And There Came A Movie Unlike Any Other

"I won't believe that this is happening until my ass is firmly planted in the cinema!"

I remember saying that when I shared the first wave of promotional images on Facebook and Google+

Well, I've already seen it twice since the movie came out here last Wednesday and I still can't believe that it happened.

Not only did they make a movie about my favorite comic book title ever but they made a great movie period. I'm not gonna go into  details as to how and why because that's what Rotten Tomatoes is for.

What I want to answer is: How does somebody whose online persona has the word "avenger" in it and who celebrated 10 years of being a fan feel about THE MOVIE?

Frankly, I was disappointed.

I didn't expect it to be brilliant.
I didn't expect it to be mindblowing.
I certainly expected a movie that only an Avengers fan would love.

None of those expectations were met. And I'm glad that they weren't because as a huge fan, I feel a sense of entitlement to this franchise. The fandom is not the loudest and not the biggest in the world, to be sure, so this is a make or break moment for us. The Spider-man, X-men, Batman, and Superman fandoms can live their bad movies down on the strength of everything else they got going for them. While the Justice League fans will always have their TV shows, us Avengers fans will only have this one shot at a blip in the radar of pop culture.

Who better to steer us towards that direction than a geek god like Joss Whedon! I remember jolting up from my early morning stupor two years ago when they formally announced at SDCC that he'll be helming the movie. Of course, that event also finalized Mark Ruffalo's replacement of Edward Norton in the role of Bruce Banner as well as the movie roster, which did not include Ant-man and the Wasp.

Did I mind Norton's departure? Not really, though I would've preferred he reprised his role if only for the additional star power to match Robert Downey, Jr.
To be honest, they could've cast a completely new set of actors because I don't really care about the individual movies or characters. I only care about the team. Same reason I didn't mind that Captain America's ears weren't exposed or that Thor didn't have his helmet on.
Regardless of casting and costume differences, everybody in the end did right by their roles including Cobie Smulders. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get Robin Scherbatsky or, worse, Robin Sparkles out of my head but she did right as Maria Hill!

As for Pym and Jan, if they couldn't get their movies out in time, it didn't really make sense for them to be included here because we'd have to spend time detailing their powers and origins instead of moving the story forward. Hawkeye and the Black Widow made sense because as SHIELD Agents, they're already right smack dab in the middle of it all and their powers don't really require much defining. Their scenes are actually the ones I looked forward to the most in the movie.

Yes, Hawkeye is from SHIELD and not from the circus, Nick Fury is black, and the Avengers were forcibly rather than coincidentally assembled. I suppose we owe much to Mark Millar and the Ultimates for paving the way to make this movie happen, but I do wonder what the treatment would've been if it was based more on the 616 timeline.

We'd probably still have Loki but would he still have been allied with that alien race? We'd probably have Skrulls instead, which I've been very vocal not liking the idea of. If not Loki, I would've preferred Ultron (with or without Pym) or Kang or both. That would be fanboy heaven for me!

Speaking of, the identity of the alien invaders and the cameo at the mid-credits were spoiled to me before I watched it. The only solace I find from that is that neither were all that surprising revelations - the former has already appeared in a previous adaptation and the latter has long been rumored.

I already miss those days of rumor-, speculation- and news-mongering. That's almost four years of my life since the first Iron Man movie. I can look forward to a sequel but if this doesn't get one, I'd be perfectly fine with it. How can we possibly top this? We have to do it right or not at all.

I feel strongly about this because as a vocal fan, this movie definitely pushed my personal branding. Everyone I know probably remembers me when they watched it so I also feel a certain level of responsibility. Case in point: My friends applauded ME when we watched the movie together! People I know have been letting me know how much they enjoyed it! I'm just glad they had a good time and that I'm somehow a part of it.

So thank you, Joss Whedon and Marvel, for this gift to the fans of Earth's Mightiest Heroes to hold over the heads of everybody else.

Damn you too for setting the standard so high!


Unofficial Ultimate Guide to the Books

This topic is brought to you by an impulse buy I made over the weekend:

Left: The Avengers Assemble
Right: The Mighty Avengers - An Origin Story
Yes, I'm talking about the Avengers on paper but beyond the comics: the books!
That seems kinda redundant considering that the source material is already in print form and we're living in the age of Wikipedia, but I like having easy access to references whenever I need to look something up.
Or whenever I just want to look or read something that isn't a comic!

Avengers: The Ultimate Guide
Somewhat of a cross between an encyclopedia and a coffee table book, this guide is an easy read and contains tons of casual information about the team and its members. It's infamous among fans for revealing the true identity of Ronin, which was yet to be revealed in comics at the time! Talk about spoilers!

Most of the information is pretty basic (with tons of typos) but where it really shines is the layout and illustrations! The Avengers are presented in the order they joined plus they have a section devoted to the alternate reality/future versions of the team like A-Next and the Ultimates.
One of my favorite things about this book that I have not found anywhere else is the 3D rendering of Avengers mansion!

I like the cover, which is actually from a page of Kieron Dwyer's art for the World Trust storyline. Though I would've preferred it if they had commissioned an artist to do an original art.

This book was also my first Avengers-related item beyond the comics. I remember I had to empty my bank account (I didn't have much yet - just started working) just to get my copy at Fully Booked Gateway.

Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game Guide to the Hulk and the Avengers
This one I picked up on a whim from Comic Odyssey's bin at a comic convention and for an unbelievably discounted price too! I wouldn't have picked it up otherwise since:
a) I'm not really a gamer;
b) I'm not happy about the cover.

For what it's worth, it's actually a much more in-depth guide than the "Ultimate Guide" is. It's got the history of earth's mightiest up to the time of its publication, hero and villain profiles, plus the schematics of Avengers mansion, a cross section of the Quinjet, and the original Avengers charter - all of which you can get from various sources online but is compiled in one easy to browse volume.

Looking around the net, I find that there's another cover of this book that I actually like more:

It has the Thunderbolts on the cover, which is actually lifted from the cover of a novel. It's easy to mistake this edition for another RPG guide book that I also want to check out:

The Avengers Roster Book
It's got original art for a cover! How refreshing!

Avengers: The Ultimate Character Guide
If we take the RPG book and remove everything else but the character profiles complete with numerical statistics, we'll get this book!
What's great about it is that it was pretty updated - it had profiles for members of the Dark Avengers, the Initiative, the Young Avengers in addition to heroes, villains, and supporting characters up until Siege and the onset of the Heroic Age! Sadly, and I'm not the first person to notice this, it didn't have an entry on James Barnes either as Bucky, the Winter Soldier or Captain America!
Seriously, though: What is it with these books and their covers? Is it that expensive to do an original one?

Official Index to the Marvel Universe
I mentioned in a previous blog that I also picked this up on a whim (ie, another impulse buy).
I like it because it provides an extensive, though text-heavy, summaries of all the issues of the first three volumes of the Avengers and the first volume of the New Avengers plus annuals, one-shots, specials, and mini-series. In a way, it also served as a checklist of sorts, so I know which back issues I wanna check out. I recently ordered a bunch of special issues from Milehigh Comics based on what I gathered from this book.

I do hope they release a similar tome for the West Coast Avengers, and the other spin-offs like Mighty, Dark, Young, Initiative, etc.
Cover-wise, there's really not much to ask for in a book like this so I'm good.

That's all I have so far, but I intend to expand the collection some more and include the following books when they come out:

The Avengers: The Ultimate Guide to Earth's Mightiest Heroes!

Avengers Kit

The Art of Marvel's The Avengers
And speaking of the movie, somebody compiled the tie-in books in a neat blog. The books are mostly targeted towards much younger readers, which seems to be the trend. This makes it kinda awkward for me as a grown man to be looking for this storybook at the children's book section:

Captain America Joins The Avengers
Like "The Mighty Avengers" (see above), this book has nice illustrations and it's interesting to see how they adapted the comic to a storybook. Though I'd wager that the same text and illustrations from both storybooks are what's in the only compelling reason I'd want an iPad:

Avengers Origins: Assemble! Storybook iOS App
For a more adult flare though, there's this interesting nugget which is also available for the Kindle:
The Avengers and Philosophy: Earth's Mightiest Thinkers

Outside of these, there are also novels and I'd like to thank our friendly neighborhood Wikipedia for the complete list. Though I have yet to get into one myself, I find novelizations of comics and movies a bit odd considering they were already graphic in nature. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
But what do I know? I read Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia after the watching the movies!


A League Of Their Own

First of all, I'd like to say "thank you" to whoever you are who's been constantly "plussing" my weekly entries. For some reason, Blogger is not revealing who you are, so please identify yourself so I can acknowledge you properly.

Now on to the topic at hand.

Without a doubt, the Avengers have earned their rightful title as "earth's mightiest heroes". Not the most popular, to be sure, but heroes nonetheless. If they were more well-known, they'd be the Justice League. Heck, they'd be the X-men!

I guess that's the mystique of the Avengers for me. When I first got into them, they were just this bunch of characters, most of whom I had never even heard of before, and they were up to me to discover them! And the more I got to know them, the less these guys below evoked the Avengers for me.

This is probably why I didn't mind the line-up for "United They Stand" regardless of how bad the show turned out to be: For me, the Avengers don't necessarily have to include the big 3! After all, earth's mightiest's colorful history is built on the backs of its more obscure members - Hank Pym and the Wasp being prime examples as founders of the team! And some of the stories I enjoyed the most in recent years happened on books that didn't have any member of the big 3 with them!

The new Mighty Avengers
The new Secret Avengers
With art by David Medinnus, here now are my top 10 favorite Avengers outside of the big 3:


Multiple codenames, costumes, and personalities later, it's a wonder this character continues to fascinate me at all. He pretty much starts off with a clean slate with every new persona (and writer)! My favorite identity of his would have to be the Goliath one from the Busiek era.

The Wasp

People assume she's one of the weakest and lamest heroes but what they don't understand is that her true strength was really in her ability to lead - something she worked hard to develop. She used to be the underpowered but overly enthusiastic ray of sunshine in the original Avengers' rank. Sadly she is currently "decommissioned".

Scarlet Witch

A friend of mine has the hardest time accepting her inborn probability altering powers and for a while I've had the same question: If I had that ability in the real world, how exactly do I use it? Regardless, I've always liked her but for some reason I don't feel as strongly about her brother!


Another Avengers who wins major brownie points for personality and attitude rather than power (seeing a pattern there?). Interestingly, at the time when I first started reading and collecting the Avengers, he was hardly ever in the books because he was leading the Thunderbolts.


Ah, the one character whose story is intricately tangled with the Avengers - after all, he was the first character created specifically to be an Avenger! I'm glad they brought him back. Just picked up Avengers 24.1 and, despite Bendis' disregard for character history, it was a pretty good Vision-centric issue.

Black Panther

True to his animal namesake, he's one of the more elusive Avengers. If there was one thing I was looking forward to back in the post-Busiek of Geoff Johns, it was this guy. I'm glad they included him in the line up for "Earth's Mightiest Heroes"! It also looks like he's part of the lineup going into AvX!

Wonder Man

Once again another character that some writers don't really know what to do with. He brings major muscle to the table but he's also a super fun guy! He's like that cool dude buddy you like to hang around with! I don't like what Bendis reduced the character to in last year's annuals but then again, I treat his work as fan fiction anyway.

Miss Marvel

I like her old name better actually. "Wardbird" has a nice ring to it, but I guess having the "Marvel" name is way more iconic. The thing with her is that she never had to live in her male counterpart's shadow. Same goes for Spider-woman, which is probably why the bond so well. I can't wait to see her in "Earth's Mightiest Heroes".


For all my dislike of most of what Bendis had done with the Avengers, introducing Spider-woman is something I was on board with. Unlike her fellow New Avengers, she's someone who's not tied with any other team or franchise - not even Spider-man. So her inclusion among earth's mightiest is long overdue.

Black Widow

I've often opined that she's probably the only alpha female who's got the chops to be the Avengers' Wonder Woman - not in terms of power levels but rather in terms of stature in the team. She can lead and she kicks ass! So I'm all for her inclusion in the movie, even if it bypassed the first two lady Avengers - the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch!

These are the characters that I enjoy reading the most of, who I really love seeing together, and who really bring the Avengers to my mind! I would buy a book that had all these guys in the roster!
Notice how most of these guys were pro-registration back in the Civil War, which was why I sided with them and not with Cap.

So close! The original Mighty Avengers with Spider-woman.
What I would really like is for someone somewhere to do a story or a miniseries with my ideal roster.
Alex Ross San Diego Comic Con 2010 Exclusive


Earth's Mightiest Cartoon Heroes

With the premiere of Season 2 of Earth's Mightiest Heroes last week, I thought it best to finally tackle the Avengers' animated incarnations over the years.

I suppose if I were to be really strict about it, my adventures with the Avengers didn't begin when I picked up my very first issue. It began during the last three weeks of my time in Canada as it was then that I caught the first three episodes of Avengers: United They Stand (along with Spider-man Unlimited, which debuted at the same time).

At the time, my knowledge of the Avengers was limited to what I gathered from the trading cards and the only members of the cast familiar to me then were the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Hawkeye, and the Falcon. Ant-man, Tigra, Wonder Man, and the classic Avengers villains Ultron and Kang were completely alien to me.

We've got ourselves some bulked up bad asses here.
For all that the show was panned by fans and critics alike and did not rate high enough for a second season to commence, I enjoyed those episodes that I managed to catch before flying back to Manila
Maybe it's because I had zero expectations and no attachment or inclination towards the source material whatsoever. Or maybe because I was young and stupid.

I actually like this roster if only because it's made up of some of my favorites.
When I became a fan of the Avengers, this is one of the things that hounded me for years! Where was I to get all the episodes to this?
Enter YouTube, Firefox Portable and the extension VideoDownloadHelper, and the Wimply FLV player - all in 2006! Somebody uploaded majority of the episodes and all I had to do was go to the nearest Internet cafe (didn't have my own broadband connection then), plug my flash disk in, and using all those tools, download the videos and watch them when I get home!

I can't remember why but the uploader was missing some episodes (I think it was the last four) and it wasn't until I stumbled upon a bootleg compilation DVD at a toy fair later that year that I finally got to watch all 13 episodes of the show! And I gotta say: Even with my significantly heightened involvement with the characters by this time, I still enjoyed it! I wouldn't go so far as say the show was even good but I would still love to see what they would've done with season 2!

Speaking of bootleg, around the time that all this was happening came the announcement that they're doing Ultimate Avengers. Once again, Manila was out of the distribution plans (initially) and it took a while before I finally got to see it. Luckily, a relative tipped me about a store in Ali Mall that sells bootleg DVDs of animated shows and movies. I remember going there immediately and was pleasantly surprised that they had a copy of the movie - devoid of special features of course.

Didn't realize they were popular enough to be bootlegged.
I can't remember if I had already read the Ultimates by the time I watched the movie but I was already familiar with the source material enough to know what to expect, and it still blew me away!
I remember getting chills upon watching the first few, introductory scenes alone. For the first time I was watching the classic Avengers lineup with Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Giant-man and the Wasp and, of course, Captain America and even the Black Widow! It's their Ultimate versions, to be sure, but it was still better than nothing!
Production value isn't all that bad either. The animation was superb, the script and the voice actors were spot on, and the music was awesome!

The movie eventually spawned a sequel that I also (initially) got a bootleg of. I wanted to be excited about it, especially since it added an Avenger I rarely saw in the comics let alone in the animated adaptations: the Black Panther; but I found the movie quite lacking. A lot of things just seemed forced - the character tensions, their personal struggles, the supposedly heroic sacrifice at the end. Even the music just didn't tug at my heartstrings as much as the first one did. I really don't know what it is. Maybe it's because it diverged from the source material too much. It was still fun though.

My dad got me a copy of the original DVDs  from the States sometime later and watched  both movies again - with special features this time!
I would've loved to see a couple more sequels, if only to experience more of their adventures outside of the Chitauri. Expand the cast to include their versions of Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch (fine, Quicksilver too), and the Vision PLUS Kang and Ultron and color me rabid! And since they've already done Wakanda, why not explore Atlantis? Ah, fanboy dreams!

Both DVDs are available at local stores.
Instead of any of that, we got Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow.
Once again, the DVD wasn't made available locally but I managed to get a copy of the movie anyway a few weeks after its release. I remember falling asleep through it the first time I watched it more because I was really tired that day but do I remember enjoying it immensely when I finally got to watch the whole thing!

I wish they had just instead done a second Ultimate Avengers sequel and tied everything up into a nice trilogy OR adapted one of the classic storylines (Kree-Skrull War, Operation: Galactic Storm quickly come to mind) OR, if they really wanted to do an original story, featured these kids' parents - the real Avengers! Why even create a whole new set of characters when we already have the next generation of Avengers from the comics?
Replace the Widow with the Scarlet Witch and this lineup is perfect!
To be fair, though, it was still an enjoyable movie and the soundtrack was just as kicking as the first Ultimate Avengers movie. I guess it also expanded the Avengers mythos just a bit as evidenced when the Next Avengers made their way into the comics by way of the Heroic Age relaunch. Though, I feel their sudden appearance mostly fueled hype as they did practically nothing (I blame the writer)!

At the time of this movie's release in 2008, Marvel was also busy with the first two offerings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk, which was probably why they featured prominently in the story and on the cover of the DVD.

It's still not available locally.
I had to order my copy from Amazon.ca last year and had it shipped to my grandma who was flying back to Manila. 
In the midst of all this hype came the announcement I've been waiting for since I became a fan:
They were finally working on an Avengers cartoon series featuring the classic team and the classic stories!
I couldn't contain my excitement! I was at the office when the news first broke and I joked with my colleague how I'd be pushing 30 by the time the cartoon hits but I didn't care!

The teaser/test footage above was released (or was it leaked?) along with the news and I was planning to download it (with the tools I enumerated some paragraphs above) but I didn't get to it right away.
By the time I was going to, the footage had already been taken down! The footage would surface again a couple of years later just as the show was about to premiere and I was finally able to download a copy to store in my media player to watch at my leisure!

This clip from SDCC 2010 (also notable for having assembled the Avengers movie cast for the first time) was also the first time we heard the theme song by Bad City, which sounded like a bad idea at first, but I'm one with the all the fans when I say I love it now! Producer Joshua Fine recently responded to a fan's tweet about it saying if we want the full version of the song released, we need to let Marvel know!

The show itself is amazing!
It took a lot of cues from the classic stories and somehow managed to incorporate elements from the newer comics as well as the Marvel movies, and even introduced a few new bold concepts as well (e.g., the connection between Asgard and Nazi Germany preceded the movies)!
For example: The first two episodes combined the original Avengers from the Avengers Vol. 1 No. 1, Graviton from West Coast Avengers No. 1, and the super villain prison breakout from New Avengers Vol. 1 No. 1!
Hulk left the team in issue 3 of the original comics and did so again in episode 3 of EMH!
Meanwhile, Captain America joined the team in issue 4 of the comics and in episode 4 of the series!

Replace Hawkeye with the Widow and we have the cast of Ultimate Avengers 2!
If there's one gripe I have it's that Season 1 just seemed too short. When they said that there's gonna be a microseries preceding the series premiere, I thought the rest of the 26 episodes for the season were gonna be all new stories.
Alas! They compiled the microseries into five of those episodes, leaving me with just 21 new episodes!
Oh well. That's already more than what the previous series had, and we still have Season 2!

As far as the roster is concerned, I have no complaint. This is my ideal line-up, especially with the addition of  the Vision in Season 2. Still no Scarlet Witch though, but Miss Marvel makes for a logical alternative. After all, Wanda only brings magic to the team (something Thor already has) while Carol contributes something new: cosmic power!

One thing I would really love is a Justice League Unlimited approach to the cast!
I first got to watch the show on YouTube because someone managed to upload the episodes, sometimes even way ahead of the US airing! But I'm not gonna go the bootleg route - I'll just wait til the series wraps up later this year and hope they release a complete DVD set of all 2 seasons (unless they make a Season 3 though)!
History repeats itself:  EMH  marketed along with new series Ultimate Spider-man.
Just like when UTS was marketed with Spider-man Unlimited. 
Too bad they don't have toys or games connected to the show.
Apparently that's not the way things are done now.
At least the toy line tied with UTS had a cool Quinjet