Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Punisher: Franken-Castle (Dark Reign: The List, The Punisher #11-16, Franken-Castle #17-21, Dark Wolverine #88-89) PART ONE

"Mind fading... rage takes over.  Let it" - Frank Castle

It's fair to say that Frank "The Punisher" Castle has always been a weird fit for the main Marvel Universe.  Conceived originally as a villain in the Spider-man stories back in the late seventies, he achieved a kind of breakout success in the darker worlds of comics in the eighties and nineties.  He's always been an unrepentant killer of criminals which puts him at odds with 95% of the heroes of the MCU and attempts to turn him into an anti-hero at best have never really come off.  The only person who has ever dealt with him satisfactorily was Garth Ennis and even then he had to transplant him into a "real world" continuity shorn of all superhero fripperies to tell a compelling story about him.  So over the years people have had a hard time knowing what to do with the character and he's ended up involved in some incredibly goofy storylines; like the time he died and came back as an avenging angel or the time he was turned into an African American or this storyline, which is possibly the goofiest of the lot; known as "Franken-Castle".  This maxi-storyline (starts in Dark Reign: The List, continues in The Punisher #11 to #16, which then changes it's name to Franken-Castle #17-21 and crosses over with Dark Wolverine #88-89) sees Frank die and then be born again becoming caught up in a war that includes all the oddball monster characters of the Marvel Universe as he reluctantly gets drafted in to help them defeat their persecutors before going after the person responsible for his death.  Oh but I'm giving away the plot, so without further ado, part one of my look at the glory that is the Franken-Castle storyline by writer Rick Remender and various artists, with part two to follow in a few days time.

First some backstory.  Due to the events of the 2008 Marvel Event "Secret Invasion" Norman Osborn aka The Green Goblin is in charge of H.A.M.M.E.R a goverment agency that has replaced S.H.I.E.L.D.   Frank has vowed to bring his corrupt rule to an end and an attempted assassination attempt has put Frank on Osborn's list.  Frank is not alone, he is being helped by a skate punk tech whiz called Henry who is the son of one of his old enemies.  Osborn has recruited various supervillians to hunt Frank down and now Henry and Frank are seperated and weakened and with that Dark Reign: The List begins.

This single issue is drawn by John Romita Jr. Frank is in his his hideout his wounds patched up and mentally talking to his wife Maria. Osborn's people target a huge missile strike on his location, but manage to miss him. So he send out his ground agents which include "Daken" son of Wolverine.  Henry finds Frank but Frank knocks him out at leaves him in a dumpster so he'll be safe.
Daken versus Frank round one
Cops open fire on him and he is hit in the leg. He escapes into the sewers but Daken finds him. They grapple and Frank fires a laser at him saying Osborn "shoulda sent the real deal.  Gimme something worth getting out of bed for".   He climbs up onto the roof of a building and Daken follows. Up there are many gunmen but they hold their fire as Daken engages Frank again.

Frank riddles him with bullets but Daken has his dad's healing factor.  He cuts off Franks arm and Daken notes Frank seems like he "looks relieved."  Then cuts off his torso and head and The Punisher is dead. His remains fall off the building and lie in the gutter, this whole incident is witnessed by a distraught Henry and Osborn satisfied notes he has been terminated.
Yep, definitely dead.
We then cut to Monster Island and the next few chapters are drawn by Tony Moore.  Some monsters are being chased and shot down by some armoured Japanese men, whose leader shouts "slay all monsters!".  Then he gets a call and tells the person at the end of the line that he hasn't found "the item".  The person calls him Yamato and tells him to "implement the Prime Doctorine.  Destroy all monsters!" And Yamato's team get back to it.

Back in New York the assembled gunmen are told to collect Frank's remains.  But before they can a bunch of little monsters pick the remains up and run off into the sewers and Osborn's men lose them. Before they can trace where the monsters have gone the imposing figure of Man-Thing rises up in front of them. Whatever knows fear burns at the touch of Man-Thing and Osborn's men burn well.

Then things are black, one voice say that Monster Island needs a "tactician- a soldier".  The other voice is dubious that this "actual monster" will help. Then the voices are revealed to be Morbius The Living Vampire and Jack Russell the werewolf.  The person they were operating on comes too but his brain isn't ready, "w-what y-you done to mhme-me?" it says grabbing Morbius by the throat.  And then we get our first look at the resurrected Franken-Castle.
Frank reborn.
He screams "Rhnnoooooo!" and runs off.  The mummy says to him that he knows the pain he endures and welcomes him to the family.  He bats the mummy aside saying "Nho fhamily!!" and he crashes into a church. There a preacher made of living lava tells him "there is a plan for you - God doesn't make mistakes".  But Frank rages that he does and the preacher can't get through to him. The preacher grows large and takes ahold of him and Morbius and Jack have him bought back to the lab to fix his mind.

Finally Frank is calm and Morbius gives Frank pills and tells him if he takes one every twelve hours the "synaptic glue" will keep him in charge of himself. Jack postures in front of him and Frank gets up and starts to leave.  Morbius tells him to wait and tells Frank that a few months ago some soldiers started hunting them and they don't know why.  They formed a Legion of Monsters to protect themselves and the survivors have come to live in these abandoned Morlock tunnels.  He says they needed a strategist someone with military experience.  Morbius says he saved Frank's life, "make good.  Help us. What do you say?"  And Frank strides off saying "I say good luck."

We then cut to Manphibian who has been captured by the monster hunters. He demands to know what they want from him. The leader of the monster hunters wants to know where the item he is looking for and his monster friends are hiding.  Manphibian says he knows nothing. and they have no right to be treating him and his comrades like this.

The imprisoned Manphibian
The head monster hunter says it is "divine purpose - to cleanse God's earth of all shadow beasts and horned devils - it is a privilege".   Manphibian says he'll tell him nothing.  But this was expected and his children are brought out and executed. A sobbing Manphibian asks why he is doing all this. "Why do anything?" the head monster hunter is then revealed to be a skeleton in power armour, "I like it".

Frank is brooding in a room he's found. He fumbles the pills and drops some of them down a grate he takes one then looks hungrily at a rat. He grabs it and is about to eat it when a mute kid monster appears.  Frank tells him to get lost but it offers him a chocolate bar and Frank accepts, they eat together in silence.
A tentative friendship is struck up.
Morbius and Jack discuss the situation and Jack says Morbius was the one who "opened the can of worms that got us all in this less-than-optimistic epxerience." Jack believes the Japanese know where they are hiding.  Jack then angrily tells Morbius he is captain of the sinking ship and should go and assure the sailors they are OK, "you know...lie" and he slams the door on the way out.  "Terrible man" says Morbius to himself.  He takes a red stone out of a safe and says it'll be safer if it is with him.

Frank is in some distress, the pill is wearing off and he has no more. Then the Mummy appears and tosses him a new bottle of them.  The kid persuaded Morbius to hand more pills over even though Morbius is mad at Frank.  The Mummy then takes Frank on a tour, as they walk he says he knows it is in Frank's nature to protect. Frank says "I'm not in this business" he's in the "nothing business" as far as the monsters are concerned. The Mummy says helping people survive is a "worthy oponent to your apathy.  A reason to live worth fighting for."

The monster hunters have slaughtered thousands, supernatural beings, inter-dimensional travellers, aliens, oddities of the deep, "to them it is simple - we are monsters - we deserve death". All the monsters left on earth have congregated here in the Monster Metropolis where the Legion of Monsters will protect them.  "I fear that promise will go unfulfilled" says the Mummy.  They arrive at a display of weaponry taken from the monster hunters they have killed.  The Mummy says they just want to be left alone.  "That's one thing we've got in common" responds Frank.
The Preacher has harsh truths for Morbius.
Morbius is in the church.  The Preacher asks him how he is surviving, Morbius says he has a new formula keeping him alive. The Preacher asks him if he has told the others why they are hunted and what it is he holds.  Morbius says he doesn't know who else to trust with something so powerful.  He says he cannot be corrupted by its power unlike mortals. The Preacher reminds him he is both mortal and man and he has already been corrupted.  It is the stone quenching his thirst for blood and while it is here "we are all in danger".

Suddenly there is an explosion and the monster hunters pile into the Monster Metropolis.  Morbius runs back to put the stone in the safe, but the skeleton in power armour is already there. Frank is lying in a small room and the little alien comes to get him.  But he is shot through by a laser and dies in Frank's arms:

Frank: "Deaf and mute.  But his eyes tell me the story.  He dies terrified.  He won't be the only one".

And with fiery rage in his eyes he looks up at the monster hunters that have appeared in the doorway.  As he slaughters the monster hunters Frank thinks that his war is supposed to be over, but "they need a hand. And I've got two on 'em... both of 'em twitching for some murder".  He takes the sword of one he has killed and slices another clean in half.  And spends the next hour killing, "the first natural thing I've felt in weeks."
Morbius is down and the leader of the monster hunters has the stone!
Meanwhile the skeleton in power armour is beating down Morbius saying he is the rightful inheritor of the stone.  He fires pure sunlight at Morbius which knocks Morbius burning to the ground.  Meanwhile Jack Russell has a score to settle with the Monster Hunters for killing a pack of werewolves in Montreal.  Jack charges in to attack even though the man wields a pure silver sword.

Jack is soon surrounded and things look bad for him until Frank appears and crushes the silver bullet firing gun that was about to finish Jack off, "even a mangy stray has rights" he says.  He puts a grenade in the gun barrel and tosses the man into his group of hunters and they are all blown up.  Frank offers Jack a sword but Jack declines.  Another hunter appears, it's Yamato and he takes Frank on.

They struggle with each other with Yamato stabbing away at Frank who is feeling slow and unresponsive and needs his pills. Man-Thing appears but Yamato blasts him with his arm cannon.  Frank gets his second wind and fires his gun into Yamato's chest.  Yamato picks himself up but the bullets bury knives into him and Frank bashes him with the gun barrel.  Frank goes to check on Man-Thing who is all right and Frank holds out his hand to him knowing that he does not feel fear so will not burn at his touch.  "Let's go start a fire" he says.

The skeleton in power armour has Morbius and is returning to their ship.  Sixteen of the squad have been killed and as the ship takes off, Yamato flies up to grab the skeleton's hand and be pulled inside.  Before that can happen, Frank hurls Man-Thing at Yamato and Yamato burns.
Fastball special!
Later Frank and the survivors of the Legion of Monsters take stock.   The Preacher tells them about the powerful relic Morbius was hiding and finally names the skeleton in power armour, his name is "Hellsgaard".  Frank says he has a guy who can help them find Hellsgaard. 

Frank: "Then we find 'em.  And then we teach that son of a bitch what a real monster is."

A short time later hacker Henry has come to help them out.  He tells them Robert Hellsgaard is "one hundred and fifty years young".  He's a hero in Japan, and according to his S.H.I.E.L.D file the Howling Commandos wanted to take him down.  They're defunct now, but they have a file that includes testimony from Dracula.

Henry says normally he would disbelieve that but "the events of the past few hours have broadened my perspective".  He then starts reading the file which contains testimony from Hellsguard himself and we start a flashback, painted pages by Dan Berereton.  It begins with Hellsgaard in Germany 1898 returning home after visiting Nikola Tesla.  When he departs the carriage he is in and walks into the village he finds people lying savaged and bloody in the street.
Blimey!  It's the wife!
Horrified he runs to his home and a werewolf attacks him. He manages to stab it in the heart with a silver knife and it turns back into his wife.  He then rams a knife in the heart of all the attacked people.  Unfortunately because they turned back into humans he is put on trial as a mass murderer.  No one believed his werewolf story and he was convicted of seventy-eight counts of premeditated murder.

He served twelve years of hims sentence obssessively reading about the occult and making notes.  Then one day a "roguish gentleman walks through the prison walls".  It was the famous monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone.  He has heard Hellsgaards story and knew that he would be "starving for revenge.  A perfect partener".  They hunted for years, no matter how many they killed it was never enough for Hellsgaard.  He created power armour and found a way to dispose of their kills permenantly and created access to a limbo dimension. 

But Dracula was onto them and learned of their plans and he crashed in on them.  Hellsgaard put on the power armour but Dracula ripped a tube out and flooded the armour with the coolant that burned off Hellsgaard's flesh. Then Dracula pushed him into limbo. Somehow Hellsgaard survived seventy years in there.  The next mention of him is from the journal logs of a Japanese scientist Yamato in 1978.

He'd been researching ways of combating Japan's rising tide of atomic super-monsters attacking their cities.  They read of Hellsgaard work and began to revere him.  They travelled to Castle Bloodstone and there they freed Hellsgaard himself. He joined their monster hunting cause gladly and with his technology put an end to the atomic beasts.  But it didn't stop there, they hunted supernatural creatures and when they couldn't find actual monsters they hunted mutants and morlocks and even disfigured people.  But they are also looking for the one thing that can restore Hellsgaards body - the Bloodstone.
"And now he's got it" says Frank.  Henry says it's mostly regenerative but it will give him "super insane rage strength at least".  Henry says he'll kill Morbius.  Jack says they should let him, it's Morbius's fault they have been hunted.  The Mummy says it's not the only reason. Frank then implies it was Jack who originally attack Hellsgaard's family and village. Then Frank says if they allow Hellsgaard to keep the stone "you will see him again.  On his terms."  Hellsgaard's castle is in the Alps.

Frank: "Alps is cold. Perfect temperature for the dish I'm gonna serve him".

The next chapter is drawn by Roland Boschi.  Frank is dreaming about his family burning.  Henry waks him up and asks why he is sneaking off.  Frank says the others aren't coming, he's going to face Hellsgaard alone.
Hellsgaard tortures Morbius.
Henry asks him why he is doing this, this isn't their war.   Frank just says he's "paying a debt". Meanwhile Hellsgaard has Morbius chained up in his dungeon telling him during his time in limbo he drew up an "endless stream of revenge scenarios against those who had taken my family and placed me in that dismal hell." Morbius says he should have drawn from the teachings of Confucious, "before you embark on a journey of revenge - dig two graves."

Hellsgaard says the power of the Bloodstone has it's power directly proportional to the person's desire for revenge.  It draws its power from a "deity known as the exo-mind" which had deposited it on earth to aid in its observation of the evolution of humanity. He takes in the Bloodstone and it powers him up.

Hellsgaard: "Soon I will be a whole man again.  A man with the power to extract swift revenge.  Power to ensure no one is ever hurt by another monster.

Up on the battlements the monster hunters discuss Hellsgaard and how he saved Japan and now they will save every other land.  Then the head of one of then explodes.  It was Frank riding a dragon round the castle picking off the guards.   Between his gun and the dragon's firey breath they take out many of the monster hunters.
*cue Ride Of The Valkyries*
Finally one of them shoots a laser through the dragon's neck killing her.  Frank drops down off her and thinks that her entire race was wiped out by the hunters, "Ol' girl got herself a respectable body count.  Gave a taste back. Best anyone can hope for".  But Hellsgaard has a trap prepared and raises the dead much to the horror of one of his officers who accuses him of creating monsters.  Hellsgaard punches his head off.

Henry tells Frank to hurry up, his readings say Morbius and Manphibian are almost dead.  The zombies flock round Frank but he mows them down while he imagines his dead wife Maria speaking to him. He reaches the castle gates and the guards blast him with a cannon but somehow miss.  And the zombies come flooding in and attack them.  Frank has got behind them and locks the interior castle gate trapping them in the courtyard with the zombies.

He works his way upstairs and frees Morbius and Manphibian saying "C'mon.  Goin' home.  Good guys won."  But Hellsgaard appears and shoots Manphibian saying Frank has been corrupted by the beasts. "You are the villain" he says to Frank and says that some part of him must know what they've turned him into. But he is here for him, "I'm here to send you back" he says and fires his cannon point blank at him.

Frank and Hellgaard tangle.
Tony Moore is back on art duties for this chapter. Manphibian is down but not out, as he gets painfully to his feet he thinks about Hellsgaard killing his children and that he has spread the poison of vengeance to him.  He sees that Frank is still alive and battling Hellsgaard.   Manphibian joins in but is punched to the ground.  Before Frank can help him, the monster hunters restrain him and Hellsguard shoots Manphibian in the head, just after Manphibian exorts Frank to kill Hellsgaard and avenge his children.  He then tosses Manphibian's body through the limbo portal.

Frank mentally makes the promise even though he can't move.  Hellsgaard starts ranting and Frank thinks this will buy him time to "get a damn pill".  Hellsgaard says they are alike, both had their families torn away from them and started them on a crusade against those deemed responsible.  He rotted in limbo for decades, the torment ensuring he never would forget what happened. 

Hellsgaard: "With the Bloodstone in my grasp I will fill limbo with the bodies of earth's monsters.  Wipe their existence from history".

Then he sees Frank reaching for a pill.  Morbius under torture told him Frank's need for the pills.  Then he asks Frank what he would do to the man who murdered his family.  "You would murder him.  Gruesomely" he says.
Frank is super pissed off now.
He tells Frank he has gone mad, joining the mafia of monsters and so he must die.  He tells his men to cast Frank into limbo but Frank finally gets free although he cripples his arm in the process. Hellsgaard fires on him but Frank tosses a hunter in the line of fire.  He then jumps at Hellsgaard and both of them topple through the opening to limbo and land inside.  This panics Hellsgaard, he says it's suicide.  "Already dead" says Frank.

Several hunters run to the portal to help Hellsgaard but before they can go through, Morbius appears and says "I hold three Phds in partying with your mothers" and grins wickedly.   Inside limbo, Frank and Hellsgaard fight.  Hellsgaard says the power of the Bloodstone means Frank can't defeat him.  He half rips off Franks damaged arm and keeps punching him.  He's about to crush Frank's head when there is a lava eruption that knocks him away.

They keep fighting and though Hellsgaard has the upper hand Frank refuses to give up.  He sees the pills that Hellsgaard had tossed through the portal.  Hellsgaard says they will only fix his mind not his broken body.

Hellsgaard"You prolong this to placate your own ego!  This isn't about giving meaning to our families' deaths!  We're killers.  We'd kill under any pretense."

Then Frank hits him hard and smashes the faceplate of his armour.  This enrages Hellsgaard but Frank realises he's uncertain underneath the anger.  Frank tells him he's going to share Hellsgaard's death with someone who wants it more.  And Manphibian rises up and rips Hellsgaard's emaciated body out of his armour.

Hellsgaard doesn't understand how he can be alive. "My brain is in my neck" replies Manphibian.  He batters Hellsguard and is about to land the killing blow when Frank stops him, "no. Not a path you want to walk" he tells him.  Hellsgaard wimpers that he only wanted to rid the world of monsters.  "All you did was create new ones" says Manphibian. Then a portal opens and Morbius comes through, he helps Frank who can barely walk to get to the portal and they leave Hellsgaard alive, but without the Bloodstone.  "Thank you for your mercy" says Hellsgaard.  "Yeah. Right.  Mercy" says Frank as he looks back at the pathetic figure down on his knees amongst the rock and lava.  And that brings the first Franken-Castle arc to an end.
Cruel mercy indeed.
At this halfway stage I think this has been fantastic.  It's a wonderfully daft concept executed in a confident style.  It's great seeing all the monster characters from Marvel's rich history bought together like this.  Turning Frank into a Frankenstein's monster is just such a loopy idea I'm surprised it made it past editorial.  But it works brilliantly with a smart script from Rick Remender and fantastic artwork from Tony Moore whose thin lined super detailed style reminds me a lot of Doug Manhke's work on the Frankenstein chapters of Seven Soldiers Of VictoryThe parallels between Hellsgaard and Frank are interesting, both having declared war on those they deem responsible for their families deaths. The difference of course is that Frank for better or worse only kills criminals, whereas Hellsgaard targets everyone he deems a monster and spares no one, not even children.  The action is exciting, seeing Frank riding a dragon is a super-cool image and just shows how few fucks the writer and artist give about the reactions of the more humourless comicbook readers.  And I often read online that many people consider this part of Frank's life to be one of the worst comics ever made.  I beg to differ, so far it's been fun, and everything awesome about comics and their ability to go to strange and unusual places.  Just to troll the kind of reader who would declare this Worst. Comic. Ever, after this half of the series was over, the name of the comic was changed from The Punisher to Franken-Castle implying this change was for good. Of course it wasn't but still to come is how Frank became a normal human again as well as a crossover with Dark Wolverine as Frank seeks revenge against the person responsible for his death - Daken.  Come back in a few days to see how that pans out.


  1. Frank Castle vs. The Marvel Universe (or at least Molly Hayes from the Runaways, yes, she is twelve.) with bonus Linkara reference:

    Yeah. There is a distinct part of the comicbook reading demographic*, who seriously have something against fun. They also tend like to go on about how comics are so mature(tm) and true art(tm) despite not being able to correctly identify maturity if it hit them on the head and think being art is an out of criticism free card. :/

    * Given that I also encountered similar in video gaming and tabletop gaming circles this might be an age & privilege thing. (In tabletop gaming this generally manifest in perfectly seriously putting an unholy amount of work in creating an unusably complicated homebrew system (or "fixing" an old one with house rules for the same effect) with a grimdark world full of all kinds of "mature content" and bigotry.)

  2. Hah, I've only just got into the Runaways with the first two collections but Molly is great. I'll probably do the first collection here at somepoint in the future.

    I think comics are brilliant because I can love Garth Ennis's take on Frank Castle in Punisher MAX and simulteneously love Franken-Castle as well. Now I started reading comics in 1986 so immediately had stuff like Watchmen and The Dark Knight to read, but I also like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beanworld and Cerebus when it was still funny.

    It make me sad when it's people from my age demographic (I'm hrrrm 42) that seem to have this "Stop Having Fun Guys" attitude. I haven't played tabletop game since my youth, but videogames are my other passion and I hate how you're not considered a "real" gamer if you don't play Call Of Duty and so on. Bleh.

  3. I hope when you said about giving away the plot you flamboyantly crossed your legs! Still I'm sure it's all done in the best possible taste.

    Onto the story. Heh, I've really had to re-examine my initial thoughts on this after reading yours and Malitia's comments. You see, I was about to be one of those over serious 'its not about fun!' guys.

    Thanks to your blog I've become quite attached to Frank. He's the American 'superhero' I most identify with. And I think that's because he's the most 'real'. As is the world he exists in. Of course that's perhaps because I'm only really familiar with him from the stories you've reviewed and films. I'm vaguely aware that he's had lots of whacky adventures too.

    But it's funny you mention about getting past editorial. I was reading this and thinking 'gawd, there must have been a meeting where someone said 'i know, let's make frank a zombie...' Like that Poochie episode of the Simpsons.

    But I always raise a wry smile and a headshake when people express 'ownership' of a character. So I need to stop being a hypocritical curmudgeon. Cos the thing is, apart from that concern I loved this story. It was delightfully ott and an interesting take on the classic monster motif. Bit like our previous discussions about seeing things from the monsters point of view and how they would fit into the 'real' world. Nice character design and artwork too.

    I can appreciate schindlers list and hellboy, so if I can accept baddies (ie Nazis) being both serious and silly, then maybe I can with the good guys too.

    I'll just have to imagine an old Irish guy saying "So, I hear you're a monster now Frank?"

    After all, Dredd is a serious character but some of the best stories are the wonderfully daft ones.

  4. I like it when you get my ancient references!

    Yeah, Frank in the MAX universe works brilliantly. Frank in the mainstream Marvel U lacks a lot of the depth and emotion Ennis brought to him. Interestingly Ennis got the Punisher MAX gig after doing a run of The Punisher in the main Marvel U where he really ramped up grotesquery but managed to find a sweetness there too. Unfortunately only one trade of that run has been released "Welcome Back Frank" which I plan on covering sometime this year. I think you'll be surprised at the difference of Frank in the Marvel U versus MAXverse Frank.

    It was nice seeing Frank take up arms for the underdog, there's a bit in the comic I had to cut for length where they tell him they went to the superheroes for help and no one cared about monsters dying. The fact that Frank, after some grumpiness, does care instantly makes him more heroic to me. And man he does it with style, machine-gunning the baddies while on the back of a dragon? Awesome.

    Mr. Dredd has been in some pretty silly tales it's true, I like though how he always treat whats happening deadly seriously. Bit like Frank really.

  5. There is something appealing about very serous stoic characters in silly situations. Like putting a clown nose on Dredd. Speaking of which, you ever seen a thing called Brooklyn 99? I've caught a few episodes. There's a guy in there who would be a perfect Dredd. He used to be in serous cop shows like Homicide. Now he's in a comedy but he still plays it completely straight and it works wonderfully. Like an island of grumpy rationality in a sea of whimsy.

    I've always liked people taking up arms on behalf of the 'monsters'. That goes all the way back to 'Freaks'. Of course the people there aren't actually monsters but they're treated as such. But even in the original Frankenstein (to get back on topic) my sympathies were always with Adam (that's his name honest, check the book). I think maybe that's why I also love Hellboy so much.

    But it makes perfect sense for Frank to be on the side of the underdog monsters. I think that's why I so much prefer him to Batman. Ultimately Batman is a horrible reactionary. He's the "1%" personified. The latest film was pretty dire but I did find myself rooting for the 'baddies'. I don't know if that was a deliberate intention on behalf of the director. But I thought Bane made some very good points. And the motif of the underclass putting the rich on trial seemed to just be a nice updating of say the French revolution. Hmm, now I've written that the parallel seems even more obvious. The baddies taking it too far is just Robespierre. Wow, you don't half get me thinking.

  6. I haven't seen Brooklyn 99 which is bizarre because the rest of my family rave about it. Now I think I'll have to check out a way to watch it because it does sound fun.

    Hellboy I love and I have only seen the two films, I think Hellboy 2 might be my favourite fantasy film of all time. And of course he loves cats, which is funny and sweet. The trades are a bit expensive, I'm holding out for maybe a omnibus at some point, but I may have to bite the bullet and start buying them anyways.

    A rather funny reviewer who helped me pick my way through what New 52 stuff was worth getting (well most of it was good picks, Demon Knights was NOT) developed a hilarious and somewhat plausible theory that Batman fights crime in impoverished neighbourhoods so the property prices get driven down then he buys them up as Bruce Wayne and gentrifies them thus pushing the poor into more and more awful bits of Gotham. That said the Bat-verse people who are't him, Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, Commisioner Gordon etc all are decent people who just want to protect people.

  7. "Batman fights crime in impoverished neighbourhoods so the property prices get driven down then he buys them up as Bruce Wayne and gentrifies them thus pushing the poor into more and more awful bits of Gotham."

    That's almost word for word (well, the city changed) the plan of a villain from the current Great Lakes Avengers run. O.o Up to trying to sell his super villains as heroes who rid the town from "crime" & "undesirables".

  8. B99 is very funny (from what I've seen). Almost like dad's army as an ensemble where you really care about all the diverse characters. Interestingly there is one semi serous thread and that's the treatment of the guy I mentioned. He's gay, and the implications of what that means in the police force is examined. But in a very subtle non anvilicous way.

    What's particularly funny is the best detective on the force doesn't figure out his boss is gay notwithstanding a number of clues, including a newspaper article "Precinct appoints openly gay commander"

    I love that Batman theory. It makes perfect sense. I'm all for alternative character interpretations and you know I think Batman is a bit of a git anyway. I wonder if it's just me or whether it's like the theory put forward in that Future Shock documentary that Americans like heroes whereas Brits always like the message to be 'dont trust heroes'. There was an interesting quote from Neil Gaiman.

    "If Superman was a British creation it would turn out he'd been molesting kids for 50 years"

  9. Lol, well in that case it is at least a villain doing it not the supposed "hero". Sigh, I wish we'd gotten a much longer run of Dick Grayson as Batman, that's the only time I've genuinely liked Batman as a person rather than tolerate him while I enjoy the richness of the Bat-verse.

  10. Wow, that first reply was for Malita, me and Alan posted at the same time!

    Anyway, while it is interesting that in general Brits are more cynical about heroes (I mean Marshal Law is pretty much the ur-text here) some of the best writing of Superman I have ever read has been from British writers, Garth Ennis, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison have all dealt with him as a truly noble symbol, all with slightly different angles but for some reason Supes seems to short-circuit the Cynical Brit Writer and they treat him with the utmost respect. Funny that.

  11. Yeah that is noticeable. Have you seen 'Future Shock'? They do sort of address that. The Brit creators were welcomed (well, by some people) for breathing a bit of new life into the comics. There still was a bit of conservatism though.

    So it was like, you can mess around with this relatively minor character from our back catalogue but some things are off limits.

    Morrison seems particularly to have felt a tension between wanting to shake things up but at the same time recognising that, fuddy duddy as some things now felt, these were the characters they'd loved as kids and drew them into their chosen careers. So there was a bit of self imposed respect for the time honoured clichés with some characters.

  12. Oh, and when I was rewatching it the other night I did have a bit of a smile when morrison said how he was "such a fop" When he started out.

  13. I haven't seen Futureshock to my shame, chalk up another programme I have to find somehow.

    Morrison interestingly is the biggest "company man" of all the Brit writers. Mainly because DC seem to let him do whatever he pleases. Whereas his sortof autobigraphical history comics said his time at Marvel ended miserably as editorial weher out-and-out going behind is back telling the fans they'd be undoing all his work on the X-Men as soon as he was gone. Funnily enough his run on the New X-Men is excellent if I guess you're not beholden to rigid continuity. But he started drafting out Seven Soldiers of Victory to keep himself sane which ended up being really good.

  14. Morrison in full on 'fop' mode (avec chat)

    I think you'd really enjoy the documentary. It's wonderfully candid. They're very honest about both themselves and also what they thought of each other.

    It also covers a lot of the points you deal with. Lots about how the Americans snaffled them. There's also a bit about women characters and writers and how 2000AD was a bit of a boys club (and again, they're very honest about that)

  15. Little teaser to whet your appetite

  16. Great Lakes Avengers is my #1 new comic (so not relaunch and such) this Marvel initiative (Marvel NOWer)... given it only started some months ago* this could change though. ^^;

    * Both the comic (4 issues in), and the initiative (several new series belonging to it will start monthly at least still June).

  17. Hi sorry about the delayed response, I was in hospital for a couple of days with a pulmunary embolism. My lungs are chock for of clots, eugh. Anyway home now I enjoyed the links, cheers alan.

    Great Lakes Avengers sounds like something I need to keep an eye out for Malitia!

  18. Oh gawd that sounds awful. You poor thing. I hope you're feeling a lot better soon. Sending you some virtual grapes and Lucozade (the old style stuff with the knobbly glass bottle and the crinkly cellophane)

    I hope Biff is looking after you.

  19. Thanks :) My family came to visit me when I was in yesterday and of course they bought me grapes which were much appreciated. Mmm Lucozade. Yeah it was an mad experience, one minute I'm collapsed at the GP's office next minute I am off in an ambulance, sirens blaring to A&E (got seen right away) then in for two nights while the "clotbuster" medications started working. They have packed me off home with blood thinning meds and I have to have some follow-up out patient proceedures too. But honestly Macclesfield NHS provision is brilliant, 10/10 would get sick there again.

    Biff is round at mum's because they were't sure if they'd need to keep me in until Thursday as I was in a queue for a heart scan and obviously they needed to see how well I was doing. But when I came off the oxygen this morning and could walk and stand without getting dizzy I was OK to go once the scan had been done. Apparently Biff has been a bit morose, but mum has been taking good care of him and we shall be reunited tommorrow.

  20. Jeez, you do live an exciting life though. Is this related to the not being able to cough thing, or you just in the wars generally?

    Anyway, glad you're all checked out. Yup, hooray for the NHS. It's always so mind-boggling when my USian friends have to worry about the costs of health care. One of my mates has the best insurance available but she still had to pay an $8k 'excess' after a breast cancer scare. She was then in a car crash and she declined the ambulance cos it would have cost her. I love the fact I can just pitch up at A&E with "Well it started with someone saying 'I bet you can't...'" and they don't bat an eyelid.

    Poor Biff. I'm glad you're going to be reunited soon. Speedy recuperation. Hope you're able to enjoy a comics and video game binge.

  21. It just came on suddenly on saturday, I soldiered on to monday to see the GP but I had gone downhill very fast by the time I showed up gasping for air and hanging onto walls. Part of of the follow up is them trying to figure out why this happened. I've had no change of routine or medications so this was just out-of-the-blue. Still it's made me all the more detirmined to stick to a good diet and start some stretching exercises for my lower body too (it was possibly a DVT in my leg that broke apart in my lungs so I am going to do exercises for combating that as well).

    And yeah, I was thinking the whole time how lucky I was that I didn't have to pay. Three days in hospital, a whole battery of tests, ride in an ambulance, can't imagine how much that would cost if I had to pay.

    I did get some comic reading done. I handed over a list of things to get me when mum, Chloe and the little 'un rocked up to visit. Top of the list was a bunch of trades, it was nice to reread The Multiversity and Deadpool MAX.

    Fortunately I have a bunch of blog posts done so I don't have to worry about writing those, I intend to relax completely for the next week or so, I think I'll catch up on all the good TV programmes that keep being recommended to me, and I have an anime dvd I bought a month ago and still haven't watched.

  22. I'll ask around to see if anyone knows any good exercise for that sort of thing. Funnily enough a friend sent me a video of some bloke using his cat for weight training. I think she was more drooling about his abs, but the look on the cat's face was brilliant.

    But you need to take care of yourself so if you can put up posts, great. But don't knock yourself out. If the worst comes to the worst I can always occupy myself by actually doing my job. Speaking of which I've got to go up to Bristol and then London tomorrow and Friday. Boo. Isn't this what Skype is for?

    As for anime, you seen that Dr Who anime someone put together. It's fantastic. On YouTube. A fun 15 minutes if you can find it.

  23. Yeah any recommendations for gentle exercise would be useful. I'll be a bit wheezy for a while so it'll need to be mainly stretching. I can't imagine working out with Biff lol. Actually for a big cat he's very lean and light, he just has the saggy old cloth cat fur of a much bigger one, so I don't think he'd do my much good even if he was ameanable to be lifted!

    Anyway, have put up the conclusion to the Franken-Castle saga then that's it until Valentines Day which I have timed a comic that has some romance in for.

    I'll check out that link tommorrow, I think it's time to go to sleep in my own bed.

  24. "I was in hospital for a couple of days"

    I'm so sorry that that happened to you, and so glad that you're somewhat better now. (Sorry for the lateness, I was not checking this thread anymore. ^^;)

    "Great Lakes Avengers sounds like something I need to keep an eye out for"

    ^^; It's pretty much a comedy book with humor skewing towards the darker. The new ongoing got me by making a very problematic character* less so. I really hope it'll turn out okay ("Please don't be well meaning but misguided!"). ^^;

    * Big Bertha. She basically had a superpower that included a super eating disorder. Apparently the new writer wants to go the body acceptance route while acknowledging how hard it is to defy societal expectations.

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