60 Years Of The Marvelous Fantastic Four

“A brilliant scientist—his best friend—the woman he loves—and her fiery-tempered kid brother! Together, they braved the unknown terrors of outer space, and were changed by cosmic rays into something more than merely human! MR. FANTASTIC! THE THING! THE INVISIBLE GIRL! THE HUMAN TORCH! Now they are the FANTASTIC FOUR—and the world will never be the same again!” Introduction to the Fantastic Four comic books during the 1970s,

Not much can be said about the Fantastic Four that hasn’t been said before. It’s widely regarded as one of Marvel Comics’ greatest teams and to this day, it deserves the title of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine- as it was advertised proudly on the covers of the comic books. They were called “the First Family of Marvel”, and during the silver and bronze age the creative teams, which began with co-creators Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, spun tale after tale involving the main four characters with their supporting cast as they figured out how to solve their problems or win the battle against the bad guys.

As we celebrate the 60th anniversary the FF, their story has proven to be as timeless as it is popular. First, we got Dr. Reed Richards, who becomes the stretchable Mr. fantastic, we have Sue storm who marries Reed and she becomes the Invisible Girl (and later rightly renames herself the Invisible Woman), then we have her younger brother Johnny, a hot rod-riding hothead, who loves fast cars and is always dating pretty girls, and then we have the family’s trusted friend Ben Grimm, who becomes the ever lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.

Why these characters work together is because the creation is structured around a family dynamic. A family who is close and loyal, yet bicker and banter, but at the end of the day come together as a team to win the day.

Why the setting works is that this is no ordinary family. Each one has been imbued with super powers based on cosmic ray irradiation when they rocketed to space on a test flight. Reed can stretch his body, Sue becomes invisible, Johnny bursts into flames and fly, and Ben became a rocky layered bulk of a humanoid. In terms of personality, Reed is the level-headed leader, Sue with her invisible powers also has a force projection where she could solidify the air around her making her a telekinetic, and effectively the most powerful member of the team. Johnny usually flies when he is fully engulfed in flames and can project flame blasts from his hands. And the Thing is so strong he could almost beat the Hulk, if not hold his own against the green goliath.

Also, the creators skillfully mixed the situation of the mundane and juxtaposed it with the cosmic. While Johnny and Ben were bickering over a meal, there might be something going on in the universe, a catastrophic threat of some kind or a massive universal event so they had to suspend their meal and arguments until later.

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A Look Back At Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man film mania is reaching new levels of excitement with the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and the revelation that the latest Spider-Man film will introduce the previous cinematic universes of older Marvel films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This was seen with appearances of the Spider-Man villains from the original Spidey films, which heralds many highly anticipated crossover events for future MCU films. With all this hoopla it is time to take a look at the original Spider-Man film trilogy that was directed by Sam Raimi from 2002 to 2007.

The very first film based on Marvel Comics’ most popular superhero, Spider-Man, helped usher in a new age of superhero films at the turn of the century that eventually changed the cinematic landscape.

For the longest time it seemed as if there never would be a live-action film about Spider-Man. Marvel Comics, then later Marvel Entertainment, had the hardest time properly adapting their properties into respectable films or TV shows. The best they achieved was The Incredible Hulk TV show from the ’70s. Then things turned around with the releases of Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000). With those film successes it was only natural for Marvel to turn to its flagship superhero.

Before Marvel was acquired by Disney, the film rights to their characters were sold to major and minor studios. This created a legal mess when it came to Spider-Man as it prevented a film from being produced. The best known effort was a film to be directed by James Cameron. Rumors had it that Leonardo DeCaprio was slated to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and the film would have deviated wildly from the famous comic book source. One of those changes was that instead of crafting web shooters, Spider-Man had the ability to shoot his own organic webbing. This turned out to be one change that survived in the eventual Spider-Man, released on May 3, 2002 and directed by Sam Raimi, known by fans for his Evil Dead and Darkman films.

Spider-Man is a largely faithful adaptation of the Marvel Comics story about Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), a lonely and nerdy teenager in Queens, New York, who is bitten by a genetically altered spider during a class field trip at a laboratory. This updated the origin in that the spider was not radioactive as in the comics. During the ’60s radiation exposure was the cause du jour for how characters gained super powers. Of course, most people know better today that such exposure would have been fatal to living organisms such as humans!

Naturally, Peter developed spider-based powers because the venom from the spider’s bite changed his DNA. While he is elated with his new powers and physique he is pining for his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). She comes from a troubled home but hides her pain by exhibiting an outgoing and friendly demeanor. While the two seem attracted to each other she has a boyfriend with his own car. Being that he doesn’t have a lot of money, Peter decided to enter a wrestling exhibition to win money to buy a car.

He’s dropped off near the exhibition by his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), who tried to counsel Peter about his growing pains, but the teenager disregarded him. For the wrestling match, Peter adopted a flashy costumed identity that covered most of his face and called himself the Human Spider. The announcer (Bruce Campbell in the first of many humorous cameos in these films) renamed him Spider-Man and watched in disbelief, along with the audience, as Peter took out his far larger opponent.

Looking for his reward, Peter is instead ripped off by the wrestling promoter, who refused to pay him over a technicality. After Peter left his office, the promoter is immediately robbed at gunpoint, and the robber was able to escape because Peter refused to stop him. This decision would later haunt him as the same robber killed Uncle Ben in a carjacking. Afterwards, Peter bitterly recalled his uncle’s message about “with great power comes great responsibility” and decided to use his powers for good as Spider-Man.

During Peter’s emotional journey, Spider-Man examined the story of Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), a billionaire industrialist and head of his company Oscorp. Facing competition and deadlines as a military contractor, Osborn subjected himself to an experimental chemical that enhanced his strength, durability and reflexes, but was driven insane. Peter and Osborn’s paths are intertwined as Peter’s friendship with Osborn’s son, Harry (James Franco), develops. Harry is also dating Mary Jane, but is aware of the mutual attraction Peter and Mary Jane have for each other. Meanwhile, Osborn adopted the armored identity of the criminal Green Goblin, and soon came into conflict with Spider-Man.

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The Latest Crazy Internet Rumor: Disney Buying DC

Well, it did not take long for the wild rumors and speculation to begin once it was announced last week that Discovery, Inc. and WarnerMedia. were merging into one company called WarnerDiscovery. The wildest rumor has it that allegedly the Walt Disney Company is going to buy WarnerMedia’s DC Comics or Warner Bros. Being that Disney already owns Marvel Comics this would mean that both comic book companies can be merged into one.

Think about that for a moment.

If this was somehow true, this would be the most shattering development for comic books and related media since comic books were created nearly a century ago. Of course, fans know that DC Comics and Marvel Comics are the two biggest comic book companies with legendary superheroes and other characters. The fact that the two giants are natural rivals adds fuel to rumor fire about the possibility of this merger.

Think of the team up and crossover events. “Crisis on Infinity Secret Wars” or some other overpriced and over-printed epic spanning hundreds of issues per month with spinoff titles and one-shots cluttering comic book shelves in stores. It would blow out recent events like Dark Knights: Death Metal and King in Black in the shear scope. Imagine trying to buy all the tie-ins for that event!

This could spillover into games, books, and yes, films and TV shows. Thought Avengers: Endgame or The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths were epic? Guess again and imagine a live-action version of the last, great DC/Marvel crossover, JLA/Avengers or the 1990s’ DC vs. Marvel that pitted the Hulk against Superman or Captain America fighting Batman! Imagine further and think of the possibility of Robert Downey, Jr. sharing the silver screen as Iron Man alongside Christian Bale as Batman. Or Henry Cavill’s Superman meeting Chris Evans’ Captain America.

Let’s come back to Earth now and face reality because it is doubtful any of this will happen. Sure, it is possible, but to date there are not any credible, confirmed sources to back up this claim.

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The Downfall Of Captain America

Before we get started, this post will contain huge spoilers for the most recent episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, titled “The Whole World is Watching”.

Anyone watching the latest Disney+ TV show about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) knows that the United States government introduced a new Captain America to replace Steve Rogers (last seen as a feeble old man in Avengers: Endgame). This new soldier, John Walker (played by Wyatt Russell), was instantly disliked by the characters in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and viewers alike. The common complaint about John Walker as Captain America was that he not only did not look the part, but he looked so goofy with his ill-fitting helmet and undeserved swagger during his introduction. The memes and dismissals were quite brutal and over the top. Frankly, the poor soldier never had a chance.

To the show’s credit, John Walker was given a back story and he is not an evil person. In the interview he gave during his introduction during the show’s second episode “The Star Spangled Man”, he came off as a person who realized he had large shoes to fill and was trying his hardest. But that was impossible to do. After all, how can you top, let alone, compare to the legendary Steve Rogers? Still, he seemed respectful of the legacy and the honor given to him, plus he had the combat experience as a soldier to be a suitable replacement. But Sam Wilson/the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes/the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) were outraged that Walker had the audacity to pick up the shield and mantle of Captain America. They and the audience felt he was not worthy. Howver, this outrage could be seen as guilt from Sam after he relinquished the shield to the government instead of replacing his friend as the new Captain America. With Bucky, he is furious because Sam gave up the shield easily and probably because he was not given the shield instead. Now, some pretender has the shield and the status of Captain America.

John Walker tried to work with Sam and Bucky, in fact, he and his partner and best friend, Lemar Hoskins/Battlestar (Clé Bennett), rescued the Falcon and the Winter Soldier later in the episode when they fought against a terrorist group called the Flag Smashers. But the duo didn’t want anything to do with the new Captain America and needlessly made him an antagonist.

Throughout the series, the new Captain America felt pressure to measure up. You could see this with subtle visual cues and the way he was treated by others, except Hoskins. What made things worse for Walker was that although he is a skilled soldier, he is not as skilled in fighting as the original Captain America. He began to feel inadequate and not up to the task. However, it was difficult to empathise with him because he displayed an arrogant swagger to the outside world. Also, he was reckless and impatient as his actions in the fourth episode escalated tense situations such as when Sam tried to negotiate with the Flag Smashers’ leader Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman).

The ultimate humiliation came during the same episode where he was defeated in combat by the elite Wakandan soldiers, the Dora Milaje. He felt especially chastised when he commented that they did not even have super powers yet they defeated him handily.

This led to his conflict later in “The Whole World is Watching” when he came upon a vial of the Super Soldier serum that created the first Captain America and was given to members of the Flag Smashers. To his credit, Walker did not inject the serum, though he took the vial without telling anyone. He sought advice from Hoskins about the ethics of taking the serum and Hoskins opined that he himself would take it if given the chance.

In the last act of the episode as Walker, Hoskins, Sam and Bucky faced off against the Flag Smashers, it soon became clear that Walker had taken the Super Soldier serum thanks to his feats of increased strength. However, he was not as skilled or as polished as Steve Rogers, what was worse was that he lacked control. This lack of control would be exhibited in the shocking final moments of the episode.

During the final fight, Battlestar saved Captain America from being stabbed by Karli, but she accidently killed him in another example of someone who was inexperienced with having the Super Soldier serum. Enraged, Walker chased down the closest Flag Smasher he could find and brutally killed him by bludgeoning the terrrorist with his shield out in public. The last haunting image that closed the episode had a shaken and defiant Captain America standing tall with a bloody shield in front of shocked civilians, for the whole world to see.

This development echoed similar moments in the pages of the Captain America comic book during a famous arc called Captain America: The Captain, written by Mark Gruenwald, which ran from issues #332 through 350. In the arc, Steve Rogers abandoned the Captain America identity and John Walker took over but proved to be unhinged. This was best shown in issue #345 (“Surrender”) where after his parents were murdered by a group of domestic terrorist, an enraged Walker savagely killed the terrorists, then tried to talking to his deceased parents as if he saved them.

Seeing a similar moment in the live-action MCU is more shocking just for the visuals and its impact. This last image could be seen as a metaphor for how far the U.S. has fallen in the eyes of the world; something that is an uncomfortable reminder of fairly recent events not just in the MCU but in real life. The moment clearly proves that John Walker is not worthy to be Captain America, who should be held to a higher ideal, a greater standard. The original Captain America represented the best of humankind thanks to his nobility and compassion. These traits were why he was chosen to receive the serum back in World War II. It is doubtful that whoever chose Walker had this in mind.

Then again, it is hard to see him as this evil man. Even as he smashed his shield down repeatedly over his victim, one can’t help feeling grief over how he and the ideal of Captain America have fallen. Circumstances beyond his control, such as facing opponents who outmatched him or how he was repeatedly disrespected, influenced him to make these fateful decisions. If things had happened differently, if Bucky and Sam had given him a chance for example, then maybe his brutal actions could have been avoided.

No matter how The Falcon and the Winter Soldier concludes, or who ends up wielding the shield and the Captain America title, John Walker is an intriguing character who deserves to be showcased in future MCU productions, perhaps as the U.S.Agent to mirror the comic books.

Non MCU Marvel Characters Who Should Return

alternate MCU Avengers

Based on what we know about the next Doctor Strange film and the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will be deluged with characters who are non-MCU Marvel heroes and foes.

For example the third MCU Spider-Man film, will return Al Molina as Doctor Octopus (last seen in Spider-Man 2) and Jamie Foxx as Electro (seen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). These two villains were part of defunct film universes which has led to speculation that Spider-Man: No Way Home might loosely adapt the Spider-Verse storyline from the Marvel Comics and even the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Meanwhile, the title of the second Doctor Strange film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, clearly gives away that the good sorcerer will be grappling with the multiverse and other characters from extinct film universes will appear. The film will even feature the Marvel Comics superhero America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who has the ability to punch her way through the multiverse. It’s an ability that Doctor Strange will find useful when he teams up with her. 

We’ve been teased with the concept of the multiverse as it was mentioned in Spider-Man: Far From Home and with the appearance of Evan Peters as Quicksilver in the WandaVision TV show. Though Peters’ appearance turned out to be stunt casting (SPOILER: he actually was not Quicksilver), we were teased with the concept of a multiverse during the post-credits scene of the final episode when Wanda Maximoff hears the cries of her children who no longer exist in the MCU. 

The people behind the MCU films have been tight-lipped about who will appear in these two films. This has fed  rampant speculation among fans, with the popular theory that former Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will turn up in some capacity in Spider-Man: No Way Home, while the speculation has exploded as to who will appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

It is fun to speculate and theorize about this since in some way the appearances of these non-MCU Marvel characters support the concept that those abandoned film universes are still valid for us. Of course, fans of those films and characters do not need new film appearances to validate the love they have for those films which are forever treasured. Still, it is a nifty possibility that they will make some kind of comeback. 

Who should appear in the upcoming MCU films that deal with the multiverse? There are plenty of characters to choose from including some we never saw based on casting considerations at one time. Here is a list to ponder…

10. Tom Hiddleston as Thor Odinson

Most fans of the Thor films know that Tom Hiddleston, who rose to fame playing Loki, originally tested for the God of Thunder himself. Supposedly he impressed the filmmakers of Thor enough to be offered the role of Loki as a consolation. 

9. Dougray Scott as Wolverine/Logan

We all know Scott was originally cast as Wolverine in the first X-Men until an accident during the filming of Mission Impossible II forced the character to be recast with Hugh Jackman. While we all breathed a sigh of relief it will be fun to see how Scott would have seemed as Wolverine if he turns up in the next Doctor Strange film. 

8. Emma Stone as Spider-Gwen/Gwen Stacy

There are rumors that Miles Morales will at least cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home, and although that would be terrific, it would be just as much fun to see other Spider-Verse characters like Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham and especially Spider-Gwen who must be played by Emma Stone since she did so well playing Gwen Stacy.

7. Robert Downey, Jr. as Doctor Strange/Tony Stark or Stephen Strange

It was recently revealed there was a cut scene in Avengers: Infinity War where Tony Stark and Stephen Strange swapped outfits. This led to an intriguing thought of having Downey, Jr. portraying Stephen Strange or at least the Sorcerer Supreme as seen in an alternate version in the comic books. 

6. Sairose Ronan as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

Ronan was director Joss Whedon’s first choice for playing Wanda Maximoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Imagine how the role would have been like if she wound up playing Wanda instead of Elizabeth Olsen? Ronan’s appearance would bridge WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness perfectly.

5. Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Stephen Strange

The actor who owned the role of the Joker actually turned down the role of the Marvel wizard in Doctor Strange, mostly because he wanted to avoid a multi-film commitment. For Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Phoenix showing up as Stephen Strange would be a fun meta joke as the two doctors meet.

4. Emily Blunt as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff

Before Scarlett Johansson was cast as the Russian super spy, Blunt was the original choice to play the hero. Now, she is the fan favorite to play Sue Storm in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. If that happens, seeing her as Black Widow will be a blast.

3. Chris Evans as the Human Torch/Johnny Storm

The much-maligned, early Fantastic Four films need to be represented somehow. Plus, Chris Evans’ role as Johnny Storm not only stole the films, but helped launch his career. It would be even better if Evans could portray both the Human Torch and Captain America at the same time!

2. Tom Cruise as Iron Man/Tony Stark

As outrageous as it now sounds, Tom Cruise would probably have been able to pull off a very decent version of billionaire playboy Tony Stark if an Iron Man film was done much earlier. There isn’t any way to tell unless we see Cruise appear as Stark in the next Doctor Strange film as is rumored.

1. John Krasinsky as Captain America/Steve Rogers

When it came down to the finalists to play Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger, Chris Evans beat out John Krasinsky, who is now a fan favorite to play Reed Richards in the MCU version of the Fantastic Four. As great as Evans was as Captain America, no one can deny wondering how Krasinsky would have pulled off the iconic superhero. The multiverse-centric MCU films is the best way to let us see this casting.

Do any of you have any alternate castings of Marvel superheroes that you think should appear at some point? How about the Marvel Netflix heroes or those from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Drop a comment!