Top 5 on The Strip: Asian superheroes

Psylocke

Psylocke

Betsy Braddock wasn’t born Japanese. No, that didn’t happen until she switched bodies with Kwannon, a Japanese assassin. Braddock’s original body was compromised by the Legacy Virus, and Kwannon died. The six-armed mutant Spiral the cause of the mind switch to start with, and whenever Spiral is involved, things never end the way they’re supposed to.

Doctor Light-Kimiyo Hoshi

Doctor Light

Kimiyo Hoshi was an astronomer who happened to be observing a subtle battle between the Monitor and Anti-Monitor. The Monitor activated her as part of his plan to keep the positive universe ahead. Bright, sexy and a doctor? Sign us up for positive sexual healing.

Silver Samurai

Silver Samurai

Keniuchio Harada is the illegitimate son of a Japanese crime boss. He learned he was a mutant and then applied his skills to further his crime aspirations. You can’t say he didn’t put them to good use as a criminal because he later managed to turn over a new leaf and stay on the straight and narrow. Well, until Blindspot forced him to forget that he was a superhero.

Naiad

Naiad

In her human life, Naiad was a protestor in Alaska that was set on fire and killed. After that, she became a powerful elemental force in the DC universe. Not too much can be said about someone who’s basically a part of nature itself. She makes waves wherever she wants. Sea what we did there?

Sunfire

Sunfire

Shiro Yashida comes from the same clan as the Silver Samurai, but is significantly less criminally inclined. He’s neutral, though the fact that he can generate plasma from his body and was listed as one of the “Legendary Twelve” mutants (as an elemental) is important enough that his presence is necessary in quite a few fights. Most of the time, however, he chooses not to get involved in the X-Men’s affairs despite being a member.

Strip Talk #12: Superman does have real enemies

Superman does have real enemies

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley, editor-in-chief

For many years in my life, I have been a comic book fan. I like to think of myself as objective and impartial when it comes to my likes and dislikes, with the love I have for the paper fantasies of ink, crime fighting and justice split evenly between DC and Marvel. But there comes a time when you have to choose your favorites. The Caped Crusader is easily on my list of favorite characters, and the X-Men are tops any day of the week and twice on Sunday. But, so help me, if I had kryptonite I’d wipe Superman and his ilk off the face of comicdom.

I know it’s not popular not to have even the smallest modicum of respect for the Man of Steel. Heck, I can even think of a few people who’d revoke my comic knowledge badge of authority for making such a statement. But the entire time that I’ve known of the son of Krypton, I never have been able to get behind him as a viable candidate in the race for my comic character love.

What bothers me the most about Superman is this notion that he is literally unstoppable. I think about it this way: If you have Superman around, why would you need anyone else? Superman obviously has all of the bases covered.

Outside of the basic question of neediness regarding him, I have always had too many questions about his day-to-day interactions with the rest of his universe. Where does he sleep and does he even really have a need for sleeping, eating or other human functions? Are people really so dumb in the DC universe that they can’t tell Clark Kent is Superman? For Lois Lane to have been such an intrepid, hard-nosed reporter, she sure isn’t too bright if she can’t tell that the man she kisses who saves her life on a routine basis is the same man that she works with everyday and all he’s done is change his hairstyle and throw on a pair of glasses. The same goes for the rest of the universe, barring Ma and Pa Kent.

And then we get to the sorry excuse for a villain that is Lex Luthor. The question that I’ve been begging to ask for the majority of my comic-loving life is this: Why doesn’t Superman just kill Luthor? He’s done enough to be impeached as president of the United States, he’s maimed and stolen more times than anyone can count in his existence. He’s outright tried to kill Superman numerous times. What else does Superman need to pull off the prime directive in regard to Luthor? Maybe malevolent Joker-level shenanigans (Editor’s note: This is opposed to prankster Joker shenanigans. There is a difference), because I can’t understand why he’s allowed to keep running amok in Metropolis and getting away with the things he does.

I believe Kal-El is a little too nice sometimes. With my tolerance at an all-time low for stupid superheroes that lack logic behind their actions, Superman’s about to get the short end of the kryptonite.

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Property review: Batman (1989)

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Batman

Warner Bros., 1989

Batman’s exploits begin in excellent 1989 adventure

When the Tim Burton-directed Caped Crusader’s vehicle hit the silver screen, comic book movies were in their infancy. Sure, there was the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher and numerous Superman movies featuring the irreplaceable Christopher Reeve. But there was no big screen adaptation of arguably the next-most important DC hero: Batman. Enter the 1989 feature with big-name stars.

Nicholson. Keaton. Basinger. Those three names were omnipresent then and now. Jack Nicholson stole the show outright as the Joker from Michael Keaton’s lead. Once Nicholson makes his grand entrance as Jack Napier/the Joker, you can’t go back. Being fans of the Joker (and Nicholson as well; we affectionately refer to him as “Uncle Jack” because of a shared family name), GI wholly encourages taking this version of the clown prince of crime as an altogether awesome spin on the malevolent DC supervillain. Earlier and later takes on the Joker, such as the late Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight, were well done, but Nicholson holds a special place in our hearts as the first movie version of the character.

Keaton, despite a well-reported reluctance for his casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman, nails the part of the tortured playboy-turned-crime fighter. And though the comparisons to Christian Bale have been brought up, Keaton like Nicholson is special because he brought Batman to life with a thorough look at the inner soul of the man dedicated to avenging crime in Gotham City.

Kim Basinger rounds out the trio of leads and does an admirable job as Vicki Vale. It’s not often that someone can chew scenery with a man dressed as bat and another man sporting green hair, a menacing grin and face paint. Though we disliked the naivete of the character in the beginning, Basinger does a good job of leading you to believe in her gradual falling for Wayne as the story progresses.

It also doesn’t hurt that the chemistry between Basinger and Keaton is immediately palpable in their first scene together.

While Batman succeeds mostly because of the acting chops of its leading trio and surrounding cast, we would be remiss in not giving praise to the costume and set design. The background scenery and look of the movie is what really shines.

With the introduction sequence featuring Danny Elfman’s iconic score (later improvised upon in the equally iconic Batman the Animated Series) and Batman logo, you’re pulled into the world of Gotham from the beginning. It’s gritty and can be darkly humorous, much like Burton, but you know it’s right. Batman feels appropriately like Batman and the film is a template from which all comic book films could learn a lesson about quality showmanship.

Batman is, quite frankly, one of the best comic book films ever made. GI fell in love with the movie 23 years ago as it played in theaters and made its way home to VCRs. It’s stood the test time for film — far better than its later sequels — and stands admirably next to any of the modern-day reboots.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Plot: 9.5/10

Like the comics?: 9.5/10

Casting: 9/10

Total: 28/30 or 9.3

Strip Talk #11: Alternate universes expand story

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley, editor-in-chief

Alternate universes. As a comic book aficionado, you can’t live with them or live without them. Any ink fan knows his or her’s alternate history of events for their characters, places or eras. And if you don’t, there’s no way that you can’t find out by doing a little reading.

What is fascinating about alternate universes is really what I want to know. I suppose it’s that characters can exist in two places with differences but basically be the same person. The reality of alternate universes is that there is always a prime ? a main person, place or thing ? and the alternates are always some variation of the main.

Take, for example, Marvel’s Earth designations. The comic book main Earth, designated 616, is the prime. Different realities are given to the multiple X-Men arcs such as Age of Apocalypse, Days of Future Past and Marvel Zombies, or to the different movies and the Ultimate versions of characters. This retains the ability to tell a different story about the same characters and it not interfere with established canon.

The same concept applies to DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earth’s arc, which established that there were different Earths, cleaned up plotlines and eliminated some characters in the 1980s. Now, DC doesn’t go nearly as far Marvel does with the multiple Earth designations and what-ifs, but the saga did explain characters’ origins and cleared up quite a few questions about where and how some characters died or came back.

The best version of an alternate universe is the aforementioned Marvel Ultimates series. Ultimate versions of characters in the Marvel universe can be radically different or have only one thing change in their past that completely makes them a different character. For instance, one of the most well-known changes between Ultimate and regular versions of a character is Col. Nick Fury. The Ultimate version of Fury is black but the regular version is white. That’s how you can have a movie that has David Hasselhoff playing Fury and another with Samuel L. Jackson playing the character.

Another well-known example is the fact that Ultimate Colossus is gay, while the regular version is not. Both versions were once upon a time involved with Kitty Pryde, but Ultimate Colossus later announces his sexual orientation to the X-Men family.

Alternate universes can be a cheap trick to lengthen out a nonsensical story. However, they can also be a great way to tell the other side of a tale. Don’t write off the better-told attempts because they may just be hiding something new and bold.

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #09: Let’s end the bashing of direct comic book films

Lyndsey Mosley, editor in chief

I don’t know where the inclination to bash a direct comic book movie has come from in recent years, but it honestly needs to stop.

I don’t know about the various movie critics out there, but I love a good comic book movie. And, if it just so happens that to achieve this rare feat someone must copy a comic panel by panel, then so be it.

That’s much more preferable than watching some mangled chop job by a director hack who doesn’t “get it.”

Take for instance “Sin City.” Every time I turned on the TV or read a review, someone was bashing the film because it was “too close to the comic.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. It was perfect. Everything that I knew about the comic actually came from the movie and inspired me to pick it up, not the other way around. So what if it was lifted nearly word for word? I’d rather have that than a butchered idea based on something that might resemble a video game movie (see: every Batman film after Returns and and Super Mario Bros.).

Another example? “Watchmen.” It, too, was criticized because of its close proximity to the comic book, and yet, what some critics didn’t realize was that the movie changed some key elements.

If they’d actually bothered to read the comic AND watch the movie, they would have known that. But somehow, it was too abstract and “comic-like” to do well. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If it hadn’t been just like the comic, someone would have criticized the movie for straying too far from its roots. But because it was identical to the comic in nearly every respect, it was deemed too close to its source.

Really, movie critics, throw me a bone here.

As a comic book fan, I’m glad we’re moving past the point where movies based on properties are garbage adaptations that have nothing to do with the characters’ past or present activities and don’t make a drop of sense. If someone wants to give me exactly what I can pick up a book and read, more power to them. In an analogous school turn, I’d rather they study and do their homework than to not do the reading.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor in chief of Gaming Insurrection. She enjoys direct panel lifts at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Top 5 on The Strip: Unknown black superheroes

By Jamie Mosley, Gaming Insurrection

This quarter, I would like to pay tribute to those superheroes who usually do their jobs with little fanfare or fame. Of course, all superheroes, receive fame. But these heroes are the ones you don’t hear about often. They do their job and most are in a supporting role. But support or not, these five deserve their spot in our hearts. Here are cheers to those tanned super ones that always come through in the end.

James Rhodes / War Machine

JAMES RHODES

What can I say about the man who was Iron Man when Tony Stark had some “issues” to attend to? Rhodes was the one that put Iron Man in the West Coast Avengers. In many cases, Tony Stark has stated that James Rhodes’ Iron Man was the type of superhero that he strives to be like. Rhodes’ Iron Man gained many fans, but it wasn’t until he received the War Machine suit that the fan applauded. War Machine was the hero that you called in to either stop a war from starting or to start and finish a war. In other words, War Machine can talk the talk and walk the walk all while buffing the scratches off his shiny finish.

John Stewart / Green Lantern

JOHN STEWART

Selected as a back up for Hal Jordan, John Stewart showed that he didn’t just want to save lives; he wanted to change them as well. He is the kind of hero that knows that he is a role model to someone even if he hasn’t even met them. He understands that being a public superhero means you must think from all angles. Although Jordan disagreed with the Green Lantern Corps’ decision to make Stewart a member of the group, he later realized that Stewart is just what they needed. A smart, cunning guy with a belligerent attitude that wants to make a difference in the universe. Could you ask for anything more from a person who can create green creatures to fight and protect others?

Jill Carlyle / Crimson Avenger

JILL CARLYLE

OK, so Carlyle is more like an antihero, but she still saves the day all the same. Carlyle as the Crimson Avenger is the spirit of vengeance. Anyone who received an unjustly and ill-timed end knows that Ms. Carlyle will be there to avenge them. Although she must experience the death of those she receives as assignments, she will do whatever is necessary to complete this assignment. This includes defeating other heroes. Her guns have wounded Superman, Power Girl and Captain Atom. She is immortal, intangible and has a constantly bleeding gunshot wound to the chest. She sometimes fights against heroes or with them, but the end result is still the same: The bad guy loses to her.

Misty Knight

MISTY KNIGHT

This former NYPD officer is the kind of hero that we all read and hear about in the news. She solves those cases that no one seems to be able to solve. And, after Tony Stark gave her a bionic arm that allows her to lift 800 pounds, solving cases becomes a lot easier for her. Misty is one of the world’s best detectives. I don’t know about you, but I would sleep a lot better knowing that people like her are out there working.

Sineya / The First Slayer

THE FIRST SLAYER

If it wasn’t for the daughter of Sineya, would we even know who Buffy Summers is? It is written that the First Slayer was tied down against her will and shamans implanted the essence of a demon into her. This allowed her to gain strength, stamina and animal instinct. This spirit now mainly offers aid to slayers through wisdom. She once told Buffy that death was her gift, which caused Buffy to later sacrifice her life to save millions. When Buffy was campaigning against the First Evil, the First Slayer told Buffy that her current efforts weren’t enough. So Buffy made more Slayers to defeat it. If it wasn’t for the First Slayer, we all either would be sucking blood, demon food or food for a giant insect creature.

*All photos courtesy of the DC, Marvel and Top Horse comics wikia.

Strip Talk #07: What makes up heroes or villains?

Lyndsey Mosley, editor-in-chief

I’ve often wondered what makes a character a hero or a villain in comics. What makes a character “good” and another “bad”? How does the writer who creates the characters sit down and decide “I’m going to make this person evil personified” and another “the greatest hero to have ever lived.”

I’ve always wondered about those who are obviously at the different ends of the spectrum, such as Superman or Apocalypse. Superman is the embodiment of all that is good and righteous in the world of comics. He has a sense of right and what is morally acceptable in the universe ascribed to him. He can do no wrong, and he is considered the paragon of what is “All-American” and apple pie. Then you have someone like Marvel’s Apocalypse, a 5,000 year-old-mutant who is hell bent on world domination and survival of the fittest. Who came up with the idea that these two characters are the stations of their particular ideologies?

And what about the middle men, as I like to call them? Those anti-heroes who follow a fine line between good and evil? Say what you will about Magneto or Batman, but they have their points to be made about what they’re trying to accomplish, and they will accomplish it through any means necessary.

The case of Magneto is especially complex. Here you have a character based on a real figure, Malcolm X. His nemesis, Charles Xavier, is based on also real Martin Luther King Jr. Who’s to say that Magneto is necessarily a villain?

Examining the character traits of comics’ heroes and villains is an interesting bit of research for those who want to dig deep into the minds of man. Sometimes, it seems, not every case can be made for strictly good and bad.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She ponders the nature of heroes and villains at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

PlayPlay

Comic property review: “The Spirit”

Photo courtesy of ComicBookMovie.com

‘The Spirit’ lacking in focus, execution

“The Spirit”
Lionsgate, 2008

Despite reviews to the contrary, “The Spirit” isn’t a bad movie. It is a mess in some spots and it requires multiple viewings to fully understand what’s going on but, overall, it’s not bad; it’s just that its attention span is all over the place and could benefit from a pacing specialist’s undivided time.

Visually, it’s gorgeous. If you fell in love with the look of “Sin City,” you will love “The Spirit.” It sings for its supper in its lush graphics, and the mix of comic style and computer generated work does it a world of good. The costume direction is also a winner, and most of the characters look awesome with a softened glow about them against a gritty backdrop of crime, death and resurrection. Of particular note are the costume changes of Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, both who steal the show with their chemistry and impeccable timing. Gabriel Macht and Eva Mendes do a fine job in their lead roles and inspire feelings of sympathy and understanding for their predicaments.

“The Spirit” isn’t without its flaws, however. First of all, it’s not particularly true to the comics. The Octopus never shows his face in the original property. However, we can let it slide because it’s Samuel L. Jackson. He’s allowed to ham it up, and he’s a marquee name. Another change is the fact that the Spirit didn’t originally have the healing factor power he’s given. Again, the addition is jarring but it’s needed to pull the movie closer to the sensational to lure audiences in. However, it didn’t work as the film has only grossed nearly $39 million.

Thirdly, the story jumps around quite a bit. It’s not told nearly as well as “Sin City” and it’s not paced particularly well, either. In some parts — mostly those featuring Jackson — it’s hilarious and dark. In others, it’s slow and tedious, and you wish it’d pick up the pace and stop dragging its heels toward the inevitable Octopus-Spirit showdown climax. And finally, the climax, while it seems to take forever to get to, isn’t all that great. It’s really anticlimactic. What we really wanted was more of an emotional payoff for the Spirit’s romantic entanglements. Otherwise, it’s got a twitch factor that either you’ll get or you won’t. Despite its weirdness, we got a decent comic book movie fleshed out with interesting characters. Color us happy.

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Casting: 9.5/10
Plot: 6/10
Like the comics?: 4/10
Overall rating: 19.5/30 or 6.5


Top 5 list: Best mutant powers edition

Superman/DC

Superman
Invisible force field aura

As the Man of Steel can attest, his force field is just that: a coating of steel. It takes a lot to harm the blue-and-red savior of Metropolis and mostly what can hurt him is not of Earth. His natural Kryptonian invisible aura has saved his life on more than one occasion.

 

Nightcrawler/Marvel

Nightcrawler
Teleportation

The blue devil-looking X-Man of Marvel teleports himself and others by accessing another dimension. Just the fact that he can access this “other place” negates the supposed rotten egg smell that is associated with his ability. Bampf, indeed.

 

Dr. Manhattan/DC

Dr. Manhattan
Time and molecular shifting

Created by a physics accident in 1959, Dr. Manhattan is one of the world’s most prominent superheroes. He’s also able to  see the past and the future relative to him, and he can create or destroy on a molecular level. Blue-skinned, hot and genius-minded, Dr. Manhattan is DC’s Cronos.

 

Apocalypse/Marvel

Apocalypse
Molecular shifting

Even though the Marvel villain has altered the future and the past on many occasions, Apocalypse is still awesome. His ability to shift his mass and size at will makes him one of the world’s most dangerous if not unbeatable foes. His mutant ability has also allowed him to live for more than 5,000 years.

 

Charles Xavier/Marvel

Charles Xavier
Mind reading

The smartest man in the world and an omega-level mutant, Professor X ’s intelligence and mind-reading ability make him a great ally for peace and a beyond-dangerous foe if he ever went evil (read: Onslaught).

All photos courtesy of the Marvel and DC Wikia sites

Top 5 List: Most useless villains edition

Every villain has a uselessness level. On a scale of 1 to 10, if you make good on your master’s plans and actually accomplish the death of a superhero, you’re closer to 1. If you can’t get the job done, you’re moving a little higher on the scale. And trust us, both comic powerhouses have a few on the higher end.

Locomotive Breath/Marvel

Locomotive Breath (Marvel)
Fought: War Machine
Useless level: 6
With a name like Locomotive Breath, it’s only a matter of time before you have put up or shut up. He did neither and that’s why he only appeared in two issues before disappearing back into obscurity. He may have been an Eternal but, really, his name stops any serious discussion about misdeeds cold.

DeSaad/DC

DeSaad (DC)
Fought: Superman
Useless level: 1
As the right-hand man to Man of Steel arch nemesis Darkseid, DeSaad actually did some pretty nasty deeds in the name of evil and his master’s wrath. If he’d only broken off a little sooner, he could have avoided the beatdown Darkseid liked to inflict for failure. Otherwise, DeSaad was a bad man that played both sides of the coin when it came to the chance for more power.

Quintesson/Marvel

The Quintessons (Transformers)
Fought: Autobots and Decepticons
Useless level: 3
More annoying than useless, the Quintessons were actually dangerous. They served as the judges, jury and executioners for the warring factions that used to live on Cybertron. If you want to see the extent of their usefulness, watch the 1986 animated movie. They weren’t too bad there and actually served a purpose such as condemning everyone to die.

Silvermane/Marvel

Silvermane (Marvel)
Fought: Spider-Man
Useless level: 4
Silvermane is actually kind of cool. He employs a bionic body, aging and de-aging abilities and takes on Kingpin for control of his criminal empire. Because of his age, he takes on his criminal name. Not bad, old-timer. Not bad.

Edgar Plunder/Marvel

Edgar Plunder (Marvel)
Fought: Captain America
Useless level: 7
OK, the name is a keeper but he was still useless. If you’re going to fight Captain America at least have the sense to do something amazing. But he hasn’t. He’s done nothing remarkable other than have an impersonator that was killed by the Punisher. Boring. Who hasn’t been killed or threatened by the Punisher?

All photos courtesy of the Marvel and DC Wikia sites