Monday, August 28, 2017

Real Name: Carter Hall
First Appearance: Flash Comics #1 (Janaury, 1940)
Fight Club Ranking: #31

Featured Fights:
- vs DOCTOR FATE: All-Star Squadron #4 (Dec 1981)
- vs SUPERMAN: Justice League of America #200 (Mar 1982)
- vs SUPERMAN & BATMAN: Superman/Batman #4 (Jan 2004)
- vs MATTER MASTER: Hawkman #23 (Mar 2004)
- vs DEATHSTROKE: Identity Crisis #3 (Oct 2004)
- vs ST. ROCH: Hawkman #31 (Oct 2004)
- vs MORGAUTH: JSA Strange Adventures #1 (Oct 2004)
- vs SOLOMON GRUNDY: Hawkman #33 (Dec 2004)
- vs ELONGATED MAN & SUE DIBNY: Blackest Night #1 (Sep 2009)

Daring feats of escape are an older trope of superhero comics than the recurring villains who started making the deathtraps. For the most part, death was always something superheroes were meant to cheat. It didn't take long before the bad guys were doing it, too. Some ironic fall off a bridge, to a presumed grizzly end down below, was a good way to finish a pulpy story. Yet there's always a reason to explain it away so The Joker can come back. Maybe that's where the problem started...

This time last year we were informed of the impending demise of Hawkman. It wasn't the first time, and it probably won't be the last. He's been "missing" throughout DC's Dark Nights: Metal event, but according to solicitations published by CBR, it looks as if Batman is going to find our missing hero.

What does it all mean? Do readers still have the will to care? The life and death cycle of major characters has become a clich├ęd test of audience endurance. Hawkman's had it particularly bad, facing what must be at least his third reincarnation of the last decade.

The concept of infinite reincarnation once served to resolve the mind-numbing mess of Hawkman's various published lives. It bolstered a mythology that was needlessly muddied, adding something interesting, while propelling the winged hero into long-awaited adventures in the memorable 2000s. His return as solo hero and chairman of the JSA was a whole lot of fun! It was never meant to install dying as a key feature of the character. Reincarnation should not be an instant process.

Death of Hawkman always seemed designed to usher Hawkman toward something new, but will it be something better? The Bryan Hitch cover art for Hawkman: Found looks suitably exciting, with a relatively classic looking Hawkman. As a temporary predicament, it could be interesting to see Hawkman at odds with Batman. That was certainly a fun match-up in Superman/Batman #4.

It's my hope Hawkman and Batman will be working together before Metal ends. Preferably toward a "Rebirth" of a modern-classic take on the winged hero, and a solo series that will sustain itself. If Hitch's cover is anything to go by, he could be the man to bring Hawkman back to comics. He's certainly been the one to bring him back to Hero of the Week!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Real Name: Johnny Blaze
First Appearance: Marvel Spotlight #5 (August, 1972)
Fight Club Ranking: #99

Featured Fights:
- vs TRAPSTER: Marvel Team-Up #58 (Jun 1977)
- vs AVENGERS: Avengers #214 (Dec 1981)
- vs GHOST RIDER: Ghost Rider #29 (Jan 2009)

We've been talking a lot about Injustice 2 in this year's Hero of the Week, but we mustn't forget that there's another superhero fighting game sequel doing the promo rounds! Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is bringing back the hyper-kinetic action Capcom is famous for, and the latest fighter confirmed in a report by Game Informer is Ghost Rider!

A game themed variant cover for Defenders #4 confirms the spirit of vengeance's return to the MVC series. He battles Darkstalkers' Lilith on the cover -- not to be mistaken with Marvel's Lilith, who caused problems for Dan Ketch and others in the Midnight Sons corner.

Through various fighting game themed HOTW entries I've talked about my preference for visually and functionally unique characters. Fire tends to be a common element in fighting games, see; Street Fighter, where a fighter's spirit often manifests in spectacular fireball attacks. Yet, Ghost Rider's flaming skull and additional gimmicks -- namely enchanted chains -- give some nice variety.

Edit: A new trailer confirms everything you'd like to see in an MVC Ghost Rider. The voice is pretty strange casting. I'm not quite sure what happened there.

The trailer also shows off another returning character from MVC3 -- the former boss level threat of Dormammu. A non-essential, but nice enough reprisal that should give Doctor Strange somebody to spar with. No real complaints, but I'm looking forward to seeing more new additions to the series!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Real Name: Neena Thurman
First Appearance: X-Force #8 (March, 1992)
Fight Club Ranking: #299

Featured Fights:
- vs IRON MAN: Contest of Champions II #1 (Sep 1999)

The world was shown the first official glimpse of Josh Brolin as Cable last week, and for the most part, it was pretty good! We've already featured Cable as Hero of the Week a few months ago, though, so we double-back to another character set to appear in 2018's Deadpool sequel: Domino.

FOX's early entry into the superhero movie biz with 2000's X-Men meant they had a significant aesthetic deficit moving into the next decade. Spider-man's vivid, iconic palette had arguably outclassed them as a contemporary. 2008's Iron Man proved definitively that four-colour characters could come to life without missing a beat. Matrix black: a thing of the past.

They finally caught-up in a big way with 2011's franchise peak X-Men: First Class, but in terms of costume design, there have been few triumphs in superhero movies as grand and literal as Deadpool!

The accuracy of the Ryan Reynolds worn design was so literal, it was an easy sales point, but it makes everything inaccurate around it a fresh disappointment. Brolin's Cable risks veering into the generic, off-the-shelf designs of earlier X-films, but it's Zazie Beetz as Domino who drops the ball.

Ironically, this is one time an X-Men movie might've been better off adopting a simple black bodysuit. There's a risk it might cause confusion with earlier uniforms of the cinematic X-Men, but it's a small risk. Especially if they explored with a minimalist design and less textured materials.

Although Beetz will retain the character's trademark eye-spot, its been tonally inverted to be a white spot on unaltered skin tone. Which really robs the character of her most defining attribute: deathly chalk white skin with a black spot.

Beetz may look good -- but she doesn't look like Domino in a movie where the lead character has been sold on accuracy. The design sensibility of this Domino seems more in keeping with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Brolin gets away looking a little more like something out of one of the later X-Men sequels, like Days of Future Past. None of the glorious excesses of the comics, but not terrible.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Real Name: Herman Schultz
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #46 (March, 1967)
Fight Club Ranking: #620

Featured Fights:
- vs SPIDER-MAN: Spider-man Adventures #9 (Aug 1995)
- vs AVENGERS: Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 (Apr 2005)

Vulture may've got all the headlines, but could we really let Spider-man: Homecoming pass through theatres without highlighting the glorious ascension of another classic Spidey villain? I speak, of course, about Shocker -- the quilted, vibro-shocking menace you never expected to see on screen!

Keaton menace may've sold the Vulture pretty quick in trailers, but chances are Shocker still elicits a few snickers here and there. Which is kinda unfair, 'cause let's be honest: if you were in the street and some crazy mofo in a yellow quilted insulation suit came up buzzing like a power-line - you'd probably crap your pants. Maybe literally! Those shocker blasts are gonna do things to your body!

Homecoming kinda tries to have it both ways by alluding to the costume of the comics, but rooting it in a slightly depressing pseudo-reality of vests and sweatpants. For some reason, there's a pervasive theory that seams, goggles, and bits of metal make a comic book costume more plausible. I usually prefer when they just invest in the visual hook that makes the character stand-out as unique.

Not that a few intelligent rethinks and some experimentation ever hurt.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd been re-discovering and enjoying late nineties issues of Spider-man.

A few issues in particular, featuring Shocker, left me tickled pink! Not because they revolutionize the medium, or change the status quo for-EVER, but because they were just nice, modern minded monthly installments that applied a gentle rethink.

John Romita Jr may be one of the best artists to charge with drawing Shocker. His penchant for blocky human figures perfectly adds heft and dimension to the Shocker's outfit, and gauntlets.

Written by Howard Mackie; these issues announce their intent through the voice of the character. Shocker's sick of being laughed at and he's taken action! The conception here is Shocker as a hi-tech powersuit, rather than just a shock-absorbing "quilt-man".

He doesn't abandon the gimmick that makes him unique, or drastically change the classic design - it's just added to. The suit has means of aerial propulsion, increased firepower, and the ability to shock on contact. Nice, intuitive additions that increase the threat of a classic character! That's how it's done!

I'm reminded of a similar revamp around this time for Electro, who briefly ditched the mask, and got juiced up to be more electrifying than ever before. The nineties cartoon did a pretty good job of keeping classic villains in the zeitgeist, but I suppose it's easy to forget the way mid-nineties comics pushed some of the classics to the side. It's nice that these moments of classic reinforcement occur, but I do wish we could perhaps indulge the cycle with fewer deviations here in the 2010s.

Edit: July was supposed to be the month for featuring one of the revamped Shocker's fights from this very period, but 2017 has been unkind to a well planned schedule! Hero of the Week will record the moment Homecoming shocked the world. Keep watching the future for more Shocker goodness!