Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Birds of Prey" finally comes to DVD

Most people, even diehard comics fans, are unfamiliar with the Birds of Prey TV series, which ran just 13 weeks on the old WB back in 2002-2003. But I remember it very fondly. Three reasons why are pictured at left. But the show was more than eye candy; it was a clever spin on the Batman legend that pulled ideas directly from the comics and added a few unique ones of its own. Each episode began with this narration by actor Ian Abercrombie, who played Bruce Wayne’s famous butler on the series:

“Legend tells of a caped crusader, Batman, guardian of New Gotham, and his one true love, Catwoman, the queen of the criminal underworld. Their passion left behind something extraordinary…a daughter, Huntress. Half meta-human, she has taken up her father’s mantle, and under the cover of night fights to protect the innocent and helpless. Joining her in this struggle…Oracle, who was once Batman’s protégé, Batgirl. She was caught in the crossfire of the war between Batman and Joker. Now she fights crime a different way — master of the cyber realms, a mentor and trainer to heroes. Together, they have taken in a young runaway…Dinah, a meta-human herself, with powers to open hidden doors to the mind, powers that she is only beginning to explore. Together, these are the protectors of New Gotham…the Birds of Prey. My name is Alfred Pennyworth, and this is their story.”

Birds of Prey had a terrific, noir look and feel, and there were some very neat nods to past interpretations of the Dark Knight saga. Psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel (aka Harley Quinn), played venomously by Mia Sera, was a series regular. The Joker’s crippling of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, played by Dina Meyer, was pulled directly from Alan Moore’s groundbreaking Killing Joke graphic novel and shockingly replayed every week in the series prologue. All three Robins — Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake — were mentioned during the course of the series. Batman’s “retirement/disappearance” was obviously inspired by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Some nice, if macabre, series touches: the whole meta-human business; Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) is said to have been killed by the Joker; Huntress is heir to the Wayne fortune; Dinah Redmond, played by Rachel Skarsten, is the daughter of Black Canary, who makes an effective series appearance. The cast was great, particularly Ashley Scott’s turn as Helena Kyle, aka Huntress, which made me a big fan and is just one reason I was so faithful to Jericho this past year.

Well, after five years, Birds of Prey: The Complete Series is finally being issued on DVD July 29. Hooray! I’m dying to see this series again.

Update: Warners has just announced that the DVD set will be released July 15, two weeks earlier than first planned, to coincide more closely with the theatrical release of The Dark Knight this summer. Very cool.

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