Wow! After the debacle that was Secret Wars we get the New 52….ahem I mean the All-New Marvel universe. Can’t believe I’m getting my companies confused but how can you blame me, it’s like both of the big two are blowing up the existing continuity to create something ‘new’!
After all of the delays and confusion with the Secret Wars limited series not even being complete before we get the All-New Marvel comics it’s finally a new day in the Marvel Universe. To catch you up, Marvel ran a multi-year story line that introduced concept of the destruction of the multiverse. In essence all of the alternative universes were destroyed one by one by something called “Incursions” which eventually led to the conflict between the main continuity 616 universe and the Ultimate universe. This led to the Secret Wars conflict which was a mash-up of various bits and pieces of alternative universes. I personally think it was just an opportunity for Marvel staff to create their Vanity projects without having a lasting effect on continuity.
Anyway, the outcome was a more diverse Marvel Universe. This included Sam Wilson, the former Falcon, as Captain America, an female Wolverine (formerly X-23) , a female Star Lord, and Two, count them, Two Spider-Men residing in the same Universe. So we get a jet-setting millionaire playboy Peter Parker and struggling high schooler Miles Morales. You get both your Spider-Men and everyone is happy. Right?
In an article in Comicbookresources, Joseph Ilidge wrote a very good article regarding Marvel hedging their bets. He highlighted the fact that Marvel is trying to have their cake and eat it too with having two Captain Americas in Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson. He posited something akin to Captain America being an institution and not so much an individual, thereby making dual Caps feasible. I sort of like that idea. The only thing I fear is that eventually Marvel will go back to its default and get rid of Sam Wilson as Cap. Believe me, they do this all the time in comics–kill or teleport or replace a character and then bring them back to make the “real” fans happy.
On one hand I applaud Marvel for striving for diversity by bringing in a black Captain America and Miles Morales’ Spider-Man. But it’s almost like they are trying to please everybody. Sometimes in doing that you don’t break new ground. Sometimes the audience has to be uncomfortable to bring something cool and fresh. That’s just my opinion.
Secretary Charles Hanahan is a middle-aged man with a shaved bald head and mid-sized frame. Even though he’s gained a little weight over the years, he’s still quite fit for his sixty-three years. With the demands of his role as defense secretary, he has to be. He pulls a stack of manila folders from the file cabinet behind his well-worn leather chair and plops them onto his already cluttered desk.
“Well, Captain, here’s your team.”
Captain Alicia Conrad cuts an imposing figure, even seated across the table from Hanahan. With a five-foot, nine-inch frame and athletic build, she’s a formidable sight. Although possessing the defined physique of a soldier, Conrad still maintains her hourglass figure.
She has been an army officer for over ten years and comes from an esteemed military pedigree. Even with the expectation of constant readiness that military service fosters, Conrad still does not appreciate short notices. When she received a phone call the previous day from the Secretary’s office, all that she was told was, “You have a meeting with SecDef at 0800 tomorrow at the Pentagon.” No further elaboration, no courtesy, just an abrupt “click.” Given all this, it is no surprise that she responds as she does.
“Come again, Mr. Secretary?”
“You’ve been selected to lead a group of superhuman operatives under the jurisdiction of the United States government,” Hanahan responds.
“Selected by…?” The ergonomic chair creaks ever so slightly as she leans forward to hear Hanahan’s response.
“The whole NSC: DNI Norton, Joint Chiefs Hoppert, Secretary Nichols, both POTUS and the VP, and of course yours truly.”
Conrad smiles. “A unanimous decision, huh?”
“I’m curious, who else was on the NSC’s short list?”
“A few senior-level Marines, a guy from the NSA, and a couple of others who aren’t worth mentioning,” he says flatly.
“What about Blankenchip? I know he’s been dying to get his own special ops team for the longest time.”
“Are you serious?” Hanahan responds incredulously. His attitude is somewhat expected given that he and Lieutenant Aaron Blankenchip are not exactly on the best of terms. “We need someone who can manage a mix of egos and personalities—not a hard case like Blankenchip. Don’t worry though; he’s also on the team.”
“I see,” Conrad responds, her tone of voice barely masking her dejection.
“Why are you so worried about that anyway? What matters is that we picked you.”
“I understand, and I’m thankful for the opportunity, sir.”
Sensing the hesitance in her voice Hanahan probes further. “But?”
“I just don’t want it to seem like you picked me because of my dad.”
Hanahan and her father, John Conrad, were best friends and served in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne together. They continued to maintain a close bond even after their respective retirements. Their friendship was so close, in fact, that Hanahan was named as Conrad’s godfather when she was born.
“Please, it’s not like nepotism wasn’t alive and well in this town long before your family showed up,” Hanahan responds. “Look, it has nothing to do with that; we picked you because you have what we need.”
“That’s reassuring, sir,” she says, her voice lightening up a bit.
“Besides, I couldn’t have you languishing behind a recruiter’s desk. That was supposed to be temporary while you got yourself together.”
Conrad nods in acknowledgement.
Hanahan continues, “You were always meant for greater things, Alicia.”
“What did your dad used to say when you were a kid?”
She glances down and quietly responds, “Be better than yourself.”
“Exactly. Your dad, God rest his soul, knew how great you could become.” He reaches over to grab a framed picture of him and John Conrad and gazes upon it. “He trusted me to watch over you and the twins. There is no way I’m going to allow your potential to go to waste.”
Growing somewhat uncomfortable with the direction the conversation is going, Conrad quickly shifts back to topic.
“So, why this? Why now?”
Hanahan pauses briefly before speaking. “The Minneapolis event.”
Three years prior an al-Qaeda operative named Mahmoud El-Hayek leveled the Mall of America single-handedly. This was accomplished not with a bomb but with his superhuman ability to generate localized nuclear fission reactions. He single-handedly unleashed the equivalent of a megaton yield nuclear bomb. The death toll exceeded 50,000 and left the rest of Minnesota virtually unfit for living due to the residual radiation.
“We live in a post-human era now, Alicia,” Hanahan continues. “Since the beginning of the space race, people with unbelievable abilities have popped up all over the world. Some are harmless, others pose a threat.”
“Like me?” she jokingly responds.
Hanahan smiles. “No. You are our best asset in dealing with this emerging threat.”
“You’re being too generous, sir.”
“It’s true. You’re probably the best investment ever made in military research.”
“Any threat to our security must be dealt with swiftly and lethally,” he says, his tone becoming noticeably grimmer. “I figure when you’re in a fight with a pit bull you get your bigger, meaner pit bull to deal with him.”
“So…I’m America’s attack dog now?” Conrad says sarcastically.
“No. It’s just an analogy, Alicia.”
Taking the opportunity to display her vocabulary acumen she counters, “It’s actually a metaphor, sir.”
“Same difference,” he snaps back.
She smiles. “Okay, so what have we got?”
“First things first. The name of the team is Vigil.”
“Yeah, it’s the only thing we could agree on at the NSC meeting.”
She raises her eyebrows. “Okay.”
“It’s essentially a task force created for the sole purpose of protecting U.S. interests and allies.”
“So, it’s like a super-powered CCI squad?”
The Crisis Conflict Intervention unit—or CCI for short—was a sub-division of the Army Special Forces. Several top Green Berets couldn’t even meet the strenuous requirements for membership. Their original intent was to perform, for lack of a better term, politically gray missions. For all intents and purposes, CCI was essentially a black-ops division of the Special Forces. Both Conrad and Blankenchip are former members.
“Not quite,” Hanahan responds. “CCI was strictly covert ops; this’ll have more of a public face. And we’re pulling in civilian agencies as well.”
“It’s one of the most ambitious interagency initiatives like it since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.”
He notices that Conrad’s attention is drawn to one of the files. “Still with me?”
She looks up. “Yes, go on please.”
“These people aren’t ordinary—much like you.”
“Thanks, sir, didn’t know you cared.”
“You know what I mean.”
She flips through the pages in one of the folders. “Okay, Cynthia Fighting Bull, formerly Cynthia Sorrell… Codename Pseudo.” She pauses to make an editorial comment. “We’re using codenames?”
“For now.” Hanahan replies.
“The NSC was really into the whole superhero motif hungh?”
He responds peevishly. “Maybe a bit.”
“Maybe a bit too much.” Conrad continues reading. “She’s a CIA agent in the Directorate of Operations’ Spyscape division. Age twenty six, genetic endowment: metamorphosis. Genetic endowment? We have genetic mutants on this team?”
“I believe the politically correct term is ‘Variants’,” Hanahan admonishes.
“There are two, as a matter of fact.”
“Who’s the other?”
“FBI agent by the name of John Arrowhawk.”
“The one who cracked the Kerrington case?”
“Yup–one of the youngest ASACs to crack a case of that magnitude.
“Isn’t his brother some kind of eco-terrorist or something?”
“I see. So, what’s his power?”
“He’s essentially a human power cell. He can absorb, convert, and manipulate all energy forms. You name it: nuclear, electrical, kinetic, whatever. He’s your heaviest hitter in terms of raw power.”
“Hmm, and this one?” She picks up a 4×4 inch photo of a large-framed man.
Hanahan takes the photo from her hand and draws it closer for a better look. “He’s a Secret Service agent by the name of Terrell Morrison.”
“I’ve never heard of him. What’s his story?”
“He was caught in the Houghton Biomedical Research Lab accident and was exposed to a synthetic Duritium-based reagent. As a result, he can take on the physical properties of any substance he comes into contact with.”
Conrad points to the final photo. “And the last one’s good ol’ Blankenchip. Is he the only complete normal on this team?”
“He’s not so normal, with that Battle C.A.T. suit he designed.”
“Tell me about it. How much did it cost to design and manufacture that thing?”
“About fifty million.”
“And they say we have a national debt of over 20 trillion.”
“Hey, it’s one of the perks of being in the service for as long as he’s been.”
“When I get twenty years of service can I get my own high-tech body armor?”
“Why? It’s not like you need it.”
With a smile that could melt the fiercest of hearts, Conrad replies, “That’s why you picked me for the job, right?”
“That, and you have one of the best military minds I’ve ever seen since your father,” Hanahan adds.
“You really know how to flatter a girl, sir.”
“I try. There’s a press conference at the Pentagon at 1400. I’ll see you then.”
Taking this as her cue, Conrad salutes the secretary, gathers her beret and briefcase, and promptly leaves his office.
Hanahan puts the manila folders back into the rusted file cabinet. As he clears off his desk, he glances at the ominous headline on the front page of the Washington Post that reads, “Turmoil in Lemalia continues to send world stock markets into tailspin.” Hanahan folds the paper in half and throws it into his desk drawer.
“How are things on the ground in Lemalia, Giles?” Wolf Blitzer, anchor of “The Situation Room,” asks foreign correspondent Giles Woodbridge.
Reporting from Delohar via satellite, Woodbridge responds in his unapologetically thick British accent.
“The unrest here has been rampant since the assassination of the newly elected president, Mohann Aldessa of the moderate People’s National Democratic Party. His opponent, Emerante Legaud, seized power shortly after the assassination, claiming the presidency by default.”
“As I understand it, Legaud is a well-known hard-liner from the New Revolutionary Party.”
“That’s right Wolf. He has called for the expulsion, of all foreigners from the country as well as the immediate nationalization of all foreign and domestic business interests.”
“That’s a pretty bold step, considering that he wasn’t the one elected to office,” Blitzer retorts. “What’s been the U.N.’s response?”
“The United Nations Security Council ratified a resolution condemning the assassination,” Woodbridge replies. “The secretary general has issued a statement saying that the U.N. will not formally recognize Legaud’s presidency.”
“So what’s their next move?”
“It’s believed that economic sanctions will be levied against Lemalia.”
“Is that wise, considering the fact that Lemalia provides the bulk of Duritium to the global market?”
“It seems the Security Council has decided to take a harder line since Legaud’s rise to power, at least for now,” Woodbridge answers.
“From what we’ve gathered so far stateside,” Blitzer adds, “the White House has not released a statement concerning the recent turn of events in Lemalia.”
Since I created this blog I’ve often teased that I was working on a novel. Well here is just a sample of things to come. All comments are welcome. Enjoy!
Three bullets. Three bullets are all it takes to throw a nation into chaos and set the world on fire. With just three bullets a president’s life is snuffed out.
Mohann Aldessa was the newly elected leader of the small island nation of Lemalia. The country is located in the eastern Mediterranean, nestled between Crete and Cyprus. As a nation it is as much a melting pot as the United States, with ethnic origins in Europe, North and East Africa, and Southeast Asia. Its population numbers just over ten million. Today is inauguration day for the country’s first democratically elected president in over fifty years. Sadly, what is meant to be a joyous occasion devolves into chaos.
As onlookers react in horror and disbelief to what they have just witnessed, Aldessa’s security detail immediately converges on his body, instinctively brandishing their automatic weapons as they look to return fire. At that very moment, the police make an attempt to maintain calm. Despite their best efforts, a major stampede ensues, with dozens trampled in the tumult.
Amidst the confusion, a sniper on the rooftop of the adjacent parliament building meticulously field-strips his weapon, a Remington 7.62 mm M4OA1 sniping rifle. The man, about five foot, seven inches dressed in cargo pants, a black t-shirt and a well-worn M65 field jacket, carefully places the disassembled rifle into a rectangular weapons case. He pulls a small silver-colored cell phone from his inner coat pocket and presses “pound seven” on the touch screen. As he lifts the phone to his ear, his coat sleeve slides back, revealing a distinctive tattoo on his inner left forearm: a bald eagle clutching lightning in one claw and arrows in the other.
The call is answered. “It’s done,” the sniper says in a cold, sterile tone.
He nods in acknowledgement of the orders given by the other conversant. “I understand.” The sniper ends the call, grabs his belongings, and quickly retreats from the rooftop. As he leaves, the man fails to notice the security camera perched on the parliament building’s satellite tower.
As we in the U.S. celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday this coming Monday I wanted to post a reflection on this blog regarding the man and his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday was declared a national holiday on November 2, 1983. The very man who signed it into law, President Ronald Reagan would often refer to Dr. King’s speech to justify some of his policies. If you dig a little deeper Dr. King wanted more than just a color-blind society, he strove for a just society.
In his famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Dr. King spoke about how the architects of the Declaration were in essence signing a promissory note to all American people to be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sadly, Dr. King noted, “…America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned.” Dr. King made note of the fact that given that America is the greatest country in the world it has fallen short of providing some its first citizens the basic rights and opportunities that were promised them.
He also warned about complacency when it came to change. Dr. King in his speech stated, “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.” This was something that is not often touched upon when people when they reference the “I Have a Dream Speech.” We often get lazy in terms of creating social change for the benefit of our fellow man. Truly, Dr. King was a visionary because he saw how injustice to a people group cannot be ignored. Especially in a system that economically disadvantages a people group. Dr. King said it best, ” We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.” Dr. King’s words could go for the Native American, Latino or the Appalachian.
Still, Dr. King realized that change must be demanded in a peaceful fashion :
“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
It was recently confirmed in the February issue of Empire Magazine that “Creed” director, Ryan Coogler, will be directing the upcoming Black Panther movie. That is Fantastic News! If you have not seen “Creed” I strongly recommend that you do, it is truly a great film. I think that Marvel getting such a promising upcoming director to helm the film shows that the studio is serious about quality. There is one scene in “Creed” where Adonis Creed is fighting one of his early opponents and it was beautifully shot, in one take no less!
It’s sad that Ava Duvernay passed on the opportunity to direct this film but I am happy for Ryan Coogler. Mr. Coogler was asked about the importance of having someone of a similar gender or ethnic background as the main character of the movie and he said something pretty profound. He stated that the director could give a cultural perspective on that film character because they share a common trait. I think that’s very interesting, I don’t think that a Caucasian director couldn’t do a superb job on Black Panther, in fact they could. It would just be that extra nuance and truthfulness that a director of African ancestry could give to a film about an African King would make the film all the more better.
So, what do you think about Ryan Coogler being tapped to direct Black Panther? Do you think he’s the right person for the job or do you think they should’ve gotten someone else? Does it matter if the director of the Black Panther movie is black? Please sound off in the comment section.
During a news conference earlier this week, president Vladimir Putin praised Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as an “absolute leader in the U.S. presidential race.” He also added compliments like ” brilliant and talented,” to describe Mr. Trump. After hearing about these compliments, Mr. Trump responded by saying, “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”
Mr. Trump went on to note Mr. Trump’s high poll numbers. In a separate interview with Joe Scarborough, he also mentioned, in an indirect insult to our President, ” at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” During that interview the host, Joe Scarborough mentioned that Putin has killed journalists and political opponents in the past but Mr. Trump casually replied by saying that the U.S. does the same thing.
Now you can see how this is concerning for various reasons. Firstly, Mr. Putin sanctioned the unlawful annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine just to keep the Ukraine from developing closer ties with the west. That alone flies in the face of American values of independence and free rule. Secondly, Mr. Putin has utilized the media, much like Mr. Trump to push their agenda–Mr. Putin directly and Mr. Trump indirectly. Thirdly, to not condemn violence against a people group, and actually condone it, is not a virtue that a current or potential president should have.
Both New York Times journalist Charles Blow and Professor Michael Signer wrote interesting articles on demagogues—-Singer’s piece was in the Washington Post . In Singer’s article he quotes author James Fenimore Cooper who described demagogues as meeting four criteria, “they posture as men of the common people; they trigger waves of powerful emotion; they manipulate this emotion for political benefit; and they threaten or break established principles of governance.” When you hear Vladimir Putin railing against Western involvement in Russia’s affairs or Donald Trump talking about placing a wall to keep immigrants out you can see some of Fenimore’s criteria being fulfilled in both men.
One of the interesting things is that these characteristics are seen in long-time Superman arch nemesis, Lex Luthor. He is a character who defines himself as a man of the people, defending the world from the evil alien, Superman. This is rhetoric that we have seen in our political discourse before.
In the series Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, it explores this characters thought process—this is someone who truly sees himself as the good guy in this story.
But thankfully in the end the good guy wins out. That, at least, gives us hope.
No, I’m not referring to Venus and Serena Williams but I am referring to the new additions to the Star Wars franchise, Lupita Nyongo and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Ms. Nyongo will be in the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Ms. Mbatha-Raw will be in Episode VIII due in May 2017.
As someone of Ghanaian descent it’s cool to see two women of African descent (Mbatha -Raw from South Africa via the UK, and Nyongo from Kenya via Mexic0). This is very great news when it comes to seeing Women of Color in Sci Fi and comicbook related properties.
On 60 Minutes today, the director of The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams was asked by Bill Whitaker about the diversity that is in The Force Awakens. His response was that it was important to him to have a film that reflected the audience in which it was being displayed to. Now to me that’s very forward thinking. When you have directors like Ridley Scott, who make movies like Gods of Egypt portraying a biblical event with a virtually all Caucasian cast (not the least bit historically accurate), its nice to see a director making a movie that accurately reflects the audience that makes up the current movie going populace.
This is just the beginning though. I look forward to seeing Women of Color in more prominent roles in genre films, whether it be superhero movies, sci fi, or fantasy. Could you imagine someone like Kerry Washington playing the commander of a star ship, or Teyonah Parris playing Captain Marvel, or Tika Sumpter playing an Elvish Queen? That would be awesome.
What do you think? Would Kerry Washington make a good Starbuck or Candice Patton a good ice maiden? Please share your thoughts below. I’m looking forward to a lively conversation.
Recently Entertainment Weekly ran a cover story on the new Captain America: Civil War film which will be out in May. Like most fanboys and girls I am very excited to see this film. It marks the live action debut of one of the most anticipated superheroes of all, Black Panther. If you follow my blog you may have noticed that I am a big Black Panther fan. Ever since I first saw him in the Avengers comics I thought he was alright but not that interesting. It wasn’t until Christopher J. Priest’s run on the series that I realized how powerful this guy was. T’Challa is the king of the most technologically advanced nation in the world, Wakanda (To all my geographically impaired people, please don’t look it up on a map, it doesn’t exist). He was an awesomely intelligent leader who could outmaneuver Captain America and has the technological brilliance to even make Tony Stark look like a Luddite.
Now imagine my disappointment when I saw the cover.
Now there are a number of things that I take issue with regarding this cover. Firstly, how are you going to place the newly introduced character into the background? That’s not the treatment Entertainment Weekly gave Wonder Woman on its Batman V Superman special issue. Just notice the difference…
Wonder Woman is the newly introduced character to the DC Cinematic Universe (We’ve already seen Batman, albeit in his Dark Knight Trilogy, recently). She looks bold, confident, and second to no one. Now, with the Black Panther they have him looking like the third wheel that nobody wants. Seriously? I know that the cover editors probably never overtly intended to disrespect him but then again whoever intentionally disrespects someone these days? They just do it accidentally…like that’s any better.
Secondly, they compare him to one of the reality show Housewives, pick your version, Orange County, New York, Atlanta. My money’s on Atlanta because he’s a black character and they have a predominantly black cast. But I digress. Before I leave this point, speaking of Atlanta, the Atlanta Black Star also wrote a piece discussing the EW Black Panther cover issue.
Thirdly, simple editorial reasoning says if you’re going to introduce a new character you put them up front. That’s like introducing the new LeBron James shoes behind a Jump Man logo for Jordans. That simply does not make any sense whatsoever. When you place the character behind you’re saying a number of things. Firstly, the character doesn’t matter. Secondly, he’s weak. Thirdly, we were too lazy to make our cover correspond with the interior content. All of those things rightly rile up a fanboy or girl.
Granted, they do a very good job on the interior in covering the character and discussing with Chadwick Boseman, the actor portraying the character, the intricacies of the character. But, as the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Many casual moviegoers who aren’t familiar with the character will look at the cover and say, “Who’s that (literal) Black Guy behind Captain America and Iron Man?” and then shrug their shoulders and walk off. It’s imperative that you treat all of your characters with respect, not just the ones with Arc reactors and stars on their chests.
What is the next step? Some of the original comic creators like Ditko, Lee, Kirby, Kane, Simon, Shuster, created characters of their era—mostly male, Caucasian, muscular characters. If they were creating characters in this generation I’m sure their creations may look a little different. What it means to be a an American superhero has changed. Heck, even look at the current Captain America–he changed from White Steve Rogers to Black Sam Wilson!
I know that there are some fans out there who are all about keeping faithful to the original source material. There was such an uproar about Michael B. Jordan playing Johnny Storm in the most recent Fantastic Four movie. And I addressed this in an earlier post about race-changing certain characters in order to facilitate diversity. I don’t think that’s the only option for widening the appeal of current comic characters. It’s not about taking someone else’s piece of the pie, but about making the pie larger. I think that you have to have newer original characters of color who have a broad appeal. It doesn’t make sense to create a character or group of characters that ONLY appeal to one demographic. I personally would like to have characters, whether on the comicbook page or silver screen, who are diverse and appeal to multiple demographics. I believe that’s what companies like Milestone Media were trying to achieve.
I believe that I have the answer. Stay tuned to this page for the Super Team that you deserve, the Super Team of Tomorrow.