Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kamandi: The Story

Kamandi is an American comic book character, created by artist Jack Kirby and published by DC Comics. The bulk of Kamandi's appearances occurred in the comic series Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, which ran from 1972 to 1978.

Kamandi is a young hero in a post-apocalyptic future. After a huge event called "The Great Disaster," humans have been reduced to savagery in a world ruled by intelligent, highly evolved animals.

Publication History
DC editor Carmine Infantino had tried to acquire the license to make Planet of the Apes comic books but when this failed to happen he asked Jack Kirby for a series with a similar concept. Although Kirby had not seen the films he knew the rough outline and he had also created a very similar story, "The Last Enemy!", in Harvey Comics' Alarming Tales that predated the original Planet of the Apes novels. He also had an unused comic strip he created in 1956, called Kamandi of the Caves. So Kirby brought all those elements together to create Kamandi. Although his initial plan was to not work on the comic books themselves, the cancellation of Forever People freed him up to do so.

The Series
The Kamandi series was launched in October–November 1972. It was written and drawn by Jack Kirby through its 37th issue, in January 1976. Kirby also drew issues #38 through #40, although they were scripted by Gerry Conway. Kirby subsequently left DC, but the series continued, initially written by Conway and drawn by Chic Stone. Later issues were alternately written by Paul Levitz, Denny O'Neil, David A. Kraft, Elliott S! Maggin, and Jack C. Harris, with art by Pablo Marcos, Keith Giffen, and Dick Ayers. It was canceled during the "DC Implosion" of 1978, despite respectable sales figures. The final published issue was #59, cover-dated September–October 1978. Two additional issues, completed but not released, were included in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #1 and #2.

Entering the DC Universe
During Kirby's run on the book, Steve Sherman indicated in the letters column that the series was connected to Kirby's contemporary OMAC series, which was set sometime prior to the Great Disaster. The only explicit connection to the DC Universe occurs in issue #29, where Kamandi discovers a group of apes who worship Superman's costume, and who speak of legends of Superman trying and failing to stop the Great Disaster. The story leaves it ambiguous whether the legends are true (although Kamandi believes Superman was real) and whether the costume is indeed Superman's.

Various non-Kirby stories tie the series more explicitly to the DC Universe. In Brave and the Bold #120 (July 1975), Kamandi meets a time-traveling Batman. Superman #295 (January 1976) establishes that that the costume seen in issue #29 was indeed Superman's, and that Earth A.D. is an alternate future for Earth-One, distinct from that of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Issues #49-#50 of the series establish that Kamandi's grandfather was the elderly Buddy Blank, hero of the OMAC series, and features a brief return of OMAC's satellite ally, Brother Eye. Kirby's Kamandi story in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 guest stars The Sandman and establishes that Kamandi is Jed Walker.

The 1975-1977 Hercules Unbound series and OMAC backup stories in Kamandi and Warlord tie OMAC to both the storyline of Hercules Unbound and to the Atomic Knights, indicating that the Great Disaster was the atomic war of 1986 that precipitated the events of the latter. DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) indicates that the events of the Atomic Knights stories were a fantasy in the mind of Gardner Grayle, but DC Comics Presents #64 and Crisis on Infinite Earths make clear that both OMAC and Kamandi still existed in an alternate future of Earth-One.

In the wake of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Great Disaster did not occur, and the boy who would have become Kamandi instead became Tommy Tomorrow.

In the aftermath of the Infinite Crisis, a bunker named Command D has been built under the ruins of the city of Blüdhaven.

In early 2007, DC Nation house ads showed a partial picture of Darkseid and mention a "Great Disaster". Additional DC promotional art for the series Countdown show the Statue of Liberty in ruins, similar to Kamandi #1 (although later, Dan DiDio revealed that the Statue's appearance in that teaser ad was a reference to the Sinestro Corps War). Throughout 2007, DC Comics contained continual references to a coming Great Disaster. In Countdown #31, Buddy Blank and his unnamed blond grandson are introduced into the storyline. As of Countdown #6, The Great Disaster is in its early stages on Earth-51 due to the outbreak of a virus, which is causing humans to develop animal like features, and animals to develop humanoid features. In Countdown #5, the virus claims Earth-51's Buddy Blank's daughter, but his grandson is safe. Una, an alternate Earth's version of the Legion of Super-Heroes Triplicate Girl, gives him her Legion flight ring, which he uses to safely get him to Cadmus' "Command D" facility, which was used to control Brother Eye, and has the defenses necessary to protect them from the virus' victims. As he settles in, he hopes that his grandson can forgive him for making him "The last boy on Earth."

Comments from Grant Morrison at 2007's San Diego Comic-Con International indicated that Kamandi (The Last Boy) will appear on the last issue's last page of DC's Final Crisis, mirroring the appearance of Anthro (The First Boy), on the first page of the first issue. This eventually did not come to pass, with Anthro as an old man appearing instead.

In Countdown: Arena #2, an ape Starman from Earth-17 mentions he is attempting to form a truce between the forces of Kamandi and Ben Boxer, indicating a second variant Kamandi Earth, unlike Earth-51. Kamandi, by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook.

Final Crisis
Kamandi is seen in DC's Final Crisis limited series, a sequel to the earlier Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. In the first issue he appears in what seems to be a time distortion, asking Anthro, the "first" boy on Earth, for the weapon the New God Metron gave him, a reference to the series' opening scene in which Anthro, like Prometheus, is given knowledge in the form of fire. He makes another appearance in the second issue as one of the captives of the evil New Gods (alongside Batman), warning the detective character Dan Turpin that they are making slaves of them. In the final issue, he appears on Earth-51 after it has been reconstructed.

Kamandi returns to New York and to the bunker where he was raised by his grandfather to honor his death, as he does every year at this time. He meets up Prince Tuftan and they fight their way out of a horde of rats, bravely looking for food and supplies. Rescued by Doctor Canus in a blimp, Kamandi and Prince Tuftan ride to the city of the apes in an attempt to aid the tiger army. Great Caesar has been captured by the apes. When Kamandi sees the ape chasing a girl below, he jumps out of the blimp, swinging down on a rope, in an attempt to rescue her. Prince Tuftan follows and both get captured by the apes. The apes blow up the blimp. Kamandi and the girl manage to escape while Prince Tuftan is taken to be executed along with his father. Along the way, Kamandi, the girl and Doctor Canus meet up with the remnants of the tiger armies and are joined by Lion Rangers. Using information found under his old birth place, the Command D Bunker's data base computer, Kamandi and the other animal allies find pre-Disaster weapons and vehicles, to raid the apes living in the city of Sintin—remnant of Washington D.C. In the battle to rescue King Caesar and Prince Tuftan, the girl is shot by a gorilla sniper. She dies, but not before she gives Kamandi her locket and tells him that humans—possibly intelligent humans like him and her—exist somewhere in the South of North America.

Fictional Character Biography
In the eponymous series, Kamandi is a teenage boy on a post-apocalyptic Earth (which the textual narrative describes as "Earth A.D. (After Disaster)") that has been ravaged by a mysterious calamity called the Great Disaster. The precise nature of the Great Disaster is never revealed in the original series, although it "had something to do with radiation." (In the series' letter column, Jack Kirby and his then-assistant Steve Sherman repeatedly asserted that the Great Disaster was not a nuclear war, a fact confirmed in issue #35.) The Disaster wiped out human civilization and a substantial portion of the human population. A few isolated pockets of humanity survived in underground bunkers, while others quickly reverted to pre-technological savagery.

Shortly before the Great Disaster, a scientist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dr. Michael Grant, developed a drug called Cortexin, which stimulated the reasoning abilities of animals. During the Great Disaster, Grant released the experimental animals affected by the drug, and dumped the Cortexin itself into the stream created by a broken water main. In the ensuing days, animals escaping from the National Zoo drank from that stream and became affected by the drug.

By Kamandi's time, an unspecified period after the Great Disaster, the affects of Cortexin and the radiation unleashed by the Great Disaster itself had caused a wide variety of mammals, including gorillas, tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards (all descendants of escaped zoo animals), rats, dogs, wolves, and kangaroos to become bipedal, humanoid, and sentient, possessing the power of speech. Others, including dolphins, killer whales, and snakes, developed sentience, but retained more or less their original size and form. The newly intelligent animal species, equipped with weapons and technology salvaged from the ruins of human civilization, began to struggle for territory. (Horses were apparently not affected, and serve as a means of transportation in the technologically impoverished world of Earth A.D.)

By this time, most surviving humans are bestial, with very limited reasoning ability. Most have only the most rudimentary ability to speak, although they can be trained. (The precise cause of the loss of reasoning ability is ambiguous in the original series.) The animals treat humans as beasts, using them for labor or as pets.

Kamandi is the last survivor of the human outpost in the "Command D" bunker near what was once New York City. ("Kamandi" is a corruption of "Command D"; it is unclear if Kamandi ever had any other name.) Raised by his elderly grandfather, Kamandi has extensive knowledge of the pre-Disaster world, thanks to a library of microfilm and old videos, but he has spent most of his time inside the bunker, and is unaware of the state of the world outside. When his grandfather is killed by a wolf, Kamandi leaves the bunker in search of other human outposts.

He soon discovers that the only other intelligent humans left on Earth are Ben Boxer and his friends Steve and Renzi, a trio of mutants genetically engineered to survive in Earth A.D. He also makes a number of animal friends, including Dr. Canus, the canine scientist of Great Caesar, leader of the Tiger Empire, and Caesar's teenage son, Tuftan. Later additions to the cast included the alien woman Pyra, the girl Spirit and the consulting detective Mylock Bloodstalker(loosely based on Sherlock Holmes) and his associate Doile (named for Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle); Bloodstalker is, appropriately, a bloodhound. Even the most sympathetic animals, however, are nonplussed by Kamandi and Ben's ability to speak.

Kamandi and his friends set out to explore the world of Earth A.D., in hopes of one day restoring humanity to sentience and civilization.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Thor Trailer!! Loads of New Footage! and Transformers: DOTM!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Joker

The Joker is a fictional character, a comic book supervillain published by DC Comics. He is the archenemy of Batman, having been directly responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life, including the paralysis of Barbara Gordon and the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Created by Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the character first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940).

Throughout his comic book appearances, the Joker is portrayed as a master criminal whose characterization has varied. The original and currently dominant image is of a highly intelligent psychopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor, while other writers have portrayed him as an eccentric prankster. Similarly, throughout the character's long history, there have been several different origin tales; they most commonly depict him as falling into a tank of chemical waste, which bleaches his skin and turns his hair green and his lips bright red, giving him the appearance of a clown.

The Joker has been portrayed by Cesar Romero in the Batman television series, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's Batman, and Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, which posthumously earned Ledger the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Larry Storch, Frank Welker, Mark Hamill, Kevin Michael Richardson, Jeff Bennett, Corey Burton and John DiMaggio have provided the voice for the character in animated form.

As one of the most iconic and recognized villains in popular media, The Joker was ranked #1 on Wizard's list of the 100 Greatest Villains of All Time.[3] He was also named #2 on IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time List,[4] was ranked #8 on the Greatest Comic Book Characters in History list by Empire (being the highest ranking villain on the list)[5] and was listed as the fifth Greatest Comic Book Character Ever in Wizard Magazine's 200 Greatest Comic Book Characters of all Time list, also the highest villain on the list.[6] On their list of the 100 Greatest Fictional Characters, ranked the Joker at number 30.[7]

From the Joker's debut: Batman #1 (Spring 1940)The credit for creation of the Joker is disputed. Kane responded in a 1994 interview to claims that Jerry Robinson created the concept of the character:

“ Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. That's the way I sum it up. [The Joker] looks like Conrad Veidt — you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs, [the 1928 movie based on the novel] by Victor Hugo. [...] Bill Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, 'Here's the Joker'. Jerry Robinson had absolutely nothing to do with it, but he'll always say he created it till he dies. He brought in a playing card, which we used for a couple of issues for him [the Joker] to use as his playing card.[8] ”

Robinson has countered that he created the Joker to be Batman's larger-than-life nemesis when extra stories needed to be written quickly for Batman #1, and that he even received credit for the story in a college course.[9] Regarding the character's similarity with Conrad Veidt, Robinson said:

“ In that first meeting when I showed them that sketch of the Joker, Bill said it reminded him of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs. That was the first mention of it...He can be credited and Bob himself, we all played a role in it. The concept was mine. Bill finished that first script from my outline of the persona and what should happen in the first story. He wrote the script of that, so he really was co-creator, and Bob and I did the visuals, so Bob was also.[10] ”

Golden Age
In his initial dozen or so appearances, starting with Batman #1 (1940), the Joker was a straightforward homicidal maniac, with a bizarre appearance modeled after the Joker playing card. He was slated to be killed in his second appearance right after he escaped from prison,[11] but editor Whitney Ellsworth suggested that the character be spared. A hastily drawn panel, demonstrating that the Joker was still alive, was subsequently added to the comic.[12] In the next issue he is in the hospital recovering, but is broken out by a criminal gang.[13] For the next several appearances, the Joker often escaped capture but suffered an apparent death (falling off a cliff, being caught in a burning building, etc.), from which his body was not recovered.

From the Joker's first appearance in Batman #1, he has committed crimes both whimsical and brutal, all with a logic and reasoning that, in Batman's words, "make sense to him alone."[14] In his first appearance, the character leaves his victims with post-mortem smiles on their faces, a modus operandi that has been carried on throughout the decades with the concept of the character.

In Batman #1, he challenges Gotham's underworld and police department by announcing over the radio that he will kill three of Gotham's most prominent citizens at certain times. Batman and Robin investigate the crimes and find the victims' bodies stricken with a perpetual grin upon their faces. The Joker traps Robin and is prepared to murder him with the same deadly Joker venom, but Batman rescues Robin and the Joker goes to prison. (This story is retold in the 2005 graphic novel Batman: The Man Who Laughs.)

Silver Age
The Joker had disappeared from Batman stories almost entirely by the time Julius Schwartz took over editorship of the Batman comics in 1964. When he did appear, he was characterized as a goofy prankster, with none of the homicidal menace featured in earlier incarnations.

The Joker’s actual first appearance as an Earth-One character is a matter of interpretation, as there has never been an actual distinction between when the Golden Age Earth-Two Joker ceased making regular published appearances and when the Silver Age Joker was introduced.

In June 1985, after the intertitle Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity was put into effect, the Multiverse continuity was discontinued. Earth-One and all of its denizens, including the Joker, were merged into the restructured Post-Crisis continuity commonly known as New Earth.

Bronze Age revision by O'Neil and Adams
Batman #251 (Sept. 1973). Art by Neal Adams.In 1973, the character was revived and profoundly revised in Batman stories by writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams. Beginning in Batman #251, with "The Joker's Five Way Revenge", the Joker returns to his roots as a homicidal maniac who murders people on a whim, while enjoying battles of wits with Batman.[15] O'Neil said his idea was "simply to take it back to where it started. I went to the DC library and read some of the early stories. I tried to get a sense of what Kane and Finger were after."[16] Writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers, in an acclaimed run in Detective Comics #471-476 (Aug. 1977 - April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 movie Batman and be adapted for the 1990s animated series,[17] added elements deepening the severity of the Joker's insanity. In the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers story "The Laughing Fish", the Joker is brazen enough to disfigure fish with a rictus grin, then expects to be granted a federal trademark on them, only to start killing bureaucrats who try to explain that obtaining such a claim on a natural resource is legally impossible.[18][19]

The Joker had his own nine-issue series during the 1970s in which he faces off against a variety of both superheroes and supervillains. Although he was the protagonist of the series, certain issues feature just as much murder as those wherein he was the antagonist; of the nine issues, he commits murder in seven. This interpretation of the character continues with the issues A Death in the Family[20] and The Killing Joke in 1988, redefining the character for DC's Modern Age after the company wide reboot following Crisis on Infinite Earths.[21][22]

Post Crisis
The Joker, after emerging from the canal of chemical-waste from Batman: The Killing Joke.In Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon (then known as Batgirl and in later comics as Oracle), rendering her a paraplegic. He then kidnaps Commissioner Gordon and taunts him with enlarged photographs of his wounded daughter being undressed, in an attempt to prove that any normal man can go insane after having "one bad day." The Joker ridicules him as an example of "the average man," a naïve weakling doomed to insanity. Batman saves Commissioner Gordon, and sees that the Joker's plan failed; although traumatized, Gordon retains his sanity and moral code, urging Batman to apprehend the Joker "by the book" in order to "show him that our way works." After a brief struggle, Batman tries one final time to reach his old foe, offering to rehabilitate him. The Joker ultimately refuses, but shows his appreciation by sharing a joke with Batman, provoking an uncharacteristic laugh.[23]

The Joker murders Jason Todd, the second Robin, in the story A Death in the Family. Jason discovers that a woman who may be his birth mother is being blackmailed by the Joker. She betrays her son to the Joker to keep from having her medical supply thefts exposed, and the Joker savagely beats Jason with a crowbar. The Joker locks Jason and his mother in the warehouse where the assault took place and blows it up just as Batman arrives. Readers could vote on whether they wanted Jason Todd to survive the blast. They voted for him to die, hence Batman finds Jason's lifeless body. Jason's death has haunted Batman ever since, and has intensified his obsession with his archenemy.[20]

In the (non-continuity) one-shot comic Mad Love, Arkham Asylum psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel ponders whether the Joker may in fact be faking insanity so as to avoid the death penalty. As she tries to treat the Joker, he recounts a tale of an abusive father and runaway mother to gain her sympathy. She falls hopelessly in love with him and allows him to escape Arkham several times before she is eventually exposed. Driven over the edge with obsession, she becomes Harley Quinn, the Joker's sidekick/girlfriend.[24]

During the events of the No Man's Land storyline, the Joker murders Sarah Essen Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's second wife, during a confrontation over kidnapped infants. The Joker is shown frowning in the aftermath of the murder. He surrenders to Batman but continues to taunt Gordon, provoking the Commissioner to shoot him in the kneecap. The Joker laments that he may never walk again, and then collapses with laughter as he "gets the joke" that Gordon has just avenged his daughter's paralysis.[25] While in transit back to Arkham, however, he takes control of the helicopter transporting him, and flies off to Qurac, where he becomes part of the government and helps to speed the country's decline into war with its neighbours. He is subsequently sent to New York as the country's ambassador, in which position he then threatens to use a neutron bomb to kill everyone in Manhattan if the United Nations doesn't withdraw its forces. Power Girl and Black Canary of the Birds of Prey capture him, however, and Barbara Gordon tricks him into telling them how to stop the attack, after which the Joker is sent to 'the Slab' "with the rest of the supercreeps."[26]

In Emperor Joker, a multi-part story throughout the Superman titles, the Joker steals Mister Mxyzptlk's reality-altering power, remaking the entire world into a twisted caricature, with everyone in it stuck in a loop. The Joker entertains himself with various forms of murder, such as killing Lex Luthor over and over and devouring the entire population of China. The conflict focuses on the fate of Batman in this world, with the Joker torturing and killing his adversary every day, only to bring him back to life and do it over and over again. Superman's powerful will allows him to fight off the Joker's influence enough to make contact with the weakened Mxyzptlk, who along with a less-powerful Spectre, encourages Superman to work out the Joker's weakness before reality is destroyed by the Joker's misuse of Mxyzptlk's power. As time runs out, Superman realizes that the Joker still cannot erase Batman from existence, as the Joker totally defines himself by his opposition to the Dark Knight; by this logic, the Joker would be incapable of destroying the entire universe, since he is incapable of doing so to Batman. This breaks the Joker's control, and Mxyzptlk and the Spectre manage to reconstruct reality from the moment the Joker disrupted everything, but Batman is left broken from experiencing multiple deaths. Superman has to steal Batman's memories so that he can go on.[27]

In a company-wide crossover, Last Laugh, the Joker believes himself to be dying and plans one last historic crime spree, infecting the inmates of The Slab, a prison for super criminals, with Joker venom to escape. With plans to infect the entire world, he manipulates the super-powered inmates to allow a jailbreak, and sets them loose to cause mass chaos in their "Jokerized" forms. The Joker is not cheered as, using the example of vandalized Easter Island statues, he does not believe that the altered inmates are being appropriately funny. The entire United States declares war on the Joker under the orders of President Lex Luthor; in response, Joker sends his minions to kill the President. Black Canary discovers that Joker's doctor modified his CAT scan to make it appear that he had a fatal tumor in an attempt to subdue him with the threat of death. Harley Quinn, angry at the Joker's attempt to make her pregnant without marrying her, helps the heroes create an antidote to the Joker poison and return the super villains to their normal state. Believing Robin had been eaten by Killer Croc in the ensuing madness, Nightwing eventually catches up with the Joker and beats him nearly to death. To keep Nightwing from having blood on his hands, Batman resuscitates the Joker.[28]

In their attempt to destroy Batman, Hush and the Riddler convince and manipulate several other villains to help. Part of this includes fooling Bruce that his childhood friend Tommy Elliott is the latest victim of the Joker. This brings Batman to the brink of murdering the Joker; he is only stopped when former GCPD commissioner Jim Gordon talks him down by reminding him that by killing the Joker, Batman would become just another killer, and Jim refuses to let the Joker ruin Batman's life like that.

In the Under The Hood arc (Batman #635-650), Jason Todd returns to life. Angry at Batman for failing to avenge his death, he takes over his killer's old Red Hood identity, abducts the Joker and attempts to force Batman to shoot him. Even though the Clown Prince of Crime is surprised that Todd is alive, the resulted antagonism between the former Dynamic Duo is even more rewarding to the villain than the Boy Wonder's death and apparently does not care whether he would die or not.[29]

At the conclusion of Infinite Crisis, the Joker kills Alexander Luthor, hero of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and villain of Infinite Crisis for being left out of the Society.[30]

In Batman #655, a deranged police officer impersonating Batman shoots the Joker in the face, leaving him physically scarred and disabled. After having undergone extensive plastic surgery and physical therapy, the Joker reappears in Batman #663 with a drastic new appearance, now permanently fixed with a Glasgow smile. While in intensive care at Arkham, the Joker develops a new, more lethal variant of Joker Venom, instructing Harley Quinn to use it to kill his former henchmen to signal his spiritual "rebirth". He then goes on a rampage through Arkham, attempting to murder Harley (her death being the final "punchline" of his rebirth) before being stopped by Batman.[31] These events ultimately lead to the Joker's association with the Black Glove in their attempt to destroy Batman.

Salvation Run depicts the Joker as leading one of two factions of supervillains who have been exiled from Earth to a distant prison planet.[32] In issue six of the series, Joker engages Lex Luthor in an all-out brawl for power. Just as he gains the upper hand, however, the planet is invaded by Parademons; The Joker helps fight off the invasion and later escapes along with the rest of the surviving villains via a teleportation machine.

After returning to Earth, Joker is yet again a patient in Arkham Asylum. Batman visits him to ask him if he knows anything about the Black Glove, but Joker only responds by dealing a Dead man's hand.[33] During routine therapy, Joker is met by a spy for the Club of Villains who offers him a chance to join them in their crusade against Batman. He participates in their action, considering it a farce all along (knowing Batman will survive their attempts, which he spitefully reveals to them just when they think their plan has come to fruition) and casually murdering some Black Glove members before escaping in an ambulance, only to be driven off the road by Damian, Batman´s son.[34]

During the events of the Last Rites story arc, the Joker is mentioned and shown several times in Batman's past experiences as his history is explored.[35] He is also shown entering the funeral service for Batman in Neil Gaiman's Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader? story.[36][37]

The Joker remained unseen or heard from since the end of "Batman R.I.P." In his absence, Dick Grayson took up the mantle of Batman in the wake of Bruce Wayne's disappearance at the hands of Darkseid in Final Crisis. A British journalist/detective named Oberon Sexton appeared in Gotham City in the early issues of Batman and Robin, with the nickname "the Gravedigger." At the time of Sexton's appearance, a murderer known as the "Domino Killer" also appeared, killing members of the Black Glove systematically. The new Batman confronts Sexton about his connection to the killings, deciphering that the manner in which the men were killed followed a set routine of jokes. Sexton then takes off his mask to reveal himself to be the Joker, having been operating as Sexton the entire time.[38]

After the Joker is arrested once more, he appears to underestimate the current Robin (Damian Wayne) by trying to win the Boy Wonder's pity. He receives a beating with a crowbar (mirroring Jason Todd's murder) from Robin, who he realizes is a son of his old foe after noting the resemblance between the child and the original Batman. The officers at GCPD ignore the Joker's pleas for help after they conclude that Robin can handle the villain easily.[39]

However, the Joker's apparent helplessness is yet another ruse. Feigning injuries from Robin's assault, he scratches Robin with a paralyzing toxin painted onto his fingernails, going on to reveal that he has once again manipulated events toward his own ends and mocking Robin for going so far as to provide his own crowbar (another reference to the murder of Jason Todd). Appropriating Robin's utility belt, the Joker escapes to execute his attack on the Black Glove, unleashing his signature venom on an audience gathered under Professor Pyg (via tainted popcorn) and guiding Batman and his allies to a climactic confrontation. The Joker is seen in an undisclosed location, with Robin bound and gagged, and possessing what appears to be a nuclear weapon. Help arrives in the form of the original Batman (who just returned after the events of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne), who aids his successor and his son in their battle against the Black Glove and the Clown Prince of Crime in Wayne Manor and the Batcave. The second Batman pursues and captures the Joker, while the original Dark Knight, Robin, and Alfred Pennyworth disarm the Clown Prince of Crime's weapon and defeat the remaining Black Glove members.

Powers, abilities and equipment
The Joker commits crimes with comedic weapons such as a deck of bladed playing cards, an acid-squirting flower, cyanide-stuffed pies, exploding cigars filled with nitroglycerin, harpoon guns that utilize razor-sharp BANG!-flags, and a lethally electric joy buzzer. His most prominent weapon is his Joker venom, a deadly poison that infects his victims with a ghoulish rictus grin as they die while laughing uncontrollably. The venom comes in many forms, from gas to darts to liquid poison, and has been his primary calling card from his first appearance. The Joker is immune to every known venom as well as to his own laughing toxin; in Batman #663, Morrison writes that "being an avid consumer of his products, the Joker's immunity to poisons has been built up over years of dedicated abuse".[40]

The Joker is portrayed as highly intelligent and skilled in the fields of chemistry and engineering, as well an expert with explosives. In a miniseries featuring Tim Drake, the third Robin, the Joker is shown kidnapping a computer genius, and admitting that he doesn't know much about computers, although later writers have portrayed him as very computer literate.

The Joker's skills in unarmed combat vary considerably depending on the writer. Some writers have shown Joker to be a very skilled fighter, capable of holding his own against Batman (and sometimes even beating the caped crusader) in hand-to-hand combat. His versatility in combat is due in part to his own extensive array of hidden gadgets and weapons on his person that he often pulls out on a moment's whim (rolling a handful of explosive marbles on the ground, retractable knives attached to his spats, etc.); other writers, on the other hand, prefer portraying Joker as physically frail to the point that he can be defeated with a single punch. He is, however, consistently described as agile. Joker's skills in combat also differ in the film and television adaptations.

The Joker has cheated death numerous times, even in seemingly inescapable and lethal situations. He has been seen caught in explosions, been shot repeatedly, dropped from lethal heights, electrocuted, and so on, but he always returns once again to wreak havoc.[41][42]

Over several decades there have been a variety of depictions and possibilities regarding the Joker's apparent insanity. Grant Morrison's graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth suggests that the Joker's mental state is in fact a previously unprecedented form of "super-sanity," a form of ultra-sensory perception. It also suggests that he has no true personality of his own, that on any given day he can be a harmless clown or a vicious killer, depending on which would benefit him the most. Later, during the Knightfall saga, after Scarecrow and the Joker team up and kidnap the mayor of Gotham City, Scarecrow turns on the Joker and uses his fear gas to see what Joker is afraid of. To Scarecrow's surprise, the gas has no effect on Joker, who in turn beats him with a chair. In Morrison's JLA, the Martian Manhunter, trapped in a surreal maze created by the Joker, used his shape-shifting abilities to reconfigure his own brain to emulate the Joker's chaotic thought patterns. Later in the same storyline, Martian Manhunter uses his telepathic powers to reorganize the Joker's mind and create momentary sanity, albeit with great effort and only temporarily. In those few moments, the Joker expresses regret for his many crimes and pleads for a chance at redemption. However, during Batman: Cacophony, the Joker is again rendered sane when he is dosed up on painkillers after being fatally wounded by Onomatopoeia, and, during a subsequent conversation with Batman, although expressing regret for the loss that motivated Batman to never allow people to die if he could help it, informs the Dark Knight that he does not hate Batman because he is crazy, but is crazy because he hates him, stating that he will only 'retire' when Batman is dead.

In Elseworlds: Distant Fires, the Joker is rendered sane by a nuclear war that deprives all super beings of their powers. In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #145, the Joker became sane when Batman put him in one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits after being shot, a reversal of the insanity which may come after experiencing such rejuvenation. However, the sanity is only temporary, and soon the Joker is reverted back to his "normal" self.[43]

The character is sometimes portrayed as having a fourth wall awareness. In Batman: The Animated Series,[44] the Joker is the only character to talk directly into the "camera"[44] and can be heard whistling his own theme music in the episode adaptation of the comic Mad Love. Also, in the episode "Joker's Wild", he says into the camera, "Don't try this at home, kids!"[45] In the DC vs. Marvel crossover, he also demonstrates knowledge of the first Batman/Spider-Man crossover even though that story's events did not occur in the canonical history of either the Marvel or DC universe. On page five of "Sign of the Joker", the second half of the "Laughing Fish" storyline, the Joker turns the page for the reader, bowing and tipping his hat in mock politeness. On the official websites and associated promotional material for The Dark Knight, graffiti characteristic of the Joker can be found.[46] On the website, hidden among laughter is the message "See you in December", referring to the release of the film's trailer.[47]

Various origins
Pre disfigured Joker as Red Hood on the cover to Batman: Under The Hood (2005), art by Matt Wagner.Though many have been related, a definitive back-story has never been established for the Joker in the comics, and his real name has never been confirmed. He himself is confused as to what actually happened; as he says in The Killing Joke, "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha!"[21] In Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, written by Grant Morrison, it is said that the Joker may not be insane, but has some sort of "super-sanity" in which he re-creates himself each day to cope with the chaotic flow of modern urban life.[48]

The first origin account, Detective Comics #168 (February 1951), revealed that the Joker had once been a criminal known as the Red Hood. In the story, he is a chemical engineer looking to steal from the company that employs him and adopts the persona of Red Hood. After committing the theft, which Batman thwarts, he falls into a vat of chemical waste. He emerges with bleached white skin, red lips, green hair and a persistent grin.[49]

The most widely cited backstory, which the official DC Comics publication, Who's Who in the DC Universe credits as the most widely believed account, is featured in The Killing Joke. It depicts him as originally being an engineer at a chemical plant who quits his job to become a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate to support his pregnant wife Jeannie, he agrees to help two criminals break into the plant where he was formerly employed to get to the card company next door. In this version of the story, the Red Hood persona is given to the inside man of every job (thus it is never the same man twice); this makes the man appear to be the ringleader, allowing the two criminals to escape. During the planning, police contact him and inform him that his wife and unborn child have died in a household accident.[21][22]

Stricken with grief, he attempts to back out of the plan, but the criminals strong-arm him into keeping his promise. As soon as they enter the plant, however, they are immediately caught by security and a shoot-out ensues, in which the two criminals are killed. As the engineer tries to escape, he is confronted by Batman, who is investigating the disturbance. Terrified, the engineer leaps over a rail and plummets into a pound lock of chemicals. When he surfaces in the nearby reservoir, he removes the hood and sees his reflection: bleached chalk-white skin, ruby-red lips, and bright green hair. These events, coupled with his other misfortunes that day, drive the engineer completely insane, resulting in the birth of the Joker.[21][22]

The story "Pushback" (Batman: Gotham Knights #50-55) supports part of this version of the Joker's origin story. In it, a witness (who coincidentally turns out to be Edward Nigma) recounts that the Joker's wife was kidnapped and murdered by a corrupt cop working for the criminals in order to force the engineer into performing the crime. The Joker attempts to find the corrupt cop who committed the murder, but is beaten badly by Hush and expelled from Gotham before this takes place. "Payback" also shows pictures of the pre-disfigurement Joker — identified as "Jack" — with his wife, giving further support to this version.[50]

The Joker, before his accident, with his pregnant wife in Batman: The Killing Joke; by Brian Bolland.The Paul Dini-Alex Ross story "Case Study" proposes a far different theory. This story suggests that the Joker was a sadistic gangster who worked his way up Gotham's criminal food chain until he was the leader of a powerful mob. Still seeking the thrills that dirty work allowed, he created the Red Hood identity for himself so that he could commit small-time crimes. Eventually, he had his fateful first meeting with Batman, resulting in his disfigurement. However, the story suggests that the Joker remained sane, and researched his crimes to look like the work of a sick mind in order to pursue his vendetta against Batman, able to evade permanent incarceration via insanity defense. Unfortunately, the written report found explaining this theory is discovered to have been written by Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn, the Joker's insane sidekick/lover, which invalidates any credibility it could have in court.

The second arc of Batman Confidential (#7-12) re-imagines the Joker as a gifted criminal and abandons the Red Hood identity, also called Jack, who is nearly suicidal due to boredom with his "job". He talks to a waitress, Harleen Quinzel, who convinces him to find something to live for. Jack becomes obsessed with Batman after he breaks up one of his jobs, leading Jack to attract Batman's attention at a ball. Jack injures Lorna Shore (whom Bruce Wayne is dating), leading Batman to disfigure his face with a batarang. Jack escapes and Batman gives Jack's information to mobsters, who torture Jack in a chemical plant. Jack kills several of his assailants after escaping, but falls into an empty vat as wild gunfire punctures the chemical tanks above him, and the resultant flood of antidepressant chemicals alters his appearance to that of a clown, completing his transformation into the Joker.[51]

The Brave and the Bold issue #31, penned by J. Michael Straczynski, builds on this origin for the Joker. In it, Atom assists in an operation on the Joker's brain. While inside the Joker's head, he sees the flashes of his life as "Jack", before his fateful first encounter with Batman. As a child, Jack savagely beats a bully; as a teen, he locks his parents in their house and sets it on fire after they find him killing neighborhood pets. Jack eventually joins a gang and needlessly kills a shopowner, causing his allies to potentially be charged with the murder, and kills a gang member who scolds him for the murder. His career as the Joker begins soon afterward, including one panel alluding to the film The Dark Knight.[52]

Although all comic appearances of the Joker set in the mainstream DC Universe conform to the notion of Joker's skin and hair being permanently altered by the chemicals, some portrayals have suggested that his red lips however are purely the result of wearing lipstick. Additionally, some writers and artists have inconsistently depicted the Joker's iconically large smile as resulting from some form of additional disfigurement (in a similar manner as his cinematic counterparts), which in some cases is explained by conflicting versions of his origins, while in others remains unacknowledged. Most comic portrayals over the decades, however, default to depicting the Joker as unscarred and fully capable of not smiling, should the mood take him.[31][51][53][54]

The Joker has been referred to as the Clown Prince of Crime (or Chaos), the Harlequin of Hate (Havoc), and the Ace of Knaves. Throughout the evolution of the DC Universe, interpretations and incarnations of the Joker have taken two forms. The original and currently dominant image is of a highly intelligent psychopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor.[55][56] The other interpretation of the character, popular in the late 1940s through 1960s comic books as well as the 1960s television series, is that of an eccentric but harmless prankster and thief. Batman: The Animated Series blended these two aspects, although most interpretations tend to embrace one characterization or the other.[44]

The Joker's victims have included men, women, children, and even his own henchmen and other villains. In the graphic novel The Joker: Devil's Advocate, the Joker is reported to have killed well over 2,000 people. Despite having murdered enough people to get the death penalty thousands of times over, he is always found not guilty by reason of insanity.[57] In the Batman story line "War Crimes", this continued ruling of insanity is in fact made possible by the Joker's own dream team of lawyers. He is then placed in Arkham Asylum, from which he appears able to escape at will, going so far as to claim that it is just a resting ground in between his "performances".

Batman has been given numerous opportunities to put the Joker down once and for all, but has relented at the last minute. As an example, in one story line, Batman threatens to kill the Joker, but stops himself upon realizing that such an act would make him "a killer like yourself!" Conversely, the Joker has given up many chances to kill the Batman because the Joker defines himself by his struggle with his archnemesis. However, after a man dressed as Batman shot the Joker, Joker became enraged at the fact that his old enemy tried to end his life. Additionally, in a confrontation with a resurrected Jason Todd, Batman admits that he often fantasizes about killing the Joker, but that he will not allow himself the pleasure because he knows that there would be no turning back.

The Joker is renowned as Batman's greatest enemy.[58] While other villains rely on tried-and-true methods to commit crimes (such as Mr. Freeze's freeze gun or Poison Ivy's toxic plants), Joker has a variety of weapons at his disposal. For example, the flower he wears in his lapel sprays (at any given time) highly corrosive acid, poisonous gas, or soda water. In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and much earlier in "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker!" (Batman #321), or more recent in Detective Comics 866 (June 2010), the Joker has a gun which at first shoots a flag saying "BANG!", but then, with another pull of the trigger, the flag fires and impales its target (in the edited version of Return of the Joker, the gun shoots Joker gas).[42][59] His most recurring weapons are a high-voltage hand-buzzer, which he uses to electrocute his victims with a handshake, as well as his iconic Joker venom, which will either cause a victim to become paralyzed, comatose, or even die, depending on the strength of the particular batch. What all versions share however, is that the effects are always preceded by hysterical fits of laughter, as well as a frozen grin. His unpredictable, homicidal nature makes him one of the most feared supervillains in the DC Universe; in the Villains United and Infinite Crisis mini-series, the members of the villains' Secret Society refuse to induct the Joker for this reason. In the mini-series Underworld Unleashed, the Trickster remarks, "When super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories."

New Thor Images

Monday, April 18, 2011



The Avengers:

Earth's Mightiest Heroes!

Volume 1 & Volume 2

The First 13 Episodes of Marvel's

All New Animated Series to Debut

On DVD April 26, 2011

BURBANK, Calif., March 2, 2011 - When the forces of evil are so overwhelming that no single hero can save the world...the Avengers assemble! Featuring Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk, fans can now own the first 13 episodes of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! in two must-have, collectible DVD volumes, available April 26 by The Walt Disney Studios.

"the show unleashes enough action to be plenty mighty with boys" - Variety Magazine

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! Volume 1 includes episodes 1-7, plus an exclusive look at the evolving characters and storyline of Season 2, and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! Volume 2 includes episodes 8-13 plus another exclusive sneak peek at Season 2 that reveals what makes the Marvel Super Heroes and Villains so unique.

Featuring your favorite animated Super Heroes - Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Hulk - The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! sees planet Earth threatened by Super Villains, time traveling conquerors, alien invaders, mythical beasts and rampaging robots...all bent on the total destruction of humanity. Unfortunately against these impossible odds, no individual hero has the power to save the world and just when all appears to be hopeless, the most skilled champions in the Marvel universe join forces to form the mightiest Super Hero team in history. The Avengers come to the rescue when the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.

"It's all about the action, and The Avengers: World's Mightiest Heroes delivers" -

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! stars the well-known voice talents of Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, "House M.D.") as Thor, Brian Bloom (The A Team, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2) as Captain America, Fred Tatasciore (Tron: Evolution, Hulk Vs., "Wolverine and the X-Men") as The Hulk, Wally Wingert ("The Family Guy," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno") as Ant Man, and Phil Lamarr ("Mad TV," "Futurama") as Jarvis.


Volume 1 Episodes:

Iron Man Is Born!

Thor The Mighty

Hulk Versus The World

Meet Captain America

The Man in the Ant Hill

Breakout: Part 1

Breakout: Part 2

Volume 2 Episodes:

Some Assembly Required

Living Legend

Everything Is Wonderful

Panther's Quest

Gamma World: Part 1

Gamma World: Part 2

Street Date: April 26, 2011

Suggested Retail Price: Volume 1 - Single Disc DVD = $19.99 U.S.

Suggested Retail Price: Volume 2 - Single Disc DVD = $19.99 U.S.

Rated: TV-Y7 (*Bonus materials not rated)

Run Time: Volume 1 - Approximately 154 minutes (seven 22-minute episodes)

Run Time: Volume 2 - Approximately 132 minutes (six 22-minute episodes)

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (16x9 widescreen)

Sound: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound

Languages: English & Spanish


Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world's most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of over 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media over seventy years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing and publishing. For more information visit


For more than 85 years, The Walt Disney Studios has been the foundation on which The Walt Disney Company (DIS: NYSE) was built. Today, the Studio brings quality movies, music and stage plays to consumers throughout the world. Feature films are released under four banners: Walt Disney Pictures, which includes Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, Disneynature, Touchstone Pictures and Marvel. Through the Home Entertainment division, innovative distribution methods provide access to creative content across multiple platforms. Original music and motion picture soundtracks are produced under Walt Disney Records and Hollywood Records, while Disney Theatrical Group produces and licenses live events, including Broadway theatrical productions, Disney on Ice and Disney LIVE! For more information, please visit

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Thor and the Doctor!

En Sabah Nur: “The First One”

In the harsh, unforgiving desert of ancient Egypt, ruled by Rama-Tut, a band of nomadic raiders found an infant, gray-skinned and freakish in appearance, abandoned by the settlers of Akkaba. The nomads took the child for their own, giving him the name En Sabah Nur, “The First One,” and teaching him to be "strong" in order to survive the desert as a child. This idea, that "the strong will survive," would shape Apocalypse's actions throughout time.

When En Sabah Nur was an adult, he was captured with his nomadic clan and forced into slave labor under the Grand Vizier Ozymandias. He quickly became a rebel and was even killed by agents of Ozymandias, only to be revived soon after due to his mutant powers. Believing himself "strong" and blessed, En Sabah Nur discovered Rama Tut’s technology underneath Egypt, and soon destroyed the Egyptian rulers around him and twisted Ozymandias into the being he is today.

Apparently, Apocalypse would use Rama Tut’s technology to "regenerate" for long periods of time, becoming more and more powerful when awakening. He was also known to have traveled around the world during these ancient years, appearing to various primitive cultures as their death god. At some point, when traveling through Mongolia, Apocalypse encountered a spaceship abandoned by the planet-judging aliens, the Celestials. His travels then became fueled by a single-minded purpose-- to find the key that would unlock the secrets to this alien technology. He found it in the person of Nathan Summers, then wandering various eras as the Traveler. The two fought, and although Apocalypse was nearly killed, he was saved by Ozymandias and taken to the Celestial ship. Apocalypse’s blood had become infected with Summers’ techno-organic virus during the battle, and the infection allowed Apocalypse to not only transform into an even more powerful being, but to also interface with the Celestial ship, claiming it as his own.

Another reawakening occurred during the 12th century Crusades. Apocalypse's regeneration chamber was thought to be a temple of great power, and was sought out by the Black Knight and his friend Bennet du Paris, whom Apocalypse recognized as a mutant, and created him into the being known as Exodus.

Later, Apocalypse surfaced in late 19th-century England, about the same time Darwin was proposing his "survival of the fittest" theories. Apocalypse, searching for underlings, met the scientist Nathaniel Essex, whose own desire for scientific knowledge led him to foresee the abundance of mutants that would occur in modern times. Apocalypse earned the allegiance of Essex, turning him into the being now known as Mister Sinister, but was soon defeated by the time-lost mutants, Cyclops and Phoenix.

In recent years, Apocalypse was somehow awakened by the arrival of Cyclops’ son from the future, Cable. Apocalypse made another move against Cyclops and his team, X-Factor, by pitting them against a team of his own creation, the Alliance of Evil. Although he never used his Alliance again, Apocalypse soon formed the Horsemen of Apocalypse to plague humankind, when his ideas to "cull" humanity in order for the rise of mutant supremacy were beginning. He fought X-Factor again, and even captured their member Angel to turn into his Horseman of Death, although he defected, to be later replaced by X-Factor's ally, Caliban. Later, Apocalypse infected Cyclops' son, Nathan (who would become Cable) with the techno-organic virus (which would also inadvertently create Cable’s counterpart, Stryfe, as well as ensure his own infection when he met Cable as the Traveler) but was defeated by X-Factor in final battle.

Apocalypse abandoned his Horsemen in favor of his Riders of the Storm (a.k.a. the Dark Riders) and later became the target of time-traveling Stryfe, who, as a clone of Nathan, was raised by Apocalypse in a horrific alternate future in which Apocalypse had risen to power. Eventually, Stryfe left Apocalypse withered and dying on the surface of the moon, where he was confronted by his Dark Riders and left for dead.

Later, Apocalypse tried to revive his team of Horseman, transforming the Hulk into War, until Hulk broke free and went his own way. Over time, Apocalypse managed to re-create his Horsemen, transforming recognized heroes and villains into versions of War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death, (specifically Deathbird, Caliban, the X-Men’s associate, Rory Campbell, and Wolverine.)

About the same time, Apocalypse apparently encountered and agreed to lead a faction of the Skrulls, who were investigating their own race's mutations. Apocalypse led these Skrulls in finally assembling what Apocalypse called "the Twelve," mutants who Apocalypse would absorb powers from, giving him god-like abilities to re-create the world in Apocalypse's image. Many of the Twelve were members of the X-Men, and the team assembled to stop Apocalyspe. In the process of absorbing all of the Twelve’s powers into himself, Cyclops was merged with Apocalypse instead of Nate Grey, whom Apocalypse preferred. Unable to cope with the influx of power due to Cyclops' involvement, Apocalypse rejected the power, escaping and abandoning his mission, although Cyclops' body was seeming killed in the process.

Soon, Phoenix and Cable left the X-Men in order to focus their attention on a search for Summers, whom they believed to still be alive. They tracked Apocalypse to his birth place in Egypt, where Summers, now an amalgamation of himself and Apocalypse, fought them. Ultimately, Jean was able to physically rip Apocalypse from Summers' body using her mental powers, and Cable destroyed Apocalypse's essence with his own telepathic powers.

However, Apocalypse did not die, but managed to regenerate in a tomb in Akkaba. He immediately set about creating more Horsemen, this time recruiting Gazer, Sunfire, and Polaris. Gambit had also sought Apocalypse, hoping to be a mole for the X-Men but becoming twisted by Apocalypse instead. When Apocalypse’s power once again was at his peak, he confronted the X-Men at their mansion headquarters, which had since become a camp of refugees from the events of M-Day. Despite recruiting several refugees to his cause, Apocalypse was forced to retreat by the X-Men and the Avengers. Ultimately, it was revealed that Apocalypse had never been able to use the Celestials' technology without their notice, and Apocalypse believed that they would soon exact their retribution. Apocalypse sought death as an escape route, but the Celestials appeared, resurrecting him in order to spirit him away for their judgement.

More on

Sunday, April 17, 2011

DC Universe Action Figures

CBR REVIEW: “Thor” Best Marvel Film Yet!

The super hero universe grows on the silver screen with the upcoming Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures release of “ Thor,” but in a decidedly non-super hero fashion. Where previous films featuring super powered beings focused almost entirely on the players, the shift in this film takes a bold step towards world building, which helps makes this the best Marvel film release yet.

Director Kenneth Branagh does well with what is essentially a pretty simple origin story – powerful son disappoints father, struggles to learn the lessons his father imparts, yet finally overcomes his own arrogance and over confidence to grow as both a man and hero. We’ve seen this story played out in literature and film numerous times, but Branagh deftly manages his cast and brings out performances that make the somewhat mechanical storyline feel both new and engaging.

After a short sequence on Earth, the film starts by taking the audience immediately to Asgard, the home world of Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth. We’re given a brief Asgardian history lesson focusing on their deadly war with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, ruled by Laufey. The story is told by King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to his two young sons, Thor and Loki, and brings the audience up to speed in quick fashion by telling the tale of an incredible battle between Odin’s forces and the Frost Giants. Great sacrifices are made on both sides, but ultimately the Frost Giants are defeated and what follows is a tense but peaceful period between the two worlds.

Questions have dogged this production from the start of whether or not audiences would accept a super hero film where much of the feature takes place on a fantastic world very unlike Earth. Once your through the back story and brought in to the present day, you’re left wanting to know more about Asgard’s history and are blown away by its majesty. Hopkins’ brings great strength to his role as a wise old leader and helps ground Asgard and makes it relatable for the audience.

The film moves back and forth comfortably between Earth and Asgard. Thor’s ascension to the throne is interrupted when he convinces his friends Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three – Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Josh Dallas) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) – to confront the Frost Giants after they breach Asgardian security in an attempt to steal a powerful weapon. This brings about a second war between Jotunheim and Asgard and for going against his father’s express wishes, Odin
banishes his son to Earth. This is a powerful moment between the defiant son and a very disappointed and troubled father. It’s here we see Hopkins shine and he helps rise the performances of all those around him.

When Thor arrives on earth we meet scientist Jane Foster played by Natalie Portman. The chemistry between Portman and Hemsworth is instantly evident, but Marvel smartly chose to not over state the romantic storyline. It’s there, in the background, but never forced and develops naturally. It’s clear this love affair will be explored more either in “The Avengers” or the potential sequel to this film.

Foster is witness to the event that brings Thor to earth, an incredible wormhole which transports our heroes from Heimdall’s Observatory on Asgard through the use of bifrost AKA the Rainbow Bridge. While the design and look of Asgard is awe inspiring, the most impressive design has to be the Observatory and how this jump through space takes place. Idris Alba’s Heimdall is an imposing and powerful figure in the film who watches over this incredible observatory that spins to life with great speed and beauty. Space travel has never looked so cool.

Foster’s research in to these events on Earth is interrupted by SHIELD, that mysterious government agency headed up by Nick Fury. It’s SHIELD’s investigation that allows this film to set up “The Avengers,” giving us a glimpse of characters appearing in that film and setting the table for what’s to come. Agent Phil Coulson, played deftly by Clark Gregg, is at the center of this storyline. While he was seen in “Iron Man” 1 & 2, he plays a much larger role in “Thor” and brings a likeable touch to this clandestine organization.

While Foster tries to better understand who this new being is that magically appeared in her life, Loki’s story is revealed back on Asgard. With Thor out of the picture on Earth and powerless to act, this allows Loki to seize control of the throne through manipulation and trickery. Finding Loki’s ascension impossible to accept, Sif and the Warrior Three journey to Earth in an attempt to find Thor and bring him home. The performance of these actors makes them instantly likeable, but their lack of character development is one of the great missed opportunities of the film. We’re given brief glimpses in to who these players are and what meaning they have in Thor’s life. When we do see them they’re mostly fighting in impressive action sequences by Thor’s side on Jotunheim or back on Earth against the massive Destroyer, but you’re left wanting to know much more about who they are.

Hemsworth plays Thor deftly as a powerful, confident general and he’ll fit well alongside the likes of Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. in the upcoming “The Avengers.” For a young actor who’s never carried a movie of this scale on his own, it’s an impressive performance that plays up the iconic features and power of the character.

While there’s not a weak performance by anyone in “Thor,” the standouts are the two villains played by Hiddleston and Feore. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is played with great subtlety. While he may appear almost half the size of Hemsworth, at no point do you doubt his power when he goes up against Heimdall or battles his brother in the final action sequence. His deviousness and duplicity make him an instantly memorable villain.

It’s Colm Feore’s role as Laufey that audiences may come away from this film remembering best. Having met Feore on set last May in full make-up, it became apparent that the actor was transformed by the intricately designed costume. Through the magic of digital effects, Feore puts on a good foot or two in height, making him one of the most imposing physical creatures seen on film. Laufey simply shines in a stirring final battle with Loki and Thor.

Seeing the film in 3D was nice, but only half effective. Aside from an outstanding action sequence in New Mexico with the mechanical and quite deadly Destroyer, the 3D is lost on the Earth bound sequences. On the other hand, Asgard is majestic in 3D and special attention should be paid by audiences to these scenes, especially those in Odin’s throne room and anything involving Heimdall’s observatory.

Patrick Doyle’s score at times helps convey the grandeur of Asgard and nicely accentuates the action set pieces, but at times it’s the weak link in the film, playing up the drama with a melodramatic tone that may leave you rolling your eyes occasionally. It’s these moments that remind me of Branagh’s early directing attempt “Dead Again,” a favorite of mine, but ultimately the melodrama that works so effectively in that film doesn’t go over as well in “Thor.”

It’s on Asgard that this film takes on a more “Lord of the Rings” quality and that’s very much a good thing. Where “Iron Man” 1 & 2 felt like traditional super hero films, with “Thor” Marvel is clearly universe building. At no point do you really look at Thor like you do a traditional super hero like Iron Man, Spider-Man or even Batman. This is not to say one is better than the other, but only to illustrate the point that the style of presentation seen in this film is different from what we’ve seen before and helps to expand the brand.

Blink and you may miss references to other events in the Marvel Studios universe or the brief cameos of Stan Lee, J. Michael Straczynski, Walter Simonson and Louise Simonson. Comic fans will absolutely want to stay to the end of the credits for what has to be the best teaser from Marvel Studios.

While “Thor” is not a perfect film, it is the best from Marvel Studios yet. The lessons learned from their previous attempts are evident here, with a strong storyline that doesn’t have any major weaknesses. The film deftly expands the Marvel Universe in film, taking bold steps to set itself apart from the pack, with a great set-up for what may be the ultimate super hero cross over.

”Thor” opens in the US on May 6th.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Etrigan: The Demon

Etrigan, son of the demon Belial, is summoned by the wizard Merlin, his half-brother. Unable to gain the creature's secrets, he bonds the demon with Jason Blood, a knight in King Arthur's Camelot. This renders Jason immortal, though at times he considers this either a penance or a curse. He eventually becomes a prominent demonologist and settles in Gotham City.

Centuries later, Jason is called to the crypt of Merlin and discovers a poem that changes him into Etrigan. Unfortunately, he is followed by the long-lived Morgaine le Fey, who lusts for Merlin's secrets. That leads to Etrigan's first major battle. Over the years, Etrigan both clashes with and occasionally aids Earth's heroes, guided by his own whims and Jason's attempts to turn his infernal power to good use.

Some time after his first appearance, Etrigan begins speaking in rhyme due to a promotion in Hell, though he is not limited to rhyme.

Despite Blood's own doubts about himself, when the Justice League vanished during their attempt to rescue Aquaman from the past, Batman's emergency program — designed to assemble a substitute Justice League in the event that the originals were ever killed — selected Blood as the team's magic expert, a pre-recorded message Batman had left for Blood assuring the sorceror that he would not give Etrigan the keys to the Watchtower unless he was certain he could be controlled. While working with the team, Jason spent some time reinforcing the Watchtower's magical defences. During the subsequent fight with Gamemnae, Jason sacrificed himself to free Zatanna from her control, although he later escaped Gamemnae's quagmire spell thanks to the Martian Manhunter telepathically prompting his transformation into Etrigan. The crisis resolved, Jason handed his duties as the League's magic expert over to Manitou Raven, newly-arrived in the present, before departing.

The series Blood of the Demon, plotted and drawn by John Byrne, and scripted by Will Pfeifer, began in May 2005. Etrigan apparently loses the restrictions imposed upon him by the wizard Merlin which turned him from evil, caused by his "murder" at the exact moment he was transforming from his human guise, Jason Blood, into his demon self. It turns out that the incident has resulted in Jason Blood being able to exert some will over Etrigan's violent nature, whereas previously the two remained separate, only one existing at a time. Blood of the Demon ended with issue #17 in July 2006.

Etrigan later attempts to use Lucifer's trident to take control of Hell. A makeshift Shadowpact team successfully takes the Trident from him and flees to the supernatural Oblivion Bar. Etrigan follows and battles the team inside the bar. He is turned into stone via magical pistols and is used as a hatrack. The pistol's magic would return Etrigan to normal at sunrise, which never happens within the bar.

Etrigan takes part in the war for control of Hell on behalf of Neron, duelling Blue Devil. Later, due to the effects of a magical drug Satanus had infested Hell with, he was transformed into a physical human, a perfect duplicate of Jason Blood. Blood, meanwhile, has taken steps as to interfere with any possible attempts of Etrigan's to re-merge.

During the Blackest Night, Blood's body is possessed by Deadman, who invokes Etrigan's transformation, using his flames to hold back the Black Lanterns.

Etrigan briefly appears in the prelude to the JLA/JSA crossover during the Brightest Day event. Etrigan travels to Germany in order to find a crashed meteorite that contains an unconscious Jade, and is drawn into a confrontation with the Justice League after attacking a squad of German superheroes. He mocks the League by claiming they are an inferior team of substitutes, but is ultimately defeated when Donna Troy uses her Lasso of Persuasion to force him back into his Jason Blood form. Jason apologizes for the trouble he caused and departs from the scene, but not before warning Batman and his teammates that the meteorite possesses supernatural qualities. The meteor is later revealed to be the Starheart, a legendary entitiy that has the power to possess metahumans with magical or elemental abilities.

The poem that releases Etrigan is:

“ Yarva Demonicus Etrigan.

Change, change the form of man.

Free the prince forever damned.

Free the might from fleshy mire.

Boil the blood in heart of fire.

Gone, gone the form of man,

Rise the demon Etrigan! ”

Jason Blood's first transformation into the Demon occurs when reading the inscription on the surface of a stone tomb:

“ Change! Change, O form of man!

Release the might from fleshy mire!

Boil the blood in heart of fire!

Gone! Gone! — the form of man —

Rise, the Demon Etrigan!! ”

—The Demon #1 (August/September 1972), p. 22

Generally, only the last two lines are actively recited, and the words have been known to vary slightly; the phrase "yarva daemonicus etrigan" has occasionally been used, but not consistently.

The reverse spell has several different wordings, all with the basic form "Gone, gone, O Etrigan! / Resume once more the form of man!" Alternate words include, "Begone, begone, O Etrigan!" and "Rise again..." (or "once more"); virtually every combination has been used at one time or another. The spell itself does not need to be recited by Jason or Etrigan to be effective, merely within their range of hearing. In emergencies when Jason cannot speak (for instance, when he was turned into a fly), writing it is sometimes sufficient to effect the change. On one occasion, Blood released Etrigan by using a parody of the spell ("Gone, O little man so tame / And rise the demon Whatshisname").

ComicLink Sells Incredible Hulk #181 CGC 9.9 For $150,000

A Bronze Age comic has broken the six-figure ceiling with the single highest CGC graded example of Incredible Hulk #181, Wolverine’s first full appearance, changing hands on ComicLink for $150,000. This lone 9.9 has long been estimated to be the single most valuable comic book of the 1970s, but it had never changed hands publicly until this sale a few weeks ago. This number sets a new standard for high grade comics from the Bronze Age and clearly demonstrates the popularity of Wolverine amongst collectors.

Next to Spider-Man, Wolverine has emerged as the most popular superhero in the Marvel Universe. Shortly after Incredible Hulk #181, Wolverine appeared in Giant-Size X-men #1 and X-Men #94, becoming a permanent part of the most exciting superhero team of the last four decades. X-Men is not only one of the most significant Marvel titles of all-time, but it is one of the most successful entertainment franchises to ever emerge from the comic book industry. Wolverine has long lead the way as the most popular of the Marvel mutants, not only featured in his own long-running title, but also being the first to get his very own blockbuster feature film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

“It is a rare event when the single highest certified example of a comic as important as Incredible Hulk #181 changes hands,” says ComicLink President Josh Nathanson. “This singular 9.9 has long been tucked away in a private collection, largely hidden away from public view. The sale of this book is not only a great example of the strength of the market for top graded keys, but also an incredible acquisition for the new owner! Think of the bragging rights!”

If you are interested in selling in upcoming 2011 ComicLink auctions, simply e-mail for a prompt reply or call Josh Nathanson, Douglas Gillock, or other members of the ComicLink staff at 617-517-0062. And if you are a buyer/bidder remember that in addition to items on the auction block, there are also over 10,000 CGC Graded comic books listed on the ComicLink Comic Book Exchange, and many impressive original art items listed on the Comic Art Exchange.