Jim Lee: A Picture of Success

  Many of you may not know who the gentleman in the picture is and why he’s taking a selfie in the bathroom with a sketchpad in the background.  His name is Jim Lee, he is one of the most prolific and talented comic book artists/creators in the industry today.  During his 30 year career … Read more

Don’t Call it a Reboot! Pt2: Marvel’s Secret War

Please note, this is a continuation of my prior post title: Don’t call it a reboot pt 1: DC’s Convergence which you can review by clicking on the hyperlink.

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It’s the end of the world as we know it  (SPOILERS)

The Marvel Universe, referred to comic book aficionados as the 616, has come to an end!  Having collided with the Ultimate Universe, resulting in both “realities” being eradicated and mashed into one new reality called Battle World. So just how did all this happen?  Basically, Black Panther discovered the different alternate earths comprising Marvel’s famed Multi-verse ( i e parallel universes) are crashing into each other and destroying their respective realities.  Black Panther alerts the Illuminati, a brain trust of the greatest minds of the Marvel Universe, and eventually the other Avengers but despite all their actions they are unable to stop the incursion of the Ultimate Universe with their own.  Please note, the description I gave is a extreme summary of a plot that unfolded over the course of roughly three years in multiple titles.  If you want the full story, head to your local comic book store and check out “Time Runs Out” story line. If you go this option, be prepared to shell out some serious cash for a collected volume of all the issues which make up the story.

Enter Battle World

As stated above, the only remains of the Multiverse and all of Marvel is a place called Battle World, a mashup of different Marvel stories and realities throughout the company’s history.  Elements of each universe have their own small country on a map, in a very Game of Thrones style world ruled by none other than Dr. Doom.  These nations include themes from story lines such as Planet Hulk, Civil War, Inferno, Armor Wars, and 2099. It seems multiple versions of the same characters are present such as Spider-man (ie Ultimate, Renew your Vows, Spiderverse, etc), Wolverine (ie X-men 92, Age of Apocalypse, Old Man Logan, etc) and a legion of Thors who act as Dr. Doom’s guard, believing he is the messiah.

Why Secret War?

According to various reports, Marvel own 40% of the market with DC a distant second- so why shake things up? Depends who you ask.  The Marvel writing staff insists this ambitious story has been years in development as a means to streamline everything into one universe, which makes sense to a degree.  Marvel has had many convoluted stories retconed over the past few years, this could serve as a literary device to finally straighten things out.  Feral fans insist this is a may of making the comics appear more similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently sweeping movie theaters across the world blockbuster after blockbuster, this makes sense to a degree as well.  Merchandise for both the Fantastic Four and X-men have become noticeably less visible over the past couple years as Fox owns the exclusive cinematic rights to each property.  This came to a climax when Marvel and Fox met in court over the use of  the characters, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who have ties to both the X-men and Avengers. Whatever the reason may be, Marvel seems to have a definite plan here, even leaking some exciting post Secret Wars plans.

I’m more positive on Secret Wars than I was at this point during DC’s Convergence because Marvel seems to have some direction and plans this far out they are more than excited to share.  Right off the bat I’m more than happy to see the lineup for the new (or another) Avengers team including Ms. Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man, and Sam Wilson.  If anything is to be saved from the Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales deserves his place in the spotlight and it seems the powers that be agree!

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Recently Marvel has announced top talent writer Brian Michael Bendis, known not only for the creation and subsequent destruction of the Ultimate Universe but also the creation of the modern day Avengers, will be assuming writing duties of Iron Man this fall.  Iron Man will be Marvel’s new tent pole title around which this bold new universe will be built around.  This was further backed up by new teaser art showing Iron Man surrounded by other characters who will be at the forefront of Marvel post-Secret Wars including recognizable characters who have been in the background  like Ant-Man, Agent Phil Culson, and various members of the Inhumans as well as Secret Wars refugees Old Man Logan and Bloodwulf ( a character from the 1970s I had to look up myself).  One notable character included in the artwork is X-23 donning a new costume inspired by her mentor, the deceased Wolverine we all miss.  One thinks this may be an attempt to silence anyone insistent Marvel is attempting to “do away” with the X-Men.

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Other exciting observations include members of the Squadron Supreme, Thing in new Guardians inspired attire, Spider-Gwen, Peter Parker, Citizen V, and Dr. Strange wielding a rather nasty looking double edged ax.   Marvel has also stated Maestro, the villainous Hulk from the Future Imperfect story line and the all female Avengers featured in A-Force will also be a prominent part of this new universe.

 

My Secret Wars Wish List

Just as I did with Convergence, I’m asking posting some things I’d like to see both during and post Secret Wars.

1. Empty out the toy box – With the inclusion of mini-series such as Weird World, Where Monsters Dwell, and 1602 inspired continents it’s apparent Marvel is certainly digging deep for content.  I say while you’re at it lets tap the bottom of the toy chest for the long forgotten characters and stories we thought we’d never see.  I’m talking about bargain bin dwellers such as Cap-Wolf, Brute Force, and the Marvel Knights Angel Punisher.  At the end of the day, why the hell not?

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2. Magneto – The Malcom X inspired character is one of the most interesting figures in comic book history not because of the various changes he has been through but because despite these changes he has kept true to his ideals.  There will be various versions of other characters walking around, why not have the present day Magneto collide with his counter parts and less than noble versions.  Why not have the heroic Age of Apocalypse Magneto collide with the character at the height of his villainy from X-Men 92.  Maybe even an entire team of Magneto’s, M-Force?

3. Wolverine – If you read my post on the Death of Wolverine you’ll no doubt know I am a huge fan of the Ol’Canuckle head and was sad to see him go.  He was my favorite character since childhood and has left a huge vacuum in the Marvel Universe.   Many automatically assumed as soon as Secret War was announced this would be the way Logan would rise again.  All this being said, keep him dead. Nuff said.

4. Villains – Marvel has a stable of some of the greatest antagonists in comics- Apocalypse, Kingpin, Kang, Norman Osborn etc.  Although there have been some notable moments in individual titles It feel as if they’ve all taken a backseat to Thanos in the past few years, on a line wide scale.  Even Sabertooth and Venom are heroes right now.  With the inclusion of Maestro this is a good time to bring back the bad.  Let’s see characters like Omega Red, Stryfe, and Mr. Sinister, who has already made an early appearance in Battle World, make a comeback.  The Ultimate universe also some great villains in their stable, Dr. Doom, Green Goblin, and Reed Richards.  I’m curios to see their take on Red Skull, whom will star in his own Battle World title.

5. Don’t be afraid to keep what worked – Marvel hasn’t been afraid to try bold new ideas.  Some like introducing a more diverse superhero (Ms. Marvel, Northstar, Miles Morales, and Flash Thompson) are applauded by the readers and the industry while other moves have been quickly introduced and redacted what didn’t work  (Spider-man: The Other). It’s encouraging to see some of the more recent changes, like a female Thor and a black Captain America, are sticking around.  I love the direction of the most recent volumes of Ms.Marvel, Daredevil, and Silver Surfer.  Would hate to think Secret Wars would bring these stories to an abrupt, screeching halt.

6. No more “baby heroes” – One title during I won’t be picking up is A vs X, why? Skottie Young. Yes his offbeat “baby” style is amusing at times but he’s over exposed.  Style does note always mean substance.

Whatever may happen, I’m sure the House of Ideas has a few surprised up their sleeves.  If not, it can always been undone, hexed away, or redacted in an unusual and contradicting story line.  In the meantime, bring on the changes, the new friends, and the new stories.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like-minded optimists.  Excelsior ! 

Pulp Fiction is 20 Years Old: Is It in Your Time Capsule ?

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I’m fully aware I’m getting older but I had a moment this past weekend that really put my age into perspective. I was discussing films with my younger sister Margot, a sophomore in high school but she has a mature appreciation for the arts ( mostly dance) including film. We have had a lot of dialogue about classic films and foreign movies, although I can’t get her to watch any Fellini or Pan’s Labyrinth yet. I Very casually said to her, ” Wow Pulp Fiction is twenty years old this year I remember when it came out.” Them she dropped the atomic bomb on me I naively didn’t expect to hear from her cultured mouth, ” I’ve never seen it before.” “WHAT???” I replied as a rush of memories from my high school years flushed my brain at once: sneaking info the AMC on route 10 with my friends to see them film for the first time, Uma Thurman ( still one of the sexiest woman alive in my book) staring out from the glossy poster hung on the wall of every dorm room in college, wincing every time they bleeped a curse the first the I watched the film on basic cable (still didn’t turn it off though). She must have sensed the wave of panic and nostalgia I was caught in as she said, “We can watch it together one day. I tried to watch it but only got as far as the diner scene” (yes the opening). Margot and I will watch Pulp Fiction one day but our whole exchange got me thinking, if you had to put three items into a time capsule to define my personal taste, rather than representing my generation, on an artistic or cultural level, what would they be? I had participated in a similar projects with members of my art class during my senior year of high school. We had each put in a drawing or something representing our artwork at the time but our items were lost when the janitor mistook the time capsule for trash.

Three items I would include today:

1. An iPod or MP3 player with a mix of U2, David Bowie, STP, Billy Bragg, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Scott Weiland and some of my other favorites. Some funk too, gotta have the funk. If you’re having a bad day put on some Kool and the Gang, George Clinton, or even Ray Charles. It’s a proven fact you can’t be depressed and listen to funk. I’d have to leave a note explaining good music expired ten years ago. Hopefully the generation before us brought it back by then.

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2. A box set of all the Marvel Films. If this comes as a shock to you than you must have never read this blog before.

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3. Finally I’d include a copy of Grant Cardone’s 10x with a note: I did everything this guy said I should do now so I can enjoy the other two items later. Life is better when you earn it rather than mortgage it from your future.

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I know this was a short one but tell me, what’s in your time capsule? Comment and let me know !

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. But where we’re going we don’t need any roads.

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The Death of Wolverine

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It’s been a few days since Marvel official killed off my favorite superhero – Wolverine. I’ve recounted some of my feelings and thoughts on The Death of Wolverine on my Instagram account (@philtasticphil), including how I first became interested in the character as a child. All these years I’ve never questioned why I have such an affinity for the Ol’Canuckle Head. I finally realized perhaps the reason I’ve always been a fan of the character is become the both of us have grown up together; me growing from a child to an adult and Logan as a fully fleshed out character.

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When I first started reading Wolverine and X-Men related comics I was about 13 or 14 years old. The very first issue of the Wolverine ongoing solo series I purchased read like a scene from a high octane action film. It had Wolverine pitted against an army of soldiers with him cutting his way through a tank. Somewhere Stallone is kicking himself for not thinking of this for this scene for his last Expendables movie.

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Wolverine as a character wasn’t terribly complex, he was a short hairy guy who drank heavily, smoked cigars, and was virtually unkillable. I would later realize Wolverine really wasn’t created with a particular backstory in mind, this was recently confirmed in an interview with Len Wein ( the character’s co-creator) which appears at the end of Death of Wolverine issue #1. This allowed for great writers like Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, and Larry Hama to chart the course of the character through actions and events rather than mythos. One of the parts of his past which was established was his unbreakable claws and skeleton was the result of a government experiment. He was also ladened with false memory implants, establishing an air of mystery about the character. He was a soldier in the Civil War and teamed up with Black Widow and Captain America during WW2.

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He had the ninja training and personal tragedies of Batman without the brooding. His stories included him traveling to exotic locations with other popular characters and often coupling with equally exotic women, but only in an alternate reality would he marry the woman of his dreams, Jean Grey, as she was with Cyclops the leader of the X-men. So if you’re a discouraged love lorn team and the object of your affection tells you there’s no way she’d ever go out with you, remember it took Logan an alternate timeline but it happened. ( I’m kidding forget that girl she’s a loser). 🙂 So we have a short ugly character with the skills of a ninja, berserker rage, with a dash of 007, and a pinch of X-files who can’t get the girl he wants because she’s dating the captain of the football team. Is it any wonder Wolverine was able to find favor among the average male comic book enthusiast ?

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I walked away from comics during my college years, for regular comic book fans this was shortly after Logan lost his nose and became a de-evolved beast. I would look online and try to see what was happening with my old friend every now and then but didn’t go back into a comic book store until 2001 when Marvel came under the toolage of Joe Quesada as Editor-in-Chief. Quesada decided he was going to make a splash by announcing a story many though would never be told, the origin of Wolverine. Many had tried in the past with everything from a caveman, to the son of his main at agonist Sabertooth, and even a mutated wolverine. Quesada had assigned top tier talent to the project including one of my favorite artists, Andy Kubert, whom I spent many hours trying to duplicate as a teenager. Needless to say I was all in. The end result was a masterpiece which stands in my mind as one of the best comic book stories to date. It showed the progression of the sickly son of an aristocrat to the early version of the character I’d come to admire as a kid. Like any good stories, it answered old questions and created brand new ones including Wolverine’s real name: Jim Howlett. If you choose to pickup the series please also read Wolverine #176 as it serves as a haunting epilogue to the series.

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The real excitement came years later when for the first time ever Wolverine remembered everything, flowing the events of the House Of M mini-series. This lead him on a quest through his past in the series, Wolverine Origins. The series followed Logan as he tried to come to grips with the good and bad parts of his forgotten history as he tried to make amends for some of his past transgressions. The series included some of my favorite villains Cyber and Omega Red. The Origins series also introduced new characters who would have a huge impact on Wolverine’s history namingly Romulus, the puppet master, and the son he never knew Daken.

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Post origins, Wolverine’s role shifted to a team player, a leader, and an educator. In addition to becoming headmaster of the Jean Grey School he also became a member of several Avengers squads. This was a boom for the character and for avid Wolverine readers as we saw a Logan who approached each situation with the air of experience and caution for this students and teammates.

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In later volumes of his solo series, He became depowered losing his signature healing factor. This brought a series of new complications to Logan including the fact he could no longer pop his signature claws out for fear of bleeding to death or infection. As an adult this new direction for the character appealed to me. Even though the character couldn’t physically be the hero he once was he did it anyway. He went up against the odds and got the job done regardless of the health implications.

WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW

Wolverine I was told by some of the greatest minds of the Marvel Universe his lack of a healing factor would be terminal and to take it easy. In the end it wasn’t his lack of power that did him in, it was his nature. Like the scorpion hitched on the back of the frog crossing a river, he struck against the very enemy who created him knowing it meant certain death. His final adventure took him around the world and included almost all of his greatest foes ( Cyber, Nuke, Sabertooth, Viper, and Ogun). It also included his first protege, Kitty Pryde as a spiritual sequel to the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series of the early 1980s. I would have liked to see the inclusion of Omega Red as I feel he was a big part of Logan’s rouges gallery. I also would have liked to see other Wolverine allies appear such as Jubilee, Albert, Elsie Dee, and Maverick. That being said, The Death Of Wolverine mini-series brings our hero full circle to face the man responsible for his unbreakable adamantium skeleton. He sacrificed himself to prevent others from enduring the torture he went through and in the end became incased in the very substance he was defined by for many years.

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Wolverine has joined the likes of Superman. Captain America, and other superheroes who have died and come back to fight another day. After reading Wolverine’s swan song I followed it with the epilogues from other comics including: Logan’s Legacy, Storm, Wolverine and the X-men, and Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler was by far the most emotional and impacted story. It spoke from the perspective of a fellow newly resurrected X-man and recounted Wolverines history only as his best friend could. Wolverine will be back one day, it’s inevitable. His absence will ring through the pages of every book Marvel publishes for quite some time. As an adult, who regularly seeks inspiration from art, music, literature and pop culture Wolverine’s death will create a new benchmark for me. How hard will I fight for my beliefs ? When someone tells me I can’t do something will I allow them to impose limits on me? In the 2000 film, Almost Famous, Penny Lane tells William “…and if you ever get lonely go to the record stores and visit your friends. ” Luckily when I miss my friend Logan, I’ve got hundreds of issues of his adventures arranged in long boxes in the spare room of my home. When faced with opposition Wolverine will come to mind to remind me to be the best I am at whatever I what I do and it is not your past that defines you it is your actions. When it gets really rough, when I’m in a position that looks impossible his last words will ring true. What are they? You’ll have to purchase the last issue to find out.

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Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. His current favorite comics are Ultimate Spider-man, X-Factor, Swamp Thing, and Uncanny Avengers

What Entrepreneurs can Learn From Batman

This artwork encompasses what makes Batman great and why we should aspire to be a little more like him ( minus the terrible childhood tragedy and obsessive compulsive nature forcing him into a life of loneliness). In this pic we’ve got 2 other beloved comic book characters and fellow members of the Justice League (the … Read more