Holden Radcliffe

holdenradcliffefilmThere’s still one character introduced in the latest Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, and I think it’s safe to say he’ll be a bad guy. In The Singularity, Fitz and Simmons contact the world’s best geneticist, Holden Radcliffe, portrayed by John Hannah, hoping to use his work on parasites against Hive. Radcliffe then is kidnapped by Hive himself, and convinced to work for him instead, using his lust for genetic improvements. The scientist, in fact, is a transhumanist, a man who believes that technology and medicine can and must be used to manipulate human body and genes to force the further evolution of the species (a skill he also used on himself and on his assistant, as they both have very little of “truly human” in them). Now, waiting to see what Radcliffe will do to help Hive spread the Inhuman mutation on the planet, let’s take a look at the original version… who’s more in tech than genetics.

Not much is known about Holden Radcliffe’s early life: a brilliant and gifted man, he became a scientist, and he specialized in robotic engineering. Convinced that robotics was the future of mankind, Radcliffe looked for a way to make his vision become a reality: thanks to the small fortune he earned from his early inventions, the scientist was able to found his own company, Holden Radcliffe Corporation, which gathered other experts in the field of robotics, with the sole aim of developing the perfect android, a completely autonomous A.I. indistinguishable from regular humans. Among the many scientists that Radcliffe managed to recruit in his company there was Dr. Aaron Isaacs, a true pioneer in robotics, possibly the fittest man on the planet to realize Radcliffe’s dream. Isaacs indeed was a genius, and he managed to create the so-called Autonomously Decisive Automated Mechanism (or ADAM), an artificial intelligence that operated exactly like a human brain. Holden Radcliffe took immediate possession of the invention, and moved it to phase two: militarization. Radcliffe’s aim, in fact, had always been the creation of robotic combat soldiers, to be sold to the highest bidder as a regular army. Seeing his life work perverted holdenradcliffecomics1this way, Isaacs destroyed the ADAM Radcliffe was experimenting on, and escaped from the Corporation with the beta version of his work; he changed his name into Isaac Aaronson and disappeared from the radars, hiding both himself and the A.I. (who, unaware of his robotic nature, believed to be a regular human, Adam Aaronson, son of Isaac) from his pursuers. Holden Radcliffe, as well as the other scientists working for him, was unable to replicate Isaacs’ work, and needed a completed ADAM to reverse-engineer it: from the very day Isaacs/Aaronson went on the run, Radcliffe dedicated all his remarkable resources to hunt him down and take back from him what was rightfully his.

Despite their ability (and the money he paid them), Radcliffe’s investigators couldn’t find the runaway scientist, nor his “son”. The businessman widened his scope, and started “employing” also the regular law enforcement agencies to provide information on the two escapees’ whereabouts. The hunt lasted for years, but no significant result had been accomplished. Eventually patience wins it all, and this proved to be true for Radcliffe, as one of the policemen on his payroll, one Officer Michaels, informed him of something strange happening in his town: a local high school student, Ricky Sims, had come to him claiming that one of his classmates was a robot. The “boy” turned out to be Adam Aaronson, and Raddcliffe’s men identified him as ADAM: finally, the businessman could send a team to claim his property back. First of all, Radcliffe had Dr. Isaacs kidnapped and interrogated, then he proceeded to follow Adam’s best friend J.T. Hunt and his girlfriend Carly Whitmere: using an oblivious Carly, Michaels managed to abduct Adam and J.T. as well, bringing the three kids in the same abandoned building he had locked Isaacs in; only then, Holden Radcliffe appeared on the scene, eager to put his hands on ADAM. The scientist was sure he could hack the A.I.’s systems and put him under his control, but couldn’t predict that the life the robot had been living, with all the experiences and the relationships, had made him something unique, and his operative system was now more similar to a human brain than to a computer. As a result, while pretending to be under Radcliffe’s control, Adam was actually still thinking and operating on his own, and holdenradcliffecomics2allowed his “father”, friend and girlfriend to escape. When Michaels tried to pursue the civilians in order to use them as leverage to make Adam cooperate, the mechanical boy ignited a self-destruct system (Isaacs had taken his computer core with him, so he would have been able to rebuild him); Adam exploded, sacrificing himself to save his friends, and Radcliffe died in the explosion, defeated by the one thing he never understood: humanity.

Holden Radcliffe is a brilliant yet unscrupulous man, a genius scientist and a skilled businessman who uses all his abilities and resources to pursue his one life-time goal, the creation of an army of mechanical soldiers able to make normal humans obsolete. Unable to see the value of anything, but perfectly able to understand the price of everything, Holden Radcliffe has already abandoned much of the humanity he deems to be unimportant for the next evolutionary step of the species.


James Taylor “J.T.” James (Hellfire)

In one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s last episodes, Paradise Lost, we met a paranoid potential Inhuman who had been kicked out from Afterlife by Jiaying for being unsuitable to Terrigenesis (much because of his borderline personality): the man was simply introduced as James, portrayed by Axle WhiteheadDaisy and Lincoln visited him to obtain an artifact he had stolen from Afterlife in revenge, and to learn as much as they could on the ancient Inhuman now controlling HYDRA, and we didn’t know anything else about him, until this week, as in The Singularity Hive and Daisy forced him through Terrigenesis and recruited him in their ranks. Now, from the many aliases James has taken into consideration, we can identify him as Hellfire, another member of the original Secret Warriors from the comics, even if his powers have been changed a bit, since in the show he can make everything he touches explode. Let’s see what the original one can do.

James Taylor James was born in AtlantaGeorgia. He grew up without knowing who his father was, and developed quite a challenging personality, always traveling around, trying to make a living the best he could… completely unaware of his genetic potential. J.T., in fact, was the descendant of Carter Slade, the first Phantom Rider, and he carried within himself a strong disposition to mystic arts. When he was in his twenties, outside a bar, J.T. was attacked by a guy who wanted to teach him a lesson for hitting on his sister: the guy tried to hurt J.T. with a chain, but the young man reacted on instinct, grabbed the chain… and set it on fire with his bare touch, finally tapping to his birth legacy. Unable to explain what had happened to himself in the first place, J.T. decided to keep the incident secret, and came back to his normal life, working as a clerk in a convenience store. His exploit, however, didn’t go unnoticed, as Nick Fury, the former director of S.H.I.E.L.D. now on the run, spotted him and added him to his list of Caterpillars, superhumans still undiscovered by any team or organization, most of which related in some ways to other known superhuman. James found this out a night in his store, when he hellfirecomics1purposefully let two thugs who had been stealing from the shop go (this followed his philosophy of “minimum effort for minimum wage”): that night, he was approached by a girl who asked him why he didn’t prevent the theft, considering what his powers were. Surprised to learn that somebody knew about his abilities, J.T. was brought to a back alley, where he was asked to show his burning chain: when he did so, the girl revealed herself as Daisy Johnson, the right-hand-woman of Nick Fury, and she explained to him why he had such abilities. She also offered him to be part of a secret strike force team, composed of gifted individuals such as he was. Excited by the idea (and hoping that Fury paid well), J.T. accepted the offer, and later met with his future teammates: Yo-Yo “Slingshot” Rodriguez, Jerry “Stonewall” SledgeSebastian Druid and Alexander “Phobos” Aaron. The months awaiting him, however, were nothing like J.T. expected.

Given the codename “Hellfire”, J.T. was trained to exhaustion and experimented on by Nick Fury himself, in order to be a fully operational agent with total control over his powers. The young superhumans together formed the Secret Warriors, a team unknown to the rest of the world, ready to intervene in situations of emergency… such as the Skrull invasion taking place all over the world. Fury ordered his team to abduct Maria Hill, who had been replaced by a Skrull, and J.T. wasn’t exactly happy about it, but complied… only to find out the mission (successful) was just a field test, which they passed. After that, Fury brought the Secret Warriors in New York City, where the team acted well accordingly to their training, taking out the religious sect Dard’van, leading the invasion. When the battle was over, and Earth was saved, the Warriors came back into hiding, and J.T. was more and more unhappy with his new situation, developing quite a personal dislike for Fury, a leader he did not appreciate a little bit (while, on the opposite, he grew quite close to Daisy). The tension between Hellfire and Fury rose during a mission in Texas, when the team was sent to spy on a HYDRA base: when some of his teammates got scolded for not obeying orders, Hellfire tried to stand up for them, but was reproached as well. When Phobos prophesied to the rest of the team that they would have all died, that was the final drop, and J.T. started taking his distance from the team… but not publicly. First, he stole some of the $1.2 billion Fury had stolen in turn from a HYDRA-run bank, then, along with Phobos, he tried to steal the scene by intercepting an SOS from Black Widow hellfirecomics2and Songbird and going to the rescue alone with Phobos: as a result, they provoked a massive battle with HAMMER and the Dark Avengers, and their (once) secret base was destroyed. If this wasn’t enough, the money J.T. had stolen wasn’t clean at all, and HYDRA managed to track it back to him. Baron Strucker himself contacted Hellfire, and eventually forced him to become a double agent: J.T. agreed to spy on Fury and the others for him in exchange for his own safety and Daisy’s one, and kept him informed of all the Secret Warriors’ moves. Starting from an already difficult situation with Fury, J.T. didn’t have many problems betraying him… as long as Quake was safe.

J.T. James is an independent and stubborn individual, naturally allergic to authority and with quite a greedy and rebellious character. Not exactly a team player, he usually follows his interest only, and has difficulties in grasping the bigger picture in situations as long as he is directly involved. As Hellfire, he possesses the natural ability to summon mystic hellfire and to channel it through inanimate objects (usually a chain); he’s also personally trained in hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship by Nick Fury. He shows a remarkable potential in the use of magic, as he was considered as a candidate for the vacant position of Sorcerer Supreme after Doctor Strange “retired”. A resource as much as a liability for his team, Hellfire is potentially one of the most powerful and valuable member of the Secret Warriors… if he doesn’t screw everything up, of course.

Griffin Grey (The Griffin)

griffingreyfilmHiatus over, and we’re back! Waiting to catch up with everything lost during this days, let’s start again with The Flash, which introduced a new villain this week. In Back to Normal, a depowered Flash must save Harrison Wells from a vengeful metahuman who mistook him for his Earth-1 counterpart: Griffin Grey, portrayed by Haig Sutherland. Griffin gained super strength from the particle accelerator’s explosion, but he also started aging at an incredible fast speed, with his powers consuming him: being only eighteen years old, he looks like a middle-aged man at the beginning of the episode, and as an old one at the end of it. The counter effects of his powers are exactly the same of his comicbook counterpart, but his powers on paper are not limited to strength: let’s see together.

Griffin Grey lived in Keystone City, Kansas, and nothing is known about his early life and family. He worked at Keystone Motors, the local automobile manufacturing firm, during a period of crisis for its workers, as many got fired, replaced by robotic assembly lines. Griffin was one of the lucky ones and kept his job, and so was one of the newcomers, Bart Allen, who became a friend of his. Griffin and Bart started hanging out together, and when it turned out Bart was looking for a roommate, Griff stepped in and started living with him. In the meanwhile, the situation at Keystone Motors degenerated, and the fired workers started protesting every day, also developing a grudge with the ones who maintained their job and most of all didn’t support them. Griffin was one of the most unsympathetic ones: while he felt sorry for his former colleagues’ situation, he did believe that the old ones should move to leave space to the young, so he saw the layoffs as inevitable. The protests became so exacerbated, however, that one of the picketers put a bomb inside Keystone Motors, and the explosion involved also Griff and Bart: the second one, who secretly was The Flash, managed to save himself tapping into the Speed Force, and used his powers to save his friend as well. Griff, however, had been severely wounded, and also had been poisoned by some chemicals: at the hospital they managed to save his life, but he had quite some broken griffingreycomics1bones, and he was supposed to stay there for some weeks. Surprisingly enough, Griff recovered in just one day: the explosion, along with the chemicals, had given him unexpected superhuman powers. Once out of the hospital, back at the explosion site with Bart, Griff found out he was also able to emit blasts of green energy: thrilled by his new abilities, he decided he would have used his powers to serve Keystone City… and to enjoy all the popularity that came from being a superhero. Back home, Griff designed and tailored a costume, and started monitoring the police radio: naming himself The Griffin (not much to protect his secret identity…), he was ready to reveal himself to the world.

The Griffin’s debut as a hero wasn’t exactly memorable: during a hostage crisis, the new vigilante’s intervention nearly got the abducted child killed, and Griff himself almost met his Maker; tragedy was averted only by the intervention of Jay Garrick, who saved both the boy and the hero wannabe, and arrested the kidnappers. The old Flash angrily scolded the amateur, telling him not to play with other people’s lives without proper training, but his words went unheard: as soon as Griffin learnt that Luke Thatcher was the bomber behind the attack at Keystone Motors, and that he planned to kill the company’s CEO William Slout during his yacht party, he arranged things so that this time the scene would have been for him only. Griff called the police, pretending to be Thatcher and luring Jay Garrick far from the new crime scene, so that he could be the only one to intervene. This time, The Griffin managed to save all the rich people attending the party, but his inexperience costed the bomber his life. This “detail”, however, went unnoticed, as Slout rewarded Griffin with a $100,000 check, that the hero obviously accepted; he became an instant celebrity, he bought a fancy new car and an expensive penthouse suit in one of the highest skyscrapers in town. Griffin Grey finally had everything he had always dreamed of… but he soon realized that his powers came at a price: his hair had started turning grey, and his skin got wrinkled. He was aging at an extremely fast rate, with his powers consuming him. griffingreycomics2Worried of his new condition, The Griffin became even more brutal in his crime fighting, and became famous for systematically killing criminals, and for destroying anything standing between him and his target (something that put him at odds with Bart, who as The Flash adopted a totally different method). Obsessed by his aging, Griffin eventually kidnapped Jay Garrick, and used some stolen equipment from S.T.A.R. Labs to try and understand why the speedster didn’t get old. The new Flash (Bart) intervened and saved his predecessor, but Griffin escaped. Now seen as a menace by Keystone City, The Griffin decided to stage one last deed, a saving so spectacular that nobody would have ever forgotten him… but to do that, he needed to endanger some people, obviously.

Griffin Grey is an ambitious and greedy man, easily tempted by visions of fame, wealth and popularity. Quite unsympathetic, he lacks most of the traits required for being a true hero, and he doesn’t care much about all the collateral damage he causes with his reckless “heroic deeds”. As The Griffin, he possesses superhuman strength and durability, enhanced senses (especially vision), and the ability to emit powerful energy blasts, which he mostly uses to disintegrate anything in his path; unfortunately, he also gained an accelerated aging that is rapidly leading him to death, and his condition is getting worse day after day. Celebrity and wealth have their price, and Griffin learnt it the hardest way…

Michael Morbius (The Living Vampire)

morbiusfilmLet’s briefly come back to casualgamer‘s request (after this, the blog will be on hiatus for a week), always dealing with the dark side of Marvel Comics. Let’s speak about Morbius the Living Vampire, a fan-favorite, tormented anti-hero, who actually had a live action appearance, even if not many people know it. Among the deleted scenes from the first Blade movie there’s an alternate ending: after the final battle, Blade and Karen Jenson get out of La Magra‘s temple, and the hunter sees at a distance a black-dressed vampire, looking at him… and standing without problems under sunlight. That’s Morbius, portrayed by the film’s director Stephen Norrington. The Living Vampire was supposed to be the main villain in Blade II, but Marvel forbid his use, so he was replaced by the original character Jared Nomak. Despite having only a small (and cut…) cameo, Morbius is actually one of the most popular vampires in the Marvel Universe: let’s see together.

Michael Morbius was born in NafplioGreece, son of the genius artist Makarioa Morbius, whom the child never even met, and of an unnamed woman, who was on the contrary overprotective with her son. Since he was born, Michael suffered from a rare blood disease, that made him extremely frail and weak: his mother didn’t allow him out of home, and the only environment Morbius ever known as a kid was his grandfather’s bookshop. He had, however, a friend, Emil Nikos, who snuck in his room by night and played with him. Morbius and Nikos became inseparable, and thanks to the latter’s friendship and support Michael managed to win his mother’s anxiety and to attend school like others; he attended college with his best friend, and they both became biochemist, with the intention of finding a cure for fatal and rare blood disease (Morbius saw this as a way to help the world, while Niklos’ main goal was to save his friend’s life). During college he met Martine Bancroft, a girl he fell in love with, and who became his girlfriend. Morbius’ turned out to be a real genius, and his research also got him a Nobel Prize morbiuscomics1(although he couldn’t attend the ceremony because of his condition); he lived most of his life in his laboratory, located on a boat, with Nikos, who acted as his assistant, and Martine, who wouldn’t leave his side. The man’s research tried to synthesize a particular enzyme in vampire bats, and to make it fit for human physiology via electroshock, making human blood capable of fixing itself; exasperated by the continuous failures, Morbius decided to test the final version directly on himself, assisted by Nikos. The serum actually worked, and cured Morbius of his disease… but also created a new one, pseudo-vampirism, that mimicked the characteristics of the legendary vampirism, giving the scientist a hideous appearance, but also remarkable superhuman powers… and an irresistible blood lust. Driven by pure instinct, Morbius attacked and killed Nikos, the one man who had always stood by his side: upon realizing what he had done, shocked and horrified, Morbius left the boat, afraid that he could do the same to Martine as well. He took shelter on another ship, hoping it would have brought him as far as possible from the woman he loved.

On the ship, Morbius gave up to his thirst once again, and slaughtered the crew members. He then jumped into open waters, and arrived to New York City swimming, hiding in an abandoned beach house on Long Island. Unable to kill himself, Michael dedicated his time to develop a cure for his new condition… but the house he had used for shelter belonged to Dr. Curt Connors, who had allowed his friend Spider-Man, who had developed four extra-arms as a side effect of an experiment, to use the lab inside to find a cure. Out of a misunderstanding, the two started fighting, and things got even more complicated when Connors arrived and turned into The Lizard: the three monsters battled each other, and eventually Morbius’ blood ended up being a cure for both Spider-Man and Lizard, while he was left drowning in the sea. The Living Vampire, of course, survived, simply unable to die, and as soon as he was washed ashore he was found by two brothers, Jefferson and Jacob Bolt, who tried to help him. Dying from
thirst, Morbius fed on Jefferson, but didn’t kill him… rather, he turned him into a pseudo-vampire like he was. In the morbiuscomics2meanwhile, Martine Bancroft had contacted the Fantastic Four, asking them to help her boyfriend, and the Human Torch joined forces with Spider-Man to find Morbius and possibly help him: the two heroes, however, found two vampires to deal with, and both of them were quite thirsty. In the following battle, Morbius killed Jefferson Bolt, refusing to let anybody else live his curse, and flew away, looking for a place he would have hurt nobody else. Morbius, however, needed help, so he kidnapped a former colleague, Hans Jorgenson, hoping he could assist him in the search for a cure; Jorgenson was an old friend of Professor X, who sent his X-Men to save him along with Spider-Man, and the Living Vampire once again found himself fighting with superheroes, while the only thing he really wanted was to stop being the monster he himself was afraid of. Exasperated by his inability to fight the thirst, Morbius the Living Vampire resolved to change his attitude towards his disease: he would have drunk blood, but only from evil people, from the guilty ones who deserved to die… all the while working on a cure, hoping to become human again as soon as possible.

Michael Morbius is an extremely brilliant man, a genius who also has a deep sensibility and quite a melodramatic side that often makes him dour and depressed. As the Living Vampire (an “artificial” kind of vampire result of science rather than magic) he possesses superhuman strength, speed, agility, stamina and durability, heightened senses, the ability to glide on wind, a regenerative healing factor, the ability to hypnotize people and mind-control them, sharp fangs and claws, and also the ability to turn humans into pseudo-vampires like him (“almost” like him, since they do not possess his amazing healing factor, and die easily if mortally wounded). Being not a “normal” vampire, Morbius is immune to true vampires’ weaknesses, such as sunlight, silver or religious icons. Unfortunately, he also inherited from his “cousins” a maiming blood-thirst, that forces him to live upon the blood of his (human) preys: turned into a monster he doesn’t want to be, Morbius desperately looks for a cure for his status, and in the meanwhile he tries with all his strength not to succumb to the thirst, avoiding to hurt people as much as he can… not that he’s always able to do so.

Helmut J. Zemo (Phoenix/Baron Zemo)

baronzemofilmAnother series of images from the upcoming Captain America: Civil War finally revealed the movie’s villain, Baron Helmut Zemo, portrayed by Daniel Brühl. Apparently, Zemo will be the one pulling the strings from behind the curtains, and bringing Captain America and Iron Man face each other in battle under a political pretext. He surely looks different from his comicbook counterpart, especially because he lacks his notorious and trademark purple mask (as well as anything that could make him look even a little bit intimidating). Nothing else is known about him right now, at least if we want to avoid spoilers from the ones who watched the premiere. Waiting to see the movie as well, let’s take a look at the original Baron Zemo.

Helmut Zemo was born in Leipzig, Germany, the son of Baron Heinrich Zemo and of his wife Hilda. Heinrich was an important Nazi officer, and he taught his child to believe in the ideals of the Master Race, at the top of which there was supposed to be the Zemo lineage. Helmut, in fact, was the thirteenth man to don the title of Baron Zemo, a glorious and ancient legacy that inspired him to seek glory, conquest and dominion over the Untermenschen (the “inferior men”, meaning everybody but Zemos). The war, however, ended with the Nazis‘ defeat, even if it turned out to be a personal victory for Heinrich Zemo, as he managed to kill his long-time nemesis Captain America. Helmut had to follow another path, and became a skilled engineer: while publicly he was a respected professional and a brilliant inventor, in secret Zemo used his family’s fortune and the money he earned to recreate and perfect his father’s projects. When after decades Captain America was found alive, and Heinrich Zemo died while facing him in South America, Helmut decided to abandon all compromises and to embrace his legacy. Using his highly technological devices, Zemo created the masked identity of the Phoenix, calling himself baronzemocomics1after the mystical bird able to resurrect from his ashes; he then proceeded to kidnap Captain America, wanting to exact revenge for his father’s death. The hero, however, wasn’t so easily killed: he freed himself and confronted his captor, who fell into a boiling vat of experimental Adhesive X during the fight. Cap left, believing the last Zemo to be dead, but the Phoenix honored his name, and survived the fall; Adhesive X, however, horribly disfigured him, and his skin looked like molten wax. In order to hide his hideous visage, Helmut recovered his father’s mask, another family heritage, and spent the following years to plan his revenge… but this time, he would have thought this thoroughly. He recovered his father’s connections with the Nazi party and Hydra, and entered in contact with notorious war criminals such as Arnim Zola and the Red Skull. Using his intellect and resources, and the others’ experience, he would have led a major strike to Captain America.

With his new allies, Zemo gathered information about his enemy, and revealed himself when he used Primus and the other monsters from Zola’s mutates to attack Captain America: he left the hero with hordes of monsters, and before disappearing he revealed to him that he knew his secret identity, promising that he would have come back for Steve Rogers. His psychological war on Cap went on when, after being trained by the Red Skull and his daughter Mother Superior, he kidnapped the hero’s friend, David Cox, and brainwashed him to fight Cap. He also abducted another friend of Cap’s, Arnold Roth, landing another devastating blow on the hero, but in the meanwhile he also plotted against his allies, trying to convince the Red Skull to nominate him as his heir, knowing that he was dying and that he didn’t want a woman to succeed him. When Mother Superior found this out, she battled Zemo, and the Baron was vanquished by her psychic powers… but she was rejected by her father on his deathbed nevertheless. Again, Baron Zemo survived, and came back soon after to hunt down his nemesis once again. After another embarrassing series of failures, Baron Zemo copied another one of his father’s ideas, and reformed Heinrich Zemo’s super team, the Masters of Evil, an idea that other villains (namely Ultron and Egghead) had baronzemocomics2before him. Helmut’s Masters of Evil, however, proved to be the most powerful and effective version of the squad ever: he reunited under his command Absorbing Man, TitaniaTiger SharkGrey GargoyleWhirlwind, the Wrecking Crew, Moonstone, Screaming MimiGoliathMister HydeBlackoutBlack Mamba and Fixer, an impressive deployment of resources that surpassed any previous incarnation of the team. Baron Zemo studied for a long time the Avengers, Cap’s team, and discovered both their strengths and weaknesses; then, he used the heroes’ relations to put them one against the other, then he led a massive attack on the Avengers Mansion, resulting in a burning defeat for the heroes. Black Knight was captured, Jarvis was tortured by Hyde, Hercules was sent into a coma, and Captain America himself was exiled in another dimension by Blackout; only Wasp remained to deal with the army of criminals, but the Masters of Evil didn’t even consider her to be a menace. Baron Zemo had finally succeeded where everyone before him had failed: he had defeated Captain America and the Avengers (for the moment…).

Helmut Zemo is a proud and brilliant man, a multi-faceted genius who is by right one of the most dangerous men on the planet. Firmly believing in his father’s Nazi ideals, Zemo lives to honor him and his memory, but ended up surpassing him in everything: as the thirteenth Baron Zemo, he is a tactician born, a master planner who uses allies and enemies alike in his complicated and unfathomable schemes; he’s also an Olympic-level athlete, a master hand-to-hand combatant, an unbeatable swordsman and a remarkable marksman; the constant use of Compound X slows his aging, making him virtually immortal. A cunning deceiver and a charismatic leader, a despot and a warrior, Baron Zemo poses an incredible threat to the so-called “free world”, being a conqueror with all the resources and the intellect to resurrect a despotic and racist ideology.

Matthew Ryder (Waverider)

waveriderfilmNo new character apart from Jonah Hex this week on Legends of Tomorrow, but apparently I missed quite a major one… and since the very first episode, Pilot. While recruiting the heroes for his mission, Rip Hunter brings them to his time ship, called the Waverider… and that’s the character we’re speaking of. Just like the android Amazo was turned into a ship in Arrow, superhero Waverider has been reduced to a vessel in Legends of Tomorrow, and albeit he accompanies our heroes in every single episode, he’s not exactly present as he could. As you can imagine by now, in fact, Waverider is not originally a ship, but rather is (was) a human being, albeit super-powered. Let’s see together.

Matthew Ryder was born in one of the many possible timelines, in 2030, in a dystopian future in which the dictator Monarch had killed all of Earth‘s superheroes and had become the undisputed ruler of the world. As a child, Ryder was saved from a collapsing building by an unknown superhero, and this inspired him in the years of his youth. In college, his roommate was a young man named Bennett Dilly, whom he believed to be the same hero that had saved him a few years before: when also Dilly got killed in one of Monarch’s purges, Matt got more than determined to fight back and to stop Monarch. Most of the planet had lost the will to stand up to the tyrant, but there was still a small cell of resistance, and it was with them that Matthew Ryder, now a scientist, started to work to find out a way to defeat the unbeatable dictator. During his work with the other rebels, Ryder did an incredible discovery: Monarch himself was, once, a superhero, until something in his past changed him to the point of transforming him in the worst monster history had ever seen. Unfortunately, data about who Monarch was before becoming a villain had all been erased, and so even the traumatic events behind his creations had been forgotten; however, waveridercomics1the information at disposal were enough, as the resistance’s scientists, altogether, infiltrated a governmental project to travel in time, to identify Monarch in the past and prevent him from breaking bad. Messing in the time stream, however, wasn’t exactly easy or without risks, and it needed a massive transformation in the “volunteers” who proposed themselves as time travelers: exposed to the process to become able of entering the time stream and travel through it, all the candidates died. Eventually, still inspired by that single hero who had saved him as a child, Matt Ryder himself volunteered for the process, and he was the first and only one to survive it. He became a being of quantum energy, able to travel through time as he pleased, not perceiving it as normal humans. Still wanting to be a superhero himself, Ryder named himself Waverider, escaped from Monarch’s laboratories, and started his mission… oblivious that his enemy was spying his moves.

Waverider arrived in 1991, when he started his search for the one who would have become Monarch. Using his powers, unseen, Waverider merged with many heroes, studying their possible future, hoping to find the tyrant before it was too late. Waverider, actually, ended up being the one triggering the events that created Monarch (and that’s why the tyrant had invested on the time travel research): while he was exploring the future of Captain Atom, the combined powers of the two heroes created a breach in the time stream, allowing Monatch to travel back in time. The tyrant attacked the heroic couple Hawk and Dove, and kidnapped the latter; when Hawk reached the villain, Monarch killed the girl right before the hero’s eyes. Enraged and without the calming effect of his partner, Hawk succumbed to his war-bringer nature, and beat Monarch to death… only to find out that under the tyrant’s mask there was his own face. Hawk started seeing things differently, and understood the necessity of a supreme order in the world: he was becoming the villain he had just killed. Waverider, understanding what he had done, finally revealed himself to the other heroes, and prompted them to unite against the rising menace: together with Captain Atom, the Justice League of America and the Teen Titans, he took on a rampaging Hawk, trying waveridercomics2to stop him before he became too powerful. During the ensuing battle, Waverider glimpsed a building that was about to collapse, right on a nearby kid: he saved the boy, only to realize he had just saved himself, thus answering the question he had been asking himself all his life, on who the mysterious hero who had saved him was. Finally, Hawk was defeated, and he never became Monarch: Waverider, however, knew that he hadn’t exactly changed the future he came from, he had just created a new timeline in which Monarch never rose to power. Now knowing that he could change things for better, he started traveling in time, trying to fix things and to make people avoid bad futures, until he was recruited by the Linear Men, a group that fought to preserve the timeline. Along with another version of himself (a Matt Ryder who had lived with his parents, and who worked for Lex Luthor instead of Monarch), Rip Hunter and Liri Lee, he neutrally observed the flow of time and intercepted time travelers to prevent them to modify it… even if he didn’t exactly believed in neutrality, and kept fighting for what he believed to be the right cause.

Matt Ryder is an intelligent and brave man, a scientist with a warrior’s attitude ready to do his part to fight a dictatorship that has bought with order and (relative) peace the conscience of the population. As Waverider, he’s able to travel at will through time, even jumping from a timeline to another; he can fly, become invisible and intangible, emit blasts of energy, and he’s able to see the past of everyone he enters in contact with, and to foresee his/her probable futures. Living outside time, he’s immune to aging and even to major cataclysmic events that transform entire realities. Despite being part of a neutral group like the Linear Men, Waverider keeps interfering with time, trying to prevent the worst events from ever happening (such as when he warned Superman of Doomsday‘s return): nothing, not even the sake of reality, can shake his certainty that future can and must be changed.

Karl Amadeus Mordo (Baron Mordo)

baronmordofilmThe second (and for now last) character we can see in the first trailer for Doctor Strange is another one who received a swap from the original comicbook version, this time a race-swap: Baron Mordo, who’ll be portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor (he was Caucasian in the comics). Despite being known as Doctor Strange‘s nemesis, the movie version won’t be a bad guy… at least, not immediately, and not entirely. Apparently, he’ll act more as a friend/rival to Doctor Strange, and will even help him against the yet unnamed big baddie, probably ending up falling for the dark side and setting a return as the main villain in future installments. This marks the first live action appearance of one of the most famous and powerful magicians in the Marvel Universe: let’s see who the original one is.

Karl Amadeus Mordo was born in Varf Mandra, a small town in TransylvaniaRomania, at the beginning of the XX Century. He was the son of Baron Nikolai Mordo and of his wife, Baroness Sara Krowler. When Karl was still a kid, his father was killed by his mother, in a plot conceived by his maternal grandfather, Heinrich Krowler, who became his legal tutor. Every single family member of Karl practiced the occult arts, and Heinrich was the most powerful sorcerer in the family: in his plot to restore the ancient Carpatian Kingdom with magic, Heinrich taught what he knew to his grandson, hoping to convert him to his cause. Young Karl was an enthusiast student, and learnt much… but one night, he overheard his mother and grandfather discussing about the night they killed his father: shocked and overwhelmed by anger, he swore revenge, and left his house to travel the world and look for somebody able to teach him a magic powerful enough to kill his relatives. He spent years looking for a master, and one day, already an adult, he learnt of a palace, hidden on the Himalaya Mountains, inhabited by the most powerful sorcerer on the planet, the Ancient One. Mordo reached the palace facing the frozen desert baronmordocomics1protecting it, and asked to the Ancient One to become his disciple: the old sorcerer realized that Mordo had a dark heart and a darkest ambition, and that his lust for power would have made him extremely dangerous, but he also believed in redemption, and decided to give him a try; plus, if Mordo was indeed as evil as he sensed, it was safer for everybody if he kept him close, in the palace, under check. Karl was, in fact, more interested to gain knowledge and power than to use them for the common good, and he only wanted to take from the Ancient One as much as he could; Mordo, however, understood that his master was keeping some magic hidden from him, and he convinced himself that he did that for fear of his power. When the Ancient One took in another disciple, surgeon Stephen Strange, Mordo grew envious, and feared that the new one would have had access to the knowledge forbidden to him. Before Strange could become more powerful than him, Mordo decided he would have killed the Ancient One and stolen all his knowledge.

Baron Mordo devised many plans to kill his master, but he always tried to avoid direct confrontation, knowing that the Ancient One was still far stronger than he was: he decided to use the arts in which he excelled the most, such as astral phasing (mostly to spy on him) and summoning. Once, he summoned some creatures to attack the old man, but he easily destroyed them; Strange, however, saw his fellow disciple casting the spell, and tried to warn the Ancient One, but Mordo cast a paralyzing spell on him. The Ancient One, however, was aware of Mordo’s attempts to his life, and sensing Strange’s will to protect him, he officially accepted him as a disciple, freeing him from the Baron’s spell and teaching him everything he knew, creating a formidable adversary for Mordo. The successive time Mordo tried to attack the Ancient One, he found Strange to protect him, and much to his surprise he was defeated by his fellow disciple, and exiled from the palace. Embittered and resentful, Baron Mordo continued studying on his own, and even tried to kill the Ancient One other times (for example by hypnotizing his friend, Hamir, bringing baronmordocomics2him to poison the old man), but he always found Doctor Strange to protect him: eventually, Mordo’s resentment towards his former companion surpassed his grudge against his former master, and Strange became his primary target. Mordo’s powers were inferior to Strange’s, so he always devised intricate plans and traps to destroy his rivals (usually by trying to separate his physical body from his astral form for more than twenty-four hours, killing him), but his plans always backfired, and Mordo suffered defeat after defeat. Eventually, in his seek for power and knowledge, Mordo ended up opening a portal to the Dark Dimension, and met its lord, Dormammu, an old enemy of the Ancient One who had been banished by him a century before. With their goals coinciding, Mordo allied himself with Dormammu, and became his loyal servant, borrowing his new master’s powers in our reality to destroy their common enemies. Taking advantage of his new ties to the Dark Dimension, Mordo also settled an old score by sacrificing both his mother and his grandfather to Dormammu. With all the ties to his past cut, Baron Mordo was now free to pursue his new objective, and to murder the ones separating him from absolute power.

Baron Karl Mordo is an ambitious and dangerous man, ready to do anything in order to get the knowledge and the power he’s seeking. Without any moral or compassion, Mordo considers human life as totally expendable in favor of greater goals, and usually the greater goals are the ones he’s pursuing. As one of the strongest sorcerers on the planet, he possesses a variety of mystical abilities, such as levitation, teleportation, emission of bolts of energy, creation of force fields and much more, but he excels particularly in spells of summoning, in maneuvering his own astral form, and in mesmerism and hypnotism; he’s also an expert tactician and an accomplished martial artist. Lustful for power, Baron Mordo is one of the most dangerous men in our reality… and in many others.