Posts Tagged ‘comic books’

Today I wanted to talk about something that is becoming much more common in fiction these days, and that’s the twist villain. If you’re unfamiliar, a twist villain is when one character in a story seems to be the villain, but later on it’s revealed that another character, usually a character we thought was a good guy, is actually the villain. This twist villain is supposed to be a surprise, something you didn’t see coming while reading the story. Hence the name “twist villain.” The problem is, the twist villain is becoming such a common trope these days. In the past couple years, we’ve seen it in Disney films like Zootopia and Frozen; popular novels like Gone Girl and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; a couple of recent superhero films; and more than I can possibly name in this blog post. And when so many works of fiction are using the twist villain, we become used to not only seeing the trope but also the signs that a twist villain is going to be used (and trust me, there are signs), and then when we see the twist villain, we’re not very surprised. Heck, sometimes we even predict who the villain is well before it’s revealed.

Why is this trope becoming so popular? Simple: people want a good story. Good stories produce good memories and good profits. As standard stories of good vs. evil have been done to death, creators need to think of new stories and story elements to keep consumers interested in their work. One way to do that is a third-act twist, which when done right can really enhance a story. And a twist villain can be a very good third-act twist, if you’re careful with it.

Sadly, I find that a lot of creators aren’t careful with their twist villains, making the twist ineffective when it happens. Which is sad, because I love the idea of a twist villain. Heck, it’s one I might use in the future, if I haven’t used it already. A good twist villain can make your mind reel, make you look back trough a story to see if there were any clues and make you marvel at the genius of the creators for setting up that twist so well.

A bad twist villain, on the other hand, just leaves you feeling neutral at best (my reaction during Zootopia) and disappointed at worst (my reaction looking back on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed). Which is why I’ve come up with a few tips for writing an effective twist villain. With any luck, these tips will help other authors (and myself) avoid making a bad twist villain.

1. Does your story really need a twist villain? Any time you want to include something in a story, ask yourself if it’s really needed. I swear, so many stories just add in elements that aren’t needed (*cough* lots of stuff from BvS *cough*). Ask yourself if your story can stand on its own without any of the extra elements. If it doesn’t, DON’T FORCE IT IN! Especially with twist villains.

2. If you’re going to leave clues behind, don’t make them obvious. You can have a twist villain without leaving a trail (Hans from Frozen, for example), but with twist villains, creators often like to leave little hints of who the real villain is. I think this is narcissism on our part; we like to show how clever we are. But that leads to us leaving some rather obvious clues, which our readers/viewers will pick up on and deduce the twist long before the twist occurs. Take Scooby-Doo 2: it was so obvious that the reporter was the villain! Why else would they include a reporter with poor ethical practices unless she was at least in league with the villains?

3. Have a good herring villain. A herring villain is just that: a herring to keep us off the real villain. In Frozen, the herring villain was the Duke of Weselton. He had obvious malicious goals, is willing to kill Elsa, and he was over-the-top, which felt right for a villain in this movie. Imagine our surprise when we find out he’s not the true villain, but Hans, who had no trail leading to him and was such a nice guy up till that reveal! A good herring villain will often lead to a great twist villain reveal.

Compare that to Zootopia or Wonder Woman: the former doesn’t give us a herring villain, which causes us to consider each character and eventually land on Ms. Bellwether, who has said some interesting things and has actually benefited from these events. The latter gives us a herring villain, but it’s a comic book movie, and the General doesn’t do a thing to make us think he’s a famous DC villain we’re very sure will make an appearance.

In short, have a herring villain, and make sure they’re set up in a way where people will actually consider them as the main villain, so the twist will actually be effective. To do that, be aware of what sort of story you’re writing. Often the story will have certain requirements for villains (motive, opportunity, etc), so make it seem like the herring villain has those. You’ll find your herring villain much more effective.

4. Do the reveal earlier than the third act. A lot of twist villains reveal themselves in the third act. Nothing wrong with this, but it’d also work if the reveal was done earlier. For example, Hydra was revealed as the villain in Captain America: Winter Soldier in the second act, and that was a really interesting twist, as we hadn’t expected it. If they’d done it later in the story, we might have actually figured it out by then, or there wouldn’t be enough time for exposition mixed with a great climax. So consider doing the reveal elsewhere.

5. Try a variation on the trope. The twist villain, like most tropes, has a standard formula: something happens, one character seems like the villain, but another character is revealed at the third act to be the villain and why. Oh, and it’s usually not the protagonist.

Variations on common tropes have proven to be very effective in storytelling, so try something a little different with the twist villain, like these examples below:

  • It’s a villain, but which one? In Doctor Who series 8, we’re introduced to a character named Missy, who seems likely to be a villain, but we’re not sure what her deal is if she is. In the second-to-last episode, she explains that Missy is short for Mistress, making her a female regeneration of the Master, a well-known DW villain. A lot of minds were blown that day, believe me. The idea is you can introduce a seemingly new character into a long-running story, and then link them back to a previously-established character. Trust me, it works.
  • Everyone’s the villain! Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express ends with every suspect actually having some sort of hand in the murder. It made the novel a sensation back in the day, because it was a seemingly impossible idea, but it worked. So try something impossible and make it possible: everyone’s a villain, no ones’ the villain, or even two very good suspects with alibis both committed the murder. It could work.
  • The hero? American Horror Story: Hotel is my favorite season of the series, and this twist is one reason why. The protagonist, a police detective, is on the hunt for a serial killer, only to find out in the second half of the season that he’s the killer! Trust me, I did not see that coming until the reveal episode, and only by a few minutes! So making a hero or a character who nobody thinks of as a possible villain the villain can work very well.

And these are just some examples of variations that have worked in the past.

Twist villains are a trope that won’t go away anytime soon, but as long as we have them, we should write them as well as we write any other type of character or trope. Because if we’re not going to give people our best, then what are we actually giving them?

What are your thoughts on twist villains? What are some good tips for writing them well?

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(The following post may contain spoilers for certain TV shows and movies. Be warned before going in)

It’s that time of year again. I’m counting down the Top 10 villains that have seriously impressed me over the past year. I’ve been doing this for the past three years, and now I’m on the fourth year, so I’m very excited. Anyway, this year I had a hard time choosing villains for this list. Not because there were so many great villains (though there are plenty of those), but mostly because the villains felt slightly lackluster this year. Only a few really stood out this year for me. Not sure why, but it is what it is. Maybe this coming year, we’ll see some much better villains (especially with some creepy horror games coming out this year and all that).

So without further ado, let’s jump into the first half of these villains. Remember, I’m not including any villains of my own creation (that’s cheating) or any real-life people (otherwise Donald Trump would head the list, the giant orange zit!). These are fictional villains, and they’re the cream of the crop.

Also make sure to check out the lists from 2015 (Parts 1 & 2), 2014 (1 & 2), and 2013 (1 & 2) and see which villains made the list those years.

Let’s begin.

10. Lex Luthor Jr. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

A lot of people had some mixed feelings about this movie, and more than a few hated this rendition of Superman’s arch-nemesis, played by Jesse Eisenberg. However, I personally enjoyed this film, and I enjoyed watching Eisenberg play this version of Luthor. For me, he felt like a villain I would create: rich, intelligent, but psychotic and willing to go to great lengths to reach his goals, including creating great and terrifying monsters. Perhaps this villain being Lex Luthor might not have been Zack Snyder’s best choice, and perhaps his goals were a little convoluted, but he was still fun for me, and I feel he should be on this list.

9. The Pale Man/Edgar Mullens (Haunter)

This movie came out in 2013, but I only saw it this past month, and IT SCARED ME! And the villain, the Pale Man/Edgar Mullens, played by Stephen McHattie of Pontypool fame, was a big part of it. A serial killer who died in old age and continues to kill in the afterlife, he enjoys keeping the souls of his victims trapped and repeating their final days on this Earth until he kills him. His soft, silky confident voice and that chilling but pleasant smile, that casual manner he shows at nearly every moment, make him so terrifying to be watch. And when you find out the full extent of his crimes, it’ even worse.

Haunter‘s definitely worth a viewing, and this guy’s definitely worth hiding behind the couch from.

8. Jim Jacobs (The Veil)

Based on Jim Jones of Jonestown infamy, Jim Jacobs and his ghostly followers are the antagonists of Netflix’s horrifying creation The Veil. A preacher who believed it was possible to free oneself from the cycle of life and death, he had a very radical interpretation of theology that actually turned out to be true, but before he and his followers could free themselves, the local authorities interfered, leading to the deaths of everyone involved. Now their ghosts wait, and watch, and hope for the day when they can finish their work.

What’s even freakier about this guy is not only is he able to deliver on his promises (that’s a first), but that you actually like him! Yeah, even as he scares you, you find yourself liking him. Not hard to imagine why though: he looks like John Lennon, has a pleasant voice with a Southern accent, and he makes it sound like everything will be alright, even if everything you’re watching is horrifying!

But what really clinches the deal is how he closes out the movie. I won’t give it away here, but he has this really triumphant moment, talking about how his people will now usher in a new era in humanity’s history, and then in the same tone of voice, remarks on the day’s weather! And it closes out the film so well.

If you’re at home and you want a good scare, join Jim Jacobs for a service. You will become a believer!

7. The Nightcomers (Penny Dreadful)

When is the third season hitting Netflix? Anyway, second season’s villains, the Nightcomers, are freaky to behold. Witches who are in league with the devil, they are a family coven who are out to do harm to the show’s protagonist, Vanessa Ives. They are led by Evelyn Poole, a woman who sold her soul simply to be beautiful (you know, that old chestnut), and her daughter Hecate, who has her own agenda in this Apocalypse-bringing cult.

What’s scariest about them though is not just their magic and their allegiance to the devil, but their true forms: hairless women with big, gaping holes in their bodies, like a monster slashed them wide open but didn’t kill them. I would not want to meet them in a back alley, no matter what era it was.

6. Piper Shaw (Scream TV Series)

I don’t know how many of you have watched the TV series reboot of the 1996 slasher cult classic, but Scream is a very solid TV series (loving Season 2, by the way), and has done better than anyone ever expected (even me, who thought the first episode was completely silly the first time I saw it). And the woman behind the mask in the first season, Piper Shaw, is a force to be reckoned with.

A reporter for a true-crime podcast, she arrives in town to cover the murders taking place, and befriends a few of the main characters, including protagonist Emma Duvall. However, it’s revealed in the last episode that she’s the killer, which I did not see coming, and that she has a very good reason for becoming a serial killer (not that there’s ever a good reason, but you get my point). What makes her a great villain though, is how she manages to insinuate into the characters’ lives, become someone they can count on as an ally, and then when she reveals herself in the last episode, it is such a shock.

I don’t know how the rest of the series will do, but Piper Shaw is part of why the first season was such a success, and I encourage you to check out the show if you haven’t already.

 

That’s all for now. I’ll post #5-1 when I get the chance. Until then, what do you think of the villains on the list this year so far? Any you would have included? Let’s discuss, Followers of Fear.

I’m taking a break from posting Video Rage updates and #FirstLineFridays (though I hope you’re reading those with the same enthusiasm and interest you read the blog posts of others) to talk about something that’s become a bit of an interest for me. Now, I don’t play video games. I don’t have a console, nor do I have the time, patience, or drive to play them. But I love watching others play them. Specifically, I watch gamers play games and post the footage of the games and of themselves playing the games on YouTube. They’re called Let’s Play videos, and they are one of the most popular genres of video on YouTube.

And I’ve become quite the fan of them. Especially videos of horror games. And I’ve found that horror games, like movies and books, can run the gamut from excellent to “we didn’t put that much effort into this game and we’re merely taking advantage of people who are hoping to find a gem among a pile of crap.” Yet from a writer’s standpoint, I’ve found that even bad or average games can lead to great ideas for stories.

Beyond the basic elements of a scary story–the monster or evil the character/player has to face–the developers often, especially in the good games, put a lot of emphasis on visuals and audio. They’ll work with lighting, placement of objects, and, best of all, the antagonists of the game to create the creepiest effect. They also use sound effects and music as effectively as any composer and sound mixer to heighten tension and signal to players what sort of scene in the story they’ve come across. Add in great story that can be told over longer periods than movies and even some books, well-timed jumpscares, and objectives in the game that usually involve getting near a monster, and you’ve got a recipe not only for a scary game, but a great vehicle that can put the creative player or viewer in the right state of mind to come up with scary story ideas of their own.

And you know what else? Some of those ideas can be pretty spectacular. I know, I know, what constitutes a good idea is often about perception, and the execution of those ideas in turning them into a story is also up to the author’s individual skill, but I just want to say, they are often very good ideas. Not too long ago, I had an idea for a novel that was inspired by a game. And it sounds like a very strange and creepy idea for a story. I think I state all this because despite the fact that the gaming industry has grown over the years, with thousands of professional and indie developers, and millions of players around the world, a lot of people still see gaming as a thing for kids and are surprised that gaming, and people who watch gamers play, is such a serious thing among adults and kids. Heck, even late night host Jimmy Kimmel made incredulous jokes about the phenomenon at one point, though he later came to realize that he may have been a little hasty in judgment and talked to Let’s Play gamers to get their side of it.

Truth be told, video games are a lot like comic books: what was originally seen as something meant for kids yet possibly bad for their minds has become something that adults can appreciate and serve as the basis for several successful movies, TV shows, and so much more. They’re continuously evolving, changing as new fans and creators join the community, inviting discussions and debates, new takes on old characters and stories and encouraging people to exercise their creativity and skills in the name of fun. It’s no surprise that games can also be enjoyed by both playing and watching, and allow creators to come up with their own fun and unique stories.

Though I do agree that certain games are best left out of the hands of children until they reach a certain maturity. Seriously, if you think it’s okay to let your five-year-old play a Grand Theft Auto game, I worry about your parenting skills.

But enough of that tangent. I’ve been talking about how horror games can serve as great creative juice for horror writers (and other creative types). So I’m going to list some of the best horror games I feel can give you inspiration, whether you decide to play them or just watch others do it. Each game has plenty going for it, so you can really learn a lot from it and get plenty of ideas. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Slender: The Eight Pages

I would be remiss if I did not list this one. This game set the standard for what constitutes a successful indie horror game. Based on the Slenderman character I’ve mentioned more than a few times on this blog, the game tasks the player trying to find eight notes scattered around a forest that pertain to the Slender Man, all while trying to avoid the creepster himself. While Slendy was popular on the Internet prior to the game, the game really caused him to explode as a phenomenon, and really hit home to people that indie horror games can be creative and cool, too.

Since Slender came out, the creators have put out a number of sequels, some of which are really great, and he’s appeared in other games as well. However, this is the game that started it all, and you should definitely give it a try, if only to set the bar for what a horror indie game can be.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

If Slender set the standard, then Five Nights at Freddy’s, which I’ve talked about on this blog as well, took the bar and threw it into the upper atmosphere. Created by programmer Scott Cawthon, Five Nights at Freddy’s (often abbreviated as FNAF) follows a security guard tasked with the night shift at a pizzeria with a checkered history while killer animatronics roam the halls trying to get into your office. The game combines simple gameplay, terrifying visuals, and strong jumpscares to create a powerful gaming experience, spawning three sequels, one kid-friendly spin-off, a novel that I’ve read and reviewed, and a movie I’ve made no secret that I’m excited about, as well as thousands of tribute and knock-off games inspired by or trying to capitalize on the popularity of the game.

Another reason this game is so popular is because the game has a huge mythology, but no one’s been able to make sense of it or put the events in order. You go online, you’ll find tons of people putting forth their theories about this haunted pizzeria and why the animatronics are trying to kill you. You should check out the games for that mystery alone, but for all the reasons I’ve listed, you cannot miss this game.

PT

You can’t actually get this game anymore as far as I’m aware, but you can find plenty of people who played it. PT stands for “playable teaser,” and was originally just that: a teaser for an upcoming game you could play. Specifically, PT was teasing a new Silent Hill game which filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was to be part of, until that project fell through. Still, PT was a great game on its own, despite the final two stages of the game considered to be confusing and requiring special knowledge to make it through them. Its eerie story, the strange unreality of the house setting, and other factors led to PT becoming a popular free mini-game.

Speaking of which, a short film based on PT was released online recently by YouTube channel Oddest of the Odd, and it really captures the game’s spirit and eeriness. Check it out here, and have a great time.

Until Dawn

Imagine a game version of Cabin in the Woods that’s trying to be serious horror instead of satirical horror comedy, and you’ll start to approach what Until Dawn is. A year after two sisters disappear at a mountain cabin, their brother and friends head back to the cabin to remember the girls and have fun, only to have or or several somethings stalk them. At times creepy or terrifying, at times silly or fun, Until Dawn features a cast of well-known actors including Brett Dalton, Hayden Panettiere, and the awesomely named Rami Malek.

I can’t reveal much more about this game without giving away a ton of surprises, which are more fun to discover by experiencing the game itself. I will tell you though that the game relies a lot on the “choice” mechanic, which means that you get special choices throughout playing the game, and those choices influence how the game turns out. Info revealed, who lives and who dies, all rely on the player’s choices, and this is reflected in the game’s emphasis on the Butterfly effect. Play it or watch it, you’re likely to get a very interesting film influenced by 80’s slasher films, mystery/thrillers, and some Native American mythology.

However, it’s only available on the PS4, so you’ll have to buy that if you want to get Until Dawn. Sucks, right?

Emily Wants to Play

Holy crap, this is a tough but fun game. A pizza delivery guy is lured into a house and finds that the ghost of an evil little girl and her sentient dolls have trapped him in the house, determined to have him play a game that could cost him his life. Creepy in both tone and characters, this is a game that is as scary as it is challenging. However, if you have the fortitude to play, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. People with doll phobias should not play this game though. You’ll be unable to sleep afterwards though.

Wick

For some reason, this game isn’t as well known as others, which is sad because it is SO GOOD! Armed with matches and candles only, you have to spend the night in a wood that was once the home of a family whose parents died in a fire and whose children went missing. Along with finding new candles and collecting objects related to the children, you have to avoid the ghosts of the children that haunt the woods. From the dark woods to the freaky nature of the ghosts, Wick is a game that will remind you of campfire stories that kept you up at night as a child.

Boogeyman

Using a similar mechanic to FNAF (and possibly inspired by it), Boogeyman follows a young boy who moves into a house that has a history of children disappearing from it. Learning from the tapes of a previous resident about the creatures that live in the house’s walls, you have to fight through several nights with mainly a flashlight and keep the Boogeyman from coming into your room and tearing you apart. From the distraction-filled room to the design of the Boogeyman himself, this is definitely a game to make you want to check under the bed and in the closet before you go to sleep.

Sophie’s Curse

You get a job to stay by an old man’s side and watch his house through the night while he sleeps. Sounds easy enough…until you find out that the house is haunted and that the only way to keep away the creepy little girl ghost is to make sure a series of devices set up throughout the house are powered and functioning. Such is Sophie’s Curse, which is a really dark game. Literally: there is more shadow than light in this game. And it works, because the sources of light are the same machines that protect your life. And when Sophie’s nearby or she’s trying to mess with the machines in the house, you really get scared. Play the game, and see if you survive. After playing this game, you cannot get inspired by it.

Outlast

I’ve saved the best for last. Outlast was developed by Red Barrels, a company composed of gaming professionals who came together from a variety of companies to make a badass horror game. And boy, did they succeed: from the moment it came out, this game quickly climbed up horror game lists and has continued to terrify us ever since, as has its DLC prequel/side-story Whistleblower and as I’m sure its sequel will do this fall.

The game follows Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist who gets tipped off to some weird things going on at the isolated Mount Massive Asylum in the California mountains. He arrives there armed with only a notebook and a video camera, only to find that the criminally insane inmates–who have been subjected to horrifying experiments–have gotten loose and are causing havoc in the asylum. You have to try and get out while also unraveling the mystery of Mount Massive, and of the experiments that go on there. It’s TERRIFYING! Visuals, audio, storytelling, tension and creep factor, everything is as close to perfect as possible. I’ve tried playing it, and I had to stop because everytime I did, I left shaking and worried about my heart.

So if you want a long and really scary movie experience, I suggest watching a Let’s Play of Outlast.

What do you think of horror games? Do you have a favorite?

Let’s discuss.

[Writer’s Note: The following post does contain some slight spoilers about the new Avengers movie, but it’s all very minor stuff, nothing that would ruin your viewing of the film if you plan to go and see it. Just wanted to let you know.]

So last night I went with a friend of mine to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was fantastic, great action scenes, some really dark moments of character development, and plenty of that humor we’ve come to enjoy from the MCU films. If I were to give this film a rating, I’d probably put it between a 4 and a 5.

However, there were some things that bothered me, and I want to talk about them here. One of those things, as said by Maria Hill during that party (which we’ve known about for months, so it’s not a spoiler): “Where are all the women?” Yes indeed, where all the women? If you think about it, while there are plenty of women in these movies who hold their own against the men, the women are still underrepresented in the MCU. Black Widow has shown up in four films so far and set to appear in the next Captain America film, but a solo film isn’t even in the works (though a treatment apparently has been written) and she’s only got 24 action figures compared to over a hundred various Iron Man toys.

It’s even more sad when you consider how she’s such a great, well-rounded character who can be a great role model for girls, and Scarlett Joahnnson’s costars make fun of her and call the character “a slut” and “a whore”. Yeah, they did that. Women are so much more than their sexuality and gender, and yet these guys reduce a character to being sexually promiscuous just because she’s comfortable around a bunch of testosterone-high males. Seriously, half or more of the audiences of these films happen to be female, as I understand. At least half the people in the theater with me last night were women, and I don’t think they were there just for Captain America and Thor’s good looks. You’d think the people making these films would remember that more often before saying something so hurtful and wrong.

Seriously, where’s her time? Where’s her solo film?

 

Now, there is a Ms. Marvel film in the works, Agent Carter was a real hit when it came out as a TV miniseries earlier this year and AKA Jessica Jones is being made into a series on Netflix, but the Ms. Marvel film isn’t due out until late 2018, a full year after DC plans to release a Wonder Woman film. Really Marvel? You’ve been doing this for way longer than the other studios, and you’re going to let DC get a superheroine flick out before you? I’m ashamed. You could’ve at least put more priority on getting more female characters out there.

Another thing that gets my goat (and again, this won’t ruin your experience of the movie, so don’t bite my head off), is that while Nick Fury, James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine and Sam Wilson/Falcon make appearances, the latter two’s involvement in this film is minimal at best. War Machine shows up near the very end but ends up contributing very little. And Falcon is maybe in the film for a little over forty seconds, making me wonder why he was in the film at all if they weren’t going to really use him.

Really? Look, by 2050 minorities are going to be the majority in this country, and shows like Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder and movies like the Fast & Furious franchise are popular partially because of their extremely diverse casting. People like seeing characters like them that they can look up to in these stories, and these franchises and shows give that to so many people who have been shut out of the entertainment industry for years. Yet the most diverse casting so far in these films is the group from Guardians of the Galaxy. And I think with so many different non-white heroes in the Marvel universe, the filmmakers are making a big mistake by not trying to have more diverse casts in their movies.

Then again, there is room for hope. A Black Panther film is in the works with Chadwick Boseman as the character, there are rumors that the new Spider-Man might be black or Latino*, and hints from Age of Ultron that the next couple of movies will feature more diverse casts, which I can only say is a good thing. And with Marvel planning on putting out more of these films at least through 2028 as long as people are still willing to see them (my God, this franchise will never end!), so there’s still opportunity to make sure the women of the MCU get their chance in the spotlight as well.

They’ve got plenty of time, so I hope thy use that to put out a few films with more diverse casts.

 

We just have to hope that Kevin Feige and the folks producing these films take the hints their audiences are sending them.

What’s your take on this? Is it a big problem, or are critics taking this issue way too seriously?

Which character would you like to see given a solo film?

*I’m sorry, I’m going to take the end of this post to rant a little and blow some steam. I kind of liked the Marc Webb Spider-Man films with Andrew Garfield. He was funny, they were clearly setting up a cinematic universe of their own, and I liked the characters very much. But Rise of Electro makes less than $750 million at the box office and what does Sony do? Cancel all immediate plans for a sequel and sell out to Marvel so that Spidey can join the Avengers! I mean really! Why even bother making the films in the first place? I just hope Spidey 3.0 is funny and engaging, otherwise one of my childhood heroes is going to be ruined for me.

It’s been a while since I reviewed anything. What was the last thing I reviewed? Oh my God, it was American Horror Story: Coven! That was back in January. It’s been a while. Well, no time like the present. Let’s get started.

Well, Captain America is one of my favorite Avengers (the other is Iron Man), and I was really hoping that this movie would be a lot better than Thor 2 (that one sucked). I got my wish: Captain America 2 was awesome! The story starts out with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finishing up a morning run and making a new friend before heading off on a rescue mission. Or so he thinks: events on the mission take a turn for the dark, and from there things just get worse. Before we know it, Rogers is running for his life with Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) and they discover a plot that will not only threaten to destroy SHIELD, but possibly destroy the free world as we know it.

Although I’m of the camp that wants less franchises spanning several movies and more original films that bring new ideas and concepts to the screen, I have to say this is Marvel Cinematic Universe at its best. There’s not only action and explosions, but an actual plot where we see character growth and themes that reflect our modern world. The actors were stunning, the story kept you guessing, and the ending made you wish for more (unfortunately, Age of Ultron isn’t due out till next year, and I don’t think Guardians of the Galaxy will have that many connections to the other films in the series). Oh, and near the end of the film, there’s one moment that’ll remind you of another one from Man of Steel. Even Marvel can do that better than DC. Yes, Marvel beat you at your own scene, one you used in advertisements but one Marvel didn’t include in a single ad. Must be sad to know your biggest success in the movie industry ended because the director wanted a perfect ending and decided against a spin-off, doesn’t it?

And if you do go see the film, stay through the credits. There will be two special bonus scenes that’ll contain hints of what is to come in possible future films. Don’t miss it.

Overall, I’m giving Captain America 2 a 5 out of 5. Yes, it’s that good a movie. And if it makes you want more, it deserves that score. I just hope they end the movies in 2028, which is how far they’re apparently planning this franchise. After a while, things tend to get repetitive and boring. God knows it’s just sad to see a franchise that should’ve ended long ago still putting out movies that nobody wants to see (*cough cough* Transformers 4, Jurassic Park 4, Indiana Jones 5, Harry Potter spin-offs *cough cough*).

Now if you need me, I’ll be writing. For some reason, NBC is having trouble broadcasting SNL, so that’s out for tonight. Too bad, too. It was starting to get fun before the broadcast started getting f***ed up.

Don’t you just love the fans who make this stuff?

With Ben Affleck cast into the role of Batman for the sequel to Man of Steel, I thought I’d take some stabs at predicting what we could expect from this superhero mash-up that will try to rival the Avengers franchise. Now, I know my predictions aren’t always spot on, which is why I haven’t done any since the end of season one of Once Upon a Time (I think the only thing I got right there was Henry’s father). And I’m always afraid someone’s going to come back and tell me that I was off the mark by about 100%.

However, I really want to try again for Man of Steel 2, because for some reason this whole story sounds very familiar, and I want to get into the conversation on what we can expect from the film (which is likely going to be released summer 2015, if Warner Bros. has its way). So without further ado, here’s what I think will happen with various aspects for MoS2 (see what I did there?):

BATMAN. I’m pretty sure they won’t connect this Batman to Christian Bale’s Batman in any way, shape, or form. That trilogy is perfect the way it is, so why possibly spoil it by continuing it on in this new universe with Supes? Better to try and create a new Bats that will be as different from Bale as possible without being comical. I think a serious, more detective-like Batman would work, one who’s not overly violent but not afraid to use martial arts when necessary. That would be an original movie take, in my opinion.

VILLAINS. I’m predicting two villains will be used in the film, one from the Superman universe and the other from the Batman universe. For Supes, I’d go with the obvious choice of Lex Luthor, but if the filmmakers want to save him for the inevitable Justice League film, I’d say Brainiac will make an appearance. I still think Luthor is the likely choice though, so I’m going to throw out Dann Florek as the actor to portray him. As for Brainiac, I’d need more information on what sort of version of Brainiac they’d create for the movie. After all, there are so many versions of Brainiac, it’s hard to keep track. Unless I know more, I can’t recommend an actor (though with a little make-up James Marsters could possibly fill the role).

As for the Batman villain, I’m pretty sure it won’t be any of the villains from the Nolan trilogy, especially not the Joker (it’s too soon after Heath Ledger’s death). And quite possibly they won’t use villains from the Burton/Shumacher films due to the comedic natures of those villains. However if they do, I think cunning, sinister, and quite possibly much more dangerous versions of Penguin, the Riddler, or Poison Ivy could be usable.

If not though, then it’ll probably be a more obscure villain. I doubt that they’d use a crime boss as the villain, seeing as none of the crime bosses are memorable without a cool name and make-up. Perhaps the filmmakers could use a former Robin like Dick Grey or Jason Todd to be the Batman villain, both having come back in some versions of Batman as villains in their own rights. Under what form and in what capacity is a mystery to me, but if so, I’d pick Daniel Radcliffe or Mark Salling in a non-singing capacity.

And as an outlying vote for villain, I think Red Claw from the Batman animated series of the 90s would do great. She’s a feared terrorist with an accent who will do anything for her goals. And having Angelina Jolie, Mila Kunis, or Cote de Pablo play her would work out just fine.

PLOT. Now this goes without saying, first Supes and Bats will be enemies or just not get along as they pursue the same goal, but eventually they’ll team up and actually work very well together. I’m not sure what the evil villains’ plot will be, because I don’t yet have any idea who the villains will be. However, I’m also sure that it’ll cause a lot of destruction (that goes without saying) and may involve alien technology, nuclear technology, bio-warfare, and/or Kryptonite. Any combination of that is just fine with me.

Also, depending on the relationship status of Supes and Lois Lane, we may either get them just fumbling about trying to see if they’re compatible without danger in their lives to cause them to have hormones raging for each other or we may see them well into a relationship where they have to struggle between each other and Supe’s duty to America and the world. Either way, it’ll be put into a 2.5 hour film, so there’s not enough room for character development.

I’ll have more when I know the actual villains for the story and can guess the plot. Until then, what are your thoughts on this sequel? I’d love to hear your predictions…and possibly make a bet with you.

The Stand, by Stephen King, adopted into a comic book form by Marvel Studios

I’ve always been a huge fan of Stephen King. You could say I want to inherit that throne someday, be a successor to the current King of Horror (that’s the goal at least; first stop, publishing a novel). And I’ve always loved The Stand. In addition to being one of King’s longest works, in my opinion it’s one of his best. You think you know the familiar old story: virus breaks out, kills off 99% of the population, the survivors struggle. However, Kiing weaves into it from very early on themes of war and the battle between good and evil, with survivors taking sides as a Cold-War-threatening-to-heat-up appears on the stage that is the now-dead USA. It’s an amazing story, and I recommend you all read it, especially the extended edition, which has all the stuff King was forced to cut out of the original edition due to budget costs. I also liked the TV miniseries adaptation, even if the ending was very different from the novel. The cast was phenomenal, especially the guy who played the villain Randall Flagg. So when I heard that Marvel was making a comic book version, I scooped it up without hesitation. And I was not disappointed: combining lines from the actual text with art and action, the comic book version was thrilling, especially its more dark, world-ending scenes filled with corpses and broken buildings. I thought the artwork made some of the character’s hairstyles look a little too frizzy for my tastes, but I still very much enjoyed it. It’s too bad they couldn’t put more of the original story into the comic book, but I’m sure that they had only a few hundred pages to work with and had to be choosy. Either way, I think they did a good job of adapting an amazing story. After reading the final volume today, I had to write a review of it. I give this work, a 4.6 out of 10. Good job Marvel, now how about an adaptation of It? Just leave out that one scene where the characters make love in the sewers and I’m sure we’ll be fine.