Tag Archives: comic books

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!!!!

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Reach for the Stars – The Dream Marvel Forgot

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Bully:  “You just don’t know when to give up, do you?”

Steve Rogers: (Panting) “I can do this all day!”

That was one of the best lines in Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger.  I saw that movie after Marvel’s The Avengers came out, but it only confirmed what I had seen of Steve Rogers in that film.  Though I sometimes wonder about Chris Evans, I know there is no need to wonder about Cap.

I am sharing a picture with you today.  It was made for the backs of certain comics issued by Marvel several decades ago – at the time when we were still intent on travel into space.  I have no idea what the “Young Astronaut” program being hyped in the small white print was or is, and I do not really care.  The picture of Captain America standing behind two stargazing children is what I want to discuss today.

A number of years ago, I ended up with some leftover comics.  There was some housecleaning going on, and these books were on the chopping block.  I was asked if I wanted any of the comics, since I had begun perusing them curiously instead of helping with the packing and the cleaning.  I said yes after making sure the original owners did not want them back, then packed the books away for some time.  Oh, I read a few of them, but I was interested in other things when I first acquired the stories.  I felt a little silly reading the comics, too, despite the fact that I loved the characters in them (or most of them).

Also, at the time my ability to read comics was almost non-existent.  I had been raised on normal books, so it took a while before I figured out how the story in a comic book progressed from panel to panel.  In my limited defense, there were no comic book stores in my vicinity, and I usually eschewed graphic novels.  Garfield comics are not nearly as detailed or involved as Marvel’s were, either.  No one I knew at the time was a big comic book reader, so I was on my own.

Eventually, though, I decided to tackle that stack of comics to find out which ones I really could not live without and which could go.  Some of the comics were easy to ditch; they were pieces of story arcs, and I did not have the rest of the story.  Flick, there it goes.  Some of the pieces were not to my taste.  Flick, there they go!   One of them was from the Dark Phoenix Saga – I hated the cartoons based on that storyline, so I was not interested in the comics, period.  Bye-bye!

Others stayed.  They were fascinating, as much for the advertisements as for the stories.  The ads were like snapshots of time.  There are not many comics – or other media, for that matter – which advertise Daisy rifles or BB and air guns these days.  To see them displayed on the back cover of a comic in the same way as video games was refreshing.  It was like stepping into a previous, freer era I had heard about but which I had never really seen in a concrete way before.

Then I closed one of the comics and found the above picture on the back.

It took my breath away.  Literally, all the air went out of my lungs and I know my eyes nearly popped out of my head.  If advertisements for rifles and BB guns are rare today, posters encouraging space exploration have gone the way of the dinosaur in most media outlets.  Even the few we have now are not always this poetic.

You look at the picture and the first thing you see is the blue background.  It makes you sit up and pay attention.  You notice the stars peripherally as the star-gazing figure of Captain America pulls your eye toward the center of the page.  Then you see he has his left hand on the shoulder of a boy who is standing in front of him.  The boy cannot be more than twelve.  He in turn has his left hand resting on the shoulder of a girl who is probably his younger sister.  All three are gazing up at the star above the R in Reach.

If you look closely, you will notice that the boy and girl’s mouths seem to be slightly open.  The sight of the stars hanging above them is so spectacular that they have forgotten to keep their mouths closed completely.

Cap does not have this same look of slack-jawed wonder.  He is looking at the stars in a different way.  You can just imagine him telling the children that, someday, they are going to get to explore those stars.  That he wants them to go where no man has gone before, to see things and new worlds he will never get to explore.  The life of an Avenger, like the life of a soldier, means that you get to visit all sorts of wonderful and amazing places, but you barely get glimpses of them while you are there.  Cap has been to the stars…. but he has never seen them except in passing flashes.

These kids, Cap hopes, will be explorers.  They are the future, the next generation, the heroes of tomorrow.  Not heroes like him – they will be heroes for the territory they open up, the discoveries which they make, and the worlds which they find.

The boy and his sister will not be alone when they go out to do this, either.  They will have each other.  You can see that in the way the boy’s hand lies on the girl’s shoulder, assuring her that he is there for her, as her standing in front of him reminds him that he is not alone.

I think I nearly cried when I saw this picture first.  It still makes my eyes a little wet as I look at it now.  It reminds me of when I was a child, dreaming of being on the starship Enterprise.  It recalls my old dreams about the unending possibilities there would be for being a hero, like the characters I admired and loved and watched so faithfully.

I wish Marvel had more posters like this.  Not posters with just any old hero on them, readers, but posters with a hero who adds dignity and honor to the picture.  Cap does that here.  If you tried to redo this picture with Captain Marvel, or Iron Man, or Black Panther, or Star-Lord, or even my other favorite Avenger, Hawkeye, it would not work.  Because the only hero who looks at the stars in that way is Captain America/Steve Rogers; very few of the other heroes would be able to do it, and even they would fall short of the gravitas he adds to this picture.

Not that I think Marvel would not try to have them do it, mind you; I just know the attempt would fail.  I could hope for it to backfire in their faces spectacularly, but I already know that does not learn ‘em.  To paraphrase Albert Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.”  Marvel is repeating its mistakes over and over again, while expecting a different result.

We live in a crazy world that is always on the brink of falling apart, readers.  I know that.  I just wish that there were not quite so many of us going crazy right along with it, destroying so many good things as we go.  This picture – this understanding of Captain America and Marvel Comics which the writers once had…it was a good thing.  It is too sad that their heirs and maybe even some of the original writers themselves threw it all away in an attempt to be “hip” to get in the good graces of the in-crowd.

In the interest of ending this post on a happy note, readers, please take another look at the photo before you leave.  Feel free to copy it, if you like.  But whether you do or do not, please, look at it one more time.  Look at it and remember it.  Look at it and remember the Latin word for “ever higher”:  Excelsior.  Look at it, and remember your own dreams.

Let’s try to keep reaching ever higher, readers.  Even if it is just a little bit higher than before, a little is better than nothing at all.

Excelsior.

Book Review – Marvel Masterworks #3: The Avengers

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Well, readers, we are back in the wonderful world of Marvel, as Stan Lee and his friends originally wrote it. Get ready for a jaunt into the Marvelous, original mainstream Marvel Universe!!! Here is the review for Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers, Vol. 3!!

As with Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers, Vol. 2, this book contains a collection of original comics from the early 1960s. There are ten issues in this book in all – plus an introduction straight from Stan “The Man” Lee’s pen. The language in these comics is better, in some ways, than it is today.

Now when I say “the language is better,” I am not referring to these old comics’ lack of profanity. That is certainly a point in these stories’ favor, but it is not the main point. What I mean is that the vocabulary used by the characters herein is wider and makes allusions to the classics. This means that the characters not only convey precisely what they mean to each other, and thereby to the readers; it also allows them to give the readers lessons in world history, myth, etc.

Yes, there is a great deal of contemporary slang in the stories in this book. But there is a great deal of contemporary slang in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, too, and only a few boneheads want to complain about that. The comics are not perfect, but they are better in several respects than today’s comics. The stories in this volume are real stories, the characters are really who and what they look like, and the artistry is well-done.

Is it quite as good as today’s artistry? Allow me to answer that with a question. Are comic books about art, or are they about story? Illustrations for a comic book should be high quality, of course. But if the art is the only thing in the comic book which is good, then the comic book is not worth very much, other than as a tableau showing off the artist’s talent.

The writers of the modern comics are more focused on the fleeting fads of the world than on good storytelling. The artists for the comics want to make a splash rather than help to tell a good story. The parts are all trying to get the credit for the same cake, and in the process they are destroying the recipe. This means that the finished product comes out looking more than a little unappetizing.

So, readers, we have to read these old stories. We have to learn the recipes in this volume. Because when the wannabes are finally driven from the kitchen, guess who is going to have to come in and clean up the mess. That is right – we are. And if we do not know how to bake the cakes, then we are going to make messes as big as this one which is about to blow up in Marvel’s collective face.

Below is a description of the comics that can be found in this Masterworks volume. Some details are missing, but that is intentional. A lot is getting mentioned here in order to whet your appetite for the main course. For those who would rather not do anything other than smell the aroma of the bread, then you had better stop reading right…now. Because, without further ado, here is the description I promised –

WARNING: Spoilers follow!!!

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In this volume, you will watch as Captain America and his “new Avengers” – Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch – are handed their first defeat. Tricked into damaging property by the Enchantress and accused of trying to elbow out the newest hero on the block, Power Man, the Avengers are forced to disband. And the ever-antagonistic Hawkeye is only too willing to lay the blame on Captain America!

However, Steve Rogers is not ready to let the Avengers’ torch gutter and die. While his team searches for new, legit work, he sets out to prove they were set up in “The Road Back!” He succeeds, naturally, and the Avengers are reinstated as heroes. But the team is rocked by another surprise when Cap throws in the towel and strikes out on his own!

Following this catastrophe, Hawkeye finds that leading a team is not as easy as he thought it would be. Wanda misses Cap’s presence along with Quicksilver. Even Hawkeye privately admits that he regrets Cap jettisoning free of the team – especially as the twins prove they are not that easy to order around.

Meanwhile, having found work training a boxer, Cap is making a living on his own for the first time since awakening from the ice. He likes the work but soon discovers that he cannot close his eyes without seeing his team. He misses them as much as they miss him.

Unknown to our four heroes, they are being watched. From his domain in the far future, Kang the Conqueror decides that the Avengers are finally vulnerable to his revenge! He kidnaps Hawkeye, Pietro, and Wanda to the 30th century and holds them captive…

But Kang has an audience besides us, for once. He is in the last remaining kingdom which he does not rule. No, this little postage-stamp nation is run by Princess Ravonna and her father. Both consider Kang to be evil and they despise him, Ravonna making no secret of the depth of her contempt for the Conqueror. Kang, though he rants against her, admits that he is unwilling to destroy the kingdom – because Ravonna has conquered his heart without half-trying!

Hearing on the radio about the Avengers’ disappearance, Cap makes tracks for the Mansion. Discovering that Kang is responsible for his friends’ abduction, he challenges the 30th century genius to transport him to the future as well. With Ravonna watching, Kang is only too happy to oblige…

And from here, it is all-out war, as Kang finally decides that he will take Ravonna and her kingdom by force!

After their adventure in the 30th century, the Avengers are lured to Latveria in the issue entitled “Enter…Dr. Doom!” Eager to challenge the Fantastic Four again, Doom wants a trial run before he squares off with Reed Richards and his family. He gets more exercise than he was bargaining on when the Avengers prove to be as mighty as the Four – maybe even mightier!

Next ish, the Avengers receive a distress call from founding member the Wasp. She tells them that Attuma has captured her and plans to destroy the surface world. He has built a machine which will induce tremors in the earth, causing tsunamis and floods which will destroy the human world. Once that is done, the Ghengis Khan of the undersea world plans to march onto what was once dry land to claim it as his own!

This plan goes about as well as you would expect. The Avengers whip Attuma, destroy his machine, and set him back several thousand sea-dollars, only to arrive home to another crisis. This one again involves the Wasp, who made it to the Mansion but has since disappeared!

Unable to stand losing her, Hank Pym returns to active duty on the team, taking the name “Goliath” in order to help find the love of his life. The Avengers soon meet with Wasp’s abductor: Tanaleer Tivan. Better known to most as “The Collector,” he captured the Beetle and decided he wanted a superhero team for his collection as well. His target: the Avengers!

The team breaks out of this problem and hits another snag. In rescuing the Wasp, Pym stayed giant-size too long. Now he is trapped at ten feet tall – and hating every minute of it.

Things go from difficult to worse in no time. Hawkeye is over-the-moon ecstatic when Cap tells him SHIELD has heard that Black Widow is alive and is returning to the U.S. He then gets angry when Steve points out that the Communists would only release her if they had managed to brainwash her again.

Unwilling to forget his love for Natasha, Hawkeye leaves the Mansion to find her. He does indeed meet up with the Black Widow – plus Power Man and the Swordsman! Natasha then reveals that she has been put back under the Reds’ control, and she wants Hawkeye to rejoin her in their service.

Well, Hawkeye still cares about Natasha, but he is not willing to join the Commies for her. Luckily, Cap was afraid the whole thing was a trap and dispatched Wasp to monitor the situation. She speeds back to the Mansion, but does not return until everyone else is captured. Only she and Goliath are still free to fight…

The last story sees Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch taking a leave of absence from the Avengers. Also, with Cap’s permission, Hawkeye takes on Widow and her stooges solo. He manages to best the Swordsman, his old mentor, but Power Man is not going to be nearly as easy to defeat….

Meanwhile, Hank Pym is desperately searching for a way to return to normal size. Hearing about an old colleague who has disappeared in South America, he heads there to find him in the hopes that the man can help reverse his condition. Instead, he finds a “Frenzy in a Far-Off Land!” ready and waiting to jump him!

Readers, I hope I have not spoiled these stories too much for you. I know they are “retro” and probably of interest to very few of you. With Marvel’s recent alterations, which they are hailing as the new Modern, most of you probably do not care to learn where the heroes we have seen on the big screen for the last decade and a half started.

But I believe that we need these stories now more than ever. Yes, they are kooky and silly, with a dash of weird in the bargain. They will not appeal to everyone; least of all will they appeal to Marvel’s blind Hierarchy of Seneschals.

Still, they are the germ of the stories we have now. Without them we would not have Chris Evans playing Captain America, or Robert Downey Jr. doing a bang-up job as Tony Stark. The cast of the films owe their careers to these characters, and to forget where these fictional heroes came from is just plain bad. It means we are forgetting ourselves with them. If our memory only goes as far back as yesterday, we will never be able to make a future.

Marvel is so determined to build a shiny “modern” future that it is rewriting its past, and not in a healthy way. The bosses at Marvel can make whatever changes they want. But in the end, they cannot change the past. They cannot change us. And that will be their undoing, not ours.

If we forget, however – if we allow what we have learned and remember to be wiped away – then we will be undone. By learning where Marvel came from, the company can one day be cleaned up and put back on the road to goodness and then greatness. This book will help us in that.

If we let it…

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Thor Odinson

Okay, okay, settle down! There is no need for that much cheering! I know Thor has not been the center of a post on this blog before, and that may lead some to believe he is not well liked by yours truly. It is true that I have never been extremely fascinated with the Prince of Thunder, as others are. Why? Well….I do not really know. Thor just never caught my attention the way that other Marvel characters did. I like him – just not the way many of his fans do.

However, his strength, courtesy, and fierce fighting ability have always impressed me. From the time I saw him in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! to the couple of comics that made their way into my collection which featured him, I have respected Thor Odinson.

This made his first movie in 2011 a bit of a disappointment to me when I initially viewed it. Here is the Prince of Thunder, star of his very own movie, and he is acting like a spoiled child…? All I could think was, “This is not the Thor I have gotten to know. Why did they make him such a petulant baby?”

Kind of a scathing opinion, I know. But you Thor fans should be happy to hear that my attitude toward the first movie starring the Thunderer has softened significantly since that early viewing of the film. First impressions are often wrong, and mine was mistaken.

In contrast to his appearance in Thor, the son of Odin came out swinging (literally!) in Marvel’s The Avengers. THIS portrayal of Thor was much more enjoyable for me. Since The Avengers was on my ‘to watch’ list before Thor, it may explain my disappointment with the prior film. I did not realize how much Thor had had to grow and change before The Avengers.

The Dark World continued his story arc, and while the plot may have been a bit thin in places, it was a genuinely good showing for him. Anyone could have been fooled by Loki’s death scene; though we can rest assured that as soon as he is unmasked, the Trickster will be rubbing Thor’s nose in the fact that he was hoodwinked. Again. (Ouch.)

Regardless, Thor came out of The Dark World stronger than ever. He became a true prince, worthy not only of using Mjolnir but of ruling Asgard. How do I know this? The acid test is that Thor understands by the end of the film that being a king is not all fun and games. He knows now that there is “more to being king than getting [his] way all the time.” (Pardon The Lion King reference, readers, but it was begging to be done!)

And this brings us to Avengers: Age of Ultron.

WOW. Thor did very well in this movie. Understandably, he is shown to still be unfamiliar with Earth culture here. But Thor’s naturally limited knowledge of Earth and its cultures does not, after a point, interfere with his friendships. To start off, we will discuss the Avengers Thor seems closest to since the team reassembled sometime between The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron.

First up, Cap. As was discussed at length in the post “Avengers: Age of Ultron – Captain America/Steve Rogers,” Thor and Cap are very good friends. This is especially interesting because of their different backgrounds. Thor and Steve share similar attitudes, it is true. They protect the innocent, fight for truth and justice (though Thor is a little more emphatic on the ‘fight’ part of that clause), they are each loyal to their values and friends, and they are both in positions of authority.

Where they diverge is that Thor, by his birthright, is heir to an entire realm. He could be a complete wimp (which he is NOT!), or a total fathead with an ego to rival Jupiter (which he almost was), and despite these flaws he would still be the rightful heir to the Asgardian throne.

Thor, however, has become humble enough to turn down his birthright, at least until such time as he cannot avoid taking it up. In contrast, Steve is a commoner. His parents were not rich or well-off by any stretch of the imagination, and he lived in very poor conditions – possibly even before the Great Depression.

Now, just for the sake of clarification, let me say that being a soldier is not the same thing as “following orders,” something Whedon had Cap say in The Avengers. A soldier is not a robot or a puppet, and his function is not to simply “follow orders.” If a soldier is stuck behind enemy lines, or is in some other way unable to get in touch with the guys in charge, then how can he “follow orders”?

Good soldiers are not reliant on orders a hundred percent of the time. They are trained to be true to a code of conduct, the center piece of which is usually patriotism (love of country), and the willingness to defend their fellow citizens against outside aggressors or – God forbid – internal threats.

Too many people today see soldiers as mere marionettes or war machines (sorry Rhodey). Not so. Soldiers are men trained to serve and protect at all costs – even that of their own lives. If you train soldiers to be machines that respond to commands instead of individuals with the brains to accomplish their missions when the situations they are in get worse every minute, then you do not have an army, navy, marine corps, etc. You have robots you can sacrifice at will.

Soldiers are human beings. And human beings are NOT robots.

Soldiers are the thin line of defense between regular civilians and the bad guys. They are asked to deal with horrible, terrifying situations no one should have to experience. But they respond to the call anyway, often without realizing that in doing so they are signing up to be expendable.

Even those who do realize they are agreeing to be “pieces in a game” (thanks, Peeta), will still sign up to be soldiers willingly. They sign the contract and agree to defend their otherwise defenseless fellow citizens. This is why soldiers, true soldiers, are loved by their nation. And this is why traitors are hated so bitterly, as much by the country they side with as the one they betray. A traitor is someone whose only interest is themselves and their own well being. Why should others trust and love them, when they trust and love no one except themselves? (Brutus or Benedict Arnold, anyone?)

The point of the discourse, readers, is that Cap and Thor are in reversed positions. Steve is a soldier; Thor is a prince. The age old order would state that Thor ought to be the man in charge. His is the birthright, and therefore the responsibility of leadership. Right?

In the opening sequences of Thor, the son of Odin would have agreed with that sentiment. But he has learned humility since then. Humility is not, as the popular notion would have us believe, a groveling or simpering attitude toward others. Nor is it excessive self-deprecation, i.e., a great chef may say that he is a simple cook to avoid getting a fat head. (And by saying this, the chef is getting a fat head; because he is making himself proud of his self-perceived humility.)

Real humility is what Thor has shown since he first appeared on the silver screen (in a good way) in 2011. He is a prince and a great warrior. But these things do not prevent him from making breakfast for his friends Erik Selvig, Jane Foster, and Darcy. His heritage does not prevent him from falling in love with a mortal woman, or admitting that he does not have all the answers. And his humility allows him to acknowledge that Cap is the better leader of the Avengers.

This all means that Thor, who already knew how to lead, has learned to follow. In the comics, Thor is reported to have said that not only is Steve the only mortal he will take orders from, but he will follow him to the “gates of Hades” if Steve is leading an attack on the place. (Guess who he would side with if he was in Civil War – and yeah, I know Thor’s clone was on Tony’s side in the comic book conflict. That just goes to show he was a FAKE!!!)

Cap and Thor’s friendship is not founded merely on a “you are better than me” mentality. It is based mostly on respect. Thor, along with anyone else who has half a brain, recognizes Cap’s moral authority over him and the rest of the team. For that reason he is quite amenable to Steve’s leadership and willingly defers to him. It is not about who has the better résumé or pedigree – it is about respect.

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis had similar friendships between Earth humans and alien humans. Jack O’Neill, leader of the four man SG-1 team, commanded the respect of the Jaffa member of the group: Teal’c. That was why Teal’c joined the SG program, let alone followed Jack’s orders. In Stargate: Atlantis, Colonel John Sheppard commanded the respect of the Satedan warrior and former Wraith runner Ronan – who was not known to respect too many people prior to joining the Atlantis crew! And in Ultron, Thor and Cap show the respect they have for each other through dialogue, tag team tactics, and small gestures of mutual esteem.

This brings us back to the hammer lifting competition Hawkeye began, doesn’t it? What does Thor think of Steve since the latter budged his hammer? It gave him a start, for sure! But if Thor could warm to Vision’s ability to lift Mjolnir, I do not see him grudging Steve use of the weapon.

Does this mean he would have been able to accept Steve lifting the hammer during the after party at the Tower? A debatable point …. perhaps. It was a competition, and Thor was being razzed pretty badly by Tony and (to a lesser degree) by Clint. If Steve had lifted the hammer and proved beyond anyone’s doubt that he was also worthy, Tony and the others would never have let Thor hear the end of it. So Thor would have been in a “bit of spot,” as the British like to say, if Cap had lifted the hammer at the party.

This is, as I have said before, the reason that Steve left the hammer on the table. He budged it. Just touching the hammer should have let him know that he could lift it – a slight tingle of power (unbelievable power, at that), racing up his arms, the hammer vibrating with anticipation, the movement as it shifted in response to his slight tug…. He could lift it. Mjolnir let him know he could.

But doing that would allow everyone present, already poking fun at Thor, to howl with triumph as Steve lifted Mjolnir. Poor Thor would be sitting there, stunned, as the jeers and catcalls flew in joyous exultation when it was proved that he was not the sole beneficiary of Mjolnir’s loyalty.

Steve was not going to do that to Thor. As much as Thor respects him, Steve admires the Prince of Asgard in a similar way. So instead of raising the hammer and giving Thor a “there-you-go” smile, Steve just shifted it. Not enough for everyone to see – but enough for Thor to notice, to remind his friend not to get a swelled head. “Being worthy is a neat trick,” Cap essentially said, “but the enchantment says ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall wield the power of Thor.’ It doesn’t say that you alone can wield it. Anyone who is worthy can use it. Even a kid from Brooklyn.” 😉

Then, to prove that he has no interest in using Thor’s toy, Steve lets it go, raises his hands in rejection, and walks away. Galadriel did something similar in The Fellowship of the Ring, except that she had to make a bigger point to Frodo. Anyone, even the mighty Galadriel, was susceptible to the One Ring’s incredible lure. But temptation can always be refused, as the Lady of Lothlorien refused it. In a similar way, Steve Rogers refused the temptation to take the “power of Thor” for himself.

With that subject ‘hammered’ to death, we will continue down the roster. It is interesting, as I noted in previous posts, that Thor would abandon the battle on Baron Strucker’s HYDRA base in Sokovia to bring the injured Clint Barton to the Aveng-jet. The last time we saw the two in The Avengers, they were arguing over who had first dibs on Loki’s carcass. And Thor still enjoys a good scrap, as all Asgardians do, so leaving in the middle of a fight for any reason is a notable decision of his.

In Ultron, Thor offers to take Clint back to the Aveng-jet for preliminary medical treatment. This is probably a nod to Thor’s original, secret alter ego in the first Marvel Comics: Dr. Don Blake. Thor’s secret identity in those stories as the lame American doctor of Scandinavian descent meant that he had extensive knowledge, as Thor or Blake, of medicine and healing. In other words, he was one hell of a doctor – even as the mighty Thor!

This made him invaluable in a life-or-death situation during the early comics, and the Avengers’ inability to reach Blake when Thor wasn’t present on Midgard often left the team scrambling to find a doctor at least half as capable as he was. It was rare that Thor/Blake had no idea how to help an injured Avenger, as shown in “Even Avengers Can Die!” for instance. (See the post on Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers for details on that comic book story – unless you hate spoilers, of course!)

You would think, readers, that when Hawkeye starts the hammer lifting competition in the Tower, Thor might have been inclined to verbally batter his irksome teammate. Conversely, Thor says, “Be my guest,” and gestures toward the hammer. This shows that he respects Clint – even when the latter is being something of a jerk – and is quite willing to humor him.

Thor also does not appear to be utterly bowled over by the revelation that Clint has a family. He seems a little surprised, perhaps, but also accepts Clint’s secret with more equanimity than Tony or Bruce. Cap is only a few seconds slower, as the revelation is a bit of a shock for him and hits him in the wounds Wanda reopened in the African boneyard.

Thor’s “easy” acceptance of Clint’s secret family may be due in part to the fact that his mind is primarily occupied with the vision Wanda showed him in South Africa. Although, considering the frown he shot at the billionaire genius when the other said, “This is an agent of some kind,” about Hawkeye’s wife, this may be a wrong assessment. Thor is much more polite and courteous than Tony ever has been in the film franchise. That would be the reason he shot Tony a “don’t be rude” look for smarting off in front of – and about – their mutual friend’s wife.

On a lighter note, it is funny to see Thor step on Lila Barton’s LEGOs, then try to hide the damage under the table. It seems Thor has finally met a girl who is unimpressed with him. Lila is not happy that her dad’s friend just broke her toy, and it is obvious Thor retreats an inch or two when Lila glares up at him. He is a mighty warrior, but how exactly does one apologize to a friend’s young daughter for accidentally breaking a toy one did not see? They do not really cover that in etiquette classes – Asgard’s or Midgard’s etiquette classes – and that makes Thor’s retreat a hundred percent understandable.

From what I know, Thor and Hawkeye have never truly been at odds with each other in the comics. Oh, I am sure they have argued – and if Clint never took verbal potshots at the Thunderer in the comics, then he was either very sick or unconscious. Clint will shoot his mouth off to anyone, friend or foe, no matter how powerful they are!

Despite this, Hawkeye and Thor are shown to have a fairly strong friendship in Ultron. Though he does not understand why Thor would help bring Vision to life in the Tower, Clint seems willing to believe that Thor would not activate the new being just for kicks. He is more dubious of Wanda’s opinions, but she can manipulate minds, as we know. She brought down the whole team, and Clint’s been on the inside of a “mind control thing.” That kind of thing leaves one naturally wary of trusting a person capable of messing with other people’s brains.

Still, this wariness was directed toward the Maximoff girl. If he had had the time, Clint might have asked Thor point blank, his expression somewhat perplexed: “Just what are you doing here, exactly? First you plan to choke the life out of Stark for building Ultron, then you turn around and help bring this new android of his and Ultron’s to life? There really should be a point to all of this.”

And Thor probably would have responded by shrugging in a “yeah, I know, but listen” manner and gone on with the explanation he gave in the film.

Thor and Clint’s friendship is not built on the same kind of respect that is the base of the son of Odin’s allegiance to Cap. Hawkeye and Thor are not peers; they have very little in common with regard to their backgrounds or skills. But Clint does respect the Prince of Asgard – and not because of his rank. He has a high opinion of Thor’s dedication to protecting the Earth, as well as his humility. You have to have some respect for a guy who is willing to abandon a battle midway through for your sake, readers. It is rather ungrateful if you do not, first and foremost; more to the point, it is stupid not to appreciate the gesture.

It is possible that Thor respects Clint precisely for his penchant for throwing jibes that are aimed as well as his arrows. Clint is a complete mortal – he has none of his teammates’ assets. Yet he still faces everything they fight against without complaining, even when he is injured. It is hard not to admire a guy who will take a pounding and pick himself up afterward to keep on fighting. Clint is not an incautious man. Thor learned that when he found out the archer had a family. But he is a brave man and Thor, like all Asgardians, holds courage in more esteem than any other characteristic.

Plus, it helps to have someone who is willing to say, “You’re getting a fat head, pal,” without showing fear of the possible repercussions. As Thor learned when Cap budged the hammer, Clint was partially right: the enchantment was not a trick, but the prince of Asgard was getting cocky and sliding toward old, bad habits. Clint probably knew deep down that he did not have a prayer of being able to lift or move Mjolnir. But he figured someone on the team did, and whether or not he suspected that person would be Cap, Thor still learned that he was not the only Avenger capable of lifting the hammer.

This was slammed home to him especially when Vision handed him the hammer Steve had so ceremoniously refused to lift a couple of days earlier. Thor is shown talking to the android on the balcony not long after this, while the team is gearing up for the showdown with Ultron.

We have no idea what they are speaking about, but Thor is arguably the one Avenger capable of outmatching Vision’s power. He also knows that Vision has just been “born.” Ultron went berserk after he was “born,” and that was despite J.A.R.V.I.S.’s best efforts to calm him down! Thor does not want Vision to follow the same path, so it would make sense that he would take special care to talk to Vision, making sure he had not just helped Tony Stark compound his first mistake.

Another mark of Thor’s growing friendship with Vision is the chat they have in the church in Novi Grad. Finally, Thor gets to talk about Mjolnir with someone who knows the weapon almost as well as he himself does! Cap, after all, never actually lifted the hammer. He knows it is powerful, but he does not know how “terribly well-balanced” it is or how to “avoid losing power on the swing,” and so on. Thor, not necessarily the most trusting Avenger, shows a great deal of faith in the Vision when he tells Cap and Tony not to worry about the android keeping the Mind Stone. It remains to be seen if he is right not to worry, of course, but it is quite the gesture on Thor’s part.

Thor’s relationship with Natasha and Bruce is not easy to determine right off the bat. Obviously, Widow should not have asked the Thunderer for a report on the Hulk’s job at the Sokovian HYDRA base. (Seriously, what did she expect?!?) Coming from a realm where it is still bad manners not to treat a woman like a lady, Thor certainly seems to hold Natasha in high regard as a friend and fellow warrior, to a lesser extent than he regards Sif. But the fact is that he’s known Sif longer than he has known Natasha. We know that Jane Foster holds his heart, but Thor appears to consider the Black Widow a good friend and capable teammate.

For her part, Natasha shows Thor a great deal of deference. She does not accept the challenge to lift Mjolnir, saying self-deprecatingly, “Oh, no. That’s not a question I need answered.” What she was saying, of course, is that she knew she was not worthy. She had nothing to prove in the competition and nothing to lose by avoiding it. That about sums up her friendship with Thor right there.

As for Bruce, I do not think Thor was very angry at him for helping to build Ultron. Most of his ire was directed at Tony, since he was the mastermind behind the plan. Besides, Bruce admitted that he had been wrong to help build Ultron. Instead of apologizing for building a “murder bot,” Tony defended his actions. Since Tony can talk almost anyone into doing practically anything, for that reason, Thor probably decided to let Bruce slide.

Considering the fact that Thor tried very hard to walk back what he thought was a compliment on the Hulk’s performance at Strucker’s base, it is reasonable to assume he is sympathetic to Bruce’s issues. He makes it clear that he respects the Hulk for the other’s strength. But he also respects Bruce for the strength it takes to control the “Beast.”

Thor’s friendship with Tony is somewhat rocky in this film. It was never the greatest to start with – which is Tony’s fault. Who went and knocked the Prince of Asgard off a cliff again? Oh, yeah: Tony Stark, the self-described “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Tony, as a Marvel fan, I have something to tell you. You are brilliant – unequivocally so. But you ain’t that bright!

Now, Tony and Thor actually have a lot in common. They were both “born to the purple,” and – for a certain amount of time – they were both idiots. No, Thor never sank to Tony’s lows, but he was still a monumental egotist.

The point where they diverge is in their separate reactions to their past sins. Tony has reacted by feeling guilty and trying to make up for the wrongs that he committed in the past. This has led to him making successively worse mistakes in his present. Thor, on the other hand, reacted by finding and then walking the straight and narrow road. Where Tony refuses to take correction when he makes a mistake, Thor is quite willing to listen when Cap, Hawkeye, or one of the others says, “Time to make a course correction, big guy. You’re slipping again.”

It might be that this is one of the reasons why Thor is so ticked with Tony for building Ultron. Making up for past mistakes is not possible. You can say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” but then you have to live with the other person’s response and the consequences of your mistake. You cannot get even for the past, as a friend of mine says. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery,” as Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda said. Tony is too busy feeling the weight of his past while fearing and peering into the future to see beyond the end of his own nose. Thor, on the other hand, knows the next half of Oogway’s admonition, “…today is a gift! That is why it is called the present!” and he therefore lives accordingly.

The reason Thor “doesn’t get” why Earth “needs” Ultron is because he understood that Ultron was not necessary. Earth had him and the Avengers as its champions. And if they fell, others would rise. Thor clearly has a great amount of faith in the human or ‘mortal’ race. Tony does not, and furthermore, he will not admit that. He tried to justify building Ultron, essentially disrespecting himself and all of humanity with the statement that Earth “needed” Ultron for protection from outside aggressors. That really got under Thor’s skin and made him angry.

Now unlike Tony, Thor did get a glimpse of future events when Wanda messed with his mind. He knows that the dancing of dead Asgardians in Hel was probably an illusion – but there was truth mixed in with the fantasy. That is what he goes to find when he searches out Eric Selvig and the “water of sight” after leaving the Barton farm.

But does this mean that Thor’s vision in the dream well changed his attitude toward Iron Man? After all, he helped activate the Vision.

No, I do not think Thor’s faith in humanity has been shaken just yet – if it ever will be. Thor understands that his vision was not a prophecy of destruction but a warning. He knows the future is not written in stone, that these “shadows” need “not remain unaltered.” Somewhere down the line, one simple act of kindness or goodness can upend an evil plan like that. (*Author snaps fingers.*) Thor realizes that his vision was a notice that he and his friends were being used. Through his dream he learned that things are about to get much, much harder. And they are going to get hard very fast.

This again highlights the differences in Thor and Tony’s reactions to past sins. Thor’s response to his vision was different from Tony’s reaction to his hallucination. He did not act in fear; he looked for answers. And when he found those answers, he pursued a specific course of action to prepare for the battle he knows is building somewhere on the horizon.

Thor realizes in the dream well that the Infinity Stones have something to do with the coming storm. Knowing what he does about the Infinity Stones, Thor recognizes that they have to be guarded. Locking them up in the basement on Asgard or the core of a dead, dark world are not good enough precautionary measures. These powerful rocks have an ungraciously bad habit of being discovered by the wrong people and then being used for destruction.

The Stones have to be hidden, yes, but they also have to be kept separate. And they need to be protected. This is why the Tesseract is in Odin’s basement, the Collector was given the Aether, the Nova Corps is keeping the Power Stone… and this is why Thor helped bring Vision to life. The Infinity Stones are powerful enough to wipe out and then remake the universe a number of times over when used together, according to Marvel lore. They cannot be entrusted to just anyone. (This, naturally, makes one wonder why Sif and Volstagg gave the Aether to the Collector. Whatever Loki has up his sleeve, it is going to be nasty.)

Thor saw Vision in his…vision. And he saw him as an ally. Learning about Tony’s latest science project, he recognized the android from his vision and helped bring the creature to life.

This is why he spends so much time with Vision prior to the battle in Sokovia. Thor wants to make sure that this new being understands the universe around him, his place in it, and the very important job Thor is entrusting to him. He is handing Vision the job of watching over his friends while he leaves to take care of other business. Essentially, he is entrusting the keys to his treasure vault (Earth and the Avengers), to a totally new being with zero experience. He does not want to hand that responsibility off to just anybody. Whoever he entrusts the Avengers to has to be of good character and a worthy person. Lifting Mjolnir kind of gave Vision the bulk of the necessary “street cred,” as it were.

But it was not enough. Thor trusts his hammer, but he also wants to interview the candidate. That is what I think he did at the Tower, in the church, and before he left Midgard. His questions, hurried as they may have been, were answered to his satisfaction nonetheless. This is the reason he tells Cap and Tony not to worry about the Vision. “He can lift the hammer, he can wield the Stone. It is safe with the Vision.”

Tony is not willing to do that sort of thing. Instead of relying on his friends, he tries to “control what won’t be,” to quote the Vision. Thor learned long ago that this is stupidity of the highest order. While he eventually mellows toward Tony again – perhaps remembering that, in the past, he was as capable as Tony of making similar, or worse, mistakes – he learned and changed. Maybe, just maybe, Thor hopes, Tony will learn, too.

Then the more impatient part of him adds, He’d better learn it soon, or I AM going to hit him this time around.

Well, readers, this is not the glowing report I was planning to write about Thor’s part in Age of Ultron, wandering off topic as I did. But Thor is not easy for me to write about. I enjoy him, but not as much as other characters. It is hard for me to get inside his head after a point.

Hopefully this article was still illuminating to some degree. I really did like Thor’s portrayal in Age of Ultron, and this post is my first post talking about him. So, without further ado, readers…

For Asgard (and Midgard)!!!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers

Come on, readers – you knew it had to happen at some point! I am a Marvel fan. Of course I would get around to acquiring a Marvel book!

Actually, I have several. 🙂 The particular book which I am describing here, Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers, is one of my favorites. Marvel Masterworks are books which contain a certain number of original comic book stories within them. And in this case when I say original, I mean original! Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers contains ten stories – issues 11 through 20 – of the Avengers’ first adventures from 1964-65.

WARNING: MAJOR spoilers ahead!!! Read on at your own risk!

Inside this volume, true believers, you will find – Captain America! The Invincible Armored Iron Man! The Mighty Thor! Ant-Man and the Wasp! All in their original costumes and settings, with the quirky tools and fantastic adventures that could only be dreamed up by Stan Lee and his friends during the early 1960s!

Yeah, I just borrowed Stan Lee’s introductory style of the time. So what? 🙂

Okay, so the first story is issue eleven of the Avengers, or The Avengers #11, December 1964: “The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man!” A sinister enemy watches the team from the far future. Kang the Conqueror, still smarting from his last defeat at the hands of the Avengers, is determined to have his revenge. But how shall he get it?!

Painstakingly, he searches the past for someone – anyone – who would be powerful enough to defeat our heroes. Finding such a person, he makes a robot duplicate and sends it back in time to fight the Avengers who have to deal with the confusing situation of a nefarious duplicate of the good guy they know. Who is the robot a duplicate of, you ask? None other than our friendly neighborhood webslinger, Spider-Man!

The next story is “This Hostage Earth!”, and we see on the first page that Ant-Man is greatly agitated. His ants are telling him that someone below ground is trying to destroy the Earth! However, none of the other Avengers take his warning seriously. He is upset because the ants are telling him something is wrong?! How silly!

Even Wasp and Cap do not listen to Hank. In an angry huff, Ant-Man shrinks down to investigate the matter himself –

And finds Mole Man has a created a machine which will induce tremors on the Earth’s surface. If the governments above do not heed his demands, Mole Man will make the surface world uninhabitable!

Next ish (ish is short for issue, non-comic readers 😉 ), we find our heroes lured into a trap by Count Nefaria. The villainous count is more than a little miffed that the team has been ruining his Maggia operations stateside. As part of the plan, Nefaria frames the Avengers as power-hungry tyrants who want to take control of the world! The team manages to stop him and clear their names but, in the process, Wasp is injured and left on the brink of death!

In “Even Avengers Can Die!”, the team races against time to find the one doctor on Earth who can save their only female teammate. They are truly desperate; even the Mighty Thor. This is because even his mortal alter ego, Dr. Don Blake, magnificent physician that he is, does not have the expertise to save her!

Then, in issue #15, Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil – the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Melter, and the Black Knight – spring a trap on the team. Kidnapping Rick Jones, Zemo lures Captain America to his South American base while the rest of the Avengers remain behind to fight the Masters. Then, in “The Old Order Changeth!”, Cap and Rick Jones work their way back to the States. In the meantime, Thor goes back to Asgard for a “Trial of the Gods.” After he leaves, Iron Man, Wasp, and Giant-Man realize they are plum tuckered out. They need a break from Avenging or they will be wrecks by the end of the year!

So they call for new heroes to step up and take their places on the team. Many apply but only three are chosen: Hawkeye, a former enemy of Iron Man, is chosen to join the team. Not long after, twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff are accepted as members of the team. Once enemies of the X-Men, the siblings known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch now seek redemption as part of the Mighty Avengers!

In “Four Against The Minotaur!” Cap and his new teammates head out to the desert to find the Hulk in an attempt to build up their strength. Cap learns some of the limits and characteristics of his new recruits along the way. He has little trouble managing the twins but finds Hawkeye mouthy and as hard to control as an unbroken bronco. Despite this, Cap feels Hawkeye will make a splendid Avenger – once his rough edges are smoothed over! Meanwhile, in a separate part of the desert, Bruce Banner appears to die after a fight with the Leader.

The next ish shows us the fictional communist country of Sin-Cong, which is run by a ruthless Commissar. In a plot to show how strong the Commissar is, the Communists lure the Avengers to Sin-Cong for a “demonstration.” Trying to get a job with SHIELD, Cap is eager to answer the call – as is the ever-belligerent Hawkeye. Soon the Avengers are fighting the Commissar. But all is not as it seems and when the “weakest” Avenger, Wanda Maximoff, goes up against him, the Commissar gets more than he bargained for!

The last two issues in the book introduce us to the Swordsman, Hawkeye’s former mentor. Arriving one day at Tony Stark’s mansion – which is on loan to the Avengers – the Swordsman is greeted, ah, “warmly” by the Maximoff twins. The man escapes after a furious Cap reveals the Swordsman is wanted in a number of countries for theft!

But Cap has something else on his mind, too. He has applied to SHIELD, but Fury has not yet answered his letter, and he does not understand why. What Cap does not know is that his letter is on a desk in a decoy office Fury set up for HYDRA to watch. The director of SHIELD has not even laid his eye on the letter! (How it ended up in the decoy office is another mystery, readers!!!!)

Sadly, the note makes its way to the Swordsman, who uses it to trap Steve. Things get hairy when Cap’s three young friends track the two down, but the New Avengers are equal to the task and the Swordsman’s plot is foiled. Then the Mandarin takes a hand in the matter, and manages to get the thief accepted by the Avengers through some masterful trickery. But the Swordsman is only there to plant a bomb in their headquarters, to be detonated remotely by the Mandarin when Iron Man (the Mandarin’s arch-enemy) returns to the team!

However, the Mandarin eventually decides he is tired of waiting and tells the Swordsman he will be activating the bomb ahead of schedule. The scoundrel has to make a choice: leave the Avengers to die, or save them – even if doing so incurs the wrath of the deadly Mandarin!

I would say that issues 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 20 are my favorite stories in this book. All the comics in this book are, to those of us born in this late age, rather kooky and silly at first, second, and even third glance.

Perhaps that is not a bad thing, and I do not think I should cast aspersions on the past. If anything, this difference in eras shows not only how far we have come (or fallen, as the case may be), but how much our current storytelling in Marvel Comics has declined. Sure, we can tell great stories without resorting to fancy “image projectors” or suspended animation tricks and such things as we find in these stories…

But the modern stories in Marvel Comics lack the cheerfulness, flair, and optimism which characterize the company’s older stories in copious, startling amounts. The old stories are positive, chipper, and see the future as a bright road leading to a better tomorrow. The new stories – not so much.

As a last note, one of the things about “Even Avengers Can Die!” that I love is on the end page. There, the Watcher comments that many men have prayed for the Wasp’s recovery, adding that “the power of prayer is still the greatest ever known” in the universe. And the end caption for the last panel on the page in this issue adds, “Let us now leave the Avengers! Strong men should not be seen with tears in their eyes! Nor should they be disturbed as they lift their faces heavenward, in solemn, grateful thanksgiving!

I really, REALLY miss those kinds of statements – not only in our modern comics, but in all our current stories. This is what makes “Even Avengers Can Die!” one of my favorite original comics in the book.

Readers, if you someday decide it is worth a look, I hope you enjoy this volume of original comics as much as I do. And if you are totally uninterested not only in this book but in Marvel Comics in general, well, I hope you found at least a little happiness and sunlight in this post. That will satisfy me as much as anything else would.

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian