Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Time Cap and Bucky met Batman and Robin

Rival comic companies Marvel and DC don’t hate each other half as much as fans would have you believe. The competition to rule the comic world has been greatly exaggerated by readers who picked their favorite camp long ago and are unwilling to allow the two giants to coexist.

The companies, themselves, however, seem to inspire one another to be better. Like two friends playing Street Fighter, they just like to keep one-upping each other until both decide that neither one is better and they are going to rock some co-op FPS because with such mad gaming skills, their combined power would be nothing short of amazing.

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And that’s exactly what happened one magical December 20 years ago in Batman & Captain America. Taking place as part of DC’s Elseworlds series which exists outside of DC’s regular comic timeline,  John Byrne took DC’s greatest hero and teamed him up with Marvel’s greatest, resulting in this brilliant slice of retro nostalgia.

The book is set in 1945 with Batman and Robin tracking down the Joker and trying to figure out just who the Clown Prince of Crime has been working for. It’s a fun trip back to a time before the Caped Crusader was a dark, brooding loner and instead gives us a more upbeat “Adam West” style Batman. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like my Batman as dark and brooding as anyone, but there has NEVER been anything wrong with a more colorful adventure. Having him more cheery also helps move the story along quickly, and since we only get a total of 62 pages to resolve whatever conflict is going on, we need every second we can get.

After the initial setup, we shift to Cap and Bucky receiving orders to return to America and that is where the ball really starts to roll. The entire story from that point on takes place in Gotham, with Captain America meeting most of The Bat’s supporting cast and even replying to a call from the legendary Commissioner Gordon alongside Robin.

It’s fun to see Batman and Bucky taking out thugs while Cap and Robin do the sleuthing, and does a great job reinforcing the parallels between Cap and Batman. There’s even the obligatory fight scene between the two titular heroes in which neither can land a blow because they are both that damn good at everything. It really is a shame we will likely never see anything like this on the big screen, or even the small one. Forget Justice League or the Avengers, this is the pairing I’d pay some serious money to see.

While Steve and Bruce seem to be jumping right into BFF status, Bucky and Robin are having a more difficult time meshing. Well, its mostly Bucky, who seems to resent that Robin is totally biting his style (despite Robin appearing in comics a full year before Bucky did), and spends a lot of the book letting everyone know he thinks he and Cap are the better heroes. Classic Bucky.

There is a great scene which feels straight out of a 1960’s Batman episode in which Bucky is completely dumbfounded as to how Batman managed to survive an impossible to escape trap, even though he was there when it happened. And, just like the Batman of that era, the Dark Knight gives some ridiculously convenient explanation as to what happened. It’s things like this, those little nods and references, that make this book such a solid read.

John Byrne does such a great job throughout the entire thing, and while some may say it’s DESPITE the cheesy dialogue and corny story, I say it’s BECAUSE OF IT. It’s one of those rare gems that came out of comicdom’s Decade of Disaster when the stars aligned just right and both Marvel and DC put aside their friendly rivalry for the greater good- a one time sensory overload where two American Icons met to save the world.

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Captain America 1990 Movie Review

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Oh man, I’ve been waiting to sink my teeth into this one for a long time now, and seeing as we’re just a week away from Captain America: Civil War, I figured what better time than now to look back at the embarrassment that was 1990’s Captain America movie?

I was originally going to do a scene-by-scene breakdown of this crapfest, but after about 15 minutes of film, I just realized I didn’t want to write an entire novel. There’s so much wrong with it right away that I don’t even think I could cover everything if I tried.

The story is very simple- Polio stricken young man, Steve Rogers, undergoes a secret experiment in 1943 that turns him into an olympic-grade athelete with the codename Captain America. With little to no training, he is sent to stop a missile from destroying the White House, but in the process finds himself frozen in ice. Fast forward to 1990, where Steve awakens and has to take on the same villain that he fought in the 40’s, the Red Skull, an Italian super soldier turned mafia crime boss who has kidnapped the President of the US for reasons.

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Most of the story in the first act is explained via heavy-handed exposition- we only know what’s going on because some character, at some point, comes right out and says it. We never get to see anything play out, as if the first 20 minutes of the film is basically just a visual synopsis of the comic origin that does absolutely nothing aside from introduce the characters and plot. You know Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger) is a good guy because everyone has told you he is. Not once are we ever shown Steve doing anything heroic, nor do we know why it is he is chosen to be Captain America, or even why he would want to be. The movie just tells us “He’s the best candidate out of 600 men. That’s a lot of guys, and you should be impressed. Now let’s move on.”

What might be worse, though, is that even after he becomes Cap, we still have no reason to root for him. He gets a serious smackdown at the hands of the Red Skull before being strapped to a rocket and frozen. It’s his first (and only) mission during the war and he gets defeated! In, like, 3 minutes! To be fair, I don’t know what anyone was expecting when you send a guy with virtually no training, who even states at one point, “I just wish I had more time to practice”, out on his own against an entire army. Sure, he saves the White House by kicking the rocket he’s strapped to, but since he failed to stop the launch, and that WAS the mission, I’m still counting it as a wash. From there he does zero in the way of heroing. He kinda just runs around assuming everyone is a Nazi and puts others in the line of fire throughout his oddball international journey. Hell, I think he gets saved more times by Sharon than he actually helps anyone.

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The movie does a better job of giving us reasons to love President Thomas Kimball (played by Ronny Cox) and convincing us that he’s a great guy who should probably be our main character. We know he can’t be bought, he has the people’s best interest in mind when making his decisions, and he’s a national hero. I would have loved to have seen this movie developed into a new version of Cap where Kimball is President of the free world by day, but justice-serving costumed crusader by night. “Captain America: Vigilante President”. I’m game for that.

I don’t know why the movie decided it was necessary to spend time developing his character instead of the titular hero, but it makes him one of the only likeable people in the entire film. The downside to that is that it causes the movie to spend an absurd amount of time on his stupid B-plot with his childhood friend-turned reporter, Sam (Ned Beatty). In fact, the B-plot is the only thing that propels the story in any direction, giving Sam an awful lot of convenient exposition to help guide Cap towards the Skull and save the President.

And the Red Skull…geez. I don’t know where to start with him.

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The movie opens with a scene set in 1936 Italy where a young boy, Tadzio de Santis, is kidnapped by the Fascist government as part of an evil plan to create a world-conquering supersoldier. Before being dragged away, he is forced to watch his entire family gunned down right in front of him and then brought to a secret lab where he is strapped into a chair with a some sorta weird Halloween mask attached to it. The doctor in charge of the super soldier project, Dr. Maria Vaselli, objects to the use of this innocent child as the subject of her experiments, as any sane person would, but she can do nothing to stop the evil Italian army from continuing their mad plan and resolves to leap out a window as the boy screams in pain.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the origin of this movie’s Red Skull. An innocent boy kidnapped by an evil government and horribly disfigured because he’s smart. I have a hard time hoping this tortured soul gets comeuppance.

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“It’s-a me!”

 

At least he’s somewhat entertaining to watch, even if he’s actually the Red Skull for only about 5 minutes of screen time. And most of that time he’s less like the comic book version of Red Skull and more like…I don’t know…picture Super Mario with a steamed tomato for a head. And with that visual in mind it isn’t hard to tell why the Skull’s 1943 scenes are entertaining- who doesn’t love Mario? I do have to ask this, though- if your enemy, who is tied to a rocket, grabs your wrist just before it fires, wouldn’t you cut HIS hand off before removing your own? Not that it matters since The Red Skull’s missing hand never really plays into anything that happens the entire film. Plot beats that lead to things? Maybe I’m expecting too much.

In addition to some underdeveloped characters, we get a really half-baked story that moves along clumsily from plot point to plot point. The entire story hinges on some random happenings coinciding to go anywhere. Why does the Red Skull send his goons after Cap? Why does the reporter decide Cap is the only one who can help him save the President? Why does Sharon tag along? Well, dear viewer, there wouldn’t have been much a movie to speak of otherwise, that’s why. And when that’s the reason things happen in your film, maybe you shouldn’t be making it.

The action scenes are inexcusably boring in part due to the bad camera angles, crummy editing, and poor lighting, but also because I think it would help things if the audience cared AT ALL about what happened to the main character. Again, hard to root for a guy who is as interesting as a stale slice of bread and makes a habit of abandoning important expositional friends in other countries.

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“When Captain America throws his giant plastic Frisbee…”

 

Watching Steve throw his mighty shield is like seeing a dad pass an oversized Frisbee to his kids. “Here, vaguely Nazi son, go long!” There’s no intent or power behind it in the slightest. Not only does it look ridiculous, but the shield has some seriously ill-defined abilities. In one throw it knocks a guy off a ledge and circles back in mid air to clock another person in the face, and then continues on straight back to Cap. As if it somehow decides it’s just time to go home. Physics!

I could really go on and on about just how bad this movie is all day long. How does the President know who Sharon is? What’s with the terrible soundtrack? Why are Captain America’s ears made of rubber?

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“Thanks, Mr. President!”

 

After watching this movie, it’s really no wonder it only got a very limited theatrical release, even after being delayed a few times. The studio had sunk a few million bucks into making this monster and they were probably trying to figure out if they should unleash it onto an unsuspecting populace or burn it in a windmill. Ultimately, in 1992, the movie finally saw the light of day via direct-to-video release and that was met with some less than stellar reactions. It currently has a 9% rating on Rottentomatoes.com, and those reviews were written years after the movie’s release- long enough time for it to go from “terrible movie” to “campy cult classic”. Yet somehow this movie is just so bad it can’t even garner the respect that Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four travesty receives (a movie which sits at a solid 29% on that same site).

Sadly this was not Cap’s worst cinematic outing, as the atrocity that was the 1979 made-for-TV movie starring Reb Brown was far more mind-numbing. Maybe I’ll go ahead and review that one day, but for now I don’t think I can handle much more abuse. I need some MCU to wash this taste out of my mouth. Bring on Civil War!

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Funko Marvel Collector Corps Civil War Box

Today seems to be a Funko sorta day for me. I stopped by a local Gamestop and ended up getting a few Captain America: Civil War Dorbz and when I got home I found my Funko Collector Corps box sitting on my porch!

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Now I’ve never gotten a CC box before- I’m not a Funko collector- but I just couldn’t pass on getting an entire box of goodies with a Cap theme.

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First off let’s talk about this box, because the brown cardboard shipping container is, itself, a beautiful collectible. The art on the front is great, featuring a close-up of Cap and Iron Man, but once you open it you are greeted by an onslaught of gorgeous Civil War line art. Different characters are depicted as well as some fight scenes drawn towards the bottom. Really great start to this subscription box.

The first thing you see inside are a pin and a patch- something that I understand comes with every box. The pin this time out is Black Panther and is a really nice looking piece of 1.5″ metal. The patch is slightly larger at around 3″ and displays one of my all time favorite baddies, Crossbones. As you would imagine, both of the designs used are based off of the movie appearances and look stunning.

Lifting the next flap/panel will reveal the rest of the swag- an info card, a comic, a t-shirt, a lanyard, and both a POP! Vinyl and a Dorbz!

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The info card is neat and I don’t know if this is the sort of thing that they include with every box, but I love the tid-bits of trivia on it.

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POP-style Cap and Panther are throwing down on this variant cover for Black Panther #1, which is our comic book. While it makes more sense (being T’Challa’s book) I think I preferred the cover with Iron Man teased on the info card.

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The t-shirt is AMAZING! I will most likely be wearing this when I go to see Civil War on opening night! I love the entire composition of the art. Team Iron Man in red vs. Team Cap in blue- just a really solid design! (Also always good to see Agent 13 included in things!)

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The lanyard is cool and has two alternating patterns of POP Cap and POP Iron Man each in their respective colors with the movie logo in there as well. Like the info card says- this is a cool place for you to store all the CC pins you’ve collected throughout the first year of subscription.

Now onto the reason we all came here- THE TOYS!!!

The Dorbz figure included is an unmasked Iron Man that, if I remember correctly, was initially going to be offered alongside an unmasked Cap as a Free Comic Book Day promo. I’m assuming things changed somewhere along the lines and we instead get happy little Tony this way. He’s a really cool little toy, and I love the look of Dorbz in general, so he’s definitely a welcomed addition to the shelf. I would have preferred Steve instead of Tony, but that’s mainly because I’m #teamcap for life.

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The last (and possibly best) piece from this box is the Captain America/ Iron Man POP! Vinyl 2 pack. Unlike the one offered at FYE stores, this 2 pack has two brand new POPs- action pose Cap and action pose Iron Man! They look great in the package and have so much life to them that I’m starting to wish I had more action pose POPs.

I wouldn’t have minded a little Battle-damaged look painted on to these two, but that’s just me nitpicking. These are great just as is.

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I’m really glad I decided to pick this box up. It’s my first experience with the Marvel Collector Corps from Funko and I definitely believe I started with the right one. Kudos to the folks at Funko for making such a fun set!

 

Build-A-Bear Workshop Captain America Teddy Bears

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Yet another odd piece of Captain America merchandise, Build-a-Bear Workshops across the universe are now offering an entire line of Marvel Comics characters in teddy bear form. Of course I had to go out and grab Cap and Falcon.

There are two different sizes- a “Mega Minis” line which stand (er, sit) around 8″ high and a larger 17″ bear with a sound chip in it. When you squeeze his hand (paw?) he says one of five phrases:

  • “I’m Captain America!”
  • “Reporting for duty!”
  • “Yaaaaah!”
  • “I’m proud to serve at your side!”
  • “Avengers Assemble!”

The big guy was too big to fit in the spot I normally take my photos, so he is currently taking up residence in my chair. Lucky Captain “Roar-gers”.

I’ve actually wanted a Cap teddy bear for a while to add to the collection (something I’ve thought about before for reasons not even I understand) so I was excited to have the opportunity to get not just one, but two Caps AND a Falcon! If you jump over to Build-A-Bear‘s website you can see the full line up of Mega Minis here and a quick search will reveal the larger Captain America and Iron Man which is available both with and without the sound chip.

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Hot Wheels Captain America Series

The slew of new Captain America merchandise seems to know no bounds! Hot Wheels is even getting in on the action with this series of 8 vehicles all designed with the Star-Spangled Avenger in mind.

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The series includes four cars dedicated to Cap himself, two for Bucky (WW2 and Winter Soldier), one for the Avengers and one for the sinister Red Skull.

Now I’m no expert, but I’m roughly 100% positive some of these aren’t real cars.

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I really like the 40’s Cap car and the Avengers car and the rest, while not winning any Stranger Awards (I should make that a thing) are still pretty cool. I would have liked some classic Cap stuff- maybe the Turbo Coupe? Or the Skull’s badass ride from The First Avenger?

If I understand correctly, these guys are all Walmart exclusives, but I can’t confirm that- a friend got them for me so I don’t know for sure. Regardless, these 8 autos are my only Hot Wheels toys, so I need to figure out how to display them- any thoughts?

Captain America: Sam Wilson #8 Spoiler-heavy Review

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Captain America: Sam Wilson #8

Writer: Nick Spencer

Pencils: Paul Renaud

This month’s issue of Captain America: Sam Wilson, brings us one step closer to concluding the Avengers: Standoff storyline and returning Steve Rogers to his former mantle. It doesn’t really do much more than that, but it still is a good read.  In case you didn’t already know, spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.

We start with sort of a double recap. The first page is the standard Captain America recap page, which is fine, but the second page is just more of the same, narrated by Kobik, herself. It’s short enough, but I don’t really know if it was necessary.

From there the story moves along at a fairly brisk pace, taking us from some enjoyable Bam chatting (see my previous review for an explanation) while Steve comes to grips with his re-youthening- something he seems to accept quickly. To be fair, this poor guy has been aged and de-aged before, so I’m not faulting anyone. It’s good, too, since it helps the audience move on while simultaneously showing us just how resilient Steve Rogers is. He simply assesses the situation and prepares for whatever comes next, as we’d expect from our evergreen Cap. We do get a good scene a bit later, however, showing us that Steve hasn’t entirely readjusted to his new/old body when he clocks Whiplash in the face with some serious force.

Before we get to that scene, though, we finally get a full picture reveal as to what Zemo’s insidious plan is- and to be frank, it’s insanely simple. Zemo plans to capture Kobik, turning her back into a simple cube, and when the Avengers arrive to stop him, he can swat them down with very little effort, having Klaw broadcast his triumph for all to see.

But apparently he kickstarted his revolt too soon- The Fixer hasn’t quite figured out how to turn Kobik back to a geometric shape yet. Sure, he’s built a containment unit to house her in, but it’s that “cubify her” part that he just hasn’t been able to piece together. What’s more, Zemo’s hunting party remains unable to find the little girl who Zemo describes as “Often blue. Able to change reality. Even in a place like this, that should be easy to find.” Zemo may have to rethink his master plan, that is until Kraven the Hunter jumps in offering his help to find the girl. And Kraven’s hunting technique is brilliant. I spoil everything for you guys, but you’ll just have to read this one for yourselves.

As for our Captain America Triumvirate, they meet up with Mach VII (former Thunderbolts member) on the streets of Pleasant Hill and help him take out the gang of villains he’s been throwing down with. Mach VII reveals that he was acting on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D. as security and there is a brief but enjoyable fight scene which makes me sad to think that this is Paul Renaud’s last run on a Cap title (for the moment, at least).

We do get one more solid Renaud-helmed action scene, though, in the form of Agent Avril Kincaid going toe-to-toe with a group of speed-themed villains called The Fast Five, who are lead by old Cap villain, Blue Streak (or a version of. I think the original one died). It’s fun and colorful (as you would likely expect it to be) as well as serving as an introduction for the Curator of the Pleasant Hill Museum who appears at the last minute to help Agent Kincaid defeat the villains. He quickly leads her away to get some form of weapon that S.H.I.E.L.D. was hiding in case things got too out of control (ie: current situation). Looks like we’re going to have to wait until the resolution next week before we get to see what that is, though.

The issue ends with the Cap Trio exchanging apologies and reconciling their differences just in time for the Avengers to assemble for a final showdown. It’s a solid scene in which Steve officially declares that he has no intention of taking the Captain America role back from Sam as he hands the current Cap his shield back (though the solicitations for next month’s Captain America: Steve Rogers book show us Marvel won’t let Steve stick to his convictions).

Like I said earlier, this entire issue was just a stepping stone on the path to next week’s Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Omega #1 (Jeez, these freakin’ titles), and I guess there’s really nothing wrong with that. It was still a solid book, and while we didn’t get any huge revelations or major plot shake-ups this time out, we get some great action scenes and more entertaining Nick Spencer writing.

Next month is the start of a new story for Sam and new books for both Steve (Captain America: Steve Rogers) and Bucky (Thunderbolts), so I have a nagging feeling I’m going to be a busy blogger, but with Spencer helming 2 of the 3 books, I’m anticipating greatness.

What Happened to Cap’s Original Shield?

We’ve all seen the movie- after a powerful punch thrown by the Red Skull dents Steve’s triangular shield, it is discarded and upgraded to his familiar circular one. But in the comics, Steve’s original shield has a little more history to it.

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Captain America Comics #1 debuted in 1941, and as part of Private Steve Rogers’ uniform, he was given a bullet-proof shield to carry into battle. The shield itself was a triangular “kite” shape, and was similar in design to the shield found on numerous US Military Badges and political seals (shown below in the Presidential Seal).

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Unfortunately this also meant that it was similar in design to the chestplate worn by the patriotic hero, The Shield, who was featured in MLJ Comics’ (now Archie Comics) PEP COMICS #1, published a full year before Captain America saw the light of day.

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The similarity in design would lead to arguments between MLJ and Marvel predecessor, Timely Comics, and by the time Captain America Comics #2 was released Cap was seen sporting his now iconic circular shield.

While we knew the real reason for the change, it was never directly addressed in the comic book universe. However, nearly 60 years after the change, 2001’s BLACK PANTHER VOL. 3 #30, would explain that Steve lost his original shield while on a trip to Wakanda in early 1941 (presumably after Rogers went to Camp Lehigh but before Bucky joined him).

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The initial paint on the kite shield

 

Two versions of this story exist. The first, which is detailed in that very issue of BLACK PANTHER, explained that while on a trip to Wakanda in early 1941, Steve met with King T’Chaka and presented him with the kite shield as a gift of trust in exchange for a piece of vibranium that was offered in a similar gesture. According to T’Challa, the current Black Panther and King of Wakanda, that shield was considered a National Treasure and has been displayed proudly in Wakanda for generations.

Yet there is another version of events shown in 2010’s Captain America/ Black Panther: Flags of our Fathers miniseries on the Marvel Knights imprint. This title claims to reveal for the first time what actually happened in Wakanda in 1941, and shows Cap, Black Panther (King Azzari the Wise), and the Howling Commandos facing off against a Nazi battalion during their time in Africa. In this particular story, Cap’s original shield is destroyed while fighting the Red Skull, forcing him to use a circular shield supplied to the soldiers of Wakanda and inspiring him to request the familiar disc-shape once he returned.

Whatever the actual fate of the shield may have been, the fact remains it did not return home from the African mission. While waiting for the creation of his new “throwing disc” version,  Steve would be fitted with a 2nd triangle shield that would see little action. It can be assumed that this is the one seen in the adventures in Captain America Comics #1 after teaming-up with Bucky.

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The second paint scheme

 

That second shield was later put into storage in favor of the Vibranium-Alloy disc and would be kept by Rogers as a keepsake until it was destroyed during a raid on the Avengers Mansion by Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil.

Despite it’s short-lived use in the Marvel Universe, the kite shield would make an ever-lasting impact, being copied several more times and even serving as inspiration for Steve’s current shield appearing in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 in 2016, proving that it has become just as much a symbol of justice and peace as it’s famous circular cousin.