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The Seventies as DC’s Bronze Age Golden Age

2 Oct

A regular comment from comic book fans is that every fan has their own “Golden Age” of comics and that it is the time when they began reading. This is very true for me personally.  I began collecting comics in the early 1990s and quickly tracked down various post-Crisis books, so my “Golden Age” of collecting is from about 1986-1996.  I have a soft spot from then until 2003, when I had to sell my collection to pay bills as young, single dad.  When I began reading comics again in 2007, it felt like a “Silver Age” to me.  I found out my favorite character, Hal Jordan, had come back and been joined by the entire GLC.  A new crisis had happened, which reinvigorated many titles.  This gave me almost twenty years of comics to truly enjoy and then this summer I discovered a magical new decade: the 1970s.

As a DC Comics fan, I am truly impressed with the volume of good titles DC published during the era.  For one thing, Kirby had just come to DC and his Fourth World of books are widely acclaimed.  I knew I loved these books.  But I had not read any of his other books, though I was familiar with Kamandi and the Demon, through their latter appearances.  That all changed at Heroes Con in Charlotte this summer, where I found 10 issues of Kamandi, which is easily one of the most insane and over the top books I have ever read. I also picked up my first issues of Warlord.  I was vaguely familiar with Travis Morgan from sundry crossovers, but to read some of Mike Grell’s original run was exciting and made me want to dig deeper into the world he created.  But my favorite book I got to sample for the first time was the original Len Wein Swamp Thing. Like most, I discovered Swamp Thing because of Alan Moore and I still think he wrote the best run on the character.  I enjoyed the New 52 series also. But to finally have a chance to read the original run by Wein and see just how many of the characters were there from the beginning and to see how it all fit together was a joy.

But just because I got lucky at a convention, that doesn’t mean the 1970s were all good, I can hear you say.  So what other characters were created there during this time period?  Jonah Hex was created in 1972 and gone onto be one of the most beloved Western characters to have never been played by John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.  Ra’s Ah Ghul and his daughter appeared in 1971.  John Stewart debuted in the same year.  Power Girl, my favorite Supergirl, was created in 1976.

The decade included groundbreaking runs in their ongoing books also.  For example, the classic Green Lantern Green Arrow team-up series occurred during this time.  The Bat books were revitalized, as was the Superman books with the infamous “Kryptonite nevermore” tale. The incredible All Star Comics revival began in 1976.  Batman of Earth 2 died in 1979.  Cockrum and Grell’s runs on the Legion introduced some of the most popular characters to the team and told classic tales.  And DC first licensed the Marvel Family in 1972.

The 1980s and 90s of DC Comics are far and away my favorite period in comic book history.  The decade of the 2000s brought me back to the hobby I had missed so much.  And though the New 52 was a failed experiment overall, it and Rebirth have had some amazing moments, with much potential.  But for sheer creative ideas and groundbreaking tales, the 1970s have a great deal to offer the fans of the DCU.  Kirby, Wein, and a legion of other creators told some of the best books in DC’s history. DC-Explosion2

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The Great Heroic Discovery of the 80s: Captain Atom

25 Sep

I recently discovered podcasts and I have highly enjoyed Views from the Longbox.  In trying to catch up on ten years’ worth of podcasts, I recently heard the host make a statement I really liked: he said that when he first read Mister Miracle, he would look at a cover and think he would hate it, but then would realize he loved it.  I recently discovered some of Kirby’s DC work (other than the New Gods which I already loved) and completely understand that.  Sometimes, books can surprise you.  I recently had a major eye-opening experience with an ENTIRE series I didn’t think I would like.  I found the 1980s Captain Atom series in a quarter bin and LOVED IT!

On paper, it is a series I should have known I would love. In case you never noticed the title of this blog is The Tin Foiled Hat Society, but I love conspiracies.  And Captain Atom’s backstory for this series is that he is a government conspiracy come to life.  It’s also absolutely a child of its time period: this series is an 80s action film in comic book form. There are corrupt CIA agents, running paramilitary groups.  POWs must be rescued.  And once again, there is a giant military conspiracy waiting to be discovered and dealt with.  Imagine the 80s cartoon of G. I. Joe, with a super-powered Duke leading the way.

But my introduction to Captain Atom was as the straight man to the JLI.  Now, I ADORE that series.  Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and Mister Miracle quickly became some of my favorite characters.  And Batman and the Martian Manhunter were there as the straight men from the beginning.  All of a sudden, Captain Atom arrives and is meant to play a similar role.  And yet, he is also arrogant, as can be seen when he helped rescue the JLI in Bialya.  He took over the JLE soon thereafter and was once again the straight man.  None of this provided much to grab hold onto.

And then I read the series.  Now, to be completely honest, I could not track down the first two issues.  Otherwise, though I read the other 55 issues and the annuals for the series.  And it is one amazing series from start to finish.  Right away, we are introduced to one of the most fully developed supporting casts I have seen in years. Nathanial Adam, Captain Atom, spent almost twenty years trapped in the quantum field, and during that time, his wife remarried the Nathanial’s commanding officer and then died.  His children had grown to almost be his age and became important parts of the series, as was their step-dad.  Megala, the scientist behind the Captain Atom experiment, was an active part of the book, as was his body-guard, Babylon.  Finally, Cap’s best friend was an active part.

The book reads much like I could imagine a well written Captain America series could.  It played off Nathanial’s “man out of time” struggles.  He had job issues, as he worked for his wife’s new husband.  Eiling, the commanding officer, also doubles as an arch-nemesis throughout much of the book, although other villains definitely play a role in the book.  And my personal favorite part of the book dealt with the conspiracy.  The military uses Captain Atom as a secret weapon to spy on the other super heroes of the DC universe.  As part of his back up story, they create an elaborate back story about how he was supposedly a hero of the past, just now coming out to the world.  This led to imaginary former foes being created and a past relationship with Ted Kord’s predecessor as the Blue Beetle.

If I had any complaint at all, it would be the end of the book.  Cary Bates was the author for almost the entire run of the series.  But suddenly he disappeared in the last few issues.  There were a few fill-in writers, before John Ostrander wrote the conclusion to the book.  Each of the authors did a decent job, and I love Ostrander’s work.  But I would personally have preferred to see Bates finish the series his way.  But even that is a minor complaint.

I went into the series not expecting much.  Finding it for about fourteen bucks though made it an intriguing buy.  The artwork is kind of dated, but personally I have always loved Pat Broderick who did much of the book’s art.  The characters are great and welcome additions to the DC Universe. DC recently updated the ideas of the series for Rebirth and it was also a fun read, though definitely not the amazing run from the eighties.  If you get the chance and enjoy action films from the eighties or conspiracy stories, or basically self-contained super-hero stories, I definitely recommend you read it. Captain_Atom_001

Rebirth Round 1

11 Nov

We are now in the fifth month of DC’s Rebirth initiative.  The New 52, which had opened to financial success, had alienated many longtime DC readers.  Though I was extremely disappointed in the line overall, I stuck with the New 52 and enjoyed many individual titles, from each launch period.  After five years, though, DC decided the best way to reconnect with their fans was to begin to bring back much of the classic DCU, while not destroying the foundation of the reboot.  Sales have been stellar, pushing DC into the number 1 spot for the last several months.  But is this a better foundation of titles than the New 52 or are we setting up for another big fall a few months down the line?

Personally, I have enjoyed almost all of the titles and have tried the vast majority of the titles that have been published.  Batman, DC’s regular benchmark title, has lost Scott Snyder who dominated the New 52, month in and month out.  And yet, in spite of this, the new Rebirth Batman title has also been a huge success for DC.  The story of the Gothams was high octane, superhero melodrama.  And though I didn’t enjoy the Night of the Monsters crossover as much, the Suicide Squad story seems to have returned the title to its rightful spot in the DC pantheon.  Detective Comics, a title that floundered from writer to writer in the previous series, has similarly experienced great success.  The initial storyline, based around a secret military unit based off of Batman’s tech and training, was exciting and created a new status quo for the Bat-Family.  And its second solo storyline looks to continue this excitement.  And for those of us who loved Scott Snyder’s Batman can take heart as his All Star Batman title has been his typical, crazy but fun ride.  The only complaint I have about it is that it is a rare title that only ships once a month.

The Superman titles are similarly experiencing some of the most fun stories they have seen in a while.  Specifically, the Superman title might be the best it has been years.  Having “my Superman” back and experiencing the trials of father-hood have been fantastic.  And though Kon-El, by Karl Kesel, will always be my Superboy, Jonathon has been a joy to read about.  I especially loved the two part love letter to the New Frontier, which just wrapped up.  Dan Jurgens has been writing Superman over in Action Comics.  Hopefully, everyone is familiar with Jurgens’s Superman work.  And though I don’t think it has been as exciting, it has been reestablishing Superman’s role in Metropolis.  He has placed the “real Lois” back at the Daily Planet, and he is now playing with Geoff Johns’s idea of Lex Luthor being the replacement of Darkseid. It boggles the mind.

I hope to have more to say about the relaunch over the next few days.  Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern titles, and more have similar successes to look at.  Meanwhile, DC Entertainment has diversified their publishing line with a renewed focus on the Hannah Barbara characters and new line called Young Animal which reminds me of the classic Vertigo concept.  But the bottom line is, even though DC upset many fans over the last few years, Rebirth really seems to be living up to its name.  The price drop for almost all of DC’s titles to $2.99 and the 2x monthly shipping seems to be working.  The company seems to be sitting at the best spot it has been in years.  Keep it up!    

Marvel and the Never Ending Civil War

9 May

If you listen to the entertainment media, it is not a good time to be a DC fanboy, and I have been one my entire life.  For some reason, Batman v Superman was torn apart in the media and people act like it was a complete bomb, in spite of making $850 million.  And people have been complaining that DC has been completely invested in maiming characters and trying to make their comics as dark as possible.  At the same time, we are assured that Marvel Comics is experiencing a golden age, in both print and at the movies.  Civil War just opened and automatically we are told that it was one of the best comic book movies ever (Newsarama’s updated list places it in the top 10) and comic book creators are leaping over each other to heap praise upon it.  I would argue, however, it is more of a sign that the “House of Ideas” is completely out of ideas.  Basically, for the last ten years, Marvel has one story: hero versus hero.  There really is no need for the company to have villains as the heroes are having way too much fun smashing and clobberin’ each other to need anyone else to punch.  Don’t believe me, true believer?

Ten years, Marvel launched the comic event known as Civil War (you might have heard there is a movie based on?).  In it, Captain America and Iron Man, two of the Avengers’ Big Three, had a falling out and they convinced all of Marvel’s heroes to kick, stab, and eye blast all of the other heroes.

A few months later, World War Hulk happened.  Hulk, Marvel’s perennial grouch, decided the heroes wanted to kill him, even though he was a rare hero NO ONE tried to kill during Civil War.  So he returns to Earth, after an absence, and declares war on the world (hence the title).  The story goes so far as to have him capture four of Marvel’s most important characters, lock them in a gladiator pit, and demand they fight to the death…….almost.

A few months later, the X-men get in on the action of hero versus hero.  Famous 80s and 90s hero Bishop turns rogue (not Rogue, as she is a female X-man) on his team and tries to kill a baby.  Hopefully they took his hero card for that one.

Then we got Secret Invasion.  Please note, all four of these stories happened in a span of two years.  Now, in theory, Secret Invasion has a bad guy: the Skrulls!  Shape-shifting aliens bent on global conquest.  Definitely NOT a story where you have heroes fighting heroes.  Except for the fact that shape-shifting villains were disguised as the heroes, so fans could still see their favorite heroes punching and kicking and eye-gouging each other every month of this story.  And when you realize half the time it was the heroes fighting the heroes because they thought they were the shape-shifting alien villains…..at this point my head begins to spin.

Still, when all was said and done, fans finally had to wait for two years to see their favorite heroes fighting each other again.  But then, Shadowland happened and the Netflix superhero Daredevil beat up a bunch of not so super-superheroes.

In 2011, fans had two opportunities to read Marvel’s one storyline.  In Fear Itself, an ancient evil transformed several Marvel heroes and villains into his evil tools and unleashed marvelous chaos on the Marvel Universe.  And the X-men, the team of the 90s, fought it out in Schism, in which perennial bad boy of the X-men, Wolverine, is revealed to actually be the good boy of the X-men and former boy scout troop leader of the X-people Cyclops is outed as Marvel’s new favorite anti-hero.

And it’s just in time because the next year sees him lead his team of no longer merry mutants against the Avengers in Avengers vs. X-men.  For anyone keeping score, this was the eighth such story in six years.  This time, the Phoenix force, which caused Marvel’s most famous hero versus hero storyline of all time, returned to earth and possessed new heroes.  Cyclops, possessed bad boy, kills his mentor and ends up in jail.

A year later, Age of Ultron happened.  Now, much like Secret Invasion, this story hardly seems to be a case of hero versus hero at first glance.  Instead, evil robot Ultron finally conquers Earth……in the future.  Future Avengers decide the best way to stop Ultron is to send a hero, no longer trophy bad boy Wolverine, into the past and have him kill Hank Pym, the hero who created Ultron.  Hero kills hero…..check!

2014 once again saw two stories of hero versus hero rage.  In Original Sin, not at all to be confused with Identity Crisis, someone kills the Watcher.  Marvel heroes search all over and fight with each other over who might have been involved, only to find out former hero (instead of a hero’s wife…..I see what you did there Marvel!) Nick Fury killed the Watcher.  A few months later saw Axis, a story all about making heroes fight heroes again.  Which was good.  Because after 11 times in 8 years, people might have forgotten what Marvel comics was all about.

I debate whether to include Secret Wars, in which some Marvel heroes team up with Doom to save the Marvel Universe.  This leads to everyone fighting everyone.  But I won’t count it because in theory, it could be construed as an alternate reality, I think?

So here we are in 2016.  Marvel Studios has just released what everyone will tell you is the greatest superhero movie of all time!  This is your chance to watch your favorite heroes beat each other and it’s really serious.  It’s so serious, in fact, that Marvel has decided to publish a comic book tie-in series, Civil War II. It’s a story so good that they had to tell you twelve times!

Scribblenauts Unmasked

23 Jul

So if you have read my blog EVER, you probably realized I like comic books. Specifically DC comics. I like them a lot. In my life, I have spent a small fortune on them. I also like video games. And if you were to ask my wife, she would probably say I spend a small fortune on them also. So when the worlds collide, few things excite me more. Enter: Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure.

Now, I must confess, if you have been researching this game at all, you may expect me to have first hand experience. Alas, I have yet to make it to a San Diego Comic Con, and haven’t actually played it. However, I am a research junkie (part of my real job). Pus, I have played Scribblenauts Remixed and consider myself knowledgable about the basics of a Scribblenauts game. Therefore, here is my preview!

For those who haven’t played a Scribblenauts game, it is an insane but fun filled concept. You are Maxwell, a rather odd looking kid with a really cool gift. He has a notebook that creates anything he writes. And I must say, having played the game for a bit, it does a great job at that. The game doesn’t typically do personal nouns well, but other that that, it does almost any noun and adjective you can think of. You want to create a schoolbus? Bam! It’s there. Want to create a school of fish? You got it. Want to have real fun? Create a wormhole and it will suck it all away! Yes, sadly, I burned ants with a magnifying glass as a child:(. No, I am not proud of it.

Now, they have decided to team up with DC and the new game allows users to create 2000 specific DC items. There are the obvious things. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League are all here. There are the expected baddies also. Darkseid, Luthor, and Joker headline. But there are also less famous characters. The L.E.G.I.O.N. is here in all of their 90s glory, as are the Secret Six. And then the game gets into the truly obscure characters: Infectious Lass (Legion of Subs) and Brother Power, a living mannequin. Even better, though, you can create entire teams by just typing the team names.

During the game, you will travel around and help solve puzzles for the various characters in the game. Many are civilians but some have been shown to involve the actual DC properties. You can create your own characters in a hero creator, which I plan on using frequently. And as you play, you score “rep” which will count as in game currency which can be used to unlock new stages belonging to one of three main branches (Superman, Batman, and the Justice League) or you can use it to purchase new costumes for Max and his sister. These costumes have the powers of the original character. Me? I want Ambush Bug’s costume. According to the developers, when you are attacked while wearing it, the real Ambush Bug will pop up and break the fourth wall, because that is just what he does!

Now, I have to admit, the game cannot create EVERYTHING from the DCU, like it is being advertised. In one interview, the dev admitted the Green Team didn’t make the cut because they were too recently updated. In another video, they admitted that many Vertigo concepts wouldn’t make the cut, because they were creator owned and specifically this game focused on DC proper concepts. But overall, the game is unbelievable in what does include. This is a game where you can attack Kingdom Come Superman with black Kryptonite. It is a game where the Green Lantern Corps can fight the war of light against the varied other recently added Corps. And quite frankly, it is THE place to create G’nort and have him chase Dex-Starr. I cannot tell you how much that excites me!

Injustice: Gods Among Us IOS

6 Apr

Recently, I have blogged several times about the upcoming console game Injustice: Gods Among Us game. I was pleasantly surprised when they recently announced a game for the iOS. I was even more surprised when the game came out this week. I must say, it is easily one of the best games I have played on my phone or iPad.

The game is an interesting hybrid game. In a lot of ways, it plays like Infinity Blade. While a fighter game, it focuses on swipes, taps, and a two finger combination to work the controls, instead of trying to utilize an on screen joystick, that never quite feels right to me. At the same time, it also is a collectible card game. At the beginning of the game, you start off with three character cards of the weakest class. Even though they belong to the weaker class, though, does not mean it skimps on interesting characters. My starting characters were Harley Quinn, Green Lantern, and Nightwing. As you play, you get other cards, including new characters.

A major thing that made several gamers happy is that the game features three on three combat. Some want the main console game to include that, but I personally enjoy that the primary game focuses on one to one combat. But for the mobile platform, the tag team option is a fun diversion.

A very exciting aspect about the game is that by having the mobile game and console game, you will be able to share special unlocked features. Now, it is not a direct translation but it is a wonderful idea. I have already unlocked two skins for the console game. I got the new 52 Green Lantern skin for beating one set of levels in the first world. And I got a Bane skin from Knightfall for rating the game. When playing the console game, there are several simple things to do which will unlock major benefits in the mobile platform.

But the best thing about the game is that it is free. Unlike many big name games, the developers of the game decided to allow the game to be free. The game has an in-app store which allows users to purchase better characters or power-up rewards. And like many free games, today though for mobile platforms, it does have the possibility to buy things with real cash. However, if you really want, you can forgo using cash because the game has its own in-game currency you get for winning battles. It is slow but I have gotten most of what I have without spending a dollar.

Many might wonder if the game is worth your time. I personally think you should give it a try. It is a simple, but highly addictive, game to me. The potential rewards to playing, especially if you plan on getting the platform game, are high. And because it is free, even if you hate the game, you haven’t wasted anything to serious. Give it a shot now!

Injustice Demo

2 Apr

As I blogged recently, I am really looking forward to Injustice: Gods Among Us, a fighting game based on DC’s pantheon of heroes and villains. Towards the end of last week, the producers announced a demo was going to be released for the Xbox and PS 3 this week. The demo was supposed to be released tomorrow for Xbox, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it came out this morning. Having played through the demo’s tier of fights for all three characters, I feel like it was time to share my thoughts for anyone considering getting the game.

The demo has three playable characters, two of whom were obvious and the third was a pleasant surprise. For fans of the DCU, there are three main characters, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. The first two made the cut for the demo, while Superman was replaced by his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor, in a powersuit. This allowed for a variety of play styles to be shown however. Batman is the quick, tech based character. He has many of his toys and uses them. My favorite move for him was a move where he latches his grappling hook around someone and then is yanked toward them, where he can deliver a massive strike. Wonder Woman is not as fast but seems to be a little stronger. The best part about being Wonder Woman is, that with the push of a button, her play style can change. Sometimes she uses her sword and shield, and at other times, she is more of a distance based character, utilizing her lasso of truth. Finally, Lex is the power player in his mechanized suit prepared to fight Superman. My 8 year old son specifically loved playing as Lex and found his staff to be very helpful. And though you cannot play as Doomsday in the demo, I was surprised he was the boss of the demo, because he wasn’t mentioned as a character in the demo!

There is one stage available to play in the demo. It is Gotham City at night, which makes sense, because if you are familiar with the comics or movies, it is night for like 93% of the time in Gotham. The stage has two parts: one is down in the street at the infamous Crime Alley and the other is on the police headquarters, beside the ever present bat-signal. The demo does a fine job of showcasing how the interactive elements of the stage work. I must confess, I preferred being Batman because on the ground, Batman can repeatedly slide the trash dump at his opponents, meanwhile the other characters are stuck with throwing things once at opponents. One thing I hadn’t really seen in the video footage from the game before today occurred at a hotel on the far right of the ground floor. Lex and Wonder Woman (I didn’t try as Batman) can jump up and rip part of the sign off the wall and crash it on to the opposing player. On the roof, I had a lot of fun knocking the water tower on my enemies.

One thing I could not pull off was starting the transition to the next part of the stage. I don’t know if all levels will have multiple platforms, but the demo, as previously described is broken into two parts. When you are near the edge of the screen, some sort of attack will launch your enemy to the next part, where they be injured from the trip. Some stages have other characters hidden on the stage who will attack the unlucky tossed character. For example, Arkham Asylum has Killer Croc, the Riddler, Penguin, and Two-face in a room that characters get tossed into. The four each attack the player, before tossing him along. In the Gotham stage found in the demo, however, your character can get knocked into a chemical trick on the ground. The resulting explosion launches you to the roof. This happened to me several times. Meanwhile, from the roof, you can get knocked off, into another building, where you land on the railroad tracks, just in time to be hit by a train and knocked to the street. That happened to me once and was highly entertaining.

Each character gets one special move. These moves are based on a meter at the bottom of the screen. When it fills, tapping the right and left triggers together activates it. As long as you are close enough for an initial hit to connect with your opponent, you hit them with your special move. I missed a few times before I realized this. Batman’s move has been seen in most of the videos, but was easily my favorite of the three playable characters. He shocks his opponent before having the batmobile’s autopilot hit them. Wonder Woman brings in two Amazonian guards who attack before she stabs her opponent. Lex hits enemies with a powerful satellite based lazer. Doomsday, though, had my favorite special move. He pounds his opponent through the center of the earth, into the ocean on the other side of the planet, and then back. My two sons and I “had” to let Doomsday do it to us in our final bouts, just so we could see this over the top attack.

Play seems more like a Street Fighter game than a Mortal Kombat game which is amazing, because it was made by the people who make the MK games. But this makes me happy because I have always been bigger fan of Capcom’s fighter. Back works your block and most of the special moves are done by a down, diagonal, forward + attack combination of controls. This allowed me to see what the characters are capable of and I soon felt like I had played the game for years.

So is the game worth it? I LOVED it. My daughter came in right after I had first tested it and heard me giggling like a school girl. I invited her to try first of the kids and she loved it to and was soon laughing out loud also. Meanwhile, the demo only showcases the bare minimum of what the game entails. In addition to the three demo characters, there are 21 other characters on disc for you to play as. A DLC pack will feature four more characters, giving players 26 fighters to choose from. There are many more bases too, each with their own interactive elements. The story mode promises to be over 10 hours (long for a fighting game) and shifts from character to character, which makes sense to me. And finally, the STAR labs missions offers 240 different types of missions, ranging from fights with different starting circumstances, to missions based on classic games like Pong, Asteroids, and more. So I certainly recommend you preorder the game as soon as possible.