John Favreau, the accomplished director of the two Iron Man films (among others), recently gave an interview with MTV in which he commented on the next Iron Man movie and its possible villain, The Mandarin.
“You have to do The Mandarin,” he said. “The problem with The Mandarin is, the way it’s depicted in the comic books, you don’t want to see that. He also has 10 magical rings, and it just doesn’t feel right for our thing, so it’s either tech-based or the rings are not really rings.”
“But maybe with ‘Thor’ and all those others you’ll introduce magic to that world and it won’t seem so out of place,” he said.
Okay, I LOVE what Favreau has done with the Iron Man films – he’s made ol’ Shell Head into one of the most successful comic-book movie franchises (behind Batman and a certain web-slinger which is now being rebooted), despite using a hero many non-comic book readers would consider a B-list hero – but let’s examine that last line a bit more closely: “introduce magic to that world and it won’t seem so out of place.”
This is a world in which a man can create a body suit of armor in a few weeks using spare parts from stolen weapons. This is a world in which the same man can create armor that flies at supersonic speeds and fires rockets and repulsor beams, all powered by a power cell that apparently has no ill-effects whatsoever, environmentally or physically. This is a world in which a man exposed to gamma radiation turns into a raging green behemoth when angry. This is the same world in which a high school kid can get bitten by a radioactive spider and develop the proportional strength and reflexes (and webs!) of the arachnid. And this is the same world in which people are born with latent fantastical powers (concussive eye-blasts, sheathed claws, the ability to control the weather, etc.) that manifest themselves at the onset of puberty.
And Favreau thinks magic would be “out of place”?
Sure, I agree that historically the character of the Mandarin has been a bit insensitive, a bit politically incorrect. But Favreau’s not bound by that history (and the villain’s undergone a makeover recently in his comic book, anyway); look how he changed the character of Whiplash for the new film:
(By the way, anybody else notice the times Rourke wore his hair pulled up in a topknot, and how the hair had green highlights? Well, I thought it was a clever nod.)
I’m worried, though, that Favreau thinks we movie-goers want the “real world” in our comic book movies. Yeah, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are praised for their realistic look at the Caped Crusader, but…come on. It’s a guy in a bat costume whose extreme wealth allows him to buy any damn thing he needs. And the arguments for the movies’ realism also ignore the incredible coincidences (and the impossible physics) that allow Batman to win the day. Any discussion of “realism” and comic book movies completely misses the point of superheroes: it’s their extraordinary nature that leads us, the audience, to wonder, to be inspired, to dream.
I guess what I’m arguing is that magic in the Marvel Universe is just another power. In a world where men and women fly or can lift buildings or turn invisible, what’s the difference if someone chants a few words and something fantastic happens? And here’s a chance for Favreau to move beyond the technology themes he’s developed in the films so far, and address what can be considered technology’s opposite: mysticism. Favreau’s now made two movies that match Iron Man up against another technological terror; the Mandarin, though, comes from a very different tradition than Stark, and the east vs. west conflict represented by Stark and the Mandarin is and will continue to be relevant for the foreseeable future.
Movie-goers buying a ticket to an Iron Man movie aren’t going into it expecting realism – we want escapism. We want to see what we’ve never seen before; we want to marvel at the feats of our heroes, we want to be entertained. The magic of the Mandarin shouldn’t be a stumbling block for Favreau, it should be an opportunity for him to make some more of his own.
This is part 5 of a series of posts looking back at the Marvel/Epic Comics title “The Alien Legion.”
After a 20 issue first volume of The Alien Legion, the editors at Epic decided it was time for a change of the status quo for Nomad Squadron and made the call to reboot the series. Their first move? Getting rid of that pesky “The” in the title:
The powers that be wanted to streamline the series a bit, emphasizing fewer characters and providing “grittier” storylines, which meant that the environmental and other social cause subplots would disappear with more of an emphasis on violent conflict. New blood (Chuck Dixon) was also brought in to help script/plot the series, though Potts would remain on staff.
The series actually opens two years after the original series ended, where we find (now) Major Sarigar leading a new squadron into battle. What happened to Nomad, you ask? Apparently it was a mission gone bad, with all the legionnaires lost on a hostile planet on which they had been dropped, as usual, ill-prepared for what they’d find:
For the past two years, then, Sarigar has been haunted by his perceived failure and the loss of his best team. He apparently has also continually requested the opportunity to go back to Hellscape to try to find either survivors…or remains, though to no avail.
The last straw for Sarigar comes in a bar where a few legionnaires openly mock him for the loss of Nomad and declaring him a coward. He resigns his position in the Legion (then beats the HELL out of said soldiers), and makes an oath to himself to discover the fate of Nomad. Through some nice detective work, and the financial backing of his former lieutenant’s father (Torie Montroc), Sarigar learns that some members of Nomad might still be alive, and so he returns to the planet in search of answers.
Through the aid of a Quaalian prisoner, Sarigar is able to locate Jugger Grimrod and Torie first. Jugger’s pretty much unchanged, though Torie, as the first volume’s noble, at times too trusting lieutenant is now a withdrawn and blunt hardcase. Two years of being in hiding with Jugger does that to a man. So is seeing two of your legionnaires tortured and eaten by scavengers. Torqa Dun and Durge didn’t survive the planet, or, more directly, the reboot of the title:
Rounding out the survivors would be Meico, the four-armed telepathic medic; Tamara, the late addition to Nomad discussed last time; and Zeerod, a wolf-like humanoid who lost his legs on the planet. The reunion is an awkward one, though that wears off quickly as the Quaalians mount an attack on the squad allowing the troops to take out their frustrations in an appropriately violent fashion. Sarigar marvels at the changes in his former squadron, but nonetheless decides that the best thing for them is to reform as Nomad Squadron.
After some impassioned appeals and some called-in favors, Sarigar has his wish granted and Nomad is recreated as a strike force. But first, he’ll have to recruit some more legionnaires…
Next week: the new members of Nomad and Jugger gets promoted (really!)
This is part 4 of a series of posts looking back at the Marvel/Epic Comics title “The Alien Legion.”
The end of volume one of The Alien Legion would come with the publication of issue 20, much to the surprise of readers. No warning had been given in the pages of the comic that the series would end, and the letters pages continued to respond to fans’ ideas and praise as if the writers had no end in sight for Nomad Squadron. Epic had even seen the publication of Alien Legion’s first graphic novel.
Of course, this was the mid-80s, long before the internet would come along and allow comics readers to know about upcoming titles, plot lines, and cancellations. We were tougher back then, not as spoiled as today’s comic readers – and we all walked three miles uphill in the snow each week for our pull lists – so we were able to blithely read each issue, always sure that we’d see more of Jugger and Sarigar next month.
Perhaps fans should have seen the cancellation coming, though. The last few issues of volume one, admittedly, fell into a bit of a rut, as Nomad Squadron would land on a planet, face a hostile indigenous race, blast the hell out of them because they had no other options, and in the process lose an occasional legionnaire here or there.
It was during this last stretch that the writers would finally introduce female legionnaires, too. There had been many letters questioning the lack of females in the Legion (and also many saying “keep ‘em out”), and by the time issue 16 came around Nomad Squadron and readers were introduced to Tamara, a new recruit who is easy on the eyes, but hard on the jaw:
It was, in my opinion, a testament to the writers that they took fan input seriously. I don’t know that today’s Marvel or DC would adjust their story lines as significantly (hell, even at all) as Epic did, and not make it a patronizing gesture. Far from it – Tamara would be put through her paces through the next four issues, holding her own and then some when compared with regulars Jugger, Torqa Dun, and Zeerod. Still, the change in the status quo (and the scenery) wasn’t quite enough to keep The Alien Legion going, and, after a twentieth issue that saw the members of Nomad Squadron forced to hunt one of their own for desertion, with an unsettling conclusion, the letters page closed out with a brief note that surely stunned readers:
The shock wore off quickly, though, as those madcaps at Epic had included another box just below that one:
And so the loyal readers were promised a new Alien Legion series, featuring some familiar faces, and even more new ones, and, as they say, an all new format. But how would this second volume compare with the first? Come back next Thursday to find out…
This is part 3 of a series of posts looking back at the Marvel/Epic Comics title “The Alien Legion.”
The early issues of volume one would see Potts and Zelenetz experimenting a bit with the story-telling, tacking on an epilogue to the main story which would add further detail to a particular plot point seen in the issue. Oftentimes these epilogues would serve as methods by which we would learn more about a particular character, as seen here where Sarigar is seen apparently deep in thought about something…
This scene would be left behind, with most readers (like myself) probably thinking that Sarigar was tense about the situation his squadron faced. Come to find out, he was actually thinking about his sister and her betrayal of his trust…
These extra tales would end by issue six, probably because by this point readers were familiar with the main characters and the pages could then be used to advance the main plot.
Force Nomad would see a variety of adventures in this first run, and they really started hitting a stride by issue 7, where Nomad finds itself escorting a pair of magistrates back to the judiciary, though several members hold grudges against a figure they view as nosy and unappreciative of their efforts to recover a bomb from the Harkilons. And probably not a coincidence, it’s issue 7 where the until now little seen Jugger Grimrod really starts to take center stage. And it’s not because of his winning personality…
Jugger would probably be recognized as the Wolverine of this team: a violent loner who doesn’t have much use for authority figures, though unlike Wolverine Grimrod has no real moral code except to look out for himself. This arc would really bring Grimrod into the limelight as a force to be reckoned with in Nomad, and he would continue to be a central character throughout the series, and particularly in the second volume a couple years later.
After the magistrate’s introduction to some of Nomad, the ship ends up being attacked by the Harkilons, and after both ships suffer damage, both Nomad and the Harkilons end up crashlanding on a nearby planet. Jugger comes close to killing the magistrate who could identify him as an escaped murderer, but the Harkilons end up capturing and torturing him for information about the location of the Legionnaire’s ship, as their craft is beyond repair. Jugger refuses to talk, but the crafty Harkilons allow him to believe he escapes after having secretly implanted a bug on his person, very similar to when the Imperials traced the Millenium Falcon back to the Rebel Base in the first Star Wars.
One of Grimrod’s character defining moments comes in the middle of a Harkilon ambush, where just before he and another legionnaire named Mescad come across the heavily wounded Bospor. Jugger attempts to convince Mescad to cut and run, leaving the Bospor behind to die, while Mescad struggles with the idea:
Mescad eventually decides that Jugger is right, though it weighs on his conscience. As for the Bospor, well, the Bospor doesn’t make it…
This storyline would eventually see Nomad Squadron join forces with the Harkilons to fight a more dangerous indigenous life form on the planet. This decision would have repercussions that would reverberate throughout the rest of the volume one, as we’ll see next week.
Next Thursday: the end of Volume One…
The Mouse House is apparently looking at buying the House of Ideas. This seems like a positive for both companies, as Marvel would be joining forces with one of the most recognized companies in the world and Disney would have access to Marvel’s seemingly endless supply of superheroes. Disney would more than likely see an increase in its appeal among boys and possibly see Pixar movies involving the Marvel characters (hell, this 37-year old is excited about that possibility).
But are there risks involved with this buy-out? Jokes are made in the above article about Spider-Man appearing in A Bug’s Life sequel, but could Disney actually end up affecting the presentation/appearance of Marvel superheroes in future movies/video games/products?
See for yourself below the Disney buyout of Marvel gone wrong:
This is part 2 of a series of posts looking back at the Epic Comics title “The Alien Legion” – see this post for a quick introduction to the origins of the series.
Any comic title’s first issue not already based in an established universe has a lot of work to do (as, really, any piece of fiction does). Not only does it have to establish setting and characters, it has to do so in a way that will get the reader invested in both and want to pick up the next issue. Realizing this information would have to be presented in prose rather than merely the art, Potts and Zelenetz chose to dedicate the inside cover of the premiere issue to giving readers a quick rundown as to the nature of the universe they are about to be thrown into:
Not exactly as simple as Star Wars’ “It is a period of civil war” scrawl, is it? (nor do we have the benefit of listening to a John Williams score while reading it). It’s actually quite heavy in its use of sci-fi jargon: “Galactic Union”, “Sidereum Galacticum”, “bioforms”, etc., along with the appropriately alien-sounding names of planets and political entities. I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers at the time moved right past that page and into the book itself. Still, the summary offers up the central conflicts that will be played out in the pages of the comic.
Next, Potts and Zelenetz present a series of “bio summaries” of the key players of Force Nomad. Written as if they are taken from the Legion’s private databases, the entries introduce us to the characters with fare such as age and place of origin (immediately giving readers a sense of the enormity of this universe), along with brief psychiatric evaluations.
These entries were an attempt to highlight the more important characters for readers, as the sheer number of legionnaires presented in just the first issue could be a bit overwhelming. Combine this with the unfamiliar setting and numerous planetary references, and the writers were probably concerned that without this foothold, many readers would feel lost before the adventures really got underway.
The story itself begins with a bang, literally, and I wouldn’t begrudge you if you thought the images were vaguely reminiscent of the first scenes of Star Wars, what with the ship under attack and the planets in profile in the background.
Things go bad for Vector Squad pretty much immediately as a band of mineral pirates find them and, at the urging of the pirates’ captain, annihilate the legionnaires. Unfortunately, due to their original directives, the soldiers are only armed with biodegradable darts that would not affect the fragile environment, leaving them easy targets. Force Nomad soon finds the remains of Vector Squadron and realize they’re in for a rough time in what would be a common theme in the series – undermanned, outnumbered, and hamstrung by distant politicians’ rules.
It is at this point that the characterization picks up a bit, and we start meeting the core members of Nomad. The humanoid lieutenant Torie Montroc gets quite a bit of space allotted to him, as does Captain Sarigar (seen above), a serpentine alien whose first appearance comes when he breaks up an inter-squad fight among two members of Nomad when tensions run high:
The characterization of each legionnaire is by and large distinct. Above, you can see a bully in the larger Skathe Mescad, and the Bospor (the froggish alien) is a fawning, insecure weakling whose choice was either a prison sentence or a stint in the Legion (Mescad, in a noble moment later in the issue, would save the Bospor from certain death, proving that, at least for him, the brotherhood of the Legion matters). After things calm down a bit, Nomad has to plan a mission to take on the murderous pirates and save the planet from further ecological harm, which is easier said than done, what with the limited resources they have. Still, through the battle intelligence of Sarigar and the viciousness of some of the other legionnaires, Nomad would prove up to the challenge.
Speaking of viciousness, Jugger Grimrod, another legionnaire who would go on to be a fan favorite, only gets a page or so devoted to him in this first issue. But he makes it memorable:
Frank Cirocco’s artwork is fitting for this series, and he manages to invest each alien with a distinctive look, although many of the aliens tend to be humanoid in structure (an issue that would be commented on by readers throughout its run). Still, there’s a nice pacing to his artwork that can help detract a bit from the fact that there’s so much prose on the page. And that fact is one of the drawbacks, admittedly, in this first issue: sometimes the pages are just drowning in dialogue and other forms of exposition, and talking heads don’t usually make for engaging comics, particularly in what’s supposed to be a space opera. Still, much of the information is needed and engaging in its own right…
Intrigued? Then look next Thursday for Part III continuing this look back at the legionnaires of Nomad Squadron.
Think back to the Mos Eisley cantina scene in Star Wars – remember the wide variety of aliens and creatures inhabiting the bar, drinking away their worries while chilling out to the jazzy tunes of the Modal Nodes? Of course you do – it’s one of the most iconic scenes Lucas gave us in the film. Now imagine that that collection of “scum and villainy” (judgmental much, Ben?) has been recruited into a universal peace-keeping force, and must work together as a unit despite their different backgrounds to survive the rigors of interstellar combat. Intrigued? Well, have I got a series for you:
Back in 1983, Carl Potts, a writer for Marvel’s imprint company Epic Comics, along with Alan Zelenetz and Frank Cirocco, created The Alien Legion, a series that would see two incarnations and a few one-shots over the next couple decades. Imagined as the “French Foreign Legion in space”, the squad was initially planned to be all-human, but fortunately Potts rethought the concept as it was being developed, allowing for the conglomeration of humans and aliens that would comprise Force Nomad. This series would result in some very memorable characters and a series that I’d really like to see make a comeback.
What will follow over the next week or so is an introduction to some of the members of Force Nomad, and a look back at their adventures as found in volumes one and two of The Alien Legion. Look for Part II on Thursday.
You know, back when he was just a mutant, Wolverine kicked all kinds of ass. Here was a guy with heightened senses and a healing factor that allowed him to wade into a horde of Hand ninjas and start doling out as much punishment as he was taking with those awesome adamantium claws.
And the thing was, those wounds he was taking took a toll on him – it actually took him time to heal, to mend, and, if you were to inflict enough punishment on the runt, the fight could be won. At least for a time. Then Wolverine would go berserker on your ass and woe be to anyone who got in his path.
I liked the fact that his past was a mystery. I liked the fact that the adamantium was grafted onto his bones by a mysterious government entity, and that those claws were not natural. They just made him more deadly. That’s all I really needed to know. (Now, I should note that I don’t mind the relatively recent developments with House of M, giving Wolverine total recall of his past. It opens up so many more story possibilities that could enrich the character even further. Whether this bombshell is being pulled off effectively is another opinion).
But back in 1993, the inevitable happened. Because when a major X-Men villain has the capability to control the forces of magnetism, thus being able to manipulate all forms of metal, it really should have been no surprise when Magneto ripped the adamantium from Wolverine’s body.
One, the loss of the adamantium led to the “discovery” that Wolverine’s claws were actually bone structures, and thus a part of his original mutation. So not only did Wolverine have heightened senses and a healing factor, but he also had claws, to boot. Quick, name another mutant with so many beneficial mutations. The idea of bone claws popping out of his wrists is, as far as intuitive mutations, pretty much a stretch (yes, we’re talking about a realm in which some mutants teleport, others shoot concussive blasts out of their eyes, and others control the weather, but at least those mutations are suggested by design characteristics or Darwinistic necessity. Name an animal that ejects its claws from sheaths in its legs).
Two, Wolverine has become something of a samurai. Historically he’s been characterized as a brawler, someone who overpowers opponents through ferocity and will. Now, he’s portrayed as a skilled fighter, knowledgeable in various forms of combat, martial arts, and swordplay. I guess this is a bit of a nitpick since he’s lived for over 100 years, and it makes sense that he might have picked up some skills in that time, but, again, these depictions run counter to who he was, originally.
Third, and this is the biggest issue I have, the dude seems damn near immortal now. Wolverine’s healing ability has been increasing steadily since the mid-90s, and it’s culminated in the idea that nothing short of cutting off his head will kill him. And even that is up to debate. I read an issue of Wolverine a while back where he was chasing the villain Nitro after Nitro blew up the town of Stamford, Connecticut. He caught up with him in a remote wooded area, but Nitro exploded himself again:
Note that the explosion reduces Wolverine to his adamantium laced skeleton (reacquired sometime during the 90s). But on the next page, Wolverine’s body has already regenerated itself (appparently, some brain matter survived the flames) and he proceeds to take on Nitro again, who is spent from that explosion.
Really? This is the same Wolverine who barely survived ninjas and samurai in Chris Claremont’s seminal limited series, which gave fans their first real glimpse into the mysterious Logan. Here’s a nice site that gives an overview of the work. Otherwise, buy it. But now, 25 or so years later, this story wouldn’t play out as none of the heavies in Claremont’s story would be able to overcome Wolverine’s healing abilities, which are now godlike.
I understand characters evolve (particularly mutants), but these evolutions in Logan have made him, in my opinion, less entertaining, particularly the accelerated healing factor. It now takes a god-like opponent to threaten Wolverine, and that’s the real problem with his portrayal today: Wolverine’s claws suggest he should be taking on mortals – the adamantium blades are a very real threat to anyone who can bleed. His healing factor, though, allows him to take on anything else with very little risk.
And that rarely makes for interesting story-telling.
*runs, gasping, to the keyboard*
Hello, procrastinators! I hope you’ll forgive my labored breathing and flushed cheeks. I’ve been off procrastinating. It takes a lot of work not to do my work! Now that we’re all here together, though, let’s look back over the last two weeks’ editions of The Daily Procrastinator and make sure that nothing escaped your notice.
TDP served up a healthy portion of technology posts, beginning with TallGirl’s reminiscences about the space shuttle we have all come to know and love. Somehow, replacing it with a capsule just doesn’t seem right. Speaking of technological advances with which TallGirl is not 100% comfortable, she also pointed out that two recently revealed “innovative” cars share an uncanny resemblance. BigRedPoet contributed to the technological frenzy by offering his opinion on a soon-to-be-released technology from XBox360 that will revolutionize video gaming. TallGirl addressed technology once more as she lamented the absence of old-fashioned customer service and human contact in the modern business world.
FlashCap directed a post toward collectors and hobbyists as he revealed his collection of Marvel Universe action figures. Simultaneously, he called down a pox upon Hasbro for luring him into collecting yet another series of tiny plastic superheroes. The pictures are pretty astonishing.
The subject of good ol’ everyday life got some attention on TDP in the past two weeks. TallGirl discussed her recent “opportunity” to serve on a jury and also provided some enlightening tips for avoiding your civic duty. My inner procrastinator is smiling. Next, TallGirl revealed that there may or may not be an undead creature in her rose garden. Is it possible for plants to return, rotted and shambling, from the grave? Finally, BigRedPoet saw a product this week that he simply could not resist writing about. It’s difficult to explain. Just go check it out…
In what’s beginning to look like a pattern, BigRedPoet posted a concert and album review this week. This time, his attention is turned toward a young singer and songwriter who hasn’t yet made the bigtime, but who is destined for great success. Long live old-time music!
Finally, BigRedPoet addressed the topic of physical anthropology. A new fossil, nicknamed “Ida,” has recently been discovered in Germany, and she promises to open many doors of insight into humanity’s earliest ancestors. In this post, you can check out pictures of the discovery, read BRP’s reactions, and find out about the recently published book about Ida.
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The Daily Procrastinator: Contributing to the Dramatic Reduction of Your Personal Productivity
Just when I think I’m out, you pull me back in!
Hello, my name is FlashCap, and I have an action figure problem. For the past six or so years I’ve been collecting the Marvel Legends line of figures, first under the Toybiz line and then under Hasbro when Legends switched hands back in 2007. I’ve amassed around 50 or so Marvel superhero figures, most of which were at one time or another Avengers. Check out some pics here.
The Hasbro figures’ quality wasn’t close to that of the line while under ToyBiz, and this difference, along with rising oil prices led to what I can only believe to be the demise of the 6″ Legends line. Hasbro also announced plans for a new 3″ figure line they would call “Marvel Universe.” I didn’t think much about them b/c my collection dwarfed this new series, so I thought my figure collecting had come to an end.
Then the damned figures started appearing on the shelves at the local Wal-Mart.
I kept thinking they looked pretty good. The detailing was a heck of a lot better than the Hasbro figures’, and the variety of figures that would be available would eventually surpass the Legends line. Plus there was a kick-ass, modern-costumed Iron Fist:
But still I resisted their siren song. I even found a Captain America and put it back after carrying it around Wal-Mart for awhile. I just couldn’t.
But about two weeks ago, I finally pulled the trigger. I was walking through Wal-Mart and noticed the Wolverine: Origins figures. Normally I wouldn’t give those a second thought but I noticed they had a “comic series” – they had a Deadpool.
I caved like Cookie Monster at a Chips Ahoy packaging factory. Two days later, I went back and bought Captain America and Iron Fist from the Marvel Universe line. I also grabbed a Spider-Man. The following day I bought a Ms. Marvel, Silver Surfer, and Ronin from the local Target, which I found had a bigger selection. A week later, I returned and picked up the Hulk, Black Panther, and the Punisher.
I’m now planning on moving my 6″ Marvel Legends figures to a display case I have in my room, and start putting the 3″ figures on my shelves. I’ve already bought 50 clear plastic peg stands to do so.
Help me. Please?