When is a murder not a murder? Give up? What say we find out.
It all started with Ulysses Cain. You remember Ulysses Cain, don’t you? Inhuman who can predict the future and caused the whole Civil War II imbroglio when Captain Marvel and Iron Man disagreed over how he should be used. LordknowsIremember him. In Civil War II #2, Ulysses predicted that Bruce Banner would become the Hulk again and go on a murderous rampage.
So in Civil War II #3, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and more costumed heroes than you can shake a double-page spread at confronted Dr. Banner in his secret lab. You can probably guess from the fact that was only part three of a nine-part story, the confrontation didn’t go as planned.
While all the heroes except one were talking to Bruce outside his secret lab, the Beast went inside and hacked into Banner’s computers. He learned Banner was injecting “treated dead gamma cells” into himself. (Interesting biology note: a gamma cell is a cell in the pancreas that secretes pancreatic polypeptide. Somehow, I don’t think those would have had any inhibiting effect on the Hulk. I think Beast meant to say dead gamma-ray-irradiated cells, but he probably didn’t have enough space in the word balloon for all that.) When Maria Hill, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., heard that Dr. Banner was experimenting on himself, she placed him under arrest.
Which made Banner angry. And do we like Dr. Banner when he’s angry? Who know? No sooner had Banner raised his voice than an arrow struck him in the head. Killing him. (Civil War II is over-achieving. It’s met its “Someone Has To Die Or It’s Not An Official Cross-Over” quota twice now.) Then Hawkeye revealed himself as the shooter and gave himself up.
Hawkeye stood trial for murder; in a sequence that jumped back and forth in time between prosecution witnesses, defense witnesses, and flashbacks so often you’d think Quentin Tarantino was the court reporter. Hawkeye testified that Banner gave him a special arrowhead that Banner had designed; one that would kill the Hulk. Banner told Hawkeye, “If I ever Hulk out again, … I want you to use that.” Banner asked this of Hawkeye, because Hawkeye was one of the few people Banner knew who would be able to live with the choice.
Hawkeye also testified that his eyesight was more acute than most people’s eyesight. That’s what made him such a good archer. He saw Banner was agitated and that his eye flickered green. He knew Banner was about to Hulk out and shot the arrowhead. (Hawkeye saw a green flicker in Banner’s eye from his perch up in a tree that was more than one hundred yards from Banner? That isn’t just acute eyesight. That eyesight is better looking than a super-model.)
In Civil War II #4, the jury found Hawkeye not guilty. How did the jury reach that verdict and find Hawkeye’s murder not a murder? I think we can safely eliminate the persuasive powers of Henry Fonda. So what did sway the jury to vote not guilty? Let me count the ways.
One: the jurors believed Ulysses’s prediction that Banner was going to Hulk out and kill someone. So it found that Hawkeye acted in self-defense. Two: they could have found that because Banner asked Hawkeye to kill him it was a mercy killing. Three: they could have found that they didn’t care that Hawkeye was actually guilty, the world was better off without the Hulk and they weren’t going to punish Hawkeye for killing the Hulk. That last one would be what we call jury nullification; a jury finds the defendant not guilty despite the defendant’s actual guilt for some sympathy reason. Juries aren’t supposed to do that but some do. And when they do, it’s still a valid not guilty verdict even if the reason is invalid.
The jury could have found Hawkeye not guilty on any one of those theories. Or on any combination of those theories. Juries only have to be unanimous on their verdicts, not their reasons for the verdict. So if eight jurors believed self defense, three believed mercy killing, and one believed in jury nullification; it was still a valid verdict, because all twelve voted not guilty. Hell, a juror could even have found Hawkeye not guilty because the juror believed the costumes some artists forced Hawkeye to wear through the years was punishment enough.
So there you have it. When is a murder not a murder? When it’s self defense, a mercy killing, or a jury nullification. Of the fourth way, which is the way I think really applies here: a murder is also not a murder when the plot needs it not to be a murder.
This week, we’re going to talk about identity politics and geek culture. One of the themes (or, perhaps, lessons learned) of this political season was about people who feel left out. These are the folks who aren’t really climate change deniers and certainly most aren’t bigots. But they are folks who feel like no one who is talking to them, listening to them or speaking up for them.
Clearly, some bristled when women and minorities jostled past them to assume positions of power and responsibility in their workplaces and communities. They might have big hearts and a welcoming mindset when they meet new people who don’t look like them or act like them… but they get a bit resentful and preoccupied with cultural differences. It’s the little things, like when they notice there are so many with kids “strange sounding” names in their grandson’s 2nd grade class.
Many of these folks tuned into the message from a candidate who promised to make them feel more comfortable in their own hometown.
That’s all clearly a generalization, but I see the same thing happening in Geek Culture. I hear many older fans lamenting that comics today miss the mark. They are uncomfortable with the new stuff and the changes to the old stuff.
I find this so hard to understand, as I do believe we are living in a Pop Culture Renaissance. There are so many innovative and brilliant comics being produced that just keeping up with the really excellent choices has become a Sisyphean task.
I hear fans, and some comic shop owners, complain that Marvel doesn’t get it. They are frustrated that new characters have taken on the mantles of their favorites like Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain Marvel and even the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Much like corporate America in the real world, these title roles used to be occupied by white males, but now they are held by women and minority characters.
Last week in The New York Times, Nicolas Kristof wrote about a Bernie Sanders’ identity politics quote. Basically, Sanders was saying that it’s less about the person’s background and more about the job they do.
I wish it was that easy, but it’s not. So many of us want to see a certain person in the job role and then want that person to do the job our way. Some of us want to see people just like themselves, while others, like me, celebrate the strides made and appreciate and applaud diversity.
I visited a comic shop last night. While there, the owner talked about how Marvel is still producing comics that his customers don’t want to read. The one recent win he mentioned was a new comic called The Unworthy Thor. In the Marvel Comics mythology, a woman has taken over the mantle of the Thor, and this new series puts the traditional Thor character (a white Asgardian or Norwegian – take your pick) back on center stage and in the title role.
It’s a tough balancing act. On the one hand, a publisher wants to appeal to our better angels and invite new people to the party, and on other hand, they need to appeal to what some of their original long-time consumers say they want.
There are no easy answers …not in the Geek Culture Club House nor on America’s political stage.
And folks on both sides might be talking about this upcoming issue of Sam Wilson: Captain America.
As part of my ongoing series exploring today’s creators’ reactions to their comic creations’ successful crossovers into other media, this week I reached out to Steven Grant. His impressive career includes reviving Marvel’s The Punisher, creating characters like Whisper and writing the long running comics industry column, Permanent Damage.
Ed Catto: Your 2 Guns comic was a hit movie in 2013. Can you tell us a little about the process of bringing your comic to the movies, from your perspective as the writer?
Steven Grant: Getting a film made from a comic is generally a much longer and more arduous process than most people seem to think. I wrote 2 Guns somewhere between 1998 and 2001, and I had the idea for it much earlier than that. I’d tried selling it for years to various comics publishers, but selling a straight crime comic with no other genre aspirations is a very difficult thing. Finally I had a lull in my schedule and just didn’t want to let go of the notion, so I wrote it anyway. It took a long time. Still couldn’t sell it.
Finally, around 2006, Ross Richie, who I’d known for years, launched Boom! Studios, and he asked if he could publish it, though he couldn’t pay me for it at the time. I wasn’t doing anything else with it, so I said sure. I wanted to see it in print. It was published in 2007. This was right at the time Hollywood started paying a lot of attention to anything published in comics, and Hollywood was somewhat more open to the material – once it had seen print. Prior to that, I’d never been able to rouse any Hollywood interest in the story either, and I had tried – than comics was.
I wasn’t actively involved in any of this, but Ross kept me regularly apprised. Interest grew, studios got involved. I’m told there was something of a bidding war between Fox Atomic – I think it was Fox Atomic, it was one of the Fox sub-brands of the day – and Universal that Universal won, then the person who was involved in that at Fox ended up at Universal so everyone was happy. But even something like that doesn’t guarantee a movie.
A Hollywood deal is basically an unsecured promissory note. Putting a movie together these days is a complicated game requiring the right assemblage of what are now called “elements”: concept, a good production company (established track record preferred), a script by preferably a studio-approved screenwriter that’s good and interesting enough to attract actors with a reputation for “opening” a film (i.e. selling a lot of tickets the first weekend).
Prior to founding Boom! Ross had spent several years working in Hollywood and studying the mechanics, so with some help he was able to navigate the waters. Even at that, the script, cast and crew went through several iterations, and the studio came close to dropping the project a couple of times for Hollywood reasons that had nothing to do with the project itself. Things are always touch and go in Hollywood, even after filming starts.
I think ultimately that 2 Guns got made – and I’m not trying to diminish the many people who worked diligently throughout, like Adam Siegel and Marc Platt of the Marc Platt Co., our production company, who like Ross were also key and ceaseless champions of the project – came down to Mark Wahlberg, who we were lucky enough to land in one of the key roles and who made it his mission to get the film made, bringing in both additional financing when some of our financing fell through (also an incredibly common occurrence in Hollywood) and the wonderful Baltasar Kormákur when the previous director bailed. Baltasar brought such a great visual and stylistic tone to the film. It finally filmed in 2012, four years after the “bidding war,” and hit theaters a little more than a year after that. Trust me, if you’re invested in a film project based on your project, invest in a lot of Maalox because it’s a very bumpy road, and the road to 2 Guns was smoother than a lot of them.
EC: When you saw the movie, were you happy the finished product?
SG: I love the film, but why wouldn’t I? From the beginning, Ross, Adam and screenwriter Blake Masters, who’s a great guy, by the way, were determined to stick as close spiritually to the material as possible. There were changes of course, but you can do so much more in a film than you can on the comics page that I’d’ve been pretty disappointed if they’d stuck strictly to what’s in the book. I do think they kept everything that was important in and to the story. Blake in particular (and Baltasar later) picked up on 2 Guns being a very deadpan comedy. That’s how I always thought of it. Ross and I would have long arguments about that, but I wrote it so of course I was right. I think Blake did a wonderful job. Like I said, I love the film, and considering how many comics guys crab about what Hollywood did to their work, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to say that. I didn’t see the film until the premiere, and was terrified I’d have to lie my ass off about liking it afterwards, but thankfully it never came to that. I not only love the film and still find it tremendously watchable, I like their ending better than mine.
EC: In the ‘90s you created a character called X for Dark Horse Comics. What sparked the creation of that character?
SG: I didn’t create X. For several years, Dark Horse had been quietly developing a superhero universe concept in house, and X was one of their linchpin characters. What happened was a guy named Jonathan Peterson was an editor at DC and asked me to write some Deathstroke issues for him, then I started doing other work for him as well. DC was big into “reimagining” old characters, and they had one called Americommando in the ‘40s that I thought was both one of the greatest and worst names in the history of comics, so I created a political thriller concept around it that was probably a bit more left-wing than DC would’ve been comfortable with.
Then Jonathan left and, as is often the case, the projects he’d been setting up, including several of mine, evaporated. I retooled the concept, retitled it Patriot X and pitched it to Dark Horse, which had recently picked up the Badlands project I’d started at Vortex Comics before they hit the skids. Mike Richardson really liked the Patriot X concept, but asked if I could name it something else because they had this character X they were doing for their superhero universe. So I retitled that project Enemy, then Mike asked me to write X as well.
EC: I always remember X being called “the Batman from Hell.” Was that a fair assessment?
SG: Sort of. I didn’t create X but I did kind of recreate it. Their original concept for the character was – and this is badly bowdlerizing it into convenient shorthand – Batman dressed as a Mexican wrestler. I tuned him up into the relentless, fixated psychopath of the first X series. I don’t recall whether the “Zorro” gimmick – one strike as a warning, the second strike (completing the X) as death sentence – originated with me or with Mike, Randy Stradley and Chris Warner, the original architects of the character. Anyway, yes, Batman was key to their conceptualization of the character, but I tried my best to keep specific parallels to Batman beyond the unavoidable out of it.
EC: At one point it looked like X was headed to the Fox Network for a TV series. Can you fill us in on what happened and what where your reactions to that then?
SG: If X was ever a Fox pilot, I never heard about it. They were trying to get it done as a film for a while that I wrote a very bad screenplay for (I really didn’t know what I was doing at the time) that was quickly trashed. You might be thinking of Enemy. David Goyer and Columbia approached Dark Horse about getting the rights for a potential TV series after the book came out. I think it might’ve been David’s first producing job, whereas previously he’d just been a screenwriter. I could be misremembering. Mike was involved too as an executive producer, since he’d already had The Mask as a TV series. They pitched it to Fox, which paid for the pilot. I’ve seen it; I’ve got a copy around here someplace I’m not supposed to have. It’s okay. I’m not sure what happened. I know it was on Fox’s schedule for at least a few days prior to them announcing the schedule, but when they announced it wasn’t. I’ve heard various explanations from different people. It basically boils down to “It’s Hollywood.” Things are go, then they’re suddenly not go. Nothing’s real until it’s real.
Of course, I was thrilled they wanted to make a series. I had nothing more I especially wanted to do with the character. It was one of the first times I thought completely in terms of the story rather than a franchise, so a TV show meant I could make lots of money from it and they’d be the ones worrying about a franchise.
I doubt I’d’ve been very involved in it. Network TV didn’t pay much upfront then – not sure what the terms are these days but I doubt they’ve changed much – then you get a little chunk of change for every episode that airs (with some restrictions I forget), but as creator you don’t make a lot of money until the show goes into syndication, meaning it had to stick around for five to seven years, which are slightly better odds than winning the lottery, but not by a lot. But I would’ve liked to have seen it on TV in any case.
As it turns out, Mike and I have recently been in discussion and I’m probably bringing back Enemy at Dark Horse next year.
EC: You also created the Marvel super heroine, Mockingbird. What’s the ‘secret origin’ behind her creation?
SG: That was one of my early on things, when I first arrived at Marvel. When you go to a company like Marvel, everything’s niched. It’s very difficult to find something to put your stamp on. I wanted my own characters to play with, and to do that I had to create them. Mark Gruenwald, who I quickly became friends with because we both originated in Wisconsin, was assistant editor of Marvel Team-Up at the time – that book jumped back and forth between editors like crazy, if I remember correctly – got me assigned a bunch of fill-in issues. Marvel traditionally struggled with deadline problems, so they regularly assigned fill-in issues. I couldn’t get a regular book there but fill-ins kept me alive and taught me versatility, if nothing else.
Mark and I concocted a mini-series within Marvel Team-Up (which largely specialized in isolated stories) set in Los Angeles, and to wrap up that arc. Influenced by the mid-‘70s House investigations of illegal activities by the CIA, I’d pushed several times without success for a Nick Fury Vs. SHIELD idea, and wanted to incorporate that in a story suggesting SHIELD might not be quite the good guys they’d been made out to be. Despite my own failure, this obviously wormed its way into the creative psyche up there, as Nick Fury Vs. SHIELD was done some time after I was mostly divorced from the company.
I’d run across the Huntress character who’d briefly appeared in a Marvel magazine, but by then DC had a character named The Huntress, so Mark and I rechristened her Mockingbird and I retooled her shtick into something I could work with. The main response was fan outrage that Marvel Team-Up had debuted a character rather than team Spider-Man up with an existing one.
EC: I’m anxious to hear your reactions to seeing Mockingbird on the television show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
SG: I’ve only seen the first couple episodes she was in – I have the rest on DVR but haven’t had time to watch – but loved her first appearance. Adrienne Palicki works fine in the part, and I thought the shtick was great, very much in keeping with the espionage angle I always wanted for her that Marvel had mostly abandoned. I take it all as vindication, especially if ABC puts her in her own series, which I understand is still a strong possibility.
A funny thing: when I created Mockingbird, I came up with the interlocking staves as her key weapons that could be used in various ways: individually as two-fisted clubs, as climbing picks, locked together as a vaulting pole, etc. I can’t swear by it but don’t recall that being a thing before her.
Now Mark, at heart, was always a DC Comics fan first, and had this dream of creating a Marvel Comics analog of The Justice League. In that scenario, he envisioned Mockingbird as Marvel’s Black Canary, and hooked her up with Hawkeye (Marvel’s Green Arrow) at the first opportunity. I don’t especially like the whole concept of analogue characters (re: X) and tried to keep away from it. So a TV version of the Black Canary shows up on the second season of Arrow, and what do I see? Her key weapons are interlock staves that can be used in various ways: individually as two-fisted clubs, etc… They lifted Mockingbird’s bit and gave it to the Black Canary. Full circle.
EC: Gerry Conway has detailed his frustrations with the corporate policies dictating recognition and compensation for characters he created for DC Comics. Can you reveal your own experiences, specifically as they relate to the Mockingbird character?
SG: They were nice enough to start crediting me on every episode she’s in, though they kindly don’t mention what anyone’s credited for. I haven’t seen any checks yet. Those are my experiences so far. We’ll see what happens. But I don’t question that Marvel/Disney own the character. I’m not sure yet what their policy on these things is.
EC: Do you feel today’s creators are better prepared to deal with creation of their characters and their possible success in other media?
SG: Probably not, unless they’ve had a lot of personal experience. I’ve noticed by and large comics talent all think they’ll be the exceptions, and don’t seem to get what a minefield media is. It can be navigated but in general it’s all hard choices and risk, and most don’t understand the process and have wildly unrealistic expectations to both extremes.
I’m not suggesting people should start out cynical – that’s as good a way to kill of good opportunities as any – but it pays to educate yourself on the risks and pitfalls, and find out how things are really done rather than swallow the snake oil usually peddled as “how Hollywood [or anything, really] works.” A good education in the workings of whatever field and realistic expectations are the best shields against disappointment and bitterness anyone can get, and the best ways to increase the odds of success.
EC: Great insights and stories. Thanks for your time, Steven.
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.
Of course, we saw Avengers: Age of Ultron on opening weekend and of course you did too — or else why do you watch a comic geek vlog? But in case you didn’t get to it yet, do that soon and be careful watching our video, because you know….SPOILERS!
What we’ve done this week instead of a classic review is to answer some questions our friends asked us after the movie. If you haven’t been reading the comics and or watched all the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s offerings, you might have had these same questions as well. And if you already know everything there is to know about Marvel, maybe you can kindly (very nicely & respectfully because we are only kids & we can’t be expected to pass the 7th grade AND read & see everything in a time span that started before our parents were even born) expand on our points. We also talk about Avengers: Infinity Wars and our favorite MCU ships (#CaptainCarter #ScarletVision) and the one that sank during Ultron (you gotta watch to find out).
First of all, I was lucky because I got to go. I was lucky to hear Joe Quesada introduce the film, not only because he was amusing but he was gracious enough to thank the event planners before he thanked the Hollywood bosses. Trust me, as someone who has worked events for more than 20 years, it’s unusual when someone says “Thank you.” He also thanked all the people who worked on the books, the source material for the movies.
And I was lucky because of the audience. The people in Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theater on Tuesday were Marvel (and Disney) employees, freelancers, and their plus-ones. It was the kind of audience that cheered the coming attractions (Ant-Man), of course. They cheered the created-by credits. They cheered Stan Lee. From their cheers, I could tell that I picked up all the Easter eggs, thrown in for the fans in the audience by the fans who made the film.
The film. How was it? There may be SPOILERS, depending on how you define the term, although I will try to avoid the big ones.
If you haven’t seen the first Avengers movie, you might have some problems jumping into the plot of this one. If you haven’t seen any of the Iron Man, Thor or Captain America movies, you may miss a few key character developments. And if you didn’t watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week, you missed the set-up.
None of this was a problem for me. I’m going to guess, given the name of this site, that it isn’t a problem for you either.
The plot, as you might surmise from the title, concerns the creation of Ultron, using the Infinity Stone from Loki’s staff (from the first Avengers movie) and Tony Stark’s tech. Ultron runs amok, and the rest of the movie involves our heroes trying to stop him/it. As they do, they first fight and then team-up with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. In the process, many, many places suffer severe damage, including Wakanda.
(During the fight in Wakanda, our heroes must deal with the local police and, later, the military. In both cases, the first faces we see in uniform are white. Given current events, this took me out of the narrative for a beat.)
If I approach this review with my English class lessons, it is difficult to describe. There is no single protagonist, no character who has a transformative story arc. My future husband, Robert Downey, Jr., and the other heroes with their own film franchises (i.e. Captain America and Thor) do very little other than fight and trade quips, once they get past the exposition parts of the dialogue.
Instead, the revealing character moments belong to the Hulk, to Hawkeye, and the Black Widow. If anything is going to rile up the fanboys, it is the changes the movie makes to Hawkeye. Since I haven’t followed the character in the comics (although I’ve enjoyed a bunch of the new version), I wasn’t offended. I think it works for the character in the movie. It explains a lot about his relationship with Black Widow.
Here’s my favorite thing about the version of the Black Widow we get in these movies, a part of her character I credit to Joss Whedon (based on Buffy and Firefly): she not only holds her own with the male characters, but she has relationships with them that are collegial, not romantic. She is, first and foremost, a friend and an ally. While there seems to be some suggestion that she and Bruce Banner might click, even that possibility comes from the trust and respect they have for each other as teammates, not hot bodies.
Ultimately, The Avengers: Age of Ultron suffers from the fate of most middle films in a trilogy. There can’t be a real resolution because then there would be no need for the third movie. Still, there are a lot of pretty people doing a lot of pretty spectacular things, with plenty of explosions and lots and lots of fight scenes in exotic scenery.
Go. You’ll have a good time. Just don’t try to write an English theme about it.
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been snarky. And I use that italicized denotation to declare to you that my right eyebrow is fully engaged and riding high, whilst its partner is floating low. There is a smirk across my mouth that clearly tells you that I’m excited. These are the announcements Internet op-ed folk dream of reading – and then immediately speculate, rant, and blather about.
The New 52 is dead. Long may you rot, New 52.
Following up from the soon-to-pass “Convergence” epic-to-end-all-epics-except-that-last-epic crossover event, DC will be overhauling its monthly title list to include 25 currently running series, and a newly announced (well, like, a week ago announced) set of 24 new titles that may just be rebrands, or retitled series they still are putting out. So, be prepped for yet-another-batch of #1s to flood your racks and drain your wallet. And I say your wallet because in spite of all the good karma DC is attempting to gain by admitting some present-day faults with this stunt, I have yet to be impressed. If anything, this current PR initiative leaves me even more tepid regarding mainstream comic bookery.
Dan DiDio’s press release declared the shifting sands of the line as “allow[ing] us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us.” All in all, that’s a great sentiment. It clearly rides the line between apology and promise for the future. Something for everyone hits right in the bread basket. As the average comic shop goer continues to diversify – both in who goes to the shop as well as what those in the shop are looking for – declaring that a motif of the line was to expand beyond the norm of capes and cowls is a great thing to strive for.
Of course if you then look at the line being offered, tt’s a big fat lie.
The rest of the quote deals with incorporating a modern approach in telling stories that reflect the society around us. This leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. They said the same thing with the New 52 and all we got were angsty superheroes and an abundance of Nehru collars. Oh, and the death of a ton of worthwhile continuity and legacy. But I digress.
Be that is it may, there’s glints of hope peering out in between the predictable. The Bryan Hitch written and drawn Justice League of America gives me the hope from last time I gave a crap about DC’s biggest team – the Morrison years. We Are Robin takes what appears to be a street-level justice bent, likely set in Gotham. It harkens back perhaps to GCPD, a series that I wish there were more of in any incarnation of the DCU. And for those who like to celebrate the odd, well, Bat-Mite or Bizarro might take typical cape-and-cowl crud and give us something unexpected.
Peering further down the list though, we get series that seem to be dusting off concepts the modern reader isn’t going to know. Prez, Omega Men, and Section Eight: I’m looking at you. Seeing these titles amongst the noobs has me scratching my head. Pair those What the-? titles with lame ducks like Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg and I’m no longer scratching… I’m shaking it in sadness.
Not because I don’t want these series to succeed, mind you. But the truth of the matter is none of these books are on the tips of the tongues of those seeking new books or concepts. And while DC may hope some jazzy art, or a modern concept will instantly enamor the geeks at large with the new books… someone somewhere should denote that one simply can’t “Batgirl” their way to victory. It will take heavy lifting by the respective creative teams to lure the initiated into the fold – and then it will take near perfection of execution to keep those books alive. If they want a hint, they should go back to New York and ask Marvel about Hawkeye.
The truth of the matter is that it will take an amazing leap of faith for any of the new series to be more than just another attempt at making buzz. While putting great talent on a book (like Ennis and McCrea on Section Eight – a series tied to their old hit, Hitman) is never a bad thing… putting out this many number one issues in succession makes it infinitely harder to see the kind of success DiDio is hoping for. It’s not enough to hack and slash your way through the catalog and dump a ton of new books on the public under the guise of the shifting tides.
The announcement on the whole reeks to me of boardroom politics and analytic-based commodity profiteering. Simply put, the powers-that-be figured out that #1s spike sales. So, fuck all… flood the market again, wrap it up in some nice PR about diversity, and save the line for another two years.
Mark my words: if half of the newly announced series are still being published at issue #13, feel free to shave my face.
My beloved Chicago Bears are a team in turmoil. After installing a new head coach roughly two seasons ago, the team has simply never gelled since. This being in spite of fielding a team that is built beautifully on paper. Suffice to say as a fan, I’m left crushed and crestfallen.
But whereas die-hard football fans would simply spend the remaining time of the current season hatewatching games and greedily predicting the firing of staff, I myself am choosing a path of less anguish. No denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or really even acceptance. I’m choosing instead the art of distraction. OK, sure I bet that files under denial, but c’mon: I’m not denying my Bears blew this season in all three phases of the game. Rather than wallow in it, I think it’s a better use of my time to use my somewhat encyclopedic knowledge of comic book characters to build my own team of comics-based footballery.
From time to time we’ve seen the occasional X-Men softball game. Or perhaps a few long-lost scenes of a young Clark Kent tossing the pigskin around. But no, here, I’m relying on the known commodity that is the playground What If game. Here, the rules are simple: I’m constructing my own team of comic book characters to be fielded against any of your chosen champions. In an ultimate contest of “…nuh-uh, my team is better!” It should be fun!
Head Coach: Batman
The best coaches are motivators and strategists. Not withstanding his physical abilities, the greatest asset of the Dark Knight truly is his mind. I could think of no one better to organize a team, develop strategies that capitalize on a team’s strengths, as well as poke holes in the opponents. And while no one on my team would necessarily attempt to “Win one for the Gipper” through some unspoken bond of camaraderie, let’s be honest: Bruce has enough bat-bucks to incentivize his team if the thrill of victory isn’t enough. Furthermore, if the man’s backup plans to defeat the JLA could be used to easily thwart the JLA, well, imagine what would happen if planning was his only job!
Quarterbacks: Captain America (starter), Hawkeye / Green Arrow (backups)
Face it, every team needs that moral center. And at the best teams within the NFL in my lifetime? You have your Tom Bradys, Peyton Mannings, Drew Breeses, and the like. They’re these good ol’ boys who can make stars out of everybody around them. They rally to save the day. They don’t make stupid mistakes when the chips are down. Captain America is all of that and more. He’s a leader – natch – a strategist, and more than capable of firing an accurate projectile. Simply put, there’s no way I could found my team without him at the helm on the field of battle. And as a safe backups? The archers are just safe bets to move the ball accurately across the field.
Running Back / Fullback: The Flash, Juggernaut
When it comes to setting the run down, I’m a firm believer in potent tandems. The Flash is of course the speed on the team. Get the ball in his hand, set his blocks, and he’s in the red zone before you can blink. And when finesse isn’t needed on the goal line? Just put it in the hands of the unstoppable force. And if you don’t believe this balance works? Go ask the 85′ Bears’ Walter Peyton and Walter Perry.
The ability to “go up and get it” is my primary concern. Having a natural flyer, a first-class acrobat, and a man who can literally get out of any coverage he might be in, all in order to come down with the ball? Well, that spells yardage to me. And certainly in all three cases, getting yards after catch is clearly not a concern.
The Offensive Line: The Blob (Center), Colossus and Strong Guy (Guards), Bishop and Groot (Setting the edge)
When it comes to protecting the QB, I can think of no line better. I basically built off the idea of immobile behemoths who can stand as a literal human (and tree) wall, from which Captain America can stand behind full-well knowing he has precious time to survey the field. And considering the line consists of an immovable object, two top-heavy strong-men, a guy who can absorb kinetic energy, and a living tree who can at least make things thorny if a linebacker slips by… I’m pretty well set.
Tight End: Beast (starter), Hal Jordan (backup)
A good tight end is many things to a team. He’s a lead-blocker. A pass-catcher. A known diversion. Basically, in my eyes… a wildcard capable of disrupting a defense in any number of situations. I believe with a thinker like Beast lining up, I’d gain insight, agility, and raw strength when needed. And should he be too physical a presence? Well, ole’ Hal and his trust emerald ring of power would do plenty to keep an opposing defender distracted. And hey, no one said you can’t catch a pass with a giant boxing glove, right?
The Defensive Line: Solomon Grundy, Grodd, Doomsday, The Thing
Forgive me: I just wanted four big, mean, nasty dudes ready to tear apart anything that moves when the ball is hiked. I give myself +5 points for choosing a monkey with telepathic powers to boot.
Linebackers: Thor, Hulk, Wonder Woman
Much like the D-Line, my LBs are all about aggression. But unlike Grundy and the gang, here I wanted to add a bit of mobility. While Hulk isn’t exactly light in the loafers… he more than makes up for it with the ability to leap great distances. And anyone who tried to skirt past either of my demi-gods will be eating dirt I say. Verily!
Safeties: Iceman, Plastic Man
Hear me out on this one kiddos. Safeties are those choice defensemen that disrupt any number of offensive tricks. Sending a great receiver down the field? Good luck doing it with ice under foot! Or if I choose to send an odd blitzer, what better to do it then a red and flesh colored bulldozer, complete with wacky sound effects? Nothing. Nothing is better than that.
Corner Backs: Wolverine, The Human Torch
A good corner is the type of guy willing to ride a receiver down the line every step of the way, and when the ball comes sailing towards their hands… no quarter is given. I could easily see “the best there is at what he does” being the type of evil scrapper than would ensure if a catch were to be pulled down… there’d be a short Canadian right there to make him pay. And if an adamantium-laced brawler isn’t doing it for you, how about a man literally on fire? Catch that ball with the heat of the sun literally breathing down your back. I dare you.
And last but not least… the kicker: Iron Man
Because Batman is the coach, and he’d probably get a kick out of a drunk punter.
I know I went a bit long, but I hope it got your gears spinning. So, who would be on your team?
Two of last year’s TV hits are headed back for a sophomore season that promises big things. BROOKLYN 99 dives into Fox Sunday nights and star Melissa Fumero talks about how the cast is more than ready to grab another Golden Globe, plus what might (or might not) be happening between her character and Andy Samberg. Meanwhile, fresh off CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD starts out another season that will lead not only to next year’s AVENGERS, but to a spin off as well and in spite of all that pressure, Clark Gregg says he’s still having a ball.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that women in possession of disposable income must be dissuaded from buying superhero comic books.
Okay, that’s not how literature works. It’s not even supposed to be how capitalism works. According to the economic theories I understand, under capitalism, the market determines what products are offered for sale. This is not a comment on the quality of the products, but rather what the public wants. So Coca-Cola and McDonalds make a lot of money, because the public wants cheap sugar, salt and fat.
However, the least common denominator is not the only way to be a successful capitalist. There is a lot of money to be made in niche markets. For example, there are enough people who don’t like Coke for a company like Jones Soda to be successful. There is probably a restaurant in your area that isn’t a burger joint like McDonalds, but does well enough in your market.
Niche markets are even more important in the entertainment business. Sometimes the public wants to laugh, and sometimes the public wants to cry and sometimes the public wants to be scared and sometimes the public wants to think big thoughts and sometimes the public just wants adrenaline.
Which brings us back to comic books.
I can’t recall a time when there were so many different kinds of graphic stories to read. There are comics and graphic novels in all sorts of genres: for children, for non-fiction readers, for mysteries and science fiction fans, even literary fiction. There are far more different kinds of people at comic book conventions and even at comic book stores than I can remember seeing at any other time.
It would seem like a great time for a comic book publisher with deep pockets to experiment with different kinds of books. In this specific case, I’m talking about Marvel (with Disney’s bank). They’ve been doing some cool stuff, like Hawkeye, which look different from the rest of the line.
Marvel says they want to publish comics that will attract women readers, comics with strong female characters that will inspire girls to regard themselves as heroines. Characters like Spider-Woman.
Marvel hired Milo Manara, an artist best known for his erotic work, to do a variant cover for the launch of their new series. To no one’s surprise, he turned in a piece that looks not the least bit heroic. If anything, that pose reminds me of what my cat does when I scratch her hips.
There have been a lot of articles in the blogosphere about what is wrong with this cover, from the anatomy to the politics. And I find the politics appalling.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the marketing.
There is no way a woman or girl who is thinking about starting to read superhero comics is going to pick up a book with this cover. It looks like the title character is groveling. There is no threat or hint of action. Instead, the character is on her knees, wearing an outfit that looks so tight that it would give the wearer the mother of all wedgies. There are certainly women book buyers who enjoy a little bit of pain and submission in their recreational reading, but that’s not who Marvel says they’re trying to appeal to here.
I don’t fault Manara for the cover. He did what he was hired to do. I fault the person who assigned the cover to him, knowing full well what he would deliver.
When the new Spider-Woman book fails to reach women readers, Marvel will, undoubtedly, claim they tried their best, but women just don’t want to read superhero comics. We hear the same thing from the toy industry, claiming that girls only want to play with dolls and pretend to be princesses or mommies (or both).
The problem with this is that it isn’t true. If you offer girls a toy that lets them pretend to be scientists, as Lego did, stores can’t keep the kits in stock.
You might think, because capitalism, that a toy that sells out is most likely successful enough to stay in production. However, that’s not happening. It seems as if even money isn’t enough to smash gender stereotypes in corporate America.
There’s a nice little niche market there, for a strong female venture capitalist.