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?”
Some people in this galaxy DON’T dig Marvel movies. 0_0
But 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…
Written by Jule Styne;
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn;
Vocals by Kitty Kallen;
Performed by Harry James & His Orchestra (1945)
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…
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:
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: Spellbound. Heard 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…?
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!:
“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.
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.
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!”
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!”
“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”:
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.
#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: a 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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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 😉
Captain Marvel is released this Friday: March 8 2019 – International Women’s Day(!)