Golden Age comic book superheroes you either never knew about or are long forgotten

Golden Age Superheroes from The Black Terror, The Shield, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, and Miss Masque!

There are names everyone associates when you hear the word superhero… Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Iron Man and more. But I bet you never heard of Air Wave, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, The Black Terror or Miss Masque. These were the comic books your grandparents and great-grandparents may have read. These were the characters that led to the Avengers, Justice League, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans, and the X-Men.

It’s safe to say these characters were created in the era when the world was in turmoil… Al Capone and his criminal empire, G-Men, World War I and II, the stock market crash, and more. The politics and news of the world influenced the creation of these colorful characters to inspire young people for “truth, justice, and the American Way.”

A majority of these heroes were not aliens, mutants, or superhuman for that matter. Many of them just donned a mask to fight against evil, not underlying theme or vendetta, just that. For example, The Black Terror from Exciting Comics. His outlandish, stylized “pirate” persona was designed to strike fear into the villains he faced.

The Black Terror

The Black Terror‘s secret identity was pharmacist Bob Benton, who formulated a chemical he called “formic ethers”, which gave him various superpowers. He used these powers to fight crime with his sidekick, Tim Roland, together known as the “Terror Twins.” His love interest is secretary Jean Starr, who initially despises Benton and loves the Black Terror, later discovers that they’re the same person.

According to Jess Nevins’ Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, “The Black Terror has enemies ranging from Nazis to mad scientists like Thorg (he of the “million dollar death ray”), the femme fatale Lady Serpent (who has a hypnotic glance), and the Japanese scientist Hanura and his “electro-hypnotizer”, which is used to assassinate American generals and admirals.” With the popularity of superheroes fading in the late 40s, the Black Terror’s series ended with issue #27 (June 1949).

You can see many similarities in this one comic to many others of the day. A kid sidekick, a love interest, and villains that ranged from mad scientists, femme fatale, and of course, enemies from the Axis powers during World War II. You could look at any comic book from the Golden Age and find the same formula throughout.

Sure, they’re a little campy and, compared to today, quite misogynistic in their portrayal of women. Women were either sex objects, danger prone, or sidekicks. There were a few comics that had women as the main character, but even those had their controversies. Take, for example, the story of Miss Fury.

Miss Fury

The character’s real identity is wealthy socialite Marla Drake. She has no innate superpowers, but gains increased strength and speed when she dons a special skintight catsuit when fighting crime. The panther skin was bequeathed to her by her uncle, who said that it was used by an African witch doctor in voodoo ceremonies. (It’s like a combination of Catwoman and the Black Panther in one!) Although Miss Fury was popular, the revealing outfits worn by the female characters provoked some controversy at the time. When Marla Drake was drawn wearing a bikini in 1947, 37 newspapers dropped the strip in response. The Miss Fury strip ran until 1952.

Miss Fury combats several recurring villains, including mad scientist Diman Saraf and Nazi agents Baroness Erica Von Kampf and General Bruno. Drake was also involved in a love triangle with her former fiancé, Gary Hale, and Detective Dan Carey. (See the recurring theme here!) A complicated figure, Marla doesn’t seem to like being a superhero, resenting the need for a secret identity and the danger it poses. She is sometimes accompanied by an albino Brazilian named Albino Joe. This provides another controversy from the Golden Age comics, the fact that racial discrimination was quite obvious within these pages.

The villains were focused on the Axis Powers from World War II (German, Japanese) and then the “Communist Threat” of the 40s and 50s (Chinese, Russian) so many of these villains were portrayed with exaggerated features as much of the propaganda did at this time in history. Although it does take away from the comics themselves, they have to be taken in context with this time period.

I think one of the broad characterizations you can see in the Golden Age of Superheroes is the “flag waving, patriotic” heroes that filled the pages. More than 30+ different characters representing the United States of America and the “American Fighting Spirit” filled the pages with red, white, and blue. Most of these characters did their fighting with their fists. Punching out Hitler seemed to be an American pastime in the Golden Age. The names were also quite colorful from American Eagle and Captain Freedom to Fighting Yank, The Shield, and V-Man (as in “V for Victory”). Even Uncle Sam got his own comic book fighting the scourge of Nazi and communist threats to America.

Lash Lightning Comics - Comic Vine
Lash Lightning

As I said before, a lot of these superheroes were ordinary people who through genius intellect and wealth or a mystic object or a chemical formula gained super powers. It was very broad and quite basic but in their concepts, but some were just out of this world. For example, meet Lash Lightning. In 1940, explorer Robert Morgan is delving into an Egyptian pyramid when he encounters an ancient mystic called The Old Man of the Pyramids. The mystic teaches Morgan ancient secrets, and gives him the Amulet of Annihilation, on the condition that he uses his powers to fight evil. Morgan’s powers include super-strength, super-speed, flight, the ability to generate electricity and radiate “lightning heat,” and a measure of invulnerability (Sounds a lot like Shazam, a.k.a. the original Captain Marvel, doesn’t he?) His powers can be recharged by electricity. Returning to the United States, Morgan dons a costume and changes his name to Lash Lightning (as opposed to maintaining a secret identity). His emblem is a triangle with a thunderbolt emerging from each of its three sides. His early foes include the Mummy, an insane college professor wrapped in bandages infused with radium, and the mad scientist Mastermind. His recurring villains also include a werewolf, the zombie-raising Dr. Diablo, and the Maestro, who wears a bee costume. Crazy, huh?

I don’t think we’ll ever see any of these heroes on the silver screen or even the TV screen anytime soon. They are from a bygone era. Although, Dynamite Entertainment did a series of books called Project Superpowers where these old heroes were suspended in time, awakened in the world today to fight a new threat. It was a rebirth for these Golden Age heroes and great to read! I’d definitely recommend checking it out!

Although many of the Golden Age heroes still exist in today’s mainstream comics, their legacy with the lost heroes of the Golden Age will never be forgotten. As awkward and politically incorrect as these comic books are, they are still an amazing look into the history of comics as well as our own national identity.

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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. 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.

Watching anime, reading comic books, and playing D&D is the foundation of my imagination

darkagesI love everything sci-fi/fantasy. I can remember reading X-Men and Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes comics in the 70s. I remember watching a wide variety of Japanese anime on UHF (if you don’t know what it is, look it up youngling) like Speed Racer, Marine Boy, Ultraman, Gigantor and others. I use to draw my favorite superheroes, cut them out, and play with them like action figures, and watch Superfriends every Saturday morning. I had all the “Glow in the Dark” monster models like Dracula, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein. I watched Hammer horror movies on late night TV, with Christopher Lee as Dracula. It was a great time to be a kid!

This was my youth, my influential years, and it was filled with everything geek, which explains why I didn’t date a lot when I was young too. In any case, these memories are the foundation of my imagination; but even then, my imagination was quite limited. At that time, my goal was to be a comic book artist. I spent every waking moment creating my own characters, their origins, etc. I was focused on that.

I went to college, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh , where I was still focused on being a comic book artist. Then, I had an awakening. I started playing a game that changed my life forever … Dungeons and Dragons! It was like a fire was lit inside me and it started burning brighter and brighter with each passing moment. My imagination was on fire!

When you hear those stories about people spending an entire weekend playing D&D, drinking beer, ordering pizza, playing a never-ending game. Yes, it’s true, because I did it. I was spending my weekends, constantly playing D&D, either as a player or Dungeon Master. It carried over when I joined the Navy. I played with a group on duty nights, weekends, and when we deployed. It was a mainstay of my daily life, and it was those games that forged my imagination.

Those experiences made me the man I am today. Those trips into the fantasy world of D&D helped me develop my skills as a storyteller. It was through D&D that I created the world of Forever Avalon. Though I don’t play anymore, there are so many of things that continues to fire up my imagination as I write. The slew of movies, like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and King Arthur; TV shows like Game of Thrones, Merlin, and Arrow; and video games like Warcraft, League of Legends, and Assassins’ Creed; all of these make a jubilee of fantasy for a writer like me.

I’ve written stories almost all of my life, but I never really considered myself a writer. I wrote stories for my high school newspaper, and as a Navy Journalist. It wasn’t until my first book was published that I really began to consider myself as a writer. Since then, I’ve published one other book, The Dark Tides, and working on publishing my third book, The Outlander War, this year. Even in my full time job, I am now (by definition) a writer-editor for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). I have reached my dream job, writing full time.

Now, to continue living the dream. There are more stories waiting to be written, and I hope you like 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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 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.

Has Hollywood already run out of ideas when it comes to superhero movies?

277c35a6e0ec68aec7ef8b8224f975b52c3121c6_hq.jpgIt’s hard to believe that we are on our third Spider-man movie franchise, third Superman movie franchise and sixth movie-version of Batman. Technically, if you want to count television in these ongoing franchises, that’s six Superman, four Spiderman, four Wonder Woman (I have to count the failed Adrianne Palicki TV show because they shot a pilot), three Captain America, four Hulks, three Fantastic Four, three Flash and two Daredevil’s and Doctor Strange. The X-Men did it right by inter-mingling all of its movies together in one universe.

Granted, a lot of these earlier products were downright awful. Then again, so were some of the new ones were bad too. It begs to ask the question, why do movie and TV studios keep going back to the well for another franchise reboot?

The obvious reason is money, of course. They know we geeks will gladly pay out the bucks to see the latest and greatest version of our favorite characters on the big screen. There’s also new, young geeks that have never seen these characters before and their parents (much older geeks) want to introduce these characters to them.

For example, when I showed my kids the original Incredible Hulk TV series, they laughed and joked about the bad special effects and make-up. It’s from the 70’s, what do they want? When I was growing up, this was what special effects on TV looked like, along with the cheesy sound effects when they would “super jump” like the Six Million Dollar Man.

We are getting more and more of a variety of some of the lesser known characters thanks to television and pay TV channels, like CW, Netflix, FX and Freeform, with more shows coming to a channel near you:  Legion, Cloak and Dagger, Black Lightning, The Punisher, X-Men: Gifted and more. These are great characters and great stories, with a few surprise “Easter Eggs” thrown in.

I guess my point is that, yes, there are some great characters in these comic book universes, especially the top ones (The “Trinity” in DC of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman for example) but we don’t want to see a rehash of these characters every ten years. The comics got it right when they reinvented and reinvigorated their mainstream characters (Ironheart for Iron Man, Jane Foster as Thor, for example) and this can be done on the big, and little, screen too.

A constant rehash and rewrite of character’s origins (like the failed 2015 Fantastic Four movie) is not the way to go. All you do is piss off fan boys and girls for ruining their favorite characters and they let you know at the box office. It’s the same for video game movie franchises, and some book franchises (Tolkien fans go on and on about Peter Jackson’s treatment of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit).

There are more ideas out there just waiting for an up-and-coming producer or a hot, new studio to tackle. I mean, think about it, technology today makes it easy for anyone to create a short film that looks like a big budget production. If you’ve ever watched any of the short films available on YouTube you know what I’m talking about.

Look, the studios are going to continue to do what they see as moneymakers for them, and I honestly think that it’s all they really care about. Sure, there are many who are “fanboys” and are doing it out of love of the characters, but the power behind them only looks at dollar signs. It’s going to takes geeks like us to keep them in check.

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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.

Remembering my favorite MMOG City of Heroes with an original short story

city_of_heroesHappy Halloween everyone! This is a day when we all dress up as a favorite fantasy character. Mine has always been superheroes. That being said, I want to spend this Halloween talking about one of my favorite video games.I was a HUGE fan and player of the online game CITY OF HEROES. As a longtime comic book geek, this game was made for people like me. I could create original characters, design their costumes, their origins, everything. It was a sad day when Paragon City had to be shelved

I was a HUGE fan and player of the online game CITY OF HEROES. As a longtime comic book geek, this game was made for people like me. I could create original characters, design their costumes, their origins, everything. It was a sad day when Paragon City had to be shelved. I really miss logging in, traveling to City Hall, stand atop the statue of the fallen hero Atlas, stopping a couple of Hellions from intimidating old ladies or stop a bank robbery.

To celebrate this occasion, I wanted to share a short story I wrote revolving around one of the characters I created, Bone the Headhunter. I know, not the most original name, but with all the good names taken, it’s what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it, and once again, Happy Halloween!

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The Last Goodbye: A City of Heroes short story

JOURNAL ENTRY – Sunday, March 30, 3:45 a.m.  – I’ve been waiting for three hours and still no sign of the Vahzilok. My contact assured me that they routinely take this route through Faultline, bringing fresh body parts to Dr. Vahzilok himself. Faultline has plenty of places to hide the bodies of their victims. It’s a ruined city trying desperately to rebuild itself. Hopefully, this will bring me closer to finding that monster and exacting my revenge.

He closed his journal and slide it into his armor. His grim demeanor was hidden beneath his mask – a faceless skull with eyes as black as night. He waited patiently, watching the construction site from the top of the steel structure. His cloaking device was working perfectly, bending light around him so as to avoid detection.

As he scanned the surroundings, his mind began to wander. They called him a hero, but Bone the Headhunter didn’t feel like one. All the technology he’d put into his armor and weapons may have made him stronger, but it didn’t fill the void inside him.

He wasn’t a hero when his wife and son were captured by the Vahzilok. Those demented zombies would have taken him too if it wasn’t for the armored hero Positron. He saved his life, but it was too late for his family. One of the Reapers slipped away during the fight, taking their bodies with him. They searched for days, but no sign of his wife and son. They were presumed dead… Another victim of the Vahzilok.

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Bone the Headhunter

People called him driven… Possessed by an unforgiving rage and hatred for the Vahzilok. That may be, but tragedy usually does that to a man. At one time, he was Ted Johnson, an Olympic archery champion, and a successful businessman. Since the death of his family, he turned that talent into something more useful; he hunted down the villains of Paragon City. The gangs called him a headhunter, attacking without regard to his own personal safety, trying to bring down as many of them as possible.

Bone snapped back into reality when he heard a low groaning noise. He looked down and saw a couple of Abominations – giant animated cadavers – dragging two heavy body bags. These mindless zombies were doing the bidding of a Reaper and an Eidolon, one of Dr. Vahzilok’s “perfect” creations. They were heading toward the sewer grate, the route Bone’s informant told him about.

“4-to-1,” Bone thought to himself. “Not bad odds… for me.”

A touch on his glove deactivated his cloaking device. “No use wasting energy on the cloak in a face-to-face battle,” Bone surmised. He reached into his belt for his targeting drone, activating it and tossing it into the air. The drone buzzed around his head like an angry bee. Its laser sites helped him in many battles.

He drew his bow and nocked an explosive arrow in. “This should get their attention,” he said as Bone let his arrow fly. Before the Vahzilok could react, the arrow struck within their midst and exploded. The Vahzilok were sent flying to the ground.

Before they could react, Bone tossed a smoke grenade to blind their vision. He leaped down from the steel building, his hydraulic leg enhancements cushioned his landing. Once down, he knocked his next arrow.

He fired at the Reaper. The arrowhead burst into flame and, upon impact, exploded, covering the Reaper and Abominations in burning embers. He reached into his quiver and laid three arrows across his bow. The multiple arrows fired, striking the Reaper and both Abominations, bringing all three to the ground.

Bone turned to face the Eidolon, drawing his next arrow. But before he could strike, black tendrils erupted from the ground and wrapped around Bone. He was frozen in place, unable to attack. The Eidolon wielded dark powers … A gift from Dr. Vahzilok for becoming his perfect creations.

He braced for the next attack from the Eidolon, but it didn’t come. The Eidolon was just standing there, staring at him. “What are you waiting for?” Bone shouted. The thought passed quickly as Bone prepared to take advantage of its lapse and attack.

“I was hoping this day would never come,” the Eidolon said to Bone. “Still, it had to happen sooner or later, didn’t it ‘Teddy.’” Bone was shocked to his senses. Only his wife called him Teddy. How did this Eidolon know his name?

“What kind of game are playing with me Eidolon?” Bone demanded. Before the Eidolon could answer, he broke free from the tendrils, raising his bow and aiming his arrow at the Eidolon. “How do you know that name?”

“Come now ‘Teddy,’ surely you can see past this mask as I easily as I can see past yours,” the Eidolon said mockingly. “Or maybe you’re just in denial.”

Bone slowly lowered his bow. He realized the truth in the Eidolon’s words, but he refused to believe it. “No, that’s not possible,” he said. The Eidolon peeled back the leather bindings that encased its body, removing its mask and exposing its face to Bone. Though bald, Bone recognized the eyes and lips – even the little mole on her cheek – of his wife.

“Val?” Bone asked. “Can it really be you?” The Eidolon smiled as if she enjoyed tormenting Bone.

“It’s me, Teddy, the wife you abandoned and left for dead.”

“I didn’t abandon you,” he explained, peeling his mask back to look at his wife, eye to eye. “I searched for you for days with Positron. We found no trace of you or Daniel.” Bone’s voice trailed off at the mention of his son’s name.

“Don’t you dare say his name,” the Eidolon screamed. “You have no right to speak his name. You have no idea what they did to him.”

“Yet here you are? Did you really become one of them?” Bone ripped back at her. “How could you do that? How could you join the Vahzilok?”

“I did what I had to survive,” she justified. “They were going to kill me, just like they did Daniel. So, I offered myself to them – to Dr. Vahzilok himself – to become one of his Eidolon. I did it to save my life.”

Bone couldn’t believe what he was hearing. She willingly gave herself to the Vahzilok, after what they did to their son.

“The Valerie I knew would never have done that. She would have died before joining these monsters,” Bone argued.

“What do you know about life and death,” she snapped back. “You have your precious medical transporters to protect you. I was on my own. I had a choice to make and I chose to live, no matter what I had to do.”

“You’re right about one thing,” she said as she pulled the mask back over her face. “Valerie Johnson is dead. I am Black Mary.”

Bone realized the truth in her words. “Then this is goodbye for the last time,” he told her as he put his mask back on. “But know this, Black Mary. The next time we meet, I won’t hesitate to kill you.”

Black Mary just stared at him. “Neither will I, Bone the Headhunter,” she said. “Neither will I.” Without hesitating, Bone pulled back his bow and fired a flaming arrow at the body bags, making the body parts unusable to the Vahzilok. Black Mary didn’t flinch. She just stared at Bone. He turned away and leaped into the air, heading toward the Faultline exit, back to Steel Canyon.

Suddenly, the sewer grate opened up and a group of Vahzilok stepped out. The Mortificator walked over to Black Mary. “Black Mary, what happened here?” he asked. She continued to stare off into the distance.

“We were ambushed by Bone the Headhunter,” she explained. “He destroyed the body bags, but I got him… I got him right through the heart.”

The Mortificator smiled, knowing that the Eidolon hurt that which the Vahzilok’s feared most. As they gathered up the remains of their fallen, they were too busy to see a tear rolling down Black Mary’s cheek. It was the last tear she will ever shed for her husband.

Across town, as Bone leaped through the air, he also shed a tear. He hasn’t cried since he lost his family the first time. He’ll never cry for them again.

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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.