Friday, July 18, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Super Changes with Superheroes!

Happy Friday!  
It’s supposed to be gorgeous this weekend, and I don’t mind telling you that I cannot wait.
1. Thor is a girl
The gender-switching plot is a common
trope for comics.  Stephanie Brown's
"Girl Robin" is my favorite version of it.
The thing about making Thor a girl is that it’s been done before.  In one of the ancient stories (Prose Edda?  I can’t remember), Thor loses his hammer to a frost giant, and Loki turns him into a woman, so that he can woo it back.  In female form, Thor agrees to marry the king of the frost giants, who then throws an enormous feast in his new bride’s honor.  But the giant cannot impress his new bride with anything under the sun, until he finally brings out Mjolnir, which is his greatest treasure.  Thor grasps the weapon, and his female form is dispelled, after which he and Loki slay the frost giants.
My point in all of this is not that Marvel shouldn’t have run this particular story—that Thor becomes unworthy to wield the hammer, that Odin then assigns it to someone new, and that this new someone is a woman.  That may well work, and if it does, that’s great.  I’m all for new storytelling as long as its good.    

However, I think it would also have been interesting to run with a more mythological version of the story, to show the real Thor actually struggling with the problems of being a woman, motivated by the fact that he has lost his hammer and that his brother has used the opportunity to play a trick on him.  That’s the way the story reads in the original mythos, and there it works beautifully.  Loki never ceases to ride his brother about his femininity, and in the end, the story makes a real point about the nature of male/female relations.  This is perhaps why it has survived for thousands of years.
What we have here is less than that.  This story may work, but the execution of the PR makes it seem like a marketing stunt, and whatever feminist message the thing has to offer is lessened by it.
I also find it weird that people are arguing that there aren’t any female superheroes in the Marvel Universe (MU).  Captain Marvel is Major Carol Danvers, USAF, and she’s billed as the most powerful superhero in the MU.  Her book is terrific, it’s selling well, and the character has a starring role in both the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy.  ElektraBlack WidowShe-HulkMs. Marvel, and Storm also have solo titles, and there’s an all-femaleX-Men book.  I won’t say that Marvel is a feminist company or anything like that, but they have certainly made an effort to put out books starring a variety of female characters.
If you’re wondering, Emma and I are reading Captain MarvelShe-Hulk, and Ms. Marvel.  Captain Marvel is a sci fi book whose leading character is in an on-again/off-again relationship with Sam Wilson (see below) while She-Hulk is a legal drama, and Ms. Marvel is a young adult immigrant story.  Of the three, Ms. Marvel is by far the best, but all of them are usually at least decent.
According to a news analysis by Jay Solomon and Carol Lee in the Wall Street Journal, the world is coming apart at the seams on Obama's watch:
The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn't been seen since the late 1970s, U.S. security strategists say, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, revolutionary Islamists took power in Iran, and Southeast Asia was reeling in the wake of the U.S. exit from Vietnam.
In the past month alone, the U.S. has faced twin civil wars in Iraq and Syria, renewed fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, an electoral crisis in Afghanistan and ethnic strife on the edge of Russia, in Ukraine.
Off center stage, but high on the minds of U.S. officials, are growing fears that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program could collapse this month, and that China is intensifying its territorial claims in East Asia.
Before I went to West Point, I had a long discussion with one of my father’s friends about the nature and effectiveness of American diplomacy.  This was in 1991, and the upshot of the talk was that the world wasn’t then and never has been a real-life bipolar hegemony wrestled between exactly two superpowers.  For a while it suited American interests to pretend that this was the case, but my father’s friend, an Army Colonel at Special Operations Command (with emphasis on Southern Command), thought that the Carter years actually served as something of a renaissance for American diplomacy.  He defended Carter as a guy who was at least trying to break away from a model that had never actually been real.  His argument was that the US had focused on Russia because it was there, and it was convenient, but it left the rest of the world’s problems to go unanswered, and those unaddressed problems were going to bring with them some nasty second-order consequences.  
As it happens, I think history has proven him correct.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to the world’s problems.  However, it’s glib to harken back to the bygone days of yesteryear as a simpler and safer time.  Reality’s a bitch, but we were all young once, and we didn’t see the dangers that were nevertheless still very real.  Thirty years from now, our kids may very well look back on the current decade as that time in American life when our military was finally coming home after more than a decade at war, when the country at large was finally at least starting to tackle the domestic problems (i.e. debt) that have silently plagued our nation since at least the 1980s.  However, fond memories won’t make that a true accounting of the current days.  It’ll mean that our kids miss being young and having someone else to do the heavy lifting of managing the stresses of real life.
I remember the 80s fondly, liked Reagan, and think he prosecuted the Cold War correctly.  Nevertheless, the seeds of today’s problems were planted in the short-term deals of that very time, and we are all living with their consequences now.  Those deals rarely made the papers back then because we had bigger problem, but the world was still a terribly complicated place.  We remember it fondly, though, because it wasn’t our classmates whose lives were on the line back when we were kids.
“By bidding for Time Warner, Mr. Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is seeking to create a colossus in the television and film industries at a time when both face pressure from the growing power of cable companies like Comcast and online video giants like Google.
Combining 21st Century Fox and Time Warner would bring under one roof some of the biggest sources of content: HBO, one of the most lucrative cable channels; Fox Broadcasting; and the movie studios Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox. It would unite ‘Game of Thrones’ and televising Nascar, as well as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.’”
I’ve heard this explained a couple of different ways.  The thing that’s most amazing about it is that if it goes through, Murdock will own two movie studios.  Why?  I can’t help but wonder if we’ll then see fewer movies being made, and yeah, that might not be all bad, but it’s not what I’d prefer.
More competition in media leads to more variety, and variety is good.  Granted, there’s more crap than greatness, but you choose what you like, and you follow it, and you ignore the rest.  It’s a great, big world out there, and I’ve no need of Murdock’s attempts to make it smaller, so that he can gain more control.
“The change… is built around the retirement of Captain America's original alter ego, Steve Rogers, who finds he has lost the extraordinary strength and agility he had once gained from injections of performance-enhancing "super soldier serum."
Rogers will hand the Captain America persona to his much younger friend and cohort, the character Sam Wilson, already a comic book star in his own right as the true identity behind the winged superhero known as Falcon.”
This one at least makes a little more sense than the thing with Thor becoming a woman.  The Falcon has been Captain America’s partner at least since the 70s, and in fact, the book was officially titled Captain America and the Falcon for much of that time.  If Steve Rogers is retiring, I absolutely believe that he would hand off the shield to his friend and long-time teammate Sam Wilson.

Captain America & the Falcon have some history together.
The most interesting part of this to me is that they’re redesigning Captain America’s costume to retain the Falcon’s wings.  That’s a good choice.  If they’d decided to bail on what was cool about Sam Wilson in order to make him into the Black Captain America, that would have really pissed me off.   As it is, he’s still very much his own character, just with a different job title.  This doesn’t belittle Wilson.  It gives his existing character more and better exposure.
How is this possible?  I could have sworn that our household alone would be enough to keep these guys afloat given the number of Barbies we have laying around.
Mattel Inc (MAT.O), the world's largest toymaker, reported its third straight fall in quarterly revenue as sales of its iconic Barbie doll declined the most since mid-2009…
Mattel's inventories jumped after weak sales in the 2013 holiday shopping season. The company's efforts to unload inventory through discounts met with little success as customers cut back on spending…
Rival Hasbro Inc (HAS.O), meanwhile, is seeing strong demand for its action figure toys such as "Transformers" and "Spider-Man," driven by the release of new films.”
If nothing else, it looks like Transformers 5 is definitely a go.  Good for Hasbro, I guess.
That’s all I got.  Have a good weekend.


  1. Nice blog Dan. By the way they are making the Barbies cheaper now not better. I prefer mine from 1965 (passed down from my sisters ). She bends and pivots like the dolls are suppose to.

    1. Part of the problem is that they're made for collectors now and not for little girls to play with. We've bought them for my nieces, and then bought replacements when those broke, and then replacements for the replacements . . .

    2. It typical Business School thinking to assume that they can cut costs on materials and manufacturing without suffering in sales. That really annoys me. I'm surprised no one has stepped into the breach to offer "old school" Barbies at a premium price. There's obviously a market.