Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hero of the Week #17: Deadpool

Real Name: Wade Wilson
First Appearance: New Mutants #98 (February, 1991)
Group Affiliation: X-Force (upcoming)
Gaming Credentials: X-Men Legends II (2005); Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2006); X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #56

In the scheme of things; Deadpool is still a relatively new character in the world of Marvel comics. Despite debuting some thirty-years after many of his popular Marvel contemporaries, you need only take a tour of the internet to see just how ingrained in the culture the character has become. Even a dubious cinematic debut -- which deviated drastically from popularized versions of the character -- served only to energize what has already been a growing phenomenon that far exceeds the guest-villain status of his early appearances.

Co-created by infamous nineties penciller, Rob Liefeld; Deadpool was far from the crowning jewel of the company when he first appeared in New Mutants. Resembling an unremarkable mish-mash of DC's Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) and a dark Spider-man, the villain developed a special place in his scarred heart for menacing the young mutants led by Cable, who soon became X-Force.
After a string of recurring appearances as villain, Deadpool earned two four-issue mini-series in '93 and '94 that allowed talent such as Mark Waid to add new material, before eventually gaining a true foothold of popularity in 1997 with the first issue of an on-going series.

Some of the best known comedic beats were established with the first issues of the nineties series, written by Joe Kelly, where he built strong ties with other secondary Marvel characters (ie; Taskmaster), and played heavily with references to mainstream and obscure pop culture, including elements unique to the comics themselves.
It's these traits that have endeared the character to a broad audience of both comics fans, and others, such as gamers, who were readily included in Kelly's gag-filled mining of pop. He bridged the gap with non-comics readers with simple and classic comedy, initiating running gags that would continue as other writers took over, and a decade later would become internet "memes."

Deadpool joined the cast of Ultimate Alliance 2, reprising his role from the previous game, which itself carried over from appearances in X-Men Legends II. This recent return to form -- not to mention the previously referenced farce of his role in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine spin-off -- makes him a must-have HOTW for 2009!

The game not only features the quip-heavy dialogue you'd expect, but also capitalizes on the unforgettable addition of the character's legitimate superheroic skills. Armed with a healing factor borrowed from Wolverine and an arsenal of lethal weaponry he wields with little regard for others; this merc' with a mouth can kick butt with the best of them, and still has a tendency to fall into line with the other heroes, like so many other popular bad guys turned anti-heroes.

Of course, his moral compass isn't the only thing that's changed as Deadpool has gained popularity...
The comedy of the character has arguably suffered dramatically in later iterations, as Deadpool, at times, becomes an obxious parody of himself. Many late-coming fans have been oblivious to the things Deadpool has mocked, creating a self-fulfilling indulgence of bad internet humor, and shlocky gimmicks, like the recently added Alley McBeal-esque, 'Deadpool Vision.'

This (de)evolution of the character has made navigating comic appearances a minefield, compounded by the company's recent expansion of series and guest-spots, so be warned newbs!

Fortunately; Marvel have also begun to reintroduce previous runs of the series through trade paperback collections, and in amongst the thoroughly average work, there are still occasionally digestable helpings.

Deadpool: Suicide Kings was a mini-series that recently wrapped, and had DP on the run from The Punisher - framed for a bombing he did not commit! Though not terribly complex, the action-packed mini had Deadpool team-up with fellow urban heroes, and Ultimate Alliance 2 playable characters, Daredevil and Spider-man, as well as the Punisher himself, in their battle against super-strong mobster, Tombstone. All in all, it was a fun romp, and a soft and cushy entry point into the world of Marvel comics.

Deadpool of parallel Earth-2149 also dropped in for some fun, terrorizing heroes posted in Florida near the Nexus of Realities in Marvel Zombies 3, before spreading the plague as a decapitated head in Marvel Zombies 4!
"Z-Pool" now stars alongside the original in, Deadpool: Merc' with a Mouth, but as much fun as a decapitated zombie head might sound, you might be better served checking out MZ3 and MZ4.

No matter how you slice and dice it, Deadpool is one of comics' newest icons. With this success comes promise of a solo-film starring Ryan Reynolds, and with a bit of luck, a long awaited forray into gaming. With so many unique reference points, a Deadpool film and game has the potential to do the comedic equivalent of Arkham Asylum. Here's hoping we get that same irreverence and reference-filled mania that made the character great to begin with! The possibilities are endless!

Remember! For your chance to win a PlayStation 3 Slim, Marvel Civil War comics, and a copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, all you have to do is blog about where your allegiances lie -- Captain America, or Iron Man? I know who I'm with! For more information about the competition, dare to register, and visit the competition page!

<< Hero of the Week 10/04: Green Arrow       [Home]       Hero of the Week 09/18: Iron Patriot >>

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Hero of the Week #16: Iron Patriot

Real Name: Norman Osborn
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #14 (July, 1964)
Group Affiliation: H.A.M.M.E.R, The Avengers, Thunderbolts, The Cabal
Gaming Credentials: Spider-man (2000); Ultimate Spider-man (2005); Spider-man: Battle for New York (2006)Spider-man: Friend or Foe (2007); Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009); Marvel Super Hero Squad (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #759

With the release of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, we've all been reliving the fun of picking sides for the superhero Civil War. I went with Iron Man (over Captain America), but what if we didn't have to choose? What if we could have the best of both heroes in one single, iconic, All-American unit? Allow me to introduce you to the Iron Patriot!

Iron Patriot: Director of HAMMER and leader of the (Dark) Avengers!

Whoa there! Do not be fooled, true believer! This all-too-perfect a solution is exactly that!

In fact, it was the cunning scheme that has allowed Norman Osborn [aka; Green Goblin] to seize control of the world's most powerful intelligence agency (SHIELD), and become one of America's newest beloved heroes as the leader of the Avengers! This "Dark Reign" is the legacy of all that went down in the Civil War -- the future resulting from our MUA2 decision! Allow me to explain: technically, Iron Man won...

In a final grand battle between the two factions, Captain America surrendered so as to avoid further collateral damage from their in-fighting. Iron Man was promoted to Director of SHIELD, while Cap's incarceration allowed his enemies to position themselves to assassinate him, ahead of his trial.
The death afforded established unregistered heroes some freedom of movement, as IM accepted some responsibility for publically parading Cap, and the sympathies of both the establishment and public returned to the gallant heroes whose identities remained hidden. So while the likes of Daredevil, Iron FistHawkeye, and other Secret Avengers continued to fight the good fight on the streets; Iron Man led the official Avengers against some of the worst of the worst, who threatened America, and the fate of the world.

Despite the grace afforded to the unregistered heroes, every so often the two groups would clash, or in rare instances, team-up. It was the unveiling of a Secret Invasion that forced just such a team-up, when evil shape-shifting Skrull aliens were revealed to have infiltrated all corners of the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, that included infiltrating SHIELD, which allowed Norman Osborn to fire the war-winning shot that ended the Invasion, and branded Iron Man a corrupt coward-cum-fugitive. Which brings us back to the present.

After ousting Tony Stark, Norman seized all property funded by SHIELD, including the most recent incarnation of his armory. Seeking a design that would inspire the public to rally behind his (Dark) Avengers, Osborn attempted to merge the iconography of two of the team's greatest icons -- Iron Man and Captain America. Thus, he donned the armor, tweaked it to his own specs, and gave it a red, white, and blue paint job, creating the Iron Patriot!

Like his cinematic counterpart; Norman Osborn was long thought dead, after being impaled upon his own Goblin Glider. He returned in the late nineties to bedevil Spider-man once more, however, and before becoming Iron Patriot, served as Director for the Commission on Superhuman Activities -- a role that allowed him to manipulate the team of government-sponsored villains, (redeemed and/or pacified), called The Thunderbolts.

It's through this association that he joins Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 as a playable character, appearing alongside other T-bolts such as; Songbird, Venom, and Penance.

If you're looking for more Norman Osborn/Iron Patriot, you won't have to look hard!
Dark Reign is currently spread across the entire Marvel catalogue. You'll find plenty of spillover events and guest appearances in various titles, alongside Iron Patriot's regular starring role in Dark Avengers.
Also currently hitting stands are a series of special Dark Reign: The List specials that have Osborn and his Dark Avengers targetting specific threats to his sinister domination. You can find more information on all of that via and their Dark Reign mini-site!

Remember! For your chance to win a PlayStation 3 Slim, Marvel Civil War comics, and a copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, all you have to do is blog about where your allegiances lie -- Captain America, or Iron Man? I know who I'm with! For more information about the competition, dare to register, and visit Mike Cruz' blog!

<< Hero of the Week 09/26: Deadpool       [Home]       Hero of the Week 9/11: Spider-man >>

Originally posted:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hero of the Week #15: Spider-man

Real Name: Peter Parker
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (August, 1962)
Group Affiliation: Secret Avengers
Gaming Credentials: Questprobe #2 Spider-man (1978); Spider-man (1982); Spider-man & Captain America in Dr. Doom's Revenge (1989); The Amazing Spider-man (1990); Amazing Spider-man vs Kingpin (1990); Spider-man: The Video Game (1991); Punisher: The Ultimate Payback (1991); Spider-man: Return of the Sinister Six (1992); Spider-man & X-Men: Arcade's Revenge (1992); Spider-man & Venom: Maximum Carnage (1994); Amazing Spider-man: Lethal Foes (1994); Spider-man (1995); Spider-man & Venom: Separation Anxiety (1995); Marvel Super Heroes (1995); Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems (1996); Spider-man: Web of Fire (1996); Marvel vs Capcom (1998); Spider-man (2000); Marvel vs Capcom 2 (2000); Spider-man: Mysterio's Menace (2001); Spider-man 2: The Sinister Six (2001); Spider-man 2: Enter Electro (2001); Spider-man (2002); Spider-man 2 (2004); Ultimate Spider-man (2005); Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (2005); Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006)Spider-man: Battle for New York (2006)Spider-man 3 (2007); Spider-man: Friend or Foe (2007); Spider-man: Web of Shadows (2008); Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (TBR); Marvel Super Hero Squad (TBR)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #2

Coming off the announcement of Disney's intended acquisition of Marvel Comics, how could I not defer to the company mascot for this week's HOTW? Not only is Spider-man one of the most enduring and recognisable characters to come from comics, but he also has a rich pedigree in gaming, spanning four decades and a mammoth library of titles! [You might have noticed the absurd list of games, compiled above...]

There's a lot to like about Spider-man video games!... Maybe not quite THAT much, but still...

Batman: Arkham Asylum might have declared it's legitimate contention for "Game of the Year" by succeeding where previous Batman titles have failed, but hype might've twisted the perception of it's value to comics games as a whole. You simply cannot go past Spider-man for some of the boldest movements in comics licensed games, both for storytelling, and innovation in gameplay.

At their heart, most video game mascots are effectively super-heroes. Ergo, when it came to adapting comics characters into the medium, it was easy to slip them into existing conventions popular at the time. Most heroes translate easily into a basic system of jumping and fighting, with the odd trademark projectile thrown in for good measure. Spider-man, however, suggests a whole new set of expected abilities that are unique and inherent to the character.

Few games can claim to have tackled wall-crawling and web-swinging before Spidey jumped into platformers in the eighties and nineties, and even now, they remain trademarks of the character that are rarely repeated. They're the skills around which you might claim the modern Spider-man gaming dynasty was built. Just as they once provided a point of differentiation to rival platforming titles, so too did they provide a foundation for games that explored with expanding his movements around the iconic New York cityscape.

Spider-man (2000) might not have played as significant a role as the likes of GTA, but it made the first important step in establishing superheroes in a city. Though it only featured the tops of buildings, it provided a blueprint that was iterated upon until Spider-man 2 (2004), where an entire Manhattan was built for players to swing through!

Big City Nights: Swinging through the streets of NYC is a vital part of any Spider-man experience.

Like Mickey to Disney; Spider-man has been front-and-centre for the Marvel brand in video games, appearing in an expanding list of titles that boast larger chunks of the Marvel Universe. Capcom made an agile fighter out of the webhead with their Versus series of titles, while Ultimate Alliance made him party to a tour of the greatest evils alongside the greatest heroes! Even Spidey branded games, like the less notable, Friend or Foe, recall the classic Marvel Team-Up model!

As an indomitable pop culture icon, Spider-man has dominated not just comics and games, but also film, television, and just about any inanimate object you can think of. The Disney acqusition will no doubt take full advantage of this, particularly as the character angles for a fourth feature film, and who knows what else! That's why he's our HOTW!

Should you find yourself seeking more Spider-man, you'll find the web-slinger appearing three-times a month in Amazing Spider-man and monthly in New Avengers. In October, Marvel will relaunch Web of Spider-man with a new volume, and have recently done the same for Ultimate Spider-man. You can find more information from and good comics sites!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club is updated with varying consistency, promising a feature fight for every Friday on the calendar (even if sometimes they're late). The site acts as an information resource, discussion site, review blog, and proportionate good time to that of a spider.

<< Hero of the Week 09/18: Iron Patriot       [Home]       Hero of the Week 09/05: Scarecrow >>

Originally posted:

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Hero of the Week #14: Scarecrow

Real Name: Jonathan Crane
First Appearance: World's Finest Comics #3 (Fall, 1941)
Group Affiliation: The Society
Gaming Credentials: Batman: The Animated Series (1993); Adventures of Batman & Robin (1994); Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (2004); Batman Begins (2005); Lego Batman (2008); Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009); DC Universe Online (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #313

By inferrence, if not popular demand, I am compelled to spotlight Scarecrow as Hero of the Week!
If there's a phrase I've heard more than 'zOMG Mickey & Spidey' this week, it's that Scarecrow "steals the show" in the critically acclaimed comic book release, Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Since his creation in the forties, Scarecrow has gone on to be one of the enduring stars of the famous Batman rogues gallery, but arguably never quite reached the A-list status he received from appearing in the cinematic revamp, Batman Begins. The character gets another boost into the mainstream consciousness through Arkham Asylum, where the outlandish potential of the villain is explored with a fitting visceral interpretation sure to solidify his status with gamers.

Over the decades, Scarecrow has been interpreted in a multitude of ways. The movie appearance inspired a new subset of horror fans who saw great potential in the fear-inducing villain, while in the comics, the character has ranged everywhere from an inconsequential weakling fighting out of his weight class, to a torturer fixated on the torment of his victims. With a consistent undercurrent of "fear" -- the Scarecrow has proven to be as versatile a character as The Dark Knight himself.

One of my favourite interpretations is of a Dr. Jonathan Crane who, after years of experimentation with fear gasses and innoculations, has himself been rendered almost incapable of feeling such an emotion. A distanced character of esoteric interests and reference, unaffected by the threatening world around him, and consequently empowered to devise his own nightmares.
This version was implied in a 2004 B&W Geoff Johns/Tommy Castillo back-up story in Batman: Gotham Knights #49. It suggests a version of the Scarecrow motivated to commit crimes both in the interest of experiencing the fear of others, while also dancing with the fate of fearing Batman himself. A poetically double-edged sword of horror and delight for the demented villain.

Batman: Arkham Asylum makes full use of the context of the character, using it to create scenes in the game that capture an unsettling atmosphere befitting of the gothic Arkham setting. It's no doubt those Silent Hill-esque scenes of nightmarish hallucination are what led many to proclaim Scarecrow as the unlikely star of the game, even though battling the villain takes on a disappointingly conventional and stilted "video game" approach. I discussed exactly that in a previous article about the game, which you might like to read.

Despite any flaws, I think Arkham Asylum has to be considered a resounding success. It has made a contrasting effort to balance the harmony of game and comics license, and in doing so, consequently made it impossible to deny Scarecrow as this week's HOTW!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club is updated with varying consistency, promising a feature fight for every Friday on the calendar (even if sometimes they're late). The site acts as an information resource, discussion site, review blog, and frighteningly good time.

<< Hero of the Week 09/11: Spider-man       [Home]       Hero of the Week 08/25: Joker >>

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