How many more comic book reboots do we have to endure nowadays?

Why does it seem that comic books don’t know what to do with themselves anymore? We’ve gone through several reboots, character deaths and subsequent rebirths, time travel, alternate realities, etc. Entire books have ended only to restarted under a new brand or idea, with revamped characters. It’s a never ending cycle.

I will admit that sometimes they have good ideas. Crisis on Infinite Earths and Age of Apocalypse are two of my all-time favorites. These multi-issue, cross brand arcs are what the comics need, from time-to-time. But lately, they seem to be doing it more for sales than content.

DC did the “New 52” back in 2011 after the Flashpoint crossover to give the characters a “jump start” into, what I would consider, their DCEU personas for the movie franchises. However, that didn’t last as the DC universe was rebooted again in 2016 with its Rebirth, as they called it.

So let me get this right… The original DC characters, in their first incarnations, lasted more than 60+ years until the New 52, which only last five years? What does that tell you?

Marvel is better at hiding these changes and reboots, but they’re terrible at killing characters off. In DC, three members of the Legion of Superheroes–Invisible Kid, Ferro Lad, and Chemical Kid–died and have stayed dead. Can you say the same for Jean Grey, Nick Fury, or anyone Deadpool killed in a dozen alternate realities? They even revived Scott Lang in the comics just to make the Ant-Man movie!

They’ve tried subtle reboots to invigorate the brand, like during the Onslaught crossover where Rob Liefeld got to create a new universe for the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, but it failed miserably. They tried to create a new “Ultimate” universe with new renditions and origins of classic characters, but then decided to combine them into one in the new Secret Wars (and I’m not talking the one where Spidey got his black suit).

Not all reboots are bad. Some bring fresh characters into the mix. During the Inhumanity crossover, we got a new Ms. Marvel as Carol Danvers finally became Captain Marvel. Two thumbs up for that one! And DC’s Dark Nights: Metal gave us one of the most twisted renditions of Batman ever seen in The Batman Who Laughs. Unreal!

So, let’s review. Reboots can be good at introducing new characters but some consistency please. We don’t need one every couple of years. It’s making “Silver Age” readers like me antsy!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend… Rest in Peace Stan Lee

I have been reading comics since the 60s. I can honestly say I was there at the rise of Marvel, thanks to men like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and countless others. I even remember writing a letter to Stan, hoping it would get added to the letters page and collect an infamous “no-prize” for my efforts.

The death of Stan Lee was not a surprise. His health had been failing and it was inevitable after the death of his wife, Joan, last year. But it does sadden me that a man, whom I never met but considered a mentor, is gone from my life.

Stan Lee was one of the reasons I became interested in fantasy, writing, and creating my own characters. My first original superhero was called Vulcan, a boy who found a meteor that imbued him with energy-based powers. Very cool! I even wanted to be a comic book artist, but I went the writing route because I wasn’t the best artist. My skills just never really improved.

I became a writer because of people like Stan Lee. He created some of the most iconic characters that are known around the world. The 60’s Spiderman cartoon theme song can be hummed by anyone who calls themself a nerd. That’s why it pisses me off when asshats like Bill Mahr dis the accomplishments of someone like Stan Lee.

As much as he inspired writers like me, he equally inspired scientists even more. I mean, think about it. Geeks who read comic books studied science and math to be like Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, or in a worse case scenario, Doctor Doom. He inspired the generations of scientists, doctors, physicists, and chemists who will take us to the future.

That’s the importance of someone like Stan Lee. It’s not just about comic books. It’s about the characters, the stories, the magic, and the science behind it. He gave us it all.

I will cry when I see his last cameo in Avengers 4. It will mean the end of an era for many of us who were with Stan from the very beginning. God bless you, Stan Lee, and, always and forever… Excelsior!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Avengers: Infinity War is the best Marvel movie yet – mostly SPOILER FREE movie review

Avengers-Infinity-War-IMAX-Poster-600x871First things first, this is going to be somewhat SPOILER FREE, though I doubt that’s necessary. After opening weekend, with more than $630 million at the worldwide box office, I doubt most of the secrets are out. I will be cautious in my review, but there will be some snippets of juicy information. You have been warned.

That being said, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR was–without a doubt–the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie to date. I was enthralled the entire movie. There was no lag, no slow spots, it was rolling thunder from beginning to end. Think of this movie as the waves off the North Shore in Hawaii… With each breaking wave, it built up, bigger and badder, until it finally broke across the shore.

In case you need a run down, Avengers: Infinity War brings the entire MCU cast of characters together to face off against Thanos, the Mad Titan. He wants to collect the six Infinity Stones (Power, Space, Time, Reality, Soul, and Mind) to achieve his ultimate goal… Wipe out half the population of the entire universe. In his twisted mind, doing this will save the universe from over-population, starvation, and war. Its going to take the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him.

First thing I want to mention is the many surprising deaths in this movie. I don’t know if those killed will stay that way (because, like all its comic books, Marvel has a way of constantly bringing dead characters back to life) but it was shocking, none the less. Again, I will not say who dies (SPOILER) because of the surprise deaths. I will reserve judgement for Avengers 4, coming out next year, to see if those killed are permanent or not.

Next, the villains. Thanos is played brilliantly by Josh Brolin. He is as evil, sick, calculating, twisted and deadly as he is in the comics. He uses the Infinity Stones to their complete potential as he brings down the heroes, one-by-one. His lieutenants, on the other hand, are another story. In the comics, the Black Order were so deadly that it took everything, and then some, to stand up to them. Yes, they are quite powerful in the movie and give the Avengers a run for their money. Overall, though, I found them to be less than worthy of being Thanos’ children.

Another complaint I have is the use of the Hulk (FYI, some spoilers here). He started out the movie better than expected. He went toe-to-toe with Thanos on the Asgardian refugee ship. It was so much fun to watch the fight, and a great way to start the movie. Yet, throughout the rest of the movie, he wouldn’t come out of Banner. It was as if the Hulk was afraid to face Thanos and his minions again. Yes, Bruce Banner stepped up to do the job, but it was hard to watch at times. That is definitely not the Hulk we all know and love since the 60’s. The Hulk is the strongest one there is. He needs to come back in Avengers 4.

On the positive side of all this was Thor. The Thor in Avengers: Infinity War makes up for the joking idiot we saw running around in Thor: Ragnarok. He was the essence of the last Asgardian, out to avenge his people. To do this, he goes to the dwarves of Nidavellier (who forged Mjolnir) to forge him a new weapon. There they find Eitri, the master weaponsmith, played by the unbelievably awesome Peter Dinklage. Yes I know, a dwarf playing a dwarf, but in Avengers: Infinity War, the dwarves of Nidavellier are three times the size of Thor. When Thor arrives in Wakanda to join the fight against Thanos’ army, he kicked ass with his new weapon Stormbreaker, and the audience erupted louder than any other point in the movie. Thor was the hero, the Avenger, we all knew him to be.

avengers-infinity-war1There were plenty of other surprises in this movie that tied back to all 18 previous films. It was incredible to watch and kept me on the edge of my seat:  Spider-man in his “Iron Spider” armor, complete with retractable legs, Iron Man’s “Bleeding Edge” nano-tech armor, finding out a certain Captain America is STILL ALIVE, and of course, Nick Fury’s return and the tease for Captain Marvel. It was all a comic book geek’s wet dream (apologize for the vernacular, but it’s quite accurate).

I think Avengers: Infinity War is a fun movie for anyone to see. It may take any non-comic book movie goers a little bit to understand the story as a whole, but it’s still an exciting roller coaster ride. It’s worth the price of admission to see it, especially in Real 3D and IMAX. The visuals are that impressive. So, great story, great cast, great visual effects, drama with the right amount of comedy, laughter and tears, shock and awe… It’s all in Avengers: Infinity War. A+++ Marvel! It was worth the wait!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

These comics are a “must read” before you see AVENGERS: Infinity War

Four days and counting until the release of Marvel’s “AVENGER: Infinity War” hits theaters, and I, for one, have been waiting for this since I saw Thanos’ grinning mug at the end of the first Avengers movie. It’s what everything has been boiling down to over all 18 Marvel movies. With that said, it’s always good to go back to the source material to fully understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Here are three essential reads that will help you better understand some of the major elements involved in the story behind the movie. Granted, they have been altered some to fit the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but the basics are all there.

Marvel_Graphic_Novel_Vol_1_1The Death of Captain Marvel (1982) — Jim Starlin created the first Marvel “graphic novels” with this masterpiece bringing about the death of one of Marvel’s beloved characters. Although there have been others to call themselves Captain Marvel, including a new movie coming out with Bree Larson as the titular character, Mar-Vell was the original. After discovering he’s dying of cancer, Mar-Vell takes his final journey by taking on his nemesis, Thanos. as he heads into the afterlife. This is not only a classic comic, but a great glimpse into the psyche of Thanos and his obsession with death. It’s also a glance into the cosmic universe side of Marvel and into the love given from the entire roll call of the Marvel universe to the original Captain Marvel.

250px-Infinity_Gauntlet_1The Infinity Gauntlet (1991) — The majority of the Infinity War movie is based on this Marvel mini-series from 1991. After Mistress Death brings Thanos back from the dead, she orders him to eliminate half the universe, to correct what she calls a cosmic unbalance. To do this, Thanos decides he needs the six infinity stones to complete the task. Collecting the stones, he begins to not only wipe out half the universe, but to take over all of eternity as well. This is the quintessential comic that has the ENTIRE backstory you need, from the infinity stones, his obsession with death, the gathering of heroes, EVERYTHING. There are even scenes from the comics that will be seen (and have already been seen in the trailers) from the comics. You will be more than prepared for this movie , even if you just read this one comic.

Infinity_1_coverInfinity (2013) — The main thing you’re going to find in this series is the villains that are supporting Thanos… The Black Order. The story behind Thanos searching for his Inhuman son, the destruction of Attilan, the release of the Terrigen Mist across the Earth is all inconsequential. The Black Order are the ones you’ll be interested in. Proxima Midnight, Corvis Glaive, Cul Obsidian (Black Dwarf in the comics) and Ebony Maw are his powerful and mysterious lieutenants, doing Thanos’ bidding without question. You’ll also see the Outriders, Thanos’ army (which appear in the battle of Wakanda scene in the trailer) and learn about them and their abilities. Again, you have to ignore the back story and just read it to learn about the Black Order. It will also give you a glimpse into something we may see more of down the road in the MCU… The Illuminati!

So, if you can, pick up these reads and hit the books before Friday. They are available as digital downloads so it should be easy to snag a look. See you at the movies!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Before you see “Avenger: Infinity War” you should see these essential Marvel movies

thanos-first-look-dlThe hype is nearly over. Avengers: Infinity War, the culmination of 10 years and 18 major motion pictures, is arriving on the big screen April 27. Most fans of Marvel Comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) knew this day was coming since we saw Thanos’ grinning face at the end of The Avengers and seeing Josh Brolin raise the Infinity Gauntlet at San Diego Comic-Con. If you don’t have the time to watch 18 Marvel movies in one sitting, then here are five “must see” Marvel movies that will help explain the basics of the MCU and lead you into the Infinity War.

IRON MANIRON MAN (2008) — This is the movie that started it all. Sure, their were plenty of previous films that carried the Marvel name, but for the MCU, this is it. There really is nothing better than watching Tony Stark create his armor from scratch and, after all non-stop action, see Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury talk about the “Avengers Initiative” with him. I still love watching this movie, especially the first fight he has in Gulmira; and, to be honest, this movie shows why Robert Downey Jr. is the heart of all of the MCU characters. He really embodies Tony Stark like no other. Like I said, it’s always best to start at the beginning.

THE AVENGERS (2012) — Sure, there are four other MCU movies in-between Iron Man and The Avengers, including some very good ones (Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) but they don’t tie together until The Avengers. Not only does it bring the team together for the first time, but it also showcases Thanos’ villainy and introduces two of the six Infinity Stones… The Space Stone (the Tesseract) and the Mind Stone (Loki’s staff). At the end, we got our first glimpse of Thanos and that wicked smile of his. the best part is seeing all six of the Avengers together with Iron Man saving the day. At the end, the Tesseract heads back to Asgard for safe keeping while Loki’s staff ends up in the hands of Hydra.

Guardians_Of_The_Galaxy_Vol_2_Official_Poster_LandscapeGUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014) — Although there were other movies (Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: Winter Soldier) that were excellent movies and do play an important role in the MCU but Guardians introduces another Infinity Stone… The Power Stone. Yes, Thor: The Dark World also introduces one of the stones… The Reality Stone, but its not a great movie and it actually confuses the issue. Guardians is fun, entertaining, and brings us Thanos, his daughters (Nebula and Gamora) and how bad ass the Guardians are. To me, the music makes the movie so much better. It’s a soundtrack of my youth and I love it.

doctor_strange_ver5DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) — This is the movie that introduces magic to the MCU. Yes, we’ve actually seen magic before, as used by Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies, but it was never really explained. Remember, Thor told us that “in his world, science and magic are one in the same.” The Ancient One explains it even further as she brings Doctor Strange into the world of arcane arts, i.e. “channeling energy from other dimensions” and spells are like programs” according to the MCU. With all of this, we also get glimpse of the power behind the Time Stone, which lies inside the Eye of Agamotto. Even though Doctor Strange becomes quite proficient in using it, there is a reluctance to keep an Infinity Stone around his neck all the time.

BLACK PANTHER (2018) — To be honest, this movie doesn’t tie into the whole scheme of things all that much. We know from the Avengers: Infinity War trailer that a major battle takes place in Wakanda, so it’s good to get to know all the players. I just had to put this here because, in all honesty, this was one of the best Marvel movies I’ve seen in a while. The story of T’Challa and his journey to the mantle of King, Protector, and Warrior for his people was a simple one, and yet, this movie put it together perfectly. It had just the right amount of action, comedy, and drama. I was glued to my seat from beginning to end. This was a true Marvel movie and it’s a great lead-in to Infinity War.

There are a lot of other great additions to this list. I mean, all three Captain America movies were, to me, the best series out of all 18 MCU movies. There were good and bad (yes, I’m looking right at you Iron Man 3 and Thor: Ragnarok) but they all played some small part in leading up to these next two major motion pictures. With Ant Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel coming next, the final phase of the MCU is coming to a close.

And then, guess what… It starts again! Excelsior!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

 

Superheroes have powers we would love to have, no matter how ridiculous

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Superheroes, to me, are the most versatile and amazing fantasy characters. You have your “Holy Trinities” in the main two comic book universes–Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman in DC; Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America in Marvel–but the fact that you can virtually create and hero or villain with any type of power imaginable is wonderfully adaptive for writers and artists alike.

One of the first comic book series I collected was DC’s Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. I liked it exactly because of that variety of powers. It was especially fun to read the storylines where they had tryout for new Legionnaires. You would get some of the most weird and wild powers, costumes, and names. I mean Double-Header, Esper Lass, Calorie Queen, Antenna Lad, Color Kid, Infectious Lass, and Porcupine Pete, just to name a few.

I see a lot of that wild variety in the anime My Hero Academia. While the show has some of the weirdest powers I’ve ever seen in comics, the concept behind it is so cool. A world where everyone has superpowers, or quirks as they call it. Some people have over the top, extraordinary powers, others have basic, simple powers.

For example, Shoto Todoroki has the quirk “hot and cold” meaning he can control fire and ice from each side of his body; but Yuga Aoyama, for some ridiculous reason, shoots a laser from his belly button. You know, it’s kind of out there but it makes perfect sense in a world like this. Additionally, unlike most comics, heroes are not part of the police force but licensed to us their powers to fight crime. They can’t use deadly force or even arrest bad guys themselves.

It’s such a wild ride, especially for an anime, and at times funny as Hell; but it also has a serious side. The stories cover every topic you would find in a afterschool special, but with superpowers mixed in. From teenage love to kids growing up too fast, these are the things we see in every teenage drama, but just with superpowers involved. And those powers are so freaky, and yet, they make them seem not only powerful but possible. There’s a pro-hero called Best Jeanist (yes, that’s his name) who is covered in denim from head to toe. His quirk manipulates fibers to ensnare or entangle his opponent. It seems ridiculous, yet he does it with “flair and style” like no other.

This is why superhero stories are so versatile and fun to write. It’s hard not to read a comic and find an example or inspiration in other characters. For example, if you look at DC’s Deathstroke and Marvel’s Deadpool, they’re basically the same character. Deadpool is Wade Wilson, Deathstroke is Slade Wilson. They both use every weapon imaginable, from guns to swords and daggers. Rob Liefeld, who created Deadpool, doesn’t hesitate to point out to the similarities, but won’t admit to it.

“I’ve always been in awe of Deathstroke — and “always” means since I was a child,” he said. “It might not be as obvious as it seems to me, but Deathstroke is blue and orange…and the last time I looked, Deadpool is black and red.”

Marvel did a direct ripoff from DC when they created the Squadron Supreme, an alternate world of superheroes that try to destroy the Avengers. Their superheroes mocked the Justice League with characters like Hyperion (Superman), Power Princess (Wonder Woman), Nighthawk (Batman), Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern) and the Whizzer (Flash). Both sides admit to the ripoff, but more so as a compliment and tribute rather than a zing.

These great stories we read as kids are finally making their way to the big screen. We used to get one or two superhero movies every four to five years, but now its two-to-three annually. The technology has finally caught up to where these great hero stories can go from comic book to screen I mean, watching the finally fight in Doctor Strange looked exactly like a page of art drawn by Steve Ditko in the 70’s.

I have always loved superheroes. I even created a few of my own as a kid (Vulcan, Moonbeam, and the Speed Demons to name a few), and brought them to life in the City of Heroes video game (see my blog for more on that). We love these stories because it shows us the best, and worst, humanity has to offer in the form of entertainment.

Admit it, when you saw Captain America fending off Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet in the new trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, you were psyched. It’s why we love them!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.