Four Letter Nerd

Tag - Iron Man

4LN Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War

Official Film Synopsis:

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

You’re going to hear, if you haven’t already, a lot of things about this film that are… exaggerations. You’re also going to hear things that sound like exaggerations but are 100% correct, or at least 12% correct. (I suppose an argument could be made for 15…) You’re going to hear people say that this is what Avengers: Age of Ultron should have been, that it’s good in spite of Captain America himself, that Spider-Man steals the show, and various other assessments and critiques. Without spoiling anything specific, allow me to clear up some of the questions and concerns you might have rattling around in your head.

First off, Spider-Man. Those of you concerned about Marvel revealing too much of him in trailers, stop worrying. That was only the tip of the web-slinging iceberg. There’s so much more to love from him in the final product, and you will not be disappointed. Does he steal the show? Not entirely. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s great. Maybe the best on-screen Spider-Man of all-time (or potentially at least). I wouldn’t say that he steals the entire show, however, but he does have a surprisingly commanding presence on screen. Tom Holland was clearly the perfect actor for the part because his Peter Parker and Spider-Man aren’t different. With Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, they both played Parker and Spidey with different personalities. As if putting on the mask made them someone completely different. Though it’s only brief in the grander scheme, what we see Holland do is just play them the same. A more unified Parker/Spider-Man, if you will. It’s very refreshing and after the credits finished rolling I found myself way more excited for the future of Spidey.

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Another thing I’ve heard is that this movie achieves what Avengers: AoU failed to. To be honest, I’m not sure what that even means. Like, I clearly didn’t watch the same movie as the people who feel this way because AoU was enjoyable for me and I understood it. (Also, it banked over a billion dollars so…) I’m not gonna spend a whole lot of time defending it, but I do feel like it’s a disservice to the journey that lead us here to treat any aspect of it as superfluous. There are themes that have been consistent through every MCU film since Iron Man that come into play in Civil War and without any one of them this film wouldn’t be able to complete in the way that is does. I know, I’m being vague. I don’t want to give away anything, I just want you to take this into consideration when you’re watching the movie and trying to compare it to others.

Then out of that attitude, emerges the idea that it’s not really a Captain America movie, it’s an Avengers movie, and Cap isn’t all that crucial. These people… should not be allowed to watch movies. At all. Ever again. I am one to rarely “can’t even”, but this makes me not be able to even. I’ve never been eating a cheeseburger and thought, “You know what this doesn’t even need? Meat.” A shit ton of condiments between two buns isn’t a meal, it’s sad. Why would you think that the ingredient that pulls everything together is the one thing you can do without? Cap’s reluctant but brave resistance of the newly implemented status quo is what moves the entire plot. He may not necessarily be the engine, but he’s definitely the fuel.

So what is the engine? Well, that would be the brilliant Daniel Brühl as Zemo. His role has been mostly downplayed from the very beginning, but he’s what puts just about everything happening here into motion, and once the third act concludes you understand his motivation and significance. Brühl brings a human depth to the Zemo character that he lacks in the comics. It’s one of those things where you could argue that they really didn’t have to name him Zemo at all, but the nod to the source material is nice gesture.

I also want to acknowledge how great Paul Rudd is as Scott Lang/Ant-Man. He proves himself a perfect team member and does more than his fair share of fighting. I feel like his contribution to the film could get overlooked by all the other great performances and moments, but he doesn’t miss one beat picking up right where he left off in Ant-Man, and helping Spider-Man with lightening the mood. The first act of the film is pretty serious and rocks back and forth between action sequences to story heavy scenes with mostly dialogue. Once those two show up though, you’re laughing uncontrollably.

Another performance that really stood out for me was Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross. It’s such a unique and impressive performance from Freeman, who usually plays more shy, timid, and/or awkward characters. He turns in a very strong, very confident portrayal. I don’t want to say that I didn’t know he had it in him, but he seems like such a passive, good-natured guy that I really didn’t.

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Even though I’ve only addressed a few, every single performance was perfect. There’s not one weak link in the entire cast. Plus, the story is compelling and will have you guessing all the way through to the end. Even the parts that seemed predictable were only partially so. When you think you’ve figured something out, just know that there’s more to it that you haven’t even considered. I think the Russo Bros. have crafted a damn-near flawless blockbuster superhero film. It may not have the same type of suspense and depth that CA:WS has, but it’s a different type of film also, so it’s tough for me to superficially analyze the differences.

I’ve always sided with Cap in the Civil War debate. Part of that may be that I just don’t like Tony Stark in the comics, but RDJ is great as Tony and, while I still don’t find myself swayed to his point of view, I feel like this film did a great job of expressing why he feels the way he feels and that his actions are propelled by emotion because of his personal experiences. Cap is emotional is some ways too, but there are never moments that he seems out of control. Tony is emotionally unstable and therefore you wonder how much control he’s able to maintain over himself. I don’t worry about Cap taking things too far, and I feel like Tony has to stop himself from taking things too far. In some cases he fails and almost everyone suffers for it. It’s a cycle with this guy.

Final word: Captain America: Civil War is one of the best comic book movies ever made. It’s packed full of action, mystery, humor, and raw emotion. It collects every feeling you could possibly feel and condenses it into a two-and-half-hour roller coaster ride that leaves you excited and eagerly anticipating the future of the MCU, rather than lethargic and confused. You’ll be smiling ear to ear as you exit the theater and you’ll almost certainly seriously consider just walking back up to the box office to buy a ticket to the next showing. Save yourself the trouble and just go ahead and buy them at once so that you can keep your seat. You can thank me later.

Why Ant-Man Isn’t Too Much Marvel

Ant-Man has had a lot working against it. There was the trouble with Edgar Wright leaving the production, and then there’s been the prejudice cries of failure coming from comic fans and non-comic fans alike. Much like Scott Lang, and the character of Ant-Man in general, the odds were stacked steeply against it. Granted, the odds were stacked against Guardians of the Galaxy when it was released as well, but that was mostly because more people were less familiar with those characters. People have just seemed to arbitrarily not like Ant-Man, or at best they’ve been mockingly indifferent. Earlier this week one of our own writers, and a good friend of mine, Jeff, posted an article asking the question, “Is Ant-Man Too Much Marvel?

“What the hell bro? Don’t act like you didn’t love me in Anchorman.”

That’s a fair question and I respect Jeff’s thoughts as he was respectful and polite about sharing them, so none of this is intended to be an aggressive rebuttal or argumentative, but merely an explanation as to why I don’t believe Ant-Man is too much Marvel. I will also try to leave my personal feelings to the side and use facts and figures to make my point. To do that though, I have to sink to a level I’m personally not proud of. See, I put pretty much zero stock in what “film critics” say. You know the saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.”? I think that should be changed to, “Those who can’t do, become film critics.” But alas, to make my point I’m going to have to use them. Specifically, I’m going to use the website Rotten Tomatoes, which is arguably the film critic site I like least of all. Rotten Tomatoes assigns films and television shows a number percentage value based on professional critic reviews, as well as one based on viewer reviews. While I disapprove of treating any kind of art like a middle-school social studies test, the mass collective of opinions the site gathers is actually very beneficial to how I intend to convey my point-of-view as it represents the voice of many. I will also be using film budgets and box office revenue numbers to prove the monetary success of the MCU films.

“Someone doubts my longevity? Bring them to me so I can show them how I bought a f**king country with these paychecks.”

Also, just to clarify, we are only talking about the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films here. Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The X-Men, Fantastic Four, and past Spider-Man films, as well as any Marvel comics films that were produced by any other studio will be excluded as Marvel Studios (owned by Disney) has no control over those films and therefore can’t be held responsible for their contribution to the deluge of comic book movies.

To be honest, this is the only one I still demand an apology for. #SorryNotSorry

In it’s first weekend of release, Ant-Man was the box office winner, bringing in roughly $58 million domestically. It is also currently Certified Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with a 79% critic rating (the rating number can fluctuate), which is more than Jurassic World or even Avengers: Age of Ultron. Additionally, it has a user score of 92%. AoU has an 87% user rating, and JW has an 82% user rating.

But how about the other MCU films? Does Ant-Man hold it’s weight against them? Well, here’s the break down in the order they were released. All budget and box office facts were taken from Wikipedia. Also, I’m well aware of the rising cost of movie tickets and it’s affects on the income numbers. The purpose of this, though, is more about how much each film made compared to much it cost to make. (Additionally, any film that is certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes will be marked with a “cf”)

MCU                                    Rotten Tomatoes    Rotten Tomatoes   Budget   Box Office
Film                                     Critic Score              User Score                               Haul
Iron Man                             94% (cf)                   91%                            140M     585.2M

The Incredible Hulk          67%                           72%                            150M     263.4M

Iron Man 2                          72% (cf)                    72%                            200M    623.9M

Thor                                      77% (cf)                    76%                            150M     449.3M

Captain America: TFA      79% (cf)                    74%                            140M     370.6M

The Avengers                      92% (cf)                    91%                            220M     1.519Billion

Iron Man 3                          79% (cf)                    79%                            200M     1.215Billion

Thor: The Dark World      66%                           78%                            170M      644.8M

Captain America: TWS     89% (cf)                    92%                           170M       714.8M

Guardians of the Galaxy   91% (cf)                    92%                            195.5M   774.2M

Avengers: Age of Ultron   74% (cf)                    87%                            279.9M   1.394Billion

(I’ve left Ant-Man off the list due to it being so new. However, the film’s budget is estimated at 130M and globally it’s already made almost 115M in less than a week of release. It’s safe to say that it will definitely make it’s budget back, and likely go on to earn double that.)

“This guy!”

Based on the data above (god that felt satisfyingly nerdy to say), we can see that only two MCU films have not been certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes, The Incredible Hulk and Thor 2, but it’s important to note, as well, that neither of those films falls into “rotten” territory either. Which is especially interesting to me considering how widely panned The Incredible Hulk is. Even with as much negativity that gets thrown at that film, a grouping of professional critics opinions still don’t earn it a low enough score to be officially be considered an “artistic failure”, and it has a one-number-higher score than Thor: TDW. Admittedly notable is that The Incredible Hulk is also the only one to not make more than double it’s budget at the box office, but it still made over 100M during it’s theatrical run.

Ever since The Avengers, the MCU films have continued to increase their revenue and while it does fluctuate some none of these films can be labeled “financial failures”. Also, with the exception of Iron Man 1, it seems that each sequel has been better well received by the regular viewers than than the film proceeding it. Even Iron Man 3 shows to be more liked than Iron Man 2. One could even argue that Captain America Civil War is doomed to be a critical “meh” since it will be the second film of Phase 3 of the MCU, considering that Incredible Hulk was the second film of Phase 1 and Thor: TDW was the second film of Phase 2. Yet, I’ve not heard anyone express concern that it will fail to meet positive critical or financial standards. (I probably will now though…)

In the interest of fairness, I let Jeff review this article, as he did for me with his, and he made a valid point that, while Ant-Man was the box office winner it’s opening weekend, it was the 2nd lowest opening of any MCU film so far (The Incredible Hulk opened with only 55M). But to it’s credit, it’s budget is also 20M lower than that film’s, and at 130M it’s the MCU film with the lowest budget to date. Jeff also explained that it’s smaller opening, “May be because of all the successful blockbusters of the summer.” “It will be a financial and is a moderate critical success.”, he added. “So I believe Marvel will be good through Civil War next summer and hope we don’t tire during stage 3.”

We’ve got our own Marvel Civil War going on in the 4LN team. I get to be Punisher!

To officially answer the question… No, I don’t think that Ant-Man is too much Marvel. Not yet anyway.

There’s a famous quote that says, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. I believe the numbers speak for themselves and the majority of moviegoers have determined they’re happy with the MCU films that are being put out, and I think they’ll continue to vote with their dollars. Marvel will know when they’ve gone too far because the reviews will be consistently poor and, more importantly, the money will start drying up. Until then, it seems the majority of people still agree that the MCU movies (and  superhero movies in general) are a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment. Whew! I was really worried there for a minute…

Robert Downey Jr rolls eyes - that face you make when Someone says there are too many comic book movies

The Philosophy of Civil War Part 1: Tony Stark and Utilitarianism

One thing I have always enjoyed about pop culture is how it can express lofty ideals in unique, accessible ways.  Several books and movies have helped shape my world-view, and several others have at least helped me understand things I otherwise would not have known.  This week I want to take a look at Marvel’s epic crossover event Civil War, and how two opposing ethical views help shape the conflict that arises between Captain America and Iron Man.

Since this post was originally way too long, I decided to break it into two sections so you would actually have time to read it.  In this first section we will look at how the philosophy of utilitarianism fits in perfectly with Iron Man’s decisions in Civil War.  Tomorrow we will see how Captain America’s deontological outlook colors the decisions he makes.  But first, let’s look at a brief synopsis of Civil War.

Please note: this synopsis does not include any major spoilers.

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Civil War centers on the events surrounding the implementation of the Superhuman Registration Act (SRA). After a group of young, rash superheroes (who happen to star in a reality TV show) attempt to apprehend a group of supervillains goes horribly wrong, and an elementary school is destroyed, public outcry leads the US government to pass a bill requiring all super powered individuals to register their secret identities and powers with the government and act as a sort of super police force.

The pro-registration side (led by Iron Man) feels that this is a natural progression of things and it is pointless to oppose that level of public uproar. Those who oppose the bill (led by Captain America) think that this is a gross violation of their rights and will take away any chance of them being able to both use their powers for good and allow them to live a normal life/protect their loved ones. The tension between the two groups eventually escalates into full-blown battle as Iron Man’s forces attempt to apprehend those who oppose the SRA, and Captain America and his Secret Avengers are trying to both carry on with their heroic activities and counter Iron Man’s attacks.

As the fight wages on, Iron Man obtains funds from Congress to build a giant prison in the Negative Zone. The purpose of this prison is to indefinitely house those superheroes that refuse to register without trial. Obviously, this leads to an escalation in the conflict, which in turn leads to a no holds barred fight between the two sides.

Now that we have an extremely brief, mostly spoiler-free synopsis of Civil War I want to look at the two philosophies that I think best represent both sides. By understanding these two different ethical outlooks we might better understand why each side thinks they are making moral choice. First up: Utilitarianism!

There are several different variations of utilitarianism but generally speaking, utilitarians believe that no action or choice is inherently right or wrong. Instead, what makes a particular action right or wrong is judged by the amount of good (e.g. happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, etc.) it brings to the greatest number of people.   To make it even simpler, the end justifies the means. When we first looked at utilitarianism, we saw how from a purely utilitarian point of view Lando Calrissian’s betrayal of Han Solo could have been considered a just decision. Utilitarianism would also be the ethical philosophy used to justify Tony Stark’s actions in Civil War.

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We see hints at Tony’s utilitarian outlook in the move Avengers: Age of Ultron as well. Tony believes that using artificial intelligence will eventually lead to the greatest amount of good/happiness for the greatest amount of people. He is so set and so focused on this being the moral choice that he ignores the other Avengers and develops the technology in secret ultimately leading to Ultron, an enemy set on eradicating the human race. Obviously this was an unforeseen consequence, but that’s kind of the thing — it’s impossible to know all of the potential outcomes of a particular decision. Perhaps the real problem of utilitarianism, at least when it comes to Tony and Civil War, is that the calculation of the greatest good for the greatest number is subject to the person working the equation. Tony is a narcissist, which inherently leads to narcissistic utilitarianism, meaning he might not see the greatest good the same way someone with a different starting point would.

The greatest good for the greatest number sounds pretty great in theory, but (like Communism) there are definitely some flaws with this philosophical stance and these deficiencies are clearly seen in real life and in the story of Civil War. For instance, utilitarianism could be used to justify the slavery of a small group because it could bring happiness and economic stability to a greater number; or it could be used to justify imprisoning superheroes in the Negative Zone without a trial. Both of these actions (especially the one that actually exists in the real world) would be considered wrong by most, but could be justified using a utilitarian point of view.

Now that we have taken a look at Tony’s particular brand of narcissistic utilitarianism, I hope you have a better understanding of why Tony thought what he was doing was necessary in order to maximize utility.  Tony was trying to make right a lot of wrongs, and thought that by reining in powerful heroes he could bring happiness and security to the greatest number of people.  If you liked this entry, be sure to come back for part 2 to find out more about deontology and Captain America’s anti-SRA stance!

Coffee and Superheroes: Who Drinks What?

Coffee is an amazing thing.  It gives us the drive to power through the gauntlet that is cubicle life, as well as giving struggling writers a reason to show everyone at the local coffee shop (Starbucks) that they are, in fact, writers.  As I was sipping my morning coffee (maybe third or fourth morning coffee) out of my Batman coffee cup, I began to wonder what caffeinated beverages gave our favorite superheroes that extra pep in the step of the roundhouse kick to the ne’er-do-well’s villainous jowls.  What follows is purely speculative reasoning as to each hero’s favorite coffee.

Captain America

Captain America movie

Black Coffee, no frills.   Preferably instant coffee from a WWII C-Ration, but Maxwell House will suffice (if it’s good enough for Teddy Roosevelt, it’s good enough for Cap).

Steve Rogers is a traditional, no nonsense, American fightin’ man.  During WWII they didn’t have the fancy pants coffee we have now.  In fact, from November 1942 to July 1943, the US rationed coffee to insure the American GI could have something to keep them sharp over in Europe and the Pacific.  Cap is a natural born leader who never puts himself above his men – if his men are drinking C-Ration instant coffee, then that’s what he’ll be sippin’.

rationing

Batman

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Caffeine Capsule Stored in the Utility Belt

Batman’s a busy man.  Whether he’s gallivanting around as the playboy, billionaire, or zipping around Gotham battling the criminal underworld, he doesn’t have time to sit and sip a latte.  When he needs to have a little pick-me-up, he needs it quick and he needs it efficient.  Solution? Caffeine Capsule that is stored in his handy Utility-Belt (probably named a Bat-Pill, or Bat-Caffiene Capsule… I’m sure Alfred’s working on an appropriate Bat-themed name).

The Hulk

incredible-hulk-wallpaper-l

Chamomile Tea

Hulk, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.  When his heart rate goes up so does his pant-size and anger management issues.  Caffeine is probably not the best thing for Dr. Banner to be consuming considering some of the main side-effects are increased heart-rate and high blood pressure.   No, Banner needs the soothing effects of Chamomile tea.  Chamomile has a mild sedative effect and lowers stress, anxiety, and heart rate, which would mean Banner could keep being Banner instead of Banner becoming Hulk.

Whoever made this meme had it backwards

Whoever made this meme had it backwards

 

Superman

Superman-Flying

Folgers, Cream and Two Sugars

Clark is a simple man with simple taste.  He was raised on a farm in the heart of Kansas, nothing fancy about that.  Black coffee would be a bit to bitter for his his hypersensitive taste buds so he would need it to be cut with something sweeter.  Give him a cup of Folgers Classic, throw a dash of cream and two sugars in there, and he will feel stronger than a Kryptonian on Tatooine… because Tatooine has two yellow suns… too much?

funny-Batman-Superman-coffee1

Thor

thor-comics-lepotta_887310

Mead. Only Mead.

... and the occasional black coffee.

… and the occasional black coffee.

 

Aquaman

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Triple, Venti, Steamed, Half Sweet, Soy, Non-Fat, Chia Machiatto, Extra Chia, Extra Drizzle, Double-Cupped

You know why.

Iron Man

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Nitro Coffee

Nitro Coffee is what happens when you brew coffee with Red Bull instead of water, add a dash of pure caffeine powder with simple syrup, and cut it with milk and antacid.  Disgusting?  Absolutely.  Deadly?  Most likely, but this is just the kind of drink a man with as busy a schedule and as high a tolerance as Mr. Stark would need to make it through his manic bouts of invention mixed with his flying around the world in a suit of armor at Mach 3.  Do you really think a regular cup of coffee would fuel that kind of life?

Coffee may not give you superpowers, but there is little doubt that it will give you at least a modicum of morale and will power to work your way through to quitting time.  So what kind of coffee do you think your favorite superhero would drink? Let us know in the comments!

Why A Toddler Makes Your Opinion Irrelevant

You might have already seen it, but there’s a video making the rounds of this adorable little 1 year old dude watching the scene from Man of Steel where Superman flies for the first time. If you haven’t watched it, here it is:

 

As I watched that video, I got so excited for that little kid. Seeing him so happy about such an iconic moment for, arguably, comics greatest superhero made me smile so big. But then, almost as quickly as I got excited, I got angry Not at the kid mind you. I’m not a monster. I started getting mad at all the nerd-elitists who ravage every superhero movie, and really any piece of entertainment-art that’s presented to the public. I got mad at a culture that spits at something it considers inferior to it’s perception. I’m not saying it isn’t OK to be disappointed with something. I’m just saying you don’t have to be such an a–hole about it.

 

I get it. You don’t like Zack Snyder, or his style of film-making. In your “opinion” it doesn’t have enough depth or maturity. I don’t really f—ing care and neither does Zack “multimillionaire” Snyder. That’s MY opinion. Oh Superman would never kill and that’s unrealistic for the character and what he represents? Guess what? HE’S NOT F—ING REAL. He’s the most unreal thing ever. Aliens are not coming to Earth to have a massive battle in a city that ALSO does not exist, which would cause an astronomically high amount of hypothetical destruction. “The character has a lot of history  and sentimental value for us. You can’t just be OK with them changing him like that.” I am. I’m not immune to being bummed by the changing of a character, but here, I really don’t see enough change to make a big deal. The essentials of who Superman is are still in place. “How would you explain to your kid that Superman killed someone?” Like this, “Son, Zod wanted to destroy Earth. He wanted to completely annihilate all life as we know. Clark, Superman, didn’t want that to happen and in the heat of the moment he made the very hard decision to kill Zod. Also, none of this is real.”

Pictured: An Alien-man not actually flying.

 

Man of Steel is obviously the topical film here because of the video, but this is constantly happening. Green Lantern for example. Was it flawless? No. IN MY OPINION, the film probably could have benefited from a different director who was a little more familiar with the source material. But Ryan Reynolds was great, and really held the movie together. It was so cool getting to see THE GREEN F—ING LANTERN use his ring and create stuff and fight The Paralax. I mean, we got to see that! In (mostly) real life! Or how much s–t the Ghost Rider movies get. You all know what to expect from Nick Cage at this point. If you go into one of his flicks thinking that it’s going to scale back the lunacy, then you’re greatly kidding yourself and you should just stop watching movies all together. The second one, Spirit of Vengeance, is so balls-out ridiculous that if you took it seriously for one second and complained then you’re oblivous and you missed the point. It was supposed to be excessive and insane.

Not trying to win any Academy Awards here…

 

One of the all-time worst is when “celebrity” nerds annihilate something. I follow lots of comic book creators and comedians on Twitter and when one of them trashes a movie, or comic, or TV show it just bums me out so much. I feel like, you’re a creator. You make something from where once there was nothing, just like those people did, and yet completely forgetting how exhaustive and draining the creative process is, you just cruelly disassemble their art. Because, for whatever reason, you don’t deem it worthy enough. I don’t comprehend that. Knowing how much of yourself you give to and put into a project, how can you possibly justify criticizing someone else who’s doing the same thing? Simply being a fan, I feel like there’s something I missing, or ignorant to, that allows that behavior to be tolerated. Maybe it’s just a vicious cycle. Like, maybe one guy did it once and ever since celebrities just think it’s OK to criticize one another because they’re all in the same business. I still have a hard time understanding it though.

I recent heard Will Smith say that he tells his kids, “Your art is a gift to people to help their lives be better and be brighter.” I think that’s a great quote. But It’s also kind of sad. Knowing how cruel “fans” and audiences can be, it’s sad that artists are trying to do something to make our lives better, and in return they get ridiculed for not presenting something “better”. “Oh yeah, well, they also get millions of dollars”. Oh so, status merits condemnation? They have more money so they’re better equipped to handle mockery? You realize how ridiculous that sounds, right? Flip that around, and have a millionaire artist criticizing a starving artist, and you’d crucify that person for their arrogance and egotism.

 

There’s a line of thought out there that says criticism forces the best from a person. I call bulls–t on that. It’s not your goddamn job to be Mr Miyagi to the entire entertainment world. All you’re doing is making people afraid to create art. “Well if they’re not fearless then they won’t make good art.” That’s exactly what a bully would say. Oh I’m sorry, you’re wondering how you’re a bully. Well, you criticize with your words in the hope that you’ll sway the creative process in the direction that you want it to go. You’re trying to force what you want out of people. Sounds like a f–king bully to me.

“Why don’t you make like Back to the Future 2 and be better than Back to the Future 3.”

 

My good friend, and fellow 4LN writer, Cam Clark and I have spoken about this issue at great length, and I’d like to share some of his thoughts, which are FAR less aggressive than that of my own…

Nerd culture is becoming more and more synonymous with Popular culture.  We have seen evidence of this with the ever-increasing popularity of movies that find their origins in the pages of comics, and the breakout success of TV shows based on Fantasy novels and graphic novels.  Unfortunately this has also heralded the coming of something much more malevolent – NERD RAGE.

As nerds, we are fortunate to live in a time in which several niches of the nerd realm are being actively brought to the forefront of mainstream entertainment, and that is pretty damn exciting to me.

Our favorite heroes are shown in movie theaters worldwide several times a year and the production values are astonishing.  Does this mean that every superhero movie that comes out is amazing?

Not at all.

There have been some pretty mediocre nerd movies in the history of motion pictures, BUT I do think that the hate that is shown over decisions made for movies that are still over two years away is getting a little out of hand.

There is a pretty common notion floating around that since superhero movies are so prevalent now then we DEMAND that they meet every single one of are expectations. Whose expectations you ask?  Who knows!  That’s the problem.  How many fans have how many ideas about how these characters should be brought to life? We won’t all get what we want, even if they make the best movie in the history of mankind.

That’s why I suggest we try to have what I call the “I’m just happy to be here” mentality.

I didn’t get a chance to see Man of Steel when it first came out (having an infant will do that), and before I finally got to see it I read so many reviews saying it was awful, that it didn’t live up to the character.  When I finally got a chance to see it, I’ll admit I was a little nervous, but as I watched Superman take flight I loved it.  I was just really happy to be seeing one of my favorite icons come to life.

This isn’t to say that these movies were up there with the top films of all time, but there is still something neat about seeing a character in a different medium.

“So what you are saying is I shouldn’t have any standards?”

Not really, I am just saying maybe try just enjoying yourself instead of railing against the cruel fate that made Superman kill Zod instead of… uh… wait, what were the other available options in that scenario?

I think it’s important to realize that there will never be a movie that meets every single on of your individual expectations and for the myriad of nerds out there that demand a movie that does, they are doomed to be perennially disappointed.  Millions of dollars have been invested into these comic book characters, and recently they are actually attracting some of best talent Hollywood has to offer to portray them.  Superheroes, who used to be relegated to straight-to-TV movies, are now Summer Blockbusters, and I am so excited about it.”

Pictured: Cam being my hero.

Pictured: Cam being my hero.

 

Now, for some brief humility. I’m far from innocent of this pompous attitude. I’ve even written articles on this very website where I shredded movies for no real reason. Just because I wanted to, and because I thought it was funny (I present to previous Back to the Future caption as exhibit A). I used my opinion to criticize and degrade someone’s art. And I’m ashamed of that. Being able to see the joy on my son’s face when he sees Superman fly, or when he sees Wolverine go berserk, and seeing how emotional he was while watching Thor 2, reminds me of the child-like wonder that we lose when we become adults. We act like the $10 and 2 hours we spent on a movie somehow merits a bitter attack on it. And most of the time, we don’t even spend that much. If you watch a movie for free, or steal it, then piss and moan about it, f— you. If you illegally downloaded it, you’re not only a dick, you’re a thief too. (However if you illegally download a movie and aren’t a jerk about it, then we’re cool. I know, I’m kind of a hypocrite too. Aren’t the 3 of you who actually read this glad you did?)

I know, it’s ironic that I call you a bully but then I seemingly bully you in return. Fighting fire with fire, so to speak. I consider myself less of a bully, and more of a Robin Hood. I’m trying to address an injustice that I’m witnessing, and doing what’s within my ability to right it. But then again, I already admitted to being a hypocrite, so maybe I am just a bully. All I know for sure is, I never want my kids to treat anything with disrespect. That includes “stupid” superhero movies and comics. I refuse to let my children feel entitled to anything. None of us deserve to feel entitled. I want them to feel joy and wonder when they see Superman take flight, or Thor hammering a Frost Giant, or Iron Man suiting up. But I want to retain that too. I want to watch movies and TV shows, and read comics, with the same appreciation and wonder that I did when I was a kid. Because imagination is what propels us. Not cruelty. That’s why that little boy makes your, and my, opinion irrelevant. All he sees is the amazing feat of Superman taking flight. To him that’s the most incredible thing he’s ever seen. The older we get the less we see flight. All we see is CGI, because we’ve lost our imagination. We experience life through a cynical filter, and it only breeds more cynicism in the world.

Ultimately, we all have the right to say what we want, and that includes criticism, so it’s not like I expect this to change anything. We need to understand how lucky we are to live in a society and culture where we can freely read and watch what we want without persecution. We shouldn’t take that for granted by treating art like garbage. We should learn to just be happy to be here.

“Worst. Blog Article. Ever. Also, you already used this caption joke in a previous article. Way to be original…”

 

Is Another Classic Avenger Joining The Team For “Avengers: Age of Ultron”?

—————UPDATE—————

Well, It looks like it’s OFFICIAL! Paul Bettany has been cast as Vision in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”! Not to toot my own horn or anything but… toot toot!

Source: ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Casts Paul Bettany As The Vision

—————UPDATE—————

Rumors of Vision showing up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe date back a few years, but the latest resurgence of the rumor carries a little more weight.

Below is a Tweet from ElMayimbe, from Latino Review. The dudes over there are notorious for getting good scoops, and they seem to think that Vision is definitely in the Avengers sequel…

For those of you who are not familiar, Vision is an android who was actually created by Ultron to be a foe for the Avengers but he eventually is convinced that Ultron does not have good intentions and so he joins the Avengers and turns against Ultron.

Originally, in the comics, Ultron was created by Hank Pym/Ant-man, but speculation is that for AoU he’ll have been created by Tony Stark. So this begs the question: Will Vision be created by Tony or Ultron?

Maybe Vision already exists in the MCU and we have in fact already seen him… or, HEARD him, rather…

I theorize that Tony’s A.I. Jarvis is Vision. I think that it would make perfect sense for Tony to, in a moment of clarity, to have a “vision” and create Jarvis his own body to go with his already evolved consciousness.

As you know, there’s been a lot of casting news on this flick already. In addition to the original team coming back, we’re gonna see Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Baron von Strucker, and the previously mentioned titular villain Ultron. But we haven’t heard anything about casting for Vision. If my theory is correct, that would be because he’s already cast.

Paul Bettany is the voice of Jarvis, and frankly would be the perfect form for Vision. We already know that he can do action (Legion, Priest) but he’s also got a sophisticated charm that is very much an attribute of Vision.

We shall see in time, but this just seems to make so much sense. Then again, Marvel doesn’t always do what makes the most sense with their casting…

 

 

Man of Steel sequel: Wonder Woman’s origin?

So there’s a pretty interesting  theory that’s popped up, about the approach to Wonder Woman’s origin for the Man of Steel/Batman vs. Superman film…

To boil it down for you, basically what was speculated is that Wonder Woman, and all the the Amazonian’s, would be descendants of ancient Kryptonians who attempted to set up bases for Krypton all throughout the universe thousands of years ago and the one here on (or around) Earth would have eventually seen the Amazonians emerge after the Kryptonians mated with humans(?).

Source: The rumor about Wonder Woman’s movie debut will make your head explode

“Wait… Clark’s my what.?”

 

There is no proven truth to this whatsoever. It was merely a speculation of another writer. But… it’s pretty damn good to be honest. I really like that theory and think it makes a lot of sense for how to introduce the character into the DC Cinematic Universe in a very logical way. Some people are opposed to the alteration of an origin however, and would most certainly NOT approve of this change.

The first obvious issue here is that, for some people, this seems like too easy of an explanation of why Wonder Woman exists. “Why does this chick have superpowers? She’s Superman’s DISTANT relative. Oh OK, that’s good enough for me.” Another problem I foresee here is that many people will feel like it’s a chauvinistic direction. “How do we make Wonder Woman work on screen? Make her more like Superman? Oh OK, that’s good enough for me.” (Warner Bros executives aren’t very deep thinkers.)

I personally don’t feel that this will really damage the character’s impact anymore than it would other characters, because there are many factors that go into screwing up comic characters in movies. Jennifer Garner is a good actress, but Electra was not successful and just wasn’t good. Mainly because Jennifer Garner, as good as she is, is not a the right person for the role. It has nothing to do with the back story or the characters origin. In fact, the Daredevil and Electra films stayed fairly close to Electra’s true back story and still screwed things up. Electra was portrayed as a tough-as-nails girl with some minor revenge motivations, instead of as a cold, hard badass with no remorse and no hesitation to do what needs to be done. Electra is an unapologetic killer, and she was played like a hopelessly romantic martial arts enthusiast. Had the right actress been given that role, and played it closer to cannon, then those films would have gotten a little more respect.

Calm down Benny, I said “a LITTLE”.

 

Origin changes do have an effect on comic book films (Ang Lee’s HULK, Catwoman) but that’s never the only thing that’s wrong (Ang Lee’s HULK, Catwoman). Many comic book films suffer from poorly written scripts (Jonah Hex) and bad, lazy, or ignorant directing. By “ignorant” I mean that the director just isn’t very familiar with the source material and the resulting film reflects that (Green Lantern). I love the Green Lantern movie personally, but I feel like if they had brought in a director that had a passion for the character, the way Jon Favreau did for Iron Man, then the film would have turned out much less chaotic and more condensed. The character seems to get pulled in several different directions as a result the film is somewhat convoluted.

#TeamReynolds4Ever

 

How about when an origin change goes right? Bane’s origin is COMPLETELY altered in The Dark Knight Rises and it worked great. It made sense for the character to not be a skinny twerp who bulked up due to a serum pumping into his veins from a thousand tubes in his body. The universe that they were functioning in, that Christopher Nolan created, couldn’t have hosted the original version of the character. It wouldn’t have made any sense.

Point. Made.

 

But how about that potentially chauvinistic issue? Why does Wonder Woman have to be more like Superman to be relevant? The correct answer is “She doesn’t”, but also I don’t think that’s what’s really going on here. The whole Greek mythology back story is cool and all, and it works in the comics, but in the cinematic universe that DC and WB are building I think they’re trying to avoid “deities”. I mean, you’re already in Thor-territory here (Thoritory?) with the whole Kryptonians-existing-thousands-of-years-before-humans thing so it’s already got the possibility of seeming unoriginal. Why try to cram mythology where it doesn’t belong? Gods don’t exist in this universe. These characters ARE the gods. It actually makes sense to alter the character’s back story to make her MORE relevant and powerful. You’re not *taking* her unique origin away from her… you’re giving her a reason to exist in THIS universe. You think “Aliens did it” is a cop-out? “Gods did it” is an even bigger cop-out. Rather than the scientific possibility of evolution and adaptation, you’d be saying, “Oh it was the Gods. They put the Amazonian’s here.” That doesn’t necessarily make less sense than Kryptonians being responsible for the Amazonians, but it doesn’t make more sense either.

I’M SORRY! I DON’T MEAN TO BE RUDE! I THOUGHT I WAS COMPLIMENTING YOU! PLEASE DON’T MURDER ME WITH FIRE!

 

One last example: The Amazing Spider-Man. Aside from people complaining that Peter was more emo than they would have liked (not me though, I love that movie) the character’s abilities are not less prevalent just because there was an alteration to his origin. Now, granted, we don’t know how significantly his origin has changed yet because they were very cryptic and left us with some questions that I hope the sequels will answer, but there seems to be this idea that there was something inside of Pete’s DNA that was mearly “activated” by the radioactive spider bite. And while people had their gripes with Peter, Spider-Man was… well, AMAZING in that movie.

I suppose my point here is that we don’t know enough yet to get anxious, and there are plenty of successes and failures for us to look back and asses that there’s truly no perfect formula for creating a comic book movie. I like Gal Gadot. She seems like a solid choice for Wonder Woman, regardless of what her origin is in the films. I feel like they chose her because she’ll capture the genuine strength and power of the character in a way that hasn’t been done before. Yes, the script needs to be right, and the directors vision for the character is crucial, but the performance that the artist gives is what we’ll remember most. I know that Gal hasn’t done a lot but inexperience doesn’t equate to incompetence.

If you had any doubts about her I’ll leave you with this which I believe will squash them…

Comic Book Writers: Do They Matter?

comic writers

When I read comic books, I love a great story. Personally for me, the art isn’t super important, sure it’s a huge plus to the book, but I think the writer is the one who really carries the story for the readers to continue on. For example, let’s look at Batman N52, I think if Greg Capullo was to leave the story, it would still remain one of DC’s best selling titles. But, what if Scott Snyder left? I think people would drop that book faster then you would imagine. Hell, that happened when Geoff Johns left Green Lantern after 9 years at the helm. I, for one, have really been enjoying the run that Robert Venditti has started. I have pretty high hopes for the future of Green Lantern; I still think he is in good hands.

Aquaman. Yeah, he has been the joke of DC and comic books for years. I’m pretty sure we are all aware of the Robot Chicken DC Comics special and how Aquaman is portrayed and how much of a c–t Superman is. But, when DC did their re-launch in 2011, Johns was taking on the writing of my favorite superhero, Aquaman. After the first issue, Aquaman was no longer the joke of DC but now he was one of the most badass characters and also one of DC’s best selling titles. It was one of the first times since Peter David’s run that I was proud to be an Aquaman fan again. A few months ago, some news immerged that Johns would be stepping down after the Death of a King arc was completed, and Jeff Parker was taking over the series. I was both saddened and extremely happy about that.

robot-chicken-you-cant-fly

Why was I sad you ask? Well, Geoff Johns is great with bringing a character back to life, not literally, but what I mean is that Johns is really good with taking a book that isn’t selling well and making it completely bad ass. I was also worried that Aquaman in someone else’s hands would just end up being a little fish in a big DC pond. That’s why I was saddened.

Why was I happy you ask? Well, first of all. I am ready for a story that won’t start really good and then just be SO MOTHER F—ING BORING in the middle, followed by an anti-climatic ending that either A) leads into the next story arc, or B) requires me to buy a book that’s not on my pull list and might sell out before I get it. As much as I love Geoff Johns, his stories seem to drag on or involve a cross over series. Sure, that’s not his fault. DC thinks cross over sell great but he is a big wig over at DC so I feel like he could be responsible. Another reason I was happy was because Batman ’66 has been a super fun ride. I really hope he can make Aquaman as much fun as Batman ’66. Parker has also worked on Adventures of Superman #1.

Now, I have mentioned a few writers and how much I enjoy their works, but what about writers you are not a fan of? Sure I have a love/hate relationship with Geoff Johns at times, but I would never say I hate him. Now, I will try to write about writers who write things that I don’t like without being to unbiased. One writer that I particularly do not enjoy, and Cameron Clark and I have had some heated arguments about this, is J. Michael Straczynski (or for my sake JMS because I can’t spell normal words correctly). I have read the first 6 issue of his 2008 issues of Thor, I have read his Superman Earth One Vol. 1 and 2, Night Owl/Dr. Manhattan from Before Watchman AND a bit of Silver Surfer Requiem on a really awkward date at a book store when I was younger.

JMS Thor

Everything I have read by JMS, for me, has been so boring and predictable. Out of everything he has written and that I have read that I remember is the time Thor beat the shit out of Iron Man. That may be because I don’t like Iron Man, or maybe because that was cool, but it saddens me that it’s all I can remember. So why would I read so many things by someone I don’t like? Well because I like the stories. I like hiding in a comic book and trying to find solitude in the characters and some writers can do that much better than others. But see, that’s what’s great about writers. Different people are going to like different writers, some people don’t even care about writers they just want a fun story. Sure, I’m going to tell Cameron every time we talk that JMS isn’t a good writer, and he’ll argue with me that JMS’s Thor run is better than Jason Aarons run. That makes no sense to me and I will never understand that, but when everything boils down, its just a $2.99 or $3.99 book that is going to bring joy to the read, and if you don’t like the book, just drop it or don’t buy the next issue.

4LN Questions – The Film Legacy of Tony Stark

Nathan asked – “If you had the choice, would you either try to find another actor to play Tony Stark, like James Bond, or would you kill him off after Avengers 3?”

 

This is a question that I think many people are asking themselves. Robert Downey Jr. is only contracted to do The Avenegers: Age of Ultron and the 3rd Avengers film. No Iron Man films appear to be on the books at this time. What does that mean for the character? Maybe nothing, maybe something. I think it’s too early to tell what Marvel’s plans for the character will be. I know that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has been quoted as saying:

“I believe there will be a fourth Iron Man film and a fifth and a sixth and a 10th and a 20th.”

“I see no reason why Tony Stark can’t be as evergreen as James Bond. Or Batman for that matter. Or Spider-Man. I think Iron Man is a character just like that.”

“Additionally, we are exploring options that would allow us to introduce Squirrel Girl into the mix…HAHAHA!!! JK! LOL! Nobody likes Squirrel Girl.” – Kevin Feige (editors note – this is NOT a direct quote from Kevin Feige, although we imagine he also hates Squirrel Girl.)

 

So obviously, Marvel has a plan. But let’s speculate a little anyway, shall we…

Tony Stark IS Iron Man, and Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark. In the same way that Tom Hanks IS Forest Gump, Will Ferrell IS Ron Burgundy, and Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey ARE Harry & Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber. And no one could ever play those iconic roles better than their originators…

 

It’s just hard for me to picture someone else in that role. If you’ve read any Iron Man comics, or any comics where he’s featured, you know that RDJ captures the wit and sarcastic charm of Tony SO WELL. Yes they’ve changed Bruce Banner and Rhodey, I get that. But Edward Norton and Terrence Howard didn’t OWN those roles the way RDJ OWNS the Tony Stark role. The dude is 4 flicks deep as the character and he’s only gotten better.

“Next time, baby.” Um, about that…

 

Plus, this character has been introduced to other characters from other films. Cap, Thor, Hulk… they all have their own films, and prospective future films, and they exist with a certain understanding of one another. What do you do? Just keep rotating out all the actors as they get too old for the role? James Bond works because it’s one character in whatever situation you want to put him in, and it doesn’t have an effect on any other series of films. You can rotate the actor(s) as much as you want and it won’t matter because those films are very self-contained.

Trivia Time! Is this a promo photo from GoldenEye or Remington Steele? Neither. It’s from Mamma Mia…

 

I don’t know how I’d feel about Tony dying. I think that would be just too much. Even as much as I’m hesitant of the idea of someone else playing him, seeing the character die would be tough man.

If Marvel decides to culminate all of their movies into one final “hoorah” for the Avengers crew, and then after that each character continues on in their respective franchise, maybe only every now and then making cameos in one anther’s flicks, I could be OK with that. I’d be down for some one-off team-up flicks too man. Seeing Thor and Hulk in their own movie together would be awesome.

So I suppose my answer is… I hope they get someone else to play him, but continue on the films more self-contained, like the Bond flicks. I don’t see it being necessary to “reboot” the character or anything like that. Just keep his adventures going. I would say the same for the rest of the Avengers too. There’s no reason any of them have to end entirely. Maybe give them some time away for people to miss them and enjoy other character’s adventures, and then bring ’em back for a new round of kicking ass and eating shawarma.

“When we’re done here 4 of us have new movies to film. Hawkeye, Banner, just meet us back here for the sequel.”

 

Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

Marvel-Comics-Vs-DC-Comics

One of the biggest arguments in comics book is: “Which one is better, Marvel or DC?” If you have ever read a comic book or talked to someone about comics you have had this argument. I for one have been on both sides of this. I have asked the question, and I have debated the question. Its fun to have a favorite super hero and it’s even fun to talk about the company that makes said hero. I know for me I have a favorite superhero(s) from each company. My favorites from DC are Batman and Aquaman, and from Marvel its Captain America and The X-Men. That last one might be more then one superhero but I have a really hard time picking a favorite mutant, just ask Stephen about our countless conversations about the X-Men and which one is our favorite. He might say he’s burned out on X-Men but he’s lying.

 

This is an actual text conversation between me and Stephen…

This is an actual text conversation between me and Stephen…

 

So, you are at your LCS (Local Comic Shop) and you hear some guys arguing and think, “Great, what BS move did he just pull in Magic…”, but then you hear, “Dude! Are you kidding me? You REALLY think Hawkeye could take Solomon GruYou’re not even going to bother putting him against Green Arrow? That’s the problem with you Marvel fan boys, ever since your movies have come out, you think your characters are more superior than EVERY DC hero.” OK, that might be a bit extreme but we all know where I am coming from. Hell, even in high school I would argue with anyone about why DC is better than Marvel, and my friends got tired of that pretty quick.

Dungeon

Now, I love to debate almost anything and everything, but I feel like debating comic companies is just useless. Please hear me out, why must we debate something we love so much? Who gives a damn which company you like more? Does it really matter? Just let that sink for a minute… continue thinking about it… now let’s take a look at why it doesn’t matter.

First point- We love comics. I know we enjoy debating what we love, but does it do any good? I think not. Why can’t we just enjoy a good comic? Why does it matter which company publishes it? We all like to have a favorite but when we sit around a kitchen table while playing MTG does it really matter what comic company is best? I certainty don’t think so.

Second point – Movies. Now, hear me out on this one. We all love superhero’s and we all love movies (I hope we all do), so why bitch about it? When I first really started to love comic books I would get into arguments with people about why I love Detective Comics, not just Batman but DC comics (DC stands for Detective Comics in case you didn’t know. It took me far to long to figure that one out). Every time I discussed DC comics someone would try to argue Marvels Universe with me only based on the movies, and I hated that! I would say that I like DC and the people would roll their eyes and ask me what I thought of Catwoman or Green Lantern (I loved Green Lantern, deal with it) and then they would tell me about how great the first Spider-Man was or how awesome Iron Man was. Well, the way I fixed this problem was I started associating with people that actually enjoyed comics for what they are. Stories. And, like all good stories, there are many different publishers for them. Yeah I am still a die-hard DC fan and the “go to” guy for any DC question here at 4LN, but I have also learned how to really appreciate Marvel for the great stories and heroes they have. I think if we could all work on seeing these companies as storytellers we would come to appreciate them even more, and not waste breath arguing who’s better and who’s worse.

avengers 1978

This is from The Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes, circa 1978. Yes that is Iron Man in the upper left hand corner. Batman And Robin doesn’t seem so terrible now, does it?

 

My last point for this rant is Iron Man Vs. Batman. I have argued this since my existence; I think I popped out of the womb saying “wahhhhh F—k Tony Stark.” Yeah I know that seems a little extreme, but I really can not recall a time that I even once liked Iron Man, and honestly, that’s really sad. I think he is a really solid character and played a huge role in one of my favorite stories, Civil War and J. Hickman’s Infinity/Avengers run that’s happening now. I always thought he was just a rip off of my favorite hero, Bats. I mean they both come from a lot of money, they both have daddy issues, and they both have their demons. Batman is haunted by the death of his parents and Jason Todd, and Tony is an Alcoholic and I’m sure he has some other things going on but I’m to close minded to read his stories. And why? Because I am so biased and set in my ways that I automatically think Tony is a worthless character and just a cheap rip off. But yet, I am a HUGE Aquaman fan and he is clearly DC’s take on Namor. So Aquaman is in essence a rip off and I love him, so why can’t I love Iron Man? I really wish I had an answer for that but I sadly don’t have a single clue why I am so dead set. Hating Iron Man does nothing but make me a biased dick. And honestly, ask yourself, have you ever been that guy? You know, the one who hates a character based on almost nothing? Stephen is that way with Aquaman; Cam is that way with Bill Clark. Robbie hates Splinter (no one really knows why), and Cody hates Lockheed… that one is just… whatever.

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 10.56.20 AM

So, in conclusion, lets just love comics for comics. We have nothing to prove, and we have no reason to hate. Each character has great flaws and great high points. Its not about being biased, its about enjoying something. There is no need to nitpick every aspect of what we love, but there is always room in the nerdy corners of our hearts to embrace the heroes, the stories, and the companies that bring us so much joy and happiness every Wednesday.