Tag Archives: San Diego Comic Con

Why Natalie Portman Becoming Thor Is The Biggest Story From San Diego Comic Con 2019

natalie-portman

If you’re a fan of comic books, superhero movies, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this past weekend was like Christmas, Halloween, the 4th of July, and the Super Bowl all rolled into one. The San Diego Comic Con is essentially the epicenter of geek culture. In recent years, it has only gotten bigger, becoming a staging area for major pop culture events. This latest convention was no exception.

While there was plenty of news to follow at this year’s Comic Con, especially for X-Men fans like me, the biggest event was always going to be Marvel Studios. It has already been a historic year for superhero movies, especially on the Marvel side of the genre. Shortly before the convention began, “Avengers Endgame” officially passed “Avatar” to become the highest grossing movie of all time.

It’s a good time to be Kevin Feige.

It’s a good time to be Bob Iger.

It’s a good time to be a Marvel fan, in general.

With the end of “Avengers Endgame,” however, the story that began in 2008 “Iron Man” has concluded. The Avengers assembled in a truly spectacular battle for the ages. Thanos is defeated. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is once again secure, but after making the highest grossing movie of all time, how can Marvel Studios keep raising the bar like this?

In Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center, the next phase of the MCU was finally revealed. Some of the announcements were expected. News of a “Black Widow” movie, as well as an “Eternals” movie, had already been reported months ago. News of a “Blade” movie within the MCU was more surprising, but that wasn’t the biggest story by a long shot.

By far, the biggest Marvel Studios news to come out of San Diego Comic Con 2019 was Natalie Portman returning as Jane Foster to play a female Thor. I’m not going to lie. When I saw this news, I had to blink a few times and slap myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Once certain this was real, it finally sunk in.

Natalie Portman is returning the MCU as Jane Foster to play a female Thor.

To appreciate why this is a huge deal to longtime comic readers like me, I need to provide a little context. Jane Foster being Thor is a concept that only recently gained prominence, thanks to one of Marvel’s top-tier writers, Jason Aaron.

Back in 2014, the Thor comics underwent a major upheaval. After a fateful encounter with Nick Fury, Thor suddenly became unworthy of lifting Mjolnir. It was a dramatic moment that defined the character for years to come. Then, after everyone in Asgard failed to lift the hammer, Jane Foster came along to wield it. In doing so, she became the new Thor.

If you haven’t read the first few volumes of that story, I cannot recommend them highly enough. Even if you’ve only seen the movies, you’ll still find plenty to love about these comics. They made me a fan of both Thor and Jane Foster. If Marvel Studios and Natalie Portman can even capture a fraction of this story’s greatness, then it’ll be a bold new era for superhero movies.

Now, make no mistake. Jane Foster becoming Thor was not without controversy. In fact, the timing of this story couldn’t have been worse. It came out right around the same time that efforts to promote diversity within superhero comics had become mired in regressive politics. It was a time when iconic characters were being replaced and new characters were being created, albeit with mixed results.

This is how mixed it got and NOT in a good way.

I’d rather not go into all the issues, controversies, and absurdities from that era, but I will say that Jane Foster becoming Thor was one of the success stories from that tenuous period. Her journey as the new Thor didn’t supplant that of her predecessor. If anything, it complemented his story. The title of Thor was greatly improved because Jane Foster wielded that hammer.

Now, Marvel Studios is in an even better position to do the same. The success of both “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel” has established that there is a market for female superheroes. The events of “Avengers Endgame” also opened the door for someone else to step in without diminishing Chris Hemsworth’s character, who may still have a part to play in “Guardians of the Galaxy 3.”

It also helps that Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster has been MIA since the events of “Thor: The Dark World.” While her reasons for leaving were somewhat obscure, the announcement at San Diego left no room for ambiguity. She’s coming back and she’s going to play a major role in the next phase of the MCU.

In my opinion, this will go down as one of the most pivotal announcements in the history of the MCU. Why do I believe this is bigger than the Eternals, Blade, Black Widow, or any of the upcoming shows on the Disney+ streaming service? To answer that, it’s necessary to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

The Jane Foster that Natalie Portman played in the first two Thor movies is not the same Jane Foster who has established herself as a prominent force in the comics. Throughout her history, she has maintained a strong connection to Thor and not just as a romantic interest. In many respects, she has been the character through which ordinary, non-Asgardian people explore Thor’s world of gods, demigods, and monsters.

A big part of what made Jason Aaron’s story surrounding Jane Foster becoming Thor so powerful was how she proved her worthiness of that title. As a mortal woman with many mortal limitations, she embraced that role and proved herself against gods, monsters, and even other superheroes. It was easy to cheer her on every step of the way.

In any era, it’s a powerful story, having an ordinary human embrace god-like power to bear god-like burdens. In this current era of superhero movies, Jane Foster becoming Thor isn’t just a fitting, comics-accurate way to build her story in the MCU. It’s a story that almost feels necessary.

The MCU is a world that has become densely populated by super soldiers, aliens, gods, monsters, and demigods. With the conclusion of “Avengers Endgame,” the world is in a tenuous state. Friendships, families, and teams have been decimated due to the conflict surrounding Thanos and the Infinity Stones. There are voids to be filled, including a few once populated by gods.

Ordinary people becoming heroes is a story that the MCU has told many times before, the latest being “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Stories about ordinary people becoming gods haven’t been nearly as common and with the Eternals already poised to join the MCU, I think that story should play out in some manner, if only to keep humanity connected to this world.

Jane becoming the Goddess of Thunder is the perfect story to maintain that connection. Unlike Carol Danvers, Jane is not a soldier or a warrior. She’s a scientist who got caught up in the world of gods and superheroes, but she didn’t run from it in the comic. Now, armed with Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning talent, she’s poised to make a similar journey in a world that needs new heroes to step up.

It’s an exciting, but uncertain time for the MCU. However, when you’ve got a story like that of Jane Foster becoming Thor and an actress as talented as Natalie Portman leading the way, the future has never been brighter.

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Filed under Marvel, movies, superhero comics, superhero movies, 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.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes