Monday, November 19, 2007

The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians

Written by Hombre Divertido

Debuting in September of 1985, Galactic Guardians was the last incarnation of The Super Friends and surprisingly one of the best.

The Super Friends had premiered twelve years earlier, and had been through some changes that resulted in some sad efforts, but Galactic Guardians was an attempt to allow the show to grow up with the viewers that had invested their time over the past twelve years, and for the most part it succeeds. It clearly laid the groundwork for some of the more cutting-edge shows featuring DC superheroes that would follow.

Sadly the show lasted for only one season. All 10 episodes are available on this new DVD release, and as in any series, there are some gems here, with a few clunkers. What may have hurt this show is that the first episode that aired “The Seeds of Doom” was pretty rough. Though it contains the origin of Cyborg, and origin stories are always a huge hit with fans, the episode is not as visually appealing as the rest, the sound quality is poor, and the storytelling is awkward.

Investing in all ten episodes is well worth the time, as there are some wonderfully crafted episodes here such as “The Wild Cards,” which has the nostalgic feel of an original Super Friends story to it, or episodes with more depth such as “The Fear” that deals with the origin of Batman, and “The Death of Superman” that deals with…well, you probably figured it out. It is episodes like this that may have been too violent for the Saturday morning crowd. Though appealing to the viewers that had grown up with The Super Friends, said viewers had probably moved on from Saturday morning cartoons. Had this show aired in an era where it could have appeared on The Cartoon Network in the evening hours, it quite possibly would have lasted longer. Though not up to the level of the current Justice League animated series from a storytelling perspective, it does posses superior qualities.

Where this series and many other such efforts did fail was in giving the viewers what they wanted: More superheroes. In these ten episodes we get plenty of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the two new team members Firestorm and Cyborg, but little of anyone else. This is supposed to be a team, and though The Flash is featured prominently on the cover, he has one line in the ten episodes. Also neglected or virtually overlooked are Aquaman, The Green Lantern, and Hawkman. The series also is far too limited in its selection of villains, as Darkseid is featured too often. Taking the team into space for many of the episode should have opened up more storylines than it did.

The series does boast an amazing vocal talent pool including Adam West, Casey Kasem, Ernie Hudson, Rene Auberjonois, Danny Dark, B.J. Ward, and many more.

The only bonus in the set is a short featurette containing interviews with the writers and artists that worked on the show. Though informative, it seems thrown together and a bit self-serving. The show is good, and this piece could have and should have gone deeper.

Recommendation: This is good stuff, and just hearing The Super Friends music, which remains in this series, will give you a hankering for a bowl of cereal. For a fan of DC Superheroes, this is a great addition to any collection. For someone not as familiar, this would be a great place to start developing an appreciation.

The War: A Ken Burns Film Soundtrack

Written by Fumo Verde

For those of you who have seen The War: A Film by Ken Burns, this CD contains the music. With all the images of life during wartime, this soundtrack, like those of a major motion picture, energizes the feelings and the emotions this film arouses. Running like the film itself, the music follows the seven-part series as it weaves the story and gives it a deeper soul, one that combined well with the stories told by those who were there.

This disc has some fabulous music by great contemporary artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, and Norah Jones. Other material was taken from the time it was made like 1945’s “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn) sung by Bing Crosby with Les Paul on guitar. Sad songs such as this one and others like it paraded across the airwaves during the war because it was a depressing time.

“If You Can’t Smile and Say Yes” (Louis Jordan/Timmie Rodgers) by Nat King Cole and his Trio reflects the current events of the time with lyrics like “Don’t you the’s a war on/ Everything is rationed,” and a few bar later, “Baby, let bygones be bygones/ ‘Cause men are as scarce as nylons.” The war was on everyone’s mind and the music back then, like music now, got them through their days while inspiring hope and anticipation.

My favorite song on this CD is “American Anthem” (Gene Scheer). It plays at the opening and the ending of the documentary. Amanda Forsyth & Bill Charlap perform it as an instrumental to close the disc, but I love what Jones does with it to open the CD. With soft and gentle piano playing ever so delicately, her voice sings out for the voices that cannot:

“Battles fought together/ Acts of conscience fought alone/These are the seeds from which America has grown /Let them say of me/ I was one who believed/ In sharing in the blessings I received/ Let me know in my heart/ when my days are through/ America-America I gave my best to you.”

You could pick up this CD by itself and you wouldn’t be disappointed in the music, but you wouldn’t really understand the whole picture or what value it lent to the making of the film. This disc has a fantastic marquee but it helps if you have seen the film. If you have, then each song will remind you of what was sacrificed during that time, in battle and on the home front. See The War then pickup this CD.