Jacques Dernier (Frenchie)

frenchiefilmTime for the last member of the Howling Commandos appearing in photo in Captain America: The Winter SoldierJacques Dernier, portrayed by my fellow countryman Bruno Ricci. In The Winter Soldier, Dernier only appears as a face on a poster in the section of the Smithsonian Museum dedicated to the Howling Commandos, but in The First Avenger he was one of the soldiers rescued by Captain America from a prison camp, and one of the Howlers later on. He also appears, once again in photograph only, in a deleted scene from The Avengers, where Cap reads the S.H.I.E.L.D. files of his old friends: his current status is unknown. In the comics, he wasn’t a member of the Howling Commandos, but had the occasion to fight with them nevertheless. Let’s see together.

Jacques Dernier was born in France at the beginning of the XX Century. He wast still young when World War I hit his country, but he learnt to hate war nevertheless seeing the many deaths it brought along. When the war ended, Dernier thought he could have a normal life, but World War II began a few years later, breaking his dreams of peace. At first, Jacques opposed the war, but when Germany attacked France by surprise, invading the neutral Belgium and conquering half of the country in a few days, Dernier realised something had to be done. The Vichy Government, the German authority frenchiecomics1imposed by the Nazis over the occupied country, started ruling the East side of France with the same iron fist the Nazis used in their homecountry, and many young people organised in a Resistance, to oppose the invaders and their collaborators. By that time, Jacques wasn’t so young anymore, but he decided to join the Resistance nevertheless. Thanks to his patriotism and capabilities, he soon became the leader of his cell, and organised many attacks and actions of disturbance and interference. When the Americans finally intervened in the war, French Resistance started cooperating with them, and Jacques was among the ones who liked the most to work with them. From his new friends, he gained the nickname Frenchie, which would have accompanied him throughout all the war.

Once, one of the American operatives he had to help happened to be Nick Fury, a sergeant who commanded the elite squad Howling Commandos. Fury had to recover the daughter of Dr. Zenish, a scientist who had to be escorted to England. Not fully understanding what Fury told him, Dernier believed him to be in love with the girl, and mobilized his entire cell to help Fury “for the sake of romance”. Despite the misunderstandings, from that moment Frenchie became friends with Fury, and the two of them kept in contact. When Dernier was ambushed and captured by the Nazis, one of his fellow partisans, Claire, went in search of Fury and his frenchiecomics2Commandos to ask them to save Dernier…something that the Americans readily complied. Unfortunately, a fake Dernier, a Nazi spy named Hans, took his place in the prison camp, and the Howlers freed the wrong man. Fury however got the knack of the facade, and, after disposing of the spy, he proceeded to free the real Frenchie…who was now able to sabotage the Nazi ammunition warehouse he had come to that region for. Dernier had the occasion to give back the favour when he recognised, among the Howlers’ ranks, Irma, a Nazi spy now posing as a nurse, who had previously tried to lure him into a trap in Paris. Fury at first didn’t want to listen to him, since he felt something for Irma, but eventually the “nurse” led him to a trap, and Fury survived only thanks to Dernier’s intervention. Irma was killed, and the two men strenghtened their friendship. From that moment, Dernier helped the Commandos even more, following them for the battle of the D-Day.

Jacques Dernier is a carefree and sometimes irreverent man, who fights for his country, but tries to enjoy life in spite of war. He’s a capable leader for his cell of Resistance, and he’s a capable combatant and an expert in explosives. Often joking about the prejudices on French people, and truly caring about the outcome of the war despite what his attitude suggests, Dernier is one of the Howling Commandos’ most precious allies.

James Morita

jimmoritafilmWaiting for the new (or spoilerish) guys, we have another member of the Howling Commandos portrayed on a poster in the Smithsonian Museum from Captain America: The Winter SoldierJim Morita, portrayed by Kenneth Choi. In the first movie, he’s a war prisoner from Fresno who’s rescued by Captain America from a Nazi camp, and who joins him in his Howling Commandos for the rest of the war. He also appears, in photo, in a deleted scene from The Avengers, while Rogers looks at some files S.H.I.E.L.D. has given him about his friends: the only one along with James Falsworth, Morita is reported as “deceased”, succumbing either to war or to old age. In the comics, Morita isn’t a member of the Howling Commandos, but surely has something to do with them. Let’s check it out.

Jim Morita was born in San Francisco, the only son of a couple of Japanese immigrants who had reached the United States in search of work. Life wasn’t easy from the beginning, being him a Nisei (a second-generation Japanese), but when Second World jimmoritacomics1War started, and the States entered the conflict because of a direct attack from Japan in Pearl Harbor, Morita became a real social paria, seen by his neighbors as some sort of enemy behind their lines. In order to clean up his name, and to serve the country he actually truly cared for, Jim enlisted in the US Army, ignoring all the racist comments his fellow soldiers directed to him during the training. His perseverance, determination and overall capability gained the attention of Captain Sam Sawyer, the man behind the creation of the Howling Commandos. Sawyer recognized some potential in the young recruit, and proposed him to enter a special strike team, the Nisei Squad, entirely composed of second generation Japanese soldiers: the Squad was meant, on a side, to limit the spreading racism inside the normal troops, while on the other it promoted a positive look over Japanese people among the American population. Totally devoted to the cause, both the Nisei and the American one, Jim gladly accepted.

Jim Morita became a Ranger, and was immediately assigned to the Nisei Squad, where he soon was promoted to a position of command thanks to his numerous skills, both tactical and military. Once, the Nisei Squad was assigned the mission of freeing Dr. Warren Parker, a precious American scientist, from a Nazi concetration camp. During the mission, Morita met Nick Fury, a sergeant leader of the Howling jimmoritacomics2Commandos, and the two became friends. Their two teams allied to free Parker, and they brilliantly accomplished the mission. They met again to defend Able Company‘s base from the evil counterpart of the Howling Commandos, the Blitzkrieg Squad, led by Nazi officer Colonel Klaue. During another mission, however, Morita got captured by Nazis, and he and his surviving teammates were locked into a POW camp. Thanks to his Japanese inheritage, Morita was believed to be a traytor and a collaborator by his fellow prisoners, making his life even harder in the prison. Despite being badly considered by everyone, Morita contacted Fury and orchestrated with him the liberation of all his fellow prisoners, putting up a massive evasion. The moment he saved all the people who plainly distrusted and despised him, Morita was finally recognised as the hero he had always been.

Jim Morita is a strong and good-hearted man, an idealist who fights, more than for his country, for the people inhabiting it. He’s an accomplished fighter, an expert tactician and a skilled parachutist, an expert of explosives and a proficient stealth operator. Overall, he’s a great karate fighter, able to use his skills also in the midst of a battle. Fighting for many people who despise him because of the color of his skin and the shape of his eyes, Morita is a hero born, committed to redeem his name and honor.

James Montgomery Falsworth (Union Jack)

unionjackfilmTime for the second member of the Howling Commandos spotted on a poster in Captain America: The Winter Soldier: celebrated at the Smithsonian with his squad companions, stands the British hero James Montgomery Falsworth, portrayed by JJ Feild. In the first movie, he was a war prisoner rescued by Captain America, and later one of his allies during the war, following him as part of his Commandos. He’s also spotted in a deleted scene from The Avengers, where Cap reads the files of his old friends in possession of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Falsworth is reported as “Deceased”. In the comics, Falsworth is much more than a simple sidekick: he’s a superhero on his own, who never was part of the Howling Commandos, but made the Nazis have nightmares about him nevertheless. Let’s see together.

Son of English nobleman William Falsworth, James Montgomery was born at the beinning of the XX Century near Dymhurst, a village close to his family’s residence, the Falsworth Manor. He had a younger brother, John, but the relationship of the two siblings wasn’t one of the best, always competing one with the other for their parents’ unionjackcomics1favor. When William died, being the eldest, James inherited everything, title and patrimony, and John, embittered, left England to search his own fortune. When World War I began, James joined his country’s military effort, and entered the Army; he went through an intensive training that transformed him into a one-man army, and became a secret operative for His Majesty, a costumed freedom fighter known as Union Jack. During the war, he met other British masked heroes, such as Phantom EagleSir Steel, the Crimson Cavalier and the Silver Squire, and allied with them forming the strike team Freedom’s Five. Together, the heroes were nearly unstoppable, and they defeated Germany and its forces more than once. Their most dangerous foe became an English vampire who worked for the Germans, Baron Blood, who secretly was James’ brother, John, who had been enslaved by Dracula himself. At the end of the war, James finally defeated Baron Blood, wounding him with a silver dagger, and the vampire escaped. When the war was over, Lord Falsworth came back to his mansion, married a local woman, and had two children, Brian and Jacqueline.

Peace was short-lived, as Second World War was approaching: James had a fight with his son over England’s recent policies, since he despised Neville Chamberlaine‘s favor towards Adolf Hitler‘s regime, while the young Falsworth embraced a pacifist and unionjackcomics2isolationist view, and Brian decided to leave for Germany. When the war started, German newspapers portrayed Brian as a personal friend of Hitler, a turning point that deeply saddened James. During the 1941 blitz over England, James’ wife was killed, an event that led Falsworth to don the Union Jack costume once again. His old nemesis, Baron Blood, had returned as well, and he was fighting on the Nazis’ side: their decennial battle started again, and Union Jack met the Invaders, an American superhero team who he befriended, seeing in them something similar to his old friends, the Freedom’s Five. During the final battle with Baron Blood, Union Jack managed to kill the vampire, but his legs got shattered, and he became crippled for all his life. His place in the Invaders was taken by both his repented son, who had become the new Union Jack, and by his daughter, who had been transformed into the superheroine Spitfire. Unable to fight, Falsworth kept helping his children and friends with intel, and, after the war, he finantially supported the V Battalion, an all-British superhero team his son was part of: Baron Blood could have crippled his body, but certainly not his spirit.

James Montgomery Falsworth is a proud and noble man, deeply committed to his role as a fighter for justice; despite being quite disillusioned towards his romantic view of war because of all the carnage and bloodshed he had to witness during World War I, his ideals are strong enough to bring him back on the field for World War II only a few years after. As Union Jack, he’s a superb athlete and hand-to-hand combatant, probably one of the best fighters ever. He carries a silver dagger strapped to his left arm, and a Webley .455 gun tied to the right one. An excellent marksman and swordsman, Falsworth is a hero at heart, who truly fights for what he firmly believes is right.

Gabriel Jones

Captain America: The First AvengerFinally, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been released (in my country at least), and there’s quite a lot of people to speak about. Since many other countries, US included, will have to wait another little bit to see it, we’ll start from the old acquaintances. In the movie, Steve Rogers visits the Smithsonian Museum, where a permanent installation about him and his old team, the Howling Commandos, is displayed. There’s a picture for everyone, Gabe Jones included: he was portrayed by Derek Luke in the first movie, and he accompanied Rogers in his missions after being saved by him from a prison camp. The character already appeared in a much older version in Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., portrayed by Ron Canada; in the movie, he acted as one of Nick Fury‘s oldest friend, and one of the leaders of S.H.I.E.L.D. The comics version is somewhat a fusion between the two: let’s see together.

Gabriel Jones was born and raised in New York City, in the late 1920s. He became an orphan when he was still young, and was raised by his uncle, Bill Jones. Bill was a jazz lover, and he transmitted his passion to his nephew, who became a great trumpeter, trained by one of Bill’s many friends, Louis Armstrong himself. His talent soon reached a peek, and Gabe was invited by his uncle to play in his nightclub, becoming renowned as one of the most accomplished trumpeters in town, often paired up with his best friend, Danny Bellam, a drummer. When the war engulfed Europe, Jones decided his dreams of being a musician were less important than saving lives, and joined the Army. He couldn’t leave his trumpet, however, and his talent with music got the attention of some officers, who had him study classic German gabejonescomics1music in order to better understand the enemy. An expert in a very peculiar field, Jones was also a capable and brave soldier, who earned the respect of one of his supervisors, Captain Sawyer. Sawyer chose him to be part of a team he was putting together, the First Attack Squad, an occasion that Jones, being an Afroamerican often discharged because of racial issues, just couldn’t miss. Serving in the Squad, Jones met his on-field commander, Sgt. Nick Fury, who would have transformed the First Attack Squad into the legendary Howling Commandos. Gabe Jones became close friend with his teammates, and learnt another kind of music: the machineguns’ one, which he proved to be quite capable with as well. However, his trumpet was still his favourite instrument, and he often played to cheer up his friends during marches or after-battle parties, or even during the battle itself, proving the versatility of music.

Jones fought many Nazis, including the infamous Baron Zemo and Baron Strucker, but his nemesis soon became Otto, a flute player chosen as his doppleganger in the Nazi Blitzkrieg Squad. Near the end of the war, Jones was assigned with a personal mission: he had to find Danny Bellam, his old drummer friend, who apparently had escaped holding a dangerous, experimental virus from a Nazi lab. After some researches, Gabe found his band companion, but Danny, not wanting any of the two sides have the bio-weapon, had swallowed the virus: the only thing Jones could do, was to stand by his friend until he closed his eyes forever. Back in Paris, Gabe met Carla Williams, a singer, who he fell in love with: at the end of the war, the two of them came back to the States, but eventually their engagement broke up for unknown reasons. Gabe started gabejonescomics2his career as a jazz player once again, but when he knew his fellow Howling Commandos were enlisting for the Korea War, he joined as well, reuniting with his old friends. Back from yet another war he managed to survive to, Jones was called by his leader and friend, Nick Fury, to serve with him into S.H.I.E.L.D., the intelligence organization Fury soon became the director of. Some of the big bosses had some doubts regarding Gabriel Jones being a high-ranking officer from the very beginning, but when a new subversive organization, the Secret Empire, was born, Jones single-handedly infiltrated it and dismantled it from the inside. Now enjoying the favorable opinion of the S.H.I.E.L.D. big names, Jones was ready to fight the likes of HYDRA and other world menaces.

Gabriel Jones is a carefree a cheerful man, despite war has somehow hardened his natural attitude. As a professional soldier and spy, Gabe is a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and a good marksman, whose weapon of choice is the machinegun; he’s also an excellent sharpshooter, and a good tactician. His main and most advanced skill, however, is his musical one, being one of the best trumpeters ever born. Loyal and honorable, Gabe Jones is one of Fury’s best friends and most trusted agents, a man who’s always ready to risk his life for his country and the ideals he believes in.

Carina Tivan

Carina TivanA recent interview with James Gunn, director of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, named a character we already saw appearing at the end of Thor: The Dark WorldCarina, portrayed by Ophelia Lovibond. In The Dark World, she acted as an aide to The Collector, and welcomed Volstagg and Sif to her master’s zoo. She is set to appear in the Guardians movie as well, and it’s likely she’ll have a secondary role, again acting as the personal assistant of The Collector. As everyone who had read the comics knows, however, Carina’s original version is much more than an aide to The Collector: she’s his daughter. Let’s see together.

Carina was born eons ago, daughter of Taneleer Tivan, one of the Elders of the Universe better known as The Collector, and his wife Matani. When she was still young (as well as it’s hard to describe “young” for an eternal being) she grew tired of her parents’ life, which consisted of continuous meditation and self-perfectioning. She left Taneleer and Matani, and started traveling carinativancomics1the universe, exploring it. After her departure, her mother died out of boredome, giving up her own immortality. Millennia after, Carina was contacted by her father, who asked her to take part to a dangerous mission aimed to the safety of the universe: a human from 31st Century, Michael Korvac, had reached their timeline in order to conquer the universe with his cosmic power, and Tivan wanted his daughter to pretend to be in love with him and to spy on him on his behalf. Carina agreed, and after receiving by her father a human body, she posed as Carina Walters, and seduced Korvac. Something unexpected however happened: she truly fell in love with Walter, who later became her husband. She shared his dream of bringing order to the universe, and rebelled to her father, The Collector. She also revealed to Korvac Tivan’s plan, and had him killed by her husband,

When The Avengers were informed of the threat Korvac represented, they teamed up with the Guardians of the Galaxy (a heroic team from the future, who warned them of the menace) and battled him and Carina. Thanks to his enormous power, Korvac defeated all the heroes with no effort, killing many of them. At the end, Korvac was subdued by the combined power of Thor, the VisionIron Man and Starhawk, and looked to Carina for support. The woman, however, was now horrified by all the carnage her husband had unleashed, and was unwilling to help. Sensing her hesitation, Korvac killed himself. carinativancomics2Realizing what had happened, Carina went wild, and defeated the remaining heroes. At the end, only a weakened Thor stood to face her: wanting to reunite with her fallen husband, she used her cosmic power to force Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, to hit her with all its might, lowering her defenses in the process. She was killed by the God of Thunder, and tried to reach for her beloved one’s hand before dying, but she was eventually unable to touch him. Her dispersed energy was regathered years later by Hank Pym, who was trying to resurrect his deceased wife Janet Van DyneWasp‘s personality influenced Carina, who decided to leave a returned Korvac and to be a heroine, for a change.

Carina is a “young” Elder of the Universe, who still has to gain complete control over her powers and her emotions alike. She is incredibly powerful, since she can manipulate matter at a molecular level, travel through space and time, sense other realities or timelines, resurrect deceased creatures and modify their appearance and consciousness, and many other things. Despite being eons-old, her personality and maturity are similar to an Earth woman in her after-teens, and she tends to be overwhelmed by her feelings, being them her love for Korvac or her rage for his death. Just as dangerous as she is unstable, Carina may have truly changed and embraced a life of heroism, but only time will tell.

Zoe Torres

Zoe LawtonFinally, after yet another hyatus, Arrow is back with juicy episode Suicide Squad, in which we meet again a lot of old characters, and very briefly a couple of new ones. Besides the funny cameo from Harley Quinn (you can already find her bio on this blog), there’s yet another appearance, albeit in photo only: Zoe Lawton, the daughter Deadshot is risking everything for. She appears in many pictures nailed to the marksman’s cell’s walls, and she acts as the perfect lever that allows John Diggle to save the life of his former arch-nemesis and now unlikely friend and ally. Despite being much of a secondary character in the comics as well, let’s see who this little girl is.

Having a normal life isn’t an easy task if you’re an assassin for hire, especially if you’re probably the best one the market has to offer. This, however, didn’t prevent Floyd Lawton, better known as Deadshot, from trying. Floyd married a woman named Susan, and the two had a son, Eddie. After a while, Susan decided to divorce from her husband because of the dangerous life he led, but still loved him, so she didn’t change her name or her son’s one. This proved to be a grave mistake, since some enemies of Dedshot tracked her down and killed her son, while Floyd himself couldn’t do anything but to avenge the kid. From that moment, Susan changed name and became known as Michelle Torres. Despite the tragedy, however, Michelle/Susan still loved zoelawtoncomics1her husband, and decided to give him another chance. They came back together, and some months later they had another child: Zoe, who took her mother’s name for safety. Zoe represented for Lawton his chance of redemption, the best part of him, and he wanted to keep her away from all the horrors that had killed Eddie. He gave up his old life for her, and decided to retire to become a family man.

Despite Lawton’s best intentions, his old life hadn’t finished with him, even if he thought he had finished with it. The Lawtons moved to Star City, and lived a normal life as long as Deadshot’s past allowed it: their peace, however, was meant to be short-lived. One day, Zoe went to the park with her parents to spend an afternoon all together, but three old enemies showed up: Lady Vic, a British mercenary extremely able with blades, and the sisters Double Dare, two acrobats and thieves. A battle ensued, with Deadshot clearly in disadvantage, since he thought of protecting his family more than defeating his enemies. Realising this, Michelle took Zoe away, found a safe spot for her, and then came back to help her husband. Finally, Lawton defeated the three women, and was about to kill one of the Double Dare, when he realised his daughter was watching him from her shelter: he decided to let the girl live, in order to spare Zoe the sight of her father killing somebody. The incident, however, convinced Lawton that it was too late for him to become a zoelawtoncomics2family man, and made him take the resolve of leaving his family in order to protect his wife and daughter. The same night, he called Michelle on the phone and told her he wouldn’t have come back home ever again. Zoe, who perfectly knew why her father was calling, started crying desperately. In the following days, Deadshot patroled Zoe’s neighborhood, cleaning up the streets in order to protect his daughter, but he soon realised he was still putting her in danger by staying so close to her. He swallowed his pride and asked Green Arrow to protect his family on his behalf, then left Star City, never to be seen again.

Zoe Torres is a sweet girl, truly fond of her father, Floyd Lawton. She suffers much anytime he’s away, and she’s overwhelmingly happy when he comes back to her. Her dream was to have a united family, so when Deadshot says his last farewell, she’s deeply wounded by his departure, despite understanding in some way that her father went away only to protect her.

Stelios

steliosfilmLast character present in 300: Rise of an Empire (at least, until Xerxes isn’t released): Stelios, portrayed by Michael Fassbender. In the movie, he appears in a single, brief sequence, as he follows his king Leonidas to the Thermopylae to fight the mighty army of Xerxes, while Themistocles resolves to search aid somewhere else. In the first movie, he had much a bigger role, as he was featured as one of the strongest warriors from Leonidas’ guard, who distinguished himself for his acrobatic skills during the battle. Of course, he died fighting, but he fought quite well nevertheless. Let’s see together who Stelios is in the comics.

Stelios was born in Sparta, the most formidable military power in all Greece. Still very young, he deployed unique fighting skills, able to put him on par with more experienced combatants. During the agoge (the final test for adulthood that every stelioscomics1young Spartan had to attend to) and later the military training, Stelios proved to be quite a promise for the army, a creative fighter and a disciplined soldier, who could unite the combat techniques of Sparta with his own acrobatic skills, creating an infallible killing machine any enemy would have been afraid of. When, in Persia, the old King Darius died, and his son Xerxes took his place, it soon became clear that the son’s ambition to conquer Greece was exactly like his father’s. When a messenger came to Sparta to propose a treaty, one that would have made Sparta a slave city of Persia, King Leonidas killed the messenger in response, and prepared to move to stop the invasion, buying time for the other cities to gather and form a proper army. Leonidas personally selected 300 of his best warriors, and among them, unexpectedly, featured also Stelios, by far the youngest in the small company, chosen for his skills despite his lack of experience, destined to fight toe-to-toe with some of the most legendary soldiers Sparta had ever seen.

During the march to reach the pass of Thermopylae, where the stand would have taken place, after three days under the hot sun without food nor water, Stelios stumbled on a rock: this was an unforgivable sign of weakness for a Spartan, even for a young one like him, and he knew it. He waited for his punishment, which promptely arrived: Captain Artemis started beating him savagely, with the intent of killing him on place. Leonidas, however, stelioscomics2decided otherwise, and ordered the Captain to stop…but Artemis didn’t hear him. The king didn’t repeat himself, and knocked out his friend, then ordering Stelios, now nicknamed Stumblios, to carry his “asleep” captain on his shoulders until they reached the Thermopylae. Grateful for having been spared despite his “unworthyness”, Stelios complied. Once the Spartans engaged the Persians in battle, it was clear Leonidas’ choice had been a wise one: Stelios fought better than many experienced soldiers, using his youth’s energies to accomplish tasks impossible for the others (such as jumping four-meters high to kill an enemy commander, thus leaving his ranks confused without his orders). When the Persians threatened the Spartans by saying their archers where so numerous that the arrows would have covered the sun, Stelios boastfully answered that it was no problem, the Spartans would have fought in the shade. This and many other deeds proved to Leonidas and to the other that, despite his young age, Stelios surely was a true Spartan.

Stelios is a young and inexperienced warrior, but a brave and proud one nevertheless. He’s extremely skilled with both sword and spear, and he uses his unborn agility to perform nearly-superhuman actions in battle. Boastful with his enemies, but humble with his superior officers, Stelios is the perfect Spartan warrior, with no fear of death, eager to prove his valor.