Tag Archives: Ultimate Marvel Comics

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:

Image result for generations marvel pic

“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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Avengers: Age of Ultron – Hawkeye/Clint Barton

Here we go again, readers. I am back in the world of Marvel movies, thanks in no small part to seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters after a four month waiting period. And, yes, as you can see by the title, this post is about the only normal human in the Avengers: Hawkeye a.k.a. Clint Barton. So what? He is one of my favorite Marvel characters. I could no more forget him than I could let go of Captain America, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, or any other character I like.

Now strap in, sit tight, and hold the eye-rolls for after you have read the fan-rant written by this truly wicked blogger! 🙂

Hawkeye

Hawkeye has a whole lot more to do in Age of Ultron, and as a fan of this character, I thought it was great to see more of him this time around! I was really impressed by how much he got to do in Ultron, as opposed to The Avengers. Whedon handled Hawkeye well in both films, but had to write the World’s Greatest Marksman a fairly small part in The Avengers. Otherwise, he would not have been able to properly introduce the audience to the Avengers as a team coalescing under pressure.

This is not the case in Ultron. Hawkeye gets a lot more screen time and many more opportunities to show off, such as the time he hits a dart board dead center, when Tony has been plying the thing for a few minutes and only hitting the inner ring. The glare Tony throws him and the “what do you expect?” shrug Hawkeye returns is wonderfully true to form – for both characters.

Another scene where he gets to show off is in the Avengers’ first battle with Ultron. When Cap needs his shield, it is Hawkeye who sends the vibranium “Frisbee” flying toward America’s ultimate superhero, who catches it and uses it to cut an Iron Legionnaire in half.

For those of you who have not read Hawkeye’s profile or followed the Avenger for a long time in the comics, in Marvel’s “mainstream” comics, Clint Barton did time as Captain America after Steve Rogers’ “death” in the Civil War story arc. He was in the role for a few days, tops, before deciding that he did not like “replacing” Steve Rogers. But the reason Iron Man handed him the First Avenger’s uniform and shield is because Clint Barton is one of the very few people on the planet who can handle the shield the same way that Steve Rogers does.

This is not simply because Cap trained him after he joined the team. Doubtless, that training helped, but Hawkeye is skilled in throwing things accurately as well as in shooting precisely. When he throws an item, he often throws it in such a way that it ricochets/rebounds to hit his real target. Thus, he could throw a baseball at someone, who manages to dodge the ball, thinking they have outsmarted Hawkeye. Except that the ball hits a wall or some other object behind them, and rebounds to strike them in the head, knocking them out. Cap’s shield works on a similar principle in battle, which is why Clint can handle it at all.

Hawkeye practices all the time to keep his accuracy this exact, and seeing him toss Steve the shield was an unexpected treat and a half for me! I would like to see him actually use the shield for a couple of throws in Captain America: Civil War, but we will have to wait and see what happens there.

And did I mention that he gets to do some fancy flying in this movie? Clint is a great pilot, and watching him swing the Aveng-jet around in complicated, dizzying maneuvers was fun! As opposed to the scene where his quinjet is shot down in The Avengers, in Age of Ultron we get to see him display his true piloting skills.

Also, remember how Clint flew the quinjet while Natasha shot at Loki using the plane’s mini-gun in The Avengers? Well, in the battle against HYDRA at the beginning of Age of Ultron, this scenario is properly up-ended. Natasha is driving a jeep toward the HYDRA base the team has set out to destroy, while Clint gets to do what he does best: shoot down everything that gets in the jeep’s way.

Perfect! 😀

Now, no fan-rant about Hawkeye’s part in Ultron would be complete if it did not mention his family. If you check out Prognostications for Age of Ultron, Part 4 on this blog and make it all the way to prognostication number six, then you will see that I openly suspected the house in the teaser scene where Cap and Tony were chopping wood was Hawkeye’s house.

Beneath that are a number of theories about what is in the house, and I would never, ever, have believed that the second hypothesis would pan out. I had no idea whatsoever that Whedon would add Hawkeye’s family from the Ultimate comics to the film. And if you had told me at the time that that supposition would come true, I would have said something like, “Yeah, I wish.”

So when a friend told me that Hawkeye had a family in the film, I was flabbergasted, but not in a bad way. I have always thought he would be a good father and husband. When I learned that he is both in the film, I was even more eager to see the movie.

The hints given in the movie about the Barton family’s existence are good, too. When getting treated for an injury sustained while fighting HYDRA, Hawkeye jokes about being made of plastic. Dr. Cho corrects him and says his own girlfriend will not be able to tell where he was hit when she is done with him. Hawkeye quickly mutters, “I don’t have a girlfriend.” But he does not look anyone in the face when he says it, instead gazing at the wall.

Later on, Cap catches Clint on the phone with someone. He says the team has a lead, then asks who Clint was talking to on the phone. It takes Clint a total of five seconds to come up with a suitably evasive but partly true answer. “My girlfriend,” he says quickly. Cap does a double-take, knowing that Clint has professed to not have a girlfriend in the past. For his part, Clint does not seem to enjoy the fib he has just fed Cap. He will not look him directly in the eye and it took him too long to formulate an answer.

Speaking of which, has anyone else ever noticed that Clint seems to have a problem with lying to his teammates? Telling them an outright lie seems to be pretty hard for him. I guess he could flatly lie to HYDRA or some other bad guy if he wanted to, but he seems to be very bad at even fibbing to the Avengers.

Now, because of some early, scathing comments about Age of Ultron, I was worried that I would not like Hawkeye’s wife, Laura. Turns out, I actually think she was really impressive. The comments on the Internet made her sound like an airhead, but that is not the way that she struck me at all. Her husband goes up against modern day Nazis, aliens, robots, and the occasional arms dealer, not to mention brings the rest of the Avengers home without so much as calling ahead, and she takes it all in stride. She supports him all the way around and has his back. That was more than those comments on the Internet led me to believe, I can tell you!

On top of that, it was nice to see Hawkeye showing his softer side when dealing with his children. As I said above, I have often thought he would make a great dad, and seeing him in the role was fan-tastic. If anything, it was the icing on the cake! I can see why Whedon had fun writing for Hawkeye in this movie. I would have had fun writing for him – here or in other stories/mediums!

Interestingly, the family Clint has in the film is not the same as the family he has in the Ultimate comics. Laura is his wife in both mediums, but in the Ultimate comics he has two sons and a younger daughter. The Barton children’s names also do not match their names from the comics. Callum was the oldest Barton boy in the Ultimate comics, and Nicole was his daughter’s name. In the movie, Clint’s oldest son is named Cooper, his second child is a daughter named Lila, and his youngest is Nathaniel Pietro Barton.

I do not know what possessed Whedon to change Clint’s family line up for Age of Ultron, but I am hardly complaining. It is possible that he rearranged the Barton children’s line-up so that they would have a better shot at surviving in the films, as Clint’s wife and children were all killed in the Ultimate comics. I thought the Barton family was just fine in Age of Ultron, and I have my fingers crossed that we get to see them all again – hopefully not as casualties of War or any other subsequent Marvel movie conflict!

Speaking of Whedon, it bears mentioning that the scenes at Hawkeye’s farm were very nearly cut from Age of Ultron. Whedon told Marvel Studios’ executives that he wanted to expand Thor’s vision in the dream well.  They said he could if he cut the “farm scene.”

Whedon told the Marvel Studios executives that he did not want to cut the “farm scene.” The Marvel Execs insisted that if Whedon wanted to expand Thor’s vision, he would have to cut the “farm scene.”  Whedon would not budge, though, and things apparently got nasty.  So Whedon cut a good part of Thor’s visit to the dream well out of the film.

I would guess that this may be one of the reasons he has removed himself from Marvel Studios (however temporary it may prove to be), aside from the fact that he was directing a great deal more people in this movie than he ever has previously.

I admit, I am going to miss having Joss Whedon behind the Avengers’ films – although it may mean that fewer Avengers are killed off in later movies! 🙂 In all honesty, though, without Whedon helming or having input on the Avengers’ films, I fear we may not have Hawkeye’s family in the movies for very much longer.

And if that happens, I am going to be VERY angry at Marvel Studios’ executives. They may lose a viewer for their films if they decide to make good on the argument they had with Whedon over adding Hawkeye’s family to the movie.

 

Something else I thought was great, and I have touched on this before, is the relationship between Clint and the Maximoff twins. You can find more about that in the post Avengers: Age of Ultron – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, at least as it relates to the twins themselves. As it relates to Hawkeye, I thought it showed a lot about him.

Clint does not like the twins, really and truly, until the final battle against Ultron in Nova Grad, Sokovia. There, he gets the chance to give Wanda a great pep talk. And, even though it occurs when Pietro dies, he settles for a genuine respect for the male Maximoff twin.

If anything, the reason he warmed up to the two might be due to the fact that he himself has children. And the Maximoffs are still children. They have been since their parents’ deaths; they know how to take care of themselves, but their understanding of the world around them is badly skewed due to a lack of genuine parental guidance.

When Wanda started to fall apart, I think Clint sensed how young she was, mentally, more than he had before. So he responded to her in almost – almost – the same way that he would if it was his own daughter losing herself to panic. Plus, he has been in her shoes in the past. Loki mind-controlled him into being part of his “take over the world” scheme. He knows how being used as a part in something that evil feels, and so when Wanda started down the “this is all my fault” path, he stopped her before she had a chance to become a whimpering wreck. Way to go, Hawkeye!

I think Clint may have seen a little of himself in Pietro as well. The brash, abrasive manner Quicksilver demonstrates throughout the movie is similar to Clint’s own scrappy attitude. Not to mention the two both have a tendency to come up with witty wisecracks and quips in moments of calm as well as battle. And they have been good friends in the comics for a very long time.

Of course, Clint’s friendship with Natasha is better shown in this movie than it has been previously. The two dig at each other good-naturedly and show more of their battle brother-sister habits throughout the movie. This is clearly proved when it is shown that Natasha alone, out of all the Avengers, is the person Clint trusted with the knowledge of his family. He has also apparently prepared everyone in his family to meet his team in case he ever had to bring the Avengers home one day. Why else would they all be so calm about meeting four superheroes – Bruce Banner, Thor, Captain America, and Tony Stark – who otherwise would have startled and frightened most other children and wives?

It is additionally demonstrated that Clint gets along well with the two “science brothers” on the team. I cannot recall anything extremely specific with regard to Banner, but the friendly taunts and jibes Clint and Tony exchange show they have gotten to know each other fairly well, and they have come to trust each other a lot since they started working together.

Thor tends to get “poked” by Clint more than the others, it seems. I am guessing this is because of Clint’s taunt about Mjolnir’s worthiness enchantment. Since Thor is the only alien they have on the team, he is open to a lot of teasing. He has become more familiar with Earth’s cultures since he came to Midgard, but in some ways Cap has had less trouble assimilating to the 21st century than Thor has.

Also, he is a prince, and he can fly. Clint is going to want to make sure Thor keeps his head out of the clouds even more than he watches Tony’s penchant for getting big headed. Still, since Thor was willing to abandon the battle at the HYDRA base halfway through to get Clint back to the Aveng-jet for preliminary medical treatment, and stayed with him while the others went on fighting, he does not seem to resent Clint’s ribbing much, if at all.

Captain America 

I was, I must say, most impressed by the friendship between Clint and Cap in the film. I was watching this in particular because I learned the World’s Greatest Marksman would be siding with Captain America in Civil War. And I was also studying it closely because, in the original “mainstream” comics, Clint and Steve had a tendency to butt heads on almost everything. Clint was Pietro’s age when he first joined the team in the comics and because of that he occasionally felt that he would be a better leader for the Avengers than Cap was.

Well, obviously, this is not the case in the movies. Clint is much more mature in the films, and his friendship with Steve shows that. Mostly it is in little scenes. His saying, “C’mon, Cap!” when Steve goes to pick up Mjolnir was hint number one. When he watched Tony try the hammer, his manner was more sarcastic and disbelieving. He had an idea that Tony would not be able to lift the hammer, and Tony’s declaration that physics would help him do so did not increase Clint’s confidence in him a whit.

But when he encourages Cap, he sounds more convinced. It is as if, were the team to be placing bets on which one of them could lift Mjolnir, he would put his money on Steve. Cap does not lift the hammer, however; probably to avoid embarrassing Thor at what is supposed to be his going-away party. So it is a good thing no one put money on anybody else, because otherwise they would all have lost.

Hint number two is the fact that it takes Clint five seconds to decide to lie to Cap about the call he was caught making to his wife. He has been keeping the secret for so long that telling even Cap about it is a daunting idea. Cap does not like it when things are kept from him, though Clint’s keeping his family under wraps is more sensible than all the secrets SHIELD was hiding from Steve. I think Cap was more than willing to let Clint slide on that one.

But Clint still did not like lying to him. It was written all over his face. And he knew that Cap had realized there was a disconnect between this explanation he had just given and his earlier declarations of not having a girlfriend. But telling Cap about his family in the Tower, when Ultron is all over the Internet and in the surveillance systems, not to mention in every other computer system on the planet, is not a good idea. So, sensibly, Clint told Cap as much of the truth as he safely could.

The third hint comes in Seoul. Cap is hanging off the back door of a truck trailer when he says that he is going after Ultron. Interestingly, it is not Natasha who warns him how dangerous this plan is. Instead it is Clint who says, “You’re no match for him, Cap.”

“Thanks, Barton,” Cap mutters, being quite well aware of that fact himself.

The fourth hint is also in Seoul. Clint lost Natasha when he picked up the Cradle, and for a few seconds, we are once again looking at the original comics. Clint repeatedly asks Cap if he knows where Natasha is, and Cap continually orders him back to Avengers Tower. Then time and space re-converge and Clint does as he is told – though he hits the consoles in front of him to show his frustration and anger.

Last but not least, for all his seeming “impartiality” in the arguments among the Avengers, I was certainly under the impression that Clint was always silently siding with Cap, even when the First Avenger brought the twins to the Tower. Though he says that Wanda’s seal of approval on the Vision will mean nothing to him, his statement is directed toward her, not Steve. Cap’s decision he will follow, but not hers – yet.

I was glad to see that Clint and Steve got along so well in the film. I had been hoping they would, since they have become better friends over time in the comics. They are a lot alike, though getting Clint to admit that takes some serious work.

They are cut from similar cloth and almost always fight on the same side. I do not know for sure, but I do not think they have ever come to blows in the same manner and spirit that Steve and Tony went after each other in Civil War. No matter how angry they have become with each other in the past, they have remained great friends. If anything, their arguments actually appear to strengthen their friendship instead of tearing it down!

Considering how well Clint got off in Age of Ultron, I am hoping he does as well in Captain America: Civil War. If he does better, then you will again be reading a glowing fan-rant about him on this blog, readers. You can put money on that! So, until I write again –

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch

So I saw Age of Ultron not too long ago, and I did a post about it. But I did not make mention of two of the most intriguing characters in the film: twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, better known in some circles as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.

When was I going to get to the Maximoff twins? Well, now seems to be as good a time as any!

With everything else going on in the film, Whedon did not have a lot of time to squeeze Pietro and Wanda Maximoff into the story in such a way that everyone in the audience would get to know and like them on the spot. For those of us who did enjoy the characters, or who knew something about them from days past (X-Men reference! ;)), we saw, we knew, and we liked plenty!

First up: Pietro. Quicksilver is probably the character to get the shortest shrift in the film, after the Hulk, almost but not quite on par with how much screen time Hawkeye had in The Avengers. Most of the time he is running around so fast, you have to do what the Avengers are doing: “Where’d he go..? Oh, there he is.”

But what we do see of Quicksilver is very in-character. As shown in the movie, Pietro moves so fast that to him, bullets appear to be moving in slow motion. The nine millimeter bullet most commonly used and mentioned in TV shows and films travels at 1200 feet per second. That means this type of nine millimeter bullet will literally beat your hand to the door knob when you are standing next to the door and the person holding the gun is across the room.

But even this lightweight bullet is not faster than Quicksilver. Because he is so much faster than everyone and everything around him, Pietro has an impatient outlook on life. As an example, Pietro can race across town in a few seconds flat. Then he will have to wait fifteen or more minutes for the bus/train/tram/whatever Wanda is riding to catch up with him.

Now think about how hard it is for his opponents, who cannot see him to shoot him, to do battle of any kind with him. He is literally as fast, if not faster, than the wind. Put this all together and you have a kid with a cocky battle attitude wreathed with the impatience of a lightning bolt. He can be up, out, and gone in seconds.   Why can no one else just keep up? His impatience is spot on.

Wanda’s powers are also well rendered in the film. In the comics, her original power is probability manipulation. The probability of a new, well-built wall collapsing is something she can make happen with a little concentration and a gesture. Another post on this blog (which is frequently being read!), The Art of Probability Manipulation, goes into detail about the comic book Scarlet Witch.

In Age of Ultron, Wanda’s powers are described as telekinesis, hypnosis, and energy manipulation. In the film, she can telekinetically move or break things, and her hypnotic powers mean that she can make those she entrances see their worst fears or memories. She is telepathic/ empathetic, rendering her able to read the minds and emotions of those around her on some level. She can then use that reading to send those people into a trance, where they are temporarily trapped in a nightmare of their own fears/pasts, which she is privy to as well.

The twins’ strong sibling relationship is also well-demonstrated in the movie. Throughout the film, Pietro can be seen snatching Wanda up and running off with her in his arms. In the final battle, he does this to get her to the center of the city where she can use her powers most effectively. This is a tactic the two have been seen to utilize in the cartoons and probably in the comics as well.

The fact that they do not separate from each other until Wanda orders her older brother to help Cap and the others round up the last of the civilians and get them to safety is also true to form. The twins hardly ever separated from each other for any great length of time when they first arrived in the comics. Outside of recent TV shows like X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men, it is shown that the “brother-sister act” have always been close, as most twins are. It was nice to see them acting like they did toward each other in the original comics in this film.

As has been explained elsewhere, the Maximoff twins blame Tony Stark for the death of their parents. Because they hate Tony, the twins hate the Avengers, something made blatantly clear throughout the first half of the film. But once Wanda sees what Ultron really intends to do, the twins abandon him. Interestingly, before that happens, Wanda frees Dr. Helen Cho from Ultron’s control via the “glow stick of destiny” while in her lab where he is downloading himself into a new body. This proves that she does not simply want to run away from Ultron, she wants to stop him.

But it is only when it becomes clear that the Avengers need help to stop Ultron that Wanda truly chooses to get into the fight. Pietro naturally follows her into the battle, the way she followed him into their first skirmish with the Avengers at Strucker’s HYDRA base. (Again, this is in-character with their depiction in the comics; when one twin makes a choice the other follows him/her.) Once Cap assumes their help in stopping an out-of-control train in South Korea, making no mention or fuss of any kind about their previous allegiance to the mad robot, the twins come to see that they may have been wrong about the Avengers after all.

We do not know how the twins feel about everyone on the team, but it appears that Wanda warms up to Cap very quickly after helping him out in South Korea. This would be a nod back to the original comics as well; Wanda was fond of Cap from the moment she met him. In those comics, Hawkeye occasionally asked her if she had a crush on Cap, but Wanda never gave anyone a direct answer on that front.

If she did have a crush on Steve Rogers, she hid it well. But I think it more likely that she just admired him and felt safer having him as team leader more than anything else. Cap was often a father figure to her and the other, younger Avengers, as well as their team leader. Considering how long it was before she learned her real father’s identity, I think it may be safe to say that Wanda liked thinking of Cap as her “battle father.”

Another Avenger Wanda takes to fairly quickly in the movie is Hawkeye. In the “mainstream” comics, Hawkeye is roughly the same age as the twins, and they all joined the team at almost the same time. Hawkeye thought Wanda was gorgeous the minute he saw her and immediately tried to court her. But this did not pan out and he eventually settled for being one of her good friends instead.

That failed romance, though, is certainly not part of Age of Ultron. (Yay!) However their quick, strong friendship in this film is itself fairly surprising. Especially since Clint stuck an electrical stun arrow to her forehead to keep her from putting him in a trance earlier in the movie.

Though Clint clearly does not like her when he meets her again in Avengers Tower, in Nova Grad this changes dramatically. In the final battle, Wanda and Clint end up in the same street, fighting several dozen Ultroids as a team. When one of the droids prepares to explode, Hawkeye grabs Wanda and dives into the nearest building, getting them out of the way of the machine as it blows up and keeping them safe.

Wanda starts to become hysterical as the magnitude of what Ultron is doing – what she and her brother helped him to do, and the fact that she is in part responsible for his creation – comes crashing down on her like a ton of bricks. This is not what Hawkeye needs to deal with at the moment, and he does not spare Wanda, giving her one of the best pep talks I have ever heard.

Sometime after this, Wanda helps him out of a tight spot and the two destroy a group of Ultroids very quickly. Throughout the rest of the battle they not only continue their new teamwork dynamic; they begin working in better harmony with each other.

Later, when Wanda declares that she will guard the machine bringing half of Sokovia’s capital city skyward, Clint looks at her in surprise. “It’s my job,” she says, looking back at him. This is a reference to their earlier “chat,” where he told her that it was his “job” to help save the world – no matter how insane the situation became. By the end of the film, the two clearly have a good appreciation for each other. I will be interested in seeing where they go from here – though I am hoping the direction is a non-romantic one!

On the subject of Hawkeye’s relationship to the twins, while he and Wanda gain a mutual respect and understanding, it is a little different between him and Pietro. This is reasonable, since Quicksilver introduces himself to the archer by punching him at high speed and sending him flying. When Hawkeye prepares to fire an arrow after him, he is nicked by a shot from a HYDRA bunker and ends up having a lousy day.

This is not a good way to start a friendship. And it only gets worse when Hawkeye sticks his stun arrow to Wanda’s forehead to avoid getting mind controlled. While the Hawk is not in the habit of picking on women or girls, as he explains he is “not a fan” of mind manipulation, and he will do whatever he can to avoid having it happen to him again.

Pietro takes high offense whenever Wanda is hurt and is prone to angrily attack whoever harms his sister. He and the archer become rivals, and their enmity is based in part on their confidence in themselves. Hawkeye is confident in his shooting skills and his accuracy, while Pietro is secure in his speed. This would naturally lead to contention between the two, even if they started out as friends; they have often butted heads in the “mainstream” comics for this reason.

But there is another layer to the antagonism they direct at each other in the film. Hawkeye is not Pietro’s age, so his end of the challenge is not layered with that mindless, “I’m going to beat you because you beat me” juvenility. Pietro has power but little experience and skill. As Hawkeye says, he is a “punk.” His speed is a “big stick,” but he overuses and relies on it to get what he wants.

Their rivalry is instead edged with the antagonism some youths feel toward those with more experience; Quicksilver thinks his power makes him unstoppable. Hawkeye is confident in his skills, but he is not foolish enough to believe they make him utterly impervious to harm. He has experience getting hurt in a battle.

Pietro does not.

So when Cap returns to the Avengers’ Tower with the twins to pull the plug on Tony’s latest science project, Hawkeye seizes his chance to make this point to Pietro – not to mention get some well-earned payback for the speedster’s earlier attacks on him in the bargain. He shoots the glass floor under Pietro’s feet, dropping the boy through the hole and having him land on the floor in front of him. To make absolutely sure the kid cannot get away, he puts one foot on Pietro’s legs and asks, “What, you didn’t see that coming?”

The subtext of the message was, “Kid, I have been where you are and you are setting yourself up to get hurt. Get this and get it good: you’ve got power but that does not trump experience and common sense. You are behaving like a punk. Get over yourself, and yesterday.”

Pietro gets the message, loud and clear; Hawkeye is not useless because he uses a bow and arrow. And he (Pietro) had better realize that power does not make someone immune to all the unavoidable risks and fortunes of battle ‘normal’ mortals are subject to.

But, in the character of his confidence and impatience, Pietro does not admit as much. He still acts and talks tough. When Cap says they need help in the center of the floating portion of Nova Grad, Pietro zips in to the street where his sister and Hawkeye were previously fighting Ultroids. He picks Wanda up and runs off, adding over his shoulder, “Keep up, old man!”

Hawkeye seriously considers shooting the boy for this jibe. But in the end, he knows it will not work and puts his arrow away, muttering angrily. In my opinion, that was the closest he was going to come at the time to admitting that he thought Pietro was okay. The kid was annoying, but he had good in him.

Pietro proves how much good he has in him at the end of the battle. When Hawkeye goes back to pick up a Sokovian boy who got left behind, Ultron, flying the Aveng-jet, strafes the ground in a straight line toward him. Clint knows there is no time for him to move out of the way. He is tired, he has a child in his arms, and the air is getting thinner by the minute. The jet is coming toward him far too fast for him to get out of the way in time. Though it will do nothing, he does his best to shield the unconscious boy and waits for the bullets to hit them both.

Pietro sees the jet. He sees that his rival is doing his best to protect a little boy, and that there will be no protection from the incoming bullets. It takes him a split second to make his decision. He will die. Wanda will be left alone in the world. But his power was not meant to serve himself. It was meant to serve his people.

And Hawkeye, his rival, is doing his best to protect a Sokovian boy.

Blindingly fast, he covers the necessary distance and shoves Hawkeye and the boy he is protecting out of the line of fire of the jet’s mini-gun. To make the shove safe, Pietro had to have slowed down so that he did not hit Hawkeye at his highest velocity.

When Quicksilver runs at his higher or highest speed, he builds up force and momentum which he can use against his opponents. This is why he is able to send Hawkeye and Cap flying, and why he can smash the Ultroids to pieces. The force he collects as he runs is sent outward toward his target when he hits it. So Quicksilver shoving Hawkeye out of the mini-gun’s path at a dead run would have injured or killed Clint, and possibly the boy he was protecting.

Plus, as fast as he is, if Quicksilver runs into the path of a bullet, he is going to get hit. And his suit in this film is not designed to protect him from being shot or injured but to let him run as fast as he wants. Those conditions – combined with his need to stop in order to safely push Hawkeye out of the way – mean that he is the one shot and killed by Ultron. Hawkeye is nicked (again) but this time, Pietro was saving his life and a young boy’s. He was doing his utmost to help them both, not to hurt them.

I thought it was a really nice scene, since in it, Pietro proves he is more than a “punk.” He is a hero. Hawkeye realizes this at once. Kind of hard not to when Pietro’s last breath was used to say, “You didn’t see that coming?” He buried his hatchet right there. So did Hawkeye.

Having Cap carry Pietro to the waiting SHIELD shuttle was good, too. If Captain America shows such respect to a young, brash hero like Quicksilver, it is a sign that he thinks the kid is well worth the admiration. And having Hawkeye name his newborn son Nathaniel Pietro Barton was a real stroke of genius on Whedon’s part.

Despite the sadness of the scene, I still think it was a good one, in the same way that Kíli’s death in The Battle of the Five Armies was a good death. Pietro did well in Age of Ultron, and I have always thought he was an intriguing character. Perpetually impulsive, abrasive, and impatient, but intriguing nonetheless. I wish Quicksilver had lived through the film to be in later Avengers installments, but Whedon did not give him an ignominious send-off. He treated Pietro like a hero, and I tip my hat to him for that.

There is one other thing about Pietro’s death in the movie that deserves to be mentioned. Whedon is well-known for his penchant for killing off characters. He himself has said he does it “willy-nilly.”

However, the alternate ending for the film shows both twins, alive and well, as they join the new Avengers under Cap and Widow’s tutelage.  From what I have heard, Whedon made this ending as insurance; this way, if Disney did not want Quicksilver to die, he had a ready-made finale to Ultron which they would hopefully support. Disney approved Pietro’s death, obviously, and I can think of two reasons why Whedon chose to “get rid of” Pietro Maximoff at the end of the movie we saw in theaters.

First: apparently, in the Ultimate Marvel Comics (which I will never recommend to anyone), Wanda was killed when Ultron first appeared in the Ultimates’ universe. This left Pietro with a lot of anger issues. Instead of remaining a member of the Ultimates, he started running for the guys on the wrong side of the tracks. (Like I said, he gets angry when his sister is hurt, and he is much more aggressive than she is. Imagine how angry he would be if she died. His reaction would probably make Wanda killing Ultron look like a little girl’s temper tantrum!)

Whedon likes to reverse stereotypes and clichés, or completely turn them on their heads. He has to have read the Ultimate comics, because a lot of small things in the Avengers films relate to those comics: Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury; Iron Man’s attitude and the revelation of his identity to the world; Hawkeye’s suit and family, not to mention the twins’ initial allegiance to evil in Age of Ultron (Magneto had them working for him in the Ultimate comics before he was killed and they joined the Ultimates).

So Whedon had to know about Wanda’s death in those comics. And as I said, he likes to do the unexpected in these cases. Instead of killing off Wanda, as all those Marvel fans who have read the Ultimates’ stories expected he would, he knocked off Quicksilver.

Second: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the actor who plays Pietro Maximoff in the film, was very worried about signing on to play the character. He cited the fact that Marvel often has actors sign a contract to play a character in a series of movies instead of doing a one-and-done deal as the reason for his trepidation. Marvel’s modus operandi in this area is well established fact, as Chris Evans’ original contract still includes Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 and 2.

Sebastian Stan and Samuel L. Jackson are/were each contracted for nine films; Jackson recently had Marvel extend his contract so he can be in more Marvel movies. Hugo Weaving still has two more movies in his contract with Marvel, and Jeremy Renner was contracted for seven films, including a solo Hawkeye movie (which is still in writing limbo). Chris Hemsworth has three more movies in his contract and has stated that he would be quite happy to continue making Marvel movies for as long as he is physically able and as long as fans want more. (Bad thing to say, because when are we going to stop wanting more? We will always want more Marvel movies – as long as they are THIS good!) And Chris Evans recently extended his contract with Marvel so that he can be in five more films!

The only reason Aaron Taylor-Johnson signed on to play Pietro Maximoff in Age of Ultron was because Elizabeth Olsen signed up to play the Scarlet Witch. When she heard Johnson was worried about taking the part, she convinced him to be in the film. On her coaxing he did sign up. This is because, after they worked together on the latest Godzilla remake, he trusted her decision.

I do not know how many Marvel movies Johnson agreed to be in. As far as I know, he only agreed to Age of Ultron and would not sign up to be in more than one Marvel movie (at a time, anyway). So Whedon may have killed Quicksilver off in order that Johnson would have an easier way of getting out of his Marvel gig. Essentially, if Johnson did not want to be in Marvel’s Avengers films, Whedon knew he could fix the actor’s dilemma simply by killing off his character.

These are theories I have about why Pietro Maximoff does not survive Age of Ultron. I could be blowing smoke, of course, but they are the only theories I have which make any sense.

As a final note, I really enjoyed having the twins in the film. Johnson and Olsen did well as the Maximoff siblings and it is too bad Johnson did not sign on to be in more films. This does not mean that Marvel may not bring Pietro back into the Avengers movies somehow. It just means that we will have to wait and see what happens.

*Sigh…*

Anyone want to play tiddly winks while we wait?

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

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Spotlight: Avengers – Iron Man/Tony Stark

Pepper and Tony

“I am Iron Man.”

Wow. Tony Stark has come a long way since he spoke those words in his first film. That movie revealed a lot about Iron Man to me. As I have said elsewhere, I once thought this super hero was a robot. Watching Marvel’s Iron Man a few years after it came out, I made the mistake of saying aloud, “Wait. Iron Man is a guy in a metal suit? I thought he was a robot!”

A friend of mine, who was present when I saw the film, confirmed – with great incredulity at my ignorance – that Iron Man had always been the rich, debonair Tony Stark. This compadre had mentioned that fact before, but I had never really been interested in Iron Man and the explanations had not truly stuck, as they should have. This friend watched the movie through with me and, at the end, said there was only one problem with it. What problem was that?

The problem was Tony’s playboy tendency to mock everything and everyone. Minute to minute, he was making fun of someone or something. Sometimes, it was a just and right criticism. Other times…not so much.

The Iron Man my friend grew up with is, in many ways, better than the Iron Man of today. Do not misunderstand – my friend and I both enjoy watching Robert Downey Jr. play Tony Stark. He is wonderful in the role and puts everything he has into it, and in the first Iron Man film, Tony Stark was – apparently – well on his way to becoming a great hero.

But the original Tony Stark of the 1960s was not a rich, “hip” debauchee who belittled and mocked the world and the people around him. Nor did he look at the world through the same dark, broody lenses Batman uses (though Bruce Wayne uses those lenses for understandable reasons), and he could be genuinely funny. But he did not behave like a fool just for the sake of it. The 1960s era Tony Stark was the epitome of the wealthy gentleman. He was charming, well-mannered, kind, generous, respectful, well-spoken – a modern day knight in hi-tech armor. And if that were not enough, he was also a technological genius.

Here it might be worthwhile to remind you all of the ancient axiom: that while money may indeed talk, wealth need only whisper. The Ersatz Stark is rich, but the Real Tony Stark is wealthy. The Ersatz Stark is “filthy rich” with an egotism and narcissism that demands commensurate notice. The Real Tony Stark is wealthy in so many ways that he needs neither fanfare nor self-congratulation.

Stan Lee has admitted that he based Tony Stark on American inventor Howard Hughes (something my friend deduced without any help). This is where the name of Tony Stark’s father – Howard – came from, and is something the FBI would call a clue. Like Howard Stark, Howard Hughes was contracted to work for the American military during World War II. He manufactured airplanes for them. He also made oil-well tools, and was an aerospace manufacturer (he built satellites). He was an accomplished pilot, and he often flew the planes he developed – as well as other planes – himself. Howard Hughes also made and acted in several movies (Hell’s Angels and Scarface, among others). He was a real American Hero who also happened to be a technological genius.

In the comics, Tony was a lot like Howard Hughes. The only difference between Howard Hughes and Tony Stark was that Tony focused on the development of weapons for the military more than on producing other technologies. This changed after a trip to Vietnam left him with a deadly heart injury. Though the story is modified for the first Iron Man film, it is mostly tailored to put it in today’s world. Dr. Ho Yinsen was the man who saved Tony in the comics as well as in the film, and Tony’s heart was injured in the comics when a weapon blew up near him, severely damaging his heart.

In the original comics, however, what kept Tony’s heart functioning was a magnetic chest plate that could be hidden beneath a business suit as well as his armor. The arc reactor is a creation of the films (Tony’s magnetic chest plate needed recharging every now and again, something the “self-sustaining” arc reactor does not require). Dr. Yinsen’s car battery-powered magnet is a nod to Tony’s original magnetic “pacemaker” device.

While Stan Lee held control of the helm of Marvel Comics, Tony did all right. And for some years after he left, the other Marvel writers respected Iron Man and left him largely unchanged – though they gave him a drinking problem to make a commentary on how getting drunk is bad for people. (This story arc was called “Demon in a Bottle.” How clever – and yes, I am rolling my eyes right now.) This policy of leaving Tony Stark’s personality intact was reversed in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

But for once, the reversal did not come directly through the “mainstream” comics. It came through the Ultimate Marvel Comics.

And the “mainstream” comics, as usual,were far too quick to capitulate to this character assassination from a separate universe.

This transformation introduced the world to the Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. plays to perfection in the Avengers’ themed films. Instead of encapsulating the ideal of the wealthy gentleman, Tony Stark was made the representative of the hyped, hipster, spectator, wannabees, never-will-be types that are with us today.

It is a sad fact, but a good number of rich people today are no better than badly behaved children. When Marvel decided to “update” their characters in the Ultimate Marvel Comics, they determined that the Tony Stark we had known since the 1960s was staid, boring, and would no longer capture readers’ interest. After all, as the curator of the New York City Natural History Museum in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, told Larry Daley, “People want what’s next.” That is, they want the next attraction, party, fad, etc.

My friend is not one of those people. Neither am I.

That, however, has no bearing whatsoever on the writers/editors/managers at Marvel Comics. Therefore, in Marvel’s Ultimate comics, “mainstream” comics, and films, Tony became the typical rich brat raised with a silver spoon in his mouth who partied all night, was almost always drunk, and had twenty women all over him the minute he walked into a room.

The only thing he retained from his introduction in the 1960s was his genius intellect – which, if nothing else, has been increased.   According to Dr. Yinsen in the first Iron Man movie, Tony can give a coherent, fascinating speech on technology even when he is so thoroughly drunk it is a miracle he can stand up. Despite the effects of his drinking and partying, he still retains the capacity to speak about scientific facts without making a mistake.

However, this particular “good” alteration does not do Tony very many favors among the fans that prefer his previous depiction. His ability to fire off wonderful zingers notwithstanding, no one likes to see Tony Stark picking on Captain America – unless, of course, they are Cap-haters. No one likes to see him insulting Thor, telling Bruce off, or otherwise trying to cut down his teammates with words. That is, unless these particular people hate most of the other Avengers anyway.

The Tony Stark of the 1960s willingly deferred to Cap because of his experience and outstanding record on the battlefield. Likewise, Cap was quite agreeable to the idea of stepping back and letting Iron Man take care of anything that was scientifically out of his league. The two never jockeyed for command of the Avengers. They respected each other equally and were more than prepared to back each other up whenever they needed to do so. They were friends of the best and highest order, like Aragorn and Legolas in The Lord of the Rings.

As everyone (including me) who is expecting/dreading Captain America: Civil War knows, however, things did not stay this way between Cap and Tony. I am not sure, but it may be that Marvel is taking the same route as DC Comics. Originally – as far as I understand things – Batman and Superman were fairly good friends. They had their differences, their differing views shaped by different life experiences, but they agreed on the principles which were at the heart of their work as superheroes.

Some time ago – perhaps it was also in the ‘90s – this friendship between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne completely tanked. Batman and Superman have fought each other nearly to the death in several dozen stories over the last few years. This rivalry, if that is indeed what it is, is the focus of DC’s next big film: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Since they wrote the Civil War comic book story, Marvel has been playing up the same idea with Captain America and Tony Stark.

Does this mean that I think that Captain America: Civil War will be a terrible story? I will not know that until I see the film. It is entirely possible, as it is with any movie.

On the whole, though, I am looking forward to Captain America: Civil War. But one of the things in the movie that I am not looking forward to at all is the fighting between Tony Stark and Captain America. I am not looking forward to this anymore than anyone in the actual War Between the States enjoyed watching brothers on the Union and Confederate sides trying to kill each other. I do not enjoy this because Tony and Cap are, after a fashion, brothers.

They are not only brothers-in-arms (or brothers-in-Avenging) but they are brothers in that they each represent great aspects of the United States. Captain America represents the military prowess, patriotism, hope, and home and hearth values the United States was founded on and still stands on. For that reason, he will always be our best and most beloved super hero.

Iron Man/Tony Stark represents the collective ingenuity of the United States. Although the Marvel writers have long plagued him with the question, “Does the suit make the man, or does the man make the suit?” the fact is that this ‘question’ is stuff and nonsense. As I have said elsewhere, there would be no Iron Man suit without Tony Stark.

To return to the point, the original Tony Stark is the modern day knight. He comes from ‘old money’ (nobility), he works hard, and he is inventive. He does not need to go on knightly adventures and do knightly things. But he does these things because they are right and just.

Tony has enough money that he could comfortably sit at home and remote-fly his armor(s) across the battlefield. He does not need to fly into a fray with Kang the Conqueror, Galactus, Loki, Ronan the Accuser, or even low-budget villains like Batroc the Leaper. He could easily sit at home all day, making armors and fantastic machines, all the while whining about the fact that his heart has been damaged and he will never be “normal” again.

But Tony Stark has more Iron in him than that. He does not have to physically enter the battle but he still chooses to do so. He puts himself in harm’s way to protect people, to stand with his friends, to stand up for what is right and true and good. He may not stand as rock steadily as Cap, but let us remember that Tony’s suit can fly. Cap stays grounded so that he never loses focus. Tony, just like the American ingenuity he represents, is so nimble he can fly into space, fix a satellite, swing by a collapsing oil rig and rescue its workers, all before heading back to Avengers’ Tower to have breakfast.

Tony’s inventiveness is something he carries with him, the same way Hawkeye always has his skills, no matter if he has a bow or a gun on him or not. As Obadiah Stane pointed out in the first Iron Man movie, Tony built his first arc reactor in a cave, using nothing but scrap metal and the ramshackle machinery the Ten Rings terrorists had to hand. And they had not been kind to this machinery, either!

So no one can tell me with a straight face that the Iron Man suit made Tony Stark. If he can, in the dim, dank recesses of a cave, cobble together a suit of armor that would make Sir Lancelot Hulk-green with envy, then he is Iron Man – not the suit!

So why has Marvel pitted Tony Stark against his brother Avenger Steve Rogers? The surface reason – which is never more than skin-deep – is that civil wars always pit brother against brother.

Okay. Fine. If Marvel’s Civil War story arc was that simple, I might buy that explanation.

But it is not that simple. Civil wars start because of a divide within a country. In Marvel’s Civil War, however, the divide is something much deeper and of their own creation. Marvel’s “mainstream” writers did not simply turn Tony into a rich snob with a whiplash tongue and “No respect,” to quote Drax, after they followed in the Ultimate writers’ footsteps. They set him up as the fall-guy for the faux war between the “intellectuals” and those who believe in hope, patriotism, home and hearth. Then they went a step too far and had Cap, who believes in all those values, beat him. On top of that, they made Tony feel bad about Cap’s “death” (which was reversed, naturally, when Marvel learned they could not last more than three years without Steve Rogers as Captain America).

Now why did I call the ‘war’ between “the intellectuals” and the rest of us who cherish the principles of home and hearth a ‘faux war?’ I call it this because it is a manufactured war, a smoke screen designed to be used by a few proud snobs to ruin the link between the ideals of home and hearth and the nimble quick-thinking of the geniuses. Real intellectuals, real geniuses, are what the original Tony Stark once was; they are versatile knights with courtly manners who fight for truth and justice. Tony happens to wear a fancy suit of hi-tech armor when he goes out to do battle. The principles, of course, remain unchanged for those real people who are like Tony Stark.

I would, I think, enjoy Civil War and other recent story lines maiming Tony Stark more than I currently do if the writers had done one thing differently: Marvel should have made someone else their intellectual fall-guy and left Tony where he belonged, on the side of the Avengers, shoulder to shoulder with Captain America.

I will be watching Captain America: Civil War. And I do not doubt I will enjoy every minute of what Cap and his team say and do. But at the same time I will be mourning the decision of those who choose to follow Tony Stark in the film. Most of all, I think I will grieve greatly that the Invincible Iron Man – Tony Stark – has been laid low by the real people who “have no respect” for him.

No, Tony is not my favorite Marvel hero. But he was a hero, and dragging a hero into the mud is never a cause for celebration. It is, instead, a sign of a great lack of respect for what is good, true, and wonderful in this world – and in humanity.

Until next time.

The Mithril Guardian

Iron Man