Tuesday, 29 April 2014

For a Guy Called Hawkeye, You Do Keep Your Feet on the Ground

Cars shuffled along, chugging on gas, letting loose the occasional, frustrated, blast of a horn. The bustle on the street was so ubiquitous it became inaudible background as people thumped their way to and fro. A muffler of snow softened the groan of the pavement as the gentle squish of crushed ice underfoot took the place of the familiar heavy stomp of shoes on concrete. But even muffled, the unceasing hustle of lives getting to places and coming back from places remained. A police siren or two wailed in the distance. Or was it only just down the block? In the swirl of city noises, it was hard to tell.

Unless you're Daredevil, that is.

Unfortunately, he's not Daredevil.

Falling from the sky was fine. He even fell with style. It was the landing that sucked- shattering his pelvis, breaking his ribs, and spraining his neck. The crash reverberated throughout his body as the roof bent in resistance and the windows cracked with a snap from the impact. An alarm might or might not have been going off, shrieking in defense at the unwanted collision. He was a little too preoccupied to notice. While he often hangs with the Avengers, Hawkeye probably should have remembered that he is a street-level superhero and that flying isn't one of his strong points.

Case in point.

Lacking powers, of any kind whatsoever, Hawkeye is often seen as the runt of the litter when Thor and Iron Man fly off into the sunset. True, Iron Man technically doesn't have powers either. But he has his suit and that makes all the difference.

And when the Hulk leaps a building in a single bound after punching an alien mother-ship the length of several blocks, your getaway by bow and arrow off a rooftop seems slightly less impressive in comparison.

Only the Hulk could make this seem not cool.

Hawkeye uses a bow and some arrows to fight crime in a world where energy blasts and lightning wielding gods are a thing. Oh, and guns. They have guns too. That should be a signal to maybe, possibly, at least consider, updating his tech.

But he can't. Because that bow is the thing that defines him. That makes him stand out. The thing that he is best at. That he is the best at. Shooting a bow.

And looking cool as hell while doing it.
Even in an instruction pamphlet.

Having lost his parents in a car accident, raised as a carny in a circus, betrayed by his father figure, and abandoned by his brother, it's safe to say that Hawkeye had a rough childhood. Carny food is really terrible.

Inspired by Iron Man to become a costumed hero, he was at first mistaken for a criminal because it's a crime to look so badass while using a weapon so obsolete, that to make a joke about it belonging in museum is effectively a redundant exercise. It knows it's old. No need to rub it in its face. That's just mean.

So old it's still in 8-bit graphics. I'm sorry, I'll stop.

Eventually proving he was in fact a good guy drawn to fighting crime in that most extravagant fashion- by putting on a costume and punching bad guys in the face- Hawkeye became a member of the Avengers.

Never quite a household name, Hawkeye lacked the profile of his more well-known teammates such as Captain America. He therefore often gets confused for Iron Fist, aside from those rare occasions when people actually remember his name has 'hawk' in it somewhere.

Well, that was hawkward... I am so sorry.
So very sorry.

"He surveyed the city, the wind stinging his eyes, the updraft punishing his wings as he flew gracefully and seemingly without effort towards his unsuspecting prey. The slight rustle of feathers and gentle scuffle of feet as he landed was enough to warn the hoodlum that he was not alone on the moonlit rooftop. But it was not enough warning to react. No. It was just enough of a warning to know he was caught. Caught in the talons of that avian hero of the skies, Hawkguy..."

If only Falcon would hang up his wings. Then Hawkeye could be promoted to Hawkguy and have hawk powers or something. But you can't have two bird-theme superheroes flying around. Air Traffic Control and the American Birding Association wouldn't stand for it.

Lacking those aforementioned hawk powers, Hawkeye knew that he might need more than a thin stick of wood to shoot at bad guys, so he developed various trick arrows. Like his grappling hook arrow to grapple onto things for when he jumped off buildings. Or his rocket arrow for blowing up stuff. Or his boomerang arrow which always came back to him... somehow.

And who could forget his putty arrow? For when he needed bad guys to stay put.

Despite his trick arrows, Hawkeye is a down-to-earth hero. He fights street thugs and ninjas when not helping the Avengers stop an alien invasion. He faces gangsters in the streets and, like most people, is woken up in the morning by hired goons using machine guns for alarm clocks.

I'm just gonna end with this. No more can be said.

Note: I used Matt Fraction and David Aja's run of Hawkeye as the inspiration for this blog post. If you haven't read their work, do it now. Seriously. What are you waiting for? That wasn't a suggestion. Read it.


Hawkeye Wikipedia page

Hawkeye Marvel Wiki page

Friday, 18 April 2014

Captain America: The Geriatric Avenger

Captain America was a hero I used to actively avoid. The Aryan good looks, boy-scout wholesomeness, old-fashioned values, and overt patriotism (his name is Captain America), all turn me off a little.

This is similar to how I didn't like Superman for a while because of his chiseled good looks, boy-scout wholesomeness, old-fashioned values, and hammy commitment to fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way, particularly when you consider that he's an alien. Literally.

"Immigration papers? What immigration papers?"

These things made Superman and Captain America boring to me, particularly in light of more dark or flawed (read: angst-filled) heroes like Batman or Spider-Man. However, I eventually realised that it is because Superman and Captain America are good-looking boy-scouts which makes them great, as it makes them perfect symbols for good. They are steadfast and true, paragons of virtue and icons of inspiration. They serve to remind us of the good inherent in everyone and strive us to be better since they will never stop trying to do what is right. And that's a powerful message.

Unfortunately, they are also quite hard to write because all-too-often the very same qualities that make them icons can actually make them kind of boring since they can come off as too perfect with old-timey values in a modern world and therefore, stoic and stale.

Pictured: Stoic and stale.

But Captain America is not limited to the stars and stripes or the red, white and blue. He is courageous to a fault and never gives up. He also hold his own in the Avengers and commands the respect of all superheroes to whom he is a living legend, despite the fact he is the least powerful of the original Big Four (with Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk).

While he is a soldier and at times prone to following orders, he is also a natural-born leader. But more than simply leading, he instinctively knows when to back down and let others take charge if the situation calls for it. That's why he has no qualms about letting Iron Man call the shots if things are getting too sciency or Ant-Man if giant insects are rampaging New York.

Yet another picnic ruined by ants.

Before, I said that Captain America has a tendency to just follow orders, and he does. If he thinks the people giving those orders are worth following. But really, he follows his conscience if he disagrees with what he is told to do. Asked. What he is asked to do. You don't tell Captain America anything. You ask politely. He's a senior after all.

You're really going to tell this man what to do? You know he once punched Hitler, right?

And Captain America is old. Like really old. With every new reboot, the time between getting frozen in ice and getting thawed out like last night's chicken roast gets bigger and bigger. At first, it was 20 years and Captain America had to adjust to life in the 1960's. In the Ultimate comics line and the current movies, it was 60 and 70 years, respectively.

Captain America is currently 90 years old or so. And looking good for someone who should be in a rest home and an oxygen tank.

Like really good.

But it is this 'man out of time' scenario that really hammers home what an important character Captain America is. Because his old-fashion values aren't a result of small town homeliness like Superman's. They are because he is old. He lived in a time when those values were what people held dear and the ideals they thought were most important.

Values such as making a young boy your side-kick if he discovers your secret identity. Just cause.

This also means he offers a perfect means of examining the values of America during World War II, a war with a clear villain and where the lines between good and bad were relatively clean-cut, and comparing them to whatever time they defrost him in.

So, in the sixties, he had to deal with changing attitudes towards war and the protest against Vietnam, where the motives for going to war weren't as obvious, and there was no clear villain to punch in the jaw.

And his adventures got a little psychedelic. Evident by Big Head Toilet Seat Man.
On the plus side, he did have a bigger jaw to punch.

Cap actually serves as a means for us to see what we think the values of the 1940's were in contrast with those today. What we imagine those values to be. Where we think the world was a more black and white place, where evil was easier to identify as it came with a silly moustache and ridiculous comb-over, and things were a little less confusing.

Captain American is not only a symbol of the best values of America as a country, but what we think the values of an Allied soldier in World War II would have been. And this is something addressed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier while it was busy smashing box office records, in the difference of opinion between Cap and Nick Fury.

"I just don't know if that's the best place to put the pool table, Nick."- Steve Rogers.

Fury comes from a post 9/11 world. A world where the face of evil is hidden and it's hard to determine who really are the bad guys. Where terrorism comes hand in hand with paranoia and surveillance. Where there isn't a lack of information but an overabundance as more and more people put their info online. Where measures to insure security come with the cost of restrictions on freedom.

But to Rogers, as a man from a different, possibly simpler, era, the level of surveillance and type of preemptive measures taken by S.H.I.E.L.D are not acceptable, stating that, "This isn't freedom. This is fear."

But you were probably too busy being blown away by the awesomeness in this scene to notice the political overtones. 

While he is obviously limited by the structure of a superhero movie, and so must have an overtly bad guy as the antagonist, the world of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is more shades of grey than not. And like Superman flying overhead, Captain America offers a clear vision of right and wrong in world where those lines seem increasingly blurred. Which can't be a bad thing.


Cap's Wikipedia

History of Captain America

Friday, 11 April 2014

Bane's Chiropractice: The Finest Back-Breaker In Arkham

Bane is one of Batman's most deadly and dangerous foes, a fact that is considerable when you consider that he's only been around for the past 20 years and, as such, is a relative newcomer to Batman's rogue's gallery.

For some context, the Joker has been spraying acid from a gag flower in Batman's face for over 70 years because that joke never gets old.

  Sometimes he'd mix it up and spray his junk at Robin for variety's sake.
That said, this is very close to a 'smell my finger' joke. Some men do want to watch the world burn... in bad jokes.

But Bane is not the unintelligent beefed-up drug addict which that indisputable documentary from my youth, Batman & Robin, had me believe. Rather than being a muscle-bound goon who is no better than a glorified bouncer with a cool lucha libre mask, Bane is one of the most intelligent and cunning villains Batman has ever faced.

Bane approached his initial confrontation with Batman like a master military strategist planning a battle, accounting for ever contingency, analysing his opponent's strengths and weaknesses, as well as his own, in order to best defeat him.

And while he is not opposed to performance-enhancing drugs, his strategy was not TAKE ALL THE STEROIDS!

Knowing that taking Batman head on would not be the smartest idea, Bane instead decides to break out all of Batman's  high-profile baddies from Arkham Asylum such as the Joker, Poison Ivy, the Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, and of course, Firefly.

"You can't take the sky away from me... if you all die in the blaze."

But Bane doesn't release these villains so he can hold a sweet super-evil party where the Human Firefly provides the strobe lights,

No comment is necessary.
Although, that is only because, due to federal law, there can only be one Firefly in Gotham City at any given point in time. Rather he breaks out some of Batman's most formidable enemies in order to wear him out. Batman takes three months to round up all the bad guys Bane broke out of prison, each one taking more and more of a toll on him, mentally and physically. Like the Scarecrow's fear gas making him relive Jason Todd's death which Batman felt was his greatest failure, far worse than that time he got a D+ on his Bat-exam.

Therefore, he is utterly exhausted and shattered when Bane finally confronts him. To recap, Bane waited three months before he actually fought Batman, something he had been planning for months in advance before that. And you can't even wait until the next episode of Game of Thrones comes out next week.

Will the gang ever get home?

After all that planning and waiting, Bane finally fights Batman. At Wayne Manor. Because he figured out that Batman was Bruce Wayne. You know, like you do. If you are a super intelligent master tactician and not the juiced up meat-head everyone mistakenly assumes you are because you have really big muscles and wear a Mexican wrestler mask, that is.

He then proceeds to beat up Batman like it ain't no thing and breaks his back. You might have seen it, it went something like this:

"Did that fix the kink in your neck?"
Not done yet, Bane takes Batman, broken and still Batsuited, to a Gotham City and throws him on a rooftop declaring,

 He beat Batman, the rules of Gotham are quite clear- if you beat Batman in hand-to-hand combat, Gotham City is yours.
Along with thirteen buxom virgins of your choosing.

Bane is the only one of Batman's enemies to have 'broken the Bat', as the Bat-saying goes. Not because he was necessarily stronger than any other of his other costumed villains but because he was smarter and planned better.

He knew that he had to break down Batman mentally before he could ever confront him physically. Yes, of course he did eventually get beaten and Batman's back did heal in record time but still. He broke the Bat!

You break it, you keep it.

But Bane is a great villain because he also teaches kids a valuable lesson. Just like the Joker teaches us all to fear and mistrust clowns, and the Riddler teaches children being a smart-ass who likes riddles will get their ass whooped, Bane teaches a simple truth: Don't judge a book by its cover.

Unless that cover warns you about spiders. Then judge away.

Bane is a genius in a wrestler's body. His great intellect is masked by his imposing physique. And his wrestler mask. That literally masks how smart he is.

And this is something that Tom Hardy's performance of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises got totally right, the juxtaposition of Bane's intellect (shown through his eloquent manner of speaking) and his physically dominating bulk.

The addition of a Darth Vader breathing-apparatus didn't hurt either.

Hardy's Bane is furthermore a revolutionary, spouting off sentences that could be mistaken for Che Guevara t-shirt slogans in a vaguely exotic accent with heavy Vader-breathing that adds a sense of decorum to his psuedo-philosophical musings. All while he stands around mostly shirtless while his muscles glisten in the winter sun. And of course, this revolutionary talk is a just smokescreen to hide his main goal, which is to mentally torture Batman before he dies.

When Gotham is ashes, then you have my permission to die... and no, you can't TiVo it.

And he does all this because he loves Talia al Ghul and making Batman suffer and destroying Gotham makes Talia happy. Bane is not only a mastermind and viscous criminal, he is also a tender lover, further illustrating the fundamental lesson his character teaches.

The look in his eyes say it all. He just wants a kiss, the loveable oaf.

Essentially, Bane is more than the brute his hulking frame would suggest, and more than the genius his strategical take-down of Batman proves. He is human and wants to loved. Just like everyone else does.


Bane (comics) Wikipedia

Bane in other media Wikipedia

Batman: Knightfall Wikipedia

Gotham Alleys

Friday, 4 April 2014

Jurassic Park Brochure Written By An Unpaid Intern Named Craig

Hello and welcome to Jurassic Park! The world's number one (and only) clone-dinosaur themed park.

Marvel at the wondrous sight of dinosaurs existing in what we assume could possibly, maybe, be their natural habitat but we're not entirely sure since they lived a really long time ago, like a really really long time ago... but who cares, dinosaurs!

In a theme park!

This theme park. The one with all the dinosaurs.

No stuffy fossils or flimsy prosthetic animatronic puppets here. No, in Jurassic Park all our dinosaurs are real. Well, as real as you consider clones, which is itself a puzzling philosophical question for the ages. 

In a Philosophy 101 course I did, we had to watch Blade Runner as an example of what innate qualities distinguish humans from the replicants. Man, it really makes you think about what makes someone truly human, and yeah.... that was deep stuff, like really deep.

My God... that is so deep that I had to remove my pipe from my mouth.

But even if you don't think they're necessarily 'real' dinosaurs because they're, like, cloned or whatever, they still totally are real dinosaurs. I mean, they have dinosaur teeth, dinosaur scales, dinosaur tails, and other dinosaur stuff. What more do you want? 

Our scientists took the genetic material stored in ember mosquitoes or whatever to recreate the genetic code of the dinosaurs you'll see in our awesome park. True, they did had to cover up the gaps in DNA with frog DNA, so I guess technically that means they're not 'pure' dinosaurs in terms of genetics or whatever, but that just makes our dinosaurs super cool dino-frog hybrids.

"Who you callin' a dino-frog hybrid? Your mom's a dino-frog hybrid."

Jurassic Park is a state-of-the-art facility with all the latest in technological wonders. Wonders that ranged from automatic vehicles that follow a predetermined track (for your comfort, these vehicles come completely without the restraints of seat-belts) to the CD-ROM players in those vehicles, technology that won't become dated for decades to come. 

And the park's sweet retro jungle aesthetic is designed to make you think of a a really cool safari adventure or something.

I helped design the entrance. I don't know if anyone noticed but it's like the one from King Kong!

Now, only a few people know this, but the awesomeness of Jurassic Park simply could not be contained by one park alone. Although, the main park encompasses an entire tropical island off the coast of Costa Rica, Isla Nublar (or Site A for us at InGen), there is another separate facility on the nearby island of Isla Sorna (Site B).

The main park has a slight inferiority complex because Site B is bigger.

Originally, Site B was where the dinosaurs were genetically engineered and raised for a bit before being brought over to the main park, but now it's more like a wildlife reserve or something where the dinosaurs roam free with no fencing.

Not that the fencing on Site A was all that effective.

Some might label the complete failure of the fences on Site A to contain the dinosaurs following a system malfunction and subsequent power outage (which was totally not my fault since I was out getting Mr Hammond coffee at the time and wasn't there and didn't touch the power switch and you can't prove anything) a "safety hazard".

While we don't like such hurtful labels, the incident did have a real positive outcome in the end. This is because it showed us at InGen that the park could be way more interactive than we had previously thought.

The park's Flare-in-the-Rain Relay Race has become massively popular since we allowed the T.Rex to participate.

We at InGen and Jurassic Park understand that people want to actually touch the dinosaurs, because of course, who wouldn't?

Therefore, we no longer cage up the dinosaurs the way we had originally intended, because of things like safety regulations and common sense. 

Nah. Now we see that the dinosaurs just want to chill out with people as much as people want to hang with dinosaurs.

"You gonna come out and play?"

Anyway, back to Site B and the reserve thing. Due to the lack of fencing, the dinosaurs are free to roam and frolic and whatever where-ever they please. That does mean that they're all chilling out in their own groups because dinosaurs are racist and believe in the segregation of species.

For example, the Triceratopses don't run with the Stegosauruses since they don't have horns on their heads and every Triceratops knows that dinosaurs without horns on their heads are stupid and probably come from a lower socio-economic background.

But despite the dino-racism, it is kinda cool to see a flock of Parasaurolophuses (the ones with the boners on their heads) all run together in terror while being chased by a vicious Spinosaurus (the one with the big-ass spine and pointy teeth). They don't show that on the Discovery Channel. Especially now since they got all lame and reality TV.

"Give me more David Attenborough documentaries! Cancel Deadliest Catch!" - Spinosaurus.
Little known fact: Spinosauruses love nature documentaries and will eat television executives if not satisfied.

Many well-respected scientists and conservationists have praised our dinosaur reserve on Site B, including the renowned paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, who is quite enthusiastic about the park's attractions and beautifully dangerous prehistoric creatures, stating that "You probably won't get off this island alive... due to the amount of fun you'll have!"

Pictured: Fun.
Not pictured: Complete dread and fear.

Furthermore, extravagant chaos theorist, and Jurassic Park advocate, Dr. Ian Malcom just loves the fact that our scientists played God by creating our dino-frog hybrids. 

In the mathematician's own words, "Gee, the lack of humility before nature that's being displayed here... um... staggers me".

He's pretty staggering himself.

With recommendations like these in addition to the stunning stuff we've got here, like dinosaurs and um... more dinosaurs, why wouldn't you grab the next helicopter ride to either of our parks and have a dinosaur adventure today?

Oh, and in the near future, please be sure to check out our third park, which is on a spaceship! Like, in space! Although this park is incomplete right now, it was visited by that most revered of travelers, The Doctor, and has his official stamp of approval. He particularly liked the Triceratops.

On that note, enjoy the official song of our new facility, Jurassic Park: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

Craig out.