Monday, 31 October 2011

Princess Batman

I don't care for the "spooky" part of Halloween, the dressing up as gory monsters and demons. I don't like the egging of houses and other similar Halloween pranks.

What I love about Halloween is summed up perfect in this picture of Mabel, the Batman Princess.

I love the FUN of Halloween! Kids getting to use their imaginations to the fullest, dressing up as their favourite characters or people, or whatever they can come up with. In Mabel's case, she responded to the question of what she wanted to be for Halloween with "Batman Princess". And great credit to her mother, that's what she got! This is what Halloween to me is all about, and even though I don't usually buy DC comics anymore I would buy the first issue of Batman Princess in a heartbeat.

The original (very short) article about Mabel the Batman Princess can be found at

Friday, 28 October 2011

Youtube Friday - Five for Fighting

There are a lot of Five for Fighting Superman clips on Youtube, and this is just one of them, but man are they good.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Where Has My Marvel Universe Gone?

I've been reading comics for about 20 years, which is kind of scary when I think about it since I started reading them when I was 8 years old.  I got my start with Marvel, and while I spent some time collecting a lot of DC and read books from other publishers as well, I have always read Marvel books during those 20 years. 

I hardly recognize the Marvel Universe anymore.

I am finding it harder and harder to stick with the characters that I have loved for all these years. 

This is what Spider-Man
should have done.
I refused to buy the Spider-Man titles (other than the very rare mini-series, such as Spider-Man/Human Torch) after the resurrection of Aunt May, as Amazing Spider-Man #400 is one of the best "death of" stories ever.  I was at the point where I was willing to forgive and come back when the reveal of Gwen Stacey and Norman Osborn's twins came about.  That drove me futher away then the Aunt May thing did, and since then the added atrocity of (poorly) magic-ing away Peter and Mary Jane's marrage came to pass.  It's too bad, because Spider-Island sounded like a pretty fun concept, but since I now feel I've outgrown the character I haven't picked it up, nor will I return to the Spider-titles.

I no longer recognize the Avengers.  Ever since Avengers Disassembled I haven't recognize the team.  To me, the Avengers are the go-to team when the world is in danger, and around the time I dropped New Avengers (approximately #35), I really felt that the then-current line-up would have no real chance against a Skrull Invasion or the Masters of Evil.  That line-up mostly remains in place today, and I cannot stand the writing of Brian Michael Bendis on the Avengers to even entertain picking up the current adjectiveless Avengers title.  From what I've seen on-line it's still not "my" Avengers anyway.

Thor has undergone some really great character development over the past few years under J Michael Stracynski and Kieron Gillen.  Then Matt Fraction took the reins and I no longer even recognize the character.  Under JMS Thor was quicker to think and slower to act, he had a grandeur to him that made you feel he truly was a god.  He no longer spoke in Shakespearean tones but still had a tone of voice that conveyed he was something special.  When Fraction took over, that was all thrown out the window in favour of a brute who smashes first and thinks later, if at all.  He is a petulant man-child who is angry at his resurrected father (despite the two making peace under JMS), who recently died as prophecized (even though JMS made a large point of the breaking of the Ragnarok-cycle signalling a fresh start for the Asgardians).  If not for the hammer I don't know if I'd recognize him.

Continuity is ignored, a lot.  I'm not talking about contradicting a story from 20 years ago, I'm talking about contradicting a story that came out 2 months prior.  As mentioned with Thor, it looked like Matt Fraction didn't even glance at the issues put out by JMS or even Gillen before he got started.  Characters are free to be on multiple superteams across the country at the same time.  Wolverine has long has the superpower to be in every book put out in a month, but to have him be a regular member of the X-Men, Avengers, and X-Force is a bit much, especially when the X-Men were living in San Fransisco while the Avengers are based in New York!  Spider-Man is having solo exploits, running around with the Avengers, and is a member of the Future Foundation!  Considering how often Marvel has their books crossover with each other, this is pretty hard to swallow.

I remember when a character crossing over to another book was special.  It didn't happen every issue because the books had sub-plots, character development, and a main plot of it's own to move forward.  Now it seems almost every book has to be tied-in to whatever Event-of the-Month is happening, and it really derails the other books from doing anything of note.  The best books from Marvel, I feel, are the ones that can hide in their little niche corner away from the main events to tell the stories they want to tell.  Daredevil, up until Shadowland, was a great example of a brilliant book that pretty much got left alone.

There is a splash page in Secret Invasion that has always stuck with me.  In it, a ship full of Skrulls disguised as "classic" Marvel heroes is squaring off against the then-current Avengers, and honestly, I found it very hard to not root for the Skrulls since they looked a lot more like heroes I know and love.

I just cut out The Mighty Thor and Secret Avengers from my pull list, and I'm not sure how long my other Marvel titles are going to last.  As a Marvelite for 20 years, that makes me really sad.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Top 10 Reformed Villains - The Left-Outs

While compiling my Top 10 Reformed Villains, there were some characters that could have made the list, but I left them out for specific reasons.  I suppose you could say they are honorable mentions, but to my mind they just didn't quite fit the criteria.

Magneto and Dr. Doom - Magneto is currently running around with the X-Men, and has before in the past, while Dr. Doom is currently a part of the Future Foundation.  However, I have little doubt that these two will return to their villainous ways as they are simply too important in their roles as arch-villains for the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the Marvel Universe in general.

Angel and Spike - While I included other characters from the Buffyverse, I specifically left these two out.  In Angel's case, the character was created to be a hero.  He was not designed from the outset to be a villain, that came later.  Besides that, I looked at how Angel and Angelus are essentially two different beings occupying the same body, and that was a big part of the disqualification.  Spike is in a similar boat, in that the loss or regaining of his soul defined whether he was a hero or villain.  While his personality remains pretty much the same either way, Angel/Angelus was the precedent and I'm sticking to it.

The Vision - Vizh got his start as a tool of Ultron, but from a character creation standpoint he was never intended to be a villain, based on his very quick turnaround to help the Avengers defeat his creator.  The intention was to create a new hero, not a villain.

Sandman - I desperately wanted to include the Sandman on my list, as I was quite fond of him as a hero/mercenary with the Wild Pack.  I particularly liked his extremely brief stint as an Avenger, where he called in the team to deal with an arms shipment and Captain America told him it was kind of beneath what they usually did.  Sandman had a fit, and I think it was justified.

Wow, Marvel has a lot more reformed villains than DC...other than maybe Plastic Man and Major Disaster I'm having trouble thinking of any, especially with the same prominence as the Marvel characters.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Top 10 Reformed Villains - #1

Okay, this took a little longer than I thought to complete, thanks to an absolutely insane schedule last week. However, I'm back now and ready to reveal the #1 Reformed Villain!

1. Vegeta - Probably my favourite ongoing storyline thoughout Dragon Ball Z and GT is that of Vegeta.  When we first meet him, he is evil incarnate; he kills his own partner, Nappa, because he disobeyed an order.  Later, on Planet Namek, Vegeta is forced to work together with the heroes to stop a greater evil, but he makes it very clear he is still serving his own agenda.  Vegeta is humbled by Frieza, and finds himself on Earth with the rest of the survivors from Planet Namek. 

Due to his actions on the doomed planet, some of the cast, most notably Bulma, seem willing to give Vegeta the benefit of the doubt and try to accept him.  Vegeta wants none of their companionship but only to train to surpass Goku.  He helps the Z Fighters against the android menace and Cell, not because he wants to save the earth, but because he wants to prove he's the biggest badass around.  However, it is at this point that Vegeta has had a son with Bulma, even if he doesn't really acknowledge his existence.

Vegeta has begun to mellow, but he still cannot accept that Goku is a stronger fighter than he is.  As such, he actually allows himself to be enslaved by the wizard Babidi so he can return to his evil roots, feeling he has gone soft, and to gain the power to best Goku.  But even under the influence of Babidi Vegeta is no longer the evil villain he once was, as he sacrifices himself to try and save the planet.

All throughout the series, with the exception of his initial appearance, Vegeta has lagged behind Goku in power but has been close enough to keep it close.  By the end of the series though, Vegeta accepts that Goku is the more powerful, and the two work together to defeat Buu.  It really was fun to watch these two finally, truly work together, instead of their old "Stand aside, I want to fight him!" approach to "teamwork".

In Dragon Ball GT, Goku has made the gap even wider between them, and it is so great that Vegeta regains his fire to stay even or surpass Goku, and in the end he does seem to finally match him again.  One thing that comics have gotten right is making sure that even the top dog hero has peers who are able to challenge him (Thor has Hulk and the Silver Surfer, Superman has Martian Manhunter and Captain Marvel), and the world of Dragon Ball sometimes forgets that and leaves Goku clearly at the top of the mountain unchallenged.  Seeing Vegeta regain his share of that summit was great to see.

The best villain reformations are ones that are done gradually over time, and Vegeta's was a slow burn that evolved organically that lead to a satisfying conclusion.  The story of Vegeta is, I think, the best part of Dragon Ball Z and GT.  Sorry Goku!

That's it, that's the list!  There are some omissions that may seem criminal (you have Harmony and not Spike or Angel?!!), but later this week I'll lay out why I disqualified certain characters from making the list.  That being said, are there characters you think I missed?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Youtube Friday - Batman: Dead End

This is one of the best fan-made films I've ever seen, just from the production values alone.  I've never seen any of the *SPOILER* films but it didn't diminish my enjoyment at all.  Check it out!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Colossus by Julie Bell

I love Colossus and I love this image of him!  It is done by artist Julie Bell and it is absolutel fantastic!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Out of Context - Batman's Thong

The Dilithium Crystals are Overloaded!

Due to work commitments I am completely swamped most of this week, so I'm afraid I'm not going to have much in the way of thought-provoking posts this week.  I'll get something up each day, but articles will be on hold until next week, including the final entry in the Top 10 Reformed Villains series; in the words and intonation of one of the greatest television shoes ever, Banzai, "Place your bets now!"

Friday, 14 October 2011

Youtube Friday - The Avengers Trailer

Unless you're living under a rock you've probably seen this already, but in my quest to ensure no Marvelite is left behind here is the first full Avengers trailer, which I think is pretty darn awesome.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Top 10 Reformed Villains - #6 & #2

Well, since I somehow managed to skip over #6 last time, here is the rather unorthodox pairing of #6 and #2 in our Top 10!

6. Skurge the Executioner - I really thought about ranking Skurge at #2, but since his reformation was very brief I can't justify putting him higher up on the list.  However, Skurge's last stand remains to this day one of the very best deaths of any character in comics.  Walt Simonson did such an amazing job that I tend to think of Scourge as the new Bucky, back when the term "Bucky Dead" meant something.  Skurge is a pretty tragic character when you get to the core of the character, acting as the bootlick to the Enchantress because he loves her so much even though she always has eyes for Thor.  His anger and jealousy puts him at odds with Thor far more than any true malice in his heart.  And really, next to that line about great power and responsibility, is any line in comics as cool as "He stood alone at Gjallerbru, and that answer is enough"?  Didn't think so.

2. Ares - Ares used to be kind of a lame villain, or at least his look was, who was used as a challenge for Thor and Hercules.  As much as I absolutely hated Ares being an Avenger at first, some really great stuff was done with the character, and I'm man enough to admit that part of that credit goes to Bendis.  However, it was two Ares mini-series (not written by Bendis) that really drew me to the character.

Michael Oeming wrote the first Ares mini-series, and while the character had yet to get the pretty cool visual look he would adopt with the Avengers, the story was absolutely phenomenal.  There are times when a creator reinvents a lesser known character without needing a cross-company crossover or deals with the devil, and this is a perfect example done exceedingly well.  I don't want to spoil it if you hadn't read it, just do yourself a favour and check it out.

The second mini-series was written by Kieron Gillen, who has a true knack for writing mythological characters.  Again I don't want to spoil anything if you hadn't read it, but it really explores the God of War's true character.  The best part about both of these mini-series' is they are collected in the same trade paperback, and I believe that it is the same price or cheaper than buying the first one buy itself!  So now you have no excuse to check them out!

Unsurprisingly, Ares also played a role in The Incredible Hercules, particularly in the first story arc or two.  The story takes place during the Civil War, where Ares is a fully deputized agent of the law, while his brother Hercules is a wanted fugitive.  Holy role reversal Batman!  In one of the funniest fight scenes I've ever seen, the still-pretty-morally-ambiguous Ares cannot resist using his newfound authority to kill his hated brother.

Ares met his end in the Siege mini-series, but he really showcased a sense of honor that I'm a sucker for in these warrior type character, and it was then that I could really, truly accept him as a hero and not a villain.  He certainly started out as a villain, but he quickly revealed that he is far from being a black-and-white character.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Top 10 Reformed Villains - #5-3

EDIT: Did you know that we don't have the #6 in Canada?  That's my excuse for skipping over #6 in the Top 10 Reformed Villains countdown!  Special thanks to Brian for picking up on that oversight, #6 will be revealed tomorrow!

5. Anya - Anya got her start in the Buffyverse as Anyanka, a Vengeance Demon.  Her power was stripped from her when her charm was destroyed, leaving her trapped in the form of a teenage girl.  She reluctantly began to spend time with the Scooby Gang, probably because they were the only ones around who had some actual knowledge of the supernatural world around them.  On the surface Anya is rude, abrupt, and insensitive, but in Season 5 we got a real glimpse behind the wall she hides herself behind.  With the death of Buffy's mom, Joyce, Anya gets scolded for asking stupid questions.  But Anya, having only been human for a couple of years, simply did not understand what was expected of her because she had never been taught.  The old Anya wouldn't have cared what the humans thought of her, but by this point she was in a serious relationship with Xander and was a full part of the team.  The best transitions of villains to heroes is gradual, and Anya's accepting her role with the Scooby's, and the group accepting her as well, was developed over time to viewer's delight.

4. Wonder Man - I might catch some heat here since there are a lot of Wonder Man haters out there, but I really liked what Kurt Busiek did with the character in his Avengers run.  Simon has gotten a lot of second chances, but unlike a lot of characters he understands how lucky he is to have been forgiven by his peers and he does not take it for granted.  He started out as a pretty generic villain but I like how he has been fleshed out over the years as an Avenger, both East Coast and West Coat.  I realize he is now a villain in Bendis' Avengers series, but since I am basically ignoring what Bendis has done to my beloved Avengers I prefer to remember Simon as his Busiek-era self.

3. Songbird - In my opinion Songbird has become one of the most visible female characters at Marvel, behind only Storm, Invisible Woman, and Rogue.  Her inclusion in the second Marvel Ultimate Alliance video game goes to show just how far she's come from her days as the B-or-C-list Screaming Mimi.  She is the poster-character for Hawkeye's faith in the Thunderbolts, and has done far more good as Songbird than she ever did as Screaming Mimi.  If you don't want to get a ton of Thunderbolts back issues, just check her out in the Avengers Forever maxi-series (available in tpb!).

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Top 10 Reformed Villains - 10-7

Who doesn't like a completely subjective Top 10 list?  Here we go, my picks as the best villains-turned-to-heroes is as follows!  I'm leaving out some characters that could technically be on here, but I don't think a single appearance as a threat to a hero is enough to label someone as a villain.  For example, the Vision was created to destroy the Avengers but he quickly turned on Ultron, hence why I'm not counting him as a villain. 

I'll start the countdown with numbers 10-6!

10. Hawkeye - Given my love of the character you may be surprised that I've got Hawkeye so low on the list.  The reason he doesn't appear any higher is Hawkeye was never really a villain; he got mixed up with the wrong people and committed a crime or two, but his heart was never in it.  I have a hard time calling him a villain, but he himself admitted he started out on the wrong side of the law when he took over the Thunderbolts.

9. Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver - Much like Hawkeye, I've never considered the Scarlet Witch to be a true villain.  Wanda was only really with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants because of Quicksilver, and neither of them were terribly happy to be there in the first place.  Now you might say that Wanda should be classified a villain after the events of Avengers Disassembled, but I ask you to consider this; Avengers Disassembled was a piece of crap.  Brian Michael Bendis has developed a penchant for killing or ruining favourite characters of mine, such as his off-panel killing of Alpha Flight and the horrible fate he dealt to the Vision.  Fortunately many of the aforementioned events are getting retconned by other writers; the Scarlet Witch is currently being redeemed of her actions in Disassembled somewhat in Avengers: The Children's Crusade, Scott Lang has also been resurrected in the same series, and the original Alpha Flight is back headlining their own solo series.

In Quicksilver's case, he can't seem to keep it straight if he is a villain or a hero.  However, the Avengers always seem to accept him when he comes back to the side of good, though it's no surprise Pietro doesn't exactly have a lot of close friends.  But does anyone expect the son of Magneto to be well-adjusted?

8. Harmony - I make no secret that I am a big Joss Whedon fan.  One aspect of the final season of Angel I enjoyed was that of Harmony, the ditzy vampire who got her start as a classmate of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Harmony was turned into a vampire on Buffy's show, but I enjoy her attempts at becoming a "good guy" in Angel the most.  She does not have a soul like Angel and Spike, so she is really trying to resist her evil nature to try and fit in (which to a slightly lesser extent also defines her pre-vampire high school experience as well).  In the end Harmony betrays Angel, but she really did try her best and it was a fun ride while it lasted.

7. Atlas - As Power Man or Goliath, Erik Josten was a fairly generic villain; he was big and strong and existed to puch things.  However, when he got his start with the Thunderbolts, he became a very intriguing character.  In his early days as a hero, he really struggled with loyalty to Baron Zemo, who saved his life, and doing the right thing.  Making those choices were often a struggle for Atlas, which comes across as very realistic.  Nobody expects a switch to be flicked and the villain to be reformed, it should be a process, and Atlas' journey down that path has been very entertaining.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Commenting on Blogger

Does anyone else have problems commenting on Blogger blogs?  I visit a few regularly and have had difficulty in leaving responses.  On some if I reply using my Google account it won't send the reply through but when I switch to Name/URL I can get it to work.  Lately on a couple when I click "Send" my reply just vanishes.

I'd assume it's a browser setting but I've had this problem on multiple computers using multiple browsers, do I don't think it's my computer.

Anyone else having this problem, or know how to fix it?  If you have trouble posting a comment about it, e-mail me at  Thanks!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Teen Titans - The Non-Slutty Ones

Awhile back I started working on a post about the Teen Titans cartoon and what made it so special.  It got put to the wayside for reasons I don't remember, but the recent Starfire scandal from DC made we want to get it posted. 

While Justice League and Batman: The Animated Series are often touted as the best of the best when it comes to DC's superhero cartoons, I think that the Teen Titans needs to be given serious consideration to be in that elite group.  I have the entire series on DVD and have re-watched it in its entiriety multiple times, and usually find myself picking up on little details here and there every time that just enhance the overall awesomeness of the show.

I was a little reluctant to get into the show at first, as I've always preferred a more "play it straight" animation style like on Justice League or Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.  The anime-like stylings of Teen Titans were a turn off at first.  I'm not sure how I got into the show, but once I watched a couple of episodes I was hooked.

I had no idea the range of emotions that can be portrayed using "Murkianime", the name of the animation style on the show, named after Titans architect Glen Murakami.  This show can go from childish tomfoolery to amazing action to intense emotion at the drop of a hat, which simply cannot be done in a more straight-laced cartoon.  To this day I swear the most touching, beautiful vignette showcasing the pure and delightful notion of young love is that of Beast Boy and Terra going out on a date.  I looked on Youtube for a clip but there are so many fan made Beast Boy & Terra videos I had no hope of finding it, though that should lend credence to my assertation that the romance between these two was very well done.

The main Titans characters are all very strongly defined. 

Robin is an over-achiever who pushes himself to, and sometimes beyond, the maximum.  This can lead to a sense of cockiness at times, and can be off-putting to his teammates.  His fanatical drive to capture Slade in the first season shows that when he pushes himself too far he also pushes his friends away.  With that being said, that same drive is what makes Robin the best of the best.  With no Batman to be found in sight (other than a couple of mentions of Gotham, one dramatic use of bats, and one or two notes echoing the Batman: TAS theme, there is never any mention of the caped crusader), Robin is the one who has the unbeatable "bat factor", which really lets him shine.  It drove me nuts sometimes that he could face down opponents that could beat the entire team by himself, but Robin is just that good.  He improvises on the fly; a perfect example being the time he threw himself off a cliff to save Starfire without hesitation and had to figure out later how to save them both.  The team obviously looks up to him, as evidenced by the time he went on a solo quest and returned to find all of his teammates wearing his uniform and pretending to be Robin!

Beast Boy is the class clown using humour to seek attention.  When you really boil the character down he has a lot of insecurities, which learning of his up-bringing in the final season should come as no surprise.  Beast Boy has been a superhero as long or longer than the rest of his teammates, as a member of the Doom Patrol.  His leader and father-figure, Mento, was similar to Robin in that he drove his team too hard at times, with the big difference being Robin would ultimately never put his friends before the mission objective (other than arguably when dealing with Slade).  Beast Boy has a deep yearning to be loved, but his friendly nature means he can pair with any other character very easily.  Beast Boy was the main character behind some of the team's wackiest adventures, but when the chips are down you don't want to mess with him.

Raven is the "goth" of the team, with her pale skin and mastery of magic.  Her powers have been simplified from her comic origins, which makes a lot of sense from a story-telling perspective for a kids cartoon.  Much like Beast Boy she tries to hide her true nature, but her friends, particularly Beast Boy, don't buy it.  She tries to maintain a sense of emotional detachment but fails at times, to the viewers, and her teammate's, delight.  Her stand-offish nature does at times make her the outsider of the group, which many a kid watching can relate to.

Cyborg is the jock, the big man on campus who is out to prove how tough he is.  Next to Raven, however, he is perhaps the most tragic character on the team.  Cyborg is a fun loving guy, but when you dig a little deeper he is very self concious about his appearance and his handicaps.  Yes, his arm can turn into a sonic cannon capable of knocking down a building, but he also can't really feel somebody hold his hand.  The armor, as he put it in one episode, does not come off.  His emotional armour can be breached at times, however, where we learn just how deep of a guy Cyborg is.

And finally, Starfire.  Admittedly some changes to the character had to be made for the cartoon; the original comics version had a tendency to wear as few clothes as possible, for example.  Starfire is the exchange student, the innocent girl next door, who is new to our ways but wants to fit in.  She is fiercely loyal, has a fresh viewpoint on things the other characters may not have, and is a kind and gentle soul.  She does not crave personal gain or power; in fact, she won the crown of her home planet Tamaran and promptly gave it up, as she had no desire to rule.  She is the sweetest girl you will ever meet, and it is no surprise that little girls everywhere loved the character (and is a primary reason so many hate the new and de-valued Starfire in the DC reboot).

This cast of characters let you tell an amazingly wide array of stories, just as their comic book predecessors were designed to.  One of my favourite episodes is one where an alien superhero shows up battling presumably evil aliens, and the team ends up going with him to shut down their evil empire.  At first he seems to be a real hero, and the Titans all take a quick liking to him.  We learn later though that he is extremely racist against Tamaraneans, which is Starfire's race.  She is ashamed to tell her friends, but once they find out they quickly put a stop to it and tell the alien to leave.  In an older cartoon he would have repented his ways and left a better person; in this story he leaves with his mind unchanged, he is still a bigot.  This is something that kids will have to deal with in real life so it's okay to show them that some people have hate in their heart no matter what you do, it's the people who love you that are important.  It's a great "teaching" episode that doesn't preach at the audience.

If you haven't had the chance to see this excellent show I would encourage you to check it out on DVD, you can get it online for a pretty reasonable price.  Enjoy!