Seasons Greetings from the Odinson,
It’s now Christmas time and the Holiday Season is a time for joy and happiness, and a perfect time to catch up on your favorite books, comics, and movies. At times like these some people may find themselves with a lot of quiet time to fill. This is the perfect time to visit a World of Imagination. So the Odinson is presenting his Top 10 Worlds of Imagination to visit this Holiday Season. Last week the top half of my list shaped up like this:
10 – The View Askewniverse
09 – G.I. Joe/Transformers
08 – World of Blizzard
07 – The Hyborian Age
06 – The Forgotten Realms
Those first five are going to be hard to top. So without further ado, let’s check out the rest of the list.
The Odinson’s Top 10 Worlds of Imagination: Part 2
05 – Star Trek – “Space, the final frontier…” The original Star Trek TV series set the standard for all other sci-fi shows to follow. Creator Gene Roddenberry had a beautiful vision of the future where men and women of all nationalities put aside their differences and banded together to advance society and reach out to travel among the stars. For nearly five decades now this idea has been an inspiration for countless fans around the world. I know there are many fans of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and the Animated Series but, without a doubt, for the Odinson, the gems of this long running series are the aforementioned original Star Trek, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek.
The original series starred William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, a brash handsome hero who could overcome any challenge using guile and wit and a man whose romantic conquests were nearly as legendary as his heroic ones. It also featured Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock; the yin to Kirk’s yang. Spock was rational, analytical, and, with him, logic always ruled the day. The Wrath of Khan was not only the second movie in the series but it was also the sequel to one of the most memorable episodes from the original TV series, and featured the return of the genetic superman Khan Noonien Singh, easily one of the greatest villains in the entire history of Star Trek. The Undiscovered Country is the last hooray of the original cast that started it all and they go out with a bang. Star Trek: The Next Generation had wonderful character arcs for Data, Worf and Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but any series that introduces villains like Q and the Borg into the universe is an instant classic. Then, in 2009, director J.J. Abrams, reset the continuity and launched Star Trek from the beginning with a whole new cast of young actors and updated the franchise for a whole new generation of fans. And he did it in a way that longtime fans could also get on board with it.
Star Trek has a lot of history and no matter what your Trek is, there is bound to be a Star Trek that fits your fancy.
04 – The Whedonverse – Joss Whedon is a third generation writer that got his start writing episodes of Rosanne. This imaginative genius turned the horror genre on its ear when he created Rhonda the Immortal Waitress. In most horror movies the beautiful young girl is chased down a dark alley by the big scary monster and preyed upon. Joss turned the tables and the girl actually turns out to be the thing the monsters are afraid of. A few rewrites later and we’ve come to know this creation as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Angel is the vampire with a soul, and Buffy’s ex beau. Two-hundred years ago he was the worst of his kind to ever stalk the earth. Now, thanks to a gypsy curse that returned his conscience, Angel is one of the greatest champions for good in the Whedonverse.
Then there’s Firefly, Joss Whedon’s cowboys in outer space. Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a roguish natural born leader of men with a crooked smile and a quick draw, along with his motley crew of misfits fly from one side of the galaxy to the other trying to avoid the law of the Alliance or the deadly flesh-eating Reavers and looking for their next score. These are thieves with hearts of gold, but unlike Robin Hood and His Merry Men, they don’t rob from the rich and give to the poor. No, they beg, borrow, steal and take the occasional less than legal job in order to keep their vessel, Serenity, flying. I imagine that if the fans of Star Wars were able to ever follow Han Solo and Chewbacca around the galaxy during their smuggling days it would look a lot like Mal’s adventures on Firefly.
Just to prove that the Whedonverse has even more variety, Joss throws in Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible. The Doll House is a mysterious organization that provides operatives for any, and I mean any, situation. Using super science these operatives can have any skill, from fighting to driving to seduction downloaded into their brains. But there is far more to the Doll House than meets the eye as a conspiracy is slowly beginning to unravel and may reveal a terrible truth that could mean the end of the world. Dr. Horrible is a hapless super villain that just wants to get the girl and membership into the Evil League of Evil. But that dastardly pompous hero Captain Hammer is always standing in his way. So whether you want to slay vampires with Buffy and Angel, streak through the universe with space pirates aboard the Serenity, sing along with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog or follow the high concepts of Dollhouse, the Whedonverse has something for you.
03 – Star Wars – “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Cue the bombastic John Williams score and let the goose-bumps rise. What can I possibly say about Star Wars that hasn’t already been said? If Star Trek set the standard, Star Wars broke the mold. At first it was simply Star Wars. But later it became known as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. To this day when I’m talking about the movies and I say “Star Wars” I’m talking about A New Hope. As a child of the seventies and eighties there was absolutely nothing, NOTHING, bigger than Star Wars. The magic, the adventure, the romance, it had it all. Huge space battles, a beautiful princess in distress, a rogue and his monstrous companion, an old wizard, robots, and a farm boy armed with a freaking laser sword – Star Wars had it all. I know it’s cliché to say that Star Wars was ahead of its time, but Star Wars was way ahead of its time. The special effects were mind-blowing. And like many great movies of this kind (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Matrix), Star Wars inspired a whole generation of movie makers.
Some may argue that The Empire Strikes Back is the superior film. The first chapter of Return of the Jedi when our heroes are on Tatooine battling Jabba the Hutt is some of the greatest Star Wars stuff in the franchise. And even the prequels – The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith – have a young Obi-Wan Kenobi to hold them together. But for me, nothing will ever top the original movie that started it all. Star Wars also introduced one of the greatest movie and sci-fi villains in history in Darth Vader. From movies to cartoons, novels to comics, toys to artwork, nothing in this genre beats Star Wars.
02 – The DC Universe – This is the comic book universe that started it all. And when you cut it down to its bare essentials, DC Comics’ greatness can be traced back to one hero – Superman. Some may think Batman is cooler and other heroes like Green Lantern and Flash are more fun, but it is Superman that sets the standard for all other super heroes to follow. He was the first, making his debut in Action Comics #1 back in 1938, and to this day, Superman is the greatest super hero ever! There are a thousand reasons I can give you why the DCU is so great. Due to the constraints of space and time I am going to narrow it down to why I love the DCU. It all started back in 1985 with Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Up to this point my only exposure to DC Comics was Superman, New Teen Titans, and the Super Friends cartoons. Crisis revealed this whole new world of heroes and villains and did it in the biggest, loudest way possible. I came to the Crisis because the creative team from New Teen Titans, Marv Wolfman and George Perez were doing the book. Boy, am I glad that I gave it a shot, because I entered the DCU right at the perfect time. Crisis on Infinite Earths reset the DCU and everything, for the most part, started over. So it was like I was on the ground floor. Titles like Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, SHAZAM The New Beginning, Justice League International, and Batman Year One allowed me to read the adventures of these fabulous characters as they grew and became what they are today. And I didn’t have to know 50 years of continuity that came before.
This chapter in the History of the DC Universe, the Post-Crisis DCU, ran from 1985 to 2005. It began with Crisis on Infinite Earths and culminated with the instant classic Infinite Crisis. Just think about all the fantastic comics history that occurred during that time – Darkseid’s diabolical scheme in Legends; the death of Jason Todd (Robin II); the Death of Superman; Bane breaking Batman’s back; Hal Jordan’s fall from grace; Zero Hour; Final Night, Grant Morrison’s JLA; the eye-opening and shocking events of Identity Crisis; the Countdown to Infinite Crisis with Day of Vengeance, The Rann/Thanagar War; the OMAC Project, and the Villains United. Just to mention a few things. It was 20 years of fantastic action/adventure and drama. And with the launch of The New 52, here’s to another 20 great years.
01 – The Marvel Universe – Every comic is somebody’s first comic and for me the very first comic I can remember thumbing through is Amazing Spider-Man #157. From the cliffhanger cover to the harrowing Spidey face-off with Doctor Octopus, I was hooked for life. The House of Ideas has the best playground of any World of Imagination. From Avengers Mansion in downtown New York City to Aunt May’s humble abode in Queens, from the Savage Land to Asteroid M, from Asgard to the Negative Zone, from Atlantis to the Kree Empire – the Marvel Universe is a place where anything can happen, and usually does.
The Marvel heroes have always been the more relatable in the super hero genre. Unlike the modern god-like heroes of the completion that watch the Earth below from their orbiting satellite high above it all, the Marvel heroes are seemingly everyday people with everyday concerns, and often with frailties. Peter Parker works hard to make ends meet and moonlights as the super hero Spider-Man. But the local newspaper has tagged him as a menace and if his ailing Aunt were to ever discover his secret it could prove fatal for her. Bruce Banner is a mild mannered scientist but when he becomes angry he turns into a 7-foot tall rage monster called the Hulk. Steve Rogers was the greatest hero of World War II, but in modern times Captain America struggles to find his place and struggles with the guilt over the death of his wartime partner, Bucky. Ben Grimm, after a cosmic accident suddenly finds himself trapped in the body of a monster people call the Thing. Matt Murdock was blinded as a child but his other senses were enhanced to superhuman levels and now he fights crime by day as a lawyer and by night as the masked vigilante Daredevil. Norrin Radd, in order to save his homeworld, gave up his humanity and became the Silver Surfer, the Herald of Galactus. But when he intervened on behalf of humanity, the Devourer of Worlds exiled him to planet Earth, forever keeping him from the stars and his beloved Shalla Bal. Thor, the mighty Norse god of thunder resides in the frail body of a crippled doctor named Donald Blake. The students of Xavier’s School for the Gifted defend mankind against the forces of evil as X-Men, even though society hates and fears them for being mutants. And these examples are only the beginnings of what would become the Marvel Universe.
Pathos! Pathos! Pathos! That is what sets the House of Ideas apart from the rest. I could tell you about this Big Event or that fantastic story but when it is all said and done, what makes the Marvel Universe the best there is at what they do is the characters. From the heroes to the villains to the best supporting casts in comics it has always been, and hopefully always be, the characters that are the driving force behind Marvel’s greatness.
Whatever your taste, whether you want to roam the red sands of Mars with John Carter, outsmart the vile agents of SPECTRE with 007, or reload The Matrix, the Odinson wishes you nothing but joy and happiness and have a very Merry Christmas.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell