Top 5 on The Strip: Anime pop off edition

1. Avatar Aang vs. Fire Lord Ozai
Listen, we’d been anticipating the final fight between the Avatar and the Fire Lord just because it was built up and hyped for the entire run of the show. It didn’t disappoint, either. Aang finally mastering the Avatar state and absolutely obliterating Ozai’s bending abilities was epic. Specifically, seeing the Avatar state in a state of mastery for the first time is what did it for us.

 


2. Goku going super Saiyan for the first time
Goku reaching super Saiyan for the first time against Freiza was boss for so many reasons, chiefly because it was the end of a long-drawn out arc. But this was also ham because we’d been teased with it so many times in the first arc of Dragon Ball Z that you knew it was going to be beyond great when it finally did happen. Seeing Goku’s hair turn golden with rage for the first time and then demolishing Freiza was simply awesome.

 


3. Ichigo vs. Ulqiorra
Even though Bleach peaked with the Soul Society arc, seeing Ichigo achieve his Hollowfied form against Ulqiorra was one of the highlights of the entire Hueco Mundo arc. This signified that Ichigo wasn’t even in his final form, and he was suddenly more powerful than most of the boss characters that Aizen could throw his way. And the crazy part was, he STILL wasn’t done yet.

 


4. Midoriya reaches faux 100% One for All
My Hero Academia is great at pacing Midoriya’s steady increase in power and him reaching the faux 100 percent of One for All is a crucial development. Not only did he reach the max limit of his power with the quirk, but also he stayed in the state without adverse effects. That was only because of Eri’s quirk rewinding the damage, but it was fascinating to see what One for All could be capable of in the future.

 

5. Naruto turns into Nine Tails versus Pain
Naruto enthusiasts will point to this fight as the beginning of Naruto’s ridiculousness and a glimpse into his true potential as a Jinchuriki within the series. Pain was no joke and the fact that Naruto embraced the Nine-Tailed Fox’s ideology if only briefly meant that he was ready at all costs. He manifested all nine tails but was stopped by his late father. Imagine if had he manifested all nine and been allowed to keep manifesting them.

Top 5 on The Strip: Superman villain edition

Darkseid
Darkseid isn’t just a Superman villain, mostly because he tends to antagonize everyone in the Justice League. But it’s something about Kal-El and his goings on that apparently sets the Lord of Apokolips off. One of the most legendary battles that took place between the Man of Steel and the Omega King occurred in the superb animated film Superman/Batman Apocalypse. Watch the ending fight scene just to get a sense for how much Superman hates Darkseid.

Lex Luthor
Lex is to Superman what the Joker is to Batman. Lex uses Superman to gauge his arching skills and probably couldn’t exist if Superman were to ever vanish from the DC Universe. Somehow, some way Lex finds a way to remain a thorn in Clark’s side, whether he’s dead or alive or imprisoned. You can always count on Lex to stay ready in his pursuit of Superman’s defeat.

Doomsday
If adapt and react were a character, it would be Doomsday. Responsible for the death of Superman in 1992, Doomsday is known solely for being the slayer of Superman. He’s a beast that Superman has always had trouble fighting and successfully stopping, and any time he shows up, you know Superman will probably die.

General Zod
Always ready to clap it up with Superman, General Zod has a superiority complex and an ego the size of Krypton before it exploded. That’s Zod’s problem: He just knew he was right and knew what was best for Krypton. Generally, that involved fighting with the House of El and it generally involves fighting Superman at some point. This is a fight that supersedes an entire planet disintegrating.

Brainiac
The know-it-all supercomputer is one of Superman’s most obnoxious foes. He’s known for two things: His “twelfth-level intellect” and shrinking cities down and stuffing them into bottles. Sometimes, depending on the version, he’s also known for causing the destruction of Krypton. In any version of Superman’s battles, Brainiac is known as one of his most destructive and dangerous foes.

Top 5 on The Strip: DC stuff we’re anticipating edition

Flash’s new movie with return of Michael Keaton

You all know how much we here at GI love Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. And we’re practically jumping up and down for joy that it’s been confirmed we will see him again in this upcoming Flash solo film. Yes, we do love Ezra Miller as the Flash, but it’s been 30 years since we’ve seen Keaton don the cowl. That’s worth any price of admission.

Future seasons of Titans

This past season of Titans was fantastic. Vincent Kartheiser, of Mad Men brilliance, as the Scarecrow was on point with the long game the entire season, and we finally got Jason Todd as the Red Hood. We all knew it was coming, but how and why was expertly done. We’re expecting great things in the upcoming seasons now that the focus is shifting back to Dick Grayson being the leader of the Titans in San Francisco.

Black Adam coming with the Rock

Black Adam’s long development has been simmering for a while, and now it’s boiling if you smell what the Rock has been cooking. We’re more than ready for Dwayne Johnson take on the character — who, in the intervening years, has been drawn in his likeness. The movie looks to be great, and we support Johnson in anything and everything he does. We’re looking forward to Shazam going one on one with the Great One finally.

Blue Beetle film with Xolo Maridueña

We have so grown to love Xolo Maridueña, best known for his role as Miguel in the brilliant Cobra Kai. His earnest and awesome portrayal of the cute karate powerhouse means we will follow his projects, and Blue Beetle is one that’s taking shape for DC. The character is cool, and we expect that Maridueña will bring the heat when he finally gets started.

Henry Cavill returning as Superman

Given that he’s been the best choice for the Man of Steel for nearly a decade, we welcome the return of Cavill if he’ll have us. His Superman is believable and decent, and we loved his version in Justice League. We also happen to be big fans of Cavill in general — he was fantastic in The Tudors — so if he’s willing to don the cape and House of El symbol once again, we’ll take it.

Top 5 on The Strip: Marvel stuff we’re anticipating edition

Loki series season 2

We’re huge fans of Loki around here, and the God of Mischief’s first season of his Disney Plus showcase was fantastic. Suspenseful and weird, Tom Hiddleston’s delightful Asgardian prince steals the Space Stone during the time heist as depicted in Avengers: Endgame and essentially learns there are variants of himself, and that the multiverse exists. The character development and growth are what did it for us, and we can’t wait to see where the flawed-but-redeemed god goes in the follow-up.

 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The upcoming film focusing on Marvel superhero Shang-Chi has the potential to be huge. Featuring wuxia and a comic book correct version of the Mandarin, Shang-Chi looks to be a great mix of action and story, with our beloved Michelle Yeoh in yet another MCU role. We’re interested to see how the Ten Rings plays into the larger MCU and their power and scope as compared to other artifacts we’ve seen. Also, lead actor Simu Liu is hot, as is the esteemed legend Tony Leung.

 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The sequel to our top-three Marvel movie contender is shaping up nicely. We were initially unsure how the film would move forward with the death of Chadwick Boseman, but it seems that it will be addressed in the opening scenes. Confirming that he will not be recast is a great start, because we wouldn’t watch it if Marvel did. There will be a new Black Panther mantle-holder, and we expect this follow-up will be glorious.

 

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

We like Dr. Strange around here, and he’s important enough to warrant another few movies. With the end of WandaVision, Dr. Strange’s sequel film will be important in the grand scheme of Marvel’s machine for Phase Four. The events of the first MCU show and Loki made it plain that Dr. Strange will be needed to traverse the madness unleashed by the introduction of the multiverse and Kang the Conqueror, so this is film has quickly become important to the future of the MCU.

 

New squads introduced

It did not escape notice that there were several characters introduced recently that could potentially form other groups outside of the Avengers. WandaVision introduced Wiccan and Speed, Wanda’s kids in Young Avengers; Monica Rambeau, who is a Captain Marvel titleholder; and, Agatha Harkness, who could join any number of villain groups. Captain America and the Winter Soldier introduced Eli Bradley, who is Patriot of the Young Avengers; Val, who is Madame Hydra at some point; and, U.S. Agent, a member of Dark Avengers and Thunderbolts. Loki gave us a hybrid Lady Loki/Enchantress in Sylvie and Kid Loki, who is part of Young Avengers. Black Widow provided Yelena Belova, who becomes Black Widow II, and Shang-Chi’s trailer confirmed Abomination is still around.

Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book squads edition

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The green crew with attitude shows up on a variety of our favorite lists. We grew up in an era where the Turtles ruled everything for a good solid three years, culminating with the second live-action film. What most of the youngins didn’t know is that the Turtles got their start in comics in black-and-white incarnations in 1984. The comics are highly sought after now because of their rarity.

The X-Men: Charles Xavier’s men have always been our favorite group of superheroes. The merry mutants have always been at the forefront of societal issues (mutantism equals racism to a degree), and the group has always been relatable. We’re excited that the comic book mainstays are coming into the MCU at some point; they deserve to be done justice.

The Avengers: Given there are numerous lineups and different locations for the Avengers, we must narrow down this pick to any squad featuring Steve Rogers’ Captain America. To us, it isn’t the Avengers proper unless Rogers is involved to lead the charge. And, yes, we’re quite fond of the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the group.

Justice League: No list on squads would be complete without the current DC universe lineup. Everyone on the squad is necessary: There is no Justice League without Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman or Cyborg. Despite the most recent movie not being a cohesive flick, the squad represented there is the core experience that is the Justice League. Also, it made Aquaman cool.

The Boys: Relatively obscure until the recently fantastic Amazon Prime show, the Boys are great at one thing: stopping the diabolical supes of their universe. Billy Butcher is cool as hell, and his entire crew is messed up in some way but loyal and awesome. In the same vein, the Seven are amoral and ridiculously lead by Homelander but just as shady and more weird than the Boys.

Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book games edition

1. Marvel vs. Capcom series

If there were ever a polarizing yet fun fighting game, it’s probably Marvel vs. Capcom. The first few Versus games are fun yet broken, but you don’t know broken until you get to Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Spending 18 hours at a tournament to watch the same 10 characters fight in teams of three makes you dislike and love a game at the same time.

2. Batman Arkham series

Batman’s run of action-adventure games has quite a few standouts. Rocksteady outdid themselves in letting you become the Dark Knight and immerse yourself in the world of Gotham and the insane asylum that is Arkham. Any entries are classics that shouldn’t be missed.

3. X-Men arcade game

“Welcome to die!” is a pleasant yet infamous greeting waiting for you at the end of the X-Men quarter muncher. Gold and Blue ’90s-era X-Men join and fight in a team of four to take on the Brotherhood of Mutants. It’s a fun romp that reminds you of how powerful the original animated series was in terms of impact on gamers and comic book nerds alike.

4. TMNT 2: The Arcade Game

If there is ever a game on this list that personifies GI and its life in the ’90s, it’s this sequel. Easily one of the best quarter stealers of all time, TMNT2 took everything from the comics, the original animated TV show and the movies and turned it into an ultra-fun excursion in the world of the lean mean green fighting machine.

5. Marvel Ultimate Alliance

An insanely fun brawler that’s chock full of Marvel awesomeness, the first Ultimate Alliance game is fun and full of depth. It’s also co-op and introduced you to the then-obscure Marvel characters that are now household names. I didn’t know the Winter Soldier then or Fing Fang Foom but I bet I do now. This is the Marvel encyclopedia.

Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book TV edition

1. Spawn — HBO, 1994
If you didn’t read the comics, chances are this was your first exposure to the hell-spawned entity Spawn. We’re ignoring the ridiculous movie in favor of the animated masterpiece featuring vocal legend Keith David. Spawn was gory and brooding and just the right mix for teenagers to learn about the comics legend.

2. Luke Cage — Netflix, 2016
Perfect casting made this show what it is, and we’re sad to see it gone. Luke Cage was great in the execution as well and has a phenomenal soundtrack. GI hometown boy Mike Colter sizzles in the title role and Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi and Mahershala Ali absolutely steal the show every time they’re onscreen.

3. Daredevil — Netflix, 2015
Tight writing, brutal fight scenes and good casting made this a hit on Netflix. The first two seasons were superb with emphasis on the casting of Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin. Daredevil, like all Marvel Netflix shows, has been canceled, but it’s worth getting a subscription just to see the magic of a competent Matt Murdock.

4. Arrow — CW, 2012
We must give it to Stephen Amell: He certainly turned Oliver Queen into a credible superhero. Arrow has seen its ups and downs (everything post season 4, anyone?), but it’s still a decent story and the early twists and turns are enough to entice you to stick around and invest in the Queen family and their exploits. Arrow was one of the first successful comic book TV shows and it’s paved the way for others like it. It has earned its props.

5. Smallville — CW, 2001
One of the first comicbook shows before the recent craze and takeover of Marvel television, Smallville had folks talking about Superman like they were comic book experts. Tom Wellington did an excellent job portraying the Man of Steel in his younger years, but the true shout out goes to Michael Rosenbaum as the scene-stealing Lex Luthor.

Top 5 on the Strip: Avengers Edition part 1

Steve Rogers/Captain America: If you ever needed a leader and wanted to make sure your every directive was followed, you employ Steve Rogers to get the job done. Rogers was the first Avenger and the last Avenger and the team’s heart and soul (and mom), no matter the roster.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk: Bruce Banner brings not only his vast genius intellect to the fight, but also his green angry alter ego Hulk, who is equal parts mad as he is cunning and destructive. The madder Hulk gets, the better the outcome for the Avengers.

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Much like Banner, Tony Stark brings his intellect to the fight and usually other toys to ensure that the Avengers will win. Beyond that, Stark provides a place for the Avengers to stay and upgrades for every team member. Think of him as the dad of the team as well as the brains of the organization.

Luke Cage: Now that Netflix has brought some of the more background Marvel characters to the forefront with excellent (but canceled) TV shows, Luke Cage has a spotlight on him that showcases his invaluable contributions. Cage is virtually indestructible with super strength to match. The Hero for Hire hasn’t joined the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe just yet, but know that when he does, it will be worth the wait.

John Walker/U.S. Agent: An alternate version of Captain America, U.S. Agent is a bad dude. Receiving his super strength from the Power Broker, John Walker has gone against Captain America and won as well as joined the Avengers and its derivatives such as Norman Osborne’s Dark Avengers. Walker once worked for the Commission on Super Human Activities and has taken up the Captain America mantle in the past.

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman versions

1. Batman (Earth Two version): This version of Bruce Wayne settles down with Selina Kyle and has a daughter, Helena Wayne, who becomes Huntress. Eventually, Bruce becomes police commissioner. After a one last adventure as Batman, he is killed in battle trying to stop the destruction of the city. As he was still using his secret identity, Doctor Fate of Earth Two changes reality to keep his identity secret and lets everyone believe that Bruce died of cancer at Wayne Manor.

2. Batman film — Michael Keaton: Michael Keaton, the first of the film cowl wearers, was derided when he was announced in the mid-1980s. No one could believe that “Mr. Mom” would do the trick. And then 1989’s Batman hit the silver screen and the noise stopped. Not only was Keaton excellent, but also he brought a much-needed severity to the character and was wholly believable inside and outside of the tights.

3. Flashpoint Batman: In the Flashpoint version of Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne — the murdered parents of Bruce Wayne in all Batman origin stories — don’t die. Instead, Bruce is killed in Crime Alley in their place. In their grief and attempts to cope with Bruce’s death, Thomas becomes Batman and Martha becomes the Joker. Eventually, both learn that in the true timeline, they die in the place of Bruce and he becomes Batman to avenge their deaths.

4. Batman film — Christian Bale version: Christian Bale took a franchise that was mired in the depths of mediocrity and downright unintentional hilarity and gave it life again. Bale made it cool to like Batman and the Caped Crusader’s credibility was restored. It only took two movies, arguably, to achieve this feat: Batman Begins in 2005 and The Dark Knight in 2008, all lead by Bale. The Dark Knight Rises was just an added bonus to seal the deal.

5. Batman kills the Joker/Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 3 Batman: In a version of the Injustice storyline, Batman actually kills the Joker. After the Joker plants a bomb killing Lois Lane, Batman captures him and attempts to turn him in. As they’re riding to Arkham Asylum, the Joker intimates that he will likely try again to torment Superman and hints at trying to kill Superman’s baby. Batman snaps and well, breaks the Joker’s neck.

Top 5 on The Strip: Animated superhero cartoons

Batman animated series

1. Batman: The Animated Series

The standard bearer for modern superhero cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series was gritty, dark and fresh off the success of Batman Returns. It’s well-drawn with a neat art deco style and the voice acting set the standard for future series. If you weren’t watching this every day after school, you missed out. Immediately go back and watch this from beginning to end.

Teen Titans

2. Teen Titans

Teen Titans took a different tack when talking about Robin’s squad of heroes. It’s a great look at the younger superheroes of the DC universe in a group that still stands today. Featuring Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy, the show focuses on the group being young superheroes while also being teenagers with typical teenager problems. The voice work is fantastic and the animation is top-notch as well.

tmnt 1987 series

3. TMNT (1987 series)

We’re well-known TMNT fans here at GI and that love stems from the old black-and-white comics as well as the original animated series. That series, with its ’80s attitude and charm, managed to get us into the Turtles to start and paved the way for the juggernaut that was and still is the Turtles franchise. Outstanding voicework — featuring the likes of Jim Cummings and the late James Avery — make it one of the best ’80s animated series and a good introduction to the TMNT universe at large.

X-men fox animated

4. X-Men: The Animated Series

Aside from the classic theme, X-Men: The Animated Series featured a stellar voice cast and stories that mostly stayed faithful to the comics. At the time of its 1992 inception, this was unheard of in comic properties translated to TV. X-Men established several characters as favorites: Storm, Wolverine, Professor X, Jean Grey, Cable, Bishop, Gambit and Jubilee. It was so great that incarnations of the characters featured in the show have been used in multiple video game properties since.

spiderman-1994

5.  Spider-Man (Fox)

Another great Fox animated series, Spider-Man was a fantastic showcase of the web-crawler’s style and storylines. It featured quite a few of Peter Parker’s rogues gallery and touched on a lot of his story arcs with accuracy and maturity not usually seen in comic book shows. As with X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man had great voice acting that carried over into video games produced thereafter, such as the Marvel Versus series.