Category Archives: fantastic four

The GAR Podcast

I know, as if I don’t have enough on my plate, right? This project has been in the wings for more than a few years. My friend Ray Cornwall and I have had long conversations about comics and other stuff, and have talked about doing it as a podcast for some time. I finally bit the bullet, kicked Ray in the butt, and we got it done. It was nowhere as hard as we thought it would be.

The final product can be found here. Yeah, it’s our first one, so it’s amateurish, badly edited, incredibly raw, and so much damned fun.

The topics covered in this inaugural podcast include: Who we are, “Storage Wars,” Man of Steel, Batman ’66, Green Hornet, Mark Waid, Insufferable, Peter Krause, Marshall Law, Ray’s comics childhood, Justice Society, Fantastic Four, Age of Ultron, Iron Man, Hank Pym, Marvelman, Brandon Peterson, Captain America and Bendis.

Links for this episode: Man of Steel trailer, Insufferable, Marshall Law. Age of Ultron, and Age of Ultron Book Six.

Check out the podcast here, and see what a star my buddy Ray is. Enjoy! We’ll be back next week!

The Forgotten Spider-Man

Everyone knows the 1967 “Spider-Man” cartoon, you know, the one with the catchy theme song. Most folks know the 1990s series on Fox as well. The fanboys and girls among us know the MTV CGI animated series, the spacey cosmic “Unlimited”, and “Amazing Friends” with Iceman and Firestar. But does anyone remember the 1981 Saturday morning cartoon?

The 1981 “Spider-Man” did not air in the Philadelphia area so I didn’t see it until years later in syndication. It was the wall-crawler first animated appearance on TV since the classic 1967 series. It was Spidey once more on Saturday mornings, and a prelude to “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.” Many of the queues were taken from the sixties cartoon, maybe not actual model sheets and drawings, but they sure tried to copy it, from shots of buildings to angles that Spidey would swing by on his weblines.

The villains were there. Spidey fought the Green Goblin, the Vulture, the Sandman, the Lizard, Mysterio, and the Kingpin. Others who had not yet seen animation as Spider-foes like the Chameleon, Black Cat, Silvermane, Hammerhead, and Kraven the Hunter. New villains were added like the Gadeteer, the Stuntman, and in a hollaback to the ’67 ‘toon, the Desperado-like Sidewinder.

Attempts to expand the animated Marvel Universe were made as Spider-Man also went up against Magneto, the Red Skull, and the Ringmaster. The oddest addition of this type was the seeming ascension of Doctor Doom to archenemy status for Spider-Man. The two clash in six out of the twenty-six episodes. Many Marvel super-heroes show up as guest-stars as well, including Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, Ka-Zar, Medusa and even Namorita.

There were problems however. This DePatie-Freleng production had the same quality as the last two Marvel animations, “Spider-Woman” and “New Fantastic Four,” the latter was the infamous version with H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot. The animation is very slow-paced, Spidey’s webs eject with almost molasses flow sometimes. And of course this was a time in network television when violence was considered to be rotting the minds of young children – so Spider-Man could neither make a fist nor throw a punch, even at someone as evil as a Nazi madman like the Red Skull.

The 1981 “Spider-Man” cartoon has its moments, and it’s closer to comics continuity than a lot of superhero animation out there. It’s worth a viewing or two for the hardcore fans, and is now available from Netflix via DVD or streaming online.

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Ultimate Alliance 2 by Two

The last time I tried to play either one of the two Marvel Ultimate Alliance games I became frustrated quickly and gave up on them. This time, I did it the right way. I brought help.

Jeff was hanging out and staying over the weekend, so we were talking comics and gaming as per usual, and the conversation turned to the PS3. After hear about the free subscription thing in October for DC Universe Online, I had purchased it and was hoping Jeff -in his formidable gaming experience- could help me set it up. It took forever to install, and then update, and then update again. And I think I signed away my home in the terms agreements.

Anyway, I gave up on it after a while, I guess I just don’t have the patience for videogames. As we were in the mood though, we turned to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. The second one was chosen over the first version as there were more characters to choose from, or at least that’s what the voice of experience said.

Jeff knew the game backwards and forwards. He had apparently beaten it while we were on vacation a month or two back, both Ultimate Alliances, that is, yeah, both. But, on the positive side, having someone familiar with the game, who knows what’s coming, knows all the tricks – and most of all, knows how the controller works, is a good thing for an extreme novice like me. We moved pretty quickly through quite a few levels, and I actually got to see some of the story unfold, which made me like the game even more.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is based in part, at least early on, on writer Brian Michael Bendis’ Secret War mini-series from Marvel Comics. These events in the comics led indirectly to Civil War, and in this game they do as well. There’s enough story presented in the game to get the point, but much like a Stephen King movie, having read the book helps a lot in fleshing out what’s really going on. And for the hardcore fanboys out there, just to avoid confusion, the game also avoids the Secret Invasion storyline.

Regarding Civil War, long story short (and you can follow this link if you want the whole enchilada from Wikipedia), as shown in the game, some irresponsible superheroes in a live reality TV show, inadvertently destroy Stamford, Connecticut. Legislation quickly flies through Congress to have all superheroes registered with the government, as weapons if you will, that must be trained and monitored. The superhero community quickly divides along the lines of pro-registration and anti-registration, with Iron Man leading the former, and Captain America the former.

These lines are mirrored in the game, as once you pass a certain point in the story, you must choose whether you are for or against registration. And from that point on, you may only use the heroes who are on the side you’ve chosen. It’s an intriguing obstacle, and also lends to having two possible storylines and endings to the game. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I like it.

As Jeff promised, there are lots of characters to choose from. The ones I had the most fun with, or in other words, the ones that I figured out how to control and do what I wanted, were The Thing, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage, and Spider-Man. I did try out a few others too. Iron Fist was kinda cool, and Deadpool was lots of fun. It took some time to figure out Mister Fantastic and Deadpool as they seemed to be a bit complicated to control – maybe that was just me. Iron Man and the Human Torch looked pretty cool too, but Jeff kept playing them, ahem.

The dialogue that goes on in the game as the characters are fighting opponents is a lot of fun, especially as one would expect, Deadpool. And the interaction in the inbetween scenes is good too. It’s very funny and surreal watching Reed Richards trying to talk sense to Deadpool – my absolute favorite part of the game.

I like Ultimate Alliance 2 a lot, and it verifies my thoughts that all gamer novices need a gaming mentor when they start to play. It really makes me wonder why so many PS3 games are only one player – they should all be two or more players. I really think there is merit to the mentor idea though, once I played for a few hours with Jeff, I was able to get farther later on by myself.

No Ordinary Family

This show has the unhealthy feel of a network executive deciding that ABC needs a family-style superhero series that would feed off the “Heroes” audience who were feeling betrayed by the powers that be who ruined “Heroes.” The feeling continues when it seems like they grabbed Marc Guggenheim off “Eli Stone” because someone mentioned he used to write comic books. And it doesn’t get any better when they cast veteran superhero actor Michael Chiklis in the lead, and gets even worse when he gets almost the same powers, if not the look of The Thing, his role in the Fantastic Four films.

All that said, “No Ordinary Family” is a likable, family friendly and genre friendly show. My problem with it is much the same problem I have with M. Night’s Unbreakable (a flick I love, I might add), it’s all origin and training, no superhero stuff. I want a superhero show, not a learner with training wheels, I want the hero, the guy (or gal) who can, I want to strong chin, starry eyes to root for against the bad guys. It’s what the genre is, or should be, about.

Speaking of bad guys, the villains of this piece, are one of the elements that does keep me coming back. I hate to bring it back to the failure of “Heroes,” but the bad guys being more charismatic than the good guys is not a good thing. Let’s hope “No Ordinary Family” can shake out of training phase and not submit to the “Heroes” curse.

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