Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #40: Sabretooth

sabretoothSabretooth has always been a favorite character of mine. I know it’s all the rage to say that the Joker is the most evil villain in comic books but it has to be the big burly guy named Victor Creed.

Thanks to having a mutation that has gifted him a healing factor (and other predatory animal abilities just like his longtime nemesis Wolverine), Sabretooth has been around forever. Unlike Wolverine, he has no qualms about using deadly force at any times.

This lack of humanity, deadly abilities and no moral compass whatsoever makes him extremely evil. Plus his physical augmentation from Weapon X and several other evil organizations has only made him more unstoppable.

I just love how he never has any redeemable qualities. The few times he has seemed like a halfway decent person were when he was held captive by the X-Men and befriended Boom Boom or was a member of X-Factor, but those were to further his own motives. I even loved his portrayal in Avengers: 1959 where Howard Chaykin took this further by showing how bloodthirsty he will be when there is money involved.

So yes, Sabretooth is a really evil spirited immoral killing machine. I think that’s what also makes the Age of Apocalypse version (the one that was heavily featured in Exiles) such a great contrasting character. That Sabretooth is a role model to the other mutants, even taking in Wild Child and Blink as his pseudo children. I just love the direction that they took him in and it’s great.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #41: Shatterstar

shatterstar-x-force-x-factoNext up is another character that I’ve always enjoyed. He is as sharp as a tack, well the signature double-bladed swords that he carries. I’m talking about the X-Forcer turned X-Factorer Shatterstar.

His debut was fairly straight forward. Shatterstar is a test-tube grown mutant from the Mojoworld of the future who traveled back in time to help the X-Men to help them defeat the alien Mojo who rules the dimension he calls home. His introduction was just like so many of the characters that first appeared in the early 1990s; he shows up, joins a group and starts kicking ass. For the most part, everyone did a good job writing him. He was a displaced warrior who would be much more comfortable fighting people. Needless to say, he jived perfectly with being in X-Force under Cable’s tutelage but not so much when it was the other young mutants running the show.

Eventually they gave him more of a character, with him at one point having acquired the memories of a deceased teenager. But the biggest character growth was under Jeph Loeb’s direction, with an allusion to Shatterstar having a secret relationship with his teammate Rictor. A decade later, Shatterstar and Rictor became public with their relationship and creating Marvel’s premier gay couple. It’s been handled very well, and Rictor and Shatterstar have an extra complexity going on. This is his first romantic relationship of any kind and he doesn’t want the exclusivity that Rictor is seeking. And to make things more confusing, Shatterstar finds himself attracted to both sexes. I like the direction that they’ve taken, making him a coming of age character who is pushing thirty.

Oh and one more really cool thing about Shatterstar…HE’S THE SON OF DAZZLER AND LONGSHOT!!!! Way back in 1992′s X-Men Annual #1, there’s a one-off comment between Dazzler and Longshot talking about naming a child Shatterstar and kicking off two decades worth of speculation. As part of Peter David’s conclusion for X-Factor, this is revisited and is FINALLY confirmed.

$(KGrHqUOKkEE7HvjNWkzBPmuqeVlyQ~~60_35And one more thing…Toy Biz made some really cool Shatterstar figures back in the 1990s. I remember vividly picking up the figure on your right when I thought I was way too old to be stopping into a Kay Bee Toys and buying anything. I was a freshman in high school and would have been quite embarrassed if anyone saw me. But then again, I wasn’t invited to any of the cool kids’ parties any way.

So there I was proudly plopping down five bucks to get an awesome action figure which I still have to this day!

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #42: Colossus

colossus-x-menColossus might be one of the strongest in the X-Men pantheon but he isn’t necessarily the most complex  Don’t let his shiny silver exterior fool you: this Russian mutant has a heart of gold.

At his heart, Peter Rasputin is a fairly simple man. He is incredibly loyal to his family, willing to forgive his brother Mikhail for forcefully trying to take over the Morlocks or even going to painstaking lengths he went to try to find a cure for the Legacy Virus that was killing his sister Ilyanna. He extends this to his friends, whether it be standing up for Nightcrawler and Wolverine in a bar fight or even to his on-again, off-again girlfriend Kitty Pryde.

Sometimes his selflessness is a detriment, as he sacrificed himself to find a cure to the Legacy Virus which lead to his demise. But this is comics so he was eventually reincarnated. He sacrificed himself to become the Juggernaut in an attempt to save San Francisco.

Colossus is a great supporting character because he is so generous. He is extremely likable and just a nice guy. You can just tell that he would much rather be home in Russia farming and being with his family instead of being a super hero. That makes him cool in my book.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #43: Gideon

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Gideon was a really cool concept for an X-Men villain that always had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, he had a really short life span before he was killed by the mutant vampire Selene. that said, he’s still cool in my book.

He was born in the fifteenth century and served as a crew member for Christopher Columbus’ New World voyage. After being left for dead, Gideon discovered that he was nearly immortal. Not only is he a mutant with the power to mimic the skills and abilities of the people around him, but he also belongs to the subspecies of Externals which have the gift of immortality. Gideon isn’t the type of villain in the Doctor Doom style, that wants world domination, nor is he like the Joker and wants to be an agent of chaos. Instead, Gideon spent his time lurking in the background manipulating the people around him for his own gain and amassed a fortune.

Gideon made himself publicly known around the same time as the original X-Force debuted, as he was interested in mentoring Sunspot whom was believed to be another External. In order to get closer to the younger mutant, Gideon had his father brutally murdered. It turned out that Sunspot wasn’t an External, and it was really Cannonball instead. Eventually the truth was revealed and this put him at odds with X-Force for the rest of his life. Although he never became a full on villain, he did have an odd respect of Sunspot, Cannonball and the rest of X-Force. Towards the end of his life when he feared Selene was going to murder him he reached out to him for assistance. Unfortunately, they got the message too late.

Gideon was an interesting character and the possibilities of what the could do were endless. It’s a shame he hasn’t been brought back to the land of the living.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #45 and 44: Cypher and Warlock

cypher-and-warlock

For my next choice I pick two characters who are completely different from each other but together became one of the best super hero tandems ever. I’m talking about Cypher and Warlock from the New Mutants.

At first glance, they aren’t necessarily the most exciting characters. Cypher was a nerdy friend of Kitty Pryde’s and it was eventually revealed that he had a fairly non-threatening mutant power: the ability to comprehend, speak and interpret any form of communication. Warlock is a techno-organic mutant from a far off alien home world. Needless to say, the two wound up as students at the Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and eventually as members of the New Mutants team.

The two became inseparable and soon were best friends. Thanks to Cypher sharing his own life’s energy to save Warlock, they even share memories. Needles to say, Warlock had an extremely difficult time dealing with Cypher’s death. The alien robot wound up being killed by Cameron Hodge during the X-Tinction Agenda storyline.

Like they say, death in comics is only a relative condition and a hybrid Warlock/Dough Ramsey (Cypher’s civilian identity) showed up called Douglock. This reincarnated character looked like a techno-organic recreation of Cypher, but had both character’s memories. Eventually it was revealed that Douglock was really just Warlock having rebooted himself from Doug’s memories. Once Warlock was aware of that, he deactivated the copy of his fallen friend’s memories. Eventually Cypher was resurrected and Warlock (along with the rest of the now adult New Mutants) was able to break him from the evil Selene’s control.

Warlock and Cypher are just two great characters because of their friendship. The fact that we’ve been reading it about it for almost thirty years only adds to its awesomeness.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #46: Caliban

caliban

Caliban is one of those tragic characters who started out with a really sad depressing origin and constantly made poor life decisions. What makes him such a compelling character is that you constantly take pity on him.

He originally was introduced as a scrawny, sickly member of the Morlocks–a group of disfigured mutants that crested their own civilization under New York City’s subway system. Instead of being taken into their community with welcome arms, their leader Callisto not only used him in order to take advantage of his mutant tracking abilities but exploited his desire to have a friendship/relationship with X-Man Kitty Pryde.

Caliban eventually found a home with the original incarnation of X-Factor, but even that was short-lived. After the Morlocks were slaughtered by the mercenary Marauders, Caliban sought revenge against them but could not succeed due to his weak nature. To increase his physical capabilities, he wound up making a Faustian deal with Apocalypse that did make him more deadly.

Unfortunately it also left him prone to being under Apocalypse’s control. For the rest of his life he wound up being a member of X-Force until he met his demise twice. This is comics after all.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #47: Boom Boom

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I don’t care if you call her Time Bomb, Boom-Boom, Boomer or Meltdown. Tabitha Smith is awesome. Don’t believe me? Ask writer supreme Warren Ellis:

“I wanted a character who could blow things up,” he said of his choice of Boom-Boom. “I was also looking for a team structure where the women outnumbered the men. I liked her white-trash criminal background, which had uses in the plot set-up. But mostly I wanted a character who could blow things up. I mean, these are characters who no-one at Marvel had any use for, and I could have been stopped at any time, Jen. But a skinny-ass blonde mutant with a kleptomaniac streak had both plot and entertainment value to me. Especially when played against the others.”

I think that says everything you need to know about why I like Boomer.She is definitely a tough cookie. Over the years she’s grown into quite the formidable character. Oh yeah, and her power is infinitely cooler than Jubilee’s.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #48: Fantomex

FANTOMEX

Fantomex is a X-Man that has really grown on me the last few years in Uncanny X-Force. What I like about him is the fact that he really doesn’t belong, yet somehow sticks around the X-Men. He was my favorite part of the Grant Morrison era due to the fact that him being so unique.

The character is a hybrid human/mutant/sentinel that was created by Weapon Plus program to hunt down mutants, but eventually becomes sentient and has allies himself with the X-Men. And thanks to his programming, he thinks that he’s French.

He is a mercenary by trade, and that is how he got caught up in with Wolverine and Archangel’s secret X-Force team. He reminds me a lot of Deadpool, but without the annoying parts and a more practical conscience. He gets under everyone’s skin and is constantly manipulating people. And that’s what makes an interesting character.

Baltimore Comic-Con 2013 Sketchbook: The Beast by Jamar Nicholas

The Beast by Jamar Nicholas
I was so happy to add this sketch of the Beast to my collection at the Baltimore Comic-Con. It’s by cartoonist Jamar Nicholas who did an amazing adaptation of Geoffrey Canada’s Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence which you should really check out.

You can follow Jamar’s blog here.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #49: Jubilee

jubilee

Jubilee is one of the X-Men characters that receives an unbelievable amount of hatred from fans, but I think she’s actually a decent character. There is much more to this character than her original dated costume and her lame super power.

Her back story is fairly unremarkable. Jubilee was just like any teenage girl in pop culture at the time; it was 1989 and meant that she would be spending all of her time at a shopping mall. After her affluent parents were murdered, she wound up on the streets and eventually found herself becoming involved with the X-Men once her powers surfaced.

It’s amazing really when you think about how brave a character she is. She pretty much threw herself into the X-Men, as that dangerous life style was instantly safer then being a mutant teenager on the run. I know she got some sort of inheritance from her parents, but that didn’t happen for a while (I wonder if that was ever resolved). And her power, which is pretty much to shoot off plasma fireworks around her isn’t necessarily the best thing to counteract someone in a fight. That said, Jubilee always gets herself involved in the action.

I also really like that over the last twenty years or so how Jubilee has grown as a character. She has matured and is much more than the bratty youngster palling around the X-Mansion. Some of her best scenes have been with Wolverine, who serves as a father figure to her. This sense of family is continued, as Jubilee has taken it upon herself to be a mentor to X-23, Wolverine’s teenaged female clone.

Her maturity has also been also shown in many different ways, including her leadership role in Generation X and how she has handled not only losing her powers as a result of M-Day but becoming a vampire.

Bet you didn’t think Jubilee was this cool? In closing, there’s one thing we can do…listen to this song that pays tribute to our favorite firework shooting X-Man. Take it away Katy!

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters #50: Strong Guy

strong-guy

Strong Guy is a very complex, overlooked and simple character all at the same time. How does that make any sense?

Strong Guy’s power is that he is able to transform the energy from a physical impact into muscle mass, turning his physique into something that a strong man participant could only dream of. That said, Strong Guy isn’t a strong man at heart. Instead, he’s just projecting a large wise cracking, musclebound image.

We learned in X-Factor #87 about his childhood, with him being a constantly bullied, nerdy weakling who covered up his insecurities with a lot of sarcasm. Once his mutant powers kicked in, he still never developed his confidence. He’s spent a fortune trying to impress people and is severely afraid of letting people know that his mutation causes him a lot of pain.

That said, Strong Guy makes a strong supporting character, whether he is a bodyguard for Lila Cheney or Dazzler or a member of the various X-Factor incarnations he has been part of. Strong Guy works so well in the X-Universe because of his dual nature. He loves putting out the image of a tough guy smart ass, like a WWE version of Denis Leary. But his true self, the one all his teammates and friends see, is a very kind and gregarious giant.

Fifty Greatest X-Men Characters

50-greatest-x-men

This September comic book fans are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the X-Men. Since their September 1963 debut, the group of mutant super heroes (and their on again, off again villains) have been involved in some of the best and most memorable stories that Marvel has published.

It’s amazing that the franchise, which has spun off countless movies, video games, cartoons, toys and other merchandise was almost cancelled due to low sales in 1970. Fortunately, the Cockrum/Byrne/Claremont era began around 1975 and the series has been a mainstay since.

So why have the X-Men lasted so long and have been so successful?

The main theme has been about the desire of proving that no matter how different you are, you can be a productive member of society. At one point, everyone has felt insecure about their place in the world, and how they have to work harder to prove to everyone that they belong.

The other theme is about inclusion and diversity. That doesn’t need to be explained. Just look at the all-time roster of the X-Men, having come from different races and cultures, some from different planets. And those are just the differences on the surface. But the point is that we are all mutants people, and everyone deserves to be treated equally.

So to celebrate this, I’m going to be blogging the fifty greatest X characters. This should be fun and I can’t wait to see your responses.

Marvel Super-Heroes Special Summer 1991

marvel-super-heroes-summer-special-91

Anthologies are so much fun. Especially ones that are budget priced. Marvel Super-Heroes Summer Special 1991 would have been perfect beach reading back in 1991…except everyone who bought it was probably in super collector mindset of the time.

The cover might lead you to believe that the X-Men are the highlight of the book, but that’s not the case. The stories with Power Pack and Cloak and Dagger steal the show.

The Power Pack story has the child heroes finding the recently hatched offspring of the Monster from the Lost Lagoon and protecting them from scientists until they could be reunited with their monstrous parents.The story really connected with me, probably because as a child of the 1980s it really reminded me of movies like ET and Harry and the Hendersons. It was very lighthearted and plain old fun.

On the other hand, the Cloak and Dagger story somehow manages to be both depressing and disturbing, as Dagger is investigating the death of one of her old boarding school friends. Basically it is a story about life choices, and this friend had a series of terrible choices.

As for the rest of the book, the X-Men story is fine, the Speedball one is by Steve Ditko and pretty silly (in a good way) and Sabra’s part is pretty forgettable. But as a whole, there’s nothing bad about anything in this.

Magik #1-4

magik-4The Magik mini-series has a simple purpose: it’s to flesh out what happened to poor Illyana Rasputin when she was pulled into the other dimension known as limbo.

In story-line, Illyana was missing for only seconds. But while in Limbo, she experienced the events of several years of her life. She was a small child at the beginning of the story but returned as a teenager. What had happened was the evil  sorcerer Belasco pulled her into his dimension in an attempt to make her his dark apprentice. Fortunately for Illyana, that dimension’s version of Storm (who is an elderly sorceress in this reality) and Kitty Pryde attempt to keep her safe from Belasco. The villain’s plan is to use her teleportation powers so he can leave limbo and conquer the Marvel Universe.

And as much as Storm and Kitty want to save Illyana from Belasco, it is up to the young girl to save herself. There is an extra element of difficulty, as if Belasco dies, his soul will wind up possessing Illyana’s body.

Magik is a lot of fun. The story is filled with swords and sorcery, and it makes it pretty different from a lot of the Marvel comics at the time. It’s kind of like the X-Men are hanging out in the He-Man or Thundercats universes. While this isn’t “required reading”, it’s worth reading.

It was written by Chris Claremont, who pretty much did most everything involving any X-Men related character during that time. The art is fine; it’s by John Buscema and Ron Frenz, but what makes it sticks out is all the detailing that inker Tom Palmer put into it. There are all kinds of Easter eggs hidden in the pages that don’t affect the plot, but add nice touches.

Friday Fights #23: Vibe vs. Dazzler

vibe-vs-dazzlerIt’s said that there is no such thing as a bad character in comic books; just extremely ill conceived or poorly written ones. This week we feature two combatants who stumbled out of the gate to become cult favorites: Vibe and the Dazzler.

DATED ORIGINS: Both of these characters are extremely dated in their origins. Vibe’s story comes across like the downfall of a member of Manudo; he’s a former break dancer turned gang member turned super hero. Dazzler is a former disco singer whose career is derailed once the public finds out she is a mutant and becomes an adventurer. ADVANTAGE: Neither.

THEY CAN TURN SOUND INTO THINGS: Vibe and Dazzler almost have the same super powers. They can turn sound into seismic and light energy respectively. Dazzler seems to be able to take her powers much further though, being able to successfully take on higher level cosmic villains like Dr. Doom, Terrax and even Galactus. ADVANTAGE: Dazzler.

KING OF THE STREETS: Vibe doesn’t really have much in the line of combat skills. In addition to her music career, Dazzler is an accomplished athlete. She’s also received extensive combat training during her time as an X-Men. I’m sure Vibe’s partners in the Detroit era of the Justice League (one of the lamest groups ever) really couldn’t offer something comparable. ADVANTAGE: Dazzler.

WINNER: Dazzler walks away with this one over poor Vibe. She is a much more established character, having been expanded so much over the years to be more than just a disco joke. Vibe has a chance to evolve and become a better character. Hopefully the new series written by Andrew Kreisberg can breathe some new life into the character.

 

Friday Fights#21: House of Magneto vs. House of Vader

vaders-vs-magnetosIt’s time for some villainous family feuding! What would happen if Magneto and kids tussled with Darth Vader and his own set of twins? The two sides have a pretty elaborate and expanded family tree but we’re focusing on Magneto, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch going up against Darth Vader, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.

What you get with both families is a lot of dysfunctional relationships. Both the Vaders and the House of M have a lot of similarities. Both of them are headed by a father with some serious emotional issues, who have really strained (at best) relations with their children. After all, they have tried to kill them several times over the years! Luke and Leia are more stable than Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch; unfortunately the Skywalker twins accidentally made out! On the mutant side of things, it’s not much better as the twins are always trying to gain their father’s acceptance, even though they consider him to be a threat to the universe!

Ultimately both groups would have to coexist among themselves. The battle isn’t a matter of the Force vs. magnetism; it’s once Scarlet Witch uses her reality warping to take out her Jedi combatants. And after that, Magneto will take his kids to McDonalds for a Happy Meal.

Friday Fights #18: Wolverine vs. Bobba Fett

wolverine-vs-bobba-fettIt’s time for this week’s Friday Fight:  the man who is the best at what he does goes up against the best bounty hunter in the galaxy! It’s time for Wolverine to take on Bobba Fett.

When it comes to hand-to-hand combat the two of them are pretty much equal. They were both trained to be killing machines, Wolverine through the Weapon X program and Bobba Fett was raised to be the perfect bounty hunter.

Part of being the best bounty hunter means that you are armed for everything. And I’m sure that Bobba Fett is. From the Mandalorian body armor that covers from head to toe, to the never-ending supply of blaster weapons, he has it all. And he’s going to need to use them a lot to slow down Wolverine. The mutant does have his admantium claws, so it’s definitely a good thing he is wearing armor.

But what protects Wolverine so much–literally–is his healing factor. Combine the fact that you can’t really hurt him, with his heightened senses and agility you can’t hit him. The only way that Bobba Fett can win this is by using his spaceship Slave I’s weaponry to fire at Wolverine, but that’s not too practical a way to fight.

So how would this end? Poor Bobba Fett would be looking for Wolverine, only to hear a “SNIKT!” and before he knows it, would be inflicted with a massive stab wound to the mid section. That would be followed by Wolvie lighting a cigar with one of Bobba’s blasters.

 

 

 

Stop Motion X-Men Cartoon Series Intro

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I go away for a few days and this happens?

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I took a few pre-holiday days off to take some much needed rest.

As part of that, I’ve taken a much needed Internet break and was pleasantly surprised to see this video pop up as a recommended choice on the old Xbox YouTube app.

It’s an amazingly well-done stop motion version of the intro to the 1990s X-Men cartoon show that my brother and I would watch every Saturday morning growing up. We demanded complete silence at 11 am; this was serious business.

What’s even funnier about this is the little framing story they made about life at the Xavier Academy. Definitely check this out.

Although, there is one glaring problem…the VHS cassette tape they play wasn’t from that X-Men cartoon series. It was the direct-to-video release of Pryde of the X-Men!

Friday Fights #16: Gandalf vs. Magneto

gandalf-vs-magnetoThis week’s Friday Fights was inspired by an episode of The Colbert Report. Ian McKellen was a guess this week, and Stephen Colbert asked him a question designed to drive fanboys and fangirls into heated debate: who would win in a fight…Gandalf or Magneto. McKellen’s answer was that the wizard would be left standing tall. But would that happen?

Let’s look at their similarities. Neither of them are known for their physical abilities or fighting prowess. Instead, the two rely on their otherworldly powers. Gandalf is a master wizard, and in Magneto’s case, he was born with the mutant power to control magnetism. This fight would be won and lost on the battle of wizardry and magnetism.

Magneto has battled many a wizard n his day, but Gandalf never encountered something like Magneto. Not to mention, the evil mutant is a lot more sinister in what he would do in a fight.

WINNER: Magneto. He would use his magnetism powers to extract the iron in Gandalf’s blood, making it go night-night for the white wizard.

Uncanny Avengers: Thor Drinks Lattes And Brainsnatching Fun

Uncanny Avengers #1 reminds me of one of those comics that reminds me of my childhood when my brother and I would pool together all of our super hero toys and make up our own groups. Is USAgent in the Justice League? Sure. Does the Avengers consist of Iron Man, Thor, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Savage Dragon? You betcha. What writer Rick Remender did in this issue was brought together that spirit of non-traditional team ups.

The Marvel Universe is still recovering from the whole Avengers/X-Men feud, and this book sets the stage for the two team’s first real joint partnership. Captain America and Thor are really giving Havok the hard sell on how much they respect him and Charles Xavier’s legacy, and how both sides need to put them past them. And unlike his brother Cyclops, Havok sees the value in working with non-mutantkind. The three get to team up for the first time to stop a lobotomized Avalanche.

The mutual admiration doesn’t extend to Scarlet Witch and Rogue, who will not forgive Wanda for intentionally almost eradicating the mutant population. This all takes place at Professor X’s grave site, which is something he would have never wanted to see. Before they can resolve their differences, Red Skull’s forces arrive to not only take them out but take the Professor’s corpse. Red Skull needs it for some diabolical plot to exterminate the mutant race.

Remender puts this together in a really fun, only in comics way. We have an awkward team up (that is surely to improve as the series go by as they grow personally), lots of big characters and a plot that is simply ridiculous, but in a good way. All the while, he finds a way to make the dialogue work. The only thing that came across kind of odd was the scene where Cap and Thor are talking about stepping out to get something to eat with Havok, and Thor talks about how much he likes lattes. Very silly yes, but it would work. I could totally see the character get into really weird human food like that.

The art is by John Cassaday is great as usual. This is definitely a fun book and I’m sure I’ll catch up with it once it comes out in trade format.