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

She Can Fly: How Lois Lane Became Nancy Drew

Next month, Lois Lane—who’s starred in comics, cartoons, the silver screen, and small screen—will be gracing the pages of YA Fiction. May 1, 2015 will see the debut of what is implied to be an ongoing Young Adult series starring Lois Lane; Lois Lane: Fallout, by Gwenda Bond. The series focuses on a high school age Lois Lane who just moved to Metropolis, and ends up out to solve a mystery for the school newspaper.

Bond’s own autobiography cites Lois Lane as the inspiration for her getting a degree in journalism, and the book embraces the “girl detective” concept popularized by Nancy Drew, but adds its own modern, Veronica Mars-inspired edge, according to early praise from Entertainment Weekly. The book’s blurb also implies that Lois has already established a connection with Clark Kent (probably the only person who would actually have the screenname “SmallvilleGuy”), not only through her online chatting with him, but also through her survival or a “near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.”

Lois Lane: Fallout promises a more modern take on the classic teen girl-based mystery novels, like the Sweetbriar Twins and the Babysitter’s Club, with a less restrictively “feminine” plot. Lois is trying to find out about a high-tech, immersive videogame (perhaps made by a lil’ Lex Luthor) which seems to be able to mess with the minds of people who may not even be playing the game. Instead of having Lois try to solve relationship drama or save cute animals, the book is pushing her in the direction of a medium that has recently been under fire for its treatment of women.

Lois Lane has often been portrayed as a woman who denies conventions and pushes past the female stereotype, so setting up young Lois in a position where she can question both a medium, as well as, potentially, a genre, is brilliant. Early praise for the book has complimented Lois as a well-rounded, witty, and determined young woman, and Bond’s inherent connection with the character is promising in terms of how Lois is written.

But Lois Lane isn’t the only superheroine to be making her way to YA. Black Widow will also be the star of a Young Adult book to be released later in 2015, Black Widow: Forever Red. Taking the same high school-age slant as Fallout, Forever Red will feature a young Natasha and the Red Room of (possibly Soviet?) Russia. The details on the novel, which was first announced at NYCC 2014, have yet to be released, but it will be written by Margaret Stohl, who has co-written a number of Beautiful Creatures titles.

This trend of comic heroines making their way to the pages of books started back in 2013 with Marvel’s She-Hulk Diaries and Rogue Touch. Each book took an individualized slant on the characters:  the She-Hulk Diaries, by Marta Acosta, taking a modern chicklit twist on the character, in a similar vein to the Princess Diaries’ Meg Cabot’s adult novels. Rogue Touch, by Christine Woodward, came off as an edgier Young Adult novel, with heavy science fiction influences.

These novels from Marvel, as well as DC’s upcoming Lois Lane book 1, are an amazing acknowledgment of female fans from companies that have been traditionally seen as only catering towards male fans. While Marvel’s first two books received some praise, they didn’t receive much fanfare, and were regarded by many as pandering to women who didn’t read comics to begin with. The books, though they could be easily categorized as “chicklit,” were fun, unique takes on two of the most well-loved heroines in the Marvel Universe.  The diminution of these titles, just because they embrace the inherently female aspect of the characters, speaks to a great sense of misogyny in fans, internalized and not.

Much like Marvel Divas, an amazing miniseries that failed mainly because of the title and sales pitch (“Sex and the City with superheroes!”), these books come off like they’re being advertised as a “lowest common denominator” of female-directed content. But they are actually much more complex than that. Look at it this way, while Sex in the City is now much maligned for a handful of poorly written, clichéd movies, the first season of Sex in the City was actually a subversive, fourth wall-breaking comedy that touched on female topics that were never spoken about on television before: menstruation, female orgasms, multiple partners, vibrators. These titles, if they are like Sex in the City, are like the first season: unexpected, feminist, and exciting.

These upcoming books promise similar content, and with the current rise in the popularity of Young Adult fiction, if Lois Lane: Fallout becomes well received (and sells well), there’s a potential that the book could lead to a lot more for the character:

A solo comic.

Maybe a starring role on the CW’s upcoming Supergirl, or a television show of her own.

Perhaps it could even lead to Lois Lane movie?

 

 

Full solicitation for Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond below:

Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over—and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight.

As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy…

She Can Fly: Girls Don’t Read Comics

For years, comic companies sought the much fought over demographic of white men, 18-35. That was the ideal and the goal, and companies stated many times how that was the only readership they were really interested in. People assumed men were always the ones reading comics.

Historically, though, comicbooks started out as reprints of newspaper funnies, specifically sold to young children, both female and male. When original content for comics was first created, which mainly consisted of humor, pulp stories, and Young Romance-style vignettes, children and female readers became the majority consumers.

It wasn’t until World War II that men became the iconic consumers of comics, as comics (many of which were now in the superhero genre) were easy to ship to the boys abroad and provided entertainment in a dark time. Even then, the women who remained and worked in the states, continued to read, and contribute to, comics. When soldiers returned from World War II, the comic book industry shifted tone to match the jaded men and women who were, respectively, dealing with serious conditions like PTSD and losing their employment due to men returning from the battlefield.

The tonal shift, when comics came to focus less on heroes and humor and more on war, horror, crime, and violence, is often associated with the inception of Fredric Wertham’s infamous Seduction of the Innocent book, and subsequent Senate investigation. Wertham’s presentation to the Senate, which resulted in the Comics Code Authority, however, featured both young men and women as primary subjects of his research, and even asserted that comicbook content had encouraged a 13-year-old girl to steal and that Wonder Woman was giving little girls the “wrong ideas” about a woman’s place in society.

Comics were never intended for an all-male, or all-adult, audience. The concept is an erroneous one, but one that has been perpetuated by almost every comic company.

However, in the past year, there has been a dramatic shift. While female characters are still not a majority in superhero comics, there has been a noticeable increase in female-led titles, and female characters being presented in a positive (or at least in a way that is not incongruent with male characters) manner.

If anything, titles like Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Gotham Academy, and the recent tone change for Batgirl emphasize the fact that comics have seen a visible audience shift to young women, and that companies are finally acknowledging this visible, and very verbal audience. These are characters in high school and college who are not sexualized in the classic, superhero comicbook style.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’s Erika Henderson and Batgirl’s Babs Tarr started out as “tumblr famous” artists, and their styles are referential to classic shoujo manga (an art style that aims specifically at appealing towards women), with an emphasis on modern clothing and realistic body types.

Just three years ago, it seemed like no company was interested in selling books for women, now major titles like Uncanny X-Men are using artists, like Kris Anka, who are known for drawing women with different body types and pleasingly unbroken backs.

While DC still seems to struggle—look at the current creative team on Wonder Woman. Although the writer, Meredith Finch, is a woman, the book’s dialogue is mired in internalized misogyny, and an iconically “strong” and lawful good female character, Donna Troy, has been turned into a murder machine by evil feminist Amazons—titles like Harley Quinn, and the upcoming Starfire and Black Canary series seem to speak towards a strong and varied female audience.

While Marvel tends to be the darling of the internet-based audience, their missteps with characters—like Silk, who has magical pheromones that work only with Peter Parker, or the Marvel and Disney decision to delay the Black Panther and Captain Marvel films in favor of another Spider-man movie—are acknowledge very openly by their audience online.

Market research, conducted via Facebook last year, showed that the comic-reading audience was almost 50% female, and that women were the majority readers on female-led titles (shocking that women like to read about female characters). But, moreover, it’s the fact that the Big Two are actually marketing comics pointedly towards girls and women. Women have been reading comicbooks since their inception, but now they are finally being treated like a significant demographic.

She Can Fly: Be Forceful

The View seems to be Marvel’s new platform for announcements regarding female driven titles. As much as it is bizarre, it’s also kind of an awesome tactic.

The View’s primary audience is women 30 and over. The fact that Marvel utilizes the women of the View–currently Whoopi Goldberg, Nicole Wallace, Rosie Perez, and Rosie O’Donnell–on ABC, a network owned by their parent company, to make big comic announcements implies that Marvel is acknowledging not only the fact that they have a female audience, but also that they have a female audience with a variety of ages.

The View promised to make a “forceful” announcement on Friday, February 6. Promoted throughout the week prior, this statement caused many fans interpreted to be a tie in with Marvel’s newly published Star Wars titles. The announcement, however, got bumped from the show due to timing.

Still, that Friday Marvel announced the that a new book would be released as part of the universe-spanning Secret Wars event. And that book is…

A-Force.

Terrible title aside–it sounds like a mash up of Avengers and X-Force, which, based on Uncanny Avengers alone, just sounds like a terrible idea (didn’t that team already exist, and wasn’t it called Thunderbolts Vol. 2?)–the team, and the creative team behind them, sounds promising. A-Force is actually an all-female Avengers team, written by G. Willow Wilson, who made Ms. Marvel one of the most reprinted titles of 2014, and
Marguerite Bennett, who is currently co-writing the Angela solo, with art by Jorge Molina.

A-Force will be the major Avengers title of Secret Wars, and presents a part of Battle World, Arcadia, as a feminist paradise where superheroines must join together to battle a rising threat (so, think Paradise Island pre-Azzerello). The book promises to introduce a new character, Singularity–who’s power is something about a pocket universe caused by all the other universes collapsing on each other (so…hammer space?)–in addition to fan favorites like She-Hulk, Dazzler, Nico Minoru of the Runaways, and Medusa.

The cover itself boasts a record number of female characters, but has a some characters who seem to be pointedly absent (Kitty Pryde, Ms. Marvel, and Sue Storm, to name a few). Based on Wilson’s comments on the title, the story will focus on the five above mentioned characters, but will likely feature a who’s who of heroines throughout it’s pages, and hopefully lots of nods to Marvel continuity (which may be perishing after Secret Wars, based on DC’s post-Convergence plans).

The title is exciting, and hopefully this creative team will emphasize female partnership and friendship, as opposed to all the in-fighting and cattiness that was featured in Marvel’s last female-led team, the Fearless Defenders.

What is truly a shame is the fact that the book isn’t named after Marvel’s first all-female team name, the Lady Liberators…but I’ll take what I can get!

She Can Fly: Don’t Be a Baby

(A/N: This post was originally written in December 2014, after the release of Angela: Asgard’s Assassin)

Marvel and DC have both upped their game in terms of female-led titles, with each company having at least a half dozen currently ongoing titles (excluding titles that were upcoming, canceled, or have had focus moved to male characters a la Worlds’ Finest). DC’s got Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Supergirl; while Marvel’s got Elektra, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, X-Men, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Storm, and the soon ending She-Hulk (which will essentially be replaced by the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl).

But there’s also this subtle trend in superheroine comics that started with the New 52, and continued to be propagated by Marvel NOW! (or All New Marvel NOW!, etc.):

The plots of many of these female-led titles revolve around babies.

It’s not like in the Fantastic Four, Animal Man, or the Heroic Age New Avengers, where Sue Storm, Ellen Baker, and Jessica Jones are mothers of (sometimes) newborns. Instead, it’s characters who have no ability or interest in bearing children who end up protecting and often fostering very young, sometimes newborn, babies.

The trend started in Wonder Woman, as she protected pregnant (and occasionally incapable) Zola, and eventually her newborn son, Zeke. The all-female team book X-Men kicked off issue #1 with a story about how vampire Jubilee essentially steals a baby from a foreign country and decides to make him her surrogate son, who she then names Shogo. Now, in the first issue Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, Angela steals the newborn heir of Asgard (but a female baby, as is revealed in the second issue).

That means, as of December, 1/6 of DC’s female led titles, and ¼ of Marvel’s, focus on some implied intrinsic link between female characters and babies. The only male-led title that features a non-parental character caring for a baby that comes to mind is mid-90s to early 00s Cable, when he strapped Hope, along with some big guns, to his chest and traveled through time.

So why do comic companies feel the need to link superheroic women to newborns? With two new titles, it felt like a coincidence, but with the addition of a third, it feels more like a bizarre conspiracy. Do companies think that babies make unapproachable (Wonder Woman), inhuman (Jubilee), or violent (Angela) female characters more relate-able?

Moreover, what about the fact that all the babies, up until Angela, were male? Are male babies meant to represent a viewpoint for male readers: a character who appears easier to relate to than the supremely powerful women who lead the titles? And, ultimately, does this negate the power of the female characters?

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 was about as good a first issue as one could imagine for a character ported to the Marvel Universe from the 90s-than-thou Spawn series, but the insistence on linking female characters to babies (specifically babies that are not their own) is baffling. While Angela carrying a baby around may not last more than a few issues within the series, the fact that it happened within the first issue feels like there is a significant message implied.

Black Vortex: Interview With Sam Humphries

The Black Vortex starts today!

bv01Yes, Marvel Comics’ next big crossover for the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy beings today with the Black Vortex Alpha issue. In celebration of the release, which I’ve been hyped for (and promoting) since NYCC, I had a chance to sit down with Legendary Star-Lord writer and “show runner” of the event, Sam Humphries, as he was finishing up writing the Omega issues, and chat about the crossover, what the Black Vortex is, and if everyone’s new favorite couple (or at least my favorite)– Kitty Pryde and Peter Quill–will survive the experience!

Acts of Geek: You and Brian Michael Bendis are the primary writers behind the crossover, but you’ve been dubbed the “show runner” of the event. What does that entail?

Sam Humphries: It entails watching helplessly as your email inbox is slowly massacred by a ruthless gang of very talented, very well-meaning co-conspirators.

In a sense, I am Spider-Man, watching over the sprawling city that is the Black Vortex. We’re talking thirteen issues of comics and around 30 characters. In the hands of dozens of creators and editors, an event like this can quickly become a disaster. Unless you are prepared — and we are VERY prepared.

It was my job to do a lot of that preparation before a single script page was written. I came up with the initial idea, and pitched it at a couple Marvel Editorial Retreats. I developed the overall outline for the overall story. I wrote a lengthy “Black Vortex Bible” to make sure everyone is armed with the information and background they need. But invariably there are questions, new ideas, and sticky wickets along the way. You gotta be ready to speak to all that in multiple email chains at once. If you make a change in chapter 3, how is that gonna affect chapter 10? Lots of stuff like that.

Fortunately, I am blessed with some stellar co-authors in Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gerry Duggan, and John Layman. They fix whatever I screw up, and take the things I didn’t screw up and make them better. Plus our editorial staff Mike Marts, Katie Kubert, and Xander Jarowey…it’s a talented team, I’m lucky to have their support.

AoG: I believe this is your first time heading a big event. How is writing issues for this different from writing a stand alone title?

SH: When you write a stand-alone title, you can change whatever you want on the fly and you won’t get angry texts about it from your co-conspirators.

AoG: The relationship between Kitty Pryde and Peter Quill has been a major focus of Star-Lord, and Peter “popped the question” to Kitty, asking her to live in space with him. Will their relationship be a focal point of the event?

bv02SH: Yes, absolutely. That has been a major thread of THE LEGENDARY STAR-LORD, and the two of them form the nexus between the Guardians and the X-Men. And the Black Vortex is gonna put all our characters through some heavy soul-searching — Kitty and Peter’s relationship is gonna go through the grinder in this one. #StarKatNation fans are gonna be on the edge of their seats.

AoG: One of the things about Legendary Star-Lord that I love is Peter’s propensity to get kidnapped, tied up naked, and needing to be rescued by Kitty, or other ladies in his life. It feels reminiscent of Eisner’s The Spirit. Was that intentional? Where did the inspiration for this come from for you?

SH: Ha! I never thought of that. Love Eisner’s later work but never got into the Spirit very much. Peter is not rich, or a super-genius, or the best he is at what he does. Being extremely competent is not part of who he is as a character — he’s a scoundrel with a heart of gold.

But one of his strengths is his relationships — with his mom, with the Guardians, and now with Kitty. So when he does screw up, he has backup. He has community. People he can trust. People who will go to the mat for him. It takes a village to raise a scoundrel.

And if he happens to get shirtless along the way, well…that’s just how things go in space!

AoG: What’s the thing you are looking most forward to about the Black Vortex?

SH: The artwork. Ed McGuinness, Kris Anka, Valerio Schiti, Paco Medina, Andrea Sorrentino, Mike Mayhew…plus more we haven’t announced yet. This event is gonna be so beautiful…one of the best-looking crossovers in recent memory.

Even better, I don’t have to look forward to it, I get to see it NOW! And it is truly awesome. So maybe I am most looking forward to everyone else getting to see it.

AoG: What character has been the easiest for you to write? What character has been the most difficult?

bv03SH: Peter and Kitty have been the easiest. I’ve written them the most, and in some ways, the Black Vortex is like a diamond that has formed around their relationship. The hardest has probably been the modern Doctor Hank McCoy. It’s easy to write a genius, but to write a genius with heartbreak…saying anything more would involve spoilers.

AoG: What’s the best thing about being able to crossover the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men?

SH: Taking characters who haven’t had a lot of time together and shoving them into unpredictable situations. Magik and Gamora. Beast and Rocket. A lot of times I discovered the characters with the most in common had the most potential for conflict…go figure…

AoG: The Black Vortex seems to be able to cosmically empower characters; can you give a little teaser for some of the cosmic powers that might be revealed in the crossover?

bv04SH: No spoilers. But I like to use these examples —

Joe Quesada loves to play guitar. If he submitted to the Black Vortex, he wouldn’t just be a great guitar player, he’d be able to torch an axe like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and George Harrison together — on their best days.

Axel Alonso is a long-time basketball player. If he submitted to the Black Vortex, he wouldn’t just be able to do a slam dunk or two, he’d be able to face off against the Dream Team a hundred games in a row and win every one — singlehandedly.

So apply that same logic to some of our heroes…

AoG: How would you sum up the Black Vortex in a sentence to someone who’s thinking about picking it up?

SH: It’s like every ice cream flavor you ever loved mixed with your favorite childhood memories topped with the tears of every hater who crossed your path. Hey, might as well swing for the fences…

So, well I dream about what I might become were I to submit to the Black Vortex (maybe the world’s greatest comic book writer? Or just an even bigger comic book nerd?), I hope you’ll join me in picking up The Black Vortex Alpha #1 (and the rest of the Black Vortex crossover), out now!

Ms. Marvel: San Francisco’s newest heroine!

In the final weeks of January, Muni buses in San Francisco began to feature ads on the sides, purchased by blogger Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative, that equate Islam with Nazism. This apparently isn’t the first time these ads have been placed by the anti-Islamic organization (which has been labeled a hate group by the United Kingdom government), but it is the first time something has been done about them.

msmarv04 msmarv01

In the tradition of Banksy, a group took something ugly and made it beautiful. The Facebook page Street Cred – Advertising for the People posted pictures of the Islamophobic ads after they had been “defaced” by local activists and citizens: “the ads now feature Kamala Khan, Marvel’s Comics first Muslim character to headline her own comic book with messages against islamophobia, racism and hate speech and a group of protestors calling for more love. Enjoy.”

msmarv03 msmarv02

In an amazing turnabout, the ads now promote love and support to Islamic countries, as opposed to hatred and racism. The beautiful graffiti not only supports equality and the stopping of hate speech, but also promotes a female-led comic that stars a woman of color. Marvel is getting some wonderful advertisement for a series that is all about how racism and bigotry effect American teens.

Even in a stereotypically liberal city, it’s wonderful to see movement against hate-ads like those by the FDI. It’s even better to see that comic book characters continue to tap into the ethos of the times, offering up a representation for everyone who has dealt with hatred and racism. And that it’s a female character being used is even better.

G. Willow Wilson, writer of the Ms. Marvel series, tweeted her support for the graffiti when pictures were initially posted last weekend:

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This is why representation matters.

Captain America is a Jerk!

Captain America (Sam Wilson) and Superior Iron Man make the conflict in Mark Millar’s Civil War look subtle and nuanced. They are dicks who subscribe to a very right-wing Fox News agenda. My political stance is unimportant, but the agenda and point of view of the Marvel editors is obvious.

CapJerk[Click image to enlarge] Given that, I would ask them, why have Cap (Sam) be such a poster-boy for dickery? “Every comic is someone’s first” is attributed to Stan Lee. Imagine a reader picking up an issue of Captain America and The Mighty Avengers, having heard the hype about a new African-American Captain America. They would see that this new Captain America is 100% an asshole, and Luke Cage, previously a hero for the people, stands right next to Cap in his dbaggery.

What message does this send? Is Marvel’s change in the status quo a push for more representation, or is it just a publicity gathering machine of hype? Why would you deliberately choose to introduce a black Captain America and then immediately have him be a class A jerk?

Presumably, Axis will develop, and the status quo will be restored. Will we still have a black Captain America? A female Thor? Or like many things in comics, will the stories that led us to this point (Steve Rogers aging, Thor Odinson no longer worthy) be wiped away?

Shame on you Marvel. Anyone can be an asshole, regardless of skin color, that is true, but if you are going to capitalize on your diversity attempts, then you are responsible for making choices with positive outcomes, and not just riding the hype train.

She Can Fly: Broken Trinity?

So, we’ve got a female Thor. We’ve got a black Captain America. We’ve got an evil, megalomaniac billionaire playboy in Iron Man.

That’s Marvel’s new trinity, it seems, one to combat the Wonder Woman/Batman/Superman iconography that’s been over at DC for almost seven decades. And you can see some analogous choices in Marvel’s new direction, with Thor now aligning more with Wonder Woman than Superman in terms of character structure (although Thor is an alien now, I guess?). Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are both jerky, occasionally dislikable, rich white guys with lots of toys. Cap and Superman stand for the American way, in theory, at least.

But here’s where the Trinity falls apart: of the four books that feature the starring three (Thor, All New Captain America, Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, and Superior Iron Man) half of them present their titular hero as evil.

Part of the issue with Captain America is that his two debut books were released simultaneously, and they present to very different versions of the new Cap. One, All New Captain America is the positive, heartwarming, and dynamic introduction of a new hero born from an old one. The other, Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, presents a cold, cruel, thug of a “hero” in the role of Cap. This is because the latter title is an Axis tie in.

Superior Iron Man seems also to be an Axis tie in, present a Tony Stark that is rough, edgy, and cruel. To put it quite simply, Tony Stark is a jerk. This character presentation is a lot darker than the iconic Demon in the Bottle storyline, and the character has been compared to John Galt in multiple reviews. Honestly, the idea of Iron Man as an Ayn Rand-ian hero is a hard pill to swallow, and I’m barely invested in Tony Stark as a character to begin with.

Finally, Thor is maybe the best presented of the trio, and even then, the title is more focused on the mystery of “who is Thor?”, rather than Thor’s interaction with the rest of the world. The closest she gets to being humanized is dealing with the Roxxon CEO, who is also apparently a bloodthirsty centaur.

The biggest problems with this trinity really derive from one, singular thing: big events. After all, Thor’s change in gender spins out from the lackluster Original Sin, and both Cap and Stark are having about-face-turns due to the events of the underwhelming and clichéd Axis. Axis, certainly, seems like a storyline that better belongs in a What If one off than a line-wide event. And though Marvel’s been building to it since the Marvel Now and All New Marvel Now rebrandings (don’t forget, Red Skull had Xavier’s brain in issue #1 of Uncanny Avengers), that doesn’t mean it is something that will resonate with their audience.

The other issue is derived from the fact that these three have yet to interact with society. They’re seen surrounded by evil CEOs, businessmen with no scruples, and fighting other superheroes, but they aren’t seen standing toe-to-toe with a regular citizen. These are the moments that stand out the most in superhero comics: when Wonder Woman tells a little girl how to sword fight with a stick and beat the boys; when Superman saves a troubled teen from committing suicide by encouraging them; when Batman rescues an orphan, seeing himself in them. Likewise, Cap, Thor, and Iron Man have all had moments like this in past storylines, but these new interpretations of the characters have yet to have these shining moments of human interaction.

I think the most successful trinity Marvel had was during the brief period that the Ultimate line, right before the Cataclysm event, where Steve Rogers, Miles Morales, and Kitty Pryde represented the best and the brightest the universe had to offer; all three were shown as compassionate and complex characters, fighting for the right to be a hero, but also to be human (said trinity is now in shambles, with President Cap dead and the All New Ultimates team book a pretty pale shadow of what it could have been).

It seems fairly clear that Marvel’s greatest weakness is big events—I would even go so far as to say this is where all big superhero comics falter. Imagine what these books could have been like without having to be tied into Axis. Imagine a Mighty Avengers team fighting against the racism that the new Cap has to face. Imagine a relapsed Tony Stark, who, instead of dealing with his demons, chooses a darker path. And imagine Thor smashing the patriarchy.

Those are the books I would like to read.

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.