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So Sayeth the Odinson — with Michael Breakfield

  • Top 10 Villains that Aren’t Super Villains: Part 1

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    Last week, the Odinson rounded out his latest list with Top 10 Heroes that Aren’t Super Heroes: Part 2.

     

    Legendary pop culture heroes like Popeye and James Bond may not be identified by the genre of Super Hero, but the villains they face are every bit as dangerous and colorful as those in the Rogues Galleries of Batman and Spider-Man.  These evil-doers, these monsters and madmen, may not be classified as supervillains, but their villainous exploits are no less dastardly. 

     

    Top 10 Villains that Aren’t Super Villains: Part 1 

     

    10 – The Undertaker Deadman walking.  For over two decades, there has been no more respected, revered, and feared combatant in the squared-circle than the colossus known simply as The Undertaker.  Standing nearly seven-feet tall with stone-hard skin, catlike agility, and incredible near superhuman strength, the Taker has used devastating moves like the choke-slam, “Old School,” and the Tombstone to cut a swath of destruction across the history of the WWE.  From Hulk Hogan to the Ultimate Warrior to Stone Cold Steve Austin, the undead man known as “The Phenom” has defeated every single contender that has dared to challenge his unholy power.  His bouts with the insane Mankind in the Hell in a Cell match (a no holds barred cage match) and his monstrous brother Kane in the Inferno match (the ring surrounded by fire) are the stuff of legend.  He’s been burned, beaten mercilessly by a mob, and buried alive, but, like a nightmarish phoenix, The Undertaker always rises from the ashes, darker, stronger, and more devastating than before.  His unprecedented 20-year win streak at WrestleMania is an unbelievable feat that will never be broken.        

     

    9 – King Ghidorah No plane can fly that fast.  That looked to me like it was from another planet…  With three heads of terror, this alien titan from beyond the stars is the most powerful kaiju of them all.  Standing over four-hundred feet tall, Ghidorah’s massive dragon-like wings allow him to fly at super-sonic speeds and create hurricane-force winds when they flap.  Each of its snake-like heads can spew bolts of lightning that can fell opponents and demolish skyscrapers.  It is said that King Ghidorah is indestructible.  So powerful is this monster that it takes the combined might of the most legendary kaiju - Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla - just to contain him.  Whether he is known as Ghidorah, Ghidrah, Monster Zero, or the Dragon King, King Ghidorah is one kaiju where a “blazing-sword” just isn’t going to cut it.   

     

    8 – Jason Voorhees ki-ki-ki-mah-mah-mah…  He is the infamous hockey mask-wearing stalker of Camp Crystal Lake.  As a child, due to neglectful camp counselors, Jason drowned.  For the next decade, his vengeful mother made it her mission to punish the camp and anyone who visited it for this transgression.  After Mrs. Voorhees met with her demise at the hands of a would-be victim, Jason took on the family business of revenge.  At first, Jason was a demented hillbilly, but after his death and subsequent resurrection, due to errant lightning, he has become a walking juggernaut of death and mayhem.  His weapon of choose is the machete, but from simple cooking utensils to standard gardening tools, anything and everything is a lethal instrument of murder in the hands of Jason.  He is seemingly unstoppable, unkillable.  Nothing can stand in his way of killing absolutely everything and everyone that crosses his path – not police, not boxers, not bikers, not hunters, not girls with psychic powers, not cyborgs, not even his fellow slasher Freddy Kruger can stop him.  Death can’t even stop him, only slow him down.  He always comes back, deadlier than ever.  For over three decades, Jason Voorhees has cut a swath of terror in and around Crystal Lake, the Big Apple, the dreamworld, and even in outer space.  He is the King of the Slashers.        

     

    7 – SkynetOn August 29th, 1997…anybody not wearing two-million sunblock is going to have a real bad day...  More sinister than the Daleks, more diabolical than Ultron, more terrifying than The Matrix, Skynet is an artificial intelligence hell-bent on eradicating the disease known as mankind off the face of the earth forever.  Its first attempt to exterminate humans happened when Skynet simultaneously launched every single nuclear warhead on the planet.  This brought mankind to the verge of extinction.  Then, Skynet created hunter/killer machines known as Terminators to sweep across the globe and finish the job.  However, a human resistance, led by John Connor, fought back and even threatened to defeat the machines.  A sore loser, Skynet concocted its most diabolical scheme yet. To insure its victory over man, Skynet sent Terminators back through time to key moments in the past.  First, in 1984, Skynet sends a T-800, a cyborg assassin, to exterminate Sarah Connor, John’s mother, thus preventing its greatest enemy from ever being born.  Next, in 1995, Skynet sent a T-1000, a more advanced Terminator, to assassinate Connor himself.  Finally, Skynet sends a T-X, an even more advanced Terminator, to 2004 to assassinate all the resistance leaders, including John Connor, that play a part in its demise in the future.  Thanks to the heroic efforts and sacrifices of Kyle Reece, Sarah Connor, and a reprogrammed T-800, Skynet’s efforts to alter human history have failed.  But Skynet is a clever A.I. and always seemingly one step ahead of its human adversaries.  How long before is resurfaces once again to plague mankind?          

     

    6 – The Queen of Blades I am the Swarm…worlds will burn.  As a human, Sarah Kerrigan was a Ghost, an elite assassin with cloak tech and psychic abilities.  However, after being infested by the zerg, Kerrigan was transformed into the Queen of Blades, the immensely powerful ruler of the Swarm, a vast army of alien creatures with the ability to adapt, to survive, to kill, to conquer.  The Queen of Blades can fly, regenerate lost limbs, is super strong, and fast.  Kerrigan’s already considerable psionics have been amplified to demi-godlike levels.  The Swarm is a hive-mind under the complete control of its queen and its constantly hatching numbers are countless.  The Swarm, under the command of the Queen of Blades, has washed over the galaxy and is responsible for the deaths of billions. It is all the terran armies of the Dominion and the zealot nations of the alien Protoss can do just to contain the encroaching zerg.  The Queen of Blades is a genocidal threat on par with the Dark Phoenix and Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds.       

     

    Now that’s an auspicious start to a truly notorious list of infamous evildoers.  Tune in next week when the Odinson rounds out this list with the Top 5.  Who will top the list?  Here’s a hint: the conqueror, the warlock, the commander, the vampire, and the dark lord of the Sith.

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

     

     

     

  • Top 10 Heroes that Aren’t Super Heroes: Part 2

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    Be sure to check out last week’s Top 10 Heroes that Aren’t Super Heroes: Part 1.

     

     In the annals of pop culture, there are other heroes that don’t fall into the Super Hero genre.  These heroes are the non-traditional kind.  They don’t wear garish costumes.  They don’t have secret bases of operations that orbit high above the Earth.  Some of them may have abilities far beyond those of ordinary men and women, but they are not classified by the Super Hero Genre.  However, their heroic exploits are no less SUPER.

     

    Top 10 Heroes that Aren’t Super Heroes: Part 2 

     

    5 – Conan Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.  This mighty Cimmerian is the greatest hero in the history of fantasy/sword and sorcery.  Created by the Godfather of written fantasy Robert E. Howard, Conan has been vanquishing warriors, wizards, monsters, demons and everything else the Hyborian Age can throw at him since his first appearance in 1932 in the pages of Weird Tales.  He’s been a Wanderer, an Adventurer, a Pirate, a Destroyer, an Avenger, a Conqueror, and a King.  Whether wielding his iconic Atlantean sword, a mighty double-bladed battle axe, or just the hilt of a broken blade, Conan the Barbarian is indomitable.    

     

    4 – Buffy Summers So, Dawn’s in trouble…must be Tuesday.  She is the slayer, the one girl in all the world that has the skill and power to defend mankind against the monsters, the vampires, and the forces of darkness.  Alongside Willow Rosenberg, the world’s most powerful witch, Xander Harris, master of mirth, and Rupert Giles, her Watcher and accomplished magic-user, Buffy and Scoobies reside on top of the Hellmouth, located underneath the ironically named hamlet Sunnydale, and vanguard against the Apocalypses that seemingly threaten the realm of man on a yearly basis.  Buffy is super strong, fast, agile, and has a wicked knack for one-liners.  She can save the world and make it to the high school dance without breaking a sweat.  Her only weakness seems to be vampires with a soul.         

     

    3 – Luke Skywalker I’m a Jedi, like my father.  Luke Skywalker was a simple farmboy with an eye to the stars, an everyman with an adventurer’s heart.  His life was forever changed the day he met two curious droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO, and an old wizard named Obi-Wan Kenobi.  After hooking up with the space pirates, Han Solo and Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and his intrepid band of heroes are swept up in the harrowing events of an intergalactic civil war.  They storm the Death Star to rescue the imperiled Princess Leia.  They vanquish the mighty gangster – Jabba the Hutt.  Along the way, Luke meets up with the legendary Jedi Master, Yoda, and gets trained in the ancient ways of the Force.  And, Luke and the Rebel Alliance defeat the sinister Emperor, the mighty Darth Vader, and their evil Empire.  Luke’s Jedi training has made him fast and super agile.  He is armed with a powerful laser-sword known as a Lightsaber, and he possesses immense empathic and telekinetic mind-powers.  As the first Jedi Knight in over a generation, it falls upon Luke to train the next generation of heroes who will protect peace and enforce justice in a galaxy far, far away.

     

    2 – Indiana Jones Snakes…why did have to be snakes.  He’s an archeologist.  He’s a professor.  He’s an adventurer.  Indiana Jones scours the globe in search of ancient artifacts from antiquity, some of which have been known to possess supernatural ties.  He has discovered the hidden resting places of the Golden Fleece, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Holy Grail.  He has faced down deadly booby traps, sinister witch-doctors that pull a man’s still beating heart from his chest, and malevolent Nazis.  He’s armed with a six-shooter, a bullwhip, and a right-cross that could drop an ox.  But, the greatest weapon at his disposal is his super keen mind.  He’s brave beyond comparison.  His only weaknesses seem to be pretty ladies and an unnatural fear of snakes.    

     

    1 – James Bond Bond.  James Bond.  Codenamed 007, Bond is a secret agent working for the British Secret Service with a license to kill or be killed.  Armed with everything from exploding chewing gum to wristwatches that shoot poisonous darts, from ejector seats to submarine-cars, Bond’s personal arsenal is comprised of every gadget one can possibly conceive.  This gives him an edge in the world of cloak and dagger, the battleground where this super spy matches brawn and wits against maniacal madmen bent on world domination and their various henchmen and assassins.  His conquests in the arena of love are just as legendary as his victories over the forces of evil.  Armed with his trusty Walther PPK and his devilish smile, there isn’t a Dr. No, Odd-Job, or femme fatale that James Bond cannot conquer.        

     

    Honorable Mentions:  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Nick Fury, Sydney Bristow, Angel, Red Sonja, Xena the Warrior Princess, Neo, TRON, Jack Burton, Ron Burgundy, Ron Swanson and the Men in Black.

     

    There are two legends that must be pointed out, two names that belong in The Non-Superhero Hero Hall of FameBruce Lee and Chuck Norris.

     

    Tune in next week when the Odinson ranks the Top 10 Villains that Aren’t Super Villains. 

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

     

  • Top 10 Heroes that Aren’t Super Heroes: Part 1

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    Superman.  Batman.  Wonder Woman.  Spider-Man.  Captain America.  Thor.  These are true icons of the Super Hero genre. Super Heroes are extraordinary men and women gifted with superhuman abilities, gadgets, and weapons.  They are known for their unique, distinctive, and often colorful costumes.  Some wear capes, some wear masks, and they all stand for Truth and Justice.  They face down villains that are every bit as supernatural as they are, and they live in and protect monolithic cities of the future.  But in the annals of pop culture, there are other heroes.

     

    These heroes are the non-traditional kind.  They don’t all wear garish costumes.  They don’t have secret bases of operations that orbit high above the Earth.  Some of them may have abilities far beyond those of ordinary men and women, but they are not classified in the Super Hero Genre.  However, their heroic exploits are no less SUPER.

     

    Top 10 Heroes that Aren’t Super Heroes: Part 1  

     

    10 - Drizzt Do’Urden Courageous people do not surrender hope.  In a band of heroes that includes a giant barbarian with an invincible warhammer, an archer whose magic bow never misses its target, a dwarf king whose hide is as tough as a mountainside, and an uncanny thief with a magical jewel that can bend men’s will, the dark elf ranger, Drizzt, and his amazing whirling dual scimitars stands out.  Drizzt turned his back on the evil ways of his kindred and left the Underdark to make a life for himself on the surface world.  There his exploits have become legend throughout the Forgotten Realms.  He is one of the most gifted swordsmen in fiction.  He’s fast, agile, cunning, and resourceful.  He possesses a magical statue that can summon an astral panther to fight at his side.  This powerful beast is his most trusted ally and friend.  Like the X-Men, due to his heritage, Drizzt finds himself defending those that hate and fear him.  Whether he’s facing down invading barbarian hordes, dueling assassins, slaying dragons, or faces off against powerful demons from the underworld, Drizzt is a force for good to be reckoned with in any realm.   

     

    9 – Hulk Hogan Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?!  An idol to millions of fans around the world, Hogan is the six-foot seven-inch, red and yellow clad hero of the squared-circle.  He preaches to the kids to say their prayers and eat their vitamins.  He can’t abide bullies.  With adversaries like Macho Man Randy Savage, King Kong Bundy, Zeus, The Ultimate Warrior, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Andre the Giant, Hogan’s Rogues Gallery is every bit as colorful as those of Batman and Spider-Man.  He has a never give up attitude.  Even when he has been pummeled almost into submission, Hogan is able to draw energy from the crowd and “Hulk-Up,” an act that increases his already near super human strength and allows him to vanquish any foe.  Over the years there may be other more popular athletes in the realm of sports entertainment, but make no mistake – the WWE is the house that Hogan built.            

     

    8 – Lara Croft …adventure found me.  This aristocratic treasure hunter is not just another pretty face.  She is highly intelligent and resourceful.  She’s able to calculate and solve puzzles and avoid traps with incredible cunning.  Her acrobatic skills are near super human level and her flashing twin pistols have vanquished many a foe.  Like Indiana Jones, Croft scours the globe in search of artifacts from antiquity.  Her adventures can take her to the four corners of the world and even through space and time.     

     

    7 – Rambo What you choose to call hell, he calls home.  He is an army of one.  John Rambo is a Vietnam vet who returned home to find no welcome waiting for him.  Disenfranchised and suffering from wartime trauma, Rambo wondered the country as a drifter, living off the land.  On one fateful day, a small town sheriff and his overzealous deputies pushed Rambo too far and awoke a sleeping giant.  Rambo used his Special Forces training to completely dismantle an entire police force and town.  He was arrested and treated for his mental instability.  In the years since then, Rambo’s considerable skills have been used in rescue missions only a handful of men could accomplish. Rambo is strong and fast.  He’s a weapons master and an expert hand-to-hand combatant.  He can fly helicopters, drive tanks, and singlehandedly take on small armies by himself.  He is also a master of his environment, able to use his surroundings to his advantage.   

     

    6 – PopeyeI yam what I yam!  This one-eyed sailor has sailed the seven seas and faced down all the perils this world has to offer.  He’s a diminutive little hero rarely ever seen without his signature pipe.  Due to years at sea rowing a boat, Popeye’s forearms are gargantuan in size and strength.  Though he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, Popeye is physically far stronger than the average sailor and has a heart of gold.  His rivalry with the brutish Bluto for the love of Olive Oyl is the stuff of legend.  Though most foes he faces are stronger, smarter and more powerful than he is, adversaries like the hulking Bluto, the sinister Sea Hag, the monstrous Roc, the evil Martians, and the savage Goons, Popeye has an Ace up his sleeve.  Whenever Popeye devours a can of spinach, for a short period of time, his already above average strength is increased to super human levels allowing him to vanquish any foe and perform tasks and labors that would make Hercules turn green with envy.  Popeye’s spinach-fueled exploits have inspired generations of children to eat their vegetables.      

     

    Tune in next week when the Odinson rounds out this list with the Top 5.  Who will top the list?  Here’s a hint: the barbarian, the slayer, the Jedi, the adventurer, and the super spy.

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • The Odinson's Top 10 Dynamic Duos in Pop Culture History

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    Some of the best partnerships in history can be found in pop culture.  These “Dynamic Duos” are as synonymous with each other as bread and butter, milk and cookies, peanut-butter and jelly, or peanut butter and chocolate.  One can scarcely think of one member of the duo without immediately thinking of the other.  DC Comics may have defined the Dynamic Duo, but, from the realms of comedy, action/adventure and beyond, there are many top notch Dynamic Duos worthy of the moniker. 

     

    Top 10 Dynamic Duos in Pop Culture History 

     

    10 – Captain America and Falcon – For decades there was a hero and sidekick. Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson were equal partners.  This super soldier and high-flying Avenger fought side-by-side against gangsters, tyrants, monsters, gods, and raiders from other dimensions.  So spectacular was their partnership that Marvel Comics even changed the title on Cap’s solo series to Captain America and the Falcon for an unprecedented nearly one-hundred issue/eight-year run.  Rogers and Wilson are more than just partners, they are friends, brothers-in-arms, and they will always have each other’s back.      

     

    9 – Ren and Stimpy – Ren is an intelligent, scrawny little Chihuahua whose angry outbursts, emotional upheavals and mean streak have obtained legendary status.  His best friend, Stimpy, is a plump, dull-witted cat whose emotional core is so pure and his big heart is so squarely worn on his sleeve that he is perhaps one of the most sympathetic characters in pop culture history.  A cat and dog, best friends, the ultimate odd couple.   

     

    8 – Beavis and Butt-Head – What Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was to B-Movies, these two blithering little chuckleheads were to music videos.  Created by Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Office Space), Beavis and Butt-Head were rooted firmly in the MTV Generation.  They would spend countless, mindless hours watching one music video after another, either spewing venomous commentary or head-banging their way through life.  When they did manage to peel themselves off the sofa and make it outdoors it was usually to participate in hooligan activities like “Frog Baseball,” befuddling their slow-witted, nearsighted neighbor, or embarking on cross-country adventures that take them to the White House.  Easily one of the most controversial and polarizing duos on this list, Beavis and Butt-Head sparked many critics and parents to call them the dumbing down of American youth.  TV Guide ranked them as one of the Top 60 cartoons of all time.  Love them or hate them, those monosyllabic, rapid fire giggles are infectious.      

     

    7 – Wayne and Garth – “Wayne’s World! Wayne’s World! Party time! Excellent!  Wayne’s World started out as a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live, the Mecca of all things cool and hip, but eventually became so popular that it spawned two of the most quotable movies in modern pop culture history.  Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) are two twenty-something Gen-Xers who live in Aurora, Illinois and do a local cable access show out of their parents’ basement.  Between 1988 and 1993, these two lovable metal heads fed a plethora of catch phrases into the youth lexicon.  Pop culture gold like – NOT, Shwing, Extreme Close-Up, and she’s a robo-babe.  Though their reign may have been short-lived, few others have left such an impressionable impact on youth culture in such a short amount of time as this Dynamic Duo.  Party on, Wayne!  Party on, Garth!  

     

    6 – Jay and Silent Bob – If it was not for the Mount Rushmore of icons that round out the Top 5 of this list, these two little troublemakers from Leonardo, New Jersey would certainly top the list of Dynamic Duos.  Jay is tall, skinny, foul-mouthed, and lovable all at the same time.  His partner in crime is chunky, adorable and aptly named Silent Bob.  Together they spend almost every waking moment standing outside the Quick Stop and RST Video stores. When they aren’t doing that, they are terrorizing the local mall, stopping Armageddon, or trekking across country to Hollywood to stop a movie about them from being made.  These two are to Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse what R2-D2 and C-3PO are to George Lucas’ Star Wars Universe. 

     

    5 – Laurel and Hardy – Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy may be the original Dynamic Duo.  They cast the mold for what would go on to define a successful dual act.  Laurel was tall and thin while Hardy was plump and jolly.  Their brand of slapstick humor and cartoon-like situations was the predecessor and perhaps inspiration for such legendary comedic acts as The Three Stooges, Benny Hill, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Perhaps one of their most beloved roles are the very R2-D2 and C-3PO-like roles they play in the classic Babes in Toyland.   But if Laurel and Hardy set the standard for comedy duo than the next two on this list perfected it.

     

    4 – Abbott and Costello ABBOTT!  With one word, one shrill cry for help for his friend, Lou Costello could bring an audience to tears of laughter.  Perhaps most legendary for their “Who’s on First?” routine, easily one of the greatest and most emulated comedy bits of all-time, throughout the 1940s and 50s, Abbott and Costello were the Gold Standard of comedy.   They starred in well over a dozen hilarious movies and had many memorable television appearances but the Odinson knows them best for the must see classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  This genre-mixing venture featured our Dynamic Duo matching wits with the Universal Monsters!  Dracula, the Wolf-Man, and Frankenstein’s Monster are all here to frighten our heroes and take their brand of humor to new heights. The Invisible Man even makes a cameo.  I love this movie. It’s a perfect meld of the ole Universal horror and Abbott and Costello’s brand comedy.

     

    3 – The Lone Ranger and Tonto Hi-Yo, Silver!  This masked vigilante was a legend of the Old west.  The Lone Ranger road upon the back of a magnificent ivory stallion named Silver.  By his side as always was his faithful companion, Tonto, a Native American hero of ambiguous origins who could track a falcon on a cloudy day and had a right cross like a mule kick.  Like thunder and lightning, these two would ride across the plains and prairies and bring justice to the Wild West.  One always knew when the Ranger and his partner had been through because, like the Mark of Zorro, the Ranger would leave a parting gift.  A single gleaming silver bullet.  And with a hearty – Hi-Yo, Silver! – the Lone Ranger and Tonto were off to the next town to deal with whatever corrupt cattle baron, stagecoach robbers, or banditos were bedeviling the innocent locals.    

     

    2 – R2-D2 and C-3PO – R2-D2 is an astromech droid capable of an array of technical support abilities.  From starship repair to shutting down all trash compacters on the detention level of the Death Star to picking locks, this is one handy little droid that has saved the bacon of our heroes in a galaxy far, far away many times over.  R2’s companion is C-3PO, a protocol droid fluent in over six million forms of communication.  C-3PO has a knack for droning on and on about his woeful lot in life.  Like Jay and Silent Bob, 3PO does most of the talking while R2 chimes in with an occasional snappy beep or click, usually at the expense of his gold-plated buddy.  So popular were these two droids that they even had their own Saturday Morning cartoon – Droids.  As an audience, we are brought into the world of Star Wars by this lovable Dynamic Duo and throughout the entire Saga, we see the astonishing adventures and heroic exploits of brave Luke Skywalker, cunning Han Solo, and resourceful Princess Leia through their mechanical eyes.

     

    1 – Batman and Robin – Was there any doubt which Dynamic Duo would top this list of legendary Dynamic Duos.  The Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder are the Gold Standard of Dynamic Duos in the annals of pop culture.  Countless comics and books, over a dozen cartoons, and, counting movie serials, over a dozen movies showing their heroic adventures.  The 1960s Batman TV Show is pop culture royalty which has seen a great resurgence in popularity in recent years.  Though there have been several Robins – Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Damian Wayne, and Carrie Kelley – and several different men that have shouldered the Mantle of the Bat – Bruce Wayne, Azrael, Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne, and Thomas Wayne – one thing is for certain, there will always be a Batman and Robin.   

     

    Honorable Mentions: Joey and Chandler, Vision and Scarlet Witch, Oracle and Black Canary, Cheech and Chong, Green Arrow and Green Lantern, Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy, Tim Conway and Don Knotts, and Pinky and the Brain.

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • The Odinson Addresses the Big Changes Coming to Some Marvel Heroes

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    Recently Marvel Comics made a few of announcements about the future of their titles.  First they revealed an art print that showed the world the new lineup for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, a piece that included a new version of Iron Man, Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans, the angelica warrior woman, Angela, the Winter Soldier, Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Scarlet Witch, and Deathlok.  This new Avengers line-up also features new incarnations of the Odinson and the Sentinel of Liberty, a female Thor and an African American Captain America, to be exact.  These last two seem to have citizens in comic fandom split down the middle.  Some folks are cheering Marvel’s progressive recasting of two of their biggest icons, while others are jeering the House of Ideas for their latest attempt at bringing in new readers as an obvious cash grab.

     

    The comic book world is no stranger to change.  In fact some of the most innovative and invigorating times in Comics History were in times of transformation and change.  

     

    Hal Jordan was replaced by John Stewart The Circumstances: After his eye-opening, cross-country adventure with Green Arrow, Hal Jordan is disenfranchised and done with being the puppet of the Guardians of OA.  So he is replaced as the Green Lantern of Sector 2814 by John Stewart, an architect and ex-marine.  The Legacy: Due in no small part to character-driven tales like Green Lantern: Mosaic and a standout role in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, over the years, John Stewart has become one the most beloved and celebrated heroes in the DCU.

     

    Tony Stark was replaced by James Rhodes The Circumstances: For years Tony Stark’s battle with alcoholism was sending the complicated hero spiraling down a dark path and it all came to a head in the seminal storyline - Demon in a Bottle.  Broke and no longer physically fit to don the armor, Tony Stark was replaced as Iron Man by his friend James Rhodes.  The Legacy:  It was Rhodes who served in the history-making Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  Plus, it was Rhodes who helped co-found the West Coast Avengers.  After Stark was able to reclaim the Iron Man armor, Rhodes became War Machine, a walking weapon of mass destruction that fights for justice alongside the Avengers to this very day.  NOTE: An absolute Must Read Stark/Rhodes tale is the 2-part showdown with AIM in Iron Man #215-216.

     

    Steve Rogers was replaced by John Walker The Circumstances: At a time when Cap’s moral was at an all-time low he found his role as the Sentinel of Liberty being challenged by a younger, faster, stronger hero named Super Patriot (John Walker).  Then, when he refused to become a government stooge, Steve Rogers left the Captain America mantle behind and was replaced by John Walker (see Captain America #332).  The Legacy:  Walker’s mental instability led his Cap run to be a violent and troubling affair, even leading to the murder of his family which pushed him over the edge (see Captain America #335).  In the years since Rogers reclaimed the role of Captain America, Walker has had many ups and downs but for the most part has found a successful role for himself as the other super soldier – U.S. Agent.

     

    Thor Odinson was replaced by Eric Masterson The Circumstances: When the Mighty Thor goes missing it falls upon the mortal shoulders of Eric Masterson, an architect and single father, to bear the weight of the hammer and winged helmet.  Later, when Masterson, alongside Doctor Strange and the Silver Surfer, storm the gates of hell, it is revealed that the demon Mephisto actually holds the true thunder god captive (see Thor #443).  The Legacy: As a reward for his heroic stand-in as the god of thunder, Masterson was given his own hammer of power and became the mighty Thunderstrike.  Masterson willingly gave his life to prevent a terrible evil from walking the realm of man.  Years later, Eric Masterson’s son, Kevin, would take on the mantle of Thunderstrike and become a part of the next generation of Marvel Heroes (see The Heroic Age and A-Next).

     

    Peter Parker was replaced by Ben Reilly The Circumstances: During the infamous Clone Saga, a scientific test proved that Peter Parker was in fact a clone and that Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider, was in fact the true Spider-Man.  Parker retired and set off to raise his unborn child with Mary Jane and Reilly became Spider-Man.  However, this was all just part of the diabolical master plan of the sinister Jackal and it was not long before the one true Spider-Man returned to his web-swinging ways.  The Legacy:  It was Reilly who represented the 616 in the war between Marvel and DC.  However, in order to save their family and friends, Reilly would make the ultimate sacrifice fighting the Green Goblin side-by-side with Peter Parker.

     

    The Reign of the Supermen The Circumstances: The Man of Steel had fallen in battle against the monster Doomsday (see The Death of Superman).  But the world needs a Superman.  It got four.  Four mysterious strangers answered the call and the DCU has never been the same again.  The Legacy:  These four new Supermen have gone on to become integral parts of the Superman Family and the DC Universe in general.  John Henry Irons as Steel has become a stalwart member of the Justice League.  Connor Kent as Superboy was one of the most popular teen heroes of the 90s and has been a perennial member of both Young Justice and the Teen Titans ever since.  The Eradicator has proven over the years to be both foe and ally to the Last Son of Krypton and has given Superman more insight into his origins.  And, the Cyborg-Superman has grown into one of the Man of Steel’s greatest adversaries and even served in the sinister Sinestro Corps.

     

    Peter Parker was replaced by Otto Octavius The Circumstances: After years of suffering defeat after defeat at the hands of that wretched Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus, now a crippled, withering shadow of his former self, finally defeats his greatest foe.  He does so by using his super science to actually swap bodies with his foe, placing his mind in the super strong body of Spider-Man and Parker’s mind in the rapidly dying body of Doctor Octopus.  In their final showdown, Parker dies and the Superior Spider-Man is born!  The Legacy: For two years, this perineal super villain played the role of anti-hero. He struggled with his selfish desires for world domination and a growing conscience gnawing at the back of his skull constantly goading him to do the right thing.  That “growing conscience” was in fact the spirit of Peter Parker. Some readers may not have warmed up to Otto Octavius as Spider-Man but this is for certain, the Superior Spider-Man run was fresh, different, and highly entertaining.   

     

    The concept of a female Thor is not a new one.  What If…? #10 explores the incredible alternate Marvel History of What If Jane Foster Had Discovered the Hammer of Thor?!  In the Asgardian Wars storyline, Loki uses his sinister sorcery to transform Storm of the X-Men into a Goddess of Thunder.  And, who can forget the Designate, a celestial child that took to calling herself Thor Girl?  Plus, there have been no fewer than six men that have donned the mantle of Captain America.  There’s Steve Rogers the First Avengers, the ill-fated William Burnside, the Captain America of the 1950s, John Walker, the aggressive Cap of the 1980s, most recently Bucky Barnes, Cap’s wartime partner, and now Sam Wilson.  As Cap’s longest running partner and best friend, Falcon is the Captain America replacement that probably makes the most since.  Also, less we forget, there was a Captain America before Steve Rogers.  In the tale Red, White and Black, a story that retcons Marvel History and is cannon in the 616, Isaiah Bradley, an African American, is in fact the first man to shoulder the mantle of Captain America.       

     

    One thing to remember, and it’s a powerful lesson the Odinson himself had to learn during the infamous Clone Saga, is that change is constant.  As a lifelong comic fan, I can sympathize with those resisting this new status quo in the Marvel Universe.  When I learned that Peter Parker, the Spider-Man I had been reading my whole life up to that point, was the clone and Ben Reilly was in fact the real Spider-Man, a switch suggested to have taken place around the Original Clone Saga, I nearly turned my back on the medium and actually even walked away from comics for a year.  But change gives creators a chance to stretch their creative muscles and try new and oft times exciting things.   

     

    I’ve learned over the years that sometimes change can be good and even for the better.  For without change, Hal Jordan would never have been Green Lantern and Barry Allen would never have been the Flash.

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

     

  • The Odinson Revisits Superman: The Movie

    Greetings from the Odinson,

     

    This past weekend, the Odinson took an afternoon to revisit a classic movie and one of his all-time favorite comic related films – Superman: The Movie (1978).  I cannot quite put into words the effect this film has had on me over the years.  It’s one of the earliest movie-going experience in my memory, and to this day every time the John Williams score kicks in, goose-bumps run up and down my arm.  Williams is the composer behind such legendary films as Jaws, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, so it should come as no surprise that the theme for Superman has become equally as legendary.  Along with the first Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Superman: The Movie is not only a great comic book movie, it is darn near a perfect movie.         

     

    Right up front let me address the nearly universal single complaint about this film – Superman flies around the Earth and reverses time.  That along with the new super powers that the Man of Steel displays in his Fortress of Solitude showdown with the Kryptonian villains in Superman 2 seem to be the loudest complaints I continue to hear about these films.  Here’s the Odinson’s take on these jeers. 

     

    As for his unexplained new super abilities, I believe one day it will be revealed that part of Superman’s arsenal of super human abilities will be that he can do whatever he thinks he do.  This was hinted at once in the Brian Azzarello/Jim Lee tale For Tomorrow when Father Leone asks the Man of Tomorrow if he can cure cancer.  With a slight moment of reflection Superman replies, “I don’t know.  I’ve never tried.  And I won’t.”  This shows that Superman is well aware of his god-like powers but has absolutely no intentions of becoming a god to the humans he has sworn to protect.  His Kryptonian father, Jor-El, told him through the miracle of the Kryptonian soul crystals that it is forbidden for Kal-El to interfere with the course of human history.  While his adoptive Earth father, Pa Kent, also told him that he was put here for a reason.  This brings me to the infamous flying backwards around the Earth scene.  I don’t take this as Superman literally reversing the rotation of the planet.  I see it as a clever visual representation of the Man of Steel using his immense super speed to travel back in time to prevent the disaster before it happens.  That’s how I interpret that scene.     

     

    Now onto the greatness. 

     

    Superman: The Movie can be broken down into three definitive acts.  Act I is his origin.  To this day, from the destruction of Krypton to Clark Kent’s formative years in Smallville, no movie, cartoon, TV show, or comic has shown this part of Superman’s life better than this film.  In fact, it is this part of the film that inspired the long running television series Smallville.  Act II is the introduction of Superman to the world.  And, Act III is the showdown with the man who will become his greatest enemy – Lex Luthor.   

     

    The other aspect of this film that makes it an all-timer is its respect for the Mythology.  Everything is here – doomed Krypton, Smallville, the Fortress of Solitude, Metropolis and the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and, of course, Lex Luthor.  In the way Tim Burton’s Batman film captures the gothic, dark intimate feel of the comics starring the Dark Knight Detective, Superman: The Movie feels like a Superman movie.  It’s big in scope, broad and epic in feel.  When I go to a Superman movie I want to see Superman doing Superman things.  So it should come as no surprise that my two favorite sequences in the film are the Man of Steel’s introduction to the world and the epic climax of the film when Superman prevents the west coast from falling into the sea.    

     

    When Lois Lane is dangling out of the wrecked helicopter and only moments away from plummeting a hundred stories to her certain doom, the audience sees for the first time on the Big Screen that iconic moment when Clark Kent rips open his shirt to reveal the immortal “S” and Superman explodes into action.  Not only does the Man of Steel save the girl and the gathering crowd below from the falling helicopter, but over the course of the next ten minutes or so, the audience is treated to a day-in-the-life of a superhero.  From catching a cat burglar to capturing bank robbers to saving Air Force One, this series of scenes beautifully illustrates the awesome spectacle of the super hero.  Superman even takes a moment to get a little girl’s cat down from a tree.  This montage is simply wonderful.  The climax of the film is even more spectacular!  

     

    Superman unbelievably chases down a nuclear missile and prevents it from destroying Hackensack, New Jersey, but despite what How it Should Have Ended has shown us, the Man of Steel cannot be in two places at once.  The second missile slams into the San Andreas Fault and California begins to fall into the sea.  What happens next is, to this day, the most spectacular Superman sequence of heroics I have ever seen.  First, the Man of Steel dives into the molten magma that lies below the Earth’s crust and like the immortal titan, Atlas, who held the weight of the heavens on his mighty shoulders, Superman unbelievably lifts the entire west coast back into place.  Dealing with the aftershocks of the earthquake, Superman saves a busload of kids from plummeting into the San Francisco Bay.  He prevents a speeding locomotive from crashing.  And he takes a moment to not only save his pal Jimmy Olsen from certain death but like the legendary Hercules, Superman changes the course of a mighty river before it can flood and wipeout a small hamlet.  Now that’s the kind stuff I want to see in a Superman movie.

     

    The cast and crew for this film was top shelf.  It was written by Mario Puzo, the man who wrote The Godfather.  It was produced by Alexander Salkind (The Three Musketeers) and directed by the great Richard Donner (The Goonies, Lethal Weapon I-IV).  From Marlon Brando (Jor-El) to Terrance Stamp (General Zod) to Glenn Ford (Pa Kent) to Jackie Cooper (Perry White), the cast is full of A-List stars of that time who all brought their A-Game.  Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane is sexy, feisty, and inquisitive and always seems to be right at the center of trouble, just like her comic book counterpart.  And, Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor is smart, arrogant, arch, and funny without being an over-the-top parody.  In fact, the humor in the film is part of its charm, especially the chemistry between Hackman and Ned Beatty’s Otis.  Try not to laugh when you hear the word “Otisburg?!” 

     

    However, the absolute heart and soul of the film is, without a doubt, the late great Christopher Reeve (Superman).  Reeve’s portrayal of Superman is so picture perfect that it brings a tear to my eye.  He has the utter joy and twinkle in his eye of a Curt Swan Superman and the lean, heroic modern build of a Neal Adams Superman.  The way he transforms his posture and mannerism between his mild-manner Clark Kent persona and the stalwart Man of Steel are absolutely brilliant.  This is a performance emulated by artist Frank Quitely in the pages of All Star Superman.  And the Superman costume is bright and beautiful and unapologetically loyal to the source material, and it works, red shorts and all.  Christopher Reeves will forever be Superman to me. 

     

    I love this film.  Nearly forty years later it still grabs me and has an effect on me like few movies.  Every time that John Williams theme kicks in and Clark Kent rips open his shirt to reveal the iconic “S,” I’m a kid again.  Even if you can’t get past the whole reversing time angle, revisit this film and enjoy the magic.  The special FX hold up, the acting is top notch, the origin is perfect, the humor is wonderful, and the mythology is respected.  Superman: The Movie is fantastic!   

     

    Odinson Rating: 5 out of 5 Hammers and a Thunderclap.        

     

    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

     

  • 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