Amazing Spider-Man and the craft of writing: A YouTube hangout with Mike McNulty (Stillanerd)

It’s been years in the making, but the stars have finally aligned for your friendly neighborhood blogger and Mike McNulty (Stillanerd) to team up for a discussion on comic books.  If you’ve enjoyed Mike’s reviews over the years — both at Spider-Man Crawlspace and now with Whatever a Spider Can — then you’ll want to check out this YouTube chat. It’s one hour of the two of us talking about craft or writing, The Amazing Spider-Man, and a few other topics of interest to those who tuned in during the live stream.

Mike, as always, was the consummate professional. I hope to have him back again for another YouTube hangout sooner rather than later.

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Comics and Politics YouTube chat: ‘Identity Chaos of Marvel’

The upcoming week here at douglasernst.blog is likely to feature reviews of John Wick 2, the conclusion to Marvel’s The Clone Conspiracy, and the fourth issue of Invincible Iron Man. While those are baking in the oven, those of you who are interested in hearing me ruminate on comics and politics can check out Capn. Cummings’ latest YouTube video: “Revolution Comics Podcast: The Identity Chaos of Marvel #3.”

Our old friend Captain Frugal completes the trio, as always.

Douglas Ernst Blog Welcomes New Contributor — our old pal from ‘Colossus of Rhodey’

colossus

This blog stumbled across a rarity years ago: A digital oasis that mixed comic book news with conservative and libertarian thought. The website was called Colossus of Rhodey. Its run went of over a decade, and somewhere along the line your friendly neighborhood blogger got to know moderator Dave Huber. He will now join the team as a contributor, and I couldn’t be happier.

Whether Dave is keeping a watchdog eye on higher eduction over at The College Fix, or exposing the political buffoonery of comic book creators on Twitter, I always enjoy his work. I hope you do, too.

Spider-Man #7: Bendis writes strong tie-in to Civil War II

Hulk kill

Brian Michael Bendis’ Civil War II has taken its lumps in terms of fan interest and sales, but the story is helping to define Miles Morales. Spider-Man #7 features the young man trying to determine whether he will stand and fight alongside Tony Stark in a war over the Inhuman named Ulysses, or if he will sit on the sidelines and let the veterans sort it out for themselves.

Here is what you need to know for Spider-Man #7:

  • Miles is having nightmares about the potential future he experienced, where the Hulk goes completely off the deep end (even by the Hulk’s standards), and kills everyone.
  • Miles’s parents cannot sleep. His mother knows that private investigator Jessica Jones is keeping information about Miles from her. Jones had to use her superhuman strength to carry Rio out of her office…and send a message to stay away.
  • Miles’s father wants the investigation (launched by his mother-in-law) called off, but the two parents seemingly don’t have the power to make it happen.
  • Miles web-slings around New York to clear his head and runs into Lana Baumgartner, aka Bombshell. After she stops a robbery by blowing up a van, Miles says her behavior is symbolic of a lot of other superheroes: “You stopped a robbery, but you started a fire.”
  • The two teenagers talk about the upcoming war between superheroes and Lana says that Miles is being manipulated by the “rich white dude” known as Tony Stark to do something against his will. Her reasoning — that’s what “rich white dudes do.” (Note: Don’t expect Bendis to ever have Miles Morales sarcastically reply: “You mean like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Elon Musk?”)
  • Miles has a nightmare during class and is forced to leave the room. He goes up onto a roof as Spider-Man and is confronted by Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.

All things considered, this was a pleasing issue for Bendis and it was made even better by strong work by artist Nico Leon. Whether one likes Civil War II or not, one of the long-term benefits of the tale is that it serves to define young characters like Miles.

SpiderMan Bombshell

The challenge for Bendis, however, will be to adequately show the “now what?” — the follow-through that often seems missing from his work. The writer has a habit of toying with big ideas and then placing them aside to focus on something else.

Whether Bendis is writing Tony Stark in Invincible Iron Man or Miles Morales in Spider-Man, in many ways he keeps them in a holding pattern. He occasionally dips and swerves the plane to the left or the right, but at some point in time his passengers realize that they have been deceived — they’ve just been flying in circles.

After seven issues of Spider-Man, readers want to know “Who is Miles Morales?” While it is true that he is a young character who is finding his voice — and part of the fun is going on that journey with him — it seems as though Bendis is being stingy with key aspects of the hero’s personality. Either the writer doesn’t yet know what the character really represents, or he is scared that readers will not like what they hear.

If you planned on checking on Spider-Man, then Bendis’ seventh issue is a good jumping-on point. Potential customers just need to know that  Miles Morales’s character development has been frustratingly slow since the series first launched. Perhaps the conclusion of Civil War II will change that.

Bombshell SpiderMan

Dan Slott’s Spider-Man: ‘White Privilege’ is having Peter Parker resort to corporate espionage, getting Hobie Brown to die for his sins

Hobie Brown death

Your friendly neighborhood blogger said less than one month ago that Marvel writer Dan Slott’s setup for “Dead No More” was worth buying, but that all the warning signs were there “for another round of character assassination.” In lightening-fast speed that would make Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt blush, Mr. Slott managed to stab Peter Parker in the back and twist the knife in 21 days.

Years from now, The Amazing Spider-Man #17 will hopefully be used in a documentary titled The People vs. Dan Slott. The issue includes the moment in time when Peter Parker — the guy who took on corporate saboteur Ghost on multiple occasions — became the very same kind of criminal. Worse, he guilted a good friend with a criminal past into doing the dirty work for him — and the result was deadly. 

For all those social-justice activists out there, let me put it to you in a way that you can understand: “White Privilege” is having Peter Parker resort to corporate espionage and convincing a black friend to die for his sins. Thanks, Dan Slott!

Here is what you need to know about ASM #17:

  • Peter Parker tells Hobie Brown that he needs him to break into New U and steal their intellectual property. He wants to use the company’s nascent technology on Jay Jameson, but requires access to its private data. (Yes Dan Slott, “taking pictures” of a company’s private research after breaking and entering is stealing.)
  • Hobie Brown tells Peter he can’t do that because “industrial espionage” is out of bounds. “I don’t do that anymore,” he says, which is met with a guilt trip about “FAMILY.”
  • Hobie reluctantly agrees and puts on his Prowler uniform. The once-reformed criminal, thanks to Dan Slott’s Peter Parker, becomes a recidivist offender. (The whole scene is more disgusting, given Spider-Man’s lecture to Clayton Cash in Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #3.)
  • Miles Warren, aka The Jackal, tries to give Electro his powers back but the process does not work. Francine (the woman he killed with a kiss before she was resurrected) is nearby, which causes her “genetic mix” to attract Max Dillion’s latent powers. She kisses him to absorb his energy and ironically kills him.
  • Hobie gives up his position to stop Francine. He tries to flee after it is obvious that Dillion is dead, but the new Electro tracks him down and chars him to a crisp. “Told Parker I wasn’t cut out for this. I work best in the shadows…and I stay out…of the light,” he thinks before death overcomes him.
  • The Jackal revives Hobie and shows him secrets that prove his team consists of the real “good guys.” Hobie agrees. When Peter calls from Oklahoma to say New U scientists are going to perform a procedure on Jerry Salteres, he gives no indication that anything is wrong.
  • Miles Warren shows Hobie a pill and says he needs to take it on a daily basis.

Yes, you read that right, Peter Parker asked Hobie Brown to break the law, and then before his partner in crime got back to him with a full report he admits that he was going to approve New U’s procedure anyway (i.e., Thank for dying for nothing, sucker. Mr. Salteres is the perfect guinea pig to see if the surgery would be right for Jay Jameson).

Prowler

If you’re wondering how on earth Spider-Man fans got to the point where their hero is no better than the goons who tried to steal Tony Stark’s technology over the years, then look no further than the flashback scene Dan Slott writes on the first page of the issue.

Bad guys are just like the good guys…except they don’t hold back. They don’t follow any rules,” Francine says before kissing Electro.

This is the kind of moral relativism that has been on display since The Superior Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus is a megalomanic who nearly succeeded in exterminating 6 billion people, but to Dan Slott the two men are not all that different. (Heck, the writer even said that Doc Ock was better than Peter at appreciating those who are “truly beautiful”…)

Mr. Slott told Newsarama on April 5, 2013:

Slott: [Otto is] trying his best to be a hero, but he’s doing it in a very Doc Ock way. And Doc Ock’s an egotistical, annoying sh*t. It makes him an interesting character. At his core, he’s someone we don’t really think of heroic. But is he any more annoying than [former villain] Hawkeye used to be? …

Also, when you look at Doc Ock, he was so much like Peter Parker. Peter Parker, if he didn’t know the lessons of power and responsibility, that teenage nerd would have grown up to be an Otto Octavius nerd, with the same kind of, “I’m going to make them pay.” This is the flip of that. …

Do you see Punisher as a hero? Do you see Wolverine as a hero? If these guys can be heroes, why can’t Doc Ock?

Dan Slott admits that he thinks Peter Parker is, for all intents and purposes, one step away from becoming Doctor Octopus.

That is why his Peter is so obsessed with death.

That is why his Peter is willing to exploit the trust of a reformed criminal for his own selfish purposes.

That is why his Peter’s moral compass aimlessly spins in circles — and that is why readers can expect more embarrassing behavior from their “hero” in the months to come.

Hobie Electro

ASM #17 is officially the issue where Hobie Brown died, but many Spider-Man fans should consider it the issue where Dan Slott assassinated Peter Parker.

Prowler Hobie Brown death

Related:

Amazing Spider-Man #16: Dan Slott sets the stage for ‘Dead No More’

Amazing Spider-Man #15: Dan Slott’s Regent took down a god, then falls to … Mary Jane

Frank Cho pushed off Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka’s ‘weird political agenda’

Wonder Woman #2

Anyone who has ever doubted that modern social-justice activists have a lot in common with the Puritans of the 1600s needs to look no further than the career trajectory of artist Frank Cho.

Comic book fans know all too well how Mr. Cho’s work makes feminist heads explode on a regular basis, but his sudden departure from Wonder Woman perfectly spotlights everything that is wrong with the industry.

Mr. Cho confirmed to Bleeding Cool on Thursday that writer Greg Rucka’s “weird political agenda” has forced him to cut short the 24 variant covers he originally planned for the book. There was allegedly friction between the two over the amount of skin shown on the artist’s variant (yes, variant) covers, but anyone who looks at them knows immediately that such a claim is absurd.

“I tried to play nice, not rock the boat and do my best on the covers, but Greg’s weird political agenda against me and my art has made that job impossible,” Mr. Cho told the website. “Wonder Woman was the ONLY reason I came over to DC Comics,” (emphasis added.)

Translation: Mr. Rucka, like all the other activist-writers in the industry, seeks to punish anyone who does not march lock-step with a thuggish ideology that hides behind the rhetoric of “tolerance.”

Check out the embedded video for the full story:

Mystique ‘choke’ ads upset Rose McGowan, Fox weirdly apologizes to the world

Mystique Apocalypse choke scene

This blog argued on May 21st that modern feminism “is a congeries of contradictory rules and regulations, which allow elites to wallow in self-congratulation for behavior that would earn others condemnation.” Activist and actress Rose McGowan has lent credence to the claim less than two weeks later by accusing 20th Century Fox of encouraging “casual violence against women.” Her reasoning: An X-Men Apocalypse billboard showed the blue mutant villain choking the blue mutant hero tasked with stopping him from destroying civilization. Fox responded within days with an apology.

Here is what Ms. Mcgowan said June 2 to The Hollywood Reporter:

“There is a major problem when the men and women at 20th Century Fox think casual violence against women is the way to market a film. There is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled. The fact that no one flagged this is offensive and frankly, stupid. The geniuses behind this, and I use that term lightly, need to to take a long hard look at the mirror and see how they are contributing to society. Imagine if it were a black man being strangled by a white man, or a gay male being strangled by a hetero? The outcry would be enormous. So let’s right this wrong. 20th Century Fox, since you can’t manage to put any women directors on your slate for the next two years, how about you at least replace your ad?”

Activists like Rose McGowan demand “strong” women who literally knock out hulking men with a single elbow blow to the face — just like Jennifer Lawrence’s character in X-Men: Apocalypse. When they get exactly what they want, they still complain.

Jennifer Lawrence Raven

Jennifer Lawrence has punched and kicked her way through a gauntlet of evil men — often with a single well-placed shot — for three X-Men movies in a row.

Nightcrawler Raven

Now, however, activists like Rose McGowan are upset because a mutant on the verge of a world-wide holocaust had the nerve to choke his adversary. In the mind of Rose McGowan, normal Americans walking down the street are inclined to look at X-Men: Apocalypse ads and think, “Next time my wife gets out of line, I’m going to go full-En Sabah Nur on her because … 20th Century Fox.”

Sadly, the studio gave those fishing for an apology exactly what they wanted:

“In our enthusiasm to show the villainy of the character Apocalypse we didn’t immediately recognize the upsetting connotation of this image in print form. Once we realized how insensitive it was, we quickly took steps to remove those materials. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women.”

Reasonable people know that 20th Century Fox is not condoning violence against women, but activists like Rose McGowan are not reasonable. Hence, the apology was unnecessary and unproductive. The swarm of perpetually offended bees will now move on to another target with increased drive and motivation.

X-Men Apocalypse choke Mystique

Tens-of-millions of people watched the various trailers for X-Men: Apocalypse. They witnessed female characters like Jean Grey, Storm, and Psylocke dish out plenty of punishment, and they watched a man like Charles Xavier get tossed around his own mansion like a rag doll.

Million of people saw the movie in theaters and watched Jean Grey deliver the death blow to Apocalypse. They saw Havok selflessly sacrifice himself for men and (gasp!) women.

Professor X

The point is this: Activists like Rose McGowan claim to be strong, but their actions prove otherwise. Worse, they think people are so stupid that they will equate blue mutants fighting one another in a superhero movie to surreptitious approval of spousal abuse, etc.

Do not apologize to them. Do not placate them. Activists who find reasons to complain after all their demands are met (e.g., Make more action movies where 90-pound women knock out burly men with a single punch to the face) should not be taken seriously. Tell them to take a hike and they will move on to another target. To do otherwise only fuels their madness.

‘The White Donkey’: Iraq War veteran’s graphic novel a powerful read

White Donkey

For  years this blog has tried to make the case that a comic book can be much more than “just” a comic book. For years this blog has tried to make the case that the industry would benefit if it employed, say, men like Terminal Lance creator Maximilian Uriarte. His New York Times bestseller, “The White Donkey,” should officially put that debate to rest.

“The White Donkey” is the story about Abe, a young man who left his small Oregon town in search of … something. He wasn’t quiet sure what he was looking for, but he thought he might find it in the United States Marine Corps as an infantryman. Abe, his best buddy Jesus Garcia, and the rest of their battalion are eventually deployed to Iraq. There is not much more I can say without spoiling the book other than to note its honesty rivals National Book Award Winner Redeployment,” by Phil Klay.

White Donkey Garcia

Every so often a critic comes to this blog and says something along the lines of, “You write about popular culture because you wanted to make it in Hollywood and never did.”

Yes, I did go to USC upon exiting the Army as a mechanized infantryman, but nothing could be further from the truth regarding professional regrets. In fact, a better personal attack would be that I exited the military prior to 9/11, didn’t have the courage to re-enlist after the Twin Towers fell, and that it still haunts me to this day.

There actually is some truth to that — I carried a ton of guilt with me for years after 9/11, which was exacerbated after a friend of mine, Hector Leija, had his head blown off in Iraq by a sniper. I disclose these details because readers need to know that everything that happens to “Abe” prior to his deployment is eerily close to what I experienced as a peace time soldier (i.e., it’s authentic). The characters, situations, and confrontations Abe navigates in many ways mirror my own.

I see myself in Abe (except the atheist part), and cannot help but wonder what I would be like had I stayed in military.

White Donkey leave

If you’re looking for a book with intelligence and emotional weight, then check out “The White Donkey.” If you’re looking for a book that can help civilians better understand returning war veterans, PTSD, and the other burdens they might be carrying, then Uriarte’s work is a must-read. One can only hope that he continues telling tales for many years to come.

Doctor Strange trailer: Marvel goes mystical for the win

Doctor Strange Ancient One

Marvel just released its first trailer for Doctor Strange, and once again the world has been reminded just how laughable it was for Steven Spielberg to say superhero movies are primed to go “the way of the Western.”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange and Tilda Swinton look ready to launch yet another franchise in what will be a welcome change of pace for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange NYC

The narration to the trailer gives fans a good glimpse of what they can expect from director Scott Derrickson’s take on The Sorcerer Supreme.

Ancient One: You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many?

Strange: I don’t believe in fairytales about chakras or energy or the power of belief.

Ancient One: You wonder what I see in your future? Possibility. … There are other ways to save lives … so much you don’t know.

Strange (after being introduced to the spirit world): Teach me.

Nothing can make this blogger — a man of faith, a lucid dreamer, and a fan of meditation — happier than to see Marvel Studios utilize a hero who travels to different dimensions, the spirit world, etc.

Doctor Strange

At the start of the trailer an unknown person (Perhaps Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo?) says: “Stephen Strange, might I offer you some advice? Forget everything that you think you know.”

If that is the message at the heart of Doctor Strange, and it is coupled with Inception-like special effects, then Marvel Studios will have one heck of a movie in theaters on Nov. 4, 2016.

Marvel’s creative well is much deeper than the average moviegoer realizes, and the successful introduction of Steve Ditko’s character to a wide audience will help ensure that it is tapped for many years to come.

What are your thoughts on the new Doctor Strange trailer? Let me know in the comments section below.

Dan Slott’s Peter Parker: ‘I’m an idiot’ (Fans wonder when recurring theme will end)

ASM 10 Scorpio

Readers of The Amazing Spider-Man know that a recurring theme under writer Dan Slott’s watch has been Peter Parker’s Sudden Onset Idiocy (we’ll call it SOI), such as forgiving multiple women in his inner circle who allied with corporate saboteurs or terrorists groups to destroy his company. ASM #4 featured the time a child had to clue him in on how to stop a terrorist attack. Years from now, however, it appears at though ASM #10 will cited more often as the quintessential Slottian Spidey.

The latest issue of ASM takes place moments after the hero’s “nuke the fridge” moment — Spider-Man has fallen to earth like a meteor and survived. The terrorist leader Scorpio stands over Spider-Man ready to administer a death blow when his Gemini minions earn their deus ex machina badge. They tell Scorpio that he will miss “The Ascension” if he uses an extra second to blast through Frenchmen acting as a human shield for the hero.

Luckily for Peter, Anna Maria Marconi and Living Brain (i.e., Doctor Octopus) arrive in a flying car to help him locate the villain once he escapes. They eventually track him down to the Chunnel, where SOI rears its ugly head — Parker tries to spray his web-shooters forward on a train going 186 miles per hour and then somehow comes to the conclusion that Scorpio — who would be firing an energy weapon backwards — can’t get “a good shot either.”

Scorpio inexplicably decides to target Anna and Living Brain instead of Spider-Man, who can barely keep his footing on the fast-moving train and is rendered highly immobile. The terrorist escapes again.

With time running out before The Zodiac take control of the future, Peter needs to find clues as to where Scorpio might be. He’s stumped. SOI returns, but Doctor Octopus hidden within Living Brain jogs his memory regarding ways to track Scorpio’s movements.

“Brain. I’m an idiot. And YOU, are one smart robot!” Peter says for the intellectual assist.

ASM 10

The trio eventually wind up in the home of Vernon Jacobs, Parker Industries’ “biggest shareholder and investor.” After admitting that Jacobs (aka: terrorist Scorpio) was his “Secret Santa” for Christmas, Peter’s SOI kicks in and he asks Anna for help figuring out how Parker Industries’ technology was exploited.

Anna (who does not suffer from SOI) tells Peter to utilize his employees, calls them in for a hologram meeting, and harnesses their collective genius to quickly figure out what Scorpio has been up to for months.

ASM 10 Anna

The issue comes to a close with Scorpio appearing via a hologram and threatening to use his inside knowledge of Parker Industries to bring it all crashing down.

Spider-Man responds by saying Peter would still have “responsibility” if his company tanked, and that “losing it all” would be worth it if the end result were Scorpion’s defeat. Fans are asked to come back next month for a showdown that should have happened seven issues ago.

If readers are looking for a graphic analogy for ASM’s Zodiac story line, I will liken it to a bout of diarrhea I recently suffered while on vacation: It was funny at first for all the wrong reasons, annoying and embarrassing, repetitive, it went on for far too long, and in the end it was downright exhausting.

The stars are speaking, and this story needs to come to a close as soon as possible. Scorpio is a dud as a villain, which is always unfortunate, but he is now a failed foil who will have consumed at least eleven issues of ASM during its latest relaunch.

Do not buy this book unless you enjoy seeing Peter Parker repeatedly bailed out after outbreaks of Sudden Onset Idiocy.

Editor’s Note: Did anyone else find it odd that Peter Parker could run calculations in his head that would allow him to enter Earth’s atmosphere as a human meteor, but he doesn’t know how to convert kilometers to miles? There’s that SOI again…