- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 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.

‘Krypto the Superdog: Cosmic Canine’

(Warner Home Video, $14.99)

Superman’s powerful pooch got his own animated series last year on the Cartoon Network and the Kids WB! Now, five episodes from the series have arrived on a single DVD to please younger fans and those who remember the canine’s appearance in comic books during the past 50 years.

Geared toward the preschool crowd, the cartoon explores the adventures of the famed dog from the planet Krypton and his life in Metropolis with his new young friend and current owner, Kevin Whitney.

Within the episodes, broken into 11-minute shorts comparable to the “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi Show” format, viewers learn the origins of Krypto as a former test pilot who arrives on Earth fully grown. The Man of Steel makes a brief appearance to give the OK to allow his pet to stay with the Whitney family.

A rich assortment of support characters are introduced, such as Streaky the neighbor’s pampered cat and the team of interplanetary furry crime fighters, the Dog Star Patrol, that helps Krypto save Earth and the universe from the evil cyborg feline Mechanikat and his sidekick Snooky Wookums.

Those who are not driven mad by the insipid theme song will love the humor, crime-fighting action and the animation style reminiscent of Hanna-Barbera’s glory years.

Extras include a five-minute look at Krypto’s underground headquarters buried in Kevin’s back yard, the Fortress of Doggietude and a quick introduction to the show’s premise via an unaired promotional short.

However, I recommend renting the disc because Warner Bros. is notorious for a stream of repackaged releases, and I expect the full season of the show to arrive as a DVD set next year.

Read all about it: The Krypto cartoo will be adapted into a younger-reader-friendly, six-issue comic-book miniseries in September by, of course, DC Comics. Until then, Scholastic Inc. offers the 4- to 8-year-old crowd a nice selection of titles, such as the 24-page Krypto the Superdog: Superpet ($3.50), which comes loaded with color illustrations.

‘Justice League: Season Two’

(Warner Home Video, $44.99)

Cartoon Network’s animated tribute to DC Comics’ famed superhero team in the early part of the 21st century continues to be repackaged in the DVD universe. (See what I mean, Krypto viewers?) Now fans can get the complete 2003 season of the show in a into the trade paperback-disc set that is well worth the price of admission.

How can any red-blooded superhero comics fan not gush at Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman, Batman and Hawkgirl on-screen together as they tackle evil within epic adventures?

Continued under producer Bruce Timm’s guidance, these 26 episodes vastly improve upon the first season’s fun with more drama, more heroes and more villains that really bring a comic book to animated life.

Most of the stories are two-part affairs. My favorites include the League’s run-in with the Joker and his Royal Flush Gang in “Wild Cards”; the big brawl of “Secret Society,” in which the hero team clashes with a supervillain team; and the three-part, end-of-the-series “Star Crossed,” which found a certain Thanagarian in dire straits. (The cartoon would be called “Justice League Unlimited” for the next season.)

Extras to the set are slim. However, a trio of commentary tracks with the principal creators delivers the behind-the-scenes minutiae — especially on part three of “Starcrossed” — and a 10-minute creator round-table discussion will enlighten fans about the production process.

Read all about it: DC Comics still publishes a monthly title based on the current version of the Cartoon Network show, Justice League Unlimited ($2.25 each). It keeps most of the original series team integrated into adventures and mimics the animated style of the television program.

‘X-Men Evolution: Season Three’

(Warner Home Video, $19.99)

One of my favorite cartoons released in 2000 and 2003 mixed the angst of a teenage soap opera with a high school setting and added Marvel Comics’ famed mutants to deliver an excellent 30-minute program.

The 2002-03 season consisted of 13 intense episodes, as such comic book X-legends as Wolverine, Magneto, Juggernaut, Sabretooth, the Scarlet Witch, Rogue and Gambit mixed it up. Now fans can find their adventures on a pair of DVD discs.

The third season began with a destroyed X-mansion, plenty of persecution for the Homo Superiors and multiple mutants imprisoned at Area 51. It ended on an even more dramatic note with an awakened villain Apocalypse ready to conquer the world.

Bonus features are nicely varied and include narrated introductions of the X-Men and Magneto’s Acolytes by Professor X, a multiple choice quiz hosted by Mystique and a six-minute documentary about the third season.

Read all about it: Marvel Comics published an X-Men: Evolution sequential-art series that ran for just nine issues back in 2002. Fans may be able to find the trade paperback, “X-Men Evolution” ($4.99), which compiles the first four issues of the series, at a well-stocked comics shop. They also can read about a character introduced on the show, X-23, in a seven-issue miniseries that has been compiled conveniently into the trade paperback “NYX: Wannabe” ($19.99).

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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