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Mortal Marathon Part 2: Cold Reality

March 21st, 2011 Posted by guest article

Guest article series by Gabriel “TheJoker138” Coleman.

Seeing as I’m going to be here talking about Mortal Kombat stuff with you guys for quite a while, (22 episodes of Conquest, 13 of Defenders of the Realm, 2 full length movies, and two… other things) I figured you might want to know some of my background with the series. When the first game came out, I was only six years old, so I missed the boat on actually playing it when it was new. However, by the time Mortal Kombat 2 came out, I was a second grader who had a Sega Genesis coming to him for Christmas of 1994. I got the Genesis itself, the pack in game Sonic The Hedgehog, Sonic 2, and Mortal Kombat 2.

I don’t recall ever asking for the Genesis, but I was already somewhat familiar with MK2. The Pizza Hut near our house had two arcade machines, Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat 2. I always gravitated towards the MK2 machine, wasting quarters and hardly ever winning matches against the CPU. I guess my parents picked up on it, and not being the reactionary type who think that video games cause children to become psychopaths, probably got me the Genesis so I would play it at home and not throw away their quarters anymore. This didn’t really work out for them.

I had this Genesis and my MK cartridge for a long time. It was the only system I had until after the PS1 was already out, at which point I switched to a N64. There were other games, of course, including Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and of course the first one which I had missed out on. But it was always MK2 that I came back to. I borrowed an older friends strategy guide for it and photocopied it at my moms office. I practiced the fatalities and special moves by plugging in a second controller in and doing Vs. matches against no one. I improved enough at it that I could get through the arcade version in one or two quarters most time, and even beat a lot of human competition.

I remember one day I went into the Pizza Hut and the cabinet wasn’t there anymore, leaving only the Street Fighter 2 machine and one of those claw machines you can get stuffed animals from. I guess that MK2 either wasn’t profitable for them anymore, or it broke down and they figured it wasn’t worth it to fix. Either way it was gone. There were places to play MK3 at, sure, but none of them were as close to my house or as oft visited as that Pizza Hut.

By the time MK4 came out, my love of the series as a whole had already started to diminish. I caught a few episodes of the animated series on TV when I was up that early, which wasn’t often. I saw the second movie when it came out on VHS tape for rental, and it put me off even more. I never even bothered to watch Conquest when it was on. But that MK2 cartridge was always there, and to this day it’s the one thing I miss most about my Genesis. Sure, there’s a downloadable version of it (arcade perfect even!) on the PS3, but it’s not the same. There’s something about blowing out the cart, whipping out my stapled together bootleg strategy guide, and watching as lighting illuminated the cloudy sky to reveal the MK dragon that I’ll never have again.

That’s one of the reasons the new game has me excited enough that I decided to go back and look at this material I skipped at the time. The footage from it has everything I loved about MK2, but updated with a shiny new coat of next gen paint. The demo plays like a souped up version of MK2 with all the best parts of MK3 thrown in for good measure. The roster is all classic characters that I remember and love (or hate… I’m looking at you, Nightwolf) and remember. I know it will never live up to my memories of MK2, but I still hope it can carve out it’s own niche in my long history with video games, one that will be just as fulfilling as those days gone by. But anyway, I’ve blathered on enough about the good old days, let’s hop into our second installment of Mortal Marathon, with episode 3, Cold Reality.

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Mortal Marathon Part 1: Warrior Eternal

March 20th, 2011 Posted by guest article

(Gavok note: In a month from this writing, the new Mortal Kombat game will be released to consoles. Everyone at 4thletter! who doesn’t matter is excited about it! I’ve always been a big fan of the series and its entertaining sense of crazy mythology. Over the next month, I intend to cover a few things that relate to the series, some more loosely than others. Meanwhile, Gabriel “TheJoker138” Coleman was inspired enough by my looks at the old MK comics to start up his own series of reviews. Not for the comics, but for the two Mortal Kombat television series and the movies. He needed a place to showcase them and I felt bad for denying the other 137 Jokers, so here we go. Oh, and he’s got a Twitter too.)

Mortal Kombat was huge in the 90’s. In the nearly 20 years since the first game in the series was released in arcades, it’s easy to forget that. Some readers may not have even been born yet in it’s heyday. But make no mistake, Mortal Kombat was one of the first video games to really hit the big time as far as multimedia blitzes go. In fact, it was able to accomplish a few things that even today’s biggest video games, such as Halo or the Call of Duty series, haven’t. Like those series there were action figures, a novel, t-shirts, and other such merchandise, but there were also movies and TV series. Sure, the first movie is a guilty pleasure, the second is awful, and neither of the series lasted longer than a season, but the fact remains that the MK brand was strong enough to justify their existence.

And that’s what I’m here to talk to you about today. In this series I plan on going through both films, and both TV series on an episode-by-episode basis. I’ll take a look at their similarities and differences to the games that inspired them, and review each movie, each episode, and each series as a whole.

The first of these to be released was the feature film in 1995. But that’s not where I’m going to start. Instead, we flash forward to 1998, and Mortal Kombat: Conquest. By this time the end of the Mortal Kombat boom was already almost over, and this series failure may have been the first real indicator of that. As I said, it only lasted a single season, and was largely ignored, even by fans. I will admit that when it first aired, I never even watched a full episode of it, and I was a pretty big MK fan. The only reason I even know it exists was due to the fact that it aired either right before or right after (I honestly can’t recall which, but if you told me I had to choose I’d pick before) WCW Monday Nitro on TNT, and was advertised pretty heavily on it.

The reason we’re going to start with this series instead of the first film is because, chronologically, it comes first. It takes place 500 years before the film (which I assume was set in 1995, meaning this takes place in 1495) and focuses on The Great Kung Lao, ancestor of the Kung Lao we all know from the games. In the canon of the games, he was killed by Goro in the tournament after Shang Tsung was dethroned as champion. If you’ve read Gavok’s short write up of weird things that the MK brand spawned, you know it doesn’t quite end that way for him in this series already, but we’ll get to that later. I should also mention that the first episode is actually a two-parter, and one that packs a ton of set up and action into it, at that, so this might take a while.

This starts off, like a lot of MK media, with a voice over by Raiden (played by Jeffrey Meek) that sets up the basic premise of the show, and of the MK tournament itself. During this, Kung Lao is shown practicing for his match against Shang Tsung, where he is the last Earthrealm fighter. Shang Tsung is also shown finishing the previous fight, where he dominates his opponent and steals his soul. Shao Kahn (also played by Meek) watches over this, pleased. Shang looks pretty close to his MK2 look (minus the silly Devo hat), as does Kahn. Kahn’s helmet looks kind of cheap, by the way, but still much, much better than he did in the second film.

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Ultimate Edit: ManiacClown’s Afterword

March 3rd, 2011 Posted by guest article

(Gavok note: Since I’m still working on the annotations for New Ultimate Edit, I thought I’d have Nick “ManiacClown” Zachariasen write down his own thoughts on the experience. The guy never really gets to speak his mind outside of a couple comments here and there, so I thought he should get in his final word.)

I’d like to say that’s it’s been a pleasure to collaborate with Gavok on this project of ours. First we started with Ultimates 3. Then, when we thought the morning sun of the volume’s end had vanquished the horrible night that was Loeb’s first stab into the heart of the Ultimate Universe, Ultimatum came along and we knew that we were needed once again. Before Beast/Nightcrawler/Daredevil/Cyclops/Xavier/Cannonball/MultipleMan/Hank Pym/Doctor Strange/Wasp/Wolverine/[O.K., that’s enough, I think they get it by now]’s body was cold, we learned of New Ultimates and what was sure to be yet more crap. Now, I have to admit that with New Ultimates, Loeb’s dreck wasn’t quite so bad and was in a couple places kind of neat, as with the parachuting machine gun scene. Of course, to counterbalance that, there were also bits like the fact that on top of not having read the Ultimate Universe before writing it, he’d also not read Norse myth. Valhalla and Hel are two different places, Jeph. Granted, I may be seeing New Ultimates a bit differently because of the fact that I had perhaps a greater-than-normal amount of creative input given the heavy use of the Asgardian cast, which brought to bear my skill in writing in godspeak. I guess that year of Master’s studies in English was good for something after all!

One thing that the Ultimate Edit saga has — along with my tendency to heckle bad movies — helped show me is that even badly-executed entertainment has its value in some form. For instance, take Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. No, not the album. That wasn’t bad. I’m talking about the movie. It was kind of a cinematic equivalent of Jeph Loeb’s work in the UU in that it was a horribly jumbled mess that really didn’t make a whole Hell of a lot of sense. However, the music in it was, for the most part, actually enjoyable on some level and I — perhaps somewhat blasphemously — actually prefer Billy Preston’s rendition of Get Back at the end of the movie to the original. Similarly, in addition to knowing how to write a shut-your-mind-off action sequence, Loeb actually had an awesome idea in using Multiple Man as a reusable suicide bomber, which by definition is typically impossible. Overall, though, Loeb did help jar the UU out of what Marvel had seemingly been beginning to fall into, where they’d typically introduce a 616 character with a slightly redesigned costume and a modernized background and BOOM! they had their newest Ultimatized character. No longer can they rely on just rehashing 616 now that numerous key characters are dead, even if they have a replacement Wolverine who can make his sharp bits shiny or not shiny as the situation warrants.

What this bring me to is that bad entertainment is like why I realized why pants are funny. See, Wakko and Dot Warner don’t have pants but Yakko does and this is funny. This made me realize that pants are funny. However, until several years later when I had a 103 degree; fever from a sinus infection, I realized that the image of a man whose pants are around his ankles — exposing his heart-strewn boxer shorts — is funny because it isn’t the normal state. If pants didn’t exist, it would be the normal state, and therefore not funny at all. However, because pants exist they create the possibility of a lack of pants, which is funny. Therefore, pants are funny because lack of pants is funny — inherent humor value by proxy, if you will. The point is that, much like Heaven and Hell, without the bad the good is meaningless because there’s nothing to compare it to. If you don’t have Ultimatum, you can’t appreciate Ultimate Thor as much. It’s kind of like that part in The Dark Knight Strikes Again when Luthor’s pounding Batman in the face repeatedly until Green Lantern pulls his planet-saving stunt. We just sat there and took it from Loeb because we know the payoffs are coming. We know Loeb’s not going to stick around forever. We just know we have to outlast him. It’s a sort of faith that has its reward in the here-and-now, even if you have to be patient for three years.

The other bright side of the last three years (which I still can’t believe has gone by this quickly) is that I’ve gotten to know Gavok. Before, I just knew him as the Ruin the Moment guy in Batman’s Shameful Secret on the Something Awful forums. However, after I said the magical words “I want in” I gained a friend and writing partner. I found someone to help me be creative in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. During this process Gavok’s essentially been the head writer of our team, ultimately deciding which jokes get included and which don’t while sometimes indulging my insistence on certain gags that I thought were too good to not do. One good example of this was continuing the Twinkies gag. While certainly not as prominent as Thor being Santa — which has unexpectedly had legs like mighty Sleipnir, the eight-hooved steed of Odin — that joke’s been a nice little undercurrent to the Editverse, popping up when both you and we least expect it. While it kind of sucked getting some of what I thought were good jokes left on the cutting room floor sometimes, most of the time I think what Gavok did in that respect was simply good editing, which had I been doing this alone may well have ended up leaving me as a sort of Jeph Loeb of funnybook mockery. We weren’t just one writer with seniority over another — we were and I dare say still are a team.

I think Gavok and I mesh very well together in our senses of humor. I think some of that is our mutual interests, which include comics (obviously) and professional wrestling. We did, though, also make a good team because of our differences. Sometimes Gavok would toss out a reference that I would have absolutely zero clue about or perhaps a choice in diction which was probably a regional difference. He lives in New Jersey and I live in South Dakota, so in one joke he suggested that Multiple Man “ask off for Saturday” when I’d never heard that particular arrangement before. Out here, we always say “ask for Saturday off.” That difference in perspectives is part of what made us write so well together in addition to simply coming up with things that would make people laugh.

Of all we accomplished in this collaboration, I’m personally proud of the fact that I either came up with some of the best joke ideas, or at least refined them like the sugar in a Twinkie from Gavok’s brainstorming or one-off gags. Santa Thor, of course, is the prime example of this, without which the entire Ultimate Edit trilogy would have been wildly different. It ended up being a unifying element, tying everything together and ultimately (no pun intended for once) came together in New Ultimates as Loeb had the volume centered on Thor and company. Little did we know when we whimsically tried to think of a reason for Valkyrie to be on the team that we’d sown the seeds for what New Ultimates has been. That’s some of the magic of working like this, where we’re not completely in control of what we’re doing. Even though somebody else is sort of controlling what we do, it just feels natural once we get going and — at least for me — there’s a certain magic to that.

Finally, I’d like to give my thanks. Thanks to all of you readers who’ve stuck with us for the last three years. Thanks to Jeph Loeb for giving us material to work with. Thanks especially to Frank Cho, who seems to have been — at least incidentally — one of our readers with the Waldo sight gag, which he seemed to have acknowledged by actually inserting Waldo into a published scene in the issue after we made the joke. Obviously, I should thank Marvel Comics for being good sports about this whole affair. I don’t think they can have not known about this because doubtlessly somebody there’s read our updates. I think the aforementioned Waldo incident shows that and while I seriously think that if legal push came to litigious shove we’d have plenty of support (as fair-use parody) under Campbell vs. Acuff-Rose and its progeny, that Marvel didn’t even try to stop 4thletter from letting us put these up this whole time. I’d like to thank David Brothers for facilitating our four-color frippery through his blog. Last — and of coursenot least — I want to thank my writing partner Gavok, without whose perhaps-passing musing on an edit of Ultimates 3 I’d not have had the opportunity to do all this. It’s been a great run and I’m immensely proud of having made so many people I can’t quantify laugh at a bunch of Twinkie jokes and Christmas puns. To quote the Animaniacs whenever they’d been written into a corner: Goodnight, folks.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 3: Two Faces

September 30th, 2010 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

Probably the biggest sin the Elseworlds line committed is that for every breakout hit or disaster the line produced, there were two or three bland piles of tripe released. Batman got the most Elseworlds, so he got the most dull stories- it’s simple probability. Today we’re going to start peering at those.

Batman: Two Faces
Written by: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by: Anthony Williams & Tom Palmer
Focuses on: Batman
Self-contained/Multiple books: Self-contained
Published in: 1998
Central premise: Stretches the “duality of criminals/vigilantes” metaphor to its limit via the use of Two-Face, while Batman is also the Joker (oh like you couldn’t guess that from the cover)
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

To be honest, I think the framing device for this story is a bit clever: inside the Iceberg Lounge, a gentleman’s club in late Victorian Era Gotham, Peregrine White and James Gordon swap tales of the bizarre and exciting from their lines of work, sworn to secrecy within the club’s walls. This evening, it’s Gordon’s turn to tell the tale, and he fills in the details on a case that was “the talk of every broadsheet in America” at the time.

There’s a recurring theme in a lot of Elseworlds of putting Batman a) in a Victorian-ish time period (fun note: this story takes place three years before the similarly-timed Gotham by Gaslight, the ur-Elseworld), and b) making him some sort of psychologist or similar skillset. Here he’s a criminologist “and amateur sleuth” of some renown. It doesn’t really have much to do with this story aside from his wanting to help cure the schizophrenia of Harvey Dent, but I just thought I’d point it out, being that this is the first we’re getting to that touches on those themes.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 2: Scissors, Paper, Stone

September 21st, 2010 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

Well looky here, already we’re having a change of plans. After reading Empowered vol. 6 this week the blurb at the end informed me Adam Warren had written an Elseworlds story. Given that I’d rank Empowered as my book of the week (if not for the solid month), pulling this out of the stack took precedence over the first of the Bland Bat-Batallion of stories.

Titans – Scissors, Paper, Stone
Written by: Adam Warren
Art by: Tom Simmons with Adam Warren
Focuses on: Teen Titans
Self-contained/Multiple books: Self-contained
Published in: 1997
Central premise: Far-future teens taking on the role of the Teen Titans to stop an immenent “gigaclysm”
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

I’m going to be entirely honest: I’m terrible with the Teen Titans. I don’t know a fucking thing about them, I’ve only read Terror Titans and a couple of issues of the latest series, and that was all for Static, baby. (Consequently, I’m not reading another issue of the damn thing, because two mistakes were enough, and I don’t like being the jilted lover. Fuck you, DC.) I picked up Tiny Titans for a bit but dropped it when my kid sister stopped reading it as well and I needed to slash the budget.

This is very much not the usual Titans story. (Or maybe it is? I’m willing to bet not though.) Rather than run through some massively-plotted concept and try and cram it into 50-60 pages, Warren just gets us into the thick of things pretty quickly and alternates explanation (mostly origins for our motley crew) and action, with small bursts of character building beyond the hero template each mimics.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 1: Superman’s Metropolis

September 15th, 2010 Posted by guest article

(Gavok note: On the heels of Marvel announcing What If #200, it’s fitting to take on the topic of alternate reality stories. Truth be told, the idea of doing an Elseworlds list much like how I did one with What If has been a looming menace hanging over my head and for years I’ve been afraid of forcing the other shoe to drop. Thankfully, Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett was inspired enough to fight the dragon in my stead and has offered to do a series of guest articles on the subject. You might remember Syrg from his fantastic take on the comic disaster Marville last year. If you don’t, go read it anyway. He’s good people. I plan to throw my hat into his series here at least twice before he’s finished, since there are a couple Elseworlds that I feel the need to talk about. This includes one that I’ve considered to be the worst comic I’ve ever read that I’ve been putting off writing on for years. But enough about me. It’s Syrg’s show. Enjoy.)

Marvel has their What If…?s, and DC has their own brand of “But what happens if we take X and change Y?” tales, called, depending on when you ask, Elseworlds/”Tales of the Multiverse”. (Juuuuust kidding. I don’t think anyone aside from Dan DiDio has ever used that last one seriously.)

The thing is, though, Marvel’s usually (I added the qualifier for a reason, Gavok, I know about that Timequake crap) come from a formula of “take big event/origin of character, change outcome slightly, go from there”. DC runs a little looser with the format, like that one where Bruce Wayne is an amnesiac immortal and Alfred is actually Merlin. Or the time the Justice League had to mount an assault on the Planetary Organization to break their shadowy hold over the planet. Maybe you know the one where Lex Luthor, singer-turned-record executive, sold his media empire to Darkseid?

Elseworlds are almost always entertaining, intentionally or not, because before 2010 and a run of titles like Rise of Arsenal and that other trainwreck I forget the name of*, you never thought you’d be buying a DC book where Superman got turned into a gender-swapped nazi centaur. (We’ll get to that one. Later.) Point is, the fact that so many of these are out of print and forgotten is a damn shame, and so just like Gavok running through all the What If…?s in the world, I’ll hit every damn Elseworld I can get my hands on, and probably a few other eccentric DC projects that didn’t earn that banner, usually because they were written too early or too late.

There’s going to be a lot less order to this than Gavok’s project. For one thing, I don’t think there’s any way to come up with a coherent set of criteria/checklist to hit for all of these, and I’m unsure as to what the “Peter Parker Dies” of Elseworlds is. Probably “Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere”, that dude shows up a lot in the otherwise-grounded stories (and it’s usually to inspire Superman to go use his goddamn powers, that guy takes pacifism way too seriously in these).

Also: no order, no rankings. Some of these are books I haven’t even looked through since I picked them up, and this project is good motivation to finish looking at the beaten-down copies of a couple. There’s no way I’ll be able to come up with a full scale to judge them on and pick a favorite. (Even if I did, people would bitch at me forever because technically, Kingdom Come is an Elseworld, and lord knows the kvetching if I put that below something like Speeding Bullets.) In fact, let’s just say it: I’m skipping a lot of the big ones. Kingdom Come/The Kingdom, Red Son, Destiny (since Gavok covered it a while back), Dark Knight Returns/Strikes Back. (I want to skip True Brit because it’s rather awful, but I suppose I’ll play canary in the coalmine for people who might go “John Cleese? Sold!”) I leave myself wiggle room on this as I go, but rest assured I’ll give you more than those and then some in extras by the time we’re done.

This is getting to be a bit text heavy. Let’s dive into the first book, Elseworlds: Superman’s Metropolis.

Superman’s Metropolis is an interesting book for a variety of reasons. It’s why I started off with it. But first, let’s look at the stats:

Superman’s Metropolis
Focuses on: Superman (for now)
Self-contained/Multiple books: Multiple (trilogy)
Published in: 1996
Central premise: Superman and cast as placed into Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

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Booze, Broads, & Bullets: Every 4th Quarter He Likes To Mike Jordan Them

April 18th, 2010 Posted by guest article

I got an email from José de Leon toward the middle of last week’s orgy of a commentary on violence. He had noticed a pretty funny, and fun, comparison between Frank Miller and Michael Jordan. I thought it was funny enough to post, and José gave me his permission, so here we are! I laughed a couple times reading this. You should, too. Index for Booze, Broads, & Bullets here.

I thought I’d trot this out again, seeing your blogging series “Booze, Broads ad Bullets”…

I actually noted this duality back in the mid-1990s (I posted this to a long-dead message-board many years ago) and have been updating it to match current events in both men’s careers… They both stand out to me as the pre-eminent “populist icons” of their respective fields, probably their fields most prominent and socially-influential modern-era practitioner — these are the men who inspired Air Jordan shoes and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, expensive “prestige format” sneakers and expensive “prestige format” comics. There is also to my mind a singular intensity to their work (some would say that intensity borders on the pathological), and tracing the arc of their careers, and the quite-evident passion that both men brought to their stage has influenced my own notions of how to achieve success in life, after seeing it duplicated at the highest level — more than once.

Next spring is the 25th anniversary of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and Frank Miller is back next spring doing Batman comics titled “THE DARK KNIGHT” (continuing the All-Star Batman series with Jim Lee). Things come full-circle.

In celebration of the Hall Of Fame induction of The One And Only Frank Miller Of Basketball…


I’ve been calling Miller “The Michael Jordan of Comics” in conversation for many years now, and I believe with good justification. Looking at both of their careers closely to this point, the similarities are uncanny …

Both are tremendous successes at their chosen professions, and are considered by many the very best of all time at what they do:

MJ: comics
FM: basketball

Both are considered among the greatest ever at the essentials of their profession. On a fundamental level they are impeccable and exemplary — you can find little wrong in what they do, and moreover almost everything is done perfectly right. And because of their strength in the fundamentals of their craft, they are able to be spectacular at times, almost at will:

MJ: scoring and defense
FM: drawing and writing

Both combine in their work a rare mix — an intense ferocity over-reaching his peers, reminiscent of:

MJ: basketball’s greatest winner, Bill Russell
FM: comics essential storyteller, Will Eisner

And a sublime elegance, beauty, power and spectacle, reminiscent of:

MJ: Wilt Chamberlain, a legendary, larger-than-life figure in basketball history, and owner of basketball’s gaudiest numbers (100 points in a single game is most notable)
FM: Jack Kirby, a legendary, larger-than-life figure in comics history, and owner of comics’ gaudiest artistic achievements (100 issues of Fantastic Four is most notable)

And both have acknowledged the influence of the two men in their work.

Each cut his teeth and refined his “chops” early in his career during the early 1980s:

MJ: at the University of North Carolina
FM: drawing, then writing, Daredevil

Both shortly after moved onto a different stage in an unorthodox setting:

MJ: at the 1984 Olympics, showing his stuff against international competition
FM: moving to DC, to create the creator-owned project RONIN, showing the influence of international artists Moebius and Goseki Kojima

Fans still rave about things he did in the spring of 1986:

MJ: scoring 63 points against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs

He began a breathtaking, show-stopping creative assault on his profession at large shortly after this work:

MJ: winning two slam-dunk competitions, winning Defensive Player of the Year, showing his all-around talent, and setting the highest season scoring average by someone other than Wilt Chamberlain (37.1, also the best of his career) between 1987-1990, becoming probably the most prominent star in basketball.

FM: puting out a varied body of work ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN, BATMAN: YEAR ONE, DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN, DAREDEVIL LOVE AND WAR, ELEKTRA LIVES AGAIN (personally I think this is his high point yet as an artist), mostly as a writer, showing his all around talent, between 1987-1990, becoming probably the most prominent star in comics.

Both have had a significant effect on the larger economy:

MJ: thru his success as a commercial spokesperson. Fortune magazine once estimated the contribution of Jordan to the success of the businesses he was involved in as $10 billion US.

FM: thru his success at revitalizing Batman as a haracter, he revitalized the Batman merchandising franchise, leading to movies and TV series that owed more to DARK KNIGHT rather than Adam West. He also inspired the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (largely a parody of his series RONIN), indirectly building one of the most successful line of toys and merchandise from the ’90s.

Both have been under the long-time commercial association of a company located in Oregon:

MJ: Nike of Beaverton, OR
FM: Dark Horse of Milwaukie, OR

Major color schemes:

Chicago Bulls: Red, White, and Black
Sin City: Black, White and Red

Both took major break at the height of their career and power from their chosen profession:

MJ: to try and play major league baseball (1993-94)
FM: to try and become a Hollywood screenwriter (1989-90)

And did not do as well as they did away from the profession that brought them fame:

MJ: barely breaking a .200 batting average in double-A level baseball
FM: Robocop 2 and 3

Both returned from that break and sucked originally coming out of the gate, with one really spectacular moment:

MJ: that whole #45 jersey thing, and getting knocked out the playoffs for the only time in the ’90s; 55 points against the New York Knicks
FM: that whole Martha Washington thing, Spawn/Batman; HARD BOILED

And after the bumpy restart, got down to business and came out with a more efficient, yet still devastating style:

MJ: developing a fadeaway jumper, posting a record 72-10 won-lost record for a season, and winning three more NBA championships for a total of six over the decade
FM: developing the stark black-and-white SIN CITY style, producing 300, and producing a total of nine SIN CITY graphic novels over the decade

Entered the 21st century making a controversial return to DC, which many critics branded as a spectacular failure:

MJ: as director of basketball operations and ultimately as a player for the Washington, DC, Wizards.
FM: returning to DC Comics to produce (work-for-hire) a sequel to BATMAN:THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

Introduced yet a THIRD evolutionary stylistic change far, far from their original overpowering style in their latest comeback:

MJ: as a coach-on-the-floor jump shooter
FM: admitting to using a more cartoony style in his later SIN CITY work and DARK KNIGHT 2

They have had one very significant collaborator through the bulk of their career:

MJ: Scottie Pippen
FM: Lynn Varley

And worked with a strong individual performer during their abortive comeback to DC:

MJ: Richard Hamilton
FM: Jim Lee

Other significant collaborators:

MJ: Dean Smith (college coach), Phil Jackson (pro coach, championship era), Horace Grant (workhorse power forward, pre-baseball), Dennis Rodman (gonzo power forward, post-baseball), Doug Collins (coach from waaayy back, coach in latest comeback)
FM: Denny O’Neil (editor at Marvel and DC), Diana Schutz (editor at Dark Horse, SIN CITY era), Klaus Janson (workhorse inker, pre-Hollywood), Geof Darrow (gonzo artist, post-Hollywood), Bob Schreck (editor from waaayy back, editor on latest comeback)

And really stretching it… both played themselves in a movie:

FM: Jugular Wine: A Vampire Odyssey (1994 — you can find it on the IMDB)

Both have had visually overwhelming feature films produced with their heavy involvement chronicling their incredible runs of success during the 1990s:

MJ: the IMAX feature, “Michael Jordan TO THE MAX”
FM: Robert Rodriguez’s virtual transcription of the SIN CITY comic books to a feature-film version

Both have also had features directed by the director Zack Snyder:

MJ: Come Fly With Me (NBA Home Video, 1990)
FM: 300 (feature film, 2007)

Both had films presenting in stunning fashion their last great stand in 1998, when it has been argued by critics that they had reached the storybook pinnacle of their respective careers — if it was the last image of them, how magnificent was it:

MJ: Michael Jordan TO THE MAX, presenting Jordan’s last championship run and final title-winning shot with the Chicago Bulls in 1998
FM: 300, the film adapting the comic book portraying the last heroic stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae, produced as a comic by Miller in 1998

In 2007, both separated from their long-time spouse:
MJ: Juanita Vanoy
FM: Lynn Varley

Both men made a bit of an unintended splash with their controversial comments in front of the national media:

MJ: With his pathologically-competitive “acceptance speech”, broadcast on ESPN, at his induction into the Basketball Hall Of Fame

FM: With his out-of-left-field assertion that Iraq declared war on the United States, broadcast on NPR, during his 2007 interview after the State of the Union

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Marvel’s Non-Battle Pope Comic: Paul II

June 4th, 2009 Posted by guest article

If you’re not up to speed, read the first part of James Howard’s review here! Unless you want to experience it Star Wars style. That’s cool too!

So Wojytla heads back and joins the official Polish delegation to Rome for Pope John XXIII’s Ecumenical Council, where he makes a speech before the assembly and spends his time soaking up the scene.

Africa, you know I love you, but stop listening to the fucking Vatican already. And don’t think for a second that the pair are placed next to one another here to imply a sense of colourblind kinship and equality before the Lord; one being a white bishop and one being a black bishop, they’re actually positioned there to spend the evening completely ruining my knights’ mobility.

Wojtyla is officially promoted to Archbishop of Cracow and gains all the perks of the position: new business cards, free jello, and a much, much larger hat.

Most people would look at this picture and take most interest in the apparent radioactive properties of the new headwear, but I’m more intrigued by the stubby sausage-like hand sneaking in behind the new Archbishop to swipe his old hat before the new one comes down. What if he wanted to stack them, like Duplo? Is that not allowed?

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Marvel’s Non-Battle Pope Comic: Part I

June 3rd, 2009 Posted by guest article

Good evening, gentle readers! My name is James Howard; I like history, and I like comic books, and I am here to talk to you today about both things at the same time.

Marvel Comics Presents The Life of Pope John Paul II, 1982 one-shot. Written by Steven Grant, drawn by John Tartaglione, beheld with bewilderment by millions.

This is true: I bought this comic for two dollars, no tax, from the fire sale of a closing Winnipeg comic book store a few years back. I took it home, I read it, and I framed it. Framed it. Because I am a major-league dork.

I’m not much for religion, and it’s not an earth-shatteringly great comic (as we’ll get to in a second), but who didn’t have a soft spot for ol’ Pope John Paul II? Dude was like the Catholicism Sara Lee. Passersby and visitors don’t just look at this cover — they stare at it for a few seconds, fishlike and uncomprehending, because honestly what the hell is this.

And given the information you can gleam about it from one glance — comic book, iconic historical figure, single issue — the comic is actually a lot more subdued and grounded than one would originally expect. There’s nothing in here that approaches the funnybook wackiness of Superman punching Muhammad Ali, or Spider-Man using the Socratic Method to foil an exact body double of Barack Obama, or… whatever this was. If they made a comic about the Pope today it would probably be thirty-two pages of Hugh Jackman Wolverine riding a motorcycle through a gunfight in a church in the past, so I guess I’ll take my down-to-earth portrayals where I can get them.

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The Marville Horror Part 5: Comics – Pretty Much the Word of God

March 12th, 2009 Posted by guest article

Article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

It actually took me seeing the variant for this one to understand what the hell was going on with the regular cover. Apparently our pinup girl is holding one of Wolverine’s claws for some reason, completely independent of his arm.

Anyhow. The recap page is skippable, at this point they’re so bare-bones from trying to sum up things and keep the illusion of a coherent plot that it’s not worth it. All it gives us that we didn’t know is, “Yes you are really about to read a comic where Wolverine evolved from an otter.”

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