Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The arrival of Spider-man in Captain America: Civil War marks a new dawn for the Marvel Universe on film! Spidey isn't just one of the best known Marvel Comics characters of all-time. He's the heart and soul of the largely New York City based superhero world! In Civil War he's teaming up with Iron Man and the Avengers, but if you name the hero, Spidey has probably shared an adventure or two with them! Heck, he was even the star of Marvel Team-Up!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths is taking this Old Comics Wednesday opportunity to look back at some of Spider-man's best team-up fights featured in previous installments! By hitting the covers below you'll be transported to legendary alliances with: War Machine, Venom, Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Ghost Rider, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Dr. Strange, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, the Omni-Power and even DC heroine: Wonder Woman!

Marvel as the web-slinger and his superhero friends battle the menace of: Green Goblin, Carnage, Dormammu, The Hood, Juggernaut, MODOK, Mysterio, The Wingless Wizard, The Trapster, BlacklashTigershark, The Tri-Sentinel and brain eating Marvel Zombies!

Not getting enough Civil War in your diet? Check out OCW: Captain America and Hero of the Week for more recommendations, browse the Secret Archive, and be back on the main page for all new featured fights starring Captain America, Iron Man and more!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Real Name: James Rhodes
First Appearance: Iron Man #118 (January, 1979)
Fight Club Ranking: #105

Featured Fights:
- vs BLACKLASH: Marvel Team-Up #145 (Sep 1984)
- vs FIN FANG FOOM: Iron Man #271 (Aug 1991)
- vs CHARNAL: What If...? #54 (Oct 1993)
- vs IRON MAN: Iron Man #310 (Nov 1994)
- vs MANDARIN & THE AVATARS: Iron Man #312 (Jan 1995)

About the only hard and fast rule of Hero of the Week is that a character can only appear once a year. The staggered global theatrical release of Captain America: Civil War is still the big story in my view, but most of the feature players demanding attention have already received their honors: Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther, Spider-man and Winter Soldier -- all previous HOTW's.

War Machine hasn't been front and centre in the film's promotion for a while, but he's a character I've been thinking about this week. Thar be movie spoilers ahead, so you may want to set sail for Cap 3 before you dock in port! (Not sure why we went nautical with that analogy, but there you go).

If you've been reading this year's Hero of the Week entries, you know I tend to view the Marvel cinematic universe as being built with seconds in-place. The headlining acts of Iron Man and Captain America both have their one-time comic book replacements beside them (War Machine and Winter Soldier, respectively). Thor has Lady Sif, with potential for Beta Ray Bill opened by the cosmic Guardians of the Galaxy: they themselves seconds of a sort. Hollywood back-ups for mortal actors who've been mostly compliant throughout Marvel's success, but may not always be.

As we've learned in recent weeks: Robert Downey Jr has flipped his briefly precarious position. He's now more hot than cold with regards to future appearances - confirmed for Spider-man: Homecoming and even flirting with the concept of an Iron Man 4! It's a change of pace that challenges the need for an understudy, especially with a new generation of heroes already burgeoning. In a world where you can count on your original Iron Man, what's the future of War Machine?

When trailers flirted with the prospect of War Machine being the sacrificial lamb of cinema's Civil War -- the Goliath or Cap of the movie version -- it at least raised the question of the character's mortality. It turns out Rhodey was actually just very badly injured in Cap 3 - paralyzed by friendly fire. Like Tony Stark, War Machine's now a part of his tech - dependent on an exoskeleton to walk.

We've seen the films devise and drop perils before, but this one feels like it might stick. Spinal injury is something that struck Tony Stark down, in the comics. Interesting that they'd play that card with War Machine. Is it to launch into an exciting new era of the mechanical man - or is this sidelining a hero who never quite lived up to his potential? A far cry from the early days, when I really believed he'd be a convenience for the then-whispered rumor of film Avengers.

When Stark was paralyzed in the comics, he designed and built remote robotics to pilot the Iron Man armor. Appropriating that idea for the air force officer could give him a point of difference to the other armored hero. Especially if he were able to operate multiple suits by remote, or new types of Iron Man designs, like the Sentinel meets Evangelion type he used in the late 2000s.

The fact that the paralyzing injury was dealt by a Stark creation (Vision) during Stark's (Civil) war could also be the seed from which new resentments grow. In the comics, Stark and Rhodes have had severe fallings out. We saw that idea played with in Iron Man 2 - the movie that introduced War Machine as a product of the US Air Force, and pitted the two against one another, before they teamed up for a cluttered finale. It would seem awful soon to do hero-vs-hero again, but it would at least be a more personal story - fodder for Iron Man 4, perhaps.

What ever happens in the future, I hope we get to see more out of War Machine. This seems like the perfect opportunity to get him out of Iron Man's shadow and into a strong new direction.

I highly recommend checking out a couple of the classic featured fights (linked top) for more! If you're hungry for more Civil War, check out Old Comics Wednesday: Captain America and more updates in May!

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Friday, April 29, 2016

The Claws of The Panther! (Marvel)
Tales of Suspense #98 When: February 1968
Why: Stan Lee How: Jack Kirby

The Story So Far...
Upon receiving an urgent summons from the mysterious ruler of Wakanda -- America's Sentinel of Liberty agrees to board a remote controlled Magnaship to speed to the aid of the far off nation!

En route; Captain America finds himself caught in the firing line of an orbital energy weapon! He can only watch helplessly as the beam reduces a mountain to melted slag! At the mercy of operators he really only knows from rumor and reading, Cap must consider the possibility that he's being led into a death trap!

Making clandestine touch down at a base hidden deep within the jungle - Cap goes on the offensive! In no mood to play the fall guy any longer, he seeks an advantage over shadowy figures who charge to greet him. Wave one wasn't any problem, but now he must face the claws of The Black Panther!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Black Panther 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Captain America 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Black Panther 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Draw 2 (Projectiles)

Can you say famous firsts? Here on The Comic Book Fight Club we approach each fight as though it's the present, referencing archived examples for fights featured for the first time. This here represents the genuine very first time two of Marvel's most famed hand-to-hand combatants met in battle! A classic!

Black Panther is T'Challa: brilliant son of King T'Chaka of the isolated African nation of Wakanda. Rich with natural resources and advanced technologies, Wakanda honors a line of traditions which include guarded neutrality through closed borders. Wakandan traditions also include the trial of the Black Panther. This rite of passage is a royal ceremonial challenge that proves the winner's fitness to lead the nation, reflecting the peak physical and combative skills of the new Black Panther! The winner is enhanced by a rare herb that facilitates a spiritual confrontation with the panther god Bast.

The enhanced peak physical conditioning of T'Challa makes him not at all dissimilar from Captain America! Steve Rogers was a frail patriot so intent on joining the fight against Nazi Germany, he subjected himself to experimental testing! The enhancements of Dr. Abraham Erskine's super-soldier serum bestowed upon him ultimate human potential! Like The Panther, he was trained in armed and unarmed combat, and honed his skills in a theatre of war!

Personally, I tend to think of Black Panther as the more skilled of the two hand-to-hand fighters. WWII era America wasn't exactly a capital for martial arts. So when it comes to technique, I tend to give The Panther the edge. That said, the custom measure of The Haseloff System tries to balance literal definitions with the realities of comic book variables. That's why Cap rates higher on the fighting measure, for his sheer will to barrel through the opposition. Which isn't to say Cap is any kind of slouch, obviously. I just think of Panther as a more refined hand-to-hand fighter in the mould of a supreme martial artist.

This fight has a lot in common with the deadlock of Captain America vs Batman. Again, in that example, Batman's refined, literal martial artistry was underrated against the intangible "warrior" quality of Cap. A fine line of interpretation.
Of course, Black Panther doesn't just fight with innate skill and sense - he also fights with a brilliant mind. His knowledge of science and engineering sometimes plays out in new tricks in his suit, but can't be under estimated for giving him a unique perspective of opponents and environment.

Both characters have shown they can fight well above their weight, as well. In past featured fights we've seen Black Panther match heavyweights: Super-Skrull [Fantastic Four #6] and Dr. Doom [Black Panther #19]. On the flipside, Cap's gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Master Man [Reborn #2] and Iron Man [Captain America Annual #9]!

Separating the two is very difficult. When the fight starts, Cap has already taken out a couple of Wakandan guards. Let's find out how the main event went!

The Tape: Captain America Ranking: Captain America (#7)

What Went Down...
Springing from his remote controlled ship like a blaze of red, white and blue - Captain America goes of the offensive, hoping to avoid an ambush by taking down the shadowy figures who accompany the Black Panther!

The human dynamo springs from his toppled foes and braces for the attack of The Panther himself! With the momentum swinging his way, the super-soldier expects a single blow can finish the conflict, but the swing of his shield misses its intended target!

The Black Panther's legendary reflexes are too fast for the Captain's arrogant physicality, but Wakanda's ruler fights with honor. He prowls out of harms way, dashing between Cap's open stance, and refuses the aid of his soldiers as he rises to topple the American!

Well versed in hand-to-hand grappling, Captain America uses the Panther's own movement against him! With a cinched in hold, Cap tumbles into the roll, using his legs to vault the Black Panther over him!

The manoeuver is enough to pass T'Challa's martial test! Convinced the man he has summoned from afar is indeed the genuine article - he calls off their battle!
With a deadly menace threatening their very existence from above, the heroes must put all thoughts of combat supremacy aside. They get to work.

The Hammer...
It was a fast and furious struggle, but it was also just a test! Both fighters showed intelligence and intensity in their technique, but it was all for a draw!

There's a lot to like in this fight. I think it's a good illustration of the intensity Jack Kirby brings to his figures during this period of Marvel Comics. There's a reality and weight to the characters, but their logical actions are cranked up a notch. Judo mats be damned!

It may or may not surprise you to know today's featured fight essentially takes place over a single page. The limited range of movements makes this somewhat easy to deduce, but I don't know if it gives enough credit to the fluid continuity of their battle. The story clearly never intends to pit the two heroes at odds, but if you came for a fight between them, you got a decent taste in a small space.

Bit of a dick move on Cap's part to just dive out and start fighting anyone who shows up. Hardly the worst example of the 'superhero misunderstanding' cliché, but an entry, none the less. You can put it down to the Tales of Suspense double feature format. Sharing the series with Iron Man means limited pages and a healthy attitude to cramming a lot in!

The fight is also consistent with Black Panther's other early appearances, where he tests himself against international heroes. It built the tone of mystery and seclusion that is ultimately a unique defining trait for the fictional nation of Wakanda. Cap has ultimately been recruited to fight the new Baron Zemo of the time. In a nice example of Marvel continuity, Black Panther joins Cap as a new Avengers recruit right after this. Solid, pull no punches, organic storytelling.

As you'll no doubt have guessed: today's 1968 sparring session was far from the last time Black Panther and Captain America went head-to-head!

Fans in some parts of the world can already see the pair fighting on opposite sides in Captain America: Civil War! Black Panther is drawn into the conflict by the assassination of his father: King T'Chaka, whose interest in superhuman registration is piqued by the death of aid workers during an Avengers mission gone wrong. These tragedies lead him T'Challa to fight alongside Iron Man and the other heroes in favor of registration.

With Black Panther heading back to theatres for a much anticipated solo film in 2018, I'm hopeful we'll be here to talk a whole lot more about his exploits. The reputations of the Panther and Cap as two of Marvel's best hand-to-hand fighters has certainly spawned a few memorable rematches I can think of!

If your hunger for Civil War inspired entries hasn't been satiated - check out Old Comics Wednesday: Captain America for a choice selection of relevant back issues! You can also find hundreds of previous featured fights in the Archive Issued Index and come back next week for another exciting action-packed encounter with Captain America's past!

Winner: Draw
#7 (--) Captain America
#113 (+15) Black Panther

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Friday, May 6th the cinematic Avengers will be split down the middle by a philosophical struggle in Captain America: Civil War! The battlelines may be drawn by a massive Marvel movie ensemble cast, but it mustn't be forgotten that this is the third solo film for Captain America! To help you prepare for Cap throwing his mighty shield, we've got an Old Comics Wednesday selection of some of the classic -- and a few leftfield (or is that Liefeld) -- battles featured on the site!

Hit the covers below to be transported back through wars with: Iron Man, Spider-man, Crossbones, Thor, Loki, Wolverine, Red Skull, Batman, The Destroyer, The Invaders, She-Hulk and more! Plus: Team-ups with classic allies who include some of his opponents, and heroes like: Vision, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Cable, Sub-Mariner, Human Torch and Winter Soldier!

For more on Captain America: Civil War be sure to check out the Hero of the Week and stay tuned for all new battles involving Captain America, Falcon, Iron Man and more!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Real Name: Tony Stark
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #39 (March, 1963)
Fight Club Ranking: #3

Featured Fights:
- vs WONG-CHU: Tales of Suspense #39 (Mar 1963)
- vs GHOST RIDER: Avengers #214 (Dec 1981)
- vs DIABLO: Iron Man #159 (Jun 1982)
- vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: Captain America Annual #9 (1990)
- vs WHIRLWIND: Iron Man Annual #11 (1990)
- vs VENOM: Iron Man #302 (Mar 1994)
- vs WAR MACHINE: Iron Man #310 (Nov 1994)
- vs MANDARIN: Iron Man #312 (Jan 1995)
- vs TITANIUM MAN: Iron Man #316 (May 1995)
- vs HULK: Iron Man #2 (Dec 1996)
- vs DESTROYER: Thor #1 (Jul 1998)
- vs INVADERS: New Invaders #0 (Aug 2004)
- vs SHE-HULK: Avengers #501 (Oct 2004)
- vs MALLEN: Iron Man #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs SINISTER TWELVE: Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 (Apr 2005)
- vs TERRORISTS: Iron Man #5 (Mar 2006)
- vs SECRET AVENGERS: Civil War #3 (Sep 2006)
- vs SKRULLS: New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (Feb 2007)
- vs NOVA/THUNDERBOLTS: Nova #3 (Aug 2007)
- vs SECRET AVENGERS: New Avengers #36 (Jan 2008)
- vs DR. DOOM: Mighty Avengers #10 (May 2008)
- vs SUB-MARINER: Invincible Iron Man #12 (Jun 2009)
- vs CRIMSON DYNAMO: Invincible Iron Man #14 (Aug 2009)

Just when you thought Robert Downey Jr might be the high-priced weak link in a carefully weaved Marvel movie web, Tony Stark aka; Iron Man is announced to feature in the upcoming cinematic reboot: Spider-man: Homecoming.

The Hollywood Reporter delivered the news, confirming Downey's role in entrenching the new Spidey films firmly in the Marvel Universe!

The actor/character marriage continues to provide a valuable core to Marvel's movie world, even as the Iron Man solo franchise appears to be dormant. He next appears as one of the stars of Captain America: Civil War as proponent of a movement to identify and register unsanctioned superheroes.

Cap 3 will unroll an Avengers ensemble cast and pit both halves of the heroic franchise against one another in an approximation of Marvel's 2006 comics event - Civil War. For all intents and purposes it's Iron Man 4 and Avengers 3 all rolled into one, even if the story will be told with sympathy for Captain America and his team.

It's the same superhero dichotomy that existed in the comic, really boiling down to Team Iron Man versus Team Cap. There's a dispute of civil liberty and super-human politics, but the movie appears to take a much softer line, avoiding painting Iron Man in the almost villainous pseudo-fascist role he held for a few years in the comics. Many will see Iron Man as being as justified in his beliefs. A wise choice for a mass audience, but a potential chink in the armor of the hero-v-hero plot that should otherwise be significantly better received, and motivated, than Batman v Superman.

Civil War will be serving a lot of masters and it will be interesting to see how well they serve them all. Iron Man and the Avengers obviously take a portion of real estate, while the movie also brings back Winter Solder [HOTW 04/18/2016], and introduces Black Panther [HOTW 01/18/2016] to movie-going audiences.

As previously noted [HOTW 03/14/2016]; Spider-man also appears on Team Iron Man -- the beginning of Marvel's role in co-producing the web-slinger's big screen adventures alongside long time license holders: Sony. The Iron Man/Spider-man partnership comes right out of the comic, frequently cited by fans and producers as something they felt they 'needed' to have. Peter Parker unmasked in the original series - a major moment that ultimately meant nothing as the threads of the character were rewoven to avoid a lasting change. He flips from Team Iron Man to Team Cap mid-story, but again, it's very arguable how vital the character is. It will be interesting to see what changes lead to Iron Man finding his way into the first Spidey solo film, and how big that role actually is. With this Spidey much younger than that of the comics, it seems Tony Stark may have a far bigger role to play in his formative superhero years.

It's intriguing and exciting to see Marvel's first movie success contributing to the creation of a new generation. The Marvel movie universe seems to have been designed with a future in mind and that future continues to grow as whispers of Phase 4 -- the post-Avengers: Infinity War slate -- draws ever nearer. It would be a shame to take Iron Man completely off the table. I hope he'll be around for years to come, even if it's in a reduced, or background role.

Watching a little of Avengers last night, I was reminded how enjoyable Downey Jr is simply as a presence. That wasn't a movie I particularly enjoyed, but his comfort in the role elevates most scenes he's in. It was always genius casting that was easy to like - even if they never quite capitalized on the meta-text of the actor and character's mutual demons. His ability to inhabit the role was enough. Even in the lacklustre Iron Man 2 - Stark shines. Unlike some, I thought Iron Man 3 was a very enjoyable  sequel and character study that dealt with, and expanded upon, the Avengers movie.

Captain America: Civil War officially opens theatrically May 6th. We're a bit rushed this time, but there'll be a whole lot Captain America - and some more Iron Man - in the coming weeks! Be sure to be back for all the fun!