Tagged: Captain America

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll The Law Is A Ass #382

CAPTAIN AMERICA DIDN’T TAKE A CONSERVATIVE APPROACH

Sometimes a banana is just a banana.

It was all over the news. Well, all over Fox News, anyway. Captain America was targeting conservatives.

Which he wasn’t.

What happened – as best I can fathom, as even Quentin Tarantino would have had a difficult time following the nonlinear storytelling in Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 – is this. Some weeks back, super villain the Iron Nail neutralized the Super-Soldier Serum in body of Steve Rogers, the original Captain America. Without its effects, Steve Rogers, who was born in 1920, found his body rapidly aging to that of a 94-year-old man. (Question: did the story explain why Steve’s body rapidly aged to 94? Sure Steve was born on July 4, 1920, or 94 years ago, when he lost the Serum. But he spent all the time from early 1945 until The Avengers #4 in suspended animation. Marvel says Fantastic Four #1 didn’t happen in 1961, it happened 10 years ago. That’s Marvel Time. So in Marvel Time, The Avengers# 4 happened a little bit less than 10 years ago. Meaning from 1945 until a little less than 10 years ago, Cap’s body was in suspended animation and didn’t age. Cap went into the iceberg as 24-year-old and came out still 24 years old. Since then, 10 years have passed, Marvel time. So it doesn’t matter what year Cap was born, physiologically he should have the body of a 34-year-old man, not a 94-year-old man. How, then, did Cap’s body age to an age it had never been? Inquiring minds want to know. And even if they don’t I do.)

Because Steve couldn’t meet the physical demands of being Captain America any more, he turned his mantle and shield over to his partner Sam Wilson, formerly the Falcon and now Captain America. Sam promptly got a bunch of people mad at him by taking public stands on several partisan issues. What stands and what issues the comic never told us, but I think we can safely assume it wasn’t whether the President should be pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys.

4805178-sam_wilson_captain_america_1_acuna_variant

Things got worse for Sam, as his actions caused a strain in his relationship with the super spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. Suddenly Sam was on his own and without resources. So he set up a national hotline that people could use to tell him about injustices or wrongs that needed to be righted.

One of those hot line calls was from Mariana Torres. Her grandson Joaquin left water, medicine, and food out for people who were walking through the desert to cross the border from Mexico into America. Mariana also told Sam that Joaquin didn’t come back from his last mission. She claimed that he had been kidnapped by the Sons of the Serpent, who were patrolling the border to stop the undocumented from entering. (It should be noted that the Sons of the Serpent is a long-time white-supremacist and racist hate group in the Marvel Universe; basically Marvel’s version of the KKK.)

Sam-tain America promptly went down to Sonoita, Arizona and confronted the Sons of the Serpent, who were about to capture some border crossers. And that’s where we came in.

Came in with Fox News criticizing the new Captain America and his comic for vilifying, “an American who has misgivings about unlimited illegal immigration and the costs associated with it,” Fox’s commentators said that writers should “keep politics out of comic books” or should be telling positive stories about, “the people who are working the border to keep us safe.” Fox News went on to say that the Sons of the Serpent are only stopping people from coming over the border illegally and Captain America wanted to keep them from doing that.

Now I admit the people who were entering the country were doing so illegally and Joaquin was breaking the law by helping them. If all that was happening was that the Sons of the Serpent were apprehending people who were entering the country illegally then turning them over to the Border Patrol and Captain America wanted to prevent them from doing that, Fox would have had a legitimate story. Problem is that Fox’s interpretation of the comic was simplistic.

And inaccurate.

See what Fox News conveniently forgot to do was tell its viewers the real reason the Sons of the Serpent were apprehending border crossers. The Serpents weren’t patrolling the borders and turning undocumented aliens over to the Border Patrol. They were grabbing people and selling them for $5,000 a head to Dr. Karlin Malus, an evil scientist,  so that he could use them in his genetic experimentation. The Sons of the Serpents were kidnapping people.

Kidnapping is a crime. Even Fox News’s Research Department should be able to confirm that fact. Assuming Fox News’s Research Department is capable of doing something more extensive than digging up talking points.

For all the furor Fox fomented, turns out that Captain America wasn’t targeting conservatives. He was going after kidnappers. You know, criminals. And that’s what Captain America is supposed to do, isn’t it? Go after lawbreakers. Because, you know, bananas are bananas and not cumquats.

I admit that Captain America: Sam Wilson # 1 could have done a better job of showing that the Sons of the Serpents were kidnappers. While that information was strongly implied in issue one, it wasn’t until Captain America: Sam Wilson #2 that the comic explicitly told us the Sons were selling the people they grabbed to Dr. Malus.

Might have been nice if that explicit kidnapping information had been in issue 1 so that even a simplistic reading of the comic would have shown Captain America was going after kidnappers not conservatives. Maybe then Fox News would have done a fair and balanced story.

Or not. After all, bananas are still bananas.

Mike Gold: Reality’s Slippery Slope

HostilemanSeven random thoughts on a post-Valentine’s Day afternoon.

I’ve started to measure time in “DC Comics Reboots.” Usually about four years, give or take. In other words, if Abe Lincoln used that designation his most famous speech with have started “21 DC Comics Reboots ago…” Yes, I know DC insists it’s not a reboot, despite cancelling and replacing their entire superhero line with new versions of the same old thing. And I suppose Superman doesn’t have a Big Red S.

Jughead 4O.K. Jughead is asexual – although I’d bet he won’t be in the CW teevee series. But I ask you this: did Kevin Keller out him by saying so in public at Riverdale High? Don’t get me wrong; that was a great scene and it feels as though the revelation was common knowledge. But, like Martha and Joe before me, I hadn’t thought about asexuals being a class of people subject to routine discrimination. It’s been a while since a mainstream comic book actually lit the flames of thought inside my fevered brainpan.

Deadpool was the Airplane! of superhero movies. Brianna Hildebrand’s scene where she halts the big battle sequence in order to finish texting was brilliant and Stan Lee’s cameo was the finest use of a nonagenarian comic book writer ever. However, I think Stefan Kapicic owes Paul Frees’ estate a check for his use of Boris Badenov’s voice, and at the end where Morena Baccarin worked things out (no spoiler alert), I kind of felt sorry for Detective Jim Gordon. Although, to be fair, Morena’s had a great deal of varied superhero work in recent years.

IDoctor Faten last month’s issue of Doctor Fate – a wonderful and soon-to-be-cancelled New52 series – writer Paul Levitz deployed my favorite verse from the Koran. Yes, sports fans, I actually have a favorite verse from the Koran. Of course, Islam being an organized religion and therefore greatly disorganized, the verse is phrased in a variety of ways and its veracity has been questioned by some. But the line goes “Blessed is he who makes his companions laugh” and I think that’s a great sentiment. Nice job, Paul.

Riddle me this: How many Spider-Men does it take to fill the Marvel Universe? Answer: How many have you got? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more Spideys right now than Green Lanterns. So stop bitching about the inevitability of concurrent Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers Captains America. That’s only two. Thus far. Oh, wait. Isn’t there a teen-age girl from 2099 or from another, no-longer existent universe? O.K. Three.

Wonder WomanCounting up the number of secret origins devised for Wonder Woman over the past 75 years is akin to defining π to the last decimal point: you’re going to give up or die of old age before you complete your mission. I might have read them all, but I’ve probably read nearly all. And the current one that’s unfolding in Legend of Wonder Woman is, by far, the best thought-out and best realized of the bunch. Kudos to Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon on a thankless job – thankless because it’s not the origin in the upcoming Wonder Woman movie and, therefore, probably will be ignored. I hope not.

Now that Playboy magazine has dropped the tits’n’snatch, the relic from the beat generation has decided to off the cartoons as well. This surprises me only because its two most famous cartoonists, Gahan Wilson and Hugh Hefner, are still alive. Well, in ‘Ner’s case, that’s subject to debate. Nonetheless, it’s a shame that the magazine that regularly gave us the work of Jack Cole, Jules Feiffer, Shel Silverstein, Bobby London, Harvey Kurtzman and Willy Elder will not extend that welcome to a new generation of artists. I’m not sure what Playboy’s place in this world might be, but I’ve been asking that question for several decades now… as have a great, great many of former and current employees and contributors to the publication. It’s not the end of an era; that era ended the day Al Gore learned how to spell “Internet.”

 

Joe Corallo: Nostalgia vs. Reality?

Kamala Khan

This past weekend, myself and some of the other ComicMix columnists went to see Hail, Caesar!, the latest film from the Coen brothers. I don’t want to speak for everyone else, but the general consensus as we all exited the theater was one of enjoyment. Personally, I thought it was one of the better Coen brothers’ films.

That being said, the movie has some possible drawbacks. For those of you that don’t know, Hail, Caesar! is a period piece taking place in Hollywood in the late 1940s revolving around the choices a studio executive has to make. They do a great job with it all, and really suck the audience into the setting. Although the movie is certainly lacking heavily in the diversity department, you might have just given it a pass considering the combination of the time period and the subject matter.

I’d have been more likely to give the movie a pass as well if it weren’t for this interview the Coen brothers gave. In it, they use some poorly selected words to describe what they think about diversity in movies. They claim that writers do not think about diversity as they come up with stories.

Now look, this doesn’t make the Coen brothers bad film makers. It makes them presumptuous to think that other writers in the business don’t consider diversity when writing, and that demonstrates their values are not the same as mine, but that doesn’t mean that they are inherently bad. And they have the excuse this time of doing a period piece, so it’s okay that it’s all white.

Or is it?

Outside of even the #Oscarssowhite controversy, I understand the idea that the executives at the studio, the actors at the studio and many others would be white. Really, I get it. However, nearly everyone we see on screen of consequence or not is white. All of the random celebrities that make an appearance in this film even for a scene or two are white. I don’t want to get into any spoilers, but we do see groups of people that you would imagine would have some more diversity in them. Perhaps not showing that diversity was a commentary the film was making, but if it was that never came across in the film.

This is a multilayered problem. Of course we can point to the Coen brothers both being white, having their own life experiences from that, and drawing from those in their writings. Another problem is one they point out in the interview I linked to above about how it’s not fair to single out a particular movie and question the level of diversity in it. Though they answer this question poorly, they do have a point and that makes this all the more complicated and difficult.

The Coen brothers did not get into film making to preach diversity; they’re making films because they want to tell the stories they want to tell. The problem isn’t exactly with individual movies. Everyone who makes it that far in the business should be able to attempt to make the movies they want to make. The problem comes when most of those people are white, and want to tell stories about other people who are white. It’s a difficult situation to tackle without an easy solution as this is an institutional problem, not an individual problem.

I feel this problem is driven heavily by our obsession with nostalgia. The good old days! The “simpler” times. Hail, Caesar! harkens back to a “simpler” Hollywood with overtones of the complexity of the red scare. The movie still paints a very black and white picture of that time. It keeps it simple. It glosses over the oppression part. Now, going back to my point earlier, this movie should not be held to such a high standard as to accurately depict the complexity of the time period. The problem comes down to that we have too many individual examples of this and not enough examples of movies not in nostalgia’s lens.

Naturally, I started linking this movie I was watching to parallels with the comic book industry.

This is a problem that’s been affecting comic books for a long time as well, and more recently comic book movies. I’ve touched on this before in other columns, particularly this one about Captain America. Since I’ve written that, we’ve seen articles like this one come out about comics that are in danger of being cancelled. It’s interesting to note that five of the ten comics listed star either a woman, black, and/or queer character. On top of that, another one of the ten comics listed is written by Gail Simone, one of the highest profile women in comics, and another of them stars Hercules which caused controversy when it was announced that he would not be depicted as bisexual this time.

Alarms should be going off in your minds right now. The books on the chopping block are disproportionately underrepresented groups in comics, and by a rather large margin. And similar to what the Coen brothers brought up in their interview, it is not the individual creators’ faults. This isn’t an individual problem, it’s an institutional problem. Just like with movies where we have a disproportionate about of famous white actors that are a draw at the box office like George Clooney, Channing Tatum, and Scarlett Johansson, and directors like the Coen brothers, comics have a disproportionately high draw with white characters and creators from Batman, Superman, and Wolverine, to Geoff Johns, Brian Michael Bendis, and Neal Adams.

It is not the fault of any of the individuals involved that they’re white. It’s not their fault that they’re successful or that they draw an audience. However, decades of entrenchment in the comics medium has created a class of successful white, mostly male creators and white, mostly male creations. Just like with Hollywood, TV, literature, you name. And latching on to nostalgia only keeps the cycle going on and on.

For comics, trying to solve this problem seemed to backfire. Over at DC some months ago, the editors there told their creators to “stop Batgirling” and to go back to the “meat and potatoes.” My initial take away from that was one of disappointment. Watching Hail, Caesar! and reading what the Coen brothers had to say has changed my attitude on this.

I think it’s great that both Marvel and DC have put at least some effort into making their product line more diverse. The Coen brothers are also right to believe they don’t have to consider diversity in the movies they want to make (whether I agree with them or not). And it’s a reminder that many, many people out there really don’t care about diversity and they don’t want to care about it either.

In Hollywood at least, movies like Creed, Straight Outta Compton, and even Star Wars: The Force Awakens are shaking things up and have the positive reviews and profits to back up their success. At Marvel and DC, they’re still in the process of figuring out how to shake things up in an equivalent sort of way. DC’s approach, which was admirable, spread itself too thin. They put too many titles out that were doomed to failure. They were doomed because they were rushing to capture an audience that hasn’t been properly cultivated yet.

It took time before Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The X-Men, and many others were solid franchises deeply entrenched in our culture. Too many Bat titles or Avengers titles compete with these younger characters and titles and prevent them from having an equal chance, as I discussed the other week with Sam Wilson as Captain America and his almost certain end not long after Steve Rogers comes back.

Perhaps a possible solution is to invest highly in a small number of newer characters, like Kamala Khan at Marvel, build them up, entrench them in our culture to allow them to gain some permanence rather than spread diversity too thin and watch books rise and fall fast. Or maybe the world has changed too much where characters like Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man would never be able to be created and become kind of franchise juggernauts in comic that they are today and entrenching a new character like Kamala Khan just wouldn’t work the same.

Nostalgia is a powerful force, and that’s a force that is not only unavailable to help characters like Kamala Khan and characters from other underrepresented groups, it’s a hindrance. Not only to cultivating these new characters, but it’s a hindrance to us and getting us out of our comfort zones.

Is there anything that can really be done about this in the short term? I’m not entirely sure. It’s something for me to think about. Maybe for you too.

Joe Corallo: TwoAmericas

Captain America

Last week Marvel Comics announced that they’ll be bringing back the original Captain America, Steve Rogers. Currently, Sam Wilson is the acting Captain America. For many, it was a big deal that Sam Wilson became Captain America. He’s the first African American Captain America in the main continuity (though Bob Morales and Kyle Baker’s Truth explored Isaiah Bradley, a black man depicted as being an early product of the super-soldier program), which instantly made him one of Marvel’s highest profile, if not their highest profile, black superhero.

This, on top of Jane Foster taking over the role of Thor and some other recent choices, seemed to show that Marvel was moving towards broader representation and inclusion in their main titles to accommodate the rapidly changing demographics of comic book readers.

That is no longer the case.

Many have speculated that Marvel Comics would eventually go back to the original characters, the straight cis white male versions specifically, as they have done that time and time again over the years. As diversity in all entertainment mediums including comics has become an increasingly important topic as of late, we’ve been seeing more press roll outs of change ups at both Marvel and DC like when Sam Wilson took on the mantel of Captain America. Unfortunately, by bringing back Steve Rogers, the straight cis white male Captain America, they are undermining their own efforts.

However, they are only truly undermining their own efforts if diversity was the priority in the first place. They are not undermining their own efforts if short term sales are their first priority. Long term sales, now that’s a different story.

Sure, Marvel is stating that they’re going to keep Sam Wilson as Captain America. They’re just going to have two of them at the same time. This seems like a means to keep people from initially being upset by the move, whether they’re comic book readers themselves or outsiders reporting on it. Or it’s a way to keep people have much of an opinion on this at all. I mean, Marvel isn’t taking away something, they’re just giving us more, right?

That’s a mistake. In comics, we’ve all seen this before. A disruption in the status quo for a time that will inevitably go back to the norm. Spider-Man had a black suit for a while, Superman died and came back, even Steve Rogers as Captain America was Nomad for a time before becoming Captain America again. Also, Steve Rogers got killed, replaced by Winter Soldier, just to come back only a few years ago, but who’s counting? And yes, I know there are plenty more examples, but you probably know most of them anyway.

Beyond just being tired, gimmicky cash-grabs, these sort of things hurt diversity in comics. Sam Wilson as Captain America had his first issue debut in October, and we’re already getting ready to bring back Steve Rogers by the summer. Less than a year of a black Captain America in the main continuity before going right back to white. Even if they keep them both as Captain America, we all know the sales are going to be better for Steve Rogers’ comic. He has the built in fan base garnered through 75 years of existence on top of having Chris Evans star as Steve Rogers in one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. What chance does Sam Wilson have as Cap?

We know how this story ends before it starts. Steve Rogers’ book will sell well, and Sam Wilson’s will maybe sell for a bit before sales dwindle enough where they cancel it. Maybe Sam Wilson will appear in team books or as a guest in comics, but Steve will be back on top in no time. Especially since this will be coinciding with the release of the new Captain America movie. And with Sam Wilson still being depicted as Falcon in the movies, it’s very possible he’ll go back to using that name again. You know, because synergy. Funny how that works, huh?

Not that you don’t already know this, but Marvel is owned by Disney. Disney has the money, if they really were invested in diversity, to promote a black superhero like Sam Wilson in the comics, or any other number of minority heroes, and to help make them a household name that sells. They managed that with a talking raccoon and a tree that can only say its name over and over again. Yes, Sam Wilson appears as Falcon in the movies, but he’s a minor character that hasn’t really had too much of a chance to shine or garner a fan base in the same ways. And absolutely no one seems to be calling for him to have his own solo movie, unlike side characters like Black Widow.

Now here’s where it gets tricky. I don’t like the idea of a boycott. It’s not the fault of the creative team on the Steve Rogers’ Captain America book that it will likely bump the Sam Wilson one out in time. If it wasn’t Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz on the book, Marvel would get another team on it. Easily. This is an editorial decision. Yes, they may have asked some creators to pitch them some ideas on what to do with Steve Rogers as Captain America again, but Steve Rogers was going to get a new title as Captain America either way.

If you’re interested in Captain America when the Steve Rogers’ comic hits the shelves this summer, buy both books. If you can only afford one, buy the Sam Wilson one. That’s the one that’s going to need the higher sales numbers to stick around as a monthly title. Let’s show the comic industry, and specifically Marvel Comics, that we care more about change, diversity, and representation than we care about defaulting back to straight cis white men for the sake of nostalgia.

Maybe they’ll even stop rehashing the same storylines over and over if we’re proving to Marvel that we’ll buy new stories. If we keep defaulting back, we’ll never move forward, and diversity will be nothing more than a nice thought we ponder about from time to time.

Joe Corallo: Brief Lives

DeathThis past week has made me reflect on life and death. Some of it has been personal, some of it has been David Bowie related, and some of it has been comic book related.

Despite never having met David Bowie, he’d been a part of my life for a while with his music, movies, and other works. And a celebrity of his status is hard to not be reminded of, regardless of if you’d like to avoid him or not. From his music being in a many films, to just hearing his songs in played on the radio, bars, and grocery stores, Bowie is just so entrenched in our pop culture that he’ll live on for the rest of my life, even though he physically hasn’t.

Comic book story lives and deaths are a little different. I probably didn’t need to tell you that, but it sounded like a good segue so here we are. Character deaths in mainstream comics are becoming more and more a staple of the medium. The increase in character deaths is leading to an increase in characters coming back to life. Oddly enough, characters who would sell a lot of books with their deaths get killed off (see Superman, Batman, Phoenix, Wolverine and more!) or characters that no one seems to know what to do with (see Coagula, Kraven The Hunter, and more!). Just like real life!

When it comes to characters coming back to life, it’s a bit harder to suspend your disbelief. At least for me. And I’m not saying that to mean in these worlds with alien worlds, alternate dimensions and time travel (just to name a few) that someone coming back from life is where I draw the line. It’s more just sad how these fictional characters we know and love seem to put more effort into bringing back their pals that sell books than bringing back all of their good friends, relatives, and innocent bystanders they’ve watched die over the years. Always comes down to the bottom line with these superheroes. It’s a damn shame. I know I’ve plugged X-Statix before, but if you haven’t read it the book does touch on that point.

Anyway, the big two used to at least try to take a break between ending lives in their comics and starting up lives again. Currently Marvel is advertising that they have a character coming back to life and a major character death coming up soon. The line between life and death in mainstream comics has become so blurred, with brief lives and briefer deaths. All as the ultimate gimmick to keep you wanting more.

This hasn’t always gone off without a hitch. Alexandra DeWitt’s death in Green Lantern sparked enough outrage to create Women In Refrigerators which helped to launch Gail Simone’s career. More recently, Joshua Fialkov quit a gig writing Green Lantern because they planned on killing off prominent black superhero John Stewart.

These two instances do have similarities. Yes, they’re both controversies in the various Green Lantern comics, but that’s not what I was getting at. It’s that both instances involve killing off characters that are not straight cis white guys. In one they’re killing off a woman, and in the other they’re killing off a black man. In both, the idea was to kill off a character that would have motivated at least one straight cis white man to take action and do the right thing. In one, Kyle Raynor was pushed to stop Major Force at all cost, and in the other different Green Lanterns would have been motivated to solve the mystery of who killed John Stewart. The latter of which caused such an uproar that DC cancelled its plans to kill off John Stewart.

And all of this got me thinking about deaths in comics and how it’s linked to diversity. Death in comics can be a double edged sword when it comes to diversity. On the one hand, if you’re only killing straight cis white guys, isn’t that implying that the only characters worth killing off, the only characters that could elicit a strong emotional fan reaction straight cis white guys? On the other hand, if you kill off a woman or minority character, wouldn’t you just be depleting from the already small (albeit growing) pool of women and minority characters in comics, and possibly using it as a tool to push a straight cis white guy to action?

I’m sure we can all think of a lot of potential examples in our heads right now. What if Marvel killed off Steve Rogers (again)? Sure, that’s making room for Sam Wilson to really assert himself as Captain America even further, but in a way doesn’t it have the implication that Steve Rogers is more important? What if Marvel killed off Sam Wilson? Wouldn’t that lead to Steve Rogers somehow probably taking the role of Captain America back, taking a step back in diversity as the cast of characters gets just a little more white and a little less black? It’s something to think about. At least I’m thinking about it.

If they would just come back anyway, then that’s not great for diversity either. In DC Comics 52 series showcasing the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, we got characters like Batwoman stepping up, and The Question passing the torch from Vic Sage to Renee Montoya, as Batman and Superman and some others are out of the picture. It was a flirtation with diversity that ended with our beloved white heroes Superman and Batman coming back from obscurity as Batwoman and The Question fell back a bit. The Question has even went back to being Vic Sage after The New 52 reboot. Go figure.

DC has other examples of this, like bringing back Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern instead of maybe delving more into John Stewart, and more. Over at Marvel, they killed off Wolverine, and now X-23 has taken the reigns in her own book All New Wolverine. Speculation of Wolverine coming back (Not Old Man Logan, who is already back, but the real deal Wolverine) in 2016 has been high. If he comes back, isn’t that a step backwards for diversity? Even if they still try to push X-23 as Wolverine, won’t it eventually just move back to Logan? They must know that over at Marvel, and that makes it a little troubling to think that they would be willing to undermine their own progress. Maybe they won’t though, but it’s something that’s more than possible, it’s likely.

Often character deaths in mainstream comics lead to brief lives of those that take their place. The Death of Superman brought us Steel, but since Superman’s return he’s often been used very sparingly and rarely with much thought or creativity outside of his original creative team. These are all just some examples of life and death in comics, and how they can work against diversity or hold diversity back. If Marvel and DC are really going to take diversity seriously, they may need to let the dead rest in peace.

I understand it’s complicated, I know that no one wants to throw away an opportunity to make a few bucks, and work for hire contracts keep many creators from wanting to invest their hearts and souls into characters they don’t own. However, something needs to change. Some of the current ideas in mainstream comics need to be allowed to die, and new ones need to be born and thrive.

Marc Alan Fishman: Iron Batman v. Super Captain America

superman-ironman

In the not too distant future we’ll be privy to both Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Overly Long Titles and Captain America: Civility and Zombies. Seemingly, both will deal with complimentary issues pertaining to the culpability of collateral damage surrounding the super-inhabited world. In lesser terms, it’s pretty clear when you level a city (or level half of one, and almost use another as a projectile) someone has to pay. And no, I don’t mean asking Tony or Bruce-Bruce for a spare billion to cover the insurance.

At the core of both movies – and yes, I’m speculating – we’re dealing with the balance of proactive protection versus reactive process improvement. Regulating and regularly checking the populace for gifts is certainly one way to do it. It’s no different, one might postulate, than registering a weapon they own. Iron Man’s stance, as is Mr. Wayne’s, is cemented in fear of the unknown. How are we to protect the ones we love when the man down the street could be a psychopath with a gun or just Mr. Psycho? Forcing the population to divulge their hidden talents by way of polite force might be one way to hedge your bets. Because you don’t know when someone might grow up to be Speedball.

That being said, does creating such a registry or law become a civil liberty issue? In the comics, it’s the basis for Cap’s catharsis. Cry freedom, Mr. Rogers. And to Superman’s point: holding him in check when there’s literally nothing on Earth that can do that is just a waste of resources. The best you can do is trust that Big Blue will keep us safe. Being proactive effectively allows for the proliferation of some unforeseeable doomsday device built to destroy a hero gone wild. And if you build it? Well, it’s inviting someone to fire it – whether Kal-El is cuckoo or not. Better, I suppose, if you make plans to build it after the first building accidentally collapses due to super-fighting? I guess I’m unsure.

The topic is very real when we live in a nation that needs an executive order to help suppress out-of-control gun violence. Could you imagine the field day Fox News would have if New York was actually attacked by invading aliens? I can here the subsequent call of candidate Donald Trump to first “build a wall between dimensions… and make the Chitauri pay for it.” and then “…ban all super powered people from being in our country until we figure it all out”. If not Trump, perhaps a war mongering Chris “The Blob” Christy, Ted “Bomb Them Till They Glow Like Dr. Light” Cruz, or Dr. Ben “Sleepwalker” Carson would chime in with a retort that the destruction of Metropolis occurred not because newly freed political prisoners from the Phantom Zone were exacting revenge for their lost world… but because President Obama didn’t allow the NSA access to General Zod’s Facebook. But I digress.

The truth of the matter is that there’s no right answer. Batman and Iron Man have every right to want to be as informed as possible about the dangers of the world. They are tinkerers and toy-makers of the highest degree. A problem is built to be dismantled, and put back together better; be it your shrapnel-filled heart, or the world at large. So too though is Captain America and Superman’s right to say that our country was built on the ideology of freedom. That a man is innocent until proven guilty. For as much damage that befell Sokovia or Metropolis, there is no blame to be had towards those who tried to protect it. Ultron and Zod pulled the triggers. The heroes merely jumped in the line of fire. They couldn’t help the falling debris. The needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Wait, that was Star Trek!

So, whose side will you be on? For me, I’ll be on the side of being entertained. Because my bleeding liberal heart in the real world still longs for the day Scarlet Witch whispers “No more guns.”

Marc Alan Fishman: Oh Captain, My Liberal, Commie, Black Captain

all-new-captain-america-fear-him-1-cover-111157

Marc leans back on his heels as the audience hoops and hollers. His co-band leaders John Linnell and John Flansburgh wrap up their intro song, a peppy reprise of “Ana Ng.” The auditorium simmers down a tad as the music fades.

So… uhh… have you heard the news lately? Have you seen this? Seems that Fox News was amazed that Captain America wasn’t as pro-conservative as they’d thought. Have you heard about this? Yeah! It seems they missed the whole Civil War too!

The band hits a quick rim-shot and sting of “Doctor Worm.”

Ehh, don’t blame me if you didn’t laugh. My writers stink. And to totally honest, when I read this story I didn’t laugh either. Not only because it wasn’t surprising that Fox News blew something out of proportion without vetting their sources, but because I’ve never found that channel to be funny at all. It’s the same reason I stopped laughing at Donald Trump’s campaign speeches.

So, what’s with all the rage? Sam Wilson – the current Captain America – is a black, liberally-minded super-hero. Amusingly, Steve Rogers – the currently elderly former Captain America – is a white liberally-minded super-hero. I admit that I’m not privy to the recent issues of Marvel’s most patriotic pugilist, but I know enough about the characters themselves to understand why Fox News (and a few other right-winged blowhards) are torn up over the recent pulp. Within the aforementioned issue, the “Sons of the Serpent” – a white supremacist group who likely thought Hydra was too Jewish – are taken to task by Wilson-Cap after they spout some Trump-esque declarations and threaten illegal immigrants with punishment by way of the power vested in me by the aforementioned God, Nature, et cetera, et cetera.

The only thing truly funny to me about the backlash by any media is how they’re attempting to rattle the cage of other non-comic book readers. They believe a conservative person who may or may not be a comic book fan to become upset over the political beliefs of a fictional character. What’s next? People storming at the gates of the WWE because John Cena supports his gay cousin? Perhaps a million-man march in Washington over reruns of The West Wing? The fact is that fictional characters are fiction. Meaning their views are at the behest of their creators. And Captain America, by way of Nick Spencer, is a progressive who wants to take a stand on the issues of the day. Is he wrong in choosing that direction for the character? Nope. Not even a little bit.

Marvel (and by proxy, their master Mickey Mouse) is wanting to capitalize on the continued success of their movie and TV franchises and get new fans into the comic book stores. By offering stories that aren’t ripped from the movies (shush, real comics fans), they are offering a tangential product that showcases how comics can build bigger universes than the motion-media can. And by incorporating storylines with characters charged by the same issues the populace is currently facing… they are making the attempt to attract people seeking more than just muscles and fights.

It’s at this point, Marc sits down at his set desk. Camera 1 rolls into a tight shot, as the title card “This is not a Seth Myers impression” flashes on screen.

What’s really awesome is that this is truly the first time ever comic books at Marvel (or any publisher for that matter) is using their medium to tell modern stories about the world around them. Because, you know, it’s not like the X-Men were an allegory for the civil rights movement. Or that the Iron Man was response to the Cold War when he debuted. Or that the current Batwoman, the new Earth Two Alan Scott, or Northstar were gay and had to deal with any relevant issues pertinent to their sexuality. Kudos to this new black Captain America for being literally the first comic book character to ever deal with a modern issue head on!

The audience laughs knowingly.

Ultimately, it wouldn’t matter to me personally if Sam Wilson were a progressive or tea-party member. I’d give no second care if Charles Xavier (or his ghost… I’ve lost count of his whereabouts) turned out to be a Nazi sympathizer all along. Hell, it’d paint his past fights with Magneto in whole crazy new lights! But I digress. The point is simple: Fiction is not reality. Making a stink over any piece of it is only relevant to the quality of the piece itself, not the politics that drive it. As with all comics characters: there are aspects to each character that must ring true. For Captain America – be he Sam Wilson, Steve Rogers, or Bucky Barnes – he must stand up for the people of his country. And that sentiment runs far deeper than any party line.

Cue the musical guest tonight, Neil Young, with special players Tom Morello, and Bernie Sanders on Xylophone.

John Ostrander: Stripping Down

Suicide Squad Viola Davis

Okay, I saw the Suicide Squad trailer that was “leaked” from SDCC and then the HD version a day or so later. I loved what I saw – particularly Amanda Waller. Viola Davis has the look, the sound, and most important, the attitude. Much of what she says at the start of the trailer sounds like it was taken from my proposal or one of my scripts. Yeah, I’m very happy.

As for the rest of the Squad, I can’t really say yet but if the whole thing mirrors their use of Waller, I think we’re going to get as close to the comic version of the Squad as a movie can get.

Mind you, I’m anticipating there will be changes. Comics and movies are different media with different needs and demands and so they will interpret the material differently. My main question for the Squad and any other comic book movie is will they get the essentials right?

When I say “essentials,” what do I mean? It’s not necessarily the costume or even the powers. It’s what defines them, what makes them different from other characters. When Tom Mandrake and I took on DC’s Martian Manhunter, we had to determine what made him different from Superman. They shared many of the same powers; in fact J’onn J’onnz had a few that Kal-El was missing. What was the essential difference? Tom and I determined it was that Kal-El came to earth as a baby and was raised in Kansas; he was raised human. J’onn was raised among his own kind on Mars and came to Earth as an adult. He is an alien from an alien culture. That was a fundamental difference in the two characters; something that was essential.

And something unique.

Stan Lee was recently asked about whether or not Peter Parker could be gay or if some minority could become Spider-Man. “There’s no reason not to,” he replied. “The only thing I don’t like doing is changing the characters we already have. For example, I’d like Spider-Man to stay as he is, but I have no problem creating a superhero who’s homosexual.” That, I think, is a reasonable answer. When Static was created, Milestone had their own Peter Parker who was not at all Peter Parker. Just as good but different, yet in the same mold.

What about the Green Lantern Corps? How are they unique? Everyone has the same ring, roughly the same uniform, and all take orders from the same little blue men. Again, it’s not the weapon or the uniform that makes someone unique. It is essentially who they are. It’s like a good war movie; they are all soldiers but each member of the squad is different. That’s their essence.

We’ve seen a lot of shuffled identities lately. Sam Wilson is now Captain America and not Steve Rogers. Before that, Bucky Barnes was Captain America instead of Steve Rogers. I think that’s a mistake. It’s not the uniform and the shield that define Captain America; it’s who Steve Rogers is. It’s who he is that makes Captain America and that’s what the films have gotten. Steve Rogers is the essence of Captain America.

I’m not saying never create new versions of old characters. I’ve done it. But the characters were moribund or dead. When Tom and I created a new version of Mister Terrific, we kept very close to the origin of he first Mister Terrific. We were true to the myth.

As Tom and I work on Kros: Hallowed Ground, we’re dealing with vampires and what we are exploring is what is essential to a good vampire story. Our basic take – they’re monsters. Not misunderstood gothic romantic figures or a different species just trying to co-exist on the planet. They’re monsters. So also might be our protagonist – Kros.

Sometimes you have to strip away the barnacles and crap that’s built up and get back to the essence of a character or a concept. That’s my approach when I’m given a character to write – what is their essence, why do we want to read about this character as opposed to another?

For me, that’s the job.

 

Emily S. Whitten: SDCC 2015 Part I – On the Con Floor

GrootI just returned from the San Diego Comic-Con, and wow, am I beat. But that’s because there was just so much to see and do at the con – and of course, as always, I tried to see and do it all!

Sadly, there’s no way to actually experience everything (and I gave up on the FOMO some time ago), but I did manage to experience a ton of the stuff that was on offer. So much, in fact, that I think it’s going to take me about five posts to cover it all! So today, I’m sticking with the basics – the con floor and exhibits, some exclusives I scored (and coveted but missed out on!), free swag, cool cosplay, Artist Alley, and some of the stuff that goes on outside.

If you’ve been to SDCC before, you know just trying to see what you want to on the con floor and surrounding “activations” outside can be mega-challenging and exhausting. The hall is large, the activations spread out, and the crowd…well, let’s just say you aren’t going to be sprinting from booth to booth or buying any exclusives without a pretty big wait. Of course, that’s because there’s so much cool stuff to see and buy. So much, in fact, that it would take me forever to describe it, and so instead I put together this handy album of the stuff I stopped to take pictures of.

Favorite merchandise bits on the floor include this amazing Men In Black replica; upcoming collectible Marvel keychains from Monogram that will include Deadpool and X-Force Deadpool; and the Entertainment Earth booth’s many cool items, including this Boba Fett stool (there’s a whole set). Speaking of Entertainment Earth, while visiting their booth, I also got a chance to speak with Jason Lenzi, co-founder and co-owner of Bif Bang Pow!, which has partnered with Entertainment Earth to provide some cool products through their store. You can check out the interview here.

One thing any fan of miniatures, building sets, display sets, or the like really must check out is McFarlane Toys’ amazing building sets of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones characters and scenes. They caught my eye for their small scale and detail, and after talking with the Prototype Development Director I learned that Todd McFarlane’s idea was to have the individual pieces and sets (for kids approximately 8+ to adult collectors) be able to all be put together (including the characters, which come in pieces to be put together or mixed-and-matched) into larger scenes according to preference, and to have the larger building blocks (e.g. buildings) work with other brands. The Walking Dead ones are available or becoming available now (including e.g. Daryl on the highway and the Winnebago, and the hospital doors, due out in October), and the Game of Thrones collection, Series 1, will be out in December 2015 to early 2016 (series 2, including e.g. The Wall with Jon Snow, is due out in January 2016). The amount of detail in this product is great – including things like barbed-wire-topped fences in The Walking Dead line that can be angled if, for instance, you want your walkers to be “pushing the fence down.” Everything looks to be of good quality, and doors open, wheels move, grass is flexible, and more. They have everything from blind bag minifigs to sets of 5 figures in case you want to, for instance, quickly build up your Walker army (and the blind bags are labeled W for Walkers or H for Humans so you can at least have some idea of what you’re going to get). I love it; and I also learned they have their eye on additional licenses for the future (and maybe even some Spawn stuff, like a build your own alleyway). Can’t wait to see what else they come up with.

Along with all the cool stuff to look at, I picked up some fun exclusives and swag. My absolute favorite (since I missed out on the Hasbro matchbox-sized Ant-Man, which sold out in a hot second) is the Avocados at Law tee from the Digital PIMP booth, although the Fogwell’s Gym and Agent Carter shirts from Marvel are hella sweet, too. I was also pleased with the Supernatural “Swan Song” car with army man from CineQuest.com, pretty much everything from Quantum Mechanix (lots of Firefly stuff, including a mini Serenity and Firefly playing cards complete with IOUs!), and my ridiculously large Espionage Cosmetics nail wraps purchase. In the free swag category, getting the Google Cardboard viewer was awesome, and I was also well-pleased with my exclusive Firefly poster from QMx, my Little Twin Stars fan from Sanrio, the Comic-Con Mad Libs from Penguin, and of course the Entertainment Weekly mag with Deadpool on the cover. Because Deadpool. I also swung by Dark Horse and picked up plenty to read, including Mind MGMT and Lady Killers, which I’m looking forward to.

Fun displays on the floor included LEGO Minions and a life-sized Hulkbuster Iron Man suit that I just had to pose with.

Outside in the surrounding areas, this Hand of God promotion was pretty freaky – and also pretty amusing when some of the ardent religious protesters who always appear near the convention center during Comic Con got mixed in. They were clearly confused, at first thinking they’d walked into a crowd of like-minded individuals – until they heard some of the slogans being chanted by the Ron Perlman look-alikes.

The activations included the Assassin’s Creed obstacle course, which a lot of people stopped to watch (increasing the crowd difficulty issue, but I get why they stopped – it was pretty damn cool!). Other outside stuff I was delighted to find included the Hello Kitty Cafe truck. I totally bought Hello Kitty macaroons and petit fours (tasty!).

But seeing exhibits and buying things isn’t all there is to do. There’s also a metric ton of great cosplay around, including favorites of mine like this epic Poison Ivy, this giant Groot, this somewhat Victorian female Captain America, this hilariously awesome Pikachu Deadpool, and the woman cosplaying my favorite Effie Trinket outfit. I love all the thought and work that people put into their cosplay, and how much joy they get out of it.

And of course, there’s also the entirety of Artist Alley to visit. I swung by to catch up with some favorite creators like Janet Lee, Reilly Brown, Sanford Greene, and Dustin Nguyen; and also visited Mark Wheatley‘s booth in the exhibits area. It’s always nice to take a few minutes to check out one of the main reasons SDCC even exists – i.e., the comics. And Artist Alley is a great place to do that.

Whew! I think that might just about cover the highlights of my con floor experience. Hope you enjoyed it! And fear not – there’s lots more to come. Stay tuned for coverage of convention panels, the Her Universe Fashion Show, Nerd HQ, and some of the fun party and nightlife stuff I checked out.

And until then, Servo Lectio!

 

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Loving Age of Ultron

Oh, Avengers: Age of Ultron, how I loved you so! From the moment the pre-movie Ant-Man trailer began to the last second of Whedon-tinted footage befell my eyes, I was a happy camper. Before I roll up my sleeves and dive in to the nitty-gritty details that made the movie for me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout from the rafters that this week’s column is chock full of spoilers. So, consider yourself warned. But I digress. Let the love-in begin!

Remembering Where It All Began.

More than once during Age of Ultron, the lingering ideas of Iron Man permeated the plot line. This attention to detail – taking the theme of Tony’s war-mongering past as the driving force for all that has followed – helped create a sequel born of the cinematic MCU, rather than being plucked directly from the proverbial pulp.

That Pietro and Wanda would stare a Stark explosive in the face for several days of mental anguish, would lead them to their nearly permissible antagonistic actions showed a deft hand in the writer’s room. Pair this with the birth of Ultron himself and you have a wealth of villains to combat without it feeling like a bloated mess. I’m looking at you, Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man, and any other multi-villain movie menagerie. Here, Tony Stark is the spark for the unfurling events. It’s an organic plotline that pays dividends through believable character interaction. Astonishing, no?

Exploring The Details Of The Under-Players.

In the first Avengers movie, Black Widow and Hawkeye were mostly there to flesh out the cast. Believably placed for the ties to S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha and Clint had their moments, but their placement on the team at large seemed more or less to add a human element to an inhuman team. No, not those Inhumans.

Here in Ultron, our truly human Avengers showcase that it was their humanity that was their superpower all along. Hawkeye the family man and the Black Widow the no-baby-mama helped anchor their gifted counterparts when things got too explody. That we would see Hawkeye leap into battle knowing he leaves a wife and kids behind – because he knows his worth and importance to the team – hit me as a parent right in the feels. As for Natasha revealing a secret shame to Bruce Banner in an effort to prove that her budding feelings for Tony Stark’s best science-bro matched his outer monsterhood with her own perceived faults… well, it was a touching and mature a concept placed in a movie I wouldn’t have pegged as either of those adjectives.

A Master Plan Worthy Of A Mean Child.

Loki, granted the mind-gem by Thanos in an effort to conquer Earth, hatched an invasion pitted against  a handful of misguided do-gooders. His machinations included mind-control, sabotage, and ultimately brute force. In contrast, Ultron – very much a child, with more mental capacity and power then he can truly control – opts instead to smash the earth with a big rock. Sure, there’s more to it than that… but really, there isn’t. And it’s a brilliant move. When we first meet him, Ultron seeks to evolve. He sets about his plan not unlike Loki – using mind-control and psychic attack to distract – but when he’s denied his prize, there’s little left to do but start killing. That he was able to create a network of thrusters underneath an entire city in what feel like a few days? Well, I guess that’s what makes him a super-villain.

What I love most about it though, is that the end-game motivations of Ultron end up immature and thuggish when he’s left without the toy he wanted in the first place. We are reminded at the tail-end of the movie that both he and The Vision are very much new to the world. No amount of knowledge can replace wisdom. Again, this is a little detail in a large moving plot that escalates a would-be blockbuster into something that rises above my personal expectations.

And Last, But Not Least… The Promise Of The Future.

When the dust settles, it’s apropo that there’s no schwarma to be had. The Avengers fall into their more natural state. If I might beat this dead horse one last time: the actions presented all felt in line with the characters we’ve seen built in front of us now for the last seven years. Of course Captain America and Black Widow will remain Avengers set to train the first class of new heroes. Tony Stark, tail between his legs, retreats to his vast fortune and his machine shop to ponder where he goes next. Thor returns to his homeland to seek answers, and likely build towards Infinity Wars. Hawkeye gets his well-deserved family time.

And our incredible Hulk? He’ll incredibly sulk for a while, until he’s needed again, I suppose. Given that he turned down the opportunity for a romantic connection in lieu of a martyrs’ life makes sense. He did try to commit suicide only a year or two ago. He’s not ready to move on.

And after a nuanced movie like Age of Ultron? Neither am I. Excelsior indeed.