Tag Archives: comic book movies

The Secret Appeal Of Marvel’s “Black Panther”

As a fan of all things related to comic books and superheroes, I often find myself digging deeper into the messages and meanings behind these fanciful narratives. I’ve done it on this site before, using superheroes to highlight the value of uniquely balanced romances and the inherent dangers of excessive boredom. I’ll likely keep doing it, so long as my kinky mind keeps making these quirky connections.

Sure, there’s are plenty of times when I just prefer to pour myself a glass of whiskey, sit back, and just enjoy the raw entertainment value of a comic book or superhero movie. Given the sizable slate of superhero movies set for release in 2018, I’m probably going to need more whiskey.

There is one particular movie, however, that is making waves that I haven’t really talked about before. I’m referring to the upcoming “Black Panther” movie, a movie that is already setting pre-sale records on Fandango. While every movie produced by Marvel Studios these days seems to blow up the box office and enrich Disney, this particular movie is unlike anything they’ve ever tried before.

There’s a reason why I haven’t talked much about it. For the most part, I haven’t come up with any meaningful discussions that I think are worth sharing. Like most self-professed Marvel fans, though, I am excited about this movie. It takes a character who has been underrated and overshadowed for most of his history and elevates his position in the larger narrative of the MCU.

The fact that Black Panther is one of Marvel’s most prominent black heroes is certainly another important aspect. In the ongoing effort to promote more diversity in Hollywood and popular culture, “Black Panther” checks all the right boxes. He’s a prominent minority character who holds his own alongside other Avengers, as we saw in “Captain America: Civil War.” He’s ready for his own movie.

Now, before I go any further, I want to make clear that I don’t wish to get into all the racial undertones and white-washing controversies that have plagued Hollywood in recent years. As a comic book fan, I’m just excited to see Black Panther get a chance to elevate his presence. I sincerely hope that Chadwick Boseman can do for T’Challa what Robert Downy Jr. did for Tony Stark.

However, in seeing the growing excitement surrounding this movie, I feel as though the movie is revealing something about the current state of the world that’s not easy to see. It also reveals something profound about the character of Black Panther, as well, that might be even more telling in these sensitive times we live.

It might not be the message that the “Black Panther” movie is trying to convey. I don’t doubt for a second that Marvel Studios and Disney see this movie as just another part of the process of maximizing profits at the box office. However, when you look at the context of this movie and the character it’s built around, there’s one unexpected, but remarkable insight that emerges.

“Black Panther embodies the ideal king that everybody wants to live under.”

Unlike some of the other insights I’ve tried to ascribe to certain character, it’s not too hard to see this concept reflected in the character of T’Challa. Whether you only know him from his role in the movies or are familiar with his history in the comics, this trait is a core aspect to his persona. He’s not just an Avenger, a superhero, and a prominent black character. He’s the ultimate king that people want to be ruled by.

If it sounds like that conflicts with my assertion that Dr. Doom is the ultimate ruler, then please bear with me. I am going to address that in a way that will hopefully make sense. To understand why this is key to Black Panther’s character, as well as being a big part of his appeal, it’s important to know a few details about his story.

In both the comics and the MCU, Black Panther isn’t just a prominent superhero who also happens to be black. He’s the king of the fictional country, Wakanda, a secretive land in Africa that is extremely advanced and extremely wealthy. This is largely due to its rich deposits of Vibraniam, an equally fictional super-material that is more valuable than anything we have in the real world.

The particulars of Wakanda are important because, like Krypton, Asgard, or Gotham City, it embodies a particular concept. Wakanda is, in many respects, the embodiment of an exotic land that prospers without the influence of the modern world. A key trait of Wakanda is that, for much of its history, it shut itself off from the outside world and actively fought those who tried to change that.

That isolation doesn’t just give Wakanda its exotic appeal. It also insulates it from what we, in the outside world, see an increasingly corrupt system of world governments that don’t do a good job of helping people prosper. Despite all the data that clearly shows the world is improving with each passing year, there’s still a sense that there’s this one magical place that can do it better.

Wakanda is that place. Wakanda is technologically advanced, fully developed, and extremely prosperous. The fact that it’s a country in Africa, which is home to some of the poorest countries in the world, makes it all the more remarkable. The idea that it achieved all this without the aid of other nations helps add to the appeal.

This is where Black Panther’s appeal as the perfect king comes in. Beyond just being advanced and prosperous on its own accord, it’s not ruled by a flawed democracy, a corrupt dictator, or an inept republic. It’s ruled by a wise, competent, and compassionate ruler who also happens to be a superhero on the side. Black Panther, in many respects, embodies all the ways in which rulers wish they were seen.

He wasn’t elected, nor did he come to power in a coup. He rules because he’s the son of a previous, equally competent ruler. It’s basically a traditional monarchy, one that doesn’t require corrupt elections or elaborate legal traditions. While that seems antithetical to the freedom-loving crowd who scoff at living under kings, it does have great appeal.

Like Superman, Black Panther embodies everything people want in a ruler. This is what sets him apart from Dr. Doom. While Doom might be smarter and more capable, most people would not be lining up to live under his rule. Black Panther is different. He’s the kind of king people actually want to live under, even if it means living under the rule of a powerful monarch.

Black Panther and his exotic homeland are insulated from the corruption and ineptitude we associate with our existing rulers. It’s because Black Panther is from such an exotic place that prospered, despite being so isolated, that his ability to rule seems fittingly superhuman. He carries himself as the kind of king who won’t create crazy cults of personality or fail spectacularly.

That appeal is even greater these days because of the growing perception that all leaders are inherently corrupt. The 2016 Election was basically a year-long parade celebrating everything people hate about inept, corrupt leadership. It created this sentiment of hopelessness that no matter which leader end up in power, they’ll still be corrupt.

The events after the 2016 Election have only further reinforced this notion. In a sense, “Black Panther” is coming along at the best possible time because the general public is so disillusioned with the rulers they know. The idea that there’s this powerful, uncorrupted king who benevolently rules a prosperous land isn’t just appealing. It embodies a near-universal desire to live in a perfectly governed society.

At this point, it’s worth noting that this sort of appeal clashes significantly with the harsh truths of the real world. In the same way there’s nobody who can ever be as powerful or as good as Superman, there’s nobody who can ever be as good a ruler as Black Panther. His persona, as well as his country, simply could not exist in the real world.

There are actually countries in this world that are extremely rich in resources, not unlike Wakanda. There are also countries that isolate themselves from the rest of the world and attempt to thrive on their own, absent outside influence. Most of these countries are either extremely poor or extremely corrupt.

Even with semi-competent rulers, it’s impossible for any country to thrive like Wakanda. It’s equally impossible for any ruler to be as effective as Black Panther because no government, be it a dictatorship or a democracy, that can ever manage the never-ending chaos or accommodate infinite needs of the people with its finite resources.

In a sense, rulers like Black Panther and societies like Wakanda are large-scale wish fulfillment for those dissatisfied with their own society. We may not acknowledge that such a ruler and such a society are impossible in the real world, but neither are shape-shifting aliens or silver-skinned men on surf boards. The stories surrounding such concepts act as a unique kind of escapism, which is at the heart of every movie’s appeal.

Now, I’m not saying that this sort of appeal will be the sole reason “Black Panther” succeeds at the box office. I believe that if it succeeds on the level that some are already projecting, it’ll be because of a multitude of factors, much of which can be attributed to the winning formula that Marvel Studios has refined.

Whatever the racial or cultural undertones of a movie like “Black Panther,” it has already struck a chord. It’ll likely strike even more after it’s released. Most probably won’t be related to Black Panther being the perfect king or Wakanda being the perfect society, but the undertones are there. As people become more dissatisfied with their leaders and their society, they’re likely to become more overt about it.


Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

My Wish list For “Wonder Woman 2”

I know it’s been a while since I talked about Wonder Woman. In my defense, there have been a lot of distractions between the holidays, the response to the “Justice League” movie, and recent news stories to which I just couldn’t resist responding. Make no mistake, though. I haven’t forgotten about Wonder Woman or the fact that she had a breakout year in 2017.

In many respects, Wonder Woman was one of the best parts of 2017. She didn’t just amaze audiences by proving that there is a market for female superheroes, even after “Catwoman.” She raised the bar for the entire genre, both in terms of critical and commercial success. That bodes well for other female-led superhero movies.

While other female superheroes play catch-up, though, Wonder Woman is set to continue rising the bar. She’s Wonder Woman. That’s what she does through Gal Gadot’s charisma and she does it with uncanny grace. Shortly after her movie came out, a sequel was announced to the surprise of no one. At the moment, “Wonder Woman 2” is slated for release on November 1, 2019.

While that date seems so far away, some details are already starting to trickle in. Director, Patty Jenkins, has already started teasing details. At the recent Palm Springs Film Festival, she indicated that the sequel would be a very different film compared to its predecessor. Naturally, she didn’t give too many details, but it’s enough to get Wonder Woman fans excited.

Since I consider myself among those fans, I already find myself contemplating what a “Wonder Woman” sequel will entail. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve contemplated such things, either. While it’s too early to know or even speculate what “Wonder Woman 2” will bring, we can still hope and imagine the wondrous possibilities.

In that spirit, here is a brief, but basic wish list for what I hope to see in “Wonder Woman 2.” Granted, if Ms. Jenkins is serious about this being a very different movie, chances are not much on this list will apply. I understand and accept that. This is just the giddy Wonder Woman fan in me daring to imagine how wonderful this movie can be.

Wish #1: Establish More Villains (And Make It Personal)

If Wonder Woman has any flaws, beyond those that assholes and trolls point out, it’s that her list of villains isn’t quite as iconic as that of Batman or Superman. For much of her history, Wonder Woman’s greatest battles have been tied to those of the Justice League or those of her fellow Amazons. She’ll be a major force in those battles, but they rarely have major personal stakes.

Wonder Woman 2” presents a golden opportunity to change that because there are a few villains with strong personal ties to Diana. While Ares was more built up boss battle in the first movie, villains like Cheetah can test Diana’s heart, as well as her skill.

The recent Wonder Woman comics have done an excellent job establishing the deep personal struggle between Wonder Woman and Cheetah. While there are multiple women who have gone by Cheetah, the overall theme is the same. She is Diana’s rival, but there was a time when she was also her friend.

Having to fight her friends is an agonizing challenge for Wonder Woman, which we saw play out in the “Justice League” movie. It brings out her heart and her passions for all the right reasons. A more personal villain can only help expand that appeal in “Wonder Woman 2.”

Wish #2: Maintain A (Very) Distant Connection From The Other DCEU Films

While I stand by my statement that “Justice League” did not deserve the negative reviews it got, I don’t deny that the “Justice League” movie has become somewhat of a toxic brand. It’s not quite on the same levels as “Batman and Robin,” but at this point there’s just no way to salvage the backlash.

It’s for that reason, among many others, that I hope “Wonder Woman 2” maintains an extremely distant connection from the larger DC Extended Universe. I’m not saying it should cut itself off entirely. Even the first movie made it a point to establish that this movie was part of a larger world. The sequel should reflect that.

However, the events of “Justice League,” however big they might have been, shouldn’t be a major driving force in the narrative. Whether it takes place in the modern day or in the past, like the first movie, it can’t be too beholden to the events of other major DC movies.

A big part of the success of “Wonder Woman” was its ability to stand on it its own, apart from the rest of DC’s main superheroes. “Wonder Woman 2” should build on that and I imagine Patty Jenkins isn’t going to want to be too constrained by the burdens of other movies. For Wonder Woman, despite her kinky past, there can be no such restraints.

Wish #3: Build On The Amazons’ Mythology (And Diana’s Family Ties)

There were a lot of positives in “Wonder Woman” and I went out of my way to acknowledge them in my review of the movie. However, if there was one flaw in the overall narrative, it had to do with the limited exposure of the Amazons. That’s because in nearly every medium, Wonder Woman’s story is inherently enriched by her Amazon heritage.

The first movie did enough to establish who the Amazons were, why they are so important, and how important they are to Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much more than that. After Diana left Paradise Island, we didn’t hear from them again. That’s why I hope “Wonder Woman 2” takes the time to expand on the story of the Amazons.

They already showed how badass they can be in “Justice League.” I sincerely hope they get more opportunities in “Wonder Woman 2.” Between Diana’s mother and her more notable siblings, there’s a wealth of material for Wonder Woman to build on. It further raises those personal stakes I mentioned earlier, which can only help expand the appeal of Wonder Woman’s world.

Wish #4: Let Wonder Woman Address Social Issues (In Her Own Unique Way)

Given Wonder Woman’s iconic status as a female icon, it’s unavoidable that she’s going to provoke discussions about social issues. These days, that leads to many heated, hateful, and downright counterproductive conversations. However, that’s exactly why I still want Wonder Woman to address those issues in “Wonder Woman 2.”

Gal Gadot has already shown that she gets the unique spirit of love and compassion that Wonder Woman espouses. Sure, she is prone to making a few controversial remarks, but overall she gets what Wonder Woman is about. She even showed this in the first movie, having Diana navigate the very patriarchal world of the early 20th century, but without using that as an excuse to hate it.

Like it or not, there are a lot of social issues going on in the world. For the most part, we do a poor job debating those issues, as a society. Wonder Woman, with her emphasis on compassion and love for all, is the perfect antidote to that.

I don’t know how she’d go about it in “Wonder Woman 2.” A lot of that depends on the setting, the time period, and the conflicts involved. Whatever form it takes, though, I think it’ll be good for the audience and for the superhero genre to see Wonder Woman confront these social issues as only she can.

Wish #5: Expand The Emotional Stakes (And Let Gal Gadot Channel Her Passions)

This is more of a broader hope for “Wonder Woman 2.” While there are quite a few specific things I’d love to see in this movie, I think it’s more important that it embody the necessary theme that makes Wonder Woman so endearing. Like with some of my other wishes, those themes revolve heavily around the emotional stakes of Wonder Woman’s journey.

We didn’t see too much of that in “Justice League,” but we saw plenty of that in the first movie. Every battle she fought was an emotional struggle. That struggle gave Gal Gadot the opportunity to emote in a way that would make any Amazon warrior proud. Wonder Woman has never just been about fighting injustice or kicking ass. That is always secondary to her heart.

Some of the best moments in “Wonder Woman” just involved her taking a moment to smile, explore, and share herself with others. Whether it was making Steve Trevor feel awkward or making friends with Etta Candy, we got to see Wonder Woman share her passions with others outside the battlefield. That helped make her endearing on so many levels.

Wonder Woman is already a very likable, very passionate character. She’s the kind of person that men and women, alike, can rally behind. Any successful sequel will take those themes and run with them. There’s so much to love about Wonder Woman and how Gal Gadot brought her to life. If “Wonder Woman 2” can build on those themes, then it already has the most important ingredient for more wonderful success.


Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Wonder Woman

The Captain Marvel Movie: News, Challenges, And Kinks

It’s official. Successful female superhero movies are a thing. Thanks to the success of “Wonder Woman,” the trauma left by the likes of “Catwoman” and “Elektra” can finally be laid to rest. Hollywood can no longer use those affronts to all things heroic, female, and shaped like boobs as an excuse to relegate lady superheroes to backup roles and eye-candy.

Chances are, with “Wonder Woman” being such a boon with critics and fans, we’re about to get bombarded with a bunch of movies that will try desperately to emulate her success. We saw it with “Die Hard.” Now, it’s time for the ladies to get their time as Hollywood’s go-to gimmick for fresh pools of money.

At the moment, though, there’s only one female superhero with a movie in active development and an official release date. That honor goes to “Captain Marvel,” who will attempt to do for the Marvel Cinematic Universe what “Wonder Woman” did for DC’s Extended Universe.

It’s a noble and entirely understandable goal. To this point, Marvel has upstaged DC in damn near everything involving superhero movies. Then, “Wonder Woman” happens and suddenly they can claim they made a successful female superhero movie before Marvel did. If you think there aren’t some bloated egos at Marvel who don’t like that, then you clearly underestimate the impact of money, press, and cocaine.

That hasn’t stopped some at Marvel from praising Wonder Woman. It is, somewhat, a relief that someone managed to do a good female superhero movie. There’s only so much cocaine can do to make Hollywood throw money at what they feel is a losing concepts. Now, “Wonder Woman” has established female superheroes as a viable part of the superhero genre.

On the surface, “Captain Marvel” looks like the perfect character with which to give the Marvel Cinematic Universe its own Wonder Woman. Talk to most Marvel fans not arguing about Thor’s hammer today and they’ll agree. Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers is the closest thing Marvel has to Wonder Woman.

She definitely checks all the right boxes. She’s a fun, charismatic, badass fighter who regularly goes toe-to-toe with some of the Marvel universe’s biggest foes. She’s one of Marvel’s heaviest hitters. When someone like Thanos, Galactus, or the Red Skull comes to start something, she’s usually on the front lines.

However, there are some aspects to Captain Marvel that make her a challenging character for a movie. Some of them are more daunting than others. First and foremost, Captain Marvel is not Wonder Woman in terms of iconic status. That much is clear and few, even among die-hard Marvel fans, would claim otherwise.

For one, Carol hasn’t had nearly as much time to establish herself as an iconic hero compared to Wonder Woman. While she debuted as a character in 1968 in the pages of “Marvel Super Heroes,” she didn’t get her own series until 1977 and at the time, she went by “Ms. Marvel.” In fact, that’s the title she carried for most of her life.

Even with that title, a long list of potent powers, and undeniable sex appeal, most fans in those days probably wouldn’t have called her Marvel’s version of Wonder Woman. She would still be in the top five on anyone’s list of Marvel’s greatest female heroes. However, most fans would put characters like Storm of the X-men or the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four above her.

Despite this, Carol established herself as Ms. Marvel and was a powerhouse who could match Wonder Woman in terms of strength and grit. However, she never really established herself as Marvel’s premier female hero until recently, although the reasons for this are way more convoluted than most non-comic fans think.

This, in essence, is where Captain Marvel faces both some challenges and a few kinks. Yes, by the way, some of those kinks are of the sexual kind that will probably get skipped in any movie about her.

It’s the same challenge Wonder Woman faced, albeit in a different context. As I’ve discussed many times before, and will probably discuss again because it’s just too damn sexy, there were some very kinky BDSM undertones built into Wonder Woman’s character. For reasons that I assume involve exceedingly knotted panties, that kinky history has been purged from her history, although sometimes it pops up.

Carol Danvers’ history isn’t quite that kinky, but there is one element to it that’s kind of a headache for those who see her as Marvel’s version of Wonder Woman. It involves one of her earliest stories and includes elements such as abduction, brainwashing, rape, incest, and impregnation. Trust me, it’s even less kinkier than it sounds.

In that less-than-iconic story, Carol is abducted by a walking feminist nightmare named Marcus Immortus, the son of Kang the Conqueror, one of the Avengers’ greatest foes. He then proceeds to brainwash her into falling in love with him. They then do what people in love do. They get naked and they get frisky. That results in Carol getting pregnant.

Here’s where it gets even weirder and creepier. That kid she gives birth to isn’t exactly the apple of her and her brainwashing lover’s eye. That kid is just another version of Marcus. That means when he got her pregnant, he basically got her pregnant with himself. Trust me, it’s as confusing to the brain as it is to the genitals.

The reasons for this are too convoluted to explain, even to other comic book fans. Simply put, Marcus was aging rapidly and needed to be reborn so he just did what any deranged son of a villain would do. He found a beautiful woman, seduced her, and knocked her up with an infant version of himself. Who among us wouldn’t resort to something similar?

I’ll turn off the sarcasm for now because as the years have gone by, this part of Carol Davners’ story has become even more infamous than Wonder Woman’s BDSM past. At least with Wonder Woman, the BDSM was playful and kinky. The story involving Carol and Marcus is neither. Many, in fact, claim it counts as rape.

In some parts of the world, that claim would have some legal validity. In countries like the United States and Great Britain, there is something called “rape by deception.” It basically means that if someone lies, cheats, or gains sexual consent from someone under false pretense, then that counts as a form of rape.

Now this isn’t a universally held opinion, which is why not every country recognizes it. Some, especially those in the douche-bag pick-up artist community, would argue that consent under a false or half-false pretense is still consent. With a competent lawyer, that argument might actually hold up in court.

For Carol Danvers, though, it’s still a distressingly uncomfortable story. It also doesn’t help that it was one of her first major stories. She’d barely begun to establish herself at Marvel and this certainly didn’t set a very upbeat tone. Granted, comics had used brainwashing before, including the infamous Superman/Big Barda sex tape. However, it had never been taken this far before.

In defense of the writers at the time, this was 1980. It was long before the politically correct era where people get into fist fights over proper pronoun usage. While it wasn’t quite as bad as the world of “Mad Men,” you could still get away with making jokes about a woman’s skirt length. I also assume some were still recovering from disco, cocaine, and Quaalude binges.

Much like Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins, though, this part of Carol’s story has been subject to many “retcons,” as comic fans call it. It didn’t take years either. The process began in 1981 where Chris Claremont, the legendary X-men writer behind the famous Phoenix Saga, had Carol’s brainwashing undone, courtesy of the X-men.

From that point forward, Carol Danvers’ story underwent various forms of growth and development. She took on various titles along the way and worked with many teams, including the X-men, the Avengers, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Like Wonder Woman, she made her presence felt on multiple fronts throughout the Marvel universe.

However, it wasn’t until a brilliant female writer named Kelly Sue DeConnick came along that Carol Danvers truly became Marvel’s Wonder Woman. If anyone wants a clear understanding of why Carol is getting her own movie starting Brie Larson, I urge them to read this series. It will make clear why she deserves to be on the same level as Wonder Woman.

It’s in this series where Carol Danvers becomes Captain Marvel. That title had been previously held by another character, an alien named Mar-Vell, no less. Unfortunately, Mar-Vell had died, as superheroes tend to do with frustrating regularity. While reluctant at first, Carol takes on that title and she’s wielded it brilliantly every since.

This is the Captain Marvel that the movie will portray. It’s also the one that has helped push Carol Danvers to the front of the lines in Marvel’s effort to appeal to a more diverse audience. While some of those efforts have been subject to a few setbacks, Captain Marvel’s status at Marvel has never been greater. The time is perfect for build on the foundation that Wonder Woman created.

Doing so, however, will be challenging in ways that even Wonder Woman never had to endure. Like Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins, it’s easier to just ignore some of those unpleasant elements of Carol’s early years. However, that won’t stop some from bringing it up.

Given the nature of the story, I can see it becoming one of those issues that certain people belabor for all the wrong reasons. If you think that’s being paranoid, remember that people actually made a big deal about Wonder Woman’s armpit hair in the movie. They’ll find a way to do something similar to Captain Marvel.

Whether or not the Marcus Immortus story becomes an issue remains to be seen. Unlike Wonder Woman’s BDSM history, it was not a major part of Carol’s development or growth as a character. If anything, it was an early obstacle that she had to overcome on her path towards becoming who she is now.

In the end, she overcame those early growing pains. She managed to carve her place in the world of comics as a great female hero in her own right. It took a while for Marvel go develop a clear plan for her, but that plan worked out in the end and I hope it works out in the movie as well. A world with a beautiful, blond, high-flying, kick-ass female superhero is objectively better for everyone.


Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

How To NOT Screw Up X-men: Dark Phoenix

If you’ve been following this blog in any capacity, then you know I love comic books and superheroes. I try to work them into many topics, from effective superhero tactics to sexy female heroes who are uniquely sex positive. Assume, for the future, that if there’s sexy topic that can be related to comics, then I’ll find a way to discuss it.

In addition, those who follow this blog also know that I have a special affinity for the X-men. I tend to cite them more than most, whether it’s discussing a romance among equals, the future of female villains, or candidates for UN Ambassadorship. Again, I’ll use any possible excuse in any sexy topic to cite them again. I’m both a passionate erotica/romance writer and a passionate fan. I make no apologies for that.

So when some major news regarding superhero movies, particularly X-men movies, comes up, I’m going to discuss it. I may even belabor it. I know that may not be the reason some people visit the blog of an aspiring erotica/romance writer, but superhero movies, especially those involving the X-men, are important to me.

Keep in mind, the X-men also have characters like Emma Frost so that means there’s plenty of opportunities for sex appeal. This news, in particular, has its share of sexy and romantic connotations so it is relevant for erotica/romance fans. If you need proof, I have just two words for you: Sophie Turner.

I’ll give “Game of Thrones” fans a second to stop smiling. I’ll give X-men fans another because some of them, myself included, are still buzzing at her limited, but spectacular performance in “X-men: Apocalypse.” Other than Ryan Reynolds, the man who brought Deadpool to life, Ms. Turner may very well hold the key to the future of the X-men movies.

Whereas we only got one X-men movie this year with “Logan,” 2018 will bring us two. While “Deadpool 2” is sure to generate plenty of interest and dick jokes, it’s “X-men: Dark Phoenix” that will likely determine the fate and future of the X-men movies. Other than Sophie Turner’s sex appeal, there’s a lot of uncertainty about that effort.

That’s because “X-men: Dark Phoenix” isn’t just attempting something bold. The Phoenix Saga it’s based on is, by far, the most iconic and acclaimed X-men story of all time. Talk to any X-men fan in any capacity and most of them will agree. The Phoenix Saga is the gold-encrusted adamantium standard by which all X-men stories are measured. It also happens to be the story that Fox woefully botched once before.

It’s true and it still gives X-men fans nightmares to this day. Back in 2006, Fox attempted to tell the story of the Phoenix in “X-men: The Last Stand.” The end results were so poorly received that they ended up erasing it completely from the timeline in 2014’s “X-men: Days of Future Past.” Yes, it really was that bad.

I could do multiple blog posts on why the movie was so terrible. In fact, I already did one that covered the nauseatingly awful love triangle involving Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. However, that was just one in a long list of unforgivable crimes that “X-men: The Last Stand” committed.

Chief among those crimes, for X-men fans, was how it handled the Phoenix sub-plot. The mere fact that it was a sub-plot was a huge problem. As I said before, the Phoenix Saga is the most iconic, respected, and beloved X-men story of all time. To treat it as a goddamn sub-plot, while wasting the acting talent and sex appeal of Famke Janssen, is both tragic and infuriating.

Beyond just relegating it to a sub-plot, “X-men: The Last Stand” basically looked over all the major themes of the Phoenix Saga and basically threw them out like expired milk. The Phoenix Saga is a story built around love, humanity, untamed power, and sacrifice. “X-men: The Last Stand” had none of that. It only used the Phoenix as a way to make Wolverine get all whiny about a woman he barely knew. That’s it.

The handling of the Phoenix was so bad that longtime X-men producer, Simon Kinberg, admitted earlier this year that they screwed up. Think about that for a moment. A big-time Hollywood producer, someone with unlimited access to blowjobs and cocaine, admitted a mistake. He didn’t make an excuse, as so many people in power tend to do. He owned his mistake. For that, Mr. Kinberg earns my respect.

I also believe that Mr. Kinberg does not want to go down in history as the man who botched the most beloved X-men story of all time. That kind of reputation can permanently destroy his credibility among a vocal audience. Just ask Joel Shumacher how nasty it can get.

Moreover, Mr. Kinberg already has the resources he needs to make a Phoenix Saga work. He laid the groundwork with “X-men: Apocalypse” by having Sophie Turner shine more in one scene than Famke Jannsen ever could through three movies. He also has an immensely-talented actress in Ms. Turner to bring out the passion and drama that is so vital to the Phoenix Saga.

In other words, Mr. Kinberg and the powers that be at Fox have no excuses this time. They didn’t have any last time with “X-men: The Last Stand,” but the stakes were lower then. The market for superhero movies is going to be very crowded in 2018. Having already screwed up the Fantastic Four, they need to show they can learn from their mistakes.

Being the passionate comic book fan and X-men fan that I am, I want to help in whatever way I can. Given that I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer with precisely zero influence on anything outside this blog, that’s not saying much. I don’t expect anyone from Fox to ever read this blog or know about me. The most I can do is just put the information out there so I can say I did what I could.

With that in mind, I’m not going to offer a wish list on what must occur in a “X-men: Dark Phoenix “movie. If you base the value of a movie or comic book on something specific, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Instead, it’s better to lay out what to avoid, thereby allowing some creative flexibility along the way. No matter how passionate a fan you are, it’s important to be somewhat flexible. Otherwise, you’ll just find yourself among fans whining about how Finn Jones is too white play Iron Fist.

So for X-men fans, comic fans, and superhero fans in general, here’s my list of tips on how to avoid botching the Phoenix Saga again. I write this hoping that the people at Fox understand that X-men fans are a forgiving bunch, but messing up the most iconic story in X-men history twice would be pushing it.

Tip #1: Embrace AND Unleash The Passion

This should be the most obvious, but it somehow slipped everyone’s mind in “X-men: The Last Stand” so it’s worth putting at the top of the list and belaboring to no end. At the core of the Phoenix Saga, which is also its greatest appeal, is the passion behind the story.

It is, in essence, a story about overwhelming power guided by overwhelming passions. Within the story, Jean Grey is possessed by a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force, which pushes her psychic powers to the limit, beyond, and into the depths of space. That’s not an exaggeration either. She actually goes into space with this power.

Now doing that in a movie would be tricky, but Jean doesn’t have to go into space to realize the theme here. She just has to get a chance to emote and lament about the sheer breadth of this power. Her passions are what drive it. They create the huge, emotional spectacle that helped make the Phoenix Saga so iconic.

Famke Jannsen never got a chance to do much in “X-men: The Last Stand.” In fact, all she really did was stand around, look deadpanned, and that’s about it. She never even flashed any Phoenix-like symbolism, which is pretty pathetic since Fox managed to squeeze it in with “X-men: Apocalypse.” A Phoenix Saga with flat emotions is like sandwich without bread. You just can’t have one without the other.

Tip #2: Make Any Sacrifice Feel Genuine

This is somewhat unique to the Phoenix Saga mythos in general. In addition to overwhelming passion and immense power, sacrifice is at the core of what makes a the Phoenix Saga so iconic among X-men fans. In the end, Jean Grey makes a heroic sacrifice for her friends, the world, and the man she loves. It’s one of the most emotional, dramatic moments in the history of comics.

Again, “X-men: The Last Stand” found a way to completely screw this up. In fact, saying they screwed up would be too polite because they didn’t just undermine this critical moment in X-men lore. They did the exact opposite.

Jean Grey does not make any sacrifice in “X-men: The Last Stand.” What she does is basically an act of pure cowardice. She doesn’t heroically sacrifice herself to save the ones she loves. She makes someone else kill her, specifically Wolverine. She doesn’t beg him. She makes him. There’s nothing heroic about that. Hell, that’s a dick move, even by Wolverine standards.

For any Phoenix Saga to work, there needs to be some sort of sacrifice along the way. That sacrifice also has to be genuine, dramatic, and heartfelt. That’s what makes it so endearing. Nobody ever felt any kind of endearment to a coward. Since the X-men are superheroes and all, there’s no room for that kind of cowardice.

Tip #3: Embrace And Expand The Cyclops/Jean Romance

I’ve talked about this romance on multiple occasions and for good reason. It is, by far, the most important, iconic romance in the history of X-men. The romance of Cyclops and Jean Grey goes all the way back to the earliest days of the X-men, as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s a romance that has resulted marriage, death, resurrection, and multiple children. You won’t find many romances with this kind of depth.

Unfortunately, nobody who saw the original X-men movies ever would’ve suspected as such. Those movies gave the impression that the romance only existed to cock-block Wolverine and Jean Grey only existed to be a piece of ass for him to achieve. The love triangle is toxic enough in the comics, but the movies took it to a level so egregious that both the X-men fan and erotica/romance fan in me wants to vomit violently.

There’s no real depth between Wolverine and Jean Grey, especially in the movies. There is, however, a powerful and important dynamic between Cyclops and Jean Grey. Theirs is a uniquely balanced romance, one where they both stand together in ways that isn’t typical of superhero movies or romance movies in general. They’re both heroes. They share in one another’s struggles and burdens.

Most importantly, though, they complement each other. They inspire one another to be better. That’s what we saw, at least in a limited capacity, in “X-men: Apocalypse.” That movie didn’t just thrust them together and proclaim that they’re star-crossed lovers. They actually laid a foundation for a deeper connection. By the end of that movie, it was easy to see a romance between them blossoming.

In the comics, the Cyclops/Jean romance was central to the Phoenix Saga. Their romance was a catalyst for so much of the drama that to remove it is to remove a critical element of what makes the story work.

X-men: The Last Stand” tried to work around it by thrusting Wolverine into the role of Jean’s love interest. That failed miserably though because again, there was never a single goddamn reason for anyone to believe that there was any meaningful chemistry with them.

It was the history and extent of Cyclops and Jean Grey’s romance that made the Phoenix Saga so meaningful in the comics. At one point in the story, they even talked about getting married. A deep, passionate romance is what helped make the Phoenix Saga so impactful on so many levels.

That kind of romance can’t be forced. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed miserably. A Dark Phoenix movie cannot make that same mistake again. The foundation is already there thanks to “X-men: Apocalypse.” The Dark Phoenix movie just has to crank up the passion. Sophie Turner’s sex appeal will do the rest.

Tip #4: Make The Phoenix The Primary Plot

After what I said earlier about how “X-men: The Last Stand” treated the Phoenix Saga, this should be a no-brainer. Then again, the sheer stupidity of circumventing the Cyclops/Jean Grey relationship in the first three movies should’ve been a no-brainer too so I’m not going to assume too much here.

The Phoenix Saga is too dramatic, too iconic, and too emotional a story to relegate to a sub-plot. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed so miserably that no one could really blame Jean Grey for wanting to die in the end. Fox and Mr. Kinberg cannot let that happen again. The X-men, Jean Grey, and the Phoenix Saga deserve better.

From the moment the opening credits begin to the moment the generic 90s grunge music plays at the end, Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force should be the central focus. There can certainly be plenty of sub-plots, as there always are in every superhero movie. However, the Phoenix Saga must take priority. If it doesn’t tie into that story in a meaningful way, then it should be tabled for another movie.

The Phoenix Saga is a big enough story to carry the whole movie. In the comics, it unfolded over the course of several years, diverting into plenty of sub-plots along the way. A movie doesn’t have that kind of flexibility, but it still has plenty of time to set up and execute the drama that makes the Phoenix Saga so endearing.

Movies are plenty capable of creating that level of drama. Movies like “Titanic” and “Terminator 2” are able to do it all within a cohesive narrative. More than anything else, the Phoenix Saga should feel complete by the end of the movie. Other sub-plots can linger for sequels, but the Phoenix Saga must get first dibs.

Tip #5: Introduce New Villains And Tie Them Into The Phoenix Story

This might actually be the easiest part of making X-men: Dark Phoenix awesome. Chances are that’s already part of the plan and not just because there’s no hint that Michael Fassbender wants to return to play Magneto again. Now I love Fassbender as much as the next straight X-men fan, but his role as Magneto has been done to death, going all the way back to the first X-men movie.

The X-men have a long and rich library of villains. Very few of those villains have had a chance to grow within the movies. Some, like Mojo, are woefully impractical. Others, such as a devious figure named Mr. Sinister, are ripe for development. Even Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston, has expressed an interest in playing Sinister. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about his potential.

On top of that, Mr. Sinister has close ties to Cyclops and Jean Grey. It really wouldn’t take much to involve him in the Phoenix Saga. While he did not participate in it directly in the comics, he did go onto influence a great deal of stories that expanded the Phoenix mythos in X-men. Putting him in the center of the conflict in a Dark Phoenix movie makes too much sense.

There are other lesser villains like the U-men and the Purifiers that could find their way into the mix. So there should be no concerns about not having enough villains. The key is tying these villains into the main Dark Phoenix story. If done well, especially with the aid of Bryan Cranston’s acting prowess, then the movie has everything it needs to succeed.

There’s a lot more to consider in making an X-men: Dark Phoenix movie. I’m just a passionate fan so I’m hardly qualified to evaluate every one of them. If I were, Fox probably would’ve hired me and underpaid me by now to make this movie work. Since they haven’t, I can only hope there are much smarter, much more passionate people working tirelessly to make this movie great.

As a fan, I want to see this movie succeed. I want to see Fox and Mr. Kinberg make up for their mistakes in “X-men: The Last Stand.” It would be both an accomplishment and a service for which fans would be forever grateful. Grateful fans are more willing to give money to those who please them. That is, after all, Fox’s ultimate goal.

The incentives are in place. The story is there. The iconic characters are there. The passion is there. The love, heart, and emotions are there. It’s only a matter of bringing them together into a single, cohesive story that will thrill audiences, evoke tears of joy, and soak panties.

It can be done. I pray to whatever cosmic forces are out there that Fox can pull this off. As an X-men fan, a comic book fan, and a fan of iconic love stories, X-men: Dark Phoenix deserves to be that awesome.


Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes