Czech animation, comic-book based superheroes: movies and TV

JAN SVANKMAJER: THE OSSUARY AND OTHER TALES (1964) collects some of the Czech animator’s bizarre shorts (I’ve seen some of his longer works, such as Alice or Faust), not all of which work — some are just odd and pointless — but most do, including a film about a human fence and one involving a slowly assembling body (I think I caught it back on MTV’s old Liquid Television, which introduced me to Svankmajer). “Plant an engineer between two butchers.”

The 1994 cartoon of THE TICK was my introduction to Ben Edlund’s superhero parody (I found the comic book some years later) as the dumb but mighty hero, his sidekick Arthur and allies such as American Maid—— battle Dick Tracy-esque villain Chairface Chippendale, Bond-style tyrant Pineapple Pokopo, mock adventures in Pretentious Surreal Mindscapes (I hate those) and parody superheroes about as well as it’s ever been done. For some reason this set misses one episode (“The Tick vs. the Mole-Men”) but it holds up well, with the season improving as it goes along. “I’m not Stalin, I’m Stalingrad — a graduate student in Russian history who decided to become a supervillain.”

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY‘s third season follows up on the ending of the second (though I can’t find a review here for anything but S1), in which Gerard Way’s misfit comic-book heroes return home to discover they’ve been replaced by the Sparrow Academy. It turns out following S2’s changes in the timeline, Hargreaves (Colm Feore) created an entirely different team — more formidable fighters, it turns out, but shallow and selfish, exploiting their heroics to become celebrity. Can the two teams work together when the world once again faces the apocalypse?

I like the set-up and would have loved to see the two team square off, with the Umbrellas ultimately proving their merit. The “kugelblitz” apocalypse didn’t work out as well as I expected. And the ending, leading into the final season, is more frustrating than satisfying — it may all look better once we learn Hargreaves hidden agenda in S4, but that’s really not good enough. “The best way to bring a family together is at a wedding — or a funeral. We’ve tried one, now we’ll try the other.”

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