Castlevania on Netflix: I’m sold!

 

Sense8
Sense8 soundtrack cover.

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.

The Defenders
Promotional image of the Netflix/Marvel original series, Defenders, which debuts later this year. Image contains shots of Mike Colter, Charlie Cox, Kristin Ritter, and Finn Jones as Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the Culturally Appropriated Iron White Savior Fist.

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:

Continue reading “Castlevania on Netflix: I’m sold!”

Castlevania on Netflix: I’m sold!
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Confronting the racial stereotypes of Cloak & Dagger (plus the trailer)

Tandy Bowen (Dagger) and Tyrone Johnson (Cloak) in a piece by (I think) Jae Lee)

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…

Continue reading “Confronting the racial stereotypes of Cloak & Dagger (plus the trailer)”

Confronting the racial stereotypes of Cloak & Dagger (plus the trailer)

We have a release date for the Defenders!

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.

Action.

Adventure.

Excitement.

Fun.

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.

We have a release date for the Defenders!

A Bad Feminist is coming to Marvel Comics

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:

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A Bad Feminist is coming to Marvel Comics

DC Comics aims for more diversity

Mainstream comic books in the U.S. have long featured a sea of white, male faces. From the beginning of the industry back in the Golden Age, through the Silver Age, and into the Bronze and Modern Ages, there has been a lack of diversity in superhero comics. Characters like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, and so many more mainstays of Marvel and DC have been white guys. Now, that wouldn’t be such a problem if they didn’t dominate the comic racks. But they have. For the better part of the 20th Century and even into the 21st. It hasn’t been until recent years-the last 5 or 6 by my estimate-that Marvel and DC have made a concerted effort to diversify their output. With pressure mounting from readers, both companies have taken steps to produce content that doesn’t appeal to the same old, same old crowd. Which makes sense, bc GBLT people, women, and PoC read comics too. And in significant numbers. This can be seen by dropping in on any of the numerous comic book conventions around the country. The people showing up aren’t just white men, and they want to see themselves reflected in the comics they read. The pressure exerted on the companies by female readers has led to an  explosion of titles featuring women in starring roles. Where 30 years ago, Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, and Supergirl were pretty much the only women starring in their own titles, the last few years have seen Starfire, Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Batgirl, the new female Thor, Storm, Squirrel Girl, Elektra, Black Widow, She-Hulk, and Captain Marvel (among others) receive their own books. But the request for greater diversity from the Big Two is not limited to fans asking for more books with female leads. Many readers (myself included) want more books headlined by People of Color.

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:

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DC Comics aims for more diversity

Woo-hoo! Home runs for both Marvel Netflix shows

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:

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Woo-hoo! Home runs for both Marvel Netflix shows

Which Punisher will resonate most with fans (and me)?

The Marvel Comics and Netflix deal has (to my surprise) turned out to be successful. Originally conceived as set of four 13-episode series starring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist (plus a fifth series-The Defenders-which sees all four characters form a superhero team), the popularity of Daredevil led to the announcement of a second season for the show (debuting March 18). Likewise, in the wake of the well-received Jessica Jones series, many fans speculated that the character would also receive a season 2 (the speculation is over, season 2 is coming).  Season 2 of Daredevil is set to feature additional Marvel Comics character, including Elektra (former lover of DD turned ninja/assassin/enemy) and the vigilante hero, the Punisher.

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:

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Which Punisher will resonate most with fans (and me)?

Marvel just hit it out of the park!

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:

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Marvel just hit it out of the park!

Such fragile egos these fanboys have

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.

 

That’s the opening narration to the ‘The Midnight Sun‘, the 75th episode of the Twilight Zone, by host Rod Serling. The Twilight Zone was a popular USAmerican science fiction television show that ran from 1959 to 1964 (and saw several attempts at revivals over the decades, as well as a movie). This particular episode is one of my favorites as it involves an apocalyptic scenario in which humanity is helpless. All our intellect, our wits, our technology, our weapons-all of it is useless in the face of a catastrophe of global proportions. The episode served as a reminder that for all our power and accomplishments, for all our money and wealth, we are fragile creatures.

 

This episode came to mind today as I was giving thought to the ongoing culture wars in society. Progressives have been fighting for decades (longer than that, really) for marginalized people to be treated with fairness and equity. They have fought to extend the rights enjoyed by the majority-white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied men-to everyone else. From the battle for women’s reproductive rights to the fight for LGBT equality to the ongoing crusade by the Black Lives Matter movement to dismantle systemic and structural racism, the culture wars have been fought on multiple fronts. And while some successes have been achieved (yay, LGB people can marry and oh look, some police departments are getting body cameras), there still continue to be setbacks (the reduction in abortion providers across the country and the lack of accountability of police officers around the nation). But not all such cultural battles occur on a national scale, nor do they all occur in meatspace. Some occur on a smaller, more private scale-the Internet. One such conflict-the push for greater diversity and inclusivity in the comic book industry (specifically at Marvel and DC)-has been brewing for a while now. Funny thing though, for all the pushback, it’s clear that just as Hollywood is making progressive strides, so too is the comic book industry. Of course, along with that progression comes the howling and screaming of those opposed to progress.

Continue reading “Such fragile egos these fanboys have”

Such fragile egos these fanboys have

What if…?

The pervasive influence of white bias is felt in all corners of society. From musicians to actors, politicians to police officers, firefighters to lawyers, CEO’s to teachers, there is no area of society free from the bias in favor of white people (and, more specifically, heterosexual, cisgender, white men). As a long-time comic book reader, I was long ignorant of this bias in the comic book industry. Growing up as a teen, and later as a young adult, race was never on my radar. It wasn’t until I began to pay attention to matters of race that I began to see the comic book industry through more enlightened eyes. Once I began to view the world with greater clarity and understanding, I began to see that the comic book industry has long been dominated by white men. And that explains why, for the vast majority of the history of USAmerican comic books, white men have been the primary protagonists, villains, and supporting cast members. The same holds true of the film industry. But what if things were different? What if white men were not the sole (or primary) guiding forces behind movies and comic books all these decades? What if people of color were involved as well? What might the result be?

Alijah Villian is an artist who has tried to imagine just such a world. Using African-American celebrities, he re-imagines protagonists and antagonists from comic books and movies. Take a look:

Continue reading “What if…?”

What if…?