“The Gentlest Of Giants”: Peter Mayhew 1944-2019

Peter Mayhew Died On 30 April Aged 74.

“We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him” – Harrison Ford.

“He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.” Harrison Ford paid an emotional tribute to Peter Mayhew – the 7′ 3″ actor who brought Chewbacca to life in the Original Trilogy – who passed away at his Texan home on 30 April. Harrison remembered Peter as a “kind and gentle man,” and praised him for being “possessed of great dignity and noble character”.

Brad – like most, if not all, fans – loved Chewie too. So, today, on what would have been Peter Mayhew’s 75th birthday, here are a few words that just had to be shared. 

Let’s face it: where would Star Wars be without Chewie? And what would the Wookiee have looked like without Peter Mayhew‘s brilliant portrayal?  

The idea of having an alien, Sasquatch-like co-pilot seemed so instantly cool to me. Moreover, Chewbacca made me realise that in order to create great SF, you don’t have to adhere to the traditional tired-and-tested aliens-are-always-bad trope.

In 1975, Peter was working as a porter at King’s College Hospital in London, when he learnt that “an American director was at Elstree Studios making a sci-fi movie.” 

He would never forget those magical words:

“They’re looking for someone big.” 

“He was the gentlest of giants… What was so remarkable about him was his spirit and his kindness, and his gentleness was so close to what Wookiee is” – Mark Hamill.

“A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile,” Mark Hamill – forever-immortalised as Luke Skywalker – wrote on Twitter. “He just radiated happiness and warmth. He was always up for a laugh and we just hit it off immediately and stayed friends for over 40 years.”

Legend has it that 6 ft 6. Dave Prowse became the first actor to be considered to play Chewbacca, but he expressed a preference instead for Darth Vader (the iconic role for which he is best remembered). At Elstree, Peter Mayhew took one look at Vaderbut he expressed a preference instead for Chewbacca. “I looked at the character and said: ‘I can do something with that. That has possibilities.'”

Peter recalled waiting in George Lucas’s office: “He and [producer] Gary Kurtz walked in. I did the natural thing. I stood up. Basically, that was the interview. He turned to Gary and said: ‘I think we’ve found him.'”

The actor would go on to wear the shaggy yak-hair suit not only throughout the Original Trilogy but also as a memorable Special Guest Star on The Muppet Show! Lucas recalled him to Kashyyyk for 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith. And, of course, a decade later, arguably the greatest duo in SF movie history were reunited for The Force Awakens. 

However…

“Look, I can’t walk,” Peter informed incoming director: JJ Abrams. Double knee replacement surgery two years previously – necessitated by both age and height – had left the actor incapacitated as a physical performer. “I can do most things, but the only thing I can’t really do is walk. But I can do the facial expressions and everything else like that for Chewie.”

During 2015, in the months leading up to Episode VII’s release, fans and critics alike raved about the much-heralded return of Luke, Leia and Han, but – much to my dismay – nobody spared a thought for the Wookiee… 

Not surprisingly, this legendary character had little to do – the greatest duo’s comeback turned into a letdown. To me, Han’s demise was inevitable, but the fact that Chewie was deprived the moment to mourn was probably that script’s most significant error.

Peter himself summed up the secret of Chewie’s appeal: “The character itself is basically teddy bear. Security! People love security. I bet everybody had a security blanket of some sort during childhood, therefore this character represents the person who looked after you. 

“Chewie just grew – on the first movie he was a minor character; second movie, he became part of the good group, and the rest is history.” 

Peter Mayhew in-between filming that “sci-fi movie” with co-star Kenny (R2-D2) Baker (above);

and with make-up artist Stuart Freeborn (below)

“Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature – and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend, and I’m saddened by his passing” – George Lucas. 

“Too short for a Wookiee?”

Almost every school breaktime, Star Wars had to be reenacted in our playground. Yes! Due to my beautiful blond mane, yours truly would get to play Luke!! A rare sign of respect for an otherwise insignificant and shy comics-muncher who always sat at the back of the class.

That’s  almost every breaktime – REAL fights would break out between some boys as to who would be Han Solo – rebellion amongst the Rebellion. Sheesh! The Death Star would have cleared the planet and blown us all to smithereens well before we had to trudge back in for Maths class…

One time, seeing as it was his birthday, one kid received the privilege of playing the moping moisture-farmer. My reaction? To the sheer bewilderment of my playmates – was to immediately opt for the part of Chewie: the co-pilot with a crossbow. WICKED! 🙂

Bizarrely enough, we actually had a Mr. Peter Mayhew teaching at our junior school! He was incredibly tall, but there, alas, is where the comparisons ended. Of course, my year were staunch Star Wars fans, so those more rebellious fellas among our rabble could not resist lumbering along the hall right behind him, “making Wookiee noises” etc. Poor grouch: totally oblivious to this ultracool international pop culture phenomenon, he had absolutely no idea why all these pesky perishers were acting like that. 

Looking back, methinks: yeah, it was a fun prank to do 😉

I’d like to think that THE REAL Peter Mayhew would have been proud of us.

For he represented the best of Star Wars in its original – wondrous and inspirational – form. His boundless passion and positivity ensured him enduring popularity. That, and attending 20-30 Star Wars conventions a year. 

“Much of my personality has gone into Chewie, and people can pick those bits out,” he said. “There are quirky movements that nobody else does. I feel that I’ve put a great deal of Peter Mayhew into Chewbacca.”

 

“The big chance came, so I took it. Star Wars was such a unique opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. It’s an opportunity that only strikes once, so you might as well make the most of it.

“At least my costume was comfortable!” 

Peter Mayhew 19 May 1944 – 30 April 2019. 

 

The Kinks – Supersonic Rocket Ship: MARVEL Music Monday

Welcome To New Asgard!

Move aside, there, Lebowski!” – Tony Stark

Thor: “Do you know what is coursing through my veins right now?”

James Rhodes: “Cheez Whiz?”

 

Avengers: Endgame – The Bradscribe Review

Dread It. Run From It. The Bradscribe Review Arrives All The Same.

And Now It’s Here.

“Unconquerable brilliance takes Marvel to new heights… an irresistible blend of action and comedy, guaranteeing a sugar rush of delirious enjoyment” – Peter Bradshaw. 

This is the end, beautiful friend…

In a movie that is the culmination of eleven years and over twenty movies, thus transcending the rules and expectations of the superhero movie genre, where the whole objective is to conclude all super-business in a convincing and compelling closure, AND fire decisive repulsor-rayblasts to your mind, heart and – hoo-boy! – tear ducts, where do we begin?!

Tony Stark is marooned in space with the daughter of the fiend who fatally slew him; where do the original Avengers – survivors of the Snaptastrophe – go from here?

To undo the Mad Titan’s wrongdoings, and try and restore some sorta semblance of order back to the universe, before you can say: “TREE! Help me find the handle!” they have constructed a “machine” that can transport what’s left of the cast into their respective subplots…

And to that end, as expected, the following three hours deliver on so many winning levels in the best way possible. 

The only way.

The MARVEL way! 🙂

“The only complaint is that it raises the bar so high that there may well never be a superhero movie to match it…” – Matthew Norman. 

PHOOEY to those critics who dared slate this gargantuan cinematic swansong as “preposterous”(!)

Look, this is a comicbook movie fer cake’s sake, where fans don’t bat an eyelid at such Stark Raving Hazelnuts stuff as a talking raccoon, a wizard’s cloak that has a mind of its own and a giant Peter Dinklage. 

One can appreciate how (the best of) these MCU movies have been created by comicbook buffs who not only know how crazy, clever and cosmic these stories can be, but understand how they work. Essentially, Avengers: Endgame has been (ahem) assembled in such a meticulous, but oh so MARVELous way that it looks – and works – like a remastered Greatest Hits compilation, with a handful of iconic scenes from the last eleven years – including familiar faces we thought we’d never see again! – lovingly spliced in to add an always-welcome tinge of nostalgia to that unfailingly spectacular eleven-year mix of action, drama and humour. 

Moreover, this time, we are presented with an unprecedented, but irresistibly intriguing premise in a superhero movie: 

failure, and how (what’s left of) the team deal with that. 

Just when you think the First Act would dissolve into something too morose to handle, and drag a tad, once again – thankfully! – writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are at the top of their (end)game, providing one of the best scripts of the year (and not to mention, as reliable as ever, a hefty wodge of rad quotable lines! 😉 )

The depleted number of protagonists means that Avengers: Endgame offers closer attention to character study, and even sends some of their story-arcs down paths that were (dare we say it!) hitherto undreamt of. One of them in particular highly uncharacteristically crawls into a bottle (Clue: it’s NOT Ant-Man).

At the end of the day, it’s so cool to discover that – like your fav cake-scoffing blogger 😉 – Clint is just as badass with a blade as he is with a bow.

Oh, and speaking of cool, that much-anticipated Stan Lee cameo is – how we remember The Man – real classy!

“We won’t talk about the technobabble inelegantly cited in a bid to hold it all together – the equivalent of taking out an airplane’s jackscrews and replacing them with bubblegum” – Ed Whitfield: The Ooh Tray. 

At three hours and one minute, this is the longest MCU instalment; kudos to its directors: Anthony and Joe Russo for not letting the pace slip at all, not once, during these epic proceedings. Against all odds, Avengers: Endgame manages to be a worthy and thoroughly enjoyable successor to Avengers: Infinity War.

However, once that sheer exhilaration settles down and those critical faculties kick in, a few niggles pop up preventing me from bestowing it the full quota of five perfectly balanced stars. 

The biggest drawback here happens to be the biggest character: despite having a few cool scenes, Thanos is inevitably relegated to formulaic antagonist.

When Captain Larson shows up at Avengers HQ, nestling the Benatar on their front lawn, there are no gawps or gasps from Steve and co. Obviously, this universe is positively heaving with enhanced individuals of one sort or another, so “New Girl” is allowed to hang around the base, no questions asked, until the moment the script has no further need for her she has to skedaddle to some distant planet to… do something for no discernible reason… She eventually returns, making a brief, but blistering impact during the Final Act which, incidentally, looks far too cluttered and chaotic. All in all, Captain Marvel’s appearance in this movie was not substantial or integral enough to have warranted her own lousy movie almost two months ago.

Personally, last year’s masterpiece – with its towering (and harrowing) central performance, a truly Mighty Marvel Team-Up in the unexpected groovy forms of Thor and Rocket, moon-throwing and THAT unforgettable ending – seared a more indelible mark on my memory, but this is still an incredibly engrossing piece of work, and provides a fitting finale to this frenetic franchise. 

When The BIG Bradscribe MCU Countdown is due to be revised shortly, Avengers: Endgame should be riding high in the Top 10. It deserves to snap out of existence all box office records; after only three days, it’s officially become the Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time. 

The enormous, exciting, and – oh yes – emotional effects have proved remarkable, and will surely never end – this really feels like the blockbuster to end all blockbusters.

Therefore, yours truly takes this opportunity to announce The End of my forty years of cinema-going. Let’s face it: during the next ten – perhaps twenty – years, methinks it probably unlikely that we will ever experience a movie, bigger, bolder or better than this…

At the very least, watching Avengers: Endgame is infinitely preferable to being stuck in a flying doughnut billions of miles from Earth with no backup…

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“I like this one.”

 

“We like very propulsive storytelling. We like to keep it tight and focused, and to give the audience a thrill ride. No one’s been pushing us to cut the film… we’re primarily pushing ourselves” – Anthony Russo. 

 

“I Wouldn’t Say No To A Tuna Melt”: What Can We Expect From Avengers: Endgame?!

Eyes Up. Stay Sharp.

 

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN POTENTIAL SPOILERS

“The world has changed, and none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes the best that we can do is to start over” – Peggy Carter. 

“This is the Asgardian refugee vessel Statesman. We are under assault! I repeat, we are under assault. The engines are dead, life support failing. Requesting aid from any vessel within range. We are 22 jump points out of Asgard. Our crew is made up of Asgardian families. We have very few soldiers here. This is not a warcraft. I repeat, this is not a warcraft!” 

Accompanied by such a moody score from Alan Silvestri, wow, methinks, this IS already turning out to be a masterpiece. And we haven’t even got past the MARVEL STUD10S logo yet(!)

After 59 viewings of this movie, it’s still unbelievable as to how all narrative threads of Avengers: Infinity War link up so effectively. 

So it was MARVELous news to learn that Avengers: Endgame will once again be written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directed by those groovy fellas: the Russo Brothers – arguably the ideal creative team for such a Mad Titan-sized project.  

Naturally, the chances of the Russo Brothers revealing ANY plot-point is – as you would expect – as unlikely as Brad having any chance of ever managing to lift Mjolnir.

That’s fine. Chris Evans summed it up perfectly: “Marvel really wants to make sure that their stuff is the way movies used to be,” he said, when interviewed on the Infinity War set. “It used to be that the first you heard of a movie was the trailer. You know what I mean…? It was all discovery and mystery and reveals. That was the fun of movies for me, at least as a kid. So I think Marvel does a good job of prioritising that.”

Such was the almost-insane level of security, Chris was one of the few members of the gargantuan cast to receive a COMPLETE script. Printouts of each day’s dialogue had to be shredded straight after use; fake scenes were even written just to bamboozle potential party-poopers; and when it came to the Big Twist (i.e. half of the cast being written out) those closing moments were NEVER written anyway.

The production team had to go break it, verbally, to that unlucky 50%, that the big purple guy had WON…

“You could not live with your own failure, and where did that bring you? Back to me” – Thanos. 

“Chin there, done that…” 

Rocket Raccoon: “This is Thanos we’re talking aboutHe’s the toughest there is.”

Thor: “Well, he’s never fought me.”

Rocket Raccoon: “Yeah, he has.”

Thor: “He’s never fought me twice.”

“It was very flattering,” Anthony Russo explained, reacting to news that the once-in-a-generation stunning climax to Infinity War has been described as the 21st century’s equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back’s cliffhanger. “We were diehard fans of Empire Strikes Back. It’s our favourite Star Wars movie.”

You see?! TOLD YOU they were groovy fellas 😉

Empire’s iconic twist had a profound effect on them – especially the moment in which Lord Vader lops Luke’s hand off. In every MCU instalment, at least one character is guaranteed to lose a hand; a macabre bunch of Marvel fans have tried to predict who will be the next unfortunate victim of this grisly regularity in Endgame. 

“Agan, one of the great licences that you have with serialised storytelling in cinema is that you can take the narrative to places that an individual, standalone film can’t,” Anthony Russo continued. “That’s one thing we always committed to in Infinity War: telling a story that was not going to go to a conventional place, and it was going to go to a difficult place. And trusting that the audience was ready for that kind of experience with those characters.” 

Speaking of taking the narrative to other places, as a quantum weirdness buff, the prospect of the remaining Avengers utilizing quantum gubbins to somehow undo the Snaptastrophe could not make me squeal with delight any louder. 

Watch this multidimensional space…

“Even if there’s a small chance. We owe this, to everyone who’s not in this room, to try” – Natasha Romanoff.

“It’s not about how much we lost. It’s about how much we have left. We’re the Avengers. We gotta finish this. You trust me?” – Tony Stark.

“The fact that they could break these two stories and make them as different as they are – to me, in the history of all the writing I’ve ever seen, it’s the single greatest story-breaking achievement,” Robert Downey Jr. remarked on the Infinity War set.

There is something about the original Iron Man movie that has been bugging me forever. And it wsn’t until a recent rewatch that it suddenly struck me – as decisive as any of Shellhead’s repulsor rayblasts.

Consider the very first glimpse we get of Tony. No, it’s not a view of Tony’s mug, but a close-up of his hand holding a drink glass.

Look at the way he’s holding it. Photoshop the glass out and it looks like he is… ready to snap his fingers…

The oldest Easter Egg in the MCU and nobody noticed. Maybe it’s Stark’s destiny to wield the gauntlet in the Last Roundand snap Thanos out of existence…? 

But hey! 

Don’t listen to me.

Tried to predict the contents of Peter’s Awesome Mixtape Vol.2 and only got 1.5 out of 14 right. Perhaps that is the reason why most of my Followers have now drifted away… (Better not brood over this or Brad will start to look as miserable as Thor in the Endgame trailer – oh Lord (of Thunder), hope he gets a chance to shine in this movie. Still reckon that he and Rocket should get their own groovy movie together. “Cool? Cool.” “So cool!”).

No matter how adamantly the writers and directors stipulate that these are two very separate films, Infinity War and Endgame were conceived and written concurrently, with the story framework set out during the last quarter of 2015, and the scripts developed during the first five months of 2016. 

“Without being able to reveal anything about Endgame,” Markus explains, “They’re very different movies structurally and tonally.” 

One has mainly stayed away from the ever-trundling rumour-mill, but it would be amazing to see the likes of the Ancient One, or Hela – and Loki, of course! 😉 – make dramatic returns to the MCU.

One amusing story in paticular caught my attention: In the last few weeks, a growing number of fans have been speculating – all over again – that the golden boy himself: Adam Warlock will be The One to save Tony and Nebula! With uncertainty surrounding the prospects of a Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3, stories of Adam’s cinematic debut being pushed discretely forward naturally gained pace. As integral to the Infinity saga (in the comics) as Thanos he may be, even this fanboy readily accepts that no matter how groovy this prospect sounds, Adam’s appearance in this movie remains, alas, highly unlikely. 

Even with the characters-who-survived-the-Snap, chances for the already-dense 181-minute running time being staggered further by any new faces popping up also seem remote.

Or are they…? 

Peter Quill: “The Avengers?”

Thor: “The Earth’s mightiest heroes.”

Mantis: “Like Kevin Bacon?”

Thor: “He may be on the team. I don’t know, I haven’t been there in a while.”

“There will be great stakes for the characters,” Joe Russo warns.

There will be consequences, both brothers have advised.

Whilst it his been said that Infinity War was the brawn, Endgame will be the brains.

Oh, and the heart. A heckuva lotta heart.

If you thought last year’s epic brought on more emotional intensity than you thought mentally and physically possible, expect this year’s jawdropper to crank up the feels even further. So make sure to bring lots an’ lotsa tissues…

God, it seems like a thousand years ago since that playboy-billionaire-philanthropist-quip-dispenser fought his way out of that cave…

The most persistent speculation concerning Endgame plot-points involves Steve Rogers making the ultimate sacrifice. Indeed, Chris Evans’ emotional last-day-on-set tweet implied his departure from the franchise here.

But does it have to mean the death of Steve?  

The trailer indicated that these two valiant characters will, at last, reconcile after the almost-calamitous fallout from Civil War; personally, that would be one of my top moments to expect.

And it will come just in time. 

My instincts regrettably inform me that we will have to bid, instead, a heartrending farewell to Tony Stark. 

Throwing in my ten-satangs-worth – ’tis, after all, MY blog, by Jove! – during the inevitably edge-of-yer-seat finale, it looks like Steve is a goner, but Tony will step in – at the last minute – and pay the ultimate price. Wracked by post-Snap torment, this demise in particular sends Steve over the edge, and makes him secretly commandeer the time-bending technology (that everybody saus will feature prominently in this movie) so he can “escape” back to the ’40s.

And get to have that date – and a life! – with Peggy. A less morbid, more tender, denouement to the Cap’s story-arc – still going to play havoc on everybody’s tear-ducts though! 

That is how this ol’ sentimental boobie would have written it…

Let’s hope we can still expect some mirthful moments amidst these seemingly morose proceedings. Heck, if we can hear rib-ticklers as classic as: “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards” then it should be mighty fine and dandy! Expect Markus and McFeely to supply an engrossing narrative and deft dialogue; expect the Russo Brothers at the helm to tighten the pace and proceedings by smacking our gobs (and not numbing our bums).

But most of all, dear friends: 

expect the unexpected from this Endgame(-changer). 

Allfather, let the Marvel Magic flow through us one last time…

ASSEMBLE all these elements in the right, awesome order and Brad will certainly be ONE VERY HAPPY BUNNY!!

“The rabbit is correct and clearly the smartest among you” – Thor.

 

“I know I said no more surprises, but I was really hoping to pull off one last one…” – Tony Stark.

 

UVB76 – SG1: Manic Music Monday

Part Of The Journey Is The End.

When I drift off, I will dream about you. It’s always you” – Tony Stark. 

 

Some people in this galaxy DON’T dig Marvel movies. 0_0

But not us…

Not us! 

Before unleashing my Review next week, this chattering animal will be posting – midweek – a few thoughts on the soon-to-be-revealed Avengers: Endgame, so hope you can join me for that!

Ha ha! We all wondered how we would manage to wait a whole year to find out how this monumental story arc could come to a satisfying MARVELous denouement – now we are only DAYS away.

So this is it? It’s all been leading to this…

 

“Oh My God! I should’ve stayed on the bus…” – Peter Parker.

 

Magic Sword – In The Face Of Evil: MARVEL Music Monday

Here We Go!

“So much has happened since I last saw you! I lost my hammer, like yesterday, so that’s still fresh. Then I went on a journey of self-discovery. Then I met you” – Thor. 

 

This live set by Brad’s new fav band: Magic Sword was performed in Phoenix, Arizona on 19 October 2016, about a few months before this track appeared on the trailer for

Thor: Ragnarok. 

Enjoy! 

 

“Mmm mmm mmm, he’s wonderful. It is a he…?” – The Grandmaster.  

 

Harry James And His Orchestra – It’s Been A Long, Long Time: MARVEL Music Monday

SHIELD COMPROMISED… 

Steve Rogers: “I don’t remember giving you a key.”

Nick Fury: “You really think I’d need one? My wife kicked me out.”

Steve Rogers: “Didn’t know you were married.”

Nick Fury: “There are a lot of things you don’t know about me.”

 

Written by Jule Styne;

Lyrics by Sammy Cahn;

Vocals by Kitty Kallen;

Performed by Harry James & His Orchestra (1945)

Natasha Romanoff: “Hey, fellas. Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I’m here to pick up a fossil.”

Steve Rogers: “That’s hilarious.”

 

Sphare Sechs – Phase II: Mellow Music Monday

We Have Loved The Stars Too Fondly To Be Fearful Of The Night…  

To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit” – Stephen Hawking.

 

“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” – Carl Sagan.   

 

 

“The Woman Is Breaking Free!”: The Evolution And Revolution Of Women In SF

A Look At Women’s Roles In SF On International Women’s Day 

“Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?” – Ellen Ripley.  

Many many moons ago, at school, there was one quick, and somewhat sad, way to tell the difference between boys and girls:  

boys read science fiction – girls did not.

Traditionally, my fav genre had been restricted to being a “Boy’s Own” pursuit long before my arrival on this Pale Blue Dot. My constant comic-reading consisted of Starhawk, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper – all male characters, of course! – used to irk some of the girls in my class no end. Despite trying to hide my mags, or chuck them over the playground wall, they never directly expressed any curiosity, or interest, in this reading-material. Shame, ‘cos such interaction might have extricated me from my insufferable shell a lot sooner…

No worries.

Science fiction has always exuded a voracious appetite for change. And to reflect those gradual, now quickening, changes in society, most notably in attitudes towards, and rights affecting, women, the genre has dramatically achieved so much to this end and, promisingly, continues to do so. 

To accompany this analysis, there will be a selection from the feminine side of Brad’s jukebox: 

“This is what Jodie Foster said when she first looked at me: ‘You’re not nearly as big as I thought you’d be.’ I thought she was joking so I kind of giggled but she kept laying it on thicker and thicker… She wouldn’t let up. I was a little crushed…” – Dave Bautista. 

At its best, science fiction makes us THINK.

And there was one particularly awesome comicbook cover that single-handedly altered my mindset in regards to women in SF.

In one of my most beloved books from the Library Brad Manor, a compendium: Alien Creatures, by Richard Siegel and J-C Suares (1978) – “Dedicated to those who haven’t landed yet” 😉 – on page 40 to be exact (that fact is proudly printed indelibly in my memory), this exquisite classic vintage cover (by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta, above) of Weird Fantasy #21 made me realise the potential of incorporating strong, distinctive female characters in my own fiction. 

Note how the traditional gender roles haye been reversed: this woman – armed and sensibly-dressed (obligatory goldfish-bowl permitting) – assumes an assured, active and commanding position in the foreground while the male is reduced to just scantily-clad manflesh. Bold, and very progressive, especially when you consider this artwork was originally published – slapbang in that “Boy’s Own” era – in 1953!

2000AD – still “the longst-running comic in the galaxy” – has always been considered to be an highly-esteemed tag to have on any comic writer’s/artist’s resume, and yet it’s most notable alumni began their respective careers… working on girls’ comics!

Lately, my scope of classic comics has veered towards British publications of the ’70s. Whilst searching for the “lost Starhawk stories,” in The Crunch, imagine my astonishment, but sheer delight, upon discovering “Ebony”: a black, female MI5 agent; for 1977, this looked like an extremely impressive and empowering premise –  the spitting image of Nina Simone, she’s every bit as tough and classy as Pam Grier! And way too cool to be this obscure. (Not surprisingly, there are no clear images of her online).

While stories for boys centred on action, comics for girls concentrated on romance. 

Interestingly enough, there was indeed only one (albeit short-lived) British SF/fantasy comic for girls from that time: SpellboundHeard a lot of encouraging items about one of its contents – that quartet of enhanced femme fatales: the Super-Cats, so will endeavour to check out this “Fabulous Four.”

Back then, one would have been branded a “sissy” if seen with a girls’ comic, but now, who cares…? 

“Let me tell you something about sexism, girl. When you wear that costume, it cheapens you, but when I wear it, it cheapens them. It’s all about how you use it” – Emma Frost. 

How apt: playing this on the Eighth Day of this month 😉

No NO, Lady Go-Go! 

Let Hazel show you what a bona fide unorthodox-but-awesome songstress really looks and sounds like!:

J. Jonah Jameson: “You! Ms. Marvel!! I knew one of you super-creeps was responsible for this! Good or bad, it doesn’t matter – you’re all the same. You’ve got to be stamped out… and if J. Jonah Jameson has anything to say about it, lady, you will be!” 

Ms. Marvel: (I hear you, J. Jonah, and I’d love to argue the point, if I had the time… but I don’t. I doubt you’d listen anyway. Still, that’ll probably become one more editorial hassle Carol Danvers doesn’t need…)  

“The horrible immorality” argued Anatole France, ominously, as early as 1905, “…is to be the morality of the future.”

Whereas bygone authors of general fiction felt restricted from writing about the realities of human relationships, science fiction auteurs went ahead anyway and experimented with gender as well as genetics, and sex and sexuality in addition to science and scientific plots.

The main credit for breaking through the barriers of taboo is usually given to Philip Jose Farmer, whose The Lovers (1952) dealt with the unfortunate consequences of a love-affair between a man and an alien, although some would argue that Nice Girl With Five Husbands  (1951) by Fritz Leiber, at last deserves critical reappraisal.

The 1960s proved permissive enough to see an influx of more gender-based stories; Harlan Ellison’s anthology: Dangerous Visions (1967) confirmed that any speculative fiction concerning sexual matters could thenceforth be published, while the ground-breaking Left Hand Of Darkness (1969) by Ursula LeGuin offered a more sensitive approach to sexual roles and mores. The 1970s witnessed an increase in feminity – and feminism – through science fiction with the most prominent examples being: When It Changed (1972) by Joanna Russ and Marge Piercy’s Woman On The Edge Of Time (1976). 

More varied roles for female characters appeared on a relatively healthy basis up to the end of the 20th century, and beyond, culminating in the current blossoming subgenre of YA fiction.

Princess Leia: “All troop carriers will assemble at the north entrance. The heavy transport ships will leave as soon as they’re loaded. Only two fighter escorts per ship. The energy shield can only be opened for a short time, so you’ll have to stay very close to your transports.”

Hobbie Klivian: “Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?”

Princess Leia: “The ion cannon will fire several shots to make sure any enemy ships will be out of your flight path. When you’ve gotten past the energy shield, proceed directly to the rendezvous point. Understood? Good luck.”

Arguably, the strongest, most positive female role in science fiction has to be Ellen Ripley, superbly played by the incomparable Sigourney Weaver. 

The character had originally been written as male, but Sigourney impressed the director: Ridley Scott to such an extent that he not only changed the course of movie history, but furthered the opportunities for women’s roles in science fiction. Crucially, when she returned in the equally-impressive sequel: Aliens (1986), the addition of terrorised infant, Newt, allowed Ripley’s character to be enhanced by expressing long-suppressed calm and compassionate maternal instincts.

We inevitably turn our attention to the woman’s role that defined its time: Princess Leia, immortalised by the late great Carrie Fisher. 

Some would argue that she was upstaged by that young farm boy; he was the one who destroyed the Death Star and received the glory, cake and medal, but the cultural – and psychological –  impact that Leia had on each generation over the last forty years makes said space station look like a ping pong ball…

“Well somebody has to save our skins…”

But that was before the dark times.

Before Disney…

What chance do we have? The question is “what choice.” Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces. You give way to an enemy this evil, with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!” – Jyn Erso.

In this modern Star Wars era, there is, alas, not much to get excited about.

The lone redeeming item is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It offers a striking lead performance by Felicity Jones – an ingenious case of casting as Jyn Erso; her soft and slight build belies the fact that she has had to become tough, confident and resourceful – she was more of a “rebel” in every sense of the term than any other member of that Rebel Alliance. 

One of the multiple problems that beset Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the baffling observation that although the cast featured a commendable and considerable number of female figures in its cast, due to poor writing, strong, discernible characters did not manage to flourish. 

Naturally – ‘cos you know it’s Brad – we come to the MCU, the franchise that just keeps on giving. There are various instances of strong and commanding superheroines therein, to name but a few:  

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the only reason to watch Iron Man 2 (which should have been the Black Widow we all deserve!) and she further excels in the Avengers movies AND Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Hayley Atwell is exceptional as Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger; whilst my personal fav (see below!): she’s not a queen, or a monster, she’s Hela, the Goddess of Death.

And we come to the latest – and possibly most game-changing – instalment: Captain Marvel. 

Where there’s good, there’s bad – cue the rise of that “horrible immorality” in the repugnant form of sexist trolls who have crawled out of the depths of their own ignorance, this time, to belittle Brie Larson: the first female lead in a Marvel movie. Rather than shut down her TwitFace™ account (or whatever you blessed younglings call the bally thing) she’s done what any honourable superhero would do: STRIKE BACK.

“Up an’ at ’em, lady!” 

“You know, I used to want to be a Valkyrie when I was younger, until I found out you were all women. There’s nothing wrong with women, of course, I like women. Sometimes a little too much. Not in a creepy way, just more like a respectful appreciation. I think it’s great, an elite force of women warriors” – Thor. 

And so, considering how – over thirty decades ago – such a prospect would have seemed unthinkable (certainly in my school yard), SF enjoys a poignant and promising age in which more girls and young women than ever before actively watch science fiction movies at the cinema, read SF novels – AND comics!! –  participate in, and cosplay, at comic conventions in record numbers. More crucially, some have been inspired to create their own far-reaching fiction!

Let me say how, for me, this is a genuinely thrilling and reassuring situation to behold. Long may it continue! 

Let me finish by saying just this: 

Those girls who, back in the day, nabbed my comics, now, most likely, have daughters who wholeheartedly embrace science fiction! 

And, what’s more, if they can craft an intergalactic saga better than anything this humble ol’ nerfherder could muster, then that would be really groovy. 

“Go get ’em, girls!”

 

Sarah Connor: “Kyle, the women in your time, what are they like?”

Kyle Reese: “Good fighters.”

 

“Higher, Further, Faster”: The Curious Case Of Carol Danvers

Discover What Makes Her A Hero

Carol Danvers: “I want to go to college. I’ve been working part-time almost two years now, but I’m still way short of the tuition fees. I need a loan. You’re my last hope, Dad.”

Pa Danvers: “And my answer’s still no. We live well, Carol, but I’m no millionaire. I can afford to send one of you kids to college and it’s going to be your brother, Steve.”

Carol Danvers: “That’s not fair!” 

Pa Danvers: “Life isn’t fair, kitten. Besides, you don’t need college to find a good husband.

Carol Danvers: “Dad, who said I want to spend the rest of my life playing the happy homemaker?!” 

Pa Danvers: “Don’t take that tone of voice with me, young lady!” 

 

“Air Force?! Well, why the heck not?” the young teen Carol Danvers wonders, having stormed out of the family home after yet another rowdy bust-up with her Pa.

A poster outside the local USAF Recruitment Office satisfies her longing for adventure, so the day after her 18th birthday: “without a word to her parents or a backward glance… she enlisted.”

The rest is…

A history – one of the most complex, convoluted, and controversial, of any comic book character.

Th original superhero to go by the epithet: Captain Marvel” was Mar-Vell, created by Stan “The Man” Lee and “Genial” Gene Colan in 1968; he was introduced as a guardian of the Kree, protector of the planet Hala against the dreaded Skrulls. (More about them later).

The character of Carol Danvers appears to have been created – as that most lame women’s “role”: Captain Marvel’s love “interest” – by “Rascally” Roy Thomas and “Genial” Gene Colan. She first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968) as a non-superpowered USAF officer.

This is the very first scene to feature “Miss Danvers”: 

“Dr. Lawson, this is Miss Danvers! Man or woman, she’s the finest Head of Security a missile base could want!” – General Bridges. 

 

The Vision: “Your evasive tactics will do you no good, Ms. Marvel — against one who can dematerialize his body and short-cut through solid obje– KARRRRGH!!”

Ms. Marvel: (Plan B was to use my Kree science to jury-rig the power cables running beneath the bridge — into a field generator capable of subjecting his immaterial form to a stress beyond endurance…) “He’ll be unconscious for a while. I’m sorry it had to come to this, but in a way — it serves him right. Up an’ at ’em, lady! There’s still the super-truck to be dealt with…”  

Carol Danvers made her solo debut with Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977) written by Chris (X-Men) Claremont.  

Mar-Vell still retained the title of Captain Marvel, so to differentiate from him, Carol assumed the title of Ms. Marvel” Apart from bare legs and midriff, she wore a very similar red and blue costume. At that time, the use of “Ms.” reflected bold feminist connotations – having left NASA to become Editor of the Daily Bugle’s Woman Magazine, Carol regularly “fought” Battle Of The Sexes duels with J. Jonah Jameson. 

And won. Every time. 

Despite this, it must be said that Marvel Comics originally had a rather half-hearted approach to female characters, with She-Hulk and Spiderwoman serving as just female variants if their more iconic male counterparts. Thus, regrettably, it seemed as though Ms. Marvel could do nothing but continue this trend. 

The 1st ish of Ms. Marvel is impossible to find – and, thus, ridiculously expensive.

No worries.

#5 (May 1977) one of the better ishs, featuring a supercool guest star appearance by The Vision – includes some invaluable backstory.

During an intense duel between Captain Marvel and Colonel Yon Rogg – Carol had her notorious accident with a device known as the psyche-magnetron. Essentially, it spliced Mar-Vell’s DNA with hers: “she had the strength of ten men, the knwoledge and instincts of a Kree warrior, and thanks to a sophisticated electronic webbing built into her costume… she could fly.” Most crucially, she was possessed with that uniquely Kree power: Seventh Sense in which she could anticipate danger before it occurred.

From ish #20, (October 1978) the “All-New” Ms. Marvel – the notorious black halter-neck leotard and longer boots (and, curiously-much-longer hair) – took over. It is in this garb that she first joined The Avengers. Unfortunately, the next stage of Carol’s “life” is the most controversial (and will only be mentioned briefly here).

In her essay: “The Rape Of Ms. Marvel,” comicbook historian Carol A Strickland criticized one Avengers storyline that concentrated on the “abduction and impregnation” of the Fighting Fury by Marcus (alleged son of Immortus). Why oh why did such an inappropriate and obscene plot have to sully none other than The Avengers #200?! As an Avengers fan for most of my life, it is outrageous – almost criminal! – that what should have been an epic landmark ish can never join my collection…

Moreover, where were the Comics Code Authority? How could they have “Approved” THIS?!

 Even Claremont spoke out against it, and proceeded to “undo” this inappropriate storyline when he produced Avengers Annual #10 (1981). He further redeveloped Carol’s character whilst working on The Uncanny X-Men. During one cosmic adventure: #164 (December 1982), an alien race known as The Brood imbue her with energy manipulation and absorption powers and thenceforth, she becomes known as “Binary.” Essentially she could generate the power of a star. 

When she soon reverts to her Ms. Marvel persona, Carol retains these powers.

 

“Think you’re the only hero in the world…?” – Nick Fury.  

The very first grapic novel in comics history happened to be Death Of Captain Marvel, featuring the demise of Mar-Vell (in 1982) but Carol did not assume the Captaincy right away. No, the first female hero to use this title was an African-American: Monica Rambeau (seen in her white and black garb on the cover above).

Incidentally, in the upcoming movie, Carol’s best friend is fellow pilot Maria Rambeau, Monica’s mum – an interesting twist to the origins story.

 

Carol knows the Skrulls have infiltrated Earth, and it kind of creates a sense of paranoia. The Skrulls are after something, and part of the mystery of the movie is Carol trying to figure out what they’re after and getting it before they do” – Anna Boden.  

Considering the Kree-Skrull War’s overwhelming importance in the comics – in fact, “The Kree-Skrull War” happened to be Marvel Comics’ first major cosmic story-arc, featured in The Avengers in 1971, written by Roy Thomas, with art provided by Neal Adams and both Buscemas (John and Sal).  

With such multiple plot-threads, it is difficult to determihe which aspects, if any, will make it into this movie. It is surprising how no mention of that major, seemingly-eternal conflict has not featured in the MCU.

Until now. 

Strangely enough, although Ms. Marvel spent the first few ishs of her solo ’70s series trying to come to terms with her Kree powers, there was never any mention of the Skrulls: sinister alien shapeshifters. 

However, in Marvel Team-Up # 62 she joins Spidey to fight the Super-Skrull: a Skrull antagonist possessing the powers of the Fantastic Four (see below):

 

It’s absolutely incredible! I got the opportunity to work on the film which was amazing… Carol is a character who has lived inside my head since about 2010, and I feel, right now, really proud of her” – Kelly Sue DeConnick.

July 2012 marked the moment when Carol Danvers officially assumed the title of Captain Marvel. 

In a dramatic reintroduction of the character, its writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, had offered an irresistible pitch: it could “pretty much be summed up with ‘Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.'” 

Carol rejoined The Avengers the following year, starring in the Captain Marvel / Avengers Assemble crossover storyline: “The Enemy Within”. She and her Avenger teammates must do battle with Yon-Rogg, the Kree officer responsible for the explosion that caused her to receive her powers, and in defeating the Kree, Danvers loses her memories... 

And in May 2014, Carol Danvers joined the Guardians Of The Galaxy.

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When asked, during one interview, that all-important-question: 

“Who is the most powerful being in the Marvel Universe?” 

the late, great Stan Lee immediately replied:

“Galactus. Without a doubt.”

Continuing the MCU’s unabashed trend of distorting the original comicbook plotlines, Kevin Feige – Marvel Studios’ Head Honcho – has stipulated that Captain Marvel IS the most powerful being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, it is intriguing to discover that the Captain Marvel movie will be set in the ’90s – most tantalisingly, over twenty years before Tony Stark became Iron Man…

It will certainly be interesting to see a de-aged and patchless Nick Fury and such familiar faces as Korath and Ronan again.

Unlike Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War – both devoured (with glee) on their respective days of release – this blogger won’t be watching the 21st instalment of the MCU until next week. 

Why?! you cry. 

Saving it for a (hopefully special) birthday treat 🙂

 

Captain Marvel: Die Hard With Avengers 😉

“It’s very surreal to get suited up… And the idea of that star and these colors, it represents strong willIt makes me emotional. She is the most dynamic character that I have ever had the chance to play” – Brie Larson. 

 

Captain Marvel is released this Friday: March 8 2019 International Women’s Day(!)