- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2006

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video discs (compatible with DVD-ROM-enabled computers and home entertainment centers) and also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

The Adventures of Superman, the Complete Second Season

(Warner Home Video, $39.99)

Before actors Dean Cain and Tom Welling assumed the television role of the Man of Steel, George Reeves delighted 1950s viewers with his interpretation of DC Comics’ unstoppable superhero.

The 1953 second season of the series arrives on DVD in a five-disc set and delivers all 26 black-and-white episodes, which will make younger viewers scratch their heads at the lame effects and corny plots but allow older fans to take a nostalgia trip into wholesome family entertainment.

The season marked the return of actress Noel Neill cqLois Lane (having previously played her in the 1948 serial and a 1950 film) and plots including Superman battling kryptonite and Earth-destroying meteors and helping a little girl regain her sight.

Slick menus mixing comic book page panels and footage from the show lead not only to the individual episodes but extras such as a segment on Noel Neill as Lois, a 12-minute Superman show from 1954 used to promote the U.S. Treasury Department’s Saving Stamp program and optional commentary tracks on two episodes by Noel Neill and Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen).

Read all about it: DC Comics pounds superhero fans over the head with multiple monthly series devoted the man able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The hottest Superman reading experience is All-Star Superman ($2.99 each), written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely, which, through a 12-issue story arc, continues to build on the mythology of the hero using two of the industry’s best creators.

‘Family Guy: Vol. 3’

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $39.99)

The chronicles of a cartoon family that makes the Simpsons look like “Ozzie and Harriet” returned to prime time television this year, and the DVD set honors the show’s newest episodes.

The hilarious daily life of the Griffins of Quahog, R.I. — husband Peter, wife Lois, teenagers Meg and Chris, baby Stewie and trusted talking canine companion Brian — comes loaded with sophomoric humor, censor-choking scenarios and cutting satire that will appeal to any 15- to 50-year-old with an appreciation for the mockery of everything they hold dear.

Over the course of the three-disc set, fans get 13 uncensored episodes (potty-mouth alert) from the 2005 season and can relive such moments as Chris getting sucked into an A-Ha video while in a grocery store, the Griffins turning into a traveling singing group after their prison debut, and Peter’s diagnosis as mentally challenged, allowing him to break almost any societal taboo.

Extras reveal the cast and creators’ passion about the on-screen lunacy, demonstrated through 10 optional commentary tracks with series patriarch Seth McFarlane and his production minions. The extras include a look at the orchestrated musical score, script read-throughs with the cast and a 25-minute documentary on the show’s return after being canceled by Fox in 2002.

Read all about it: TokyoPop’s Cine-Manga series of sequential art books combines scenes ripped right from the animated show and adds dialogue bubbles to bring the zaniness of the Griffins to comic book fans. The company put out the 96-page “Family Guy, Vol. 1” ($7.99) in 1994, including the episode “I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar,” which can still be ordered online and through bookstores.

The Chronological Donald, Vol. 2, 1942-1946

(Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $32.99#)

Housed in a collector’s tin, Walt Disney Treasure DVD sets give animation fans the best source for enjoying the classic cartoon adventures of Donald Duck and the gang.

One of the latest releases from the fifth wave of titles covers the antics of the fiery fowl through his World War II years and offers enough bonus features to keep fans quacking their approval.

Through the two-disc set, viewers get almost four hours of laughs covering 32 color cartoons and including the Academy Award-winning short “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” which ridiculed the German enemy and gave American audiences a topical chuckle during a very grave time.

Film historian Leonard Maltin introduces the proceedings on each disc and also interviews the current voice of Donald, Tony Anselmo, in a separate segment.

The second disc’s extras include still-frame art galleries, a visual timeline of Disney events from 1941 to 1945, a vintage 1956 “Disneyland” TV show “A Day in the Life of Donald Duck,” and a 10-minute, well-deserved tribute to the “Good Duck Artist”, creator Carl Barks, who almost singlehandedly brought Donald Duck into comic books and art galleries for over 50 years.

Read all about it: Gemstone Publishing currently gives Disney fans a healthy dose of sequential art reading material. Its bimonthly Donald Duck Adventures ($7.95 each) offers children 128 pages in a 5-by-71/2-inch format and reprints many stories never seen by American audiences.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail jszad@kowskiwashingtontimes.com; or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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