Story Meeting — Captain Marvel: The Movie

Captain Marvel #2, Cover by Ed McGuiness

From Captain Marvel #2, Cover by Ed McGuinness, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, LOOK at Captain Marvel.

And take a moment to realize what a tremendous opportunity we have here.

Here is our chance to get in the forefront of the public consciousness– a strong, confident and capable woman with the power, flash, and style to capture the imagination of moviegoers everywhere. I’m talking nothing less than the next heroic icon! But… how? What’s her story, exactly?

What’s that? An Avenger in Space. No? It’s more complicated than that? Well, explain it to me like I’m, I dunno, eight.

Really.

Well, it’s a fact, and perhaps a sad one, that comicbook movies and comicbook comics are, yes, quite different, and we’ll have to make a slightly different story than … whatever you call THAT explanation.

But, hey, one thing the Marvel Cinematic Universe does well is take a superhero genre and blend it with another convention. Captain America as a period piece? Done. As a 70s political conspiracy film? Done. And I think I’m not alone here when I say it’s obvious what will be the best blend with Captain Marvel’s story…

Suspense. An alien invasion story. Start with X-Files, end up with Captain Marvel. “Our Hero Is Out There.”

from Captain Marvel #10, cover by Filipe Andrade (2012)

from Captain Marvel #10, cover by Filipe Andrade (2012)

To start with– Carol Danvers is already a hero, thanks to a high-octane Air Force adventure where Carol led her squad, the Warbirds, to save the world from terrorists. Roll credits, complete with press junket, fan reactions.

But all doesn’t sit well with Carol. Her reward is to be shunted to a largely ceremonial desk job, and what’s worse, there are some things about her previous adventure that doesn’t add up. She starts to investigate, running into dead ends, and worse. She finds a fellow solider is running down leads, too, but Walter Lawson seems to have his own agenda. All things add up to “It Came From Outer Space” (50s style) and come crashing together, forcing Carol and Lawson to escape from super-secret Air Force base, and in the ultimate battle over something called a Psyche-Magnetron, Lawson is revealed to be the alien Mar-Vell, he dies a spectacular but mysterious death, and Carol’s body is changed, charged with alien energy and capable of absorbing the power of stars!

And that’s just the second act! Realizing the need for both secrecy and exposing the conspiracy, she fashions a mask and dons the identity of Captain Marvel!

The Captain now begins to root out the influence of alien Kree among us, battling dangers as real as Sentry robots and Kree Purifiers, and as intangible as panic and xenophobia. Which, of course, was the Supreme Intelligence’s plan all along, since it wants to use Earth as its case study in emotions and petri dish of human experiments. Still, Cap’n M has accelerated the timetable. It is time to use the Psyche-Magnetron to destroy humanity, and only Captain Marvel, with help of her Warbirds, can expose and take down the Kree threat once and for all.

End credits? This caption: “Captain Marvel will return in Avengers 3: The Kang Dynatsy”

And thousands of little girls want to dress as Captain Marvel for Halloween that year.

From Digital Baubles, Tumblr from Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer of Captain Marvel (2012-present)

Drive-By Stories — a storytelling game for road trips

Time/Life Photo Archives (1942) by J. R. Eyerman

Time/Life Photo Archives (1942) by J. R. Eyerman

Here’s a storytelling game for those long car trips or heavy traffic… or even just simple boredom!

The Goal: Tell the stories of the strangers around you.

Players: Anyone in the car– Two or more people.

Materials: The fingers on one hand and an active imagination

Rules:
1) Pick a nearby car. It should be a car where you cannot see the other driver/occupants, so it could be the one in front of you or even two lanes away.

2) The Player going first makes a “fact” about the driver, and then offers a question about that fact. The “fact” can be anything that comes to mind, but often matches what would be likely according to the time, location, and type of car that’s the target. Also, you must limit your facts in categories represented by the fingers on one hand:

THUMB: Thumbs are about approval. Your fact is about something he/she likes or dislikes.
INDEX FINGER: Indexes are about instruction. Your fact is about something he/she told someone, or about something he/she was told to do.
MIDDLE FINGER: Middles are about frustrations. Your fact is about something he/she is frustrated about. (For the Rated G version, Middles are the “tallest” and the facts are about a time he/she stood tall.)
RING FINGER: Rings are about relationships. Your fact is about an ongoing, healed, or broken relationship.
PINKY: Pinkies are about “swears.” Your fact is about a promise kept or a secret broken.

Example: After picking the red car ahead on the right, the Player going first makes a fact using his Ring Finger. “The driver is unmarried. How long ago was his last relationship?” or even “The driver has been dating his/her significant other for four years and next week is the anniversary. Why is he/she feeling so bad about celebrating it?”

3) The each Player in the car offers an answer to the question, and everyone in the car must agree whose answer is the most satisfying. Obviously, the best way to do this is to take a look at the driver after the question is given, and perhaps everyone in the car will smile and say “Oh, yeah. For sure!” when the best answer is given. (The First Player can always offer an alternative answer to his own question as the final offer.) The player who gives the most satisfying answer is awarded points equal to the first numeral on the license plate of car in question.

Example: The First Player offered a fact and a question. “The driver is unmarried. How long ago was his last relationship?” The Second Player offers “two weeks,” The Third Player offers “one year ago, the day their dog died,” and the First Player answers his own question “Last night.” Everyone agrees the Third Player offers the most tragically satisfying answer. The license plate was LA55589, so the Third Player gets 5 points.

4) Play continues until all the “fingers” of one hand have been used. The player with the most points wins, which is ironic because the points don’t really matter and everyone had a good time making up stories about people around them.

 

 

Hayden Goobie, Age 8, Explains Marvel Comics’ the Falcon

Meet Hayden Goobie

Hayden! What’s up little dude!

I don’t know, the SKY?!?!

Ha ha ha, smart guy! Well, you know what’s cool? And don’t say ice cubes.

Okay… I don’t know, the SNOW?!?!

Actually, the new Captain America movie is pretty cool.

Yeah, I know that.

I was hoping you could tell me more about the Falcon, because he looks cooler than even ice and snow.

Yeah, I know that too. Okay, well basically there are like three Falcons, one for the movie, one for the cartoon, and one for the comic. Well, really there’s even more, like the Super Hero Squad Show one, but that show was really just for babies so it doesn’t count. But really their powers are all the same, because they have the same superpower of wings, but not real wings like birds’ wings, they’re special jet packs with wings so they can fly. And actually the comics one is pretty different because he has even more superpowers and he has even a sidekick which is a real falcon. He can talk to his pet falcon whose name is Redwing but not with his words kind of talk to it, but with a special power of his mind. Actually he can talk to ALL birds like that, but not like all the birds in the world, I guess, maybe just the whole city or something.

OK so for the Movie-Falcon, the guy used to be a soldier and now he is a counselor, just like Captain America who used to be a soldier, so he does counselor things for him, and they fall in best-friendships with each other. Together they team up and they have the adventure in the movie together. That’s pretty much about it.

The Cartoon-Falcon, he works for SHIELD too because pretty much everybody works for SHIELD. This guy was a big Iron Man fanboy and helped the Avengers by stealing Tony Stark’s Falcon suit that was going to be given to SHIELD anyway and he stayed around to have adventures with the Avengers. He’s smart and knows a lot of sciencey and technology skills but he is some kind of squee-ing kind of newbie to his heroes.

The Comics-Falcon is, umm, more complicated I guess. Basically, he works like a social worker in New York, I guess, but I really don’t know what that does, so I don’t know. Right NOW he is one of the Avengers but doesn’t live in the Tower or anything he just helps them sometimes. Two different teams sometimes. Both the regular Avengers and the Mighty Avengers, which is better I think.

Mighty Avengers: No Single Hero (2014) Available as trade paperback (no Kindle edition) or at Comixology here

Mighty Avengers: No Single Hero (2014) Available as trade paperback (no Kindle edition) or at Comixology here

All right, so waaaaay back in the day, the Falcon was like Captain America’s partner, and he even had his name in the title of the comic book which was called Captain America and the Falcon. It all started when Captain America was trapped on a tropical island like on the Carob-Bean or somewhere. He was trapped because his enemies who were a bunch of Nazis tried to rule the islands and also kill him. The Falcon who wasn’t the Falcon yet just Sam Wilson which is his real name was also on the island, because he was vacationing there but stayed to help the peoples there be like in a revolution against the Nazi guys. Sam Wilson had his pet Redwing there too which he had first bought in South America for some reason. Anyways, so Captain America and Sam Wilson teamed up but Captain America told Sam Wilson to dress like a superhero and he trained him and together they helped inspire the peoples and defeat the Nazis. When they came back to New York they stayed best friends and superhero partners and fought a lot of crime together.

captain_america117

Captain America #117 (1968)

And then at some point all of that wasn’t really true, because the Red Skull who is like the most evil Nazi bad guy ever and Captain America’s biggest enemy, showed Captain America that he had messed with Sam Wilson on that island so that he could mess with Captain America’s head. The Red Skull said that Sam Wilson was really some guy called Snap Wilson and was like a big crime boss criminal who was flying around South America for some reason and crashed on the island from before. But the Red Skull used the power of the Cosmic Cube which is like this wishing machine type of gem or something to make Snap Wilson think he was instead Sam Wilson on vacation instead. So then of course the Falcon started to act all Snap Wilsony once again at that point, but Captain America beat up the Red Skull and everybody went back to normal after that and nobody really talks about it anymore.

Oh! And also at one point there was a Sentinel which is this kind of robot that can hunt mutants and one time it was hunting in New York and called the Falcon a mutant and so everyone got a little confused like maybe his connection with birds is some kind of mutant thing but that made no sense and so everyone thinks the Sentinel robot was really just broken at that time and nobody talks about that anymore either.

Now-and-days the Falcon, I mean the Comics-Falcon, works for SHIELD too as well as teaming up with the Avengers like I said before. I’m not sure when it started happening, it just sort of happened. This lets him work again with Captain America sometimes, because Captain America works with SHIELD all the time too now for some reason.

I like the Falcon but he’s not my favorite either. I think the Falcon is best when he is on a team or when he is a partner to someone like Captain America because I’m not sure what he can do on his own besides being a basic superhero. I mean it’s good that he is in the big city to fight crime and everything, but maybe he should go back to helping peoples in smaller countries like when he first started on that island. Then he can help the little guy fly high instead of working for the SHIELD or doing superspy stuff like everyone else does all the time.

Or maybe because he doesn’t really have many powers he can get a new power to make him turn into a giant falcon instead of just talking to one all the time. Then he can fight bad guys in a giant bird-form! And maybe even shoot a kind of energy from his eyes because falcons have good eyesight and everything.

And that’s all I can really say about the Falcon.

Vera Maven versus the Fantastic Four

Meet Vera MavenIn which Vera Maven tries to find something new to say about a comic 50 years old.

Vera! So nice to see you again!

Likewise, Darling. Like and wise.

Two words for you: Fantastic Four.

Ooh! Three more for you: Fan. TAS. Tic!

I hear you can critique this comic book property and have noticed something that *everyone* has failed to see. Does this mean you actually like them?

Well, I like the *idea* of them. What a wonderful property, you know. “In one corner, someone invents a wonderful machine that goes horribly wrong, while in the other corner, two others prank themselves over sandwiches, and in-between the insanity, someone has to keep the peace… BOOM! Instant adventures! Just add exotic lands, miraculous science, strange aliens, et cetera et cetera.

Most people point out how ground-breaking this comic book was– how it has a legacy of literally re-inventing a genre and launching the Marvel comics’ “universe.” But what more can be done with them?

Legacy? I wave that away with my hand. Shoo! Legacies are for aging ball players who can’t let go of that Last Big Game. Why are you defining something in the present by how important it was in the past? If the Foursome REALLY are all about legacy, you might as well put them on the shelf next to the marbles and pogs. Because what you are really saying is that the Fanta-Four have nothing more to add to our conversation anymore! If you don’t have something to say, then really you should stop talking. (Fortunately, this has never been a problem por moi.)

So, then, what DO they say? What is this comic really ABOUT? Isn’t it just about “family” or maybe “exploration?”

Oh, my boy. Sit down, sit down. We’ve all heard ALL the TIME about the Big Themes of Family and Exploration. Very true, but very droll. I mean, those are both so SIMPLE, really. What? Just because these characters ARE, after all and in fact, a family, so the Big Theme must be … family? Mr. Fantastic’s “job” is a scientist/inventor, so the Big Theme must be … exploring science? But then, my dear, by that same token, Batman is a man, so his big theme is … “A Man?”

Actually, that’s kind of interesting. Batman’s quest could be seen as a kind of attempt to search for masculinity, as he acts upon whatever ideas he has of protectorship, mentorship–

Okay, okay. Don’t critique the critique, dear. What I MEAN is, one can’t just point to a wacky invention in a comic panel that turns into a portal for a new world and cry “exploration!” That’s just a plot set-up! Just *doing* exploration isn’t *enough,* in and of itself. In the same way, one can’t yell out “family!” and wave a page of plot around and expect a story to resonate with readers. This label of “family” isn’t a theme so much as it is a topic. So DON’T just have Mr F and the I-Woman kiss and hug to say the comic is all about “Family.” How about instead have plots and characters coming together and falling apart and intertwining with all KINDS of stuff in order to say something LARGER– like “family can be made of different kinds of people” or “family unity helps us overcome our challenges.” It’s a subtle difference, but one necessary to tell a good intellectual property from the bad.

And you are all about subtlety, aren’t you, Vera?

Don’t insinuate, dear boy. It’s unbecoming.

So… what are left with, then? A family who explores things? I thought you said you had something new to offer?

Not new, per se. To my pretty little eye everyone seems to be forgetting one very important detail. Think back. After all, even YOU have noticed the “legacy,” n’êtes-vous pas? What is the one feature of the team’s stories BESIDES family or exploration, something that was part and parcel of the book from the beginning? It seems we have all forgotten one of the Fantastic Four’s key themes is… Celebrity.

Fantastic Four #2 (1962)

Fantastic Four #2 (1962)

Fact: By the second page of the second issue, this is 1962, mind you, the FF are household names that every citizen knows. In “one of America’s most expensive jewelry stores,” Susan Storm is let inside and allowed to sample a “ten million dollars” worth diamond by virtue of her presence alone. So it’s more than just family or exploration that’s on display here– I mean yes there are aliens but the plot set-up depends on the Foursome’s celebrity. Issue Three features Miracle Man (calling our heroes celebrities!), whose whole purpose for turning to villainy is to try to trump the Fantastic Ones (a la the Wizard, in Strange Tales.)

Fantastic Four #3 (1962)

Fantastic Four #3 (1962)

It also features the the first appearance of their very own skyscraper and flying car. By Issue Six, the characters spend a whole page or so to answering fan mail, thereafter a recurring element, and by Issue Seven, they’re even invited to Congressional dinners! And can you guess? Their celebrity status grew and grew. And the characters kind of liked it.

Fantastic Four 24

Fantastic Four #24 (1963)

Yes, the big wedding Annual issue is about family, of course, but it’s just as much about celebrity, as the event becomes a media frenzy that would rival any royal wedding (or reality TV show, for that matter.)

Fantastic Four Annual 3

Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965)

Perhaps it’s a SUBTLE thing, because it doesn’t drive the plots as much as the family or invention/exploration thingees, but there is a drive or a force of tone because of the celebrity element that’s in the background. These aren’t just the efforts of some work-a-day hero or even a hard-luck hero, whose efforts are noble but ultimately under the radar, but these are top-of-their-game, larger-than-life archetypical heroes with the whole world watching! So then, notice– there are two extremes at work here. One: a familiar family with quibbles and foibles like any family’s. And two: celebrities with fan mail, a lofty skyscraper house, and friends of kings and queens and alien Watchers.

This seems to be an important element to distinguish the Fantastic Four, but where is it lately? I sigh. Sigh! The stories (and they are some GREAT stories of course) take place entirely in the lofty, other-wordly skyscrapery castle for these larger-than-life figures. Contrast this to another famous super hero property all about “family” — The Incredibles. Their setting? The house next door. Where the bubble gum kid is wowed every day by the, well, incredible people around him. Occasionally, we’d see some citizens in New York reacting in a very bubble-gum-kid kind of way in those early FF issues, but I’d have a hard time remembering a similar scene in today’s pages.

You might have better luck with the recent book FF, featured in Fantastic Four: New Departures, New Arrivals and FF: Fantastic Faux (Kindle editions)

FFnewarrivalsFFfantasticfaux

Here, an alternative Fantastic Four take up the roles of our original foursome, and while the emphasis is on the “extended family” of a school of gifted youngsters, there’s a nice undercurrent of public spectacle running throughout.

It’s been a while since we had an Avengers Day parade, even.

Perhaps that’s the thing– the celebrity angle has been co-opted by a certain Iron Man. Certainly his movies have allowed him a degree of celebrity that the Fantastic Four’s cinematic offerings have yet to rival. For that reason Tony Stark is the Marvel Universe’s go-to guy for hi-tech hijinks. He’s the Marvel’s Apple products to Mr. Fantastic’s Sony.

So what’s the final word?

Ah! Claps all around, I say, but only small little golf claps, five in total. As a core concept, the Fantastic Four is a brilliant property ripe for adventures as well as comedy and complex interaction. They are primed for imagination and exploration. But as vibrant as the colors are, the truth is only the same picture is being painted over and over, and a key ingredient of being “celebrity” is too often overlooked, failing to give context to the remaining elements. Until we can get more momentum and change of status quo, and more commentary on the nature of celebrity in a heroic age, I can only give them three out of five flying bathtubs.

That’s still better than one!

And more than I will ever have, I’m afraid.

Comics are Not Animated Movies

Look, animation and comic books (let’s be honest and say “superhero comics”) have a great relationship. We’re talking years and years of great relationship, as far back as the Fleischer Superman animated serials of the 1940s. And, arguably, the two have become inexorably blended thanks to the wonderful synergy between Warner Bros./DC Comics, as far back as the seminal Batman: The Animated Series of the 1990s.

So when Comic Book Resources posted an article titled “DC COMICS STORIES TAILOR-MADE FOR ANIMATED FEATURES” I had to take notice. Particularly due to the all-caps. That’s some virtual enthusiasm right there, FOR SURE!

Unfortunately, while by and large I agree with the author Marc Buxton and would LOVE to see each and every one of his suggestions made into animated films, I think there are some key points that are not taken into account. And the most basic of these points? That animated films are not comic books. In fact, there are things that you can do in comics that you simply cannot do in animation. In other words, just because both mediums are a mix of visuals and “text,” it does not mean that one can be tailor-made for the other.

I couldn’t help but notice that 90% of the article’s suggestions basically boil down to “hey, this was a great story in the comics, so it would be a great story as a film.” Here’s most of the reasons he offers for films to be adapted into animation:

  • “intense heroic dramas”, “some great character work” (Justice League: A New Beginning)
  • “do a modern version of the reality-hopping story” (Crisis on Earth-One)
  • “the definitive origins of Robin and Batgirl” (Robin/Batgirl: Year One)
  • “telling a modern story of heroism and courage”, “multi-layered thematic study of the ‘Shazam’ concept” (Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil)
  • “greatest human adventures and remains a touchstone in comic history” (Hard Traveling Heroes)
  • “memorable stories”, “story … like a Greek Tragedy”, “potential character depth” (Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia)
  • “great little brother/big brother dynamic”, “groundbreaking storyline” (Batman and Robin)
  • “adapt one of the most intense Superman comic stories” (Superman: Last Son)
  • “one of the most tightly plotted, action-packed stories of the early ’90s” (Superman: Panic in the Sky)
  • “one of the most stunningly original “Batman” stories ever told” (Batman: Court of Owls)
  • “one of the most popular stories of the ’90s” (Batman: Knightfall)
  • “scope and emotional resonance of the story”, “a tribute to the “Green Lantern” mythos” (Sinestro Corps War)
  • “the purest Batman story” (Batman: The Long Halloween)
  • “this darkest of stories” (Arkham Asylum)
  • “the ultimate modern Joker story” (Batman: Death of the Family)
  • “This story of the true meaning of heroism” (Kingdom Come)
  • “the first, true epic crossover event; the story that transitioned the DC Universe” (Crisis on Infinite Earths)

Now, OF COURSE a great story should be the driving reason for a film. But because it’s so “of course,” this “reason” should be taken as a given, and in and of itself, this does not mean it’s tailored-made to adapt to other media. In fact, why not make the argument that these comics are tailor-made for a live-action film? Or an HBO original series? Or a novelization? All in all, what is really being sold as a reason here? A great story told well? That’s been done already, because it’s in the comic itself!

So what’s left besides “story” as a reason? Well, there’s always “character.” However, while the article points out some opportunity for character-as-exploration-of-human-themes (such as how Kingdom Come “differentiates [DC’s Trinity — Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman], what their great failings are, and most importantly, what makes them heroes” and how Batman: Death of the Family explores the “perfect symbiotic relationship of chaos and order symbolized by Batman and the Joker”), the majority of the article simple name-drops the characters as if they are figures on a shelf that could be placed on a different shelf. Instead, some reasons for animation are simply “seeing the beloved Blue and Gold team of Beetle and Booster in animated form” (Justice League: A New Beginning) and “the first official meeting between the Justice League of Earth 1 and Justice Society of Earth 2 is an event many DC fans have longed to see come to life” (Crisis on Earth-One). I love these characters, too, but when you’re argument boils down to “it would be cool to see these characters move and talk,” it’s not really convincing as proof that animation must happen.

That kind of thinking too easily translates into something else very prevalent in this article. And I’m guilty of this sometimes, too– when you stop playing armchair movie director and become armchair movie executive. In other words, just because this character is a property, doesn’t mean it’s “tailor-made” to be leveraged for the sake of being a property. This “reason” is given to justify many of the author’s points, saying “with New Gods, DC and WB have their own potential ‘Star Wars’ franchise just waiting to be exploited,” and Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil might allow Captain Marvel/Shazam to “deserve his chance” to try again to be “the most commercially viable DC property.” This kind of stuff is an oversimplification of what “characters” really are, and glosses over what you’re really talking about, which is stuff like graphic design, cultural zeitgeist/consumer mentality, trademark and branding, or even just basic story theory. We should all take a step back and check if we really are talking about art forms or talking about business.

To be fair, the author does point out several aesthetic/artistic reasons for a story to be adapted into animation. The best example of this is his offer of Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. He rightly talks about how “an animated gothic horror . . . inspired by the art of Mike Mignola” gives opportunity for story (“mash-up of modern day super heroics with archetypes of the Victorian era”) and character (Batman as an “enduring character”) and, more importantly, tone (“moody, atmospheric alternate future.”) This is entirely appropriate, of course, as this recent Justice League: War director Jay Olivia has gone on record saying he wants to do this as an actual film. (It’s also been developed, although abandoned, as a video game). Another brilliant point is in the offer of Batman: Court of Owls. He says that “Greg Capullo’s take on Batman fighting the Talons over Gotham’s rooftops seems like a perfect fit for animation,” and THAT’s the point. An animated film has its own advantages as a unique medium, and these strengths should highlight or enhance a comic book story. In this case, a scene full of tone, movement, character, and dramatic tension.

It’s a bit more tricky when you read about the New Gods as “an animated Kirby tribute, crackling with the power only the King could muster.” I suppose on one hand it’s identifying that there is a unique combination of characters, concepts, tone/style, and, yes, plot, but at the same time, it boils down to “it’s cool and I want to see such coolness in another medium.” What is it about animation that would enhance this “power” and unique combination of stuff? In this case, I would argue that the graphic design of Kirby’s elements are such that it would not translate well into a live-action medium; the stark and simplified nature of the design elements of both character, backgrounds, and special effects would not be same, visually, if made live (or even, I’d argue, if made 3D.) It’s no wonder that these elements were a huge influence to 1996’s Superman: The Animated Series. However, I’d further make a distinction by this same token, and say that this story could not be an animated DVD or television release; if you are going for something to capture grandeur and otherworldly majesty, then a cinematic scope and aspect ratio of an animated theatrical film is the way to go.

Finally, I’d like to point out that just because something can be drawn on paper, does not mean that it automatically can be drawn for animation. Because what you are really asking for is something that was drawn once (for one splash page in a comic) to be drawn multiple times (usually for 12 frames per one second of film, sometimes more depending on the quality.) That page may have taken an artist six to eight hours to draw. Those 12 frames might take a week, with multiple artists involved in layout, key frames, in-betweens, or more. So you have to realize the extreme oversimplification of the claim that “it might be a struggle for WB’s animators to cram as many characters into every frame as Perez did in every panel of [Crisis on Infinite Earths.]” It may be so unrealistic to the point of being impossible. And also, the advantage is when your eyes can linger over these panels and their compositions. These are lost when film has a different language altogether to compose scenes and frames, to guide the viewer’s eyes. So, for the article to say that “Kirby built a world in every panel he drew” might be a fair point, but to mean that it is also “a world that is ripe for life in other media” does not necessarily follow. It’s a strength of the comic that does not have an equivalent in animation. So perhaps it’s appropriate then, that in the previous paragraph I said that the New Gods suggestion would be better served as an animated theatrical film– this only furthers the point because only that kind of film would have the budget and staffing appropriate for that expression. But I’d still think a direct translation of Crisis is impossible. Bottom line, some of the “tailor-made” reasons offered by the article were that these stories had a scale (see also the reasons for Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night), but that is precisely why they *shouldn’t* be made into animated movies, I’d argue.

So, beyond my echo of The New Gods (as an animated theatrical release), I’d also affirm the author’s choices of Batman: Gotham By Gaslight, Batman: Court of Owls, and Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil. And here, I’d add my own “Top 10” stories to the list I’d like to see:

  • Green Lantern: New Guardians (2011)
  • Shadowpact (2006)
  • Stanley and his Monster (1993)
  • Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth (1972)
  • Metamorpho (The Brave and the Bold, 1965)
  • Klarion the Witch Boy (Seven Soldiers of Victory, 2005)
  • The Metal Men (Wednesday Comics, 2009)
  • Doom Patrol (The Brotherhood of Dada, 1989)
  • Dial H (2012)
  • Plastic Man (Jack Cole, 1941 or Kyle Baker, 2004)

But this list is entirely made with my own rationales, which I should save for different posts at a later time. Enjoy contemplating that list while you wait!

Hayden Goobie, Age 8, Explains the Winter Soldier

Meet Hayden Goobie

“Hey there, Hayden. You like superheroes, right? Can you tell me about the Winter Soldier?”

The comic book one or the movie one?

“Which one is more interesting?”

Well, the comic one is more interesting, but I haven’t seen the movie yet, and a lot of the times the movie is more interesting even though it’s different than the comic one which is more better sometimes.

“So tell me about the comic one.”

From the Kindle edition of the collected Winter Soldier, Vol. 1 edition (2012) by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice

From the Kindle edition of the collected Winter Soldier, Vol. 1 (2012) by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice

Ok, well, basically the Winter Soldier is this guy who is like a super spy. He has a metal arm because his arm, it’s his left arm, was blown up, I mean blown off, when he died the first time. He has a gun like a rifle and he shoots really good. He has long hair. And his mask is kind of like these two black diamonds that are over his eyes. He doesn’t really have a costume I guess but usually wears like blue costume armor or something. His powers are superspy powers.

He’s a hero now and he goes on secret missions because the world thinks he’s dead the second time. Or maybe the third. He works for… I don’t know. I think SHIELD or someone because everyone is working for SHIELD now-and-days but mostly he works on his own to fight bad guys, like bad agents, all over the world. He works with Black Widow a lot, because they are boyfriend-girlfriend.

But before he was dead the second time, he was actually Captain America for a while. This was at the time when Captain America was dead for like the second or third time. He had a Captain America costume with the shield and also used a gun and he still had that metal arm of course. He even worked with the Avengers and people, like Falcon and Nick Fury. But not the now-Nick Fury, the old one who was an old guy from World War II.

“I think it’s best to save the Nick Furies for a later conversation.”

From the Death of Captain America, Vol. 2 (2008) by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting

From the Death of Captain America, Vol. 2 (2008) by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting

I know, right? Anyway, the Winter Soldier who was Captain America even worked as Captain America even when the real Captain America came back from being dead and everyone was happy and teamed up sometimes and it was pretty cool, but the world or the government or somebody told the Winter Soldier he couldn’t be Captain America anymore because before that when he was Winter Soldier he killed a lot of people and stuff so he would have to go to jail. The jail, it was a Russian jail, was a really bad place and he had to fight a lot because of his past. After one of the fights he escapes so he could become Winter Solider again and fight in secret.

Because before all of that stuff, when he was the Winter Soldier for real, he was kind of a bad guy. The Russians used him, like made him into this superspy killing machine, for years and years, since like, after World War II and the, uh, Cold War. That’s why he’s Winter Soldier, because Russia and the Cold War.

“Actually, the term ‘Winter Soldier’ was used to describe soldiers who performed what were essentially war crimes during such times of war but were forced to remain silent by their superiors. It became the topic of a investigation following the Vietnam war as well as more recently regarding Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Oh okay. I don’t know about that. So, anyway, basically the big deal about the Winter Soldier is that in fact he’s Captain America’s old sidekick who’s name was Bucky! It’s like, “wow,” right? Because for years and years everyone had thought that Bucky died during the wartime, even Captain America thought this. Bucky had like died when Bucky and Captain America tried to stop a plane that a bad guy was using to launch a bomb so Bucky jumped on the plane when it was in the air but the bomb exploded when it was in the air and everyone thought he was dead. Baron Zemo was the bad guy, the dad Baron Zemo not his kid. Captain America was thrown into the water which was icy and was frozen until modern times. But what everyone didn’t know was that Bucky was also thrown into the ice and water and was also frozen but not for as long because the Russians took him from the water and experimented on him and gave him his metal cyborg arm and washed his brain to make him a bad guy for them.

From Captain America & Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes (2012) byEd Brubaker, Marc Andreyko, and Chris Samnee

From Captain America & Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes (2012) byEd Brubaker, Marc Andreyko, and Chris Samnee

That’s when he did all the bad things as a villain. When he wasn’t a villain the Russians just put him in the refrigerator until they needed to do some bad stuff and they’d take him out again and make him do the bad stuff. But it was okay because Bucky really didn’t know what he was doing he was just brainwashed and stuff.

So basically one of these times the Winter Soldier is made to go after the Cosmic Cube because this Russian bad guy wants the Cosmic Cube because it’s basically a wishing cube that makes all your wishes come true. He, the Winter Soldier I mean, has to kill a bunch of people before he does this and that’s when Captain America learns that the Winter Soldier who is Bucky is still alive. The two of them fight a little bit, but Captain America is the one who actually gets the Cube and makes a wish for the Winter Soldier to remember who he really is and it works and Bucky isn’t a bad guy anymore. But I mean he feels really bad for being a villain for so many years that he leaves and it takes a little bit of time before he gets to be friends again with Captain America after a while.

But I mean it turns out he did a lot of bad things during World War II too. (‘Tu-tu!’ Ha!) When he was Captain America’s sidekick during the War he always did the bad things so Captain America didn’t have to, like kill all the Nazis and things, but that was okay because it was war time and the bad guys were going to take over the world or something. He had a blue and red costume with diamond kind of mask and just called himself Bucky as his sidekick name even though his name really was Bucky in real life. He was just a kid who was living with the soldier troops for some reason and he came into Captain America’s tent when Captain America was changing into his Captain America costume and so Bucky learned Captain America’s secret identity. That’s when instead of blabbing about his secret identity he made Captain America take him as a sidekick and they fought the bad guys and super-Nazi soldiers and everyone. But really that’s what the government’s plan was all along and they had Bucky do all the bad work so Captain America wouldn’t have to.

I think all of the bad stuff he had to do really makes him sad, but he knows it’s important to fix your mistakes and so that’s why he stays as the Winter Soldier so that he can fix all the bad things he used to do like when he was helping the bad guys and training other kinds of winter soldiers. I guess that kind of makes him like a guy-version Black Widow and I guess that’s what makes them kind of boyfriend-girlfriend. It’s also kind of sad that he can’t team up with his best friend Captain America any more because since all the bad things he used to do, as the Winter Soldier I mean, are not a secret any more and no one wants a bad guy like that to be friends with Captain America even though it is kind of interesting.

I like the Winter Soldier but he’s not my favorite. I think he should have a better costume and maybe he should have some kind of ice-powers or freeze ray or something because “winter.”

And that’s all I have to say about Winter Soldier.

Vera Maven versus Captain America

Meet Vera MavenTo Review a Hero

“Vera! How are you?”

Darling, I am wonderful as you well know. All my imperfections are exactly in the right place.

“Well, I will leave that for others to judge. You are gaining quite a reputation as a critic yourself.”

Oh, I am not a critic, love. I *critique.*

“Fair enough. You know there is a Captain America sequel to be released in theaters next month.”

Mmm.

“I enjoy movies, as you know, but my first love will always be the comic books themselves. There’s something about superheroes that captivates my imagination. So maybe we can talk about the character of Captain America itself? Here’s the cover of the first Captain America I ever read.”

Captain_America_Vol_1_323

Oh, that’s special. But you are fibbing, surely?

“Ok, you caught me. But Captain America has nearly always been a member of the Avengers, and THOSE guys are my go-to comic heroes. Like this, one of my first Avengers’ tales I ever read. See? Cap. There he is.”

Avengers_Vol_1_277

Ah, but of course! Notice how you’ve captured something realllly interesting, here. One really must distinguish the use and purpose of Captain America BY HIMSELF and Captain America as a team member.

I can see it in that strong chin of yours, my dear. You never liked Captain America when you were younger. You liked the teams, mostly. I mean, of course, sure, you liked the Spider-Man, maybe even a Batman here or there. But there was something about the Captain by himself that just didn’t SPEAK to you, n’est ce pas?

For you, Captain America, as a solo hero, could never just BE a hero fighting for himself– because he always represented something LARGER. You thought he MUST be fighting always because of something else, yes? Look at him! Dressed with patriotic colors, holding a powerful round shield, often seen in the company of flags, stars, and stripes? How could he NOT be a soldier for some “agenda” of The Man? A super-soldier, of course, but a soldier nonetheless. Whereas the BEST heroes were vigilantes, outliers, the MAVericks. By definition, OUTside the system.

Ah! But you were young and so beautifully superficial! Just looking at surface details.

You see, what really makes Captain America work as a hero is NOT any kind of red-white-and-blue conformity. That turns out to be irrelevant! No, his story is all about one theme– STRIVE FORWARD. Now, obviously, this theme absoLUTEly thrives in context of a super-soldier– just throw in some World War II, or even some classical “American Dream” mythos in general. BOOM! INstant story– but one in danger of not just being a metaphor but an allegory that is so punch-Hitler-in-the-face that the READER sees stars and stripes. No wonder young little fanboys like yourself think that’s all there really is to Captain America!

Luckily, you are so smart in your biggie little head, so you DID recognize that when he’s in a group setting like the Avengers, this theme gets to be juxtaposed in all KINDS of other contexts. Now, the whole “to strive” thing gets to play off of Iron Man, who’s more about simply “forward” than “strive forward,” or Hawkeye, who’s theme is more like …

“Uh, ‘Don’t mess up’?”

Hmm, that works.

“So, as long as you play to his strengths, the powerful theme of “Strive Forward,” then Captain America is a success?”

Let’s not be so hasty, dear. There are some clear problems, here, OB-viously. What good is this theme without a steady way to highlight it? Cap has no *regularly*-featured supporting cast. Sure, you may have Falcon or some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents here or there, but there is no ensemble cast for him to be compared/contrasted against or to offer some plot springboards, et cetera et cetera. No wonder this central theme is lost!

For Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, even Hulk (well, SOMEtimes) have what we call whole *franchises* surrounding them. The good Cap has a few of these, in a pinch, but is nowhere near the same level. Is there no wonder that he has a hard time resonating with readers *as a property,* when all the trappings of a property are either superficial or essentially non-existent? Would Superman be as iconic as a property without having the same amount of shared history with Lois Lane, the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl, et cetera et cetera? Instead, with Cap, one has a hero that works best in an ensemble but is never given time to actually DEVELOP with a supporting cast?

(And really, is there something in the zeitgeist or something? Captain used to be a solo hero, on the sidelines, fighting to support American ideals but never REALLY identifying with the government per se. Now? He’s leading whole organizations, on the front lines of a capital-I Institution like SHIELD so much so that he’s practically a punch-the-clock company man. For shame.)

Oh, and please tell me you consider villains every time you’re considering heroes, yes? I mean, REALLY iconic heroes have also villains that can *specifically* highlight their themes, too. And where’s Captain America’s? Ah, ah, ah! I know! You are about to say “Red Skull,” aren’t you? Yes, yes, yes, a FABulous villain, yes. But really THINK. Is the Skull as a villain REALLY able to show what Captain America is all about? The Skull’s just, well, EVIL. Where’s the nuance? Where’s the thematic resonance? There’s no contrast in the same way Spider-Man/Dr. Octopus play off one another, to say nothing of Batman/Joker.

(In fact, I’d say a kind of “Joker” is what Cap really needs. He *should* be paired with a villain who’s theme is all about selfish play. So bring back Madcap, Jester, Screwball, or even, heaven’s forfend, Deadpool!) Try pairing him also against villains like Flagsmasher, Nekra, Black Mamba, or maybe crime cartels like Count Nefarius or Madame Masque. One “classic” villain used well in this regard recently was Arnim Zola under Rick Remender’s pen (Captain America #1, Nov. 2012 – Captain America #10, July 2013; collected in Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z Book 1 and Book 2) As a bonus, Cap was given a sidekick, first his “son” and then Zola’s “daughter” Jet Black. Could it be that the good Captain has a chance to really show his STRIVE FORWARD theme for the first time in ages?

Captain_America_Bk1

“Final verdict?”

Oh, such a classic hero, with dramatic imagery? He’s near the top of the scale, surely, but points have to be taken for such dangerously superficial trappings and a lack of driving story devices. Also, the current portrayal in the comics is just so leathery-strappy, like they are forced to draw some hyper-realistic version from the movies instead of a clean line of comic booky graphic design. So I’m thinking… a 7. Solidly.

“You are a wonder, Vera Maven.”

One does one’s best.