Tagged: Iron Man

Martha Thomases: What’s In It For Me?

So, a lot of us here enjoy discussions of diversity in comics (and, no, I don’t mean this schmuck). It’s an interesting subject to consider in light of popular culture, contemporary politics, and the meaning of life.

It is also interesting in terms of marketing.

When we talk about comics marketing, especially in terms of diversity, I think we often miss the point. This may be because, in my experience, comics marketing tends to involve advertising in comic books and sending posters to comic book shops. These methods are terrific for attracting the attention of people who already read comics, but they are less effective for reaching people who don’t.

Sometimes, if a graphic novel is scheduled to be published, and is either written by a well-known writer or published by a mainstream book publisher or the source material for a critically acclaimed movie, you might see an ad in the book section of a newspaper or magazine. In general, however, it is too expensive to advertise individual monthly comic books on a national level.

But what if we could? To whom should we target the ads?

When I was in college, I did an internship with the research department of a major Chicago advertising agency. We analyzed data from thousands of questionnaires distributed at shopping malls all around the country (shopping malls were still a thing in 1976). New questionnaires were always coming in, because we wanted our analyses to be as up-to-date as possible. One of our clients was General Mills, so the questionnaires included a lot of questions about cake mix and instant mashed potatoes and the like. I learned from this experience that, if you want to reach a shopper who might buy cake mix occasionally, you emphasized the characteristics most appealing to people who baked more than four cakes a month.

(I will now pause and wonder what my life would have been like if I had been raised in a house that smelled like cake four times month).

By that logic, comics marketing is right on track. By promoting the characters, the colorful battle scenes, and sometimes the creative team, the ads appeal to those people who already are familiar with these elements of the story, and are familiar with those kinds of storytelling.

For better or worse, that’s not how marketing works anymore. My internship took place more than 40 years ago. The corporate pressures today are much different, and stockholders aren’t satisfied to simply reach the same customers they’ve always had. Instead, there needs to be more more more!

Toyota, with its Camry model, is a good example. Read the link, because it’s really interesting.

Now, I’m not an expert on Camrys, Toyotas, or automobiles in general. My regular car is the E train. I am not the audience for these ads. Therefore, I can look at the story with a certain level of detachment.

What I notice is that Toyota wants to reach not only the broadest audience (the white/multicultural pop music one) but also as many specific audiences as they can. As a result, they make a general commercial, but then also make commercials aimed at African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American markets. Each of those ads, for the same car, emphasizes traits that are determined to be most attractive to the targets.

(I am not in a position to comment on whether their assumptions about what is appealing are correct. I’m interested in the effort.)

Toyota doesn’t say to Hispanic car-buyers that the Camry is good because it has been selling for decades. Instead, they talk about why Hispanic car-buyers would like it.

Similarly, it isn’t enough for Marvel to say that Iron Man (as an arbitrary example, not to pick on it specifically) is a good comic for you because Marvel has been publishing it forever, or because Robert Downey, Jr. is really cute (although he is). Marvel needs to tell me what’s in it for me if I buy it. Is it a commentary on capitalism, or human nature, or the meaning of life? Is it funny, or scary, or emotionally moving in another way?

What’s in it for me?

And just as Toyota doesn’t only make Camrys, but has lots of different models for people with different driving needs and preferences, comics should (and does!) have lots of different kinds of books for people with different tastes in reading.

If you’re a straight cis white guy who loves comics, that’s great. Most of the titles in your local comic book shop are intended for you. You are still the largest demographic segment in this market. However, in order for the business to grow (and for profits to rise), publishers need to explore books that will appeal to new markets. Some of these experiments will fail because that’s what happens when humans try new things. But some of these experiments will succeed, and then there are more books for everybody.

We will not attract new readers to our books if we demand that they all fit in the same box.

Not even if that box is chocolate cake.

I Spidey

Before we move on to my regularly scheduled column, I have to plug the Kickstarter going for a ComicMix comics collection running through September 15th. It’s got a lot of great talent like Neil Gaiman, Gabby Rivera and Gerard Way. Check it out!

Now that that’s out of the way, let me get back to my hot takes on the comics biz.

Last month I wrote about Spider-Man: Homecoming and how I wish they had more comics the reflected that interpretation of the character. There isn’t really a comic they put out recently that does, but I heard Spidey is kind of close so I picked up the first trade.

Spidey originally hit the stands back December of 2015 at #25 on the sales charts equating to 65,503 copies sold. The idea was to do an out of continuity Spider-Man that went back to basics; Peter Parker is back in high school, he’s back to crushing on Gwen Stacy, he’s back to taking pictures of Spider-Man for JJ, Aunt May is back to struggling to pay her bills, the bad guys aren’t quite as deadly serious, the book is more light-hearted and the stakes are lowered.

The series is written by Robbie Thompson and the first three issues are illustrated by Nick Bradshaw with Jim Campbell and Rachelle Rosenberg coloring. In the first three issues we have run ins with Doc Ock, Sandman, and Lizard. All three of them are doing what you normally expect them to do; Doc Ock is trying to steal technology, Sandman is trying to rob banks, and Lizard is trying to make more lizard people. While it’s all pretty goofy and at least somewhat self aware, Nick’s art is very sleek and his heavy inks with Jim and Rachelle’s colors really make the pages pop. It feels like Saturday morning cartoon quality work. Some of the characters could look a little more different from each other as I felt his Peter Parker and Harry Osborn look too similar, but I also acknowledge that’s a bit overly critical.

After issue three, the series takes a bit of a turn.

Nick Bradshaw has a very distinct style. Once he leaves after issue three, the rest of this trade is illustrated by Andre Lima Araujo. Andre’s style is drastically different from Nick’s. Gone are the heavy inks and Saturday morning cartoon look. In its place are very thin line inks, and the kind of art you may expect in a Top Shelf or Pantheon type graphic novel. Facial expressions and other little details like sweat are more prominent. The teenage angst and awkwardness spills out of the pages more, but the tone is so different from this art style that it’s jarring. On top of all that, in issue six Iron Man teams up with Spider-Man to stop Vulture from stealing things and it felt like such a push to do something that might tie in somewhat to Spider-Man: Homecoming that it immediately sucked me out of the story.

The most disappointing thing about reading Spidey after seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming is seeing how few liberties they take with a comic that isn’t in continuity. They don’t really change up the characters too much, everyone is still white who was white, all the characters are back doing exactly what you already know they do. What’s the point in taking another shot at retelling the early years of Spider-Man if you’re just going to give me everything we already knew and how we already knew it? This is likely at least part of why the series ends at issue twelve, making it only two volumes on trade paperback.

Overall, Spidey Vol. 1 was fun, had a few exceptional moments, but overall fell a bit flat. If you absolutely need more simple Spider-Man stories, you absolutely should pick this up. Or if you have a child in your life around ages 8-12 this is probably the most appropriate Spider-Man title for them to read. Spidey also gets bonus points for not having parallel universes, time travelling, and clones. Especially for not having clones.

It feels good to write about comics I’m reading again. So good even, I may just do it again next week!

Marc Alan Fishman’s ComicMix Six: Marc’s Top Marvel Studios Movies!

To date, Marvel Studios has 16 released films in their shared universe. And while I have an affinity for all of them (truly, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch) it’s fair now to see the cream rise to the top. Having just finished Spider-Man: Homecoming this past weekend – yes I’m a suburban dad who no longer prioritizes movies as a need-to-see-on-release-day – I think I’m within bounds to pluck out my top five… until I mentioned this idea to EIC Mike Gold who denoted “We have a logo” for picking six. Natch. So, without any further preamble, here are (ranked from bottom to top) my most favoritest Marvel(ous) movies.

Definition time: I’m specifying movies only within the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” This excludes the X-Men movies, the Fantastic Four movies, the Blade trilogy (which was awesome, honestly) any previous Spider-Man flicks, and sadly Deadpool who would have been #3 on my ranking.

  1. The Avengers

It’s funny enough to me that this film – the quintessential tent pole of the MCU – arrives in this bonus spot on my list. When the dust settled for me on The Avengers I remain in love with the concept, less the execution. Because Joss Whedon is so adept at creating great team dynamics there’s rarely any downtime in the flick, which is its saving grace. Ultimately, the plot is barely logical, with Loki aligning with Thanos because reasons and it’s all an excuse for a huge CGI fist fight. That the film never abandons the damage New York takes because of the epic Midtown massacre again harkens why The Avengers made my list in the first place. Amidst the cacophony, humanity still remains at the heart of the film. Even if Agent Coulson’s death was retconned almost immediately.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

All of Cap’s movies are infinitely watchable to me. Somehow the cock-sure asshat that was one of the only saving graces of the terrible Fantastic Four films (you know which ones) truly adopted and adapted his talents to fully realize Marvel’s big blue boy scout. And in his performance, Chris Evans balances the fish-out-of-water aspects of the character perfectly with a soldier’s grit and heroism in the modern age. While The First Avenger did all the expository heavy lifting to sell us on Steve Rogers the man, The Winter Soldier proved that “superhero” films could be far more than large set pieces and quips. The Directing Russos took their love of 70s political / conspiracy fiction and married it to the modern day in a way that felt bombastic but real. I still remain in awe watching Rogers chase down his former best friend amidst the chaos of the biggest Holy Watcher! moment of the MCU – the reveal of Hydra’s long-simmering subterfuge. Pair that with the late-in-the-movie tête-à-tête with Nick Fury over proactive protection over reactive super heroics and you get a heavy flick that leaves you wondering why it took this long to see something this good.

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

The only thing I could honestly nitpick about the flick was the avidity for late-night fight scenes, is a boon to the first Spider-Man film to truly nail the character as I’d always imagined him to be. Our believably-baby-faced Peter Parker steals the show (fitting given it’s his film) in what amounts to an homage to 80s teen rom-coms with a running thread of super-heroics. And, amongst literally all the movies I’ll be listing today, none had me more on the edge of my seat than the car ride discussion between Peter and his date’s daddy. That a superhero movie had me captivated without thwipping a single web is a testament to its depth and brevity. Oh, and somehow, the movie made a mort like Vulture into a believable badass. Case. Closed.

  1. Captain America: Civil War

Take everything that was said above, copy, and paste it. But magnify it by two or three. Civil War took big swings at the politics of being a super hero, weaved in a deeply personal conflict, and then set it all against a global backdrop. The movie owned the space Avengers: Age of Ultron should have, all while taking those initial beats of young Steve Rogers and bringing them home to roost. That they could tell all of this, drop our jaws with the airport sequence and make both sides of the equation nuanced in their actions and opinions only drove the point home harder how Marvel could make mature fiction against the flashy colors and CGI bombast.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel’s way of raising two gigantic middle fingers at DC while simultaneously mooning them. For a bit of perspective: Batman v. Superman earned (essentially) the same amount of money as the first GotG movie, but came out two years later. So, a movie where a loose Indiana Jones / Han Solo rip-off pilots Firefly alongside a talking raccoon and animated tree earned the same amount of money. But that’s truly beside the point. Guardians 2 took everything amazing from its first iteration – the comedy, the space-action, the brilliant visuals, and an astoundingly wide scope of the universe at large – and somehow improved upon it. Kurt Russel’s Ego is a massive villain whose plot (for once) feels earned. All the performances were beyond exemplary… but nothing truly hit this father harder than a blue dude with a red Mohawk literally defining fatherhood amidst an intergalactic chase and war sequence.

  1. Iron Man

Iron Man was a no-brainer for the top of my list. While other actors across the MCU have grown into their roles… none of them hold a candle to Robert Downey Jr. – who doesn’t so much as perform Tony Stark as he simply exists as a surrogate so close to the source material he bleeds ink. While other Marvel films have woven more intricate plots, delivered better (a few, if we’re being picky) villains, or provided us with better battles… none compare to the total package quite so well as the original kick-off to Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, our introduction to what the general pop-culture lexicon would consider a “B” lister, Jon Favreau drags right to the top of the A list in the cold open. Tony Stark – as massively, untouchably talented and wealthy as he is – becomes our surrogate POV character for nearly every Marvel film he’s subsequently been in. And while his personal politics and actions have led him to morally gray areas ever since… it’s all the work done here in his origin that allows us to believe every action that has occurred. All that and the movie made this millennial truly believe a man could fly. In a suit. Of space-age material, designed by a genius living with an electromagnetic reactor in his chest that powers it.

Box Office Democracy: Spider-Man: Homecoming

There needs to be a clear change in thesis statement when you reboot a film franchise.  Something like “We need Batman to be more serious and less goofy” being the reason to bring Christopher Nolan in to restart the Caped Crusader, or “Star Trek doesn’t feel relatable to young people because we’ve been serving TNG fans and older exclusively for 20 years” for the Abrams Trek reboot.  I think that’s why the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man series never caught on because there wasn’t a change in thesis, it was the same attempt at superhero melodrama with big CGI villains.  The only thing that changed was people didn’t seem to like Tobey Maguire anymore and Sam Raimi wanted desperately to do anything else with his time.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a clear change in tone.  Sony/Marvel (I don’t know who gets credit here) have decided that they want Spider-Man to be upbeat and not dragged down by being an overwrought angst-fest.  This is a movie about the wonder of being a superhero and the problems are kid problems.  The problems that don’t involve a man with giant wings at least.

It’s so refreshing to see a reboot without an origin story.  There’s a throwaway reference to being bitten by a spider and that’s it.  There’s no working as a wrestler, there’s no Uncle Ben, and the movie doesn’t suffer one iota for the absence.  We’ve been told this origin story so many times including twice in the last 15 years on the big screen.  It’s nice to be given credit for cultural literacy for once.  I do wish someone had said “With great power comes great responsibility” just one time because that’s an important thematic shorthand that just gets run over here, but if I have to trade that for 40 minutes of not killing Uncle Ben I’ll take it.  Hopefully whoever at Warner Brothers responsible for planning the next on-screen version of killing the Waynes saw Homecoming this weekend and is thinking twice.

There’s a prominent subplot about Peter’s suit.  It’s a suit Tony Stark gave him and it has a very Iron-Man-y HUD.  Midway through the film the “training wheels” get taken off and we get an awful lot of material on the crazy new features and Peter’s inability to manage them.  It’s funny enough but I profoundly do not care about watching Spider-Man fiddle with technology.  History probably proves I’m in the minority here, as both the Ben Reilly costume change and the Iron Spider era both saw bumps in sales, but it’s not the relatable content to me.  I think it’s fun when Peter engages in relatable drama; not does a scene out of Despicable Me with a plethora of gadgets.  This should be a small thing, but it’s so much of the second act it gets exhausting.

It feels like every few months we get another thing from Marvel that is supposed to finally show us the MCU from a human perspective and none of them ever succeed.  Daredevil was supposed to be this, as were Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and seemingly everything else.  None of those particularly worked for me on that level because while they would mention the bigger things happening in the movie they either felt too far removed (like they were only coincidentally in the same world) or too close (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is massive in scope).  Spider-Man: Homecoming is, finally, a success at feeling small.  The stakes feel important, but at no point is someone threatening me with the end of the world or the destruction of New York.  This is a movie about personal triumph and the effect, and lack of effect, that has on the later world.  Spider-Man fails if the Vulture succeeds, but the worst outcome of the events in this movie wouldn’t even be worth an aside in the next Avengers film.  There’s growth here and as the rest of the MCU spins in to grander, more cosmic, conflict it’s nice to have a little story that feels big instead of a giant story that rings hollow.

Mike Gold: Truth, Justice, and Hysteria

I guess Marvel senior vice president David Gabriel has had a bad week.

In case you haven’t heard – perhaps you were in solitary confinement – at the Marvel Retailer Summit Gabriel said that some retailers have told him that they “did not want female superheroes out there.” I have no doubt this is true: every industry has its share of morons, and sometimes – the Trump election is a case in point – those morons can influence policy. Capitalism being what it is, if enough morons have their way something really good and necessary gets chopped. For example, our President’s recent budget eliminated the miniscule funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Social media is instant, uncensored, and vox populi on steroids, so Gabriel’s comment was the latest shot heard around the world and everybody jumped on the bandwagon, taking his comments out of context, twisting them around, and making him appear to be the Adolf Eichmann of comics diversity.

Are there retailers who refuse to order, or who under-order, comics that star black, LGBT, and/or female characters? Of course there are. To quote from Blazing Saddles, “You know… morons.” Gabriel did say that Marvel’s commitment to diversity remains unchanged. He wasn’t backed into a corner and babbling bullshit to save his ass – he was standing behind a commitment made by a Fortune 500 company. Fortune 53 company, to put a fine point on it. And a publicly-traded company at that.

Did Gabriel say it in the most productive way? Hell, I don’t know. I wasn’t there, and I haven’t heard or read the statement in its entire context. At worst, it was phrased in a manner that was not adequately defensive.

In these days of instant communication and instant reaction – and I’m not suggesting this is bad in and of itself – it is virtually impossible to make an important observation that won’t be shorthanded and tossed to the wolves. And I like wolves. I have been one; I will be again. Getting the full story in these days of shortened attention spans and heightened touchiness is a bitch. But it is what it is.

My own takeaway from this affair: First, David Gabriel reported that some retailers don’t like diversity in comics, and I have absolutely no doubt that is true. Second, David Gabriel stood behind Marvel Comics’ commitment to diversity and reaffirmed it.

Corporate America being what it is, that’s not a guarantee. But it is as good as one can expect given the circumstances. Don’t condemn the guy for reporting an observation made by some retailers, delivered at a conference of retailers.

There’s a broader issue, one that I think is at the heart of the criticism. Previously, Marvel announced that this fall their best-known characters such as Iron Man and Thor will revert to their original constructs. We all knew that was coming. I said so in this space before, and I didn’t hear a peep of criticism. But that doesn’t mean that characters such as Captain Marvel, The Wasp or Ms. Marvel necessarily will be altered, and that doesn’t mean that Lady Thor et al will no longer exist.

What we need, and this has pretty much been ComicMix’s point of view all along, is that we must continue to create original characters who are reflective of our entire society. Yes, that is not easy. Absolutely. It’s tough to sell a new character out there. But Marvel has the muscle of Disney behind it, just as DC has the muscle of Warner Bros. behind it. Archie has been doing this for a long time, and some of the “smaller” publishers such as IDW and Dark Horse have plenty of resources.

Diversity is not a fad. No matter how violently some people might react from behind the safety of their internet service providers, this change is here to stay if we remain vigilant and we protect our gains.

Bob Ingersoll: Captain Marvel Fails At Being Civil

The Law Is A Ass Installment # 401

Despite Marvel’s claims about Captain Marvel being a human-Kree hybrid, she must really be an X-Man… because she certainly x-acerbated the whole Ulysses Cain problem.

Civil War II is a series about said the Inhuman Ulysses Cain and the problems he caused for the Marvel Universe. Ulysses, you see, was a seer; able to predict the future. He used mathematics to, “determine, to within a fraction of a percent, the probability that certain events are going to take place.” Kind of like Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory, only more refined. In Dr. Asimov’s Foundation series, Hari Seldon used psychohistory – a discipline that combined history, sociology, and statistical analysis – to make general projections about the future acts of very large groups of people. Ulysses’s brand of mathe-magic let him make specific projections about the future acts of specific people.

And why am I dragging the good Doctor into this? Foreshadowing. Psychohistory contains “psycho.” In comic books, has anything good ever come from something with psycho in its name? Or Civil War in the name, for that matter.

Iron Man overreacted to what Ulysses could do. Ulysses predicted that Thanos was going to invade. Captain Marvel heeded that prediction and sent a superhero team to Thanos’s predicted landing point, so heroes would already in place when Thanos put boots on the ground. Iron Man’s best friend, War Machine, died fighting Thanos. And the Shinola hit the fan. Iron Man kidnapped Ulysses and tortured him to find out how his powers worked. That’s how Iron Man overreacted.*

*(See last week’s column, Boisterous Bob.)

But let’s not spend all our time criticizing Iron Man. It’s not like Captain Marvel didn’t pull out the cooling rods on her own overreacter.

Captain Marvel saw Ulysses as having more potential than stopping random alien invaders. Ulysses could predict when people were about to commit crimes. Captain Marvel realized that if she acted on those predictions, she could “stop tragedies before they happen.”

So Captain Marvel went up to the people who were about to commit crimes and said to them, “Hey, I know you’re about to [insert whatever Ulysses predicted the person would do here]. Don’t do it. Because if it happens, I’m coming right back and arresting you.” Right?Unfortunately, no. That’s only a little onerous. Not nearly bad enough. Think bigger.

Captain Marvel assigned some superhero or government agent to follow the predictive baddie around very noticeably, until the time window for the prediction was over, to make sure the bad guy didn’t do whatever it was Ulysses predicted would happen? That might be a little sword of Damoclesian, but still not nearly authoritarian enough. Think even bigger.

What Captain Marvel did was…

Assembled the Cadets, a “predictive justice” task force composed of volunteers with “unique skill sets.” Then in Ms. Marvel Vol 4 # 8, put the Cadets under the supervision of Ms. Marvel. And not any of the first three Ms. Marvels, you know the adult versions. No Captain Marvel put the current Ms. Marvel in charge. The one who’s still in high school. What’s the matter, Captain Marvel, no supervisors in their terrible twos available?

And why did Captain Marvel think her Cadets needed a teenage mutant ninja babysitter? Well, as Captain Marvel put it, “Until we understand exactly how Ulysses’ powers work, [the Cadets] need to stay within the law.

In Ms. Marvel Vol 4 # 9, we learned exactly how Captain Marvel and her Cadets stayed within the law. By physically rounding up all the people Ulysses predicted would commit crimes and imprisoning them in a makeshift jail in Jersey City until the time frame for their predicted future crimes had passed.

That’s staying within the law the way a kid with a coloring book stays within the lines.

Captain Marvel was an operative of a defense agency which was overseen by a multi-national Board of Governors, so she was an operative of several governments, America included. For our purposes, how many governments doesn’t matter. Just as long as she was an operative of the American government. The government which is, itself, governed by the United States Constitution.

That Constitution says that when a government locks people up for something they haven’t done yet, it denies those people of their liberty without due process of law. The pre-crime detainees haven’t committed a crime yet so, obviously, they haven’t had a trial, let alone been convicted of anything. Nevertheless, they’re being imprisoned. It’s like that old Dostoevsky novel in reverse, Punishment and Crime. Or worse, punishment without crime.

By imprisoning people without due process of law, Captain Marvel was acting unlawfully. People who unlawfully restrain people aren’t the luckiest people. They’re criminals. After all, New Jersey may have been willing to look the other way over Snooki, but it actually has a law against false imprisonment.

So, good job of staying within the law, Captain Marvel. When you were a kid, did you keep secrets by saying, “Daddy, we didn’t go get ice cream today?”

Look, I know this sort of thing happened in the past. During World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were interned without trial for fear of what they might do. But that was decades ago. Has anything like that has happened more recently? Guess I’ll have to Gitmo .

However, just because something that was wrong happened once before, or twice before – or probably more times than any of us really want to know about before – doesn’t mean it’s right for that same wrong to happen now. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two 45̊ angles do.

And, yes, I know Captain Marvel had good intentions. Doesn’t matter. Because it wasn’t just Dostoevsky that got flopped. Captain Marvel’s road to good intentions was paved with hell.

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #400

IRON MAN FAILS AT BEING CIVIL

Well, I can’t put it off any longer no matter how hard I try. And believe me, I’ve tried. Since June of last year I’ve tried. But starting this series of columns – finally starting it – was one of my New Year’s resolutions and I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day. But there’s no putting it off any longer. I’ve got to write about…

Civil War II started in Civil War II #0, but we’re not talking about that issue. The zero issue was all prologue and introduction. I’ve seen fewer setups in a Volleyball match. Civil War II # 1’s where the action is.

Starting with the revelation that there’s a new Inhuman in town.  One named Ulysses whose Inhuman ability is to make predictions about the future. Dire predictions of the future, because where would the super hero story be if Ulysses was predicting sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows I don’t even think predicting somebody was going sleep on the subway, would cut it. (Jeez, when did I start channeling 60s on 6?)

Captain Marvel was delighted with this new weapon she could use to fight big, bad Marvel-style Big Bads. Iron Man, not so much. Iron Man didn’t know enough about Ulysses’s powers or agenda, so didn’t fully trust those predictions of the future. Actually, possible futures as Iron Man pointed out, because the Avengers stopped Ulysses’s first dire prediction — that the Celestial Destructor was going to invade — from happening in the slam-bang all-out action sequence that opened Civil War II # 1.

Iron Man’s problem with acting proactively to stop possible futures was, what if to stop a prediction from coming true, the Avengers had to do something bad? Like kill or imprison some people before they could sire a baby that Ulysses predicted was Hitler reincarnated. He had no problem with using Ulysses’s power to stop the Celestial Destructor from invading. That was an “easy call.” It was the potential Baby Hitler type thing that bothered him.

Iron Man didn’t think the Avengers should use Ulysses. Captain Marvel did. So she used him again. When Ulysses predicted that Thanos would raid Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. to get a piece of the Cosmic Cube, Captain Marvel assembled a team to prevent… (What do you mean, prevent what? Weren’t you paying attention?)

During the battle against the Thanos, War Machine died. When Iron Man learned his best friend died in a battle to prevent one of Ulysses’s predicitons, Iron Man went more ballistic than one of his Repulsor Rays set on overload.

“You killed my best friend. You killed him as good as if you did it with your own hands.” Which was, you should pardon the neologism, alternative facts.

Captain Marvel didn’t kill War Machine, Thanos did. What did Iron Man want the Avengers and War Machine to do? Ignore the possibility that Thanos was determined to strike in the US and let him do it?

If Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. called the Avengers after Thanos started his invasion, would Iron Man have had any problem scrambling heroes, up to and including War Machine, to stop Thanos? Of course not. So what was the problem with sending a group of heroes to Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. before Thanos invaded, so they’d be ready and waiting just in case he did show up like Ulysses predicted?

Not only was Iron Man’s position vis-a-vis the Thanos invasion suspect, it wasn’t even intellectually honest. Hey, Iron Man, remember when you said that using Ulysses’s power to make sure a “big cosmic monster doesn’t invade,” was an “easy call?” What part of stopping a “big cosmic monster” doesn’t apply to Thanos? By my count, it’s none.

Iron Man shouldn’t have been any problem with Captain Marvel’s strategy, except for the fact that for the story to movie forward, it needed Iron Man to act all pissy. So Iron Man acted all pissy and stormed out of the whole comic.

All the way into Civil War II #2.

Where he decided he had to learn how Ulysses’s powers worked. So he flew into the Inhuman’s homc city of New Attilan, grabbed Ulysses, took him to an undisclosed location, tied him to chair, and subjected him to some painful tests to determine the workings of his powers. Reports differ as to whether Iron Man tortured Ulysses. Ulysses said yes. Iron Man said “a little bit.” Let’s just say Iron Man employed some enhanced investigation techniques.

So the man who was worried about Captain Marvel going too far had no problem with invading New Attilan and grabbing up a college student for the purposes of a “little bit” of torture. Iron Man’s standards have more doubles than Wimbledon.

In New York, restraining another person, like Ulysses, of his liberty and holding him in a secret location where he isn’t likely to be found is both unlawful imprisonment and kidnapping.  That’s two felonies from the guy who didn’t want Captain Marvel to go too far. Which, I suppose, is only fitting, Iron Man commited double crimes with his double standards.

During Marvel’s first Civil War, I thought Iron Man acted a little out of character. Now, in Civil War II, with his ends-justifiy-the-means attitude he’s not a little out of character; he’s another character entirely. I’m not sure who. I’m detecting hints of Lex Luthor with traces of Doctor Doom and just a whiff of DeSaad.

Now, I could be wrong about every one of those traces I thought I detected. I don’t exactly have a refined palate. But it’s good enough to know that what Iron Man did was unpalatable.

Mike Gold Reveals The Inevitable

As the year winds down, it is common for wags to predict what is going to happen during the next twelve months. Quite frankly, I find these efforts to be almost always wrong and often ridiculous. However, that usually applies to politics and not to comic books, so this year I’m whipping out my crystal ball and I’m going to predict away.

Mind you, there is absolutely no effort behind this. Each of these are so predictable you wouldn’t be surprised to find them inside a stale fortune cookie. Which is my point. I thought I’d get that out of the way right quick.

I am going to restrict myself to Marvel Comics circa 2017. This is solely because DC Comics did the right thing and admitted The New 52 didn’t work, and Marvel has yet to own up to Civil War 2. Also, it’s about time ComicMix gave Dan DiDio a pass.

Even though they’re numbered, they are in no specific order. Ready?

  1. Steve Rogers will be the back with his round shield and some close form of his historic costume.

Sorry, Sam Wilson, but you knew this would happen. Steve Rogers is Captain America, and that has nothing to do with race or age or even skill. Just as Dick Grayson will never be the permanent Batman, even though a couple hundred other people seem to be right now (sorry, Dan; old habits die hard).

  1. Victor Von Doom will return to his tin can.

Action figures simply do not look good in Armani. I’m not saying Vic will return to his totally evil ways in 2017 – we might endure a Magneto-like moral ambivalence for a while. That’s kind of a shame as I’m enjoying the current storyline, such as it is. However, this will happen because…

  1. Tony Stark will return to his tin can.

Of course he will. Maybe not until after the next Avengers movie, but Tony Stark is Iron Man and that’s that. The movies turned him into an A-list superhero, and swapping out the human inside the can won’t work. Besides, they already gave his teenaged replacement her own code name.

 (A digression, common to ComicMix columns: why are they called “code names?” If you just said “Tony Stark” on an Avengerscom, both SHIELD and Vlad Putin would immediately know you’re talking about Iron Man.)

  1. The Fantastic Four will get back together.

There are several reasons why this will happen. Marvel Master Ike Perlmutter can’t stay in his petulant frenzy forever, and his energy will be divided when the Republican Party finally decides his buddy Donald Trump is too much of a pain in the ass.

Also, The Thing is running out of super-groups to join. Everybody is in The Avengers, and everybody is in SHIELD. But only four people can be in the Fantastic Four (duh!) and The Thing always has been the most popular.

But… Ben Grimm just might move to Israel.

  1. Doctor Strange will lose one of his monthlies.

Doctor Strange might just be my favorite Marvel character (Sub-Mariner gives him a run for his money in my fevered pantheon), but he has rarely been able to support one monthly title, let alone two. Or more; it’s so hard to tell these days. Yeah the movie was big (and great), but there’s no relationship between the number of titles a property can support and the long-term impact of a movie franchise.

Besides, there isn’t a Doctor Strange movie franchise per se. There is only the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, which may or may not extend to their many teevee shows. This is why you will probably pay to see the next Spider-Man movie but you will think twice about the next X-Men team movie.

O.K. These are truly no-brainers, supported by the overwhelming weight of history and a bit more logic than is safe to apply to the comics field. But comics are now acceptable and are big business, so the role logic will play in future decisions just might increase. Eventually.

That’s a shame. Legitimacy takes all the fun out.

Just ask Ike Perlmutter.

Martha Thomases: Geek Humanity

legion-of-super-heroes

As a child, I loved the Legion of Super-Heroes. Teenagers from all over the galaxy formed a club together and saved the universe, sometimes several times an issue.

The rules for joining the Legion were a bit odd and really didn’t stand up to scrutiny. No one could have the same powers as another member, unless they were Superboy, Supergirl or Mon-El. Abilities that were not super on a hero’s planet could qualify that hero for membership, like telepathy and chameleons and magnetism. I suppose if we, as a people, were blind, someone with sight could be a member, but we wouldn’t know because there wouldn’t be comic books because, really, they are better when we can see the pictures.

Anyway, I didn’t really care about the Legion by-laws, since I would be a teenager if, by some chance, I lived 1000 years and could apply for membership. I cared about all these people, so different from one another, who still teamed up and made things better.

So that’s the lesson I’m urging us, the emissaries of Geek Culture, to learn from Where We Are Now.

Since the election results were announced last week, there have been a tremendous number of hate-crimes committed. This is in addition to the uptick in hate-crimes the year before.

These are actual crimes — vandalism, stalking, assault — not just threats and hurt feelings. This is not to say that threats and hurt feelings aren’t real things.

ComicMix pal Heidi MacDonald recently reported on the latest bout of on-line harassment directed her way. If you click on the link and read the comments (which, normally, I would urge you not to do, but this time it’s educational), you’ll see a weird combination of solidarity, rage and condescension.

What struck me most forcefully was the anger some commenters held against superhero comics with female leads, especially if those characters riffed off earlier versions. While I don’t think Donald Trump won the Electoral College because RiRi Williams is Iron Man, he did capitalize on the same rage we see in those fans.

And I don’t get it.

I mean, I understand that it’s annoying when a creative team takes one of my favorite characters in a direction I don’t like. I couldn’t stand what David and Meredith Finch did to Wonder Woman. That said, it was easy enough to skip their run on the title and re-read some of the thousands of other Wonder Woman stories that I had liked previously. I have reason to believe there are a similar number of Tony Stark Iron Man stories out there.

Also, there are lots and lots of other comics written and drawn by people who might have written or drawn a Tony Stark Iron Man story, and they might have stories about other characters that would appeal to this reader.

I have no problem when readers who don’t like RiRi Williams or the Finch version of Wonder Woman complain about the stories they don’t like. I do it all the time. However, I do have a problem when readers who don’t like the direction a series is taking make physical threats against the creators or those critics who do like the series.

Marvel, and DC, and Disney, and other corporations do not owe their customers a steady diet of the same stuff. That would be a business model that is doomed to failure. There has to be constant attempts to broaden the market or in five or six decades, all the existing customers will be dead.

As a fandom, we can’t sit around and gripe when our favorite media (comics, film, TV, music, yada yada yada) don’t spew out a steady stream of the same stuff we loved as children. We cannot expect the entertainment industry to love us as much as our parents did.

Read what you like! Explore a little and, maybe, find more to like! Liking more different things is fun! And teaming up with people different from yourself lets you discover what your own super-powers might be.

Dennis O’Neil Gestures Hypnotically

 

mandrake-the-magician

Chortle chuckle yukyukyuk. O, boy ain’t we having fun hee-hee-hee here in Nyack ho ho ho ho and how about that last Tuesday wasn’t that darn day a rib-tickler heh heh gargle lipticon smoothie ha ha ha ha ha ha giggle snortle honk.

Enough – hee hee – merriment. Where were we? Oh yeah. I sort of vaguely suggested that I might continue last week’s discussion of Doctor Strange, who has been a Marvel Comics character since 1963 and currently is the eponymous star of a big screen movie, the box office champ for the second week in a row (and for a little extra coin you can see this champ in 3-D! And don’t tell me, mister, that life is not a party.

Here I’m going to mention that ComicMix’s resident film critic had a few reservations about the flick and I hereby bow to his acumen; oh and by-the-way he has become one of my favorite reviewers, which strikes me as a bit wonky considering that he’s considerably younger than my youngest child and I’ve known him all his life and a hefty portion of mine and aren’t authority figures supposed to be aged and wizened just like The Ancient One in the Doc Strange yarns and…

mandrake-gesturesHere we are, having survived another digression, back in Doc Strange turf. Yes, the doctor. A conjurer.

His ilk are sprinkled throughout the history of comic books. Before Superman jump-started the business in 1938, a comic strip featuring Mandrake the Magician appeared daily and Sundays in the paper my parents had tossed onto the lawn every day. Mandrake was created by Lee Falk, a St. Louisan, and first appeared in 1934. I’m pretty sure that when I read or at least looked at the strip as a kid I understood Mandrake’s modus operandi: the captions told me that Mandrake “gestured hypnotically” and illusions appeared to gebollix the bad guys. It was an okay gimmick as long as you knew little or nothing about hypnosis and in 1934, who did?

A couple of years later, Lee Falk created The Phantom. The “ghost who walks” – that Phantom – but since he is not a magician, we’ll ignore him.

And speaking of magicians… As a genre, they were never awfully important in comics, certainly no rival to superheroes. Arguably, the most prominent of them was another doctor, surnamed Fate. He could be mistaken for a superhero; he looks superheroish and he’s invulnerable and strong and he can fly and do other stuff. Mostly, he uses sorcery that doesn’t seem very defined, but it doesn’t have to be at long as it’s used judiciously.

About that (those) costume(s): one of the nifty things about the doctor – Strange, not Fate – is that his clothing is definitely a costume, but one that suggests magic. And there are his powers; in a way, he’s a first cousin to Iron Man as both spend a lot of time shooting energy of some kind from their hands – very visual and so very appropriate for comics and, oh heck, we’ll admit it, also to movies. Whoever Doc Strange’s haberdasher was, hooray!

We’ll end with what you can consider another digression, a couple of lines from Lord Byron:

And if I laugh at any mortal thing

‘Tis that I may not weep.

Chortle chortle?