Thursday, November 27, 2014

Evaluating DC's TV Series Programming


PART 1: The Dominance of DC Over Marvel in the Small Screen

Through the years, Marvel has not only been taking the lion share in comic book sales most of the time, but they have been also kicking DC’s butt in the market that really matters: the big screen.  To be fair with DC, they do make the better direct-to-video animated movies (I think “Hulk vs. Wolverine” is the only Marvel animated film that I get to really enjoy).  But the money in direct-to-video is incomparable from the money earnings from theatrical blockbusters, which will come from ticket sales to merchandising.  So unless DC ever figure out how to create an engaging and profitable cinematic universe as Marvel’s, Marvel, which has a clear plan already until 2018, will continue to be the winners for a couple more years.    

However, DC has been clearly more productive over Marvel in the small screen.  Not only does DC make more good-quality animated TV series (Marvel had produced great animated TV series, too, but DC has three for every good one Marvel makes; also, for every good Marvel animated series, there are two bad ones) but they also have the most success in producing noteworthy live-action series, both in volume and value. Up until now, Adam West’s campy Batman series from way back in ’66 is still beloved by many.  There was the delightful Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in the 90’s, which Marvel had no answer.  Then, there’s Smallville, which despite its many flaws had its awesome moments as well, which, again, Marvel had no answer.     

In the present, Marvel now has Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which had weak early episodes but eventually improved into a must-watch show.   In fact, despite the lack of a legitimate superhero presence, AoS is as intriguing as DC superhero shows, Arrow or The Flash.  However, though S.H.I.E.L.D. is a concept originally from the comics, AoS is nonetheless more of a spin-off of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) rather than an avenue for Marvel to freely render their comic book universe into the small screen.  Hence, in this case, DC is having more success with Arrow and The Flash in translating their comic book universe into a TV universe. 

In terms of quantity, there are four ongoing DC TV series right now.  Three of which have just premiered this fall of 2014.  Clearly, DC went into “aggressive TV series production” mode, probably to keep a foothold in their dominance of the small screen.  

Sure, several Marvel shows are coming up; there’s the Agent Carter series, and then a couple of Netflix TV series featuring Marvel’s street-level superheroes like Daredevil and Luke Cage (which I presume will also take place in the shared MCU).  However, a lot more DC shows are also rumored in production.  It’s as if that for every one that Marvel plans to make, DC has two.  And I’m quite excited with some of the titles being mentioned.  Maybe not all of them will rock.  But considering the fact that I like 3 out of the 4 DC TV series right now, and my dislike for the 4th one is not because it sucks (I will be discussing this later), it’s presumable, based on historical data, that all will at least be watchable and entertaining enough. 

The advantage that Marvel has here is their TV series will exist in the same universe as their movies.  Again, the potential awesomeness in crossovers alone is worth being excited about.  If it works, Marvel’s approach of expounding one shared universe instead of establishing several universes for their properties will pay big dividends.     

Nonetheless, even if not all of DC shows exist in the same universe, as long as they can be individually enjoyable, or at least adequately fun, it’s still going to be DC’s win due to the sheer volume of their properties that they manage to get on screen.     
 
PART 2: Pros and Cons of Each Present DC TV Series

Constantine


PROS:
→ Matt Ryan nailed John Constantine.  
→ It’s turning out to have the same charm and humor that made Sleepy Hollow a regularly entertaining supernatural/horror/fantasy series to watch.
→ It has been made apparent that this show will feature many of DC’s supernatural characters.  

CONS:
→ Charles Halford’s Chas doesn’t give the same vibes as the Chas in the comics, who was a great supporting character.  
→ It’s not “R”, hence, Constantine is restrained in bringing into the small screen many of the things that made John Constantine an awesome character and Hellblazer as one of the most well-written comic book series ever.  It feels too tame to give Constantine and Hellblazer justice.       
→ Its primary setting is in the US instead of England.  Ugh.  

The Flash


PROS:
→ It got me to finally check Arrow out.  
→ Grant Gustin is the greatest Barry Allen version of any medium, including comics, ever.  As I’ve explained in my post after watching the leaked pilot months ago:
The Flash’s Barry Allen is “Peter Parker-esque” – it’s as if there’s a lot of Parker’s trademark geeky charm, strong sense of moral responsibility, and bearing in The Flash’s depiction of Barry Allen – making this version mightily interesting.  If this is sustained through the show, there’s a chance that this Flash could become my favorite speedster.   
→ Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West and Tom Cavanagh as the mysterious Dr. Harrison Wells are consistent in providing the strongest performances in the show.  Because of the magnificent acting from these two, we can always expect compelling scenes whenever their characters are part of the scenes.  
→ Clever premise of how super powers became possible.     
→ It has massive potential.  The fun and intrigue it creates offset the aggravation that any weak writing brings.  It hasn’t been a strong series so far, but it has made itself as something worth being patient about.  

CONS:
→ There is lack of chemistry between Barry Allen and Iris West.  And, no, It’s not the race difference.  There’s just no “spark” between that makes me care for them as a couple (to be fair, I also feel no interest rising from Oliver Queen’s parings in Arrow).  In fact, the whole Barry-Iris angle feels like a distraction to me.    
→ Aside from Barry, Joe, and Dr. Wells, the other characters are not easily likable.  They might grow on me eventually.  But, as of now, I can’t bring myself to be invested in them. 
→ When Arrow’s Felicity Smoak visited, that was the highest point of the show so far.  And it’s just a bad thing that for The Flash to have its best episode, it has to rely on a character (and the writer/s that probably came with the character) from another show.  There’s no interesting female character in The Flash so far. Moreover, Felicity’s effortless chemistry with Barry also emphasized Barry’s lack of such with Iris.     
→ The Flash suffers from uncreative and dumb writing half of the time.  Most of the episodes have plots that are generic or Smallville-like.  And there are many dialogues that are excruciatingly cheesy.         

Arrow


PROS:
→ This is easily the best among the current line-up of DC TV series.  It’s not perfect, but it is engaging and well-plotted most of the time.
→ It nailed what Green Arrow should be, a Batman analogue that happens to work with bow and arrows
→ Since a Batman TV series seems to be impossible at this point, I’ll take Arrow.
→ Oliver’s lateral pull-up/climbing exercise is awesome.  First time I saw such thing.    
→ The charming Felicity Smoak.  Could be the most likable character in the series. 
→ Interesting supporting and recurring characters. 
→ It is bringing as much of the DC Universe as it can possibly can to the small screen, without making it too crowded. Amanda Waller (which I hoped would have the original fat appearance). Suicide Squad.  Deathstroke.  Huntress.   League of Assassins.  Ra’s al Ghul.  Etc.  Just awesome.    
→ Superman as the Atom.  Brandon Routh’s charming portrayal of Ray Palmer is as fantastic as Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity Smoak. 
→ I appreciate the unique narrative style:  flashbacks that reveal the happenings during Oliver Queen’s five year-hiatus from Starling City running alternately with the present narrative.  This definitely enhanced the storytelling, and made the whole show more intriguing.  
→ Great development of the character from vigilante to hero.
→ It spun-off The Flash.  The implication?  The creation of a big DC TV Universe.  I really hope The Flash is not the last spin-off happening from this shared universe.  If many other non-Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman (since these three are likely reserved for the movies) superheroes pop out in Arrow and The Flash, or have their own spin-off shows, and they form a Justice Society of America (since the Justice League of America is likely to be exclusive for the movies), it’s going to be the best thing to happen in TV ever.           

CONS:
→ It’s not a Batman TV series.  This show’s existence sometimes drives me crazy since that there is no Batman TV series instead.   
→ It kind of annoys me that the promotion for Arrow seems to always involve Stephen Amell being shirtless.  To be fair, the man is pretty.
→ I feel that there is lack of usage and variations of trick arrows.  
→ It’s not always good.  The plot kinds of feel tiresome sometimes.  Only sometimes.  I can’t really explain it much, only that I feel that it’s not fun sometimes.  Again, only sometimes.  Can’t stress “sometimes” enough.     

Gotham


PROS: 
→ Strong, winning performances from Ben McKenzie as James Gordon, Donald Logue as Harvey Bullock, and Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot.  
→ Beautiful production value.

CONS:
→ It’s not a Batman TV series. 
→ My dream prologue Batman series is that of young Bruce Wayne traveling around the world as he acquires the skills and trainings that would prepare him as Batman when he returns to Gotham.  The existence of a Gotham TV series means that my fantasy Batman prologue TV series hasn’t happened, and has no chance of happening in the near future. 
→ The fine production value means much effort is exerted in creating a good Gotham setting and mood.  Thus, it frustrates me that such effort is not applied on a straight-up Batman TV series.  Too much Batman allusions are being done anyway, why not make the whole thing centered on Bruce Wayne/Batman then?   
→ Right from the start, I never got sold with the whole premise of the show.  I gave it a chance.   But I gave up on the third episode.  The whole thing just reeks of gimmickry to me – pretending that making it centered on James Gordon is a creative concept, when the reliance of adding too much Batman Easter eggs is very much apparent as gratuitous and having no confidence on establishing something original.      
→ I understand why this show might work on others, but it’s not my cup of tea.
→ I might get into this series in the future, especially if the kind hype is created wherein it’ll make me feel that I’m missing out of something awesome and important.  But with lots of great TV series to choose from each week, I have no problem of not getting into Gotham early.  I don’t think I will be missing out much.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Slogan: 'Keep Calm and Press On'


This post is to officially announce my life slogan. 

“Hakuna Matata” has always been my motto since I was able to understand what a motto means.  During the time I was about to get to my silver anniversary – a notable life milestone – I contemplated if there’s a need for me to change my motto as I move forward with my life, but I arrive at the conclusion that there’s no need; “Hakuna Matata” is still appropriate at this point in my life. 

So with “Hakuna Matata” already at hand, why is there a need for a life slogan?  Well, basically, a motto is different from a slogan.  A motto is a brief statement that serves as the guiding principle or philosophy that one has to live by.  A slogan is more of a catchphrase that pushes an agenda or cause.  Therefore, the purpose of a life slogan is to promote in my life the cause that I have to live on and to pump me up as I progress with my life. 

If it’s still not apparent from the title of this post and the T-shirt I’m wearing in the photo above, my life slogan is “KEEP CALM AND PRESS ON.” 

“Keep Calm and Press On” is just another play with the “Keep Calm and…” meme, in which particular revisions are made on the original “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan done by the UK government during the financial crisis back in the late 2000’s. Nonetheless, “Keep Calm and Press On” is almost similar in function as the original “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  Both basically mean that in the presence of excitement and difficulties, we should just remain calm and just continue moving forward.  It gives an optimistic message that no matter how hard and chaotic the situation is now, we will get through it.    Somehow, we’ll manage.  Somehow, we’ll overcome.

However, even if the implication of my life slogan is virtually similar to the original UK slogan, I still prefer to use the phrase “Press On” rather than “Carry On.” “Press On” alludes to what the Apostle Paul has stated on Philippians 3:7-14:
    But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
     Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Despite the tremendous amount of hardships and struggles that he had undergone in his life, Paul remained enthusiastic, resolute, and kept moving forward.  Why?  For he understood the great value of this future prize that God has set for him in Heaven, and that no earthly pleasure or glory can ever come close in matching that.  So he worked hard for the glory of God – storing riches in Heaven that will last for eternity – rather than seeking earthly pleasures and glory that are all temporary anyway.  In everything, he gave it his all, no matter what.  He knew that every sacrifice, every pain, every drop of effort, is going to be worth it; the glory and happiness that he would receive as reward far outweigh the sufferings that he experienced in this world while working for God’s glory.

Paul doggedly pressed on towards an upward prize, and didn’t get distracted by anything that this temporary world gives, whether temporal enjoyment or suffering.  Thus, by pressing on towards the Prize, his life became meaningful.  So for my life to be meaningful, I should follow the example that he has set.

I definitely won’t be able to do it with the same extent and quality as Paul’s, and there are times I completely forget about it that I ended up being a hypocrite.  But I just have to keep on trying; rise up each time I fail, and move forward again; don’t panic; and do the best I can and be the best I can be.  

This is what “Keep Calm and Press On” reminds me of.

Everything in this world is temporary.  Both earthly pleasures and pains will pass.  Therefore, I should not focus on the things of this world   No matter how bad my problems are, I should not let myself be drowned in them and despair – be calm.  And no matter how delightful earthly pleasures and personal glory are, I should not ground my ultimate satisfaction in them, pursuing them instead of heavenly rewards. 

My focus should be on the Prize.  If it’s for the glory of God, then I should go all out.  No holding back.  And no matter how hard the circumstances are, I should keep moving forward.  Even crawl if I have to.  Press on towards the Prize, no matter what. 

For the pains and the pleasures of this world are nothing compared to this immensely glorious Prize that God wants me to enjoy in Heaven.  Everything is going to be worth it.

In the Bible, the “crown” has several times served as symbol for heavenly rewards.  If the crown on top of the art design of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” campaign is any indication, then it’s definitely meant to be tailored for the context of my life’s slogan.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Analysis of Christianity Part 5 - "Onward, Christian Soldiers"

It has been more than two years (!) since I last wrote an installment.  I think it’s time to pick this series up once again…


“Onward, Christian Soldiers” was one of my fondest hymns when I was a kid.  The analogy of a Christian as a soldier excited me.  However, I never really understood what it really signifies.   It merely appealed to me in a romantic sense then.    

Nonetheless, the message of the hymn is a truth: We Christians are soldiers, and we are at war.  The Bible has several times made allusions of Christian life to being soldiers in a war (the most famous one is probably when Paul urged the Ephesians to “put on the whole armor of God… to stand firm”).

* * *
It is a dangerous misconception to think that once someone becomes a Christian, he or she would be free from problems and turmoil.    In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  The world is likely to be hostile to someone who doesn’t conform to its philosophies.  A Christian’s life is a constant war zone. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Surrendering one’s life to Jesus will surely bring peace.  But that kind of peace isn’t due to being exempted from life’s hardships.  A Gospel who teaches that believing in Jesus would make all financial, relationship, and health troubles disappear is a false Gospel. 

The peace that a Christian possesses in his or her heart is not due to whatever the condition around him or her is.  A Christian has peace regardless of the bad things happening to him or her because his or her peace is grounded in God – a God whom he or she knows is in control no matter what, who only mean the best for His children. 

Besides, what better “peace” is out there than the knowledge that you are saved from the terrifying fate of the pouring out of the wrath that God has reserved for sinners.  A Christian enjoys the best peace there is, even though he or she is in a battle-filled life. 

* * *
So what is this war all about? 

I can think of three main “fronts” that we Christian soldiers are fighting in.  The first “front” is our internal, moral and spiritual struggles wherein we have to discern and do the right thing, and avoid sin.  The second “front” is evangelism, or the sharing of the Gospel.  And the third “front” is fighting for our faith and the truth; to demolish the shallow, erroneous philosophies of the world as well as the harmful false doctrines that can arise from our own ranks.  

I will have a more elaborate discussion of these three “fronts” in three separate installments in some future time.  For now, just let me state that these three “fronts” are, in a way, actually interconnected with and affects each other – belonging to the same “theater” in the war, if you will.      

* * *
Actually, this war is sort of paradoxical since the war is actually won already.  Regardless of the battles we have fought, won, and lost in our lifetimes, the victory is already assured by Jesus when he died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead.  It only happens that the victory party is yet to come, which would be on Jesus’ Second Coming. 

The battles that we have in our lifetimes, even though victory is guaranteed, are nonetheless important.  It is part of the Christian sanctification process.  To test our faith, like Job – akin to gold being purified with fire (1 Peter 1:7).  Moreover, think of these battles as opportunities for us to earn medals, which will be awarded to us in the Second Coming.  Picture Jesus pinning these medals on us as he deliver these words of commendation: “Well done, good and faithful soldier!”               

* * *
The Devil – master deceiver that he is – tricks us Christians into believing that we are living in “peace time”, which prompts us to become passive, smug, and lazy.  Then when the Devil goes on an offensive, we are caught off-guard and hardly put up a fight – easily succumbing to discouragement and/or sin.      

Therefore, it is important that we be ready for battle always.  To be like the Minutemen of the American Revolutionary War, ready for combat at a minute’s notice.  Hence, like soldiers, we need to prepare and toughen up.  We should embrace willingly whatever training God will put us into.  We should always put on the “full armor of God”, as what the Apostle Paul coined it (Ephesians 6:13-17), with no complains of its weight.  And, most importantly, we should always heed the battle instructions from our Commander – who have already gave us victory and is worthy of our absolute obedience – which we can receive by regular Bible meditation and prayer. 
      
(Prayer is pretty invaluable in a Christian’s battles.  While we are in the trenches and foxholes, and the Enemy is pounding us with a battery of temptations, deceptions, difficulties, and doubts, prayer serves as our radio to the Command Center.  Through it, we receive intelligence and encouragement.  And also through it, we can ask for air support.  So, prayer shall be the topic of the next installment: “Part 6 – Livin’ on Prayer”)       

Friday, October 31, 2014

RE: Marvel Studios' "Phase 3" Lineup


Marvel just recently laid all their cards on the table by officially revealing their upcoming movies up to 2018.  We already know about Ant-Man, which will kick off “Phase 3” in the second half of 2015, after “Phase 2” culminates in May with Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Now, we also know how the rest of “Phase 3” will look like.       
 
It’s very different from my fantasy blueprint for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or “MCU” for short) but I’m not expecting it to otherwise.  Nonetheless, there are a lot of things to be excited about.    

Here are they, in order of planned released dates, with some two-cent thoughts of mine…

“Civil War” was one of Marvel’s most famous story events.  It had an intriguing premise but its actual execution didn’t give justice to the potential of such premise.  In the story, Marvel superheroes (and some supervillains) found themselves in opposing sides – the “pro” bloc was led by Iron Man while the “anti” bloc was led by Captain America – in regards to the Superpower Registration Act which requires all super-persons registering with the government and revealing their real names

All signs are pointing that this movie is going to have a Captain America vs. Iron Man plot.  But what will they be fighting about?  It’s possible that it’s also over a Superhero Registration Act, but the climate in the MCU doesn’t make it very likely.

Also, the available superheroes in the MCU are hardly sufficient to have a legitimate “Team Captain America” vs. “Team Iron Man” war.  The MCU’s superhero community is still barely a community.   Heck, the Avengers aren’t even a real, official Avengers team yet.  There is still no base of operations (though it was teased in the first movie that Stark Tower is going to be eventually transformed into Avengers Tower), and there is still no on-call, stable roster.  So far, they seem more of having the Defenders’ non-team personality – only teaming up when occasion arises.  Assuming that they will only become a real Avengers team in this upcoming Age of Ultron movie, it won’t make sense for them to immediately split up afterwards and then proceed to “civil war” among themselves. 

So why “Civil War”?  How will a “Civil War” work?  Why pit Captain America against Iron Man?  This perplexes me a lot.   

Anyway, I have a strong feeling that Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers is going to die in this movie, which will prompt Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) to assume the role of Captain America, since, in the comics, in the aftermath of “Civil War”, Steve Rogers was “assassinated” and Bucky replaced him as Captain America for a while.     

If it holds true, Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme is the best. casting. ever.  

Make it official already, Marvel! 

Expand the roster please.  And let one of those roster additions be Adam Warlock.  If the character is going to be introduced in the MCU – and it’s logically likely, considering where “Phase 3” is going – this is the best chance to do so. 

What if Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange makes an appearance here to aid Thor?  Everybody will lose their minds when two of the most charming and most adored, pretty celebrities today – Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston (who plays Loki) – share an MCU screen together.  It will likely incite a mass riot.

The movie is scheduled for 2017 but the casting of Chadwick Boseman to play the titular character was already made official, while, on the other hand, Marvel is still mum about Doctor Strange, which will release sooner.  My guess why?  Black Panther is set to cameo in Age of Ultron.
   
YEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!! 
(ノ゚▽゚)ノ

I have wanted this much

Now, considering that, in the comics, she’s both a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers, it’s possible that she’ll serve as the bridge for the inevitable team-up of the two teams in…

I don’t mind that it’s split into two movies.   If anything else, splitting it implies that it’s going to be as massive and epic as the comics’ storyline. 

Black Bolt is coming to the big screen! 

I adore the character much, and he’s what I’m most excited about in an Inhuman movie.  Having Medussa, Lockjaw, Crystal, and Maximus too are just bonuses.  I would even prefer the title to rather be “Black Bolt & the Inhumans” instead.  Seriously. 

Anyway, an Inhuman movie is hardly a surprise, considering that Marvel has been apparent about it.  The Inhumans have been given more exposure in the comics – which I had described as having the feeling of them being forcibly shoved down our throats.  Moreover, rumors have always been rampant about Marvei’s plan to use the Inhumans as the MCU’s mutants (since Fox has the rights for everything X-Men). 

And, oh, this movie basically confirms that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Skye is an Inhuman.  Probably.      

Some random musings:

→ Aw, no love for the Hulk?  I guess if there’s going to be another Hulk movie, it’ll be for “Phase 4”… 

→ It is imperative for Adam Warlock to be around Infinity War.  For me, it won’t feel much of an Infinity saga without him around. 

→ I’m calling it now.  The heroes from Marvel’s lineup of TV series – Phil Coulson, Mockingbird, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones – are going to be in the Avengers: Infinity War.  The two-parter is a culmination of sorts, so I suppose everyone will be in it.
      
→ I’m not kidding about the possibility of Spidey also showing up in Avengers: Infinity War (Wolverine, however, is unlikely).  There are rumors that Sony and Marvel are working up a deal to bring Spider-Man to the MCU.  I really want that to happen.  If it does, it’s going to be a massive coup.  It will rock a lot.
        
→ I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the MCU, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are reinvented as Inhumans.   

→ After some rumors that Marvel are contemplating of releasing three movies a year, the dates tells us that they are still sticking with their two-movies-a-year format.  Bummer.   

→ Seeing in the big screen Black Bolt obliterating foes with mere whispers is going to be awesome…

→ For the first new character to be introduced in “Phase 4”, I propose this guy…
Moon Knight.  Greatest Batman analogue ever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Delightful Thing Happened One Idle Afternoon...


Boring Monday afternoon.  Feel sluggish (and a bit feverish). Slow Internet connection.  But let me see if something interesting happ—


Of course, I’m elated.  By my own capabilities, I definitely wouldn’t have passed.  Considering the fact that I’m no TLE major (but it was the default subject of specialization given to the LET takers with degrees in business), and I succumbed to guessing around 65% of my answers during the specialization part, passing the LET was nothing short of a miracle.  This is definitely only due to God’s grace.   

So, I’m now a licensed professional teacher. 
Time to train some genins...

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Top 10 Fictional Characters That Had Heel-Face Turns


From what I understand, the term “heel-face turn” originated from professional wrestling.  It happens when the storyline would require a wrestler playing as a bad guy – called “heel” in pro wrestling jargon – to turn into a “babyface” or good guy (the opposite of which is, obviously, a “face-heel turn”; if you are familiar with professional wrestling, you know already that allegiance to “good” or “bad” is never permanent and constantly shifting to make new story material to work on). 

Hence, this list is about fictional characters that were bad guys at the start but then eventually turned into good guys – or at least started working for the good side.  Actually, I have already written such a list in the past, and this one can be considered as a sequel to it.             

First, let me share the parameters I’ve set in assembling this list:

1.) The characters already featured in my “Top 10 Former Bad Guys Who Are Awesome As Good Guys” are, of course, exempted from this list.

2.) Usually, the appeal of characters that were former “heels” is being edgier and more tortured than characters initially established as “face.”  Thus, to be considered for this list, the characters’ former identity as villains should have significantly helped in making their characterizations and character development interesting. 

For example, Fairy Tail’s Juvia is a former antagonist, a member of Phantom Lord, Fairy Tail’s enemy guild.  She eventually joined Fairy Tail after the Phantom Lord arc and eventually ascended as one of its most important members.  She is a legitimately interesting heroine, but, for me, her origin as a former antagonist was not a big factor in making her so.   (Another example is One Piece’s Nico Robin.)
   
Gajeel Redfox, however, who has the same origin as Juvia’s, is an example of a protagonist whose former identity as a villain is a significant facet in whatever appeal the character has (that’s why he was on the last list).   

3.) “Last minute” heel-face turns, whenever the villain has a “change of heart” near or at the end of the narrative, don’t count.  Example, when the hero makes the villain realize his wrongs and then the latter sacrifices his life to save the hero/world/day (e.g. Darth Vader).
 
4.) I don’t consider characters revealed to be only pretending to work with the bad guys and were good all along fitting the concept of heel-face turns (e.g. Severus Snapes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows).
 
5.) Characters who were initially introduced as “heels” but were actually expected to be eventual “faces” in the story are disqualified (e.g. Hiei of Ghost Fighter). 

6.) Unpleasant, antagonistic protagonists – but nonetheless part of the protagonists of the story – who undergone “change of heart” or moral reformation in the course of the story are disqualified (e.g. Grinch of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Eustace Scrubb of The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol).
     
7.) In case of still ongoing stories, particularly comic books, the character to be considered should still be one of the good guys as of the present.

8.) Speaking of comic books, there are several super-heroes that were erstwhile super-villains (especially among the Avengers’ ranks).  Silver Surfer, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Wonder Man, Gambit, Rogue, and Emma Frost – to name some – started out as super-villains before becoming prominent super-heroes.  But their days as villains were so long ago already, and right now, they are already established, long-serving super-heroes, hence, the fact that they were former “heels” has not much impact at all.  The best of such heel-face turns in comics are the ones recently done after serving a long time as significant villains, like Red Hulk, Magneto (though likely to return back into becoming a villain eventually), and Venom; they were already featured in the last list. 

10.) TOHRU

 
Tohru is a character from the ludicrous but entertaining animated series Jackie Chan Adventures (which stars a fictionalized Jackie Chan, now working as an archaeologist).  During the show’s first season, Tohru serves as the lead enforcer for the Dark Hand, the villainous criminal organization that Jackie fights against.  Tohru’s sumo physique made him the sturdiest and most formidable among the Dark Hand henchmen (sans Shendu’s Shadowkhan) but he was usually outclassed in a fight by the martial arts-proficient Jackie Chan.  

As a bad guy, Tohru was intimidating, ruthless, and stern.  But after he was kicked out of Dark Hand and was replaced by Hak Foo as lead enforcer, Tohru found himself joining the Chan household.  And with the same fierce loyalty he had for his Dark Hand boss, Valmont, he now displayed on his new found friends and became extremely protective of them.  His personality also lightened up and became more amiable, meek, and relaxed. 

9.) FAUST VIII

 
Shaman King is one of those manga/anime series wherein most of the antagonists during the story’s run are won over by the good guys to join their side.  A lot of characters did heel-face turns through Shaman King’s run, and almost all of them are interesting since they seemed to be irredeemable, thus, when they became allies of the main protagonist, Asakura Yoh, the heel-face turns were unexpected and delightful.  For me, Shaman King and Katekyo Hitman Reborn are the manga/anime series that had best executed heel-face turns in terms of both quantity and quality.  There are a lot of great characters that turned face in Shaman King, but I decided to give only one slot to Shaman King and give the slot to my favorite among them, and that would be Faust VIII.      

Faust VIII’s insanity and oddity as a character are probably what made me like him best above the others.  He is a brilliant but mad doctor proficient in both necromancy and medicine that he can perform many physical procedures on himself that a normal human body can’t do.   When he had a broken bone, instead of letting it heal on its own, he opted to rip it off, and replaced it with a salvaged bone of the same size.  When dropping from an airplane, he happily announced that he injected himself with so much morphine that he won’t mind getting his body smashed on impact, he won’t feel the pain anyway; he would just patch himself up afterwards.  This guy is so enjoyably batshit. 

The first time Faust made an appearance, he was creepy and loony, and could turn sadistic and merciless.  His powers of necromancy fit his personality very well.  When Yoh was scheduled to fight him in the first round, Silva, the Shaman Fight referee assigned to Yoh’s bracket, even urged Anna to forfeit the match for Yoh since Faust had the reputation of killing ruthlessly whenever he likes to.  Yoh still proceeded to fight him but the match resulted in his first ever defeat (if I remember it right).  During this fight, Yoh enraged Faust so much that the latter was on his way to kill the former, and it would have been so, if Tao Ren didn’t interfere.

But in the second round of the Shaman Fight, Faust’s ruthless personality was gone.  He even became part of Yoh’s team!  What led him to be so?  It was established early on that he succumbed to insanity and necromancy because of his obsession of bringing his late wife, Eliza, to life; his ultimate goal is to resurrect Eliza by becoming Shaman King.  Faust’s necromancy only reanimated Eliza’s skeleton and gave it her appearance, but it doesn’t truly have the essence of his late wife.  However, with Anna’s itako powers, she was able to summon the soul of Eliza from the afterlife.  Therefore, it was only then that Faust was able to truly reunite with his wife.  Moreover, since he now has a real human spirit to work with, Faust became more powerful.  Because of finally being able to genuinely interact and communicate with his wife, Faust became extremely loyal to Anna and Yoh, and, being a medical doctor, an invaluable member of Yoh’s Team “Funbari Onsen.”    

8.) HECTOR BARBOSSA

Second to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, the most enjoyable character in the Pirates of the Caribbean series is Geoffrey Rush’s Hector Barbossa.  The “heel-face turn” of Barbossa is a bit shaky, since like Jack Sparrow, he has no real sense of morality; both Barbossa and Sparrow, as pirates, just do the things they think will benefit them, readily allying or betraying as the circumstance calls.  But in the context of being introduced as the main antagonist and then becoming one of the protagonists (or, at least, a tenuous ally of the protagonists) in the course of the story, I will consider it a heel-face turn.     

In the first movie, Curse of the Black Pearl, Barbossa was the wicked and treacherous antagonist of the story who mutinied and stole the Black Pearl from its rightful captain, Jack Sparrow.  Barbossa’s identity as a villain was further enhanced by the fact that he and his mutinous crew had become undead when they took cursed Aztec gold.  At the end of the story – due to the accidental assistance of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann – Jack Sparrow got to be in the position to exact revenge against Barbossa, shooting him just as he returned to mortality. 

However, it was revealed in the final scene of the second film, Dead Man’s Chest, that Barbossa had been resurrected by Tia Dalma.  Will and Elizabeth sought his aid to rescue Jack Sparrow from “Davey Jones’ Locker.”  In At World’s End, Barbossa and Jack developed an uneasy alliance, and they fought side by side against the formidable coalition of Davey Jones and Lord Becket.  Barbossa would even conduct the wedding ceremony of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann amidst the final battle (it was an awesome scene).     

In On Stranger Tides, Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa found themselves joining forces again, this time against Blackbeard.  

7.) PICCOLO

 
When I was discussing Vegeta in the first list, I’ve given honorable mention to Piccolo as an interesting “villain-to-hero” character from Dragon Ball.  Now, he gets his own slot on this one.  As a villain, Piccolo was initially ruthless and sadistic, and very much focused on killing Goku (to avenge his father’s death) and to take over the world. 

But in order to take on Raditz, he allied himself with Goku.  It was meant to be a temporary truce, but from that point, after defeating Raditz, Piccolo grew less and less evil, and the threat of invading Saiyans would eventually compel him to be a permanent member of the Z Fighters. 

Piccolo would even train Gohan, the son of his erstwhile nemesis whom he had vowed to kill (Goku sacrificed his life so that Piccolo can kill Raditz, thus, he wasn’t around to train Gohan).  He was a harsh teacher at first, but in the end, he developed a strong bond with him.  Piccolo even proceeded to willingly sacrifice his life for Gohan (of course, in Dragon Ball Z mythos, death is never permanent since people can be wished back to life).  

As the story progressed, Goku, Gohan, and the other Saiyans would tremendously surpass Piccolo in power (especially once “Super Saiyan” mode was discovered) – eliminating him, as other Z Fighters, as a serious contributor or threat – but he still remained as an interesting and important character as he provided tactical wisdom to those doing the fighting. 

6.) THE THUNDERBOLTS

Let me cheat a bit.  For this slot, it’s not a single character but a whole team. 

The Thunderbolts team was originally conceived by Baron Zemo, a team made up Masters of Evil members masquerading as superheroes to win the public’s trust.  Which they were able to do.  However, because of experiencing constant successes as heroes, Zemo’s teammates/minions begin to like the feeling of being heroes and eventually broke away from him.  Hence, the members of the Thunderbolts – which includes the criminal shrink, Moonstone; size-enhancer Atlas, formerly a regular super-villain enforcer named Goliath (also Power Man); the armored MACH-I (presently MACH-V), who had been the Spidey-villain, Beetle; and Songbird, formerly Screaming Mimi – who were originally just pretending to be heroes, truly became heroes, completing a “heel-face” turn.   Ironically, it was when they broke away from Zemo and decided to become genuine heroes that they became wanted fugitives from the law after Zemo revealed their true identities.  
                                                                                                                             
From then on, the team has undergone several incarnations and roster changes.  At one time, around the time of “Civil War”, it had even become Marvel’s answer to DC’s Suicide Squad – super-villains implanted by nano-explosives being forced to go on missions for the government.  And, at the present, it’s an awesome team of gritty anti-heroes assembled and led by Red Hulk that kills bad guys to get the job done.   But it all comes down to what made me like the Thunderbolts for the first time: its core premise of a superhero team made up of reformed, semi-reformed, and pseudo-reformed super-villains.  It was the first time I encountered such fascinating premise.  

5.) IAGO

 
In the first Aladdin movie, Iago was the pet/accomplice of main villain, Jafar.  He resented having to live under the sultan, particularly how the sultan would force him to eat crackers, which he hates.  Iago was portrayed as short-tempered; loud-mouthed; and – probably learning from Jafar – greedy, bitter, and scheming.  At the end of the movie, Iago was dragged and trapped with Jafar in the latter’s genie lamp and was cast into the Cave of Wonders. 

Back when I was a child, when watching the brilliant Aladdin animated series and reading the comic books, I was perplexed how come Iago was hanging out with Aladdin’s gang.  It was only later on that I’ve become aware of the existence of the movie’s sequel, Return of Jafar, and came to understand how Iago became part of the good guys.  In Return of Jafar, Iago escaped from the lamp and chose to join the good guys after being fed up of being pushed around by Jafar.  When Jafar also managed to escape the lamp, Iago was instrumental in his former master’s ultimate defeat.   

Though still retaining some of his character flaws – like his weakness for luxury and money; being easily frustrated; and being mischievous, cowardly, and pessimistic – he had nonetheless come to learn the true value of friendship in his time with Aladdin and friends.  Moreover, the presence of Iago – with his sarcastic wise-cracks, cynical but realistic perspective on situations, and understanding of the criminal mind – is a major contributor in making Aladdin’s gang a delightfully diverse and dynamic ensemble, especially in the animated series.

In the conclusive movie of Disney’s Aladdin story, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Iago decided to join Aladdin’s father, Cassim, in his adventures, feeling that he would be more at home with Cassim’s sense of thievery than with living with the “lovey-dovey stuff” that Aladdin and Jasmine’s marriage would bring.   
   
4.) DAVID XANATOS

 
David Xanatos is cast in the mold of Lex Luthor: a brilliant and Machiavellian schemer; possesses genius acumen in both business and science; and has access to seemingly unlimited resources provided by his powerful conglomerate.  During most of Gargoyles’ run, he served as the main antagonist of the series.     

Learning of the existence of the Wyvern Clan of gargoyles and the centuries-long curse that put them into “stone sleep” which can be broken if Castle Wyvern is raised above the clouds, Xanatos purchased the ruins of the castle and rebuilt it atop his skyscraper in New York.  He intended to exploit these gargoyles’ sense of loyalty to the lord of the castle so he can use them as his personal henchmen.  The curse was successfully broken and the Wyvern Clan – renamed as Manhattan Clan – was initially deceived by Xanatos.  However, later on, the gargoyles saw through his manipulations and left him.  From then on, Xanatos engaged in a bitter rivalry with the Manhattan Clan, especially with its leader, Goliath.   Xanatos would look for ways to capture or destroy the Manhattan Clan, while the gargoyles would interfere with Xanatos’ criminal operations.  Sometimes there were temporary truces when a common threat arose, but Xanatos, being a pragmatic man, only did them out of self-preservation or self-interest. 

Xanatos’ “change of heart” moment started when he fell in love and got married with Fox.  Gradually, Xanatos softened and grew instinctively protective of his family, probably understanding for the first time Goliath’s devotion for his clan.  After Goliath led the Manhattan Clan to come to the aid of Xanatos and Fox when Oberon was set to take their son for the “gathering” of the children of Avalon, Xanatos became extremely grateful to Goliath and pledged his help whenever the clan required for it.  From that point onwards, with the same cunning and resourcefulness he displayed when he was clashing with the Manhattan Clan, he now applied as the gargoyle’s benefactor.  Xanatos even asked the gargoyles to return to their ancestral home, Wyvern Castle, marking the official end of their feud and the beginning of their alliance.   When the time came that existence of the gargoyles became known to the general public and many parties came to hate and persecute them, it was fortunate that Xanatos was already on their side.

3.) TOMMY OLIVER

 
While watching Power Rangers as a kid, it was with Tommy Oliver whom I had my first encounter of an impactful, memorable heel-face turn.  Tommy first appeared as a new student in the high school where the Power Rangers attend in their civilian identities.  He showed his adeptness as a martial artist when he sparred with Jason (the first Red Ranger) in a tournament, wherein he was noticed by Rita Repulsa.  Rita enchanted Tommy to follow her commands, transformed him into the Green Ranger, and then ordered him to destroy the Power Rangers.  He proved to be more powerful than them – beating them in battle, banishing Zordon, and destroying their command center.  However, when Zordon was revived, the Power Rangers were able to counter-attack, and the Red Ranger was able beat the Green Ranger in one-on-one combat, also freeing Tommy from Rita’s mind control.  Giving Tommy the opportunity to redeem himself, Zordon asked him to join the Power Rangers in which he readily agreed, and he became an invaluable member of the team. 
             
After a while, he lost his Green Ranger powers, but then became the White Ranger later on.  As the White Ranger, Tommy would replace Jason, the Red Ranger, as the new leader of the team.  Witnessing such development had been new to me.  Here’s a former antagonist, and now he’s the leader?!  It was astonishing and delightful to a five-year-old me. 

Tommy’s legend continued to rise.  He became a Red Ranger eventually (since red is the true color of the leader in the Power Rangers mythos), and, years later, became a Black Ranger in a mentor-type role in Dino Thunder.  Now, there is a consensus that Tommy is the greatest Power Ranger ever in the franchise’s 21-year history; for he is a constant badass, a compelling leader, and the guy who won the heart of Kimberly (the first Pink Ranger), the ultimate crush of most 90’s boys.  Not bad for a former villain. 

2.) SPIKE

 
Spike was initially meant to be a brief antagonist, but the fantastic “punk, badass vampire” characterization and actor James Marsters’ charisma made him so popular with fans that he became a regular.  According to creator Joss Whedon, Spike is the best-developed character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  And one can understand why.  His transition from villain, to reluctant ally, to anti-hero, and even becoming Buffy’s lover along the way, was so amazingly well done through the course of the series.  Spike’s heel-face turn was gradual and complex that it’s something you need to witness to appreciate fully (seriously, if you haven’t yet, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel [Spike was part of the main cast in its last season].  Those were great shows).    

1.) OTTO OCTAVIUS (SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN)

 
This is a bit of a controversial choice for I actually hated Superior Spider-Man during its run.   However, despite my animosity, I had also made it clear that I found it original and genuinely intriguing.  The series kept me absorbed enough to compel me to write several times regarding it.  Besides, most of the hate I have for its concept was because it was done on Spider-Man, the comic book character that I’m most passionate about.  I felt that it blasphemed the essence of what makes Spider-Man exceptional.  Moreover, writer Dan Slott and his conspirators were actually effective in their deception that it was going to be a lengthy status quo (it only lasted for a little more than a year).  

But, again, “Superior Spider-Man” was a fresh comic book concept, and the heel-face turn that was involved in it is definitely the most unique and sophisticated I’ve ever encountered. 

As Doctor Octopus, Otto Octavius was probably Spider-Man’s most dangerous and most prominent archenemy (rivaled only by the Green Goblin).  He possesses a tremendous genius intellect and is arguably smarter than Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man).  He is a brilliant inventor and engineer, and displays great expertise in various scientific fields, ranging from radiation to cybernetics.  Aside from his superb scientific capabilities, he is also a proficient strategist and a criminal mastermind.  Moreover, even with his stout physique, he’s actually a deadly combatant due to his cybernetic tentacles.  But despite of his many advantages, Spider-Man always comes out on top.   

However, when he was in his dying state, Otto pulled off the most triumphant coup of his super-villain career: he successfully developed a mind-swapping Octobot which he proceeded to use against Spider-Man.  Otto transferred his mind into Peter Parker’s body, and Peter Parker’s mind, on the other hand, was placed in Otto’s dying body.

Peter, in his usual tenacious spirit, still made an attempt on reclaiming his body from Otto.  Unfortunately, Otto was able to foil Peter’s desperate effort, ensuring Peter’s demise and Otto’s victory.  However, though Peter couldn’t re-swap their minds anymore, he noticed that their minds were still connected.  Realizing that he was unable to win his body and life back anymore, Peter instead proceeded to make sure that he won’t be leaving the life and legacy of Spider-Man to a villain.   With their minds still connected, Peter made Otto relive all of his struggles, pains, and defining moments as Spider-Man.  This made Otto empathize with Peter’s experiences, comprehending the great responsibility that came with being Spider-Man. 

Before Peter could give out his last breath, Otto promised him that he would carry on the duty of being Spider-Man.  Not only that, but he was determined to become a better Spider-Man than what Peter had been – a Superior Spider-Man. 

So Otto did truly have a heel-face turn as he really strived to succeed as a super-hero.  However, his personality remained the same.  He was conceited, harsh, impatient, and grim.  Yes, he was sincere in his desire of being hero, but his methods of doing so were in an un-heroic manner.  He readily committed brutality.  He was manipulative.  He applied blackmail.  He employed henchmen.  He mind-controlled super-villains to do his bidding.  And, worst of all, he was even willing to take a life… and did!  He believed that the end justify the means.  Though he indeed became a more efficient and more calculating Spider-Man, he was hardly a better hero than Peter Parker.          

Otto Octavius has been enjoyably kick-ass as the Superior Spider-Man, but it’s not what Spider-Man is all about.  And I think that’s the whole message of the “Superior Spider-Man” story.   Being more intelligent, being more powerful, and having cooler gadgets don’t make a better Spider-Man.  Even Otto himself realized that in the end, hence, he sacrificed his life so that Peter can regain control of his body.  The resolute, selfless, determined, uncompromising, witty, and optimistic Peter Parker is the Amazing Spider-Man – it won’t work any other way. 

Nonetheless, as far as doing a heel-face turn and its effect on the characterization are concerned, what was done on Otto Octavius a.k.a. the Superior Spider-Man was fresh and engaging.  At this point, I don’t mind anymore that it came about at the cost of Peter Parker’s temporary death.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

10-12-2014 Dynamic Service Special Number


I do not know who originally sang "How Deep the Father's Love For Us", but this cover we had of it - Ms. Arlene Bemida singing, with me playing the piano - is inspired by the version of Liberty Campus Band (look 'em up in YouTube).


The lyrics are really substantially powerful, so let me include them here... 

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom