Why I'm (sheepishly) Looking Forward to "Age of Ultron"

Marvel's "Big Events" are something that have undeniably been getting staler and staler. They all promise huge changes, but almost always result in predictable and pointless character deaths, obvious cash-grabbing scenes that pit hero against hero, and leave their fans empty wallets because of the unimportant tie-ins and the like. Of course, these are apparently what sell, so as a longtime fan of the characters and a handful of Marvel's creators, I have to endure and adapt, despite how I feel about the company and they way they do business: I simply don't buy them. I haven't bought a single event series since the utter trash that was Siege, and my wallet (and brain) have never been happier. I also have a huge dislike for the creators, or, the self-proclaimed "Marvel Architects" that are constantly pumping these events out, but more detail on that later.

So now you know my background, where I'm coming from, and all that other fun stuff.

Until very recently, something's happened that I'm frankly just not proud of. Folks, despite all the monotonous events and killings and blah, blah, blah, I've realized something: I'm actually looking forward to this one. And I hate myself for it. But, to justify it to myself, I need to blog about it on the almighty interwebz, so here it goes. These are my top five reasons as to why I'm looking forward to Age of Ultron:

1. Heroes are fighting villains again.

Age of Ultron #1 by Adi Granov
Oh, memories. Get 'im Spidey!

Remember the good old days when Iron Man fought Mandarin, Spider-Man battled Green Goblin, the X-Men defeated Magneto, and the Avengers saved the world from Kang the Conqueror and nobody made a big deal about it? I understand and accept the fact that pitting heroes against heroes have always been a part of the mighty Marvel way of doing things, ever since the beginning when the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner clashed during the Golden Age. Yes, those stories were fun, and it's always cool to see a nicely-written battle between characters like Hulk and Thing or Spider-Man and Wolverine, but frankly, after Civil War, I'm bored with it. When was the last time Green Goblin fought Spider-Man or the X-Men fought Arcade? Ya know, the bad guys? Beginning with Civil War, heroes were fighting heroes, and that hasn't stopped really since... well... never. It hasn't. I mean, Jesus, the last "big event" was the Avengers vs. X-Men for crying out loud. The saddest thing about that event, in my opinion, was that it was obvious that the story and characters meant absolutely nothing to the creative teams that were producing them. The only real pull for that specific event was "Hey guys, who'd win: Captain America or Cyclops? What about Thor vs. Magneto?" and so on and so forth. With Age of Ultron, we'll be seeing the Marvel heroes battle a big-time bad guy again, and that's extremely refreshing if you step back and look at it.

2. It's Ultron.

Just look how damn menacing he is. And he's back!

It's no secret that I love Hank Pym. I'm a firm believer that he, next to Daredevil and the Thing are Marvel's absolute best characters, despite the fact that almost everyone in the community disagrees with me on that front, especially regarding Dr. Hank Pym. (Special shoutout to my fellow Ant-Fans. Looking at you, With that in mind, I'm also a huge fan of just about any character that associates themselves with the "Scientist Supreme," including Scott Lang, Janet Van Dyne, Eric O'Grady, Bill Foster, and of course, Ultron. On top of being both Pym's greatest and worst creation imaginable, Ultron is responsible for both Vision and Jocasta, two excellent characters that Marvel has to offer. Even still, Ultron, even standing next to the likes of Loki and Kang, is without a doubt the Avengers's greatest foe, in my humble opinion. He always comes back, and when he does, there's absolute hell to pay. It will be a pleasure to see an excellent villain assume his vengeance on Earth's Mightiest Heroes and, hopefully, his daddy.

3. Bryan Hitch.

If there was ever an artist that I can lock in my basement and force them to draw anything and everything, it would be Mr. Bryan Hitch. His work on The Ultimates and JLA is phenomenal, and that's all there is to it. I love Bryan Hitch, and if you don't, we can't be friends. Truth told, I wish I can add more to this point, but I can't, so here are some pretty pictures he drew:

4. Bendis's good-bye.

We hardly knew thee. Now get out.

Oh, Brian Michael Bendis. If it wasn't for your work on Ultimate Spider-Man, I might've never given comic books a chance. His Daredevil was superb, and he does excellent work on solo-heroes doing solo-things. I respect him as a man (I follow him on Twitter and everything!), but Jesus tap-dancing Christ he sucks at writing the Avengers. I stood by Disassembled, and I even stood by the decision of giving Spider-Man and Wolverine a spot on my favorite Marvel superhero team, but... I can't anymore. After the events of Siege (I'm disgusted that it took me that long), I had to put down the books... All of them. I haven't purchased an Avengers title since then, and absolutely seized the day when Hickman took over the brand. It was the bestest day ever. Anyway, perhaps it wasn't all him, as the suits have the final say as to what they want their characters to do at the end of the day, but I just couldn't anymore. The stupid Spider-Man jokes about Denny's, Luke and Jessica's boring-ass, plot device of a child, and those issues where all the Avengers would do is literally sit around and eat food in the mansion are all I'll remember about this long, choke-hold of a run. He might have put the Avengers back on the map, but... not like this, ya know? With Age of Ultron, this will mark the end of the Bendis Reign on my Avengers, and it's a damn good riddance. Sorry, X-Fans and Guardians of the Galaxy Guys, but you can keep him.

5. A story that wants to be told.

I don't know why I'm using an image of Abigail Brand here.

I'll be the first one to tell you that Avengers vs. X-Men was all about the Benjamins. Money, money, money, mon-ey! MOOOOONEEEEEY! (Brownie points if you read that in the song melody). Anyway, as I mentioned in reason number one, all AvX was, was an excuse to get their heroes to fight each other because the average Joe just eats that stuff up. Unlike the huge cash-grab that was AvX, this looks like a story that genuinely wants to be told. I mean, think about it: it's been on the back-burner for the better part of a few years, so I figure that if it wasn't awful, they would have scrapped it by now, right? Right?! I know it might sound naive, but the thought of this idea just makes me happy. A story that wants to be told is far more interesting than a story that needs to be told, and I think that Age of Ultron is just one of those stories that wanted to be told.

So, despite how I feel about all of Marvel's "Big Events" since the kick-starting Avengers: Disassembled (with a few exceptions), it's very strange to me that I could be looking forward to this one-- especially since Bendis is behind the pen. I understand wholeheartedly that many of you in this fine community will disagree with what I had to say, but I just needed to open up about it, as a) it comes out tomorrow, and b) it's the internet and everyone's allowed to be heard up in here. I wish I can confidently tell you that you should pick this book up and all that, but... I'm scared to do it. Marvel's just hurt me too many times, and I'm a strong woman that don't be needin' no abusive-ass man. (Kidding. I'm a guy. Promise.) But yeah, I'm looking forward to this book, I hate myself for it, and that's my sad, sad tale.

And that's all I have to say about that.

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Gambit1024's thoughts on Avengers 2, 3, and beyond.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge fan of the Marvel movies. While yes, they aren't the best-made films on the planet, I think that the continuity that these films share is an astounding accomplishment. After recently finding out that Ant-Man, the next Marvel movie I'm looking the most forward to, is going to be a part of Marvel's "Phase 2," it has me thinking about what just may or may not happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

To refresh us, and to inform those who aren't aware, "Phase One" of the MCU consisted of:

  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • The Avengers

After The Avengers was released, it was stated that that was only the first piece of the MCU, and will continue with Phase Two. Phase Two will consist of:

  • Iron Man 3
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Avengers 2 (not official title)
  • Ant-Man (which is now confirmed by Entertainment Weekly)

Previously, fans have speculated that Ant-Man would kick off Phase Three, but now after I think about it, ending Phase Two with it makes sense, but I'll get to that in a second. First, let's talk about Avengers 2 by recapping what we already know:

  • Thanos will be the main villain of Avengers 2.
  • Each team member will be attacked personally. Joss Whedon has said multiple times that this is the premise of Avengers 2. This leads me to believe that Thanos will do this all by himself, or he will be pulling the strings on a make-shift Masters of Evil.
  • New potential Avengers members will be introduced within Phase 2. So far, Falcon and Ant-Man are officially confirmed. Wasp, Dr. Strange, and Ms. Marvel have been heavily speculated to be introduced in Iron Man 3 , Thor: The Dark World, and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively. This means that some members of the original movie may not make it in Avengers 2 to make room for the rookies. My money's on replacing Hawkeye and Black Widow to make room on the roster for Falcon, Ant-Man, and Wasp.

So, knowing what we know now, here are my own predictions I'll make of Phase Three and beyond:

  • Ultron, who will be introduced in Ant-Man, will be the main villain in Avengers 3. Alternatively, Civil War (a topic that has been consistently brought up since The Avengers) will be the premise for the entirety of Phase 3, only to have them reunite and fight Ultron or the Skrulls (another thing that people have been speculating) or both. Either way, Ultron will be heavily involved in Phase 3.
  • If the trend continues, Phase 3 will consist of six films. My guesses will be The Incredible Hulk 2, Captain America 3, Thor 3, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, and Avengers 3.
  • The Incredible Hulk 2. Hulk's sequel has been pretty much demanded by fans after The Avengers. Kevin Feige said that if there's going to be another Hulk movie, it'll have to be after 2015. This movie would also introduce the Leader (if we're sticking to the events of The Incredible Hulk), who would be a great character alongside Ultron. Also, maybe a She-Hulk cameo/reveal?
  • Cap and Thor are going to warrant sequels, no doubt. Cap will be closely tied to SHIELD and characters such as Falcon, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and other potential new faces such as Spider-Woman, Mockingbird, etc. Thor will be more "spacified" and will tie closer to the Guardians of the Galaxy (which I'm unsure will get a sequel, but we'll see). Other characters like Mar-Vell, Beta Ray Bill, and other characters of that vein, as well as the magic characters like Dr. Strange may also tie into the Thor sequel.
  • That brings me to Dr. Strange's movie. It'll happen in Phase Three, and if my fanboy dreams come true, will sort of introduce the concept of The Defenders. If that's true, we'll see characters like Namor, Valkyrie, and She-Hulk as well as other members of that team. In either Phase 3 or even 4, though.
  • To link the space stuff and the SHIELD stuff, I predict that in either the SHIELD TV series (which is confirmed to be set in the MCU) or Guardians of the Galaxy, SWORD will be introduced. There's where we'll get Ms. Marvel and Abigail Brand.
  • Black Panther's movie has to happen by Phase Three. It has to, right? This is a character whose fans are pretty adamant about getting this movie. If this happens, we'll no doubt have an Avengers 3 recruit, or even a Marvel Knight... Yeah, my next point.
  • What about the street heroes, aka the Marvel Knights? Marvel recently re-obtained the film rights to Daredevil and Elektra, and Marvel Studios has access to a bunch of characters in that same vein, such as Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Moon Knight. Will we get a Heroes for Hire movie? Maybe in Phase 4...
  • Lastly, and this one's a big maybe, is the idea of introducing Spider-Man to the MCU. Apparently, Sony and Disney made some sort of agreement to stick the Oscorp tower into a scene in The Avengers, but that didn't happen because the film was already done editing before this deal was done. Supposedly. But Sony would be dumb to not want in on the Avengers franchise, so maybe that's for real. That leads me to believe that in the next year or so, we'll be seeing news confirming or putting the idea to rest that the events in The Amazing Spider-Man took place in the same world as Iron Man, and will be the latest Avengers recruit. Let's also not forget Sony's other Marvel property: Ghost Rider. If Marvel gets to use Spider-Man, would they get access to Ghost Rider too? If so, a Blade/Ghost Rider/Dr. Strange movie would be entirely badass.

And that's what I think of the MCU's future. Also, if they ever need to retcon and reboot the whole thing altogether, they have an easy getaway excuse in Kang and time travel (which I hope they'll never try to pull because that'd be the biggest cop-out ever). I don't necessarily think this will happen, because Fiege has expressed interest that when Robert Downey Jr. doesn't want to be Tony Stark anymore, the part will be re-casted and the show will go on. It already happened to both Hulk and War Machine, so I don't think he'd lie about that.

That's all, folks. What are your future MCU predictions? Do you agree with anything I said, or do you think I'm being an old man and a fool? Thanks for reading!

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Gambit Goes to the Movies: The Amazing Spider-Man

Everybody loves Spider-Man, but as a reboot, can he make an impactful re-appearance to the big screen after the famous Raimi trilogy that debuted 10 years ago? Let’s take a look.

Everyone knows by now what the story of Spider-Man is all about: boy goes to high school; boy gets bitten by radioactive spider; boy ends up fighting crime with spider-powers. Complaining about the origin is pointless because going into this film, you need to expect that, so the writers needed to either shake it up, or add a new element that the audiences have never seen before. Of course, I’m talking about the whole “mystery” about Peter Parker’s parents, which I’ll get to later in this review. The villain in this film is the Lizard, a character that we’ve never seen onscreen before, which was a good choice on the writer’s part. Then there's Lizard's origin, which by itself, was fantastic, however the Lizard's overall plan was... dumb... I won’t spoil it, but they could have delved much more into his plan, and why he wanted to do it, because it felt rushed and senseless. There was also the other plot point that involves Spider-Man and his relationship to the NYPD, which was very well done, as it too was never fully delved in Raimi’s trilogy.

Marc Webb (his last name is WEBB!) did an excellent job as director. Previously, he directed a little film called (500) Days of Summer, which is hands down the best romantic comedy on the planet. The Amazing Spider-Man marks his very first big-budget film in general, and he nailed it. The color pallet set the tone more so than anything released this year so far, as it was dark when it needed to be and light when it needed to be. The POV stuff that was shot was definitely interesting, but nothing was really iconic in this film as far as camerawork, editing, etc. is concerned, but that doesn't mean it wasn't enjoyable in the slightest. The music in this film also deserves a mention, as it too set the tone beautifully, which is odd to me personally, because I never tend to pay attention to that sort of thing. It stood out, and it was fantastic.

Perfection.

The acting in this film was top-notch with a cast that exceeded expectations across the board. Andrew Garfield was born to play Spider-Man. He pulled off the shyness, awkwardness, geekiness, and comedy better than any incarnation ever seen before. In fact, Garfield’s performance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man was very much like that of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal as Tony Stark/Iron Man. They could not have hired a better man for the job. Emma Stone played the perfect love interest in Gwen Stacy. Peter and Gwen's relationship felt real, and the way their dialogue bounced back and forth couldn't have been better. Rhys Ifans played a fantastic villain, even if the villain himself isn’t quite as memorable as the Green Goblin or Dr. Octopus. Surprisingly, the men who deserve a big mention are Dennis Leary and Martin Sheen, who play Captain George Stacy and Peter's Uncle Ben, respectively. They completely knocked it out of the park with their performances, and were, again, perfect for their parts. Also, Stan Lee does have a cameo, of course, and it was his best one yet.

It's not a surprise that Sony only made this film to hold on to Spidey's rights, so nobody there specifically said "Hey, you know what needs to be retold awesomely? Spider-Man! Amirght?!" Did that effect how the movie was?

It's Voldemo-- nope, it's Lizard! ...Ten points to Slytherin!

As good as this film was, there are several plot points that are completely overlooked. While a majority of them are minor, one of them is extremely important to not only the film, but to Spider-Man's origin in general. Something there was never fully explained, which hurt the film, but not to the point where it’s unforgiveable. Surely they will address it in the inevitable sequel. There is a mid-credit scene, and it was awesome... if you didn't watch the trailers. The important part in the scene was literally in the trailer, and that ruined the impact of the scene in its entirety. It wasn't the director's fault in the least, but it was Sony that ruined it in that regard. Had this movie been marketed differently than what it was, this film would've been tons more enjoyable, and that's entirely Sony's fault. In fact, the trailers go out of the way to say "This is the untold story! Peter's parents! GIVE US MONEY!!!" I'm not saying that they don't address it in the film, but it's a small, small part that means next to nothing in the overall plot, so don’t go into the movie with the expectations that Sony tried to implant into your brains.

Since this film is yet another origin movie, you're not going to get the intense villainous plot points and gratuitous action until the sequel, but if the trilogy goes where this particular comic nerd thinks it's going to go, the sequel will be The Dark Knight of Spider-Man films, and that's completely alright to wait for. This was a very fun time at the movies, and I'll recommend it to anyone and everyone. Even if Sony dropped the ball in terms of marketing and making stupid-ass decisions in how the final cut was edited, I won't hold that against the film, because it wasn't the fault of anyone on the set. I'm going to do something a bit different in this review, and start giving letter grades instead of number grades. Without further adieu, for The Amazing Spider-Man, I give it an A-. Go see it, and have fun at the movies.

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Gambit Goes to the Movies: Ted

Seth MacFarlane is notorious for making cult-classic cartoons such as American Dad, and more famously, Family Guy. With the new movie Ted, it marks his debut of being a director of feature films. Does Ted have what it takes to be a good movie? Let’s find out.

Ted

The movie Ted is about a kid that wishes for his teddy bear to come to life. Sure enough, he does, becomes his best friend, ages with him, and hilarity ensues. The premise is a little silly, as it sounds a lot like Winnie the Pooh or something like that, but with MacFarlane on the director’s chair, it’s much raunchier than the Disney classic. Of course, that’s not all the plot consists of, but they could be considered potential spoilers, so I won’t discuss them here. I will say, however, that while the story itself may not be the best thing ever, the humor in this movie was fantastic, and overshadows the fact.

If you’re a fan of Family Guy, this movie’s perfect for you, if you didn’t catch that already. In fact, as a fan of the show myself, I saw a lot of jokes that snowballed from the hit show, including the occasional poop and fart jokes. Yeah, I’m a fan of toilet humor, and if you are too, this movie’s golden. Of course the entire movie isn’t filled with those jokes. MacFarlane’s humor revolves around a lot of things pop-culture, so if you love obscure references from 80’s TV shows, jokes about how awful Adam Sandler’s work has become, and the like, again, this movie’s perfect for you. It even makes fun of itself at some points, and I love that, considering how ridiculous the movie can get.

"I look like something you give to your kid when you tell 'em that Grandma died."

Something I’ve always disliked about Family Guy and American Dad is that you have these talking animals (Brian and the goldfish), and you never get an explanation as to why they can talk and why nobody makes a big deal of the fact. In Ted, you get those explanations, and the way they go about it is one of my favorite parts of the movie. From the trailers, you see an incredible exchange of dialogue between Ted and Mark Whalberg’s character, and the movie is full of that, so don’t think for a second that the trailer ruined anything. Speaking of Mark, I suppose that I should discuss how great the supporting cast was, as I almost forgot that there were actual humans in this movie. Ted (voiced by MacFarlane himself) steals the show, no doubt, but the supporting cast was awesome. Whalberg was charming and hilarious, and Mila Kunis was funnier and sexier than usual. Also, the amount of cameos in this movie is spectacular, and is one of the movie’s most memorable qualities.

Over all, I really enjoyed Ted, and Seth MacFarlane really knocked it out of the park with this one. Sure, not every joke will make you laugh, but the ones that do will make you laugh for a while. This was much better than any Family Guy episode I can personally think of, and hope that MacFarlane goes on to make more movies in general. This movie totally worked, and for that, I give it an 8.5 out of 10. Go see it immediately if you’ve ever laughed at a Family Guy episode, but if you’re not a fan of MacFarlane and his humor, go watch something else. Ted has the potential to be a cult-classic on its own right, and that’s totally well deserved.

http://www.trashmutant.com/movie-review---ted.html

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Gambit Goes to the Movies- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Movie titles can make or break the way a film’s marketed and perceived to the public’s eye. With a title as ridiculous as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, you should know exactly what you’re getting into. Let’s get this review started.

The film starts out with a young Abe Lincoln who witnesses his mother getting killed by a vampire. As he grows up, he finds a mentor who teaches him in the art of vampire killing. Eventually, Abe becomes president, and it’s all history from there on in. The premise is really good, and it sounds like a hell of a fun ride, but it just sort of… fell short. Where did it go wrong?

Well, let’s start off with the title: "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". With a name like that, you have to know what you’re getting into: an over-the-top crazy action movie about a badass president killing blood-sucking demons. Did we get that? Yes and no. Don’t get me wrong, the premise was awesome, and you do get some major kick-ass action scenes with Abe Lincoln swinging around his trusty axe and driving it through the skulls of vampires, but the overuse of CGI and slow-motion kind of ruined the mood. Some slow motion is alright, but whenever something was going down, a good two-thirds of it was in slow motion, and that’s distracting. Abe’s weapon of choice is an axe, but there’s only so much axe-swinging you can do before it gets repetitive. Furthermore, there’s a scene later on in the movie that involves Abe Lincoln literally jumping from horse to horse, and it just looks like some terrible video game with the bad CGI.

As bad as the overuse of those effects were, I’d be willing to let it slide if it weren’t for this little point. The movie’s about Abe Lincoln: the guy on the $5 bill with a beard and a top hat and the whole “Four score and seven years ago” thing, but he doesn’t become that Abe Lincoln until the last 20 minutes of the movie. The majority of the movie is about the young Abe Lincoln, who has no beard, no top hat, and looks a lot like a young Liam Neeson. I’m not saying that it’s a terrible thing, but the trailers and posters sold this movie as the Abe Lincoln we know and love slaying vampires. What we got was alright, but it may as well have been about some ordinary guy killing vampires. You don’t really feel that it’s Abe until the finale.

While the performances were great for what they were, and with what the actors had to work with, I can’t give this film a good rating. Overall, I felt that this movie was just badly written. The pacing was all over the place, as there’s a point in this movie where literally nothing happens for a good twenty-five minutes, yet his training felt ultra rushed. The tone was taken much too seriously, as there were little to no laughs at all. With a title like this, you’d expect this movie to be a little more self-aware into how ridiculous it is, but ultimately it tried to be something that it’s not, and that’s where the whole thing falls apart. I’d recommend this movie to someone who’s into some decent fight scenes, as they were well choreographed, but as I said before, they weren’t that spectacular, and the use of slow-motion was much better used in a film such as Zack Snyder’s 300. I give this movie 4 out of 10 because not only it was disappointing, and could have been so much better than it was, given the premise.

And guys! I'm writing for a website now, and I'd love for you guys to check it out! Comments, views, and shares would be greatly appreciated!

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Three Things I expect from the Justice League Movie

It was recently announced that, due to the incredible financial success The Avengers had, Warner Bros. has hired Will Beall, writer of the film Gangster Squad, to pen a Justice League movie. Warner Bros. must think that he’s talented, because he is also currently in charge of writing the Lethal Weapon reboot, as well as the Logan’s Run remake (which has Ryan Gosling attached to it). That’s not all, but reports have also stated that Michael Goldenberg, co-writer of 2011’s Green Lantern, has been hard at work with a Wonder Woman script, a job that Joss Whedon himself had a few years ago. Plus, (yes, there’s more), Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green, the two other co-writers of Green Lantern, are also working on a screenplay for a movie starring the Flash. So with Warner Bros. finally stepping up to the superhero initiative, what can we expect?

1. A New Formula

It's almost here...

It’s no secret that Green Lantern was a bomb. It stunk. The script was all over the place, the characters weren’t likeable, it couldn’t make back what it cost, and critics everywhere butchered it from every which way. That being said, the fact that Wonder Woman and Flash, two insanely popular fan-favorites from the comics, will be handled by the guys who brought you Green Lantern is a bit nerve-wracking. Perhaps they’ve learned a lesson in what makes a good superhero movie? I don’t know, but Warner Bros. sees something in them, so we have no choice but to sit back and watch.

It seems odd, however, that they’d want a screenplay/script from a Justice League film so early on. When Marvel was doing Iron Man in 2008, the Avengers were only a second thought, and weren’t finally realized until Iron Man 2 in 2010. So why does Warner Bros. want it now? Easy. They want to set themselves apart from Marvel in any way they can, so I believe that they want to knock the Justice League out first, and do spin-off films after. That’s quite a bold move, considering that a majority of the general public aren’t as familiar with characters like Flash, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter, characters that are very important to the Justice League mythos… which brings me to my next point.

2. An All-Star Roster

The Justice League has always had a semi-big roster, ranging from five members to twenty. Which characters will be used, and which ones will be tossed away? No doubt that the big guns like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman will be included, as well as Green Lantern and Flash, but will that be it? If Avengers taught anyone anything, it’s that you can introduce new, semi-obscure characters into the film, and have the public go nuts over them. Case in point, nobody knew who Iron Man was pre-2008, yet he’s arguably the most popular Avenger today. So what about Aquaman, Hawkman, Atom, Martian Manhunter, and all the rest of the team’s not-so-popular members? Will they be included?

Like I said: All-Stars

Personally, I don’t think they would ever give Aquaman a chance at being on the big screen, as the character’s been torn to shreds by the Super Friends in the 70’s, as well as being the butt of many jokes in shows like Family Guy. With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that the main five: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern will be the roster, and it will end there. It’s also quite possible that Cyborg, a character whose history had changed with DC’s recent re-launch, may be in the film as he’s now a founding member and he adds diversity to the team’s racial balance. Any way you slice it, the public will automatically compare this movie to the Avengers, so the inclusion of a black character, something that Avengers didn’t have if you don’t count Nick Fury, may not be that unheard of. Now that we’ve talked about the good guys, what about the bad guys?

3. An Earth-Based Threat

Yep. Batman did that.

To completely set itself apart from Avengers, they’re going to have to keep away from anything space-related. That means we may not see Justice League villains like Darkseid or Despero in the film, which I’m personally ok with. In fact, the Justice League has quite a few adversaries on Earth that will be more than suitable for an origin film. These include: Vandal Savage, The Injustice Gang, Felix Faust, The Legion of Doom, Batman, etc. Wait, what? That’s right. Batman.

In the insanely popular story arc, Tower of Babel, Batman had plans on how to individually defeat all the members of the Justice League, should they ever go rogue. Someone stole these plans, and used them on the Justice League. A while back, when Warner Bros. wanted to make a Justice League film starring Armie Hammer as Batman, this was the plot that they wanted to use. Without a doubt, Batman’s the most successful DC character to ever work on film, so could it be possible that they want him to be the League’s biggest player? Call me crazy, but I really don’t think that it’s too far off.

Of course this is all just speculation and I can be way off, but this is what I’m predicting for the future Justice League film. Maybe the movie will be three hours long and have all seven founding members in it, or maybe it’ll just be the “big five” in a 90 minute film. Maybe it will be bigger than the Avengers, or maybe it will be an incredible failure. We don’t know, but it will be fun to sit and watch as it happens. What do you expect?

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Gambit Goes to the Movies: The Avengers

Marvel's The Avengers

The Avengers. It's been out a few weeks in the United States, and rather than do a spoiler-free review the day after, I waited until now to finally sink my teeth into this movie review. Yes, this review will contain spoilers, so if you still haven't seen the film by now (and really, shame on you if you haven't), stop reading immediately.

Since 1998's Blade, Marvel comics have been taking their great characters out of the pages of the comic books, and placing them on the movie screen in big-budget proportions. I'd be lying if I said all of them were great. Yes, as good as films like Spider-Man 2, Iron Man, and X-Men: First Class were, there have been less than stellar "gems" in Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, and Elektra, to name a few. Needless to say, however, that since 1998, Marvel has gotten to a unique position.

In 2008's Iron Man, the audience was introduced to the "Avengers Initiative." Comic fans such as myself were extremely giddy with excitement, and the average, non-comic reading audience didn't really understand what it meant. Flash forward to a few more Marvel movies such as Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger and 2012's The Avengers, and we now have what some call "the be all, end all of superhero films." I respectively disagree with that statement, but I'll get to that later. Let’s review this beast.

Loki: The Ultimate Little Brother

The film begins with the film's antagonist, Loki, who was seen in Thor prior to this film. He gets a scepter of great power that's been given to him by a mysterious figure. Loki's been given the assignment to obtain the Tesserect (I'm calling it the Cosmic Cube from this point on), and to also basically unleash all hell on Earth, a world that his brother Thor holds so dear. The Cosmic Cube is in possession of SHIELD, and it supposedly holds the source of unlimited power, something that Earth needs. Right off the bat, we're given a fantastic antagonist, and two motives: one personal and one for a greater power: so far, so great.

Eventually we're introduced (or re-introduced if you've seen all the Marvel movies) to our heroes. First, is the new face: Hawkeye. Hawkeye is a master marksman who proves that the bow and arrow are still useful in 2012. On top of that, he's a great martial artist, as well as a partner to Black Widow, a character that had been introduced in Iron Man 2. Throughout almost half of the film, Hawkeye's mind was taken over by Loki, so the audience was never really given a chance to see the character grow, unlike the rest of the team. For this reason, Hawkeye was this film's weakest point. It isn't entirely bad, however, because he had a few action scenes that were really great during the grand finale.

"They love us! They really love us!"

Next, we're re-introduced to Black Widow, played by the voluptuous Scarlet Johanson. As the only female on the team, I expected the most from her, and with the combination of Joss Whedon's dialogue and her kick-ass martial arts, she was one of my favorite characters. There was one scene in the trailer where the Avengers were grouped altogether in a circle, and all she had was a pistol. When you compare her tiny gun to that of Thor's hammer, you'd think "what is she going to do with that?" Believe me: if this movie accomplishes anything, it's that she is more than capable of keeping up with the heavy hitters, and that she contributes something unique to the film. One scene in particular that made me fall in love with her was her "interrogation" with Loki. She is such a good actress and liar that she manipulated the God of Mischief himself. Bravo, Black Widow. I really hope you get your own film. You deserve it.

Now that those two are out of the way, we'll look into the film's four characters that have already had movies dedicated all to themselves. Because of this, I expected to see everything that wasn't already in their own films. Needless to say, I got what I wanted.

Iron Man & Captain America: BFF's

Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, was literally frozen in time and thawed out prior to this film. Whedon did a great job in making this character’s mindset so out of place in this new world of flying helicarriers and giant green rage monsters. One scene in particular, the scene where he meets Loki for the first time, is a scene that truly sums up who Cap is, and what he’s all about. The fact that he was also the one to bark the commands in the huge final battle was not only respectable, but extremely enjoying to watch. Captain America may have not been my favorite character, but anyone who can boss someone like Iron Man or Thor around is a huge winner in my book.

Tony Stark is arguably the most popular character that has been introduced in the movies thus far. He’s narcissistic, he doesn’t play nice with others, he’s spoiled, but he’s so damn lovable. As awesome as his stunts as Iron Man were in this film (and believe me, there were a lot of those), my favorite use for this character was his yin to Captain America’s yang. Those two have chemistry unique to every other character in this film, and I give Joss Whedon major brownie points for establishing that. This film did something that Iron Man 2 failed to do, and made Iron Man a redeemable and respectable hero. The minute he stopped the nuke from leveling Manhattan, the minute I thought “He did it. He’s a real superhero now.”

"You people are so petty... and tiny."- Thor

With a villain like Loki, you need a hero that knows him better than anyone. Who better than Thor? While it’s true, Thor had some of the best scenes and one-liners in the film; I felt that this character wasn’t explained as much as he should have. At the end of Thor’s film, it was made quite clear that returning back to Earth would be damn near impossible. Then, all of a sudden, Thor’s crashing into planes and fighting Iron Man like nothing happened. Yes, I’m aware that the dialogue exchanged between Thor and Loki should have explained Thor’s presence, but I strongly feel that his being there should have been literally seen by the audience. With Loki as the main antagonist, Thor should have gotten more development in this film more than anyone. What kind of makes up for it was his amazing battle with the Hulk, but all in all, I was a tad disappointed that we didn’t see as much of him as we should have.

Now onto the character that’s been a hit or miss on the big screen since forever: Bruce Banner aka The Incredible Hulk. I’m just going to say it up front: he stole the show. Yes, the Hulk, a character that was butchered in Ang Lee’s 2003 film Hulk, and was revamped in 2008’s “good, but not great” Incredible Hulk, was hands down the best character in this film. Until this point, Bruce Banner was always portrayed as a man on the run, and a sad, tragic man altogether. That’s fine and good, but for a summer blockbuster, we want action, comedy, and fun. With Whedon’s talented writing skill and Ruffalo’s surprisingly exquisite acting, they brought Bruce Banner back in such a way that made me think “I want to be this guy.” And that’s only half of the character.

Yes, Hulk's roar can start a heart.

The Hulk himself was the absolute best representation of the character that has ever been on a movie screen. The Hulk was played for laughs, and that’s how the character should have been played a long time ago. He’s big, strong, angry, and hilarious all at the same time. I’ve read a ton of reviews for this movie, and every single one of them had nothing but positive things to say about Hulk. When Bruce Banner said what now has to be his new catchphrase in “That’s my secret… I’m always angry,” and my personal favorite scene where he literally tossed Loki like a ragdoll, the audience lost it, and for a good reason. Hulk was the best thing about this movie, and I haven’t even discussed the excellent ending sequence yet.

For about two hours, this film sets up for a huge battle in New York City between the Avengers and Loki’s army. The whole battle itself is literally thirty minutes of mindless brawling, but it was the best thirty minutes of mindless brawling I’ve ever seen. People go to the movies to be entertained, especially during the summer season. This battle makes The Expendables look like Winnie the Pooh. It was so intense, so edgy, so awesome, and so epic that everything that led up to it was almost forgotten. It was the single-best action scene on film, in my opinion, in the longest time. Everyone played a specific part: Cap shouted the commands, Iron Man stopped a nuke, Thor and Hulk smashed the hell out of space snakes, Hawkeye shot the hell out of alien space bikes, and Black Widow closed the portal to hell. I can’t express how great the scene was. Honestly, if you had a problem with that scene, you’re the dullest person on the planet.

Avengers... Assemble. Then... Shwarma.

I’ll admit it: this film’s story was nothing new. In the end, it was a movie where a group of different people had to work together to achieve a common goal. We’ve seen it hundreds of times, and this movie brought nothing new to the concept at all. That being said, I can’t give this film a perfect score. Honestly, however, that is where the problems for this film end. Aside from the fact that we’ve seen the story before, this film redefined the term “summer blockbuster.” There’s a reason why this film is breaking records, including the highest domestic box-office opening of all time. This movie is fantastic, and rather than it being the “be all, end all” film people are making it out to be, I feel that this film is only the beginning to a new chapter of superhero films. Sure, we’ve seen the solo films like Iron Man and Batman, but after this film, you can be sure that we’ll be seeing more team-ups and awesomeness like this from here on out. The Avengers is my personal favorite comic book film, and I give it a score of 9 out of 10.

Stay after the credits for this film… but you should already know that. It’s a Marvel movie, after all.

Death, you say? >:)
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Superheroes 101: A History

The most recognizable comics characters in the world

Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and countless other comic book superheroes have been in the media for decades. Since their debut in 1938, superheroes have dealt with deep personal, social, and political issues. From drug and alcohol abuse to the horrific events during September 11, 2001, they have brought us a feeling of hope, creativity, and wonder. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) As the time changes, our heroes manage to stay with it, overcoming the many challenges along the way. The story of the American superhero has been a long, uphill struggle, yet they always seem to be relevant with the ever-changing times. They still remain a constant impact on the people and the nation.

The 1930’s was a tragic decade. America had entered the Great Depression, which was filled with poverty and the lack of hope. People did many things to try to escape this terrible reality by either watching movies, attending sporting events, and listening to the radio. At this time, the newspaper was also very valuable. They had all the latest news, interviews, games, and even comic strips. (Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes)

Standard comic strip panel (1930's)

Comic strips are a sequence of drawings, relating comic incidents that typically have dialogue printed in balloons. The first comic strips had stories about cute animals or funny cartoon characters and were largely accepted as a form of entertainment for children. Old comic strips were collected in magazines called comic books. National Allied Publications was one of the first comic book publishers in the industry. Founded in 1934, one of their most popular titles was Detective Comics. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked)

The Golden Age

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were two young Jewish immigrants who lived in New York City. They were fascinated with science fiction, mythology, and art. They were very passionate about comic books and read them on a daily basis. Tired of dreaming of creating their own character, they finally did so in 1933. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) Siegel was the writer and Shuster provided the illustrations. Their character was a hero, who, when he was an infant, was sent in a space ship from the doomed planet Krypton, which crashed down to Earth. The infant was found by a kindly couple from Kansas, and was raised to believe in truth and justice. Being from another planet, he had many unique abilities including super speed, strength, and invulnerability. He donned a blue outfit with a shield on his chest marked with an “S” and a bright red cape. They called him “Superman.”

Siegel & Shuster

Superman was turned down by every newspaper in the area; the very idea that a man who can lift cars and was “faster than a speeding bullet” was utterly ridiculous. After five long years of rejection, DC Comics (formerly National Allied Publications) took Siegel and Shuster’s creation and put him on the cover of the comic book, Action Comics #1. It sold out every copy. From that day forward, Superman has become a national icon and kicked off what historians would later refer to as “The Golden Age of Comic Books.” (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked)

Superman was everywhere. By 1940 he had radio shows, cartoons, dolls, action figures, and even a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. What made Superman unique and relatable was that he was a fictional character who lived in the same world as his readers. He was an immigrant who came to this new world and strived for the American dream. He was especially looked up to by young boys and teenagers. With Superman’s huge success, DC wanted a new hero to follow him. They hired Bob Kane to come up with the story and Bill Finger to provide the artwork. (Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes)

Small beginning. Gigantic effects.

Kane and Finger’s new hero was “The Bat-Man” who made his historical debut in the pages of Detective Comics #27, 1939. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) The Bat-Man was a hero who, unlike Superman, possessed no powers, but had many gadgets including a grapple gun, a utility belt, and shuriken-like weapons called “batarangs.” His origin was much darker than Superman’s: billionaire Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents get murdered when he was just eight-years-old. Wanting to avenge their deaths, he mastered every form of martial arts and donned a black cowl, a mask in the shape of a bat, and chose to fight crime at night on the streets of Gotham City. (Batman) The Bat-Man (later changed to Batman) made just about the same cultural impact as Superman did previously.

With DC’s Superman and Batman came other companies and their superheroes. Fawcett Comics had Bulletman, newspapers had The Spirit, and Timely Comics debuted in 1939 with heroes named the “Human Torch” and “Namor the Submariner.” Psychiatrist and co-creator of the lie detector, William Moulton Marston criticized DC for “not being all it could be.” DC later hired him and he went on to create Wonder Woman in 1941, the first female superhero. Wanting to appeal to younger readers, DC gave Batman a kid sidekick named Robin. Soon enough, many of the other heroes obtained young sidekicks: Bulletman had Bulletgirl, Human Torch had Toro, etc. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) Fawcett Comics created a superhero who actually was a child. When young Billy Batson yelled the word “SHAZAM!” he’d be transformed into the super-powered hero “Captain Marvel.” Eventually, Captain Marvel started to outsell Superman himself. DC pinned a lawsuit against Fawcett, claiming Captain Marvel was “too similar” to Superman. Finally, after a twelve year legal battle, DC won the lawsuit and Fawcett agreed to stop printing Captain Marvel. (Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes)

"Fighting the good fight."- Captain America

In the early 1940’s, the hot topic was undoubtedly World War II. The nation needed heroes to help fight the war in Europe, and these superheroes fought there, even before the American soldiers entered the war. Timely Comics was the first to enter the subject when their character Namor fought the Japanese in 1940. Soon Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Human Torch, and many other heroes started to fight the Axis Powers. DC wrote a story where Superman literally ended the war in two pages, but since they felt that such things could not turn out that easy in real life, they had Superman fight the war on the home front, selling war bonds, instead. (Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes)

All the superheroes were fighting for the American flag, but it was not until 1941 when a superhero actually wore it to “fight the good fight.” There were many evil people out there, but Adolf Hitler was a monster compared to the rest. On the cover of Captain America #1, 1941, the star-spangled avenger gave Hitler a left hook on the jaw. The people loved this new hero, so much so, that he was the inspiration for many young men who signed up for war during World War II. His origin was very straight-forward: young Steve Rogers was a frail, sickly patriot who wanted nothing more than to serve his country. Turned down because of his physique, he entered top-secret project, Operation: Rebirth, and was given a shot of the “Super Soldier Serum.” He transformed into a perfect human specimen. They called him Captain America, and he and his sidekick Bucky went on to fight the evil Nazis for the good of the United States of America and the rest of the Allies. (Captain America)

After the Allies’ victory of World War II, superheroes began to go obsolete. With no more villains to fight, many of the heroes died out. Comic books were taken over by new topics featuring westerns, romances, and horror stories. The only superheroes that were still selling were DC’s Superman, Batman and Robin, and Wonder Woman. (Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes)

What saved and almost killed the industry, all in one little stamp.

In 1954, Dr. Frederick Wertham wrote a book entitled “Seduction of the Innocent” that blamed comic books for corrupting child youth. In it, he made major accusations aimed at Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. He said Superman was a fascist that liked to see people in pain while he himself remained immune, and Wonder Woman was the exact opposite of what ladies are supposed to act like. The wildest accusation, however, was that Batman and Robin were leading a homosexual fantasy and “make boys gay.” “Seduction of the Innocent” almost single-handedly destroyed the comic book industry. In order to cope with people like Dr. Wertham and the many other angry parents, the “Comics Code Authority” was created. The Comics Code made it so comic books had to be approved before they were published. It censored comic books to the point where they could not feature any stories that featured horror, drugs, romance, blood, etc. Superman now worked close to the law, more like a policeman. Batman and Robin spent more time with new female characters. Wonder Woman spent more time with her love interest, Steve Trevor. While saving the industry, the Comics Code also hurt it. Sales plummeted by more than fifty percent after the industry’s short-lived spike. (Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes)

...but the Marvel Age conquers
The Silver Age begins...

Trying to get comics back on track, DC had the idea to take their older heroes from the 1940’s and revamp them to more modernized versions. In Showcase Comics #4, 1956, they reintroduced “The Flash.” This Flash was much different than his 1940’s counterpart because he wore a sleeker costume, was younger, and when he was not fighting crime, worked for the police as a forensics scientist. With Flash’s newfound success, DC revamped more heroes like Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, and Aquaman. These new heroes, joined by Wonder Woman, and later Superman and Batman, formed the Justice League of America. Timely Comics wanted to get back in the superhero comic-selling game, so they had writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby come up with a team Timely could call their own. In 1961, Timely Comics changed their name to Marvel, and released Fantastic Four #1. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked.)

To say Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s partnership was incredible is an understatement. Together they created superheroes like Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Daredevil, and Black Panther (the first black superhero). They also created superhero teams such as the X-Men and the Avengers. They had revived their older heroes such as Namor the Submariner and Captain America (in the pages of Fantastic Four and The Avengers, respectively) to join this new “Silver Age of Comic Books.” (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked)

Jack "King" Kirby and his co-creations (minus Spider-Man)
And a worldwide phenomenon begins

Stan Lee hated the idea of sidekicks. He believed that if a young person wanted to fight crime, they would do it by themselves. He designed a hero that actually was a teenager to fight crime, but his publisher turned the hero down. (McLaughlin) Lee kept pushing and his hero finally made his debut in the last issue of the failing comic book series Amazing Fantasy. In the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15, 1962, The Amazing Spider-Man was born. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) Peter Parker is a high school student that, after being bitten by a radioactive spider, gained abilities to help him fight crime. After the death of his Uncle Ben, Spider-Man learned that “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Spider-Man was a cultural phenomenon. Not only was he an awe-inspiring hero, but he was unique in the fact that he had every day problems, much like his very own readers. During the 1960’s Marvel even outsold the likes of DC. DC characters, however, were certainly not overlooked. In 1966, a television program, Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, made its debut and “Bat-Mania” swept the nation. (IMDb) This campy television series was a parody more than anything else, but the readers and audiences alike did not care, as Batman comic sales nearly tripled because of the two-year-long series. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked)

DC’s characters and Marvel’s characters were very different from each other. DC heroes were more parental. Superman and Wonder Woman were characters that readers aspired to be, while Marvel heroes, on the other hand, related to their readers and touched more on current events. Spider-Man and Hulk were characters who people already were, minus their super powers, of course. The way both companies wrote their comics was also different. DC would write out their scripts first, so the artist could draw around it, while Marvel would have the artist draw the pages first, then the writers would fill in the script around it. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked)

...DC did it better
While Marvel did it first...

Throughout the 1970’s readers started to connect to Marvel’s book, X-Men. The X-Men were teenagers who, during puberty, develop “mutant powers.” Lead by Professor Charles Xavier, the X-Men would fight for a world that feared and hated them for being different. The X-Men were a metaphor for just about any minority, whether it was racial, religious, etc. Marvel Comics had such an impact on younger readers that Stan Lee was asked by the Office of Health Education to write an anti-drug story, featuring one of Marvel’s characters. In Amazing Spider-Man #96, 1971, the issue was addressed, but because of the Comics Code Authority, Lee was not allowed to publish it. Finally, with the help of Lee’s publisher, Martin Goodman, he was able to publish the story without the Code’s approval. After this issue hit the stands and sold out, other companies took the hint, and started tackling other issues without the Code’s consent. (Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes)

A few months later, in DC’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85, 1971, they went over the effects of heroine abuse. With all these comics touching on all these issues, the Comics Code Authority became obsolete, and was finally lifted. Publishers were now free to write any story they wanted to. In 1978, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment made Superman: The Movie, the first big-budget film to feature a superhero. (IMDb) Superman became actor Christopher Reeve’s legacy.

Finally free of the Comics Code Authority, Marvel and DC touched on countless new issues during the 1980’s. Iron Man was revealed to be an alcoholic. Child abuse was revealed to be the reason behind Hulk’s rage. Finally, Superman villain, Lex Luthor, went from being a mad scientist to a corrupted businessman. DC hired ex-Daredevil writer Frank Miller to reinvent Batman to be as dark and gritty as he was in the 1930’s. Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was the comic that made Batman a force to be reckoned with again. Alan Moore wrote the critically acclaimed Watchmen, which featured everything from murder to sexual impotence. DC’s Sandman #19, 1990, was the first comic to win a World Fantasy Award. (Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes) Comic books now have their own specialty shops and longer comic books were even referred to as “graphic novels.” With the newfound success of Frank Miller’s Batman, Warner Brothers released a new Batman film directed by Tim Burton in 1989. (IMDb)

During the 1990’s older comic books became extremely valuable. People, thinking that new issues would be just as valuable one day, started buying more and more of them. The more people buy, the more comics publishers kept printing. The main reason older issues were so valuable was because they were so scarce. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) Collectors realized this eventually, and they were not buying as much as they used to. New storylines were written specifically to bring old readers back in; including Superman’s wedding to Lois Lane, making Lex Luthor president of the United States, and the famous Death of Superman story-arc. Also, superhero creators can now own the rights to the characters they make, which was very good news to people such as ex-Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Todd MacFarlane, creator of the very famous characters Venom and Spawn. Unfortunately, in the late 1990’s comic book popularity was starting to slip again.

The New 52

In this newer generation, comic book films are becoming more popular and successful. 2000’s X-Men was the first superhero movie to truly benefit from today’s special effects. (Comic Books Unbound) Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film was the highest grossing superhero film for five years with a worldwide gross of $821.71 million until it was out grossed by its sequel, Spider-Man 3. (IMDb) Christopher Nolan’s Batman film, The Dark Knight, currently holds that record and is the eleventh highest grossing film of all time with a worldwide gross of $1,001,921,825. (Box Office Mojo) It also got a nomination for Best Picture of 2008 and Heath Ledger won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal as the Joker, Batman’s greatest enemy. While the comic books aren’t selling as high as they used to, the superheroes are still household names because of these films. As a direct result to the movies doing so well, DC re-launched their entire business and franchises with “The New 52” in 2011, keeping their characters current and up-to-date for newer readers.

With the times constantly shifting, superheroes have almost always stayed true to their roots. Even though the heroes may change slightly with the time, they are still with the public and their critical reception remains unchanged. After almost a century, Superman is still the alien from Krypton who fights for truth and justice. Batman is still the billionaire playboy by day, who avenges his parents’ deaths on the streets of Gotham City by night. Spider-Man is still a science nerd who was bitten by a radioactive spider and has trouble getting the girl. Superheroes are not going anywhere and even one-hundred years from now, people will still read comic books, watching TV and movies, or reading digital comics via iPads or Android tablets to find out what Superman is up to. Superheroes have stood the tests of time. They are here to stay for many generations to come!

Sources

“All Time Worldwide Box Office Grosses." Box Office Mojo. 4 Apr. 2012. Web. 14 Mar. 2012.

“Batman." DC Comics. n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.

"Captain America." Marvel Universe: The Definitive Online Source for Marvel Super Hero Bio. n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.

Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked. Dir. Steve Kroopnick. Triage Entertainment, 2003. Online Documentary.

International Movie Database. IMDb. n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.

McLaughlin, Jeff. “Stan Lee.” Pop Culture Universe: Icons, Idols, Ideas. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.

Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes. Dir. Michel Viotte. InnoForm Media, 2001. Online Documentary

"Spider-Man." Marvel Universe: The Definitive Online Source for Marvel Super Hero Bios. n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.

Starz Inside: Comic Books Unbound. Dir. Ed Garcia. Foglight Entertainment, 2008. Online Documentary.

"Superman." DC Comics. n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.

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Batman's Evolution through Media

Batman, as he appears today

The American superhero has made a huge impact not only in comic books and graphic novels, but also on scores of other types of media, such as television, Hollywood films, and video games. As many superheroes there are, however, one of them has been adapted again and again on all these types of media. The result is almost always incredible. Some people call this character “The Caped Crusader,” “The World’s Greatest Detective,” or, more recently, “The Dark Knight,” but, this character is universally known as “Batman.” Since his first appearance in 1939, Batman has evolved greatly into the character he has become today through media outside of comic books. A legacy, he continues to evolve throughout other media, and is the constant source for all various forms of entertainment, not only comic books.

During the late 1930’s DC comics was buzzing with their stellar creation, Superman. A successful cash-cow, Superman was practically everywhere. From lunchboxes and radio plays, to the inevitable Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon, it was almost impossible to be an American and not know who Superman is. Continuing the business of DC comics with a new superhero after Superman was imperative. With the orders from the publishers of DC comics, the assignment was given, and dozens of writers went to work on what needed to be “the next big thing” (Westfahl).

The beginning of a cultural phenomenon

In 1939, Bob Kane had answered the call with “The Bat-Man.” Kane had been inspired by characters like Zorro and The Shadow for the character, and sketches of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “flying machine” inspired the bat-like cowl his character would wear. Much different than Superman before him, Bat-Man was a dark, mysterious character. Born from tragedy, the Bat-Man’s back story was that, after billionaire Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed right in front of him as a child, he would avenge their deaths by training his body, fighting skills, and detective skills to become a masked vigilante. Armed with a black and grey costume, a vast array of technology, and his incredibly unique gadgets, the Bat-Man was a force to be reckoned with. Just before his project was green lit, Kane had changed the character’s name to “Batman.” Artist Bill Finger teamed up with Kane in the May of 1939 to bring DC’s Detective Comics #27 into the public, where the Bat-Man made his first official debut.

Batman and the first comic book sidekick: Robin

To say that Kane’s creation sold well is a huge understatement. Just like Superman before him, the comic-reading audience was crazy about Batman. He was dark, gritty, and all-around tragic. With the United States entering the Second World War, DC wanted Batman to appeal more to the children. They felt that if children were inspired to be more like Batman, they would be more likely to do all they could for the war effort. With this in mind, Kane introduced a new character in May’s Detective Comics #38, 1940. (Batman Unmasked) Robin, the Boy Wonder, was Batman’s new “kid” sidekick. With Robin, the whole comic book changed from its dark, gritty tone, to a more lighthearted, kiddy tone. Nevertheless, Robin’s introduction was not only a huge success for younger readers, but it was also a milestone for comics in general. DC, and almost every comic book company at the time, was giving their superheroes kid sidekicks.

With high demands from their fans, DC launched Batman #1 in the spring of 1940 (Batman Unmasked). In yet another milestone of an issue, this marked the first appearance of the Joker. The Joker was inspired by the 1928 film, The Man Who Laughs. While he was nothing but a harmless prankster in this particular issue, this character, much like Batman himself, would evolve greatly in the next few decades as Batman’s greatest enemy. After writing Batman comics for about four years, Kane left the title in 1943, and went on to write Batman in a daily newspaper comic strip. (Batman Unmasked)

While Superman had a radio show, Batman would be one of the first superheroes to star in his own movie serials in 1943, and once more in 1949 in Batman and Robin. (Batman Unmasked) This would be the very beginning of Batman’s career outside of the comic books. Unfortunately, it was a slow start. In 1954, Dr. Frederick Wertham published Seduction of the Innocence. (Westfahl) In this book, he claimed that superheroes were poisoning the minds of the children who read them. He went on to make ridiculous accusations about DC’s Superman, calling him a fascist. The biggest blow, however, was the accusation that “Batman and Robin make kids gay.” Once this book hit the shelves, sales in comic books plummeted. Batman’s title would soon be canceled if DC did not do something to “change the game.”

Finally, in 1966, ABC decided to give Batman and Robin a chance to shine on the television screens in Batman. (Westfahl) Batman would star Adam West and Burt Ward as the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder, respectively. Not only was Robin featured, but just about every villain from Batman’s extensive rogue’s gallery has been featured in at least one episode. Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, and Burgess Meredith would portray the live-action versions of the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin, respectively. This show also marked the first appearance of Mr. Freeze, a very popular character still used today. Batman would be a bi-weekly show, in color. During its initial release, it was reviewed as “campy” and “utterly ridiculous,” but the general audience did not care. They fell in love with West’s comedic portrayal as Batman. “Bat-Mania” had swept the nation. The ratings went “through the roof,” and it would go on until 1968. It was so successful, in fact, that Batman would receive his first feature film in Batman: The Movie in 1966, starring the same actors from the thriving television show. (IMDb)

Adam West's portrayal of a more, lighthearted, Batman

After the successes from ABC’s Batman, Batman and Robin would be featured in various animated appearances. Among them, the most popular were in The New Scooby-Doo, where the characters were voiced by West and Ward, Super Friends, and the short-lived New Adventures of Batman. The 1973 cartoon, Super Friends, was particularly the most successful of the few, because not only were Batman and Robin featured in it, but also DC’s other successful characters: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. With Batman’s campiness at an all-time high, the up and coming comic book writers sought out to change that.

Batman and the Joker as played by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicolson

Writer Frank Miller wanted to bring Batman’s character back to his darker roots. In 1986, he wrote “The Dark Knight Returns.” (Westfahl) In this four-issue series, it featured an older, more experienced Bruce Wayne who comes back to the Batman identity after years of retirement. With the new audience this series brought, combined with the huge financial success of Warner Brothers’ Superman: The Movie, plans had gone in motion to give the dark, gritty Batman his time to shine on the big screen. Tim Burton, who had previously directed Beetlejuice in 1988, would direct the film, Michael Keaton would star as this film’s Batman, and Jack Nicolson would be the Joker. Fans were particularly wary of the casting decisions, especially Keaton, who was previously in Mr. Mom. All doubts were lost, however, when the film made its release on June 23, 1989. (IMDb)

Bruce Timm's Batman: The Animated Series roped in many new fans

Burton’s Batman made more money than DC and Warner Brothers had ever dreamed of, with an opening weekend of $42,705,884. (IMDb) It no doubt spawned three sequels with Batman Returns along with its other less than stellar sequels: Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. It also sparked Batman: The Animated Series, created by Bruce Timm. (Westfahl) This cartoon was much different than any other because it was a drama. Instead of the campiness the previous Super Friends portrayed, this show had Batman rely on his detective skills and his wits to defeat his many villains. His entire rogue’s gallery was featured, from the well-known Joker and Penguin, to the more obscure ones at the time like Two-Face and Scarecrow. It also debuted the first appearance of the widely popular character Harley Quinn, the Joker’s female equivalent and companion. This show, along with Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond paved the way towards Bruce Timm’s Justice League cartoon in 2001. (Westfahl) It featured the prominent comic book team with its most popular members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkgirl, and the Martian Manhunter.

One of the many posters for The Dark Knight, featuring Heath Ledger's Joker and the tagline "Why so serious?"

Since Batman’s last feature film was dubbed a failure by critics and audiences alike in 1997, the character did not return to film until 2005. Renowned filmmaker Christopher Nolan wanted to take Batman in a new, “realistic” approach. In his idea, superpowers would not exist, and Batman’s origin would actually be featured onscreen, which had never been done before. (Batman Begins: Behind the Mask) With Christian Bale donning the cowl and Liam Neeson and Cilian Murphy portraying the villains Ra’s Al Ghul and Scarecrow, Batman Begins was a phenomenal film according to audiences and well-known critics. Warner Brothers demanded a sequel, and the cast and crew were more than willing to go forth with it. The year, 2008, saw The Dark Knight hit theaters, breaking box-office records. (IMDb) It was the first film based on a comic book to make over one billion dollars, and it is currently the eleventh highest grossing film of all time. (Box Office Mojo) Heath Ledger won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of the Joker, after his untimely death as the film entered post-production.

Batman is without a doubt the most successful comic book character to be featured in other types of media, television, and film. It was this character’s film that shattered box-office records. It was his film that won an Academy Award and a nomination for Best Picture. Finally, it was this character who redefined how superheroes should be treated outside the comic books. Batman is the character that all other comic book characters should aspire to be, with his colossal successes in and out of the comic books.

Sources:

“All Time Worldwide Box Office Grosses." Box Office Mojo. 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 14 Mar. 2012.

"Batman." IMDb. n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2012.

Batman Begins: Behind the Mask. Dir. Simon Ragoonanan. Perf. Christian Bale, Katie Holmes. Warner Brothers Entertainment, 2003. Television documentary.

Batman Unmasked. Dir. Steven Smith. Perf. Robert Clotworthy, Paul Levitz. Triage Entertainment, 2003. Television documentary.

Westfahl, Gary. “Batman in Film and Television.” Pop Culture Universe: Icons, Idols, Ideas. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.

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The Father of Modern Comics: How Stan Lee Changed the Industry

"Excelsior!"- Stan "the man" Lee

Since the American superhero comic book made its debut on April 18, 1938, dozens of early writers made their mark on how they should be written. Among these writers, one man made an important impact on the entire comic book industry during the early 1960’s. He revolutionized the way characters behaved in the stories by making them more relatable to the audience that was reading it. Stan Lee’s writing has shaped the way comic books have evolved from simple stories to intricate, more relevant works of literature. Whether it was the loose way that dialogue was used in the pages of the Fantastic Four, or the uncanny use of “real world problems” used in The Amazing Spider-Man, Lee’s style of writing made those characters shine in a new light, making them more three-dimensional than the characters introduced before them.

Superhero comic books were originally introduced during the late 1930’s, beginning with Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s Action Comics #1. This issue marked the “Golden Age of Comic Books.” From this issue, all the way to the early 1950’s, characters like Superman, Batman and Robin, Captain Marvel, and Captain America defeated villains varying from low-level gang members to Hitler and the Nazis themselves. What made these characters truly remarkable were that, unlike the cartoon characters established in the newspaper comic strips, they were actual human beings that could do fantastic things that no actual people could do in reality. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) These characters could fly, had tremendous strength and speed, and had amazing gadgets that could never have existed during the time period.

As commendable as the superheroes of the Golden Age were, they were extremely one-dimensional in terms of their attitudes and behaviors. Superman, for example, was notorious for foiling a bank robber’s plan, beating them up, and throwing them behind bars with little dialogue in between. Even when dialogue was spoken, he would literally state what he was doing and how he was going to do it, right in front of the bad guy. If superheroes were actually to exist, would they ever speak in such a manner? This question would not be answered until the “Silver Age of Comic Books,” beginning in the year 1956 with DC ComicsShowcase #4. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked)

The kick start of the Marvel Revolution

During the Silver Age of Comics, many, if not all, the Golden Age characters were given extreme makeovers to make them more appealing to the audiences. The Flash and Green Lantern, for instance, were given more stylish, flashy costumes, new interesting powers, and new alter egos. Unfortunately, however, they lacked personality, much like the Supermen or Captain Americas before them. When DC Comics decided to have five of their superheroes form the Justice League of America in the March of 1960, their rivals at Marvel Comics decided to structure a team of superheroes of their own. (Fantastic Four #1)

Martin Goodman, publisher of Marvel Comics since 1939, wanted a writer capable of creating a team of superheroes that could potentially outsell the Justice League of America. Stan Lee, who had been a writer for about twenty years at this point, did not trust Goodman’s judgment on how comic books should be treated. Goodman felt that comic books were for “stupid children” and encouraged Lee to “dumb down” everything he wrote. When Goodman asked for Lee to take on this particular project, Lee had already been contemplating on quitting. Joan, Stan Lee’s wife, advised him that, if he was going to quit, he should write the comic book they way he wanted to. If Goodman were to fire him, it would not have mattered because Lee had already been thinking about quitting anyway. Lee took that advice to heart, and went to work.

Lee came back to Goodman with his idea. It was a story about a group of four people who gained superpowers after a freak accident in space. What made these characters completely different from anything DC or Marvel published was that these characters did not wear costumes. They were based in New York City unlike the Metropolises or Gotham Cities (established in the pages of Superman and Batman, respectively). Finally, these characters possessed “real” personalities. They had real jobs, talked like ordinary people (with the exception of the over-analytic Mr. Fantastic), and they did not have “secret identities,” or alter egos. Stan Lee’s and artist Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #1 hit the shelves in the November of 1961, and it sold tremendously. (Fantastic Four #1)

A comic book icon

After this milestone of an issue, Lee went on to co-create more characters like The Invincible Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and The Mighty Thor. Lee’s brightest co-creation, however, did not make his debut until August, 1962 in the pages of Amazing Fantasy. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) This was a character that Goodman widely protested against because this superhero in particular was a teenage boy in high school. The only characters that were teenagers in comic books were sidekicks like Batman’s Robin, Human Torch’s Toro, or Green Arrow’s Speedy. This teenager was his own superhero, and Goodman felt that this character could never sell well. After Lee came to a compromise, the character would get a single issue in Amazing Fantasy, an already failing title. This issue completely flew off the shelves. Anyone who read comic books absolutely demanded more of this superhero. Stan Lee’s and artist Steve Ditko’s character, Spider-Man, became famous.

Spider-Man is a prime example of how the modern superhero comic came to be. Peter Parker was an ordinary high school sophomore. He was a nerd, he had been bullied, and he was not rich by any stretch of the imagination. He was exactly like the very people reading his comic book. Once he got his superpowers, the fame went to his head and caused a chain reaction that killed his Uncle Ben. He went on to fight for the good of the people of New York City, but maintained his secret identity, because if his enemies were to find out the truth about him, his friends and loved ones would share the fate of Uncle Ben. Lee even managed to give Spider-Man realistic problems even after he became a superhero. Peter had a tiring job at a newspaper, he struggled to get the girl, and he had to constantly balance his normal life and his superhuman responsibilities. Almost every “Modern Age” comic book is written in this particular fashion because it works extremely well.

A metaphor for just about anyone who's ever been hated for what they are-- different

With the huge successes of the Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man, Lee and Kirby also introduced the X-Men. (Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked) The X-Men told a story of a group of mutant teenagers that were constantly being hunted and despised because they were not human. Because they were different and misunderstood, they were hated. It was a direct metaphor for essentially every minority in one way or another. In fact, the title featured two mutant leaders who were the very embodiments of civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Professor Charles Xavier wished to deal with mutant issues peacefully while the more rebellious Magneto felt that if the mutants were to survive, they must do things “by any means necessary.” Even after Lee left the title in 1966 (McLaughlin), modern writers such as Chris Claremont, Grant Morrison, and Joss Whedon went on to tell epic stories about the X-Men and their constant battle with a world that fears and hates them.

Modern comic book writers owe Stan Lee and his co-creators much to thank for. Lee’s introduction of characters like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men influenced the way the entire comic book industry works today. Comic book characters now have three-dimensional personalities; they have relatable troubles to the ordinary men and women that read about them. A great number of them represent something more than a superhuman that fights evil. Because of Stan Lee and his unique style of writing comic books, superheroes continue to be popular sources of entertainment. That is one of the sole reasons they have survived to this day.

Sources-

Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked. Dir. Steve Kroopnick. Perf. Stan Lee and Neil Gaiman. Triage Entertainment, 2003. Online documentary.

Crowder, Craig. “Fantastic Four.” (Comic, 1961). Pop Culture Universe: Icons, Idols, Ideas. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

McLaughlin, Jeff. “Stan Lee.” Pop Culture Universe: Icons, Idols, Ideas. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

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