What I thought of Captain America Annual #8

Written by Mark Gruenwald and drawn by Mike Zeck and John Beatty, this was the one-off annual of a title which then sold poorly at the time hence why this annual guest starred Wolverine who was then as massive as he is now.The fact the comics opens with Wolverine gives away the sales tactic here.

Wolverine in the 80’s was still a man of mystery. Everything that made the character so fresh and interesting hadn’t yet been flushed down the bog and a guest appearance would add serious numbers to sales.

In fact any casual reader at the time would have picked this up wondering where the hell Captain America is in his own comic but after half a dozen or so pages we finally get the titular hero turning up.

There’s a giant robot and dodgy dealings going on but really this is about when Cap will actually fight Wolverine, something Gruenwald teases out for as long as possible but thanks to CB radio Cap gets informed of events.

Eventually Cap and Wolverine meet, have a misunderstanding and a fight because this is superhero comics.

We also get a tease of the sound effect that launched 1000 memes however the fight carries on before the pair eventually realise they’ve got a common foe to fight.

After a while the robot escapes, Cap and Wolvie find out what’s going on and the robot comes back tougher than ever for the pair to fight.

Of course the goodies win after a touch of moral greyness. In fact this is a rollicking good bit of fun and an example of great 1980’s superhero comics so you’ve got some good fights, a good guest hero, Captain America being Cap, and a big robot that gets smashed up. Gruenwald does this well and as for Zeck and Beatty their art is fantastic stuff. Overall this is a wonderful snippet of a time when Marvel managed to make their comics fun, accessible and also good!

Should superhero comics be political?

A comic shop chain Coliseum Of Comics,  in America released this statement by their owner Phil Boyle the other day via Bleeding Cool in regards ‘political comics’.

Publishers, get your politics out of my stores!

We live in a climate of polarity, with people being violently opposed to issues and events. Note the word “violently” and then think about what you’re bringing to our stores.  With every new proclamation from either the White House or CNN we have a new round of vitriol coming from the opposing side. 

I’ve always told my staff that we are the safe zone from what’s outside our doors.  I’ve been touting this policy before safe spaces were a thing, not because we need to be protected but because we provide entertainment. To be crystal clear, we provide entertainment. We are not mouthpieces for any polarizing cause nor is our shelf space for rent to any organization, left, right, or center.  If you want to support fighting cancer or bullying, all good. No one is fighting for worse cancers or more bullying.  If you want to put Planned Parenthood or the NRA on my stands, you’re getting no traction in my stores.  We are not for sale and we’re not going to undermine our store’s tranquility for your cause-of-the-month.

Get your politics off my stands.  Get political figures off the covers.  Get poorly disguised villains out of your books.  Get back to telling stories that don’t remind people of the vitriol and bile being spewed from every direction; we have enough outlets for that. You’re not being clever.  You’re not being altruistic.  You’re costing me the carefully built atmosphere that has allowed me to sell your books over the last 3+ decades to people of all races, creeds, genders, and sexual orientation as well as Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and no doubt a few anarchists as well.

Don’t screw that up.

It is frankly, a childish inane statement which is me being nice. The idea that the medium of comics is to purely ‘provide entertainment’ isn’t just restrictive on the medium itself, but it’s actively restricting your business by just having comics which meet your restricted world-view.

Now it is entirely down to Boyle as to what he sells as after all it is his business, but stripping politics from art, any sort of art, is just an attempt to sterilise art. From looking at his website, it is clear he’s focusing on superheroes and fantasy, which as said is fine, escapism is a glorious thing but you can’t live in a world of escapism and you can’t cut politics out of the superhero as the superhero’s origins are rooted in politics.

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Take Superman for example. In his early years he’d fight crooked landlords, corrupt politicians and generally act like a socialist working class hero fighting for the common man. Another example is Captain America who was designed as a propaganda tool to help fight the Nazis. The X-Men were a metaphor for any persecuted minority. Early Marvel comics in the early 1960’s pumped out anti-Communist propaganda so characters like Iron Man and The Hulk are rooted in politics. In the 1960’s Marvel and DC published comics which tried to deal with the issues of the time to draw people in and reflect the world they live in.

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In fact the drug awareness comics DC and Marvel did in the 1960’s were widely praised at the time, if however they seem somewhat clunky to a modern eye.

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Then there’s the link between costumed crime fighters and the Ku Klux Klan. Superheroes are inherently political; not to mention powerful, fantasy figures that can provide people with entertainment but underneath all that spandex is a seething mass of politics to be used by creators as they wish, and consumed by readers accordingly.

What Boyle seems to be doing is calling for his shops to be a ‘safe space‘. Now Boyle is quite clearly coming at this from an American right wing point of view, but the idea that someone can demand creators cut politics out of superhero comics is as said at the start of this; painfully childish. I’d wonder what the likes of Boyle would say if for example, Batman started cheering on Donald Trump and beating up Mexicans for a laugh, but the point is that superhero comics are just fine doing politics of any political slant.

The only thing that matters is whether the comic is good and it is perfectly possible to do a massively entertaining comic with a serious political slant. Not every comic has to be serious, but the fact we’re seeing cries for a genre of comics to be turned into mindless pap (well, beyond what they are right now) is just depressing but I suppose a sign of how fucked as a culture we seem to be when people demand a genre rooted in politics denies itself a chance to express itself beyond childish power fantasies for teenage boys.

People finally realise that fandom is a bunch of sad, entitled dickheads

After the last week’s frankly insane stuff in the aftermath of the ”Captain America is a Hydra agent and therefore a NAZI!!!!!!’ stuff in the last week, along come two good online articles about the state fandom’s gotten itself into.

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That one page has caused so much pain and outrage in superhero comic fans since, oh, the last time either Marvel or DC did something like this with one of their characters. Now as said by many including myself, this isn’t going to be forever as it’ll be sorted out before the next Avengers film, nor does it make writer Nick Spencer a bastard for turning Cap into a Nazi because Hydra in the comics has never been equivalent to the Nazis. Nor is it anti-Semitic, nor does it shite on the memory of creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby because it is what it is; a shocking plot twist that’s designed to sell comics and create buzz. Somewhat successfully it seems but that doesn’t stop the death threats, book burnings and hyberbolic fan entitlement on social media.

Thankfully a couple of very good articles have emerged from the piles of vomit that fans have thrown up online over the last week. The first is by Jesse Hassenger at The A.V Club and it’s an excellent read. Hassenger makes some excellent points from the off:

It’s probably safe to say that James Rolfe does not consider himself a sexist. Rolfe, apparently better known as the “Angry Video Game Nerd,” has bravely crossed over from the world of video game crit into a broader discussion about movies via his internet-famous video wherein he announces his intentions to not see or, as such, review the upcoming remake of the 1984 film Ghostbusters. For many people, the decision not to see a particular film does not require a lengthy video announcing that intention (if it did, just imagine how many minutes of internet video would have been dedicated to Norm Of The North). But the 2016 version ofGhostbusters is different.

I don’t mind Rolfe, I even find his material funny and he clearly loves his stuff, but releasing this video….

Just makes him a bit of a sadcase. I don’t care if he’s not going to see the new Ghostbusters because it’s not going to match for him the heights of the original, or even it’s pretty dreadful sequel. I do think though that video reeks of entitlement and smugness. There’s got to be hundreds of films Rolfe isn’t going to see in a year yet this one merits it’s own video which gives an excuse for the thousands of misogynist complainers about the new Ghostbusters to mask their bitter hatred.

Now I’m not saying the new film is going to be good. I have no idea as I’ll probably not bother with it as big budget Hollywood films interest me less and less these days, but it may find an audience. It’s a talented cast so why can’t it work? Why cut off what may be something that gives new life to something you love and brings new people in to search out the source material unless you’re a tediously entitled fan or in this case, a sexist who can’t stand women being cast with the same importance as men.

Another point made by Hassenger is this:

Fans so hardcore they become irrational are hardly a new phenomenon, but they have more access to each other than ever. This is partially because of the internet, but it may also have to do with the galvanizing effects of major pop-cultural events like, say, adaptations of the Harry Potter books back in the early ’00s.

The internet has certainly made things worse, as has an anti-intellectualism and misplaced ownership of things people think they own, but the lunatic reaction to something has been going on for years. As one example take Marvel killing off Spider-Man’s then girlfriend Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121.

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Gwen was killed off because it was a shock and dramatically, there was nothing else to do with her character as if she’d lived she’d have married Peter Parker followed by domestic bliss and that’s no fun for a superhero like Spidey who lives on angst, guilt and self-doubt. Writer Gerry Conway got death threats which back in 1973 wasn’t as easy as opening up your laptop or turning on your phone. You had to get a pen, paper and then write out your threats before sticking your letter in an envelope and sending it to Marvel or Conway so you’d let them know how much of a lunatic you are.

Yet here’s the lesson. Within a couple of years Gwen’s death had stopped being so controversial. Peter and Mary Jane Watson become an item and their spiky relationship provided writers with the soap opera dramatics superhero comics need which was the point. Same thing is going to happen with Captain America or Ghostbusters. In a few years, months even, people will move on and the wailing sounds of the entitled will be drowned out by the next thing these people will find to batter to an inch of it’s life because it’s not 100% as they want it.

Or….

Of course, the things fans are actually entitled to are their own opinions and feelings, even petty or deeply stupid ones. But it’s more than a little depressing when passionate fandom and fan glorification allows anyone to become convinced that resistance to a Ghostbusters remake is a principled stand rather than sexist whining.

Nuff said.

The second good piece comes from BirthDeathMovies.com (a shite name for a site, but the piece is solid) and writer Devin Faraci whose previous piece I dismissed in my essay on DC Universe: Rebirth and the news DC were introducing Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen into the DCU proper. This one makes some of the same points as the previous one, but it’s still worth reading as the last week has seen a level of crazy, entitled bullshit I’ve not seen since Doctor Octopus became Spider-Man…

There’s one point that Faraci makes which is worth exploring;

I had an argument with a younger fan on Twitter recently and she told me that what she wants out of a Captain America story is to see Steve Rogers be happy and get whatever he wants – ie, the exact opposite of what you want from good drama), but while the details change the general attitude is the same: this is what I want out of these stories, and if you don’t give it to me you’re anti-Semitic/ripping off the consumer/a dead man.

Fans want stories they want to read or see. Forget the fact they may be a small minority and in giving into their demands companies like Marvel or DC end up damaging their brand name as they’ve done oh so often over the last decade especially.

But this is the problem. Having worked in comics in some shape or form on and off for over 30 years I’ve seen fan entitlement first hand more times than I can remember, and I’ve also seen fans who think they’re The Next Big Thing being crushed after being told that, actually, you’re not very good. you can see this sort of thing happen in the patchy Morgan Spurlock documentary, Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope as prospective comic artist Skip Harvey suddenly comes to terms that he’s not as good as he thinks he is. Part of the reason for that is the culture of ‘you can do anything should you want it enough‘ that we’ve seen spring up on both sides of the Atlantic, that’s resulted in an increase in the anti-intelllectualism that’s been part of American culture for generations that now seeps into British culture to the point where actual genuine idiots like Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson are considered to have opinions worth listening to.

Faraci says:

It’s been interesting watching so many people bring up Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the Captain America fracas; one of part of it is that their Jewishness allows angry, petulant fans to throw down a social justice bomb but it also speaks to how modern fans see many modern creators. They’re nobody compared to the ones who invented this stuff. The modern creator is the server, and they should be going back into the kitchen and bringing back a Captain America cooked to their exact specifications, and without any sort of complications or surprises. This is what fans have always wanted, but the idea of being consumers – people who are offering money for services rendered – only reinforces the entitlement.

Which is true. We live in an extreme consumerist society where we’re conditioned to consume from an early age, and ”Geek Culture” is an example of that where fans who will love a character, video game, film, etc will lavishly love that film to the point where it becomes almost religious in their defence of the sanctity of that character. Yet many of these people leaping to the defence of the now dead Simon and Kirby are also the same people that leapt to the defence of Marvel Comics when the Kirby heirs  were fighting to give Jack Kirby the credit he deserved for creating most of the Marvel Universe. The fear many of these people voiced was that the Kirby’s would ‘take their characters away’ and the consumerist defence of Marvel Comics was rife. After all the fear of losing their monthly fix outweighed any sense of right or justice for the man who created their beloved characters in the first place.

I don’t propose any solution because right now there isn’t one. However calling the likes of Rolfe out for annoyingly announcing he’ll never see one film or those weeping and wailing over a plot twist in a Captain America comic is a start. Calling out the hyperbole and hysteria is a start. Calling out fans for not protesting things that matter like creator’s right, even if that creator is dead, is a start. Actually discussing things at an intellectual level above toilet graffiti is a start. Addressing the issues of ‘Geek Culture’ (a term I so many issues with but that’s for another time) is a start.

Making debate better, and more informed is a way forward because once you do that the crazy types look even crazier and obsessed. Not letting silly wee boycotts or Twitter hashtags replace actual proper debate helps too. As said, there’s no easy solution to it but while people sit back and tolerate, or worse, encourage the nutters things aren’t going to get better.

Some of the reactions to DC Universe: Rebirth and Nazi Captain America is depressing

Yesterday saw the release of two comics. Yet another Captain America #1 and DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the latter I’ve handled with care in a lengthy blog yesterday. today sees the fallout around both comics start to congeal like fat  on a plate of a cheap full English breakfast.

For those people who missed it, or don’t especially care the jist is this. Captain America is and always has been, a Hydra agent and in the Marvel Universe that basically makes him a Nazi.

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This is of course disgusting and Marvel would never have made Cap a Nazi at all in the past.

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Oh.

This is of course a sales gimmick to get people talking about Captain America and as such, it’s hugely successful. It’ll also be overturned by no later than the release of the next Avengers film in a couple of years as the Red Skull or someone will have done something with the Cosmic Cube, or something and the status quo will return.

The problem is that writer Nick Spencer seems to have just pulled this out of thin air (having not read Captain America regularly since Roger Stern and John Byrne were the creative team I can’t say) but a better idea surely if Spencer and Marvel wanted to explore a right wing Cap would be for him to slowly become less trusting of democratic institutions, more libertarian til A Big Event pushes him to become more and more right wing. He’d still do heroic stuff but rather than being an American liberal’s caricature of a conservative , he’d be something more nuanced so Spencer really could explore what’s happening with the likes of Donald Trump than bluntly just make Cap a Nazi which is like taking a sledgehammer to a peanut?

Moving aside from my fanfic, what’s interesting to me is the reaction. It simply veers from informed comment to the insane where Spencer is receiving death threats, something no writer should have to deal with. In 18 months to two years this will be gone and forgotten like all the thousands of superhero comic plot twists have after they’ve caused people’s knickers to get into a twist. But for fuck’s sake don’t threaten to kill someone because they’ve done something to a fictional character you love, that’s insane!

As for DC Comics they released DC Universe: Rebirth  #1 which incorporated Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen into the DC Universe.

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I’ll be totally upfront for those unfamiliar with my blogs. I’m an Alan Moore fanboy that prays to a statue I made out of potatoes of him every night. He is my god!

Not really, he’s by far my favourite comics writer, but I’ve admitted his flaws and readily admit when he’s wrong, but I’m not going to send Geoff Johns or Dan Didio a death threat because they’ve done themselves a shite and called it a comic. I’ll criticise it and rip the piss out of it because that’s better than getting angry over something which actually proves Moore’s point he made around the time of DC’s Blackest Night event, also written by Geoff Johns..

The comics that I read as a kid that inspired me were full of ideas. They didn’t need some upstart from England to come over there and tell them how to do comics. They’d got plenty of ideas of their own. But these days, I increasingly get a sense of the comics industry going through my trashcan like raccoons in the dead of the night.

That comment that so outraged fans and some professionals at the time has now had the truth firmly rammed home because if DC are going back to mine Watchmen (which they are) then there’s a clear lack of creativity here that should be indefensible as with the Captain America stunt, it’s a sign that they’re running out of ideas.It’s something that should get fans rallying for a more creative, more intelligent form of superhero comic and many are, but there’s still those clinging onto the faith that DC will be right in the same way dogshit sticks to your boot.

One of those people is Anghus Houvouras. A man who bravely stood up for white people being represented on film and rallied against political correctness. At this point when people talk about ‘political correctness’ this Stewart Lee clip has to be brought in…

Anyhow, our Anghus did write himself a piece which sums up the argument of those defending DC entitled Why Alan Moore is wrong about The Watchmen. That’s right, The Watchmen, not Watchmen. From there it gets worse.

As a writer, I love Alan Moore. He is, without question, one of the most talented writers to ever grace the la bande dessinée.

The only thing anyone can sanely reply to this is ‘fuck off’.  However let’s dig our hands in deeper for a wee bit…

At some point Alan Moore became the comic book equivalent of the Old Man on his front porch shaking his fist at the machinations of the ever evolving comic industry.

This is of course bullshit. It makes it easier to disregard Moore’s often sharp comments on the American comic industry than deal with the comments themselves. Also, seeing as Moore only works for Avatar being allowed I believe the freedom to do what he likes rather than writing superheroes which he’s not done in some time then he’s every right to comment upon something he’s such a major part of. His shadow is after all cast over DC’s big event for 2016.

Trying to devalue his comments by making him a ‘crazy old man’ is frankly, a cunt’s trick. Play the ball, not the man.

And there are things that Old Man Moore has been absolutely right about.

Patronising arseholery doesn’t help.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a series of stories based on preexisting characters that Moore himself had no hand in creating. If Moore believes that Hollywood studios are lazy for taking his concepts and adapting them to film and television, isn’t it just as accurate to call Moore lazy for using borrowed characters for his own comics?

To call Moore lazy is in itself a lazy assumption. Moore’s put a lot of thought into using the public domain characters that make up the core of the League. The ones that aren’t are changed to keep them legal or so clearly parody they’d not be a case against Moore, or artist Kevin O’Neill.

And our Anghus misses the point. Moore’s point is that he as creator or co-creator deserves to decide what to do with his work, not multinationals so bereft of imagination that they mine 30 year old works in order to make money in 2016 because they know the name ‘Alan Moore’ attached to a comic will help sell it. Even obliquely in the case of DC Universe: Rebirth. That’s what Moore meat with his the comics industry going through my trashcan like raccoons in the dead of the night comment.

When DC rolled out the Before Watchmen prequel series, many fans were perplexed by how to feel.Watchmen has always been treated as sacrosanct. One of those singular works of artistic perfection that should never be expanded upon. A story told completely and not in need of embellishment. And while fans and Moore are quite clear on their position on the subject, there are those of us who are actually excited by the prospect to see more stories with these characters

Why? That story was told. Everything you need to know about those characters is in Watchmen. Can you imagine if DC had published Art Speigleman’s Maus? Would there be a demand for new stories of L’il Artie? Or something like The New Adventures of Vladek where Speigelman’s father is brought back from the dead to fight Nazis in 2016? A complete work is just that. It’s done, it’s there but let’s move on to something new rather than trying to capture something with the same characters you’ll never capture again.

Alan Moore is wrong about The Watchmen.

There’s no ‘The’ here.

The original Watchmen series was based on the Charlton Comics characters that DC had acquired in 1983 which included Blue Beetle, The Question, and Captain Atom. Originally Moore wanted to use these characters for the Watchmen series, but because they were being integrated into the regular DC Comics Universe, Moore and artist Dave Gibbons decided to created thinly veiled versions of these characters. While the names may have changed, it borrowed heavily from the iconography of many DC owned characters. That was always the intention: to create a more mature story in a familiar world. Mission accomplished.

What’s missed out here is the fact Moore initially had the idea using The Mighty Crusaders, but as the story evolved he ended up creating new characters with artist Dave Gibbons who were archetypes of superheroes who could serve the purpose of the story.

Where Moore errs is thinking that these characters should stop existing outside of the originalWatchmen series.

Trying marketing something with an existing name. Why do Coca Cola guard their property so much? It’s because it has value to them and those trying to piggy back off it are trying to buy into that value for their own gain as Richard Branson tried to do with his Virgin Cola, yet even Branson learned the lesson that the bigger beast in business will crush you. Same thing is true of DC using Watchmen without Moore or Gibbons permission, and yes, they did sign what was proclaimed a great contract at the time but as as both admit, they were stupid. It doesn’t make the points Moore’s made about exploitation of creators and creator rights any less valid.

I’m not here to throw stones,

Says Anghus, throwing stones everywhere til one eventually lands on his head.

I suppose the core argument from fans would be that further uses of the characters diminishes the original work in some way. That’s another argument I never could take seriously. The Dark Knight Returns was an amazing series. The Dark Knight Strikes Again was a hot mess. The jury is still out onDark Knight III. None of these average works have lessened the impact of the original. Much like the two flaccid Matrix sequels didn’t end up sullying the majesty of the original. Caddyshack is still hilarious no matter how terrible Caddyshack 2 turned out.

Ah, The Matrix (which ”borrowed” from Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles) and Caddyshack, giants of cinema.  But sad cash-in’s don’t diminish the original, they just make it clear there’s a paucity of creativity as companies chase money in the hope they might recapture what they had, again one of the points Moore has made over the decades.

The point is, it’s kind of nutty for Moore to think that these characters should stop existing

They’re not real. They only exist in the medium they were created for and by their creators. Plus Moore’s never said that, he just wants control of his work.

Only time will tell if it’s a good use of the characters or a pointless cash grab.

Took me 0.2 seconds to work out it’s a cash grab.

When it comes to the subject of originality in regards to Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore has a little too much glass in his house to be chucking stones.

For the nTh time. Moore’s issue is creative ownership and control. Listen to his words.

It’s not hard in the year 2016 to find out exactly what Moore thinks about creator rights or that Marvel have pulled cheap stunts to sell comics once or 300 times before. Yet people still get angry or fill a swimming pool full of pish as they repeat what they’ve read other people say in order to get clicks. It’s a total nonsense yet the real problems of mainstream superhero comics sail on and on with an imploding readership and a creative community either scared to create new works in case they’re exploited to the hilt as Moore has been, or they end up being so devoid of imagination they make Captain America a Nazi.

What people like Moore want to see is better comics with creators treated like people who end up with control of their work. It shouldn’t be a battle, and fans should slavishly leap to the defence of multinationals because all they care about is ‘their characters’.  Here’s a bit of news, if you do then that makes you part of the problem, not the solution.

What I thought of Captain America:Civil War

I finally caught up with Captain America: Civil War yesterday after I felt safe enough to venture out after my recent surgery.As a companion piece to the dismal Batman versus Superman it’s interesting as it touches on the same sort of themes but does so intelligently in a way that this is a film where there’s no clear villains, just people with their own motivations to do what they think is right, even if that involves creating mayhem. This isn’t a film where you have no idea why people are doing things because the script is a garbled mess. From here on in it’s SPOILERS, so if you’ve not seen it you’ve been warned.

Civil War starts with an Avengers mission in Lagos that ends up going horribly wrong as Wakandan diplomats are accidentally killed. This causes the United Nations to propose a system to regulate The Avengers called the Sokovia Accords because having an unregulated, unanswerable group of superhumans flying around the planet causing mayhem, even if they save more lives than are lost, isn’t a good idea.

This splits the team in half. Captain America is against the plan thinking that The Avengers need to have the freedom to do what it has to without being answerable to governments because they ‘have agendas’ and ‘agendas change’. Iron Man on the other hand wants to keep the team in check so innocent lives are saved and those people that fear superhumans feel safer. Falling with Cap are The Falcon, Hawkeye, Ant Man, Scarlet Witch and The Winter Soldier, who is being framed for a massive terrorist attack on the day the Accords are signed. While falling in with Iron Man are War Machine, Vision, Black Widow, Black Panther and Spider Man.

A huge battle takes place in Germany before Cap and the Winter Soldier track down the culprit, Zemo a survivor of Ultron’s attack on Sokovia, of the attacks in Siberia and joined by Iron Man, they look set to team up to take down Zemo, but there’s a final twist that sets our heroes against each other as Tony Stark discovers the Winter Soldier murdered his parents. Eventually the battle ends but The Avengers are split in half, friends are turned against each other and a number of suerhumans are criminals on the run.

Compared with the previous Captain America film, The Winter Soldier, this isn’t as a complete entity as the ending is clearly left dangling for future films to resolve but this is almost Bond in the scale and span of it. What Civil War does well is to make the case for both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Steve’s motivated by his distrust of people who want to curb what he sees as personal freedom while Tony wants to curb The Avengers to make not just people feel safer, but to make them democratically accountable to the people. So Steve’s pushing a libertarian point while Tony’s pushing a more socially democratic point. One would think the positions would be reversed seeing as Steve’s a 1930’s lad and a democrat and Tony used to be a capitalist warmonger.

However this all serves the purpose of the film which is to split Iron Man and Captain America up as a unit that held The Avengers together thus making The Avengers weak as after all, the only ones left by the end of the film are Iron Man, Vision and Spider Man. All of Tony’s team have either betrayed him or moved on by the end and as for Cap’s team they’re either in hiding or on the run so the planet is left vulnerable which is setting things up for The Infinity War in a couple of years time. And that’s the big problem with Civil War. There’s no real resolution that’s satisfactory, just dangling plot threads that’ll be tied up in various films over the next three years and I understand the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is taking influence from it’s comic origins by doing this but it makes for a bit of a cheat in otherwise what is one of the best examples of the super hero film that’s been made so far.

What Civil War does is provide some intellectual substance to the MCU, especially after the misfiring Age of Ultron and the light, fun antics of Ant Man. That though isn’t what gets people’s arses on seats, it’s people in costumes hitting each other and Civil War fulfils it’s part to the letter with some splendid action scenes as it not just introduces The Black Panther to cinema (nice to see another strong black character too) and Tom Holland’s Ditko-esque Spider Man. Both characters have their own films coming out next year and off the basis of this both could be very good indeed.

Civil War is a fine example of how to make good superhero films with a bit more to it than action and violence. It’s also a film that can be watched so you think Iron Man is right or Cap is right and you experience the film differently. For me, Cap’s acting like a dick and needs a slap as it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a group like The Avengers can’t go flying around in the semi-real MCU because of the body count, and when Cap says ‘agendas’ he’s talking about democratically elected governments in most cases. Stark is at least admitting there needs to be a compromise and indeed, at several points Cap nearly goes with Stark to work out the problems with the Accords.That sort of mental meat was entirely absent from Batman versus Superman, or if it was in there I missed it in all the grimness watching ‘heroes’ let people die with no remorse or kill people for kicks. IN Captain America’s world there’s remorse and consequences of innocent people dying, They’re not just background noise.

I do hope Marvel continue this standard with Doctor Strange later this year, though without too many dangling plot threads. As for Civil War it is a turning point but as we long time comic readers know, the status quo will return. Steve and Tony will team up again and The Avengers will regroup because that’s how it is.

Overstreets World of Comics-Comic book documentary from 1993

This is a cracking find. Overstreet’s World of Comics is a documentary based around the San Diego Comic Convention in 1993 and details the world of comics as they were in those days just before the great comics bubble of the early 90’s went POP! It’s a fascinating watch to see how people thought that comics were going to be a huge investment for the future, and that comics coming from the likes of Valiant were massive investments. They weren’t. The entire market went down the toilet and a number of the companies featured in this film like Topps, went under, and companies like Marvel nearly went bankrupt.

What is striking is how comic focused San Diego was then as opposed to the big pop culture event it is. It’s about the medium of comics and there’s a lovely bit in the film about Golden Age artists like Murphy Anderson, a history of EC Comics, as well as a great interview with Jack Kirby, the man who built the house that Marvel are now exploiting for their films like The Avengers and Captain America.  It is however, Todd McFarlane who hogs a lot of time on the film because at that time Spawn was the biggest selling comic in the world, selling around a half a million to a million copies on average per issue. There’s a certain sad irony looking back at this seeing McFarlane talk with such idealism; something that vanished when the money started flooding in.

The film does have some amazingly tacky music running through it that makes it feel like a health and safety training video you see on the first day of a new job, If you can ignore that then this is a great bit of archive, if only to see Stan Lee say with a straight face that he hates taking from what other people have done….

Don’t get your knickers in a twist about a female Thor

The news that has been positively rocking the world of mainstream American comics the news of a new female Thor, which was shortly followed by the news Marvel would make The Falcon the new Captain America, meaning there is a black Captain America. This was treated in much of the media outside the comics press as something new and progressive (a word which is beginning to lose it’s meaning) which means Marvel get some brownie points with the increasing female readership and they can parade around Comic Con in San Diego this weekend looking better than the frankly pathetic DC Comics who seem not to care about equality.

Only problem is it’s not really equality, nor is this an original or new idea to change the sex, race, or character of a major hero at Marvel and DC. Thankfully some people have sussed out it’s a publicity stunt, and not an especially good one, plus when Marvel last made Captain America black it was the subject of one of the best, but sadly overlooked, superhero comics of the 21st Century, Truth: Red, White and Black, written by Robert Morales and drawn by the great Kyle Baker. That’s a comic worth looking at as it deals head on with race rather than this fuzzy fudging of race that seems to be going on here.

Race/sex changing is always a sales gimmick. It’s designed now as well to give the idea of equality but in fact serves to hide the fact that Marvel and DC don’t serve equality well in their books, or indeed, in their staff.

There’s also the fact that creators are reluctant to give away ideas without retaining rights, so those smart enough hold onto those ideas for when they get a deal at a company like Image, and seeing as Marvel and DC aren’t going to start fighting for creators rights overnight, expect things to remain pretty much the same with the odd bit of window dressing like a black Cap, or a female Thor. There’s too much money riding on these characters with film, TV and merchandising deals bringing vast amounts of money into the coffers of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warners. The subject of equal rights will be discussed but until the audience reflects society as a whole then things won’t especially change and these stunts will continue.

Also there’s something else and this might be hard for some older and newer superhero comics fans to swallow. The fans themselves need to change. They need to exert their power upon companies rather than just be consumers because that’s exactly what they want. There is absolutely no point complaining about say, a female Thor being a sop to the cause of equality and going out and buying it s it gives you no leverage at all. That’s one of the big problems with the explosion in what’s called ‘geek culture’ in that it’s essentially capitalist based, so there needs to be a greater understanding of the politics in action here, and that involves fans, new and old, to expand their reading material. Some comics fans would do well from reading a few newspapers, not to mention understanding the history of their own medium, and how vast events like San Diego have to clean the homeless off their streets so fans can have a event without having to see the victims of the sort of aggressive capitalism that we have today.

I’m not suggesting the world becomes an egalitarian socialist utopia tomorrow, though that would be very nice, but that fans realise when companies are playing them for wankers. So don’t get your knickers in a twist about a new Thor because things will be back to normal soon enough and Marvel will have gained some ‘credibility’ with enough fans that they can carry on doing what they’re doing. These companies treat you as consumers so use that as leverage to get change. Don’t just sit back, moan and then carry on buying the comics, toys and seeing the films because then it really doesn’t matter about how loudly you protest and change will never happen. Don’t give these companies your money if they do something you dislike. It really is that amazingly simple and if enough people do the same, they will act.

My top 20 Comic Book films-16-The Avengers

I did my top 20 horror and SF films last year, and found doing the lists to be more fun than expected, so in a massive bit of logic here’s my top 20 films adapted or inspired from comics. I need to point out I mean comics, not ‘superhero comics’ which is a lazy, and incorrect way to describe a wonderfully varied medium and it’d also cut out some bloody good films!

Previously, in this list at #20, X Men19The Crow18Heavy Metal and 17, Spider Man.

At 16, it’s the film version of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s The Avengers, or Avengers Assemble as it’s known here in the UK in order so people don’t confuse it with Steed and Mrs Peel….

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The Avengers is Marvel’s big finish for their Phase One series of films that started four years earlier with Iron Man, and after a series of films of varying quality ended up in this big, ridiculous mess of a film that’s utterly and totally nonsense but ends up being huge fun even if the plot is dreadful and at times the entire thing nearly falls apart.

What holds it together is the ensemble cast headed up by Robert Downey Jr, Samuel L Jackson, and a fantastic turn by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.  Of course the rest of the cast do their jobs well, especially Chris Evans as Captain America (who really could be a pointless character if played for laughs) and Tom Hiddleston as the panto dame which is what the cinematic Loki has become very, very quickly.

Forget about the patchy opening. The long, dreary section in the middle made up of people talking that annoyingly too aware Joss Whedon tends to do far too much for my liking, but Whedon is clever in that he realises the entire idea is pantomime, and anyhow, all people have paid for is a MASSIVE FIGHT SCENE, which is ultimately what Act Three is. One. Giant. Fight. Scene.

If I was 12 or 13, The Avengers would be the best film I’d ever seen in my life. It’s a big porridge of superhero action, with a few good performances thrown in and it’s fun. However looking at some of the deleted scenes it seems it could have been ‘darker’ (which in superhero comics terms means ‘adult’ but it isn’t)  but instead Whedon keeps the tone right and ignoring the rubbish pacing, the paper thin characters, the truly rubbish baddies you have a pretty good superhero film, though because it’s part of Marvel’s ongoing cinematic universe, it also feels like another stepping block to the next film. That’s a weakness of many of the Marvel films, but taking all this aside The Avengers is fun. It’s not art. It’s not the best film ever made. It’s not even the best Marvel based film made. It is however a good waste of time.

It also has Scarlett Johansson’s arse. I’ll be returning to that later on in this series.

Next time, it gets dangerous and sexy….