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I was actually surprised to find that I liked Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). In its own way, it is reminiscent of Black Panther (2018) starring the incomparable Chadwick Boseman. There was a similar worldbuilding based on various Marvel comic book concepts and many wonderfully endearing characters. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the original 1970s Master of Kung Fu comic books started by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi was the estranged son of Dr. Fu Manchu, a pulp fiction character created by Sax Rohmer in 1913.
The series began by introducing Shang-Chi as a man raised by his father Dr. Fu Manchu to be the ultimate assassin for the would-be world conqueror. In Shang-Chi’s first mission, he kills one of his father’s old enemies, Dr. Petrie and then learns of Dr. Fu Manchu’s true, evil nature. Disillusioned, Shang-Chi swears eternal opposition to his father’s ambitions and fights him as an agent of British intelligence, under the orders of Sir Denis Nayland Smith.
In the early 1970s, Chinese Kung Fu movies were huge in the west as was Bruce Lee. There was even a disco song called Kung Fu Fighting. In addition, there was a television series called Kung Fu starring David Carradine.
I finally got around to watching Captain Marvel (2019) last night. I said previously, I probably wouldn’t view this film until it came out on DVD, which is exactly what happened. I reserved it at my local public library but had to wait until over 100 other people, who also had it held, watched it before it was my turn.
Even before I saw the movie, when it was still out in theaters, I wrote commentaries about the controversy surrounding the film thanks to actress Brie Larson’s (who stars in the title role) injecting her personal issues into the public marketing of both this movie and Avengers: Endgame (2019). I’ve tried to the best of my ability to be objective in my review, but unfortunately, Larson’s “personality” sometimes got in the way. As it turned out, so did Disney’s/Marvel’s apparent viewpoint.
Photo credit: Ingrid Endel
If Senegalia were human, she would look like an eleven-year-old girl, but even though she was the youngest in her family, she was over three-hundred-years old.
That’s not as long as it seems, since for the first one-hundred-and-fifty years after emerging from her pupa stage, she fluttered about the nest, and later, the verdant wooded high-canopy with the other overly curious and somewhat clumsy adolescents, a collection of fireflies, each glowing some shade of amber, sapphire, emerald, or ruby, no larger than three-year-old children, cavorting nude, for clothing was a human concern, and existing in a state both being careless and carefree.
For Senegalia, she believed her life was one of eternal play with the other nestlings, gossamer wings fluttering as fast as invisibility, racing around the feusha blooms, dodging errant moonbeams, their overarching background of earth tones and the deep greens of a mythical rain forest, competing to be the fastest, the most acrobatic, and certainly majestically fearless fliers. Of course, the grown-ups were always watching them, secure in the knowledge that they were all safe in the fantasy pocket universe, nestled in a depression of local timespace right next to the larger quantum reality of their greatest enemy, humans.
This is the final page of the main story of the Fantastic Four’s third annual issue, dated 1965. It was written by Stan Lee (1922-2018), drawn by Jack Kirby (1917-1994), inked by Vince Colletta (1923-1991), and lettered by Artie Simek (1916-1975).
You can read about the plot points at marvel.wikia.com. Scroll down for more.
From the final page of the main story in the 1965 Fantastic Four annual issue 3
In the early days of their collaboration on the Fantastic Four, Stan and Jack used to humorously inject themselves in a few of the stories. In the final panels, the Fantastic Four creators attempt to “crash” Reed and Sue’s wedding and are shown the door by no less than Nick Fury, the head of SHIELD.
I tried to think of an iconic image worthy of commemorating Stan Lee’s passing yesterday, and this is what I came up with. Really, no single comic book cover, image, or anything else can completely capture his legacy.
I’ve written about the modern state of mainstream comic books before (DC, Marvel) including how at least some of them aren’t safe for children, and the whole comicsgate vs. social justice comic books drama. Some of this still pops up in my twitter stream, though I don’t respond because, why bother? Still, I do consider the state of the industry as it relates to some of the movies I watch (I caught Deadpool 2 on DVD the other day). And that takes me back to the comic books I used to read, many years…okay, decades ago.
I’ve read some things about the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, which seems interesting, and maps to the original Ms. Marvel comic book of the 1970s, based on a non-superpowered Carol Danvers who appeared in 1968 in this comic book:
Here, Captain Marvel was an alien spy, obeying the commands of his Kree overlords in a spaceship orbiting the Earth, but eventually, he used his space suit’s powers to help human beings, bringing his loyalty into question. Not long afterward, he got a make over and turned into this:
A public service announcement published in a DC comic book in the early 1960s
I’ve heard of this thing called Comicsgate, and after doing a bit of reading, discovered it’s pretty much the same sort of critter that launched the efforts of the Sad Puppies a few years back.
Allegation: The mainstream comic book industry (DC, Marvel) is overrun by Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) forcing their very narrow agenda down the throats of all comic book readers, no matter how totally unrealistic it is, so we independent comic book creators will fight back by creating more classic heroes of our own.
You can find out more about this perspective by following Jon Del Arroz’s twitter feed, particularly THIS and THAT.
Counter-allegation: Conservative, white, racist trolls want to destroy all participation of strong women heroes, people of color, LGBTQ+ writers, artists, and characters, and all other marginalized and vulnerable populations in comic books so comics are totally owned by white people, and we have to stop them.
You can read about Bill Sienkiewicz rebuttal at “The Mary Sue” (a fairly biased publication) as well as on his twitter feed HERE.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) movie poster
Yesterday, my nine-year-old grandson and I saw the film Ant-Man and the Wasp starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, and the amazingly cute Abby Ryder Fortson.
I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum but I can’t promise to conceal everything.
I read another review of the film (and sadly, I must confess I can’t remember where) which said the movie was the story of three fathers, Scott Lang (Rudd), Hank Pym (Douglas) and Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), each trying to save their own daughters, although Foster isn’t biologically Ava’s (Hannah John-Kaman) Dad.
After seeing the movie, I’d say that’s a fair analysis, and as a Dad and Grandpa, I enjoyed this aspect of the film, especially since all three men are depicted as heroes, which is somewhat rare in today’s entertainment industry.
Of course, all three are flawed in some way, and they wouldn’t be interesting if they weren’t. Scott, for all of his good intentions, manages to screw up almost everything he tries for a good part of the film, but manages to redeem himself in the end.