Most Underrated Heroes: Vol.2 – Red Hood

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

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

HISTORY

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

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

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

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

 

DEATH

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

 

RESURRECTION

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

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

RETURN TO GOTHAM

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

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

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

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

POWERS AND ABILITIES

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

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

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

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

REASONS HE IS UNDERRATED

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

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

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

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Top 10 DC Animated Movies

With the animated movies on Netflix growing every single day, I thought I should drop what I believe to be the top 10 DC animated movies of all time. I will confess that I haven’t seen all of them (a travesty in and itself I know), but I have seen the vast majority of them. You’re not going to find any Superman titles on this list frankly because I think he is a horrible hero, but his character is essential for the League if that makes any sense.

So let’s start this list off at #10!

#10 – Justice League Gods and Monsters

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Coming in at #10 is none other than Justice League: Gods and Monsters. Taking place in  an alternate universe this movie is a great change of pace from the classic heroes we’ve grown to love. The League is only composed of the three core members: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Batman is no longer Bruce Wayne but Kirk Langstrom (Man-bat in normal continuity), a college student who took an experimental serum and became a vampire. Superman is now not opposed to lethal force and is no longer the son of Jor-El but that of general Zod. Wonder Woman is not the princess of Themyscira and Greek Olympian but wife of Orion son of Darkseid. The three of them operate as a kill squad and have a reputation for maximum casualties. When scientists around the US start dying and the Justice League is framed, it’s up to the trinity to clear their names and find the culprits. The movie was created by Bruce Timm who is famous for Batman the Animated Series which is probably why I enjoyed this movie as much as I did.

 

#9 – Batman: Bad Blood

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Taking the #9 spot is none other than the most recent addition to the Batman arc of the DCAU Batman: Bad Blood. The reason that this story didn’t come in higher on the list is because it falls into the same problem many big blockbuster superhero films have, too many plot lines and villains. The main villains of the film is a squad of fairly (in my opinion) B and C list Rogues along with Talia Al’Ghul and the Heretic. The movie also introduces us to Batwoman, Batwing and a VERY brief time of Dick as Batman. When Batman is missing and presumed dead after an explosion at a warehouse where he saved Batwoman, Dick must take up the mantle of the Bat and find out what is going on in Gotham city. With Batwoman, and Batwing getting 10 minute introductions, and the Heretic being the main villain of the film none of their origins are fully explored and if you miss a couple lines of dialogue then the story falls apart.  That being said the final act of the film is great and the choreography is astounding as with all the entries on this list; the only issue is the convoluted and excessive number of plot lines.

 

#8 – The Dark Knight Returns Part I & II

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There is no secret why these movies are on the list, Batman V. Superman. The reason they are lower on the list than some might put them is the one off nature that they have. Yes, they were made of a comic book from the late 80’s and it was a direct to film adaptation, but they came out around the same time the first Avengers movie came out and DC Comics had launched headlong into the New 52. The story is great, an aging Bruce Wayne retired after the death of Jason Todd. A ruthless gang called the Mutants has taken over Gotham City, and begins to terrorize the people. Batman comes out of retirement which causes problems for some villains Two-Face and Joker. The drawing style is very iconic of Frank Miller and the animation team kept as close to the source material as possible. The first part concentrates on Batman’s battle to take out the Mutant gang and the introduction of Carrie Kelly to the title of Robin. The second part is centered around the use of Superman by the US government to end conflicts and to remove stubborn superheroes who refuse to retire. The final confrontation between Batman and Superman is iconic and was a major influence for the Batman V. Superman film by Zack Snyder.

 

#7 – The Batman Vs. Dracula

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This movie is not that well known, at least among comic fans that I know. I was a huge fan of The Batman series that aired on teletoon for 5 seasons. The villains were excellently drawn and it brought a newer younger inexperienced Batman to the front. Rino Romano did excellent as the voice of Bruce Wayne and Kevin Michael Richardson added a new darker voice to an already more animalistic Joker, the series also featured Adam West as Mayor Grange. The movie takes place after the fifth season of the show but without any of Batman’s supporting cast i.e. Batgirl or Robin. The movie focuses on a young woman being pursued by Penguin through a Cemetary who accidentally awakens Dracula. Dracula then hypnotizes Penguin and turns Joker before making an army of vampires to try and take over Gotham. One of the scenes that stands out is when Batman and Joker fight in a blood bank after Joker has been turned. In order to get away with the EXCESSIVE amounts of blood, they had the lights knocked out in the film. This allowed for a pale blue light to illuminate the fight having the blood appear as a black liquid; although it was very obvious what the substance was. The movie used the exact same animation style and choreography from the show and kept all the subtle nods that made the show great.

#6 – Justice League Vs. Teen Titans

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One of the newer additions to the DCAU is Justice League Vs. Teen Titans. The movie itself is pretty generic but what sets it apart from the rest is that chemistry that is shown between the Titans. This movie introduces us to a new version of the team consisting of: Starfire, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Raven, and Robin (Damian). Initially Damian is placed on the team to learn to work as part of team and during his first sparring match with Blue Beetle he is horribly burned. Raven uses her magic to heal him and the team begin to bond and trust each other. The Demon Lord Trigon uses his power to take over the League and forces the Titans to combat those that they idolize while trying to find a way to stop Trigon and save the League. As with all the newer additions to the DCAU the choreography  and animation is top notch and even the limited GCI is used well. The true heart of the film comes from the carnival scene where the Titans learn to bond and become friends. The Sequel Teen Titans: The Judas Contract was good, but it wasn’t as good as this one or the rest on the list.

#5 – Justice League Crisis on Two Earth

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Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is the second DC animated movie that I ever watched, the first being Batman Beyond the Return of the Joker. This movie solidified the DC multiverse and brought some of the greatest voice actors in to voice characters. Gina Torres delivers a stellar performance as Superwoman (evil Wonder Woman), but the standout role for me was James Woods as Owlman (evil Batman). The story is that on Earth-3 the roles are reversed, the heroes are the villains and the villains are the heroes. Earth-3 Lex Luthor steals a Quantum Trigger from the Crime Syndicate (Earth-3 evil Justice League) and  teleports to Earth-1 and requests to meet the Justice League. When the League discovers he is telling the truth they agree to help him and are teleported to Earth-3. the final confrontation comes between Batman and Owlman who have both travelled to Earth Prime (the center of all reality). In the ensuing fight Batman delivers one of the most chilling lines from any DC animated movie “You’re right, we both stared into the abyss… but when it stared back at us… you blinked”. Like I said before the voice acting on this film is spectacular and the story does a great job of introducing new viewers to the extended DC multiverse.

#4 – Justice League Doom

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Justice League Doom is based on the Tower of Babel story. In this story Ras Al’Ghul breaks into the Batcave and steals plans that Batman has prepared for taking down individual members of the Justice League should they become rogue. The plans are referred to as Agamemno contingencies (in case you are curious). In the film version it is Vandal Savage and a group of villains that become the Legion of Doom who steal the plans. Savage plans to direct a massive Solar Flare to the earth cooking “2/3 at most” of the planet and becoming tyrannical leader of the remaining 1/3. In order to do this he needs the Justice League incapacitated and recruits villains from a multitude of Rogues galleries to aid him in his fight. Some of the dialogue in this film is quite exemplary and several voice actors were perfectly cast (looking at Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan). The overall story and each individual members’ personal growth and acceptance of the plans makes for a very compelling movie that ends in what can only be termed as obvious. This movie definitely has replay value just like every movie on the list and the recording of some of the Agamemno Contingencies that are on Youtube is just amazing.

#3 – Batman V Robin

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I will be the first to admit that I really don’t like Damian as Robin. He is a pompous arrogant child who thinks that he is entitled the world because of who his parents are, and he needs to be taken down a peg (like they did in Batman Inc. #3). This story brings in one of the greatest Batman arcs since Knightfall and that would be the Court of Owls. This is the starting point of Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder’s run on Batman that also included Death of the Family and Endgame.  In this film Batman is pitted against the mysterious and legendary Court of Owls while he struggles to bond with his son. Damian believes that Bruce will never trust him and lashes out by frequently running off into the night on his own where he encounters Talon, the hitman for the Court of Owls. Batman must not only save his son from Talon, and his city from the clutches of the court; but he must also save his own mind from the assault of the Owls. This movie continues into the modern DCAU which is heavily influenced by the New 52 and features Jason O’Mara again in the titular role as Batman.

#2 – Flashpoint Paradox

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The Flashpoint Paradox is probably the best Justice League movie ever to have been made. The movie follows the comic of the same name which helped to restart the DC comic universe into the New 52. In this film Barry is taunted by Reverse Flash that no matter how fast he is, he can never save the one person who mattered. Barry then uses his powers to travel back in time and save his mom from being murdered, and in doing so creates an alternate timeline. One where everything is almost the same but slightly different, for example… Bruce Wayne was shot in the alley that night, and his father became Batman while his mother went insane and became the Joker. Barry must find a way to get his powers back, unite what heroes he can and stop the global extinction. While I am not a huge fan of the animation style of this film (the males look like HUGE V’s with all their muscles and thick necks) it does have an original quality to it. The dialogue amongst characters is top notch and it’s interesting to see just how if things had played out slightly different how much everything changes.  I have personally watched this movie over 10 times and I’m still entertained by it to this day.

#1 – Batman Under the Red Hood

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This movie right here, this is the best DCAU movie to ever have been made. I could spend an entire post talking just about this movie alone (and I might in the future). It’s no secret how much I like this movie just based on the number of times I have referenced it in the past on other posts. The movie follows the Death in the Family story line and continues with it. It opens with the murder of Jason Todd and ends with a confrontation that went down in history. A mysterious figure known as the Red Hood shows up in Gotham and starts taking over the drug trade, no matter what Batman does his adversary always seems to be one step ahead of him and knows his every move.  This movie features Jensen Ackles as the voice of Red Hood and Bruce Greenwood as the voice of Batman. Greenwood would later go on to continue voicing the Bat in the animated series Young Justice of which I am also a huge fan (and super excited for season 3). The choreography in this movie is astounding and it highlights one of the darkest times in Batman’s past making him appear even more human.

 

There you have it my top 10 animated DCAU movies of all time, agree or not it’s all relative ,but if you have any good comments post them below!

Spawn – Image Comic’s Crown Jewel

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

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

 

ORIGIN

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

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Powers and Abilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMAZING FEATS

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

Most Underrated Heroes: Vol. 1 – Ghost Rider

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

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

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

BACKGROUND

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

POWERS & ABILITIES

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

FEATS

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

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

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

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

REASONS HE IS UNDERRATED

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

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

 

 

Anti-Heroes: More Realistic Than Classic Superheroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why An On Screen Joker Will Never Be Perfect

Unless you are completely devoid of any sort of film and pop culture media attention, pretty much everyone is familiar with Batman and his nemesis, The Joker. To date there have been 3 live action film portrayals (if you count the Batman movie from the Adam West TV series then add another for Caesar Romero) of the Joker to date. While mainly only the older generation are familiar with Jack Nicholson’s gangster approach from the 80’s Tim Burton classic, pretty much everyone the world over is familiar with Heath Ledger and Jared Leto’s performances.  While many criticize Jared Leto’s take on the character for looking more like a joker thug than the clown prince of crime himself; I think we didn’t get enough screen time for him in Suicide Squad to accurately form an opinion. Heath Ledger stands as the defining live action portrayal of the character for mostly every Batman movie fan, and while his time as Mr. J was iconic and can never be replaced; his anarchist approach to the character lacked the luster that makes the Joker who he is.

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Mark Hamill will forever be the Joker in my view. I grew up with Batman the animated series and the 90’s X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons as staples in my daily and weekend routine. Every time I see Mark Hamill credited on a title card of a Batman movie i get a little giddy, same can be said with Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, nobody can beat him.

Despite his many incarnations, there is just one problem with the Joker as a villain in a live action movie, you can’t capture who he is and plenty have tried. I applaud every actor who has taken a stab at bringing the Joker to the big screen, but they all seem to fall short in some regard.

Caesar Romero who brought him to life in the Adam West 60’s TV show took the practical Joker aspect and ran with it. Jack Nicholson from the 80’s classic took the gangster approach and nailed it. Heath Ledger took the Anarchist/mind game aspect and got the closest of anyone. Jared Leto tried to amalgamate all these characteristics into this performance and wound up with the unbalanced psychopath we received very briefly in Suicide Squad. Despite seeing Suicide Squad several times in the theatre, I will be first to admit it was a terrible movie… The story was garbage, the villain was ridiculous, and for being one the top billed actors in the movie, Jared Leto clocked in roughly 15 minutes for the 2.5 hour movie. I digress… that’s a topic for another time.

Comic Examples

To fully grasp who the Joker is as a character I’m going to run through a list of some of the worst things he’s done.

*Warning… some spoilers ahead for the New 52 comic run of Batman

Killing Joke

To start with a classic, let’s look at the Killing Joke by Alan Moore. This is the only story to have given us a possible origin for the Joker. It was originally meant to be a one off story, but due to it’s popular success it was included in the Batman canon. Most recently it received inclusion into the DCAU ( DC Animated Universe) with Hamill and Conroy reprising their respective roles. While it was a very faithful adaptation they included an unnecessary Batgirl plot at the beginning that culminated with her and Batman having sex on a rooftop and then Batman ghosting her (like he does with everyone). The story goes like this… Joker decides to prove that all it takes is one bad day, just one, to reduce the sanest man on the planet to someone like him. He targets Commissioner Gordon as his victim and during the commissioner’s weekly visit to his daughters house, shows up and shoots her through the spine paralyzing her. his thugs beat and abduct the commissioner while Joker strips and photographs Barbara as she bleeds out on the ground. It is implied that some sort of assault takes place but recently when asked about it Alan Moore said that ” No. That was never our intention to imply that type of thing”.  Joker then uses these photos to torture the commissioner after stripping him naked and parading him around a demented circus. Batman shows up to save the day and the story ends with one of the most ambiguous panels ever.

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Moving on to 1999 in the No Man’s Land story arc joker once again targeted Jim Gordon for his madness. Following a massive earthquake in which a lot of Gotham city is destroyed, several of Batman’s Rogues make a play for control over the crumbling city, one of which is Joker. He starts by executing a police lieutenant on Christmas Day and then he proceeded to kidnap all of the babies in Gotham (no idea how he achieved this… just roll with it).  At the time Jim Gordon’s second wife Sarah Essen was trying to track down where the babies had been taken and stumbled onto the broken down police station that Joker was using as a hideout. Detective Essen confronted Joker who was holding a newborn in his arms. joker demanded that Essen lower her gun on he would drop the baby, Essen did as was asked and the Joker dropped the baby anyways. Essen lunged and caught the baby before it hit the ground and Joker drew his gun. He placed it against her head and said “Merry Christmas” then shot her in the head leaving all of the babies alone with her blood pooling around them.

Death In the Family

A Death in the Family is one of the defining stories in the Batman mythos. Not only does it highlight the cruelty of the Joker but it also brings Batman’s biggest failure to the forefront. During the story Joker learns who the birth mother of the second Robin (Jason Todd) was and bribes her into assisting him, to get the Boy Wonder alone. Jason’s mother helps the Joker and eventually Robin ends up in the clutches of the Joker. With Batman too far away to do anything about it (Robin had run off by himself to find his mother) Joker began to severely beat Jason with a crowbar. He leaves a bloodied and beaten Jason in a warehouse with his mother tied up and blows the warehouse up as Batman arrives to save him. In a final act of heroism Jason had attempted to shield his mother from the blast with his body, his mother remained alive long enough to tell Batman Joker’s plan for a nuke he had acquired.  Both Jason Todd and his mother died because of the Joker and his insatiable appetite for violence.  Jason has since been revived as The Red Hood an anti-hero with a precondition for violence and killing.

Moving into the New 52 run of Detective Comics we are shown just how far Joker is willing to go to mess with people. At the end of vol. 1 Faces of Death we are shown Joker undergoing a procedure where he has the Dollmaker remove the skin from his face, which he leaves hanging on a hook for the GCPD and Batman to find then disappears for a year.

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He returns in the second crossover event for all the Batman related titles called Death of the Family. In this arc, Joker tries to prove that Batman’s allies (the “Bat Family”) are what make him weak and that without them they could get back to the “Good old days with just the two of them”. Joker then kidnaps all of the members of the Bat family and stages a mock dinner party in the caves under Gotham City where he convinces them all he is going to feed them their faces which he had cut off.  It is also worth noting that at this point Joker had broken into GCPD lockup and stolen his face back and was wearing it.

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Up And Coming Joker

These are just a few of some of the most despicable acts Joker has done through his main comic continuity. This doesn’t include some of the things he has pulled in the various Batman video games and some TV shows. Cameron Monaghan gave a great performance as a young Joker in Gotham, and he has vocalized his desire to play Carnage in the upcoming Venom movie from Sony. Carnage was based heavily on Joker and the two roles tend to be synonymous with each other.

© Benjo Arwas Photography 2014 // @BENJOARWAS // http://www.benjoarwas.com
© Benjo Arwas Photography 2014 // @BENJOARWAS // http://www.benjoarwas.com

Stigma Around The Role

There was a belief for many years that the fact of Heath Ledger’s suicide was due to how intensely he got into the Joker as a role. Many claimed that you can’t play someone as insane as the Joker without ending up insane yourself. Heath Ledger lived in a hotel room by himself for one month in preparation for the role and kept a Joker journal with some truly disturbing things. He also came up with the joker make up himself from make up he bought at the drug store. Christopher Nolan also allowed Heath Ledger to direct the joker hostage videos that were used in the final cut of The Dark Knight. Jared Leto who is famous for his method acting tried to embrace the insanity as the Joker and from what we saw in Suicide Squad he was a little lacking.

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The Real Reason

The real reason that we will never see a “true” Joker on the screen is that because of what they can get away with. In comics you can get away with a lot more than you can on screen. In a comic you could show Joker slaughtering dozens of people and it wouldn’t garner a mature rating. But in a film and to do it justice, it would require a minimum of a 14A rating, preferably an R rating to do it right. This would limit the exposure and potential earnings by reducing the viewing demographic. While Deadpool and Logan proved an R rated superhero movie can absolutely make money, smaller budget movies are able to make the big bucks easier due to the revenue/expense ratio. Batman would be a tent pole blockbuster for the DCEU and as such would need a massive budget. To rake in the kind of money they would want they wouldn’t be able to give it an R rating. With Matt Reeves set to helm a new Batman trilogy for the DCEU things are looking up. He has already stated it will be a noire influenced detective film, which I think is the perfect setting for Batman. With Deathstroke set up as the main villain, my only concern is when we will see a true Joker adaptation on the screen.

Civil War II – Underwhelming and Unnecessary

** This article contains spoilers for Civil War II, Infinity and Marvel Now! Avengers

 

With the release of Captain America: Civil War the better part of the world knows the cause and fallout of the MCU version of the event that divided Marvel comic readers down the middle. The original Civil War from 2006-2007 was a one of the most talked about Marvel events of all time, and it’s fallout can still be felt in some of their printings today.  With something as significant as the Civil War, why did Marvel feel the need to sully the memory of it by creating a cheap second Civil War with literally no reasoning. For those unfamiliar with the story behind Civil War II it goes something like this:

With the release of the Terrigen Mist by Black Bolt at the end of Infinity came a new wave of Inhumans. The mists have become a sort of storm front that moves about the Earth causing people with the dormant Inhuman gene to basically cocoon until they emerge mutated into a fully fledged Inhuman. One such instance created the Inhuman known as Ulysses. His powers were that he was able to see the future, though it was unclear how reliable his visions were. Captain Marvel and her followers think that the potential for someone to commit evil is enough to warrant their arrest prior to the act; Iron Man and his followers think that you need to wait for the crime to take place before acting and that they need to test Ulysses powers before blindly relying on them.  This causes a split among the heroes of the Marvel Universe and the subsequent Civil War II.

The event comes literally stepping on the heels of Marvel’s previous event Secret Wars which was the culmination of the Hickman run of Avengers which saw the end of the Marvel Universe as we know it. While most fans were still reeling from the Secret Wars and trying to digest the meaning behind the event, they were force fed this half baked story about the fate of the new Marvel Universe.

There are some great points in this arc that really highlight the characters and their beliefs, but mostly it’s a lot of cat and mouse chasing, with whining on both sides. In addition to the fairly cookie cutter plot from the first Civil War, there’s the unnecessary shock value of the deaths included in the arc.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

To start off the issue we are greeted with the brutal slaughter of War Machine. I say brutal slaughter because that’s all it was, there was no finesse in it; during a confrontation with Thanos (who had teleported to Earth to retrieve the cosmic cube) he punched War Machine through his middle effectively separating his spine from his body. There was no overall goal for it, there was no sacrifice, he was killed because they needed a reason to set Iron Man and Captain Marvel against each other. When Iron Man found out what had happened he did the only rational thing he could do, kidnap Ulysses from Attilan and start a global manhunt for him. Not long after this and the reclaiming of Ulysses by the Inhumans we are greeted with the second and frankly useless death from the run.

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The second death comes in the form of Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk). During the debate between Iron Man and Captain Marvel once they had recovered Ulysses; the debate got heated and Ulysses collapsed on the ground. He said he had a vision of the Hulk killing all the heroes and laying waste to the city of New York. Understandably afraid of the kind of devastation the Hulk could wreck, all of the heroes ( like literally everyone on both sides of the conflict) pay Bruce Banner a visit at his secret lab in the middle of rural USA.  After a brief confrontation with Banner he is struck in the head by an arrow that kills him instantly. The culprit is discovered to be Hawkeye who fired the arrow from a tree on the edge of the woods near the farm.

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During the following trial it was revealed that Hawkeye had been approached by Banner several months before and given the arrow with the instructions that if he (Banner) were ever going to change again that he was to use it.

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This is easily the death that was thrown in merely for shock value to add further stakes to the conflict (Hawkeye being on team Iron Man and She-Hulk being on Team Captain Marvel). During the trial for the murder when asked why he did it Hawkeye recounts this story as well as adding that he saw his eyes fleck green (which is a precursor to Banner changing into the Hulk) which nobody else saw.

The Third and final death is probably the one that is the most ridiculous of the lot.  IN the final confrontation at the capitol in D.C. Iron Man and Captain Marvel clash in the skies above.  Ulysses had another vision that showed Spider-Man (Miles Morales) killing Captain America (Steve Rogers) by beating him to death on the steps of the capitol. Captain Marvel arrived to arrest Spider-Man for a crime he hadn’t committed yet, while Iron Man arrived to stop her. Iron Man generated a force field around Captain America and Spider-Man to stop Captain Marvel from taking either of them and then takes the fight to Captain Marvel in a new suit.The battle ends with Captain Marvel dismantling the suit around Tony and delivering the final blow. Tony crashes to the ground apparently dead. It’s later revealed that he is merely in  a coma from which he might never wake up from. Beast and several others put Tony into a stasis chamber to keep him alive and well until he wakes up.

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The entirety of this run was made solely to draw in more readers and to jostle the roster of existing heroes around to allow for a more diverse Marvel line up. With the death of Iron Man, Riri Williams (a female African American teenager) was set up to take over the Iron Man mantle. Instead of giving her a back door introduction in an event she had very little to do with, she should’ve been introduced and been mentored by Tony before this happened. That would give her the drive to take over as Iron Man until he recovers.

All in all this was a fairly disappointing event and it could’ve been done a lot better and waited longer before releasing it. As I said before Secret Wars had just finished and then this arrived making the entirety of Secret Wars seem like a bad dream while this was the real crisis. While I enjoyed the characters and some of the banter it didn’t capture the grandness that the first Civil War did. I would rate it a solid C- just based on the fact that apart from the deaths I mentioned above there is absolutely no reason to read this story arc. This was supposed to be the shock that brought Marvel back to the forefront with DC who had been squashing Marvel in comic sales with their Rebirth re-launch and it failed. This is one of the very few races that DC is actually kicking Marvel’s butt.