Tag Archives: Vietnam

Called and Chosen: Fr. Vincent Capodanno – A Documentary

“A true warrior does not fight because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” (G.K. Chesterton)

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Twentieth century Westerns were not my only film fare growing up, readers. I saw a lot of World War II movies as well. The Longest Day, Sands of Iwo Jima, and many others played across my parents’ television screen when I was young. The films taught me to love and respect America and the Americans that make up our military better than any speech or essay could have.

I loved watching these World War II films. The sense of unity, of purpose, the will to fight and defeat evil, thrilled me. But after 9/11, I learned that the modern world was nothing like the one I saw in those movies about the “Greatest Generation.” It has taken me long years of study to learn how the “Greatest Generation” turned into the generation which protested the Vietnam War, but I am no longer confused about the gap and the change in the way that I once was.

By this circuitous route, we come to the subject of today’s post, the EWTN documentary Called and Chosen: Fr. Vincent Capodanno. Fr. Capodanno was a Catholic priest and Navy chaplain during Vietnam. He did not begin his ministry in the Navy; in fact, joining the military was the furthest thing from his mind when he entered the Maryknoll seminary in New York at the age of twenty.

Inspired as a boy by the stories of martyred missionaries who had left Maryknoll to preach to the Chinese, Fr. Capodanno entered the seminary and was ordained a priest. He was sent to Taiwan for some years, returning home to visit his family after that missionary stint. To his dismay, he learned his next assignment would not be back in his beloved Taiwan but in Hong Kong, which was not then part of Red China.

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Desperate to return to Taiwan, Fr. Capodanno wrote letters to his superiors asking to be transferred there or to be sent home for another assignment somewhere else. He continued to do this even after his requests were rejected. So it was with some surprise that his superiors received an abrupt, new request from the priest: he suddenly wanted to become a Navy chaplain, and he wanted to be assigned to the Marines serving in the jungles of Vietnam.

Well, any request to go to Vietnam would be surprising back in the ‘60s, when the War was being manhandled by politicians and protested vigorously by the academics, the media, and their unfortunate cohorts of young believers across U.S. campuses. Nevertheless, Fr. Capodanno’s new request was granted and he underwent a year of chaplain’s training before being assigned to the Marines. He died in combat September 4, 1967, giving the Last Rites to the Marines who died when his division was ambushed by the Viet Cong.

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I will not spoil any more of the documentary for you, readers. You can find it on DVD through EWTN, Amazon, or Ignatius Press. Toward the end of the film, I had to sniff a lot to keep from crying. Fr. Capodanno’s story of love and sacrifice is moving on its own, but that is only part of the reason why this blogger had to hold back tears.

You see, even when I did not understand the stories about Vietnam completely, I did realize that the men who had served in that war were different than the “Greatest Generation.” Slowly, by degrees, I began to comprehend how they were abused by the public after they came home.

What really stymied me, however, was why they were treated like this. Referring back to the top of this article, you will recall my mention of movies about World War II. Several of these were made before the War had even ended, yet our soldiers who were fighting overseas were being cheered to the echo nonetheless. We didn’t know for a while there whether or not we would win, but the movies of that era never wavered in their morale-boosting narrative that victory was within our grasp.

The incongruence between the lionization of the “Greatest Generation” and the attacks on the Vietnam generation made so little sense to me that I did not pay very much attention to it for quite some time. Learning more about Vietnam over the years, though, I cannot convey in words the profundity of my ire for the academic/journalistic complex who mistreated our men when they came home, nor for the politicians who seized on their narrative in order to remain in power.

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Now, of course, some of you will start yelling about the politics and the reasons why the Vietnam War was wrong. The politicians and people in charge of fighting the Viet Cong did not run the war effort well, I grant you; I believe a number of them actually wanted us to lose it. Their “mistakes” also gave the academics and journalists ample opportunity to attack and demoralize our military, making matters even worse. But none of this means the War itself was wrong.

More to the point, to borrow Fr. Capodanno’s answer to those who challenged him about the War’s politics, the affairs of state were no excuse to abuse our returning veterans. Our men were fighting, bleeding, and dying in Vietnam’s jungles. They were far from home, in a place they didn’t want to be, fighting for a cause no one clearly explained (the defeat of the Communists in Vietnam to preserve freedom there and in the rest of the world).

Yet the populace who should have respected them for their sacrifice was encouraged – nay, goaded – into treating them like trash when they came back. Our men returning from the Hell that was Vietnam were subsequently hounded and derided as cowards, monsters, and demons when they came home.

They were told they were more hideous than the enemy that tortured, maimed, and killed their brothers. They were told that they were worse than the Communists who used women and children as human shields, that they were as evil and cruel as the beasts who used children as suicide bombers, spies, and soldiers. They were treated as ticking time bombs that might go postal on innocent bystanders at any moment because they had been to Vietnam, where you could not tell who was friend and who was foe. They returned from hell to face a new hell; a hell where their families, friends, neighbors, and total strangers tortured them with words, actions, or petulant, suspicious silence.

Never again. I never want to see this happen to our armed forces again. For the rest of my life I will read these stories, hear these tales, and watch these documentaries with tears in my eyes. Those tears will not just be for the suffering of our men and the South Vietnamese during the war. No, they will be for the treatment our men received when they came home, and for the retribution wrought by the Viet Cong on the South Vietnamese after we left them to the Communists.

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Vietnam was not a lost war. It was a war that was thrown away, the one war where we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory – we, who had saved the world in World War II, threw away a war we had won! “When I went under, the world was at war,” Cap said in The Avengers. “I wake up, they say we won. They didn’t say what we lost.”

We lost a lot. We lost a whole hell of a lot, readers. And we lost it because we threw it away.

The sense of shame I feel for what we did to our military and the South Vietnamese becomes so intense at times that it almost makes me physically sick. They did not deserve this abuse – not a one of them earned it. We went from a nation of heroes – a nation with “the Greatest Generation” – to a nation of indecisive cowards in the space of twenty years.

Never again, readers. We cannot – we must not – let this happen ever again.

When you watch the documentary, you will see that Fr. Capodanno understood what I am telling you right now. The Grunt Padre, as his Marines affectionately dubbed him, died making sure his men were safe. In a time when the American people largely regarded them as no less evil than the Communists they fought, one Navy chaplain made a difference by treating the Marines under his care as the human beings they were. You cannot listen to a description of his life in Vietnam and not consider him a hero, readers. Hero is too small a word to encapsulate what Fr. Capodanno did for these men – far too small.

I hope you get the chance to watch this documentary. At some point, I also hope to read and review the book about Fr. Capodanno, called The Grunt Padre, so I can learn more about this chaplain I admire so much. Knowing how much Fr. Capodanno did for those Marines lifts some of the guilt from my shoulders. It is good to know that not everyone in the U.S. hated the military during Vietnam; that there were those who treated our men with the honor, respect, and the love they deserved even when doing so was not popular.

It also firms my determination never to fall into the trap so many others landed in during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Attack the U.S. military at your own peril here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, readers. You will find that I do not accept such assaults. Period.

In closing I leave you with this video of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Hymn –

And with the prayer that God will bless you, the United States military, and the United States of America for many more years to come.

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Star Wars: Rogue One

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If you guessed that I have at last seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, readers, then you have good deduction skills. Yes, I saw Rogue One a day late and a dollar short. But after the less-than-exciting The Force Awakens, I was a little leery of any Star Wars fare.

I enjoyed the trailers for the film – I even reposted one from borg.com here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I wanted to see Rogue One. I wanted to like it. But I did not want to spend money on a film I would later wish I had not paid good cash to see. So I waited and saw it on DVD.

It was a great movie, and it belongs right up there with the original Star Wars trilogy, in my opinion. Yes, there were a few small things about it that I did not like – Leia’s CGI face was kind of scary, and I never got to see the Ghost escape the Battle of Scarif. But since Hera and Chopper have appeared in Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, I guess our Rebel band got through the battle safe and sound.

On the whole, the film was a hit with this viewer. Cassian and Jyn came off as sullen more often than not, but their supporting cast more than made up for this. Chirrut Îmwe, Baze Malbus, K2-SO, and Bodhi Rook were great fun. I would have to say that Îmwe was my favorite. From his Force mantra to his, “Are you kidding me? I’m blind!”, Îmwe was one lovable character. Yoda would have found him an apt pupil.

K2 would probably be my second favorite, partly because he is portrayed by actor Alan Tudyk, the pilot of Serenity in Joss Whedon’s Firefly series. The other reason I liked him is because he came off perfectly as a sassy former Imperial droid you could not force to behave. Despite that tough shell, though, he also proved to have a soft side, such as when he apologized for smacking Cassian and when Jyn handed him a blaster in the Imperial base on Scarif. And watching him kill Stormtroopers was a scream – for them more so than for me!

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Baze was my third favorite and the perfect counterpoint to Îmwe. Where Îmwe is the true believer despite all the evidence that calls for despair, Baze is the former believer who has become a cynic due to the heavy losses he has suffered since the Empire came to power. I have to admit, I really wish I could have his blaster mini-gun as well!

My fourth favorite would probably be Cassian. Raised in the Rebel Alliance, fighting the Empire from the (rather unbelievable) age of six, he is a Rebel assassin and spy. He also happens to hate most of his job. There is very little warmth in him at first; as I said above, he and Jyn tend to come off as grim for most of their time on screen. This is kind of irritating, which is why Îmwe and K2 are higher on my favorites’ list.

But considering that Cassian and Jyn have dealt with the Empire’s brutality and the often necessarily nasty tactics of rebelling against it, there is very little reason for either of them to smile or joke or be lighthearted. Îmwe and Baze have suffered losses at the Empire’s hands, but they have never had to compromise their moral compasses when fighting it. K2 is a droid built to kill, much like the Knights of the Old Republic’s HK-47, so he regards battle as just another day at the office. Bodhi is new to the Rebellion. He has also never stepped outside of the “law” prior to Galen Erso’s urging to defect to the Rebellion. Cassian and Jyn did not have any of these luxuries.

Jyn was not a bad character, though after a while I did become a little bored with her. I enjoyed the scene where, after her father has been killed and her Rebel escort has returned to the ship, she raises her hand – only for Îmwe to catch and hold it in the manner of a friend. He was silently reminding her not to return death for death, and I thought it was a very touching gesture. Yes, Cassian was going to kill her father. Yes, the Rebel Alliance bombed the base in order to kill him. But killing Cassian would not undo any of that, which is why Îmwe took her hand to stop her from losing her temper.

Finally, we come to the Battle of Scarif. What a fight! I loved every minute of the X-Wings zooming around and zapping TIE fighters to atoms. I have not winced, jerked, and bucked in my seat while watching a Star Wars battle since I was young and viewing A New Hope for the millionth time.

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Speaking of which, the reused footage of Red and Gold Leader from A New Hope was great. I almost squealed with delight as I recognized the actors. I could tell that the footage was original – I watched A New Hope almost as often as I watched 101 Dalmatians or Peter Pan when I was small. I made the trench run with Luke and the other Rebel fighters zillions of times, so I knew Red and Gold Leader very well by sight alone. Finding them in Rogue One was a treat!

The other wonderful – and amazing – thing about the Battle of Scarif was the land battle. As someone I know pointed out, the footage of the Rebels fighting in the jungle was reminiscent of the way American soldiers fought in the Vietnam War. The way the troop ships dropped Rebel fighters onto the beach was a parallel of the deployment of soldiers and Marines in the jungles of Vietnam, too. The Rebels charging across the beach resembled Marines running up the beach on Iwo Jima and the soldiers storming the beaches of France on D-Day, but the drops by the troop ships were unmistakably based on Vietnam deployments.

Some of the Rebels’ gear, too, resembled the uniforms used by American soldiers during Vietnam. Several of the unnamed Rebels’ helmets and jackets were the same style as Vietnam War helmets and uniforms used by American soldiers during that conflict. The door gunner shooting at the AT-AT Walkers was also a direct nod to Vietnam door gunners. I was proud to see these parallels. It is high time our Vietnam veterans were acknowledged like this and I think it is a compliment.

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Finally, no review of Rogue One would be complete if I did not mention the winks and nods the writers added to let us know that the cast of Star Wars Rebels lives beyond their fourth season. At least, Chopper, Hera, and the Ghost survive the series’ final season. When Cassian shows Jyn the force of Rebel assassins and spies he has collected to help her steal the Death Star’s plans, someone can be heard paging “General Syndulla” over the PA system. Hera Syndulla, captain of the Ghost and Phoenix Sqaudron’s fighters, is at some point raised to the rank of general during or after season four of the television series.

Chopper can also be seen by the keen-eyed when the Rebel radio operator charges out to speak to Senator Mon Mothma. This is after the Rogue One crew begins their attack on Scarif. I missed Chopper in the film, sadly, but I had already seen him on the Internet during one of the Rebels’ Recon episodes. And I did hear him grumbling while watching the film. Huzzah!

Just like Chopper, I also could not keep track of the Ghost for most of the space battle above Scarif. This upset me because I could not see if the Ghost had escaped before Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer arrived and began blasting the Mon Calamari carrier to bits. My friends went back to the battle scenes after we had finished the film and replayed them in slow motion so I could see the Ghost. (I have very kind, patient friends who put up with A LOT from me.) With the film slowed down I was able to see the Ghost in action for much of the fight. As in the television series, she was protecting the carrier in the fleet rather than swinging farther out into the battle with the star fighters.

However, we never get to see the Ghost jump to hyperspace before the Executor, Vader’s flagship, arrives. I am still a little upset by that, I admit; I would have liked to see them fly away from Scarif safely. But c’est la vie!

I was also not as impressed by Darth Vader’s “temper tantrum” aboard the Mon Cal cruiser, as others were. But I can just picture what some of the Rebel crewers had to say when the scene was over and the director called “Cut!”: “Killed by Darth Vader. BEST DAY EVER!!”; or “This is so going on my resume!”; and the perennial, “I feel fulfilled!”

All in all, Rogue One was just as good as I hoped it would be. I was bummed that the main cast died, so I do not think I will be watching it as often as I once watched A New Hope. But I did enjoy the film, and I do wish I had gone to theaters to see it on the big screen. Those, however, are minor quibbles. This was a great movie, and I highly recommend it to you, readers! So remember –

The Force will be with you, always!

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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!!!!

Happy Independence Day!!!

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I AM THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

I am the flag of the United States of America.

My name is Old Glory.

I fly atop the world’s tallest buildings.

I stand watch in America’s halls of justice.

I fly majestically over institutions of learning.

I stand guard with power in the world.

Look up…and see me.

I stand for peace, honor, truth and justice.

I stand for freedom.

I am confident.

I am arrogant.

I am proud.

When I am flown with my fellow banners,

My head is a little higher,

My colors a little bit truer.

I bow to no one!

I am recognized all over the world.

I am worshipped – I am saluted.

I am loved – I am revered.

I am respected – and I am feared.

I have fought in every battle of every

war for more than 200 years.

I was flown at Valley Forge,

Gettysburg, Shiloh and Appomattox.

I was there at San Juan Hill,

The trenches of France,

In the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome

and the beaches of Normandy, Guam.

Okinawa, Korea and Khe San,

Saigon, Vietnam know me,

I was there.

I lead my troops,

I was dirty, battleworn and tired,

but my soldiers cheered me

And I was proud.

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In short, Happy Independence Day – and Happy Birthday to the United States of America!

Semper Fidelis!

The Mithril Guardian

 

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