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Archive for May, 2008

My Top Ten Favorite Superheroes:
Number 2- The Incredible Hulk

21

May

Posted by Steve

colorsofhulkdom.jpg
The above image is from an article entitled The Many Colors of Hulkdom which you can read here.

As a kid, I sat down faithfully week to week with my family to tune in to the adventures of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as David Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk.  I was hooked on the story of a man plagued by a metamorphisis that would take over whenever he became angry or outraged.   Unlike some friends of mine, I was never scared of the big green guy.  I never saw him as mean or unfriendly…unless it was to those who were mean and unfriendly.  In fact, The Incredible Hulk was my hero.  He was the savior of anyone who had been picked on, bullied, or backed into a corner and had no escape. 

303px_Hulk_003.jpgA lof of people have a hard time wrapping their head around the Hulk. In fact, most people prefer the Hulk in his gray, smart, “darker” incarnation. Not me. My Hulk is the big green, super-strong, albeit unintelligent Hulk. That is not to say that I don’t like the Hulk in any incarnation. I think all forms of The Incredible Hulk have their merit. Big, green, and dumb is my favorite though. Why? Because I believe that the green Hulk represents the core of who the character is supposed to be. The Hulk is the personified rage and passion of Robert Bruce Banner. The Hulk is that which Banner would never openly allow himself to be. In fact, I remember an issue of The Incredible Hulk where Banner found himself inside of his own psyche unable to think or speak coherently. The Hulk, however, was speaking intelligently and coherently. The reason for this was the two were in the emotional center of Banner’s brain, and when it comes to emotions, Banner is incapable of expressing himself. Erego, the gamma radiation that Banner was blasted with manifesting itself as Banner metamorphosing into a creature fueled by sheer emotion.

I’ve said before that I really enjoy the superheroes who have strength based super powers. Well, just ask him and the Hulk will tell you, “Hulk is the Strongest one there is!” And strong he is friends. secretwarsstrength.jpgIn fact, shown to the left is one of my favorite covers of all time.  It’s my favorite not because it’s full of color or has an incredibly epic splash of hundreds of heroes done up Georg Perez style.  It’s my one of my favorite’s not because it shows an iconic/epic battle that the reader will get to sit in on in the pages to follow.   Its my favorite because it is the Hulk…standing strong…UNDER A MOUNTAIN!  I remember reading Secret Wars #4 for the first time and being so stressed.  During the Secret Wars, Bruce Banner had control of the Hulk, so as he stood holding up the mountain, he was losing strength because he was so rational about the situation.  Reed Richards stepped in and started insulting the Hulk making him angrier and angrier…why?  To make him stronger.  For we all know that “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.”  Another thing I love about this cover is the fact that the only one standing in that picture is The Hulk, and not only is he standing, he’s holding UP THE FREAKING MOUNTAIN!  That’s strength.  And, as I’ve said repeatedly I enjoy the super power of super strength for some reason.

I also relate to the Hulk in that he has always been misunderstood.  Throughout the history of the Hulk, he has sought to be left alone while at the same time accepting friendship wherever and from whomever he can find it.  It seems a paradox that his mantra would be “Hulk wants to be left alone” while he ferociously clings to the friends he has made in his journey.  I guess to explain my connection to this aspect of the Hulk, I have to get somewhat personal.  I think everyone knows what it’s like to be picked on, or to feel like no one understands you.   Some people experience those feelings and move on.  Others, however, allow their lives to be shaped by feeling like an outsider or like they have no friends.  I’m not talking about being emo and lame.  Rather, the people who have had to deal with real wounds left by uncaring words tossed in their direction.  People who are genuinely nice and good, but just don’t fit the mold that other’s think they should fit into.  Again, I’m not talking about whiny kids who choose to be different, I’m talking about the chunky kids, the kids who didn’t grow fast enough, or grew too fast, the girls who blossomed too early or too late, the clumsy kids, the kids who had enough different about them from everyone else, that they were an easy target to get picked on.   We have that feeling of wanting to run away from everything, but at the same time we wish for just one good friend who will look past what makes us different and just hang out with us.  Being from that group of kids, I always understood the Hulk’s frustrationHulkJacket.gif with the army and those who hunted him down, and I understood his joy at finding a friend who liked him for who he was and tried to understand him.

I guess the main reason I appreciate the Hulk though (the green, dumb Hulk) is that he is a good guy. He looks out for the weak. The smashing he does is always in retaliation to someone attacking him. He doesn’t lash out for no reason. Is there collateral damage from the battles the Hulk goes through? Yes. Why are people always quick to point that out though and slow to mention how many people SHOULD have been hurt in an Avenger’s battle with Kang or the FF’s latest battle with Doctor Doom? I guess the point I come to is that The Hulk would never intentionally hurt someone who doesn’t first try to hurt him. In fact, given the choice, the Hulk will protect those who are in harm’s way when they are unable to protect themselves. That’s a hero. Plain and simple.

I’ve talked mostly about the green, dumb version of the Hulk that most people seem to dislike more than the other incarnations. It needs to be said that I enjoy the Hulk in any form. I like the gray Hulk, I like the big green smart (Professor) version of the Hulk that Peter David created. I enjoyed the Hulk of Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. However, I feel all of those incarnations lacked the innocence of the Jade Giant. None of them lacked his heroism, though. I think World War Hulk was a morality tale of sorts that showed what happened when one’s rage goes unchecked. The Hulk allowed himself to be manipulated into hulk2.gifgoing on the attack against those who sent him off planet in the first place.  In the end, it was one of those he had chosen to trust who was responsible for the death of his wife and millions of others on Planet Hulk.  (I know the planet’s name wasn’t Planet Hulk…I just like calling it that.  It was Sakaar.) In the end of World War Hulk, though, the Hulk nearly sacrificed himself to save New York.   The gray version of the Hulk would never admit it, but he always winds up doing the right thing.  The “Professor” version of the Hulk, while still hunted and misunderstood, was the most blatantly heroic of the Hulk incarnations.  

The Hulk is an interesting look into the rawest most extreme parts of the human psyche.  He is also a reminder to try to look for the good in even the most different of people around us.  He is a warning to never let anger and rage go unchecked.  He is a good hearted soul who is driven by such raw emotion that he can be a most viscious foe or the fiercest friend a person has ever known.

I know for most the Hulk would never be considered in the top 2 of their favorite Super Heroes.  For me, that’s just another reason that he’s there.  I feel like I “get” the big guy…in any incarnation…except this red guy….who is that fella?   To read more about the Hulk, pick up some of the items below and help out the site.

Geek Out Loud Episode 11 – The Invincible Iron Podcast

17

May

Posted by Steve

In this episode the big topic of discussion is IRON MAN. (Three weeks late.) I also talk a very little bit about the new DARK KNIGHT and INCREDIBLE HULK trailers and TV spots. You can check out the new DARK KNIGHT trailer here and the new INCREDIBLE HULK TRAILER here.

Here is the latest INCREDIBLE HULK TV spot:

And you can watch the latest DARK KNIGHT trailer right here.

To catch up on your Iron Man reading check out these items over at Amazon and help support the site:

My Top Ten Favorite Superheroes:
Number 3- Batman

8

May

Posted by Steve

Batman_Poster.jpgOf all the top ten posts I’ve written so far, this may end up being the most controversial. Everyone loves Batman. There are so many people (maybe even you as you read this) who say that Batman is by far their favorite super hero. For me though, he’s not my number 1. He’s not even my number 2. As you can see, Batman falls into the number 3 slot as my favorite super hero. Keep in mind that I’m not saying Batman should be number 3 on everyone’s list, that’s just where he falls on mine. Batman is almost as iconic if not as iconic as Superman. Thanks to multiple television series, cartoon series, and movies, he is one of the few super heroes who is readily recognizable to the general public.

Batman is an appealing super hero for several different reasons. For many, the first thing they jump to is that Batman has no super powers. That’s never been a selling point for me when it comes to super heroes. While it makes for an interesting character, it kind of takes the super out of super hero. So what makes Batman a super hero? Not his lack of super powers, but the fact that he has honed his mind and body to the limits of human perfection and beyond. The key there is the “beyond.” Bruce Wayne has pushed himself to be the world’s greatest fighter and the world’s greatest thinker. That is pretty super. Sure, bullets don’t bounce off his chest, and he can’t shoot lasers out of his eyes, but compared to even the best fighters and detectives out there, he’s super.

What I like most about Batman is a combination of things that go beyond what he can or cannot do. Batman has a sincere respect for life, he has a no nonsense attitude, and he’s got some pretty cool gadgets and machinery at his disposal.

Starting with the Batmobile, Batman – thanks to the riches at Bruce Wayne’s disposal – has some of the coolest toys a super hero could ask for. Helicopter, personal jet thingie, motorcycles, submersible, a belt full of cool stuff.CP1290_Mythology_Batman.jpg Add to that a belt full of gadgets and gizmos ranging from batarangs and suspension lines to a lead lined pouch where Bats may or may not be keeping a kryptonite ring entrusted to him by Superman and you have yourself the man who has everything. Back in the fifties television show (and to some extent the Superfriends cartoons) Batman had anything and everything he could ever imagine strapped to his waste or at least near at hand. (Bat-Shark Repellent anyone?). In the comics though, the gadgets and tech take on a much more practical feel for the urban warrior. Night vision, listening devices, lock picks, everything a detective and vigilante needs to fight crime and bring down the baddies.

Even though Batman having everything he needs for every possible occasion makes for an easy humor target, he takes his work and his mission VERY seriously. I really tend to like and appreciate people who (as I say) just don’t give a dook. Batman tells it like it is to those around him. He’ll match wits with a mystic like Dr. Fate and put gods in their place all with his sharp wit and willingness to say whatever he feels needs to be said to get his point across and motivate others to action. One of my favorite examples of this is in the first issue of DC’s big crossover event of a couple of years back Infinite Crisis. As he, Superman, and Wonder Woman stand in the midst of the ruins of the JLA watchtower, he calls on Superman to get to Earth and lead people and heroes alike to rise up and stand firm. Superman, not wanting to take on that role tells Batman that he’s not a dictator, he’s not even a leader, it’s not what he does. At that, Batman explains to Superman that he inspires people. Then he adds, “And frankly, ‘Superman’, you haven’t inspired anyone since you died.” OH SNAP!!!! But you know what Superman did? He got to work.

Finally, the thing that makes Batman my number 3 is exactly what he stands for.batman_poster.jpgWhile Batman’s mission is birthed out of the death of his parents at the hands of a mugger, his quest is not one of vengeance, but justice. Yeah, he skirts the line between sanity and insanity. Sure, he’s obsessed more than just about any other hero in comicdom. Yes, he uses fear and intimidation as his favorite weapons, but at te end of the day, he wants justice. His shares with Superman (the hero to whom he is most often compared to or chosen over) a profound respect for life. He will not cross that line. While other vigilantes that are comparible to Batman (Punisher) would waste guys like the Joker and Two Face, Batman prefers to trust the system that he so effectively works outside of…even after repeatedly facing these criminals again and again.  That’s a big deal, because it says that at his core, Batman not only trusts the law he seeks to uphold, but he trusts life as well.   Kind of inspiring for one of the darker heroes out there.

So, while I know that Batman tends to test better in geek circles than the Big Blue Boyscout,  that’s not quite the case with me.  However, his iconography, his neverending battle for life and what’s right, his refusal to beat around the bush, and all of those cool gadgets work together to put Batman near the top of my top ten favorites.

A Secret Communications Disruption Can Mean Only One Thing…
Secret Invasion #1 (Reviewed)

3

May

Posted by Steve

NEWAVN00_COV.jpgDid you catch that Phantom Menace reference there?

My favorite crossover event ever is Marvel’s Secret Wars. That series blatantly gave us heroes vs. villains for 12 solid issues. That’s what I love about comic books, the good vs. evil aspect of things. I feel like the real world has enough gray areas, and I like my comics to have things at least a little more black and white. So it was, that I enjoyed Civil War only minimally. I thought it was a good story, and I thought it was intriguing, but I didn’t like the fact that the sides weren’t as clear cut as a good ole good vs. evil slugfest. I will say it again, there’s enough gray in the real world.

Apparently, Brian Michael Bendis has been preparing for the Skrull invasion for a couple of years now. This Summer, it all comes to fruition. This month it began.

I’ve tried to make it clear in the past that I have been out of the comic book loop for a while now in an attempt to get my finances under control. Well, my finances are such now that I am able to delve back into the world of comics. I meant to only subscribe to two or three titles, but it was like a tractor beam of fun that sucked me right in. I’m on board with Marvel and DC’s big crossover events this year, and I’m even getting the weekly DC title for the next year, “Trinity.” I’ve said all that to say this….I’m totally getting Secret Invasion.

This first issue delivers the first of what promises to be several surprises and  questions and quandries for our heroes that will most likely not be answered or cleared up until 6 or 7 issues in to the story.

The surprises?  Well, Jarvis is a Skrull.  That was a pretty big one to me.  Apparently, everyone who read the prelude to Invasion knew that Dum Dum Dugan was a Skrull.  So, no surprise there.   One of the bigger surprises happens on the very last page in the very last panel as Reed Richards, on the cusp of revealing why the Skrulls can’t be detected and in turn plausibly may be on the verge of a way to detect them, is turned into a big pile of goo by Hank Pym who, it turns out, is a Skrull.

The questions and quandries?  Well, there is the question of who “He” is.   There is no question of the religious implications in what the Skrulls are doing.   Out of  some sort of twisted Manifest Destiny  philosophy, the Skrulls believe that Earth is destined to be their new throneworld.   However, the question is, who is He and what does it mean when the Skrulls say “He loves you.”  right before they cause all holy heck to break loose?

The biggest question however, outside of who is a skrull and who isn’t, is are those Skrulls  that get out of the ship at the end of the story or not.  I’m inclined to believe that they are Skrulls that didn’t make it to Earth when they were supposed to given the outfits of some.  Wolvering looks a lot like his first appearance in Hulk 181, and Luke Cage looks like he stepped off the pages of a seventies or eighties comic.  Then, there’s the presence of Captain America and Thor in the mix.   The presence of Thor screams Skrull because of what’s going on right now in his own title.   Captain America reeks of Skrull as well because of the fact that when Steve Rogers died, he didn’t revert to Skrull form like Elektra did, so it stands to reason that the Steve Rogers who died on the steps of the court house was the real Steve Rogers.

This first issue of what is to be Marvel’s big crossover event of the year did everything it needed to do.   It set the stage for what will hopefully be a big good vs. evil battle between our heroes the World’s would-be conquerers.  Not only were there a few Skrully reveals, but the whole Armada showed up as well, ready to do battle and take over the Earth.  So, I am on board to see where this thing goes, and I don’t mind saying that I’m anxious for all of the mystery to end and the fighting to ramp up and really begin.

So, how do I rank this book?

STORY 4 out of 5 –  I give this book a four only because it was a bit tedious at parts.  That seems to be Bendis’ way sometimes though.   It was a great first part of the story, as I’ve said, though.  The only other reason I have for docking a point is the fact that there really isn’t anything to help a first time comic reader understand what’s going on.  One of my favorite things about comics in the older days was when something was referenced there was an editor’s note that told the reader where to go to read about the events mentioned.

ART 3 out of 5 –  Nothing really stuck out to me about the art of this book.  I feel like there should have been a splash page used for the reveal of the people in the ship and there wasn’t.  There were times where I looked at the page and just really didn’t enjoy what was there.  I don’t mean to sound to critical, but the art just isn’t anything to rave about here.

COVER 4 out of 5 – I really like the main version of the cover.  I like the silhouette of some of Marvel’s greatest heroes looking like Skrulls.  It does look quite cool.  However, it really doesn’t show what’s going on inside the book does it?

VARIANT BLANK COVER 1 OUT OF 5 – Variant covers have become a given in comics these days.  With sell outs abounding, it’s almost like the comic companies just go ahead and commission covers to be variants.  Apparently not for this book.  I totally don’t get the meaning of the blank variant cover and it seems a bit lazy.

As Iron Sharpens Movies

2

May

Posted by Steve

iron_man_poster.jpgBig night for Steve tonight. I just got home from seeing Iron Man, Smallville was huge, and…well, that’s about it. But those two things alone are enough to make tonight a HUGE night and a great one. Let’s talk Iron Man.

You can go to just about any website this weekend and find at least one or two reviews of Marvel’s latest motion picture offering. Ain’t It Cool alone has five reviews from regular contributers and a plethora of reviews from readers of the site. So, the question is, “What can you add Steve?” “What can you say that hasn’t already been said?”

Three words, “OH MY LANTA!!!!” I think that about sums it up. GOOD NIGHT EVERYBODY!

Seriously though, Iron Man is quite possibly the best offering from Marvel since Spider-Man 2.

For me, judging a super hero movie comes down to two big things:

1. Is it true to the source material?

2. Is it fun without making fun of it’s content? In other words, is it too campy?

First, you could take the origin story that is Iron Man the movie and use it to replace the original origin story from the comics with it, and you would still have a long lasting character and long running comic book that wouldn’t look much different from what we have had for nearly forty years of Iron Man in the comics. Pretty true to the source material I would say.

Secondly, Iron Man is fun. There are some awesome moments throughout the movie. Not just the action scenes, mind you, the whole idea of watching Stark create the armor is great and it breeds some funny stuff. But, it never goes to the point of MAKING FUN of what Iron Man is and who the character has been. It’s no Batman Begins in terms of “darkness” or seriousness, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a totally different character and a totally different universe. Unlike Bruce Wayne who merely plays the role of a billionaire playboy, Tony Stark IS a billionaire playboy. He takes the true hero’s journey in this film, and therein lies the drama. However, the drama isn’t so heavy that you miss out on the fun of a full fledged super hero movie.

As far as all the other elements of a movie go, Iron Man comes up all A’s. Everyone turns in great performances, Jon Favreau directed this movie in expert fashion, and the special effects are so good, that you don’t even notice them. It’s hard to tell when you’re looking at a digital effect and a practical effect. That’s a great thing.

Iron Man suffers from one weakness. It’s so good that there are fifty million outstanding reviews out there. If you read them all, you may go in expecting the CITIZEN KANE of super hero movies. This is not Donner’s Superman. But it’s close. I look forward to a second one not in hopes that things will get better, but because the first one is that good. So, go in expecting to have fun and watch a good movie and you won’t be disappointed at all.

If you want spoilers, or my thoughts on more specific moments of the movie (Read: My reaction to the scene after the credits.) then check out Geek Out Loud early next week. Make sure you go to geekoutpodcast.com to listen and subscribe.

In closing, go see this movie, and stay through the credits. Then come back here and leave a comment or two.