Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Confession time: I haven’t seen the Season 2 premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet. Don’t get me wrong, I want to, but things have been busy here, and when I do tune in (thanks, Hulu Plus!) I want to give it my full attention. TV has become very serious in recent years, and the best stuff tends to require the viewer to invest some brain power into the shows.
It’s a good thing, but it can get a little exhausting. And if you’re a Marvel fan, there’s a lot to keep track of in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Characters, locations, devices and plotlines might trigger some stored bit of trivia in your brain and lead to a different appreciation for the approach.
Here at The Fifth Color, I try to keep abreast of all the Marvel comics news I can, and it’s requiring me to track more and more movie rumors and casting decisions — which is weird because The Fifth Color began as a way to relate to comics and how we readers view the stories. But comics are becoming more than just you and the pages in your hand; there’s a now a strong media influence on how we see comics. Even something as simple as a mobile game can draw you into a comic shop and change how you see the books on the shelves. No joke, I had a customer show me a comic cover he had unlocked on a Marvel mobile game and ask me if we had that book in stock. He wanted to find out what it was about. That’s good marketing.
If you ever wondered how actor Clark Gregg prepared himself for Agent Coulson’s death scene — or, rather, “death” scene — in The Avengers, you only need to listen to KCRW’s “Guest DJ Project.” Hint: It’s music, but any additional information is probably above your clearance level.
For this week’s episode of the Los Angeles radio show, the star of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. compiles a track list that includes Parliament-Funkadelic’s “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” Public Enemy’s “Caught, Can We Get a Witness” and Radiohead’s “Go to Sleep.”
What did you do last weekend? Nothing much, probably; no real reason to get excited. After all, it was just another awesome Marvel movie opening. Granted, “awesome” isn’t an objective description, and surely some people had a pretty miserable time. But judging from reviews, user ratings and my own anecdotal observations, odds are a significant majority of the approximately 11 million people who watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier enjoyed it.
The film has been thoroughly reviewed — you can read CBR’s take here — so I won’t get into a big assessment. (Suffice it to say, I liked it.) Instead ,what I want to talk about is the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, and how it hasn’t just successfully adapted stories and characters, but the very experience of the Marvel Comics Universe.
It is now well-documented that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige is a big comics fan. The difference, however, is that he didn’t grow up with them, but schooled himself on Marvel’s stories while working under producer Lauren Shuler Donner on the first X-Men movie. That distinction might have given him the ability to view the characters and concepts without being hindered by nostalgia, and helped him to dissect how Marvel’s framework could be used for future movies. Hollywood is an even more collaborative business than comics, so it’s unlikely that credit rests solely with Feige. But he certainly was an advocate for leaning more faithfully into the source material.
Let’s get this out of the way first: so many spoilers ahead, you guys. So very many spoilers.
I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. So please bear with the incredible amount of spoilers ahead in this week’s Fifth Color, not to mention the rampant speculation about what’s ahead of us yet. This one is big, perhaps the biggest Marvel movie since the first Iron Man.
The short and spoiler-free version is this: Go see the movie. It’s brilliant, very well thought out, and if you’re a fan of the Ed Brubaker years on Captain America, you’ll not only enjoy the tone of the film, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the twists they throw in. #itsallconnected is the simplest way to put it.
This isn’t traditional cinema any more, not with Marvel Studios. Each of its films have been both sequential and separate, with a slowly rising degree of success. By all rights, you should be able to watch The Avengers without watching all of the solo movies that came before it, but you get a grander enjoyment if you’ve seen more. Iron Man was a fun movie, but now it’s even more fun in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Trilogies come close to this kind of storytelling, but even then there’s a commitment to seeing at least the first one to get the idea of what’s ahead. With Marvel, audiences already knows the theory behind superheroes to enable them to jump in when one catches their eye. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, at its best, should be able to be viewed as separate movies and as parts of a whole. However, after Captain America: The Winter Solider, there’s not much of that whole left.
WARNING: Not joking on the spoiler thing. If you are spoiler-fearless, already saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier or just want to jump into the speculation pit with me and float around in a very well constructed cinematic universe, read on!
Every year ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman get together to talk about everything in Big Two superhero comics. Watch for Part 2 on Thursday.
Carla: Is it me or was 2013 crazy-busy? There were event comics, new titles, canceled titles, movies (plural for Marvel!), TV shows and video games. It seems like there’s no escape from comics, making it harder and harder to get a general idea of the industry. Some days I kind of envy the indie comic fans as it must be a lot easier to handle comics as they come, as opposed to our gestalt juggernaut that is the Big Two. How much DC business could you comfortably follow before overwhelm set in?
Tom: Well, for starters, I pretty much skipped all of the video game and Cartoon Network developments, because I don’t have time for either area.
What do we want out of a comic-based television series?
At this point in pop-culture history the corporate synergies are so closely aligned, and the fans so plugged in, that we can all come up with various ways to adapt our favorite comics into TV shows or movies. I mean, when I heard about the proposed Gotham drama — lots of Gordon, no Batman, some supervillains — it got me thinking about a half-dozen other DC features that would make passable TV series.
For example …
• Martian Manhunter: that detective’s really an alien shapeshifter with all of Superman’s powers, but he doesn’t know his version of General Zod is also on Earth and looking for him!
• Challengers of the Unknown: living on borrowed time after inexplicably surviving a plane crash, four adventurers solve the world’s weirdest mysteries!
• Adam Strange: it’s Indiana Jones with a jetpack, as an Earth archaeologist finds himself on another planet!
Mark your calenders, folks! Marvel again reached a milestone as it ventured into the world of television once more. If you think about it, when was the last time Marvel had a live-action television series? The first thing I think of (and I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one) is the Generation X TV movie/pilot that aired in 1996.
Some of you might remember the Mutant X TV show that actually did pretty well (“pretty well” meaning it lasted for more than one season — three, in fact! — in syndication) but it doesn’t legally count. Effectively, it’s been 17 years since Marvel has attempted live-action television, and 25 years since it’s been a hit, back when The Incredible Hulk was all the rage. So score one for the House of Ideas, as ABC aired Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week to exceptional ratings, with 11.9 million viewers watching the premiere live.
Despite having the name in the title, I can’t bring myself to call it Marvel’s show after seeing the pilot. If anything, this is Joss Whedon’s show, as his earmarks are all over every scene, plot point and casting choice; this makes sense, considering Whedon is, primarily, a TV guy. His name conjures up a list of cult series, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dollhouse, all serving a die-hard audience that will watch his works because of the man behind the camera. Whedon is comfortable enough here (and probably has enough free rein over Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to work in his classic tropes and story style to make a hit (that hopefully won’t get canceled this time).
Marvel has announced a line-up of merchandise for Comic-Con International that includes a Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. T-shirt, a Rocket Raccoon mug and, perhaps most adorably of all, Skottie Young’s Avengers movie poster (part of the Phase 1 Marvel Cinematic Universe Blu-Ray Collector’s Set) and glass tumbler.
The limited-edition pieces will be available at the Marvel booth (#2329) at the San Diego Convention Center. See the list, with images, below: