The Beginning of a Universe- Ranking Phase One of the MCU

As we prepare for the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film since Spider-Man: Far from Home, with the release of Black Widow (Finally!) on July 9th, 2021, we decided it was time to do a rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So why not do a ranking of each phase? Yes we are planning to watch all 23 films before the release of Black Widow.

Once we are finished with the rewatch, we plan on doing a full ranking of the films and teaming up with the Minnesota Comic Exchange for a video.

6) The Incredible Hulk (2008) Directed by Louis Leterrier

Hmm! This is one of those films that could have been great and ends up being just average. Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/Hulk , Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, William Hurt as General “Thunderbolt” Ross, and Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination round out a brilliant cast. William Hurt and Tim Roth are the highlights in this film, especially with Hurt being a perfectly casted “Thunderbolt” Ross. Comparing all phase one films, Edward Norton feels more like an actor playing a role instead of getting lost in the role, which could be where a disconnect happens with us and this film.

It’s a forgettable film and while rewatching it, it easy to understand why Norton was recasted. Its on the short side of MCU films with a runtime of 112 minutes with most films going over 2 hours. Highlights of the film besides Roth and Hurt is the climax between Hulk and Abomination. It was an awesome shot seeing them collide in front of the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Stan Lee’s cameo as a man that gets radiation poisoning is pretty funny along with the Lou Ferrigno cameo.

Biggest wasted opportunity of the film would have to be the introduction of three characters and never expending on their arcs. We were introduced to a forgettable Doc Samson (Ty Burnell), Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) was teased to become the Leader, and we never hear about Betty ever again in the MCU. Despite it being forgettable, even the lesser MCU films are enjoyable.

5) Iron Man 2 (2010) Directed by Jon Favreau

It is funny how much taste can change, when this movie came out, I loved it! Now 11 years later and I find it to be one of the weaker films of phase one. That being said, it is still very enjoyable with some hilarious moments. We do get introduced to Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, Don Cheadle takes over the role of Rhodey and we get one of the most underrated performances in the MCU by Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer.

But what puts Iron Man 2 so low on this list, is due to Mickey Rourke as Whiplash. The villain can truly make or break a film and this a perfect example of that. Besides the introduction battle between Iron Man and Whiplash during a Formula 1 race, which is awesome and a lot of fun, there is no redeemable factor to his performance and the way he is defeated at the end is very lackluster.

Highlight of the film is the court hearing scene, which may be one of the funnier moments in phase one. The interactions between Robert Downey Jr, Sam Rockwell and Garry Shandling is hilarious and shows the brilliance of Tony and the meaning of the Iron Man suit. Despite Scarlett Johansson being a highlight in this film, the hyper-sexualization of her character is very blatant when you know where her character ends up in future films. Also Stan Lee’s cameo as Larry King will never get old.

4) Thor (2011) Directed by Kenneth Branagh

This was way better and funnier than I remembered! When I first saw this film, I thought it was awesome but I preferred both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk over it. Chris Hemsworth was Thor and Tom Hiddleston was Loki from the start, both actors really captured what it meant to play the characters. The design of Asgard was stunning and the character development were two things that make this film so damn enjoyable.

Thor does have flaws especially when it comes to the battle with the destroyer and the film could had spent more time on Asgard. Also giving Idris Elba more time as Heimdall would made this film a tad better. But during this rewatch, I found myself doing less nitpicking and having a blast watching it. Originally I did not like Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, but now I really liked her performance, which could mainly be in anticipation for her coming back in Thor: Love and Thunder.

The overall impact that this film had on the MCU was really under appreciated in my opinion. The Introduction of Loki, Clint Barton/Hawkeye and Darcy all had great benefits to the future of the MCU. Also Kat Dennings as Darcy was always scene stealer. A hilarious cameo by Stan Lee as the old man trying to pull mjolnir with his pick up truck. If you haven’t rewatched Thor in awhile, I believe you would enjoy it more than you did than the last time.

3) The Avengers (2012) Directed by Joss Wheldon

What? I know what you are thinking, How is this not #1? Well it is still a lot of fun, but two other films are better in my opinion. There is not much to nitpick in this film and all the films lead to this, but I would rewatch Iron Man or Captain America: The First Avenger before The Avengers.That being said Mark Ruffalo is truly the best version of Bruce Banner/Hulk that we have ever seen on the big screen.

There is one problem in this film that bugs me and that is how they use Clint in this film. Feel like putting Clint as a mind controlled character, ruined a character that could be great. But, that is my only complaint for this film.

Loki feels more like a villain in this film compared to Thor and proving that he can be a menace to the entire avengers team. This film also gives each character a moment to shine, even giving Maria Hall (Cobie Smulders) a moment to shine. Film feels like an amusement park ride, but in the best kind of way. It’s non-stop action and humor. “Puny god” will never get old!

2) Iron Man (2008) Directed by Jon Favreau

This is where all began, the moment this film came out Marvel fans freaked out and guess what, it is still a great film. The way that Robert Downey Jr comes in and dominates the role is still astonishing. This film deserves so much credit for creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet it can be enjoyed on its own.

I don’t think we knew at the time of release how much of an impact that Robert Downey Jr. as Iron man would have on pop culture and turn the character into one of the most popular characters in film history.

Jeff Bridges is great as Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger which honestly may be the best villain in all three Iron Man films. The Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) end credit scene is unforgettable looking back at phase one. The film is extremely quotable and has some of the most badass shots in phase one. Also the Stan Lee cameo as Hugh Hefner is still hilarious. If it wasn’t for the next film on the list, this may have been the best super hero origin film.

1) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Directed by Joe Johnston

In a matter of 10 years, this film went from being my least liked film to most liked film in Phase one. At first I was bored and did not like the fact that the film takes place during in World War II. But the older you get the more your taste changes. Rewatching this and I had more enjoyment of this over Iron Man and The Avengers. Chris Evans was born to play Captain America and he proves it in his first film as the character.

The character development is what I love about this film, from the skinny kid who refuses to give up to becoming the representation of what it means to be a hero is a great story. Also the chemistry Steve Rogers has with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is unbelievable and something I love seeing all the time. This has one of the best supporting casts in any Marvel film with Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, and Domininic Cooper. But Sebastian Stan is really likable in this film and to see his evolution in films that follow, I forgot how much I liked him in this film. Also Hugo Weaving is underrated as the Red Skull.

If you are thinking I may have bumped my head to not have Iron Man and The Avengers as my top two give Captain America: The First Avenger another chance, despite the ending it is such as feel good film in phase one.

And Now……We Have a Logo!

When Nora and I started this journey, it was simply to chronicle the two of us finding love in comics and sharing a hobby together. We have achieved that and our love for each other and comics grow more and more each day. One of the best things that came out of starting Noggin Comics, is finding a place in the comic community and the relationships that we have created over the last couple years. On May 27th, the kindness of the comic community shined bright as a great friend gifted us with something that was much needed….. a logo!

Created by the amazing artist Jaime Coker and his wife Trisha (she deserve so much love) this logo is a perfect representation of Noggin Comics. The brain represents me, no thats not saying I am genius or anything in a cocky nature. The brain ties into the name Noggin but it also represents the idea of constant thinking and growth. The glasses represents Nora, as she is the geek and wears the glasses (she would say wear the pants as well) in the relationship, I joke. The glasses allow a perfect blend of the two of us. With the brain and glasses looking into a comic book, it crafts an idea of who we are.

This logo not only represents us, but I believe it represents the comic community as a whole. This logo shows the kindness and friendships that come from this community. There is seriously no other community like the comic community.

Thank you so much for creating this logo Jaime and Trisha. It will always be a part of us!

MPLS Sound Proves the Sound Will Live on Forever

When asked what is your favorite Prince song? I struggle to answer that question, it changes every day. One day, it could be “Partyman” from the Batman soundtrack and the next day it would be “The Morning Papers” from the Love Symbol album. As a Minnesotan, a day does not pass by without being influenced by Prince and to be honest the last five years Minnesota has not been the same. When it comes to Prince and comics, there is a connection that goes beyond his soundtrack for Batman. The late great Dwayne McDuffie and the amazing Denys Cowan worked on Prince comics and in the upcoming Batman 89′ series, a character based off of Prince’s design from “Partyman” and “Batdance” music videos. But, no other graphic novel or comic has ever captured what Prince meant to Minnesota and music as well as MPLS Sound.

Life Drawn by Humanoids, Jen Bartel

Co-writers Joseph P. Illidge and Hannibal Tabu and artist Meredith Laxton create a fictional tale in an environment and era of music that proves to be perfect for a graphic novel treatment. Growing up in Minnesota, the Minneapolis sound has influenced the music that comes out from our state. Let’s be honest, while you are listening to “Juice” by Lizzo or “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars or anything by Janelle Monáe, you are hearing hints of Prince and the Minneapolis sound. MPLS Sound is able to capture that with the creation of the band Starchild.

After a very well written forward by Josh Jackson, the co-founder and president of Paste Magazine, we are introduced to Starchild, a band filled of all different personalities and provides a great reminiscence of The Revolution. Theresa, the lead singer who comes across a poster for Prince’s Controversy while walking home from the market, feels inspired to create a band herself. Joined by her church choir singer Ezzie, rock musician and guitarist James, Dani the drummer that has never been apart of a band, the keytar player Slim, a classically trained pianist that loves Funkadelic, Lizzie and Theresa’s brother Ellis on bass.

Meredith Laxton, MPLS Sound

MPLS Sound tells the story of how a band found success during the eighties in Minneapolis, with Starchild having to create a record to get on the radio and catching the eye of the purple yoda himself. As the band continues to find success, they have battle of the bands with Morris Day & The Time. (for those who didn’t grow up in Minnesota or on Purple Rain, they are the band at the end of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back) After giving a hell of a performance and a night that Morris Day would never forget.

After being giving the chance of a lifetime, Starchild has to choose between fame or keeping their identity. In a story that felt like a tribute to Prince, turns into a story that would make Prince proud with the theme of staying true to yourself. The creative team could have spent the whole time focusing on Prince, but they did the complete opposite and that is a major benefit for the story. The Minneapolis sound is truly the main character of this story and Prince is only in the book for a few panels despite playing a major part in the story.

By the time the story was over, I was attached to every character and at certain points felt a tear rolling down my face. Joseph P. Illidge and Hannibal Tabu’s script has great pacing and they truly created great characters. The only problem that MPLS Sound has is the fact that it could have added more pages for character development and the desire of more story. It’s not a bad problem to want more from a story.

I do wonder how much I would love this book if I was not a Minnesotan and a giant fan of Prince. But the cover alone from Jen Bartel (also a Minnesotan) should recommend this graphic novel to anyone. So throw on your favorite Prince album, find some purple tinted lights and read this book!

Getting Beefy with Beef Bros

Two beefy dudes fighting against the corrupt cops, slumlords and greedy businesses could perfectly sum up this pancake filled action romp by Aubrey Sitterson and Tyrell Cannon.

Aubrey Sitterson & Tyrell Cannon, Beef Bros

When I saw this book on Kickstarter it was a definite must back, the curiosity was sparked and knew I had to read this story. Aubrey Sitterson previously wrote No One Left to Fight for Dark Horse and the brilliant Comic Book History of Professional Wrestling, I knew this story was in the perfect hands.

Huey and Ajax are the Beef Bros, two “yoked up” brothers that can bounce bullets off their chest. All Huey and Ajax want is love among all people, some free weights, a crap ton of pancakes and affordable living for all. You read that correctly, they want to get the “unhoused” into homes and that is what carries this insane yet very charming story.

Tyrell Cannon’s artwork seriously pops off the page with the help of coloring by Fico Ossis. There are moments in the story that it feels like you hopped into a DeLorean and traveled back to the mid 90’s cartoon greatness. The concept and art for Beef Bros would have been perfect next to animated series like Freakazoid, Street Sharks and The Tick.

Overall this is a very fun book that tackles the Injustice and greed of America. Who knew that two beefy brothers could speak the words of wisdom. This beefer looks forward to see if this story continues, with an ending that leaves the door open for more. I, for one would be ready to for one more set.

The Breakfast Brunch #1: A Creative and Scrumptious “Must Back” on Kickstarter

As a kid, did you ever think up an imaginative quest after eating breakfast because you felt that you had all the power in the world? No matter how you answered that question, The Breakfast Brunch #1 from Plastic Sword Press is a must read. This first, of two, 54-page issue is fast-paced and hard to put down. It’s an energetic comic, much like breakfast. And it leaves you wanting to know what will happen next.

The best thing about Kickstarter, is discovering projects that have great world-building and give that escape from reality that transform you into another one. This project intermixes magic, discovery and the quest to find The Perfectly Balanced Breakfast. Humorous moments and relatable ones, at that, are worked in well throughout the issue.

Jose Garcia’s artwork is stunning and gives off a vibrant anime-feel, and Nikki Power’s colorwork really makes the story even more devour-some by popping off the page. The detailing of the pirate ship and the character’s costume designs is impeccable. The writing style of Ryan Little blends well with the art style. It’s like diving into a bowl of cereal that is bright and sugary, and even better, for all ages! The premise of the story is something that could be seen as a Saturday morning cartoon, with action figures and all.

Commodore Crackle is a young female pirate of the high seas who joins with Midknight who is a Knight in not so shining armor, to find The Perfectly Balanced Breakfast. The characters they encounter along the way either help or hinder their quest. The colors in the issue are so bright and immersive, they practically jump off the page. The writing and illustrations work together in a cohesive way that continually drives the story.

The cereal mascots are referred to as Breakers, and they must come together in unity to find and discover the balance. Will luck be on their side or will there be a monstrous threat in their way? Their quest for The Perfectly Balanced Breakfast also shows their personal discoveries and balances within themselves which is inspiring to all reading levels. The magic and mythology brings these unique characters to life, but also leaves the door open for a villainous character to stir up the bowl.

Personally, this issue drew me in from the art style and humorous moments. The fantasy, medieval world is well portrayed as the cereal characters come to life. It is such a clever concept that I never would have thought I would enjoy reading about. I am not a big breakfast cereal person, but now I want to wake up every morning and have cereal transform me into a different world.

The Breakfast Brunch #1 is fast paced and witty overall, it provides the reader with darkness, light, monsters, heroes and breakfast cereal references that will leave you laughing and hungry for more.

Back this Kickstarter before time is up! CLICK HERE to back this project before Thursday, April 8, 2021. It’ll leave you craving more!

Don’t Think You Understand….

Facebook and Twitter are a cesspool of hatred and racism. Yes, I open this blog up with a very bold yet obvious statement, but it’s true and it’s very apparent in nerd culture. It’s never going to stop nor do we have to the power to shut out negativity, but we do have the ability to overpower it.

For example, a recent post on the official Batman Facebook page, shared an image of the show Batwoman. This image was of Javicia Leslie in full Batwoman outfit stating that she is the first black lesbian superhero lead on a television show and the first black actress to play Batwoman. As of 6:16 PM on February 25th, this post had 3500 reactions with 2100 of them laughing at the post. Which honestly is quite sad. I understand if you don’t like the show but truth be told, Javicia is doing one hell of a job in the show. Before seeing the post, the original idea of this blog was to be about the massive improvement that Batwoman has had from season 1 to season 2. But it was heartbreaking to see the amount of hatred aimed towards Batwoman and Javicia.

While I stepped away to collect my thoughts and try to find a way to address the problem in a well stated matter, one more example of utter stupendous Facebook interaction happened with the most recent reveal of Blackfire in the HBO Max show Titans. When the better half showed me the costume and character design, my first reaction was “damn that’s George Perez’s art come to life”…. but the comment section decided to be ugly with comments like “No, it’s starfire” and “So every superhero is going to be black or brown”. Seeing stuff like that in a community that was built on characters that taught us values and how to be good people, really make you question, do they understand?

As comic book readers and fans of super heroes, we should know “with great power comes great responsibility” and to spread positivity is among our greatest responsibilities and powers. It’s easy to hate on something you don’t agree with, but it’s fulfilling to express love about something. Trust me, you’ll feel better with positive thoughts opposed to negative thoughts.

The man that many of us idolize, Stan Lee, championed for diversity and for over 40 years, he would address racism and bigotry in his soapbox in the pages of Marvel Comics. The characters that he helped create were allegories for women’s rights, racism, and social injustice. X-Men and the mutants are the perfect example of comic book characters fighting against bigotry. To argue that we need to remove politics and social events from comics, is a slap in the face to comics. Right from the beginning, comics were addressing social problems. Superman was created by two Jewish guys who were sick of the bullying and on the cover of Captain America, he was punching Hitler in the face. So to be blunt, if you don’t like these ideas in your comics, hate to break the news to you but you don’t know comics and are about 100 years late with that rhetoric.

I will never know the feeling of being represented by a superhero for the first time because most of the characters are white, as a kid I had Spider-Man, Batman and Superman. Now nearing my thirties, characters such as Miles Morales, John Stewart, Jessica Cruz, and most recently Yaya Flor from Future State: Wonder Woman are more interesting to me because of what they represent. I remember being eight years old when Static Shock was showing on WB Kids, it was one of my favorite shows and I never really understood why until I was much older. It was something new, it was giving us a character that was unlike anything else on tv and especially a cartoon. I truly believe we are in the midst of great creative changes in comics with writers, artists and characters representing everybody.

It warms the heart knowing that a young lady can turn on Batwoman, Titans , or Stargirl and feel represented. Seeing young kids look at characters like Black Panther and Falcon as their favorite superheroes is such a glorious thing. As comic fans, we should try our best to entertain these changes and not be afraid of a strong character that does not represent us. The world is always changing and things will always be different, but comics have proved over the last century to be a suitable outlet to represent the world.

It can be debated that it was not suitable at first with characters such as Ebony White in The Spirit being incredibly racist and offensive, and many other examples can be made. With the likes of characters such as Miles Morales, American Chavez, and Kamala Kahn who have become major influential characters in Marvel comics, the relationship of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn being explored in DC Comics and some characters being retconned to being a part of the LGBTQ community, we are looking at a beautiful and enlightened future for comics.

We don’t own these characters, the publishers and creators do (in some cases). So let’s say a character you like, were to change their gender, their ethnicity or their sexual orientation, there is not a damn thing you can do about it. You could stop buying the comic and merchandise associated with that character, but with that change that pissed you off and made you stop supporting it, that character would find a new audience on top of those that already supported it. Who knows, that change could reinvigorate a character that has become stall and give it much needed new life.

If you have made it this far into this blog and disagree with everything I have said, that’s normal, you feel attacked and I am now probably on your “shit list” but before you cast judgement, let me say this; We can have different beliefs and still have respect for one another, no one person is the same, so thank you for reading this and I hope you understand where I am coming from. It does not matter if we are thousands of miles apart or a very close friend or family member, we are different and I respect you.