Thursday, November 27, 2008

"What If?" Stories That Became Reality (Part 2)

On Monday, we looked at several of the stories in the "What If" line that found their way into reality. Well, most of those dealt with the Hulk, but the good news is that there's no Hulk story to be found this time around.

This time, we focus more on Spider-Man than any other hero. Amazing enough (pun intended) some of Spidey's strange moments in the What If universe found their way into the regular storylines.

And not only that, but one of those What If stories actually created a spin-off series that's still running today. So to finish off our two-part look at What If Stories That Became Reality, we go to...

What If Spider-Man's Clone Lived? (Volume 1, Issue 30)

When it became reality: The infamous "Clone Saga" of the 1990's that almost sank the title.

In this story, it's not Spider-Man who puts the clone in the smoke stack. Instead, the clone defeats Spidey and puts him in a status tube thing, then goes off to live Peter's life. Of course, he eventually realizes he's not the real thing and sets Peter free. Together, they defeat the Kingpin and prove to the world that they aren't the same person after all (though they are). There's even a happy ending to it, as they learn to live and coexist as the same person on different days.

In the regular title, it became known as the "Clone Saga". The clone came back as Ben Reilly, but it turned out Peter was the clone and not Ben. So then Peter and Mary Jane go off together to live a happy life and we are left with Ben as the new Spider-Man. He updates the costume a tad and fights crime for a while. The fans complained, sales tanked, and Peter came back. Suddenly, Peter's not the clone anymore, and rather than face a potential problem with two Parkers running around, Ben is killed saving Peter. His death proves once and for all that Peter is the real deal. Yep, it's as difficult to follow as it sounds and was considered for years to be the lowest point in the Spider-Man title's run. But eventually Marvel topped even that low point (more on that later).

What If Elektra Had Lived? (Volume 1, Issue 35)

When it became reality: Soon after her death.

In this story, Bullseye never meets Elektra (he is killed during his prison escape), so Elektra and Daredevil can continue their relationship. Eventually, Kingpin puts out a contract on her and the only way they can be sure to live in peace is to disappear to some exotic beach location and live happily ever after. No idea why she wouldn't just kill Kingpin since she's an assassin and all, but I didn't write the story. This marks one of the few "What If" stories to really have a happy ending.

In the regular title, Daredevil gets to grieve for less than a dozen issues before he somehow mysteriously brings her back to life in a ceremony the Hand begins. For a while she disappears, and then returns full-time in the Marvel U.

What If Spider-Man Had Not Married Mary Jane? (Volume 2, Issue 20)

When it became reality:
Brand New Day.

This was the first part of a two-part story (followed with "What If Spider-Man Had Married the Black Cat"), but this pretty much sums it up: thinking it's just too dangerous to be married to a superhero, MJ says no and it's all down hill from there.

In the regular title, the marriage worked out great. MJ was a support to Peter in time of trouble, and they were always there for each other. The geek finally got the beauty. Then the big "Q" stepped in and said let's pretend like none of that ever happened, and we got stuck with "Brand New Day", wherein all Spider-Man fans are told the past 20 years of stories don't actually count. Thanks for buying the comics and reading them, now throw them away because it didn't happen. Sometimes Marvel is so awesome.

What If Phoenix Rose Again? (Volume 2, Issue 33)

When it became a reality:
About every 5 years since X-Factor #1 came out.

Ah yes, death in comics. When is it ever permanent? The fact is that it isn't. In this story (the second of a two-parter, preceded by "What If Phoenix Had Not Died?"), Jean eventually loses control of the Phoenix power and has to leave the Earth forever so everyone will be safe.

In the regular Marvel U, she came back in X-Factor #1, died again, came back again, died again, came back again, and just recently died fighting Magneto. Will she be back again? You can bet your sweet bippy she will! It's just a matter of time.

What If the Punisher Became Captain America? (Volume 2, Issue 51)

When it became reality: At the end of Marvel's Civil War and in Punisher: War Journal 6-12.

In this story, Steve Rogers is injured to the point he cannot continue as Captain America. Five others are given the suit (folks like Doc Samson, Kyle Richmond, John Jameson, and others), but they all fail for one reason or another. Then Frank Castle is given his shot at the suit. Given Frank's unstable mental condition, he soon turns the non-lethal Captain America into a killing machine, and finds himself fighting for the title against a familiar face.

In the real title, Frank picked up Cap's mask at the end of Civil War and folks knew something was coming. When Cap was killed, it seemed Frank would become his successor.

Unfortunately, Marvel fell victim once again to its sometimes-convoluted writing style. Rather than take things in a logical direction and let Frank try his hand at being Cap, we ended up with this really weird Captain America/Punisher hybrid thing that was never given a clear chance to win. The 6-part storyline was told in a flashback/flash-forward/present-time style that made it nearly impossible to follow in single-issue portions. Hate-monger was there, but Frank spent most of the issues tied to a pole, and only wore the CaPunisher suit for a few panels before even the bad guys were laughing at him and beating him up. Fortunately, Winter Soldier showed up the next issue to get the mask back. Sorry, Frank, I guess black and white will remain your colors from now on.

What If...Spider-Girl (Volume 2, Issue 105)

When it became reality: Spider-Girl #1

In this story, we find an alternate reality where Peter and MJ Parker managed to have a daughter named May (or Mayday) Parker. She soon finds out about her father's heroic past and the tragic end to it (Peter lost a leg while fighting Green Goblin). She soon suits up and the rest is history.

This remains the only "What If" story to actually get its own ongoing title. Spider-Girl has never experienced ground-breaking sales, but the two times it has faced cancellation has caused such an outpouring of reader response that Marvel has kept it going. The title actually spawned an entire new universe with a new version of the Avengers and others, and even led into a Last Planet Standing miniseries. Though she's been around for a while, it would appear Marvel is definitely pulling the plug on her.

And my vote for the next "What If" story that will become reality goes to...

What If Iron Man Had Been a Traitor? (Volume 1, Special one-shot)

When this becomes reality: Soon.

In this story, Iron Man turns out to be a Russian spy who turns against the U.S. and its heroes. Pain, death, and mayhem soon follow (go figure).

In our reality, it hasn't happened yet, and who knows exactly when it will--but after Civil War, World War Hulk, and Secret Invasion, it's safe to say Iron Man has been instrumental in some of the biggest disasters in the Marvel Universe in recent years. Coincidence? Or evil plot to weaken the world's heroes for some reason?

Of course, he wouldn't stay a bad guy (if he's ever turned into one), but it'll make for some interesting stories while it lasts.

So that's it for the What If universe! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! See you next week!

Monday, November 24, 2008

"What If?" Stories That Became Reality (Part 1)

During the 70's and early 80's Marvel came up with an interesting twist on the comic story. They would take a look back at pivotal moments in comic plots and give the reader a chance to see just what would have happened if those moments had gone a little differently. The title was "What If?".

At the time, there didn't seem to be a chance any of those stories could come true, but as the House of Ideas started running dry on them, a few of those tales made their way in some form or another into the regular Marvel universe. Here's the first of our two-part look at titles that aren't so unimaginable anymore.

What If The Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner? (Volume 1, Issue 2)
When it became reality: During the John Byrne years on the Incredible Hulk

It didn't take far into the run to find the first idea that became a reality. In this story, Banner retains his intelligence from the very first time he manifests as the Hulk. The story starts out well enough, but quickly turns weird as Banner, Reed Richards, and Professor X have to become one entity (called "X Man") in order to stop Galactus. Think that's strange? That's not even the "shock ending" the cover promises!

In the real title, it didn't happen until decades later, when John Byrne began drawing it and Peter David was writing. Banner kept his intelligence and was able to help various heroes in the Marvel U time and again. It didn't stick though, and eventually he was back to his savage ways.

What If the world knew Daredevil was blind? (Volume 1 Issue 8)

When it became reality: Just last year, as Daredevil's secret identity was blown and Matt Murdock was sent to prison.

Six issues later, we find the next offender. Daredevil's greatest secret is discovered, and suddenly the villains he fights come up with incredibly creative ways to capitalize on his weakness. Eventually, DD is able to come up with a way to fix the problem in a rather tame story (nobody dies, which is rare for a "What If").

In the real title, Murdock's secret was exposed and the world put it all together. However, rather than it being the end of the hero's career, it just served to give them a few issues of fun with Murdock in prison and a new mystery man wearing the red tights (it was Iron Fist).

What If Rick Jones had become the Hulk? (Volume 1, Issue 12)

When it became reality: for a brief, but memorable, run in the title where we got our first long-haired Hulk.

For all his importance in the Marvel Universe, you'd think Rick Jones would have gotten super powers much earlier. In this story, he's the one who becomes the green goliath instead of Banner. A lot of smashing ensues, and eventually Banner is able to stop the rampaging monster.

In the real title, Jones gets exposed to gamma radiation and becomes a long-haired version of the Hulk. He was actually in the title for several issues before finally getting cured. When the Hulk title was rebooted earlier this year, it looked like Rick was taking over again but this time as the Red Hulk. Instead, Rick got stuck with "A-Bomb" as his unfortunate new moniker.

What If the Hulk had become a barbarian? (Volume 1, Issue 23)

When it became a reality: Planet Hulk

I swear I'm not picking on the Hulk, but it would appear the writers on the title weren't afraid to go to the "What If" well when the ideas weren't flowing as they should. In this story, Hulk returns with Jarella to her homeworld and fights to help her protect her world from an evil dictator. Eventually he decides to stay on the molecule planet with her.

In our world, it was the Illuminati who sent him off into outer space and eventually forced him to fight for his life in various contests. He even faced the Silver Surfer (dubbed "The Silver Savage" by that planet's inhabitants). Hulk finally made his way off the planet and back to Earth with a grudge to settle. He dealt much smashing to most of the heroes before finally being de-powered (or so they thought) just in time for the Skrull's Secret Invasion so he couldn't help out.

This Thursday, we're going to look at the rest of those stories that have found their way into the real world. No more Hulk entries, but we do have the only What If story that managed to launch a spin-off title that's still running today! All that, and I'll show you the What If story I believe to be the next one to become reality! Be here!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More Costumes That Suck

We made fun of them once before, but there were so many more to choose from I couldn't hit them all. There are those heroes who have the greatest fashion sense in the world, and then there are these folks.

With the help of suggestions from readers Groovy Agent and Chris, I'd like to present our follow up on costumes that need work.

Wonder Man
There's a certain cruelty in bring this guy up simply because he's never had a good costume in his entire career.

Simon Williams started out as a villain in this weird green getup with goggles. It didn't last forever and he died soon after his first appearance. Subsequent appearances didn't fare much better for him, giving him a variation on his original suit.

It wasn't until Simon became a real member of the Avengers that he got an honest-to-goodness new look. Unfortunately, he ended up looking more like a porn star than a superhero. The weird jacket and bracelets didn't add to his appeal. Even though this outfit stinks, it's actually the current one he's using again now.

Eventually, Simon moved to a sleeveless, spandex look. This one actually wasn't so bad, especially compared to what he'd used before this. He didn't stick with it forever though, and actually turned into this purple being of pure energy for a while. Somehow that purple version still had the red "W" on his chest though.

The Falcon (the green years)

While the Falcon currently has one of the better costumes out there, he didn't start out that way. He couldn't even fly! Still, Sam Wilson chose the title of "The Falcon" and ran with it.

This suit forever sticks in my mind as the worst time in the character's history. He started as a villain, then decided to become a hero. After pestering Captain America to let him be his sidekick, Wilson literally spent the next two dozen issues of Captain America telling Cap to leave him alone and he didn't want to be his partner! Cap would get into trouble, Sam would help and then tell him again to leave him alone so he could "help the brothers in Harlem". The thing that made it worse was the fact that they didn't want his help and kept telling him to get out! It made the character look like a real bad choice for a partner. Fortunately, Sam changed his look, picked up the ability to fly, and got a better outlook on life.

Hank Pym (the West Coast Avengers years)

While Hank Pym has had his share of costumes over the years, there was this one misstep in an otherwise strong set of choices.

After retiring the Yellowjacket persona because of the negative connotations it brought (he'd turned bad for a while), Hank decided it was time to go with a more casual look. Eventually that look turned into something a little more flashy as he started using his growing and shrinking powers again (all the while avoiding another superhero name).

The headband really didn't get it. The sleeveless look didn't get it. The little black gloves didn't get it. Hank didn't get it. Fortunately, his "red jumpsuit" phase was short-lived and eventually he stepped back into the role of scientist/superhero again in a more subdued manner.

The Blue Beetle (reboot version)

The original Blue Beetle's costume was a little strange with the red fin and all, but nothing can prepare you for this horrible mistake.

Somebody was into just a little too much Manga when they decided it was time for a makeover for Blue Beetle. Looking like a cross between Ultraman, Jet Jaguar, and a Power Ranger, this hero stumbled upon the scene right before Infinite Crisis. Whereas the previous Blue Beetle had been this cool, smart tech wiz who had to rely on athletic skill in his battles, this time they gave us a teenager with armor that does stuff.

This costume could actually be pretty good if it were done a little differently. A few tweaks here and there (and bring back Ted Kord), and this would be a great suit. As it stands now though, it misses the mark big time.

The White Tiger (new version)

The original White Tiger made our list of best costumes. His follow-up did not.

While I can understand the desire to change things up a bit with a reboot, like the Blue Beetle we just mentioned, this was a change that turned out for the worst.

When you're facing a superhero whose costume looks like she's already been in a gang fight and lost, you can't be too scared. I can appreciate wanting to showcase the fact that this White Tiger is a girl and has curves, maybe it wouldn't hurt to lean a little more toward the original?

On a brighter note, this site recently hit 5,000 visitors! Thanks so much to everyone who checks in on us on a regular basis and even drops a comment from time to time. It's fun knowing I'm not the only comic fan out there who thinks a little weird every once in a while.

Next Monday and Thursday, a special two-parter for Thanksgiving week. We're going to take a look at one of Marvel's more offbeat titles that has actually had many of its plots ripped-off for the Hulk, Daredevil, Captain America, Spider-Man, and many others. See you then!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dream Casting the JLA Movie

A while back, I put together a dream cast for the Ultimate Avengers movie. Now it's time to go with the flip side of the coin.

Here's my list for the JLA movie they keep promising someday. I can guarantee you will not agree with many of my choices, but think about them and they just might grow on you!

Tom Welling as Superman

Why mess with what works? Welling does a great job as Clark on Smallville, even though the plots can sometimes get a little weird now. I think he deserves a chance, and the audience is built in.

He's already in his 30's, so there's no reason to think he couldn't change overnight to a more adult version of the character. Get rid of the constant questioning of his abilities, let him be secure in his role as a hero, and set him loose on villains everywhere.

I know Brandon Routh did an amazing job of perfectly channeling Christopher Reeve in Superman Returns, but I'd still give Tom a chance.

Christian Bale as Batman

Need I say more?

Bale has taken the character to new levels. While I enjoyed Michael Keaton's take on the role, Bale turned Batman into someone to really be scared of, and made us understand how a guy in a bat suit could actually become a legend.

I would prefer they just gave him a more stripped down suit though. The armor was nice, but unrealistic to the character. The Dark Knight got a little closer, but the thing that makes Batman so powerful is the fact that he's just a man with amazing athletic abilities putting his life on the line every night. A full suit of armor almost seems like cheating.

Ryan Reynolds as the Flash

This was a role that was almost cast, but last time I heard it had fallen through the cracks.

Even though Ryan is playing Deadpool in the upcoming Wolverine movie, let's hope he could still find time to get back there to play a few other hero roles. He's made for the Wally West character. Both are smart alecks, and have witty personalities. Plus the fact that he can play it tough when he has to (remember Smoking Aces?).

Kiefer Sutherland as Aquaman

You may wonder why I've allowed two members of Smallville to keep their roles, while replacing this one. Kiefer Sutherland has the ability to perfectly capture the essence of this character.

Sutherland has done a lot of action roles lately, and he has that royal air about him at times. I think he'd make a great King of Atlantis. Imagine him facing down Christian Bale's Batman and threatening to unleash the armies of Atlantis on the surface world for whatever reason. I think we might believe him.

Leonard Roberts as Green Lantern/John Stewart

I'm casting two Green Lanterns in this movie because I have a feeling they'd go with John Stewart even though Hal Jordan is the natural choice. For John Stewart, Leonard Roberts fits the bill. His work on Heroes was powerful, and he can definitely throw the attitude around when need be. At the same time, we saw his father/protector side during the first season of Heroes, and that shows a range the character would need.

Laurence Fishburne as The Martian Manhunter

Let's be honest, the man already seems like he's from another planet most of the time. As Morpheus, he kept this "I'm so bad I could kill you with a look if I felt like it" vibe going throughout the movie, and that's the thing MM would need. He can exude calm in the midst of chaos, and he could easily fill the spot as the backbone of the team.

Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern/Hal Jordan

Here's my Hal Jordan choice that makes sense if you give it a chance. He's been in space as captain of the Serenity, he's been a fighter in Buffy, and he's got the attitude to be both funny and threatening in the same sentence ("I aim to misbehave.").

He seems like one who honestly could be a man with no fear (as Jordan was supposed to be), and at the same time he could be that wild test pilot secret identity. Let's work with it.

Justin Hartley as Green Arrow

Ok, so there's no goatee, but Hartley did a bang-up job with the character on Smallville. Add the fact that we have Welling as Superman and it allows for a little back story if the writers so choose.

Now that's not to say we're going with younger versions of everyone, but with Ryan Reynolds playing Wally West and Hartley as Green Arrow, it's easy to see a possible dynamic between the two. They could easily become enemies during the movie, only to of course have GA save Wally's butt before it's all over.

Yvonne Strahovski as Black Canary

You've seen her on Chuck, and she does a pretty good job with the action parts. She's got that tough act down pat, and can still seem sensitive when needed.

She'd make a perfect foil for Green Arrow, and I think she's a better fit than the choice they made for Smallville. Let's just stay true to the costume this time. No black makeup mask or anything...just spandex and fishnet stockings.

Tiffany Dupont as Wonder Woman

She was Queen of Persia, so why not Princess of Amazon Island?

I know it seems strange to cast a little-known actress in such a major part, but she has an air of innocence about her that makes it believable she could have been raised on an island away from the evils of man. Tiffany has the dark-haired look, though Wonder Woman had blue eyes in the books. I'd skip the fake contacts and keep her as-is, letting that one little detail slide.

Could she do action films? I have no idea, but she can do emotions as needed.

Vin Diesel as Hawkman

Put down the knife! Ok, so this isn't the best actor in the world, but all he has to do is act menacing and beat people with a big stick! This is what Vin Diesel already calls "Saturday night as usual" so why not let him get paid for it? He's got the build, the freaky voice, and the attitude. Now just give him wings.

Ioan Gruffudd as The Atom

He was Reed Richards and that shows he can do the brainy role. Ray Palmer would be an easy part for him to play.

Keep in mind that for most of the movie he'd be in the JLA satellite or lab or something trying to figure stuff out. There probably wouldn't be a lot of screen time for action shots, so this character would need to project smarts. Ioan does.

Val Kilmer as Red Tornado

Just the voice here, folks. This character would need to be computer generated to give us the real feel, and Val Kilmer is as big as a horse now, so he's lost the look for movies.

Fortunately, he can still talk. If nothing else, he could give Red Tornado that emotionless, flat sound we'd expect from an android (and from most of Val's previous roles).

Jim Carrey as Plastic Man

Let's be honest: who else could do this without special effects of any kind? His face can already double in size in seconds, and he acts like he's on speed every time he's seen in public, so this is an easy, off-the-wall role for him to fill.

The only thing would be that the director would have to keep a tight rein on this. Plastic Man would need to be a character with a funny, witty side, but if it devolved into a slapstick routine it would detract from the rest of the movie. There's nothing wrong with letting Jim have fun with the role...just keep it close to the script.

John Cusack as The Question
Ok, I'll admit this guy isn't really a member of the Justice League, but he did show up in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon series a lot. Even though he's dead in the regular DC universe, let's ignore that fact and look at the potential the character could have. The cartoons gave him this "conspiracy theory" kind of feel, and his final appearances in DC's 52 finally turned him into a really cool character, so let's combine the best of all that and turn him into a character that's the catalyst for the JLA getting together. Maybe he's uncovered some huge plot to form a super-villain army, maybe it's an alien infiltration, maybe the Girl Scouts are an evil organization putting addictive chemicals in their cookies...who cares? Just give us something.

Cusack has this ability to act like a guy waaaaaaaay over the edge of sanity at times, and that would add to the quirkiness of the character. There would always be this doubt over whether or not the guy had really uncovered something or was just crazy as a loon.

And finally the most important spot to fill to make the movie work...

Zack Snyder as The Director

I haven't seen Watchmen yet (and who knows if we'll ever get to...thanks, Fox!), but the previews make it look like he knows how to handle a comic story. If he does manage to deliver the goods and stay faithful to the original plot, I think he'd make a natural choice to handle another DC hero team. They might be more open to giving him a chance after they see the money rolling in on the Watchmen box office.

If they don't like Zack, they could always like Bryan Singer have a chance at it. He did such a great job of taking the guaranteed-hit potential of Superman Returns and turning it into a film that makes Superman IV look like a masterpiece of visual storytelling (so on top of the island of Kryptonite he's so weak Luthor can beat him up, but put him under it and he can lift the whole thing and fly it into space? Yeah, that makes sense). He could let Superman's kid show up, give Aquaman a scene where he almost drowns, let Hawkman have a fear of heights, and let the Atom and Plastic Man turn out to be father and son. Oh, and Wonder Woman would actually turn out to be a guy at the end of the film. Singer has shown a knack for taking the simplest stories and convoluting them to the point of absolute chaos, so let him murder this team as well. Sorry, that was a lot of sarcasm to unload at once.

The Justice League has a ton of characters who rotate through their ranks. Who did I miss that you think should at least make a cameo in the film, and who should play them?
Blog Widget by LinkWithin