Monday, July 31, 2017

Real Name: Adrian Toomes
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #2 (May, 1963)
Fight Club Ranking: #534

Featured Fights:
- vs AVENGERS: Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 (Apr 2005)

Spider-man: Homecoming is now in theatres, and most of the world seems to agree that the joint production between Disney and Sony has given Marvel Entertainment one of its most compelling villains to date! Vulture seems an unlikely candidate, but the winning formula was easy to see!

Michael Keaton was always going to be an engaging choice -- not just because of his famous three year reign as the big screen Batman -- or because it played up jokes made in Best Picture Oscar winner Birdman. Keaton is a good actor. A star who brings a lot of character and intensity to even his worst roles. Trailers immediately announced he was taking the role seriously, and the concept as its written gives him plenty to bite into as a regular guy pushed to cruel and unusual action!

The only thing I can't quite get to grips with is the idea that Michael Keaton could be viewed by some of the audience as old. I mean, sure. The Dream Team may be running out of bench, but geez. Marisa Tomei as Aunt May?! Don't get me started, man. Don't get me started!

"Ageism" in the culture, especially Hollywood, isn't exactly breaking news, but it does surprise me that Vulture's age seems to be a tougher sell than the green, fur-lined flying suit. Growing up, I always thought it was kind of a fun distinguishing feature of the character. There was the obvious visual hook of a thin bald man (to look like the bird), but even the idea of an old man pushed to kicking youngster's arse is pretty fun. The more the audience resists, the more it makes sense - to me.

I always thought it would be a lot of fun to see Vulture starring in a Curb Your Enthusiasm type series. A comic that deals with the mundane of the super-villain's existence, and his frustrations in the every day life that push him to criminality. Yes, I rather like the visual of Larry David scowling in the costume, too. It's a thought that's been with me a while, as far back as when Peter Parker unmasked during Civil War. Which struck me as a great premise for comic indignation. Anybody who remembers Peter Parker's late eighties coffee table book, Webs, could understand the humor of a super-villain lawsuit for use of their likenesses without permission.

It's interesting to imagine what might've been had Sam Raimi completed his vision for Vulture in Spider-man 3. Ben Kingsley might not be the cantankerous old man of the comics, but again, I can see a closer visual. I also imagine Raimi's instincts might've veered a little closer to the comics. He certainly went all-in on the memorable image of Sandman. I'd like to think it wouldn't have been another Green Goblin "Power Rangers" suit.

I'm a little disappointed the Homecoming version of the costume veers away from the source, but even the most loyal comics fan probably doesn't demand a green leotard with wings attached.

The vibe of flight jacket is a pretty sympathetic adaptation. I could do without the pseudo-realism of fan-force wings, but what're you gonna do? I have mixed feelings about the helmet, but it's not the worst thing in the world. It's certainly not enough to stop Vulture being our Hero of the Week!

Edit: July was supposed to be the month we built up our fight record with more Vulture action. Sadly, 2017 had a knack for getting in the way of my beautiful, beautiful schedule. With any luck we'll get a chance to dip a toe into the Vulture file again in the future.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Real Name: Michael Holt
First Appearance: Spectre #54 (June, 1997)
Fight Club Ranking: #464

Featured Fights:
- vs SOLOMON GRUNDY: JSA #65 (Nov 2004)

It's typical for San Diego Comic-Con International to create a crisis of multiple Hero of the Week contenders, but this year the July stand-outs were few and far between.

Last year Spider-man: Homecoming pipped the competition with a reveal for Michael Keaton's surprising Vulture -- a break-out that lived up to the hype in theatres earlier this month. In 2017: the blockbuster film announcements that typically dominate headlines weren't quite as convincing -- opening the door to another surprising SDCC Hero of the Week: Mister Terrific!

The hi-tech genius is the leader for a newly announced DC Comics team-up called The Terrifics!

Fronting a band that also includes Plastic Man, Metamorpho and Phantom Girl; Mister Terrific is a none-too-subtle surrogate in what is ultimately a nod to another quartet of presently neglected comic book favourites: The Fantastic Four!

It's a pretty cheeky reference, but given Marvel's stubborn neglect toward one of their oldest and most celebrated properties, it may prove to be a rewarding and shrewd choice. Not only does it capitalize on a gaping whole in the market -- it diverts attention from DC's own glaring neglect of their trademarks, throwing shade on Marvel's missteps, whilst subtly addressing their own.

The Terrifics as spin-off from the on-going Dark Metal saga at DC Comics isn't especially thrilling. Their approach to repairing the damage of the New 52 has a clumsiness that feels all too reminiscent of the very events that went horribly wrong. It's getting difficult to remember what was and wasn't explicitly promised for Rebirth, but the implication of iconic reform and unravelling isn't playing out.

Fortunately, The Terrifics appear cut from a cloth more in keeping with Young Animal, where DC have been quietly redeemed under the curation of My Chemical Romance front-man Gerard Way.

There doesn't seem to be any actual connection to Young Animal, where the likes of Doom Patrol and Bug have inspired Heroes of the Week with welcome resurrections. There's just a similar fun, unburdened, comic-pop sensibility. Something that hasn't been seen in the DCU proper for most of the decade!

The character choices alone seem in keeping with Young Animal's liberated choice of third-string icons. Hopefully this team can move forward with a similar sense of whimsical abandon and independence from the grim oppressions of most of the publisher's line-up!

The preview art, with its knowing minimalism, comic book savvy, and pop palette recalls the work of Mike & Laura Allred on Bug, or Nick Derington and colorist Tamra Bonvillain on the new Doom Patrol. It feels as if DC is opening up to the possibility of getting its cool back!

The Terrifics concept seems to lean heavily on the Fantastic Four, with its formally entitled genius, stretchy hero, see-thru girl, and disfigured elemental -- but I'm hoping (and expecting) the series will use this platform to launch into its own brand of fun.

Historically, Doom Patrol were compared to the sci-fi and oddball characters of the Fantastic Four, as well. Yet I'd like to think it proved concept for its own referential touchstone. The Terrifics have a chance to be what the Fantastic Four haven't for quite some time. Let them be Terrific!

Be sure to check out CBR's Terrifics preview for more on the new series. With any luck this signals a trend of fun in superhero comics that sometimes feels missing.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Real Name: Victor Creed
First Appearance: Iron Fist #14 (August, 1977)
Fight Club Ranking: #885

Featured Fights:
- vs IRON FIST: Iron Fist #14 (Aug 1977)
- vs HEROES FOR HIRE: Power Man & Iron Fist #66 (Dec 1980)
- vs JUBILEE: Adventures of the X-Men #7 (Oct 1996)
- vs TEEN TITANS: Unlimited Access #3 (Feb 1998)
- vs WOLVERINE: X-Men (Jul 2000)
- vs WOLVERINE: Wolverine #50 (Mar 2007)

The hits keep on coming! Marvel Legacy is gearing up to get seriously classic on some of your favourite Marvel Comics heroes and series. As Newsarama reports, that means Iron Fist #73 is going to rekindle one of Marvel's forgotten classic rivalries: Iron Fist versus Sabretooth!

Everybody knows there's bad blood between Sabretooth and Wolverine, but not everyone remembers the early days, when mercenary Sabretooth tangled with Iron Fist and Power Man!

It's a good thing the first appearance of Sabretooth in Iron Fist #14 was a featured fight earlier this year! That original cover will be paid homage with an updated variant version, and it's the perfect primer for this newest face-off -- and team-up?!

What ever the case, I'm really enjoying the injection of classic comics into both Marvel and DC's line-ups. It looks like Sabretooth's return to Iron Fist will be a natural, fresh meeting between two characters who have history. By no means regression of forty years, but an encounter that moves forward while getting the most out of their backstory. At least, that's my hope...

If you're a fan of The Comic Book Fight Club rankings, you'll no doubt be glad Sabretooth's keeping relevant while Wolverine remains dead. Secret Wars on Infinite Earths is a constant work-in-progress, and despite several featured fights in the past, Sabretooth is still only ranked #885! A low rung that demands correction at some point in our fighting future! For now, Sabretooth will have to settle for being out Hero of the Week!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Real Name: Hank Henshaw
First Appearance: Adventures of Superman #466 (May, 1990)
Fight Club Ranking: #769

Featured Fights:
- vs GREEN LANTERN CORPS & JUSTICE LEAGUE: Green Lantern #25 (Jan 2008)

Man alive! It's comics! DC are playing some familiar old tunes in the latest issues of Action Comics, and it's sweet music to my ears! Dan Jurgens is back, keeping it simple and classic with the formation of an all-new Superman Revenge Squad who represent an all-star line-up of Superman bad guys!

The entire line-up is pretty damn compelling! Mongul, Metallo and Eradicator are seasoned villains with big appeal! General Zod is on the verge of escaping the Suicide Squad, to be their latest star recruit! The one that has me most excited though is the mastermind of the team: Cyborg Superman!

Cyborg Superman is just one of those second-tier villains I get a real kick out of!

He's been sorely displaced since The New 52 reboot, losing the "Cyborg Superman" mantle to Supergirl's dad, Zor-El, who was rescued from Krypton's destruction by Brainiac. The result was a new cyber-organic nasty. A neat concept if you don't mind another survivor from Superman's long dead homeworld, but no substitute for the simple pleasure of Hank Henshaw!

The Henshaw Cyborg is kind of a dunderheaded concept: Astronaut suffers cosmic accident in Fantastic Four pastiche that slowly kills he and his colleagues. Superman is indirectly tied to the solar flare that caused the accident. Henshaw downloads his brain into a computer to become a ghost in the machine. He eventually hacks his way into Superman's birthing matrix and constructs a body of organic and metal components. Briefly impersonates The Man of Steel after his apparent death.

You just can't beat that kind of accumulated history, though. His return gets better, too!

To fight a Revenge Squad you need a Superman Squad, and that means a reformed (yeah, right) Lex Luthor leading a band of heroes that includes another favourite from the early 90s: Steel!

Sometimes it's the simple things in life that are the best. The current run for Action Comics seems to be just that. Don't take my word for it! Check out CBR's May preview for Action Comics #980!

Monday, July 03, 2017

Real Name: Peter Parker
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (August, 1962)
Fight Club Ranking: #2

Featured Fights:
- vs WIZARD & MYSTERIO: Amazing Spider-man Annual #4 (1967)
- vs DOCTOR DORCAS & TIGERSHARK: Marvel Team-Up #14 (Oct 1973)
- vs TRAPSTER: Marvel Team-Up #58 (Jun 1977)
- vs HULK: Marvel Treasury Edition #25 (1980)
- vs JUGGERNAUT: Amazing Spider-man #230 (Jul 1982)
- vs BLACKLASH: Marvel Team-Up #145 (Sep 1984)
- vs TRI-SENTINEL: Amazing Spider-man #329 (Feb 1990)
- vs CARNAGE: Spider-man Unlimited #2 (Aug 1993)
- vs SCORPION: Spectacular Spider-man #215 (Aug 1994)
- vs SHOCKER: Spider-man Adventures #9 (Aug 1995)
- vs MANTIS & JUGGERNAUT: Unlimited Access #1 (Dec 1997)
- vs SINISTER TWELVE: Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 (Apr 2005)
- vs BLADE: Ultimate Spider-man #95 (Jul 2006)
- vs MAN-APE: Black Panther #18 (Sep 2006)
- vs SECRET AVENGERS: Civil War #3 (Sep 2006)
- vs MODOK: Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9 (Mar 2007)
- vs THE HAND: New Avengers #27 (Apr 2007)
- vs VENOM: Spider-man Family #2 (Jun 2007)
- vs GOMDULLA: Spider-man Family #3 (Aug 2007)
- vs MIGHTY AVENGERS: New Avengers #36 (Jan 2008)
- vs THE HOOD/DORMAMMU: New Avengers #54 (Aug 2009)
- vs LUKE CAGE/AGAMOTTO: New Avengers #2 (Sep 2010)

It was tempting to talk about how horrendous Inhumans looks, but I'm not sure dodgy wardrobe and over-lit teevee is really significant enough to warrant Hero of the Week honors! Especially not when the world is looking ahead to the theatrical return of Spider-man this Friday, July 7th!

I say "solo", but marketing has made it abundantly clear that Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man will play a significant role in the formative years of the Disney-influenced big screen Spidey.

I can't say I've ever really dwelled on the issue, but it seems like every time the web-slinger's origin is brought to the masses, there are questions about how he gets his iconic costume. Tech whiz Tony Stark comes with conveniences that allow for mechanical web-shooters, and (unnecessarily) emotive mask lenses, but also unravels the boy's own adventure of Peter Parker's burgeoning genius.

Despite the relative minority of Spider-man's years in high school, there's a determined creative influence that insists he's at his best when he's still a kid. The contemporary youth of Spider-man; Homecoming may prove to be one of its most distinctive details. Star Tom Holland reads very young, and the crossover of Disney star Zendaya seems unlike anything big screen Spidey has seen before.

I've always been pretty comfortable with an adult Spider-man, but in the last twelve months I've been reconnecting with the old favourite through various sources, including the Spectacular Spider-man animated series. In its two seasons, the cartoon repurposed classic characters and stories from the series of the same name, through the prism of a high school Peter Parker. A compelling case for having savvy super-villain battles and high school character dramas.

Another point of pleasure has been (re)discovering, and enjoying immensely, issues of Spider-man from 1997-98. For one reason or another, I wasn't looking in the right direction when Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr were working to re-centre the web-slinger around issues that felt classic in essence, but modern in tone. I think the return of Green Goblin and death of Ben Reilly were still the big stories that overshadowed a welcome return to business closer to usual.

As it happens, both examples feature an iconic Spider-man/Peter Parker confronting the shifting sands of the world around him. They also boast Shocker in a major villain role. Which is something they also have in common with Homecoming. Something we might talk about more in HOTW soon.

I'm given the impression that Marvel crossovers will be a big part of a three act development for Holland's Spider-man. I don't need him to join The Avengers any time soon, but I definitely look forward to some web-swinging fun in the style of Marvel Team-Up! [Not to be confused with last week's spotlight return Marvel Two-In-One!]

The mind boggles at the possibilities for sequel team-ups. Now that Marvel has a live-action Daredevil in its pantheon, the desire to see Netflix TV series matter more to the cinematic universe only becomes greater. Even if the pairing of DD's Charlie Cox and Tom Holland skews the chemistry of the old Marvel buddies.

Naturally I'm still thinking about the mounting options for a big screen version of Maximum Carnage, too! With Tom Hardy on board to star in a Venom film, the relevant characters are getting more compelling!

Just think about teaming Hardy & Holland with the likes of Captain America (Chris Evans), TV's Cloak & Dagger, Netflix's Iron Fist, and rumored spin-off star Black Cat! The basic framework may be a tad ramshackle, but a refined big screen version could be a crazy and fun way to give the Spider-man films their own build-up to an Avengers type climax -- and finally give fans the cohesion of properties they've long been seeking! Throw in Morbius and it'd be tough to look away!

Edit: July was supposed to be the month we featured a whole lot of fresh new Spider-man battles, but 2017 has had a way of putting the kibosh on the best of plans. Be sure to check out the featured links at the top of this post, dive into the Secret Issue Index for more, and keep an eye out for future updates!