Monday, January 31, 2011

Heroes and Villains of the Spectrum - Red

I thought it would be fun (and a personal challenge) to try and make a few lists of the characters out there who insist on putting a color in their names. Sometimes it's painfully obvious and unnecessary, and sometimes it's a little weird (Red Skull). Let's kick it off with the color red...

Red Tornado

He's the android who became human who became an android again.

He was originally part of the Justice Society for a brief time before a crossover event caused him to come to our universe to enlist the aid of the JLA in saving the JSA.

He's one of those characters whose backgrounds are so convoluted it's hard to keep up with what really happened or where he really came from. Still, it's a pretty safe bet that he'll be back in the JLA books someday. He's sort of like a standard, like the Martian Manhunter.

Red Robin

This particular hero has been three versions of Robin: Dick Grayson (in "Kingdom Come"), Jason Todd (during "Countdown"), and most recently Tim Drake (in his own series). 

It's hard to say who did the best job of playing the part, mainly because Dick Grayson's version was relegated to roughly two pages of action in the miniseries. If we had to cast a vote, however, I think Jason Todd's version held the most promise. Unfortunately, as soon as "Countdown" ended, the writers threw him out of the costume as soon as possible with no explanation as to why.

Red Hood

The first Red Hood became the Joker, but Jason Todd (who was killed by the Joker) decided to use the moniker when he came back from the dead for some reason. He became this brutal Punisher type character, killing criminals before eventually trying to force Batman to kill the Joker himself.

Jason has long been the loose cannon of the DC Universe, finding meaning and direction during his trips through the multiverse in search of Ray Palmer. As Red Robin, he avenged his own death and that of one of the multiverse's Batman versions by killing a version of the Joker. Now he's back to being the Red Hood and just showing up as needed. He was supposedly killed during the Battle for the Cowl fight with Dick Grayson, but there's no doubt he'll be back one day soon.

Rocket Red

Russia's knight in shining armor, this character is more of a team rather than a single unit. 

For a while, he was a member of the Justice League International, and helped out on a lot of missions.

Lately, the character has been relegated to second-tier status with a few menacing appearances in Green Lantern, and a guest shot or two in the old "Justice League Unlimited" cartoon series.

Red Guardian

Another hero whose choice of color in his name was due more to political leanings than anything else, Red Guardian was supposed to be like Russia's answer to Captain America. While he was a rather acrobatic character, he didn't initially have a shield and the fin on his head was a little weird.

Eventually he was killed off and his girlfriend took his place. She actually managed to get a pretty cool power set with flight and energy beams, while the original had nothing more than skill and luck to keep him alive for as long as it did.

He even got an action figure several years back. Quite an accomplishment for such an almost-forgotten character.

Red Skull

Slated to become the bad guy in the newest Captain America film (did you forget he was the bad guy in the 90's movie as well?), this guy has been around forever and a day.

For some reason, he's pretty much been relegated to little more than Captain America's version of the Joker. He's out there coming up with master plan after master plan and failing each time. He dies, he comes back. He dies again, he comes back again. For some reason, Marvel just believes this man is vital to keeping Captain America stories relevant and alive...even though the Red Skull hasn't succeeded in anything in decades.

Red Arrow

Decades after running with the name "Speedy" for some reason, Roy Harper finally took the name he was meant to have: Red Arrow. Giving everyone a taste of what we saw in "Kingdom Come", Red Arrow's creation was a nod to that great graphic novel and a welcome addition to the Justice League. He even surprised Green Arrow when they asked Roy to the team instead.

He's gone back to being Arsenal now (and he's lost his arm, which isn't good for any archer), but for a time he carried the bow. Who knows...the way comic books go he may return there again.

Honorable Mention: Crimson Avenger

Lee Travis fought crime sort of like a cross between the Shadow, the Green Hornet, and the Spider. He was around in the 40's and was even included as one of the original Seven Soldiers of Victory.

Unfortunately, he left this understated costume for a weird fin-on-his-head thing (what is up with that look? Who decided that looked normal?) and took on a teen sidekick.

This is another character who made a guest shot in the Justice League Unlimited series, with his own full-length story in the comic book.

Next week, we take a look at another color in the spectrum! By the way, the only "Lantern" who will count is Green Lantern. It's not fair when you have one of every color out there.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

DC Brings Their Prices Down

A busy week in comics news this week as we throw out another post!

DC recently made the announcement that starting in January they were dropping the prices of all their books (with the exception of annuals and double-sized books) to $2.99 in response to the fans. Somehow it finally dawned on them that $4 a book for 22 pages of action was a tad steep. Now it's $3 a book for 20 pages of action, which is a trade-off I suppose. They want the fans to start trying newer titles.

What about you? Will this make you give more titles a shot, or are you just going to be a satisfied customer with the titles you already go with?

On a different note, did anyone ever imagine there would come a day when Green Lantern would be the focal character for DC on a splash ad rather than Superman or Batman? I mean, he's shooting his ring into the sand for some reason, but he's right there leading the pack!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wizard and Toy Fare Magazines Both Officially Dead

Pardon the extra post this week, but I just had to jump in here with this after finding out the news.

Yesterday was no fun at all as I found out two of my favorite comic and toy-related magazines have just bit the bullet. Wizard Magazine and Toy Fare are both officially in "instantly". No warning, no explanation, just canceled.

While I'm the first to admit Wizard Magazine passed its heyday a year or more ago (thanks to the new format they adopted), it was still a highlight of my month to see it arrive in the mail around the 26th. I found a lot of really cool stuff in there, and especially liked some of the articles.

The real bummer here is the death of Toy Fare. I really just discovered the book in 2009 and had a subscription since (I had grabbed the occasional issue, but nothing constant until then). I can't count the number of statues and toys I've rushed to the computer to pre-order after seeing them in full-color in the book. They seemed to have a jump on Previews and just about anywhere else. I have no idea where to go from here to get my statue and toy news fix.

The unfortunate thing is that Toy Fare seemed to stay strong in content. While Wizard suffered and seemed to really just be printing filler crap there towards the end, Toy Fare consistently had good information.

All of this as Wizard Entertainment announced they'd be continuing the Wizard World Conventions...but now that they've killed the advertising monster they had every month in print I have no idea how they intend to get the word out there about it. They are still planning on going with a digital magazine called "Wizard World" starting next month, but I guess I'm still old school because I prefer my magazines in print. I don't mind reading blog posts and such, but an entire magazine on my computer doesn't appeal to me. And no, I don't own an iPad--and this won't be the thing that sways me to drop $600 on one either.

So now we have a gaping void out there. Who will rush to fill it...or has the internet truly killed the market for print magazines?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stupid Origins

I promise you, I understand that comic books are just for fun. I know that no irradiated spider will give you super powers, and there are no aliens out there passing out green rings, but there are some origins that are so stupid you have to laugh when you read it. Here are some of the worst:

Hawk and Dove

I love these guys, I need to say that up front. Hank and Don Hall remain my favorite duo team of all time, but the origin is a little weird. They're locked in a shed and want a way to help their father before he is killed by gangsters. A mysterious voice starts talking and offers them power to help and thus the heroes are born.

I have mentioned many things I wanted in my life and have yet to have a mysterious voice answer and offer me superpowers. I'm a tad disappointed.

It would be over 20 years before anyone attempted to explain where the powers came from in an issue of "Secret Origins". Apparently, it was from a talking dragon. No lie.


Besides having one of the worst names for a superhero in history (yeah, you know what you're thinking when you hear that name and it has nothing to do with running fast), he also has one of the worst origins.

Where does he get his speed? Is it from a lightning strike to chemicals? Maybe an alien beam? Nope. He was in Africa on a trip, and got bitten by a cobra so they gave him a transfusion of mongoose blood. This, in turn, gave him super-speed.

Now, last time I checked, a mongoose isn't a speedster. They may be quick little buggers, but they don't outrun cars or anything. Just imagined how powerful he'd been if they'd given him a little cheetah blood! He'd have been faster than light! And speaking of speedsters...

Kid Flash/Wally West

Lightning strikes chemicals and makes a police scientist a superhero. I can live with that, believe it or not. What bothers me is how they reused the origin exactly--in the same place even--with Kid Flash!

Almost 30 years later they would try to offer an explanation as to why it happened (Speed Force, Flash as a lightning bolt, etc), but that wasn't what they originally had in mind. Originally this was just an easy out in an attempt to create a sidekick for the Flash so they could cash in on Robin's popularity in the Batman titles.

There was any number of ways they could have done this, but this is one instance where I think the writers just got lazy.

In other news, Marvel announced it is getting out of the "All Ages" comics after Captain America: The First Avenger goes out in April. What do you think? Does anyone read all ages comics now anyway? Does this mean "Superhero Squad" will now have Nick Fury dropping the F bomb as he splats MODOK with ice cream?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Characters That Need To Go

For some reason, a writer or editor can fall in love with a particular character and will do their best to keep them alive by bringing them into any series they can. No matter what they do, the hero just can't carry the momentum necessary for a full-time series and yet that stubborn editor or writer won't let them go, forcing readers to sit through their adventures while waiting for something much better to come along.

Here are some heroes who just can't carry a series and aren't interesting anymore, no matter how you dress them up...

The Black Panther

Ok, how many chances has this guy had? He's had his own series a number of times, and I even heard how it was award-winning and all that, but I honestly never met anyone who was reading it. In my local comic shop, that stack was never touched and eventually the owner stopped ordering the title altogether. We get it: he's a king and he's a bad dude...but he's a lousy superhero.

Truthfully, how many times has he saved the day for the Avengers by taking down some major villain? What makes him so unique that he should stand out above other acrobatic-only heroes like White Tiger, Daredevil, Nighthawk, or even Robin, for crying out loud?

Now he's taking over Hell's Kitchen for Daredevil while Matt's away getting his mind right. What's after that? Maybe they'll give him Captain America's shield while Bucky's in prison, or Spider-Man's web-shooters while Peter's swimming through the mire of his own title. Whatever it is, folks probably won't be interested.


Probably the worst team leader of all time, Cyclops lands here simply because he's the one X-Men who most deserves death and yet never dies. They kill Banshee, Thunderbird, Phoenix (a half dozen times) and yet this guy lives forever.

What leadership has he offered that makes him worthy of leading? If you answered "I don't know", then you're absolutely right!

The writers try every way possible to make him this noble leader, but he seems to always make bad decisions and/or take this tyrant approach. Not only that, but he's lost so many fights over the years it becomes impossible to take his threats seriously. They should give him a noble death and let the character move on.

Wonder Woman

Now this one may tick a few folks off, but let's be honest about it: since Gail Simone left there just hasn't been much steam in this book. DC has treated this character as one of their "Trinity" characters, but she hasn't really been a heavy hitter since the 70's. Batman has dozens of graphic novel collections, while Wonder Woman has only a handful because demand for her character has been so small.

Even her recent "revamp" at the hands of Jim Lee hasn't helped. Her wardrobe now comes straight out of the 90's Justice League looks (think Vibe, Gypsy, Black Canary, etc). But here's the thing: she has this massive potential to be a star but DC has no clue what to do with her. The JLA now has Supergirl, the JSA has Power Girl...I don't even think the Birds of Prey would let her in!

She's been rumored to have a movie in the works and a possible television series, but she just seems to have lost her star potential. Either put her back in the Justice League (possibly as leader), turn her into a super-villain (see how she'd really stand up against Superman), or just kill her off.

Blue Beetle

When Ted Kord died, it didn't take long for DC to immediately pass the mantle to a new character, with new powers and everything. They gave him his own series immediately and expected the best.

Now here we are, years later, and beyond a few guest shots on the "Brave and the Bold" cartoon he's pretty much proven himself unable to hold a title. Ted Kord got more page time last year (in the Booster Gold comic) than Reyes, and Ted's dead!

The interest really isn't there for this character. Again, a noble death for this character (perhaps saving the JLA or ironically at the hands of the newly-revived Maxwell Lord) might help his memory. It worked for Ted Kord!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Return of Stupid Super Powers!

Oh man, we've talked about this before, but I think it's time we hit it once more. There are so many cool powers out there, but then there are so many heroes who just got the short end of the stick and ended up pretty much useless. Here are a few more of them...

1. The Atom

Let's be honest, throughout the old JLA comic books, this guy appeared in the meetings in a two-inch-high chair. He can get small, and that's it.

Grab any of the "Showcase Presents" JLA volumes and see if you can find where he came in handy. Oh, he punched a villain here and there, but not much else. Don't get me wrong, I like the hero, but he's pretty much a specialty-situation kind of hero.

2. Aquaman

Yes, he can swim really fast, and yes he can talk to fish...but how much help is that for routine JLA missions?

Aquaman is that one type of character you feel bad for. You know there's something really cool about them just waiting to be brought out, but no one has found a way to do it yet. They've cut off his hand and replaced it with a hook and/or water hand, then replaced him altogether, then brought him back from the dead. And still, it's hard to find any real use for him as a constant member of a team.

Aliens are attacking and the JLA must race into space to stop them. Superman turns to Aquaman and says, "Um, Arthur, you can sit this one out." To which he replies, "Oh man, again?"

3. Max Damage

You are formerly the world's worst supervillain and now you are trying to turn over a new leaf to become a good guy. Your power is that you become invulnerable the longer you stay awake. Nothing can hurt you if you can stay awake long enough.

The downside? You lose any sense of feeling in your body after one hour of being awake.

So you don't feel anything at all...nothing...for the entire time you're awake after that first hour. Are you hot? Who knows? No holding hands with your girlfriend or anything like that because you might accidentally crush her hand. This is a super power that would be cool to have, but the downside would really outweigh the coolness factor. By the way, if you're not reading Incorruptible, you should pick it up.

4. Ragdoll

The guy is triple-jointed and crazy. He's a member of the Secret Six with Catman, Deadshot, and Bane, and all he can do is bend around a lot. That is all.

Granted, he does bring that wild and crazy edge to an already-nuts team (and he tried to kill the Mad Hatter just because he wanted to be the only crazy one on the team), but that's really not a lot to work with.

Again, this is one of those characters I like to read about, but let's be honest here...powerful he ain't.

By the way, if you'd like to be a guest writer on this blog, send me a message to comicsincrisis(at)yahoo . com . My full-time work schedule and Khris's college schedule keep us pretty busy and we'll take all the help we can get!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Replacements (part 3)

This will do it for me in checking out replacements, but let's go out with some cool ones...

Tony Stark replaced by Jim Rhodes

The whole "Demon in a Bottle" storyline was pretty cool. I mean, here was a hero who actually hit the bottom of the barrel and had to give up his suit because of his actions. It was shocking for the time. Unfortunately, I think the "Ultimate" line of Marvel has taken this and made it a caricature of the depth of the story we originally read.

At any rate, Tony lost the armor and Rhodes took it. This is another case of where the replacement never really leaves, as he later became War Machine. Not only that, but he even made it into the second Iron Man movie!

Green Arrow replaced by his son

Oliver Queen was a fairly standard fixture in the DC Universe. When he was killed in an explosion, it seemed like the natural successor to the title would be Roy Harper, a.k.a. Speedy/Arsenal. But DC pulled a fast one on everyone by bringing in Green Arrow's son Connor to take over the role.

Connor was every bit as good an archer as his father, though his hand-to-hand combat skills were marginally better. He also had this whole pacifist-type thing going on, as a direct opposite to Oliver's more aggressive style of heroing. The coolest part of this replacement was when the new Green Arrow teamed with the new Green Lantern, which allowed for a really neat "Together again for the first time!" situation.

Eventually, Oliver came back and now Connor is dead. The more things change...

Blue Beetle replaced by his own scarab

Ted Kord made the best he could of the situation he was in. He was sort of like an uncool version of Batman...up until the point where he took a bullet to the skull from Maxwell Lord. DC made him cool just long enough to kill him (what we will forever call "The Question Syndrome").

When the time comes for there to be another Blue Beetle, what happens? The scarab suddenly decides it can give super-powers to someone and chooses a teenager to do it. If anyone deserved to be ticked off in the afterlife, it's Kord. All these years of doing it himself with nothing more than skill, and then this stupid kid gets super powers that he could have had all along if the scarab had just given them to him? Unfair!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2011 to everyone from Comics in Crisis!

Enough partying! Now go read comics!
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