Tag Archives: All-New All-Different Marvel Comics

Season Four Wrap-Up of Avengers Assemble

Okay, first things first. Life and lassitude hit at the same time, and I ended up leaving you in limbo for quite a while, readers. Thankfully, life has stabilized and the lethargy has been overcome, so this blogger now has time and energy to devote to you once again. Hopefully it will stay this way going forward. 🙂

Second, I would like to apologize for taking so long to write about the last five episodes of Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars season. I didn’t write this post earlier primarily because I wanted to see where season five of Assemble – titled Black Panther’s Quest – would go before I said anything about season four. So this writer waited until the fifth season had played out before speaking her peace.

Black Panther’s Quest was pretty much what I expected. The Avengers hardly showed up, and when they did, they had undergone a radical redesign to make them match their film depiction more closely. Plus, Wakanda was changed to appear more the movie version, which should not have happened. That Wakanda is nothing like the one in the comics, and outside of his appearances in the Avengers films, the T’Challa/Black Panther in the film bearing the same name is not the one Stan Lee and company created.

Because of these alterations, this blogger saw no more than one or two episodes of Assemble’s season five. Based on those viewings, there will be no more reviews of Avengers Assemble here at Thoughts. This is the final word the Mithril Guardian has for the most recent American series focusing on the Avengers. (The new travesty with an almost exclusively female team does not bear or deserve the title of Avengers.) I may write about Avengers: DISK Wars and Marvel’s Future Avengers at some point, but that is it. Marvel’s new Western offerings hold no more interest for me.

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The last five episodes of Assemble were problematic and therefore difficult to watch. “Weirdworld,” the installment following “The Vibranium Coast,” was for the most part entertaining. This was due almost entirely to the fact that Black Widow completely ignored Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers. (Honestly, that woman does not know when to stop talking..!) Rather than try to force a friendship between the two based on the trite “we’re-two-women-in-a-man’s-world” trope, the writers made it clear that Natasha barely does more than tolerate the braggart Danvers. It was a refreshing change from the enforced norm in other series and this author appreciated that.

The rest of the show focused on the dichotomy between the Hulk and Bruce Banner. Separated by the Beyonder in “Underworld,” Bruce has been hunting his green, wild half ever since. He’s so desperate to end the Hulk that he has struck a deal with Morgan le Fay to destroy Big Green once and for all. Her patch of Battleworld – dubbed Weirdworld by Bruce – is uniquely adapted to this conflict. Using a variety of strange plant life, he tries again and again to capture the Hulk.

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Morgan le Fay

Due to his single-minded pursuit, he misses Morgan le Fay reveal to the heroines that she plans to use the Hulk’s power for herself. Her slip-up is actually believable, since she realizes that Natasha has feelings for both the Hulk and Bruce. Morgan’s miscalculation isn’t made simply to show how evil she is; she’s genuinely trying to hurt someone when she reveals her evil plan. So that part of the episode was well-executed and, added to Black Widow’s clearly non-existent rapport with Captain Marvel, makes “Weirdworld” fairly enjoyable.

As for the rest, I have to say that it is getting tiresome to watch Bruce always trying to kill the Hulk. I understand the history behind it, and done well, it is a good story line. In “Weirdworld,” however, it is not done well at all. I would have been more interested if they had introduced Bruce and the Hulk trying to reconnect with one another, only to be thwarted at every turn by Weirdworld so Morgan le Fay could capture and drain the Hulk of his power. Given the rapport developed between the two halves of the character in earlier seasons, I was actually expecting that turn of events. But the writers went for a cheap retread of an old story rather than an imaginative, new take on the familiar plot.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that repeats itself in the following episodes. “Westland” had some promising themes and moments, but on the whole it rated a “meh” on the scale of entertainment. In search of Doctor Strange, whose magic can help repair and control the Bifrost, Hawkeye, Vision, Wasp, and Loki arrive in an old West town. Only, in this town, they don’t ride horses. They ride dinosaurs.

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While an inventive take on the idea, I have to say that the dinosaurs threw me for a loop. It was too jarring a change from the norm that seemed to have little to do with both the characters and the setting. Plus, in Marvel’s original comics, the Avengers did travel to the Old West a couple of times. Hawkeye was particularly comfortable there, finding a great friend in the Wild West vigilante called Two-Gun.

Throughout its run, “Westland” carries overtones of being an homage to this past story arc, with the World’s Greatest Marksman showing enormous interest in and relative familiarity with the time period. The problem is that the installment is less of a pastiche and more of a joke. We get a token bar fight at the beginning following Hawkeye’s very poor attempt to “speak the lingo” to the bar tender. The denizens’ of Westland ignore him and attack the team, considering Vision a threat because he looks like a robot (technically, he’s a synthetic man). The disrespect or disinterest on the writers’ part to Hawkeye’s history with this story line only continues in several later scenes, though it is somewhat mitigated by Clint’s being temporarily blinded.

Blinding him was definitely a good choice on the writers’ part, as it is a fairly rare story line that nevertheless carries a punch whenever it is utilized. Depriving him of his capacity to continue fighting with his sight is a surefire way to bring drama and tension to an Avengers or Hawkeye installment. “Westland,” when it gives attention to this aspect of the tale, all but sings in this area.

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The rest of the story, however, is a bit of a mess. Vision ends up in the clutches of Rocket and Groot, who plan to use him as spare parts to fix their ship. Vision breaks out of the sack before they can do this and learns to converse with Groot. We are then treated to meaning several conversations that consist of “I am Vision” and “I am Groot,” which is actually a nice touch. Then Jane Foster arrives and reveals that she is the sheriff of the town, totally undermining the callback to Two-Gun and Hawkeye’s ties with the Old West. Add to this the chip on Wasp’s shoulder and Loki’s grandstanding, and the episode left me feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

Admittedly, they did try to make Hope a little nicer in this episode. She does her best to support and comfort Hawkeye after his blinding, showing genuine sympathy and concern for him. Her pep talk to get him fighting again was almost good – except for the part where they took Clint’s speech to Wanda in Age of Ultron and had Hope repeat it back to him verbatim. That was unnecessary, out of step with her character, and it showed a complete lack of imagination on the part of the writers.

Jane Foster’s promise to “bring her wrath” down on Loki if he betrayed the Avengers also struck the wrong note with me. She’s a scientist, not a sheriff or a warrior. Instead of coming across as a tough, no nonsense, genuinely feminine character she acted like a woman trying to be a man. It didn’t work. (This will become more relevant the further in we go.)

Next is “The Citadel,” the show which leads up to the season’s two-part finale. The episode begins with a conversation between Cap and Tony about defeating the Beyonder, which is interrupted when Tower is attacked. Both heroes are captured by the Beyonder’s forces and taken to his citadel.

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Steve wakes to find himself in a prison cell. While he breaks out of this confinement, the Beyonder tries to tempt Tony into accepting his technology and leaving the path of the hero. Cap arrives in time to snap him out of it, only to be tempted himself. The two begin fighting one another, ostensibly over the Beyonder’s offer of immortality and power.

Eventually, though, it is revealed to be a ruse. Having distracted the alien mastermind long enough to learn his goals, Tony and Steve leave the villains in Beyonder’s service tussling over the forbidden fruit while they make their escape.

Polite words fail me when I even think about this episode, for one simple reason: the presentation of Captain America in this installment borders on the putrid. Rather than show him as the American Galahad, the writers make him appear morally weaker than Tony Stark. While Cap can be tempted, he cannot be enticed in the same manner as others are. He also has a much higher threshold of resistance to sinful offers than practically everyone else in the Marvel Universe(s) does. “The Citadel” not only failed to show this character trait, it reversed his character completely. Cap specifically asks Tony at the end of the episode if he was tempted by the Beyonder’s offer, implying that he wants to know if he was not the only one weak enough to succumb to the alien’s offer.

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Additionally, Beyonder’s proposition was geared specifically to appeal to Tony; it should not have even registered on Cap’s psyche as a lure for that reason. The Beyonder appealed to Tony as a fellow scientist and technician. Cap is neither, and for the offer to entice him as in the manner it does Iron Man is absolutely absurd.

Like a number of other items in the final season of “Assemble,” the ruse could have been easily achieved in a way that better respected both characters. Having Cap fight Tony after the latter was momentarily bedazzled by Beyonder’s offer not only makes more sense, it fits Steve’s MO. He will fight for his friends’ lives and souls no matter the cost to himself, and the writers could have turned this into one such instance.

But the writers for Assemble just had to be different. They had to drag Steve down to the “normal” level to prove he is human. They completely ignored all the work that the MCU and Chris Evans put into demonstrating this fact to millions of movie-goers around the world, a move that is not only foolish but downright malicious. On top of everything else they have done to Steve throughout Assemble, this was just too much. It pulled this blogger out of the story and kept her out for the final two episodes. Those would have turned her off of the series, anyway, but the open disregard and malice in “The Citadel” brought the whole house of cards down much, much faster.

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So when “The Wastelands” and “All Things Must End” played, I was pretty upset. Knowing some of what was coming next from the tidbits dropped by the writers, this author waited for the final shoe to drop. It did drop – with a mighty splash. In this episode we were presented with an animated version the female Thor. Jane Foster calls Mjolnir to her and becomes goddess of thunder after Thor tried to use the hammer to rescue her.

I wish I was joking, readers, but that is what happened at the end of this episode. Then the team finally makes their play to put all the pieces back together, saving the worlds that the Beyonder ripped apart for his experiment. In the process, the alien mastermind is sent packing – but not before Dr. Strange is knocked out of commission. Unable to finish what he started, he gives Loki the Eye of Agamotto to fix the Bifrost and bring everyone home. It works like a charm, too.

Except then Loki won’t give the Eye back. What a shocker; the Sorcerer Supreme gives the trickster god the most powerful magical item in the universe, and he then expects it to be returned to him. Yeah, right.

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Why did no one see Loki’s betrayal in “All Things Must End” coming? Giving him the benefit of the doubt for the millionth time is one thing. Hope over experience is also a plausible reaction to his apparent reform. Necessity requiring that the Eye be transferred to the god of mischief is understandable and inevitable. But why – why!? – didn’t Strange put some kind of spell on the Eye that would cause Loki’s attempts to use it backfire on him and make him give it back?

More to the point, why would the team actually trust someone they hoped would reform, but whom they knew was probably using them? None of this should have been a revelation to the heroes. In fact, most of the Avengers looked thoroughly unsurprised by Loki’s treachery. Poor Thor wasn’t allowed to see through his adopted brother’s ruse until this point, which is a shame but par for the course for Assemble. The only time they ever treated the characters with even a modicum of respect was in season three.

Combine this “big reveal” with their forcing Jane Foster to play the role of Thor/Thunderstrike, plus the strong women grandstanding done by Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Kamala Khan, and you have an unappealing mess of an ending. The method of stopping Loki doesn’t even matter (or make much sense) because the above factors reduce the episode to a propaganda piece masquerading as a story. For all its faults, Assemble deserved a better ending than this, as did the characters.

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This is why I will not be watching any more Marvel fare from Western media outlets. Endgame is the finale to the MCU; everything that comes after cannot hope to match the quality of the first ten years, and most of the original actors/directors have jumped ship while the jumping is good. The nonsense that destroyed the comics has finally spread to the small and big screen, as I knew it would.

If you want to see Marvel’s comic book alterations make it to film, then go ahead and have fun. But as of now, I am done with Marvel Comics, Marvel films, and Marvel TV shows. If I want good, entertaining fare from the company, I know where to find it. It will not be in the latest releases but in the older comics, cartoons, and the first ten years of the MCU. So long, Marvel. It was nice while it lasted.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. You and your friends earned it. Nothing the new owners of your franchise can do will change that – not for me, and not for the other True Believers out there. ‘Til next time, readers:

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

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Marvel-ous – and Not So Marvelous – Fathers

Not long after it came out, a friend of mine began watching the new Marvel’s Spider-Man television series. I have only watched it under duress, since I find the animation poor and am unhappy with some of the changes to Spider-Man lore within the series. Not to mention the fact that I am a little tired of Marvel beating dead horses to pieces and splattering me with their blood, proclaiming all the while that I should be happy to receive this disgusting shower.

Thank you very much, Marvel, but even vampires do not go this far (from what I know of them, anyway). But my friend insists on cornering me and making me watch it, making me less than eager to discuss the series with said compadre after an episode has aired.

Following the episode introducing – and then killing – Flint Marko/Sandman so he could be replaced by his daughter, my friend had an interesting observation about the show. Mi amigo pointed out that Flint never went after his daughter during the episode’s climactic battle. This friend went on to add that it was interesting when Sandman’s daughter killed him, Flint’s last words were: “I love you.”

“It’s a little like Han Solo and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens,” my friend said. “Flint won the argument, just like Han did, and their children are worse off than they were before.” Then, in typical fashion for my friend, it was suggested that I write a post about how Flint is/was a better father than Norman Osborn.

When it comes to this friend of mine, I have a hard time saying “no” to any request made of me. I promised to think about the episode, though I added the caveat that my brain had zero suggestions for how to bring up the topic here on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever any time soon. But then something somehow removed this block from my mind and the ideas came rushing in.

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The episode of Marvel’s Spider-Man in question is titled “Sandman.” In this episode, Spidey is relaxing with his fellow science whizz friends at Coney Island. At least, he is relaxing; the rest are still working on their school project (hint, it makes a nifty, living black suit). While they are out a sudden sandstorm erupts and the Arabian Desert, complete with a seeming genie, blasts through the park.

This is Spidey’s first run-in with the Sandman, a.k.a. Flint Marko, in the series. Here, Flint is a lackey for the mobster villain known as Hammerhead. He began working for him in order to provide a better future for his daughter, Keemia. But Flint made too many mistakes on the job, so Hammerhead tried to make an example of him by burying him under several tons of sand mixed with toxic chemicals.

Of course, this did not kill Flint. It turned him into a living being made of sand. He intends to go after Hammerhead to rescue his daughter, whom the thug has somehow taken into his home. Spidey, touched by Sandman’s devotion to protecting his little girl, joins Flint in storming the castle to rescue the fair damsel.

But Keemia does not want to be rescued. Like any normal girl, she followed Flint into the warehouse when being left in the car creeped her out. So when Hammerhead tried to kill him, she was exposed to the same toxic sand that her father swallowed. Unlike normal girls, she detests and blames her father for her own natural instinct to avoid being alone. She goes on to repeatedly state that she hated the work he did for Hammerhead and planned to better her own future by studying science. Now that she is made of sand, which has replaced her right eye, she accuses Flint of being the source of her misfortune and lashes out at him.

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Keemia Marko (Sandgirl)

Not once during the battle which follows does Flint respond to Keemia’s attacks. He tries several times to hurt Hammerhead, but Keemia protects the mobster as she continues to assail the man who really wants to keep her safe. Like Han in The Force Awakens, Flint allows Keemia to (apparently) kill him, offering her no resistance whatsoever. Spidey, naturally, is very upset by this, though I do not think anyone is going to take the time to explain why. I hope to do so myself, but I have a few other things I want to expound upon here as well, and that may get lost in the shuffle.

The first thing to address here is that this is quite clearly another case of political correctness run amok in Marvel. Sandman was always a sympathetic villain; Spidey and other Marvel heroes tried several times to bring him to the light. He was even an Avenger there for a little while. Marko never was a very strong personality, which is what made us fans feel some measure of compassion for him.

As with Kylo Ren, there is nothing to make us feel kindly disposed toward Keemia Marko. Blinded by the modern Sturm und Drang, she lays all her troubles on her father. In doing so she does not see Hammerhead manipulating her to hurt Flint, but seals her fate as the mobster’s secret weapon by killing her dad.

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Harry and Norman Osborn

How, you ask, does this make Flint a better father in this scene than Norman Osborn has ever been, period? In this series Norman is focused on being top dog in the scientific Tech Pack on Earth. Norman treats Harry more like a tool here than a son. Marvel’s Spider-Man portrays him as a greedy, grasping rich man who sees his boy as a means to an end – nothing more, nothing less.

Marko never used his daughter to make life easier for himself, and he probably could have. While I do not like her and consider her a nuisance best dumped at the earliest opportunity, the fact is that Marvel has illustrated a truth in Sandman’s first and final episode here which must be addressed.

The entire reason Flint went to work for Hammerhead was to provide for Keemia. He did not like working for a mobster any better than she did, but because he was a single father trying to make ends meet, he did the best he could with what he could get. It was not what he wanted for either of them, but he did not have the capacity to search for a job that would give them more satisfaction.

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Keemia, a product of the modern school system and the popular mindset, did not see what a sacrifice her father was making for her. He compromised his sacred honor and his own hope to be a good man in order to protect, feed, and clothe her. If he could have found another way to support them, he would have. A stronger man might have managed that, or at least managed to convey his distaste for his illegal work to Keemia. Flint could do neither of these things and that is, perhaps, one of the reasons why his daughter blamed him for her condition.

It is also important to mention that Flint is a single father here. This means he had to work a lot to make ends meet, so he was not as present in Keemia’s life as he would have been if her mother were alive and present in the home. (I do not know what happened to Sandman’s wife/girlfriend.)

Now Sandman’s lack of presence in his daughter’s life is not his fault – not in this TV series, anyway. The case in the show is blatantly transparent: Flint could not support the two of them and be with his daughter a hundred percent of the time. This is all too true of many families where only the father or mother is alive or caring for the children. These single fathers and mothers cannot feed, clothe, and shelter their children and still have enough time leftover to play, help with homework, or discuss problems in most cases.

This is why Flint did not see the extent to which Keemia was taught to despise him. She was taught this by our modern society, which either treats fatherhood like a joke or holds it in reproach (more on that below). Her disgust with Flint’s line of work is quite understandable, but it was used and manipulated, first by society and then by Hammerhead. Neither society nor Hammerhead explained that Flint was sacrificing a lot to take care of her by doing the only work he could find, and this left Keemia open to the Dark Side.

Flint did not see any of this until it was too late to do something about it. But that did not make him love his daughter any less. Spidey, I think, sensed how much Flint had sacrificed on behalf of his daughter by working for Hammerhead. The fact that Sandman showed such devotion to her, to the bitter end, affected him deeply because Keemia threw away what he lost years ago. Although Peter Parker loves his aunt and uncle, they were not his parents and they never could be. He did not know his father, but seeing Flint’s love for his daughter probably made him yearn for what could have been if his own had not been lost. (Ha! I got his reasons for being upset at Flint’s “demise” in here after all!)

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Norman, as we have seen, does not care to this degree about Harry. He has Harry make all sorts of sacrifices to please him. As yet we have not seen the future Green Goblin going out of his way to do something nice for his son. Even his founding of Osborn Academy is questionable: is it truly for Harry’s good, or is it so Norman has access to some of the brightest intellects in New York City – legal and illegal?

Thinking about this subject, I was put in mind of other Marvel characters who have less-than-stellar fathers. One of the reasons society these days makes a mockery of or abuses fatherhood is the mistaken opinion of many that bad fathers make bad people. This is a fallacy, insofar as it is portrayed as a widespread occurrence; it can certainly happen, but I very much doubt it transpires with the frequency portrayed in film, television, and books. Not all bad people become bad because of evil fathers – or evil mothers. All who become evil choose to be evil.

One can easily prove this by comparing Keemia Marko’s story to the history of the Avenger Hawkeye/Clint Barton. Hawkeye had a physically abusive father; Mr. Barton Senior liked his liquor, not to mention beating both his sons and his wife. When his sons were still young he died a drunkard’s death after he crashed his car. In the process he killed his wife and left the boys orphans.

Yet, if you look at Hawkeye now, you would have to be told all this about his past to know that it had happened – especially in the films. He was scarred by the experiences of his childhood, to be sure; Clint has never been able to fully trust those in influential or command positions. This is because the man who should have taught him to respect authority instead gave him every reason to distrust it.

However, Clint did not follow the Dark Path to the point that it could dominate his destiny. Yes, in the original comics, he worked with the Black Widow when she was a pawn of the Soviets. But he did not do this because he agreed with the Communists or because he liked being a bad guy. He did it out of misguided sentiment and love for Natasha Romanoff. This eventually redeemed the two of them and led to their joining the Avengers, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and we fans/readers/viewers are the better for this.

Unlike modern writers, Stan Lee and Don Heck knew that it is possible to choose a better path than the one your parents did. So they showed Clint Barton choosing to turn away from the darkness and toward the light. Time and again, until the most recent comics, Clint did his best to avoid following in the footsteps of the men who raised him. He chose to be a better man than his father. He also chose to be a better man than his mentors, the Swordsman and the original Trick Shot. He chose to be a hero rather than a villain.

If you dig a little into the histories of many Marvel heroes and heroines, you will find several others with similar pasts. Both Rogue and Nightcrawler were rejected by their fathers and continue to be abused by their mother. The Maximoff twins are still dealing with the aftermath of having Magneto as a dad. Peter Quill had a lackluster father, as did Gamora. Yet they and other Marvel characters with similar backgrounds still became heroes and heroines rather than villains.

This is something modern pop psychology says is a denial of the inner self; a rejection of the monster inside, to borrow from Mr. Whedon. Yet Mr. Lee and Mr. Heck made this choice for Hawkeye and the other heroes I listed above. And you know something? It worked.

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Unlike these heroes, Keemia has chosen the Dark Side. And she has done so without using the “father abused me and that’s why I am what I am” excuse. In some cases, real and fictional, I do not doubt that ill-treatment can convince a child to turn into a monster of the same type as the one heaping pain on him/her. But that, as I just said, is an excuse. Being evil or being good is a choice. One choice takes a lot more work than the other, and believe me, it is not evil.

Keemia has no excuse for her choice to become evil. She has no excuse for killing her own father. She cannot hide behind the pop psychology argument that her father was terrible and so she is terrible, which is what I think the writers were trying to have her say. I think they wanted us to sympathize with her, suggesting that she turned into the monster “Sand-Girl” because of her father through her long, moronic speeches charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors against her.

That claim does not float. There are many Marvel heroes and heroines who endured far worse from their fathers and mothers than Keemia ever did at the hands of Sandman. They are not evil. She is. And it is because of the choices she made, NOT because of her father’s (or mother’s) choices.

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Barons Heinrich and Helmut Zemo (Avengers Assemble)

This is the reason why I did not like the writers’ attempt to pin Helmut Zemo’s decision to be evil on his father in the Avengers Assemble episode “House of Zemo.” This is why I do not like what the company’s writers have done to Tony Stark’s father. And this is why I blew up when I learned what Marvel did in its Secret Empire comics to Cap’s father in order to make him a Nazi.

These changes are the signature attacks of people who despise fatherhood and want to destroy it; either the authors or their bosses want to continue this harmful stereotype in order to continue to excuse “the evil that men do.” They are trying to convince fathers to rescind their proper place as role models in society, role models who will teach and love their children like no one else in the world can or should, which means the children born to these fathers will be left without one of their best defenses against the darkness in this world.

This modern fictional trope hurts real people, readers. It hurts those who do – or did – have lousy fathers and who want a better life. If they are continually told that they have no chance whatsoever to be a better man/woman than their fathers or mothers, they will destroy themselves. I do not mean they will kill themselves, although that is a distinct possibilty. I mean they will make wrong choices using the excuse, “My daddy/mommy did this to me, and so psychologically I have no choice but to carry on this abuse.” Ask Dean Koontz about it. He had an abusive father himself.

Evil is a choice, readers. It is a real, palpable choice with genuine, hard, ugly results, for us and those around us. We are all confronted with it, every day, in small or great ways. And because we are weak humans we can excuse or rationalize away the evil that we do because it will make us feel better about “getting what we want” out of life, family, etc.

Bad or evil fathers do not make bad men and women. Men and women make choices to be bad or to be good. If they choose evil, then they choose it of their own free will. They will make excuses to allow them to continue doing their evil deeds with untroubled consciences, but the fact is that they have chosen the Dark Path freely.

Pop psychology does not recognize those heroes who had bad parents and yet have gone on to become good men and women. It does not recognize them because they do not fit the pattern which produces the desired result. There are many good men and women who had or have bad fathers/mothers, but who have gone on to become great fathers/mothers themselves because they chose to be better than those who raised them.

This is the real difference between heroes and villains, readers. Heroes choose the Light, while villains choose the Dark. Modern society wants you to be confused about this distinction, but the fact is that there is an objective good, and an objective evil. You just have to keep your eyes open to see it.

Avengers Assemble!

Do Marvel Fans Hate Women and Diversity? Not Hardly.

Hey, readers! Did you happen to hear that Marvel’s comic book sales are declining?  If you did not, then you probably missed what Marvel’s VP of Sales, Mr. David Gabriel, had to say about it.  Read on to find out just what he said:

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“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.  We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character [sic], people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”  (Source:  http://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/787249/Marvel-comics-diversity-Ironheart-Kamala-Khan-female-Thor-Iron-Man-Avengers-Infinity-War)

This is news Marvel apparently got from the retailers selling its comics. While some retailers saw an influx of new clientele, most saw a big drop as people ignored the new comics because their favorite characters – Captain America, Iron Man, Falcon, Hulk, Thor, etc. – were being killed off and/or humiliated, which means that their audience felt depressed and/or mortified.  Marvel’s comic book sales have weakened in proportion to the steady stream of replacement, politically correct characters and stories the company has been trying to shove down our throats for the past three or four years.

I was astounded to see this statement from Mr. Gabriel. I have known for years that Marvel would lose revenue if it abused its audience by maltreating or destroying its characters.  If you have followed my blog for a while, you know this is so.  What surprised me was that a member of Marvel’s hierarchy actually admitted that sales were dropping because of the “new materiel” they were introducing.  I told ‘em this was going to happen, but did they listen to me?  ‘Course not.  And now they are shocked that people do not want to buy comics that make fools of and/or destroy their favorite characters.  Well surprise, surprise, surprise, Marvel!  How could you have missed that fastball?

I can hear some of you fainting right now. You think I am an awful person for celebrating this news, no?  That I hate women and diversity, too, n’est pas?

Well, no, I don’t. Allow me to explain what made me rejoice over Mr. Gabriel’s statement:  what made me happy about his announcement was that he has finally admitted, on behalf of the company he serves, that politically correct characters are turning fans off of the Marvel franchise.  He has finally acknowledged the obvious; that so-called “characters” like Jane Foster/Thorette, Amadeus Cho/New Hulk, Riri Williams/Ironheart, Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, and Gwen Stacey/Spider-Girl, along with other “new,” “diverse,” and “legacy” protagonists – which are supposedly “meant to bring women and minorities to the forefront of social consciousness” – are really hurting instead of helping Marvel’s brand.

So if I like what Mr. Gabriel had to say, then why am I writing this post? I am writing this post because he and his colleagues are missing the point of why their sales are falling.  Mr. Gabriel says what they believe; that legions of Marvel’s fans hate women and diversity, and so they need to keep doing what they are doing in order to win their “deplorable” fans – you and me – over to their view of the world.  In essence, they are accusing the thousands of people who support their business of widespread bigotry, intolerance, and stupidity; completely ignoring the beam in their own eye to pluck out the mote in ours.

This is what has Marvel fans so upset. This is why they have stopped buying the new comics.  Marvel fans definitely do not hate diversity or women.  The latter is proved by the fact that Marvel already has hundreds of established female characters with existing fanbases – although you would not know that if you were new to the Marvel multi-verse or have only heard about it from the mouths of twits (most comic book film critics).  Go to my post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” for a roll of Marvel’s female characters and a link to a longer list where you can learn about more of them.  The fact is that these reviewers could care less that Marvel has a panoply of female characters for the simple reason that it is not part of their agenda.

As for the idea that Marvel fans hate diversity, this is a laughable argument because it is so easily invalidated. Marvel has been diverse since it was founded, something that is shown through characters like Storm, Falcon, Black Panther, Misty Knight, and Luke Cage, all of whom are black.  Separate sources have consistently claimed that either Black Panther or Falcon was the first black superhero to appear in comics, beating out DC’s Black Lighting.  I think that Storm might predate the three of them, but I am not sure.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are Gypsies, readers.  Red Wolf, Mirage, and Thunderbird are American Indians; and Colossus and the Black Widow are Russians who have become U.S. citizens.  Then there is Nightcrawler, who is German and who barely resembles a human; Silverclaw, who is Brazilian; Sunfire, a Japanese man who follows the tradition of the samurai, and Bengal, a Vietnamese superhero who lives and works in Vietnam.

If Marvel were not diverse, readers, then these characters would never have been created by Stan Lee and the original writers. If Marvel’s fans hated diversity, none of these characters would have lasted more than one issue.  Before 2015, they were all alive in the Marvel multi-verse, which means they have, collectively, been around for nearly seventy years.  How can people who have kept these characters “alive” for so long hate diversity?  Answer:  they cannot, and therefore they do not, hate diversity.

So if Marvelites do not hate women or diversity, then why is Marvel losing revenue on its new comic books? Hmmmm…. Maybe these books are doing poorly because the fans, new and old, actually like Thor Odinson as the Prince of Thunder and not some prancing female using his hammer and claiming to be something she is manifestly not. Maybe fans truly liked Bruce Banner as The Incredible Hulk and really hate the fact that Marvel had one of his best friends kill him. Maybe fans are in fact more than a little bit upset by Marvel’s decision to make Steve Rogers a secret agent of HYDRA and a flaming NAZI. Maybe they genuinely like Tony Stark as the Invincible Armored Iron Man who can build his way out of a trap with a broken laptop and some chewing gum, instead of a fifteen year old science whizz-kid who could do her own thing instead of shoehorning herself into his act.

And maybe they do not like one of the first black superheroes – Falcon – being shoved into the role of Captain America, since it smacks of condescension and patronization.  This move by Marvel is obviously meant to appease the PC police.  And by doing this to the Falcon, Marvel’s writers are essentially stating that they think Sam Wilson – and therefore his fans – should not be satisfied that he is one of the first two black superheroes in comicdom.  They would rather destroy the Falcon to make a new, “modern” Captain America that is anything BUT an American.

So maybe the reason sales are dropping is because fans think that pushing Falcon into Steve’s suit, handing him Rogers’ shield, and leaving him to spout anti-American claptrap like a ventriloquist’s dummy actually demeans African-Americans instead of “elevating” them or making Sam “more relevant” to the times.

Yeah, I think these facts may have more to do with your declining sales than sexism or racism, Mr. Gabriel.  Too bad you and everyone else at Marvel have not realized this yet.  Or, realizing it, you have decided that you know what we want because you are the “better and the brighter” of society and YOU are never wrong.  We are just peons who cannot see the mote in our eye.  That might be true, but you are missing the enormous beam in your own eye, buster.

So much for the customer is always right, eh, readers?

The reason I am writing all of this is because the people presently helming Marvel – and their enablers/cheerleaders in the world of critics – do not want more diversity or female characters. They want an emasculated male populace and homogeneity.  They want black to be white, left to be right, and the population of the world to be nothing less than mental clones of them.  Though they are doomed to failure, this does not mean that we can simply sit on the sidelines and let them ruin the Marvel universe(s).  It means that we have to fight back against their dehumanizing push for sameness.

This leads me to another problem that Marvel is currently experiencing. An article at http://io9.gizmodo.com/marvel-vp-blames-women-and-diversity-for-sales-slump-1793921500 states that another reason for the drop in Marvel’s sales is due to the increasingly schizophrenic story arcs the company has been churning out for two years. I actually think this problem goes back to at least the Disassembled and House of M story lines.  The reason I trace the problem back that far is this is when I noticed that Marvel was going off the rails. Disassembled and House of M may not have been the starting points, but they were the arcs which made me bite my lip and think, “@&*!, here we go with the death, despair, darkness, your-heroes-are-really-villains-in-disguise downward spiral.”

Just think about it, readers. After House of M the Marvel universe – which was originally upbeat, positive, and generally told decent to good stories – took a nosedive into the muck.  After House of M we were fed the atrociously immoral and disgusting “Ultimate Universe.”  Then we were handed the insipid “New Avengers” storyline and endured the advent of the largely lukewarm “Young Avengers” crew.  We were handed the demoralizing Civil War arc next.  Then we had the sickening Avengers vs. X-Men event; the asinine “Unity Squad” story line, and the Original Sin plotline which led to the putrid rewrite of the Marvel universe(s) in the Secret Wars event of 2015.

According to Beth Elderkin, the writer of the article at io9.gizmodo.com, there have been “at least 12 events and crossovers [in the past two years]. Events, in particular, have become more of a chore than a reward. There’s little build-up or anticipation because you know another one’s right around the corner. They also can completely screw over beloved characters for the sake of drama, like turning Captain America into a fascist as Sam Wilson has taken [on] his mantle.

She says this makes it hard for new readers to focus, and I will not argue that these endless events do not help new fans to get their footing in the Marvel multi-verse – or, rather, what is left of it. But the problem she does not address is that none of these events or crossovers is positive. These stories are all negative and thus display brazenly the idea that Marvel’s management, who believe themselves the “best and the brightest” (but are truly the dumb and the dimmest), know what’s best for the rest of us. They also continue to drive the homogeneity mantra onto readers’ minds like a suffocating pillow. Not one of these events leaves a reader feeling uplifted and ready to face the world again. How do I know this?

Because that is what simply reading descriptions of these story arcs did and still does to me. And I am not alone, something which Mr. Gabriel’s admission about moribund comic book sales proves. Every last one of the story arcs I listed above may be compelling and addictive to some readers, but to most of us they reek of negativity, despair, and nihilism. How many people want to stew in an emotional/mental/spiritual refuse pile like this? If the downturn in Marvel’s comic book sales is as steep as Mr. Gabriel seems to believe it is, then I think I am safe in saying that ninety percent of normal, everyday people do not want this junk. This means that Marvel is selling to a narrow market which is shrinking day by day.

But why is Marvel having this problem at all? If the difficulty is too many dispiriting events, the company could easily fix the problem by turning the characters over to new authors, right?  Possibly, but from what Beth Elderkin says this entire problem is born of the fact that “….There’s been a steady decline in Marvel’s talent pool, because of better offers and independent retailers. One retailer mentioned at the summit that it’s especially hard to keep talented writers and artists when they can make creator-owned books at publishers like Image. Not only does it give them more flexibility to tell the stories they want, but they also keep way more of the revenue.”

Again, I will not argue with her. Though I have no idea what Marvel pays its artists and writers, I do know that the writers they are allowing free reign in their universe(s) at the moment should not be allowed anywhere near a keyboard or a pen. The “stories” that many of these writers are pumping out are evidence that they are intellectual hamsters running inside fetishified exercise wheels decorated with death’s heads.

So finding new writers for Marvel who have positive attitudes and a love of truth, beauty, and goodness is going to be a challenge. Believing that Marvel would hire these people seems to be asking for a miracle. And if Marvel currently has writers who want to tell true, good, and beautiful stories with their characters, these writers appear to be few and far between. And these people are either barely hanging on to their jobs or they have left for greener pastures.

“All right, Mithril,” some of you say, “if these are the problems, just what are we supposed to do about them? Marvel is a big company and they won’t let just anyone in. They specifically tell aspiring artists and storytellers, ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ How are we going to fix a company that doesn’t want to be fixed?”

Good question. There are several options available to fans, readers. If you are like me and my friends, and you do not like the stories which Marvel is publishing, keep doing what you have been doing: avoid their new comics like the plague. This means that their sales will keep plummeting and they will, sooner or later, be forced to clean up their act in order to stay in business. Or they will finally hire people who will do this service for us. Either way, remember that money talks. If your money is not going into their pockets, then the silence will get their attention.

Another option is to become a writer yourself. If you write good stories and books and they sell well, are positively reviewed, and have the masses talking with mouths and wallets, then Marvel will probably notice you.   Then maybe – just maybe – you will get lucky and they will tap you to write for them.

If you do manage to accomplish this feat, then I would add the caveat that you do your best to keep your eye on the prize. Put your slippers under your bed, as Denzel Washington advised, so that you always have to kneel down to get them in the morning. You got where you are by telling good, true, and beautiful stories, and this is what you want to do with Marvel’s heroes. Keep that goal in mind and you should be fine.

If you are not much of a storyteller, and you are already speaking by not buying Marvel’s comics, then you can always write letters to Marvel in order to explain your displeasure with them. This is what I do; I watch Marvel’s movies, read the older comics, and critique the cartoons. Besides blogging about the characters I enjoy as much as I can, I also write letters to Marvel’s top echelons, telling them what I think of their new comics (and I don’t think much of them).

You can do this, too, readers. Marvel has five different email addresses where you can send letters, as well as a section for general feedback on their website. I have never gone that route, so I cannot tell you what to expect if you try it. However, if you write letters to Marvel, put OKAY TO PRINT alongside your email’s subject heading and send it to one or all of the following addresses: onlinesupport@marvel.com, spideyoffice@marvel.com, officex@marvel.com, mheroes@marvel.com, and/or mondomarvel@marvel.com. And do not be threatening when you write to them.  Believe me; they will notice your letters, even if they are politely phrased.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and we Marvel fans have more right to be squeaky than that posse of small-minded critics and “cultural gatekeepers” do. Unless these people actually buy Marvel’s comics in droves (which they very obviously do not), they are not the audience the company has to please. It was our money that made Marvel what it is today, not the critics’ pens. I say it is high time we reminded Marvel of this fact.

For myself, I will continue to do all of the above. I know I sound as though I am crusading against Marvel’s hierarchy, and I guess I am, after a fashion. But I am doing so as a customer who desperately wants to preserve an enjoyed and admired product, so that I can pass it on to others to enjoy in the future.

I want to be entertained by Marvel for many more years, readers. Right now, they are not entertaining me OR legions of their fans. They are trying to force their view of the world on us through these “new,” PC characters, destroying the good and great and true ones in the process. That is cultural bullying, which is a form of intellectual tyranny. It must be stopped. The only way that we can convince Marvel’s management to right the ship is to tell them why we are not buying their product. But we have to actually tell them if we are to have any hope of returning Marvel Comics to the good, the great, and the true, which is timeless.

Until next time, readers….EXCELSIOR!!!!

Stories Matter – Why Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars” Is Not Marvel-Us

‘I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?’ (From J. R. R. Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories, 1939, courtesy of www.interestingliterature.com)

I do not know how or why, but I have always been enchanted by stories. They are, to me, perhaps more than most other physical things in life. Stories are my biggest passion.   There are days I could forego lunch, a trip out of doors, or sleep if it meant a chance to read or see or hear a good story, which sometimes makes me wonder if I am not flaming crazy.

The above quote from J. R. R. Tolkien, taken from a post on Interesting Literature, is something I like to read to remind myself that I am not, in fact, crazy. I just happen to really like stories. Why? Well, why are some people passionate about surfing? Why are some people happiest while they are wood-working? Why are other people almost transported to another world while they are doing math?

We each have our talents, our passions. Stories and their characters are mine.

Escape was a word abused in Tolkien’s day as much as in ours. Then as now stories – whether they were fairy tales or great epics – were sniffed at by those who thought they had no worth.   “Oh, stories are good for little children,” they would – and will – snicker, “but once you are an adult, you don’t need them anymore.”

Uh-huh…. And when I reach adulthood, I can stop eating my veggies, right? I think several dozen fitness experts and dietitians would have an apoplectic fit if I pulled that stunt.

The thing I am trying to say, readers, and I may not be saying it well, is that stories matter. The characters in them matter. They always have and they always will, at least until time ends. Stories are avenues of escape.

But escape from what? Reality? Hardly. I may be addicted to stories, but I can tell you that they have not numbed me to reality in the least.

Stories are ways to escape the prisons forged out of despair, hatred, loneliness, and other evils. There are unfriendly things we have to deal with in this world if we are to survive it and discover our destiny. No one sniffs at the working mother whose husband buys her a ticket to the spa so she can get some down time, or the family that heads out to the park for an afternoon to kick a soccer ball around and enjoy each other’s company.

Yet begin talking about a story you enjoy, and you are suddenly accused of trying to escape reality.

I am no psychiatrist, no scientist, no sort of professional or “expert” whatsoever. But I know stories. I know they matter. I know because they are what make me happy, the same way a surfer is happy when he or she is out there shooting the curl. The same way a carpenter is glad when he planes a piece of wood or finishes a chair. The same way a mathematician receives untold pleasure in figuring out or making new numerical and formulaic puzzles. This is why I post about stories so much.

And this is why I have a problem with the direction the Marvel franchise is headed.

Marvel Comics is currently in the middle of some insane storyline called “Secret Wars.” The many alternate Marvel universes have collided with the “mainstream” – 616 – Marvel Universe which Stan Lee and his fellows created back in the 1960s. 616 Iron Man/Tony Stark and Nick Fury have been transformed into villains and have helped to bring this calamity about. Several characters from all the alternate universes are now struggling to survive alongside the 616 characters. The entire universe is in shambles. To top it off, Marvel is hyping an “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Comics line up for the next year (or more) with the roster for the Avengers completely rearranged – Miles Morales will be Spider-Man, Sam Wilson will still be filling in for Cap, Jane Foster will still be swinging Mjolnir and using the name Thor, and by now I cannot recall the other changes Marvel said were coming out.

I do not know who is alive in the Marvel Universe anymore, who is dead, which characters are wearing which superhero identities. My information is fragmented and despair-filled. The Marvel Comics currently in progress are not the Marvel Comics I enjoyed or, I think, that I could ever enjoy given who and what I am. In an alternate reality, I might. But not in this one, and this reality and the one that follows are the only ones that count.

Marvel knows that they can have all sorts of characters wear, say, Spider-Man’s costume, but the only character fans really want to see in the suit is Peter Parker. They know they can put anyone in the Captain America suit, but the only one who anyone truly wants to see holding the shield and standing up against evil is Steve Rogers. They know what works and they know what does not work. Why they have done what they are doing I cannot say. I only know that it has to stop, before irreparable damage is done to the characters they supposedly love as much as we fans do and, more to the point, which they are charged with protecting and strengthening.

They cannot be allowed to continue down this road, readers. If they do, there will be very little of what is good and right left in Marvel Comics for those who follow us in the near future. The films and cartoons based on their characters will suffer similar fates. For the comics are the roots of these newer forms of the tales and once the roots are poisoned the whole tree will die.

But why do I care about this, when there are so many more important things to think about, so many other calamities hitting the world and society? Well, why did Stan Lee care about this?

Why? Why did Stan Lee care? After the Second World War, all the comic book characters that were churned out for the U.S. soldiers and the kids back home in America were shelved. The comic book companies stopped producing stories for them; they started telling new tales with new characters instead. Though he may have lasted longer than some war-era comic book characters like Prince Namor and the original Human Torch, Cap was eventually put away as well.

Stan Lee saw it all happen. He watched Cap get shelved, along with all the other great characters made during World War II, after he had established his footing in the comic book world. He saw Cap, Bucky, Prince Namor, and others get set up on a high shelf by his bosses, because Cap and the others were “not needed anymore.”

Hah. For someone who is “not needed anymore,” Steve Rogers is awfully popular today, is he not, readers? Where would we (or Marvel, for that matter) be if Stan Lee had left Cap to collect dust on the shelves of Timely Comics, before he owned it and renamed it Marvel Comics?

Stan Lee liked Steve Rogers as much as any of us ever have. He brought Cap back because he knew we were always going to need him. He knew the suit did not make Captain America. Steve Rogers made Captain America. So Stan Lee made sure Steve could go on fighting for the nation he loved, inspiring generations of Marvel fans – outside and inside of the U.S. – to keep on fighting for what is right and true and good in this flawed, chaotic world.

He knew we would always need a rallying point, a character so thoroughly American that he could never consider giving up, not even for a moment. In the Avengers’ fourth issue, Stan Lee reinstated Steve Rogers in the fiction of the world. And we have reaped the benefits not only of Cap’s determination and strength but also of Stan Lee’s foresight and understanding of why we need great stories and great heroes.

And yet we are letting Marvel’s current hierarchy and their writers toss Steve around like a yo-yo.

Marvel knows I am displeased with the way they have taken their stories.  I have made no secret of it, sending them various notes showing my displeasure and suggesting how they might do things better since November/December of 2014.  But I am only one voice. I have no power with them, beyond what I have done.  They can, if they choose, ignore me easily. Odds are good that they will ignore me.

But they cannot ignore more than one voice raised against them in protest of their treatment of their characters.  They cannot ignore fans who tell them, “This stops here, and it stops NOW.”

You want to know something really funny about all this, readers?  Thinking about this post, about how to try and get my point across, I suddenly remembered Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I recalled Steve Rogers speaking into a SHIELD microphone in the Triskelion, revealing to the World Security Council and the clean SHIELD agents that HYDRA had grown up right under their noses, and was planning to conquer the world through the agency that was supposed to protect humanity.

The part I specifically remembered was Steve saying, “The price of freedom is high.  It always has been.  And it’s a price I’m willing to pay.  And if I’m the only one then so be it.

“But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”

So maybe I am the only one who cares about what Marvel messes with in their comic book universe.  Maybe I am the only one in the world who cares about the characters as they were written and who wants to see that foundation built up, not torn down.  And if I am the only one who cares… then so be it.  I do CARE!!!

But, then again…maybe I’m not the only one.   I do not know.  I cannot know.

The U.S. Marines have a saying, “Is this the hill you want to die on?”  Not particularly. But if it is the hill I am forced to fight on, do not expect me to fight by halves.  A fight is all or nothing.  And if I have to die on this hill, standing beside the river of truth, well, you know – there are much worse hills out there on which to die.

So bring it on, Marvel.  I am willing to fight.

Are you?

The Mithril Guardian