2.23.2011

Kenholic Weekly #4: Marvel and DC at War for my Freetime Edition

Did anyone else watch Kore wa Zombie episode 07? Not only did they introduce a pretty crazy Santa, they also tried to explain how String Theory can be used to produce a pork ramen soup capable of dispelling evil monsters. Love that anime. Anyways, I also got my FLCL Blu Ray today, and I'm very excited to watch it again for the first time in many years. I think the last time I watched it, I was still into comic books big time.

And so I wonder why, after years of languishing on my attention radar, Marvel and DC have suddenly both rebounded. Maybe it's been all the high profile movies over the past few years, but movies have the least impact on me in terms of dominating my mental space. I rarely obsess over them (except for the awesomeness that is Bad Boys II) and mostly talk about them in passing or when movie topics come up casually. For me, movies are just a lower tier of entertainment when compared to anime or games or comic books/manga (or even sports ... movies do edge out over music though). But when DC and Marvel decided to go head to head in the video game space, my consciousness literally went back 6 or 7 years.

What I'm alluding to is the recent time I spent on the DC Universe MMO Beta on PSN and the big chunk of my President's day weekend that I spent on Marvel vs. Capcom 3. And then I realized that nothing has really changed in my preference between the two. With a few exceptions, Marvel is just generally more interesting on a per average character basis. Watching Spiderman trying to make ends meet while having to save a thankless city is a dozen times better than watching Superman trying to figure out whether he should eat lunch and then save the world or save the world and then eat lunch. This isn't completely fair though, because really awesome things do happen in the DC universe (the best involving alternate Supermen) about once every 5 years, which I'll get to later.

As I mentioned last week, Batman is one of the few exceptions for DC; Green Lantern too - I saw the Hal Lantern lose his city, his sanity, and then try to destroy the universe, while the newer Kyle Lantern lost his girl (smashed by a supervillain) and his various part time jobs in a very Spiderman like fashion. But again, those are few are far between. The Marvel greats features the likes of Captain America (who is a very angry person, btw), Wolverine (also an angry person), Deadpool, but even more so, equally great villains like Magneto, Venom, and Doctor Doom. The Marvel villains stand out because their motivations and origins are of a different complexity; given the right circumstances, some of them even switch allegiances.

Forget the frenemy rivalries between Magneto/Professor X, Spiderman/Venom, Wolverine/everybody; just the magnitude of depth for these villains is so much greater. DC has Lex Luthor and Joker, but just think about it. Magneto is a war orphan who is fighting a war for mutant rights the only way he knows how. Lex Luthor is a rich business man who has a superiority complex over Superman? Carnage is a crazy madman who shared a jail cell with Venom and inherited the spawn of his alien symbiote suit, which in turn had inherited the strength of Spiderman + Venom. Joker is just a crazy madman who fell in a vat of acid? Apocalypse is an ancient Egyptian mutant augmented with both alien tech + tech from the future, who got his mantra of survival of the fittest by fighting rebellions against equally ancient and oppressive Egyptian dynasties. Darkseid (DC) is evil because he grew up on an evil planet and his parents didn't love him enough ... sigh. Braniac (DC) actually has a chance, but I lost interest after his character got retconned for the tenth time. Seriously though, entire mini-series have been dedicated to the origins and adventures of some of Marvel's most powerful villians, and they are genuinely interesting. A book on the origins/adventures of the Penguin would surely be a worst seller. The list goes on and on.

What DC does manage to do right, are the universe level crossovers. What DC lacks in details for its roster of superheroes, it makes up for it in sheer variation of these heroes. Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), Zero Hour (1994), Infinite Crisis (2005), and Final Crisis (2008) are on my list of top comic events; they continue the same storyline and explore the existence of alternate universes in the DC universe. I know I was bagging on the bajillion versions of Braniac earlier, but this series actually solves a lot of the continuity issues that plagues DC while expanding on the possibilities of alternate versions of the superheroes we know and love. You can read all about it on Wikipedia but the summaries usually involve Supermen of different multiverses (Earth Two and Earth Prime are popular ones) fighting some cosmic being or threat. I just love it when something appears and requires an army of Supermen to fight, because it finally provides a sense of danger and scale thats lacking when dealing with regular Superman stories. Seriously, I've never seen so many dead or dying Lois Lanes in any other format. The various Supergirls (who also tend to die) come from these alternate universes as well. I like Zero Hour especially, because it ties in with Hal Jordan's descent into madness, along with his desire to restart the big bang and recreate all the multiverses to his liking, although it features less alternate flagship heroes than the others. This big bang theory was again attempted by Superman Prime in Infinite Crisis.

Surprisingly, of all the other DC Superheroes, the Flash usually plays a critical role in each of these comics because of his ultimate ability to run up to the speed of light, which enables his character to circumvent all sorts of space/time relativity mumbo jumbo. I'm convinced that the Flash(es) are like the secret gods of the DC universe even if they aren't immortal. They die and get old like normal heroes do, but they can also exist at any given time and place because they move freely around the timestream/multiverses, although they don't normally because it's not in their best interests to play around with time/space too much, especially since their characters aren't the thinking types (that's what Batman is for).

Bleh, I can continue this discussion for hours, but I'm gonna cut this session short here. No offense to the Adam Warlock and the Infinity Gauntlet, but let's just say that Marvel has nothing on DC when it comes to multiverse anomalies - unless you count Marvel vs. Capcom, mwhahaha. Finally in speeding through the history of DC multiverses, there's one particular character that I mentioned that I think is worthy of a top superhero/supervillain of all time status - alongside Spawn, Batman Earth One Version [ha, you see what I did to your sense of comic book knowledge? from now on, you will always have to ask for version clarification whenever anyone brings up a DC superhero; for extra comic book street creds, you'd also have to inquire about the pre/post crisis I/II versions, but we can let that slide for now], Wolverine, etc; but because of his obscurity AND inobscurity, it would only cause confusion if I were to simply reveal his identity. So I think I'll save him for next week instead! Yay!

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