Wednesday, April 17, 2019

About the amnesia in Marvel's "Captain Marvel" (Carol Danvers) movie (Part 3 of 4 about the movie)

Having covered the plot of the film and many of its references, symbolisms, and messages, it's time to address just a some specific issues in and about the film.

The Amnesia Thing
From the very beginning of this movie, Vers/Carol Danvers has a memory problem. She cannot remember anything before she was rescued by the Kree from a crash site a few years ago. Overcoming that amnesia was a key plot point, and a motivating factor in her actions the closer she got to her past.

In the comics, Carol Danvers actually had quite a bit of experience with memory failure, so making amnesia a key characteristic of her character in the movie is not completely out of...character.

The Carol/Ms. Marvel Split Personality
The first time she had memory issues was right when Ms. Marvel first appeared in 1977 (Ms. Marvel #1). Here came this new superhero, beating up bank robbers and throwing cars around, but she had no memory of her past or who she was. Then Carol Danvers showed up at the offices of the Daily bugle to start work as the new Editor-in-Chief of Woman magazine. But then at some point she would pass out, and the next thing you knew, Ms. Marvel was beating up the Scorpion or some other super villain was throwing her around by her scarf while she was having existential discussions with that villain about her identity.

It turned out that Carol Danvers had developed a split personality. This was supposed to represent the dichotomy of the female/feminist experience, ad the Modern woman tried to reconcile the desire for equality with the female identity.

But having a super-powerful, schizophrenic, feminist superhero did not go over too well. The letters pages showed a lot of sentiment against this concept. So writer Gerry Conway, despite crediting his wife with a lot of assistance, was replaced by Chris Claremont, who guided the stories to a reconciliation and unification of the two personalities before even the belly cut-out on her costume was patched over (I mean, a feminist icon with her belly button showing? Really?)

There is, then a parallel (if tenuous) between Carol Danvers getting super powers and losing her memory. When she was a Kree hero, "Vers" had no memory of a past life as an Earthling, just like how Ms. Marvel, a product of Kree science and DNA, had no memory of her Earthling self. I wonder if that is where the writers got the idea? I have to track them down and find out.

The second time she lost her memory was was when she ran into the mutant Rogue. This was before the character became an X-Man and the action originally happened off-camera (it was later drawn up and seen in a quarterly anthology book and the Ms. Marvel Essential Edition and Mrvel Masterworks Ms. Marvel #2).

Rogue's mutant ability was to absorb people's memories and super powers by physical contact. The trouble is, if she holds the contact too long, the transfer becomes permanent. That's what happened here. This is why in the comics, Rogue can fly, is super-strong, invulnerable, etc.

But this left Carol in a powerless, infantile state. She was rescued by Spider-Woman, who then took her to Professor X (founder of the X-Men) who helped her rebuild her memories. She stayed with the X-Men for a time, joining them in an adventure in outer space, in the course of which, new powers literally exploded out of her.

These powers were drawn from the energy of a "white hole," (a theoretical but thus far undiscovered cosmic thing that is in some way the opposite of a black hole) giving here the ability to use and focus the energy of a star, including space flight and photon blasts. This was much like what we see from Carol Danvers at the climactic space-battle scene in this movie.

These powers were released as a result of experiments done on her by an alien race called the Brood, followed by a moment of extreme physical stress, and thus there is a connection to the movie. We don't know how much was actually done to Carol Danvers when she was picked up by the Kree, but she does have an inhibitor device on her neck and she is told to keep things under control. It is when she gets rid of the inhibitor and is plummeting to the Earth that her full power potential is finally awakened.

The Psyche-Magnitron Tumor
As we should all know by now, the original source of Carol's super powers was Kree DNA m passed from Mar-Vell to her when he tried to protect her from the radiation of an exploding Kree machine known as a psyche-magnitron (this origin story has been retcon-tweaked to add the fact that her mother was Kree, but that was not published until the eve of the movie's release, sand is irrelevant to this point).

Before production started for the movie, there was a storyline in the Captain Marvel comic book in which it was discovered that there was a fragment of the machine in her brain, creating a tumor that grew as she used her powers. Unfortunately, villains from her past kept popping up, forcing her to use her powers more often. It turned out that this was a plot by Yon-Rogg, Mar-Vell's old rival in the Kree military, who had been disgraced and defeated by Mar-Vel in the incident that led to the aforementioned explosion.

In the climax of the story, Captain Marvel saved the day by flying up to stop a Kree city from landing on New York. The effort she expended caused the tumor to rupture, damaging the memory centers of her brain. This gave her complete amnesia again.

By this time, Carol Danvers had gained the friendship of Kit Renner, the daughter of her neighbor, who had the nickname of "Lieutenant Trouble." She helped her gain back her memories by sharing with her the story of her life, which she had written and drawn into a book herself.

In the Captain Marvel movie, "Lieutenant Trouble" was Monica Rambeau, the young daughter of Maria "Photon" Rambeau, Carol Danver's best friend and fellow fighter pilot. She had been very close with Carol before the event in which she lost her memory and was taken in by the Kree, and helped her in accomplishing the mission she set for herself to climax the movie. this is consistent with the relationship between Carol and "Lt. Trouble" in the comics.

Coming soon:
Thoughts on the character of MAr-Vell in the Comics and the movie, and about the female and feminist issues.
ALSO: we will resume our Blog History of the many Captain Marvels with SHAZAM! The New Beginning!

Friday, April 5, 2019

SHAZAM! MOVIE REVIEW VIDEO! (extempore, no spoilers)

Here is my on-the-spot review of the movie SHAZAM! I will probably write something more thorough with spoilers later.

We will finish up our Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) movie review first.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Marvelous Miracleman! Part 10 of the Blog history of the many Captain Marvels!

When last we left our Hero, Marvelman,

Skinn shopped around his package of characters to various US comic book companies, but the name "Marvelman" and the letters from Marvel's attorneys kept getting in the way of closing a deal. It was decided to change the hero's name, and Alan Moore came up with "Miracleman," a name he had used before. Under this name, the property was sold to Eclipse Comics in September 1984, and the first issue of Miracleman appeared with a cover date of August 1985.

The series began by reprinting all that had appeared in Warrior, through issue #7, and (after complicated contractual dealings) Alan Moore picked up the story with #8. However, a flood destroyed the all-new art for that issue, so it became a fill-in issue with reprints of old L. Miller and Son-era stories. #9  began the all-new material, featuring a graphic, anatomically accurate telling of the birthing of the child of Miracleman by Mike Moran's wife.

This was highly controversial, as were future issues that wrapped up the Kid Marvelman conflict in issue #15. In that issue the entire city of London was razed to the ground in the climactic battle between hero and villain, with the inevitable and terrible deaths of thousands of civilians. A horrifying two-page spread by artist John Totleben showed the results of unfettered superpowers in battle in a realistic world.

Alan Moore finished his story arc and left the title on issue #16, which finally came out in 1989. replaced by Neil Gaiman (who got some share of the character rights in the deal). The stories continued into a series of stories world run by Marvelman as a benevolent super-powered dictator called the "Age of Miracles" (ironic, seeing as how this was a play on the "replacement" name for the hero). Eventually, however, the book was cancelled and for different reasons, Eclipse Comics went under.

Comics writer/artist Todd McFarland, creator of "Spawn," bought all the rights and properties of Eclipse Comic at auction , and believed the rights to Miracleman were included. But the complicated rights-sharing agreement established between Dez Skinn and the various writers and artists of the character was apparently still in play. Lengthy wrangling between the players involved ensued, which can be tracked by their various statements in interviews over the years.

Somewhere in there L. Miller and Son dissolved itself, with no documentation assigning the rights to Marvelman to anyone.

Eventually, Marvel Comics came into the picture. To make a very long and complicated story short, they paid Mick Anglo, the creator of the original Marvelman, ostensibly for the rights to the character, came to some sort of agreement with any other parties that may have had rights claims to the revived version of him, and most all the interested parties now accept that Marvel Comics owns both versions of Marvelman/Miracleman.

Starting in 2010, Marvel Comics began reprinting the original L. Miller and Son Marvelman, Young Marvelman, and Marvelman family stories, but stopped after a few albums  They have also completely reprinted all the "Miracleman" material available, including some unpublished material from the end of the run.

Much of the information in this post was drawn from the website and book "The Poisoned Chalice" by 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Marvel's "Captain Marvel" Carol Danvers movie review (Part 2)


Let's see, where were we...Oh yes, talking about the gender-switch of Mar-Vell.

There is a very important message in the film that the gender-switch enables, but there was another, non-gender-specific change to the character. I will cover later these later, as they are important factors in evaluating the film as a whole.

Vers breaks free from her imprisonment and proves to be a kick-ass badass. Though her hands are encased in giant cuffs that are blocking her photon blasts, she used the cuffs themselves as weapons, punching and kicking her way through a platoon of Skrulls.

In the course of her escape she crashes to Earth, landing through the roof of a Blockbister video, and the 1990's nostalgia and Easter Eggs begin. The very name of the store, of course, evokes what this movie will be once it goes to video. In the store she happens to pick up a box for the movie The Right Stuff obviously evoking her space travelling personae, referencing her Air Force test pilot past, and suggesting that she has be a hero. But behind her right shoulder we see the movies First Knight (which must be a reference to her leading position in StarForce) and Hook (which might be a reference to her forgetting, and later remembering, who she was when she was younger).

The loudest symbolic metaphorical element of the scene, however, is her blasting the head off of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a True Lies standee display. As we find out by the end of the movie, there are several layers of deception going on, and Vers has to peel them back, one by one, to find out who she is.

BTW, feel free to take a break from reading and enjoy this awesome little video that helped me remember which videos were in the store :)

Once outside the store, Vers meets with a local security guard, where we find out she has a "universal translator" and that she does not yet know that Earth (referred to by an alpha-numeric code designation) does not know that the Kree or the Skrulls exist. Moments later, we find out that she can use items found in a Radio Shack to turn a pay phone into an interstellar communications device, just like the extra-terrestrial in E.T. (which is technically a 1980's reference, but we still remembered it in the '90's).

Enter Samuel L. Fury.

Many reviews call this a "buddy cop" movie. There are actually quite a few "buddy" teams in this movie, each with a slightly different dynamic. It is almost as if this entire movie is about "buddies." These two-fers include:

Carol Danvers/Wendy Lawson
Carol Danvers/Maria Rambeau
Carol Danvers/Monica Rambeau
Nick Fury/Goose the Flerkin
Talos/"Science Guy"

But the characters that spend the most "buddy" time together are Vers and Fury. They seem to have a sort of professional connection, being as they both have military experience and are employed in a combination military/law-enforcement capacity. This has to go a long way in explaining why they stick together for the rest of the film, otherwise, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that they do.

But then, there are a few bunches of things that don't quite make sense in this movie. Or do they? In the course of the film, Vers rides a motorcycle, finds an internet cafe and uses Alta Vista to search for something, reads road maps and secret government reports, looks up files, and does other things that you would not expect someone who needs a "universal translator" to be able to do on Earth. But then, we haven't gotten to the big reveal yet, have we?

Vers, having landed on Earth in her Kree Battlesuit, swaps it out for a leather jacket/jeans/Nine Inch Nails T-shirt ensemble (I am sure someone more familiar with that band can share the symbolic significance of that shirt). She and Fury hit the road, have a bunch of exposition in which we learn a whole lot of backstory (that we might not have expected unless Wonder Woman had her lasso of truth around him) and wind up sneaking around an underground S.H.I.E.L.D. base finding secret reports that show that "Dr. Wendy Lawson" was working on a special space-plane and died in a crash. They also find that Maria Rambeau, whom Vers had been seeing in her dreams, was involved in the project, and that Vers herself had been there, too.

This gives us the plot turn that gets us to the biggest "fan service" that is unique to Marvel's Captain marvel in their cinematic universe: Monica Rambeau.

In the comics, Mar-Vell dies of cancer in a graphic novel published in 1982 some years after exposure to a toxic gas. This meant that the "Captain Marvel" trademark now had no character to hold it.

By this time in America, if any group of five or so portrayed in the media did not include least one woman and one black person it was extremely behind the times. Marvel did not have many female superheros and even fewer black ones, and only one who was both, and she wasn't even American. So it was decided to make the new Captain Marvel an American black female.

This is Monica Rambeau's place in the Captain Marvel history. The fourth superhero of the name, the second one in the third company to publish a Captain Marvel. She was a strong, smart, beautiful black woman whom even Captain America trusted enough to make leader of the Avengers. She kind of got screwed over later, being replaced as leader of the Avengers and essentially forgotten as the name passed to another character and she changed her superhero name to "Photon."

Lashana Lynch's connection to Monica Rambeau had been made apparent from promotional photos showing her in the cockpit of a jet fighter displaying the name and callsign Maria "Photon." Rambeau. The assumption that she was Monica's mother was quickly and correctly made by the fan community, and speculation arose as to where Monica would fit in.

After a fun chase-and-fight scene that revealed that Fury's boss (Ben Mendelsohn) is really a shape-shifting Skrull, and that Vers can fly a "quad-jet" (presumably a precursor to the Avengers' Quinjet), Fury and Vers make their way to the home of Maria Rambeau and her daughter, Monica. It is in this act of the movie that Vers gets to deal emotionally with the issue of having been Carol Danvers and having had a life on Earth. Maria was a very close friend, and Carol even used to call her daughter "Lieutenant trouble," (a not to a character in the recent Captain Marvel comics written by Kelly Sue Deconnick in which there as a young girl given that nickname by Carol).

It is also in this act in which we get to know the Skrulls as surprisingly human and vulnerable people. Talos and his "Science Guy" show themselves as a flawed team of semi-competents and that there is a boatload of Skrull refugees hiding out somewhere, trying to get to a safe planet.

Oh, and BTW, Fury met a cat named "Goose" at the S.H.I.E.L.D. base who tags along with them, and the Skrulls call it a "Flerken," a thing of danger.

After a little bit of 90's nostalgia of waiting for a CD-ROM file to load, Carol finds out that Mar-Vell's research was in part to help those Skrull refugees and overall to make a new lightspeed engine out of the power of the teseract that could end the war between the Kree and the Skrulls. Vers has the necessary flashbacks to remember her life before she was a test pilot, that an explosion of Mar-Vell's experimental engine had bathed her in radiation that gave her super powers, and that Mar-Vell was shot by Yon-Rogg.

This reveal both pays tribute and turns on its head the comic book origins of Marvel's Captain Marvel and Carol Danvers as a superhero. It also finally gives Yon-Rogg what he always wanted but never achieved in the comics.

Yon-Rogg's jealousy of Mar-Vell was the guiding motivation in all his actions while Mar-Vell was under his command as a spy on Earth. He tried to kill him, either directly or by proxy, on a regular basis. It was practically the plot device of default for the first year of the character's existence. But he never succeeded, eventually sabotaging his own career. In an issue of Marvel's What If...? Yon-Rogg not only threw away his career, but his life as well trying to do away with his rival for Medic Una's attention and and honor and recognition from the Supreme Intelligence. But in this movie he managed to get the upper hand on Mar-Vell, both by killing her and by stealing her friend/protege and making that person a Kree soldier/weapon.

The explosion in question, in the comics, was of a Kree device activated by Yon-Rogg called a "psyce-magnitron." Mar-Vell rescued her from that explosion, protecting her with his body, a move that was later retroactively explained as allowing Kree DNA to be absorbed into her body (This is called "retroactive continuity" or a "retcon" in comic book fan/historian parlance). It was a secret device, retconned into having the power to enable people to realize their desires. In the movie the explosion was of a cosmic power source harnessed into an engine by Mar-Vell, activated by Carol Danvers shooting it to prevent Yon-Rogg from getting his hands on it t Mar-Vell's urging.

This places the event that gave Carol her powers the result of her own action and an act for which only she can take responsibility. It was not an accidental incident. Though she had no way of knowing what would happen, she could have chosen not to pull the trigger on her gun. She could have run and tried to not get killed or captured by the approaching alien (Yon-Rogg, whom she had not yet met). She could have chosen not to take Mar-Vell (whom she only knew as Wendy Lawson at the time) up on the irregular, unauthorized test flight. She could have chosen to give up the Air Force Academy when it looked like she couldn't take the training. She could have chosen not to join the academy, not get up when brushed back by that pitch in Little League, not driven the kiddie go-kart so fast. But that is not her. She gets up, she fights back.

This is consistent with her character in the comics. The reason she still exists as a superhero, and what makes her important and a good choice for a character to lead the surviving Avengers in the battle against Thanos, why she is (finally) a good female role model, is that no matter how bleak things have looked for her (and things have been pretty darn bleak, believe me), she somehow, eventually, came back took responsibility, and did something about it.

I don't have time to go point-by-point on the many setbacks of her life and career, but believe me, you would be hard pressed to find someone who has taken the type of risks and come back from as many and as deep personal low points as Carol Danvers. So maverick-ly helping a ground-breaking scientist and blowing up a secret energy source are not the toughest things she has ever done.

But it does take Mar-Vell out of the equation as a direct source of her powers. She is an indirect source, as Carol would not have been in that predicament without her, but she does not protect her from the explosion, rather drives her to the act that causes it. Yon-Rogg gives her more than that, directly. A transfusion of his blood was given that may have saved her life (hence the blue blood she bleeds through the movie). The Kree soldier becomes the mentor/trainer/superior officer to the young female amnesiac he "rescues" from that explosion, in the process becoming a big, fat, liar. He used her to try to find what Mar-Vell was hiding, what she was doing on Earth. It was definitely a long-term game (taking 6 years of Earth time) but in the end, in the movie, as in the comics, his plot backfired. "Vers" (the name given to her because that part of her name was all that was visible on the fragment of her Air Force dog tag that the Yon-Rogg found) became a super-powered, highly trained warrior who decided to defend the Earth and help the Skrull refugees.

The rest of the movie is a series of reveals, including the location of the Skrull refugees (in a hideout that had a remarkably, ironically, symbolically metaphorical collection of American pass-time devices, from pinball machines to jukeboxes to super-soakers) collection, the plots and plans of Yon-Rogg and Ronan the Accuser, The truth behind the Flerken, how Nick Fury lost his eye, the origin of the Avengers Initiative, the fact that the device on Carol's neck was an inhibitor, not an enabler, and the full extent of Carol's powers.

The emotional payoffs to all the setups is worth it. Maria and Monica and Carol have an emotional reunion of sorts when Carol's memory returns, Maria gets to go into battle with her old, returned friend. Monica gets to help Carol decide on the colors for her Kree Battlesuit (paying fan service to other Captain Marvel costumes in the process), and Yon-Rogg gets his comeuppance from the final final defiance of him by Carol.

A few final thoughts about this movie will come in the next post...

For those of you who want to see a whole bunch of Easter Eggs and references in once convenient, fast-paced video, check this out...