After Zelda, Superheroes Were My Gateway To Fantasy.

After the news of celebrated writer and artist Darwyn Cooke’s passing, I picked my copy of Absolute DC: New Frontier and absorbed Cooke’s love letter to the Silver Age of the DC Universe.

It’s massive scale and the enormous cast of diverse characters combined with the lingering thoughts about Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World reminded me that after The Legend of Zelda it was superhero comics that opened the gateway for my love for fantasy.

The similarities between the two are surprisingly plentiful. Just to name a few:

  • Garish costumes.
  • Systems of magic.
  • Unusual names and codenames.
  • The use of symbology.
  • Enhanced or enchanted armor, weapons, and items.
  • Prophecy and legends influencing the protagonists.
  • History, mythology, and continuity that dates back before a current story but has a lingering effect.
  • Multi-faceted heroes and villains that walk the moral line.
  • Archetypal heroes and villains that serve as both characters and symbols for their cause.
  • Conflicts on the micro scale within close knits groups,
  • Macro scale conflicts that put universes in jeopardy,
  • and those in-group conflicts affecting the chance of success of resolving those universal threats.
  • War: The consequences of war, the threat of war, and the aftermath of war.
  • Death: Heroes, villains, love interests, and side characters all dying and in some cases, coming back.

Superhero comics do have the advantage of being broad enough in storytelling that it can encompass many genres including fantasy. A majority of DC’s magic users, including Etrigan, John Constantine, Dr. Fate, Swamp Thing, Alan Scott, and oh, I don’t know, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman all either dip their toes or fully submerge themselves into fantasy.

What it comes down to is world building. If you can understand the chaos that is the worlds of Marvel and DC then remembering the houses on Game of Thrones isn’t that difficult. What’s different is that for Marvel and DC the rules are always changing. What most fantasy tends to do is either established the rules early on or establish the rules and break them early on to create conflict. This is because eventually those fantasy stories are going to end. Comic book companies are in the business of keeping their stories running for as long as they sell. Thus their characters have to change overtime but not necessarily evolve.

Plus, most series of fantasy novels are written by one creator while superhero comics is a ever-spinning turnstile of different writers and artists. Their environment, purpose, supporting cast, powers, appearance, and even their history could change from one writer to another. Elements that stem from roots in fantasy could not longer be in fashion. Now, their powers, equipment, cast, or origin may not be science fiction in nature.

This can be frustrating to the reader which could not be more apparent with the recent developments in [spoilers] DC Universe Rebirth and the first issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers. Change is acceptable in a fantasy novel, especially a series with no previous history (real world history that is) but not so with most superhero comics considering their long history dating back to World War II. Even new superheroes have this struggle because by the time you establish a new character in an ongoing over a certain amount of issues any change you make is going to met with resistance from your readers.

That and the price is why I made the jump. I was frustrated by bad writing of characters I loved and the ever increasing price of comics versus the price of books made the switch easy. Fantasy novels have stayed relatively the same price, they have a more complete story, no other bad writer is coming in and fucking up what the good writer has done, there are no editorial mandates to fit within a big event happening in another series, and  the story is self-contained.

Still, I may never hace found fantasy without superhero comics.

You Should Watch Jessica Jones Even If You’re Suffering From Superhero Fatigue.

Jessica Jones, the second Netflix series leading up to The Defenders premiered on Friday, November 20th, starring Krysten Ritter as a super-powered private detective with a penchant for drinking whiskey, swearing, barging in without asking, and wearing the same jeans, boots, and leather jacket throughout the thirteen episodes.

She’s complicated and she’s not alone. She’s rounded out with a slew of side characters with their own complications and what may be Marvel’s most compelling and scariest villain.

That’s right. David Tennant, who might be yours and is my favorite iteration of the Doctor from Doctor Who take Zebediah Killgrave a.k.a. The Purple Man and makes your skin crawl with his mind controlling powers. He’s a killer, a rapist, and under it all he believes he’s the nice guy with impeccable taste.  Like any good villain, he believes he’s doing the ring thing but what makes Tennant’s Killgrave interesting is that he’s clueless to what right and wrong are. He’s been using his powers for so long he’s only figured out now as an adult that getting what you want all the time isn’t as satisfying as earning it. He’s a petulant child in a man’s body who can control minds. This has made him a complete and utter monster.

Luke Cage, on the other hand, I can’t get enough of. When is the Luke Cage series premiering? Not until after Daredevil season two? Jesus, I can’t wait that long. Mike Colter’s Cage complements Jessica Jones’ brash, blunt and snarky attitude with a quiet stoicism. While Jessica says exactly what she wants when she wants to Luke says  so much with his body language that he can be careful with his word choice. I need that Luke Cage series now.

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones romance, relationship, fling or whatever you want to call it played well. You want it to happen. You want to find out if you’re in the know about his character if this takes place before Cage gets his powers or after. Then when you find out he does, you want Cage and Jones to get together but it gets complicated. These complications are part of the story without overtaking Jessica’s plot. Their relationship is part of Jessica’s life. That part of her life does not consume the entire story. It remains just a part and the series is better off for it.

Jessica’s line, speaking about her powers, about not hiding them but not advertising them either perfectly sums up the approach to powers in this street level. There’s no complicated retelling of her backstory. We just get bits and pieces of it as the story moves forward which is how exposition should be delivered. Over food, Jessica says she got her powers in an accident and Luke explains he got it in an experiment. Done and done. Killgrave’s origins are used as a motivating factor for his behavior, but he’s not constantly bringing it up.

The cast is filled out by Trish “Patsy” Walker, Jeri Hogarth, Will Simpson, Hope Schlottman, and Malcolm Ducasse all going through their own stories that spread out to introduce minor characters and wind up interconnected with Jessica’s. Not every character makes out of this first season alive. Jessica Jones has a high body and two deaths, in particular, are incredibly troubling, choice wise.

Do you remember Ben Urich in Daredevil’s first season? One of the best non-superhero characters in the Marvel Universe played by the brilliant actor Vondie Curtis-Hall and they killed him off. A waste and one of the biggest missteps of Daredevil’s first season. As a result, it is a bit strange that Jessica Jones has a similarly grizzled old black man, a detective this time, killed off for not a fucking good reason whatsoever. Played by Clarke Peters, whose character Lester Freamon on The Wire was one of the best, should have been a mainstay, just like Ben Urich, but is used as a plot device to further Will Simpson’s subplot involving a different kind of morality in regards to how Killgrave should be handled. Again, what a fucking waste.

Speaking of more waste, why does Marvel kill off all of its villains? Is it trying to tell us in the “real world” the only choice when dealing with these kinds of characters is death? That’s ridiculous. Obadiah Stane, Laufey, Whiplash, Red Skull, Malekith, Baron Von Strucker, Yellowjacket, Ronan the Accuser, Dr. Arnim Zola, Ultron, Alexander Pierce, John Garret, Daniel Whitehall, Jiaying, and now Zebediah Stane have all been killed off. For a company trying to build a cinematic universe that’s going to last for years killing off all your villains isn’t going to work well moving forward.

That being said, I’ll take season one of Daredevil and Jessica Jones over The Avengers: Age of Ultron any day. Jessica Jones is a mish-mash of the superhero genre, detective noir, and horror. It has mental health issues, relationship issues, knock-down drag-out fight scenes, women’s issues, drug issues, alcoholism, superheroes, supervillains, superpowers, sex, love, and most importantly of all complex characters and stories. What are you doing reading this? Go watch it now.

Bendis On Iceman’s Outing, Says “I’m Not Done With This Story Yet” – Comic Book Resources via Instapaper.

“This story isn’t something that’s coming out of the blue, either. Over the years there’s been a lot of hints that Bobby might not be entirely honest with himself about his sexuality.

Yes! That’s the funniest conversation online. We have some people going, “What on Earth are you talking about? Where did this come from?” Then there are other people who weren’t surprised at all. Already on Tumblr, and I’m not going to repost them until later in the week, people have posted a road map of panels of things that Bobby has done over the last 50 years that prove the point that I thought was obvious, and many others did too.

It’s funny that we have so many people who saw it as coming out of left field, and so many people who weren’t surprised at all. But with sex and politics, people are going to see what they want to see.”

Bendis On Iceman’s Outing, Says “I’m Not Done With This Story Yet” – Comic Book Resources

May 8, 2015 at 10:45AM

via Instapaper http://ift.tt/1d0TX9f

DC Comic’s Convergence and Marvel’s Secret Wars: Too Messy for Me.

I was reading The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett when I ran into this quote.

Then the Dean repeated the mantra that has had such a marked effect on the progress of knowledge throughout the ages.
“Why don’t we just mix up absolutely everything and see what happens?” he said.
And Ridcully responded with the traditional response.
“It’s got to be worth a try,” he said.”

That’s how I feel about these two events coming out of DC Comics and Marvel Comics. These are the premises straight from Wikipedia.

DC’s Convergence.

Set on a world outside time and space, Brainiac has used his access to Vanishing Point to roam the history of the DC Universe. Using it to abduct heroes from different lost and defunct eras (pre-Flashpoint, pre-Zero Hour and pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths) and across the multiverse, Brainiac amasses a collection of 40 cities. Taking them to this mysterious world within domes (very much like the one that he has kept the city of Kandor from Krypton in over DC publication history) he opens them to see what happens. The ensuing chaos pits various DC heroes and villains and their historic or multiverse counterparts against each other as a villain known as Telos arises to take advantage of it all.

Marvel’s Secret Wars

The basic premise involves the collision of the Marvel 616 Universe with the Ultimate Marvel Universe which destroys both. But pieces of the two universes – with other universes – are mysteriously saved and combined with other post collision universes creating the “Battleworld”.

All the DC characters you remember existing pre-New 52 are now trapped under a dome by Braniac fighting characters from other universes that you don’t give a damn about. Everything you can think of is being thrown at the wall for this event. Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain are back but so is all the characters from Flashpoint. Kyle Rayner is in his ugly original costume once again but so is Hal Jordan in his Parallax costume. I guess they figured the New 52 never really did bring in new readers so they decided to write a comic that included years and years of history in eight forty page comics and hope nobody cries.

Meanwhile over at Marvel they’ve been trying to figure out a way to get rid of their failing Ultimate line for years, the problem is they created a hugely successful character in Mile Morales. The Ultimate Universe exists to this day because of MIles Morales but having a comic book universe for one successful character doesn’t make sense in the long run.

So they came up with this idea of smacking the Ultimate universe and the 616 Universe (which is the original Marvel universe for those not in the know) to see what kind of chaos comes out of these two universes having to coexist. If the event doesn’t end with Miles Morales in the regular Marvel Universe and the Ultimate line over with I’ll be surprised. The only other result I can think of is the Marvel Universe being completely reset.

It’s not the long history of both DC Comics and Marvel’s continuity that makes me disinterested. To me, it looks like when I try to spring clean by emptying all my shelves and draws at once then organize it all in one day. Just looking at the solicitations is such a mess it gives me a headache. How can you possibly get a coherent story by throwing in every version, every universe, every character of your entire history? How? Then how can you possibly write a good story with that? I don’t think you can and I certainly don’t think you can write one good enough to be $4.99 an issue.

To me, from both publishers, it sounds like Countdown to Final Crisis, a much chagrin and poorly review weekly series, all over again.

Sometimes in interviews comic book writers complain about continuity, that it can be a shackle to creativity in comics. This however, is too much freedom from continuity. Continuity can be a structure for which you write your story and to throw that away for an event comic in no way seems like a good idea.

Plus it’s kind of insulting to let fans have this taste of characters and histories that have gone away in comics for a couple months only to take it away in their post-event comic world. No thank you.

Featured image by Charlie Layton.

Marvel: Don’t let Spider-Man Go to Your Head.

We’re all excited Spider-Man is going to be in Marvel Cinematic Universe starting with Civil War but the link to the io9 article brings up some good questions.

“How much creative control does Sony have? Does Marvel have any input into the Sony-produced movies? Can Sony use parts of the MCU in return? Will the studios skip the origin story this time around?”

Let’s not forget an important fact, Sony still has the rights to Spider-Man, this is just an agreement and until we get more details who knows if they can pull out on this deal at any time. I mean, what did we learn from Sam Raimi about making a Spider-Man movie, and we’ll probably here this about Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the coming years, Sony executives can’t keep nose out of the creative process when it comes to these movies. The fact that their still going with that Sinister Six movie they have planned, although will probably now have Spider-Man in it, doesn’t make me feel any less cynical about this.

The other part people should remember, if Marvel Studios had the rights to Spider-Man when we started this business of a shared universe, and hey let’s throw the X-Men in there too, we probably wouldn’t have Iron Man, Captain America, Thor or the Avengers. At least, not yet.

Before Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. brought Iron Man to the big screen he was not a popular character or a big draw. In fact, the Avengers only a resurgence in the comics, thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, three years before the first Iron Man movie came out.

Also, I’m sure a lot of people have forgotten but nobody thought the first Iron Man movie was going to be any good. Statements likes Downey Jr. being washed up, Jon Favreau being inexperienced with directing, Iron Man not being a viable character were thrown out there. Marvel Studios success and all their plans were relying on this movie and all because they couldn’t rely on their biggest characters.

IMG_1311

So when they announced Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel, three films I am far more excited for,  were pushed back my first reaction was definitely pessimism.  Sure, Kevin Feige has the whole three movies a year rule but until I hear or read from him that this was the reason for the push back I can’t get the idea out of my mind they did this to please Sony.

Think about this, if Marvel had Spider-Man from the beginning we probably never would have had Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean, which movie would you make? Another Spider-Man film or who the hell are the Guardians of the Galaxy? Yet that movie, in my mind, was far superior to any of the Spider-Man films so far.

Here’s my hope for the deal. It goes a little something like this: Sony now handles part of the marketing, makes a big part of the profit, but is otherwise hands off. They get no say on what happens to Spider-Man in his guest appearances and no creative control over the movie because if it was up to them they’d put Venom in every movie and each movie would have 23,095,480,324,587,102,935 characters.

So Marvel Studios, don’t forget Spider-Man didn’t bring you success. It was your less popular characters that did so because you didn’t have a choice. You had to make great movies because you couldn’t rely on the name alone. DON’T FORGET.

Here’s hoping “Civil War” is better in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Reported yesterday, Robert Downey Jr. About To Join Captain America 3 And It May Be Civil War. If you don’t know, the basic premise of the Civil War storyline was a rift between Captain America and Iron Man over how superheroes should be handled. After a very public tragedy Tony Stark joins the government in establishing a superhuman registration act where every superhero must register their secret identity with the government and work as a kind of police force rather than vigilantes. Steve Rogers believe this is a violation of every superheroes civil liberties. Be warned after this there will be spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Forget the movies for right now. Let’s just talk about the comic for a minute. When it came out Civil War was a big deal for Marvel and selling very well. In the early 2000’s the Avengers had disassembled, gotten back together and reformed with new members so after all these years of building them back up Civil War had a high potential for exciting drama by breaking them apart again. Here’s the problem, it was so poorly executed.

In the main series Mark Millar claims he was trying to show both side of the argument, you know with Iron Man and Maria Hill acting like fascists, cloning their dead friends whose clone kills another one of their friends, imprisoning their friends in another dimension and generally attacking anyone who is anti-registration. We’re not talking about arresting his friends after a trial, Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man planned on imprisoning them indefinitely essentially taking away their civil liberties. Then, at the end, we’re supposed to believe Iron Man is in the right because a bunch of emergency personnel stopping  Captain America from taking Tony out to prevent more bloodshed? It’s such a sloppy ending, trying to put all the blame on Cap like Iron Man isn’t responsible at all for the collateral damage going on. I mean, by the end Iron Man needs to control villain with nanites in order to have people to fight against Captain America and we’re supposed to believe he is in the right?

All the other writers working on their respective titles didn’t help either. While Millar was trying to avoid any one side becoming the underdog in the main title, which I believe he failed miserably,  it was more black and white within the other books. Thinking of it now, if in his mind both sides had a fair point it paints a clear picture of Millar’s politics. Iron Man was clearly the villain and Cap and his team were the underdogs. In the aftermath, Cap ends up being assassinated making him a martyr and Tony is left being the most hated character in the Marvel Universe. It Takes Matt Fraction to make Tony Stark completely braindead and forget all about the Civil War when his brain is rebooted in order to return Iron Man to a more favorable light.

Okay, now onto the movies. Presumably Tony will create Ultron in Avengers 2 as a force for a good to protect the world which will fail. Feeling guilt ridden over this he’ll appear in Captain America 3 to begin the rift between Steve and himself. I’m not sure how they will execute it but this is supposed to lead into a Civil War storyline in Avengers 4.

The problem so far is that out of all the superheroes that exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now, only Daredevil, which has not even been released by Netflix yet, has a secret identity. Tony Stark outed himself in the first Iron Man, Steve Rogers is a legendary WWII veteran, Thor has no secret identity, Black Widow outed herself, Sam Wilson and probably Clint Barton in bringing down S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury is in Europe, Coulson is underground rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Hulk has caused enough destruction at this point that Bruce Banner is probably known.

There’s definitely potential for their to be enough superheroes for a Civil War by the time Avengers 4 comes out. So far we know we’ll have Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Quiksilver, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. So if there are three years between Avengers sequels and Avengers 4 comes out around 2021…

Oh god, 2021? Could they really have long term plans for that long? Will I even care about these Marvel movies?

Anyway, it might be a better idea to have Tony and Steve’s fallout center not around a government legislation as Tony has already proven to not trust the government with his tech but maybe centered around something else, like say, the creation of a killer robot? Maybe that creation of the killer robot is what causes Tony to not trust himself while Steve, due to the S.H.I.E.L.D. fallout from Winter Soldier doesn’t trust the government thanks to Hydra infiltration. Then again, if Tony already doesn’t trust the government I can’t see him trusting it anymore after he learns everything about the Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. scandal.

So there’s potential to have a whole slew of super heroes running around by the time Avengers 4 comes out. For me though, the heroes versus heroes storyline is kind of boring. It may be a trope but I’d much prefer if by the end of Civil War a much larger threat reunites Cap. and Iron Man to take on said threat. That’s just me though.

Killing Off Wolverine is the Right Decision by Marvel.

The Death of Wolverine is an event comic currently running at Marvel by Charles Soule and Steven McNiven and I could not be happier the 5’3 Canadian is being killed off. He has become the most oversaturated and uninteresting comic character without any clear or consistent motivation for years now.

He is an Avenger. He is an X-Men. He is part of a black-ops team. He founded and teaches at a new school for mutants. He was possesed by a demon. He discovered his past. He lost his healing factor. He does what has to be done e.g. murder, cut, and dismember people including his own son but doesn’t want young mutants to be on the frontlines when the X-Men are needed. This is just the last ten years of stories for Wolverine so obviously death might be one of the few storylines left to explore with this character. The problem is, with a timeline that basically perpetually frozen so their characters don’t age all of this jumbling of progress and motivation has made Logan impossible for me to care about.

The other problem is that he’s in every book. In one book he’s lecturing Scott Summers about how teenagers aren’t soldiers, in another he’s telling Captain America that sometimes killing is the only solution, in another he’s drinking beers with Spider-Man playing the gruff stoic friend to Peter Park and then in another he’s killing people with his teenage clone X-23 with the rest of his black ops team. The character needs consistency and if they need to kill him off to do that then I am all for it.

There is no change in comics, just the illusion of change. Wolverine coming back from the dead isn’t an eventuality but an inevitability. Hopefully he is in a limited capacity, like say, in one solo ongoing and one team book. If he’s going to be in the Avengers, don’t put him in X-Force or the X-Men. If he’s in one ongoing where he’s trying to fight moon mutant don’t have another one where he’s underneath the Earth’s soil marrying a mole woman. When you put him in all these different books so close together acting differently than he does in all the other books he appears in you’re telling me that Wolverine doesn’t matter, the storyline doesn’t matter, and making me well aware of the illusion of change.

For people who don’t read comics it is much easier to like Wolverine. He is like the definition of power fantasy. He has sharp blades coming out of his hand, he heals from almost anything, has a clear purpose in life (finding out his past) while doing and saying whatever he wants because he’s not to be messed with. Imagine what it’s like to be around that guy all the time but everytime you hang out he contradicts himself. That is what it’s like to read Wolverine in comics.

So go ahead Marvel, kill him. Make X-23 the new Wolverine for a couple of years, explore what motivates her and then when you bring Wolverine back give him a motivation I can get behind instead of plopping him into a story to raise sales of an issue. It makes sense to me. One of the most interesting storylines to happen to Batman in the last couple of years was for Bruce to get lost in time while Dick Grayson took on the mantle. While you’re at it, kill off Deadpool too.