Tagged: Civil War

John Ostrander Loses It

Twenty years ago this month saw the publication of the first issue of my twelve issue historical western, The Kents (which has since been gathered into a TPB and is on sale at Amazon, among other places; end of plug). The book chronicles how the ancestors of Clark Kent’s adoptive family came to live in Kansas and was set before, during, and after the Civil War.

Of all my work, this is one thing of which I’m exceptionally proud. I did a great deal of research for the project and while by no means a history per se, it has a great deal of history in it.

One of the goals I set for myself was to try to convey to the reader how the characters, the people, of that time felt about the events that engulfed them. We, of course, know how that conflict resolved itself but they did not. Was the nation going to tear itself apart? How many more would die? If I was a soldier, would I die or be wounded or maimed? Would my loved one live or die?

The same uncertainties apply to other conflicts, such as WWI and II, Korea and Vietnam. I recently saw the movie Dunkirk (which I found to be harrowing and brilliant) and, if you know anything about that story, you know how it winds up. However, what the movie makes so plain is that no one actually involved at the time had any real idea of how it would be resolved. If anything, they expected the British and French troops gathered at Dunkirk would be annihilated or captured.

Nobody today knows how our story will end. Over the past days / weeks / months of the Trump presidency, we’ve seen the country roil like a broken thing. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m 68 years old and I’ve never seen anything like it. I doubt not only the competence of the most powerful man in the world but his sanity. He lashes out not only at perceived enemies but at the very institutions that power our democracy.

All of us are in the middle of this story and we do not know how it will end. Do we all understand that it does not have to end well? Our country, our way of governing, is an experiment that could still fail. There is no reason that it has to survive. Every great country or civilization has fallen. Every single one. Some aspect of what they were may continue but the main substance collapses. There are those both within and without our borders who would see us ripped apart. And we appear to be doing it. Our survival is not a given and no one should assume it is.

How will our story be written, a hundred years from now? Will it be a story of triumph and, if so, whose triumph? Or will it be a story of tragedy and a fall from grace? Who will write that story?

Abraham Lincoln, in his famed Gettysburg Address, said, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated {to liberty}, can long endure.” That’s as true today as it was then.

Any bets?

Marc Alan Fishman: Head of the Class

Unshaven Comics has offered me too many moments of pure Trump-level pride. Selling hundreds of copies more than our friends at various comic cons through the sheer force of Kyle’s will. Breaking bread with industry legends. Seeing Stan Lee be escorted by Playboy models so he could roast the great John Romita while giving an award to his son. But none may be greater and pride-filling than officially teaching our first “Comic Book 101” class for our local park district.

In the not-too-distant-past, we’d offered a one day workshop for local kids through a small gallery. For a few hours, we broke down how comics are made and then sorta turned the kids loose to aimlessly draw and ask us questions. It was quaint. But we had bigger dreams.

After a fruitful meeting with our local Parks and Rec manager of classes, we pitched something far more comprehensive. A pair of two-hour classes where the entire process of comic book creation is explored in-depth, with interactive lessons at every step. They were elated. We were excited, and parents were notified

Smash cut to a week ago, when 18 smiling children (and one very curious and excited adult) showed up, bristling with energy.

Matt and I presented a worksheet packet of our own design as we walked through our creative process. From the conceptualization phase — where pie and coffee meet monkeys and robots — straight through to outlining plot, thumbnailing a page, and penciling. Our class ranged in age from 8 to 14 or 15 (and the one lone 57-year old), but everyone shared a common love of the medium; even if their actual knowledge of the form was in its infancy.

What struck me beyond any other point during class, came when Matt and I made rounds to speak to each student about their idea they wanted to draw. My expectations of simple “Captain Amazing beats up Doctor Weird Beard” were decimated by complex and deeply-imagined universes of characters. Our students regaled us with winding plots and characters they’d had in their heads, just awaiting an opportunity to burst out on to the page.

And while we had some fights to draw out, I was astounded to hear several students describe heady, dialogue-driven pieces. Fathers taunting their sons to join their evil legions, party-girls dealing with their poor life-choices, and students and teachers connecting over bully problems. To hear the breadth of ideas being explored really made me appreciate that our little group cared more about the narrative than learning how to render the perfect punch.

As the students worked on their turnarounds for their characters, I overheard their conversations. Civil War came up, and lively chatter about it ensued. It hit me like a splash page: this generation is literally growing up in the golden era of comics going mainstream. They have over a dozen perfectly adapted comic stories as multi-billion-dollar movie franchises. Between cartoons, they also have live-action dramas on multiple networks that draw directly from the pulp and paper. And now, in their backyard, a pair of indie comic creators are breaking down the process of building a page from soup to nuts. A golden era, indeed.

Teachers often comment on how the kids really teach them. I can say without a doubt just how true an adage that is. As we let kids loose after the first class completed, I could see their energy as they showed their moms and dads the work they completed. One parent stepped over to me, smiling ear to ear, before ushering his son out of the classroom.

“So… is this every week?”

One day, sir. One day.

Mindy Newell: Civil War and Our Man In Orange


As I mentioned last week in this space, Captain America: Civil War rocked!! Well, if you stick bamboo slivers under my nails, I will admit to having one nitpick with the film, but I don’t want to go into it right now because of the off-chance that you haven’t seen it yet. That’s almost a tough pill to swallow, since (a) I don’t think you’d be here if you weren’t a lover of comics and geek culture – with a nice healthy dose of politics thrown in; and (b) Civil War has topped the $1 billion globally, with domestic gross profits adding up to $347,390,153 – and the weekend isn’t over yet as I write this. So I’m going to wait until next week to talk about that one nitpick, in case I forget, which, knowing me, could be quite likely – so somebody remind me, ‘kay? And overall it’s a very small, tiny, minute, nano-millimeter pick of a nit.

And because of that off-chance that you haven’t seen it yet, and because, unlike me, spoilers annoy the hell out of people – they just whet my appetite to actually see the action play out on the big or small screen – I’m not going to attempt to review the movie; though I heartily recommend you go over to my friend Emily S. Whitten’s column and to Arthur Tebbel’s review. Let me warn you now that Em’s column is a bit spoilery, though im-not-so-ho, she does a great job of, uh, whetting the appetite. Oh, and also check out those Twins! Geeks! Tweeks!, in which Anya brings up a problem with superhero movies that she and many other people have – including my daughter Alixandra – which is actually quite legitimate.

I only know one person who saw the film and went “eh,” and said she didn’t like it. When I asked her why, this individual said “Too much talking. Not enough fighting.” I don’t agree with her at all; Civil War is the epitome of what makes the Marvel cinemaverse – and that includes the television and Netflix shows – so successful and DC movies, well, suck big time (on the other hand, the DC “televerse” does “get it,” so I don’t understand what goes wrong with their big screen attempts). Others have said before me. “Marvel gets it.” Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Spidey, et.al. aren’t four-color heroes transcribed onto the big screen. They are Steve, Tony, Clint, Natasha, Peter, and et.al. And before they put on their fightin’ clothes and become the Avengers, every single one of them, to “mis”-quote Emily, “bring the emotional heart of the movie to the forefront.”

As for the Man In Orange, here’s this week’s suggested reading in Trump-A-Rama:

Gail Collins, The New York Times, “Meet Deadeye Donald” “Donald Trump has a permit to carry a gun. ‘Nobody knows that,’ he told a gathering of the National Rifle Association on Friday. Well actually, it’s pretty hard to not know since he brings it up all the time….”

Dana Millbank, ArcaMax, “Trump Bets on Mass Amnesia” “Just how gullible does Donald Trump suppose the American voter is?

“The billionaire showman has been the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for only a couple of weeks, yet his general election strategy is already becoming clear: hope for a mass nationwide outbreak of short-term memory loss. His top strategist, Paul Manafort, has said that the ‘part that he’s been playing is evolving.’ But this isn’t evolution – it’s reincarnation… That call Trump made ‘for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’? Turns out that was ‘just a suggestion,’ he now says.

“The federal minimum wage increase, which he repeatedly opposed? Now he’s ‘looking at’ an increase, he says. “The massive tax cut he proposed during the primary, which analysts said would add $10 trillion to the federal debt? Never mind! He’s hired experts to rewrite it in a way that cuts taxes less for the wealthy. “Those tax returns he promised ‘certainly’ to release? Not going to happen, he says now.

Remember all those companies Trump blasted for sending jobs overseas? Ford was a ‘disgrace,’ Disney had ‘outrageous’ practices, Carrier deserved higher taxes, Apple should be boycotted because it didn’t help the FBI in a terrorism case, and Trump’s never eating an Oreo again because Nabisco outsourced. Financial disclosures last week showed Trump has invested in all of the above.”

Talk about your Civil Wars.

Mindy Newell: Baa, Baa, Black Sheep


“If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the

country. They love anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my

my numbers would be terrific.” – Donald Trump, People Magazine, 1998

“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” – Benito Mussolini

Perhaps this is “bad business,” but before you do anything else, I want all of you to go over to Michael Davis World – yes, that Michael Davis, who happens to be my loooong time friend and fellow ComicMix columnist – and read Martha Thomases’s latest piece, entitled “Trump Card.” Then sit and think. Then read it again.

Then be afraid. Be very afraid.

I know I don’t often get political – oh, c’mon, who the hell do I think I’m kidding? – but this time I have to tell you that I am more consumed with fear for this country than even when the Bush administration sold the American public a bill of goods, the Brooklyn Bridge, a mule they swore was a horse, and lied us into the Iraq War. Which, if you understand history and current events, you’ll be able to follow the timeline that has brought us to the cliff on the edge of the abyss that is Donald Trump.

Ronald Reagan was called the “Teflon President,” but never in all my life have I seen a truer description of the “Baby Man,” as Jon Stewart calls the presumptive Republican Presidential candidate – no matter what he says, no matter what he does, no matter what is revealed, nothing touches Trump; criticism and truth slides off of him the way a well-cooked omelet slides out of a sauté pan, be it insults, lies, racial slurs, gender insults, religious attacks, or back-tracking.

No matter what they have previously stated on the record about never endorsing Trump, just about every Republican still in office or up for re-election in the fall is falling into line behind him, forgetting their oath to this country to protect it “against all enemies, “foreign and domestic.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hems and haws and hems and haws, and I am actually disappointed in the man. Although I am unlikely to ever agree with his policies, there is no denying that Mr. Ryan is not stupid. But instead of having the balls to stand up and say “there is no way I am ever going to endorse this guy, there is no way this phony in an expensive suit is suitable for the office of the President of the United States, there is no place for a loose cannon like Donald Trump in the White House,” Mr. Ryan, like too many of his fellows, looks only to his own future. He could have simply laughed at the suggestion that Trump will fire him from the position of Speaker of the House if Ryan doesn’t go along with him – that alone shows how ignorant Donald Trump is about the workings of our government, as the Speaker of the House is not a contestant on “The Apprentice,” and cannot be fired by the President. He can only be fired by his fellow Republicans in the House… if they maintain the majority in the November election.

There are Republicans currently in office who are refusing to support Trump:

John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) being the two biggest names, though both claim it is because he does not have “conservative bona fides.” Of course McCain is obviously worried about the Hispanic and Latino vote in Arizona, as he’s running for re-election in his Latino-heavy state. Hey, while I’d rather hear them both say it’s because he’s a loon, I’ll take it. However, there are more conscientious Representatives and Senators out there:

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) loses points because he is planning to retire at the end of his current term, but he did send a letter out to his supporters which urged them to vote for anybody but Trump: “My love for our country eclipses my loyalty to our party, and to live with a clear conscience I will not support a nominee so lacking in the judgment, temperament and character needed to be our nation’s commander in chief. Accordingly, if left with no alternative, I will not support Trump in the general election should he become our Republican nominee.”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) said, early in the campaign “This man does things and says things that I teach my six- and three-year-olds not to say. I could never look them in the eye and tell them that I support someone so crass and insulting and offensive to lead the greatest nation in the world.” You go, sir! That’s what I want to hear! Representative Curbelo has also said that he will back either a third-party candidate or a write-in.

And yes, there are many Republicans whose names are not familiar to the national public, but are on the inside of Washington politics who are open about their opposition, such as Elliot Cohen, counselor to the State Department during George W. Bush’s administration, who tweeted “…I will oppose Trump as nominee. Won’t support & won’t work for him for more reasons than a Tweet can bear.” He also wrote an open letter to Trump, signed by 60 members of the GOP National Security committee which said: “Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world. Furthermore, his expansive view of how presidential power should be wielded against his detractors poses a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States.”

Max Boot, foreign policy adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio, and a fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations told the New York Times that I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin than I would vote for Donald Trump. There is no way in hell I would vote for him. I would far more readily support Hillary Clinton, or Bloomberg if he ran.”

I don’t know if the “Republicans for Hillary” movement will gain any ground, at least in public, but I do think – and many people have derided me for thinking this – that a lot of them will quietly take advantage of our “secret ballot” system to indeed pull the lever or push the button or pencil in the box for the Democrat who would be our first woman President…or will “feel the Bern.” Maybe this isn’t brave of them, as they will be protecting their own Republican asses, but at the least they will be doing the right thing for the country. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I wouldn’t be afraid to bet that the Bushes (all of them, including the wives, kids, and assorted family members old enough) will be voting the Democratic Presidential ticket, whether it’s Hillary or Bernie, though I wouldn’t bet that on that outcome when it comes to their Senate, Representative or local races.

Last February the website Gawker punked Trump by sending him quote by Benito Mussolini, the fascist Italian dictator, which Trump retweeted. The quote was: “It is better to live one day as a lion than one hundred years as a sheep.” When confronted about it by Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet The Press, and if the candidate wanted to be associated with a dictator, Trump said:

“Chuck, it’s OK to know it’s Mussolini. Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to – it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it. I saw it. I saw what – and I know who said it. But what difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else? It’s certainly a very interesting quote… I want to be associated with interesting quotes. And people, you know, I have almost 14 million people between Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and all of that. And we do interesting things. And I sent it out. And certainly, hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?”

That answer is pure Trump.

As for those 14 million followers on “Instagram and Facebook and Twiiter and all that?” As I told our editor Mike Gold today after seeing Captain America: Civil War, “Those yahoos think Trump is talking about a pizza parlor in New York called ‘Mussolini’s’.”

Open all night.

Oh, yeah. And Civil War rocked!!!!!!


Ed Catto: Geek Culture Wins with an Intramural Pickup Game

Avengers Annual2justice-league-of-america-56It’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.”

Avengers SSCMy Little Pony vs Adenture TimeThis 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.

Avengers SSCOrdway JLA vs JSALast 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.

Dennis O’Neil: Slinging His Mighty Shield

Avengers 4 Cap Discovered

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.

Emily S. Whitten: Civil War in the MCU


(Warning: Some spoilers ahead)

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.

Molly Jackson is a Purist


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.

Tweeks: LootCrate’s March 2016 PetCrate Unboxing

Maddy & Barkely team up to unbox the March Pet Crate from Loot Crate. This month’s theme is Versus, so Maddy tried to figure out if her best friend is Team Cap or Team Iron Man…and if his favorite item is the plushy Bat Man or the box he came in.

For those who don’t know, Loot Pets is a monthly crate of geeky gear and goods for your dog. You get apparel, accessories, toys, treats and more of over $50 value in every crate….plus they donate $1 to a local, national, or international animal welfare charity on each crate purchased. You get more info at lootcrate.com. #LootPets

Marc Alan Fishman: The Super Hatred for Batman v. Superman

Batman V Superman Doomsday

Let’s get this point out straight away: I haven’t seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Just Angry Dudes Who Like Destruction-Porn.  Beyond the trailers, I have done everything in my power to not read spoilers. I’ve put on blinders on whilst perusing my social media feeds, allowing me to catch only shreds of the shared rage boiling over amongst my closest 927 friends. So, my column this week explores the deeper issue fans are complaining about the most these days: gritty realism.

The clamber in the streets is about how DC is taking itself too seriously. How leaning into grit, grime, explosions, and death is ruining childhoods, and fans. But I beg the question: when your director previously worked on 300, and the lukewarm sepia-washed Watchman adaptations and delivered his own mighty opus in the video-game-cum-popcorn-film Sucker Punch, well, pardon me: what the fuck did you think he was going to do with Batman and Superman?! The output of Snyder shouldn’t come with a single measurable iota of surprise.

The deeper issue then gets tied back to Chris Nolan’s interpretation setting the table for what has come since. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises were once applauded for removing the kitch from the Bat-franchise. Nolan’s Knight was as real as you could get with the base-concept. The interpretation of the Joker was chilling – and not in the gutter-punk way Jared Leto appears to be aping Ledger’s performance mind you. And Bane? Well… he spoke in a weird accent, and had an appreciation for coats of the 70s. Those three Bat-films begat what we’re getting now. And that includes the popcorn fart that was the spectacular – Trump-level – Green Lantern movie.

So why is Marvel so beloved? As we’ve seen the table set for Civil War… for all the fun we had laughing at SHIELD agents playing Galaga, and Ant Man cracking wise, we’ve been privy to just as much world destruction. New York? Invaded. Washington D.C.? Had helicarriers dropped on it. And that fake-sounding country in Avengers 2? Well, it done went and turned into a low-grade meteor. Pair that with a few Hulk-smashed cities, and all those dead goats in Ant Man, and you have plenty of grit to chew on.

The difference being the actual plot and characters in service to it.

Man of Steel, much like The Avengers featured the destruction of a city (and maybe a few suburbs). Iron Man, Cap, and pals were lauded as witty-brilliant. Kal-El was deemed a dour dolt by the very same folks. One movie was held up in reverence. The other, kicked to the dollar bin with a sigh. For the record? This is as it should be. The Avengers took the time to showcase their heroes making attempts to save the people of New York. Superman was basically shown punching for the last 40 minutes of his film; subsequently followed by the murdering of the villain, a quick bit of snark, roll credits. It would seem, based solely on the 10-20 sentences I’ve half-begun to read on my feed… BvS is much in the same vein. And not a surprise either… I saw the trailers, and can put one and one together.

Spoiler-free knowledge of BvS dictates that Batman was in Metropolis during the Kryptonian scuffle. And true to his comic-counterpart (to whatever degree you agree with me), he sees an unchecked level of power on display and finds need to be fit to control it. Superman is the gun that took Bruce’s mom and dad until he can prove it otherwise. What follows – I’ll safely assume – is 90+ more minutes of fighting, yelling, and teeth gnashing. And Wonder Woman is there to make girls happy or something.

Don’t get me me wrong. I believe we need to look to our ComicMix cohorts Mike Gold, Denny O’Neil and John Ostrander when we talk on the topic of grit and realism. Pick nearly any yarn spun (and edited) by those gentlemen, and you’ll see how the heaviest of topics can be touched on without leaving a fanbase in ruin. Hell, check out the very first issue of Wasteland, and ask how the material could be covered within its pages and still leave you with a bit of a smirk.

When it comes down to it, I will see the new Batman and Superman movie. I’ll do my best to withhold judgment until the last frame is projected. I’ll do whatever I can to suppress expectations to anything higher than a whisper. I’ll give credence to the filmmakers, writers, and producers to prove to me they have a way to bring the heroes and villains of their catalog to life in direct completion to the House of Mouse.

But, at the end of the day, the devil is in the details, not the CGI decimation of untold thousands. So, I’ll just guess there won’t be a need for any follow up review, kiddos. No worries: Civil War is just around the corner.