So Sayeth the Odinson — with Michael Breakfield

  • The Odinson Takes a Look Back at the Super Friends

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    In the last couple of decades, animated entertainment has taken leaps and bounds in quality, both in sophistication and presentation.  Television offerings like Justice League Unlimited and Avengers Assemble have shown just how powerful and entertaining a continuity-laced super hero narrative can be.  Direct to DVD adaptations of classic tales like The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The New Frontier, and Planet Hulk show the potential that may one day be seen on the Big Screen.  The envelope of animated entertainment had been being pushed for years in Japan and nobody can argue the genius of the science fiction masterpiece that is Akira.  And, hands down, the absolute best incarnation of the Dark Knight Detective and of comics to animation period is still to this day Batman: The Animated Series.

     

    However, long before any of these genre defining animated offerings, there were two Saturday morning cartoons that inspired a young Odinson, captured his imagination, and stoked the fires that became his lifelong passion for comic books.  One was Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but even before that one, the cartoon that started it all was the Super Friends.  Featuring an All-Star cast of DC Comics icons, this seminal, All Ages animated series ran on Saturday mornings and in syndication from 1973 to 1986 and defined super heroes for a generation of wide-eyed children.       

     

    Super Friends (1973-1974)In the great hall of the Justice League there are assembled the world’s four greatest heroes, created from the cosmic legends of the universe… - This is the one that started it all.  Much like the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Comics had introduced its heroes individually, each in their very own Filmation cartoon series.  Like Marvel’s Avengers one day would, Hanna-Barbera took DC Comics’ greatest heroes – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman – and united them in one show and thus, the Super Friends legend began.  With character designs by artist Alex Toth, the first season of the Super Friends also featured a trio of sidekicks – Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog – junior Super Friends whom the young audience the show was intended for could live vicariously through as their favorite heroes brought justice to an animated world.

     

    The All-New Super Friends Hour (1977-1978) Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe, here in this great Hall of Justice, are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled… - The second season of the Super Friends featured the same All Star cast of main heroes, but Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog were replaced by Zan and Jayna the Wonder Twins and their space monkey, Gleek.  Zan had the elemental power of water and ice and Jayna was a shape-shifter, able to transform into any animal or creature imaginable.  Their powers could be activated only when their hands came into contact, a plot point that became a series standard.  Who could ever forget the classic battle cry that has become pop culture legend – WONDER TWIN POWERS ACTIVATE!   

     

    Challenge of the Super Friends (1978-1979)Banded together from remote galaxies are thirteen of the most sinister super villains of all time – the Legion of Doom… - The third season of Super Friends is, without a doubt, the cream of the crop.  The series peeked when the World’s Greatest Super Heroes began a never-ending battle against a small army of the greatest foes – The Legion of Doom.  These were actual super villains from the comics, not made up villains of the week.  Legendary Big Bads like Gorilla Grodd, Solomon Grundy, Giganta, and Sinestro were led by the diabolical Lex Luthor in a sinister plot for universal domination.  This season also gave us the super cool Black Manta and that unmistakable, bone-chilling voice that has become cartoon legend.  Plus, the world was introduced to easily one the greatest secret villain lairs of all time, the Hall of Doom, a mobile base of operations with an eerie similarity to the helmet of Darth Vader that is able to fly through the air, submerge underwater, and even travel through space and time.  The influence of this seminal season can be felt even today as Challenge of the Super Friends was the inspiration for the final, and best, season of Justice League Unlimited.         

     

    The World’s Greatest Super Friends (1979-1980)…dedicated to truth, justice and peace, for all mankind… - This season returned the series to its anthology roots, featuring shorter less continuity driven episodes.  However, this season also features some the most standout single episodes of the series.  Episodes like “Rub Three Times for Disaster” pitted the Man of Steel’s unparalleled might against the magic of a nigh omnipotent genie.  “Space Knights of Camelon” saw Batman and Robin battle an amnesiac Superman on a world of knights, witches, and lightsabers!  And, “The Lord of Middle Earth” sees the Super Friends transformed into dwarfs.  Our depowered heroes must match wits against a sinister sorcerer in this Dungeons and Dragons-like episode that is easily one of the Odinson’s all-time favorites.

     

    Super Friends (1980-1982)…together they form the world’s greatest force dedicated to truth, peace and justice for all mankind… - The Super Friends are global guardians, and nothing illustrates that more so than this season which sees new heroes from around the world take on major roles.  Heroes like the giant Native American Apache Chief, the Japanese wind-wizard Samurai, the South American mystic El Dorado, and the electrically-charged African American Black Vulcan take center stage this season making this incarnation of the Super Friends easily the most culturally diverse. 

     

    Super Friends [The Lost Episodes] (1983-1984) – This season originally only aired in Australia and American audiences did not get see them until a decade later.  I have yet to actually see these episodes, but I do know they are available on DVD.

     

    Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984-1985)Introducing Firestorm – The penultimate season to the franchise has so many elements that hold great nostalgia for the Odinson.  First, this season sees the introduction of the teen hero Firestorm, easily one of the most underrated heroes in DC’s pantheon.  At the time these cartoons aired on Saturday mornings, the Odinson was an avid reader of the Gerry Conway-scribed series The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man.  So you can imagine my glee at seeing this amazing hero come to life in one of my favorite cartoons.  Second, this season also saw an important new adversary introduced to plague the Super Friends – Darkseid!  Jack Kirby’s New Gods make their triumphant Saturday Morning debut this season.  Finally, as with so many cartoons of the 80s, The Legendary Super Powers Show tied into a much beloved toyline – The Super Powers Collection -  to this day some of the coolest action figures ever made that were based on comic book characters.    

     

    The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985-1986) – The final season of the Super Friends saw yet another one of the Odinson’s favorites introduced to the roster – Cyborg.  Cyborg was a creation of Marv Wolfman and George Perez and played an important role in their legendary run on New Teen Titans.  And as anyone who has read my columns knows, the Odinson is a huge fan of that run.  In fact, New Teen Titans #1-50 by Wolfman and Perez is easily one of the greatest runs in comics history.  The influence of this introduction can be felt to this day as Cyborg is now a member of The New 52 Justice League and a major player in the events of the DC Universe.      

     

    Going all the way back to the original line-up of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman, it can be easily deducted that this All-Star cast was the inspiration for Grant Morrison’s assemblage for his legendary run on the World’s Greatest Super Heroes in the pages of JLA.  Super Friends was produced by Hanna-Barbera and featured many legendary voice actors including Ted Knight (Caddyshack) the unmistakable voice that narrated the series and Casey Kasem (American Top 40) who provided the voice for Robin the Boy Wonder, along with others like Frank Welker (Megatron) and Ted Cassidy (The Addams Family).  Other modern day masters like Geoff Johns (Aquaman, Green Lantern) and Mark Waid (The Flash, Justice League: Year One) have been quoted as saying that the Super Friends cartoon was highly influential on their work and love for comics.  These two beloved writers actually do commentary on episodes in the Challenge of the Super Friends DVD box set. 

     

    The animation may be dated, some of the characters maybe cookie cutouts of each other, some of the jokes may even be hokey, but there is no denying the mark this classic animated series has left on the world.    

     

    Viva la Super Friends!

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

     

  • The Odinson Celebrates Rick Jones, King of the Sidekicks!

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    DC Comics invented the sidekick with Robin the Boy Wonder.  With more additions like Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Wonder Woman’s Wonder Girl, Flash’s Kid Flash, Green Arrow’s Speedy and many more, they definitely defined the role of the sidekick.  But of all the teenage sidekicks in the history of comic books there’s one that stands out among the rest and he doesn’t reside in Gotham City.  No, the greatest sidekick in the history of comics resides over at the House of Ideas and his name is Rick Jones!

     

    Rick Jones has been the right hand man to not one, not two, but no less than five major heroes in the Marvel Universe!  He has saved the world on several occasions and he may be responsible for making comics history for his part in the assemblage of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.  Readers were very first introduced to this intrepid teenager way back in Incredible Hulk #1.  With a knack for always being around the center of Marvel History, Rick Jones, on a dare, found himself on a government bomb testing area in New Mexico.  It just so happens that the military was testing a new Gamma Bomb that day.  Scientist Bruce Banner rushed out and pushed the clueless teenager into a trench just as the bomb exploded.  Bruce Banner was forever transformed into the Hulk and Rick Jones will forever feel responsible for the man’s curse.  

     

    Rick Jones stood by both Hulk and Banner’s side for many years helping to guide and protect his friend whom he feels great responsibility for.  Along the way, Rick himself was even transformed into a Hulk and battled his own friend in a duel of Hulks (see Incredible Hulk #324-326).  However, Rick’s curse was short-lived as the Grey Hulk was manipulated by an old enemy to use Jone’s Gamma-fueled blood to orchestrate the return of the Leader (see Incredible Hulk #332).  Hanging around an emotionally imbalanced, Gamma-charged powerhouse like the Hulk can sometimes lead to injuries, serious injuries.  One time during one of the Hulk’s tantrums, Rick’s spine was shattered, but thanks to the super science of Bruce Banner, Iron Man, and Mr. Fantastic, he was able to walk again (see Incredible Hulk #465).  In the far flung Future Imperfect, it is a senior citizen Rick Jones who brings the Hulk from the present through time and space to face off against his evil Maestro self in the future.  His long turbulent friendship with the Hulk has been full of many ups and downs.  However, the Hulk isn’t the only Marvel legend with whom Rick Jones has had a partnership.

     

    In the pages of Avengers #1, it is through the radio broadcasts of Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes - Thor, Iron, Hulk, Ant-Man and Wasp - assemble and stop the evil machinations of Loki.  Then Captain America, the legendary hero from World War II, returned and Jones and the Living Legend formed a powerful friendship (see Avengers #4).  Steve Rogers was a man out of time and felt great guilt over the death of his wartime partner, Bucky, whom Rick Jones bared an uncanny resemblance to.  Rick stuck around and accompanied the Avengers on several adventures (see Avengers #5-6).  For a short time, Rick even took to dressing up as Bucky and was Cap’s crime-fighting partner (see Captain America #110-111).  Rick’s two best buds once got into a bit of a physical disagreement over their young friend (see Incredible Hulk #406).    

     

    Perhaps Rick Jone’s most unusual partnership is his strange connection to the Kree superman – Captain Marvel.  Mar-Vell and Jones found themselves connected and actually merged into one being by the cosmic power of the Nega-Bands (see Captain Marvel #17).  Whenever one of them was on Earth, the other was trapped in the Negative Zone, for they could not occupy the same space at the same time.  This partnership lasted for years until they were finally separated (see Captain Marvel #50).  But during that time, the Captain Marvel/Rick Jones partnership played a major role in the cosmic campaign known as the Kree/Skrull War. 

     

    After Mar-Vell’s death (see The Death of Captain Marvel), Rick Jones found himself pulled into the secret war of the invading Dire Wraiths.  He fought the alien monsters side-by-side with the greatest spaceknight – ROM.  It was during this time that Jones met up with the nigh-omnipotent Beyonder and was cured of Gamma-spawned cancer which ravaged his body (see ROM #72).     

     

    Years later, a team of Avengers was assembled from across the time-stream by Jones in order to prevent a madman from tearing the Marvel Universe asunder (see Avengers Forever).  At the end of this time-spanning campaign, Rick Jones found himself bounded with Mar-Vell’s son Genis-Vell in much the same manner he was to the original Kree hero and a new Captain Marvel was born (see Captain Marvel by Peter David).  This time, the Captain Marvel composite took on a more Firestorm-like feel to it with Rick Jones taking on the experienced mentor Professor Stein role and Genis-Vell in the inexperienced but full of potential Ronnie Raymond role.  This partnership lasted until the end of the series and Genis-Vell’s sanity.

     

    The role Rick Jones has played as a professional sidekick has made him a very important figure throughout the history of the Marvel Universe.  When the world thought Captain America dead, Rick Jones served as a pallbearer at the Sentinel of Liberty’s funeral (see Fallen Son).  When the mighty Hulk returned from his exile in space, it was the words and friendship of Rick Jones that helped the enraged behemoth to come to his senses before he destroyed the world (see World War Hulk).  And in case more proof is needed to show just how beloved this guy is in the Marvel U, just checkout the guest list for his bachelor party (see Incredible Hulk #417).  This issue also featured the last in-continuity appearance of ROM in the Marvel Universe.  These days, Rick Jones fights injustice alongside the Agents of SMASH as the Gamma-irradiated hero known as A-Bomb. 

     

    The Odinson celebrates Rick Jones, King of the Sidekicks!

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

     

  • The Odinson Revisits the Marvel Mag of Mirth and Mayhem and Answers a Continuity Question

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    I hope everyone had a fun and safe 4th of July weekend. 

     

    Before I get on with this week’s topic, I wanted to take a moment to answer a longstanding continuity question.  Magneto was a refugee and concentration camp survivor during World War II and Professor X is his contemporary in the 1960s (see Uncanny X-Men #161 and First X-Men).  Wolverine has a healing factor that makes him nigh ageless and Captain America was frozen in ice for decades, so how in the world are Eric Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier not only alive six decades later in 2014 but they are vibrant and fighting for mutant rights with as much zeal as the bravest mutant heroes in their primes?  Many longtime comic readers may already know the answer to this question, but for those that do not, here’s the answer.

     

    When Marvel’s Merry Mutants made their triumphant debut in Uncanny X-Men #1 (published September 1963) Professor X and Magneto were distinguished men in their mid to late 40s, established leaders of the mutant cause, Xavier as the mentor of the teen mutant heroes the X-Men and Magneto the mastermind behind the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Even with the stunted way characters age in comics, a topic which I have discussed before (see Has the Odinson Come Up with the Equation for Real World-to-Comic Book Time?), in modern times, Charles Xavier and Magneto should both be, at the very least, in their 80s.  Here’s what happened.

     

    In Defenders #16, the mutant Master of Magnetism was reduced to the state of infancy by the astonishing psionic powers of the mutant known as Alpha.  Then in Uncanny X-Men #104, Magneto is restored to his prime by the super science of the alien Shi’ar assassin Eric the Red.  So, a romance between Magnus and Rogue, as seen in Uncanny X-Men #269 and 274-275, isn’t that out of the question. As for Xavier?  During the X-Men’s adventure to the far side of the galaxy and a battle with the deadly Brood (see Uncanny X-Men #162-167), Professor X had been infected and taken over by one of the aliens.  His body was destroyed, but his mind was kept intact.  Through the miracle of Shi’ar super science, Xavier’s powerful brain was transferred over to a cloned body allowing Charles Xavier to not only continue his quest for mutant equality in his prime, but to do so without the use of a wheelchair.      

     

    So there you have it, boys and girls.  That is how two men that should be in their Twilight Years are still continuing to fight for mutant rights in a modern day Marvel Universe with bodies that would make Brad Pitt (or Ryan Gosling for the younger generation) green with envy.

     

    Now…

     

    The Odinson Revisits the Marvel Mag of Mirth and Mayhem

     

    Marvel Comics has a long history of asking the age old question: What If?  Through the window of imagination and under the watchful eye of Uatu the Watcher, readers have been able to explore the myriad of possible alternate realities where things didn’t go quite as they did in 616 continuity.  What if Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four?  What If Wolverine Had Killed the Hulk?  What If Captain America were Revived Today?  These and many, many more alternate pathways have been explored.  But Marvel also had the courage to ask - What The…?!

     

    In a time before the internet, before every fanboy and girl with a grudge and a keyboard voiced their jeers and roasted creators, storylines, and characters on the Web, Marvel Comics took it upon themselves to pan and parody their own material.  What The…?!” is a hilarious fun-filled comic book series that allowed the House of Ideas to poke fun at themselves and pull the curtain back a little.

     

    This series features some great homage covers. What The…?! #3 spoofs Amazing Spider-Man #294 and the classic Kraven’s Last Hunt story.  What The…?! #4 spoofs the The Fall of the Mutants.  And, What The…?! #8 spoof Superman #4, both pieces done by Modern Master John Byrne.

     

    Right from the get go, What The…?! #1 kicked things off in huge fashion!  In the classic satirical tale When Titans Bunch, featuring parody appearances by nearly every single Marvel hero in a smash-em-up brawl that pokes fun at how Marvel heroes are always fighting each other.  Long before JLA/Avengers, in the pages of What The…?! #7, the Revengers faced off against the Just-A-League.  What The…?! #11 explores what if Wolverine were a woman?  Many other humorous avenues explored in this mirth-filled series are The Retirement of Knick Furey, Ex-Agent of SHEELD (a spoof on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD), What If Shang-Chew Were a Fast Food Cook? (a spoof on Master of Kung Fu), and Lone Wolvie and Chris (a spoof on Lone Wolf and Cub).  Another knee-slapping tale features Doctor Deranged (Doctor Strange), the proprietor of cosmic truths, mystic might, and lottery tickets, tired of hearing the problems of his universe’s supernatural community, ventures into the neighboring realm and runs into Zatananana (a scheming Zatanna), the Fandom Stranger (a Phantom Stranger who is the ultimate fanboy), Dr. Feet (a Dr. Fate who uses his feet), Dead, Man (a Deadman who is the Grateful Dead’s #1 fan), the Spatula (a Spectre Kitchen Magician), and Aunty Monitor (an Anti-Monitor spoof who aims to restart the universe).  This tale pokes fun at Marvel’s distinguished competition’s attempt to reboot their universe with the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, a joke that is just as relative today with the whole DC Comics New 52 reboot. 

     

    Hands down, the Odinson’s favorite bit from this much beloved series is the whimsical farce that appears in the pages of What The…?! #2 Superbman vs. the Fantastical Four!  There is so much gold to be mined from this lampoon.  First and foremost, it should be pointed out that this tale was produced by none other than John Byrne!  At this point in his career, Byrne had had fan and critic praised and character-defining runs on both the Fantastic Four and Superman.  Now he gets to actually pit Marvel’s First Family against the Man of Steel in pitch battle, a tale he had already kind of told twice before in Fantastic Four #249 and Superman #8.  The legendary creator pokes fun at his own work with gags like Superman’s Post-Crisis depowering, Ben Grimm’s hard-to-satire dialogue, and the Man of Steel’s sudden rapid growth of facial hair.  But by far the most laugh-out-loud moment has to be when Doctor Bloom not only mistakes Rex Ruthless for the Kingpin of Crime, but Rex debunks Bloom’s theory that Superbman is in fact Park Bench (a joke fueled by Byrne’s own tale from Superman #2).

     

    Part of the charm of What The…?! is not only the obvious satire, but also the fact that it features some the industry’s best and brightest poking fun at themselves.  From John Byrne (Triple Helix) to Mike Mignola (Hellboy), from Al Milgrom (Secret War II) to Kurt Busiek (Avengers), from Peter David (Incredible Hulk) to Stan Lee himself, they all take a turn at lampooning their own work.  In the tradition of Dean Martin’s and Comedy Central’s roasts, What The…?! roasts the medium of comics. 

     

    And who couldn’t use a good laugh?  

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • The Odinson Reveals Why Batman and Robin is the Worse Comic Movie of All Time

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    Plot: The Dynamic Duo race against the clock to stop a diabolical madman from encasing Gotham City in ice and sending its citizens back to the Ice Age!  Meanwhile, a femme fatale and her hulking bodyguard plot and scheme from shadows, waiting to pick up the pieces of what’s left for themselves. 

     

    Not a bad set-up, right?  This is a real plot for what sounds like a pretty awesome Batman movie.  Unfortunately, it is the plot for Batman and Robin.

     

    Comic book movies are a delicate undertaking.  The filmmakers have to walk a tightrope of pleasing the hardcore fans while at the same time making the properties viable for non-comic fan moviegoers.  Though, if they’d just stay true the source material - like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Dark Knight did - they would never go wrong, but I digress.  Over the years there have been many comic related movies: HitsIron Man and Blade, MissesSuperman Returns and Spider-Man 3, Underrated - Daredevil and Men in Black, and Overrated - X-Men and The Dark Knight Rises.  But in my movie-going history there have only been two films that actually make me angry and want to walk out of the theatre.  One is X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the other is Batman and Robin.

     

    The Odinson Reveals Why Batman and Robin is the Worse Comic Movie of All Time

     

    By the time Batman and Robin hit theatres in 1997, fans had already seen Tim Burton’s Batman (A++), Batman Returns (B-), and Batman Forever (C-).  A series of steadily declining returns.  Each offering was a little less satisfying than the one before it.  This is a film with an All-Star Cast of rising stars like George Clooney (From Dusk Till Dawn) and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction) alongside pop culture princess, Alicia Silverstone (Clueless and the girl from the Aerosmith music videos), and headlined by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator, Terminator), at that time, one of the biggest movie stars in the world.  I’ve heard the complaints about too many characters in the same film, but I say thee nay!  If movies like Avengers and Days of Future Past have taught us anything, a big cast can be quite effective and frankly awesome when handled well.  So what went wrong?

     

    Creative Woes: First and foremost, the blame has to land firmly at the feet of the man helming the ship – Joel Schumacher.  It is a mystery as to why this quite capable filmmaker just could not connect with the source material.  Up to this point, Schumacher had a history of making good films, cretic and fan-loved affairs like St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, and Falling Down.  Even Batman Forever with all its flaws, many of which carry over to this film, was entertaining on many levels.  Perhaps the director was a fan of the 1960s Batman television show, if not, he was clearly inspired by it, but unfortunately, modern day Bat-fans had moved beyond the tongue-in-cheek affair and wanted less “BIFF! BAM! POW!” and more Frank Miller.     

     

    Visual Eye-Sores: This section could be summed up easily by just stating the obvious – nipples on the Bat-Suit!  Who sat around the executive table in Hollywood and stared another human being in the eye and said, “That’s a good idea.”  Oh, if only the offensives stopped at that.  How about the Bane-balloon animal?  We’re talking about the man that actually humiliated and defeated the Batman (see Knightfall), but this film turns him into a mindless throwaway joke with rubbery skin and the personality of a guard dog.  Featuring monolithic statues that could never have been constructed by mortal hands, the Gotham City skyline looked less like a comic book inspired urban setting and more like a nightmare seized from the imagination of Dr. Seuss.  Speaking of monolithic statues, just how absurd was a car chase across and through said statues?  And one visual eye-sore that carried over from the aforementioned Batman Forever – Robin.  With all due respect to Chris O’Donnell, however he was a horrible choice for the BOY Wonder.  How can you take the perennial sidekick seriously when in some scenes he is actually taller than Batman?  Horrible!          

     

    Absurd Dialogue:  In Batman Forever, we allowed Batman’s misstep with “It’s the car, right? Chicks love the car.” to slide.  But there is no forgiving the avalanche of absurd wordplay in Batman and Robin.  “Everybody, chill!”  “The Iceman cometh!”  “Tonight’s forecast, a freeze is coming!”  My head is actually starting to hurt as I type these words down.  From the absurd introduction between Batgirl and Batman – Batgirl: “Bruce, it’s me, Barbara.  I found the Batcave.” Batman: “We gotta get those locks changed.” – to the infamous Mr. Freeze “Adam and Evil!” and Poison Ivy “…it’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature” lines, this movie is simply a series of bad puns and cheesy one-liners.  But nothing tops the should-have-never-made-the-cut scene where Batman and Robin argue over Poison Ivy, a debate that ultimately ends with the Dark Knight pulling a credit card from his utility belt that has the Batlogo on it.  A Bat-Credit Card?  What?!  Horrible!

     

    I tried to watch this movie again recently.  It had been easily over ten years since I last viewed it and sometimes I can go back and watch movies I previously hated and find things that I either missed before or little nuances that make me appreciate the film on some level.  Batman and Robin is not one of those films.  I have absolutely nothing good to say about this film that nearly killed the Batman movie franchise.  In fact, before Batman and Robin was even released there was a film entitled Batman Triumphant in the works, a movie that would have pitted the Dynamic Duo against the sinister Scarecrow and would have featured Harley Quinn and the Mad Hatter and a return of the Joker in a hallucination sequence.  Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, Warner Bros. put the kibosh on the franchise and it wouldn’t be until nearly ten years later that the Dark Knight would return to the Big Screen in Christopher Nolan’s much more capable hands with Batman Begins.       

     

    From the completely useless motorcycle race to the go nowhere subplot of Alfred’s ailing health, Batman and Robin, this utterly humiliating piece of “cinema,” can be summed up for the Odinson in one scene.  The Dynamic Duo click their heels and ice-skates pop out of their boots.  I’ll say one thing for the filmmakers, they didn’t bury the lead.  They said right up front, they weren’t taking the material serious.

     

    Odinson Rating: 0 out of 5 Hammers

     

    Batman and Robin is honored with the Ed Wood Award - Worst Comic Film in History!  

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell  

  • The Odinson Presents Great Team-Ups of Modern Day Pop Culture

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    Avengers Assemble!  Titans Go!  ThunderCats, Hoooooooooooo!  In ancient times Jason and the Argonauts assembled to find the fabled Golden Fleece.  In the Middle-Ages, in the aftermath of the Crusades, Robin Hood and His Merry Men fought injustice and saved the throne from being usurped by a vile dictator.  In 17th Century France, the great swordsman d’Artagnan joined forces with the mighty Three Musketeers to battle a madman and then reunited years later to expose the conspiracy behind The Man in the Iron Mask.  In the Old West, Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and the Magnificent Seven headed into Mexico to save a small village of farmers from a dastardly gang of bandits.  At the dawn of the 20th Century, the great literary heroes of the time united to form the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to match wits with the most diabolical criminal mastermind in history and an invading alien force from Mars.  And, in the harrowing days of World War II, Lee Marvin assembled the Dirty Dozen to take on the Nazis.

     

    The idea of our greatest heroes uniting to smite evil is a concept as old as history itself.  The Odinson presents the great team-ups of Modern Day pop culture.

     

    The 1960s – Batman Meets the Green Hornet – At the height of its popularity, the 1960s Batman television show was a pop culture phenomenon.  It was a tongue-in-cheek take on the Dark Knight.  Though the show’s “BIFF! POW! BAM!” hijinks did not cast our beloved medium of comics in the best of lights, there can be no denying the charm of the show.  The show featured a capable leading man that has become pop culture royalty, villains of the week played by a who’s who of Hollywood giants, and it was famous for its over-the-top cliffhanger endings.  “Tune in next week!  Same Bat-Channel!  Same Bat-Time!”  And, it featured the first onscreen super hero team-up.  When Batman and Robin met the Green Hornet and Kato in a 2-part adventure, the heads of fanboys everywhere exploded!  This team-up had such an effect on SModCast Hollywood Babble-On buddies, writer/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma) and comedian/actor Ralph Garman, that these two pop culture figures have teamed up with artist Ty Templeton (Superboy, Howard the Duck) and cover artist Alex Ross (Marvels, Kingdom Come) to tell the never-before-seen sequel to this seminal meeting of TV hero legends.

     

    The 1970s – The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman – In a decade that featured such team ups as Bigfoot and Wildboy, Captain Marvel and Isis, and ElectraWoman and DynaGirl, the meeting of these two iconic cyborg super heroes stands out.  Based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, The Six Million Dollar Man was a show about Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut who, after a horrible accident ravaged his body, was rebuilt as the world’s first cyborg.  Working for the government sponsored OSI, Austin saves the free world from madmen, spies, and even the monstrous Bigfoot!  Jaime Sommers was a professional athlete who after a skydiving mishap was also rebuilt into a bionic super hero.  Through crossover episodes and numerous reunion television movies, Austin and Sommers had many adventures and even developed a timeless romance.  As the world’s first Bionic Man and Bionic Woman, Austin and Sommers are faster, stronger, better, and also possess many other amazing abilities given to them through the miracle of super science, and audiences everywhere rejoiced.     

     

    The 1980s – John Carpenter and Kurt Russell – NOTE: This is normally where I would talk about The Defenders of the Earth.  But since I’ve spoken at length on several occasions about this legendary group of heroes (see The Odinson Celebrates the Triumphant Return of the Defenders of the Earth), I’ve decided to go in a different direction. 

     

    Not only has this team-up contributed greatly to the annals of pop culture, but the Carpenter/Russell team has been infinitely influential on the Odinson himself.  Going back to the 70s, John Carpenter was best known for his legendary slasher-flick Halloween and Kurt Russell was best known mostly for TV guest spots and Disney movies.  Then the stars aligned and united this duo on the biopic Elvis.  Soon after, writer/director/composer John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell produced a trilogy of pop culture classics – Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), and Big Trouble in Little China (1986) – three films that stand the test of time. 

     

    Escape from New York introduced the world to Snake Plissken.  With all due respect to the Punisher, Plissken is the greatest anti-hero in pop culture history.  The Thing was a reworked adaptation of the 1951 The Thing from Another World.  In this spellbinding sci-fi thriller, Russell’s MacReady, a pilot stationed at an isolated Antarctica-based research installation, and his companions are thrust into an Agatha Christie Ten Little Indians situation when a shape-shifting creature from beyond the stars arrives to usurp humanity’s control of Earth.  Finally, Big Trouble is a martial arts fantasy set in Modern Day San Francisco China Town and introduces one the greatest movie heroes ever – Jack Burton, a seemingly average truck driver who suddenly finds himself in the middle of a war between wizards, demons, kung fu assassins, and demi-gods.  John Carpenter is a master visual storyteller and all three films feature his musical accompaniment, and Kurt Russell’s infectious wit and charm can make an audience root for the anti-hero.              

     

    The 1990s – Pulp Fiction – By 1993, with Reservoir Dogs (1992) and True Romance (1993), Quentin Tarantino had already established himself as a capable writer and filmmaker with an ear for catchy, pop culture-filled dialogue.  But nobody was prepared for the game-changer he unleashed with his second directorial offering.  Tarantino teams up with an All-Star cast that includes such Hollywood and pop culture giants as John Travolta (Grease), Sam Jackson (Avengers), Uma Thurman (My Super Ex-Girlfriend), Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible), Christopher Walken (Prophecy), Harvey Keitel (From Dusk til Dawn), Tim Roth (The Incredible Hulk), and Bruce Willis (Die Hard) to tell a crisscrossing, out-of-sequence story of the underbelly of Los Angeles crime.  The movie is a 90s classic and spawned a hundred imitators and influenced and inspired a generation of writers and movie makers.   

     

    The 2000s – JLA/Avengers – Master storytellers Kurt Busiek and George Perez united to assemble the greatest super hero team up in the history of comics.  Earths Mightiest Heroes must unite with the World’s Greatest Super Heroes in order to stop a madman from unraveling the reality of both the Marvel and the DC Universes.  This was a team up decades in the making.  Who is stronger – the Son of Odin or the Last Son of Krypton?  Who is more cunning – the Dark Knight Detective or the Sentinel of Liberty?  What would Wonder Woman do when she finally comes face-to-face with Hercules, the man that betrayed her mother?  Who is a better shot – Green Arrow or Hawkeye?  All these questions would be addressed and many, many more when the two greatest super teams in comics history face off and ultimately team up.  It’s a cast of hundreds and the creators out do themselves by including every single hero that has ever been a member of the Avengers or the JLA and even include every single one of their foes.  Hands down, the Odinson’s favorite moment in the tale is when DC villain Prometheus confronts Captain America and boosts that the Star-Spangled Shield-Slinger should be no problem since Prometheus has just downloaded the Batman’s fighting skills into his brain.  To this Cap simply replies, “Oh?”  And then proceeds to wipe the floor with the brash villain.

     

    The 2010s – The Expendables - In the 80s, names like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Lundgren, Van Damme, and Norris were action hero icons.  The Box Office was dominated by beefcake shoot-em-ups and take-no-prisoner films like Rambo, Terminator, Die Hard, Masters of the Universe, Bloodsport, and Lone Wolf McQuade.  Then in the 90s and early 2000s, the next generation of action stars that included names like Li, Statham, Snipes, and Banderas took the reins with next level action films like Fist of Legend, The Transporter, Blade, and Desperado.  So, how does a filmmaker top over three decades of action movie greatness?  Simple – put every single action hero icon in the same movie.  And with his Expendables Trilogy, that is exactly what Sylvester Stallone has done.  And the results have been nothing short of a popcorn chomping, explosive pop culture good time.

     

    These are the legendary team ups that over the six decades have helped shaped pop culture and inspired generations of TV watchers, movie goers, comic readers, and the Odinson.         

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • More Clues for a Marvel Crisis and DC has a Huge Announcement!

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    Before I hit this week’s topic, the Odinson discovered another clue to the puzzle he was piecing together in last week’s column (see Is the Marvel Universe Heading toward a CRISIS?!).  After I had already released the column, I sat down to read my latest shipment of new comics.  In this shipment was Thanos Annual #1.  Written by Thanos creator Jim Starlin (Marvel: The End) with art by Ron Lim (Silver Surfer), this Annual explores a previously unexplored chapter from the Mad Titan’s past.  The tale picks up literally right after the climactic events of Captain Marvel #33.

     

    The cosmic madman lies adrift in the black void of space, humbled and utterly defeated.  His minions, the deadly Blood Brothers, come to his aid when suddenly, Thanos is teleported away to the stygian realm of Mephisto.  That set-up alone would be enough to make me want to read this tome, but the best was yet to come.

     

    This Past-Thanos is visited by a future version of himself, or rather, an avatar of a future version of himself.  A future version that is master over space, time, power, reality, and the mind.  Yes, this is an avatar of the all-powerful Thanos from the pages of Infinity Gauntlet.  The nigh-omnipotent Thanos avatar takes his past-self through time and space as they explore the major events of the Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, Infinity Crusade, and finally the avatar and his past-self discover the true gem of the piece and the clue that ties it into what I wrote about.  They see in the not too distant future the aftermath of a major conflict that included the most powerful champions from around the cosmos and Thanos is left as the last combatant standing on a mountain of the fallen.  Then, the Marvel U simply ceases to exist.  The piece ends with an ominous declaration from the Living Tribunal, the most powerful cosmic titan to be seen in Marvel History to date.  He says, “Let the heavens take note and beware, for Universal Transmutation has begun!” 

     

    I don’t know, True Believer, but when a cosmic titan like the Living Tribunal says words like “Universal Transmutation,” that suggest major change to me and possibly a Crisis on Infinite Earths-like event.  Further clues can be found in the upcoming Thanos: The Infinity Revelation and Savage Hulk #7.  Plus, Marvel just announced that starting in September, Avengers and New Avengers will jump ahead in time eight months and pick up the story right at the epicenter of a major universe-changing event.  The rest of the titles will spend the next eight months of stories catching up, but Avengers and New Avengers will be the focus of something big!  So, I ask again – Is the Marvel Universe Heading toward a CRISIS?!

     

    Speaking of announcements, DC Comics will release plans for their cinematic universe at this summer’s Comic-Con.  However, the information, as these things tend to do on the internet, was leaked.  I for one am beyond excited over the news. 

     

    Their release schedule will be as followed:     

    May 2016 – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

    July 2016 – SHAZAM! (Captain Marvel)

    Christmas 2016 – Sandman

    May 2017 – Justice League

    July 2017 – Wonder Woman

    Christmas 2017 – Flash/Green Lantern (team-up)

    May 2018 – Man of Steel 2

     

    The Odinson can’t keep the smile off his face as he reads this list.  Dawn of Justice will firmly establish the DC Cinematic Universe with many cameos and set up the Justice League movie.  Sandman will star the capable Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  And, rumor has it that the mighty Rock will portray the Big Red Cheese.  Now, it’s unclear yet whether the movie Flash will tie into the Arrow television spin-off, but what is for certain is Ryan Reynolds will NOT be the Emerald Knight.   Which is fine because his talents would be much better served bringing a voice to the Merc with a Mouth.     

     

    If this list holds up and with the rate at which we will be fed Marvel and Star Wars movies, the next decade will be like a dream come true for the Odinson.  Ever since I was child, I could not understand why there wasn’t a Star Wars and Superman movie every two or three years being released.  There are thousands of tales to tell and many, many avenues to explore with these wonderful characters.  And now, finally, it’s all coming true!

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell    

     

  • Is the Marvel Universe Heading Toward a CRISIS?!

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    DC Comics in 1938, with Action Comics #1, launched the original comic book super hero universe.  They introduced Superman, the Man of Steel, the Last Son of Krypton, the Man of Tomorrow.  Very soon afterwards they introduced Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Flash and more.  Then, in All Star Comics #3, they took the boldest step yet and introduced the Justice Society of America and with that created a shared universe.  Over the course of the next fifty years, the DCU expanded exponentially and one world was no longer big enough to contain the stories and adventures of these larger than life characters.  So, a multiverse was born. 

     

    There was Earth-1, considered to be the reality where most of the stories took place and the homeworld of the Justice League of America.  There was Earth-2, said to be where Action Comics #1 took place and the homeworld of the Justice Society of America.  It’s a world where time continued forward unabbreviated, as if starting from the Man of Steel’s debut in 1938, a world where the characters aged accordingly.  Earth-3 was a flipped world where the JLA was the world’s greatest super villains known as the Crime Syndicate of Amerika and the world’s sole hero was Alexander Luthor.  There was Earth-X, an alternate reality where World War II never ends and Uncle Sam and his brave Freedom Fighters fight a never-ending battle against the Nazis.  There was Earth-S, home of the Marvel Family, Earth-C, home of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, Earth-4, home of the Charlton Heroes, and an infinite number of other alternate realities made up an increasingly convoluted and complicated DCU.     

     

    There were so many different versions of our heroes and so many different takes on histories, origins, relationships, and age differences that continuity in DC Comics’ shared universe became absolutely impossible.  In 1985, legendary creators Marv Wolfman (Tomb of Dracula) and George Perez (Avengers), the masterminds behind the meteoric rise of the New Teen Titans, set out to fix this problem and thus, the Crisis on Infinite Earths was born.

     

    Crisis introduced a mega cosmic threat that was indiscriminately wiping out the multiverse in a bid for ultimate power.  Crisis was an epic tale told on a grand scale that up until that moment had never been attempted in the history of comics.  It included every single hero and villain from across the DC multiverse, featured major deaths of mainstream heroes at a time before it became the norm, and most importantly, it accomplished what it set out to do – the consolidation of the DCU.  For the next twenty-plus years, a time known as the Post-Crisis DCU, featured a singular universe where all stories took place and DC continuity was fixed.  This Post-Crisis DCU continued up until 2011 when DC Comics launched The New 52 and the multiverse was reborn.

     

    This was a long way to go to get to my question of the day.

     

    Is the Marvel Universe heading toward a Crisis?

     

    For many years now, there has been a building unease in the Marvel U.  One major event after another and each one escalating and escalating to a point until finally the walls of reality may not be able to hold together.  The first two major crimes against the space/time continuum were Days of Future Past and the Age of Apocalypse, two time-spanning tales that altered reality and messed with the natural course of human history. There have been other affronts to the natural order of things – The Cosmic Cube, the Beyonder, the Infinity Gauntlet, and more.  But the truly great crimes against cosmic stability began about ten years ago.    

     

    During the Avengers Disassembled campaign, Lord Thor, king of Asgard, broke the vicious cycle of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods and an end-of-days scenario that has played out and repeated itself over the course of several millennia.  It was a violent yet important part of cosmic balance, a resetting of divine stature in the cosmic order of things.  Not long after this came House of M, the event that changed everything.  Scarlet Witch, the unstable daughter of Magneto and the culprit behind the events of Disassemble, used her chaos magic to completely alter reality and the world was reshaped into a mutant utopia under the rule of the Master of Magnetism.  The Avengers and X-Men were able to unite and set this right, but not before the Scarlet Witch cast one more Hex – “No more mutants.”                 

     

    With three simple words, Wanda Maximoff brought an entire race of people to the verge of extinction.  The surviving mutants left in the world became known as The 198.  In one moment of insanity, the course of human and mutant history was altered.  Then, the heroes of Earth decided to take on a force of nature.  The so called Illuminati, a secret organization made up of prominent heroes, deemed the Hulk too dangerous to live among humans and exiled him to the far side of the cosmos (see Planet Hulk).  But nature always has a way of righting itself.  So, when the mighty Hulk inevitably returned, World War Hulk was declared.  As the Jade Giant, more enraged than ever before, took his revenge against the so called heroes of Earth, the war climaxed with a showdown between Hulk and the Sentry, a clash of titans that nearly destroyed the planet.

     

    This epic battle along with the super hero Civil War, which resulted in the Death of Captain America, the world’s greatest hero, left the world and it’s heroes disenfranchised, weakened, physically and morally, and susceptible to a Secret Invasion.  In the wake of the alien Skrulls’ failed attempt at a coup d’état, a remarkable shift in power took place within the Marvel U.  Evil took power and the Dark Reign began. 

     

    Arch villain Norman Osborn and his sinister Cabal pulled the strings of the world like malevolent puppet masters.  The Marvel Universe fell under a dark cloud and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes became fugitives and wanted criminals.  Doctor Strange was stripped of his mantle as the Sorcerer Supreme for his inability to stop the cosmic crimes that had been wrought since House of M.  Osborn’s Dark Reign came to an end when he challenged the power of the gods and laid Siege to Asgard.  Though Osborn was vanquished, Asgard fell, and the immortal Norse gods were laid low, once again unnaturally shifting cosmic balance away from the divine.       

     

    Cosmic power in the marvel Universe was further diminished in a campaign that pitted the Avengers vs. the X-Men.  The cosmic force of nature known as the Phoenix Force was headed back to Earth.  Earth’s Mightiest Heroes saw this as a threat, but the Children of the Atom saw this as their salvation.  By the end of the conflict, a great man lay dead, a classic hero had fallen from grace, and another Marvel U cosmic power was extinguished from existence.  Then, the most heinous crime against the natural course of things occurred.  Enter: The Age of Ultron.  In order to defeat their greatest enemy, the Avengers travel back through time and change the course of history.  

     

    In the wake of all these monstrous historical shifts in cosmic balance -from Disassembled to House of M, from World War Hulk to Dark Reign, from Siege to AvX, throw in the Uncanny Avengers and their time-wrecking war with the Apocalypse Twins and the Indestructible Hulk’s Smash Time escapades - the space/time continuum and the natural course of history has been pounded and smashed.  Age of Ultron was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  In its wake, an actual tear in reality allowed the angelic warrior Angela to come over to the 616 from the Image Universe, and the world-devouring Galactus invaded the Ultimate Universe.    

     

    It is all now coming to a head.  As Newton said – “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.”  The Watcher visited Hank McCoy and chastised him for irresponsibly ripping the original X-Men from the past and bringing them to the present in the pages of All-New X-Men.  Speaking of the Watcher, in Original Sin, the caretaker of the multiverse, has met with an untimely end.  The Odinson also believes that the “Incursions” with which the New Avengers have been dealing with the past few years is the foreboding warnings of terrible things to come and maybe tied into these other escalating events.  Something, like in Crisis on Infinite Earths, is systematically wiping out the multiverse.    

     

    And, with the Watcher - the “Steward of What If?” - moved off the playing board – could the Marvel Universe be heading toward a Crisis of its own?      

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • The Odinson Reviews X-Men: Days of Future Past

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    I was just having a conversation with my fifteen year old son the other day and I was telling him how lucky he is to be a comic fan right now.  When I was fifteen back in 1989 it was the Summer of Batman, Tim Burton’s Batman to be exact.  I was telling him that all I had up to that point was the Christopher Reeve Superman movies (two of which are greatness), Flash Gordon starring Sam Jones (a tongue-in-cheek good time), and Howard the Duck (yawn).  Then throughout the 90s, me and my fellow fans were lucky to get a comic movie once or twice every year or so.  We got three more Bat-Films, Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman and Robin (1997), three films with each installment seemingly circling the drain.  We had The Crow (1994) and Blade (1998), two films, though fantastic translations of the source material, are about, at best, D-List characters.  And we had the utterly forgettable Tank Girl (1995). 

     

    I was telling my son that it is a great time to be a comic and movie fan because his generation has a new comic book movie hitting theatres every other month.  And they are movies of quality.  When I was a kid, I could only dream about seeing a Spider-Man movie, and the closest thing I ever got to a Thor or Captain America film was when they’d make a guest appearance on the Saturday morning cartoon, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  2014 alone has already seen the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Godzilla with Guardians of the Galaxy and Transformers: Age of Extinction still to come.  And, we just saw the release of the film my son and I were attending the day we had this conversation – X-Men: Days of Future Past. 

     

    Days of Future Past, next to the Dark Phoenix Saga, is easily the second best tale to come out of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s legendary X-Men run.  Long before Age of Apocalypse, House of M, and DC Comics The New 52: Futures End, there was Days of Future Past.  DoFP is to alternate timeline storylines what Watchmen is to super hero deconstruction, it’s the first and best of its kind.  Long before Age of Ultron, DoFP was exploring the ramifications of what one moment in time could have on the future of the world.     

     

    In Uncanny X-Men #141-142, issues that feature two of the most iconic covers in comics history, Claremont and Byrne paint a bleak future.  The United States has become a police state under the control of the mutant-hunting war machines the Sentinels.  The war between mankind and mutants has escalated and those heroes that have not been slain already are now slaves in mutant concentration camps.  The war has been lost.  A small band of survivors led by Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine execute a desperate suicide mission to send the consciousness of Kitty Pryde back in time to her younger teenage self to stop the incident that sparked the mutant/human war – the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly at the hands of the Mystique led Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.   

     

    The movie is a fantastic adaptation of this classic story.  It is so well done that even the Odinson can forgive minor changes to the story, changes like Wolverine being sent back rather than Kitty and it being Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels, rather than Senator Kelly whose life hangs in the balance.  In fact, my only real complaint about the film is the Sentinels themselves.  The CGI is definitely not Transformers quality, but that is a minor flaw for a movie set in a fantasy world.  On the flip side of that, seeing Ice Man actually ice-up and slide around on his ice and cut loose was absolutely great!

     

    The cast of DoFP was absolutely fantastic.  This was a cast the united all the X-Men films.  James McAvoy (Wanted) and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) played past and future Professor X, and Michael Fassbender (Prometheus) and Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings) both returned to play past and future Magneto.  Halle Berry (Storm), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Shawn Ashmore (Ice Man), and Daniel Cudmore (Colossus) all return to play the characters they portrayed in X-Men, X2, and X-Men: The Last Stand.  Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) return in the roles they portrayed in X-Men: First Class.  Plus, this film introduces new mutants like Bishop, Blink, Warpath, and Sunspot.  And, of course, the great Hugh Jackman returns in the role he has immortalized in every single X-Film – Wolverine.  Hollywood is going to have a tough time recasting Wolverine once Jackman is too old to play the part.  DoFP also features cameos by characters and creators that worked on the comics that will make longtime fans smile. 

     

    The story is engrossing, the characterization is dead on, the human moments are moving, the jokes pop, and the action is amazing.  X-Men: Days of Future Past, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, really shows the potential of what comic book adaptations can be.  From Dracula to The Godfather to The Hunger Games, from the very beginning, Hollywood has been adapting novels with varying degrees of success to the Big Screen.  I for one champion direct adaptations of classic comic tales.  More times than not, once the films get past the initial origin movie and Hollywood adapts the comics in name only, we have less greatness like The Dark Knight and Avengers and are usually treated to Hollywood’s version of our heroes in forgettable installments like Batman and Robin, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Spider-Man 3.  I would love to see future straight adaptation of classic comic tales like The Dark Knight Returns, Rock of Ages, and, dare I even dream it, an adaptation of the Crisis on Infinite Earths/Infinite Crisis epic.  That last one could be the Lord of the Rings of comic book movies.       

     

    X-Men: Days of Future Past is definitely my favorite installment of all the X-Films to date.  I even liked it more than Amazing Spider-Man 2, and that’s saying something because I’m a way bigger Spidey fan than an X-Fan.

     

    Odinson Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Hammers.       

     

    I will close my review by saying the best moment in the film, hands down, belongs to Quicksilver, played by Even Peters.  The filmmakers put together a scene that is so enjoyable that the Odinson will pay the price of another movie ticket just to watch it again.  Quicksilver is absolutely brilliantly portrayed in this film.

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • The Odinson Looks at Four Decades and the Comics and Soundtracks that Define Them

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    The Odinson has been reading comics since the late 1970s.  For nearly four decades, I have cheered and jeered my favorite four color heroes and the creators that breathe life into them as they navigated the ups and downs of comic history.  If there is anything I love as much as comic books it’s music and movies.  So I thought a fun exercise would be to run through all the decades the Odinson has been reading comics and state what those decades mean to me and the comics and soundtracks that define them. 

     

    1970s

    Defining Characteristic of This Decade: The 1970s was the decade of the underdog, and I’m not talking about the canine super hero.  In the 70s, entertainment went urban.  Television shows and movies were set in the gritty mean streets of New York City and Chicago where crime runs rampant and it’s up to the everyman to set the wrong things right.  Anti-heroes like Paul Kersey and Harry Callahan dispensed hard edged justice on the Big Screen.  In comics, the 70s saw the birth of the street level vigilante, The Punisher, and the Hero for Hire, Luke Cage.  The popularity of martial arts legend Bruce Lee allowed meteoric rise of kung fu heroes like Iron Fist the Living Weapon and Shang Chi the Master of Kung Fu.     

    The Soundtrack of the Decade: Rocky – This all-time classic starring a neophyte Sylvester Stallone is the ultimate tale of the underdog.  This is the tale of a down-and-out boxer who is given a chance to take on the boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World and does the impossible – he goes the distance!  Rocky has inspired men and women all over the world, and one of the major driving forces behind this inspiration is, without a doubt, the theme for Rocky – “Gonna Fly Now.”  This film went on to win an Oscar for Best Picture, spawn five sequels, and made onetime everyman Sylvester Stallone a mega movie star who would go on over the next three decades to star as other pop culture icons like Rambo, Judge Dredd, and The Expendables.

    The Comic Book that Defined this Decade: Amazing Spider-Man – There is no super hero in history that defines the everyman underdog more so than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  Peter Parker was a mild-manner, unassuming teenager whose life was forever changed the day he was bitten by a radioactive spider and given super powers.  After failing to prevent the murder of his beloved Uncle Ben, Peter Parker learned that with great power must also come great responsibility.  So, even though Doctor Octopus is smarter than him, the Lizard is faster than him, Scorpion and Rhino are stronger than him, Spider-Man always seems to find a way to adapt to any given situation, to improvise, to overcome.  He is the ultimate underdog super hero.

     

    1980s

    Defining Characteristic of This Decade:  The 1980s is the decade of deconstruction, a time when pop culture was being re-examined and put back together from different points of view, giving those that normally would not have a voice something to say.  The future was the great unknown and movies like Akira, Terminator, RoboCop and Escape from New York painted a very bleak picture.  The 1980s saw the rise of MTV and youth culture became the mainstream. In the movies, the worlds created by John Hughes explored the pressures and anxieties of teens coming of age.  And in comics, the teenage super hero in titles like New Teen Titans and New Mutants explored the pressures and responsibilities of being the next generation of heroes.     

    The Soundtrack of the Decade: The John Hughes Universe (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) – Writer/director John Hughes was the undisputed King of the Teen Movie in the 1980s.  His films featured character, situations, and attitudes towards adults that an entire generation of teens could relate too, and nothing drove this home more so than the music these films featured.  Acts like the Thompson Twins, Simple Minds, Oingo Boingo, OMD, and The Smiths were radio mainstays with the uncanny ability to speak to the youths of the world.  An argument can be made that the song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds is the song of the decade.  And, Oingo Boing gave us Danny Elfman who went on to right the immortal score for Tim Burton’s Batman and the theme for The Simpsons.

    The Comic Book[s] that Defined this Decade: Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns – One cannot be mentioned without referring to the other.  Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen redefined what modern day comic books were and could be.  They raised the bar with complex storytelling and a deconstruction of the super hero genre.  These two seminal tales completely changed the game and paved the way for the comic industry to grow up. 

     

    1990s

    Defining Characteristic of This Decade: This is the decade when Generation X came of age.  As Tyler Durden so eloquently put it in the movie Fight Club – “…We're the middle children of history, men. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war...  Traditional heroes like Superman and Captain America fell out of favor and were replaced by musclebound, gun-toting anti-heroes like Cable and Lobo who shoot first and ask questions later.  There was unrest in the Middle East and on the West Coast.  The comic industry itself nearly imploded.  The future for Generation X seemed uncertain.    

    The Soundtrack of the Decade: Singles – This Cameron Crowe written and directed film not only captured the sound of a generation, but its soul as well.  Bands like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam with their alternative rhythms and heartfelt, soul-searching lyrics were branded as Grunge, and Grunge was the music that fueled the decade.

    The Comic Book that Defined this Decade: X-Men – Mutants.  They are the Children of the Atom, feared and hated by humans because they are different.  No comic series reached the heights or struck the cord with a generation of readers the way the X-Men did.  Released in 1991, X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee is the best-selling single comic issue in the history of the medium.  This band of misfits, these outsiders have banded together to fight injustice and protect those that fear and hate them.  It’s no wonder Gen X comic fans really identified with Charles Xavier’s students.  X-Men: The Animated Series ran from 1992 to 1997 and the comic series were perennial Top 10 sellers throughout the decade.  The X-Men’s popularity rose to such heights that in 2000, X-Men: The Movie hit theatres and launched the super hero movie genre that has dominated tickets sales to this very day.         

     

    2000s

    Defining Characteristic of This Decade: This was the decade of rebirth, the return of the super hero!  Once again, classic heroes like Superman and Captain America rose to the top of the charts and in many ways had never been better.  Barry Allen returned as the Flash!  This was the decade when the comic book culture took a stranglehold on the general consciousness.  The San Diego Comic Con has become a mecca for not only comic fans but for the world of entertainment.  Hollywood has almost completely taken over.  Movies like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy along with many others have established comic book based movies as money-making machines for the industry.  Then, Marvel Studios took the super hero movie genre and launched it into the stratosphere with their Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Comic books themselves saw a renaissance.  With writing and artwork coming together in tales like Planet Hulk, Infinite Crisis, Y the Last Man, and The Walking Dead to produce some of the best four color storytelling to date.       

    The Soundtrack of the Decade: Tron: Legacy – Love the movie or hate it, there can be no denying that the soundtrack for Tron: Legacy captures the imagination and optimism of this brave new century.  The rhythmic, driving beats produced by Daft Punk not only give the listener a positive sense of things to come and endless possibilities, but tracks like “Derezzed” are just simply super cool.

    The Comic Book that Defined this Decade: Green Lantern – In the decade of rebirth and the return of the hero, no hero and tale captures this motif more so than Green Lantern: Rebirth.  The decade of the 90s saw the fall from grace of Hal Jordan, culminating in the classic hero’s death.  But master scribe Geoff Johns found a way to explain that dark chapter and not only return Hal Jordan to his former glory, but he took this classic Silver Age hero to heights undreamed of.  With an epic saga that spanned The Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and on up to the Wrath of the First Lantern, Geoff Johns rebuilt the GL mythos and established the emerald guardians of the Green Lantern Corps as premiere heroes of the DCU, second only perhaps to the Justice League.    

     

    These are the comics and soundtracks that define these decades for me.

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

     

  • The Odinson Reviews Sidekick Volume 1

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    In 1986, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen deconstructed the super hero genre.  It redefined what the modern comic book could achieve with a compelling, complex script and astonishing visual storytelling.  For the next few decades creators across the board have been playing catch up and the super hero deconstruction has become something of the norm.  But every now and then, a tale comes along that really strikes a chord.  SIDEKICK by J. Michael Straczynski and Tom Mandrake is just such a tale.

     

    Sidekick is more than just another deconstruction of a super hero, it is the utter dismantling of a teenage sidekick.  Back in the forties, some public opinion was of the mind that heroes like Batman were too dark and gritty for children.  So, the comic industry attempted to lighten up the dark masked avengers of the time by given them teenage sidekicks.  First came Robin the Boy Wonder and soon many were to follow.  Teenage heroes like Bucky, Kitten, Captain Marvel, Jr., Jimmy Olsen, Speedy, the Newsboy Legion and many, many more were young heroes whom the young readers could identify with and vicariously live out adventures alongside their adult comic book heroes.    

     

    Anybody who sat down and thought about it for two seconds could see the absurdity of the idea of the sidekick.  The government and police officials would arrest the heroes for putting a minor in the line of fire.  But there is no denying the popularity of the sidekick.  The sidekick is still alive and well today in the form of next generation teenage super teams like The Teen Titans, Young Avengers, and New Mutants.  

     

    Right off the bat, one of the main things I like about Straczynski and Mandrake’s Sidekick is that it’s not a Batman Elseworlds or Captain America “What If”.  Though some alternate universe tales like The Nail and Age of Apocalypse can be very interesting reads and insights into what could have been, more times than not, Elseworld and “What If” tales tend to just be avenues that allow creators to kill our favorite heroes in bizarre and unusual ways.  So I am glad the creators here decided to make their own universe to tell this decidedly darker tale. 

     

    The main characters of the piece are certainly homages of established comic book archetypes.  Red Cowl is the crimson-cowled defender of Sol City and the world’s greatest super hero.  Flyboy is the Cowl’s faithful ward and brave young sidekick. Julia and Susie Moonglow are twins with supernatural abilities and whose involvement with this mystery unfolds as the tale progresses.  And, Triple Threat is the armored enforcer sent in by the government to squelch the disturbance raised by the main protagonist’s activities. 

     

    The story begins when Sol City’s dynamic duo save the city from certain doom and the citizens decide to celebrate by throwing a parade for their greatest hero.  But things go horribly wrong when the Red Cowl is suddenly assassinated by a sniper’s bullet.  This is devastating for the citizens of Sol City but even more so for the hero’s sidekick.  Flyboy descends into a cesspool of depression and guilt.  His mind clouded, the young hero, seemingly lost and directionless without his mentor, stumbles through a series of mishaps and failed adventures.  He becomes a laughing stock and worse, a target for the public’s ire.

     

    With nowhere left to turn, Flyboy does what most people in his situation would do, he leaves town and tries to start again somewhere new.  But is this decision his own?  He soon learns a new town and new clothes do not change who the man is on the inside, especially when that man is broken.  As the story unfolds, a mystery starts to unravel and secrets start to surface, and our protagonist starts to unravel as well.  Flyboy soon learns that not all enemies are enemies and not all “friends” can be trusted.  The startling truths surrounding the demise of his beloved mentor threaten to breakdown the very walls of his sanity. 

     

    J. Michael Straczynski’s writing and characterization is superb.  This should come as no surprise for the man who created Babylon 5 and Midnight Nation and the man who gave us the best Thor run since the mighty Walt Simonson.  As for Tom Mandrake’s artwork?  There are many good artists in the industry, but there are very few great visual storytellers.  Mandrake’s talents fall in the latter.  In the vein of other great visual storytellers like Dave Gibbons, John Byrne, and George Perez, Tom Mandrake has the ability to layout panels in such a fashion that a reader can follow the story even without the words. 

     

    One of the most potent scenes from the story is the parallel the creators draw between the origins of Flyboy and the original sidekick, Robin.  Like Dick Grayson, Barry Chase’s parents are murdered in front of him, Grayson’s by the mobster Tony Zucco and Chase’s by the sadistic serial killer, The Surgeon.  In both cases, a stalwart hero steps forth and takes the beleaguered youth under his wing and trains him to become a hero for tomorrow.  But Straczynski and Mandrake take a different and decidedly darker path with the origins of their young hero.  The act and finality of Chase’s revenge plants the seeds of hallow emotions that may ultimately lead to his demise.  This deviation beautifully illustrates what it means to be a true hero.  Under Batman’s tutelage, Dick Grayson becomes Robin the Boy Wonder and through his high moral teachings, Grayson would one day become Nightwing, one the DC Universe’s greatest and most beloved champions.  Flyboy’s ultimate destination remains to be seen, but it is a decidedly different path than that of Dick Grayson.          

     

    Sidekick: Volume 1 is that perfect chemistry of writing and artwork, a true graphic novel and a perfect example of the potential of mature visual storytelling.

     

    Odinson Rating: 4 out of 5 Hammers.

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell