Tag Archives: JossWhedon

My Week in Comics: Secret Wars and Not So Secret Awesome Titles

Secret Wars and Swords of Sorrow

Summer’s officially kicking off in the comics’ world, with crossovers a plenty.

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First up is Marvel’s big event, in which the company is pressing the big red reset button, shaking up the multi-verse, and condensing it. It all starts with Secret Wars #1. Admittedly, there’s a lot to take in with this, even for a regular Marvel reader. This ultimately means that the “biggest event in the Marvel Comics Universe” may not be the friendliest jumping on point for new readers. Worlds are ending, but it’s not entirely clear who survives. Perhaps it will work best as a completed series. That being said, Jonathan Hickman’s writing is fantastic, and feels epic and poignant. The book is visually beautiful, with wonderful art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, with an eerie grace to the violent, catastrophic events that unfold. But from the ashes of Secret Wars, a new universe will arrive. In June 2015, a whole new range of #1’s will be released, marking the beginning of a new era for Marvel. We have Guardians of Knowhere, Years of Future Past, Korvac Saga, X-Tinction Agenda, Groot, Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde, Thors, Marvel Zombies, 1872, Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos, and Future Imperfect – to name but a few! I, personally, am most excited for Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1! Thus, Secret Wars could essentially be considered as the big Marvel tidy-up event, where they tighten up their universe, make it more manageable and new-reader friendly. But who are we going to end up saying goodbye to on the way?

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Also on the crossover list was Swords of Sorrow, Dynamite’s big crossover event which teams together their toughest ladies in a fight which is yet to be properly revealed. Having never read any of Dynamite’s female led series, I entered fairly ignorantly. This, combined with little but set-up for the event, sadly opened the doors to criticism rather than curiosity as I struggled through the issue. Swords of Sorrow teams up the likes of Red Sonja, Vampirella, Jungle Girl, Irene Adler, and Lady Zorro (amongst others), which you would think would make a riveting read, particularly when penned by Gail Simone. Unfortunately, it didn’t read that way.

I hoped the cover image of four women dressed in nothing but, well, no, actually – not really anything at all, would be a sales gimmick to attract a male audience to read a female-centred event with a female creative team. Particularly with the awkward poses – Jungle Girl has gone a little Manara Spider-Womany, and the black woman in the silver (I have no idea of her name, as there’s no one resembling her within the pages of the comic?!) has gone for the red carpet ‘over-the-shoulder’ pout. Red Sonja might be wielding a sword, but with her stomach held in like that, she looks unhealthy, and kind of like she’s holding in uncomfortable wind. Unfortunately I quickly discovered that this is, in fact, standard costume if you are to be a leading lady in Dynamite’s comics, Irene Adler, Lady Greystoke, and Kato aside.

So, impractical clothing for warrior women to one side, does this comic show these women kicking ass? Standing up to a real villain? Proving that girls are just as powerful and awesome as boys without waving a big red flag that reads “HEY, GUESS WHAT?! WOMEN ARE GOOD TOO!”? Well, not really.

First of all, it appears that the villain of the piece is an egocentric male, who thrives on controlling women who ‘love’ him – probably not in the true sense of the word, but in that ‘worship-me-so-I-feel-like-I-have-power’ kinda way. And do you know what he does? He calls forward ‘the shard men, the soulless victims’ to ‘Avenge me…against ALL women’. Wow. Literal woman hating. To me, this seems a bit like one guy who’s been hurt by one woman, and is now on a tirade against all of woman-kind. Something that can be considered a bit too close to home in today’s world – admittedly, Elliot Rodger’s vendetta against women in May 2014 sprung instantly to mind –  and potentially stands as a more dangerous idea to be playing with than standard ‘world domination’ for wanting to be a villain. I expected better from Simone, and frankly I was disappointed by the underlining themes running throughout the issue. Surely there’s more reason than a misogynist for women to team-up in comics? And surely they can do it whilst wearing clothes? It will be interesting to see how the all-female Avengers A-Force bring a team of women together to save the day: will Thanos be peeved about being dumped and wage war on all womankind, or will they band together simply to try and make the world a better place for everyone?

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5

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How do you continue a series after defeating the biggest bad in all the galaxy? Luckily that’s not an issue The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has to worry about. SG manages to continue being a truly entertaining read whilst openly mocking its own position in the comics’ world. In #5 we take a step back from the action and hang out with some hostages whilst heroes of NYC try to save them from a dinosaur attack. In their time together, the hostages discuss tales of Squirrel Girl which they’ve heard in attempts to prove that they know who she is, prodding fun at the comics’ own position on the store shelf: the Unrecognised Squirrel Girl. As per usual, hilarity ensues, and I’m fairly sure Simon Pegg made a guest appearance. If you’re not reading Squirrel Girl, #5 is a perfect place to jump on board – don’t end up like the losers in the Statue of Liberty, confusing Squirrel Girl for Spider-Man (doy!) – be someone who knows Doreen Green is the real deal!

The Spiders Web

I think Silk might just be my favourite of all the spider-women just now (sorry, Gwen!). It’s such a beautiful comic in all senses of the word. It’s captivating, relatable, and intriguing. We’re beginning to learn so much more about Cindy’s past, and it doesn’t look to shiny and happy, which helps her to not only stop the villain, but try to convince them to turn their life around. Silk is so much more than beating up the bad guy. It’s a voyage of self-discovery for a young woman AND a super-hero. And Cindy is so easy to sympathise with. Perhaps it’s her tone, or her bewilderment by a lot of things now she’s back in the world, but she’s got something a lot of superheroes tend to miss.

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Similarly, Spider-Gwen has developed a truly accessible connection with its audience, particularly in its fourth issue. We really slow down and get a peek behind the mask. It’s clear Gwen’s been dealing with a lot of guilt, and not dealing particularly well… But this issue confronts that head on. We see her return to some sense of normal life. She visits Ben and May, and they discuss the loss of Peter in some particularly moving panels. I loved the connection between Peter and Spider-heroism: something he’s always drawn to, no matter which universe – the freedom to do the right thing.

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This is exactly what makes these female-fronted spider comics so appealing. It’s not all about punching the bad guy, but about being complex, flawed characters who make mistakes and must learn to get past them. And by getting closer to the character behind the mask, it’s increasingly obvious that you don’t need to wear a costume to be a hero.

Non-Compliant

Bitch Planet is quite possibly the most important comic book out there right now. Kelly Sue’s no prisoners approach to confronting feminism, conformity, and the corruption of power in the Western World is second to none, and truly eye opening. And these issues extend further than the strip itself. The back cover of every issue is covered with fake ads like this, which almost translate the real ads we see on magazines into its true blunt language:

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And perhaps the most important thing we can take from Bitch Planet is that the powerful reputation it has built, with a strong fan-base after just four issues, shows that it isn’t about the book.

And it really isn’t about the book. It’s about everything it stands for. It’s about oppression of the true self, the struggle minorities face every day. And the fact someone is speaking out about this so bluntly in a medium that is accessible to everyone is fantastic. It’s why so many have already got non-compliant tattoos; why cosplayers are dawning BP overalls. The message is powerful, and the demand is great. If anything, it shows there’s a real issue of equality in modern society when a fan-base reacts so passionately so quickly towards a confrontational comic. Bitch Planet has the power to initiate change, and it’s getting the message out there. It’s up to the non-compliant to carry the message forward.

Not far behind Bitch Planet in the world of strong feminism in comics is Rat Queens, and the second volume is out now! Another no-nonsense comic when depicting it’s female characters, Rat Queens is the rock ‘n’ roll fantasy comic you ought to be reading!

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In this second volume, we learn more about the fearsome four’s history, adding further layers to their histories. It steps back slightly from the reckless romps of the first volume and gives the world a lot more heart, building upon the foundations already set. The humour, action, adventure, sex, and drugs are all still there, but this time there was something more – something complex.

Perhaps my favourite thing about Rat Queens is the fact it depicts real women. Yes, they’re in a fantasy world and battle orcs and do magic, but these women are as real as they come. They have all the lumps and bumps in the right places. Their hair is regularly out of place. They are athletic, not anorexic. They are themselves, despite being social outcasts from their hometowns. And the message portrayed in Rat Queens to female readers is spot on. Vi’s father congratulates her on looking “strong.” Not beautiful, not slim – strong. Hannah’s mother encourages her to have “not a fear of knowledge, but embracing every facet of it.” Even the addition of eyeliner in the costume-wearing montage scene is bad-ass, because it’s not vain, it’s a sign that femininity is strong. And I love that: women can look beautiful, embrace themselves for who they are, be smart, and tough. These are the women who are true heroes, in the comics’ world and the real world.

A comic which depicts a man as the damsel in distress being saved by an army of women that is still popular by both male and female readers is an amazing feat, and shows that female warriors are not emasculating. And the fact that said comic is created by men?! Hallelujah! I think we’re making progress!

Now is the perfect time to read Rat Queens if you haven’t already: with the first two trades available you can catch up quick! For fans of fantasy adventure who aren’t easily offended by bad language, nudity, and straight talking women.

Age of Ultron: Upon a Second Viewing

I have been to see Age of Ultron again, and with the ‘feminist’ (I use the word loosely) outrage fresh in my mind, I decided to really pay attention to those issues which sparked such an angry response towards the movie.

First, we have Black Widow’s declaration as being a monster.

The online argument: the fact she can’t have children makes her a monster. How dare you, Joss Whedon!

Upon a Second Viewing: In this scene we see a frustrated Banner emotionally explain to Romanoff that he “physically can’t have kids”, desperately upset that he himself cannot father children. This is Natasha’s chance to open up. Her choice to have children has also been taken away. The word ‘monster’ does not leave her mouth until she states that the sterilization project is meant to make it “easier to kill”. Now, it might just be me, but I think her monstrosity is referring to that red on her ledger Loki mentioned in the first movie: all that blood on her hands. The fact that everything she worked towards in her life prior to the Avengers was to make it easier to kill. Let’s look at this further.

Black Widow seemingly joined the Avengers to redeem herself, to clear her ledger and wash away the red. And that’s what she’s doing. Scenes where she opens up shows progression. We see that she’s not the stone cold assassin she was trained to be, but is capable of being loving. Empathising with Banner’s loss doesn’t make her weak, it makes her human. And that’s progress. She’s more than the quick-quip, relatively cold spy of the Avengers, and more open than the “whoever you want me to be” Natasha of the Winter Soldier. Here we see her lay herself bare: someone who has been raised to keep secrets and kill is opening up and experiencing empathy. The sterilization was meant to remove any kind of maternal-instinct, that loving tie to humanity us ladies are lucky to have built into our very bodies, has clearly not killed off this capability of caring and emotion in Natasha. We see that through her connection with Barton’s children, and how fantastic she can be as “Auntie Nat”. Yes, perhaps a mistake was made in sterilizing Romanoff, but I think we have to remember that her choice was removed: not her desire. She’s not calling herself a monster because she is infertile. She’s calling herself a monster because she then chose to continue killing for years.

Second, we have Vision saving Scarlet Witch from certain death.

The online argument: Why did Vision have to save Scarlet Witch? I bet she could’ve made it out alive by herself. How dare you, Whedon!

Upon a Second Viewing: Absolutely nothing about this scene is ‘weak’ or misogynistic. Nothing. Scarlet Witch had literally just torn the heart from the strongest Ultron body with her bare hands. The world was caving in around her, and with no ability to fly, or run at super speed, it’s pretty certain she would have been crushed: particularly in her state of mind. Having just lost her brother, it’s unlikely she would’ve been in the best state to try and save herself. Vision swooping in wasn’t some kind of Prince Charming move: it was what any of the heroes would have done if any of the others had been in the same position. Example: Quicksilver swooped in to save Hawkeye from being shot. Case and point.

My biggest issue with this argument is that it suggests it’s weak to ask for help. It’s not. It’s absolutely not. I understand we’re in a position where women, particularly women in film and media, need to be increasingly portrayed as being tough and independent, because that’s what real women are, but everyone needs help sometimes. Do we really want to teach the next generation that they have to struggle through life alone? That having a problem or worrying about something or nearly being crushed to death by falling debris is something you have to deal with by yourself, because otherwise you’re weak and always being saved by men? No. It’s important to be tough, and independent, and to believe in yourself, but girls: listen up: IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP – YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO THROUGH LIFE ALONE.

Age of Ultron is a fantastic movie, but I can’t help but feel that people are expecting too much from it. It’s an action movie. If people were just a third as passionate about issues like equal pay, objectification, and equal representation as they were about Whedon’s “destruction” of the Black Widow character, and absolute sacrilege of having Scarlet Witch even being helped up by a man (who is an android anyway, guys!) never mind actually having her life saved, we’d probably be far more successful in solving real world issues.

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The Trouble with Twitter: The Joss Whedon Debate

The internet is a fantastic thing. Without it, millions of voices from around the globe would not have had the chance to be heard, my own included. It’s a wonderful tool in which ideas and opinions and experiences can be shared via the clacking of some keys and the click of a ‘post’ button. And that is amazing: how many fabulous movements and ideals have stemmed from the internet – one post a small seed planted in the wild jungle of the worldwide web.

But a jungle is exactly what the internet is; whilst it’s filled with beauty and creativity and wonder, it’s also filled with dangerous predators stalking their prey.

Yes, I’m referring to Joss Whedon’s departure from Twitter today. I was not so much upset by the news – given that it’s a promotional platform in which fans have the notion of being that bit closer to their heroes – as I was irked by the ideas brought up by all of the speculation. And I should state that Whedon’s reasons for leaving Twitter behind is exactly that: speculation. No one but Whedon, and probably his nearest and dearest, knows why he chose to leave the world of hashtagging behind, but really – it’s no one else’s business.

Directly opposing all of the fantastic opportunity the internet provides us are those who use the power for evil. Instead of embracing all the internet has to offer, many use it as a tool for hate. And I find Twitter to be the worst breeding ground for this kind of behaviour. Many a morning have I woken up to be disgusted by a hashtag which caught fire and trended globally over-night. Just the other week #feministsareugly topped the trending charts. Fortunately, most responded by posting gorgeous selfies of themselves and their feminist heroes, asking ‘Is this ugly?’ But still, a few rose to the bait, and a war of bitter bile-spewing begins.

Back yonder, before the Twitter era, if a celebrity was annoying, or people were outraged by an idea, or didn’t enjoy a new film or album, healthy discussion would break out between friends, arguing their corner before carrying on with the day. But today, the hate can grow, and fester. Today, you can be online with the click of a button and find a whole group of people who hate the same things you do, and discuss why you hate it. Today – you can directly target the subjects of your dislike.

This is where the danger lies. It’s okay to dislike something: you can’t love it all. But that invisible barrier the internet seemingly puts up between the writer and the receiver dulls any sense of humility. We forget that after we hit the share button, our opinions are there for anyone to see: especially those we victimise. We’re no longer having a healthy discussion; but become vile viral bullies.

We all know by now the all-too-real consequences for cyberbulling: deactivated accounts to arrests and imprisonment to suicide. It effects people on a deeply emotional and personal level. And celebrities or activist topics seem to be becoming increasingly under-fire. Why? Are the bullies behind the keyboards really so desperate to see someone’s life fall apart? What drives someone to that level?

One of the most damaging things that cyberbulling and trolling can do, outside of the personal level, is detract from the real issues at hand. Let’s look at Joss Whedon’s apparent reason for departure as an example:

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The above image is rumoured to be one of the reasons Whedon deactivated his account. Because he made a terrible movie that did nothing for Marvel and is the worst feminist ever (to sum-up).

Okay – no. I’ve covered this in my past two posts now. Whedon is one of the most influential and progressive figures in both Marvel and in supporting feminism. So really really look at your argument before calling him out as a backwards woman-hater. All this vocal aggression does is set people actively looking for real change backwards about 500 steps. Feminism is about equality, not men hating or superiority. It’s no wonder feminists receive the hatred they do when people respond to issues like this, aggressively calling out males in positions of power or public prowess whenever they slip up; and it’s understandable why many would be embarrassed to call themselves feminists, which is consequently damaging for the movement as a whole. Perhaps instead of telling the person you disagree with to “die” or that they’re the “scum of the earth” or that they “ruined your life”, think about how you can learn from their mistakes, use it to your best advantage for your cause, and progress forward positively. Change needs to happen but, as the old saying goes, violence doesn’t solve anything – and that includes a violently confrontational attitude.

It’s not just feminism that is set back every time a cruel post is directed towards someone or something: issues have effected everyone from gamers to cosplayers to LGBT community to politicians to musicians to athletes to teachers to activists to the kitchen sink. No one is safe on the internet. And whilst a level playing field is fantastic in some respects, it makes it the perfect ground for scoring cheap points. We can taunt beautiful people by calling them ugly or fat; demand that strangers change because we don’t like their opinions or something they’ve created; tell those we disagree with to kill themselves. Is it really so hard to see how damaging this is?

The internet is a cave of wonders waiting to be explored. But it has a cold, cruel heart at its centre: one that could corrode the rest of the magic and drag the good intent down with it. There’s a reason trolls live under dank, dark bridges: maybe it’s time they come out and live their lives in the sun. Or perhaps we should all take a leaf out of Whedon’s book and rejoin the real world.

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Age of Ultron

The comic book movie event of the year has arrived. Avengers: Age of Ultron burst into UK cinemas last week, and I was first in line to see it. Attending one of Cineworld’s triple bill screenings was the perfect way to experience the long awaited sequel to 2009’s Avengers (or Avengers Assemble for us Brits). Sitting through the Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier – two of the best Marvel movies to date – only added to the anticipation, rather than draining the life from you. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

Let’s get the critical stuff out the way first.

Right from the get-go, Age of Ultron is an action-packed, laugh-a-minute thrill ride. The opening scene sets the tone for the entire film: buckle up, cause there’s no stopping. Literally. The film does not stop to catch a breath. The audience is thrown into one thing after another after another. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s no room to be bored; there’s no space for unnecessary plot lines; there’s no time to question tiny flaws in an otherwise fantastic storyline. As soon as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes burst on screen, the audience is swept along on the journey, pulling them out of their seats and into the world of the Avengers: firing lasers, kicking ass, hulking out. And that’s great – because, really, that’s what these films are for. They’re ginormous, fun, super films! The bad guy threatens the world: the heroes save it! And that’s what we go to the cinema to see these movies for.

However, the Quicksilver pacing of Age of Ultron sadly left some scenes lacking. Joss Whedon’s original cut is over 3 hours long (yes please for the DVD/Blu-Ray release, I say!), and I feel some of the important scenes may have been lost in the editing room. For example, I found Black Widow’s relationship with the Hulk completely unnecessary. Not because ‘there’s no room for romance’ in the Avengers, just that the backstory was so completely washed over that I found it difficult to go along with. Sure, it’s sweet that they’ve found a way to calm Banner down. And why shouldn’t the ‘cold-hearted killer’ Black Widow find love in the ‘monstrous’ Hulk? But the plot moved so fast that the chemistry seemed forced, and I found it laughable rather than loveable.

Similarly, Stark had no time for penance. He created Ultron – threatened the world – and all he got was a stern talking to from Cap?! Yes, he was trying to do the right thing. And yes, he’s in a bad place after the climax of Avengers Assemble. But that doesn’t really excuse creating a robot bent on world domination – which is achieved by destroying mankind.

Finally, we didn’t really get to know the twins. Their screen time was so little that – during that shocking twist finale (it was totally setting up to be Hawkeye) – it was hard to be overly distressed when Quicksilver fell. I loved how creepy they were during their introductory scenes, and I wish they’d been used more.

BUT – this didn’t detract from the overall impact of the movie. Age of Ultron definitely impressed, and is a perfect companion to the first instalment. It’s fantastically written (and directed, obviously – thank you, Whedon!) and the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny. They come thick and fast, too. Particularly with Ultron, played by James Spader. His timing was fantastic and portraying Ultron as almost being human: a twisted soul with no compassion, only added to the character. A character who, perhaps, reflected Stark in this movie. Tony Stark – again played wonderfully by Robert Downey Jr – wanted Ultron to save the world, not to destroy it. The both believe Ultron has the ability to save the world – it’s the method that causes the problems.

The special effects have come screaming on since 2009 alone. Ultron looked great, particularly as the partially assembled Iron Man suit – a terrifying Frankenstein’s monster: a puppet without his strings. The Hulk’s effects have also vastly improved. Ruffalo’s emotion shone through the CGI and really added heart to the scientist’s violent alter-ego. I strongly believe the time for a stand-alone Hulk film has arrived, and Mark Ruffalo is the man to pull it off! The battle between Hulk and Iron Man in his Hulk-Buster suit was fantastic – metal on monster, with each as determined as the other to come out on top. And Vision was, well, exactly that! His make-up was so flawless I really believed there was a multi-coloured android on screen rather than an actor.

One of the things that most impressed me about Avengers Assemble was the equal amount of screen time given to each of the characters. No one felt left out or left behind. This was again the case for Age of Ultron. Each character had their moment to be developed; whether in a monologue or a nightmare vision; we learned a little more about each one. And each had time to beat up bad guys in a totally awesome manner (ladies and gentlemen). There was even room for cameos galore, which was great! And so much referencing that I’ve undoubtedly missed about 20 different things. You can really see the continuity of the films and television shows come together in Age of Ultron as well. The MCU is growing at a rapid pace, yet Marvel clearly have it so tightly planned that it feels organic. Nothing forced, just subtle harks back to previous events.

Ultimately, Age of Ultron was a blast: a Hulk-sized super smash that I’ll gladly watch again and again! It isn’t quite up to par with its prequel and Winter Soldier, but it definitely ranks high in the MCU and lays solid foundations for Captain America 3: Civil War. Scoring it a super 8 out of 10, it’s another high flying hit from Marvel. When you can complete a full day of work after just 3 hours sleep – running purely on Avenger adrenaline – you know it’s a good movie!

Now the wait begins for Ant-Man…

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My Week in Comics: Avengers Assemble

The moment has arrived. The follow up to 2009 smash hit blockbuster has officially landed in cinemas. Grossing $44.8 million at the international box office in just two days, Age of Ultron is already a hulk-sized success, so it’s no surprise that this week the majority of comics’ news is centred around the Marvel super-group!

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

My past week has focused almost exclusively on the return of the Avengers. As the team assembled in London this week for the international premiere, my sights were set on getting a glimpse of the stars in person. (Not as a creepy stalker: see previous post on fandom here: https://faceittiger.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/embrace-the-fandom/.)

On Tuesday night, I scored a ticket to the filming of the Graham Norton show, which promised Avengers star guests. Of course, I was front and centre – and I wasn’t disappointed as Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Elizabeth Olsen settled themselves on the infamous red couch. Straight from the premiere at Shepherd’s Bush, the trio were in good form, and shared some fantastic stories. We were in the studio for well over 2 hours, but you can see the cut version now on iplayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05s769y/the-graham-norton-show-series-17-episode-3.

There have been a number of heated talking points around the Avengers’ various press junkets this past week. From sexist slurs to unprofessional and inappropriate journalism, it’s all been covered, making the Avengers a bigger talking point than just a new movie.

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Let’s begin with the area that bothered me the most. The sexism. May I begin by pointing out that Black Widow has once again been left off all the Age of Ultron merchandise? There are no toys, no t-shirts, no lunchboxes. She’s a big part of the movies, and even has a more independent storyline in this instalment (with rumours of her own film surfacing once again – yes please!), and the only major female connection girls have into the MCU Avengers franchise. So why is she not being included? There’s a market for it – a loud and proud one – so why is Black Widow being pushed to the side in favour of Iron Man, Cap, and Hawkeye (seriously – HAWKEYE.)

This leads nicely into Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans’ ignorant response regarding Black Widow in an interview earlier in the week. The pair were asked about Black Widow’s new relationship in the movie, and how surprised the interviewer was that it wasn’t with Hawkeye or Captain America, given their close relationships in past movies. Renner and Evans responded in a juvenile manner, explaining that Johansson’s character is a “whore” and “slut”, laughing the question off. Now, press junkets must be boring. I can’t even imagine how tedious it must be to answer the same questions repeatedly throughout a press tour around the globe. So, yes, I understand how having a laugh probably eases the monotony of this. But – these people have a responsibility. Particularly when you’re embodying Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in one of the biggest franchises of our time. It’s not okay to speak about women – or anyone – like that. They need to remember they are role models and real life heroes for so many people.

Their comments were particularly damaging considering what I’ve already stated about Black Widow’s underrepresentation. It’s only further highlighting the problems we have with the representation of women in media, particularly in comics and film. It seems Johansson’s character can’t be defined by her ass-kicking ability, her dark history and how she’s overcome it, or her independent character. Nope, it’s about men and who she’s dating. And the response didn’t even acknowledge the fact that she’s her own person: an independent woman capable of making her own choices that don’t need to be justified to anyone. I have to admit, I wasn’t overly surprised Renner was involved in this, and his insincere apology has only furthered this opinion on the actor. But Chris Evans is a different story. A strong actor who interviews well (this incident aside…) and comes across favourably in social media, Evans is one of the last men on earth I want to be upset with. He’s Captain America for goodness sake! He has since apologised for the comments, and seems to understand how damaging they can be. Want to read more? There’s a fantastic article on Nerdist recapping the incident and its impact which you can read here: http://nerdist.com/yes-jeremy-renner-and-chris-evans-black-widow-comments-are-problematic/

Sometimes it’s the interviewer, rather than the interviewee, who can get it totally wrong. Yes, I’m talking about channel 4’s interview with Robert Downey Jr, conducted by Krishnan Guru-Murphy. Now, warning signals tend to go off whenever Guru-Murphy’s involved. A terrible “journalist” who seeks to provoke rather than investigate, he appears to be increasingly relying on controversy to remain relevant and, well, on TV rather than actually doing a good job as a reporter. From provoking Tarantino on his use of violence in movies (when he should have been talking about Django Unchained), to questioning Richard Ayoade about being a black man in the British entertainment industry (when he should’ve been talking about Ayoade’s book), he frequently strays from the topic at hand to provoke and annoy his interviewees. Tarantino famously “shut his butt down”, and Ayoade handled it very well, flipping the interview onto Guru-Murphy, clearly making him uncomfortable with his own journalistic “style” – or lack thereof. Perhaps he’s gunning to be the Katie Hopkins of Channel 4. But, next on his hit list was Robert Downey Jr. In the press room to promote Age of Ultron, Downey Jr gladly answered questions about Iron Man and his relationship with the character. The interview was going well, and Downey Jr was perfectly polite and responsive to the questions. But then it turned, Guru-Murphy hulked out – but not in a cool, green, building-smashing giant way. In a completely idiotic way: a way that he knew would get him thousands of hits on youtube (it’s interesting to note Channel 4 have disabled comments from being posted on the video).

Now, what I find totally, completely and utterly inappropriate about this is not that he’s questioning Robert Downey Jr about his difficult and dark past – a topic which has been covered a zillion times before. But the fact that he wanted to pry into his family life, asking if he still blames his father for his drug and alcohol abuse. That’s not investigative journalism, or professional etiquette in the slightest. That’s poking a bear with a pointy stick in the hope it attacks. RDJ was totally right to walk out. He wasn’t rude or unjustified. The actor has pulled himself out of a difficult place and really made something of himself. He’s secured himself in a successful franchise, and started a family. He regularly does charity work, and he supports independent films to aid rising stars of the industry. If you really need to reopen the scar which has been picked at for years now, ask him how he feels about the change he’s made in his life and how he’s going to continue to improve. Provoking him by asking how he feels about his relationship with his father is unnecessary, irrelevant and unprofessional – particularly when he’s there to talk about the film.

But there are occasionally moments of brilliance in times of interviewing crisis. Cosmopolitan magazine (Yes, I was shocked too) decided to flip the table when talking to Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson this week, and it was great. They both entered into the spirit of it, and I think Ruffalo’s embracing and accepting of the idea was fantastic, fully acknowledging inherently sexist habits in celebrity interviews. Hopefully this will open the doors to a world where both men and women can answer the thought provoking questions, and no one will ever be asked again “who are you wearing?!” – because, really, who cares?

But the controversy doesn’t stop there! Nope, Age of Ultron has kicked up a storm! Some loud voices are angry at a comment made by Iron Man during the movie as he tries to lift Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. He refers to “reinstating Prima Nocta”, and the ‘mewling quim’ doors from the Avengers have been reopened and JOSS WHEDON IS A HORRIBLE SEXIST PIG!

No. Let’s calm down.

First of all – let’s have a show of hands of who, off the top of their heads, knows what Prima Nocta means? Who, as soon as the words slipped from Tony Starks’ mouth as he joked with his friends, stormed out of the cinema, cursing Whedon and his family?

Not being one of these people, I googled the phrase when I saw people were unhappy about it. Apparently best known for its use in the absolutely 100% historically accurate movie Braveheart, it refers to the practise of a nobleman being with a peasant woman on her wedding night instead of her new husband. These traditions have been referred to throughout history, but it’s disputed as to whether or not it was ever actually a real law, leaning closer to the ‘it’s not real’ camp.

Regardless, it was referenced in Age of Ultron, and voices have cried “rape!” It seems very unlikely to me that Whedon, the openly feminist writer and director who has created some of the most kick-ass women in film and television history (Buffy, hello!), would deliberately celebrate the idea of reinstating laws where a nobleman could take a peasant woman against her will on her wedding night. It could well be a poke at the idea Whedon didn’t know what ‘mewling quim’ meant when he wrote it into Avengers Assemble, using an old-world term of phrase that sounds impressive, but is incredibly tongue in cheek. It could be a reflection of Iron Man’s arrogance – and the fact he’s a notorious playboy. Or yes, it could be a throwaway rape joke that shouldn’t be there. Words are powerful and have meaning, but taken in the grander scheme of things, this has gotten a little out of hand. Rape jokes are not funny, and completely unnecessary, but in context of the film, that’s not what this is. It’s possibly people looking a bit too far into something which isn’t there. The lesson: don’t take Braveheart as gospel truth.

MARVELous

It’s not all Avenger news this week though! Let’s take a look at what else has been going on.

Netflix’s super series, Daredevil, has already been signed for a second season! Hopefully we won’t have to wait until the other Hells Kitchen shows have aired to meet the bigger bads in Daredevil’s world!

In All-New X-Men, Iceman (Bobby Drake) has officially come out! This has obviously caused some outrage and confusion amongst X-Men readers and fans, but the character’s sexuality has been in question since the late 1980’s. Exploring the internet, the outrage is evident: many are convinced it’s a marketing ploy, some believe it is exploiting sexuality to sell more issues, and others believe it’s the devils work. But it’s encouraging to see some embracing the change and celebrating the fact there’s an openly homosexual character in a popular comic book. Long-running comics like the X-Men pass through so many different hands of writers, artists, editors, and producers that change will happen; good and bad. I don’t believe it’s an event to sell more issues, but to reflect our changing times and how diverse and tolerant the Western World is becoming.

Marvel has also announced that they have officially teamed up with Telltale Games for a 2017 release! More news will be coming soon!

HAHAHA – Don’t Make Me Laugh

Jared Leto’s new look as the Joker in upcoming film, Suicide Squad, has officially been released. The internet doesn’t quite know how to feel – and to be honest, neither do I. The Joker has had so many changes and inconsistencies over the years, it’s difficult to say “that’s not the Joker”. His constant state of flux is a large part of his appeal. But it’s not the Joker. It’s an embarrassing attempt to be edgy. Yes, I understand at this point he will have been through years of mental and physical struggles, and yeah, he’s crazy. But who is dumb enough to tattoo the Joker – stick moving pins in and out of his skin?! I can’t really see him sitting in a chair for a few hours, or picking out fonts to have ‘Damaged’ scrolled across his forehead. I also don’t see him as believing himself to be damaged. If anyone with dyed hair and tattoos is a psychotic criminal, we should probably all be locked up. Although it’s clearly a reference to Brian Bolland’s art in The Killing Joke, it doesn’t work. Nope. I’m not a fan. But I’m reserving full judgement until we’ve seen the trailer.

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The Dark Knight Returns – AGAIN

It was announced yesterday that Frank Miller will be returning to DC for a third instalment of his Dark Knight books. Frequently hailed as some of the greatest Batman comics, fandom is abuzz with excitement to see what Miller does next. The Dark Knight III will be released Fall 2015

Drop Outs and Sign Ups

When DC manage to take a step forward, they end up backtracking about 20 steps, particularly in their movie franchises. Wonder Woman’s Emmy-award winning director, Michelle McLaren, dropped out of the project for undisclosed reasons. She has been replaced by Patty Jenkins, so it’s a relief to see a woman is still in charge of the first female-led superhero blockbuster. However, McLaren’s departure is concerning. Hopefully this switch of director means we’ll still see Wonder Woman on the big screen in 2017.

Keen to keep DC on their toes, Marvel has found its writers for Captain Marvel in Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Meg LeFauve (Inside Out). They’re determined to have strong female voices resonate throughout every aspect of the film, which is very pleasing to hear. Rumour has it Angelina Jolie is forerunner for the 2018 female led-features’ director.

REVIEWS

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

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If you’ve not picked up Squirrel Girl yet, you’re seriously missing out. It’s so much fun, I even enjoy reading the Previously page! Yes, it’s silly, but it’s also fantastic. There’s real heart behind the nuts. This issue confronts the ridiculousness of gendered language, as well as the meaning of being a hero (okay, that second one is in, like, every supers book…). But where else can you find a fun, family-friendly, female led superhero comic, where the heroine in question can defeat both Galactus and Thanos – and doesn’t always need to punch people into oblivion to do it?! Smarts, not scars. That should be her slogan!

Thor #7

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Why are you reading this instead of Thor? Stop – go pick it up now!

I particularly loved the final page of this issue, where Thor Odinson has rounded up the mightiest heroes he knows, and it’s the women of the Marvel universe. I need it as a poster to display proudly on my wall. I’m so excited for issue 8 – where we finally learn her identity!

What I particularly love about this new Thor is the fact that she is confronting the idea of being a strong female superhero, and why she constantly has to justify it. Why shouldn’t a woman be worthy of holding the power of Thor? It’s also great to see that she’s consistently drawn as muscular and athletic. I would kill for her arms. But she’s not scrawny, or scantily dressed. She’s how a female God of Thunder – or anyone who throws a heavy hammer around while beating the bad guys – would look.

Giant Days #2

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BOOM!’s new book, Giant Days, finds its stride in this second issue, which I enjoyed a lot more than the first. Confronting the horrific realities of Freshers Flu, the comic is genuinely funny and has a great dynamic. It’s a very real look at female friendships, whilst all the characters have their own independent struggles. I think this is a book which will grow more in each issue, and I plan to keep reading. The art is fantastic – a nice change from a lot of the styles in popular comics today. BOOM’s creator owned line is growing to be very strong, and I look forward to seeing what else they throw at us.

Archie vs Predator

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Well, this is a cross-over I didn’t believe until I saw it sitting on the shelf. It works, in a very weird way. Archie and the gang win a holiday to a tropical island, and accidentally bring home a Predator – literally. The idea and execution is so ridiculous that it’s fantastic. The Archie element is like a teen soap-opera from the 1940s, but the addition of Predator makes that a little more bearable and intriguing.

My only concern with AvP is that I sincerely hope it’s a parody. Having never read Archie comics, I don’t know how the usual group dynamic normally reads, but I pray it’s not like this. If it is a parody, AvP does a great job at portraying the stereotypical tropes found in the horror genre when a group of young friends go exploring together, only to run into danger. The guys are slick and sleazy, and the girls live to impress them and dress in amazing clothes. This is funny – if it’s a joke. But what troubled me is that it may not be. Archie comics could be about this world of couples, where the girls only live to impress the guys and the guys chase whatever girl looks prettiest. If that’s the case, it should have stayed in the 1940s when that was the American dream. Even when you’re fighting monstrous space creatures, your audience needs to be taken into account, no matter how crisp and clean your stories are.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2

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Another re-imagining of a classic series from Archie comics, but very different from AvP, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has a chilling old-school horror/folklore feel to it. It’s creepy and reads like a Grimm fairytale. Similarly, the art style is anything but the clean lines you’d expect from Archie. Instead it’s scratchy and distressed, harking back to EC horror comics of the 1940s. This isn’t a recreation of the Melissa Joan Hart series I watched growing up as a child, but rather a dark tale of witchcraft and devilry. It almost read like an old romance comic that had gone wrong, warning the dangers of a woman scorned. I found Chilling Adventures of Sabrina neither good nor bad, but intriguing. I’m interested to see what direction they take with it long-term. Plus, you can’t fault anything with sassy Salem the cat!

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