James Worthington “Jim” Gordon

commissionergordonfilmIt seems I missed a cameo character while playing Injustice: Gods Among Us, since in the opening cut scene another very well known face can be clearly seen: it’s Commissioner Gordon, one of the few honest policemen in Gotham City. He was first portrayed on screen by Lyle Talbot in 1949 serial Batman and Robin, in a version quite similar to his comics’ counterpart; he then appeared in the 1960s’ tv series and in the spin-off movie, portrayed by Neil Hamilton and depicted as a police officer who cannot do anything without the help of Batman. In Tim Burton‘s and Joel Schumacher‘s four films he was portrayed by Pat Hingle, again as a cop unable to stop Gotham’s crime and always depending on Batman’s help (in Batman & Robin he was also seduced and almost killed by Poison Ivy). Finally, we have a much more independent and tough version of the character in Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy, with Gary Oldman portraying the character first as Lt. Gordon, the only honest cop in Gotham, than as Commissioner Gordon, head of GCPD. Let’s see together who this upright man is in the comics.

James Worthington Gordon was a simple cop in Gotham City, one of USA’s most violent cities. Once, patrolling a street, he found two burglars sneaking out of a warehouse, and ordered them to stop; the two instead attacked him, and the agent was forced to shoot them down, just in front of their son, whom he didn’t see. It was later revealed that the two “burglars” were in fact a dirty cop and his wife, and Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb forced Gordon to leave Gotham in order to avoid scandal, sending him to Chicago. Gordon obeyed, and he and his wife, Barbara, moved to Illinois. In the big city, the young policeman was even more shocked by the power criminality had over commissionergordoncomics1normal citizens, and started to study by night in order to become an officer and to fight criminals in a more effective way. He became a lieutenant, and uncovered two fellow officers who were stacking the mayoral elections. Once again, Jim‘s integrity costed him his position, and Chicago’s police discredited him and sent him back to Gotham. After fifteen years of absence, Gordon found Gotham even worse than how he had left it: almost no policeman was honest, criminals ruled the city without even trying to hide themselves and corruption had invaded every single social level. With a family to protect (Barbara had given birth to a son, James Jr.), Lt. Gordon tried his best not to oppose Commissioner Loeb and his maneuvers too openly, but he was always a black sheep in a flock of corrupted agents. About the same time Gordon came back to Gotham, a new figure had appeared, a vigilante who struck criminality with brutality and precision: Batman, a mysterious coated hero who acted far beyond the limits of the law. At first, Gordon was more than suspicious towards Batman, but when the vigilante finally approached him and talked to him, the two of them understood they were on the same boat, and formed a secret alliance. From that moment, Gordon informed Batman about corrupt policemen, while Batman informed Gordon about Mafia’s organization.

Together, Gordon and Batman managed to uncover Loeb’s relation with the Falcone Family, the major criminal power in Gotham, and to have him arrested. Lt. Gordon then convinced Loeb’s temporary successor to build the Bat-Signal, in order to contact Batman whenever police needed him. Along with District Attorney Harvey Dent, another rare honest man in town, Gordon and Batman brought down Carmine Falcone and his so-called Roman Empire, thus inflicting a fatal blow to racket. Unfortunately, victory didn’t come without a price to pay, and Dent lost his sanity when Sal commissionergordoncomics2Maroni, one of Falcone’s underlings, disfigured him with acid, turning him into murderous Two-Face. Dent was but the first psychopaths who would have haunted Gotham’s nights. Meanwhile, Gordon was promoted to commissioner, and he replaced Loeb at the head of Gotham’s police. Another picturesque menace came when the son of the couple shot down by Gordon in his youth came back as an adult, seeking vengeance. Inspired by Batman, he created the costumed identity of The Wrath and hunted down Gordon. The Wrath got killed after falling from a building he himself had set aflame, but Gordon understood that, being near to Batman and fighting with him against the city’s underworld, he himself wasn’t safe from this new, deadly kind of criminals. When Batman trained Robin, a partner in crime-fighting, Gordon was less than pleased at the idea of a kid jumping from roof to roof and dealing with deadly psychos like Two-Face or The Joker, maybe the deadliest of them all, but in time he came to accept Robin and to trust him just like he did Batman. The bonds became even closer when Roger and Thelma, his brother and sister-in-law, died in a car accident, and Jim became the legal tutor of his niece, Barbara Gordon. Years later, a new heroine appeared and joined the Bat-Family, a girl named Batgirl: although he immediately realized that his niece/adoptive daughter was actually the new heroine, Gordon didn’t tell her anything, and kept fighting crime with Batman and his allies as he had always done.

Commissioner James Gordon is an unbreakable man, with an indomitable will and a genuine thirst for justice. He cannot stand criminality in any possible way, and fights for what he believes is right, even sacrificing himself and his private life doing so. Gordon is an excellent marksman and an expert hand-to-hand combatant, trained to face Gotham’s many menaces; he’s also a skilled investigator and a charismatic leader for his agents. Despite being often seen just as a support for heroes like Batman and Robin, Gordon has proved more than once to be a hero by himself, able to stay focus and retain his sanity even in situation in which Batman himself, or even Superman, would have been broken.


Shingen Harada

Lord ShingenFinally back in action! A new trailer for The Wolverine has been released, and, along with it, our first proper look at one of the movie’s villains, Lord Shingen Yashida, portrayed on screen by Hiroyuki Sanada. Not much is known about him in the movie, apart from the fact that he’ll be taking advantage from one of his clan’s members taking away Wolverine‘s powers with unknown means. He also seems to be allied with The Viper, leader (?) of Hydra, and it’s quite positive that he won’t be happy of the relationship between the Canadian mutant and his daughter Mariko. Anyway, let’s see who the character is in the comics.

Lord Shingen’s real name is Shingen Harada, member of one of Japan’s most ancient and noble clans. During his youth, he conceived an illegitimate son who he named Keniuchio, a mutant who would have become one of his most trusted and powerful bodyguards under the codename Silver Samurai. The Harada Clan was by birthright a possible heir to the Imperial Throne of Japan, but Shingen’s ambition wouldn’t have been satisfied with political power and social influence, and decided to turn his family business into a criminal empire. Thanks to Shingen’s work, the Harada name was disgraced, and the young man was banished from his own family; he took upon himself the name Yashida (sometimes spelled Yoshida) and founded yet another clan, which soon became one of the most powerful and feared criminal organization in the East world thanks to the support of hidden powers such as The Hand. Nothing is ever easy when it comes to criminality, and Lord Shingen, for cunning and brilliant as he was, wasn’t immune from mistakes. He contracted a debt with lordshingencomics1another Yakuza crime lord, violent and vulgar Noburu-Hideki. While he publicly announced that he would have settled his debt and strengthened the bond between the two clans giving his own daughter, Mariko, in marriage to Hideki, Shingen was actually planning something different: sure he wanted Mariko to marry his rival, but in order to use her as a bait to kill Hideki and took over his empire, being aided in this plan by The Hand. Unfortunately, something unexpected almost ruined his program: Mariko didn’t want to get married, since she had fallen in love with Logan, an American mutant going under the name “Wolverine”. In order to fulfill his project, Shingen had to discredit Logan to his daughter’s eyes, first, so that she would have obeyed whatever order he would have given to her.

Shingen had Yukio, his best assassin, poison Logan during a banquet, then he personally challenged the mutant in a duel with bokken, the wooden swords normally used for training. Logan, who desperately loved Mariko, accepted, but the huge amount of poison he had been injected with was having his effects despite his healing factor. During the duel, Shingen used his accurate knowledge of human body to hit with his bokken particular nerve-endings, in a way he would have easily killed a normal man. Now fighting for his life, Wolverine drew his adamantium claws out, but this way, with the audience, Mariko included, unaware of the fact that Shingen was trying to kill his opponent, it seemed that it was the mutant cheating during the duel. Defeated and disgraced in front of his beloved Mariko, Wolverine was dumped into the streets of Tokyo; Shingen then sent Yukio to him, with the orders of using the mutants’ abilities to kill another rival of his, a Katsuyori, and to dispose of him immediately after. Mariko was finally married to Hideki, while Shingen’s rivals disappeared one after the other. Mariko, meanwhile, had discovered what her lordshingencomics2father had done to Logan, and swore to kill him; Shingen, unmoved, ignored his daughter’s rage, pleased that everything was proceeding according to his plan. Unfortunately for him, however, Yukio disobeyed his orders and refused to kill Wolverine, since the two of them formed a bond on the battlefield, fighting side by side against Katsuyori’s men, first, and the Hand’s ninjas sent by Shingen himself, later. Seeking vengeance, Wolverine came back to Yashida’s castle and, while Yukio killed Noburu-Hideki, thus saving Mariko, Wolverine came to battle him once again. Not being affected by poison, and fighting without restraints, Logan killed Lord Shingen, unable to withstand the warrior’s fury. Decades later, however, Shingen was resurrected during a magic ritual performed by an agent from the Hand, Phaedra, who formed an army with Wolverine’s deceased enemies. When Phaedra was killed, Shingen managed to escape, ready to start his empire once again.

Lord Shingen Yashida is a very proud and ruthless man, made dangerous by a sharp intelligence and a tactician’s mind. He possesses no superhuman abilities, but he’s a fierce and cold warrior at the peak of human physical possibilities, a master in many martial arts who makes his techniques even more lethal with an accurate knowledge of human anatomy. He also is an expert in assassinating skills, and has an extended knowledge of many poisons and toxins. Leader of one of the most dangerous criminal associations ever existed in Japan, Lord Shingen is an extremely dangerous man, able to do anything to fulfill his goals of power.

Brion Markov (Geo-Force)

Brion MarkovWe’re almost at the end of Arrow‘s first season, and, before the final episode, we get yet another cameo. In last Darkness on the Edge of Town, the authors introduce (and eliminate…) a scientist named Brion Markov, portrayed by Eric Floyd, a geologist who has built for Malcolm Merlyn a device capable of causing an earthquake. Markov is someone the comics’ readers should immediately recognize, even because the machine he invented has effects similar to his powers as Geo-Force, a European superhero (and prince) who had much more importance than the quick cameo in the show. Let’s see together.

Deep in the Alps, somewhere between Switzerland and Italy (or between France and Belgium, versions differ), rose the Kingdom of Markovia, a small and ancient country ruled by wise and peaceful King Viktor Markov. Viktor had two sons from his wife (and a daughter from an unnamed American woman, but this is another story): Gregor, first in line of succession, and Brion, honest and passionate second born. Markovia’s peaceful life was abruptly interrupted when Frederick DeLamb, better known as Baron Bedlam, a Nazi criminal son of the officer who had been installed has a puppet ruler during World War II, invaded the kingdom claiming the throne for himself. King Viktor was the first one to fall, and Gregor inherited the throne in a desperate situation. The royal scientist of Markovia, Dr. Helga Jace, offered her research and knowledge to help the king fighting the invaders, but Gregor, close-minded, refused her help, mocking her research. Brion, on the opposite, decided to give the woman a chance, since the destiny of his own home depended on it: Dr. Jace’s experiments gave Brion superhuman powers, specifically geoforcecomics1geokinesis and gravity manipulation. With his new abilities, Brion fought side-to-side with his soldiers to defeat Baron Bedlam’s forces, but that proved to be not enough. Finally, even some American superheroes intervened in the war for different reasons: veterans Batman and Black Lightning (who were searching for Lucius Fox, prisoner of Bedlam) and Metamorpho (wanting to ask for Jace’s help with his powers) and new heroes Katana (who sought vengeance against General Karnz, Bedlam’s second) and Halo, an amnesiac girl found by Batman. Thanks to their help, Brion eventually defeated Bedlam, thus securing his brother’s throne, and became a national hero. Brion ended up admiring the superheroes that helped him winning his country back, and decided to spend some time in America, under Batman’s tutelage, so that he could learn how to properly use his powers and, most of all, how to spend them for the better good.

The entire team of heroes who had fought in Markovia stayed together, under Batman’s leadership, in the first formation of the Outsiders. With the codename Geo-Force, Brion became one of the most powerful members of the team, but he lacked the basis of cooperation: for someone like Brion, born in a royal family, not used to discuss with anyone who wasn’t a Markov, being in a team geoforcecomics2wasn’t an easy task; Batman, on his side, didn’t have for the young prince any particular attention, and pretended him to obey his orders just as everyone else. Brion, who was used to give orders instead of receiving them, at first clashed with the Dark Knight on several occasions, but Batman ended up gaining the boy’s trust and respect. An unexpected twist happened in Brion’s life when the Outsiders teamed up with the Teen Titans, the supergroup led by Robin. In the fellow superheroes’ ranks, Geo-Force recognized Terra as his long time lost half-sister, Tara Markov, who had been sent to America when she was an infant (Viktor Markov, fearing a scandal, had left the baseborn child with her mother). Brion was happy to be reunited with his sister, but decided not to tell anything to Tara, yet. Unknown to everyone, however, the girl had been brainwashed by Deathstroke the Terminator, and was acting as a spy on his behalf; when her powers went out of control, she got killed. The Titans told Brion she had died a hero, but Batman, some times later, told him the truth. Geo-Force became quite depressed, and managed to came back to his superhero activity only changing his costume (the first one reminded him of Tara). When Batman left the team, Geo-Force became the new (unofficial) leader, and Markovia funded the team: it was during this time that dr. Jace, who was now working with the Manhunters, killed his brother. Brion claimed the throne, but his sister-in-law, Iona, was pregnant. After dealing with Jace, Geo-Force married his girlfriend, Denise Howard, becoming regent until the time his nephew, Gregor Jr., would have come of age.

Brion Markov is a proud and strong ruler, intelligent and with a strong sense of duty, limited only by his lack of humility and his innate arrogance, which makes him believe to be better then common people just for being of regal family. As Geo-Force, he possesses many powers: his gravity manipulation makes him able to manipulate Earth’s gravitational field, but also to control his molecular density, thus gaining super strength and durability; he can also use gravity for flying or for creating force fields around himself or others. His geokinesis make him able to manipulate earth, transforming and shaping the ground, causing earthquakes or even channeling the planet’s energy in lava blasts. He’s stronger the nearer he is to Earth (in direct contact with the ground or with lava he can also heal from mortal wounds), while he grows weaker far from the planet’s surface. Extremely powerful and willing to prove himself, Geo-Force is thorn between his planet’s and his people’s defense, always trying to do the right thing for both.

Peter Joseph “Pete” Ross

Pete RossOther pics from Man of Steel arrived, and with them, our first look to young Clark Kent‘s best friend, Pete Ross, portrayed by teen actor Jack Foley. While his role in the movie is yet to be revealed, it’s unlikely that he’ll be something more than the childhood friend who disappears once Clark becomes an adult and moves to the big city, Metropolis. More or less, it’s what happened to the only other live action incarnation of the character, Sam Jones III‘s one in Smallville. After being one of the series’ regular in the first three seasons, Pete (who is actually the first person Clark reveals “his secret” to) is abruptly cut from the show, and he comes back only once in Season 7 with Elongated Man-like powers granted to him by a Kryptonite chewing-gum (…). Now, let’s see together who Pete Ross is in the comics.

Peter Joseph Ross was born somewhere in North America, but he moved with his family in SmallvilleKansas, when he was still very young. He grew up with Clark Kent, a boy his age, son of the old farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, and the two of them soon became best friends. Everything proceeded as normal in the boring and happy life in Smallville, until the day Pete, while in camping with the Kents, saw Clark changing clothes and becoming the teenage superhero Superboy. Pete didn’t tell even Clark that he knew his secret, and decided he would have helped his heroic friend the best he could with his own resources. Every time Clark had to suddenly disappear in order to save the day, Pete invented some story to cover him up with their friend Lana Lang or someone else that was present, and once he even disguised himself as Superboy to protect Clark. Nobody noticed his efforts, apart from the Legion of Super-Heroes, apeterosscomics1 team of future heroes from the 31st century that knew everything Pete was doing, and made him a honorary member of the team, foreseeing that Pete’s knowledge of Superboy’s identity would have saved the Kryptonian‘s life in the near future. Pete eventually grew to be an adult, got married with an unnamed woman and became widowed shortly after; he had a son from his wife, Jonathan, a sad boy who lost the will to live when he was still very young. Superman himself saved the boy’s life, visiting him by night and revealing his secret identity to him, thus making the boy his friend. Jonathan, however, was a very unlucky boy, and after a short time he got kidnapped by some aliens, the Nrvynians. Pete, clearly worried, went to Clark, and told him that he knew about him being Superman, and asked him to bring his son back. Superman tried, but understood that the Nrvynians had foreseen that Jonathan, under their guidance, would have soon saved the universe, and he could not bring him back to Earth yet. He tried to explain the situation to his friend, but Pete suffered a nervous breakdown, that brought him to use one of Lex Luthor‘s old weapons to come back in time and swap his mind with Superboy’s, then he came back to the present, arrested Superman and put him on trial for his “crimes”, kidnapping Lana Lang, Lois LanePerry WhiteSteve Lombard and Jimmy Olsen and using them as jury. Past Superboy managed to take back control of his body, and Pete was brought to a mental institution. He gain his sanity back only when Superman returned Jonathan to him, and the two became friends once again.

After Crisis on Infinite Earth, Pete’s past, along with the one of almost every character in the DC Universe, was significantly changed (it was revealed that “old” Pete still existed in a Pocket Universe created by Time Trapper, but he was ultimately killed by Kryptonians criminals General Zod, Quex-Ul and Zaora when the three of them, freed by Lex Luthor, went on a killing spree decimating their universe). Pete never learnt of Superboy’s true identity as a teenager, nor he helped Clark maintain his secret identity. The two were still peterosscomics2friends, but just normal pals spending time together and competing for beautiful Lana Lang’s attentions. As an adult, he eventually married Lana Lang, but he always thought he was just a second choice for her, and that she was still in love with Clark (actually, unknown to Pete, Lana knew that Clark was Superman, so their bond was different from what he thought). They had a son, Clark Peter Ross, but they eventually divorced, since Pete never accepted to live with Clark’s memory between him and his wife. He became a senator, and Vice-President under Lex Luthor’s government. It was Luthor that informed him that his childhood friend Clark Kent was actually Earth’s mightiest hero, Superman. When Luthor was arrested, Pete briefly became President himself, but resigned almost immediately. After informing Clark about his knowledge of his secret identity, Pete came back to Smallville with his son, and opened a General Store, coming back to the calm and peaceful life he missed so much when he was at the White House.

Pete Ross is essentially a next door guy, a normal person often involved in not so normal adventures. Basically honest and good-hearted, he’s ready to do anything for the people he loves, being them his friends or his family. An expert politician and a good man, Pete is maybe the right man in the wrong place under Luthor’s government.

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl)

batgirlfilmSecond DLC character has been revealed for Injustice: Gods Among Us, but, at least for me, it’s quite disappointing: after Lobo, we get Batgirl, the seventh character from the Batman franchise (too many, in my opinion). Batgirl’s first live action appearance was in Batman tv series, with Yvonne Craig donning the cape and turning the Dynamic Duo in a Terrific Trio. She then appeared in Batman & Robin, with her name slightly changed into Barbara Wilson and her origin modified, so that she was Alfred Pennyworth‘s niece instead of Commissioner Gordon‘s adoptive daughter. In the movie, she turned from biker to superheroine in one night, thus showing that anyone can enter the Batman Family without training or psychological tests. She then appeared in short-lived Birds of Prey tv series, portrayed by Dina Meyer: during the pilot, Batgirl was shot and paralyzed by the Joker, and years later she became Oracle to assist her mentor’s daughter, the Huntress. Last but not least, Barbara had a couple of cameos in Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy, as an infant in Batman Begins, and as a red-haired child in The Dark Knight, portrayed by Hannah Gunn (she is only mentioned in the third one). Now, let’s see together who in the comics is Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl.

While in the first version of the character Barbara Gordon was the biological daughter of James Gordon, her origins have been rebooted, making her the daughter of Roger and Thelma Gordon. Her life was quite a peaceful one, despite Roger having an issue with alcoholism. Even as a child, she dreamt of being a superheroine, and with her best friend of that time, Marcy, she spent all of her free time drawing herself as a masked crime fighter, designing her own costumes and dreaming of her future as a heroine. Her life changed abruptly when her father, driving while being drunk, caused a fatal car accident that killed himself andbatgirlcomics1 his wife. Barbara, only thirteen, was adopted by her uncle, James, police commissioner of one of America’s most violent cities, Gotham City. The girl moved to her uncle’s place, where she was well accepted by James and his wife, who was called Barbara too. She also went along pretty well with her new brothers, James Jr. and Tony, who became her friends. But the best part of her new life was, for Barbara, living in the same city as Batman, one of her favorite and most admired costumed heroes, a chance she didn’t want to miss. She started learning everything she could about the Dark Knight, until the night that, sneaking in her father’s office, she witnessed, unseen, to a conversation between Commissioner Gordon and Batman himself. Barbara didn’t know until then that her father was actually working with the hero, and her passion for them both raised even further; she ended high school extremely fast thanks to her photographic memory (she was the youngest graduated in Gotham Heights High School‘s history), and she insisted to be enrolled in a martial arts class, something that Gordon, worried that his daughter could become the target of some vengeance-seeking criminal, reluctantly allowed. Barbara easily graduated with honors at Gotham State University, while she became the best martial artist student of Phillip “Dragoncat” Parsons, her sensei. Her dream of crime-fighting seemed closer and closer.

Unfortunately, both her father and the local FBI section rejected her request of recruitment, and thus she was forced to accept a position as assistant at Gotham Public Library, a job that wasn’t even near to her desires. Barbara grew hostile towards her father, batgirlcomics2and, when the police decided to host the Million Dollar Masquerade Ball (which every rich and important citizen of Gotham would have attended to), she decided to crash the party, presenting herself with one of the costumes she had designed as a child, the one she had named “Batgirl”. At the party, she realized that someone else had had her same idea, but with different purposes: the masked criminal Killer Moth had broken in, taking billionaire Bruce Wayne as hostage in order to extort millions from the other attenders. Seeing an opportunity for finally be the heroine she always wanted, “Batgirl” attacked Killer Moth, thus freeing Bruce Wayne (who, unknown to her, went to collect his equipment as Batman). After a brief fight, however, Killer Moth had the upper hand, and Barbara was saved only by Batman’s and Robin‘s intervention. Killer Moth and his men escaped because of Batgirl’s unwilling interference, and Batman scolded the girl for being irresponsible and reckless. Not even her hero’s reprove reduced Barbara’s enthusiasm, especially considering that Robin supported her, arriving to the point of revealing her his secret identity. With Dick Grayson‘s help, Batgirl managed to capture Killer Moth on her own, thus obtaining Batman’s approval. The Dark Knight revealed himself as Bruce Wayne, and allowed Barbara to help him in his crusade. Finally, Barbara’s dream was fulfilled.

Barbara Gordon is an extremely brilliant and intelligent girl, full of enthusiasm and driven by a strong sense of justice. Idolizing superheroes since her childhood, she fulfilled her dream of becoming one, thus putting her many talents to the better good’s service. A skilled martial artist (especially jujitsu and kung fu), a genius tactician, gifted with a photographic memory and a natural agility and affinity with computers and machines, Batgirl is a formidable crime fighter, a real asset in the Batman Family.

Robert Bruce Banner (Hulk)

hulkfilmLast character present in recent Iron Man 3 is none other than our favorite green giant, this time in his human persona: Hulk, aka dr. Bruce BannerMark Ruffalo appears in the post credit scene while sleeping at his friend Tony Stark‘s tales, apologizing saying “I’m not that kind of doctor”. The character is one of Marvel’s most popular ever, and he’s been known by the wide audience since 1970s, with the famous tv series starring Bill Bixby as Banner (renamed David Banner, since the production felt Bruce being “too gay a name”) and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. The series spawned four tv movies and created a huge fandom, but the character was abandoned until 2003, when Eric Bana portrayed both Banner and Hulk (thanks to CGI) in Ang Lee‘s Hulk, with the character’s origins slightly changed in order to insert some nod to genetic experiments. Finally, Hulk entered Marvel Cinematic Universe with the face of Edward Norton (later replaced by Ruffalo), and from The Incredible Hulk to The Avengers he’s evolved from a standalone destructive brute to a valuable team member… to be handled with attention. Let’s see together who the Hulk is in the comics.

Robert Bruce Banner was born the son of Brian Banner, a physicist, and Rebecca, his wife. The couple wasn’t very well-balanced, since Brian thought that having a family was the reason for him not to be recognized as a genius in his field. While Rebecca loved Bruce with all her heart, Brian despised him, and didn’t make a secret of it, quite the opposite: the more Rebecca loved her son, hulkcomics1the more Brian hated him, since he saw him as a rival for his wife’s affection. Plus, the scientist was secretly convinced that the radiation he had worked with had given him a mutant son, and Bruce grew up with the certainty of being a monster. After years of physical and psychological abuse, Brian ended up killing his wife while being completely drunk: with his mother dead and his father in jail, Bruce was adopted by an aunt, Susan Banner Drake, who wanted only to grant her nephew a normal life, at least for what she could do. Bruce internalized all his rage and pain, and threw all of his energies into studying, becoming a real child prodigy, especially in scientific subjects. He graduated in Science High School with highest honors, and moved in NavapoNew Mexico, to study nuclear physics at Desert State University. He became in no time the star student of professor Herbert Weller, and, with his mentor’s help, he studied in many universities, among which Pennsylvania State University and California Institute of Technology. An absolute genius, Banner obtained his doctorate without any effort, and became an example for many students of his age, among which future superhero Walter Langkowski and future supervillain Philip Sterns. His intellect allowed him to find a job immediately after his studies, and the army chose him as the leading figure in a secret project in nuclear research facility in Desert Base, New Mexico. Under the authority of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross of the Air Force, Banner developed the G-Bomb, a nuclear bomb with incredible destructive power which possessed a high gamma radiation output. He also met the love of his life, Betty Ross, daughter of the general, and the two started a relation.

It was during the first tests for his bomb that Banner’s life changed forever. A civilian, a teenager named Rick Jones, had inadvertently breached security and entered the restricted test area, just a few moments before the bomb’s detonation. Noticing the boy, Banner told one of his colleagues, Igor Starsky, to suspend the countdown, in order to have time enough to bring the teenager to safety. Unfortunately, Starsky was secretly a KGB agent, and didn’t tell anything to anyone, hoping that Banner would have died in hulkcomics2the explosion, and his incredible mind with him. Banner had just the time to reach Rick Jones and to throw him into a protective trench, before being invested by the explosion. Bruce was hit by an incredible amount of radiations, enough to kill a normal man a thousand times, but something unique in his genetic template (maybe Brian wasn’t totally wrong believing his son to be a mutant) allowed him to survive. It was immediately clear that something went wrong all the same, since Banner turned at every sunset into a gray-skinned giant who called himself “The Hulk”. Banner’s body, in a few months, adapted to the radiations, and from that moment the transformation was triggered by the adrenaline level in his body: every time he was afraid, excited, and especially when he was angry, Banner turned into another monster, this time green-skinned, who retained little or less of Banner’s memory and none of his intellect, a massive brute with a seemingly infinite strength, a danger for whoever was near to him. Clearly, General Ross tried to contain the Hulk and to use him as a weapon for US Army, but thanks to Rick Jones, who felt responsible for the incident, Banner managed to escape the soldiers’ custody. After thwarting a plan from the Russian agent known as the Gargoyle to destroy America, Banner, along with Rick, managed to keep his identity a secret, but abandoned every attempt to run a normal life the moment he understood he couldn’t fully control his “double personality”. He left Betty and his friends, and started a nomadic life, searching for a cure to his state… with little hope to get rid of the Jade Giant sleeping in his subconscious.

Bruce Banner is an absolute genius, a man who immediately understands any kind of scientific language or physical phenomenon, able to rival with other renowned geniuses such as Reed Richards, Tony Stark or Hank Pym. Despite being emotionally broken, with many traumas hidden and denied in his psyche, Banner has a naturally selfless and heroic disposition, a good heart that has made Betty Ross fall in love with him despite his shyness and taciturnity. As the Hulk, Bruce loses all of his intellect and personality (more or less, depending on the Hulk’s incarnations), and becomes an incredibly strong and durable being. The Hulk grows stronger the angrier he gets, with no limit to the physical strength he can reach, thus being one of the strongest creatures in the universe. He also possesses an accelerated healing factor that makes him virtually invulnerable, and an instantaneous adaptation that allows him to survive in any habitat (he is also able to breathe under water or to survive in open space). Being both the knight and the dragon, Bruce Banner constantly strives against himself, in a desperate effort to contain the darker sides of his personality he has always kept deeply buried in his mind, the same sides that the Hulk personifies.

Jack Taggert (Firepower)

firepowerfilmAlmost at the end of the characters from Iron Man 3, and this one was the most disappointing: Jack Taggert, portrayed in the movie by Ashley Hamilton. If you’re asking “Who’s this guy?” I don’t blame you: he appears for something like ten seconds, has a couple of lines with Eric Savin, and then explodes because of an Extremis overdose. Needless to say, in the comics the guy is a little bit more than a living firecracker, and has almost thirty years of publication history at his back. He’s better known as the armored villain Firepower, and we will see together who he is in the comics…

First time we hear about Jack Taggert is when Edwin Cord, CEO of Cordco with a grudge against Tony Stark (a relative of his, some Drexel Cord, was an enemy of Stark, and had died trying to stop his own creation, the robot known as Demolisher), started Project: Firepower, a program sponsored by US Government whose aim was to create a new generation of armored super-soldiers that could have been employed in future wars on foreign territories. The pilot chosen to don the first prototype of the new armor, built with technology stolen in part from Stark Industries, was the mercenary Jack Taggert, a superb fighter and pilot with military training. Taggert started using a simulator, in which he impersonated Firepower in the chase of Iron Man. In the virtual environment he moved in, Taggert learnt to control his armor to perfection, to the point of impressing every single one of his observers: Cord himself, along with Senator Boynton (another rich man with a grudge against Iron Man) and General Meade (who was on Boynton’s pay roll). Boynton had one of his men, Dr. Abrams, teach and train firepowercomics1Taggert, filling him with hatred against Iron Man: when Cord realized it and made Abrams stop, it was too late, and Taggert had become an Iron Man-killing machine. Finally, Taggert successfully completed the simulator and killed the virtual Iron Man, but General Meade was unsatisfied: the weapons Firepower used against his opponent would have destroyed the entire Detroit in a real environment, thus making Taggert untrustworthy. Meade revealed the Government’s real project: instead of using the new armored soldiers for wars abroad, they wanted to employ them on American ground, so that they could have stopped the rising number of superhumans the moment they would have gone out of control; a violent and brutal demonstration such as the one given by Taggert was far too dangerous for the Army. More simulations were ordered, and when Taggert destroyed a number of tanks and planes in less than the twelve seconds estimated by the computer, Cord declared him to be ready for an on-field test. When Senator Boynton expressed his concerns, he was completely ignored.

In order to complete their plan, Cord, Meade and the others contacted Tony Stark, and they ask him to help them destroy Iron Man: not knowing the two were one and the same, they ended up spoiling the ambush they had in mind for the superhero. The next morning, Stark went to the desert, where Firepower was waiting for his adversary. Immediately out of sight, he donned the Silver Centurion armor and engaged battle with Taggert. It was immediately crystal clear that Taggert’s armor was much more powerful, and that Stark, weakened by his alcoholism, was no match for the mercenary’s reflexes. After a long battle, Iron Man was utterly defeated: from land, the spectators only saw Iron Man trying to fly away from the battlefield, and being struck by one of Firepower’s missiles. Private Alvin Barnes, who was a fan of the Armored Avenger since his very childhood, retrieved his idol’s helmet, stained with the hero’s firepowercomics2blood, and declared him dead. In reality, Stark had had just the time to slip out of his armor and had been saved by James Rhodes, who took him away with his helicopter. Firepower’s armor didn’t have a single scratch after the battle; when the Senator and the General tried to collect it, anyway, Cord refused to give it to them, and he and Taggert started their private plan to eradicate Stark Enterprises. With Cord as the brain and Taggert as the brawn, the criminal couple began threatening innocent people so that they didn’t accept Stark’s bids. Once again, Taggert was confronted by Iron Man (this time, it was Rhodey inside of it), but the hero was defeated. Firepower annihilated his enemy, but even this time he ended up destroying an empty armor, with the pilot wounded but safe somewhere else. Finally, Stark decided he would have taken on Firepower personally, and built a new, magnetic armor. During the following fight, Firepower’s advantage wasn’t so strong as before, and Taggert used a hidden trick from his weaponry: he armed a Terminax missile (the same he used to destroy Rhodey’s armor) to explode within thirty seconds in a densely populated zone, so that Iron Man would have sacrificed himself in order to avoid a carnage; the superhero used his new magnetic powers to expel Taggert from his armor, and used Firepower as a shield against the missile, thus saving the day and stopping the bad guy. Taggert, anyway, was far from surrendered, and would have come back in the future.

Jack Taggert is a highly trained mercenary and an excellent pilot, a great tactician and a mostly infallible marksman. He has no moral principles, and he uses his undeniable talents at the service of the best bidder. Thanks to both Cord’s obsession and Abram’s coaching, he has developed a deep grudge against Iron Man, a feeling that only deepened after his first defeat at the ends of Stark. As Firepower, he possesses an incredibly huge and powerful armor, which amplifies his physical attributes and, most of all, gives him access to an extended weaponry. The most formidable weapon in Firepower’s arsenal is the Terminax missile, a high-energy low-radiation explosive powerful enough to erase an entire city. Armed, smart and hateful, Firepower is a dangerous foe for Iron Man.