Something that crossed my mind is the idea that what’s considered a superpower can only be limited to a certain species. For example, you and I hear on a certain spectrum and no one would claim we have super hearing. However, a dog can hear things we can’t. They can also smell things we can’t. Does that mean they have special abilities? Or what about birds? They can fly. We can’t. If only a select few of the human race had wings growing out of their bodies, they’d be considered having superpowers.
So that’s my question: is what’s considered a superpower limited to a single species or not?
Note: This post was originally published on Jeffrey Allen Davis’s blog
The Redsaw Origin and How I Write Supervillains
Disclaimer: The following article is meant for those who have read some or all of The Axiom-man Saga. If you have not read the series, please stop now and consider checking out the series first (http://bit.ly/1oy9MJU) as this article contains spoilers, namely Redsaw’s secret identity, which is part of the mystery of the first book.
Like Axiom-man, Redsaw has something of a muddled past. I’m talking about his real life origin, not his story one. However, Redsaw didn’t really come together until writing Axiom-man. Until that point, he was more an idea that never materialized in the mental fantasy I had going which eventually birthed The Axiom-man Saga we know today. All I knew about my overall fantasy was there were two cosmic beings at war. One that represented Good (known as the messenger in the saga), and one that represented Evil (known as the master). How these cosmic beings work is they each have champions on multiple planets throughout the universe, one guy stepping forward for them and duking it out on these planets while these two cosmic beings fight it out elsewhere. Usually, the messenger only puts his man in place once the master strikes an unsuspecting world. On Earth, the messenger’s champion is Axiom-man so, you guessed it, the master’s main man is Redsaw. What’s interesting to note is Axiom-man was put in place shortly before Redsaw’s arrival, a pre-emptive move on the messenger’s part and for reasons revealed in the series.
Redsaw is the main supervillain of The Axiom-man Saga.
That should bring you enough up to speed on who’s who in my superhero universe.
When it came to creating Redsaw, other than knowing he had to be the bad guy, he needed to be more than just the bad guy. The first thing I decided was it was imperative he was more powerful than Axiom-man, first and foremost in his superpowers—which are similar but stronger—and secondly as his human alter ego.
In costume, Redsaw can fly twice as fast, is twice as strong, and the energy beams he shoots from his hands do twice the damage.
Out of costume, Oscar Owen is rich, well-known, and utterly confident, whereas Gabriel Garrison (Axiom-man) struggles with money, is a nobody, and has self-esteem issues.
But that’s just the superficial stuff.
Even the name “Redsaw” is superficial in that I needed a cool name for a villain and “red” typically represents evil and “saw” was named after a sawblade, a dangerous weapon if used to kill somebody. The jagged lines on Redsaw’s red and black costume represent his own jaggedness and danger—again, the sawblade thing.
Going deeper, however, I didn’t want a bad guy who was the bad guy simply because he was the bad guy. In other words, I didn’t want a bad guy being bad for bad’s sake. There needed to be a reason, and the best reason for any villain in literature or film is the one that says they’re the bad guy because they don’t have any other choice. They have a strong motive that turned them down a dark path. A classic example is Darth Vader. He joined the dark side to save Padme. The dark side consumed him and we all know the rest of the story.
Oscar Owen was chosen by the master because Oscar drove himself hard to rise from poverty and become a somebody and tried to be a good guy with his powerful position. Once joined with the black cloud that gave him his superpowers, even then, he strove to be a hero like Axiom-man. He just didn’t know joining with the black cloud came at a cost and the black cloud transformed him into someone he wasn’t: the reluctant villain. The villain you and I can relate to. The one that, if you or I were put in their shoes, would do what they do no matter how dark or despicable because, from their point-of-view, they’re doing the right thing even if the cause is evil.
That’s the kind of main villain I was after for Axiom-man: someone like him. Someone who strove to do what they perceived was the right thing. Unfortunately, for Redsaw, his “right thing” is the wrong thing, but thankfully we have Axiom-man there to stop him.
Regarding other supervillains I’ve created—Char, Bleaken, Battle Bruiser, and Lady Fire—they all have something in common and it all goes back to what I did with Redsaw: they’re more powerful than the hero. It might be their powers, it might be their intellect, but either way, my villains always have a leg up on Axiom-man so they’re a challenge to fight. It’s the only way to create true conflict in the novels otherwise, if they were weaker, Axiom-man would stomp them into the ground every time and the story would be over in a few pages. Sure, it’s fun to have a few purely-human bad guys for Axiom-man to quickly dispose of, but when it comes to his superpowered rogues gallery, I needed my bad guys to be stronger than the hero and make him really dig deep whether physically or mentally to put the villains away for good. And even then . . . they might not always stay put, but for what I mean by that, you’ll have to check out the books and see for yourself.
A supervillain—breaking down the word—sure, the “villain” part is easy. It’s the “super” part that’s hard because that goes beyond their powers. They need to be above average in who they are as a person. They need to be motivated by something beyond what gets us normal people through our day. They need to be motivated by something “super.” It could be a tragedy, a misguidance, even a dark heart birthed out of something beyond their control in years past. There’s no such thing as a person who’s born bad. We all make choices. Some yield Good. Others yield Evil. Others take us down roads filled with both. Throw superpowers into the mix and you have the potential to create a superpowered problem that only a superhero can fight.
As for Redsaw, well, like Axiom-man, he’s on a journey, too. One that can only lead to one place. As for where or what that is, you’ll just have to read and find out.
Leading up to this season, Smallville was more “earthbound,” in that it really was about a teenager with developing superpowers with only mere glimpses into his true heritage.
Season Five changed the tone of the series forever.
I always viewed this season as the mythology turning point for the series. Huge things happen and we’re suddenly thrust from those Twilight Zone-oriented episodes into the DC Comics Universe; things shifted from a “superboy” to Superman.
Significant events go down this season, including the emergence of a certain location and the death of a certain loved one. We’re also introduced to a couple more characters from DC Comics continuity.
For me, this was the season where the show grew up and strolled down the Superman road with purpose instead of by happenstance. (Those who’ve seen the show know what I mean.)
The only thing that irked me about this season and going into the next was the whole Clark and Lana thing was getting played out and it seemed the romantic subplot of the show was going in circles instead of officially stating, “Let’s get these guys together for real and keep it that way.” But, as per usual TV show fashion, something always has to happen to drive the couple apart. Though romantic tension is good up to a point, Smallville set the bar high in terms of driving the audience nuts—even to the point of bad-TV frustration—with the Clark and Lana relationship. Sometimes we as viewers just want to see things work out, you know?
Other than that, good times to be had in Season Five of Smallville.
More powers emerge as Clark gets ever closer to his destiny as the Man of Steel.
This season made you know the show was here to stay and showed a slight, more mature change in the writing style (if memory serves), despite the show still being kind of like The Twilight Zone meets Superman.
Regardless, throwing into the mix someone outside the Kent family permanently knowing Clark’s secret—well, things got a little more complicated for our favorite farmboy as he’s now got the concern of “what if so-and-so spills the beans?”
What really made this season, of course, was the guest appearance by Christopher Reeve, who everyone in my generation knows as THE Superman, bar none. His role as Dr. Swann, who shows Clark his Kryptonian heritage, really brought a passing-of-the-torch moment to the show, cementing in Superman fans’ heads that Tom Welling was indeed our new boy and—if anyone else out there is like me—makes you itch for Welling to one day put on the tights in a feature film (or seven).
I love the mythology episodes in this series and Season Two had enough to remind you that, yes, you were watching Superman and not just a show about a young man with developing superpowers.
Go watch this, then check out Season Three right after it. You know what? Go watch ’em all then follow Season Nine week-to-week like the rest of us. You won’t be sorry.
Zoom (2006) Written by Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum Directed by Peter Hewitt Runtime 93 min. 3 out of 5
Captain Zoom used to be a great superhero and leader of the government-sponsored superteam, Team Zenith. When the government tried to enhance his powers and those of his brother, Concussion, something went terribly wrong and Concussion turned evil and killed his teammates. Zoom stopped him and after the explosion, Concussion was presumed dead and Zoom lost his powers. Thirty years later, the government tries to resurrect Team Zenith using new kids with superpowers and recruits the retired Captain Zoom to train them. At the promise of a big paycheck, Zoom reluctantly agrees and when it’s revealed that the real reason behind the resurrection of the team is because the government discovered Concussion is still alive in another dimension and is plotting his return, Zoom takes it upon himself to make the team ready before his evil brother comes back and puts the planet in jeopardy.
This movie is based on the children’s book Amazing Adventures from Zoom’s Academy by Joe Lethcoe. It’s a lighthearted superhero comedy, which is kind of like X-Men but with kids and tailored to that audience. Which is totally fine because kids need superhero movies, too, and with the majority of mainstream superhero stuff geared toward adults, I’m glad flicks like this are made.
This flick is chock-full of big names and recognizable faces: Chevy Chase, Rip Torn, Courtney Cox, and, of course, Tim Allen in the lead. Speaking of whom, Tim Allen was pretty funny in this and if you liked him in Galaxy Quest, he’s pretty much playing the same character of someone who once had glory but has fizzled out. The thing, too, is aside from the funny bits, when it came time to be serious and/or reflective and sad, he nailed it as well and you genuinely felt bad for the guy.
Courtney Cox was the biggest dork in this movie, which was perfect because that was her character. And she played it straight, too, that is, there was no tongue-in-cheek here, but a beautiful nerd that made you love her and roll your eyes at her at the same time.
Chevy Chase—big fan. As the head scientist for Team Zenith, he’s just following orders, and with his trademark deadpan humor and wit, I can watch the guy all day.
The kids who made up Team Zenith: just fine. Cute. Funny with kid stuff. The little girl with the superstrength was adorable. The teenager stuff played by actors who were older in real life than their characters—such a Hollywood thing—I could do without, but I hate teenage angst garbage and wish we as a species could just skip those years as we go from kid to grownup. The superpowers displayed were definitely budget: superstrength, telekinetics, invisibility and clairvoyance, and a kid who can blow his body up like a balloon. Yet they worked those not-so-awe-inspiring abilities into the story and made them work for what they needed them to.
I will say that when Captain Zoom cranks up the superspeed later on, it’s pretty cool and makes me excited for a Flash movie if it ever happens.
Overall, Zoom is a decent flick, good for kids, and if you’re a superhero fan it’s worth checking out for the sake of a fun time. However, if you’re one of those people where everything has to be top notch, then you’ll be disappointed.
Sky High (2005) Written by Paul Hernandez, Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle Directed by Mike Mitchell Runtime 100 min. 4 out of 5
Will Stronghold’s parents are the world’s greatest superheroes—the Commander and Jetstream—and his folks are hoping that by him enlisting in the super high school, Sky High, he’ll achieve his full potential and become a great hero himself. Unfortunately, Will doesn’t have any superpowers and must try and make his way out from under his parents’ super shadows and through the trials and tortures of a super high school. When one of the Commander’s old enemies, Royal Pain, surfaces, Will must find it in himself to be the man he was destined to be, and not just become a hero, but a superhero.
Seriously, Kurt Russell as a superhero? Yes. That is a good idea and I’m dead serious. He’s got the looks, the charm and the coolness factor to pull it off. Turning him into a Superman rip-off makes it even more perfect so I’m totally down with Kurt Russell as the Commander. Throw in Kelly Preston as his wife and fellow super crime fighter Jetstream and you’ve got a match made in super Heaven.
This movie is a love letter to the genre, featuring all the things that make superheroes great. As said, you got the Superman-type hero in the Commander, the beautiful heroine ala Wonder Woman in Jetstream, and loads of students at Sky High exhibiting all the classic powers throughout the movie, everything from flight to heat vision, to freezing people to superstrength, to shape shifting to superspeed—the list just keeps going. Tell the story from the point-of-view of the Commander and Jetstream’s son, Will (Michael Angarano), and you have the excuse to be on the outside looking in while also taking part in the adventure yourself.
It’s a simple story, but a good story and, as said, was a love letter to the genre and the tale used to share that letter with viewers was a good one to do it with.
I’ve also made it no secret in my other reviews that I’m a fan of superhero comedies. Usually, they’re done pretty well and Sky High is no exception. By making these superhero comedies and pulling it off, it goes to show how versatile the superhero genre really is. People generally view superheroes as so one-dimensional—sometimes two-dimensional—and that’s about it. Doing an assortment of super flicks breaks that perception and as a diehard fan of the genre, I’m happy these other variations on men and women in tights are created.
This movie has fantastic cameos by the likes of Lynda Carter (TV’s Wonder Woman), Bruce Campbell (Evil’s Dead’s Ash—who is kind of a superhero on his own, in a way; I mean, Ash has a chainsaw hand for crying out loud!)—Patrick Warburton as the voice of Royal Pain (Patrick was TV’s the Tick) and a bunch of other familiar faces. Nice.
Sky High is complete family fun, kid-friendly and is highly recommended for those looking to expand their superhero-movies-I’ve-watched repertoire.
Go see it. Buy it, borrow it, rent it—just see it. It’s good times.
The Meteor Man (1993) Written by Robert Townsend Directed by Robert Townsend Runtime 100 min. 3.5 out of 5
When a school teacher is accidentally struck by a strange, green glowing meteor, he is endowed with superpowers. Just in the nick of time, too, because a street gang called the Golden Lords have terrorized his neighborhood. Now, with the help of super abilities from the green shimmering rock, he’s able to take a stand for his neighborhood and what he believes in.
I saw this movie when I was a kid. I remember seeing it at the local Pick-A-Flick and renting it. What I got was a sincere, heart-warming tale about a down-and-out neighborhood struggling to keep going while crime and violence ravaged its streets. Enter Jefferson Reed (Robert Townsend), a well-meaning and kind man who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Once the meteor gives him superpowers, he takes on the gangs and, at the behest of his own parents, also takes on the identity of Meteor Man and becomes the neighborhood’s champion.
While not a serious superhero movie—there’s plenty of humor to go around—The Meteor Man is not all-out goofy like Blankman, and instead takes a kind of tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre while also telling a story about strength in numbers, standing up for yourself, and simply saying no to being a passive observer of evil.
This flick is also—and I really don’t know how to phrase it so excuse me—a “black” movie, with pretty much an all-black cast. I loved that part of it and there were so many recognizable actors: Bill Cosby, James Earle Jones, Don Cheadle, Sinbad and more. It’s strange because I don’t get that sense of community and warmth from watching flicks with all-white casts. Anyway, that’s just an aside.
The Meteor Man, also written and directed by Robert Townsend and not just starring him as the titular character, was done at a time before superheroes on the screen were all dark and serious, where there had to be non-stop action and all kinds of special effects and fancy costumes. And you know what? It totally worked.
This movie is a memorable one because of the messages and themes running through it and I advise it to be on the serious superhero collector’s movie shelf.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013) Written by Jim Krieg Directed by Jay Oliva Runtime 81 min. 5 out of 5
When the Flash cranks up the superspeed and travels back in time to right a painful wrong, the timeline is drastically altered and he wakes up in a present that’s not the one he knows. There’s a war raging between the Atlanteans and Amazons, Batman uses guns, Cyborg works for the government and Superman is nowhere to be found. Worse, the Flash no longer has his superpowers thus cannot travel back in time to repair the damage and restore the timeline to the one he knew.
Powerless and with no Justice League to turn to, the Flash must decide how he’s going to change the course of history and if he’s willing to lose someone he loves—again—in the effort to save the lives of many.
This flick is the ultimate fanboy trip for Flash lovers. He’s the main character and this is the first time in DC animated movie history that he gets the focus. You got superspeed, time travel, alternate timelines, the Speedforce and more. Way cool and, frankly, it’s about time DC took a break from Superman and Batman as the go-to guys for movies, even in the context of a JLA movie. With a new Flash TV series in production as of this review, I’m thinking this was DC’s way of priming the pump, so to speak, to get audiences ready for more adventures with the Scarlet Speedster.
This movie’s strength lies in two areas: the Flash, and time travel.
On the Flash: you got a quick recap of his origin, a real sense for what drives Barry Allen, multiple amazing displays of superspeed (especially that running sequence at the end), and a hero to root for from start to finish. I loved it. As a DC guy, I like the Flash, but this film really made me appreciate him and care for him all the more as it gave a strong face to his mythology and character.
On time travel: I love time travel stories. The more scientifically accurate and plausible the better, but I’ll take just about any story that deals with time travel, parallel universes and butterfly effects. I write about that stuff in my own fiction, for crying out loud. Here, DC went to great lengths to explain the time travel in a plausible way and apply what we know of its possibility as realistically as they could in the context of the movie. Nice. The DVD extras that go further into this are an added bonus for us time travel enthusiasts and are much appreciated.
Storywise, I loved this movie and the twists and turns it took made me go, “Man, that’s awesome,” more than once. When I found out the history behind the Batman of the alternate timeline I went nuts. So cool and so utterly tragic. Perfect for Batman. And Superman’s portrayal in the alternate timeline? Crazy! Putting all that against a backdrop of an Atlantean vs Amazon war added a breath of fresh air to DC’s animated movies because, like I said, it was relieving to stay away from putting the spotlight on Superman or Batman. (Granted, Batman plays a big part in this movie, but in such a way that it’s not our Batman but another, which makes it fresh.)
The animated style chosen for this flick I wasn’t crazy about at first, to be honest. The small heads and wider bodies looked weird. It grows on you, though, and eventually you get used to it. The color scheme and bleak tone throughout added to the overall feel of what was a heavy story, thus sucking you in further.
This is not a movie for kids, though. There’s a lot of violence and gore, adult themes and some language. While I appreciate “grownup” superhero movies, I wish these elements would be scaled back a bit so I could show my kids these flicks and go on super adventures with them instead of having to shelve the DVD until they’re older so they can watch it.
From a superhero fan’s standpoint, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a stellar movie adapted from the graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert.
Hancock (2008) Written by Vince Gilligan and Vincent Ngo Directed by Peter Berg Runtime 92 min. 4 out of 5
Alcoholic superhero John Hancock (Will Smith) is Los Angeles’s champion. The only problem is as much as the city needs him, he causes so much damage when fighting crime and rescuing others that the city also wishes they were without him. Enter Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a PR guy who’s just been turned down again after pitching his All Heart logo to different charitable organizations. When Hancock saves Embrey from an oncoming train, Embrey offers to restore Hancock’s image to the public while also giving a nice boost to his own career. When Hancock meets Embrey’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), he soon discovers that him and her have a forgotten past, one that’s already altered their future and will do so again unless history repeats itself.
Wow. This is a cool movie and a take on superheroes that’s unique. Though an alcoholic superhero is nothing new (Tony Stark aka Iron Man is a drunk), making a guy who’s like Superman an alcoholic is, and seeing the ramifications of that play out is something this superhero fan was excited to see. Not only that, but you got to see what an inebriated superhero looks like as he uses his abilities. The haphazard way Hancock flies shows one of the dangers of such raw power if it’s not under restraint.
The mythology brought forth in this tale is well done and turns the superhero notion on its head, bringing in the idea of a race of immortals that had once taken the place as gods or angels throughout history. The fact that these superhumans were created in pairs, and that if they chose to stay together they would live a normal life as normal humans and later die, added a level of tragedy to this film that was welcome though tugged at the heartstrings. Sort of that idea of “what would you give up for the one you love?” And in this case superpowers if you chose to be with them. It also seems that these super pairs have a genuine love for each other so to forego that is a great sacrifice indeed and was something exemplified in this flick.
Never thought I’d want to see Will Smith as a superhero. Still have memories of him as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air running through my head, but the reality is Will Smith is an incredibly talented actor and while he has used his default funny guy now and then, he’s pulled off loads of roles where Fresh Prince is but a faint memory and him as John Hancock in this flick is one of those roles. While I personally prefer actors who’ve portrayed superheroes to only be that one superhero and not take on others, if you put Will in the upcoming Justice League movie as Cyborg, for example, I wouldn’t complain and would certainly look forward to it.
Charlize Theron—I’m a fan. Given the complexity of the Hancock story—namely where Theron’s character is concerned—I really felt bad for her for what she’d given up. She also did a good job of holding her own against Will Smith, who’s a pretty domineering actor in any scene.
Jason Bateman is, well, Jason Bateman, but I like him so having him along for this super ride was super fine by me.
Hancock is an awesome superhero movie that gives a fresh take on the genre as it doesn’t follow the traditional formula. Maybe in the sequel, if they ever make one. I hope they do as I’d like to see where the characters and the mythology go from here.