The following video is from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It is my full review of “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Please note that this video has major spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie, you have been warned. Also, it’s a great movie! You should definitely see it the first chance you get. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: superhero comics
You don’t have to be a lifelong fan of superheroes to know the role that secret identities play in their over-arching narrative. It’s one of those story elements that often goes hand-in-hand with a hero’s journey. Part of becoming a hero involves forging an identity and, more often than not, this identity can’t function alongside the one they start with.
It’s a story that has roots in the early days of modern superhero comics. It wasn’t just a common plot point. It was practically a given. It was as necessary as capes, colorful costumes, and punishing masked criminals.
From a practical standpoint, having a secret identity has some legitimate merit. There are things Bruce Wayne can do as Batman that he cannot do and vice versa. The same goes for Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and many other iconic heroes. In “Batman Begins,” Bruce Wayne set the stage for his secret identity by crafting Batman as a symbol, one that conveyed an idea that went beyond the person in the costume.
In recalling that scene, I think that idea was more prophetic than Christopher Nolan initially intended. When I look at how secret identities have come to define many characters, I believe they’re more important today than they have been in any other era.
I don’t just say that as a long-time fan of superhero comics who has used his knowledge of the genre to explore serious issues. I believe that we, as a society, are entering uncharted territory when it comes to how we manage our identities. The influence of the internet, social media, and an increasingly connected world is more powerful than any fictional hero. It’s already finding its way into superhero media.
This topic became especially relevant for Superman fans because back in late 2019, the release of “Superman #18” officially revealed Superman’s identity as Clark Kent. Now, it wasn’t not the first time Superman’s identity has been exposed, but this time it wasn’t a gimmick. Now, Superman had to learn how to be Superman without a secret identity.
Over the past decade, the value and vulnerabilities of secret identities have been under fire. One of the most jarring moments of the original “Iron Man” movie was the very end when Tony Stark didn’t attempt to hide the fact he was Iron Man. For those not familiar with the comics, it might not have seemed like a big issue. Trust me, it was a major shift.
While Tony Stark debuted as Iron Man in 1963, his identity didn’t become public until the early 2000s. That’s nearly four decades of him operating with a secret identity. In the context of his journey, this was not a trivial decision.
What happened to Spider-Man at the end of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was even more jarring. While his secret identity has been revealed many times in the comics, it’s almost always retconned. Like Batman and Superman, he has to have a secret identity. He has to have a civilian life that’s separate from his superhero life.
There’s even a notable episode of “Superman: The Animated Series” in which Superman flat out admits that he’d go crazy if he couldn’t be Clark Kent. Think about that for a second. Superman, one of the most powerful and iconic superheroes of all time, admits that can’t handle a life without a secret identity. This is someone who can handle Lex Luthor, Darksied, and Brainiac. If he can’t handle it, then what hope do we have?
That question might not have been too relevant 20 years ago. Before the age of smartphones, broadband internet, and social media, a superhero might have been able to get away with having their identity exposed. You could say the same for anyone who happened to have a dirty secret or a double life. Whether it was an affair or a secret hobby, you didn’t have to work that hard to keep it secret.
Back then, not everyone had a fully-functional camera in their pocket or a means of sharing their media on a mass scale. Even if someone did manage to take a compromising picture or video, it wouldn’t be a huge revelation unless it was published by a major news source and even then there was no guarantee it would have staying power, especially if other major stories broke at the same time.
Now, anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can capture compromising footage of anyone and share it with the world in seconds. In the world of superheroes, it makes keeping an identity harder than ever. Spider-Man found that out the hard way at the end of “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Ordinary people and major celebrities are finding that out as well in the real world.
The internet and social media has created an unusual, yet potent system that skews the dynamics of having an identity, secret or otherwise. On one hand, it’s easier than ever to create an anonymous persona on the internet. With that persona, people are unbound by the propriety of real-world interaction.
It’s part of why the comments section of any website or social media feed is full of deplorable rhetoric that highlights the worst in people. Ordinary people can use the anonymity of the internet to say thing they would never say to another human being face-to-face. At the same time, celebrities and people of influence have the opposite problem.
In this hyper-connected world, every word and every action is permanently archived and subject to greater scrutiny. Every mistake or misstep is amplified and blown out of proportion. Every bit of subtext and nuance is completely lost in the various biases and agendas of the public. In essence, public figures have little to no control of their identity. They are very much at the mercy of how others perceive them.
That kind of scrutiny can have benefits and drawbacks. You could argue that the added scrutiny of social media has held celebrities and people of influence to a higher standard. They can no longer operate in the shadows with impunity. Dirty secrets will come out. Bad behavior will be documented. The O.J. Simpsons and Bill Cosbys of yesteryear could not get away with their deplorable behavior in today’s environment.
That may be a good thing on some levels, but it comes at a cost and not just for those who have had their lives ruined by the internet. In a world where anonymous identities are easily created and valued identities are easily ruined, how can anyone hope to maintain a balanced perspective? Whether you’re an accomplished celebrity or just some random blogger, don’t you still need a persona that feels true?
For people who are stuck in difficult situations, such as those belonging to racial, religious, or LGBTQ minorities, having that secret identity might be the only one that feels true or genuine. If that gets exposed, then those individuals could be in legitimate danger. There are parts of the world who will punish these individuals in ways far more serious than online trolling.
In the past, these kinds of people didn’t have an outlet or a means of connecting with others who share their struggles. They either had to organize in secret or set up their own communities, which often meant making themselves real-life targets. The ability to create an identity, secret or otherwise, can be a powerful mechanism for helping people forge an identity that feels true to who they are.
To some extent, superheroes embody the importance of these identities. They can’t do what they do without them. They can’t remain connected to the people and the world they’re trying to protect if they’re always in costume, trying to maintain this persona they’ve created. Without it, they become disconnected and overwhelmed. As a result, they can’t be the heroes they need to be.
For people in the real world, having these identities is more important than ever. You don’t have to be a superhero to appreciate their value, but as our world becomes more connected, it’s become a lot easier to understand why Spider-Man and Batman work so hard to preserve their secret identities.
The fact they still struggle, despite having super-powers and billions of dollars, is a testament to just how difficult it can be. As the world becomes increasingly connected and increasingly tribal, it’s only going to get harder.
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. This video is a brief exploration of one of the greatest fictional villains of all time, Lex Luthor. There has been an ongoing trend in recent year to develop more complex villains with equally complex motivations. However, there’s still room for the kind of old school, pure evil villain and nobody epitomizes that more than Lex Luthor. Hopefully, this video gives everyone a new appreciation of that. Enjoy!
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s another entry in my ongoing Jack’s Comic Gems playlist. This one involves the She-Devil with a Sword herself, Red Sonja. That means it’s going to be full of magic, violence, and chain mail bikinis. However, this particular book offers something extra to that fanciful formula and it’s what helps make this latest adventure by the redheaded warrior a true gem. Enjoy!
The following is a video/mini-documentary that I made for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. I’ve actually been working on this video for quite some time now. I feel it’s finally ready for release. It’s a grand overview, as well as my own personal take, on the brief, but impactful rivalry between the Inhumans and the X-Men. It’s also me making the case that this was a case study in how not to develop a rivalry.
Please note that, while I tried to be fair and objective, I couldn’t help but go off-script in a few areas. Trust me. You’ll know it when you see it. I still try to tell the story of this rivalry in as fair a way I could. Enjoy!
I’m a simple man. Whenever a trailer of any kind, even a teaser, gets released by Marvel Studios, I take notice. I’m not the only one, either. A trailer release by Marvel Studios is almost always cause for celebration and excitement. It shows on how often these trailers rack up record-breaking hits in a short span of time.
Even a trailer for lesser-known characters is bound to draw interest. Marvel Studios has proven before that they can turn obscure characters like the “Guardians of the Galaxy” into a multi-billion dollar franchise. Now, they hope to do the same with the “Eternals.”
Given their unprecedented track record of success, I wouldn’t bet against Kevin Feige and company. These visionaries have all more than earned our trust, as well as the benefit of the doubt. However, turning “Eternals” into a successful franchise will likely be even harder than “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
I say that as someone with a very shallow knowledge of Eternals. I like to think of myself as a pretty well-informed Marvel fan, but even I don’t know much about these characters. I’m aware of their basic history, but much of my interest is tied to how their story ties into that of mutants, albeit indirectly.
I suspect most causal fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are in a similar boat. They don’t know who these characters are. They’re nowhere near as iconic as Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor. However, they are showing up in the MCU, so we all take notice. We just have no idea what to expect, given the obscure nature of this franchise.
Well, a few days ago, we finally got our first glimpse when a teaser trailer for “Eternals” came out. Being a lifelong Marvel fan, it certainly made my day. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is.
Regardless of how you feel about the characters, it’s still a visual spectacle to behold. Marvel Studios always seems to fill their films with plenty of dazzling spectacles. It looks like “Eternals” is searching for a way to raise the bar once more and history says they will.
Beyond the spectacle, the trailer offers some hints as to what kind of story we’ll be getting with “Eternals.” In short, they’re a race of immortal humanoid beings who arrive in the distant past aboard a massive ship. This detail is ripped straight from the pages of the comics, as originally penned by Jack Kirby.
Beyond that, we learn that they’ve been living amongst humans for millennia. However, they’ve kept their distance, refusing to interfere or significantly impact human affairs. Then, something changes. Now, they’re ready to make their presence known to a world that is still recovering from the events of Thanos’ infamous snap.
That’s all very intriguing. I’m certainly curious to learn more. The cast is full of well-known stars like Selma Hayek and Angelina Jolie. The history of the MCU has already proven quite rich through other movies, like “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Ant Man.” This promises to broaden that history even more.
That’s certainly good from a storytelling perspective. However, seeing this trailer still leaves me with one burning question, which in turn raises other similar questions.
Why did these powerful beings wait so long to reveal themselves to the world?
That’s a relevant question and one that mutants will also face once the X-Men come to the MCU, as I’ve covered before in one of my YouTube videos. However, it’s even more relevant for the Eternals.
These are powerful, immortal beings with abilities that are nothing short of god-like. If this trailer is any indication, they’ve been around for the entire breadth of human history. That means they’ve witnessed every war, every plague, every disaster, and every collapse, of which there have been plenty.
Even in the context of the MCU, they’ve witnessed some pretty terrible events.
They watched the Chitari invade New York City.
They saw Dormammu attempt to absorb the Earth into the Dark Dimension.
They watched Ultron nearly end the world.
They watched the Avenger try and fail to stop Thanos.
They may even be aware of a Skrull infiltration that began during the events of “Captain Marvel.”
They’re aware of all of this, but still chose not to get involved. Is it wrong to ask for a legitimate reason? Is it wrong to pre-judge them for having so much inherent power and not using it to stop terrible event?
Never mind the events that shaped world history. If they could’ve made a difference in the battle against Thanos and Ultron, then why didn’t that? What’s their reason for staying hidden? In the comics, their primary reason centers around protecting Earth from the nefarious Deviants. However, even the comics don’t offer much insight into why they just stand aside and let other catastrophic events occur.
It raises a larger question that the MCU will have to grapple with, which often gets overlooked in the comics. In a world where powerful beings like this exist, does their inaction constitute an egregious act? If they could’ve stopped Thanos, then does their decision to stay hidden warrant criticism?
It’s a difficult question and one that comes up much more frequently in DC Comics. On more than one occasion, Superman has been criticized for not helping humanity on a larger scale. It’s very much a common trope and one that gets increasingly difficult to address as a shared universe grows.
Like I said earlier, Marvel Studios has a stellar track record with telling great stories that at least partially address these questions. I sincerely hope that track record continues with “Eternals.” I also hope it’s more serious in asking the bigger questions about what it means to have power and be a respectable hero.
The Avengers who assembled to defeat Thanos were all powerful in their own right. Together, they are a force that can battle god-like threats and win. At the same time, they all have major limitations. The Eternals have limitations as well, but they’re unique in just how present they’ve been for the extent of human history.
In that sense, they have a greater responsibility than even someone like Spider-Man or Thor. If they’ve been present for so many terrible events, but chose to do nothing, then what do we make of them? How do they become heroes in that context? I don’t claim to know the answer. I just look forward to seeing this movie and finding out for myself.
Whenever there’s an alternate version of an iconic character, writers often try to give them their own unique twist. Most of the time, it’s distinct, but still subtle. They try not to veer too far from the established canon of the character. Unless they’re writing weird fan fiction, writers stick to whatever is most prominent version of the character within the cultural zeitgeist.
However, Grant Morrison is not like most writers.
He doesn’t follow along with the cultural zeitgeist. Instead, he reverses it. When he writes iconic characters, he reshapes and reimagines them in big ways. All the cultural zeitgeist can do is try and keep up.
He did it for Superman in his critically acclaimed run on “All-Star Superman.”
He did it again with “Wonder Woman: Earth One.”
These stories didn’t simply tell new stories with DC Comics’ most iconic characters. They channeled every element from every era to mold a unique narrative. That’s difficult enough for Superman, given his 80-year history. With Wonder Woman, the challenge is even greater.
Before I get too heavy into spoiler territory, I’ll just say this. Morrison successfully rose to the challenge when reimagining Wonder Woman in the first volume of “Wonder Woman: Earth One.” He succeeds even more in completing that story in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3.”
It’s challenging because most Wonder Woman fans, including older fans more familiar with her lengthy history, know her mostly as a proud warrior woman. They think Wonder Woman and they see Lynda Carter in the classic 70s show, Gal Gadot in the recent movies, and even the animated version in “Justice League Unlimited” that was voiced by Susan Eisenberg.
These are all great versions of this iconic character. That warrior spirit that makes her one of the fiercest fighters in the DC Universe is a major part of her persona. However, there are other aspects of that persona that have been either retconned or ignored. Morrison makes it a point to embrace those aspects in “Wonder Woman: Earth One.”
Yes, that does include some of the kinkier aspects of Wonder Woman’s origins, which I’ve highlighted before. Namely, it embraces some of the BDSM elements that were woven into the early lore of Wonder Woman by her creator, William Marston.
However, it would be wrong, shallow, and short-sighted to call this aspect of Wonder Woman’s character too crude for modern tastes. These elements aren’t just for sex appeal and titillation. They reflect an important element to Wonder Woman’s philosophy, as defined by Marston.
To use power to dominate over others is inherently cruel and repressive.
To willingly submit with love and compassion is the truth path to peace and justice.
This is the core philosophy that Grant Morrison spends the first two volumes of “Wonder Woman: Earth One” exploring. That philosophy faces its ultimate test in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3.” I’ll spoil another detail here. It passes with flying colors and in a way that makes for a satisfying conclusion to such a uniquely wonderful story.
The story isn’t just about Wonder Woman facing the worst elements of domination at the hands of arrogant men and powerful gods. It’s about how this unique philosophy ultimately wins.
Now, contrary to what a bunch of whiny trolls may say, this effort is not about “smashing the patriarchy.” Seriously, don’t give these trolls any attention. They’ll say that about any comic that doesn’t cater exclusively to their narrow tastes, which usually involve Wonder Woman being a glorified warrior/stripper.
The story in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” is more ambitious. It also has an unusual structure, although not too unusual for Morrison. His writing style often takes advantage of different time periods, using future events to give context to the past. It’s what he did in the first volume of “Wonder Woman: Earth One.” He uses it again, but to tell a very different story.
In the past, Wonder Woman is still sharing her philosophy with man’s world. She continues her fight against what she sees as an endless cycle of domination by the powerful. To her, it’s no different than how the old Greek Gods attempted to dominate the Amazons. It just leads to more conflict and suffering for men and women alike.
This ideology of power domination isn’t exclusive to men, either. Early in the story, it’s established there are women who still fall into this trap, namely Artemis. She doesn’t care for Wonder Woman’s more compassionate approach to dealing with men. She sees them as extensions of Hercules, the man who once brutalized her sisters.
It’s a not-so-subtle nod to the more radical elements of feminism that tend to espouse the same hatred as their anti-feminist counterparts. It’s ironic, but one that Wonder Woman confronts with a unique blend of love, understanding, and warrior spirit.
That’s a potent, but critical combination. It’s very much in line with the persona that William Marston created for her in the early years of her story. While she is certainly capable of fighting with the tenacity of an Amazon warrior, she doesn’t approach conflict the same way as her male counterparts.
For her, fighting isn’t about dominating or subduing an opponent. It’s a way of countering and subsequently tempering their misguided passions. Whether it’s Artemis or Ares, she doesn’t win the battle by knocking them out. She wins it by convincing them to willingly submit. When they do, she embraces them with love and compassion.
This works well for Artemis, but the men outside her homeland are a lot harder to persuade. In both the past and the future, we see male characters trying to cling to or re-establish the domination that they once enjoyed.
In the past, it’s Ares trying to continue his war machine with help from the American military. In the future, it’s a member of an extremist faction of angry men who long for the days when they could dominate women. Given the atrocities committed by angry, misguided men in the real world, this struggle is more relevant now than ever before.
I won’t spoil all the details of how that conflict is confronted and resolved. Those simply looking for Wonder Woman to fight her way through the conflict are only going to get half of what they seek. There is plenty of fighting, courtesy of Ares, but the way those fights end don’t follow the same script as your standard superhero slugfest.
There’s always a larger conversation at play.
There’s always an effort by Wonder Woman and those who support her to confront these misguided passions.
It’s never with force, contempt, or scorn. They all listen with compassion, even to those who spew hate. They let angry men and angry gods voice their grievances, even while fighting back. However, they always counter with love. They understand that you can’t counter anger with more anger or hate with more hate.
Again, that’s a very relevant principle. Anyone who has visited 4chan or a Reddit comments thread understands that.
There’s also a larger story about this world’s version of Steve Trevor. He may not look like Chris Pine from the “Wonder Woman” movie, but the role he plays is just as critical. What he does and what he chooses is instrumental in helping Wonder Woman win the day.
Again, winning in this world doesn’t mean blowing up the bad guys or their weapons. It means winning the argument about which philosophy is more just. More than anything else, “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” makes the case that a philosophy of loving submission is more palatable than one of angry domination.
Morrison even refines some of Marston ideas from the early Wonder Woman comics. In this world, it’s not men or masculinity that’s the problem. It’s the domineering ideology they’ve embraced and relied on for so long. Letting it go isn’t easy, but convincing men to do so cannot be done with force. That realization must come from within.
In many respects, the philosophy in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” transcends gender. Whether you’re a warrior woman or just some normal man with a family, there’s something to be gained by these insights. Loving submission offers something that angry domination does not. Embracing it comes with sacrifices, but Wonder Woman demonstrates that they’re worth making.
It makes for a powerful combination to a power story. Morrison really makes the extra effort to flesh out these ideas that Marston first established while artist, Yanick Paquette, crafts a beautifully colorful world that does justice to all its wonders.
It’ll challenge you perceptions while providing plenty of classic Wonder Woman type entertainment. It’ll also present a different kind of Wonder Woman, one that embraces both her modern iterations and the those of her past. The end result is a true wonder that does justice to this iconic character in a very unique way. If, by the end, you aren’t willing to submit to the loving authority of Wonder Woman, then you’re missing the point.
It’s another beautiful day for comics and the world is inherently better because of the awesome they bring. That’s how I feel when I wake up every Wednesday morning. Even when times are tough, waking up on Wednesdays knowing there’s a glut of digital comics waiting for me on my iPad is a wonderful feeling. It makes waking up at 4:00 a.m. feel like a basic reflex.
It’s a reflex that wouldn’t be possible without Comixology. I’m old enough to remember the days when New Comic Book Day was a lot more stressful because you didn’t know if your books would arrive on time in the mail. Most of the time, it was hit or miss. In the days before Twitter spoilers and Reddit, it made waiting to read your favorite comics that much more agonizing.
I never want to go back to those days.
Those who live near a comic shop may be able to enjoy the luxury of just walking to their favorite store every Wednesday to see what’s new, but most of us have to deal with less favorable circumstances. Don’t get me wrong. I still love going to comic shops to pick up actual, tangible books for my collection. There will always be a place for that. I’ve just come to love waking up early and enjoying new comics through Comixology.
The internet, tablets, and Comixology have genuinely made it easier than ever to get into this world. Even if you only know these characters through movies and cartoons, you need only an internet connection and a couple extra bucks to fully immerse yourself in this world. To that end, here’s my pull list and pick of the week. Hopefully, it gets you started. Enjoy!
My Pull List
My Pick Of The Week
Amazing Spider-Man #62
Top of the morning to ye, my fellow comic book fans. Today is a double holiday, at least for us. For most, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. That’s all well and good. It’s not a major holiday and I doubt many people will get off work for it, especially if they’re teleworking, but it’s an excuse to hang out with friends and get drunk. That’s all you need for a good holiday.
Throw a batch of new comics into the mix and suddenly, any day is better by default, regardless of whether it’s a holiday. I’m not one to make a big deal of St. Patrick’s Day. Most of the time, I celebrate by just hitting up a sports bar, drinking some cold beer, and watching basketball. While last year was a total bust for obvious reasons, I’m ready to make up for it this year.
As it just so happens, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Wednesday this year. Sometimes, things just work out beautifully.
There may not be any St. Patrick’s Day specials, but reading some awesome comics will put you in a festive mood, regardless of the holiday. I’ve always found reading comics with characters I could see myself sharing a beer with works beautifully.
Characters like Wolverine, Lobo, and Red Sonja come to mind. Maybe you’d prefer drinking with other characters. That’s fine. Comics offer no shortage of drinking buddies. Today might be the best possible day to figure out which characters you’d want to get drunk with at a bar in the middle of the day. In that spirit, here’s my pull list and pick for the week. If you can, try to enjoy them with a cold glass of beer. You’ll do plenty to honor the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy!