Monday, August 31, 2015

Definitive takes on my favorite comic book characters: Bruce Banner, Bruce Wayne, Captain America, Daredevil

It’s part 4 of my definitive takes of my all-time favorite comic book characters/superheroes — and I haven’t even gotten out of the Bs!

But that’s what happens when I cover all mediums (comics, film, TV and animation). The first part of this series covers the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes — followed by fiction’s most fantastic and appealing redheaded superhero. Part 3 is an all-Batman edition.

Without further ado, check out iconic takes on the scientist you wouldn't want to get angry, a billionaire with parent issues, America's greatest patriot and the Man Without Fear. ...

Bruce Banner by actor Bill Bixby: Stan Lee created Banner to be haunted by the Hulk rage-monster, but the late Bixby made fans believe it was the scientist’s greatest burden. Three Marvel Studios films to date are Bixby-esque in that Banner lives his life attempting to cure himself or distance himself from the Hulk.

How can’t your heart break at the end of every episode of “The Incredible Hulk” as Banner leaves another town or I bet you can’t stop from smiling when he says, “Don’t make me angry; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”? With such a humanizing take on the man behind the beast, it's no wonder Banner and Bixby will be forever linked.

In this exclusive CCC interview from late June 2013, Bixby's co-star, Lou Ferrigno — the Hulk himself! — shares how much Bixby means to him and talks about putting on the Hulk makeup. Ferrigno also says Lee is "a good friend of mine." In part 2, he plays the diplomacy card when asked what film version of the Big Green Guy was his favorite and dishes on his contribution to "The Avengers" film. 

Bruce Wayne by artist John Byrne
Bruce Wayne in 1970s through early 1980s comics: Sure, this is the characterization that writer Grant Morrison once called “the hairy chested love god,” but there’s much more here.

This is what I’d call “the well-adjusted Bruce Wayne” — an intelligent man who daily comes to work at Wayne Enterprises, attends charity events, isn’t afraid to jump into action when necessary, cares for others and — gasp! — has meaningful relationships with not one, but four (!) women: Talia al Ghul, Silver St. Cloud, Vicki Vale and even Selina Kyle. Now, that’s a great guise for Batman’s alter-ego — not the shallow “face” as so many modern writers portray Wayne.

Bruce Wayne by actor Christian Bale: Debonair, charming, charismatic and handsome -- Bale is all these things as the playboy billionaire. Bale. The “Dark Knight Trilogy” writers take this characterization even further; Wayne is a deep thinker who cares deeply.

While I don’t agree with the notion that Wayne would work toward a day when he wouldn’t need to be Batman, I dig how Bale lets people think Wayne is uninterested or simply a spoiled playboy when in fact the opposite is true -- he’s actually an observant man of action.

Captain America/Steve Rogers by actor Chris Evans: This Rogers never forgets his roots as “just a kid from Brooklyn” and the embodiment of the little guy who never gives up -- no matter the odds. As Cap, Evans imbues the Super Soldier as a man among men, a strategic and inspiring leader and a fighter who won’t stop until all the baddies have been defeated.

Captain America/Rogers by writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck: This is the Cap I grew up with, so there’s a definite bias, but this is the Captain America by which I’ve compared every subsequent interpretation. Cap looks out for the downtrodden who sees no bad guy as being below his notice — whether it’s a long-time nemesis such as Baron Zemo, a one-shot villain like Everyman or even a gangbanger. The unyielding patriot feels deeply; his love relationship with Bernie Rosenthal is a thing of beauty.

Zeck's art puts the "super" in Super Soldier, giving the Star-Spangled Avenger the big shoulders and studly features we see now onscreen with Evans.

Artist Mike Zeck created iconic cover after iconic cover
during his lenghty run on CAPTAIN AMERICA.
Captain America by writer Roger Stern and artist John Byrne: This short run us nothing less than the perfect characterization of the Star-Spangled Avenger.

Stern talks about this run in an exclusive interview I did with him in mid-March 2013 at the Lexington [Ky.] Comic & Toy Con. In the second part of our interview, he talks about his contribution to the intriguing AVENGERS FOREVER 12-issue series. 

For years, I've called my myself a Caphead — a name I'd like all diehard Captain America fans adopt. In this March 2014 op-ed, I contend why Cap is a badass and it's OK to be a Caphead.
Roger Stern (left) is one of the nicest guys in the comic book industry you'll meet.
He was very gracious and generous with his time when I interviewed him for 20 minutes March 16, 2013.

Daredevil by writer/artist Frank Miller and artist/inker Klaus Janson: This is how I have envisioned DD/Matt Murdock ever since I read this quintessential run as a youth.

Miller skimps on Murdock’s job as a defense attorney, but he’s a master at doing one-shot stories which are as enjoyable on their own within the context of bigger story arc (Kingpin, Bullseye and Elektra). Miller's stories -- not to mention his and Janson's one-two punch of art -- gives Hornhead and his world a street-level grittiness that hadn't been seen until then. In fact, the vibe for this run is still the standard for the tone of DD stories. Along the way, Hornhead mixes it up with gang-bangers, ninja and supervillains; Daredevil has never been such a badass -- or as relatable.

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