RED Comics #1 – A Game of Checkers

Disclaimer: RED Comics are written and assembled by Louis Santiago using screen caps from DVD’s. All issues of RED are free; they are made as non-profit entertainment by a man who loves to distract himself from his writing. However, the RED name / logo and the Louis Santiago logo (aka my own face) are creative property of Louis Santiago. Enjoy!

Why the Hell Haven’t You Seen “Thor” Yet?

Okay, look–I know the answer to that question. You haven’t seen Thor because you know there are two kinds of Marvel superhero movies:

1) The Iron Man Type – Funny, fun, and with a good smattering of action, these movies are clearly done by people who wanted to make an awesome movie about their favorite superhero for all of his/her fans. The second (and first, despite some… aesthetic issues) Spider-Man movie, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and (although maybe it didn’t hold up?) the first Blade are this type of Marvel movie. I suppose you could argue that the second X-Men movie also fits the bill, but I’d ignore you.

2) The Daredevil Type – For the love of God, why are there so many of these? I don’t even need to explain because you know exactly what I’m talking about: Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider, X-Men, probably X-Men II, X-Men III: Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four II: This Should’ve Just Been About the Silver Surfer (or whatever it was called), Punisher: War Zone, Hulk or The Incredible Hulk (failure, finally working to your preference), the rest of the Blade trilogy. Spider-Man 3. All terrible, terrible mistakes. Attempts at more money with plots written to include the most salable characters because the molds for their action figures were already finished.

With such a complete imbalance between the good times and the bad we’ve gotten from Marvel Studios, why would you, why would any of us, actually decide to give a movie about Marvel’s take on the Norse god of thunder the time of day?

If you’re anything like me, you’d say it was your duty; maybe not professionally, but to comics in general, which is admirable even though it’s the same reason why I went to see Jonah Hex. <shudder> In the end, that desire (maybe I should just call it “the Hex”) to support comics led me to the Ziegfeld two Saturdays ago where I was was completely surprised.

Whoever watches this movie, if he be worthy, shall soon possess the Blu-ray of Thor.

It’s Surprisingly Believable

I told my friends that I felt Thor was the movie that would either make or break The Avengers. They were surprised by the idea, but I explained quickly that it wasn’t a matter of Thor needing to look powerful enough or be cool enough; Thor needed to be believable enough or every time he walked on the screen the audience would want to laugh. As viewers, and even as comic readers, we can jump on-board for a hero’s or villain’s origin and totally believe it because of science. Even if it’s completely ridiculous and we know it, we still barely need to be pushed to believe that, say, Tony Stark would survive not only with but because of a huge, super battery lodged into his chest. Or that a bite from a genetically altered spider would grant a school kid from Queens spider powers. A writer slips in a word like “genetics” or “tachyon” and we shrug, think, “Sure! Whaaatever!” and keep reading. But somehow–probably because of religious beliefs–the line often gets very seriously drawn at mystics and god characters. In an Iron Man comic, someone says, “Let’s call Dr. Strange, master of the mystic arts!” and 8 out of 10 readers smack their foreheads in dismay. That is, honestly, exactly what I thought I would do the very first time Thor said “thee”.

But that’s just it–Thor never says “thee”. Or “thou”. Not even (and thank God) a “verily”. Marvel was very, very careful to not make Thor sound like a complete idiot. In fact, they somehow turned it around so that he wasn’t even a bumbling moron when he gets to earth; he’s more an intelligent tourist who makes tourist mistakes that are extremely funny. Tourist mistakes that are also completely understandable after a full hour or so spent watching Thor in Asgard.

But what makes all of it even more believable is the marriage of science and magic, proposed in the trailer and fully executed when we see Asgard. The whole look of the place is (aside from honestly being one of the best executions of a fantasy concept on film) a weird hybrid of sorcery and science. Perhaps that’s being a bit generous though because no one ever jumps on screen and shouts, “And now, MAGIC!” Instead, we see a bit of technology meshed with scenery that very cleverly fails to lean too far in one direction; sure, magical things happen, but they’re often the cause of a huge machine. Or magic that is completely not dressed up with the typical tropes (wizard staff; some grand, completely terrible, rhyming incantation). Even everyone’s armor looks surpringly… modern. Possibly even technological. All in all, the result is a very different fantasy experience that manages to be oddly genuine.

There’s Nothing “Low Key” About Tom Hiddleston’s Performance

Okay. Hands down… Seriously, hands down… I don’t think you can find a better performance for a Marvel villain than Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. I really don’t. And do you know why? Because everyone I’ve spoken to who saw it said, “I’m not sure Loki was devious enough,” to which I replied, “Exactly.”

Not going into too much detail, he’s Loki, the God of Mischief. And not only does Tom Hiddleston look like Loki, he speaks like Loki. He sounds like Loki. He moves like Loki. He acts like Loki. The fact that so many people thought he wasn’t devious enough says one thing and one thing only:

Mischief.

You Will Not Find More Appropriately Hot Comic Book Female Roles in Any Other Comic Book Movie

Oh my God. Natalie Portman as Jane Foster! Wow! She’s actually… attractive. Like, as attractive as comic artists have made Jane Foster. Are we sure this is for real? Are we sure they didn’t actually cast Sarah Jessica Parker, or someone else that the media seems to think is actually attractive but isn’t?

Seriously, I’m sorry, but casting for female roles in comic movies has only met with failure before. Kirsten Dunst is not a super model / actress–not the way comic book Mary Jane Watson was anyway. Gwyneth Paltrow did a great job as Pepper Potts, but outside of having red hair, she didn’t do comic book Petter Potts justice in terms of looks. And seriously, let’s not even get started on Katie Holmes.

The casting director for Thor seemed to realize this and completely turn the problem around. By casting Natalie Portman as Jane Foster. And Jaimie Alexander as Siff! And… Oh my God…

Kat Dennings as... does it even matter?

Uh… Louis?

Loui–

Bah! I’m sorry! I kind of… lost track there. What was I saying?… Oh yeah. The women casted for Thor are extremely attractive. And on the flip side, ladies, seriously, you owe it to yourselves to see Chris Hemsworth’s performance as Topless Thor. Perhaps you’ve said to yourself before, “I just don’t think superheroes are hot,” and that’s fine if you did. But Chris Hemsworth will change your minds so hard that after the end credits, you’ll be IMDBing the release date for The Avengers. On your smart phones. In your seat. In the theater.

All jokes aside, Thor is a surprisingly fun, entertaining comic book movie. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the best one this year because, really, it has it’s flaws. Artist Blair Kamage admitted to having a problem with the pacing of Thor’s romance with Jane Foster; “It just happened too fast! It was just lust!” Writer Daniel Ho wanted Thor to dish out more old English. I, honestly, was bothered by the fact that Thor never shouted “For Asgard!” and my brother (and about 80% of the internet) was annoyed that Thor didn’t wear his helmet for more than 5 minutes. Still, Thor will entertain you way more than you’re expecting it to, and, even if Captain America bombs, you’ll still be excited for The Avengers in 2012. At least, I know I totally am!

The Andrew Garfield Spider-Suit: There’s No Pleasing You, Is There?

On January 13th, everyone got their first look at Andrew Garfield in his Spidey getup. In case you missed it, here it is:

I remember seeing this and thinking, Wow. My brother was right. He looks so weird. I didn’t know what else to think about it, aside from It’s red and blue. That’s a start. In the end, I just put the picture out of mind (which I usually do for anything I’m anticipating) and decided to wait for another shot to sneak up on me. It didn’t take long at all.

This shot from the set of the reboot is one of many that popped up later in January and earlier this month. They give a much better view of the tights and everyone’s pretty unanimous in the decision that he looks stupid, weird, and skinny and that the costume sucks. There’s criticism for every inch of it; people think the color’s off, that he’s too blue, that the texture’s weird, that his spider sneakers look ridiculous, that it’s weird how his crotch is black, that his eyes are too small. The people have spoken and they are just not pleased and all I can think when I hear their complaints is…

There’s no pleasing you, is there?

The costume isn’t perfect. This much I definitely agree with. But, oh my God, they’re trying to give everyone what they go bananas over. Realism. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were chocks full of realism; tons of choices for those movies were based on what Batman would be like in real life. His suit would have to be an adapted combat suit made by Wayne Industries. His car would have to be a combat vehicle designed by Wayne Industries. His grappling hook would have to be magnetic. His love interest would have to be amazingly boring. Why isn’t that approach okay for Spider-Man?

Probably because too few people know/remember enough about Spider-Man to realize that this is what they’re doing. Seriously, maybe you just forgot or maybe you just never knew, but…

He’s Wearing Wrestling Tights

This film is supposed to be based on the Ultimate Spider-Man series of comics. In Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter Parker is given his suit by the head of the wrestling organization he moonlights with.

Just in case you need to see to believe, here are panels from pages 17 and 18 of Ultimate Spider-Man #3.

Now, as you can see, in Ultimate Spider-Man, the only things the outfit was missing when it was handed off were its webs and spider symbol, which, if we’re being really honest with ourselves, we realize is ridiculously convenient. Sure, it’s specially made, but do you even know of a specialty costume designer that can make those perfect, sock-slipper red booties? Okay, maybe you do, but, do you know of any wrestling organization that’s going to order boots like those instead of the traditional laces-to-the-knees wrestling boots? Seriously. Spider-Man’s boots don’t exist in the real world–the only idea more ludicrous than the thought that his stingy, freelance employer shelled out a ton of money to have an extremely creative outfit custom-made for Peter Parker is the idea that Tobey Maguire made his movie duds all by his lonesome. I mean… sure, why wouldn’t a dude with spider powers be good at knitting/sewing/weaving/whatever, but the idea that Peter Parker was given a wrestling outfit that actually looks like a wrestling outfit just makes sense.

I’m betting this doesn’t sell you regardless. He still looks weird and different is what you’re thinking. Well, as a Spider-Man fan, I’m pretty damn grateful that he does. Ya know why?…

Spider-Man Has Looked Exactly the Same Since the 60’s

Let’s take a picture break:

Wow. Haven’t they changed? Eh? I don’t even have to explain how! Isn’t that awesome?

Now…
Let’s take a moment here. This collage features Spider-Man as he’s appeared in several forms of media. What’s different? His eyes are kind of different, yeah. The blue is different shades here and there. The webbing on his suit is straight sometimes. He’s small in some pics, beefy in others. All of these things can be attributed to different artists’ whims and periodic make-overs though. Putting these things aside, can you tell me what else is different? That’s right! You got it!

Nothing.

Yes, Spider-Man has had different costumes. The Black Suit, the Iron Spider costume, a few others. But do you know what those costumes have in common? They go away. Quickly. Only the Black Suit has found any long-lasting success, but given what it represents these days, it’s just become an unintentional tease; Spider-Man dons it to go AWOL for five panels before someone reminds him, “Hey, Spider-Man, you’re being really hardcore and you look a lot cooler. No one likes that, some shit about responsibility, here’s the ol’ red and blue.”

To boot, these costumes aren’t subtle changes. Only Spidey’s House of M suit, which, of course, only existed in an alternate reality, gave the red and blue a twist. A small twist, but apparently not small enough.

 

It was really just the same suit with different gloves, but I'm sure purists still vomited all over themselves when they saw it.

My point here is, let the man evolve a little. Let them try something new with the costume–something new that makes a lot of sense. Because if they don’t, we’re just going to get the same look we’ve been stuck with for the last 50 years.

Do you want this? Again?
Or can you just calm down and accept that this only looks different, not bad?

Sighclops

Last week, we were treated to the reveal of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3‘s final boss–Galactus. The reveal meant many important things for me:

– I definitely wouldn’t be getting the game (because, really, I fought Onslaught enough, thanks).

– Now it’s even sillier that none of the Fantastic Four made the cut (*again*).

– And, finally, the game’s roster is probably, finally, full. Sure, maybe it’s not, but even so, it doesn’t change the fact that the other two members of my Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 team aren’t making the cut.

Definitely not Guile, because, hey, why bring him back when we can add Evil Ryu instead? Or Evil Sakura? Or Ken’s jacket? (Or go the Marvel route and add that one guy with the glasses in that one panel of Squirrel Girl #2. Remember him? Neither do I.)

And definitely, definitely not Cyclops, because… Well… <sigh>

Because he’s Cyclops.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of *those* MVC2 players; I didn’t pick Cyclops (without having any prior knowledge of or love for the character) just so I could run Optic Blast supers every three seconds. I chose him because I’ve always loved Cyclops’ dedication to the X-Men and ability to lead despite pretty terrible conditions, because I’ve always thought his power was really awesome, and because, when it boils down to it, I always root for the underdog. And also because, yeah, I always loved playing Cyclops in X-Men Vs. Street Fighter (which is still my favorite Vs. game and apparently always will be).

 

I already miss catching spamming morons with a Mega Optic Blast and then shouting "Come on!" <sigh>... clops.

 

But my love for Cyclops is definitely a rare thing. To understand exactly why 49 in every group of 50 think Cyclops sucks (why they’d make, say, She-Hulk playable before bringing Slim Summers back), let’s look at Cyclops’ terrible, terrible public image.

Oh My God, Shut Up About Jean!

Cyclops is a mutant who does a lot of things right. He’s a great leader. He’s in great physical shape. He’s pretty responsible and does well under pressure. He isn’t claustrophobic.  However, there are two very major character flaws that plague him, one of which makes him just about the most annoying X-Man ever. That failure can be summed up in one word:

In this part of X-Men 3: The Last Stand, Cyclops didn't actually shout "Jean!!" but that probably would've been a good use of his thirteen whole seconds of air time (known to X-Men movie makers as "Wolverine Time") before he was killed--off screen.

Now, before you jump the gun, no I’m not blaming Jean. But Cyclops saying her name is *the* embodiment of his biggest flaw–the way he’s a retard with women. I understand, Scott; everyone’s awkward with at least one love interest at some point, and to boot, you were orphaned at a young age. But man, how can you expect people to like you when you’re *that* guy?

– Jean stubs her toe. Cyclops has bandages that he’s kept in his visor for just such an occasion. Wolverine is off in a corner, smoking. Cyclops somehow counts all of this as a victory.

– Jean gets knocked down by a Sentinel. Cyclops drops everything to run to her side. Meanwhile, Wolverine claws through the Sentinel’s crotch, straight through its body, to it’s head, at which point he eats his way out because his rage is just that complete. When Jean comes to, Cyclops immediately observes that Wolverine is nowhere to be found.

Unnecessarily clingy, insecure to the point that it makes him an ass, Cyclops easily embodies the worst of every guy/girl. A lot of us find it hard to like him because we see ourselves in him; every time he runs to Jean with a band-aid, a lot of us think of high school and/or that boyfriend/girlfriend who had us wrapped around their finger, maybe not because they wanted it that way, but just because we puppy loved them *that* much. Or, for those of us who never experienced puppy love, we see a grown, team leading man who can shoot lasers out of his eyes acting like a high school kid. Granted, my scenarios above never happened, but read or watch any X-Men in which Jean is alive and tell me his shouting “Jean!” or being so obviously insecure about Wolverine doesn’t drive you up a wall.

The truly sad thing? He doesn’t get better without her:

– Jean dies and Cyclops leaves the X-Men.

– Cyclops marries another woman, Madelyne Pryor. Madelyne Pryor, who turns out to be Jean’s clone. Of course.

– However, when the real Jean comes back to life, Cyclops immediately leaves both Madelyne and their son.

– Then, after marrying Jean, Cyclops starts having a “psychic affair” with Emma Frost.

– Jean dies *again* and Cyclops starts dating Emma, a psychic and former super-villain, btw. Even Cyclops assumed she was controlling his mind.

Maybe–hopefully–Cyclops will change sometime soon. But considering that any major changes to his character (like Whedon’s removing his inability to control his powers) are retconned, it seems unlikely that Cyclops will, say, become the full Headmaster of the Xavier Institute, get his own movie or, ya know, become a round character.

Oh, and rewinding for a second…

Oh My God! Handle Your #$*%, Cyclops!

Like I mentioned before, Cyclops can’t control his powers. At first, it was because he hit his head during the plane crash that supposedly killed his parents. It was later revealed that he can’t control his powers because of a self-imposed mental block–a mechanism for coping with the loss of his parents, separation from his brother, and the manifestation of his mutant powers.

Man that’s crap. If Pikachu can handle his electric cheeks, Scott Summers, you have no excuse. Again, orphan–I got it. Traumatic plane crash–I got it. You became a mutant–I got it. But seriously, pretty much every other mutant in the world has experienced those same problems… Well, excepts for the plane crash (but other mutants have stupid names! That’s pretty traumatic. Just ask the Stepford Cuckoos). Really, getting over the trauma and learning to control his powers is the very first thing Cyclops should have done, because that’s what Xavier’s School for the Gifted *is for!* And even otherwise, honestly, that kink should’ve worked itself out after *years* of being team leader, dating extremely attractive X-Women, and saving the world. Instead, everyone gets a guy who’s a danger to everyone if his glasses fall off–a kind of doomsday nerd, if you will. Only, on the outside, he looks like a super religious uberjock.

How can anyone not dislike him after realizing all of this, right? The thing is, I don’t dislike Cyclops over this stuff because, unlike a lot of people that hate him, I see him from a writer’s perspective: Cyclops is a staple of the X-Men. Back in the 60’s, he was the very first member of the team. Thus, he, in the classic Marvel way, has to stay pretty much exactly the same way he was. Like Spider-Man (who’s one and only bout of drinking was retconned [his roommate gave him apple juice and Peter convinced himself he was drunk. How absolutely sickening] because fans complained), Cyclops can’t stop being a moron with relationships or learn to control his powers because that, in Marvel’s and purists’ eyes, just wouldn’t be Cyclops.

Which is incredibly sad because he has so much potential. Cyclops should be hyper lethal because he can hit you the moment he sees you. Cyclops should be one of the greatest fighters and strategists in Marvel history because  he’s been training in the Danger Room since he was a teen. Cyclops should be a badass. He should have his own comic, his own movie, his own life. But he doesn’t and he never will because he’s never going to be allowed to grow. And people are never going to stop blaming him for that.