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The League of Quality Superhero Animation plugs “Crisis on Two Earths” at Paley Center

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It’s an old story. You’re a superhero minding your own business and then you bump into someone who looks very familiar but, well, something’s just not right. Gee whiz but this person looks a lot like you and is even wearing similar clothes, but then you notice your new acquaintance looks like he or she is made from rocks, uses terrible grammar and does everything the opposite of you. (“Me want to not save world!”) Or the newcomer looks like one of your deadliest enemies, but turns out to be no Bizaaro, but as heroic as you are. What’s a superhero to do?

It’s an old superhero comic story that has yet to find its way into a big-time costumed-hero flicks — but at least it’s finally been used in a solidly entertaining and often slyly funny direct-to-DVD animated production. Rated a mild PG-13 for non-deadly “action violence,” Warner Home Video’s “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” shows us the fall-out of an alternate universe where the equivalents of our most famed superheros are essentially costumed Mafioso, while a bald guy named Luthor and a joker named the Jester vainly fight the power of organized caped crime.

When the alternate Luthor (Chris Noth) manages a reality jump into the original DC Comics Universe, he enlists the aid of  most of the Justice League. And so, Superman (Mark Harmon), Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall), and a less than cooperative Batman (William Baldwin), become involved in a desperate quest to free Good Luthor’s universe from super-powered criminal domination by the vicious Crime Syndicate and it’s Jersey-thug-like leader, Ultraman (Brian Bloom) — and also to stave off the possible destruction of all existence by an off-his-evil meds Dark Knight of the Soul, Owlman (James Woods), and his only slightly more sane GF, Super Woman (Gina Torres).

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The 72 minute direct-to-video feature was premiered at both of the coastal outlets of the Paley Center, and I attended the one located on Earth Prime’s Beverly Hills. Us members of the local geek press were allowed to commune with members of the cast and crew and, in my case, that started with the extremely busy animation casting and voice director, Andrea Romano. The loquacious performer and voice director, whose work includes everything from “Animaniacs” to “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Ben Ten,” is held in as high esteem by super-animation fans as any actor, writer, or director. Her work on DC superhero projects goes back to the early nineties and “Batman: The Animated Series,” which revolutionized superhero cartoons with quality writing from creators like Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, animation, and, thanks to her efforts, acting.

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The All New Super Friends Hour: Season One, Volume Two

With each subsequent “Super Friends” set that emerges from the Warner Brothers vaults, my childhood memories are tarnished a little bit more. I spent more Saturday mornings in front of the television that I’d care to count, held rapt by the adventures of Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Wonder Twins, but as I revisit those adventures now, I’m really, really disappointed with how poorly they’ve held up for me. Maybe it’s just because the world of superhero animation changed so dramatically with the premiere of “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992 that it’s hard to take the Super Friends’ adventures seriously anymore. That’s not to say that you won’t find yourself experiencing plenty of fun flashbacks with the heroes’ various puzzles, magic tricks, and safety lessons, but the segments with actual storylines will result in little more than giddy laughter at their ridiculousness.

There’s only one special feature, but as ever for these “Super Friends” sets, it’s a good one: “The Wonder Twins Phenomenon,” which features talking-head contributions from Doug Goldstein and Tom Root (“Robot Chicken”), Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn (“Attack of the Show”), super-writer Paul Dini, original “Super Friends” writers Alan Burnett and Rich Fogel, and animation historians Jerry Beck and Andy Mangels. Everyone offers their usual blend of childhood reminiscences, first-hand experiences from the animation trenches, and complete and total snark…and, in truth, the combination is exactly what The Wonder Twins deserve. There’s even a brief discussion about Zan and Jayna’s predecessors, Wendy and Marvin, and how inappropriate it was for a couple of powerless teenagers to follow these superheroes around. Say, where did Gleek always manage to pull that bucket from? Never mind. I don’t really want to know.

Click to buy “The All New Super Friends Hour: Season One, Volume Two”

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