Death Scene

Can I make a blog post about Doctor Who? Are people cool with me doing that? If you haven’t seen the series up to the finale, this post probably isn’t for you, unless you have no intention of catching up or don’t mind a spoiler but still want to read about Doctor Who, although this will also tie in with Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why? Death scenes, that’s why, tragic ends to character arcs and why that’s not a thing anymore, if Whedon and Moffat are anything to by at least – though regarded as harbingers of death in their work, actually killing characters stone dead forever is not something they’re all that good at and that pisses me off more than it should. Without further ado, let’s begin!

So Doctor Who, my starting point, just closed another series and the big thing we’d been leading up to this whole time was the death of Clara and the Hybrid story arc, which turned out to be a red herring (There was no ‘hybrid’ in the sense of a single warrior being, it was the hybrid of the Doctor and Clara, a duo so damned dangerous they had to be separated or time itself would splinter around them) and we’d known that for a while with Jenna Louise Coleman already landing work elsewhere and Moffat promising a devastating death scene. Personally, long overdue, Clara outstayed her welcome for me and as a character, offered nothing that Moffat female characters don’t already – plucky attitudes, implied fluid sexualities and a fascination with the protagonist that overrides their sense of individuality. Clara died, having failed to cheat death and meeting her end in a big tragic scene with that raven thing and that was that… except it wasn’t. No, because you see Clara died with valuable information in her head so the Time Lords stole her at the precise moment just before she died and she lived on as a preserved memory of herself and the Doctor tries to run away with her so he can wipe her memory of him and dump her on Earth in a normal life, ala Donna Noble. The plan backfires, the Doctor wipes his own memory of Clara and Clara lives on, a fugitive fleeing the wrath of the Time Lords and gallivanting about time and space with the red herring hybrid we’d all thought was going to be a bigger deal than she was, Me (Me is the character name, I’m not referring to myself)

I’m annoyed. I already watched Clara have a big moment of sacrifice when she jumped into the Doctor’s time stream to save him and thus she broke apart into a million other Clara-like characters littered across the life of the Doctor and that, for me, should have been it. The Impossible Girl explained, terrific, a lack lustre character but hey, the arc ties up nicely at the end. Only it doesn’t, the Doctor still has a Clara at his side through thick and thin. Jeez, selfish cow, a big touching sacrifice scene wasn’t enough, you want more? What’s that? You want two tragic death scenes? Well Moffat seems happy to oblige apparently. This is dumb writing, this undermines the emotional investment, I didn’t even blink at Clara’s second death because any heartbreak I had, I’d already spent and then, not only does she die twice, she’s alive again and free to roam time and space in her own TARDIS just so as not to write the character off in case Coleman ever turns up back at Moffat’s door looking for work.

Here’s where I connect to Marvel, who do the exact same thing. Coulson, Stark, Groot, Pepper – all of those characters made big sacrifices and final plays that would have killed them but they survived through asinine loophole nonsense so as not to cut chunks out of their marketable merchandise and so you never have to part with a character you want to save for later. Heaven forbid Coulson die, even though his death was the catalyst that united the Avengers, god no, if he’s dead we can’t make a TV show about him. Groot dies but he survives, Pepper falls to her death but surprise, she has powers and Iron Man goes to sacrifice himself but he’s fine after. Heck, look at Loki (As if I need to tell the internet to look at Tom Hiddleston), he’s died twice too, when he dies for real nobody will believe it, it’s just a sham, he’ll be back, it’s like someone looked at Doctor Who and Dragonball Z and thought the key to timeless cult classics is to have main characters that just don’t die ever.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to tell Whedon and Moffat to go ahead and kill off their cast willy-nilly, death scenes aren’t just shock film filler, that’s what fake out death scenes are. If you have a death scene that doesn’t result in the end of a character, that’s a cop out, that’s an excuse to get that emotional response from your audience without committing to finding a way to advance the stories without those characters. One revival, sure, I’ll forgive it, but two deaths and then suddenly you’re a time traveller/disguised as your dad? That’s just exploitation and a lack of willingness to evolve a story beyond the same five or so faces you know earn you some money. Doctor Who, kill off companions or have them left behind, don’t combine the two – Amy and Rory didn’t die, Clara didn’t die, Moffat seems incapable of killing anything other than my interest in Doctor Who of late. Marvel, have someone important die and stay dead, at least for a little bit – you killed and revived Loki IN THE SAME FILM, there’s no big reveal to that, it’s more just “Haha you thought he was dead but he’s not, aren’t you a silly?”. No, I’m not, I thought you’d actually closed his character development but it seems you have come up with an excuse to keep using Loki as a villain rather than a tragic hero that died to avenge his mother and seek the forgiveness of his brother.

Death scenes are beautifully potent endings to character stories, they allow us to see the last of that character and reflect on who they were and what they meant to us and to the world in which they lived. We saw Loki die, we saw a shitty entitled brat become a self-sacrificing hero with his last breath but then it seemed that was not so, he had always been just a piece of self-serving shit. We saw Clara die, we thought she had been prepared to sacrifice everything for those she loved yet she sacrificed nothing, she never lost, if anything, she gained – a TARDIS all her own and her own little companion. As a writer and as a fan of fiction, I can’t stand to see the powerful emotions brought by death used as just an excuse to shake the snowglobe a little bit and watch people react to the snow inside.

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Captain America and the Conservatives

How’s about that for a title eh? Not one I ever thought I’d be writing, that’s for sure. So what’s this about? Well, in a recent issue of Captain America, the titular character fights against a super villain called the Supreme Serpent, a white supremacist trying to keep illegal immigrants out of the country by terrorising the southern border of the USA. Captain America, who I should remind you is black in his current incarnation, doesn’t much like this idea and comes to the rescue of the terrorised immigrants, defending them and facing off against the white guy. So how’d this go down? FOX News lost their shit basically, calling this a bunch of liberal brainwashing bullshit made to vilify the white conservative as being just as bad as Hitler or ISIS and asked that Marvel make the villains less white guy and more… Muslim… No shit, they genuinely suggested a Muslim extremist villain, saying that such a character is more typically seen as an enemy of America than a white guy ever would be… Let that sink in. Done? Okay, rage with me here…

Straight away, let’s address Captain America and what he represents shall we? To the unobservant eye, Captain America is just patriotism given a face and a large metal shield to wail on Nazis with and you could be forgiven for thinking that but it’s untrue. You see, Captain America was originally designed to resemble the Aryan male, a handsome blond muscular youth with blue eyes, lantern jaw and that good work ethic that made him gosh darn perfect. You might guess this is because he is meant to be the American ideal of a wholesome robust farm-boy looking character fighting for justice but it goes beyond that, it was essentially a cruel cold kick to the balls for the Nazis. The Nazi ideal was also that of a super heroic blond boy, the fact that their fantasy was the one punching Hitler in the face served as a message, that a truly ideal man does not hold to absurd visions of supremacy. Hitler was wrong, his own male fantasy was the one kicking him down and telling him not to demand perfection of others because a core part of freedom is diversity, in being diverse we are free to be different people, having a set ‘this is what you should aspire to be’ rule limits diversity and tries to push people into a pigeonhole. However, Captain America is also the representation of the values the American people are supposed to hold in high regard – honesty, defense of the innocent, righteousness – fast forward to the modern era and we have a black Captain America because, well, why not? A black man can represent those core values of righteousness, look at Martin Luther King, Jr. for example! There was no liberal brainwashing behind making Cap a black guy, it was just Marvel acknowledging that the USA isn’t the land of the white, it’s the land of freedom and justice and justice doesn’t have a particular skin colour.

So, with that in mind, this isn’t a battle of left versus right through Captain America versus Supreme Serpent because Captain America isn’t the living embodiment of the left-wing, he’s just what patriotism should be – a love of one’s country but not a blindness to its flaws, a citizen of their homeland but a citizen of the world too, always striving to encourage their nation as a whole to be better. However, FOX identified with the villains here, calling WHITE SUPREMACISTS the right-wing conservatives in their audience. You know what that means? FOX News just openly admitted, through their own stupidity, they’re white supremacists, they see these white-skinned terrorists in snake costumes with assault rifles and think “Hey! That’s me! I’m not a bad guy!”. Conservatism and white supremacy aren’t, and shouldn’t ever be, one and the same, one is a mindset based in traditional values, the other a penchant for racially motivated violence. I mean, at least FOX News are self-aware, I’ve been calling them a bunch of bigots since I first stumbled across the mindless hate-mongering of Bill O’Reilly and here they are, feeling sorry for terrorists in snake costumes and demanding Captain America make it fair by beating up some Muslims or Nazis.

Captain America, incidentally, shouldn’t go on to fighting ISIS or Muslim Extremists, there is clearly enough racial prejudice in the world without printing comic books showing gratuitous violence towards Muslims as a heroic thing to do. If Captain America exists to be a role model, racism isn’t part of that aspirational standard he should set, that’s one good reason he’s a minority – it’s not about being white, it’s about being right! Kids need to see a socially responsible hero, that’s what Captain America is for – Iron Man shows what technology and ingenuity can achieve, Hawkeye is a hero who doesn’t need powers to keep in league with the best, you don’t have to be special, you just have to try and Captain America is saying that it doesn’t matter what your background is, what matters most is that you are a good person at heart (Thus why he was a weedy kid originally and then beefed up, it was the good in him that mattered, he was never meant to be just some typical action-figure hero). As for the argument that he needs to go back to fighting Nazis, well, White Supremacists are the new Nazis, look at Trump. Build a giant wall to keep Mexicans out? Hunt down all illegally bought guns but let licensed people keep theirs, a clever sounding move until you realise illegal weapons are prevalent in poor neighbourhoods and legal ones in affluent areas, essentially meaning self defence will become a matter of how much of it you can afford to buy. ISIS are awful yes, but their tactics are made to instill fear, to turn people against each other and encourage the hatred of the white majority. Why? Because scared people are irrational and easily broken. White Supremacy, that’s a fear and loathing of difference that turns to violence – lynching, organised marches, cross burning – amassing huge swathes of people into the most intimidating displays possible to inflict as much damage as possible. If an ISIS attack is a small tactical guerilla affair to make you paranoid, a Neo-Nazi march by the extreme right wing is a bunch of angry thugs starting a riot because they don’t like being so paranoid.

In short, this comic isn’t a criticism of patriotism and conservative values, it’s a criticism of racism and extremist mindsets and there should be a differentiation between the two. If you see these white guys getting attacked by a black hero because they harassed Hispanic children and your response is “This is political brainwashing, thanks Obama!”, then think again, think hard. Captain America was taking down a bunch of armed madmen attacking unarmed civilians, that’s what a superhero does, race and nationality don’t come into it. If you want Captain America to fight with Nazis, over zealous insane crackpots who love their country and believe it the best country in the world, well then I have news for you – he just did.

A Marvellous Plan Backfires

Trigger Warnings – None, except some strong language and crude humour

Spoilers for anyone who doesn’t know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe/Civil War/Ragnarok storylines

Hey, so did you see the big Marvel schedule that came out showing we’re going to have spandex spangled superheroes coming out of our asses until the next ice age? Who am I kidding? Of course you did, you’re human, you have the internet, how could you not? Marvel dropped the bomb and we were all blown away as they announced many many more films, including more Thor, more Iron Man, more Captain America, more Avengers, a Black Panther, more Guardians of the Galaxy and so on and so on and this made a lot of people very happy and very excited and then it made a few people like me just sigh. Yes, I sighed, I tutted, I looked at this list with a tint of sadness, which I shall now explain

Nobody can argue that Marvel has really brought the hero genre on leaps and bounds from when it was the slapdash efforts of Tim Burton half-heartedly making a gimmicky mess about Batman, hero movies are the biggest box office successes going at the moment, so much so you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking Robert Downey Jr. must just shit gold. An expansive universe of interconnected films that all allude to a mega film in the future and several nerdgasms across the globe, wonderful, but doesn’t dumping every single idea they have for the next six years in our lap in one go seem a bit much? For one, it assumes each of those films will be a success and whilst Warner Brothers can bounce back from bad films by making something else, Marvel exists purely to make these kind of movies so one slip up and they are dead in the water. If the next Avengers film is a flop, which it probably won’t be but if, then what? Gloss over it and roll out the third? A great big buffet at a party is great but if you serve sloppy turd in a bowl and then tell people “Oh, don’t worry, you don’t have to eat that”, it somehow doesn’t make the prawn cocktails better and everyone still goes home thinking “Why did they serve that at the party?”.

Marvel have made a commitment to us for six years and are now obliged to deliver, which they seem intent on doing, as does DC, who went so far as to pay the cast in advance as long as they promise to actually turn up and take part. However, with these contracts and commitments, everything has to run smoothly or the companies have lost a lot of money. That’s why RDJ has Marvel by the balls and can ask for pretty much anything, he is Iron Man, if he leaves then he punches a great big hole in the film franchises and the whole thing falls apart. I’m all for grand schemes and planning but thinking of the next six years and planning it in such detail so early? You’re assuming success, which you probably will achieve but still, one small mistake and you’ve committed to making films nobody is interested in any more and you’ve already agreed to pay for and make. Amazing Spider Man made this mistake, the second film was supposed to launch a cinematic universe but it was a flop compared to pretty much every other big hero movie ever but since Sony already said they’re making more, they can’t back out of it and now they have to make more movies they already know are going to fail, which is going to reflect in the quality of these films

On another point, this seems childish but doesn’t having a road map spoil it all for you? I mean, considering Marvel has announced the Civil War and Ragnarok storylines are coming, we know straight away that Iron Man will be a bad guy in later films, Captain America will hate him, Ultron doesn’t count for shit and eventually everyone has to beat up Thanos. I preferred the subtle approach of Nick Fury turning up at the end of the movie to hint at Avengers, it wasn’t as obvious as a prophet on the rooftops but an astute fan had an idea what to expect and could be smug about it but now everybody knows, where’s the fun? The hardcore Marvel fan will already know how each film ends so it detracts from the thrill of seeing them and whilst we’ll all still turn up, we’ll be a little less excited about it. Upshot, nobody will linger around cinemas for the end credit scene, why bother? Ooo it hints at a Doctor Strange movie? Wait, I knew that… Fuck… Why should I go watch that? Oh yeah, Benedict Cumberbatch is in it, ok

Marvel has assumed quite arrogantly we’re all going to worship them for presenting us this neverending of stream of comicbook crusaders, both beloved and obscure, from now until eternity just because we liked the last few and they’ve got celebrities involved so go figure. Films don’t just print money and trends change, in fact ticket sales are already declining but that’s not surprising as most Marvel film fans are actually women but the female representation in these films is “Look, this one has boobs and a catsuit, that’s a strong female character right? Please love us…”. Female lead hero movies have yet to come into their element, you need only refer to the Catwoman movie for that truth, but it would be nice to see one that is done with some dignity. There is a Spiderwoman movie coming though so we’ll see but I don’t hold onto much hope at present, given these films lack female talent and perspective in the writing room. Hollywood has this habit of trying to reduce all success to a formula, they see what films have in common and repeat until no more money comes out of the dead cow. Not a sound plan. If things keep up, we might see the Superhero genre follow the fate of the Western, done to death, very little differences between them, a few faces we keep seeing over and over until nobody can see them as anything else and then bing bang boom people get bored, the trend changes and a new genre sweeps in to kick ass at the box office.

I’m probably that guy with the sandwich board speaking of doom but does it not cry out as obvious to anyone here that this is probably being a little bit too arrogant. Films don’t just print money just because and any film maker that makes that assumption usually goes home broke, or the equivalent to such in their role. I’m all for a few more but frankly, if all I can expect to see in the cinema for the next six years is buff white guys in tight outfits beating stuff up, I’m going to stop visiting the cinema as often. Maybe it’s just me and all these films will make money and will keep being successes right up to 2042 and we’re all watching the holographic projection of Avengers 14 – The Entire Marvel Universe Implodes, with an after credits scene that alludes to Guardians of the Galaxy 10 – Rocket Raccoon’s Bad Fur Day

World of Confusion

Trigger Warnings – None

Vague Marvel Universe Spoilers

Hey so yesterday got a bit out there didn’t it, with the dark side of myself and the whole self-acceptance and inconsolable rage that controlled me for half of my life kinda deal, that was probably a lot to drop on people out of the blue, seeing as you have no idea what to expect from day to day on my blog. I kinda like that, keeps it interesting and refreshing each time you pop in, might consider some themed weeks in the future but for now I’ll stick to the sporadic pinball routine of flinging darts at a wall covered in topical post-it notes for something to ramble about and seeing as yesterday was a heavy topic, I decided I’d lighten things up today with a discussion about comics, those paper things that Hollywood got a hold of and made cool by injecting them with Tom Hiddleston and Robert Downey Jr.

Comics are a weird medium that are sort of declining in popularity and not because of paper being outdated, books still sell, but instead comics struggle with having a confusing well-established continuity and universe that is entirely unfriendly to new readers so unless you grew up reading Amazing Spider-Man, you’re not likely to start anytime soon. However, with the characters in these books growing in popularity and the confession of a profound love for all things Marvel no longer being a social faux pas, there is a possibility of a new age of comic lovers, should they find a safe doorway into the medium. Understandably, this is quite difficult, starting things halfway through is not the easiest way to do it but it’s not entirely impossible. So, if you’ve enjoyed your Dark Knights and your Thor movies but you need some more caped crusaders to scratch the itch, here’s a hint on how to get into it, not from an avid comic fan by any means, but by a writer, a generally ‘nerdy’ fellow and someone with too much time on their hands that they actually decided to write this

The key is start wherever you want. Seriously. You do not have to start at the very first issue of The Incredible Hulk to enjoy it, you simply have to find a character that interests you from first impressions and take a read. I know one issue with comic books is they’re not readily available, you have to go somewhere that sells them especially and if you ask the guy at the counter “Where do I start?”, he’ll smirk and silently judge you for your ignorance, the nerd culture is not a warm welcoming society, I think that’s pretty obvious. Just go in, act natural and take a browse, look for a familiar character or just a comic book with an interesting cover, one covered in explosions or rippling muscles or whatever. Ok, buy it, that is your single investment in the universe of that series for now and just read the book. If you find you encounter a moment that refers to an event you know nothing about and it interests you, look it up on the internet, lord knows comic book history is probably easier to find more in-depth information about than say, your own family history, considering one has a devoted fanbase and the other has some slips of paper in filing cabinets somewhere. If you don’t find yourself interested in this past event they’re all referring to, spoiler alert, it won’t get more interesting for you. The Marvel Civil War sounds dull? Ok, avoid Captain America and Iron Man comics, stick to the films… wait… ok, you’re screwed there but you get the point.

You see, comic-book nerds, such as they are, will judge you for not knowing all there is to know about their particular favourite franchise but they spent years building that archive of superhero trivia, they began learning as kids and just kept building on it but you can start at any age and at any point. I mean, take TV as an example, you don’t have to start at Season 1, Episode 1 with every single show you watch. Futurama, Simpsons, Family Guy, Archer – all shows you can enjoy without knowing the full backstory to every single character, having that knowledge just allows you to enjoy a few extra jokes the writers slipped in for the dedicated fans but on the whole TV universes and film universes set themselves up to be accessible at any given point down the line, some take exception to it but for the most part that’s how it is. Doctor Who, another good example, I did not start my love for the show with William Hartnell, I started at Eccleston, liked what I saw and then when my Dad revealed that actually Doctor Who is a reboot, not a brand new show and when he was growing up, he watched Tom Baker fight the Daleks, I started working backwards through the continuity and still have a lot of gaps in there. Whovians, forgive me, but I have watched very little of the Fifth Doctor, Sixth and not even a single Seventh doctor episode, but I don’t sit there watching Capaldi screaming “Why is this so confusing? Should I start from the beginning?”. No, fictional universes are easily documented in meticulous detail, just fill the gaps with an internet search or a discussion with a friend who shares the interest

DC Comics have done something pretty smart on this matter, they knew their universe was a complex mess of backstories so announced a huge relaunch, which did piss off the hardcore fanbase but when DC cleared the mess up by saying the relaunch will basically go in the same direction as the original, all was well again and the fans sorta piped down about the whole affair. Admittedly, kinda defeats the point of the reboot but with their new series of books being made available as digital downloads, there’s no more hunting in the dark caves of a specialist store somewhere following a monk who smells strongly of Doritos into the promised land of Aquaman comics, now you can read about it on your tablet and it’s out there in the eyes of the mainstream as a recommended read for those whose internet history suggests a fondness for Batman movies. Good move DC, let’s see if Marvel follows suit

Anyway, this should have at least cleared up some tension for you folk if nothing else and this isn’t me trying to push you all into a comic book shop as if I’ve sold out to either Marvel or the Android’s Dungeon, this is just a light topic that isn’t going to offend and it might help some of you who maybe can’t wait til May to see Iron Man go toe to toe with the Hulk and need something to tide them over or perhaps to further your passion for a universe you already take an interest in, maybe reading the comics will make the films better or worse, it will at least change how you view them. I have no real business writing this, I don’t read comics myself but as a writer with grand schemes for a long running series of my own, I want to put this out there in case my ambitions ever take wing and ten years from now I hear kids complaining “I’d get into TDWC, but I missed the first three seasons so I don’t understand what’s going on”