Wednesday, March 30, 2016

After untold months of anticipation: the Batman v Superman rivalry has crash landed in theatres across the globe! The movie is the Dawn of Justice, beginning the first steps toward the path of a full Justice League on film starting with the gathering of Batman, Superman & Wonder Woman!

This Old Comics Wednesday, we're receiving future echoes of heroes to come with some of the classic Justice League battles featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! By clicking the covers below, you'll find feature showdowns involving charter League members: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Atom, Booster Gold, Firestorm, Vixen, Guy Gardner and many more!

The heroes battle some of DC Comics' most dangerous enemies of justice: Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Doomsday, Joker, Sinestro, Deathstroke, Gorilla Grodd, Mongul, Cheetah, Poison Ivy and more!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Real Name: Diana of Themyscira
First Appearance: All-Star Comics #8 (Dec, 1941)
Fight Club Ranking: #12

Featured Fights:
- vs ETRIGAN: The Demon #17 (Nov 1991)
- vs STORM: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs MANTIS & JUGGERNAUT: Unlimited Access #1 (Dec 1997)
- vs MORGAUTH: JSA Strange Adventures #1 (Oct 2004)
- vs SUPERMAN & BATMAN: Superman/Batman #15 (Feb 2005)
- vs ULTRAMARINE CORPS: JLA: Classified #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs MONGUL: Infinite Crisis #1 (Dec 2005)
- vs INJUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #15 (Jan 2008)
- vs SINESTRO CORPS: Green Lantern #25 (Jan 2008)
- vs MINOTAUR: DC Universe 0 (Jun 2008)
- vs MARY MARVEL: Final Crisis #3 (Sep 2008)
- vs CHEETAH: Wonder Woman #29 (Apr 2009)
- vs GENOCIDE: Wonder Woman #32 (Jul 2009)

I had some trouble narrowing down this week's HOTW. The source of inspiration wasn't hard to find: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice officially hit wide release Friday - instantly becoming the biggest talking point in comics and pop culture of the moment! We already featured Superman earlier in the year [02/01/2016], leaving a choice between the intangible "winner" of the week, or the one I have the most thoughts about. I threw a quick poll up on Twitter and returned the answer I already felt was most true.

Wonder Woman may not be the name on the marquee, but she's the spiritual victor coming out of this week's Batman v Superman cinematic showdown. While the air around the title heroes is grim with disappointment, Wonder Woman gleams with a sense of joy, and the promise of something new.

To be fair, some of this fancy free enthusiasm comes from being the third wheel in a big budget car crash. The trajectory of Batman and Superman in each other's direction became so poorly motivated and basically unattractive, they were always going to be the two to blaze bright, or crash and burn. Right now, it feels like the latter. For the first time in recent memory, they truly feel like century old characters: bloated and collapsing broken under the weight of the grandiose pointlessness they permit. Too big to fail. A license to get it spectacularly wrong. Victims of a poor reading of old texts.

With her first solo feature film coming in 2017, perhaps it was by design that Batman v Superman tried to leave DC's two biggest icons worse for wear, so everyone would be even more inclined to embrace the bright spark of Wonder Woman.

By choice, this Wonder Woman is rooted in 100 years of alternate modern history, and Greek mythology. As an exercise in building cinema's second superhero universe, it most closely resembles two of Marvel's least impressive outings: Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor.

Like the former, Wonder Woman's film will flashback to the Second World War. Like the latter, Wonder Woman's origins isolate her from the other superheroes of science and humanity. The challenge will be adequately bridging these gaps, while also remembering to tell a satisfying tale.

Teaser clips shown during a special on The CW (three months ago) failed to really give any indication of the film's depth. Its visual palette appears dark and dour, not dissimilar from Batman v Superman. Warner Brothers recently assured audiences the Justice League movie will be lighter than Dawn of Justice, which receives an R on [uncut] home release. Here's hoping it won't be too late for Wonder Woman to shine bright on her own - or with friends.

Marvel's WWII Captain America omitted almost all reference to their other Golden Age heroes. Licensing scenarios of the time meant characters like the Sub-Mariner and Human Torch were unlikely to be available for feature. [Yes - I know about the unnamed cameo]. Other live-action DC properties have been toying with the multiverse, and multiple generations. It'll be interesting to see if Wonder Woman's history makes any reference to the Justice Society of America.

Gentle nods to the likes of Jay Garrick and Alan Scott would be nice. It could lay some potentially useful track for the future Flash film, and explanations of the Speed Force, while also filling out Wonder Woman's world. If you're going to create a history -- why not go all out using it?

Wonder Woman will be fighting the tide when DC Comics goes all-in on their Rebirth event, as well. The heroine, and return of writer Greg Rucka, were big parts of Wondercon announcements, which failed to instil a great sense of belief or enthusiasm for DC's "new" direction.

Like their movies; DC Comics have had the stink of shallow, brooding mediocrity since 2011's New 52 line-wide reboot. The sense of a poorly defined, but carefully contrived universe -- designed specifically for the movie age, but not necessarily existing readers -- turned once dynamic heroes and villains into plodding contradictions. Stripped of their history and iconic definition; many of the characters became pale shadows of their former selves, at odds even with some multimedia. Other properties didn't even make it that far.

While there were undoubtedly questionable decisions along the way: Wonder Woman managed to be one of the less offensively damaged characters. This could be because her print existence has long been subject to severe inconsistency, and existential dilemma. Finding the definitive Wonder Woman has often been difficult. I thought Darwyn Cooke was approaching the character in an interesting way during The New Frontier. His Wonder Woman literally stood tall as a classic superhero in the mould of the mid-2000s Amazon warrior princess. Bold, decisive, and sometimes lethal in her approach to justice.

Unfortunately, Rucka's return means another Year One story -- probably still with a mind for the film division that now lords over comics, and Rucka's own boisterous interests. The promotionally lauded return of old contributors implies some stepping on toes, but DC are openly rejecting any idea of another "reboot" -- five years too late, sadly. For all the hullabaloo, it sounds as if the chain will remain broken by the New 52, even if revisions try to patch up some of the holes. We shall see.

What ever the path, be it film or comic, Wonder Woman is clearly one of the more exciting characters to watch in the DC pantheon. Watching, I'm sure we will be! WW was in action just last Friday for a transition from Dawn of Justice, to the anniversary of DC versus Marvel! You can find more from all these topics by following links and staying tuned!

<< Hero of the Week 04/04: Batman       [Home]       Hero of the Week 03/21: Daredevil >> 

Friday, March 25, 2016

No Time Like The Present! (Marvel/DC)
Unlimited Access #1 When: December 1997
Why: Karl Kesel How: Pat Olliffe

The Story So Far...
New York City native Axel Asher had enough trouble holding his own life together before he was confronted with a destiny to protect two parallel universes! Drawn into an inter-dimensional conflict between warring cosmic brothers and the denizens of their respective universes, Axel became the hero of two worlds: Access!
Having undone a merging of universes, and averted cosmic annihilation, Axel learns to adjust to the challenges of keeping both worlds separate, while also living a normal life. Crossovers continue to draw him deeper into the DC and Marvel Universes, but his powers help maintain the balance of reality.
What happens when it isn't just space that's starting to bleed from one universe into the other? When Mantis shows up in the Marvel Universe with a plan to kill Axel's girlfriend, he's forced to use his powers to recruit heroic allies from each universe once more. Only this time he's crossing over through time, as well!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Juggernaut 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Wonder Woman 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting: Wonder Woman 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Mantis 5 (Lasers)

Not a hoax! Not a dream! Heroes of two worlds uniting against the threat of an unexpected, villainous alliance!

Spider-man is Peter Parker of the Marvel Universe, joined by Wonder Woman of the DC Universe. They had a brief encounter during a previous crossover in 1981's Marvel Treasury Edition #28, and are aware of each other during this inter-dimensional team-up -- which has to be a good thing!

A year prior, an alliance would've been much trickier. During Marvel versus DC [#3], a cosmic contest of champions pitted Wonder Woman against Storm, while briefly in possession of Thor's hammer Mjolnir. The true-blue amazing Spider-man missed out on the showdown of that particular century, but has contended with the likes of Superman, Lex Luthor, Joker, and others, in other universe shattering encounters.

The villains of today's crossover are Mantis of the DC Universe's New Genesis, and the unstoppable Juggernaut. Mantis is a newcomer to The Comic Book Fight Club, but Juggernaut we know well. He too has infamously faced the might of Superman [DC versus Marvel #1], and has the only history recorded on site between our tag team tusslers, mostly unphased in his clash with Spidey [Amazing Spider-man #230].

There's a nice thematic symmetry to the two sides. Spidey & Mantis are super-powered bug-men, Wonder Woman & Juggernaut are magical powerhouses. How does this shake down in combat? Not exactly evenly.

We've seen Wonder Woman take on her share of magical bruisers: A mythic Minotaur [DC Universe 0], the monstrous Genocide [Wonder Woman #32], a corrupt Mary Marvel [Final Crisis #3]. Two outta three ain't bad! She had Mongul dead to rights in Infinite Crisis #1, and gave Superman some grief that same issue. Given Juggernaut's sketchy win/loss record, we can at least call that a stalemate.

Mantis, on the other hand, possesses a range of standard New God super-human abilities: Strength, speed, agility, flight. The real catch is his ability to siphon power from attacks and even individuals, which could render Spidey and WW both at a serious disadvantage! How will they handle it? Let's find out...

The Tape: Spider-man & Wonder Woman Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Inner city calm turns to panic when Empire State University comes under fire from the New God Mantis! How he came to be in a universe not his own is a mystery of meagre importance, paling in significance to his intent: To destroy the girlfriend of man of two worlds - Axel Asher!

As Access, Asher uses his ability to create inter-dimensional doorways to pull his girlfriend Ming out of harm's way -- right before explosive beams of energy blast from Mantis' hands to her location! Mantis glowers at the narrow escape, failing to notice the friendly neighbourhood Spider-man coming at him from behind with a flykick to the back!

The advantage is momentarily lost when Mantis uses his physical might to pin Spider-man to the ground and begins drinking in his life-force!

A spray from mechanical web-shooters covers Mantis' face in a blinding weave - prompting him to relinquish the hold and start blasting energy! Fortunately, the proportionate leap and agility of a spider makes light work of dodging the blind shots -- which find the invincible chest of the Juggernaut!

The mystically endowed menace isn't taking a swing at Mantis, though. He's unharmed and in cahoots! Instead rampaging against Spider-man - who leaps out of the path of Juggernaut and into a blast of energy!

Juggernaut clutches the hero's head in his giant hand and invites his accomplice to grab the other end to finish the job properly. It doesn't look good for the human-spider wishbone - until a streaking Amazon delivers a torpedo-like right across the face of Juggernaut!

Spider-man delivers an uppercut to Mantis, who's swiftly caught by the golden lasso of Wonder Woman! Spidey offers to take the load, but finds he's fresh out of web-fluid. The distraction gives Juggernaut the time he needs to sneak up behind and viciously smash Wonder Woman's face into the Earth!

The Amazon warrior recovers and instantly fires back with a left cross that staggers the hulking villain - but doesn't topple him! Juggernaut dares to be amused by the powerful attack, which "almost hurt". The world shakes from the impact of two titans colliding at full charge!

Meanwhile, Mantis is flying wild -- driven mad by the rapidfire banter of his webless opponent! Spidey dodges those deadly hands and snags the gleaming lasso still wrapped around Mantis' neck! It makes a fine substitute for web, as Spidey swings the magic rope around Mantis' wrists and mounts his back!

Access returns to the scene - informing Spidey he's having trouble figuring out exactly where in the DC Universe Mantis came from. That makes a return delivery tricky, but it hardly matters when Mantis goes aerial - dragging Spider-man helplessly behind him!

Across the battlefield, Wonder Woman fares a bit better. Perceiving Juggernaut's armor to indicate an innate weakness, she hones in on his helmet. A two-fisted uppercut rocks Juggernaut and sends his metallic dome flying!

Alas; Juggernaut's helmet is designed to protect against a weakness to mental attack -- something neither Spider-man nor Wonder Woman can render. With confidence he snatches Wonder Woman and runs her through a nearby faculty building at devastating speed!

Still flying above, a frustrated Mantis prepares an anti-matter charge to try to free himself from the cuff of Wonder Woman's enchanted lariat. He isn't paying attention when Spidey tosses the loose end around a lamp post -- sending Mantis into a high-speed downward spiral!

Spotting Wonder Woman and Juggernaut again brawling in the open, Spider-man calls his ally's attention to the "irresistible force" swinging wildly above. She sends an "unmoveable object" heading its way with an uppercut!

Add insect-men from New Genesis to things that can stop the Juggernaut. KO!

The Hammer...
The winners of this titanic tag team encounter are quite definitively Wonder Woman & Spider-man! As a matter of formality we also need to acknowledge the assist from Access, since he did recruit Wonder Woman to even the odds in the Marvel Universe.

Those in the know will remember there was a lot going on in the world of Wonder Woman around this time. She teetered on the brink of death in '97, resurrected for a spell as the Goddess of Truth. These strange twists were obliquely referenced in Unlimited Access, which, as it turns out, is actually a crossover between space and time -- making this a Wonder Woman plucked from some time in her past!

When you consider the inconsistency major superheroes faced throughout the nineteen nineties, playing in time doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Topical reference had meant the Spider-Clone participated in Marvel versus DC #3 the year prior, instead of the genuine article. Wonder Woman got to dodge that bullet thanks to time travel shenanigans, much the same as Hal Jordan, who appears a solid seven years before DC fashionably recommitted to its mistakenly discarded Silver Age icons [see; Green Lantern: Rebirth].

The disappointing fact of Marvel's four issue Unlimited Access mini-series is that it quickly breaks from the benefits of selecting characters at their iconic best, opting to get lost in mash-ups of alternate futures, and significantly dated pasts.

Even with a prior dozen or so DC/Marvel crossovers in the nineties, the desire to see comics' biggest contemporary icons together was still strong. Much more so than meetings with the sixties Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, or the Days of Future Past X-Men. Too many major players were still unused, and intriguing competitive match-ups unexplored. Wonderful as those stories are unto their own publication, nobody wants to feel the fight is just a meaningless What If...?

That may sound particularly absurd for an inter-company crossover, but one of the remarkable things about DC & Marvel's collaborations of the nineties was their willingness to play fair. Nothing illustrates the eerie d├ętente as well as an editor's note advertising a recent issue of Green Lantern in the pages of Marvel published Unlimited Access. Concocting mutually owned Amalgams seemed like a nice way to keep things even, but now we're casually incorporating business as usual. Spooky!

The companies would become spiteful nemeses anew just a few years later, but in the late nineties, everybody seemed fine playing relatively nice! Impactful stories were an available option. The battles, with some notable compromises, could be presented with more than a dismissive denial. Fans might debate their outcomes, but whether you like it or not, Storm beat Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman got the better of Juggernaut. For real.

Depending on your perspective, you may say Wonder Woman has also got the better of Batman & Superman. Throughout March, we've been taking inspiration from the unprecedented cinematic experience of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In mass theatrical release today - the movie includes the first feature film appearances of: The Batman v Superman rivalry, the DC Trinity, aspects of a cinematic Justice League, and Wonder Woman herself!
Starting now, and continuing into the month of April, we'll be featuring the 20th Anniversary of another unprecedented pop cultural showdown event: DC versus Marvel/Marvel versus DC!
It's been ten years since we first ran through the classic crossover contest. In April we'll continue to explore the two follow-up series and some of the inter-company crossover battles that you may have forgotten! So don't miss it!
Winners: Wonder Woman & Spider-man
(--) #2 Spider-man
(+3) #12 Wonder Woman
(+29) #138 Access [+1 Assist]
(-18) #341 Juggernaut
(new) #772 Mantis

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

In two days The Dark Knight takes the fight to The Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice! March 25th will mark the first shared theatrical outing for the World's Finest pairing. Earlier in the month we looked back at the storied comic book rivalry, and featured some of Superman's other hero-on-hero battles during weekly Friday Fight Night features.

This Old Comics Wednesday we're finally delving into the darkness of the criminal underworld and its fabled scourge -- honing in on the fight history of Batman!

As the #1 ranked combatant on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, Batman's fighting chops have been demonstrated against many more opponents than just Superman! By hitting the covers below, you'll be transported to featured fights involving: The Joker, Bane, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Hush, Two-Face, Mr. ZsaszAmazo, Dr. Light, Slam Bradley and even Marvel's Captain America!