Superman vs. The Elite is the latest DC Comics Animated Universe movie released last week. Written by Joe Kelly (Ben 10, I Kill Giants) for the first time in Action Comics #775, the story pushes The Man of Steel to the breaking point of his strong moral fiber. Can new and violent superhero team The Elite defeat Superman, and does the public want a less tolerant but more permanent solution to dealing with the bad guys? The Action Comics issue was called, “What’s so Funny ‘Bout Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” published just months before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Warner and DC tapped Joe Kelly to adapt his comic for the screen, an honor for sure, as few have been asked to do so recently. They likely thought the source material was so strong that it would be best to go to Joe himself to interpret the story. Couple that with the huge success of his award-winning Ben 10 franchise, and he has the right pedigree for this screenplay.
Some comic book history and context for the Action Comics issue should be provided. Super hero comics and the comic market were in trouble in the late ’90s. Along came Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch with The Authority. Hitch’s storytelling was more cinematic, with widescreen panels and huge detailed action. Ellis’ stories were based around a group of heroes with questionable morals acting as judge, jury and executioner to the criminals they encountered. The series was popular at the shops, and the books are a seed of most modernization of superheroes in comics and movies today. Mark Millar took over writing the book, and the creative teams continue to write gritty superhero comics (The Ultimates, Kick Ass).
Action Comics #775 had Superman as Pete Townshend facing The Authority analog The Elite playing the Sex Pistols as told in the song “Who Are You?” Tell me — Who The Fuck Are You?
Of course there are some exact beats and dialogue from the comic in the movie. I flipped my usual technique and read the comic (on Comixology) after streaming the movie on Amazon. I recommend the rental unless you are like one of my many Superman fan pals that must own a copy! Quick plug for reading older titles on the digital format: I went straight to the Comixology webstore (no affiliate links to that store here — full disclosure) to read this title that is over ten years old. It was easy to find and only $1.99.
I read this full screen my laptop just after watching the movie. Convenient? Yes. Invaluable to this reviewer? Absolutely. Perfect solution to distributing content? Not perfect, but I’ll continue to delve deep into the archives like a 25 cent bin at the local store to discover some forgotten gems.
The Elite are let by Manchester Black. This baddie with a Union Jack tattooed on his chest has powerful telekinetic powers. His characterization seemed based on Hunter Thompson crossed with Grant Morrison. By punishing the villains, he believes Superman’s ideals are outdated and ineffective. With Coldcast, Managerie and The Hat by his side in their bacterial colony of a spaceship called Bunny, The Elite metes out vengeance outside of the law and assists Superman in defeating a gigantic terrorist bio-weapon insect on the streets of Metropolis. Black asks Superman to “set aside his kid gloves” so they can freeze the big bug!
Kent and (in this universe) his wife Lois Lane go on assignment to Europe to investigate The Elite. What had been a friendly team up on our continent becomes dark and devious overseas. The Elite shows a destructive side, and the general public opinion on their tactics is very supportive.
Superman for the first time is questioning himself, is alone without the Justice League to assist in his decisions, and struggles against popular opinion. Has this code of ethics from the Kent Farm outlived its usefulness? Will Superman use lethal force to destroy The Elite?
I enjoyed this DC Animated Movie, though this is not the definitive work that All-Star Superman was.
I was happy to see the original comic treated with so much respect, and Joe Kelly did write an amazing story that gets to the root of what it means to always be a hero.
With the ten years that have passed since publication and our country being accused of torture in wartime, this movie makes political commentary easy and timeless. Adding references to iPhones and Twitter to the script were only tiny details to bring the story to a modern audience. The story might be more relevant now than at the time of release (and like Millar and Frank Quitely’s 2001 run on the Authority) could have easily suffered censorship at a particularly sensitive time in our country’s history were it scheduled to be released post-9/11. George Newbern reprises his Superman/Clark Kent role from Justice League, as does David Kaufman as Jimmy Olson. Pauley Perrette plays an acerbic, not very warm Lois Lane. Lois and Clark don’t quite spark on the animated cells as I’d expect, and though I like pink very much, I prefer a smarter and more charming and fun Lois, like Margot Kidder! Highly recommended movie for Superman fans awaiting Zack Snyder directing Henry Cavill in next year’s Man Of Steel.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE! CHECK OUT LEAGUEPODCAST.COM — BOSTON’S COMIC BOOK AND POP CULTURE PODCAST — “Thinking about Comics since 2009″!
Oddio Comic 40: “Golden Key Star Trek #7″ The Voodoo Planet Part 2
The crew has stumbled into an incredible voodoo civilization! Can they stop the Earth from being Voodoo-’d to doom?
John Hunt — Kirk
Matt Dursin — Spock
Clay N. Ferno — Bones
John Hunt (in Engineering)
[Looking for PART 1? Of course you are - go HERE!]