Entries for month: May 2012
Greetings from the Odinson,
When it comes to super heroes nobody has bigger and better heroes than Marvel and DC. These are the Big Two, the companies that set the standard for others to follow. Their characters have endured for so long that they have reached iconic status. Say the names Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk, Wonder Woman or X-Men and all across the world people, young and old, recognize them. But heroes are only as great as the villains that challenge them. If the threats weren’t big enough, then the amazing exploits of our champions wouldn’t seem so amazing and their tales would have dissipated into the mist of time and forgotten. For every Secret Origin, for every First Class, for every hero there is a villain, several in fact, these dastardly ne’er-do-wells that either want to rule the world or simply worship chaos.
So whose heroes have the biggest challenges? Whose Rogues Gallery consists of the wickedest and most dangerous super villains ever conceived - Marvel’s or DC’s? In this 5-part column, the Odinson intends to find out. There’s only one place to start and that’s with the companies’ two biggest stars.
Rogue War Part 1: Batman’s Rogues vs. Spider-Man’s Rogues
In Gotham City there is a place where the sane dare not venture. It is a foreboding old structure that houses the most criminally insane and diabolical minds in the world. The place is called Arkham Asylum. This where Gotham City imprisons the most dangerous criminals, but no mere walls of brick and mortar can contain these fiendish Rogues. The Batman is a dark and menacing figure, and his foes are a dark reflection of himself.
Two-Face is a tragic figure indeed. Once upon a time, Harvey Dent was Gotham’s District Attorney, and he fought just as hard as the Batman to keep the streets of Gotham safe. But a terrible incident left his face horribly scarred and his mind fractured. Obsessed with the number two, a side effect of the dual personalities constantly jockeying for position inside his head, a flip of the coin is the difference between life and death for Harvey Two-Face’s victims.
The Batman is the world’s greatest living detective, and it’s a good thing too. Some of his foes have the most devious minds and can concoct the most outlandish traps and pitfalls ever to challenge a champion of justice. Edward Nigma is just such a Rogue. As the Riddler, his crimes are always accompanied by purposely placed clues and riddles to lead the Caped Crusader on a merry chase that usually culminates with a wicked trap. Oswald Cobblepot is the diminutive disfigured mob boss known as the Penguin, a villain with an affinity for birds and a collection of trick umbrellas designed to confuse and murder his adversaries. Catwoman is a master thief and quite possibly the most complex of Batman’s Rogues for she is just as likely to help the Caped Crusader save the day as she is to claw his eyes out.
The dark halls of Arkham are filled with fiendish foes that challenge the Dark Knight both physically and mentally. The Scarecrow is a former psychologist and an expert in fear that has concocted a fear gas that causes his victims to experience horrifying hallucinations and, if not treated in time, death. Poison Ivy, an alluring beauty, can kill with a kiss. And Jervis Tetch is the infamous Mad Hatter, a technological wizard who’s quite insane. He uses his super science to enslave others to his will.
There are also those Rogues that challenge the Caped Crusader in a different way by pushing his physical skills to their limits. Killer Croc is a disfigured criminal whose reptilian outer appearance reflects his brutal personality. Bane is a hulking brute whose already great strength is augmented even further with the use of a performance-enhancing substance called Venom. Dr. Kirk Langstrom is a scientist that while trying to find a cure for deafness creates a serum from the DNA of bats, but the serum has an unusual side effect. It transforms him into the monstrous creature the world has come to know as the Man-Bat. All three of these monsters are physically stronger than Batman, and they push the Dark Knight’s endurance to its limits every time they face off.
Batman’s most tragic adversary is Mr. Freeze. Dr. Victor Fries was a brilliant scientist trying to find a cure for his wife who had fallen ill with a fatal disease. He placed her in cryogenic sleep to preserve her but when she died he lost his mind, and his humanity. After an accident, Freeze is forced to spend eternity trapped inside a temperature-controlled exosuit. Now his heart is as cold as the subzero degree temperature he must remain in or he will die.
One of Batman’s most challenging foes is Ra’s Al Ghul. Ghul is the leader of the notorious League of Assassins. He’s as smart as Batman and worse, he knows Batman is actually Bruce Wayne. To make matters even more complicated, Bruce Wayne and Ra’s daughter, Talia, have a son together named Damian (see Son of the Demon and Batman and Son). Ra’s Al Ghul is made even more dangerous by the fact that he is virtually unkillable. He has lived for over a century and can recover from mortal wounds by bathing in the mystical waters of his infamous Lazarus Pits.
But far and away the Dark Knight’s most dangerous adversary is the Joker. Nobody perplexes and challenges the Batman like the Clown Prince of Crime. Utterly insane, the Joker is not motivated by anything in the world other than chaos and has left a body count in his wake of astronomical proportions. Fiendishly clever, he has concocted a substance called Smiley Gas that murders its victims and leaves them with an eternal grin that matches the Joker’s own. His partner in crime is Harley Quinn, a former psychologist that worked at Arkham Asylum but when she tried to match wits with the Joker she was driven insane and developed an unnatural attraction for the villain. Bane may have broken Batman’s back, but nobody has ever hurt Batman the way Joker has. In A Death in the Family, the Joker murdered Jason Todd, the second Robin, and in The Killing Joke, the Joker shot Barbara Gordon, crippling Batgirl and sentencing her to life in a wheelchair (all this is pre-New 52 of course). The Joker and Batman are destined to fight forever until the day one of them is dead.
Batman’s Rogues Gallery Rounds out with: Clayface, Catman, Black Mask, KGBeast, Hush, Deadshot, and the Court of Owls.
Now Spider-Man’s Rogues bring a whole different kind of challenge to the table. There’s a personal connection between our hero and many of the foes he fights. Dr. Curt Connors was one of Peter Parker’s professors. He lost his arm in the war and was working on a formula involving the regenerative properties of reptiles to help wounded vets grow back their lost limbs. Unfortunately, Connors formula backfired, and now he transforms into the monster known as the Lizard. The Green Goblin is secretly Norman Osborn, head of the mega corporation Oscorp and father to Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s best friend. Doctor Octopus was once romantically involved with Peter’s Aunt May and they even almost got married.
Spider-Man is known for having the proportionate strength and speed of his namesake, but the Rogues he goes up against have powers and abilities even more varied and strange than his own. Sandman is a small-time crook whose body chemistry was altered, and now he is a living mass of earth and sand, virtually untouchable and nearly unbeatable. Electro has the power of electricity at his disposal and should be a Magneto level threat, but he’s held back by his own mental shortcomings. Eddie Brock, a former photographer for the Daily Bugle’s rival newspaper, bonded with the alien symbiote Spidey brought back from the Secret Wars and now, as Venom, Brock and the symbiote seek revenge of Spider-Man whom they perceive has wronged them. And Carnage is a combination of Venom’s symbiote offspring and the psychotic mass murderer Cletus Kasady.
Guys like the Chameleon and Mysterio are troubling for the Wall-Crawler because one is a master of disguise and the other a master of illusion. Kraven the Hunter is the greatest hunter in the world and the only Rogue on this list that can actually claim that he has killed his hated foe. The high-flying Vulture is a master criminal and a master of the skies that can out maneuver his adversary and strike with lightning lethalness. Morbius, the Living Vampire, is a scientist that has been inflicted with a strange kind of science-based form of vampirism. And the Rhino is a small time crook now trapped in a hulking suit that gives him the power of his namesake.
The Hobgoblin, using stolen technology from one of the Green Goblin’s old hideouts, continually attempts to assert himself in the criminal underworld’s hierarchy. Speaking of New York City’s criminal underworld, the mob families of the Marvel Universe are run by the most colorful crime bosses this side of Dick Tracy’s Rogues Gallery. Guys like Hammerhead, Silvermane, Tombstone, the Rose, and the Kingpin of Crime himself, Wilson Fisk, make Spider-Man’s life tougher with their constant criminal schemes and the perpetual Gang War always threatening to tear the city apart.
Spider-Man’s Rogues Gallery Rounds out with: Scorpion, Molten Man, Hydroman, Jack o’ Lantern, Spider-Slayers, the Jackal, and J. Jonah Jameson.
WINNER: Spider-Man’s Rogues
Where, for the most part, Batman’s foes challenge the Caped Crusader’s sanity and detective skills, Spider-Man’s foes are just physically more powerful. Other than the Joker and Ra’s Al Ghul, Ra’s with his sheer resources and the Joker with his chaotic and unpredictable behavior, Batman’s Rogues don’t really seem all that challenging for the Dark Knight. Batman is smarter than his adversaries and he’s physically able to easily defeat most of them. Poor Petey always has the deck stacked against him. Doctor Octopus is smarter than Peter Parker. Guys like Rhino, Venom, and Carnage are stronger than Spider-Man. Foes like the Lizard and Morbius are not only stronger but faster than Spider-Man as well, and they pose an even bigger challenge, as Spidey is always trying to defeat them without hurting a friend. There’s more pathos when Spider-Man tangles with an adversary than seeing Batman punch out yet another crazy person.
In the end, if these two devious groups of villains were to throw down for the Heavyweight Championship Belt of Villainy, it’s Spidey’s Rogues that would prove victorious.
Rogue War Total: Marvel 1 / DC 0
The competition continues next week when the fiendish foes of the Last Son of Krypton face off against the Gamma-powered enemies of the Jade Giant.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Battles · Comics
Greetings from the Odinson,
Joss Whedon is the renowned writer/director/creator widely known for his much beloved television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. He’s a legacy writer (his father wrote for The Electric Company and his grandfather wrote for The Dick Van Dyke Show) that got his first gig writing for the dramedy Roseanne. For years he was a go to writer and script doctor in Hollywood, contributing to such films as Twister, Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection, and X-Men. He even showed off his true fanboy roots as he’s had highly acclaimed runs on the Astonishing X-Men and Runaways comic book series. So die hard is this man’s following that, based in no small part on the demand of the fans, he was able to continue the story started in Firefly, a TV show which only lasted 14 episodes (several of which were aired out of order), with the major motion picture Serenity.
With a résumé that reads like this, one would think Joss Whedon could get anything done. But with Angel being prematurely canceled (boy, and just when it was better than ever), Dollhouse not making it to a third season, several made for TV movie follow-ups to the Buffyverse nixed for one reason or another, and a rejected take on making Wonder Woman work as a movie (I bet Warner Bros. is kicking themselves now for not green lighting that one), all of a sudden Whedon’s good name seemed to be losing clout in the Hollywood circles, but not with fans.
Whedon fans know the greatness this man brings to the table. So when Marvel announced that it was turning over the keys to their flagship franchise movie The Avengers over to fan-favorite fanboy-done-good Joss Whedon, there was great rejoicing. And the rest, as they say, is history.
This project fit Joss Whedon’s skill set like a glove. Not only is he a lifelong fanboy of the comics medium (something most us can relate to), but his whole career he has excelled at writing about strange, unusual, and exceptional people placed together, whether they want to be or not, in impossible situations and, despite their differences, overcoming great obstacles. The Avengers are an eclectic group of extraordinary individuals brought together for a greater good. As Joss has said many times himself, “there is no way these people would get along,” but despite their differences as they embark on this journey that has been thrust upon them, they learn that they are much, much stronger together than they ever were apart.
I can draw many parallels from the Avengers to other unusual groups from the Whedonverse. The motley crew from Firefly, as well as the dysfunctional family of Angel Investigations, and the lost souls of the Dollhouse…all of these assemblies have a lot in common with Marvel’s collection of premiere heroes. But it’s the Scoobies of Sunnydale that have the most in common with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Buffy Summers/Captain America – Steve Rogers was chosen and given power and ability beyond those of ordinary men and charged with fighting a great evil threatening to overtake the world. Buffy Summers is the Chosen One, granted powers and abilities greater than those of mere mortals and charged with defending mankind against the forces of darkness. Rogers is a man out of time, a product of a bygone era and he sometimes finds it hard to understand the modern world and understand his place in it. Buffy’s role as the slayer sets her apart from everyone around her, even those closest to her can never fully understand the responsibility placed on her shoulders. Because she is different, whether it’s trying out for the cheerleading squad, ditching class to slay vampires, or feeling utterly alone even on a crowed college campus, Buffy sometimes finds it hard to fit in with the regular world around her. But Buffy and Captain America are both strong-willed individuals and powerful leaders that can inspire those around them to bigger and greater things.
Angel and Spike/Thor and Loki – Angel and Spike have been many things to each other – father and son, friends, rivals, enemies, and brothers-in –arms. Thor and Loki are stepbrothers whose relation has also run a similar gambit. Like Thor and Loki, who hail from the mystical realm of Asgard, Angel and Spike, as vampires, are products of the supernatural and operate on a power scale few others around them can comprehend. Depending on points of view, all four of these guys have all played the role of both hero and villain. They are four extremely complicated and passionate men who live out eternal lives trying to either atone for past sins by righting wrongs or prove their worth in the eyes of someone they love.
Willow/Iron Man – Willow Rosenberg is wicked smart, a computer whiz so skillful that she can even hack into government networks, and one of the most powerful witches in the world. Tony Stark is a brilliant scientist/inventor whose genius knows few rivals, and he is a modern day wizard with a suit of armor that makes him one of the mightiest super heroes on Earth. Willow suffered through an addiction to magic that not only nearly ruined her relationship with a loved one, but it also put her friends in danger. She worked hard and long to curb her dependence. Tony Stark is a recovering alcoholic, but at the height of his dependence on the Demon in a Bottle he lost his company, was charged with the murder of a man, he was dismissed from the Avengers, and he even gave up his role as Iron Man. It was a hard journey back, but Stark now lives with his addiction in check, for the most part. Both Willow and Tony Stark are easily the smartest and most versatile members of their teams, but both struggle with inner demons that threaten to surface and place those they care about most in danger.
Oz/Hulk – Oz is a super smart, sardonic musician with an unassuming personality that just so happens to be a werewolf. Bruce Banner is a mild-mannered scientist with one of the greatest minds on the planet who, when he becomes angry, just happens to turn into the giant rage-fueled monster the world has come to know as the Incredible Hulk. Both men have searched far and wide for a cure for their curse. Both men have women they love with all their hearts but keep them at a distance for fear of them getting hurt. They have both had varying degrees of success at controlling the beasts that reside within, and they have both been hunted because they are perceived as monsters and a threat to mankind.
Faith/Black Widow – Faith is the quintessential bad girl, a slayer that isn’t going to play by anybody’s rules, but also a lost girl with a knack for making bad decisions that sometimes lead her down a dark path. Natasha Rumanov is a super spy, a master of disguise, infiltration, and the art of seduction who sometimes questions herself because of her dark ambiguous beginnings. Both women have worked for the enemy in the past and both women struggle over guilt of past sins and strive to this day to atone for those misdeeds.
Anya/Hawkeye – Anyanka is a 2,000 year old vengeance demon that made her way in the world by dealing out punishment on the behalf of scorned women everywhere. So long was Anya in the business of vengeance that when she became human she found it hard to relate to others because she had become too out of touch with the human condition. Clint Barton is an eagle-eyed assassin whose life as a sniper, a loner, keeps others at a distance. He finds it hard to connect with those around him and make new friends. Anya has been around for many centuries and brings to the table a vast wealth of knowledge and experience. Hawkeye is a veteran of many campaigns and a seasoned modern day warrior with vast knowledge on tactics and assessing a situation. Both Anya and Barton have a matter-of-fact attitude about the world around them, they are seldom caught off guard, and they have no qualms about saying what is on their minds.
Giles/Nick Fury – Giles is a wise man, father figure, and a grounded center for the team of extraordinary individuals around him, even if they don’t always listen to what he has to say. Nick Fury is a wily old spy always thinking two steps ahead of everyone else, the magnet that draws together these amazing heroes, and the helping hand that heads them in the right direction, even if they themselves don’t realize it yet. Both are under the thumb of higher authorities, Giles to the Watcher’s Council and Fury to a shadowy government cabal. But both are willing to defy orders if the greater good can be served. Both are capable men with dark secrets that make them a bit enigmatic sometimes, even to those that trust them most.
Xander/Agent Coulson – Xander Harris is the master of mirth and the heart of the Scooby Gang. He is the one person with ties to every single member, the one person whom everyone confides, listens to, and likes (well, except for Angel anyway). Agent Coulson is a consummate professional with a quick wit and is an instrumental part in drawing all the members of the Avengers together. Xander’s words and actions have often enlightened those around him and sometimes made them rethink the way they are going about something. Coulson has passed along vital information between members of the team, and his ultimate act of courage inspires those around him to greater deeds.
Riley Finn/Agent Hill – Riley Finn is the consummate soldier. He follows orders and protocol and he gets the job done, period. Maria Hill is a no nonsense agent of SHIELD who follows orders and goes above and beyond to get the job done. Both Finn and Hill would never question orders. That is, until the day people in their lives enlighten and inspire them to see that sometimes blindly following orders is not always the right thing to do.
After drawing the parallels it is clearly not that big a leap for Joss Whedon to take from the Buffyverse to the Marvel Universe. And after the opening weekend numbers and continued success of The Avengers movie, it is clear to see that Joss Whedon was definitely the right man for the job.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Movie · Pop Culture · Comics
Greetings from the Odinson,
Once every ten years or so, a movie comes along that raises the bar just a bit higher. Though there are many really good movies, rarely does a film actually live up to expectations, or even better, surpass them. In my lifetime there have been four such movies. Again, there have been many really good movies, but these are the game changers. The movies that are so good that to call them good is a severe understatement.
In my lifetime there have been four movies that meet this criteria. In 1977 it was Star Wars. This sci-fi fantasy about a young farm boy from a backwater planet that meets up with an old wizard and a pirate and goes on a quest to save a princess from a dark knight and defeat an evil Empire bent on universal domination IS the bench mark by which all other space adventures are judged. In 1994, it was The Crow. This dark gothic tale of love loss and revenge showed the world that comic books aren’t just for kids, especially when the creators and talent behind the project really have something to say. In 1999, that film was The Matrix. Up until this New Millennium sci-fi masterpiece hit theatres, movie making had become simply business as usually. After this senses-shattering film opened everyone’s eyes, creators everywhere at that moment tore up whatever they were working on and went back to the drawing board. And now, in 2012, that movie is Marvel’s The Avengers.
Like the other films on this list, to say that The Avengers is a great movie is to severely understate the obvious. This is the movie I’ve waited my whole life to see, so my expectations were sky high. The Avengers not only met my lofty expectations, it blew them out of the water. I’ve been asked by those who have not seen the movie “what makes it so good?” There is so much greatness in this film it’s hard to know where to begin and not spoil anything for those that have not seen it yet (which, by the way, according to the Opening Weekend numbers, there aren’t very many of you that haven’t seen it). Anybody that says they don’t like this film either has an agenda or they’re doing a bit. I’d have to say that one of the really big reasons why I loved this movie so much is that I did not have to sit through yet another 2-hour Origin Story.
I just don’t know if I have it in me to watch Peter Parker get bit by a radioactive spider, again (Do we really need a Spider-Man reboot barely ten years later?). Or watch planet Krypton explode, again. Or witness Bruce Wayne’s parents get gunned down by a common purse-snatcher, again (I’m assuming four years from now we’ll have to sit through a Batman: Year One film when the franchise picks up again). Between comic books, novels, cartoons, TV shows, and movies, I’ve seen these stories hundreds of times and done a hundred different ways. I can’t take anymore origin stories for these characters! James Bond has been in over twenty 007 movies and we don’t have to sit through his origin every single time. Like James Bond, there should be a new Superman movie hitting theatres every three to fours years. There are endless amounts of material to adapt. But no, even though we already have the definitive Superman origin with the Christopher Reeve 1978 Superman: The Movie and Smallville for the last decade looked at his Superboy days from every possible angle, I’m sure I’ll have to sit through yet another Superman movie next year with scenes from doomed Krypton and a farm in Kansas with a young boy discovering he’s different from everyone else.
There’s a reason why The Dark Knight is better than Batman Begins. It’s because it’s just a straightforward action adventure without all the baggage of origin storytelling. I get why Iron Man and Captain America movies had to do it. Those guys haven’t been introduced on the Big Screen before (not counting Caps straight to DVD venture in the early ‘90s and his B&W 1940s serials). Thor wasn’t an origin story and it was fantastic. And that is one of the biggest reasons for me that The Avengers works.
Now before you say, “But, Odinson, The Avengers is the origin story about the Avengers.” I say The Avengers is as much an origin story as say The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, or Fellowship of the Ring are origin stories. These are fantastic action adventure movies about groups of extraordinary individuals coming together to fight against impossible odds. My point is names like Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman are so entrenched in pop culture that these names are as recognized as Mickey Mouse. Everyone knows who they are and the majority of people know how they got there. If the film absolutely has to have an origin in it, than approach it the way The Incredible Hulk did. Between comics, cartoons, a long-running television series, and the Hulk film, the Green Goliath’s origin is well known by most. So just address it in montage during the opening credit sequence. Now we can all sit back and enjoy a new story.
Sorry. I did not mean to go off on a tirade. The Odinson is just not a fan of the origin story, especially when there are so many great stories in this genre that can be told. Now back to The Avengers.
Going into the film I had a criteria that I wanted met if I was going to enjoy this feature. I wanted Captain America to be a leader and awesome in battle. Iron Man had to be cool. Thor had to be powerful. And the Hulk had to be strong and smash. Well, after seeing the film (three times now), I can tell you spoiler-free that Cap is awesome, Iron Man is super cool, Thor is majestic and the Hulk is the strongest one there is. Black Widow is sexy and dangerous. And movie Hawkeye, dare I say it, may be even cooler than comic book Hawkeye. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the film’s Big Bad. Tom Hiddleston is an amazing actor. He takes a complicated and complex character like Loki and hits every single mark. On the Mt. Rushmore of movie villains, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lector, Agent Smith and the shark from Jaws will now be joined by Hiddleston’s Loki.
I am a huge Joss Whedon fan and could not be prouder of the man as he gave us his best directorial undertaking yet. The movie was almost 2 ½ hours long and it went by all too fast. It’s action packed, full of great character interactions, and Whedon also manages to squeeze in his signature humor. There are at least four really great laugh-out-loud moments. And even more opportunities to cheer. But this wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon project if he didn’t surprise you. And not to get too spoilery on you, but this movie finally answers the age old question – Why are they called the Avengers? What are they avenging?
For the Odinson, in over thirty years nothing had ever challenged Superman: The Movie for the best comic book movie of all time. Iron Man came close, but it’s The Avengers that may have finally knocked the Man of Steel off the top of my mountain. Not only is The Avengers now the greatest comic book film of all time, like Star Wars, The Crow, and The Matrix, it is a benchmark by which all other films of its kind will be judged.
Odinson Rating: 5 out of 5 Hammers and a Thunder Strike
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Greetings from the Odinson,
This week the Odinson is on vacation, but I did want to leave this short message encouraging everybody to go see the Avengers Movie. This is the movie I’ve been waiting to see since I was 8 years old. My Top 5 all time favorite super heroes are Captain America, Thor, Superman, Rom and Nightwing and 2 out of that Top 5 are in this flick. And, it’s directed by Joss Whedon! This is the man that gave us Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. I have not been this excited about a movie’s premiere since the announcement of The Phantom Menace. Love it or hate it, the anticipation leading up to Menace was huge for Star Wars fans. With this cast, this writer/director, and the House of Ideas firmly in the driver seat, the Odinson knows the Avengers will be an all time great.
One last thing before I go: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell