—by Nathan on September 21, 2011—
Make no bones about it. This blog is dedicated to the superheroes. Whether they're in comics, movies, games, or books, superheroes have made their mark on this culture. The cool thing about superheroes is that they can be anyone. Some heroes are funny, while others are darker. Some are older, and others younger. My favorite hero, Spider-Man, is as quick-witted as they get. My second favorite, Batman, is a vigilante who uses shadows and rarely pulls his punches. Well, this blog is about all that. Superheroes and the media they have spawned. Heroes can be found in everything from comics, to movies, to novels. I'm going to talk about some of the best media regarding superheroes. And up, up and away we go!
COMICS: Call 'em what you will. Comics. Comic books. Graphic novels. It doesn't matter. What does is what lies inside. I have bought and received my share of comics over the years, and I hope to be collecting lots more in the future. In these next few paragraphs, I will share some of my favorite comic book stories.
Favorite Single Issue: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1: The Sinister Six
WHY: We're going years back. Welcome to a Barnes and Noble somewhere in Florida. Mild-mannered me is sifting his way through rows upon rows of-what else? Comics. I wasn't a huge owner of comics back then, but I had acquired a taste for Spider-Man through some updated relaunches of older stories. During all the glancing and turning of pages, I stumble across a Spider-Man Marvel Masterworks, which collected a bunch of his older stories. One issue caught my eye. The very first Spider-Man annual, which pits the Wall-Crawler against six of his most dangerous enemies. My attention was hooked. I'll admit it (and others can confirm this confession), but I have always leaned towards the villains. I always have enjoyed them. I'm not exactly sure why, but that's just been who I am. That's one reason why I love comics. I want to see who the hero gets to confront. And to see my favorite superhero against the likes of six of his most fiendish of antagonists? As Mary Jane would say, I'd just hit the jackpot. This is really what started off my comic collecting. Since then, I have accumulated hundreds of comics, most of them being Spider-Man. Now to the story of that annual. Basically, Doctor Octopus calls up a bunch of his comrades, who have all met defeat at the hands of Spidey. They hatch a devious plan, which includes kidnapping Daily Bugle employee and Peter's then-time-girlfriend Betty Brant. Somehow, Peter's dear Aunt May gets caught up in the whole thing, which adds another drive to Spider-Man's determination in rescuing them and stopping his enemies. He goes to six different destinations, awaited by a villain at each, a villain with the hopes of destroying him. Spider-Man has to be able to beat Electro, Kraven the Hunter, the Sandman, Mysterio, The Vulture, and Doctor Octopus in the effort to free his loved ones. It's a difficult challenge. An excellent story written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, it's a tale I've read so many times the pages are falling out!
Favorite Miniseries: Batman: The Long Halloween
WHY: "Trick or treat, smell my feet..." Aw, you know how it goes. Written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale, The Long Halloween is a great story. Though I am typically not one to be labled as a DC fan, I found this story to be one of the better ones I've ever read. I believe I picked it up at the library and read it through. I'm not exactly sure what intrigued me at first, but I understand now why it's so good. The story is that there's a murderer on the loose in Gotham, killing people on holidays. Thus the name of this killer: Holiday. Batman has to work to figure out who this killer and how to stop him...or her. Christmas. Easter. This Holiday isn't letting up. In the background, Harvey Dent is a District Attorney whose face gets messed up when acid is thrown at him. The once handsome D.A. is now a psychopathic murderer with his own agenda. So...is he Holiday? This story interests me because it plays out almost like a detective story. I'm not a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, but this story was clever. Loeb has Batman put this puzzle together piece by piece. He also gets deeper into other characters, such as Harvey Dent (aka "Two-Face") and Carmine Falcone, the crime boss whose gang is primarily being hunted by Holiday. Once again, villains litter the pages of this series, and a two-panel spread with the likes of Two-Face, the Joker, the Penguin, The Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, and the Scarecrow on it is the best panel of the series. The mystery of the story, combined with the stunning art and well-written dialogue, makes this a favorite.
Favorite Maxiseries: The Gauntlet/The Grim Hunt
WHY: And we're back to Spider-Man. The Gauntlet and the Grim Hunt are sorta combined, so that's why I put them together. The Gauntlet doesn't make sense without the Grim Hunt, and vice versa. This was actually a series I started buying up myself. I was given the first few issues two Christmases ago, and I went from there. Eventually, I stopped after a bit, but I was given the rest of the Gauntlet last Christmas, and I wrapped it all up (no pun intended, since Spidey uses webs) with the Grim Hunt about a month ago. First, we have the Gauntlet. Written by a variety of writers and drawn by an army of artists, the Gauntlet really lives to its name as it puts Spidey through the wringer. Facing the likes of Electro, the Sandman, the Rhino (both old AND new), Mysterio, the Lizard, Morbius the Living Vampire, a brand new Vulture, the Chinatown hood Mr. Negative the Juggernaut, and...duh-duh-duh...SIMPLE SIMON THE PIE THROWER (really, I'm not kidding), Spidey is put through trial after trial of emotional and physical punishment that leads up to the climatic Grim Hunt. But before we get to that, let me mention a few things. Once again, it's mainly the villain factor that contributes to my liking of this series. I mean, a new villain to trounce every few issues is pretty sweet. Plus, these guys are amped (literally in the man called Electro's case) and upgraded so they can put the kibosh on Spidey. Also, I love seeing how much Peter's character changes during all this. Quite the meal of action and emotion. And dessert's right around the corner with the Grim Hunt. Written by Joe Kelley and drawn by Michael Lark (with contributions from other writers and artists), the Grim Hunt does not seem like a typical Spidey story. It's one of Spider-Man's darker tales, but that is expected. A little background: Kraven the Hunter (remember him?) was this screwball who committed suicide years ago. Well, his family has got together to bring him back from the dead, which is a fairly common trend in comics. After capturing some of Spidey's closest companions, they lure Spidey into a trap. Why? Oh, for nothing really. They just need him as a sacrifice to bring a maniacal hunter back from the dead, that's all. Nothing big. Yet, even if they succeed (which seems improbable, since this is Spidey's mag, but you never know), how do they know Kraven wants to return, hmm? The Gauntlet is the perfect story, and the Grim Hunt the perfect conclusion.
MOVIES: Not all superheroes are in comics, you know. Some are in films. While most of these movies are based off of comics (sometimes rather loosely), they can still contain the action and drama of a comic (though I would never imagine Christian Bale in the Long Halloween, never). Some movies are good, some aren't. I'll go through some of the good ones.
Favorite DC Superhero Movie: The Dark Knight
WHY: Just check out my other blogs. I mention this film in at least four of 'em. You can get a pretty good idea from those. Here's a list: The New Batman, The Movies of Mr. Nolan, Favorites, and Look, Up inThe Sky...It's MOVIE MAN! Reading these is not mandatory, merely suggested. Comments are appreciated as well (wink, wink...I am not hinting at anything whatsoever).
Favorite Marvel Movie: X-Men Orgins: Wolverine
WHY: Wait, lemme guess. You were probably going to say my favorite Marvel movie was a Spider-man one, right? Aha. Not so. Wolverine beats Spider-Man, all three of them even. Which is rather interesting, because I don't go gaga over X-Men. I mean, what's their origin story? Nothing, really. They were simply born with whatever freakazoid ability they have and that's that. Not with Wolvie. The other Man of Steel (or Adamantium, if we're gonna be technical), has a story that goes beyond being born with strange powers. This dude's been around for, like, a really long time. His origin begins rather sadly, when he was only a boy named James. When a man breaks into his house, wanting James' mother, Wolvie goes a little loco, especially when these weird bone claws come out of his hands (hey, I'd freak out too if steak knives suddenly grew outta my knuckles). He charges the guy, and, yeah, that's the end for the dude. As he dies, he calls James "son." Turns out this man was his father. After that, James runs away with his stepbrother Victor (the future Sabertooth) and, in a few centuries' time, joins up with this band of other mutants under commander of a General Stryker. Discontent with the group's methods, James (now called Logan) quits. A few years after that, he is approached by Stryker, who claims Victor is killing their own buddies. Logan refuses to rejoin him...until Victor seemingly kills his girlfriend. Logan tackles Victor, is beaten badly, and agrees to be a guinea pig for this odd experiment, the end result being Wolverine, the adamantium-boned berserker. Yeah, Wolverine is more violent when it comes to superheroes, but I still enjoy the movie. I mean, the guy's over two-hundred years old. I can't not watch the movie and think "What else has he done?" X-Men origins stirs the imagination. Also, the story is very neat and the action explosive. Plus, it does get into Logan's character, showing he's more than just some punk with really long claws and a bad attitude.
Favorite Non-Marvel or DC Movie: Unbreakable
WHY: M. Night Shyamalan (if you can pronounce that right, I'll put you in a blog someday) is a storyteller. That's why he makes good movies. Unbreakable is a unique twist on the superhero story. Maybe that's why it's so cool. Bruce Willis stars as the only survivor as a train accident. He's not even injured. On the opposite hand, Samuel L. Jackson is a man whose body is so fragile people call him "Mr. Glass." One day, Mr. Glass contacts Bruce Willis and basically says "Dude, you're a superhero." Willis decides to accept that fact and contribute his abilities to his day job, security guard at a baseball park. Why he just doesn't put on a mask and tights, I don't know, but as long as he's helping people, sounds good to me. Willis' powers are interesting. Not only is he invincible, he's strong and has a sort of "super-sense." When someone touches him or he touches them, he can see where they've been and what they've done. This helps him find out about suspicious activity and crooks. He also has a very odd weakness. Water. Huh. Never would've put that together. Unbreakable is a great story and has a killer twist ending that made my jaw drop (but I won't say what it is. That'd be telling). Very few movies leave me with that surprised reaction, so kudos to Mr. Shyamalan.
BOOKS: Yep, heroes can be found within the pages of literature as well. While I myself have attempted to write my own vigilante/superhero novels, nothing's really worked. Someday, I promise. Still, there are others who have put out great heroic novels. I want to touch on some of those now.
Favorite Hero Book: Vigilante, by Robin Parrish
WHY: Nolan Gray wants to give you a hand. Well, more like a Hand. Once a decorated soldier who endured terrible suffering during a war, Nolan fakes his own death so he could make a difference. Crushed by all the evil he sees on the streets of New York City, Nolan forges himself a new identity so he can bring a punishing upon the city's crimes and "Show you a new way." With allies and an arsenal of weaponry which reminds me of a Batman-style hero, Nolan leaps into business as the Hand, New York's newest vigilante. He goes around fighting crime and gaining much publicity around the country. But his mission is filled with obstacles, the greatest of these being Yuri Vasko, a gang lord whose family was killed at the hands of a recently-formed, government-funded crime task force. Yuri puts the blame on the Hand and seeks revenge. Robin Parrish is one of my favorite authors, so much so that I recently sent him a hand-written (oh, "hand"-written, just saw that) letter. For a few years, he took a detour from hero/thriller writing, and it's nice to see him write at his best (not that I'm saying his other works weren't his best, but that his hero stories are unbeatable). His story shows excellent action and suspense and an ending that made me go "Didn't see that one coming." For Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti fans, I would definitely suggest this book. One of Parrish's best.
Favorite Hero Trilogy: The Dominion Trilogy, by Robin Parrish
WHY: No, you're not experiencing deja vu. I just really like Robin Parrish, that's all. The first books he ever wrote were Relentless, Fearless, and Merciless. Suggested to me by a friend, I read them all and immensely enjoyed them, popping up on my list of favorites above the Inheritance trilogy and even the Lord of The Rings. After Christmas, I bought all three of them off of Amazon and read them again. The tale is as follows. One day, Collin Boyd is "shifted". He's basically put into another body that's way more athletic and stuff (kinda like if someone put my head in Michael Jordan's body). Now as Grant Borrows, he's got this ring that gives (I could say "grants," but that'd be too corny) him special abilities, which involve telekinesis, moving objects with your mind. Though this may be super awesome, this also means he's being hunted. An organization known as the Secretum of Six wants him to fulfill this prophesy written hundreds of years ago on the Dominion Stone (hence the name of the trilogy). So, they send a few assassins after him, including one who's super-fast and is like Jason Bourne when it comes to sword-wielding. Grant joins a group called the Loci, who all have these rings. After that, his life is turned upside down as he gets embroiled in this conspiracy that includes an underground civilization, the Rings of Dominion, and the Angel of Death. The story is charged and gripping, the action shoving me off the edge of my seat. Best. Trilogy. Ever.
There it is. Some of my favorite comics, movies, and books regarding superheroes. And the thing about all of these is story. Each and every one of these forms of media comes with a great story woven in it. The heroes are super, the allies fun, and the villains rotten to the core. I could be totally cliche and say that "with great power comes great responsibility." But it's true. Writers have a responsibility to their readers. And the people who write the stories above fulfill that responsibility. They concoct epic heroes, heroes worth mentioning. Above are my favorites stories about heroes. Maybe you'll like them too someday. Maybe you won't. To each his own. All I know is that the above are stories I'll treasure for a long time, and their heroes will always be ingrained in my head.