Marvel’s “What If?” was way ahead of its time

What If? #10 asked the question “What if Jane Foster found the hammer of Thor?” and that question was answered in 2014 when she picked up the hammer and became the God of Thunder.

Marvel’s “What If?” is a new animated series on Disney+ but it actually began more than 40 years ago in the comics. I have been reading What If? since its inception in 1977 and, to be honest, the writers were way ahead of their time. In fact, they foretold the future of Marvel Comics in more ways than one.

What If? is a comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics whose stories explore how the Marvel Universe might have unfolded if key moments in its history had not occurred as they did in mainstream continuity. Since What If? debuted in 1977, the comics have been published in 13 series as well as occasional stand-alone issues. As in the Disney+ animated series, the stories of the inaugural series (1977–1984) feature the alien Uatu, the Watcher as a narrator. From his base on the Moon, Uatu observes both Earth and alternate realities.

These early alternate realities, for the most part, actually came true in the Marvel Universe. In What If? #1, they wondered what would have happened if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four (an offer made in Amazing Spider-Man #1 in 1963). Years later, Spider-Man (and Wolverine) joined a new Fantastic Four team in Fantastic Four #347, while Spider-Man also joined the roster as part of the Future Foundation in The Amazing-Spider-Man #657. Prophecy becomes reality . . .

In What If? #10, the question was asked about Jane Foster picking up the hammer of Thor, something she did 30 years later and will be portrayed in the upcoming Marvel movie “Thor: Love and Thunder” as well. The early What If? comics were way ahead of their time. What If? #2 wondered if the Hulk still had Bruce Banner’s brain, something we’ve seen both in the comics and in the movies. You can find the complete list of original What If? comics on Wikipedia, and most of them have come to pass in today’s comics or movies.

Captain Carter from What If? Disney+ animated series and cosplay at MetroCon 2021 (cosplayer unknown).

Now, we have a new What If? on Disney+, and I am a fan. Having Jeffery Wright voice the Watcher was a brilliant choice as his stoic voice lends to the character. And, we’re only three episodes in and the changes have been remarkable. We’ve already seen evidence of that as cosplayers are donning the suit and shield of Captain Carter. That’s always a sign of a successful introduction of a character, whether it be anime, comics, television, or movie. I’m waiting patiently for T’Challa (Black Panther) as Star Lord in cosplay, but I know its coming soon. That was a great final scene and tribute to Chadwick Boseman. Every episode seems to have a great sense of both the Marvel Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They honor the legacy of these comics while bringing new life to the MCU.

That’s the great thing about the concept of the multiverse. It brings us a variety of characters that we know and love but in the many different forms and representations. If you thought “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was brilliant, this series keeps getting better and better. I really think Marvel has taken a bold step forward with their Disney+ series, Loki and Wandavision both, and “What If?” is another new chapter.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers. Get ready for The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.

Captain Marvel is better than the hype and the bad reviews it’s getting

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WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN CAPTAIN MARVEL YET!

I’ve never been one to rely on reviews, which is kind of weird since I write them on my blog now. Anyway, I go the movies because I want to see it, ignoring the bad reviews or condemnation. I don’t regret going to see 1980’s Flash Gordon but I really regret going to see 1995’s Waterworld. In any case, the same can be said for Marvel movies.

I have seen every Marvel movie in the past 10 years. I do have some regrets there too (i.e. Iron Man III and Thor: Ragnarok) but they still had some good moments in them too. In any case, I saw Captain Marvel this week and, despite the weeks of awkward publicity and bad stories, it was a genuinely good Marvel movie. In fact, I would say it’s one of their better movies.

First and foremost, Brie Larson was great. Although, I think she went for the emotionless route too much. She has Danvers’ grit and determination down pat, and she finally showed some emotion in her reunion with Maria Rambeau near the end, but still… She’ll need a little more than that sly grin to carry her down the road in future movies. She has the look and the attitude, and now she has an origin.

Did they change her origin for the movie? Yes, but they stayed true to it while making her story fit into the MCU. Overall, they did a great job, especially since they did it as a prequel to the current Marvel universe. They changed a few things, like making Mar-Vell a woman (great performance Annette Benning) and turned the Skrulls from villains into a race to feel sorry for. However, Marvel’s been making these adjustments to the MCU since the beginning (i.e. making the villain Ghost a woman, casting Heimdall and Valkyrie with black actors (best decision to date), and making the Mandarin an idiot). Even a comic book purist like myself can appreciate the brilliance behind the casting and creative license.

I loved the fact that you had to sit through the whole movie to understand her complete backstory. It wasn’t difficult for someone like me, who knows her origin like the back of my hand. But for anyone else, it’s a great way to learn about her character. Also, by adding in the younger versions of Agent Phil Coulson and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). I especially loved finding out how Fury got his eye scratched out. There are plenty of “Easter Eggs” in the movie too, from how Fury came up with the Avengers Initiative, how the Tesseract got back into Shield’s hands, the space-pager and plenty more.

The Kree are turning into the true intergalactic villains of the MCU, in both movies and television. The movie left things open for the return on Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and the Supreme Intelligence, although I’m hoping for the floating green octopus head next time around. As for the Skrulls, who can say. Even though Marvel got back the Fantastic Four from Fox, I doubt we’ll see them terrorizing Earth or the “Super Skrull” anytime soon.

The plot kept me engaged the entire movie and it was fun. It had a good mix of serious and humor. The movie made a big statement about sexism in the 80’s and 90’s, showing the bad side of men in the military (“You know why they call it a cockpit…” Gimme a break!). This was the time of “Tailgate” and other scandals like it, so bringing it into the film showed how far we’ve come with women pilots in the military. You really get the feel for that with the “Women of the Air Force” commercial they showed before the movie.

Captain Marvel got a lot of bad press and internet “trolls” trying to bring it down, but the movie is too good for that. It’s a fun movie that brings together the MCU, heading into Avengers: Endgame. That’s only a month away, and I can’t wait!

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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.

 

When make believe steps over into reality, people go crazy

This has been one of those weeks that makes me wonder about the human race. I know some people can be quite gullible, but this is one of those things that makes you do a double-take. As a writer, I enjoy taking people into another world through my stories; but when those same people can’t separate fantasy from reality, I start to worry. Here’s what I’m talking about:

15081911022349-1The Black Panther movie is premiering this week. The movie is being hailed as one of the best Marvel comics movies yet. The visuals of the amazing world of Wakanda is breathtaking, and that’s where people seem to forget that this is a movie.

With all the political divisiveness in the world today, people see a country like Wakanda as a beacon for Africans, a utopia where “colonialism” never took place. They seem to forget that this is not a real place. It’s understandable to imagine a world as technologically advanced as Wakanda–with a powerful leader, incredibly strong people, and rich history–could be real. It’s something to aspire to, but these people don’t seem to realize its not real. Believe it or not, Wakanda, the Black Panther, the entire world there was conceived and created by two ordinary white guys (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby).

Lee and Kirby actually created Black Panther in the 1960’s, a few months before the Black Panther Party was founded; but these same social challenges inspired both the political movement and the super-powered African king. “At that point I felt we really needed a black superhero,” Lee recalled. “And I wanted to get away from a common perception. So what I did, I made I made him almost like (Fantastic Four’s) Reed Richards. He lives in an area that nobody suspects it because on the surface it’s just thatched huts with ordinary ‘natives.’ And he’s not letting the world know what’s really going on or how brilliant they really are.”

In the world of Marvel comics, Wakanda is a place of mystery; but if you read Twitter this past week, people act like its a real place in our world today. They’re using it as an example of what “could be” for African as a whole. That’s all well and good, but unfortunately, a giant meteor containing a super metal (vibranium) hasn’t crashed into the continent just yet.

The great thing about a movie like Black Panther is that its getting people talking about diversity issues, inclusion, and racism. The problem is when its taken to far. Sometimes, discussions like these often lead to violence, and that’s wrong. I’m a firm believer in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I believe in that, I truly do. As a writer, we have to be that spear in the war of words when it comes to “social justice” in our world. It’s our responsibility to make examples to inspire people, not incite them. Creating a place like Wakanda is a dream, an example of what “could be” in our own world. Now, lets take those words from “fantasy” to heart and try to make them a “reality” in our world, not the other way around.

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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.

Attending San Diego Comic Con is on my bucket list, but not just yet

It is a dream of mine to one day attend San Diego Comic Con! To walk amongst my people–geeks from around the world–would be an adventure in itself. There is so much going on, from television to movies, books and comic books, any media imaginable is on display at SDCC. The cosplay is amazing as everyone puts on their best costumes for SDCC. The stars are everywhere, and this year was no exception, as Justice League and Avengers: Infinity War went head-to-head this year. As Netflix and Amazon become just as relevant as any big name studio, so too does their offerings, from Marvel’s The Defenders to The Tick, these smaller characters are getting an upgrade to the small screen through these “pay-for” media services.

The firs thing you have to talk about is the trailers, both the released trailers and the “secretly recorded and released” trailers. Justice League definitely made the biggest impact because fans got to see all these great characters in action, and we finally got to see the villain, Steppenwolf. I think that’s why they have a slight edge over Avengers: Infinity War. For some odd reason, Marvel is holding onto their trailer so tight that the “bootleg” recordings is the only reason I saw their trailer. That is really a disservice to the fans who can’t make it to SDCC. Don’t get me wrong, seeing all their movie franchises on one screen is AWESOME but I only saw it in low-res bootlegs.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, this is a great time for geeks. We have been waiting for technology to catch up and give us the superheroes we love on TV and movies, just like they are in the comics. It’s nerd paradise!

I really think that DC is starting to catch up with Marvel when it comes to movies and television shows.Sure, Marvel has a great lineup with all their Netflix series, from The Defenders to The Punisher, as well as the mutant series Legion and The Gifted on Fox, Cloak and Dagger on Freeform with the New Warriors with Squirrel Girl (yes, finally!). Agents of Shield and Inhumans on ABC rounds out a powerful line up of shows. These shows are (for the most part) grittier, down-to-earth, realistic versions of their comic book counterparts.

But DC has an amazing line-up going with their CW shows of Arrow, The  Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Plus, they’re adding Black Lighting, a Titans show on TNT, and Gotham is on Season 4 on Fox and getting better every year. Their shows are more like the comics with colorful costumes, the best villains and great storylines. They’re bringing in new characters, some updated characters and even some classics. I mean B’wana Beast? It’s just incredible. Sometimes, they variety of heroes passing through these shows is like watching the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. You’re always looking in the background just to see who’s there.

Fantasy shows aren’t too far behind either. Netflix’s Bright brings orcs, elves and magic into modern day Los Angeles, with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. The trailer just blew me away. Even ABC’s Once Upon a Time is changing things up a bit, with a new town, new characters, new fairy tales, and it looks even more fascinating now.

This past weekend, I couldn’t tear myself away from YouTube of Facebook, just waiting for the next video or link to what’s been going on at SDCC. Even more fun is looking at the elaborate cosplay people come out with at a big event like SDCC. Tey get bigger, brighter and more elaborate in everything from comics to anime to video game characters.

So SDCC is definitely on my bucket list. It’s like a religious journey but for geeks. Sure, there are plenty of other comic book conventions across the country, but none hold the power of SDCC. It’s a definite check on the bucket list I need to check off.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a rock n’ roll extravaganza, even if you don’t read comic books

Guardians_Of_The_Galaxy_Vol_2_Official_Poster_Landscape“I am Groot!” says it all, but for those of you who don’t speak Groot, let me give you my review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, in theaters now! I want to start out with a slight confession … I’m not a big fan of Marvel Comics’ Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series. I grew up with the original 30th Century Guardians (some of who actually make an appearance in GotG Vol. 2) of Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie-27, Starhawk, Nikki  and Yondu). The new Guardians are a mish-mash of space-spawned superheroes that have had their origins altered and/or updated for both the new continuity and the films.

That being said … I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with all its “Easter Eggs” and subtle hints to the comics, and a “nod and a wink” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) future. It is action-packed, fast-paced, and quite funny. It also had a few emotional, tear-jerker moments that tie the first two movies together. Overall, it is a great start to the summer movie season with more on the way (Spiderman: Homecoming and Wonder Woman, ‘nuff said!).

Set to the backdrop of another amazing soundtrack, “Awesome Mixtape #2,” Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures, a few months after the events of the first movie, as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they fight off a race of genetically-superior beings, and the Ravagers, all while they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the MCU continues to expand.

First and foremost, the cast is top-notch. They have cast awesome actors to fill these roles. From Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillian, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel to Kurt Russell as Ego (Peter’s father) and even cameos by Sylvester Stallone and others. They have these characters laid out perfectly and make them 100% real, like they just stepped out of the comic book.

Secondly, the script had a great mix of humor and action with the over-arching theme of family. You learn a lot of evil truths about Peter’s father (which I won’t spoil here) and how it shaped him into the Star-Lord of today. The Ravagers go from “a space gang of thugs” to a more meanable, yet honorable, group that covers the entire quadrant of space in the MCU. The Sovereign, especially their uppity, genetically superior Ayesha, are more of a nuisance than a threat, but the idea of “Adam” awaiting his birth (true believers will know who I’m talking about) is one of the best “Easter Eggs” in the movie.

Speaking of which, James Gunn goes all out to out to give us every hint, clue and subtle reference to the MCU in his movies. Cameos from some of the original Guardians by Hollywood stars, MCU characters from Howard the Duck (even with a reference to the God-awful Howard the Duck movie), the Watchers (with the legend, Stan “The Man” Lee) and even some of the most obscure characters from the MCU filling the ranks of the Ravagers.

Even if you’ve never read a comic book before, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a great roller coaster ride you will enjoy. You may not get some of the quirky, comic book references, but you will enjoy it. It’s funny, sometimes irreverent humor, will make you laugh, the death of one MCU character (again, no spoilers here) will touch you, and Baby Groot is so damn adorable, you will want one for yourself.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt

Magic and mysticism make Marvel movie magic memorable

doctor_strange_ver5As a lifelong comic book geek who has put up with lots of bad movies and TV shows prior to CGI, I am in nirvana right now. We have had an annual dose of great comic book movies, some good and some bad, but they keep getting better and better. This weekend, I went to see the latest Marvel Studios movie, Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen. I saw it in IMAX 3D, which I would recommend you seeing it in. The visual effects of this movie will amaze you in IMAX and it’s well worth a few dollars more. The creation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko was actually made into a TV movie in the 70s (I remember watching it, it was terrible) but this is his first jaunt onto the big screen.

This is our first venture into magic and mysticism in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), although one could say the two Thor movies, and Thor: Ragnarok coming out next year, was like dipping your big toe in the pool of magic. Magic in the MCU, according to Thor, is what we call science in the real world. I did like how the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) explained it in Doctor Strange. Magic is energy and “spells are programs” to bend it to the will of the sorcerer.

In any case, this is a full-on origin story but it does take place over the span of previous Marvel movies. Stephen Strange’s name was mentioned in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a target Hydra needed to eliminate; and in this movie, he was given the option of a surgical consult on an “Air Force Colonel who severed his spine in an armored mech suit” a la War Machine in Captain America: Civil War. You also see the Avengers Tower in the New York skyline during various scenes in the movie. As an origin movie, I like how they cut straight to the chase and didn’t draw out his entire life story in the first hour. It was quick and to the point, though a rumored scene showing how the death of his sister led him to medicine might have been a nice touch, Maybe we’ll see it in the Blu-Ray/DvD release.

The whole movie is not about Strange becoming a sorcerer, but rather it focuses on a former student of Ancient One (Mads Mikkelsen) who wants to “save” our world by ending death through eternal life in the Dark Dimension. Here we see the real villain behind the scenes, Dormammu. Whereas Thanos is the big bad cosmic being the rest of the MCU is worried about, Dormammu is the big bad of the magical world within the MCU. You really get to see all the evil that is Dormammu in the final boss fight (sorry but a video game reference is the only way to describe it).

This movie has a great cast, outstanding visual effects, and story that even the most novice comic book fan can follow. It takes Doctor Strange from being an egotistical surgeon to being a humble man taking on the awesome responsibilities as sorcerer supreme. It’s a great story with the perfect blend of action, humor, and serious drama. I wanted to see more backstory on some of the other characters, but I do realize it’s a movie about Doctor Strange so the others will have to wait for the sequel.

Like all Marvel movies, there were great mid-credits and post-credits scenes. The mid-credit scene set up Thor: Ragnarok beautifully while the end credits gave us a glimpse as to where they would take a sequel to Doctor Strange. In addition, there are dozens of “Easter Eggs” that many comic book fans will know and appreciate.

This is a great movie and worth the price of admission. It just leaves you wanting more from the MCU, but now we have to wait until 2017 for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 2017), Spiderman: Homecoming (July 2017) and Thor: Ragnarok (November 2017).

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.