Greetings from the Odinson,
Flash Gordon is one of the most beloved movies from my childhood. At a time, the 80s, when the sci-fi genre was taking a darker and grittier turn, as shown in movies like Blade Runner, Terminator, and Aliens, Flash Gordon was a bright and colorful romp full of splendid characters and strange and alien landscapes to spark the imagination. Though the film wasn’t a “Box Office hit” and the special effects are less than spectacular, it has achieved a cult following and the effects add to the charm and pay homage to the old serials that it is based on.
The film was anchored by an all-star cast including Timothy “007” Dalton as Prince Barin, Sam Jones and Melody Anderson as the leads Flash and Dale Arden, the sultry and exotic Ornella Nuti as Princess Aura, and the magnificent Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless. It’s probably one of the most quotable movies, second only to The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Who could forget Dale Arden enthusiastically cheering her hero on “Go Flash, go…,” or the boisterous hawkman Prince Vultan’s adrenaline fueled “DIVE!” One of the real gems of this movie is the soundtrack provided by the legendary rock group Queen. The rythms of the film run the gambit from sexy and melodic to the driving hero theme that has had fanboys everywhere singing for over three decades now.
Inspired by Buck Rogers, Falsh Gordon was created by artist Alex Raymond in 1934. Though Flash has not achieved the modern popularity or pop culture success of Superman or Spider-Man, he is the quintessential sci-fi hero and the inspiration for many others that followed (Adam Strange, Star Wars, and Challengers of the Unknown). Raymond’s original comic strips have been collected in a series of beautiful hardcovers (see Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond), and for years readers could follow the adventures of Flash Gordon and his comrades in the Flash Gordon comics published by King, Charlton, and Gold Key. One of my favorite incarnations of Raymond’s creation was in a short-lived 1980s cartoon entitled Defenders of the Earth. Here Flash teams up with Mandrake the Magician and his assistant Lothar and the Phantom to battle the evil forces of Ming the Merciless. It was a fun cartoon about the heroes prepping their children to be the next generation of heroes in the fight for justice. Marvel Comics adapted it in Defenders of the Earth (1987) #1-4. Another incarnation was handled by comic veteran Dan Jurgens (Death of Superman). In Flash Gordon (1988 DC) #1-9, like many of the DC titles at that time, Jurgens updates Gordon’s origin for a new generation with a few tweaks here and there, making the adventure no the less entertaining.
The 1980 Flash Gordon movie was one of my favorites as a kid and it was wonderful to relive those memories with the 25th Anniversary DVD. The DVD also includes an interview with renowned painter Alex Ross (Marvels, Kingdom Come) who talks about how the character influenced his career. If you’ve never seen it and you’re a fan of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi camp you should definitely check it out. And if you’re like me and you’ve seen it dozens of times, much like The Princess Bride, it just gets better everytime you see it
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Entries for month: September 2011
September 26, 2011 · 1 Comment
Greetings from the Odinson,
September 16, 2011 · 1 Comment
Greetings from the Odinson,
CORRECTION: Last week I referred to Goliath, the hero that died during the events of Civil War, as John Foster. I know his name is not John, I don’t know why I insisted on calling him John, but thankfully Lone Star customer Chris S. wrote in and corrected my mistake. Goliath’s civilian name is actually Bill Foster.
Now on to this week’s column...
DC Comics re-launched its universe with the New 52, and it has been a huge success! Issues are actually selling out before they even hit the stands. That is simply amazing. Not since the Death of Superman have issues flown off the shelves the way these are doing. The Odinson is rather enjoying all this because barely four months ago, I read article after article and blogs and emails from comic retailers, readers and fans, old and young, about how they were drawing a line in the sand and they were done with comics. I had to hear from, not everyone but a lot of people, about how this New 52 was a bad idea and how it was going to ruin comics.
Back in June, shortly after DC Comics made their announcement about the New 52, I declared that it was a good idea and gave reasons why (see The Odinson Talks About the Big Announcement: The New DCU and The Odinson has More to Say about the Big Announcement from DC Comics). And I stand by what I said. This kind of retooling probably needs to be done once every 25 years or so. It’s good for the business. It’s good for the characters. It revitalizes and breathes new energy into the scene. When the characters of the Golden Age had run their course, in 1961 The Marvel Age exploded onto the scene and reinvigorated the medium. Then in the 80s, Crisis on Infinite Earths gave DC Comics a much needed charge of energy and books like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and Crisis set the standard for storytelling for the next twenty years. In 2000, Ultimate Spider-Man launched a whole new universe and redefined those characters for a whole new generation. Every one of these examples was a huge success, both financially and creatively. And now it is happening once again with the New 52.
The enthusiasm the creators and execs at DC showed for this endeavor was quite infectious. They went above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen to promote this milestone in Comics History. They even went so far as to run television commercials for it. When was the last time anyone saw a commercial on TV for comic books? I can’t even think of an example. I have friends that have not bought a single comic book since the early 90s and even they were showing interest in the announcement of the New 52. Now if the New 52 is getting people who haven’t picked up a comic in twenty years to come back to the comic shops to check this out, I say that’s a good thing. Nay, that’s fantastic!
Now, the most important question is: Are the comics good?
I’ve previewed all the #1’s that have come out so far and here are my Top 5 picks:
Justice League #1 – Written by Geoff Johns with art by Jim Lee, need I say more? Whether I do or not I am going to. This book, simply put, is beautiful. Jim Lee’s art is kinetic and John’s dialogue is witty. In this first issue set “5 years ago,” in a time before the World’s Greatest Heroes have met one another, the Dark Knight Detective has stumbled upon a mysterious conspiracy that could mean the end of the world. Along the way he meets Green Lantern, a hero so cocky and confident in his power he makes Hawkeye seem tame. The issue ends with a scene so delicious that it had the Odinson laughing out loud. A+
Action Comics #1 – Grant Morrison was born to write the Man of Steel. He has already scribed arguably the greatest Superman epic of the modern era (All Star Superman), and now he helms the flagship title of the company that started it all. Rags Morales’ artwork has never looked better. I always liked his quirky art style back in the 80s when he was doing Forgotten Realms, but he has improved leaps and bounds over the years. This is a Clark Kent at the very beginning of his super hero career. Just out of Smallville, not yet the star reporter for the Daily Planet, nor is he the apple in Lois Lane’s eye. His extraordinary abilities have not yet reached their true potential. Clark is a man that knows right from wrong but he is struggling how to use his amazing powers within the limits of the laws of man. He does make mistakes. Grant Morrison is going to explore how the Last Son of Krypton grows and matures to become the greatest super hero the world has ever known. And I for one can’t wait to see it all unfold. A+
Stormwatch #1 – Now this little gem is easily the sleeper hit of the New 52. I was one of the few (or rather one of the few that will admit it openly) who actually enjoyed the original Stormwatch series. This book takes the best elements of that series, the best elements of Authority, mixes in a cosmic threat beyond imagination, and tosses in the Martian Manhunter for good measure. This is yet another issue that leaves the reader wanting more. And in the periodical business that is a good thing. A++
Deathstroke #1 – Bring on the Bad Guy. I have never been one that roots for the bad guys. That being said, Slade Wilson is just so darn interesting. The original Terminator is one of the most complex and interesting characters ever created (by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in the now classic New Teen Titans #2). One day he could be trying to topple a malevolent dictatorship in a foreign country and the next he could be trying to take down a team of sidekick super heroes whom he blames for the death of his son (The Judas Contract). One day he could be fighting side-by-side and actually leading the Justice League into battle (Panic in the Sky) and the next trying to dismantle the World’s Greatest Heroes in defense of another super villain (Identity Crisis). It all just depends on his mood or who is paying the bill, and how much. In the New DCU, Slade is the world’s premiere assassin/gun-for-hire but there are those out here that believe he is past his prime. The Odinson for one cannot think of anything more dangerous than the man called Deathstroke setting out to prove them all wrong. A-
Green Lantern #1 – Where do I begin with this unique take without giving too much away? Needless to say, this tale picks up right after the shocking events of The War of the Green Lanterns. A new Lantern has been chosen and not everyone is happy about it, including the Lantern himself. His new role in the DCU will put him at odds with old enemies and possibly make new ones of his current allies. Meanwhile, a powerless hero is finding it hard to break old habits and even harder to find a place for himself in a world where he is not a Green Lantern. This is probably the most jarring twist on the Green Lantern mythos since 1959 when the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, replaced the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott. B+
Batman and Robin #1 was also a solid read, like Green Lantern, it pretty much stays true to the established continuity. And if super villains are your thing then you should definitely check out Suicide Squad #1. It’s a guilty pleasure that will leave you screaming for the next issue.
I am waiting, albeit impatiently, for Dick Grayson’s triumphant return as Nightwing and the fabulous Greg Capullo (Spawn) doing art for Batman. The #1’s so far seem to be a hit with fans old and new. The New 52 and the New DCU seem to be off to a tremendous start. Now, let’s see what happens when we get to issue #3 and 4. I for one hope this thrilling ride lasts.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
September 09, 2011 · 1 Comment
Greetings from the Odinson,
I have a bone to pick with Wonder Man. In the triumphant aftermath of Siege, the world of Marvel climbed out of the shadow of the Dark Reign and entered the Heroic Age. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were assembled in full strength and unity for the first time since Avengers Disassembled. All the world’s greatest heroes standing shoulder-to-shoulder to usher in a better, brighter future and stand against the dark forces that would threaten mankind, all save one - Simon Williams, a.k.a. Wonder Man.
Empowered with ionic-energy, Simon’s body is nearly impervious to harm, his super human strength rivals even the mighty Thor’s, and the energy within him slows his aging making him nearly immortal. Originally, Simon was recruited by Baron Heinrich Zemo’s Masters of Evil to help them destroy the Avengers. But Simon decided to become a hero instead and joined the Avengers in their never-ending battle against the forces of evil (see Avengers #9).
For years, Wonder Man fought alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. He even died, twice, as a hero defending justice (first in Avengers #9 and second in Force Works #1). The Scarlet Witch’s chaos magic brought Simon back to life during the Avengers’ campaign against Morgan Le Fey. But something has seemed off about him ever since his return. In Avengers #2, Wonder Man refuses Steve Roger’s offer to rejoin the team. He gives his former field commander a word of warning that there will be consequences if the Avengers reassemble. Since that ominous warning Simon has not been heard from – until now.
In New Avengers Annual #1, Wonder Man has returned, and he is not alone. Simon has assembled a hit squad of super human agents and he plans to take out the Avengers once and for all. What could have possibly turned this one time hero against his friends? It seems that he has convinced himself that the top five worst things to happen to the world are the Avengers’ fault.
Ultron – Ultron was created by Hank Pym, a founding member of the team, and has grown to become one of the biggest threats ever to mankind. Thousands of lives have been lost to this mechanical monstrosity that can never seem to truly be defeated, only delayed, and with every new incarnation Ultron grows stronger, and smarter.
Scarlet Witch – Wanda Maximoff’s affinity for chaos magic over the years slowly drove her insane, right under the noses of her teammates and friends. Three times she has given in to her dark side (Nights of Wundagore, Acts of Vengeance, and Avengers Disassembled), until finally, she crossed the line and brought mutantkind to the brink of extinction in House of M. This one probably cuts especially deep with Simon because of his past love affair with the Scarlet Witch.
Civil War – This battle tore the super hero community in two and pitted friend against friend, even family against family. Good people died during this conflict and now Simon believes that it was all for nothing.
The Hulk – Simon doesn’t understand why the Avengers haven’t done anything about the Hulk. All the damage, death and destruction the Hulk has wrought, Simon blames on the Avengers, because as the world’s premiere super human strike force the responsibility of stopping such a threat falls to them.
The Dark Avengers – In the wake of Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn usurped control of SHIELD from Iron Man and assembled a team of super villains to enforce his will during his Dark Reign. During this dark time, the Avengers actually became fugitives, hiding in back alleys and safe houses, running from the law and branded as outlaws. The world had turned upside down.
All right, Simon has some points, but the Odinson does not agree with all of them.
Ultron is akin to the discovery of nuclear power. Is it the fault of James Chadwick, Otto Hahn , and all the other scientists whose research led to the discovery of this new energy source that one day someone would use it to make weapons of mass destruction? Ultron is a major threat to be sure, but he was born out of a benevolent intent. Ultron’s AI twisted its original programming and it is now a huge problem that Avengers do take responsibility for. Every time this mechanical monster shows up, Earth’s mightiest Heroes assemble to take him down.
The Scarlet Witch just went nuts. Her brother is the manipulating Quicksilver and her father, Magneto, is one of the most notorious terrorists to ever walk the earth. She was born a mutant, hated and feared by others for being different. And when she was a teenager, Magneto forced her and her brother to join his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It was the Avengers that gave her a chance at a new life, a better life, one of courage and conviction. Captain America attempted to mold her into a force for justice. The Avengers helped Wanda find the right path, and for a long time she walked it, even at one point becoming the leader of the team. But it was not meant to be. The disturbing circumstances of her youth, her unfortunate lineage, a failed marriage, and the loss of her children broke down all her mental defenses and left Wanda’s mind susceptible to the influences of chaos. I really don’t see how the Scarlet Witch losing her mind is the Avengers’ fault.
Now he has a point with the Civil War. This mishap reeked of two great men just unwilling to back down from a fight. I understood the argument both sides brought to the table, but it never should have escalated to the point where heroes were battling heroes in the streets of New York City. John Foster, a.k.a. Goliath lost his life, and Captain America was ultimately assassinated. The Civil War also left the planet in disarray and vulnerable to the Skrull Secret Invasion. And don’t even get me started on the ill-advised machinations of the so called Illuminati.
That brings me to the Hulk. I am so sick of the way people in the 616 view the Hulk. Everyone just concentrates on the fact that he is a monster. All he ever wanted was to be left alone. Did anyone ever consider that maybe if they did that, the Hulk might just be content to live in some remote sector of the New Mexico desert? Here’s what gets me riled up when it comes to the Jade Giant. It seems that everyone has just completely forgotten all the times that the Incredible Hulk has saved the planet. Whether on his own or alongside the other heroes of Earth, the Hulk has saved the world just as many times, if not more, than any other hero alive. Plus, Simon mentions that the Hulk has killed people. I don’t remember reading those stories (other than alternate realities, unrealized futures, and What Ifs?). The Illuminati did try to take care of the “Hulk problem” by blasting him into space (see Planet Hulk). Just check out World War Hulk to see the results of that brilliant plan. If the Hulk ever gets too out of control, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will always be there to corral him (see Incredible Hulk #300, 316, and 321-322). The Hulk has done way more good than bad. The Marvel Universe just hasn’t found the right way to interact with him yet. Besides, Simon is probably just trying to avoid that final confrontation with the Hulk in the pages of The Last Avengers Story.
And finally, how in the world is Simon going to blame the Avengers for the Dark Avengers? Norman Osborn is a brilliant man, insane, but brilliant none the less. He manipulated a situation and took power. It didn’t hurt either that he had the power of the Sentry and Ares the God of War at his back to help enforce his rule.
Wonder Man has had his say and now the Odinson has had his. In the end, Simon can point fingers all day long, and from street level crime to a tsunami in Asia to drought in Africa, Wonder Man can blame all the world’s woes on the Avengers. That does not make what he has decided to do right. Wonder Man has made it his mission to take down the Avengers. He has assembled a team and his first strike took place in the pages of New Avengers Annual #1. His quest to dismantle the Avengers continues in Avengers Annual #1.
I can’t help but think that there is more at work here than meets the eye. How could a hero like Wonder Man have such a strong change in character? Is he being manipulated by an outside force? After witnessing the events of New Avengers Annual #1, Wonder Man, a former Avenger, may accomplish what Doctor Doom, Count Nefaria, and the Masters of Evil could not – the total annihilation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
September 02, 2011 · 1 Comment
Greetings from the Odinson,
Since the very beginning mankind has challenged the gods. As Hercules: The Legendary Journeys tells us, in ancient times the gods were petty and cruel. And mankind suffered because of it. That was until from their ranks, heroes rose up to challenge the gods. Heroes like mighty Hercules himself, a mortal man with the strength of an immortal. Achilles raged against Apollo at the gates of Troy no matter the consequences he knew he would have to face. Cunning Odysseus outsmarted, outmaneuvered, and overcame every single obstacle Lord Poseidon could throw his way on his long journey home after the Trojan War. And, in Clash of the Titans, brave Perseus slew the gorgon Medusa and defeated the towering leviathan known as the Kraken to stop the mad schemes of a jilted and jealous goddess.
Mortal men and women taking up arms and challenging the whims of powerful beings is nothing new to the worlds of imagination. As time has slipped now into the modern myths and legends, nothing has changed. Heroes, and sometimes even villains, are still challenging the power of the gods.
The earliest example of this I can remember reading is Defenders (1972-1986 1st Series) #66-68. In order to help their friend Valkyrie stop a mad god from usurping the power of death, the uncanny Defenders invade the Golden Realm. Here we are treated to one of the most astonishing feats of strength as the Incredible Hulk uses his unbridled fury to actually demolish an entire mountain. That alone is worth the price of admission. I absolutely love the original Clash of the Titans movie, even if later I found out that it was a very loose translation of the actual legend. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Medusa scared the bejesus out of me. So when my favorite teen heroes, the Teen Titans, challenged the real titans of myth in a battle for the ages, I was overjoyed. The titan Hyperion has escaped Tartarus and enchanted Donna Troy to be his consort. Well, Robin and the gang are not going to sit idly by and allow one of their own to be used in such a fashion, even if it means challenging immortals whose powers dwarf their own (see New Teen Titans #11-12).
One of the all time best drawn comic books is the 1-shot New Mutants Special Edition (1985). Art team Arthur Adams and Terry Austin are at their all time best as they render the senses-shattering sights of the Nine Worlds in all their majestic glory. Asgard, its surrounding kingdoms, and its denizens never looked so good. Here we see the next generation of X-Men get caught up in the machinations of a diabolical plot by none other than Loki himself. It’s a tale that carries over into Uncanny X-Men Annual #9. This duel between Loki and the Children of the Atom would become known as The Asgardian Wars.
One of my personal favorites was the Avengers Assault on Olympus storyline. Hercules had been injured and fallen into a coma during the Masters of Evil’s raid on Avengers Mansion (see Under Siege). It seems poppa Zeus, King of the Olympian Gods, was not too keen on his son being so gravely injured while in the company of mere mortals. Around the world, Avengers were being kidnapped and imprisoned in the dungeons of Mount Olympus. One of the most memorable scenes is when Lord Poseidon himself captures a bewildered Prince Namor from the very depths of the ocean floor. The Avengers, still reeling from the attack by the Masters of Evil, are taken completely unawares and suddenly find themselves at the mercy of deities from an age long since past. Luckily for our heroes, not all of the immortals in Zeus’ court agreed with his blatant interference with mortal affairs, and the Avengers soon found allies. What a sight to behold, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in pitched battle with the legendary Gods of Olympus.
In the Challenge of the Gods, Wonder Woman and her mother, Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons, must face terrible obstacles set forth by the gods in order to save mankind and secure the future of Paradise Island. Along the way they must overcome the many-headed hydra, the towering cycloptic Polythemus, and the legendary strength of the man-eating Minotaur.
In Blood and Thunder, not even the combined might of Adam Warlock, Beta Ray Bill, and the Silver Surfer can contain a god of thunder gone mad. The mighty Thor has fallen under the thrall of a bewitching siren and now he is cutting a swath of destruction through the cosmos. The heroes have no choice but to seek help from “gasp” the Mad Titan. But the true gem of this piece comes from seeing the Silver Surfer and Thanos square off against the All Father himself. If you ever wanted to know where Odin fit into the hierarchy of power in the Marvel Universe, look no further than this amazing spectacle of cosmic power unleashed as he takes on both the wielder of the Power Cosmic and the most powerful Eternal at once.
Speaking of Thanos and challenging the gods, absolutely nothing can compare to the time the Mad Titan, empowered by the Infinity Gauntlet, actually goes to war with the omnipotents of the Marvel Universe. After Thanos has already defeated the mightiest heroes in the cosmos, he must now face the unimaginable power of the Stranger, Lord Order and Master Chaos, Chronos, the Celestials, Mistress Love and Sire Hate, Mephisto, Eon, Galactus, Lady Death, and Eternity (see Infinity Gauntlet #5). The Celestials actually use entire planets as weapons against the Mad Titan, but alas, Thanos stands victorious and the universe is doomed. Or is it? Check out Infinity Gauntlet to see what happens next.
In Rock of Ages, arguably one of the greatest super hero epics ever, time-displaced members of the Justice League bear witness to a dystopian future where planet Earth has come under the rule of the Dark Gods of Apokolips. Superman is dead, the Flash is crippled, and all that remains to defy Darkseid’s rule is a ragtag band of heroes facing an impossible challenge. As the final confrontation goes down, one-by-one heroes begin to fall until there are only two remaining. It’s Green Arrow and the Atom vs. Darkseid with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, and you won’t believe your eyes when you see the ultimate outcome.
More recently, during Siege, Norman Osborn, backed by the immense power of the Sentry and Ares the God of War, took a contingent of super villains and marched on an earthbound Asgard. The villains were able to challenge the gods because Loki, ever the trickster, gave them access to the mystical Norn Stones, which amplified their super powers. This epic battle saw the fall of Osborn’s Dark Reign, the death of three of the most powerful beings on Earth, the triumphant return of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes back into the spotlight, and ushered in the Heroic Age.
In God Smash, the Incredible Hulk has had enough of being manipulated by the Powers that Be. In the wake of the Chaos War, tired of always coming up short and feeling a bit like life has dealt him and his a raw deal, the Jade Giant lays siege to the newly reformed Mount Olympus and plans to force the gods to help his friends and family, for once. He will soon learn that is easier said than done. The Hulk is the mightiest mortal to ever walk the earth, but how does even his immense strength compare to the immortal power of a god king like Zeus? And what would be the repercussions of a mere mortal with the audacity to actually challenge the gods? If you thought Zeus was mad about the Avengers' Assault on Olympus, just wait till you see what he has in store for the Green Goliath.
From Hercules to the Hulk, from Jason and the Argonauts to the Avengers, why does mortal man always feel the need to challenge the gods? I guess what it boils down to is that freedom and free will are the most important assets a man can have and not even the gods can take that away.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell