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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Topps Comics #1 (“Not to Be Opened Until X-Mas” / “A Dismemberance of Things Past”)

I’ve been thrilled to guest on The X-Cast over the past few years, and have really enjoyed digging into The X-Files with the guests and hosts. However, this is particularly thrilling, because it’s particularly geeky. The wonderful Tony Black asked me join him for a discussion of the first two stories published by Topps comics, Not to Be Opened Until X-Mas and A Dismemberance of Things Past, written by Stefan Petrucha and illustrated by Charlie Adlard.

I have made no secret of my long-standing affection for these comics. I think that they are probably among the very best licensed comic books ever published. So it was a delight to be asked to talk about them, and to get to geek out with Tony about these stories. There’s a lot of fun stuff here, including context about the comics industry in the nineties and the question of what was possible in a monthly tie-in to a weekly television series.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Escapist Video! On the Myth of a Grim and Gritty Batman…

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 every second Monday’s 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 content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the release of the latest trailer for The Batman, it seemed like a good time to delve into a recurring debate among Batman fans, the argument over whether portrayals of the character are too dark and gritty. It’s a strange argument, given that the only solo Batman movie in the past decade has been The LEGO Batman Movie, so it’s worth unpacking.

New Escapist Video! “Eternals is Flawed and Messy, But Also Beautiful – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of Eternals, which will release in theatres next weekend.

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 Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – Loki – “The Variant”…

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

This week, I join KC Nwosu and Amy Campbell to talk about the second episode of Loki, streaming on Disney+.

 

New Escapist Column! On the Horror of Joss Whedon’s “Justice League”…

I published a new column at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League this week, it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to take a look at the original theatrical cut of Justice League, which remains one of the worst blockbusters of the past decade.

What makes the theatrical cut of Justice League such an insidious film isn’t just what it is, although it is terrible on its own terms. It’s what the film represents. It’s a very conscious and very deliberate erasure of a distinct vision of an expensive creative project, in the hope of serving reheated nostalgic leftovers that fans might gorge themselves upon. It’s pure, empty, vacuous content – a pale imitation of what other companies do better, without a single unique perspective of its own.

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

New Escapist Column! On Why Chris Evans Returning to the MCU Would Be a Bad Idea…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Last week, there were rumours that Chris Evans might be returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following his departure in Avengers: Endgame.

This is interesting, because it potentially undermines one of the more interesting facets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. Comic books are largely shaped and defined by nostalgia, with beloved characters filling familiar roles in perpetuity, with any major change to the status quo eventually rolling back to the default. In contrast, a cinematic universe operates by different constraints: actors move on, age out and even die. This would force a long-form shared universe to evolve in a way that comics haven’t had to. This is a good thing, as evolution is necessary.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “WandaVision” Finds the MCU Coming to (and For) Television…

I published a new column at The Escapist last week, but didn’t get a chance to share it. With WandaVision now streaming on Disney+, it seemed like a good idea to take a look at it.

The most striking thing about WandaVision is how immersed it is in the language of television. Previous attempts to bring the MCU to television treated it as secondary to movies; Netflix shows like Daredevil or Iron Fist were treated as thirteen-hour movies, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter lived off scraps from the films that drove the shared universe. In contrast, WandaVision is not just a thriving celebration of television as a medium, it’s also an exploration of it. This is very firmly and very definitely the MCU coming to television.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Black Panther” and the Irreplaceable Chadwick Boseman…

I published a new piece at The Escapist today. With the announcement earlier in the week that Marvel Studios would not be replacing Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther 2, I took a look at why that was the right call.

The original Black Panther was a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, and Chadwick Boseman was a large part of that. The part T’Challa might eventually be recast in an alternate universe or in a reboot, but Boseman played the definitive version within the MCU. Replacing him would be equivalent to trying to replace Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans, both of whom were allowed to retire their characters at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Boseman deserves at least that respect.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Black Panther” and Childlike Wonder…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman over a week ago, I have been thinking a lot about Black Panther. In particular, what makes it special.

It isn’t simply that Black Panther was the first superhero movie on this scale to feature a predominantly black cast from a black director. It was also the extent to which director Ryan Coogler understood the power of superheroes. Very few superhero movies are written with an understanding of what superheroes represent and why they are important, instead often falling into the trap of power fantasies rather than empowerment fantasies. Black Panther is the rare superhero movie that dares to see its world through the eyes of a child, and is more powerful for that.

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