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

My-Hero-Academia-Anime-Season-3-Announced-800x445

 

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.

Authors have always been at the forefront when it comes to race relations

MLK

Today we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the voice he brought to equality, race relations, and civil rights. I was only a baby when Dr. King was alive, but I remember his influence growing up in the 70’s. I was a military brat, raised in a very strict environment, but race was never an issue with me.

One of my best friends in elementary school was African-American. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember him. We connected through our love of comic books. We would both draw our favorite superheroes during our spare time in class. We even cut them out and played with them like action figures.

I think that was the key to my “education” on race relations. In the comics, especially for the superheroes, race was not an issue. Captain America teamed up with the Falcon. The X-Men has heroes that were black, blue, Native American, etc. The best example from the 70’s was the Legion of Superheroes. The covered every race, religion, creed, and color imaginable and always fought for the greater good.

That’s what’s great about comics. They have always represented the best and worst of us, and always showed how good triumphs over evil. Comics teach us that it’s okay to be different, and that we should work together for the benefit of the planet.

Unfortunately, things haven’t changed since Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. We are still divided, not united, by race. People still use labels for self-identity, persecution, hate speech,and even violence. We are not being “judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin.”

I’m not going to get political here, pointing fingers at the left or the right. There are people guilty on all sides that are using race to perpetuate an idea or political power, and that’s wrong. We have to get beyond the name calling and find that middle ground. We can’t move forward if we’re not working toward a common goal.

Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As writers, we have the responsibility to bring out the light and drive out the darkness through our stories. Stories emulate what’s going on in the world around them, i.e. The Jungle, To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, etc. This trend has to continue, even more so today.

Legolas_and_Gimli_arrive_in_Valinor

Even in fantasy stories, there are issues of race. The animosity between Dwarves and Elves is a great example. Although you really can’t compare that to the real world, it’s speaks to the heart and soul of the issue. J.R.R. Tolkien, was keen on representing animosity and friendship throughout the Lord of the Rings books.

Gimli Glóin’s son is renowned, for he was one of the Nine Walkers that set out with the Ring; and he remained in the company of King Elessar throughout the War. He was named Elf-friend because of the great love that grew between him and Legolas, son of King Thranduil, and because of his reverence for the Lady Galadriel […] But when King Elessar gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over Sea […] We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Glóin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him.

— The Return of the King, Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers

I’m not trying to compare race relations in a fantasy story to the real-world issues today. What I’m trying to say is before you let that hate and frustration fill your heart, before your type that profanity-laced rant on Twitter or Facebook, remember this … Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

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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.

Ignore the reviews, Justice League is a geek’s wet dream

JusticeLeague-IMAX-poster-1I normally don’t listen to a lot of movie critics when it comes to superhero movies, and I’ll tell you why. The majority of movie reviewers are not 100% certified comic book geeks. Additionally, those who are comic book nerds are such purists that even the tiniest of flaws ruins the movie for them. That being said…

I left the movie theater in awe, full of a giddy excitement over each and every “Easter Egg” I saw in the movie. That’s what Justice League did for me today.

You have to understand, I grew up in an era with spandex costumes, bad or relatively weak special effects, and scripts written by TV writers who never picked up a comic book in my life. The comic book movies coming out today are a million times better, and Justice League is one of them.

Okay, so here’s my warning… SPOILER ALERT!

I loved Justice League. It was a faithful culmination from Man of Steel, to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then Wonder Woman. The story brought the League together in search of three “Mother Boxes,” alien devices that could destroy the world in the hands of the villainous Steppenwolf and his Para-Demons. That’s the basic background but the movie went even further than that.

We got to see the undersea kingdom of Atlantis and the first meeting between Aquaman and his future wife, Mera. I was concerned hoe they were going to do the undersea battle, and it was brilliant, especially when Mera pushed the water aside so she and Aquaman could talk to each other. It was that simple attention to detail that made that moment work.

The fighting was amazing, especially since we actually got to see a Green Lantern (but not THE Green Lantern) in the historic battle between Steppenwolf and the combined armies of the Amazons, Atlantians, men and Gods. And when Superman came back, it made the fighting even better. The League used everything thing they had fighting Steppenwolf, even to go as far as show the Batman’s vulnerabilities as a mortal man.

The “Easter Eggs” are so numerous, it’s hard to miss them and that makes me giddy even now:  Steppenwolf calls out the name Darkseid, the Green Lantern, Bruce talking about a round table with six chairs in a new HQ (set up in the old Wayne Manor (Holy #$%* Batman!), Cyborg getting his more traditional armor at the end (not to mention “Booyah!”), Superman racing the Flash (mid-credits) was right out of the comic book, and Luthor and Deathstroke talking about forming a league of their own (end credits) and how awesome Deathstroke looks. I mean,wow!

Are there ploy holes and challenges with how the story is laid out? Yes, but it didn’t bother me. I was seeing the comic book team I read as a kid on the big screen together. I was hooked from the very beginning, glued to my seat.

I also enjoyed a lot of the sentimentality and the comedy in the movie. Watching Superman standing the cornfield as his mother pulls up and sees that he’s alive brought a tear to my eye, as did watching Barry Allen dealing with his father in prison. Speaking of Flash, he provided some great humor throughout the movie. Watching the back-and-forth between Flash and Cyborg in the graveyard while they’re digging up Superman is comedy gold.

It’s up to you, but I would recommend it to everyone… GO AND SEE IT! Justice League (#2) and Wonder Woman (#1) are my top two superhero movies of 2017, with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, at a respectable third. I really think Marvel was out shined this year, in my opinion. Thor: Ragnarok had too much comedy for my tastes and, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in another Spider-man origin movie.

I left the theater today in love with this movie. It makes me want to watch the next series of DC movies, anticipating the sequel to Justice League. I am geeked out over this movie, and I think you will too!

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

A tale of two Marvel stories… The good, the bad, and the misunderstood

Last Friday, I went to the movies to see Thor: Ragnarok, and then Friday night, I watch Marvel’s Inhumans on ABC. These are two diversely different properties of Marvel Entertainment with very different opinions amongst the geek world. People are gushing over Thor:Ragnarok as the best movie in the Thor series. For the past year, these same people have been trouncing Inhumans as pitiful and boring.

Well, in my opinion, they’re both wrong. I thought Thor: Ragnarok was okay but it misused some great Marvel characters and turned some serious moments in the history of Thor into a joke. At the same time, the Inhumans series gave us some truly inspiring moments that came right out of the pages of the comics.

WARNING! FROM THIS POINT ON < SPOILER ALERT! > WARNING!

images3N0MN2NRSo, first up, let’s talk about Thor: Ragnarok. It was a fun and entertaining movie with some of the best fight scenes that the Thor movies are known for. At the same time, they killed three very popular characters (The Warriors Three, Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun!) and turned the Grandmaster and Skurge the Executioner into a running gag.

FYI, in case you don’t know, Thor:Ragnarok is the third movie in the Thor series by Marvel Entertainment. Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

As I said, this movie had great action and fight scenes, living up to the expectations built on the previous Thor movies; but director Taika Waititi turned it into a Bing Crosby/Bob Hope road film. The jokes were obvious and lame. All they did was keep the movie going. I mean, this was supposed to be a world of gladiatorial competitions, yet we only saw one fight. Really? On top of that, the characters went from villains to second-rate bad guys.

In the comics, Skurge was a force to be reckoned with who went toe-to-toe with Thor on many occasions. In the movie, he’s a bumbling idiot out to save his own skin. His only redeeming moment was when he saved the Asgardians from Hela. Also in the comics, the Grandmaster is a scheming, conniving cosmic being who uses games to entertain and torment his victims. In the movie, Jeff Goldblum made him look incompetent. It was a total misuse of this great Marvel villain, like Baron Strucker, Zemo, and some of the other villains they’ve trashed.

The main villain, Hela, was handled brilliantly by Cate Blanchett, although they did change her origin from Loki’s daughter to Odin’s. I didn’t have a problem with that but I think she could have been so much more. Add to that, Thor and Loki’s relationship went from adversarial in the last three movies (Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World) to sibling rivalry without any reason or expectation. Loki went from supreme villain, capable of taking on the Avengers singlehanded, to the redheaded step-child taking a backseat to Thor.

p14159928_b_v8_aaThe only good thing from the movie was the mid-credits scene which set up Avengers: Infinity War. By contrast, Inhumans has been laughed at and scorned with ridicule; but I’ve been watching the series since the beginning and found it enjoyable and fun to watch.

Black Bolt, the enigmatic, commanding head of the Inhuman royal family and King of Attilan, possesses a voice so powerful that the slightest whisper can destroy a city. After a military coup splinters the family, the group — which includes Black Bolt’s wife, Medusa; his brother and rival, Maximus; his cousins Karnak, Gorgon and Triton; and Medusa’s sister, Crystal — barely manages to escape to Hawaii, where surprising interactions with the lush world and humanity around them may prove to not only save them, but Earth itself.

Did they get all the characters right? No… But they have done a lot of good things. Anson Mount is brilliant as Black Bolt. He is acting without speaking and doing it perfectly. Most of the cast is like this as well. Iwan Rheon has gone from Game of Thrones villain to Maximus flawlessly. Serinda Swan is a perfect sounding board for Black Bolt as Queen Medusa. They made a lot of great casting choices in this series, and Lockjaw is the best animated dog on television.

I do wish they mixed in a little Agents of Shield with it. I think that might have added a lot more to the series. I really don’t like Triton’s make-up in this. He looks nothing like he does in the comics. Plus, in the comics, Karnak did not go through Terrigenesis, but rather, he attained his abilities naturally. These are just some of the elements that have soured the Inhumans series.

But one thing that really stood out to me was this past week’s episode. There was a moment when Medusa was confronting Black Bolt about keeping secrets from her. She said that she didn’t want to just be his interpreter, but his partner with her own opinions, as his queen. That scene hit me like a lead balloon. It was like reading the comic. That’s one of the things they did right in this series and why I’ve enjoyed it, week after week.

I know many are going to disagree with me, but I wanted to lay out my honest opinion about these two Marvel properties. I am anticipating Black Panther to be as awesome as it looks, and toward the new season of Agents of Shield. There’s so much more to come from Marvel and I can’t 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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase 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.

No “WONDER” it took them this long, they had to find the right “WOMAN” for the role

gal-Gadot-Wonder-Woman-movie-June-2017I think Wonder Woman is one of the most inspiring characters in comics today. Since her creation in World War II, she has fought for the same values as Superman (Truth, Justice, and the American Way) while at the same time confronting the unreal stereotypes of women outside the home. Though she has been portrayed on TV by many great actresses, it took her more than 75 years to finally end up on the silver screen. In my opinion, they had to wait until Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins came along.

Of all the more recent comic book movies, Wonder Woman is one of the best I’ve seen. It ranks right up there with Captain America: Civil War. The fight scenes are incredible, the cinematography beautiful and the story flows from beginning to end. It was a pleasure to sit and watch this movie. All it did was make me more and more anxious for the Justice League movie.

The story is a basic origin story, but with a bit of a twist. Instead of World War II, we find Diana Prince (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) and U.S. soldier/spy Steve Trevor fighting the Kaiser and the German forces in the trenches of World War I. If you never read about the horrors of “trench warfare” this movie demonstrates how bad it really was during that time. The “War to End All Wars” was a perfect setting for the return of Ares, the God of War. Diana is convinced that if she kills Ares, she will end the war.

It’s funny watching her wade through a society that sees women as a lower class, not smart enough to even be in the war room with senior military officers and politicians. Her naivety is her strength in standing up to these outdated attitudes, but its her actions that prove them all wrong.

The one scene that has played over and over again in the trailers is where Diana drops her outer garments and steps out of the trench, in full armor, to save a village caught in “No Man’s Land” between the trenches. The entire fight scene is not only flawless, but the set up really showed the audience how much she cared about protecting the innocent and fighting for justice.

I said it was a brilliant script and the final scene was riveting when you learn the true identity of Ares and see a true heroic sacrifice. I’m not going to spoil the movie but it was surprising, even to me.

I want to go back to my original thought that started it all, about Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins. Gal was a delight to watch and absolutely perfect for this role. She portrayed Diana’s naivety, her raw emotion and the power of Wonder Woman as if she stepped out of a comic book. Though highly criticized, Gal was who we (comic book fans) were waiting for.

As for Patty Jenkins, she brought a level of attention-to-detail rarely seen in comic book movies. She made a movie that we fans can enjoy and watch over and over again. I can’t wait for the next installment.

Wonder Woman has brought DC out of its “creative funk” (as it were) to where they finally have a movie on par with some of Marvel’s best. This will definitely rank in the Top 5 of superhero movie lists for years to come. It reminded me a lot of Captain America: The First Avenger and that’s saying a lot. Many of these great heroes started out fighting in World War II, so it’s nice to see WWI get a hero it deserves.

And her name is Wonder Woman!

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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

Diversity is something we all must come to terms with as writers

nhnzry3jycv4bf2qxt63Recently, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, claimed that the company’s recent focus on creating diverse superheroes is a driving factor behind its declining comic book sales. He said, “Any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up.”

I don’t agree with this statement, but I can see where he gets his point of view. Recently, there has been a trend to make comic book characters more diverse, but I think that’s more of a natural trend. More diverse characters started out as villains (like The Mandarin and Diablo, for example) but that trend has been changing as time progressed. The 70’s brought us Falcon and Luke Cage, the 80s and 90s brought out War Machine, Black Lightning and Storm. Sometimes it’s more about age than anything else.

Think about it … Captain American, Iron Man and Thor have been leading the Avengers since the 60’s. These characters haven’t aged like the rest of us. I mean, the original X-Men were teenagers in the 60’s, meaning that they should be senior citizens by now. Some characters like Superman and Wonder Woman can look the same because they are alien and God-like, respectfully. However, Batman today is more represented by the elder Bruce Wayne in the Batman Beyond series, not as he is in the comics. I loved it when Dick Grayson took up the mantle because that’s how it should be, but of course they went back to Bruce.

I understand I’m talking more about age discrimination than diversity, but here’s my point. People age, they grow old and they die. So why not let a new generation take up the mantle of these heroes. I think Kamila Khan was a great choice as the new Ms. Marvel, not because she was Muslim, but because she was like many of us who like comics … She’s a fan! Here’s a total fan girl who gets superpowers and becomes her idol. I don’t think there’s a single person out there reading this blog who hasn’t had the same fantasy.

I think the first problem people may have is the youth of the characters. You have comic book fans who started reading comics in the 60s/70s, like me. You don’t need to make all these new characters to be kids. I mean, the new Iron Man (Iron Heart, Riri Williams) and Hulk (Amadeus Cho) are all super smart teenagers, for example. It’s a trend right now that’s pushing the envelope. for us older readers. 

I like it when a longtime sidekick/friend takes over the mantle. Sam Wilson (Falcon) as the new Captain America was a great choice because here was an established character taking the shield and responsibility. The same with Jane Foster as Thor. That was a brilliant move, even with the cancer angle, to give her even more reason to be worthy of the hammer.

Diversity is not the problem with comics. You have four different people wearing the mantle of Spiderman, from the original to a clone, a Latino African-American, a Hispanic from the future, and even a young girl (Spider-Gwen). This is where diversity was done right, bridging the gap across generations. That’s how it needs to be done.

In comics, it has never mattered about the color of their skin. It’s about the heart and soul of the character, as a hero, villain or everyday person. I don’t care if a character is gay or straight, black or white, Hispanic or Asian. We want all these characters to represent people of all ages, race, religion or sexual preference for that matter.

When Marvel brought out the mutant Northstar as being gay, I loved the way it was handled in the story. It wasn’t meant to shock us, or done for the sake of diversity, but rather as a way of giving us depth behind his character’s story. It made sense and broadened the idea of being both mutant and gay and how it affected him.

What I’ve been trying to say is that comics have been becoming more diverse since the 60s. Characters like Black Panther, Luke Cage and Falcon have evolved and grown over the years to give us more and more diverse characters today, like Ms. Marvel, Storm, and the new Hulk. Just remember, comics have always had characters of so many different colors (Nightcrawler, Gamora, Brainiac 5) and races (Dawnstar, Green Lantern (John Stewart), White Tiger) that make comics more and more representative of the world today.

Readers don’t want just diversity in comics for the sake of political correctness. They want good stories. That’s more reasonable for the downward trend of readers and sales rather than blame it all on diversity alone. Think about it, there are various crossover storylines annually, changing the continuity of the comics world multiple times in one year. We’ve changed DC comics multiverse three times in the last decade and Marvel once.

Writers know what the problem is … Consistency, consistency, consistency! Learn it, live it, love it and the readers will return!

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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.