Green Fury, Olympian and a Possible Post-Mortem for “Powerless”

While I try to avoid doing back-to-back posts on the same topic, I’m making an exception for Powerless. The fate of NBC’s “civilians of the DC Universe” workplace comedy is hanging by a very tenuous thread, as it has recently been pulled from NBC’s schedule, even though they still have 3 unaired episodes. Though assumed by many outlets to have been cancelled, NBC still hasn’t officially made it so – and has stated it is still planning on airing the three remaining eps. So, looks like we will just have to cross our fingers and see. It would be a shame for this clever and fresh take on the superhero genre to die an early death. But honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me, as it really is more of a “niche” comedy that would probably be better suited for a Netflix-type platform (or even the CW), and doesn’t seem to have that “broad-appeal” factor needed for a major primetime network show.

Whereas straight-up superhero shows like The Flash and Arrow are able to build out their worlds and mythologies as they go, Powerless takes place in an already very-established world – one that the writers have mined for all its worth. This is truly one superhero production that could actually stand by the claim that it was “made for the fans”, because there are so many Easter eggs, random references and winks to trivial bits of the DC Universe that makes the fanboy in me squeal and clap with delight, but probably goes right over the heads of the average viewer.

Which gives a nice segue into the main topic of the post – a profile of the power couple of Powerless, Green Fury and Olympian.  Much like Crimson Fox, Charm City’s other high-profile hero, Green Fury and Olympian are both long-established DC heroes who have never quite made it to “A” list status, and although they both got started the same way, their courses through the DC Universe became drastically different.

Both heroes made their DC comics debut, along with a number of other international heroes, in the pages of DC’s kid-friendly title, Super Friends. Brazilian-born Green Fury (who had the power to exhale mystical green fire) and Greece’s Olympian, (endowed with super human abilities from the legendary Golden Fleece)  soon made the jump to the DCU proper as members of  international fighting force, The Global Guardians, teaming up with Superman in an issue of DC Comics Presents. The Guardians didn’t pop up much at all after that though, save for a guest stint by a modified version of the team in the pages of  Infinity, Inc. In this iteration of the GG, Olympian wasn’t even around and Green Fury was now going as Green Flame.

There’s our power couple in the bottom right corner, giving that giant’s shin a good working-over

And that’s where their fates diverged. Olympian would only pop up a few of more times over the next two decades (with one time being in the out-of-continuity title Batman: The Brave and the Bold). But Green Fury/Flame did much better. When the Justice League got U.N. backing and became an international entity (as detailed previously), the Global Guardians were dissolved. Now without a job, the resourceful Green Flame grabbed best pal and fellow ex-Guardian, Norway’s  Icemaiden and marched right up to the Justice League Embassy and simply announced that they were there to join. When their timely assistance proved helpful against and alien invasion, they were indeed signed up. Soon after, the heroines shortened their monikers to the much catchier Fire and Ice and much like Crimson Fox, went on the establish themselves as two of that eras most enduring Justice League members. The flirtatious and fame-friendly Fire even got a power upgrade when the metagene bomb activated a latent gene in her DNA, turning her from a ground-bound fire breather to a being who could switch into a flame form that enabled her to fly and project fire through her hands.

After her Justice League era came to a close, Fire briefly appeared with a new version of the Global Guardians (alongside Crimson Fox III, in fact) but after DC’s most recent reboot, has since been established as a charter member of the short-lived  Justice League International.

Meanwhile, Olympian struggled with garnering the spotlight, resulting in minimal exposure over the years, and he has yet to be established in the rebooted DCU.

Which makes his appearance with Green Fury in Powerless so enjoyable. In their episode, Green Fury confides to Wayne Security’s Emily Locke that she can never be taken seriously by the public or considered for the Justice League when things like her break-up with Olympian is front page news for the gossip rags (which Fury figures Olympian  leaked himself, just to get attention). She then agrees to film an endorsement for Wayne Security, think the PR will do her good (which aligns well with the motivations of the Justice League-era Fire). Then the commercial morphs into an explotative T & A shoot, but instead of calling it quits, she calls in Olympian. Ever happy for a gig where he can get maximum exposure for himself and his Greek-god bod, the shoot is reworked for beefcake instead of cheesecake, and comes off without a hitch.

Eventually, things do kinda work out for our power couple…in the end

The commercial is such a success that Fury tells Emily she even got a call from the Justice League…well, actually Justice League Europe. Emily tries to make her feel better by pointing out that the JLE is like, “one of the top five Justice Leagues”. And this exchange is a good example of that which is one of the strengths of  Powerless as well as its kryptonite: it’s humourous and enjoyable – IF you know that there actually was a Justice League Europe and that there have been a plethora of Justice League iterations and offshoots over the years, from which a top five could easily be ranked. Otherwise, it’s just another semi-amusing, non-contextual throwaway line for the majority of mainstream viewers.

So, even though the writing is pretty much on the wall for Powerless at NBC, maybe there’s still chance that someone like Netflix will swoop in and save the day for the citizens of Charm City (because Crimson Fox sure ain’t gonna do it – she already skipped town for a new gig in Metropolis…adjacent)

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The Powerhouse of “Powerless”: Who Is Crimson Fox?

With DC and Marvel Comics laying claim to over a dozen television shows currently on the air, the new NBC comedy Powerless does something unique to stand out from the pack. It does this by focusing not on superheroes, but rather on the everyday joes who just happen to live and work in a world where a plethora of super-powered beings don flashy costumes to either wreak havoc or save the day – or sometimes both.

As it takes place in the DC Universe (albeit, a much more brighter one than the film DCU of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad and more lighthearted than the tv DCU found in the CW’s quartet of Arrow-verse shows) there have been multiple references to many of DC’s superhero royalty. We’re talking the big guns like Batman, Aquaman, Flash and the one character than has been significantly featured more than any other — Crimson Fox. Wait — Crimson Fox?

Always the hero, Crimson Fox bravely places herself between civilians and the deadly powers of Frostbite

Yes, on Powerless, this little-known heroine of the DCU has already crossed paths numerous times with one Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) – saving her on first day of work at Wayne Security, battling Frostbite on her office building’s balcony and becoming her game-changing Fantasy Superhero League pick when she surprisingly manages to leapfrog over heroes like the Flash by saving a whole cruise ship full of people. It appears that Charm City has its very own protector (Powerless continues the fine DC tradition of creating fictional cities for their superhero stomping grounds).

It’s somehow fitting and hilarious that a show about the normal people living in an unknown city of the DCU only gets to have face time with one of its more obscure heroines. But for DC fanboys like myself, it’s also great to see a largely disregarded but still fan-favourite character finally get some mainstream exposure.

But who exactly IS Crimson Fox?

In a nutshell, she was a France-based heroine created by DC scribes in the late 80s specifically so that the newly-launched Justice League Europe would actually have a European member. She would end up becoming one of the more constant members of that era, eventually moving to Justice League America after it reformed following the folding of its International division.

But lets’s deleve a little deeper, shall we?

The Origin

Chantal D’Aramis was a research scientist who worked for a corporation called Big Time. Her main project was development of an irresistible perfume derived partially from fox musk. What she didn’t know was that the formula was also toxic, and shortly after she left Big Time to give birth to twin daughters (Vivian and Constance), she died of cancer.

Years later, Vivian and Constance learned that Moriarty, their mother’s former employer, had known all along of the toxic properties their mother’s perfume development was creating, but didn’t inform her until she had refined and perfected the product. Vowing to take him down, the girls started their own beauty brand, Revson which eventually eclipsed Big Time and ruined Moriarty. This drove him crazy with revenge and he ended up killing the twins father, Andre, and then vanished.

This motivated Vivian and Constance to seek out justice not only for themselves, but “for all honest people”, so they became Crimson Fox.

Yes, they became the Crimson Fox. Since they couldn’t very well run a business empire and fight crime as a costumed vigilante (although it seems to work for Bruce Wayne), they decided to fake Constance’s death and share Vivian’s identity. So, when one twin was running Revson as Vivian, the other was free to fight crime as Crimson Fox, and vice-versa. Vive le difference!

Crimson Fox’s time as an active Justice Leaguer coincided with the trading card boom of the 90s, leading to her appearance in a number of DC’s collectable sets

Powers

Both D’Aramis girls shared enhanced abilities that are believed to be a side effect of their mother being pregnant while working on her experiemental fox musk-based perfume. Crimson Fox had enhanced strength, agility, speed, endurance and healing ability. She could leap up to 20 feet in the air and complemented this with steel-taloned gloves that enabled her to attach to and climb most surfaces (and made a pretty good weapon on their own – as did her cowl, which she could manipulate like a whip). Crimson Fox also had a pheromone-control power that she could use to influence the actions of those near her.

Career

As previously mentioned, Crimson Fox became a member of the Justice League but kept secret the fact that they were twins. This was ultimately revealed after Vivian (as Crimson Fox) began a romance with fellow Leaguer, Metamorpho. Shortly afterward, Vivian was kidnapped by the villain Puanter and killed. Constance carried on as Crimson Fox, but there was still more tragedy to follow.

After Justice League America folded and reformed as the “big guns only” JLA, Constance attempted to reform the European branch with four other Justice League cast-offs. Unfortunately, they were infiltrated by the daughter of the supervillain The Mist who managed to decimate most of Crimson Fox’s new team, killing not only Blue Devil and  Amazing Man but Crimson Fox, herself.

But that was not the end of Crimson Fox! Years later a third Crimson Fox showed up as a member of the Global Guardians, one who insinuated that she had inherited the Revson business and apparently the abilities of Crimson Fox, too. Shortly after her first appearance, DC Comics rebooted their universe (again) and in the reshuffling since, Crimson Fox has yet to be reintroduced.

Until Powerless, that is. Now she’s back, more powerful and getting more coverage than she ever has before – which I find kinda nice after having already been killed twice.

And don’t worry, they eventually thawed her out

DC’s Legends of Yesterday

DC Comics is enjoying its most prolific period on television ever, with no less than six prime-time television shows based on DC characters currently airing on major broadcast networks (those would be Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Supergirl, Lucifer and of course, the company-branded, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow). But while Marvel has only just recently dominated the cinematic super hero landscape, DC has always had a strong presence on television, leaving pop culture footprints that lead all the back to the 1970s with Wonder Woman, the 1960s with Batman and even to the 1950s with The Adventures of Superman.

However, for all the iconic DC Comics-based series, there are a number lesser-known, but still worthy, series that flew under the radar. And right now I’m going to shine the spotlight on of a few them – think of them as DC’s TV Legends of Yesterday.

 

(The Adventures of) Superboy  1988-1992 (Syndication)

DCsuperboy2Well before Smallville, the live-action adventures of a young Clark Kent were brought to the small screen in Superboy (later retitled The Adventures of Superboy in its third season). Faced with the diminishing returns of their cinematic Superman/Supergirl franchise, executive producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind turned their attention to the small screen and set about launching a series based on the teen hero. However, instead of being high schoolers in Smallville, Kansas, Clark Kent and childhood sweetheart Lana Lang (played by John Haymes Newton and Stacy Haiduk) were university students in Florida (which was helped location-wise by the fact that Superboy was the first weekly series to be produced at Florida’s Disney/MGM Studios and later Universal Studios Florida)

Newton’s portrayal offered up a more confident, less-nerdy version of Clark Kent and after initial 13 episode order, the show was given the green light to produce 13 more. It was after this second batch of episodes that the producers of the show and Newton began having issues with each other (Newton’s demand for more money along with a publicized arrest for DUI didn’t help matters) and as a result, Newton was asked to leave the show.

Now, usually you would think that recasting someone who was not only the lead actor, but the title character of a show, would signal the beginning of the end – especially for a relatively new series that was trying to build an audience. But that turned out to be not the case here. The show went on to run for another three seasons, with Gerard Christopher swooping into the title role of the young Kryptonian at the start of season two, eventually appearing in a total of  74 of the 100 produced episodes.

 

 

Birds of Prey 2002-2003 (The WB)

DCbopThe now-defunct WB network had already tasted success with a female-driven action/genre series with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so Birds of Prey seemed like a perfect fit. At the time one of DC Comics’ standout titles, the comic book Birds of Prey centered around Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, now crippled by the Joker and fighting crime from behind her computer screen as Oracle. To do her legwork on covert missions, she enlists the help of some of her super-powered friends, which mainly consisted of Black Canary and then later, the Huntress. This was the first thing the TV version switched up a bit – choosing to make Huntress (Ashley Scott) the main partner of Oracle (Dina Meyer) with a not-quite Black Canary, Dinah (Rachel Skarsten) joining them later.

Now, usually a big stumbling block for comics that make the transition to the small screen is conveying their premise and backstory easily to the audience so they can get onboard as quickly and painlessly as possible. And as a comic, Birds of Prey was already carrying some big baggage, especially for those people who only knew of Batgirl as the bouncy redhead from the Batman series and animated shows. So, it’s a real head-scratcher that the WB opted to take that premise and make it even MORE confusing – tweaking characters, locations, histories and well… sometimes it’s better to show than to tell, so just soak up this one very expositional voice over that introduced the show each week.

 

That said, the show was still well done and it brought in the biggest ratings for a premiere episode on the WB at the time. However, it wasn’t able to sustain those numbers, and as the show was quite expensive to produce, it wasn’t deemed profitable enough to continue beyond its initial 13 episode order. But, even though it was a bit misguided, the series is still well-remembered by many BoP fans (especially since it included Mia Sara’s role as the big bad of the series – the first live-action version of Dr. Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn)

 

Legion of Super Heroes 2006-2008 (The CW)

DClsh2One of the oldest super hero teams in comic book history (they first appeared in 1958) the Legion of Super Heroes have been a fan-favourite team for decades. In 2006, following the smash successes of the animated Justice League and Teen Titans series, the futuristic team of super-teens finally got their due with their own series.

Legion of Super Heroes ran for two seasons as part of the Kids WB lineup on the newly-formed CW network. It introduced viewers to the young and vibrant team of heroes from the 31st century who take the young Superman from the 21st century under their wing to give him the training and experience he’ll need to become the legend they know him as in their era.

Legion of Super Heroes was a fun and exciting show that proved there was a way to take decades of continuity, characters and backstory and just filter it down to necessary elements that would appease fans of the comic while not alienating new audiences. And with the cues DC Entertainment has been taking from Marvel’s cinematic universe, I’m surprised that they haven’t realized that they already have their own answer to the Guardians of the Galaxy in Legion of Super Heroes…and it’s just been left sitting there, waiting for the live-action treatment. Oh well, until then we can always enjoy the rather awesome LSH opening credits and theme:

Heroes For The Holidays

As we count down the final hours to Christmas, I thought I would just pop up a little post showcasing some Season’s Greetings of the super hero kind. From comic book covers to in-house greeting cards to one-off works of art, the heroes of DC and Marvel can always be counted on to turn it out for holidays!

Holiday Comics

xmas-superheroesDC’s semi-regular tradition of collecting holiday themed stories spanned over many years – and many formats. Christmas With The Super Heroes started out as an oversize tabloid, then went to  paperback digest before finally settling in to the regular comic book format.

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Marvel also knocked out a few of their own Holiday Specials over the years, and these two pin-ups from one of its earliest ones are favourites of mine.

Christmas Cards and Holiday Art

DC and Marvel’s Christmas card game is always on point – whimsical and usually with a welcome touch of humor (I especially love Batman getting beaned with a snowball).

dcuxmasbats

Marvel-Christmas-green-Hulk-redDC_Comics_2011_Holiday_Card

And artist Chris Giarrusso’s spot-on homage to A Charlie Brown Christmas for one of Marvel’s holiday cards is a pure delight.

MarvelHolidayCard

And to conclude this brief little heroic holiday excursion, I thought I would cap it off with this amusing mock-up of a 1950s-era Action Comics, courtesy of Comics Alliance (“No-El” – heh, heh – gets me every time).

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Happy Holidays Everyone!

Superhero Fashion Emergency!

In the world of superhero costume couture, red/black is the new…EVERYTHING.

RB1

 

One of the greatest things about comic books is the variety of costumes that the various heroes and villains deck themselves out in. From Batman’s iconic dark cowl and cape to Captain America’s star-spangled super soldier suit to Aquaman’s unconventional vibrant splash of orange and green goodness, costumes are great eye-candy and help to really individualize a character. And aside from teams like the Green Lantern Corps or the X-Men, who are pretty much required by law to wear matching or similar costumes, the majority of Marvel and DC’s collective universes were always awash with character costumes sporting colour combinations as distinct as their powers or skill sets.

And then something happened.

RB4

Once upon a simpler time these were the only Bat-characters who went for the red/black look

Just a few short years ago Batwoman, Batman Beyond, Deadpool and a small handful of other characters were the only comic book headliners who were rocking costumes that solely consisted of red and black material. It was something that didn’t really stick out and wasn’t even worth noting, really. Fast forward to today and suddenly EVERYONE is wearing red and black – to the point where it is so obviously distracting that you can’t HELP but notice it. Comic books – one of the most creative mediums out there – are now sliding into a creativity-free fashion slump due to the over-employment of this restrictive palette. And for this particular comic book fan, there’s only so much red and black, page after page, comic after comic that I can take. It’s a fashion emergency that is dangerously close to putting some of my regularly purchased monthly titles on the critical list.

So, What ACTUALLY Happened?

This rise of the red/black scourge  is easily traceable – and it’s all DC’s fault. Back in 2011, DC Comics launched their highly publicized (albeit ill-conceived and poorly executed) line-wide reboot, “The New 52”. The point behind it was to boost sales and attract new readership with  new #1 issues of all their regular monthly title providing easy “jumping on” points.

So, the masterminds in the DC think tanks were chugging along, thinking of every type of marketing voodoo magic they could employ to pull new readers in. And then someone, somewhere must have read something that indicated that red and black were the colours most likely to catch people eyes or draw their interest or hypnotize them into opening their wallets, because suddenly a number of heroes had inexplicable “New 52” makeovers that  suggested that Batwoman would be facing a lot more competition at the next red and black sample sale.

RB2b

It’s also quite obvious that the red/black look has made everyone much more grim n’ growly (except for Hawk – he’s always been that way)

Nightwing, Hawk, Superboy and Wonder Girl were the first out of the gate with their revamped looks (shown to the right, alongside their pre-New 52 looks) which ranged from pointless colour swaps to needless outfit updates that somehow managed to seem both bland and busy at the same time. Nightwing’s blue-on-black ensemble was distinctive but his new red/black look is just derivative of both Batwoman and Batman Beyond, Hawk’s red-on-white garb was meant to complement partner Dove’s similar-looking blue-on-white outfit, but now it just…doesn’t.

And poor Superboy and Wonder Girl – gone are their refreshing “Causal Friday” jeans-and-t-shirt looks. Now, in their place we get  a Tron Cosplayer and Grumpy Red Riding Hood. (Even Wonder Girl’s lasso has been given an unholy red re-do. Is nothing sacred?)

At this time, DC also launched a new Red Lanterns title (think Green Lanterns with anger issues) and like all Lanterns, their costume colours default to a black base and the colour of their ring, so now we had a whole new team of red and black characters added to the mix. And just recently, Supergirl became the latest Red Lantern recruit (as indicated on the far right of the image at the top of this post) so she has now traded in her traditional blue, red and gold garb to become the latest red/black fashion victim.

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JL 3000’s Bats and Supes on the left and Earth 2’s on the right

And it didn’t stop there. Not content with their makeover madness, DC also introduced a handful of  “new” characters – who are also all decked out in the devil’s colours. And here’s where the creativity crutch is really puzzling to me. With the launch of the titles Earth 2 and Justice League 3000, there came the opportunity to present alternate world and future timeline versions of the World’s Greatest Heroes. So what does DC do? They give us not one, but two different versions of Superman and Batman – and ALL four of them are sporting that cutting edge red/black combo. I mean, come on.

BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE!

Of course, this red /black onslaught is not all on DC’s shoulders. Because in the world of comic book publishing, whatever trend one of the big two publishers jumps on, the other has to try and top them. And that’s where Marvel came into the ring. It was like someone over at Marvel HQ said, “Well, we can give red and black makeovers too – and we’ll do it to ALL the members of team! No..scratch that – TWO TEAMS!”

So, first they launched the latest iteration of Thunderbolts, now led by Red Hulk. And apparently he had a “red” prerequisite for eligible team members, so while Elektra and Deadpool  aced it, Punisher and Agent Venom had swap out their black and whites for black and reds (see top image, second from left). So cute that they’re all matchy-matchy now, right?

Not content with that, Marvel unleashed what I consider to be the atomic bomb of this whole red/black catastrophe. Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four, is an iconic team that has always had an iconic look – matching blue uniforms (except when they’re feeling pretentious, in which case they switch to their “Future Foundation” whites). Well, earlier this year they debuted in the latest of their never-ending string of relaunches. Bold new story! Bold new direction! Bold new…costumes?

RB5

Even Sue Storm thinks the new red/black look for the FF just can’t be taken seriously

Yes, the Fantastic Four has now hopped on the red/black express (see top image, second from the right) This is truly the sign of the Apocalypse – for if a great mind like Reed Richards can succumb to the mind-numbing, eye-searing pull of a red and black makeover, is there really ANY hope for the rest of the comic universes?

We can only stay strong and pray that a brighter, colourful and more aesthically pleasing day will soon come to pull our heroes out of their collective red and black nightmare (and save me from some severe red and black induced headaches).

 

 

 

Avengers Overload

avengers4

For many years Marvel Comics was content with having just two monthly Avengers titles. And whether it was the 80s-90s era of Avengers and Avengers West Coast or the 00s era of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers, one thing was certain: no matter which comic you picked up, you could be guaranteed a tale about a true Avengers team made up of  legit, card-carrying super-heroes who each had earned the honour of being called an Avenger.

Nowadays, it’s a much different story. First, Marvel let their creators expand the Avengers ranks by rotating in seemingly EVERY hero who had yet to be called an Avenger. Then came the worldwide, block-busting, record-breaking mega smash film success of Marvel’s Avengers, and suddenly the comic company’s premier super hero team became hotter than ever. So naturally, Marvel has been cashing in on that popularity by peppering their line-up with as many Avengers comics as possible (current count: 12). Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if each of these titles were actual Avengers comics, but branding seems more important to Marvel execs than accuracy right now, and apparently they see no problem with taking their once-exclusive brand and diluting it by slapping “Avengers” onto every new title that comes down the pike, regardless of whether they are actual Avengers comics or not.

What’s really upsetting about this is not just the blatant cash-in, but how misleading this is to new comic readers. Anyone drawn to the comics after becoming a fan of the movie now runs the easy risk of being sorely disappointed and surely confused when they see that the Avengers comic they picked up has little or nothing at all to do with the actual team of iconic heroes.

So, how out of control is the Avengers branding? Well, let’s just take a quick look at all the different titles and see for ourselves:

These are the current titles that readers can find tales of the actual Avengers:

Avengers and Avengers World – the core membership of the Avengers now hovers somewhere around 15 and they can all be found making appearances in either of these titles – with Avengers showcasing more traditional-type team action and Avengers World focusing on the team working in conjunction with S.H.I.E.L.D. on adventures with a more worldwide scope. Features traditional, long-time Avengers like Captain America, Iron Man and Thor as well as newer members like Manifold, Smasher, Captain Universe and former X-Men, Cannonball and Sunspot.

Uncanny Avengers – a mostly inclusive title, this one features the “Avengers Unity Squad” which is a team made up of both traditional Avengers (including Wasp, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch and Thor) and X-Men (including team leader Havok along with Rogue, Wolverine and Sunfire).

Avengers Assemble – the adventures in this title also concentrate on more inclusive tales that generally feature just a handful of the more iconic members of the Avengers like Hulk, Spider-Woman and Captain Marvel. Not to be confused with the younger-readers title Marvel Universe Avengers Assemble, which is inspired by the Avengers movie and based on the current cartoon of the same name)

Now we have the titles that start to stretch things a bit.

Secret Avengers – the focus here is on a small group of Avengers (Hawkeye, Black Widow, Mockingbird) that work with S.H.I.E.L.D.  on covert, espionage missions.

Mighty Avengers and New Avengers – these two are lumped together because they are both examples of one of Marvel’s favourite ploys – repurposing well-known titles to launch (or relaunch) completely different properties. In this case, New Avengers and Mighty Avengers were at one time titles of core Avengers comics. Now, Marvel has made New Avengers the new home of the secret cabal/think tank formerly known as “The Illuminati” – even though the characters within are either not new Avengers (Iron Man, Black Panther) or aren’t Avengers at all (Mister Fantastic, Black Bolt, Namor).  Mighty Avengers is now basically a relaunch of Luke Cage’s original Heroes For Hire title, and  although Cage has officially  left the Avengers, he somehow gets a free pass to call his new ad-hoc, street-level team “The Mighty Avengers” – despite the fact that the current roster features only one other former Avenger (Spectrum, aka Pulsar aka Photon aka Captain Marvel II aka Monica Rambeau) along with new legacy heroes White Tiger, Power Man and Ronin.

Avengers_A.I.

Yep, ’cause nothing says “Avengers” like a Dr. Doom knock-off.

Avengers A.I. – Charter Avengers member Hank Pym (aka the original Ant-Man, the original Giant-Man/Goliath, the original Yellowjacket and the second Wasp) also apparently gets a free pass to call his own team of techie crusaders “Avengers” as well, even though the roster includes just one other Avenger (The Vision) along with one of Dr. Doom’s decommissioned Doombots , former “Runaways” member Victor Mancha and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Monica Chang.

Next we have a couple off-shoots, which at least don’t pretend to be official “Avengers” titles.

A+X – a team up comic that usually features two short team-up stories each issue. The concept is that team-ups consist of one Avenger (“A”) and one X-Man (“X”), which is a kinda hilarious specification considering that nowadays basically every non-mutant hero has been an Avenger at some point (and even some mutant heroes as well), so it’s more like the “A” in the title can stand for “Any hero” instead of “Avenger”.

Young Avengers –this comic doesn’t feature any actual Avengers,  but they let you that’s the case right off the bat with its name. As it indicates, this title (which just wrapped up its latest run) features young, Avengers-inspired heroes like Wiccan, Hulking, Marvel Boy and the female Hawkeye.

And the grand prize for the most blatant cash-in/branding misuse/non-Avengers Avengers title:

The cast of Avengers Arena. Not pictured - any actual Avengers.

The cast of Avengers Arena. Not pictured: any actual Avengers.

Avengers Arena/Avengers Undercover – Oy, where to begin with this one. Avengers Arena represents everything that is wrong with Marvel’s Avengers branding overload. It took an unoriginal concept (lifted directly from The Hunger Games and Battle Royale) and featured a cast of 16 young heroes – none of whom were Avengers – who were kidnapped and forced to compete in an island-based deathmatch where it was “kill or be killed”.  Avengers Arena ended at issue #18 and now those who survived get to move on to Avengers Undercover (again: none of them are actual Avengers) where they will try to infiltrate the villainous Masters of Evil. Whee.

So, as you can see, there are really very few legitimate Avengers titles out there today. But will this excessive branding ever stop? Actually, I think it will – because outside of those core titles, none of the other Avengers books are actually heating up the sales charts (the most recent issues of A+X, Secret Avengers, Avengers A.I. and Young Avengers could all be found hovering around the bottom of the Top 100). Even more telling is the fact that they all seem to start off strong and then plummet with each subsequent issue – which gives strong support to the idea that the comic-buying public gets lured in by a new Avengers title and then quickly start turning away when they realize they’ve been duped. Case in point – Mighty Avengers #1 sold over 100,000 copies while its most recent issue (#4) barely broke sales of 35,000. So, hopefully Marvel will figure out sooner rather than later that the only Avengers titles that the public wants are ones that actually feature the Avengers.

Be Dazzled!

PROBLEM: Can a former roller-skating mutant/disco diva ever become regarded as a serious, credible super hero?dazz1

You have to feel a little sorry for Dazzler. She’s had a rough go of it even before she made her official superhero debut in 1980. Originally created by Marvel Comics as a multimedia tie-in with Casablanca Records, Dazzler was to be a first – a comic book singing super heroine with a real-life recording artist counterpart. As Marvel made a big push to establish Dazzler as a presence in the Marvel universe (with high profile guest appearances in The Uncanny X-Men and Spider-Man) Casablanca Records was supposed to be developing an actual disco diva counterpart. But, after numerous delays, Casablanca Records suddenly withdrew from the project.

Despite this setback, the groundwork had been laid and ignoring the fact that disco had all but died, Marvel went ahead with their plans to launch  Dazzler as an ongoing series. Telling the story of Alison Blaire – a disco singer with the onstage persona of “The Dazzler” – who discovers she has the mutant ability to transduce sound into light, it was initially a success and practically every big-name hero and villain popped up in the book’s first year. Dazzler seemed to be on her way to making it a credible super hero, working with the likes of the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and going toe-to-toe with heavyweights like Dr. Doom, The Hulk and even Galactus.

Unfortunately, the series began to focus more on Alison Blaire than Dazzler and even went so far as having her throw in the towel on her singing career, ditch her kitschy yet iconic disco duds and leave New York for an L.A. acting career. Now being portrayed as the ultimate reluctant super-hero, even the fans couldn’t get behind her (letter columns from these issues contain a number of comments  lamenting how boring, dull and downbeat Dazzler had become – and these were the fans!). And how can you expect for a super hero to seem credible when she doesn’t even want to be a super hero?

dazzlermarvel-graphic-novel-12After a well-received graphic novel – Dazzler: The Movie – in which Alison comes out as a mutant, then quickly becomes a scapegoat, Marvel finally stepped in line by giving Dazzler an actual costume, amplified powers and some training with the X-Men. But it was too little, too late and Dazzler was cancelled at issue #42. But Dazzler’s rocky road to rebirth had already started, so let’s take a look at some notable points on her journey and see if Dazzler was able weather the ups and down to come her way (as both a property and a character) and emerge as something more than “former disco diva”.

THE X-MEN YEARS

After her title is cancelled, Dazzler resurfaces and officially joins the X-Men after taking on Juggernaut all by xmen218herself.  She ends up sacrificing herself (along with the rest of the X-Men) fighting the villainous Adversary, (but they are all resurrected because, comics).

Dazzler is chosen as one of the core characters in the 1989 X-Men animated pilot “Pryde of the X-Men”. Unfortunately, the pilot isn’t well received and undergoes massive retooling. When X-Men: The Animated Series finally debuts in 1992, Dazzler is noticeably absent.

Due in part to her role in the animated pilot, Dazzler becomes a playable character in Konami’s classic side-scrolling X-Men Arcade game. However, being in a video game where the other playable characters are Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler pretty much means Dazzler never makes the 4-player short list.

Dazzler falls in love with fellow X-Man, Longshot, and they eventually the leave the team to become rebellion fighters in Longshot’s home dimension (the Mojoverse). Dazzler is only seen sporadically over the next decade.

NEW EXCALIBUR

Dazzler resurfaces again, but without Longshot, and it is revealed that she suffered a miscarriage in her time away.new excalibur

She finally reconnects with Longshot…but he has comics-amnesia and can’t remember much – if anything – about their time together.

Dazzler tries to jump-start her singing career in the UK – sporting a tougher look and an ill-advised short pink hairstyle. She ends up joining Captain Britain and others as part of the team New Excalibur (who launch in a comic book of the same name).

As a member of New Excalibur, Dazzler gets killed – TWICE! But she’s okay because she has somehow developed new resurrection-based powers (?!).

New Excalibur is cancelled after 18 issues. Dazzler returns to the U.S. (and her resurrection powers and pink hair are never spoken of or alluded to again – yay comics!).

X-MAN, AGAIN

Dazzler resurfaces yet again, this time at the X-Men’s new base, Utopia. She’s almost unrecognizable, now with long blonde hair and a completely new costume.

She becomes a supporting member of the now-sprawling X-Men roster, occasionally taking part in an adventure or two while also pursuing singing gigs in nearby San Francisco.

Dazzler is chosen by Cyclops to head up the X-Men’s unseen “Street Team” to help foster relations between humans and mutants.

X-TREME X-MEN

A statuesque Classic Dazzler (via Bowen Designs).

A statuesque classic Dazzler (via Bowen Designs)

So, now we’re pretty much back to square one, with Alison Blaire making her way via singing gigs and taking part in the occasional heroic exploit. And even though her power set has greatly increased over the years and despite the fact that she has sported three distinct looks since her white-jumpsuit days, it’s still “Disco Dazzler” that gets the most love and recognition (both in the comics and in the real world – see right) – everyone loves that Dazzler – the now retro-cool, sparkling, roller-skating human mirror ball.

So it would have to take something drastic, something unexpected to shake up everyone’s preconceptions of Dazzler. Something where she could prove once and for all that she was not a frivolous lightweight but xtreme12that she has what it takes to be one of the top guns. Fortunately, that something came along in the form of X-Treme X-men.

In this series, Dazzler gets sucked through a portal to an alternate Earth and ends up taking charge of a rag-tag group of alternate reality X-men as they race against enormous odds to prevent the destruction of the multiverse. This is where Dazzler finally gets to shine. And while the series only lasted for 13 issues, it was enough to make a mark for Dazzler. It showed this new, empowered and powered-up Dazzler stepping up to the plate, gaining confidence in herself and becoming a steadfast (not to mention quite good) leader. She even gains the respect of Wolverine after she returned home and joined forces with her former teammates for her final mission with the X-Treme X-men.

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Dazzler has no doubt now proved to both readers and naysayers that she can be taken seriously as a hero, but the effects of  how this new take-charge Dazzler will fit it with the rest of the Marvel Universe proper has yet be seen. However, if this teaser page from a recent Uncanny X-Men is any indication, it looks like she’s about ready to shake things up.

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