30 Day Challenge: Day 1

Hello, WordPress. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. I’ve had a very interesting and complicated Summer sans Internet. Maybe I’ll talk about it as part of this thing I’ve decided to do:

Completely stolen from a lovely lady who blogs over here. I figured it’d be a good way to get back into writing and blogging without having a big, long emo-post. So, here we go.

30 Days Challenge:

Day 1: 5 interesting facts about yourself.
Day 2: The meaning behind your name.
Day 3: About your friends.
Day 4: About your family.
Day 5: A photo of something you really hate.
Day 6: A song that makes you cry.
Day 7: Your crush.
Day 8: Something you hate about yourself.
Day 9: Your definition of love.
Day 10: Your best friend.
Day 11: A letter to one of your exes.
Day 12: Your favorite female group.
Day 13: Your least favorite female group.
Day 14: Something you love about yourself.
Day 15: What you would if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant.
Day 16: A photo that makes you smile.
Day 17: A photo that makes you want to cry.
Day 18: A letter to someone you miss.
Day 19: A habit you wish you didn’t have.
Day 20: A letter to your parents.
Day 21: Short goals you wish to fulfill by the end of the month.
Day 22: Your nicknames & why you have them.
Day 23: What you would find in your bag.
Day 24: A song that makes you smile.
Day 25: How you found out about blogger & why you made one.
Day 26: First 10 songs to play on shuffle on your iPod.
Day 27: Your fashion style.
Day 28: What attracts you to someone.
Day 29: Future plans/goals.
Day 30: Who are you?

I’ll try to do this every day, but I know me. I probably won’t. Anyway:

Day 1: 5 interesting facts about yourself.

Well, here’s the one I usually keep in reserve for questions like this and drunken nights out:

I. I have been in a romantic relationship that included three other people. I won’t go into all the ins and outs of how it works. Here’s the Internet oracle if you’re curious. The basic philosophy of poly is that anything goes so long as it’s open and agreed upon beforehand.

I was 22 and just out of a 6-year relationship. I had this friend who I’d had a sneaky little crush1 on for years, and after an overly self-indulgent mourning period, stuff started to happen between us.

When it became apparent than it was a less-than-casual relationship, I was introduced to her slightly scary husband and eventually his girlfriend. Now, if you think things are dramatic in a relationship with two emotionally unpredictable people, just try it with 4.

Although I do believe that with the right mix of people with the right attitudes, it is a relationship model that can work, I’m not sure if I would ever do it again. Ultimately, my self-worth was torn up pretty badly by that whole experience, and I’m not eager to repeat it.

Let’s move on to something a little more cheerful, shall we?

II.  I’m writing my first novel. It is taking years as I tend to dip into it around procrastination, work and relationship drama.

It’s a story about a girl2, Laura, who is just coming out of a shitty relationship – the latest in a long line. Not too long after (following an inadvisable nightclub dalliance), she finds herself dating her boss, George, who she’s had a crush on for all the years she’s been working at his magazine. Unfortunately, things take a turn for a worse, as it seems that he’s involved in a violent power struggle with creatures that just aren’t really real. Right? And even then, Laura’s journo-sense tells her that there’s still more to George than meets the eye…

I’ve always wanted to write, and my dissertation was around the evolution of vampires in modern fiction (pre-Twilight, thankyouverymuch). I want to see one book with my name on it before I die. It’s the one ambition and dream I always come back to. It’s slow going, but I’m making it happen.

III. I don’t really understand hetero-normative men. Not even a little.

That isn’t to say I don’t have the same drives or desires as your typical hombre. Quite the reverse. Nonetheless, ever since I was a little boy I’ve felt very much apart from the strongly-masculine, football-loving, beer-swilling stereotypes I was exposed to. I’ve always had female friends while being completely baffled by representatives of my own sex.

I get a lot of pleasure from romantic comedies. If you say please, I’ll let you laugh at my “Rainy Tuesday” guilty pleasure movie.

I react to things (everything) with emotion. Where society perhaps suggests that a man should react in anger or aggression, I’ll react in sadness and half a chocolate cheesecake. It has led to my being “friendzoned” or taking the “gay friend” role in the life of some wonderful women, but then I have some amazing friends. You win some, you lose some.

It’s just the way I am, really. That amongst other things make me not quite fit in the little mining town I was born into, and so I travel. Which leads me to…

IV. I’m an Englishman in Mexico teaching English to Mexicans.

At the risk of being too navel-gazy about it, I think I’m running away from the very settled, local life that my brother and family still enjoy. Much as I love my family, I get terribly claustrophobic in that environment. I wanted to experience things, go places, meet people and have the kind of life I’ve read about in books. So I am. I’ve always had an affinity for words and language, so this is how I chose to do it.

Eventually, I want to have kids who have a life that is incomparable to their grandparents’. I want my grandchildren to do more still. I want my life to have made an impression on the world, even if it’s just an ant’s footprint.

V: I’m a geek. It’s perhaps not the most interesting thing to put into one of these, but it’s a huge identifier in who I am. On any given evening I will be procrastinating from housework, paid work or novel work with any one of the following:

Video games, science-fiction and fantasy anything, comic books, comic book movies, book-books, roleplaying (given an English-speaking geek community), blogging (hi!), watching YouTube videos about the above, Supernatural, The Big Bang Theory, posting on forums, Doctor Who, LARP, card games, board games, anything with Felicia Day in it… the list goes on.

Meddlers

This fact comes with this extra bonus fact: I used to be really fat.

I didn’t set out to be geeky, but when I hit university, I tried all  the things that seemed cool to me and kept doing them. I don’t really care that they’re not mainstream, or even that some are. I pretty much bumble along doing what I enjoy, making mistakes and hoping for the best. Hell, it’s why I’m sitting on my bed in Latin America rather than getting ready to go to my call centre job in South Yorkshire. Plans are for wimps. 😉

I hope you feel enlightened by all this. Comments welcome. Tune in again tomorrow!

______________________________________________________________

1 Although I say “sneaky little crush,” I am aware that subtlety and emotional guardedness are not weapons I hold in my arsenal. It’s was almost certainly common knowledge long before anything happened.
2 See Fact III.

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Avengers 2: Who Gets an Invite?

With The Avengers being the cinematic behemoth that it is, thoughts are already turning to the future, which is something I also talked about a little in my own review. I don’t want to talk about villains, as that seems pretty obvious at this stage. I do want to talk about who’ll be on the next team – as rolling recruitment is kind of a trademark of the comic book Avengers. Let’s go one-by-one, shall we?

Spider-Man

New New Spidey

Here and now, I’d like to take a bet for there being an Avengers reference (at least one) in the new Spidey movie. Seriously – any takers? Okay, let’s do this in bullet-point form:

  • Spidey is probably Marvel’s most popular hero and is therefore valuable property
  • In the comic books, Spidey had a big role to play in the Civil War storyline. This is almost certainly coming, what with Fury’s last discussion with the council, and Maria Hill’s very presence
  • He has a new movie franchise and comic book under the Marvel Studios header
  • It would be stupid not to

Okay, that last one was just me. That said, I can’t see Fury, who has taken Pete under his wing in recent adaptations1, not doing exactly the same thing in the Movieverse. It just seems too obvious not to happen.

Wolverine/X-Men

New New X-Men

The problem with using the Movie X-Men in the Avengers is: which X-Men do they use? Is Mystique the transsexual from Ugly Betty or Blue Katniss? Is Xavier an old Yorkshireman or a young Scot? If it’s the guys from First Class, then the older X-Men are relegated to a not-so near future or to inexistence. Many of the old crew have moved on or away from the franchise. Do you really think they’d come back? Even assuming their deaths could be retconned.

No. These guys are not going to come back.

Wolverine is the only X-Man I can see work in this situation. As an effectively immortal character, the chronology of the movies doesn’t really matter.

Whether Logan would be interested, on the other hand, is another story altogether.

If (as I hope), the First Class franchise becomes a reboot, rather than a prequel, then Jackman has already been established as that universe’s Wolverine. So that’s all fine.

As another popular Marvel property with movies in the pipeline, it would make a lot of sense. Hugh Jackman is both hot and the only actor still dedicated/contracted to the Marvel U. I could see him on the team as a little sand in the comfortable Avengers family at any future Shawama get-togethers.

 

 

 

The Pyms

Or, by their hero names, the Wasp and Yellowjacket/Ant-Man/Giant-Man/etc.

The Wasp would be a welcome addition in breaking up the very male atmosphere in the Marvel Movieverse at the moment. That said, she brings her husband with her.

Janet is a sweet, attractive2, girly-girl with an interest in fashion design. She would make a nice contrast to the all-business Black Widow and Maria Hill, though she does have one problem: her powers suck. In every adaptation, the writers struggle to justify her membership. She needs to have a compelling character or it just won’t work. Basically, I can only see Mr. Whedon doing her justice.

Hank is another problem altogether. Is he a pacifist, a wife-beater or just an utter failure? In any event, is this a person you want in your three-hour action extravaganza. I think they should have a guest-shot in another movie (a la Black Widow) or just be skipped altogether. They’re screen hogs for little reward. In my humble opinion, of course.

Ms. Marvel

We’re equals. Honest.

Putting aside her ridiculously-exploitative costume for a moment, as another female staple of the comic book Avengers, Ms. Marvel seems like something of an obvious choice.

  • Her origin and powers are tied up with aliens who made an appearance in the movie
  • In her most recent adaptations, she is an employee of SHIELD or a SHIELD-related organisation
  • She’d be another female Avengers
  • She wouldn’t take an awful lot of introduction, perhaps with a post-Avengers cameo in another movie with alien equipment
  • She could give Thor and Iron Man a run for their money

She was introduced recently in the Avengers cartoon (Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) and was pretty effective. I don’t think you Captain Marvel to make her work, either.

 War Machine  

A black Iron Man with a self-righteous stick up his arse? Yes please!

Seriously, though, I think if he gets more screen time in Iron Man 3 being something other than Tony’s Jiminy Cricket, I think he could work, but doesn’t his similar power set make him more than a little redundant? Maybe replacing Tony during the civil war? Now that could be interesting, if a bit repetitive of Iron Man 2.

 Black Panther

Gimpsuit Batman

Panther tends to appear as a late-addition Avenger in recent adaptations. The Ultimates and Avengers: EMH, to name but two. Let’s describe him in one-sentence, shall we? He looks like Gimpsuit Batman, has his own country he talks about all the time (if he talks at all) and is completely uncharismatic in a team setting, simply adding another dextrous fighter to a team of superhumans. Sounds like a winner, right? Yeah, not my first choice. The only advantage would be the addition of a little colour to the group. I’d like to see a little less racial and sexual homogeny on the team.

Conclusion

The Avengers, as they stand at the moment, are all beautiful, white and have American accents (whether American, Russian or Asguardian). They’re also mostly men. The addition of characters like Ms. Marvel or Black Panther would change that, which in my eyes can only be an advantage.

There are other characters I might suggest to fill the demographics, of course, but I’m really really loathe to see Halle Berry as po-faced Storm again, and Luke Cage is just a downgraded Hulk wrapped in a out-dated stereotype. 

Spidey, Ms. Marvel and Wolverine are my choices in that order. With the nose-dived Fantastic Four and Elektra, I don’t think there are many other choices right now. I guess part of our answer will come with Marvel’s ‘Mystery Project’ we keep hearing about. I pray it’s an Agents of SHIELD movie. That would allow those characters to get more airtime, while we visit other parts of the Marvel Universe. That’d be an awesome intro for a character I haven’t thought of.

David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury back in the day. A dark, dark day. Try not to weep.

So what about you? What characters would you like to see in the new Marvel movie? Perhaps a cameo from Nick Fury Sr.? 

1 Specifically the Ultimate Comics Universe and the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon.
2 Like all female comic book characters, really.

The Compulsory Avengers Opinion Post with Huge Spoilers

The Avengers is probably the biggest geek movie to come out since the best-forgotten Star Wars prequels. As such, the Internet is awash with opinions, reviews, analyses and hopes for the future. Of course, as a paid up member of geek society, I have to throw my voice into the fray. Rather than give you a long-winded version of my opinion (awesome and planning a “Marvel Movies Marathon” in the near future), I wanted to look at how the massive cast have each been handled in this behemoth of a crossover.

Iron Man

Tony Stark is the most defined character so far, having one movie under his belt after his origin story. The Iron Man in The Avengers is exactly the Iron Man we’ve come to expect. Though he’s less of a womaniser due to the much-delayed relationship with Pepper, he is still arrogant, charming and the clear choice as leader and to have a monologue battle with the god of mischief. His portrayal is completely consistent with what we’ve seen before, and he is completely believable as the future driving-force of the superhero team (if the cartoon and movie ending are anything to go by).

Best moment

Whenever he’s talking. Stark is the star here, not Iron Man.

Captain America

The first Avenger is a tricky one to pitch, tonally. He can either be an arrogant soldier, smug in the mistakes made since he fell into the ice and idol to the ‘new kids’, or he can be a slightly-racist grandpa who can kick your ass. In comics-speak, we have the 616 and Ultimate portrayals, respectively. The Avengers movie, which is the first time we see him in the modern world, seems to have taken the middle road.

Cap makes the odd comment about the mistakes in the intervening years, and is clearly and regularly baffled by the modern world. Nonetheless, he reminds us that not everyone from our past was a racist ass and shows strength of character in not constantly disavowing the modern age. Rather, he does what he has always done best, and lets the others deal with the stuff he doesn’t understand. This portrayal is by far my favourite, staying well away from the dull, boyscout portrayals of Superman or the X-Men’s Cyclops from their respective franchises.

Best moment

Cap: “It seems to run on some kind of electricity.”

Iron Man: “Well, you’re not wrong.”

Thor

Perhaps the most difficult character to make interesting to a wider audience, it helps that he is being played by an utterly beautiful man. Seriously, let’s all take a moment to think about Chris Hemsworth…

Hot Thor

Are you back? Good. Now, after a surprisingly-popular origin movie, Thor is back with his troublesome drama-queen of a brother and all his Asgardian issues to boot. As a second “slightly uncomfortable in the modern world” character, one might think he was treading the same ground as Captain America. Really, though, he stands as a middle-ground between the highly-powered, faceless heroes (Iron Man, Hulk) and the street-level, quipping heroes (the rest). Thor can slap around Fing Fang Foom in the same costume he wears to verbally bitch slap other Avengers in the briefing room. Thor is Superman with personality, and a perfect foil for an armour-powered Stark and a grounded Captain America.

Best moment

Thor: He’s my brother
Natasha Romanoff: He killed 80 people in 2 days
Thor: …He’s adopted

Black Widow

Speaking of beautiful people…

Black Widow: just eye-candy?

The biggest obstacle Ms. Johansson had to face in this movie was in being labelled the ‘eye-candy’. As the only card-carrying female Avenger, she has a lot of responsibility to the female fans not to let the side down. Luckily, she has the most complex and morally ambiguous character of them all.

The discussion of debts and the way she bluffs Loki are enigmatic as hell. While some reviews have said that the SHIELD Avengers suffer a disservice in not having their own movies, I would say that it adds more to their characters as spies that their pasts are not completely unveiled at this point. I can’t wait to see more of her in the future and see what she’s going to do next as, unlike the other Avengers, I genuinely have no idea.

Best Moment

Her opening scene with the Russian gangsters. “Super spy” indeed.

Also, talking down Banner in his typical middle-of-nowhere medical practice.

Hawkeye

Perhaps the least well-known of the Avengers, Hawkeye avails himself well; first as an unwitting accomplice, and then as a revenge-seeking super-spy. His complicated and thankfully not romantic relationship with Natasha keeps us entertained, and allows us to get insight into both characters. I think an “Agents of SHIELD” movie would actually be an awesome watch at this stage.

Best moment

His best moments are as a guerilla invader while he’s working for the bad guys. His anger after the fact, too, makes us feel like he is actually one of the scarier Avengers.

Nick Fury

As one of the characters who ties the universe together, we’ve seen Fury mainly in a cameo capacity. Finally, we get to see Sammy Jackson show off his moves. In the fight seens, we really see why he became the director of SHIELD. He’s controlled, cool and Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson. What else do you need to know?

Best moment

The ones where he’s on the screen.

Phil Coulson

Another oft-cameoed character comes into his own in this movie. Coulson was created for this Marvel Universe, and has been authoritative in his role as exposition-monkey. Coulson is, as Clark Gregg described him, “the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent”. He’s a company man down to the bone, and here we get to see him in his natural environment. A man born to be an agent of SHIELD, it’s appropriate that his name should be the driving force behind the Avengers initiative. When the big badass is unavailable, he puts his best man on it. That’s Phil.

Wikipedia assures me we haven’t seen the last of him. I really hope it’s true.

Best moment

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the one.

Maria Hill

I’m a big fan of How I Met Your Mother, so I was surprised and excited to see Robin Scherbatsky’s Cobie Smulders on Avengers cast lists this year. Kicking ass in a skin-tight catsuit, Maria is everything her sitcom lookalike would love to be.

Maria Hill is the only other female character in the film, and comports herself with confidence and strength. Of the humans Nick Fury turns to, Maria is in the top two. We got to see enough of her to know she’s a badass, a great SHIELD agent and a possible foil for a future movie.

Speaking in comic book terms, she was a character designed to disagree and ultimately replace Nick Fury. With that in mind, I expect to see a lot more of her in upcoming Marvel U movies.

Best moment

When she’s the one a wounded Nick Fury calls to fix the problem he couldn’t.

Loki

“I love a museum benefit, darling, don’t you?”

To paraphrase Tony Stark (because I can’t find the quote on Google), Tom Hiddleston is everything America expects an English villain to be. He a camp, over-the-top diva who is utterly evil and wants nothing more than the downfall of the United States (and, as a result, the world). Surprisingly, this is not a criticism. Loki camps it up as an immortal, power-hungry monster as only an ancient god can. As a man with huge power, a thirst for revenge and (as he sees it) a divine and immutable right to rule the  world, there is no other way to play it than scene-chewingly angry. He faces every challenge with a curved lip or victorious smile. I loved every second he was on-screen. Even more so once defeat becomes inevitable.

Best moment

Either his face-off with Stark or his attempt to do the same with the Hulk. Evil villainy at its campy best.

Bruce Banner/Hulk

The biggest out-of-the-part success for me. This almost feels like it should be a discussion of two characters, and not just one. So let’s start with Banner.

Mark Ruffalo compares well to the two actors who preceded him in the role, I think. And that sentence is exactly why: he has to be awesome in comparison. So let’s get that out of the way first.

Emo Banner and giant green baby Hulk. ‘Nuff said.

Eric Bana was an irritatingly depressed Banner with no great personality and even less reason for the audience to care. He was miserable, passive and a bore to watch. Unfortunately, the big green monster wasn’t much better, and was barely relevant to the character Bana had painstakingly defined as miserable, pointless sop.

For Science!

Edward Norton is an amazing actor. If you’ve seen Fight Club, I think you’ll find it difficult to disagree with me. His Banner has self-control as a watch word, and has trained himself to be as hidden as possible from the world at large.

“Exactly right”, you might say. This first remake made a big point of being inspired by the much-loved Bill Bixby series of the ’70s and ’80s, even having the long-dead actor himself make an appearance. It was, indeed, a far superior movie to the much-maligned Eric Bana version. The monster was terrifying, and the man tried to keep him caged at all costs.

One element is missing, however. The Hulk’s rampages are only engaging if you give a damn about the man inside the monster. Eric Norton is a wonderful, intense actor. He can plumb the depths of character that other actors fail to even reference. What he is not, however, is a likeable everyman. The point of his character in Fight Club is that he’s a little “off” despite his mundane surroundings. That character, much like Norton’s Banner, is never a character we can like and empathise with. He’s just a little too “off”; too intense. It’s a criticism that hadn’t occurred to me until I saw Ruffalo’s performance in The Avengers.

Ruffalo’s Banner is initially introduced as a difficult mission for Black Widow. It’s her job to “bring in the big guy”. Nonetheless, when we meet him in Nameless Third World Village Number Three, we find a timid, kind and mild-mannered man you wouldn’t look at twice in the street. This is compared to the Banners of Bana and Norton, who you might cross the street to avoid on a dark night.

So, this Banner is kind-hearted, but when issues of anger-management or past sins arise, we see his facial muscles tighten and eyes focus. We see that this is a man of great resources and personal strength. He is a man of self control.

Indeed, when he threatens to release his self control in the lab, when he loses it in the Helicarrier’s underbelly, and when he focusses it on the battlefield we find ourselves afraid as an audience. Banner is a strong man in his own way, holding back the tide of his fury.

Best moment

“That’s my secret: I’m always angry.”

Big green pirate with a metal parrot on his shoulder.

On to “the other guy”, then. This is a Hulk with a sense of humour, of honour and with a dislike for campy British acting, apparently. The thing that this Hulk has over the other two modern incarnations is personality. Save a penchant for women called Betty, the other two Hulks are all anger. Granted, that is the bottom line of the character, but if that were all, he’d just be another villain. In Ruffalo’s Hulk we have a monster with ties to the man we’ve spent time getting to know and like.

In punching Thor, flattening Loki, saving Iron Man and grinning at the word “smash”, we have neither a mindless monster nor a bulked-up Banner. We have a monster with all of the drives and feelings of the man, but with all the instincts and limits of a monster. This is a monster who smashes the thing that pissed him off, rather than just smashing because he’s pissed off. Despite his first, terrifying appearance, we’re rooting for a big, green hero in this movie, rather than a persecuted Frankenstein’s monster.

This is by far the best Hulk I’ve seen. He even beats the mulletted body-builder I remember from childhood reruns. This personality-imbued Hulk is one I’m dying to see again, which is why this made me very happy.

Best moment

Unless I’m very much mistaken, Hulks only non-“grrrr” line:

Loki: I am a god! I am not going to be bullied by a –

Hulk: [Grabs Loki by the legs and repeatedly smashes him into the ground]

Hulk: Puny god.

Conclusion

So, what’s my point? I think it’s pretty obvious that I loved this movie. I think the  characters were marvellously realised.  The Marvel Universe has been delivered with all the clarity and entertainment promised. I am going to watch all the movies in sequence as soon as I can get this in a decent, non-cam version, and I know that I will find a coherent, entertaining and believable world in which these characters live. Long may it continue!

The future….

I see Avengers fanfiction in my near future. Sorry in advance.