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- 10/27/17--16:45: Doctor Strange Comics: A Reader's Guide to the Mystic Arts
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- 10/28/17--03:24: Inhumans Season 1 Episode 6 Review: The Gentlemen’s Name is Gorgon
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Now that you've seen the Doctor Strange movie, here's a handy guide to the Marvel Comics!
There have been some mind-bending Doctor Strange stories over the years, and many redefined the very boundaries of the Marvel Universe. Stephen Strange has faced Lovecraftian monsters, vampires, satanic cults, demons, elder gods, werewolves, creatures from the Nightmare realm, and other things that go bump in the night.
We’ve compiled an easy guide to get you primed for the weirdness that you may have only experienced in the movies so far!
Strange Tales #110-#146 (1963)
The duo that started it all, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The Dr. Strange stories in Strange Tales broke new ground in terms of the length and breadth of the Marvel Universe. Suddenly, the world of Marvel was not limited to the waking world or the realms of reality. Dr. Strange literally went everywhere; his adventures only limited by the visual imagination of Steve Ditko. In other words...limitless.
The stories in Strange Taleswere filled with the usual Stan Lee bombastic prose and storytelling tricks, but it was in these pages that Steve Ditko shined. Most fans know Ditko from his work on Spider-Man, and his Spidey work was superb, but his masterpiece was truly Dr. Strange. This wasn’t just a Mandrake the Magician riff. Filtered through Ditko’s pencil was a metaphysical adventurer who was as comfortable in hellish mindscapes as he was in his own Greenwich Village Apartment. Ditko’s renderings of the realms and realities Strange traveled to were chilling in their otherworldliness, his villains were wild eyed and desperate, a sense of madness and forbidden knowledge radiating from their skillfully rendered frames.
In these pages, Lee and Ditko introduced Stephen Strange, a broken and arrogant surgeon who discovers inner peace and immense power from the Ancient One, the villainous Baron Mordo, the lovely Clea, the brutish Mindless Ones, and more strange and wondrous worlds than you can shake the Wand of Watoomb at. These early issues are like a surreally twisted film with an infinite budget, a limitless exploration into the comic arts, and a how-to guide in world and character building. Let’s hope that Marvel uses the tone and daring of Ditko’s original issues as the stylistic spark for their film.
One particularly effective trick Lee and Ditko pulled off was the constant teasing of their big bad, the Dread Dormammu, long before the monster finally appeared. Dormammu was talked about in hushed whispers for many issues, so that when the flame headed demon finally appeared, readers were filled with a sense of awe. He wasn’t just the villain of the month, he was the Dread One and assuredly all reality must crumble. Now that’s storytelling.
Without the villains, heroes, ideas, and artistic daring of these early issues of Strange Tales, the Marvel Universe would have been a much more boring place. Thanks to Steve Ditko, the boundaries of reality bent and a multiverse of opportunities were born.
Marvel Premiere #9-14 (1972)
Before Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, comics got seriously metaphysical with Steve Englehart and Frank Bruner in their early run on Dr. Strange in Marvel Premiere as well as the character's second solo series. Englehart had written Dr. Strange before in the pages of The Defenders, and on his website, Englehart himself admits “I'd written him basically as a superhero who shot rays out of his palms. When I took on his solo series, I decided I should learn a little about actual magick - and it led to a continuing interest in the subject.” Englehart, aided by the lush and dynamic pencils of Brunner, did just that, charting Strange’s metaphysical journeys and expanding the boundaries of the mystic side of the Marvel Universe.
In Marvel Premiere #10, Englehart channels his inner Lovecraft by detailing the mind-blowing struggle between the good Doctor and Shuma-Gorath. In Doctor Strange #13, with art by the great Gene Colan, Baron Mordo destroys all of reality only to have reality rebuilt by Eternity.
That’s insane stuff, but it was Marvel Premiere #14 that showed just how far Englehart and Brunner were willing to go in stretching the boundaries of the medium. In this issue, co-plotted with Brunner, Englehart presents a tale where Dr. Strange witnesses the creation of the universe when a mystic being by the name of Sise-Neg recreates the Marvel Universe. In addition to his biblical creationism, Sise-Neg builds a paradise for the first two humans on Earth and protects it from the serpent like Shuma-Gorath and rains destruction down on the Marvel Universe’s Sodom and Gomorrah. Essentially, Englehart and Brunner had the balls to make one of their characters God. This is the type of daring storytelling that would go one to inform the experimental nature of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison.
Stan Lee demanded the duo print a retraction to the story, but Englehart appeased him by publishing a fake letter from a preacher that praised the inventiveness of the tale. It seemed every issue Englehart was altering, destroying, or rebuilding reality, all while keeping the human element that has always made Dr. Strange so compelling. As we mentioned, Englehart also got to work with Gene Colan who, other than Ditko, was the quintessential Dr. Strange artist.
Doctor Strange #1-18 (1974)
These issues were certainly a product of their time, the psychedelic experimentation of the era made manifest. Some of the highlights of the run include the first insane arc in Doctor Strange #1-2, 4-5, that began with Dr. Strange getting stabbed by the villainous Silver Dagger followed by the entire cast getting trapped in the Eye of Agamotto.
The Roger Stern Era (1978-1986)
Here is a bit of fascinating trivia for you. Roger Stern was originally supposed to begin his Dr. Strange run with legendary artist Frank Miller. There were even downright gorgeous house ads trumpeting the duo’s arrival.
For reasons lost to the history of the Dark Dimension, Miller never worked on Dr. Strange with Stern, but Marshall Rogers and a cadre of amazing artists (Tom Sutton, Alan Kupperberg, Kerry Gammill, Marshall Rogers, Brent Anderson, Paul Smith, Michael Golden, Kevin Nowlan, Dan Green, Steve Leialoha, Bret Blevins, Sal Buscema, and Gene Colan to be exact) certainly did in one of the most action packed runs in the character’s history.
Roger Stern was really the first writer to turn the spotlight inward and focus on Doctor Strange the man. Strange, as a character, never shined brighter than he did under Stern, which isn’t to say that Stern and his artists, particularly the aforementioned Rogers, didn’t send the character on some of his most sweeping adventures.
Some of the highlights included a six part story that began in Doctor Strange #56 that saw Doc transform into a cat, the return of Mordo, a time spanning team-up that saw Doc join forces with Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos to stop Dormammu from once again escaping the Dark Dimension, and a visit to ancient Egypt where Doc witnessed the Silver Age battle between a young Fantastic Four and Rama-Tut.
Doctor Strange #59-62 (1983)
The most beloved story of Stern’s run was the epilogue he wrote to Tomb of Dracula, a truly epic battle between Doc, the Avengers, Blade, Frank Drake, and Hannibal King against Dracula and his legion of undead bloodsuckers. The story centered on the Montessi Formula, an ancient spell that would destroy all vampires on Earth. Very rarely do any mainstream comics get an act 3, but this arc served as a riveting third act for Tomb of Dracula.
By the end of the book, vampires were history and Blade, Drake, and King all received happy endings. After Tomb of Dracula ended, Dracula made memorable appearances in Thor and the X-Men, making him a recurring threat to the entire Marvel Universe, but nothing was quite like this.
Doctor Strange and Dr. Doom: Triumph and Torment (1989)
Yet, Stern’s best Dr. Strange work was outside the regular Doctor Strange series. In 1989, Stern and a young Mike Mignola (Hellboy) oversaw the magnum opus graphic novel Triumph and Torment, a dark and tragic tale starring not only Strange but Doctor Doom as well.
The story shows just how compassionate Strange could be as he helps Dr. Doom try and rescue the despot of Latveria’s mother from the fires of Hell. The result is a terrifying journey around the darkest edges of magic in the Marvel Universe. The care and skill that went into this project has to be seen to be believed, but it was arguably the greatest self-contained Dr. Strange story of all time.
The Roy Thomas/Gene Colan Era (1968-1969)
The great Roy Thomas had two memorable runs on Dr. Strange, the first, following Stan Lee on the book in the Silver Age and the second, during the excessive and turbulent '90s. In his initial run on the Sorcerer Supreme during the '60s, Thomas was blessed with the presence of artist Gene Colan.
No one could emulate the wonderment of Steve Ditko’s work on Dr. Strange, so Colan did his own thing, using form and shadow to create his own dark corner of the Marvel Universe. Colan was a pure horror artist, creating the most hideous demonic entities ever seen in comics up to that point. Thomas played to the strengths of his artist and grew the legend of Stephen Strange to new proportions.
One of the most memorable tales from this era came in Doctor Strange#177, where Strange takes on the demon Satannish and his cult of worshippers. First off, Thomas and Colan channeled the era’s preoccupation with satanic cults and secondly, essentially introduced Satan to the Marvel Universe...in a Code-approved book no less! After this issue, Strange took on a new form and a new costume, a form of darkness and mystery, a character-rattling change that was unheard of in the Silver Age. Colan and Thomas were doing character redesigns before the number 52 meant anything more than being one less than 53.
The whole thing was cancelled prematurely, but not before they presented a story of the newly costumed Doctor Strange teaming with the Black Knight to take on the Asgardian demons Ymir and Surtur. Let’s just hope Marvel Studios is familiar with these issues because WOW!
Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme (1988)
In his second run writing Dr. Strange, Roy Thomas took a more traditional approach to the Sorcerer Supreme. After a few aborted attempts to modernize the characters (they gave him an eye patch...wheeee!), Thomas brought the classic Doctor Strange back.
While characters in the '90s were extreme and kewl, Thomas’ classic Strange reminded readers of the glory days of...Roy Thomas and Gene Colan. Yes, the series did feature Wolverine and Ghost Rider guest spots, but the focus of the story was the magical side of the modern Marvel Universe.
One of the highlights of the run was “The Faust Gambit” in which Baron Mordo returns more powerful than ever. It seems the Baron made a deal with both Mephisto and Satannish and when the two demonic entities come to collect, Doctor Strange must protect his greatest foe from their devilish clutches. The series also introduced Mephista, the daughter of Mephisto and if that doesn’t get your interest, we don’t know what will.
The series also returned vampires to the Marvel Universe after Stern’s great run on Doctor Strange and also saw the Sorcerer Supreme go up against characters like Hobgoblin, the Juggernaut, and other villains. The early part of the series featured some downright gorgeous artwork by Jackson Guice. Roy Thomas will go down in history as the most prolific Dr. Strange writer, and man, beginning with Guice, did he have a murderer’s row of artists with him on the character (seriously: Dan Adkins, Tom Palmer, Jackson “Butch” Guice, Jim Valentino, Chris Marrinan, Tony DeZuniga, Dan Lawlis, Geof Isherwood, Frank Lopez).
Doctor Strange: The Oath (2006)
Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin should have been the defining creative team of the good Doctor's modern era. The Oath was an exploration of Strange as a man, as a wizard, and as a physician. The story saw Stephen Strange desperately seeking a cure for his most trusted confidant Wong’s brain cancer. It also set up Night Nurse, a character whose purpose was to be an emergency general practitioner to the super-hero population, as Dr. Strange’s new romantic interest. The series grounded the concept of Dr. Strange but never lost sight of the character’s metaphysical roots as introduced by Ditko.
The series set up the character for inclusion into the New Avengers and set the standard for all of the good Doctor’s appearences moving forward. Mostly, it is a testament to the creative glory that is Vaughn and Martin. Vaughn displayed the same skills at drama, humor, and world building that he would later utilize in Sagawhile Martin’s visuals combined the eeriness of Colan with the imaginative scope of Ditko.
The Oath is a Doctor Strange primer, a series that finds everything special about the character and pushes it into the new world of the modern Marvel Universe. Any fan interested in just how awesome Dr. Strange can be should carefully study every panel.
Doctor Strange: The Way of The Weird
Since 2015, writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo have been weaving an incredible spell, making Doctor Strange the must-read book of Marvel’s entire line. “Way of the Weird” really humanizes the character by showing readers the price Strange pays for keeping the world safe — consequences like not being able to eat real food because his body rejects anything non-magical. Details like that make this series so special.
And, oh, the artwork! Chris Bachalo creates a tapestry of images worthy of the visual language conjured by Steve Ditko so long ago. Aaron and Bachalo play the hits, explore many of Strange’s classic foes, and introduce some new threats, as well.
Read the full Den of Geek Special Edition Magazine right here!
DC has found its Shazam. The superhero will be played by Zachary Levi.
DC has found its Shazam. Zachary Levi (Chuck) has been cast as the superhero for the upcoming standalone film, according to THR. The movie tells the story of a boy named Billy Batson, who can transform into an adult superhero by saying the word, "Shazam!" No word on who is playing young Billy Batson.
The long-gestating Shazam movie will finally begin shooting in January or February 2018. David Sandberg, who most recently filmed Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation, will direct Shazam.
Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke penned the script. Peter Safran, who worked with Sandberg on the Annabelle sequel, will produce.
The Shazam movie will not feature Dwayne Johnson, who is set to play Black Adam in his own DC movie down the line. Johnson has been tied to play the character since the slate of DC Extended Universe films were first announced.
Johnson told MTV back in April that plans had changed regarding the introduction of Shazam and Black Adam in the same movie.
"What we decided to do was to create a scenario where Black Adam has his stand-alone movie, and Captain Marvel, Shazam, has his stand-alone movie," he told MTV. "We're building our world that way, and then we can come together at some point."
Perhaps we'll hear some news about the Black Adam movie as well?
More news on Shazam as we learn it!
Read and download the full Den of Geek SDCC Special Edition magazine here!
Things heat up on the best episode of Marvel’s Inhumans yet as a Royal falls.
This Inhumans review contains spoilers.
Inhumans: Season 1, Episode 6
I’ve been catching up on Gifted lately, and I’ve been greatly enjoying it. Mainly because Gifted feels like it is deeply immersed in Marvel and Fox’s world of mutants. Watching Gifted got me thinking about Inhumans and how the producers and showrunners of ABC’s Marvel series just aren’t leaning into the Inhumans mythos. I mean, whenever there is a crowd of Inhumans, they just look like intense looking regular people in drab colored clothing. Whenever Gifted features a bunch of mutants, the show goes out of its way to make these extras seem fantastical while Inhumans goes out of its way to save money.
All that being said, this week’s episode of Inhumans almost felt like a classic Inhumans tale (on a budget, of course). We finally had the Royal Family reunited and kicking ass. It felt right and one wonders why the show spun its wheels for so long by having the Inhumans just wander around Hawaii. I guess it was to introduce each character’s motivations, abilities, and conflicts, but it all really felt decompressed. I mean, did Karnak’s romance with the drug smuggler really factor into the overarching war with Maximus? Nope, not at all.
But this week, seeing Karnak and Gorgon fighting side by side, seeing Medusa and Black Bolt reunited with Lockjaw and Crystal, it all just felt right. The main story this week saw Black Bolt and Medusa trying to find Crystal while Gorgon and Karnak stage a daring rescue to save Black Bolt’s big Hawaiian pal Sammy and Doctor Evan Declan. Once Declan and Sammy are rescued, they kind of just exit stage left which leaves me wondering, what the heck was the point of either one of these characters?
At least Dave and Louise were there to show the Royals that not every human is an evil piece of crap, but the doctor and the big lug really did not factor into the story at all. I have to admit, Louise really grew on me and I was disappointed that there was no story reason for Louise to accompany her new Inhuman friends back to the moon.
As for the Royals’ missions: first, we have Dave’s insecure ex-girlfriend trying her best to sabotage not only Dave and Crystal’s relationship, but also sabotage Crystal’s chances of finding her family. Did we really need Dave’s relationship follies on a show that already has way too many plot lines? Anyway, Crystal uses her lightning powers to help Medusa and Black Bolt locate her and I have to wonder, why she didn’t just do that in the first place? I mean, if I had lightning powers, I’m pretty sure I would use them instantly so my wife can find me. Especially in a mall parking lot.
So Crystal and Lockjaw is found while Gorgon and Karnak go up against Auran and her new bad guy reinforcements sent by Maximus. This is where the episode gets pretty awesome as Karnak and Gorgon finally get to unleash their powers and take it to Auron’s crew. We are treated to an effective flashback of Gorgon training Maximus in hand to hand combat just to highlight what a cunning weasel Maximus is, and then we get Gorgon unleashed on Auron and Mordis. Karnak is seemingly getting better from his head injury and also kicks copious amounts of Inhuman butt.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
But this is where things get shocking. We learn the tragic origin of Mordis. You see, he was locked away instantly after terrigenesis transformed Mordis into a living engine of death. He questions why he had to become a prisoner when Black Bolt got to be king. In one instant, Mordis’ back story makes him one of the most tragic characters on Marvel TV and tries to unleash his deadly energies against Gorgon. Gorgon grabs Mordis and creates a powerful hoof quake which seemingly kills both Gorgon and Mordis.
Did Marvel really just kill Gorgon, one of the most classic Inhuman characters? It kind of seems that way as a series that operated with low stakes upped the ante by killing a main character. This week, Gorgon also became perhaps the most engaging, likable, and interesting of the main Inhumans, so this death really sticks in my craw. Especially after Triton was so uselessly dispatched in the first minutes of the first episode. Do we really just toss out Lee and Kirby characters higgly-piggly now? But Gorgon’s death really did shake up a series that felt paint by numbers up until that moment.
Maximus has his own issues on the moon as he must put down an insurrection that now includes his major domo Tibor. This plotlines underscores how cunning Maximus is as he ends the rebellion by killing Tibor before it can truly begin. It is good to see Maximus be proactive and effective instead of just posturing and whispering. We get to see his anxieties as he fears that he is impotent and frail compared to his family.
With all this, Maximus finally sort of feels like a real Marvel villain. As we all know, the greatest Marvel villains are the ones you can almost agree with. After hearing Mordis’ tragic tale, it is easy to feel sympathy for Maximus’ cause. But one must also remember that Maximus is doing what he is doing not for the good of his fellow Inhumans, but for his own ego. This is proven as he slits Tibor’s throat.
So one can hope that Gorgon has a miraculous return at some point, but even with the crushing disappointment of losing one of Inhumans’ only fully likable characters, this episode was truly the series’ finest hour. There were still moments that made me want to punch someone, but far fewer this week.
Hey, remember that time Dracula fought the Hulk? Or the X-Men? Or Spider-Man? No? Well, you're in luck, because we do!
Dracula. The very name conjures images of sexuality, corruption, and decadence. From the original novel written by Bram Stoker in 1897 to the moment Bela Lugosi donned the famed opera cloak in 1931, the character of Dracula has been an iconic horror staple.
In fact, Dracula has been the subject of 217 films, second only to the number of films starring Sherlock Holmes. But films, novels, and television aren't the only genres that have contained Dracula’s bloodlust. Comic books have been a compelling source for new Dracula material. Marvel Comics in particular have been a happy hunting ground for the Lord of the Vampires.
After the easing of Comic Code restrictions in the early seventies, Stan Lee and Marvel were eager to explore classic monsters in the pages of their books. When the code loosened its grip, Lee and company were able to resurrect the four color boogiemen that lay forgotten for so long. In 1972, writer Gerry Conway and artist Gene Colan introduced Tomb of Dracula and a legend was born. Now there was a version of Dracula that borrowed from Stoker and Lugosi stalking the same fictional universe as Spider-Man and the Avengers.
Soon, writer Marv Wolfman would take over the writing chores on Tomb of Dracula and create one of the greatest continuing horror sagas in comic book history. Within the pages of Tomb of Dracula, Wolfman introduced the vampiric detective Hannibal King, Lilith (Dracula’s Daughter), and most importantly, Blade, the Vampire Hunter, who, as all fans know, kicked off the current superhero movie boom.
Dracula existed within the Marvel Universe, but other than rare occasions not many Marvel heroes appeared in Dracula’s book, giving the title a sense of isolation from the rest of the Marvel Universe. That is not to say that Dracula has not stalked the titles of the mainstream Marvel heroes. Oh no, dear reader, the Prince of Darkness has cast his shadow on many Marvel heroes, making him one of the greatest, if often overlooked villains in Marvel history. Here is a look at times Dracula, the greatest monster of them all, has stalked the Marvel Universe.
Dracula Meets Spider-Man
Giant Sized Spider-Man #1 (1974)
By Len Wein and Ross Andru
In this tale, Aunt May is suffering from a rare blood disease because she’s Aunt May. Spidey learns that the only man that has the cure is an eccentric doctor that refuses to travel by plane. Spider-Man learns from Reed Richards that the scientist is traveling by ship, so Spidey gets his webbed ass to the ship to find the doctor.
Also on board the ship are members of the Maggia who want the formula, and of course, Dracula himself who is also after it. Hilarity ensues as Dracula dispatches the crooks one by one, and throws the Maggia leader overboard.
The book is a send up of the classic death at sea sequence of Stoker’s Dracula, as Dracula feeds off the Maggia onboard. While never featuring a direct confrontation between hero and vampire, this issue served as a warning...Dracula is out there.
Allied with the Avengers (1973)
by Steve Englehart and Bob Brown
Ironically, one of the first times Dracula was drawn into the events of the Marvel Universe, he did so to defend humanity! In the Avengers/Defenders war, often considered to be the first true crossover in comics history, the Dread Dormammu opened a dimensional gateway to Earth. The Avengers and Defenders were stuck in Dormammu’s dimension so could not defend the Earth from an incursion by the savage Mindless Ones, headless beings that thrive on destruction. A group of super-powered champions on Earth, not knowing where the Mindless Ones were pouring on from, took up arms to protect their home.
One of these beings was none other than Dracula, who along with such heroes as Power Man, the Fantastic Four, and Ka-Zar, fought back against the Mindless Ones. But don’t think Dracula was acting magnanimously true believers; imagine if a horde of beasts was smashing your favorite eatery. That’s what Earth is to Dracula, a theme restaurant with an all you can eat buffet of jugulars.
Yes, Dracula fought the Mindless Ones, but in doing so he made sure his food supply remained strong and proved to Marvel readers just how badass he was by taking on the Mindless Ones...creatures capable of going toe to toe with the Hulk!
The Creation of Baron Blood (1976)
By Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins
One of Captain America’s most enduring foes was created by none other than Dracula. What’s more evil than a Nazi vampire? Pretty much nothing, which makes Baron Blood one of the most vile creatures in the Marvel Universe. In the dark days of World War II, John Farnsworth was an English aristocrat obsessed with vampire lore. When he travels to Transylvania, he encounters Dracula, who transforms Farnsworth into the living dead.
Dracula sends blood to England to punish the country for the actions of Dracula’s nemesis Jonathon Harker. As Baron Blood, Farnsworth fought the Invaders, Captain America, and even his own brother who adopted the heroic persona of the first Union Jack.
Blood’s days of fighting for the Axis were cut short when the Sub-Mariner staked the bejesus out of him. Blood was resurrected in the modern day by a minion of Dracula and fought a legendary battle with his old foe, Captain America. Now, a Nazi vampire is pretty badass, but a Nazi vampire created by Dracula himself? That’s some legendary bloodsucker right there!
Dracula vs. Doctor Strange (1976)
Tomb of Dracula #44
By Steve Englehart and Gene Colon
The Lord of Darkness fed off Dr. Strange (he probably tasted like sage, cinnamon, and quickly forgotten dreams), in the pages of Tomb of Dracula #44. In Strange’s own book, Dracula locks the Sorcerer Supreme in a dungeon so he can watch the embraced Doctor arise as a vampire. That’s quite a sense of irony Marvel’s Dracula possesses, huh?
Little did Dracula know that Strange astral projected out of his body before Dracula could finish the fateful bite. Strange uses his astral form to mess with Dracula who furiously arrives at the dungeon after days of being mocked and prodded by the wizard.
An awesome fight ensues between a vampiric Doctor Strange and Dracula which Strange wins by conjuring a blazing crucifix. The edge in the battle went to Strange who seemed to be one step ahead of Dracula, but let us not forget that during their first encounter Dracula easily dispatched Strange with one bite. Dracula’s mistake was letting Strange have time to plot, but the first struggle would foreshadow a climatic future encounter between the magician and vampire.
Dracula vs. Howard the Duck? (1980)
Howard the Duck Magazine #5
By Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden
Not all Dracula appearances in the Marvel Universe are legendary but that doesn’t make them any less cool. The following is a treatise on why comics are awesome.
While visiting Cleveland, Dracula spots Howard the Duck. Thinking Howard to be a midget in a duck suit, the Lord of the Undead bites Howard (did I just type that?) but is disgusted by the non-human blood flowing in Howard’s veins. However, Howard is transformed into Drakula (not Duckula or Quakula?) and preys on other ducks.
Howard is restored to his normal self and is actually able to stake Dracula before the vampire can feed off Howard’s hottie girlfriend, Beverly Switzer.
Dracula Joins The Defenders (1981)
By J.M. DeMatteis and Don Perlin
Ah, the Defenders, the parking place for awesomely odd Bronze Age characters.
In one of the non-team’s most memorable storylines, the Defenders were being beleaguered by the Six Fingered Hand. With newer members Hellcat, Gargoyle, and Son of Satan in tow, the Defenders arrive back to Doctor Strange’s mansion only to be attacked by a possessed Dracula. It seems the Six Fingered Hand had gained control over all vampires.
Proving his awesomeness, the Son of Satan breaks the Hand’s control of Dracula, and agrees to help the Vampire Lord take back Transylvania from the Hand. The team with powerhouses like Strange and the Asgardian Valkyrie are just window dressing as the Son of Satan kicks the Hands' collective butts, destroys a metric ton of vampires by summoning sunlight, and saves Dracula’s undead bacon.
This was the first time Marvel used Dracula as an anti-hero in a super-hero title, an honorable villain who was as comfortable in the role of defender of his people as he was bloodsucking fiend. It was a brief union, but among his many roles in the Marvel Universe, Dracula will always be recognized as a Defender.
Dracula vs. The X-Men (1982)
Uncanny X-Men #159
By Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz
Monster mash-ups are a staple of the genre. While not traditional monsters at all, mutants meeting Dracula have the same cache as Dracula versus Frankenstein or the Wolfman, it’s just a match made, erm...not in heaven.
Structured like a classic horror film, Uncanny X-Men #159 sees Storm the victim in a very odd mugging. When someone overpowered the weather goddess and cut her throat, Storm suddenly finds herself wanting to die, inviting a stranger through her window at night, drawing back from Kitty Pryde’s Star of David, and shunning sunlight. You don’t have to be Bram Stoker to see where this is going and an epic confrontation between vampire and mutant takes place. The X-Men take out Dracula’s monstrous rat and canine minions, but fall before Dracula, all except Nightcrawler who has the faith to drive the vampire off with a makeshift cross.
When Storm arrives, Dracula finds that he cannot control the primal Storm, who stands tall and proud. In an awesome moment, Dracula tells Storm it was her inner strength that compelled him and after a standoff, Dracula retreats. This was Claremont at his finest, giving each X-Man a moment to shine and writing a classic and pretty damn scary Dracula in the process. The issue created an indelible bond between the X-Men and Dracula, one that stands till this day.
In the 1982 Uncanny X-Men Annual #6, the battle between the X-Men and Dracula continues as Kitty Pryde is possessed by Dracula’s daughter and one of his most enduring foes, Lilith. It was another compelling confrontation that deepens the threat Dracula had on mutantkind.
Dracula vs. Thor (1983)
By Alan Zelenetz and Don Perlin
Not satisfied with feeding off ducks, mutants, and wizards, Dracula sets his sights on embracing Lady Sif. In Thor #332, Dracula succeeds in feeding and turning Sif. In issue 333, Thor must face a Dracula empowered by god blood (comics = awesome), and an embraced Sif.
This story was significant in showing what a powerhouse Dracula was and established the idea that if Dracula fed off a non-human being, he would be fueled by their powerful blood. Thor managed to free Sif, but not before fans realized that Dracula was a threat to everyone, god, mutant, or human.
The Death of a Legend (1983)
Doctor Strange #59-62
By Roger Stern and Dan Green
In Doctor Strange #59-62, Strange and a group of companions including Dracula hunters Blade and the vampiric detective Hannibal King close all the plot threads left over from Tomb of Dracula and close the door on Marvel’s vampires for a quite a while. Aided by Avengers Captain Marvel (then Monica Rambeau) and the Scarlet Witch, Strange and company race to secure the Darkhold, a book which contains the Montessi Formula, a spell that will rid the Earth of Dracula and the curse of vampirism. Keep in mind that the Darkhold is an ancient magical book that created vampires in the first place.
These issues are the type of storytelling that made Stern a legend, taking elements from Dracula’s appearance in X-Men (the first mention of the Formula) and Thor (whom Dracula is reluctant in facing when he sees the other Avengers by Strange’s side). By the end of the story, Strange does recite the formula and Dracula is finally destroyed.
Like all good vampires, Dracula would eventually return, but the storyline has an epic sense of finality to it. After years of being plagued by Dracula, the Marvel heroes fight back destroying all vampires. For now…
Dracula vs. The Fantastic Four (2000-2001)
Before the Fantastic Four: The Storms
By Terry Kavanagh and Charlie Adlard
Dracula’s shadow is cast far and wide across the history of the Marvel Universe. Before they were legends, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm find a mysterious amulet. The young siblings are attacked by zombies seeking the amulet for its power, zombies controlled by none other than Dracula, who lays inert, staked and comatose, using his mind to control the zombies so they may deliver the amulet to the vampire.
The Storms, before they were Fantastic, must stop the zombies from taking the amulet to Transylvania to resurrect their puppet master. Even immobile, Dracula proves to be one of the most evil and capable beings in the Marvel Universe.
X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula (2006)
By Frank Tieri and Clayton Henry
The cool thing about this series is that it gave added weight to the idea that Dracula has had an impact on the history of the Marvel universe and that his ties to the world of mutants did not begin the day he tried to embrace Storm. Dracula begins embracing members of Apocalypse’s cult which wakes the legendary mutant to defend his followers. The book ties the history of the Van Helsing family into the war between mutant despot and vampire lord.
Dracula on the Moon (2009)
Captain Britain and MI:13 #10
By Paul Cornell and Michael Collins
The so-called end of vampires arc in Doctor Strange was a large scale storyline bringing in many mainstream Marvel mainstays, but it had nothing on the grand tapestry of cool that was the Dracula arc in the late, lamented Captain Britain and MI:13 title. So, Dracula gathers a sect of vampires on the moon to set up a front for his attack on Earth. Just typing that sentence was awesome. Dracula forms a non-aggression pact with Dr. Doom and only the magic of MI:13 led by Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom has a hope of stopping Dracula.
During the course of the arc, fans find out how brilliant Pete Wisdom is, that Dracula still holds a grudge against Muslims stemming back from his Vlad the Impaler days, that seeing Black Knight duel Dracula is pretty much better than anything else in the world, and that the legendary sword Excalibur wielded by a Muslim woman is more effective against Dracula than any crucifix.
Seriously, stop reading this and track down this storyline, we’ll wait.
Hulk vs. Dracula
By Victor Gischler and Ryan Stegman
Part of the Fear Itself mega-event, this battle between two legendary monsters took a form fans did not expect. During the course of Fear Itself, the Hulk was transformed into Nul, the Breaker of Worlds. When Thor knocked Nul into the Carpathian Mountains, the Hulk became a threat to Dracula’s sovereignty. Once again taking up the mantle of reluctant defender, Dracula most take on Nul with a group of vampires, the Forgotten at his side. The event book was another step into the modern evolution of Dracula and was the first time he appeared alongside the Hulk.
An X feud renewed (2011)
X-Men: Curse of the Mutants
By Victor Gischler and Paco Medina
Dracula’s return to the X Universe also served as the introduction of the modern interpretation of the Lord of the Undead. Gone is his rocking ‘stache and suave opera cape, arriving is the white hair and Coppola-esque armor. The story is pretty cool, if needlessly complex at times, and introduces Dracula’s son, Xarus. Xarus goes to war with dear old dad with the X-Men and a group of Atlanteans caught in the middle. The whole thing ends with a fierce reminder, family or not, do not mess with Dracula.
The new look for Dracula would stay consistent across all Marvel media as it was this look that appeared in a recent episode of Avengers Assemble on Disney XD. The story arc also brings vampirism closer to the X-Men as never before as Jubilee, once the most innocent of the X-Men, is transformed into a vampire. What Claremont and company began in the early '80s continues today as Dracula’s influence on the X-Men looms like a constant shadow over the heroes!
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
We examine with heavy spoilers how much the X-Men, and specifically the Dark Phoenix Saga, influenced Stranger Things 2.
This article contains major Stranger Things 2 spoilers.
From seeing Winona Ryder go the full Ellen Burstyn in a room filled with useless doctors, a la The Exorcist, to viewing Paul Reiser once more send brave men to their alien-feasting deaths, Stranger Things 2 is stuffed to the brim with movie references and callbacks. Personal favorites include Ms. Ryder simply enjoying a second dance with Dracula and Sean Astin going the full Goonies on a treasure hunt. And yet, the subtlest (but somehow inescapably omnipresent) tip of the hat during the second season remained in the direction of a comic book. For Stranger Things has only heightened its fascination with the mutants who comprise Marvel’s ever Uncanny X-Men, especially if it’s a mutant named Jean Grey.
From the very beginning of Stranger Things’ journey, the superheroes who defend a world that hates and fears them have been bubbling beneath the surface of Hawkins, Indiana. Like the pesky Upside-Down itself, the shadow of mutanthood is always there. Will Byers’ fateful ride into horror and legend began in a race against Dustin for a coveted copy of X-Men #134, a 1980 comic book set in the midst of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s “Dark Phoenix Saga.” And that first hour likewise ended again with Dustin invoking the cherished issue’s name while searching for his lost friend. While there was no Will Byers to be found that night, there was a scared and lonely girl named Eleven. And she has been the heart of their very own Phoenix Saga ever since.
Indeed, much of Stranger Things 2 placed Millie Bobby Brown’s El on her own cloistered narrative voyage, one removed from most of the comings and monstrous goings in Hawkins. However, Ms. Brown’s little Firestarter was never sidelined during this sophomore effort. Instead hers was a season of maturity and dawning self-awareness. The girl with the telekinetic nosebleed had returned from the seeming grave (or ashes), all to have her own first flirtation with the dark side. It was, in short, a louder echo of Jean Grey’s comic book embrace of the Phoenix.
Eleven’s journey in season 2 is about her realizing her own identity and independence from the friends and authority figures who have thus far dictated her sense of self, right down to her attire as either lab rat or doll, tomboy or surrogate daughter. For most of the first half of the season, Eleven is trapped inside of a cabin in the woods for her own protection. Since returning from the apparent dead, Police Chief Jim Hopper has known little about what to do with the super-powered being in a pint-sized body.
So he keeps her isolated—albeit not without just cause, as El’s temper tantrums are not nearly as adorable when she attempts to give “Mad Max” a concussion due to a bout of brattish jealousy. However, the young heroine soon strikes out on her own, finding first her mother and then her proverbial sister by way of Poltergeist telecommunications.
And it is upon meeting the latter in the season’s seventh episode, “The Lost Sister,” that one could argue Stranger Things 2 was at its strongest: Completely removed from the rest of the series, Eleven finally arrives to an understanding of herself by contrasting her identity against what she isn’t. Abandoning the soft Midwest charms of suburbia, El travels to Chicago and finds her half-forgotten sister Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) living in a decrepit but deliciously ‘80s warehouse that’s tagged with more graffiti than a pre-Giuliani NYC subway.
It is in these sequences where Stranger Things most leans into its X-Men influences. Somewhat older than Eleven, Kali takes on a mentoring role around the literally fresh-off-the-bus lass, preaching how their superpowers are marks of grand diversity that should be celebrated, not hidden away in a closet. Just as the X-Men have long been used as allegories for marginalized social groups and minorities on page and screen, the Indian-American Kali teaches the relatively sheltered Eleven that life as the “Other” in America can be hard, but it can also be free of shame or judgement.
She preaches “mutant and proud,” in essence, and instructs her how to use her powers. Whereas Eleven is telekinetic, Kali is psychic, and like Charles Xavier training Erik Lehnsherr to move a satellite with magnetism in X-Men: First Class, Kali relishes the sight of El moving an abandoned train car in Stranger Things 2. The Netflix series even directly borrows one of Xavier’s cooler tricks in that movie, wherein he blinds a group of Soviet soldiers to his and Magneto’s movements behind the Iron Curtain, just as how Kali casts a shield of invisibility around her, El, and the rest of her crew’s positions as the fuzz closes in during a police raid.
On the whole, the episode could have been set in the X-Men film universe, but its direct implications for Eleven’s emotional journey nearly beat-for-beat recreate the literary arc of Jean Grey transforming into Phoenix.
In many ways, Jean Grey is an intentional mirror of El, at least in the broad strokes, and with “The Lost Sister,” the details are starting to take shape. Like Eleven, Jean Grey is host to an awesome power that borders on the horrific and supernatural. Also, depending on which comic book writer pens Jean’s “Phoenix Force” at any given time, the superheroine’s most destructive form is derived either from her own self or from a cosmic entity that has possessed her body, much like Will Byers going the full Linda Blair in Stranger Things 2.
Either way, Jean Grey is a mutant with strong telekinetic and psychic abilities who takes on a godlike aura when she reaches her full Phoenix potential. It is a prospect so intimidating that even her mentor and fellow psychic, Professor Charles Xavier, is cowed by it. Hence how after she first returns from a seeming death in space, he places her under quarantine and observation, much like Hopper pushing Eleven inside that damnable cabin. Also like El, Jean begins to eventually rebel… and it all starts with a trip to the big city.
In X-Men #130, Jean Grey joins fellow X-Men mutants on a reconnaissance mission to New York City. While not quite Chi-Town, the Big Apple was arguably in a greater state of urban decay following the 1970s than anything presented in Stranger Things 2’s Windy City. It also was the beginning of Jean’s cosmic Phoenix powers being tempted away from the narrow goodness of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. In a Manhattan nightclub, Jean Grey is lured by the unsavory appeal of the revelers, and for the first time falls under the spell of the combined influences of Emma Frost, the “White Queen” of the Hellfire Club, and Jason Wyngarde. It should also be noted that like Kali, Emma is a psychic who has the ability to create illusions inside the mind’s eye.
Sensing the seismic power of Jean Grey, Emma creates visions as mind-warping for Jean’s fragile state as Kali did when she showed Eleven a ghostly vision of “Papa.” But Stranger Things also does it more deftly. Whereas Emma and Wyngarde wish to manipulate Jean for the sake of her powers alone, Kali is trying to convince someone she genuinely likes that her methods are the best.
In several respects, Kali and Eleven also intone reverberations of the Charles-Magneto relationship that has been so thoroughly mined by the X-Men movies. Kali believes they should use their powers to seek vengeance and dominance over the men who wronged them while Eleven ultimately chooses to live with those whom Kali views as suspect. As a natural outcast due to society’s own dim limitations, Kali finds the rules of a policeman as dangerous as their shared Papa. Still, the way she and her group attempts to seduce and exploit Eleven to take advantage of the kid’s powers is nevertheless evocative of a punk rock version of the Hellfire Club.
Like Emma Frost and Jason Wyngarde, Kali uses her psychic abilities to prod Eleven to join their makeshift family as elite beings removed from society, as well as to commit violence. Kali, like Frost, preys on Eleven’s anger and jealousy (she thinks of Max with Mike, just as Jean became paranoid about her lover Cyclops being around a mutant named Dazzler). They even give Eleven a glam-punk makeover, which is reminiscent to Jean’s transformation as the Hellfire Club’s unfortunately dubbed “Black Queen.” Both involve all-black costuming and some pretty fabulous hair and makeup transitions. They even have Eleven embrace her original name as “Jane.” That too has a familiar ring to it.
Jane, like Jean, is tempted to join a group that will let her embrace all the shadings of her personality and desires—but would use them to ignoble ends, including the murder of an unarmed man while his children cry in the next room. “The Dark Phoenix Saga” goes to much loopier and comic book places with the Hellfire Club attempting to have Jean kill her friends and mentor (perhaps that could be Stranger Things 3 when Kali comes to Hawkins and stares down Hopper?), and Jean ultimately goes the full Exorcist herself and becomes a threat to the entire cosmos. But that sense of awe-inspiring power is not far removed from the end of Stranger Things 2 when Jane closes the door to the Upside-Down while levitating and creating a fire effect that was so familiar that it was only missing the shape of bird in its flames.
So is Eleven / Jane also Phoenix / Jean? A little bit. Yet it should be considered that Eleven is a much more nuanced character who is not only experiencing a power trip that comes with the self-realization of adulthood and true independence, but she is also a fractured and layered child, one whose lifelong seclusion from life means the Duffer Brothers could go in any number of directions with the character. But just as the X-Men films are attempting a hopefully better stab at the Phoenix Saga with next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix film, one imagines that we have not seen the last of Jean’s haunted fire in Stranger Things. After all, Dustin and Will still argue over X-Men #134, and the Phoenix Saga didn’t conclude until X-Men #137… with Jean Grey’s sacrificial suicide.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
Deadman was a massive creative change for DC Comics in the 1960s.
Neal Adams is returning to Deadman for the first time since 1967 in a new series beginning in November. When DC first published Deadman, the character was a uniquely flawed hero. Boston Brand was an arrogant aerialist who was murdered while performing a daring trapeze stunt. Brand was brought back to life as Deadman and used his power of possession to help solve his own murder.
Deadman was a different type of character when compared to DC’s stalwart perfect heroes like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and the rest of the Silver Age DC pantheon. Deadman was more monster than hero and existed in a tragic unlife. When Neal Adams took over the character for the dead hero's second appearance, Deadman became even more darkly flawed. Deadman was a far cry from the groovy heroes and super pets DC usually presented in the late 1960s, and would have been right at home at Marvel Comics, a company that made its mark in the fan world by presenting deeply flawed heroes that were, in some cases, essentially altruistic monsters. We talked to Adams about the Marvel influence on Deadman and the philosophies of DC and Marvel in the Silver Age.
“You have to understand,” Adams said. “It was Jack Kirby and Stan Lee that allowed the era of the imperfect hero to happen. They essentially said, ‘Here’s the gauntlet, pick it up.’”
As far as DC’s internal reaction to Deadman, Adams remembers, “Julie Schwartz was one of the first to see the difference between DC and Marvel.” Schwartz was a legendary editor at DC who spearheaded the revival of characters like Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman and also edited the Batman books during the Silver Age. In addition, Schwartz was a literary agent to some of the greatest names in science fiction and responsible for most of the DC greatness of the '50, '60s, '70s, and beyond.
“Julie was no fool…DC Comics had characters that always were goody two shoes,” Adams informs. “They were good before they became heroes, they were good after they became heroes. The Flash worked in a police lab. They were starched shirt nice guys.”
“Over at Marvel,” Adams continues. “They weren’t doing super heroes, they were doing Stan’s five plots like Mogog the GogGog who ended up being tiny…stuff like that. Fin Fang Foom with the diaper. He would do little short stories and magician stories."
That changed with the arrival of Jack Kirby.
"Jack took Stan’s monsters and turned them into heroes," Adams says. "Even Spider-Man let his uncle die before he became a hero. Doctor Strange was exactly as described. [they] weren’t only flawed, they were bad guys. Turning them into heroes seemed impossible, but Jack and guys like Steve Ditko did it. Essentially, all the Marvel guys were flawed while all the DC guys were shiny heroes. So someone like Deadman… Julie [Schwartz] spearheaded all that and Deadman was part of all that. With Julie, DC evolved.”
It’s always amazing to hear stories like this from guys like Adams who were at the ground floor of comic book history. Indeed, characters like Deadman and later characters like Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing broke the DC model and set the foundations for the Bronze Age and beyond.
Deadman #1 arrives on November 1st.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
We have your first look at mysterious Supergirl Season 3 villain, Reign.
At the end of the Supergirl season 2 finale, we were teased with a flashback to Krypton's destruction, as a cultlike group sent a mysterious baby to Earth, promising it would "reign." It was soon revealed that wasn't just a turn of phrase, but that the Supergirl Season 3 villain is, in fact, Reign, a character created by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar who has made a handful of appearances in recent DC Comics.
The Reign of the comics is one of five genetically engineered "Worldkillers" and she's the one who first reveals the fate of Kara's homeworld to her. She tries to enlist Kara in her plans to conquer Earth, but as you might expect, Kara is having none of it. There's really not much else to say about this story (which you can find in Supergirl: Last Daughter of Krypton), and the character didn't make many more appearances in the comics, which should leave lots of room for interpretation when she makes it to TV, where she'll be played by Odette Annable. We spoke with Ms. Annable as well as executive producers Robert Rovner and Jessica Queller during roundtable interviews at San Diego Comic-Con, and they told us a little bit about what to expect from the Supergirl Season 3 villain.
"We think [Reign] is a villain unlike any we’ve ever had on Supergirl in the past," executive producer Robert Rovner says, "She comes with a very specific agenda."
"Reign is a Worldkiller," Odette Annable says. "She was bio-engineered in a lab, she was sent to Earth from Krypton much like Kara and Clark. She's different than any other villain that you'll see on Supergirl in a way that she has her own agenda. She's not out to kill everybody. She's not out to rule the Earth. Her reasons for dispensing justice are very specific and you'll see that story unfold throughout the season."
Right there that already sounds fairly different from the Reign of the comics, who was a relatively one-note (albeit high-powered) villain. To be perfectly honest, Reign's comic book story wasn't one that could sustain an entire season of TV, but it looks like the show is going to show a very different side of the villain. And they're starting with her costume.
Since Reign has only made a handful of comic book appearances, the producers and Ms. Annable have a tremendous amount of freedom in terms of creating her for the screen. "I do know that we will, in terms of look, the costume's not going to be the same—she wears basically nothing in the comics—so I'm very grateful for that," Annable says. "You know, I'd rather not be in hours and hours of makeup. If we were going to try to match what's in the comics, that would be the case. So we're doing our own spin on things, much like what they do on the other shows, which is really nice."
Check out Reign's TV look...
"I hope [the audience] is going to be endeared to her a little bit," Annable says. "It's always nice to resonate with a villain...you might not side with them, but maybe you can see why they do what they do. Hopefully, that will be the case with Reign as well. We've got a whole season to tell this story, so I'm particularly excited about sharing this heartbreaking tale. It really will be powerful and strong, and I think she's going to be one of Supergirl's greatest matches. She's not just, 'I'm bad and I want to kill everybody.' She's got a reason why she's doing it. I think that's what fans will find really different and hopefully really like."
"We’re diving deeper into this villain than we have with the other ones," Robert Rovner promises, perhaps alluding to how much freedom they have to create this character because of the relative scarcity of her source material.
Executive producer Jessica Queller says that "the central question of Supergirl Season 3 is what does it mean to be human" and that question will be posed "to every main charactre including Reign." She also teases that "Reign is going to have an unexpected connection with Lena Luthor."
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
Sean Murphy's hero-flipped Gotham continues.
Sean Murphy is amazing.
There really isn't much more to say about this preview of his Elseworlds-ey series, Batman: White Knight. The series starts with Batman losing his mind and getting over-the-top violent (even for him) and going on trial for it. He cures the Joker, and the rest of the book is about the Joker fighting to save Gotham from the person he blames for all its problems: Batman.
Murphy is an incredible talent. Tokyo Ghost was staggeringly beautiful and imaginative, and the one free issue of Batman he did in the New 52 era (which is apparently really important to the ongoing story that Scott Snyder is telling in Metal) was a favorite of Snyder's run. His Gotham is close and dense and overbearing, and he made the first issue feel claustrophobic and violent in a way that perfectly fit the story. And while the "Batman-as-psychopath" tale has been done to death, I think based off of these preview pages, Murphy might have a twist in mind for that trope. Here's what DC has to say about the issue:
BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #2 Written by SEAN MURPHYArt and cover by SEAN MURPHYVariant cover by SEAN MURPHYPublic support for Batman dwindles and Gotham City’s 99 percent rally around ex-Joker Jack Napier’s crusade to expose decades of corruption within the GCPD. A proposition inspires new revelations about Harley and The Joker’s past; and as Jack transforms into a hero of the middle class and takes extreme measures to mobilize a revolutionary army of super-villains, Bruce struggles to stay focused on engineering a technological breakthrough to save Alfred.
Take a look!
The Halloween season is upon us, so grab some pumpkin juice and celebrate with one of these remarkable Harry Potter fan films.
J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. have expanded the Harry Potter world exponentially in recent years, with everything from Fantastic Beasts to The Cursed Child, but they're not the only ones hungry to tell more stories in this magical world.
Fans have been creating transformative works within the Harry Potter universe since the very beginning. In more recent years, this has taken the form of fan films made available via YouTube and other streaming platforms. While they vary in quality, they all bring something new to this beloved fictional universe.
Today marks the release of Lily Evans and the Stroke of Midnight, the sequel to Lily Evans and the Eleventh Hour, and we're using the occasional to celebrate the rich world of Harry Potter fan films. Here are nine Harry Potter fan films to check out...
Lily Evans and the Eleventh Hour/Stroke of Midnight
While there's quite a few Harry Potter fan films that focus on the Marauder era of Hogwarts and beyond, most of them focus on James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter.
While the Marauders are characters in the world of Lily Evans and the Eleventh Hour, and its sequel-of-sorts Lily Evans and the Stroke of Midnight, this world belongs to the young women of the year, with Lily Evans and Alice Fawley (aka Neville's mom) playing particularly major roles.
With three parts lasting about 20 minutes in total in The Eleventh Hour, this fan film world is easy to catch up on. The new installment broadens the character list and the scope of the world, and clocks in at 27 minutes. The story takes place in the gang's final year at Hogwarts during Voldemort's initial rise to power. As Voldemort becomes ever more powerful, Lily and her friends debate what their responsibility is in fighting the dark forces as students in a changing world.
The fan films are produced by a majority female crew by Apple Juice Productions, a company that aims to tell geeky stories with a feminist twist. Lily Evans and the Eleventh Hour/Stroke of Midnight is a great addition to that larger goal.
The Greater Good
The Fantastic Beasts prequel partially revolve around the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, two of the most powerful wizards of all time who took two very different paths. But before they moved their frenemy-ship to the world-wide scale, they were just two kids in Godric's Hollow.
The Greater Good, an incredibly-impressive fan film produced by Broad Strokes, aims to tell the story of the battle that would turn Dumbledore from best friends (and possibly lovers) to enemies. It is also the battle in which Dumbledore's little sister, Ariana, was killed by a stray curse, forever changing Dumbledore and his brother Aberforth.
For my money, The Greater Good is a more realistic, character-driven portrayal of Grindelwald than we have seen from Fantastic Beasts so far.
Severus Snape and the Marauders
Another Broad Strokes production, Severus Snape and the Marauders tells the story of the iconic Marauders-era characters shortly after their graduation from Hogwarts from the perspective of Snape, who we know from the books was bullied by James and his cohorts.
With incredible production values and a great script, Severus Snape and the Marauders may just be the best Harry Potter fan film out there — the kind of fan production that shows just how much narrative potential this world has when in the right hands.
Most fan films have an endearing, yet distracting awkwardness to them. Not Mischief Managed, a Marauders-set fan film from Foregone Films, that manages to make the world of James, Lily, and their friends feel lived in.
With amazing locations, some clever camera tricks, and a cast that looks like normal kids, Mischief Managed is the perfect fan film for those who aren't necessarily looking for a high-stakes story, but who want to spend time living in the world of Hogwarts. It's that rare fan film that feels completely natural.
Voldemort: Origin of the Heir
OK, so this one hasn't technically come out yet, but it is already causing quite a stir on the internet. The trailer for Voldemort: Origin of the Heir has been viewed millions of times, and Warner Bros. even released an official statement giving the fan film its blessing (as long as it doesn't make any profit, of course).
The film will attempt to tell the story of Tom Marvolo Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort, from the perspective of the Heir of Gryffindor, the woman providing the voiceover in the trailer. Voldemort: Origin of the Heir proves that there is interest in learning more about this iconic character, particularly, if you refer to the trailer's comment section, what the heck happened to his nose.
The Day Muggles Found Out
Ever wonder what the lives of non-English speaking witches and wizards is like? Check out The Day Muggles Found Out, an Italian language Harry Potter fan film that, while set in the wizarding world, has nothing to do with the characters of Harry Potter. Instead, it tells a completely original story about two Italian wizards dabbling in drugs.
From Italian director Giulio Fiore, The Day Muggles Found Out has incredibly effects and a uique presence. It's also worth watching for its interpretation of wizarding Polaroids alone. If you are an English language speaker, be sure to click on the closed captioning option for subtitles in English.
Battle of Hogwarts
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is not my favorite of the Harry Potter films, and one of the reasons why lies in this ambitious Harry Potter fan film, Battle of Hogwarts, which shows the infamous battle that saw Harry sacrifice his life for his community from the perspectives of some of the other people who were involved on that day.
None of the characters in this fan film are ones we know from the book, making this story and this world that much richer for the ways in which Harry's bravery was not unique to him or his friends, but to most of the Hogwarts community.
Le Maitre de le Mort (The Master of Death)
Another fan film that tells the origin story of Voldemort in greater detail then the books, this French-language film is gorgeous to watch, with a particularly strong soundtrack and impressive sound design.
With a 45-minute run time, La Maitre de le Mort is also one of the longest Harry Potter fan films, showing us everything from Tom Riddle being left as a baby at an orphanage to Tom's first murders. It's an incredibly dark, brutal film, but one that maintains a consistent beauty and style.
The OMEn Chronicles
Another Harry Potter fan film that has nothing to do with the specific characters or setting of Harry Potter, The OMEn Chronicles is an action-driven story of the fight between good and evil as told through the struggle over a new relic calld The Fires of Olympus. As producer Wren Wichman describes it in the video's description: "In a world filled with magic, one mysterious person tries to keep a forgotten power safe from both the Officers of OMEn and the Evil forces wanting to corrupt it."
If you're a fan of the most fast-paced parts of the Harry Potter world and th visual effects from the movies, then this fan film is the one for you.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
Oh hell yeah, Jeff Goldblum is now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Get ready to meet the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok.
Grandmaster has long been using the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe like a dungeon master uses pewter miniatures and eight sided dice. So let’s open the game box on Grandmaster with a particular focus on one of the greatest and earliest Marvel events: the unforgettable first Contest of Champions!
Grandmaster is a master of the “power primordial,” a raw cosmic force that is the same energy left over from the big bang. With this might, ‘ol blue skin can manipulate probability fields, create and destroy just about anything, and has enough raw power to go up against Galactus himself. Cosmic entities like Eternity, Living Tribunal, and the In-Betweener see Grandmaster as an equal and even the most powerful heroes like the Silver Surfer and Thor have been easily felled by Grandmaster. He might look like a stretched out Smurf, but Grandy is a badass on the ultimate cosmic level.
The first thing you should know is that fans already met Grandmaster’s brother in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Yes indeed, the Collector and Grandmaster are siblings and both Elders of the Universe have had a one-upmanship relationship for decades. Grandmaster also once possessed one of the Infinity Gems, the Mind Gem, which he lost to Thanos right before the legendary Infinity Gauntlet event.
From these fun facts, you can tell that Grandmaster has long been a major cosmic player whose machinations have often shaken the MU. Cosmic brother and cosmic jewels aside, Grandmaster's favorite modus operandi is to pit two super teams against each other and bet on the outcome. And Grandmaster has done this many times over the years and the result usually leads to some truly legendary comics.
Some other bona fides, Grandmaster’s real name is En Dwi Gast and he is one of the oldest beings in the universe. As far as comics go, En Dwi Gast made his first appearance in The Avengers #69 (1969) and was created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema. In this debut, Grandmaster challenged the arch Avengers villain Kang the Conqueror to a contest. Kang chose the Avengers and Grandmaster chose the Squadron Sinister (analogs of DC’s Justice League) and the two sides did battle. If Kang won, his beloved Ravonna would be resurrected. But Kang lost due to Grandmaster’s careful planning and comicdom at large learned that when one plays a game with the Grandmaster, one will always find a stacked deck.
Grandmaster’s games took him around the known galaxy as he continued to use the Avengers as pawns.
He gave the same treatment to the Defenders before taking part in a comic and story event that would be long remembered-1982’s Contest of Champions. In this series, Collector came down with a bad case of being dead, so his loving brother Grandmaster challenged Death to a contest. Death and Grandmaster each chose from a grouping of Earth’s greatest heroes and would set their heroic pawns against each other in epic battles. These contests were epically crafted by writers Mark Gruenwald, Bill Mantlo, and Steven Grant with art by Bob Layton.
Grandmaster’s team consisted of Captain America, Talisman, Darkstar, Captain Britain, Wolverine, Defensor, Sasquatch, Daredevil, Peregrine, She-Hulk, the Thing, and Blitzkrieg while Death’s team was made up of Iron Man, Vanguard, Iron Fist, Shamrock, Storm, Arabian Knight, Sabra, Invisible Girl, Angel, Black Panther, Sunfire, and the Collective Man. Yes, the contest had some international flavor as Marvel used Contest of Champions to introduce new heroes like Shamrock, Collective Man, and Peregrine.
But it was the invidual contests and the high stakes that made this series so unforgettable. Oh, lest we forget, Contest of Champions was also Marvel’s first mini-series! And what a mini-series! The huge cast of characters, the cosmic life and death struggle, and the shock ending set the standard for such future event mini-series such as Secret Wars. In the end, Grandmaster won, but learned that in order to resurrect his brother, Grandmaster must sacrifice his own life. Appreciating the rules of the game, Grandmaster nobly gave his existence so his brother might live.
But do you think Grandmaster stayed dead? Of course not!
From beyond the grave, Grandmaster and the Collector conned the Avengers into resurrecting Grandmaster in Avengers West CoastAnnual #2 and Avengers Annual #16 (1987). From there, Grandmaster returned to the cosmos and played games with Silver, Surfer, Quasar, and many more. And if you think Contest of Champions was huge, listen to this madness.
We discussed the Squadron Sinister earlier, a team of heroes that were (ahem) an homage to DC’s Justice League. It’s pretty badass to manipulate a Justice League adjacent super team, but what if we told you that Grandmaster also manipulated the JLA itself? Yes, Grandmaster is so cosmically powerful that he even used his the powers to bypass Warner Brothers lawyers. That’s right, Grandmaster was one of the catalysts of the only meeting of the Avengers and the Justice League.
In JLA/Avengers#1-4 (2004) by Kurt Busiek and George Perez, Grandmaster challenged DC’s Krona to a contest the likes of which nerdom never imagined. Grandmaster choose the Avengers and Krona choose the JLA and each publishing pantheon fought to find twelve cosmic comic book artifacts. This was the biggest thing, like ever, the mashing together of two publishing juggernauts and it all came about because of the sheer gaming acumen of the Grandmaster (and because of the need for money by both publishers in the early 2000s).
And now this master of all games is coming to the big screen. Will the MCU’s Grandmaster measure up to his comic book counterpart when it comes to raw power? The comic version of Grandmaster has manipulated the most powerful entities in a number of universes, and each of these heroes, monsters, and gods were but pawns in the greedy fingers of Marvel’s ultimate manipulator.
Thor: Ragnarokopens on November 3.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
Mark Ruffalo is teasing that Avengers: Infinity War will showcase an unlikely bromance between his Hulk and Rocket Raccoon.
While the May 2018 release of Avengers: Infinity War is only six months away, the film – uniting the entire kit and caboodle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a grand battle with Thanos– still feels like a cinematic endeavor that’s difficult to envision. Yet, of the intriguing character dynamics set to emerge amongst the colossal cosmic conflict, a teased friendship between Hulk and Rocket Raccoon stands out prominently.
In an interview with USA Today, Mark Ruffalo, promoting his appearance in this week’s release of Thor: Ragnarok, describes the evolution of his version of Hulk (which debuted in 2012’s The Avengers after Edward Norton first fielded the role in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk). With Ragnarok showing Hulk as more talkative and separately struggling for control with his Bruce Banner alter-ego, the film’s depicted détente between frenemies Hulk and Thor will serve as an aperitif of sorts for a friendship between Ruffalo’s Jade Giant and Bradley Cooper’s wise-cracking woodland animal Rocket Raccoon that's set for Infinity War and its untitled 2019 follow-up film.
Of all the cosmic craziness that we’re likely to see in Infinity War, Ruffalo hints that a bonded bromance between Hulk and Rocket will stand as one of its most surreal components, stating:
“All of the universes coming together is just a sight gag within itself.” Adding, “It’s a very funny relationship that the two of them have: First of all, it’s the biggest superhero and the smallest. Just keeping them in a frame together is a feat and hilarious in itself.”
While the pairing of Hulk and Rocket sounds like action-comedic gold, it's also a throwback to Marvel Comics’ Incredible Hulk #271, dated May 1982, in which Rocket Raccoon made his first proper appearance (after a non-canonical version appeared in Marvel Preview #7, dated June 1976). In the interplanetary issue, Hulk finds himself on Halfworld, a planet inhabited by anthropomorphic animals and home to Rocket Raccoon. There, the Jade Giant becomes ensnared into a quest to help Rocket stop megalomaniacal mole Judson Jakes and recover a powerful artifact called Gideon’s Bible – a clear reference to lyrics from The Beatles’ 1968 “White Album” cut, “Rocky Raccoon,” which was the inspiration for the Rocket character.
Despite Rocket’s continuing presence in Marvel Comics lore, including his own four-issue 1985 limited series, he generally resided in the rarely-used D-list category of heroes for decades. Of course, his arrival as a team member in the reinvented Guardians of the Galaxy would finally give him a popular comic platform, leading to expectations-shattering success as the roguish partner in crime of Vin Diesel's (also formerly-obscure,) one-sentence-spouting living tree, Groot, in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy movie and its 2017 sequel. Indeed, while Rocket debuted as an oddity in a once-dismissible issue of Incredible Hulk, the onscreen version of that issue's unassuming team-up will have both characters as certified A-listers.
Hulk will first attempt to make some intergalactic alliances in Thor: Ragnarok, which hits theaters on November 3. From there, he’ll befriend a mocking mid-sized mammal in Avengers: Infinity War, which arrives on May 4, 2018.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
The New Warriors will be a Marvel TV series, and the roster will feature fan favorite, Squirrel Girl.
Are you ready for a half-hour comedy series set in the Marvel Universe? One that features younger heroes with offbeat codenames and superpowers? Well, you'd better be, because Marvel and ABC are developing New Warriors as a 10 episode series. The show was being developed for Freeform, who ordered the project straight to series, but now The Wrap reports that the show will need a new home. It's not clear yet where it will end up.
The New Warriors first appeared in Marvel Comics in the late '80s/early '90s, and featured young heroes with unfortunate names like Night Thrasher and Speedball. Kevin Biegel will write the first episode and serve as showrunner.
Here's the official synopsis from Marvel:
“Marvel’s New Warriors” is about six young people with powers living and working together. With powers and abilities on the opposite end of the spectrum of The Avengers, the New Warriors want to make a difference in the world… Even if the world isn’t ready. Not quite super, not yet heroes, “Marvel’s New Warriors” is about that time in your life when you first enter adulthood and feel like you can do everything and nothing at once — except in this world, bad guys can be as terrifying as bad dates.
New Warriors Cast
Squirrel Girl - Milana Vayntrub
Superpower:“The powers of a squirrel, the powers of a girl” (i.e. she is acrobatic, strong, can fight… and can talk to squirrels)
A natural leader, Doreen is confident and tough, but not innocent. Her greatest quality is her optimism. She also takes her pet squirrel, Tippy Toe, everywhere.
Mister Immortal - Derek Theler
Superpower:Cannot die. Ever. Maybe. So he says.
The team troublemaker and lothario, Craig is kind of like “The Most Interesting Man Alive,” except he’s more cocky than confident and, at times, charmingly grumpy. Although Craig’s superpower seems amazing, he hasn’t made use of it at all. (He’s lazy and figures if he has all the time in the world to learn how to fight, what’s the rush?)
Night Thrasher - Jeremy Tardy
A local “hero” with his very own YouTube channel, Dwayne is brilliant, strong, noble and maybe a bit full of himself. But he also deeply believes in justice – at least his version of it. Dwayne hides the fact that he comes from a really rich family because he’s afraid he’ll lose his street cred.
Speedball - Calum Worthy
Superpower:Can launch kinetic balls of energy
Having grown up watching Quinjets take off from Avengers Tower, Robbie loves the idea of being a hero. Alas, while you would think that throwing kinetic balls of energy would be awesome and effective, his are completely out of control.
Microbe - Matthew Moy
Superpower:Can talk to germs
Zack is a shy hypochondriac whose ability nearly makes him a telepath – the germs tell him where you’ve been, what you ate and who you hung out with. As such, it’s impossible to keep secrets around him.
Debrii - Kate Comer
Superpower:Low level telekinetic; trickster
Confidently out as a lesbian, funny and quick-witted Deborah has experienced deep loss in her personal life as a direct result of super “heroics.” She’s the one who calls people on their BS and has no fear of putting her opinions out there.
"Marvel's New Warriors have always been fan favorites and now particularly with the addition of Squirrel Girl, they are Marvel Television favorites as well," Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb said in a statement. "After the amazing experience we've had with Freeform on Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger we can't think of a better place for our young heroes."
The series has just added Keith David as Ernest Vigman, described by THR as "a caustic municipal employee who butts up against the hopeful energy of the New Warriors." Vigman appears to be an original creation, not a character from the comics.
New Warriors Release Date
New Warriors will probably land somewhere in 2018. We'll update this with more information as it becomes available.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
The history of Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok is a lot more confusing than what we see on screen.
The Valkyrie, gatherer of the bravest of the dead, warrior without peer, Defender, Avenger, staunch ally of Thor and all the heroes of Asgard, and one of the very first feminist inspired characters of the Marvel Universe. With her winged horse Aragorn and her fierce blade, Valkyrie protects both Earth and Asgard. Valkyrie, she of the sharp spear, she of the undying realm, she of the Defenders, she of the really freakin’ confusing history.
Yup, palyed by Tessa Thompson, Valkyrie is coming to the big screen which means it’s time for Den of Geekto give you the skinny on this Asgardian warrior’s history, but with Valkyrie, this is way easier said than done. In fact, Valkyrie’s history is so confusing that the character didn’t even first appear until after she first appeared. What the Hel does that mean? Read on!
The first hero named Valkyrie made her debut in Avengers #83 (1970) and was created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema. Thomas and Buscema introduced Valkyrie as a leader of a new group of female heroes called the Lady Liberators. This team consisted of Marvel heavyweight Black Widow, Inhuman queen Medusa, and, eventually, the Wasp. Valkyrie informs the Avengers that her team got together to battle for gender equality and to end male chauvinism (maybe it’s time for a revival of this team, just sayin’?) and told her teammates that she once was a scientist that had to deal with chauvinism at work, and to prove herself to her male co-workers, she exposed herself to a strength enhancing science thing.
If this sounds a little haphazard story wise and kind of generic, it was supposed to because the whole thing was BS. It turns out that Valkyrie was actually Amora the Enchantress who pulled off the whole Lady Liberators thing to mess with the Avengers. So there was no Valkyrie at first, not really, and the whole mess might have been soon forgotten.
Except for the fact that Roy Thomas dug the idea of Valkyrie and introduced the second Valkyrie in Incredible Hulk #142 (1971) by Thomas and Herb Trimpe. Well, sort of. In this issue, the Hulk meets a young feminist named Samantha Parrington. Parrington is exasperated with her parents’ blasé attitude toward women’s lib and takes part in a feminist march. From Asgard, Enchantress observed Parrington and just to mess with humanity again, the Asgardian sorceress bonds the young feminist with the spirit of the Valkyrie. Hulk and Valkyrie fight until Enchantress takes Parrington’s powers away, leaving the girl confused and wondering if it was all a dream.
Marvel fans also thought it all might be a dream as now the character of Valkyrie appeared twice without actually being a real character. All that was soon to change with the introduction of a woman named Barbara Norris in Incredible Hulk #125 (1970) by Thomas and Trimpe. Before she became part of Valkyrie lore, Norris was trapped in a mystical dimension and was driven to madness by her experiences.
In The Defenders #4 (1973) by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema, Enchantress once again stepped in and bonded Norris with the Valkyrie and this time, it was revealed that this spirit of the Valkyrie was actually the Asgardian warrior known a Brunnhilde. As Norris, Brunnhilde joined the Defenders and tried to find the secrets of both parts of her being- human and Asgardian. With no memory of either of her pasts, Valkyrie joined the Defenders and became a major part of that team’s long history.
But who is Brunnhilde?
History nerds will tell you that Marvel’s Valkyrie was based on the Norse legend of Brynhildr (also spelled Brunhild, Brünnhilde, Brynhild), a Norse shield maiden and warrior who is most popularly known as a central figure in Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. Thomas was a major fan of this opera and jumped at the chance to include one of the piece’s major players in the Marvel Universe. Yes, a Germanic operatic figure is coming to the MCU because Roy Thomas is awesome and should be elected the President of Everything.
So of course, when given the chance to create a proper Asgardian origin for Valkyrie, Thomas jumped at the chance. In Thor #296-298 (1980), Thomas and Keith Pollard related the tale of Marvel’s Brunnhilde. Sadly, it was not written in operatic verse.
It was revealed that Odin once transformed his son Thor into the mortal warrior known as Siegmund. When events decreed that Siegmund must die, Odin ordered Brunnhilde, the leader of the soul gathering Valkyrior to retrieve the warrior after his death and bring him to Valhalla. Brunnhilde and Siegmund fell in love and the Valkyrie granted her lover immortality and invulnerability as long as his back was never to a foe. When Siegmund finally died, Brunnhilde threw herself on her lover’s funeral pyre. Odin took pity on the lovers and restored them back to their Asgardian selves with neither Thor nor Brunnhilde remembering the tragedy of the past. Yes, most of this was based on Wagner as Thomas somehow melded classic opera into the Marvel Universe because Thomas is a god and we all should light candles to him on a weekly basis.
Brunnhilde went back to Asgard where she happily returned to gathering souls (as one does) until she met Amora the Enchantress. The two became temporary BFFs, but when Brunnhilde found out that Enchantress was all sorts of horrible, Amora put the warrior in a state of suspended animation and used the Valkyrie’s spirit as a plaything. And that’s how we explain the almost Valkyrie debuts in Avengers and the Hulk. This was all revealed in The Defenders #108 (1982) by J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Gruenwald, and Don Perlin.
The history of Valkyrie and Enchantress is endlessly fascinating, but sadly, it has no resemblance to what is explored in Thor: Ragnarok. However, the third Thor film does feature Skurge the Executioner, longtime lover and minion of the Enchantress so perhaps we are not as far from Amora the Enchantress appearing in live action as we might think. Plus, Amora’s sister Lorelei already appeared on Agents of SHIELD, so maybe we can see the relationship between Valkyrie and Amora play out at some point on the big screen.
Valkyrie seemingly died at the end of the first Defenders series but was resurrected by writer Peter B. Gillis in Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #3 (1989) where the spirit of Brunnhilde bonded with a human woman named Sian Bowen. Years later, and with Bowen all but forgotten, Valkyrie joined the Secret Avengers and also formed a new team of Defenders known as the Fearless Defenders. This reimagined team of Defenders were gathered to be a new grouping of Valkyries led by Brunnhilde.
The gathering of the new Valkyries in Fearless Defenders was Brunnhilde’s last major contribution to the Marvel Universe. But with Tessa Thompson taking up the sword of the Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, you just know that we are ready to experience the Golden Age of this oft-confusing but awesome character.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!
Thor: Ragnarok stars Cate Blanchett as Hela, the Asgardian goddess of death. We look at her comic book history...
Cate Blanchett has nailed the dark majesty of Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, and her interpretation of the Asgardian Queen of the Dead looks like it stepped out of a Jack Kirby black light poster. That intensity, that over the top yet awesome helmet, that dark majesty, it all just screams Goddess of Death.
Really, Hela is just one of those villains that transcends being a simple evildoer. Hela, daughter of Loki, Queen of the Dead, is more akin to a cosmic force of nature than she is a simple villain. Hela is a complex being that goes beyond traditional ideas of good and evil. She is an awesome figure that sparks dread and awe on all who set eyes upon her, and with good reason. Just check out that Jack Kirby design! Of all the Kirby crafted Asgardian legends introduced in Kirby and Stan Lee’s run on Thor, Hela is the most badass, over the top, majestically rendered of them all. And over the years, many Hela tales were just as awesome as Kirby’s visual design.
So let us journey into the Asgardian underworld and take a look at the history of Marvel’s newest and most horrific big screen villain, Hela...
Hela first appeared in the Tales of Asgard back up in Journey into Mystery #102 (1964) in a Kirby and Stan Lee tale called “Death Comes to Thor."
In this story, a young Thor consults the Three Fates to find out when he will be allowed to wield Odin’s magic hammer Mjolnir. The Fates tell Thor that he will only be worthy of the hammer when he faces death. Later, Thor discovers that Storm Giants have kidnapped Thor’s beloved Lady Sif (Storm Giants are dicks). Thor confronts the king of the giants who reveals he bartered Sif with Hela, the Goddess of Death, in exchange for immortality. Thor journeys to Hela’s realm and offers his own soul in exchange for Sif’s. Hela is so moved she allows both Asgardians to leave her realm still possessing their life sparks. When Thor returns, the hammer accepts him because he now has indeed faced death.
So check it, in Hela’s very first Marvel appearance, she is instrumental in Thor gaining his magic hammer. Kind of ironic that in Thor: Ragnarok, Hela is seen shattering that very same hammer. But that’s Hela, as unpredictable as death.
In Thor #150 (1968), the God of Thunder is seemingly killed by the human villain known as the Wrecker. Thor’s spirit enters Hela’s realm where the Goddess of Death once again allows Thor to return to life. This issue and her first Tales of Asgard appearance speak to how complex Hela is. She isn’t just some hand wringing arch villain, she is a woman of honor that lives by her own code. She is way more powerful than Thor (which explains the hammer smashing) and her powers even rival Odin’s might.
Hela has command of magical energies and is an equal to Doctor Strange and the Ancient One when it comes to the mystic arts. She has a touch that causes instant death to man and god alike, but she can also grant immortality and raise the dead. Hela possesses telepathy, teleportation, and can create undead creatures to do her bidding. Yeah, she’s a badass. Like a totally overpowered D&D character rolled up by a fourteen year old metalhead hopped up on Sour Patch Kids and Pepsi.
Now that we know what a beast Hela can be, let’s talk about her origins. Hela was born to her father Loki and her giantess sorceress mother Angrboda. Hela’s siblings are the Fenris wolf and the Midgard Serpent. It must be difficult to be the sister of a giant wolf and a serpent that can coil around and crush the Nine Realms, but that was Hela’s lot in life.
When the prophetic Norns predicted that Hela would destroy Asgard, Odin exiled his grandaughter, sending her to rule the underworlds of Hel and Niffleheim. There, Hela presided over the souls of the dead. However, Odin oversaw the dead of Asgard and constructed Valhalla as a place where Asgardian warriors would go in the afterlife. So Hela very much enjoys plotting and scheming to get pure Asgardian souls to fill her two underworlds. Hela has always longed for the souls of Thor, Odin, and the nigh perfect god known as Balder (and how the Hel has Balder not appeared in a Marvel film as of yet?), but Hela has always rejected the souls of these gods if she could not win them through fair contests.
Some other memorable Hela stores include: Thor #199 (1972) by Gerry Conway and John Buscema where Hela battled the Olympian God of the Underworld Pluto for the soul of Odin. When it looked like Pluto might win, Hela restored Odin to life. Uncanny X-Men Annual #9 (1985) where Hela tried to lay claim to the soul of Wolverine, and during Walter Simonson’s immortal mid-1980s run on Thor where Hela cursed the Thunder God by making his bones brittle. Now, Thor was unable to heal his wounds and was forced to don the Destroyer armor to take on the Midgard Serpent. Listen, if you have even a passing interest in Thor, check out Simonson’s run because comics just don’t get any better.
Recently, Hela has begun paling around with the death worshipping Thanos. For decades, Thanos has been in love with the anthropomorphic representation of Death, a robed and skinless silent woman who Thanos has devoted his life to. Hela is the perfect rebound for Thanos because she too is death given sentient form. This is a fascinating little wrinkle which begs the question: Could Hela fill in for Death as Thanos’ love interest in Avengers: Infinity War? It would make sense considering that Hela is the Asgardian embodiment of Death and who wouldn’t want to see Josh Brolin and Cate Blanchett play out this potentially twisted romance on the big screen?
Oh, did we mention that there was once a story where Marvel’s World War II heroes the Invaders had to face down a Nazi controlled Hela in All-New Invaders #1-2 by James Robinson and Steve Pugh? Yeah, that was pretty damn unforgettable, mainly because Hela is such an epic yet adaptable character. She stands above other villains because of her majesty and her twisted honor, and her familial connections to many of the Asgrdian pantheon means that there is always a story to be told with this dark goddess of death. And did we mention that helmet? The fact that Marvel had the balls to create an exact replica of that Kirby designed over the top headpiece means that Thor: Ragnarok is going to rule on the sheer audacity of the design aesthetic.
A shakeup could lead to a starkly different Goosebumps 2.
Goosebumps 2 has a new screenwriter, but it may be losing its star. According to Variety, Rob Lieber (whose credits include Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) will pen the script for the Goosebumps sequel. His treatment, according to the trade, is believed to not involve Goosebumps star Jack Black.
Back in May, it was reported that Goosebumps 2 was moving ahead with the title Goosebumps: Horrorland with a January 2018 release. At the time, it looked like Darren Lemke would reprise his screenwriting duties. Now that Lieber is tasked with penning the script, we’ll have to see if the title of the film changes, and what Black’s involvement is.
Goosebumps, based on R.L. Stine's children's horror series of the same name, was one of the best family films of 2015, and was a box office winner for Sony after raking in $156 million.
Goosebumps 2 Release Date
Goosebumps 2 was set to shoot sometime in 2017 for a January 26, 2018 release date. With a new writer on board, we’ll have to see if the production is still on track for 2018.
Goosebumps 2 Cast
Jack Black, who starred as a fictionalized version of R.L. Stine, appears unlikely to return. Stars Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, and Ryan Lee are also expected back for the sequel. Rob Letterman will return to direct.
Riverdale is avoiding a sophomore slump by asking some tough questions about how America responds to terror.
Warning: This article contains spoilers through Riverdale Season 2, Episode 4.
Riverdale is known for its delightful teen soap shenanigans, but amidst all of the camp lies a surprisingly earnest exploration of America's current struggle with terror, trauma, and a lack of control.
Riverdale's first season was a fun, fierce teen murder mystery drama, its second season represents a whole new breed of ambition. Season 2 is challenging its viewers to ask themselves some tough questions about how America responds when it feels threatened, and it's not pulling its punches on the answers.
While Riverdale has only truly begun delving into these topical themes in its second season, the show planted the seeds for their exploration in the Season 1 finale, with Betty's jubilee speech.
Riverdale's at a crossroads. If we don't face the reality of who and what we are, if we keep lying to ourselves and keeping secrets from each other, then what happened to Jason could happen again ... Riverdale must do better. We must do better.
With these words, it felt like Betty was speaking directly addressing the viewers at home, challenging us, too, to do better, reminding us (or those of us who have the privilege to forget) that history does not always move in a linear, upward progression. We have work to do.
So how is the town of Riverdale doing in Season 2? Are they "doing better," per Betty's challenge? Um... not so much. In the space of four episodes, Archie has: organized a town militia populated by high school jocks, bought a gun and pulled it on someone, and agreed to a rumble with the teenage members of the Southside Serpents.
In other words, Archie has been dealing with the trauma of seeing his father shot and being himself held at gunpoint in the way most men are socialized to deal with fear and trauma: with anger, a desire to act as the protector (even when those they are "protecting" are actively asking them not to), and by lashing out with violence.
Archie has canonically been a mainstream representation of the "average" American, i.e. a straight, white man. This is the same demographic that, today, we can talk about in slightly more honest terms as one that is statistically more likely to perpetrate violence. Riverdale is not demonizing Archie, but it is also not shying away from that fact.
Archie's bad choices all came to a head in this week's episode, "The Town That Dreaded Sundown." Thus far, much of Archie's behavior has been allowed to go unchecked. His father is still recovering from his near-death experience, and everyone else is handling an obviously traumatized Archie with kid gloves. In "The Town That Dreaded Sundown," it becomes apparent to many (though, notably, not all) of Archie's friends, family, and neighbors that it's time to remove aforementioned kid gloves.
Even Veronica, who has thrown herself into being a supportive girlfriend with an arguably unhealthy degree of blind loyalty, describes Archie's YouTube debut as "lin[ing] up a bunch of semi-naked boys straight out of Lord Of The Flies, put[ting] them in red ski masks, and deliver[ing] some Unabomber-like manifesto"— a description that is funny, but also scarily accurate.
For the people on the Southside who don't personally know Archie, his Red Circle video is understandably terrifying. Even for the people who do know Archie, it is a cause for some fear. When Principal Weatherbee confronts Archie about it, the teenager seems to think think "You have my word: there is only one person who should be scared of that video," is a comforting explanation.
Archie's dive off of the deep end is scary for the degree to which his status as the well-liked white dude from a "good family" gives him leeway. When he starts a teenage vigilante mob, Principal Weatherbee initially supports it. When he denies being the ginger Riverdale High kid waving a gun around on the Southside, Sheriff Keller if not believes him, then lets him get away with it. (Imagine if this were Jughead, or any kid from the Southside.)
In the end, Archie isn't stopped by some institutional authority, but rather by his more level-headed girlfriend. Veronica literally has to shoot a gun into a thunderstorm during a rumble to get Archie to pay attention, to stop him from doing something he can't take back. Even Archie recognizes that, if Veronica hadn't been there, someone could have been hurt or killed.
As a white dude from a "good family," Archie is not someone who is used to being held accountable for his actions, and Riverdale knows that. In different ways than Jughead or Betty or Kevin, the system fails Archie, too. It lets him get this far. It doesn't stop him. Veronica does that.
While Archie is across town fighting Southside Serpents in the rain, his father is arguing for the soul of Riverdale. Fred, who has also directly suffered at the hands of the Black Hood, is a ray of hope in Riverdale's response to terror.
Fred defends not just the Northside, as so many Northsiders (including Archie) seem to define Riverdale, but the Southside, too. Alice Cooper, someone who came from Southside herself, calls her former home neighborhood "a blight of empty storefront and vacant lots — a pit of violence, waiting to erupt."
Along with Archie, Alice is the representation of America's worst habits when confronted with terror. Earlier in the episode, Alice delivers an emotional speech to Betty about how scared she is, terrified that her daughters won't come home.
These are valid fears — the Black Hood is killing people — but Alice Cooper doesn't strike back at the Black Hood. She strikes out at the Southside. She embodies those people with relative power who, when confronted with terror they can't control, start swinging at the easiest, most familiar, most vulnerable targets. In this case: the impoverished Southside.
Fred Andrews acts as the voice of reason in the Riverdale town hall meeting (a meeting that is noticeable devoid of Southside residents).
You talk about the town being divided. Alice, you're the one holding the cleaver. The Southside is not the issue. The issue is there is a guy out there with a gun and a hood. And he's bringing out the worst in this town, pitting it against himself.
This response is also what Betty predicted in her jubilee speech when she reminded the people of Riverside that Jughead Jones is Riverdale, too.
Without him, we may not have ever found out what happened to Jason. And yet how do we thank him? By banishing him. Which is what we do when the truth gets too ugly in Riverdale.
It's hard not to notice the relative darkness of Riverdale Season 2 as compared to its first season, but what else would you expect from a series about a town canonically meant to be reflection of America? In a historical moment where there seems to be another mass shooting incident everyday, anything less would feel like a lie.
Something less is what most shows go for these days: escapism over catharsis. Riverdale Season 2 is going for both, and, for the most part, it's succeeding. If Riverdale is a stand-in for the soul of America — a microcosm of our hopes, dreams, fears, and flaws — then Season 2 has become an exploration of how that soul can and has been corrupted. Or, more accurately, how it's been corrupted all along. Now, we're allowed to talk about it. We must talk about it.
We use Thor: Ragnarok and other 2017 MCU movies as a case study for why the Marvel Studios formula benefits from comedy.
Dying is easy, comedy is hard. It’s an age-old truism that, at least in entertainment, always persists. Just look at how many studios have struggled to make their own somber and ponderous superhero franchises—much less a universe filled with them—and then how deceptively easy the Marvel Cinematic Universe has continued to truck along in comparison. While other filmmakers risk dying on the vine in a reach toward the grandiose, the MCU seems to skate into its unending success, just as its irreverent smirk spreads ever wider.
That appealing consistency is certainly true of the next movie off the Marvel Studios assembly line, Thor: Ragnarok. Directed by indie darling Taika Waititi, the Kiwi director behind two of the decade’s most delightfully strange comedies, including Hunt for Wilderpeople, Marvel has arguably never leaned deeper into the realm of slapstick and the type of knowing satisfaction that comes with playing everything as a lark. Even the Norse mythology genocide in the film’s title is a punchline. When the apocalypse proves to be a situation ripe for ridicule, it is difficult to do anything but also chuckle.
This is par for the course with the film, as Thor: Ragnarok would appear to offer the final confirmation that has permeated around Marvel Studios films since their 2008 inception: they work better as comedies. To be sure, not all Marvel movies are laughers, and there have been even a few that took a respectable stab at something resembling dramatic weight. Look no further than Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a superhero movie wherein all involved told the press lines that this was the equivalent of a “1970s spy thriller.” They even had Robert Redford stuck in a glorified cameo to pove it! Yet very few spy thrillers end with a fight to save the world from a giant CGI leviathan crashing into the Potomac. Nay, the MCU films have always kept more than one foot in the realm of Saturday morning cartoon, and a tongue firmly planted in their cheek.
Thus after nearly 10 years, it seems Marvel Studios has finally done some soul searching, as Thor: Ragnarok caps a trio of 2017 MCU films that were low on stakes (even if two of them involved the fate of the whole galaxy) but were high on cheeky sass. And honestly, all three of them were a cut above most compatriots derived from the Marvel Studios formula, with Spider-Man: Homecoming being exceptionally strong. Comparably, Thor: Ragnarok plays swell as an easygoing farce about surfer bros—at least during its best sequences—and embraces the MCU’s most worthwhile and self-aware elements while not rocking the brand’s boat. When Thor works, like Guardians of the Galaxy and the most recent Spidey adventure, its lighthearted charms are infectious. Just so long as you don’t think about it too hard, of course.
Ragnarok’s virtues and flaws are apparent in simply how the film is divided. Cut into three sections, it is in the abnormally long second act where Waititi is allowed to paint a little bit outside the very familiar lines and find his preferred absurdity. That is also why the mid-section takes up a full hour.
The threequel about Marvel’s most illustriously coiffed superhero begins redundantly enough. Like the two Thor movies before it, Chris Hemsworth’s talents are checked by a general aversion by the Marvel powers-at-be to ever take the material too seriously or attempt something substantial with the rather uncomfortably adorned fantasy trappings. Thor has returned to Asgard, suspecting something is amiss with his father (Anthony Hopkins) and quickly deduces that he is actually facing his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in disguise as the old Norse king. They squabble again. And then, after much fan service and narrative rambling, confront their father once more.
Everything is so played out, even the reveal of a delicious new villain in the shape of Cate Blanchett at her most ferocious (and hammy) is treated rather perfunctory. Whereas a similarly mythical-superhero hybrid earlier this year, Wonder Woman, treated the concept of Amazons and Greek gods with complete sincerity, Marvel is always weary of getting too close to Harry Hamlin territory. While lurching back into superhero conventions can cause other strange origin stories to appear serviceable, the cautious self-deprecation of the Thor movies always felt akin to filmmakers apologizing in advance for the silliness of the concept.
Yet if the studio will never dare reach toward Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter-adjacent airs for its fantasy, that doesn’t mean it has to be so damn boilerplate either. Hence why Waititi and the audience are overjoyed to spend most of the film’s running time on the second act where Thor gets banished from Asgard and the by-the-numbers plotting that resides there. (Alas, the game Blanchett isn’t so lucky.)
Instead the film becomes a situational comedy, much like Spider-Man: Homecoming’s intense fascination with day-to-day high school hijinks, or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 devoting more time to Rocket and Yondu hanging out than on the cosmic potential of Ego’s powers. And when Thor changes its attention to an exiled god on a planet called Sakaar, we are all the better for it. The film essentially switches into the same genre as Guardians (smug sci-fi), and Waititi and Hemsworth are allowed to adlib and go into some off-the-wall directions. Suddenly, a narrative detour turns into a comedic goldmine. Among the elements that lift the movie out of its potential doldrums is a wonderfully depraved Jeff Goldblum who gives his most meta-acknowledgement of playing “Goldblum” this side of a Jurassic Park sequel. Embodying a lecherous and decadent king who finds inventive ways for executions via ray guns, and celebrates his birthday via cosmic pleasure palace, it’s a gnarly and sideways turn within the contours of what’s expected in a Marvel movie.
In essence, Sakaar is Jabba the Hutt’s opening of Return of the Jedi stretched out for an hour with Goldblum as the proverbial slug. How can that go wrong? Other winners include re-introducing Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner and his green-meanie alter-ego as a gladiatorial foe. This is right out of a Marvel Comics story called “World War Hulk,” but it plays much more like Point Break for whenever Banner is onscreen instead of the CGI big guy, with Ruffalo playing an awed Keanu to Thor’s alpha Swayze. Luckily, it’s not all so macho since the best character in this whole narrative tangent is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a hard-drinking anti-heroine who essentially gets to be the Han Solo of the movie.
It’s just irresistibly funny. At least until they all have to go back to Asgard to defeat Blanchett. Then the story falls back into MCU banalities and dutifully closes the plot with a gray-scaled, computer-generated overload. And it’s fine. It lacks the thrill of a twist that benefitted Spider-Man: Homecoming’s finale or the emotional weight that Guardians unexpectedly earned with Yondu, but it’s fine.
It’s also about as good as a Thor movie is going to get, because after 10 years, it’s abundantly clear that Marvel is never going to shakeup its formula too much. At least since 2012’s The Avengers, Marvel movies with few exceggrepetitiveness. In almost each of these movies, one or more Avengers (or aspiring Avengers) will learn a lesson about their own hubris and build a makeshift team together to save the day, whether they’re actually called the Avengers, Captain America’s Super-Friends, Ant-Man’s Ocean’s 11 crew, or the Guardians of the frickin’ Galaxy. Ragnarok even had some fun with this cliché by having Thor call his own film’s final team-up, “The Revengers.”
It can all be deadly boilerplate and will never risk reaching for something as ambitious—cinematically, narratively, intellectually, or emotionally—as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, or even James Mangold’s Logan from earlier this year. Even Thor after three films can’t take its conceit of gods and magic as earnestly as the unapologetic Wonder Woman from Patty Jenkins.
Yet there is method in this madness, as many superhero adventures that reach for that amount of vulnerability often just end up a vulnerable mess. The slow derailment of the original masterplan for the DCEU, beginning withg decade ago, but it also lends itself to seamlessly continuing the story, as each movie can be an episode in Peter Parker’s life as opposed to a life-shattering turning point.
Comedy might be harder than dying, but if this year’s three MCU movies are any indication, comedy is going to keep Marvel movies far from their deathbed for a long time to come.g
Thor: Ragnarok puts Hulk front and center. We want more stories with the big green guy.
In the next few years, relatively obscure characters like Black Panther, Gambit, and Aquaman will all get their shot on the big screen. Meanwhile, Hulk is still front and center in all the Avengers films, and of course has some gladiatorial fun with Thor in Thor: Ragnarok.
But a new Hulk solo movie? It doesn't look good.
There are several reasons for this. Marvel shares distribution rights with Universal for any potential solo Hulk film which complicates things a little. Hey, if Marvel Studios and Sony can get together and deliver Peter Parker and the world of Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is not such a stretch to imagine that Marvel and Universal can find some common ground to deliver the Hulk. But in the meantime, his Thor: Ragnarok adventure will do the trick.
But a new Hulk movie would have to be very different than any Hulk flick that came before it. There's only so many times you can work that tortured Jekyll/Hyde thing. But these stories that could make great Hulk movies, and some of 'em could even be spun as something other than Hulk solo movies, which might make things easier on Marvel Studios...
Marvel and the concept of hero shrinkage (not like that you perv) have long gone together - even in the pages of The Incredible Hulk. One of the Hulk's greatest loves, Jarella, is the queen of a sub-atomic world known as K'ai. When the Hulk is shrunk to sub-atomic size by the villain known as Psyklop, he finds adventure and romance in a John Carter-like swashbuckling journey through Jarella's world.
While on K'ai, the Hulk was hailed as a hero and fought microscopic boars and boa constrictors (which of course were huge to the even smaller Hulk) and who wouldn't want to see that awesomeness play out on the big screen? In addition to the innate coolness of this concept, Jarella and her world were created by Harlan Ellison and it would be beyond amazing to see Marvel exploit some of Ellison's comics work in film.
Later, Jarella would return and become a major Hulk supporting character until her tragic death in Incredible Hulk #240. The Hulk is certainly not known as a romantic character (despite his recent cinematic liaison with the Black Widow), but the tale of Hulk and Jarella stands as one of the most poignant romances of Marvel's Bronze Age.
Now, how is all this more than just another Hulk solo story you ask?
Simple, instead of Psyklop, how about tying the Hulk's shrinkage to the world of Ant-Man and making a journey to Jarella's realm a buddy film between Marvel's biggest hero and its smallest?
Now, follow me here, this could get a little red tapey. The Hulk isn’t the only Marvel character that Universal has a stake in. The rights to Namor, the Sub-Mariner are also held by Universal so perhaps if Marvel Studios is to come to some sort of Sony like accord with Universal, the Sub-Mariner can come along for the ride. If Marvel and Universal were to try and package the Hulk and Namor together then they need look no further than Incredible Hulk#118. This Stan Lee/Herb Trimpe masterpiece is the most perfect Sub-Mariner/Hulk mash up ever.
The book starts with an unconscious Hulk washing up on in Atlantis and found by Sub-Mariner's consort, the Lady Dorma. Enter Mistress Fera, a rival to Dorma for Namor's affections. Fera tells Namor that she has seen Dorma canoodling with the Hulk and the battle is on.
Of course, any film adaptation of this particular issue would probably have to go a little farther than the machinations of a jilted lover causing the colossal struggle, but the battle between the Hulk and Sub-Mariner in this issue is pure majesty. If Marvel and Universal want a cinematic conflict between these two titans than the whole thing is masterfully storyboarded right here in this issue. This is probably all wishful thinking, but hey, if Aquaman makes DC and Warner Bros serious bank, the prospect of a Sub-Mariner film (especially packaged with the Hulk) will become a bit more compelling to those that hold the rights to Marvel's Golden Age great.
Marvel's Cinematic Universe hasn't gotten timey wimey yet, but if we do get some Marvel time travel at some point, then I can think of no better story to start the chronal madness than Future Imperfect.
In this seminal event by legendary Hulk writer Peter David and legendary everything artist George Perez, the modern day Hulk travels to a dystopian future to take on that future's brutal dictator. The despot in question is none other than a bearded, futuristic version of the Hulk named Maestro.
Future Imperfect is so big and involves so many Marvel characters that it could really be a huge event film. The Maestro could serve as a reminded just how dangerous the Hulk could be and also be a way for Marvel to tell a huge Hulk stories while presenting alternative versions of its favorite heroes. Plus, it's time Marvel starts exploring some of Peter David's work in other media as he was one of the best writers Marvel had to offer in the '80s and '90s.
Hulk versus Hulk with the fate of the future of the Marvel Universe at stake, what more can a moviegoer ask for?
The Pantheon Saga
Speaking of Peter David, one of the scribe's most memorable arcs during his incredibly long run on The Incredible Hulk was the Pantheon saga. The Pantheon storyline ran for three years and put Bruce Banner's alter ego into some very new and surprising situations, situations that are cinematic enough in scope to be considered for a future film. The Pantheon were all super powered descendants of the half Asgardian/ half human god Agamemnon who led his team in its mission to protect humanity.
Hell, after Hulk's recent adventures with the Asgardians in Thor: Ragnarok, that can be your way into this. The members of the Pantheon were all given enough foibles and motivation to come to the big screen fully formed and a Hulk/Thor meets high tech Greek demi-gods joint sounds big enough to us to solve the Hulk solo film conundrum.
Are you up for a Hulk: Agent of SHIELDfilm? You bet your purple pants you are! That's what Mark Waid's Indestructible Hulk essentially was.
The high concept of this great book is Bruce Banner agreeing to allow SHIELD to use him as a weapon in the hottest of hot zones in exchange for funding his humanitarian efforts. Waid weaved the Hulk into some surprising settings such as time travel adventures, an adventure in Asgard, and even a team up between the Hulk and the Inhumans, any of which would make for some big budget and intriguing film fodder.
Original Sin: Hulk vs. Iron Man
You want a Hulk movie to make some serious cash? Drop him in Jurassic Park. But since that's impossible, instead, how about teaming big green with Marvel's surefire superstar Iron Man.
Original Sin: Hulk Vs. Iron Man presented the perfect set up for a Hulk Vs. Iron Man battle. This series showed readers just how deeply Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were involved in each others' lives before they became Avengers. The series also put both characters' past sins on display and suggested that Tony Stark and his ego may just be responsible for the Hulk's existence.
Fans have been clamoring to see more of the science bros since the first Avengersmovie and the HulkBuster Vs. Hulk battle in Avengers: Age of Ultron just solidified how awesome it is when these two marvels clash. Wrapping Hulk into an Iron Man film could be just the push the Green Goliath needs to take the character to the next level and it gives Marvel's most bankable star another chance to headline.
World War Hulk
Just call it Avengers 5 if you want, but all the Hulk threads that began in the first Avengerscould culminate in World War Hulk. Marvel is going to need to go bigger and badder if it is to follow up Thanos and the Infinity War movies, and a revenge seeking post-Planet Hulk Banner is as big and bad as they come.
If Marvel wants to fully exploit Hulk as a franchise character, then this tale of tragedy, betrayal, and revenge is the perfect blockbuster direction. The entire Marvel Universe versus the Hulk and his space armada, what else can you ask for? Many of the key players of this storyline, Iron Man, Black Panther, Black Bolt of the Inhumans, are already in place (or soon will be) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so the stage is set for World War Hulk- the biggest Hulk story of them all.
Thor: Ragnarok has more cosmic Marvel references than we were expecting...and we were expecting a whole lot!
Thor: Ragnarok isn't just the best Thor movie. It's the most cosmic Marvel movie this side of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. And without any pesky, annoying Earthlings (ahem, Midgardians) hanging around to clog up the proceedings it's got more Marvel references and easter eggs per frame than any of its predecessors.
Thor: Ragnarok is a feast for Marvel fans, and it will probably take me a second viewing to catch everything in it, simply because in nearly every scene there's a design, a piece of architecture, or a background character who positively must have come from the comics page. So with the full understanding that I definitely missed something (or a few something), it's up to you, dear readers, to help me out. Spot something I didn't? Shout it out in the comments, or give me a holler on Twitter. If it checks out, I'll update this!
What is Ragnarok?
- Ragnarok, of course, is the Norse "twilight of the gods." Key points of the mythological Ragnarok that are explored here include the death of Odin and Thor losing an eye (although he usually has to do that to himself in order to gain knowledge, but we'll take the badass fight instead for cinematic purposes).
Marvel has touched on Ragnarok more than once in the comics, most notably in stories by Walt Simonson (whose influence is all over this movie) and more recently by Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea Di Vitto. It was in the latter that we see a couple of small elements in this movie, notably the shattering of Thor's hammer, the death of the Warriors Three, and Surtur's prominence.
The first villain we meet in the movie is Surtur, and fans of Walt Simonson's take on Thor will be excited. While the character has been around since the Lee/Kirby days, it's really the Simonson stuff that made the character pop on the comics page, and the visual we get here is more in line with his vision.
- Surtur ends up kind of manifesting a giant snake, and I wonder if this is supposed to represent the Midgard Serpent, disturbance of which is another harbinger of the mythological Ragnarok.
Hela first appeared in Journey into Mystery #102 (1964) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. That crazy headdress has always been part of the party...
Although this page is even more like the look we get in the movie...
Hela’s origin is different from both her comic and mythological versions. It's way too much to get into here, but we have a whole article about it for you.
It's nice to see Fenris hanging around, not just because he's a giant, pointy-eared doggie, but because Fenris played a reasonable role in the aforementioned Michael Avon Oeming/Andrea Di Vitto Ragnarok comic.
- Skurge "The Executioner" appeared way the hell back in Journey Into Mystery #103 in 1964, and like so many characters in the Thor movies was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He didn't really come into his own until the Walt Simonson days, and the bit in the movie with him having a change of heart and using that pair of M16s to hold a bridge is straight out of Thor #362 by Mr. Simonson.
- One cool thing you might want to know is that the Grandmaster is the brother of the Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy. We wrote much more about his bonkers history right here if you're interested.
- In the Planet Hulk comics, Grandmaster wasn't a factor, and the arena battles Hulk fought in weren't referred to as "The Contest of Champions." There was, however a Contest of Champions comic book series, where Grandmaster was very much the primary antagonist. That's his thing, pitting folks against each other, and he's quite good at it.
- Valkyrie has an extraordinarily complicated comic book history. Fortunately, we detailed it in easily digestible form for you right here.
- I can't think of any appropriate Marvel reference for Valkyrie's "142" suffix on her Scrapper 142 code name. Help me out if you know something I don't.
- Also, can anyone tell me if the cranky lady who also hangs out with Grandmaster is another fallen Valkyrie? Is that made clear and I just missed it?
- She may not resemble the comic book version of the character all that much, but that final blue and white armor she wears is definitely a nod to her comic book color scheme.
Thor: Ragnarok - The Planet Hulk Connection
- So, Sakaar is, literally the "Planet Hulk" of the comics. Not that it's a planet full of Hulks or anything, but that is indeed where it all takes place. In the comics, though, Hulk didn't accidentally end up hurtling off into space, he was actually sent their by Tony Stark and Reed Richards because he's such a menace. It...it didn't end well for anyone involved.
But Hulk did indeed end up as a Gladiator on Sakaar (it had nothing to do with the Grandmaster). However, he didn't fight Thor in the arena...he fought the Silver Surfer! But since the Surfer is sadly unavailable for Marvel Studios (which is a damn shame...can you imagine what they could do with this character?) they swapped him out for Thor. This fight ALMOST happened in the animated adaptation of Planet Hulk, except there it was the Beta Ray Bill version of Thor in the arena with Hulk.
Beta Ray Bill may not actually be here, but he is in spirit. You can see his face as one of the sculptures on the tower that Hulk resides in. See the horse faced thing on the left?
Well, it might not be Bill, it could be a member of his race, but based on that connection to the animated version of Planet Hulk, I could see him being an earlier Champion here. There's another head sculpture, with someone with three spiked horns, who looked kind of familiar, but I can't quite place it. If you know who it is, shout it out in the comments or on Twitter, please!
- Korg, believe it or not, is a character who has been here since Thor's very first appearance in 1962. You know the cover of Journey Into Mystery #83 with Thor taking out a bunch of alien rock dudes? Well, it turns out, one of 'em is Korg.
Korg returned for the Planet Hulk storyline (and he's far less of a goofball there) and along with Miek, was one of Hulk's "Warbound" crew of rebels/revolutionaries. I kind of wish the revolution element of this movie was a little more pronounced, but whatever, they had bigger fish to fry.
Speaking of Miek...
Miek, the weird little insectoid creature is actually a native of Sakaar in the comics. I don't think that's the case here, otherwise there would be more of him.
- Hulk is introduced to the arena as "The Incredible Hulk" which is, of course the name of his comic and the famed TV series. But he is also referred to in casual conversation as "astonishingly savage." The Savage Hulk has been the title of more than one Hulk series throughout Marvel history. After Hulk's first solo comic fizzled out in the early 1960s he spent time co-headlining Tales to Astonish, which eventually just became The Incredible Hulk series.
- When Hulk says “No Banner only Hulk” that's a sentiment he's uttered at various points in his comic book history. But there have been some notable times when Hulk has remained in Hulk form for extended periods, sometimes maintaining more of Banner's intelligence, too. Planet Hulk was one of them (although he was far from a full-on Banner style genius), although he definitely was smarter during his years with The Pantheon. We detailed a couple of "no Banner only Hulk" type stories here.
- Hulk's cool looking bed doesn't appear to be a design lifted straight out of the comics, although it bears a slight resemblance to the canopied bed he has in the Future Imperfect story. Maybe not enough for me to mention it here, but I'm mentioning it anyway.
Miscellaneous Cool Stuff
- Loki references “that time I turned you into a frog” to Thor. This is a wonderful, wonderful reference to one of Walt Simonson's wackier Thor ideas...Throg. No, I swear to god.
Now, to be fair, Throg isn't our Thor, and Loki had nothing to do with it, but it's a real thing because Walt Simonson is a genius.
Thor's short-haired look has been a thing recently in The Unworthy Thor comics.
It goes along with his new weapons, too...
Thor's "club" looks looks like the mace that Marvel's version of Hercules wields. Which reminds me, they really need to introduce Hercules into the MCU.
- As we show up at Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum at 177a Bleecker Street you can hear the strains of a harpsichord, which is more than a little reminiscent of Michael Giacchino's score for that movie.
And while that movie was very much an origin story, here we get a more fully-formed Doctor Strange, and that's exactly what I wanted from the movie version of the character in the first place. He should be mysterious and powerful, and when other heroes come to him for help it should be because they have absolutely no idea what the hell else to do with themselves.
Also, the addition of Doctor Strange to a movie that also includes Valkyrie and Hulk can't be an accident. All three of them were founding members of the comic book version of The Defenders, a team which bears almost no resemblance to the ones on Netflix.
- We finally get an explanation for how Odin can have an Infinity Gauntlet hanging around in his trophy room: it's a fake.
- While we've seen the visual cue plenty of times in the movies, this is the first explicit explanation of how Thor flies around: by throwing his hammer and catching it at the last second so it can pull him through the air. I've always loved this, as weird and implausible as it seems.
- “Wrath of the Mighty Thor” sounds like it could be a comic book title. And indeed, many Thor comics have been called The Mighty Thor.
Like we've seen in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, so many of the spaceships look kinda like some of the crazy ships that were designed by Chris Foss for Alejandro Jodorowsky's lost Dune movie.
Here's one for comparison:
And for real, if you haven't seen the Jodorowsky's Dune documentary, I can't possibly recommend it enough.
- When our heroes are returning to Asgard and they pass out in the wormhole, I can't help but be reminded of a similar sequence in Mike Hodges' brilliant Flash Gordon movie from 1980. Both movies are incredibly colorful and bonkers space operas.
Not only is there a strong Jack Kirby influence visible in virtually every character and costume design you can see here, even in the shape of that crazy doorway, but there appears to be literal Jack Kirby artwork on the walls there.
What you're seeing is a detail from a page from Fantastic Four #64.
Throughout so much of the rest of the movie, you can see that kind of crazy Kirby-inspired circuitry and technology. Nearly everything has "Kirby tech" markings that remind me of details from a piece of non-comics related Kirby art called "Dream Machine."
Thor: Ragnarok Post Credits Scenes
There are two key takeaways here. The first is that it seems likely the surviving Asgardians will set up shop on Earth, like they did during J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel's era on the character.
But more importantly, that is most definitely Thanos' ship that appears before them, and that is going to throw a monkey wrench into things. Don't expect "New Asgard" (or Asgardia as it was known in the comics) to actually happen before Avengers 4 is finished at this point.
OK, these deserve a little more time, so we went into a little more detail on them here.
I'll be updating this throughout opening weekend, especially as I get more out of a second viewing. But in the meantime, if you've spotted something I missed, help us out in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!
So you want to learn more about Asgard after enjoying the hell out of Thor: Ragnarok? We've got the stories for you!
Thor: Ragnarok is here, and it is so hard to believe we now live in a world where there are three Thor movies. Thor has always been one of the biggest, boldest, brashest, sweepingly epic comics that Marvel publishes. For decades the exploits of Thor and the gods of Asgard were positively unfilmable. Creative team after creative team tried to top one another and create the grandest, the most mythic, and the most epic Thor stories possible. And since the character debuted in (1962), Thor has attracted some of the most finest and groundbreaking creators in comics.
So if you're a movie fan and you're looking for a place to start with the comics, we've got you covered.
When J. Michael Straczynski took over writing Thor in the late 2000s, the God of Thunder had been missing from the Marvel Universe for quite a while. But J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel brought Thor and his family of characters back in a big bad way. Thor was reborn and had to quest throughout reality to awaken all the other gods of Asgard.
This story introduced Lady Loki, a cosplay staple, and found new ways to present the gods crafted by Kirby and Lee. Many of these tales are set in Broxton, Oklahoma, combining the most fantastical elements of Thor and them with an everyday setting. Many of the Broxton elements were used in the first Thor movie.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger
This all too brief series by Chris Samnee and Roger Langridge is a perfect introduction to the world of Thor for readers of all ages. The story centers around the budding love between Thor and Jane Foster and it's something of a fish out of water series, a romantic approach to the Marvel legend of Thor, and just a kickass throwback comic that breathed new life into classic Thor foes like Mister Hyde. Thor the Mighty Avenger is just waiting to be discovered by fans eager for some note perfect Thor tales by two true modern comic book masters.
Looking for one of the major inspirations for Thor: Ragnarok? Look no further than Avengers Disassembled: Thor, which brought about the end of Asgard, and took Thor off the playing field for a while. Beautifully drawn by Andrea Di Vitto and written by Michael Avon Oeming, this comic book version of Ragnarok already felt like a movie waiting to happen, and you can see echoes of it on screen, although it's far more serious than it's movie counterpart.
Yeah, it's not a Thor story, and Thor doesn't even appear in the comic book version, but this story is so tied up in Thor: Ragnarok that we just had to include it. And anyway, Hulk as Space Gladiator just sells itself. If you haven't read this one yet, do yourself a favor, it's far more epic than even the movie version could possibly encompass.
Thor: God of Thunder
It’s like a Slayer concert but with Thor on bass. When people think of Jason Aaron’s Heavy Metal-esque run on Thor, they mostly envision the Jane Foster version of the God of Thunder. And with good reason. As Thor, Foster has become one of the most vital, powerful, and fascinating characters in the Marvel Universe, becoming worthy of the power of Thor while she is undergoing treatment for late stage cancer, and her unflinching bravery in the face of both medical and cosmic nightmares is incredibly inspiring.
But Jason Aaron has also has explored the original Thor, the Odinson who is every inch the hero as he was when he once wielded the mighty uru hammer. Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic introduced such concepts as Gorr the God Butcher, the serial killer of the gods, the God Bomb, and explored Thor in his brash youth and Thor when he is a one armed king billions of years from now. When Marvel starts looking at ideas for the next round of Thor movies, this is where they should start.
The Mighty Thor by Walt Simonson
Writer/artist Walt Simonson takes what Lee and Kirby established in the early days of Marvel’s Thor and turns the booming heavy metal soundtrack of it all up way past eleven. First off, Simonson loves myth and he loves comics, combining each of these passions into an operatic tribute to all the things that are great about Thor.
Simonson’s Thor was huge with complex battles, monsters that take up the entirety of dramatic double page spreads, and some of the most profoundly godlike moments in Marvel history. Yet, Simonson never loses the human elements and quiet moments that make Thor so special. For example, when Skurge the Executioner makes his last stand to help Thor and the gods of Asgard invade Hela’s ream, it brings a tear to the eye of even the most hardened comic fan.
Simonson didn't just play the hits as he also introduced a number of new characters and concepts into the world of Thor. This includes the mega-popular Beta Ray Bill, the weird, horse-like alien who lifts Mjolnir and transforms into a strange and awesome version of the Thunder God. Simonson’s renderings of the world of Thor were so dramatic that each image is like a thunderclap. Simonson’s dynamism and imagery are all over the Thor films (Malekith, the villain of Thor: The Dark World comes from Simonson's time), and with good reason, the creator was a bard worthy of the gods and his work remains arguably the highest point in the history of the character.
And oh yeah, did we mention that he penned a tale where Thor was transformed into a frog? Yeah, that happened and it was just as earth shaking as everything else that happened in Simonson’s immortal run on Thor.
The Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Years
When historians discuss the greatest moments of the immortal Lee and Kirby partnership, they usually begin the conversation with the duo’s collaboration on Fantastic Four. But their time on the God of Thunder both in Journey into Mystery and Thor rivals Fantastic Four for pure sheer scope and majesty. The world of Thor was made for (and by) Jack Kirby, who birthed some of his greatest creations on the world.
In Thor, Kirby got to do what he was best at, world building the Nine Realms by combining a sense of myth, fantasy, and bombastic sci-fi. Through the solo Thor feature and the Tales of Asgard backups, “The King” used his boundless imagination to bring some of the greatest characters of world myth to life. Kirby created all the familiar players of Asgard like Thor, Odin, Loki, Sif, the Warriors Three, Balder, Hela, Tyr, Fenris Wolf, the Midgard Serpent, Fafnir the Dragon, the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Destroyer, and so many more that were thrust into the Marvel Universe fully formed.
With Kirby was Stan Lee who infused Kirby’s concepts and characters with a grounded sense of humanity and humor. The vulnerability of Thor’s earthly identity, the crippled Doctor Don Blake was a pure Lee conceit. The romance between Blake and Jane Foster was right out of the Lee soap opera playbook as Lee and Kirby combined the fantastical with the mundane to create something truly great. As the series continued, it actually got more experimental and daring. The last few years of the Kirby/Lee collaboration saw Thor sent to the farthest corners of the galaxy and allowed their Thunder God to explore the boundaries of the Marvel Universe. One can say that the Marvel Cosmos was born in Fantastic Four, but it reached a maturity in Thor. Every issue of Kirby and Lee’s run provided generations of creatives with the DNA by which the Marvel Universe evolved in comics, TV, and film.