28 October 2006

The Many Foes of Spider-Man - Hobgoblin

Just in time for Halloween, its Hobby, the Hobgoblin.

During Spidermams' history there has been no shortage of goblins. Among his goblin foes have been several incarnations of the Hobgoblin, who is himself, a variant on the Green Goblin. The following comes mostly from wikipedia:

The first Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley, started out as a millionaire fashion designer. He had criminal underworld connections and had acquired his wealth through unethical means. An associate of his discovered the secret lair of Norman Osborn. and reported his discovery to Kingsley in hopes of earning a reward. Kingsley rewarded Hill by killing him to make sure that no one else got wind of the discovery.

Kingsley decided to adopt the legacy of the Green Goblin dubbing himself the Hobgoblin. His activities included using some of Norman Osborn's files on prominent figures to blackmail them, and attempting to buy Osborn's old corporation and merge it with his own. These schemes inevitably brought him into conflict with Spider-Man. Kingsley perceived Spider-Man as a nuisance and sought to eliminate him almost as an afterthought, rather than a principal goal. Kingsley lacked only Norman Osborns strength-enhancing formula, and could not match Spiderman physically.

Kingsley eventually recovered the strength-enhancing potion he sought. Being aware that the formula had driven Osborn insane, Kingsley first tested it on someone else. He tricked a small-time hood in his employ, Lefty Donovan, into administering the formula and then used mind control to force Donovan to fight Spider-Man in the Hobgoblin costume. From a distance, Kingsley carefully monitored Donovan's vital signs and behavior. When Spider-Man overwhelmed and unmasked Donovan, and his brainwashing begin to fail, Kingsley acted quickly to protect his identity by programming Donovan's glider to crash, instantly killing him. Though Donovan's tenure as a Hobgoblin was brief, he is considered the second Hobgoblin. Judging that the experiment was a success, Kingsley then immersed himself in his completed derivative of the Goblin formula and gained slightly greater strength than even the original Green Goblin had.

Now that he had become a physical match for Spider-Man, the Hobgoblin became more ambitious in his villainy. Despite his increased abilities, he was still narrowly defeated by Spider-Man. Worse still, he seemed to have attracted the attention of powerful criminal interests who perceived him as a threat, among these the infamous Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime. After a bitter encounter with Spider-Man, Kingsley discovered he had been followed by Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds, who had discovered his lair. Kingsley carefully brainwashed Ned Leeds with hypnosis and hallucinogenics into becoming the third Hobgoblin, who acted in concert with Kingsley. Though Leeds lacked superhuman strength, he was effective in his role due to his investigative skills. Kingsley also discovered that Leeds had been working with the Kingpin's son, Richard Fisk, on a plan to bring down the Kingpin and his empire. Richard Fisk had now adopted the identity of the Rose and posed as a crimelord. Kingsley used Leeds to handle some of the negotiations, fooling many into believing that Leeds was the Hobgoblin. He hoped to use the Kingpin's downfall as an opportunity to advance his own interests.

However, as time progressed, the Rose and Hobgoblin's plan got out of hand. Kingsley wanted to escape from his identity, looked for a way out, and decided to target Flash Thompson, a vocal advocate of Spider-Man who had insulted the Hobgoblin on national television, incurring Kingsley's wrath. Kingsley attempted to frame Thompson as the Hobgoblin, so that his criminal enemies might target him instead. The plan was foiled through intervention of Jason Philip Macendale Jr., who subsequently broke Thompson out of jail. Jason Philip Macendale Jr. was a mercenary who had been trained by the CIA and various para-military organizations, and was known in his costumed identity as Jack O'Lantern. When Macendale discovered that Thompson was not the Hobgoblin, he grew furious; he had planned to operate "under the radar" while Thompson was in custody. Thompson was ultimately exonerated and released.

Macendale paid the supervillain known as the Foreigner to take Leeds out. On an overseas assignment with Peter Parker, Leeds was murdered in his hotel room. As Spider-Man, Peter was later told by the Kingpin that Leeds had been the Hobgoblin and shown a series of photos of the assassination. Although known in parts of the underworld, this information did not become public until many years later when Macendale revealed it at the end of his trial. For many years Leeds was considered to be the original Hobgoblin. Kingsley's plan had worked: his enemies thought they had killed the Hobgoblin and now he could take his ill-gotten gains and retire to Belize. This paved the way for Macendale to take up the role, an unforeseen development that would eventually force Kingsley out of retirement to protect his secret identity (Macendale had enough information to possibly lead the authorities to discover the true identity of the Hobgoblin).

After a retirement of several years, Kingsley returned to New York. He killed Macendale in his jail cell, declaring that he alone deserved the mantle of the Hobgoblin. However, this act was probably more motivated to protect his own identity. Had he then dropped the identity again, it is likely he never would have been caught. But being the Hobgoblin again proved to be too intoxicating. Kingsley kidnapped Betty Brant and set a trap for Spider-Man. In the final fracas, Daniel Kingsley was captured and the Hobgoblin was unmasked, clearing Ned Leeds' name. Roderick Kingsley was taken to prison.

Not long after Kingsley's arrest, he took up the mantle of the Hobgoblin once more. Furious at the now returned Norman Osborn's denial of being the Green Goblin, Kingsley decided to spread rumours that there existed a secret journal of Osborn's that proved beyond a doubt that he was the Green Goblin. He offered to barter for his freedom with this information with the District Attorney, guessing that Norman Osborn would try to get to him first. As he anticipated, Osborn, deciding to make a deal with Kingsley, broke him out of prison. Kingsley was then confronted by both Osborn and the mysterious fifth Green Goblin. Osborn provided Kingsley with new Hobgoblin equipment, and both Goblins swooped in to collect Daniel Kingsley, now in protective custody, who, Roderick claimed, knew the location of the final journal. Spider-Man tried to defend Daniel, but was drugged, and both men were taken back to Norman Osborn.

It was then that Osborn revealed the truth. He explained that he knew that Kingsley was lying about the journal and that he had completely bought Kingsley's company out from underneath him. Furious, Kingsley attacked, and a titanic battle between the two followed, Osborn as the Green Goblin, and Kingsley as the Hobgoblin. The building began to burn down as a result, and Spider-Man was barely able to safely escape with Daniel Kingsley. All three of the villains managed to escape as well, but Norman Osborn appeared to emerge victorious from the ordeal. Yet, Kingsley still had several million dollars hidden away in foreign bank accounts, and quietly moved to a small island in the Caribbean to enjoy his retirement. Although he did wonder to himself, while sipping a martini, whether someday the Hobgoblin would return...

Thus ends the tale of the Hobgoblin, for now.

Villain Profiles:

the Beetle
Black Cat
the Chameleon
Doctor Octopus
the Green Goblin

Spider-Man 3 debuts in 188 days!

Superheroes on Screen - Retrospective 2000

Following in the tradition of retrospectives past, behold, I bring you the superheroes on screen in 2000.


January brought the sequel no one asked for, The Crow: Salvation AKA The Crow 3 (There was also a short lived Canadian Television show The Crow: Stairway to Heaven in 1998 between Crows 2 & 3). This direct to video title stared current MJ, Kirsten Dunst, though she didn't get to be the one with the smeared mascara make-up. I am not sure how well this video sold, but there must have been some demand as The Crow: Wicked Prayer would follow in 2005. It seems those crows really are tough to kill.

In July, X-Men opened and rounded up an impressive $157 million box office, ushering in the current wave of comic book movies. Adapting the X-Men into a film had proven difficult, but director Bryan Singer was able to pull it off by focusing on a few of the most recognizable mutants. While Magneto and Mystique were good choices for villains, Toad and Sabretooth turned out to be fairly lame. This film is pretty good, but nowhere near as good as its sequel, which was given adequate time for all the characters involved. Also notable is that this movie has one of the worst lines of all time, "Do you know what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else." ZAP!

It is amazing that the X-Men series has proven so profitable for Fox, as they have never given it much respect. Everyone knows that X3 suffered from rushed production and last minute director changes, but so did the original X-Men. The film was to be a holiday release in 2000, but production was rushed for a July release date after Minority Report was pushed back. I just wonder how good this trilogy could have been if it had been treated as more than just a cash cow.

In November, M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, the anticipated follow-up to The Sixth Sense, opened. The film introduced comic book heroes and villains to a real world setting while maintaining the fantastic elements as well. Samuel Jackson's Mr. Glass is an awesome character, worthy of a seat next to Lex Luthor in the Legion of Doom. Bruce Willis's character is flawed, but proves to have a hero's heart. In my opinion, this is M. Night's best film, but movie goers looking too hard for big twists after the Sixth Sense were underwhelemed. In the end, Unbreakable still banked $95 million, a fair enough take. The new show Heroes seems to have taken a page out of Unbreakable's book with a similar treatment of flawed heroes in the real world. With the early success of Heroes, maybe the time is right for Unbreakable to be revisited. Originally, the idea was to make a trilogy of films with Mr Glass and David Dunn facing off in the final part. Hopefully, some day that showdown will be seen.

December brought forth a true gem, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. This direct-to-video release set in the Batman Beyond world featured a number of flashbacks to the time period of The New Batman Adventures when little Tim Drake was Robin. The film is very well done, and finds a way to bring back that pesky Joker for one last tale. This film was also a bit controversial as the original PG-13 cut was deemed too violent by WB suits. The film was edited down and softened up, but eventually (thanks to fan outcries) both cuts were released. I highly recommend the unedited cut for maximum entertainment.

2000 also brought 2 new animated series: Static Shock and X-Men: Evolution.

Static Shock was based on the Milestone Comic's character of the same name. Static AKA Virgil Ovid Hawkins an African American high school student in the fictional city of Dakota gained the power to manipulate electromagnetism after exposure to a mutagen. Others were exposed as well gained various powers, and came to be known as bang babies, most of which needed to be dealt with by Mr. Shock and his buddy Gear. Throughout the 52 episode run, there were a number of crossovers with DC characters including Batman, Superman, the Green Lantern, and the Justice League.

X-Men Evolution took the lead from X-Men the movie and reimagined many of the characters as teens in a mutant high school. In this continuity, Cyclops, Jean, Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Spyke went to school, and Wolverine and Storm were the grown-ups. As the series continued, a whole slew of X-Men were added to the cast building to an epic showdown with Apocalypse. While the show started slow, it really delivered by the end of its 52 episode run.

Previous Retrospectives

27 October 2006

Superheroes on Screen - (Full) Moon Knight

Marvel Studios has announced its intentions of creating a live-action television series based on Moon Knight. As announced by Superherohype.com:

First introduced by Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s, Moon Knight remains a true fan favorite as evidenced by the current best-selling comic book series featuring the Super Hero. Moon Knight presents the story of soldier of fortune Marc Spector. After an encounter with the Egyptian god of vengeance and the moon deity Konshu, he became a hero: Moon Knight. The encounter leaves the tormented Spector with even more inner demons to combat. Now as Moon Knight, he hunts criminals in the night, bringing them to justice, and striking fear in the hearts of criminals everywhere. Moon Knight's blend of action, the supernatural, and complex, intriguing characters will serve as the foundation for the live-action series.

Interesting. I wonder what size of audience this show could generate? Smallville does ok on primetime which translates to good for The CW, and it has freaking Superman. How large an audience can Moon Knight pull? Maybe it will be a new attempt fro Marvel to bring viewers to SpikeTV after the cancellation of Blade. I don't know much about Moony, but I will give him a chance. I look forward to hearing some more news on the matter.

26 October 2006

Superheroes on Screen - Superman WILL Return Again

Following up on Superman's $200 million box office feat, and wishes for a sequel comes an announcement From IESB.net

With Superman Returns breaking $200 Million domestically and a worldwide gross of over $390 million, Warner Bros. is moving forward with the sequel. ImageWeeks before the DVD has it'’s grandiose release, the IESB has learned that Bryan Singer has finalized a deal to move forward with the sequel this past weekend and the studio is planning to start production sometime next fall, possibly next September. When the IESB contacted a studio rep for comments we got this response - Warner Bros. does not comment on projects that are in development. A few calls later, other studio insiders confirmed that the deal was finalized last week and the team that brought Superman Returns to theaters earlier this year will return for the sequel. Image
We have been told that a couple of things are for certain. For one, the sequel will have a slightly smaller budget. Returns budget was approximately $208 million dollars with P&A (prints and ads) of about $50 million putting it at around $260. The sequel is expected to be around $140-175 million plus marketing.
Second, more action, tons more action is expected this time around.

The studio was quite happy with the way Supes was reintroduced to the world and next time around expect to see him in full action battle mode. WeÂ’ve been told that Superman will have the battle of his life in the sequel and audiences can expect one of the ultimate baddies in the D.C. universe to come to Metropolis to pick a fight with the Man of Steel.

There you have it, so far so good. So who will Mr. Superman face? Could it be Darkseid after all?

25 October 2006

Superheroes on Screen - Should Superman Return Again?

Readers of this site are aware that I have been closely following the box office of Superman Returns which last weekend squeaked past $200 million. I have also been pulling for a Superman Returns sequel, but I have been less vocal about what I want in the sequel. For the record, I think Warners does care a lot about their flagship DC heroes. Batman Begins and Superman Returns were expensive films with lots of power given to the directors. They were not given the quick-and-dirty milking treatment that Fox gave to Marvel's Fantastic Four and X3. They were also more character than action driven, though Superman could have used a bit more flash. I also believe the films were intended to be true to the characters. Anyhow, here is my take on the Superman Returns situation.

First, let me say that I enjoyed many parts of Superman Returns.
-The jet rescue scene was amazing.
-For the most part, I enjoyed all of the actors.
-Lex Luthor was better than I expected him to be.
-Overall, the filming was cinematic, beautiful, and epic. I also would like to see the dangling plot threads tied up, so I guess I was drawn into the characters.

But there were several things that I did not like.
-The whole Superkid seems like a gimmick that did not pay off.
-Call me old fashioned, but isn't Superman supposed to be a boy scout? How many boy scouts would engage in extra marital relations, and then skip out on child support? If any superhero was to have a bastard child, I wish it would have been someone other than the Man of Steel.
-Superman seemed too mopey throughout the film, and his behavior bordered on stalking. He has amazing abilities, and he doesn't even enjoy them (I did like his scene as a kid on the farm, actually smiling when testing his abilities). He spent an awful lot of time using his powers for invading Lois' privacy when he could have been fighting crime.
-The real-estate plot was laughable. Who would buy a lot of radioactive crystal shard island? And while Luthor was portrayed better than the Gene Hackman character, why did they have to do Luthor, and only Luthor again? There have been 5 modern era Batman films, and thus far, none of the villains have been reused (He has faced 10 major villains). This is a tad extreme, but in 5 films, Superman has only faced 2 real foes (Lex and Zod), a computer, and a nuclear abortion. The only reason people think Lex is the only real bad guy to choose is simply because audiences have never seen anyone else.
-Where were the super smackdowns. One limitation of Lex is that one punch would kill him. In Superman Returns, Superman did not throw a single punch. All he did was lift things. Granted lifting a continent is impressive, but still...
-Superman Returns was supposed to be an unofficial sequel to Superman I and II, but it was more of a remake. Similar plot points (jet rescue, villainess goes soft, ridiculous real-estate scheme, near drowning because of kryptonite), and direct quotes were lifted from the originals and inserted here (flying is still the safest way to travel).
-The character of Superman has changed since 1978, but this film threw all that growth right out and went the retro route.

Anyhow, now that a Superman Returns follow up in 2009 seems fairly likely, I am left to decide if I would rather see Superman Returns 2, or a whole new take on the character. I can say that I think I would have preferred a fresh take to what Superman Returns turned out to be, but since that film now exists, I think I would like to see it have a direct sequel. Part of my support comes from how well Singer's X2 built upon X-Men. I hope Bryan has some Aces up his sleeves that will pay off in the next film. Still, there are some requests I would like to make for Superman Returns 2.
-Kill the Superkid. Give Superman a long and lasting reason to be angry with a formidable enemy.
-Speaking of formidable foes, please bring in someone new. I have a hunch we will see General Zod, which is better than just Lex, but now that Superman I has been remade, can we please do without the Superman II remake. Why not bring in Metallo, Brainiac, Doomsday, or the Parasite, or even a different Kryptonian (while Darkseid would be an ideal foe, I cannot see him working in this continuity)? At least let Superman engage in an epic battle where he can unleash and be unrestrained. And AT LEAST let him throw a punch.
-Let Superman be happy. What kid hasn't dreamed of being Superman. It can't all be bad can it?
-Let the villain be evil, not a Donald Trump knock off. And let them have a decent scheme (even the Batman Begins microwave laser plot was a little shaky).
-Resolve the love triangle, though I can't see a good way to get rid of Cyclops (unless he somehow turns out to be an alcoholic, or a jerk for no explained reason) that won't make Superman look like the bad guy.

For the most part, I think that while audiences may not have loved it, they enjoyed Superman Returns. It just lacked the pizzaz to get people really excited. The formula was a tad stale, beholden to a 30 year old film (granted Superman I is a classic). Superman Returns took chances, but in the wrong areas. Superman should be a moral compass, not a deadbeat dad. And he is the most powerful guy in the galaxy, lets see what he can do (other than how much he can lift). Lastly, the sequel could use better money management. While $200 million isn't record breaking, it is a huge sum of cash... unless you spent $250 million making the movie. I don't care if a film costs a lot, but money was wasted on finalizing effects in long sequences that were cut from the film, and really not every scene needs to have a CG Superman. They did hire an actor for the role after all. If the film had cost even $175 million, the ridiculous calling of the film a "bomb" would die down. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you still have a chance, and why not see it in IMAX 3D?

24 October 2006

Ink Blots XXXV - Blood: The Last Vampire

Blood: The Last Vampire is an anime produced in 2000 by a division of Sony. I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with a film being short (or long for that matter) as long as the run-time is justified by its contents. At 48 minutes, Blood is dang short considering the number of unaddressed plot points left lingering. Now, not everything always needs to be wrapped up with a nice little bow on top, but in the case of Blood, the film was intentionally and abruptly cut short to pave the way for a sequel on the Sony Playstation 2. That sort of drug-dealer mentality of giving a cheap first fix, then jacking up the price does not sit well for me. Even if I wanted to see the continuation of the saga, I would be out of luck since I am currently Playstationless. Anyhow, I will go ahead and give my thoughts on the 48 minute "feature."

The film takes place in a school on an American military base in Japan in 1966, during the Vietnam War. The mysterious Saya (who never gets any development) is a Vampire that works with agents to hunt down shapeshifting demons, which in this film, happen to be posing as high school girls preparing for the big Halloween bash. Posing as a student, Saya tracks down these creatures and unleashes her katana on them in a gory blood splashing showdown.

Blood looks fantastic. The realistic animation style seamlessly incorporates 2D and 3D animation. The images are quite gruesome, but there is mostly blood shown and not too many guts. The action of this film is great, but there is no plot in between. Also, the first 5 to 10 minutes of the film raise a lot of points that are never dealt with. In the beginning, much is made of one of Saya's hits being human, not a demon. But then the scene just breaks. It really would be nice to have learned a bit about this supposed "Last Vampire," but basically, we only ever learn her name. We never even see her vamp out, she might as well be a werewolf, or even a plain old ninja.

One notable thing about this film is that the dialogue is split between English and Japanese, making for a sense of realism given the setting. Overall, Blood: The Last Vampire was interesting to watch, and pretty intense though ultimately it was unfulfilling. I would love to score Blood a high grade, but I have to offer up a mere B-.

23 October 2006

Superheroes on Screen - Super Box Office Feat

Proving that the Man of Steel is the mightiest of heroes, Superman Returns has accomplished a task that many deemed impossible. While $200 million may not be the huge take that cigar smoking Hollywood big-wigs hoped for, it is nonetheless a symbolic accomplishment that will do much to ensure a sequel to Superman Returns get a greenlight for 2009.

Originally, Superman Returns was to open on Friday, June 30, Superman was moved forward to maximize earning before facing off against Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (which exceeded all expectations). Wednesday and Thursday showings brought in $32 million, less than hoped for. By the time Sunday ended, the film had only earned back $85 million of its $200+ million budget. By comparison, X-Men the Last Stand earned over $100 million in its opening weekend alone, during a pre-summer period, adding another $20 million on Memorial Day.

While $85 million is a decent sum, Superman Returns was yet to face real competition, and comic book adaptations are usually quite front loaded (with Batman Begins being a rare exception). Some predicted Supes would top out between $150 and $170 million. Critics were quick to cite "super-kid," sequel to 20 year old movie, Lex Luthor again, and lack of action as reasons for the underperformance. Others pointed to Batman Begin's slow but steady performance as a possible model for Supes (Batman earned $73 million by the end of its first Sunday, and went on to earn $205.3 million).

On its second weekend, now facing pirate-mania, Supes added only $22 million to its take for a $142 million total. Not only was this a steep drop, but Superman had already fallen behind the day to day earnings of Batman.

Over the next few weekends, Superman's weekends consistently dropped, though IMAX earning remained strong. By the end of July, Superman had earned $185 million - more than the most negative critics had expected, but with the number of screens showing the film dropping to show other new summer flicks, $200 million still seemed far away.

At the end of August, Superman was still in theatres, but earning less than $100,000 a day. Totaling now $195 million, Supes was closing in on the symbolic figure, but victory was still uncertain. Supes had not only fallen behind Batman's daily total at this point, but had fallen more than $5.3 million behind meaning that Superman would have to out earn Batman for the remainder of its run to reach $200 million.

Through September, Superman continued to lose pace to Batman, and only slowly crept upward at about $20 to $30 thousand a day. But as September came to a close, a marvel occurred. Superman opened big in the dollar theatres. While the pace was still slow, Superman needed only about $1 million more and was earning $200 to $300 thousand a weekend. All of a sudden, $200 million seemed not only likely, but just a matter of time.

Finally, on day 117 of release, Superman finally made it. While the film never did reclaim its budget during theatrical release, DVD sales, worldwide box office and profitable toys will likely ensure an eventual profit for the movie. Like the movie or not, this was a fun race to follow, and one of the slowest films ever to reach the $200 million mark.

Superman Returns still needs $0 to reach $200 Million

22 October 2006

Transformers Protoforms Revealed

Following up on the Transformers Movie Pics, here is a peek at the Proto forms of Optimus Prime and Starscream as represented by their toys. Wow, this movie just keeps looking better and better. /* end sarcasm*/