Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Well that was unnecessarily dark: Or, I really enjoyed Titans

A few years back, Marvel made a deal with Netflix and made some TV shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Punisher. They were gritty and less family friendly that the MCU movies and dealt with themes of guilt, PTSD, race and the effect violence has on you and those around you. Each one had a strong first season, which myself and the MIGHTY Rosie binge watched at the first opportunity. The second seasons and the Defenders series were less strong and were more of slog to get through, to such an extent that it took two months to watch Luke Cage and I gave up on Iron Fist, bypassing Punisher altogether. It wasn’t that they were good, it’s just they kinda struggled to have the same impact. I didn’t feel I had to watch the next one and there seemed less and less reason to carry on after the story had been told.

I tried some of the other shows in a similar vein, with Runaways being such a faithful adaptation that all it did is make you feel you had already watched it. Black Lightning came next which felt too similiar to other shows to be it’s own thing. Then came Cloak and Dagger which was also faithful to it’s source material in that it was overly preachy with uninteresting lead characters. So by the time that Titans was announced I was somewhat less than optimistic.

Titans was originally the Teen Titans which was a bunch of sidekicks including the original Robin (partner to Batman) Aqualad (sidekick to Aquaman), Speedy (sidekick to Green Arrow), Kid Flash (nephew of the Flash) and Wonder Girl (sidekick of/younger version of Wonder Woman) which was as bizarre as Silver Age Bob Haney could make it. Then came the New Teen Titans, which kept some of those characters (Robin, Kid Flash & Wonder Girl), Doom Patrol alum Beast Boy and some new characters (Cyborg, Raven and Starfire) who were created by the new creative team Marv Wolfman and George Perez. It was a massive success for DC when they needed one and the characters blossomed into success stories.

There are other iterations of the Titans, but to be honest, whenever everyone talks about the Teen Titans, this is the version they are talking about. The excellent cartoon series Teen Titans and it’s successor the risable Teen Titans Go (Don’t care, still hate it.) contained most of that line-up. So when the TV was announced, this was where the line-up would come from. Still less optimistic.

Then came the trailer and some screen shots and then came the internet fandom bitching and moaning, too grim and gritty, too off model yadda yadda yadda. So again, my expectations were so low that it was more of a question of ‘might as well’.

But it was actually good. There was the story of Raven, who was revamped as a gothy teen and the death of her stepmother, which brings her into contact with a Detroit detective called Dick Grayson, who up until a couple of years ago was Robin, a role that has left him tortured by the violence he has committed and yet also addicted to that violence. As he realises the danger he is in they flee, meeting up with Hawk and Dove first them colliding with Beast Boy and Starfire as Rachel’s past comes for her. As well as Hawk and Dove, we get a look at the Doom Patrol and Wonder Girl, with the added bonus of Jason (the second Robin) Todd who is exactly as obnoxious as you expect.

The dark tone, the team-less team and the fact that these characters work best as animated ones are all reasons that this shouldn’t have worked and yet. Each character gets their own unique spin with Starfire being unaware of her past through most of the season and Beast Boy being traumatised by something he does in his animal form. We also see that the life Batman leads can do so much harm to those around it. Robin isn’t the swashbuckling boy wonder of old, but a man suffering tremendously with PTSD and guilt. This isn’t the Robin who softened the Batman’s edge, he’s the weapon Batman forged him into. We have a unnaturally powerful girl, a woman who burns like the sun and a boy who can be a green tiger once he’s stripped off, but the scariest is Robin who can and will do brutal harm with abandon. This version of Robin isn’t what I expected, but it was compelling. That’s a microcosm of this whole show. Unexpected and compelling. The violence is brutal, but in a way that feels earned. These guys are doing violent things, mostly for their own reasons and there is no sound effect projected into the air that softens it. It talks about the damage it does, both to the body and mind and I found the whole thing fascinating.

The pacing is tight, with one episode’s exception and after each episode, I checked the time to see if I can watch another one and when I couldn’t, I was disappointed. This was dark, unrelentingly so at times, but this was the best comic-related TV series that I have seen since the first couple of Marvel Netflix shows. I would highly recommend this, even if the characters haven’t grabbed you in other incarnations, because this is a show that made me give a toss about Hawk and Dove and I didn’t think that was possible to be perfectly honest.

It’s on Netflix here in blighty, but I assume it’s available elsewhere and is well worth checking out. Fair warning, there’s a cliffhanger.

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Posted in Comics n Stuff

For the Geek in me, 2018 was awesome part 1: Comics

In a ‘challenging’ year there have been a number of times I needed to get out of my own head and just enjoy this and whilst pickings have been slim, what I have found to enjoy I really have enjoyed.I found a few titles that were new for this year that left an impression.

Domino


Domino is a background character from X-Force back in the 90’s. She had potential that has been glimpsed, but never really developed. Gail Simone took interesting b-list characters and fleshed them out in Birds of Prey and Secret Six for DC so was the idea person to give Domino the starting role she deserved. It has action, comedy, high stakes and a relatively continuity light story. It was above all fun.  With representation being very important, a high quality comic with a female lead, mostly female cast and written by a skilled writer is important when the majority of the industry has a predominantly white male feel to it.

Hawkman


Spinning out of an event I didn’t read about a character that I don’t like came this gem.

Take Indiana Jones, add a touch of Highlander and splash in some Conan the Barbarian and wings and you get this guy. This is a fun book that has action, mystery and a flying barbarian who does feel the need to wear shirts. The art is something of a selling point here with Bryan Hitch back on form. It’s not epoch making stuff, but it’s the best Hawkman I have seen in a long time.
Superman/Action Comics



Superman turned 80 this and in a convenient bit of timing,  Action Comics reached the milestone of 1000 issues. As a fresh start sort of thing, DC just as they did in the late 80’s handed their flagship character to one of Marvel’s big guns who wrote a 6 issue series called Man of Steel. Taking the John Byrne told was Brian Michael Bendis on words and a  rotating cast of artists which attempted to breathe new life into an 80 year old character that many struggle to get. Mission accomplished. Bendis has a knack for dialogue and clawing new ideas from older ones and he writes a new but still very recognisable Superman. We have the Daily Planet, Lois Lane and a Metropolis that works as a city and a character. We have new histories, New villains and it’s the best the character had been in a long time.

Fantastic Four


With the media rights held at Fox, Marvel has downplayed their First Family for the last few years. Human Torch was in the Inhumans titles before arrives in Uncanny Avengers, whilst the Thing was in Guardians of the Galaxy and then Infamous Iron Man, the pair reunited in the excellent Marvel Two in One, which led to the return of the FF. After a long run on Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli crafted a comic that feels like the Fantastic Four, this was fun sci-fi with heart that reminded me why I like the characters in the first place.  I enjoyed the start and am looking forward to the next issue, which is waiting upstairs as I write this. 😁

X-Men


The year started well for the children of the Atom. X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold were really good and it was joined by X-Men Red and the 5 week long X-Men Black, which focuses on the villains as well as a story that reinvigorated Apocalypse as a character. Then came Exterminated the 5 part story which ended the original X-Men in their teens pulled into the future story in a fairly satisfying way. This also ended X-Men’s Blue and Gold series and so it was relaunched under its old name Uncanny X-Men with a weekly schedule and rotating creators, giving you X-Content every week, without the stress of following multiple titles. It’s fun, well put together with a compelling story and a huge cast. It’s the most interested in the X-Men I have been since Whedon did Astonishing 15 years ago.

Also the side projects are good too, with Ed Piskor doing a condensed history of the X-Men in Grand Designs, which was absolutely amazing as a story and a look at the history and continuity of what can be a tangled ball of continuity string at the best of times.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Rest in Peace Mr Lee

​After my post yesterday, I checked FaceBook and hear the news that at 95 Stanley ‘Stan Lee’ Lieber had passed away. Without a thought I started writing and this is what I came up with.

Of all the celebrity deaths, this is the one that effects me. Stan ‘The Man’e was a legend who influenced and affected so many people over his life. His work enriched many childhoods including mine. His ideas, his collaborations with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko changed the face of popular culture in ways that may never be calculated. To me, his stories taught me to never give up, to treat everyone well, despite colour, creed or origin. His stories taught me wonder, the idea of other worlds and responsibility. His creations litter my home, my memory my DVD collection. My first comic was Original X-Men 1, reprinting X-Men from 1963. He changed comics forever, working with the best creators of the age to create a fictional shared universe that is still thriving today over 55 years later. He was the ambassador for comics and the voice of Marvel for many years. When comic book movies became a bigger thing, it was always the idea that the movie only starts when Stan Lee shows up.
Thank you Stan, you created a world for us all to play in and give us a direction to head for, onward and upwards towards glory.

Excelsior.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

5 Non-Franchise Superhero teams.

And as we approach the weekend.

Avengers, Justice League and the X-Men, all marquee teams of super-people and all subjects of the proliferation problem in 80’s and 90’s comics, with multiple teams and multiple books. From West Coast Avengers, to Young Justice and X-Factor, it’s easy to believe a set of characters is only good if they either are, it’d have spin-off or satellite teams. But often my favourite teams are either one offs, or using a second hand name.

Thunderbolts.

First appearing in an issue of The Incredible Hulk, this was a new team of heroes that rose to prominence in the post-Onslaught era of the Marvel Universe, consisting of Citizen V, Atlas, Meteorite, Techno, Mach-1_and Songbird, they were just new heroes inspired to fill the void left by the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. It soon transpired that this was a new incarnation of the Masters of Evil, in reality they were Baron Zemo, Goliath III, Moonstone, Fixer, the Beetle and Screaming Mimi.This series was by Kurt Buziek and Mark Bagley and was a highlight of Marvel’s Heroes Reborn era. After ditching Baron Zemo/Citizen V, this team of criminals tried their hand at actually being heroes, it was well written and had great art and the sense that anything could happen as these bad guys tried to be something more.

WildC.A.T.S. Covert Action Teams

One of the first wave of Image comics in the early 90’s, it was the brainchild of X-title wunderkind Jim Lee and was a sci-fi tale of aliens and alien human hybrids in covert battle with less friendly aliens. It was more sci-fi than super-heroics, but with a memorable line-up: Emp, Void, Maul, Warblade, Grifter, Zealot and Spartan and then several additions and status quo changes, it was never boring.

New Warriors

Another 90’s Marvel title with Mark Bagley art, this time with Fabian Niceza on words. This was a mix of underused and forgotten characters, this was an ‘Arby’s team of young heroes including Firestar, Nova, Speedball, Namorita and Marvel Boy, together with new characters Silhouette and Night Thrasher. There were 90’s cliches paired with a social conscience of a sort and a rapidly changing roster that kept the series interesting and the team was never gone for too long.

Stormwatch

A second tier Image title, it was written by Jim Lee with help from Brandon Choi and had art by Scott Clark, although a consistent art team would be hard to find for this story of a UN run super soldier crisis response team. With very 90’s members such as Batallion, Winter, Hellstrike, Diva, Fuji, Weatherman and Backlash, they were different from what Marvel and DC were doing at the time. Part Avengers, part Star Trek, this was an interesting idea that struggled to find it’s identity after the first few issues and benefitted greatly from a new writer when Warren Ellis took over and retooled the book considerably.

Guardians of the Galaxy

This was a bit obvious for me, rather than the second team with the name that appeared in the mid 00’s, this was a sort of Avengers in the futures with space opera trappings and more than the odd reference to the modern Marvel Universe. The team of Martinex T’Naga, Yondu Udonta, Aleta Ogord, Charlie-27, Nicholette Gold, Starhawk and Vance Astro all became favourite characters of mine, especially when Jim Valentino gave them their own title in 1990. I loved this series so much as one of the first comics that really hooked me. I could write about it all day, but I did a blog about it, which lays it all out quite effectively.

These were 5 teams that weren’t huge sellers or multi-title franchises, but were a lot of fun and I enjoyed each one, more than once.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

For the Love of Comics: The loss of a titan

Found out that Steve Ditko passed away at 90 years of age. One of the trinity of silver age marvel along with the late Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Ditko was a massive part of comics history. The man who defined the look, feel and much of the plotting of the first few years of Amazing Spider-Man, he was a legend of the time, having a  distinct style which was uniquely his. His work on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange were iconic and much of the characters he came up with, still are used today, with only small cosmetic changes to them.

I don’t have some story to tell, how Spider-Man or Doctor Strange comics changed my life, but I have recently been re-reading some early Spider-Man stories, some even last night and it makes his loss somewhat sadder. To his friends or family, he’s gone, but for the millions of comic fans who adored his work, his legacy is immortal.

Good journey Mr Ditko and thankyou for all you gave to us.

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff, The MIGHTY Rosie

For the Love of Comics: The Power of Family

At the start of the year, I went to a comic mart near my home in Liverpool and to be honest, wasn’t in any way shape or form, impressed. Less dealers, less deals to be made and a sense of heigh-ho, here we go again. So when the next comic mart came up, I decided to go to the slightly larger one in Manchester. My intent was pretty much to go on my own, whilst the MIGHTY Rosie is geek-friendly or geek-adjacent, she is somewhat less an addict as I am, so given that, I expected to go alone. Instead, she decided to come with me and bring our boy.

Now let us be clear, I do not mean that I didn’t want to go with her, but I am uncomfortable when someone does a lot for me and since I don’t drive, my wife drove me there for little to no benefit to herself. When it comes to comics, I don’t feel comfortable asking someone to put themselves out for me, I really don’t, which I accept is dysfunction since I would do for someone else. We all went, it was a lovely sunny day, warm and bright, making me feel even more that we should be doing something else instead of feeding my addiction, but I digress.

We got to the mart and it was bigger than the Liverpool one, as expected, but with our recent experience of a sci-fi con and the recent increase in comic-cons and coverage of them, it may have been a little disappointing to the MIGHTY Rosie. It was, as most marts tend to be, lots of less than socially confident men, going through boxes, often with a list. There was an upside, saw an FaceBook friend there and that was a nice plus.

Then came the place to be at a comic mart, the cheap boxes. 50p and 75p comics are the place to dig for gold and dig I did.

I didn’t plug that many gaps in my collection, but I saw lots of fun stuff that I could have a look at, without breaking the bank.

That wasn’t the highlight of that particular trip, no, because as I usually do, I picked up something for Sam (in this case a trade of the start of the Jurgens/Romita Jnr run on Thor which is a bit of an under-rated classic) and when I expected him to run off bored, I instead find him at the longbox next to me, looking at comics. Not for me, he just wanted to be doing the same thing and started looking and picking some stuff up. He ended up getting a Justice League comic and some Rebirth era Aquaman. Him looking for his own comics, next to me, got me a little choked up. The moment passed and we headed out. Every eager to do something else. Before we left, I made sure I picked up a copy of X-Men vol 2 #1 and X-Force #1 (these were comics I got at the first couple of marts I went to back in the early 90’s, so it seemed fitting) and we got in the car and headed for home.

 

It was the drive home that I found the most touching, mum and dad in the front talking and son in the back, nose in a comic, oblivious to the world. He was me, a happier and better me and that right there was a beautiful moment that I don’t know I would have felt so clearly 9 months ago. Work has stressed me out, since this is the first year end that I haven’t been medicated in 4 years, so I’ve been feeling it. But that Saturday, I felt that too and it filled my heart.

Do I expect Sam to be a huge comic fan? Not really, but him getting the bug, just for an afternoon meant the world to me and the next weekend, when the sun came back out, we went to the park and played football for an hour or two. He got to be in my world for a bit and I returned the favour.

I get a lot out of comics and sci fi and all that stuff and all that, but my family are like the air in my lungs. I like having this place to talk geeky with all you fine internet people, but every now and again, I like to mention the things in my life that actually matter.

SuperSam, the MIGHTY Rosie, I love you both.