It’s been a month of big wins for Geek Culture, both domestically and internationally. Last weekend, we celebrated the 15th Year of Free Comic Book Day. FCBD was sparked by Joe Field’s sweet tooth and love of Free Ice Cream Cone Day and has now grown into a worldwide phenomenon. In anticipation of it all, there were articles like this from the Guardian helping Brits find the best Free Comic Book Day Comic Shops in the UK. And you might have read my column last week. I covered the enthusiasm of thousands of FCBD fans in metro NYC.
The other big news was the astounding box office results for the new movie, Captain America: Civil War. This picture’s opening weekend was $181.8 million, making it the best debut of any movie this year, and ensuring it will be one of 2016’s biggest successes. Worldwide, it’s a similar story, and the international box office embraced the picture with an additional $496.6 million.
Much has been written about Warner’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The distinguished competition tried to steal a few pages from Marvel’s cinematic playbook and they enjoyed strong box office revenue. But they also suffered through fan backlash and critical analysis. Many feel that like a car crash, there was an urge to slow down and check it out. Did fans begrudgingly see the movie? One critic nailed it with the phrase “The Cinema of Obligation.”
This third Captain America movie debuted as the U.S. is coming to grips with a contentious national election. So many voters complain that they don’t like either presidential candidate, and the negative ratings that pollsters report confirm that.
But Geek Culture has known a secret for a long time. You don’t have to hate the “other guy” during an argument. In comics, you can call it a Civil War or you can call it an unfortunate misunderstanding. In Geek Culture when the good guys fight, it’ s more likely there’s been some miscommunication that leads to a short-term conflict. But in the end, they patch up their differences and their friendships supersede their temporary conflict.
The visual of super heroes, who are usually friends, squaring off against one another was a central part of this movie’s marketing. These visuals have been around for a long time. I’ve peppered this article with a few favorites.
Last week, actor Bryan Cranston was educating Bill Maher (!) on how a generation ago, Washington’s social events would routinely include folks from both sides of the aisles. They’d duke it out all day on issues like segregation, then get together for cocktails (with their spouses) and exchange stories about their families. They became friendly off the battlefield of politics.
That’s kind of the way it has always worked in comics, and I wish people passionate about politics would learn a thing or two.
NY Times critic A.O. Scott observed that Captain America: Civil War was less of a civil war and more of an intramural basketball pickup game. He was right. And that’s what makes it so much fun and so successful.
This week we talk all about Captain America: Civil War. And Anya gets mad about what she calls the 45 minute fight she says is in all Marvel movies…except this one. We also determine that a Sharon – Steve match up is wrong because Captain Carter is the OTP of all OTPs, so move over Lizzie & Darcy. Anya also learns that she can’t talk if she’s sitting on her hands. We also talk about the Black Widow movie (finally) and critique the pictures in the latest Rolling Stone article about Chris Evans. Yeah, there’s a lot of episode in here!
No, I haven’t seen the new Captain America entertainment, though I did walk past a theater that’s showing it a few hours ago. But I guess that doesn’t count.
I might be tempted to buy a ticket at that multiplex located at an outdoor mall in Nanuet, instead of the bigger, much closer 21-screener in West Nyack.
Allow me a digression.
The West Nyack theater has recently suffered some renovation that resulted in customers having to choose the seats they will occupy at the time they buy their tickets. They look at a numbered schematic of the theater’s interior, choose seats, buy tickets, enter the semi-darkness, look at the numbers on each aisle, count the seats until they reach the ones they rented in the lobby, and – glory hallelujah! – sink into upholstery and start staring at the screen, feeling, maybe, like Amundsen when he finally got to the South Pole. Then, our theatergoers can fiddle with controls on the arm rest and adjust the seat configuration from more or less upright – proper posture and all that – to virtually horizontal. This last might serve you well if you plan to nap, and considering how little joy I got from the last movie I saw there, that might have been a better use of my afternoon.
Anything not to like?
Well, for openers, I do not enjoy the search process. I catch a flick, I want to go in and find an empty seat with decent sightlines and, if I’m lucky, forget I exist for a couple of hours or so. There are occasions when boldly meeting challenges is proper, but moviegoing, I maintain, is not one of them. Then there is the matter of environment. Look, I bought my ticket sight unseen. I have no idea who, or what, will be sitting near me. A sweet grandmother who’s afraid that she’s being offensive by breathing, or a butt-cracker of a heavyweight thug who’s snacking on garlic while practicing for a belching contest, activities he has no intention of discontinuing, and if I complain, how’d I like to suck my dinner through a straw?
But whoa! Weren’t we discussing Captain America?
I’m kind of surprised that he’s still active, much less the hero of a movie (I didn’t see it in Nanuet, by the way) that, as I type this, is basking in box office grandeur. Check the stats, true believer: 181 million dollars worth of tickets sold, which makes Captain America: Civil War the fifth most profitable debut in film history. I’m surprised because I’ve long thought of Cap as belonging to a specific era. He was created at the outbreak of the second world war, obviously intended to embody the patriotism and determination the nation was bringing to the battlegrounds.
The war ended and we might have expected Cap to hang up his shield find some laurels to rest on. But he didn’t – not exactly. His monthly comic book adventures continued until 1949 when he just sort of disappeared.
According to a story that appeared much later, he spent the years between 1949 and 1964 frozen in an ice block. He was thawed and, though reinvented, has been a reigning good guy ever since.
I hesitate a little sitting down to write a rave review of Captain America: Civil War because a year ago I wrote a rave review for Avengers: Age of Ultron, and when I rewatched that to make sure I was all set for this new installment I found it rather tedious. Are these, perhaps, movies that trick us into liking them with their big action scenes, clever dialogue, and sweeping scores— but only really play in a big theater with a bucket of popcorn? Are there no legs to these films? Will we be as embarrassed of them in 20 years as we are of Batman Returns now? The correct answer to these questions is a resounding “who cares?” It doesn’t matter if these are immortal treasures, the Casablancas or French Connections of our time, only that they’re fun to watch now and they are, perhaps the most fun this side of Fast & Furious, and we should cherish and celebrate them even if they might be a bit fleeting.
I was the perfect age to be completely enamored with the Civil War comic book series. I was finishing up my junior year of college and I could not get enough of any super hero comic book with a political allegory thrown in. If you wanted to have someone talk your ear off about how Margaret Thatcher influenced British comics in the 80s with not even a whiff of proper context I was your guy. Civil War the comic felt timely and provocative while Civil War the movie feels decidedly less so. We seem less concerned these days about government surveillance and intrusion in to our lives. There was probably a good pivot to be made to police militarization and violence, especially when Captain America learns that the order is to kill Bucky on sight, but there’s seemingly no interest in exploring this and it’s hard to blame them when Marvel is interested in making a billion dollars, not in being provocative.
They’re going to earn that billion dollars, too. Civil War is a crisp, effective, action movie that provides ample fan service without feeling overdone. Early in the film I thought I was completely worn out by super hero action sequences, and then they get to the big signature set piece where all the heroes fight each other and I was completely riveted. It helps that their big dramatic fight scene has a brand-new wisecracking Spider-Man and a welcome returning Ant-Man to keep things light and glib and just the utter opposite of Snyder-esque. The final fight scene has that overwrought gritty feeling creeping in, but by that point the stakes have been jacked up so many times that I was willing to forgive it. It’s a dark violent fight but it’s so well directed and the cramped environment makes it feel immediate, imposing, and fresh. Civil War has some fantastic character moments but it needs to live and die by its action sequences, and with the exception of one that felt lifted from The Bourne Identity it consistently hit the mark.
I’m beginning to wonder if the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to strain under the weight of its own continuity. The scenes between Vision and Scarlet Witch were generally charming but they mostly felt like they were setting things up for future movies rather than relating directly to the action at hand. Similarly, I was thrilled to see Chadwick Boseman debut as Black Panther and while he’s a riveting presence (and an A+ costume) it felt like they were saving all the good bits for his solo movie, and while I’m excited to see it that movie comes out in two years, I paid for this ticket now. I understand that this is bigger than any one movie, but I want these events to feel important and self-contained and not just part of some endless march to Thanos or whatever the endgame after that is. Comic book movies should be evocative of their source material, but should avoid the more glaring pitfalls of sequential storytelling with excessive continuity when they can.
I like so much of what they put on the screen in Captain America: Civil War and most of my complaints seem to be about the things they didn’t do or problems outside the scope of a movie like this, and while I do think a more timely, more self-contained film would have been more enjoyable it doesn’t take away from how good it is now. We are looking down the barrel of a rough summer when it comes to standard-fare action movies, and when I’m sitting through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows I’m not going to be thinking about how Civil War dropped too many hints— I’m going to miss how it could stage a compelling grandiose action scene and how none of the characters looked like expressionless CGI blobs. Civil War is as good as superhero action films get, or at least as good as they get with no Hulk.
Captain America: Civil War is complicated, and sprawling, and intense, and funny, and dark, and in the end, nobody wins. It has one of the best multi-superhero fight scenes out there, and yet the first half of the movie is held together by a series of quiet and deeply personal moments that develop numerous character arcs without feeling random or forced. Neither side of the fight along which lines are drawn – over the issue of whether to sign the Sokovia Accords, which will hold the Avengers accountable to the United Nations after their actions in saving the world have caused multiple instances of massive civilian casualties – seems entirely right.
Captain America’s stance of not wanting to abdicate personal responsibility for the Avengers’ actions to people “with agendas” is shown to be dangerous when he violently defends his childhood friend and WWII army buddy Bucky (a.k.a. the Winter Soldier) against all comers, after Bucky is accused of having bombed the conference in Vienna where the Accords are to be ratified. On the other hand, Iron Man’s position of signing over accountability to the UN and his inability to ever consider that he’s “in over his head,” as the Spider-Man of the comics crossover observed, result in pretty much all of his friends ending up in prison for trying to stop the movie’s actual villain, Helmut Zemo, from activating an elite death squad that can be mind-controlled like the Winter Soldier. And with the intricacies of so many main characters with their own views on the issue, there’s a lot to unpack and consider.
So are you confused yet? If you haven’t seen the movie, a) go see it; what are you waiting for? It’s worth it! and b) I’m not surprised at the confusion. The cool thing about the modern MCU is also one of its drawbacks – these movies (thirteen and counting, with a lot more to come) have managed to stay believably within one universe and interweave references to each other in a fairly natural manner while still maintaining their individual styles. That keeps each film fresh and interesting, while also ensuring we want to see more of the whole universe.
The downside of this is that eventually, with the ensemble movies in particular, there is a lot to pack in to make the films work, and they are in danger of collapsing under their own weight. It’s a testament to writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo that they got all the moving parts built into this movie to work together like a well-oiled machine instead of dissolving into a messy disaster (did someone say Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice?)
We’ve gotten to a point in the overall MCU story where to fully comprehend the depth of events in Captain America: Civil War, it helps to be familiar with at the very least The Avengers; Captain America: Winter Soldier; and Avengers: Age of Ultron. (It’s best if you’ve seen all the others, too.) What begins in The Avengers – S.H.I.E.L.D. recruiting a bunch of heroes who start out with pretty different viewpoints and struggle to form a cohesive whole – continues in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where we see Steve Rogers/Cap’s resistance to following the government when it strays from his personal values and morality, and his belief in caring for individual people. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see the results of Tony Stark/Iron Man’s serious accountability issues in pursuit of what he sees as a better future, when he uses something he doesn’t fully understand to complete an A.I. that is supposed to protect the entire world but then tries to kill everyone instead.
By the end of that movie, there’s a fissure within The Avengers – who were not all that stable to begin with – and Captain America’s belief in personal accountability versus Iron Man’s futurist viewpoint stand in stark (no pun intended) contrast to each other.
Captain America: Civil War builds on this and on events of the previous movies by using the immense destruction in New York City during The Avengers and the destruction of the capital city of Sokovia in Age of Ultron as the backdrop for the opening act, in which yet another Avengers’ attempt to stop criminals ends up causing civilian casualties, when Scarlet Witch, the youngest Avenger, accidentally redirects a bomb blast meant for Steve Rogers into a building and kills several Wakandans on a peace mission (a nod to the accidental hero-caused explosion that killed civilians at the beginning of the comics’ Civil War crossover event). This leads to the Sokovia Accords, which 117 countries intend to sign, and which will make the Avengers accountable to the United Nations. The decision of whether each hero will sign the document or “retire” brings out the core issue around which the plot is built.
Although the movie starts with a bang, the series of quieter moments in the first half establishes the stakes and interpersonal relationships that each hero stands to lose when choosing a side as the plot builds the foundation of the civil war itself; creating a world that is less black and white than the comics crossover. And it almost goes without saying in the MCU, but once again the acting in the Marvel movies is top-notch across the board, and the casting choices for new characters are clear winners. Each of the headliners (Chris Evans/Captain America, Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man, Sebastian Stan/Winter Soldier, Chadwick Boseman/Black Panther, Scarlet Johansson/Black Widow, Anthony Mackie/Falcon, Jeremy Renner/Hawkeye, Elizabeth Olsen/Scarlet Witch, Paul Bettany/Vision, Paul Rudd/Ant-Man, Tom Holland/Spider-Man, and Don Cheadle/War Machine) truly embodies the characters we know from the comics and the previous movies; and brings the emotional heart of the movie to the forefront.
The first of the quiet emotional moments occurs soon after Wanda/Scarlet Witch’s mistake costs civilian lives. As she watches the newscasters vilify her, Steve turns the TV off, and together they accept shared blame for the tragedy, as he tells her that they have to learn to live with the collateral damage of trying to save the world because otherwise, next time they might not be able to save anybody. Their mentor/mentee relationship, and Steve’s recognition of her youth and inexperience in the face of the great power she is trying to wield, are clear. Another scene has Tony giving grant money to MIT students in an effort to assuage his guilt over his mistakes (including the creation of Ultron), when he is confronted in an empty backstage hallway by the mother of a boy who died in the Sovokian tragedy while doing aid work; she blames Tony for his death.
And then we have Steve attending the funeral of Peggy Carter, where he receives an almost beyond-the-grave message from Peggy to stand strong for what he believes in via a eulogy from her niece Sharon Carter (surprise, Steve! The pretty neighbor who was spying on you for S.H.I.E.L.D. in Winter Soldier is actually your first love’s age-appropriate relative!). And the introduction of Black Panther, occurring on either side of the bombing in Vienna, is composed of two deeply personal moments – the first of which shows T’Challa’s desire to be a politic leader who will make his peace-loving father proud, and the second of which flips to his intensity and willingness to take matters into his own hands after his father is killed by the explosion. (T’Challa also acts as an “undecided voter” in the war, in that his agenda is his own, not Cap’s or Iron Man’s; and Black Widow lends some other interesting shades of grey to the ideological debate down the line.)
The bombing sets off a chain reaction of events which results in insanely violent but elegant fights down stairways, on rooftops, and through highway tunnels as first the Bucharest police and then Black Panther try to take down Bucky, as Cap and his more recent sidekick Falcon try to protect him.
On a purely cinematic level, I absolutely adore the way that each superhero’s unique fighting style echoes the comics and looks completely natural on screen, the way Bucky and Cap fight almost as one person when they’re fighting on the same side, and the fun the movie-makers must have had choreographing these and the other hero team-up and civil war scenes. The end result of this fight, though, is everyone being captured and brought in to where Thaddeus Ross (who is now Secretary of State, what whaaaat) is haranguing Tony Stark on the phone about the whole mess. This leads to one of my favorite interactions between actors Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans as Stark tries to get Rogers to sign the Accords so he won’t be prosecuted.
Downey Jr. shows a vulnerable side of Stark that we haven’t seen very often since the first Iron Man, and Evans ability to emote with facial expressions shines as Steve comes close to signing before discovering that Tony has confined Wanda to the Avengers compound. Disappointment and disgust for Tony’s stance are written all over Cap’s face as he makes the final decision not to sign.
But tell me, have we forgotten about Helmut Zemo?
Who? One thing that’s so great about this film is that underneath all of the straightforward politics of Avenger-accountability, and the character moments, there’s also this little mystery growing. In the background of the superhero clashes, Zemo is seen tracking down old Hydra secrets and plotting to get a face-to-face meeting with the Winter Soldier. Once he does, the movie flips into high gear, with action scenes rolling into character introductions resulting in funny asides, and moving back into action.
Despite the intensity and dark elements in this film, it doesn’t lose the trademark heart and humor that runs through the MCU. Vision trying to cook for Wanda to comfort her even though he’s never tasted food; the introduction of Spider-man and his running fight-scene commentary; Ant-Man meeting Captain America (I love other heroes’ reactions to meeting Cap for the first time. I mean, he’s Captain America. I get it.); everything about Hawkeye (can I even encompass how much I love what these movies and Jeremy Renner have done with Hawkeye? Probably not); Cap’s two best friends/sidekicks grumping on each other (tell me there isn’t a little bromance jealousy up in there) – these are the bits that make the heroes seem like real people.
Even in the epic fight scene that has twelve superheroes squaring off against each other, the humor is not lost, and each hero gets to showcase his or her moves and have at least one lighter moment as the battle rages. Every. Single. Thing. About this battle is cool – but hands-down, the stars of the show are Spider-Man, doing his thing for the first time in the MCU proper; and Ant-Man, who literally takes over the scene and has a blast doing it. This is one fight scene I will inevitably rewind and watch twice during any home viewing of the movie (the Guardians of the Galaxy Xandar ship-crash scene is another one).
The aftermath of this fight leads to the final showdown, and for once, I’m not going to spoil things here. Suffice it to say that although hinted at previously, the movie took a turn you might not expect, and that the fallout from the final reveal resulted in an even more personal, we-ain’t-friends-no-more fight than the all-hands-on-deck brawl that came before. (It also brought an epic comic book cover from the crossover to the screen.) And in the end, out of the chaos of the civil war came almost no resolution (with one notable exception), actually less darkness than I expected despite the villain sort-of actually winning this round, and a question as to what the Avengers will look like when next they fill our screens.
I guess we’ll have to wait until May 2018 and 2019 to find out; but in the meantime, this movie is definitely worth the price of admission.
Here’s why I conflate legendary bluesman Robert Johnson with legendary cartoonist/illustrator Jim Steranko.
Johnson took American roots music and molded it into The Blues. Brilliantly, I might add, having composed and recorded such classics as “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Terraplane Blues,” “Hellhound on My Trail,” “Love in Vain” and “Cross Road Blues,” a.k.a. “Crossroads.” In all, he produced only 29 tracks, every one between 1929 and 1938
Steranko took the comic art form and broke all the barriers, reinventing and reenergizing comics storytelling and design. He did so with equal brilliance, having produced such award-winning and virtually always-in-print features as Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America, The X-Men,Superman, the graphic novel Chandler: Red Tide, and Heavy Metal’s adaptation of the movie Outland. The bulk of this work was published between 1965 and 1976, but by then Steranko had pretty much moved on to painting and doing posters and conceptual art for movies – one being something called Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also wrote, designed and published the two-volume History of Comics, which has remained the seminal history of the medium.
Both gentlemen had a lot more on their plate – Jim, having lived at least two and one-half times longer than Robert, has the heavier plate. But in terms of their most popular, best-known and quite frankly most astonishing work, both creators had a pretty damn small oeuvre.
Way too small … but with the impact of the Big Bang. Yeah, I’m a fanboy. Wanna make something of it?
From time to time Jim does a few comics covers and posters and, at 77 years old (no, he doesn’t look it), he’s still smashing barriers. For example, he just completed a series of variant covers for Marvel Comics in celebration of Captain America’s 75th birthday. That’s the stuff you see accompanying these words – well, four of them.
We throw around the phrase “genius” as though they were a dime a dozen. They aren’t. Robert Johnson and Jim Steranko are among the very few who have graced their media and our hearts. They gave us their souls and a quantity of work that seems miniscule – until you sit down to appreciate it. Then and only then does that “limited” amount of art seem larger than Denali.
I really wanted to do something this week about Passover and all the Jewish comic creators. Maybe one day I will, but I saw a movie and now I have it stuck in a loop in my mind. Last weekend on my flight back from the west coast, I finally got the chance to see The Martian. Yes, I know it has been out for a very long time but I fell behind in my movie watching. However, I loved the book, and its science based story points. But the movie irked me, but only because I read the book first.
As for the scenes I wanted to see (at least 15% of the book is missing from the movie), I won’t share the details for fear of spoiling someone. Mostly, I was curious how they would visualize one scene or another. I have fallen in this trap many times before. Every time I read a book or comic, I build up the world in my mind.
The biggest problem with seeing a book turned movie is that I want to see the picture in my mind up on the screen. I want the director to love the same scenes as me and go out of their way to make them happen. Written media turned into movies always triggers the perfectionist in me. It’s not fair to the studios, really. Part of me understands that some characters get left out because of budget or time constraints. I understand cutting some characters or changes plot points for better visual storytelling.
What I have to admit is that I am a purist for the original source material. For me, growing up with the written word was everything to me. I would be willing to sit in the theaters to watch a six-hour movie that really encompasses the entire story. I get it, I’m weird.
Comics have less occurrences of this issue only because so many characters have been rebooted multiple times. I admit I still find myself hating adaptations if I know the story it is based on. This will be tested with Captain America: Civil War coming out in about a week. We all know the story has changed significantly, including the driving force behind the actual war. It will also be missing a few hundred characters. Soon, the internet will be overflowing with tons of complaints. I understand where they will be coming from, even if I won’t agree with them.
For the record, once I got past my own nitpicking, The Martian is a very well done film. You should watch it if you get a chance. As for the next time you read a book about to be made into a film, don’t get your hopes up. Just try to enjoy the moment.
Sorry I’ve been absent the past couple of weeks. Blame it on the taxing business of prepping for the taxing business. Now I’m back. Not back with a vengeance – I’m not the Punisher – back with a comic book to write about: Captain America: Sam Wilson #6 .
I’ve been writing about the adventures of Samtain America, the portmanteau of Sam Wilson and Captain America I created, quite a bit. There’s a good reason for that, Serpent Solutions. As it’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote my last column, let me recap. (Oh, and DC take note. This is what a recap looks like.)
Serpent Solutions is a “legitimate” business made up of the villainous snake-motifed artists formerly known as the Serpent Society. It hired itself out to major corporations to do the dirty work said corporations couldn’t do. Although said operations were well within the corporations’ budgets, they were, well, outside the law. So the corporations hired Serpent Solutions. Serpent Solutions did the dirty work, then sold the results of their illegal operations back to the corporations which needed those illegal things to be done.
Serpent Solutions’ shareholder reports were a little vague on the services it provided for its clients. Fortunately, Captain America: Sam Wilson was more forthcoming. Serpent Solutions developed new patents for major pharmaceutical companies by kidnaping undocumented Mexican immigrants and having Dr. Karlin Malus use those kidnap victims in illegal genetic cross-breeding experiments. Dr. Malus developed new, hybrid species that Serpent Solutions patented those species and sold the patents to big pharma for obscene profits. Big pharma, in turn, planned to turn the new patents into obscener profits.
As sinister schemes go, this one was straight out of The Island of Doctor Moreau. Unfortunately, it was the Marlon Brando version, because this scheme, like that Brando movie, was monumentally stupid. Before I explain why, let me digress into some more of that endangered species, the recap.
One Dr. Malus’s subjects was Joaquin Torres. Dr. Malus cross-bred Torres with Samtain America’s pet falcon, Redwing turning Torres into a winged avenger. (“Eee-urp!”) Torres escaped and scientists of the non-mad variety tried to undo the hybridizing. Unfortunately, back in All-New Captain America# 5, the Nazi vampire Baron Blood bit Redwing so Redwing had a vampiric healing factor, which got gene-spliced into Joaquin. Joaquin’s body healed all attempt to reverse the hybridizing, so his wings are permanent. (If it sounds like I’m making that up as I go along; I’m not. Cap’s writers are.)
The fact that Joaquin escaped and teamed up with Samtain America made Viper, head of Serpent Solutions, none too happy. It also made him quite loquacious. (Okay, the fact that Viper was a former Madison Avenue advertising agency executive turned super villain made him loquacious. Verbosity was in his both his job descriptions.)
In the big fight scene, Viper soliloquized more than if he’d been cross-bred with Hamlet, Macbeth, and Richard III. Viper monologued that Joaquin’s wings were Serpent Solutions’s property. The wings were the “result of [Serpent Solution’s] innovations and patents,” made for them under “a very strict work-for-hire” agreement. Which just proves super villains should be fight scened and not heard. Because nothing Viper said was even remotely correct.
See, kidnapping is illegal; even if the people being kidnapped are coming into the country illegally. Detaining them for the Border Patrol is fine. Kidnapping’s illegal.
Performing unauthorized gene splicing experiments on the people to turn them into people/animal hybrids is also illegal. As Dr. Malus’s medical manipulations happened in New York City, I’m going to go with NY Penal Law § 120.10, Assault in the First Degree. We have kidnapping and assault. There were probably more crimes, but these two are enough for our purposes. (Well, for my purposes, anyway, I’m too damned lazy to look up all the possible other crimes that may have been committed.)
Old court cases such as Riggs v. Palmer, have held that criminals can’t profit from their crimes. New cases do, too. For example, courts prevented convicted wife murderer Scott Peterson from receiving the proceeds of his wife’s life insurance policy. In addition, many states have some sort of Son of Sam law, which say that profits criminals earn from their criminal activities should be paid to the victims instead of the criminals. Under such laws, Joaquin, as the victim, could be entitled to the profits of Serpent Solutions’s crimes, his wings.
In addition, contract law says that a contract for an illegal purpose – such as kidnapping and criminal gene splicing – is not enforceable. So even if Dr. Malus was working under a strict work-for-hire contract, that contract wouldn’t be enforceable. Thus, the fruits of his experimentation would actually be his property, not Serpent Solutions’s. And as he conducted his experiments by way of kidnapping and assault, he wouldn’t be entitled to the profits of his experiments, either. (You were paying attention last paragraph, weren’t you?)
Ditto the big pharmas that hired Serpent Solutions. As aiders and abettors to the crimes, their claims to the patents are just as patently ridiculous, because their methods were patently illegal.
Any way you splice it, those wings belong to Joaquin. Which is a good thing because in Captain America: Sam Wilson #6, Joaquin became the New Falcon to Sam’s Cap. And a falcon without wings is just as bad as a criminal with profits.
Valiant announced that Vladmir Putin, also known as the real life leader of Russia, would be the villainous mastermind in Divinity II, their next series event. It was announced only a few days ago in an exclusive interview in the New York Daily News with the comics’ writer, Matt Kindt. In the story, our villain manipulates a ’60s-era cosmonaut who has returned to Earth from deep space with super powers and a desire to build a new Soviet empire.
We all know that this isn’t the first time a real life figure has popped up in a superhero story. Obama’s appearance in Spider-Man may have been the biggest one in my lifetime, but hundreds of politicians and celebrities have shown up as guest stars in comics or had comics done about them. However, the vast majority of the time, the real life person isn’t cast as a villain, and especially not without their permission.
The grand exception to this is of course the Nazi Reich and its leader, Adolf Hitler. The difference being those original Captain America comics were used as propaganda to help encourage and keep the American people invested in the war. While I won’t be the first to point it out, Putin has done some pretty mean stuff lately. The U.S. hasn’t been on the best of terms with Russia. But this comic does not sound like it brings the spirit of Captain America with it. Kindt did go on to say that he used Putin sparingly to not diminish his impact. He also pointed out that he never thought about if this was a good idea to piss Putin off in any way.
The thing that bothers me most of all is Kindt’s insistence that because the story is taking place in Russia, it must paint the leader of Russia as the villain. In an industry of constant make believe, this single fact cannot be changed! No matter how much of the story is complete fiction, it would undermine it to change the single fact of who is the Prime Minister of Russia. Stories based in reality can make that small shift from absolute reality. It’s not like we have superheroes with amazing powers in real life. Or do we and no one told me?! Sci-fi has laid the groundwork for a country leader swap in a story or having it be a never-before-heard-of higher up politician in the government. Stories have always had thinly veiled parodies of real world characters without calling them out by name.
I know, in the other hand is artistic license and freedom of expression. I support those freedoms. And yes, public figures are putting themselves in the limelight to be used by the creative element. If it is the only way Kindt could write the story, then I can accept that. But at the same time, people tend to forget that this is a global community and we need to act like it. Americans come off bratty in a lot of ways in the world.
So my question right now: is this one element crucial to the story? Or is this just the main element to Valiant’s marketing plan?
Wait, I guess some of it happened before Captain America: Sam Wilson #4. So, Sherman, set the WABAC for wayer bac.
Once upon a time there was a team of super villains called theSerpent Squad. As its name implies, it was a team whose costumes and powers emulated snakes. Then in Captain America v1 #311, the Serpent Squad turned into a more formal organization. No, they didn’t start wearing scaly tuxes, they unionized. The Serpent Society members still committed crimes, but they gave the proceeds of those crimes to the Society. The Society funded itself from those proceeds and paid its members a regular wage and health benefits. (And this was years before Obamacare. Talk about forward thinking.)
Recently, Viper, the head of the Serpent Society, reorganized the organization yet again; into Serpent Solutions. Serpent Solutions wasn’t a union, it was a business. A well-funded job creator with offices in cities all across the United States and a headquarters in a luxurious Wall Street office tower it apparently owned. Serpent Solutions hired itself out to big businesses to do the illegal dirty work that the businesses needed done but couldn’t do itself. Then it sold the results of that dirty work back to the businesses for a profit.
Remember last week when I wrote about how the Sons of the Serpents were kidnapping undocumented immigrants in Arizona and selling them to Dr. Karlin Malus for genetic research? That was Serpent Solution’s latest business venture. Turns out Serpent Solutions were the people employing Malus. Serpent Solutions used him to create new genetic patents, which they then sold to the businesses that wanted these patents.
Why did Serpent Solutions do this? To make money. Why did the businesses hire Serpent Solutions to do this? For what they called plausible deniability.
Plausible deniability exists when senior officials in some organization intentionally keep themselves out of the loop of what’s going on in the organization below them. That way, if the organization does something illegal or wrong or illegal and wrong, the senior officials can say they didn’t know what their underlings were doing. The senior officials can claim they didn’t know what their underlings were doing, shift the blame to said underlings, and escape prosecution themselves. No one really believes the senior officials denials, but because no one can prove otherwise, those denials are plausible.
In the case of Serpent Solutions’s business clients, the plausible deniability came from the fact that the companies that hired Serpent Solutions could say, “Hey, all we did was buy some patents from those guys. We had no idea how they got those patents.”
See, plausible deniability. Except, I do not think the word means what the companies think it means. No not the word deniability. The word plausible.
The whole concept of plausible deniability relies on the fact that no one can find a connection linking the senior officials to the people hired to do the dirty work. No connection means no proof that the top brass really knew what was going on. The morons who hired Serpent Solutions had deniability that was about as plausible as a politician’s promise.
First, the companies were dealing with a group of super villains. How did those companies think the super villains were going to do that dirty work, if not by super villainy? The fact that your company’s hiring a bunch of “usual suspects” makes your deniability a little suspect.
Now let’s factor in the way Serpent Solutions conducted its business. It didn’t sneak around holding clandestine meetings with some lower-level official who could never be connected back to the higher ups. No, when Serpent Solutions was soliciting a company’s business, it held introductory meetings with the company’s board of directors. Public meetings in the company’s board room.
In the one board meeting we were shown, the Senior Vice President for Public Relations and Community Affairs – we’ll call him Greg, because that’s what the story called him – complained that Serpent Solutions’s methods included, “kidnapping! Illegal experiments! Torture and murder!” So it’s not like the Board didn’t know precisely what was going on. Then when Greg demurred and even quit his cushy job, Serpent Solutions killed him right there in the board room, while Viper monologued, “I’ve done a lot of these meetings over the past few months and there’s always one.”
Newsflash, if you want your deniability to be plausible, don’t have your entire board of directors meet the super villains you want to do your dirty work in your frelling board room. Like I said earlier, have some subordinate meet them in seclusion. Hey, I’m just a lowly former public defender from Cleveland not a highly paid and even more-highly bonused corporate CEO, and even I know how to commit corporate malfeasance better than that.
See, the minutes of board meetings are supposed to be recorded, which kind of leaves a paper trail disproving the whole deniability thing. If they aren’t, or are mysteriously destroyed, well that’s going to raise a red flag or two, too. And you’ll be needing that tutu when you try to dance around your own criminal culpability in the matter.
Yes, criminal culpability. Hire criminals to do your criminal dirty work for you and you’re an aider and abettor so just as guilty of their crimes as they are.
And here’s even flashier, newsflash: it helps the whole deniability thing of you don’t have the super villains you want doing your dirty work committing actual murders in your board room with your board of directors present.
Former President Richard Nixon denied involvement in the Watergate break in and cover up. People doubted his denials. But Nixon’s veracity has been suspect as far back as 1950, when he ran for the Senate and people named him “Tricky Dick,” because of alleged falsehoods in campaign ads. But those veracity problems paled next to Nixon’s Watergate denials. As more facts came out, Nixon’s Watergate denials were even less plausible. Finally, when all was said and done, so was President Nixon. Because he didn’t have plausible deniability.
But as much as “Tricky Dick’s” denials strained plausibility, he’d be a paragon of truth, justice, and the American way compared to any board of directors that hired Serpent Solutions to do its dirty work. Their denials would stretch plausibility like petite pantyhose on Honey Boo Boo’s “Mama June.”