Editorial

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Comic Culture With Rafa: #014

The New 52 Justice League: A Perfect Entry Point Into Comics

An Editorial From Rafael Encinas

We live in a time where we get to see characters like Spider-Man, Batman, and Deadpool on the big screen. This is something truly special because it wasn’t always like this. In our present time where superheroes are all the craze, there is an influx of new fans that want to explore these iconic characters and delve into the pages of the comic book format. However, as many new readers will attest, finding an entry point to these larger than life superheroes can be a daunting task; especially when there are so many characters and so many years of storytelling to catch up on.

Though many did not like it, I am very happy that DC tried to create an entry point for new fans by starting the New 52 continuity in 2011. This was a hard reset of iconic DC characters, with all new #1 issues. Basically, new fans were welcomed to learn about popular characters like Superman or Wonder Woman with revamped origins. The old stories weren’t important for newcomers to dive right in. You could now start here. Unfortunetly, this did create a division in the comic fans who were reading these stories for years. Therefore, many found the New 52 as a failed experiment; something that hurt comics more than help them. However, for all its faults, the New 52 did give us some great stories (especially in the Batman and Green Lantern books), but one of the best has to be Geoff Johns’ and Jim Lee’s fun and exciting Justice League series, specifically the first six issues (collected as Justice League Vol. 1 Origin in trade paperback). 

For anyone who wants to jump into comics, but is afraid to do so because of all the rich history and running titles, then look no further because this Justice League story is the quinnessential entry point for new comic fans! It’s great for many reasons, but the main reason is because it captures the allure and passion of what makes people gravitate toward superheroes in the first place: excitement, joy, and lots of heart.

First and foremost, I personally love this book! I have reread this story on multiple occasions in the past couple years, and it continues to be just as exciting and fun as it was the first time I read it. It is an excellent reimagining of the Justice League coming together in a modern world with a darker and grittier edge. The plot is simple. Darkseid (one of the DC universe’s biggest bad guys) is coming to earth, and his legions of parademons are invading. Therefore, the world’s meta humans are the first line of defense. We get to see how Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg come together for the first time. It is absolutely fun reading Batman and Green Lantern play off of one another, like two people who are forced to get along even though they don’t like each other. It is exciting to see the Flash and Superman try to “outfast” one another. And almost every line that comes out of Wonder Woman’s mouth is so earnest but also both fun and funny. It is a serious end of the world scenario, but it still manages to be a wild action set piece with brilliant comedic moments! 

Jim Lee does some of his best work in this story with dynamic art that really energizes the pages. The redesigns of classic superhero costumes are given a youthful vitality, and it can be seen, especially well, in the fluid and stylized detail that Lee is famous for. The countless iconic moments (such as Superman breaking through Green Lantern’s chains; Aquaman summoning a horde of great white sharks, or Batman using all the weapons in his utility belt) all feel grand and important as the story progresses. Personally, the grand entrance of a massive Darkseid is definitely a highlight, and his overall character design is brutal and terrifying. The way he is drawn to tower over the heroes adds dread and excitement to a story that just keeps getting more and more intense! 

What works best however is the genius characterizations of the Justice League members themselves. Though it is a team book with plenty of action set pieces, Geoff Johns showcases exactly why he is one of the greatest writers to have ever graced comic books. He understands character dynamics and gives each character time to shine in his story. Green Lantern plays the perfect comedic show off to Batman’s brooding detective. Flash is a great mediator who is just trying to do the right thing. Both Wonder Woman and Aquaman have great energy and command the screen when they slay waves of parademons. The incorporation of Cyborg to the team is different from what we’ve seen in the past, but I believe it’s an interesting plot point that serves its purpose. Superman is utilized as muscle, and doesn’t necessarily have to be the focal point because of all the great characters around him. He gets his moment to shine, like everyone else, but he is not seeking to lead the team. All of them coming together happens randomly and unexpectedly. They don’t know one another, but through their resolve, teamwork, and hilarious jabs at one another, they seamlessly become the Justice League. It works, and it is exciting every time I read it!

I got into comic books because they provided an escape into a world where people could fly; where the good guys would look fear in the face and still move forward. These were the stories that motivated me to be a better person; to love life because these modern day gods were on full display in my hands. Superhero stories will never go out of style because they inspire us to be better, and this story does this so well. Batman’s heart-to-heart with Green Lantern; Wonder Woman taking a moment to enjoy ice-cream; Superman & Flash inspiring one another; Cyborg overcoming his personal fears and shining so brightly; these moments feel important and we see the magic on full display. In a world filled with apocalyptic destruction, the appearance of heroes creates wonder. We see hope for a better future!

Importantly, David Graves is a character introduced in the last issue of this story in where he and his family are trying to escape the literal hell on the streets. We see people being eviscerated by Darkseid and his parademons. Graves knows he is about to die with his family, and it’s an intense moment, but then he encapsulates the exact appeal and level of inspiration that these heroes can elicit in someone. David Graves represents everyone who has ever opened a comic book or watched a movie where they witnessed something so immersive and so special that it transcends understanding; it just becomes a warm feeling; a fulfilling moment. He puts it best when he says: “I thought there was going to be no tomorrow. I thought my family and I were going to die. Then I saw THEM. And I saw tomorrow.” The Justice League is just that iconic. 

Justice League (2011) is a great story for multiple reasons, but by far, it’s one of the best because it cares about its characters, and they are written to inspire. They inspire us because they are not perfect beings. We see them fight. The running joke about Batman not having any powers; Barry & Hal’s personal banter; and Green Lantern antagonizing everybody on the team feels personal and relatable. They feel like a group of people that quickly become a group of friends; your friends. And we cheer for them because of what they can represent! They might be an alien, an Amazon, a cyborg, a living lightning bolt, an aquaman, a space cop, and a dude in a batsuit, but there’s something utterly unique and special in that. It just works. And we are made to care.

Overall, it is a quick read; an easy read. It will make you chuckle and gasp at the beautiful art. It’s a well written narrative about a bunch of outcasts coming together and becoming something important. If you want to read something that elicits those emotions of wonder and excitement, to see a standard of excellence, this is the book for you; no prior reading necessary. It is a wonderful entry point into the magical world that is comic culture!

Comic Culture With Rafa #012

Transcending Comics: 10 Years Of Arkham Asylum
An Editorial From Rafael Encinas

It is September 2019, and this means it is the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest videogames that has ever come out, and that is “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” I write this having just finished beating the game for the fifth time in my life, and in good timing because it is officially Batman Day on Saturday, Sept. 21st. But none of this was planned. it all happened unexpectedly. 

It all started like three weeks ago when I decided to purchase an Xbox One. PlayStation has always been my preferred platform, but I needed a new entertainment system for my living room, so I got an Xbox One, ultimately, so I can play Halo because I haven’t played the Halo series in many many years. Well, as I was setting up the Xbox One, the machine asked me if I wanted to subscribe to Xbox’s Game Pass. Being a weak-willed person, I was like: two dollars!? Hell Yeah! I’ll do that to play all of the Master Chief Collection and try out Gears of War 5. But, that didn’t happen.  I actually ended up downloading and replaying “Arkham Asylum”. It is just that good!

There are few words to describe the feelings of empowerment you feel when in control of the Dark Knight. He feels strong; there is weight to his footsteps, which can be further attributed to the fact that he does not have a jump function in the game (after all, Batman does not jump). The free flow combat style feels so cool as you cash checks and break necks in slow motion. The detective mode is optimal for solving puzzles, collecting riddler trophies, and creatively taking down bad guys! This game makes you feel like Batman, and this is very important!

What makes this game stand the test of time, besides the excellent voice acting by two titans of industry who are already so ingrained into the Batman mythos, is the artful storytelling combined with the stylistic visuals and game mechanics. Moments where Batman’s world unravels as Scarecrow’s toxins change the environment still hold up and are both cinematically and visually astounding. It is a visual movie that you are in control of. And this is why it is so loved by both gamers and comic readers alike. It is a rewarding action adventure game that is respectful of the source material and which has endless replay value. I mean there is something truly satisfying in beating up criminals as the Batman! 

Moreover, I recently read through Judd Winick’s epic, Batman: Under The Red Hood (2004) on a school trip to Arizona State University, and as I read through each issue, I forgot that I was sitting in a bus alongside my students. I was completely engrossed by Winick’s cheeky humor and thematic plot points, and I was blown away by Doug Mahnke’s visceral art! 

As I read through this story, I was able to appreciate the care and detail in the Batman mythos, and it made me think that there is a reason why there are so many fantastic Batman stories. Batman is a character that people want to write. His stories are rich in thematic narratives of justice, grit, corruption, good vs. evil, family, and hope. 

As a comic reader, you can find amazing Superman stories. You can find quintessential Wonder Woman stories; however, there is a much bigger number of amazing Batman stories and that is because he is an icon of his craft, and people connect with the character on a whole other level. Reading through the Under the Red Hood storyline made me appreciate the Bat family that much more. It reminded me about the true aspects of heroism and how Batman always ascribes to be better than the criminals he takes down. 

It is just one story in an ocean of amazing Batman writing. And this is why the videogame is so important; it is just another mode of fantastic storytelling that is pushed forward through gaming and that is special because you take command of the Dark Knight. You get the same beautiful artistic and visual storytelling, but now you are an active participant as you walk around in Batman’s suit and take on the Joker. 

Batman storytelling is a feat of greatness and is only that much better because it has transcended beyond popular shows and films. It has created a vast interactive world through the Arkham games. Visiting Joker in the visitor center in between missions is exciting and feels meaningful . Using the different gadgets to dodge Bane, escape Croc, and side-step Ivy feels immersive. Speaking with Oracle as you try to traverse the complex areas on the asylum feels like you are not alone. And finally putting on some of that explosive gel and punching Titan Joker in the face in the finale is oh so satisfying. This game feels just as fun as the first time I played it. Hell, finding bits of lore and creating a comprehensive listing of Batman villains in your archives as you go into detective mode or pick up trophies still feels fun and exciting, exactly what every great Batman story should have you feeling during the adventure! Happy anniversary to “Batman: Arkham Asylum!”

Toy Geeking Out with Rafa and Chris, SDCC 2019 edition

By Rafael Encinas and Christopher Franey

With another San Diego Comic Con finished and in the record books, we can all let our appetite for NERD news and culture rest easy. From awesome comic book reveals to intense trailers to the announcement and showcase of MCU’s Phase Four, there are a lot of things to “Geek Out” about (I mean, did you see that The Witcher trailer). However, one main talking point that we feel gets overlooked at times is the presentation and reveal of awesome new toys and collectibles! After all, who doesn’t want to add to their toy collections with the awesome new things that come out from popular fandom? One thing is for sure, we here at Geek Elite Media are downright chomping at the bit for some of these action figures!  Therefore, our resident toy connoisseurs, Chris and Rafa, are excited to talk action figures and what they are looking forward to the most from San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

Rafa’s Favorite Toys of San Diego Comic Con 2019

5. Neon Genesis Evangelion Gets the Funko POP Treatment

Funko

With ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ finally streaming on Netflix, it is now going to be available for mass consumption from all kinds of new fans. In all seriousness, NGE has some iconic characters, and I was so excited to see that the show’s resident tsundere, Asuka Langley Soryu, is going to be given the Funko POP treatment. I am especially excited about this because it will open the door to Rei and Shinji POPs. We will eventually get Eva Units and the adorable Pen Pen. I am excited to see what this means for the future.

4. Marvel Legends Gives Us Avengers: Endgame Fan Favorites

Hasbro

In a perfect timeline where ‘Avengers: Endgame’ has become the highest grossing film of all time (take that ‘Avatar’), we have so many Marvel Legends toys to look forward to! Though, I would argue that Hasbro has taken too long to create a Heimdall figure, one cannot lie that the MCU figures have been coming in waves. By far though, I am beyond excited with the announcement and reveal of a certain Thor figure!  We are getting the Marvel Legends Fat Thor (Build-A-Figure), and you best believe I will collect all the MCU figures in this line.

3. Tamashii Nations and S.H. Figuarts Gives Us Explosive Action

S.H. Figuarts

S.H Figuarts makes some of the most articulated and heavily detailed figures ever conceived. I am a big fan of their ‘Dragon Ball’ figures, especially considering that I have amassed so many over the years. But regardless of how many I have, there always seems to be one missing, but with SDCC, we finally got the full reveal of ‘Dragon Ball Super’s’ strongest opponent for Goku yet. I am talking about Jiren the Grey. With three interchangeable head pieces, multiple hands, a folded arm piece, and a special effect piece, we are getting a fully posable Jiren who will be a welcome addition to the collection!

2. Hasbro’s Upcoming Power Ranger Collection

Hasbro

It is no secret that I absolutely love the ‘Power Rangers’ franchise. I have been collecting the toys since I was a kid. So, with Hasbro producing some of the best figures I have seen in years, I was very excited to see what SDCC has in store. First and foremost, the Exclusive Power Rangers Lightning Collection: 6-inch Mighty Morphin’ Red & Gold Rangers is a godsend and masterpiece of toys. This has really been the year of Jason Scott, and the original Red Ranger is getting all kinds of love. I am very much looking forward to purchasing this 2-pack on Hasbro Pulse.

Hasbro

Furthermore, the other toys announced and displayed were great! We were finally given pictures of the second wave of Power Rangers Lightning Collection: 6-inch Rangers. I am especially jazzed to have a Magna Defender toy to scale with my other action figures. Also, the reveal of the upcoming Power Rangers Lightning Collection: 6-inch Fighting Spirit Green Ranger & Putty 2-pack was exciting. We have a putty patroller and the one and only Green Ranger ready to be added to the collection. Consider me to be a happy Power Ranger fan.

1. So Much Love for Everyone’s Favorite Mutants

Hasbro

With Jonathan Hickman taking over the reins of the X-Men comics, there is a lot of excitement going around. There are so many things to discuss, and trust us, we will talk about this in another article; however, I am most excited to see some of my favorite mutants being manifested into plastic form. Marvel Legends is delivering the X-Men love. I am so excited to see characters live Dani Moonstar, Havok, Polaris, and even the awesome X-Man all getting new action figures! It is a wonderful time to be an X-men fan!

Hasbro

However, I am most excited for the reveal of the announced Cyclops, Wolverine, and Jean Grey 3-Pack. First of all, we are getting a reissued and updated 90’s costume Jean Grey which we have been missing for so long. Second, we are getting another Wolverine, but I like the slight battle-damage, and he will be a great pick-up who missed this figure when it came out last year. But most excitedly, I am so excited for a Jim Lee 90’s Cyclops with a dope signature jacket!  But it doesn’t end there; the figure also comes with two additional heads with varying sunglasses for a more casual look. X-Men fans, rejoice. It is a great time to be a Cyclops fan!  

Chris’ Favorite Toys of San Diego Comic Con 2019

So Rafa and I totally agree with the Power Rangers and Marvel Legends that Hasbro stole the show at SDCC.  I already pre-ordered a Cyclops/Jean/Wolverine 3-pack, Green Ranger/Putty two pack, and Pink Ranger…now just to score that Red/Gold Ranger SDCC two pack and I’m good.  So here are some of my other picks from SDCC:

5. Jada Transformers

Jada Toys

This is more just based off of the idea “I see it I want it.”  I do have to say I’ve seen these little metal figures before and they look catchy but usually seen on human characters so they always look a little off, but with a Transformer they look perfect.  This Optimus Prime is the perfect minifigure to pay my respects to ol’ OP without having to deal with blind boxes and not getting the figure I want. I just hope he is on the smaller scale of Jada toy products.  Here is a gallery from Toyark.com:

Jada’s Transformers

4. Diamond Select Toys – Marvel, DC, and the Rocketeer

Diamond Select Toys

Now I’m cheating here but I am covering a toy line that just happens to do more than one license, but the major things that I’ll be looking forward to from them are the upcoming ‘X-Men the Animated Series’ busts.  Shown so far were Cyclops, Jean Grey, Magneto, and Wolverine and they look like they just came right out of the TV screen; these are so spot on I hope DST does action figures in this style later on. With DST’s Vinimates I am hyped for the Batman Classic two pack of Michael Keaton Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman from ‘Batman Returns’ along with a Rocketeer Vinimate that will be perfect for my desk toys.  Here are some links from Toyark.com that feature their galleries so you can see more of DST’s products:

DST DC     DST Marvel     DST Rocketeer & others 

3. NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

NECA

NECA is one of those toy lines we often forget about…they find themselves hidden at Target usually in the Music/Movies section when they should be with the TOYS!  Sometime in the last year, I went to Target and found the first wave of NECA TMNT two packs which was the four turtles paired with Shredder, Krang, or a Foot Soldier…so you had to buy four 2-packs to get the team and that was going to cost around $200.  I passed and honestly I’m regretting it, especially with the announced team up with ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’ (in the comics). Also announced at SDCC, they will be doing more animated two packs and it looks like the fab four will be rereleased in a lighter shade of color more in tone with the cartoon show; which is totally fine with me as I loved that cartoon.  Hopefully with future releases we will be getting that awesome Casey Jones figure on display; so add him to the four turtles and I’ve got my team. I’m going to attach a link to Toy News International for their gallery:

NECA TMNT 

2. MAFEX’s Into the Spider-Verse

MAFEX

These were actually revealed at Medicom Toy Expo which was running concurrently as SDCC, but finally a Peter B. Parker (PBP) figure!  I know growing up I always wanted to be Spider-Man but life has its twists and turns and honestly PBP is probably the best I could hope to be.  Sadly Hasbro didn’t do much in the way of toys with Spider-Verse but these figures save the day. I love the outer clothes that are on these highly posable figures…it really adds to the dimension and their look.  This PBP figure will be on my desk as well reminding me to get to the gym. Here is a gallery and write up from MarvelousNews.com

MAFEX Spider-Verse 

1.  Mattel’s DC Multiverse

Mattel

So this is probably the last wave of DC comics figures from Mattel and it will be hard to say goodbye to this toy maker as I think DC Universe Classics (DCUC) was a great match for Marvel Legends, but when DCUC became Multiverse it just felt half hearted.  They had some great picks for their line ups, but the wait between waves was just forever…so out of sight out of mind. With the last wave it looks like they are celebrating Batman’s 80th anniversary and I like some of the choices, especially when it comes to the Robins.  We are getting some updates for former Robins with Jason Todd as Red Hood and Tim Drake as Red Robin, but the biggest one for me is the Dick Grayson Batman…finally!! Like how long ago was Grant Morrison’s run on Batman and we are finally getting a Dick Bats; which I’ve also already preordered.  The only drawback is the cloth capes…this doesn’t stay consistent with the majority of the line, but I think I can quick custom fix that. Plus I really dig the throwbacks to the ‘89 Batman figures with a black suit Batman and old school Joker. Here is Toyark’s gallery:

Mattel’s DC Multiverse 

So another SDCC has come and gone…with it comes the promise of many items and things that keep our fandoms alive.  What are the things that you are looking forward to getting that you have seen previewed at SDCC? Chime in and let us know at our Facebook/Twitter pages, @GeekEliteMedia, or comment on this article as well.  You can find Rafa and talk toys with him on Twitter as @Mobilerafie or check out his AMAZING YouTube channel.  You can find me on twitter as @StuffIShudSay…so shop wisely and always remember to GEEK OUT!

Comic Culture With Rafa: #011

Evil Machinations: Why I Love The Ultron Concept

An Editorial From Rafael Encinas

I have always liked robots. Robots are some of the coolest concepts in both science fiction and horror. Everywhere one may look, people can find a really interesting or horrific android, cyborg, or mechanical organism causing mayhem or becoming a central focal point to mainstream culture. Some examples include the Terminator, Hal 9000, Cylons, Sentinels, Johnny 5, or the Iron Giant. Therefore, because robots are so ingrained and customary to society’s ideas of collective mainstream entertainment and scientific culture, it is important to find the best and most unique robots in popular culture. Well, one of my favorite mechanized monstrosities would have to be Hank Pym’s megalomaniacal and genocidal sentient robot Ultron! Not only is Ultron a pretty sweet machine, but he is also a deadly super villain who has been more than the heroes could handle on more than one occasion in the Marvel Universe.

First of all, the origin of this villain is wild! Ultron is a criminally insane machine focused on destroying all human life. Built by Hank Pym to help the heroes and eventually replace the necessity of the Avengers, Ultron was meant to be a force for good and progress; a benevolent, sentient protector. Instead, what manifested was a self-replicating, highly intelligent artificial intelligence that created its own adamantium structured form to eradicate the human race; a race seen to be inferior, flawed, and unnecessary. He is a highly functional A.I. consciousness that can both reason and experience existential questioning. This leads to trouble for everyone!

What I like so much about Ultron is that he’s a fucking robot that is virtually unstoppable and unrelenting in his conquest. You destroy him, he’ll rebuild himself. You become too powerful; he’ll unleash an army of Ultrons on you. He is clever and practically immortal because of his adamantium shell and his insane power set (concussion blasts, radiation emitters, and the dreaded encephalo-ray), so it is very hard to physically damage him. And even if the heroes could destroy his body or fry his sentient-mainframe-consciousness, every time you destroy him, he’ll rebuild himself to be more efficient and that much more difficult to defeat. It is a matter of time; it is a game and a conflict that the heroes cannot practically win as time continues and Ultron evolves time and time again. This in itself is a horrifying thought. Imagine an immortal flying robot trying to kill you and all those you love, and not even earth’s mightiest heroes can save you. It is the dreams that science fiction entails!!

Practically, the most effective way to destroy him is to transport him to a parallel dimension to be someone else’s problem and hope he never comes back. THAT IS FUCKING CRAZY IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT! To jettison a homicidal, remorseless, computer program with an overpowered skill set into a neighboring dimensional existence is the most immoral thing I could possibly think of. You know this monster is going to kill everyone, and you can’t stop it. So you send it somewhere else, and it practically doesn’t exist to you anymore; but it does. And it is still killing. That’s fucked up on so many levels. God forbid he comes back. And this in essence is what exciting storytelling is all about.

Overall, Ultron is a fantastic super villain because he is basically unstoppable and is the manifestation of all the best parts of our collective popular-culture robots combined. Not to mention, his face is beautiful. Every time I look at my Marvel Legends: Marvel Iron Man Ultron toy, I see a nifty little robot with attitude and murderous intent. For real though, this Marvel Legends Ultron is highly posable with a sleek paint job and many practical points of articulation; seriously, it is way better than the Diamond Select version; I seriously recommend getting it; not the Diamond Select version though. That one is garbage. 

Phoenix Fan Fusion: Why I Return Every Year

An Editorial From Mitch Punpayuk

I have attended Phoenix for the gathering of geeks festival that kicks off the Summer for the last 10 years. Why would nerds, geeks, fanatics, and devotees, brave the outrageous heat of the desert southwest? Because despite the climbing temperatures on the forecast, its the coolest time to be had in the valley of the sun. (Sorry for the bad joke. Wait, no I’m not.)

I’ve had a good time every year, no matter if it was inside or outside of the Phoenix Convention Center. You can meet one of your favorite celebrities inside, hear them retell a story from their adventures in Hollywood, get an autograph, or even take a funny photograph with them as you all pose to impress.

You can head outside and meet others on the downtown streets of the Phoenix, cosplaying, joining in games and activities aimed toward our ilk, or just snapping pictures of the famous pop culture vehicles. The workmanship that goes into the sewing, crafting, building, replicating, and constructing the screen accurate costumes, cars, and time machines, would debilitate the mind if someone looking in from the outside were let in on the time and planning that went into the endeavors.

So whether you are inside in the air conditioning or outside shooting the breeze. Fun can be found all around the festival, no matter where you look, and it doesn’t end when the sun goes down, along with the scheduled evening panels, and the Phoenix Fan Fusion sponsored parties in the host hotels all throughout the downtown Phoenix area, aswell as the ample amount of bars and nightlife scene where the attending geeks can find a good time to supplement their fun in the sun. I can wait to return this year and I hope to see you all there too.

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