Monthly Archives: July 2015

James Bond: Superhero?

James Bond: Superhero?
James Bond: Superhero?

Last week a trailer for the newest James Bond movie Spectre was released. Speaking personally, this was an exciting moment – I’m a big fan of Bond. It got me thinking: Is James Bond a superhero? He doesn’t have super powers – other than Doctor-esque actor-shifting ability, and a superliver – and doesn’t wear any kind of recognizable costume, unless you count suits and tuxes. And yet he fights bad guys, saves the world, and is presented as the hero, though often a flawed one. However there has been a great deal of flawed heroes, even those with powers.

Had the term been around longer, characters such as Robin Hood (who inspired Arrow) and Zorro (the inspiration for Batman) would have been coined as such. These characters didn’t have super powers in the classic sense, and while Zorro dons his black cape and mask for effect, Robin Hood’s green tights were nothing more than traditional clothing before becoming an essential part of the character. Comic book grandfather Popeye gained super-strength stemming from the liberal application of spinach. Are any of these characters (or are they not) superheroes?

Let’s investigate some traditional superhero traits, and apply them to James Bond as a test. Wikipedia states some common traits of superheroes: Extraordinary powers or abilities, a strong moral code, a motivation, a secret identity, a distinctive costume, a motif or theme for the superhero, a supporting cast, a rogues gallery, independent wealth, a base of operations, and a backstory.

Right off the bat Bond is failing the super-SATs. He has no extraordinary powers or abilities, not a very strong moral code, secret identity, distinctive costume, motif or theme (like Batman or Spider-Man, not musical), he doesn’t present himself as wealthy, or at least it isn’t made apparent, and his backstory – when an actor’s Bond is given a backstory it is rarely similar to other actors. This leaves a motivation (It’s his job), a supporting cast (Q, M, Moneypenny, a few other characters movie-by-movie), a rogues gallery (this is even a sort-of; most opponents show up but once), and a base of operations (the headquarters of MI6).

So by the numbers, Bond is four-elevenths hero, which falls under the Kirby-Lee line of fifty percent. No, I kid, but Bond does not seem much like a superhero. Many of the aspects are cosmetic or incidental, but his M.O. speaks out against the term the most. Bond, in most of his incarnations, is a brutal killer who does not hesitate removing someone from the picture should he or she be revealed as a nuisance, enemy, or no longer needed. There are many ways to go about this discussion, but I believe this is the most telling. Batman may brood, but he doesn’t kill. Superman is more powerful than anything on Earth, but he doesn’t kill his enemies. Even the Punisher, who is one of the most famously violent superheroes, only guns for criminals. Bond seems to not care who is hurt as long as his mission is successful.

But still: James Bond saves lives! He fights the bad guys! He protects the world! Do the ends justify the means if the end is bringing down someone with the ability and desire to cause wanton destruction, theft, and even murder? Does a superhero’s aspect come from his methods, or from his goal?

Thanks for reading! Tell us whether you agree or disagree, and come back later for more fun superhero info!

Videos for the Lacking Fan

Superhero fan videos
Superhero fans make their own

Fans are rabid for superheroes. They froth at the mouth for them. Recently we’ve been buried under superhero movies, but for some it does not move quickly enough. They have taken to creating – forging – their own shareable videos to help themselves through the lean months. There are far too many here to count, but we present for you a select few.

Be Kind, Rewind, an indie movie released in 2006, gives us the term “sweded.” The straight-up site for the term (SwededMovies.org) defines it as “the summarized recreation of popular pop-culture films using limited budgets and a camcorder.” This term is well-liked for fans of superhero movies, which traditionally have high budgets and incredible CGI. Taking the spectacle and reducing it to cardboard and flashlights is enjoyed by many. For example, the videos on this page (which include a number of non-superhero trailers for extra flavor).

Lego fans have their very own term, Brickfilms, for movies made in stop-motion brickery. It was no doubt a certainty superhero movies (or more accurately, their trailers) and Legos would meet, with trailers like the following:

This page has a bevy of other videos, but be warned — this rabbit hole goes deep. Where will you be when you climb out again?

It’s nearly set in stone that a DC vs. Marvel film will never occur. There is too much politics, too many issues about creative rights and such forth. But still, doesn’t the following video just rock the house?

It does. It makes one sad to think, for reasons this simple blog could never comprehend, we will never be able to have a full movie with such grandeur. But how could it possibly live up to our expectations? The build-up would be too great, the team assembled would have names vying for top billing – how could any movie made by mortal hands assuage us after being assured of its holiness for so long?

Or maybe it would rock!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this short list of videos, for the fans and by the fans. Tell us your favorite fan-made superhero creations, and come back here for more cool stuff!

Ant-Man Through the Years

Three of the Ant-Man
The first three Ant-Men

There are generally two kinds of superheroes. The first, more common, and more popular, is a character locked in stone: Batman is always Bruce Wayne, Superman is always Clark Kent, Spider-Man is always Peter Parker. The second is a rarer variant, used to portray a more realistic setting: Generational heroes, when one hero passes the mantle down to another. One of the more well-known heroes with this attribute is the Flash, wherein multiple people have been subjected to terrible scientific accidents, all of which give them super speed and associated abilities. Ant-Man, whose movie comes out today, is one of these superheroes. Here’s how the history goes:

Ant-Man prime was Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym. His discovery of a chemical substance he dubbed “Pym particles” urged his becoming a superhero, as the particles could allow him to alter his size while maintaining his strength. Sharing his discover with then-girlfriend, later wife Janet van Dyne, he became Ant-Man and she became the Wasp, also able to fly. They became founding members of the Avengers, and Pym was, in the comic series, the original creator of omnicidal robot Ultron. He took on a number of other titles, such as Giant-Man, Goliath, and Yellowjacket. He is present as the next Ant-Man’s mentor (and perhaps more?) in the Ant-Man movie, portrayed by Michael Douglas.

The second, Scott Lang, was a thief who became Ant-Man after first stealing the Ant-Man suit to help his sick daughter. With the encouragement of Pym, Lang became the hero, reforming his thieving ways. In true Marvel tradition, he was killed and brought back to life, his daughter became a heroine, and he joined the Avengers for a period. He is present as the main character and hero in the Ant-Man movie, played by Paul Rudd.

Eric O’Grady, not present in the film (Probably), is the third Ant-Man and, like his predecessor, came into possessions of the suit by stealing it from S.H.I.E.L.D. A man of few morals and even fewer scruples, O’Grady used the suit to primarily seduce women. He had a short-lived comic series, and ended up joining the Avengers and then The Thunderbolts, and then Secret Avengers (It has the name because nobody wants to admit their on the team) before dying at the hands of a villain named Father.

The final (though not current, as he exists only in a separate universe – and dies like right away) Ant-Man is Chris McCarthy. He appears first in the Irredeemable Ant-Man #1 in 2006. In this story, he’s friends with Eric O’Grady. He and O’Grady knocked Hank Pym unconscious, stole the suit, and McCarthy shrunk, getting lost in the helicarrier at the one-inch size. The helicarrier is attacked, and McCarthy dies. O’Grady takes the suit from him.

With rumors that Ant-Man already has a sequel in the works, will we see more of these names, especially since this info apparently comes from the future.

Ant-Man can time travel
Picture taken July 15th, 2015

Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed this trip back through history. Ant-Man comes out today, in theaters, and we’re sure at least a few people will go see it.

Strange, Hugo: Character Corner

Hugo Strange
Hugo Strange

Batman’s villains are many and varied. The Joker’s chaotic jokes, Two-Face’s split-personality shenanigans, and the Riddler’s deadly games are just a thin slice of the delicious villain-cake that Batman has to eat (battle) endlessly. These enemies have their personalities set in stone; their origin stories, though perhaps approached with different details, result equally: Joker is an insane clown, the Penguin is a malformed mobster, Mr. Freeze is in his suit, searching for a way to help his wife. Most of the villains have this attribute, but not all of them.

Hugo Strange, mad-scientist-psychologist extraordinaire, is not one of the simple villains.

“Original” History

Strap in. We’re about to take a ride through the fourth dimension.

Hugo Strange first appeared in 1940, in Detective Comics #36, as a scientist that used a concentrated lightning machine to create a dense fog, in which he would rob banks. He escapes from the city’s asylum (before it was dubbed Arkham) and uses a growth hormone to turn a number of other escapees into mindless monsters. Batman beats him. This version maintains Strange’s bald head, glasses, and enviable neckbeard. He returned in the ‘70s: Strange is found running a private hospital, which Bruce Wayne checks in to for radiation burns. Strange discovers Wayne’s secret identity and attempts to auction the knowledge. A crime boss named Rupert Thorne tortures Strange to death before he can get the information out of him, but it was really a yoga technique to slow his heart, and later plots against Batman and Thorne, “haunting” Thorne and trying to weaken Wayne before taking his place. He is killed, perhaps for real, when his replica Wayne manor explodes.

Strange seems to be truly dead. In that universe, at least.

The above version is known as the “Earth-One” version. In the Earth-Two version, the origin is the same, up to his apparent death in the forties. Having barely survived the fall, Strange is left crippled and unable to enact his revenge, during which time the Batman of Earth-Two dies. He finally regains his health, and uses his earlier weather machine to take revenge on Batman, Robin, and Batwoman. I know I just said Batman died, but it was the Earth-Two Batman. The Earth-One Batman joined with the other two somehow. Strange was defeated, and ended up using the Cosmic Rod to commit suicide. These events were erased from existence in the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline in 85-86.

We’ve all had days like that.

The next version of Dr. Strange is the “New Earth” version. His origin is similar, but he discovers Batman’s secret identity even quicker – it quickly becomes the running theme for later versions of Strange. He makes his own version of the Batman suit to try and defeat him, attempts to turn public mind against Batman, and kidnaps the mayor’s daughter. He is shot twice and dumped into a river. Having faked his death, he makes his triumphant return by murdering a millionaire. He vows to destroy Batman, in mind and body, using Scarecrow’s toxin. He is nearly successful, but falls into the ocean while fighting Scarecrow.

Sure you are, Strange
Sure you are

Deciding he must kill Bruce Wayne if he wishes to become Batman, he kidnaps Catwoman and confronts Bruce Wayne, who maintains his innocence, escaping and returning as Batman. During the fight, the Batmobile explodes, seemingly killing Batman for once. Strange broke into the Wayne manor wearing his Batsuit, fighting Nightwing and Robin, escaping quickly. The explosion did not kill Batman, but did temporarily confuse Wayne, making him forget he was Batman. Strange suffers a breakdown, voluntarily checking himself into Arkham. He participates in a few smaller adventures, featuring Strange in secondary roles, land him on another planet with a number of other villains.

We’ve almost got the threads unraveled.

In 2011, DC combined all of its existing franchises into one continuity. The Hugo Strange in this continuity – dubbed “Prime Earth” – worked at Arkham Asylum, alongside Harleen Quinzel. His first appearance was in 2012. He hasn’t done much of interest, but is a presence nonetheless.

Extras

Hugo Strange grew in the public eye thanks to his magnificent presence in the Arkham City video game. He is able to discern Batman’s true identity, and gets Wayne interred as a result. This kicks off the events of the game. His appearance in the game tracks with his comic book look, but otherwise he is an unknown entity.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this strange character corner. Come back soon for more fun fan information!

July Fourth Superheroes

July Fourth Captain America
You’re welcome

Two of the most well-known superheroes, Captain America and Superman, are both patriotically-minded. Captain America’s red, white, and blue fandom is well-known, and Superman (who, some would say, is the Ur-example of a superhero) was raised on all-American values straight from the vein of the land, by Mr. and Mrs. Kent. So, what adventures do they, and other classic capes, do during this summer holiday, July Fourth?

First off, there’s a likely supervillain attack during these dates. There’s actually a Batman villain named Calendar Man, who pulls heists based on holidays. There are so many villains, in both universes, that the idea these characters have a day off – especially during July Fourth – is almost unthinkable. But not completely.

DC:

As Superman is the star-spangled boy scout, he likely enjoys July Fourth a trifle more than the others (even though Wonder Woman’s outfit is red, white, and blue from beginning all the way until nowish), and so it’s up to him to make it fun. Sometimes he has it at the JLA watchtower, address: the moon. There, it’s a tasteful cocktail party, during which they view the simultaneous firework shows all across the U.S. in a glorious panorama of flashing colors that only the super-privileged few can witness.

He also might invite the other superheroes down to the farm. John and Martha Kent know a thing or two about feeding superheroes a healthy home-cooked meal. As long as he can handle a healthy dose of Diana-is-so-nice-you-two-should-get-together, Superman no doubt enjoys having his brightly-dressed and patriotic friends over for dinner.

Marvel:

Depending on what version of Captain America we’re wrestling with (either the movie version, recently awoken and still with one foot in the forties, or the comic book version, which was thawed from the ice in the sixties and is now a little more caught-up). Given the first version, Cap will probably love the classic arrangements of July Fourth, the bbqs and the fireworks and Off, a spray which usually fails to fulfill its promise in relation to bugs and their distance from you.

If we have the comic version of Cap to manipulate, he’ll see the normal trappings and want to kick it up a notch. He’ll set up the fireworks himself, plan the buffet in immaculate detail, and have the SHIELD lab boys develop a powerful new anti-insect toxin which is safe for humans. Since comic books must have a conflict, this will result in a powerful, dangerous new villain that arises, somehow, from the chaos of the event, and must be put in his place by the assembled Marvel cast, be they Avengers or otherwise.

Of course it’s hard to tell what any given character would do for July Fourth, but we can at least be certain we’ll be enjoying ourselves as well. So go on, have a great weekend.