Herman Alvarez (Shades)

shadesfilmSecond and last bad guy appearing in the Luke Cage trailer is Shades, who’ll be portrayed by Theo Rossi (as you can guess by the name, he’s the goon wearing sunglasses). Not much is known about his role in the show, apart from the fact that he’ll be one of Cottonmouth‘s henchmen; he’s described as “menacing, smooth and manipulative”, a relentless criminal who possesses quite some smartness. If his high-tech glasses aren’t included in the show (and I hope they’re not), it’s hardly imaginable how he could possibly pose a threat to Luke Cage, but he’ll probably be quite dangerous for his allies and friends. In the comics, he surely starts as a villain, but he follows a redemption route that eventually brings him to befriend Cage and to change his life…though it’s quite unlikely he’ll face the same evolution in the tv series. Let’s wait and see. In the meanwhile, here’s Shades.

Herman Alvarez was born in New York City, the son of Dominican immigrants who lived in Harlem. As many other young people, Herman entered a local gang, The Rivals, and because of his habit of always wearing a pair of sunglasses, he became known as “Shades” (to the point that everyone forgot his real name). Still a young man, Shades started seeing a girl, Reina, and the two had a son together, Victor. Being a father wasn’t exactly the top of Shades’ things-to-do list, so he systematically neglected his girlfriend and his son to hang out with his fellow Rivals, especially with his best friend Comanche. The gang also had as members Willis Stryker and Carl Lucas, and due to the first one’s ambition he found himself working for Sonny Caputo, a local mob boss. Shades spent most of his time between petty crimes and gang wars (especially against the “historical” nemesis of The Rivals, The Diablos), until his life of crime exacted its toll, and he was arrested along with Comanche and sent to Seagate Prison. The experience wasn’t exactly the best one in Shades’ or Comanche’s lives, since as many other non-Caucasian detained they became the targets of Billy Bob Rackman, a sadistic and abusive prison guard who made sure they had not a single moment of peace during their detention. After years of shadescomics1tortures and beatings, Rackman was exposed and fired…but this wasn’t enough for Shades and Comanche, and now that their enemy was not a public officer anymore, they wanted to exact their revenge on him. To do so, they broke out of prison, and they followed Rackman back to New York City, where the former guard had become a criminal himself and had been hired to kidnap a nurse, Claire Temple. While following Rackman, the duo met their old friend Carl Lucas, now going by the name Luke Cage, who was protecting Temple, at the time his girlfriend. After dealing with Rackman, Shades and Comanche wanted to reunite the old gang to take over Harlem, and they tried to recruit Cage…but he told them he was going straight now, and refused. The two criminals were arrested soon after, but out of loyalty for their old comrade they didn’t tell the officers he was actually the wanted man Carl Lucas.

Friendship was a thing, business another: when Shades and Comanche escaped once again, they were more than determined to kill their old teammate if he messed with them again. Back to the old neighborhood, Shades and his friend became hired goons for the best offerer, and they often clashed with the Heroes for Hire, the pair composed of Luke Cage and his partner Iron Fist. Of course, the two hoodlums weren’t a match for the HfH…until they were recruited by Ward Meachum, Iron Fist’s wealthy nemesis, who gave them a brand new equipment. Shades received a high-tech visor, which allowed him to shoot highly-destructive laser beams. Taken by surprise, Cage was knocked out by his former friends, but they didn’t kill him, chosing to challenge him to a final confrontation on the George Washington Bridge. This time, however, Cage was prepared, and Iron Fist was with him: together, the shadescomics2two heroes defeated the goons, and even learnt who their employer was…but just before being dragged away by the police, Shades managed to shoot the heroes, throwing them off the bridge. Meachum later freed both Shades and Comanche from prison, and sent them against the Heroes for Hire once again…this time they were defeated for good, as Cage had a building collapse on them. He got out of prison only years after, and this time he found a new job as one of the many guns hired by Viktor Smerdilovisc against the Marvel Knights, a team of urban superheroes composed of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Cloak Dagger, Black WidowMoon Knight and Shang-Chi. Even this time Shades wasn’t lucky, and he got badly defeated, absorbed into Cloak’s Dark Dimension, an alternate realm in which the permanence, even if much shorter, was extremely less pleasurable than the one in Seagate Prison. Once Cloak released him, Shades decided it was time to change life: he cut ties with Comanche, and tried to make up whatever was left of his relationship with his son Victor. It was really time for a new leaf.

Herman Alvarez is a man who had been forced to learn to take care of himself in the most desperate situations, and this made him distrustful, often greedy, but definitely street-smart and resourceful, without a proper moral compass other than self-susteinance (apart from the unusual loyalty that he feels for his friends and comrades). As Shades, he’s an expert hand-to-hand combatant and marksman, and for a time he donned a special visor built at Rand-Meachum Inc. that allowed him to shoot powerful energy blasts (much like an artificial version of Cyclops from the X-Men). More mislead than truly malicious, Shades became a hard man because of a hard life, but he’s still in time to attempt a difficult path to redemption.

Mariah Dillard (Black Mariah)

blackmariahfilmAnother character seen in the recent trailer for Luke Cage is (allegedly) one of the bad guys, and a prominent presence in the show: Mariah Dillard, portrayed by Alfre Woodard (and also by Megan Miller in some flashbacks featuring a younger version). As far as we know, she’s a politician who’s trying to clean up the streets of Harlem, but being also Cottonmouth‘s cousin doesn’t help her at all in doing so. From the description she seems to be a good person, but in the comics we know her as a vicious villain, going by the monicker Black Mariah: the appearance is certainly different, as the tv version is not the giantess we know from the comicbooks, but she may have secret plans on her own nevertheless. Let’s just wait and see: in the meanwhile, as usual, let’s take together a look at the original, massive Black Mariah.

Mariah Dillard was born and raised in New York City, a black woman who refused to lay down and let men decide of her destiny. Characterised by an impressive bulk, Mariah started a personal career in the streets of Harlem, and gathered a number of criminals desperate enough to follow anyone, and scared enough to obey her orders (she personally beat to death anyone who disobeyed, so that part was pretty easy). Mariah’s gang started calling themselves the Ratpack, and they became specialised in a particular kind of robbery. Dillard had managed to put her hands on an old ambulance (and that’s where she earned her nickname “Black Mariah” from, and everybody referred to her with that), and she used them for quite an ingenious sting: whenever somebody died on the streets, intercepting the emergency with the stolen ambulance’s radio, Black Mariah and her men intervened, taking the body on the ambulance and fleeing. They stole whatever valuable was on the bodies, and if they found any keys and ID, they cleaned up the deceased one’s residence blackmariahcomics1immediately after. Later, they disposed of the body, dumping it somewhere. This method brought to the Ratpack a lot of money in an easy and relatively safe way, not bothering with armed fights or police, protected by the fake ambulance that allowed them to come and go completely unchecked. The only problems in the Ratpack were the inner ones, as sometimes some of Black Mariah’s men accused her of “eating their profits” (not without reason), and she usually reacted by killing with her own hands the unfortunate one who tried to have his share. Everything went awry the moment the Ratpack picked up the wrong guy: Frank Jenks, a gambler murdered in the Gem Theater.

Black Mariah did her usual with Jenks, collecting the body and robbing it from everything it had…but the man had a wife (a widow), who hired Luke Cage to find out what had happened to her late husband’s body. Cage used his informant, Flea, who pointed him to the Ratpack’s headquarters. The bulletproof hero was spotted by Black Mariah from afar, and she sent against him all her men…just to see them completely overpowered by Cage. The woman finally decided to take the matter in her own hands, and she personally faced the super-strong hero…finding out that he had some reluctance in hitting a woman. Taking advantage from it, Black Mariah used her impressive strength to actually hurt Cage, until the hero decided he had had enough and that he could made an exception for her. The moment Luke Cage started hitting her back, with much more strength that she could endure, Mariah escaped, trying to run away with a motor boat she had kept for emergency situations. Her massive weight caused the boat to capsize, and she was left floating in the bay…so much for her escape route. Black Mariah was arrested, and spent some time in prison…but she was released soon after, and she moved to Chinatown, trying to start a brand new life. Well, not exactly, as she remained a criminal. She obtained a new kind of drug, called Acid Z, able to send anyone who took in blackmariahcomics2an intoxicating frenzy (and killed them in a matter of hours). She even hired a personal bodyguard, Scimitar, so that she wouldn’t have had problems even from the street heroes…but this time she crossed paths with Iron Fist, who was more than able to defeat Scimitar. Mariah, using both her own strength and some of her drugs, managed to defeat Iron Fist, but the hero was saved by his partner, Luke Cage, and the Heroes for Hire together managed to capture Black Mariah once again. Of course, it was just a matter of time before she got out of prison again…and she surely wasn’t short on ideas on how to resume her activities.

Mariah Dillard is a determined and unscrupolous woman, willing and able to walk on as many corpses as she needs to take care of herself and to obtain the wealth she dreams of. As Black Mariah, she doesn’t possess any superhuman ability, but her strength and durability border inhuman levels (mostly due to her massive bulk and weight), and she’s an accomplished hand-to-hand combatant; she usually fights with a gun and with a pair of poison knitting needles meant to stun and disorient her opponents. Just as fearful as she looks, Black Mariah is a woman who earned the fear and the respect of everyone in a world of men, a crime boss who never shows pity nor reluctance, and who always gets what she wants. Well, almost.

Mercedes Knight (Misty)

mistyknightfilmLet’s get back to Marvel for the awesome, second trailer for Luke Cage (which is coming in a month time). There are some new faces among bad and good guys, and let’s start with the good ones: Misty Knight, portrayed by Simone Missick. In the show, Misty will be a detective from NYPD, working in the Harlem block and doing her best to face the new wave of criminality that hit the area…and to learn more about its unusual bulletproof protector, Luke Cage. In the comics, she started as a police detective as well, but she ended up being something more…and with a totally different kind of uniform. Let’s see together.

Mercedes Knight was born and raised in New York City. Little or nothing is known about her early life, and the only thing we know for sure is that she had always wanted to be a cop, from her very childhood. Once grown up, she entered Police Academy and she graduated with honors. Upon entering the NYPD, it became clear she would have gotten on in her professional life, and she indeed started to rise ranks pretty quickly. As a Lieutenant, “Misty” Knight was partnered with Lt. Rafael Scarfe, an older officer who also became her mentor. Lt. Knight became quite a known figure in the neighborhood, and was responsible for many heroic deeds that earned her many honors as well as many enemies…but also quite a number of friends. One day, in the West Side, Misty intervened in a gang war that had escalated into a gunfight; not only she managed to interrupt the war, arresting some of the responsible, but she even saved the life of a civilian who had been unwillingly involved in the battle, Colleen Wing, a young woman who had just come back from Japan. Alone and with no contacts in town, Colleen saw Misty as the first friendly face in New York, and the two became fast friends, soon becoming inseparable. Misty had just the life she had always dreamt of…and that wasn’t meant to last: during a simple inspection in a bank, the woman found a bomb. With no time to call the specialists, Misty tried to dispose of it herself: her efforts did indeed save all the people in the bank, but the device exploded nevertheless, taking away her right arm. Scarfe saved mistyknightcomics1her, applied an emergency bandage and brought her to the nearest hospital, never leaving her side until she recovered. When she woke up, Misty was one arm short, she had been given yet another medal, but she had been suspended from active duty and given a desk job. That wasn’t exactly what she meant with “To protect and serve”, so she eventually left NYPD…but a surprise was still waiting for her. Among the people she had saved in the bank there was Tony Stark, who had noticed her heroism, and had decided to reward her by building for her a bionic arm based on Batron Strucker‘s Satan Claw. Quite unexpectedly, Misty Knight had once again two functioning arms.

In the following days, while in Hong Kong with Colleen, Misty found herself allying with her friend to take down a criminal, Emil Vachon. This gave an idea to the two girls, and after Vachon was brought down, they came back to New York, and together they opened a private investigation business: Knightwing Restorations, Ltd., dealing with cases nobody else wanted to solve. Misty and Colleen soon made quite a name for themselves in the city, but popularity also brought notoriety, and some old enemies from Colleen’s past came back knocking to her door…well, sort of, as the Cult of Khali actually broke into her house trying to kidnap her and her family. Colleen rushed in, and repelled some of the invaders…but she even mistook the masked hero Iron Fist for one of the cultists, and she engaged him in battle. She was overpowered and knocked out, but when she woke up, the hero had solved the situation: the two became fast friends, and even something more, as they started a relationship soon after their first meeting. The cooperation between Misty and Danny Rand proved to be a precious one, as the hero helped her once again in rescuing Colleen, this time from the warlord Master Khan: together with Rafe, Misty Knight and Iron Fist defeated Khan and his minions, the Sorel brothers Ravager and Radion, saving her friend. Back home, Misty returned the favor, helping Danny in taking back his family company. It was when D.A. Blake Tower enlisted Misty to infiltrate mistyknightcomics2in Bushmaster‘s gang that she finally met Luke Cage, the one who would have become Iron Fist’s partner in the Heroes for Hire. It was also during this mission that, fighting against the Steel Serpent along with HfH and Spider-Man, Misty and Colleen received the nickname Daughters of the Dragon, a sarcastic moniker that they liked and decided to keep. Often helping the Heroes for Hire, Nelson and Murdock Attorney’s at Law or even NYPD, the Daughters of the Dragon became vital in New York’s crime-fighting, and Misty Knight found out she could do a lot of good even without a badge.

Misty Knight is a proud and strong-willed woman, firmly dedicated to protecting people since her childhood, and with a strong sense of responsibility. A skilled martial artist trained by masters such as Iron Fist and Shang-Chi, she’s also a superb driver and a trained marksman; her bionic arm, built by Stark Industries, gives her a limited superhuman strength (as well as remarkable durability and stamina limited to her right arm), which she mostly uses in steel-strong grips; the updated version of her arm, built in diamonds and Vibranium rather than steel, is able to generate a repulsor beam, a small force field, ice-blasts, an autonomous magnetic field and some sort of concussive blast; it also allows Misty to interact with advanced tech. With or without a badge, Misty Knight is a tireless heroine, who fights for justice in any way possible to her…but who considers a rich check quite a good incentive for doing so.

Epione

epionefilmIn the last trailer for Wonder Woman there was also another character, very briefly seen as she seems to be tending to Diana‘s wounds: that’s Epione, who’ll be portrayed by Eleanor Matsuura. We don’t know much of her role in the upcoming movie, apart of course from the fact that she’ll be an Amazon, and that she’ll be one of Wonder Woman‘s earliest friends and companions on Themyscira. Actually, it’s more than likely that most of the Amazons will be just cameos in the film, and Epione might not be an exception to that…especially considering that even in the comics she’s quite a secondary character. Let’s see together.

As all Amazons, Epione was born the moment some goddesses from Olympus (AphroditeArtemisHestiaAthena and Demeter) decided to create a new spawn of demigods able to protect the world from the ongoing and spreading wars. Collecting the souls of the women who had been murdered by men over history, the goddessesses created for them new superhuman bodies using the mystical clay from the bottom of the Aegean Sea, giving birth to the ultimate messengers of peace, the Amazons. Epione was among the most influent Amazons, as she was the chief healer: she loyally followed Queen Hippolyta in her quest to save the world from men’s violence, and she kindly tended to the wounded ones the Amazons found on their way; while her sisters also used violence when it was necessary, Epione brought relief, solace and healing, tending to both the innocents and the enemies, spreading the Amazons’ way of life in the world as best as she could. Then, the machinations of the god Ares forced the Amazons to abandon their active mission in the world, and they founded the city of Themyscira, an independent nation that stood on an island, acting as a ray of light in the darkness. In epionecomics1Themyscira, Epione was confirmed with her title, and she was entrusted with the care and administration of the Island of Healing, a secured place in which she could follow her patients at the best of her possibilities, not only curing them, but also granting them a time of peace and relax, away from the others as long as they fully recovered. Just as she had brought her arts in the world while the Amazons walked it, now Epione did the same for her sisters in the utopian city they had built. But that would have not lasted long as it was.

Epione was among the ones captured, chained and repeatedly raped by Hercules, Theseus and their men, an army Themyscira had given shelter and hospitality to. Thanks to the intervention of Athena, the Amazons managed to have their lives spared, but the city had been destroyed, and the scars were hard to forget. Painfully, Epione witnessed to the first Amazonian civil war, which ended in a schism: Hippolyta’s sister Antiope gave up on the way of peace, and decided to lead a group of rogue Amazons to Athens to exact her revenge on the invaders; Hippolyta banished her own sister and whoever chose to follow her, so that Themyscira’s population decreased drastically. Epione was given a choice as well, but she chose to stand by Hippolyta’s side, as she firmly believed in the original purpose and vocation of the Amazons to bring peace, understanding and empathy to the world, rather than vengeance and destruction. In the following years she helped her sisters in rebuilding Themyscira, obviously putting a particular effort in the Island of Healing. She also helped the ones who were still suffering from the wounds and the humiliations suffered during Hercules’ invasion to accept, control and eventually erase all the pain and the anger that the episode had brought along. A moment of happiness arrived when Hippolyta was rewarded with a daughter, Diana, who was kind of adopted by the entire community. Epione taught Diana part of her knowledge…and even became her “accomplish”, the moment a epionecomics2man, Steve Trevor, came ashore on Themyscira, obviously needing some medical attention after crashing with his plane. She would have supported her in resuming Amazons’ peace mission in the outside world, trying to quel Hippolyta’s worries in the meanwhile, working for making Themyscira a beacon of hope for mankind once again.

Epione is a gentle and kind soul, whose very existence is dedicated to lessening the pain of others. As an Amazon, she possesses superhuman strength, speed, durability, stamina and reflexes, and she’s a skilled fighter with virtually any weapon, but she rarely uses violence, preferring her role as a healer. As the chief healer of Themyscira, she’s able to cure virtually any wound of both body and soul, and even to dissolve certain evil incantations (it was her who cured Hippolyta from the spell Circe had cast upon her). More than anyone else, Epione lives the Amazons’ original purpose of bringing peace and healing to a war-thorn world, and she tries her best to live up to that mission every day of her life.

Etta Candy

ettacandyfilmAlso a new trailer for Wonder Woman has been released, and there’s a couple of new characters to speak about. The first one will most likely be the movie’s comic relief, as the quick exchange of lines between her and Princess Diana hints: she’s Etta Candy, portrayed by Lucy Davis, the overweight secretary of Steve Trevor who’ll become one of the Amazon‘s best friends. The character already appeared in the 1970s tv series, portrayed by Beatrice Colen: they changed her appearance, believing it wasn’t nice to make fun of a woman’s weight…so they made her the usual dumb secretary, this time working for General Phil Blankenship, as apparently mocking somebody for her stupidity is more acceptable than doing the same for her bulk. She returned in the unlucky 2011 pilot, this time in a more modern version, an African-American woman working directly for Diana, portrayed by Tracie Thoms, but she didn’t get her chance to shine. Now, since the character finally made it to the big screen, let’s take a look at the original Etta (multiple realities ahead).

The first Etta Candy was the young daughter of Hard Candy and his wife, Sugar Candy, the owners of the Bar-L Ranch in Brazos CountyTexas. She grew up with her brother, Mint Candy, and as the family name imply, she was very fond of candies since her childhood. She first met Wonder Woman during a period of depression, during which she had become a scrawny, skinny girl, cured in a hospital. The two became fast friends, and Etta found in the Amazon a reason for putting herself back together. She resumed her original, plump appearance, and she joined the Holiday College, becoming the most popular girl and the de facto leader of the Beta Lambda sorority; she even led her sisters, called the Holiday Girls, to war, aiding her friend Wonder Woman against the Nazis (she even raided a concentration camp on her own, freeing a number of children). She also found a boyfriend, Oscar Sweetgulper, who was from time to time involved in her crazy adventures. The Earth-2 version had a similar ettacandycomics1background, but she was pretty invisible during the college years; after graduation, she entered U.S. Army as the secretary of General Phil Darnell. She was even promoted Lieutenant, and she welcomed the new Major, Diana Prince, who also became her new roommate. Etta didn’t know it, but Diana Prince was the secret identity of her old super-friend, Wonder Woman, and once again she found herself involved in many incredible adventures (she even visited Hell, only to be saved by Wonder Woman and Etrigan the Demon). Always a candy lover, this time she had a different boyfriend, a nerdish and clumsy boy named Howard Huckaby, whom she loved very much. Along with Diana and her boyfriend Steve Trevor, the four became the closest of friends, and between the Army and Wonder Woman’s mystical background they shared a number of adventures. Then, Chrisis on Infinite Earths arrived, and both Earth-1 and Earth-2 Etta Candy were wiped away.

In New Earth, Etta Candy had lost much of her family background and her college years, and even her physique was totally different, being now more athletic. Etta joined the Air Force as a career officer, and was a valued member of General John Hillary‘s staff. She worked in Hanscom Air Force Base along with Captain Steve Trevor. In a plot from the Greek god Ares, Steve Trevor was framed in the attempt of causing a third (and definitive) world war involving Themyscira. Etta was the only one among her colleagues who believed in Steve’s innocence, to the point that she decided to break him out of prison: luckily enough, there was somebody else aware of Ares’ machinations, his nemesis Wonder Woman, and the Amazon helped Etta free Steve. The three of them, now ettacandycomics2fugitives, went on the run, trying to expose Ares as well as avoiding the Army, still on their trails. During this adventure, Etta and Steve realised they actually loved each other, and they started a relationship. The alliance with Wonder Woman paid out, and Steve Trevor was eventually cleaned from all charges. Back to a regular life, she had time to develop her relation with Steve, and the two of them eventually got engaged…and this was when Etta’s weight problems resurfaced. Although she was not as fat as her previous incarnations were, she still had some pounds on her, and she was quite sensitive about it. Wanting to lose weight for her incoming marriage, she started a “diet” (more similar to a “fasting”, actually), and she managed to lost about 20 pounds…but at a dire cost for her health. Albeit she hid her problems from her friends, things eventually came out while she was out with Diana/Wonder Woman for buying her wedding dress: while trying a gown on, she simply fainted, consumed by her forced fasting. Diana had a long talk with her, and managed to convince her to come back to a proper diet, and Etta regained her original weight…but she also had gained a brand new self-confidence, and she could go to the altar with her beloved Steve Trevor without regrets. After the marriage, Trevor retired, and Etta took his place as a Captain in Hillary’s office. A whole new life was waiting for her, and she was finally ready for it.

Etta Candy, in each and every version, is a lively and strong-willed woman, who hides a deep insecurity deriving from her eccessive weight. Being a military officer (ranked Lt. Colonel) and an A.R.G.U.S. operative, she’s a trained marksman and hand-to-hand combatant, but it’s quite rare for her to use violence, as she usually prefers working for the intelligence. Fiercely loyal to her friends, and to her beloved husband, Etta is a formidable ally and an unexpectedly fearsome adversary, a surely funny and sympathetic young woman, but with an iron-hard determination and an unbendable bravery.

Hot Rod (Rodimus Prime)

hotrodfilmThe second character seen in the pics revealed from Transformers: The Last Knight is a new entry, and quite a major one: Hot Rod, who has still an unknown voice actor. We don’t know much about his role in the movie, apart from the fact that he’ll be Bumblebee‘s brother-in-arms, and that he’ll be able to transform into a Lamborghini. Hot Rod is quite a pivotal part of the Transformers universe, and his inclusion was just a matter of time…let’s just hope he won’t be one of the (far too) many place-holders in the blockbuster, a random robot shooting lasers around with no true purpose. As usual, in the meanwhile let’s take a look at the original one…who’s also known by a name other than Hot Rod, a pretty revealing one.

Hot Rod was born on planet Cybertron, in the middle of the centuries-long war that put the heroic Autobots against the tyrannical Decepticons. He himself was an Autobot, member of a squad led by the gigantic Fortress Maximus; Fortress had grown tired of the war as many other Cybertronians, and decided it was about time to simply walk away from it. In order to look for other worlds that could be inhabited, Fortress Maximus sent Hot Rod and Blurr to open space, in a quest for a new home. Hot Rod was young, inexperienced and definitely arrogant, and the first hostile aliens the pair met, he faced head-on without thinking about it twice. As a result, the two warriors were severely defeated, and Blurr was even captured. Forced to escape, humiliated, Hot Rod stumbled upon another Cybertronian, Kup, a war veteran who had escaped Cybertron after becoming disillusioned with the war; the strong will and bravado of Hot Rod awakened something in the old warrior’s soul, and between the two a strange mentor-pupil relationship was born. Kup helped Hot Rod to free Blurr from his captors, then the three of them returned to Cybertron, where they joined Fortress Maximus once again. Finally, a world for a brand new start was found: Nebulos, inhabited by a peaceful race of small Transformers. Hot Rod followed Fortress Maximus there along with many others, but also an unwanted contingent of Decepticons did the same, so the war started all hotrodcomics1over again, albeit on a smaller scale. The locals formed an alliance with the Autobots, and some of them decided to help them by entering in symbiosis with the warriors: Hot Rod was paired with Firebolt, able to transform into a laser gun, and the two fought many years one alongside the other on Nebulos. Eventually, Hot Rod received a transmission from Goldbug, another Autobot, who informed him that the Autobot leader Optimus Prime was on a faraway planet, still fighting the war with the Decepticons, and needing help. The Targetmasters (as the symbiotic couples formed by Cybertronians and Nebulans were called) were needed as well, so Hot Rod abandoned Nebulos to move to another alien world: Earth.

Hot Rod and the others joined Optimus Prime’s team, and they were welcomed in the crashed spaceship Ark, now functioning as headquarters. Despite his unchanging, difficult attitude, Hot Rod developed a strong bond with Optimus, especially after he had disobeyed his direct orders and stayed behind along with him to fight Megatron and Starscream, while the other Autbots returned to the Ark as they were told. It was Hot Rod who managed to make Optimus recover from the deep depression he had fallen into when Ratchet got killed, and he was always on the frontline, facing whatever threat might wait, even when it came to battle the planet-eater Unicron. Hot Rod was among the many Autobot casualties on the alien planet Klo, but he was resurrected by Optimus’ ace up the sleeve, the ultimate warrior known as the Last Autobot, and resumed his neverending fight against the Decepticons. Apart from Kup, who still acted as a calming presence for the hot-headed Autobot, Hot Rod also became close to the female warrior Arcee, who was among the few ones able to make him reason (from time to time): although the two often provoked each other, it became quite clear that something more than a friendship was rising between them. Despite his bad attitude, Hot Rod became such a trusted and respected Autobot that he was chosen as the successor of Optimus Prime the moment the Autobot leader was killed action. Now holding the Matrix of Leadership, Hot Rod hotrodcomics2was entrusted with the wisdom and the power of his predecessors, and he became Rodimus Prime, the new leader of the Autobots. This was finally put an end to his arrogance, as such a responsibility managed to quel his spirit, even instilling into him a great insecurity about his leadership skills. If living constantly under Optimus Prime’s shadow wasn’t enough, the time was indeed a dread one, as Galvatron had assumed the leadership of the Decepticons, and seemed more than intentioned to end the war with the hated Autobots once and for all. The enmity between Rodimus and Galvatron became even harsher than the one between Optimus and Megatron, and the war was about to know a whole new scale to it, one that the new Prime hoped he was able to manage…

Hot Rod is an impulsive and brash Autobot, whose self-confidence often becomes arrogance; independent and stubborn, he even disobeys orders and challenges authority if he doesn’t see things the same as his superiors. As Rodimus Prime, the weight of command somehow quelled his arrogance, and he’s now quite self-dubious about his role as a Prime, especially since he has to replace a leader such as Optimus. Being a Prime, he’s extremely strong and durable, more than the average Cybertronians, and he can access the wisdom and knowledge of his predecessors; he’s an accomplished marksman and fighter, he can shoot photon laser beams from his forearms, and he possesses six (three per arm) retractable saw-blades he uses in battle; his most impressive skill, however, is his short-circuit ability, which he can fry an opponent’s circuits with. As the other Transformers, he’s able to transform into a vehicle increasing his speed, in his case a Cybetronian race car. A young warrior who had to grow up quickly in order to accept the responsibility of command, Rodimus Prime is an inexperienced leader for a harsh war time, and maybe his arrogance and self-confidence are just what the Autobots need to win a war they can very well lose this time…

Runner (Barricade)

barricadefilmThe first pics from the upcoming Transformers: The Last Knight have been released, and the first robot revealed is an old acquaintance, one of the longest living Decepticons in the movie universe: Barricade, who’ll be voiced by Jess Harnell. Barricade first appeared in Transformers, disguised as a police car with “To Punish and Enslave” written on the side; he chased the protagonists until the end of the movie, and he was the only bad guy to survive along with Starscream and Scorponok. He reappeared in Dark of the Moon as Shockwave‘s second-in-command, and he’s the one who executes Que; he’s apparently killed by human soldiers in Chicago, as it’s shown in an Age of Extinction cameo, but he must have survived the battle, since he’s coming back for the fifth installment. Now, let’s take a look at Barricade in the comics…the non-police car one.

Originally, the Decepticon known as Barricade was Runner, the result of a unique experiment that involved both Decepticons and their sworn enemies, the Autobots. The cross-factional project aimed to create a new generation of miniaturized Transformers, reducing their size in order to increase the efficiency of fuel consumption, obtaining the ultimate racers. The result was the birth of the Micromasters, amazing racers faster than any other Transformer, a neutral faction that would have been able (for the first time in ages on Cybertron) to chose their own faction. Runner was not only the fastest, but also the most vicious among the Micromasters, and his strong attitude managed to obtain the loyalty of three other Micromasters: Ground Hog, Roller Force and Motorhead, three speed demons who only recognised Runner’s authority…and sometimes even ignored it, consumed by the thirst for wanton destruction during the races. Everytime they disobeyed his orders or failed in accomplishing them, Runner severely punished them, imposing an abusive leadership that proved to be the barricadecomics1only thing able to control his subordinates to a certain extent. Together, the four Micromasters formed the Race Track Patrol, which soon became the most violent team of racers ever seen…needless to say which one among the two battling factions proved to be the most appealing for Runner and his men. He joined the Decepticons, and his new teammates enjoyed seeing him running, battling the rival Micromasters with both sheer speed and unorthodox tactics. The Decepticons also gave Runner a new name, praising his ability in blockading his adversaries during the races: now, he was Barricade.

The Race Track Patrol built quite a name for itself, and not only was feared by the Autobots’ Micromaster teams such as the Race Car Patrol, the Off Road Patrol or the Battle Patrol, but since in lack of enemies they often attacked other Decepticons, even the allied teams (the Air Strike Patrol, the Sports Car Patrol and the Military Patrol) learnt to stay away from them if they valued their lives. Barricade wasn’t just a great racer and a fearful warrior, however: as the leader of his team, he was also smart and intuitive, and soon realised that the Micromasters’ situation wasn’t one of equality with the other Decepticons, who considered them as some kind of funny little mascottes, not to be taken too seriously. Sure that the Micromasters would have never obtained their rightful place among the other Decepticons if not with strength, Barricade joined forces with Skystalker, a “huge” Micromaster who had become an agitator and seemed to have a plan to change the situation. Leading a rogue faction of Decepticons, that included Barricade and his men, Skystalker challenged Megatron‘s successor, Shockwave, and actually managed to defeat him and to disassemble him. Using Shockwave’s head, barricadecomics2Skystalker was able to give orders to the Decepticon factions, thus assuming control. Finally, for Barricade and the others a new world rose, one in which the neverending war between the “bigger cousins” could finally become a problem of the past, and in which the Micromasters were treated with the respect they deserved…but the return of the Autobot hero Countdown was about to foil the little Decepticons’ plan, exposing Barricade and the other rogues to the wrath of the ones they had deceived.

Barricade is a fast-thinking and fast-running Micromaster, a pitiless warrior and a brutal and abusive leader. Barricade’s iron fist is the only thing that keeps in check the members of the Race Track Patrol, and his strength (and his short temper) is rightfully feared by allies and enemies alike. Gifted with the strength, durability and stamina of his race, although he’s definitely weaker but also incredibly faster than a “guzzler” (the normal-sized Transformers), Barricade can transform into a Formula-1 race car, obtaining an even greater speed. Battling a war he doesn’t feel as his own, Barricade is only waiting for the right occasion to go against the guzzler and to create a new kind of Decepticons, not chained to the mistakes of the past and opened to a new future…possibly filled with havoc, chaos, and most of all speed.

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