Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Black Superheroes Month VIII: Black is Beautiful

Bow down before the Queen of superhero comics!

Now that I’m back writing blog content, it was really no question that I would bring back my annual celebration of Black History Month with my Black Superheroes Month series, a tradition so prestigious that even Rob Bricken of has used it as research material for an article at least once (…..well, I think it’s cool).

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve done this, so for those who have forgotten or newcomers who have wandered in by mistake, here is the gist: there is a very common misconception that there are hardly any black superheroes in comic books, but the truth is that there are actually tons. It’s just that they often are created then forgotten about, both by readers and by creators. So every year (…except for the last few; whoops) I spotlight both the popular and the not-so-popular black heroes, explaining who they are, any interesting information I think is relevant, and my own thoughts about what could or should be done with them.

Click this link to see a list of characters covered so far, but keep in mind I’ve been doing this since 2011 and at this point it’s fair to say many of the profiles are wildly out of date by 2023. This year, assuming nothing goes wrong, the plan is to spotlight three characters starting with the next post. However, before we get into it I have two points I’d like to make:

1) The original theme this year was going to be Black Women, but the lynchpin of this year’s crop was supposed to be a character by the name of Monet St. Croix aka M. However, after much checking and double checking in preparation for this year’s blog I have come to the conclusion that M is simply not black. From what I can tell she was originally meant to be considered black by her creators, but apparently they didn’t realize the area where she is from didn’t lend itself to that ethnic background. Monet’s ethnicity has since been retconned to better reflect her background. Of course, seeing as she is a mx of several different races it is likely that she is at least a little black, but frankly she’s such a complicated character (her origin is nuts) that it might be easier on me to not worry about it. If someone wants to show some specific and recent evidence that proves I’m wrong I’ll be happy to write on her in the future, but for now I frankly don’t need the headache of a bunch of folks leaving comments here FOR YEARS about how stupid I am for including her in this project. Speaking of which...

Sorry Beta from 6 years ago, but it ain't happening...

2) Fun fact: due to the sheer amount of spam and bots I get in the comments, I set it up so that I have to approve anything before it actually posts. Now, knowing that I stepped away from the blog for several years, imagine my surprise when I finally started preparing to come back late in 2022 and discovered a comment box filled with anger (and some defenders, to be fair) regarding my post about Exiles leader Blink being black. Look guys, writer Saladin Ahmed made this pretty clear during his run on Exiles from 2018. Was this a retcon? Yeah, I don’t think they were planning on that when she was originally created. Does it match-up with her many years established background as being from the Caribbean region? Yeah, it does. Sure, she has been (incorrectly) played by East Asian actresses in live action and yeah, she could be retconned again tomorrow, but I still stand by the post. If it bothers you, please complain to Marvel for giving it a thumbs up; I didn't make it up, I promise.

Okay, that’s enough pent-up frustration. Next time we’re start off Black Superhero Month with a new character who, while sparking controversy in the comic community, is being primed to be a major player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2022

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Let’s see if I remember how it goes.

Because I’m not going to the movies as much as I used to (partly due to new fatherhood and partly due to the pandemic that is still happening goddamnit) I wasn’t able to see a ton of movies in 2022, and a lot of the ones on this list I ended up catching on streaming or renting them. It’s all very deflating. So, there were loads of good movies I didn’t get to see that probably would have made the list if I had. No point in getting all mad at me.

Also note that that this is not a “Best of 2022” list but rather a “My Favorites of 2022” list, meaning it’s just one dude giving his opinion. Feel free to share your favorite movies in the comments.

Quick note: while they did not make the list, I’d still like to make special mention of Downton Abbey: A New Era, as of writing the final installment of the British TV/movie series that my wife and started watching at the beginning of 2022, and Do Revenge, which was a fun but flawed dark teen comedy. I think Maya Hawke has the tools to be a pretty big deal in Hollywood.

Full Top Ten after the jump.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Review: Black Adam

My therapist has been telling me that I should go back to writing my blog. So, let’s talk about Black Adam.

Back Adam is a comic book supervillain and sometimes antihero created in 1945 by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck for Fawcett Comics as an antagonist for Captain Marvel. When DC Comics acquired Captain Marvel in 1972 Black Adam came along as well, but it wasn’t until the early 21st Century that the character become a prominent player in the DC continuity, becoming both a reluctant hero associated with the Justice Society of America or a world spanning threat, depending on what the story needed. These days he is considered one of DC’s big villains on a similar level to the likes of Lex Luthor and the Joker.

Meanwhile in the real world, legend has it that Warner Bros. were able to get increasingly popular Dwayne Johnson to agree to star in a DC superhero movie. Apparently, they pitched Captain Marvel to him but Johnson instead requested Black Adam. It took many years before things came together for a movie to begin production properly and even then it ended up being heavily tied to the DC Expanded Universe line of movies, specifically to the 2019 film Shazam! Then it got delayed some more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But finally, after years of it lingering in the depth of Warner Bros.’ backlots, Black Adam starring Dwayne Johnson has finally hit theaters. But after such a long gestation period, not to mention the enormous baggage from the so-called DC Expanded Universe, did this flick turn out to be any good?

Full review after the jump.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2019

Ten years ago today I started blogging after being inspired by the work of Rob Bricken on the website Topless Robot. The blog began partially as a companion piece to the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show on WDIR and partially to force me to write regularly in order to increase my confidence. While things hadn’t gone quite to plan, and my ability to maintain regular post articles is poor at best, I think it’s still worth celebrating the milestone.

Honestly I’m unsure I have it in me to keep the blog going in any meaningful way at this point in my life but, since 2020 is the ten year anniversary of me starting it, I figure I should try to do my best to put out the many articles I wanted to write but never found time to do it. After that…who knows?

But first, as per tradition, I’ll do my annual Top Ten Favorite Movie List. As always, this is a subjective list that represents the flicks I liked the best, not necessarily the best made. Also, as with last year, I’ll throw up some Panda Reviews scores as well.

But before we get into it, I thought it’d be fun to take a quick look at all the films that topped all previous Favorite Lists.

2010: Scott Pilgrim vs. The Word 
2011: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
2012: Moonsrise Kingdom 
2013: The Wolf of Wall Street 
2014: The Lego Movie 
2015: The Martian 
2016: 10 Cloverfield Lane 
2017: Get Out 
2018: Black Panther 

 My favorite movies after the jump.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Captain Marvel Loses His Name

Same guy
I recently wrote up a big post about Carol Danvers in anticipation of her then-upcoming film. Now, in the interest of fairness, I want to do something similar for the other Captain Marvel; everyone’s favorite homeless orphan boy turned superhero, Billy Batson! Or, “Shazam”, if you’re nasty.

The original Captain Marvel predates both Carol Danvers and her predecessor Mar-Vell by about thirty years, debuting back in the Golden Age of Comics. Published by Fawcett Comics at the bottom of 1939, Captain Marvel’s title was considered to be the most popular of the era, outselling Superman. When taking that in mind it might seem a bit curious as to why Billy isn’t more of a widely known character in modern pop culture. Indeed, he can’t legally be called “Captain Marvel” and instead has taken the name “Shazam.” The sad fact is the Billy was the victim of circumstances, both legal and internal design, and where he was once the most popular superhero in America he has since fallen to the level of second-tier, maybe even third-tier, character who struggles to have new ongoing series greenlit. With his new movie about to hit theaters his fortunes are swinging back in his favor, but the fact is that Captain Marvel should be a face on the Mount Rushmore of superheroes alongside the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man. But he’s not even close.

Today we’re going to talk about the rise and fall of the Big Red Cheese!

More on the power of Shazam after the jump.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Review: Captain Marvel (Film)

After years of aborted cameos and discarded introductions, Carol Danvers has finally arrived in theaters in her first movie, Captain Marvel. We finally get the longtime superhero up on the big screen and, more importantly, Marvel Studios have finally gotten up of their asses and brought out its first solo female led film since the studio’s creation. There has been quite a bit of controversies surrounding this flick. As far as I can tell the brunt of it comes from star Brie Larson suggesting that she didn’t want to be interviewed by white men during her press tour and wanted non-white, non-male voices to have a chance since such people are laughably underused in movie journalism. Which, by the way is 100% correct. Apparently, a lot of people were upset by the words and took them to mean she hates white men and engaged in a campaign to hurt the film, including sabotaging the Rotten Tomatoes viewer score. Hell, I even saw one guy literally compare her to Adolf Hitler, which shows how ridiculous this was all getting. I mean, really; I’m fairly confident that Hitler would have been fine with being interviewed by exclusively white men.

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, there was a lot ridding on this film’s success in order to make sure Marvel and Disney don’t decided that making female led action films was a waste of money. Thankfully Captain Marvel made almost half a billion dollars its opening weekend. But even though the movie is doing well, the reviews and reactions have been mixed at best. Is Captain Marvel a good movie or is it a lackluster disappointed? Also, is asking that the title character to smile more on the posters, knowing goddamn well that you’d never ask the same of Iron Man or Captain America, a cool idea? (Hint: No, it’s not a cool idea)

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: This review contains spoilers, potentially a major one depending on your point of view.]

Friday, March 8, 2019

Captain Marvel Stakes Her Claim

You try to invade Earth, you gotta deal with her
Captain Marvel hits theaters this weekend, so I thought it would be a good time to write up an article I’ve been thinking about doing for some years now. Carol Danvers, the longtime Marvel Comics character rose from the role of a supporting character and, over the course of thirty-five years, claimed prominence as one of the company’s premiers heroes. There has been some pushback from some fans against Captain Marvel as a major character but, unfortunately for them, if this upcoming film does well it will forever cement Carol’s place as one of the top comic book properties for the foreseeable future. Which is cool.

But Carol’s is a shaky history, as I can think of very few characters that Marvel has done dirty worse than her. The fact that she’s managed to still be a relevant, let alone major, character all this time is a minor miracle. For those who are looking forward to this new flick I thought today would be a good time to look back and recall, somewhat briefly, the history of the good captain. The good bad, and the ugly (i.e. Avengers #200).

Before we start, I think it’s worth noting that there exists a different character, owned by DC Comics, who is also known as Captain Marvel who is also getting a movie in 2019. I think this topic deserves its own blog, so I won’t go into too much detail (how long until SHAZAM comes out?). Short version: the original Captain Marvel was created in 1939, one of many superhero characters published in the wake of the success of Superman. Despite the character being super rad, DC successfully sued the comics’ publisher, Fawcett Comics, and thus ending the Captain’s comic despite being massively popular at the time. By the late-60s Marvel Comics stepped in a acquired the trademark to the name “Captain Marvel” but did not get the rights to the character himself. Instead they created a brand-new character with the name, whom we’ll talk about shortly, and have been publishing comics with that title ever since. Meanwhile DC did acquire the rights for the original Captain Marvel…but couldn’t get the now Marvel-owned name and thus regularly published the character under the "Shazam" name (though up until recently he was consistently called “Captain Marvel” in the comics themselves).

Confused? Just know that both Marvel and DC own a character called "Captain Marvel" who have literally nothing to do with each other.

Anyway, enough of the legal; a look at Carol Danvers after the jump.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Black Superheroes: Icon & Rocket

Batman & Robin can go to hell: it's Icon & Rocket's time!

Names: Arnus/Augustus Freeman IV and Raquel Irvin

First Appearance: Icon #1 (1993)

History: Arnus was an alien adjunct who, while on vacation, was stranded on Earth after the ship he was on was attacked and destroyed. He survived in a malfunctioning life pod that landed in the American south, circa 1839. The pod reconstructed his body and DNA to match that of a nearby slave, a woman named Miriam; the process left him reborn as a human infant. Miriam adopted the boy, naming him Augustus, and he grew up as a slave. As he got older Augustus realized the process had mutated him, giving him superhuman abilities (including super strength and speed, flight, and a healing factor) and a greatly extended lifespan. He used these powers to covertly help others. Surviving throughout the decades, and periodically assuming the identity of his own son, Augustus became a successful and wealthy lawyer but became distant and reclusive following the death of his wife in 1977.

Enter Raquel Irvin. Growing up in Paris Island, the poorest ghetto of Dakota City, the teenage would-be writer ended up joining her friends in trying to rob Freeman’s mansion. Augustus stopped the teens and shooed them away, but a combination of his powers and his words deeply affected Raquel. She soon returned to the home to try to convince the long-lived alien to fight crime as a superhero with her as his partner. Initially hesitant, Augustus eventually relented, gifting Raquel the Inertia Winder, a belt that allowed the teen to manipulate kinetic energy. The two donned costumes and set out to become the protectors of Dakota City as the superpowered Icon and his teen sidekick Rocket.

Beta Says: I suppose one could argue that Icon might not count as a black character since he’s an alien, but I would say that considering he possesses the DNA of a black woman, was raised by said woman as her own child, and grew up as a slave I’m unsure if there are in fact any blacker comic book characters that exist. Anywho, Icon and Rocket were created by Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan and were among the original batch of characters featured in Milestone Comics, published by DC Comics. While it’s safe to say that neither of these guys are all that well known, they are in fact contemporaries of the hero Static, star of the animated series Static Shock. Static enjoys a tremendous amount of notoriety, especially among those who grew up in the 2000s, and is one of the most recognizable black superheroes in the world. Meanwhile Icon and Rocket have nowhere near as much fame, despite being created by the same group and published a full month earlier. Which is a shame because for all the trailblazing aspects the original Static comic had the Icon comic had just as many. So why is Virgil Hawkins famous enough to be a reoccurring figure in DC Comics and other media and meanwhile I, with all my useless comic trivia knowledge, had to double-check what Augustus and Raquel’s real names were?

More on this iconic duo after the jump.
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