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New Comic Book Day January 20, 2021: My Pull List And Pick Of The Week

Today is New Comic Book Day. I’m always up for celebrating that. Here in the United States, though, it’s also Inauguration Day. It’s not a regular holiday. It hardly qualifies as a holiday. We only have it every four or eight years. It’s only purpose is to celebrate the swearing in of a new President and ushering in the peaceful transfer of power.

That’s how it usually happens. Most of the time, it’s just a formality and it’s hardly a never a major controversy. This time is different. I never thought I would say this, but I genuinely miss the good old days and it’s not like those days were that long ago.

Now, I don’t want to get political, especially on New Comic Book Day. There’s a time and place to talk about that sort of thing and in any other year, I might not even mention it. Like I said, though, these are not normal times.

We just had an attempted insurrection. We have a large segment of the population who genuinely believe they are patriots, despite checking every box for fascism. If this were a comic book, they wouldn’t be heroes. They’d be Hydra minions, at best. I’ve read enough comics in my life to see the signs.

With Inauguration Day, it’s a time of transition. We can finally move forward with a new President and a new agenda, but make no mistake. The story isn’t over. Like in comics, the villains are never truly defeated. If anything, the villains start to think they’re the heroes and fight harder. That’s why we have to keep fighting.

I’ll try to avoid politics as much as I can today. For that reason, a stack of new comics has never been more critical. I encourage all my fellow comic fans to maximize their potential on what is sure to be a long, stressful day. To assist, here’s my pull list and pick of the week. Enjoy and God Bless America!


My Pull List

Avengers #41

Batman/Catwoman #2

Black Cat #2

Cable #7

DCeased: Dead Planet #7

Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1

King In Black #3

Power Rangers #3

Rick and Morty #4: Ever After

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #7

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #113

X-Force #16


My Pick Of The Week
Future State: Wonder Woman #1

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New Comic Book Day January 13, 2021: My Pull List And Pick Of The Week

We all have our things that put us in this special zen-like state. One of my old college friends got into that state by listening to heavy metal music at nearly full volume. I don’t know why that relaxed him as much as it did, but it worked. I’m not sure how good it was for his ears, but I don’t aruge with results.

For me, comics are that special thing that puts me in that special state of serenity. I download all my new books onto my iPad. I put my feet up and then I proceed to partake in the weekly joy that is New Comic Book Day. I challenge anyone to find someone as content and focused.

It’s a great feeling. No matter how my week is going, reading new comics puts me in that special state where everything seems balanced. It’s my shortcut to inner peace and contentment within a world that has been increasingly stressful over the past year.

Since that world doesn’t seem to want to settle, my weekly trips to comic book Zen will be all the more important. Even in the middle of winter, it’s easy to find something from the vast library that is Comixology that will warm your body and soul. This week is no exception.

Here is my pull list and pick for the week. Enjoy!


My Pull List

Amazing Spider-Man #57

Chris Claremont Anniversary Special #1

Future State: Justice League #1

Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman #1

Immortal Hulk #42

King In Black: Gwenom vs. Carnage #1

Marauders #17

Mighty Morphin #3

S.W.O.R.D #2

Star Wars: Darth Vader #9


My Pick Of The Week
Future State: Justice League #1

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New Comic Book Day January 6, 2021: My Pull List And Pick Of The Week

It’s the first week of 2021 and while things are still awful, they haven’t gotten considerably worse just yet. By 2020 standards, that counts as progress. That’s just how low the bar is these days. I hope it raises at some point, but I’m not getting my hopes up just yet.

In the meantime, I won’t let that stop me from enjoying the first New Comic Book Day of the year. In my experience, comic companies often use that first Wednesday to set the tone for the kind of year they’re going to have. That usually involves setting up or furthering stories that began late in the previous year and launching new titles to help set up events in the new year.

In addition, these efforts also mean I tend to spend a lot more than average on the first week of the year. That usually works out because I use the money I got from generous relatives over Christmas. So the first New Comic Book Day of a new year are usually very special for me and this year promises to be no exception.

New characters are being introduced.

New titles are launching from top tier talent.

New storylines are set to pick up.

These are exciting times for the world of comics. The world is still a mess and I’m still frustrated by it to no end. Even so, an extra large pile of new comics helps make it more awesome and that’s exactly what we need right now. As such, here’s my pull list and pick for the first of many New Comic Book Days in 2021. Enjoy!


My Pull List

Amazing Spider-Man #56

Dark Nights: Death Metal #7

Eternals #1

Future State: The Next Batman #1

Future State: Wonder Woman #1

Guardians Of The Galaxy #10

Hellions #8

Iron Man #5

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #22

Star Wars #10

Spider-Woman #8

Thor #11

Venom #32

X-Factor #6


My Pick Of The Week
Eternals #1

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Latest “Black Widow” And MCU Delays: Perspectives And Prospective

This year has sucked for many reasons. While one reason tends to be more prominent than others, many of us have felt it. Some have just felt it more than others. While 2020 has sucked for everyone, it especially sucks for fans of superhero movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This year was supposed to be a year of transition. After the record-breaking returns of “Avengers Endgame,” the MCU was at a crossroads. Prominent actors had lived out their contracts. Certain heroes were killed off or retired. Longtime Marvel fans like myself were both anxious and curious to see where the MCU would go from here.

This year was supposed to be the beginning of Phase 4, which was to commence with “Black Widow,” “Eternals,” and “Shang-Chi.” On top of that, the MCU was going to venture into the world of streaming with several Disney-Plus shows. It all seemed so promising.

Then, the goddamn pandemic hit. Need I say more?

Now, it’s official. For the first time in a decade, there will be no MCU movies in 2020. According to The Verge, “Black Widow” has been pushed into 2021, along with the rest of the aforementioned 2020 slate of movies.

The Verge: Black Widow delayed to 2021, pushing back The Eternals and other Marvel movies

Black Widow will now open on May 7th, 2021 — more than one year after it was originally scheduled to be released. Like with other Marvel delays, Black Widow’s new date pushes Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings back from its May 7th, 2021 release date to July 9th, 2021. The Eternals, which was supposed to follow Black Widow is moving from February 12th, 2021 to November 5th, 2021. A number of other Disney films, including West Side Story and The King’s Man, were also moved around as part of the shuffle.

Basically, the entire timeline for the MCU’s next phase just skipped a year. As someone who scheduled entire months around going to see Marvel movies, I can’t put into words how disappointing this is. This year has broken my heart, my spirit, and my hope for a brighter future. This just rubs salt, acid, and molten lead in the wound.

However, as disappointing as this news is, I do want to keep things in perspective. I also want to highlight some insights that may or may not be encouraging. Please don’t mistake any of that for tangible hope. I still have none left. At the same time, I do see reasons for encouragement.

For one, I’m not too surprised by “Black Widow” being delayed. I think the bean counters at Disney saw the box office returns of “Tenet” and decided to throw in the towel for this year. Despite that movie being widely praised by fans and critics, it barely made enough to cover the marketing budget for a typical MCU movie.

Movie theaters are not back. They are a long way away from being back, so to speak. This pandemic has hit them harder than any other industry that doesn’t involve health care workers and mask manufacturers. Even if a good movie comes out, people are still reluctant to go.

That’s not likely to change this year. It probably won’t change in the first few months of 2021, either. However, if the current timelines are to be believed, we should have a working vaccine by the end of 2020. That’s the only way the world will return to some semblance of its former self.

Now, I don’t believe that timeline for a second and I don’t think Marvel Studios believes it, either. If they did, then they wouldn’t have pushed “Black Widow” all the way into the spring. While this does mean a longer wait, it also reveals something else that’s just as important.

Earlier this year, I questioned whether the entire movie theater industry has been irreparably damaged. While I stand by many of my points, I might need to pull them back. Before this news came out, Disney decided to take the plunge into pure streaming and dump “Mulan” onto its streaming service. I suspect that if this move proved both successful and profitable, then that might be the future for all its major movies.

However, that future is now in question. While Disney has claimed that the movie has generated some healthy profits, the extent of those profits is very much in question. Nobody is convinced that “Mulan” is a success or failure. This is not like “Trolls World Tour,” a kids movie that cost less than half of what it took to make “Mulan.”

In a healthy, non-pandemic world, it’s hard to say whether “Mulan” would’ve worked out better. However, it is fairly clear that dumping a big budget blockbuster movie on a streaming service just isn’t as profitable as the good old fashioned box office.

That bodes well for both movie theaters and the MCU. I believe that Disney and Marvel Studio believes that their big budget blockbusters need to come out in theaters. These are not cheap independent movies that Netflix gladly gobbles up. These are massive cinematic undertakings. They need movie theaters to get a good return on their investment.

That need might very well be what saves the movie theater industry, at least to some extent. I think moving the MCU’s heavy hitters into 2021, assuming by then a vaccine will have tempered the pandemic, shows that they still believe in this model. They’re still committed to using this platform for developing the MCU.

Honestly, I’m a bit relieved. As much as I love binge-watching my favorite movies, there’s still something to be said about the movie theater experience. I don’t think that watching “Avengers Endgame” on my TV would have had the same impact as it did when I saw it in IMAX. That experience is still valuable.

Now, I’ve learned not to trust release dates and timelines. This year has taught me that all timelines are tentative when pandemics are a factor. Be that at as it may, Disney’s reluctance to dump big movies on a streaming platform bodes well for the movie going experience.

If and when “Black Widow” comes out on its newly scheduled date, I’ll definitely be there to see it. It may also be the best possible sign that we’ve gotten through this awful shit storm that has been 2020.

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Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and the MCU’s Romance Problem

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Trying to find flaws in the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days is like trying to find a flaw in Mr. Rogers. It’s pretty much impossible, unless you’re willing to be exceedingly petty. Even the most ardent critic can’t deny the success of this now iconic cinematic universe. Such a franchise doesn’t make over $7 billion at the box office by having many egregious flaws.

That said, the MCU is not without its shortcomings and I’m not just talking about underperforming outliers like “The Incredible Hulk” or outright failures like “Inhumans.” One such shortcoming, which I feel has not had sufficient scrutiny, has to do with romance in the MCU. As someone who is a lifelong comic book fan and an admitted romantic, this stands out to me more than most.

It only became more apparent with the upcoming a TV series starring Vision and the Scarlet Witch on the Disney+ streaming service. The romance fan and the comic book fan in me initially liked that idea because Vision and the Scarlet Witch are one of the Avenger’s most endearing and colorful romances in the comics. This is definitely one of those relationships that can carry an entire show.

However, given that this takes place in the MCU, the concept is already on a shaky foundation. While the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” established that these two characters are romantically involved, there’s little in terms of how that relationship developed. As a result, the tragedy that played out in the Battle of Wakanda had little dramatic weight.

It’s one of the few glaring flaws in an otherwise stellar narrative. However, the lack of romantic depth between Vision and the Scarlet Witch is only the most obvious symptom of a much larger problem that has been unfolding in the MCU since the days of “Iron Man” and “Thor.”

Some parts of that problem are pure logistics. Building a cinematic universe on the scale of the MCU requires a lot of moving parts and, as a result, romance was often a secondary concern. Kevin Feige and the creative minds at Marvel Studios opted to prioritize other aspects of character development. Given the MCU’s unprecedented winning streak, it’s safe to say those priorities were well-placed.

It’s only recently that the lack of emphasis on romance has caught up to the MCU. From having Thor break up with Jane Foster prior to “Thor Ragnarok” to horribly mismatched romance between Hulk and Black Widow, there’s a glaring absence of successful, well-developed romances in the MCU.

Even the successful romances, namely Tony Stark and Pepper Pots or Ant Man and Wasp, had much of that success unfold off-screen. At most, a movie would show them getting together or enduring a major conflict, but there would rarely be any moments that fleshed out the romance in a meaningful way. Every bit of development only centered around defeating a villain, which is good catalyst for romance, but not much else.

Now, we’re getting an entire show about a couple who were on opposite sides of the conflict in “Captain America: Civil War” and inexplicably together in “Avengers: Infinity War.” In terms of meaningful romance, this is not a trivial oversight. If someone didn’t know their romantic history in the comics, then they would be understandably confused as to why they ended up together.

Not seen here is ANY hint that these two have been flirting.

It’s the same problem that the original “X-Men” movies made when developing the horribly flawed love triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. The narrative in the movies relied too heavily on assuming peoples’ knowledge of the source material in lieu of providing an understandably reason as to why this romance is occurring. Again, that’s not a trivial oversight.

How is anyone who only saw “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” supposed to buy into the relationship between Vision and the Scarlet Witch? The movies only establish that they’re together. They don’t establish why, how, or what they went through in establishing their relationship. Everyone is just left to assume, which is rarely a good strategy for developing meaningful romance.

Even if the relationship between Vision and the Scarlet Witch were entirely platonic, it would still be quite a stretch to believe that they have a genuinely intimate connection. It’s possible that the upcoming show will help develop that connection, but there’s no getting around how underdeveloped it has been to this point.

The same could be said for other relationships throughout the MCU. Some are so underdeveloped that when intimate moments do occur, they rarely have much impact. Captain America’s relationship with Peggy Carter in his first movie probably had the best foundation, of all the MCU romances, but that only made him kissing her niece, Sharon, feel downright wrong. Haley Atwell herself has said as such.

Romance, even among fictional characters, requires some level of chemistry to go along with the narrative. While that can be difficult to fit into a single movie, it’s not impossible. Movies like “Man of Steel” and the first “Spider-Man” movie were able to establish the necessary chemistry with only a handful of scenes. Such scenes have been absent or underdeveloped in the MCU.

Ironically, the most fleshed out romance in the MCU is between Starlord and Gamora, two characters who aren’t an endearing love story in the comics. I would even argue that the scene in which Starlord sacrifices himself to save Gamora in the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie shows more romantic depth than any other MCU movie to date.

It didn’t take much to show that Starlord and Gamora have chemistry. From their first interactions to the many challenges they overcame over the course of two movies, they developed a powerful connection that just isn’t there for Vision and the Scarlet Witch. That connection is part of what made the events between them in “Avengers: Infinity War” so heart-wrenching.

That same sentiment just wasn’t there with Vision. We knew from the events of two previous movies that Starlord genuinely loved Gamora. We understood how strong it was by the time Thanos entered the picture. There’s none of that present with Vision and the Scarlet Witch. When they face a similar situation, it just doesn’t have the same impact.

It probably helps that Guardians of the Galaxy was a relatively obscure series before the first movie and has little history of iconic romances compared to the Avengers. However, it does show that the MCU is capable of meaningful romance. It just seems incapable of applying it to the more notable couples from the comics.

While such flaws haven’t stopped the MCU from succeeding on so many other levels, it still ensures that Vision and the Scarlet Witch have an uphill battle in terms of proving their romance is more than an assumed contrivance. It’s certainly not impossible, but there’s a lot to develop in terms of chemistry and depth.

Given on how “Avengers Endgame” played out, it may not matter how poorly past romances have been handled. However, the impact it has had in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies shows that there is a place for romance in the MCU. Perhaps Vision and the Scarlet Witch can be part of that with the upcoming show, but it has lot to overcome before it can be the iconic romance that the MCU needs.

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A Fitting Endpoint: My (Spoiler-Free) Review For “Avengers Endgame”

avengers-endgame-poster-square-crop

Starting an epic journey is a daunting challenge. Keeping people engrossed in that journey for over a decade is exceedingly difficult. Ending that journey in a way that’s dramatic, appropriate, and satisfying is damn near impossible. Despite those insane stakes, that’s the primary goal of “Avengers Endgame.” It attempts to cap off the story that began in 2008 with “Iron Man.”

Without spoiling the many dramatic details of this three-hour cinematic experience, I can safely confirm that it did. “Avengers Endgame” achieved that seemingly impossible goal of completing a decade-spanning story that included 22 movies, a cast of top-notch actors, and one talking raccoon. It’s one of those feats that shouldn’t be possible, even with Disney’s deep pockets, but Marvel Studios pulled it off.

It isn’t hyperbole to say that “Avengers Endgame” is a historic cinematic achievement that fundamentally changes the standards for just how bold a movie can be. All the praise from fans and critics alike that this movie has garnered is well-earned, but still doesn’t do justice to what this movie achieved.

It’s not just another step in the ever-expanding saga that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie does not set the stage for another sequel or lay the groundwork for the next big battle between the Avengers and the next Thanos-level threat. The movie is true, polished ending that manages to beautifully encapsulate the scope and scale of the story it told.

As a life-long comic book fan and a fan of superhero media, going back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons, this movie was both satisfying and impactful. I came out of the theater with my heart still racing and my mind still reeling from what I just witnessed. Part of me was sad. Part of me was elated. In all, though, I felt like I’d completed a journey alongside these beloved characters.

Even if you’re not a fan of comics and only know these characters through the movies, “Avengers Endgame” still succeeds in terms of raw storytelling. Years of world-building and character development really come to ahead in this movie. The shared journeys of characters like Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Bruce Banner provide plenty of dramatic weight to everything that happens.

Make no mistake, though. A lot happens. This movie will test your bladder almost as much as it tests your heart. There are so many characters to juggle and many of them have their own arcs. Tony, Steve, Thor, and Hawkeye are all in wildly different places throughout the story, literally and figuratively. Coming together again in a cohesive plot takes time and effort, something the Russo brothers do not shy away from.

As a result, “Avengers Endgame” is very different structurally from “Avengers Infinity War.” Whereas “Avengers Infinity War” played out like unfolding battle with Thanos leading the charge, “Avengers Endgame” is very much a reaction to the aftermath of that battle. To say it left some traumatic scars would be the understatement of all understatements.

There’s no getting around it. Thanos won and the Avengers failed. Before anyone can even contemplate undoing the damage, these characters have to adjust to a world that has been decimated on an unimaginable scale. Processing, exploring, and reacting to that decimation is a big part of what makes that final showdown sufficiently epic.

That means are sizable parts of this movie that don’t involve Hulk smashing things, Captain America fighting Hydra agents, or Iron Man blowing stuff up. “Avengers Endgame” puts much more time and energy into character moments and interpersonal drama, which were fewer and less developed in “Avengers Infinity War.” However, none of this time ever feels wasted or drawn out.

It helps make that final showdown all the more meaningful. It’ll get you to cheer, gasp, cry, and cringe every step of the way. I can even attest that there are moments in this movie that got the people in the theater out of their seats and cheering. In all my experience with superhero movies, I can’t remember the last time a movie got people that emotional.

There’s a lot I can say about how “Avengers Endgame” succeeds in making the emotional investment of the past 22 movies pay off. I don’t think I need to belabor how important this component was in making this movie work in a satisfying, climactic manner. While the movie succeeds in this critical aspect, there are other noteworthy details.

In terms of pure entertainment value, it is not as great as “Avengers Infinity War.” I would even argue the first “Avengers” movie had more spectacle and was more cohesive, overall. There were times when “Avengers Endgame” felt somewhat chaotic, due to all the character arcs it had to balance. While it managed to juggle them all effectively, there’s only so much that can be done to keep that narrative concise.

It’s also worth noting that some character narratives were managed better than others. I won’t cite specific characters for spoiler reasons, but they fairly obvious within the first hour of the movie. I’m sure fans of certain characters will be conflicted by how things play out, but I doubt those same fans will be too disappointed.

Fans of the distinct humor that often shows up in Marvel Studios productions will also have plenty to laugh at. Granted, the bleak circumstances of the movie make that tricky, but moments are there and they never feel too forced. They’re not quite as numerous as they are in other MCU movies, but given the various plots of the story, I’d say there’s just enough to balance the overall tone.

There are some other flaws within this movie, but the extent of those flaws is never more than minor. It would require an extreme level of pettiness and nit-picking to use those flaws to undercut the movie. “Avengers Endgame” is not perfect, nor does it try to be. Its primary goal is to end this era of the MCU and it does so beautifully.

The ending will leave many with tears in their eyes, both from joy and sorrow. There’s equal amounts of tragedy and triumph. Certain characters get a happy ending. Others must deal with loss and tragedy. Overall, it’s a perfect blend of satisfying conclusion and bittersweet finality. It reinforces the notion that these characters are true heroes.

For a movie that begins under such bleak circumstances, the ultimate conclusion really solidifies “Avengers Endgame” as an incredible cinematic experience. If I had to score the movie, I would give it a 9 out of 10. It hits all the right dramatic notes, evokes all the right emotions, and succeeds on a level that few could’ve imagined 11 years ago.

Like Captain America himself, this movie was willing to do whatever it takes to complete this superhero saga for the ages. Moving forward, it’s hard to say what will come of the MCU, especially in wake of the Disney/Fox merger, but it’s safe to say that “Avengers Endgame” has set a bold new standard for just how great a superhero movie can be.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Thanos #1

Every Wednesday, a new batch of comic books comes out to bring a badly-needed dose of awesome to a world that can never have too much. Not all of them are generic superhero comics. Not all of them are cheap kid-friendly comics full of talking animals and princesses, either. However, they all contribute to the overall awesome in their own unique way.

This week has more going for it than most. While new comics are certainly a joy to fans of superhero media, the upcoming release of “Avengers Endgame” is, by far, the bigger event. I would go so far as to argue that it’s the biggest event in the history of the superhero genre. However, that event wouldn’t be possible without the comics that birthed these iconic characters.

This week, one character is destined to stand out over everyone else and he’s definitely not a hero. He is Thanos, the Mad Titan who brings death, destruction, and wrath wherever he goes. He brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its knees in “Avengers Infinity War.” He’s done it more than a few times in the comics as well. However, “Thanos #1” dares to tell a different kind of story.

In this story, Thanos is still the death-loving, power-mad titan he’s always been. A good chunk of the narrative is spent reinforcing this in ways as brutal as anyone would expect of the Mad Titan. That brutality is important, but not just to Thanos. This story is more about Gamora than it is about him.

Thanos #1” isn’t just some extended flashback that reinforces how menacing Thanos is or why he’s one of Marvel’s greatest villains. This is Gamora telling her story about how she became the most dangerous woman in the universe under his guidance. It’s definitely a story worth telling and writer, Tini Howard, doesn’t gloss over the gruesome details.

Through Gamora, we see that Thanos isn’t just a cruel, mass murderer. He really is mad on many levels. There are times when he kills with a goal in mind. While that goal isn’t always logical, he does show that he knows how to employ tactics and he knows how to lead other killers into battle.

Then, there are the times when he just kills because he is not a stable mind. It doesn’t matter if it costs him valuable soldiers and crew members. He kills for the same reason other people collect Star Wars toys. He’s obsessed with it. In the same way some fans can never have too many Darth Vader action figures, Thanos can never have too much death.

Howard does plenty to flesh out this side of Thanos. By reinforcing the extent of Thanos’ madness, it makes Gamora’s role a lot more meaningful. That meaning is important because Thanos shows, time and again, that he’ll kill anyone and everyone without a second thought. Whether it’s an entire planet of pacifists or his own crew of murder-happy minions, he does not hesitate for a second when that murder itch strikes.

However, he does hesitate when he encounters Gamora. It’s not out of compassion or pity, either. Something about her stands out that sets her apart from the countless victims Thanos has killed throughout the cosmos. It’s not immediately apparent. It’s also substantially different than what we saw in “Avengers Infinity War,” but the underlying theme is the same.

It still carries dramatic weight and the artwork of Ariel Olivetti nicely captures that drama. Gamora, who narrates the story, doesn’t portray herself as an impressionable victim who was eager for a power-hungry madman to corrupt her. She was, by and large, just a young girl trying to escape a massacre with her family.

She didn’t come from a warrior culture. She didn’t have a violent streak in her. She was, by all accounts, just an ordinary alien woman who wanted to live peacefully in the only world she’d ever known. For her to become the most deadly woman in the universe, she had to be forced down that path and molded in the most brutal way possible.

It’s yet another testament to just how devious Thanos is, both in the comics and the movies. He’s not just capable of leading a team of murderers from one slaughter to another. He’s also capable of turning an otherwise innocent woman into one of the most deadly killers in the universe.

Thanos #1” is one of those comics that came out at the best possible time. Thanks to the events of “Avengers Infinity War” and the upcoming release of “Avengers Endgame,” the extent of Thanos’ villainy has become a major component of the superhero genre. He is the standard by which other villains are measured now and, like the movies, Gamora is part of that story.

Despite the differences between Thanos in the movies and Thanos in the comics, they share a common link through Gamora. She is an integral part of his journey, as a villain. She embodies just how much Thanos’ cruelty can shape and mold those around him. She is who she is because of Thanos and, as much as she hates it, he defines her.

Gamora’s story is not a pleasant one, but “Thanos #1” proves that it’s worth telling. At a time when all things Marvel are fueled by all things Thanos, the timing couldn’t be better for such a story.

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Chris Pratt, Religious Celebrities, And Why We Should Be Concerned

chris-pratt-james-gunn-guardians-of-the-galaxy-3-controversy

In general, celebrities operate on an entirely different level of reality than non-celebrities. Their concept of normal is so skewed, so distorted, and so out of touch that it’s hard to relate to them. Just read up on the weird things Gwyneth Paltrow has said in recent years for proof of that.

Even if they are out of touch, it is possible for celebrities to be genuinely decent people and succeed in an industry known for horrendous corruption. Some celebrities do work that legitimately makes the world a better place. By most measures, Chris Pratt of “Parks and Recreation” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” fame is one of them.

I consider myself a fan of his. Mr. Pratt has done many things that have won him the respect and admiration of many. Just read the stories about him visited children’s hospitals and try not to like him. While he has undergone some unfortunate upheavals in recent years after his divorce from actress Anna Farris, he has generally managed himself well in the world of celebrity culture.

However, recent events surrounding Mr. Pratt may be cause for concern. While I doubt he’s heading towards the kind of celebrity meltdowns that have doomed others, I think there is reason to worry about the effects that continued fame, celebrity, and wealth will have on him. That’s because those effects may be compounded by another huge complication, namely that of organized religion.

While Mr. Pratt has not hidden the fact that he’s religious, it recently became an issue when Ellen Page, a noted LBGT activist, called him out for attending a church that has a history of anti-gay rhetoric. Now, as someone who has levied plenty of criticism about religion before, I generally support pointing out the injustices and absurdities of religion. In this case, I’m surprised by the backlash.

In general, Ms. Page was subject to significant attacks for her criticism. She was made out to be the bully here and she’s someone who was subject to deplorable treatment by the director who botched X3. In general, people are siding with Mr. Pratt, saying that Ms. Page was out of line for criticizing him for the church he attended.

Personally, I don’t think Ms. Page went about her criticism the right way. Given the horrendous attacks religious organizations have orchestrated against the LGBT community, I don’t blame her for being vocal. This incident, however, and the way Mr. Pratt responded to it leaves me concerned about the cumulative impact that celebrity and religion will have on him.

To understand the extent of those concerns, you need look no further than another famous Hollywood actor who was also respected, popular, and religious. That actor is Mel Gibson. Today, he’s more a joke and an internet meme. However, it wasn’t that long ago when he was Hollywood’s golden boy.

Like Mr. Pratt now, Mel Gibson a successful action star who could also do comedy and drama. For a time, he was the actor many women in and outside of Hollywood swooned over. I know because at one point, my mother admitted to having a major crush on him and having seen some of his old movies, I honestly can’t blame her.

While Mr. Gibson didn’t make a big deal of his religion for the most part, it did rear its influence when he went through his infamous meltdown in 2006. Even after he apologized for that incident, his streak of making anti-Semitic comments has become somewhat normal. As a result, his once-impeccable reputation is a distant memory.

That’s not a fate that anyone deserves, especially Mr. Pratt. Now, I would argue that he’s in a better position than Mr. Gibson was. The various stories surrounding him and the people who work with him paint him as someone who manages himself very well. I would be genuinely surprised if Mr. Pratt ever underwent a similar meltdown.

That said, there is still a distressing history of religion having a less-than-beneficial impact on celebrities. Whether it’s Kirk Cameron encouraging people to not use their critical thinking skills in the name of Christianity or Tom Cruise bashing psychiatry in the name of Scientology, religion can turn respectable celebrities into an embodiment of perverse religious dogma.

In certain circumstances, they can even help compound that dogma. Celebrities already wield more influence than most priests, mullahs, monks, or rabbis. Religious organizations have a strong incentive to cater to and hold onto celebrity adherents. That way when these celebrities say something about their religion, people are more inclined to listen.

Some celebrities do this willingly and freely. Others are guided towards it. It’s well-documented that Tom Cruise gets special treatment in the Church of Scientology. While we don’t know if Mr. Pratt’s church does something similar for him, they certainly have a reason to do whatever they need to do for him to maintain his support and his money, by default.

At the moment, Mr. Pratt’s church is not on the same level as Scientology or even the Catholic Church. By most measures, it’s a fairly standard conservative Christian church that holds positions that won’t surprise anyone who know anything about religiously-motivated morality. It still holds questionable beliefs and wields more influence than most local churches.

Depending on how Mr. Pratt manages that influence, he could either keep his religious affairs private or go down the path of someone like Kirk Cameron, celebrities whose excessive religiosity hinders their respectability. On top of that, it could lead to him starring in some exceedingly awful movies.

The worst case scenario for Mr. Pratt would be something on the level of Mel Gibson, a meltdown that permanently taints his once-golden image as a likable pretty boy who visits children’s hospitals. I don’t think he deserves that. No celebrity deserves a downfall like that, but religion does tend to make that slope a little steeper.

I haven’t met Chris Pratt and I probably never will, but based on what is publicly known, he’s a good man who has done plenty to deserve our respect. Religion, for the most part, doesn’t change that. However, when taken to extremes, as some celebrities have shown, it can reveal just how corrosive certain dogma can be to otherwise decent people.

As Stephen Weinberg once said of religion, “With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” Mr. Pratt is a good person and it would be nothing short of tragic if his sincerely held faith did something to undermine that. Even if you don’t agree with Ms. Page for calling him out, her concerns are still valid.

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Understanding The Recent Changes (And Upheavals) In The Life Of Carol Danvers

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Some characters are iconic from the get-go. Spider-Man, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman all managed to establish themselves as special early on in their history. They’re the lucky ones, though. Most characters have to go through a long, arduous process to reach the top tier of superhero icons. A lot of them never make it, but those that do are special in their own right.

These days, the character who best embodies that spirit is Carol Danvers. You don’t have to go back too far to remember a time when she was relegated to the superhero B-list. As Ms. Marvel, she had her share of fans. I was one of them. She also had her place in the annuls of Marvel lore. However, she was never able to break through and join that elite club occupied almost exclusively of Stan Lee creations.

That all changed when Kelly Sue DeConnick came along and reinvented Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel in 2012. That process, which has since become one of my favorite runs on a comic book series of the past 10 years, helped Carol finally break into the upper echelon of superheroes. With a movie coming out in 2019 staring Brie Larson, it’s safe to say she’s entrenched.

I could write a dozen articles about why Carol Danvers’ character resonates more now than it did when she first showed up in 1968. I’ve already mentioned some of the unique challenges she faces as she enters rarefied air among Marvel heroes and female superheroes, in general. However, I want to focus on one particular aspect of her character that helps her stand out.

As it just so happens, it’s also part of her character that recently underwent a major upheaval in the comics. Among other comic book fans, it has been controversial. I’ve certainly seen more than a little whining on message boards and Reddit. I have my share of criticisms too, but I intend to justify why I believe this is a promising new era for Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers.

The upheaval in question occurred in a recently-launched mini-series called “The Life of Captain Marvel.” Written by Margaret Stohl, who has been guiding Carol’s journey for several years now, I cannot recommend this series enough. It is, by far, one of the best Carol Danvers stories ever written. Years from now, it will likely mark a major turning point for her story.

That’s because Stohl does something that’s both critical and controversial to Carol’s history. She makes a major alteration to an aspect of Carol’s life that doesn’t change her past, but puts it in a very different perspective. That change, in my opinion, makes Carol a much more intriguing character.

If you want to avoid spoilers, you should probably stop reading here and check out the series. Again, I highly recommend it. The big change, however, takes place in the fourth issue. Here, her mother, Marie, drops a bombshell revelation on Carol that rocks her world. She reveals that she’s half-human and half-alien. Specifically, she’s half-Kree.

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Anyone who saw “Guardians of the Galaxy” knows why that’s a big deal.

Anyone who has a passing knowledge of Marvel history knows why that’s a huge deal.

The fact that she’s half-alien isn’t that unique. Peter “Starlord” Quill has a similar heritage. The reason it’s such a big deal for Carol is because it changes the context of how she got her powers and the role she plays in the greater Marvel universe.

Before this change, Carol’s powers were somewhat of an afterthought. Like Spider-Man, they were the result of an accident. Her’s just involved alien device called the Psyche Magnetron. She got caught in an explosion and that explosion allegedly fused her DNA with Kree DNA to give her superpowers. It’s not the most contrived origins story, but it’s not exactly epic.

To some extent, getting her powers by accident undercut all the work she did before that. Even without powers, she managed to carve out a successful career in the air force and NASA. That work became somewhat superfluous once she got superpowers. Unlike Peter Parker, she was already on a heroic path. Getting powers just seemed like skipping a bunch of steps.

With the revelation by her mother, there’s more connective tissue between her journey as Carol Danvers and her journey as Captain Marvel. Her mother, who comes out as a full-blooded Kree warrior, tells Carol that the accident wasn’t the sole cause of her abilities. It was just the catalyst. These are her exact words.

“What humans see as Kree powers are just our biological adaptations to a life of combat. They’re triggered in battle, usually around adolescence. Sadly, most of us have known war by then.”

This implies that even if she hadn’t been caught in the crossfire of the Psyche Magnetron, her Kree abilities would’ve come out at some point. For some fans, including die-hard Captain Marvel fans, it feels like this is denigrating her origins. I respectfully disagree with that notion. I believe this gives Carol’s story a new kind of appeal.

In terms of how superheroes become iconic, how they get their powers and how they choose to use them plays a huge part in their appeal. I would argue that just making Carol an ordinary human who got caught in an accident has limited appeal. Like I said before, she’s not Peter Parker. She’s not an average person. She’s more like Batman in that she’s an overachiever who strives to do more.

Her being half-Kree adds a new dynamic to the mix because it makes Carol a product of two different worlds. She is born on Earth and lives her whole life as a human. However, she now has this alien heritage that has already influenced her life in ways she didn’t understand. You need only look at the mass appeal of Superman to see why that story is compelling.

Being half-Kree means Carol suddenly has a connection to a race that has waged war on Earth before. She also has a connection to a world that has blatantly experimented on humans before. At the same time, her human life wasn’t exactly ideal. Unlike Superman, she was not raised by picture perfect parents like the Kents.

Her mother, despite being a Kree warrior, was in an unstable relationship with Carol’s very human father. Their family suffered a devastating loss when Carol’s brother, Steve, died in combat. They never really recovered from that and, for most of Carol’s history, that loss kept her parents as a side-note at best in her journey.

With Carol’s mother being a Kree warrior, it changes her into something more than a woman who stayed in a bad marriage. It adds more layers to why she and her husband clashed. Even in the first few issues of “The Life of Captain Marvel,” her father comes off as a generic asshole. Finding out he was dealing with an alien wife makes his struggles a lot less generic.

In many ways, Carol’s parents represent her divided heritage. Her father didn’t want her embracing her Kree side and fighting alien wars. Having already lost a son, who can blame him? Her mother didn’t want to stop Carol from embracing both sides of her heritage, even though that was sure to leave her conflicted.

It effectively connects Carol’s superhero journey with that of her family. Those journeys involve some heavy losses, painful secrets, and destructive alcoholism. It’s something you’re not going to find with Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, or any of the X-men. It leaves Carol Danvers in an uncertain, but promising state.

It’s not yet clear how much of Stohl’s revisions will find their way into the “Captain Marvel” movie. To some extent, it helps that Carol’s origin isn’t as iconic as that of other heroes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already done some considerable tweaks to certain characters to make them fit the narrative. I have a feeling we’ll see plenty of that in the movie.

However things plays out on the big screen for Carol, I think her story in the comics just became a lot more interesting. I know there are some fans upset by this. I’ll even concede there are some parts of this revision I don’t care for. There was some appeal to Carol just being an ordinary human who worked her ass off to achieve what she did.

Every major revelation or retcon in a comic or movie comes at a price. You’re bound to upset some people. That’s unavoidable in a world full of such diverse tastes. However, I believe that Carol gained much more than she lost in “The Life of Captain Marvel.” I believe she’s bound to gain a whole lot more, both through her movie and through the new host of stories that can be told.

Whatever the case, I hope Brie Larson takes plenty of notes.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, superhero comics, superhero movies

Why We Should Accept James Gunn’s Apology And Support His Re-Hiring

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In the spirit of honesty and transparency, I’m going to admit something that should surprise no one.

I, Jack Fisher, have said horrible, offensive things in the past. For that, I sincerely apologize.

I’ll give everyone a moment to recoil in shock. Now, I’ll turn off the sarcasm and get serious because this is an issue I’ve already done plenty to belabor. People say offensive things. People write offensive things. I know I have, given some of the sensitive topics I’ve covered.

I’m certainly not alone. These days, it’s hard to go more than a day without reading something horribly offensive on social media. Not all of the offense warrants the same outrage, though. Some comments are just trolling. Some trigger reactions that lead to actual crimes. Not all offensive speech warrants immense outrage is what I’m saying.

That brings me to James Gunn, the man who made movies about a talking raccoon, a talking tree, and the goofy guy from “Parks and Recreation” that went onto make over $1.6 billion at the box office. His star really rose fast after the unexpected success of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He’s credited with taking the Marvel Cinematic Universe to cosmic heights. He has accomplished a lot in the past four years.

Now, he’s been fired. He’ll have no part in “Guardians of the Galaxy 3.” The circumstances, context, and fallout from this huge turn of events is astonishing, but for all the wrong reasons.

The particulars here are striking. Mr. Gunn was not fired because he committed a serious crime or got embroiled in a disturbing scandal. He got fired because someone who didn’t agree with his political views dug up some old social media posts from 10 years ago that were lewd, offensive, and downright disgusting.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Gunn apologized for it immediately. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t whine about fake news. He didn’t claim his account was hacked. He took ownership of the things he said and apologized.

Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.

It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.

In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies.

For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it.

Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

It still wasn’t enough, though. He still got fired and there’s a very good chance that the career he worked so hard for has been damaged beyond repair. It’s all because of horrible things he said 10 years ago. That’s worth emphasizing because the person someone is now and the person they were 10 years ago can be very different.

People grow, develop, and change over the course of their lives. I certainly have. In that time, people will say and do things that they don’t realize will have major consequences 10 years down the line. We can’t even know what kind of person we’ll be a week from now, let alone 10 years.

We’re going to do and say dumb things. That’s just a part of being human. However, now that the internet and social media document these things, our worst moments and most ill-advised decisions are there for all to see. We can no longer trust people to just forget. In Mr. Gunn’s case, someone went out of their way to dig up these horrible comments and that continues a dangerous precedent.

That precedent was already set with Rosanne Barr and this effectively raises the stakes. Now, even when you don’t blame sleep medications and give a sincere apology, you can still lose everything you’ve worked for. All it takes is someone with enough free time, resources, and hatred to do it. For celebrities, these are dangerous and unforgiving times, indeed.

Now, I know it’s hard to feel sympathy for celebrities, who live in big mansions, get preferential treatment wherever they go, and never have to worry about their next mortgage payment. Mr. Gunn is probably going to be okay thanks to the millions he’s already made. At the same time, though, what does undermining his career accomplish?

It doesn’t undo the things he said. It doesn’t undo any of the offense people felt. If anything, it sends a message to aspiring celebrities that anything they say and do will be used against them in the future. Even if that makes some people more careful about what they say online, it doesn’t change the fact that people will say and do dumb things every now and then.

It’s a no-win situation. If you can’t make excuses or offer a sincere apology, then what is the recourse? What was Mr. Gunn’s alternative? Short of going back in time and punching himself in the throat, there was nothing he could’ve done. How is that fair? How is that even logical?

On some levels, I don’t blame Marvel Studios and Disney for cutting ties with Mr. Gunn. They’re a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate that is very sensitive to the value of their brand. They’re also a private entity and not a government so the first amendment does not necessarily apply to them. They can fire whoever they want for whatever reason they want.

Even so, there doesn’t appear to be much effort to accept Mr. Gunn’s apology. While some have expressed understanding, there isn’t much effort in terms of undoing the damage. It’s as though this is the new normal. This is what happens to anyone who dares to let their stupidity end up on the internet. There’s no forgiveness. There are no second chances, either. If you mess up once, you’re finished and your career is over.

Think about the larger implications of that situation. If that’s how we’re going to deal with people who say offensive things, then where’s the real incentive for people to learn from their mistakes? Why would anyone even try to apologize or show regret if the end result is the same?

That’s not to say the situation is hopeless. There is already a Change.org petition to urge Marvel and Disney to rehire Mr. Gunn. As of this writing, it has over 150,000 signatures. Whether that’s enough remains to be seen and the fact that something like that is necessary to accept someone’s apology is still saying a lot.

I already worry that the next time a well-known celebrity says or does something offensive, they won’t even bother with apologizing. Why would they if it’s just going to sink their career or require a petition to keep it going? What kind of excuses will they resort to and how much more damaging will they be?

Accepting apologies aren’t just good values to live by. They’re critical to helping people grow as human beings. I believe Mr. Gunn meant it when he apologized, but I worry that he and other celebrities like him will come to see it as an empty gesture that won’t save their careers.

There are plenty of cases where accepting someone’s apology just isn’t warranted, especially if they have a history of saying and doing terrible things. Mr. Gunn is not such a case. If ever there was a time to set a precedent for accepting someone’s sincere apology, this is it. Even if it’s too late for Mr. Gunn, it’s still a precedent worth setting.

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