Howard the Duck

Howard the DuckOk, this one is quite a surprise. Among the many cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s also one that will make most of the fans feel reaaaaally nostalgic: in Knowhere, near the end of the movie, a familiar alien will be seen drinking and chatting with The Collector, and that’s Howard the Duck. Exactly. The character already appeared in a notorious movie, Howard the Duck of course, where he was a shy and honest citizen of Duckworld teleported on our planet during a failed experiment conducted by Dr. Walter Jenning. Unfortunately, along with him also a Dark Overlord of the Universe, a space-conqueror looking like a giant, monstrous scorpion, arrived: clearly, it will be up to Howard to send the baddy where it came from. Hopefully, the new version will be closer to the original one: not shy, not politically correct, and not so clumsy. Just like the one we’re speaking about here.

Very little is known of Howard the Duck’s past (not even his surname, actually): he was born in New Stork City, one of the main cities on Duckworld, an alternate Earth on which the dominant species evolved from birds rather than from apes. Life proceeded normally on his planet, until an unfortunate event took place: Thog the Overmaster, aka the Nether-Spawn, decided it was time to unite all the different realities into one, a realm he alone would have ruled. His nemesis, the old Dakhim the Enchanter, recruited a team from all the realities involved in the demon’s plan: Korrek the Barbarian from Katharta, his own disciple Jennifer Kale, the creature known as Man-Thing, guardian of Earth’s Nexus of All Realities, and of course Howard the Duck. The battle that ensued eventually saw the heroes victorious, and Thog was forced to abandon his goals. Dakhim and Man-Thing created portals to brihowardtheduckcomics1ng Howard and Korrek back to their worlds, but while he was walking on the Stepping Stones of Oblivion (a magic path connecting different dimensions), Howard fell into the dimensional pit. Fearing he would have found himself in an another dimension entirely, Howard ended up in Cleveland, Ohio, on Earth again…a fate even worse than he expected: stranded on a strange planet inhabited by hairless evolved apes, Howard had to find a way to make a living out of his scarce abilities, a task that proved to be even tougher than it looked. The first people from Ohio Howard met weren’t exactly friendly: he faced Garko the Man-Frog, a mutant who ended up being run over by a police car during his battle with Howard, and Bessie the Hellcow, a vampire cow turned into an undead by Dracula himself back in the XVII century. Howard fought Bessie in the attempt of getting a job in the local police, and after a fierce battle with the vampire cow, during which Howard bravely fought with a broomstick and a crucifix-shaped lug wrench; eventually the heroical duck managed to impale the demonic beast. Unfortunately, he was denied the job he was looking for, since he was a duck. Apparently, humans got some issue with racism.

While looking for a job, Howard got himself involved in the attack of another dreadful villain (sort of…), Pro-Rata, the Cosmic Accountant. This time, Howard was helped by none other than the superhero Spider-Man (who had some problems believing he had been teaming-up with a talking duck), but the meeting that influenced Howard’s life the most was the one with Beverly Switzler, a nice young lady who took pity on the poor stranger and decided to take him in at her place. Finally, Howard had at least a place he could call home. He became close friends of Beverly, and he even impressed her with his heroic tendencies: eventually, the two started feeling romantic about each other, and started a relationship destined to last for many years. Still trying to make something of his life, Howard used his martial arts skills to become a howardtheduckcomics2professional wrestler, a career that brought to him even more colourful enemies such as the Turnip-Man and the Kidney Lady. He also ended up having a nemesis, the geneticist Doctor Bong. Eventually, trying to get a normal life, Howard and Beverly moved to New York City (a place that oddly resembled New Stork City, only with humans), where he started associating with a minor political party, the All-Night Party. Quite unexpectedly, the All-Nighters ended up offering Howard the candidacy to the presidency of the United States of America, and Howard accepted. The duck’s ideas proved to be quite dangerous for somebody, and his enemies hired the evil Doctor Angst and the Band of the Bland to kill him. Not only Howard survived, but he also defeated his would-be assasins thanks to the help of the Defenders. Angst’s efforts proved to be useless, as most of the Americans refused to believe Howard was real and, taking him as a dwarf in a duck costume, they believed his candidacy to be a joke. Despite his political defeat, Howard decided he would have made Earth his home, a place he would have gladly lived in. First of all, he had to find a job. As always.

Howard the Duck is a cynical and ill-tempered duck, an alien who found himself stranded on a parallel dimension and had to learn how to live in it. Unfortunately, the new dimension has a few attraction to Howard, mainly his beloved Beverly, and his even more-beloved cigars. Howard has no superhuman (or superduck) powers, only a sharp intellect and an incredible amount of good luck, that allow him to get through any kind of situation; he however possesses a special sensibility that allows him to see through reality (he often knows to be in a comicbook), and Dr. Strange found in him a natural talent for magic, also teaching him to cast a couple of spells. Over the time he has used a variety of weapons, from a trident given to him by Daimon Hellstrom to an iron suit built for him by Iron Man, but his all-time favourite is a giant gun he calls BFG (Big Freaking Gun), a special gift from Morbius the Living Vampire. Howard is also a master of Quak-Fu, a martial art from Duckworld that makes him an unexpectedly proficient hand-to-hand combatant. Constantly unemployed and often in clash with some authority, Howard is one of Earth’s most improbable heroes, ready to do his duty…everytime he feels like it.

Gabriel Stokes

Gabriel StokesSDCC also allowed us to watch the first trailer for Season 5 of The Walking Dead, and it was quite a blast. Among the many known faces, we had a very quick glimpse at a newcomer, who’ll be one of the recurring characters of the seasons; at a certain point, we can clearly see a priest weeping against a bench: that’s Gabriel Stokes, portrayed by Seth Gilliam. Originally, Gilliam was cast as some unknown Michael Todd, but this proved to be just a cover-casting for Gabriel, one of the comics’ characters that many were waiting for. Little or nothing is known for now regarding the tv-series version, apart that he’ll have some sort of a double nature, cheerfull and friendly on one side, tragically haunted by a dark secret on the other. In the meanwhile, let’s see who he is in the comics.

As for many others, little or less is known about Gabriel Stokes’ life prior to the outbreak and the beginning of what he saw as the Apocalypse. We can assume he was a deeply religious person, since, still very young, he became the reverend of a small church based on a regional community. He thought to be quite the holy man, serving his “flock” as well as he could, until an unexpected emergency proved him wrong: when the dead started rising and feeding upon the living, all Gabriel heard were strange sounds from outside, that convinced him to lock himself in his church, forseeing a bad situation coming. The morning after, the people of his parrish came to him, asking to enter the church for shelter: the priest, however, realised he didn’t have food enough gabrielstokescomics1for everyone, and decided he wanted to survive at least as long as somebody came to rescue him. In that moment, he resolved to deny his people the help they were seeking, and he refused to open the church’s doors despite their continuous pleads. When the walkers arrived, they tore to pieces every man, woman and child in front of the church, and Gabriel did nothing, hearing their screams, saving his own life only while they called his name. As he had planned, the supplies he had in the church proved to be enough for keeping him alive for almost a year, but the sense of guilt he felt for having abandoned his people to their destiny was almost unbearable. Eventually, also the church’s food supplies ended, and Gabriel was forced to test his luck with the nearby country: dressed as the priest he was, with only a Bible with him, he came out of his house and shelter to face what the world had become while he was hiding.

Father Gabriel was lucky enough to meet a relatively pacific group on his way, the one led by former sheriff Rick Grimes; unfortunately, the group was quite weary and suspicious, since they had lost their shelter and many friends to a deranged dictator, gabrielstokescomics2the Governor, and they plainly didn’t trust the newcomer. Gabriel earned the group’s trust when a moral dilemma within them ended in the worse way possible: one of the children, Ben, was a psychopath, and had killed his twin brother Billy, only to be killed in turn by Carl Grimes while the adults were discussing what to do with him. Gabriel officiated the funerals, and led the prayers for the children. When, during the night, one of the group, Dale Horvat, went missing, Gabriel offered his chuch as a shelter for everybody. Confronted by Rick, who thought he was somehow responsible of Dale’s disappearance, Gabriel eventually confessed his greatest sin to him, and asked him to kill him. Rick refused, just when Glenn was shot to a leg from a distance: the ones responsible for Dale’s abducting were the Hunters, a group of cannibals who had been following them since the Prison. Gabriel was forced to lead Rick, AndreaMichonne and Abraham to the countryside only he knew, to find the Hunters’ camp, and when he managed to find them, he stared in horror as the four who were with him slained and mauled their enemies in retaliation for the nearly fatal wounds inflicted to Dale and Glenn. Gabriel tried to speak against such barbarity, but Rick reminded him he was no better than them, since he had left all those people to die. Silenced, Gabriel couldn’t do anything but to stare at what kind of living Hell he had been damned to.

Gabriel Stokes is a haunted man, a priest who had his faith tested and failed, and cannot do anything but to trust God has other plans for him. Father Gabriel is willing to atone his past guilt, and tries to be the more usueful to the group he can; he also managed to win his fear and to brace a gun against walkers; he is however deeply shocked by Rick’s use of violence against other people, and often tries to get rid of his group, considering them dangerous and unstable. He shares a deep and true friendship with Douglas Monroe, and even with Eugene Porter, who he spends the time with discussing about the existence of God. Despite being scared by a new life the extent of which he still cannot understand, Gabriel preserves his faith, and does his best to allow the people around him do the same.

Werner Zytle (Count Vertigo)

Count Vertigo IISan Diego ComicCon surely is a mine for comicbook geeks, and this year we’ve got plenty of trailers to introduce new characters we can speak about. In Arrow‘s Season 3, there’s a bunch of new guys, one of which will be introduced in the very first episode, The Calm. In the new trailer, we met very briefly a new villain, portrayed by Peter Stormare: Count Vertigo! Don’t worry, no mistake: the first Count had been killed by Green Arrow to save Felicity Smoak in Season 2, but a new one is ready to take his place, and of course to take control of his drug dealing. In the comics, this new version of the count isn’t actually a proper successor of the first one, but the brand new Count Vertigo born from the most recent chrisis and introduced in The New 52 multiverse. Let’s see together who this new guy is.

Werner Zytle was born the son of a nobleman from the small European country of Vlatava, an old-fashioned Balkan state ruled by a monarchy. The Zytles were counts in the country, and ruled over a small portion of the land for centuries. When Werner was a child, however, a series of rebellions hit Vlatava, with the population growing more and more weary of the nobility’s ancient privileges and of the outdated monarchy institution. When things got violent, Werner’s father was among the first nobles killed countvertigoiicomics1by the crowd, and his mother was forced to abandon all the family’s fortunes and to flee to Canada. Arrived in Vancouver, Werner soon found out to be the target of his mother’s contempt, since she saw his childish weakness as the reason her dear husband had crumbled. Finding themselves in complete poverty, the Zytles resolved to survive in the humblest ways: the former Countess became a prostitute and, unable and unwilling to take care of her only child, she sold him to a private pharmaceutical company, Crius. Little Werner, codenamed Warren, suffered the fate of many other children in the company, and became the human guinea pig for a new bioweapon: his genes and body were manipulated to turn him into an emitter of disorientating waves, and Dr. Witchell, head of the project, implanted in his skull pieces of a special metal alloy aimed to improve his abilities. From the lord of his land, powerful Count Zytle had become but a lab rat.

Eventually, after years spent in Crius’ labs, Werner finally became strong enough to destroy the failsafes connected to his brain: he killed Dr. Witchell and freed himself, destroying everything in his path. He then went to Vancouver, and tracked down his mother in a countvertigoiicomics2miserable brothel: he killed her, and destroyed the whole place, leaving no trace of the woman who had betrayed him. Finally, he came back to Vlatva, now a democracy, and he single-handedly defeated the country’s army, taking back his castle and restoring monarchy. Werner was much smarter than his predecessor, and always presented himself as a benevolent and wise ruler, who soon became the people’s most beloved king ever. Far from the public eye, however, he had established a criminal empire which he controlled under the alias of Count Vertigo: from drugs to weapons dealing, from political murders to kidnapping, Vertigo made his name known all over the world. It was because of his fame that he created bonds with other renowned criminals, among which Komodo, an infallible international killer. When Komodo, during a personal fight with Green Arrow, kidnapped Shado and her daughter Emiko, he brought them to Vlatva to be kept prisoners by the Count. When Green Arrow arrived on the saving, he faced for the first time the powers of Vertigo and, completely unprepared, he was overwhelmed. Since he couldn’t aim at his enemy, eventually the Arrow made an EMP arrow in his quiver detonate, thus disabilitating for a while Vertigo’s devices and creating a chance for himself and Shado to escape. Count Vertigo, however, never accepted defeat, and was ready to follow this new enemy to the United States to settle the score.

Werner Zytle is a proud and angry man, raised in hate by a mother who mistreated him for guilts he did not have, and in the regret of a former, lost glory. Extremely determined never to come back to the state of poverty and humiliation he had to suffer during childhood, Zytle is ready to accomplish anything to mantain his status, a way of thinking that brought him to become a crimelord. As Count Vertigo, he has experimental devices directly implanted in his brain that allow him to manipulate people’s perceptions and balance, an ability that he uses to create chaos among his enemies and that allowed him to annihilate an entire army single-handedly. Dangerous and remorseless, Count Vertigo is one of the most dangerous foes Green Arrow has ever faced.

Garthan Saal (Super Nova)

Garthan SaalThe release date for Guardians of the Galaxy is approaching, and we got some new info about the characters appearing. Looks like the one we already saw in a trailer is a guy pretty famous in the comics: when Rhomann Dey looks at the criminal records of the Guardians, another Nova Corpsman portrayed by Peter Serafinowicz is harshly commenting about them being “quite a bunch of a**holes”. Turns out this Nova is none other than Garthan Saal, another historical member of the Nova Corps and a prominent enemy of the New Warriors. It’s likely that in the movie Sall will appear in that single sequence only, or maybe in some general meeting of the Novas, but he’ll be quite a secondary character in the film; in the comics, on the other hand, he’s a pretty relevant presence in the universe. Let’s see together.

Born on remote planet Xandar, Garthan Saal grew up admiring the Nova Corps, a Xandarian police force committed with preserving order in the Xandarian space. Once of age, Garthan entered the Corps, and soon became a Nova himself, rising to the rank of Nova Centurion. While Saal was on a mission outside the planet, unfortunately, space pirate Nebula attacked Xandar and destroyed it, murdering most of the Nova Corps. The Xandarian Worldmind, in order to preserve itself and what the Novas stood for, believing that Saal was the only Nova survivor, embued him with the accumulated powers of all the deceased corpsmen (actually, there was yet another Nova, stationed on Earth: teenager Richard Rider, whose power obviously didn’t go to Saal). As a result, Saal grew to gigantic proportions, embued with a nearly limitless cosmic power: his purpose was, in the Worldmind’s intention, to be merely the guardian of the Nova Force garthansaalcomics1until he found someone worthy to share the power with, to rebuild the Nova Corps anew. Nicknamed Super Nova, Saal was ready to take up this new task…at least, he believed to be so: the grief for the loss of his homeplanet, his family and all his friends, summed to the incredible amount of power he suddenly had to bear, drove him mad. As soon as he learnt who was the responsible of Xandar’s destruction, the Super Nova started a vengeful hunt through all the galaxy, seeking Nebula and her ship. He tracked Nebula down to Earth (actually, she was Ravonna Renslayer under disguise), where he met also Firelord and Starfox, who were hunting the space pirate as well. Saal interrogated them, but they were not able to tell him the location of Nebula: this was enough for him to believe them to be her accomplishes. He effortlessy defeated the two powerful space warriors, and captured Firelord to interrogate him. Meanwhile, Starfox had fled to Earth to warn his allies, the Avengers.

The Avengers (consisting of Mr. FantasticThor, the Invisible WomanGilgamesh and Captain America) were easily annihilated with their spaceship (only the Invisible Woman’s powers saved them), and Saal arrived on Earth, threatening to destroy the planet if they didn’t surrender Nebula to him, still convinced she was hiding there. Quasar tried to face him, but couldn’t match his powers; a second team of Avengers (Hank PymTigraWonder Man and Hawkeye) tried to battle the giant, but failed. Even the intervention of the Fantastic Four proved to be vain. Finally, Mr. Fantastic convinced Saal that garthansaalcomics2Nebula had been lost in the time stream, and tricked him to follow her in Dr. Doom‘s time machine. Trapped between eras, Saal’s madness worsened. When Richard Rider, the “coward” who failed to protect Xandar, came back to his active role as a Centurion (stealing a fraction of a power that Saal believed to be rightfully his), the Super Nova broke free from the time stream, and attacked Earth once again, demanding to face Rider. The young hero bravely accepted the challenge, but he proved to be no match for Saal: understanding that if the Super Nova ripped the Nova Force from him it would have put to risk the entire life on Earth because of the consequences on the magnetic field, Rider sacrificed himself and gave up his life and powers to Saal. Even madder than before, Super Nova now wanted to annihilate all the races and peoples that had abandoned Xandar in their moment of need, blasting any spaceship he met on his destructive space-trip. He was followed by the New Warriors (included a resurrected but powerless Rider, Firelord and Air-Walker) and confronted yet again. During the fight, the former queen of Xandar Adora intervened, and convinced Saal to give up his energy to restore Xandar to his former glory. The Super Nova obeyed his queen, but was left comatose from the process. Still, he would have woken up soon after: nothing could stop him for long…

Garthan Saal is a heroic, noble and brave man, ready to sacrifice everything for the higher good and for his planet. Unfortunately, he’s completely mad. Folly brought Saal to want the total annihilation of all the ones he believes to have abandoned Xandar, from the “rogue” Nova Richard Rider to all the races and species that didn’t intervene to stop Nebula from annihilating the planet and the Corps. As a simple Nova, Saal possessed superhuman strength, speed, durability and stamina, the ability to survive in open space and to propel himself like a human rocket, and to absorb and manipulate great amounts of energy; as the Super Nova, however, all his abilities reach a never-before-seen level, which amounts to the sum of all the powers of every single Nova Corp deceased before Saal. An unstoppable and invincible giant, Garthan Saal is a deranged juggernaut eager to take his vengeance on the entire galaxy.

Roy William Harper Jr. (Arsenal)

ArsenalFrom the production notes, it seems that Colton Haynes‘ Roy Harper will start the third season of Arrow with a brand new identity: Arsenal! We left Roy healed from the Mirakuru intoxication, and finally given a bow and a mask from Oliver Queen. He joined him and a number of unexpected allies in the last battle against Deathstoke‘s forces as Red Arrow. Now, it seems he has already changed identity, he dons a much more elaborate costume (a pretty cool one actually), and has chosen a battle name that diversifies him from his mentor more. So, after Speedy and the Red Arrow, we’re at the third and last costumed identity of Roy: let’s see together how he got to become Arsenal in the comics.

After giving up his identity of Speedy and leaving the Teen Titans, Roy Harper was stranded and alone, despite having managed to get rid of his drug addiction. He was found by Sarge Steel and his Central Bureau of Investigation, a government clandestine agent which took him in because of his experience as a masked hero and his ties to the underground drug traffic. It was during his time in CBI that Roy was trained in the use of firearms as well, a kind of weapons Green Arrow had awlays forbade him: the aim he had mastered with bow and arrow proved to be quite useful with guns and rifles as well. Eventually, Roy left the CBI because of Cheshire, an international assassin that he was supposed to capture, but that he fell in love with; he had a child from her, Lian, and tried to give up with his dangerous life. Without anything to do, however, he was called back in action by the secret organization Checkmate, and when the Teen Titansarsenalcomics1 ended up being supervisioned by the government and Nightwing left the position of leader as a result, Roy was asked to step in, being the perfect bridge for the two worlds. To match his new vision of himself, Roy abandoned the identity of Speedy and created Arsenal, a new masked vigilante who used much more than trick arrows to stop his enemies, gaining a variety of gdgets and, as the name suggested, a real arsenal of firearms and bladed weapons. It was during this time that Roy managed to clarify things with Oliver Queen, little time before the hero died in action. Following his mentor’s death, Arsenal unwillingly brought the Titans to disband. Soon, new Teen Titans formed, but they proved to be quite helpless facing a menace like Haze, super-powered son of the team’s benefactor Loren Jupiter; it was the latter that called back the original Titans (Arsenal, Nightwing, Tempest and Flash) to face her son. The battle ended with Haze’s defeat, but a young Titan, Joto, was killed, and Roy felt responsible for his death. He left the Titans once again, and tried to make up his tormented life. When he regained some of his balance, he donned the identity of Red Arrow, a much brighter verion of the dark hero he had been, member of the Justice League.

Red Arrow’s life proved to be short-lived: when Batman died, the League split in two, with a violent splinter cell led by Green Arrow. Roy tried to hunt down his former mentor to make him come back to reason, and when he found him, Oliver tried to warn him and the League of the arrival of Prometheus, an old enemy who was on a vengeance spree. The same evening, Roy was ambushed by Prometheus, who savagely beat him and cut his right arsenalcomics2arm off. Roy was barely saved by the other Leaguers, who gave him a bionic arm to replace the lost one, but when he woke up, he found out that Promethues had destroyed Star City and had his daughter Lian killed. Suffering allucinations and risking to fall back into his addiction, Roy met Cheshire, who tried to blame him for their daughter’s death. The two fought, then shared a moment of intimacy, then again they went hunting together, beating the hell out of some scavangers in the ruins of Star City: in this occasion, Roy came back to his identity of Arsenal, the one he saw fitter to his actual emotional state. Even as Arsenal, however, he was haunted by the allucination of Corey, a dead friend of his who tried to make him come back to heroine. Out of painkillers, Roy eventually fell to an allucinatory state, and believed Lian was alive: he saw her attacked by Electrocutioner, the material responsible of her murder, and intervened to defend her. In reality, he was “saving” a dead kitten by a bunch of dopers. Nightwing intervened, stopped his friend, and eventually brought him to a rehabilitation center. Since he kept hearing his daughter’s voice, however, Roy escaped and, as Arsenal, he tracked down the real Electrocutioner and slaughtered him with his knives. In that moment, he crossed the line, and became a dark and brutal vigilante, terrifying low criminals with cruel methods and a homicidal attitude.

Roy Harper has always been a man on the edge, and Arsenal represents him when the edge is crossed by far. The first time he donned the costume, he had been abandoned by his friends and mentor alike, and tried to take the best out of his situation reimagining himself; the second, it was out of a personal tragedy, that made him access the darkest corners of his soul. Arsenal is a brutal vigilante, who uses his infallible aim, his mastership of virtually any weapon and his olympic skills to hunt down and savagely beat criminals, often clashing with other heroes as well. Tragically determined and haunted by visions and allucinations of his dead beloved ones, Arsenal tried to make their voices shut up with the screams of the thugs he tortures. With a new, scary visage, a super-strong bionical arm and plenty of weapons to chose from, Arsenal is the nightmare of any criminal.

Carmine Falcone (The Roman)

Carmine FalconeIn one of the early trailers of Gotham, we saw James Gordon speaking with an intimidating stranger, warning him about the many risks he would have faced in town. Thanks to the new viral site for the show, we now know who that guy is: none other than Carmine Falcone, the crime lord of Gotham City. The actor’s name is not yet revealed (and I cannont recognize him), but it’s quite positive his role will be prominent in the show, most likely being a rival of Fish Mooney and quite an obstacle for the Penguin‘s rise to power. The character’s first live action appearance occured in Batman Begins, where he was portrayed by Tom Wilkinson. The true and unquestioned boss of the city, Falcone was “fired” by Ra’s al Ghul‘s forces, driven mad by the Scarecrow, and locked in Arkham Asylum for good. Waiting to see this new version, let’s see who the original one is.

Among the many criminals in Gotham City, some mob boss grew in power until they became the true lords of the town, fighting each other to gain absolute control over the city’s soul. At the end, two main families remained aiming for the throne: the Falcones, led by Vincent Falcone, and the Maronis, led by Luigi Maroni. The two families were equal in power and influence, a balance that unavoidably led to an all-out war. Carmine was born during this great mafia war, first son of Vincent and the heir of his criminal empire. Since his very childhood, he was involved in his father’s “business”, and grew up learning how to rule a criminal empire and how to treat withcarminefalconecomics1 enemies and allies alike. Seeing some dangerous potential in the young man, Luigi Maroni shot Carmine, leaving him for dead. The boy, however, was still alive (hardly), and his father, fearing that Maroni’s men would have finished the job if he had brought his son to a hospital, took Carmine to the private house of surgeon Thomas Wayne, begging him for help. Thomas perfectly knew what kind of man was asking for his help, but his ethics forbade him to let a man die on his frontdoor, so he accepted to try and save him. The operation was succesfull, and Carmine survived the night. More determined than ever, Vincent had Luigi killed, thus settling the war for the time being. When Luigi passed away, Carmine, now nicknamed The Roman for his “imperial” attitude, became the new boss of the Falcone family, and showed everyone from the very beginning of his “career” that he was the worthy heir of his father. He settled down the remaining affairs with the Maronis, leaving the young boss, Salvatore, a certain autonomy, but always mantaining control over the old adversaries. He then bought the entire Gotham City Police Department, bribing everyone, from the last street agent to Commissioner Loeb, transforming the police in his private militia. Also any shop and industry fell under his influence, widening his income. Finally, Gotham City was of the Falcones’.

Some time later, Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha were killed by a robber, Joe Chill, in an alley. Remembering the debt he had with the doctor, Carmine attended the funeral, and renew his debt with Wayne’s son Bruce, telling him he would have accomplished any request coming from him in the future. The offer seemed to be prophetical, as the only thing The carminefalconecomics2Roman couldn’t forsee was the one that eventually brought him down. During a dinner with the most important of his “associates”, a masked man with a cape broke in to the restaurant, incapacitating the guards: he warned Falcone that his power was at end, and threatened his guests as well. The freak, as Falcone called him, identified himself as Batman, the new defender of Gotham City. Needless to say, Falcone mobilitated all his men in the search of the vigilante, and entrusted Loeb personally with his capture (or possibly murder), but the Caped Crusader seemed unstoppable. One night, Batman broke into the Roman’s bedroom, incapacitated Falcone, and left him tied in his underwear to the bed: the hero had made this personal and, humiliated, Falcone doubled his efforts. If the Batman wasn’t enough, another vigilante started ruining the family’s business: Catwoman, a thief that started stealing a great amount of money and jewels from Falcone’s operations. She also marked the boss with a face scar, wounding him with her claws during a direct confrontation. Also Loeb was in trouble, since young detective James Gordon was troubling him from inside the GCPD: Falcone had Gordon’s wife and newborn son kidnapped, but Batman allied with the detective and saved them; plus, D. A. Harvey Dent had Loeb removed from his role, thus maiming Falcone’s power. In rage, The Roman had the killer he had hired for kidnapping Gordon’s family, Joe Viti, killed, but this only started another mob war with the Chicago family of the Vitis, led by deranged Carla. After years of wealth, this was the beginning of the end for the Roman Empire.

Carmine Falcone is the emblem of power for citizens in Gotham City: always calm and calculating, he’s a wise businessman who knows his job and how to mantain his position. He’s a remarkable tactician, a man who was able to conquer one of the world’s biggest and wealthiest cities in a matter of years, all by himself. The Roman is both feared and respected by his allies and employees, and just feared by his enemies: he has built his empire on money and bribes as well as on lead and blades. A “honest businessman”, Falcone is just the perfect king for a city as corrupted and rotten as Gotham.

Ultron

UltronThe second character revealed thus far from Avengers: Age of Ultron is none other than the big baddie who gives his name to the film: Ultron, portrayed in the movie by James Spader. Little or less is known, by now, about the movie version of the killer robot: judging from the very first teaser trailer, and by words on the streets, he’ll be created by Tony Stark (maybe in cooperation with Bruce Banner), but he’ll not be the nice robotic butler everyone expected, of course, nor a decent substitute for Iron Man. From both the set pics and the new image, we can guess he’ll soon learn to create copies of himself, so there actually will be an army of Ultrons haunting our poor little planet. Well, it looks like a job for the Avengers. In the meanwhile, let’s see who one of the most lethal villains ever is in the comics.

The best minds have quite a taste for becoming mad scientists, sooner or later: when one of the world’s most brilliant scientists, Hank Pym (also known as the Avenger Ant-Man), an expert in almost any field, decided to experiment in robotics, he ended up creating Ultron, an artificial intelligence programmed following his own brain patterns. The robot, at first just an ugly trashcan, soon became sentient, and used his great intelligence to learn how to turn himself on ultroncomics1without the aid of his creator, and especially how to reprogram himself. He learnt to speak, started studying his nearby environment and then human culture and history through the data he managed to collect while Pym didn’t even realise his creation was acting on his own. Arriving to his fifth upgrade, Ultron developed some sort of robotic Oedipus Complex, and started hating his “father”, Pym, while he found himself somewhat attracted to his “mother”, Pym’s lover and future wife Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp. When he decided he was ready and he didn’t need Pym anymore, Ultron faced Pym, and using a newly acquired set of abilities, he hypnotized him, making him forget he had ever created an artificial intelligence. Finally free, Ultron kept upgrading himself and, as Ultron-5, he built on his own a humanoid body to transfer his mind to. Following his irrational hatred towards Pym, Ultron started plotting to kill him and his fellow Avengers: using the disguise of the Crimson Cowl, he gathered the second Black Knight (son of the original), KlawMelter, Radioactive Man and Whirlwind, forming the second incarnation of the Masters of Evil. With his new team of unaware pawns, Ultron-5 was ready to attack the Avengers.

The robot hypnotized the butler Edwin Jarvis to have him steal the Avengers Mansion blueprints, so that the Masters could launch a surprise attack on their enemies. The Avengers (composed at the time by Pym, going by the name Goliath, Wasp, Hawkeye and Black Panther), were caught off-guard and taken prisoners. Ultron revealed himself to Pym, but when he was about to strike down his hated father, the Black Knight, who had infiltrated the team just to prove himself to the Avengers, betrayed the Masters of Evil,
freed the heroes and helped them defeat their enemies. Ultron escaped, and decided he would have never worked alongside weak ultroncomics2and unreliable humans ever again. He upgraded once again into Ultron-6 (or Ultimate Ultron), by creating a new body made of undestructible adamantium, and swore he would have wiped out the plague known as human race from Earth, seeing himself as the new, perfect life form destined to inherit the planet. Remembergin what had happened with his Masters, Ultron created an android on his own, using the original Human Torch‘s body and deceased Avenger Wonder Man‘s brain patterns: the first artificial intelligence created by another I.A., Ultron named his “son” The Vision, vision of a human-free future. He sent him to infiltrate the Avengers, gaining their trust and acting as a hero until the time would have been mature for stabbing them at their back. Unfortunately, his plan was foiled by the Vision himself, who was deeply influenced by both the Avengers’ positive attitude towards him, and by Wonder Man’s brain patterns that showed him what true heroism was. More and more enbittered towards humanity, Ultron kept creating other androids (among which Jocasta and Alkhema), but everyone turned on him. Being alone made him only more resolute in his crusade against humans, and Ultron decided he would have pursued the path of genocide for all his many atificial lives.

Despite being an A.I., Ultron is far from being an impersonal calculating machine: a megalomaniac, genocidal monster, he feels a deep hatred towards any form of carbon-based life form, especially humans, who he sees as a pest to be eradicated from the planet. Egomaniac and ambitious, Ultron possesses a superhuman, ever-evolving intelligence, that makes him more and more dangerous after every new incarnation. His main ability is to transfer his mind into new bodies, a trait that makes him virtually immortal; his powers and abilities have varied from a version to another, he possessed a giant body as Ultron-7, while he was able to possess and control any mechanical body (Iron Man armors included) as Ultron-12. Also his personality varies, and sometimes he’s also been succesfully reprogrammed (most notably by Dr. Doom) as a more-friendly robot or turned good on his own, he’s gone mad and has felt sad and lonely. Most of the times, however, Ultron is simply an unstoppable killing machine, an android that uses an indestructible adamantium body, powerful energy blasts, “mental” powers and several other weapons and abilities to annihilate the human race once and for all.