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New Escapist Column! On “What If…?” and “Mary Sues”…

I published a new column at The Escapist today. I’ve been covering What If…? for A Marvelous Escape, and it’s been a very fun experience. However, I have noticed that’s there’s a weirdly pervasive school of criticism that argues that the show has turned characters like Peggy Carter and T’Challa into “Mary Sues”, a criticism that has become increasingly common in discussions of modern franchise media.

Of course, it’s often very hard to come with a clear definition of what a “Mary Sue” is that doesn’t manage to encompass characters that the person using the description would never describe using such a term. It often seems like an “I know it when I see it” accusation, which can apply to Rey Skywalker but not Luke or T’Challa but not Steve Rogers. More to the point it demonstrates how blind some observers are to the appeal of these sorts of empowerment fantasies, and the double-standard that they appear to hold in an era where most franchise media is effectively fan fiction.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Black Widow” and the MCU’s Humour Problem…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Black Widow last weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at one of the film’s biggest issues and one of the biggest issues with the MCU in general: the question of tone.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is funny. It has always been funny. This is part of what distinguished it from a lot of its comic book movie contemporaries when it was released. However, as the universe has progressed and evolved, the “house style” has tended towards ironic and self-aware punchlines. Sometimes this approach works beautifully; many of the best Marvel Studios films are also the funniest. However, it can also serve as a distraction that lowers the dramatic stakes and undermines key character beats.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

242. (ii.) Captain America (-#65)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guest Andy Melhuish, The Bottom 100 is a subset of The 250. It is a journey through the worst 100 movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Albert Pyun’s Captain America.

Polio sufferer Steve Rogers is selected for a dangerous experiment that could turn the tide of the Second World War, being reborn as Captain America. When a mission behind enemy lines throws him into conflict with the Italian supervillain the Red Skull, Steve Rogers ends up trapped in the ice. However, he awakens just as his country needs him most.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 65th worst movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “M.O.D.O.K” as a Breath of Fresh Air…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday evening. With the release of M.O.D.O.K. on Hulu, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at this unusual addition to the Marvel television canon.

M.O.D.O.K. is not a perfect show, but it is a breath of fresh air. In particular, it arrives in a cultural landscape that is becoming increasingly homogeneous and consolidated, existing as one of the last projects produced by Marvel Television before it was swallowed by Marvel Studios. As such, it is a Marvel adaptation with a distinct aesthetic. More than that, it is a comic book adaptation that is completely and utterly unashamed of its comic book roots. It is a show that revels in the inherent absurdity of comic books in a way that puts many higher profile adaptations to shame.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Negative Space in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. As The Falcon and the Winter Soldier winds down its season, it seemed like a good opportunity to consider the show’s approach to the question: “What does Captain America stand for?”

It has been a turbulent few years for American identity, and it makes sense that a television about a character carrying the mantle of “Captain America” should have to figure out what that title means. The biggest issue with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that it defines the concept of “Captain America” in negative terms. The series is more preoccupied with what Captain America isn’t than what he actually and actively is.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – Falcon and the Winter Soldier – “The Whole World is Watching” Discussion…

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series. I’ll be joining the wonderful Jack Packard and the fantastic KC Nwosu to break down WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki as they come out.

This week, we take a look at the fourth episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which I continue to really like, even with some caveats about possible “both-sides-ism.” It’s continues to be an interesting and clever reworking of certain flawed elements of both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War.

New Escapist Column! On “Invincible” and the Future of Superheroic Storytelling

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of the first three episodes of Invincible on Amazon Prime on Friday, I thought it was worth taking a look at what the new show means.

Invincible makes a big step forward for Amazon. As Warners and Disney continue consolidating their superhero content under their established brands, other studios are going to have to find ways to compete in the superhero content wars. Invincible is a fascinating testcase: a lavish adult-skewing hour-long animated series that aims to deliver superhero spectacle with a character largely unknown to the larger public. If the chow can make an impact, it bodes well for studios without their in-house intellectual property farms.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On Zack Snyder’s DCEU as a Joyride Through Comic Book History…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to dig into the movie’s portrayal of Superman.

One of the more interesting aspects of Snyder’s work on Man of Steel, Batman v.s Superman and Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the sense in which it offers a capsule account of a certain stretch of comic book history, effectively dramatising the characters’ journey from the “dark ‘n’ gritty” comics inspired by Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns to the more aggressively and pointedly reconstructionist work of Grant Morrison on stories like Justice League or Final Crisis.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

226. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (#86)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Graham Day, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Zack Snyder’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Following the death of Superman, Batman sets about putting together a team of superheroes to fight a threat that is charging at Earth from across the cosmos.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 86th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Video! On the Multiverse is the Way of the Future…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at the emergence of the multiverse, which appears to be the future of various shared cinematic and television universe. Why is this idea suddenly so popular? What does it mean? What does it hold for the future?