I think most of us know that Stan Lee’s legacy at Marvel for comics is fraught. Who truly created what, who deserves credit. That’s covered elsewhere, like the obituary/profile linked above. I’d like to talk about Stan’s place in my life, as a budding geek who wasn’t sure of his place in the world.
Millenials, for the most part, only know Stan Lee as the kindly Grandpa who pops up in the movies to chew a bit of scenery. For those of us around in the early 80s through the 90s, Stan was EVERYWHERE that Marvel characters were. Stan Lee moved to California to hustle them into TV and movies, and he gave it his whole heart. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends? Stan Lee opened every episode. The Incredible Hulk? He’s there too. Every entertainment TV show, late night, daytime, game show, he was always putting Marvel out there. The consummate showman.
Stan Lee always wore his heart on his sleeve, and his enthusiasm for comics as an art form was infectious. You knew he was selling you, but he was so darn earnest about it you couldn’t help but grin along. It helped that he seemed like a genuine good person, trying his best to push, in his own way, for civil rights and equality. The world would be better than it is now if more people had gotten his message. Excelsior, Stan.
There’s a huge reason Captain America: Civil War works and Batman v Superman doesn’t, and that’s emotional investment. I know Zack Snyder and DC/WB wanted to do thing their own way and not ape Marvel’s so far successful approach, but when you are rebooting two legendary characters and making significant changes, you need to get the fans used to these new versions. We KNOW Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. We’ve seen them overcome numerous obstacles, both separately and together. They’ve fallen on hard times, been betrayed, beaten, come back stronger. Mistakes were made, characters have evolved, things have changed. It’s why we can believe Captain America, the guy who wears flag colors and beat the snot out of Nazis and HYDRA for his country, would now decide “the safest hands are still our own”. Why we can believe Tony Stark, the rebel genius whose not a team player, admonished for his ‘ready-fire-aim’ mentality, would toe the line this time after never even looking for the line before. Cap, since being unfrozen, was lied to by Fury, found out SHIELD was infiltrated by his greatest enemy, and then had to bail Tony’s ass out after one of his creations came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the Earth. Tony for his part, finally has to come to grips with the fact that his first impulse may not always be his best. And this time, it wasn’t just his own life getting torn to shreds, but the entire planet.
Batman V Superman just didn’t have that weight behind it. WB wanted us to care about them fighting, and spent a lot of words during the movie hyping it up, and trying to tell us how important it was, but during Civil War? Didn’t need a word of it. I felt every punch in that final battle especially. Tony, GUTTED by the horrific video of the Winter Soldier killing his parents, feeling the sting of their death again, the betrayal that Steve knew about it (remember in CA:TWS it was shown by Zola), lashes out. The battle, which had so far been over an idea, becomes brutally personal. I was enjoying the movie to that point, but at that point? Riveted.
Shifting gears a bit, it’s kind of amazing that I can be this far in and only now discussing everything else that happened in the movie. We meet Spider-Man! And it’s a poor, nerdy kid whose quippy yet awkward. Tom Holland nails it. BLACK PANTHER, I mean, come on. His moves are unreal, he dismantles Bucky, but even in the midst of righteous anger over the death of his father, T’Challa can step back from his vengeance to serve justice. What an example for the two sides fighting, eh? The Russos made Florence Kasumba’s “Security Chief” (gotta be one of the Dora Milaje) more interesting in one scene with one line than BvS did for 90% of the characters in it.
If you are concerned this sounds too heavy, well, it’s got more weight than a lot of Marvel movies, but rest assured, it brings the funny. Many of the best lines aren’t in the trailers, including the scene with Falcon and Bucky in the car, or Falcon fighting Spider-Man. Or Ant-Man and the truck. Even crazier, there was a character building moment or two for everybody. OH, and much has already been said about the Vision and his dapper look – his relaxed home attire always slays me in his current comic, and I’m glad to see it here, but it’s his interactions with Wanda that are most interesting. He isn’t yet to “even an android can cry” territory yet, but the groundwork is there.
Zemo, technically the villain since he really sets in motion the acts that get Avengers fighting Avengers, fares better than some of the recent Marvel villains. Quite different from the comics but built with real, complex motivations.
As for flaws, I think the movie wasn’t as well paced out as The Winter Soldier. Considering the sheer amount of content, that’s understandable. With that, Captain America: Civil War can’t quite dethrone Iron Man and The Winter Soldier as my go-to Marvel movies, but it gets massive, Giant-Man sized points for being to pull off as many heroes and storylines as it did.
If there’s a thing in comics fandom I hate right now it’s this adversarial tone a lot of the chatter takes on nowadays. A spirited debate is fun, no doubt, but this isn’t that, it’s just angry people shouting at each other. It’s there in sports now, video games, even politics. There are certain groups who cling desperately to their ‘thing’, and that other ‘thing’? You’re the most vile piece of trash not fit for life for liking it! UGH. And some of the media outlets support this sort of binary thinking – they encourage it, basking in the clicks and not caring that they make discourse demonstrably worse. Take this article in the NY Post that made the rounds yesterday, provocatively titled ‘Batman v Superman’ is too smart for Marvel fans. In it, Kyle “Women are not capable of understanding Goodfellas” Smith posits that Marvel fans’ intelligence levels are low:
This dimension lends the film a gravity and level of interest that places it at the opposite end of the spectrum from such sophomoric Marvel movies as “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Deadpool.” All three feature brainless, low-stakes action that’s as interesting as watching a waiter fall down the stairs while carrying a tray of dishes;
While I love a good pratfall (Pratt-fall?) as much as the next guy, you’ll notice he singles out a couple of things from the Marvel canon, as if only Guardians and AoU represent the MCU. As I read that, I pictured Mr. Smith as Anton Ego in Ratatouille, sitting in his coffin-shaped room, ready to eviscerate Marvel for releasing a movie that has the audacity to be ‘fun’. Where is The Winter Soldier on his ‘spectrum’? TWS may be the perfect comic book movie in that it isn’t really a comic book movie. It’s a spy thriller that just happens to star Cap, Natasha and Nick Fury. The first Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Jessica Jones, Daredevil…none of those represent Marvel, because it doesn’t fit Smith’s ‘us versus them’ narrative.
We need to stop letting the media gleefully hammer on the wedges that are splitting us apart. There’s no reason we can’t like BOTH The Avengers and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But even if you don’t like a thing, it doesn’t make the people who DO like it stupid. Let’s be better than that. Comic book fans were marginalized, looked down upon for so long, now that we are finally getting our day in the pop culture spotlight we shouldn’t turn on each other, we should be celebrating. DC fans, you are FINALLY getting your Justice League movie! Marvel fans, you get the freaking Infinity Gauntlet! Don’t stomp on something just because it’s too dark/gritty/goofy/noisy or whatever. We can be better than this. Build, don’t tear down.
Marvel’s latest mobile game is Avengers Academy, which is one of those thing where they reimagine existing characters (hero and villain) as teenagers. It works well here, as it seems like there’s some time travel-type shenanigans hinted at as far as the story goes. It’s by TinyCo, and if you’ve played one of their other games, you’ll get the gist here right away. Build buildings, recruit new characters, level up, all overlaid with an interface replete with ways to pay to hurry up your progress.
What makes the game work (mostly) for me is the art and voices. As you upgrade the heroes (and uncover the truth of what’s happening), they begin to look more like their comic book counterparts, and the animations and designs are sharp. It’s fun watching a giant Hank Pym hop up and sit on his lab, or Wasp and Falcon zipping around the quad.
As far as paying for things goes, the key is to treat it like a game you pick up and play a few minutes at a time, and not rushing through. Some actions take hours, but I just pop in every once in a while and collect everything and start new actions and it progresses (albeit slowly). Will I stick with it long term? We’ll see, but it’s a fun diversion for now.
I know what you are thinking – didn’t we just leave this party? And the answer to that is…complicated. I am talking about the original Secret Wars from 1984-1985 today, one of the very first big crossover events at the big publishers. It debuted 32 years ago, though you can’t tell from the May date on the cover. If you’ve already read the new event, you’ll find some similarities here. Doctor Doom and Owen Reece (the Molecule Man) are important, there’s a Beyonder (who may or may not have anything to do with THE Beyonders), and a bunch of heroes and villains fighting on a Battleworld.
But should you read it? I lean towards yes, if you can keep in mind that it came out in the mid 80’s. There’s a lot of narration and expository babble, but there’s a decent job done to give the big players their due. Jim Shooter’s story was fun but in the end, little changed for the Marvel U as a whole. Spider-Man, however, had one HUGE change come out of this:
Parker OBVIOUSLY had never seen a sci-fi movie at this point – never, never, NEVER stick your head under something spraying out black goo. And eff you, Thor and Hulk, for not being more specific about which device makes clothes and which one sprays out goo monsters.
This is the first in a recurring series where I look at an older set of comics (either an event or a series) and decide whether it’s worth tracking down.
Mentioning the Civil War comics among comics fans is sure to elicit a strong response – usually negative. Having heard of that for years, when I finally bit the bullet and subscribed to Marvel Unlimited, I knew that Civil War would be on the list of stuff I wanted to read and judge for myself. Doubly so once the next Captain America movie was announced as a loose adaptation of the storyline.
The gist of the story, if you are unaware, has anti-superhero sentiments coming to a head after the New Warriors (a group of teenaged heroes with a reality TV show) attempt to apprehend a group of supervillains, including Nitro. As you might guess Nitro’s power is that he can explode, and he does, killing over 600 people including 60 kids at a nearby elementary school. The American government quickly passes the Superhuman Registration Act, with the full support of Tony Stark and Reed Richards. Stark believes that costumed heroes should register their identities with the government in exchange for training and support. Captain America opposes this, as there are numerous heroes that have families whose safety would be threatened if their names get out.
The biggest issue I had was, in order to get clear battle lines drawn, Mark Millar and company had to skew the personalities of the main characters wildly from the previous status quo. Iron Man was my favorite hero growing up, and I’ve probably read more issues of his books than any hero. While Tony certainly had a tendency to think he was right about things and go all “ready fire aim” it really felt like just about every issue had SOMETHING that I felt just wouldn’t be done by Iron Man. There’s the greater good, and there’s working with the Kingpin. Stuff like that. Cap, too, had been an interesting, complex man in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America comics of the time. He’d moved past the whole ‘man out of time’ thing, fully informed as to the intricacies and nuance of the modern age.
The other side of things is the art. Now, some of the tie-ins are okay, but many of the books are emblematic of the late 90s/early 2000s art that was dark and grimy without fail. Did none of the rooms have any lights? Was the sun constantly red? It’s like every bit of outdoor action happened at dusk after a dust storm.
At the end of the day, Civil War should not be a reading priority. If you have Marvel Unlimited and nothing else jumps out at you, go for it, but no need to try much harder than that. Especially since only the barest bones of the story will be in the moving coming out this summer.
Above you can see the picks both me and my kids picked out for Free Comic Book Day 2015! I didn’t get to get out early so I missed a couple of the free books I wanted (the Dark Horse sampler with the Avatar: The Last Airbender comic, and Terrible Lizard) but we still got a bunch of cool stuff. Some favorites:
Cleopatra in Space: I *love* the art in this, and I can tell my daughters are going to enjoy it. I see buying all the books.
The Invincible Iron Man War Machine collection: My son’s pick (I think Age of Ultron affected this one), and a huge nostalgia bomb for me as I collected every one of these issues when I was a teenager.
Infinity Gauntlet/Planet Hulk #1: These were both $1 reprints and my son really seemed to enjoy them.
Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman: My girls both pegged on this one, as the cover art pulled them in. Two stories, with one featuring interior art from Mike Maihack, of the above Cleopatra in Space. Just a ton of fun.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4: What can I say, Doreen reminds me of my Mattie and my wife reading the dialogue out loud to us was hilarious.
I think we’ll have to go back to the shop again sooner this time. I was very happy to see lots of young women and girls out, and my daughters definitely liked seeing a wider selection of stuff with girls/women on the cover. They both pointed out stuff like She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel while also picking up things like Dan Slott/Humberto Ramos’s The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1. All in all, I call that a successful day out.
This is my daughter, Mattie (and the back of my other daughter, Eva). The girls have taken on my love of comics, mostly due to the show Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. M is wearing her new Captain America hoodie which may be her new favorite possession. Upon seeing it in the store, Eva squealed “Daddy, do they have a THOR ONE???” but a quick check of the racks showed that they did not. Hey, his last movie came out a while back. So I did a search for ‘Thor hooded sweatshirt’, and the first link went to the Disney store. As soon as the link loaded though, I rolled my eyes. “Thor Costume Hoodie for Boys” it says. The thing is, for a kid that is under say, 10, hoodies are all pretty much the same. I had no problem buying that out of the ‘boys’ section, but a lot of people would avoid that. Online, it shouldn’t even BE a problem. Just tag it for both and drop the “for boys” out of the name.
It didn’t get any better when I scrolled to the bottom of the page. Six more related items, all hoodies for Marvel heroes (and R2D2), all “for boys”. The Thor character page for girls is desolate, with a Mr. Potato Head toy, a set of figurines, and Disney Infinity 2.0. Last I checked, glasses, wall clings and books work the same for either gender.
I find the lack of Thor stuff for girls particularly funny right now, as Thor in the comics is going to BE a woman in just a few weeks. Cosplayers of both genders have been dressing as Thor forever. Women and girls go to comic book movies, they work in comic book stores, they read comics. Why don’t the companies making this stuff get that? There are sources for stuff at some of the more niche sites on the web, but most folks aren’t going to WeLoveFine or SuperheroStuff. The girls who want to wear this now are the ones who will pick up a Spider-Man comic on a whim when they get to be teens, and will be filling Tumblr (or whatever fills that role in 10 years) with GIFs of whoever the next Hugh Jackman, Chris Evans or ScarJo is.
I hope this gets better. DC and Marvel both have some really great books starring female heroes they could get more gear out there for, but sometimes your daughter just ends up loving Captain America, despite how many times you read Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel around them. Let’s support it, okay?
Note: First in a series where I look at current MMO games from a Free to Play perspective (as I’m too much of a cheapskate to pay for a monthly fee unless the game is REALLY good).
As you know from this site, I’m a big Marvel comics fan. I read them as a kid, especially Iron Man and the Silver Surfer. I watch the movies, I can’t wait for Agents of SHIELD, I’m all in. The chance to play Marvel themed MMO (that I didn’t have to pay $15 a month for) was too good to pass up.
To start the game, you can pick one of five heroes: Hawkeye (who I picked), Storm, Daredevil, Ben Grimm, and the Scarlet Witch. You get one more of these five when you play through the early game content the first time. Other heroes can be purchased, or appear as loot when fighting. Same goes for alternate costumes, though there were some exclusives only available if you bought in to the game ahead of time, and I’ve gotten one Iron Man 3 themed costume (the Mark 17) from a giveaway, so that’ll probably be a thing.
As for the gameplay, it’s an action-RPG, so the Diablo comparisons are right on. Skill trees, waypoints, loot drops, it’s all there. In practice, the heroes and their powers don’t stray far from the usual Melee/Ranged/Magic archetypes, with some customization thanks to the skills. Because it’s a mishmash of so many Marvel heroes, the villains are the same, so you may be fighting HYDRA here, AIM there, the Hand, the Maggia, and so on. I’m several chapters in on the story, and there’s juuuust enough there to keep you interested. The motion comic-style interludes are fun, and a nice change compared to the usual cutscenes.
One quirk is that the leveling is based on the individual character, so each new hero you find starts life (for you) as a level 1 hero. The game allows you to reset the storyline to the beginning and replay it, or you can just hit the waypoints so you are fighting level appropriate enemies. It doesn’t take long to play through, but that’s going to get repetitive quick, unless some new…what, issues? episodes? or whatever come quick.
There seems to be some form of grouping that happens when you enter certain instances or similar areas. I am not doing anything with grouping or guilds beyond that, yet.
“Free” to Play Annoyance Factor: Low. This could shade towards medium if you REALLY want to play as a certain hero and you don’t get them in a drop, ever. But so far there really isn’t a huge amount of paywalled stuff. This game will live or die based on how much you really want to play as Iron Man, or if you MUST have a certain costume or armor. People have been killing Gazillion and Marvel on the pricing for new heroes, but since I’m looking at this as a cheapskate, it bothers me not in the slightest.
I am kind of surprised I’m still playing this, but it’s fun enough. Maybe the fact it’s an action-RPG works in it’s favor, but I’ll probably stick with it for a while. My account is TheTickMS, and you’ll usually see me as Hawkeye. By the way, they totally need the t-shirt/jeans/purple Chuck Taylors ‘costume’ from the current run of Hawkguy.
A few notes: I’m a huge Iron Man fanboy, and I’ll try to keep spoilers out of the first paragraph. Beyond that, you’ve been warned.
My son and I went to see Iron Man 3 last night, and had a lot of fun. I think, at this point, they are never recapturing the magic of the first movie but I could watch these characters forever. I wish there was a defter touch with the dialogue – too many times it felt like “here’s a funny line!” being put on display, rather than just having great dialogue all the time. It sapped some of the emotional pull out of the film that we had in the original Iron Man (and The Avengers).
Now, on to spoilers. Tony’s in trouble. He’s not sleeping, he has nightmares when he does, and he even graduates to anxiety attacks. We flashback to 1999, and get introduced to Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian, and the beginnings of Extremis. Tony one-night-stands Maya and sends the nerdy Killian on a wild goose chase for a meeting. Oh, and it’s the same conference where Stark doesn’t remember meeting Yinsen. This part of the movie is worth it if only for Happy’s long 90s hair.
Flash-forward to now, and Killian approaches Pepper (in her new role with Stark Industries) with the Extremis tech. She’s impressed, but turns him down – it’s too easily weaponizable and Stark Industries doesn’t do that any more. Meanwhile, there have been bombings across the country with a specific signature, and when Happy gets caught up in one and severely injured, Tony makes it his duty to seek vengeance on the perpetrators.
The terrorist known as the Mandarin takes credit after each of the bombings, but it’s not what you think, Let’s just say there’s a reason they weren’t worried about accusations of whitewashing with Sir Ben Kingsley. Some diehards are NOT going to like that change to the character at ALL but I thought it fit well with the cinematic universe. Even with aliens and stuff added into the MCU, there was no way the comic book version of the Madarin was going to appear.
The actual Extremis tech actually combines that plotline with one of the follow-up plots from Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man run, with the human repulsor bombs (in this case, if you lose control of Extremis, you go boom like those bombs did). That allows Tony to do a bit of holographic computer detective work, a staple of the series at this point.
I tweeted last night that the film ends with a note of finality – it’s actually more than a note. The credits note that “Tony Stark will be back”, it does not say Iron Man will be back.
What I didn’t like: Well, like I mentioned, the dialogue was lacking. The…realness of it was gone. Also, it seemed like Shane Black was afraid of us having an emotion, and several times when a scene seems to be building towards something like that, it would get cut off with an ill-timed joke. It’s okay for there to be serious moments in a comic book movie, guys, even if it’s not a grimdark one.
I definitely enjoyed the movie, and the action set-pieces work well. It is not an instant classic or anything like that but it’s a solidly enjoyable action movie. I miss the heart of the first Iron Man movie, but perhaps that was lightning in a bottle.
I got to thinking about this thanks to a forum post at one of the sites I frequent. Someone said there hadn’t BEEN ten good ones, which just seemed silly, so I quickly banged out my list. But there are so many more movies, I know you guys will differ! So I present to you, the poll for your top 10 Superhero movies:
Top 10 Superhero Movies Of All Time
The Dark Knight (18%, 12 Votes)
The Dark Knight Rises (15%, 10 Votes)
The Avengers (14%, 9 Votes)
X-Men: First Class (6%, 4 Votes)
The Amazing Spider-Man (6%, 4 Votes)
The Incredibles (5%, 3 Votes)
Iron Man (5%, 3 Votes)
Captain America: The First Avenger (5%, 3 Votes)
Batman Begins (3%, 2 Votes)
X-Men (3%, 2 Votes)
X2: X-Men United (3%, 2 Votes)
Iron Man 2 (3%, 2 Votes)
The Crow (3%, 2 Votes)
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2%, 1 Votes)
Hellboy (2%, 1 Votes)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2%, 1 Votes)
Batman (Burton) (2%, 1 Votes)
The Watchmen (2%, 1 Votes)
Kick-Ass (2%, 1 Votes)
Superman (2%, 1 Votes)
Mystery Men (0%, 0 Votes)
Judge Dredd (0%, 0 Votes)
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (0%, 0 Votes)
Jonah Hex (0%, 0 Votes)
Blade 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (0%, 0 Votes)
Spider-Man (Raimi) (0%, 0 Votes)
Batman Returns (0%, 0 Votes)
Spawn (0%, 0 Votes)
Spider-Man 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (0%, 0 Votes)
Hancock (0%, 0 Votes)
Blade (0%, 0 Votes)
Fantastic Four (0%, 0 Votes)
Blade: Trinity (0%, 0 Votes)
The Incredible Hulk (0%, 0 Votes)
Thor (0%, 0 Votes)
Superman Returns (0%, 0 Votes)
Green Lantern (0%, 0 Votes)
Superman 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
Spider-Man 3 (0%, 0 Votes)
The Spirit (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 31
A few notes…this is semi-complete as I left off some of the lesser-known options (and of course ones I didn’t think of). If you are missing a top choice, let me know and I can add it, but I think I’ve got the ones that will be on most of your lists. The choices aren’t ranked in the poll, just put your 10 best (use the comments if you want to post a ranking) and I’ll see which moves get the most votes.
I’ve been struggling with how to approach reviewing The Avengers. I mean, I’m a comic guy from way back, but not an obsessive one. Iron Man is one of my favorites, and I’m not sure I can be entirely impartial. Had I stayed up last night (got home at 1:30am) and wrote this, my post would be peppered with ‘FUCK YEAH AVENGERS WOOOOO’ and stuff like that. By this time, you’ve read a bunch of other reviews and know pretty much what you are getting – but I have to write something! I thought Joss and the rest handled so many egos perfectly. Just about everybody had a great line or three that left people guffawing. As anyone that’s watched Firefly knows, Joss has excellent comic timing, and a way with having the unexpected happen that only amps it up. This is funnier than you are expecting, yes, even if you like the jokes in the trailers. There’s a few spots of real emotion, though they were kept a bit to the sideline so that the movie would keep moving (one particular scene with Agent Carter and Steve Rogers was cut as it ‘brought the movie to a halt’).
Stark referencing “life model decoys” from the comics
Captain America’s “There’s only one God, ma’am…” line
“Puny God” and the absolute ass-kicking Loki received just before it
Rogers/Cap paying up the $10 (total Joss move right there)
Banner on Loki: “That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.”
Tony’s speech to Loki at the final battle. “You’re missing the point. There’s no throne. There is no version of this where you come out on top…”
If there’s one bit that didn’t work, it was Stark with Pepper at the beginning. Could’ve used som polishing, and possibly Pepper should’ve worn some pants. Not that I don’t mind the fan-service daisy dukes there, but it distracted from them as a couple.
Minor quibble, though. I’ll be seeing this again on Wednesday, and probably again once it reaches the second-run theater, or maybe at the drive-in if there’s something good paired with it. Highly recommended for all except the little ones.