Tagged: Hydra

Marc Alan Fishman: Epic Barriers to Entry

That thought of a 9-year old girl being intimidated by her local comic shop has not left my mind, kiddos.

I said what I could on the subject just a few weeks ago. Beyond the local comic shop being the culprit for the stagnation we as fans feel for the specific love of the pulp and paper side of comic bookery, there’s a plethora of other barriers to entry. Little mountains that stand in the way for people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and level of declared geekery that make the journey to our shores feel not unlike the one those halflings took from their little town, to that live volcano. And much like that epic, the damned eagles were there all along if anyone would have thought to ask for a quicker trip.

Epic Back Catalogs    

“I like Captain America!” the little tyke exclaims. He’s taken to his local comic shop, allowance in tow. Where, oh where does he begin? If he gets the current issue, he might be wondering why Steve Rogers is an agent of Hydra. Or why Sam Wilson isn’t Falcon. And just how many issues does he need to go back and buy to catch up? Of which volume? And what about trades vs. floppies? Or what if, by chance, the book falls in the middle of an epic crossover?

Touched on lightly in my aforementioned article, the advent of the epic crossover has been a thoroughly exhausting trend weaved into the modern comic book production schedule. It seems once to twice a year now, the big boys of comics (who are the specific targets I’m aiming at here) are hellbent to change the status quo. Grand schemes crawl and sprawl across special mini-series, and dump into the pages of dozens of titles – all in the effort to tell a larger story.

When it was done with years in-between, it was great! Crisis on Infinite Earths, Civil War, or The Infinity Gauntlet each stood as massive touchstones for years to come. Their larger-than-normal villains had massive plans, which required the multi-tentacled reach of an editorial Cthulu in order to come to the final catharsis. And in their wakes? New rules, new books, and time to let what transpired breathe.

Now?  Not so much. Every book becomes mandatory reading, and before you blink, new series are given birth, fail to catch on, and are chucked into the ethereal pit from whence they came. How could a muggle traipse into their local comic shop, cash and enthusiasm in hand, be told in order to jump on board they’ll need to drop serious coin, and spend the remainder of their afternoon reading Wikipedia to make sense of it all? This, of course, leads me to…

Epic Pricing

A standard comic, all-in-all, isn’t that expensive… until you compare it to similar media. A weeks’ worth of books for me (back when I bought books weekly) ran me $15-20 for a small haul. Left on the back of my toilet for easy-reading and metering out, I was done just in time for a whole new set the following week. For roughly the same amount of money I can have both the WWE Network and Netflix… which combined provide me thousands of hours of entertainment I don’t even need to read to enjoy. Apples to oranges you say? Correct, padawan. But tell that to an 8-year old.

Make no bones about it: kids do love comics. The static art being produced in any number of styles, slaved over by teams of passionate creators should be beloved, cherished, and sought after. For Rao’s sake, that is why I toil nightly to produce my own books! But I’d be lying if I didn’t feel like it can be a bit of a hard sell when the average comic can be absorbed in 15 minutes. The economics of it are depressing.

And, to my knowledge, publishers-at-large haven’t exactly solved how to compete. While Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and their next-of-kin pony up money for solid, respectable original content in addition to their bread-and-butter second-hand material… they have all found the panacea to their pricier counterpoints (cable TV, and the movie theater). Simply put, they found a price so low that people can barely argue about their subscription. For roughly ten bucks a month, their consumers have more content available then they can consume.

So, why haven’t the publishers figured this out?

Epic Conclusions on Infinite Earths

As it stands, there are no easy answers. Netflix and the like all started in different places – Netflix as a mail-order rent-a-DVD catalog, Hulu as pricey YouTube – but would up in the same business. DC, Marvel, and the other major publishers each offer a maddening number of ways to consume their comic content. Floppies or trades? Printed or Digital? Direct market, subscriptions, ComiXology, Comix Blitz, or any other number of other ways I don’t know? Because the original content is printed (but doesn’t necessarily need to be), it simply stands to ask the biggest question of all:

In the land of plenty, is the niche market of comic books too splintered to be as profitable as it needs to be… to sustain real growth? Are there simply too many choices out there for a truly casual fan to make a choice they can feel confident in, when it comes to their consumption? And is the looming specter of a digital device being so ubiquitous, how far off are we truly to even needing paper books? It’s why vinyl records made a comeback, and CDs are nearly non-existent. It’s why DVDs and Blu-Rays are slowly being discount-binned into-oblivion. And why we all have at very least… free Spotify or something similar on our smartphones.

In my estimation, the only way comics can truly save the day, is to match what their brethren in other industries have done. There needs to be a singular wave of content accessible, available, and bingeable… offered at a price so low it can’t be argued with. Weekly comics need to still create an eco-system in the direct market… but come packaged in such a way that it allows new readers to have their cake and eat it too. The ocean of content that exists in long boxes needs to be set free, where all publishers can coexist. The eagles are soaring over our heads. We need only ask for a ride into the mouth of the volcano.

Mindy Newell: Tiptoeing Through Geek Culture

Last of the Mohicans

Last of the Mohicans, by James Feinmore Cooper, is a great American classic. My parents had a Book-of-the-Month copy in their bookcase with illustrations by Newell Wyeth, Andrew’s father, and I first read it at about age 8. Today (Sunday), I watched the 1992 Last of the Mohicans, the one starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeline Stowe, and Wes Studi. Great, great movie, also a favorite of my buddy and fellow columnist Johnny O’s; in fact, it was John and Kim who turned me on to this particular cinema adaption, oh, those so many years ago at their home in Norfolk, Connecticut. I was familiar with the 1936 version, which starred Randolph Scott, Bruce Cabot, and Binnie Barnes, which was pretty good, but director Michael Mann’s adaptation is a gothic work of art, boasting beautiful cinematography and a romantic and haunting soundtrack.

OutlanderI’ve also been blissfully gorging on Season 2 of Outlander, Ronald D. Moore’s magnificent – im-not-so-ho – adaptation of the second book of Diana Gabaldon’s Scottish time-traveling romance and adventure series. As the season continues to build to the 1745 tragic and final confrontation between King George II’s British troops and the Jacobite rebels who followed “Bonnie” Prince Charles Stuart in the failed attempt to restore the Stuart monarchy, Claire is suffering from what we call today Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Jamie is taking on more than a veneer of the hated British army’s discipline and attitude, going so far as to flog his troops.

Thanks to the oversight of Moore and his team, including his wife, costume designer Terry Dresbach, and the lush cinematography of Neville Kid, not to mention the remarkable cast, Outlander is far more than a variation of the “bodice ripper” genre; it is a gripping tale of a culture that now exists only in books, films, television shows, Renaissance Fairs, and museums.

Captain America HydraI know that my buddy Marc Alan Fishman is demonstrating the mature side of the argument, taking a “wait-and-see” attitude, but as for me – well, there is so much that is wrong about Captain America: Hydra Agent that all I can say is:

No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! But I do have a better candidate for Hydra membership.

Donald Trump Suggests Muslim Judge Might Also Be Unfair. Candace Smith, ABC News, June 5, 2016: Donald Trump, already facing bi-partisan backlash for his comments suggesting a judge of Mexican descent is unfit to preside over a lawsuit filed against Trump University because of ‘bias,’ has gone further, suggesting that a Muslim judge would also not be able to treat him fairly…”

Trump Plays GOP for Suckers – Calls Climate Change ‘Bullshit,’ Then Submits Plan For A Wall To Protect His Golf Course From Global Warming. Page 4-5. New York Daily News, front page, May 24, 2016: “The notoriously fickle Republican huckster, who at various times has labeled climate change a ‘con job,’ a ‘hoax’ and ‘bullshit,’ has reportedly applied to build a wall along a luxury golf course that he owns in Ireland that is threatened by rising seas caused by climate change.

Perhaps it is Donald Trump who is the Hydra agent.

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #388

MARIA HILL GETS A STANDOFF O

When last we saw The Avengers, several of their branches – The All New, All Different; the New; the Uncanny; and for all I know Steed and Mrs. Peel – were standing off against S.H.I.E.L.D. because of Pleasant Hill. As it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to write about Avengers: Standoff!, I thought a quick recap might be in order.

S.H.I.E.L.D. and its director Maria Hill got a hold of some fragments of a Cosmic Cube, a device which is controlled by the will of its holder and can reshape reality. It’s kind of like Green Lantern’s power ring but without the weakness to yellow or the need to make all its constructs curry the favor of Kermit the Frog. They used the fragments to create Pleasant Hill, an idyllic, all-American small town somewhere in Connecticut which was neither idyllic or all-American. See they populated Pleasant Hill with super villains whose memories had been wiped so that they believed they were non-powered residents of Main Street, USA. Various Avengers teams were getting ready to square off against Director Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. because they didn’t agree with what had been done to the villains. Meanwhile, the super villains, who had regained their memories, were getting ready to square off against Director Hill, and S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention the various Avengers teams, because they didn’t agree with what had been done to the villains either. And, for good measure, math students were getting ready to square off against Geometry teachers, because… Well wouldn’t you?

That’s where I left you last time I wrote about Avengers: Standoff! It’s also where I’m going to leave you this time, too, because the same things that kept me from writing columns for the past few weeks also kept me from reading comics for the past few weeks. I haven’t finished reading Avengers: Standoff! yet so have no idea how it ends. Or even if it ends. (Considering what goes on in comic books these days, that’s not as facetious as it sounds.)

Last column, I wrote about how Pleasant Hill prison violated the Eight Amendment to the United States Constitution and it’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. My friend and fellow comic-book writer Tony Isabella didn’t fully agree with me. Oh he thought my analysis was fine, up to a point. That point being the USAPATRIOT Act. He didn’t think my analysis took into account what provisions might have been enacted to imprison super villains in a post-9/11 world.

I told him that because so many of the early villains in the Marvel Universe were super powered Communists, Congress in the Marvel Universe probably enacted it’s version of the USAPATRIOT Act in 1961, not 2001. However, considering the USAPATRIOT part of the USAPATRIOT Act is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, it’s Marvel Universe version would probably have been called something like the Emergency Xenogenesis Containment and Elimination Legislation and Super-powered Individuals Oversight and Regulation Act.

So what affect would our hypothetical act have on a place like Pleasant Hill? Depends. No, I’m not claiming that the answer might make you poop your pants, I’m saying that some inmates in Pleasant Hill might be treated very differently from other inmates.

We know from our own real-life experience that people designated as enemy combatants are treated differently from US citizens under the USAPATRIOT Act. Prisoners who are not US citizens and classified enemy combatants can be held indefinitely and without being charged in places like the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. So prisoners in Pleasant Hill such as Helmet Zemo or Ulysses Klaw, who are not American citizens, could receive the enemy combatant designation. Especially Zemo. Even money says the government would designate a German national who headed the terrorist organization Hydra an enemy combatant without even a second thought.

Other Pleasant Hill inmates, such as Mr. Hyde, the Trapster, and the Absorbing Man are American citizens. I practiced law for 8 years after the USAPATRIOT Act was enacted, so I know from personal US citizens who became inmates didn’t lose their 8th Amendment rights. Even after 9/11. Thus, it would be harder for Director Hill or S.H.I.E.L.D. to deny the American inmates in Pleasant Hill of their constitutional rights, with or without our hypothetical congressional act.

When governmental agencies – such as S.H.I.E.L.D. – seek to curtail the constitutional rights of inmates, they must be able to show they’re using the least invasive means possible. That is to say, their method of imprisonment must be consistent with both keeping the inmates in while depriving them of the fewest number of constitutional rights possible as possible. Pleasant Hill wiped its inmates’ memories and personalities and replaced them with different memories and personalities. I still think that was an invasive and unconstitutional assault which deprived the inmates of their constitutional rights, and I think many courts would likely rule in this manner, even after our super-human control act.

Prisons in the Marvel Universe have power dampening mechanisms which can take away inmates’ super powers. Super villains without super powers are just as easy to keep in prison as normal prisoners; you know, the ones who aren’t being mind-wiped. So mind wiping them wouldn’t be the least invasive form of imprisonment.

Sure super powered inmates would be kept in facilities whose security was even more maximum than Alcatraz. Call it a supervillainmax prison. But I just don’t think courts would side with the mass mind-wiping of the inmates.

Moreover, Maria Hill obviously didn’t think the courts would side with her. Or anyone else. After all, she kept the Pleasant Hill prison a secret from three different Avengers teams, her bosses in the World Security Council, the courts, and pretty much everyone else in the world. If she thought she was on firm footing with Pleasant Hill, she wouldn’t have pussyfooted around in secret.

I’m sure that when Avengers: Standoff! ends – no, I haven’t suddenly gotten caught up on my reading, I’ve been writing this column – Pleasant Hill prison will be somewhat more public. Super hero/villain battles tend to make things public, even when they happen in rural Connecticut. Then after Maria Hill’s pet prison has been outed, the World Security Council will have to decide how do they solve a problem like Maria. Ms. Hill and allies must now face the music. And I have confidence they’ll do something to her. I wish I could be sure it would be something good, like them telling her so long, farewell, but it’ll probably be little more than a slap on the wrist. Still, a guy can do-re-mi-m, can’t he?

Mindy Newell: The Amazing Adventure Of Mohall And Newell

So today (Sunday, which is yesterday), Editor Mike sent me a link to a column on The Jewish Daily Forward’s website which asks the question “Do Marvel Movies Have An Anti-Semitic Problem?” – which also happens to be the dumbest article I’ve ever read on their site.

Granted, The Forward – which was born way back in 1867 as a Yiddish language daily newspaper published by dissidents from the Socialist Labor Party – is a left-leaning paper whose heart and soul is the Jewish-American experience, with strong ties to Israel, and its articles are purposely written with that audience as its primary target. And granted, The Forward has not been the only news media outlet that has noted and remarked upon the recent rebirth of overt and increasingly violent anti-Semitism around the globe, especially in Europe. And yes, The Forward should be praised in its unadulterated and unabridged journalism that consistently calls out the perpetrators.

But sometimes the paper looks for boogey-men where no such creatures exist. And in this article, author Susan Mohall is not only trying to lasso the moon but gets critical facts wrong – such as stating that Stan Lee was born in Romania.

Excuse me, Ms. Mohall, but Mr. Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber) was born on December 28, 1922 in New York City, specifically an apartment house at the corner of West 98th Street and West End Avenue. Our pal Danny Fingeroth, former Marvel Comics editor and writer and author of Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero and – by the way – co-author of The Stan Lee Universe, confirmed this to Editor Mike.

Susan Mohall apparently takes umbrage at the fact that the Jewish characters of the Marvel movies don’t go around with yellow Stars of David on their clothing identifying them as Jews:

In the comics, Kitty’s Jewish heritage is extremely important to her. In the movies, her Jewish identity isn’t even mentioned. In “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which introduces us to Pietro and Wanda – a.k.a. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch – the omission is even more blatant. The film portrays Wanda as a baby (despite the fact that the two are twins in the comics) and her name is never even mentioned. Quicksilver’s Jewish identity is at least alluded to.

 “After rescuing Magneto, Quicksilver implies that Magneto might be his father, but if you don’t already know that, then this moment goes by so quickly that it hardly matters as a relevant part of Quicksilver’s character. Quicksilver’s name was also Westernized from Pietro to Peter in an attempt to erase not only Pietro’s Jewish identity but his Romani identity as well.”

Oh, God, I’m so frustrated and annoyed that I wish that I could write this in all caps!!!! Instead I will use numerous exclamation points to assert my impatience with this idiot!!!!! Susan, my dear woman, the X-Men are mutants!!!! For over 50 years mutants have been Marvel’s superhero stand-ins for every single person who has ever been ostracized from society!!!! Ostracized and abused and tortured and killed for their religion, the color of their skin, their political beliefs, their birthplace!!!!

Ms. Mohall also accuses The Powers That Be behind the Marvel cinematic universe of focusing on Magneto as a Jewish villain:

The only character in the X-Men franchise whose Jewish identity is ever specifically mentioned and explored is Magneto. In the first X-Men movie we see Magneto being taken away to a concentration camp, and in X-Men: First Class we see Magneto hunting down and killing Nazis. Magneto also uses his own experiences with prejudice as a Jewish man to justify his violent motives. But while Magneto is a well-written and complex character, he is still a villain who murders people and uses his background to justify it. Having another Jewish character to challenge Magneto would have been excellent storytelling. Instead what we get is the erasing of all other characters’ Jewish identities and the only character who is identified as Jewish is our murderous villain.

Okay here come some more exclamation marks!!!!! My dear Susan, you are beyond words in your ridiculousness!!!! Didn’t you at the least read Exodus?!!!! I’m sorry to have to enlighten you, my dear, but Jews are quite capable of murdering and other quite immoral acts!!!! Please tell me that you have heard of the Irgun!!!! The “paramilitary” organization that splintered away from the Haganah during the Palestinian Mandate (1931 – 1948) and conducted terrorist activities like blowing up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946 because it was a base for the British occupation!!!!

You do know that Menachim Begin, signer of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty with Anwar Sadat, was a member of the Irgun!!!!! Susan, sweetheart, I guess you never heard of Operation: Wrath of God, in which the Israeli government authorized the Mossad to terminate the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes!!!! Steven Spielberg made a movie based on it!!! It’s called Munich!!! I suggest you watch it!!!!

Okay, take a breath, Mindy. Count to 10.

The author also accuses Marvel Studios of “white-washing” HYDRA from its Nazi roots.

“Why is HYDRA’s identity as a Neo-Nazi organization completely sanitized in the movies?…HYDRA originates during World War II as part of the Nazis military. However, Red Skull, the leader of the organization, wants to run things and turns HYDRA into his own terrorist group. But he is never not a Nazi, and HYDRA never abandons Nazi beliefs. From the movies, you would glean that HYDRA just wants totalitarian power. The Nazi part is glossed over. It’s as if the producers are worried about the potential fallout of comparing HYDRA to the Third Reich, which is just so strange, especially since Nazis are the perfect villain. Everyone hates them”

Oh, Susan. I guess you never saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier and you never have watched Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. HYDRA evolved, my dear. It’s gotten smarter, its adapted, it’s gotten smoother – just as our own rat-fuckers learned from Watergate – but it is certainly is still fascist, and it’s certainly not “shy[ing] away from its Nazi roots.”

And, Ms. Susan Mohall, I would certainly be surprised if you have read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Michael Chabon, which tells the (fictionalized) story of the birth of Marvel and the U.S. comics industry, which was 99.9% midwived into life by the sons (and some daughters) of Jewish immigrants.

Including Mr. Stanley Martin Lieber.

And by the way, you forgot to mention Jack Kirby.

Born Jacob Kurtzberg.

 

Tweeks: Experience The Marvel Experience

TweeksMEXthumbnailLast week, we went to The Marvel Experience during its stop in San Diego.  Taking place in seven large domes, visitors become S.H.I.E.L.D recruits who undergo training in order to fight alongside the Avengers against Hydra in a final showdown. It reminded us of a Marvel themed amusement park, but is it worth the ticket price (ranging from $24.50 to $34.50) when it comes your city?  Watch our review to find out.