Happy Holidays!

A little cross-comic holiday message from both "The Guardian Powers" and "Tales from Paragon City".

By the way, you'll notice some of the characters with the TfPG banner are ones you haven't seen before. Those will be featured in future issues. Plus, of course, John Battlerock's own story will be appearing. It's just a matter of when. Meantime, enjoy the Holidays!

Click on the image to see the full-sized version.

(And, yes, that Santa beard itches!)


Happy Holidays 2011!

Happy Holidays from the City of Heroes!

It's been on everyone's minds since the Halloween Event finished. WHEN will the Winter Event be here?

Well wait no more. It's here!

From today (December 13th, 2011) until January 3rd, 2012, Paragon City, the Rogue Isles, and even Praetoria will be visited by the Winter Spirit, scattering various gifts throughout the lands. You won't know what's in them until you open them up. It could be a mystery present. It could be a lump of coal. It could be a snowball. It could be a candy cane. Or it could be snow monsters ready to kick your butt. (Or at least they'd give it a good try.)

For those that are new to the City of Heroes, this is the time when you can collect some serious seasonal goodies, including some nice holiday-themed costume pieces.

You start out with some earmuffs...

Aren't those cool? You get those for free, just for showing up during that time!

You also get two gifts... one for yourself, and one to give to someone else. The gift for yourself gives you some XP debt protection. I would suggest you not open that one until you get to security level 10 or higher. The gift you give to others is a mystery. It could be anything. It could be a winter hat, some inf, or a temporary power. You won't know until it's opened.

Then what you do is go around the area opening up those presents, and even if you get the Winter Horde, they still have goodies.

But that's only skimming the tip of the Seasonal Iceberg.

For more serious gifts, you need to get to the Pocket D nightclub. There you'll find a special Ski Chalet has materialized nearby.

Yes, it's a beautiful place where you can ski down the slopes, enjoy some refreshments, and... take part in a few dangerous missions. Don't worry, it's a whole lot easier when you have friends with you. Or, maybe if you're a mastermind with a small army to call on. Speaking of which, you can bring in all sorts of people in on this. Heroes, Villains, Rogues, Vigilantes, and, yes, even Praetorians! Have fun, and the rewards are infinitely bigger and better here.

What sort of rewards? Santa-themed hats, gloves, and boots. Snowflake casting power. A special holiday flight-pack (fueled by Holiday Cheer no less). Five special reincarnation "golden rings" (BUH-duh-duh-duh...). Hey, how about that halo? You like? You can get one just like it. Or one that is burning if you're less-than-angelic.

Some of these goodies you get just for taking part in the missions, others you get by acquiring candy canes. Look for an elf in the Chalet that will exchange your candy canes for goodies. OR... or you can SELL the candy canes at Wentworth's. During the holiday season, that's big money!

Oh, one more thing... at some point you may have to deal with a HUGE snow monster. I suggest finding a league. The more the merrier.

Enjoy, and just remember that Enriche and Crey Cola do not mix well.


Much has changed...

Much has changed in Paragon City, and not all of it can be covered here in the Chronicles.

To see some of the biggest changes, here is a video of the run-through of the reconstructed Atlas Park, a peek at the Street Justice powerset in use, and a fly-by of First Ward, the first attempt to create Praetoria, and Emperor Cole's biggest failure. You'll also see that the Hamidon is far more powerful here than in the Primal Universe, with a hovering "Seed" creature on patrol.

There have been plenty of other changes, including the introduction of the Paragon Market, which gives characters access to features that previously they had to purchase in bulk, plus new stand-alone features such as exclusive pets and special costume pieces.

So the question remains... what happened to Battlerock X during this time? Well you'll hear from him soon.


Get Ready For Super-Powered Chills!

With the launch of City of Heroes Freedom, you have to wonder just what all of the new and returning heroes, villains, and Praetorians would find themselves into come Halloween. Seasoned veterans have come to enjoy several features of this mystically-bewitched time, including two Apocalypse events, trick-or-treating, and temporary costumes.

So the question is... how can you top that and make things exciting for both new and old operatives?

Five words:

Doctor Kane's House Of Horror!

Yes, we're talking a haunted house with zombies, giant monsters, Jack-O-Lanterns, and a challenge so dire that pulling it off will get you a new aura and costume change emote! Think you're up for the challenge? You better make sure you're up to at least level 15 and then get a team together, because you can't visit his house alone!

But if you can't get your friends together quite yet, there are still all of the other fun events, including the Zombie Apocalypse, the Deadly Apocalypse, Trick-or-Treating, and of course the eternal night and the giant monsters to keep the festivities going. You can load up with temporary costumes and get hold of those cheap cereal-box costumes that you can then trade-in with a certain witch to get an extra costume slot! (Note: you can only do this once, so if you've already done it, it won't work for you again. But these things can be worth a pretty penny on the market.)

So start practicing your best "Thriller" moves, and get in as much sunlight as you can, because once the sun sets on October 20th, it won't come back up again until November 2nd. And be careful, because some of the things that go "bump" in the night don't just "bump".


What's been going on in Paragon City?

It has been a long few months... and for those that wondered what happened... well, a picture says a thousand words.
Now more than ever, Paragon City needs more heroes! Visit their website to see how you can join in the fight!


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #25

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#25: Megamind

When it comes to superhero movies, it’s rare to find one that takes the superhero ideal and turns it in on itself without coming off as being incredibly cheesy. And yet, this movie manages to pull it off.

“Megamind” is a computer-animated superhero comedy movie released in 2010 by DreamWorks Animation and Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Tom McGrath and featured the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross, and Brad Pitt. It was released in both traditional and 3D formats in the theatres but only in 2D format in the DVD release.

The story begins with a rip-off of the Superman legend, namely a blue alien baby from a dying world is sent into space by his loving parents. He is given some last-minute messages and his “minion” in the form of a sentient fish before being launched into space. Unfortunately as his ship travels to Earth, it runs in conflict with another orphaned baby ship containing the “perfect baby”, and the two orphan ships race to find the “suitable family” for their babies. The “perfect” baby ends up appearing in the living room of a wealthy couple on Christmas Day while the blue alien baby ends up in a prison yard. From there, the two grow up to be in constant conflict with each other. The “perfect” child would do everything right, while the blue child would end up getting tormented and blamed for everything.

Eventually the two grow up to be rivals in Metro City, with the “perfect” child becoming the superhero Metro Man (Pitt) and the blue child becoming the evil villain Megamind (Ferrell). And for years, the two of them have the same routine, consisting of Megamind kidnapping nosy reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Fey), putting her well-being in peril, and Metro Man would foil the “master plan” and send Megamind back to prison, where he would later escape and do the same thing over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So when Metro City honors Metro Man with his own museum and gigantic statue, Megamind cannot help but device the “ultimate” plan to humiliate Metro Man. With the help of Minion (Cross), Megamind kidnaps Roxanne and holds her hostage, knowing Metro Man would rush to her rescue, and accidentally fall into his deathtrap. But then, much to the surprise of everyone, Metro Man announces that the deathtrap is made of copper; his one weakness. When the trap is blown up by Megamind’s death ray, a skeleton wearing Metro Man’s cape is thrown from the blast area. At long last, Megamind has won and Metro Man is dead.

For a while Megamind uses Metro City as his own playground, but he quickly discovers he is bored by it all. There is no joy in being evil when there is no hero to save the day. While he prepares to blow up the Metro Man Museum, he accidentally comes across Roxanne, who also wished that Metro Man was still around. Killing the museum curator and taking his place, Megamind begins to befriend Roxanne and decides to follow her idea of creating a new hero. He takes a sample of Metro Man’s DNA to create a serum that would give someone superpowers. But Megamind accidentally sends the serum into Hal Stewart (Hill), Roxanne’s simple-minded cameraman who is head-over-heels in unrequited love with her.

Determined to turn Hal into the superhero worthy of replacing Metro Man, Megamind and Minion launch a scheme to trick Hal into thinking he’s really a “space baby” just like Metro Man. Megamind pulls this off by using the same holographic watch he uses to trick Roxanne into thinking he’s the museum curator, and turns himself into “space dad” (which is a knock-off of Marlon Brando’s Jor-El from the “Superman” movie).

Thus we have a montage of scenes of Megamind getting to know Roxanne and of him training Hal into becoming a superhero known as Titan (or “Tighten”, since it was the only name he could trademark). He also begins to clean up Metro City from his earlier celebrations, much to the pleasure of Roxanne, who begins to think that Megamind isn’t as “evil” as he used to be.

On the evening before the “Big Battle”, Hal, as Titan, shows up outside Roxanne’s apartment to woo her, only to have her utterly reject him. Meanwhile, Minion finds out that Megamind has been sneaking away to see Roxanne in disguise and that he is actually falling in love with Roxanne. Minion reminds Megamind that “the bad guy does not get the girl”, causing Megamind to blurt out that maybe he doesn’t want to be “the bad guy” anymore. With Minion leaving him in disgust, Megamind’s date with Roxanne becomes a disaster, with her finding out that he has been impersonating the curator, and proclaiming that she could never see herself with someone like him.

Dejected, Megamind orders his numerous robot drones to prepare his “Black Mamba” outfit so he can kick off his “big battle” with Titan in style. Sauntering into Metro City in his giant robot with AC/DC’s “Black in Black” playing in the background, Megamind calls out Titan, only to spend the whole day doing nothing but waiting in front of City Hall. Much to his horror, Titan has been spending his time stealing whatever he wanted.

Revealing that he’s really both “Space Dad” and the guy dating Roxanne, Megamind goads Titan into the promised battle, until Titan announces that he’s going to actually kill Megamind for not working with him. This forces Megamind to use his “contingency plan” and contain Titan in a ball made of copper. Unfortunately Titan breaks through the ball, much to the surprise of Megamind since Titan should have the same weakness as Metro Man. Megamind leaves, and Titan announces that the city wasn’t really “saved” as it was placed under “new management”.

And we’ll leave it here, because the rest will spoil the ending.

The movie is a great play on the classic superhero story, showing how the “eternal battle” gets to the point that it becomes boring to the participants. And of course there is the “Wiley E. Coyote” dilemma of what do you do when you get what you’ve been chasing for so long. The good guy always wins, the bad guy always loses, so what happens when the bad guy finally wins? This movie plays up on it quite well.

The vocal casting is done quite well. If you didn’t know it was Will Ferrell doing the voice of Megamind, you wouldn’t have guessed. On the other hand, you can see the facial mannerisms of Roxanne and see Tina Fey doing her voice, and the same holds true to Brad Pitt doing Metro Man’s voice. The characters are done over-the-top, but only just enough to avoid being cheesy.

The use of well-recognized pop songs to mark the arrival of Megamind help sell the character, although a few songs delved more into the “music video” category than helping to sell the story. This was the mistake that the people behind “Zoom” made as well, although DreamWorks didn’t go as far as Sony Pictures did.

In all this is a good hero comedy movie, and one that even villains should be able to enjoy.

Capes: I’m hesitant to give this movie five capes. The hero level certainly gives it four capes.
Cheese: While this is a comedy, and a great play on the classic hero story, there is still some cheese to it. I won’t say where because it will ruin the ending, but you’ll know when you see it. Don’t worry; it’s just Mild Cheddar (2).
Books: Megamind is a good story, although not great, and with the few songs used more for “music video” than to convey a story, I have to give it three books out of five.


Everything Will Go!

The folks at NCSoft/Paragon Studios have announced that with the coming Free-2-Play model (aka City of Heroes: Freedom), all of their booster and expansion packs are going to be taken off the market on August 30th.

That means that if you haven't gotten the booster packs or expansion packs that you want, you better do so now before the 30th, or else wait until after FREEDOM goes online.

On the plus side, from now until the 29th, you can get the original City of Heroes program for $1.99 and the physical retail box (with all of the added goodies that go with it) for $9.99.

Good deals, so get them now or forever hold your peace until FREEDOM.


NEW: Tales from Paragon City #2

Hold on to your capes, heroes... the Praetorians have taken over!

Who is this mysterious gunslinger in Praetoria? And why is he trying to bring back something unheard of in years?

Find out here!


Go Retro with Steam!

Feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the tech stuff in Paragon City?

Cross-dimensional devices just blowing your mind?

Want a life a little more simplistic?

Well now you can go RETRO with the new Steampunk Booster Pack!

Now you can go "Old School" with over 60 costume pieces designed to bring out the best of the 19th Century. These include old-style faces, hair styles, hats, beards, cameos, jackets, boots, gloves, pants, belts, and skirts.

How about wings? We have the best in wind-up wings. Need something a little more potent? We have a special Steam-Powered jump pack that will give you super-leaping abilities for a limited period of time.

How about hardware? We have the best weapons the 19th Century can give you! Remarkable pistols and rifles! And how about a rucksack? You've never had a rucksack before, have you? NEVER!

And because the 19th Century really wasn't that CLEAN, we have some new auras that show just how messy tinkering with oils and screws and springs can be. You can even change your outfits with either steam or oil. Or you can have some Victorian-style glyphs to show off your classic features to show how "prim and proper" you can be, even while you're thrashing your opponents thusly!

Oh, and as with other booster packs, these are all available from the start, so either new or seasoned characters.

Got you interested? Good, because it's only an affordable $9.95 (in 21st Century coin) over at the NCSoft Store. So get on over there and partake!


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review - Special Comment (Superman)

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
Special Comment on the Superman Movie Series

I have a confession to make: Superman is my all-time favorite superhero.

Hands-down, no doubt about it, he is the icon that I wish I could be. I wished I could do the things that he could. He could fly, he travels super-fast, he’s super-strong, and nothing except kryptonite could hurt him! Okay there’s also the whole X-ray vision thing too, but that was when I got a little older and I also wanted to see what color Lois Lane’s underwear really was.

That’s why, when I give my reviews of Superman movies, I have this tendency to give him higher marks in the “capes” category, because he will always be the iconic model.

Unfortunately when the Superman movies came out from the late-1970’s through to the late-1980’s, Superman was relegated to being a cartoon joke along with all of the other TV superheroes. Sure he was super-serious in ABC’s Saturday Morning series “Super-Friends”, but he really wasn’t the star of the show. It was about “Wendy, Marvin, and WONDER DOG!” Or it was about “The Wonder Twins AND GLEEK!” Anything to stick in lame-ass bumbling kids and goofy cartoony animals pretending to be heroes. Superheroes of the time followed the lead of the campy 1966 “Batman” movie and TV series. Everything was campy and cheesy and about as serious as a Marx Brothers marathon.

That is why “Superman: The Movie” stood out. It stood out because Warner Brothers and Alexander and Ilya Salikind DID NOT play around with this film. They kept one word in mind through the whole process: EPIC. They wanted this to be one of THE BEST films of all time, and they spared no expense to make it so. They brought in the best actors, some of the biggest names of the time, including Glen Ford and Marlon Brando. They had celebrities like Rex Reed come in as cameos appearances, but they weren’t done for the sake of having them. They cast their lead character appropriately, especially using a relative unknown for the title character. They had a superb original and POWERFUL score by one of the BEST in the business. And they spared no expense for the special effects! They utilized green-screen and wireworks, which at that time were state-of-the-art. Bear in mind this was decades before computer-generated digital effects would be possible, never mind affordable, and certainly not realistic. Their Academy Award for special effects in 1979 was well-earned.

But most importantly, they kept the cheese factor contained. Sure, some of the scenes were done for laughs, but that didn’t mean that the whole film was.

The film’s running line was “You will believe a man can fly” and they made us into believers!

Unfortunately, as with all other things Hollywood, too many people in charge lost track of the little things that made a movie like that into a hit. “Superman II” was marred by a change in directors. “Superman III” was shoved into being a Richard Pryor comedy vehicle. “Supergirl” had a non-existent story. “Superman IV” had bargain-basement executives giving bargain-basement budgets and story. By the time “Superman IV” came out, everyone just wanted the whole thing done and over with, and, yes, that included the actors AND the audience.

And don’t tell me that the magic couldn’t happen again after that first movie; because the Salikinds proved that premise wrong with their “Superboy” TV series. If the suits don’t give a care, then it should be no surprise that their finished product is going to be shoddy.

When talking about the whole Superman series, there are two key questions that need to be asked.

(1) Does “Supergirl” count as part of the series?

(2) Where does “Superman Returns” fit in?

The answer to the first question is simple and to-the-point. YES, “Supergirl” DOES and SHOULD ALWAYS be considered part of the whole “Superman” movie series, no matter how bad it really was and how far it strayed even from film canon. Ilya Salikind had every intention of including “Supergirl” as part of the whole movie cannon, including bringing in Christopher Reeve for a quick cameo as Superman. Since Reeve passed on the idea (remember this came right after “Superman III” flopped), Salikind use a poster of Reeve as Superman and had Marc McClure come in as Jimmy Olson. So that pretty much cements the movie as being part of the whole cannon.

“Superman Returns”, on the other hand, is tricky. This movie operates under the premise that everything after “Superman II” didn’t happen. It takes the best of the first two movies, strips away ALL (or almost all) of the cheese, re-casts EVERYONE, and then makes us forget that we ever heard of Gus Gorman (Superman III), Selene the Witch (Supergirl), or Nuclear Man (Superman IV).

Is it part of the movie canon? No, but it should have been.

“Superman Returns” is how the series SHOULD have progressed if it didn’t take twenty years and a complete cast change. Lex Luthor is out of prison and still fixated on land grabs and on killing Superman by any means possible. He remembers the Fortress, and he knows how to get there. Lois Lane bears the fruit of her little journey from the second movie, even if she doesn’t “remember” how it came about. There is no “god-gaze” superpower where Superman could just stare at something and it gets better. You even get to see bullets bounce off him. He has great powers without the producers relying on that stupid “god-gaze” cheat. All of the things that would have been a great tie-in to the whole story were there.

So now the new challenge for Warner Brothers is to come up with a whole new Superman movie series. And here they are running into the same problems as the last film. Shifting directors, shifting directions, and now the executives want to do a complete “reboot” of the whole film canon.

Further complicating things is the fact that Warner Brothers had the “Smallville” TV series running for ten years before FINALLY putting it - and the continual teasing on the audience - to an end. That in and of itself warrants a special comment, but reconciling the Superman lore of the series with any future movie will be a challenge.

However this new “rebooted” series progresses, if at all, credit still needs to be given to the Salikinds for proving over thirty years ago that you could do a big-budget superhero film and have it pay off. They were the ones that set the standard that other superhero series, and indeed other superhero series from other publishers, have tried to keep even to this day. Just remember that when you promise the audience that they will BELIEVE a man can fly… then you better make sure that by the time the end credits roll, that you make believers out of them all.

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #24

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#24: All-Star Superman

When it comes to DC Comics animation projects, the in-house Warner Brothers Animation group pretty much has a hit-and-miss record, with more misses than hits. This is especially true when it comes to releases based on popular comic stories, and this is one of them.

“All-Star Superman” is a 2011 direct-to-video movie based on the 12-issue miniseries by the same name written by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly. It was written by veteran screenwriter Dwayne McDuffie, who sadly passed away one day before the movie was released to video. The movie was released by Warner Premiere and featured the voices of James Denton, Christine Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia, Ed Asner, Linda Cardellini, Frances Conroy, Alexis Denisof, John DiMaggio, Steven Blum, Fiona Hughes, and Arnold Vosloo.

The movie starts with a series of still images being narrated by Lex Luthor (LaPaglia). Each image showed a single segment of Superman’s career, until we finally see him in orbit around the sun, chasing a spaceship containing Dr. Leo Quintum (Denisof) and his staff. One member of that staff is actually being remotely controlled by Luthor, with everything being prepared in advance to account for the time differential. We find, however, that Luthor’s cosmic puppet act was in violation of his parole. Superman (Denton) still manages to toss out Luthor’s puppet and saves Quintum’s ship using a brand new superpower.

Later, Superman and Quintum discover that the Man of Steel’s new powers are a symptom of his cells becoming supercharged from being too close to the sun. Essentially he is suffering from sun-cancer and is slowly dying. They both agree, though, that they need to keep this a secret, lest his enemies try to take advantage of this. But Superman does decide to put his affairs in order.

He first reveals to Lois Lane (Hendricks) that he is, in fact, Clark Kent, but she refuses to believe it. He shows her the Fortress of Solitude and all of its features, including the reconstructed HMS Titanic, the bottled city of Kandor, his army of Super-Robots, and his pet sun-eater, which he supposedly feeds it with newly-forged baby suns. After seeing a distant future version of Superman (the Kal Kent Superman from DC One Million) and his slight resemblance to her father, Lois fears that she’s being prepared for some weird Kryptonian experiment. Stealing a kryptonite gun and inadvertently shooting Superman with it, he discovers that kryptonite no longer has any effect on him either. But it calms Lois down enough for him to give her a special suit and a serum that would give her super-powers for twenty-four hours.

Unfortunately Lois’ newfound powers take a back seat to the time-travelling troublemakers Atlas (Blum) and Samson (DiMaggio), who know about Superman’s final months and challenge him to riddles and feats for Lois’ favor. After besting them in contests and solving the riddle of the Ultra-Sphinx, Superman and Lois spend the remaining time as equals making out on the moon and then she is fascinated by all the things Superman can sense as her powers disappear, and he tucks her into her bed before leaving.

Visiting Luthor behind bars while awaiting his death sentence, Clark’s presence is detected by the Parasite and inadvertently starts a prison riot. Clark manages to contain the damage, though, while still careful to not reveal himself as Superman to any of the inmates or to Luthor, who shows a modicum of respect for the “mild-mannered” Clark Kent after kicking a disabled Parasite to death. He also shows Clark a secret passage, proving that he could escape at any time with the help of his goth-teen niece Nasthalthia (Cardellini). He stays there, though, because he knows that Superman is dying, and he wants to see it happen.

After visiting his adopted mother (Conroy) and leaving an indestructible flower on his adopted father’s grave, Superman tells Lois that he has to leave to take the Kandorians to their new home world, and reveals to her that he may not be able to make it back in his condition. He does, though, only to discover that Metropolis has two new “champions” to marvel over: Bar-El (Vosloo) and Lilo (Hughes), Kryptonian astronauts and his ancestors that see themselves not as heroes, but as the new rulers of “New Krypton”. Eventually, though, they discover that they suffered from Kryptonite poisoning and were slowly dying. The only way they could survive would be through the Phantom Zone, but not before asking for forgiveness to Superman for their arrogance.

As Superman finishes putting his affairs in order, he faces the “Tyrant Sun” Solaris, while at the same time Lex Luthor, having recreated Superman’s super-serum, escaped from the electric chair and prepares to make his move.

At this point I have to stop the summary because it would ruin the ending, which, regrettably, is really the high-point of this movie.

Unfortunately, much like some of the other stories that are turned into movies, there is a lot that is missing in the transition from the original mini-series. Jimmy Olson becoming Doomsday, Bizarro and Bizarro World, a trip to the past with Kal Kent to visit his adopted father on the day of his death, and the discovery of Earth-Q (where Joe Schuster illustrates Action Comics #1) are all scrapped due to time constraints. Instead, what we get is a story that is full of remorse and regret, and an ending that comes off as less-than-triumphant.

Sadly, the movie was working with flawed material. Without the other stories, we have a Daily Planet staff full of people that act like a bunch of over-aged high school rejects, with the exception of Perry White (Asner) who seems to be the only newsperson in the building. (Kudos for Asner for channeling his old “Lou Grant” persona.) Even worse is when Bar-El and Lilo practically reveal that Clark Kent is Superman and the “Breakfast Club” wannabes around him can’t accept it. Even Lois refuses to accept that Clark is Superman, even after seeing him change right in front of her twice. Most of Lois’ time as “Superwoman” was reduced to being a damsel-in-distress-and-cosplay as Atlas and Samson challenge Superman for her affections.

“All-Star Superman” was meant to be Superman’s Ragnarok story. We know from the start that Superman is dying. The problem is that there’s no attempt to fight it. There are no “seven stages of grief” here; there is just acceptance. He’s dying, and he doesn’t try to do anything to change it. He’s essentially given up, surrendering to his own mortality, trying to complete his “Bucket List”, and find some way to end his “hero” career on a positive note. It’s depressing.

Adding to that melancholy was the voice acting. James Denton may do great playing a rugged character in “Desperate Housewives” but his voice did not carry on through as Superman/Clark Kent. Even Adam Baldwin’s version in “Superman: Doomsday” showed more emotion than Denton’s. A far better choice would have been Tim Daly or George Newbern, two people who know how to voice Superman. Even Denton’s occasional “Desperate Housewives” co-star Kyle MacLachlan did a better job when he voiced Superman in the (to be reviewed) “Justice League: The New Frontier” movie, and THAT Superman had a bit part. The only time Denton’s voice shows even the slightest emotion in it is through one point during the Solaris battle.

Anthony LaPaglia’s Luthor was stuffy, arrogant, and a continual know-it-all. And his continual dirge about how everything is Superman’s fault got tired WAY too early.

Christina Hendricks’ Lois was perky and almost out-of-place at times. It’s not the actress’s fault, though. Most of it is how Lois is written. She’s skeptical about Clark being Superman to a fault. When Lois has superpowers, how does she spend a good portion of that time? Standing around while Atlas, Samson, and Superman fight over her affections and going gaga over stolen jewelry. Not exactly the “liberated woman” that she’s supposed to be.

Without getting into spoiling the ending, the battles with Solaris and Lex Luthor were almost after-thoughts. More time was spent on Bar-El and Lilo than on both battles.

In all, the story itself was something of a letdown, a Ragnarok-level story that ends with a whimper instead of a bang. Maybe a part of it could be blamed on the material they had to work with, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be improved, and maybe it would help if they got rid of the artificial time constraints they seem to impose and just let the story develop as it needs to.

Capes: Normally I’d have to give Superman all-five capes, but here he’s only getting three, and that’s sad.

The cheese factor here is Mild Cheddar (2). When your first image of Jimmy Olson is of him in drag, and both Steve Lombard and Cat Grant are there only to play middle-aged high school students, then you know that it’s cheese.


In terms of storyline, I can only give three books out of five. There is SO MUCH that is missing from this.


Happy Seven Years of Super!

It was seven years ago today that NCsoft and Cryptic Studios launched a new Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game called "City of Heroes", inviting people of all ages to come to Paragon City in Rhode Island and be heroes and superheroes.

This was a time when Worlds of Warcraft was the 800-lbs gorilla for MMO activity. Often-imitated, never duplicated, and with big money to have celebrity advertising. It still is the king for its genre. You'll find plenty of similar games trying to be like them, trying to replace them, and many people still want to put City of Heroes in the same category.

It's not.

City of Heroes has gone through two expansions and twenty updates or "issues". In 2005, one year after the launch of the game, the "City of Villains" expansion was launched, giving players the ability to go through MMO life as a villain. In 2010, "Going Rogue" opened a whole new world, and the means to go from a hero to a villain and back again by the alignment system. In between these events there have been invasions, bank robberies, time travel, zombie apocalypses, and hundreds of new ways to customize and improve one's character. All this without big name celebrities and mainstream media commercials.

Today, City of Heroes is the measuring stick for the superhero-genre MMO. Champions Online (created by the same people that started City of Heroes) and DC Universe Online both compete against City of Heroes and are measured BY City of Heroes standards. Sure they provide some things that City of Heroes don't, and DC obviously has the mighty corporate dollar behind them for advertising. But money doesn't provide experience or a track record of loyalty and dedication. Even during hard times, City of Heroes players find ways to go online and keep the game going.

No, City of Heroes is not Worlds of Warcraft, and it doesn't try to be Worlds of Warcraft. It doesn't have to.

Happy Super-Seventh.


Issue 20 is now LIVE!

The Age of Incarnates is here with Issue 20!

Mender Ramiel's mission is now clear. From his timeline, the Well of the Furies, the source of godhood, has chosen the WRONG Marcus Cole as its champion.

Emperor Cole, the Praetorian Tyrant, would soon have the power to take over not just the Primal Universe, but ALL of the Omniverse itself!

Ramiel's plan is to disrupt Tyrant's operation and force the Well to choose another champion. New Incarnates face Tyrant's lieutenants to stop them from creating the invasion force needed. To do that, the BAF and the ultra-secret Lambda Sector need to go. Take out Nightstar, Siege, and Marauder, and you MIGHT be able to take on Emperor Cole himself and undo a dark future.

There are also new missions for medium-level operatives. Medium-level heroes join up with Admiral Sutter and the USS Mason to confront a new floating fortress from the Praetorian Universe creating portals for invasion, then race to stop the already-arriving forces from decimating Talos Island and Skyway City.

Meanwhile, medium-level villains follow an opportunity by Moritmer Kal to steal the Flames of Prometheus from Positron, and make sure the other villain groups don't then take it from them.

But there is a reason why this new Issue is called INCARNATES, and that is that new Incarnates get FOUR new levels. Combined with their initial Alpha slot, they are now halfway to reaching their ultimate potential.

There are a few other goodies as well. The teamwork system has been updated with a new grouping of teams into larger Leagues. This allows operatives to take on larger missions such as the Hamidon and Rikti raids. A new Teamwork Teleporter system has been incorporated as well so players looking for teams can register for any team available, and then are automatically teleported into a League.

One more feature for villains is the expansion of the Black Helicopter Line so every zone in the Rogue Isles now has at least ONE Black Helicopter point.

The multiverse that is City of Heroes is getting more and more interesting.

(Note: Going Rogue Expansion is required for many of the new features.)


Breaking News! The City is Running Out of XP!

Apparently there was a reason why there was an 11-hour cosmic downtime yesterday, and for once it had NOTHING to do with Cosmic Rikti Monkeys (no doubt they're pleased to hear that).

Apparently the City of Heroes is running out of... EXPERIENCE POINTS!

Don't believe me? Well take a look...

(Oh, and check the calendar.)


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #23

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#23: The Punisher (1989 film)

Between box office wins such as “Spider-Man”, “X-Men”, “Fantastic Four”, and “Iron Man”, it’s hard to imagine that the Might Marvel Comics could EVER do wrong. And yet the biggest example of that fail rested with five words…

“Dolph Lundgren is THE PUNISHER!”

Okay, I’m sure you’re scratching your head over this and wondering what the heck the Pundit is talking about, right?

Well, the film that you probably know as “The Punisher”, be it the 2004 incarnation featuring Thomas Jane or the 2008 “War Zone” movie featuring Ray Stevenson (both films on the “To Review” list), is actually the second and third attempt at telling the story of the gritty skull-bearing Marvel vigilante.

The first incarnation, however, was abysmal, and you can understand why people would not want to remember that it was even made.

This “Punisher” was released in 1989 by New World Pictures, and it starred Dolph Lundgren, Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr., Kim Miyori, Jeroen Krabbe, Nancy Everhard, and Barry Otto. It was directed by Mark Goldblatt. It was never released in US theaters, appearing only in West Germany in 1989 and then released on VHS in 1991. The reasons behind the non-release were less on the film quality and more to do with New World Pictures suffering from financial problems.

This was back in the day when Dolph was the hottest actor in the market, or at least the hungriest, and he was signing his name onto as many roles as he could play after “Rocky IV” came out. He had teamed up with Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) for one movie, became “He-Man” in the “Masters of the Universe”, and served as the foil for Jean-Claude Van Damme in “Universal Soldier”. Basically if you had film that featured a side of beef, that side of beef would answer to the name of Dolph Lundgren. But I digress…

The film starts with a gritty title sequence featuring sill images travelling through a dark service tunnel and Dolph shooting them with his M-60. Then we see a news report of a mob leader being acquitted from the murder of Frank Castle and family. Strangely, the picture of Frank looks nothing like Dolph. Then we see a cocky mob leader boasting his innocence and promising that “The Punisher” would not get near him. As the mob boss drives away, we see a leather-bound boot with a skull-head dagger strapped to it. The boot starts up a motorcycle and follows the limo. “The Boot” follows the mob boss home and proceeds to pick off the players one by one in serial-killer fashion. As the nearby media react to the sounds of gunshots, the house explodes, and we see the shadowy figure of “The Punisher” (Lundgren) hiding in the flames before the rest of the explosions destroy the whole house.

We then hear Punisher begging God to know why he survived when his family didn’t as we see views of that same service tunnel before finishing with a shot of Punisher’s naked backside, then a flashback of the death of his wife and kids.

The scene shifts back to the remains of the destroyed mansion as Lt. Jake Berkowitz (Gossett) shoos away a nagging reporter, and then is told from his superiors that “Frank Castle is dead” and to back off. Berkowitz refuses to back off, though. He is joined by Detective Sam Leary (Everhard), who is told in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t want a partner but changes his mind when she says that she also believes that Frank Castle is not dead.

The media then chase around Gianni Franco (Krabbe), who was the last of the mob bosses and had returned to the United States only to be welcomed by Berkowitz, saying he needed “more bait” to catch the Punisher. Joined by his son, Gianni is quick to take over the mob operation. A ragged drunk (Otto) and bad actor called “Shakes” asks a patron for some financial help before being thrown out of the bar and lured by a moving bottle of booze to divulge what he knows of a drug shipment to the Punisher.

At the nearby drug import, the mob operatives are silently picked off by a gang of ninjas before the Punisher could arrive. He fights off both gang members, but not before being knocked off the pier by a knife-throwing girl. Later Berkowitz sees the Punisher knife in one of the drivers.

Franco briefs his men on the woman behind the attack. It turns out they all work for Lady Tanaka (Miyori) of the Yakuza, and the mute knife-throwing girl is her protégée. Tanaka then arrives at the meeting and tells Franco that they are taking over the family’s operation, which Franco vows will not happen. We also discover that the entire conversation being overheard by Punisher.

At the police office, Leary shows Berkowitz how her computer would predict Punisher’s next location. She says that the Punisher is actually living under the city.

As the Punisher rides about underground, the children of the mob bosses are being kidnapped by the Yakuza. Shake begs Punisher to step in - in bad rhyming form no less - but Punisher seemingly brushes it all off, convinced that the mob bosses consider him “dead” and that he is no longer a threat.

At the Yakuza headquarters, Lady Tanaka plans on selling the kids to the slave market. The kids all know that something is wrong, but Gianni’s son refuses to believe that his father is a bad guy, much less the leader of the whole mafia. (Hey kid, you’re in good company on that part!) When Tanaka tells the kids that they will soon be “taken home”, little Tommy fights back and is taken away.

At a (poorly constructed) Yakuza nightclub (and amateur circus?), the Punisher attacks, tearing up the bar and threatening to continue destroying their businesses for every day that the children are missing. Berokowitz and Leary realize that Punisher is behind this attack. They also find out that the mob children are missing, which Leary says would be something Punisher would do, but Berkowitz says that Punisher couldn’t have kidnapped children and shows her a picture of Castle’s two children as proof.

Shakes shows Punisher that the kids are being held at an abandoned amusement park. He discovers, though, that the Yakuza are waiting for him. They overpower him and Tanaka’s protégé knocks him out. Punisher then is tortured by Tanaka, but that gets nowhere. She then orders that Shakes be tortured, but Punisher doesn’t care either. She leaves frustrated, with him grunting “Have a nice day”, and he then quickly works his way out of his restraints to escape along with his drunken stooge.

Leary and Berkowitz start looking in the sewer tunnels for Punisher’s lair and he tells her how he met Frank Castle and got his life straightened out. Meanwhile, the mob underlings (minus Franco) meet with Tanaka, only to discover that they were poisoned before she arrived and are quickly killed.

The Punisher steals a city bus to rescue the kids, which he does for everyone except for Tommy. This leads to a little bus chase until they run into a police roadblock. (HOW this could be set up at such short notice is anyone’s guess since the police still think that Frank Castle is dead.) Punisher surrenders to the police and lets the kids go. Berkowitz confronts Punisher in jail, but Punisher continues to say that Frank is dead and the guilty are dead and that 125 murders is “a work in progress”.

Franco breaks the Punisher out while being transported to his court arraignment and offers his help to rescue Tommy in exchange for Berkowitz, whom he had also kidnapped. Berkowitz eventually manages to free himself as Punisher and Franco make their way up the various levels of Yakuza soldiers like a poorly-done video game. Punisher takes on the protégée while Tanaka humiliates Franco in front of his son before being killed by the Punisher. With Tommy safe, Franco then tries to kill the Punisher, but is stopped by his son. This gives Punisher the chance to kill Franco in the ensuing struggle. Tommy wants to kill Punisher, but he doesn’t have the heart to do it. Punisher warns Tommy to not follow in his father’s path or else “he’ll be waiting”. Punisher vanishes as Berkowitz shows up, and we end with the Punisher’s monologue about “The guilty will be punished” and showing his naked backside yet again before going to credits.

There. I just saved you a dollar in the bargain basement bin.

I find it hard to even call this a “Punisher” movie. Lundgren’s character may be named Frank Castle, but there was nothing about him that WAS “Punisher”. He didn’t wear the skull-head shirt, and he looked and acted more like a zombie Terminator than as a war veteran. This probably should have been called “Cops and Mobsters” as this was more of a cop movie than it was a movie based on a Marvel Comics character.

Gossett’s character was probably the only thing that really carried the whole movie. It certainly wasn’t “Castle” or “Punisher” or “Mister P” (as “Shakes” referred to him as). And the gratuitous butt shots should have been eliminated, especially since the butt shots were all from the Punisher and followed nihilistic messages. Here’s a word to the wise: nihilism and gratuitous nudity do not mix! The other characters were either forgettable, or, in the case of the rhyming “Shakes”, characters you WANT to forget.

In all, folks, if you see this movie at your local discount video store, save your pocket change unless you’re a serious Louis Gossett Jr. fan. Thankfully Marvel does a whole lot better with this character the next time around.


Zero capes out of five. This wasn’t a Marvel Comics story. This was a renegade cop flick using the name “Frank Castle”.

Cheese: Between the stereotypical characterization of the villains, the amusement park ninja fight, and the cheesy comeback lines, this ended up with some Mild Cheddar (2).

Three books out of five, running on par with some of the other “renegade cop” films of the time.


Ask Captain Catastrophe #16: Praetoria

Yes, the legendary team-killer is BACK with a new video!

He's been a little busy working on projects for City Hall, but he's anxious to do a new video, plus he's pumped up about his forthcoming comic book, a REAL honor for superheroes in Paragon City! That is, if his agent is up to snuff...


Let's get BEASTLY! (Updated Again!)

This was something that was hinted at for a while now, not to mention being on plenty of wish lists, but soon it'll be coming to the City of Heroes...


Beastly creatures sort of were hinted at... there were the occasional dog/bear/chupacabra faces, some lizards, a few cat-like features, and of course the tails and wings, but no real ANIMAL creatures. No birds, no bulls, no actual wolves or tigers or lions.

Now there soon will be, along with the Beast Run travel power so you can run with the tigers.

The good thing is that according to the official announcement, there will be over SIXTY new costume pieces and patterns along with the Beast Run power. This is far more than the handful of pieces from recent add-on packs, so this could very well be worth the money.

Get ready, because the creatures of Doctor Moreau are coming! And they're going to be hungry!

UPDATE: The official release date has now been set at February 23rd.

On February 18th, the developers will be giving away free codes to random people in Pocket D that are dressed in their best "Ready for the Jungle" attire. They will also be giving those codes away on Facebook, Twitter, and the Forums... first use-first get. (And it's a jungle getting it that way.) Check the announcement page for dates and times.

UPDATE 2: The back is NOW available. And at $9.99, for once they have a pack WORTH its price!

Click here to view the details and purchase the game at NCSoft.


Update on Seven Stars Reward

"City Of" officials have announced that a grace period for the Seventh Anniversary loyalty program has been put in place.

Apparently some Praetorians were getting their brains scrubbed out by Praetor Tilman and didn't catch the announcement of the grace period starting on February 1st. (At least they didn't blame it on those smelly Cosmic Rikti Monkeys.)

Because of this, the Loyalty Period has been pushed back to February 14th. The end date is still set for April 18th, and the Vanguard Pack will still be unlocked on the 7th Anniversary on April 28th.

So if you're still on the periphery of being a hero, villain, or Praetorian, NOW is truly the time to join in and get ready to take part in the Seven Stars of Super!


Ski for Free!

Earlier this week the walls of reality were once again tampered with by those d@mn cosmic Rikti monkeys.

In gratitude for the masses not revolting, the Ski Chalet has once again appeared next to Pocket D for those who wish to brush up on their slalom times.

The Chalet will be open from 9am February 4th until the 3am February 8th.

This does not mean that the Winter Event has resumed. The Winter Hoard and the presents and the Baby New Year missions are done for the year. It's just that for the next few days you'll get to enjoy the slopes and chill out at some place festive.

Enjoy it, because it's not that often this comes around.


Seven Stars of Super

You ever hear the phrase "Membership has its privileges?"

Well for City of Heroes subscribers, you're about to find out!

This year marks the seventh anniversary of the MMO. As such, Paragon Studios and NCSoft have a little reward for those of you who stick with the game for a few months.

For those with active and paid-for accounts from February 1st until April 18th, you will be getting...

A special Seven Stars chest emblem for you to add to all characters.

A special seven-star badge called The Constant.

A special emote called "Loyalty" that will display seven stars around you as a symbol showing your morality alignment appears below you.

And the Vanguard Booster Pack, an exclusive Booster Pack that will unlock many of the Vanguard costume features, including weapons, the special Vanguard Sigil costume-change emote, and an exclusive non-combat Vanguard hardsuit pet. (Think of it as a little robotic mascot, only the kind that doesn't get into slapstick trouble like the cartoon versions.)

It should be pointed out that all of the Vanguard features right now require you to reach Security Level 35 and then take part in NUMEROUS Vanguard missions, defeating countless Rikti forces before getting enough Vanguard Merits to purchase these items. With the Vanguard Pack, you'll be getting all of these things at Level 1, without needing to take out so much as a Rikti Monkey... which is good because they REEK! Have you ever had to fight off a Rikti Monkey? They are horrid! They are just living, breathing, perpetual fart machines! They have more methane in each one of them than a whole HERD of cows. But I digress...

Did I forget to mention that all of this will be given FREE? All you have to do is have a subscription active from February 1st until April 18th, and then on April 28th (the 7th Anniversary of the MMO launch) the items will be unlocked and activated for you account. Considering how earlier "booster" packs run from $8-$10 (and the more recent ones are overpriced for what they provide), this is a really great deal for Heroes, Villains, Rogues, Vigilantes, and Praetorians.

So if you are still on the fence about signing up, now is the time to do it, because the after February 1st you'll be out of luck.


Double XP Weekend

With the Winter Event expiring soon, the last weekend of the event will also be going out with a Double-XP bang!

The Double XP weekend will be going on starting 12noon, Thursday, January 27th until 3am, Monday, February 1st (EST).

This will be your opportunity to get in all of the goodies at the Ski Chalet and the presents in Paragon City, Rogue Isles, and Praetoria. And if you feel you need to get a few last digs in on Lord Winter - because he's an annoying monster - then this is your last chance to do it for ten more months.


The Holiday Season Goes On And On...

You know some people are super-fixated on seasonal schedules? They expect the holiday decorations up NO EARLIER than Thanksgiving Day and have them down NO LATER than January First.

Then you have the business world... that can't WAIT to get their holiday stuff up and on the shelves earlier and earlier in the year.

Well, the inverse is now true in the City of Heroes universe, with the Winter Event - complete with the Ski Chalet, presents, Baby New Year, and the Winter Hoarde - being extended until 2:59am EST on January 31st.

So if you haven't gotten all your seasonal goodies, or got frustrated taking on Lady Winter, now's the change to remedy that.

Oh, by the way... the nice/nasty halo auras have now been fixed. They no longer require you to take the aura missions at level 30 before using them. You can use them once you earn them.