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Is Loki Marvel’s Joker?

Journey Into Marvel – Part 48

loki_joker_facebook_cover_tests_by_lucafon-d5oabrlExtremites, around the premiere of Thor: The Dark World, I read a Forbes article that declared Loki as the only interesting Marvel villain. This article claims because of Marvel’s campy comedic vibe they have yet to produce a villain who has the gravitas of the Joker.

Ignoring that this article disregards the none Disney Marvel adaptations like Fox’s X-Men, which features both Sir Ian McKellen’s inspired interpretation of Magneto and Fassbender’s younger version who is just as rich — and Sony’s plethora of well adapted Spider-Man villains: Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock or the malevolent and off the wall Green Goblin of Willem DaFoe— the article has a point.

I submit that of the villains so far presented in the Marvel Disney World, Loki is the only one adapted faithfully to the screen.

Obadiah Staine is a footnote in Iron Man.

Mickey Rourke’s Vanko is a mishmash of characters.

Shane West’s Mandarin is a spit in the eye.

Tim Roth’s Abomination was well cast in a terrible script.

Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull has too little screen time.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is the first villain that poses a threat and that is because his is the only faithful adaptation.

The Joker, in Batman, is the perfect villain.

We often as literary critics get bogged down  looking for important motivations when we dissect villains, but really, as so well reduced in the recent HBO True Detective series, they are the opposite side to a coin. They are the dark in opposition to the light. Joker is the yang to Batman’s yin. He doesn’t hate the Batman, per se, or love him like the Riddler does, he needs the Batman to exist. This is because he is part of the same personality. Batman and Joker are both deficient in one side of their personality and the other character fills in that deficiency. Batman lacks any sort of humour, Joker has an excess of it. Joker lacks any sort of ethics, Batman has an excess of them. So it is with Loki and Thor.

I am not about to suggest that Thor and Batman are one and the same. I have already made the case that he is a parody of Superman. Loki is the same as Joker. Both characters have the same goal … to create chaos for the sake of chaos.

Sure, as time has gone on both the Joker and Loki have gained deeper pathos. In Loki’s case, he wishes to gain control of Asgard for some received slight in his adoption by Odin, but in his initial appearance this was not present.

Journey Into Mystery #85 is the third appearance of the Mighty Thor. He has now fought aliens, restored capitalism to a banana republic, and met his future love Jane Foster/Nelson. In this issue he meets his archnemesis.

Up in a very special place called Asgard, its first appearance, there grows a great oak tree. Within this tree is exists Loki trapped until someone cries a tear for the him and he can be released. Loki, being the most clever of the Asgardians, makes one of the leaves float into the eye of passing Heimdall and he is free.

After this initial plan Loki spends the story creating chaos in his search for Thor.

If it’s a statue, Loki has brought it to life, if it was somehow inanimate, it somehow becomes animate.

Why does he create all this chaos?

Loki never wants to defeat Thor. He just wants Thor to ‘pit wits.’ This is the relationship Batman has with Joker, although without the magic. It’s almost as if Loki wants to play with Thor. It is not a bloodthirsty relationship like Prince Namor or Doctor Doom’s with the Fantastic Four. It’s a battle of wits.

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Loki’s first entrance! Ever!

In my mind, there are four types of antagonists: the Scorned, the Megalomaniac, the Ideologue, and the Shit Disturber. Examples of these in Batman would be: the Riddler, the Penguin, Ra’s Al Ghul, and the Joker. On Marvel’s side it goes like this: Prince Namor, Dr. Doom or Kingpin, Magneto and Loki.

Loki’s presence has always been expected when it comes to Thor. Many of Thor’s issues have Loki involved in someway.

And so it is with Batman.

This is evident from Loki’s debut.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:Trapped By Loki, The God Of Mischief!” (Journey Into Mystery #85, Oct. 1962)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros: This is a really fun issue. More Asgardians. Bonkers Loki plots.

Cons: Character wise, this is a pretty empty episode, but Silver Age comics are often gimmicky and just entertaining.

Previous Review:It Came From The Skies” (Fantastic Four #7, Oct 1962)

Upcoming Review:The Challenge of Comrade X” (Tales to Astonish #36, Oct 1962)

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Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ S1E16 Episode Review

Here’s a post mortem of last night’s episode of Agents of SHIELD. As much as I love the premise of this show… I am beginning to think it is not working out. I kind of feel it is all filler for the films. The characters are great but it just feels insular. Like an appendix for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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What’s Up With All-New Marvel NOW!?

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Since it’s the beginning of the year, it seems like Marvel made their own New Year’s resolution – “Let’s re-brand our re-brand and reboot some reboots!” The result of that is All-New Marvel NOW! I’m actually a gigantic Marvel fan and I would say I spend 75% of my free time reading Marvel comics, even though I don’t write about them as much. Also, the All-New Marvel NOW! reboot of Marvel NOW! isn’t really as lame as I just described it. Basically, with the new year, Marvel is re-introducing and re-booting some characters that haven’t gotten as much attention in the past year or so. Also, the same old comics will still be around, just with new story arcs. Here are a couple of the brand new series that I can’t wait to read:

All-New Ghost Rider
I was never a Ghost Rider fan and I didn’t really like the…

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Ben Kingsley’s Trevor and the Real Mandarin Will Be the Focus of Marvel’s “All Hail the King”. Stills from the Marvel One-Shot.

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Trevor Slattery, Mandarin, All Hail the King, Ben Kingsley

Iron Man 3 had a lot of problems.  If you’d like to read my review click here, but the thing the film did that pushed me from frustrated to angry was the disrespect showed to the character of the Mandarin.  THE only good villain in Iron Man’s rogues gallery and you turn him into a drunk British actor?  That made me so mad that once that revelation came through, the rest of the movie was white noise to me.

Trevor Slattery, Mandarin, All Hail the King, Ben Kingsley

I don’t know if it is in response to blowback from people like me (I can’t imagine it is since the film was 2013’s highest-grossing movie), but there have long been rumblings that Ben Kingsley was working on another project with Marvel and that it would involve “the real Mandarin”.  Today we have confirmation and pictures from EW that the “All Hail the King” Marvel One-Shot on the Thor the…

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Marvel films: Why bad guys should go good

I think if you look at those characters, you will notice that the majority have not been adapted from their comic book counterparts, in fact some have been created inspire of. As you well know the comics present three dimensional characters. In many cases, these cinematic creations are bastardized simplistic adaptations. Whiplash for example was an amalgamation of two characters. The Mandarin was similar in name only.

I, must say, there should be a greater attempt at adapting the source material rather then creating something new. This perspective killed the first Batman franchise, nearly destroyed Superman and has put asunder many others, Daredevil comes to mind. (It was not Afflecks fault that movie failed.) When looking to actual characters that utilized the source material to their advantage we find detailed portrayals. Ledger’s Joker comes to mind and also Otto Octavius in Spider-Man 2, and obviously, Magneto. Your assessment of Loki is a tad subjective. Tom Hiddleston is known to be quite the fan. Though sometimes he deals with very poor writing, some of his stuff in Dark World was less then stellar, he usually cranks out a balanced performance informed by Loki’s need to be vindicated by his adoptive father. But he’s a diamond in the rough.

Absolute Power

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Despite working with decades of material, the Marvel film continuity is – so far – almost void of bad guys who are anything but, well, bad. While cardboard, power-hungry world destroyers can be fun, they certainly aren’t enough to carry the antagonistic side of an entire franchise.

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Happy Thorsday! David Ward on Thor and Loki

Check out this wonderful article discussing our favourite Marvel Asgardian pare.

Thor is a twit.

He’s boastful, arrogant, temperamental, and downright stupid. His half-brother, Loki, got the advantage on him more times than not, and Thor’s ususal response was to hit him with a hammer or come crying back (well, ok, screaming and yelling – that’s more manly, after all) to the Allfather, Odin. I can’t blame Loki for playing games with the Asgardian; he kept falling for them. He was quite possibly the easiest Mark in Norse myth, and for the trickster Loki, a source of endless entertainment.

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‘Agents of SHIELD’ ratings stabilize and … improve?

Good News for Agents of SHIELD. I love this show and hope it sticks around for a long time.

Guardians of the Galaxy Details from Director James Gunn *THOR 2 END CREDITS SCENE SPOILERS*

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guardians of the galaxy, gamora, starlord, groot, rocket raccoon, drax

Thor 2 really gave movie goers their first taste of what the cosmos of the Marvel Universe is like.  The end credits sequence will be an enigma to all but the most rabid comic fans, but it sets up Guardians of the Galaxy and reveals what the ultimate point of the entire film saga will be in (presumably) Avengers 3.  We’ll give it a few more days, because it’s just been out two days in the states, before dissecting minutiae, but MTV recently talked to Guardians director James Gunn and he gave some interesting info on the August 2014 release.

“Everything else I’ve ever been through — failed relationships, failed films, failed friendships — everything I’ve ever done means nothing because I’ve just been created by God to make ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ for you folks.”

“I’m a very controlling guy. [Rocket Raccoon] is a big one for me…

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Whose Legend is Stronger? Thor Vs. Mad Merlin

Story I Read: “Defying the Magic of Mad Merlin” (Journey Into Mystery #96 Sept 1963)

Certainly not the Merlin of Disney.

Certainly not the Merlin of Disney.

I am now a good way into the early mythos of Thor and many questions are beginning to flood my mind. Of the many niggling ones, one over arcing macro question haunts me every time I read Mighty Thor: what is the nature of an Asgardian? Are they aliens as later comics attest, other dimensional beings or Gods and, therefore, divine? This story begins to expand upon the difference between the legend and actuality of Asgard.

Stan Lee presents us with two characters, that are quite well known throughout literature, and subverts our understanding of them. In the comics thus far, we have already come to know one of them, Thor, and have only vaguely heard of the other, Merlin. The Norse Thor is the benevolent and sometimes wrathful thunder god; an oxymoronic character, but show me a religious icon that isn’t. His religious self is infallible and unable to be faulted. Marvel’s Thor however, speaking from only what has been offered in Silver Age Marveldom thus far, is a heightened being that is in no way divine. In this story we learn that he needs to breathe. This seems elf evident but serves as a revelation considering he does occasionally venture into space without the aide of oxygen. We learn, here, that Thor can hold his breath for a long time. Lee successfully busts this god’s divinity with this one idea and puts him on a playing field that is equal to the other mortal superheroes with which he shares Earth-616. He is not omnipotent and, therefore, he is able to have other nemeses, other then his own kind.

When Merlin vacates his sarcophagus in 1963, we are presented with a second character that not only equals Thor in his supernatural powers, but also, in his legend. Merlin, the 60s being the time of the renaissance of T.H. White and the popularity of the musical Camelot, is often depicted as a kind and wise magical sorcerer that mentored King Arthur to found the throne of England. Lee, on the other hand, writes him as a malevolent Machiavellian wizard who uses human puppets to consolidate his “master plan,” which appears to be world domination. What a fantastic idea and one that is wholly creative. Not only does this story call Merlin’s oft-believed motivations into question, it also suggests that there is nothing magical about his composition but that he is a human mutant, like the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. Some suggest he maybe a forerunner to the genetic mutants of X-Men. I’m not sure the back story presented here backs up that claim. Not to mention, Uncanny X-Men is still very far in the Silver Age future and the idea of mutants, in that sense, is not yet present in Marveldom. I think the conjecture of the creation of Merlin as the first genetic mutant and therefore the basis for his later X-Men appearances is the work of over zealous fanboys.

The subversion of Legend vs. Reality is further used in the climax of the story. Thor usually beats his non divine enemies by using brute strength or some fancy hammer play. A strategy like this against Merlin is easily shot down, literally. After this failure, Thor, uses his dubious human identity, Dr. Donald Blake, to fool Merlin into thinking that Asgardians are omnipotent and can change into any form they see fit.  This not only brings the mad wizard to prostrate in surrender, it what it more importantly plays with the power of icons. Thor’s possible and largely unsubstantiated divinity defeats Merlin. The Thunder God’s reputation is more mysterious and ancient than Merlin’s so it causes the wizard to doubt himself. Thor’s legend is stronger. What an idea.

I know I spend many of these reviews harping on the hasty and often poorly thought out writing of Stan Lee but do not assume that these criticisms come from a disrespect for the father of Marvel. Sometimes he writes stories like these that show the far reaching literary power that comics can possess.

This story is a 5 out of 5. It is an essential read that explains the difference between Marvel and DC. Whereas DC is all about the legend, Marvel is all about the reality.  This story has far reaching impact and should be on all essential reading lists.

Previous Review: “Nothing Can Stop The Sandman” (The Amazing Spider-Man #4 Sept 1963)

Upcoming Review: “A Skrull Walks Among Us!” (Fantastic Four #18, Sept 1963)

Thor: Dark World Review

Here’s a long awaited review by jamespearce87 of the new chapter in the Cinematic Marvel Universe! Thor against Malekith. Sounds wonderful!

James Pearce Blog

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After the blockbuster success of Avengers Assemble, Marvel Studios need the follow up films to carry on the legacy set out in Joss Whedon’s epic in the build up to a potential sequel.  The good news for them is that this follow up to 2011’s Thor does just enough to leave a positive impact.  The bad news is that Thor: Dark World doesn’t deliver the god sized hammer blow they will have hoped for.

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