Tag Archives: Villains

Marvel-ous – and Not So Marvelous – Fathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keemia Marko (Sandgirl)

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

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

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

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Harry and Norman Osborn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barons Heinrich and Helmut Zemo (Avengers Assemble)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avengers Assemble!

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Captain America: Civil War – Steve Rogers/Captain America

Kitchen

Captain America: Civil War smashed its way onto theater screens May 6, 2016, readers. A resounding first punch for Marvel’s “Phase Three” films, Civil War is a great movie, one of their best.

But people – even those who worked on the movie – seem to have a hard time understanding the character arc of the lead protagonist in this film: Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.

This is due to the inordinate attention paid to the comic book event which was the basis, at least in part, for the film. People cannot help confusing that story with the one found in the movie. In the comic book event, all superheroes (excluding the continually persecuted X-Men) were required to reveal their secret identities to the world and register with the government – the way that gun owners in Australia were forced to register their names and their firearms in the 1990s, prior to the Australian government confiscating the guns. (How is that working out for them these days, huh?)

At the beginning of the civil war in the comics, Cap refused to register. Iron Man was initially against registration as well. But after an incident where teen heroes starring in a reality TV show engaged a villain who subsequently obliterated half a town and killed sixty school children, Iron Man did a one-eighty degree turn and chose to support registration. (One would think the incident would say more for the stupidity of most reality TV shows than it did for superhero registration, but…. *Author shrugs.*)

Subsequent to these events, a number of superheroes – mostly Avengers and other, solo heroes – refused to register, rallying under Cap’s leadership. Meanwhile, the heroes who supported Registration chose Iron Man as their leader.

This led to a brutal superhero war wherein Captain America and Iron Man’s forces clashed several times. When caught, unregistered heroes were sent to prison with the criminals they had once incarcerated, while Tony Stark actually began recruiting villains to help him bring in Cap and his forces. (This was the start of Tony’s slide into becoming a loathsome villain, completing the Marvel writers’ intent to murder his valiant character.)

The final battle which ended the comic book civil war saw Steve and Tony beat each other bloody, nigh senseless, and almost to death. Concerned EMTs – civilians – finally leapt forward and pulled an irate Captain America off of Tony, since he was about to kill him…

And this is where the movie soars in comparison to the dismal comics. I cannot see Cap becoming so bent and twisted that he would be willing to kill Tony. Cap is too good, too pure of heart, too great a guy to fall into that trap. The ending in the movie, where he instead damages Tony’s suit so the billionaire genius cannot continue to fight, is much more like him than his actions in the comic book civil war.

It was this “fighting for the sake of fighting” that made me abhor the entire Civil War event in the comics. The Marvel writers, in their desire to “update” their heroes to please the academy’s Hegelian/Nietzschean complex, mauled the characters to the point where they were unworthy to be called heroes anymore. If Marvel had wanted to end the “mainstream” universe at any point, that was probably the time to have done it and gotten away with it.

The Captain America: Civil War film does greater credit to Marvel’s characters than the comic book conflict ever did. This is most true in regard to Steve Rogers. Though the directors and the president of Marvel Studios want us to think of Steve now as an “insurgent” who is no longer a “rah-rah company man,” the thing is that, after all these years, they still do not understand how to describe him. Cap was never a “company man.” But he was, is, and always will be “rah-rah America” for as long as he and the nation exist.

You cannot get anymore “rah-rah U.S.A.” than by calling yourself Captain America while dressing in a suit that bears the colors and symbols of the United States’ flag. So, Disbelievers, remember this: Steve Rogers is still “rah-rah America” – and long may he remain so!

Steve is not responsible for the civil war between the heroes in this movie. That inglorious liability can be laid right at Tony Stark’s iron shod feet – again. What happens in Civil War is that the politicians of the world have decided they can no longer tolerate having zero control over the Avengers. Thanks to the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, they think they finally have the ammunition they need to slap leashes and handcuffs on the heroes.

Make no mistake, readers; most politicians want only one thing – power/control, and lots of it. The way to get the most power is to control one’s fellow men. There are two kinds of “absolute” power which humans can exert over each other when they are in the government: the immediate power of life and death, and the power of slavery. The immediate power of life and death I am speaking of here refers to the actions and attitudes of characters such as Thanos, the Red Skull, and Ultron. Their power is the fact that they can kill anyone and everyone who gets in their way as soon as they arrive in these monsters’ paths.

This type of “will to power” is obvious, and so people can recognize it fairly quickly and easily. This makes these villains’ attempts at world domination/destruction hard to fulfill. If it is a choice between rolling over to die and fighting ‘til one’s last breath, most people will fight until they defeat the enemy or die in their tracks. “Give me liberty, or give me death!” as Patrick Henry so rightly said.

The power of slavery, no matter the quality of the velvet glove concealing it, is also the power of life and death. But this power is implemented more subtly than the first; it “looks fair and feels foul.” (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) By using this power – Saruman’s power – the political slave masters get to decide who lives and who dies; as well as when, where, and how these people die. So long as you are useful to those who run the State, you may live, to most appearances happily and freely. But once you are no longer useful due to age or health, no matter how bright or talented, the laws and the agencies that have enacted those laws will inexorably push you to their chosen exit.

Just ask the babies aborted every year around the world, or the elderly who are starved to death when their doctors (like Mengele) deny them the basic nutrition they need, thus dying horribly. They know what slavery is. Or ask those who are said to be “brain dead,” in a coma, or a so called persistent vegetative state, “unable” to recover. In spite of the many verified accounts we have of those who have recovered from these conditions, there are still those who will “pull their plugs,” for no other reason than despots of one stripe or another do not want to be inconvenienced with their care!

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Orwell’s 1984, the film Soldier, and thousands of other stories repeat this warning to their audiences. You will even find this admonition in The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood if you are paying enough attention, readers!

And you cannot miss it in Captain America: Civil War.

Both these “absolute” powers I just described are faces of totalitarianism. At the head of every tyranny, you will find a small, cowardly bully. And as Cap said in The First Avenger: “I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.”

So, in Civil War, when Ross and the U.N. try to hold the proverbial gun to Steve’s head and that of the rest of his team, telling them to get on their knees, Cap responds as he has always responded: “Not today.”

Tony, blinded by his remorse over the events in Sokovia during Age of Ultron, does not see the steel fist hidden under the velvet glove. Instead, he sees a way to assuage his guilt. He thinks it is a preventative measure when it is a dog collar synced to an electric fence. I hate to break his soap bubble, but here’s a newsflash, Tony: you are not a dog. Neither are the rest of the Avengers, nor are any other humans on the planet. A dog is a dog. A human is a human. There is no likeness whatsoever between the two species and anyone who says otherwise is selling something – typically poison.

Cap tries to explain this to him, but Tony will not listen. Why? Pain, fear, and guilt. Tony does not like carrying these around in his “man purse” (glare at Sam Wilson, not me!) on a daily basis. Remember what he told Pepper in The Avengers when Coulson showed up in their elevator? “Security breach. That’s on you [Pepper].”

Tony is used to shifting the blame. He is not accustomed to having a conscience, to having a moral sense which pricks him and reminds him of what is right and what is wrong. Up until the first Iron Man film, Tony was a playboy. That is, he was a grown man acting like an irresponsible college kid. He was playing around, living in his own little bubble, and as long as he was happy, the world was a beautiful place filled with rainbows and sunshine.

Cap does not have that problem because he grew up and “put away childish things” a long time ago. Even before his parents died, he was taking care of himself on the streets of Brooklyn. Despite being a short, scrawny, asthmatic, ninety-seven pound weakling, he essentially adhered to this motto: Sic semper tyrannis. That is the State of Virginia’s maxim, and in English it reads: “Thus always (or ever) to tyrants.”

Bullies in the schoolyard, the workplace, or in the home are all minor tyrants. Once they get into the government, they become Major Tyrants. But when these mini dictators tried to oppress Steve in order to bend him to their will, he told them to go shove it up their nose – even if they threw him in a trashcan, or beat him senseless and left him in a doorway afterward. He took care of himself the whole time he was growing up. And once he was on his own, he continued to take care of himself.

Now when I say Cap “took care of himself,” I mean that he behaved like the adult he was. He took responsibility for his actions; he lived with what he did right and with his mistakes. He made his choices and accepted their consequences, whether they were good or bad.

Tony is not used to doing that, and somewhere after The Avengers, he became even more afraid of growing up. That made him ripe pickings for Ross and the tyrants in the U.N. (Discounting King T’Chaka, who believed in the Sokovian Accords wholeheartedly. Poor guy must never have heard that, “When seconds count; the police are only minutes away.” The Avengers always beat the police to the problem – even in Nigeria.)

This is where Cap and Tony are so remarkably different. Steve still has no tolerance for bullies, wherever they come from, whatever suit they wear. Tony, on the other hand, had never been bullied because his father, his company, or he had always been the wealthiest and smartest – either with his tech or with his caustic, running mouth – man in the room. He did not know what a bully looked like until that cave in Afghanistan because he has never met one to which he was not a superior.

He never saw Loki as a bully, just as someone who was intellectually too big for his britches. He did not see Ultron as a bully; he saw him as a mistake he created and did not fix in an efficient and timely manner. And he does not see Ross, initially, as the loudmouthed bully the current Secretary of State is.

This explanation of the separate understandings of the two men who make the heart and brain of the Avengers’ team clears up everything prior to their last battle in the HYDRA base. In the case of that battle, it is started after Tony is shown footage of the Winter Soldier – a brainwashed and controlled Bucky Barnes – killing his parents.

We know from previous films that, to his masters, the Winter Soldier – whose modus operandi was “no witnesses” – was a lone wolf “fire and forget” tool that would accomplish any mission given him by the most direct and expeditious means, with the evidence of his work to be found on the world’s various obituary pages. The crash alone should have killed the Starks and allowed Bucky to retrieve HYRDA’s prize. Why, then, would HYDRA have placed cameras at the precise site on the exact deserted road to film this particular event – thus negating all the logistics reliable assassins and snipers are usually left to figure out themselves?

To do this would have meant that HYDRA knew precisely which road the Starks would choose, exactly when the Winter Soldier would strike, all the while employing a team of photographers to film this one operation.

Even for a whacked-out organization like HYDRA, that is too much disbelief to suspend. While I suppose it is plausible that HYDRA filmed all of Bucky’s missions for their records, thus initially explaining the footage, is it not more reasonable to think that Zemo manufactured the film (ala CGI) to achieve his desired effect of Tony’s rage?

This would explain the many different angles and particularly the close-ups we have of the Starks’ deaths. Those would have been added for “dramatic effect” by Zemo. It would not have been possible to get a good look at these “details” from any film if it were real – unless HYDRA dispatched an entire team of people to film the event. (While we are on this subject just where, EXACTLY, did Howard Stark get FIVE packs of a working Super Soldier Serum?!?! I thought they got rid of all the samples of Steve’s blood, the only possible source of a functioning serum!!!)

Seeing their deaths – especially the murder of his mother – presented to him in such a way sends Tony over the top. Watching them die understandably sends him into “rage mode,” closing off his reasoning and logic “circuits.” Because of this, he does not stop to calculate if HYDRA would go to such an extent to film their “ghost warrior” doing his job, and come up with the more plausible notion that Zemo manufactured the film to make him angry. Instead, he goes wild, attacking and trying to kill Bucky for a crime the other was forced to commit.

Cap prevents him from following through. In doing so, he is not just saving Bucky’s life. He is saving Tony’s soul. Whether he would ever admit it or not (and we can be fairly sure he would not), Tony went into full-on revenge mode. He was going to kill Bucky, for no other reason than to vent his feelings. Afterward, he could explain to Steve how he “had” to do it; how he “had” to get “payback” for the loss of his parents, and everything would be all hunky-dory.

That would have gone over like a lead balloon because it would have been a lie. Killing Bucky would not bring back Tony’s parents. It would not erase the evil HYDRA did to Tony through Bucky, or the wrong HYDRA did to Barnes. To be one hundred percent plain:

Killing Bucky Barnes would be murder. It would make Tony a murderer and no better than Zemo – and thus an easier pawn for Ross to manipulate as he pleased.

And Cap knew it. He also knew that Tony, carried off by his blind rage and pain, would not quit. He had to stop Tony to protect both his friends.

This is the reason why he disabled Tony’s arc reactor. Tony thought Steve was actually going to kill him, when the idea never even crossed his friend’s mind. Steve did not want to kill either of his friends, he wanted to save them both from the evil HYDRA and Zemo had done to them.

The only way to save them was to cut off the power to Tony’s suit and end the fight. So Cap did it. The suit still had enough power to allow Tony to move and walk around, but not the power to carry on a battle.

Then Tony acted truly immature, saying Steve was not worthy to carry and use the shield the senior Stark had made for him. That is a child’s behavior, which is unworthy of any adult. And some part of Tony recognized that.

If he recognized it, then Steve knew it ahead of him. That is why he left the shield behind, essentially saying with the gesture, “You want it? Here, take it. When you grow up, you can give it back. I can get along just fine without it. Because the shield doesn’t make me who I am; I make the shield what it is. When you figure that out, let me know.”

Steve is NOT renouncing the Avengers, his nation, his patriotism, his nature, his honor, or his friendship with Tony. He IS Captain America, with or without that shield. Tony – and a lot of other people, including the Russos and some of the actors in the film – have not figured that out yet. Or if they have, they have not said it for fear of losing future work in Hollywood. This is very sensible of them, considering the fact that they live and work within the confines of Looneyville, Left Coast, U.S.A.

This ending is why Captain America: Civil War is so superior to the comic book conflict of the same name, in my opinion. Cap remains Cap in this film; he never loses his moral center or compromises with the bad guys. He fights for his freedom and the freedom of his friends. Not just their physical, or bodily, freedom. He fought to save Tony’s soul, and he fought to save Bucky’s mind. And he won. Cap is the quintessential best friend. He will never abandon a buddy, even when that pal thinks he has been forsaken.

Only time and the films will show us if Tony will ever grow up to understand what Cap did for him. By the end of Civil War, it seems he is headed in that direction. After all, he did not tear up Cap’s letter. He did not break the phone. He did put Ross on hold. If Tony could see through Loki’s murderous control of Hawkeye’s arrows, as well as overlook the hundreds of people Black Widow killed while she was a Soviet agent, then he should be able to realize that Bucky was in the same boat. Barnes was just used for a longer time and to kill more people – including Tony’s parents. All three were victims that night, and the sooner Tony figures that out, the better.

Until then, Cap is going to keep doing what he has always done. Whether T’Challa gives him a new shield to use until Tony returns the original or not, Steve Rogers is going to remain Cap. And every time the forces of evil move forward to claim territory, they will find Steve standing in the way, saying, “Now just where do you think you’re going?”

And when Tony finally calls, he will barely get past the words, “Cap, I need you…” before Steve is at the door asking, “What’s the situation?”

Captain America: Civil War is NOT the end of their friendship. Their friendship is NOT broken. It is strained, but the strain is on Tony’s end, not Steve’s. The minute Tony needs him, Steve will be there, and it will be business as usual again. Because Steve has already started the process of healing the rift Tony opened in their team by sending him the letter and the phone. When it is time for the Avengers to “reassemble” for Infinity War, the team will have fewer bugs to work out with each other – all thanks to Steve Rogers.

Can the comic book Civil War claim THAT, readers?

Frankly, I do not think it can. And neither can the writers at Marvel Comics. So, Marvel writers, you had better get up off your fannies and pay attention to the guys writing the film scripts. They actually know what they are doing!

Sic semper tyrannis!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers Assemble’s Third Season – How is it so far?

Earth's mightiest heroes — Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain

Avengers: Ultron Revolution is in full swing now, readers! What do I think of it so far?

It is a definite improvement, in several respects, over the previous seasons. For one, the animation has gotten better. It is a subtle detail, and not one I usually notice. But reviewing some footage from seasons one and two, I realized season three’s animation is smoother and more streamlined. Certainly a plus!

On the subject of pluses, Hawkeye has done better over the first few episodes than he has in the prior two seasons. He is behaving in a less immature manner – although the writers have naturally maintained his penchant for overconfidence – and this has me really excited. Not only that, but Clint’s gotten some serious scenes as well, especially in the episodes Under Siege, Thunderbolts, and Thunderbolts Revealed. Fingers crossed that he only gets more like himself as the series plays on!

Black Widow has also improved. Firing off colorful quips and smiling more genuinely now, she has made a welcome change from her stoic, faux-Amazonian portrayal in previous seasons. More to the point, she and Hawkeye have yet to bicker petulantly as they did in the last two seasons of the series. Her strong friendship with Cap is also given the spotlight in Saving Captain Rogers, the third episode of the season. Let’s hope the writers keep this depiction up in future episodes, leaving the stereotype in the dustbin!

Hulk has done nicely so far this season, too. And we have had two episodes of Ultron Revolution give us a look at the new and improved Dr. Bruce Banner! We have not seen him in any real capacity since Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! and two episodes of Assemble’s previous seasons. Those appearances were brief and left us wondering why we did not see more of him. Hulk is also showing a better balance between “rage-filled” smashing and “thoughtful” smashing. His character arc this time is shaping up to be very interesting.

Falcon’s in college as of Ultimates, and so far we have not gotten to see as much of him as I would like. However, he has proved himself to be even more capable now than he was in season two. It is clear the experiences he has had throughout the series have helped him to grow, and with him studying to be an engineer, Sam can only get harder to beat as the Ultron Revolution proceeds!

Cap’s character is still a little too stiff at times, but all in all he is doing fine. Saving Captain Rogers did not put him in the best light, though. I mean, how easy is it to hypnotize Captain America and keep him under the spell? The important thing is that he broke out of it, and hopefully it will be harder to get control of him in future episodes. 😉

Thor has become more familiar with Earth by this time, too, though he is not fitting in exactly. But watching him go trick-or-treating with a couple of his young fans was priceless! It also shows his softer side, and I like it when the heroes get to be kind to kids. It strengthens their character – and Thor’s moral fiber got a real boost at the end of Into the Dark Dimension!

As of this moment, Tony’s character is balancing on the thin line between “improved” and “about to crash.” This is natural, since there is a Civil War story arc in the series’ future, and the writers want to set up the basis for that conflict as early as possible. Tony feels responsible in the extreme for Ultron’s existence, proved in the first episodes of the new season: Adapting to Change and Ultimates. When he is fighting against the mechanical maniac, he is broody and has a propensity to act rashly, attacking with everything he has and making the safety of himself and his team a low priority.

This was nicely reversed, for a moment, in Saving Captain Rogers. Hearing a scream of pain from further inside Baron Helmut Zemo’s castle, Tony says, “If that’s Cap, I’m going to glue my fist to Zemo’s face!” (It was not Cap, but the sentiment is what counts.) The line reminds us of their friendship in previous shows and the older comics. Call me a nostalgic, but I still prefer that friendship to the “frenemy” status the writers have thrust upon the two these days. For one thing, it makes the stories more hopeful. And in today’s world, hope is a commodity in short supply!

Another great thing about this season was the introduction of the Thunderbolts, first in their criminal identities, later in their superhero “cloaks.” While I am still no fan of Moonstone/Meteorite and remain suspicious of Fixer/Techno, Atlas had a good introduction here. I have to say that I like this version of him better than his comic book counterpart. Mach IV, formerly the Beetle, also had an impressive showing in Ultron Revolution. It would be great to see more of him.

But the character I was most excited to see come on stage was Screaming Mimi/Songbird. Of all the criminals-turned-Thunderbolts who became heroes in the comics, Songbird was the only one who completely turned over a new leaf. Mach IV tagged along after her, not hard to do considering they were in love by that point. Songbird has since become a staunch hero worthy of fans’ admiration, and to see her journey in Avengers: Ultron Revolution was FANTASTIC!

What made it even better was the fact that Hawkeye was her inspiration and informal mentor in the episodes, with some help from Cap in Thunderbolts Revealed. In the comics, Hawkeye was the one who convinced the Thunderbolts to stop pretending heroism and to really take on the mantle. His leadership was a smashing success… at least as long as he was in charge of the team. Sometime after he left, Moonstone went back to her old ways, as did Fixer, though I think he continued to use the Techno alias.

Songbird, however, was the biggest triumph of Hawkeye’s time as leader of the Thunderbolts. So watching her turn into a heroine over the course of Under Siege, Thunderbolts, and Thunderbolts Revealed on his prodding and due to Cap’s faith in her was GREAT!!!! It not only showed Clint’s more serious side, it proved his ability to teach and lead by example. Those are characteristics of his which others often ignore, though they make him a great instructor in the MC2 universe, as well as the Avengers Academy in the old “mainstream” universe.

Speaking of the old “mainstream” universe, we cannot forget how Clint taught Kate Bishop in those comics. Even if she was supposed to be his female replacement somewhere down the line (Kate Bishop, Clint Barton – their names are too similar for this not to have been the writers’ intention), the fact that he decided to mentor her at all demonstrates that he cares. In some ways, Hawkeye is a little like Wolverine. He can be annoying and a jerk, overconfident and insulting… but underneath all that, he has a heart of gold. And if you can get past his prickly outer shell, he is a loyal ally, great friend, and willing teacher. The fact that Avengers: Ultron Revolution is FINALLY ready to show him as such is a welcome change for this fan!

The only thing I really want the writers to do now is hand the reins of the Avengers over to Captain America. If they could also make him less stiff and allow him to relax, then I would be very happy.

The series is doing well, but Cap playing second fiddle to Tony makes the show feel somewhat off balance. After all, Steve is team leader in the films, and he was the leader for the Avengers in the “mainstream” comics for YEARS. Seeing Tony run the Avengers while Cap stands aside feels like watching Batman run the Justice League as Superman sits by and takes orders from him. The JLA’s commander in chief is Superman, and Batman acts as his second, with Wonder Woman supporting the two of them. Putting Bats in charge of the League and having Superman as his “water boy” just feels off.

Cap can, is, and should be the head of the Avengers’ pyramid, with Tony directly on his right as his second in command. This fan/writer would appreciate it if the guys in charge of Marvel recognized and acted on that in Avengers: Ultron Revolution – not to mention the comics!!! (I won’t be holding my breath for that, though.)

The series is still young, of course, and there is time for it to grow. It already has developed a fair bit by this point. I am looking forward to seeing more heroes arrive as this season progresses, as well as the character growth in store for the seven Avengers who formed the team at the start of the series. Once Ultron Revolution is at an end, you may hear from me on this subject yet again, readers. Until that time….

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Marvel's Avengers: Ultron Revolution

Caught

The Wasp

Hello, Marvel Writers!

      (Oh, boy.  Here it comes!) 

Yup, I’m back. 

     (Hide the story drafts!  Call SHIELD!)

Sorry, that’s not going to work.  Pay attention, everyone!  Today’s subject is the rampant paranoia among fans.

    (What?  What does that mean?)

It means that we, the fans, are paranoid about our favorite heroes.  You know what I am talking about – those days when the X-Men or the Avengers charge into a battle and, when they finally pull back, gasping for air, one of them does a headcount and finds someone is missing.

And then it turns out that the missing member of the team is on some infirmary table in the villain’s lair.  Cue the villain of the day’s egotistical bragging and the torture of the captured hero.

Of course, the hero/heroine cannot die, or you will lose their audience.  So the team comes to rescue them, they escape, or they are killed and ‘resurrected.’  Yippee, everybody’s safe….!   Right?

Hmmm….  No, not so much.

These days I, for one, cannot relax after watching an Avenger/X-Man (or any other Marvel hero) get caught by, and then escape from, the bad guys.  Several times a hero has been returned to their friends, or society at large, after being imprisoned by a villain only for something bad to happen when they get back. 

Sometimes it is a few years before the hero snaps; runs amok; gets cloned; or starts acting on pre-programmed villain instructions.  Eventually, one of these events will occur.  Generally it is the snapping story line, where the hero retaliates against the villain, the team, or society because of the treatment they received on the table.  The second most popular storyline is cloning.

Excuse me, but what exactly is the point of this?  It has gotten to be so common a plot point that I am amazed any of the heroes can catch forty winks.  If I was one of them, I would not be able to sleep at all for fear that one of the bad guys would grab me the minute I shut my eyes.

Honestly, fellow writers, this is too much.  How are we or our heroes supposed to function with this fear weighing on our minds every time a new adventure occurs?  It spoils the enjoyment we derive from watching our heroes work if we are always thinking, “Yeah, but Dr. Doom is going to grab [insert the hero of your choice here], experiment on him/her, and then this character will go berserk at some point in a future story.”

Was this the original point behind the heroes getting caught?  No.  The original ideas behind a hero getting caught are, I believe, as follows:

a)  To add suspense to a particular story arc/start a story arc;

b)  To prove the hero’s strength under pressure and pain;

c)  To show how cunning and strong a seemingly flippant or shallow hero actually is;

d)  To flesh out a new villain/hero by showing their motives/hidden virtues;

e)  To prove how deluded a certain villain was and start a plot line where the heroes would eventually bring him down;

f)  To bring a team into a tighter-knit group by having the teammates work to support the physically/emotionally injured hero;

g)  To have a hero conquer his/her inner demons through their own strength of character after being a guinea pig or after being tortured.

These days, imprisoning and experimenting on our heroes is more reminiscent of people playing entomologists chasing down rare butterflies.  Instead of following any one of the above possibilities thoroughly, as someone with any imagination would, you poke at our heroes with needles.  I am more than a little tired of it.  You should be, too.

Why?  Because the more often you use these plots where the hero gets cloned or goes crazy, or somehow snaps at his/her team or at society itself, the more easily the lead up to such a story twist will be recognized.  People will flick through the comic book and then put it back on the shelf, saying, “Seen it.”  The more often you use this plot, the more bored the readers will become, and then sooner or later you will be out of business.  

At which point our heroes will be stuck in literary limbo.

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to see that happen.

So how about pulling the pins out of our heroes and letting them get back to work, as full-fledged heroes who are secure in their self-knowledge, principles, and strength of will? 

I am not saying that you should not test the above qualities in our heroes.  By all means, do it.  Just remember that there is a fine line between testing a character and breaking them.

The fact is that right now, you are breaking our heroes.  A broken engine cannot always be repaired, fellow writers. 

Neither can broken characters. 

Sincerely,

Mithril (A True Believer Caught in between Pandiculaton and Story Paranoia)

Villains

Trickshot (Barney Barton)

Trickshot (Barney Barton)

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Have you noticed how certain villains never seem to take a break in the Marvel Universe?  Dr. Doom is always a neat bad guy to have the heroes fight; there’s almost nothing scary he can’t dream up.

Others, well, not so much.

For instance, let’s take a look at Henry Pym’s self-adapting, berserk-o android Ultron.  I have to admit, it’s a pretty good bad guy.  Very like the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, it wants to wipe out humanity; especially the Avengers and specifically Henry Pym.

Not a bad back story.  But can’t it have a rest for a few years?  Right now, Ultron has sent his androids from the future (isn’t that Kang’s bailiwick?) to finish off humanity.  From what I’ve read, he’s done a pretty good job, though it won’t last.  Somehow or other the whole attack is going to get nipped in the bud, the world will go back to the way it was, and Wolverine and a few of the other heroes are going to be the only ones who recall what Ultron almost succeeded in doing.  And then, of course, some other universe-shattering disaster will occur to keep the heroes strained to the breaking point.

I’m sorry; but this is a tired plot.  Pardon my pandiculation.

The same goes for Kang, the Conqueror.  The guy rules the fortieth century and can’t keep his greedy mitts off of ours, whether it’s the twentieth century or the twenty-first.  He has tech beyond even Tony Stark’s most delicious dreams, yet he can’t defeat one little band of determined ‘primitives.’  Way to go, Avengers!!!

Still, it’s a little tiresome right now to have them dodging the futuristic emperor of a galaxy only their farthest descendants will know.  Does he have to keep coming back right now (literally)?

I for one am fed up with the Phoenix Force coming to harangue the X-Men, and now the Avengers, over and over again.  Give it a rest, please!!!  The Phoenix is almost as trite an enemy now as a simple bank robber.  We’ve seen enough.

There are better villains to throw at the X-Men.  I am really, really tired of the Phoenix Force.

Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister have also lost their edge.  Apocalypse has nearly the same m.o. as Kang and Ultron while Mr. Sinister is trying to outdo Dr. Frankenstein.  These guys, apparently, never think that they’re stretching themselves too thin.  But there’s literally nothing new in the plots that have the X-Men or members of the team facing off against either of them over some diabolical plan they haven’t already tried in past arcs.  Why not send them to the beach to catch a few rays and give the heroes a few years’ breather?

As for Norman Osborne – why isn’t he dead now?  Or at least in an insane asylum?  I know he makes a great Green Goblin, but he’s gotten awfully tedious.  Retiring him for a few years and giving the suit to some other villain (preferably not to Harry Osborne, poor kid!) would be a refreshing twist.

Can some other, less used villains, get a chance back in the limelight for a few years?  Ultron, Kang, the Phoenix, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, and Norman Osborne have been used so much lately that they’re downright boring.

What about Trickshot, Atlas, Moonstone, and the other evil members of the Thunderbolts?  They could make an entirely new cabal of villains who would at least give the heroes some exercise.  It would be interesting to see the Cain/Abel relationship between Trickshot and Hawkeye developed a little further; the World’s Greatest Marksman is definitely hurting from his brother’s change of heart.  Having him and Mockingbird go up against Barney Barton would be exciting; it could certainly re-launch their romance.

What about the Shadow King?  Isn’t he still floating around somewhere?  It’s been a while since Deathbird dropped by the X-Mansion, too (guess she’s still embarrassed about being defeated by a lone archer when the entire team of X-Men had trouble thwarting her).  Juggernaut’s been away for some time, as have Toad, Blob, Avalanche, and Pyro.  Now those guys knew how to wreck stuff!

Doc Ock is currently residing in Spider-Man’s head.  How soon can we have him back in tentacles trying to shish-kabob the Wallcrawler, and getting webbed up for his pains?  The Kingpin’s been laying low these days, too, as have Spidey regulars Hobgoblin, Electro, and the Lizard.

Did Venom and Carnage finally leave on a rocket into deep space?  Those two gave Spidey a run for his money, and it wouldn’t be hard for them to do it again.

Then there’s the Red Skull, the Mandarin, Baron Zemo, Zodiac, Red Hulk (who really, really shouldn’t be an Avenger), the Scorpion, the Grizzly, the Rhino, Sandman, Crossfire, the Ghost, Mystique – when can she, Rogue, and Nightcrawler have another hash-out fight?  It’s been some time since they did that.

Where have Loki, the Enchantress, and Skurge been?  And the Kree?  Then there’s The Leader, Crimson Dynamo, and the Abomination.  Are they all on vacation in the Bahamas?

The Serpent Society and the Wrecking Crew could do with some attention.  It would be interesting to see Natasha Romanoff facing off with her ex, Alexai Shostakov (a.k.a. the Red Guardian turned ‘new’ Ronin).  Mole Man is still alive, isn’t he?  Even if all he did was give the FF a case of the giggles, it would be nice to see him again.

The heroes don’t need ‘shaking up,’ fellow writers.  If anything, they need a breather.  Sending the less-than-Earth-shattering villains to harass them would be a nice change of pace.  Who knows, maybe it would be just as exciting as watching the big guys who’ve been hounding them.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Bored, Tired, and Troubled True Believer)

The Avengers: The Best Movie Villain of 2012

Picture 013

Hey, DiNozzo,

Good to write you again. 

Why did I say that this letter was going to be about the best movie villain of 2012?  Because it is.  Didn’t you notice the big picture at the top of this note?

Don’t groan like that!  You go on, time after time, imitating Sean Connery’s James Bond, and somehow you won’t extend a similar courtesy to me when I decide I want to talk about The Avengers for a while?  When I have another movie to talk about, then we’ll talk about it.  And after that, everything is fair game, except James Bond.  I cannot talk, after all, about something I have paid so little attention to over the years.

Oh, knock off bemoaning me as a lost cause already.  Maybe someday I’ll actually pay attention to it, and then what are you going to do?  Hah, got you there!

All right, back to business.  No matter what the critics say, the best film of 2012 was Marvel’s The Avengers. It has definitely set the bar for good movies a notch higher.  Don’t roll your eyes at me like that!

One of the reasons that the movie soars is because of its villain, Loki.  Nasty and sinister sum up his plans nicely, and as for his personality – petulant, sarcastic, and vain about cover it.

Oops, I may have just crossed my characters.  Was I talking about Loki or about you?

Now I’ve got you interested.  So be quiet and listen.

Thank you.

Just to give an example of Loki’s character, this is what he says when he introduces himself, “I am Loki, and I am burdened with glorious purpose!”

You’re laughing!  I knew you would!  There’s plenty more, Tony, if you watch the movie through!

This is just the first of many instances where a member of the audience would say, “Finally, a villain who actually says what he thinks!”  We all know by now that every villain believes himself or herself to be “burdened with glorious purpose.”  But if you can find more than ten big, well-selling movies where the bad guy actually says it, you are way ahead of me.

The big bad guys in every movie (and many other forms of entertainment, too) usually read from the same handbook.  It’s been heard so many times that we all know the formula well: they speak about bringing utopia, they slaughter hundreds of people to get it, and then rule with a tyrant’s iron fist (or they attempt these three in the course of the movie). All are in vain, all only to fail. 

Loki does not entirely break from this script, except in his form of delivery, which – happily – breaks every rule in the Villain’s Handbook of Speeches.

Another part of the villain mold that Loki strays from is in his incredible arrogance, which leads him to regard most of the heroes as extreme inferiors.  This isn’t new, either, but again, it’s the way that Loki does it.

After taking control of Hawkeye, scientist Erik Selvig, and a few other SHIELD agents, Loki has the sniper shoot SHIELD director Nick Fury.  Loki’s contempt of humanity is so prevalent that he does not even bother to learn whether or not Fury is wearing some sort of protection (in this instance, body armor).  He could easily have gotten this information from Hawkeye (when he was under his control) and had the sharpshooter make a final end of Fury, but he didn’t. 

On top of that, throughout the movie Loki time and again shows that it is only Thor’s physical strength that frightens him, since he well knows that Thor is the stronger, even without Mjolnir (the hammer).  This focus on Thor (due as much to jealousy and envy as to fear) leads him to ignore the other Avengers because he believes they cannot match him physically and proves to be another of Loki’s Achilles’ heels.  Loki’s foolhardy belief is disproved when the Hulk incapacitates him, and when Iron Man and Black Widow, along with an ‘awakened’ Selvig, help destroy his alien army and portal. 

His disdain when Hawkeye fires an arrow at him a few scenes earlier proves that he never bothered to learn anything about the man that he had enslaved, beyond his (Hawkeye’s) own usefulness to him.  He is surprised when the explosive arrowhead knocks him off his ‘chariot.’  The entire time that these Avengers deal with Loki, Thor is busy elsewhere, having physically fought Loki only once so far.  So Loki is not truly defeated by his adopted brother, but by a handful of – gasp – ‘mortals’!

The final area where the villain formula is – ahem – smashed by Loki is when he comes face-to-face with the Incredible Hulk.  Of all the mistakes he has made in the course of the film, this proves to be the trickster’s biggest.  He shouts at the Hulk, believing him to be a “dull creature” he can bully.

You’re laughing, Tony.  Yes, this is a very unhealthy attitude for anyone to have toward the Hulk.  Instead of letting Loki yap out a form of the expected “You cannot defeat me!” speech, the Hulk flattens Loki and leaves him moaning in his body-formed crater in the floor as he exits to kill more aliens.  Of all Loki’s failures and subsequent humiliations in the film, this is the best, most spectacular, and definitely the most enjoyable!!

So from beginning to end, Loki is both conventional and unconventional.  A refreshing combination – and I cannot believe I just said that about a film bad guy – this attitude of his gives the heroes and heroines shining moments and pieces of dialogue they would never have had if he were merely conventional.  All in all, this helps to make The Avengers more pleasing than any other comic-book based movie I have seen.

Well, catch you later, DiNozzo.  I got places to go and people to see. 

Am I going to Avengers HQ?  Tsk, tsk, don’t be such a tease!  (Although I was planning on dropping by at some point sooner or later.)

Hah, I got you back!  Now scoot or I’ll get mad.

See ya,

Mithril