Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fanholes Episode # 41: Nooo, the Venom!


This episode, the gang talks Warehouse 13, then three of the Fanholes give their thoughts on titles of DC's New 52 they were dared to read, followed by two roundtable discussions on favorite non-sentai live-action Japanese TV shows and favorite movie tie-in video games.

Fanholes Episode # 41: Nooo, the Venom!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fanholes Sidecast #15 - Fortress Maximus Has Come Himself!

Fanholes regulars Tony (Chainclaw), Mike (Thunderwing), Derek (derekwc) and Justin (Grimlock) give commentary on the episode of Transformers: Headmasters titled "I Risk My Life For Earth."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fanholes Side Story: A Fighting Man of Mars part 2

In the fall of 2010 Dynamite launched Warlord of Mars, an adaption of the first novel A Princess of Mars. As with most Dynamite comics there are many variant covers to collect. Not only that, but some also contain nudity (referred to as 'risque' covers)...just a little fore warning. I guess I should go ahead and inform those who are unaware...the people of Barsoom don't care very much for clothing.

As for the comic, it stays faithful to the spirit of the novel. There are some changes of course. In the novel John Carter hides in a cave from Indians. This element remains in the comic though there is an added sequence where John Carter and a buddy get into a gunfight with 'Yankee' soldiers beforehand.

If you're looking for a good place to start i'd recommend the Warlord of Mars series. It's a quick and easy way to become familiar with these characters and perhaps if you're curious about the upcoming movie, maybe test the waters and see if this is something you'd enjoy. It is a very decompressed story though, and I do suggest getting the trades.

With the success of the Warlord of Mars series Dynamite launched several others. Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris is about the adventures of John Carter's princess...only these stories take place hundreds of years before Carter arrives on Mars. Personally, i've really enjoyed this series. It does much to fill in some of the gaps Burroughs left, such as the prolonged conflict between Greater and Lesser Helium. There are lots of 'easter eggs' for older fans as well.

Going beyond even that series is Fall of Barsoom which takes place 100,000 years before Carter. This series shows us the separation of the various races that live on Barsoom, as well as the origin of the oxygen facility among other things. This series is one i'd recommend only for those who are already very familiar with Barsoomian continuity.

The latest series is Warriors of Mars, which sees Gullivar Jones from the novel Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (sometimes known as Gulliver of Mars) by Edwin Lester Arnold meeting John Carter. Some press blurbs state this is the first time these characters meet. Not so. In the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen during the prologue on Mars Carter and Jones meet.

These comics are, of course, not the only adaptions out there. There was a series published by Dell and Gold Key in the 60s, and the previously mentioned Marvel series. Dark Horse also released the Tarzan/John Carter crossover comic. Which, aside from a few minor story elements, was pretty enjoyable. Overall it felt like something Burroughs himself could have wrote.

So, if you're curious about the upcoming film I always recommend reading the novel. If books aren't your thing then pick up the Warlord of Mars series. Ultimately, there is a reason these characters and stories have been around for 100 years and have inspired so many people in the entertainment industry.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fanholes Sidecast # 14 - Finite Boob Windows!

Fanholes regulars Tony (Chainclaw), Derek (derekwc), Mike (Thunderwing) and Justin (Grimlock) give commentary on the upcoming DC comic book series Before Watchmen, Earth 2, and World's Finest.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fanholes Side Story: A Fighting Man of Mars part 1

On March 9th the film John Carter will be released. Many people may not be aware of the fact that the title character has been around for one hundred years now. In the February 1912 issue of All-Story Magazine the story Under the Moons of Mars was published. This would mark the first appearance of John Carter, his lovely princess Dejah Thoris, and the fearsome green Martian Tars Tarkas.

Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan, his story was published under the pen name Norman Bean because he was afraid such an outlandish story would not be well received. Not only was it well received but Burroughs would go on to write a total of eleven books in what is called the Barsoom series. Barsoom being the native term for the planet Mars. These stories would show up in pulps for years. During the 60s and 70s the works of Burroughs were reprinted in paperback form with beautiful covers by Frank Frazetta.

While watching the trailer for John Carter if you felt it was similar to Avatar you would be correct. Many filmmakers and authors were inspired by the Barsoom novels. Among then, James Cameron, George Lucas, Ray Bradbury, and Carl Sagan just to name a few. My first exposure was to the Marvel John Carter, Warlord of Mars comic series.

A film version has been in the works since 1931, which must be a record. In 2009 there was a direct to dvd version released by The Asylum staring Traci Lords...and being an Asylum production I avoided it like the plague. Despite just now becoming a motion picture the Barsoom stories have lived on in one form or another over the years in comic books. There was even a crossover with Tarzan several years ago.

These days you can find the adventures of John Carter in one of various Dynamite comics. There is also an officially licensed comic line from Marvel. Confused? Several of the Barsoom novels are public domain, meaning anyone can adapt them. The Marvel series is officially endorsed and licensed by the Burroughs Estate. In the next installment we will take a look at several of these comics.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fanholes Side Story: Justice That Is Not Entirely Dissimilar To Lightning

I love the Thunderbolts. This is no secret.

Back when I was about ten or eleven years old, I realized I didn’t have to rely on hand-me-down back issues from my older cousin anymore. I could in fact actually go to a comic store and buy NEW comics right off the rack. For a time, I mostly stuck with Transformers, Spider-Man and the occasional X-Men stuff.

Thunderbolts was probably the first step off that narrow path for me. During a regular trip to my local comic store back in 1997, the owner shoved a copy of Thunderbolts # 1 at me and said “This is awesome, kid. Read it.”

Not wanting to appear uncool in a comic shop of all places, I meekly nodded and added it to the pile of stuff I had plonked down on the counter. I got home with my dozen or so comics and set to reading. Once I finished all my Spider-Man and X-Men stuff, I hesitantly picked up T-Bolts # 1 and began reading.

I was familiar with the Avengers, I had a small stack of back issues from my cousin, but they had never really grabbed me as a team the way the X-Men did. So this new team of superheroes kinda seemed a bit like something I wasn’t going to like as much.

But then, it happened.

I got to the end of Thunderbolts # 1, and I don’t think many people would begrudge me labeling it one of the best “Shock!” endings in comic book history. Most especially in a time when the Internet wasn’t so firmly entrenched in American society and surprises like that were spoiled long before the actual issue was released, often times by the company releasing them!

Luckily, the small stack of Avengers back issues I owned included a couple parts of the “Under Siege” storyline, where the Masters of Evil stormed and took over Avengers mansion. So I was quite familiar with Zemo, Moonstone, Fixer, Goliath, and Screaming Mimi. And of course, being the Spider-Man fan I was, how could I not know the Beetle? The Thunderbolts were wolves in sheep’s clothing, and it blew my pre-teen mind.

I was hooked. I had to know more. I went back to the comic shop a few days later and asked if there were any more issues of T-Bolts. Turns out they were about to issue # 6 at that point, and the store didn’t have all of the released issues. I walked out with only # 3 and # 5. But I vowed to follow it month to month from that point on.

And I did. Until about issue # 30 or so. That was about when comic books started to be not so important to me anymore, and other things, like baseball, video games, and girls started to occupy my time.

I didn’t get back into comics for several years after that. But when I finally did, Thunderbolts was near the top of my list for jumping back into. By that time, it had been “re-launched” as New Thunderbolts, and I had missed quite a lot of storyline. I believe it was the summer of 2005, that I went on a slightly-mad quest to acquire every last single Thunderbolts story that I had missed since issue # 30. I raided every comic book store I knew for back issues, and ordered the rest online. And I did it. I jumped onto New Thunderbolts at issue # 7, and managed to catch up on EVERY-freakin’-thing by issue # 12.

So there we are. And here are my top FIVE favorite T-Bolts tales!

(And one honorable mention, of course!)


-Honorable Mention-
(This would probably take the number 6 spot on my list.)

Thunderbolts # 116-121 (“Caged Angels”)
Written by Warren Ellis
Drawn by Mike Deodato

Warren Ellis’ second story arc on T-Bolts. Having already proven to have a good handle on the characters in the previous arc (and dispelling some fears that EVERYTHING would be irrevocably altered), Ellis delivered this gem of a story.

A quartet of psychics imprisoned in the bowels of T-Bolts Mountain start affecting everyone’s mind in different ways. Mac Gargan completely gives into the Venom symbiote’s cannibalistic influence, eating his way through the mountain. The Swordsman, Andreas Von Strucker, suddenly adopts his Nazi father’s ideology again and stages an attempted coup. Radioactive Man decides to give everyone cancer with his powers because, quote- “Cancer can be fun, you get drugs”.

(Thankfully, R-Man is rendered unconscious before he can go any further with that.)

But the true awesomeness of this arc lies in one Norman Osborn, and a scene that is probably in the top three epic moments for the character. We had all been waiting for him to finally snap, suit up, and become the Green Goblin again since he became director of the ‘Bolts.

Warren Ellis does not disappoint in this absolutely hilarious (and creepy) “transformation” as Norman gets into character again.

It all leads up to a fairly kickass battle between former and present T-Bolts leaders, Songbird and Norman. Ellis treats both fairly and doesn’t discount Songbird just because Norman’s the “star” of the book now. And Norman shows why he’s so dangerous and can stand up to someone with more varied abilities. An earlier fight in the arc between Swordsman and Venom is also handled with similar grace. There’s also a subplot with Doc Samson counseling Robbie “Penance/Speedball” Baldwin that is both surprisingly compelling and amusing.

The arc is excellently rendered by Mike Deodato, who draws an absolutely awesome and creepy Green Goblin.

In the end, lots of people had doubts when Civil War reordered the Thunderbolts portion of the Marvel Universe, but I for one thought Warren Ellis exceeded expectations with this arc. Which is exactly why it is on this list and why I’ll always remember it fondly.

5. Thunderbolts # 45-50 (Conclusion of the “nano-probe” saga)
Written by Fabien Nicieza
Drawn by Mark Bagley and Patrick Zircher

This is the end of the first major “outlaw” era of T-Bolts, for the most part. After this arc, most all of them were “lawfully” pardoned for their crimes, although their personal quests for redemption would continue.

This arc has a number of major events and is the culmination of several plot points built up since Fabien Nicieza took the title over from Kurt Busiek, and even some of Busiek’s threads.

We’ve got…Techno and Atlas “dying”, Jolt and Fixer being resurrected, the mystery of Moonstone’s gem solved, ties to Avengers Forever with Genis-Vel guest-starring, Scourge’s identity being revealed, Hawkeye’s deception of the team being revealed, Scourge’s identity being revealed AGAIN, the mastermind of the nano-probe conspiracy being revealed, then unrevealed, then revealed again…aggggggh, the list goes on.

We’ve also got the introduction of a new government-sponsored Thunderbolts-styled team called the “Redeemers”, who are staffed with several characters that possess ties to the original Thunderbolts, led by the real Citizen V (although later revealed, not really).

It’s a lot to take in, but fortunately, Fabien Nicieza handles it all quite well. Both Atlas and Techno’s “deaths” (and I have to use the term loosely) are handled with appropriate weight and drama, as are the resurrections. The action and the fight scenes are awesome as always, either when drawn by T-Bolts stalwart Mark Bagley or newcomer Patrick Zircher.

The only nag I’d have to address is that the “real” power behind the nano-probe conspiracy doesn’t even properly appear in the story. His threat is fully-met in the first Citizen V mini-series that was released the month after T-Bolts # 50, which while still “Bolts-related”, is still kinda weak. This story as a whole isn’t really meant for Thunderbolts virgins in any case.

But, for those who have been following along, this is a fine conclusion to this particular “era” of Thunderbolts, and a great setup for the following era.

4. Thunderbolts # 39 (“Black Hearts”)
Written by Fabien Nicieza
Drawn by Mark Bagley

Quite probably the best “fight!” issue of Thunderbolts. Nearly the entire issue is spent with a one-on-one duel between Baron Helmut Zemo and Scourge, the mysterious killer who has been targeting the T-Bolts.

As our (surprisingly-charismatic to a point) protagonist, Zemo is the one trying to outwit death, trying to stave off an opponent who will not stop until he is finished. I mean, the dude’s a Nazi, yet you initially can’t help but hope he outmaneuvers his versatile and relentless opponent.

Until of course, they reach a certain room in Zemo’s castle. Then you really want Scourge to nail the creep.

Heh, kinda funny how this scene plays now in light of current day continuity, huh?

This is a great issue, an excellent fight scene, drawn in all its hot-blooded glory by Mark Bagley.

3. Thunderbolts # 1 (“Justice…Like Lightning”)
Written by Kurt Busiek
Drawn by Mark Bagley

Not much to say here, except what I had said above. Obviously one of the greatest twist endings in comic history, but also a great inaugural issue in general.

We’re introduced to our protagonists, plot threads are seeded, and a couple of awesome fight scenes takes place with the Rat Pack and the Wrecking Crew. The Wrecking Crew have largely been made into chumps over the past few years (goddamn Bandis!), but they’re handled as a serious physical threat here (they almost take out the Statue of Liberty!) and they’re defeated in a clever manner.

So the day is saved and everyone’s happy! These guys are real heroes! Then comes the last two pages, and BAM!

Now, I know that experienced and well-read comic readers of the time probably saw the clues and figured out the game (or some of it) beforehand. The T-Bolts had shown up in an issue of Hulk some time prior, and dropped enough hints that a hardcore Avengers fan could probably make some educated guesses.

But me? I was a naive pre-teen, with less than a dozen Avengers comics to my name, and still largely-unschooled in the art of reading between the lines. I took most of the things I read at face value. Even the stuff that made no sense. Which, in the thick of the 90s Spider-Man and X-Men stories, was a lot of stuff. It was a more innocent time.

Thunderbolts ruined me. Now I had to analyze every comic I read! Now I had to feverishly piece together and predict what was going to happen in comics that were months away from release! There was a significant phrase, a sinister motive in every word bubble!

I would not be fooled again! And I have Thunderbolts # 1 to thank/blame for it.

2. Thunderbolts # 56-58 (Return of the Thunderbolts)
Written by Fabien Nicieza
Drawn by Patrick Zircher

After T-Bolts # 50, the original team disbanded, most of them having received official government pardons for their criminal activities. From issues #51-56, the book starred the Redeemers (introduced in the aforementioned issue # 50), with Jolt and Charcoal added to the team. Captain America led them for a handful of issues before Citizen V reclaimed leadership of the squad.

The original T-Bolts remained cast members of the book, obviously. Moonstone, in particular, took on a new “job” as the personal psychiatrist of noted Avengers (and Thunderbolts by this point) villain Graviton.

Of course, things get out of hand and Graviton, being an egotistical madman, decides to seek revenge on the Thunderbolts (who were responsible for his last defeat) before enacting his latest plan to…TAKE OVER THE WORLD! (Cue dramatic flourish)

When he zips over to find them, however, he instead finds the Redeemers, who were operating out of the T-Bolts old HQ. Deciding that he may as well get his bloodlust on, Graviton utterly slaughters the Redeemers, killing Charcoal, Jolt, Scream, Meteorite, Smuggler, and Beetle. Citizen V manages to escape, and Moonstone convinces the Fixer to join up with Team Graviton.

Some of those characters “got better”, some didn’t. Charcoal, in particular, can apparently never be resurrected as he was, thanks to some legal snafus involving his creation (he was the product of a fan-created character contest). Frankly, most of the Redeemers weren’t around long enough to really get super-attached to them, but one certainly feels bad when you see how horribly most of them got killed. (Especially Beetle, youch.)

So anyhow, Graviton goes about enacting his plan. All super-powered opposition to him is gravimetrically-restrained and kept floating a mile above the earth. The Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil…all of them. (Funny how everyone continued their exploits unabated in their own books though. That’s Marvel continuity for ya!) Graviton levitates his preferred cities above the earth and goes about reshaping the globe into some kinda crazy “Planet Graviton” shaped like his face. Seriously, the guy has ego issues.

Who is left to save the day? Well, that’d be our pardoned Thunderbolts, now mostly trying to live civilian lives. Citizen V meets up with Abe Jenkins (Mach-II) and Melissa Gold (Songbird) and thanks to his V-Battalion connections (Think SHIELD, but obscurer and secret-er), supplies them with new gear. Atlas, fresh off his resurrection and ionically-inhabiting the body of his paralyzed girlfriend (and former T-Bolts liaison) Dallas Riordan arrives to the party too. And all of a sudden it’s Old Home Week as the original, accept-no-substitutes Thunderbolts return to take on Graviton.

I’m leaving a LOT of stuff out, like a Hawkeye jailbreak subplot and a minor alien invasion, but this story rules mostly for reuniting ALL of the original Thunderbolts and reestablishing them in their own book. Issue # 57 probably has one of my favorite comic book cliffhangers of all time.

Badass, huh?

1. Thunderbolts # 10-12 (The Reveal)
Written by Kurt Busiek
Drawn by Mark Bagley

This is almost as big a moment as the revelation of the T-Bolts’ identities to the reader. All that was left was the reveal of them to the Marvel Universe at large. And that happens in issue # 10. The Thunderbolts are publicly revealed to be the Masters of Evil at a press conference and all hell breaks loose as Baron Zemo begins his ultimate plan.

This was the first “milestone” since the first issue and the first one I read as it “happened”. Ironically, I hadn’t read all of the T-Bolts adventures as “heroes in disguise” by that point, but the impact of issue # 10 was not lost on me. The “real” Heroes had Returned, the game was up, the T-Bolts’ masks were off. So what happens now?

Well, of course, the T-Bolts fractured, with those who had decided they liked being heroes standing against Zemo. There’s a fight, and those T-Bolts opposing Zemo are put on the ropes.

Just when all hope seems lost, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four show up. Unfortunately, they’re all under Zemo’s mind control. See, Zemo’s plan was to use a “bio-modem” (acquired on the sly in a previous adventure) to enslave the minds of the entire human race from his satellite HQ. And when the Avengers and F4 tried to approach, they all were hit with the bio-modem’s signal and ensnared.

So the remaining five Thunderbolts (Moonstone, Mach-1, Songbird, Atlas, and Jolt) and Iron Man (whose armor is shielded against mind control…this time) have to work together to foil Zemo’s plot.

It’s a solid adventure tale, culminating in a sweet one year anniversary issue in # 12 where the T-Bolts have to battle the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Lots of great moments, including the reveal of “who blew the whistle” on the T-Bolts scam, the destruction of the Baxter Building/Four Freedoms Plaza (again), the T-Bolt on T-Bolt battle, Iron Man mistakenly and alternately labeling them the “Thunderbirds” and the “Thundercats”, Zemo’s “conversation” with the mind-controlled Captain America, the massive battle with the Avengers and F4, Moonstone beating the ever-loving snot out of Zemo, and the cliffhanger which promises that the saga of the Thunderbolts is just beginning.

The art by Mark Bagley is excellent as always, the man goes from solid, traditional superhero action to darker and grittier stuff effortlessly.

This was the first big “event” that I was “there for”, so to speak and thus it occupies a fond place in my memories. I’ve always liked Iron Man, so having him be the only Avenger who was able to break Zemo’s control was kinda cool too. He kinda got to be “Justice League cartoon Batman” there, if you know what I mean.

This is my favorite among favorite T-Bolt stories. Basically the first time the T-Bolts truly prove they can be heroes without having to be under pretense.


So there you have it, my top five favorite T-Bolts stories. I was originally planning on ten, but the second five I came up with weren’t so firmly entrenched in my mind. Not that they are bad by any means, but I felt like these top five stood out quite a bit farther than the rest. Maybe I’ll do a second five eventually…

Thunderbolts has endured for a long time for something that may have seemed like a “stunt”. Jeff Parker’s current run on T-Bolts is pretty solid, with a lot of standout stuff (issue # 150 was excellent, in particular, and would have made the top ten). The current day team of T-Bolts is about to time-travel back to meet the original, Zemo-led T-Bolts. It’s a good time to be a fan of Justice, like Lightning. And even if Marvel decides to cancel them again in the future, you just know they’ll return. After all…

“Justice, like lightning, ever should appear, to few men's ruin, but to all men's fear.” -Some guy.

“Somehow, no matter how much the world changes, Thunderbolts persists. A powerful enough idea transcends time. It never dies.” -Songbird, issue # 163.1


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fanholes Episode # 39: Anime Round-O Two Powah!


This week on Fanholes, return to the world of anime! Find out which Fanholes
are subbies or dubbies! Hear about the anime series each Fanhole is currently
watching! Learn what anime is their personal favorite and which studios and creators' work they cherish the most!

Also, stay tuned to the end as the Fanholes reveal which TV series they have been assigned to view as part of next episode's Fanholes Dare!

Fanholes Episode # 39: Anime Round-O Two Powah!