Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 9 – Wolverine

This installment of underrated heroes may seem to be a little ironic considering I am going to be talking about probably THE most popular member of the X-Men, Wolverine. Wolverine was already a popular character in Marvel comics for decades before Hugh Jackman brought him to the silver screen with his iconic portrayal. While there have been 5 different Batman actors, 3 Spider-Man, 2 Hulk, 2 Captain America and 2 Superman… there has only ever been 1 Wolverine. While Jackman’s run with the character finally came to an end last year with James Mangold’s Logan, his run in the comics recently got revived to bring back the classic character. Following the iconic story arc of The Death of Wolverine, Logan was put on ice while his cloned daughter, Laura Kinney (X-23), took the mantle over for several years.  Logan’s history has spanned decades from his first inclusion in Marvel Comics in The Incredible Hulk #180 from October 1974 to his recent return in 2017.

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Let’s dive into everyone’s favourite Canadian…

*This is a brief overview of the important aspects of his history, not a complete recount*

HISTORY

Wolverine was born James Howlett in Northern Alberta Canada (rumoured to be Cold Lake) in the late 1880’s to wealthy landowners John and Elizabeth Howlett. He was born very small and frail, often getting sick for extended periods of time. During his early years, it is revealed that his father is not John Howlett as he thought, but actually Thomas Logan, the groundskeeper of the Howlett Estate. One day after Thomas’ older son, Dog, attempted to rape James’ young friend Rose O’Hara, James told his father John Howlett what had happened getting Dog in trouble. In retaliation for James telling Mr. Howlett what had happened, Dog murdered Jame’s puppy which resulted in him and his father being expelled from the Howlett grounds. Thomas returned later that night with Dog in tow, in order to take his former lover, Elizabeth Howlett, away with him. There was a scuffle and Thomas shot John in the head with his shotgun. James, who had entered the room to see what the commotion was, witnessed his father’s murder and his mutation manifested. He sprouted three bone claws out of each hand and attacked the Logan’s with the ferocity of a wild animal. After killing Thomas Logan  and scarring Dog’s face, Elizabeth suffered a mental break and drove James away before taking her own life with the shotgun.

Rose and James fled the estate and hid in a shed where Jame’s powers continued to manifest even more granting him his heightened senses and healing factor. Rose and James attempted to return to James’ grandfather for help but were turned away and told to get on a train and leave town. With his newly discovered powers and the trauma he suffered, Jame buried the memories of that night under deep layers of psychosis and became a partial amnesiac. James and Rose ended up working in a stone quarry in British Columbia under the guise of cousins to avoid suspicion, it was also during this time that James adopted the name of Logan, to hide his true identity. As the months wore on James became more and more ferocious and his senses continued to heighten until they reached the superhuman level he would continue with for decades. As he grew up, he earned the respect of the other miners because of his work and his ethics but as he grew older he became to resemble Thomas Logan in appearance rather than his birth father, proving that John Howlett was not his father.

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As he continued to work in the quarry he became a favourite of the foreman, Smitty, who took a liking to Logan for his work ethic and efficiency. This brought him into conflict with another miner, Cookie, who had been the foreman’s favourite before Logan arrived. Cookie saw to make things difficult for Logan by bullying him, cutting his and Rose’s rations and even shortening a fuse on an explosive Logan was using resulting in the deaths of five men. Logan took this in stride and hunted deer in the woods, sharing the rest with the neighbours making him even more popular than Cookie. Finally, during a cage match night, Cookie fought Logan. It was during this fight that Logan earned the name “The Wolverine” due to his ferocity while fighting. Rose and Smitty became engaged and Logan, who had developed feelings for Rose, put his feelings aside for Rose’s happiness.

Old Man Howlett (Logan’s grandfather) hired Dog to track and find Rose and James so he could reconcile with them on his deathbed. Dog tracked Logan to the small town outside of the Quarry and fought him in the street. Besides being the physically stronger and larger combatant, Dog was defeated by Logan. As Logan unsheathed his claws to kill Dog and end the memory of his past, Rose jumped between them and was killed by accident. Logan fled the town and ended up living with a pack of wolves for several years.

In 1907, Logan was away hunting for his pack when a genetically modified polar bear was released into the Southern Canadian wilderness by Nathaniel Essex (Mr. Sinister). The bear overwhelmed Logan’s pack, killing them all and feasting on their bodies. When Logan returned, he went to battle with the bear and emerged victorious.  A circus promoter and his trackers eventually captured Logan and promoted him as “the missing link between man and beast” during their circus. While one of the trackers, Clara, believed Logan had a soul, Logan refused to acknowledge her and accepted his new life as penance for killing Rose and failing his pack. Eventually Nathaniel Essex convinced the Circus promoter to being Logan to his lab so he could authenticate “the specimen”. Once at the lab, Essex killed the promoter and began experimenting on Logan to test his healing factor. The two trackers Clara and her brother Saul, eventually helped Logan escape and Clara began teaching him to be a human again. Saul grew jealous of their bond and sold their location to Essex. Clara is apparently killed in the attack and Logan allies with Saul to take down Essex’s men. It is revealed that Clara and Saul are mutants with their own healing factors and that Clara wasn’t dead but had learned of Saul’s betrayal. Enraged at Saul, Logan drowned him in a vat of chemicals. Clara rejected Logan saying ” the man inside wasn’t worth as much as an animal” and left him alone. It is later revealed that Clara’s last named was Creed and she informed her older brother Victor Creed (Sabertooth) of what Logan had done.

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Logan moved around North America working odd jobs and eventually made his way to the fruit orchards in California. It was here that he had a brief romance with a Mexican migrant worker. They made love in a fruit orchard before she left, never revealing her name and never seeing Logan again.

Logan had many romances with many women and fathered a lot of children. One of which, Romulus, the immortal mastermind of the Lupine, began to erase and alter Logan’s memories with his telepathic powers to make him suitable for Romulus’ needs. As he traveled the world, Logan came into contact with the Hand and Sabertooth. He fought Sabertooth and believed to have killed him unaware of Sabertooth’s healing factor. Logan then returned to Canada and fell in love with a Blackfoot native woman named Silver Fox. On his birthday, under Romulus’ orders, Sabertooth attacked and raped Silver Fox leaving her for dead. Logan confronted Sabertooth at the local bar and attacked him. Logan was beaten and in his rage reverted to his mindless feral state. Sabertooth convinced Logan that the local people didn’t want him there and thus hired him to kill Silver Fox because “she was the only thing keeping him there”. Logan proceeded to murder the whole down before he snapped out of his rage and realized what he had done.

In 1914, WWI had broken out in Europe, and Logan enlisted in the Canadian Army. He was assigned to the Devil’s Brigade, a special forces unit often used by Romulus. Logan fought and defeated a man named Lazaer, on the battlefield of Ypres in 1915. Lazaer was actually the Angel of Death, Azrael, who thought he had killed Logan by stabbing him in the chest with his sword before Logan turned the table stabbing Lazaer with the sword he pulled out of his chest. Logan was launched into a depression as ‘punishment’ for denying the natural order of things with his healing factor. For several years after the war, Logan roamed the earth as he saw fit and under the unknown guidance of Romulus. He partook in conflicts throughout the Middle East and Asia before returning to Canada before WWII.

In 1939 when WWII engulfed Europe, Logan once again enlisted in the Devil’s Brigade under his former commander Silas Burr. Burr was working for Romulus during both World Wars to influence Logan to Romulus’ will. Unaware of Burr’s connection to Romulus, Logan joined his company again and partook in D-Day and the liberation of the Netherlands. He aided Captain America during several mission to disrupt an alliance between Hydra and the Hand, joined Sgt. Fury’s Howling Commandos, and stopped a young Black Widow from killing the Jonin (Leader of the Hand). In 1942 Logan was captured by Japanese forces and taken to a prison camp outside of Nagasaki. Logan and another soldier escaped the camp and Logan fell in love with a Japanese woman named Atsuko. Lt. Warren (the other soldier Logan escaped with) attacked him and murdered Atsuko, as Logan and Warren fought, the atomic bomb was dropped leaving Logan as the only survivor.

Following the war, Logan took refuge in Japan and engaged in Bando Saburo, in order to learn to be a man again and not the animal he had been before. He fell in love and married Itsu Akihiro, the two of them conceived a child unknown to Logan. After being banned form the village for accidentally stabbing someone, Logan returned to his house to find his wife murdered by Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier). While Bucky was working for the USSR, Romulus had ordered him to kill Itsu and remove the unborn child from her womb. The Child was given to a Japanese family and raised without Logan knowing. The child was named Akihiro but eventually took the name Daken and fell to Romulus’ manipulations. Logan believing his child had died, moved back to the United States for a few years before returning to Canada for the Weapon X program.

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During the Weapon X program, Logan was experimented on by several doctors under the leadership of Dr. Abraham Cornelius, and had Adamantium (an indestructible metal) grafted to his skeleton; it also coated his bone claws with the metal making them razor sharp adamantium claws. To test his efficiency in combat, he was released on the nearby town of Roanoke with brutal efficiency. In order to turn him into a mindless killing machine Logan was hypnotized and told he was nothing but a mindless killing machine and that being a man disgusted him; eventually, Logan broke free of this programming and escaped the facility with the help of the Winter Soldier. On his way out of the facility he slaughtered nearly everyone in the complex having once again reverted to his animalistic berserker state. He wandered for many months potentially years before he was discovered by James Hudson ( to whom he was related on his mother’s side), founder of Department H. He was brought back to sanity and joined Department H, a superhuman division of the Canadian government. He worked for years on spy missions and assassinations before being set to take control of Alpha Flight (the Canadian Government’s superhuman team). Wolverine fought the Hulk and was then approached by Charles Xavier and asked to help him rescue the X-Men from an island being named Krakoa. During the flight to Krakoa, Romulus instructed Wolverine via telepathic link to assassinate Charles Xavier, before he could finish the task, Xavier cleansed Romulus’ control of Wolverine’s mind leaving him 100% in control of himself for the first time in a long time.  Wolverine saved the X-Men and decided to stay on with the team, formerly resigning from Department H and the Alpha Flight.

Logan remained on the X-Men for years going through many events and even losing his healing factor until his death in 2014 during the event titled The Death of Wolverine.

DEATH

The Death of Wolverine began when he met with Mr. Fantastic. Reed assured him that while he would be able to reactivate Logan’s healing factor it would take him time and not to fight while he did it as using his claws could kill him. Logan promised not to use his claws and departed from the Baxter Building to return to Canada. When he returned to British Columbia, Logan was attacked by AIM agents, mercs and ninjas all trying to collect a bounty that had been placed on his head. The various bounty hunters mostly took each other out with Wolverine mopping up the rest. He left a note with a local bartender that if anyone is looking for him they could find him on the island where he has fought the other bounty hunters. Nuke and several of his mercs showed up to collect the bounty and Wolverine but failed in their attempt. After dispatching the underlings it was just Nuke and Logan left for a final fight. When Nuke got the upper hand, Logan headbutted him with his adamantium skull until Nuke gave in. Wolverine then interrogated Nuke and found out the bounty was for him to be brought in alive had been placed on his head by Viper, the Queen of Madripoor, Logan’s ex wife and former lover.

Wolverine disguised himself as an arms dealer and traveled to Madripoor to get an audience with Viper to find out why she put the bounty on him. When they met, Viper saw through his disguise right away and ordered her guards to take him down. Logan defeated the guards with ease and then demanded an answer as to why she had put the bounty on him. Viper explained that she had put the contract out for a third party and told him she would reveal the name if he could beat her “pet”, a chained up Sabertooth. Logan and Sabertooth fought with Sabertooth landing a lucky slash on Logans eye severely injuring it in the process. Lady Deathstrike showed up and nearly killed Sabertooth before Logan stopped her. When he found out the bounty wasn’t just on him but anyone from the Weapon X program, Kitty Pryde arrived and phased her hand through Lady Deathstrike’s chest, threatening to kill her. As Logan passed out from his wounds, Kitty let Lady Deathstrike go injected him a regen serum that healed his injuries and brought him back to fighting strength.

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Wolverine and Kitty then travel to Japan under the instruction of Deathstrike who had mentioned Lord Ogun had taken up the contract. Upon arrival in Japan, Logan is beset upon by Kitty who was under the control of Lord Ogun. Kitty/Ogun fought Logan and ended up throwing Logan through a house during the fight. This allowed Logan the time to don some samurai armour and grab a sword to even up the fight. Eventually Ogun was defeated by Logan taunting him and Kitty was released from his control. After Kitty regained consciousness  she told Logan that she heard the name of the man who put the contract on him, Abraham Cornelius. Logan tracked Ogun to a factory complex where he was melting the body of Cyber (Silas Burr) because Cornelius was paying a hefty price for his adamantium skin. Ogun offered to provide Logan with the location of Dr. Cornelius and more regen serum if Logan left him alone. Logan responded saying he was done living forever and to tell Cornelius he was coming. Ogun revealed the location of Cornelius’ lab in Paradise Valley Nevada, and Logan set off to confront the doctor.

When Logan arrived at the laboratory complex, he used improvised fake claws to kill the guards and stormed the lab. When he entered the lab proper, he was greeted with Cornelius experimenting on innocent people claiming he was “getting it right”. Logan demanded to know why he was doing this and Cornelius responded with ” I want to be known for more than making a killer unkillable”. Cornelius stated that his creations were perfect and all he needed was Logan’s healing factor to make them unstoppable. Logan then cut his hand with a knife showing Cornelius that he had lost his healing factor. Cornelius ordered one of his test subjects, Sharp, to kill Logan while he taunted him from behind protective glass. During the fight with Sharp, Logan tricked him into breaking the protective barrier between him and Cornelius before knocking him out and crushing his armour. In fear of his life, Cornelius activated the Adamantium bonding process on the rest of the patients and attempted to flee the facility. In a desperate attempt to save the other patients Logan unsheathed his claws and sliced the leads from the Adamantium vat to the patients, coating himself in molten Adamantium. He injected the patients with doses of the regen serum, which had been created by Dr. Cornelius to supplement Logan’s healing factor, before heading off after the doctor. Logan caught up to the doctor on the roof of the complex and stabbed him through the chest with his claws as he asked Cornelius “…what he ever did besides killing?” With Cornelius dead and the lab destroyed, along with all the research data, Logan knelt down on top of the complex in the sunset and contemplated his life as the Adamantium hardened before he finally died of suffocation.

RESURRECTION

In Marvel Legacy #1, Logan is somehow resurrected and broken out of his Adamantium coffin. It is unclear how this happened, and even Logan himself is unsure. It is revealed that he is also the keeper of the Space Stone;which he defends from Loki, Frost Giants, and Ultron infected aliens.

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POWERS & ABILITIES

Almost everyone on the planet knows Wolverine’s powers and abilities, but some people might not know all of them…

  • Regenerative Healing Factor – Capable of healing almost all damage done in mere seconds
  • Contaminant Immunity – Immunity from almost all poisons, sicknesses, diseases, medicines and alcohol
  • Decelerated Aging – Wolverine is Well over a hundred years old but retains the appearance and physicality of someone in their mid 20’s
  • Telepathic Resistance
  • Superhuman Strength – able to hold the weight of a dozen men with a single arm and lift a 955lb bear over his head and throw it
  • Superhuman Speed – Able to move at speeds capable of blitzing oppenents before they can pull their trigger fingers, able to keep up in a fight with Spider-Man
  • Superhuman Durability – Due to his healing factor and Adamantium skeleton he is virtually indestructible
  • Superhuman Stamina – Due to his healing factor he is able to fight at peak performance for over 24 hours straight, able to hold his breath for extended periods of time for combat underwater
  • Superhuman Reflexes – On par with Captain America, able to dodge bullet fire at close range, able to dodge Cyclops’ optic blasts with ease
  • Superhuman Agility – Able to dodge bullets and jump over 30ft in the air with a running start
  • Insulated Weather Adaptation – Immunity to climate and weather conditions, able to sleep nude in arctic temperatures with no damage
  • Animal Empathy – Able to sense basic emotions of animals and communicate with them
  • Superhuman Acute Senses – able to see incredibly great distances with clarity, perfect nightvision, enhanced hearing, incredible sense of smell akin to that of a wolf, able to track enemies over great distances by scent alone, able to detect lies being told by someone from the chemical change in their scent when lying
  • Retractable Bone Claws – 3, foot long retractable claws on each hand that extend through the skin between his knuckles. Dense enough to cut through woods, metals and some rock. Coated with Adamantium during his time in the Weapon X program to made them virtually indestructible.
  • Adamantium Poisoning Immunity – Due to the fact that Adamantium is a heavy metal, anyone using it without a healing factor will suffer from heavy metal poisoning.

In addition to his powers Wolverine is also: a Master Tactician, Master Martial Artist, Expert Marksman, Master Swordsman, Expert Acrobat, Master of Advanced Covert Ops, Skilled Mechanic, and Multilingual ( fluent in English, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Cheyenne, Lakota, and Spanish. He is also proficient in French, German, Thai, Vietnamese, Farsi, and Portuguese)

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His only weaknesses are: Sensory overload from his heightened senses, Decapitation or severe spinal damage inhibiting his brains ability to trigger his healing factor, Adamantium Allotropes, and Drowning.

WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED

So Wolverine isn’t exactly that underrated in the classical sense, but when he is compared to literal Gods and beings with universal level power, he tends to be put on the back burner. Logan has seen his fair share of combat and use throughout his comic career.  During his most popular time in publication he was in January of 2009 where he appeared in 24 different issues of Marvel publications ranging from X-Men to Avengers and even Alpha Flight. The Death of Wolverine story line sold incredibly well and brought one of the most recognizable faces of Marvel comics to a close, at least for the time being.

Wolverine is one of the most popular characters in comics the world over. While Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man retain the top three spots, Wolverine would be at least number 5. He is by far the most popular X-Men character and I for one, really enjoy every time he’s included in the Avengers story arcs.

Mostly, Logan has shown time and time again that regardless of what the Joker from DC Comics says, it takes more than one bad day to turn the sanest man alive into a complete psychopath. I’m not saying Logan was a poster boy for pinnacle mental health his whole life, he definitely had lapses, but he always managed to bring himself back. Also, make no mistake Logan is definitely not opposed to killing but despite a few moments in his history, he didn’t enjoy doing it. In Punisher:War Zone from 2012 by Greg Rucka, Logan was shown the be sympathetic to Frank and his crusade. So much so, that when it came time for the final battle he was asked to sit out by Captain America. While Logan obeyed Cap, due to the respect Logan had for Steve, he did make a point of saying that sometimes the only way to stop bad people is to kill them.  Logan also starred alongside 2 of my favourite characters, Punisher and Ghost Rider, in a one off story called Hearts of Darkness. It’s a brutally violent comic that pits the three heroes against Blackheart and an army of demons to save the soul of a little girl.

Hugh Jackman did an amazing job bringing the character to the big screen, and helped to make fans out of some people who might otherwise have never read a comic book. While his over 6 foot frame was a little much, for most people it wasn’t a big issue. As I said before, while many other heroes got cast and re cast, there was only ever one Wolverine and that was because of how awesome a job Hugh Jackman did. He brought the tortured nature of ol ‘canucklehead as well as his ferocity to the screen in a manner that was completely unique.

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I really do think Logan should get more solo adventures and team ups with various other heroes. While I did enjoy X-23 (Laura Kinney) as the Wolverine following the death of Logan, she never had quite the same air of badassery as Logan himself. Logan represented the level of animalistic nature in all of us that sometimes can come to the forefront if pushed enough. He dealt with his consequences and never tried to hide what he did from anybody. This got him into some hot water a couple of times, but you can’t always please everyone. I am very happy that he was brought back and that we are also keeping X-23 as Wolverine so that we can hopefully get a bit of a mentor mentoree relationship.

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Justice League + Punisher- Review (NO SPOILERS)

This past weekend two of the most anticipated releases of the year came out, Justice League and the Punisher Netflix series. I am glad to say that I saw them both in their entirety upon release. This is going to be a long post as I will review both of these entities in their entirety. That being said this will be a spoiler free review and dive mostly into the productions and characters.

Let’s Start off with the one the entire internet is talking about… The Justice League!

JUSTICE LEAGUE

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I am going to be frank with this one, I liked the movie but there were quite a few things that needed to be fixed with it. I have found from watching all the DCEU movies that they are made for comic book fans whereas Marvel movies are made for everyone. What I mean to say is that there are some sections of the Justice League movie that I, as a comic fan, were able to fill in with ease; however, someone who might not be as well versed in comic books would not be able to connect to. For example, they did a piss poor job of explaining what the mother boxes were for and who Steppenwolf is. I glossed over it, as did the people i was watching it with, because we knew who these characters were and how they functioned. For the most part the people in the theatre seemed to follow the movie fairly well, there were only a few scenes where I heard a collective “Huh?” from the audience. The overall pacing of the movie was really good, it didn’t get bogged down like Batman V. Superman did, and it didn’t jump making huge leaps like Suicide Squad. Mostly though, it was fun! I walked out of that theatre with a smile on my face and thinking that it was basically just an episode of Justice League unlimited in live action form.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

All right, it’s pretty well known that this project was experiencing a LOT of drama behind the scenes. most notably, Zack Snyder having to take some personal time to deal with the suicide of his daughter. Warner Brothers then brought in Joss Whedon (of Avengers fame), to finish the project and see it through post production. Most people are not aware that most of what was re-shot under Whedon were the character interactions and the action scenes he left largely alone. Warner Brothers actually fired Zack from the project during post production when they ordered him to cut the movie to less than a 2 hour run time and he refused.

Now with that in mind, STOP BLAMING WHEDON FOR THIS MOVIE!

Moving on… Zack Snyder has a very specific style that works very well with the darker and grittier heroes. That being said it doesn’t really flow with the tone of the Justice League. If Snyder directed a solo Batman movie (which he pretty much did with Batman V Superman) I personally, would watch the shit out of it. I loved his take on Watchmen and his style has no equal. His style is very gritty and he grey washes a lot of the colours to make them more flat and matte. He isn’t like Michael Bay who puts a blue filter on EVERYTHING and adds explosions just because; and he’s not like J.J. Abrams who likes to blind people with lens flares, but he definitely has a very unique style that nobody can mistake.

It’s obvious which scenes of the movie were filmed by Snyder and which were filmed by Whedon.  The tonal shift between scenes is very obvious in some cases and it can cause you to feel like you’re watching two very different movies. Again, not Whedon’s fault, he did what he was hired to do. He actually didn’t want to take the project away from Zack, but when WB fired Snyder, Whedon stepped up because he loves the characters and was waiting just like the rest of us for Justice League.

Whedon’s style is very… different from Snyder’s. not to say they are polar opposites, but they kind of are. Whedon loves to add colour splashes and make everything pop to add visual flair to the shots. As I said before it is very evident what was shot by Snyder and what was shot by Whedon.

HUMOUR

Okay, so this is not a dig at Zack Snyder but he really doesn’t get humour and he doesn’t really add it into his movies. He does cynicism and sarcasm like a boss, but for outward obvious humour he is kind of deaf to it. Pretty much all of the humour in Justice League came from Whedon and his re-shoots. Most of the humour in Justice League comes from the interactions between the characters and the dialogue they deliver.

Ezra Miller though! Ezra plays Barry Allen/Flash in this film and he is by far the best character in the movie, this is coming from a die hard Batman fan too. When he first meets the other members of the League and they go to the Batcave for the first time, he runs around checking everything out, just like any member of the audience would. He is basically an extension of how any member of the audience would react in the movie, he is in awe of the other Leaguers and when compared to the rest of them he is the rookie.  Batman has some great mentoring moments with Flash and it shows that this Batman views Flash like one of his Robins which is a very cool dynamic to introduce into the DCEU. I don’t want to say anymore because that could give away some of the best scenes, but let me say that Flash’s antics caused the entire theatre to laugh, every time.

COSTUMES

So the costumes in this movie are pretty much identical to the ones worn by the Trinity in Batman V Superman with the exception of Batman. For most of the movie he is wearing a very dark blue suit reminiscent of the cartoon Justice League. His suit looks black in the dark but when it’s shown in the light it has a very dark blue hue to it. Just like in the promotional poster for the movie that says “You Can’t Save The World Alone”. The rest of the League has awesome costumes as well, with the exception of Superman and Wonder Woman, the creators opted for a more armoured look for everyone during the final fight. I think this makes them look more prepared for what they encountered and made it more believable than different coloured spandex.

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One thing that was brought to my attention was by one of my movie viewing compatriots during the scene where Steppenwolf appears on Themyscira. She (my compatriot) noted that the Amazons were much more scantily clad than in the Wonder Woman movie. I will admit I didn’t notice this as I was too focused on the action, but when I went back and looked at the trailers showing the scenes with the Amazons my friend was right, they were no where near as armoured as in Wonder Woman.  While this is obviously a ploy by the creators to keep young men coming to the movie I thought it had to do with something entirely normal, maneuverability. Wonder Woman takes place during the time span of World War I, during this movie the Amazons are much more armoured and move slower compared to Justice League. It was also during Wonder Woman that the Amazons discovered their armour no longer stopped the weapons of man. I am of course referring to that scene on the beach, when several dozen Amazons including their general were cut down by rifle fire.  Now this might be my mind over thinking it but I believe that when they came to realization that their armour was ineffective they opted for a lighter material that they can still used to deflect physical attacks, but didn’t restrict their movement.  When you see the movie you will understand what I mean, I just can’t say anymore without spoiling it.

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for an oscar worthy movie then this is not it. If you’re looking for a fun superhero movie with some great one liners look no further! While it failed to capture the magic of the Avengers, Justice League made leaps and bounds compared to some of the previous DCEU continuity. It got rid of the dark and gritty tone set by the previous installments in the universe and decided to go for a more fun approach.

I will say this Steppenwolf looked absolutely terrible. When a movie costs over 300 million to make you think they could use some better CGI. For most of the movie he looked like he was cut out of PS3/Xbox360 cutscene. His reasons are very unclear in the movie and this inhibits the story telling quite a bit. I think they should’ve used him as a segue way into their big bad Darkseid, and they might eventually, but as of right now he was a very lackluster villain for the League to have gone up against. When you see the movie you’ll understand what I mean during the final fight, 2 members of the League kept him occupied while the rest did other things.

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Despite the drama behind the camera and the tonal shift this movie is a solid superhero flick. It’s not as complex as it could’ve been but it also didn’t spoon feed you everything off the hop (Marvel). It is far from the best superhero or even DC movie ever made, but it’s definitely not the worst either (Bat Nipples anyone?) I definitely give this movie a 7/10. It has some flaws and some things that I would change personally but overall like I’ve said it’s a fun movie to just kick back and enjoy for 2 hours.

 

Onto Marvel!

 

PUNISHER

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So, I’m sure myself like many others, marathoned Punisher in either a day or a day and a half. My friend and I decided to get up early on Saturday, make a coffee and a bagel each and start the marathon. the title sequence was amazing! The song and the sequence showing the various bullets and weapons that then form the Punisher skull just fit the show so perfectly! The song itself is going to be a must have for my personal playlist, it was reminiscent of the classic rock ballads with hints of country thrown in. I will admit that I dislike country music very much, (but that’s a whole other topic), but this song was awesome! The series itself is probably the most brutal of all the Netflix series to date. It follows Frank after he has finished his crusade for vengeance and he is trying to keep a low profile as Pete. Things obviously don’t go to plan and he is dragged back into his old life. Micro seeks out Frank to help him bring down a government conspiracy so that Micro can see his family again. The show doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t skimp on the violence either. The final two episodes are probably two of the most brutal episodes of a show I have ever seen and I watched Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

This show has a very Stark and gritty tone to the shots they use. When Frank is sporting his full Punisher garb they use a lot of shadows and lighting tricks to hide his face while making the skull on his armour pop. Giving the impression of the skull coming for you as opposed to the man. They also use a lot of warm colours during his memory scenes and dream sequences. They also like to frost the tiniest bit of the shots when he is recounting a memory. They especially add a very soft filter and bloom the light sources when he dreams about his family. It’s a great technique that adds a lot more to the scenes.

HUMOUR

This is a show about the Punisher, he really isn’t a funny guy. That being said the supporting characters of Billy Russo and Micro really bring the humour and so does the character of Stein. Those three bring just a little bit of light and antics to this dark brutal drama.

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COSTUMES

The costumes in this show are spot on. Most of the characters only wear regular street clothes so there isn’t much to convey. When the Punisher does suit up though he is like a mash up of the 2004 Thomas Jane and the 2008 Ray Stevenson. He sports tactical gear without looking overly tank like. He isn’t sporting light gear but he is definitely not wearing full advanced combat body armour.

The weapons! Weapons fall under costumes, it’s my blog I can put them where I want!

For most of the show he uses the tools he has at hand, sometimes a sledge hammer and sometimes a handgun. When he does get his arsenal though, look out anonymous henchmen! The main battle scene wherein Frank takes on about 30 guys by himself is nothing sort of spectacular. He weaves and kills like some sort of deadly water dancer. If the water dancer could kill you with their bare hands in 30 different ways…

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

This series is a great addition to the Netflix Universe. It currently sits as my second favourite series after Daredevil and before Iron Fist. I don’t want to dive too much into the plot for fear of spoiling something but I will say that it’s a great revenge plot. Following the Punisher’s arc in Daredevil Season 2 could’ve been rough but this production team and the actors pulled it off amazingly.  I would definitely rate this series a solid 8.5/10. I can’t explain why I gave it that rating until you watch the series. Once you watch it and the ending you will definitely understand the rating I gave it. The plot is a little convoluted at times and if you aren’t paying very close attention you can miss some key moments. Bernthal embodies the role and really gets into the grit of what makes Frank Castle tick. For those expecting a series where Frank senselessly murders hundreds of anonymous henchmen, this isn’t it. Want that kind of Punisher violence then watch Punisher:War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. I will say that Bernthal doesn’t look like the comic book version of Frank Castle but he definitely acts like him when it counts.

 

Those are my reviews of both releases. Agree or not let me know! see you next week for another edition of Underrated Hero!

Vengeance in White – Moon Knight

Since I started this blog 37 weeks ago, I have been holding back on writing about one of my favourite heroes and that would be Moon Knight. I know that I have already put out a post about how he should be the next hero included in the Marvel Netflix universe, but for those unfamiliar with the character I will give a quick rundown of the Avatar of Khonshu.

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BACKGROUND

Marc Spector was born in Chicago, Illinois to a rabbi and his wife. He was the oldest of two boys, his younger brother being Randall Spector (Shadow Knight). From a young age both the Spector children were fascinated with guns and warfare, something that didn’t sit well with their pacifist father. After butting heads with his father for much of his childhood and teenage years over the influence he was having on his younger brother at the age of 16 Marc left his home and enlisted in the Marines. During his tenure in the Marines he became a heavy-weight boxer and competed in several competitions winning the majority of them. It is revealed in the Shadowland arc that Marc’s father confronted him while Marc was training for a fight, and suffered a fatal heart attack while reaming Marc out for him being the cause that his little brother enlisted as well. He was recruited by the CIA to become a black ops operator right from the Marine corps, and he served with the CIA for many years before leaving to become a freelance mercenary.

During his extensive career as a mercenary, Spector met and befriended Henri “Frenchie” Duchamp. Henri was a french pilot who became fast friends with Marc and aided him for many years even during his superhero career.

Spector was hired by Raoul Bushman as part of his attack force on a mission in Egypt. While on mission the mercenaries stumbled onto an archaeological dig of the temple dedicated to Khonshu, the Egyptian God of the Moon and Vengeance, headed up by Dr. Peter Alraune and his daughter Marlene. When Bushman discovered the wealth stored in the tomb he resolved to take it for himself and started his acquisition by murdering Dr. Alraune and several of the workers. Disgusted by what he saw, Spector challenged Bushman to one on one combat. Bushman defeated Spector leaving him alone to die in the desert. Some of the workers who still worshiped the old Gods found Spector dying of his wounds in the desert and carried him to the feet of the Statue of the Moon God Khonshu. It was here in the temple he had fought and died to protect that Spector’s heart stopped. The God Khonshu appeared to Spector in a vision and told Spector that he would give him another chance if Spector agreed to become his avatar on Earth. Spector agreed. When he woke up, Spector grabbed the cloak that covered the statue and wrapped himself in it declaring himself the Avatar of Khonshu. He then confronted Bushman a second time and was victorious. With Bushman defeated Spector returned to America accompanied by Frenchie and Marlene and the statue of Khonshu from the temple.

He decided to become a crime fighter and created his superhero persona in the image of Khonshu. Donning the moniker of the “Fist of Khonshu” Spector became the Moon’s Knight. He created a silver coloured suit using the cloak that was draped around the statue as his cape and hood.

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When he returned to the U.S.A. Spector invested the money he had acquired over his mercenary career and amassed himself a small fortune. In order to keep up the appearance that he had died in Egypt, Spector crafted the alias Steven Grant millionaire entrepreneur, to help him purchase some high end real estate and infiltrate the upper class. In order to maintain contact with the street level crime he also developed the alias of Jake Lockley New York city cab driver. It was using the Lockley alias that he met allies such as Betrand Crawley, Gena Lander and her two sons.

Spector first appeared in the 1975 comic Werewolf by Night as the villain hunting down the title character for an organization called the Committee. He remained as an occasional villain until in  1976 when he was given his own Marvel Spotlight. In 1978 his origin was retconned so that his first appearance was a cover he used to take down the Committee.

SKILLS + WEAPONS

Marc Spector is just a man. A man who was given a second chance at life (and many subsequent chances) but still just a man. He is a formidable close quarters fighter being a champion level heavy-weight boxer. He is proficient with most firearms and is considered an expert marksman.

There was a brief period where he was bitten by the Werewolf and affected by the Lycanthropy sickness. He was given varying strength and speed powers based on the phases of the moon.

Moon Knight uses a variety of weapons ranging from truncheons, to crescent shaped throwing knives, staves, spiked brass knuckles, and various firearms. He at one point also created an armored version of his costume made out of Adamantium. he also has multiple Moon-copters which he uses during his patrols, and in more current issues a series of autonomous gliders and vehicles.

Moon Knight has also been stated to be the one hero that Taskmaster will not replicate because he would rather take a punch and keep the momentum and offensive, than block and lose his momentum.

DEFINING TRAITS

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One of the biggest things that Moon Knight is famous for is his fractured psyche. Due to his connection to Khonshu and his already unstable mind, Spector suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). This has caused his mind to compartmentalize each of his identities in such a way that he can switch personalities and identities based on whatever the task at hand is. This has gotten him into some hot water over the years with his fellow Avengers, particularly the Pro-Registration faction during the Civil War story line. The sad thing is that Spector doesn’t see anythig as wrong and it’s only his friends and allies who are concerned for him in regards to his mental state, believing he could snap at any moment and become a major liability to the rest of the superhero community.

Apart from his MPD, Moon Knight is also known for wearing white. While his original costume was silver in colour, his more modern and most well known costume is white. Considering that he patrols at night the colour white is an odd, choice but there is a line that he delivers that explains why he wears white and it is as follows.

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Basically I think Moon Knight is a really great character who should get his time in the spotlight. I know that Marvel is planning on expanding the Netflix universe and adding a couple of new heroes and He would make the best addition!

I know this is a short post and looks unmistakably like an underrated Hero post… but i’m honestly just waiting until next week when I can do a review of Thor Ragnarok and all its glory!

Anyways that’s it for this week, see you all next week!

Most Underrated Heroes: Vol.2 – Red Hood

Time for volume 2 of the most underrated heroes! This months addition is none other than the anti-hero Red Hood.

For those unfamiliar with the Bat-family and the succession of Robins, Red Hood is the persona adopted by the second Robin, Jason Todd, after he was murdered by the Joker and subsequently resurrected. Red Hood is one of the title characters in Red Hood and the Outlaws and has held various titles throughout his comic publication.

HISTORY

The Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin for Jason Todd is that he was son of Acrobats Joseph and Trina Todd who were killed during their show by Killer Croc. Jason had strawberry blond hair and was a basic carbon copy of Dick Grayson; even going so far as to wear different pieces of Dick’s old disguises before being presented with a Robin costume by Dick himself. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event DC Comics took this opportunity to re-write and re-brand large portions of their continuity to coincide with their new direction for publication. This new direction is where we get the origin for Jason that has been dubbed the “official” origin.

After Dick had become a fully fledged member of the Teen Titans and left Bruce to pursue leadership of that team full time, Batman was on his own. One night while on patrol in Park Row (Crime Alley), Batman was returning to the Batmobile and he discovered the wheels had been removed by a young boy who was attempting to steal them. Bruce sees that he is enrolled in a school for troubled boys which falls through, Bruce eventually adopts the boy and trains him as Robin after Jason helps him stop a gang of thieves. After six months of training and tutelage Jason is given his own Robin costume and begins his nightly patrols with Batman.

During the revamp period Todd was painted the outcast/rebel Robin. He defied authority, smoked, swore, and used excessive violence. There have been several instances where he defied Batman specifically: going after Scarecrow alone and bringing him in, jumping the gun on a botched drug ring raid, and the death of serial rapist Felipe Garzonas. Leading up to the death of Garzonas, Todd had been using increasing levels of force to one point where he breaks the arm of a pimp about to slash one of his working girls.

The death of Felipe Garzonas marks the point where Batman began to realize the mistake he had made with  Jason. Garzonas was a serial rapist who was protected legally by his father’s diplomatic immunity. When a young girl named Gloria hangs herself to avoid being raped a third time by Garzonas, Todd finds her body before Batman and makes a beeline for Garzonas. Todd chases Garzonas up onto the 22nd story of a building and Batman arrives in time to see Garzonas fall the 22 stories to his death, with Robin standing at the ledge. When confronted about it Todd says that he “…didn’t push him and that he must’ve spooked him and Garzonas slipped”, before Todd could catch him, he fell to his death.

 

DEATH

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The death of Jason Todd is one of the biggest events in all of Batman comics. Titled A Death in the Family the story follows Todd’s quest for the truth and his subsequent end at the hands of the Joker.  When Todd his side lined for excessive force and disobeying orders he leaves the Batcave to walk around his old neighbourhood. While on his walk he is flagged down by a woman who used to live beside him and his parents, she hands him a box of things and among them is his birth certificate. The certificate is badly damaged by the name of his mother begins with an “S” proving the woman he grew up calling mother was not his biological mother. Todd utilizes the Batcomputer along with an old address book of his father’s that was also in the box to narrow down the number of potential women to three. Jason then runs away to try and find his birth mother. After striking out with the first 2 women Batman finds Jason in Israel where they encounter the Joker who has been named a member of the Israeli government and now has diplomatic immunity. Jason then tracks the final woman, Shelia, to Ethiopia where she runs a clinic. Todd is overjoyed to have finally found his mother but his mother is being blackmailed by the Joker to provide him with medical supplies. It is later revealed that Todd’s mother was responsible for an illegal clinic and experimentation on young women in Gotham and fled to Ethiopia to avoid charges. She hands her son over to the Joker, in hopes of getting out from under his thumb. Joker ties up Shelia and forces her to watch as he beats Todd with a crowbar and leaves him within an inch of his life. Joker then ties up Todd and leaves him and his mother locked in a warehouse with a time bomb. They try to get out of the warehouse but remain trapped as the timer ticks down, in a final effort to save his mother, Jason leaps on the bomb to try and shield some of the blast with his body. Batman arrives too late to save them and Shelia dies in Batman’s arms after confessing what she had done. Batman buries Jason and keeps his uniform in a glass display case in the Batcave with an epitaph that reads “A Good Soldier”.

 

RESURRECTION

Jason remained dead for quite a few years, long enough for Tim Drake to assume the mantle of Robin. In main comic continuity his resurrection is a little odd. Basically, Superboy Prime was trapped in the paradise dimension (a dimension that borders our own). In an attempt to break through to our own dimension he repeatedly punched on the barrier blocking his way, this in turn created temporal ripples. One of these such ripples was responsible for the resurrection of Jason Todd. Todd breaks out of his coffin and wanders away from the site, he is taken to a hospital when he is discovered wandering the streets, but no connection was made that he was Jason Todd. He spent the better part of a year as a wandering amnesiac vagrant on the streets of Gotham, he was recognized for his fighting style by a street crook and the information made it’s way to Talia Al’Ghul and she swept him up and took him away. She further trained him while the League of Assassins swiftly eliminated anyone in Gotham who knew of his resurrection. Talia put him in the Lazarus pit to attempt to restore his memories, but he emerged broken and mentally unstable. He fled the League and used what funds he had secured from Talia to hook up with a Mercenary group on their way to Gotham.

In the Under the Red Hood movie the resurrection story is slightly different with Ra’as Al Ghul hiring Joker to help him in a plot. Joker goes off book and kidnaps Robin and murders him by beating him with a crowbar and them blowing him up. Ra’as then swaps out Jason’s real body at the Sarajevo morgue for a mannequin and revives Todd using the Lazarus pit. Todd kills 2 members of the League before fleeing into the night not to be seen again until he emerged in Gotham as the Red Hood.

RETURN TO GOTHAM

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After having trained for several years in various deathly arts, Red Hood plans his return to Gotham. During Hush Todd collaborates with Riddler and Hush to battle Batman. He confirms for Riddler that Bruce Wayne is indeed Batman and initially confronts Batman at his grave site during the climatic final battle of the run. He swaps out with Clayface and observes Batman from afar, when Bruce shows no regret with him sparing Joker’s life after he killed Jason, Todd is severely angered and resolves to kill Bruce. Talia then gifts him with a flame knife and his iconic red helmet.

In the Under the Red Hood story line, Jason returns under the persona of Red Hood and begins taking control over the gangs of Gotham and going to War with Black Mask. In an effort to even the odds, Mask unleashes the Joker from Arkham. Todd kidnaps the Joker and proceeds to beat him with a crowbar mirroring the way Joker had tortured him before he was murdered. In the climatic showdown with Batman and the Joker, Jason confesses to Bruce that he forgives him for not saving him, but doesn’t understand why Bruce let the Joker live. Jason tries to force Bruce to either kill him or the Joker, but Bruce saves them all and Jason disappears after that, again.

Since  his return to Gotham Jason has gone on the hold every title of the Bat-family, including Nightwing, Red Robin and Batman.

Battle for the Cowl pitted Jason Todd Batman against Tim Drake Batman and Dick Grayson Batman for the title of the one true Batman.

POWERS AND ABILITIES

Jason was trained at a young age to become Robin; as such he is an Olympic level athlete with stealth training and extensive combat training.

He was further trained by the League of Assassins as well as the All-Caste which is an organization older than the League of Assassins which trained Ra’as Al Ghul.

He is proficient with all firearms as well as most high tech weaponry and gadgets.

For all of his training Jason Todd is still just a man, a slightly unhinged and deranged man, but a man just the same.

REASONS HE IS UNDERRATED

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Red Hood is one of the few examples of characters who are too human to the point they’re no longer fictitious. If presented with the same situation most people would do the exact same thing, try and get revenge on the person who killed them and the person who they trusted to save them. I don’t mean that everyone is a vengeful, angry sociopath; but there is no denying that it is human nature to want revenge on someone that has wronged you.  As a character Jason tends to be lumped in as one of the failed sidekicks who never really amounted to anything like Garth or Speedy. I think he has a lot to offer and in the New 52 and Rebirth they have done some great arcs involving him and the rest of the Outlaws. I mean he was the Leader of the League of Assassins at one point, that takes some serious skill! Not only has he also battle Batman to a stalemate but he has done the same with Deathstroke and Ra’as Al Ghul!

Also Jason is the perfect example of a redemption story, they’ve already toyed with him and Bruce reconciling their differences for that only to have been a ruse so Bruce could bring back Damian… I like most of the Robins even the ones that are a little different, but Damian is just annoying. He needs to be taken down a peg… again. I think that Jason should be used more as someone trying to do the right thing but always having this voice in the back of their head saying it’s not enough, that he wants to be a good person but he keeps falling back into his old ways. The sad thing about Jason is that most of the rest of the Bat-Family forgive him and understand why he does what he does; but Bruce can’t seem to see it, or even if he does, he doesn’t want to deal with it.

Jason Todd is one of the characters that I think make for a very compelling story, no matter what he does, he always adds his own touch to it and that makes it awesome. I want to see him take a more active role in Rebirth and the Bat-Family as a whole!

Spawn – Image Comic’s Crown Jewel

As an avid reader of both DC and Marvel comics there tend to be some smaller comic companies that get lost in the bluster of weekly issues and mega blockbuster movies, one of these such companies is Image Comics.  Image Comics was founded in 1992 by several freelance artists who worked for both DC and Marvel drawing comics as needed, one such artist was Todd McFarlane. Todd had just come off an amazing run at Spider-Man and was one of the eight founders of Image Comics.

When McFarlane moved to Image, he decided to create an all new character that he could call his own and has become one of the flagship properties of Image Comics, Spawn.  Spawn has received 1 major motion picture starring Michael Jai White as the titular hero, as well as a very successful HBO cartoon series with Keith David delivering his voice to the main character.  Spawn has also had several cross overs with many different heroes most notably Batman. Spawn has quite the extensive back story and has had quite a large fan base since his first issue rolled out in May of 1992.

 

ORIGIN

Spawn is the alter-ego of Albert Francis “Al” Simmons, a retired Force Recon marine and assassin. After saving the President from an assassination he was recruited into the CIA to conduct black ops missions and assassinations. Through an extensive career Simmons wracked up a considerable kill count, not all of which were intended targets. There were quite a few collateral damage kills which weighed on his conscience and caused him to question the morality of the agency he worked for.  Jason Wynn who was the individual who oversaw the missions Simmons was conducting noticed his lack of devotion to the agency and hired his friend and partner Bruce Stinson (aka Chapel) to kill Simmons. In what can only be dubbed as a “blazing inferno” Chapel killed Simmons, and Al’s soul was sent to hell. Simmons was cast at the feet of the demon known as Malebolgia, where he sold his soul so that he could see Wanda again. Malebolgia accepted his offer and returned him to Earth. In the time between when Al was killed and resurrected, five years had passed. When he awoke on Earth he was a deformed demonic creature (a Hellspawn) with very few memories of his past life. When he finally regained his memories he sought out Wanda. When he found her he discovered Wanda had moved on with her life, marrying his best friend Terry Fitzgerald and they had a daughter named Cyan. After this the Violator shows up and taunts Spawn. The two of them fight but their battle is interrupted by Malebolgia. Spawn takes to “Rat City” a series of alleys were bums and homeless live and quickly becomes their protector and eventual king. It’s in Rat City where he meets Cogliostro (a former Hellspawn) who becomes his mentor. Spawn becomes a brutal anti-hero and warrior for the people of Rat City, he solidifies his dark anti-hero status when he brutally murders a pedophile and child murderer named Billy Kincaid.

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Powers and Abilities

Al Simmons is an Olympic level athlete, fluent in 10 languages, expert with fire arms, and master of 13 known martial arts.

Spawn is bonded with a symbiotic suit called Leetha of the 7th House of K (K7-Leetha). The suit is bonded to his central nervous system and will defend him even while he is unconscious.

This is where it gets a little weird so bear with me…

So Spawn is just one of a long lineage of Hellspawn. Hellspawn are officer’s in Hell’s army and double as hit-men for the supreme demon Malebolgia. Each Hellspawn is given a certain amount of Necroplasm (the green goo from the comics). The Necroplasm is used when the Hellspawn uses it to regenerate wounds, create constructs out of his cape, create his chains and spikes, etc.

Al Simmons weighs roughly 450 lbs as Spawn and almost all of his body is composed of Necroplasm.  The true power of the suit is taken from the necroplasm that composes of Al’s body, though he can take it back to power constructs he needs in battle. His suit can also feed on the evil energy from the physical world. This included the ambient evil of people, insects, animals and even some areas of cities like Detroit, New York and LA.  The Suit itself can be changed based on the task at hand. It can manifest spikes, armour plating, or even change his shroud (cape) into an offensive weapon such as a battle axe or sword. The shroud itself is a very capable offensive weapon able to strike quickly in combat and has been known to sever limbs and generate various hooks and blades as needed.

Spawn also has vast magical powers. These powers are related to the necroplasm level the Hellspawn currently possesses and is presented to the reader by a gauge that read 9:9:9:9 when the comic started. Each time Spawn uses some of his energy this counter will drain. Because of this Spawn relies on his suit as well as physical weapons such as firearms in combat rather than magic.  The limit of Spawns magical abilities is much like the Green Lantern from DC comics, it is basically limited by the user’s imagination. These are some of the powers he has exhibited throughout his publication: resurrecting the dead, firing blasts of necroplasm energy, teleportation, firebreathing, transmutation, elemental manipulation, shapeshifting, flight, animal communication, mind reading, invisibility, portal creation, time manipulation, soul manipulation, reality warping, regeneration, curing the sick, and feeding off the evil energy of others to restore his necroplasm counter and strength.

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The only way to kill Spawn is by beheading or similar trauma to the head (ex. gunshot). Spawn also loses his power in a small patch of alley called “The Dead’s Zone” which is an extension of Heaven’s domain.

AMAZING FEATS

Malebolgia released a very powerful God named Urizen to wage war on Heaven and conquer their domain. Spawn used power obtained in the Greenworld ( a place that’s power is equal to that of Heaven and Hell) to stop Urizen and swallow him imprisoning him. Spawn teamed up with Angela a warrior of Heaven; and took the fight to Malebolgia in Hell once Spawn discovered Malebolgia was behind the whole thing. After mortally wounding Malebolgia in their battle Angela was cut down. Enraged at the death of Angela, Spawn took Malebolgia’s head. Upon killing Malebolgia Spawn is informed by a demon named Mammon, that Hell’s throne is now his.

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When Spawn was cast down and killed and then resurrected (a never ending cycle apparently?) he awoke to find Armageddon was beginning. He was informed by the Mother (an omnipotent being and mother to God and Satan) that Spawn could not stop Armageddon but could ascend to Godhood and preserve the Human race. In order to do so Spawn must defeat the 12 Disciples (Guardians of Heaven’s domain against the Hellspawn) and eat fruit from the forbidden garden. With the help of Cyan he is able to defeat all the Disciples but the last and most powerful (Judas). Spawn is stabbed in the heart by Judas and the mother resurrects him and presents him with fruit from the garden. Spawn returns to the Earth with his new immense power to discover the world is ravaged by the 4 horsemen and humanity is dead. Spawn fights the armies of both Heaven and Hell alone and vanquishes them, when God and Satan turn their attention to him he is slain and the two of them continue their battle. Spawn is resurrected by the mother and he resurrects everyone on the planet with their memories of what happened intact. He banished Satan and God to fight on their own little world where they couldn’t harm anyone and shut the doors of Heaven, Hell and Earth.

CONCLUSION

Spawn is quite an extensive character with many similarities to other properties from DC and Marvel such as Ghost Rider and El Diablo. The thing that makes spawn so different is that his story is tragic, he fights because it’s all he’s ever known and because he is compelled to do it. Spawn relies heavily on Christian mythology as well and mysticism to deliver a compelling story about a man trapped within his own destiny. Image comics has had several successful titles since their founding like: Savage Dragon, Witchblade, The Darkness and the Walking Dead; but very few people know of this company and the great stories they put out. Regardless of what comic series they put out, Spawn will always be their best contribution to the comic community.

Most Underrated Heroes: Vol. 1 – Ghost Rider

I’ve decided to add a segment to my blog wherein once a month I will outline a hero that I believe to be woefully underrated by most people. These are my own personal opinions and don’t reflect on any of the companies in one way or another. I had to restrain myself from talking about Moon Knight first because it would more than likely become an angry rant at the Marvel Netflix universe for not including him (yet… I have hopes!).

The first hero that I have chosen to talk about is none other than the spirit of Vengeance himself, Ghost Rider.

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The first Ghost Rider in publication, not in Marvel history, is stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze. Blaze is arguably the best known Ghost Rider right behind Danny Ketch and now Robbie Reyes.  Blaze was portrayed by Nicholas Cage in the 2007 film titled Ghost Rider and in the 2012 sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I will be the first one to say those movies are terrible, absolutely horrible. But because of my love for ‘ol Flamehead, I watch them over and over again. Recently in Agents of SHIELD Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider appeared as an antagonist and then ally of the team. Let’s start off with a little bit of background on the character.

BACKGROUND

Blaze was a stunt motorcyclist with his father in the Quentin Carnival alongside Craig “Crash” Simpson. His mother walked out on his father when Johnny was young taking his two other siblings Danny and Barbara with her. Johnny’s father was killed in a stunt and he was adopted by Crash Simpson and his wife Mona. The Simpson’s fabricated a story as to help shield him the pain of coming from a broken family. Johnny and the Simpson’s daughter Roxanne grew close as kids and as they grew older their friendship turned to romance. The Simpson’s began their own stunt show of which Johnny was a part, when Johnny found out Crash had life threatening cancer he was devastated. Johnny turned to the occult in an effort to save Crash. One night Johnny recited a spell and summoned who he thought was the devil, really it was the arch demon Mephistocles (Mephisto). Johnny sold his soul to Mephisto in an effort to stop Crash dying of cancer. Crash awoke the next day cured of cancer, but he died performing in the stunt show a few days later. Johnny confronted Mephisto and declared that he had cheated him. Mephisto said he had stopped him dying of cancer, not dying any other way and thus the deal stood. Roxanne arrived in time to save Johnny’s soul by declaring her love for him which drove Mephisto away. Mephisto, out of rage of not being able to collect Blaze’s soul because of Roxanne’s love, bonded Johnny’s soul with the demon Zarathos making him the Ghost Rider. A leather clad being that controlled Hellfire to punish at Mephisto’s bidding, but due to the fact that he still retained his soul, Blaze would also help the innocent whenever he could.

POWERS & ABILITIES

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In addition to controlling Hellfire and being impervious to damage as Ghost Rider, Blaze also has the ability to control hell chains with his mind. He utilizes a shotgun imbued with Hell energy to fire mystic blasts at his foes that can incinerate instantly. He is strong enough to be able to fight toe to toe with Green Scar Hulk (World War Hulk), and uses the penance stare. The penance Stare is a Ghost Rider’s most powerful weapon. When using the penance stare the Ghost Rider can force you to feel the pain of all the hurt you caused to other and burn your soul inside your body. If you have dealt enough pain to others than the penance stare will fry your whole body from the inside out. There are very few people in the Marvel Universe that the penance stare doesn’t work on, those being Punisher, Deadpool, Venom and Mr. Hyde. Punisher doesn’t regret any of his kills, Deadpool’s biggest victim is himself, Venom is immune from the symbiote and Mr. Hyde is immune because of his transformation.  In addition to controlling hell chains with his mind Ghost Rider also keeps a length of chain which he can use as a whip or he ignites it on fire and can spin it fast enough to create a flame vortex.

FEATS

Ghost Rider has performed many great feats over his long career in publication. Due to the nature of the character they haven’t always been Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, but for the most part they have been. One of the best feats he accomplished was during the World War hulk story arc.

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During World War Hulk the Green Goliath returned to Earth rather pissed after having been banished to a distant planet by the Illuminati. The Illuminati are a secret group of the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe (Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Charles Xavier, etc). The save the Earth from having to deal with another Hulk catastrophe the Illuminati tricked Bruce Banner onto a satellite and then launched him into deep space.  Hulk crash landed on the planet Sakaar and fought in the gladiatorial ring until he eventually was crowned king. He ventured back to Earth pissed off and ready to make the Illuminati pay for what they had done to him. Hulk had claimed a battleground in downtown New York where he waited for the group to show. Ghost Rider was hunting down pieces of Lucifer that he had inadvertently let loose from hell. He encountered the Hulk and they began to fight, a very destructive fight through the NY battleground. Hulk punched Ghost Rider through several buildings and dropped another one on top of him. Ghost Rider then grappled on hulks back and nearly choked him out with his hell chain. The fight ended in a stalemate when Ghost Rider attempted to use his penance stare and was shown that the Hulk was the victim and the Illuminati were the guilty ones.

In the early 90’s Fantastic Four cartoon there was an episode where Galactus attacked the earth. The Fantastic Four had tried everything they could to stop him but nothing was working. The Fantastic Four had run out of options and were trying to think of a plan to get rid of Galactus. In rides Ghost Rider, and tells the Fantastic Four that he will help. He rides up Galactus’ body and delivers the penance stare right to him. Galactus being a world eater, had consumed a lot of people and had a lot of guilt and pain stored up. This act was enough to banish Galactus at least for the time being while he healed from his wounds.

Circling back to why Ghost Rider ran into the Hulk in World War Hulk, he was in the process of hunting down and killing Lucifer.  Long story short is that Satan had trapped Ghost Rider in Hell (go figure!). Lucifer disguised himself as a worm helping Johnny to break the barrier between Hell and the normal world. When Johnny broke through Lucifer split into 666 pieces and fell to the Earth. Each piece took on a persona/possessed someone and began wreaking havoc.  Angels were dispatched to help Johnny but slowly one by one, Johnny killed all the pieces of Lucifer until only 1 remained. The trick was that with each piece Johnny killed the remaining pieces would get stronger. The two Angels that were sent to help Johnny ended up sacrificing themselves to provide Ghost Rider with the power he needed to destroy Lucifer and banish him back to hell.

REASONS HE IS UNDERRATED

There really is no definitive answer here besides the fact that he is a dark character. When people think of Marvel comics they think of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men, etc; all very colourful and for the most part family friendly characters. Ghost Rider isn’t a hero, he’s an anti-hero; one of those guys like Deadpool, and Punisher and Wolverine who are willing to kill to make sure their mission is accomplished. Not only that but once a Rider uses the penance stare there is no going back. it will inflict the maximum amount of damage to you that you deserve. There is no settings knob on the penance stare just like there is no setting knob on Ghost Rider’s morality. Ghost Rider like Punisher is very black and white, they both punish evil doers. Will they kill you for stealing a candy bar from a convenience store? absolutely not. Will they put the fear of God in you? absolutely.  The rider knows when it’s true evil like a serial killer or just minor evil like a vandal spray painting a building, and can adjust accordingly.

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Ghost Rider has a high kill count, not as high as say Deadpool or Wolverine, but he definitely is not a nice guy. Ghost Rider is very much a character aimed at an older audience. The humour and content of the Ghost rider comics tends to lean towards a mature audience and some of the content can be rather gruesome. In the family friendly MCU there really isn’t a place for someone like Ghost Rider. The Netflix universe however… that’s a whole different story, but in all fairness he wouldn’t be my first choice for that… my first choice would wear more white.

 

 

Anti-Heroes: More Realistic Than Classic Superheroes

Superheroes provide hope, an idea to strive towards. They’re someone you can always look up to and can trust that no matter what is facing them, they will do the right thing. This is an admirable stance to take, even if it’s not very realistic. Finding someone who is good for the sake of being good is a one in a million chance. Most people like to think that they are good at heart, but when the chips are down and their back is against the wall they will do whatever it takes to win, even if it is sometimes a very morally grey act. I’m not trying to say that I think people are evil, they’re not. People are just people and each person has a breaking point. A point where self preservation takes the driver’s seat and everything else takes a side seat. Some people can reach this point very quickly, while others take quite some time to get there.

If any of you have seen the movie American Sniper, you’re probably familiar with the little speech Chris’ father gives him after saving his brother from a bully. “There are 3 kinds of people in this world, there’s wolves, sheep, and sheep dogs. Wolves try to hurt the sheep and it’s the sheep dogs job to protect them, so are you a wolf or a sheep dog?” I’m paraphrasing the speech, but that’s what it boils down to. This little tid bit is actually taken from a book by LTC retired Dave Grossman titled “On Killing”, the books is quite extensive and dives deeper into the comparison of sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. There is also a quote from Heraclitus that goes like this…

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back”

To bring this back to my main point if Superheroes are the sheep dogs then anti-heroes are like wild dogs. They may attack the sheep on occasion but for the most part they only go after the wolves. There are quite a few heroes that fall into both categories (Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Arsenal), there are also quite a few that stay far past the line (Punisher, Grifter, Deadpool, Red Hood). While superheroes tend to have tragic backstories, anti-heroes tend to have a backstory so caked in violence and blood that it’s amazing they didn’t turn into a villain themselves. Three of my favourite anti-heroes are Deadpool, Red Hood, and Punisher, because of everything that happened to them they still somehow come through in the end (even if just barely).

One of the defining traits that all anti-heroes seem to possess is the innate knowledge that no matter how hard you try, you can’t save everyone every time. This also goes hand in hand with the belief that sometimes in order to save someone you need to use lethal force. One of my favourite lines comes from MarvelNow! Punisher: War Zone, wherein Frank Castle (Punisher) has pissed off the Avengers for the last time. Before the final showdown with the Avengers, Wolverine is approached by Captain America. Cap basically tells Wolverine that because of his close relationship with Frank that he will have to sit this one out. They banter back and forth and the final line comes from Wolverine when he says ” The difference between guys like us and guys like you Cap… is that we understand sometimes… people have to die”. This one line perfectly illustrates what makes anti-heroes so much more relatable than clean cut superheroes, they understand that some people are just bad and they will continue to be bad until they are stopped.

Batman once said “If you kill a killer , the number of killers in this world remains the same”.  While this philosophy might work for Batman and potentially other heroes like him (Superman, Flash, Captain America, Spider-Man, etc) one has to ask how many people died because they refused to do what was necessary. There is a quote from Wonder Woman on her New 52 run that goes like this ” There’s a reason why I don’t have a list of enemies as long as yours, or Bruce’s or even Barry’s, because when i deal with them.. I DEAL with them”. Wonder Woman is one of the few clean cut superheroes who takes lives, but she also doesn’t do it willy nilly. She heavily weighs the cost of her actions against whether or not it’s for the greater good. If the greater good wins she acts, there have been a few exceptions (Maxwell Lord pre Infinite Crisis) for example, where her emotions got the better of her, but they are few and far between.

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One of the questions I get asked quite a bit when explaining comics to people is “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?”. Without going into a HUGE debate on the psychology of the two of them there really is no right answer. Batman doesn’t kill the Joker because then Joker wins, but Joker won’t stop until Batman kills him, it’s a catch 22. The animated film Under the Red Hood actually introduced a lot of people to the Red Hood for the first time. Jason Todd (Robin #2) was beat with a crowbar to near death and then blown up by the Joker. Feeling guilty for having brought Joker into it, Ra’as Al Ghul revived Jason using a Lazarus Pit. Jason came back but was pretty insane and fled for several years. He begins taking over the Gotham underworld until the final confrontation with Batman and the Joker. The final confrontation has a particular line that hits the issue to the core ” Why is he still alive? Ignoring the friends he’s crippled the graveyards he’s filled…”; Jason delivers that line while pointing at the Joker. Batman tells him that if he kills the Joker he will never stop killing. This is what draws me to Batman as much as other characters like Punisher and Ghost Rider, he is a Superhero, but he is barely past the line between anti-hero and superhero and on several occasions he has crossed that line.

The 2008 film Punisher: War Zone showed us just how gritty and brutal a Punisher film could be if done right. I stand by Thomas Jane and the 2004 film with John Travolta, but Ray Stevenson just looked the part. It also brought a great line from a police detective who tried to “stop” the Punisher. When talking with Detective Soap, he basically says that the reason the Punisher hasn’t been caught is because the police don’t want him to be caught. He gets to do to those guys (mob families and criminals) what cops only dream of getting to do. While this train of thought might extend to superheroes as well normally the police forces of the comic worlds are stuck behind red tape and can’t act on someone they know is guilty. anti-heroes don’t care. They will find out if you’re guilty and they will make you pay.

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I realize it seems like I’m saying anti-heroes don’t have a conscience, but that is very wrong. while some like Punisher and Red Hood have become so jaded they no longer care, some like Deadpool use humour to cover up their true feelings, and sometimes they don’t cover them at all. In Deadpool’s brief stint on the X-Force he quickly came to butt heads with Wolverine. They were tasked with killing the reincarnated Apocalypse, the only problem was that he was reincarnated into a kid named Evan who was still in primary school. Wade immediately objected and voiced his objections, Wolverine and the rest of X-Force knew what a full grown Apocalypse could do and were resigned to killing Evan. Wolverine and Deadpool had some words and Wolverine called Deadpool “…a soulless, spineless, money grubbing mercenary”; as Wade turned to walk away he responded with ” Ya. But I never killed a kid”. This altercation caused Fantomex to regret his decision and clone Evan (it’s get weird just go with it) and teach Evan right from wrong enough to get Evan enlisted in Xavier’s school for Gifted Youngsters.

Superheroes come in all shapes, sizes and abilities; they can be star spangled awesome like Captain America, the big blue boy scout like Superman, or a tortured human like Batman. No matter who they are, superheroes give us something to strive toward. They provide us with a direction to orient ourselves towards, a light to find our way in the darkness. But sometimes the darkness is fought with darkness, while superheroes are the light, anti-heroes are the shade. The grey area between the darkness and the light, not fully dark themselves but not fully light either. They’re willing to plunge their hands in the filth so that others can keep their clean. While most of us strive to be an incorruptible and perfect hero we know that sometimes we’re not perfect. We can’t all be sheep dogs after all, but we’ll be damned if we’re going to become wolves.