Opinion

RTX 2019 Indie Roundup!

What’s happening everyone? I’m fresh back from RTX 2019 and boy howdy was it great. There were some incredible panels, lots of things to do on the show floor, and I made some wonderful memories with some wonderful friends. But you aren’t here to talk about how much fun I had; you’re probably here to read about some VIDEO GAMES.

(Also shout-out to my friends at Pack O’ Geeks for letting me tag along with them while they took a look at these games. Go check ’em out!)

Without further ado, presenting my new, 1-part segment:

THE GAMES AT RTX 2019 THAT WERE PRETTY FUN TO PLAY AND THAT I WOULD LIKE TO PLAY MORE OF WHEN THEY RELEASE


Agent Reverb (Diogras Inc)
Android / iOS | Available now!

hexagons with lines closing down on them to the beat

Image from Agent Reverb Google Play page

As I walked up to the booth for Agent Reverb, the staff welcomed me with a warm greeting of “Welcome! Do you like rhythm games?” and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. I actually didn’t get a chance to really play this game on the show floor; there were some audio/visual latency issues since they had the phone playing the game mirroring the display and sound to a TV, so everything was out of sync. They handed me a card with the phrase “agent, we have reports that a dragon has staked a claim on the Washington Monument…will you accept this mission?” written in comic sans, and pulled out my phone right in front of them and downloaded the game.

Agent Reverb is pretty neat. It’s about 70% touch-screen rhythm game, 20% idle game, and 10% action B-movie, but it seems to work out! The story is ridiculous and silly, but the game absolutely knows this. Seriously, just take a look at the incredible website. You earn volts for hitting notes, which can be used to unlock new stages and songs. Those same volts can also be used to buy robots that passively generate volts for you over time. The base game itself is free, with ads after every stage you complete, but you can kick them $2.99 USD to remove those ads, gain some premium currency, and gain a permanent volt generation bonus. Some of the songs do feel like they go on a little bit too long for my tastes, but overall I’m enjoying Agent Reverb as a fun little thing to check in on every few hours.

Swimsanity! (Decoy Games)
Switch / Xbox One / PS4 / Steam | Available Summer 2019! | Trailer

a 4-player cooperative game in progress

Image from Decoy Games press kit

As far as the indie games at RTX goes, this one was always a packed house; for good reason too. Swimsanity! is an incredibly fun 4-player local multiplayer madhouse.  The game is a pretty floaty twin-stick shooter, but the floatiness really worked well here. I always felt complete control of my character, but it did take a second to get used to the feel. The demo we tried had both the local competitive and cooperative multiplayer options available. We started up with the competitive multiplayer, and true to its name, it got insane fast.

Before each match every player picks an ultimate ability they can use, and the game turns into this flashy madhouse with abilities and power-ups firing off constantly.  From there we moved to the cooperative mode, which was hands down my favorite. Each player picks their ultimate as usual, but you’re able to stack them if multiple players fire them off at the same time. Doing so earns your team bonuses towards your next ultimate, which really encourages communication within your team. Each wave of the horde of enemies you’re fighting off only has a 1 minute timer, meaning that in order to progress you have to defeat all the enemies in the allotted time. It was really cool to see the various ultimate abilities and power-ups work in concert with each other. Swimsanity! is an absolute blast and manages to stay afloat in the busy sea of local multiplayer games coming out lately.  I simply cannot wait for this to release.

Alluris (562 Interactive)
Steam / Xbox One | Available Summer 2019! | Trailer

event card showing The Kraken attacking, with the player leaning towards the decision

Image from Alluris Steam Page

Now Kam, you might ask, what if I love a good text adventure game AND the meaningless anguish of endlessly swiping on my dating app of choice? Are there any video games out there for me? Enter Alluris, a self-described “swipe-your-own-adventure” game that I think is going to be a real problem for me when it comes out. The game starts with you choosing a gender (male, female, and non-binary are options, which was great to see), race, and class. I rolled with a non-binary Dwarven wizard because I wanted how the game handled it and I was pleasantly surprised to see my choices come up quite frequently in my various adventures. For instance, I won every single drinking contest I came across because I chose a Dwarven character.

The choices you make and paths it can open up go even deeper than that; I found a lute during my adventures and about 50 or so days later paid for some lessons so that I could learn to play it. Since I had that musical skill, every single inn that I would stay at going forward was half-price since my character would perform for a discount. I absolutely wish I had some more time with this game. My demo session was around 45 minutes, but I kept thinking about wanting to try out a different race or gender tp see what types of things I could get up to. Alluris is currently set for release on Steam and Xbox One, but the developer working the booth told me they were targeting mobile platforms as well, which sounds absolutely perfect.

Swapette Showdown (3D Generation)
Steam | Available 2019!

four boards filled with puzzle blocks during a 4-player match

Image from Swapette Showdown Steam page

Hey, remember Pokemon Puzzle League and Tetris Attack? So does 3D Generation with their spiritual successor, Swapette Showdown! For the unfamiliar, you swap blocks left and right in order to match three of the same block together. Making matches and chaining them together sends blockers over to your opponents. Once the blocks in a board reach the top that player is knocked out, and last player standing wins! I never spent a ton of time with this type of puzzle game, I was always more into to Tetris or Lumines, but I did see some high-level play from some other convention attendees and was really impressed with the height of the skill ceiling.

The demo I played had five playable characters, each with a different offensive and defensive ability. One character in particular that I didn’t get the chance to mess around with too much, actually rotated four blocks at once instead of swapping two, which does have me excited about possibilities for other characters and how they could change the game. The staff member I spoke with mentioned they’re currently only actively working on a PC release for this title, but would eventually love to bring this to the Nintendo Switch, which I think could do this game a lot of favors. I enjoyed my demo with it and will definitely be picking this one up, if anything to try and improve my game.

Black Ice (Super Duper Game Company)
Steam / itch.io | Available now in Early Access!

first-person viewpoint of the neon shape-filled overworld

Image from http://superdupergc.com/

Y’all, this game is really cool. Black Ice is a first-person looter-shooter, shlooter???, set in an open-world cyberspace where you hack terminals and fight off the programs trying to stop you. I spoke to the developer before my demo and he told me that he played a whole lot of Quake 3 and it absolutely shows in Black Ice. The movement is very fast and frantic, the enemies are many and relentless, the environments have lots of versatility and encourage exploration. Every weapon, skill, or item you find can be bound to any of the hotkeys listed, so you can really customize how you want to play. The weapons that were available in the demo felt great to use and ranged from a burst assault rifle, to a shotgun, to a disco-ball shoots lasers everywhere. Seriously.

Ever since I was young, I always thought that a first-person shooter hacking game would be just the coolest thing. I’m one of the dozens of people that really enjoyed playing Coded Arms on the PSP, and while that game had the style I wanted, it was a nightmare to control with the limitations of the platform. Black Ice is an absolute blast and is definitely the game I have been wanting and thinking about for years, I just didn’t know it yet. I loved the demo so much that I immediately bought a Steam key from the developer, and I highly recommend that you do the same.


That’s gonna do it for me! Did you go to RTX and check out some of these games? Are there any on this list you’re looking forward to?  Let us know!

Have a great day friends!

Kam really likes video games and being excited about things. When not talking into a microphone for strangers on the internet, you can find him organizing his Pokemon card collection like a huge nerd, perpetually coming in third place at Dave Grohl look-a-like contests, or in a drive-thru for any Taco Bell or Raising Cane’s in the Kansas City Area. Check him out on twitter @TheKamdyman or at his website kamraderie.com.

RTX 2019 Indie Roundup!

Spider-Man: Far From Home Speculation

It wasn’t that long ago this network was pelvis deep in Avengers: Endgame content. The anticipation for that film, the theories, the speculation; we thrived on it. Now that Endgame has come and gone, we are looking toward the future. Marvel’s future, to be exact.

Spider-Man: Homecoming wasn’t groundbreaking or particularly world-building for the MCU. It did its job of solidifying a world with Peter Parker and the Avengers. That’s all it needed to do. Spider-Man: Far From Home, however, is a bit bigger. Since it is the first release after the infinitely larger Avengers: Endgame, fans are expecting to see aftermath and the pathway to what’s next.

As of the time of me writing this, we’ve seen two trailers from Spider-Man: Far From Home, revealing just when the movie takes place and what the world is currently like. Here’s what we at the HPN are speculating for the final film of MCU Phase 3.

8. Tony Stark is an AI Program

Yes, Tony Stark the character is dead. Yes, Robert Downey, Jr. has said that he will not appear in any more films as Iron Man. Frankly, I’m not putting a lot of stock into this one. Since RDJ has been the very glue keeping the MCU together over the last decade, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to have him come back in a JARVIS/FRIDAY kind of way. Paul Bettany, who voiced JARVIS before taking on the role of Vision, was quoted saying “I would show up, record some dialogue for a few hours, and they’d hand me a bag of money.” While I personally don’t believe his bag of money claim, I do absolutely believe that voice over work is a lot less time consuming, and should Robert Downey, Jr. ever want to return to the role, a new AI program is the best way to do this. It doesn’t require a lot of time from the actor, it fits well with the character’s canon they’ve already set up, and it has comic book precedence.

What I Don’t Want to See

From the trailers, we can tell that Peter is still grieving the loss of his mentor, and that story development absolutely needs to be there. Inserting a Tony Stark AI at the beginning of the film would cheapen not only Peter’s mourning, but just how impactful Tony’s death was in the first place. This development would be best saved for a post-credits scene or a different film entirely.

7. The Sinister Six…

Or something like it. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, we were introduced to multiple villains from the classic Spider-Man rogue gallery. While Vulture was in the forefront, fans also were able to spot Phineas Mason (the Tinkerer), Herman Schultz (the Shocker), Aaron Davis (the Prowler) and Mac Gargan (the Scorpion). By the end of the film, every single one of them is still alive! Now, according to IMDbSpider-Man: Far From Home, will also potentially set up multiple villains, including the advertised Mysterio. If you scroll down the cast list, Numan Acar is set to play a character just named Dimitri right now. This could easily be a ruse, or it could be comic book character Dmitri Smerdyakov, better known as the Chameleon. That leaves us with 7 Spider-Man villains between 2 movies and the foundation for a potential Sinister Six.

Why it May Not Happen

The current deal with Sony Pictures only allowed use of the Spider-Man character for 5 films. If you count it up, Spider-Man: Far From Home is number 5 (Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame being the other four films). I have zero doubt that a new deal will be made soon enough, but with the financial success of Sony’s Venom last October and Tom Hardy set to return in the sequel, Sony is going to want to keep a hold of some of these characters for themselves. That could be why we’re seeing only their non-villainous personas, and why the two films have avoided higher profile Spider-Man villains like Green Goblin and Rhino.

6. A Whole New World

Speculation as to what Quentin Beck/Mysterio’s world actually looks like/consists of has been rampant among the internet. The introduction of a multiverse does mean that the MCU can have a canonical excuse to retcon any character deaths (looking at you, Black Widow and Vision), introduce characters from the previously owned by 20th Century Fox collection (looking at you X-Men and Fantastic Four), or merge the Sony and the MCU versions of Spider-Man.

What it Means

Truthfully, it’s probably all 3 of those things…eventually. Spider-Man: Far From Home is still going to be a self-contained story, with absolutely no mention of the Fox characters or currently deceased characters in the MCU. If Quentin Beck’s world is going to be explored at all, it is more likely that his world contains the Tom Hardy iteration of Venom than anything else. That way, they’d only be alluding/introducing ONE new character from a different world rather than many. But don’t expect them to drop the whole multiverse thing any time soon. That will affect the MCU all throughout Phase 4 and any new sagas that lie ahead.

5. There are Two Quentin Becks

I’m not gonna lie to you all; this is pure fan service. And why do you suppose they would do this? Well, it’s because Jake Gyllenhaal is just so likable. And he truly is! We all want Mysterio to be the good character they’re showing us in the trailer, including the die hard comics fans that are so used to Mysterio being a dick. Two of them would work with the story too, though! Quentin Beck’s appearance on our world does mean that there could already be a Quentin Beck walking around. We could see a bad version of Mysterio get his ass kicked by a good one!

What could go wrong

I mean, honestly; a lot. This is such wishful thinking from fans that it could easily go horribly wrong. Yes, keeping Jake Gyllenhaal as part of the MCU family for more and more movies could be amazing. He’s a great actor and the character is unique enough to become, at the very least, a new Loki-like addition. However, this could also be a cheesy, unoriginal take on the character that it results in botching the whole multiverse set up.

4. The Elementals are More Baddies

Well, duh. But what I really mean is they are specific Spider-Man villains already established in comic book canon. The easiest to spot is the earthy one, who is CONVENIENTLY MADE OF SAND. Sound like anyone you already know? It could be Sandman, of course! And the giant lava being oozing all over London? Why that could easily be Molten Man (yep, he’s a real thing). Lastly, there’s the watery giant, which could be Hydro-Man! Is it true? Are we finally gonna get a Spider-Man movie with a dozen villains?

Is that what you want?

Of course there’s a chance. There’s always a chance. And the writers at Marvel could have all looked at each other at 3 am on Tuesday after a 20 hour work day and said, “BALLS TO THE MFING WALL.” If this is true, then it would be one of the few times I’ve ever seen a movie go full video game, resembling more of a disaster film than a superhero one. Honestly, though, I think it may all be part of Mysterio’s schtick. He could be causing all these malcontent elementals to appear. So far they are faceless and nameless beings that we only really see Mysterio face, which sets up my head canon that MYSTERIO IS A DICK.

3. More Spider Characters are Coming

This would be one way to get me to sign on to MCU Spider-Man for decades. Seeing Jessica Drew or Cindy Moon, Gwen Stacy or Miles Morales swinging on the big screen would light me up for days. I always found those characters more interesting than Peter himself. But I digress. Not only does opening the multiverse give us this option, but there’s no reason why characters like Cindy Moon and Jessica Drew don’t already exist on this Earth, in this world. Most of the other characters already in the MCU have side characters that have similar power sets or friends that join them in their adventures. Very rarely is an MCU solo film really solo.

Why we can’t have this yet

If you’ve noticed, the MCU has introduced quite a few popular Spider-Man characters, but have only used their normal names as opposed to their hero monikers. This has a lot to do with their deal with Sony. With the success of Venom and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, it’s likely that Sony has got some big plans for Spider characters, even dropping the idea of a female-centric animated film in the works. Depending on how the new deal with Sony is negotiated, it’s possible that more Spider characters won’t be swinging any time soon, but be on the look out for those normie names!

2. More Avengers!

As the MCU story lines progress, there’s less and less of IN UNIVERSE reasons to explain why more heroes don’t just show up. Surely with an Infinity Stone and some world shattering destruction in Thor: The Dark World, someone was available to help? No? Well shucks. We all know the real reason: it’s all about contracts. There are some stars, like Samuel L. Jackson, that commit to 9 pictures, but he does say that includes cameos too. Others, like Chris Evans, was signed on for 6 originally, extended to 7, but popped up for those cameos and didn’t count it against Marvel.

But wait! There’s more

This one might actually work. The newer additions to the Avengers roster have all been contracted for A LOT more films, counting those cameos here and there. Sure, Fury and Maria Hill have explained why they don’t get Captain Marvel or Thor for the Elemental attacks in Europe, there’s still a TON more heroes to choose from that are alive and well and actually on Earth. Expect to see small scenes with other Avengers in most of the solo films going forward. Think Doctor Strange in Thor: Ragnarok

1. Spider-Man is the new Iron Man!!!!!

What a weird speculation. I bet, in a way, he is. He has been, at most times, Marvel’s most popular character around the world. From a merchandising and marketing perspective, I’m sure he’ll sell way more toys and clothes, especially with Peter being a younger man. But to claim that it’s Spider-Man of all characters to step up and be the world’s Tony Stark, is putting a lot of fictional weight on a character’s shoulders. The Peter Parker we know isn’t ready to be a leader of the Avengers. And while he’s an intelligent person, Peter has never compared to Tony’s brains.

Spider-Man isn’t the new anyone

Spider-Man is his own character and has his own role to play already. He already serves his own purpose in the Avengers. Honestly, if they didn’t think he was useful, they wouldn’t have relied on him numerous times already. One of the best things the MCU has done is create the pseudo-father/son relationship between Tony and Peter. It’s seriously heartwarming. At this time, his character should be allowed to grieve and figure out who HE is going to be as a hero instead of filling someone else’s shoes. Spider-Man will always be an incredible asset to the team and now is his time to prove that to himself.

Alright, those are our speculations for Spider-Man: Far From Home plus some. What do you think? Do you agree with our Spidey-speculations, do you have some of your own? Let us know in the comments or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

Join me, Rae, each week on the Screen Heroes podcast where we’ll be reviewing Spider-Man: Far From Home once it hits theaters in July.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Speculation

Top 20 Quintessential Picard Episodes

Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the USS Enterprise. While he might not be everyone’s favorite Captain, it’s hard to argue with the impact he’s had on the Star Trek franchise and fandom. After 7 years on television followed by 4 feature films, Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard set off into the sunset. The end of Star Trek: Nemesis saw our Captain walking through the halls of the Enterprise E, seemingly with a fresh sense of purpose and hope. His loyal First Office had finally become Captain himself. He and the crew saved Earth, the Federation, and even the Romulan Empire. And B4 might just get his own personality from Data’s memory dump. Things were looking up but it was that generation’s final journey. Right? I mean, that was the tagline for the film, after all.

It turns out that many of us were wrong. Picard is returning. The new series, Star Trek: Picard is slated for a 2019 premiere and that gives us just enough time to get our ducks in a row and prepare for his return. So here we go…

The Top 20 Quintessential Picard Episodes for those #Prepping4Picard (in chronological order).

Want to know why I picked these episodes? No problem. Check out Episode 72 of the Redshirts & Runabouts podcast, “Quintessential Picard” for a detailed discussion.

Select an episode below to hear our review on Redshirts & Runabouts as we Trek through our own Prepping 4 Picard series.

Please note that episode numbers were derived from Wikipedia.

Season 1, Episode 1 & 2: Encounter at Farpoint
Season 1, Episode 25: Conspiracy
Season 2, Episode 9: The Measure of a Man
Season 3, Episode 15: Yesterday’s Enterprise
Season 3, Episode 19: Captain’s Holiday
Season 3, Episode 23: Sarek
Season 3, Episode 26 & Season 4 Episode 1: Best of Both Worlds Parts 1 & 2
Season 4, Episode 2: Family
Season 4, Episode 21: The Drumhead
Season 5, Episode 2: Darmok
Season 5, Episodes 7 & 8: Unification Parts 1 & 2
Season 5, Episode 25: The Inner Light
Season 5, Episode 26 & Season 6, Episode 1: Time’s Arrow Parts 1 & 2
Season 6, Episode 10 & 11: Chain of Command Parts 1 & 2
Season 6, Episode 15: Tapestry
Season 6, Episode 18: Starship Mine
Season 6, Episode 19: Lessons
Season 6, Episode 20: The Chase
Season 7, Episode 4 & 5: Gambit Parts 1 & 2
Season 7, Episode 25 & 26: All Good Things…

What do you think of our list of the Top 20 Quintessential Picard episodes? Did we leave something off the list? Did we include something you think doesn’t belong? Listen to our discussions and then let us know your thoughts.

Make it so.

Top 20 Quintessential Picard Episodes

Top 10 Times Superhero Casting was Perfect (Movie Edition)

We often think casting the perfect film is a rare achievement that only the top echelon filmmakers accomplish. Yet it can happen to any director at any time. It can happen as a mere fluke, relying on absolute unknowns, or by someone involved in the process just believing beyond a doubt that this actor can do the role. And while it is a massive achievement that can appear in any genre of film, there is something magical to be said for casting the perfect superhero. They have transforming powers over us, completely redefining our image of a character we were already familiar with, to the point where the character becomes almost untouchable for any other actor. These actors don’t just step into a role and then step out of it; they often become the character to a point where the line between actor and character is blurred, even for them. Their image is often the first recalled when discussing the superhero and persists even years after their film(s) have passed, which have both hurt and helped actors along the way. This article, though, is to celebrate the brilliant work these actors have put forth and helped to create pop culture icons.

These are the top 10 times superheroes were perfectly cast, in no particular order.

10. Michael Keaton – Batman (1989).

Let’s just get this one out of the way first. Keaton was the OG controversial casting, leading to thousands of fans handwriting angry letters to Warner Bros. Studios and director Tim Burton, predicting what hell the internet would bring decades later. Keaton was relatively unknown, with his only major role being the comedic film Beetlejuice. It wasn’t until he stepped out of the shadows, grabbed some punk by his jacket, and said the words, “I’m Batman,” that fans let up on their criticism. While four other actors have stepped into the live-action role since (many more if you include animation and television, not to mention our upcoming new Dark Knight, Robert Pattinson), it was Michael Keaton’s portrayal that gave us the actual Dark Knight fans had been craving for years. His charismatic Bruce Wayne matched his brooding Batman in such a harmonious performance that has left it almost impossible to outdo. The role was so synonymous to Keaton himself that it slowed, an argument could be made for halted even, his career. He would later parody this in Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) which would act as a career comeback.

9. Zachary Levi – Shazam (2019)

With only one Shazam film appearance under his belt, it says quite a lot for Zachary Levi to appear on this list. It’s very possible that there’s just not that many incarnations of Shazam (formerly Captain Marvel) to compare him to, unlike many others on this list. That does help to make him stand out but it would be insulting to discount his performance that much. This man was made for this role. Levi has built a career on hidden gems roles such as Chuck and Flynn Ryder, but none more surprising as Shazam. He managed to capture the nuanced wonder a child would have should he actually be trapped in a man’s body. Not to mention how accurate his portrayal of how anyone would behave if they got super powers suddenly was. It was a large feat to ask of someone because Shazam isn’t a simple immature adult, which is easily how the role could been played. He is complex and naive and a jerk and a hero all at once, and Levi nailed it. He was the most enjoyable part of a most enjoyable film.

8. Patrick Stewart – X-Men (2000)

With very little reluctance from audiences, Patrick Stewart stepped from his iconic turn as Jean-Luc Picard to Professor Charles Xavier, an equally as memorable character role. He brought a gentler touch to Professor X, imbuing him with a father type attitude compared to his often shady demeanor in the comics. It’s a role he has played in film and games for close to two decades and, for most, it will be the only way they know Professor X. Now, no one is saying that James McAvoy has done a bad job. Quite contrary to that actually. He’s played Professor X in a way that’s actually more likened to the comics than Stewart’s performance. But it was Stewart that got to the role first and has forever cemented into our brains that he is Professor X. Besides, can you imagine anyone else portraying him in Logan as tragically as he did? No, you can’t. Because it’s impossible.

7. Gal Gadot – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

As the only woman to grace this list, it is easy to say that Gadot has crushed the role of Wonder Woman. Like most of the people on this list, her casting came with some intense backlash, with criticisms falling into one of two camps: her physical appearance or her level of experience. However, Zack Snyder knew when she auditioned that she was special. And she is special. Gal brought everything we needed to see in Wonder Woman to the role. She was goodhearted with a little naivete, she was bloodthirsty with restraint, she was dedicated to her convictions without being grim.  It’s no wonder that the direction of the DC films is hinging on her being a part of them.

6. Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool (2016)

Sometimes an actor is able to step into a role and completely transform it. Other times, that character gets molded into this combination of real life and fiction. And then there’s Ryan Reynolds’s take on Deadpool. This man fought for this character, and this film, for the better part of a decade. He paid his dues with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Blade: Trinity, and Green Lantern. He proved to everyone with a short scene released on YouTube, completely funded by him, that Deadpool could work on the big screen, and there was no one else to do it than him. This man put his blood and sweat into this character and gave us two of the coolest superhero films to date. It’s an exciting path to be on and watch how it continues to unfold.

5. Samuel L. Jackson – Iron Man (2008)

This is an odd choice, but hear me out: Samuel L. Jackson has been playing this character since the beginning of the MCU. He has been in more movies than any of the other actors involved (he’s been in 11 of the films. Robert Downey, Jr. has been in 9 to date.)  Despite not having a solo movie of his own (which he should have) and despite the character being portrayed completely differently in most of the comics and a previous film, Jackson has made Nick Fury synonymous with his name. How he got the part is fairly incredible as well: Brian Michael Bendis decided he wanted to base the new version of Nick Fury for The Ultimates comic on Jackson’s look and personality. Jackson agreed fairly quickly with only one caveat: he wants to play him in the movie. The MCU did not have to keep that bargain, but they did. And since then, the world has associated Nick Fury, the spy of spies, with Samuel L. Jackson.

4. Chris Evans – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

At first, Chris Evans may have seemed like a weird casting for Captain America. He was mostly known for dorky comedic roles at the time, but so many people behind the scenes believed in him. Even more so than Chris believed in himself. Reportedly, Evans turned down the role twice, hesitant to sign such a large multi-picture deal, and it wasn’t until Downey himself talked to him that he agreed to it. It was fairly obvious from his first two outings as Captain America, that the MCU and the directors involved were not sure what to do with him. He played the role of Steve Rogers just fine, but ultimately, his power set was underutilized and he looked bland compared to some of the other characters. It wasn’t until Captain America: Winter Soldier that Evans was given a chance to really shine. Since then, we’ve been watching Evans embody the role of Captain America both on and off screen, being the person we all wish we could be.

3. Christopher Reeve – Superman (1978)

This list would be sorely mistaken if it managed to leave off the very first perfectly cast superhero: Christopher Reeve as Superman. He really did make us all believe that a man could fly. This movie was well before my time, yet still managed to resonate with me as a kid. As soon as he steps on screen, Reeve as Superman inspires awe, causing me to hold my breath the first time I saw him. He told us that he stood for truth, justice, and the American way, and it never once felt hokey. You believed him to be earnest and genuine, something that’s not always achievable by actors. His first two outings as Superman are nearly perfect films, creating a standard that we still hold both superhero movies and the actors that play those heroes. Reeve not only took on the large task of portraying the number one most recognized hero in the world, but he also managed to play his counterpart, Clark Kent, in a way that hasn’t been outdone since. He wasn’t bland or meek. Reeve’s take on Kent was subtle and sweet, but you still couldn’t look away from him. He will forever be the man on the pedestal that we compare our heroes to.

2. Hugh Jackman – X-Men (2000)

Let’s face it: we all think of Wolverine when we hear Hugh Jackman’s name. And it’s difficult to recall a time where we didn’t. For the last (almost) 20 years, Jackman has brought this character to life, giving him a little more depth to add to our previous comic knowledge and evoking more attachment to his character than most people expected. He was never anyone’s first choice to play the character considering just how physically different he is from the comic book version, and even joining the original cast a few weeks after shooting had begun. He blew everyone’s expectations out of the water, becoming a stand out feature of any X-Men film and the saving grace for the less than good ones. It is no wonder why Wolverine was the fan favorite for so long and the only X-Man to receive spin-off movies. With his character, and most likely because of his character, we’ve also seen an evolution of the superhero films. These movies no longer sit in a bottle of their own but have incorporated other genres which the Wolverine/Logan trilogy exemplifies marvelously. While we were all heartbroken to hear that Jackman would no longer play Wolverine, we were thrilled that the last time we saw him was in Logan, which is objectively one of the best modern westerns out there.

1. Robert Downey, Jr. – Iron Man (2008)

There is no reason why Iron Man should have worked as well as it did. The MCU wasn’t a thing. Marvel had no choice but to lead their new film studios with C and D list characters because they had sold off all of their successful comic book properties. They took chance after chance. Director Jon Favreau was best known for his side roles in Swingers and PCU. The script was changing every day, even while shooting was happening. But Robert Downey, Jr. was the biggest wild card of them all. The studio had been pushing for Tom Cruise to play Tony Stark since the 90’s. He was reliable and a box office money bag. RDJ was coming off a personal hiatus and was no one’s first choice to play anything at the time. He was personally recommended by Terrance Howard (then cast as James Rhodes), with him and Favreau in Downey’s corner after the audition. Since then, we’ve got 9 movies proving to us why Robert Downey, Jr. has been the lynch pin for the MCU success over the years. Sure, there’s been amazing MCU casting, some even appearing on this list. But can you honestly imagine a world where Tom Cruise or Sam Rockwell (another Tony Stark contender) was our Iron Man? Hell no. At the end of Iron Man, when Robert Downey, Jr. says so confidently, “I am Iron Man” he wasn’t just saying a line in a movie. He was proclaiming to the world that this character belongs to him now and will forever be associated with his name.

 

That’s my list! The top 10 best superhero castings as of 2019. There are many more I considered adding to the list, such as any of the three Spider-Mans (that is proper English and I’m a sucker for all three, don’t @ me) or Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Let us know in the comments what you think. Who would be in your top 10 superhero casting list?

Top 10 Times Superhero Casting was Perfect (Movie Edition)

Reaching the Endgame: An MCU Retrospective

May 2008 didn’t seem like a particularly significant month. Marvel was putting out a new movie, Iron Man. It had Robert Downey Jr. in it, someone I had heard about but didn’t really know his body of work. But hey, Jeff Bridges was in it and I was a huge fun. Besides, a sci-fi mech suit, cool technology, and a superhero flick… should be fun.

Flash forward 11 years and now I’ve seen Captain Marvel in theaters twice. It marked the 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the 2008 Iron Man started. These films have been the subject of articles and debates, both friendly and vicious for over a decade now. Even more, we as fans have watched our favorite heroes grow, change, age with us. Thinking back at how different Tony Stark and Steve Rogers were during their initial debuts versus where they are in the Avengers: Endgame trailer, and it’s difficult not to recognize the cultural and emotional impact these characters have had on the world.

11 years ago, I was in college. I was working part-time as a server and bartender while attending an undergraduate program at a local community college before transferring back to KU the coming Fall semester. I was living in my parents’ basement, playing a lot of Nintendo Wii. Now, I’ve got a mortgage, two cars, a fiancée, and the best dog in the world. It’s fair to say that a decade has changed me just as much as it has the MCU.

Just for some perspective, let’s recall 2008 culturally, specifically what the world was like when Iron Man debuted. The Dark Knight was still two months from opening and the internet was petrified Heath Ledger would screw up the Joker. We were just a year away from Spider-Man 3 and just oh-so-convinced it was going to be good. How naïve we were. Star Trek was set to return the following year and the future of Star Wars was still nebulous. It was the era of the PS3 and Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii. Obama and McCain were campaigning for office. The stock market was just a few months away from crashing and sending the US into the second largest recession in its history.

It feels so long ago, and the more I think about it, the more detached from that time I feel. The microcosms of our lives make it so easy to forget how different everything was a decade ago. And 2008 was indeed a landmark year for film, pop culture, comic books, and nerdom as a whole.  There was no such thing as the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. But having Tony Stark announcing “I am Iron Man” marked the beginning of something incredibly new, the cinematic universe. It was almost as if Robert Downey, Jr. himself was being the mouthpiece for everyone behind that film, assuring us that something amazing was headed our way.

Iron Man

Nothing about Iron Man should have worked. Casting Robert Downey, Jr. in 2008 was considered a very risky choice as he had been largely absent from the film scene due to recovering from his own demons. The studio pushed for a Tom Cruise lead film. The script wasn’t even finalized until shooting had started. Accounts from director Jon Favreau and Jeff Bridges both recall that the script was changed daily, with plans for the Iron Monger suit being scrapped and reinstated with each new day. Hell, the whole plan was started because Marvel had sold off literally all of their most successful properties to other studios, leaving them to feature their “B Team” characters, something not even the comics were doing that successfully.

Iron Man ended up being a remarkable success, turning some of the most staunch superhero haters into instant fans. Everyone loved that movie. There was even outrage when it was snubbed at the Oscars a few months later. This was just what Marvel Studios needed to move forward with what would be called “Phase 1” of Nick Fury’s Avengers Initiative.

Fun fact about Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson was approached by comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis when he was writing The Ultimates so that he could use his likeness for The Ultimate timeline’s Nick Fury. Jackson said they could under one condition: he gets to play him in the film. Marvel was only happy to oblige Mr. Jackson.

Incredible Hulk came next. It was met with some criticism with most people saying, “It’s not as good as Iron Man but it’s so much better than the Ang Lee film.” It wasn’t until after the release of the movie that all the drama with Universal Studios and Edward Norton came out. That drama was just enough for Marvel to move away from the Hulk as much as they could without completely nixing the character, which is just fine, because in the end, Mark Ruffalo has now become the face of the modern Hulk.

The rest of Phase 1 gave us decent introductions of some of the most prolific characters of the MCU today. In 2010, we got the first casting change in the MCU. Don Cheadle took up the role of James Rhodes (War Machine) after an extensive contract dispute with Terrence Howard. See, Howard actually ended up making more money than Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges, despite having a smaller part and being billed below all of them. He was able to achieve this by being the first one cast and having excellent negotiation skills. Marvel didn’t know any better. It wasn’t until all the others accepted their salaries that they figured it out. So when they offered him much less for Iron Man 2 and he hedged, they dropped Howard so fast. Before completely taking over the role, Don Cheadle did receive Howard’s blessing and became the War Machine we know and love today. Howard’s not doing badly either, completely ruling Fox on his series, Empire.

 

We also met Black Widow, the defected spy from Russia and the first woman of the MCU. She was portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in what would be a career defining role. Even now, one of the largest omissions of the MCU is not giving Black Widow her own standalone film during Phase 1 (if you don’t remember, that was one of the biggest fan complaints between 2010 and 2012.)

Black Widow

Thor, Loki, and, to a much lesser degree Hawkeye, were introduced in the MCU’s next film, Thor. While relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth was everything we always wanted in a Thor, it was Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki that brought the brooding sex appeal and charm that made all the fan girls go wild. It is unlikely that Marvel’s first choice, Josh Hartnett, would have created the same fan base that propelled Loki into four more films and an upcoming TV show. Hawkeye, on the other hand, was shoehorned into the film during the only place it made any sense right after it Joss Whedon cast him for Marvel’s The Avengers. The news of Jeremy Renner’s casting broke shortly before the movie dropped and literally no one expected his appearance.

Thor

In 2011, Captain America: The First Avenger also released, proving to us that Chris Evans had grown into an exceptional actor. Long gone were the days of whipped cream bikinis from Not Another Teen Movie. He brought life to a character that had felt out of place in the comics for decades, giving Cap the Boy Scout feel we love but the charm of the “man out of time.” Let’s not forget the utter brilliant performance of Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, solidifying a precedent for amazing villains that Phase 2 would largely fail to live up to.  

Captain America

Then Avengers dropped. This movie forever changed the landscape of movie studios. It was cinema magic to the say the least. We’ve seen multiple companies try and recreate the fantasy that Marvel did and fail over and over. They’ve tried to repeat it almost step-by-step but forgot to add in the quirk and charm Marvel did (Universal’s “Dark Universe” comes to mind) or try to force their huge team up by rushing and convoluting the story (Warner Brother’s Worlds of DC, previously the DCEU, really wanted Justice League to be a thing). The trick with Marvel was they always had a plan, but they also had backup plan after backup plan in case this didn’t work out. In Phase 1, the studio trusted the directors to pull out the best performances of not just their actors, but their stunt coordinators, special effects artists, and script writers. They laid the groundwork for, what was at the time, the most ambitious and well laid cinema plans to date, and Joss Whedon followed through. That movie had it all: humor, high stakes, impressive action, a place for every character, depth, tragedy, endings, and beginnings. Frankly, it was the well-rounded superhero movie everyone had waited for and will always stand out as a bright spot of hope in the MCU.  

Avengers

Phase 2 remains a mixed bag of successes and problems. The first one out of the gate was Iron Man 3, which was the first largely divisive film of the MCU. Previous Iron Man director Jon Favreau had stepped down, mostly due to how badly his hands were tied creatively during Iron Man 2. Shane Black (that dude who died in Predator) stepped in and did what he could with The Mandarin, a story long-time fans of Iron Man had been waiting for since the beginning. I, for one, tried very hard to defend the story and the large twist but have since let it go. On the one hand, seeing Tony Stark experience PTSD as a direct result of his sacrifice from the Battle of New York is classic Marvel, humanizing our heroes right before our eyes. On the other, if you have a brilliant actor like Ben Kingsley in your role as a horrifying terrorist and you reduce him to fart jokes, I’m probably going to have a problem with your story. Sure, the Hail to the King one-shot story hinted at another Mandarin, but that’s a revelation that will never pay off. Sorry, fan boys. Not happening.

Age of Ultron

Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron were also riddled with problems on and off screen which came down to one thing: Marvel Studios was scared to upset the status quo. They lacked faith in female villains (girls don’t buy toys, duh), in their directors, in their stories. Even newcomer franchise Ant-Man played things safe in places and cemented the fact that we’ll never see an Edgar Wright MCU film, which I think is a huge loss. The only stand out examples of Marvel doing something unique was 2014’s films: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1. These movies were so spectacular and original, it’s very hard to believe that they were sandwiched by such safe mediocrity. The Winter Soldier was the first time we had seen the superhero genre merge with something else, being one of the most well-crafted spy thrillers of the new 2010’s. Guardians of the Galaxy took a collection of oddball characters from the deep recesses of the Marvel vault and put them in their very own spotlight and made it work. Marvel took chances on relatively unknown directors, unexpected actors, and unusual story lines. What they created were two of the best superhero movies to date. It’s almost as if they don’t belong in the Phase 2 set, but if they hadn’t, there is a huge chance that the MCU would have been written off as a whole.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1

Phase 3 has been a melting pot of wrapping up stories and beginning new ones. A deal with Sony had been struck to incorporate the Spider-Man character into the MCU on the condition that Sony retains the rights to the rest of the “Spider” characters. A Spider-Man/MCU franchise was fast-tracked, having his first solo film bump the timeline for Black Panther and Captain Marvel, along with reshoots to Captain America: Civil War incorporating him into the film. It was one of Joss Whedon’s regrets that he wasn’t able to get the character into Age of Ultron since the deal had been finalized but not fully realized at that time.

Captain America: Civil War Cap v Iron Man

Civil War

When Captain America: Civil War had been announced, I admit I got all tingly inside. It was one of the biggest and best crossover comic events that Marvel has put out to date. The tension between our cinematic Avengers had been building for years and this was going to be a solid payoff. While it remains one of the more successful MCU films, it was far from perfect. The Russo brothers were brought back for their second film and created, essentially, an Avengers film. Both our heroes, Iron Man and Captain America, are incredibly problematic. Black Widow makes a drastic 180 character turn, which is even called out by James Rhodes, and still doesn’t work. Yet it’s hard to deny that Black Panther had a brilliant introduction in what could have been an overstuffed movie, and finally seeing Ant-Man get giant sized was something I didn’t know I needed in my geeky life.

The introduction to Doctor Strange in his own eponymous title film told us the already familiar story of a snarky genius in times of physical tragedy (Iron Man and Doctor Strange are the same character in so many ways), but delivered it in a sparkly magical package that we hadn’t seen before. The visual effects were stretched beyond what Marvel had shown us before, giving us a hero both new and old to the MCU. Spider-Man: Homecoming also delivered a “familiar new” story, presenting us with the third live-action iteration of Peter Parker seen since 2000, and to some, the best. And while some joke it’s just another Iron Man film, it shines, in the addition of Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, the Vulture.  This character was originally wanted for Sam Raimi’s fourth installment in the Sony Tobey Maguire series and had eyed John Malkovich to play him. While that had the potential to be a spectacle on par with Alfred Molina’s brilliant turn as Doctor Octopus, Keaton’s turn gave us a chillingly subtle performance, with the character’s secret identity being more frightening than his villainous one. It was absolutely the right call to keep the character alive AND have Keaton reprise it in the upcoming film, Spider-Man: Far from Home.

 

Black Panther

While phase 3 fizzled with Ant-Man and the Wasp and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (hey, we’re not saying they’re bad, just not as good as some of the other films), the MCU really shined with the first solo films of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, and the continuation of the Thor franchise in Thor: Ragnarok. Director Taika Waititi spent only a small amount of time with Chris Hemsworth before deciding he would lean into the actor’s natural humor for this third installment. He was also the first director to bring in a woman as the film’s big bad. Black Panther ended up being the highest grossing film of 2018, beating out Avengers: Infinity War. It also took home a few Oscars at the 2019 ceremony and is still discussed by fans if the social commentary of the film is more important than the quality of the film itself. Whether or not that’s true, it did give us one of the best villains in the MCU with Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger. Captain Marvel succeeded in diversifying the MCU and dividing the fan community. It was the first female lead film in the entire MCU (long overdue) and provided even the avid comic reader with an unexpected sci-fi twist. Despite how you feel about it, the movie was a financial success and ended up joining six other films in the MCU to make a billion dollars during their run time (Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and  Avengers: Infinity War).

Avengers Endgame Matt Ferguson

Endgame

So here we are in 2019. Avengers: Endgame is less than a week away, the 22nd MCU film and likely the completion of Phase 3. It is easily the most anticipated movie of 2019, and possibly the decade (although strong arguments can be made for Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have done their best to keep fans guessing by putting out misleading trailers and denying every rumor ever. We do know a few things, though. We know this will be the end for some of our favorite characters. We know that some of the character deaths in Infinity War will stick. We know that this will be the last time we see some of these faces. In the opposite vein, there are nuggets of hope: we will be getting some of the dusted characters back, and this will most likely be the end of Thanos, as producer Kevin Feige has said this will be the end of The Infinity Saga. Meanwhile, Phase 4 is being put in motion as we speak with confirmed sequels for Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians, with a feature film for Black Widow and new franchise The Eternals. The acquisition of the former Fox properties such as X-Men (including Deadpool) and the Fantastic Four also gives new possibilities for future films. While we prepare to be both overjoyed and destroyed by Avengers: Endgame, we can look to the MCU’s bright and full future to keep us overjoyed and destroyed for another 11 years and beyond.

Endgame concept art

Whatever it takes.

This retrospective is a collaboration between myself (Rae Stewart) and Derreck Mayer. You can find us each week on the Screen Heroes podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker, Google Play, and more!

Reaching the Endgame: An MCU Retrospective

Wii U – A Farewell

This month marks the closure of the official Wii U Facebook page. While the low-selling Nintendo home console was officially discontinued in the beginning of 2017, games are still being produced with 16 games released in 2018 and two more on the horizon by the end of 2019, at least in the North America region. In fact, over 760 Wii U games have been released to date worldwide.

So what went wrong with the Wii U? Being that it came out in 2012, there’s certainly a lot of articles that attempt to explain why the Wii U was not the hit success the Wii before it was or why the Nintendo Switch has already done better from a sales perspective. First, I do want to sum-up what people mean by the Wii U being a failure, a black sheep, or not a success. Normally, video game console success is measured by number of units sold in addition to how long the console or an iteration of it, is on the market.

We know that the Wii U sold just over 13.5 million consoles worldwide. This makes the Wii U Nintendo’s lowest selling home console, not counting the NES Classic, SNES Classic, and VirtualBOY. That’s right, the GameCube not only outsold the Wii U but actually sold over 21 million units by comparison. The Nintendo Switch has already passed the GameCube’s sales numbers (sold from 2001-2007) in less than two years on the market, with around 23 million Switch units sold.

Successful consoles like the PlayStation 2 (2000-2013) and Wii (2006-2017) have both sold over 100 million units with the PS2 selling over 150 million if you include every version released over that console’s incredible production run. The Wii U had two versions, both at launch, the white 8GB model and the Deluxe 32GB model in black. The Wii would have several versions over the years, just like the PS2. They’d release in different sizes, colors, and with different features from their original counterparts.

Image result for Wii U

Alright, so it didn’t sell well. But why didn’t people buy the Wii U after the Wii’s success? Was it the game library? Boasting over 760 games might not sound impressive when the Nintendo Switch already has over 1,200 games in 1/3 the time but the Wii U’s game library actually isn’t as small as you think. The Nintendo 64 (1996-2002), which outsold the original Xbox (2001-2009) by over 37%, had a library about half the size of the Wii U at just 388 games but sold almost 33 million units.

It must have been the launch window then. Nothing to play at launch? That’s a fair criticism. I don’t shy away from saying I’m a Nintendo fanboy, because I most certainly am. If you ever listened to my time on the Gamer Heroes podcast’s first 60 episodes, you’d get that pretty quick. But to be clear, I own a lot of Nintendo consoles leaving out the VirtualBOY and a few of the GameBoy and DS iterations. I camped out for the Wii in 2006… for 39.5 hours. But when the Wii U came along, I didn’t camp out. I didn’t pre-order. I didn’t even go to the store to pick one up. This was due to the games available at launch, for me. There wasn’t much to choose from that I cared about, personally, at least not on a Nintendo console.

Sure, New Super Mario Bros. U was there but Super Mario 3D World wouldn’t release for just over a year. There wasn’t even a Zelda game at launch. The Wind Waker HD wouldn’t come out for 11 months and it wasn’t even a new game! It was a remaster of the 2002 GameCube game. The only actually new Zelda game released on the Wii U was Breath of the Wild which was also released on the brand new Switch console. Mario Kart 8 took until May of 2014, about 18 months after release of the Wii U and 6 years since the previous Wii incarnation. Super Smash Bros. was two full years after the console came out. It never got a Metroid game. No Castlevania. And Splatoon, the game that so many people love now, didn’t release until May 2015, about 30 months AFTER the console launched.Wii U

I eventually bought a Wii U in the summer of 2013, about 9 or so months after it came out. I played New Super Mario Bros and ZombiU, along with Nintendo Land. But I mainly played my Wii which was now living as a legit, official emulator inside my Wii U thanks to their transfer process. So, I upgraded because I could use a single console and play the newer games. Of course I ended up with some great games like Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, ZombiU, and the surprisingly fun Luigi U. All-in-all, I only have 9 physical Wii U games at this point. I had a few others like Pokken Tournament, but traded them in long ago for something else. The only Nintendo console I own fewer games for is the GameCube and that’s because I didn’t actually own one until last year, aside from the built-in Wii functionality that led to a couple games like Super Smash Bros. Melee. So when it’s all said and done, the Wii U might have had a larger library than the N64 but I have countless more games for the older console that one could argue hasn’t even aged as well.

People were confused too. I still have to explain to people that the Wii and Wii U were completely different things. No, the Wii U is not a Wii with a tablet. No, the Wii U isn’t just the tablet as an add-on to the Wii. The Wii U was Nintendo’s next generation console, a mid-gen console to many in the industry due to its more Nintendo-esque limited hardware. So here’s a little explanation. The Wii U was the next step in Wii development. It had better hardware, a larger form factor, no GameCube controller or memory card support, no mini-disc support, and its primary controller was a handheld tablet with physical buttons.

Image result for Wii U

Okay, so you know what it is but was it a good thing? Well, the tablet was a neat concept. Some games leveraged it really well, like ZombiU. In that game, a zombie game, you watch the TV for what you, as a character, can see and then the tablet acted as your inventory, map, details, etc. Other games, like New Super Mario Bros., just mirrored the TV screen, which did mean you could play on the tablet while someone else used the TV for another console or something. Some games like Nintendo Land allowed one player to use the tablet to perform a task like hiding, while the other players saw everything else on the TV and tried to find the hiding player. Some took advantage of the motion controls like StarFox Zero, with the tablet being inside the cockpit and the TV being a third-person view. The final group didn’t use the tablet screen at all, like Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Wii U. It was blank, basically.

At the end of the day, the Wii U was essentially a Nintendo Switch prototype. It had the tablet; you could play away from the TV. But it still required a full console box and the range of the tablet was only a few feet and certainly not through walls… I tried. Even though the Wii U was no powerhouse, it did have some cool features. It kept the Wii alive along with the Virtual Console we all miss on the Switch. It was compatible with essentially all of the Wii controllers, accessories, and such, save a few. It kept the GameCube controller alive with its USB adapter for Smash Bros., which we will see again this December. And it ended up with a substantial library of games, some of which I wish more people had tried out.

To that end, as the Facebook pages for the Wii U close on the day I’m writing this, I’d like to just say goodbye to the Wii U. For a Nintendo fanboy, the Wii U is a prime example of Nintendo’s guts, quirkiness, and style. For a general consumer, the Wii U was an odd, confusing, and seemingly unnecessary upgrade to the Wii.

If you owned a Wii U, I’d love to hear your stories. What were your favorite games? What about features? I’d love to hear about all of it because I do love the Wii U, as strange as that might be.

R.I.P.
Wii U
2012-2017
13.5 million sold

If you enjoyed this article, please consider following me on Twitter @TheStarTrekDude!

You can also find me and my thoughts on the Screen Heroes and Redshirts & Runabouts podcasts right here on the Heroes Podcast Network.

Game on!

Wii U – A Farewell

SDCC 2018: Resident Evil 2 Demo

Hey, everyone! It’s Jon of the Gamer Heroes podcast! I just got back from an incredible weekend at San Diego Comic Con. One thing I wanted to share with you was my experience playing the brand new Resident Evil 2 remastered demo at the convention! I recorded a little clip with my initial thoughts and will probably talk more about it on next week’s episode of Gamer Heroes, so don’t miss that!

First up, I want to share my thoughts on the demo but make sure to check out below for some photos from the set they put together. They basically built a little Raccoon City at SDCC, pretty crazy.

Next up are the photos I talked about. I hope you enjoy them!

Resident Evil 2 Raccoon City

Resident Evil 2 Raccoon City Cop Car and Zombie Resident Evil 2 Raccoon City Sign Resident Evil 2 Raccoon City PD

Finally, check out my big cosplay! It’s black suit Superman!

My Black Suit Superman at the DC Universe booth!

If you like the suit, please check out BusterProps.com for more of my work!

Alright, we’ll talk more about Resident Evil 2 on Gamer Heroes next week! See you then.

SDCC 2018: Resident Evil 2 Demo

The 50 Best: Heroes of Women, #30-21

It’s not everyday that heroes comes along and changes the course of American history.  For the next five weeks, we count down the 50 best women heroes in fiction. Heroes were chosen from every platform of pop culture, including film, tv, literature, and stage.  They were also inspired by you, the fans, on the many polls that the Heroes Podcast Network can offer. Lastly, the women were chosen based on their iconic statuses, fandom following, and the admirable qualities the individual characters possess.

Looking for a bunch of dudes? Aren’t we all? Don’t worry; the 50 best men heroes in fiction is up next! But what about the great baddies of history too? Yep, that list is in the works as well! Now, enjoy the countdown. Here’s #30-21.

#50-41 can be found here. #40-31 is here.

30. Jessica Rabbit

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
While some only focus on Jessica’s looks (and she’s hot, like, the hottest cartoon ever), she is so much more than that. She’s often mistaken for this femme fatale. She even says, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” Throughout the movie, it’s revealed she cares deeply for her husband, Roger, and does everything in her power to keep him safe (despite his constant buffoonery).  Jessica is a highly intelligent, multi-talented woman. She was everything I wanted to be when I grew up as a little kid.  She may exemplify what are now cliched movie tropes, but she never comes off as just a gimmick. Instead, she’s a woman you want to know.

29. Katniss Everdeen

hunger-games-first-movie-clip-jennifer-lawrence

Hunger Games franchise
Is there anyone more inherently flawed than Katniss? Beginning the story as a girl determined only to survive, she transformed over the course of the three novels. Her skills and defiant attitude kept her alive throughout the Hunger Games, and eventually turned her into a martyr for Panem. She didn’t always embrace the role others put upon her, never being afraid to speak her mind. Her actions were often motivated by her simple wish to keep her family alive. Most of them, however, is what the country loved about her. It was through her sheer force of will, her determination just to live, that the tyrannical thumb which Panem was held was finally broken.

28. Morticia Addams

anjelica-huston-morticia-addams-bullet-blues

The Addams Family
Can you think of a more perfect homemaker? I know I can’t. Created in 1938 as a satirical opposite to the American Dream, Morticia was paved as the head of the household from the beginning.  She has always been level-headed and fair, favoring no one member of her family more than the other.  She kept everyone in line and never seemed bothered by anyone’s antics, often embracing them with love and respect.  She and her husband Gomez are without a doubt the best depiction of an equal and loving partnership ever created (and I will fight you on that one).  The two compliment and balance each other, their passion and romance never wavering, never compromising.

27. Leslie Knope

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Galentine's Day" Episode 617 -- Pictured: Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Parks and Recreation
I don’t think there are enough words to express my love for this character. Leslie Knope is resilient. Set in a town where the majority of the population is against her good intentions, she is rarely bogged down by the negativity that surrounds her. She loves her town and she will do everything she can to serve it, even if that means going temporarily insane with love for it. Leslie is the sum of her parts, and her parts include the innumerable cast of supporting characters who back her up daily.  No person is successful on their own and Leslie’s success only gets better because of her friends in the Parks Dept. She is the fiercest friend and a woman we’d all be lucky to be one day.

26. She-Ra

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She-Ra, Princess of Power
It must be an easy life when you’re born to the King and Queen of Eternia. But that all goes down the toilet when you’re kidnapped at birth by the evil demon Hordak and taken to Etheria to be a brainwashed soldier in his army. Princess Adora never had a chance. Until one day she escaped and embraced her role as She-Ra. Now, originally, she was created to tap into the girl toy market for the He-Man audience, but she became so much more than that (kinda like her journey in the show). She’s one of the ultimate feminist icons: a princess and a warrior, kind and brave, intelligent and humble. She’s a worthy role model for any young person, girl or boy.

25. Scout Finch

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To Kill a Mockingbird
It may be difficult to think of a little Southern six year old as a hero, but giving To Kill a Mockingbird a second glance proves just how heroic Scout really is. Over the three year course of the novel, Scout is faced with situations that would make adults uncomfortable. She breaks up an angry mob. She is the only one to see Boo Radley. Scout is in the difficult position throughout most of the novel to see good people punished for good deeds because they go against the current social norm. She spends a lot of the book unable to understand this and angry at those who hate/taunt her father in particular. It’s an almost impossible to identify with as a reader, but watching her grow to understand how cruel the world can be as well as the symbol of the mockingbird itself, is powerful enough to stick with a reader for years. Very few are lucky enough to be a Scout, but we all desire to be that good.

24. Korra

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Avatar: Legend of Korra
It was incredibly difficult to narrow down which woman from Avatar should be featured. Each and every one possess the traits to inspire, including Azula.  Ultimately, though, it’s hard to win over the main character of a series. Korra has been an innovative addition to the world of Avatar. She began the series with the perpetually defiant phrase, “I’m the Avatar; deal with it,” a line that has resonated in my head since I first heard her speak it. She’s feisty and proud, both often leading to some pretty epic failures and some incredible successes.  She doesn’t just fall once; she falls a hundred times. Each time, she picks herself up, threatens to quit, and then does it again. It was her determination that captivated us. As viewers, we all saw ourselves in Korra at one time or another. We, too, are afraid to admit our shortcomings, but determined enough to defeat them. If someone so flawed, yet kind and wonderful, can be the balance to a chaotic world, then maybe, we are the balance to our worlds.

23. Samus

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Metroid
You may be wondering why Samus is on this list. She’s not particularly interesting. Multiple writers over the years have kept her personality minimal so that players could more easily picture themselves as the title character. Was she the most influential character in video games? Absolutely not. This woman is on this list because she is in fact a woman. You had to beat the entire game in order to get to the beautiful finale of Samus being a woman.  At the time, it was shocking, and seemingly unimportant. For some magical reason, we were just a little less hung up on sex and gender back then, and it allowed for some special moments like this. This is more important now. A kick ass, long standing, battle star woman saving the universe is exactly the type of person that young people need to see themselves as while playing a video game.

22. Supergirl

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Supergirl comics, DC
Kara Zor-El could have easily been a rip off of her more famous cousin. However, the writers turned it around so fast. They made her independent and identifiable on her own.  She remains optimistic in times of catastrophe, which come almost at every turn.  As a teenage survivor of the destruction of Argo City and Krypton, her kindness and compassion was often mixed with a hot temper and aggression.  Hers has never been an easy life, but she perseveres.  And through her many transformations, both comic and film, more and more people have been influenced by her.  New audiences can be exposed to her heroism in more mediums than most other characters on our list.  She’s iconic and necessary to the feminine culture.

21. Sailor Moon – Usagi

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Sailor Moon
There are many things that make the sweet Usagi important.  She fought evil by moonlight! Seriously, though, she was a fearless and kind leader for many years over many teams. She wasn’t always perfect, but she was always fair.  Usagi treated everyone, including the her enemies, with compassion.  Her sweet demeanor was often mistaken for naivete and weakness, but she should never be underestimated. Usagi was a true friend first and foremost, proving that despite villainy in the world, she had her priorities straight.  She was a pal, a mother, a superhero, and at even one point, a goddess. Sailor Moon was a true hero for everyone.

So there you have it, our next 10 women heroes. What do you think of our list so far? Tune in for #11-20 soon!

The 50 Best: Heroes of Women, #30-21

DCC Wrap-Up and Cosplay Gallery

DCC, Denver Comic Con, is one of the bigger comic convention in the United States, hosting well over 100,000 people in 2016’s convention. Celebrity guests in 2017 included Weird Al Yankovic, Catherine Tate, Clare Kramer, some of the Stranger Things kids, and the entire voice cast of the animated Justice League TV show, among others. Of course, DCC included an array of comic book creators, authors, and animators, making the convention a pop culture scene for just about anyone. While we had a small presence at DCC, we were able to get a couple people on the ground. Check out our small cosplay gallery below and then a first-person account of DCC 2017.

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My experience at DCC was for the most part an enjoyable one. It is a huge con and it’s a lot to take in so be prepared. The convention center itself was huge and had a lot of room for all kinds of artists, booths,cosplayers, vendors, and more. They used every inch of that space for what that could so I was impressed. They had some great media guests who I got to meet and get pictures/autographs with. These are guests I haven’t seen at our local con so seeing them was a real treat. But the con wasn’t without its issues. Mainly how they handled the prop policy concerning fake guns (announcing that no kind of gun or anything resembling a gun would be allowed in an hour before the con doors opened on Saturday….even though I still saw some), enforcing bag checks, line control, and costume checks. A serious lack in each department for those if you ask me. Also lacking was the organization skills for huge group photos. You were kind of herded on a stage, was told where to stand and then wasn’t being told you were being photographed until you heard someone say “and now do another pose” Like wait what now? I didn’t know we were starting. If DCC fixes what they did wrong this year then I would highly consider coming back, its a semi close con with lots to do and see. Out of 10 stars, I would give it for sure a 7.5 out of 10.

Did you attend DCC 2017? What did you think of the convention? What were you most excited to see? What annoyed you the most? Comment below!

First-hand account by me, Haus of Turner Cosplay.

Cosplay photography provided by GregRon Photography out of Colorado.

DCC Wrap-Up and Cosplay Gallery

The Best 50: Heroes of Women, #40-31

It’s not everyday that heroes comes along and changes the course of American history.  For the next five weeks, we count down the 50 best women heroes in fiction. Heroes were chosen from every platform of pop culture, including film, tv, literature, and stage.  They were also inspired by you, the fans, on the many polls that the Heroes Podcast Network can offer. Lastly, the women were chosen based on their iconic statuses, fandom following, and the admirable qualities the individual characters possess.

Looking for a bunch of dudes? Aren’t we all? Don’t worry; the 50 best men heroes in fiction is up next! But what about the great baddies of history too? Yep, that list is in the works as well! Now, enjoy the countdown. Here’s #40-31.

If you missed #41-50, you can catch Part 1 of our Heroes of Women countdown here.

40. Elizabeth Bennett

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Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennett means many things to many people. But existing for over 200 years will do that to you (Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 by Jane Austen).  During that time, she has symbolized the joy that can be found in life. She is a free-spirited, loving woman who refuses to settle in life when it comes to marriage. She demands on marrying for love instead of status, educating herself when the masses look down upon a learned woman, and she prefers the company of her sisters rather than stuffy balls with the elitist upper class. She was a role model before we even began classifying fictional characters as role models.

39. Twilight Sparkle

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Did you see the old 1980’s renditions of My Little Pony? Do you remember how awful they were? They were about very vain ponies who would spend their time brushing hair and gossiping about one another. Then the wonderful Lauren Faust comes along and revamps everything, giving us more than enough well-rounded characters including the amazing Twilight Sparkle. She’s this relentless book worm who comes to Ponyville friendless (save for Spike) and has blossomed into the Princess of Friendship. Over six seasons, she has grown so much that it’s difficult not to be moved by her journey.

38. Daenerys Targaryan

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Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire
There’s not many events more moving than watching Daenerys grow from actual property to the Mother of Dragons. This woman begins the story as a meek, subservient girl, just wanting to please her disgusting brother, Viserys. Once she sees him for the coward he is and realizes her own strength, Daenerys becomes more than the sum of her parts. She sets herself on fire and walks away unscathed. She rules as the Khaleesi, she sacks cities, she trains dragons, she beguiles and betrays terrible men. She is a force to be reckoned.

37. San

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Princess Mononoke
San, the leading lady from Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, was raised by the wolf goddess, Moro, leaving her appearing savage to the untrained eye.  She is a protector, first and foremost, of her family, of her forest.  Because of this, she is also incredibly stubborn and irritable. As the daughter of Moro, she rejects her all of her humanity until she meets Ashitaka, the Prince of Emishi Village.  The love that the two of them share has her embrace the humanity she had forsaken but maintain the loyalty she feels towards her wolf family and her forest home.

36. Jo March

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Little Women
Oh, Jo. What a marvelous woman.  Another independent, fiercely loyal literary character who has influenced little girls for almost 200 years.  Jo March wanted a career, which wasn’t unheard of at the time, but was rare. Since her sex put her at such a huge disadvantage, Jo keeps in abundance her diligence and optimistic attitude. She never gives up on the goal of being a novelist and never takes no for an answer. Her fortitude only adds to her resilience.

35. Peggy Carter

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Agent Carter and Marvel Cinematic Universe
If you can’t be a superhero, be Peggy Carter instead. She is fearless and enduring and fans latched onto her with incredible force. Peggy was the pro at keeping her composure under duress. She was kind and feminine, without being a damsel. When it came down to it, Peggy Carter could handle herself. She dedicated her whole life to a greater cause, working behind the scenes to guarantee the safety of America (and she was British, so that makes sense).  While she was initially intended to just be a some love interest for Chris Evans, Peggy Carter’s true nature showed through and became more than the sum of her parts.

34. Matilda Wormwood

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Matilda
This little girl may be the kindest, gentlest soul ever written about in fiction. She’s also an underrated hero among both literature and film fans alike. Matilda, as kind as she is, embodies the complete opposite of the people surrounding her. Her horrible parents are scam artists and frauds. Her principal is tyrannical and cruel. It is only through her perseverance of kindness does she discover her telekinetic powers, finally enacting one of the most satisfying revenge scenes ever imagined.

33. Captain Kathryn Janeway

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Star Trek: Voyager
A lot can be said for Captain Kathryn Janeway (or Vice Admiral, as she comes to be known).  She is the first female Captain in Star Trek history (which is surprising considering how progressive the show has always been).  She is the first Starfleet captain to head into the Delta zone, encountering new planets and civilizations never to be seen. She is a fan favorite, often chosen as the best captain among the entire franchise.  And it’s no mystery why. She is a kind soul, who puts her crew before hers, even merging them with lost members of the Maquis.  She was put multiple times into ethical dilemmas where she comes out a better person.

32. Daria Morgendorfer

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Beavis and ButtheadDaria
A show designed to feature just your average apathetic teenager turned out to be one of the most influential characters of the 90’s. She encapsulated everything the 90’s stood for: a rebellious youth feeling lost among the crowd. It was no longer obvious what your purpose in life was and Daria felt the overwhelming crush of societal pressures on a daily basis. Instead of having nervous breakdowns or embracing a path she wasn’t interested in, she did her best of not giving any useless cares about anything she didn’t want. By rejecting the social norm, she was a role model for everyone that didn’t feel like being in a box.

31. Captain Marvel

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Marvel
Carol Danvers was a character Marvel just couldn’t get right for the longest time. It was almost embarrassing having one of the most powerful characters on their Avenging roster with nothing of substance to back her up. But in 2012, they did the absolute best thing possible for her: they renamed her Captain Marvel and everything else just fell into place. They put her in control of S.W.O.R.D., made her a starring member of Guardians of the Galaxy and A*Force.  What had been hiding behind skimpy costumes had been a dynamic woman who kicks some serious ass, is brainy as hell, and the perfect woman to get things done. She was even the central focus of the 2016’s Civil War II story-line, being the first woman to lead a multi-crossover event in many, many years.  Her contribution to the Marvel universe, both comic and cinematic will go down historically in pop culture.

So there you have it, our next 10 women heroes. What do you think of our list so far? Tune in for #21-30 soon!

The Best 50: Heroes of Women, #40-31

The Best 50: Heroes of Women, #50-41

It’s not everyday that a hero comes along and changes the course of American history.  For the next five weeks, we count down the 50 best women heroes in fiction. Heroes were chosen from every platform of pop culture including film, TV, literature, and stage.  They were also inspired by you, the fans, on the many polls that the Heroes Podcast Network can offer. Lastly, the women were chosen based on their iconic statuses, fandom following, and the admirable qualities the individual characters possess.

Looking for a bunch of dudes? Aren’t we all. Don’t worry; the 50 best men heroes in fiction is up next! But what about the great baddies of history too? Yep, that list is in the works as well! Now, enjoy the countdown. Here’s #50-41 of the best Heroes of Women.

50. Crysta

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Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Ferngully 2: The Magical Rescue
Crysta is a little fairy living in a pristine Australian rain forest, devoid of human interference.  She begins the movie as naive and careless only to have her world turned upside down by a bat who had been tested on scientifically by humans, and by a logger named Zak.  When Zak and the other loggers accidentally release Hexxus, a toxic spirit that feeds off of human pollution, it is Crysta who steps up to fight.  She realizes the gravity of her role in life, as a protector of the rain forest, seeing incredible growth over the course of the film.  Crysta seemingly sacrifices herself for the sake of her people and the rain forest itself, demonstrating unmatched bravery and selflessness.

49. Tina Belcher

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Bob’s Burgers
Often the kinder, gentler Belcher, Tina is the voice of reason among a household of chaos.  She’s also incredibly complicated for a 13 year old.  She writes erotic “friend fiction,” being bold enough to use real people as her subjects. She has the most open obsession with people’s butts (notice I wrote people). She embraces who she is without fail, never apologizing for her quirks or flaws. It takes a tough kid to talk openly about the horror that is puberty and yet, this chick sings about it in a musical revue. She’s a modern role model for the aggressive world we have come to known.

48. Major Motoko Kusanagi

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Ghost in the Shell 

As a heavily modified cyborg, Motoko stands out as one of the best detectives, proving her incomparable in her field.  While the many adaptations of the story have played around with the character, Motoko has always remained an incredible example of strength in both integrity and intelligence.  She consistently is an effective leader among her squad. Her search for existential meaning in life; her search for a soul (or ghost) is what makes her so easy to relate to. It is easy for a viewer to become enraptured in her quest to understand her purpose in life since that is a similar feeling a lot of people have.

47. Tracer

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Overwatch
A rather recent addition into the fictional world, Lena Oxton, or better known as Tracer, has since become a phenomenal break out character of the popular Overwatch video game. She’s been a ray of sunshine amid an epic war. As such, fans of all demographics have latched onto her as a feminist and LGBTQ icon.  Her popularity now outnumbers almost all other Overwatch characters (or even video game characters in general). It’s never easy for an optimist with a tragic past to rise above but Tracer has and she seems to be here to stay.

46. Elphaba Thropp

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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
No one has ever said life is easy when you’re green.  As an expansion of a beloved villain, Elphaba gave so much more to the story the world is already familiar. She faced incredible odds including political corruption and was brave enough to be the only one in Oz to stand against it.  While many have yet to separate the wicked from the witch, she remains a definitive hero among dedicated fans. She gave us all hope that while we may be a villain to someone, we’re so much more, and ultimately, we are the hero in our own story.

45. Chun-Li

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Street Fighter franchise
It’s hard to believe that Chun-Li wasn’t in the original Street Fighter game. She was, however, the first female fighter in the game, and one of the first characters with real development and growth behind her inception.  At first, she fought to avenge her father’s death, but eventually she learns to accept loss (something we all are faced with, but not all of us are capable of achieving) and pursues justice instead.  Now she fights to protect those who cannot protect themselves, helping anyone and everyone who needs her. Immediately fans latched onto her spirit and have made her a staple to any aspect of the franchise, no matter what medium or platform it exists.

44. Helen Parr – Elastigirl

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The Incredibles
She’s the hero we all want to be. She’s the mother and wife we all want to be. She’s an absolute fierce woman that is the true hero of The Incredibles. When Bob is off glory-hunting, Helen is maintaining a family of supers who are also completely focused on the themselves and not the family as a whole.  She’s a perfect example of a hero in general which is made even more apparent by her imperfections. Just like everyone else, she has issues with her body. But she doesn’t let it get her down long. She becomes plagued with doubt over the potential end of her marriage, but she is reminded by a good friend that you have to believe in how amazing you are as an individual and go after what you want. And Helen Parr gets what she wants.

43. Zoe Washburne

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Firefly and Serenity
When this list was first proposed and a poll of the best female heroes went up, every single woman from Firefly was suggested. Ultimately, we chose the dedicated second in command on board Serenity.  Zoe Washburne may just be the strongest woman on this list, as far as integrity and loyalty are concerned. She manages to be both a dedicated crew member and a dedicated wife, which is portrayed simultaneously, instead of other female characters that can only be one thing at one time. To watch her mourn her husband’s death is to see Zoe’s true nature in a small amount of actions alone. She is both heartbreaking and admirable.

42. Turanga Leela

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Futurama 
Often stuck being the voice of reason among a circus of complete buffoonery, Turanga Leela is by far the fiercest of the Planet Express. She demonstrates bravery when others run away (her entire crew will run away). She generally has the best judgment among the rest of the cast as well. Leela is a courageous, independent, and loving woman, who brings an adhesive-like trait to keeping the Planet Express crew together.  And she has a tale of self discovery which rivals any live action drama on air now. Believing she was the last of her kind, Leela would go to any length to learn the truth about herself, and the episode where she finally finds her family is among one of the most touching of the series.

41. Jessica Jones

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Jessica Jones, Marvel universe
It’s not every day where a fantastic hero is hiding among the riffraff of side characters, but such was the case with Jessica Jones. Created in the early 2000’s, it wasn’t until her 2015 television debut that the world took notice of the dynamic character she had always been. That was partially due to her mature nature, being a rated-R Netflix show and all. But it was also because of the relate-able dark themes of the show, such as PTSD and rape, that made people take notice. Jones has lived what can only be described as a messed up life, and as such, she’s kind of a messed up person. She’s never apologetic, though. She never stops trying to do the right thing by everyone, even as it pushes her to her very limits. She overcomes what so many may not even have tried.

So there you have it, our first 10 women heroes. What do you think of our list so far? Tune in for #31-40 here!

The Best 50: Heroes of Women, #50-41

Infinity War 67: Picking the Heroes

Transcribed from Screen Heroes, S1, E6 “Infinity War 67.”

When Marvel Studios announced the two-part Infinity War film, they said that there was an opportunity for 67 characters to be in the film. Since then, they have explained that it was an arbitrary number they just pulled out of thin air, but for fun, we wanted to pick out 67 Marvel characters that COULD make it into Infinity War.

The Veterans

The Newbies

The Guardians

The Defenders

The Back Up

The Agents

The Villains

The Unknown

The Asgardians

 

This episode was recorded before the release of Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Since then, more information regarding  Infinity War has been released as well as the movies leading up to it in the MCU.  Remember to take all of this with a grain of salt and the fun that it was supposed to provide.

To listen to the original episode, click here.

Infinity War 67: Picking the Heroes