If you need a reminder that this is the best time ever to be a comic-book geek -- at least, in terms of movies and television -- look no further than the mix of items available just this month.
On Friday, "Smallville" let comic book luminary Geoff Johns go wild with a two-hour episode titled "Absolute Justice," which employed a "Watchmen"-like approach to go back and introduce the Justice Society of America, including such relatively obscure characters as Dr. Fate and the Star-Spangled Kid, along with Hawkman (in full wacky costume) and the Sandman. Throw in Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter, and the show has come an awfully long way from its original "No tights, no flights" pledge, with spandex-clad heroes all over the place.
I hadn't watched "Smallville" in awhile, but the episode was a lot of fun, if so geeky in terms of the references for comics fans (Hey, was that a picture of Captain Midnight? Woo-hoo!) that it tested my memory -- and doubtless left a lot of the younger audience out in the cold.
Meanwhile, two direct-to-video animated features land this month: Lionsgate's "Planet Hulk," which I just got through watching and modestly enjoyed; and Warner Bros.' "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths," which will receive premieres in mid-February at the Paley Centers in New York and Beverly Hills.
Given how good "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies" was, I'm more enthusiastic about "Crisis," though "Planet Hulk" definitely plays to a young guy/adult mix with its ample doses of violence, capitalizing on the freedom of animation to produce an 80-minute movie that wouldn't have been financially feasible for live-action unless someone handed the assignment to James Cameron.
As with DC's use of animation to develop characters (see "Green Lantern: First Flight"), the Lionsgate adaptations of the Marvel properties offer a pretty good laboratory to see what works and doesn't on screen -- while tackling stories that are so comic-book specific as to be tailored to an avid niche as opposed to mass audience.
Disney officials trying to figure out how to maximize their Marvel acquisition should definitely take a look at what Lionsgate has done. As for comics fans, congrats! You have more excuses than ever not to leave the house.