My Top 10 Favourite Heroes/Anti-Heroes

This week for my blog post, I decided to do a list of my top 10 favourite heroes from DC and Marvel combined. It’s not going to be a secret that you’re going to see a lot of anti-heroes on this list, given how much I love them, but there will be some clean cut heroes on here too. I should preface this by saying that this list is my own opinion and can fluctuate from time to time.

So let’s dive in starting at the bottom and work our way to the top.

#10. Captain America

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Steven Grant Rogers was born in Manhattan, New York on July 4, 1920, to his parents Sarah and Joseph Rogers. He grew up a frail young man during the depression with his father dying during his childhood and his mother dying of pneumonia during his teen years. He attempted to enlist during the WWII draft but was denied due to his size and medical ailments. He was eventually chosen for the “Operation: Rebirth” the Super Soldier project headed by Dr. Erskine where he became Captain America. Captain America was responsible for helping to turn the tide of the war in the favour of the allies before he was tragically lost somewhere over the arctic. He lay frozen in ice for over 70 years before being discovered and thawed by the Avengers. Captain America has gone on to head the Avengers for decades and remains as their most constant member.

Why Captain America?

Chris Evans said it best when asked during an interview for the original Avengers as to why he chose to play him, he said” He’s the epitome of who you wish you could be. He’s good for the sake of being good”. We’re just going to ignore Hydra Cap and that Secret Empire garbage for a moment (like seriously? why?) and focus on what Evans said. He is the epitome of who you wish you could be. Captain America is one of he few heroes who has remained largely incorruptible during his comic run, and that is something we as people aspire to. Everyone is good, the choices you make dictate how the world sees you, and Captain America always makes the right choice. He might not always end up on the side of the law (Civil War anyone?), but he is always on the right side. This quality is something that everyone strives towards and gives them an objective to maintain which is something that is needed by a lot of people. But not only is he good for the sake of being good, he also has an ability to inspire. Captain America always believes in the best in everybody and he uses this belief in the people to inspire them to be the best version of themselves. During the Original Infinity War comic, he stood up to Thanos, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier he convinced hundreds if not thousands of SHIELD agents to stand up for what was right and to fight against the Hydra agents that had infiltrated their organization and in Disney’s Avengers Assemble his stand against Thanos and the Black Order convinced the entire population of New York to rally behind him and the Avengers to buy the time needed to win. No matter who you are, there is no denying that Captain America deserves a spot on everybody’s top 10 list.

#9 – The Flash

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Bartholomew Henry Allen “Barry Allen” was born in Fallville Iowa to his parents Henry and Nora Allen. Barry was actually one of twins born to the Allens but his brother was whisked away and given to another family, the Thawnes, who’s child had died during childbirth. The Allens were told that the second baby had been born still and that Barry himself was lucky to be alive. When Barry was a young boy his mother was murdered in their home and his father was framed for the murder. Henry Allen was convicted of life in Iron Heights Prison and Barry struggled without any parental figures in his life. He eventually developed an aptitude for the sciences and went to school for Forensic Science. He graduated and earned himself a job at the Central City Police Department in the Forensics lab. He was working late one night when a lightning bolt struck him after he had tripped and been covered in a cocktail of chemicals. This provided Barry with super speed and allowed him to become the superhero known as the Flash. The Flash has been a mainstay in the Justice League lineup for decades and is one of the voices of reason during the League’s debates.

Why The Flash?

Like Captain America, Barry has one underlying quality, the ability to make you believe in hope. No matter how bad things seem to get, Barry will always be able to get you to believe in not only yourself, but the others around you and trust that together you will find a way to succeed. It’s this ability that earned him a spot as a deputized member of the Blue Lantern Corps during the Blackest Night story arc. When the Black Lantern Corps took over the Earth and resurrected all the dead heroes, the live remaining heroes were vastly outnumbered and fighting a losing battle. It took the combined might of all the Lantern corps and having each of their rings deputize a new hero to even hope of turning the tide.Barry was inducted into the Blue Lantern Corps for his embodiment of hope and he used that power to help the other heroes believe in themselves. Barry has also been responsible for one of the greatest story arcs in the past 30 years… Flashpoint. This was literally the tale of how not to mess with the timeline. He changed one little thing, he saved his mom, and it brought the world to the brink of annihilation. It also is worth noting that he is the most underplayed hero in all of DC comics. He can time travel with ease, run faster than people can process a thought, and even outran death and existence. He’s seriously OP.

#8 – Green Arrow

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Oliver Jonas Queen was born to his parents, Moira and Robert Queen. He was a natural archer from a young age practicing frequently with his bow and arrow. When he killed his first animal, Ollie was briefly traumatized by what he had done forgoing his archery for quite some time. When he was on vacation with his parents on a safari adventure, he witnessed his parents get mauled to death by lions. He was raised by his uncle and eventually inherited his family’s company, Queen Industries. Unable to accept his responsibility not only to his family’s legacy but his City as a whole, he became a thrill seeking party boy. One day while on his yacht, he fell over the side of the boat and washed up on the shore of a deserted island. While on the island Oliver honed his hunting and marksmanship skills using a bow he had been holding when he fell over the side of his yacht. China White, a ruthless drug smuggler was using the island to grow and distribute her heroin around the globe. Oliver witnessed the slave labour being used by White to produce her drugs and resolved to shut the operation down. After dismantling her entire operation on the island, Oliver used their radio to signal the authorities and arrange rescue for himself and all the workers. He returned to Seattle as a renewed man and began his crusade to fight for the little guy and the disenfranchised.

Why Green Arrow?

There’s no way to sugar coat it, Oliver Queen was a dick. He was. But through his own personal tragedy and his crucible on the island, he emerged as the hero that Seattle and himself needed. He had the life most people dream of, a literal unlimited bank account, supermodels hanging off his arm, and the ability to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. It takes a lot to take someone like that and forge them into the hero he is today and that’s why I like him so much. He was a fallible rich playboy who almost paid the ultimate price but he got a second lease on life and decided to do more than drink himself to death. Not only is he a great hero, but he also is one of the most left leaning heroes and that adds a great mix to the line-up. He not only fights to protect his City as Green Arrow but he actually got himself elected mayor to help everyone in his hometown lead a better life. He  also lost all his money and was forced to live in a downtrodden tenement building for quite some time, which also helped to provide him with a new perspective on his life and the way he lived. Plus.. I mean come on… epic goatee.

#7 – Daredevil

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Matthew Michael Murdock was born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City to his father Jack “Battlin'” Murdock. Matt was raised by his father for his entire life never knowing who is mother was. His father was a struggling boxer and was paid by a gangster known as “The Fixer” to throw some fights for bigger pay days. One day, Matt was walking down the street and saw an old blind man step out into the road in front of a speeding truck. Matt grabbed the old man pulling him to safety and the truck swerved, losing a canister of the radioactive liquid it was carrying. The canister broke on the ground and sprayed Matt in the eyes effectively blinding him. While he was blinded, it also provided Matt with heightened other senses and a form of echolocation enabling him to see without his eyes. When his father is murdered by the Fixer and his goons, Matt dons a costume made out of his father’s old boxing gear and nearly beats the Fixer to death. Realizing it’s not what his father or his faith would allow, Matt let the Fixer live and called the authorities. He went to law school where he met his best friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, with whom he opened a law firm. By day he defends the people of Hell’s Kitchen as Matt Murdock Attorney at Law and by night, he defends the people of Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil the Man Without Fear.

Why Daredevil?

Matt Murdock is one of the few superheroes that has a disability and that makes him top tier in my books. Not only does he have a disability, but he is also a deeply conflicted individual. Matt is one of the most devout Catholics in all of comics, Marvel and DC included. For someone as devout as he is, dressing up in a red devil costume and beating on criminals seems like something way out in left field. To balance his lives, Matt regularly attends confession and seeks guidance from his local priest whenever he can. Not only is Matt one of the most conflicted characters, but he is one of the most human, in that he makes mistakes… plenty of mistakes. You could argue that every character is human and makes mistakes, but for the likes of Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman or even Iron Man; their mistakes are few and far between. Matt follows his heart more often than his head and that has gotten him into some deep water over the course of his comic run. One of the best runs in all of Marvel came from Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil with the Born Again story line. Matt has his identity sold to the Kingpin by his junkie ex girlfriend Karen Page, and has his life turned upside down. He loses everything: his firm, his money, his friends, his home and sinks into a deep depression. The run truly shows how hard some people who suffer from depression need to fight everyday to get out of bed. I highly recommend reading it!

#6 – Punisher

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Born Francis Castiglione to his Sicilian Immigrant parents in Queens New York, Frank had a very uneventful childhood. In his teen years he studied briefly at the seminary before leaving to marry his girlfriend Maria who was pregnant with their first child. He eventually enlisted in the Marine Corps where he rose to the rank of Captain. Through his tours of service, he was assigned a Native American scout named Phan Bighawk, who taught Frank about guerilla warfare and how to effectively survive in the wilderness. During his third tour, Frank legally changed his name from Castiglione to Castle. While on leave after his third tour, he took his family on a picnic in the park which would prove to be a fatal mistake. When the Castles accidentally stumbled onto a mob hit, the mobsters murdered Frank’s wife and children in front of him and thought they had killed Frank as well. Frank recovered from his wounds and vowed to spend the rest of his life waging a one man war against crime and the organized families around the world. He has been waging his war ever since and has come into conflict with the Avengers and multiple heroes on different occasions. For the most part, the Avengers let him be as he never causes collateral damage and only kills criminals.

Why The Punisher?

The Punisher is one of my favourites for one simple reason, he represents the farthest someone can go before they cross the line between Anti-Hero and Villain. Not only that, but he represents how the justice system isn’t always perfect. Granted that while he is a vicious operative, he also has a strict code. A prime example of this code was shown during the Civil War comic arc when Spider-Man is nearly murdered by Jack O’ Lantern and The Jester. Despite being ordered to bring him in alive, the two villains decided to beat him bloody before murdering him, Punisher stopped that. He shot both villains in the back of the head and then brought Spider-Man to Captain America’s bunker demanding medical attention for the young hero. When he sees two villains attempting to side with Captain America and the Anti-Registration forces, he shoots them in front of Cap and his entire team. Cap goes ballistic and begins savagely beating Frank; but the thing is, Frank never fights back. He never once raised his hand or tried to defend himself, even when Cap shouted for him to. Frank simply took the beating and said “No, not against you”. His reverence for Captain America is linked to his fierce loyalty to his military training. During the Punisher: War Zone story arc, after defeating all of the Avengers with non lethal tactics, Cap arrives and demands that Frank stand down; Frank immediately discards his weapon, drops to his knees with his hands on his head and says “Yes, sir”. The thing that probably makes The Punisher such an attractive character is that he has no powers, he is just a man that used the tools and training at his disposal to make a difference in the world. Sometimes he might need a definite course correction, but he sees the world in a different way than most and sometimes his brand of frontier justice, is exactly what is needed.

#5 – Ghost Rider

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Johnathon “Johnny” Blaze was born to his parents Barton Blaze and Naomi Kale who were performer’s at Quentin Carnival. His mother left his father when he was young, taking his two younger siblings with her. Johnny and his father remained as a stunt act alongside Craig “Crash” Simpson. Johnny’s father died shortly after his wife left with their children, leaving Johnny an orphan. Craig and his wife took pity on Johnny and adopted him into their family. Johnny and Roxanne, Craig’s daughter, grew very close and became inseparable. Eventually Crash developed cancer and began to deteriorate rapidly. Johnny, seeking not to lose another father figure, turned to the occult. Johnny found a spell that would allow him to summon Satan himself, but in reality it summoned the arch-demon Mephistocles “Mephisto”. Mephisto cured Crash’s cancer, though Crash died immediately after performing a stunt. When Mephisto came to collect Johnny’s soul, he was driven away by Roxanne and her love for Johnny. Johnny eventually would turn into the Ghost Rider after being bonded with the demon Zarathos. Johnny changes every night into the Ghost Rider and would hunt evil wherever he saw it, damning the evil doers to the depths of Hell.

Why Ghost Rider?

Ghost Rider is in the top 5 for one reason, just because your powers come from a dark place, doesn’t mean that’s what you have to use them for. Johnny got his powers from being bonded with a demon after selling his soul to an arch-demon. Granted, he did some dark things, but he did them for the right reasons. He had watched his biological father die, he repressed the memory of his mother leaving with his siblings, and his adoptive father was dying of cancer; he was done losing people and would do whatever he could to stop that from happening. Despite his efforts, Crash died and Johnny nearly lost his soul.  It was Roxanne’s love for him that ended up saving his life and helping to forge the Ghost Rider into the hero he was. Traditionally, the Ghost Rider is a mindless bounty hunter in the employ of the Devil to track down problematic individuals and send their souls to Hell. Due to Johnny retaining his soul, he was able to battle the demon he was bonded with and this allowed him to retain control over himself. Not only is Johnny one of the best Anti-heroes in all of Marvel comics, but he’s also one of the most powerful having battled World War Hulk to a standstill, plus… he just looks badass!

#4 – Spider-Man

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Peter Benjamin Parker was born in Queens to CIA operatives Richard and Mary Parker. Peter was orphaned at a young age when the Red Skull had an operative named “The Finisher” murder Richard and Mary in a plane crash while also framing them for treason. Peter went to live with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben who raised him for most of his life. Peter became an honours student in science at his high school, but was bullied by the high school start football player Eugene “Flash” Thompson. One day while on a school field trip, Peter was bitten by a spider that had been irradiated by a particle accelerator canon. This spider bite, changed Peter’s DNA giving him spider-like powers. He used these powers to fight anonymously in an underground wrestling ring to earn some extra money. One night after he got stiffed on his money, Peter let a thief who had stolen money from the wrestling boss go free stating that it wasn’t his problem. For several days Peter continued to wrestle under the alias of Spider-Man, until he arrived home to find his Uncle Ben had been murdered and the police had cornered the assailant in a warehouse. Peter rushed there using his new powers to discover the man who had murdered his uncle was the thief he had let go. Peter vowed from that day on, to use his abilities to help people and become the hero he knew he could be.

Why Spider-Man?

Peter Parker represents the inner child that we all have still inside of us. He is the youngest Avenger and he believes in the good of people. Like the Flash, Peter has a way of inspiring others to be the best version of themselves. When Peter’s world came crashing down after his uncle’s murder, he took the pain and sadness he felt and used it to turn himself into a hero. He wasn’t perfect, by far. He stumbled, he fell, but once he got the hang of things he became one of the greatest heroes of all time. In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Peter Parker Spider-Man is regarded as the greatest hero the world ever had, and that’s taking into account Captain America and Iron Man and Thor. Mostly Peter is on this list because of the fact that he never quits and despite being a kid with amazing spider powers, he still suffers all the problems regular teens and 20 something do: being broke, having a crush, failing a class, etc.. His costume is also one of the most iconic suits in all of comics.One of the main reasons peter wears a mask, as quoted by Stan Lee, was so his opponents couldn’t see when he was afraid. Peter embodies the statement of “With great power, comes great responsibility”, he constantly tries to be the man his uncle knew he would be and he tries to help everyone as best he can. Peter is the ultimate good guy, and his comic history has shown that when everything is going to crap, you can always count on Spider-Man to lighten to mood and provide you hope.

#3 – Deadpool

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Wade Winston Wilson was born to his parents in Canada, but not much is known of his childhood. Wade himself has stated three different stories for how he grew up, all that is clear is that he left his home at a young age and enlisted in the armed forces. He enlisted in the American army where he was sent to Special Operations training camp, which he failed out of due to his inability to follow orders he believed conflicted with his moral code. He also spent some time working for the CIA on a blacklist team carrying out missions all over the world. Wade was then diagnosed with over 30 inoperable cancerous tumors. He declined chemo not wanting to prolong his suffering and moved back to Canada. When he returned to Canada he was contacted by Department K, a secret branch of the Canadian government, and asked to join the Weapon X project. It was in this project that Wade received his healing factor courtesy of fellow Department K agent, Wolverine. Dr. Killbrew and his assistant Ajax, tortured Wade and several other “rejects” from various superhero programs placing them in a “Deadpool” the bet on when they would die. Wade eventually broke out of the center with his powers fully manifested and began his life as a mercenary for hire taking the code name of Deadpool.

Why Deadpool?

Deadpool is one of my favourite heroes for two reasons… one, his humour is hilarious, and two, he’s Canadian! Not only is he Canadian, but he is also played PERFECTLY by Ryan Reynolds. Those two points aside, Wade is so high on this list because of a couple of things. The first is his unwavering moral code, as shown in X-Force. When the team was tasked with killing Apocalypse, nobody batted an eye; when Apocalypse was reincarnated into the body of an 8 year old boy named Evan, Wade said no. Wade admits that he isn’t a hero, knows that he can never measure up to people like Captain America or Spider-Man but he absolutely refuses to kill a kid, no matter the cost. Wade did not have a very good childhood, and he is a firm believer that your destiny is not decided for you, that your actions dictate who you are. He brought this out in this comic run when because of his belief in Evan, Evan stayed on the good path and even ended up going to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. He also showed this quality in Deadpool 2 with Russel (Firefist). Cable was convinced Russel would go bad and nothing could change it, but Wade believed that if he could help  Russell to learn to forgive and let Karma take it’s course he could change the future, and Wade was right. Another and perhaps the actual top reason he’s so high on this list is because despite everything he’s done, deep down he’s a good person. He’s not a hero, far from it; but, he is a good person who wants to do the right thing. Captain America has been Wade’s idol ever since he was a young boy, no matter what he did he wanted to be like his hero and still strives to earn Captain America’s trust to this day. Not only is Deadpool a good person deep down, but his antics are just awesome!

#2 – Moon Knight

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Marc Spector was  born in Chicago Illinois to his Rabbi father and deeply Jewish mother. Marc did not have the best childhood. He would constantly get into fights to which his father was not happy with and took it upon himself to discipline Marc as he saw fit. The tension between Marc and his father got so bad that at the young age of 16 Marc left home, lied about his age and enlisted in the Marines. He fought through several campaigns with the Marines before being recruited into a CIA Blacklist team. After spending several years working for the CIA, Spector left and began a life as a mercenary. It was during his mercenary career he met lifelong friend Jean Paul “Frenchie” Duchamp. While working as a mercenary his boss heard of riches in an Egyptian tomb and attacked the dig site taking everyone hostage. Marc didn’t agree with his actions and challenged him to one on one combat. Marc lost the fight. Bushman (his boss) made off with all the riches and left Marc and the excavation team to die in the desert. The diggers took Marc’s body to the base of the statue of Khonshu where Marc died. As he was crossing to the other side, the Egyptian God Khonshu offered Marc a second chance at life if he became the moon God’s Avatar on the earth. Marc accepted the God’s offer and woke up as the Moon’s Knight. He returned to the USA where he invested his earnings he had amassed during his mercenary career garnering himself quite the substantial fortune. Marc adopted several identities to help keep his true identity a secret, Steven Grant billionaire entrepreneur, and Jake Lockley NY cab driver. This strain on his already fragile mind as well as the influence from Khonshu caused Marc to have a mental break and develop Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder. Marc condition is so advanced that his mind will seamlessly switch to whichever persona/identity is best suited for the task at hand.

Why Moon Knight?

Again, like Daredevil, Moon Knight is a hero with a disability. While Daredevil’s disability is obvious as he can’t see with his eyes, Moon Knight’s is inside of his mind and that’s something you don’t see a lot in comics; a hero who battles with their own psyche as much as with villains. The thing that interests me about Moon Knight so much is that he himself knows there’s something wrong but he isn’t sure what it is. He has all of these identities in his mind for different purposes but he doesn’t see anything wrong when he just flips between one or the other. He knows that he has D.I.D/M.P.D. but he has refused to seek treatment as it doesn’t impair his daily life. One thing that really makes Moon Knight pop as a favourite is that he doesn’t try to hide. Most heroes that operate at night time wear colours that can blend into the darkness of their surroundings, not Moon Knight, he wears white. When he was asked about it he said that he “wants them (bad guys) to see him coming because when they see white, their hands shake so bad they couldn’t hit the moon.” Mostly, the thing that makes Moon Knight top in my books is his brutality. Being a heavyweight boxer in the Marines and proficient with most firearms and martial arts weapons, he has no shortage of butt kicking gear. Not only does he have no shortage of gear, but during the Civil War event he also went a little… overboard. While most the heroes were concentrated on stopping each other, Marc let his inner animal out on the crooks and villains of his city. He would viciously beat them to “mark his territory” and anyone he took down, he would brand with a crescent moon on their forehead. Not a nice brand like Batman from B vs. S, no, he would carve the crescent into their forehead… marking them as someone that is on his “list” and ruining their criminal reputations. Moon Knight also understands, like some of the other on this list, that while you should try and save everyone, some people need to be stopped permanently for the greater good.

#1 – Batman

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Everybody knows Batman’s story, but for those who might need a refresher….

Bruce Wayne was born into the Wayne family and was set to inherit his family’s company from his father when the time came. When he was 8 years old, Bruce Wayne, and his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, left the monarch theatre after a showing the the Mark of Zorro late at night. To save time, they decided to cut down an alley (Park Row), Joe Chill was waiting in that alley and held the Waynes up for Thomas’ wallet and Martha’s pearl necklace. Chill ended up shooting Thomas and Martha dead in the alley and fleeing into the night leaving Bruce to watch over his dead parents until help arrived. Bruce refused to believe it was a random act of violence and spent the next several years looking for some conspiracy that would explain his parents hadn’t died for nothing. When no conspiracy could be found, Bruce resolved that his own fear was a contributing factor in his parents death and resolved to never be afraid again. He traveled the world educating himself in every science and martial art known to man as well as becoming extremely proficient in detective skills. He was gone for over 8 years on his quest for knowledge. When he returned to Gotham he crafted the identity of the Batman, a symbol who could use fear to strike at the criminals in his City to make sure that crime did not go unpunished. Bruce utilized the Batman to combat threats both big and small in his City to ensure that no other child’s parents were taken by a random act of violence.

Why Batman?

It’s no secret that I love Batman and for a myriad of reasons, but the most prevalent one is that he’s just a man. In a world of literal Gods, superpowered aliens, demons from other dimensions and Lords of magic, Batman hold his own.  Not only does he hold his own, he commands the respect of all these beings. Bruce Wayne represents the peak of human conditioning, not just physicality but emotionally and mentally. He is the representation of what a person could achieve with 100% determination to their goal and this something we can all admire. His unwavering dedication to his goal is inspirational and has made him a symbol the world over. Not only is he just a man, but he makes mistakes and those mistakes have consequences. His most obvious mistake is his allowing the Joker to stay alive. Granted, he can’t kill the Joker without becoming like the Joker and the Joker can’t kill him because then he will lose the only person who matters/can keep up with him, but this tit for tat that they have going on has real consequences for hundreds if not thousands of people. Red Hood/Jason Todd brought this fact up during the Under the Red Hood arc. He raises the point that if Batman had just killed the Joker for the things he did all those years ago, he wouldn’t have been beaten and murdered, Barbara wouldn’t be paralyzed, and graveyards of victims would still be alive. Bruce for all of his hate towards the Joker, says probably one of the most human things he could, he tells him that while he wants to kill Joker for what he’s done, if he does go there, he will never come back. This statement shows how fragile Batman’s moral code and sanity are. He has drawn a line for himself and sticks to that line, because knows that if he ever crossed it, even for someone who deserved it like the Joker, he would never be able to go back. He nearly crossed the line once during the Hush story line. In this arc, Joker had apparently murdered Bruce’s longtime friend Tommy Elliot. When Batman found the Joker over Tommy’s body holding a gun, he flew into a rage and began beating the Joker citing all the horrible things he did as his reason for finally ending him. The only thing that stopped him was Jim Gordon telling him that if he killed the Joker he was no better than him and that Jim would be forced to bring the Batman in for the murder. While Batman might “work alone” his allies are the ones who help to keep him straight, like Jim Gordon did in Hush; and ironically, they’re also the ones best equipped to reign him in or take him down if he ever goes rogue. With everything that Batman is, the most important piece is that he’s a symbol, a symbol for justice, a symbol for fear, and most importantly a symbol that anybody can be a hero.

 

There you have it, my Top 10 favourite Superheroes/Anti-Heroes! Agree or not, drop a comment! See you next time!

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Rocksteady’s Arkham Series – The Best Superhero Games Ever Made

It’s been just under three years since Arkham Knight, the final chapter in Rocksteady’s award winning series was released, and it has left me wanting. The series started with the amazing Arkham Asylum for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, which centered around Batman trying to re-take Arkham Asylum after Joker had taken control.  The second game Arkham City took place several years after the first one when the city of Gotham had walled off a large section of the waterfront and dubbed it Arkham City; this game also released for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 but near the end of their run. The final installment came with the releases of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, Arkham Knight. This final installment centered around Batman as he attempts to foil the plans of Scarecrow who has rallied his enemies together to destroy Gotham and kill Batman once and for all.

Before we dive into why these games are so amazing let’s get a rundown of the plot for each one…

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*This post will contain massive spoilers for the Arkham series of games. Though they have been out for at least three years now, so I don’t feel guilty about the spoilers*

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The game begins with Batman capturing Joker after a very botched attempt at assaulting City Hall. When Batman drops Joker off on Arkham Island, he questions as to why the Joker allowed himself to be captured so easily. With the help of Harley Quinn and some corrupt guards, Joker breaks out of his restraints and begins his rampage through the prison with Batman hot on his tail. Joker calls in bomb threats at various locations across Gotham stating he will blow the bombs if anyone steps foot on the island, forcing Batman to bring the entire island to order by himself. Joker releases various members of Batman’s rogues gallery  including: Bane, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Mr. Zsasz before disappearing saying he was preparing his “party”. Batman defeats and captures each of these Rogues as his idea of Joker’s plan remains a mystery. After discovering a secret production facility for a drug called “Titan”, which was developed by a doctor on staff named Penelope Young; Batman discovers that Joker has secretly been funding her research to gain the formula in order to make an army of superpowered henchmen. When Young refused to turn the formula over to Mr. White (the alias Joker was using to fund her research), Joker was forced to return to Arkham to extract the formula from her himself.

Joker eventually obtains batches of the completed Titan formula and kills Dr. Young in the process, forcing Batman to seek help from Poison Ivy to create an antidote. Ivy explains that the spore necessary to counteract the Titan agent is found solely in Killer Croc’s lair deep in the Asylum. After obtaining the spores and defeating Croc, Batman ventures to one of his satellite Bat caves, which is located on Arkham Island, to manufacture an antidote. Ivy attacks with her mutated plants and Batman is forced to fight her, eventually winning and destroying the plants responsible for manufacturing Titan.  Joker announces his party is ready to accept guests and when Batman arrives, he discovers the Joker has captured Jim Gordon and intends to inject him with Titan. Batman jumps in front of Gordon taking the dart filled with Titan and saving Jim. As Batman resists the change, Joker grows angry and overdoses on Titan turning into a giant monster. Batman defeats Joker and brings the asylum to order. In the post credit scene, Scarecrow is seen floating away on a container of Titan into the Gotham harbor.

ARKHAM CITY

This game picks up several years after the conclusion of Arkham Asylum, Bruce Wayne arrives at a press conference in front of the gates of Arkham City to protest its creation. He is ambushed by TYGER guards and the press conference is cut short as he, along with Jack Ryder, are imprisoned in Arkham City. Hugo Strange, the Warden of Arkham City, explains to Bruce that he knows he is Batman but will keep the information to himself for the time being. Bruce defeats the Penguin and some thugs before climbing to the top of the ACE Chemicals building and retrieving his Batsuit which was air dropped via the Batwing. As he dons the Batsuit, Strange comes over the PA system in Arkham City and says “Protocol 10 will commence in 10 hours”.

Bruce deduces that if anyone knows what’s going on in Arkham City it would be Catwoman, but he overheard some TYGER guards saying she has been captured by Two-Face. He saves Catwoman from the clutches of Two Face and then stops Joker from killing her with mechanical sniper rifle apparatus. He tracks Joker to the Sionis Steel Mill and infiltrates the mill to find him. In his pursuit of the Joker he saves several doctors that tell him the Joker is unwell and was forcing them to try and save his life. Batman discovers the Joker’s lair and is knocked unconscious by Harley Quinn. He wakes up to find Joker transfusing some of his blood into Batman afflicting him with the same degenerative disease Joker has. Joker is suffering from massive cellular degradation as a result of the Titan serum he took on the island to kill Batman. He also tells Batman that he has been shipping his blood to hospitals in the area for weeks infecting as many people as possible in hopes that this would force Batman to find a cure. Batman questions him asking if this is “Protocol 10” to which Joker replies that he has no idea what Batman is talking about.

Arkham-Games

As he exits the Mill, Batman seeks out Mr. Freeze who has been imprisoned in Arkham City as well. He tracks Freeze to the old GCPD building where Freeze has set up his own lab. As he infiltrates the building it has become apparent that Penguin has kidnapped Freeze for his own entertainment. Batman arrives at the old museum which Penguin is using as his hideout and discovers Freeze and his suit, but Freeze’s gun is missing. As Batman sets out to find Freeze’s gun, Freeze himself returns to his lab to begin work on a cure. Batman confronts Penguin who is using Freeze’s gun and defeats him but in his anger Penguin detonates the floor of his lounge causing Batman to fall into a chamber that houses Solomon Grundy. Batman defeats Grundy and returns Freeze’s tech to him at the old GCPD. Freeze tells Batman that he has managed to create a cure but due to its instability it is rendered useless. Batman hypothesizes that Ra’s Al Ghul’s restorative properties in his blood would render the cure stable and sets off to find him by tracking one of his operatives. He does battle with both Ra’s and his daughter Talia before obtaining the blood sample he needs to complete the cure. As Freeze finalizes the cure he battles Batman to find the location of his wife, believing Batman to know where she is. After Batman defeats him, they open the safe to find that Harley Quinn has stolen the cure. Batman returns to the Mill and finds a Joker that has been fully restored who tries to kill him.

As they fight, Strange activates Protocol 10 which is revealed to be the eradication of Arkham City to destroy the criminal element of Gotham. Talia arrives and offers Joker the use of the Lazarus pit in order to save Batman’s life, Joker accepts and leaves Batman in the wreckage of the steel mill. Batman wants to pursue Talia to save her from her eventual betrayal by the Joker, but Alfred and Oracle refuse, stating that Batman is needed to save the people of Arkham City. Batman scales Wonder Tower (the tower at the center of Arkham City that doubles as Strange’s headquarters) and confronts Strange. When Ra’s Al Ghul reveals himself to be the mastermind behind Arkham City, he kills Strange for his failure. Ra’s and Batman battle once again, with Ra’s being beaten again. To avoid the dishonour of being captured alive, Ra’s commits suicide and Batman is contacted by Joker to come alone to Monarch theater or he will kill Talia. When Batman arrives Talia confesses she stole the cure from Harley and stabs Joker through the chest. She is then shot by another Joker still dying from the disease. The impaled Joker is revealed to be Clayface who tries to kill Batman before being defeated using Freeze-tech. Batman drinks some of the cure leaving enough for someone else and destroys the Lazarus pit located beneath the theater before Joker is able to use it. Joker stabs Batman in the side causing Batman to drop the vial of cure, which smashes on the ground. As Joker slowly succumbs to the disease Batman admits that despite everything Joker has done and everyone he has killed and injured, he still would’ve saved him. Joker dies laughing at a joke that only he understands, leaving Batman alone in the destroyed theater. Batman carries Joker’s body out of Arkham City and places it on the hood of a police cruiser before disappearing into the night without a word.

ARKHAM ORIGINS

While not produced by Rocksteady, Arkham Origins is still part of the Arkham story line taking place 5 years before the events of Arkham Asylum. It centers around Black Mask putting out a hit on Batman on Christmas Eve for 50 million dollars. This attracts several well known Rogues to Gotham in order to collect the bounty, the Rogues include: Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Copperhead, Killer Croc, Firefly, Electrocutioner, and Lady Shiva. Throughout the night Batman confronts and defeats several of the Rogues until eventually it’s revealed that Joker was the mastermind behind the entire thing. Bane learns Batman’s secret identity and nearly kills Alfred by assaulting and wrecking the Batcave. This also marks the point in Batman’s career where he realized he was unable to do the work by himself. Though initially against him, Captain Gordon eventually comes around and helps Batman when Joker takes control of Blackgate prison. Batman and the police work together to bring the prison back to order with Batman being forced to stop Bane’s heart and then restart it again to save the Joker. Bane suffers amnesia after his near death experience securing Batman’s secret identity and infuriating Joker. Batman apprehends Joker rather than killing him and leaves him to be found by the Gotham Police Force and Captain Gordon. This marks the beginning of the professional relationship between Gordon and Batman as well as the rivalry between Joker and Batman. Gordon is promoted to Commissioner for his part in securing the prison, but he keeps Batman’s involvement a secret. During the credits there’s a radio interview with Gotham mayor, Quincy Sharp, where he states he intends to re-open Arkham Asylum to help with some of the more dangerous criminals.

Arkham Origins

ARKHAM KNIGHT

The third (technically fourth) and final entry in Rocksteady’s award winning series is Arkham Knight. The Halloween following the events in Arkham City, the Scarecrow enacts his plan to destroy Gotham City and kill the Bat for good. He has developed a new fear toxin that he tests on a diner full of innocent people and broadcasts it all over Gotham. He allows the people of Gotham 12 hours to evacuate the city before he will disperse the toxin. With the city deserted except for Batman and his allies along with a few remaining Police Officers, the criminals of the city run rampant. Batman tracks Scarecrow to Chinatown and finds an imprisoned Poison Ivy who refused to go along with Scarecrow and the other Rogues’ plot for Gotham. Batman frees Ivy who says that she will be taken in willingly to protect her from Scarecrow.After taking Ivy to the GCPD, Batman meets Oracle at the clock tower where, with her help, he pinpoints the location of Scarecrow’s toxin production facility as Ace Chemicals. When Batman assaults the plant he is confronted by the Arkham Knight and his well armed militia. Scarecrow converted Ace Chemicals into a toxin bomb, with a potential blast radius of the entire Eastern seaboard of the United States, and told Batman that he had captured Oracle from the Clock Tower before fleeing from the facility with the help of the Knight. Batman renders the bomb useless but not before being exposed to a large dose of the fear toxin. Due to the remaining Joker infused blood in his system and the massive dose of toxin, Batman begins hallucinating the Joker throughout the City and interacting with him. As explained before, during the events of Arkham City, Batman is infected by Joker’s poisoned blood. Along with Batman, who has hidden his infection form the others, 4 other patients were poisoned with the blood before all of the infected blood had been accounted for. The infected patients are slowly mutating and turning into the Joker with the eventual endgame being multiple Jokers running around Gotham.  It’s later shown that Robin has all the other victims in a containment ward underneath Panasa Studios where he’s working on a cure.

Arkham KNight

As Batman escapes the destroyed plant he speaks to Commissioner letting Gordon know that Oracle had been kidnapped by Scarecrow. Gordon is angered that Barbara stayed in Gotham to help Batman, and goes off on his own to hunt down Scarecrow. Batman discovers that Scarecrow had manipulated Simon Stagg, a wealthy businessman, to force him to create and deploy the Cloudburst. The Cloudburst, allowed for the Fear Toxin to be massively dispersed into the air which would coat the entire planet in a matter of weeks. Stagg owns and operates his company out of two docked Airships tethered in the Financial District of Gotham City. As Batman assaults these airships he is forced to battle the Knight’s private militia which have taken control of the tethered stations. Eventually Batman once again confronts Scarecrow only to be once again dosed with a massive amount of Fear Toxin. This new dose allows the Joker to temporarily assume control of Batman’s mind and body. As Batman fights to regain control of his body, the Arkham Knight and Scarecrow steal the Cloudburst right out from under his nose. Once he recovers, Batman tracks Scarecrow to his hideout in Chinatown and arrives to find Oracle trapped in a hermetically sealed chamber. Before he can rescue her the chamber is filled with fear toxin and Oracle seemingly commits suicide out of fear.

Harley Quinn seizes control of the Panasa Studios cave, and releases the Jokerized patients into the studio in an attempt to free them. Batman and Robin must work together along with one of the remaining patients Henry Adams, who assists them from the containment ward. As Batman and Robin capture all the patients and Quinn herself, they return to the ward to find that Henry has killed all the other patients. Henry then kills himself stating that Batman will become the perfect Joker. As Robin turns to see Batman’s eyes glowing green, he attempts to subdue and imprison Batman in one of the research chambers in the ward. Batman easily counters Robin and imprisons him in the ward stating that he will not stop until the Scarecrow has been apprehended.  Elsewhere in Gotham, the Knight activates the Cloudburst and blankets the entire City of Gotham in Fear Toxin. Batman manages to destroy the Cloudburst and convinces the captured Ivy to utilize a giant tree hidden beneath Gotham to filter out the Toxin from the air to save the City. Ivy manages to save the City, but the strain of the effort causes her death. Batman manages to track the Knight to a construction site in the Financial District where the Knight has taken the captured Commissioner Gordon. Batman arrives to rescue Gordon and confronts the Knight who reveals himself to be Jason Todd. Jason Todd was the second Robin who was seemingly murdered by the Joker many years ago in an attempt to break the Bat. It’s later revealed that the Joker didn’t murder Todd right away, but actually tortured him for months effectively shattering Todd’s psyche and deeply traumatizing him. Todd, blaming Batman for his torture and subsequent near death experience, allied with Scarecrow in an effort to make Bruce feel the pain and helplessness he felt at the hands of the Joker all those years ago. As Batman attempts to reason with Todd and even offer to help him recover from what happened to him Todd refuses and escapes. Batman frees the Commissioner and the both of them head up to the roof to confront Scarecrow. Scarecrow is revealed to have Oracle alive and well, her previous suicide being a hallucination produced by the Fear toxin and Joker control, which allows Batman and the Commissioner the ability to save her. As Batman saves Oracle, Scarecrow captures Commissioner Gordon and escapes. Batman and Oracle return to the GCPD which is then assaulted by the militia forces of the Arkham Knight. Batman fends off the attack on the GCPD but in the fray, Scarecrow uses the distraction to overwhelm and kidnap Robin as well.

Arkham City Combat

Scarecrow offers to release Gordon and Robin unharmed if Batman surrenders to him without a fight. Believing that his surrender is the only way to ensure everyone’s safety, Batman surrenders. He is knocked out and taken to the ruins of Arkham Asylum, where it all began, and is strapped to a table before having his identity revealed on live television. Scarecrow then injects Batman with another massive dose of Fear Toxin which allows the Joker to fight for control over Batman’s mind and body. As the two battle inside Batman’s mind, Joker recounts all the horrible things he did in an effort to knock Batman off balance allowing the Joker to take control. Bruce not only resists, but manages to find the one thing Joker is afraid of most in the world, being forgotten. He battles the Joker in his mind, eventually winning and locking him away in his deep psyche to be forgotten for the rest of time. As Scarecrow watches Bruce fight through the Toxin he grows enraged that Batman keeps finding a way to win and attempts to inject him again. Jason Todd, now going by his alias of Red Hood, arrives at the broken down asylum and frees Batman who then injects Scarecrow with his own Fear Toxin.

Batman then finishes cleaning up the City and ensuring it’s safe for the citizens to return. Once he has cleaned up the City and captured all his Rogues, he activates the “Knightfall Protocol”. As he arrives back at Wayne Manor, the paparazzi are all around the property and shouting questions at him from beyond the fence line. Batman walks inside the manor and as the door shuts, the house explodes and is engulfed in flames, presumably killing Bruce and Alfred. In the epilogue, James Gordon, now Mayor of Gotham, is rushing over to the church so he can attend the wedding of his daughter, Barbara/Oracle to Robin/Tim Drake. Elsewhere in the City a young couple and their son cut through a back alley to avoid the rain and are accosted by some muggers. Before the muggers can get away with any goods, they’re assaulted by a silhouette that resembles a nightmarish Batman.

WHAT MAKES THEM AMAZING

I will be the first to say, most superhero games are shit. Seriously, just garbage. Every now and then you will get some good nuggets like Marvel Ultimate Alliance or Spider-Man: Web of Shadows; but for the most part, they tend to be lackluster. The main problem with superhero games is that they always tend to be tied to some other  film or television property which severely inhibits the stories that can be told. The tie in games for various movies work well enough to bolster sales and ride the coat tail of the movie’s success, but they lack all substance themselves. Rocksteady changed that formula.

The big change that Rocksteady had was they brought in renowned comic book writer Paul Dini to craft a 100% original tale that would take place in their universe. Drawing heavy inspiration from several of his other works, Dini delivered a dark and gritty story that focused on the Batman himself and how close he is to teetering on the edge. It wasn’t until the final game Arkham Knight, that we really got to see what a Batman looks like as he slowly loses control of everything around him. There are several quotes from DC Comics that detail Bruce Wayne/Batman’s obsessive need to control everything he can. Dini took this obsessive trait and showed us exactly what it would look like to watch a man who the rest of the world thinks has all the answers, struggle to maintain his grip on a reality that is slowly slipping through his grasp. It was a stark contrast to the invincible superhero most people know. He doubts himself, he makes mistakes, he questions his crusade, and he even loses in the end; all these things happen over the span of three games and really show just how human Batman really is.

Arkham Counter

The story isn’t the only part of the series that really drove it home for most fans, it was the gameplay. You can make a game with an amazing story, that really captures everything you need it to, but if the gameplay can’t hold up to the demands the story needs, you’ll end up with a product that doesn’t sell. Rocksteady wanted to focus on the aspects of Batman’s character that make him so terrifying like his combat skills, detective work, and stealth. They derived to show the game from Batman’s point of view while still making the NPC’s react to your actions and not feel like you were some all powerful invincible being.  Entering a room with 10 enemies is a challenge because, as I said before, they react to your actions. Take one out and let another see you? They’ll group together and operate as a team making it harder to catch them off guard. They will also work to remove your advantages like destroying vents with grenades or destroying gargoyles making you stay on the ground. This coupled with the amazing combat mechanic gave us a series which delivered two games noted as Game of the Year. The combat mechanic utilizes counter attacks along with gadgets to string together combos that allow for easier taking down of enemies. As the difficulties increase for the story the combat becomes harder and you lose the visible notifier to hit the counter button. One of the best aspects to the games though, is the Detective vision. This is a vision mode which you can toggle at any point which highlights enemies and interactive objects in the environment. It adds a whole new level to planning out your moves to remove a group of enemies from a room or trying to figure your way out of some tough spots. It also is used during the moments of the game where to progress the story you must use your detective skills to follow the evidence and draw conclusions.

 

Rocksteady’s Arkham series delivered a full and immersive story that has really only been seen from AAA game studios. They brought us a full cohesive narrative with accompanying gameplay that helped to restore faith in the superhero game genre. Batman has been one of the easiest heroes to make games for based on his style and skills. There have been many attempts to make a great Batman game but none of them have been able to compare to Rocksteady’s series. I personally loved the entire series and own all the games on both the Xbox 360 and the redux versions for the Xbox One. I have logged more hours into this series than I have probably logged into Skyrim which puts into perspective the replayability of the series. There have been rumours that Rocksteady has been working on another superhero game but so far it has been kept under a tight lock as to who it will feature, but the most popular theory is either Superman or Green Arrow. There was also another rumour that a further game would be added to the Arkham series taking place before Arkham City but after Arkham Asylum. It was to feature the dynamic duo with Robin being a 100% playable character. Nothing much has been said on this front and the rumour mill has recently dies down on anything remotely related to this “new Arkham Game”. I know that while I don’t think this series needs another installment, if they did release another game, I would FOR SURE be one of the first people to pick it up. I would highly recommend that anyone who enjoys adventure games with a great story checkout this series; you don’t even have to be a Batman fan to like the game, Rocksteady does a great job of explaining everything so that even someone who has no knowledge of Batman or his history can follow the story. That being said, they do jam pack the game full of Easter eggs and little nods so that even a seasoned fan of the Bat, like myself, still finds awesome little nods to several other characters throughout the series. I would give this game series a rating of 9.0/10 for all the reasons listed above and for the amount of fun you will have while playing, as I said before, I highly recommend this series!

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The New 52 – A Bad Footnote in DC Comics History

Many of those that are familiar with DC Comics know that their New 52 printing didn’t bode so well with fans for a myriad of reasons. While I had always been a fan of comics, I personally got into collecting them with the New 52 launch and amassed quite the collection before the Rebirth initiative. The New 52 began on August 31, 2011 and lasted until May 25, 2016 when DC Comics revamped their comic universe with the release of the Rebirth printing. Before we dive into specifics as to why the New 52 didn’t work for a lot of people, let’s look at how it came to be and what it did right.

HOW THE NEW 52 CAME TO PASS

So the New 52 was created in the wake of the Flashpoint Paradox and Infinite Crisis which served as the resets for the DC Comics Universe.

In Infinite Crisis (without getting bogged down in unnecessary details), Earth -3 Lex Luthor and Superboy Prime tried to recreate their respective universes, that had been destroyed, by smashing other universes together (just go with it). Every time that it didn’t work, the newly created universe was destroyed. It took the combined might of all the heroes of the Earth and the Green Lantern Corps to finally win; but by that time, the entire DC multiverse had been reduced to just 52 universes.

In The Flashpoint Paradox, Barry stopped an attack by the Rogues on the Flash Museum, only to be taunted by Reverse Flash that no matter how fast he was, he could never save the one person who mattered. Despite the counsel and warnings of the other heroes about what could happen, Barry ran back in time and saved his mother from getting murdered, which off set the timeline. Things get crazy: the Atlanteans and Amazons go to war, Bruce gets killed in Crime Alley causing his father to become Batman and his mother to become the Joker, Superman lands in Metropolis and is taken to a secret underground bunker, and Barry never gets his speedforce powers. Eventually the heroes figure out what went wrong and during the battle for the planet between Atlantis and the Amazons, they try to set things right. Barry eventually makes it back and rights the timeline which sets us to the beginning of the New 52.

WHAT IT DID RIGHT

When the New 52 was originally announced it was supposed to be the big push DC Comics needed to revitalize their stagnant sales. While the first few issues of each book were very well done, some of them were quite exemplary, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman is the best example. While the rest of the New 52 printing saw some measured success, Batman sales sky rocketed. The Justice League titles began with a great re-introduction to the classic team with Cyborg being a founding member. Geoff Johns, the Creative Director of DC Comics, personally had a hand in crafting the excellent Justice League run as well as notable input on several other works being produced under the New 52 banner.

The thing that really struck me as something that was done well was the age of the heroes. The New 52 started with their numbering back at issue 1, which gave DC the opportunity to rejuvenate the heroes and make them younger. When the stories all begin, we are shown much younger and uncertain versions of our heroes as they navigate their universe. Probably one of the best things, is that when Justice League begins, none of them know who each other are. There is quite a few memorable panels from the first few issues of Justice League where the heroes are learning who each other are and coming together to work as the team the world needs.

Batman meets GL

It also helped to establish these heroes as inexperienced and without the prejudices they have been given after their decades long runs in previous printings. It brought a naivety to the heroes that hasn’t been seen in some time. It also helped to show some important interactions from a different light. It allowed for a romance to blossom between Superman and Wonder Woman which provided an interesting dynamic to later issues of Justice League when the shit hit the fan. One of the best things that it did right (in my opinion) was Forever Evil.

Forever Evil is the title given to an event that took place after Justice League issue #23 following the conclusion of the Trinity War. Pandora’s box, which was being fought over in the Trinity War, was revealed to actually be a boom tube device that opened a portal to the Earth-3 (evil Justice League Universe) which allowed the Crime Syndicate through. When the Crime Syndicate defeats the Justice League, the fate of the world falls on Lex Luthor and some other villains to stop the Crime Syndicate and save the Justice League.  This event was for me one of the best parts of the entire New 52 as it showed that some of the villains are not quite as evil as once thought. The standout characters are obviously Lex Luthor, Captain Cold, and Black Adam; with Sinestro providing some great input as well.

Forever Evil

Endgame, Death of the Family Court of Owls. Nothing else needs to be said except that those are some of THE BEST Batman stories to come out in the past 20 years. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo took, arguably DC Comics most popular character, and gave him  a run worthy of his reputation. It has everything superheroic you’re looking for as well as some great moments that firmly anchor the Dark Knight as a flawed human.

WHAT IT DID WRONG

It’s no secret that the New 52 was a miss for a lot of fans. Due to some terrible re-designs and some massive changes to characters traits some of the properties didn’t fare so well under the new publishing. Lobo was a big sore spot for a lot of people. Gone was the massive muscular bounty hunter we had known for years and in was a scrawny emo looking character that looked like he could be blown over by a medium sized wind. Here’s what I mean…

Lobo

The second thing that it did wrong was the creation of 2 different Justice Leagues, the original Justice League and the Justice League of America. The main League consisted of the core members (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman & Cyborg); however the Justice League of America was created by Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor to counteract the Justice League should they ever “go rogue”. Each member of the JLA was chosen specifically to counteract a member of the main league’s power set.  This unnecessary addition of a second league was meant only to create conflict with the main League and set up the Trinity War event. While I did enjoy the Trinity War, the entire thing could’ve been streamlined by adding the JLA members to the League itself, and having the split come that way. The explanation that is given in the run as to why the League has closed off membership is because apparently as Batman put it ” We tried that once.. it ended very badly”.

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As I said, this unnecessary division of the League and the formation of the JLA was an interesting take but ultimately it fell in on itself and was nowhere near as successful with readers as originally thought.

3 Jokers. Yes, 3. This revelation came from the Darkseid War Part II when Batman sat on the Mobius Chair and became the God of Knowledge (yes, the literal embodiment of knowledge in the DC universe). He wanted to test the chair to see how effective it was and asked it who killed his parents, when he got the right answer he then asked it what is the Joker’s real name. We later find out that the chair told him there are three different Jokers. This revelation comes shortly after Endgame where we are led to believe that the Joker is one of the immortal beings on the planet. While some fans (like myself) thought it was a cool spin and added some answers to the Joker’s varying abilities over the years; there were plenty, who thought this took away from the essence of the character. The Joker isn’t supposed to have a backstory or a name, he’s just supposed to be the eventual ying to Batman’s Yang. As the heroes rise to prominence there will always be someone to challenge them at every fiber of their being, this is what the Joker represents. Making him into three different people takes away from his overall characterization and his accomplishments in the comics.

God of KNowledge

3 Jokers

While some collector’s didn’t mind, one of the big issues with the New 52 was the restarting of the numbering for each individual issue. While I didn’t find this an issue (as someone who just got into comics at that time) long time collectors did find it to be irksome.

THE FUTURE OF DC COMICS

It’s not secret that DC Comics is crushing Marvel in sales; however, NOBODY can compete with the gargantuan franchise that is the MCU. DC Entertainment has gone through a major revamp since the critical failure of Justice League and is doubling down on creative efforts to maintain the DCEU continuity as a whole. That being said, the future of DC Comics is easy to see as it’s been in publication for quite some time now, RebirthRebirth was the complete re-vamp of all DC Comic runs to coincide with the original numbering. reverting back to their pre-Flashpoint characterizations and numberings allowed Action Comics to finally reach it’s 1000th issue just a few months ago. It also served to put the original classic characters back in the driver’s seat for some heroes while keeping some of the fan favourites of recent years, Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle, and Wally West as Flash are prime examples.

While Rebirth was a soft reboot of the comic continuity there were several aspects of the New 52 that remained, such as Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle and the Court of Owls in Gotham City.

Most of the Rebirth stories thus far have proven to be quite good, some (like with the New 52) have really knocked it out of the park, Tom King’s run with Batman, James Tynion IV’s run with Detective Comics, and Ben Percy’s run with Green Arrow are some of my favourites. Rebirth has firmly locked DC Comics in as the top seller from the major companies, even prompting Marvel to release their Legacy imprint, which functioned much the same was as Rebirth did for DC.

Legacy

As for right now, DC doesn’t seem to have much to worry about with their comic sales and have begun to actually incorporate the New 52 into their Rebirth arc. The event titled Doomsday Clock brings the Watchmen into the main DC continuity and postulates that the entirety of the New 52 was created and overseen by Dr. Manhattan himself. I’m waiting for the run to finish so that I can read it myself, but with Geoff Johns headlining the event, I have faith that it will be as amazing as his Justice League run in what has been coined by some as “DC’s Bad Footnote”.

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Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 8 – Martian Manhunter

This month, for the inclusion of underrated hero I decided to include the Manhunter himself, J’onn J’onzz of Mars. Martian Manhunter was originally created as a DC analogue to Superman that could be substituted if the Man of Steel was being used too much. That being said, over the years he has grown into hero status in his own right and became known as “the heart and soul of the Justice League”. Manhunter has grown to be one of my more favourite classic superheroes. I say classic because most of my favourites are anti-heroes or heroes so close to anti-hero status, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. Martian Manhunter had a brief stint in the DC drama Smallville where he was portrayed by Phil Morris as well as his current stint on Supergirl where he is portrayed by David Harewood.

Martian Manhunter was first introduced in Detective Comics #225 from November 1955, he was created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa.

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HISTORY

Martian Manhunter was born to two green skinned Martians on Mars (go figure!). He was one of twins that were born to his parents, he was named J’onn J’onzz which in the Martian language means “Light of Light”; his brother, who was born without Martian telepathic ability was named Ma’alefa’ak which literally translates to “Darkness of Heart”.  It’s honestly a wonder as to why the brother turned out to be an evil twin given a name like that by the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally… So J’onn grew up to become a Manhunter ( Martian Police Officer) while his brother grew to hate and resent Martian culture.

Ma’alefa’ak eventually developed a virus, the virus was called H’ronmeers Curse. This virus was transferred by Martian psychic link; which would cause each Martian affected to suffer such a psychosomatic trauma that their minds and bodies would burst into flames. J’onn attempted to stop his wife and daughter from using their psychic abilities but he was unsuccessful and he was forced to watched as his family burned in front of his eyes. The virus was responsible for the mass genocide of the green Martian population and left J’onn to be the “sole survivor” of Mars.

This all happened centuries before his arrival on Earth.

On Earth, centuries after the Martian genocide, a scientist named Saul Erdel had discovered some ancient Martian technology buried on Earth, and was attempting to reverse engineer it to communicate with alien life. He activated his contraption and aimed it at the surface of Mars. The beam traveled through both space and time grabbing J’onn shortly after the genocide and bringing him to the surface of the Earth centuries later. Erdel discovered J’onn outside of his laboratory and brought him inside. J’onn was near insanity after having just witnessed his entire species burn themselves to death and because of the trauma forged a psychic link between himself and Dr. Erdel, the only living being within several miles. When they linked their minds, Dr. Erdel saw what had happened to J’onn and attempted to help him my mentally fabricating a different history of the tragedy of Mars. Erdel took inspiration from various science fiction writers and was eventually able to put J’onn at ease. Erdel also instilled in J’onn the belief that he should be a champion of the people and thus, J’onn took on the persona of Martian Manhunter.

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Martians have several powers along with their psychic abilities which I will get into later, but one of their most prominent abilities is shape shifting. Before venturing out of the lab, J’onn adopted a more humanoid appearance while still maintaining his green skin. Dr. Erdel was so surprised by this ability that he suffered a fatal heart attack. As he was dying, Dr. Erdel asked J’onn for forgiveness, due to him inadvertently trapping J’onn on Earth. J’onn provided the closure the doctor needed before passing away. J’onn used his shape shifting powers to take on an African American appearance and joined the local police department (Middletown U.S.A) under the identity of John Jones.

J’onn fought crime under many aliases before he helped to form the Justice League of America. He fought as Marcus Xavier to take down the international criminal syndicate VULTURE, he fought with Justice Experience as the Bronze Wraith, as well as with the League under his Martian Manhunter title and his alternate identity of Bloodwynd.

He briefly becomes the evil Fernus when he attempted to conquer his own fear of fire. It took the combined might of the entire League as well as several new recruits and a couple of Lanterns to stop him.

J’onn was thought to have perished during the explosion of the Watchtower prior to Infinite Crisis, but that was false. During Infinite Crisis, he was discovered to be attached Alexander Luthor’s tower along with several other heroes and villains. It took the combined effort of the Titans to separate him and the others from the tower. Upon being released from the tower, he telepathically coordinated the defense of Metropolis against the evil, Superboy Prime.

Following Infinite Crisis, he took on the identity of William Dyer to infiltrate Checkmate. Checkmate apparently had been holding several green Martians who had crash landed on the Earth. He rescued them with only one of the new Martians, Roh’kar dying in the process.

DEATH

During an undercover assignment wherein he pretended to be Blockbuster to spy on a Supervillain prison. Catwoman outed J’onn after deducing who he really was ; J’onn was left in his cell after being tortured when the rest of the villains broke out. Libra, a new member of the Society of Supervillains, “rescues” J’onn and brings him back to Earth via a Boom Tube. Using the staff of the Human Flame, Libra stabs J’onn through the chest and lights him on fire. As he is burning he telepathically sends a message to several League members in their sleep requesting they record a portion of his life’s story. Upon discovery of his body, the heroes all said his name and recorded their portion of his history.

J’onn was interred on Mars at the base of a pyramid that had been moved to red planet to serve as his headstone. Many heroes both Leaguers and not attended his funeral where Superman delivered a eulogy in his honour.

BLACKEST NIGHT & RESURRECTION

Black Lantern Martian Manhunter

During the crossover even Blackest Night, J’onn, along with several other deceased heroes and villains, was resurrected into the Black Lantern Corps. While Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) were standing over Batman’s grave site which appeared to have been pillaged, J’onn attacked them saying “You should be dead”. J’onn is soon joined by the Black Lantern resurrected versions of Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, and Firestorm. The Atom arrives to help but the heroes are unable to defeat the advancing zombified versions of their friends. With their backs literally against a wall, the heroes are eventually saved by two Indigo Lanterns that drive the black lanterns off. Following the final battle and the defeat of Nekron, the Entity resurrected several heroes and villains, J’onn being one of them.

BRIGHTEST DAY

Following his resurrection, J’onn noticed that something was off. Whenever he was around plant life, it would mysteriously die. He went to visit his niece M’gann M’orzz (Miss Martian) who was doing a meditation quest in the outback of Australia. When he arrived to her hut he discovered her badly beaten and tied up. When he asked her who did this to her she replied saying an unknown Green Martian had attacked her. As he is helping M’gann, J’onn receives a telepathic communication from the Entity (the being that defeated Nekron and resurrected him) telling him to burn down the newly formed forest. Knowing the devastation that had befallen Star City and the new forest that had mysteriously grown in its place, J’onn believed the forest he needed to burn was in Star City. after coming into conflict with Green Arrow and attempting to start the blaze, J’onn is again contacted by the Entity, and told the forest he needed to burn was on Mars. J’onn takes off for his home planet leaving the new Star City alone.

On Mars, J’onn confronts the rogue green Martian that had attacked M’gann. She reveals her name to be D’kay D’razz and wishes to take J’onn as her mate. When J’onn refuses she telepathically attacks him and forces him to see visions of the Mars that could be with the power of the Entity to resurrect everything. J’onn sees through the ruse and wrings her neck, and throws her into the sun, killing her. Upon completion of his task the Entity asks J’onn to choose between Earth and Mars, when J’onn chooses Earth he is absorbed by the Entity.  When the “Dark Avatar” (Black Lantern Swamp Thing) attacks, J’onn who has been deemed to be an Elemental along with several other heroes (Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman,Firestorm); combine with the body of Alex Holland (Swamp Thing) to fight the Dark Avatar. Upon defeat of the Dark Avatar, the Entity with the help of Swamp Thing restores the Elementals to normal.

NEW 52

During the DC Comics re-launch under the New 52 banner, Martian Manhunter was removed as a member of the League and placed in the covert team called Stormwatch. It is teased that he tried to join the League but came to blows with the other members and was cast out, it’s unclear what caused the rift between the heroes. J’onn is recruited by Amanda Waller into the Justice League of America as the counter agent to Superman. The Justice League of America was recruited to specifically counteract individual members of the Justice League should they ever go rogue.

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During the Trinity War crossover J’onn was investigating the Secret Society of Supervillains and their new leader, the Outsider. When they discovered the Outsider was Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-3, it was too late and the Crime Syndicate arrived on Earth-1. The heroes were soundly defeated and imprisoned inside the Firestorm matrix until Forever Evil, when Batman freed them with the help of Luthor and several villains. Following the release from the Matrix, J’onn along with fellow JLA members Green Arrow and Stargirl went on to form the Justice League United Team based out of Canada.

REBIRTH

J’onn arrived in the Dark Metal event stating he had been on Thanagar looking for answers.

POWERS & ABILITIES

All Martians share the same powers as Martian Manhunter to a degree. While they all have the genetic ability to utilize these powers, they may not have mastered the techniques and thus don’t use it. The powers of the Martian people are as follows:

  • Shapeshifting
  • Corporeal Form Manipulation – Malleability, Elasticity, Plasticity and Elongation of his form and extremities.
  • Invisibility
  • Phasing
  • Superhuman Durability
  • Superhuman Strength
  • Superhuman Stamina
  • Regeneration
  • Flight
  • Superhuman Speed
  • Extrasensory Input
  • Longevity
  • Super-Hearing
  • Super-Breath
  • Enhanced Senses
  • Martian Vision – Able to see Electro-magnetic Spectrum, Infrared Spectrum, Telescopic Vision, Microscopic Vision and Heat Vision similar to Superman.
  • Telepathy – Able to conjure Illusions, Astral Prjection, Possession, Mind Control, Telepathic Relay (connect multiple minds together to “speak”), Telepathic Assault, Thought Sensing, Mayavana (ability to create a mental reality as real as any other reality, can only be used once in a lifetime. J’onn used his during Despero’s attack on the JL Headquarters to stop the assault and save his friends/teammates)
  •  Telekinesis
  • Meditate instead of sleep

In addition to all his powers listed J’onn J’onzz also has: Genius Level Intellect, adept firearms skills, incredible detective skills and the ability to understand any language.

A Martian’s only documented weakness is to fire. Which stems from the H’ronmeers Curse and the psychosomatic trauma it caused.

J’onn is known to be very fond of the Earth snack Chocos, so much to the point of borderline addiction.

WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED

Martian Manhunter is widely underrated because of how much he is underused. This is a being that was able to solo the Justice League on more than one occasion. He has shown time and time again that he is the willing to take the hit in order to save another teammate from getting hurt, and he believes that while Mars was his origin planet, that Earth is his home. As I stated before he has been called the “Heart and Soul of the Justice League” and he wears this title proudly. When all the other heroes falter and become lost they can always look to J’onn to help put them back on the right track.

During the Injustice comic run, J’onn came into conflict with Superman and his regime. He openly stood against the tyranny and was murdered as a result. He does help to deliver one of the best lines of the whole series. The panel is directly below.

wonder-woman-vs-manhunter

J’onn has gone to star in several films and live action series, more so than the Dark Knight himself, which begs to question as to why he isn’t a more popular hero? Superman himself has said that J’onn is the one of the very few beings that he is afraid to engage in open combat because he is the most dangerous man on the planet.

Supes Scared

J’onn J’onzz has so much potential and he is always wasted by being relegated to a back up character. I’m not saying his inclusion in the Justice League film would’ve saved it, but it couldn’t have been any worse than what we got right? DC needs to give some of their other great properties a chance instead of sticking with the same heroes. Yes, they’ve branched out with some out there inclusions like Justice League Dark and Cyborg, but looking at how many batman and Superman imprints there are… they could easily drop a couple of those and bring in someone like Manhunter for his own series. I just hope for J’onn J’onzz to one day become a household name like the characters he helps to keep on the right path.

 

An Impossible Expectation – Living Up To The Legacy

This week, I decided to focus on something that I have noticed with the newest press regarding upcoming seasons and movies based on comic media; the impossible task of living up to the legacy. With the explosion of the MCU beginning in 2008, comic book movies have become the best thing a studio can do to make money; however, it is not without its risks. While Marvel studios seem to have found the formula to make successful movies, other studios like DC Entertainment and Fox studios are more hit or miss. Don’t get me wrong they have some great hits, Deadpool and Wonder Woman are awesome and huge steps for the superhero genre if not movies as a whole. We got the first widely successful female led movie with Wonder Woman, Logan and Deadpool showed us R rated movies can still make buck, and now Black Panther has rallied the entire world behind the fictional nation of Wakanda. But for all the bluster that these movies and shows can provide… the one thing they can never do, is live up to the legacy of the characters.

Batman

Let’s take Batman for instance, how many Batman movies have there been? Including the movie from the 60’s TV show starring the late Adam West, there have been 9 live action Batman films; and all 9 of these films have done different takes on the character without nailing the source material 100%. I commend each actor for taking the role and making it their own, but nobody has been able to fully capture the essence of the character, and nobody ever will.

Batman was first introduced in Detective Comics #27  from March 1939, that’s almost 80 years of stories and character development. Now I’m not saying that anyone trying to take the role should quit, I’m saying the opposite, I think the more people that take the role on we can get a clearer glimpse into the character of Batman. With West, we got the silly, gadget driven Batman, Keaton gave us the dark and Gothic protector, Kilmer gave us the investigative defender, Clooney gave us the campy playboy, Bale gave us the tortured and driven knight, and Affleck gave us the brutal and vicious brawler. Each actor has made the role their own by taking a piece of the vast history of the character and putting their own spin on it.  While it can get tiresome as a fan to constantly have a new person taking on the role instead of sticking with one person, it is necessary. In the animated universe, no matter what, Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman. Jason O’Mara delivers a great spin with the new DCAU films, but nobody can compare to Conroy’s iconic voice. The same thing can be said about the Joker. Anybody who tries to do that in an animated setting will always be compared to Mark Hamill while any live action interpretation will always be compared to the late Heath Ledger.

Batfamily

Just in Batman’s history alone, we have over 5 Robins, only 1 of which has made it to the live action screen, multiple failures on the part of the Bat, his own death and resurrection, and his rehabilitation following his greatest defeat. None of the stories we have received so far in film format have focused on any of these aspects. We may FINALLY be getting the story of Jason Todd’s murder, which is arguably Batman’s greatest failure, but that happened in A Death in the Family from December of 1988. It took 29 years for his death to finally be mentioned in a DC live action film and even then, it was only done in passing. I am of course referring to the Robin suit on display in the Batcave spray painted with the words “Hahaha Joke’s on you Batman”; as well as, the mention of Harley Quinn being an accomplice in the murder of Robin in Suicide Squad. The suit is something that not many people would notice or even get the reference if you were not familiar with the source material. While the mention in Suicide Squad is so quick, if you blink you’ll miss it. While the live action films have been lacking in expanding the Batman mythos and history, the animated films have stepped up.

The modern DCAU (DC Animated Universe) took heavy influence from the New 52 run of DC Comics, while some of the classic stories and films took inspiration from the modern age of DC. We have seen Damian (Batman’s biological son) as Robin, Jason Todd as Robin and Red Hood, Dick as Nightwing, and the introduction of Batwoman and Batwing. For obvious reasons the animated movies can do more than a big budget movie can, and they can do it for much cheaper too. But Batman isn’t the only hero that this has been done with.

Spiderman-1994-spiderman-the-animated-series-1994-29730956-333-250

Spider-Man is the most popular Marvel hero worldwide and one of my personal favourites. He has been a Marvel mainstay since his first introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August of 1962. Since his introduction into Marvel, he has had 3 live action film adaptations as well as a whole slew of animated television shows and by slew I mean 9 animated shows. All of his shows have done a solid attempt at bringing his history to the forefront. The best one, in my opinion, is the Spider-Man animated series that ran in the early 90’s. It introduced a lot of kids to the great universe Spider-Man had created while doing crossovers with other heroes as well, most notably the X-Men. This is another example where the animated features have done far more to honour the legacy of Spider-Man than the movies ever did.

The first slew of movies were directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The first of Raimi’s Spider-Man films were released in 2002 to a warm reception. Introducing Norman Osborn/Green Goblin with a stellar performance by Willem Dafoe (we’ll just forget the power ranger costume…), then Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doc Ock is Spider-Man 2, and finally the abysmal Spider-Man 3 with New Goblin, scrawny Venom and a great performance by Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/Sandman. The first two movies were well received but by the third the studio (Sony) decided to meddle and forced Raimi to include Venom into the plot. With the failure of the third film, Spider-Man was put on ice until 2012 when Sony rebooted the franchise with the Amazing Spider-Man.

Spider-MAn

Spying the success of the MCU, Sony tried to build an entire universe based off of Spider-Man. The first movie was okay, it was a fresh take and brought Peter back into high school. The second one was terrible, it was too long and destroyed the Green Goblin as a character. The one thing that the second movie did get right was the death of Gwen Stacy. Paying direct homage to Amazing Spider-Man #121, it was a near scene for scene remake of the iconic moment in Spider-Man’s history; right down to the costume choice being a direct recreation of the clothing worn by Gwen in the comic.

Now we have a new Spider-Man with Tom Holland that is included in the MCU. Sony finally admitted they screwed up and struck a deal with Marvel to allow them to use Spider-Man in the MCU.  Tom Holland has been extremely well received and looks to be the new breakout star of the entire MCU.

All these shows and movies have barely even scratched the surface on things that have happened in Spider-Man’s comic run. I will admit that I haven’t watched all the shows, but to my knowledge, the only one to properly introduce Venom and Carnage was the 90’s animated series; which included a large portion of the rogues gallery in various episodes. Again, while each show and film took a piece of the mythos and made it their own, it never quite captured the legacy of the character. Spider-Man is one of the most popular heroes in the world, and the inability to capture the essence of the character is a glaring issue. We’ve gotten the closest thing to a comic accurate Peter Parker with Tom Holland in the MCU, but even then, something feels off… oh right, his 40 something attractive aunt flirting with Tony Stark.

As I said before, all these attempts at bringing the characters to the screen are necessary if we are to eventually be able to pay homage to the legacy they have created. Batman and Spider-Man are just two examples of dozens of characters with histories and legacies that span decades. Fantastic Four, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Iron Man, and Flash all have rich legacies to pay homage to, and it’s just not feasible to do so with 1 or 2 movies or even a season or two of television.

I am a big stickler for accuracy in comic movies and shows, it doesn’t sit well with me when they change things or mesh story lines together, it irks me quite substantially. That being said, I understand that there is no way these interpretations are ever going to be able to measure up to the expectations in my head from reading the stories, and that’s okay. Fresh spins on characters are part of what has helped to ensure the longevity of comics. Each  new author and artist takes what was laid down before them as a foundation and builds on the character. Sometimes you get great runs, like Frank Miller with the Dark Knight Returns, and sometimes you get terrible interpretations like Rick Remender with his Axis event. Each of these events and runs have worked to establish an ongoing legacy for each character that film studios want to tap into to appeal to the fans, even if they butcher it in their attempt.

Many fans have sour tastes in their mouths from the likes of Ghost Rider 1 & 2, Man of Steel, Affleck’s Daredevil, Steel (ft. Shaq?! come on!!!), and the Schumacher Batmans; but they keep coming back, in hopes the studios get their shit sorted out and deliver something worthy of the legacy of the character. The main point I’m trying to make is, as a fan, don’t sweat it. When it comes to studios making movies or shows off of comics, there is no way in hell they will be able to jam 50+ years of history into 1-3 movies or a couple seasons of an animated show. Give the studios a break and just be happy they’re making an effort at all. It wasn’t so long ago when if someone suggested a movie or even live action TV show based off a superhero you would be met with mocking laughter.

I am not one to quote Superman (ugh..) but this quote perfectly explains what I’m trying to get at.

“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

in the sun

Give it time. If we give it time, I have faith that eventually we will be given wonders.

Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 6 – Azrael

This month for underrated hero, I decided to focus on a character that has been traditionally cast as the villain/ anti-hero for the Batman fans, Azrael.  Azrael has been around since the early 90’s and has been a player in several major arcs for the Dark Knight. Most famously, Azrael took up the mantle of the Bat after the events of Knightfall when Batman was healing from his broken back.

Azrael’s first appearance was in the 1992 comic arc titled Batman: Sword of Azrael. The original Azrael (Jean Paul Valley) was created by Denny O’Neil and Joe Quesada. Later on in his publication history, Jean Paul was removed as Azrael and the title was bestowed upon Michael Washington Lane. While Lane did hold the title it was only briefly before Valley reclaimed his proper position as Azrael.

Starting out as a villain, it wasn’t until his own series, which ran for a hundred issues from 1995 -2003, where Azrael transitioned from villain to hero.

 

HISTORY

Azrael is the assassin from the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas, a medieval religious order that splintered from the Knights Templar Order. The Order of Saint Dumas was founded by their leader and Templar Knight, Dumas, during the crusades. Ra’s al Ghul went on an “adventure” with Dumas and described his compatriot as a “vicious man and insane fanatic”.

Jean Paul Valley was not born, he was genetically engineered from DNA harvested from the previous Azrael, his “father”.  His DNA was then combined with several other members of the order that had held the title of Azrael. They then took that genetic mixture and added in some genetic information from certain animals; then he was grown in a tank until he was “born”. He grew up with his father Ludovic Valley, the former Azrael, and attended Gotham University in the computer science program, from which he graduated.  Throughout his life Jean Paul was subjected to deep psychological conditioning which ever so slightly oriented him towards the Order’s goals. When his father died, Jean Paul was activated by the Order and was called upon to take up the mantle of Azrael. It was after his father’s death that Jean Paul came to learn how he was created and who his father actually was.

During his first mission for the Order, Jean Paul was tasked with killing a rogue member of the Order who had killed his father, Ludovic, and was running a weapon smuggling ring. It was during this mission that Valley first crossed paths with Batman, the latter of which had been investigating Ludovic’s death. When the rogue member kidnaps Bruce Wayne, Azrael allies with Alfred to bring down the weapon smuggling ring. Azrael honed his detective skills and tracked the rogue Order member for a final showdown. When Batman is nearly killed in the final confrontation, Azrael risks his life to save him, showing Batman that Azrael was more than just a killing instrument. After the rogue member was brought to justice, Valley requested Batman’s help in breaking the conditioning instilled in him so he can make his own destiny.

Azrael 2

After this Bruce employs him as a security guard at the Wayne Tech headquarters; while Batman and Robin use him as an apprentice crimefighter and begin instructing him on detective work.  As I said before, his real pivotal inclusion comes during the events of Knightfall. When Bane breaks Batman’s back, Valley steps in with his own modified version of the Bat suit to take up Bruce’s war on crime. During his stint as the caped crusader Valley comes to believe that Bruce’s tactics are obsolete, and that to truly beat crime you have to fight on their level. He begins using increasingly brutal tactics and even begins to show little regard for innocent bystanders.

Going against Bruce’s orders he defeats Bane using an enhanced battle armour he built while still under the mental conditioning of the Order. As Bruce continues to heal,  Azrael becomes increasingly violent and brutal to the point of allowing criminals to fall to their deaths. He becomes angered at Robin (Tim Drake) nearly strangling him before banning him from the Bat-cave. He also seals the cave off from Both Wayne Manor and Drake Estate before openly bad mouthing Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD.

When Bruce hears of Valley’s tactics and exploits he resolves to take back the mantle and title of Batman. After a long and drawn out fight, which culminates in a final showdown in the Bat-cave, Bruce tricks Valley into taking off his armour. Once he has removed the armour, leaving his helmet on ( due to its enhanced night vision capabilities), Bruce blasts Azrael with direct sunlight. Realizing he has been beaten, he asks Bruce for forgiveness. Bruce declares that Valley is to leave the cave immediately. As Valley leaves, he declares Bruce Wayne as the one true Batman. Bruce keeps tabs on Valley over the following months because he saw the potential in him that Bruce saw in himself at a young age. He also recognized that he himself had a role in Valley’s descent into madness, which hits him with just a little bit of guilt.

Valley lives on the streets with the homeless population of Gotham for several weeks. During his time on the streets Valley befriends a man named Brian, an alcoholic disgraced psychiatrist. With Brian’s help, Jean Paul discovers the secret of the order and their true agenda. The pair also aid a young sister by the name of Lilhy to escape from the Order.

He redeems himself by saving several senators from being assassinated prior to No Man’s Land. After seeing his redemption, Batman sets him after notorious hitman Nicholas Scratch. While in pursuit of Scratch, he was unsuccessful in saving a Senator on Scratch’s hitlist. Scratch strangles the Senator minutes before Azrael arrived and framed Azrael for the murder. During No Man’s Land, Azrael assists Batman in maintaining order throughout the chaotic Gotham City. He is given a new suit designed by Batman and sets to work defending Dr. Leslie Thompkins’ clinic during the chaos of No Man’s Land.  He begins to have hallucinations of his father and St. Dumas himself, Azrael returns to his original costume before being target by supernatural “miracles”.

 

DEATH

In the final issue of his run, Azrael is seemingly killed off. While fighting Scratch and LeHah, Valley is shot by 2 specially coated bullets which allowed the bullets to penetrate his armour with ease. It’s never revealed what the bullets were coated with. While LeHah and Azrael fall into the river, Scratch is arrested for firing the shots that killed Azrael.

While his body was never recovered, there were snippets in various comics that lead readers to believe that Jean Paul Valley had survived his death.

Blackes Night Azrael

During the DC crossover event Blackest Night, Azrael is shown to be a member of the Black Lantern corps and fights along with the other zombified heroes. There was quite a bit of speculation saying that this could’ve been the previous Azrael, Ludovic Valley; however, the tabloid of Blackest Night listed Azrael as none other than Jean Paul Valley, confirming his death at the hands of Scratch.

 

RESURRECTION

While Valley was dead for several years, another was given the mantle of Azrael. He was recruited by a splinter sect of the Order of Saint Dumas called the Order of Purity. This individual was the ex-cop named Michael Washington Lane. Lane was subject to Dr. Hurt’s experiments during the Battle for the Cowl, and appeared as the “third ghost of Batman” in the event. Lane did not remain as Azrael for long, but he was one of the characters to don the identity in the Batman: Arkham game series.

In the New 52 Valley was resurrected during Batman & Robin: Eternal. He worked as an enforcer for the Order but was seen wielding a sword rather than his regular bladed gauntlets. Eventually he rebelled and assisted both Red Hood and Red Robin (Tim Drake) in taking down the Order.

In Rebirth, Valley appeared in detective comics as a supporting character for the first two volumes before become a full fledged member of the team in Vol. 3.

POWERS AND ABILITIES

Azrael is just a man, like many other of my underrated heroes. He is a man that was genetically modified and spliced with animal DNA to become the perfect weapon. He is trained to the peak of human conditioning & physicality and has bested Batman in combat.

Azrael is not a master of combat. He is an adequate fighter but his modified genetic code allows him for inhuman reflexes, metabolism,  speed and strength. As such, he has dueled Deathstroke to a draw, and bested Batman in hand to hand combat.

His suit is called the Suit of Sorrows, which contains an ancient extremely advanced AI which bonds with the wearer of the armour. It provides the perfect synchronicity between movement and thought. It also allows for the suit to predict the most likely action and shows the weakest points on his enemies.

He is shown to use retractable daggers in his gauntlets, and a couple different swords as his main weapons.

The Sword of Sin – When struck by the Sword of Sin, the victim is forced to remember every sin they’ve committed through their life which they must atone for.

The Sword of Salvation – When struck with the Sword of Salvation, the victim is forced to remember every past tragedy they have experienced through their life all at one time.

 

WHY HE’S UNDERRATED

Azrael is a human experiment that was meant to be a weapon. He was genetically designed and conditioned since his creation to be a weapon for the Secret Order of Saint Dumas, and he rebelled. He had a bit of a bumpy road but he was able to pull through with help from Batman and his friends. Mostly though, I think he is underrated because he was able to battle Deathstroke to a draw and beat Batman in hand to hand combat. He is relegated to being a side character and viewed as a broken mind by most of the main continuity heroes. The reason I like him so much is how close his condition resembles Moon Knight. Moon Knight suffers from MPD and Azrael is just a troubled mind, but they still are viewed the same by the superhero community in their respective universes. They are constantly being watched as though they are going to snap at any moment and cause a major problem for the community as a whole.

Azrael 3

Mostly the reason Azrael is underrated is because he is the poster child for redemption. Everyone loves a good redemption story, especially when it involves an assassin for a religious zealot organization rebelling and taking them down. There’s just something poetic about a religious sect getting dismantled by someone they tried to brainwash into service…

I really like Azrael in the Rebirth Detective Comics, I think he brings an interesting dynamic to the team and the conversations between him and Luke Fox are awesome. While Jean Paul still has his faith despite everything that they’ve done to him and he still believes in a higher power, Luke Fox is grounded in science and physics. Luke doesn’t understand how Jean Paul can still have faith after everything that was done to him and Jean Paul is working to show him that faith is not something that just disappears after challenges. He has a line that says his crucible is done and he has come out the other side better for it, and he will use this new life and power to help those in need.  I’m not one generally, for a  faith based character because on my own beliefs, but for some reason I can get behind Azrael and his motives and actions; and really… that’s what makes a character great. If you, as a reader, can get behind them and root for them despite that you might disagree with their beliefs, that means that character is written well.

I really want to see more Azrael in the future of DC comics and hopefully can get him on either the TV screen (properly), or the big screen! His brief inclusion in Season 2 of Gotham was just garbage.

This concludes my monthly post about underrated heroes, see you all next week!

DCEU – Restructuring and Revamping

For this week’s post I decided to focus on some new developments in the DCEU camp and what my thoughts are behind them.

Okay so I don’t think it’s exactly any sort of a secret that Ben Affleck is going to leave the Batman role behind in the next couple of years. From the lackluster performance of Batman V. Superman, the failure of Suicide Squad, and the very sub-par Justice League; DC entertainment have decided to restructure their entire expanded universe and inject some hopeful new blood into their floundering franchise.

Batman

The first big piece of news that isn’t really that new is that Ben Affleck is no longer writing or directing the film that was tentatively titled The Batman. In wake of Affleck backing out of the directorial and writing role DC Entertainment has tapped Matt Reeves (Planet of the Apes trilogy) to helm the project. As part of the condition that Reeves takeover the project he is going to make a trilogy and he has scrapped the pre-existing script (with Deathstroke as the villain) to write his own original script and story for the trilogy. This came as a shock to fans who were hoping to get an Affleck directed Batman film. I know I loved the Town and Argo, both films were written by , directed and starring Affleck and I was a little disappointed that they scrapped the story he had worked so hard on. Not only was the story scrapped, which featured Joe Manganiello reprising his role as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, but Deathstroke was potentially scrapped as a villain all together. We did get a little tidbit of a taste of Manganiello as Wilson in a Justice League post-credit scene wherein Lex Luthor floated the idea of the Society of Supervillains. Since his announcement of taking over the project Matt Reeves has stated he has an idea in mind and he has begun the early stages of writing the script. Recently it was reported that Ben Affleck would not be starring as Batman in Reeves’ trilogy, and that a new actor would be cast in the role of the Dark Knight. Speculations began flying as to why Affleck would not be reprising the role and who would be best suited to take his place. Some of the front runners for the role were rumoured to be: Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hamm, and Karl Urban; with recent news putting Gyllenhaal as the favourtie for the role.

Gyllenhall Batman

While I do love Batfleck it is apparent through interviews and appearances at cons and television, that Affleck is not crazy about the role. He was reported as saying at San Diege Comic-Con that he” …is Batman and it is the role of a lifetime for any actor. He is Batman for the foreseeable future.” That being said recent re-structuring of DC Entertainment may have that called into question. While Affleck certainly does have at least 2 more movies (1 of which being another Justice League) in his contract, the actor and the studio are not in the greatest of spaces after the fiasco that went on with the re shoots of Justice League. It has been well documented that the studio pushed both the actors and replacement director, Joss Whedon, into a tight schedule for re-shoots of the film. This caused everyone associated with the film to work for long hours without a break and caused tensions to rise behind the scenes, with Affleck being very vocal about the whole ordeal.

Do I want Affleck to step away from Batman? No. I think he has the best look of anyone that has taken the role thus far. Don’t get me wrong the Dark Knight trilogy is amazing, but it is more fondly remembered for the amazing performance by Heath Ledger than for Batman. I grew up watching the animated series, playing the games and reading the comics, and Ben Affleck definitely has the look to play Batman. I am not crazy about the voice modulator that everyone seems to think that Batman has to use. My friend Malcolm and I have said it since the beginning that to make any Batman fan happy, have Kevin Conroy voice over the actor and make the cape CG.

Recently, The Flash movie has finally found its directorial team with John Francis Daley and Johnathan Goldstein. These two were the minds behind the Vacation remake starring Ed Helms and they also co-wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming, which they were also considered to direct before Marvel went with John Watts. With the Flash movie having finally found its directors the focus has once again turned to the story, Flashpoint. DC Entertainment Announced that this would be the title of the Flash movie before Justice League was released, and it was honestly the smartest move they could make.

Flashpoint

In DC comics Flashpoint was when Flash decided (after being goaded on by Reverse Flash) to travel back in time and save his mom from dying. The entire adventure caused a new time stream to form and it was not a pretty future…  Aquaman and Wonder Woman at war, Superman never having seen the sun, Bruce Wayne dying in the alley and his father becoming Batman while his mother goes insane to become the Joker…. When Flash was finally able to right his wrong and reset the timeline, the New 52 had begun. DC Comics used both Flashpoint and Infinite Crisis to “reset” their comic multiverse down to just 52 Earths. It allowed for a re-launch of existing properties giving all their characters a younger look and more inexperienced feel. Sadly the New 52 did not prove to be very popular among many comic fans and DC re-vamped and re-launched their comic properties again with Rebirth just 6 years after the New 52 began.

The reason Flashpoint is the smartest call they could make is due to the nature of the story. As I said before DC Comics used it as a means of resetting their comic universe and DC Entertainment will most likely use it in the same manner. With the lackluster performance of the DCEU thus far (minus Wonder Woman) DC Entertainment is looking to re-vamp their brand and start fresh with their expanded universe. With Aquaman set to release in December of this year and Wonder Woman 2 set to come out next year along with (potentially) Suicide Squad 2 the re-launch seems to be a weird call to make.

I think the main reason for the re-vamp is to go with a younger Batman. They will keep the rest of the League as is, most of them are “younger” anyways; and they will introduce a younger Batman to join the League. This will bring their movies and comics more in line with one another and allow for a more cohesive and accurate timeline.  One of the many criticisms of the DCEU is the age discrepancy between Batman and the rest of the League. In the DCEU as it stands now, Batman is mid 40’s to early 50’s, while the rest of the League are their mid to late 20’s. While this worked great for the gruff experienced Batman showing the younger ones how to do things, it doesn’t translate well for a good dynamic after that.  Injecting a younger actor into the role will open up the experience to potentially include a Robin or two and bring some much needed revitalization to the DCEU.