Category Archives: Superheroes


Dylan DogDYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2010) Halloween Month continues with a look at the luckless Brandon Routh’s turn as this film’s title character, Tiziano Sclavi’s horror hero from Italian comic books. Sclavi launched Dylan Dog’s series in October of 1986 and under various creative teams the series is still running.

(Years ago I reviewed the film version of Tiziano Sclavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore from 1994.) 

Dylan Dog, an investigator of vampires, werewolves and other monsters, is an international cult hero beloved by comics fans around the world … which, of course, meant that any deviation from what the fan-boys wanted would cause them to hamstring the movie adaptation at the box office. The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.

In my opinion Dylan Dog: Dead of Night does not deserve its bad reputation. Compared to the many, many other films and television programs about heroic battlers of the paranormal this was certainly a top shelf production. The fact that this cinematic adaptation came along decades later than it should have is the main problem.  

Dylan Dog 2Let’s go by the numbers, knowing full well that budget and projected box office returns limited many of the creative decisions:

I. The Dylan Dog comic book was set in London (?). This movie was set in New Orleans, a change of locale that I actually like, given London’s overuse in horror films. Needless to say, this put the worst type of fan-boys in a VERY bad mood right off the bat.

II. The creative team behind Dylan Dog: Dead of Night kept the mood light. I agree with that choice given the inherent campiness and absurdity of an investigator who encounters werewolves, vampires, zombies, etc in horrific settings that are often reminiscent of Film Noir detective stories. The worst type of fan-boys bemoaned the “lack of the sad and serious tone of the comic books.”

III. In the comic book Dylan Dog’s sidekick in his investigations was Groucho, a Groucho Marx impersonator whose built-in craziness caused him to BE Groucho 24/7. For obvious legal and monetary reasons an American film version could not use Groucho as Dylan’s sidekick. The worst type of fan-boys were even more disenchanted.

Dylan Dog 3IV. The cinematic sidekick for Dylan was a new creation – Marcus, played by Sam Huntington, who had previously appeared with star Brandon Routh in the ill-fated Superman Returns (2006).

(Poor Routh. If only he had also starred in Frank Miller’s 2008 movie The Spirit he could have notched an all-time Hat Trick for starring in unfortunate comic book adaptations.)    Continue reading



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With superhero cosplay starting to take over Halloween what better time of year for a look at the neglected male and female superheroes of the Rural Home/ Croydon/ Enwil/ Orbit and McCormick conglomeration.


Secret Identity: Joseph Preston

Origin: Joseph Preston was unjustly suspected of a murder he did not commit. While fleeing the police he took shelter in a haunted wax museum where he encountered a wax figure who was really the magician Theophrastus.

The magician’s powers told him Preston was innocent so he gave the man a mystical cape, costume and mask which granted him superpowers. Calling himself Captain Wizard our hero caught the real murderer and went on to fight the forces of evil on a regular basis.

First Appearance: Red Band Comics #3 (April 1945). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1946. 

Powers: Thanks to his enchanted costume Captain Wizard had super-human strength, could fly and was invulnerable. He also never required sleep. In addition he could switch from his street-clothes into his costume and vice-versa simply by saying “Abracadabra.”   Continue reading


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Ghost RiderHalloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a look at the 1970s Ghost Rider. I will say again, from my research the very late 1960s and most of the 1970s were the best period for Marvel Comics. They were to that period what Pulps were to earlier decades.

Once Star Wars, Alien and Close Encounters of the Third Kind proved that science fiction and fantasy were finally able to be presented with the kind of special effects necessary, it seems that a LOT of pop fiction writers who used to gravitate toward the comic book industry now sought careers in movies and television instead.

Ghost Rider and Bounty HunterAt any rate, the Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze) made his first appearance in August of 1972 and it’s a shame that the movie version in 2007 didn’t stick closer to the action and horror combo of the comic books.

The pair of Nic Cage movies did not do the character OR his lore any justice and ruined a chance to see some top-level Ghost Rider foes like the Bounty Hunter, Witch Woman, the Orb and others on the big screen.  

Enjoy a sampling of cover art featuring the Ghost Rider taking on some of his Rogues Gallery of enemies, many of whom would have been ideal for the debut movie. Continue reading

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Mantis Collector pose 2Balladeer’s Blog spent part of this past summer on a light-hearted, escapist bit of fun by examining the very first Mantis storylines at Marvel Comics. Mantis was brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year in the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie but I reviewed her ORIGINAL appearance and the 1973-1975 Celestial Madonna epic she starred in.

I. MANTIS: THE CELESTIAL MADONNA SAGA – The “senses-shattering” beginning of the series which I covered in some of the same style as my reviews of Epic Myths. CLICK HERE  

Mantis Night of Swordsman 3II. MANTIS 2: NIGHT OF THE SWORDSMAN – Mantis and her romantic partner the Swordsman show up at Avengers Mansion and wind up helping the superteam against one of their old foes. CLICK HERE

III. MANTIS 3: BELOW US THE BATTLE – Mantis, the Swordsman and the other Avengers fly to England in search of their missing member the Black Knight. While there they come into conflict with sinister forces. CLICK HERE

IV. MANTIS 4: THE AVENGERS VS THE DEFENDERS – As the search for the Black Knight continues, Loki and Dormammu trick the Avengers and the Defenders into all-out war with each other over a relic called the Evil Eye of Avalon. CLICK HERE 

V. MANTIS 5: THE AVENGERS-DEFENDERS WAR CONTINUES – Mantis and one of her fellow Avengers battle the Defenders’ leader Doctor Strange for a fragment of the Evil Eye. Meanwhile, the newest Defender Hawkeye fights Iron Man in Mexico for another fragment. CLICK HERE Continue reading


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Mantis and JLABalladeer’s Blog’s summer-long exploration of Marvel Comics’ Celestial Madonna Saga of 1973-1975 wrapped up last Saturday. For a light-hearted “dessert” after that 31-part examination here’s a look at a ONE-ISSUE tie-in from 1977 that Steve Englehart, the writer of much of the Celestial Madonna Saga, wrote for the Justice League of America (as it was then called) at his NEW employers: rival comic book company DC.

So let’s be clear: this is NOT the Celestial Quest that Marvel Comics did DECADES later to bring back the character of Mantis long after she and her Cotati husband had offspring. This was Englehart tongue-in-cheekly presenting the Justice League helping a woman who was CLEARLY supposed to be Mantis – right down to her powers and her repeated tendency to refer to herself as “this one.”  

Remember, this was 1977, long before Marvel and DC would do outright crossovers and meetings between their characters on a semi-regular basis. Englehart had to be careful to a certain degree since Mantis was a copyrighted character owned by his previous employers at Marvel.

Mantis miniHis way of doing that is often pretty cutesy, like having his Mantis stand-in get interrupted at key moments when she’s about to answer very specific questions about herself and her background.

So relax – this was just a one-shot deal, so no need to commit anything to memory, just smile at Englehart using the Justice League at DC in a tacked-on Celestial Madonna epilogue two years later.


Synopsis: Aqua-Man, the Atom and Elongated Man are enjoying a quiet moment sailing around off the coast of Georgia. Their relaxation is interrupted by a battle overhead as two spaceships fight and shoot down a third alien craft of exotic design.

The three JLAers spring into action, with the Atom and Elongated Man driving off the intelligent robots in the other two spaceships and Aqua-Man trying to save any passengers on the shot-down – and now sinking – third craft. There is only one passenger: a beautiful woman who says to call her “Willow” to keep her true identity a secret from any deadly forces that may try to trail her around the cosmos.  

Mantis greenIn a coincidental bit of prescience regarding future depictions of Mantis when Marvel Comics finally brought her back, Willow has GREEN skin. She also has what appear to be antennae peeping out from under her pile of hair.

She has highly attuned empathy with the world around her AND is skilled at an other-worldly version of Martial Arts. Willow formerly “joined” with a mate and transcended normal modes of existence, passing out into space. (Just like Mantis and her Cotati husband after they were wed by Immortus.)

And the sly dance continues! Willow tells the three Justice League members “This one has come from a place she must not name and needs your help.” Continue reading


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Let All Men Bring TogetherGIANT-SIZE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 4 (May, 1975)  … Let All Men Bring Together 

Avengers Roster: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Frank), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), The Vision (not applicable), MANTIS (Mantis Brandt) and Moon Dragon (Heather Douglas) 


Synopsis: First, an explanation of the title of this final chapter of the Celestial Madonna Saga. You’ll note this concluding installment was featured in Giant-Size Avengers #4, with the Giant-Size issues being the ones published quarterly.

The title to the story in Giant-Size Avengers #3, the previous one, as our heroes fought Kang’s Legion of the Unliving, was What Time Hath Put Asunder …  So, even though three parts of this continuing story came between THAT Giant-Size issue and this one, the combined title is a play on the marriage ceremony’s words “Whom God hath joined together … Let no man put asunder.”

Here, it becomes “What time hath put asunder … Let all men bring together” referring to the Double Wedding in this final chapter as well as the “Timey-Wimey” convolutions the story has taken on its way here. (Especially Immortus’ effort to put right some of the chaos his younger self Kang caused in the space-time continuum.)

Dormammu for Mantis 31We join the Vision where we left him: in the center of the Earth in a mystical cave created as an artificial “womb” for the re-birthing Dormammu. As Uatu the Watcher told the Avengers and Defenders when Dormammu was seemingly destroyed by the Evil Eye of Avalon, Dormammu is a god.

He is a Dark God, but still a god, and the worship accorded him by all the lesser inhabitants of the Dark Dimension (Dormammu’s home universe) would gradually restore him. The Dread Dormammu is not yet back to full strength but he was sufficiently reborn to move from merely controlling the Scarlet Witch to capturing her and the sorceress Agatha Harkness, her tutor.

Meanwhile, at the Pama Temple Garden in Vietnam, MANTIS, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Moon Dragon have learned the answers to many of the mysteries surrounding the Celestial Madonna.

Those answers were provided by Immortus (Kang the Conqueror’s future, reformed self), by the mysterious glowing, shimmering being disguised as an all-green version of the slain Avenger called the Swordsman and by Mantis’ criminal father – Libra, now wearing the robes of the supposedly extinct Priests of Pama. Continue reading


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Avengers 135 torch is passedTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 135 ( May 1975)  The Torch Is Passed

Avengers Roster: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Frank), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), The Vision (not applicable), MANTIS (Mantis Brandt) and Moon Dragon (Heather Douglas) 


Synopsis: Given the far more important storyline involving Mantis I’d have gone with the title hinted at in last issue’s cliffhanger ending: THE COMING OF THE CELESTIAL MADONNA. Instead they went with this cutesy play on words regarding how Ultron transformed the Original Human (android) Torch into the Vision.

Anyway, we’ll move along to the universe-shaking events taking place at the Pama Temple in Vietnam in a few minutes. This installment starts off with the Vision and his Synchro-Staff observing long-ago events where we left them.

Mantis 3The laboratory where the “dead” android Human Torch of the World War 2 era is lying on a slab was just broken into by the Avengers’ archenemy Ultron. Back then he was still numbering his iterations so he was technically going by Ultron-5 when he crafted the Vision.   

Courtesy of Immortus’ Synchro-Staff, the phantom-like time-traveler called the Vision continues observing how events played out years earlier. When necessary the Synchro-Staff’s robotic Siri voice provides added details for the Vision’s edification.

Ultron examines the slain android form of the Original Torch. He makes it clear that the Mad Thinker was responsible for providing the villain with the information that the Torch’s android body was still lying undisturbed in his (The Mad Thinker’s) abandoned laboratory.   Continue reading


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