less bitchin' more pitchin': Cyborg titles

I've been annoyed since DC's new-52 reboot that they haven't had a Cyborg title despite supposedly putting him on the same footing as other founding members of the new52 Justice League. They're finally starting to give him the spotlight in the Justice League title—introducing a new look and a new arch-villain, Grid—but we still don't have a solo title for the character. With that in mind, here's some suggestions for how they might approach a Cyborg title.

Cyborg: Flashback Title

Essentially Cyborg's "year one", except not quite that early because we already saw his origin in the opening of the new52 Justice League title. So really it'd be Cyborg's early years when he wasn't just serving as the Justice League's personal teleporter. It would be the title they should have had coming out of the reboot, like what they did for Superman in Action Comics.

This would be a good way to introduce some more backstory to the character, rounding out the hints we're finally seeing pay off in the JL title. They should throw in some more personal villains, do some arcs where they highlight his isolation and body-horror (to better riff on his recent acceptance/rebuilding) and maybe take the opportunity to have him team-up with some of the lost "new teen titans" era characters (e.g., Donna Troy).

Cyborg: Ensemble Title

Kind of like the new Aquaman title, this would be Cyborg leading an ensemble cast of other tech-based DC superheroes as his own team. I'd base it around "Steelworks", John Henry Irons' company, and do a supporting cast of:

This would provide Cyborg with a number of personalities to interact with where he gets to be the star of the show. Each supporting character would have overlap with his archetype so he can serve as the common ground that brings them together and he can grow through his interactions with them. Natasha and Commodore can be the young upstarts—the former overly earnest and the latter kind of a rich tourist—while Hardware presents a cynical veteran to balance out John Irons' more even-handed mentoring. Robotman can represent the complete loss of humanity that Cyborg is afraid of for himself.

Cyborg: America's Hero

Similar to his Flashpoint representation, this would be Cyborg stepping up in the present to become on of the premier superheroes. He would have official government support and would work out of the Red Room under the directive of ARGUS (via STAR Labs). He would share the Red Room's primary mission: to safely take down tech-based threats and seize any dangerous new technology. This would overlap with his general superheroics. For his supporting staff:

I also like the idea of him routinely teaming up with other ARGUS heroes who have been assigned to combat specific threats like he has when they need help, namely Vibe (reality breachers), Booster Gold (time traveling threats), and Blue Beetle (extra-terrestrial threats), as well as general ARGUS staff (e.g., Steve Trevor). This title would eventually introduce Morrow's creation, Red Tornado, as a supporting character as well.

So, do any of these ideas work for you? Are there any other concepts you'd like to see for a Cyborg title? Let me know!

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DCnU should have had more female counterpart swaps

The newly re-titled JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED (formerly "Justice League of Canada") had a partial roster announced on USA Today and on Jeff Lemire's blog that—despite only depicting the new Adam Strange on the cover art—listed Alanna Strange as a member as well.

Art:

Quote:

The roster of the new Justice League team will be a collection of some of my favourite DC characters: ANIMAL MAN, GREEN ARROW, STARGIRL, MARTIAN MANHUNTER, ADAM STRANGE, SUPERGIRL, ALANNA STRANGE and HAWKMAN.

First, I love the idea of a "justice league cosmic", so that's great. But even more-so I'm happy to see that they took a character like Alanna who was traditionally a princess/damsel for Adam and put her on equal footing with him. By making her an Earth native instead of a Rann native, they've avoided a whole slew of unfortunate implications and stale character roles for women. She's no longer the Dejah Thoris, a native "princess" who—traditional meek damsel version or modern action girl version—exists mainly to fall in love with the male lead. Now she's a space Indiana Jones all on her own. That's better.

I like this so much that it makes me wonder, do you still need Adam Strange? Or at least, do you need him to be in the active hero spot? Why not make him fully a supporting character and her be the hero? This type of swap—switching the gender counterparts of traditionally male heroes as the premier mantle holder—on a broader scale would go a long way toward evening up the gender divide in the DC roster without disrespecting the legacy of the original characters. This is something I would have liked to have seen the new 52 do on a broader scale.

Potential Swaps

There are a number of fantastic female counterpart characters for some of the lesser known characters that would do wonderful in the primary slot for their mantle. (Better-known too but I wouldn't suggest Supergirl/Power Girl instead of Superman or Batwoman/Batgirl instead of Batman. That'd be crazy.) The all-female digital title Ame-Comi Girls did a great job of showcasing this, but even outside of the ones they selected for that there are a number of good candidates for swapping support or legacy characters into the primary role for a mantle.

My top mantles where I would've liked them to have considered swapping the female counterpart as the lead:

  • Hawkwoman: My most wanted is definitely Hawkwoman/Hawkgirl instead of Hawkman. I've never been much of a Hawkman fan and the messy continuity just didn't seem to have much to offer. The way they handled it in the Justice League/Unlimited cartoons with Shayera Hol, however, was brilliant and I think they should have made that the definitive version/origin of the mantle. That portrayal proves they can reverse the "origin" character and still introduce the male version later.
  • Natasha Irons: DC has done everything they could to make Steel the new thing but it has never stuck. And then they bought Milestone and inherited Hardware and suddenly they had a much better Steel than Steel. But Natasha Irons is pretty cool. There was that time she led Lex Luthor's pseudo-evil superteam and that was interesting. Make her the head Steel instead.
  • Robin (Stephanie Brown or Carrie Kelly): Rebooting with all four male Robins and only one Batgirl was disappointing. One obvious way they could have gotten around that would be to drop one of the Robins for Stephanie Brown or Carrie Kelly. Kelly could've make a good stand-in for Jason Todd, Brown for Tim Drake. The sad truth is that for all the storylines they've done in the central Batman titles, Dick and Damian are the only necessary ones. Jason and Tim don't matter outside their team books.
  • Green Lantern (Jade): Similar to the Robins, having five different male, American-born Green Lanterns (six if you count Alan Scott) was just eh. It would've been far more interesting to drop or more of the GL's for Jade, or introduce the Chinese version of Jade from Ame-Comi Girls (Jade Yifei) instead of Simon Baz.
  • Alanna Strange: I'm glad they're making her into the swashbuckler, but now I don't see the point of Adam. I do see the point of a married couple of superheroes, but you don't need them to share a mantle to do that trope.
  • Big Barda: Similar to the Stranges, I get the appeal of a romantically paired couple of heroes, but you don't need Mister Miracle to lead the duo (although with them you could argue he never did). Also, if they drop Scott Free as the primary hero that opens up the Mr. Miracle mantle for other legacy heroes like Shilo Norman.
  • Question (Renee Montoya): Hey, I love Vic Sage, but the new52 "trinity of sin" version is an affront to decency, and not because of the alleged sinning. Continuing the Renee Montoya legacy version that was introduced in the excellent 52 series would've been far more entertaining, especially with Montoya's past romantic entanglements with Batwoman.
  • Vixen: Getting into the options I'm more torn on, there's no reason Vixen wouldn't work for the plot of the new 52 Animal Man over Buddy Baker, except for the fact that she's not married and with a family. But they could have given her one. Well, It was certainly an option to make her the avatar of the Red.
  • Miss Martian: I know there are a lot of Martian Manhunter fans out there, but he's always been the odd man out on the Justice League—being more powerful and more alien than the team's flagship super-alien character is his primary sin—and Miss Martian has a little more to offer narratively, covering a few unique archetypes among the founding members (e.g., teen hero, naive rookie, comes from an "evil" race of aliens).
  • Mera: Aquaman has been a huge success story for the new52 so I would hesitate to change that, and Mera has been great in that book anyway, but the option shouldn't be overlooked to put her in the lead spot. I think it would be interesting to make her the JLA member and/or ruler of Atlantis instead of Arthur. I suggested as much for any pending JLA film adaptation.
  • Jesse Quick: If people don't like the idea of Wally West as the founding Flash, they'd really be up in arms over Jesse Quick, but I maintain it's a reasonable option. The Flash isn't one of the big three and Jesse was a great character in the JSA stuff. It could work. And really, Barry only needs to exist long enough to create the speed force. Somebody else could actually be the founding Flash.

One other instance where they seemed to actually be going this route is with "Atomica", who seemed reminiscent of Avril Palmer from Ame-Comi Girls while still giving Ray Palmer a new52 role with S.H.A.D.E. Unfortunately I'm not sure she counts because of recent revelations.

What's everybody think? Would you have liked to see more of the female counterparts take the lead for their mantles in the new52? Are there any other swaps you would've preferred that I didn't list? Let me know.

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another JLA film concept

With the recent announcement of the Batman/Superman film, these proposals have become more popular, but obviously there have been a number of quality threads debating various JLA film concepts and casts for a while. A sampling from the first few pages:

Although I've replied to a lot of these already, I wanted to collect my recent thoughts into a central blog. So here goes.

CONCEPT

For my JLA concept, I'd use a smaller, non-standard cast (I'm convinced the JLA has always been "the trinity and friends" anyway) designed to provide a range of different archetypes, powers that work well visually without too much expensive CGI, and a group that won't crowd the frame or be too hard to juggle once you factor in supporting characters as well.

I would reframe the frequent criticism of DC characters as "too different" or "too larger than life" as a group of outcasts seeking a surrogate family. I would start the film with Clark & Bruce already friends and all other cast members publicly known, although unintroduced to each other. Finally, I would want a villain who presents a sufficiently sinister face and has a lot of peon followers to get tossed around but is ultimately no match for a unified Justice League. Thus, the formation of the League is a clear path to victory.

CASTING

Core cast:

Supporting cast:

Villain:

TRAILER SCRIPT

/** Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are having a conversation on the outdoor balcony of Wayne Manor. Clark is dressed in his typical rumpled reporter garb while Bruce is, for some reason—probably habit—wearing a full tuxedo and gesturing with a glass of champagne that he hasn't touched and probably won't.

WAYNE: This will never work.

KENT: Why not?

WAYNE: Look at who we are!

/** As he lists each personality, overlapping scenes flash, showing the character in question.

WAYNE: The indestructible last son of an alien world…

/** Superman doing superman stuff, showing off his wondrous (and terrifying) power.

WAYNE: …a real-life demi-goddess right out of the Hellenistic age…

/** Wonder Woman armed with spear and shield fighting a hydra-like creature in the middle of a city.

WAYNE: …the disgraced monarch of an underwater kingdom…

/** Mera decked out in her FLASHPOINT gear, on a beachfront in a downpour, defending herself from two Xebel assassins.

WAYNE: …a shut-in made more of inter-dimensional, unknowable machinery than human flesh…

/** Cyborg, stripped of his armor and devices in a dimly lit living quarters deep in STAR labs, slowly closing himself into a sinister-looking regenerative isolation chamber.

WAYNE: …and ME.

/** Batman fighting a monstrous Killer Croc on a rooftop. Croc tears into him, spraying blood everywhere. He knocks Batman to the ground and roars. Batman stands back up—tattered suit and tattered flesh hanging off of him—draws a sparking shock-baton, and roars back.

WAYNE: I'M the "normal" one. You can't make a team out of loners and outcasts. Not on this scale.

/** Clark pauses for a moment to think about it, then responds calmly and confidently.

KENT: If there's one thing I've learned, it's this: just because you're different, doesn't mean you have to be alone.

PLOT

Very simple "gather together to beat the baddy" plot:

  • Setup: Superman and Batman have been working together and learning to trust each other while the US government tries to work out its official policy toward superheroes. The pro-faction is led by Steve Trevor, who is trying to spin Wonder Woman as a government-controlled asset. The anti-faction is led by Amanda Waller, who sees Wonder Woman as a foreigner, Superman as a super-powered killer, and Batman as a dangerous vigilante.
  • Catalyst: A fight between Superman and a group of Religion of Crime cultists (who are after some magical artifacts) in an foreign setting creates an international incident when Wonder Woman and Trevor's ARGUS commandos show up to help. This puts the issue of "what to do" about the superpowers into stark relief. Trevor/Waller essentially go to war over defining government policy. Clark has concerns that he's getting to cozy with the US government and decides he wants to organize independently. He starts coming up with candidates.
  • Turn 1: Waller gets wind of what's going on and starts sabotaging attempts to form the league. Meanwhile, the RoC agents are revealed to have been working for Vandal Savage, who is tracking down pieces of the original meteorite that gave him his powers (which has since been split up and bent to mystical purposes). While Waller's and Trevor's troops are fighting each other—and forcing the JLA members to choose sides, caught in the middle—Savage successfully locates the last of the meteorite pieces and initiates his dastardly plan, to use the power of meteorite pieces to grant himself a literal version of the "Mark of Cain" that will grant him dominance over others.
  • At odds, the League seems fractured and doomed. Wonder Woman supports Trevor's group. Superman doesn't trust either group and just wants the league to get together on their own. Batman thinks Waller might have a point. Mera wants to kill Trevor and Waller and be done with it. Cyborg wants to retreat back into isolation.
  • Midpoint: Savage and his true plan are revealed when he successfully completes the ritual and seizes power. He initiates an attack on an iconic location (anywhere but New York) and declares himself ruler over the "desperate, pathetic masses" of the Earth, forcibly converting thousands to the Religion of Crime as his loyal foot soldiers.
  • Waller's group and Wonder Woman/Steve Trevor put aside their differences to try and stop Savage but are defeated. Savage seems triumphant.
  • Turn 2: Wonder Woman, bloody from battle, goes to Superman/Batman and provides a final call to action. Cyborg and Mera meet up with them on the way, having decided on their own to return, and they begin a final assault against Savage's seat of power.
  • Climax: Big battle, JLA are victorious through the power of friendship and teamwork, but also lots and lots of punching.
  • They all eat shawarma and go home.

POTENTIAL SPINOFFS/SEQUELS

  • Mera is caught in the middle of a resurgent Atlantis/Xebel war where she has to convince Arthur to return and seize the throne.
  • Cyborg finds a familiar piece of technology that seems to call to him. It starts pinging at him and then boom, he's on an alien world fighting gods.
  • Brainiac invades and starts bottling cities. The JLA have to stop him.
  • A crazed Professor Ivo creates the Amazo robot, but it increases in power so much that it becomes a threat to reality itself.
  • Circe manipulates the distrustful agents of the government into creating horrific versions of the Justice League to oppose them: Genocide, Doomsday, Prometheus, etc. Then she turns them loose.
  • etc.

NOTES

  • I went with Mera over Aquaman because 1) I wanted to even out the gender balance a bit, and 2) I think Mera's abilities will be easier to show on-screen: she can always carry water with her the way Aqualad did in YOUNG JUSTICE. Her presence also still provides an in for Arthur and Ocean Master to be introduced later for an Atlantis-themed plot.
  • I wanted to show Cyborg's arc as one of healing, returning to the exuberant, brilliant, athletic personality he had pre-accident though his body has still been permanently changed. His arc should be front-and-center as it's parallel to the formation of the team. There should also be a subplot for reconciliation with his father.
  • No Flash: Too hard to get right live-action.
  • No Green Lantern: The film flopped too hard.
  • No Martian Manhunter: Thematically there's already an alien on the team and he's got so many super powers he'd out-shine Superman.

And that's that. Probably not the most unique proposal but I think it'd work.

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Less Bitchin' More Pitchin': BATMAN INC. tv show

"Batman is dead. Long live the Batmen."

Concept

I'm a fan of the new Arrow show and I'd love to see the Batman family get similar treatment. Unfortunately, there seems to be some hesitation to put the big DC characters on the small screen—how many seasons did Smallville run and we never actually saw "Superman"? I would solve this not by showing a young, unformed, or somehow reduced Bruce Wayne, but rather by focusing on his legacy in a similar fashion to stories like Batman Incorporated, Batman & Robin, and Batman Beyond.

The lead of the show would be Dick Grayson, formerly Nightwing, stepping up to fill Batman's mantle as best he can after Bruce Wayne was killed under seeming fantastic circumstances (e.g., a real alien invasion or something). He is assisted directly by Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl and now Oracle, and Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne and the villainous Talia al Ghul, recently liberated and now operating as the new Robin. Together, and along with regional affiliates, they are Batman Incorporated.

Tone

For the overall tone, I'd want the show to split the middle between the fantastic and street level. It would routinely hint at supernatural, but always "solve" these mysteries as mundane sleight of hand or at least as Fringe-style pseudo-science. This might seem a bit "Scooby Doo" to some, but this will help keep Batman "crime-solvey" instead of just "criminal punchy". (Besides, it can't seem more ridiculous than the "science" based crime solving from the Adam West era show.)

Oracle would be wheelchair bound, but an emphasis would be made on her retained physical fitness, complete with scenes of her kicking ass when her clock-tower sanctuary is breached. She should be the brains half of the Batman equation while Dick, no dummy but no genius, supplies the nigh-superhuman athleticism half. There should be romantic tension between the two, but that relationship shouldn't define either character and neither one should be ascendant over the other for the mantle of Batman. Both should be essential to the legacy.

For casting Damian, I would let him be slightly older, but he'd have to remain sufficiently petulant in attitude. He should be driven by ego and struggling between the viciousness he'd been taught by his mother's tutors and the code of his father as taught by Dick. I'd also take the opportunity to cast an Arab or half-Arab actor, as this would make sense given his background and make the cast a little less Wonderbread.

Cast

While Batman, and especially Batman Inc., has a sprawling cast, I'd want to cut down on the regularly appearing characters, focusing on a small core of "crime solvers" and their immediate supporting cast. Other characters would be dropped (e.g., Tim Drake), combined (e.g., Jason Todd & The Heretic), or relegated to "regional affiliate" status, appearing in one-shot episodes or semi-regularly over time (e.g., Huntress or Deadshot on Arrow).

Core:

  • Batman, Dick Grayson (formerly Robin, Nightwing)
  • Oracle, Babs Gordon (formerly Batgirl)
  • Robin, Damian Wayne

Supporting:

Regional Affiliates:

Villains & Storylines

Each core cast member would have a few primary arch-villains:

Additionally, each affiliate would have a corresponding villain that the core cast is visiting to help defeat:

Along with the straight villains, rival groups claiming the Batman title would spring up:

  • Red Hood, Jason Todd (merged with The Heretic, so was never a Robin, but connected via Damian)
  • Azrael, Michael Lane
  • Hush, Tommy Elliot (claiming to be the revived Bruce Wayne)

The mystery of what exactly killed Bruce Wayne would be a slow-burn story arc from the show, complete with constant teasing that he didn't actually die.

I think this would be a great way to get a Batman show back on television without having to worry about "living up" to the big screen appearances. It would also provide a great opportunity to delve into Batman supporting characters and shine the spotlight on two very deserving characters in their own rights—Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon.

What does everyone else think? Would this be the Batman television show you'd want to see? Let me know!

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Why is the Sentry so powerful?

@rondoudou said:

but i am sorta confused WHY is sentry so powerful? why does he transform into the void, the angel of death?

{source}

Good question! The Sentry is a wonderful character with a lot of potential although he has been mishandled in the past by writers who didn't know what to do with him. The worst stories with the Sentry were the ones where he was incidental to the storyline, during his time as a regular member of the Avengers. This meant his great power was either ignored or writers had to come up with reasons for him to not get involved. By his very nature, the Sentry should be central to whatever storyline he's involved in. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Who is the Sentry?

The best way to describe the Sentry is this: he's a stand-in for bad Fan-Fiction authors. Robert Reynolds' one real power is the ability to rewrite history/reality to be more to his liking (i.e., the power of retcon) and his most fervent wish is to be the strongest, most powerful, most beloved superhero in the Marvel universe. He wants to be the golden child, friends to all the big characters, beloved by the common people, the best of the best even to the point of overshadowing the struggles and accomplishments of the ones he adores. So he remakes himself as the Sentry, rewriting history to do it.

When he's introduced, the world suddenly "remembers" him from key points in their lives. Reed Richards remembers that he was the best of friends with Reynolds and that Robert was even the best man at his wedding. Angel recalls that at a time of doubt in his early days as an X-Men, it was the Sentry that taught him a valuable life lesson about being a hero, making him the man he is today. The struggling Spider-Man can't believe that he had forgotten being instructed in heroics by the Sentry, and that the greatest accomplishment of his professional career was taking a photo of the him, winning Parker fame, accolades, and fortune. And the tragic figure of the Hulk recalls the "golden man" who was able to erase his tragic isolation, and bring him into the light as a hero for the world, but only when around the Sentry.

These seem like good things on the surface, but they're not. Reynolds has inserted himself into the most private moments of Richards' life. He's hijacked Angel's heroic narrative for himself. He's removed the heroic burdens from Spider-Man and the Hulk, diluting their characters (even going so far as to make the Hulk little more than his pet). This is the destructive nature of bad retcons in favor of an author avatar. Sentry is every bit Robert Reynolds' Mary Sue (or Gary Stu).

To make this explicit, we have the Void.

Who is the Void?

The Void is the opposite of the Sentry. He is the embodiment of the negative consequences of the Sentry's meddling in continuity. For every good that the Sentry does, the Void does an ill to make up for it. He brutally maims the Sentry's kid sidekick, Scout. He terrorizes Reynolds' wife, Lindy. He reaches into the heart of the Hulk and scars him worse than the Sentry ever "helped" him. He does these things because the Sentry needs him to, because heroes are defined by their villains. Reynolds wants the Sentry to be the greatest hero of all time, so he needs the most terrifying villain of all time opposing him.

It's important to note that while the Void is the opposite of the Sentry, he is NOT the opposite of Robert Reynolds. The Sentry/Void dynamic is a false dichotomy. By choosing to be the Sentry, he's also choosing the Void, but even if he did find a way to ONLY be the Sentry, as he attempted to do when Emma Frost "revealed" to him how the Void was just his imagination and he joined the Avengers as a regular member, the Sentry itself is still a villainous figure. It is only by rejecting his own power—by excising the Sentry and the Void from history and living his difficult and mundane life as an alcoholic agoraphobic, as he did in his original series—that Robert Reynolds can be heroic.

The dual nature of the Sentry/Void can be used to symbolize many things—the good and evil natures of humanity, mental illness (e.g., manic depression/bipolar disorder), substance dependency—but in the end, the manic extremes it represents must be rejected. For example, the highs and lows an addict feels when in the throes of substance abuse can only be resolved by cutting out both. In this sense, the Sentry should ONLY be used in a villainous capacity, even without the Void.

(Although the standalone THE AGE OF THE SENTRY mini-series used him to great comedic effect in taking the piss out of golden age Superman stories.)

What is the origin of his powers?

It's impossible to know. Because Robert Reynolds' powers allow him to rewrite history, this allows him to rewrite his own history as well. Whenever he reflects on his own origins, the details seem to change. Most versions involve some sort of super-powered serum that allow him to pull energy from seconds in the future, giving him "the power of a million exploding suns", but this is all for his own benefit. The flight, speed, strength, durability, and telepathy the Sentry gives himself aren't his "real" powers anyway. They're just what Robert Reynolds chose to give to his ideal avatar.

As I understand it, I don't see a reason to look past his introduction for his origins. In the original Sentry arc, we are shown an event where a scared, lonely man suddenly has a spark of power, and he uses this to become the Sentry. There's no reason to believe that the serum he drinks in the beginning of the story even existed before he "remembered" it in the first pages. Maybe Reynolds always had the power to rewrite history, maybe he gained it just then and chose to create the serum that would unlock everything else, but we've seen his power grow exponentially since.

Where is he now?

Currently he's considered deceased, but this is rather dubious (even more so than usual in comics). In his original arc, he resolved things heroically by rejecting the power, his last act being to erase all knowledge of his meddling with history and basically give up his dream. Since he was brought into broader continuity with the Avengers, his presence hasn't been as tidy. He alternated between being ignored, being "too crazy to fight", and performing ever-increasing feats of strength, such as ripping people in half (e.g., Carnage, Ares) and standing toe-to-toe with figures like the Hulk. He also learned the nature of his powers from an encounter with the Molecule Man, another reality-changer. It was around that time that Sentry got really crazy, seeming to merge with the Void (since they are the same character) and gaining the ability to rewrite history even after his death, instantly coming back to life whenever he's killed.

Imagine the surprise of readers, then, when he was killed during the events of SIEGE when Thor dropped a heavy object (helicarrier) on him and that was it. There was no giving up of power. Nobody's memories of the Sentry/Void were erased. In fact, the Sentry was celebrated as a fallen hero at his funeral, with characters (e.g., Thing) professing their love and affection for him, including past romantic entanglements (e.g., Rogue), when we had no evidence of this leading up to it. I think it's clear that the Sentry isn't dead so much as he wrote in a heroic "death" for himself and will return. With Marvel Now! ramping up, it seems we'll get to see his return, apparently as one of a new group of Apocalypse's four horsemen, composed of dead characters such as Daken, Grim Reaper, and Banshee.

Personally, I think the Sentry/Void has great potential as a character. I understand why many fans don't like him, of course; he has the power to totally rewrite your favorite character's continuity and that becomes the new status quo. That's terrifying. Hulk fans especially have a chip on their shoulder about the Sentry, which is why they were thrown a cathartic beat-down of the Sentry by the Hulk during the WORLD WAR HULK storyline. But I like him. I think with the right approach, he's a great addition to the Marvel universe.

In fact, I think he'd make a fantastic villain for an Avengers film. He's one part tragic hero (Reynolds), one part dark messiah (Sentry), and one part cackling super-evil (Void). That's a great combination, and the nature of his powers would allow them to go back into scenes from previous Marvel movies and reshoot them to include the Sentry changing things—saving Stark from Obediah Stane for example, or being the one to save the Hulk from General Ross and make him a super happy hero instead of Banner doing it on his own. It would be a fun way to show the strength of the Marvel film-verse's shared continuity by messing with it a little bit.

So there you go, for better, worse, or extra-worse, such is the Sentry.

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What would people think of an all-black cast of MIGHTY AVENGERS?

Concept:

An Avengers roster with all-black membership, assembled in addition to other teams for the purpose of promoting Marvel's black characters.

Explanation:

The thought of a book/team like this hit me during this thread here, which was about creating a mostly POC Justice League. (Something like what Milestone did where they set out to create a very diverse group of heroes.) In that thread, the idea of an all POC super team was raised, and I argued that such a team would be justified and beneficial. I think there are more than enough POC comic book heroes, or even more specifically black heroes, to create a quality all-POC or all-black team. And I think that if people doubt that, then it might just be worth doing. I know not everyone will agree.

The point would be to show—not that you shouldn't have whites or that teams should be segregated by race—but that there are so many worthy black characters that you should have no problem putting such a team together. Too often we see limits on how many black characters you can have on page at one time lest it be deemed a "black book" or a "minoriteam". Or, when a traditionally white mantle or team-slot gets passed on to a POC character, we have to hear that such a character was added only because of their race (see: Cyborg forums). So why not just answer these objections head on?

This kind of book--highlighting a particular demographic--has already been done with some success with all-female books: AME-COMI GIRLS, HER-OES, BIRDS OF PREY, the pending FEARLESS DEFENDERS, and others. This just shifts the focus to combating racial disparity rather than gender disparity. As for "why Avengers?" I just chose Avengers because the previous thread was DC, so why not do Marvel? And any old name will do (as long as it's not some sort of pun) so I went with "Mighty Avengers" which isn't currently being used.

Finally, this book would not be "about" being black. Certainly the topic of race would and should come up, but the point is to show that you can create a great Avengers book that stands up alongside any other Avengers book, but with an all-black cast. And that doing so let's you showcase some of these characters that for whatever reason aren't normally put together in one room.

Members:

Implementation:

I think the best way to do a book like this is to approach the reasons for getting such a book together directly. I don't think you gain anything by dancing around it or trying to think up a reason why a group of all-black superheroes would just happen to wind up working together. The fans would argue about such a book, so make the characters in the book mirror those arguments as well.

So, I would have Falcon and War Machine (prominent in past or upcoming Marvel films), set out to create a new roster of all-black heroes for the same reasons as the book would exist in the first place: to simply show these heroes in a context where they're working together instead of as members of other teams where they are almost always the minority.

In this book I'd make character development a priority, which is a good idea for any ensemble book, but especially for a book where the goal is to promote characters you don't want them to fall flat. I'd also take the opportunity to dig into the rogues galleries of the various characters and highlight some classic Avengers villains that we haven't seen as much of in a while.

Opening scene:

For the opening scene, I'd do a televised interview with a conservative pundit or pundit stand-in. This would provide a context where it'd be appropriate to get any objections to the concept of such a book/team out in the open and provide opposing viewpoints, if not actual settling the matter.

  • Q: Won't this just promote segregation? What's next, all-Latino? all-Asian? All-gay?
  • Falcon: No, the point is to increase representation. As for similar teams, would that be a bad thing?
  • Q: What about all-white? Wouldn't that be called racist?
  • Falcon: We already have that in some places (make up some state-level initiative teams as examples maybe). This team is a response to the status quo which already provides imbalanced coverage and membership of black superheroes. If we were an all-white group and were forming a team, you wouldn't bother interviewing us about that.
  • Q: I might if the point of the team was to be all white.
  • Falcon: Well that's not—
  • Q: Won't this decrease the effectiveness of the superhero community by taking time away from other teams? And War Machine, aren't you still active in some capacity with the military? Won't this take away from your commitments there?
  • War Machine: This team is in addition to other duties, and those who were too busy to handle another commitment did not join.
  • Q: Won't this put potentially under-qualified heroes on an Avengers team, reducing your effectiveness and possibly getting people killed? Shouldn't the Avengers be held to a strictly merit-based standard?
  • Falcon: There are more than enough qualified black superheroes--and Avengers specifically--that we can create a rounded and effective team from just them. Nobody is on this team simply because they are black.
  • War Machine: The military is also held to a merit-based standard, and yet we've had great success increasing opportunity for under-represented groups. They don't put people in the line of fire unless they're ready, and neither will we.
  • Falcon: And, of course, we will work with anyone if a specific situation calls for it. If we really need Iron Man or Thor or Captain America for something, they're all just a phone call away.
  • Q: Is this even necessary? Is anyone opposed to this?
  • War Machine: No, it's not necessary.
  • Falcon: *side-eyes*
  • War Machine: And look, I took some convincing myself because I don't think it's necessary. But, I do think good can come from it. Another team of superheroes doing good isn't bad.
  • Q: Doesn't this politicize superheroes? People want superheroes to be like first responders--police, fire fighters, EMTs--real heroes who are there to help with no political motivation. They don't necessarily want the NAACP to show up when a monster is attacking New York.
  • Falcon: We can be just as effective at both. Our point is to do the job well, first and foremost, and the message comes from that. That's our 'political message', that we are here and we do the job well.
  • Q: Doesn't this just give the impression that black superheroes need promotion? So doesn't this create the very problem it's supposedly trying to fix? We just re-elected the first black president, is focusing on race now really in anyone's best interest?
  • Falcon: *eye roll*
  • War Machine: *raised eyebrow*

Afterward:

  • War Machine: Well that went...well?
  • Falcon: What a jackass!

Possible story hooks:

  • As Falcon and War Machine try to assert control of the team, tensions develop with other members who start to feel like the whole team is actually an attempt by SHIELD to bring unaffiliated heroes in line with their agenda. (Concern is especially voiced by Blade and Power Man.)
  • Ex-spouses Storm and Black Panther deal with the very real frustrations of membership on the same team, but both are too proud to walk away and let the other "win". Frenzy starts hitting on BP to piss Storm off. Storm is pissed off.
  • Power Man is also pissed off because he feels like people are treating him as an upstart wannabe and that they were really trying to recruit Luke Cage (which maybe they were). He's also being attacked by the media because he's young and brash and not as well known as the others.
  • Storm's involvement in X-Force is revealed, at least within the team. Falcon and War Machine are conflicted as they view this as true vigilantism while the rest kinda shrug it off. Especially Blade who is basically like "Look, I kill vampires in my free time. I kill people for catching a disease. Why do you guys not think that's weird? If you walk into a room and you don't see me, you should probably assume I'm out murdering people for being vampires."
  • A bloodied Captain Britain and Spitfire show up on their doorstep looking for Blade. Baron Blood is back again and making a nuisance. (I'll admit this is pretty much me just wanting MI:13 back.)
  • Black Panther sees a chance to get revenge on Namor for the events of AvX and takes it. The team, and especially Storm, has to choose sides in a potential war between Atlantis and Wakanda.
  • Doctor Doom. Because he's still pissed over what happened in DOOMWAR (which was awesome).
  • Various classic Avengers villains that haven't been seen as much lately: Nightmare, Ultron, Kang, Count Nefaria, etc.

So, what does everyone think? Is this a good idea? Is this just tokenism writ large? Would this book sell? I just get frustrated with some elements of comic book fandom who cry foul at any attempt to increase diversity or showcase POC characters. I think a book like this would combat that mentality within the comic book community.

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Less Bitchin' More Pitchin' - PYM

I'm a fan of Dr Hank Pym. Over the years he's saved the world countless times since he helped form the original Avengers (and later the West Coast Avengers), and yet his inventions and uncontrolled impulses have also put the world and his loved ones in danger—most famously when he commited a double-whammy by inventing an evil robot (something he's known for) and back-handing his then-wife the Wasp across the room. Lately he's refurbished his reputation a bit. He's stayed in control, had a few positive and semi-successful romantic relationships, kept the Wasp's soul/mind in a hyper-scientific state of life support (and thus far resisted the temptation to rush any attempts at reviving her), and he's become a role model for the kids at Avengers Academy. That's all very nice and all incredibly boring. I think it's time for another mental break for good ol' Dr. Pym.

Pym's personality:

  • Naturally kind, Pym is a pacifist who is obsessed with finding better ways to rehabilitate criminals. He's not normally reckless or quick to anger.
  • Incredibly intelligent scientist and inventor, Pym's superpower is that he invents superpowers. In this sense he lives up to his unofficial title as the Scientist Supreme.
  • Unfortunately, Pym suffers from crippling psychological problems and needs to be monitored and medicated to maintain his genteel and altruistic personality. When unmedicated, he suffers from extreme paranoia, behaves irrationally and sometimes violently, and at least once invented an alternate "action hero" personality in place of his normal one. Not only suffering from paranoia during these episodes, Pym also becomes obsessed with proving himself—as an inventor, as a hero, as a man. It's a volatile mix.

Pitch:

Hank Pym's medication suddenly stops being effective. As his mental state deteriorates, he simultaneously seeks an effective replacement (to no avail) and begins "Pym proofing" his life, trying to mitigate any damage he could do un-medicated. True to classic Pym form, however, he does NOT seek help from anyone else, and when his mental state finally starts to slip, he's on his own—a mad scientist supreme, addicted to wild invention. He's a hero trapped in the body of a mad scientist.

Supporting characters:

  • Hallucinatory versions of Pym: All the various costumes and names he's taken over the years appear to help, antagonize, confuse, or otherwise interact with him.
  • Jocasta: A robot version of Pym's dead wife, created by Ultron, she's currently at odds with Pym but recognizes that something isn't right and begins to investigate.
  • Tigra: Love interest and mother of Pym's sort-of child, Pym worries that his darker impulses will draw him toward her and harm her.
  • Various villains & heroes: During his lucid moments, Pym tries to keep himself contained and work on effective medication, but while he's out of it he goes out and plays hero, bumping into various villains and heroes as he does so.

Plot hooks:

  • Opening line: "My name is Hank Pym, I'm an Avenger, and I've been unmedicated for twelve days."
  • "Pym proofing": Pym is locking up dangerous experiments and leaving admonishing notes to himself: Do NOT build robots. Do NOT call Tigra. Do NOT supervise children. Do NOT "show them." Do NOT "show them all."
  • Suspicion by other heroes: Jocasta tries to check up on him. Eventually, Tigra does as well when she realizes he's ignoring her. Their inquiries start as polite and concerned, but Pym tries to deflect them and behave as if everything is fine. When their suspicions are later confirmed, their concern turns toward alarm as they know what Pym is capable of.
  • Pym's "Yellowjacket" persona—in form of hallucination—taunts him and tries to prove he's better than him. This leads to a contest of wills and them leaving deadly and inventive traps for each other while they're in control.
  • Pym creates new and unstable inventions and superpowers wildly during his adventures, sometimes more of a hazard than the villains he's fighting.
  • Pym retreats to the microverse and goes crazy on everyone.
  • Pym tries to recreate the Infinite Mansion and instead unleashes various alternate realities into his home, so everytime he opens a door in his own house he's never sure what's behind it.
  • Pym starts to dress himself in an amalgam of his various costumes: Ant-Man helmet, Giant-Man shirt, Yellowjacket shoulder fins, Wasp coat, "Dr. Pym" red cargo pants, etc.
  • A version of Ultron appears and tries to take advantage of Pym's mental state. Pym ultimately stomps him hard with insane inventiveness and unpredictability.

Why I'd like to see it:

I can't help but feel like ol' Pym is underutilized. He was a founding Avenger and has created more spinoff characters than any other one character in the Marvel universe (although the Hulk is giving him a run for his money these days). You could fill out a whole Avengers team with just his superpowered progeny, and yet he's kind of looked over. It seemed like they were going to finally do something with him when he took over leadership of the Mighty Avengers, but that puttered out and he was left baby-sitting in the pages of Avengers Academy, which is lame because as the "instructor" character he can't really do much in that book—the students have to be the ones who save the day. I say break him out of that and embrace the various aspects of the character, especially what makes him unique compared to any of the other super-scientists in the Marvel universe—he's crazy. I think that'd be entertaining to explore. And as long as you don't totally abandon the core of the character—portray him as dangerous because he's behaving recklessly, not that he's evil—it shouldn't damage the character long-term.

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Posters for the nursery, for both boy and girl

Share a hypothetical with me: you have successfully conceived, your future spawn seems healthy and is growing by the day, and you have room for three posters in what will become the nursery—say because the rest of the room is filled with your Star Wars crap or something. Now, you don't know the sex yet (that's not till week 20), but you find you can't help planning things a little early for each circumstance in the back of your mind. So I ask you, which three comic book characters do you choose to hold up as good examples for your pending brood?

My choices for a boy:

My choices for a girl:

Of the above images, some I care for more than others. The Spidey and Amadeus images I pretty much picked at random. The Cass Cain one I picked simply because I wanted one that showed her face at least partially, but there have been so many beautiful Cassandra Cain Batgirl covers by James Jean that it'd be hard to choose just one. The Batman, Captain Marvel, and Question images are all pieces of art that I'm a big fan of.

Also, and if you're curious, the list of my runner-up selections are in the spoiler box.

So that's my plan, what's yours? Share your own nursery poster characters in a reply, and if you have specific images, even better! And of course there's no need to match the sex of the child to the sexes of the selections, I just wanted to.

PS: For me, this is not actually hypothetical. :)

PSS: The new Captain Marvel image would be especially meaningful since, well, this has become a meaningful year, which is why it would win out over Wonder Woman or Power Girl who I think of as similar archetypes.

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And To The Surprise of No One, She Returns

So this is happening, officially this time, Jean Grey is returning to the X-Men.

Marvel Relaunch 2012

The idea of bringing back Jean Gray has been contentious. Even the first time they did it, there were those who hated the decision because it cheapened her heroic sacrifice. There are those who see her as the embodiment of the "death is broken" nature of comics (or just dislike the character) and want to see her stay dead, and there are her fans, who have long suffered under tease after tease of her return (e.g., Endsong, Warsong, Messiah Complex, Second Coming, Avengers vs. X-Men), but it hasn't happened for a good long while (seven years or so). So, how is she returning, how long will this last, and what can they do with her going forward? And, ultimately, is this a good thing?

How is she returning?

Time-travel. Along with the rest of the original X-Men, Jean is leaping forward and having a good look at the crap-sack world of the modern X-Men. I like the idea of a kind of "return to roots" for the X-Men after the upheaval of AvX—sort of what Logan's school was supposed to be—but I'm not sure I like the idea of Jean being, well, old Jean. That almost every story we've had with her is basically wiped out from the "returned" Jean's continuity. Can that really be considered the same Jean? Can we really call this a "return?" I don't see how this is any better from trying to make Ben Reilly the "real" Peter Parker and wiping out years of Spider-Man's memories. Plus, she'll have to constantly deal with the "man out of time" baggage as long as she stays, which is going to be a big change to the character. Then again, the problem with Jean has always been the rest of her baggage, so maybe that's okay by comparison. This Jean would be pre-Phoenix, pre-Logan/Scott triangle, pre-death-cycle, pre-a lotta crap that's been dogging the character for years, even after her death(s). But it does raise the question...

How long will this last?

We have to assume that the originals will go back in time at some point, will she go as well? If the originals don't go back in time, can they really be considered the "originals"? My understanding is that the Marvel Multiverse works where once a timeline branches off, it's considered its own universe. We don't need another "fake" Jean running around. We already have Rachel, Hope, the Goblin Queen, and a bunch of brand new clones by Sinister. And then there's all the other character's that have picked up Jean's roles and props over the years: Emma Frost, The Stepford Cuckoos, Cable, Nate Grey, Korvus, and now the Phoenix Five (and I guess an Iron Fist in there too). If they're going to call this a return, they'll need to figure out a way to explain:

  • Why she's not going back with the team,
  • Why she would want to stay in the modern era,
  • How that won't shatter the timeline, and
  • How she'll still count as "our" Jean instead of another alt-U Jean.

Personally, I think they'll just say "screw it" and effectively make her an alt-U Jean but won't call it that. Basically, that when the old team traveled forward, their timeline split into another universe—one without Jean in it. Depending on how well the new Jean is developed, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it still won't feel like getting the "real" Jean back.

What can they do with her going forward?

Well, for one thing they can ditch the whole Phoenix bit, once and for all. And thank Odin for that. Jean has stagnated for far too long as "the Phoenix chick" and as the bauble to be fought over in the Scott/Logan love triangle. Despite the loss of her continuity the time-travel aspect of her return entails, this will at least provide a good excuse to tear the character down to its bedrock and then build it up into something new. They could also take her powers in a new direction if they wished—considering that the X-Men and Avengers have newer challenges, training methods, and technology to present her with, I wouldn't be surprised at all if she developed new techniques or even a "secondary" ability that was so successful in updating characters like Beast and Emma Frost. And while I like seeing the old X-Men duds, I'd hope that if she decides to stick around permanently (which may not happen) then she'll update to a new costume. They just need to avoid retreading old ground. If they bring her back just to pair her with Scott or Logan or fill her with Phoneix energy then a lot of fans will be wondering what the point was.

So what can they do? She'll be appearing on the Uncanny Avengers team, which is interesting. It's not like Jean was totally cut off from the Avengers at that age considering her friendship with Wanda. I think that's a good idea, but I'd also want to see her interacting with younger characters since she's technically a peer for them now. She should be girl talking with Hope, Jubilee, and X-23. She should be showing up Quentin Quire. And if they don't have her attend a school named after a future-dead version of herself, run by a man who had a super-creepy crush on her for decades, and with a dystopian-future daughter of hers on the staff, they will seriously be missing an opportunity for fun storytelling.

Is this a good thing?

I would argue that it is. There's a clear downside, of course: those who dislike Jean have to deal with her again and fans of Jean aren't even getting "their" Jean back (and even this Jean might only be a temporary fixture). However, as someone who was mostly in the former group, I will be releived that her return will at least mean they can finally shut up about the Phoenix, and her death, and all that crap that they've been referencing for decades because they can't think of what to do with the character. I firmly believe that Jean has been just as annoying dead as she ever was alive. Now that she's back and being scalped down to the nub of what her character is, well, they can finally progress forward. And I hope that Jean's fans can recognize the potential in that, and that the writers can deliver a new, better Jean for fans and non-fans alike.

47 Comments

Wonder Woman's View of the Political Left and Right

Obviously the character of Diana Prince, Wonder Woman, is not American, but as a property she is very much an icon of the USA. While showering, naturally I started thinking about Wonder Woman and asked myself, "Where does she fall on the left/right scale of American Politics?" One of the reasons why I find this question so interesting regarding this particular character is because Wonder Woman traditionally has embodied some natural incongruities:

  • She's a diplomat for peace but was raised as a warrior in a military society
  • She's an advocate for the poor, weak, and downtrodden and yet was born a Princess of an absolute monarchy
  • She believes in self-empowerment and yet worships ancient gods who were responsible for her very birth (one way or another)
  • She's an icon of feminism and yet historically her books had a strong undercurrent of female submission (via bondage)

She's got some internal conflicts and I think that makes her interesting. It does, however, make my original question somewhat difficult to answer.

First, I'd have to establish my terms, as "Left" and "Right" don't have clear definitions even within one political realm, and although they are often treated similarly to terms like "liberal" and "conservative," aren't exactly the same. So, being as general (and neutral) as I possibly can, I'll make some lists of how I personally see each side of the US political spectrum:

Left values:

  • Social support programs
  • Social justice
  • Market regulation
  • Secularist values

Right values:

  • National defense/security
  • Privacy/personal liberty
  • Free-market capitalism
  • Religious values

Obviously over-simplified, and feel free to correct me if you disagree, but I'm not trying to determine Diana's affiliation to any particular movement or political party, but rather a general left-right alignment. I think like most of American voters (not that she could legally vote), she'd find herself pulled in both directions in different ways, and even more-so because of her own internal conflicts.

Looking at Diana's left-leaning sympathies, she's clearly an advocate for social equality. While this is mostly considered in the context of gender equality, I'd argue that she represents as broad a sense of "social equality" as possible, including racial equality (DC's Amazons were multi-racial) and sexual orientation equality (in certain story arcs there are strong implications of lesbianism among some members of the Amazons). She's also focused on the poor and the idea of "fixing the ills of man's world" if you'll pardon the paraphrase. I would think that includes fixing poverty, and I don't ever recall seeing Amazons using currency at all, which in my mind leans away from capitalism, let alone the free-market capitalism favored by the American right. However, this also leads us to her right-leaning sympathies.

Regarding Diana's right-leaning sympathies, to start with, it's possible that the reason we never see the Amazon's trading with each other is not because they represent some sort of leftist, utopian compound, but rather because they are a military society where possessions and food are rationed out. Clearly in American politics, equipping, feeding, clothing, and generally supplying military troops is not viewed as some sort of social support program, and parallels could be made in that regard to the Amazons. Furthermore, for all their talk of peace, the Amazons are a warrior society, and Wonder Woman is arguably the most aggressive, well-armed, and lethal member of DC's iconic "trinity." She may or may not be for capital punishment, for example, but she's clearly willing to take a life if she feels it's necessary. That's not a decision I personally could see Batman making (or Superman pre-reboot). Security, stability, and a strong hierarchy of leadership are clearly values held by Diana, as befitting someone happily raised in a military society.

Finally, she is religious, however she opposes the gods of her pantheon as often as heeding them, and one could make the argument that as she worships "pagan" gods, her religious views are more left-leaning then right-leaning. I'll just call this point a wash.

Although I'm unable to pin a particular viewpoint on the character, I certainly don't see that as a negative. I think one would find similar conflicts with DC's other iconic characters—"What's Bruce Wayne's views on taxes?" for example—and ultimately I think it's a good thing for Wonder Woman's appeal that she can find common ground with readers on both sides of the US political spectrum.

Do you agree? Disagree? Do you think I pegged her points well or do you feel she leans predominantly left or right? If you're not a United Statesian, how does Diana fit into your own local political spectrum? Let me know!

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