Monday, September 29, 2008

The Worst Costumes in Comics

I've looked at some of the best costumes out there, so let's look at those we'd rather forget about. Not everyone gets the sleek, stylish look they deserve.

Black Canary (80's version)

She's never really had a costume that didn't look make her look like a...ahem...loose woman, but for a little while they tried to give her some respectability in the 80's and early 90's. Of course, like those yearbook pictures of you in your Members-Only jacket, we have to cringe at how the "contemporary" look she had then is so horribly laughable now.

Where to start? Well, the headband was an awesome idea...if she were appearing in a music video with Whitesnake or Warrant. And those wings poking out from the front? Yeah, I'll bet those never got in the way of fighting or anything.

Unfortunately, she's hasn't been treated much better. DC seems destined to just tart her up whenever they get the chance. Even her recent stint on Smallville didn't help. My wife's pantyhose can get a run from just walking out of the house to the car, and yet Black Canary's fishnets have never seen a tear even when fighting Darkseid. She should give up the hero business and open a website selling those things!

Rainbow Raider

I don't think he's ever really been taken seriously as a villain, and it's not hard to see why. He doesn't exactly look masculine with his choice of colors. He sort of just picked them all and went with it.

Yes, I understand he couldn't see colors without his special googles, but surely some of his fellow villains would have given him a little advice about how his costume really looked to those with normal vision. And the poor man never had a clue as to why he wasn't taken seriously in a fight.

His main claim to crime was an art thief, but he looked better suited to be the arch-enemy of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

Storm (mohawk version)

You could call it her "Grace Slick" period, but the years were not kind for Ororo Munroe when she decided to try and change her look.

For no reason, she shows up one day in this tough leather biker chick look with a mohawk. The sad thing was that mohawks were already out of style by the time Marvel moved her into one. A short haircut I could have understood, but a mohawk isn't even functional, let alone practical for fighting villains. I guess if she used Superglue in it to spike it up she could have used it for some serious head-butting, but otherwise it made no sense.

Ororo never got the casting call for the next Mad Max movie, so she eventually decided to let go of the 80's and let the hair grow back out. The black leather is still a part of her costume (in a different form), but none of this worked in any way.


Between Vibe, Vixen, and Gypsy, DC found a way to insult just about every ethnic group during that weird "Denver JLA" period. Again, DC showed itself way behind the times by introducing a hero who looked like one of MC Hammer's backup dancers. His powerset wasn't bad, but show me one single Hispanic who wore anything remotely approaching that during the 90's. You can't do it. As a matter of fact, if he'd shown up wearing something like that, he'd have been laughed out of the neighborhood.

Unfortunately Vibe will never get the chance to get an updated look since he's dead now, but being forced to wear a costume like that, one can only wonder if he might have been driven to it...

Sue Richards (The "Reed's Dead" years)

So her husband is supposedly dead and she's about to step into the leadership role of arguably the most popular super-team ever...time for a costume change! Most wives who loved their husbands would choose to go for a subdued look, but Sue decided it was time to bring out a few "secret weapons" she'd never showed off before during a fight. Taking a few hints from the "Black Canary School of Dirty Girl Fashion", Sue grabbed some Jessica Rabbit gloves, hooker boots, and did the Power Girl chest flash for her emblem. Yep, this was the picture of a girl in mourning all right.

Oddly enough, super-villains poured in by the bucketload. Even Doctor Doom showed up to turn himself in. The one unanimous condition of their surrender was that they be frisked and spanked by Sue.

And sure enough, as soon as Reed shows up Sue's back in the "cover everything" outfit again. Poor Reed never got to enjoy the show, while I'm sure Sue's brother the Human Torch was just glad that incredibly awkward time was over ("Um, sis, could you please cover up or something?").

The Angel (The Champions years)

While I consider "The Champions" one of the single greatest team books ever written during the 70's, even as a child I knew this costume didn't get it.

Looking more like he should be called "Condiment Man" for his ketchup and mustard color scheme going on here, the headband didn't help matters. And there's nothing wrong with being proud of your pecs and abs, but even John Travolta had at least a few buttons working on his shirts in the 70's.

Fortunately this wasn't a style that stuck around forever, and Angel stepped into some of his coolest costumes ever. His follow-up outfits are the famous blue-and-white, and another take on red and yellow--but this time with some white thrown in and the chest covered up.

Captain Ultra

Try as I may, I just can't find the words to properly express how I feel about this suit. It's like a sensory overload of "Holy cow!". But let's try...

The color scheme. More precisely, what color scheme? If you can't decide on a color for your costume, choose them all! Sure, some may say the colors clash, but it's also a great weapon to stop villains. You either send them into chromatic coma or have them hit the floor laughing. Even Rainbow Raider at least has the common sense to use black for a central color, for goodness sake!

And what exactly were his powers? No idea, and the costume gives you no clue. I wonder how many times he was stopped by the police before he could get to the crime scene to help the other heroes ("No, I'm a superhero, I swear!")? I'd be willing to bet he's seen the inside of more than one asylum in his career.

There are many others that didn't make this list (they'll appear in the follow up later), but these were my tops. So who did I miss?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Age of the Sentry #1 - The Origin Begins

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm a Sentry fan. I don't think Marvel has treated him well at all, but he's a cool character who deserves better treatment. After several strange attempts to give him an origin story, Marvel is at it again with this miniseries. This time around the stories are written as if they'd come out in the Silver Age of comics.

It's hard to grade this story because it's purposefully written as if it had come out decades ago. As such, it really does fit the mold of the older Superman stories I read as a kid (and that you'll find in the "Showcase Presents" TPBs). We are introduced to Sentry, his sidekick, a love interest, and even a super pet of sorts. There's the over-the-top villain mastermind (with 3 brains), and the monster stealing his powers. And along the way, we see the origin of the Sentry again. This one agrees with the origin revealed in the New Avengers story arc from a few years back.

The artwork here is, again, purposefully drawn in the old style. As such, Sentry appears overly muscular in some parts. Also, his old costume with the cowl never really seemed that cool compared to his long hair look, but it fits with the time frame they are trying to write for. It looks like old Superman comics in places.

While I'm really happy to see them giving Sentry another shot at a solo miniseries (this is his third), I can't say I'm thrilled with how they're doing it here. It was interesting to see those flashes from the supposed "lost issues" during his first miniseries and the New Avengers storyline, but I'm not sure how it will hold up to six issues. Of course, I could be wrong and Marvel could pull out some awesome surprises before its through. I'll definitely be back for the next issue just because I like the character, but anyone with just a passing interest in him will probably skip it altogether.

Mighty Avengers #18 came out last week, and while I've been reviewing past issues because of their importance in the Secret Invasion, I'm skipping this one altogether. It's supposed to be an important Nick Fury back-story about how he led his new secret commando team to capture Maria Hill because she was a Skrull, but we all know she wasn't a Skrull because of what happened in Secret Invasion #5, so the entire issue is a waste of paper and time. No suspense because we know ahead of time the entire team will make it out of the mission alive (we've seen them in the aforementioned issue of SI), and there's no suspicion of Maria Hill. A stupid filler issue.

Also, New Avengers #45 came out this week, but I'm not giving it an in-depth review either. Basically, it's more of the same old back-story stuff of what happened during the "House of M" storyline for the Skrulls. Nothing major occurs. You learn nothing by reading it, and you miss nothing by ignoring it. Marvel continues to kill their audience for these books by giving them "fascinating" stories that don't matter to anyone. Whereas these could have been great side ventures into the aspects of survival during the invasion, we are given nothing but filler stories. I have a feeling these will be the worst-selling trade paperbacks in both of the Avengers series.

Until the Secret Invasion series is over, it's safe to toss Mighty Avengers and New Avengers aside. Save your money for better books.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hank Pym's Heroic Life

Given the uncertain (read: dead man walking) future after the Secret Invasion of one of the smartest minds in the Marvel world, I wanted to take a little look at the various costumes he's worn over the years.

There's no denying he's made a massive contribution to the hero world even after he retired. He wasn't one to keep the knowledge and super powers to himself.

I can't think of another character in comics who has changed costumes and names as often as Hank, and amazingly enough he never really chose any that bombed.

Ant Man
Hank's first outing as a superhero was actually a fluke of sorts. He was given a one-shot in Tales to Astonish as a man who shrunk and had an adventure in an anthill. A few cautious issues later he returned, this time sporting a costume and the ability to speak to the ants. Though he remained the smallest member of the Avengers for a while (with the Wasp), he still managed to help a lot.

As far as solo stories go, Ant Man had some of the worst arch-enemies in history. Most were just regular criminals who wanted him dead, but nobody ever found a way to stomp on him.

The thing I like about this suit is how basic it is. Nothing really flashy here, just a splash of red, black and blue.

Giant Man

Eventually Hank figured out how to take that shrinking principle and reverse it to make himself grow. In the process, he opened the door for dozens of other "giant" heroes to follow.

He was still able to shrink and go into action as Ant Man, but once he started growing in the stories that seemed to be the way he handled most of his problems. Of course, you can't blame easy could it be to defeat someone when you're only 2 inches tall?


Well, Hank eventually retired from the Avengers, but he just couldn't stay out of the superhero business. When he decided he was ready to join again, he put on a new costume with new colors, gave himself a new name and went looking for Captain America.

They were a little leery of him at first, but it didn't take long to prove he was the real deal. Figuring it would be handy to have a guy who could grow ten stories tall on the team, the Avengers wisely let him join. Of course, the question remains as to why he chose the name of a bad guy for a superhero title, but who are we to argue?

Theoretically, Hank could still become Ant Man at this time, but once he became Goliath his shrinking days were almost gone...for a while.


This one narrowly won our recent poll for Hank's coolest persona (Ant Man lost by 1 vote, I think). Originally, Yellowjacket was a man of mystery who showed up claiming to have killed Hank Pym. The Wasp married him, only to have the wedding ruined by a group of villains. In the midst of the battle, Yellowjacket was shown to be Hank Pym (suffering from a schizophrenic episode).

Strangely enough, Hank had developed a way to fly and shoot beams from his hands while going through this episode. Guess he should have gotten sick more often.

Although he stayed with the Avengers as Yellowjacket for a while, he eventually left. It was about this time that Marvel started turning Hank into a loose cannon. He helped the Defenders for a while, and then ended up taking a criminal turn and being put in jail. After divorcing Wasp, it looked like Hank's hero days were over.

Hank Pym

Then Marvel stepped in with a "logical" explanation for his behavior. The stress of growing and shrinking had been too much for Hank's mind and he'd snapped. Ever the hero, he didn't want to be left out of the action.

Hank donned this weird "Gambit" headband and a red jumpsuit, and decided it was time to help the Avengers again. He joined the West Coast Avengers and was actually a pretty vital part of the team for a bit.

Using his shrinking and growing gas, Hank could carry an arsenal, laboratory, and airport in his pockets at all times. Anytime they needed a gun or a ride, Hank was grabbing stuff and making it grow. Finally, he started working a little more of his own growing and shrinking into the game, but never really got another costume and name during that phase.

Ant Man (again)

I'm not sure if you can call this cheating or wrong or what, but the last time we saw Hank as a hero, it was during the Ultron storyline of Might Avengers. He came out of retirement long enough to help defeat the newest version of Ultron by becoming Ant Man again. A few minor variations on his costume, but it was still Hank.

Later it was revealed that Hank had been replaced by a Skrull during this time, so it technically wasn't him doing the fighting...but it's close enough. We'll let it count for now.

I wish we could see more of Hank Pym's Ant Man. He was really cool even though he was practically useless in most galactic battles.

A Heroic Life

Even though he's stepped out of the role of hero, he's been pretty free with his technology and made sure others stepped in the hole.

Scott Lang became Ant Man (with Hank's blessing) after stealing the suit from Hank.

Clint Barton became Goliath after Hank left. Bill Foster also used the growing gas and became Black Goliath (another bad guy name, but he changed it later to Giant Man).

Yellowjacket showed up again as well. This time she was a woman, first a villain, then later a hero.

Hopefully he'll make it through the Skrull's invasion and replacements, but even if he doesn't there's no doubt Hank's made one of the strongest impacts of any character in Marvel history. A charter member of the Avengers, Hank's made a difference time and again.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cool Costumes Revisited

I mentioned several of them before, now let's look a few more great costumes out there.

Spider-Man 2099

Spider-Man has had 3 different costume designs over the years (4 if you count Scarlet Spider), but the costume of Miguel O'Hara beats anything Peter Parker's ever worn.

The familiar colors of Spidey's red and blue are here, but done in a completely different way. Parker's Spider-Man seems simple, but there's something dark and sinister about the 2099 version. Looking at him makes you think of a deadly spider like the black widow, rather than the generic feel of the original.

Unfortunately he doesn't really get to hang around much anymore. Currently, Miguel is in some alternate dimension with his own version of Mary Jane living a "happily ever after". Of course, in comic books this never happens forever, so we'll hopefully see him in action again soon.

White Tiger (original)

Hector Ayala is no longer the White Tiger (or even alive, for that matter), but in the 70's he was rocking the plain look. Very understated, he first appeared in the pages of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, a black and white comic magazine.

Given the fact that his first appearances appeared in a book with no color, it's easy to see why they didn't put much into it. Still, the relatively plain costume worked great for a kung-fu master, allowing clean lines to present fluid movement in his fight scenes.

Eventually, White Tiger moved into The Spectacular Spider-Man as a series regular in the first year. His secret identity was eventually revealed on television and his family was killed as a result. Hector sought and found revenge before moving on to retirement for a while before being brought back in Daredevil for the sole purpose of killing him off.

Havok (original suit)

Seems understated, but this suit serves its purpose. It might appear a little boring, but when those white rings of power start pouring out of him, it gives a cool contrast to the look.

Of course, the suit was originally created with a purpose. It was made to help Alex control his power and focus it rather than just explode. Over the years he's adapted and learned to control the power without the suit.

I imagine this was one of those costumes that was so easy to draw the artist loved having the character in the book. Of course, the guy in charge of inking probably hated every frame he was in. Imagine trying to color in that costume!


Hey, I put Red Robin on here once, so it seems only natural to give Nightwing a chance. I'm talking about Dick's current suit here, not the famous "disco collar" version he had when the reboot started for him.

His current outfit fits the character well. It's functional, and it allows the freedom of movement a former circus acrobat would need. It's dark, allowing him to stay in the shadows as needed just like his mentor does. And I like the fact that he doesn't have a cape. I have nothing against capes at all, but it just wouldn't work for him.

This is one of those rare occasions when a costume just suits the character perfectly. The light-blue-and-yellow look he started with has gradually darkened along with his character. The quips and jokes don't fly as freely as they did when he was Robin, but the kicks and fists are still working well.


Hank Pym has been some pretty cool heroes in his day. He was the original Ant-Man, then he tossed the helmet and became Giant-Man, then Goliath, and finally Yellowjacket.

Originally presented as a bad guy who had "done away" with Hank, it was just the start of his schizophrenic phase. Still able to shrink, Yellowjacket had the ability to fly and shoot beams from his hands. How Hank was able to accomplish this all of the sudden we'll never know, but the suit was cool.

Though he's been a lot of different heroes over the years, this costume has pretty much stayed constant for him. The changes since its introduction decades ago are minimal (the wings are a little different). Not many heroes can wear yellow in public and not get laughed at, but he does it.

I've done two lists on cool costumes, now let's hear it from you. Who did I miss?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Top Batman Artists

My recent poll on this blog gave us a clear winner for Batman artists (see? you should vote in these things because I do read them!). Before we hit the winner, I want to look at some of the best Batman artists of all time.

Jim Aparo

Jim took on the role of Batman artist in the late 60's and carried it on until the 80's. Jim's work on the Brave and the Bold gave him the opportunity to not only put his touch on Batman, but to give us his detailed interpretations of other great heroes like Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawk & Dove, Deadman, and others. Jim was able to increase the sales figures of the struggling book and have it carry on for several more years before moving into the main Batman title.

There were several notable storylines that happened during Jim's run, including the return of Riddler and perhaps his most famous story, "A Death in the Family". That story brought us the death of Jason Todd at the hands of the Joker (decided by popular phone vote of the fans).

Jim's action-packed artwork was clear and sharp.

Frank Miller

Better known as a writer now rather than an artist, Miller's first take on Batman was the best-selling The Dark Knight Returns. In this one book, Miller took a character whose popularity was starting to wane and slammed him back to the gritty, dark style he had originally been written in during his creation.

This version of Batman was older, and more violent than anything seen up before. Miller's "dirty" art style wasn't the clean lines seen up to that point from other artists.

Miller went back to Batman for a sequel to TDKR, but it was blasted by critics and didn't sell well. Both stories are available together in the "Absolute Dark Knight" and are worth reading just for Frank's daring storytelling.

Bob Kane

Tame and possibly even boring by today's standards, Bob's artwork was what gave us our first look at the Dark Knight Detective. Originally, Kane had designed the hero to have wings, but he eventually moved on to a cape instead.

Bob's original work on the character was brutal for the time. Batman actually killed villains and used a gun in one of his early adventures. Kane moved him away from guns (and gave him an origin to explain why he hated them so much), but for his time Batman was a rough and tough character. Eventually, the addition of Robin lightened the book's stories considerably and gave him more of a cartoonish look.

Jim Lee

Jim Lee stepped in to do a 12 part storyline called "Hush", which brought us--among other things--the return of Jason Todd. Jim's artwork on X-Men and Spawn years earlier made him a clear fan favorite, and the news of his coming to the title brought cheers from fanboys everywhere.

Lee didn't disappoint. He immediately brought sales up for the Caped Crusader while bringing new life to other characters like Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and even Superman.

Lee returned to the character last year, teaming with Frank Miller (this time in the writer's chair) for All-Star Batman & Robin. The title was a mixed bag with fans, who were hesitant to say anything negative about having two of the arguably biggest names in comics on the same title at the same time, but even though the story wasn't worth reading most of the time it did allow us to see Lee's take on the character again.

Alex Ross

Mention "realistic" and you really don't get any better than Alex Ross. Ross may have stepped to the spotlight with his work on Marvels, but it was Kingdom Come that gave fans their first look at his version of Batman.

Ross has never been on a monthly Batman title as anything more than a cover artist, but he's included on this list because he always manages to blow us away with his art anytime he touches the character. His latest monthly run with Batman in it was the Justice miniseries last year, and it's a shame he's not involved in more interior art. Unfortunately, Alex's detailed art style (he regularly uses real models for his character's poses) makes it impossible for him to run with a monthly title for any length of time for interior art, but he does give us covers on a regular basis. He just finished contributing the covers for the Batman R.I.P. storyline.

George Perez

George is more famous for his artwork on Avengers than anything else, but when The Brave & The Bold was brought back last year, George stepped up to the challenge. Batman is still a character in series, though not the title regular he was when the series was last seen.

Perez's artistic style is unique and detailed. When DC and Marvel decided to publish a JLA/Avengers crossover story, George was tapped for the job. Even though it was literally over a decade from when he started to when he was finally allowed to finish, the series was a thing of beauty. The story may not have been that great, but it was gorgeous.

John Byrne

More famous for his run on X-Men with Chris Claremont in the 80's, Byrne drew Batman in the Superman/Batman Generations group of miniseries.

Byrne gave Batman a more muscular (some might say chubby) look than other artists, but no one can fault his ability to draw an action sequence.

Byrne falls into that category of artists who have never worked on a monthly Batman title, but his take on the character has always been memorable. Issues of note are the Generations miniseries (with Superman), and Batman 3-D.

And finally, our poll's hands-down almost-unanimous winner is...

Neal Adams

Neal started working on Batman in the late 60's and revolutionized the way comic books were drawn. His run on Batman has been collected in three hardcover volumes called "Batman Illustrated", and they are worth every cent.

Adams worked on Marvel's X-Men as the title was dying and was unable to save it from moving to reprints for years (before relaunching into the most popular comics title of the 80s). Undaunted, he took a swipe at the popular character of Batman and became the standard by which the character was measured for years. Adams was able to put detail into every drawing that had never been seen before.

The iconic moments for the character during Neal's run are too numerous to mention, but some highlights are Dick Grayson finally going off to college, the introduction of Ras A Ghul, and the return of Man-Bat.

And that's it! The best drawing the best...that's why we love comic books so much.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Avengers #44 - More Skrull Stuff

While the Secret Invasion is a cool project, Marvel has finally run the well dry for back stories. Mighty Avengers and New Avengers have been the "brain dump" of all the behind-the-scenes ideas Marvel had for how the invasion happened. Now the warning signs of the past few months have fallen through and Marvel has reached rock bottom.

We were promised this would be the big shocker. We'd find out exactly how the Skrulls managed to infiltrate us, and who in the Illuminati was the traitor who gave them the means to do it. We find out both in this issue, but everything has already been revealed in the Secret Invasion title, so we learn practically nothing new.

Let's be honest, this issue is nothing but filler. Last month, we got Spider-Man in the present. This month, it's back on the Wayback Machine for another "thrilling" history lesson. While Marvel could have used the New Avengers title to give us some cool moments actually involving the New Avengers, we've been getting more and more behind the scenes stuff that gradually became slower and slower moving. With this issue, we officially have nothing.

The Skrulls torture Reed Richards for a way to infiltrate us, and we know ahead of time they get what they're looking for. No suspense. End of story.

Next month, Marvel is giving us a look into what occurred during the "House of M" crossover...just in case you still give a flip about the history of the Skrull invasion. Give it a rest, Marvel. Bring the New Avengers back into their title and let's make it a fun read again. My subscription is the only thing keeping me in this title, and I can only imagine what folks who have the option to buy this book on a monthly basis are doing.

If you skip this one, you'll still know everything going on in the Invasion miniseries. Save your cash this month.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Secret Invasion #6 - Lots of Filler Until the Big Fight

Secret Invasion has been plugging along really well since the first issue. There have been a lot of cool moments of Skrull revelations and action. We were promised heroes would die as well, but no one of any consequence has gone down yet (until this issue).

Here we are at issue 6 and we can see the home stretch. The really cool final pages of issue 4 give way to a great meeting between Thor and the new Captain America here. We even get to see the death of a hero who has been around a lot since the Civil War within the first 3 pages of the book.

Even with so much going for it, this seems to be the first time the miniseries falters. After last month's huge ending with Reed Richards coming back and finding a way to expose the Skrulls, this issue seems tame.

The Skrulls do indeed make their presence known on Earth and demand the unconditional surrender of humanity, and we see Nick Fury back in the game still fighting, but there's an incredible amount of wasted space throughout. The heroes return from the Savage Land (at last) and get involved in the war back in New York. Still, there are very few moments of real action here as it seems only to set the stage for the final two issues. Don't get me wrong, I know there are moments that are for plot advancement and have to come, but everything here could have been accomplished in five pages or less. The final two-page spread is supposed to be jaw-dropping (Marvel said so on their website), but after the amount of two-page spreads we've had in this series, it doesn't really stand out.

The only major thing we get this issue is the fact that the Skrulls have a secret weapon in Janet Van Dyne (the Wasp) somehow. I'm guessing the next issue will pop a surprise or two on us regarding that. She's not a Skrull, but remember Hank Pym Skrull gave her a formula to grow in an early issue of Mighty Avengers, and I imagine it has sinister implications as well.

I'm going to cut this issue some slack because even though it's the worst issue so far of the miniseries, it's still miles above Final Crisis. The next issues will be the big ones as we race to the completion of this otherwise great story!

Monday, September 8, 2008

World's Lamest Superpowers

Super-speed, flight, telekinesis...all these and more are used by great superheroes every day. But what happens when a hero isn't paying attention when the Power Fairy comes by and they get stuck with the powers no one else wants? Why, they end up on our list, of course.

The Blob

Nobody stops the Blob. We get that. Can't be moved, or hurt, or even shot if he doesn't want to. But what happens when he's not fighting heroes? He's just this slow, fat guy who gets banned from the All-You-Can-Eat places in town!

He's slow, too big to fit into anything but a military vehicle, and probably goes through 2 cases of Axe Body Spray on a daily basis. Any villain mastermind who decides to put him on the team had better budget heavy for food usage!

In a world of slim and trim heroes, The Blob makes them all look good.

Mister Immortal

A hero who always comes back to life. While at first this sounds really handy, tack on the fact that he's otherwise just a normal human being and you can see where this might not be the ground-breaking thing it first seemed. If he were Batman or something, it might be cool. Instead, he's just this normal guy who usually ends up getting killed in every comic book he shows up in. He is the leader of the Great Lakes Avengers.

If he were to settle down and master some martial arts, and perhaps spend a little time in the DC world with Batman, he could be a winner. As it stands now, he's little more than a target.

One thing he does have going for him is a pretty cool outfit. He didn't make our costume list from a few weeks back, but it's still a step in the right direction.


Say you have this thing for experimenting on gorillas. One day, you aren't paying attention and they overpower you and put your head on a gorilla's body. That's Doctor Arthur Nagan, otherwise known as "Gorilla-Man".

There's not a lot more to be said. He has the body and proportionate strength of a gorilla. That also means he smells like one too. Though it's never been shown in the comics, I'd be willing to bet you wouldn't want to be around him when he feels threatened because he'll start throwing poo at you.

Howard the Duck

Besides having one of the worst comic book movies ever made, Howard's never really made that big of a splash (no pun intended). He's a duck, for crying out loud! What kind of super-hero is that? And yet he remains a part of the Marvel Universe, popping up from time to time when comedic relief is needed. Now just imagine if he was on your team and it was up to him to rescue you.

Unfortunately, Howard has had it rough lately. Most restaurants in the greater New York area no longer allow smoking indoors, so he's been having to fend off his cousins in Central Park while still enjoying his Stogie.

Matter-Eater Lad

A member of the Legion of Superheroes for years, Matter-Eater Lad had one superpower: he could eat anything. To be honest, this isn't really that cool of a power because my uncle can eat anything and oftentimes does at Thanksgiving dinner. Still, being the future and all, I guess the Legion needed someone to send in first as a human shield when things got tough.

You do have to pity the Legion's plumber though. Imagine hearing "Matter Eater Lad's stopped up the toilet again!" and knowing it was your job to go in there and see what in the world had come out.


Madcap has two superpowers: he can heal quickly, and he can drive people crazy by looking at them. Yes, I know he sounds like Ted Kennedy, but he's not. Carrying around a toy store gun that shoots soap bubbles, Madcap isn't necessarily a villain. He's more like a crazy person who is supposed to be that fun "Ambush Bug" kind of feel.

Beyond being the occasional comic relief, he's almost as useless as Howard the Duck. He's living proof that just because you have a superpower, it doesn't mean you're cool.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Robin # 177 - Red Robin Returns!

I know it seems a weird choice for me to go with a Robin comic for a review this week, but readers of this blog know I really love seeing Red Robin in action. Jason Todd really did a great job adopting the role in the final issues of Countdown, and I was anxious to see him appear in a regular DC title. Well, Red Robin is back, but it isn't Jason Todd!

The cover alone should be enough to grab you, but the opening pages show you right off the bat that you're not looking at the same guy you'd seen in the tights before.

Jason Todd's return is cool, but I have to say it's a little bit of a letdown to see him back in his "Red Hood" suit after seeing him end the Countdown as Red Robin. I think DC's really killed the momentum here with this character. It's like they said, "Never mind, everything's back like it was before." Of course, given the current state of DC's storylines, we shouldn't be surprised.

The mysterious new Red Robin makes a few appearances throughout the book, but just who it is and what they want we can't say. Unfortunately, again given DC's current state of reboots while storytelling, this will probably turn out to be woman in a bulky suit again (he constantly covers his mouth when closeups are involved, even on the cover...and since we wouldn't recognize any hero just from their mouth it's a sure giveaway they're hiding something instantly recognizable--like lipstick or something).

Lest you think I hate the story, I don't. There are plenty of faults, and unless some really amazing plot twist occurs in the next month or so (this is another Jason Todd from one of the alternate realities they visited, or the Jason Todd we're seeing now is from another reality, etc) I think we're headed for a letdown...but the story moves along nicely and it's interesting to see Robin face off against his predecessor again. This isn't a book I usually pick up with any regularity, but I'm going to have to stick around at least until we see who's wearing the RR suit.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Coolest But Sorely Underused Characters in Comics

Not everyone can be a Batman or Spider-Man. Someone has to play "extra" in those massive battle scenes and give up the spotlight so the big guys can have it. Unfortunately, there are some heroes who deserve a little more spotlight time but never seem to get it. Here's my list of who we should see more of:

Plastic Man

During his latest run in the JLA, this character was hilarious. He brought the much-needed comic relief to the team, while still having a power set that made him invaluable to many missions.

Unfortunately, since the JLA has been revamped recently, Plas has pretty much dropped out of sight. DC gave him a kiddie-style series recently, but the artwork was sorely lacking and the stories didn't always make sense.

All in all, this is a character that still hasn't reached his full potential. I don't know that he's strong enough to hold his own in a solo title, but they need to get him back into the JLA as soon as possible. The guy can become anything (including, as in this example, Big Barda's dress), so how can that not obviously be useful?


You saw him on my list of the coolest hero costumes a few weeks ago. Besides an incredibly cool costume, he has some pretty neat powers that allow him to swim underwater at incredible speeds and fire power rays from his hands, which puts him one above Aquaman and Namor.

Since Namor is being snobbish right now and every super-team needs their Aquaman-type secondary, why not bring him into the spotlight a little in a team book? He's been an Avenger before, so now that there's two different Avengers teams, why couldn't he slide into one after the Skrull Invasion settles down?

Union Jack

Marvel rebooted him in Captain America 181 and then promptly dropped him for years. Then Blade came out and the world had "Vampire Slayer Mania", so Marvel gave UJ a new lease on life and a miniseries killing the undead. It took Marvel about a year to realize they didn't have to rip off the Blade character since they actually owned him, so UJ went back on the shelf for a while.

Then they decided it was time to dust him off and give him a little boost. Another miniseries (this time with a team of his own full of super-powered beings) and a guest spot in Captain America again, and then he's back on the shelf. He's a cool character, and deserves better than he's getting now. His last miniseries showed what it would be like to be the only normal person in a group of super-powered heroes, and it was really cool to see him push himself to be worthy of leading them. Yes, I know Batman does this on a regular basis with the Justice League, but how many times have you seen Batman break a sweat during a battle? Or worry about losing? Union Jack has the frail humanity other heroes seem to lack.


A member of the Squadron Sinister in his beginnings, Kyle moved on to the Defenders and eventually even became their leader. The problem? Go and read Essential Defenders Volume 3 to figure it out. Over the course of those twenty-something issues, Nighthawk is captured or replaced in over a dozen of them. This makes them the only super-team on record that ever had to spend more time rescuing their leader than fighting the bad guys! Eventually Marvel killed him off, only to bring him back a few years later. Nighthawk was a member of the Thunderbolts for a little while and played an incredibly minor role in Civil War (basically, a cameo as he resigned from Captain America's rebel team). He was recently seen in The Last Defenders, but that series ended with him turning in the costume to allow someone else to take it. It was a stupid reboot done just for a gimmick's sake. Marvel again took an established hero and rebooted him as yet another minority character. You have Night Thrasher, Firestorm, 3-D Man, Blue Beetle, White Tiger, Mister Terrific, Ultimate Nick Fury, Jon Stewart/Green Lantern, and The Spectre all as major minority characters in their various Marvel and DC titles--but they're all reboots of an established character! Marvel, why not quit being lazy and create another original hero like Black Panther, Blade or Luke Cage? You used to be called "The House of Ideas", but now you're just "The Recycling Bin of Worn Out Ideas".

What could Kyle do if they used this character right? Work through this with me: he's a billionaire playboy who dresses like a superhero to fight crime...could this concept work? Could you possibly make this hero...I don't know...grim and brooding, give him a sidekick named Robin, and turn him loose on criminals everywhere? Yeah, I think Nighthawk's been getting the short end of the stick for quite some time.


He was there in the reboot of the X-Men that brought them into modern times and made them the most popular comic book title for decades. True, he'd been in guest shots before that, but he was finally part of the team. Then he left and went back to being Japan's protector who always showed up to yell at whatever hero happened to stumble into Japanese airspace.

He did a miniseries of his own, a guest shot in Rogue's series, lost his legs and became one of the Horsemen of Apocolypse, then broke from that. Sunfire deserves better. Yes, he's too pompous and reminiscent of Prince Namor, but he's got the power and ability to be a heavy hitter in the Marvel Universe. Hey, what would happen if you took Wolverine out of one of the dozen titles he's in every month and let some other mutants have a shot at the spotlight?

Mister Miracle

DC gets a small mention on this list because they usually give their secondary characters face time through either a team-up book like Brave and the Bold, or in one of their never-ending weekly series. Still, Scott Free isn't being used like he could. I know there's actually three different heroes using the Mister Miracle title right now, but let's stick with the original and best. He's an escape artist who can't be held. In this magic-frenzied world of television magicians today, why would this character not be a smart bet? Yes, he just lost his wife in the Death of the New Gods, but wouldn't this make for a perfect starting point for the character? Now he could be an escape artist with a death wish, never sure if he really wants to escape or not! The tension would be there because you'd never know if he was going to just let this time be his last.

Alex Ross gave him the honor of being in charge of the super-villain prison in Kingdom Come. Even though Scott failed and eventually died trying to keep them contained, it made sense. There's a lot of untapped potential in what this character could be if DC would just put some thought into it.

Doc Samson

This is one character Marvel has really dropped the ball with. They give him super-strength, make him very intelligent (he's a doctor, for crying out loud!), start him with a cool costume that over time becomes incredibly lame, and never move him beyond ever fighting the Hulk or She-Hulk.

I know they gave him a fairly cool nod by turning him into the Red Hulk and basically making him the strongest character in the Marvel Universe, but we all know that's not a change that's going to stick. Most likely he'll end up completely depowered by some SHIELD ray and become just another normal guy. It's a shame because Doc Samson would have made a great leader for some team somewhere if they'd just tried to work with him. A super-hero team in every state, and we can't make him leader of even Rhode Island's team? A crying shame.

The Sentry

He has the power of a thousand exploding suns, but Marvel has given him the worst weakness ever: he's crazy. Listen Marvel: drop the "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" routine every time he gets into a fight and give him some real quality time!

Yes he's had 2 miniseries, but they were essentially the same thing just replayed over and over (even during his six-issue story arc in New Avengers). We understand: Sentry is the Void! We get it! Now drop it, straighten him out, and move on! For more on my thoughts about this character, go to this previous post.
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