Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wrestling Wednesdays: Kane

This is the first in a semi-regular series of columns focusing on great wrestling ideas and storylines, often with a touch of super-powered storytelling in the process. I actually scrapped my original plans for my first post (though it should appear in the next couple weeks) to focus on a character that I have loved for years and has really came out in to his own in the last few weeks: the Big Red Machine known as Kane.

I very willingly admit I am what they call a “smart” mark, a wrestling fan that knows just a little too much about the wrestling world for his own good. It often makes me finicky as a wrestling fan, though never quite at the level of some of the craziest “smarks” I have met on the net. I still appreciate a good gimmick, a good storyline, and good charisma along with a good wrestler. I just wanted to include this preference to clear up any confusion when I talk about the subject for the first week of this column: Kane.

Now Kane was a great gimmick early on, much as Undertaker was, simply because both characters may be the closest thing WWF/WWE ever came to having true superhero crossovers. Wrestling has had a superhuman quality to it since the days of Hulk Hogan, but the two supernatural forces, brothers and enemies, personified why great gimmicks can truly take a wrestler to the next plateau in their career.

After years of going in and out of wrestling with some of the worst gimmicks imaginable: Unabomb, the Dark Knight (an actual knight, not Batman), the New Diesel, and Dr. Isaac Yankem DDS (the evil wrestling dentist...with bad teeth!), Glen Jacobs finally got the wrestlign gimmick that would change his life. Paul Bearer and Undertaker split up several months before after years of working together. Alongside Mankind, Bearer had a long feud with Taker, but never could pick up a win. So he decided to bring in his ace in the hole: Undertaker’s long lost brother.

They teased the coming of Kane for several weeks until October 1997 during the Badd Blood pay-per-view. During the first ever Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker, Kane arrived to attack his brother.

It would be months still before the feud finally lit up, despite all the fire in Kane’s entrance. He would feud with his brother for most of the next year. This would lead him to his first WWE title shot in mid-1998. He would quickly beat Stone Cold Steve Austin to win the title. he would hold it for only a day, as he dropped it back to Austin on the very next night.

Over the next several years, Kane would continue to alternately switch from face to heel as he alternately fought and teamed with his brother. The two characters would have their own stories, but it never seemed to be more than a few months before they met again. During the Invasion, they officially became a tag team, the Brothers of Destruction, and dominated for several months against all foes. His costume reversed during this title reign, as his old red and black outfit suddenly turned primarily black with red flames all around it. The new attire proved slightly more sensible (what is a black flame anyway?) while the slightly smaller mask seemed to give Kane a greater ability to both breath and to speak, a trait he picked up only months before (through a brief team with X-Pac.)Their feats at the time bordered on superhuman, as it often seemed that no matter how great the force lined against them, they were unbeatable.

As the invasion ended, the brand extension began. And with it came the first chance for the two brothers to be completely separated. Taker was on show while Kane was on the other (though they both switched shows early on.) Kane returned after injury with his first major revamp in appearance since his debut. With his new look and his first long term run as a hero, Kane’s focus seemed to be on putting together multiple title reigns. He would be the final Intercontinental champion (or at least until the title was brought back nine months later) and hold the tag titles twice, once with Raw’s comedic superhero The Hurricane, the other with the high-flying Rob Van Dam.

After the tag title run with RVD ran its course, he would enter his last big main event push in mid-1994. He would feud briefly with Triple H for the World title, only to lose by interference to Triple H in a mask vs title match. After seven years, Kane would have to unmask.

Without his mask he would become a more human foe, but a man fueled by an unending rage as well as a desperate need not just to beat, but also to torture his foes. He turned on first Rob Van Dam and later on Shane McMahon. He would tear both apart over subsuquent months on his way back to the World title picture. He would eventually fail in his quest to get the title, falling to Triple H and Goldberg, but he did run head long in to an old enemy: Undertaker.

At Vince McMahon’s bidding, he helped beat Undertaker in a buried alive match and the Deadman disappeared for several months. But as Wrestlemania XX, the classic Undertaker would return and defeat Kane once and for all (or for now at least.)

He would end up involved in an extended story for the next year involving Lita, which would take him through a feud with Matt Hardy before he turned face and battled Gene Snitsky and Edge (with Lita turning against him). From here he would flounder in the midcard with only a short lived tag reign with the Big Show. Kane would continue to grow crazier over the next few weeks until he left Raw to return to SmackDown. Kane became a long term midcarder as of 2006, often doing little more than helping midcard stars look better by beating the crazed monster. He would go on to a brief run as the (midcard) ECW champion. This run would quickly end a sell, and he quickly returned to midcard status.

But that ended just a few weeks ago. With his brother Undertaker suddenly attacked and left in a vegetative state, Kane started on a path of destruction. He destroyed every top star on Smackdown over the next several weeks until just a few weeks ago, at Money in the Bank. He would win a Smackdown title shot and almost immediately cash it in to win the World title from Rey Mysterio.

After twelve years, Kane was World champion again.

It’s all a bit crazed, as any long term history of a pro wrestler tends to be. But Kane has proven again and again that he is by far one of the best and most versatile characters in professional wrestling. He is an insane sociopath, whether good or evil, with powers granted him by dark forces.

This is almost certainly Kane’s last hurrah as champion. His dark presence continues to be felt strongly over WWE, but at 43 Glen Jacobs, the man that plays Kane, only has a few more years left in his career. Still it’s great to see such a super-heroic (or super-villainous) presence rise in modern wrestling. The great gimmicks are few and far between in wrestling these days, and to see someone as powerful and entertaining as the Big Red Machine holding the title, does my super-powered heart proud.

Monday, July 26, 2010

DCU Online a.k.a. San Diego Forgetfulness

One thing I managed to forget was this six minute teaser for the new DC Universe MMO. While nothing really had stood out to me as really epic about this game, things have changed with the debut of this clip. This looks epic.

I’m sure more San Diego news will trickle out in its aftermath. Anything else newsworthy I will throw on here in the next couple days.

Weekend Con Round up!

It has been made official in today’s Cup O’ Joe panel, Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman of the amazing Atlas will be taking over Hulk. Which means I may just be buying my first Hulk title in over a decade.

The Crossgen Sigil and the year 2011 also made an appearance at the panel, which for long time Crossgen fans like myself is nothing but good news.

Alt-adult site is getting its own comic from IDW with both Steve Niles and Cameron Stewart on board. John Byrne will be the next creator on the Jurassic Park comic. A Bleeding Cool rumor proved true as they announced a new Rocketeer title with an all star lineup of creators. Though apparently slated for the far-away date of December 2011, another personal favorite of mine will be returning at IDW: John Byrne’s Next Man, an all new run by Byrne himself. They finish up with the strangest announcement: a crossover called “Infestation” that ties their licensed books like G.I.Joe, Transformers, Star Trek, CVO, and Ghostbusters together and which may very well be zombie related. Odd.

In the most awesome of awesome video game news (and super-power related at least) is the announcement of new crossover game Street Fighter X Tekken. The awesomenest oozes from the very idea.

The new seventies-style exploitation trailer is extremely red band and makes it clear that Machete is nigh superhuman in his abilities as well. Do to its graphic nature I won’t post a direct link here, but you can check it out at Topless Robot.

The Spider-Man panel also confirmed another major Bleeding Cool rumor, with Amazing Spider-Man going biweekly with Dan Slott as the solo writer under the new banner name “Big Time”. Carnage and Norman Osborn will both get minis as well.

Vertigo announced that most of its former DC characters will be returning to the DCU. What this means for the futures of House of Mystery and Hellblazer is anyone’s guess.

Oh, and Marvel was daring enough to put the Infinity Gauntlet on display for everyone. Thankfully no one stole it and used it to reshape the universe in their image.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday Comic Con Round-up!

Marvel has introduced Generation Hope as its new X-title, a book about new mutants appearing for the first time since Messiah Complex. Kieron Gillen (Phonogram) is writing, but I still can’t bring myself to be that interested.

Axe Cop co-creator Ethan Nicolle mae an appearance at the Dark Horse Comics panel, but it remains unclear whether or not this means a Dark Horse-produced collection of Axe Cop. Doctor Spector and Mighty Samson will both be joining Shooter’s Gold Key revival. Reminders of the upcoming Conan: Road of Kings by Roy Thomas and a return to Dark Horse Presents. Andrew Vachss is also returning to Dark Horse with a new project called Heart Transplant.

One of the most interesting panels was for a movie by writer/director James Gunn called Super about Rainn Wilson as a would-be hero. Ellen Page plays his slighly psychotic sidekick with Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion, Liv Tyler, and Michael Rooker rounding out the cast. Check out Newsarama for more on the film.

DC introduced Grant Morrison’s new book Batman Inc. which Morrison claims is inspired by the Batman Brave and the Bold cartoon series. Art is by a favorite of mine, Yanick Paquette.

DC has a preview up of its new Young Justice series. Check it out on Youtube:

Image Comics presented a panel that introduced Mark Guggenheim’s new imprint Collider Entertainment, which will include Utopian, a superhero book set in a (wait for it...) utopia, and The Mission, which has to do with serial killers and the voice of God. Ron Marz is producing a creator-owned samurai-vampire series for Image Central with Shinku drawn by his Dragon Prince co-conspirator Lee Moder. A Top Cow-produced Firebreather Dragon Prince limited was also announced. Otherwise they only previewed already announced books (which isn’t unusual for Image as they rarely have publishing schedules set a year in advance.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday Con Round-up!

Overall it has been a quiet convention so far without too many big new announcements. Most of the panels have focused on material already released or coming very soon. But a few announcements did make it out.

The final variant has been announced for the upcoming Spider-Man: Shattered Dimension video game. Joining the already announced 616 Spidey, Spider-Man Noir, and Spider-Man 2099 will be the black-costumed Ultimate Spider-Man. I am thoroughly excited about this one. Hopefully it plays as good as it looks. Video below.

Marvel also announced several new series: Power Man and Iron Fist by Fred Van Lente and Wellington Alves (featuring Iron Fist and the newly debuted Power Man), Ultimate Thor, Mark Waid back on Cap with Captain America: Man Out of Time, DNA producing Rocket Raccoon and Groot (with a cover by classic Rocket artist Mike Mignola), indy creator anthology Strange Tales II, a new ongoing in Captain America: Fighting Avenger treading the same all ages ground as the recent Thor the Mighty Avenger, and Atomic Robo’s Brian Clevinger writing Captain America: Hail Hydra. Does Cap have a movie coming out or something?

Mike Mignola returns to his second greatest work!

Apparently it wasn’t official yet, but it is now. Joss Whedon is the official director of Avengers.

DC has a “hardcore violent” Suicide Squad game in the works as well. A movie is in development as well, so whether or not they are related is still up in the air. In related news, who decided Suicide Squad was this strong of a franchise?

Stan Lee Goes BOOM!

Not literally, but BOOM! Studios have announced the names, creative teams, and concepts of the three upcoming Stan Lee-created series they will be publishing in the near future.

BOOM! CCO Mark Waid teams with former Warlord artist on Traveler. Traveler is a mysterious vigilante that seems to appear out of nowhere.

Recent DC exclusive (so how he’s writing this I’m not sure) Paul Cornell teams up with former Manhunter artist Javier Pina to create Soldier Zero. Zero is a wheelchair-bound teacher’s aide who is bonded with an alien creature to become a super-powered warrior. This issue offers some interesting dichotomies, as it revives the old Daredevil formula without making out the disability to be something horrible no one can stand to live with. I consider it by far the most interesting of the three concepts.

iZombie writer Chris Roberson creates the third and final title with New Mutants and Adventures of Spawn artist Khary Randolph. Starborn tells the story of a man who thought he was a human from Earth but actually is a major player in an interstellar attack. He gains powers in the process and learns he’s not from Earth at all (’cuz he’s starborn, get it?)

Image from Robot 6/Comic Book Resources

Three pretty decent looking characters overall, though I think Soldier Zero seems far stronger than the others. Over at Comic Book Resources you can find interviews with Mark Waid, Paul Cornell, and Chris Roberson about their respective books. It sounds like these are still a few months away, but it will be interesting to see if Stan and BOOM!’s line of superheroes can survive in the current marketplace.

San Diego is Here... and it begins a little early with the THUNDER Agents!

While I will remain right here in Iowa, I am making no secret that I love the big news stories that often come out of the event. And that’s why I’m going to add my own commentary on some of the most important (or at least most interesting to me) news at the event.

The first truly exciting (to me) is the announcement of the November debut of DC’s new THUNDER Agents book (first announced at last year’s Comic-Con.

Behind the Frank Quitely cover, DC has put together an amazing team for their new series. Nick Spencer has written two absolutely great series for Image/Shadowline, Forgetless and Shuddertown as well as two Existence limited series that I have yet to read. (The trade is on my buy list for August.) The two aforementioned series are two well written minis with a strong modern crime bent. He has a creator owned book called Morning Glories coming later this summer as well as starting a Jimmy Olsen back-up on Action Comics. But not since Robert Kirkman have I found a writer I enjoy as much as Mr. Spencer.

The artist on the lead feature is CAFU, late of the Captain Atom back-ups in Action. He has a good solid style that is quite exciting and (mostly) anatomically correct. His work reminds me of Guiseppe Camuncoli with a hint of Daniel Acuna’s computer-paint style. I am unaware if he has been on a monthly book before this, but if he can keep up the pace, he should be a great artist for the new Agents.

If the team looks a little different to long time THUNDER Agents fans, its because we have a new team here. Spencer isn’t trampling the original book’s history. Instead he’s treating the original team as the THUNDER of the late sixties and early seventies. The costumes have been past down with only NoMan remaining as a constant on the team.

I love the way Spencer and DC have decided to create something new without trampling on the great classic comics. If this book can garner the support it rightly deserves, it could be a real winner.

So what I’m basically saying is you better freakin’ buy it! And not in trade either. Go out to your local comic shop and ask the owner directly to order a copy for you! I don’t want to see this book be another 12 issue casualty of the fickle comic fan.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more San Diego stories in the hours and days to come.

Thor's Day 3: Something Old, Something New...

Mighty Thor 339 starts out on a slow note as the returned Beta Ray Bill and Thor both collapse. In the aftermath, we visit several voices of Asgard, including Lorelei, as they discuss the new bearer of Mjolnir.

Odin visits with Bill upon his recovery. Bill does not want Mjolnir and denies his claim to it. But Odin swears that he will aid Bill and his people. Odin visits Eitri, greatest of dwarf blacksmiths. Eitri places Odin with another challenge. He will fulfill Odin’s mysterious request if a female can beat the dwarves’ greatest warrior.

Sif goes to answer the call, even as the convalescing heroes watch her go. Oh, and apparently injured Asgardians wear furry slippers.

Sif quickly finds herself in battle with Throgg the dwarf, who doesn’t seem very small.

As the fight continues, we briefly return to Volstagg, still atop Balder’s would-be attacker. We also return to the DOOM! as the mysetrious smith continues his work. Then we go to Quebec when a lighthouse worker named Rene Baroque runs afoul of a nasty looking demon in search of vengeance.

We return to Sif’s battle with Throgg. Sif proves to make short work of the gigantic dwarf. Eitri agrees to go to the forges and complete Odin’s wishes.

After much work, the project is finished. Bill travels with Odin to the forges. At Eitri’s command he reached in to the molten fire, aided by a protective glove. His hand rises with a hammer of his own in hand... Storm Breaker.

With both Thor and Bill returned to full power, Thor insists on accompanying Bill back in to space, in hopes of aiding his new friend and rival. Thor summons two powerful rams, Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder to drag his chariot in to space. Sif stops the heroes and declares her right to join the journey. The three heroes fly off in to space as this issue ends.

This chapter shows the first true hints that Simonson has something truely epic planned for Thor, despite the fact that Thor barely takes much action personally. Still after three explosive issues, it is clear that the God of Thunder’s adventures are only beginning.

Next: Though Hel Should Bar the Way!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thor's Day 2: Mighty Thor 338

We pick up right where we left off last issue with a mortal Donald Blake lacking his hammer. But while Blake laments the loss of his weapon, Beta Ray Thor battles the gods of Asgard. Odin brings a quick stop to the battle and summons the true Thor to Asgard. Odin convinces Beta Ray to calm his aggression and the three go off to discuss Beta Ray’s history and why exactly he can lift Thor’s hammer.

Meanwhile, Lady Sif walks through the high seat only to see Thor kissing last issue’s edition to Asgard, Lorelei. After getting mad at her former love, she stomps off. “Thor” reveals he is actually Loki and laughs at his success with Lorelei, sister of the Enchantress.

Bill gives the history of his people and his current form. Odin declares that he must now face Thor in mortal combat to determine the true holder of mighty Mjolnir. The brutal battle commences on the barren plain of Svartheim.

We go back to the subplots as Balder and Volstagg walk through the city of Valhalla. A young warrior named Agnar stops them and challenges Balder to combat. Balder refuses combat as he now embraces only peace, but Agnar will hear none of it. He attacks, only to be stopped by the girth of Volstagg.

The battle between Bill and Thor continues in epic fashion, as few but Walter Simonson can draw it. The fight finishes and Bill is left standing... barely. But he disobeys Odin’s order, and returns from the barren realm with the still living Thor in his arms. He claims the hammer as the issue comes to an end.

We still are clearly very much in build mode right now. The subplots are starting to gain momentum, if slight, as the Beta Ray Bill story continues to move in quite the opposite direction of previous Thor stories. For Thor to be beaten blow by blow was a rarity when this story came out, but Bill proved his power in this one issue by beating Thor fairly.

Next week: Something old, something new...!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thor's Day 1: Mighty Thor 337

All right, so here’s the deal. I am going to start back on classic runs of books that I have and haven’t read, and share my thoughts on them issue by issue.

My first choice for this project is none other than Walter Simonson’s Mighty Thor. So every Thursday you will be able to look forward to a new installment of “Thor’s Day”. We start with his first issue, Mighty Thor 337.

Like so many of Simonson’s works, his run on Thor starts with an epic scope with massive panels showing something being forged. What it is is still unclear, though the final anvil strike does come with the sound effect “DOOM!”.
Is that the Dreaded Deadline version or just the regular?

From there we go to Dr. Donald Blake (secret identity of Thor if you didn’t already know) as he walks through Grant Park. Apparently, Don was based in Chicago at the time. His time in peace is quickly interrupted by the arrival of Colonel Nick Fury, head of SHIELD. It seems that a threat from outer space is on the way and it’s up to the Mighty Thor to stop it.

Before we can reach space though we get a brief digression. In Asgard, Sif laments her loss of Thor, but moreso her loss of action. long as Walt is drawing me.

Back to Thor on his way in to space. I love Simonson’s skewed angles when we go in to flight mode, especially in to space. Anyway, Thor goes to confront the offending space-craft. After an attack from the automated defenses, he smashes his way inside, only to be grabbed by a massive hand.

Back in Asgard, we focus on Loki this time. He meets a young woman named Lorelei, clearly a sign of things to come.

Back in space, Thor’s attack reveals himself, and he is a figure clearly recognizable to long time Marvel fans.
This costume is strangely similar to his later Star Masters look.

Beta Ray Bill and Thor do battle. Thor looses his hammer after a particularly mighty blow. After a minute, he reverts to his Donald Blake form and is knocked out by Bill.

Bill goes in search of Thor’s hammer, but it has reverted back in to Blake’s walking stick. Angered, Bill slames it in to a wall. In the process, he is tranformed in to the more common image we know of Beta Ray Thor. He moves to defend his ship, but his battle takes him against Fury and agents of SHIELD.

But the battle is interrupted by a message from Odin. The king of Asgard summons Thor back to his home... only he summons the wrong Thor! And Donald Blake is left powerless among the mortals as the issue comes to an end.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Super-Powered Comics: Diamond Destinations July 2010 (for September)

p. 48 Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1 (of 4): The title may be a bit ridiculous length-wise, but Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz have already created one great series starring Billy and his freakshow gang, and this story which takes Billy in to conflict with Jack the Ripper looks equally impressive.

p. 78 New Teen Titans: Games: The fact that this hardcover is even being published is all around amazing. Unfortunately, DC likes to solicit its graphic novel programs months in advance, so this one won’t be out until November. Once it is... well, 144 more pages of the eighties Titans, even Danny “I’m too lame to live” Chase! All by Wolfman and Perez!

p. 17 Deadpool Pulp #1-2: I would show far more interest in Marvel’s new pulp-inspired story if it wasn’t with the already overexposed Deadpool. However, this follows in the tradition of the Marvel Noir books and takes an Elseworlds kick. Too bad the solicits also make it feel more like James Bond than old school pulp.

p. 78 X-23 #1: I am a fan of Marjorie Liu’s writing both in and out of comics. Sadly, her Black Widow run ends this month, but she starts up a new series starring Wolverine’s lady-clone instead. I’m not sure how I feel about the character getting her own ongoing, but Liu does make it more appealing.

p. 85 Incognito Bad Influences #1: I wonder if Marvel will try to advertise Deadpool Pulp somewhere near Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ pulp hero book. The first Incognito limited was nothing short of amazing, so we will see if this one lives up to the first. Oh, and the pulp essays by Jess Nevins in the back matter totally make the single issues well worth buying.

p. 263 Vampirella Archives Volume 1 Hardcover: Call me less than enthused about Dynamite’s lackluster debut for Vampirella with two reprint volumes. The character deserves better, but at least it gives me an excuse to run this classic Frazetta cover.

p. 286 Valhalla Cindermane #1: I know next to nothing about this throwback to the bad girl era. It sounds fun IMHO. Oh, and the character apparently already has her own Myspace and Twitter.

p. 300 Return of the Originals: Battle For L.A.: Moonstone begins its new pulp initiative with this graphic novel by CJ Henderson and Mark Sparacio. The goal seems to be to quickly bring all the public domain pulp characters back in both prose and comic form and this is where it starts. This is by far the book I am most interested in checking out this month.

p. 305 Guerillas Volume 1: I was quite intrigued by Brahm Revel’s tale of an all primate squad active in a very real Viet Nam when Image published the first half of it a few years back. Now those stories are being collected by Oni Press, hopefully with the second half of the story to follow.

p. 378 Scott Pilgrim t-shirts: Bryan Lee O’Malley’s soon to be movie star finally goes hog wild on a whole series of shirts.

p. 382 Iron Man 2: Arc Reactor Glow Accessory: Am I the only one that thinks thorwing htis in the middle of a shirt would be simple and freaking awesome Halloween costume?