She Can Fly: Best Foot Forward

It’s no secret that superhero products are marketed towards women. From “Training to be Batman’s Wife” shirts to the lack of Black Widow action figures in the wave of Age of Ultron merchandise, it often feels like comic companies are specifically marketing against women.

But they aren’t. Or, at least, some of them aren’t.

I ended up buying socks recently at Macy’s. There were two packs of women’s socks being offered; one from Marvel and one from DC. The Marvel pack had socks for Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Captain America. The socks from DC only had logos from the Trinity–Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman–but each sock offered a particular feminizing element: hearts, statements like “Girls Rule” and “Fearless,” and other things that indicated the socks featured the logos not of the male heroes, but their female counterparts (Batgirl and Supergirl).

The same day, I also stopped in at the local Target. I began to notice a pattern: every superhero item Target had for men (shirts, underwear, pajamas) featured only male characters. Everything that Target had from DC Comics for women featured Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman or their logos; meanwhile, every item of Marvel merchandise for women featured Cap, Thor, Iron Man, or Spider-Man. No Black Widow. No Scarlet Witch. Not even female counterparts to male heroes. No female characters at all.

And this really bothered me.

Marvel’s roster of female characters feature some of my favorite fictional ladies of all time, and yet they are nowhere to be found on any shirts or socks or underwear. Not even the women who have been on Marvel Cinematic television or movies. Yet, while my favorite DC heroines would be hard to market on clothing, socks, or undergarments (although a Misfit t-shirt would be awesome!–and yet still totally irrelevant what with the new, new DC), DC is still offering female characters on female-geared merchandise. And the female trinity still has yet to be featured in a modern tv show or movie beyond, tenuously, Smallville.

Aside from online specialty shops like Mighty Fine and Her Universe, Marvel merchandise seems to be sending the message “women can’t be heroes, they can just get saved.” Conversely, DC doesn’t offer up much beyond Supergirl, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, picture091 (2)and the occasional Catwoman or Harley Quinn, and much of what is available and marketed for women falls into the same dull, sexist “I only date superheroes” diatribe, but at least they are offering up anything at all.

Being able to access the plethora of heroine and villainess merch online and at cons is great, but not everyone can do that. Stores like Target, Macy’s, and Hot Topic are all over the States, easily accessible, and offer up apparel that the masses know about, can access, and can afford.

The best I can say of DC is, “at least their trying.” But that’s the truth, and it really seems like Marvel isn’t.

She Can Fly: Great Expectations

While Avengers: Age of Ultron had a record setting first weekend, just $19.7 million behind the first Avengers in terms of all-time opening weekend rankings, the movie has also faced a lot of outcry, specifically about its handling of female characters.

This is nothing new, the first Avengers doesn’t even pass the Bechdel Test (it barely passed the “sexy lamp test,” to be frank), but the level of outrage, directed specifically at Joss Whedon, is definitely something (semi-)new for the creator.

The issues with Avengers: Age of Ultron all started with an interview with Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans just before the statewide release of the movie. In the interview, with Digital Spy, Renner and Evans are asked about their characters’ potential romantic connections with Black Widow. “She’s a slut,” Renner causally replied, which caused Evans to laugh uproariously and agree. The two of them continued by calling Black Widow a “trick” and a “whore,” while implying that she has slept around with all the Avengers as well.

They both retroactively apologized, although Renner’s apology came off as significantly less sincere, and more of a “sorry, not sorry” mansplanation of his very funny “joke.” Renner even went on to later talk about the outrage directed at him on the late night talk show Conan:

Mind you, we are talking about a fictional character and fictional behavior, Conan, but if you slept with four of the six Avengers, no matter how much fun you had, you’d be a slut. Just saying. I’d be a slut. Just saying.

But the problem is, the movie does the exact same kind of slut-shaming that Renner and Evans did in their interview. Black Widow’s sexuality has always been weaponized in the comics, but in Avengers: Age of Ultron her sexuality is not something that she controls or owns herself. Instead, Captain America is the one to talk about her sexuality, with the implication being that either he has seen her sleep with other people for the purpose of “the mission” (“I’ve seen her flirt”).

Beyond that, Black Widow’s role in the film is to be the Hulk’s glorified babysitter. There’s little to no chemistry between the two characters, and the moments between them feel forced, with Banner suddenly becoming a goofy schoolboy to Natasha’s bizarre southern-accented bartender roleplay–something that felt extremely out of character for her. Their romance is forced and off-note at best, and add to that Dr. Helen Cho getting mind controlled and Scarlet Witch playing the stereotypical broken Whedon waif, with a hearty dose of implied Ultimates-inspired twincest, you basically have the trifecta of poorly handled “strong female characters” (not to mention neither Widow nor Witch are seen in any merchandise for Avengers: Age of Ultron). At least it was Quicksilver who “died” to provide the female equivalent of man-pain for his sister.

Perhaps the most offensive decision in Avengers: Age of Ultron was the exchange between Bruce Banner and Black Widow about infertility. The hamfisted monster “subplot” of the entire movie was eyeroll-worthy in and of itself, but when it was revealed that the only reason Black Widow considered herself a “monster” was that she can’t have babies, that was truly the breaking point.

Yes, the only real progression Natasha’s character has in the second Avengers movie is that she was forced to have a female vasectomy in the Red Room in order to become a more efficient killer. This scene has so many layers of uncomfortable, poorly handled subtext: people unable to produce children are “monsters;” women can’t become strong unless they can’t give birth; women can’t be truly happy without having babies. Whedon’s shoddy writing is disappointing, but no surprise; it’s his absolute lack of awareness about how his writing can be interpreted that’s offensive.

Criticism of Joss Whedon purportedly led to the writer/director to delete his entire Twitter account (again). Many bloggers attribute Whedon’s decision to “rabid feminists” offended by “one little old-timey rape joke,” but Whedon denied this, claiming he deleted his account for work purposes, saying in a statement to Buzzfeed News:

Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter. That’s something I’m used to. Every breed of feminism is attacking every other breed, and every subsection of liberalism is always busy attacking another subsection of liberalism, because god forbid they should all band together and actually fight for the cause.

I saw a lot of people say, ‘Well, the social justice warriors destroyed one of their own!’ It’s like, Nope. That didn’t happen. I saw someone tweet it’s because Feminist Frequency pissed on Avengers 2, which for all I know they may have. But literally the second person to write me to ask if I was OK when I dropped out was [Feminist Frequency founder] Anita [Sarkeesian].

But Whedon’s statement doesn’t provide much assurance. If anything, it speaks to the likelihood that he can’t (or won’t) handle criticism of his work. Yes, many of the people, both women and men, criticized Whedon for the inclusion of a Prima Nocta (literally “first night,” referring the a warlord’s right to take the virginity of any woman who married) joke in the scene where Tony is attempting to lift Thor’s hammer (which, interestingly, replaced a completely different line that was seen in the October 2014 trailer for the film). Yes, many people criticized Whedon to the level of death threats and name calling (something, it should be noted, that creators like Kelly Thompson and Anita Sarkeesian deal with almost daily–only often with the addition of rape threats). But frankly Whedon was, and should be, criticized.

Joss Whedon frequently claims to be a feminist (although now he says he “regrets” ever calling himself a feminist because “suddenly that’s a litmus test for everything [I] do”), but his actions don’t back up his words. This is just another case of Whedon claiming to be a positive force for women in pop media, while offering up only extremely poor and unvaried representation of his female characters, and covering it up with defensive statements about “bad” feminists.

She Can Fly: Why I’m Ready to Say Goodbye to Peter Parker

Dear Spider-Man,

No, wait:

Dear Peter Parker,

We’ve been friends for a while.

Sometimes our relationship is like hanging out with a good friend from high school. Someone I fell out of touch with, but, in reconnecting, I discover that, while we’ve both grown and changed, we still have a lot in common.

When I came back into comics in 2008, after a long absence, you were one of the first titles I picked up. I stuck with you until you were replaced by Doc Ock; at that point, I had to drop the title. I appreciated the story direction, but I just wasn’t interested in a megalomaniac Peter Parker with a penchant for being a jerk. I was always partial to Peter Parker because, despite the bad in his life, the struggle and sadness and turmoil, he still did the right thing, still stayed optimistic and fun and silly.

Peter Parker’s positive attitude got me through my own tough times.

My initial introduction to you was a mix of stealing my older brother’s comics and watching the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon. In everything I consumed, there was a sense of joy about being a hero and doing the right thing, even when it was hard.

You made me want to be a superhero.

Sometimes, our relationship borders on an intense love affair.

I first fell in love with you when I saw Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. I know, it’s a little before my time. What can I say? I was nostalgic from a young age. Anyway, as soon as I saw Spidey and his Amazing Friends, I tried to dye my Barbie’s hair red and pretend she was Firestar to an imaginary Peter Parker (needless to say, the dying process did not end well, and you can never really get nail polish out of doll hair once it’s been applied).

I fell in love with you again when Spider-Man came out; when Toby Maguire played you. He was the first celebrity I ever had a crush on, primarily because he was Peter Parker to me. He was vulnerable and fragile, but held within him this massive strength.

It wasn’t the spider powers that made you strong, it was your heart.

But, Pete, let’s be honest, the plight of the white nerd…that’s not really a thing anymore. Heck, you know that yourself: you’re the CEO of a successful technology company and that’s doing good in the world. Geek is chic. You’re actually (gasp) kind of a “cool” guy now. Yeah, you’re still a huge dork who loves puns a little too much, but that doesn’t put you at odds with anyone but villains who really hate bad jokes. Your high school bully is now on a superhero team (because of you); you may not have successful romantic relationships, but you’ve dated a bevvy of smart, strong, and beautiful women who all still love you (except Felicia, but hate isn’t really all that different from love); you’re best friends with the Fantastic Four, an amazingly rich and famous superhero family; heck, you’re an Avenger AND you’re the guy they all look up to.

So maybe you aren’t the right person to represent the disenfranchised. When you first came into existence, people who loved science and reading were typified as the “minority.” Though it may not have been as heavy handed as the X-Men as an analogy for racism, Spider-Man represented the every man. He wasn’t a superhero trying to be a real person (like Superman), he was a real person trying to be a superhero. He was the lower class, so capable, but the man was keeping him down.

But now you have money. You’re successful. Sure, you’re still a nerd, but you certainly aren’t disenfranchised or in a position without privilege.

So, Spidey, Pete, buddy; it’s time to step down. I still want you to hang out in comics and cartoons, but the Marvel movies? We all know that want to make you a teen (again). Let’s not go down the Andrew Garfield path of fake-ADHD, jerky Peter Parker.

Instead, let’s do something new:

Let Miles Morales take the lead.

Let’s see Spider-Man once again represent some who is facing oppression. Someone who is relevant to the images we see on the news of people fighting against the system, the man, racism. Someone who doesn’t have instant privilege.

Miles is going to be an Avenger soon, anyway. Why not give him a hand and a starring role. Maybe he can be the first superhero of color to get a new MCU solo movie (shout out to Blade, who was the first Marvel hero of color to get a solo movie). That would be pretty cool.

You can hang out on my water bottle on my desk every day at work, but it’s Miles Morales I want to see in my Marvel movies.

I hope you understand, Peter. I love you, but you just aren’t the guy who needs to be on the silver screen right now. Miles is.

Love,
Ellie

Peggy Carter: Agent of F.E.M.I.N.I.S.M.

When the Agent Carter miniseries was announced, many fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were skeptical. The resolution of Peggy Carter’s story is already known; she ages, eventually marries a man that Steve had freed from Hydra on his last mission, and eventually develops Alzheimer’s (as seen in Captain America: Winter Soldier). Many insisted her arc as a heroine was completed in the first Captain America movie, and, as there are no more superheroes until the mid-2000s in the MCU, it doesn’t make sense for the romantic lead of a movie that was much about the lack of consummation to be the focus of a television show, even if it is a finite miniseries.

carter01After the debut of Agent Carter on January 6, many are biting their tongues. This 1940s period piece draws on much of the zeitgeist of current popular television shows: the un-idealized bygone era of Mad Men; the mystery and complexity of American Horror Story; the fight scenes of modern superhero media like Arrow and Agents of SHIELD; even the embracing of a tough and flawed female lead, a la the Hunger Games film series.

The story is also one of inequality. Peggy is an incredibly capable and strong SSR agent. She has proven herself time and again, in both film and within the show, but is constantly belittled because of how she looks, how she dresses, and the mere fact that she is a woman.

Peggy Carter, and more specifically the show Agent Carter, is a sly analogy for the state of women today, especially women in geek culture. The show reflects pop media buzz topics, like Gamergate, Fake Geek Girl memes, and the sexual harassment of creators, through the lens of a time that seems archaic. However, the topics, the misogyny and inequality that Peggy deals with, is anything but archaic. These are things that modern women deal with on a daily basis: the street harassment, the catcalling, the sexualization, the dehumanizing, the diminuizing, and the belittling.

Peggy Carter is the modern woman, capable and strong, but forced into a world that will not accept her for who she is and will not listen to her speaking out against the men who put her down. Agent Daniel Sousa represents the white knight concept, implying that women need protection, as well as the “not all men” movement—he is well intentioned and sweet, certainly, but his help is unwarranted, unasked for, and, in a way, works against Peggy trying to prove herself capable. Agent Jack Thompson is every troll who feels the need to comment negatively on the most trivial of things; the guy who uses “gay” as an insult and tells women to “go make him a sandwich.” Chief Roger Dooley is media itself, unwittingly enforcing an image of what women are “supposed” to be by not questioning how women are treated—he’s the Big Bang Theory episode that implies that a woman (even a geeky woman) has literally never set foot in a comic shop before.

carter02

There’s a beauty in how perfectly the analogies align, but it’s also a show that can be consumed at face value. It shows a world that falls between the suffragette 1st wave feminism and the burgeoning 2nd wave feminism of embracing the strength of the “fairer sex.” Peggy represents the inner strength of women, and female geeks, as she strives to be the best she can be, to be strong without a man, and to defy male expectation and the male gaze.

Peggy weaponizes her sex, a trope that is not necessarily the best in female led media, but it also belies a deeper strength, that she will do what others won’t (or can’t) to accomplish a job. Peggy isn’t happy about being ogled or kissed, but she uses that to her advantage, and does so on her specific terms.

Her knowledge and capability aren’t her only powers. Peggy also represents physical strength. She is the next step for Rosie the Riveter, she can do a man’s job just as well, and often times better, because she is a woman. And part of that job is fighting.

The combat in the show is blunt and forceful, and there’s something beautiful about that. Peggy is a woman of skill, but her best skills are mental; her combat is rough and hard. This sort of brutal female fighter is rarely seen, but harkens to the superlative action of Gina Carano in Haywire. This force, combined with Hayley Atwell’s masterful acting, creates something we haven’t seen much of in film or television: an eloquent bruiser. Peggy Carter has it all—brains, brawn, beauty—and yet still manages to have flaws and feel like a real and realistic woman.

carter03One of the most amazing things about Agent Carter is the fact that the show not only embraces, but also supports women presenting themselves how they want to be seen. Hayley Atwell pointed fans to Besame Cosmetics, among others, on Twitter as the place to get Peggy Carter’s already iconic look. With their 1946 Red Velvet lipstick (a nod to the year Agent Carter is set), and a 1940s collection, this (unintentional?) synergy embraces the female aspect of the show so fantastically and openly. Fans have already reviewed the 1946 lipstick with resounding positivity, saying it provides women of all ages with a way to channel the strength and ferocity of Peggy Carter.

She Can Fly: Bechdel Hero Six?

If friendship between two women is implied, but the female characters don’t directly interact with one another, does the media still count as passing the Bechdel Test?

This is the question I wondered to myself after seeing Big Hero 6. As you may know from the reviews on our site, kids and adults alike enjoy this visually stunning movie. It’s beautifully animated, with an interesting and diverse cast of characters, and an emphasis on friendship being important to personal well-being, with a nuanced addressing of the grieving process. It presents men and women as equally good at, and enthusiastic about, science and technology. But it’s biggest failing–more over, the thing that stuck in my craw the most–was the fact that the two prominent female characters never actually address one another. In fact, the film presents three amazing, different, and interesting (though occasionally bordering on cliched) female characters: Aunt Cass, Honey Lemon, and Gogo Tamago. Not a single one speaks to the others.
Yes, in one scene, Honey Lemon comforts Aunt Cass silently, but it is in regards to Tadashi, meaning it’s about a male character, ergo it does not pass the Bechdel Test.
BigHeroSixSheCanFly01The movie isn’t really about Honey Lemon or Gogo, or any of the older characters, and the fact that a third of the main cast is female (and one sixth has no gender identity) is great. To see a character like Honey Lemon on screen–girly, attentive, motherly, and still smart and enthusiastic about science–is positive (Gogo, however, is slightly problematic, as she represents the modern teenage re-imagining of the classic “dragon lady” trope–including the blue streaks in her hair a la basically every female Asian character since the early 2000s). The fact that it is implied these strong, smart women are friends is even better. But they never talk to each other. Not about science. Not about one of the male characters. Not even to say “oh no, we just got attacked!” Once, they glance at each other in a single reaction shot, but that is literally all the direct interaction the characters share.
I am quick to acknowledge that the Bechdel Test is a simple, glib, and arbitrary way to judge the female-positivity of a film. At the same time, it really struck me that, while, to my recollection, Fred and Wasabi shared exchanges, Gogo and Honey Lemon said nothing to one another, ever.
It speaks to a bigger issue, not only within kids movies, but film in general, that there are so few female-led movies (especially “kids” movies), so few female friendships represented in film, and even the movies that are positive and progressive in their representations of women lack the basic substance in their scripts to have those women exchange a single word.
I liked Big Hero 6. I would say it’s the Marvel movie with the most positive, diverse, and interesting female characters thus far. But if it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, can it really represent positive female relationships?
Or maybe is “good enough” female representation really good enough anymore?

IMAGINE IF: Thor, Release Date 1967

Imagine if Hollywood had released tent-pole comic book movies starring their iconic characters around the time of the source material’s release date. For the purposes of this experiment, we will say that a movie would be released 5 years after the introduction of the character, and only movies that have been made would be made.

Imagine If: Thor, Release Date 1967

Thor-Rutger Hauer
Producers had a very difficult time with the casting, not many leading men could pull off the long blonde locks of the god of thunder, they finally stumbled upon an unknown Dutch actor with naturally blonde hair!

Loki-Jerry Lewis
The King of Comedy, if ever there was an annoying trickster with a very dark edge, it was Jerry Lewis! Plus, how amusing is it that the star of a DC comic would star in a Marvel movie?

 

 

iit08

Odin-Laurence Olivier
Sir Olivier was the obvious and best choice to play the All-Father.

 

 

 

 

Laufey-Clint Walker
Six feet, six inches tall, 54” chest.

 

 

 

 

Heimdall-Robert Shaw
Well known for his intimidating demeanor, the multi-talented Shaw would bring the perfect gravitas to the role of the guardian of the bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

Volstagg-Tom Poston
Poston was well known for bringing his subtle comedic talents to any project he was involved in.

 

 

 

 

Hogun-Bruce Lee
Kato on The Green Hornet was a revelation to Hollywood, and producers snatched him up for Hogun.

 

 

 

 

 

Fandral-Albert Finney
Audiences loved him as Tom Jones, and he would bring that same sense of roguish charm to Fandral.

 

 

 

 

 

Sif-Martine Beswick
Two-time Bond girl, able to mix it up (see her infamous cat-fight with Raquel Welch!).

 

She Can Fly: NYCC Marvel Announcements

DC Comics did not have great representation this year at New York Comic Con. 80% of their panels were about Batman—and with good reason, considering it’s the 75th anniversary of the caped crusader. All the same, most of their panels lacked announcements that were particularly (multiple) earth-shattering (those came a few days later via Twitter).

Marvel, on the other hand, embraced NYCC as a chance to show off all the things they had planned, as well as the company’s own 75th anniversary. I attended three general Marvel panels, Death of Wolverine, Axel in Charge, and Cup o’ Joe. Each panel had their fair share of exciting announcements, and a positive patter with attendees who asked questions.

Marvel’s announcements ranged from new non-hero titles, like James Patterson’s YA book Maximum Ride series, and properties, like Star Wars, with a core Star Wars title, as well as solos for Darth Vader, Leia, Kanan as a padawan, to TV tie ins, like Operation SIN, part of the Peggy Carter television series (Howard Stark and Woodrow McCord will star alongside Peggy in the title, written by Kathryn Immonen) and Agents of SHIELD, which features a different artist each issue (the “essence” of the show will be interacting with the entire Marvel Universe), to classic superhero announcements:

Superior Iron Man will be a return to the “old” Tony: hard partying, fun loving, drinking…but he’s a “bad guy” now, and will be dealing with (fighting?) Daredevil.

Sam Wilson as Captain America will represent a shift for Cap. Sam has a “different way” of going about things.

Thor #2 will feature Thor in action, including “more hints” about who she is.

Axis is 9 issues in 3 months, with Red Skull use of Onslaught’s powers ultimately causing the Avengers and X-Men to team up and face him.

The final incursion of the “Time Runs Out…” series will filter into Secret Wars. “It will be the biggest thing we’ve ever done.”

The Black Vortex is a crossover including the Guardians of the Galaxy, the X-Men, Captain Marvel, and more. The titular vortex unleases the inner power of characters. “We could get a cosmic Kitty,” Sam Humphries teased. “What would her cosmic power be?” Bendis asked. “Being cosmically awesome?” The crossover will bring characters together, but also test the relationship of Kitty Pryde and Peter Quill.

Though Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye is ending, the solo series will not. Marvel announced that Hawkeye will continue, and the panel confirmed Kate Bishop will be a part of the series.

A new Ant-Man series featuring Scott Lang will also start up in January. The panel remained tight-lipped about the possibility of Cass or Hank Pym in the series.

Groot gets Venom-ized in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Kaine will be “all over Spider-verse…but we’re not killing him. Yet.”

Gamora, Spider-Gwen, and Silk are all getting their own solo titles.

In Uncanny X-Men “Scott will deal with the new, powerful mutant most successfully.” The newly recovered mutant will become a big part of Scott’s revolution. The story line will span the entire Marvel Universe, with the panel teasing that the “teen” characters on the team may come to realize they aren’t on the “right” team.

In All-New X-Men, the team is crossing over with the Ultimate universe. “There’s a very good chance that all the X-Men will not go back to the right universe,” said Bendis. His statement that “Ultimate Kitty will make an appearance” cause the crowd to cheer.

On the topic of the Ultimate Universe, Bendis revealed that “Jean will meet a Jean that is closer to her than the Jean Jean Jean Jean…”

The Uncanny and All New annuals feature Eva. Bendis is very excited for the titles to be released, teasing that they will include visits from the Rawhide Kid, X-Men 2099, and more.

Amazing X-Men’s next arc will focus on the return of the Juggernaut, pitting Cain and Colossus against one another.

Spider-Man and the X-Men will be written by the head writer of the Daily Show. Peter Parker tries to become a teacher, but not everyone at the school is who they seem to be. The second issues features dinosaurs and shirtless men as an incentive to buy it.

All New X-Factor is coming to an end, but not before tying up all its loose ends. In issue #18, Danger gets laid, and in issue #20, the secret of Harrison Snow and his plans for X-Factor are revealed. Peter David is also working on Deadpool’s Art of War, in which Deadpool resolves to use the Art of War book as a survival guide, and basically tries to plunge the entire world into war.

Greg Pak talked about inclusivity and his new comic Storm. “Comics are for everyone, and Storm was one of the first characters who opened that up to me.” Storm was one of many non-white characters on the Uncanny X-Men, and Pak emphasized the importance of Storm getting her due as both an important and a powerful character. In the wake of Wolverine’s death, she will “take care of some of Logan’s unfinished business,” as well as teaming up with Yukio.

As of November, Wolverine has been around for 4 decades, but he died the Wednesday after NYCC back at Weapon X. However, his story isn’t over yet! Following the end of the Wolverine series is a 7 part mini, the Logan Legacy, which looks at the less heroic characters associated with Logan, and how his death affects their villainy. The Weapon X spin off features labrats escaping and following in Logan’s footsteps, described as “the Runaways meets Frankenstein.” Other oneshots will spin out from the Death of Wolverine, including a Deadpool and Captain America team up and the Life After Logan anthology issue, with stories starring Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Armor.

In January, Marvel will present an all new weekly series that follows Mystique, X-23, Daken, Sabertooth, and Lady Deathstrike as an unwilling team in Wolverines. The first issue features the Wrecking Crew. “We’ve got guest stars from every side,” including Fin Fang Foom in a later issue.

The Death of Wolverine panel definitively stated “Wolverine is dead and he’s not coming back any time soon.” “Wolverine and his death affect so many characters in so many profound ways” and all the different titles will try to handle what happens with as many characters as possible.

Of course, fans had plenty of questions, and, excitingly, plenty of time to ask them. One fan asked about the tinfoil hat theory that Marvel was ending the X-Men because of movie rights (much like the Fantastic Four). Bendis responded by pointing out Uncanny is almost entirely full of new characters who weren’t going away any time soon.

Another fan asked about Darkhawk; there are purportedly some hush-hush cosmic plans for him.

A question arose about the Ultimate Universe ending, to which only the cryptic answer “in 8 months, time runs out” was give.

At the time, the Captain Marvel movie had yet to be announced, so, when a female fan asked about female-led movies (a question repeated many times in different panels), the panel deflected her; “that’s a question for Kevin Feige.” They then pointed out that a number of coming television shows featured strong female leads. The panel also confirmed that the movies, TV shows, and upcoming Netflix series all existed in the same universe.

Events aren’t editorial dictates, something everyone was a little surprised to hear. The panel claimed they came about naturally from all the different characters existing in a shared universe.  “Our core titles tie in because they set the tone for the Marvel Universe…we try to make sure all the new books have their own identities,” but we have to reminder readers that they exist in a shared universe.

A fan asked “why are you killing Wolverine?” The panel glibly responded “to replace him with a female Wolverine.” And, let’s be honest, with the way Marvel has been producing female led titles (including the NYCC announced Silk and Spider-Gwen), that doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.

She Can Fly: Marvel Movie Phase 3

At their event this week, Marvel announced their upcoming movies, mimicking DC Entertainment’s 6 year plan, by listing their planned films in a big press event. Fans went wild, and much speculation was quelled as upcoming titles include Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel.

Captain America: Civil War raised a lot of eyebrows. Rumors had spread that the third film featuring Cap was going to be subtitled “Serpent Society,” a reference to some of the character’s snake-themed foes. Beyond that bait and switch, Civil War is a comic event that divided fans, much like it divided characters in the Marvel Universe. Some claim it is a perfect piece of work, and deny any problematic aspects, others say it’s the worst event ever created by Marvel (but let’s be honest, when you compare it to Fear Itself or Original Sin, it comes off looking pretty good). Still others argue that many of the key players within Civil War (New Warriors, Carol Danvers, Luke Cage, Black Bolt) have yet to be introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or their movie rights are not actually owned by Disney (Spider-Man, Beast, Reed Richards). The fan division, and the likely upset over Steve and Tony fighting, bodes well for the movie in a sense, as it will draw more attention from fans and media.

While Captain Marvel is going to be released a year after DC and Sony’s female led flicks (with Sony still holding their cards to their chest in terms of character), Black Panther will be released three years before DC’s 2020 Cyborg film, a smart move on Marvel’s behalf. Black Panther is a major player within the comic universe version of Civil War, and Marvel Entertainment has confirmed that the King of Wakanda, played by Chadwick Boseman, will play a major role in the film of the same title before getting his own solo in November of 2017.

Captain Marvel was confirmed as Carol Danvers, but Marvel remained tightlipped about the movie, saying that an actress would not be selected until a writer and director had been decided on. Many fans hope that the film will feature some of Carol’s female friends, including Monica Rambeau, Wendy Kawasaki (her assistant in the Kelly Sue Decconik run), and a potential crossover with the Netflix series of Jessica Jones.

News that wasn’t announced at the event was Benedict Cumberbatch’s rumored casting as Dr. Strange. President Kevin Feige was quoted as saying “if it were confirmed, we would have announced it today.” In all likelihood, it will be confirmed. According to the news that broke Tuesday, Cumberbatch was in the middle of contract negotiations with Marvel, with the latter likely trying to secure a contract with him in order to announce it at Tuesday’s event. Cumberbatch, much like Civil War, has been a divisive and hotly discussed choice.

Other movies include the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, which promised potential appearances from Howard the Duck, the Collector, and Cosmo, but no mention female characters, the Inhumans, Marvel’s response to not owning the movie rights to the X-Men, and the third Avengers movie, Infinity, which will follow in the vein of the Hobbit and be a two parter. One movie conspicuously missing was a Black Widow solo. Feige addressed the lack of a solo movie, saying “it’s about bringing new characters to the screen. Black Widow couldn’t be more important as an Avenger herself. Her part in Age of Ultron is very, very big and further develops and further enhances her character.” Feige continued by stating they had “big plans” for her in the Avengers saga, and that she was a “lynchpin” character to the series.

Personally, the MCU iteration of Black Widow is not one that excites me to the point of wanting a solo film (though, if she got one, I would take it, as we always need more female-led movies in general). However, many critics argue that the success of Lucy (the Scarlet Johansson starring female-led action film which had unfortunate implications regarding gender and race) shows that Johansson is absolutely capable of being the titular character in a superhero action flick.

Both DC and Marvel have revealed their movie cards for the next half decade, but one has to wonder how many of these films we will actually see come to fruition.

She Can Fly: Why, Freya, Why?

Spoilers ahead!

This Wednesday, Thor #1 was released. Although a new title, it is essentially a continuation of what happened to Thor in the final issues of IMG_0041Original Sin and the Thor: God of Thunder series. This title has already made headlines since Marvel released its preview, because a woman was Thor, and her superhero name has no feminizing adjective or suffix. Though this isn’t totally revolutionary—as both Thor and Loki have been women in multiple story-lines, What Ifs, and one-shots—the way Marvel publicized it was.

It’s great to see a big publisher embracing the idea that heroes don’t need to be gendered through their name, and it’s great to see Thor becoming a legacy character in the same vein of Captain Marvel. Embracing the idea that a woman can be the God of Thunder is a huge, positive step for a medium that only a few years ago was trying to cater only and specifically to men.

That said, the first issue only features the new female Thor on the final page, and what comes before that could easily be considered problematic.

Spoilers start here!

IMG_0042In the issue, Asgard (now referred to as “Asgardia”) orbits the moon. All the Asgardians stand on the moon watching Thor (rendered very specifically to look like Chris Hemsworth) trying to repossess his hammer. This is the big fallout (along with Angela being his sister) from the lackluster Original Sin (hear what the We3 Geeks thought of the event). Marvel is clearly trying to embrace the whole space-gods concept from the cinematic universe, but in a comic that has a longstanding relationship with trying to humanize the Asgardians, having them live in the shadow of the moon seems like a pretty far cry from the Straczynski-era Broxton, Oklamhoma-based Asgard (a story-line that, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of Thor as a series). This alienates Asgardians and makes them harder to relate to.

IMG_0044Also in the issue is Odin’s return, and repossession of the title “All-Father.” In his absence, his wife Freya was ruling as the All-Mother. Once again, the movies influence how Odin is written. Instead of wise and withholding, Odin comes off as misogynistic and rash. It’s frustrating to see this, because Odin insults his wife’s ruling prowess and essentially says a woman’s role is not on the battlefield, nor on the throne. This conflicts with previous portrayals of Odin (though there are so many within continuity, I only have the shallowest understanding of the character), and really vilifies him. I know many cinematic Loki fans believe that Odin is pure evil, but putting him in a role where he antagonizes his wife seems clichéd and weak.

And that’s where the most potential problematic aspect of the issue arises; it is very heavily—almost clumsily—implied that Freya takes up the mantle of Thor. On the one hand, a female Thor is awesome; on the other, this raises a whole slew of questions:
If Freya is Thor, does it undermine her position as the All-Mother? Does it negate her power as a god(dess) in her own right? Does it imply that inherently female celestial powers are innately weaker than male powers? Does her appropriation of the name “Thor” speak to an implication that society needs to have men in a position of power, even if it’s just a woman “using” a man’s name?

Essentially, the most problematic (and disappointing thing) about Freya becoming Thor is the fact that it negates her as a powerful and positive female character. While the world may indeed always need a Thor, why does it have to be a woman who is Queen of an alien/god race who must sacrifice her own ruling power to gain combat power (even though the issue implies that she is naturally pugnacious and capable of battle)?
So can these problems be rectified? Frankly, they can’t. The first issue, which is dense and at the same time accomplishes almost nothing, has already dug a deep hole of misogyny and male/female strife that is irreparable. Perhaps, if another woman had been chosen to become Thor, these issues could have been avoided, and the character could have even teamed up and apprenticed with the All-Mother.

Who could be a better character choice? I know a lot of female fans were hoping for a new marvelous woman to be introduced in a well-known and popular heroic role, as that is one of the few ways a new character can likely succeed. Marvel also has scads of underused characters, like Annabelle Riggs, the queer archaeologist from the pages of the failed Fearless Defenders. Annabelle could have been a great choice of character, seeing that she now shares a body (however ickily) with Valkyrie, which could both justify her presence on the moon, as well as her incarnation of Thor having luscious blonde locks. It could add a level of depth and interest to what appears to be a heavily Marvel mythological-inspired story.

Thor #1 is not a bad issue, and I am interested to see how Freya (maybe) becoming Thor will affect the character dynamics between her, Odin, Thor, and Loki (who I’m sure we will soon see in the title), but the steps that writer Jason Aaron felt he had to make in order to have Freya become Thor are disappointing at best.

What female character would you rather have seen become Thor?

All’s Fair In Love & Comics: Star-Crossed Lovers

I’m a sucker for love. From the classic Young Romance comics to in-game trysts, I believe romantic relationships can be a part of any good story.

afilac01-01But it’s not just any romance that makes a story better. It’s the kind that enhances the characters, puts them in a new light, and puts them out of their comfort zones. And that’s why I think the romance between Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) and Kitty Pryde (formerly Shadowcat) is a really stellar addition to the current continuity of the Marvel Universe.

Their romance is unique to comics right now: it’s light-hearted, fun, and inventive, and obviously not taken too seriously. Introduced at the tail end of the Brian Michael Bendis written All New X-Men/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover, the Trial of Jean Grey, Kitty falls for another Peter (in a long line of Peters). But this time is different from the others; the relationship is a long-distance one, and is moving very slowly, and I think that’s an asset. The low-key pace allows for some pretty drastic character growth: Quill is (slowly) quitting his playboy ways in favor of what is honestly a very chaste, capital-R Relationship. Kitty is coming out of her shell and opening up to someone who doesn’t know every detail of her life (unlike Iceman, Colossus, or even Pete Wisdom). It also opens Kitty up to the chance of moving out of the X-world and into the rest of the Marvel Universe; while I doubt she’ll be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy anytime soon, it bodes well for team-ups (and maybe, one day, she’ll follow in the footsteps of Beast and become an Avenger).

afilac01-03While Bendis started the relationship (and continues it throughout the pages of All New X-Men, primarily), it really shines in the hands of Legendary Star-Lord writer Sam Humphries. Humphries has great comedic timing, and a very good grasp of the voices of both characters. Only three issues in, he’s establishing them as hesitant and smitten, but also goofy–they clearly connect. Paco Medina’s strongly-lined art adds to the humor and fun of the book. And while the relationship distances the comics from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they make small nods to the little details that fans of the film Guardians of the Galaxy will love–Peter’s Awesome Mix, Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling, Rocket’s sassy nicknames for his friends…

afilac01-04The relationship also addresses deeper subjects, like Kitty’s space bullet-based PTSD and Quill’s racism against the Badoon and suspicion of the Phoenix, and both of their fears of commitment.

This romance may not be one that lasts—although I wouldn’t mind it sticking around—but I think it’s a superb example of how romance should be handled and written in comics. It isn’t about lust, or fast-paced hook-ups (although that can be interesting); it’s about characters finding common ground and bonding on a deeper level. It’s light and fun and feels realistically flirtatious for a pair of people who spend most of their day in spandex.

afilac01-06Star-Lord editor Xander Jarowey definitely sums it up best: “You know, if a girl braved space to save my butt despite some serious traumatic history with space-bullets I’d probably fall for her too. Especially if she had some good mixtapes. I can feel the love tonight, can you?”