I’ve given this one a bit of thought, and there’s no way to look at it that doesn’t equate to it being bad news for Marvel. Like, really bad news. More than any other creator, Brian Michael Bendis deserves the credit for making Marvel what it is today. Think back to the time before him, before his AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLES rewrote the rules. The Avengers, all of them, were second-string or even third-string characters. The idea of Iron Man being Marvel’s hottest property would have been laughable to any comics fan. Marvel had the X-Men, and after that they had Spider-Man, and then there was everything else, and the everything else got short shrift both by the creators and the readers. Bendis changed all that. Today, where the Avengers are the biggest thing in Marvel Comics, in comics in general, arguably, that’s due to what Bendis started, what he shaped.

Now Bendis has signed an exclusive deal with DC. He’s going to work for the Distinguished Competition. This is great news for DC and DC fans. It is potentially devastating for Marvel. Of the five “architects” who shepherded Marvel’s overall narrative the past few years, and made said narrative so damn good–Bendis, Aaron, Fraction, Brubaker, and Hickman–only Jason Aaron remains. The new creators that Marvel has brought in have not yet proven themselves to be worthy successors. And Marvel is going to need all the talented storytellers it can get. There’s Aaron. There’s Soule. There’s Slott. Who else they got? Who will be the new architects? And will they be up to the challenge? DC just got a LOT more formidable.

Racists raised hell over the casting of a black woman as Valkyrie. I didn’t know. I hadn’t heard anything. Nor does it matter. The racists claimed the movie would bomb, and it was a MONSTER hit. As for those people, Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, put it succinctly: They are “horrible people” who “should crawl back under the rock and stay there.” I concur completely.

What troubles me, though, is the possibility that not ALL the ones doing the bitching are racists. Some of them could be mere passionate fanboys. Is there any way *I* could ever be in agreement with them? I wouldn’t want to ever be found agreeing with the horrible people. Yet I have bitched myself over changes made to characters with a longstanding history. I was fine with Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. But was that because SHE was fine, i.e. that I found her gorgeous and effective in the role? No. I DID, but that isn’t why it didn’t bother me. Thompson’s character was identified as *A* Valkyrie, not necessarily the Valkyrie from the comics. (I believe THAT Valkyrie was shown briefly–being killed–in that flashback/memory scene with Hela.) But they made Heimdall a black guy, and in the comics he’s white, and I was fine with that. Is it only where more minor characters are concerned that I give moviemakers a pass? Aquaman isn’t a minor character, and I don’t mind that they made him Polynesian. I would, however, have raised holy hell if they’d made Captain America–Steve Rogers, that is–Asian, or Peter Parker Indian. I simply must admit to myself that sometimes it bothers me when they change characters’ histories, in this case their ethnicity, and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the character.

This isn’t BASED ON ethnicity, though. I’d raise an equal amount of hell if they made Black Panther a white guy. (Not that it could ever happen.) The comics depict the Panther as a black man. And I think they should have cast a partially Asian guy as Iron Fist, because the character in the comics is established as being part Asian. I’m a hardcore stickler for established continuity, period. Except when I’m not. And it seems particularly arbitrary for me.

Anyway, THOR RAGNAROK is amazing. Possibly the best Marvel movie yet. with perfect casting. Skin pigmentation never entered into my mind when I was watching it.

It would have, though, if the Hulk had been any color but green, so I guess SOMETIMES skin color matters.

A little time and distance–and the fact that I just got around to reading the final issue–have, I hope, lent greater clarity to my appraisal of the “event.” For all its controversy, and the fact that it felt a little drawn out to me, the ending was satisfying. It was great to see the real captain America come back and kick the sand out of fake Nazi Cap. Those who claimed that it somehow tarnished the character of captain America are, I believe, wrong. And now Nazi-pseudo-Cap is going to be a recurring villain, looks like. I dig it. With a white supremacist sympathizer in the White House and white supremacists marching in the streets, it seems fitting that we’d have this new villain to represent that. Two visions of America–of Captain America–one false, one true; one evil and one good; the one promising to stand, always stand, in staunch opposition to the other. That’s potent allegory, there. And those scenes in SECRET EMPIRE: OMEGA, which consisted of the real Cap and the fake Cap debating ideology, that was some powerful, heady stuff.

On the flip side, the whole thing would have worked better if Marvel hadn’t diluted the character by deciding to make the Falcon a Captain America, too. Now that we’re into LEGACY, will Marvel make like Kobik, the living Cosmic Cube, and put things right again, by restoring the historical characters to their rightful places? Tony Stark is Iron Man. Steve Rogers is Captain America. Bruce Banner is the Incredible Hulk. Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Sam Wilson is the Falcon. I’m not saying they should get rid of the “new” versions of those characters–although I despise Amadeus Cho as a Hulk. I just want them to stop trying to replace the characters I’ve always known and loved with new faces. There is room in the Marvel universe for all those characters–and for new superhero identities, too. (Hint, Marvel. Take a hint.)

I could wax nostalgic all day over “the good ol’ days” (which were for me the 1980s) and its pop cultural touchstones that no longer exist as such in our dreary modern world, and how said world is a sadder place for it. There are no more Saturday morning cartoons, since the basic networks are now required by law to air educational programming on Saturdays. Sure, some of those programs are pretty cool, the nature-based ones, and there are entire networks devoted to nothing BUT cartoons. AND all, or almost all, of those beloved series of yesteryear are available now on DVD, to watch anytime. Still, it isn’t the same. Kids today will never know what they missed out on.

Could these cartoons get made today, or has our homogenized, PC, nerves-on-edge, reactionary culture made that impossible? The TRANSFORMERS cartoon wouldn’t be able to get away with having its Arab villains come from a country called “Carbombia,” probably. And what about the SMURFS featuring black magic rituals that gave rise to claims that it was being controlled by Satanists? Claims that in-jokes in shows like HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE were some kind of homoerotic conspiracy, though, are stupid. They were just in-jokes. Would they keep the ‘toons from being made today? Um, hello, anybody ever heard of SOUTH PARK? Some of the cartoons mentioned by the article, though, like BEVERLY HILLS TEENS and RUDE DOG, I’d never even heard of. Are they sure those were made in the 80s?

I know I’ve been guilty of it, too, to some extent. We who make our livings by writing for the trusty ol’ Internet don’t get paid unless we get people to read the articles we post, and it’s a given that sensationalized or salacious posts get more attention. Also, the Internet has no kind of filter whatsoever, no levels or standards to which a writer must attain, as it is open to anybody and everybody, AND it seems much harder for people reading things on the Internet to tell what constitutes a REAL news item from what is nothing more than a digital WEEKLY WORLD NEWS puff piece–or worse, thinly veiled political propaganda, digital Fox News fare. I have never just “made up” stuff and posted it claiming it to be true. But I COULD. And I’ve for dang sure seen others doing it.

This here isn’t a fabrication, but it is a perfect example of a writer making hay out of nothing. Geoff Johns made a comment about DC not turning Superman into a Nazi. It was not a dig at Marvel and the recent SECRET EMPIRE storyline. Or if it was, it was a good-natured one. This article calls it a “pretty clear shot.” The only thing pretty clear to me is that it was a JOKE. And a case of a writer basing an article on misrepresenting it. But, hey, no harm, no foul, fellow Internet author. I know we gotta earn them clicks. And I DID just make my own hay out of YOUR post, so it’s all good.

IF Johns had made a dig at marvel, however, I would have had to point out that DC itself lives in a lofty house of fragile glass. Was Marvel making Captain America a Nazi really any more of a misstep than Red Superman/Blue Superman? Methinks not.

The first six pages of the upcoming DOOMSDAY CLOCK title from DC Comics were released at the recent New York Comic Con. This isn’t just the smash-up to end all smash-ups, though, with the heroes of the DC Universe meeting the characters from the WATCHMEN Universe. This is going to be in fact the official sequel to WATCHMEN. Some fans are way excited and some think it’s a terrible idea, that the classics should be left well enough alone and that, as Alan Moore is not involved in the project, it is somehow “dishonest.” While having Alan onboard would have been awesome, he has no interest in revisiting this property or of playing in the DC sandbox again. And the project has less of the feel of a simple stunt. Geoff Johns has been waiting, letting the story gestate, waiting until it was ready to be told.

It is ALSO a savvy stunt, guaranteed to garner publicity. At a time when Marvel’s stock has dropped–and I’m speaking of the comics, here; ironically the Marvel Cinematic universe has soared, its unprecedented success in direct proportion to the slump in sales of the comic books that inspired it–the time is perfect for DC to knock one out of the park. This may well be the big one that DC needs to put it back at the top of the sales chart.

…not where its DC properties are concerned, it doesn’t. Jared Leto and Leonardo Dicaprio are BOTH supposed to play the Joker? Say what, now? And they’ve made the announcement that future DC movies won’t be tied into the “shared” continuity of JUSTICE LEAGUE, basing that decision on the standalone success of WONDER WOMAN. Wait. WONDER WOMAN is an integral part of that shared cinematic universe. So the upcoming Batman movie may star Ben Affleck, who plays Batman in the shared JUSTICE LEAGUE universe, but may not be a part of that universe? And the WONDER WOMAN sequel won’t be a part if it? What the ever-lovin’ hell?! Maybe they mean they just won’t connect the films together too tightly, that they’ll all exist in the same universe but the characters won’t interact as much. That would be okay. But if they go and try to create a DC cinematic MULTI-verse, that ain’t gonna fly. I mean, technically they’ve already got one. The Christopher Reeve Superman movies don’t take place in the JUSTICE LEAGUE universe, nor do Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight flicks. But nobody tried to keep those different franchises afloat at the SAME TIME.

On a side note, Joss Whedon’s retooling of the JUSTICE LEAGUE film is said to have been more significant than we were previously led to believe. He cut Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, and even Darkseid from the film completely, if rumors are to be believed. All these moves, excepting Darkseid, make sense. Does the removal of the secret, primary villain from the film mean that WB is planning on ending the current continuity rather than continuing it? Does having no major villain waiting in the wings equal no plans for a sequel? If so, how the hell are they gonna explain WONDER WOMAN?

This article takes a rather grim position, yet it does speak truth. Marvel is in a sales slump. There are various reasons why this is so. There’s no one thing you can put your finger on. We can say with accuracy that Big M has been mismanaged these last couple’a few years. Revising the universe every month or three, relaunching titles ad nauseam. On a personal level, I can testify to the practice that has driven me away: the forced diversity initiative. Removing established characters and replacing them with new politically correct ones, just for the sake of having more female characters, gay characters, minority characters, yadda yadda yadda. Marvel, in trying to attract new readers, has alienated many of its old ones. And, like I said, that’s just ONE thing the company is doing wrong.

Over at DC, meanwhile, things are certainly, um, interesting. Whether you like the current storyline or you don’t, you can’t say it isn’t interesting. A whole slew of Bat-men. All evil. Why? Why not! Which one is your favorite? The Doomsday Batman is awful dang cool, I say. But the Joker Batman has my heart. And we’re getting ready to see Superman throw down with Dr. Manhattan from WATCHMEN. Yeah, right now DC is the one drawing my attention. Marvel should–and no doubt, will–take a lesson from it.

I could summon a little more enthusiasm, I reckon, considering that it isn’t REALLY the return of the Fantastic Four we’re talking about. Not yet. It’s the return of Marvel-Two-In-One, a comic I used to love as a kid. It featured the Thing in a team-up with a different character every month or couple of months. It was fun and entertaining. It hits the old nostalgia button.

Can I just be honest? I was never that interested in Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. The Thing and the Human Torch were the characters I cared about, so the fact that the new Marvel-Two-In-One series will focus exclusively on the two of them sits just fine with me. Whether it does, as promised, lead to the eventual return of the Fantastic Four to the Marvel Universe or whether it doesn’t, I don’t care. Johnny and Ben getting their own shared comic book excites me.

Is there any way Marvel could make the Fantastic Four viable again? Even before those three awful, awful, awful movies, the team had slipped way down on the list of prominence for comic-reading fans. The book had not been “The world’s greatest comic magazine!” in a long, long time.

The new Marvel-Two-In-One series debuts this December, with Chip Zdarsky writing and artwork by Jim Cheung.

I loved THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. It came out when I was a little kid obsessed with comic books and superheroes–as opposed to being an adult who is obsessed with comic books and superheroes, but nowadays I’m a little more picky about my entertainment choices. Not that I wouldn’t love, or have loved, I guess I should say, THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO if it had first come out today. It’s hard to say for sure. So much of the charm of the series was its 80s aesthetic. (As a little bit of trivia, the name of the lead character was changed from “Hinckley” to “Hanley” after John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981.) I’ve wondered how long it would be before somebody decided to remake the series. Personally I’d hoped for a theatrical movie. Instead there’s going to be a new television series. I’d be more excited about this news than I am if I hadn’t also learned that the new series will feature a female lead character, of Indian descent. In other words, it’s going to be another case of PC anti-whitewashing.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t give a rip about the gender or the ethnicity of any given character. It’s continuity I care about. The GAH is a white male. That’s established continuity. Now if this series were to take place in the same universe as the original and constituted not a “reimagining” but a continuation, I’d be fine with it. A new hero taking over for the original. They could even get William Katt, star of the original series, to appear. I’d be down with that. As it is, the changing of the gender and race of the lead character smacks of tokenism, and that’s a shame.

I’m probably more concerned about this than I should be, as I doubt this news series will fly, anyway. But it wrecks the chances for a THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO movie. Not that, if a movie were to be made, it would possibly bear any resemblance to the show I loved as a kid, anyway.