Monday, December 3, 2012

Flashback Five on: Transformations

Editor's Note: While I'm traveling during the holidays, Matt Linkous is lending a hand with a new Flashback Five. Today, Matt shares some of his memories of his favorite superhero transformation scenes. Thank you Matt! - Jim

In superhero stories I have always had a tremendous affection towards secret identities for one very important reason: the idea of transformation. As a kid I lived for that moment in a comic book where an ordinary person summons, becomes, or reveals their super powered form. There is just something kinetic about that moment of transition from the mortal to the extraordinary. Besides, having that contrast simply makes the idea of being a superhero that much more special. This can happen very literally with a burst of magic, such as Diana Prince spinning into her glamorously heroic form as Wonder Woman. But it can also be the hero getting suited up for the battle ahead. This is something I touched on briefly in my review of the New 52 Flash comic.

Continuing in that vein, Today's FB5 is five of my favorite superhero transformations.

5. Dr. Banner to The Incredible Hulk. 

The Hulk has undergone a lot of versions over the past 20-30 years, most really focused on the "Jekyl/Hyde" aspect.  Personally, I always found the Frankenstein aspect more interesting, the man who created his own monster and is literally stuck with it. The character I really think of as the Hulk is the 70's green, shaggy haired, childlike brute who was gentle at heart because deep down Banner's own conscience is the tether between the man and the beast. Next to the eye-effect from the Bill Bixby TV show I also love it when the change when it's portrayed as a rush of adrenalin. Like the sensation that goes through you when you get frustrated enough to slam your fist onto your desk. Only in Banners case it's one million times that and he can't put the breaks on it once it starts. As in this page from the Batman/Hulk crossover drawn by the incomperable Jose Garcia Lopez.

4.  Bruce Wayne to The Batman. 

Now Of course Bruce cannot instantly or magically transform. However a well done gearing-up sequence conveys that same trans-formative sense. After all the mantle of the bat is a disguise Bruce created to "strike fear and terror into the hearts of criminals". It helps re-enforce the power of this concept when comics show the moment that he makes that transition from billionaire playboy to the The Dark Knight Detective (remember when the "detective" part actually counted?) I think an excellent example of this comes from this page by the great Marshall Rogers.

3. Peter Parker into Spidey.  

Now at certain times it works to give Peter a very cool gearing-up type of sequence to indicate he's really going kick some butt. However most of the time there is the indication that Peter putting on his Spidey suit is a hurried and occasionally humorous affair. Being first exposed to Spidey's comics in the 70's one of my favorite reoccurring shots was of Peter skittering up the side of an alleyway with his shoes in his hand trying to get to the roof so he can quick change. A variation on this idea comes from an issue of Marvel Team-Up. Peter is just trying to have a night out  with Mary Jane but of course he has to dash off to become Spider-Man ...and almost bungles the whole secret identity thing in front of a live studio audience by nearly dropping his shoe on the hosts head while trying to change in the rafters.

2. Billy Batson transforming into Captain Marvel.

Growing up as one of those kids dreaming about how cool it would be to become a superhero, the appeal of Captain Marvel was only natural. You didn't even need radiation or an alien physiology, you could just say the word and off you go! I was first exposed to the good Captain via the 70's Filmation tv series with Michael Gray. For all the shows requisite lessons of the week and under budgeted flaws, Filmation knew how to get a kid amped up with a transformation sequence. Artist Alex Ross is a bit of a kindred spirit to me in this respect since he has gone on record many times sighting his love for the show. So I guess it's fitting that one of my favorite portrayls of Billy's transformations is from his work. While this one is from a collectors item rather than something that was used in a story it is still a favorite of mine because I think it perfectly captures the power and the joy of what happens when Billy utters that one magic word.

1. Clark Kent into Superman. 

Clark Kent revealing that bold red \S/ on his chest is the single most iconic and imitated superhero transformation of all time. It is known the world over just like the character himself. There many ways of showing Clark Kent going from his street clothes to his hero mode but nothing captures and evokes the idea with as much effectiveness. You don't even need to see him move at super-speed or have a panel showing him slipping on his boots. You just see that shirt-rip and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a job..for Superman! You can immediately cut away to a cool shot of him flying or have him zooming out of the sky and right into the action. It's exactly the kind of "hell yeah!" moment good superhero comics are made of. A great example of this comes from artist Ivan Reis. The page is so simple, yet so awesome. You can practically hear the John Williams theme cue up as your eyes go down the panels.

These are only a few of my favorite transformations. We'd love to hear some of yours!
Have a great weekend and be sure to be back here live for the next FB5!

- Matt


Jim Shelley said...

One of my favorites would have to to be the Jason Blood to Entrigan transformation (because the spell recited with it no doubt.)

MattComix said...

@Jim. I agree the Demon is an excellent example. I actually considered putting him on the list. There's a lot of characters I considered putting on here but then it would have turned into FB20 instead of FB5.


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