- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2005

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.

‘Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology,

1989-1997’

(Warner Home Video, $79.92)

A resource-packed DVD set brings the cinematic exploits of DC Comics’ Dark Knight, during his Warner Bros. years, to light

and it will thrill hard-core fans while capturing a new audience of Bat-fanatics.

Eight discs (one for each film and one each for the four extras) are devoted to “Batman,” “Batman Returns,” “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin,” which translates into more than eight hours of digitally remastered superhero shenanigans and more than 18 hours of extra features.

I can’t express how satisfying it was to watch the first two films, my dynamic duo of the quartet, while listening to a commentary track from director Tim Burton. He reflects upon and exposes the nuances of the very moody productions that maintained Bob Kane’s original characterization of his complex vigilante.

I also am floored by director Joel Schumacher, who provides commentary tracks on the latter pair of films, “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin” (each with equally impressive amounts of extras), which often were criticized by fans and were pummeled by critics. His apologetic tone about turning the franchise into more kid-friendly fare because of corporate pressure makes me understand some of the bad decision-making.

Featurettes abound on the bonus discs, as Jack Nicholson talks about transforming himself into the Joker and Danny DeVito tells of coming to grips with eating raw fish as the Penguin. The “behind-the-scenes” footage and the amount of new interviews are just astounding.

Pieced together throughout all of the extra discs is a six-part documentary, “Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight,” which meticulously walks viewers through the entire “Batman” moviemaking process but falls short by not discussing the latest film, “Batman Begins.”

—For the film deconstructionist, each of the bonus discs also goes behind the scenes in multipart segments that cover special effects, building the various Batmobiles, makeup effects, orchestration and the complexities involved with bringing a blockbuster film to life.

Additionally, comic-book creators who helped define the Caped Crusader pop up in nearly every featurette, especially in the excellent 40-minute “Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman.” Viewers hear from such legends as Bob Kane, Alex Ross, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Denny O’Neil, Frank Miller, Jeph Loeb and even a major competitor to DC Comics, Stan Lee.

Read all about it: I suggest findinga copy of the trade paperback “Batman: The Movies” ($19.95), which adapts all four of the films from the DVD set into a 254-page sequential-art trade paperback and features the prose of Denny O’Neil and art from such veterans as Jerry Ordway and Steve Erwin.

‘Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection’

(Paramount Home Entertainment, $38.99, rated TV-MA)

MTV’s foray into experimental animated programming back in the early 1990s delivered an unusual cartoon with a penchant for heavy-metal illustration and with a heroine just as violent as she was erotic.

The series about the well-armed anarchist Aeon Flux and her love-hate relationship with the leader of Bregna, Trevor Goodchild, gave creator Peter Chung a way out of the Rugrats world he had helped animate. It started simply as a group of two-minute shorts on MTV’s “Liquid Television” but blossomed into a 10-episode season.

This definitive three-disc DVD collection gave Mr. Chung a reason to supervise and release the digital remastering of his classic and gives viewers his insight into the futuristic world of Aeon.

All 22-minute shows explode from home entertainment screens, and extras such as the original pilot, production art and featurettes on the heroine’s origin and weapons also should adequately prepare viewers for the live-action “Aeon Flux” movie, which hits theaters next month.

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics has created a four-issue miniseries ($2.99 each) setting up the new “Aeon Flux” movie and featuring artwork as stylish as the cartoons.

Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection’

(Paramount Home Entertainment, $38.99)

A pair of sophomoric, double-entendre-spewing idiots ruled the MTV airways in the mid-1990s through an animated series highlighted by off-color humor. The dimwitted duo continue to lower IQ points through a DVD set containing 40 episodes of their life, personally picked by the cartoon characters’ creator.

Why Paramount does not release yearly volumes for 1993 to 1997 I will never know, but fans get a nice selection of programs in three discs chronicling the stupidity of a pair of teens living life to its fullest and not afraid to lose a few brain cells.

Extras to the set include about half the episodes rereleased as director’s cuts, 11 music videos (in which the boys mock some rock stars) and Mike Judge’s insight on the origins of these pop-culture legends.

Read all about it: Marvel Comics produced a 28-issue comic-book series based on the show between 1994 and 1996 ($2.50 per issue in near-mint condition). Beavis and Butt-head actually hung out with such heroes as Wolverine, Spider-Man and Daredevil in the issues.

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

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