Francis Castiglione/Frank Castle (The Punisher)

PunisherFor the end of the year, we get to see another major Marvel character who’s going to hit our screen in 2016: new pics from Daredevil Season 2, in fact, gave us a first look at The Punisher, the main antagonist (?) of the new season. This time it’s up to Jon Bernthal to portray the character, who, judging from the producers’ comments, will be a veteran suffering from some kind of PTSD and will bring war home in the worst way possible. This is the fourth live action portrayal of the anti-hero: Dolph Lundgren was the first one, in 1989’s The Punisher, where the character was just a black-dressed guy with a lot of guns intervening in a local war between Italian Mafia and Yakuza slaughtering both of the teams; then, in the 2004 film of the same name, Thomas Jane portrayed Frank Castle, an FBI undercover agent who got busted by mob boss Howard Saint, who killed his family in retaliation; Frank survives, and destroys Saint’s empire. Last but not least, Ryan Stevenson portrayed a more brutal and violent version of Castle in Punisher: War Zone, a vengeance-bent vigilante who goes to an all-out war with Jigsaw, a criminal he disfigured. Now that Punisher’s rights are back to Marvel, let’s see what they’ll do with one of the most popular anti-heroes ever… hoping they’ll do better than their predecessors.

Francis Castiglione was born in QueensNew York, son of Sicilian immigrants Mario and Louisa. Raised as a responsible man and a patriot by his father, young Francis enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and married his girlfriend Maria just before his enlistment. Castiglione showed remarkable natural skills, and was soon promoted to the rank of Captain (while he was in training, Maria gave birth to their first child, Lisa). Continuing his training in Infantry, Castiglione had as a guide Phan Bighawk, an American Indian scout who taught him survival skills. Having completed his training as the very best of his platoon, Castiglione was sent to Vietnam during the war in a Special Operations Unit, and became a war hero during his very first tour. When the Vietcong attacked Valley Forge Firebase, Castiglione was the sole survivor… from both sides. He earned a number of medals and punishercomics1decorations, and after his second tour, he came back home with honor. He had a second son from Maria, Francis Jr., but despite having the chance to live a happy and serene family life, he still wanted to fight. He legally changed his name in Frank Castle, and illegally re-entered the Corps for a third turn in Vietnam. Finally, when years later the war was over, Frank came back home for good, and he received a new job from the Corps: he would have trained the Marine Recon Commandos in the New York State, preparing them for special black ops. Working in the States gave him the possibility to stay with his family as well, so for the first time in his life Castle had everything he wanted: a family who loved him and whom he loved, and the Marines he had always dedicated himself to. This, unfortunately, didn’t last long. One day, Frank brought his wife and children to Central Park, so that they could enjoy a family day; they had a picnic on the Sheep’s Meadow green… a little bit too close to the spot chosen by a local Mafia for a killing. Fearing witnesses, the mobsters killed the Castles in cold blood; once again, Frank was the sole survivor. Distraught and severely wounded, he offered himself as an eye-witness to the NYPD, but the department was in league with the Mafia, so Castle was denied his testimony, and the shooters were never captured. In that moment, something within Frank’s mind cracked.

Out of the hospital, Castle didn’t come back to the Corps, and he simply disappeared from radars for months. In this time, he dedicated to recovery, he intensified his training, he collected all the weapons and the resources he could get in order to prepare for a new war: the one against criminality, a war police was taking far too lightly. When he came back, he was not Frank Castle anymore: he was The Punisher, a one-man-army wearing a Kevlar body-armor with a white skull emblazoned on it, a sign of certain death for all the criminals he would have crossed paths with. The Punisher started patrolling the streets of New York, using all his experience from wartime to hunt down single criminals, gangs, organized criminal groups, and even super villains. The Punisher didn’t fight criminals to arrest them, so that they could escape justice in a crooked system: he slaughtered them, giving them back all the brutality and violence they invaded the streets with. He joined forces with Reiss, a wheelchair-bound armorer who aided him in punishercomics2his quest. When businessman Norman Osborn was apparently killed by Spider-Man, The Punisher was among the ones hired to stop the “swinging menace”, now considered a dangerous murderer (the one who gave Castle the hint was actually the supervillain Jackal). The Punisher, convinced by the death of Reiss, slain by Jackal to frame Spider-Man, nearly killed his target, using his arsenal and his training to best the hero’s superpowers, but he eventually realized that he had been fooled by the Jackal witnessing his target’s heroism. The two teamed-up to take down Jackal, but the criminal escaped; The Punisher still was a murderer at Spider-Man’s eyes, so the hero tried to apprehend him…only to lose him immediately. That was just the first one of many uncomfortable alliances between Punisher and other NY heroes, among which DaredevilCaptain America, or even the X-Men; most of the heroes, with a few exceptions (Wolverine over all), didn’t like Frank’s methods, and their alliances often ended up with The Punisher incarcerated immediately after the resolution of the immediate threat. Not that in jail Frank stopped killing: prisons were full of people who deserved punishment, and many guards were eager to help him deliver it. The Punisher was not alone at all in his bloody crusade…

Frank Castle is a broken man who lost everything he held dear: his family, his values, the faith in justice and law; from the ashes of the man he was emerged a killing machine who transformed his thirst for vengeance into a sacred mission, and he is now bent on a solitary crusade to wipe out criminality from his city (and beyond…). As The Punisher, he is a one-man army, fully armed with an arsenal provided to him by his few allies and connections, and he’s a master in the use of nearly any kind of weapons, from heavy machine guns to light guns, from knives to rocket launchers, from tasers to mass-destruction explosives; he’s an expert detective and tactician, and one of the most accomplished martial artists in the world, with his style spanning from several schools of kung fu and jujutsu to krav maga, ninjutsu, karate, and even brutal and simple street-fighting. A skilled pilot and driver, a trained soldier and a committed crusader, The Punisher is a man with a mission, a task he totally dedicates himself to: the war will be over when either the last criminal on Earth or The Punisher will have stopped breathing… and the odds are not in mobsters’ favor.


Stephen Vincent Strange (Doctor Strange)

Dr. StrangeOther Christmas gifts are coming, as Marvel released the first pics of Benedict Cumberbatch in full costume as Doctor Strange, the mystical hero protagonist of the upcoming movie of the same name. This far, the movie’s story is pretty much unknown, apart from the origin of the character: a rich and respected surgeon that after an incident arrives in Tibet to be healed, but ends up becoming the wizard protector of our reality (much like the comics). This is the second live action version of the Master of the Mystic Arts: in the 1978 movie Dr. Strange the good doctor was portrayed by Peter Hooten, and had his story slightly changed: a psychiatrist rather than a surgeon, Stephen Strange was chosen by the old wizard Thomas Lindmer as the new protector of Earth after evil sorceress Morgan Le Fay comes back to claim our reality; after defeating Morgan, Strange begins his training with Lindmer. The new version seems to be closer to comics material, but let’s wait before saying… he surely looks magnificent.

Son of Eugene and Beverly Strange born in the 1930s, Stephen Strange grew up in Nebraska along with his brother Victor and his sister Donna. Still an 8-years old child, Stephen was recognized as the one destined to succeed the Ancient One, the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, the man tasked with guarding reality from any mystical and magical threats; envious, the Ancient One’s disciple Karl Mordo cursed the boy with devilish nightmares meant to bring him to madness. The Ancient One himself saved the boy, promising he would have protected him until he came of age (although young Strange was still haunted by nightmares). Unfortunately, Eugene was a rational and materialistic man, and when he noticed his son was interested in trifles like “magic”, he forced him to change his attitude, severely scolding him anytime he dedicated himself to something less than useful. Stephen, in return, was doctostrangecomics1so eager to please his father that put aside all his passions and interests, and dedicated himself to a “serious” discipline like the medical one since he was a pre-teen. Albeit being extremely young, he also started drinking in order not to be distracted by his nightmares. Stephen gave himself totally to medical school, and not even his sister’s and his mother’s deaths could take him away from his rising career. He graduated top of his class, and he became an extremely skilled and respected surgeon: following his father’s philosophy, he opened a medical practice and he dedicated himself to earning as much money as he could from his work. In order to keep his personal demons bottled up, he lived a high life of women, alcohol, and all the vices money could buy. Ambitious and materialistic, Stephen only accorded his services to the ones able to pay his exorbitant fees, and laughed at all the colleagues who tried to make him more charitable. Everything changed the night that, coming back from his clinic in New York City, Stephen had a terrible accident with his car. Miraculously alive, Strange woke up with his hands completely destroyed, and the most doctors could do for him was to save his limbs from amputation. The doctor didn’t die, but his career as a surgeon surely did.

Depressed, Stephen knew far too well that his hands were doomed, so he spent all his fortune into drinking… until, in a forgotten bar, he heard the story of a mystical healer living in Tibet. With nothing to lose, Strange used the last of his money to travel to the healer’s palace. There, he met the Ancient One, an old man he didn’t recognize as the one visiting him in his dreams when he was a child. The man refused to heal him, but offered him to teach him magic instead. The rational Strange refused, until he witnessed the Ancient One’s disciple, Mordo, try to kill his master with his spells. Strange tried to stop him, but Mordo easily blocked him with his magic. Impressed by the display of magic, and curiously eager to protect the old man, Strange decided to accept the offer of the Ancient One (who told him he knew about Mordo’s treachery, and just kept him close to keep him in check). During his years of training, Stephen Strange learnt to control his innate potentialities in mysticism, learning to draw power from ancient beings doctostrangecomics2from other dimensions like the Vishanti, and mastering knowledge over the other realms of existence. He also had to challenge Death herself, a test that gave him an unnatural longevitiy, preventing him from growing old or ill forever. After decades, the Ancient One decided to send his disciple back to New York to complete his training, giving him a new house, located at 177A Bleeker Street, in the Greenwich Village: it was a house built on a convergence of realities, a mystically relevant place that would have become Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. He was joined in the final part of his training as the Master of the Mystic Arts by Wong, a man destined to be the servant of the new Sorcerer Supreme. Together, they arrived to the United States, and Strange kept honing his abilities, foreseeing an approaching time in which his skills would have been of most need. Soon, in fact, the heroic age began, with many superheroes being born all around in the country… but each and every one of them unaware of the extent and depth of the reality nexus, of all the alternate dimensions and the infernal planes of existence threatening to swallow Earth any second. Protecting even Earth’s most powerful heroes from this kind of threat was a job for Doctor Strange, the new Sorcerer Supreme.

Stephen Strange was once a selfish and proud man, a self-made genius who placed all his faith in science and reason; his meeting with magic turned him into a selfless and brave protector, a serious hero who constantly watches over our dimension to protect it from unthinkable threats. As the Sorcerer Supreme, Strange is virtually immortal, able to be wounded and kill but not to grow old or to get sick; he has access to a nearly unlimited variety of spells and power words, with infinite results: he can project his Astral Form gaining invisibility and intangibility, he can fly, he can create blasts of energy, summon and banish demons and other creatures, use telekinesis and telepathy, create shields, teleport himself and others, manipulate elements and even reality itself, cast illusions and hypnotize people, channel the power of the Vishanti, the Octessence and other ancient deities, and more; he also has a real arsenal of mystical artifacts, such as the Cloak of Levitation, the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto, the power-absorbing Wand of Watoomb and many others. One of the most powerful men on the planet, and by far the most proficient sorcerer of all realities, Doctor Strange protects Earth from enemies that exceed human perception or even imagination, a living example of redemption who’s now a formidable force for good.

Sarah (Marrow)

MarrowMerry Christmas everybody! Santa brought us… a new trailer for Deadpool, the epic conclusion of the hilarious “12 days of Deadpool“. In the new trailer, we get what will possibly be the only glimpse at a very popular character, who will have a cameo in the movie: when Wade Wilson is brought in the Weapon Plus facility, we see another patient being examined by the doctors, a girl with huge bones protruding from her back… and that’s most definitely Marrow, the lovable, lethal and brutal mutant from the comics. The director confirmed there will be many known characters cameos (hopefully not as many as in The Last Stand or Origins, it’d be quite a waste…), so waiting to see who the others will be, let’s take a look at our very first one.

Nothing is known about the past of the woman named Marrow: before becoming a homeless child, she was a baby girl named Sarah (for some time it seemed she could be the daughter of a couple, the Rushmans, but that was proven to be false), unfortunately born a mutant. Her mutation consisted in an abnormal growth of bones, which protruded from her body and face. Considering her a monstrosity, her parents abandoned her, and Sarah found herself alone, trying to survive on the streets. She was soon found by Caliban, a mutant with radar-like capabilities, who brought her in the underground tunnels where the Morlocks lived: the Morlocks were a community of mutant outcasts, usually with a freaky appearance in common, always ready to welcome others like them among their ranks. Sarah was adopted by Annalee, an empath who took care of the Morlocks. During her time with the Morlocks Sarah grew close to Callisto, their leader, and she saw her as some sort of role-model, a mother figure she was inspired by. Her peaceful time in the underground ended when the mercenary group Marauders massacred the Morlocks; Sarah was saved by another mutant, Gambit, who took her to safety, allowed her to escape the Marauders, and reunited her with Callisto. The small group of survivors were soon marrowcomics1attacked by yet another mutant maniac, Mikhail Rasputin, the reality-bending brother of the X-Man Colossus; Rasputin teleported the Morlocks into an alternate dimension, a place in which only one rule existed: only the strong were allowed to survive, and the ones capable of reaching the top of the only hill in the landscape were considered worthy of being part of Mikhail’s group. Sarah was raised by Callisto, who taught her to be strong, to be pitiless, to be savage. When Sarah’s powers fully manifested, Callisto renamed her “Marrow”, and forced her to take the road up the hill. Marrow, now a fierce fighter thanks to Callisto’s training, was able to kill all her opponents and to reach the top. Mikhail Rasputin deemed her “fit” to be part of his group, Gene Nation, a terrorist organization bent on punishing humans for their hatred for mutants.

Rasputin, impressed by the mutant’s skills, by her brutality and her savagery, made her the leader of Gene Nation, and sent her and the rest of the team back to Earth. On our universe, time had passed more slowly than in the other dimension, and just a couple of years separated the now adult Marrow from the Mutant Massacre she had escaped. Leading Gene Nation, Marrow led a terrorist revenge campaign against all the humans, and she slaughtered the attendants of a disco, signing with their blood “Gene Nation”. Following that, the group was confronted by Generation X, but they barely escaped with their lives from the wrath of Emma Frost. Obviously, also the X-Men were interested in their activities, and the two teams clashed often. Marrow, sure of the X-Men’s weakness, launched a final attack on their human “enemies”, putting a bomb on a train full of people; Marrow wired the detonator directly to her heart, so that the X-Men would have been forced to kill her if they wanted to stop her… something she was sure they’d never done. Eventually, however, Storm proved her wrong, and ripped her heart off. Marrow’s mutation, which included a second heart to compensate for her abnormal bone growth, allowed her to survive. Callisto took care of her, and brought back her to her marrowcomics2feet; together, they restarted their anti-humans activity, but Callisto tried to hold Marrow back in her more extremist methods. During Operation: Zero Tolerance, the two mutants tried to kill Henry Peter Gyrich for his involvement in the anti-mutant program, but two unexpected events blocked them: first, Spider-Man stopped Marrow, even managing to put some doubts in her regarding her blind hatred towards humans; then, a Prime Sentinel severely injured Callisto. Following Callisto’s orders, Marrow sought the help of the X-Men, and she managed to contact Iceman and the new recruit Cecilia Reyes, even saving her from several Prime Sentinels. In order to keep her word to Callisto, Marrow even joined Iceman, Cecilia and Sabra in their quest against Bastion, the leader of Zero Tolerance, and even obeyed to Iceman when he told her not to kill Bastion when he was at their mercy. This led Marrow to grow close to the X-Men, eventually joining their ranks, in a path to redemption that would have been a long and difficult one… and that she undertook only for respect and loyalty to Callisto.

Sarah is a scarred and traumatized woman, a girl who had to give up to everything that made her compassionate and kind to survive in a hostile environment and stay alive; now, she’s a brutal killing machine, barely able to restrain herself from murdering everyone she doesn’t like. As Marrow, her mutation increases her metabolism to the point that her bones are constantly growing, ripping her skin and emerging outside; to compensate the abnormal bone growth, she disposes of two hearts and of a healing factor allowing her to survive her otherwise lethal power. She’s also a lethal warrior, trained by Callisto and Wolverine among the others, who uses her own removed bones as swords, daggers and throwing knives (or even as a body armor); she also learnt to control her bone growth to a certain extent, thus making them an even more proficient weapon. Violent, nearly savage, yet frail and insecure, Marrow is what life has made her… but desperately tries to become something more, something better.

Kenneth “Kenny” Braverman (Conduit)

Kenny BravermanThe last heads-up of this year brings us back to 2013 and to Man of Steel: writing about tons of Kryptonians, I ended up missing one of the human characters. In Clark Kent‘s flashbacks, we see the boy bullied by some high school athletes in Smallville, and the group is led by a guy credited as Kenny Braverman, portrayed by Rowen Kahn… definitely someone from the comics. He’s the one mocking and teasing young Clark, only to flee when he sees an angry Jonathan advancing towards him. In the comics, the relation between Kenny and Clark was not so hostile… not as it would become as in their adulthood, at least. Let’s see together.

The night Kenneth Braverman was born was surely and eventful one: a snowstorm forced Mr. Braverman to drive his wife to the hospital on a difficult road, and when his truck slid on the ice, stopping the couple, the baby was born in the car. That same night, however, the ship of alien Kal-El arrived on Earth, bringing along the fragments of his lost planet Krypton: the meteor shower of that night had unforeseen consequences on the child, who grew up sickly because of the radiation exposure. Despite a frail constitution, Kenny always did his best not to be second to any of the other children, and when he attended Smallville High School he was already one of the most promising young athletes of the town. Kenny excelled in most sports, and played football, baseball and tracks, always distinguishing himself… but never as the first one, always the second: there was another guy, born on his same day, conduitcomics1who was the best in whatever he did, and stood out over Kenny as well. The guy was Clark Kent. As one would expect, Kenny became quite competitive with Clark, and formed a friendly rivalry that with years became less and less friendly. Their rivalry reached its apex on the night of the senior prom, when Kenny asked the most beautiful girl of the school, Lana Lang, out: she lied, telling him that Clark had asked her first, and when Clark actually took a step forward, she immediately said yes. Clark and Lana were named prom King and Queen, and Kenny was left behind, as always. If this wasn’t enough, Kenny’s father, who had always treated badly his son, and always remarked how Clark Kent was better than he was, named him a total failure that night, wishing Clark was his son instead of him. This was the final drop for Kenny, who solemnly swore he would have taken his revenge one day on his loathed rival. The occasion arrived soon after high school, when Kenny agreed to have his body, still under the effects of unknown radiation, examined by the CIA.

The CIA did more than that, and made some experiments on him trying to put his radioactive organism to the test, but they ultimately deemed Kenny unusable for the field because of his poor health. Willing to prove his superiors wrong, Braverman volunteered for a dangerous mission in Paris, a covert op against a terrorist group. The mission was a success, but only because Clark Kent, who was in Paris studying journalism, intervened, thus making Kenny get the “second place” once again. In “revenge”, Kenny “stole” Clark’s girlfriend Ruby (who was actually only a friend to him), and he even proposed to her, only to threat her life when she realized something was very wrong with Kenny’s body, glowing in green light. Back to the US, Kenny Braverman distinguished himself in several highly dangerous missions, becoming more and more reckless… and more and more unstable. His body instability conduitcomics2was treated with a power suit containing the flowing radiations, but his mind was far too gone in his obsessions: believing he was becoming too dangerous to handle, the CIA decided to have him killed… but no agent was at his league, and Kenny defeated them all, quitting with the agency. After that, he renamed himself Conduit, and founded his own intelligence and spec ops unit, Pipeline, which in years became powerful and influential. Despite having reached quite a goal, Braverman was still obsessed with his high school rival, and when years later Clark Kent became an important journalist for the Daily Planet, Conduit reached him in Metropolis, and used his Pipeline to tried to have him killed more than once. The attacks ended up involving also Clark’s colleague Lois Lane, and they eventually failed because of the intervention of Superman, who forced Conduit and his men to flee. When Conduit tried to take the hero head on with a Kryptonite rifle, he was defeated nevertheless, and this time he was arrested. In prison, however, another criminal, Shadowdragon, brought him some secret files from STAR Labs: studying them, Braverman was able to deduce that his old enemy Clark Kent and his new one Superman were one and the same. Now, Conduit had the opportunity to exact the revenge he had been waiting for his entire life…

Kenny Braverman is a fragile and unbalanced man, who even as an adult lives as if he has to make his dispassionate father love and approve him as when he was in high school. Obsessed with high school times, Kenny still sees his schoolmate Clark Kent as a rival, becoming a lethal stalker for him, believing him to be the cause of everything wrong in his life. As Conduit, his body is a living conduit of Kryptonite-based energy, which he directs thanks to a power suit in destructive blasts; the suit also allows him to fly and to withstand substantial damage, and it has two extendable cables he can charge with his energy and use as whips. Conduit, trained in espionage and in advanced combat, is also able to focus the energy he produces on his own body in order to increase his strength, durability and speed, rivaling Superman’s ones. Completely mad, incredibly dangerous, Conduit is a “Ghost of Christmas Past” come to haunt Clark Kent’s life, an obsessed maniac who would stop only in front of his rival’s grave.

The Broker

The BrokerThe second missing character leads us back to one of the greatest successes of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy. This one isn’t a character that I didn’t notice (I couldn’t possibly miss him), but I simply didn’t know he came from the comics… sorry for that. Anyway, here’s The Broker, portrayed by Christopher Fairbanks. He’s the guy who accepts to sell the Orb for the Ravagers, and who abruptly changes his mind as soon as he learns that Ronan the Accuser is also interested in the artifact. He’s also the one who points the Ravagers to the Collector in exchange of his life. In the movie, the Broker deals with stolen objects and antiquities… while in the comics he prefers working with human material, and that’s why he’s also known as The Slaver. Let’s see together.

Not much is known about the man known as Broker, not even his real name or his homeplanet. Greedy and ruthless, he started accumulating money through the galaxies as a merchant, but when he decided the income wasn’t enough, he became a pirate; soon after, even piracy didn’t pay enough, and he embarked in the much more lucrative job of slaver, adding it to the previous ones. As a pirate, he assaulted ships and convoys around the galaxies, then he captured the occupants, and injected in their brains voracious Tyrmean Parasites, in order to ensure their obedience: a control bracelet that he never took off his left wrist was always ready to emit a powerful ultrasound that sent the parasite into a feeding frenzy, killing any rebellious slave; if that wasn’t enough, the Broker also had a fair amount of control nanites to inject into their bloodstream. During his travels, the Broker captured a powerful thebrokercomics1Hodomurian who called himself Century: he was the result of the fusion of all the best Hodomurian warriors, created to defeat the evil pandimensional witch Lore (an alternate-reality version of the Scarlet Witch). Of course, the Broker didn’t care much of Century’s mission, so he treated him as all the other slaves, even erasing most of his memories, leaving only an unstoppable urge to find Lore in him. Uninterested of the destiny of his new prisoner, the Broker eventually sold him to the Scatter race, making quite a price considering all the remarkable abilities of the subject. After that peculiar selling, the Broker kept doing his usual business, searching, stealing and selling any kind of items: when Captain Kkon crossed the pirate’s path, the Broker attacked his ship, destroying the fotel drive. At the Broker’s mercy, Kkon accepted to give him all the ship’s data in exchange of his crew’s life; as soon as he had obtained all the information, the Broker destroyed the ship with everybody aboard.

From Kkon’s data, the Broker realized that Century had escaped the Scatter, and was now hiding on a distant planet: not that he really cared of a single slave, but it was a matter of reputation, he need to maintain control over his things. He decided to hunt down Century on Earth. Soon after, in the Coda system, the Broker stopped for refueling his ship, using as a source the gas giant Arabellum: the Broker consumed it so much that the star died immediately after he left, leaving an entire star system to die. Finally, the Broker arrived on Earth, where his sensor immediately found Century in a residential area called the Works. In order to capture the super-Hodomurian, Broker sent him his Bodyguard Cadre, a group composed of his most lethal slaves, completely bent to his will. The Cadre didn’t capture Century, but got all the residents of the Works instead. Now with some goods to exchange, the Broker agreed to meet U.S. Agent, the protector of the Works: the two discussed a while, and they finally agreed to exchange Century with all the pirate’s prisoners. As soon as the Bodyguard Cadre brought the captives on the planet’s surface, Century appeared… but when the Broker touched him, he realized U.S. Agent had fooled him, and he was facing just a hologram. The real Century appeared thebrokercomics2behind him, and cut off the hand carrying the control bracelet. The Bodyguard Cadre, finally free from the Broker’s control, immediately tried to kill him, but Century defended his old captor, telling the others they needed him alive: he brought back both the Broker and the Cadre on the slaver’s ship, where the former captain was put in a cell. One of the Bodyguard Cadre, Skewer, soon tried to kill Broker, but Century intervened once again, explaining that they needed the Broker to encrypt them the navigation records to their home worlds, if they wanted a chance to come back home. The Broker mockingly applauded Century’s brilliance, and prepared to enjoy a long space travel… one in which he knew he could still dictate rules, as everybody desperately needed him alive.

The Broker is a cruel and unscrupulous man, a greedy pirate ready to sacrifice anything, even millions of lives, to his own wealth. A skilled engineer, the Broker ensures the obedience of even his most powerful slaves, despite being powerless compared to them, thanks to a bracelet he always wears, able to induce the parasite he injected the slaves with to eat their victim’s brain; he’s also the only one able to maneuver his massive spaceship, a lethal warship that is a masterpiece of high-tech, with a remarkable amount of weapons and a fotel drive that enables it to cross between dimensions. A despicable and extremely dangerous individual, The Broker will cross (and destroy) galaxies in order to get what he thinks is his… and that includes pretty much everything.

Ferdinand Lopez (Machete)

Ferdinand LopezIn this pause from the several tv series now airing, let’s come back to the “characters I’ve missed” session (thanks to the new readers for the highlights!). Let’s come back to 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as we’ve missed one of the secondary villains. In Batroc‘s group of mercenaries, in fact, there’s one that comes from the comics, the one who receives orders to move by Batroc in person: Ferdinand Lopez, portrayed by Adetokumboh M’Cormack. In the movie he doesn’t have much of a role, and he’s arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. as soon as Captain America saves the hostages. In the comics, he’s not much more important, but he has a history nevertheless: let’s see together.

Ferdinand Lopez was born in South America, in the dangerous and unstable country of San Diablo. He grew up with his younger brothers, Alfonso and Mariano, and the three Lopez siblings shared the risks and the pain of living under a strict dictatorship. Idealist and rebellious by nature, Ferdinand joined the local revolution, with the intent of overthrowing the crooked and repressive government and create a republic, but the rebels weren’t well organised, and it was extremely hard to truly damage the regime, least of all to defeat it. A skilled fighter and a lethal assassin, Ferdinand decided to earn money as a mercenary, so that he could finance the revolution with his work and give some hope to his fellow fighters; he wanted to name himself El Liberador de El Diablo (“The Liberator of El Diablo”), but he eventually became renowned with the name of his weapon of choice, Machete. At first Machete operated alone, and he sent the money he earned as a mercenary and as an assassin for hire to his machetecomics1brothers, still in El Diablo to continue the revolution. After some time, however, his fame attracted the attention of Batroc, a French mercenary who was gathering talented “colleagues” to form a team: Lopez was convinced by the French martial artist to join the group (humbly called Batroc’s Brigade), and became one of his first associates. Being with Batroc surely meant more money to be earned, but also more dangerous and difficult missions, and he often found himself battling with American superheroes, especially Captain America, who became a frequent adversary of the Brigade. Cap, however, wasn’t the only hero the mercenaries fought: during another mission, the archer Trickshot hired Batroc and his men to kill his former pupil, Hawkeye, who had betrayed him, but Machete and his teammates ended up being defeated by the Avenger.

Despite the frequent defeats, Machete still earned money enough to give a substantial help to San Diablo’s rebels, so he kept working alongside Batroc… and with others also, since he seldom joined Doom’s Brigade to make up his wages. Obviously, dangerous missions didn’t lack with one team or the other: Baron Zemo, for example, hired the entire Brigade to recover the skeleton of monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone, which possessed mystical properties. Machete and the others traveled to the Amazon Jungle, where they found Captain America and Diamondback in the midst of the same hunt. All the contenders were ultimately captured by a survived tribe of Incas, and they had to team up to escape the captors… only to continue their fight as soon as they were out of danger. Captain America emerged victorious, but Machete managed to avoid capture. Still working for Zemo, collecting the fragments of the Bloodstone (the artifact that gave Ulysses his powers), the Brigade fought Cap machetecomics2again during a mission in the Bermuda Triangle, and again in Egypt and Japan, following each and every fragment of the stone. Eventually, however, Zemo and the Brigade failed their mission, and Captain America prevented his enemies from getting the deceased monster hunter’s power. Machete still worked on his own as well, and he gladly accepted a curious work from the Architect, a thousand-year old alien who wanted to die: the Architect hired several assassins and called them to New York, offering a huge prize in money for the first one able to kill him. Machete participated the contest, but he wasn’t so lucky, as he crossed paths with Taskmaster, a mercenary who was definitely out of his league: thanks to his martial mastership and eidetic memory, Taskmaster easily subdued Machete, who was soon out of the game. El Liberador de El Diablo would have needed to find another source of money to save his country…

Ferdinand Lopez is a brave and determined man, idealistic enough to be considered almost naive. A true patriot, he considers himself a national hero, and fights for the sake of his oppressed country… but he believes that a good purpose justifies all means, and the rest of the world sees him as a villain. As Machete, he’s a master martial artist, specialized in the use of blades: an absolute master with his twin machetes, he also carries a dozen of throwing daggers in his uniform; he has two small magnets in his gloves, that allow him to attract his machetes and daggers back when he throws them (as well as other small metal objects). A freedom fighter for his country, a ruthless assassin for the rest of the world, Machete is one of the world’s best mercenaries, who’s willing to join anybody’s cause in order to finance his own.

Dirk Armstrong

Dirk ArmstrongSupergirl‘s mid-season finale left us with yet another character to speak about, the secondary antagonist of the episode. In Hostile Takeover, in fact, Cat Grant is victim of a massive hacking that threats to expose all her dirty little secrets to the public, and she orders Kara to find out who the hacker is… and it turns out it’s none other than Dirk Armstrong, portrayed by Peter Mackenzie, a member of the CatCo board who apparently has something to say about Cat’s way of leading the society, and who wants to take it from her with any means possible. Dirk comes directly from the comics, even if in quite a different version, since the original one is a journalist just like Cat Grant. Let’s see together.

Not much is known about Dirk Armstrong’s early life: he lived and worked in Metropolis, and he was a right wing columnist. At a certain point in his life he got married, and he had a daughter, Ashbury, who was completely blind: the girl was also gifted with a sharp intellect and was very resourceful, so she grew up pretty independent (especially for a blind girl), but Dirk was nevertheless extremely protective of her, especially from the moment that Dirk’s wife died. The columnist’s professional life changed for the better when publisher Franklin Stern hired him as a columnist for the Daily Planet, Metropolis’ first newspaper. Dirk was chosen to meet the tastes of the right wing readers, and his conservative ideas and style surely were perfect for that purpose. His way of jumping to conclusions dirkarmstrongcomics1and taking aggressive and uncompromising positions over pretty much everything soon put Dirk at odds with some of his colleagues, especially Lois Lane and Clark Kent, but even with editor-in-chief Perry White, who didn’t exactly appreciated his way of doing journalism. When Superman‘s powers changed, making him become a being of pure energy, Dirk Armstrong created quite a case by defining the world’s most trusted hero a “super-menace”, insisting on the fact that he probably didn’t know how to control his new form, and that nobody was sure he could still be trusted. When Lex Luthor was arrested, Dirk wrote flaming columns on his right to a fair trial, and his opinion managed to move the public one, so that Superman himself was ultimately forced to trust the system and to ensure Luthor the defense he wanted… to the point that he eventually came to blows with his best friend Batman to retrieve the Kryptonite Ring, an essential item Luthor claimed to restore his good name.

Thanks to his successful crusade to defend Luthor’s civil rights, Armstrong became one of the few journalist in the Planet that the genius billionaire actually liked. When he was cleared of all charges and sent back to his civilian life, Luthor first of all bought the Daily Planet, imprinting a brand new direction to the newspaper. Most of the journalists and reporters were fired and replaced with others, but Dirk Armstrong was one of the few who kept his position, keeping writing his usual, anti-Superman columns his new employer appreciated so much. Not everybody, obviously, liked his editorials, and Dirk learned it the hard way when a madman, enraged with him for what he had written on the Planet, decided to take revenge on him by kidnapping his daughter Ashbury. Dirk suffered greatly from the event, and did his best to save his seventeen-years-old child, but luckily enough she was rescued by Ceritak, a heroic alien going by the name Scorn who lived in the bottled city of Kandor. Albeit he was dirkarmstrongcomics2obviously grateful to Scorn for what he had done, Armstrong soon changed his mind when he realized that Ashbury actually liked him. Eventually, Ashbury and Ceritak started dating, and the xenophobic and anti-alien Dirk wasn’t exactly happy in seeing his beloved daughter hanging out with a blue-skinned extraterrestrial. Eventually, for love of Ashbury, he even arrived to accept Ceritak and to appreciate his good heart and character… but it took quite some time. In the meanwhile, he kept working for Luthor, and he entered LexCom (the communication and media division of LexCorp), where he kept writing his columns the usual way. Metropolis wouldn’t have been deprived of his voice anytime soon.

Dirk Armstrong is a smart and self-confident man, who more often than not believes to own truth itself rather than expressing his personal opinion. A conservative columnist, he sincerely and honestly believes in everything he writes, and even the most extreme positions he expresses in his pieces are never written to meet the readers’ favor only, but are genuine expressions of his beliefs. Dirk’s only soft spot is for his daughter Ashbury: for everyone else, he has hard and aggressive sentences.