Marvel Comics’ 2017 event, Secret Empire, is not a series I like. It’s not even a series I dislike. It’s a series I loathe. I’ll freely admit that when I first heard of the plot: “Captain America, having been revealed as a Hydra sleeper agent, takes control of the Nazi-stand in organization and overthrows the United States, installing himself as the supreme leader, must now face down the heroes of the Marvel Universe who face the daunting task of defeating their iconic leader who knows everything about them”, I thought, there’s an idea that could work there. Absolute power corrupting. Cap being swayed to the darkside. What if our icons turned on us? Should we have heroes? Should anyone be granted so much implicit trust and power? There are some interesting questions in the premise that could have been asked. Nick Spencer’s mini series failed to deliver on any of the aforementioned potential themes.
Netflix is really doing a good job wooing in new viewers like myself. Sense8 Season 1 (which I still have to finish) has been great, and I have a Christmas episode and Season 2 to look forward to. Captivating characters. An interesting premise. International locations. And a diverse cast. Good, solid show.
Then there are the Netflix/Marvel joint original series. Hoo-boy, Daredevil was AMAZEBALLS, and set a standard for the other Netflix/Marvel shows to meet. Jessica Jones, though a completely different tone, and vastly more difficult subject matter, actually surpassed Daredevil’s first season in quality (and Kristin Ritter just works magically as JJ). Daredevil Season 2 was not as tightly focused as the first, but benefited from the introduction of the Punisher (who’s getting his own series in a few years). I’ve not finished Luke Cage yet, but what I’ve seen has been great. Colter plays him so close to the vest, and I like that. He’s not a stereotypical black character on tv and we desperately need greater diversity in the roles black men play in our entertainment. I’ve not mustered the wherewithal to watch Captain Cultural Appropriation by way of the White Savior Trope aka Iron Fist, and I’m not completely sure I ever will (they should have cast an Asian actor in the title role, and there are ways to work with the character’s history to avoid the numerous tropes of Asian characters in film and tv). Despite my ambivalence towards Iron Fist, I plan on watching Defenders.
But Netflix hasn’t stopped there. They’re giving me something else to watch and just from the teaser it looks AMAZEBALLS. With a drop date of July 7, the dark medieval animated series Castlevania (based on the old video game, and written and executive produced by Warren ‘The Authority’ Ellis) has my mouth watering. Take a gander at the teaser:
Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson were teen runaways who–individually–left their hometowns for the streets of New York. Encountering one another by chance, Bowen’s purse was stolen by a thief, and was recovered by Johnson. Bonding over this encounter, the two were captured soon after their arrival and subjected to your typical scientific experiment carried out by a morally deficient scientist. The experiment granted the pair “light” and “dark” powers, which I’ll get into in a minute. For much of their young career, the pair specifically fought drug dealers and worked to ensure the safety of other teen runaways.
Now, about those powers…
Cringeworthy. Boring. Unfaithful. Ho-hum.
Those are the words that spring to mind when I think of the television adaptations of comic book properties that existed when I was growing up. Not the cartoons mind you, but the live-action shows. I know these tv shows and made for tv movies have their fans. I am not now, nor have I ever been, one of them. As a kid, I tolerated television movies like The Amazing Spider-Man in which the title character engaged in some truly yawn inducing adventures. Or the Bill Bixby starring Incredible Hulk, who bore little resemblance in appearance or power (seriously, he struggled to lift telephone poles) to his comic book counterpart. Plus, he didn’t leap. he jogged at a brisk pace (I think I’ve seen mall joggers move faster than he did). And while shows like Superboy were more faithful to the source material and featured a character that I recognized, there was still a cringe-factor. Perhaps it was the cheesiness or the fact that many of the villains were mundane rather than spectacular, but watching such shows often left me wanting more. More adventure. More excitement. More fun. Faithful adaptations. And there was something else I wanted from these shows. Something that I considered fundamental to comic books, and that was missing from the other tv adaptations: I wanted a shared universe. I wanted to see supporting characters interacting with one another. I wanted to see characters from show reference events in another show. And of course I wanted to see superheroes teaming up.
If 16 yo. me had a time machine, and used it to peer into the twentyteens, he’d be shell shocked. To see the fastest man alive zooming across the screen at Mach speeds would be exciting to him. Watching the last daughter of Krypton make a name for herself both as a reporter and a superhero would be thrilling. And I just know he’d have gotten goosebumps upon learning that the streaming service Netflix has teamed up with Marvel and given him exactly what he wanted.
A shared universe.
Oh, and superheroes teaming up on the small screen.
Now, 16 yo me would probably be at school on August 18, 2017, anxiously anticipating the end of the school day. But me? I’ll be planted in front of a television watching the debut of the Defenders. Check out the teaser.
If you’re a comic book fan, you might have heard that Marvel Comics’ Black Panther is poised for some very big things over the next year or two. Several months ago, Marvel’s first black superhero made his live-action debut in the so-completely-awesome-I-saw-it-two-times (and supremely better than the bleak n’ dreary mess that was Batman vs Superman) Captain America: Civil War. In the film, Chadwick Boseman plays the king of the fictional and technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda. Boseman brought a gravitas to the role that thoroughly impressed me (I was also impressed that he was given a satisfying character arc in the film). Meanwhile, in the comics, one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary writers on race issues in the US, Ta-Nehisi Coates, has been writing the new Black Panther series since April (you didn’t know?! Well hie thee to a comic book store or Comixology). Then there’s the much-anticipated 2018 live-action Black Panther film, which sees Boseman reprise his role as the African ruler in a movie that may well position the character as a major player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a role he very much deserves). That’s not the only cool news involving the character though, as a recent panel at the San Diego Comic-Con revealed. November sees the release of a companion title to the Coates series, titled Black Panther: World of Wakanda. The book will be co-written by Coates, the Bad Feminist herself, Roxane Gay, and poet Yona Harvey:
If I’m not mistaken, Marvel leads DC on that front, as the last several years has seen the New York-based publisher produce titles like Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, Captain America (Sam Wilson), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Nova, Red Wolf, Spider-Man 2099, and Devil Dinosaur & Moon Girl. Meanwhile, over at DC, the company’s only books in recent years with a Person of Color in the starring role are Dr. Fate and Cyborg. The powers that be at DC cannot be ignorant of the demand for more racially diverse titles. In fact, this awareness is probably a significant reason why the company will soon be adding a new title to it’s publishing schedule, New Super-Man. The title will see a Chinese teenager acquiring some of Superman’s powers:
They say it is best to arrive to a party fashionably late. How late that is can vary from person to person, but I’ve often heard 15-20 minutes is a reasonable time. If that’s the case, then I arrived UNfashionably late to the Marvel Cinematic Netflix series Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Over the last 5 days, I’ve binge-watched all 26 episodes of each series (in-between catching up on Season 1 of Flash, a few episodes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, the first three episodes of Young Justice Season 2, and a couple of episodes from Season 1 of Arrow), and I’ve got to say those 26 hours were some of the best television I’ve ever seen and definitely in the ranks of “best cinematic adaptations of comic book properties”. From the characters, to the stories, to the atmosphere, Daredevil and Jessica Jones hit near-perfect notes. If you haven’t seen either (and plan to at some point), I’ll be discussing plot points of both shows ahead. So read on only if you don’t mind spoilers:
Speaking of the Punisher, plans are afoot to give the character his own series. For those unfamiliar with the character, Frank Castle (aka the Punisher) is a Marvel Comics vigilante (with a military background) whose wife and children were killed as a result of criminal activity. An enraged Castle sought revenge and killed those responsible. Realizing that criminals often slip through the cracks of the criminal justice system, Castle took on the identity of the Punisher and launched a one-man war on crime. Utilizing his extensive military and hand-to-hand combat skills, as well as a huge arsenal of weapons, the Punisher targets all manner of criminals with his unique brand of “punishment”. From mob bosses and gang leaders to gunrunning militias and corrupt city officials to drug kingpins and human traffickers, his single-minded quest quickly made him the scourge of the criminal underworld (not unlike a certain bat-themed character at DC Comics, though their methods are vastly different). Starring in various comic books during the 80s and 90s, the Punisher enjoyed a huge amount of commercial success, though his popularity waned in the late 90s (it has seen something of a resurgence since then). Now, I’m not a big fan of the Punisher (and I’ll go into why in an upcoming post), but I did see the last two movies headlined by the character so I’m mildy curious to see which of the four (including the upcoming Daredevil version, four actors will have played the role of the Punisher) cinematic versions of the character will resonate most with fans. Will it be:
See that guy above? That’s T’Challa, aka the Black Panther. He’s a fictional superhero/monarch residing in the Marvel Universe. He’s the king of a Wakanda, a scientifically advanced African nation, a member of the Avengers, a scientific genius, and the first black superhero in mainstream USAmerican comics. In 2018, he’ll be the first major black Marvel Comics superhero (Blade is neither major nor a superhero) to receive his own theatrical film.
See that guy? That’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, a USAmerican writer, journalist, and educator. He is the National Correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, social, and political issues, particularly where those issues intersect the lives of African-Americans.
Know what Black Panther and Ta-Nehisi Coates have in common? In a tremendous win for the company, Coates will soon be writing the adventures of the Black Panther in an all-new ongoing series from Marvel Comics:
The word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is ‘doomed,’ because the people you’ve just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And all of man’s little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries – they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival. The time is five minutes to twelve, midnight. There is no more darkness. The place is New York City and this is the eve of the end, because even at midnight it’s high noon, the hottest day in history, and you’re about to spend it in the Twilight Zone.