Character Spotlight: Gypsy (DC Comics)

By: Groovy DC

With Cynthia Reynolds, AKA Gypsy, set to make her debut on CW’s Flash, it seems like a great time to briefly go over her comic history.

First appearance: Justice League of America Annual #2 (October 1984)

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Cynthia Reynolds was born into a seemingly normal life in the American suburbia. Although she lived a rather uneventful, peaceful life under the care of her parents, Edward and June Reynolds, a rift soon grew between them once her brother was born. This led to Cynthia being abused, both physically and emotionally by her parents. Once Cynthia reached puberty, she developed the ability to camouflage both herself and her surroundings (you know meta-human stuff, “totes” not a mutant). With these newfound abilities, she ran away from her family, and took off to the city of Detroit (I guess you can say that “she took the midnight train—or bus in her case, going anywhere” …). Once in Detroit, she made the Cameron Street neighborhood her new home. There she used her abilities to protect its inhabitants, becoming both a hero and an urban legend in that area. From there, she took on the identity of “Gypsy” and styled her dress after her vagabond’s namesake. Her adoption of the “Gypsy” title is not at random though, as she is a descendent from a line of Romani people, something she usually keeps to herself due to her knowing about the centuries of persecution her people faced.

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Her acts of heroism lead her to becoming a member of the newly formed “Justice League Detroit,” a team of heroes that located in Detroit after the original Justice League’s Watchtower headquarters crashed. Team members included: Aquaman, Batman, Elongated Man, Martian Manhunter, Steel (Hank Heywood III), Vibe, Vixen, and Zatanna. This team lasted a few years until Dr. Ivo sent out several androids to kill members of the team. Although one of the androids was successful in killing Cisco/Vibe (I guess his geeky reference couldn’t save him in this world), another was unable to kill Gypsy as she learned that it has a conscience and convinces it to let her live. From there it took her to her parents’ home. There she makes-up with her parents and lives a happy normal life—sadly this is not the case, as this was merely the start of another unfortunate event in her life. Her peaceful domestic life short-lived when the villain Despero suddenly comes crashing into her peaceful domestic life and murders her parents (‘cause comics don’t allow people to have a happy family life). Before Despero could kill Gypsy, she is saved by Martian Manhunter. With nowhere else to go, Booster Gold recruits her into a corporate-sponsored team, Conglomerate, for a brief period.

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After forming a close, father/daughter-like relationship with Martian Manhunter, she joins him in another short-lived team, Justice League Task Force, a team formed by United Nations representative, Hannibal Martin. During the team’s run, Gypsy found herself facing a few challenges. One of which was that she had deal with being on the same team with a “different version” of Despero, who was not the same being that killed her parents (‘cause comics). Then, on her last mission she faced the villain, Baron Űman von Mauler, who is wholly convinced that Gypsy is his dead wife, Nakia (‘cause with a name that crazy you have to live up to it). After beating him, Gypsy proceeds to hitchhike to Romania.

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She later briefly join’s Barbara Gordon/Oracle’s Birds of Prey, as her abilities could be effectivity utilized for stealthy undercover missions. One of which includes helping Vixen with an old case.

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Her last appearance (in the “pre-new 52” timeline) was when she aided Justice League team members: Vixen and Doctor Light, fight against Black Lantern-possessed, deceased Justice League Members, including Vibe.

Later, Barry goes and F&$%s-up the timeline and creates the “New 52” universe. There, Gypsy gets a completely new origin. In this new timeline, she is a vagabond from another dimension. When separated from her nomadic tribe, she gets trapped in the “New 52 Universe,” where she is captured and imprisoned by Amanda Waller, who believes she is a being that has come to Earth to declare war. She eventually escapes and joins Cisco Ramone, AKA Vibe, in hopes that he could use his ability to travel through different dimensions to help her rejoin her inter-dimensional tribe.

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With her appearance in CW’s Flash, it appears that her character’s origin is mostly inspired by her New 52 version.

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Powers include: Illusion Casting, Invisibility, Fear Projection, Telepathy, Astral Projection, and Limited Precognition.

Skill Set: Advanced Hand-to-Hand Combat / Martial Arts, Acrobatics, Computer Operation, Electrical Engineering, and Firearms.

Character Study 101: The Evolution of the Batman/Joker Feud

Warning: DC Rebirth Spoilers

“This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”

-Joker, The Dark Knight

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Out of all the familiar hero and villain relationships the one shared between Batman and Joker probably serves as one of the more iconic ones. What makes their seemingly perpetual conflict with one another so interesting is that that even though they both serve as polar opposites, they are—to some degree not so different from one another. Despite this, their feud hasn’t always worked this way. From Joker’s very first appearance to now, their relationship had evolved from the more simplistic duality of good and evil, to a much more complex and philosophical one—with a newer twist thrown in recently.

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It was during the 1940’s first issue of Batman where the Joker was introduced. In his debut appearance Joker was portrayed as a murderous clown who disposed whoever he pleases with his now-iconic laughing gas. It was originally envisioned that within his first appearance he would be dispatched by Batman, by knife to the heart. Bill Finger, the man who helped create Joker alongside Batman creator, Bob Kane, believed that it would make Batman appear to be inept if he had reoccurring villains. Despite this, the comic’s editor, Whitney Ellsworth, shot-down this idea, seeing potential in this character. Joker would then appear in nine more issues of the original Batman run. It’s amusing to think that what was meant to be a single-use villain would eventually become Batman’s most iconic villain; and from there these two characters would find themselves locked into a never-ending battle against one another—one that is physical, mental, and even philosophical.

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In 1988 famed (comic) writer Alan Moore sought to flesh out relationship shared between Batman and Joker in the (in)famous graphic novel, Batman: Killing Joke. Within this dark story Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in order to break Commissioner Gordon just to illustrate to Batman that anyone can become like him, and all it takes is “one bad day.” Despite this, Joker was unable to drive Commissioner Gordon “loony” as after being psychologically tortured he still wanted Batman to bring him in “by the book.”

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It was during the comic’s ending “killing joke” where the parallel between Batman and Joker is made clear. The joke goes along the lines that there were two inmates at an asylum who have decided to finally escape their confines. When they reach the rooftops at night one of them jumps the ledge and successfully lands on the next roof over. With the other inmate being too afraid to jump the roof the other tries to help him out by telling him that he found a flashlight and could use it to shine on a beam, connecting the two rooftops, believing that it would suffice as a bridge that the other inmate could use to walk across. To this the other inmate would reply, “’Wh-what do you think I am? Crazy? You’d turn it off when I was half way across” (Alan Moore, Batman: Killing Joke)! This joke helps illustrate how the two insane inmates represent Batman and Joker, and how the inmate with the flashlight—Batman, tries to help show Joker that there is a way out of their seemingly perpetual state of insanity. By having the inmate with the flashlight believing that the transparent light beam would help the other inmate get to his side Joker illustrates how not only are they both equally mad, but he uses this to address the utter futility in Batman’s hope of saving him (“If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke!”).

In the end, Batman and Joker aren’t so different, as it really did take one bad day to create both of them, which had set them both on a self-destructive course: for Batman it was the death of his parents, and for Joker it was when he fell into a vat of chemicals that drove him insane.

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A few decades later Scott Snyder brings in a Joker with an entirely new outlook—as well as a literal new look. After the end of the first issue of New 52’s Detective Comics, Joker has the villain, Dollmaker, cut his face off in order to help usher in a newer, and much darker personality. When describing this version of Joker, writer Scott Snyder stated that the Joker imagines “himself as a court jester to his Bat-king. Historically, the jesters’ role was to give the king the bad news. What the Joker thinks he does is bring the worst news to Batman’s heart to light by delivering these nightmares to him” (Scott Snyder, Batman’s Scott Snyder).  Within Snyder’s “Death of the Family “arc Joker re-surfaces with a new dark goal in mind, to kill off each and every one of his allies. His reason? In his own twisted mind he believes by killing Batman’s allies/family he is making him stronger as he sees them as a burden to Batman, and that through his over-reliance on them he is growing weaker.

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With his allies at risk Batman reveals that Joker once followed him into the Batcave, somehow dodging all of its security, and left his iconic calling card within the thought-to-be secured facility. When revealing these details to his allies (Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, Red-Robin, Robin) a sense of distrust and tension erupts between them as Batman refuses to believe that there is a possibility that Joker knows any of their true identities despite his protégées begging him to see that that may be a possibility.

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Joker later gets the upper hand on Batman by having him knocked out and tied, up with the rest of his “family,” within the Batcave, gathered around a mock dinner. The Joker attempts to psychologically torture them by making his allies believe that he cut their faces off by placing convincing facial replicas in front of them. Eventually Batman breaks from his bonds and confronts Joker. As they fought Batman tells Joker that he took time to investigate his past, and claims that he knew Joker’s true identity. Before Batman could say his real name the Joker purposely falls down the edge of the cave and out of sight, leaving his fate vague (or the famous rule of fiction, no body=not dead). Although Batman once again comes out victorious, Joker in a way still won as he was able to make the rest of Batman’s allies mistrust him after Batman’s underestimation of Joker. From there the Bat-family would end up breaking away from Batman, and thus “killing” the family.

At the end of this arc Batman reveals to Alfred that he once visited Joker at Arkham Asylum as Bruce Wayne. When he confronts Joker outside of his cell Bruce holds up the card he found in cave. Although Joker looked at the card, he avoided looking at Bruce Wayne. This led Wayne to conclude that Joker didn’t care who was under Batman’s mask, believing that he acknowledged so it would ruin his fun. This very scene reveals how Joker had romanticized their conflict with one-another, refusing to see himself or Batman as mere mortals.

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This is eventually followed up within the Scott Snyder’s “Endgame” arc where (surprise, surprise) the Joker comes back, this time hoping to kill Batman once and for all, stating that he has gotten bored with him, possibly being due to him being broken-up when Batman attempted to break the illusion that Joker was just a normal human prior to his dive into the vat of Ace Chemicals. Before doing so he once again sets out to destroy Gotham through a newer strain of his “Joker toxin.” When investigating this toxin, Batman is lead to a hospital where he runs into a recreation of the death of his parents, revealing that Joker does know that Batman and Bruce Wayne are one-in-the-same. The kid gloves were finally off, Joker finally gave up his romanticized view of each other and was ready to move, starting off by finally killing Batman. On top of this the Joker is trying to convince Batman that he is immortal, leaving behind historical evidence that he was around since Gotham’s conception. Although this was kept vague on whether on not this was true, it does display that even though Joker gave up on seeing Batman as more than a mere mortal, he is still pushing the narrative that he is inhuman (not the Marvel kind), and even immortal (ironically being immortal means nothing special in the DC universe as there’s Vandal Savage, Ra’s Al Ghul, Madame Xanadu, Pandora, Phantom Stranger, Etrigan, and plenty others…). As Batman investigates the mystery behind Joker’s supposed immortality and inhuman regenerative abilities he is led to a pool with regenerative properties– Dionesium (which is totally not a lazily recycled Lazarus Pit…). As the two face off the Joker sets off an explosion within the cave they’re in and the two begin brutally beating each other, without holding back. Eventually the two collapse, on the verge of death, by the pool of Dionesium. As Batman stares at a dying Joker he tells Alfred, via comms, that he is “[J]ust going to rest for a while with my friend” (Scott Snyder, Batman: End Game). Although meant to be sarcastic, this displays that Batman is highly aware of the irony that is his oddly close relationship with his most-hated enemy—especially with them both about to share the same fate. Soon the cave collapses around them and they are both presumed death (or in comic terms, a vacation).

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With Batman and Joker presumed dead Commissioner Gordon unofficially takes on the hero’s mantle, by donning a Mech-Batman suit. It is later revealed that Batman survived (what a tweest!) his last battle with the Joker, but retains no memory of his life past. Free of his past, Bruce Wayne is finally able to live a happy live and settle down with a new girlfriend. It isn’t until Br. Bloom, a slenderman-esque villain, tries to decimate Gotham (Gotham’s Forecast for today is cloudy with a chance of destruction, followed by red skies and a 90% chance of another retcon) that Bruce Wayne is forced take on his role as Batman once again. Before he does so he runs into a smiling man—or to be more straightforward, a cured Joker, at a park bench who comes to him with a simple plea, to not go back to his “former self.” With Bruce Wayne at the crossroads and unable to decide whether or he should return to his life as Batman, here’s a newly-sane Joker essentially telling him “Listen, I know you feel down and you feel like none of it means anything. But it does mean something. And if you died right now, it’d be OK, because you meant something” (Scott Snyder, Newsarama). Even though Joker is telling him to stay put with his happy life he is subtly giving Bruce Wayne license to go back as Batman, as his mission as Batman meant—and will continue to mean something. In a way this is wholly unique role reversal shared between the two enemies, as opposed to Alan Moore’s Killing Joke, it is Joker’s turn to show Batman that there is meaning in what he is doing—there is hope. Scott Snyder would state that at whatever point Bruce Wayne/Batman is in life, “Joker will always show up to contradict that” (Scott Snyder, Newsarama).

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Although this version of Joker is at a point where he is content with life and bares no ill will towards anyone, it is later subtly implied that he is slowly returning to his old psychotic self. As Bruce takes back his role as Batman after aiding Commissioner Gordon in defeating Mr. Bloom, he spends a night watching over his enemies to see what they’re up to. As he watches each and everyone one of them closely, the Joker is back calmly sitting on the same bench where they last met, telling himself “Not yet, not this night.” In a way, Batman and Joker’s fates appear to be forever intertwined, and with him taking back his role as Gotham’s protector he is essentially dragging Joker back to his old life as well. To sum this up, there is no Joker without Batman as he believes that he gives him purpose (#RelationshipGoals).

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Although the relationship between Joker and Batman has evolved throughout the years, adding new layers to their complex antagonism, it has been recently revealed that all of this may not be as it seems through a new revelation. In the more recent Justice League arc, “Darkseid War,” each Justice League member briefly gains the powers of a New God—with Batman gaining the power of omniscience through Metron’s “Mobius Chair.” With this he ponders on the question on the true identity of Joker (Didn’t Batman tell Joker he knew who he was? Was that a bluff or a terrible continuity error? You decide!). Upon asking the Mobius Chair this question he instead learns that there are three different Jokers running amok in the world, each with their own unique personality. To add to this, when trying to analyze the difference between the three Joker’s the images on his computer screen include the Golden Age Joker, Alan Moore’s Joker, and Scott Snyder’s Joker. It’ll be interesting to see where this revelation leads, and just how much different the relationship between Batman and these supposed three Jokers will change in the future.

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Works Cited:

Works Cited:

Betancourt, David. “BATMAN’S SCOTT SNYDER:.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Aug. 2016.

Cohen, Alex. “The Joker: Torn Between Goof And Evil.” NPR. NPR, 16 July 2008. Web. 13 Aug. 2016.

Moore, Alan, Brian Bolland, and Richard Starkings. Batman: The Killing Joke. New York: DC Comics, 2008. Print.

Rogers, Vaneta. “SNYDER: BATMAN #48 ‘Culmination’ Of His BRUCE WAYNE Story.” Newsarama.com. Newsarama, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 13 Aug. 2016.

Snyder, Scott, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion. Batman. New York: DC Comics, 2013. Print.

 

Geek History 101: Ratchet and Clank

 By: DC-Wolf 

With a newly released PS4 remaster of the original first Ratchet and Clank game as well as a new animated feature, the Ratchet and Clank video game franchise appears to be making another come back. With this, It’d be a great time to bring in a quick retrospective behind the creation of the original Ratchet and Clank game which spawned a great series of games.

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During the year 2000 when Insomniac Studio’s became an independent game studio they gave Universal the rights to their first successful game franchise, Spyro the Dragon. With this, they had to come up with a new game to debut alongside Sony’s upcoming new game console, the PS2. The first idea they played around with was “Girl with a Stick.” A year into the game’s development it lost steam as the team behind the game felt that they’ve hit a dead end. The project was eventually canceled. With this, the studio had to go back to the drawing board ad figure out what their new game should be.

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Enter Brian Hastings, Insomniac’s Chief Creative Officer. He proposed the idea of a reptilian-alien wo travels around a distant galaxy, collecting a rather large assortment of unique weapons along his journey. This concept later evolved into it being about a fuzzy alien caveman who is brought into a crazy space adventure by a mechanical lizard, on a quest to save the galaxy. From there the alien caveman eventually became the familiar feline-like, lombax alien. This lombax character also came with soon-to-become signature melee weapon, the omniwrench. With this tool the Insomniac team wanted a backstory was accompanied with it, which was what led to Ratchet’s occupation as a mechanic, as seen in the original PS2 game.

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Clank, the lizard-like robot previously mentioned also went through a series of different designs as well. With the need for the alien to have an assortment of gadgets, the robot became a sort of swiss army knife of nifty attachments, as well as becoming Ratchet’s own backpack, leading to his familiar diminutive, square-ish design.

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With the character designs for Ratchet and Clank finally nailed down, the folks at Insomniac began to see something special in this concept, and went on to start looking for the right engine to integrate into the game. The team went on to develop a test level diorama of what would become known as the iconic Ratchet and Clank stage, Metropolis, in order to simulate a game engine to show to the higher-up Sony executives. Impressed by what they’ve seen, the executive immediately approved financing the project. The level diorama that was used for this presentation also helped the Insomniac team set the precedent for the visual style for the rest of the franchise.

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Eventually, the first Ratchet and Clank game made its debut in November 2002, missing the launch date of the PS2 by two years. The game received positive reviews, aggregating an average score of 88/100 on Metacritic. With the overall positive reception, the original Ratchet and Clank game would then spawn several more sequels, most of which were just as well, if not better received by critics; particularly Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time.

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Overall, it’s interesting how Insomniac’s last minute attempt at creating a new game in order to debut alongside the PS2 led to the creation of the original Ratchet and Clank, and despite missing their deadline by two years they were still able to create one of Playstation’s most iconic video game franchises, which still brims with potential.

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Sources:

http://www.insomniacgames.com/ratchet-clank-10-years-of-concept-art/

http://www.ign.com/articles/2007/10/30/ign-presents-the-history-of-ratchet-and-clank

 

 

Cloverfield’s Viral Marketing Campaign

By: DC-Wolf 

Winding back time to July 2007, to the release of the first Michael Bay-directed Transformers, a mysterious teaser popped up showcasing a camcorder-filmed party that quickly escalated as explosions erupted outside in New York City. As the party-goers run outside to get a better view of what’s going on, a monstrous roar is heard from a distance, followed by the head of Lady Liberty thrown towards them. The footage quickly cuts to black, only revealing that J.J. Abrams is producing it and its release date is January 18, 2008.  A bit of a frenzy broke out online as people attempted to deconstruct every little second of the teaser—as well as the roar, trying to figure out what sort of creature is rampaging through the streets of New York City. Though very little information about the film was officially released–other than its title, Cloverfield, the film’s marketing team went to work, pushing out a crazy strong viral marketing campaign for the movie in hopes of creating hype. They did so by creating a sort of puzzle, in the form of several different websites, in order to clue people in to what may have transpired before the Cloverfield’s monster’s rampage through New York City. From Myspace Pages to a Faux-Japanese slushy website, the viral marketing behind the original Cloverfield did a grand job at both immersing people into the film’s universe, while bewildering them at the same time.

 

Myspace Pages:

( http://cloverfieldclues.blogspot.com/2008/01/myspace-update-slusho-hires-rob_05.html)

Remember Myspace? For those kiddos out there it’s what ancient “emos” (or is the plural form emu?) used as a social media platform where they would customize it to blast Simple Plan music whenever you clicked on their page, as well as allowed them to passively display to their friends how they really feel about them through the “top-10 friends” ranking system on front page (Tom was always #1 for me!)

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Okay, back on topic—as strange as it may seem, the Cloverfield marketing team tried to make the film’s protagonists feel like real people by giving each of them their own social media page. It seemed pretty odd that the marketing team would put this amount of effort into fleshing-out their characters outside the film, but at the same time it did offer little hints about the film’s world. Rob Hawkins, played by Michael Stahl-David, posted on his Myspace page that he had recently received a position as the Vice President of Marketing and Promotions for then fictional slushy company, “Slusho,” located in Japan. For those who remembered the original film, this was the reason why he had a goodbye party prior to the monster’s attack. But what is so special about the company Slusho? Well this little fictional company is a famous Easter Egg that has showed up in almost every J.J. Abram film/TV show.

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Slusho!

( http://www.slusho.jp/)

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The faux-slushy brand is perhaps one of the biggest Easter Eggs that J.J. Abrams likes integrating into his films and TV Shows. Movies and TV shows that J.J. Abrams was involved with that used this Easter Egg includes: Alias, Lost, Fringe, and even Star Trek. Does this hint at a large-scaled shared universe—or perhaps remnants of an actual failed start-up for a slushy company? Probably neither, but within the wave of viral marketing sites connected to Cloverfield a faux-Japanese website for this brand did pop up. In the slushy’s website it provides a pseudo-history behind the creation of their slushies. According to their oddly intricate pseudo-history the special ingredient used in their slushies derives from a seabed nectar, which was discovered by the underwater petroleum excavation company, Tagruato. Upon this discovery the company’s CEO had some trippy fever dream where his dead mother tells him that this is the “tastiest ingredient ever.” It all sounds like a wonderful story until one visits the Tagruato website…

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( http://www.tagruato.jp/index2.php)

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At a glance, the website for the faux-deep sea-drilling company looks fairly legitimate. According to their history page they were founded as a mining company on Kyūshū, Japan, in 1945. They later specialized in exporting engines and large construction vehicles to the West. It was during the 1980’s they hit hard times due to “scandals” and “great losses.” It was in 1989 when the CEO discovered the seabed nectar ingredient that would be used in Slusho that they were able to save their crumbling company. The only problem is that the part of ocean where his company stumbled onto this ingredient seemed to have disturbed something. Although their website’s headline suggests that they had altercations with eco-terrorists, Cloverfield’s final viral site provides a photo that suggest otherwise.  

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http://www.bannerblog.com.au/news/2007/08/070829_and_mysterious_marketing.php

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This website that the Cloverfield marketing team briefly put up provided several snapshots that relate to the film, with a new one added weekly. The first few pictures included several shots of Rob’s goodbye party, but soon the events depicted within each new photo escalated quickly as newly added shots begin to display moments during the monster’s attack. Then in a final snap shot it displays a beach full of partially-eaten, dead whales off the coast of where Tagruato was drilling.

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In the end, all of these sites connected in a way. The film’s protagonist, Rob Hawkins, announces on his Faceb—Myspace that he received a new position with the slushy company, Slusho, located in Japan. Slusho happens to be a subsidiary of the sea-drilling company, Tagruato, which appears to have a heavy hand in the monster’s attack, as can also be seen in the film as a ship baring their logo appears to be the first thing destroyed by the monster, which suggests that they caught it and were likely shipping it somewhere. In the end, whether you liked the film or not, there is no denying that the marketing campaign was madly-brilliant (though probably nowhere near as fun as Deadpool’s!). Even if the world-building probably went nowhere, the marketing team certainly did a great job creating these different puzzle pieces in order to help immerse people into the first film’s mythology.

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The Evolution of Mr. Freeze

By: DC-Wolf

“I failed you. I wish there were another way for me to say it. I cannot. I can only beg your forgiveness, and pray you hear me somehow, someplace… someplace where a warm hand waits for mine.”

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Victor Fries, AKA Mr. Freeze, is probably one of the more sympathetic and tragic villains within Batman’s rouge gallery. A brilliant scientist whose criminal acts derive from a single, sympathetic desire: to finds a cure for his sickly wife. Despite this, Mr. Freeze’s motivation wasn’t always like this; like any other comic book character, he has gone through a series of retcons that have changed his very mentality. Despite this, it was thanks to a single animated episode titled “Heart of Ice” that has left an enduring mark on this remarkable villain.

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               When first introduced in 1959’s Batman #121, Mr. Freeze’s name was originally “Mr. Zero.” Back then he was a goofier throw-away villain who was only driven by the desire to steal diamonds, AKA “ice” (*que laugh track*). It wasn’t until Mr. Zero’s character was used in the 60’s Adam West Batman series was when his named was change to the more familiar “Mr. Freeze,” which would eventually be utilized in the comics.

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              It was on September 7, 1992 when Mr. Freeze’s character went through an enduring change for the better. In Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series episode, “Heart of Ice,” written by Paul Dini, Mr. Freeze was given the tragic backstory that most of have come to know and love. When Mr. Freeze made his debut in the animated series, he is depicted as a grieving scientist who is driven by the desire to get revenge on the Gothcorp CEO who is not only responsible for the *supposed* death of his wife Nora (who is later revealed to be stuck in a cryonic stasis), but his condition that leaves him susceptible to above sub-zero conditions. This drastic new change to Mr. Freeze’s origin not only added more depth to this once goofy character, but made him more human and sympathetic. To add to that this ground-breaking episode helped the animated series win an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.” Like the Adam West series before it, the changes that BTAS had brought to Mr. Freeze’s character were eventually translated into the comics.

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               Mr. Freeze’s character would later undergo a more controversial change with the launch of the “New 52” line. In Mr. Freeze’s retconned origin, it is revealed that he has had an obsession with cryogenics ever since he first witnessed his mother survive a plunge into the icy depths of a frozen lake with temperatures cold enough to preserve her until help arrived. Although his mother was able to survive this ordeal, she was left with an illness and wheelchair-bound. In hopes of ending her pain Victor pushed her into the same lake that left her in poor health. Victor Fries would eventually grow up and run Wayne Enterprises cryogenics lab, which contains several cryo-preserved individuals. There he meets the love of his life, Nora Fields, a woman born in 1943 who was diagnosed with an incurable heart condition. She was left in cryo stasis when her husband hoped to preserve her life by having her undergo a controversial cryogenic treatment in hopes that she would eventually wake up in a time where she could get treatment advance enough for her needs. When Victor learns of her and how she was the first human to undergo the cryogenic stasis treatment, he begins to develop an obsession with her, giving him the desire to raise her from her stasis. As he tried to do so, none other than Bruce Wayne tried to stop his project as he disapproved of his unregulated experimentation on the woman. Angered by Wayne’s intervention, Victor attempted an attack on him by throwing a chair at him, only to hit a set of cryonic tanks, that sprays chemicals on him, giving him the familiar condition of susceptibility to temperatures above sub-zero. When psychoanalyzed by Batman, it is revealed that Victor never loved Nora, instead he has an unhealthy infatuation with the “idea” of cold, which he sees Nora as the perfect embodiment of.

Mr. Freeze’s origin has, and will be subject to change in order to fit different narratives and changing times. Despite this, it can be seen that Paul Dini had contributed an enduring staple to his origin that has been reused and reinterpreted for each new version of Mr. Freeze, including the more recent live action series, Gotham.

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Also, can’t end a Mr. Freeze post without an Arnold Schwarzenegger reference…

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Cram Session: Vandal Savage

Vandal Savage is truly one of the DC Universe’s deadliest villains. He is an immortal that is practically the perfect tactician due to a literal centuries worth of knowledge and experience; and with this, he is a man who is able to live up to his namesake. As an immortal, Vandal Savage has left numerous marks in DC’s comic history, as well as its present. His overall history is worth going over in order to understand the sort of impact he left on the DC Universe.

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Vandal Savage’s origin starts out strange as he was born around 50,000 B.C. as the caveman, Vandal Adg (a pretty fancy name for a caveman…), and was the leader of a Cro-Magnon tribe. His life is inadvertently changed when a highly irradiated meteorite comes crashing from the sky near Vandal’s location. When coming into contact with the meteorite Vandal absorbed all of its energy and became a highly-intelligent immortal (‘cause in comics’ radiation gives you rad powers and not cancer…). Despite being highly intelligent Vandal has little empathy for human life as there have been records of him being the first cannibal in human history (talk about “savage and no chill”). Eventually Vandal would drop his last name “Adg” in place of “Savage.”

Savage would eventually make his first mark in human history as he formed a group that would later be known as the “illuminati,” who have helped aided him in successfully toppling and literally destroying the famed civilization, Atlantis.

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Throughout DC’s history he would adapt various names and personalities that would eventually become historically infamous including: two ancient Egyptian rulers (Khafre, Cheops), Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Blackbeard, Vlad the Impaler, and Jack the Ripper. He also served as an advisor for other infamous historical figures including: Erik the Red, William the Conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte, Otto von Bismarck, and Adolf Hitler (‘cause nothing says evil like being bros with Hitler).

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It was during the 1940’s Vandal Savage came into conflict with the first iteration of “The Justice Society,” setting him up as a legacy villain for those who took on Green Lantern and Flash mantle. With his newfound hatred for the Justice Society, he would set up his own group, appropriately named, “Injustice Society;” with members including: Wizard, Brainwave, Gambler, Per Degaton, and The Thinker (no, not that Marvel villain…). Though they came in conflict with the Justice Society multiple times, they were never successful in defeating them.

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With his iteration of Injustice Society being unsuccessful, Vandal Savage would form another group known as the “Tartarus,” which has been covered in an earlier article on Damien Darhk.

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In later events Vandal Savage would attempt a financial takeover of New York through the distribution of “Velocity Nine” (the same drug that the “Rival” concocted years ago), as a drug to people in influential positions—including lawyers and stockbrokers, in order to control them. Wally West soon comes into the picture as he begins to notice that people are exhibiting similar speed powers as him. His investigation would bring him into conflict with Vandal Savage. As the two fought Wally was injected with Velocity Nine, temporarily leaving him powerless. Before Vandal could give Wally a second dose one Vandal’s subjects turns against him and injects him with the speed drug, rapidly aging him.

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Vandal Savage would later recover and play a prominent role during the events of, “Final Crises.” During this event Vandal Savage is approach by the organization, “Religion of Crime” (Their worst crime? Soliciting people at their doorsteps…I kid—kid…). They reveal to him that they ‘ve worshipped him as they believe that he is the Biblical Cain, the first murderer. The organization would then revive Cain within Vandal Savage by plunging the Pick—err I meant the Spear of Destiny into him (no innuendo, get your mind out of the gutter). As the newly-awakened Cain, Savage hunted down Spectre, the Spirit of Vengeance (who would have made his debut on Constantine…thanks NBC…) and enslaved him with the Spear of Destiny by separating him from his human host. The Spectre’s enslavement would only be temporary as the heroine Renee Montoya, under the guise of “The Question,” reunites the spirit with his human host. When back in power, though the Spectre spares Vandal Savage, he brands him with the “Mark of Cain,” opening him to eternal persecution by the human race until he faces God’s final punishment.

As reboots go, Vandal Savage’s status is soon reverted back to normal in the aftermath of the “Flashpoint” event. He is last seen as the leader for another group called, “Secret Society of Super Villains” (‘cause Savage knows how to keep a low profile), and is in conflict with Pandora (yes, that Pandora); and—oh yeah, he has a daughter in the FBI named Kate Sage.

Be sure to check out Casper Crump’s take on Vandal Savage on CW’s Legends of Tomorrow!

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Nerd Cram Session: Rip Hunter

Rip Hunter is probably one of the more unsung time-travelling heroes of the DC Universe, especially when compared to Booster Gold. But now he’ being given a chance to shine as the leader of the group of reluctant heroes in CW’s Legends of Tomorrow. With this, it’s a great time to briefly go over his comic history.

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Introduced during the Golden Age of DC comics, Rip Hunter made his first appearance on Showcase #20, in 1959. When introduced he just so happened to stumble upon a grand McGuffin known as the “time-sphere,” which would allow him to travel backwards and forwards through time. Originally he travelled through time, adventuring with a group of friends, causing shenanigans like befriending Cleopatra and meeting Adolf Hitler.

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He is later recruited by a subtly named hero “The Immortal Man” into his group called the “Forgotten Heroes.” Together, they ally with Superman and fend off a major alien invasion. This team was not to last though as a multiversal catastrophe dubbed, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” led to the death of the team leader “Immortal Man” (I bet the ironic name was what really hurt him the most). In the aftermath of this event drastic changes are made to the timeline, which alters many DC characters (ah, yes the first of many retcons…). The only one not affected was Rip Hunter, leaving him a literal man out of time. He soon finds himself recklessly traveling through time, trying to get to the event that disrupted the timeline. This drew the attention of a group of time cops known as the “Linear Men.” Though they charged him for disrupting the timeline they were impressed enough by his time traveling abilities to recruit him. This was another short lived alliance as Rip Hunter later broke away from them in order to help Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman take on a time-traveling Gog, who is trying to ensure that the events of “Kingdome Come” do not come to pass. While aiding the DC’s trinity Hunter inadvertently breaks down the “Hypertime” barrier, revealing new alternate timelines.

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In a later adventure Rip Hunter finds himself working with Booster Gold, helping to keep the timeline from collapsing. While aiding Booster Gold in a fight against the villain “Mister Mind (a hyper-intelligent worm, ‘cause comics),” who is feeding on different universes. It is revealed that he is the son of Booster Gold (Whut a Tweest!).

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Soon Flashpoint happens, which results in another disrupted timeline (‘casue relevancy) Rip Hunter is seemingly erased from existence. He has recently reemerged from non-existence and appears to be working against his own father, Booster Gold for reasons, at the moment, remain unknown.

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Be sure to catch Rip Hunter on CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, coincidently portrayed by Dr. Who Alum, Arthur Darvill!

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Nerd Cram Session: Hawkgirl

By: DC

With Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl set to be one of the primary characters of CW’s, Legends of Tomorrow, it’s a perfect time to go over her rather unique, yet complex comic book history.  It should be noted that both her pre and post flashpoint history will be covered.

Before delving into Kendra Saunders history, it’s best to go over her two past lives’ as “Chay-Ara,” and her later incarnation, Shiera Hall.

  Kendra’s first life as “Chay-Arya” happened centuries ago in ancient Egypt. During that time, she was a consort for the Price of Egypt, Khufu. As his consort the two eventually fell in love. Their time together was then cut short as they both found themselves in conflict with a sorcerer named “Hath-Set.” As they fought with him they were both cut down by his blade which was forged by the alien material, “Nth Metal.” Combined with the properties of Nth Metal, and their strong love for each other, their two souls were then bond to each for each other for centuries, as they found themselves in a nearly endless cycle being reincarnated and drawn to one another.

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Eventually in the later 20th century Chay-Arya was reborn as Shiera Hall. In this incarnation she was a museum curator with her *literal* soulmate, Khufu, who now goes by the name, Carter Hall (…and oh yeah—they were also alien police officers from the planet Thanagar…lets’ not delve too much into that …). During this incarnation they used the Nth Metal to construct anti-gravity belts to use along with faux-wings in order to fly. With these faux-wings and an armory of various archaic melee weaponry they both became Hawkgirl and Hawkman. They soon became formidable heroes that have joined various teams including the All-Star Squadron, Justice Society, and the Justice League. Later during a cataclysmic event in the DC universe, dubbed “Zero Hour,” Hawkgirl and Hawman had to merge their souls in order to become the “Hawkgod” (fusion dance not included). Shiera died during the process.

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Years later it is revealed that Shiera Hall has a grandniece by the name, Kendra Hall. Kendra was a trouble young woman who took her own life. As her soul left her body Shiera’s entered Kendra’s body. As Shiera possessed Kendra’s empty body she took on her memories, and even believed herself to be her grandniece. Kendra’s grandfather, Speed Saunders noticed this change due to the change in Kendra’s eye color, and encourage her to take on her former life’s role as the new Hawkgirl. With this she eventually took on the mantle and joined the Justice Society. Though Kendra was following the footsteps of her past life, she still refused to believe that she had a past life as Shiera Hall. This greatly frustrated Hawkman who still retains the memories of all his past lives with Shiera. Despite this, Kendra still felt an attraction to him, even if superficial compared towards Carter’s feelings for her. Together, they served as protectors of St. Roch, Louisiana. Though they’ve gotten close to each other it was Kendra’s haunted memories of her parents’ death at the hands of a corrupt cop that strained their relationship.

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Later Kendra joined a newer form of the Justice League. There she started a *brief* relationship with Roy Harper—Red Arrow. Soon Hath-Set remerged as a threat to Hawkgirl. While confronting him Shiera’s soul reawakens and finds that the best way to end to end the reincarnation process shared between the hawks and Hath-Set, her soul needed to move on. As Shiera’s soul moves on to the afterlife Kendra’s very own soul comes back and repossess her own body. With Kendra 100% back—mind, body, and literal soul she then flies off with Carter to a supposed happy ending—which was cut short during DC’s next big event, “Blackest Night,” which involves Black Lantern Rings bringing hordes of dead characters back to life. As Kendra and Carter share an intimate moment, they are both brutally murdered at the hands of the Black Lantern-possessed Elongated Man, and his wife Sue Dibny, and then were then reanimated as Black Lanterns. The hawks’ death was only brief as The Black Lantern threat was negated by the White Lantern Corps, and the “Entity of Life” brought them back. As Carter Hall comes face-to-face to the newly resurrected Hawkgirl it is revealed that she is physically Shiera Hall, not Kendra Saunders. To sum up what happens to the reunited couple after their resurrection, more shenanigans ensue and somehow Shiera turns into element of air and dissipates into nothingness (to quote Vonnegut, “So it goes.”).

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Later all of this changes as Flash goes around messing with the timeline in the other DC event, “Flashpoint.” Now Kendra Saunders is alive and back on “Earth 2” as Kendra “Munoz-Saunders,” a bad-ass treasure hunter. While excavating ancient Egyptian ruins she accidently triggers a sort of “curse” that grafts wings to her back. With these wings she becomes Earth 2’s very own Hawkgirl, with her primary weapon being a various ranged weapons including pistols and a crossbow.

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As for Shiera…

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she’s back on “Earth One,” and is the princess of Thanagar who wants revenge on Carter Hall who she believes to be the murderer of her brother, the Emperor Corsar. Long story short she dies…again…(“So it goes.”)

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Be sure to check out Ciara Renée’s take on Kendra Saunders Hawkgirl on CW’s Legends of Tomorrow!

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Comic History: The Order of St. Dumas

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By: DC

With Rocksteady’s utilization of Azrael within their Arkham series, and the recent reveal of the involvement of the Dumas family in Fox’s Gotham; the Order of St. Dumas is starting to get more recognition in mainstream media. This particular faction in Batman lore has a rather unique backstory, that is definitely worth going over.

The Order of St. Dumas of the Batman comic lore was a former faction of the Knights Templar (you know; the dudes you kill in the Assassin’s Creed). Before they were an independent faction, they were formed during the 14th century Crusades, with the intended purpose of protecting pilgrims making their way to the Holy Land. The Order eventually broke away from the Church and followed the man that The Order would be named after—a man that Ra’s Al Ghul describes as an “insane fanatic” (Manhunter vol. 3 #28). The Order abides by Dumas’ rule that vengeance is to be valued as the ultimate form of justice.

The Order eventually trains an assassin to take on the name of Dumas, and embody his ideals. Despite his training he was defeated by the vigilante, Manhunter (who, long story short, attained his name from the same androids created by the Guardians of Oa). With the Order’s champion defeated, a portion of the faction then broke away from them, calling themselves The Order of Purity—as they were more dedicated towards religious ideals. Both factions then created their own warrior champion who would go by the name, Azrael. For the Order of St. Dumas, the mantle of Azrael is a hereditary line, passed down for generations. Eventually the mantle was passed down to Jean-Paul Valley, a man who was engineered to have super-human physiology, and conditioned to follow the Order’s commands in doing whatever it takes to ensure their rise in power. With the aid of Batman, Valley was able to break away from the Order’s psychic bonds. When free, he then proceeds to destroy the Order of St. Dumas, leaving only the Order of Purity.

Nerd Cram Session: Damien Darhk

By: DC

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With the 4th season of Arrow fast approaching it would be best to get to know the season’s new big bad, Damian Darhk, play by Neal McDonough. With only a brief mention in season three, Damian Darhk is shaping up to be one of Oliver Queen’s deadliest enemies. But who was this character before becoming (Green) Arrow’s newest antagonist? Below I’ll provide an overview on this character’s brief comic history, as well as what we could possibly expect from his character for the fourth-coming season of Arrow.

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Darhk made his debut appearance in the first issue of Devin Grayson’s 1999 run on Titans. During this run he only appeared for seven issues where he briefly acted as the leader of his own incarnation of H.I.V.E. (Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination). It was during the Titans event, Immortal Coil (Titans #10-12), that he played a significant role in the series.

He is first seen revamping the criminal organization, H.I.V.E.  at the behest of his surrogate mother, the H.I.V.E. Mistress, who vehemently wants the death of all costumed heroes. With H.I.V.E under his control, he recruits random criminals into his organization in order to take on heroes like the Titans. Before Darhk could further his agenda he soon finds his organization at odds with Vandal Savage’s super-villain team, Tartarus; a team consisting of Gorilla Grodd, Cheshire, Red Panzer, and Siren. Their goal is to capture the H.I.V.E. Mistress, whose blood contains the components needed for an immortality serum. It was at Darhk’s floating H.I.V.E. fortress where Vandal Savage was successful in his endeavor. With the H.I.V.E. Mistress captured, it is revealed that she is Slade Wilson’s—Deathstroke’s ex-wife, Adeline Kane Wilson. Deathstroke, alongside the Titans soon barge in in hopes of stopping both of Darhk’s and Vandal Savage’s forces. Before Deathstroke could save Adeline Kane Wilson, Gorilla Grodd slits her throat. As chaos ensues between the three parties Darhk reveals that his island contains a thermo-nuclear bomb, which he drops on the country of Zandia, the country his fortress hovers over. With the Titan’s distracted, Vandal Savage proceeds to stab Darhk as he and his team escapes the floating fortress. The Titans were able to successfully diffuse Darhk’s bomb before it could land on Zandia, and as they regroup it is revealed that a weakened Darhk was able to absorb some of Adeline’s blood, making him immortal—and that’s the last he is ever seen in a comic.

During the Immortal Coil event, it could be seen how the character’s Vandal Savage, Gorilla Grodd, and Deathstroke played an integral role alongside Damien Darhk. With these character’s already showing up on Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow, it could be entirely possible that this comic event could have some small influence over Damien Darhk’s arc for the fourth season of Arrow.

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