Thursday, December 13, 2018

MARVELMAN! It's a Miracle! The British Captain Marvel rip-off! (Part 8 of the Blog History of ALL the Captain Marvels)

This history makes reference to material that can be found in the following books:
       

As we have already seen, in 1953 Fawcett settled the lawsuit with the company now known as DC Comics and agreed to never publish Captain Marvel comics ever again.

It turns out, however, that L. Miller & Sons had been publishing black-and-white versions of these stories in the United Kingdom for years. The material was supplied by Fawcett and the books were printed in the UK. When word reached these publishers of the imminent cessation of material, they realized they had to do something, because Captain Marvel was extremely popular!

So writer-artist Mick Anglo created Marvelman, a new superhero with remarkable similarities to the Big Red Cheese, not the least of which was his name. His alter ego was young Mickey Moran, a copy boy for the Daily Bugle (I have found no evidence that Stan Lee ever saw this comic before writing Spider-Man), who met the astrophysicist Guntag Barghelt, who gave him the super-scientific word "Kimota" ("atomic" misspelled backwards) which, upon utterance, would turn the boy into the mighty hero...Marvelman!

Marvelman was super-strong, invulnerable, and could fly. He wore a blue suit with no cape and had a blonde crew-cut with a superman-style spit-curl forelock. His face was a dead ringer for the World's Mightiest Mortal. Micky Moran, likewise was a carbon-copy of Billy Batson, but with the same blonde crew-cut and forelock as the hero into which he would transform.

Marvelman's debut was presaged by a brief promotional campaign in which Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr, in their respective L. Miller & Sons comics, stated that they were taking a break, but to watch for something new in the coming issues. After a few issues of this, the titles of these comics were changed to Marvelman and Young Marvelman, respectively, and thus were the names of the new heroes that appeared inside.

Young Marvelman was a uniformed messenger boy who gained the power to turn into a superhero version of himself by saying the name of Marvelman.

Marvelman's arch enemy was Dr. Emil Gargunza, who was essentially Dr. Sivana with hair. The stories followed the basic patterns of Captain Marvel stories, and even some covers and panels were direct copies of Captain Marvel pictures. However, being in Great Britain, it can safely be assumed that neither Fawcett nor DC noticed or cared.

In time there was even a Kid Marvelman and a Young Gargunza, and even supervillains named Nastyman and Kid Nastyman. A Marvelman Family comic contained stories of the whole team.

Original stories were written and drawn for most of the decade and enjoyed a great degree of popularity. Thwn, in 1959, certain laws were changed that allowed the full-color American comics to be imported to the UK. followed by a few years of reprints, until the line of Marvelman and family comics was cancelled in 1963. by this time original comics from the US were reaching the British markets, and there was no longer as much interest in this old hero.

 Marvelman stories were reprinted in Italy and Australia, and also in Brazil, where the hero had the name "Jack Marvel." The Brazilian reprints were printed in Marvel Magazine and the "MM" logo on the hero's chest was erased.


Some parts of this history are a bit confusing. Apparently, Mick Anglo also created a character named "Captain Universe," which existed in two issues of an eponymous comic published by Len Miller's son in 1954. Threat of a lawsuit (it is unclear from whom) shut it down.  Mick Anglo left Len Miller in 1960, and saw that some of his Marvelman stories were reprinted or redrawn with the character named "Captain Miracle" or "Miracle Man" with a different costume.

Then, in 1981, Warrior Magazine in the UK published a revival of the character, written by Alan Moore. We will cover this revival in the next chapter.

Note: this is a basic overview. A well-researched, lengthy, and detailed history of the character and many issues surrounding him at http://www.comicsbeat.com/poison-chalice-interlude-1953-1985-roundup-and-some-notes-on-copyright/

A lot more detail about the creation of Marvelman, with a focus on the ownership of the intellectual property rights, can be found at http://www.comicsbeat.com/poisoned-chalice-part-16-who-own-marvelman-part-ii/

Another, more brief history can be found at https://www.leylander.org/intercom/marvelman/


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

RIP: William Goldman. Wrote many great movies, and a SHAZAM! movie script

William Goldman's SHAZAM! script.

William Goldman was one of the great novelists and screenwriters of the second half of the 20th century. He wrote many of the modern classics that either redefined or reestablished how great and how much fun a movie could be. These included many that I have seen and enjoyed and a few I want to, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives, The Great Waldo Pepper, Marathon Man, All the President's Men, A Bridge Too Far, The Princess Bride, Twins, Misery, A Few Good Men, Last Action Hero, and Good Will Hunting.

Of course, not every one of these screenplays was an Oscar-winning hit, and he did a bunch that were never used, such has screenplays for Flowers for Algernon, Papillon, Grand Hotel, The Sea Kings, The Right Stuff, and one comic book property that goes under the title SHAZAM!

Of course, plenty of writers have written screenplays that were never produced. But beyond that, there have been plenty of writers who have written or started to write scripts for SHAZAM!

But of them all William Goldman is the one who died most recently (Nov. 16, 2018), and is the one with the most accomplished career, so I thought I would take a moment to discuss his place in Captain Marvel history.

The story of the script is pretty simple, keeping with the general pattern of superhero origin movies as they had been established in the latter part of the 20th century. Billy is lured into the hall of the old wizard, gets the power to become a hero, battles the villain, Dr. Sivana, wins the day. There are further details, such as the fact that Billy is a foster kid/ problem child who has a close friendship (foster sibling/potentially more?) with an older girl, Jenny, who can be characterized by the same terms (this girl happens to be the one who found him in the snow as a baby and brought him to the orphanage). Dr. Sivana's two beautiful children are part of the story. Captain Marvel has a battle against the son, Magnificus, but the daughter, Beautea, eventually rejects her father's objectives and falls for Captain Marvel.

Like many movie adaptations of comic book properties, there are dome deviations from the source material. these include:
Billy in a foster home.
The character of Jenny.
Billy finds Shazam through a museum incident.
Jenny's romantic attraction to Captain Marvel.
Billy gaining the powers of the Elders one by one, as he needs them.
Captain Marvel has super-breath.

There is one very cute reference to the original Fawcett comics: in one scene Billy is taking a test. He whispers the magic word, and the ghostly visage of Captain Marvel shows up to give him the answers.

Some readers of the script claimed it was the greatest superhero movie ever. Certain, more recent reviewers, such as Scriptshadow and SHAZAMAHOLIC! have been less kind.

It is not a perfect script, even if you discount the differences from the comics. There is too much exploring of the powers and not enough superheroics. A fight between Captain Marvel and Magnificus has a lot of creative dynamics to it, but the triumphant climax to the movie, while clever, is not a visually exciting feat (unless you find chemistry visually exciting).

This was neither the first, not the last, time an acclaimed non-comics writer wrote a superhero movie script. Remember, Mario Puzzo wrote Superman: the Movie. While long considered (and deservedly so) the greatest superhero movie ever made, that film, which kicked off the modern age of superhero movies, is a bit uneven and has a plot hole you could push Krypton through.

The trouble is that great writers, great as they may be, may not have the life-long understanding of a comic book property that can enable them to make such necessary departures from the comic book canon as the medium and differing audience of the medium of film may need and still serve the message of the original character or enamor the fans who go to see something with which they are already familiar.

David Hayter on the other hand, was able to write a script for X-Men that made the departures specifically relevant. Most notably, the character of Rogue and her relationship with Wolverine..

In the comics, Rogue was a young woman who had been part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She had stolen the powers and memories of Carol Danvers (at the time Ms. Marvel, today Marvel's current Captain Marvel), but left the Brotherhood to join the X-Men.

Also in the comics, Wolverine had a sidekick, a teenage girl named Jubilee, whose superpower was shooting dazzling light shows from her hands.

In the movie, Rogue was a young teenage runaway who had discovered she had the power to absorb people's minds when she touched them. She freaked out and ran away after nearly killing her boyfriend the first time she kissed him, and wound up being a sort of sidekick to Wolverine.

Replacing Jubilee with Rogue enabled Rogue's powers to be a sort of metaphor for the alienation of youth, particularly those youths who felt themselves "different" because of their gender identity, homosexuality, race, interests, etc. The X-Men, a team of mutants,. were always about being a metaphor for disaffected youth, afraid of hurting their loved ones with what made them different, hunted by a word that feared what they did not understand.

The stories of both of these movies, however, where created based  on the characters, but not a specific story about the characters that had appeared n any comic.

Now, the upcoming SHAZAM! movie will probably not need much in the way of "departures from canon" for the purpose of constructing a story, mainly because it is an adaptation of the specific story that appeared as a back-up to several issues of Justice League from DC Comics. It was, however, directed by someone who admitted having no experience with the hero before getting this job. Though he apparently did a lot of research, they are going with the New 52 version of the hero.

It is interesting to note, at this point, that there are actually some things in the Goldman script that are in the New 52 version, particularly the orphanage origin and Billy's resistance to getting adopted. Also the focus o the value of family, and how "family" does not have to be the one you were born with. I'm reasonably certain this is a coincidence (where else is an orphan going to live?), but interesting that more than one writer has decided to go this way with the character.

Here Are 10 Commandments On Writing From William Goldman:

  1. Thou shalt not take the crisis out of the protagonist’s hands.
  2. Thou shalt not make life easy for the protagonist.
  3. Thou shalt not give exposition for exposition’s sake.
  4. Thou shalt not use false mystery or cheap surprise.
  5. Thou shalt respect thy audience.
  6. Thou shalt know thy world as God knows this one.
  7. Thou shalt not complicate when complexity is better.
  8. Thou shalt seek the end of the line, taking characters to the farthest depth of the conflict imaginable within the story’s own realm of probability.
  9. Thou shalt not write on the nose — put a subtext under every text.
  10. Thou shalt rewrite.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

NEW "CAPTAIN MARVEL" TRAILER REVEALS PLOT DETAILS!

So, on Monday Night Football last week, Marvel dropped their new trailer for their movie about Carol Danvers as a superhero, "Captain Marvel." And it is a doozy...for a few reasons.

First off, it shows some pretty impressive special effects. Not just that they are convincing, but they show that some pretty impressive things are happening. There are lightning bolts going into a girl's brain, energy blasts coming out of the hero's hands, explosions, etc. It could be pretty impressive.

But this trailer also reveals what may be the crux of the entire plot (or at least the character arc).

When we last saw Our Hero, she was crash-landing through the roof of a Blockbuster video store in the 1990's, punching out an old lady on a public transit conveyance, having flashbacks to herself in the US Air Force and as a small girl falling down and getting up a lot, getting zapped in the head by energy, shooting energy bolts from her hands on the top of a commuter train, and sharing enigmatic one-liners with Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D...with two whole eyes).
This debunked the fan theory that Carol Danvers was the 22-year-old schizophrenic referred to in the beginning of Dr. Strange (Why a schizophrenic? Because Carol Danvers and Ms. Marvel were a split personality in her the first year or so of the hero's presence in Marvel Comics). But it did seem to confirm that Carol Danvers is going to have been an Air Force pilot, just like she was in the comics.

There were also snatches of shots of Danvers in a helmet and some other alien sets and characters that, combined with a bunch of photographs released to Entertainment Weekly, revealed that she would be part of a Kree superhero commando team called Starforce. Jude Law's character appeared but was unnamed, and IMDB persisted in saying that he would be Captain Mar-Vell/Walter Lawson. Ben Mendelssohn was revealed as playing a Skrull named Talos.

This time, we learned more of her story.

SPOILER ALERT! I AM GOING TO GUESS THE PLOT OF THE MOVIE...OR AT LEAST CAROL DANVERS' CHARACTER ARC!

[UPDATE]
Since I started writing this article, news has reached me that two Funko Pop figures have revealed two character names. A character that appears to be Brie Larsen in the green-and-black uniform and helmet of Carol Danvers is named "Vers" and a white, male, helmeted character in green-and-black (and only Jude Law fits that description so far), is "Yon-Rogg."

Carol Danvers grows up as a tomboy and speed freak, playing baseball and racing go-karts. She joins the US Air Force and becomes friends with a woman who would become the mother of Monica Rambeau. She becomes a test pilot and, somehow, she crash-lands on a planet or a deserted part of Earth and bleeds blue blood through the nose. She also has lost her memory. The Skrull warrior Talos tries to kill or kidnap her, but she is rescued by Kree. They find a fragment of her Air Force dogtag that includes part of her last name, "...vers," and use that as her name. They put her through a Kree "Six Million Kree Imperial Monetary Units Woman" procedure and make her into a leader of their super-powered enforcement squad, Starforce. Yon-Rogg is her mentor, and Ronan is some sort of supreme commander-type.

In the course of an adventure (possibly being pursued by Skrulls), her ship blows up and she crashes to Earth into a Blockbuster Video store in Los Angeles in the mid-1990's. She explores the subway, then starts to head out to the western US desert, where she blows up a storefront and meets Samuel Jacks...I mean S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (who has two eyes). The two of them go to a S.H.I.E.L.D base hidden in a mountain, where Danvers' thumb accesses a room in which are files about her military career (so she must have been a S.H.I.E.L.D agent somewhere in there).

The Kree come to get her and she finds out more about her past. Yon-Rogg reveals the true depth, meaning, and motivation of the Kree imperium. She decides to reject the Kree and fight for Earth.

Some things that I don't know and wonder about are as follows:

Is she a Skrull? The answer is not as obvious as I first thought. The first thought is, of course, "no." But then I got to thinking...you know, we got Skrulls here, and Skrulls are shapeshifters.. and then I thought of a recent Marvel Comics epic crossover storyline...

Secret Invasion was Marvel's big epic company-wide crossover event for 2008. In it, it was revealed that many, many people on Earth were Skrull agents. More than that, many of them were disguised as superheroes, and that they had been altered by Skrull science to be completely undetectable and not even know that they were Skrulls...until they either died, or a certain triggering mechanism was activated (usually a phrase or image).

The one who was disguised as Mar-Vell, however, was a special case. He was one of the first subjects of this process, and they went a little too far on him. The Mar-Vell memories and personality they had imprinted on him were too strong. The triggering mechanism did not work, and even when faced with a Skrull who told him exactly who and what he was, he rejected it. Instead, he embraced his Mar-Vall persona and fought against the Skrulls in space until he died in battle.

Well, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has already adapted the Captain America - Iron Man Civil War epic, company-wide crossover event, why not Secret Invasion, which followed hard upon it?

Where is Mar-Vell? Marvel Comics' first Captain Marvel (as regular readers of this blog should well know) was Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree. His superior officer was Yon-Rogg, who kept on trying to screw him over so he would have a shot at his girlfriend, Medic Una. He was sent to spy on Earth, disguised himself as rocket scientist Dr. Walter Lawson, and became close with Carol Danvers, who was then security chief at Cape Kennedy. Later, an explosion of a Kree device during battle with Yon-Rogg sent Mar-Vell's Kree DNA mingling with Danvers' which later turned her into the superhero Ms. Marvel. Mar-Vell later died of cancer, but returned years later to help save the universe (long story. In fact, much of this is a long story), but he died again, after which Danvers took on the mantle of Captain Marvel herself.

Somehow, this origin story was said to be too much like Green Lantern's. Let's see, what is similar about this? In GL, an alien cop crash lands on Earth, seeks a man without fear, who turns out to be a test pilot. He passes a magical ring to the test pilot before dying, and the test pilot replaces him as space-cop for that section of the galaxy.

So...we have an alien coming to Earth, we have some power being passed to a human with some relation to airplanes, and we have the human becoming a superhero (who, in the case of Carol Danvers, was created to be a feminist icon). That's the depth of the connection I see. Not a lot. In fact, when a human test pilot becomes an enforcement agent for an intergalactic empire and a mentor figure turns out to be a bad guy, I am seeing more Green Lantern, not less.

So, was it decided for Mar-Vell to not exist in the MCU? Then from where does Carol Danvers get the name "Captain Marvel"?

What's with the cat? Well, that's not a cat. In the comics, anyway, it's a flerken, an alien race that looks like cats. They lay eggs. They contain "pocket dimensions" within themselves. And they also can release an amazing set of teeth and tentacles to devour adversaries, should they feel a need to do so.

So why is there one named "Goose" in this trailer?

Well, in the comics, there was this orange cat that Carol Danvers, as Captain Marvel, threw at a magical supervillain named Warren Traveller. But this wasn't as the Captain Marvel we know now, but one in an alternate reality created by Scarlet Witch in the 2005 epic Marvel Comics company-wide crossover event called House of M. The relevant part of this alternate reality is that Carol Danvers, as Captain Marvel, was the greatest superhero in the world.

When she threw the cat at Traveller (a villain who did not exist in the regular Marvel Universe) he tried to escape by casting a time travel spell. He did disappear, but the cat went with him. A few days later, after the the world went back to normal, the cat showed up in Carol's apartment. Traveler materialized seconds later, and chaos ensued. Long story short, Traveler was (eventually) defeated, but Danvers kept the cat and named it "Chewie," short for "Chewbacca," the wookie from Star Wars.

A couple of years later, Carol Danvers, now Captain Marvel again, but this time in the "regular" Marvel Universe, was traveling though space , and met up with the Guardians of the Galaxy (the version on which the recent movies were based). When Rocket Racoon saw the cat, he went apeshit, calling it a "flerken" and screaming "Kill it with fire!" while pursuing it with deadly abandon.

Chewie hid in a closet, and when she was found, she was surrounded by over 100 purple eggs. The eggs soon started to hatch kittens. then it revealed the aforementioned teeth and tentacles, ridding the space ship of a particular menace. Rocket then fell in love with the flerken.

And none of that really answers what this cat named "Goose" is doing in this movie.

(Yes, "Goose" is probably a Top Gun reference, but that movie was about Navy flyers and this one is about Air Force flyers, I just wanted to end this post with the above sentence, because even that bit of info does not fully answer the question. And it is probably not a reference to the motorcycle cop in Mad Max).


Here are some videos that attempt to identify "Easter Eggs" and other clues from this trailer: