Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Comics’

 

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It should come as no surprise that I, like many other devoted nerds, spent the weekend binge-watching Marvel’s latest Netflix series, Jessica Jones. Thirteen hours of my life gone, but they were still thirteen hours well spent on what I feel is Marvel’s most fully realized character to date. And yet I’ve come away from Jessica Jones with a sense of unease. Maybe it’s the aftereffects of nearly two days spent diving back into the world of Hell’s Kitchen, but unlikeJessica-Jones-1-1200x674 the mostly triumphant victory of Matt Murdock by the end of Daredevil, Jessica Jones maintains a bittersweet tone from the opening theme right up to the closing shot of the series.

If you need a brief plot synopsis: Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is hired by the Schlottmans to find their daughter Hope (Erin Moriarty) after a dramatic change in behavior and disappearance. While investigating Hope’s case, Jessica learns that Kilgrave (David Tennant), the man responsible for her abduction, trauma, and PTSD, is still alive and using Hope as a pawn in a horrific plot to reunite with the one plaything that got away. Though her first instinct is to flee, Jessica is convinced by her foster-sister, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), to save Hope and fight back.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil this one for you. This article isn’t really a review so much as it’s me needing an outlet to process how I feel about the series. I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on how “dark” the series is, which isn’t untrue, though the dry wit and sarcasm shouldn’t be overlooked. But what struck me after the first few episodes, what continues to linger in my thoughts days after viewing the show, is how real it felt. This series doesn’t have the flashiness of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, nor does it have the action-heavy prowess of Daredevil. What Jessica Jones has is authenticity. It’s raw and it doesn’t shy away from showing you the ugly side of the little corner of the Marvel Universe Jessica inhabits. By the end, you feel like you’ve been raked over the coals of Jessica’s complicated, messed-up life, but in seeing her for who she is, warts and all, and what she’s overcome, you have a better appreciation of what showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and the Jessica Jones cast and crew have accomplished. The series is unapologetic in its depiction of a flawed female character who just happens to have superpowers, but it uses the genre and the series format to talk Schermata-2015-10-23-alle-21.00.36about the far more relevant topics of rape, abuse, and recovery.

Part and parcel to this character portrait is the story from which it was adapted. Based on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’s comic book series Alias, Jessica Jones is a former superhero turned private investigator after her enslavement under the thrall of Kilgrave (aka The Purple Man) – a powerful mind controller – leaves her traumatized and suffering from PTSD. In putting her life back together, she finds herself uniquely qualified to handle cases involving Marvel’s mightiest heroes though she still seeks her peace at the bottom of a bottle. The Netflix series, however, takes the Purple Man story and removes the greater Marvel Universe in order to frame Jessica within the reality of a post-Avengers world. Gone are her first forays into the superhero game as Jewel, though the series does a clever nod to her comic book past, and what we’re left with is a woman struggling to pay the bills and keep the demons at bay only to find that the Devil has come back into her life.

I can’t say enough how impressed I am at the show’s very deft handling of rape and abuse as part of the narrative. Jessica’s arc throughout the series is that of a woman in recovery. She’s been violated in both mind and body because of Kilgrave and the series treats his mind control abilities as just that, a violation. In trying to track down Kilgrave, Jessica inadvertently creates a support group for other people he’s controlled, including her neighbor Malcolm (Eka Darville). The way the group share their experiences, the language they use, reads exactly like a support group for people who have experienced sexual assault or abuse. Jessica and Kilgrave both act as metaphorical representations of silent victims and rape culture, respectively. Because of her abilities Jessica continues to blame purple manherself for not being stronger, for not fighting back. What’s the point of having these abilities, being able to punch a guy through a brick wall or leap from the sidewalk to the rooftops in seconds, if you can’t stop someone as psychotic as Kilgrave from harming you? It’s why Kilgrave’s power, and the consistent disbelief in that power, is essential to the story.

In the Marvel Cinematic and television universes thus far most, if not all, of the “gifts” displayed by heroes and villains have been clearly visual. Everything they do has some element of spectacle to it, but Kilgrave’s power isn’t easily observable. It’s a suggestion or an order that you’re compelled to carry out and it doesn’t matter to him how you feel afterwards. He’s an infection and his presence lingers long after he’s done with you. The fear that Jessica shows at the idea of Kilgrave still being alive is the same fear people experience after being attacked and the assailant isn’t caught or gets released. Every street corner becomes a potential point of attack, every person a possible threat. Your trust in the world, in people, has completely crumbled because, even if you survive, the person that did this to you is still out there and they still have power over you. Unfortunately, prosecuting something that has to be experienced to believe is rather difficult and that’s only if you can get someone to believe that it actually happened. It isn’t until Jessica fights back (literally, in the show’s case) that she understands Kilgrave has no power over her. That’s not to say that everything ends up being sunshine and lollipops, because it doesn’t, but there is a valiant effort being made on the part of the Jessica Jones team to treat this type of story with the respect it deserves. Also a huge round of applause goes to Rosenberg and company for taking the Mad Max: Fury Road route and not showing Jessica being raped by Kilgrave. It would have been exploitative and unnecessary had they gone through with it. The writing in the series, however, is so strong and the character of Kilgrave set up so well that all we need is to hear Jessica give voice to her pain for us to believe her.

luke cageIf you feel as though I’m focusing too much on one aspect of the series, then guess what, you’re in my head. What a lovely place, right? But, yes, there’s so much more to Jessica Jones worth exploring. Like I said, Jessica is the most fleshed out, multi-dimensional character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the get-go we understand that Jessica is a hard-drinking, shit-talking, hot-headed asshole of a person (she fully admits to it!) and the series never shies away from showing those aspects of her personality. She’s also tempered by her fierce loyalty and the love she has not just for her friends and family, but for people in general. And in keeping with the show’s unapologetic nature, she’s a sexually active woman who likes having sex and isn’t looked down on by other characters for it. Probably because the supporting cast features characters of varying personalities who have their own hangups to deal with instead of getting all up in Jessica’s business. Well, some of them at least. Looking at you, Robyn!

This is also a gender balanced cast, which gives the creative team ample room to explore their characters, specifically the women in the cast. With four female leads and several more supporting members, Jessica Jones manages to shine a much needed spotlight on women as complex people capable of doing right, wrong, and everything else in between. Carrie-Anne Moss, in my opinion, gives the second greatest performance in the show as Jeri Hogarth, a lawyer with a moral compass practically smashed to hell. There are very few redeeming qualities about Jeri, but Moss finds a way to make this manipulative, stuck-up, shark of a human being somewhat sympathetic. It’s an understated performance, to say the least, but my God does Moss get a lot of mileage out of an icy stare. The confidence the show has in its audience to invest in some awful characters is tremendous. None of these people are pure of heart and mind – but, then again, who is really?

Another piece of the show’s excellent writing and storytelling is in the ethical dilemmas it places Jessica in as she decides how to confront and bring Kilgrave to justice. The eighth episode, “AKA WWJD”, addresses the issue head on, taking its time to really put Jessica in a moral quandary about Kilgrave and his abilities. If someone can control minds, is there a way to harness that power for good? What if considering morality and justice didn’t occur to this person? Would you sacrifice your personal happiness and devote the rest of your days to keeping a sociopath on the straight and narrow? Even if that sociopath is the source of your greatest pain? Are you obligated to at least try? It’s a brilliant way of exploring what it means to be a hero and the entire series is peppered with these decisions that actually have consequences for Jessica and the people around her. It also helps to set the show apart not just from the other Marvel movies but also from its predecessor, Daredevil.

For obvious reasons, Jessica Jones isn’t Matt Murdock, but what’s really fascinating is where the two differ on a philosophical level. Despite his vigilante leanings, Matt still believes in the necessity of justice even if one needs to go outside the law to achieve one’s goal. His personal struggle throughout Daredevil surrounds whether or not he can fight the monsters of Hell’s Kitchen and still remain the good guy. The show rewards Matt for his efforts, finding an optimistic outlook in the emergence of Daredevil. Jessica, however, doesn’t share Matt’s idealism. Her world is, more than anything, about survival. There are no grand visions of saving the world, or Hell’s Kitchen, as far as she’s concerned. Instead, her primary focus is on getting paid so she can pay her bills and use the leftover cash on a cheap bottle of whiskey. Her job makes her a voyeur into the sordid lives of others, which doesn’t leave you with the rosiest outlook on humanity even on the best days.

daredevil-season-2-news-jessica-jones-crossovers-the-defenders-release-more-netflix-545795And yet, for all of Jessica’s cynicism, she still aspires to be heroic. When we first meet Jessica, she’s a broken person struggling to get through the day without suffering another panic attack or flashback. She certainly doesn’t see herself as a hero. But when she chooses not to run and commits to saving Hope from Kilgrave that’s when we get our first real look at the Jessica who almost donned a spandex jumpsuit and called herself Jewel in order to help others. Unfortunately, she never got the chance to prove herself before Kilgrave showed up, but in taking back control of her life, Jessica finally starts to believe in her own ability to be the hero. It’s another element of her character that separates her from other heroes in the MCU. Most of the Avengers emerged fully formed in who they wanted to be and how they would apply their abilities with little hesitation. Jessica questions herself constantly, but the voice of opposition comes from people like Trish and Malcolm, people who see her for the hero that she is and do their best to foster that confidence in Jessica as well.

Jessica Jones is definitely worth your time. Don’t worry about binge-watching it either because I’m certain the conversation surrounding the show is in no danger of dying off any time soon. While I didn’t really touch on the humor of the series, trust me when I say that there are some choice comedic moments that keep the show from completely going down the grimdark path. I especially love Jessica and Trish commenting on Kilgrave’s choice of name for himself. “I mean, Kilgrave? Was Murder Corpse too subtle?” And even though David Tennant is playing a character who is just the worst, he still manages to bring his quippy charm to Kilgrave, which does its job of making you question your own moral compass.

So, go! Go watch Jessica Jones and get excited for the Luke Cage series! And Daredevil season two! And Iron Fist! And the Defenders! Just be excited!

 

 

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Intro and Outro music: “Doctor Who Theme” by the Doubleclicks

Check out Jackie’s latest album, This Will Make an Excellent Horcrux

 

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Sam talks with Kelly Sue DeConnick about ALL THE THINGS! Specifically Bitch Planet, Pretty Deadly, and Captain Marvel but there’s always plenty of awesome when Kelly Sue is around!

Intro: “The Captain” by Adam WarRock 

Joshua Williamson returns to talk about all things Ghosted! There will be spoilers for the entirety of the book so beware and be warned!

 

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Before we begin: Okay, I know I’ve been a bit light on articles lately. All I can say is I’m working on a few things right now that will keep me preoccupied through the month of June. There are still podcasts lined up, but op-eds and most in-depth articles, at least from me, are off the table until July. So, to fill the great hole that has no doubt formed in your hearts, I figured some quick Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Imperator-Furiosa-Fulland easy lists were doable.

Cool? Cool.

Anyway, with the recent release of Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron’s amazing Imperator Furiosa has sparked a fantastic following of artists, cosplayers, and just fans in general who see a kindred spirit in the rebellious driver of the war rig with her shorn head, dieselpunk prosthetic arm, and desire for redemption. Aside from the brilliant action and over-the-top insanity of the movie, many a blogger and critic see the importance of having a character like Furiosa stand out and attract so much positive attention. Hollywood is still struggling with all kinds of representation issues and yet here we have a movie where, arguably, the main character isn’t the guy in the title but the physically disabled female lead. And she kicks all kinds of ass! Seriously, even without her prosthetic, Furiosa still manages to best Max with her stump arm and at no point in the movie is she questioned as a leader, driver, fighter, or as a woman. She just is, no justification necessary. Again, this is extremely important as far as representation in media goes. So, in honor of the newest addition to the pantheon of badass women in sci-fi, I thought I’d put together a little list of other badass characters who just happen to be missing an arm or a leg. Or Both.

 

Hiccup – How to Train Your Dragon 1&2

 

Gobber should also count, but I’m trying not to cheat on this one. How to Train Your Dragon is one of those films that was How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-how-to-train-your-dragon-19498379-900-506utterly charming, emotional, and did something I can’t recall any other children’s film in Western animation doing: it maimed its main character. For all of the Disney films I’ve seen where the hero and heroine get their happy ending, HTTYD made sure that Hiccup was changed on all levels philosophical and physical. The scene where Hiccup wakes and discovers he’s lost his leg is so well done I get emotional just typing this. Everything from the silence to the expressions to Toothless providing strength and support is so well done. Best of all, the culture of Berk is one that doesn’t look down on those who’ve lost their limbs. Though Hiccup’s new leg is meant to parallel Toothless’ lost tail fin, he’s never thought of as handicapped by the injury. This extends into the sequel where 20-year-old Hiccup thrives as a young adult but his prosthetic is never used as a means of limiting him as a rider or a leader.

 

Misty Knight – Marvel Comics

 

One of those characters you wish Pam Grier could play now in a live action tv show or movie! NYPD officer Mercedes “Misty” Knight lost her right arm during an explosion but didn’t let a little thing like having one arm stop her from helping people. WitMisty_Knight_Heroes_For_Hire_-7-560x281h the help of Tony Stark and a bionic arm, she became part of the roster of Marvel heroes. Misty was created during the 70s when blaxploitation films and the kung-fu craze were at their peak so it’s fitting that she’d end up associating primarily with the Hell’s Kitchen cadre of Heroes for Hire that also produced Luke Cage and Misty’s on-again-off-again love interest, Iron Fist. The bionic arm may have endowed her with some super strength, but Misty is a capable fighter all on her own, which makes her the ideal hero to have on speed dial if you’re in a pinch.

 

Cherry – Grindhouse: Planet Terror

 

Laugh all you want but at least when you go into a movie directed by Robert Rodriguez in the style of a Grindhouse movie you know you’re going to be entertained. Planet Terror is a ridiculously entertaining film and at the center of it is Rose McGowan’s395dfd151dd2d232b82acd8717028cd1 Cherry, a former go-go dancer who finds herself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Grindhouse movies are all about sex appeal, horror, and gore and Planet Terror definitely delivers on all fronts. But for all of the exploitation going on the heart of the story is Cherry’s rise as a badass leader. Amidst the chaos of civilization literally crumbling before her eyes she loses her leg but gains a ton of confidence. And a machine gun for a leg. Surprising how something like that can be a real self-esteem booster. Again, you can laugh at the ridiculousness, but when you saw Cherry shooting all those zombies with her machine gun leg you were ON. BOARD.

 

Ash Williams – Evil Dead 2 & Army of Darkness

 

Few actors can carry a film on charm and wit alone, but Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams showed us exactly what the future Titan of B-movies was capable of. An expressive and physically gifted comedic actor, Campbell had to sell audiences on a lot of the insanity of Evil Dead and Evil Dead II with the limited budget he, director Sam Raimi, and producer Rob Tapert were working ash-williamswith. The result? When Ash’s hand gets possessed in Evil Dead II, we believe that the hand is in control and kicking Ash’s ass! So when Ash has to CUT OFF HIS OWN HAND we’re not only rooting for him, but we’re also cringing as blood splashes in his pain-filled face. The silver lining, though, is the extremely awesome montage of Ash gearing up to fight the remaining demons and our boy leveling up. Before Cherry got her machine gun leg, Ash had his chainsaw arm! This extends into Army of Darkness where Ash is still pretty capable using his stump but once he realizes his chainsaw isn’t going to do him much good in Medieval Times he fashions himself a new, more metallic hand for everyday heroics.

 

Edward “Ed” Elric – Full Metal Alchemist

 

The only double amputee on the list, Ed lost his arm and leg (and his brother’s body) when the two youngsters attempted to resurrect their mother with alchemy. The Law of Equivalent Exchange, however, demanded much of the brothers but the Elric’s don’t go down easy. After a year’s recovery in which Ed received automail prosthesis for his limbs and Alphonse got his soul attached to an armored body, the two managed to become state alchemists with Ed receiving the call sign of the “Full Metal” tumblr_m73sj4nkLm1qazawzo2_1280alchemist. Throughout both versions of the anime, the writers always found time to focus on the price Ed and Alphonse paid for their hubris. Primarily, Ed’s automail drives a great deal of discussion about the amount of pain he suffers from physically and mentally but it’s very rare that any of the other state alchemists or his enemies believe the automail is a hindrance. Sure, it gets broken quite a bit, but Ed treats the damage like an annoyance and when his automail mechanic Winry steps in to repair the physical damage, she doesn’t treat him with kid gloves. They act like regular teenagers around each other, for the most part. If anything, he gets more digs for being short, which you really do not want to bring up around him. Trust me.

 

Sam talks with artist Jim Mahfood about the life of a freelancer, Jack Kirby, the connection between music and art, and 80s television. Fun times were had by all!

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And in case you wanted to watch the cheesy Don Johnson goodness of “Heartbeat”….

daredevil-posterFull disclosure this was not supposed to be my introductory piece to the Maniacal Geek. No, actually when I reached out to Sam a week ago and told her that I was itching to write something again I had pitched two completely different ideas. The first a wonderful piece about Flash and its importance to the DC television universe, and second a prediction on the fate of the Jedi Order sans George Lucas. I may very well end up finishing those two stories but something happened in the last few days that changed the game and I feel compelled to write about.

When Marvel and Netflix announced their partnership I admittedly did not think much of it. I have read Daredevil comics, and I know of all the other characters and parts that were suggested, but to be honest I have never been much of a fan and I feared that budgetary and production limitations would make these properties as second class to the MCU as they have often found themselves in the comics. So when Friday rolled around, and I sat working from home, I found that my excitement to watch Daredevil had more to do with the lack of anything compelling on Hulu than a real need to see how it turned out. Bottom line if you stop reading now know this… Daredevil is 13 compelling episodes of cinema with a grit and reality that hide its flaws and highlights the fact that film and TV can now match the world building of comic books. I will not give you a play by play of the series, for that you will need to watch yourself, but here are my reasons why Daredevil just moved to the top of my “television” superhero properties.

1. Cinema Not Television

The first thing I realized as I started to watch Daredevil is that my concerns about budget and production where needless. Daredevil and Hell’s Kitchen are as real and as well defined as any television series about a guy with superpowers has ever come close to being. Showrunner Stephen S. DeKnight has been on record as calling the Wire a source of influence and Wilson Fisk himself Vincent D’Onofrio said that it felt like making a movie, well they are both right. Daredevil exhibits a focus in its storytelling and character development that I would expect from a 2 hour film rather than a 13 episode series. Additionally the fight sequences are beautifully done not only highlighting the individual styles and attitudes of the characters, but walking a line of violence that puts my parent radar on alert while keeping me on the edge of my seat. MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

While I have binged watched shows before, I have never begun one that was intended to be binged watched. You feel it with Daredevil and it works. The story is meant to be told in large chunks and even the progression of time in the episodes reflects this approach. Events are compacted to help you feel like you are living the predicament of the characters and this is reinforced with the acting. The pacing for some of the B stories is not always perfect, but tell me one film where they always are? Most importantly, even with its radically different tone and storytelling, it still belongs in the MCU. Daredevil never feels misguided or second class and its characters are as compelling as everything we have seen in phase 1 and 2 so far.

2. Genuine Not Gritty

As a DC fan I hate when I hear that they are trying to be more “gritty.” That word makes my skin crawl as I feel it has become synonymous with overacting and gratuitous violence. Daredevil has neither, in fact it has a genuine feel to it that had me thinking more about Breaking Bad than Arrow. Both hero and villain find themselves fighting for the same thing, and walking similar lines. The faint difference that puts them on opposite sides is their willingness to kill another human being. Note that this is important as one finds his willingness forced upon him as a child while the other faces an active choice that he is constantly on the edge of making. This compiled with what I feel is an Emmy worthy performance by D’Onofrio, makes Fisk often the most compelling character on screen. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock does a great job, though he suffers by comparison to the powerful acting around him. Murdock’s often thin relationship with his faith and questions of his own sanity and worth easily run the risk of being too much and too direct with the “Devil” aspect. But Cox’s conversations with Peter McRobbie’s Father Lantom are well written and well performed, and that is where Cox really shines. Matt_and_Father_Lantom

Along with D’Onofrio, every time Vondie Curtis-Hall (Ben Urich) is on screen I am immediately drawn in. Rosario Dawson (Claire Temple a.k.a. Night Nurse) and Toby Leonard Moore (James Wesley) are limited by either screen time or role respectively, but you do not notice it. Both of their performances are spot on and Wesley’s one liners are timely and well delivered. I can go on and on about the cast but I will wrap it up with the three show regulars: Charlie Cox is a compelling Matt Murdock, though his Daredevil persona suffers from the lack of personality that comes from a darker story. That is not to say it is good, but while Daredevil holds up to most of the other parts of the MCU, this is the one place where a moodier story makes for a slightly less dynamic hero. Deborah Ann Woll has already proven to make the most out of a limited role with her time on True Blood, but her take on the innocent victim with a dark past of Karen Page is not only well executed, but actually has me excited to watch her fall from grace as the story continues. Lastly, I will admit I was concerned about how Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson would do. Would his natural ease and nerdy charm stand up to the dark undertones and rest of the grizzled cast. Not only does he have his own serious moments, but he somehow finds a way to maintain his likeability while never becoming the comic relief.

3. World Building

Daredevil is not the Avengers and it is certainly not Guardians of the Galaxy. It does not have time for any of that light hearted fair or banter. Its characters can rarely be described as heroes, and are more what we would deem heroic everyday folks. Hell it is not even remotely recognizable to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but in all of that the MCU just become so much richer than it has been until this point. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved the MCU so far (I think I have seen Guardian’s going on 15 times), but nothing has described the impact and everyday lives of the people in this world like Daredevil does. Daredevil reminds us that when Hulk throws someone into a building there are repercussions. There are people and children that have now grown up in this MCU and heroes and villains are just a fact of life. How would that change how we function as a society? What would our lives look like in this new era?Matt _Murdock

Most importantly even though it brings color to the MCU picture, it also holds its own. Being the gateway to an entire new world of storytelling that the Netflix productions will be charged with. Sure there is a part of me that now wants to see the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen throw it down with Spider-Man and Captain America, but if it never happens I will be completely OK. Daredevil does not need it nor does the rest of the MCU. Daredevil’s sole responsibility to the MCU is to open the door for characters and heroes that are not the Avengers. That do not play whims to galactic trans-dimensional villains, or to alien hoards, or super science. It is to show that even in a world where a guy with a hammer can call lightning at will and SHIELD spends money like it’s going out of style, people still have to struggle to keep the lights on and have clean running water. I only hope that as we get into the more super-natural story telling of Iron Fist, and ultimately the Defenders, that the realism and grounded nature of Daredevil does not get lost. If Marvel has earned anything so far it is my confidence that it will be just fine.

Marvel and Netflix have yet to confirm a second season, but I have no fear (see what I did there) that it will happen. I expect these Netflix series will be a little more Doctor Who in frequency than most shows, but that is   . Mainly because if they keep being this good, I will just watch them over and over again until the new stuff finally hits the internet.

Let me know your thoughts and predictions below and as always thanks for reading. JP

If you’re a fan of comic books, Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds, or even – gasp – a fan of all three at the same time, then you’re probably aware that the Deadpool movie, long in production limbo and only recently started filming, will receive an R rating. This is good news and as is befitting of the Merc with the Mouth, the team bringing him to the big screen (for realz this time!) announced the rating victory in the only way that made sense.deadpool footage

Some of you might be wondering why it’s so important that Deadpool has an R rating. Even Mario Lopez points out in the video why having a PG-13 rating would benefit the movie; franchise, sequels, toys, etc. But what it really boils down to is authenticity. Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, isn’t a PG-13 character, he’s an R character. His world is full of graphic violence, ambiguous ethics, and some pretty choice language. Yes, he’s funny, irreverent, and breaks the fourth wall, but a lot of that is used as a stark contrast to the awful things he says and does. Emphasizing one aspect over the other kind of misses the point.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a little background, yes? Yes.

Deadpool has been kicking around Hollywood since about 2004 when New Line Cinemas tried to produce a film with writer/director David S. Goyer, who you may remember from such films as The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, and Blade, helming the project and Ryan Reynolds starring as the titular character. This was around the same time as Blade: Trinity (2004), which Goyer wrote, produced, and directed and Reynolds starred in alongside Wesley Snipes and Jessica Biel. Goyer apparently lost interest, but 20th Century Fox picked up the film rights and put a spinoff into production as a potential followup to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) where Reynolds was cast as Wade Wilson/Deadpool.

Sort of.

that-deadpool-movie-we-were-all-excited-about-will-be-pg-13While X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a box office success, it was a critical failure and didn’t sit right with many fans of the X-Men universe, the comics or the film series. Regardless of its prequel status and the inflated cast of mutant cameos, one of the more egregious errors was the treatment of Deadpool to the point where most fans don’t even consider the character on screen to be the same as the one they found in the pages of Marvel comics. To be fair, none of the X-Men movies have stuck to the comic book canon completely, but Origins seemed to be checking off a list of names to use without any thought put into motivations, personality, or anything else that would make a character compelling. Reynolds does, however, have one of the best scenes in the film and his sarcastic, snarky attitude resonated with fans of Deadpool. The movie may not have gotten it right, but Reynolds did.

Since then it’s been an ongoing battle to get Deadpool his own movie with Reynolds being the character’s biggest champion and cheerleader. So it was to everyone’s delight when the film was given the official green light in 2014, not long after the test footage for the film was leaked, with a scheduled release date of February 12, 2016. The timing of the film’s production and release within the context of the current landscape of superhero and comic book franchises, however, is what makes Deadpool‘s rating so important.9df2a3cce7aae4167e8461ac7ab22c9d

Deadpool‘s status as a viable property emerged during the first wave of successful Marvel films of the late 90s and early 2000s. Basically, it was post Blade (1998), X-Men (2000), and Spider-Man (2002) but somewhat preceded the concept of a shared cinematic universe propelled by Iron Man (2006) on down to The Avengers (2012). Yes, the X-Men films had an internal continuity (sort of) but aside from being based on Marvel characters, the film rights under 20th Century Fox left any possibility of a crossover with Marvel Studios off the table. In the wake of Marvel’s billion-dollar franchise of films, pretty much every studio has tried or is attempting to copy their model. One of the more consistent elements of the Marvel films, and most superhero films in general, has been a PG-13 rating.

ryan reynoldsThe PG-13 rating is a studio’s dream for franchise films. It allows for the broadest range of audience demographics while still maintaining a level of action, violence, salty language, and sexual innuendo that we’ve collectively accepted as appropriate for children to see with their parents and teens to see on their own. Adults, obviously, are always welcome. From a marketing standpoint, kids and teens are the target audience because, as we all know, studios are looking to make bank on merchandise. One need only look at the plethora of Marvel Cinematic Universe toys and the children gravitating towards them to understand why Marvel Studios hasn’t let any of their films break the PG-13 barrier. Not that it’s handicapped the movies at all, but then again we’re not dealing with characters who occupy an R-rated world.

Comic books published by the big two of Marvel and DC currently maintain an unofficial PG-13 rating, though your mileage may vary on whether or not that’s true depending on the subject matter. Either way, both companies have imprints, MAX and Vertigo respectively, meant to handle mature content for readers and the MAX books regularly featured characters like Wolverine, the Punisher, and Deadpool in stories that went beyond acceptable levels of violence, language, and bloody satisfaction. But these are also the stories many fans of the characters latched on to before Hollywood got a hold of them. Wolverine and the Punisher were products of a lax Comics Code and the ultra-violence of the 80s and early 90s and Deadpool was an inspired copy of DC’s Deathstroke. These are not characters who regularly cuddle bunnies and sing show tunes. Well, Deadpool would, but he’d probably be murdering a guy to death while doing it. The point is when adapting characters like Wolverine and the Punisher to the big screen, there’s a reason why Fox continues to produce the exploits of deadool_vs_deathstroke_by_luizhd-d7546h6PG-13 Logan, in X-Men or solo films, while Frank Castle’s two rated R theatrical releases have become cult classics.

Given everything that’s occurred since the initial interest in Deadpool, one would think Reynolds, director Tim Miller, the writers, and producers would attempt to go the safest and seemingly most profitable route. But I think it goes back to what I mentioned earlier. This is about authenticity, bringing the real Deadpool to the big screen. There might be some thoughts of sequels or a franchise, but I guarantee that what’s really at the forefront of the filmmakers’ minds is making the best damn Deadpool movie they can, which means getting a hard R rating so they can at least say they made their Deadpool.

And really, a rated R movie for a Marvel character isn’t a huge stretch at this moment in time. Marvel Studios is about to release their Daredevil series on Netflix, which has no standardized ratings to speak of, and from all accounts it sounds like the series could be Marvel’s grittiest venture to date. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist are slated to follow but no one’s talking “franchise” just yet. This is as much Marvel experimenting with how far they can go deadpool-ryan-reynolds-450x244with their “street level” heroes as it is building their live action universe. Yes, Deadpool is owned by Fox, but he’s also part of a growing trend of studios exploring comic book properties beyond broad spectrum demographics. Dark Horse’s Powers has already premiered on Play Station, Valiant has started the process of developing a shared cinematic universe with their properties, and Image Comics darlings Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction will be developing several of their works from the publisher for television. There may be blockbuster superhero films, but niche audiences are also proving to be just as lucrative.

And I’m sure Deadpool would appreciate that.

8007cef6b23ae281bb2242c0f39f9123If you’ve been listening closely on a few of the more recent podcasts of That Girl with the Curls, you might have noticed I’ve been talking a lot about Storm. She’s one of my favorite X-Men and, if you haven’t listened to the episodes linked, her trading card back in the early to mid-nineties was one of my most prized possession. Whenever my mom took me and my sister to the local game shop – we didn’t exactly have a comic book store close by to my recollection – I always asked (or begged) for another pack of X-Men cards. I was in love with the 1992 cartoon and I was infatuated with Storm. More accurately, I wanted to be Storm. Not only did she have what I believed to be the best mutant powers ever, but as the cartoon progressed I became wrapped up in her story. Like many of the X-Men, and villains, featured in the cartoon, Storm was fleshed out as a character, showing a wide range of emotions fueled by her past and her present position as one of the most powerful mutants on the X-Men roster.

Goddess, thief, mutant, queen, leader, friend, lover, and hero; Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, was introduced, along with Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird, and Banshee in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May, 1975) as part of a new diverse generation of mutants created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockram. When Chris Claremont took over writing for Uncanny X-Men from Wein, he established Storm’s backstory and continued to feature her as a prominent character for the next sixteen years. Since her first appearance, Storm has been in every iteration of the classic-x-men-inside-coverX-Men to date; cartoons/anime, movies, and video games have all utilized Storm not just as a powerful mutant but also as a valued team member and friend. However, in the nearly four decades she’s been part of the X-Men Universe, she’s never had a solo book until now and it’s already facing cancellation after only five issues.

Currently being written by Greg Pak with pencils by Victor Ibañez and colors by Ruth Redmond, Storm’s solo book has finally taken the Mistress of the Elements out from under the greater umbrella of the X-Men team to explore her as an individual on her own terms. Yes, she’s still as much involved with the team as ever but Pak uses her relationships, past and present, to key us into what makes Storm so significant and so different. In the five issues thus far, Pak has firmly established Storm as a defender of anyone in need who’s grown tired of working within systems (societal and political) that prevent her from helping others and doing what’s right. As she tells Wolverine, she doesn’t want to hold back anymore and Pak succeeds in making each issue function partially as a one-shot but tied together through the 1398611782000-Storm-1-Ibanez-Coveroverarching theme of Storm’s personal journey to make good on her statement. Much of that journey means going back to her roots in Africa, making her book significant on a cultural level. Africa is a hotbed of socio-economic and political conflicts, so putting Storm in the midst of these problems makes sense and gives her an added dimension of relevance.

But really it’s the diversity angle I want to stress here because it’s at the heart of the #SaveStorm campaign started not too long ago in an effort to keep the book afloat. In the wake of Marvel’s cancellation of Elektra and She-Hulk‘s solo books, the common denominator was low sales. As Brett White at Comic Book Resources pointed out:

According to the October sales charts, “She-Hulk” #9 sold 21,418 physical copies and “Elektra” #7 sold 15,021. You know what series sits between those two terminated ongoings? “Storm.” The fourth issue sold 19,862 copies, which, if “She-Hulk” and “Elektra’s” ultimate fates are to be used as proof, puts it in danger of being cancelled.

StormaProblematic to this entire situation is the way in which copies are being counted. The October sales chart only covers physical copies sold to retailers in North America. Sales from countries outside North America and digital sales aren’t factored into the charts, making the numbers unreliable in their representation of the actual market of readers. But if these are the numbers Marvel is using to justify cancellations, then we have to work within the same parameters.

Are the low sales the result of terrible marketing? Personally, I found out about the book when maybe one or two websites mentioned it, but I can’t recall any huge push from Marvel. Then again, a lot of the solo books have fallen by the wayside mostly due to event books taking precedence. It’s still surprising how little attention she’s received given that Storm is one of the most recognizable characters in the X-Men universe, if not Marvel as a whole. She was Marvel’s first major black female superhero and one would think they’d try to market the hell out of her solo book. Then again, there’s been a lot of speculation about how Marvel has been handling titles with characters they don’t have the rights to for their cinematic universe. Just sayin’.Storm_h622

Is it the readers? I doubt Marvel would give the greenlight on a solo book unless there was enough interest in the character to warrant hiring the talent and spending the money to bring the book to fruition. But, as stated previously, event books are the company’s bread and butter, and with the glut of comics coming out from Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Boom!, Archie, and other independent publishers, readers need to decide where to spend their money. This means they often purchase books they’ve always bought instead of opting for something new, especially if they’re working with limited funds.

Is it the character? Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean dollar signs and there could definitely be a bit of mental gymnastics going on in the minds of readers trying to justify not buying the book. Storm, as part of the X-Men, still appears in several titles and she’s a regular participant in the crossover events due to her affiliations with multiple teams. It’s easy to think, “Well, she’s in these other books, so I’m still going to have Storm but also all these other characters.” Then again, Wolverine’s been around for the same amount of time and he was (RIP Logan) in almost every book Marvel could stuff him into. Personally, I don’t think it’s a gender or race issue in terms of the lack of interest or cancellation, but it is important in terms of representation in comic books. Diversity is integral to the survival of the comic book industry, not just in the creative teams, but in the characters put front and center. Storm tumblr_mdcss8EKxX1qzgx3uo1_500is on par with Wonder Woman as a character who inspires others. Her strength, compassion, and wisdom, coupled with her very human flaws, make her relatable to readers of all ages, races, and genders. Featuring her as a major player and representative of the Marvel brand, however, gives validation not just to the character but to those who identify with her yet feel overlooked.

The question then becomes: Is that enough? Marvel is a company and numbers are what matter to companies. If a book isn’t selling, even if the higher-ups love it for all the right reasons, it will eventually boil down to numbers. So, for now, all we can do is support the hell out of Storm. Buy or order it from your local comic book store, buy it on Comixology, tweet about the book with the hashtag #SaveStorm, go on Tumblr, shove a copy of the book into the hands of your friends and families. Help Storm because she’d do her damnedest to help you.