Essays

The Flash and Fatherhood

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The Flash season finale aired over a week ago, so this might not seem like the timeliest of articles. In my defense, however, I’ve been thinking on this since the show aired. I even live-tweeted during the show, as I frequently do.

But I really needed to give the matter more thought, before expounding on it. Fatherhood’s always been an issue for me, and probably always will be. My own father left when I was about the age my son is now, and I rarely saw him after. My mother’s subsequent choices of mate were so poor so as to make him look like a God amongst men. For most of my formative years, I didn’t see a man get up in the morning, go to work and earn a living. Certainly, I didn’t have one to regularly play catch with or teach me how to shave (for more on my childhood, read this and this). Fatherhood is the primary source of marital dissent in the Crisler home. We don’t argue about most of the standard issues, like money or intimacy, but parenting gives us enough grist to make up for those other areas. I’m most definitely not a television dad, and most days, in the back of my head, I’m 100% confident that I never should have spawned. Love me or hate me for it, it’s how I feel. I regularly envy those folks who figure out they’re unsuited for parenting before it’s too late. Like most parents, I’d die for my kids in a second, but the harsh reality is that dying for them is much easier than living for them.

I have three children myself. My first, from a historical perspective if not in age, will be eleven this year, lives in Canada with my ex-wife and her new boo (who rapidly impregnated her after they met on an otaku forum), and I haven’t seen her in about four years. I can email and Skype, and have a couple times, but it’s a one-way street and I’m not one to ram myself into someone’s life. I’ve basically resigned myself to being a willing and open book whenever she’s ready to talk to me. I adopted my wife’s daughter shortly after we got together, and she is now in college and starting a family of her own. Finally, my wife and I have a son together, who’s seven. He’s a lot like me, and a lot like I was as a child. This is by turns a source of pride and exasperation. Incidentally, we watch The Flash together, without fail. I don’t watch it without him, and even at an impatient seven years old, he won’t watch it without me–if I have duty on a Tuesday night, or even if I fall asleep in the middle of an episode after a long day at work, which I’ve done once.

All of this gives me a certain perspective through which to view a show like The Flash, which to even a casual observer has fatherhood as a major theme.

Barry & Henry

There’s only so much to talk about here, because their relationship is obviously strained by Henry’s imprisonment. Henry’s unjust incarceration took Barry’s father away at a time when he truly needed him most. The loss of a parent is horrible, but under most circumstances, the child at least as their other parent to anchor them. It would be very easy for Barry and Henry both to feel emotionally disconnected from each other, but they don’t–Barry’s drive to clear his father’s name is a major plotpoint in the show, and during the finale, Henry’s primary argument hinges on how proud he is of the man his son has become, and how changing the timeline might make him a different person entirely.

This is obviously no way to raise a kid…

Barry & Joe

Which brings us to the relationship between our hero and his surrogate father. Henry’s not a fully-developed, fleshed-out character, per se, and it’s not really his fault–he’s in the hoosegow, after all. So we really don’t see much of him in who Barry is, other than circumstantially. Joe, on the other hand, is a more realized character. He has a relationship with people other than Barry, and he has a career and some backstory. His influence on Barry is undeniable, starting with his chosen civilian career as a police forensic scientist (shades of Dexter, here, between the adopted cop-father and forensics career angles. But I digress). Joe is just as proud of Barry as Henry (and having Joe in his life is one of the things that Barry realizes is something good that came out of his childhood tragedy), but where Henry teaches us that a father’s pride and love can be unconditional and extend past any boundary, Joe teaches us about a father’s influence on his child. We wouldn’t have the same Barry (or the same Flash) without Joe West.

JOE: Run, Iris! Go get help! Barry, are you looking at my daughter’s ass?

Barry & Wells/Thawne

Sometimes, your father can be a challenge, an adversary to beat. Tough to measure up to, but when you do, that’s how you know you’re a man. Of course, on the flipside is the duty a good father has to push and motivate his children. This is exactly how I perceive the relationship between Barry and Thawne. Eobard Thawne is, unarguably, the father of the Flash. He went back in time and built the particle accelerator to create the Flash when he found himself stranded after killing Barry’s mother. Most of the first season of the show has been about Thawne, as Wells, pushing Barry to discover and exceed the limits of his abilities (for his own villainous reasons of course) and about Barry’s physical and emotional struggle with not being as fast as the Reverse Flash.

“Why you little…!”

Cisco & Wells/Thawne

Their relationship is similar to that between Thawne and the Flash, but it’s different in a few subtle ways. Thawne grew to look as Cisco as a son over the course of the past few years, as they worked together at STAR. It didn’t have to happen (i.e., he didn’t have the primal connection he has to Barry, though he’s not related to him, either) but it did. There’s a mutual admiration, at least for the first half of the season, and even when Thawne kills him in the alternate timeline Barry undoes, he seems to have genuine feelings for Cisco. When they have another solid chunk of time together in the finale, it’s Cisco again who lets us see some actual humanity in Eobard–one-percent of something to relate to in a character we otherwise love to hate. If I’m going to impute a moral to their relationship like I have with the others, I’d say it’s that our children–and being a father–can bring out the best in us, sometimes even despite ourselves.

“Aw, Dr. Wells, have some heart–urk!”

 

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My Thoughts on Age of Ultron

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So, I went to see Age of Ultron on opening night, like one does. I was shocked as hell that my local theater had showings starting at 8PM on 30 April, despite opening night being advertised as 1 May. I went to the 10:15PM showing because it was after my kid went to bed (I didn’t want him to know where I was going, and keeping a 7 y/o up until 11 on a school night would have been fucked up). I didn’t get home and in bed until 1:30AM and had to get up at 6:30 for work, but it was so worth it.

  • I really enjoyed the rapport between Hulk and Black Widow. I haven’t followed Avengers comics as closely as the X-Men, so I’m not entirely sure if this has basis in canon or is something original to the movie universe, but I liked it. It’s obvious that at least those two have bonded some in between the first and second film. Now I do know in the comics she and Hawkeye have hooked up, so I’ll also say how nice it was to see a female lead just being friends with a guy instead of being there to be his love interest. It’s annoying how often the female lead is just there for sex appeal for one (or more) of the guys, and has no relationships beyond that.
  • On a related note, it seems like Hawkeye and the Widow got a bit more time in this film than the first. At least, I don’t remember them having as much of a role. And I’m glad that changed (if it did and I’m just not remembering things wrong). I mean, if you’re the Black Widow in a Captain America film, it’s not hard to shine–she’s as physically able as Cap, and it’s not an ensemble film. But on a team with Thor, Iron Man and Hulk…well, you see where I’m going. I thought for sure Hawkeye was going to eat shit by the end of the movie, the way they were building him up.

  • Which brings me to my next point. I can’t believe they wasted Quicksilver. I mean, it’s comics, so they can always bring him back (probably with the Infinity Gems). Since we’re talking about Quicksilver, I’m casting my vote in favor of Evan Peters’ version. But still, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are part of each other’s identities. I don’t think for a moment it’ll last, but I’m still surprised they did it. It was a good little bit of redemption for the twins, though, and worked well for their arc.
  • The fucking Vision. Believe it or not, I actually forgot we were going to get the Vision in this film, so I damn near jumped out of my seat when he burst free of that capsule. It was freakin’ awesome. And his rescue of Wanda at the end seems to be a seed planted for a relationship similar to the one they had in the comic. That just makes sense. She’s really going to need an anchor after losing her brother.

  • And of course, Ultron. While I was waiting for the film to start, I read a few Tweets and comments on the film from people in my networks who’d seen earlier showings of the film. They weren’t all complimentary of the movie in general, or of how dastardly Ultron wasn’t. I thought they did Ultron well. One of the things about Ultron in the comics was that he always got progressively more difficult each time he appeared. He’s an artificial intelligence. Of course, he’ll learn and evolve (in theory, of course. We may never see him again in the movies). Presenting him at the threat level he had helped keep the movie more about our heroes themselves, which is as it should be.
  • Finally, the changing of the guard that happened at the end. I guess they had to accomodate in the script for the fact that some of the actors may only have one movie left in their contracts, and the Avengers lends itself to a rotating cast anyway. I’m not sure how the last Thor movie will play out–perhaps it will relate more to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the space-faring side of the Infinity War. Hawkeye’s departure was a good cap to his arc. It seems weird to have Tony take a sabbatical, knowing he’s going to be a big part of Captain America: Civil War, but whatever. I doubt we’ve seen the last of Ruffalo’s Hulk; I’ve read elsewhere that his departure could be a segue into a Planet Hulk adaptation, and I’d love the hell out of that.

The new group, though: War Machine, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Falcon, along with Cap and Widow? Can’t wait to see them in action.

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So, Iceman’s Gay…

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This week, Brian Michael Bendis basically lowered himself to Chuck Austen’s level on the X-Men writer totem pole, at least in my humble opinion. All-New X-Men #40 came out on Wednesday, and that’s not the only thing that came out.

Bobby Drake, is, apparently, homosexual.

Now, I shouldn’t have to say that I don’t have a problem with homosexuality, but we still live in that world, so: I don’t have a problem with homosexuality. Having said that, Bendis’ revelation regarding Iceman is about as nonsensical as Nightcrawler being retconned as the son of a demon during Chuck Austen’s infamous run on Uncanny X-Men a few years back.

Remember THIS load of horseshit?

Remember THIS load of horseshit?

There are several issues with this reveal. First of all, Iceman has a documented, decades-long love for vajayjay. Him being an immature horndog has been, on more than one occasion, one of his primary, defining characteristics. The Iceman who comes out is the 16 year-old version brought forward in time (along with the rest of the original team; that’s the basic premise of All-New X-Men, for those who didn’t know). You know how all sorts of ignorant or bigoted folks run their mouths about how “homosexuality is a choice?” And then gay folks and their supporters come back with, “If it’s a choice, prove it by choosing to take a dick in the ass, since that’s all there is to it?” Well apparently, at least to Bendis, Bobby Drake’s been choosing to be straight since his introduction in 1962.

bobbyurgayThen there’s the manner in which Iceman’s sexuality is brought to light. Iceman doesn’t come out of the closet–young Jean, his fellow time-lost teammate, goes into his thoughts and exposes him! So, here’s Bobby Drake, who’s been around telepaths his entire life–to include Charles Xavier, the most powerful psychic in the Marvel Universe–but only now does one pick up on him being gay? I call bullshit. Back in the 90’s, Iceman’s body was actually taken over by a telepath, the then comatose White Queen, Emma Frost.

But it gets worse. Say we replace Iceman in this situation with a brand-new character, who’s sexuality hasn’t been established. We still have Jean Grey invading a person’s mind. As far as comic book telepaths go, a willingness to do this sort of crap is what defines the good guys from the bad guys. There’s always been a morality to the use of psychic powers, that hinges on trust and concern for others. Jean Grey totally broke this. He even told her to stop. Even the US military, up until a couple years ago, had a law in effect that basically said, “it’s not our business; we don’t want to know.” Bendis had Jean break one of the cardinal rules of Marvel telepaths and shove her friend out of the closet.

heydon'tdothat

So we not only have one character being portrayed contrary to his decades-long established nature, we have another one violating what should be one of her core values in order to get us there. Nice work, Bendis. Of course, there are a variety of viewpoints floating around on the Internet regarding all this. Nerdist thinks its a good idea. There’s at least one gay comics reader who thinks along the same lines as me. And Billy Graham’s son Franklin took the time to try turning it into a religious issue.

For my part, if Bendis wanted to tweak an existing character’s sexuality that bad, there were better ways to go about it. Bobby feeling “experimental” or something, or wanting to explore a new part of himself by trying a relationship with a dude…well, it would still piss off the religious right (not that that’s a bad thing) but at least it wouldn’t fly in the face of canon. And for sure, it could have been done without Jean taking the choice out of Bobby’s hands. I hope whatever new status quo there is for the X-Men after Secret Wars washes all this away. And they should make that Azazel storyline not have happened, too.

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IDW’s Mighty Mutanimals!

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My love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knows no bounds. I’m a huge X-Men fan–the first comic I remember reading was the Heroes for Hope charity one-shot–and still remember my first issues of Superman and Punisher, but even those comics don’t stack up against the Turtles. Those properties were decades-old by the time I was born, you see, but the Turtles and I grew up alongside each other. They were conceived of when I was two years old, and hit the mainstream with a cartoon series and figures right when I was old enough to enjoy them.

Of course, I didn’t become familiar with the original comic series from Mirage until adulthood. This is just as well, because it wasn’t suitable reading for a child. But, along with the show and an entire fleet of action figures, I had the TMNT Adventures comic from Archie. It had a lighter tone, more like the show. And while it borrowed generously from the source material, Adventures also spun off into some different directions on its own. Along with the original storylines, the comic introduced some characters of its own. Some of you might remember Ninjara (can’t help thinking Alopex was influenced by Ninjara, but can’t help thinking both would be better than just one!)

 
Another group of characters were the Mighty Mutanimals. The team consisted of new characters Dreadmon and Jagwar and cartoon characters Ray Fillet and Mondo Gecko, along with new versions of Mirage characters Wingnut, Screwloose and Leatherhead. If I remember right, all of them were killed off near the end of Adventures’ run. Another plotline and group of characters introduced in Adventures were Null, a major Turtles enemy, and Maligna, Scul and Bean, an invading alien queen and her henchmen who figured prominently in a story arc.

When IDW announced their new Ninja Turtles comic in 2011, I promise there was no happier comics–or Turtles–fan on the planet. Not only was original series creator Kevin Eastman going to be involved, but the creative team promised to draw heavily on various aspects of the previous Turtles cartoon and comic incarnations. So far, they’ve promised in a big way. We’ve gotten Shredder, Stockman, Rat King (though not nearly enough), Slash, Metalhead, Krang, the Neutrinos and Bebop & Rocksteady, amongst other adaptations. But the IDW series hadn’t really touched any of the Archie characters (I don’t count Slash or Bebop & Rocksteady because they originated with the cartoon).

They were slow to arrive in the IDW universe, but SO worth the wait.

Until now. The new Mutanimals limited is a natural progression of the “Hob’s Army” seed that was first planted…well, since TMNT #1, really, since that’s when Hob was introduced. IDW’s version includes a second original character (Herman, alongside Hob) along with Slash, Mondo Gecko, and Pigeon Pete (the latter was brought over from the current Nickelodeon cartoon). The first issue teases Null and introduces a new (to IDW) mutant, the Mutagen Man from the original tv show. I still remember his action figure, and as an adult, am a little surprised they unleashed Seymour Gutz on little kids. The second gives us a full first appearance for Null and her (they switched Null’s gender for this new version, a pretty cool move) organization, and gave us a quick look at IDW’s Ray Fillet and another brand new character, Sally Pride.

I’m seriously stoked at the possibilities this limited series opens up. I’ve wanted to see the IDW take on some of the Turtles’ space adventures since the comic debuted. If they’re giving us Null, could Maligna or even Cudley the Cowlick be on the horizon? Both could easily be done with the characters currently in play. IDW still hasn’t given us their Leatherhead or Wingnut & Screwloose, either, and they tie into the original Cudley storylines, as well (by the way, IDW, if you’re reading this–I’d KILL to write some of this stuff, just sayin’).

As much as I want to see a new take on some more of these old friends, the group of Mutanimals put together in this limited is a decent crew. They’ve already been tested and proven capable against Bebop and Rocksteady in TMNT #40, and they offer a good range of powers and abilities: you’ve got the brains (Hob), the brawn (Slash), a long-rangle attacker (Herman) and a nimble, melee/rogue-type (Mondo Gecko). If I absolutely had to have a qualm about something, it’d have to be with how intelligent Slash is compared to his usual portrayal. This was handled in-universe back in TMNT #35 though, and if he hadn’t gotten a boost, there wouldn’t really be anyone for Hob to play off of. I’m not much of an art critic, but some of the panels could probably have used a bit more contrast/separation–however, it’s a small price to pay compared to how much I appreciate the subdued palette counterbalancing what could play off as some pretty goofy material.

It goes without saying that I can’t wait to see what the rest of the series has to offer, and of course, what sort of ramifications these events will have on the Turtles themselves. At the time of this writing, there’s not much more than basic solicitations available for the last two issues (#3, #4). But I have high hopes. And of course, hat’s off to Paul Allor and Andy Kuhn for delivering the goods!

Let’s just hope they don’t die and go to Hell like the Archie Mutanimals did.

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Daredevil Season One Retrospective

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I finished watching the first season of Daredevil on Netflix today. I could have watched it a lot faster than I did, but I really wanted to savor it–at least somewhat. I’m extremely happy not to have had to consume the show on an episode-per-week, basis. The short version is, it’s pretty much the exact opposite of the 2003 movie, and for that reason, was completely perfect.

I didn’t mind the Daredevil movie all that much when it came out–not like some people. Sure, it took some liberties with the source material, but Michael Clarke Duncan was a great Kingpin and they at least made an attempt at updating Bullseye for the new millennium. I’m convinced that the problem with the film wasn’t Affleck, and not even the script–it was that it was a Daredevil movie. But like I said, I didn’t really mind it. A Daredevil movie was the best us comic guys could hope for given the climate in Hollywood at the time.

Now THIS, we didn’t really need. >_<

But Daredevil–and Matt Murdock–aren’t really characters that lend themselves well to a movie adaptation, in my humble opinion. Batman is iconic enough and has a general appeal such that there isn’t a problem with making a movie introducing Batman, setting up a couple of villains and having Batman kick the shit out of them. With Spider-man, you again have an instantly recognized icon. While Peter is changed drastically by the events of his films, we’re still talking about classic storylines that could be served up without having to dig far below the surface of the characters to find the gold. In both cases, of course, the comics have provided radical deconstructions of the characters and their motivations over the years, but I’m talking specifically about adaptations of these characters to film.

What we got in season one of Daredevil is basically a season-long origin story–not just for Murdock, but for Karen Page, for Wilson Fisk, even for Daredevil’s costume. The story has time to breathe. We don’t have a fully-realized Kingpin until the end of the season–but in exchange, we have Vanessa, a fully realized character in her own right. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell she’d have fallen in love with the Kingpin of Crime, and I don’t think the Kingpin could rightfully come off as charming–but done this way, it works. We don’t see the red suit until halfway through the last episode, which makes perfect sense for a hero at the start of his career, and comes about organically, as the result of Matt getting his ass kicked by a frickin’ ninja and inspired by his discovery that his archfoe’s suits have a little “extra padding.”

Karen Page, Foggy Nelson and Ben Urich, so important to the mythos, aren’t shoehorned in, in such a way as to reserve most of the running time for Murdock, Kingpin, Bullseye and Elektra. Foggy gets a rollercoaster through the emotions of betrayal and finally acceptance when he learns who his old friend Matt really is. Karen gets a full character arc, from being a victim in the first episode to being firmly entrenched in the shit by the end. Deborah Ann Woll would have been wasted on anything less, just like Vincent D’Onofrio would have been wasted on simply playing “The Kingpin.” The movie tried to encapsulate the entirety of what Daredevil’s about in a couple hours of film. There’s no way in hell that could have done the character justice.

It’s a bit of a shame they couldn’t work *this* into Kingpin’s backstory, ain’t it?

 

I love that we haven’t even seen Bullseye or Elektra the whole season. There was no need. The writers and the moneymen knew damn well if they made a killer first season, they could bring them in in good time. Charlie Cox did such a good job of playing a vulnerable, driven, human hero, and it only took a sliver of Daredevil’s rich backstory to do it. We only got a small taste of The Hand, and that was plenty to carry an episode, with consequences lasting all the way to the end of the season. Gao’s going to be back (though I’m betting her return will set up The Defenders more than anything else), the Owl’s been teased, Potter’s Gladiator is surely nigh at hand, and if you looked closely when Murdock picked up his suit, those stilts in the corner probably weren’t placed on set as an afterthought, either.

I doubt we’ll see all of these things come to fruition in season two, either. Because if the creators turn in a killer season two, they don’t have to rush to get everything on the table. I’m guessing Bullseye and Elektra won’t even be introduced in the same season. If I was in the writer’s room, it’s what I’d do. And while personally, I’d rather see a Defenders show featuring Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Power Man right from the get-go instead of three individual shows, I have faith in Marvel that they’ll continue offering quality comic adaptations. I do have to say a Punisher show on Netflix is at the top of my wishlist, however, and a Wolverine solo show adapted from his comic would be the tits, if Fox decided to get into the game.

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