Monday, February 13, 2017

Black Superheroes: Mal Duncan

I think this is "Herald" but I CANNOT  keep these names straight
Name: Malcolm Duncan

First Appearance: Teen Titans #26 (1970)

History: Born in raised in the inner city, Mal Duncan had a chance encounter with the Teen Titans where he saved their lives. Impressed with Mal's fighting skills the team offered him the chance to join their ranks despite his lack of superpowers. While Mal often felt out of place due to not having super human abilities (and occasionally because of his race) he proved to be a vital member of the team for years. During his tenure as a superhero Mal adopted several identities including Guardian (after donning an exoskeleton granting him enhanced physical stats), Hornblower (after earning a magic horn that, when blown, evens the odds of any fight he is in), the Herald (where he had a technological horn rather than a magic one) and more recently Vox (gaining sonic powers due to cybernetic enhancements). In addition to being a Teen Titan Mal has been a member of Doom Patrol and is in a long time relationship with fellow hero Bumblebee .

Beta Says: Well friends, it's time for me to eat a little crow as I was a bit short with Mal in my write-up for Bumblebee a few years ago. The fact is that Mal Duncan is not only a very important figure in Teen Titans lore he is, historically speaking, one of the most important black characters in superhero comics. While I can’t find specific confirmation for this, Mal might be DC's first successful African-American superhero creation, predating both John Stewart and Black Lightning! Despite this Mal doesn't get anywhere near the recognition he deserves (i.e., no recognition). Even if you discount his historical significance you can there is still at least one reason you need to respect this dude: one time, fairly early in his existence, he is killed but then subsequently challenges Azrael, the Angel of Death, to a fist fight for the right to come back to life...and wins! Mal may be greatest comic book creation in history!

So why then has Mal Duncan drifted so far in though the background when he should be considered on the same level of importance as the likes of Storm, Black Lightning and Black Panther? I'm sure there were all sorts of factors but politics and racism seem to be at play. What a refreshing change of pace for 1970s comics.

More on Guardian/Hornblower/Herald/Vox/Mal after the jump.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review in Progress: Countdown #51 - #41

In 2007 DC Comics was bringing their critically acclaimed, yearlong limited series 52 to a conclusion. I hadn't read a single issue of that comic and it killed me. The reviews were great and what I had glimpsed of the story was epic. As luck would have it in those final weeks and months DC begun releasing teasers for a follow-up called "Countdown" which would also be a yearlong/weekly series. Knowing how well received 52 had been I promised myself that I would buy every issue of the comic without fail so I could capture what I had missed out on during the previous twelve months. And, sure enough, I kept my promise.

It was the single biggest blunder of my comic book fandom.

Countdown sucked, plain and simple. When it was over I had never felt so grateful to be done with a comic book in my life. Once it was complete I tossed the books un-bagged and un-boarded on a bookshelf in my rented house and never thought of them again. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Nearly ten years later, during a move, those same comics came back into my possession having been bounced around un-read through a few houses of friends of mine. They were mostly undamaged. Initially I thought that maybe I should just toss them out to make space but then I thought it might be more fun to revisit them. After all it had been a decade. I'm older, I'm wiser and perhaps I might be able to appreciate the comic more. Perhaps I was too hasty in my judgment back then. And what's the point of revisiting such an epic comic if you don't document your thoughts and stick them on the internet?

So here's what's going on: I will read every issue of Countdown and talk about it in a "Review in Progress". This will be several parts, with each post looking at a batch of issues (this first one looks at the first eleven issues). I probably won't be releasing them super regularly but the plan is to have the entire run reviewed by the summer at the latest. We'll see. If you would like more information regarding background story information feel free to check out my previous blogs "Countdown to Countdown Parts One Two”.

Countdown #51 to #41 after the jump.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Countdown to Countdown, Part II

I feel like most of this stuff doesn't play out in Countdown
Better buy every DC Comic to make sure
We've reached the second and final part of the Countdown pre-blog. If you haven't yet be sure to check out Part I. I'll wait.

There are a lot of characters in Countdown and we follow a lot of plot lines, much like in 52. While looking at every single character that is important in this book would not only be hard to write and hard to read but it would also spoil important plots that I’m not willing to do. (“Yet”, I should say. Trust me; I’ll be spoiling the hell out of this series once we get to the reviews).

However there are certain key characters that I think would be helpful for someone reading my review to have passing knowledge of and know what they were up too leading up to the series. For example, the average person reading this may not know who Kyle Rayner is, that Donna Troy is one of DC’s most complicated characters or that Superman was once Jimmy Olsen’s abusive father.

Superman: "Your love and admiration disgusts me, Jimmy."
Okay, that last one isn’t really all that important, but still…never forget.
Important character notes after the jump.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Countdown to Countdown, Part I

Don't worry; most of this foreshadowing leads nowhere
Today Beta is Dead turns seven years old! Just typing that out made me feel depressed suddenly…

Anyway, I recently moved to a new place and during the process a certain stack of comics came back into my possession, despite me having lost access to them nearly six years earlier; I found every single issue of DC Comic’s Countdown to Final Crisis. This is my least favorite goddamn comic of all time and I’m going to review the hell out of it! Yes, I dislike it more than Spider-Man: One More Day, not because OMD is better (it sure as shit isn’t) but that story only spat in the face of one character’s mythos whereas Countdown took a dump on a huge chunk of the DC Universe. Plus, even though I hate it, OMD did result in many long lasting and (eventual) positive changes to the Spider-Man comics whereas every change and storyline point in Countdown was either retconned (retcon, short for "retroactive continuity"), forgotten or straight up ignored within a MONTH of the series’ end despite months of hype.

 So what is Countdown to Final Crisis? Well, it was a comic book limited series that ran weekly for an entire year beginning in 2007. It was the spiritual successor to the extremely well received 52, another year long comic that took place directly after the events of the big DC crossover Infinite Crisis and ran in real time, instead of the rolling time line most superhero comics adhere to (52 was also the first appearance of the new Batwoman, who I believe was the best new comic creation of the 2000s). The great success of 52 led Dan DiDio, then head honcho of DC Comics, to commission another such series. However, despite the critical success of 52 DiDio supposedly wasn’t a fan of it and opted for the new series to be a “superior” version of the comic. For context, this is the same guy who opted to wipe Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown out of existence and then get upset at fans at conventions who questioned the decision at Q&A sessions at comic conventions. Anyway, though it’s not immediately clear in the beginning it would turn out that Countdown was the lead-up to DC’s next big crossover event, Final Crisis.

 I think I’ll save my exact issues with the comic itself for the review, which will be split into several parts. For today I want to look at the lead-in to Countdown, as this book has a lot of baggage that the Average Joe would need to know before they could possibly understand it (but don’t get it twisted; this comic won’t make any sense no matter what). So this is sort of a “Countdown to Countdown to Final Crisis.”

The Countdown begins after the jump.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2016

I’ve managed to put together another Top Ten Movie list but before I get to that I want to quickly talk about the the current state of Beta is Dead. I have plans to start posting regularly again, though what ultimately turns out to be “regularly” I cannot at this time assume. That said I have plans for the beginning of a new series of blogs starting January 14th (to coincide with the anniversary of the blog) which I have been planning for a while as well as the annual Black Superhero Month in February. We’ll see how it goes; best laid plans and all that.

Alright, enough of that jibber jabber. 2016 was not a great year and as far as movies went there were probably more disappointments than winners. That said there were still plenty of good films out there all year round, so much so that I actually had a hard time figuring out which movie would make the list. For example the likes of Deadpool and Star Trek Beyond just barely didn’t make the list. And, as always, I’m just one man with a full time job so my ability to see every movie in theaters was severely limited and as a result I missed a lot of flicks that acquired critical buzz. Moonlight, Jackie, Fences and others all alluded me this year and therefore weren’t considered. Loud sigh.

My ten personal favorite movies of the year after the jump.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: Batman v Superman - Dawn of Justice

I gave Man of Steel a pretty good review when it came out, though a major problem I had with it was that it was a crappy Superman story and that it wasn’t all that fun. Superman did kill a dude in that flick and while that did bug me what really bothered me was that he didn’t really seem to care all that much afterwards. I mean, Superman probably shouldn’t kill but the reason he shouldn’t is mostly due to his own repulsion at doing so. Man of Steel was a fine action film but it felt a bit like Zack Snyder didn’t really “get” the character. Superman doesn’t need a “dark and gritty” reimagining and if you think he does then you don’t “get him either (similarly the Fantastic Four doesn’t need a “grim and gritty” take either).

Enter the film we’re looking at today: Batman v Board of Education. While Man of Steel was the soft launch of DC Expanded Universe, devised to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this flick is the true start of the campaign. This film, like Man of Steel, was directed by Snyder. I’ve reviewed a few of his movie at this point, Sucker Punch being the film I associate with him the most (Note: I hated it). This movie is heavily influenced by the 1986 comic book The Dark Knight Returns which, along with Watchmen, is credited with ushering in the Dark Age of Comics. The hype machine for this movie has been running hard for over a year, mainly because despite the flick being done Warner Bros. opted to push it back from Summer 2015 to Spring 2016. Having been out for bit now the film has been met mostly negative reviews, with a few sprinklings of folk claiming it’s a fantastic film. Well, now that I’ve seen it myself I have my own opinions. And I’ve only been drinking a little bit, so I’m good to go!

Full review of Regents of the University of California v Superman after the jump.

[Warning: This review contains some spoilers but I do avoid majors ones.]

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beta Likes Wrestling #1b: WrestleMania 32 Pre-Blog Part 2

And it all went downhill from there...
We've reached Day Three of my crazy WrestleMania kick. We’re going to wrap up the rest of the card, specifically the marquee matches that theoretically are bringing everyone into the building. The WWE is hoping to fill the AT&T Stadium, which would be 100,000 people. Everything the company has done for the last year has been to sell this bad boy out. I don’t know if they will do it or not but I feel confident that even if they don’t they’ll probably lie and say that they did. Because wrestling promoters lie all the time.

Um, let’s move on.

You can check out the last blog here to get the details on the first half of the card but if you’re lazy here’s a quick summary, with my predictions.

AndrĂ© the Giant memorial Battle Royal – Tyler Breeze will NOT win

The Usos vs. The Dudley Boys – Usos will win

Kalisto vs. [The] Ryback –Ryback will win

Total Divas vs. B.A.D. & Blonde –The women from that TV show I don’t watch will win 

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match – Kevin Owens will win

The New Day vs. The League of Nations – LON will win, but who f**king cares?

More predictions after the jump.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Beta Likes Wrestling #1a: WrestleMania 32 Pre-Blog Part 1

That was a good night...
WrestleMania 32, the premier wrestling event of WWE, will take place in Arlington, TX at the AT&T Stadium (...damn you, corporate brand recognition strategy) on April 3rd, 2016. As I mentioned previously I'll be writing about it over the next week.

Here’s the deal; we’re going to go through each announced match individually, giving a brief summary of the storyline of the match. I’ll also talk about matches that will likely be on the card even if they aren’t announced as of the time of writing. In addition I’ll give my brief opinions of the match (because that’s what I do on this blog with movies and comics; why shouldn’t I do it with wrestling) as well as predictions. I’ll also toss a few notes that I think you might find interesting. Before we get to it here are a few terms that you may be unfamiliar with that I may bring up during this blog.

Babyface/Face: A wrestling “good guy”.

Heel: A wrestling “bad guy”.

Luchador: Usually refers to a Mexican wrestler, especially if they're wearing a mask.

NXT: WWE’s developmental promotion. Think of it as the minor league team that the major league franchise owns as use as a feeder program.

Preview after the jump.