FRIDAY NIGHT FIEND – MISOGYNY

no girls allowed 1What’s crackin everybody! It’s your favorite villain-loving, miscreant-embracing host getting the party started this Friday night with a SAT vocabulary word. Party over here, whut whut!

Now misogyny is a downer word replete with a downer definition: the hatred or dislike of women or girls. I’m not talking about the kindergartner “I don’t yike guls so I hitted her” approach. I’m thinking something a bit more pervasive and more institutional…and wholly unintentional. I know you’re like “Damn, Chris. It’s Friday, I love girls, and you are really fucking up my vibe.” I get it. Let me put it in comic book terms.

A couple of years ago, DC Comics and Warner Bros put out an absolutely horrible superhero flick called Green Lantern. This was at the height of the superhero craze: Heath Ledger had earned a posthumous Oscar for playing the Joker in the Dark Knight, Robert Downey Jr. had been Iron Man twice, and Marvel was one year away from pulling together the Avengers into the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. You might remember Green Lantern (if you saw it, I ‘m sorry—the support group meets on Wednesdays at the Y): it had Ryan Reynolds as Ryan Reynolds in a snug CGI suit, a villain with the largest head on film (and it pulsated), Dora-level special effects, and it made about $14 at the box office. It was a shit movie and this is from somebody who likes shit movies.

But this isn’t about Green Lantern. This is about the trailer for the Green Lantern.

I took the Honey Badger to see one of the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies—whichever one had fucking Alvin doing the Castaway on a deserted island after falling off a cruise ship. As an aside, talking chipmunks or not, once they were off the ship, fuck the damn rodents and their high ass voices—I would have taken the money and run. Anyway, as we’re waiting for the movie the start, we get to see this wonderful trailer:

The trailer was better than the movie. Trust me. But as we watch the trailer and I start to get hopeful about Green Lantern (I kinda like the character but don’t tell nobody), the Honey Badger says, loud as day, “How come it can’t ever be a girl that saves the world?”

And some of the women in the theater clapped.

But I didn’t have an answer for that. I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t know what to tell her. I watch movies with her and I see her fall in love with Bella Swan—a girl stuck in a horribly abusive and controlling relationship, who refuses to act EVER, and simply lets everything happen around her. I see Katniss Everdeen start a revolution but be mired in a love triangle. SHE STARTED A REVOLUTION!! Fuck Peta! She’s changing the world. (BTW I haven’t read the books—maybe there’s more, I don’t know). I see Hermione play second fiddle to Harry’s Jesus Christ and Ron’s redheaded idiocy when she is CLEARLY the smartest, most prepared player in the game. How the fuck did Ron survive those 7 years at Hogwarts and how the hell did his broke ass pull Hermione Granger?

And, as much as I love her, I see Scarlett Johannson get played to the curb in 2 different movies. If there was a pretty perfect portrayal of a female superhero in the movies, it’s Johannson’s Black Widow. This woman infiltrated Stark Enterprises and got Tony Stark back to work, she hacked Ivan Danko’s Russian computer system and rebooted Don Cheadle’s suit AFTER beating the cowboy shit outta like 6 dudes. She took a backhand from the Hulk—THE HULK who fought Thor, a demigod—then got up and socked the shit out of Hawkeye before she dove into battle with 2 guns and a taser. There were no romantic entanglements, she was nonplussed about all these people with their amazing powers, and held her own in the Battle of New York. Oh yeah, and she outsmarted Loki (the God of Mischief) and shut his shit down.

But she isn’t considered an Avenger. They only count Cap, Iron Man, the Hulk and Thor as Avengers. She doesn’t get equal billing. She’s a token. Marvel actually removed the other female founding member of the team because…well, I actually don’t have an answer for that.

And that’s bullshit. And my daughter knows it.

A couple weeks ago, I made Canada my Friday Night Fiend. You might remember that one. A friend of mine, my villainous partner in crime, writer ED Martin, added a comment about how independent women should be my next villain. She has a point. What are TV and film studios so afraid of? The portrayals of women in cinema have a massive impact on who our daughters and sisters and nieces decide to be. Who they believe they can be. How do I convince my daughter to be less Bella and more Hermione when she’s ridiculed for her intellect and eschewed for her preparation? How do I encourage her to start revolutions like Katniss and be independent like Natasha Romanov when the world is more concerned with her love life than her capabilities? When she’ll never get the credit she deserves?

I’m gonna end this little diatribe with the most important female superheroine who, for the dumbest of reasons, cannot get ANY cinematic love: Wonder Woman. It is an absolute travesty that, in 2013, after Hillary Clinton garnered 16 million votes and led the most viable campaign for a female president in history, Wonder Woman cannot find a place on film. Or TV. Or her own cartoon. Do you know why? She’s “tricky.” That is the actual reason.

“We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now. I think one of the biggest challenges at the company is getting that right on any size screen. The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn’t have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes. There are lots of facets to Wonder Woman, and I think the key is, how do you get the right facet for that right medium? What you do in TV has to be different than what you do in features. She has been, since I started, one of the top three priorities for DC and for Warner Bros. We are still trying right now, but she’s tricky.”

Tricky. Tough. Hard. So fuck it, right? By the way, it was the female president of DC Comics who gave us that quote.

I’ve paid for shitty Superman, Batman, Green Lantern (well, I didn’t pay for that piece of shit), X-Men, Star Wars, and Spiderman movies. Jackass is a SERIES. You saw Bill and Ted just like me. And Gremlins 2. And any of the Child’s Play movies. Jason Vorhees has like 57 shit movies. My point is someone is greenlighting these bullshit movies and you cannot say a guy who stalks you in your dreams or a retarded kid who lives at the bottom of the lake and cannot die or a group of idiots who film themselves hurting themselves makes more sense than Wonder Woman.

So there you have it: Friday Night Misogyny courtesy of superhero movies. I’m gonna leave you with this tweet about Marvel’s response to DC’s “Wonder Woman is tricky” comment. I thought it was just funny:

brett white Marvel:DC See ya Tuesday!

Hero Highlight: IRON MAN

Iron ManGuess what I found? A posting schedule! Yeah, funny things, those pesky schedules, they actually tell you what you’re supposed to post and when. Never been a schedule fan so bear with me.

If you remember back a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we were, for the first and probably the last time, I was doing the A to Z Blog Challenge and we were looking at some heroes and what their true villains were. We’d looked at the Avengers as a group (still my favorite movie right now…until Superman comes out), at Batman’s crazy ass, Captain America and his relationship with time, Don Draper’s mad mad world, ET and his retarded self, Foghorn Leghorn—the big ass chicken, Carl MF Grimes from The Walking Dead, and Hawkeye, the most useless archer ever. Then life got in the way.

Now we’re back and we’re looking at the man and the suit, Tony Stark AKA “I am Iron Man.”

I should start by saying I’m a big Iron Man fan—I have comics from the 80s when people thought it was both sexy and wholly heterosexual for buff men to run around in mesh half shirts. I’ve been with ‘ol Shellhead during his depression, his alcoholism and his Armor Wars. I thought the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was genius. I own all the movies and have seen Iron Man 3 3 times (though I’m pissed about the Mandarin). Once I run the race, I’m gonna get an Iron Man tattoo (haven’t decided where). I’m an Iron Man fan.

But as a hero, the Iron Man suit (or prosthesis, as it formally called) is only as good as it’s pilot. And Tony? My man got problems.

In the comics, Tony Stark is plagued by a deep insecurity caused by his relationship with technology. In the movies and the comics, Tony is injured on a battlefield and depends on an electromagnet to keep a cluster of shrapnel from trying to burrow its way into his heart—the only thing that changes is the locale (in the comic, it’s Vietnam; in the movie, it’s Afghanistan). His very life depends on the reliability and efficacy of technology. After seeing the depravity of humanity and blah blah blah, Tony becomes something bigger than human—a technological superhuman.

Iron Man is different from other superheroes in that he’s manufactured. There’s no gamma radiation, no Super Soldier serum, no spider bite, no birth from an alien world with a red sun, no extensive martial arts training and seething revenge-based impetus to fight crime. Iron Man is a suit; Tony Stark is just a man. Anyone can wear the suit. James Rhodes can wear the suit and be Iron Man (and has). Pepper Potts wore the suit. Shit, even Happy wore the suit and he’s the chauffeur. Anyone can be Iron Man.

In The Avengers, Cap asks the most pertinent question of all: “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off and what are you?” See, this is where the insecurity sets in. While the quippy response was great for laughs and elicited a nice head nod from Scarlett Johanssen’s sexy tail, there is a whole lot of truth to this. And it’s the whole point of Iron Man 3: there has to be more to the man than the ability to make a suit. Otherwise, you have another Doctor Doom on your hands.

What it comes down to is a moral center. Spidey has the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing couple with Uncle Ben’s death. Superman has his middle America earthly father to guide him. Batman has the senseless murder of his parents burned into his psyche. But Tony Stark? This is what he’s lacking. In the comic, he has an unfortunate injury in an unfortunate war and capitalizes on his escape to become something bigger, something greater. The movies pick up on this and use both his imprisonment and his relationship with Pepper to give him that moral compass but, the truth is, Tony Stark is and remains a shallow guy. And he knows it. In fact, Iron Man 3 was about this very idea.

Like I said, I’m an Iron Man fan and the truest statement the movies ever made was in Iron Man 2 when he told Congress, “I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one.” For Tony Stark, the challenge is making the man measure up to the hero and becoming someone worthy of wearing the suit.

That’s my word. See ya on Tuesday for another installment. Next we’re gonna be talking the Justice League.

Day 8: HAWKEYE #atozchallenge

hawkeye-5One of my favorite exchanges in the Avengers comes when Tony Stark is talking to Captain America and he says, “Following’s not really my style.” Cap responds with, “And you’re all about style?” And Tony says, “Of the people in this room, which one of us is a) wearing a spangly outfit and b) not of use?” Classic material. However, when considering the most useless Avenger, that distinction must go to Hawkeye.

Yes, friends and foes, heroes and villains, there is actually one relatively worthless hero in our supersquad. I loved the Avengers movie (surprise surprise) and I like Jeremy Renner. I even like the Hawkeye character, though I think his costume could use a little work. In the movie, they call him a master assassin but I see him as a bow-wielding, there-are-twelve-enemies? I-only-brought-eleven-arrows jackass with no sleeves.

That’s probably harsh, huh? Okay, I’ll give him his due.

In the comics, Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye is a little better than the bit part they gave him in the movie. He is an assassin of sorts, a superior marksman, and a former carny (for real). He starts out as a villain, crossing both the Black Widow and Iron Man before turning to the straight and narrow (because he got the cowboy shit kicked out of him). He gets sponsored to be an Avenger and becomes an integral part of the team.

Until his bow breaks.

Seriously, my man had his bow break in battle and adopted a whole new identity. Took somebody else’s powers and everything. And then he started going blind. Did I mention that he was deaf? What are you going to do with a deaf and blind archer? That’s like giving Helen Keller a weapon and a costume and calling her a superhero.  In the movie, they give him a little more: he shoots Sam Jackson and manages to take down the ENTIRE Floating Fortress with 2 arrows. He also sets up the best part of the movie: his exploding arrow tosses Loki into the hands of the Hulk.

In the movie, it’s worse. He ain’t deaf, just pointless. He was the first to switch teams when Loki arrived, got his ass handed to him by Scarlett Johannsen, and, rather than follow the fucking plan, got his plane shot out the sky while carrying the half of the Avengers that CAN’T FLY. I’m not a tactician but if a flying, bulletproof dude with a hammer forged in the heart of star is fighting another dude in a cape with a spear, perhaps you should let then do their thing and turn your air support on the invading aliens!

For all his snazzy arrowheads, my man has a limited supply of arrows. He’s forever going to be running out of ammo, sitting on the sidelines like he got hit first in dodgeball, leaving the heavy lifting to everybody else. In the end, there ain’t much use for Hawkeye (though he leads a couple iterations of the Avengers in the comics) and that’s his biggest villain: uselessness.

And if you’re wondering, I did the Hulk in last year’s A to Z Challenge. He was the villain.

Next up, Iron Man! Yeeaaaahhhh!

Day 3 (sorta): Captain America #atozblogchallenge

captain_americaAs much as I love the Avengers, I’ve never really been a Cap fan. He’s too much of a Boy Scout for me, he didn’t really have any powers, and he just had that damn shield. Throwing it never seemed that awesome to me. And he had wings on his head. Little bitty ones. It’s kinda tough to act like you’re all raw and you have little hummingbird wings on your head. I’m surprised no one ever brought it up.

Then I saw the movie. And what Captain America didn’t have in powers, Steve Rogers had in heart. He was a good guy who was willing to do what it took to make the right things happen. He lied to join the Army for the opportunity to die for his country, underwent a chemical transformation, fought the Nazis hand to hand, and got trapped in an iceberg trying to do the right thing. Problem is, he tried to do the right thing at the wrong time.

And time is, for Cap, his greatest villain.

Loki said it best when he called Captain America the “man out of time.” My man was frozen for 40 years in the comics, 70 years in the movies. He wakes up and the world he was fighting to save—and the morals he was trying to uphold—were gone. Think about this, think about those parents or grandparents who saw their entire adulthood defined by World War II and imagine if they weren’t around for what happened next. Steve Rogers, the kid from Brooklyn, gets frozen before WWII is over—he never gets to see the Nazis surrender, never sees the US drop the atomic bomb, never gets to come home to a hero’s parade. Never sees any James Bond movies so he has no idea of how awesome he could have been.

It doesn’t really matter who Captain America fights. In fact, the only villains I know that belong to him are as chronologically misplaced as he is: Baron Zemo, the Red Skull, the Winter Soldier. More often then not, Cap was fighting the very nation he swore to uphold. For a while he rejected being Captain America because he had a problem with what the United States did. Then, during Marvel’s Civil War series, he sided AGAINST the US government (and half the Avengers, including Tony Stark) in having superhumans register themselves and that stance culminated in his assassination. In the movie, he’s distrustful of SHIELD even though he’s the one meta-human that actually works for them.

Captain America is the right man in the wrong time. I don’t know what that says about him or us. Is his ignorance bliss? Is he better off for having missed what we’ve become? Did we stray too far away from what we should be? Is he the ultimate American, a physical embodiment of our nation’s values and purpose? Even with the wings? We’re having a love affair with Tony Stark right now, with his shiny new armor and witty disdain for structures and teams and monogamy. Tony Stark is us now. Steve Rogers is who we were supposed to be. And if that’s who we’re supposed to be, if he’s what it means to be an American, who’s really out of time?

OK, that’s too deep for me. We’re going to lighten it up with my favorite animated bird, Daffy Duck!

Festival of Fiendishness Day 4: GREEN GOBLIN

I’m back from my hiatus of inconsistency where I moved, got sick, tore up my knee (and today got an MRI in super sexy disposable shorts) and my lil Honey Badger turned 10. I had a couple things going on. And yeah, I missed a few posts (why you bringing up old shit?). But Here I Am To Save the Day! And give you your daily dose of deviousness with today’s installment: the Green Goblin.

You all know I’m a Spiderman fan, right? I dig ol Webhead—always have, always will (though I’m a little skeptical of this reboot that’s coming and REALLY not feeling the Lizard). The thing you have to remember about Spidey is that when he started, he was a kid. Peter Parker was a teenager and a socially inept one at that who got a taste of powers and decided to jump into the superhero fray. But he was a kid—that meant he was sloppy at his heroism, was horribly overwhelmed by the pushback from the Daily Bugle and the very citizens he tried to protect, and was woefully unprepared for the evil in his villains.

And he got the Green Goblin.

Whether you read the comics (and I know 8 of you did) or watched the movies, Norman Osborne is the head of Osborn Industries and the father of Peter Parker’s highschool classmate (and good friend in the movies), Harry Osborne. Osborne Industries makes a serum that makes you faster, stronger, smarter. Sounds fantastic and Norman gets a dose. Unfortunately, this serum comes with a couple teensy weensy side effects in the fine print: you become an insane villainous megalomaniac with multiple personalities and a snazzy green and purple suit (what’s up with the villains wearing green and purple? Green Goblin, Joker, Dr. Doom—is it an outfit? A uniform?)

Anyway, Gobby’s on the street with pumpkin bombs and razor-bat things and a shiny glider and causing mayhem and destruction. And here comes Spiderman. They do their usual cat-and-mouse, “curses, foiled again,” “damn I almost had him but he slipped away” dance and it makes for good comics. Until the Goblin takes things to another level. He screws up Spidey’s spider-sense, follows him, and SHOWS UP AT PETER PARKER’S HOUSE. Do you hear this? My man’s father is secretly a masked supervillain and he figures out who Peter Parker really is and shows up as the Green Goblin. This isn’t funny anymore. Now it’s personal.

But it gets better. Or worse. Depending on how you look at it.

Peter Parker is dating Gwen Stacy, right? That’s his college sweetheart. What does Normie do? Tracks her down, seduces her, gets her pregnant. Then, knowing that Peter and Gwen are dating and Norman Osborne tagging his woman is not humiliating enough, the Green Goblin has to humiliate Spiderman too. So he takes Gwen prisoner, drags her to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. And throws her off. You remember that scene in Spiderman (the movie) where a Willem Dafoe in a raggedy Green Goblin costume takes Mary Jane (played by raggedy Kirsten Dunst) to the bridge and tosses her off and Spiderman saves the day? Yeah, that shit didn’t actually happen. Instead, when Gobby throws Gwen off the bridge, Spidey does catch her with his webbing AND BREAKS HER NECK! He kills her! In the comic, the whiplash from being stopped so short by Spiderman’s web causes Gwen to die.

I don’t know about you but killing the person you’re trying to save doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in your super-heroing skills. Killing your girlfriend, well, that just puts Pete into Scott Petersen territory. Spidey cannot win. Yeah he goes on to be a pretty fantastic superhero but you know he’s scared of himself. Doesn’t trust his own capabilities. Lives the rest of his life looking over his shoulder—as both Peter Parker and Spiderman.

There is a saying you hear in every gangster movie: “It’s business; it isn’t personal.” This was some personal shit. The Green Goblin found Spidey’s girl, had an affair with, threw her off a bridge and had the hero kill her. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.

And that, my friends, is why the Green Goblin is awesome. Tune in tomorrow for the scariest dude in a jumpsuit and the father of the slasher flick: Michael Myers!

Assemble Your Avengers

Guess what?! I’m BAAAAACCKKK! Did you miss me? Don’t be coy; you know you did. I know I said I was gonna take a day off: well, after being laid out by a pretty nasty sinus infection and then moving my house AROUND THE CORNER, here I am 6 days later. Good as new. Well…kinda. Let’s just say I’m 10% better than last week.

And I get to talk about the Avengers.

You knew this was coming, right? For all my discussion about villains, I’ve spent plenty of words and pages on comic books and comic book heroes. Talking about the Avengers was inevitable.

Now if you’ve missed the Avengers’ $200M US opening this past weekend (which is the largest opening in history) or the total $641M the film has taken in over the last 2 weeks or the commercials and trailers that dominate every television program on the planet, the Avengers is the explosive, rip-roaring production featuring 6 Marvel superheroes—Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye—battling for the salvation of Earth against, Loki, the Asgardian God of Mischief (and Thor’s brother) and his otherworldly army. I should have written copy, huh?

This post is less a review about the movie (which is SPECTACULAR! Seriously, just drop your shit and go see it!) than it is a review of the idea. Nick Fury, played by the masterfully angry Samuel L. Jackson, says “There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could. It’s called the Avengers Initiative.” This could be said for Marvel’s approach the entire Avengers franchise, starting back in 2008 with Iron Man (and later Iron Man 2), then a new and improved Incredible Hulk, Thor and finally Captain America. 5 films. 6 heroes. More than $2B (that’s B for Billion) in ticket sales worldwide—half of what Disney paid for Marvel.

But, in the beginning, there was an idea.

Call it a gamble, call it hubris, call it balls—Marvel waged 4 years and nearly $800M on an idea of introduce the principal characters in individual movies, cast them masterfully (seriously, who else could have played Tony Stark?) tie them together with 2 minute long snippets after the credits, and culminate with a tremendous production that would be thrilling entertainment for everyone. An idea. An idea no more or less powerful than making us care about a kid from the desert pulled into a galactic war to save a princess. No more or less powerful than having us emotionally invest in an orphaned child with unimaginable power and even greater enemies. No more or less powerful than the most forbidden of love stories—a bloodsucking killer and a virginal high school student.

Ideas shape worlds, change cultures, and apparently destroy the city of Cleveland—they, and the stories they live in, are the basic form of human communication. They strike us, emotionally, psychically, physically; make us perceive our environment, and one another, in new and interesting ways; force us to re-examine ourselves. Ideas have power. They can be palpable, tangible, kinetic forces. They can fuel revolutions and quell rebellions. And ideas, in the hands of writers, change people. They can people. Become part of them, part of their lexicon, become a new prism on the lens through which they see the world.

So take your ideas and palm them like the gems they are. Hug them close like nuggets of gold, stroke them like magnificent beasts. Then hold them to the light and give them to the world.

And believe in them.

They might save the world.

Celebration of Wickedness Day 27: MAGNETO #atozchallenge

Hey hey hey everybody! Welcome back to another installment of the Celebration of Wickedness, the place where you can finally admit your love for the darker side of life. It’s ok; you can be yourself. We’re all friends here. Gather round. Today, we’re looking at the arch-nemesis of the X-Men, the Master of Magnetism himself, Magneto!

Have you ever seen this guy? Magneto can manipulate one of the most fundamental forces known to mankind. Do you have an idea of what falls under the magnetism umbrella? The entire planet is a magnet. Compasses use magnets. We’re talking light and radio waves! Gamma radiation, x-rays, microwaves. This guy can control the shit you need to see and hear and find your direction. If you’ve seen X2: X-Men United, you saw Magneto orchestrate one of the coolest and foulest prison escapes on film: he’s trapped in a completely plastic jail cell so he has Mystique seduce a security guard and inject liquid metal into his ass (literally), pulls the liquid of the guy’s bloodstream the next day—killing him in the process—turns the metal in tiny balls that tear up the cell, then into discs that he can walk on. And just walks out the prison. I once read a comic where Magneto thought Spiderman was a mutant and to test it, he beat Spidey’s ass by throwing him around using the IRON IN HIS BLOOD.

Magneto is a bad man.

Long before he was Magneto, Master of Magnetism (you have to say his whole name every time), before he was an arch-villain with a bucket on his head, Erik Lensherr (that’s Max Eisenhardt to you diehards) was just a young Jewish boy. During the Holocaust. In Auschwitz. Nothing like seeing your mother killed in front of you to bring out some latent mutant powers, huh? He escapes from the Nazis—kinda—runs away with his pregnant wife, who in turn leaves him after he kills an angry mob while trying to protect her. But things take a positive turn and get good for a little bit—he makes a friend in Charles Xavier (Professor X), they decide to work together to find mutants, train them, protect them and promote mutant causes. Good stuff, right? Yeah, until Erik kills a guy. Well, a former Nazi.

Erik calls it justified. Charles calls it murder. This is awkward. See, good guy Charles wants humans and mutants to live in harmony; bad guy Erik thinks anti-mutant sentiment is a slippery slope into another holocaust. They have a falling out and become enemies.

But here’s the thing: Magneto is right.

You have to understand, the X-Men were created during the rise of the nuclear age and the Civil Rights Movement. They represent the complex social question of how you treat people who are different—but still people—and, in this case, pose a potential threat. This is a question the United States has been trying to address since its inception. Instead of races or sexual preference, there are people who can walk through walls, can shoot lasers out their eyes, can control the weather, can read minds and freeze entire populations. Their capabilities are tremendous and deadly but they’re people. Human beings. And in many cases, they’re kids.

When faced with choosing the path of nonviolence, living in secret, trying to get along with humans and potentially facing another Holocaust; or standing proud, different, fighting back and ensuring it never happens again, Magneto is on the right side on this one. You don’t have to agree with his methodology (he’s actually okay with murder, theft, conspiracy, terrorism, mass destruction) but you have to appreciate his point: humanity has a history of horrible acts in the name of homogeneity. He knows. Lost his parents because of it. Was a victim of it.

Magneto is right. And this makes him not only one of the most incredible villains ever, he’s one of the most complex and compelling characters in literature. Why? Because he’s mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it anymore. And with power like his, he doesn’t have to.

And tomorrow, at long last, you get to find out why I hate that little bastard Teddy Ruxpin.

Celebration of Wickedness Day 5: VENOM #atozchallenge

So for the fifth (FIF) day of the Celebration of Wickedness, I present to you for your crooked examination, the greatest Spiderman villain ever: VENOM! (also known as Eddie Brock—that’s E for Eddie for you A to Z Challengers).

If you saw Spiderman 3, then you wasted your money. And your time. And you don’t know Venom—he didn’t even have a name in the movie. And while Sony laughs as it carts its $890M take to the bank for what I consider a piece of crap movie, we’re going to look at the original Venom, the one from the comic.

Venom is two separate characters brought together through their mutual hatred of Peter Parker, better known as Spiderman or the Kid in the Red and Blue Pajamas. One of those characters is a journalist named Eddie Brock who thought he was unmasking a serial killer/domestic terrorist called the Sin-Eater. When Brock went to claim his Pulitzer, he discovered he was dead-ass wrong and Spidey unmasked the real killer in front of the whole world. Eddie’s face was cracked and on the floor. The other half of the Venom persona is a symbiote—a parasitic entity that Spiderman picked up on another world during the Secret Wars. The symbiote was able to give Spidey a brand new suit, let him get rid of the web shooters and mimic his clothes and powers. The bad part is, being a parasite, it tried to kill Spiderman and, once he rejected it, it went off to lick its wounds.

Until it found Eddie Brock. Human being who hates Spiderman + symbiote who hates Spiderman AND mimics his powers AND knows who he is = VENOM.

(As I am writing this, I realize my nerd quotient is on HIGH! I better watch an episode of Mad Men so I can get some cool points back.)

I’ve been a fan of my Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman since I saw him jump on the Electric Company and point to a schwa. And when I heard “Is he strong? Listen bud/He’s got radioactive blood/Can he swing from a thread/Take a look overhead” I was hooked. Why? Because he’s a true hero. This is an ordinary kid, a lil nerdy—well, a lot nerdy—who got bit by a radioactive spider and suddenly had powers. I’ve watched as he’s grown over time, watched him make mistakes, get his ass kicked, build a family he cares about, love a girl, lose her and win her back. He’s an average guy made heroic because of the whole responsibility thing. This is not a “watch the villain kill the hero ‘cause he annoys me” post: Spidey’s my guy.

But Venom, man, Venom is freaking FANTASTIC! This villain completely takes apart the hero. He doesn’t set off Spiderman’s spider-sense so he gets entirely too close. He knows who Peter Parker is so he terrorizes Mary Jane and shows up in Aunt May’s kitchen. He’s stronger than Spiderman (because he works out Clubber Lang-style). And he wholeheartedly enjoys breaking Peter down.

We’ve all heard, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Everyone thinks it’s from the Godfather; it’s actually from the Art of War by Sun Tzu. This is what Venom does, literally: he systematically breaks Spiderman down, repeatedly, by staying underneath his radar, just around the corner, just within reach, keeping him off kilter. All the things that made Spiderman a superhero, Venom took from him. Made them irrelevant.

And he made Peter Parker a better hero in the process.

Oh, he kicked Spidey’s ass. No doubt about it. But, at the end, Spiderman was wiser, more resilient, and had a much better idea what was truly important. That’s the thing about an excellent villain. For all their dastardly deeds, for all the pain they inflict, all the grief they cause, the power of a great villain is forging a formidable foe. A worthy opponent.

And that’s my word! And my letter E. Tomorrow is Day 6, Letter F and that means the master of the nightmare, Freddy Krueger! HAHAHAHA!!

Celebration of Wickedness Day 2: THE INCREDIBLE HULK #atozchallenge

Back for round 2 in the villains chair we have…wait, is this a typo? Jimmy, are you sure? This says today’s villain is…Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk?

That’s right, true believers, the Hulk is the villain of the day in our continuing Celebration of Wickedness. Yes, I know the Not-So-Jolly Green Giant has his own comic that’s been around since 1962. Yes, I am aware he has 2 major motion pictures in which he is the protagonist. Yes, I know he’s the best part of the upcoming Avengers movie (and, yes, I am planning on attending the midnight showing). Calm down, geek squad, let me explain myself.

The Hulk is the supercharged, atomic era version of the Jekyll and Hyde story, right? His entire mythos centers around Bruce Banner giving in to his baser emotions—anger, terror, grief—and transforming into a hulking behemoth with forearms that would put Popeye to shame and a penchant for raggedy purple pants. Dr. Banner is the mild-mannered atomic physicist; the Hulk is a being of pure emotion and limited intellect. You know the deal, the madder he gets, the stronger he gets. The problem is, there really isn’t a limit and you get stuck in this cycle of destruction. To me, and the United States army, the Hulk is awesome! To Banner, the Hulk is a curse.

And before I go into the philosophy behind my selection of the Hulk as the villain of the day, let’s get a couple things straight: the Hulk is not necessarily the BEST choice of folks to hang out with. For you comic book enthusiasts, it was because of the Hulk’s actions, threat to general society and constant collateral damage that the Illuminati sent his ass clear across the galaxy. And these same “heroes” were vindicated when the Hulk returned with a storyline titled World War Hulk. Even the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno incarnation sent people routinely flying into trashcans, overturned cars and was hell on Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots.

(And with that, I earn my geek cred. HOLLA!)

But what this is really about is the internal struggle between Bruce Banner and his raging alter ego. Banner is the hero here, not the Hulk. And if the good doctor is the hero, the Hulk is the villain. Marvel has done a fantastic job of billing the Hulk as protagonist, as a tortured soul who really just wants to be left alone. That’s fine for general society. But for Banner, the Hulk destroyed his life. It turned him into something to be feared and exiled, chased and hunted, whether in his human form or not. He can’t trust himself, live his life, be who he wants to be. Not anymore. This cat was the pre-eminent nuclear scientist and one act of bravery (in the comic) or hubris (in the television show) turned his life into a freak show. It’s tragic, actually. And while the Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk dichotomy makes for good entertainment, its theme is the age-old conflict of man vs himself. Yes, I used the word dichotomy; I went to college.

We’ve seen plenty anti-heroes already; that’s not what I’m getting at. Bruce Banner is a regular, ordinary guy, like you or me. He wants what we all want: nice home, good job, good woman/man, to excel in his chosen field. To be a good person. The Hulk destroys that image of Banner just as any other inner demon might. What makes the Hulk so compelling as a villain is, for all his destructiveness, it is as the Hulk that Banner realizes his truest self. It’s a part of him—sometimes for the better, sometimes the worst—and we get to see it play out in the most heroic and catastrophic manner.

And that, my friends, is why the Hulk is today’s villain: because Bruce Banner is his best self when he is his worst self. What did Harvey Dent say in The Dark Knight? “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Tune in next time when we look at Cruella DeVille, hater of dalmatians. Excelsior!