Tag Archive: editorial

Originally Published: May 25, 2011, on Comicvine.com

We are all very aware that there are clearly going to be many differences between the X-Men: First Class movie and the comics it is based off of. Another story arc that we are sure to see some loose liberties taken with in the movie will be the Hellfire Club and its leader, Sebastian Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon.

Sebastian Shaw first appeared in January 1980 in X-Men #129 as the Black King of the now infamous Hellfire Club. A shrewd businessman and strategist, Shaw was a self-made billionaire by age 40. This rapid influx of wealth caught the attention of Ned Buckman, the head of the New York branch of the Hellfire Club, which at the time had a very anti-mutant agenda unbeknownst to Shaw.

Shaw was invited into the club’s Inner Circle as the Black Bishop. But when Shaw and his lover came under attack for being mutants, his lover being killed, Shaw used Emma Frost to coerce Buckman into killing himself and all other members of the club’s Inner Circle instead. This left a power vacuum that Shaw quickly plugged as he announced himself the new Black King and began his pro-mutant machinations for the club and his ultimate goal of world domination.

Shaw’s first appearance in the comics would help set up one of the most dramatic story arcs in X-Men history as it would start The Dark Phoenix Saga and also marked the first appearance of two other very popular characters, Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost. Emma was Shaw’s right hand lady with her psychic abilities and Shaw had sent Emma to distract the X-Men and test their limits when they went to investigate the manifestations of Kitty’s powers. This was all to allow original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants member, Jason Wyngarde, the original Mastermind, a clearer chance to manipulate Jean Grey’s mind while the X-Men were distracted and split up (Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, and Professor X went to see Kitty while Cyclops, Jean, and Nightcrawler went looking for Dazzler in New York) and begin preparing her to become Shaw’s Black Queen for his vision of the Hellfire Club. Of course, this would backfire, drive Jean mad, and unleash the Dark Phoenix, but that’s another story for another time.

Aside from being a brilliant tactician, Shaw also possesses a mutant power similar to that of Bishop’s in that he can absorb kinetic energy and re-metabolize it. Shaw cannot redirect the energy into blasts of his own like Bishop, but like Bishop he can use it to increase his strength, speed, stamina, and invulnerability and often takes a pummeling early in a fight from his foes in order to build up his reserves and dish out punishment on a more personal level with his fists later on.

Now we haven’t seen much of Shaw in trailers or whatnot except that members of his Hellfire Club usually accompany him or there is one shot where he is talking to Angel Salvadore. Since I highly doubt we’ll see anything in regards to Dark Phoenix, I think it would make sense for Shaw and his Hellfire Club to have their own agenda for the mutant race and this is what puts them in conflict with the X-Men and maybe even gives Magneto the inspiration to form the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants later on. And this would at least stay true to Shaw as a character who plans for world domination through force and his vast fortune.

Also, even though Kevin Bacon is not nearly as imposing a physical force as Shaw comes across as in the comics, I’d at least like to see him get his hands dirty and slug it out with some of First Class’s heavy hitters like Beast, Havok, and maybe even Darwin. You could very easily have him absorb one of Havok’s blasts and go to town on some of the X-Men who use more hand-to-hand techniques when fighting their foes. No matter what though, this classic X-Men villain is sure to give these First Class recruits a run for their money.

So what do you guys think? Just how far will Shaw and the Hellfire Club go in the movie? Will Shaw get his hands dirty when push comes to shove or will he remain more simply as the brilliant tactician behind this odd roster of the Inner Circle of Emma, Riptide, and Azazel? Let us know what you think with comments below!

Originally Published: May 23, 2011, on Comicvine.com

I readily admit that I am one of the people that are waving their torch and pitchfork at the X-Men: First Class movie for its very liberal changes to what many of us see as the comic canon. I understand this is supposed to be a different universe and I know that movies are going to have to make changes to try to appeal to a larger audience, but mostly everything I’ve seen so far has me grinding my teeth when I go to bed at night. One change that I can live with though is the addition of Darwin to this team.

What makes Darwin compelling is his unique power in that it is not done by conscious thought, but instead as a “Reactive evolution or adaptation”. If Darwin is falling from a tremendous height, his body may turn to rubber to avoid injury, or if found in deep space, he may no longer need oxygen to breathe. But, with no way to control his power, Darwin often finds himself at the whim of his body and does not always evolve abilities that make him terribly useful to the team as he just finds a way to survive. The most notable example of this came up when the Hulk attacked the Xavier Institute in World War Hulk. When Darwin went to attack the Hulk, Darwin developed the ability to siphon off gamma energy. When the Hulk started producing more energy than even Darwin could handle though, his body felt the best defense would be to teleport him away from the battle.

Darwin was created by Ed Brubaker and Pete Woods and introduced back in 2006’s six-issue Deadly Genesis mini-series that explained how some of the original X-Men’s memories of their fateful battle with Krakoa, a living island that feeds on mutant energies and trapped the original X-Men when they went to investigate it, were falsely planted by Professor Xavier and that in reality a second smaller ground of X-Men were used by Professor X to save the originals. Unfortunately, in the ensuing battle against Krakoa, of the four new X-Men Xavier sent, only Vulcan, the younger brother of Cyclops and Havok, and Darwin were able to survive. Darwin showed some of the lengths his powers would go to though by converting himself into pure energy that Vulcan absorbed and carried with him for years until Rachel Summers finally freed him. And due to this strong link to the original X-Men, I can live with him being a part of this origins movie.

The big question though is how big a role will he play in the movie. How will he be introduced to the team? It’s not like we’re going to see him take on Krakoa after all. In the comics, he is originally found by scientists who experimented on him before being rescued by Moira MacTaggert and brought into the fold to join the “Missing X-Men”, so will it be something as simple as being found by a Cerebro scan or will there actually be some flesh to his back story in the movie?

Also, I spent much of my Sunday morning digging for the single still you see at the beginning of this article that shows Darwin, played by Edi Gathegi, dunking his head in a fish tank in order to grow gills and demonstrate his power. With many of the commercials and trailers out there, we’ve never seen Darwin for more than a few seconds total between all of them and he isn’t even on the movie poster! Is this because his power is too unpredictable and therefore Xavier keeps him behind most of the time until he can control it? Or is it that maybe a highlight of the movie will actually be seeing Darwin in action and Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox actually don’t want to giveaway ALL the surprises of the movie, including how Darwin may solve some of the problems put before him?

Well, I know Darwin is one character I’m going to be looking to keep on eye out for, but what do you folks think? How much of Darwin will we actually see in the X-Men: First Class movie? How effective will his powers be as a part of the team? What weird adaptations might we look forward to? Let us know what you think with comments below!

Originally Published: May 10, 2011, on Comicvine.com

A short while ago, I remember reading that DC planned on giving Dick Grayson his own rogues gallery, on top of those we’ve seen him fight for years as Robin and Nightwing, that would fit more his interpretation of Gotham’s Batman. And so far they’ve been true to their word with the introduction of Professor Pyg, The White Knight, and The Dealer to name a few.

Now, one of my nightly routines, when not out and about, is to watch the Adam West Batman series on The Hub. It is one of my earliest comic book related memories to watch its syndicated re-runs growing up, usually right after Captain N the Game Master and the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, so it’s a nice way to relive my childhood for 30 minutes every night now that I’m an “adult”.

This all got me thinking back to a three-issue Batman: Confidential storyline from a couple years ago that introduced King Tut into the comic world of Batman. It seemed like a blatant reach to introduce new villains into the comic universe, but if DC is desperate for some new foes, then maybe they’ll be willing to reach back a few more times to those 1960s classics to help flesh out Dick’s rogues a bit more with some faces that us old-school fans might also have an extra appreciation for. Here’s a list of a few suggestions that I think would fit and not be too cheesy if written right.

1. False-Face: Originally played by Malachi Throne of Star Trek fame, False-Face was rumored to be a replacement for a story line that was going to incorporate Two-Face played by Clint Eastwood, but was scrapped because of a conflict he had since he was shooting a little movie called “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” at the time.

This expert jewel thief and master of disguise was actually featured in one three issue story arc in the comics in the late 1950s before retiring, but found his way into infamy more as a ghastly looking figure in the Adam West Batman series.

In order to modernize this character, instead of just making him a regular jewel thief that’s awesome with make-up, we make him a professor at STAR Labs or Cadmus. For one reason or another, one of the Clayfaces has been transported there for another gauntlet of tests and much like how many of Arkham’s inmates corrupt those around them, this time there is an accident and some of the basic compounds of Clayface splash onto a random scientist’s face, giving it malleable properties similar to Clayface. From there you can do a couple of things. Obsessed with the power he now has, False-Face attempts to finish the experiment and become the ninth Clayface, which I would like NOT to happen, but DC loves making more Clayfaces as laid out in a previous article of mine here. Or, he simply uses his abilities to turn to a life of crime and crosses Batman’s path.

2. The Minstrel: An electronics expert played by Van Johnson, The Minstrel appeared in only two episodes of the Adam West Batman and covers up his strong technology and electronics background with the simple motif of a wandering minstrel who distracts with both his song and various gadgets in order to pull off his crimes, including holding all of Gotham ransom to the whims of a sonic earthquake machine he creates.

Similar to the Joker in that he loves hijacking TV signals to torment the people of Gotham with his songs, The Minstrel takes pride in the fact that most people think his character is simply a joke while they listen to his pre-recorded telecasts consisting of him strumming and singing threats directed at Batman and the GCPD while he robs Gotham blind at the same time.

This classic use of misdirection and his strong electronics background makes The Minstrel could be just as worthy of being in the comics rogue gallery as The White Knight or Professor Pyg if this wandering wannabe musician becomes a bit more vicious and apt to kill while holding all of Gotham ransom with a more modern doomsday device.

3. Egghead: One of Hollywood’s most well-known actors of the last century, especially for the low budget horror films he would take part in, was Vincent Price. But when speaking of his favorite roles, Price went on record several times as saying the five full episodes and several cameos where he played Egghead in the Adam West Batman series was some of the best times he had on a soundstage.

Although featured in the background of several Batman comics and even having one issue of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic based off the Cartoon Network show (that pays homage to the campy days of Batman more than some may realize) devoted to him, Egghead has never been a major player at any point in the main DC continuity. But if Egg Fu can become a major player like in the series 52, why can’t Egghead get a facelift and get a couple issues devoted to him?

The biggest problem with Egghead is just trying to figure out how to revitalize arguably the campiest character ever. He has some interesting weapons like egg shaped tear gas bombs and laughing gas, but maybe he’d have to go darker. Acid filled eggs and mustard gas filled eggs for example. His crimes could still have the egg theme as well. Some kind of priceless Faberge eggs could be on display by the Wayne Foundation when he drops his mustard gas eggs on the wealthy socialites of Gotham. He’d definitely have to lose the egg-related puns though.

4. Zelda the Great: The great Anne Baxter would be called upon the play Zelda the Great very early in season one of the Adam West Batman series before being recast to play Olga, Queen of the Cossacks, in the third season. Her time as Zelda though was one of the more interesting two episodes of the series as Zelda was the first of several reluctant villains over the course of the series.

Zelda was once one of the greatest magicians and escape artists in the world, but as time went on her act grew stale and her career began to flounder. It is here that she procures the services of a retired trickster who promises to revive her act at the price of $100,000 per new trick and escape maneuver. Unable to come up with the funds but not willing to relinquish the spotlight, Zelda resorts to crime to pay for her rejuvenated act.

This could be the easiest character to rejuvenate. Cut out the secondary trickster and you could link Zelda back to the Dick’s Haley Circus days, turned to a life of crime for various reasons. Or, you could put it up as a Batman and Zatanna team-up, as Dick needs assistance with the more magical element. A disenchanted magician and escape artist who only saw the craft as a means to make money and once no longer able to fill the theatres, she turned to things more macabre than simple parlor tricks and sets her sights on robbing Gotham blind.

5. Sandman: Played by the English born Michael Rennie and only featured in two episodes, and even those saw him needing to be supported by the lovely Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, the Sandman is another easy modern conversion.

An infamous European criminal mastermind, Sandman concocts a plan to retire for good if he could pilfer the fortune of Gotham’s billionaire noodle queen, J. Pauline Spaghetti. J. Pauline is an infamous insomniac and so Sandman poses as Doctor Somnambula, an expert in curing insomniacs. In reality, Sandman simply sprays her with his sleep inducing powder where the victim slips more into a hypnotic trance and has J. Pauline reveal the location of her private financial records including stocks, bonds, and a couple hundred thousand dollars in “petty” cash that Sandman documents in the hopes of pilfering later on.

Obviously, if Sandman were to be done in a modern story arc, he’d have to be a bit more grandiose in his schemes. Instead of putting one billionaire to sleep, he could focus on the whole of Gotham before he lets loose with his sticky fingers. Or maybe you could make it a bit more personal and have the billionaire he plans on targeting be Bruce Wayne.

There are several other villains who were also original or adapted to fit the series like the counterfeit stamp maker Colonel Gumm, the wayward cowboy Shame, the master thief, assassin, and bowman the Archer who tangled once with Superman, or the first Puzzler who was also adapted from a Superman adventure, and many more, but I felt these five would be the easiest to adapt to modern times and also fit somehow into Dick Grayson’s Gotham.

So, what do you folks think of this list? Would these characters fit into modern times after a facelift? Are there some other villains that could work if they shed their campy origins and were brought into modern times? Let us know what you think with comments below and be sure to always stay tuned to the SAME COMICVINE TIME, SAME COMICVINE CHANNEL!

Originally Published: May 2, 2011, on Comicvine.com

A lot happened in the final issue of Brightest Day. Characters died, characters came back, and the DC Universe has been shaken up in a lot of ways. So, this got me thinking as to what we can expect in the immediate future from some of these characters and specifically what we might be looking at in the three issue mini-series, Brightest Day: Aftermath, that will chronicle just how big the fallout is from this DC event.

I’m going to start with characters from Brightest Day that I think will play little to no part in Aftermath and then move up in importance of who will influence what I believe will be the DC Universe’s future as a whole. And be forewarned that if you have not ready Brightest Day #24 then, well, what’s wrong with you. Go! Now! Read it! What are you waiting for?! And then immediately come back here because there will be spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

Professor Zoom, Captain Boomerang, Osiris, Maxwell Lord, and Jade were part of the group that was resurrected by the White Lantern. Over the final 31 pages of the extra-sized final issue of Brightest Day, these characters were featured in a single panel (except for Zoom who wasn’t even featured at all after he freed Barry Allen from the Speed Force). One. That’s it. They’re jobs were done in other comics or in the case of Captain Boomerang; he threw his one boomerang in Brightest Day #24 and supposedly slinked back off to the Rogues.

It is safe to assume that because of this, it would be unlikely for these characters to have a major impact of any sort in Aftermath as they go back to their lives that will have their own respective ripples in the DCU. Jade is now a part of the JLA and dealing with Eclipso, Professor Zoom promised to cause trouble for Captain Boomerang in the future who will of course go back to the Rogues, Maxwell Lord will likely have his hands full being hunted by the former members of the JLI after killing Blue Beetle, and Osiris brought back Isis who will likely have more of an impact than her brother in the Aftermath if she is fated to help Swamp Thing as insinuated by the White Lantern.

The next characters that I doubt will have much influence in Aftermath will be Aquaman and Hawkman. Already confirmed to be having their own monthly comics to come out of Brightest Day, they’ll have their own problems to deal with. There is a traitor in Aquaman’s midst as revealed in the Brightest Day prologue pages as well as he’ll have the responsibility of having to train the new Aqualad. Hawkman also seems like he’ll need some time alone, as he’s not too thrilled over the fact that Hawkgirl was dust when Swamp Thing released him and the other element avatars. With these more pressing issues for these characters, I doubt they’ll be too worried about the rest of the DCU and Swamp Thing in particular for the time being.

Now there is no word of a monthly for Firestorm or Martian Manhunter, but I think these other two element avatars are characters who might have tougher times pulling off a monthly and could go right back to business as normal in the JLA. And considering the partial reveal we’ve seen of the first Aftermath cover featuring Batman and Superman, you can figure the heavy hitters of the JLA will be involved with this and they’ll need these two powerhouses who have also had experience with Swamp Thing and the White Lantern to help quell whatever conflict may be the spark for Aftermath. Not to mention Martian Manhunter had no problems in his prologue page of Brightest Day so it makes sense for him to go straight back to the JLA, who are also the most likely people to help Firestorm fix his matrix problems.

This leaves Deadman and Hawk of the 12 resurrected. I don’t see Hawk being of much use, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Dove and Deadman considering their relationship and so Hank Hall will have to tag along just for fun. Deadman though will likely be critical in the Aftermath because of his previous working relationship with Swamp Thing and he was also the most crucial of the resurrected over the course of Brightest Day. Deadman is not happy being a ghost again, but he knows he might have to hold Swamp Thing’s hand for a while in Aftermath.

And this brings us to characters that weren’t really featured in Brightest Day but look to have a major role in Aftermath. Aftermath has been described on DC’s The Source blog as “the new protector of Earth has been chosen – but one reluctant hero makes a return to try and convince Batman, Superman, and the rest of the DC Universe’s heroes that this may not be a good thing at all.”

The obvious choice for someone having a problem with this is John Constantine since he was revealed on the last page of Brightest Day after Swamp Thing causes some carnage in a big business meeting room and says “Bollocks.” Either he’s not happy or he doesn’t believe it. Constantine and Swamp Thing have a long and storied history with one another, and this could also serve as a gateway to work in Tefe, Swamp Thing’s daughter, who was created when Swamp Thing possessed Constantine briefly. Of course, Deadman could also logically have the biggest problem with this because he was forced to sacrifice his life in order to bring back Swamp Thing and wants some kind of retribution.

So those are my thoughts on what we can immediately expect in Brightest Day: Aftermath. Aquaman is going to be busy with a war beneath the waves. Hawkman has to deal with his girlfriend being dust. And the rest of the DCU is going to have to deal with Swamp Thing trying to re-acclimate himself to the world. What will Batman, Superman, and the rest of the JLA think of this? What kind of damage can Swamp Thing do and how will our heroes find him considering he can be anywhere in the world there is plant life? Let us know what you think with comments below!

Originally Published: April 18, 2011, on Comicvine.com

I normally would have a “Comics to Video Games” article ready for you folks right about now (and don’t worry I’m working on the next one), but I was reading an interview the other day with Ian Flynn, a writer best known for his current run on the Sonic the Hedgehog series published by Archie Comics, and found out he’s going to be the main writer behind a new monthly Mega Man comic book series.

This latest video game series from Archie Comics comes out in the beginning of May and it will chronicle the Blue Bomber’s run through his nearly dozen games, starting with Mega Man 1 playing out across the first four issues, and will answer the big questions, like how no one was able to figure out when Dr. Wily was up to no good. It’s not like he had ten giant skull shaped fortresses built. Oh, wait. Hmmm. Also, I wonder if there will be any mention of Mega Man Soccer in an annual or something.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the flood of both monthly and limited series comic books we’ve seen in recent years based on video games. City of Heroes, Halo, inFamous, Gears of War, Prototype, and even DCU Online, which of course is a comic based off a video game based off of comics. So what’s with this sudden influx of video game based comics at our local retailers?

Now, comics based off of video games are nothing new. After all, Sonic, has had his own ongoing series for nearly twenty years now. But to see so many new comics based on games is a little off putting. An idealist might say comics are simply being used as tools to help flesh out stories that can’t be fully told in a 15-hour game. But what if they are really being used just as promotional items to bolster game sales instead? Or are comic companies trying to jump on the bandwagon of a popular game franchise in the hopes of making a profit, knowing that the key comic book and video game demographics are one in the same? Or maybe it is a little of all of the above?

Can ongoing video game comics also hurt the base franchise as there could be unintentional limits placed on the game developers? There would have to be constant communication between both the game developers and the comic book writing and editorial teams in order to ensure that what is being done in the comics isn’t radically different from what is happening or going to happen in sequel video games upon their release.

If Josh Ortega kills off someone in the Gears of War comic, he had better let Cliff Bleszinski and Karen Traviss know so that person doesn’t show up in Gears of War 3, otherwise there are going to be some mighty ticked off Gearheads out there. And what if Cliff had planned on making that character a major player in the Gears universe? How much say does the original game creators have when it comes to forwarding the plot of a comic that is being looked at as canon? It just seems that adding more moving parts to such a complex and detailed story might come off as limiting from a creative standpoint, especially while the main series is still really ongoing and even while just trying to flesh out previously mentioned references from the original property (like the Pendulum Wars for Gears).

And this brings us back to my inspiration. Mega Man. Does doing a comic that follows, for the most part, a story we already know lessen the mass appeal of a comic? Why should I read something I’ve already played through several hundred times? Can you really flesh out a character that much with a few thought bubbles while it’s blasting another foe into oblivion? If anything, it might take away from those original gaming experiences, especially from the old NES days, where the player was left to their own devices to fill in gaps in a protagonist’s personality and whatnot. So are original stories that add to and build on top of already existing canon the only real option in that case to ensure a profit will be made and to protect a property?

Despite this, does every new video game need a comic book? I read the six-issue limited series for Prototype and I felt what I got from that comic was not worth the price I paid as a lead in to the actual game. In fact, the comic ruined the game experience some as it spoiled a lot of the game’s surprises. The same goes for the Gears of War comic. Some issues have been great, but I didn’t need a one-issue back-story on Tai. I don’t need a character that is dead to be fleshed out. It just reeks of trying to turn a quick buck if you ask me. It dilutes the potential of building the franchise naturally and feels very forced in some cases.

But I really don’t mind franchises diversifying, and actually enjoy seeing new adventures with my favorite characters that continue the story beyond the original product (you should see my Star Wars expanded universe novel collection). I do feel that there should be some sort of criteria before a franchise is expanded though like with a game based comic. Wait until the main story, in most cases nowadays the story being a trilogy, is complete before you start filling in the gaps. Imagine if a comic or novel like Shadows of the Empire in Star Wars, which takes places between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, had been released in 1981, right between Empire and Jedi. I think that it coming after the fact made it much more powerful and interesting. Similar to the games Halo: Reach and Halo 3: ODST. They were better stories because the universe had already been fully established and then writers went back to fill in the blanks.

So what do you guys think? Are you fans of video game based comics? Are there too many out there flooding the market? What should be the criteria for a game based comic to be published? And how much creative freedom should the writing and editorial teams have with long established characters like Mega Man? Will you buy the Mega Man monthly upon its release? Let us know with comments below!

Originally Published: April 12, 2011, on Comicvine.com

It has become a very popular argument by Batman’s rogues’ gallery, especially the Joker, in recent years. The villains taunt Batman with the idea that if he weren’t around, most, if not all of them, would never have come into existence and that he is just as much to blame for their brand of chaos as he is. It is all an attempt to throw Batman off his game, but there is clearly some truth behind their words. Without Batman there surely would be no Joker venom, giant penny, or trick umbrellas. There definitely would be no “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel”. And there would be no Boy Wonder, Oracle, or Batman, Inc.

And speaking of Batman, Inc., the basis of this new idea is that there is supposed to be Batmen all over the world that will be supported by Bruce Wayne. But what if Bruce’s next logical step on his unending war on crime does the exact opposite though of his intent and escalates it instead? Could all these new Batmen, in an attempt to quell crime around the world, be the launching point for more villains worldwide, much like Bruce theoretically was for some of his in Gotham? The world has enough trouble staying together what with the threats the JLA, JSA, Green Lantern Corps, and others are constantly having to snuff out. I’m sure that exactly what the world wants is three new Jokers, two new Two-Faces, and a Penguin from Sicily.

Already the Batman of Japan, the former Mr. Unknown Jiro Osamu, has an arch-nemesis it would seem in Lord Death Man who re-emerged after a long hiatus in the launching of the Batman, Inc. series. What is it to say that this could not be the jumping off point now for Jiro’s own cavalcade of themed villains that could feature crazed samurai, ninja, or dragons that wish to take down Batman, Inc. and its representatives? And we all know how much Japanese people love dressing up in costumes (just check out the entire cosplay section of Anime Vice here).

Then there is Bilal Asselah, the Nightrunner, and currently the Batman of France. He truly lacks any sort of a rogues’ gallery, but that just sets him up for any number of possibilities. Bilal was last seen dealing with the difficulty of not being accepted by the Muslim people of France as they see him as an extension of an unnecessary American system. This leaves the door open for some extremist to come up with a gimmick to take him down. Or how about that France is home for many of the most evil and twisted group of clowns (even though they originated in Ancient Greece): mimes. It’s only a matter of time before one decides to become the French Joker that traps people in real invisible shrinking boxes that crushes them to death or hangs them from invisible ropes.

Of course, this is all dependent on these new Batmen at some point popping back up in the DC Universe and being fleshed out some more. Otherwise, are all these new Batmen simply tools to forward a current concept and never to be heard from again except as future fodder for another Crisis? Should the more popular ones come back as recurring characters in Batman, Inc. or get their own limited series or monthly spin-offs to expand the roster of DC rogues as a whole? Or will we start seeing more global inspired plots for Bruce Wayne’s villains in order to features these new Batmen more often?

And just how many Batmen are destined for Batman, Inc.? There are nearly 200 countries in the world. Will each one have a Batman? As interesting as it might be to see Batmen all around the world, and it would probably take several hundred issues to get to them all, the gimmick would definitely burn itself out at some point without adding some twists to the creation of dynamic, recurring, new villains with unique stories for these new Batmen or some huge event that features a lot of them all at once. Because right now Batman, Inc. seems like a drawn out version of an Elseworlds I read when I was a kid called Brotherhood of the Bat and in the end of that, “Damian” kicks the snot out of all the imitation Batmen.

So what do you guys think? If there were not a spike in the villain population caused by these new Batmen and some epic storyline that results from it, would this just be a waste of time? If new villains don’t start appearing all over the world, will Bruce Wayne’s rogues’ gallery have to give up the “Batman is the reason why we exist” argument? If the concept of Batman, Inc. doesn’t fail in the comics, does it mean the story will dry up and fail on newsstands instead if nothing radical happens? Let us know what you think with comments below!

Originally Published: April 5, 2011, on Comicvine.com

So after trying to put some Assassin’s Creed parkour elements into my idea for a Nick Fury game here, I started to think about what hero who has never had a game would be a more natural fit for that style of game. He would have to be extremely agile and be prone to climbing, leaping, and making whatever his surroundings may be his own personal jungle gym.

Jungle. Hmmm. This got me thinking about how so few of those games take place in a modern era urban environment and how none really take place in the wilderness. I can imagine that it would be just as fun to swing from tree branches and vines as you move through the forest canopy as it would be to move across concrete rooftops. And so I present to you my idea for a hero who could traverse both the dense African jungle and the urban sprawl, and who clearly will again in my idea for a game, the Black Panther!

To ensure there is no confusion, when I refer to the Black Panther, I’m talking about T’Challa and not his sister Shuri. Now that we’ve covered our bases, we need a plot that will make sure T’Challa will travel around both the jungles of Wakanda and the city to make sure we get to experience both jumping around tree tops and dropping down on foes like a real panther and then taking those skills to the urban jungle. This will really help players to get a feel for some of T’Challa’s struggles as well as he has always had to balance the ancient ways of his people with an ever-changing world and urbanization.

I am thinking this would need to be a story broken down into two parts. The first part would be original to the video game in order to help feature some of T’Challa’s most iconic villains as well as to help the user get used to a lot of T’Challa’s abilities. These in-depth tutorial levels will feature lots of hand-to-hand combat as T’Challa moves around the African jungle in this third-person action adventure game.

Now, the two most iconic Black Panther villains I always think of are Klaw and Killmonger and so they would need to be featured in these early levels doing their usual bit in wanting to destroy T’Challa, Killmonger to rule Wakanda and Klaw just because he hates him so damn much. These early levels will work out as about a quarter to a third of the game and educate the players in all of the moves and powers that T’Challa will use for the rest of the game.

After quelling these iconic threats, and since they always seem to be going after Black Panther, we can just write them off as a flashback or whatnot from one of the many encounters T’Challa had with them and we’ll jump into the comic continuity from there. We can pick it up right around the same time as Dark Reign. This would make sense because T’Challa could be reminiscing about simpler times for the battles against Klaw and Killmonger when confronted by Namor about the Dark Illuminati.

This could set T’Challa up for battles against Dr. Doom, Morlun, and Death herself if we were to follow the comic timeline and this could make up the bulk of the remainder of the game. We could also streamline the timeline, cutting out smaller events and whatnot to ensure that our last couple of levels follow T’Challa as he is now in Hell’s Kitchen (thus ensuring urban levels).

It might be a bit much to pull off, but a video game that features T’Challa against his classic foes like Killmonger and Klaw and then follows him through Doomwar would definitely be epic enough to warrant a game. Include cameos by some of the Marvel universes most well-known characters combined with a jaw-dropping depiction of Wakanda and the surrounding forests as you explore them Assassin’s Creed style and I think the game would be a perfect fit for action/adventure enthusiasts out there.

One last minor detail I want to mention is that if I’m having a Black Panther game, I want Keith David to do his voice for all the cinema scenes. If you need a strong, independent black man played in a cartoon or video game, you get Keith David. Plus, he’s already been the character when Black Panther made an appearance in the 1994 Fantastic Four cartoon.

So there you have it folks. We have a voice for the Black Panther, a plot with a lot of iconic villains, and a set gameplay mechanic that should work perfectly for what we would want to pull off. Let me know what you guys think. Could T’Challa carry his own title? Should he only be featured in a more team-oriented game like maybe an Avengers title? Are there other villains that could be featured? Is Doomwar the kind of story that could translate to a video game? Let us know with comments below!

Originally Published: March 28, 2011, on Comicvine.com

It is one of the X-Men’s most persistent threats, mostly because it is a godlike entity that cannot be destroyed. The Phoenix Force has possessed nearly two-dozen characters over the X-Men’s history across several different universes. And it seems to have returned, at least in part, once again. This time in the form of the Mutant Messiah, Hope Summers.

It’s not a question of if the Phoenix Force will make its presence felt via Hope, but when as it has picked several moments to rear its head already. It had its big coming out party against Bastion in order to destroy that threat and save what was left of Utopia. And since then it has been seen deep in the green eyes of Hope as her temper flared some in a meeting with Cyclops in Generation Hope #5. But this is a creature that has the power to both create and destroy, so what exactly is the Phoenix’s agenda this time around and how will it once again affect the destiny of the X-Men?

The first question you really have to ponder is just how powerful the force that inhabits Hope is because this is not the entirety of the Phoenix force. Part of the Phoenix previously possessed the Stepford Cuckoos and in order to overcome it in the Phoenix Warsong mini-series, each Cuckoo turned their hearts to diamond in order to trap the essence. So is Hope harboring the remaining power, or like the Cuckoos, is this just a small fraction of it? And if it is just a small fraction, where is the rest? Could these “lights”, these new mutants the X-Men are now discovering, actually be harbingers of other remnants of the Phoenix force and why Hope feels so close to them? Is that why the “lights” powers’ are so chaotic at first and only Hope can bring their powers under control when she makes contact with them?

Let us assume though for a second that Hope is the embodiment of the remainder of the Phoenix Force. Is Hope simply the form the Phoenix Force chose to take in trying to reform itself? Could this be the reason why she looks SO much like Jean Grey, the form that the Phoenix is most accustomed to and why she flares up more often when Cyclops is around?

The Phoenix could also have just decided to possess a baby this time around and could be molding Hope as she ages into what she thinks she should look like, which would be Jean Grey. Maybe this was some cosmic sized attempt at understanding life by the Phoenix and so in order to do so was hoping to live a full human life. Unfortunately for her, she spent many of her formative years time-hopping with Cable. If that was the Phoenix’s plan, I guess that was a bust.

The most likely scenario for all this though is probably nothing as deep and this will all simply culminate as the fix to M-Day caused by the Scarlet Witch. The question that arises from this is how is it going to be implemented because it makes perfect sense for the Phoenix to be the reason why the mutant race would rise from the ashes. And only a primal force like the Phoenix could overcome the Scarlet Witch’s chaos magic.

Is every issue of Generation Hope going to be her locating new “lights” and bringing them under control? Saving the mutant race one soul at a time? That could work for a little while, but would become boring and tiresome at some point. I can’t see continuing like this for more than a couple dozen issues before we see some major event where either Hope will unleash her full potential and heal a great many “lights” all at once or sacrifice herself and in that noble act serve as the catalyst that once again jump starts the X-gene and saves the mutant race from extinction. And if Hope doesn’t make a noble sacrifice, but learns to control the Phoenix Force, could this be another way for some more recently deceased X-Men to return to the comic pages? No matter what happens, I’m going to be reading any comic that features Hope because she is clearly going to be the catalyst for some major changes happening in the ranks of the X-Men down the line.

Comics to Video Games: Nick Fury

Originally Published: March 24, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Nick Fury is one of the Marvel universe’s most important movers and shakers and his history is a long and storied one. World War II hero. Longest ever tenured director of SHIELD. Master manipulator of heroes and villains alike. But Nick Fury has never been the most dynamic of characters by his lonesome and is best known, especially nowadays, as working with a large group of people, whether leading a group of heroes or pulling strings behind the scenes in order to get to what he feels is best for the security of the world. So how could we make Nick the centerpiece of his own game while still playing to this strength?

The easy way out of an article like this would’ve been to just make this some World War II first-person shooter. But we’ve all seen that before and it’s not like Nick has some super powers to mix things up a bit. Plus, you move away from the group dynamic that I think Nick needs. No, this game would have to take place in the modern era and so I recommend featuring the Secret Warriors and making a hybrid game that combines RPG and gameplay elements from a game like Mass Effect 2 and action elements from a game like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.

The first problem we would need to consult is the plot and that Nick doesn’t typically leave one of his many secret bases unless it is a severe threat or he is meeting with someone in person (and even then it might just be a Life Model Decoy). Luckily, HYDRA and Leviathan have been pretty busy lately in the comics and keeping Nick active and so this could be our reason for him to have that more hands on approach.

I’ve never been good at coming up with a great conspiracy theory, but I’m sure Jonathan Hickman would be willing to lend a hand on fleshing out the plot since we’re using the characters he’s currently writing and could help come up with an original story since we know all the players who will be involved. We have the Secret Warriors, Leviathan, and HYDRA all mixing it up once again for the fate of the free world. Contessa and Baron von Strucker would have to make an appearance somewhere I’m sure.

Now to get back into the gameplay. Much like Mass Effect 2, we’ll have Nick take point of a three-person party with the other two party members being chosen from the Secret Warriors. What would be interesting about this dynamic is while Nick is taking headshots at HYDRA agents, depending on whom you chose from the team, you could have Quake stunning enemies with concentrated seismic tremors while Druid acts like a mage from a fantasy based RPG boosting powers or casting spells from a distance to help strike down the foes of freedom. I’m still not sure if we’ll have Phobos or Hellfire available since they’re technically dead at this point, but this would still give you five Secret Warriors for Fury to choose from as he hops around the world quelling threat after threat.

It wouldn’t be an RPG though if there wasn’t a leveling up system. I still might include a morality meter like in Mass Effect 2, at least for how the team reacts to Nick, but the traditional leveling up system will be very different. Sure, you can upgrade powers, health, and weapons depending on what character is leveling, but Nick Fury is known for having many pieces in motion at once on his worldwide chessboard. So instead of there being a shared XP system like in most RPGs and everyone leveling up rather evenly, team members who are not with Nick on certain missions can be assigned various secondary tasks, much like your assassin trainees in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and in only that way can they level up while you’re out performing your plot required duties. For example, if you always use Slingshot and Stonewall on your team, but then a mission comes up where Eden Fesi’s teleportation powers might prove interesting and you haven’t been sending him on secondary missions, he might not be able to pull his own weight on the plot’s primary mission you want to use him for.

Another aspect of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood I want to incorporate is the parkour movement aspect. Many, if not all RPGs, can feel very stiff when it comes to movement. Nick Fury is a secret agent though in peak physical condition and has trained all the members of the Secret Warriors himself. So why not have it where you can pull the camera back a little and climb and sneak through various bases and scenarios with your teammates to give it that real espionage feel? Or even have sections where you can choose to have members of your team break off from the group. Have Slingshot race around to the side of a base and flank your enemies or provide a distraction while Nick climbs up and crawls through some ventilation ducts. These choices could really provide a deep strategy aspect to the game as you try to decide what teammates to bring and how to progress through a level.

Another staple of Nick Fury stories is that he has a lot of flashbacks so even though we don’t want to make it the focus, we could have a couple of World War II levels to set up certain missions where Nick teams up with Captain America, Bucky, and/or Wolverine. This could help draw people in with some more name recognition and provide some variety incase we only use the five remaining members of the Secret Warriors as team choices. Or maybe have a few levels where Nick’s agenda could go against those of the Avengers or other heroes to really put a twist on things as Nick and the Secret Warriors could face off against friends and allies.

Why So Many Clayfaces?

Originally Published: March 21, 2011, on Comicvine.com

It’s definitely not unheard of in the world of comics for a villain to be written off only to have someone else take up their mantle later on. The Flash’s rogues Trickster, Mirror Master, and Captain Boomerang are usually the first ones that come to mind for me. But while researching my last article Comics to Video Games: Batman Beyond, I was shocked to find one villain, a master of mimicry himself, who has been mimicked more than any other.

I had always known that Clayface had come in several shapes, sizes, and personas over the years, but further investigation shows that there have been eight Clayfaces over the past 70 years and that is only in the main comics continuity. Nevermind the Earth-9 Clayface or the variations and additions made through other media like the Clayfaces introduced in the mid 2000s cartoon The Batman and the short lived Birds of Prey TV series. So what reason could there be that the DC Universe would need so many clones of the same shapeshifter and does it diminish the value of any Clayface story arcs?

The most confusing thing as to why DC feels the need to have all these Clayfaces and have not killed them all off is that several of them have different powers with the same underlying shapeshifting theme, but you very rarely see those differences beyond their introductory arc.

Preston Payne (Clayface III) has some of the weakest shapeshifting powers of the bunch, but has the unique ability to melt and absorb anyone he touches into his own mass of clay. Yet the last time we see him before he is supposedly killed off in Justice League: Cry for Justice , Prometheus mutated him further so he could shapeshift better and be like all the other Clayfaces and then has him act as a distraction. Is it that no artist out there is willing to cross that line and show some really gruesome deaths at Payne’s hands and really explore his “hunger” to its fullest extent? Instead, DC made him like everyone else for a time to keep his name fresh and force him into a story.

Or how about Sondra Fuller (Clayface IV), also known as Lady Clayface? Although primarily a shapeshifter, she has the unique ability to mimic super powers as well as appearances. But ever since the Mud Pack storyline where she mimicked the powers of Looker to lure Preston Payne into the group, we’ve barely seen her at all, nevermind using her unique skill set. Could you imagine the havoc she could cause the Justice League by being able to take on different power sets?

And then of course there is the currently most often used Clayface, Basil Karlo (Clayface I). Originally just a killer in a grotesque masque, Karlo used a blood transfusion from Payne and Fuller to give him both of their combined powers. And yet, all we see from him is simple disguises and some giant mallet hands at best. Karlo was the madman behind bringing the Mud Pack together and now he is mostly hired help for other villains.

Then you have supposedly the most powerful Clayface of them all. I don’t even want to think of the insemination process, but Preston Payne and Lady Clay would have a baby who they named Cassius “Clay” Payne (Clayface V). But he is never featured in most Clayface story arcs and we’ve had three more Clayfaces after him introduced in spite of the clear exploration and development that his character needs. I would love to see him break out from S.T.A.R. Labs and try to reunite with his parents and then you could develop them all very clearly in one stellar arc.

But I guess DC feels why explore these characters when you can just make more of them? The potential for Clayface is constantly being watered down and molded into lackeys and pawns in greater villains’ master plans, but why can’t they be great again and given prominence once more? Or at the very least, kill them all off because it’s becoming nearly impossible to keep track of them. I can just imagine in an upcoming issue of Batman you’ll have Dick Grayson taking on a Clayface and ask, “Which one are you again?” or “Are you someone new or have we danced this dance before?”

The real reason why I think we have so many Clayfaces is that it has become the DC Universe’s deus ex machina. You have these personality types, although only mildly explored, set in stone and so when you need to further a certain plot or bridge a gap to the next big story arc, why not throw in a Clayface one-shot where you can make them more willing stooges or write them out like they did with Clayface VI, VII, and VIII. I’m sure that most of these roles could have conformed to an already established Clayface though.

Peter Malley or “Claything” (Clayface VI) was a scientist in the Department of Extranormal Operations who experiments on Cassius and becomes bonded to a skin sample he takes from the boy and becomes the sixth Clayface. But we can’t have more than four running around at once so he was quickly killed off and his remains are in the DEO Headquarters. Just waiting to be revived by DC when they paint themselves into a corner, I’m sure.

Then came Clayface VII, Todd Russell, an army veteran who was severely wounded and it is insinuated that the Department of Extranormal Operations experimented on him, although this was never clearly stated. Russell can’t handle the mental stress caused by his new form and becomes a serial killer who preys upon prostitutes in Gotham’s East End and actually never faces Batman. Russell is another unique Clayface in that he can change not only his shape, but his size as well, and was done in by Catwoman when she protected those parts, capturing Clayface VII in a giant freezer and then handing him off to Bats. This was necessary because Basil Karlo was so busy I’m sure and couldn’t be bothered to murder prostitutes.

And then there is Clayface VIII who is also currently deceased. Johnny Williams was a firefighter who was caught in a chemical plant explosion and doused in chemicals that, you guessed it, turned him into a Clayface. His claim to fame is that he was the one that Hush and the Riddler manipulated to act like Jason Todd and also don Tommy Elliot’s guise when Hush captured Alfred in order to throw Batman off his trail. Of course, he was just doing this because Hush promised him a cure and this was not the case and after some time Williams could no longer hold his form and just broke down into nothing. You mean to tell me that if Prometheus could manipulate Preston Payne, that Hush couldn’t? Hush nearly got Batman’s entire rogues gallery to work for him in his coming out party, but he needed his own Clayface instead of using any of the others who had been established already?

There is one time though that I feel DC had it right and had some real consistency with the character. This character is what really set the standard for a Clayface. One of the most popular, likely due to his name being used for the Batman: The Animated Series Clayface, and the only Clayface who has seemingly stayed dead (although I’m sure he’ll come back too at some point) is Matt Hagan (Clayface II). He was the first true shapeshifter of the bunch and lasted for more than two decades as a nuisance for the Dark Knight.

Hagan was a treasure hunter who discovered some radioactive protoplasm and found he could change his form at will for two days straight after bathing in the goo. Although a much more tame character than many of the others (it was during Batman’s campy era that he came along) Hagan was the first true shapeshifter and the DC Universe was fine with having just one man made of mud running around.

It just seems like a shame to see a character with such great potential and a rather strong fan base being used like a common thug and not getting the respect that even characters like Killer Croc have gotten in recent years. I mean one more Clayface and we’d have a baseball team.

-Ray Carsillo