Tag Archives: Comic books

5 B-list Marvel characters that deserve their own movies

Marvel made a lot of news yesterday in announcing its lineup of blockbuster superhero movies for something like the next twenty-five years. All of comic book fandom let out what can only be described as a collective groan of climax as names like Captain Marvel and the Infinity Gauntlet were tweeted and posted seemingly devoid of any context at all. It was like that famous daytime TV scene where Opera gave everyone in the crowd a car, but instead of a studio full of soccer moms, it was a bunch of fictional men and women in spandex and leather, and instead of cars, it was, “You’re getting a movie! And you’re getting a movie! Everyone’s getting a movie!”

But not everybody. And that’s the reason why I’m just not on board. Because none of my favorite Marvel superheroes made the cut. Dr. Strange? Sorry, I don’t care about Dr. Strange. Civil War? Civil War was one of the biggest comic book cash grabs since The Secret Wars of the 1980s, and almost made me renounce Marvel Comics for good. The Inhumans? Man, I just momentarily fell asleep thinking about how boring the Inhumans are. Come on, even Ant-Man is getting a movie. Ant-Man! No, if I had it my way, the Marvel cinematic universe would look a lot different. Here are five Marvel characters that deserve their own feature films. (And if you’re about to point out the bullshit legalities of why the Fantastic Four can’t star in the same movies as the Incredible Hulk, just save it. I have no time for any of that movie studio nonsense.)

  1. Speedball


Speedball was one of the coolest Marvel characters that you’ve probably never heard of. He’s a dorky teenager who gets caught up in some heavy-tech science experiment and, as a result, gains some pretty unique abilities. Whenever he gets pushed around, that is, whenever his body experiences anything more than a slight physical trauma, like falling down the stairs, or getting punched in the face, his superpowers kick in. His scrawny adolescent body turns into that of a strong adult man, complete with built in costume. Seriously, how awesome is that? Unlike, say, Spider-Man, who always has to worry about people accidentally catching a look at the webbed red-and-blues underneath his shirt, Speedball’s costume materializes out of nowhere. And that’s not all, his regular short, blonde haircut turns into a wild mane of golden locks, and his voice takes on an otherworldly echo.

And I haven’t even gotten to his powers yet. He bounces around. Speedball can bounce off of anything. The greater the speed behind his movement, the greater the bounce. And while he’s in his bouncy form, he can’t get hurt. So you’ll often see him curled up into a ball, bouncing around, knocking bad guys out like a pinball with his unlimited bouncing powers. How cool is that? I always thought Speedball was the pinnacle of cool. And his secret identity is named Robbie, just like my name used to be Robbie when I was a little kid. I can remember being in second grade and getting lost in Speedball comics. It was like reading an awesome comic book adventure about myself. Speedball is super cool, and he deserves his own multi-million dollar movie franchise. (By the way, I don’t like being called Robbie anymore, so do me a favor and never call me Robbie.)

  1. Alpha Flight


America has the Avengers, but Canada has Alpha Flight. That’s right, a team of Canadian superheroes. And the series doesn’t rest on goofy stereotypes or silly misrepresentations, no, you won’t find any hockey-themed superpowers, or villains charged with threatening the nation’s reserves of maple syrup and Lebatt Blue. This is a group of national superheroes, who probably each deserve their own movies individually. There’s Major Mapleleaf. He’s like a superhero version of a mounted police officer, only, in a unique twist, he doesn’t have any superpowers. He’s just a regular guy, with a regular sense of patriotic duty, and a super-powered horse named Thunder.

The best of all is Puck, a really short dude from Saskatchewan with a hipster moustache and black unitard adorned with a giant P on the chest. Kind of like Speedball, Puck bounces around a lot also. Only he’s shorter, and he looks like a puck … wait, I’m just making the hockey connection now. OK, I take back what I said earlier, about the no hockey stuff. Whatever, Puck is awesome. Alpha Flight is awesome. And on a side note, one of the team’s support characters was a Canadian government agent named Gunther. Just like my last name! I hope you don’t think I’ll just fall behind anything that validates my name in print. But come on, isn’t that pretty cool?

  1. Stilt Man


Stilt Man is a bad guy, but wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a Marvel movie set from a villain’s perspective? I think that Stilt Man would be the perfect choice for a darker take on the Marvel Universe. Stilt Man is a genius inventor who built himself a bulletproof mechanical suit. Sounds like Iron Man, right? Wrong. He’s nothing like Iron Man. Stilt Man can’t fly. And he doesn’t do the whole laser-beams-out-of-the-hands thing either. Stilt Man’s unique robotic abilities rest on his telescopic legs.

It’s totally original, because where most other boring heroes and villains fly or jump or teleport, Stilt Man has these robot legs that get really, really long. And so he’s just this regular super-genius, but one terrorizing the city atop a giant pair of mechanical stilts. The heroes have such a hard time catching up with him. After he robs a jewelry store or hits up a bank, he activates his stilts, and suddenly he’s gliding through the night sky, his giant legs giving him the powers of even gianter steps. He’s like a power-walker on speed. His look is visually stunning. And in subsequent appearances, he even has a girlfriend, Lady Stilt-Man. Seriously, this movie seems like a no-brainer.

  1. Iceman


I’ve been saying this for as long as I’ve been able to make over-the-top arguments about comic book characters: Ice Man is the most powerful person in the history of superheroes. And I know that he’s been featured in the X-Men movies, but Iceman needs his own film completely apart from everyone else. For real, Wolverine got a bunch of his own boring movies. And if you ask me, in choosing any character to give a standalone franchise, Wolverine was a mistake. It should have been Iceman.

There isn’t anything that Iceman can’t do. He could freeze you in your tracks. Talk about cool, he’ll fight crime while saying apropos catchphrases like, “Why don’t you chill out,” or, “Freeze!” Iceman always wins because, in the end, everything’s got to cool off. The molten core of our planet has eventually got to run out of juice. Our sun is set to one day fizzle up and die off. The very nature of the universe is that of a giant cool-down, entropy, everything getting further apart and closer to absolute zero. That is, everything except for Iceman. He’ll be the only one left. And for that, he deserves at least one standalone film, if not a whole trilogy.

  1. Aunt May


Does anybody else ever feel bad that comic book movies are mainly geared toward young guys? Sure, there’s a lot being done by the industry to appeal to a broader audience, but there’s no denying that the world of superheroes is mostly a huge boys club. You try to reach out to women, you try to get past the typical prime market of men aged nineteen to thirty-five, and that’s commendable. But what about old people? What efforts are being made to incorporate senior citizens into the broader Marvel cinematic universe?

The obvious answer is to have a movie all about Spider-Man’s elderly Aunt May. We’ll watch her make pancakes in the morning, and go to the bank to run errands in the afternoon. I’m saying it wrong. The point’s not going to be a movie about old people doing only old people things. Aunt May hasn’t exactly lived a boring life. No, at one point she was romantically involved with one of Spider-Man’s arch-foes, Doctor Octopus. Are you telling me that kind of tension wouldn’t translate spectacularly to the big screen? One time Aunt May died. Only, it turned out that it wasn’t Aunt May, it was a clone. That could be part of the movie. Another time she was gunned down, but Spider-Man chose to make a deal with the devil in order to bring her back to life. Actually, that was a pretty dumb story, maybe we’ll keep that part out of the movie. But while an Aunt May movie might not immediately strike you as a potential blockbuster, it absolutely could be, as long as it’s marketed correctly. Because isn’t this country majority old people? Cranky old men in pleated pants have been running the show for as long as I’ve been around. And as the baby-boomers settle into retirement, America’s only going to get greyer. We need senior citizen Aunt May based Marvel movies, if only to subsidize the growing costs of the ever-expanding regular Marvel movies. If we could get people over sixty-five to watch even one Marvel movie a year, that’s big business. And then DC could follow suit and make a movie all about Batman’s butler, Alfred.

I’m just saying, the Marvel universe is so much more than just the Avengers. While the future of comic book movies might appear comprehensive, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of superhero source material. Marvel, you should call me up. You should call me up and say, “Rob, get your ass to Hollywood and start cranking out scripts. You’re a genius! Let’s get to work. And believe us, we’re going to pay you, big time. Yes sir, you’re going to be a very rich and famous man, Mr. Gunther.” And I’ll totally say yes. Seriously, I can start tomorrow.

Wolverine vs. Iceman

Iceman just finished his morning workout in the Danger Room. He walked into the communal bathrooms to take a shower when he spotted Wolverine going through all of his stuff. The deodorant was out, the cap off.


“What the hell man?” Iceman threw his hands in the air.

“What the hell to you too, bub,” Wolverine shot back. Not only was he not surprised to see Iceman, he hadn’t even looked up, or stopped rummaging through Iceman’s stuff.

“Come on, Wolverine, I asked you to stop doing this.”

“Doin’ what?”

“Don’t pull that amnesiac shit on me. Seriously, why are doing this to me? Why do keep breaking the lock off of my locker and going through my stuff?”

“Heh. I don’t know whatchyer thinkin’ puttin’ a lock on that locker. You know I’ve got these claws, eh? Cut right through anythin’.”

“Yeah, OK, that’s fine man, I know you can cut through anything. It was more like a symbolic lock, like please don’t go into my locker, like could you please stop rummaging through my stuff and using my deodorant? What’s the deal with the deodorant?”

“I just thought it smelled nice is all. I have a really heightened sense o’ smell. You know it’s one of my powers …”

“OK, great, that’s one of your powers, terrific. How many powers do you have anyway? You’ve got claws and healing and strength and smelling powers, what do they have to do with anything? What kind of powers are Wolverine powers? Just a bunch of dumb stupid junk powers that don’t have anything to do with each other?”

“Heh. Better ‘n just ice powers, snowflake.”

“Yeah, well you know what? At least I’ve got a consistent thing. It’s easy, it’s Iceman. I’m the guy with the ice powers. It’s not like you see me with a little bit of super speed, and maybe some extra abilities where my hair comes up to a stupid point at the sides, and I’d have some crazy name that makes no sense at all, like ‘Oh, hey everybody, from now on, I want my superhero name to be Octane,’ or some bullshit. What the hell do you have anything to do with a wolverine? You ever a see a real wolverine? Come on dude, you’re such a joke. Why don’t you just go back to Japan or something? Seriously, everybody hates you around here.”

“The professor don’t hate me.”

“Yes he does. He absolutely hates you.”

“No he doesn’t.”

“I’m telling you, for real, listen to me here, the Professor can’t stand you. Whenever you leave the room he’s always making fun of your dumb accent and your stupid haircut.”

“I don’t have a dumb accent.”

I doon’t have a doomb aah-xent.

Snikt! Wolverine drew his claws.

“Oh wow, I’m scared now. Oh man, Wolverine popped his knives out. I guess I shouldn’t have made fun of his dumb accent. Oh jeez, man, Wolverine, I’m really sorry. Can we just forget about this maybe? I’m just, wow, I’m really, really scared. I don’t know if … just … holy …”

“It’s OK, bub.”

Snikt! Wolverine put his claws away.

“Are you for real? You don’t have any sense of sarcasm at all?”

“I said apology accepted.”

“You fucking moron, I wasn’t apologizing.”

“Oh yeah? Well why’d ya say sorry then, eh?”
“Because I was … I can’t even. That’s how sarcasm works. Because I’m not scared of you. I have powers too, you know.”

“Heh. Yeah, you’ve got snow powers.”

“Are you serious? Are you for real right now? Just because I don’t walk around smoking a dumb cigar and riding a motorcycle doesn’t mean I’m any less powerful than you. Especially you.”

“That cigar ain’t a power. That’s just a cigar.”

“Yeah, idiot, I know it’s a cigar. I can’t even have a conversation with you.”

“Yeah, because you’d lose at a conversation just like you’d lose at a fight.”

“I wouldn’t lose at a fight. Do you have any idea what I’m capable of? I could freeze you right in your tracks.”

“Heh, I can handle the cold. I’m from upstate.”

“Yeah, whatever, I could freeze the blood in your veins. I could bury you underneath a goddamn iceberg. You know what entropy is? Huh? Of course you don’t. But it’s fucking cold. For real. That’s where this is heading, everything, the universe, all of our atoms, it’s all heading to the cold, the big freeze, and you know who’s the only one around here ready for an ice age?”

“Yeah. Wolverine.”

“No, not fucking Wolverine. It’s me. Iceman.”

“OK, well, I disagree, bub.”

“Fuck you, Wolverine. Just go fuck yourself. Fucking asshole. And stop using my fucking deodorant. Seriously, one more time and I’m going to Cyclops.”

“Heh. Cyclops.”

Iceman storms out. Then he comes back in to scoop up his duffel bag, his things strewn around his open locker.

“Wolverine, come on, please, please, just knock it off. Keep the deodorant. Come on man, just … enough, I live here too, you know.”

“Heh. Sure thing snowman.”

The Flash is the most boring member of the Justice League

I don’t get The Flash. I mean, I get it, he can run really, really fast. That’s pretty self-explanatory. But I’m just thinking of my own running, I buy a pair of sneakers and five or six months later, those things are all but useless. The soles are, if not completely fallen off, they’re at least severely frayed along the edges. And then the inside cushioning is always usually all but totally worn away, making even the shortest of runs guaranteed to give me a blister or two.


And The Flash, he can run around the world in a heartbeat, right? Well I’m just saying, I don’t get how that flimsy red costume of his is supposed to withstand the wear-and-tear that has to accompany such a physical feat of superhuman strength. Just the friction with the air alone should be enough to melt the fabric off of his skin.

Does The Flash have super strength? I mean, I’ve read a lot of comics, and I’ve never seen him lift anything particularly heavy. So I’ve got to wonder how his body is able to withstand all of that impact. Say The Flash can run a marathon in one second. Right, that’s still a marathon. I run a marathon and I’m totally wiped out, I can’t walk for close to a week. But The Flash runs a million marathons and he’s fine.

And there are so many little things that must constantly be in his way. It’s like when you’re on a long drive upstate. How many times does your car windshield make sudden contact with an insect? They explode right away. What if The Flash took one of those to the eye? Or the back of the throat? And you’ve got to remember that he’s running a lot faster than a car, so impact with even a fly might have potential for a devastating injury. And what if it’s not a bug, what if it’s a little pebble? That happens sometimes.

And breathing. How do you breathe if you’re running faster than a speeding bullet? I know, that’s one of Superman’s slogans, but whatever, it applies to The Flash too. At least Superman has the whole impervious-to-physical-harm powers going on. If he can’t breathe, it doesn’t matter, he doesn’t need to. But The Flash is just a really fast dude. That’s got to be tough when the air around you is flying by at supersonic speeds.

I don’t know, I’m never been impressed with The Flash. Aside from all of the technical problems I’ve already mentioned, I just don’t think that his character is very cool. In fact, I think that he might be a little too fast for his own good.

No, I think that they should make The Flash a lot slower. Still very fast, but just fast enough that it makes sense to think of him as a real person. Like maybe he could run as fast as a car, and that’s it. Which, yeah, I can’t really think of any scenarios where anybody would be in need of someone who could run that fast. Maybe he could go to the Olympics. That would be pretty cool.

I don’t know, would you buy a comic book about a guy that could run just a little faster than everyone else? Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t either. But I’m not buying status quo Flash comics either. Maybe if he had a secondary power, like if he could turn into a car, or make other people pee their pants just by pointing at them. No, I still don’t think I’d buy his comics. But maybe he could be like a sidekick to somebody more popular, like Batman, or the Blue Beetle.

I used to be rich

Growing up is tough. Like when you’re a little kid and you have to beg your parents for everything. “Mom! I want some new action figures! Mom! Take me to the comic book store!” and, I shouldn’t assume everyone had the same childhood as I did, but my parents weren’t the type to drop whatever they were doing to satisfy the demands of their snot-nosed little son. Before I was old enough to get a job, this meant waiting desperately for some sort of a special occasion, Christmas, my birthday, one of those automatic days where I was entitled to presents.

Now I’m an adult, and yeah, I guess if I really wanted to, I could buy whatever I want. You know, within reason. If I don’t have the cash, just put it on the credit card. Theoretically speaking, there’s really not too much that’s off limits. But at what cost? Am I really willing to put myself into unnecessary debt because I want something that badly?

And so I don’t know what’s worse, being a little kid and having no sense of money, or being an adult and knowing all too well the true cost of material desires. I think back though, and there was an exception to this, it was a period in my life right after I got a job but before I had any bills to pay. It only lasted for about two years or so, but man, I was a god amongst men.

I started working at a restaurant when I was fourteen, scooping ice cream and making cappuccinos at a place a few towns over. After an eight-hour shift, the boss would give me sixty bucks, cash. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but to a freshman in high school with absolutely no responsibilities besides doing homework and working at this restaurant two nights a week, this job meant that I was rich.

Like, really rich. I remember the first time I got paid, I went from having absolutely nothing in my pockets, ever, to having sixty bucks. I might as well have been carrying a grand. The day after my first shift, I rode my bike to the park to play basketball with my friends. Normally, we’d all be lucky if we could pool a dollar and a half together to buy a soda.

But like I said, now I was rich. I took everybody to the pizza place and bought a pie. It was incredible, all of that cash, just burning a hole in my pocket. And that’s how it went for the next two years or so, before I bought a car, before I wound up throwing all of my money into a 1991 red Dodge Stealth.

The car gave me an even greater sense of freedom, but it was just a taste of what lay ahead, bills, insurance, gas, repairs, tickets. I still had money, but now when I went to the comic book store, I couldn’t just buy every new release without consequence. I’d been living the past two years never in want of anything. If I even remotely saw something that I liked, I bought it. But little by little, the adult world sucked away my surplus of money.

After school it was rent, and then cell phone service, and healthcare premiums. Whatever, everybody has to pay bills, so I’m not going to go through all of the things that I currently have to save my money for. But nobody prepares you for how it’s really going to be. I think back to when I was fifteen, when I had stacks of twenties in my underwear drawer, how I couldn’t imagine a time where I’d be even remotely close to having to stick to a budget.

I had no idea how good I had it. Maybe it’s a pattern, always looking back and waxing nostalgic. Maybe ten years from now I’ll look back upon right now as the best time of my life. I don’t know, I just remember going to the mall and buying like twenty new CDs. I think this summer I bought two albums on iTunes. What happened to my priorities?

Movie Review: Kick-Ass 2

Life isn’t a comic book. That’s the story behind Kick-Ass 2, the sequel to a movie based on a comic book about people who dress up as superheroes, but not like in comic books, because this takes place in real life, with real people, who get in costumes and fight crime. It’s a not-a-comic comic book movie.


I’m making fun, but it’s a novel premise. What if you or I decided to create a superhero alter ego and took to the streets to fight the good fight? The first Kick-Ass, and the comic book that it was based off of, answered that question in the character of Dave Lizewski, a high school nerd who dons a scuba suit and calls himself Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked, but a cell phone video of his existence goes viral and spawns a whole trend of regular people playing dress up. Unfortunately, Nicholas Cage and his preteen daughter actually are superheroes, waging a very real battle against New York’s criminal underworld. Kick-Ass gets involved, Nicholas Cage dies, and that’s where we left off at the end of the first film.

Kick-Ass 2 is basically more of the same, but because the concept is still somewhat original, the movie is entertaining. We have the preteen daughter, Hit Girl, struggling to fit in as a high school freshman. McLovin is back as the would-be heir to his deceased dad’s criminal empire. He’s looking to show the world he’s not a joke while at the same time exacting revenge on our protagonist. And then there’s Kick-Ass, trying to take his heroics to the next level, getting in shape, learning how to fight, and finding some like-minded partners to form a real-world Justice League.

So while the plot of Kick-Ass 2 isn’t really that different from the first, the team dynamic introduces an expanded group of characters. Jim Carrey plays an ex-mafia turned Captain America wannabe, Captain Stars and Stripes, or Colonel Stars and Stripes, something like that. His performance was good enough to make me forget that it was Jim Carrey under the mask. That is, until he made a wacky Jim Carrey face, and then I was like, yup, classic Jim Carrey, always making crazy faces.

Speaking of out of the woodwork, John Leguizamo has a role as McLovin’s bodyguard. That’s all there’s to say about that, really. The whole time he was on screen I just kept thinking to myself, man, that’s John Leguizamo. He looks old. Much older than he did when he played Luigi in Super Mario Brothers. And I don’t want to knock him, like I’m glad he’s doing movies and stuff, but he didn’t add anything to the film or the story. They could have probably gotten away with a few carefully placed John Leguizamo posters on the wall.

Oh yeah, and it’s a pretty violent movie, very graphic. I kept trying to justify the violence by telling myself, well, the real world is a violent place. This is probably a pretty good depiction of what would happen if a guy in a costume got beat up on the streets by four robbers. But it was just too much sometimes, running lawnmowers used as projectile weapons, multiple close-ups of broken arms and necks. Crack!

In trying to be real, or in trying to imagine how this story could take place in real life, the movie went beyond anything I’ve seen in this world. Like a barbecue propane tank being ignited and thrown through the windshield of a cop car. I’m sure that it could happen, but it doesn’t really strike me as anything I’d label realistic.

It’s like, in trying to point out or make fun of the ridiculousness of comic books, Kick-Ass 2 winds up shoving our faces in it. And then after the message has been rammed down our throats, the principle characters wind up just as guilty as everything they claim to rebuke. For example, one of the super-group members is gay. He doesn’t wear a mask because it reminds him of the closet. Similarly, Hit Girl early in the film chastised some street punks for throwing around the homophobic f-bomb. That sounds pretty progressive, right? Cut to somewhere toward the end, she’s fighting a group of thugs at high-speed traffic, calling them “cocksuckers” before casually throwing them out of a moving vehicle. What’s the message, that some slurs are more acceptable than others? Or that only the good guys are allowed to throw around epithets?

Like I said, it’s an entertaining movie, sure, but I’m not sure it was really a good movie. I wasn’t bored, but it would be hard to get lost in a daydream in a movie stuffed with so much visual, violent stimuli. I remember liking the comics when I read Mark Millar’s series years ago, but I don’t know, something about that story was easy to read and something about this film made it difficult for me not to look away. It’s a comic book made through a real life filter, thrown back through the comic book filter, and then adapted for a movie. I guess it’s not that far from what you’d expect.