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.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Black Supervillains: Black Manta

Let this be a lesson to those who insult his helmet
Name: David Hyde

First Appearance: Aquaman #35 (1967)

History: David Hyde aka Black Manta was a treasure hunter who operated with his father on the high seas. At some point he was approached by a scientist named Stephen Shin, a man obsessed with proving the existence of Atlantis. Shin hires Black Manta to steal a blood sample of the half-Atlantean son of his acquaintance and lighthouse keeper Tom Curry. Taking the job, David and Tom had a struggle which resulted in the older man dying from a heart attack. Enraged, Tom’s son Arthur Curry, who would one day became the superhero known as Aquaman, swam out to Manta’s boat and murdered who he thought was David…except it turned out to be David’s own father. Swearing revenge, Black Manta gave up treasure hunting and instead dedicated his life to one singular purpose: kill Aquaman and destroy everything he holds dear.

Beta Says: Obvious we’re doing something a little different with Black Manta, as he is in no way a hero. He’s a card-carrying villain, one that wouldn’t be interested in redemption if it was on the table (unless it somehow included killing Aquaman, of course). Unlike Amanda Waller or Bronze Tigers, characters who either have altruistic motives or were forced to be villainous due to brainwashing, Manta is as evil as they get in DC Comics and would happily kill any number of innocent people in the world so long as his nemesis was one of them. The reason we’re looking at this guy is twofold: 1) he represents something far more rare than black superheroes in comics; black supervillains in comics. The number of villains who happen to black is very, very low and when they do show up they are almost always racially motivated and the whole thing ends up being incredibly awkward at best and racists stereotypes at worst. Black Manta does not do evil for the greater good, nor does he do it because of injustice faced by his people. He does evil because he is a psychopath who’s only thinks about his vendetta against Aquaman and his being black doesn’t figure into it at all. And that’s awesome.

2) He looks super cool. If you disagree feel free to jog on.

More on the scourge of the seas after the jump.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Black Superheroes: Spider-Man (Miles Morales)

So...did they make his costume black to be funny?
Name: Miles Morales

First Appearance: Ultimate Fallout #4 (2011)

History: On an alternate Earth (Earth-1610), Peter Parker is a teenager who has dedicated the last couple of years of his life to fighting crime as the Ultimate Spider-Man. At some point scientists with ill intent recovered some of his blood and were able to recreate the circumstances of that lead to Peter getting his powers; genetically enhanced spiders. However, before they got a chance to do much with them, career criminal Aaron Davis a.k.a. the Prowler stole the formula, not realizing one of the spiders had hitched a ride with him. Later at Davis’ apartment the spider bit his young nephew Miles Morales and the kid gained powers very similar to Spider-Man. Despite this, Miles had no intention to use his new found abilities in the same manner and was rather insistent that he wanted to live a normal live. This changes when Spider-Man is killed fighting the Green Goblin. Believing that he could have helped the hero if he had embraced his powers earlier, Miles makes the guilt-fueled decision to take up Parker’s mantle and become to new Spider-Man.

Beta Says: Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, Miles Morales was likely, with maybe the exception of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, the highest profile creation of a comic book superhero in the 2010s. Not only was he the first person other than Peter Parker to regularly wear the mantle of Spider-Man in quite a few years, but he was both black and Latino and was created during a time when America was celebrating electing its first black president. Miles ended up becoming very popular in a very short amount of time, partially due to the marketing Marvel Comics applied to him. Today, he is the star of the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which has only made him even more high profile. Some critics have suggested that the character was merely a big publicity stunt…and they’re at least partially right. Regardless as to how much of Miles' creation came from a good place to better represent the modern world, Marvel Comics were clearly motivated by the buzz of killing off Peter Parker would bring. Hence the reason they gave away the death of Peter before the issue where it occurred came out; to generate reactions from the mainstream media. Miles’ creation was more of a side effect of the publicity stunt, but that did not stop a backlash of negative and confused press decrying Marvel killing off one of its most iconic characters and replacing him based on “Political Correctness.”

Except Marvel didn’t kill off the iconic Spider-Man and, indeed, he was never replaced by Miles Morales and everyone crying about it on the news was being an idiot.

This may take a bit to explain.

The ultimate discussion of Miles Morales after the jump.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Black Superheroes: Blink (AoA)

Dude, what?! Since when is she black?!
Name: Clarice Ferguson

First Appearance: X-Men - Alpha #1 (1995)

History: Born in an alternative version of Earth, Clarice Ferguson was originally the child of West Indian parents, though her family immigrated to Florida when she was young. A mutant, she was born with pink skin, pointed ears, and markings on her face but despite that she grew in a more-or-less idyllic life. That all changed when the insane mutant Apocalypse made his play for his conquest of North America. Clarice’s parents were killed in the conflict and she was forced to grow up in Apocalypse’s slave pens. Eventually she was rescued by two members of Magneto’s X-Men resistance fighters, Sabretooth and Weapon X. Sabretooth went on to be a surrogate father to the traumatized young girl. As a teenager she would join her adopted father in the X-Men under the name “Blink” and, with the mutant power to teleport short and extremely long distances in the blink of an eye, became a great asset to the team. When the time displaced Bishop arrived in Magneto’s care, he convinced the X-Men to help him reset the timeline to the original version that had been changed due to time travel. They succeeded but their whole world was seemingly wiped out from existence.

However, Blink survived. Being whisked to an unknown time and place she, along with several other displaced X-Men from their own alternate realities, was charged by the Time Broker to fix problems throughout the various versions of Earth. The group was soon branded as the team called “the Exiles."  Originally a freedom fighter, Blink has now found her true calling as leader of the Exiles and a champion of the entire multiverse.

Beta Says: Guys! Guys, oh my God! Blink is black! She’s black, guys! I literally just found this out last year! I don’t know how I never knew this, aside from the obvious. She has literally been one of my favorite characters (top ten, easy) since I was eleven years old and never once did I ever even consider that she was black. I don’t know if I just wasn’t aware of her cultural background, or if this is actually a retcon, but regardless one of my childhood favorite superheroes has turned out to be a character that I as a black kid would have felt a deep connection to if this had been known to me. Now, you might be saying “Wait a second, Beta, I’m fairly certain Blink isn’t black?” I get it; she’s pink and her racial background never comes up. Plus, the two times she had been depicted in live-action media she was played by Asian actresses.

However, the recent Exiles comic clearly depicts Blink chilling out on the main Marvel universe (Earth 616), having lunch with her aunt, her mother’s sister, in her parents’ hometown in the Bahamas. The aunt, Sandra, is clearly a black woman. Also, for the first time ever, Blink appears to have a bit of an afro.

Although I now have several questions about her previously straight hair...
Guys! Guys, my heart is so happy right now! This is literally the main reason I decided to write this blog again; just so I could be all giddy about this revelation!

More on Blink after the jump.
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