Tagged: Marvel Comics

Ed Catto: Black Panther, back in the day…

I’m thrilled for the Black Panther’s cinematic success. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s just another a Marvel superhero movie that happens to be about an African superhero. This phenomenon is a great adventure and so much more. It includes the success of a positive message and of a black director and of a mostly black cast. Black Panther explores tough topics including, but not limited to, nationalism, isolationism, the black experience in the US, and the black experience internationally.

This movie quickly went from an event to a celebration. It’s a celebration for the African American Community. The Sunday New York Times had an opinion piece on how it’s a celebration for the Black Nerd Community.  On NPR, I’ve heard Jamie Broadnax, the insightful genius behind the Black Girl Nerds podcast, speak about what it means to her.  I’ve also read her comments in the New York Times Magazine. The Black Panther movie really is a win for all comic nerds, proving that the stuff they like, when done right, can traverse media to entertain and inspire people a global scale.

The opening weekend box office tallies verified that Black Panther is a big deal.  There’s one more success in all this. It’s a more personal, and smaller, celebration in comparison.  But I’m still elated and inspired by this particular one.

Right before going to the theater, I was remembering Jack Kirby’s second round of Black Panther adventures. The great artist Kirby co-created the Black Panther.  I’m a big fan of the man’s artwork, creativity and work ethic. But in 1977, when Kirby returned to Marvel Comics after a creatively explosive sojourn at the competition, one of the many projects he churned out was a new Black Panther comic series.

It was so disappointing to me. Oh, sure, the series was grand and boisterous, like any good adventure should be. But was just too silly and too goofy. I still cringe at the Black Musketeers, a thankfully forgotten concept. At that time, my little gang of comic book pals and I all thought is was absurd. A big part of the letdown was that we were comparing and contrasting this new Kirby comic to the previous Black Panther comic series. That one had blown our collective minds.


Let me set the stage. The Bronze Age version of Marvel’s Jungle Action debuted in 1972. Marvel used this comic to reprint old jungle comic stories like Tharn, The Magnificent, a second-rate jungle lord and two curvaceous jungle queens, Lorna and Jann.  These stories, from a simpler time, didn’t have much to do with the real Africa, or the real world, but they were as enjoyable as they were innocuous.  Through the lens of adulthood, their innocence is soured by the unintentional racism baked into many of the adventures.

After a short time, the old Tarzan knock-off reprints were gone and Jungle Action showcased new adventures of the Black Panther!  I knew that character. I liked that guy. I was excited for this change.

It seemed to me that, T’Challa, the Black Panther,  tended to crop up in other Marvel heroes’ comics. I remembered how he helped Captain America thrash some bad guys in issue #100, and how he seemed to be Daredevil’s buddy in an issue of The Avengers.

Jungle Action comics, now with Black Panther adventures, were something different.  They weren’t silly and they weren’t innocuous.  It was as if an unspoken covenant was forged between the writer and reader.  I could imagine the writer saying, “I’m going to take this very seriously, and work really, really hard on this story. If you come along for the ride, it’s gonna be a little more work, but I think it will be worth it.”

Every panel of these new Black Panther stories were overstuffed with glorious descriptions, insightful dialog and storytelling that bordered on poetry. There was a lot going on. There was a lot to remember. You had to pay attention to this one.  Each issue would take longer to read than other comics. I’d buy a stack of comics, but I  soon learned to save Jungle Action for last because I had to take my time with it.

Jungle Action’s abrupt change came about because the proofreader, Don McGregor, thought readers deserved better. Marvel promoted him to writer and he was off to the races. McGregor soon proved himself to be a superior writer who would go on to build a career with a long list of impressive accomplishments. Don is a romantic with passion for so many things in life. He’s a prince of a guy and one can find so much to admire about both his life and career.

Like so many comic characters, the Black Panther is a crazy quilt of various creators’ contributions over the years. The movie makers had the luxury of cherry picking the best parts and ignoring the rest. But it’s easy to see that so much of this movie is directly attributable to what Don McGregor, and his artistic collaborators, created. Make no mistake, the fingerprints of other talented creators are on screen. But for me, Black Panther seemed like a Don McGregor movie.

One of my favorite parts of this movies’ triumphant box office debut is the celebration of Don McGregor.  Life can be tough. But once in a while, a sweet guy who writes with passion gets his time in the spotlight so we can all pause to say, “Wow, thanks a lot.  You did a really good job.”  Here’s to Don McGregor.

I’m going to celebrate all the successes from Black Panther. And I’m going to keep going until Halloween. Any kids in Black Panther costumes get double treats!

The Law Is A Ass #426: Ant-Man Doesn’t Right The Wrongs Of His Trial

I know you think you know where you are but you’re wrong. You’re 8-years old again, sitting in your dentist’s waiting room with a copy of Highlights for Children, looking at the “What’s Wrong?” puzzle on the back cover. Only this time, instead of one large picture full of things that are wrong to find, it’s 150 pictures. The 150 pictures that made up The Astonishing Ant-Man # 13.

Scott Lang, the astonishing Ant-Man eponymoused in the comic’s title, was on trial for a crime his daughter committed in an act of rebellion. Guess she had grown past the “Bad Boy” stage. In order to protect his daughter, Scott confessed to her crime and now was on trial.

I’m assuming the prosecution’s case came in badly for Scott; it usually does when the defendant confesses. But I can only assume that, because the story didn’t actually show us any of the prosecution’s case. The story started by showing a string of defense character witnesses all called to attest to the fact that Scott was a good guy.

And here’s our first “What’s Wrong?” Scott confessed, remember? Well the thing about confessions is juries tend to believe them. A lot. When the prosecution’s case includes a confession, that’s pretty much, “The state rests.” The defendant could introduce character witnesses that he’d been canonized for driving the snakes out of Ireland and inventing Triple Stuf Oreos; he’d still be convicted. Scott’s entire defense of character witnesses was pretty much the worst defense this side of, “Yes, the defendant ate his victims; but he didn’t eat them raw.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, Scott’s first two character witnesses were Machinesmith – a super villain who said Scott was a good boss, but so were his former employers Arnim Zola and Baron Zemo – and Grizzly, a super villain who said Scott was the only guy who would give Grizzly a chance after he committed all those murders. Which brings us to “What’s Wrong?” deuce, there’s no advantage in calling Nazi employees or mass murderers as character witnesses.

During a recess, Scott was sitting in the hallway. A correction officer was sitting right next to him, like about a foot away. That’s when the prosecutor, Janice Lincoln, approached Scott and told him the reason she left a lucrative civil practice in New York in order to prosecute Scott was Pym Particles, those wondrous things Hank Pym, the first Ant-Man, used to shrink to insect size. See, Janice was a lawyer who moonlighted as a super villain. (Yes, there is so a difference!) She resented the fact that her Beetle identity was the only insect-named character who couldn’t shrink. She told Scott she was going to bring his Ant-Man costume into court for a demonstration and if he provided her with Pym Particles from it, she’d throw the case.

And we have “What’s Wrong?” the drei heaves. No, not that a prosecutor offered to throw a case for a bribe. It happens. What was wrong is that no prosecutor would offer to take a bribe while talking loud enough to be heard by a defendant who was four feet away when a corrections officer was within earshot!

“What’s Wrong?” may the fourth be with you happened when the prosecution presented its demonstration with the Ant-Man costume. No, not the fact that the prosecution called the defendant as a witness. I assume Scott agreed to waive his Fifth Amendment as part of the bribery deal. It’s the fact that the prosecution was allowed to do this after defense witnesses had testified. The prosecution would have rested its case before the defense called its witnesses. The prosecution wouldn’t be able to re-open its case to put on new substantive evidence.

Now this being a comic book that had gone twelve pages without a fight it was about time for the super villains who wanted revenge on Scott to attack the courtroom. Can you guess what happened on Page 13?

Nine pages of fight scene in the courtroom with the judge and jury present later, the villains were defeated and the trial resumed. Which is “What’s Wrong?” the fifth – a fifth being what I need about now. Ant-Man just saved the lives of the judge and jury from some super villains. There isn’t a judge who wouldn’t declared a mistrial and then disqualify both himself and the jury from the case for the reason that Ant-Man just saved their lives. And that would tend to prejudice them in Ant-Man’s favor.

So trial resumed. Janice Lincoln told the court that she and the defendant had reached “a perfectly reasonable, totally illegal [emphasis mine] deal” which the defendant just broke so the prosecutor wanted to get back at him by calling her final witness and convicting him. And we have “What’s Wrong?” six in the city, the prosecutor just admitted in open court in front of a judge, jury, and court reporter that she accepted a bribe.

The fact that Janice called a witnesses after the defense had put on its case is not our next “What’s Wrong?” Prosecutors can’t put on substantive evidence after they’ve rested their case. But they may put on rebuttal witnesses; that is witnesses called for the specific purpose of rebutting evidence offered in the defense case. These witnesses don’t offer substantive proof of the defendant’s guilt, they poke holes in the defense case.

“What’s Wrong?” seven come eleven (don’t worry, we aren’t actually going that high) happened when Janice called Scott’s ex-wife to rebut all the defense testimony of his good character. Janice proceed to lead her own witness by asking question after question which suggested its own answer. However, Janice soon learned she could lead her horse to the Kool-Aid but she couldn’t make her drink it. Because Scott’s ex testified about how wonderful Scott truly was and what a good father he was.

After that turn of my stomach – err events – the jury found Scott not guilty. No, that’s not “What’s Wrong? the eighth, man. I said the jury was probably prejudiced in Scott’s favor after he saved their lives from the super villains. I was right.

I mentioned in the last column that over thirty years ago “The Trial of the Flash”  storyline lasted two years and made lots of mistakes. “The Trial of Ant-Man” lasted only two issues but I’ll bet it made about as many errors in those two issues as “The Trial of the Flash” made in its two years. Any takers?

Mike Gold: Make Mine Marvel Maybe?

If a comics publisher falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound effect?

Marvel Comics has been facing growing dissatisfaction over their sundry practices (both alleged and real) regarding their minority characters, their massive event stunts, some questionable actions by sundry staffers and freelancers… even the less-than-beloved reception to their new Inhumans teevee series, which premiered last month. Long-time Marvel fans – and I’m one of them myself – have never seen Marvel receive the stinky end of the stick before; certainly, not like this.

If you were on Marvel’s staff in some marketing or promotion capacity, you might have looked at last weekend’s New York Comic Con as a great opportunity to shine a light on all the groovy new stuff the House of Idea has in its pipeline. Buff up the shine on the corporate engine, so to speak. After all, New York City is Marvel’s home turf and the Comic Con claims (perhaps correctly) that they attract more visitors than the annual San Diego cluster-kerfuffle. This magic opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ahhh. Sadly, that didn’t work out so well.

First – and through no fault of their own – Marvel had to cancel the NYCC promotion for their new Netflix Punisher series. They even had star Jon Bernthal ready to entertain what was very, very likely to be a standing-room-only crowd. Unfortunately, Stephen Paddock decided to murder some five-dozen people in Las Vegas with a number of his 47 reimagined semi-automatics, and Marvel, like others in the entertainment business in a similar position, canceled the panel. For those who are unaware, The Punisher has been one of the most violent heroic fantasy characters since The Spider, back in the 1930s. It’s completely proper for Marvel to show its respect in this manner.

Still, it was a blow to their promotion campaign.

Almost immediately after that, Marvel found itself getting an overwhelming amount of criticism from just about every conceivable corner of our own personal Bizarro World for climbing into bed with Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest defense contractors. This bothered a lot of people, even though the campaign supposedly focused on Northrop Grumman’s aerospace activities.

Lots of folks – fans, retailers, comics professionals – pointed out that Marvel has spent a lot of time and energy bragging about how war profiteer Tony Stark abandoned his munitions business for moral reasons in their comic books and, now, their movies. If you conflate Northrop Grumman with Stark Industries (in all its names), you’re left with the reality that, unlike Stark, Northrop Grumman is all too real. In other words, they really make a lot of stuff that kills people. Sort of like Stephen Paddock, but without the profit incentive.

So Marvel killed that campaign, removed all presence from its online activities, and cancelled that NYCC panel as well. I feel their pain; nobody enjoys watching Daffy Duck get cheered on by the crickets.

Typically, one would think the only way Marvel can work its way out of their deep promotional hole is to produce better comic books. But, really, comic book sales are so low that the bad press exceeds the positive impact of better stories – even if anybodymreally knew what the general public considers “better comic books.” Besides, it takes a long time to produce comics stories – particularly when one has to consider the four-dimensional domino effect that comes along with being faithful to current continuity.

One would think that, 20 years from now, Spider-Man and the X-Men and the Hulk will still be around and all this would be on the level of a fart in a blizzard. I certainly hope that’s true, but being a Geek Culture historian, I am reminded that damn near everybody in America used to be quite familiar with The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, The Saint and Nick Carter… characters that have been revived frequently (and, often, bizarrely) but achieved little or no traction. It can happen to every commercial product. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to buy Burma Shave.

I hope this does not happen. I’ve been a comics fan since Eisenhower was president; I wouldn’t know what to do with my time.

Besides, I miss The Fantastic Four.

 

Mike Gold: How Are You Getting Your Marvel Stories?

In this very space last week, I suggested there was a reason Marvel’s sales are off that is in addition to the negative reader reaction to such events as Civil War 2 and Secret Empire.

Let’s spread some numbers around. Buying into these mega-events is expensive. Each consists of dozens and dozens of comics — mini-series, tie-ins, one-shots, and so on. Each event takes about 50 or 60 hours to read in their entirety. The post-event comics come out after that, and you might be compelled to check out a few of the ongoing titles where the event changed the characters therein, although Marvel usually abandons those changes around the time the next relevant movie comes out. That’s more money and more time.

The whole thing takes the better part of a year to unfold; longer, as these days each Marvel event tends to segue into the next. You’ve got to work hard and spend a lot of money to complete a satisfying story, even if – as in the case for many with Civil War 2 and Secret Empire, you didn’t find the story all that satisfying.

However, for roughly the price of three individual comic books you can buy a ticket to the latest Marvel movie and get what is usually a satisfying experience — and your friends can join you in that experience. Of course, one should add the cost of an overpriced box of Snow Caps or some such to the tab.

You can watch as many Marvel teevee shows as you can absorb, and many of them are quite entertaining. Or if you want, you can wheel a cooler filled with snacks and drinks into your bathroom, bring in a tablet or a laptop computer, and stream an entire season of one of Marvel’s many, many Netflix series. As long as nobody else needs that toilet, you’re in superhero heaven with a story complete with a beginning, a middle and an end. I, for one, found the recent Marvel’s The Defenders to be very entertaining. Your opinion might differ, but it really shouldn’t.

If you’re already a Netflix subscriber, it’s free. If not, well one month of Netflix costs a hell of a lot less than one week’s worth of the current Mighty Marvel Event and you get enough other Netflix shows and movies to fill the Pacific Ocean. You will spend less time, energy and money following your favorite Marvel media madness than plowing your way through a pile of event comics that are mediocre at best.

So, I ask you this: even this particular competitive environment… who needs to buy all those comic books? And maybe that’s okay by Marvel’s owner, the Mickey Mouse corporation. They understand how to make and how to market movies and video. This comic book stuff goes against everything the bean-counters learned in MBA school – as far as those suits are concerned, everybody in the comics racket talks like Bizarro Number One.

Indeed, the profit of Marvel’s new comic book output for an entire year is dwarfed by the profit from the last Avengers-themed motion picture alone — even if those publishing profits had somehow mysteriously doubled.

I’m not suggesting Disney might not want to publish new comics, but as a return on investment, those resources might be more profitably allocated to the media side.

Shhhh! Don’t tell the Mouse! He can be a real rat, and rats don’t eat staples.

Many wags think someday Mr. and Ms. Consumer will shout enough is enough and demand superhero shows be replaced by… I dunno, maybe westerns or something equally trendy. I’m sure we won’t be seeing half-billion-dollar cape flicks in the theater with the near-monthly frequency we’re seeing now, but who knows? We’ve always had superhero movies and superhero stories, from the Scarlet Pimpernel to Sherlock Holmes to Zorro to Tarzan. The only question is quantity.

Does Disney care? Well, they’ll say they do, but they own all those Disney properties which, these days, includes the Marvel characters, the Star Wars empire, the Muppets, and Pixar. It’s not like they won’t have anything to whenever the superhero trend fades a bit.

Disney did not do much in the way of original Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons for several decades, and they don’t do all that much with them today. Yet they continue to sell a lot of Mouse and Duck product of all sorts. They do not need to publish Marvel comic books in order to keep Captain America and Groot in the public mind.

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #409

JESSICA JONES RECONSTRUCTS THE CRIME

Well, I can’t put it off any longer no matter how hard I try. And believe me, I’ve tried.

The last time I started a column with those words we were engaged in a not-so-great Civil War. It’s how I began my multi-column series on Marvel’s Civil War II. Today we turn to the aftermath of Civil War II. Call it Marvel’s Reconstruction Era, only the historical one was probably less painful.

Inhuman Ulysses Cain predicted future crimes. Captain Marvel arrested everyone the predictions said would commit some future crime and put them in jail. I wrote about why this was against the law. You know, it’s a pity that this Captain Marvel is forcing a perfectly respectable Captain Marvel  to call himself Shazam.

One of the future criminals Captain Marvel imprisoned was Allison Green. Problem was, the prediction about Allison was wrong. She was neither a terrorist nor a criminal mastermind. Or wasn’t until she got so upset by what happened to her that she dedicated herself to bringing down Captain Marvel and other super heroes. Then she became both.

Toward this end, Alison formed an anti-super hero network which Captain Marvel wanted to infiltrate. Toward that end, Captain Marvel enlisted former super heroine turned private investigator Jessica Jones. They faked a fall from grace that sent Jessica to jail and ruined her reputation. Then they dangled the Jessica bait in front of Allison Green.

This fake-somebody’s-fall-so-the-badguys-will-recruit-him ploy was already old when 77 Sunset Strip used it in its first season, and that was so long ago that even men of a certain age are too young to have seen it first-run. (Only men of an more uncertain age, like me, had that chance.) Still, the ploy worked as well as it did back when Hector’s grandfather was a pup. Allison Green scooped up Jessica and in Jessica Jones #6, Jessica lured Captain Marvel into Allison’s trap.

This ploy only works if the big bad cooperates by revealing his or her plan. Allison did not disappoint, other than that she fell for a trick as old as the fruit salad in the Garden of Eden. She monologued like she was performing every tragedy Shakespeare ever wrote. She admitted she was going to kill the Champions and make it look like it was their fault then use the ensuing chaos to turn people against the super heroes. “The world is going to burn you all at the stake. The heroes are going to try to fight back and that ensuing ugliness is the end of the age of heroes.”

At which point, Captain Marvel and Jessica Jones revealed their plan, arrested Allison, and told her that she was going to a deep, dark prison cell where the S.H.I.E.L.D. Psych Squad would “pull all the other names and details of your burgeoning organization right out of your head … whether you like it or not.”

This story raised a few questions. I have a few answers. Let’s hope as many answers as there were questions.

Was faking Jessica Jones’s fall from grace so Allison Green would recruit her into her evil empire entrapment? No.

Entrapment happens when law enforcement officials originate a criminal design and implant the disposition to commit a crime into an innocent person’s head. If an undercover cop offers to sell someone drugs, that would be entrapment, as the government planted the idea of buying drugs into the innocent person’s head.

Allison Green was about as innocent as a newborn babe thirty-six years later; after he had become a paid assassin. She had already committed some crimes. She formed an organization to commit more crimes. Jessica did not implant the idea of committing crimes in Allison.

Did Allison’s monologued confession violate the Fifth Amendment guarantee against self-incrimination? No.

Captain Marvel and Jessica Jones tricked Allison into confessing, so there was state action. But the state action has to force the criminal to confess in order to violate the Fifth Amendment. Allison gave her confession like she was entering Dracula’s castle, freely and of her own will.

If the S.H.I.E.L.D. Psych Squad extracts information from Allison’s brain “whether she likes it or not,” would that information be suppressed under the Fifth Amendment? Hell yes!

In Schmerber v. California, the Supreme Court ruled the police could forcibly take a blood sample from a suspected drunk driver. But taking evidence using a bodily intrusion could only be done after the police obtained a search warrant. Schmerber allowed this because blood samples are not testimonial in nature. That meant only Fourth Amendment search and seizure law applied, not Fifth Amendment self-incrimination law.

Non-testimonial evidence is evidence which doesn’t require the suspect to reveal anything. As the Supreme Court noted in Curcio v. United States, the Fifth Amendment prohibits forcing someone to “disclose the contents of his own mind.” Ordering a defendant to produce blood samples, fingerprints, or the like does not require a defendant to “disclose the contents of his mind.”

Extracting thoughts from a criminal’s brain by telepathy “whether she likes it or not,” on the other hand, does force the defendant to “disclose the contents of [her] mind.” Literally.

So Captain Marvel, if you want to teep Allison’s house – well, her mental house, as it were – I have some advice; don’t. Any evidence telepathically extracted from Allison’s mind would be inadmissible because it would violate her Fifth Amendment rights. In addition, under the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine, that evidence wouldn’t be admissible against any member of her “burgeoning organization” either. Apparently Civil War II didn’t teach Captain Marvel anything about the law, because her costume is still a fascist statement.

Last, and most important question, do I have any more columns about Civil Wars II on tap? You’ll be glad to know, the answer is no.

Dennis O’Neil: Marvel’s Blame Game

The first time you ever ate a Yummy-Lump candy bar – second grade, wasn’t it? – you were sure you’d never tasted anything so good and you couldn’t wait to taste another. You didn’t have to wait long. Your aunt – the one who lived upstairs and always smelled like wet laundry – loved Yummy Lumps and when she learned that you, too, favored that sugary delight she took it upon herself to be certain that you were never without it. Nice aunty!

Day after day, year after year as soon as you passed through the front door your aunt hit you with the candy and, dutifully, you unwrapped and bit and chewed because aunty was nice and besides your mother seemed to be afraid of aunty and told you that you’d best not offend her sister and so you didn’t. The candy made you want to puke, but so what? You ate it and ate it and ate it…

All this has exactly what to do with the nominal subject of these comments, comic books?

A while back, in what has become a reliable supplier of comics news, and I refer to nothing less than the August New York Times, the paper ran a story headlined Dont Blame These Heroes for Slumping Sales. The adjacent story told the world that, as the headline proclaimed, Marvel Comics was off its game in the money-making department. That’s disconcerting, but far from catastrophic, but the situation got worse when a Marvel executive blamed the faltering sales on the company’s diversity.

Time was, not so long ago, that Marvel’s primary product was superhero stories featuring costumed good-guy vigilantes who went around having double identities and kicking heinous ass. These stalwarts were, with few exceptions, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. (Okay, I’m not sure about the “Protestant” part. Matter of fact, these folk didn’t seem to have religions. Did this disqualify them from seeking elected office?)

Now, though superheroes come in diverse sizes, shapes, genders, ethnicities, orientations. (Of course, you know all this.) The Marvel exec apparently blamed limping sales on the diversity of revamps of familiar characters. The story mentions a female Thor, an Asian Hulk and a black Captain America.

But a respected comic shop owner in San Francisco, Brian Hibbs, disagreed. Mr. Hibbs blames Marvel’s woes on the plethora of series reboots with a Number 1 on the cover. (Number ones can be marketed as collectors’ items and so hobbyists may decide to buy extra copies; the flood of new series (more collectors’ items and the satisfaction of being there from the beginning) andt he promise of significant changes in storylines where, it turns out, there are none.

Questionable marketing tactics, unfulfilled promises and maybe just too much of the same stuff… In olden days these special issues were rare and maybe appeared when someone had a story idea that demanded special handling, and not one that existed just to sweeten profits.

There is, of course, no reason why a comic continuity can’t do both, but maybe it’s not a good idea to do them both every day.

Yummy-Lumps aren’t always yummy.

John Ostrander: Quo Vadis 2017?

Well, it’s 2017. The very first day. It’s the time of year when folks look backwards into what has been, and try to give it some perspective and look forward to what may come. It’s also when some folks make resolution of what they’re going to do differently now that they have a clean slate. I don’t. It’s not that I don’t have many faults to correct (I do) but I know I won’t even remember them in a week or so, let alone keep them.

What I’m going to do is look forward, not with predictions, but what I would like to see in the coming year in pop culture.

I’d like to see the Fantastic Four published again— but only if Marvel remembers what they’re about. This isn’t just a team, it’s a family. You can’t remove one and plug in someone else. And family is often messy. One of the great things about the FF in its early years was that they didn’t always get along. That resonated. Later, it became a cliché but that’s because the squabbling felt pro forma and not organic. Squabbling became part of the formula instead of revealing character and relationships. It wasn’t new; it became rote.

The other thing the Fantastic Four was about was discovery. It bounced from one new idea to the next – Galactus, the Inhumans, the Negative Zone, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, and more. It was always throwing out new concepts. This is why it was the foundation of the Marvel Universe. It’s why it was indeed what it proclaimed on its masthead: the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.

Which is the next thing that I’d like to see this year – more new ideas, more imagination. There’s a lot of that, for sure, in the Independents but the Big Two could use a shot of both. Changing the sex, race, ethnicity of a created character doesn’t qualify in my book especially since, sooner or later, the character will revert to who/what they were. It’s always happened in the past.

I’m not arguing against diversity in comics; I’ve always done diversity. Witness Amanda Waller, Oracle, Mr. Terrific (II) and so on. Switching existing characters isn’t the same thing; not in my book. It becomes just another stunt. Create new characters, make them cool, and put some push behind them. Add them to your comics, your movies, your TV shows, your animation, your video games.

Wait, there’s a rub and I know what it is. To do that you need Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Will Eisner and so on. You need creative people and they would prefer to keep those characters for themselves, put on a Kickstarter, and own the rights. Corporate doesn’t want to do that; they prefer to do endless regurgitations and variations on what they already own. Slap a new coat of paint on that baby! That’s the ticket!

Why should creators sign away their creations? What the Big Two has to offer is bigger sales and possible translation into other media. Some creators still won’t go for it but others will— if they have a share of what comes in and some measure of control.

I’d also like to see a new definition of metahumans in society. Marvel made a big difference when it started up because their heroes had psychological problems, personal concerns, and often were acting out of guilt over something. Marvel became successful because they seemed new and closer to the world in which the rest of us lived. It re-defined the genre.

That was fifty years or so ago.

How about another re-definition that fits our times, our lives as they are lived now? Brian Michael Bendis certainly did that with Powers, for example. How about a whole line of comics that does that? Wouldn’t that be better than Civil War II (III,IV) or Crisis on Infinite Somewhere? Start by looking around and asking, “How can we make our universe more like the world outside? Make it mirror the questions and concerns people have right now?”

Anyway, that’s my rant. . .er, wish. . . for the New Year’s. Feel free to join in. What is your wish list for the coming year in comics? Not predictions; what do you want this year? Could be interesting.

And Happy New Year to you all.

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #393

ANT-MAN HITS THE HEIST

Sometimes I wonder why I bother getting out of bed.

So Scott Lang, former thief and current Astonishing Ant-Man, has a daughter, Cassie. Cassie is a teenager, meaning she’s in that rebellious stage. We’re not talking tattoos, emo outbreaks, and staying out after curfew to be with that boy. We’re talking the Boxer Rebellion of teenage acting out. Cassie decided that to get what she wanted, she should become a super villain.

What did she want? Revenge on industrialist inventor Darren Cross for one. Kind of a non-standard goal for an angst-ridden teenager, but Cassie had a kind of non-standard childhood, what with her having super powers, losing those powers, dying, and being brought back to life. Then there was the time, Cross’s son kidnapped her and stole her heart because he needed a transplant for his father. So I can see where Cassie might go all Wrath of Kahn  on Cross and start spitting at him for hate’s sake. (Okay, we know Captain Ahab beat Kahn to the “Hell’s heart” shtick, but Cassie’s young; she may not know from Moby Dick. To her a rousing sea story is probably Finding Nemo.)

Anyway Cassie went to Power Broker, a super villain whose gimmick is that he supplies super powers to people who want to become super villains in return for a cut of their ill-gotten gains. He even has an app – Hench– that people needing super villains can use to find his super villain database and find the suitable villains to hstingerire. And, it turns out, Power Broker has his own mad on for Darren Cross, because Cross’s son stole the platform for Hench and started a rival super-villain-hiring app, Lackey. So Power Broker convinced Cassie to undergo his process and regain her former powers.
She did and became Stinger, an insect-motifed super villain.

Power Broker wanted Cassie to use her Stinger powers to break into Cross’s super secure facility and retrieve Lackey. Cassie agreed. That way both she and Power Broker would get their revenge. (By the way, contrary to popular belief, revenge isn’t a dish best served cold. That would be vichyssoise. And I don’t really recommend adding either to your meal plan.)

When Scott learned what Cassie was up to, he gathered together a group of super powered individuals – himself, the new Giant-Man, Darla Deering AKA Ms. Thing, Grizzly, Machinesmith, Whirlwind, The Beetle, The Magician, The Voice, and Hijacker – to break into Cross’s super secure facility and rescue Cassie.1u1jnc Their twenty-two step plan succeeded well enough to get everyone into the facility. Then the team separated. The super-villains in the team – you did notice that most of the team was comprised of super villains, didn’t you? – went off to fulfill their goal, stealing technology from Cross. Scott headed off on his own for his goal, to rescue Cassie.

Scott found Cassie, who was in the middle of a face-to-face confrontation with Darren Cross, Cross’s son, and their super villain bodyguard, Crossfire. That’s when things went…

Ah, but you don’t want me to give that away, do you? I mean that would be a SPOILER and I’d have to do a SPOILER WARNING! and everything. Even though this is issue 9 which would be a bad place to stop a story arc, because 9 is a bad number of issues to collect into a trade paperback, so you probably already know the story was be continued in the next issue, you still don’t want me to tell you that things go badly and Ant-Man is captured by Cross and Crossfire. Right?

Okay, fine. Things go badly and Ant-Man is captured by Cross and Crossfire. Happy?

Now I’ve written before about my problem with super heroes who do stupid things that essentially break the law. But rather than do that, and like I said earlier, I shoula stood in bed, because apparently no one listens or cares. Hell, The Astonishing Ant-Man # 9 didn’t just not care, it doubled down on the trope. Instead of having Ant-Man do something stupid that essentially broke the law, this story astonished us by having Ant-Man do something stupid that actually broke the law.

Ant-Man teamed up with a bunch of super villains to break into a technology research facility. Sure Ant-Man’s motives were a little more pure than thieving. He wanted to rescue his daughter and keep her from becoming a super villain. But to do that, he aided and abetted a group of super villains he knew were going to burgle the research facility. That makes him just as guilty of their thefts as they are, even if Ant-Man didn’t, himself, steal anything. Ant-Man even knew he was guilty, because his narrative caption joked, “Cue Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack.” (BTW, Scott, your quip doesn’t work. In case you didn’t notice, or can’t count, there were only ten of you.)

I can’t say as I’m impressed with Scott’s parenting skills. I’ve got to show my daughter that the way to solve your problems isn’t to become a super villain. So I’ll solve that problem by becoming a super villain. I’d hate to see what Scott’s solution is when Cassie comes to him because it’s time for “the talk.”

Oh, and lest you think I’m being a little hard on Scott, because he wasn’t really a thief and his heart was in the right place, think again. Everything the astonishing Ant-Man did in this issue proves that, contrary to popular opinion, he was a thief. What did he do? He staged an elaborate heist to break into Darren Cross’s super secure technology research facility to steal something, only to be captured by Cross. See, Scott is a thief. He totally ripped off the plot to the Ant-Man movie.

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #390

MARIA HILL’S CONSTANT-TUTIONAL VIOLATIONS

For a place that has Matt Murdock, Jennifer Walters, Franklin Nelson, Jeryn Hogarth, Bernadette Rosenthal, Kristen McDuffie, Blake Tower, Rosalind Sharpe, Isaiah Ross, Holden Holliway, Emerson Bale, Dennis Bukowski, Grace Powell, Matt Rocks, Connie Ferrari, Justin Baldwin, Jason Sloan – Okay, >>gasp pant<< let me catch my breath here – Ebenezer Wallaby, Maria Alvarez, Maxine Lavender, William Hao, Nelson Mandella, and even some guy named Robert Ingersol (no relation); I can’t understand why the Marvel Universe doesn’t have any lawyers in it.

Now, I know you may think all of those people – and several others, I didn’t mention for fear of really padding my word count – are lawyers. Marvel may even think they’re lawyers. Trust me they’re not. Based on what I saw in Captain America: Sam Wilson #9, no one in the Marvel Universe would know what to do in a bar, let alone in a bar exam.

It’s like this. Maria Hill, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., had Cosmic Cube fragments which her superiors ordered her to destroy. She didn’t. Instead she used their reality-altering power to create a super villain gulag that looked like a small American town called Pleasant Hill. She wiped the memories of several super villains so that they believed they were normal people who lived in Pleasant Hill. It was a Norman The Rock-well painting.

Several teams of Avengers found out about Pleasant Hill and went there to shut it down. At the same time, all the inmates dirtied their newly washed brains and revolted. So all hell broke loose.

Meanwhile, the Cosmic Cube fragments coalesced into a sentient being which took on the form of a little girl who left Pleasant Hill and was loose in the world. And did I happen to mention criminal mastermind and terrorist Baron Zemo had escaped and was also loose in the world?

To quote Joe Higgins, the Dodge Sheriff, Maria Hill was, “in a heap o’ trouble.”

Except that she wasn’t.

When Hill was confronted by some sort of informal Avengers tribunal composed of Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, Rogue, Tony Stark, and The Vision; Hill freely admitted Pleasant Hill violated the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment. Then she pled her case. She argued she shouldn’t be arrested and tried as that would make Pleasant Hill and the fact that there was a sentient Comic Cube wandering around as a little girl public knowledge. So they had to keep the whole Pleasant Hill debacle quiet.

Which makes a certain amount of sense except for two things; 1) it makes no damn sense at all and 2) we’re talking about S.H.I.E.L.D., a shadowy super spy organization. As a shadowy super spy organization in good standing, S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t arrest or try Maria Hill. It would black site her. Unless it decided to terminate her employment. With extreme prejudice.

Even worse, however, was Maria Hill’s second line of defense, what happens if the lawyers for the Pleasant Hill inmates find out about the cruel and unusual punishment that went on there? “I’ll tell you – Every single one of them – the mass murderers, the cosmic-level threats, the ones with poor personal hygiene – they will all go free.” To which Rogue responded, “Damn it, she’s right,” and the rest of the Avengers tribunal concurred.

Proving, as I said before, that there are no lawyers in the Marvel Universe.

If there were, then one of them – probably more than one, but at least one of them – would have pointed out the fatal flaw in Maria Hill’s argument. That’s it’s complete and utter taurus turds.

Want to know what happens when a court rules a prison is subjecting its prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment? It makes the prison stop doing whatever it was doing that was cruelly and unusually punishing. But it doesn’t make the prison release all the cruelly and unusually punished.

Prisoners are in prisons because they’ve been convicted of crimes. They had their due process. Now the government has the right to imprison them. That doesn’t change just because a prison may have been inflicting improper punishment. The government still has the right to imprison them, just in a different way.

But don’t take my word for it. Look at some history. (Yes, summer school history class. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short.)

Waaay back in 1972, the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment. When it did, it didn’t order the prisons to release all the murderers who were on death row. It just had the prisons transfer them out of death row and into general population. Prisoners who were subjected to said cruel and unusual punishment aren’t automatically freed.

Maria Hill may have been an interesting character once. She’s not anymore. She’s become one-dimensional, strident, extremist, and, quite frankly, boring. And I’d really like to see her disappear forever.

The last thing I want to see is for her to continue on exactly as before. No, wait, that’s the second-to-last thing I want to see. The last thing I want to see is a spin-off series starring Maria Hill; Tales From the Crypto-Fascist.