Greetings from the Odinson,
Last weekend, the Odinson went into the archives and pulled out a cult classic – Streets of Fire: A Rock-n-Roll Fable. This 1984 noir action/adventure is the right kind of good on so many levels. Not only is it popcorn entertainment at its best, not only does it have a fist-pumping soundtrack, but its cast may be the single greatest convergence of pop culture icons in the history of cinema.
The story goes like this. In a time period ambiguously set around the 1950s, Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) is the biggest pop star in the land. She returns to her hometown to perform a rock show. That’s when a biker gang, the Bombers, led by Raven (Willem DaFoe), attacks the concert and kidnaps Aim. Local diner operator, Reva Cody (Deborah van Valkenburgh), who witnesses the whole crime, contacts her estranged brother, Tom Cody (Michael Pare), a military vet with a troubled past and a romantic history with Aim, to come to his ex-girlfriend’s rescue.
Aim’s manager, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), hires Cody for the job. A surly Army vet named McCoy (Amy Madigan) tags along as Cody’s driver and second. The makeshift team of heroes invades the Battery, the home turf of the Bombers, and raids the bar Torchie’s, the Bombers’ HQ, and take Aim back by force. Not willing to let this slight go, Raven and the Bombers force a showdown where Cody and Raven duel wielding sledgehammers for the fate of Aim as the Bombers and local citizens watch.
Now if you’re asking yourself what does any of this have to do with comic books or pop culture, allow me to explain.
Michael Pare (Tom Cody) who played in another cult classic, Eddie in the Cruisers, you may also recognize from his roles as Tony Villicana in The Greatest American Hero and his recurring appearances in the BloodRayne movie series. The eternally beautiful Diane Lane (Ellen Aim) along with her many, many other roles has portrayed Judge Hershey opposite Sylvester Stalone in Judge Dredd, and she will play Ma Kent in the Man of Steel. She has also been married to both Christopher Lambert (Tarzan of the Apes, Highlander) and Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex, Men in Black III).
Then there is Rick Moranis (Billy Fish) who, of course, is very well known for his memorable role as Louis in the classic film Ghostbusters. But his pop culture cred doesn’t stop there. He’s also provided memorable roles in Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and played Barney Rubble The Flintstones.
You may recognize Amy Madigan (McCoy) from her role as Marilyn Dunham on Fringe. She is married to Ed Harris who is an actor seen in Creepshow, The Abyss, and The Stand. Then there is Willem Defoe (Raven) who you may recognize under all that make-up if you look really close as Max Schreck in Shadow of the Vampire. He was, of course, Norman Osborn in Spider-Man. And, he has done voice acting for John Carter, The Simpsons, and Family Guy. And, Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Reva) you may remember from her roles in episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Quantum Leap. But I remember her from the cult classic gang drama The Warriors.
NOTE: Here’s a bit of trivia – Defoe was actually a finalist to play the Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie, a role that went to Jack Nicholson.
But the pop culture fun doesn’t stop there. Richard Lawson (Officer Price) has had roles in Scream Blacula Scream, Poltergeist, and V. Rick Rossovich (Officer Cooley) was the ill-fated boyfriend in The Terminator and the cocky Slider in Top Gun. Robert Townsend (Lester) is known for his comedy writing and his role in the superhero spoof Meteor Man. Grand L. Bush (Reggie) you may recognize from his roles as Special Agent Johnson in Die Hard and Balrog in Street Fighter.
Rounding out our amazing cast of pop culture icons is Elizabeth Daily (Baby Doll) who some of you may recognize as a voice actor from the animated shows Rugrats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The New Batman Adventures, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But she is probably best known as the voice of Buttercup in The Powerpuff Girls. Lynne Thigpen (Subway car Driver) is the iconic voice of the DJ in The Warriors. And, the prolific character actor Ed Begley, Jr. (Ben Gunn) has not only had parts in Battlestar Galactica, This is Spinal Tap, and Batman Forever, but he has also done voice acting for Batman Beyond, Static Shock, and he was the voice of Charlie Collins in the Joker’s Favor, one of the all time greatest episodes from Batman: The Animated Series.
And finally there is the great Bill Paxton (Clyde). Not only does he steal every scene he has in Streets of Fire, but his resume is a laundry list of cult and pop culture classics. He has memorable roles in The Terminator, Weird Science, Commando, Predator 2, True Lies, Twister, Titanic, Thunderbirds, and the upcoming 2 Guns. But nothing compares to his legendary performance as the foul-mouthed, ill-equipped to handle a high-stress pressure situation Colonial Space Marine Hudson in Aliens. “Game over, man, game over!”
So there you have it - Streets of Fire: A Rock-n-Roll Fable – it is Sin City meets Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and if you get the chance to check it out, it comes with the Odinson’s highest recommendation.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
In 2011, DC Comics launched The New 52. In 2012, Marvel Comics launched Marvel Now. Both of these ventures are attempting to do the same thing but using different methods. They allow new readers and lapsed ones alike a great jumping on point and allow creators a fresh start. There have been varying degrees of success and quality.
The New 52 is a complete reboot of the DC Universe. In the wake of Flashpoint, the DCU has re-launched with its characters and history getting a new start. Some of the continuity established in the pre-Flashpoint era is still in effect (i.e., The Killing Joke, A Death in the Family, The Sinestro Corps War). Meanwhile, some of the previous continuity has been retconned (i.e., Superman and Lois Lane’s Wedding, Tim Drake was never Robin, Wally West was never the Flash). Heroes like Superman and Green Lantern have been made younger and are depicted at a much earlier stage in their crime-fighting careers. The New 52 is similar to what Crisis on Infinite Earths did back in 1985 when it rebooted the Golden Age and Silver Age continuity of the DCU.
Where the New 52 is a reboot, Marvel Now is a retooling, a change in philosophy. Marvel’s catalyst was the epic event Avengers vs. X-Men. In the wake of this major conflict Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Children of the Atom decide to establish real change by merging together to form the Uncanny Avengers, a team of heroes comprised of both Avengers and X-Men. Plus, Captain America and Iron Man discuss the growing level of threats the Marvel U continues to face and decide to assemble the mightiest team of Avengers ever and make planet Earth an Avengers World. Perhaps the two biggest shifts in Marvel Now philosophy are in the way Spider-Man and the Hulk, two of Marvel’s biggest icons, are being handled.
In the wake of Dying Wish, Peter Parker is no more and now Doctor Octopus is in control. Running the show, Spider-Man’s greatest adversary has turned Spider-Man into a smarter Spider-Man, a more dangerous Spider-Man - a Superior Spider-Man. In The Indestructible Hulk, Bruce Banner has finally stopped running and decided to embrace his “curse.” He will use his superior intellect to help usher mankind into a brighter future, all the while focusing the incredible power of the Hulk and aiming in a direction where the beast can do some good.
Both The New 52 and Marvel Now have done things the Odinson likes (DC with Justice League, Batman, Green Lantern and Marvel with Thor: God of Thunder, Hawkeye, Captain America), but the cream of the crop when it comes to these two endeavors, without a doubt, is Aquaman and Daredevil.
Yes, I actually just said Aquaman and Daredevil. I know. I can hardly believe it myself. I have never been a particular fan of either of these characters. Most of my exposure to Aquaman came from watching episodes of Super Friends cartoon where he was mostly just an afterthought, and Grant Morrison’s JLA, where Aquaman was, to put it simply, a jerk. I haven’t really read (or wanted to read) Daredevil on any kind of regular basis since the days of Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr. But right now, believe it or not, out of everything hitting the racks these days, these two B-List Heroes have really attracted my attention.
It’s due in no small part to the outstanding jobs of the creative teams working on the books. Geoff Johns has embraced the DCU’s undersea monarch’s flaws as a character and turned them into strengths. In the very first issue of the series, he beautifully illustrates why this is a hero to be taken seriously. And in the hands of Ivan Reis, Arthur, his foes, and supporting cast have never looked better.
In the opening arc, The Trench, Geoff Johns introduces a deadly new threat to the DC Universe. A clan of deep sea underwater dwellers invades the surface world in search of a commodity that is sorely missing from their domain – food. These flesh-eating creatures attack people on the land and drag them kicking and screaming to their deaths into the sea, never to be heard from again. There’s only one hero suited to handle a caper like this and he doesn’t wear a utility belt.
Johns and Reis follow up this horror story debut with the epic tale The Others, a piece that adds layers to Aquaman’s history and reveals secrets from his past. Aquaman’s greatest adversary, Black Manta, the man responsible for the death of Aquaman’s son (see Death of a Prince) is murdering costumed heroes around the globe. What is Aquaman’s mysterious connection to these heroes and why does Manta want them all dead?
Over at Marvel, Mark Waid has made Daredevil fun again. Gone are the long, drawn out, “woe is me” Matt Murdock tales of gritty urban angst, murdered lovers, and loss of one’s identity. We saw this Daredevil already, perfectly executed during Frank Miller’s classic Born Again. Instead, Mark Waid has returned the Man without Fear to his swashbuckling roots. Back in the day when Stan Lee, Wally Wood, and Gene Colan first introduced the world to ole Horn Head, Matt Murdock was the type of guy that would leap out of a ten-story window with a smile on his face and didn’t even take a moment to realize that he was wearing a garish yellow and red costume (see Essential Daredevil)
Daredevil feels like a super hero book again. Matt discovers a conspiracy that leads to a dangerous shift in power between the super heroes of the Marvel U and their foes, and Daredevil is the only one who can stop it. Then, DD faces off with the notorious Mole Man in a duel under New York City that is definitely one for the ages. Things get hairy when Daredevil suddenly finds himself held prisoner in the most dangerous country in the world – Latveria, the home of Doctor Doom! Plus, who is the mysterious new adversary known as The Coyote, and what diabolical scheme has he hatched that will perplex our hero like never before? All these death-defying tales of daring along with team-ups with Captain America, Spider-Man, and Punisher can be found in Daredevil by Mark Waid Vol. 1-4. And this all just sets up the next exciting chapter, as Daredevil comes face-to-face with Ikari, an unbeatable foe with connections to Matt Murdock’s origins and one of Daredevil’s greatest foes.
Whether on board with The New 52 and Marvel Now or not, one thing is for sure, you will not go wrong giving Aquaman and Daredevil a read. I have never been a particular fan of either of these characters but Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Mark Waid have served notice and made the DCU’s King of Atlantis and Marvel’s Man without Fear can’t miss titles well worth your hard earned shekels.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
Heroes are measured by the challenges they face. It is said that a hero is only as good as the villain. The greatest heroes in history are only thus because of the great villains they face. Hercules vs. the Hydra, Thor vs. the Midgard Serpent, Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty, Van Helsing vs. Dracula, Superman vs. Lex Luthor, Captain America vs. Red Skull, Batman vs. Joker, and Spider-Man vs. Doctor Octopus – these are the epic struggles that produce legends. Some villains like Thanos, Deathstroke, Doctor Doom, and Magneto become so complicated that in some cases they are even more interesting than the heroes struggling to stop them.
And sometimes the villains become so interesting and complicated that the line between good guy and bad guy become increasingly blurry. Prince Namor has spent just as much of his long-lived life trying to destroy the surface world as he has saving it. Sandman started out as a petty crook trying to find a way to destroy that pesky Spider-Man but eventually reformed and even served as a member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Even the hulking Jaws, one of 007’s most notorious adversaries, an assassin that has tried to kill James Bond more times than he can remember, turned over a new leaf in Moonraker.
One the most interesting villain evolutions has to be Marvel’s Thunderbolts - a group of super villains that started out by banding together to destroy their foes but eventually evolved into a force for justice, Justice like Lightning to be exact.
The Evolution of the Thunderbolts
The Masters of Evil – The Avengers are a team of heroes, banded together to fight the foes and challenges that no single hero can stand against alone. For years they were unbeatable. Tired of meeting defeat at the hands of his hated foe, Captain America’s arch nemesis Baron Zemo assembled a small army of some of the world’s most dangerous super villains and they had one goal in mind – destroy the Avengers.
This campaign took place in the classic Under Siege storyline. Zemo gathered to him some of the most powerful and dangerous villains in the Marvel Universe – the uncanny Absorbing Man and impressive Titania, the vile Mr. Hyde, the alien-powered Moonstone, the terrible Tiger Shark, the bone-breaking Wrecking Crew, the tech-wizard Yellowjacket, the monstrous Goliath, the Screaming Mimi, the scheming Fixer, the stone cold Grey Gargoyle, and Blackout, master of darkness. Each of these villains had tasted defeat at the hands of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and all of them had a reason to want revenge. They had the numbers, they had the power, and they had the plan to take Avengers Mansion.
At this time, the Avengers sported a very powerful line-up including the indomitable Captain America, the whimsical Wasp, the cunning Black Knight, the powerful Captain Marvel, the savage Sub-Mariner, and the mighty Hercules. Zemo knew his plan of attack had to be precise and proving that he was no fool, he did not attack his foes head on. He used guile and subterfuge to alienate Namor from his teammates and the undersea monarch eventually left (see Avengers #270). Hercules was drugged and ambushed in an attack that left him in a coma (see Avengers #274). One-by-one the Avengers fell before the onslaught of Zemo’s forces. And for the first time in history, the Avengers were defeated.
The Avengers eventually rallied to win the day, but Zemo had proven that the villains were every bit as capable of greater achievements when they stood united. But the attack on Avengers Mansions was only a stepping stone for Zemo’s next Machiavellian plan.
Thunderbolts – During the final conflict with the mutant menace known as Onslaught, the Avengers and Fantastic Four made the ultimate sacrifice to save the world. In the wake of the epic battle, the void left by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Marvel’s First Family allowed the super villain community to take advantage. Suddenly, a brand new force for justice burst onto the scene – the Thunderbolts! Justice like Lightning was their motto and the world greeted them with open arms, even giving them the FF’s vacated headquarters. They were the toast of the town and quickly became the world’s favorite super heroes. But the Thunderbolts had a secret.
This new super hero sensation was in fact the Masters of Evil dressed as heroes to place themselves in a position to take over the world - Baron Zemo as Citizen V, Moonstone as Meteorite, Screaming Mimi as Songbird, the Fixer as Techno, the Beetle as Mach-I, and Goliath as Atlas. Everything seemed to be falling into place for Baron Zemo except for one small hitch, his team of disguised villains were enjoying being heroes.
For years the Thunderbolts toed the line between good and evil and even teamed up with their former foes the Avengers several times for the sake of justice (see Avengers/Thunderbolts Team-Up). Eventually team infighting and differences in philosophies would prove to be the end of this original incarnation.
The Dark Avengers – Later the government sought to use villains who “wanted redemption” in an initiative they called Thunderbolts. Under the command of Norman Osborn, the infamous Green Goblin, this new team of villains was sent on dark wetworks missions that the government would not want their poster board heroes embarking on. This team was comprised of Moonstone, Daredevil’s deadliest foe Bullseye, Penance (former Speedball overwhelmed with guilt over the events that led to Civil War), the deadly Radioactive Man, Songbird and Swordsman, and the insane, cannibalistic Venom.
This deadly cadre of government sponsored super villains, in the wake of Dark Reign, evolved into the Dark Avengers. The Dark Avengers were Norman Osborn’s own personal hit squad and enforcers of his rule. After the events of Secret Invasion, Osborn had somehow convinced the world to grant him ultimate power and for a time, the villains ran things. Heroes like the New Avengers were cast as outlaws and forced to hide in the shadows.
But with the return of Captain America and Osborn’s ill-fated Siege on Asgard, the heroes would rally once more to topple the would-be-king.
The Heroic Age – A new day would dawn for the Marvel Universe and in this Heroic Age, a new Thunderbolts was born. Captain America assigned Luke Cage, a former convict now hero, to lead a new team of villains and forge them into a contributing force for good. This new team consisted of misfits and cast offs, and was easily the strangest team ever assembled under the Thunderbolts banner. Cage had his work cut out for him if he was going turn the master of sabotage, Ghost, Moonstone, Songbird, the Red Skull’s former bodyguard, Crossbones, the unstoppable Juggernaut, and the macabre Man-Thing into a force for good.
Surprisingly enough, between team infighting and attempts at escape, Cage did manage to focus the team and do some real good. However, the events of Fear Itself tear the team apart and new recruits are brought in to replace those that left. But a jaunt through time and space and a confrontation with the original team of Thunderbolts has left the future of this team of hero/villains up in the air (see Like Lightning and Dark Avengers: Masters of Evil).
Red Hulk’s Thunderbolts – Marvel Now has seen the emergence of a brand new team of Thunderbolts. Assembled and under the command of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, former antagonist of the Hulk and current Red Hulk, this new team has taken on a more militaristic approach to the way they do things. They are a Special Forces unit assembled Dirty Dozen style by Ross to stop a madman from using gamma technology to take over the world.
The Red Hulk’s team of Thunderbolts features some of the most wanted and deadliest names in the Marvel Handbook – the deadly ninja assassin, Elektra, the symbiote-infected black ops operative, Venom, the Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool, and Frank Castle, the cold-blooded vigilante known as the Punisher.
The evolution of the Thunderbolts isn’t just about how some of the Marvel U’s most dangerous super villains evolved over the years, it’s a wonderful example of how any characters, whether Heroes or Villains, can be interesting if written well.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
Hands down, one of the Odinson’s all time favorite comic book scribes is Bill Mantlo. Mantlo is one of the most influential and prolific writers of the ‘70s and ‘80s and along with guys like Chris Claremont (X-Men), John Byrne (Fantastic Four), Frank Miller (Daredevil), Roger Stern (Avengers), David Michelinie (Spider-Man), and Walt Simonson (Thor), he helped shape and define the Marvel Universe for my generation. Unfortunately, due to a hit-and-run automobile accident, Bill Mantlo lives out his days with incurable brain damage in a nursing home in New York.
Mantlo is much beloved by many of his contemporaries and is credited for cultivating some of the most celebrated talents in the history of comics. Fan favorites like Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Keith Giffen (Justice League International), Butch Guice (Captain America), and Rick Leonardi (Daredevil) gladly cite Mantlo as a mentor and friend and an important part to their development as creators. Mantlo was a huge influence on the direction of the Marvel Universe and the development of some of its major characters during his time at the House of Ideas. In Spectacular Spider-Man, Mantlo fleshed out and explored the complicated love triangle between Spider-Man, Black Cat and Peter Parker. Before Weapon X and Origin, Mantlo contributed to the back-story of Wolverine in the pages of Alpha Flight #33-34. Mantlo is also the one that revealed that Magneto was in fact the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in Vision and Scarlet Witch #4.
But Bill Mantlo is probably best known in the industry as the man who created Cloak and Dagger and the master of licensed comics (see Micronauts and ROM: Spaceknight). With Cloak and Dagger, an interracial teen couple, Mantlo explored many different controversial topics like runaways, drugs, gun control, and street violence. With Micronauts and ROM, Mantlo created ideas and concepts that far outlasted the toylines that inspired them. He introduced concepts like Captain Universe (a hero currently fighting alongside the Avengers today). He introduced the Spaceknights of Galador and the dreaded Dire Wraiths into Marvel canon. And, he introduced a young Odinson to ROM, greatest of the Spaceknights, and a character that has become one of the Odinson’s most beloved (see my annual ROM column).
As if these extraordinary creative achievements weren’t enough, Bill Mantlo also had one of the most prolific and inspiring runs on the Incredible Hulk. This is the run that the Odinson read as a lad and this is the run that made the Odinson a Hulk fan for life. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby may have created the Hulk, and Peter David may have defined the Hulk, but Bill Mantlo made the Jade Giant fun. Mantlo helmed the Green Goliath’s exciting adventures for nearly six years (see Incredible Hulk #245-313). These are the Hulk stories that the Odinson grew up with. During his prolific run Mantlo produced some of the most power-packed, earth-shaking Hulk stories in Marvel History.
He celebrated the Jade Giant’s 250th issue with a special giant-sized showdown with the Silver Surfer. In Incredible Hulk #254, he introduced the evil Fantastic Four – the notorious U-Foes. Incredible Hulk #255 features one of the most spectacular Hulk/Thor throw downs in Marvel History. These two issues were also part of an amazing yearlong storyline that ran through Incredible Hulk #254-265. This World Tour saw the mighty Hulk venture from New York City to Egypt to Russia to Israel to Easter Island and meet new and exciting allies and foes like the Arabian Knight, Sabra, the Soviet Super-Soldiers, and the Rangers.
During Mantlo’s memorable run, the Hulk faced off with the Hulk-Hunters and battled the cosmic threat known as the Galaxy Master (see Incredible Hulk #269-270). Under Mantlo’s watch, the Hulk crossed paths with Rocket Raccoon (Incredible Hulk #271), battled the cannibalistic Wendigo alongside Sasquatch (Incredible Hulk #272), became a hero (Incredible Hulk #278-279), and even managed to introduce the Hulk to ROM (Incredible Hulk #296).
Bill Mantlo finished off his amazing run on the Hulk with two of the most memorable stories in the Jade Giant’s history - Regression and Crossroads. Long before Planet Hulk and World War Hulk these two storylines explored what lengths the Marvel Universe would go to in order to control the unbridled power of the Hulk. Regression, which plays out in Incredible Hulk #286-300, sees Bruce Banner begin to slowly lose control of the Hulk. As the Hulk slowly and steadily regresses into madness, he rages out of control until it all comes to a head in Incredible Hulk #300. The heroes of the Marvel U assemble and decide that the only way to stop the Hulk is to exile him to a dimension where he cannot harm others. Enter: The Crossroads.
The Crossroads is an extra dimensional realm with countless pathways that lead to countless worlds, but none of them lead back home. Here the Hulk explores many different realms but this is a mystical place and here the Hulk can bleed and be hurt. Crossroads is a character exploration and it is during this storyline, in Incredible Hulk #312, that Mantlo reveals that Bruce Banner was a victim of child abuse, a concept that Peter David explored even further during his epic run on the title (Incredible Hulk #377). The child abuse at the hands of his father is the source for the rage that fuels the monster.
In 1987, Mantlo left the world of comics and became a defense attorney. He was a defender of the people, the common man. He was a real life Matt Murdock. It is a shame that he was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that left him brain damaged. In 2007, Mantlo: A Life in Comics, a book that takes a look at his career through the eyes of friends and family was released, with all proceeds being donated toward his care.
From Cloak and Dagger to Micronauts and ROM to the Incredible Hulk, Bill Mantlo is easily one of the most important creators to ever work in the medium. He helped shape and define the Marvel Universe for a whole generation of readers and definitely contributed to the Odinson becoming a comic book fan for life. I personally cannot thank him enough for the endless hours of joy I received by reading his Hulk stories and introducing me to ROM, a character that has become one of my Top 5 favorite heroes of all time.
Bill Mantlo is a true legend in the History of Comics.
NOTE: See Wizard #215 for the fantastic article about Bill Mantlo that inspired this column.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
This week the Odinson wishes to make a request of DC Comics to challenge the Dark Knight Detective and pit him against the ultimate adversary. From Knightfall to The Black Glove to the Court of Owls to Death of the Family, Batman has faced some of the biggest physical and mental challenges a Caped Crusader can possibly go up against. But the Odinson believes there is one more challenge even bigger than all the rest, and people call him The Terminator!
The Odinson is begging DC to present the world with the ultimate Batman vs. Deathstroke storyline. I’m talking about Bruce Wayne and Slade Wilson, mano-a-mano. I’m talking about the two most dangerous men alive in a duel to the death for the Heavyweight Title. Deathstroke has single handedly defeated the Teen Titans (see The Judas Contract), single handedly fought the Justice League to a standstill (see Identity Crisis #3), and was handpicked by Superman himself to lead the attack on Warworld (see Panic in the Sky). Batman has trained his body and mind to become the ultimate fighting machine and the most brilliant detective in the world (see Year One, Year Two, and Zero Year), he has consistently on countless occasions outwitted the most diabolical criminal minds in the world (i.e. Two-Face, Riddler, Ra’s Al Ghul and the Joker), and has extensive dossiers and tactics on how to defeat the most powerful metas in the DCU (see Tower of Babble).
Each man has a victory over the other, but there have always been extenuating circumstances. In City of Assassins, Slade beats Batman into unconsciousness but the Dark Knight was trying to talk sense into him. And Batman takes Slade down in the final battle of Infinite Crisis, but that was with the help of Robin and Nightwing. Physically, Slade is superior to Bruce. Even though Batman has trained his body to the peak of human performance, Deathstroke, thanks to genetic experiments, will always be faster and stronger. I do believe though Batman has a slight edge in combat skills, if only because Slade relies too heavily on his healing factor to survive encounters. Ah, but there is the hitch. Because Batman knows the Terminator can survive almost any wound, there will be no need for him to hold back for fear of breaking his most sacred rule – never take a human life.
I see an epic showdown of this caliber playing out in a 10-part storyline or a 6-issue mini series. Here’s how the Odinson sees it going down.
All the crime families of Gotham City, organized by the Penguin, come together to pull their resources and get rid of the biggest thorn in their side once and for all – the Batman. They offer the biggest reward for proof of the Caped Crusader’s demise – one billion dollars. The deadliest assassins alive converge on Gotham City and Batman spends the first part of the storyline running a gauntlet of some of the most dangerous hired-killers in the DCU including: Lady Shiva, Deadshot, Bane, Kobra, the Brotherhood of Evil, Mirror Master, and Onomatopoeia.
As the tale unfolds and Batman is struggling to survive the attempts on his life, members of the Bat Family begin to disappear. One by one Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, and Red Hood all are confronted and defeated by a mysterious adversary. The last to fall is Dick Grayson who, just before losing consciousness, recognizes the villain and the issue ends on a cliffhanger as this new threat is revealed to be none other than Deathstroke the Terminator. Slade knows that if he can remove Batman’s sidekicks and partners in crime-fighting off of the board that he has a physical advantage, and what better way to lure the Caped Crusader into a trap than to use his extended family as bait.
This serves to set up the final arc of the tale and the ultimate showdown – Batman vs. Deathstroke!
I’m actually scared for our hero because I’m not 100% sure that Batman can take Deathstroke in a one-on-one confrontation. That, my friends, will be the beauty of this piece, as we witness the Dark Knight pull off the impossible and somehow manage to defeat the unbeatable foe. Or, perhaps DC throws a curve ball our way and actually has the bad guy win this one. But Slade doesn’t kill Batman and collect the reward, preferring to let the hero live with the knowledge of knowing that HE is the one man that not even the Batman can defeat.
The ball is in your court DC. Do you have the courage to give us the ultimate showdown and reveal once and for all – who is the most dangerous man in the DCU?
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
Popular properties are a big part of the comics market. Properties like Star Wars (Dark Horse), He-Man (DC), GI Joe and Transformers (IDW) have not only grown to become staples but over the years they’ve grown so big that it’s hard to imagine pop culture without them in it. From The Ghostbusters to Doctor Who, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, these franchises have carved out a notch for themselves in the industry and have proven time and time again that they have a loyal fan base.
Even with all these franchises still going strong there is still plenty of gold to be mined. There is so much untapped goodness out there. The 1980s alone is rife with pop culture gold, so many awesome properties just sitting out there in the ether not being used. In the right creative hands some of these properties could become mega hits.
Inhumanoids – When underground exploration awakens an ancient nest of Lovecraftian horrors and unleashes it upon the world, mankind is faced with a danger of apocalyptic proportions. The only thing standing in the way of these monsters is Earth Corps, scientists equipped with advanced battle armor, and their allies, a mysterious race of elementals that have a connection to the Inhumanoids. It’s Iron Man meets Pacific Rim.
ThunderCats – A small band of refugees escape their doomed world and crash land on a lush paradise planet full of vibrant vegetation and life, but this world is also home to unspeakable evil. Now this small band of heroes, each with their own unique skills and abilities, must fight for survival against pirates, assassins, mutants, and, worst of all, a deadly ogre-mage whose immortal dark power is rivaled only by the mystical power of the Sword of Omens. It’s the X-Men meets Dungeons & Dragons.
The Herculoids – On the far side of the galaxy, a courageous family that has sworn off advanced technology fights alongside prehistoric monsters to protect their cosmic resource rich planet against the invading space pirates and tyrants that seek to plunder it for their own devilish schemes. It’s Swiss Family Robinson meets Godzilla.
Centurions – Power X-Treme! In the not too distant future, mankind is threatened by the terrorist Doc Terror, a mad scientist that transformed himself into a deadly cyborg. The only ones standing in his way of global domination are the Centurions, brave men who have fused their bodies with super science that gives a single man the firepower of an entire regiment. It’s The Terminator meets GI Joe.
Just to name a few.
But for the Odinson, the Holy Grail of ‘80s properties that is in dire need of a modern day renaissance is Thundarr the Barbarian.
This animated gem was created by Steve Gerber (Howard the Duck) and featured character designs by Alex Toth (Super Friends, Space Ghost) and Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, New Gods). Set in a post-Apocalyptic world of feudal territories ruled by malevolent wizards, Thundarr is the tale of a brave hero armed with his fabulous Sunsword who rides across the land alongside his companions Princess Ariel and Ookla the Mok and battles the forces of evil. This cartoon had some of the most memorable villains in action/adventure history. From the two-faced wizard Gemini to an alien vampire from beyond the stars to the Brotherhood of Night, a pack of deadly werewolves, Thundarr and his allies faced dangers undreamed of.
As Thundarr and his allies ride across the post-Apocalyptic landscape, a keen-eyed viewer can spot certain geographical features of a bygone era. A ruined Hollywood sign, a destroyed Statue of Liberty, a weathered Alamo, or fallen down skyline of the Las Vegas strip lets the viewer know what locale that week’s adventure is taking place in. Thundarr the Barbarian has all the potential in the world of being something really cool, something special. It’s Conan meets Jericho.
Since it’s been out of the popular consciousness for so long, the tale should start at the beginning and unfold by introducing the readers to this fantastic world and its denizens. Whatever company decides to pick this property up needs to have the creative team watch the intro to the cartoon and draw inspiration from it.
The voiceover goes as follows:
The year: 1994. From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin! Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn... A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery. But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword against the forces of evil. He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!
It would only take minor tweaks to bring the tale up to the 21st Century, and the premise has already been laid out. I figure start at the beginning. The first four-issue story arc can set up this post-Apocalyptic world and show how Thundarr and his companions meet and introduce the catalyst that is the driving force that sets them out on their quest for justice.
Here’s the Odinson’s take:
Issue one would begin with a two to three-page introduction that closely mirrors the intro of the cartoon. Instead of using the cataclysm date of 1994 (a date which has obviously come and gone) I would use the foreboding and timeless description of - In the not too distant future… Then, as in the original cartoon intro, go on to describe the destruction of civilization (again, the artist should draw inspiration from the original cartoon intro) and end the introduction with – 2,000 years later, Earth is reborn…
The next page would be the splash-page and read: “Chapter One: A World of Savagery…!” NOTE: The title of each of the first four issues would be callbacks to the original cartoon introduction. Issue two would be “Chapter Two: Super Science!” Issue three – “Chapter Three: Sorcery!” Issue four – “Chapter Four: He is Thundarr the Barbarian!” Not only would each issue’s title be a callback, but it would also set up the theme for that particular chapter. “Savagery” would be the running theme throughout issue one, “Sorcery” would be the theme for issue three.
We would begin our story as a peaceful barbarian tribe is suddenly and viciously attacked by a horde of mutants and monsters under the command of the evil wizard Sabian. The men of the barbarian tribe are brutally slaughtered as the women and children are forced into slavery. A particularly rebellious young blond boy catches the eye of the wizard. This boy’s name is Thundarr.
As the issue unfolds, we see Thundarr grow up in slavery, forced to work in the mines and quarries under the rule of the evil wizard. Thundarr routinely has the lash taken to him for his rebelliousness. He is forced to fight for survival in a gladiator arena for the amusement of the wizard, his guests (a good spot to have cameos by other evil wizards like Gemini, Kublai, and Morag), and his monstrous subjects. However, this cruel life only serves to strengthen not only Thundarr’s resolve, but his body as well.
Then one day Thundarr is brought before the wizard in chains. Having reached manhood and now at the peak of his strength, Thundarr, to the horror of his slavers, bursts his bonds and leads a rebellion against the wizard. He is joined by Ookla the Mok, a monstrous catlike humanoid whose people are also enslaved by the wizard, and Princess Ariel, a beautiful sorceress who was taken in as Sabian’s adoptive daughter after the evil wizard murdered her parents.
The first issue ends with the slaves free of Sabian’s rule and the demise of the evil wizard. Thundarr, with Ookla and Ariel at his side, embarks on a mission to free all the lands from the evil wizards that rule them with an iron fist. The next three issues can include how Thundarr obtains his greatest weapon – his fabulous Sunsword – and also set in motion a greater over-arcing plot for the series, a quest for a powerful artifact that can free the world from the power of evil wizards forever. A subplot would be the discovery of the origins of what caused the planetary cataclysm 2,000 years ago that led to this world of savagery, super science, and sorcery, and our heroes and the readers will learn that maybe it wasn’t such a cosmic “accident” after all.
Thundarr the Barbarian is so a comic I would want to read.
BraveStarr, Crystar, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Underdog, Bionic Six, The Spiral Zone, The Mighty Or-Bots, MASK, Visionaries - there are so many other properties just sitting out there, waiting for somebody to come along and mine gold from them once again. Hey, if My Little Pony has proven anything, it’s that properties from the ‘80s still have a core fan base and some of those properties can find a voice in this modern market and attract a new generation of fans.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
One year ago this weekend Marvel, under the guidance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly creator Joss Whedon, released The Avengers worldwide, and a true pop culture phenomenon was born. Once every ten years or so, a movie comes along that raises the bar just a bit higher. Though there are many really good movies, rarely does a film actually live up to expectations, or even better, surpass them. In my lifetime there have been four such movies. Again, there have been many really good movies, but I’m talking about the game changers, those movies that are so good that to simply call them good is a severe understatement.
In 1977 it was Star Wars. This sci-fi fantasy about a young farm boy from a backwater planet that meets up with an old wizard and a pirate and goes on a quest to save a princess from a dark knight and defeat an evil Empire bent on universal domination IS the bench mark by which all other space adventures will be judged. In 1994, it was The Crow. This dark gothic tale of love loss and revenge showed the world that comic books aren’t just for kids, especially when the creators and talent behind the project really have something to say. In 1999, that film was The Matrix. Up until this New Millennium sci-fi masterpiece hit theatres, movie making had become simply business as usually. After this senses-shattering film opened everyone’s eyes, creators everywhere at that moment tore up whatever they were working on and went back to the drawing board. And now, 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers can be added to the list.
One year later, I sat down over the weekend and re-watched The Avengers and yes, it still holds up. It has (and this is huge for ME to say this) surpassed Richard Donner’s original Superman (1978) as THE greatest comic book movie of all time. This is the movie I’ve waited my whole life to see, so my expectations were sky high. The Avengers not only met my lofty expectations, it blew them out of the water. Anybody that says they don’t like this film either has an agenda or they’re doing a bit. This film delivers the goods.
It is no shocking revelation to learn that I am a huge Thor and Captain America fan. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that I was overjoyed to see them finally adapted into high quality movies. But through those amazing characters I have become a huge Avengers fan. There is nothing better in comics or film than seeing your favorite heroes from across your favorite universe assemble to take on a mammoth threat too powerful for any one hero to stand against alone. It’s Seven Samurai, The Alamo, The Dirty Dozen, and Ocean’s 11. There’s a reason why concepts like Defenders of the Earth, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Prophecy, and Masks work. People love their heroes, and they especially love it when they team up together for the greater good.
The groundwork was laid with Iron Man, starring the perfectly cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. The march toward pop culture immortality continued with Marvel introducing the mighty Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger to movie audiences. Yes, DC and Warner Bros. have had huge success, both critically and financially, with Batman, but their other icon, Superman, has not been in a worthwhile movie in over three decades. The Green Lantern movie was mildly entertaining at best and other DC icons like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Flash can’t even sniff the Big Screen. So, fingers crossed that this summer’s Man of Steel film is awesome and sets the stage for a Justice League movie.
NOTE: If you really want to see what an awesome Justice League move could be like, check out the cinematics for Injustice: Gods Among Us on YouTube. DC Comics and Warner Bros. don’t have the courage to make a Justice League movie this awesome.
I am a huge Joss Whedon fan and could not be prouder of the man as he gave us his best directorial undertaking yet. He manages to squeeze in his signature humor and, using his years of experience on ensemble shows like Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse, he masterfully juggles the huge cast of characters. And thanks to the legacy of the Avengers movie, Whedon is now helming a SHIELD television series set in the Marvel Movie Universe!
The legacy of The Avengers movie reaches far and wide. First, it took a B-List character like Hawkeye and made him a household name with his scene-stealing antics in the film. So popular has the Earth’s Mightiest Marksman become that Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is actually nominated for an Eisner Award this year. Hawkeye?! I always liked Clint Barton, especially his interaction with Steve Rogers [see Captain America (1st Series) #317 and Captain America (3rd Series) #4 for a couple of memorable ones] and it’s good to see this character get the recognition he deserves.
The Avengers movie also finally showed the world how to use the Hulk properly. As strong as the Jade Giant is, given the nature of the character, he works better when he doesn’t have to carry the picture on his own. Now, that being said, I’d still love to see a live action adaptation of the classic Planet Hulk story. If done right, PH and World War Hulk could be epic.
Finally, the Avengers movie set the stage for Phase Two of the Marvel movies. Iron Man 3 and Thor: Dark World in 2013, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, and it all leads into Avengers 2 hitting theaters in 2015, which is rumored to feature the Marvel Universe’s ultimate Big Bad – Thanos the Mad Titan, as teased in the end credits of the first Avengers flick. And it doesn’t stop there. Rumor has it that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are both slated to appear in the next Avengers film (see Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in 'Avengers 2'). How long before the name Vision starts getting mentioned? Plus, in the wake of Avengers 2, there will be an Ant-Man movie and a film featuring Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts.
If you love comics and movies, right now is a fantastic time to be a Marvel fan!
For the Odinson, in over thirty years nothing had ever challenged Superman: The Movie for the best comic book movie of all time. Iron Man and The Dark Knight came close, but it’s The Avengers that has finally knocked the Man of Steel off the top of my mountain. Not only is The Avengers now the greatest comic book film of all time, like Star Wars, The Crow, and The Matrix, it is a benchmark by which all other films of its kind will be judged.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
Ghosts. Goblins. Werewolves. Vampires. These are the things of nightmares. Myths and legends put forth throughout the centuries to frighten and explain the unexplainable. In literature and film, these creatures of the night have grabbed a firm hold of the imagination and carved out a notch for themselves in pop culture. Though they are to be feared, these “monsters” are not necessarily all bad. For every Poltergeist there is a Casper. For every Jareth there is a Gizmo. For every Reverend Lester there is Jack Russell. For every Dracula there is a Lestat. Not all creatures of the night are bad. And these are not the only monsters of myth and legend that can straddle the line between good and evil. There is another legend that has captured the imagination of man for generations and is still alive and well in pop culture today – the Witch.
For centuries, witchcraft has been feared and some have even been hunted down and disposed of for practicing their wiccan ways. The infamous Witch Hunts of Salem are probably the most well know. But in modern times, with a modern wiccan movement and popular shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, witches have taken on a much more benevolent slant.
Witches come in two categories – Wicked and White.
The wicked are usually portrayed as ugly old women with long pointy hats who fly through the night on their broomsticks seeking out the good and innocent to prey upon. If they are not trying to lure children into their houses made of gingerbread they are hard at work on a devilish brew which bubbles in an enormous cauldron. When they are not casting spells and cursing their neighbors with misfortune, they are stealing the youth and beauty of young girls.
The White Witch is a benevolent creature, a healer, a seer, a protector. They usually help our hero in his quest by providing guidance, information, and/or sanctuary. They are usually beautiful beyond description. They are wish fulfillers, making dreams come true and asking for nothing in return. They usually bestow their enchanted gifts with the help of their signature magical wands. They are the fairy folk of the wood, the purveyor of lost souls, kindly old women who provide wisdom.
The Wicked Witch
The Wicked Witch of the West – This green-skinned hag is every bit as wicked as her namesake. She is the ultimate cliché, from her black pointy hat down to her flying broomstick. She wants desperately to get her clawed hands on the magical Ruby Slippers and she has an army of flying monkeys at her disposal to get the job done. Her one weakness is H2O. Apparently all her wicked and cruel magic cannot save her from melting away into nothing once she is doused by a bucket of water.
The Queen (Wicked Stepmother) – Her obsession with her enchanting beauty is only equaled by her wicked cruelty. When her magical mirror reveals to her that there is another girl in the land whose beauty surpasses her own, the evil Queen makes it her mission to destroy this unsuspecting rival. Using the dark arts, she disguises herself as a kindly old woman and offers a poisoned apple to the young girl. One bite bewitches the young girl and Snow White falls into an unnatural sleep, a living death from which she can never awake unless the spell is broken by true love's first kiss.
Haggar – Haggar is a cruel witch from Planet Doom and loyal servant of evil King Zarkon. Her dark powers can control minds, create illusions and strike terror in the weak willed. Her most notorious accomplishment was actually using the dark arts to split the mighty robot Voltron, Protector of the Universe, into five separate lesser robots. She currently uses her dark powers to create Zarkon’s Robeast, vicious monsters with great destructive power.
Maleficent – This Mistress of Evil is an especially cruel and powerful witch. Scorned by her lack of invitation to the christening of the new born princess, Maleficent curses the child to prick her finger on her 16th birthday and die by that day’s sunset. Her dark power is horrible and she has even shown the unearthly ability to transform into a dragon, a creature of immeasurable destructive power.
Witch Hazel – Don’t let the grandmotherly charm of this green-skinned hag fool you. She wants nothing more than to lure young trick-or-treaters into her humble abode where she can add them as her secret ingredient for her latest stew. With an ear-piercing whistle she can summon her flying broom and track her prey down in a flash. Luckily, she is not the best pilot and has a tendency of flying into doors. Her demeanor can turn on a dime from motherly to murderous, and if there is a meat cleaver within arm’s reach, you’d better run. Her high-pitched witch’s cackle is infectious and with a click of her heels and a cloud of hairpins left in her wake, Hazel is the witch that you can’t help but love and fear at the same time.
Evil-Lyn – Her olive skin and enchanting beauty belie her ruthless and wicked intentions. Evil-Lyn’s cruel laugh can strike fear in her enemies and allies alike. Her evil magical prowess is only rivaled by the good Sorceress of Castle Grayskull. Even Skeletor is weary around her. She can summon lightning, shape-shift, teleport across great distances, and enchant the minds of men. She is a powerful force for evil and an enemy never to be taken lightly.
The White Witch
Glinda the Good Witch of the North – This ethereal beauty is the guide and protector of Dorothy as she makes her way through the enchanted realm of Oz. She provides wisdom and insight and, if need be, magical assistance. Though it is not clear just how powerful she is, her magical abilities are at least respected by the cruel Wicked Witch of the West. Glinda is clearly loved by the denizens of Oz and the comforting light that radiates from her can be felt by all of those around.
Scarlet Witch – Wanda Maximoff is the daughter of the most notorious super terrorist in the Marvel Universe and one of the most powerful mutant heroes in the world. Using hexes, she is able to manipulate probability and channel Chaos Magic. For years her immense powers were largely out of her control, but under the tutelage of the witch Agatha Harkness, Wanda has learned not to necessarily control the Chaos Magic within her, but to harness it and redirect it in a more positive manner. However, due to the nature of her powers, Wanda has been susceptible from time to time to bouts of mental weakness and succumbed to her more base desires (see The Witch on Wundagore Mountain, Darker than Scarlet and House of M). This is something that she struggles with even to this day. The Scarlet Witch is a prominent member of the Avengers and is, without a doubt, one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Willow Rosenberg – Willow grew up as a wallflower, an unassuming, shy girl with a crush on her best friend and a penchant for getting bullied by the head cheerleader. Then she met Buffy Summers, and her extended knowledge of computers and natural book smarts came in real handy when dealing with the force of darkness. As the years went by, her thirst for knowledge leaned toward the supernatural and eventually Willow became the most powerful witch in the world. Like the Scarlet Witch though, Willow’s delving into the dark arts and a horrible life trauma have led her down a dark and terrible path. She almost destroyed the world in a bout of grief, but the love of her friend pulled her back from the brink. Now, Willow is able to channel the power of the Goddesss, as can be seen by the illuminating white light that engulfs her when she uses her magic. This onetime unassuming, shy wallflower from Sunnydale High is on an epic quest to restore magic to the world. And if anyone can accomplish this feat, it’s the most powerful witch in the world.
Fairy Godmother – When poor Cinderella was downtrodden and without hope, her Fairy Godmother magically appears and makes all her wishes come true. Using her magic wand, she transforms a pumpkin into a stage coach, mice into men, and Cinderella into the most beautiful woman at the ball. She then sends Cinderella off to the castle to meet Prince Charming who falls in love with her and eventually takes her away from her life of servitude.
Fin Raziel and Cherlindrea – These two witchy women help the diminutive Willow Ufgood and the swordsman Madmartigan in their quest to protect the baby Elora Danan so that she can fulfill her destiny to topple the mad Queen Bavmorda. Raziel is a powerful witch who was betrayed and transformed by Bavmorda’s dark sorcery. Using Cherlindrea’s magical wand, Willow, an aspiring magic-user, restores Raziel to human form. Raziel plays a pivotal role in the final battle against the evil Bavmorda.
Galadriel – Galadriel is the Lady of Light, a beautiful elf of Middle Earth who radiates power. She has the ability to communicate and calm with the power of thought. Her beauty is otherworldly. She provides sanctuary and council to the Fellowship of the Ring. She is immortal and one of the protectors of peace in the realm.
Women aren’t the only ones to practice the art of witchcraft. A male witch is known as a warlock and like their fairer counterparts, the warlock can fall on the side of both good or evil.
Warlock – This dastardly magic-user is truly a force for evil. Escaping the witch-hunter of his era, the Warlock time-travels to the future (our present) where he embarks on an unholy quest, under the command of Satan himself, to bring about the End of Days. Through black magic, the Warlock can fly, manipulate others, and cast powerful bolts of arcane force. The Warlock is one of the most devious, vile, and evil practitioners of the dark arts and is a foe not to be underestimated.
Skeletor – Skeletor is the beefy blue-skinned arch foe of He-Man. He is the most powerful warlock in the realm of Eternia and is on a never-ending quest to obtain the mystical secrets which reside in the ancient walls of Castle Grayskull. His will is indomitable and his influence on lesser beings uncanny. He has a small army of mutants, monsters, and magic-users at his disposal who follow him more out of fear than any kind of loyalty. With his goat-head staff of power, Skeletor’s magical might can only be kept in check by the courageous exploits of the Most Powerful Man in the Universe and his brave allies. But Skeletor is a patient foe. He sits upon his bone throne high atop his foreboding citadel, Snake Mountain, and schemes. He plots and plans for the day when he can orchestrate the downfall of his world’s greatest hero and the day when the secrets of Grayskull will at last be his.
Nicholas Scratch – The son of Agatha Harkness, Scratch has become a powerful warlock and erstwhile foe of the Fantastic Four. His monstrous children are the infamous Salem Seven, and he is the leader of a society of witches and warlocks bent on world domination. Scratch is able to use his dark gifts to influence minds, manipulate and animate matter, summon the forces of fire and lightning to smite his foes, and travel between dimensions. His magical powers are so considerable that he has even single-handedly defeated Marvel’s First Family in combat before.
Rupert Giles – He is a Watcher and the mentor/father figure of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His knowledge in the supernatural is considerable. He is a practitioner of magic and quite adept in its uses. He has shown the ability to summon and banish demons, erect protective wards, and once even channeled the power of an entire coven of witches in order to confront Willow during her decent into darkness. Though he is not by any means the most powerful magic-user in the land, the man they call “Ripper” is definitely a warlock not to be underestimated.
Whether Wicked (The Blair Witch) or White (Sabrina the Teenage Witch), witches come in different varieties. Just remember that if you are ever lost in the woods and are out of breadcrumbs to lead you back home, it’s probably best to steer clear of the that lonely house in the meadow made out of candy.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
Including the comic books, novels, toys, cartoons, TV shows and movies, the Odinson has made no qualms about his love for all things ‘80s. But the 1980s was not the only decade that mined gold when it came to these pop culture formats. The ‘90s and Beyond have also turned out some pretty entertaining stuff. One thing is for sure, in the modern era of entertainment we have been treated to some pretty cool and creative pieces of art.
This week I want to focus on the cartoons and animated shows that have defined our youth. What era features the best in cartoon entertainment, the decade of the 1980s or the 1990s and Beyond (2000-Present). Now as a child of the ‘80s, it will be hard for the Odinson not to be biased, but I will do my best. Shall we begin?
Visionaries (13 episodes 09/87-12/87) vs. Yu-Gi-Oh (224 episodes 04/00-09/04) – The Visionaries are mighty warriors with the uncanny ability to summon forth mighty hard-light holograms capable of amazing feats. Yugi is a modern day teenager in possession of the Millennium Puzzle, a mystical device that allows him to share a consciousness with a 5,000 year old Egyptian spirit. He travels the world and engages in supernatural duels where the players use magical decks of cards to summon forth powerful holographic monsters and traps to do battle. The Knights of the Magical Light are super cool but their short run and underdeveloped plotlines can’t hold a candle to the plight of Yugi and his quest to save his family and friends. Winner: Yu-Gi-Oh
Robotech (85 episodes 03/85-06/85) vs. Samurai Jack (52 episodes 08/01-09/04) – Robotech is a combination of three different animes from Japan, edited together to create a unified universe and one of the most epic stories in animated history. The tale is broken down into three chapters – Macross, Masters, and The New Generation. Without a doubt, Macross is the best and it tells the story of the United Earth Government and the Robotech Defense Force and their apocalyptic war with the invading clone armies of the alien Zentradi. Samurai Jack features a noble warrior who is exiled to a far future timeline ruled by his demonic foe. His quest is to find a way back to the past so that he can defeat his enemy before he takes power. Samurai Jack is a really satisfying watch, but nothing compares to Rick Hunter and Matt Sterling flying around in their sweet transforming Veritech Fighters, defending mankind, and still finding the time for the pretty girls. Winner: Robotech
Transformers (98 episodes 09/84-11/87) vs. Dexter’s Laboratory (78 episodes 04/96-11/03) – It’s the battle of sci-fi! The Transformers are more than meets the eye. The centuries-old war that has been raging on the far side of the universe between the benevolent Autobots and the warmongering evil Decepticons has spilled over to planet Earth. Now mankind is caught in the middle of these mighty factions. Dexter is the world’s smartest boy. With a mad genius on par with Lex Luthor and Doctor Doom, the only thing holding Dexter back from complete world domination is the whimsical, innocent meddling of his troublesome sister – Dee Dee. From toys to movies to comics, the Transformers have forged a pop culture empire that cannot be denied, but Dexter’s Lab is just too entertaining for its own good. Very few animated shows have got me to laughing hysterically as much as Dexter’s Lab has and laughter goes a long way in my book. Winner: Dexter’s Laboratory
Voltron (124 episodes 09/84-11/85) vs. The Powerpuff Girls (78 episodes 11/98-03/05) – Voltron is a mighty robot, loved by good and feared by evil. The Defender of the Universe is comprised of five mechanical lions, each piloted by a brave space explorer, that when united form a giant robot. With Blazing Sword firmly in hand, there is no giant RoboBeast or adversary from Planet Doom that Voltron cannot overcome. The Powerpuff Girls were created using sugar, spice, and little bit of Chemical X. Voltron is the undisputed king of giant robots, but Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup have all the power of a displaced Kryptonian and are more adorable than a garden full of Cabbage Patch Kids. Winner: The Powerpuff Girls
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (24 episodes 09/81-09/83) vs. Spider-Man (65 episodes 11/94-01/98) – Amazing Friends features Spidey along with Ice Man and Firestar as they take on the greatest threats in the Marvel Universe. This show was an absolute Must See event for a young Odinson. It also features super cool guest-appearances by Marvel All-Stars like Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Namor and the X-Men. The 90s animated Spider-Man series took super hero cartoons to the next level with its continuity. There are season arcs and character development not seen before in a cartoon of this kind. And the animation is super cool. I absolutely love what they were going for and trying to accomplish with the ‘90s Spider-Man cartoon, but nothing can ever take the place of the magic I felt when I watched the ‘80s classic. Winner: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
GI Joe (95 episodes 09/83-11/86) vs. Batman: The Animated Series (85 episodes 09/92-09/95) – Yo Joe! GI Joe is the world’s most elite Special Forces unit and charged with defending freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization bent on ruling the world. However, they broke the mold the day that Batman: The Animated Series made its debut. There can be no debate that this animated gem spearheaded by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini is the King of Animated Entertainment. The stories, the direction, the character development, the animation - BtAS is, hands down, the greatest cartoon ever made. Winner: Batman: The Animated Series
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (130 episodes 09/83-12/88) vs. Gargoyles (78 episodes 10/94-02/97) – The battle of fantasy! I can remember racing home from the bus stop after school, sprinting as fast as my little legs would carry me, because I could not miss a second of the adventures of He-Man and his quest to stop the evil Skeletor from obtaining the secret to Castle Grayskull. Gargoyles is yet another beautiful example of the evolution of the medium as character development, story continuity and fantastic animation leapt forward in the decade of the ‘90s. Gargoyles is amazing and well worth the watch, but the Herculean exploits of the Most Powerful Man in the Universe were simply awe-inspiring to a young Odinson. Winner: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Super Friends (109 episodes 09/73-09/86) vs. Justice League (52 episodes 11/01-05/04) – The battle of old vs. the new! Brought together from the cosmic legends of the DC Universe, the Super Friends assembled the world’s greatest heroes – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman – to defend mankind and preserve justice. In The Challenge of the Super Friends, the world’s greatest heroes assemble once more to defend justice against the Legion of Doom, a small army of their greatest and most dangerous foes. Then finally, in The Legendary Super Powers Show, the Super Friends are joined by Cyborg and Firestorm in their never-ending battle against the dark forces of Darkseid! The Justice League animated series took all of the elements from Super Friends, threw them in a pot with all the ground-breaking elements of Batman: The Animated Series, mixed them up and created one of the most inspiring animated series in the history of the medium. Winner: Justice League
ThunderCats (130 episodes 01/85-01/89) vs. X-Men (76 episodes 10/92-09/97) – The battle of mutant heroes! ThunderCats features one of the coolest sci-fi tales ever conceived as a small band of survivors flee their doomed planet and somehow make their way to a lush paradise world. However, though this new world is full of vibrant life and unparalleled beauty, it is also home to unspeakable evil and danger. The ThunderCats, a race of feline super warriors, must defend the denizens of Third Earth and themselves from the dark power of berserker pirates, intergalactic assassins, deadly mutants, and most dangerous of all – Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living! Though it can’t be denied that seeing the Children of the Atom animated was a treat, the series is however plagued by clunky animation and weak character interpretations. No character suffers from this format more than the great Wolverine. I realize they can’t have him slicing and dicing his way through every episode of what is essentially a children’s program, but seriously, did he ever win a fight in that show? Winner: ThunderCats
DuckTales (100 episodes 09/87-11/90) vs. Pokemon (750+ episodes 04/97-Present) – The battle of action/adventure! Inspired by the amazing exploits of Indiana Jones, DuckTales features Scrooge McDuck, the world’s richest fowl, and his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, as they journey the globe alongside their bodyguard and pilot Launchpad McQuack and their friends Gyro Gearloose and Doofus Drake in search of treasure and adventure. Pokemon is the story of Ash as he travels the globe in search of more Pocket Monsters to train. Though there is no denying the pop culture phenomenon that is Pokemon, a game that inspired an animated series that still runs to this day along with numerous movies, DuckTales is, hands down, a Top 5 cartoon of all time and a must view gem from the ‘80s. Winner: DuckTales
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (193 episodes 12/87-11/96) vs. Dragon Ball Z (291 episodes 09/99-04/03 [US Re-dubbed Run]) - The battle of kung fu! The Heroes in a Half-Shell burst onto the scene in the mid-eighties and took the pop culture world by storm. The animated series featured a more wide open take on the concept and added a bit more mirth to the adventures of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo as they battled the evil forces of Shredder and Krang, a creature from Dimension X. But when it comes to continuity and character development, nothing holds a candle to the high-flying, planet-shaking kung fu battles in DBZ. The show's premiere hero Goku going Super Saiyan alone is worth the price of admission. And very few animated shows feature villains on the level of Vegeta, Frieza and Cell, three of the most powerful, diabolical and sinister evildoers ever to be seen in the animated medium. Winner: Dragon Ball Z
Wow! I am utterly shocked but the 1990s and Beyond takes the Belt! It’s probably due in no small part to the maturity of the material. Character exploration and development and story continuity play huge roles in shows like DBZ and Batman, and that goes a long way. However, because of the excellent quantity and quality that came out in the 1980s, it is still my favorite era. Just think of all the gems that didn’t make this list - BraveStarr, Bionic Six, The Real Ghostbusters, The Inhumanoids, Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon’s Lair, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Spiral Zone, MASK, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors – just to name a few. But never let it be said that the Odinson isn’t big enough to admit when he has been defeated fair and square.
Narrowing the list down to just a handful of names was a Herculean effort to be sure, but I believe I pretty much came up with the cartoons that helped define these two distinct eras. Whichever era of cartoon entertainment is your favorite, I think we can all agree that we’ve been pretty fortunate to see some pretty awesome cartoons and animated shows in our lifetimes.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
There have been many, many combat games over the years – Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom, Killer Instinct, and Injustice: Gods Among Us, just to name a few. But there is no doubt which two games sit perched high atop the hill as King of the Fighting Games and that’s Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II. Back in the day (circa 20-25 years ago), stand up arcades were all the rage. They were locales located usually in the local mall, boardwalk, or Putt-Putt Golf course where kids and teens could gather to play a multitude of exciting new games. Somebody could spend hours feeding quarters into these eye-popping, senses-shattering contraptions of modern entertainment.
What I remember most about Street Fighter II (released in 1991) is that though its graphics are archaic by today’s standards, at the time, the cool anime-inspired graphics really made it a standout. With Street Fighter II, they broke the mold. It set the standard for all other games of this type to follow. In fact, other than a tweaking of graphics and the addition of new characters, Street Fighter is essentially the same game now as it was over twenty years ago. And it holds up.
What I remember most about Mortal Kombat (released in 1992) is the ominous disembodied voice that would call out to you as you walked by the console. “TEST YOUR MIGHT” - it would say. Well, who could resist that challenge? Originally the game featured animation placed over real actors. This gave the game a realistic feel, even if the combatants could do very unrealistic things. But one thing that separates MK from all the rest is that over that last twenty years the game has evolved. With game play and character development, each new release has improved on what came before and the game just gets better and better.
That is another aspect of these two games that has always captured my imagination – the storylines. Even though at their core, Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat are “Fighting Games,” they both have really cool storylines as their backdrops. In Street Fighter there is a terrorist organization called Shadoloo bent on world domination. For varying reasons, all the world’s greatest fighters join the Grand Fight tournament. Some are in it for the glory while others infiltrate the contest to bring down the Shadoloo Empire. In Mortal Kombat, there is an ancient tournament held once a generation when the world’s greatest fighters meet in combat to decide the fate of mankind. If the Earthrealm warriors should fall, the plane of mortals will be invaded by the hordes of the Outworld, a mystical realm of wizards, demons, monsters, and dark gods.
The characters from both series have been fleshed out over the years and the back stories are just as rich with continuity as any fictional universe in pop culture. But one question still remains – Who is the King of the Fighting Game? Mortal Kombat vs. Street Fighter II has all the pop culture polarizing grandeur as The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones, Coke vs. Pepsi, McDonalds vs. Burger King, or Marvel vs. DC. In the end, there can be only one true champion. And since the Powers That Be will never allow this fanboy’s dream of an epic crossover to come true, the Odinson shall decide once and for all in a no-holds-barred contest which game universe would win.
Part 3: Mortal Kombat vs. Street Fighter II
Johnny Cage vs. Ken Masters – Johnny Cage is the biggest Hollywood action star in the world. He’s brash, cocky, handsome, and deadly. Ken Masters trained under the legendary martial arts master Gouken. He’s cocky, talented, and, next to Ryu, he is arguably the second greatest practitioner of karate in the world. He simply lacks the dedication and focus of his friend. Cage and Masters are rivals outside of the ring as well as inside as they try to out do each other with the ladies, cocky quips, and combat skills. Though Cage brings some pretty sweet splits and rush-kick moves to the fight, in the end, Ken’s Ha-do-ken fireballs and Sho-ryu-ken Dragon Punch will prove victorious. K.O. - Winner: Ken.
Sub-Zero vs. Dhalsim – Sub-Zero is a Chinese ninja warrior whose heart is so cold that he can freeze his opponents in place and shatter them into a million pieces. Dhalsim is a master of yoga and can contort and stretch his body into impossible attack positions. Though Dhalsim can breathe fire and thus counter Sub-Zero’s cold attack, Sub-Zero is not only one of the deadliest assassins alive, but he is the leader of an ancient ninja clan that through the centuries has forgotten more about killing than other assassins know. FINISH HIM -Winner: Sub-Zero.
Sonya Blade vs. Chun-Li – Sonya Blade is a Special Forces operative hell bent on taking down Kano, the man that murdered her partner. She’s tough as nails and trained for combat by the best. Chun-Li is reportedly the “strongest woman in the world.” She seeks revenge against M. Bison, the man that murdered her father. Her legs are so powerful that she can leap around the battlefield with near superhuman ability and attack with a flurry of kicks that come at her opponents so fast that it ignites the air with flame. Both women seek revenge and are super determined, but only one of them can win. K.O. - Winner: Chun-Li.
Jax vs. Guile – Jax is a hulking Special Forces operative, trained in dealing with the supernatural and armed (literally) with bionic implants that increase his strength to super human levels. His robotic fists can shake the ground and pummel his adversaries into unconsciousness with a furious windmill attack. Guile is a Special Forces operative whose job it is to bring down the international criminal organization known as Shadoloo. His Flash Kick is devastating and nearly impossible to defend against. K.O. -Winner: Guile.
Goro vs. Zangief – Goro is half human/half dragon and four arms of terror. Eight-feet tall, Goro uses his superior strength and size to overpower his opponents and has been known to beat them to a bloody pulp before dismembering them with his bare hands. Zangief is a monstrous professional wrestler that trains to fight by grappling with grizzly bears. His back-breaking suplexes and thunderous piledrivers can pummel his opponents and leave them broken and out cold. However, Goro is a nine-time Mortal Kombat Champion. That means for generations he has faced and defeated the best fighters in the all the Realms and proven victorious. FINISH HIM - Winner: Goro.
Shang Tsung vs. E. Honda – Shang Tsung is a thousand-year-old demon sorcerer who collects souls of fallen warriors and adds their power to his own. To face Shang Tsung in combat is to face a thousand adversaries. E. Honda is a mighty sumo whose flying head butt and Hyaku-retsu-hari-te Hundred Hand Slap attacks, more times than not, prove to be too much for most opponents. But Shang Tsung is no ordinary opponent. He is quite cunning and, more importantly, deadly. FINISH HIM - Winner: Shang Tsung.
Baraka vs. Blanka – Baraka is a fierce Tarkatan warrior from the wastelands of Outworld. He can tear opponents to pieces with his clawed hands and razor-sharp Shark-like teeth. But his most devastating attacks come from his berserker rage and two footlong razor-sharp talons that protrude from his forearms. Blanka is a man-beast from the dark depths of the Brazilian rain forests. As if his brutal feral attacks weren’t enough, Blanka also possesses a devastating electrical charge that renders all those unlucky enough to get caught by it defenseless and open to attack. K.O. - Winner: Blanka.
Scorpion vs. Balrog – Scorpion is a lost soul bent on revenge. The ninja Sub-Zero murdered Scorpion’s family and now he has returned from the depths of the Netherealm empowered with supernatural might and fueled by unquenchable rage. Balrog is a former professional boxer and now a professional bone-breaker and henchman whose devastating uppercuts can pound his opponents into oblivion. Balrog may have at one time been the most feared pugilist in the ring, but Scorpion’s harpoon attack, fire summoning abilities, and bone-shattering combo attacks are just to terrible to overcome. (GET OVER HERE!) FINISH HIM - Winner: Scorpion.
Reptile vs. Vega – Reptile is a one of the scariest combatants in all the Realms for he is superhumanly fast and deadly. His elongated tongue can strike from a distance and behead warriors, and he can spew acid with devastating effects. Vega is a deadly cage fighter from Spain who fights with a clawed weapon and possesses near super human agility and speed. He wears a mask to protect his handsome face. This match is pretty even. Reptile may loose a few limbs in the battle, but it’s nothing his reptilian regenerative powers won’t grow back. Too bad Vega can’t grow back his head after Reptile lashes out with his vicious tongue and takes it from him. FINISH HIM - Winner: Reptile.
Kano vs. Sagat – Kano is a cunning cutthroat with a bionic eye and is a master knife fighter. Sagat is a master of Muay Thai and a former Grand Fight Champion. He is a cunning adversary that relishes in the defeat of powerful opponents. Though in the battle of the bad guys Kano usually wins, Sagat’s bone-crunching knee and elbow strikes will prove to be just too much. K.O. - Winner: Sagat.
Raiden vs. M. Bison – Raiden is the god of thunder and protector of the Realm of Earth. His strength and speed are far beyond that of mortal men. He can fly, teleport, and call down the thunder. M. Bison is the leader of Shadoloo. He is a would-be-world conqueror empowered with Psycho Power, a kinetic energy field that increases his already considerable physical abilities to superhuman levels. M. Bison is not an adversary for even a demi-god to take lightly. But when the battle is done, it is Raiden’s eyes that will be sparking with the glint of victory. FINISH HIM - Winner: Raiden.
Liu Kang vs. Ryu – This is it! The contest of champions! This is the battle that will settle the debate once and for all. Who will prove to be the mightiest warrior in the world? Liu Kang is from China. He is the youngest but also the fastest warrior in the tournament. He’s a Shaolin monk that has trained his entire life to compete in the Mortal Kombat tournament and defend Earth against the invading hordes of Outworld. Ryu is from Japan, a Shotokan karate master. He is a lone warrior that walks the earth in search of new challenges and seeks the world’s strongest fighters to test his fighting prowess against. His one goal in life is to be the world’s strongest warrior.
So what will prove victorious, the fluid grace of kung fu or the straightforward power of karate? Ryu’s Ha-do-ken fireballs, tornado kicks, and Sho-ryu-ken Dragon Punch attacks can lay even the mightiest adversary low. Meanwhile, Liu’s own fireballs, gravity-defying bicycle kicks and flying kick attacks have proven capable of defeating demon sorcerers and dark gods. This battle is almost too close to call, but the Odinson is determined not to cop out. I will decide on a winner.
I literally could have gone either way with this one, but in the end, Liu Kang IS the Chosen One. And if Buffy Summers and Neo have taught me anything over the years it’s that the Chosen One always comes out victorious in the end. FINISH HIM - Winner: Liu Kang.
Shao Khan vs. Akuma – Somewhere on a cloud-rimmed mountain top, high above the tournament below, the two most notorious villains of these games meet to decide who will pick up the pieces of what’s left and rule the world with an iron fist. Shao Khan is a dark demi-god whose might and combat prowess is only matched by his cunning and expertise in backstabbing tactics. Akuma is a demon warrior whose attacks are so fierce, so apocalyptically powerful that he has been known to kill an opponent with a single blow. The earth shakes when these two malevolent titans clash. But when the dust settles, only one villain will be left standing. K.O. - Winner: Akuma.
Since both game series easily have a hundred characters between them, I tried to narrow the competition down to only the essential core cast. The main heroes and villains that make these games tick. Both Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat are legendary games, legendary stories, and legendary pieces of pop culture history. It is a shame we may never see this epic crossover happen.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell