Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Captain America of the 50s, Cold War Propaganda

 In honor of Marvel comics hitting the 80 year mark, Marvel released many publications to celebrate the historic milestone. One thing they did was set of graphic novels to celebrate each decade by highlighting whatever it was they felt best displayed that era. 

For the 50s they picked Captain America. I ended  up with a copy of that graphic novel and have been reading it lately. It has been a very interesting read.

So first off you have to understand that at one point every story in this collection became non-canon as a decade later the Avengers would reveal that Cap was actually frozen during this time period, so none of these stories could have happened. This was then later ret-conned to make it a different man having taken on the role of Captain America because the government wanted to keep the legend alive.

Even with all that knowledge, this post will be about the stories on their own, completely independent from any continuity issues.

The first item of notice, as with any golden age comics, is that the stories are simple. Motivations and characters are all more or less black and white. Bad guys are bad because they are bad and they will do bad things. Good guys are good and do good things because they are good. There is no more depth of character than that. Also, in just about all the stories, the bad guys are communists. Some times we get a nation for them, but most of the time they are just communists, nothing more. And that is why they are bad guys.

Captain America is called the great 'spy-fighter' many times, because he is fighting against the evil enemy spies that wish to bring the whole world over to communism. One interesting blurb in there is 'One side fights with spies and traitors, the other with friendship and peace'. Especially now, with all we know of what took place during the cold war, from both sides, that line is pure propaganda. It is very telling about where we were during that era. This is not me taking sides here, just making a point about how both sides were playing a nasty game that had lot of questionable actions to them that at no point leaves our side looking heroic. Now days the Marvel comics do not sugar coat that time frame, and we have learned so much about all that really took place back then.

Another aspect that really caught my attention and bothered me greatly was the undeniable racism in some of the stories and art. Even the 'good' Chinese characters are racial stereotypes. They have really yellow skin and their eyes are just slits and they all have small mouths and large teeth, looking very inhuman.

Of course all the bad guys are just stupid and will fall for any trick the super smart Captain America comes up with on the fly, as he often leaves Bucky without knowledge of the plan. It really does get old at how gullible the would be villains are, falling for some really obviously tricks. And so many of the stories rely on those obvious tricks. Interestingly enough, there is no writing credit for these stories given, just 'Written by unknown' for the credits.

For me the main reason to read these stories is to see just how far we have progressed since then, socially, culturally and in our story telling. These kinds of stories would not be tolerated today if published as new. We expect much more. It does give you a great sense of our growth in 70 years.

Not sure why they picked Captain America to represent that time frame, as super hero comics were out of fashion at that point and this attempt at bringing them back failed. My guess is they were hoping to play on the recent serge in Cap popularity thanks to the movies, but this Cap is nothing close to the great character Chris Evans has given us.

I cannot recommend this collection, as it is not that good. The only reason to read it is for the historic understanding, nothing more. I doubt this was a popular graphic novel and I somewhat understand how I ended up getting it for free.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Issue With the Mandalorian Helmet

 We are just a few days from the premier of season two of The Mandalorian. It should be an interesting ride to see where the story goes.

Now one big thing from the first season was that the Mandalorian did not remove his helmet in front of others, as was the way for all Mandalorians we saw in the series. This was clearly a very big rule for them, as it was mentioned many times throughout the series.

Now if one is into Star Wars and watches everything like we do in this house, you will find that in both cartoon series,  'Clone Wars' and Rebels', we see a lot of Mandalorians going around without their helmets for long periods of times, very openly in public, for all to see.

As all three of these are technically Star Wars canon, there pops up some obvious issues over this area of Mandalorian customs.

I've seen a few articles talking about the helmet mandate being part of the aftermath of the Empire decimating Mandalore in an attempt to wipe of the Mandalorians. There are a lot of references to this event in the series and some serious significance given to to it with the revelation that Moff Gideon has the Darksaber (A significant Mandalorian artifact from both of the previously mentioned cartoon series). The basic idea is that as they fled the need to embrace the identity of being a Mandalorian became a more significant and so it did not matter who you were under the armor, just that you were a Mandalorian. This also follows up with an established Expanded Universe concept about Mandalorians and how they adopt children of any species or culture into their ranks, which was also shown in the series. Their beliefs are it is not your birth that makes you a Mandalorian, but your loyalty and commitment to their ways and culture that matters.

I understand the reasoning given and see the logic there, but I believe it to be more complicated than that and can relate it to what we have seen in our own world.

As we all know, there is not one religion or culture that dominates our world and so by logic, even though we have seen too many sci-fi franchises not follow this reasoning, any other world out there would have a noticeable diversity to the beliefs of the major species that run things.

My thoughts are that for the longest time the group that was ruling Mandalore did not hold to old religious ideas about always wearing the helmet as they wanted to be a bigger part of intergalactic politics and to do so effectively, their faces needed to be seen and known. And while they were the ones in power, there were still groups of Mandalorians who found that to be blasphemous, embracing the old ways, even if they were a minority.

In the fall of Mandalore however, a minority group could easily find itself in a position to be listened to, especially if they had a more aggressive stance on going after their enemies and holding on to traditions. Just look at the middle east to see this exact manner of cultural swing having taken place. A society that has been greatly abused by other powers does seem to go backwards and allow strict religious ideas, that had almost fully been ignored for generations, to retake hold and dominate.

Basically with the fall of Mandalore, a small but strong religious sect of Mandalorians took control and reintroduced old beliefs as being 'The Way' for all to follow if they were true Mandalorians. This is a rational way to explain the discrepancies without any need to retcon or ignore established canon.

I cannot see the series going much farther without at least some manner of addressing this and if rumors are true about Boba Fett appearing in the new season, that would be a perfect chance to explore Mandalorian culture, as there is debate if Boba and Jango are really Mandalorians or just bounty hunters wearing Mandalorian armor. And of course if they explain how Gideon got the Darksaber, it would make sense to show how the ruling house of Mandalore fell, which would be another great time to explore these issues.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is NOT the Worst Indiana Jones Movie

So to repeat what I titled this post, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is NOT the worst Indiana Jones movie, that honor undeniably goes to Temple of Doom.

So the first real issue is Indiana's love interests. Out of the three he is given in the four films, Willie is by far the worst. She is fully  useless through out the whole film, mostly used for comedy relief as she is just annoying, spoiled and whiney, nothing else. I don't believe for one moment Indiana would be attracted to her, as she lacks common sense and is just unlikable on ever level. There really is no doubt he ditched her as soon as possible and most likely forgot about her, hoping to never see her again.

Then we have the plot.  The story for Temple of Doom is not compelling, you just don't care. Which is a big problem, since it has Indy doing his most noble of missions, yet there is something lacking. I can't explain it, but of all his quests, this one I really didn't care if he completed it or not. Helping the village and freeing their children should matter, should have some depth and passion to it, yet that didn't seem important to Indy and so it wasn't important to us. We just were never given an sense that he was as interested in finding the Sankara stone as he has been in finding every other artifact we see him go after. He also treats the whole thing as something to do just because he has some free time.

Then we get into the adventure itself. There are no clues to follow, no big journey to take and really no adversary of note for him to be up against. Most of the action takes place in the last third of the film, with little before that. And while it is great to get a sense of the culture, it just slows everything down, killing off any possible sense of urgency. And the main adversary not showing up until half way through as well. The head priest is the only Indiana Jones adversary who is not in a battle of wills with Indy, he just has a lot of armed men and some brainwashing potion. Character wise this was a simple villain with simple motivation. Even when Indy was under his power, it never really felt like he had done anything to out smart or earn his victory over Indy. He just had enough armed men.

And I will never understand the big finally chase, as it is just stupid. They knock over a reservoir of drinking water, than somehow magically is a dam breaking in a river and flooding a deep cavern system. Sorry, there is no way the amount of water that the reservoir could hold at its fullest, could possibly do anything more than just make a lot of stuff wet right in the area it was knocked over in, let alone create a violent river that ignores physics, flying over the deep mineshafts and ripping apart the side of a mountain. I didn't notice it as a kid, but now it is just idiotic.

I won't go into the moronically inaccuracy of the big dinner scene and how it could be viewed as culturally offensive as it was just a huge comedy scene that was supposed to gross you out, with none of it being accurate for that culture.

It also felt like there was not real resolution of closure for the film. Yeah, Indy got the stone back to the village and freed he children, the big bad head priest was killed, but it all felt meaningless. From a logically point of view, the cult would still be around and there would be nothing stopping them from doing it all again with a new head priest as soon as Indy was gone. That village feels like it will find itself in the same situation before too long, as they have a super magic stone that they don't hide and no way to protect it on their own. They kind of are inviting people to steal it from them.

So while I do have my problems with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, as it is far from being a perfect movie, with a great deal of unjustifiable flaws in it, I find it to be a better movie in general than the Temple of Doom.

Of course we now have the fifth Indiana Jones movie in the works, which if all goes as planned should be out in 2022. No Lucas or Spielberg this time around, which I'm not sure is bad thing.

So there is my opinion and my defense of it. I am watching the film as I write this, so I clearly do not hate the film, I just have my issues with it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Why Kylo Ren Has The Best Character Development in the Whole Star Wars Universe

 Now each Star Wars Trilogy had one featured hero who has the dominating story arc. Classic trilogy it is Luke, prequel trilogy we're following Anakin, and sequel trilogy we're with Rey. Luke's story is a fairly straight forward hero's journey. Anakin is a forced story of the rise and fall of a hero. Rey is more or less back to the basic hero's journey.

Other characters get their stories told, but most of them are not that well played out, with some characters really getting the screwed over.

However, there is one character storyline that to me stands out as the best and that is the story of Ben Sols/Kylo Ren.

The only child born to Leia and Han Solo, legendary heroes of the rebellion, nephew to Luke Skywalker and grandchild of Darth Vader. So before he was even born, the whole weight of the universe was on his shoulders. The insane amount of stress of being a child in the that family, with that legacy being forced on you, would be unbelievably unfair. There was no way he was not going to be viewed as the hope for the future.,

So we jump to his Jedi training years where we know Ben was caught up in the struggle between the light and dark sides of the Force. His Uncle trying to train him and most likely filling him with the idea of taking over and become a Jedi Master himself, and Snoke filling him with the promise of power and control, something he most likely was desiring in his life more than anything. He would have been very much caught between two worlds. Then Luke sensed the growing darkness in Ben, and most likely feared the idea he might be creating a new Vader, Luke made a huge error in judgment that made those fears come true.

Unlike Anakin's fall to the dark side, which felt forced in every way, I very much believe Ben's fall.

But then he is still very much caught between the two words still, having some real, believable inner struggles that we see played out through all three of the sequels as he tries to figure out who he is. And like any person he doe so back and forth in his struggle for self. His anger works and while he does have the family trait of being whiny, this is the first time it feels justified. With both Luke and Anakin, they were annoying when they got whiny, but Kylo was doing it as he was dealing with his inner conflict. most likely more angry with himself than the universe.

In The Last Jedi, one of the most well done, brilliant scenes was when Kylo took out Snoke, showing he was more powerful than his master and had control over that power. He had succeeded where Vader had failed and was now the master.

His anger towards Luke at the end of the film felt very much justified and real. Luke had failed him and now he had proven himself, claiming the control in life he never had before, that he could easily and rationally blame Luke for denying him.

Then we jump to Rise of Skywalker and we find that Kylo Ren is not fully satisfied with his new found power and control. It's not what he was hoping for. He is haunted by the actions that brought him that power, as seen in the brilliantly done scene of him speaking with a vision in his head of his father, who he had killed. His inner struggle never went away, even after achieved what he thought were his goals.

The guilt and revelation of what he had become pushed him to his redemption as he sacrifices himself to prevent the Sith from rising again.

Nothing of his story felt forced to me. It was a fully told story that was well acted with believable motivations and reactions. The story arc just works on so many levels.

It is sad that so any characters got cheated out of a story arc of their own, but out of the few we got, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren's was I personally feel the best of them.

Friday, September 25, 2020

I Want to See More of This

 Mattel has put out a new series of Masters of the Universe toys called the Origin collection. They are taking the classics figure, adding more articulation and some slight cosmetic changes, but making sure they have the basic aesthetics of the original figures. 

It is a great collections.

Leave it up to a fan to go and really makes something awesome with the collection.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fHmubBPJnA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBDYMRueM4k

Those are unofficial commercials for the new line done in the style of toys commercials from the 80s. That is just awesome.

With modern technology fans really can do so much in the way of being creative.

With all the toxicness I see on youtube from so many, it is really pleasant to see something like this. It is celebrating and having fun with a fandom in away that should be enjoyable to everyone. No attacking going there. I want more of that. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Some Observations on an Auction

Last night I misbehaved and allowed myself to participate in an auction the Gnarly Toybox (You should check out this shop as the guy who owns is really cool) was doing via Facebook. In his first set of items he had a vintage Darth Vader costume from Ben Cooper Inc.



I had been wanting to add one of these to my collection for some time, as I remember from my youth as well as it being Star Wars and decided to spoil myself. I won the auction and got a good deal in the end. The picture above are not the one I won, the box is in a lot better shape.

After I won I kept watching to see what else they had and how much everything was going for.

The vintage Star Wars figures did real well and went for about the prices you'd expect. They were obviously still in demand. Most of them I already have, so I was not too interested, even the ones I didn't have are not that hard to find. There was nothing hard to come by for vintage figures.

He also put out some of the 90's Power of the Force figures. Last I knew these figures had been so over produced that no one was interested in them. They were going for next to nothing just a few years ago, so I was expecting little interest in them. I was wrong. Even figures in beat up packaging were going for decent prices. It would seem that there has been a swing in the market for the 90s figures. I do wonder if this is true across other corners of collecting, as the 90s were an era of over production on collectibles that messed up the market. It would be nice to know that collecting is recovering from it all. I had all of those figures, very often in better condition packaging.

What I do know is the one piece I won, the Vader Costume, was the rarest Star Wars piece he put in the auction. And while there was a little bit of bidding on it, it did not get the attention or the bidding wars that some of the other, more common pieces got. 

Once more we can see that rarity in and of itself is not what determines value or demand. The Kenner figures of old are still desirable and now the 90s figures seem to have a demand. The reason for this is fairly obvious, as those are the most known Star Wars collectibles and so are the pieces people think of when they think of collecting Star Wars. Too often with collecting it is the more popular pieces that get the attention and the demand, not the rarer ones.

I've talked before about how I like having unique pieces in my collections, ones that have some interesting story behind them or are oddball pieces that most people would not have in their collections. These often means I do not have the most valuable, in demand pieces. As I do not collect for value, this is not a big deal for me.

I got a piece I wanted for my collection and I am guessing the other auction winners got pieces they wanted and that is what it really is all about in the end. Whatever the reason for people collecting, I just hope they are happy with how their collection grows.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Letter To Disney: The Recent Rumors Have Me Worried

The following is an actual e-mail I sent to Disney Corporate (TWDC.Corp.Communications@Disney.com) and while I do not know if anyone will actually take it seriously, I felt with all the toxic fans being vocal and calming Disney is listening to them, someone needed to try to convey an alternate voice to all the toxic nonsense. I do encourage people to go out and let their voices be heard to counter the loud voices of the other side.


 This is a general letter to the heads of Disney, although I have no idea if this will get to the hands of anyone who can really make a difference and ensure some level of common sense remains with-in Disney as a whole.

There are several youtubers who are right now making some rather frightening claims that I truly hope are just rumors based on their own childish biases.

 

The idea that someone is actually considering redoing the Star Wars sequel trilogy is just insane. Throwing out what was done and replacing it with a new one based off of Lucas’ idea scares me greatly. Those were good movies and have been enjoyed by the vast majority of the fans. On behalf of those fans, I beg you to stop listening to the toxic fans who are being loud as they preach their entitled attitudes. If those fans win, all the rest of us lose, as the franchise will self destruct. These toxic fans were already hating the new movies before they were even made.  Once the announcement came out that Lucas was selling it all to Disney, those toxic fans were already screaming that the franchise was dead without a single film having been made. They never gave it a chance. They created a campaign to ruin the Solo movie by not giving it a chance and creating so much negative press about it without ever seeing it. It has been the toxic fans, such as Overlord DVD, who have launched an anti-Disney campaign from the get go that has been hurting the franchise as a whole. They want to see it burn all because they believe that by becoming part of Disney it all went bad. They are trying to destroy the whole franchise just because they did not get what they wanted.

 

Please, please, please do not give into them.

 

Knowing the history of the Disney and how it has grown out of the known racial issues and sexism that has haunted the company from early on, and has shown itself to be a company devoted to progressive ideas that stay in tune to the ever developing and maturing ideas of our culture. I very much ask that you do not back down from this path. The toxic fans want to call this being ‘woke’ but in reality it is being responsible and promoting socially beneficial ideas. Continue to use LGBTQ+ characters and express inclusiveness at every turn. Be part of the growth in our society. Don’t let those who get upset and offended over having to see reality reflected in our art win. They will always be mad whenever there is change. The only way to make them happy is to get rid of individualism and true creativity, which is the death of entertainment.

 

We are living in unstable times and there are going to be periods of less than desirable profits that have much more to do with trends and uncontrollable aspects of society, as Covid has hurt the entertainment industry as a whole. It would be foolish to reorganize and ignore all the real success without looking at the true aspects that are in play. All giving into loud, toxic fans is going to achieve is to insult the real fan base, the ones who are the key aspect of making any franchise a success.

 

I have spoken my mind now.

 

While I doubt this will get into the hands that need to hear what I have to say, I feel better knowing that in an age where the toxic fans are being loud and destructive, I at least attempted to get a civil, rational voice heard. Star Wars has been a huge part of my life since I can remember and I have remained a fan even when I did like the direction it had gone. Right now I am pleased with what I am seeing, as are the majority of the fans. I hope that those with the real power in your company will do the right thing.

 

A True Fan

Ian Brazee-Cannon