Elastic or Super Stretching: A list of elastic heroes part 2

Flexibility when big, life changes happen is a helpful character trait to possess or develop. This first blog post lists and compares several of these characters in the order they were first published (by publication year). This is part 2 of a two-part post.

I think flexibility is the main reason why super heroes with elastic or super stretching powers are fascinating. They embody adaptation. They can work around most physical obstacles, rising to impossible challenges. At the same time, they look unusual and strange. They connect to the sense of being an outcast or an outsider that comic book characters explore (the X-Men being a long standing example).

Dhalsim, 1991

Dhalsim from the Street Fighter series has less extreme and flowing stretching powers. He can’t elongate his body into a sheet, but his arms and legs still spring out, which is an effective fighting tactic in the two dimensional world of Street Fighter. Some writers have criticised Dhalsim’s cliched and racially stereotyped design; Dhalsim is a practising yoga master from India. He wears skulls and breathes fire. These characteristics show Dhalsim’s elastic design was not deeply thought out or planned when he, and the cast of Street Fighter 2were initially created. He is one part of an ‘international’ cast of characters. Looking for depth, flexibility, and outsider status would be difficult considering the stereotyping behind his design.

Luffy (Monkey.D.Luffy), 1997

Monkey D. Luffy is the pirate captain of the Straw Hat pirates from the long-running One Piece manga. He has several traits in common with Plastic Man. Both have morally chaotic decision making skills, and extreme, stretching abilities. They also have a sense of humour and optimistic buoyant personalities. Luffy has the middle initial of “D”, which marks him as an outsider in the One Piece world. Another elastic hero marked as an outsider.

Mrs. Incredible, 2004

In 2004, Helen Parr appears in the Disney Pixar animation The Incredibles. Similar to Mr.Fantastic, she is a strong family figure, and like Mr. Fantastic, would make tremendous
sacrifices to protect her family. Her elastic powers are also similar to Mr. Fantastic. Mrs. Incredible also made a significant sacrifice in her life when she gave up being a hero entirely to raise a family.

Jake the Dog, 2008

In 2008, Jake the Dog is the first prominent, non-human shape shifter and elastic hero. His story arc progresses from a more carefree adventurer, to concerned parent. He shapeshifts not just to fight and carry Finn around, but also to adapt to his changing responsibilities. He starts in the same, chaotic place as Luffy and Plastic Man, but transitions to become more similar in character to Mr.Fantastic and Mrs. Incredible.

Ms. Marvel, 2013

Finally, in 2013, Ms. Marvel arrives. Her abilities include shapeshifting and stretching, similar to Plastic Man and Luffy. Kamala Khan fights prejudice and stands out as a diverse role model. Another elastic hero with outsider status, who is an authentic American Muslim character, concerned with the safety of everyone in her New Jersey community. The depth and thought behind Ms. Marvel’s design and writing contrasts with the ideas and stereotypes hastily used to create Street Fighter character Dhalsim. Ms. Marvel needs to be flexible to take on prejudice in her community toward Americans who are also of the Islamic faith.

An interesting trend observed just from the publication year is the increase in shapeshifting and stretching characters since 1997. Moving into the 21st century, flexibility is an increasingly valuable character trait. We can see a bit of our own struggle to be more flexible with the demands of contemporary life in these characters.

So, are these insights valuable, or just over thinking? You can head back in time, and read about elastic heroes before 1990 on the Wallflyer.

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Elastic or Super Stretching: A list of elastic heroes part 1

Flexibility when big, life changes happen is a helpful character trait to possess or develop. This first blog post lists and compares several of these characters in the order they were first published (by publication year). This is part 1 of a two-part post.

I think flexibility is the main reason why super heroes with elastic or super stretching powers are fascinating. They embody adaptation. They can work around most physical obstacles, rising to impossible challenges. At the same time, they look unusual and strange. They connect to the sense of being an outcast or an outsider that comic book characters explore (the X-Men being a long standing example).

Plastic Man, 1941

In 1941, Plastic Man arrives in Police Comics #1. He is the earliest hero in American comics publishing with stretching powers. A reformed thief, Plastic Man has an overwhelming sense of humour. This brightness was later contrasted with depths of sadness when the character appeared in several Justice League of America story arcs during the 1990’s. Flexible and elastic characters can change with the times. They embody adaptation.

Reed Richards, Elongated Man, 1961

Almost exactly 20 years later, in 1961, two more elastic heroes appear. One more arrives for DC, and a prominent stretchy heroes appears at Marvel Comics. These two heroes are the detective Elongated Man, and the super scientist and Fantastic Four team leader Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). Richards is a character with strong family connections. He would literally stretch to great lengths to defend his family. Elongated Man is also a character with strong family connections. Like Plastic Man, he is also the survivor of almost overwhelming tragedies, having lost his wife Susan Dearbon (before New 52 relaunch at DC comics) and almost losing Susan again (after the New 52 relaunch) in Secret Six.

Elastic-Girl, 1963

Elasti-Girl of the Doom Patrol appears in 1963. She represents the outsider interpretation of elastic and stretchy heroes. Also experiencing loss and tragedy, she and her team died in a battle to save a small fishing village. Like Elongated Man, she has returned following the New 52 relaunch, however.

Flat Man, 1989

In 1989, a hero with limited stretching or elastic powers called Flat Man appears at Marvel comics. Flat Man joins the Great Lakes Avengers, who are often sidelined or maligned by the Avengers, or the X-Men. Combined with the Flat Man’s character development – gaining the confidence to admit to himself that he is gay and eventually come out to his teammates – the outcast status appears in connection with another elastic hero.

Are these ideas of flexibility, of overcoming obstacles, and being an outcast justified and relevant, or just overthinking? Part two on the Wallflyer will cover heroes after 1991 – Dhalsim, Mrs. Incredible, Monkey D. Luffy, Jake the Dog, and Ms. Marvel.

Update 22/2 Link to part two added to the last paragraph.

Gold Coast Supanova 2014 Cosplay Part 1

Supanova is like a multiverse – characters from different stories crossover in one place, brought to life be cosplayers.

Below is part 1 of 2 of cosplay photo collections featuring skilful costumes from the Gold Coast Supanova festival.

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Bravest Warriors #11 – Comics Review

Bravest Warriors #11: You, Sir, Are A Terrible Magician.

(This review includes spoilers for Issue #11 of Bravest Warriors)

Danny and Wallow, two members of the Bravest Warriors Team, infiltrate a public school located on the moon’s dark side. They hope to catch a teacher responsible for the disappearance of six children at six other schools on six different planets. Stopping this serial offender will mean that the warriors must employ clever disguise, and be prepared for anything. After all, they suspect that a werewolf is responsible for the school kids going missing.

Instead, Danny and Wallow bring a bazooka with silver mortar shells, and dress up as a magician and his assistant. There’s a few problems with this plan.

First, Danny admits he became a Bravest Warrior because there are no children in space – he has a fear of young children. Second, Danny and Wallow agree that pulling a bazooka on an audience of school children and their teacher is appropriate. With a flourish, Danny pulls the bazooka out of a hat, and the kids are terrified. The teacher says: “I hope for your sake that Bazooka fires apologies son”. The Bravest Warriors comic book follows the sense of humor established in the Bravest Warriors animated episodes released on Youtube by Cartoon Hangover. The Humor is aimed at younger readers – the content appears violent, but is not seriously explicit. Bravest Warriors #11 is entertaining because it’s over-the-top and extreme in its humor.

Art

There are some entertaining facial expressions in Issue #11. It helps that Danny is the most extreme cast member of the Bravest Warriors team. His facial expressions are an example of this – he has more than one maniacal grin as he weilds the bazooka, and performs for his audience as a magician.

Some of the best art is a page where we see the werewolf transform from it’s human form, shifting to a wolf monster. This sequence is captured on a single page, with no panels to break up the sequence. A variety of colours are used throughout – some of the children are aliens, or have at least one alien parent. Their skin tones vary from cyan, to pink, orange, violent, and spinach green. A short, seven page back-up story entitled “Drawing with Impossibear” features a remorseless character named Impossibear showing readers how to draw space chickens and the popular Catbug. The art for this short comic is deliberately simplified and has strong, clear outlines.

Cast

Unfortunately, half the Bravest Warriors are missing. This comic book stars only Wallow and Danny on a side-mission, and Catbug and Impossibear in the back-up short. Danny and Wallow have some hilarious moments. Since Danny is the Magician, Wallow dresses as the assistant, donning an elegant, scarlet gown with matching elbow length gloves and ruby earings. Danny’s magician costume is suitably dashing, with a red cape and lighting bolt insignia.

Themes, Ethics, Values.

The Bravest Warriors live up to their title. The Bravest Warriors comic characters face situations where they need to be brave. Danny not only faces a room filled with children, but also commits to public speaking, and faces off against a werewolf. He does not use the bazooka’s silver payload. There is a highly self aware moment when a text box reads “character developing flashback”, and Danny agrees to never use a Bazooka on a child, especially if they are a werewolf. Apart from the bravery, there are not any other solid themes or values in place.

A bit more on Bravest Warriors #11

Cartoon Hangovers alternative, science fiction series, balances out the fantasy offerings of Adventure Time, and is now just one issue away from 12 installments, and a year’s worth of published comics. This is something to celebrate: Bravest Warriors is a light and humor-filled adventure comic.

Bravest Warriors #11 is published by Kaboom! and created by Cartoon Hangover. $3.99 USD. Joey Comeau (W.) Mike Holmes (A.) Lisa More (C.) Steve Wands (L.) with Ryan Pequin (W & A.) Whitney Cogar (C.)

Pop Culture – German Myths in Django Unchained.

German mythology plays a huge role in the Marvel universe – Loki and Thor’s battle over an artefact from Asgard summarises the The Avengers plot succinctly. It was interesting to see even more Teutonic myths and folklore act as a framework for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

Also, I’ve mentioned German and Teutonic myth, and they are almost referring to the same thing – Teutonic myth is any kind of story about gods, goddesses, and heroes from the German region of early Europe – around the 4th Century BC. Characters like Brunhilde and Siegfried featured prominently among theme. It makes sense that Christopher Waltz’ character, Dr. King Schultz, would say that these two characters and chiefly beloved.

Around a campfire, the winter wind carries the mournful sound of a coyote or wolf howl, and Dr. Schultz begins to tell Django the tale of Siegfried and Brunhilde – This is where Django begins his journey as a new Siegfried on the way to rescue Broomhilda (a mispronunciation of “Brunhilde”). It has been noted by the IMDB community, however, that the version of the story Schultz tells is impossible. He tells Richard Wagners’ version from his opera Der Ring des Nibelungen – The Ring of the Nibelungen. The opera was first performed in 1869, while the film is set in 1858. These historical changes, I think, are in place to create a unique, western universe, which acts as a backdrop for the story – they are effective anachronisms. It’s a lose, fable versions of history, designed to tell the revenge story without obstacles. This is similar to how the Kill Bill films appeared to be set in a universe of assassins detached slightly from our own reality – The airlines and motor cycles in this universe had sword holders built into their seats for example.

The core highlights of Wagner’s opera are retold – Siegfried climbs a mountain, fights a dragon, and walks through a ring of hellfire to rescue Brunhilde. Shultz accurately recalls another key detail. He says that Siegfried climbed the mountain, and slew the dragon because he was not afraid of them. In the original myth, Siegfried received a sword sometimes called Nothung, which could only be used by a hero who was not afraid.

Across other games, comics, and television in pop-culture, different genres and characters follow this structure. Super Mario Brothers and Adventure Time, for example, both employ a general “Rescue the princess” trope, which is comparable.  Tarantino has expertly reinvented and adapted the myth of Siegfried and Brunhilde, giving Django Unchained a foundation in prominent mythology to build from.

Django Unchained is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and distributed by Sony Pictures

Comics Review – Young Avengers #1 and Adventure Time: Fiona and Cake #1

A pair of first issues this week: Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Mike Norton bring back the Young Avengers: with Kate Bishop and Noh-varr hooking up, and Loki, Miss America, Wicccan, and Hulkling fighting and sniping at each other.

Meanwhile, Natasha Allegri writes and illustrates the exceedingly popular Adventure Time gender-swapped world of Fiona and Cake: the Princesses and Princes, dogs are cats, and the villains are scarier.

Young Avengers #1

According to Noh-Varr, there are no close harmony girl groups in dimensions with transcendental peace and enlightenment – his homeworld is such a place. He talks to Kate bishop the morning after their hookup, as she enjoys the view from his ship in orbit around Earth while listening to retro music from his Earth record collection: The Ronettes sing Be My Baby moments before Skrulls attack. The page where they escape the attack has panels featuring point to point action of Noh-Varr and Kate running and shooting, and has lettering displaying Kate’s thoughts in bold text. Her statement about her current status as a hero boils down to “I have no powers and I am in danger, but I regret nothing”.

This is the opening to Young Avengers #1

This first story arc is titled Style is greater that Substance. Appearance and how it relates to style certainly are a key theme here. Teddy, the shape shifting Hulkling, changes his appearance, and clashes with his partner Billy, the magical Wiccan, about how he enjoys taking on the role of a young avenger – the appearance of truly heroic characters like Spider-man – since he has little else he values in his life. The panel composition of Billy and Teddy’s fight is effective – two pages of uniform squares creates tension as Teddy jabs at Billy.

Loki, who appears as a kid, is called “cosplay boy” by an impatient waiter. His appearance is deceiving, as is Miss America’s, who dresses casually in shorts and a red, white, and blue hoody, but can toss tanks to the moon. Billy’s parents could be in trouble as a new/old character also deceives everyone with their appearance. This issue has great art choices and consistent themes – I highly recommend Young Avengers.

Young Avengers #1 is published by Marvel Comics. Variant Cover by Brian Lee O’Malley

Adventure Time: Fiona and Cake #1

Where do Volcano’s come from? Cake has a good story about it, and tells it to Fiona as dramatic bedtime tale about a passionate woman made of fire. The shape shifting cat tell Fiona that volcanoes are a prison, and come from love, life, and loneliness. The serious tones are dissuaded with humor, and then the Ice Queen appears. She is chasing baby fire lions into the rain to test out a shard of black crystal she carries. An athletic Fire Prince – based on the Fire Princess – pounces, and tries to stop her.

There are some great character moments here: the prince is powerful – and has a type advantage over the Ice Queen – but the Queen plays on his mercy, attacking him with her black ice crystal, and proving herself to be a brute.

The lettering is suitably majestic and flowing for the fairy tale, while the font and colour captures character voice. Once the story arrives at Cake and Fiona’s tree house, however, it feels as though more needs to be done on character facial expressions and anatomy, as character proportions and eyebrows move around inconsistently.

There is a back up feature – Noelle Stevenson writes a short story about sweaters. Prince Gumball has made sweaters for all the main characters, and Marshall Lee’s sweater has a great bat design. unfortunately, neither story shows Fiona’s fighting ability, which is somewhat of a let down. The mini-series is building up Fiona and Cake’s world, however, which is great to read.

Adventure Time: Fiona and Cake #1 is published by Kaboom Studios.

Weekly Comics – August 24 2012. Three Independents.

I had a two week break, unannounced (sorry about that), and I have a shorter, special post this week, with three comics from independent publishers Dark Horse, Kaboom!, and Image.

Adventure Time #7

I could not praise this issue enough – I enjoy the animated series, and had a great experience reading the comic book adaptation. The character voices, written by Ryan North, effortlessly capture the sound of Adventure Times language, which is fairly unique. The plot basically centres around time travel: Jake and Finn are attempting to repair a time machine built be Princess Bubblegum, but are thrown decades into the future as a result 0f their efforts. The Scenes in the future are my favorite. Shelly Paroline and Braden Lamb produce some energetic and fun art. An altogether engaging comic that draws the reader in with its accessible and bright design, and then doesn’t let go as the adventure continues.

America’s Got Powers #2

A very sharp and clever story about a young American with superpowers living in a world separated into “Powers” and “Normals”. This issue deals with the aftermath of the issue #1, and Tommy Watts, the protagonist, has a decision to make about his future: will he fight in an arena against other super powered teens for a popular reality television show? Bryan Hitch’s art has clean, strong lines: it’s always a high standard of comic art, and America’s Got Powers is filled with good designs for characters and places in this original world. This is a great super hero comic for readers looking for a good series without having to research continuity to understand the story. Jonathan Ross writes strong character relationships between Tommy Watts and his family in addition to a love interest – Debbie, who has an insect-like appearance with “cute mandibles“. It does seem similar to the Hunger Games, but the comic ties itself to many popular culture influences including X-men, Heroes, and Rising Stars.

Angel & Faith #12

The story of Joss Whedon’s Legendary Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues to expand as writer Christos Gage crafts a new story for popular spin-off character Angel and the rouge slayer Faith. Willow, the powerful witch, and Connor, Angel’s son (Both characters have interesting histories), join Angel and Faith on an important quest: part of their goal is to help Willow regain magical powers. Rebekah Isaacs draws superior facial expressions on the characters, with great lighting considering the characters are exploring the hellish and gloomy Quor’toth in search of magic. This plot stems from the stories of the television series, followed by season 8: a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic. Both are worth watching and reading. They are endlessly entertaining, smart, and woven together with Whedon’s own sense of humor.