The Fantastic Four Should Return

The Fantastic Four is Marvel Comics’ first family. The crown jewel of the numerous collaborations between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Throughout the Fantastic Four’s history, there have been numerous classic creator runs on the title. My personal favorite would have to be the most recent run by Jonathan Hickman and numerous artists. But ever since 2016, the Fantastic Four have not been in comics. The official reason is that the Fantastic Four comic was not selling well despite the fact that many other books that sold worse are still being published. The unofficial reason is that Marvel head Ike Perlmutter is cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Back in the 90’s, Marvel was in dire financial straits. The way to help solve this problem was to sell off the film rights. This is not unheard of but Marvel made one glaring problem. When they sold off the film rights, it was under the condition that whoever bought the film rights held them in perpetuity as long as films were being made. This resulted in the infamous Roger Corman Fantastic Four film, the two mid 2000’s ones and the disastrous 2015 film. There is more news that Fox who hold the film rights plan to reboot the franchise again.

You can see where people in Marvel are getting annoyed at this predicament. They have the Marvel Cinematic Universe headed by Marvel Studios, Fox is doing great with the X-Men franchise and Sony is in a partnership with Marvel about Spider-Man. But Fox has yet to be able to crack the Fantastic Four issue. There are easy scapegoats to blame for all the films being underwhelming but they ultimately buckle under scrutiny. If the Fantastic Four were any of those things, there wouldn’t be such a uproar as to when the films get it wrong.

But should the comics have to suffer because of that? Reed and Sue Richard along with their kids are out in the multiverse doing who knows what. The Thing and Human Torch are currently appearing in team books and guest appearances. They are supposed to come together in their own book soon but it is still not the Fantastic Four. There have been hints here and there that the team will eventually return but nothing concrete. Then legendary comic artist Alex Ross dropped an image of Reed and Sue in new costumes and it got people speculating as if the team is about to reunite.

Just because Marvel made dumb but understandable financial decision does not mean the Marvel Comics should suffer. There has been little correlation between movie sales and comic sales. The Fantastic Four are also a lynchpin in the Marvel universe. Who does everyone turn to for science advice? Reed Richards. Sue Richards is that motherly figure that helps ground the team. Her little brother Johnny is the typical “irresponsible” brother who everyone knows has a heart of gold. Ben Grimm is the cool uncle. Marvel execs can claim this and that about how the team isn’t working but everyone who knows comics knows that to be full of it.

The Fantastic Four need to return and as soon as possible. It is really a dishonor to the legacy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to do their creation like this just because of some film rights. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and as more time is spent without the team being around, the more we grow fonder. Marvel’s First Family brings a uniqueness to the Marvel Universe and that is one that cannot be replicated.

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Avengers: Infinity War Concept Art

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Fifteen years ago, we were introduced to Spider-Man on the big screens with the Sam Raimi iteration. Three movies in that franchise was followed up with a reboot in 2012 with the Marc Webb iteration. After a somewhat failed sequel, Sony Pictures did the unthinkable and teamed with Marvel Studios to integrate Spider-Man with the ongoing and vastly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. After a introduction in Captain America: Civil War, we are getting the third Spider-Man franchise and one intertwined with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. What are the results when Spider-Man has finally come back home?

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Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is feeling himself a little too much. Tony Stark/Iron Man dragged him into this big mission but effectively kicks him to the curb when he no longer has a use for him. So being restless and aching for some action, Peter is also trying to juggle being Spider-Man with his personal life. The life of a teenager is not easy so add being a superhero onto that is another stress factor. Then there is Adrian Toomes whose life was ruined by inadvertently ruined by Tony Stark. A blue collar worker who has a grudge against the rich and powerful and thus turning to crime and becoming The Vulture to just put food onto the table. Spider-Man is the friendly neighborhood hero with aspirations to be bigger while the Vulture is someone who is comfortable with his slice of the pie and doesn’t want to really rock the boat.

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Tom Holland is great as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. You really understand his teenage angst as wanting to be treated like an adult but not fully grasping the gravity of the situation. Trying to juggle his teenage life with his superhero life is clearly affecting him as sacrifices need to be made. Since he is fifteen, Peter Parker brings a youthful energy to the MCU that is a nice change of pace from what has come before. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is not in the movie all that much. He does have a presence and serve a purpose but despite what advertisements made it seem, he does not overshadow the movie. Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture is great in the role. The biggest downside is that he is not in the movie as you might want him. There are a couple of scenes later on between he and Holland that are great. Marisa Tomei as May Parker is definitely a different kind of Aunt May. In fact, Peter rarely refers to her as his Aunt but simply “May”. She is good but I would have liked to see one or two scenes more with her in it. Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan returns and has more screen time than his boss. I always enjoyed Favreau as an actor so it was nice to see. The rest of the supporting cast is filled with Peter’s classmates. Zendaya is that presence that’s always in scenes but a lot of the time not doing much. It will be interesting to see where they take the character in the future. Jacob Batalon as Ned, Peter’s best friend, is great and they even get to poke fun at the whole superhero has a sidekick who just sits at a computer.

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This film does not rock the Spider-Man boat. Playing it pretty straight in an effect to align this Spider-Man with the rest of the MCU. So while the film takes no real risks, it does a good job of setting up the character and his corner of the universe. There were a lot of screenwriters for this movie including the director, Jon Watts. For someone who has only directed low budget movies beforehand, he did a good job with this major franchise movie. Of course most Marvel movies are effectively cranked out on a machine but still, the movie could have floundered but it doesn’t. At about two hours and fourteen minutes, the movie moves at a good pace. I was never bored or wanted to look at my watch. The only major knock is that while the film was relatively grounded, the ending set piece had to be something in the air and a big explosion. They did reign it in but seemed a little extraneous but that may have been the point. One good job they did was establish The Vulture as a threat. I never really liked The Vulture in the comics but this movie does make him a genuine great villain who could probably make Iron Man struggle if they went toe to toe.

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There are easter eggs galore in this film. Much of The Vulture’s tech is derived from previous battles caused by previous MCU films. In fact the film opens in the immediate aftermath of The Avengers (2012). Not only does it help the film feel natural within the Marvel Cinematic Universe as why wouldn’t criminals start using tech from the super villains? Now that super heroes and villains are the norm, a lot of people aren’t even rattled by the appearance of Spider-Man in their neighborhood. It also helps set up future Spider-Man films as there are tons of Spider-Man villains in this film but it never feels forced. I think almost every character with a speaking line is a character from Spider-Man comics, whether big or small.

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Out of all the six Spider-Man movies, this is probably my favorite. It finds the right balance between the Peter Parker and Spider-Man of it all. It doesn’t go the route of the Sam Raimi movies where the bad guys all had to have some sort of accident or something to be a bad guys. The Vulture is a bad guy. He may be wanting to do right by his family but he is a bad guy. Definitely one of the more memorable bad guys in the MCU lately. Spider-Man: Homecoming achieves what it needed to do. Establish this Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also serving as a good first film in the individual franchise. The future for the web slinger is bright and can’t wait to see where they take the character in his new surroundings.

SCORE: 9/10

 

Two New Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailers Released – Takeaway

 

These two new trailers give a lot about the movie and maybe in fact too much. If you take the footage from all the trailers you get a sense of the major beats of how the movie will go excluding the non costumed parts. These two new ones are enjoyable though so here’s my take:

  • We will definitely see as to what Spider-Man was doing in the time right before the big airport battle in Captain America: Civil War, during and the immediate after.
  • Though he isn’t in the trailer a lot, we do get a sense of what Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and what his goal is. It’s still a little generic but that is kind of Spider-Man’s villains thing.
  • Quick shot of Bookem Woodbine attacking Spider-Man
  • Toomes and his pals are in The Tinkerer’s lab
  • More interactions between Peter and Michelle (Zendaya)
  • Donald Glover’s still unnamed character gets a few lines.
  • Peter is an “intern” for Tony Stark. Seemingly give progress reports. Something tells me that Stark doesn’t actually care and is purposely not answering calls.
  • The high tech suit that Stark gave Peter has a lot of limitations put in to be unlocked by Stark at his choosing. We see that his new suit has a parachute equipped in it. (Funny how he couldn’t give Rhodey a parachute in his suit) Will this suit turn into the Iron Spider suit?
  • Happy Hogan looks to play a bigger role in this movie than originally envisioned. I guess if you couldn’t get Downey for a lot of it, find a good middle man to be a mouth piece for him.
  • This trailer did tone down the Tony Stark/Iron Man element. Does make you wonder just how much he is in the movie?

I’ve mentioned that I’m not too excited about the movie but it does keep me intrigued enough. I’m just glad to see more of Spidey’s classic villains being used. I hope they aren’t killed off and avoiding that superhero movie trope. I just wonder how this movie is going to go. I can’t really place my disconnect but maybe it will dissipate by the time the movie is released.

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite Trailer

The Marvel vs. Capcom series has never been one for story. What was the plot of the third one? I have no idea. Admittedly this has never been one of Capcom’s strongest suits when it comes to their fighting games. But it looks to be an interesting new take with the fourth installment in the franchise. Ultron, arguably the Avengers’ greatest enemy, teaming up with Sigma, the perpetual enemy of Mega Man X and Zero. It makes sense considering they are both tech villains with little interest in humanity. It will be interesting to see how well they get into the story with this game. I am a story guy. So I would at least like something.

Celebrating Black Superheroes РBlack Panther 

King T’Challa of Wakanda is also known as Black Panther. This is a man who wears many different hats. He is one of the smartest men in the world. Superhero. King. I first became familiar with the character sometime in the 90’s when he appeared on the Fantastic Four cartoon (voiced by Keith David). I then really became familiar with him during the early 2000’s and Christopher Priest’s seminal writing stint on the character. Priest chose an interesting route with the character as even though he was the main character, the book was told through another character’s perspective. Black Panther was reimagined as a calculating figure that not even the reader was supposed to know what he was thinking. This carried over into Geoff Johns’ stint writing The Avengers. Black Panther was treated with some unease from other Avengers particularly Iron Man due to the revelation that Panther only joined The Avengers to spy on them. However an attack on American soil from The Red Skull, a super Nazi, Black Panther is one of the few to oppose him. 
These stints showed the many sides of T’Challa. His science skills came to the forefront as he isnine to help develop a vaccine for Red Skull’s attack. How he is one of the greatest fighters in Marvel as the only way to develop a vaccine which was derived from Red Skull’s blood. His somewhat aloof and calculating demeanor proved useful when enemies would attack but it wasn’t appreciated by some of his comrades. But thay gave way to also show an honorable and loyal side to the people he has fought side by side for years. This no doubt stemmed from his Wakandan heritage. The kingdom known for its xenophobia which kept it safe for generations but led to mistrust within the world communities and finally came to a head with the dead of T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka. 

T’Challa is one of the most interesting characters in comics as he is a man pulled in a myriad of directions. Many people have compared him to Batman and while there are similarities, keen intellect and paranoia, that is a disservice to The King of Wakanda. There are few characters where you can say they are the King of one of the most advanced civilizations while also being one of the world’s greatest superheroes. That one moment can be making power plays with world leaders and then the next facing down Galactus. 

The popularity of the character has grown exponentially since the 2000’s. One of the main members of the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon and making his live action debut in Captain America: Civil War. His solo movie is set to debut in February 2018 and the character is expected to play a major part in Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel. The character also has his own solo series in the comics while being part of ensembles such as The Ultimates. 

It is a good time for The King of Wakanda. 

When Comics Changed My Life

Summer 2000. I had just come from seeing X-Men. I grew up in the 90’s when superhero movies were scarce and weren’t very good at that. I guess like any young boy I always liked superheroes particularly watching Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. But something clicked in my head that day. I guess the best way to put it is that a door was opened. 

My Dad always had this comic book collection that he kept locked away. So when I got back home, I immediately pestered him about pulling them out. Eventually he conceited on the condition that I bag and board all of them. The problem came when he had over 300 and since I was 10, funds were limited to say the least. So it took me almost the whole summer to complete the process.

As I was completing this task, I started reading them as I was bagging and boarding them. I was familiar with the more mainstream heroes such as Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman. Then I discovered heroes such as The West Coast Avengers, The Outsiders and Thor. I had no idea that this task just to see my Dad’s old comics would lead me down a rabbit hole. 

I was surprised by the sophisticated storytelling going on. One would not suspect that initially considering the ridiculous circumstances going on. But you can see the nuances and issues of the 80’s (the late 80’s is when my Dad got his issues) peppering the issues. After reading a ton, I decided that I wanted to start getting my own and start my own collection. 

Of course my first comic book would have to be an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Now I do not know how many comics I have collected over the years. I would certainly say that it is probably close to 1000 if not a little over. I do not really collect comics anymore but every now and then I will walk into my local comic book store and delve in. I still get a good feeling that I got when I was 10. 

A Superhero Story About The Black Experience

 

 

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During the first season of Arrow, there was a line that resonated with me and not in a good way. The main character, Oliver Queen, was talking about setting up a club in The Glades. The Glades was considered to be the worst part of the city. Oliver’s confidant and pseudo partner at the time, John Diggle, commented on how basically how it was the rich and white society partying in the worst part of town but not really caring about the actual environment that they were in. It was swept under the rug and never commented on again. This is something that bothers me about the series as a whole. The show first started as something of an “urban superhero drama” but never explored it much. Oliver Queen was a rich white man and the cast is primarily composed of good looking white people. Roy Harper, a character who is from a poor family, was one of the most good looking people on the show. There is always a certain disconnect between what the show claimed to be and what it was.

So when Daredevil first premiered, it was a breath of fresh hair. While the show was still about ¬†white guy wanting to clean up the neighborhood, it still reflected the world he lived in. The supporting cast was full of non Americans and people of color. Since the show is set in New York City, it had to reflect how diverse the city actually is. A frequent criticism of TV shows and movies about how New York City is how little diversity is actually featured. Then there were the issues about what Daredevil was going through. Though it was about a superhero against a crime boss, at its heart it was a story about how gentrification is an evil to those who are not wealthy. The antagonist, Wilson Fisk, was someone who rose from a poor upbringing to make something of himself…through illegal means. There was nothing really wrong with his general idea of wanting to clean up the city but it was apparent that he wanted it only to be for people of “high society”. This is something that is very much an issue within larger cities within America.

So now that Luke Cage is close to release, how will this show reflect the real world? Luke Cage is set within the same universe as Daredevil but as that series was set in Hell’s Kitchen, Luke Cage is set in Harlem. The population of Harlem is very different from Hell’s Kitchen. The cast of main actors for the series was released and there was only one white person in the main cast. The trailer for the show is no doubt a “black show”. That is not to say that this is something that people who are not black will not understand or can relate to. But it is clearly a show that is not toning itself down to appear “safe” to people who may not get it. There is a clear blaxploitation vibe going on through the trailer. It also harkens back to that era about one man going against the king of the neighborhood who happens to be a drug dealer.

Since Marvel Studios likes to keep the plots of its projects under wraps, not much is known about Luke Cage at the moment. Though there are elements that still play to the black experience that are inherent in the Luke Cage character. How did he get his powers? In a prison experiment? Why was Luke Cage in prison in the first place? For a crime that he did not commit. This is an inherent issue that faces that black man in America in the 21st century. Well obviously not the superpowers aspect but how mass incarceration is an inherent problem that faces that black man in America. This was very much a problem in the 70’s when Luke Cage was created and still a problem today.

One of the antagonists is Mariah Dillard played by Alfre Woodard. She is a local politician who is seen in the trailer talking about how Harlem is a symbol of hope and prosperity. It is not uncommon to see black women in a position of power. But how will this affect how she goes about things? Her cousin, Cottonmouth, is the big bad of the series and she is seen in his company in one of his legitimate fronts. Is she sincere in her hopes to clean up Harlem or is she more like Wilson Fisk who also claimed that but was willing to take shortcuts (such as murder) to achieve his goals. There is also Misty Knight who is a police officer and partnered with the one white cast member. Mentioned in their bios as no one wanted to take a chance on her except for him. It is already an issue with women in the police force but does her being a black woman also play a part in her hardships? No doubt that this will also be something touched upon.

I cannot say as a black man in America that I have faced a great deal of hardship. I grew up in a fairly nice neighborhood. That is also not to say that I was aware how fortunate I was as I did have friends who lived in less ideal places and saw many take different paths in life. So it is refreshing to see a show that I can relate to more. A problem with superheroes is how the protagonists are often wealthy and white who go to various areas and beat up on the poor and less fortunate who also happen to be people of color. This has always been an issue and one that continues on shows like Arrow. So Luke Cage is refreshing as it is someone who is from the neighborhood and wanting to do right by it. This will not be a show about the “white savior”. Instead it looks to be about the savior who just happens to be black.

What Has Me Excited At E3 2016: Spider-Man

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The Sony conference at E3 2016 was full of surprises. One of the best in my opinion was the debut of the new Spider-Man game. At first only the Marvel logo was shown and it got me wondering as to what it could be. My mind instantly jumped to something Avengers related and then the Insomniac Games logo appeared after and my curiosity grew. Finally the trailer showed that it was a Spider-Man game. He had a very different but familiar costume but this was a solo Spider-Man game. I remember posts online about a new Spider-Man game being developed but I really paid no attention to. Activision, the video game publisher who I believe still have the rights to Spider-Man, had dropped the ball with the character. The last Spider-Man game that was pretty solid was in 2010 with Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Since then, there was a loose followup to that game that was okay and two boring movie tie in games.

Immediately this game showed that Insomniac games knew what they were doing with Spider-Man. Spider-Man is a unique character as his skill set is one all about a great balance between strength and agility. The trailer showed that this was someone who could simultaneously move through a busy coffee shop while performing a flying kick through a window just to catch some bad guys. The last game to really get just what kind of powerset that Spider-Man has was Spider-Man 2 in 2004. The game was open world and this game seems to be as well which lends itself to a myriad of possibilities.

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The game also seems to be in its own unique universe. It is not based on the upcoming movie. It also doesn’t seem to take itself from the regular Marvel Comics universe. There are billboards referencing “Osborn for Mayor” which no doubt indicates Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin. It could also be his son Harry. The goons that Spider-Man fights within the trailer are the Inner Demons, who are the muscle for crime boss, Mr. Negative, a relatively new but popular Spider-Man villain. It’s no doubt that the developers are trying to make the Marvel equivelant to Batman: Arkham Asylum. That game was a game changer when it came to superheroes in video games. Marvel has yet to come to close to that but they are certainly trying it seems.

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Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel superhero. So the fact that I was not even thinking about wanting a new Spider-Man game, much less excited to get one if it was announced, is not a good sign. However, Insomniac Games have changed my opinion. One of my favorite video game developers developing a game about one of my favorite superheroes is exciting. When will this game come out? Safe bet says that it will come out around the time of the next movie just to capitalize. I already made my preorder on Amazon for this game.