Comics

Weak Storytelling and Mishaps for Marvel

I received an ask on my tumblr asking me if I saw that Steve Rogers was now and always has been Hydra according to new canon. I’m angry enough about this topic to come out of my hiatus to rant.

I’m completely and utterly disappointed in this “new twist” on the Captain America canon, essentially rewriting everything that came before it. This move falls into the [does something dramatic and controversial for shock value] arena of poor writing. I know it’s poor writing, because I’ve written a plot twist in a novel and questioned it every day since. Luckily, the novel isn’t available and I can rewrite my mistakes, and the character isn’t a beloved symbol of good and an example of humble greatness.

The new development was discussed in an interview with Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort by TIME magazine. Marvel writer Nick Spencer apparently pitched the idea, and for the 75th anniversary of our man Steve, there was to be a shocking twist: a good guy was actually a member of a Nazi-adjacent evil organization. This whole time?! This whole time. But why is this a bad thing? From the the representation the character has and how beloved he is, to the concept and timing, it’s bad all around. It’s a recycled story line; they already did this with Ward in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and with the S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra agents in Winter Soldier. It’s a concept for the character that is neither compelling or coherent in thought. Like the killing characters off for shock value trope that has become a tiring staple, this twist is no longer a twist or a continuation of established canon – it’s awkward, offensive, and kind of fucked up. Some people simply don’t care and don’t understand why the outrage. Their response is shrug, big deal, it’ll be forgotten in a few months, but the reaction of people who love the character has been a resounding Fuck This, and I’m obviously in this camp.

[Note: I’m most definitely not in the send death threats to the writer camp either – please don’t do that. That’s more than unhelpful, does not prove any point, and is wrong. Steve Rogers would be ashamed of you.]

Why is this fictional character’s negative characterization so upsetting to me? Just his week, I explained to my oldest what “Hail Hydra” meant and why I didn’t want to hear him saying it again. He actually hung his head in shame the second I mentioned the link from Hydra to the Nazi party, and he’s only ten. He understands Nazi atrocities and what they represent. I hugged him and reassured him that he wasn’t in trouble, and that sometimes we do things we don’t know are offensive because we don’t know the meaning. When you do know the negative meaning of something, whether a symbol or phrase or action, and still perpetuate it,  then you’re an asshole. To hit me a little harder in the gut, I have been hand-painting a Captain America shirt and making a shield for my youngest’s Cap cosplay for Denver Comic Con. He’s eight, and Steve Rogers is his hero. So yeah, it does feel personal.

If this isn’t some bad idea for publicity gone incredibly wrong, it’s an amateurish, gimmicky plot twist that weakens the Marvel brand – a poor move, especially with the MCU being where it is right now. As fans are begging for female driven comics and diversity, excited about Black Panther coming to the big screen, and questioning why the Captain Marvel movie keeps getting pushed back while slipping in yet another Spider-Man reboot and an Ant-Man sequel (but we’re getting the Wasp so…), this only adds to the negativity regarding actions the profit-driven studio heads (i.e. the “women don’t sell toysIron Man 3 fiasco). Creating outrage on social media by disappointing fans equals dollars right? And that’s why we’re here…right? #WeWin.

If they’re doing this story line to avoid Captain America going after the Big Bad of the world at the moment (ISIS) like he was created to do with Hitler, that’s weak. I’m sure if that’s the angle, they would argue that it would cause greater Islamophobia (despite the fact that intelligent people realize that Muslims do not equate to ISIS and the same could be said for the first installments of Cap back in ’41), but how is Steve Rogers being on the side of the anti-semitic Hydra helpful at all when you have a xenophobic “leader” like Donald Trump running for president? Steve Rogers was created by Jewish men (Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) to fight Nazis. He controversially punched Hitler in the jaw before the United States even entered World War II. He questioned his government and its overreaching practices over the years. He is an example of what it means to be on the side that tries to do what’s morally right despite opposition – whether that is internal struggles or fighting against a world power vying for domination and promoting genocide – and to want what’s best for the people of a nation you love.

As the daughter of a Veteran, the wife of a Veteran, and a Veteran myself, patriotism has been gently instilled in me since I was a child, so I know how much a patriotic character with a moral compass means to kids – and how horrible it is to see the needless destruction of heroes when we so desperately need goodness. A rough lesson in how not all “good guys” are great men is one thing; taking a hero like Steve Rogers and making him Hydra – on the 75th anniversary of his creation, close to Memorial Day, and during Jewish American Heritage Month –  is frankly gross.  Watch the special that recounts the history of the character and how people feel about Steve Rogers and tell me this Steve is Hydra! story is a remotely good idea, let alone makes sense for the character, whether in the comics or in the cinematic universe.

Steve Rogers being Hydra goes against everything that the character was created for and fought against for his 75 years of existence. This feels not only like bad writing and poor creative choices, but like a terrible publicity stunt that is working – it’s certainly got everybody talking.

TL;DR – Making a ‘Steve Rogers is Hydra’ story line is utter bullshit, but that’s just one fan’s insignificant opinion.

Review: Batman Vs Superman

It was interesting watching the fans split after Batman Vs Superman‘s opening weekend and the continuing arguments over whether or not the film performed well. With worldwide sales nearing $700 million after its second weekend and owning the slot as the fifth top-grossing opening for a superhero movie, it’s hard to say it was a failure – but people still are.

Warning: Spoilers for Batman Vs Superman below.

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Ashley Wallis, Sagacity, Serene Guipahgo, Original Characters

Sagacity

Over this hiatus I’ve done a lot of art therapy for fun. I’m not an artist by any stretch, but I do enjoy making things, however good or bad I am at it. I’ve worked up graphics for my portfolio, applied to jobs, and actually done no writing. It was kind of nice to have my brain not overworking itself creating something for a moment. But then the Youngest wanted help in creating a superhero for Pop Culture Classroom’s contest at Denver Comic Con. He was really interested, but his attention strayed because…he’s eight. We decided to work on our separate computers on the Marvel website to create a base for a character that we would design and come up with a backstory for, and hopefully end with a comic.

While his mind wandered to something else, I found myself consumed over the past 36 hours with creating this character. I’ve never felt so desperate to make a character happen. Of course I have no idea how to go about making her come to life because she fits into a universe that is established and copyrighted, but here she is.

Disclaimer: None of the Marvel characters or groups listed below are my intellectual property and I have no rights to them. The character that is my intellectual property, including appearance and personality, is Serene Guipahgo (Sagacity). @ Marvel – Hire me. 

Meet Serene.

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Can I buy the Deadpool team a round?

There have been a few comic characters that have consistently stood out to me as being hands down perfectly imperfect and absolutely awesome. While my love for other characters may seem to waver in intensity (and I always have a writer or two I’ll favor over others when it comes to characterization), my love for Deadpool has been steadfast since I picked up the comic a couple years ago – but my adoration for Wade Wilson is nothing compared to that of Ryan Reynolds’.

The beauty of the Deadpool movie is the passion that went into making it. The utter relentlessness and tenacity it took to get this thing made is fucking inspirational. Reynolds took the phrase “if you want something done right, do it yourself” and ran with it, while writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (give these guys a raise) took an amalgamation of characteristics from various Deadpool writers’ take on Wilson over the past twenty-five years to create this awesome cinematic version that is true to the comics. Tim Miller’s vision for the movie and insistence on Deadpool being pansexual made me want to pull a Macho Man Randy Savage Oooooh yeah! and punch a straight white boy whining about Deadpool’s non-existent heterosexuality in the face. I was already sold at the leaked footage, but with the genius marketing team (and Reynolds himself) pushing Fox Studios to the point that those who weren’t completely sold on the profitability of the NSFW style of super hero were probably suffering from stomach ulcers and anxiety, I knew walking in that I was not going to be disappointed – and that’s an amazing feat when it comes to Fox Studio superhero films. The X-Men franchise is one that I always have high hopes for and am slightly disappointed with if not entirely upset that I didn’t spend the time writing crack fiction instead. This time, Fox got it right – thanks to a creative team fighting the studio for Wade the entire way. Honestly, they should be thanking the pains in the ass that kept fighting for this movie to be made for all the heartache.

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Deadpool, Fox Studios 2016

The movie that resulted was a visually pleasing, crass, in-character, fourth wall-breaking ride that had the entire theater laughing. I’ve never been in a theater with so many pleased audience members – except maybe the morons that let their children sweet talk them into taking them to see the R-rated “super hero” flick – which was R-rated for a hundred different reasons, as it should have been; if Deadpool hadn’t been R-rated, it would have been untrue to the character and a disappointment with fans. Thankfully, it wasn’t PG-13’d down. It was oddly refreshing and appropriate to hear “Fuck fuck fucking shitfuck!” coming from the speakers. As for the cinematic elements, even though there were amazingly violent visuals that were on par with the comics, we weren’t overwhelmed with special effects. Other than Colossus and the instances of Angel Dust’s landing and Negasonic Teenage Warhead using her powers, the only obvious special effects sequence is also one that had a lot of physical effects – the road and bridge scene we saw in the leaked footage and the trailers. 

Ultimately, this movie came down to the characters and the story. When it comes to character background, I’ve always leaned toward Marvel because of how much I’m invested in their personal narrative. Whether it’s Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D. agents or Agent Peggy Carter – these characters have stories that are begging to be told and the audience wants to hear, which is obvious with the film and television franchises. Deadpool’s success is notable not only because of the R-rated content, ingenuity of marketing, and unique storytelling that matched wits with the source content, but because of the characters. Had the characters been watered down in either humor or tragedy, this movie wouldn’t have been a success, let alone a record breaking one. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Rhett Reese said that the success of the movie showed “how much people really love character above special effects”, and this is especially true with comic book fans. We love the explosions and fights, but fuck if we don’t love the characters above all else, which the Deadpool team brought in force. Being accurate when it comes to a character and providing an interesting story doesn’t have to involve $100 million in special effects, dramatically and inaccurately killing off a character for shock effect, or laser eyes. Critics are saying this is a game-changer in the super hero movie genre, and I sincerely hope it is. The family-friendly movies are great, but when the opportunity is there to create a movie for adults, why not take it? Sure, there’s not a lot of marketing opportunity for the toy aisle at Target, but I’m sure the adult market will make up for it. Maybe this will finally be the dick waving in the face of the studios that makes them realize it.

DC’s Dawn of the Justice League: Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad

On the CW earlier this week, the network presented a special hosted by Kevin Smith and Geoff Johns. DC Comics: Dawn of the Justice League gave us sneak peeks at the 2017 movie Wonder Woman featuring Gal Gadot and the first trailer for Suicide Squad that we’ve seen since the sneak peek at SDCC 2015.

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Johns and Smith discussing Wonder Woman on the CW’s DC Comics: Dawn of the Justice League

The Wonder Woman exclusive showed the heroine moving through the ages and basically being a badass. Gal Gadot brings Wonder Woman to life fantastically, and I can’t wait to see the full length feature. Gratefully, Smith and Johns seem excited as I am about Diana Prince coming to the big screen, and described her as a “feminist icon”.  I can’t argue.

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I may be a bit biased when it comes to Wonder Woman.

What Marvel missed in the film department, DC picked up on – women and young girls are so there for leading ladies, and I think we’ll be seeing a shift in representation. Recently in regards to Star Wars, it was pointed out that Disney didn’t push Rey merchandise – or have any. They said they didn’t want to give away spoilers, but many fans were left asking, “Bitch, where?” GQ (the magazine using sexy women asking for your email to get you to sign up for their mailing list) pointed out that looking at The Avengers merchandise from 2012, Black Widow was inexplicably absent from shelves with no spoilers linked to the character. The excuse is weak. My youngest son, who was five years old when Avengers came out, asked the same thing, and again with better diction and genuine concern when Age of Ultron was released. Kids pay attention. Hopefully we’ll get a metric ton of Wonder Woman gear for both men and women – and don’t be going pink on me, DC.

The Suicide Squad trailer seduced us with a little “Bohemian Rhapsody” and had a great look, but I’m hesitant to throw all my excitement into this because of the over-hype regarding Jared Leto’s Joker. Personally, as I’m sure everyone does, I have characters I fall in love with written in one way and when seeing them written/portrayed in another way I squint until I’m sure I can let go and enjoy the incarnation I’m seeing. Part of me is worried that Leto’s portrayal will be a brightly colored Kylo Ren – a character believing they’re a badass and completely intimidating, but in actuality is a whiny brat that everyone just wants to avoid any interaction with, and not just because they might be killed. But, I trust David Ayer and John Ostrander to bring a good story, and that’s where the root of the film lies. Besides my character bias, I’m generally a watch and see kind of person – I’ll wade through the negative reviews and give something a chance to see for myself if the criticisms have merit and then make my opinion. So far from what I’ve seen of Suicide Squad, I’m here for Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) and Will Smith (Deadshot) stood out in the initial SDCC first look and the trailer shown during the CW special, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller seems to mirror her outstanding performance as Analise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder. Those three actors alone have me interested in seeing what this movie brings – Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, and Adam Beach as Slipknot gives me something else to look forward to and I can’t help but do some cheering for a diverse cast. 

I hope that we’ll see more specials like this in the future, and not just from DC. The Marvel look into Captain America was wonderful from a historical perspective and the impact comic book characters and representation have on audiences, and my boys loved watching the Justice League special. Kevin Smith’s never ending enthusiasm for comic books makes him an ideal host for these kinds of shows. More content like this, please.


 

On an adorable note: Kevin Smith cooed over Harley Quinn’s bat at the end of DC Comic’s Justice League special, and later brought the bat home to his daughter – Harley Quinn Smith.

She cried on Instagram, asserting her desire to one day play the role of her namesake saying, “I’m not joking when I say I cried for an hour.”

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Harley Quinn Smith with the Good Night bat Margot Robbie used in her role as Harley Quinn for 2016’s Suicide Squad.

[full story at comicbook.com] If that’s not the cutest damn thing you’ve seen today, at least it’s a great example of how these characters, whether they be heroes or villains, and the opportunity to play them mean so much.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here patiently waiting for 2017 and the Wonder Woman movie, and not thinking about how tiny Harley Quinn Smith was when she played Mini-Silent Bob in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and how I watched that movie in theaters with my friends the beginning of my senior year of high school. I hope all your dreams come true, kiddo. Just stop making me feel old.