Smells Like Character Assassination: WTF Is Going on at Marvel?

I’ve been a Marvel fan over DC since I started reading comics—the first single issues I ever bought were the starts of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel run and Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. Marvel continues to put out some amazing, progressive, and inclusive stories from its B-list characters, but at the same time it’s also putting out some of the most tone-deaf unpleasantness I’ve ever seen from a major media company in its flagship titles. What’s most frustrating in this whole complex fiasco is that, in making these terrible writing choices, Marvel is not just being problematic and offensive, but is actually dramatically undermining the entire history of the characters they’re messing with.

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The Big Bad: Superheroes without Supervillains

drevilSupervillains are historically inseparable from their superhero counterparts. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, Joe Biden has Nixon’s Ghost. However, as comic movies keep getting bigger, and as the MCU sucks up the world’s supply of white dudes named Chris, the villains are increasingly left behind. These guys fall into a few tidy categories, and alive or dead, find themselves forgotten when the credits roll.

Somehow, the greater realism applied to superheroes, the less room there is for supervillainy. Instead, we’re left with a handful of tropes, with only a few bad guys able to break out of the box. This dynamic is crucial to the ways our current crop of superhero blockbusters reflects our wider psychology. We ache for something bigger than ourselves to believe in, and assemble the Avengers. We question that ache, and begin the Civil War. But when it comes to evildoers, we haven’t figured out what we want. Sometimes it’s just exaggerated versions of the bad people in the world, sometimes it’s faceless alien hordes, sometimes it’s pure evil, given the nasty explanation of “mental illness.” In contrast to the depth we’ve given our heroes, our villains keep falling short.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Jewish Representation

Jewish SuperheroesHappy Chanukah (Hanukkah), everyone! Chanukah is the spelling preferred by Jewish traditionalists, but Hanukkah is also fine, because Hebrew is a bit difficult to transliterate into English. The tradition of celebrating Chanukah comes from an event about 2,100 years ago, when, after reclaiming the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews only found enough holy oil to light the sacred lamp for one day. The oil miraculously lasted eight days, until more oil could be pressed and ritually purified. The festival is about the triumph of light, purity, and spirituality over darkness, compromise, and materialism. To learn more, here’s a rather good website with information about all things Jewish. This year, the eight-day Jewish festival began November 27 and ends on December 5, and in honor of it we’re taking a look at Jewish representation in pop culture.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Tessellation

Aside from his work, no one knew anything about Xavier. Not what he looked like, not the full extent of his power–though from what little they did know, he was by far the most powerful telepath in existence–and not what his intentions were. The man was a recluse. As far as Magneto knew, Xavier had never once stepped foot outside his impenetrable Westchester manor.

And now he was scheduled as the keynote speaker for the largest pro-mutant conference in the world.

“I have official confirmation,” Mystique said. Magneto released a breath.

And just like that he was Erik again. Mystique relaxed, losing the stance of his second in command and becoming Raven, the first mutant he’d found and recruited to his cause, someone he considered a friend. Erik grinned.

“Professor Charles Xavier,” he said, giddy with the thought of it.

–from Tessellation by nekosmuse

This week’s rec is one of my old favorites from the X-Men: First Class fandom. In Tessellation, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr meet under different circumstances—Erik is already the leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, headquartered on the island of Genosha, and Charles is a world-renowned geneticist who’s turned into a complete hermit after the death of his wife, Moira. As in the movie, Charles is pretty frankly amoral about the use of his powers—and unlike in the movie, he’s chosen to remain that way. Erik, too, is older, and a lot of his fanaticism has been dulled by the experience of years. It’s a fascinating what-if story about two characters meeting at a much different time in their lives, and how they influence each other after they meet.

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X-Fans! I bring glad tidings! We have a lot to be excited about. Of course, you know about The Wolverine, which is coming out in less than two weeks. And certainly you know that X-Men: Days of Future Past is due to be released in less than a year. However, you may not know that Twentieth Century Fox has registered the domain “” I’d say this indicates a strong possibility that a film is in works to engage that more militant splinter team of the X-Men.

What’s more, it seems that Fox will be using San Diego Comic-Con (less than a week away!) to really sell the big news. That particular panel will be on July 20th at 4:15 PST, and you can tune in over at The Bleeding Cool. It seems that Jeff Wadlow, who wrote and directed Kick-Ass 2, has been singled out to write and possibly direct the X-Force film.

Now, if you’re not familiar with X-Force, they are an offshoot team of the X-Men–more violent and more proactive, frankly, than the original team. Technically speaking, the X-Force series was established as a reboot of the original New Mutants comic. So, as I understand it, offshoots, spinoffs, and reboots offer a chance to explore characters who maybe don’t get a ton of ink in previous versions or flagship titles. That right there is your reason to get excited about an X-Force film. The team has prominently featured Bishop, Colossus, Deadpool, DominoForge, Tabitha Smith (Boom Boom), and of course, that team’s leader, Cable. There’s not a character in the list that doesn’t deserve an opportunity to shine on the silver screen. They have compelling storylines, long histories, and the powers necessary for a brilliant superhero action flick.

So, get excited. Before I let you go, io9 has it that there may also be a Magneto film coming our way, straight from the mouth of Robert Liefeld, who developed X-Force. Although his statement was something of a warning about not getting too excited about films in their planning stages… so we’ll just have to see where it goes. But I’m certain that with the increasing fan fervor for Marvel films, the numbers are there to support an X-Force film.

X-Men: First Class or the Epic Awesome and Fail of Marvel Movies

X-Men has always been one of my favorite comics. These were the comics that got me hooked on comics. They were like a gateway drug leading me to harder comics (like Sandman) and more addictive comics (like Batman)—but X-Men will always be my first love. First, it was the animated series. Then, the comics cemented our torrid love affair, so when I heard about the upcoming movies, naturally I was very excited.

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