation, but it didn't blow my mind to any appreciable degree. And Jade's voice acting was the weakest of them this time. I liked it more on the fourth or fifth viewing than I did on the first, but it may take a few episodes for the voice actress to really settle into the role (or for my brain to adapt to it).

At the end of the day, I'm looking forward to the third episode. And that's always a good sign. And an even better sign is I'm still glad I spent the money to see this.

I do not, as a matter of course, post Youtube videos onto Websnark. This isn't dogmatic. It's just not what I do. You know. As a matter of course.

In fact, up until now, I have never -- to my recollection -- posted a Youtube video onto Websnark.

Today, that must change. Today, I have seen....

...well, this first came to my attention thanks to the agency of one "R. Milholland," who has a certain degree of notoriety for his expertise on the life of Ed Gein. And M. Milholland has always believed in adding a little extra magic to all of our lives. And having seen this... I have to pass it on to you.

Ladies and gentlemen. I give you an Adrian Molina production. This is... Unicorn vs. Narwhal.

There's a guy I know named Chris Meadows. He's called Robotech Master. He's been called that since... hrm. Well, at least 1991 based purely on how long I've known him. I've known him since the Superguy days.

When I started this up, he had a blog that linked to mine. And when I started up the Project Wonderful ads... he was the first one. He grabbed a button -- he doesn't have long green any more than I do -- but he was being supportive.

The button was for Space Station Liberty, a Talkshoe Talkcast where people can call in and talk to the guests he has on the show. Robotech fans could tell from the show's name (and... well, his name) that it's Robotech based. And it's pretty damn impressive. He has a lot of high profile voice actors and production people on. He had the developer of the Robotech RPG -- legendary RPG iconoclast Kevin Siembieda -- on a show. Hell, he had Chase Masterson -- voice actress and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- actress on.

He didn't ask me to link him. He's never asked me to link him. Not once. But the moment I put up ads he grabbed one at the level he could afford. To advertise his show, sure. But also because he has my back. It's the kind of guy he is.

Well, the ads have been pricing out of Space Station Liberty's budget, which I can understand. (Though he's tried to keep pace.) It's an exciting, woolly and wild bidding process, and oxygen ain't cheap up at that space station, you know. But God damn it, I'm going to tell you about the thing. Because he does it well. Because it's at least moderately likely some people here remember Robotech fondly. And because he'd do it for me.

Oh, and over on his other Talkshoe, The Biblio File, he actually has interviews and discussions with Diane Duane and Peter S. freaking Beagle. He didn't buy any ad space for that one, but Jesus, folks. Peter S. freaking Beagle.

First off -- this post is going to assume that the reader has been watching Justice League Unlimited, and is going to contain spoilers willy nilly for anything that crosses my mind during the elaboration of my thesis -- that's anything from "Initiation," which was the first JLU episode, straight through "Divided We Fall," which is the most recent.

However, this is not the Justice League deconstruction and critique that's brewing in my head. That'll come after next week's caveat to the arc. This, instead, is an essay I've mentioned I wanted to write, and this seems like a good time to do it. And its birth came in the earlier episode "Double Date." For those who don't know or have forgotten, "Double Date" introduces the JLU version of the Huntress, establishes a dynamic between her and the Question that has significant impact on the remainder of the season, and builds a contrast between Question/Huntress and the more traditional Justice League Unlimited romance of Green Arrow/Black Canary. That episode in particular showcased Huntress, Question, Canary and Arrow, highlighting the essential similarities and differences between the four characters.

And left my lit crit brain with one inescapable conclusion: all four characters are ectypes to the archetype of Batman.

Okay, I just jumped six chapters ahead in the literary criticism handbook, so let me explain the reference.

In mythological and psychological critical theory (which, like all critical theory, is largely a philosophy instead of a law of nature, but run with me here), there is a concept of the archetype: the image that in all ways fulfills the role of the hero or the role of the monster. In Greek Myth, the perfect heroic archetype is Perseus -- the son of Zeus who stands as a man instead of a demigod, acting with perfect honor and using the highest ideals of the Greeks, strength and cunning, to dispatch all enemies who come before him. Perseus redeems the insult to the Gods that causes Andromeda to get chained to a rock for a monster to eat her. Perseus never succumbs to the hubris that got Andromeda in trouble in the first place. Perseus cleverly finds a way to defeat Medusa, and then uses Medusa's severed head as his weapon to fight a foe that force of arms could never defeat. Perseus was honored enough to be given the very tools of the Gods (Athena's shield, Hades's helm, Hermes's winged sandals) but never succumbs to the temptation to think of himself as a God. And in reward for his actions, Perseus, Andromeda, and even Perseus's mother in law Cassiopeia were placed in the heavens as constellations. Also, if the movies are to be believed, he had a robot owl. But that's neither here nor there.

However, having the perfect archetypical hero does us no good unless we also have examples of other heroes who strove for that perfection but came up short. In effect, these are flawed copies of the perfect hero. These are called ectypes, and they echo the archetype. The traditional example is Theseus. He too is a child of the Gods who acts as a man instead of a demigod. He too fights monsters using his cunning and his strength. He too acts to redeem his nation from a curse.

However, he also comes up short. He abandons his newly found wife. He forgets to change the color of his sails and thus condemns his father to death. And later in life he challenges the Gods themselves by seeking to kidnap the wife of Hades himself so a friend of his could marry him. He therefore endures many hardships and curses through his life -- never able to achieve the same heights. Or, take the example of Bellerophon, who fought and destroyed the Chimaera with the help of the winged steed Pegasus, given to him by Athena. But his hubris caused him to try and fly Pegasus to Olympus and the Gods had to have him put down. Sad, really.

Anyway -- you get the point. Ectypes bear the aspects of the Archetype, but fail to fulfill the promise of the archetype. They lack the proper humility, or the proper cunning, or the proper honor, or whatever.

Which brings us back to Batman and our double-date crew.

Batman is, unquestionably, an archetype of the DC Universe. He is the fulfillment of the hero who has no (or few) powers, coming from privilege but dedicating his life to the downtrodden and the elimination of crime. While possessed of flaws, he overcomes them to stand for something higher than his own revenge. His aspects are many: he is an unsurpassed martial artist, able to use misdirection and skill to fight. He possesses many tools and gadgets (his ubiquitous utility belt and the like) which he uses, but none of them are as important as his own heart. He innately seeks to do things for the right reasons, no matter how tempted he is to cross the line. He is perhaps the greatest living detective. And he uses fear as his greatest weapon.

The most obvious ectype of Batman is the Huntress, which makes sense when one considers that the original comic book version of the character was Helena Wayne -- the daughter of Earth 2's Batman. After Crisis, Huntress needed to be remade, but the fingerprints of her origins remain all over the character. In fact, the post-Crisis version of Huntress (which the animated continuity is mostly faithful to) is even closer to Batman than the original. Like Batman, Huntress's obsession with justice began when she saw criminals murder her parents. (Unlike Batman, Huntress's father was himself a criminal, but as the Question points out in the episode himself, the Huntress could hardly know that as a child.) She is a driven martial artist and warrior. She uses a device -- in her case, her hand-crossbow. She is as uncompromising of her beliefs as Batman himself is; she takes expulsion from the Justice League in stride, so long as she can continue her work. And like Batman, she uses misdirection and manipulation when necessary to further her goals. In fact, in one key scene, we actually see her shadow spread over an enemy, and it is exactly the same shadow we associate with Batman -- a hallmark of her similar mask.

However, she is also deeply flawed in ways the Dark Knight is not. Unlike Batman, when put on the cusp between vengeance and justice, Huntress takes vengeance. In fact, the prologue of the piece shows the Huntress apparently committing an act of murder in cold blood. As it works out, the Justice League had anticipated her actions, but there's really no other way to interpret a woman firing a good ten crossbow bolts into someone lying in a bed. For her, the dark path she walks has overwhelmed her heroic impulses, and she crosses the line. Further, while she employs lies and misdirection for her goals -- implying to Question she knew information he wanted when she didn't, trying to trick Green Arrow and Black Canary into believing she was acting on League business -- she's singularly bad at it, which Batman never would be. Finally, she has to recruit assistance to find her enemy -- she possesses Batman's combat skills and edge, but not the finely developed skills in investigation.

The Question, on the other hand, possesses Batman's detective skills in spades. In fact, in an earlier episode, Batman actually tasked the Question with ferreting out the evidence of Cadmus's illegal activities. He sees connections and works out the reasoning behind things. He actually does understand the criminal mindset. Further, he has Batman's flair for the dramatic, and is extraordinarily good at using fear -- Batman's weapon of choice -- to get the information he needs. (In the first episode he appeared in, "Fearful Symmetry," we see the Question interrogate a reporter, terrifying him into compliance with shock value, theatrics, and Britney Spears music.) He is also a master manipulator. It can easily be said that the Question engineered every step that Huntress, Green Arrow and Black Canary took, knowing ahead of time exactly how things would work out and giving Huntress the chance to redeem herself or take that final step over the line. He is a chess player of distinction.

However, he clearly doesn't possess Batman's skill in hand to hand combat -- losing a punching match with Green Arrow (who himself we know isn't a hand to hand master). It could be argued he lost that fight intentionally, setting up the conditions for the later endgame. Further, while he doesn't let his emotions cloud his methods, he clearly sets on this course with Huntress in the first place because he's attracted to her. And finally, he's batshit insane.

No, really. While the best part of the Question's character is seeing all the ways he's right -- and seeing him outsmart and -- more to the point -- outthink everyone in the room, he takes it many steps too far. The girl scouts probably aren't responsible for the crop circle phenomenon, and even if they are, it's probably not a part of an overall conspiracy that also includes boy bands and the rise of Starbucks. Huntress accuses the Question of apophenia -- seeing connections in meaningless or unconnected data -- and while the Question clearly is right about many of the connections he finds, it's pretty clear that Huntress is also right.

Further, Question is paranoid, in a way Batman would never be. Perhaps harkening back to the Question's creation (the Question is a Steve Ditko creation, from Ditko's Objectivist period, and traditionally sees the world in extremely black and white terms. All things that are not good are bad. In fact, in the episode "Question Authority," when the Question insists to Lex Luthor that "A is A, and no matter what reality he calls home, Luthor is Luthor," the Question is directly invoking Ayn Rand), the Question absolutely sees himself as the one good man in a world mired in corruption. By the same token, any action he takes that serves the greater good is justifiable. When the Question discovers that Superman seems to be trapped on a course where he will murder Luthor after Luthor takes office as President -- with armageddon following -- he takes the most direct and obvious action to prevent this; he goes to murder Luthor himself, denying Superman the chance. He lacks the crucial conscience that Batman possesses -- the understanding that the greater good may be paramount, but there are lines you do not cross to get there.

That sense of conscience, of wrong and right, of a willingness to put everything on the line -- to die if necessary but never compromising that which is right is a hallmark of our next Batman ectype, Green Arrow. Green Arrow is an obvious ectype, of course -- he was clearly designed as a full on Batman ripoff. He was a millionaire philanthropist who takes up the cause of justice with a series of expertly designed gadgets and a teenaged ward and sidekick, operating out of a cave accessible from his Star City mansion. As Batman himself asked in the Kevin Smith run in the Green Arrow comic book, Green Arrow never had an original idea in his life. At least, in the old days.

However, following the sixties and seventies, Green Arrow became the most famous Liberal in comic books (which in a way makes Green Arrow the perfect counterpoint to the Question). This has been reflected in Justice League Unlimited, and also is reflected in Green Arrow's own journey with the Justice League. Like Batman, Green Arrow wants no part of the Justice League at first -- to him, the Justice League is focused entirely on the galaxy spanning threats, and ignoring "the little guy." Green Arrow is all about the little guy. Further, Green Arrow has no powers but his own skills, the devices at his command, and his sense of right and wrong. However, when push comes to shove, not only does Green Arrow step up, he's the one able to stop the giant monster when the powerhouses -- Green Lantern, Supergirl and Captain Atom -- all fail. By the end of season two, when the original seven are ready to pack it in because of everything that's happened, it's Green Arrow who speaks truth to power and tells them, in effect, to suck it up and do what's right instead of what's easy. All of these things are ineffably Batmanish traits.

However, Green Arrow's own flaws come from his lacks. He has no detective skills to speak of, and while he possesses a typically Liberal set of paranoias (when meeting Captain Atom, his response is "you're what I marched against in college"), he's willing to accept surface explanations rather than dig deeper. He is often counterpointed with the Question, who seems completely insane to Green Arrow, but inevitably the Question's more sinister explanations turn out to be right. Green Arrow is exceptionally good at fighting the symptoms of crime, but lacks Batman's understanding of the roots of it. Even in "Double Date," where he seems to be able to read the Question's motivations one step ahead of the Question, Green Arrow is clearly being used as a pawn in the Question's overall plan.

Black Canary, in certain ways, fits the Batman ectype least well. In part this is because she more properly fits a different archetypal path -- Wonder Woman. She too possesses a combination of sexuality and nobility, combat style and raw power. So, she belongs with the Amazon, with Hawkgirl, with Zatanna and that whole clique. And, given that in Justice League Unlimited, Batman and Wonder Woman seem to be sliding into a relationship, there is a clear correspondence to Green Arrow and Black Canary's own super-heroic courtship. (In fact, while Green Arrow is a clear Batman ectype and Black Canary can be seen as either a Wonder Woman or Batman ectype, it's safe to say that the Green Arrow/Black Canary relationship is archetypal for modern super hero relationships, and Batman/Wonder Woman and Huntress/Question alike are ectypes of it. But that's a different essay.)

But, she also fits elements of the Batman ectype. She was trained by Wildcat -- himself a solid Batman ectype -- as a virtuoso of hand to hand combat. (The implication is she's one of the very best hand fighters.) While she has a sonic scream -- the only honest "super power" of the four -- she can't use it on regular people. It would kill them. It's like the missiles Batman packs in his batwing -- they're there, but he's not about to fire them at the Joker. Her costuming clearly derives from a Noir tradition that Batman is a comic book exemplar of. And more to the point, she is both a detective and a master manipulator. When she discovers that Wildcat -- her mentor and a father figure -- has fallen into disreputable habits, she plays on Green Arrow's obvious attraction to her to solicit his help without involving the rest of the Justice League. In fact, by the end of that episode, Green Arrow is convinced that Black Canary is purely using him as a weapon -- her own nature has interfered with her ability to honestly express her own attraction to Oliver Queen. And that's as Batman as it gets. She has a solid sense of honor, of right and wrong, and of the criminal mindset. She understands implicitly that the only way to get Wildcat out is to beat him at his own game. (Though it takes Green Arrow to realize that Black Canary's plan would break Wildcat, but Arrow's own sacrifice would give Wildcat the mental shock needed to save himself, instead.)

However, Black Canary lacks the core drive and sense of horror that Batman (and the Huntress, the Question and even Green Arrow) possess in spades. Her Wildcat solution is a case in point -- she's willing to break Wildcat to save him. It is the most direct path to preserving his life and legacy, but no matter if she wins or loses, Wildcat would never be able to leave the cage without losing his own essential nature. Her goals are admirable, but she can't see her way out of what looks like a no-win situation.

Obviously, all four characters are rich and nuanced in their own right -- one should never take the approach that ectypes are less than their archetype. Quite honestly, if the Founding Seven members of the Justice League left tomorrow, and we had a new core team with Green Arrow, Black Canary, the Huntress and the Question at its heart, I'd be perfectly happy. Their flaws and weaknesses make them interesting. However, given the clear mirroring of the two relationships in the episode (reflected in the "Double Date" title itself), it's interesting to me, at least, that all four heroes can be harkened back to the same archetype. And, it's a credit *to* that archetype that the four ectypes can be such diverse and rich characters as well.

Check in with me next week, and we'll discuss the rise and fall of Cadmus.

We're moving headlong into the endgame for Justice League Unlimited and with it the entire animated continuity crafted by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini (among others) for thirteen years. And through careful, measured steps, Timm is building up to a truly epic climax -- one clearly drawing both a large amount from Justice League's two part "A Better World" and from the seminal Mark Waid/Alex Ross collaboration Kingdom Come. The latter's influence is obvious, but thematic instead of specific, as most of the Timm/animated nods have been. The best example of source comic adaptations has been last season's pastiche on Alan Moore's brilliant "What Do You Get The Man Who Has Everything," but even that underwent sea changes to conform to the expectations and needs of the animated continuity.

And yet, as I sit here writing this snark, it's not the scale or the sophistication or the expertise that I'm thinking of. I'm thinking of the state of comic books and DC in general, and the continuing drive away from kids and towards the (ever shrinking) adult comic book readers. I have long known that even though Justice League Unlimited is brilliant and Identity Crisis is terrible, they're two sides of the same coin -- they sacrifice what Superman, Batman et al have always been in lieu of what a very small group of adult consumers of comic books would want them to be. (And make no mistake -- I adore Justice League Unlimited, so in this I have to include myself, as well.) The fact that JLU is programmed at ten thirty at night is, to me, indicative of the projected audience. They're just one half hour away from "Adult Swim," and obviously Cartoon Network isn't pushing the show to 12 year olds.

Over the past two weeks, we have had two utterly brilliant episodes of the series. The former -- "Double Date" -- is my favorite JLU or Justice League episode of all time, now. The latter, "The Clash," was well done and has received some attention in the fan community by people who are upset with how Superman was portrayed in it.

I, however, am not upset. Because I've watched it through a few times now, and it's perfectly clear to me that Bruce Timm and the writers of "The Clash" know they've been moving away from children, moving away from the core of what has always defined DC's heroes... and they also know that it isn't a good thing that it's happening. I can't imagine a better piece of self-criticism than the example I saw on that episode, and while I still prefer "Double Date" (and several other episodes) to "The Clash," I think it perhaps must represent the crux of everything JLU's trying to accomplish.

There are going to be spoilers. Get used to it now. If you have any intention of watching "The Clash," you should close the window and move on.

I had a certain amount of anticipation for this episode, because it features Captain Marvel. The World's Mightiest Mortal. The Big Red Cheese himself. Captain Marvel occupies a unique position in comic books -- he is not only the only figure in the DC mythology (I dare say the only figure in any mainstream comic book) that can be called Superman's equal, he's also one of a very few figures in comic book history who approaches the Superman/Batman/Spider-Man level of cultural landmarks. Everyone in America -- and in much if not most of the rest of the world -- knows "Shazam!" They've heard it all their lives. Gomer Pyle used it as his exclamation of choice. Growing up, I remember watching the hoary old live action Shazam! (followed of course by Isis) Saturday mornings, and right at the end of my Saturday Morning Cartoon years I remember watching The Kid's Super Power Hour with Shazam!, which brought the whole Marvel Family to cartoons. (And used the same theme music as the old live action show, even).

And comic book cognoscenti know the particulars of the good Captain like Rabbis know the Talmud. They know his backstory, they know Billy Batson, Mary Batson, Freddy Freeman, Uncle Dudley, Doctor Sivana, Mister Mind, IBIC, the Wizard Shazam, and Tawny the Talking Tiger. They know Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Captain Marvel is significant enough that they can set him in a story, give very little backstory, and just accept that he can carry his end of the show.

Which brings us to the actual premise of the episode. And that too requires some backstory -- but this time, it's backstory for Superman.

The Man of Steel has had a rough few years. You see, in the aforementioned Justice League two parter "A Better World," a series of counterparts of the Justice League from another dimension had conquered their Earth, in the name of protecting it. They had eliminated basic rights. They had imposed their law -- and their Justice -- from above. Superman was the instigator, when he abandoned his ideals and his role as icon and hero to kill Lex Luthor rather than let him possibly wreak more havoc down the line. This Justice League analogue was called the Justice Lords, and they were hard and cold, willing to lobotomize villains without trial. And of course, willing to kill. They discovered the Justice League's dimension, realized the horrors they fought to eliminate on their world could still break out, and decide to conquer this new world as well -- for its own protection. They also worked to protect the Flash, who had apparently died in the Justice Lords' dimension -- a death that apparently had some bearing on their turn away from idealism and towards fascism.

In the end, the Justice League defeated them, but to do so, Superman had to cross a line -- he made a deal with Lex Luthor, who gave them the key to defeating the Justice Lords. And he arranged for Luthor to receive a full pardon. The alternate Superman warned his counterpart that any evil Luthor did from now on was on his head. Superman acknowledged that.

"I guess you're not such a Boy Scout after all," Batman said, at the end.

"Never even made Tenderfoot," Superman replied, smirking.

Interesting, how things come around.

In "The Clash," Superman is on edge. A shadowy organization with some ties to the government, the military, to big business -- and yes, to Luthor -- called Cadmus has been growing in strength. Its stated purpose is to counter -- and if possibly, destroy -- the Justice League, in part to make certain that the League can't become a new set of Justice Lords. Old allies and old enemies of League members are coming together. Supergirl was cloned in one of their projects. In another project, Cadmus leader Amanda Waller organizes the Suicide Squad (under their official name from the comics -- Task Force X) to steal a deadly weapon from the league. In another episode, Doomsday (who in the comics beat Superman to death) is created by Cadmus as an anti-Superman weapon. While Superman and Doomsday fight, Batman is nearly killed intercepting a Kryptonite missile launched by Cadmus operatives in the U.S. Navy.

And during the fight, Superman tries to lobotomize Doomsday, just like the Justice Lords used to do. When they defeat Doomsday, the League banishes him to the Phantom Zone, rather than hand him over to the authorities. And Batman notes that this too is an act the Justice Lords would do. Superman protests they won't let it get to that point.

But the tensions are growing. The fights are getting more desperate. The heroes really are crossing the line. And Superman is getting darker all the time.

And from the very moment in "The Clash" when he meets Captain Marvel, he doesn't like him. At all. He's downright hostile to Captain Marvel, in fact, and for no reason at all. No reason except a clear jealousy.

Now, let's stop and consider the JLU incarnation of Captain Marvel. He's cheerful. Friendly. "Sunny," as Batman says. And when he says his magic word and the lightning crashes, he turns into Billy Batson once more. A child, as always.

They make a nod to the increasing "adultification" of superheroes early on. Captain Marvel has defeated the Parasite -- a villain Batman, the Elongated Man and Metamorpho couldn't beat all together -- while Superman was busy guiding a plane to a landing. He is therefore late for elementary school. His teacher berates his lack of responsibility. "Isn't it time you grew up just a little?" she literally says. In the next scene, as the star-struck Captain Marvel is on the Watchtower with the Justice League, that sentiment is metaphorically echoed by Superman, who absolutely tears the Big Red Cheese a new one when Captain Marvel's misquoted in the newspapers as having endorsed Luthor for President. When Captain Marvel protests that what he meant was people could change, after all -- a very heroic sentiment -- Superman utterly shuts him down. Captain Marvel is frustrated enough by this to punch the table, but confronted with his idol and his heroes, he accepts their word and moves on.

The reinforced message comes out again. The world is no place for idealists. Why don't you grow up just a little, Captain Marvel?

Superman and Batman have a casual discussion about this while beating up villains later on. An interesting discussion, when we remember "A Better World."

"You were a little hard on the boy scout, weren't you?" Batman asks.

"I thought I was the boy scout," Superman snaps, annoyed.

"So did I -- until I met Captain Marvel," Batman answers.

Remember -- the last time the pair talked about being boy scouts, it was Batman begrudgingly accepting that despite all the talk, Superman wasn't actually one. And Superman, somewhat smugly, agreed. Now, however, Superman has been confronted with a hero who actually is everything others said he was, and he is jealous. Very jealous. He can't understand why "everyone defends him!" As though Captain Marvel had actually done something wrong which -- setting aside the overtrumped quotes to the paper -- he hadn't. Superman's jealousy, whether the Man of Steel would admit it or not, came from the Captain's living up to ideals that Superman has traditionally represented, but no longer automatically feels. Like it or not, Superman is on the path to becoming a Justice Lord, and Captain Marvel is a living example of how far down that path he's come.

Needless to say, there is a confrontation. Lex Luthor (rather transparently) stages a situation where Superman believes there's a bomb under an empty city Luthor has built to give low income families a new chance. (He never stops to consider why Luthor would spend millions of dollars to build a city he then would blow up, mind. But then, Supes really isn't thinking clearly right now.) Superman knows -- he knows that Luthor has nefarious plans. And he's right, of course. Luthor does have nefarious plans.

Captain Marvel is on hand, however. And tries to calm Superman down. He makes reasonable suggestions for resolving the situation. Above all, he doesn't place himself as being above the law in the name of what he believes to be true.

Superman knocks Captain Marvel aside, so he can destroy "the bomb" that Luthor claims is a free energy source. And Captain Marvel launches himself at Superman to stop him.

Now, this is a full on money shot for the adult comic book fan -- the target audience for this show. Superman and Captain Marvel are fighting. And between them they absolutely level Lexor City. This is a truly epic battle, where a single punch blasts Captain Marvel into a building that then collapses from the impact. They destroy the hospital. They destroy the bank. They destroy the park. They level buildings on all sides.

All of this, by the way, clearly and consciously echoes Kingdom Come. In that series, the climax moment came down to an epic battle between Superman and Captain Marvel as well. And the most evocative moment in that battle was wholly replicated here. Captain Marvel shouts his Magic Word, and the lightning crashes down, but Captain Marvel positions Superman to take the shot and be blasted by it. On the cartoon, the lightning strikes literally obliterate the S-symbol off Superman's chest. Which is appropriate. At this moment, Superman isn't Superman any more -- not the Superman we've all grown up with. He's someone else.

And that's the major difference between this fight and the fight in Kingdom Come, at least thematically. In Kingdom Come, Luthor has brainwashed and manipulated Billy, who has grown up into a stew of psychoses. Captain Marvel is insane. Captain Marvel, until the very crux of the fight, is no longer in any way a hero. During the whole fight with Superman, the deranged Captain Marvel has a smile on his face -- a smile that makes a mockery out of the iconic C.C. Beck drawing of the smiling Captain.

But on Justice League Unlimited, Captain Marvel is the hero. Superman is the villain. Superman is literally acting like a Supervillain. And as Captain Marvel fights to stop Superman, he isn't smiling at all.

Superman wins. He destroys the device. And naturally, the device is exactly the power source Luthor said it was. Superman has terribly tarnished his own image and that of the Justice League, and almost certainly ensured Luthor will be elected President.

And Captain Marvel -- the boy they kept berating to grow up, at the beginning of the episode -- goes and verbally bitchslaps the Justice League.

Understand. The Justice League's core team has Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in it. Given that, Captain Marvel is literally the only character with the history, the significance -- the gravitas -- to make a speech like this one and say it to the highest of DC's superheroes:

You were more than a hero. I idolized you. I wanted to be you. Whenever I was out there, facing down the bad guys, I'd think "what would Superman do?" Now, I know. I believe in fair play. I believe in taking people at their word -- in giving them the benefit of the doubt. Back home, I've come up against my share of pretty nasty bad guys, but I never had to act the way they did to win a fight. I always found another way.

I... I guess I'm saying I like being a hero. A symbol. And that's why I'm... quitting the Justice League.

You don't act like heroes any more.

You don't act like heroes any more.

Listening to this, in my mind's eye, I could see Captain Marvel saying this to the writers of Identity Crisis, to the writers of Countdown to Infinite Crisis. I could see him saying it to the people who thought up the Marvel MAX line, to the people who targeted the "mature readers" audience. To the people more interested in courting old fans than making new ones. They kept telling him to grow up... but he didn't. In the end, he remained exactly the same hero he was fifty years ago, the same hero I watched on Saturday Mornings, the same hero whose comic I read and loved when I was barely old enough to read comic books at all. (Shazam! was the first comic I ever subscribed to, back in the day, in fact.)

And even more than the question of super heroes for kids versus super heroes for adults, he was saying it to every writer who wants "realism" in comics to overtake idealism. Who thinks that somehow it's wrong and bad to write about super heroes who do the right thing because it is the right thing, in a world where such idealism is considered a virtue and those heroes are considered an example.

Don't get me wrong. I'll be back next week for more Justice League Unlimited. I'll love the nuanced, sophisticated story they're telling. I'll love the ride we're being taken on. I'll probably snark about how great it was. And it will be great. As great as Identity Crisis was exploitive, really.

But it doesn't change the fact that our children are losing their legacy. It doesn't change the fact that comic books are dying, trying to hold on to adult fans and eschewing children. It doesn't change the fact that 10 year olds don't get to park themselves at the rack in the drugstore and read comics and learn something better than distorted anatomy from them. (Not that there are comic books at that drugstore, mind.)

I don't want comic books to be "just for kids," any more than I want television animation to be for kids only. I love good stories.

But Superman should be a boy scout. He should be a super hero. He should be for kids.

And it's just really sad that he isn't, any more.

Almost as sad as the fact that you can't buy a Shazam comic in a drug store, any more.

Logo: Sleeping Snarky

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