Wednesday, April 01, 2009

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #40 (April 2009)
Hussah! Another month completed!

Over the past month you might have noticed the Infinite Wars stripped back to the bare essentials. It also can't have escaped your notice that the dates of our posts are quite a bit behind the times we're making them. Such is the bizarre anomoloy that sees us fighting against time itself -- all in an effort to bring the battles of superheroes back to the present! The sacred tradition of Friday Fight Night (the original) remains intact to ensure competition is consistent, while we strip back everything else [bar the archival shipping lists] to skip time like a school girl splashing puddles on a rainy day. Pigtails, and all.

A big shout out, as always, goes to the loyal readers whose insatiable bloodlust will not be sastified even by the removal of burly aliens' tongues! You are a credit to us all, and your loyalty goes much appreciated. As does the wise spending of those of you taking advantage of the convenience and savings offered by various Amazon links on the website. That's just good business!

Being that we're a bit less than a month behind right this moment, I can tell you with great certainty that we've got an exciting card of superhero smackdown for you in April! Continuing the tradition of the year, we're wheeling out some of the best fights of each week, delivering blows from Marvel and DC's latest hits!

We also eagerly anticipate the opportunity to get back stuck into some new articles, like a list that was compiled last month of the thirty most significant characters in the American superhero industry. I'm sure the list will shock and revile, but until we're back on track, that'll just have to wait! LEARN A VIRTUE!

While a conceited effort has been made to keep this Punch-Up modest, we've got a range of interesting subjects ahead. As always, Rankings updates will provide sports-like statistical entertainment, while we also have a little bit of speculation based on the coming releases, and some discussion about sales. If there's something missing, as always, you should be encouraged to drop a comment.

During those long lonesome nights where the tapping of the keyboard is the only sound to keep me company, it would be nice to have something to keep me warm at night. Be sure to sign-up to the RSS feed, follow via Blogger, add the site to your favourites, link and discuss entries on your own blog or message board, and just generally spread the word. Then make sure all of those people you send this way buy things, because papa really needs a new bag. Whatever that means.

Other than that, just generally stay tuned.

Wall Street War Journal: Market Analysis...
"Amazing" Sales Fig.
November 2007:
#545 124481 (-1.2%)
December 2008:
#581 64961 (-47.81%)
January 2009:
#582 59932 (-7.74%)
#583 352953 (+588.92%)
#584 63754 (-81.954%)
February 2009:
[#583 148805 #1/300]
#585 60286 (-5.44%)
#586 59521 (-1.27%)
#587 60118 (+1.00%)
Month End: (-5.70%)
Spidey's adventures this month continue to slide into sales decline, but it's interesting to make several observations straight of the bat. Most notably is the fact that Amazing finished February at #1 in the sales figures, riding the President Obama gravy train home with a massive second-print of issue #583, featuring an Obama cover.

It's a pretty spectacular achievement, but it might reiterate a fickle nature to the comics readership as it exists today. Presumably sales stem from a surge of interest from irregular readers, as well as, perhaps, a collectors market that's stemmed not just from comics, but other avenues.

Also of note from February is the fact that, while decline continued to the month-end, the series actually finished the month above the year's beginning figure. What does that mean? Well, not much, really. You can crunch the numbers to prove anything, but for a title featuring one of the most successful characters in history, it's not a terribly impressive number. Although, in the current direct market climate, it's still good enough to finish the month controlling ranks sixteen through eighteen.

The month in Spider-man finally had opportunity to overlap with the Infinite Wars with issue #585. Brand New Day contribution, Menace, had the captive attentions of Amazing readers as her secret origins were finally revealed over the course of several issues. Sales boosts on #587 accompanied the shock arrest of Spidey and his subsequent incarceration -- a plotline quickly resolved through an unsurprising guest appearance by Matt Murdock, but still an interesting hook.

As you might have seen in the shipping list, or recent reviews, I've been happy to put the "Spider-Boycott" behind us as Amazing finds a vastly improved balance of components, new and old. Menace, despite being extremely derivative of the oft retreaded [Green] Goblin character, is a welcome addition to the Spidey lethal foes, while the return of classic elements, such as the Spot, reinvests in an audience that has failed to grow with the mainstream success of the films. I can't say I'm particularly interested in the well conceived prospect of Harry Osborn as the "American Son", (bouncing off of Norman's ascension as Iron Patriot in the Dark Reign shuffle) but Dr. Octopus lies on the horizon to make up for that. Ultimately, that's just personal tastes, and I actually expect the storyline to be part of a positive flowing perspective in the series.

... MK Tournament: Winner Gets Franchise?
The saga of Midway Entertainment and the Mortal Kombat franchise continues to twist and wind as elaborately as any beat 'em up plot line. The promise of two more MK games entering production for the bankrupt company was quickly followed by strong rumors suggesting the MK development team might look to disconnect from the financially troubled publisher. This thought, not surprisingly, led to speculation about where the franchise might end up in relation to it's creative team, should Midway agree to sell their cash cow.

Now, [in April], DC Universe parent company, Warner Brothers, has entered the arena as a prominent prospect for purchasing the brand away from Midway. This would add an extra layer to the cross promotional blitz of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, which suffered, presumably due to Midway's declining position.

As someone who is as big a fan of the intellectual property, as I am the games, I can't help but salivate at the prospect of WB making better use of the characters and trademarks in other fields. Sure, games are conceivably an important part of the tradition of the games, but a comic series tie-in was sorely absent from the release of the DC Justice League-feuelled crossover game. Intriguing!

... The Phantom: Sci-Fi Hooded Justice?
As the "SyFy" channel pushes forward on it's Phantom project, the picture becomes increasingly grim. Cynical expectations were met when the channel released concept art for their character, the twenty-second Phantom to King Features better known twenty-first.

Forthcoming in their intentions to take the hero out of his jungle home, to reposition him as an urban New York vigilante; SyFy have reaffirmed their modernist approach, revealing artwork of a hi-tech bodyarmored hero with a hood, rather than the well known cowl that helped define the superhero genre as we know it. In a twist of irony, this modern Phantom appears to share much in common with the conceits of Batman introduced through Batman Begins, flipping the chain of reference that saw the Lee Falk creation contribute to inspiring Bob Kane's original 1939 Dark Knight.

While the Phantom franchise has arguably been long overdue an induction of promised succession through generations, this heavy deviation from the established facts of the character can only inspire cynical contempt in fans. This typical Hollywood revamp reminds international fans of the positives that have come from America's relative ignorance to one of their oldest comic book characters, the hero who predates Superman and the famous mystery men of the Golden Age.

Season 2009: Top Five Update...
Here on the Infinite Wars we like to play a little game of rank and review.
At the heart of the site is a series of reviews that recap the battles that embody the superhero universes as we know them. By tallying these results, we shuffle stats in the pursuit of the knowledge of who truly is the greatest hero of all.

Breaking up the cumulative grind are our yearly rankings, which give us the opportunity to observe the success of characters each year. Season 2009 is now well under way, and unlike previous years, has shown particular reflection on the grind of weekly releases. Feature fights have been diverse and intriguing!

ARTWORK: Ivan Reis#1 Alpha Lantern Kraken (-) (2) (DC)
Battles: [3] Last Opponent: [Batman]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative: [#49]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#121]

Hangover from our belated Final Crisis spotlight -- Kraken enjoys a second month at the top after turning on her fellow Lanterns during the event, under the influenced of Granny Goodness. Despite being proven less than incorruptable, it seems the Alpha Lanterns remain active in the build-up to Blackest Night. Kraken has thus far been absent from the War of Light, but if I'm not mistaken, her current status remains uncertain.

It seems a given that Season 2009 will no end with Kraken in the top spot, but as we draw ever closer to the official July launch of Blackest Night, the relevance of the Green Lantern Corps continues to forecast dominance for the group. If not Kraken, it could very well be the Corpsman she framed, Hal Jordan, who ascends to the top of the Infinite Wars rankings.

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinness#2 Batman (-) (37) (DC)
Battles: [43] Last Opponent: [Kraken]
Win Percentage: [72.1%] Cumulative: [#1]
2006: [#1] 2007: [#2] 2008: [#1]

Batman holds second spot, despite being uncharacteristically grounded from competition in the Infinite Wars.
While the character remains in constant print thanks to titles such as Superman/Batman, Trinity, and Batman Confidential, he remains in canonical limbo after succumbing to the "Omega Sanction" at the conclusion of Final Crisis.

Not since primary school has Saturday morning been as significant to me as it is now with the airing of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The delightful cartoon contributes another point of consistent relevance for the timeless character, despite his apparent disappearance to the characters of the DC Universe. Also representing the character in the crossmedia arena is Batman: Arkham Asylum, the much-hyped video game coming soon with a story by Paul Dini, and voices supplied by various members of the cast of the 1990's animated series.

To the sport of the Infinite Wars, we know that Batman simply won't have the dominance he's had in previous years. That said, as we chip further into 2009, we're also seeing a trend that has left the competition wide open to any character who should rise to prominence. Battle for the Cowl promises the ascension of another character, perhaps Dick Grayson, into the mantle, but if any kind of confrontation between student and mentor should occur, Batman might yet swoop in at the end of the year to seize dominance. At the same time, Silver Age icons like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen seem like the names to beat.

ARTWORK: Ethan Van Sciver#3 Flash (-) (3) (DC)
Battles: [4] Last Opponent: [Wood King]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative: [#29]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#38] 2008: [#63]

Speaking of the heroes to beat -- Barry Allen's surprise return in the pages of Final Crisis finally gets a follow-up! Flash: Rebirth officially gets under way this month, setting the classic hero up for a position at the very top of the ranks come the end of 2009.

What's in store for the speedster upon his return remains to be seen, but he is running headlong into a Blackest Night that will see the resonating return of several other deceased heroes who are much less fortunate than he. Along with Green Lantern, he has to be the money favourite to take 2009, but that might rest on the Infinite Wars' ability to remain financially focused on now.

ARTWORK: JG Jones#4 Sonny Sumo (-) (2) (DC)
Battles: [1] Last Opponent: [Megayakuza]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative: [#145]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR]

More leftovers from the excitement of Final Crisis, I can only ask a question in reference to our #4 -- where in time is Sonny Sumo?!

Arguably the most exciting find of 2008, the obscure Forever People character inspired the imaginations of thousands of readers counting down the Final Crisis. Unfortunately, some of the controversy of the story's winding narrative and layout experiments came to envelope any and all attention. In the debate, Sonny Sumo seems to have slipped through the cracks, just like he did to arrive in our time.

The Final Crisis Aftermath comes down in May with the release of four six-issue mini-series. Escape, Dance, Ink, and Run!, all follow the exploits of some of the lesser known characters that were featured in Final Crisis, including Grant Morrison's pop-enfused Japanese Forever People-inspired youth heroes, the Super Young Team (who star in Dance). With any luck, Sonny Sumo will find his way into that particular series, because it would simply be a travesty for the character to return to the obscurity from whence he came. Given that the title will be written by Morrison pal and receptive conceptualist, Joe Casey, here's hoping!

ARTWORK: Charles Marshall#5 Kung Lao (-) (3) (Midway)
Features: [1] Last Opponent: [Shang Tsung]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative: [#245]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR]

With a growing list of contenders forming an orderly line behind the little known historic predecessor to his MKII counterpart, it seems this might be the "Great" Kung Lao's last hurrah.

Mortal Kombat featured prominently on the Infinite Wars in 2008, including interviews with creative staff involved in the production of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. That literal comics crossover provided a strong path, but as any reader will have seen, I myself am a dedicated fan of the franchise. Maligned for it's deep rooting in unadmirable trends from the 1990's; MK possesses far more moxy than it's given credit for.

The success of characters that finished the year in our Top Ten ranks might look like a black mark against Season 2008, and Kung Lao's persistence in our 2009 ranks reiterates that. I hope, however, that rather than looking like fish out of water, this can be a testament to the canon and characters of the franchise.
I would be terribly disappointed if Mortal Kombat were to end with the whimper that MKvsDC wound up being. These characters really would be at home in a comic book series. As the writer/publisher behind Nite Lite Theatre, I've often dreamed of the opportunity to realise a sequential version of the MK canon, and while it's very unlikely that I will be in a position to achieve that, I'd take some solace in the thought that MK might get such a treatment through DC.

As tumultuous a ride as it's been for the franchise, I really think fans deserve another game. A game that lives up to the expectations that are so often left unfulfiled. It seems achievements are restricted to specific areas unique to a release, and often that's been attributed to a rushed production. MKvsDC itself suffered from a drastically undersized cast, disappointing story, and underwhelming presentation. If MK does find a home elsewhere, it would be nice to see someone foster the opportunity for a rebirth akin to 2002's Deadly Alliance, albeit with a production time less abbreviated.

#1 (+18) Sinestro Corps
#2 (--) Justice League
#3 (+2) Secret Avengers
#4 (+12) Justice Society
#5 (-1) Green Lantern Corps
#6 (+21) Shadaloo
#7 (-6) Dark Illuminati
#8 (-1) Birds of Prey
#9 (-1) Shadow Cabinet
#10 (-1) Thunderbolts
#11 (-1) Super Young Team
#12 (--) Shadowpact
#13 (-2) Guardians of the Galaxy
#14 (-13) Interpol
#15 (-9) MI:13
#16 (-2) Outsiders
#17 (new) The Titans
#18 (-3) Fantastic Four
#19 (new) Teen Titans
#20 (+6) Uncanny X-Men
#21 (-18) Legion of Superheroes
#22 (-2) Dark Avengers
#23 (-6) Astonishing X-Men
#24 (-3) X-Force
#25 (-7) Secret Six
#26 (-1) Special Forces
#27 (-4) Earthrealm Defenders
#28 (-6) Mighty Avengers
#29 (-5) Lady Liberators
2009 Fantasy League...
For those who came in late: last year various readers drafted characters into a fanatsy league team which accumulated points based on features on the site, and spotlights in the weekly shipping list.

This year, rather than subject actual human beings to the soul crushing inconsistency of our statistics, we're using teams inspired by the comics themselves! The company's print groups battle it out for our amusement month to month in this highly pointless game.

Month three hands victory to overall Fantasy League leader - the Sinestro Corps! The Yellow fear Lanterns are front and centre in the War of Light that pits Green Lantern stalwarts against several armies of newly emerging Corps, each representing different emotive responses on the colour spectrum. Internal struggle in the Yellow group saw Mongul dominate his counterpart to secure victory for the overall team. This clash no doubt will be a part of the events yet to unfold, as well as point-grabbing squabbles that will inevitably be sponsored by Sinestro's arrival on the planet Daxam, ready to oppose Mongul in his conquest of the Sinestro Corps and collection of rings.

The Justice League and Secret Avengers reaffirm themselves as power players as they charge up the rankings, building atop heavy costs incurred by high ranking players. Last week's representative JLA trades give them an overall score boost to go along with a solid second-ranking response mined from a quiet month.

Moderate losses were the dominant reaction to March's modest card of 2009 battles. As the Infinite Wars dip one month behind, the trimmings have been cut in an effort to bring the site back up to date. This has meant a simple schedule of Friday fights that offer sparse shifts in the cumulative rankings.

This month we only see cause for a single trade, based upon the revelation that Fatality has defected to the love wielding violet light of the Star Sapphires, relinquishing her yellow Sinetro ring. March inductee, Arkillo, replaces her.
In coming months we can expect a reshuffle of the Justice League (based on a new line-up in a spin-off mini-series), and the induction of the Black Lanterns. That particular group already counts Superman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and possibly Superboy, among their number, but will need five figures to round a team. Presumably those reveals will come closer to the July Blackest Night series.

Substitutions & Additions:
Sinestro Corps: Fatality (out) Arkillo (in) [Ttl: 2422]

This year, the basic set-up is a little different.
Teams start with an allowance of 3515 points; five times value of the top ranked character. Five characters suitable to the team are drafted at a cost derived from their cumulative ranking at the end of Season 2008. 720 characters, means #1 is worth 720pts, working downward to #715, valued at 1pt. This new rule not only offers an immediate reflection of value, but handicaps league leaders.
This year, unranked characters will cost 355pts, a fraction over mid-range.

Subsequent points are awarded based on results throughout the month.
25pts for a win, 7pts for an assist, 5pts for a loss, and 10pts for a draw.
Additional bonuses of 5pts are awarded for spotlights in the shipping list, and other articles sporradically featured throughout the site. As with last year; the final contributor to monthly scores is the cumulative super stock, which will provide literal additions and substractions to reflect the movement in ranking.

Due to the ever changing landscape of superheroics, and characters who hold membership with multiple groups, we will attempt to maintain a delicate balance between accuracy and suitability. Again encouraging some sense of interactivity, it is strongly encouraged for readers to use the comments section to suggest appropriate trades, and/or the inclusion of new teams.

To make the Fantasy League more managable, there may be a culling process in the future months, that eliminates some teams. Once again, be encouraged to make your thoughts on the subject known in the comments section.

Super Stock: Cumulative Rankings...
For those coming in late: the Infinite Wars was founded on a concept of reviewing superhero comics through the battles displayed within.
Results are tallied to form both annual rankings, and a cumulative tally.
These rankings bare no concrete value, but provide fun with lists and statistics on the site. The following reflects the months changes in the cumulative ranks.

Year One: [1995]
Season 2009: [#14]
Last Opponent: [Arkillo]
The Sinestro Corps War was one of the highlights of 2007. Now, Blackest Night promises to reinspire the invigorated franchise in ways reminiscent of it's Rebirth revival. Mongul plays an intriguing role by struggling for control of the Sinestro Corps, which saw him recently dominate rival Corpsman, Arkillo! Shooting up the ranks, Mongul is a villain to watch in 2009!

Year One: [1941]
Season 2009: [#13]
Last Opponent: [Cheetah]
Wonder Woman proves her power with an impressive win over arch-nemesis and Infinite Wars favourite villain, Cheetah, reiterating her value to DC's powerful franchise Trinity. WW continues to face overwhelming odds as the gods themselves war over the Amazon's fates!

Year One: [1959]
Season 2009: [#28]
Last Opponent: [Wood King]
Hal Jordan is one to watch in 2009 as the Green Lantern franchise continues to build toward the exciting July event of the Blackest Night. It's Prelude is already contructing a War of Light between the various coloured factions, while Hal Jordan struggles with a persona that is attracting the attentions of each emotive Corps on the spectrum. Will he be saviour, or when the Black Lanterns rise, is his fate sealed?

Year One: [1940]
Season 2009: [#20]
Last Opponent: [Hush]
The former Boy Wonder is the favourite to walk away as a new Batman after Battle for the Cowl. Nightwing has had a rough time of it in the three-issue mini, but that struggle seems likely to be the acid test for a hero who destined to succeed his mentor. Bruce Wayne sits coiled for a return sometime in the future, but with several titles launching in place of the traditional Batman, 2009 might be Nightwing's time to strike!

Year One: [1939]
Season 2009: [NR]
Last Opponent: [Nazi Party]
Marvel's 70th anniversary celebrations have unleashed the Prince of the Deep on a Marvel Universe in the grip of a Dark Reign. Sub-Mariner defected from the Illuminati to recall his Supervillain Team-Up days by joining up with "the Cabal" -- a group loyal to Norman Osborn, and containing fellow monarch, Dr. Doom. Despite this dark acquaintance, Namor remains an active hero, appearing in a multitude of titles, including upcoming stories featuring a "Dark X-Men." The classic Golden Age anti-hero is more present than ever, and could be the dark horse of '09!
1. Batman (-) (DC)
2. Spider-man (-) (M)
3. Iron Man (-) (M)
4. Superman (-) (DC)
5. Hulk (-) (M)
6. Wolverine (-) (M)
7. Captain America (-) (M)
8. Mr. Fantastic (-) (M)
9. Daredevil (-) (M)
10. Thing (-) (M)
13. Wonder Woman (+2) (DC)
14. Luke Cage (-1) (M)
16. Sub-Mariner (-) (M)
17. Ryu (-) (C)
19. Flash (-) (DC)
21. Shang Tsung (-) (Mid)
27. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
28. Nightwing (-) (DC)
29. Flash (-) (DC)
30. Phantom (-) (KFS)
32. Martian Manhunter (-) (DC)
33. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
40. Robin (-) (DC)
41. Black Canary (-) (DC)
45. Captain America (-) (M)
50. Ken Masters (-) (C)
53. Aquaman (-) (DC)
55. Red Hood (-) (DC)
59. Dr. Doom (-) (M)
68. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
73. Powergirl (-) (DC)
84. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
93. Dr. Strange (-) (M)
100. Bullseye (-) (M)
107. Flash (-) (DC)
127. Black Mask (-) (DC)
136. Ganthet (-) (DC)
137. Sayd (-) (DC)
150. Tally Man (-) (DC)
157. General Zod (-) (DC)
177. Superman (-) (DC)
179. The Hood (-) (M)
186. Jin Kazama (-) (N)
200. Apocalypse (-) (M)
208. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
217. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
227. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
249. Rorschach (new) (DC)
250. Colossus (-1) (M)
264. Sinestro (-1) (DC)
266. Superboy (-1) (DC)
294. Mongul (+252) (DC)
298. Spider-man (-2) (M)
300. Scarecrow (-2) (DC)
310. Solomon Grundy (-2) (DC)
319. Cheetah (-3) (DC)
341. Spot (new) (M)
350. Granny Goodness (-3) (DC)
400. Squire (-3) (DC)
423. Lady Bullseye (new) (M)
430. Vulture (-4) (M)
450. Hyena (-4) (DC)
500. Shrinking Violet (-3) (DC)
510. Harry Osborn (-3) (M)
550. Hammer (-2) (DC)
564. Black Hand (-2) (DC)
600. Nighthawk (-2) (M)
650. Li Mei (-2) (Mid)
678. Rulk (-2) (M)
682. Moloch (new) (DC)
683. Arkillo (new) (DC)
684. Sabretooth (-4) (M)
690. Bane (-4) (DC)
700. Jocasta (-4) (M)
709. Kingpin (-248) (M)
713. Iron Patriot (-5) (M)
716. Zangief (-5) (C)
717. Quicksilver (-5) (M)
718. Magneto (-5) (M)
719. Dan Hibiki (-5) (C)
720. Lizard (-5) (M)

- Mike Haseloff; War Monger-in-Chief
You're a true warrior, Alex!

February Hit Count: [12328/210883]* (-2.77%)
* Hitcount reflects some content dated February.

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