Let’s Talk About Black Widow in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

The calendar may say it’s spring, but the summer movie season is officially upon us with the release of the sequel to 2012’s blockbuster The Avengers this weekend. It’s Marvel, it’s Joss Whedon, and it’s the Avengers, so there’s no question Avengers: Age of Ultron is going to be a megahit to rival, perhaps even surpass, its predecessor.

A traditional review seems rather pointless for a film like this. I mean, if you want to see it you’re going to see it, no matter what the critics say (for the record, I say it’s a whole lot of fun and well worth your time). What’s more valuable, I think, is an exploration of the issues the film raises, particularly in terms of the depiction of its main female hero, Black Widow (deftly portrayed by Scarlett Johansson).

Due to some grossly insensitive comments made by a couple of the actors in an interview (et tu, Evans?) and the observation that Black Widow has been woefully underrepresented when it comes to merchandise, the character has become a lightning rod for controversy on the fringes of the Avengers franchise. And let’s not forget that despite Johansson’s popularity and the rich well of story material, there’s still no sign of a Black Widow standalone film.

These are all legitimate gripes, important to the ongoing conversation about the treatment (or, sadly more often, mistreatment) of women in Hollywood. Yet it always seems as though there are those lying in wait for things like this to happen, ready to fire up the outrage machine and whipping out hashtags like pre-printed Super Bowl championship T-shirts. There’s a old newspaper saying: “Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.” The updated version is: “Never offend anyone who sells ad space by the page click.” To be fair, it doesn’t help that tone-deaf filmmakers, actors, and studios fall into the trap every single time.

So now, instead of talking about Black Widow’s arc in Age of Ultron, we’re drawn into a larger debate about slut shaming and invisible protagonists on retail shelves. There are plenty of places where you can engage in that worthy discussion, but I’m not going to get into all of that here (others have covered the topic quite thoroughly). What I’d rather focus on is Natasha’s storyline in the film itself, an aspect often overlooked in the midst of all these external elements.

This is where I must to pause to issue a spoiler warning before continuing. The following article will deal with some minor plot points from the film. I won’t be revealing any major details about the final act or any of the other character’s storylines (except where they directly intersect with Black Widow), but if you want to go in truly knowing nothing you may want to stop here and come back after you’ve seen the film. Otherwise, let’s dive right in.

Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

Setting aside for the moment her appearances in previous MCU installments, I would argue that the storyline Whedon has written for Black Widow in Age of Ultron is actually quite empowering. The sweeping action sequence in the film’s opening shows her fighting shoulder to shoulder with her male counterparts. They value her for her skills and what she can contribute to the team. No one talks down to her, flirts with her, or considers her lesser because of her gender. She’s the only one who points out the difference, often jokingly referring to her compatriots as “boys.”

In a way, Natasha Romanoff is the spiritual successor to Peggy Carter, achieving the equality and respect among her colleagues that Peggy could only dream about in the 1940s. I believe in giving credit where it’s due, and Whedon has made Black Widow an intrinsic part of the Avengers, consumer products not withstanding.

It’s Natasha herself who goes and challenges that dynamic by not only having romantic feelings for Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), but expressing them to him outright. She takes the initiative, making it clear to him that she’s still considering whether to go for it, and if she does it will be on her terms. It’s sort of adorable the way Bruce has no idea what to do with this declaration. He’s obviously interested (even the “other guy” has a soft spot for her), but has convinced himself he’s damaged goods. What he doesn’t realize is that’s exactly what she sees in him. She’s damaged too, and looking for someone who won’t judge her for it.

I’ve heard some critics take issue with the fact that Black Widow in Age of Ultron is basically defined by her relationship to a man, as if somehow that diminishes her as a character in comparison to her male counterparts. I don’t agree with either part of that assessment, but let’s say for the sake of argument that the first part is valid and her journey in the film is centered around her connection with Bruce. If that’s true of Natasha, then it’s true of Bruce too, since they are on a parallel path. Their story is about trying to find some shred of good in a whole lot of bad. The question that unites them is whether they are too far gone for redemption. Love is one measure of redemption, but it’s not Natasha’s only option.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the film should be held up as beacon of feminism or anything. Though it features a handful of outstanding female characters, they scarcely interact.

I especially wanted to see more of the strong friendship hinted at between Natasha and another female character outside of the world of the Avengers, but their screen time together is minimal. Certainly there’s room for improvement on the Bechdel front. What I’m arguing is that Black Widow is far from marginalized in the source material, even if she gets the shaft everywhere else.

Age of Ultron is a very crowded film, with lots of moving parts. That Whedon was able to serve so many characters, even in a minimal way, and still keep the running time under three hours is an impressive feat of storytelling.

I encourage Black Widow fans to see the film themselves and form their own opinion, outside of the Internet echo chamber. You may come to a completely different conclusion, and that’s fine. That’s great. That’s a discussion I’d love to have.

An Awesome Assemblage of Avengers Again

Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

The massive Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get bigger. With the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, we’ll see the addition of at least three new Avengers to the already abundant lineup, not to mention supporting players both familiar and strange (though the real Strange is yet to come). There’s a shiny new bad guy too, the Ultron of the film’s title, a twisted artificial intelligence with genocidal tendencies (voiced with relish by James Spader). This not only makes for a crowded film (more on that when we get to our review later this week), it also makes for a very crowded press conference.

Earlier this month, Disney hosted said press conference at their studio in Burbank, where a baker’s dozen of panelists, including all of the usual suspects, appeared to promote the film. On hand were Scarlett Johansson, Joss Whedon, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Kevin Feige. Each one of them could have held an entertaining press conference all on their own, but as it was we had to split our attention among all of the impressive talent in front of us during the limited time we had.

You can imagine how hard it must have been for Whedon, who wrote and directed both Avengers films, to do the same over the course of years. “There’s like 47 of these people,” he joked. “I really didn’t think that through, and I regret very much doing this at all.” That last part may not have been a joke.

He went on to explain the challenge of making sure each of the characters got their moment in the film. “I have all these people. I love all these people. They’re extraordinary. But making sure that they’re all being served, all within the same narrative structure, that they’re in the same movie, that it’s all connected to the main theme. At some point during the editing process, I could not have told you who they were, who I was, what movie I was making, I got so lost in it. But I think it all came together, and you know, it’s just about making these guys look good.”

Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

Downey Jr., whose quippy sense of humor is not unlike that of his big-screen counterpart Tony Stark, pretended to be offended when it took the press a while to get around to asking him a question. “I want to say this very clearly,” he said in a mock-serious tone. “The next time I’m not asked the first question, I’ll [expletive deleted] walk out.”

The first question actually went to Smulders, who plays former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill. She was asked about the development of her character since we first met her in the original Avengers film.

“Maria’s now under the employment of Tony Stark and she’s now working with him to privatize security,” Smulders said. “It’s very fun being a thread to be able to tie the TV show and the movies together. That’s been a lot of fun. But yeah, she’s got a bigger job now. She’s working, like I said, with Tony, and she doesn’t have S.H.I.E.L.D. at her disposal anymore, so it’s a much more difficult job.”

Johansson, who plays another kick-ass female character, Black Widow, was also asked about how her character has changed over time and her emotional journey throughout Age of Ultron.

“There’s some sense finally of there being a kind of normal, in a way,” Johansson said of the film’s opening scenes. “I mean, it’s a well-oiled machine where, you know, we’re tag teaming each other. It’s finally like the introductions are over and we’re at work, like we’re digging our heels in. And at the end of Avengers 2 I think Widow is, you know, she let her guard down, she was hopeful for something. I think she had this moment of false hope.”

Speaking of character development, fans of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye will be happy to know he actually has some in this film, after spending a lot of the first on the sidelines under Loki’s control.

“Well, I speak in this movie, which is awesome,” Renner says of the differences between the two installments. “And I become part of the team, which is awesome. And dive into some really killer aspects of [the character]. When sitting down with Joss, and even Kevin [Feige] back in the day, talking about why I liked him, why I wanted to play Hawkeye, because I didn’t understand, I could never do like what these gentlemen do. I don’t have that creative of a mind. I understood Hawkeye in the sense of he’s a human just with a high skill set, so I could tap into that, and I feel like I got to explore a little bit more of that, even outside the skill set.”

Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

The new cast members also got their turns to speak, at least for a little bit. Spader talked about being thrown into the role of a giant killer robot on his first day. In addition to providing the voice, he also did some motion capture work and was present on the set when shooting with the other actors.

“I arrived in London and within the first half hour they put on a suit, they put on all this gear, and I’d gone through a range of motion,” Spader recalled. “And then within 15 minutes I was watching me walk around a big room, moving and doing this and that and everything else, and watching Ultron, or at least a formative stage of Ultron, on a monitor in front of me. And it started right there. And the next day I was on set shooting a scene with Scarlett. And so really that pace was what it was, through the entire project. And luckily I’d had some conversations with Joss and one fantastic meal with a whole bunch of wine to figure out who this guy was. And that was it. That really was it. It was just trying to hold on.”

Olsen and Taylor-Johnson, who play super-powered twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (AKA Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver), were asked if their previous work together as husband and wife in 2014’s Godzilla helped them develop chemistry as siblings.

“I think it’s only a benefit,” Olsen said. “I mean, it’s kind of intimidating joining this group so I’m glad I got to do it with Aaron by my side.”

Taylor-Johnson agreed. “Yeah, it was comforting to know, stepping on set, when it was such a big ensemble and cast, that you kind of had some to feel comfortable with. Absolutely, yeah.”

The last newcomer to the film wasn’t really a newcomer at all. Paul Bettany has been a part of the MCU since he first recorded the voice for Tony Stark’s A.I. assistant J.A.R.V.I.S. in Iron Man. In Age of Ultron, he takes on the physical role of the Vision, a mysterious, benevolent android. The dual role is no coincidence, but we can’t say any more than that without giving too much away.

When asked about the differences between the two roles, Bettany cut right to the practical aspects of the job. “The main difference is I have to show up,” he said. “You know, the great thing is being able to work with all these incredibly creative and talented people. However, I also now have to show up at junkets, you know, so everything’s a double-edged sword.”

Avengers: Age of Ultron opens Friday, May 1.

The Ladies of Avengers: New Videos Featuring Black Widow and Scarlet Witch

Image credit: Marvel Studios
Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

We know you’re all waiting with all the patience you can muster, ticket in hand, for this weekend’s release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. To tide you over, here are a few new featurette videos, starring Black Widow and Scarlet Witch.



Tickle the Hulk—and Your Kid’s Funny Bone—in Marvel’s Shake to Assemble

© Marvel / Disney Hyperion
© Marvel Press

Marvel’s picture book Shake to Assemble is an interactive story that you might expect to see told with pixels on a tablet rather than printed on pieces of paper. Young readers are invited to tap, shake, flap, flick, and even tickle the pages to assemble their favorite team of superheroes.

On our first read-through, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Hervé Tullet’s brilliant book Press Here. Shake to Assemble will get kids giggling as they get hands-on with every page of this highly entertaining picture book.

These are not the serious Avengers poised to save the planet in Age of Ultron. This is a silly, just-for-kids version of the team: the hapless Hawkeye, a boisterious Thor, and five more Avengers to assemble the complete team. The text asks kids to touch the page or book in a certain way to call the next Avenger into action.

Without spoiling too much of the surprises each page holds, I will say that it’s a treat to see the roster selected for this team of Avengers. Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Iron Man are pretty much a given for any Avengers lineup, but I was delighted to see Falcon (in his original costume) and Black Widow join the others. My daughter was even happier. She paused to pat Black Widow and whisper, “You’re my favorite Avenger.”

While you might first wonder why the book wasn’t simply created as an app—especially when the narrator instructs you to swipe the page to make Black Widow appear—it’s a fantastic reminder that a fun story doesn’t need animation and sounds to be engaging.

Shake to Assemble hits bookstore shelves March 31, 2015, for a suggested retail price of $12.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.


My (Newly Updated) Most Tear-Jerking Moments in Geekdom

My Tear Jerkers © Sophie Brown
My tearjerkers © Sophie Brown.

Back in my early days at GeekMom in 2011, I wrote a post listing My Top Ten Tear-Jerking Moments in Science Fiction. Since then, I’ve watched lots of new TV shows and movies—some of it sci-fi, some of it not (my original list includes entries that are closer to fantasy than true sci-fi and so does this one)—and so I felt that my list was due for an update. Here then are nine new additions to my list. Some are rather old to the world, but they’ve been new to me in the past four years and they have all made me cry.

BEWARE: Spoilers abound from the beginning—and make sure you have tissues in hand.

Fringe – “Peter”
In the latest addition to my list (I only watched this episode for the first time this week), Walter recounts the events of his son’s death in 1985 and his subsequent actions to Olivia. This episode creates my own personal “perfect storm” of things guaranteed to reduce me to an emotional wreck: sick children, dying children, mothers losing their children, and the subject of these events being boys—I only have a son, so anything to do with boys seems to affect me disproportionately. By the end of those 42 minutes, I was effectively one giant ball of emotion and I’m still not quite fully recovered.

Coulson Avengers Poster © Marvel
Coulson Avengers poster © Marvel.

Marvel’s The Avengers
Do I even need to say it? It’s been three years, I’ve even had Coulson given back to me, and yet I still haven’t forgiven Joss Whedon for what I went through in that cinema. The worst part wasn’t seeing him stabbed (although that physically hurt), but watching the reactions of each Avenger as they learn about his death over the comm. A group of “extraordinary people” temporarily incapacitated by the death of one very ordinary man.

Supernatural – “The Man Who Would Be King”
I could very easily make an entire list of sad moments just from Supernatural—and it wouldn’t be a short list, either. The show is probably one of the most consistently heartbreaking things on TV that has nothing to do with Joss Whedon. Most lists I’ve seen out there focus on Sam and Dean moments, but my personal choice is all about Castiel. After an entire episode focused on the (frequently wrong) choices he has been making, Castiel pleads to his father (God, for those of you unaware that Castiel is an angel) to offer him guidance and give him a sign that he is “on the right path.” His face when he is met by nothing but silence is heartbreaking.

Guardians of The Galaxy
I’ve seen this film several times now and yet somehow, I always forget about its opening. I think perhaps it’s just so painful that I block it out. Actually, it seems to be some kind of collective block on the part of all geeks. Google “Guardians of The Galaxy Opening Scene,” and you’ll see almost nothing but references to the scene that comes after this one. You know, the funny one with the dancing and the “microphone” made from a space rat? However, we must all be forced to accept that the film actually opens on Earth in 1988, where a young Peter Quill visits his dying mother in hospital. The desperate way he clutches at her hand and realizes it’s too late breaks me every time.

Aaron Ashmore as Steve Jinks © SyFy
Aaron Ashmore as Steve Jinks © SyFy.

Warehouse 13 – “Emily Lake”
This entire episode is a roller-coaster, with the discovery that Jinks has been working undercover and was not the traitor we worried he was. That relief was, of course, short-lived. The worst part about the scene where his body was discovered wasn’t actually the moment we saw it, but normally laugh-a-minute Pete’s futile attempt to act like nothing is wrong as he asks, then begs Claudia not to go into the room. There’s a lot that could be said about how the show’s only canonically gay character (Helena is bi) was the one killed off. However, in this instance, I’m merely acknowledging those issues because Jinks was fully resurrected shortly afterwards. Somehow, however, even that knowledge doesn’t lessen the impact of that scene.

For the most part, Zombieland is a comedy about Twinkies, Bill Murray, and “The Rules,” but underneath that it’s really a story about family. We spend most of the film believing that tough-guy Tallahassee misses his dog, but over a game of Monopoly one word gives away to everyone, us included, that he has actually been talking about his young son. We see him break down and get a series of flashbacks to a younger, happier man with his adorable toddler. The scene gets some added emotional weight due to how unexpected it is, both in its placement within the story and that it shows the most “macho” tough character unashamedly crying in front of the others.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “The Magical Place”
Agent Coulson should probably get some sort of award for being the only character to make it onto my list twice. As for Whedon… *Ahem* After his untimely death, Coulson made his reappearance on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., bringing with him a whole lot of questions about, well, just how it was that he was even breathing. In this episode, we saw him undergo a procedure to help him remember his resurrection and the results are agonizing for both him and the viewer.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part Two © WB
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part Two © WB.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part Two
There are countless moments in this film that made me cry: Snape discovering Lily’s body, Hedwig’s death, the Weasley’s clinging to one another around Fred. But the one that really did me in was Harry speaking to his parents in the forest. Perhaps it’s because I lost a parent at a very young age, but the thought of his being able to speak with some version of them, even if they are little more than shadows, brings me to tears. Tears which peak when he asks that most childish question but one every adult still wants answered, “Does it hurt?”

Twin Peaks – “Arbitrary Law”
In this episode, Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed in the form of the entity BOB, who resided within her father. In this heartbreaking scene, BOB forces his host to violently slam his head into a door, resulting in fatal trauma. As Leland dies, BOB’s spirit leaves him and he finally realizes what he did, begging forgiveness from God, Laura, and the men around him. Knowing that Leland himself isn’t really to blame, Cooper talks him “into the light” and allows him to find peace.

What have you watched lately that’s brought you to tears?

The Ultimate Avengers Playlist

Image © Disney, 2012.

Recently, I realized just how far behind I am with my Avengers universe watching. I only stuck with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a few episodes during the first season, and I haven’t seen the most recent installments of Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America. So I decided that I need to catch up on all of it in time for the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron (especially after seeing that second trailer).

Then, I decided I wanted to re-watch all of it—the movies and TV—in the right order. I’ve forgotten a lot, and I like an excuse to binge-watch pretty much anything.

But, what’s the right order?

This was a hard question. Marvel’s Agent Carter has started, but I kind of want to watch it all after Captain America: The First Avenger—to see what Peggy Carter gets up to without the boys. I also want to re-watch Ang Lee’s Hulk, which I haven’t seen in 10 years. I know Marvel Studios likes to pretend it never happened, but that seemed like the most sensible place to start. And from there, my ultimate Avengers playlist took shape.

Hulk (2003): Again, I know the first Hulk movie never gets mentioned alongside the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After Universal put out Ang Lee’s version to all kinds of mixed feelings, Marvel got the rights back and completely reworked the story for the reboot in 2008. But, it’s still where it all started. Remember Eric Bana?

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), iTunes.

Iron Man (2008): The first “real” movie in the Avengers franchise, and the movie that made Robert Downey, Jr. an action hero.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video rental), iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, PlayStation Store.

The Incredible Hulk (2008): Edward Norton’s portrayal of Hulk is really fun, and I like anything with Tim Roth. Wow, I’d forgotten all about Roth’s Blonsky until starting this list. And Robert Downey, Jr.’s first (very brief) crossover appearance as Tony Stark. Must hurry up and get through the first two movies on my playlist.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, VUDU, PlayStation Store, XBox.

Iron Man 2 (2010): Mickey Rourke, more Robert Downey, Jr., and continuing the tradition of little crossover nuggets at the end.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, VUDU, PlayStation Store, XBox.

Thor (2011): Introducing the third Avenger, a straight-up god.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, VUDU, PlayStation Store, XBox.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): Chris Evans’ transformation into Captain America is my favorite origin story so far. And hello, Peggy Carter!

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), iTunes, Google Play, VUDU, PlayStation Store, XBox.

Marvel’s Agent Carter (2015): I’m saving my episodes of Agent Carter for when I’ve made it this far in my playlist. Because I love what I’m hearing about the miniseries, and I really want to revisit her in Captain America first to refresh my memory.

Where to get it: ABC.comAmazon (Instant Video purchase), Google Play, VUDUPlayStation Store, XBox.

The Avengers (2012): This is the movie I’ve seen the most times already, thanks to Netflix (and now it’s gone, ugh). But I’m looking forward to getting a refresher on everything that came before.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), Google Play, VUDU, YouTube, XBox.

Iron Man 3 (2013): This is where I hit my franchise wall. I have not seen this one yet, or any of the remaining movies in the Avengers universe.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video purchase), iTunes, Google Play, VUDU, PlayStation Store, XBox, Starz streaming.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season One episodes 1-7 (2013): I made it through the first six episodes of the show when it first aired, and then I lost interest. But then everyone told me it really picked up a couple of episodes later, after Thor: The Dark World was released. So, I was *thisclose* to getting hooked. I will try again.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), Netflix, iTunes, Google Play, VUDUPlayStation Store, XBox.

Thor: The Dark World (2013): 2013 was the year that I was apparently in a movie bubble. How could I miss more Loki?

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video purchase), iTunes, Google Play, VUDU, PlayStation Store, XBox.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season One episodes 8-16 (2013-2014): I’ll be picking up the show from here, with the aftermath of whatever happens in Thor: Dark World

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), Netflix, iTunes, Google Play, VUDUPlayStation Store, XBox.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): So many GeekMoms had this at the top of their best movies of 2014 lists. Must. Watch.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video purchase), iTunes, Google Play, PlayStation Store, XBox, Redbox.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season One episodes 17-22 (2013-2014): GeekMom Corrina told me major Winter Soldier spoilers abound at the end of the first season, so this is where I will pick up the series after watching the latest Avengers universe movie.

Where to get it: Amazon (DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video), Netflix, iTunes, Google Play, VUDUPlayStation Store, XBox.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two (2014-2015): I’m hoping to squeeze in the current season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. before the big event in May, but obviously, I don’t know yet if the show will wrap around the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Since the movie’s release is May 1, I’m guessing at least the last couple of episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D. may pick up after the movie.

Where to get it: ABC.com (only the five most recent episodes), Amazon (Instant Video purchase), Google Play, VUDUPlayStation Store, XBox.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) My playlist endgame.

How would your Avengers playlist look?

Geek-twisting Holiday Songs

Image By Rebecca Angel

Oh, who wants the same old boring lyrics to our holiday favorites?  Altering words to existing songs is a playful, challenging, and creative endeavor. It’s the fan-fiction of music. Winter and Christmas tunes are so well-known, it’s a great place to start. Here are some people who have already done so with a geeky twist:

The Twelve Days of Future Christmas created by Bridge 8, goes through a list of current science topics that are on the verge of becoming reality! “12 drones delivering…”

(TUNE: “Oh Christmas Tree”)
Oh, number Pi. Oh, number Pi. Your digits are nonending,
Oh, number Pi. Oh, number Pi. No pattern are you sending.
Want more math Christmas songs? Go here!

Hee-hee. This is some crazy editing. Star Trek TNG in “Make it So!”

You better watch out; you better not sneeze.
You better not cough, ’cause you’ll spread a disease….Viruses are comin’ to town.
“Catch” all the lyrics here.

This one doesn’t change the lyrics so much as it is performed in a geeky way. All electronic devices band in “Feliz Navidad.”

Pirate Christmas Carols! This is from me. I’ve written a lot of these. Here is one you can listen to with lyrics. No Ale!No Ale! No Ale! No Ale! Six months at sea with no dark, stout or pale.

So what’s does your family geek out about? Make it a family game to rewrite lyrics to a familiar holiday tune. You’ll be singing it every year afterwards!

Here’s one I wrote about my favorite Avenger…

Loki Was A Gentlemen
(To the tune of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)
Loki was a gentleman when he took all the power.
His smile was quite debonair as he told us to cower.
“Sweet lady, kneel before me now, no need to look so sour.
Many thanks, this encounter’s been a joy, been a joy.
Many thanks, this encounter’s been a joy.”

The World According to Spider-Man

World According to SpiderMan Image Insight Editions
World According to SpiderMan. Image: Insight Editions

The past few months, I’ve fallen in love with Spider-Man. I just can’t get enough of the wise-cracking webcrawler. What better way to learn more about him than with a book by Spider-Man himself? The World According to Spider-Man by Dan Wallace opens with a letter to the reader from Spider-Man, and it goes uphill from there with Spidey breaking the fourth wall to give you an inside look on how to be a superhero. It’s not all glory though, and Spidey does talk about some of his lower moments as well as his higher ones.

Included in this book are some fun removable items including clippings of the Daily Bugle, pictures from Aunt May, and Peter Parker’s report card. There is also a special “guest” section that was written by Aunt May and Venom. These pages are nice because you get to hear about Spider-Man from another character’s point of view and it breaks up the constant wise-cracking.

Speaking of removable inserts, the science section with Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four has two reference cards from Horizon Labs that made me laugh out loud. “So you’ve become unstuck in time” and “So you’re on an unfamiliar planet” talk about the various things that Spider-Man has learned when dealing with one or the other another. Longtime comic book fans will recognize some of the references, while newbie readers will laugh at the craziness of it all.

Of all the information that Spider-Man provides, including how to build your own rogues gallery of super villains and how to balance a love life, my favorite is The Art of Witty Banter and How to Keep a Secret Identity.

A little break time reading. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
A little break time reading. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

The Art of Witty Banter only goes on for two pages, but they remind me why I love Spider-Man so much. How to Keep a Secret Identity has a nice little jab at Superman that made me chuckle and my husband (a big time Superman fan) roll his eyes.

My favorite joke in the book is when Spider-Man is talking about the Avengers and their battle cry. I don’t think the artist, Mirco Pierfederici, could have drawn this scene any more perfectly. (Hint: It involves Lego bricks.)

Author Dan Wallace did a nice job capturing Spider-Man’s attitude and personality in this title and the inserts he wrote up and designed were an added bonus.

For those of you worried your child will rip the book trying to get at the inserts, have no fear. The inserts are attached with a substance that feels kind of like rubber cement and they are easy to remove and put back.

The World According to Spider-Man comes in at 62 pages, which makes it a nice break time read for adults, or a fun learning experience for kids who need to turn off the video games for a while. I highly recommend this book for any fan of the webcrawler, ages 6 and up.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes – All You Need to Know

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes Launch Line-Up © Disney/Marvel
Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes Launch Line-Up © Disney/Marvel

The Walt Disney Company and Marvel Entertainment held a press conference to launch Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes. Joe Quesada, John Vignocchi, Brian Michael Bendis and others, together with Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg, presented the latest upgrades to the popular platform and revealed the first wave of characters available from the Marvel universe.

There was a lot of information revealed during the conference (with a lot more announcements to come in the future) but here’s what you really need to know.

  • Disney Infinity 2.0 is scheduled to release Fall 2014. All current figures, power discs, and toy boxes will be compatible with the new release, as will the current base.
  • The game will be available on PS4 and XBox One at launch.
  • The new Starter Pack includes multiple figures and an Avengers playset piece. The set shown on screen contained Thor, Iron Man and Black Widow however it wasn’t stated if this was the final version or if different character combinations would be available.
  • The initial wave of Marvel figures will be: Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Hulk. Several characters from Guardians of The Galaxy appeared in the footage revealed during the conference so we can be pretty confident that we will be seeing those characters shortly. Over a dozen more characters are confirmed to be coming soon.
  • There will be 80 new power discs released in two waves. These will include team ups and costume changes.
  • Vehicles have been added including two wheelers like Captain America’s motorcycle. We also saw a Sky Cycle, mini Helicarrier capable of carrying multiple characters and Lola!
  • Structured game play has been added in the Toy Box. Two options discussed were clasic Tower Defense (we saw a 10-level Asgard themed game) and a Dungeon Crawler.
  • Toy Box building has been simplified to help even the youngest players create their own worlds. New brushes allow you to build basic themes such as cities, dungeons, and a racetrack quickly and easily. Builders have also been added who will walk around your Toy Box creating as they go.
  • Building interiors have also been added allowing you to create a Home. Here you can display your trophies and more. I spotted an awesome S.H.I.E.L.D. rug and several version of Iron Man’s suit on display.
  • The Marvel Manhattan world has been added and it is over four times larger than the previous biggest world on Infinity 1.0 – Metroville from The Incredibles. Many iconic buildings appear in Marvel Manhattan including, most noticeably, Avengers Tower.
  • New locomotion has been added including Forward Flight and Hover modes, the former at least includes combat abilities. Many characters have the Super Jump ability and Hulk has a special Wall Crawl.
  • Different styles of combat have been added to match the differing styles of the Marvel characters. Thor and Cap use a brawl technique, Black Widow a melee style, and Hawkeye more ranged approach. Hulk? Hulk SMASH!
  • The character level cap has been raised to 20. In addition characters now have their own unique attributes and skill trees so each character can be levelled up however the player chooses.
  • Dancing with the Stars is Hydra.

There’s so much more to learn about Disney Infinity 2.0 and I for one hope to get my hands on a copy soon so I can really see what it’s all about, but for now you can check out the launch trailer over on the Marvel UK YouTube channel.

More Geek Loom Bands

An Evil Minion my daughter and I made for Gramp’s birthday. Image: Cathe Post

Loom band projects are still all the rage. With the Rainbow Loom just being named Toy of the Year (for both Specialty Toy of the Year and Girl Toy of the Year) at the 2014 Toy Fair, it’s no wonder that kids (and adults) love doing projects, and teachers and occupational therapists have yet another tool in their arsenal. Geeks have found a niche in the loom band craft, too. Jenn previously shared some of her favorite geeky loom patterns. I have a few more to add to your list to check out.

My attempt at a Spiderman charm. He doesn't have a face or webs, and too many of the bands broke in the neck area to keep him, but it wasn't a bad attempt. Image: Cathe Post
My attempt at a Spider-Man charm. He doesn’t have a face or webs, and too many of the bands broke in the neck area to keep him, but it wasn’t a bad attempt. Image: Cathe Post

Spider-Man (and the Avengers): The site PG’s Loomacy is one of my favorites for these characters. There is even a PDF pattern available for making your own Spider-Man. From this pattern, you can also fill in the correct color schemes for the other members of the mighty Avengers team.

Minecraft is still extremely popular (and is yet another award winner for Toy of the Year). What better way to make pixellated jewelry than with bands? You can make a chainmail-type Steve face or Creeper face cuff, or make your own charms in the same style as the Avengers I mentioned earlier.

Rainbow and chainmail make a wonderful combination. Image: Cathe Post
Rainbow and chainmail make a wonderful combination. Image: Cathe Post

Chainmail bracelets without the pixel-art are pretty nifty by themselves. Following one these patterns gives you all of the chainmail pattern without the weight of using metal. We just did one that was narrow, but you can do them much wider if desired. This pattern I found is by SoCraftastic.

One last design we have made quite a few of for birthday presents is the minions. These are very easy to make either evil or normal based on the color of band used. (Helpful hint: If you can’t find googly eyes with a slit in the back, hot glue works well to hold on the band.

A Good Minion my daughter and I made for a friend’s birthday. Image: Cathe Post

One last one I want to try and haven’t had time for are the horse patterns. I figure it would be really easy to change the colors to match any of the My Little Pony cast.

On a less geeky note: There are patterns for every season. There are patterns for St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine’s Day—the possibilities are endless. If you want to take a look at some of the patterns and ideas I have been stockpiling for my daughter and myself, take a look at my Pinterest board.

In our house, we have had a similar experience as Jenn when it comes to the little colorful rubber bands. They seem to be distant relatives of Tribbles. When they aren’t lost in the carpet or part of a geeky work-of-art, our supply tends to run a little low. I have found a couple of things as this hobby has taken over our house: First, since coupons can’t be used to buy the name-brand bands most of the time, I have found a company through Amazon that sells a good quality band for a really good price. My test for a good quality band includes being able to stretch over five pegs in length, and being able to “cap” (the term used when twisting and folding a band so that it is two bands thick instead of one—but only using one band) a band over three pegs without the band breaking.

The other thing is that the real Rainbow Loom is truly the way to go. My daughter received Crazy Looms for Christmas which are just okay and only work for some projects. We found the Rainbow Loom is far superior and well worth the extra few dollars. The pegs were easier to dig in to get the bottom loops up, the bands didn’t fall off the pegs as easily since they are more straight up and down than slanted, and the ability to move the pegged strips into different configurations gives it a bigger array of uses than the standard solid-piece knock-offs.

What have been some of your favorite loom projects? Have you made larger projects like purses or phone cases? Do share!

Avengers vs. X-Men Companion – Make Mine Marvel Part 2!

Avengers vs. X-Men Companion \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Avengers vs. X-Men Companion \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Avengers vs. X-Men is what made me a Marvel fan. I’ve always loved the X-Men because of the animated series, but the AVX event made me fall in love with the X-Men and the Avengers in their comic book world. While reading the AVX event I stuck to reading the main twelve-part mini-series and avoided the crossovers, mostly due to budgetary constraints. I’m never 100% sure about reading crossover titles because the cost involved is usually pretty high and this particular event had over fifty issues to keep up with–at $3.99 an issue, that would have cost me close to $200. I loved the AVX event so much though, I decided to pick this up to catch up on the action I missed!

Avengers vs. X-Men takes place after the unfortunate events of M-Day, when Scarlet Witch declares “no more mutants.” The main event focuses on the Avengers and the X-Men fighting over what to do with Hope, a teenage mutant messiah, and how to handle the incoming visit from the destructive Phoenix force.

I feel it’s important to mention that this book doesn’t have any extra fluff–introductions or behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the writers or artists. I think this is a shame and that it would have been nice to see a letter or intro from one of the writers. The only ancillary material included is a list of the issues. Even with this omission, however, the Avengers vs. X-Men Companion hardcover edition comes in at around four-pounds, considerably larger than the Avengers vs. X-Men main event hardcover.

In addition to cost, another problem I have with crossovers is that some of the books don’t actually have anything to do with the main event. After reading the companion novel, I realized that this event sets itself apart from the rest because, for the most part, each crossover in AVX explains something that happens in one of the twelve main issues. For example, the Shi’ar Death Commandos are mentioned briefly in one panel during AVX but you never actually see them until you read Wolverine and the X-Men #11.  Similarly, through New Avengers #27, we get to see how Spider-Man became Hope’s mentor in Avengers vs. X-Men #9 and their individual reactions to their new student / mentor relationship.

When I reviewed the Avengers vs. X-Men hardcover edition last year, my sole complaint about the book was that it didn’t include the crossover titles. After seeing the companion title and the AVX hardcover title side-by-side, I’m glad they decided to put them in two separate books. At a retail value of $99.00, the Avengers vs. X-Men Companion costs considerably less than buying each issue individually, so this is a great deal for anyone who enjoyed the AVX event but couldn’t keep up with the crossovers at the time. If you enjoy reading your comics digitally, you’ll really appreciate the inclusion of a free digital copy so that you can download the title through the Marvel or Comixology app and read it on your electronic device(s) (a $75 value). The digital copy takes up three digital volumes, and depending on your device, could be around 1gb or more of space per volume.

The Avengers vs. X-Men Companion is available on Amazon, Comixology and your local comic book store. I highly recommend you pick up the hardcover edition so you can get the digital volumes for free.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received  a review sample.

What the GeekMoms Want for Mother’s Day


Each year, as we contemplate gift guides for Mother’s Day, we think about what we want for Mother’s Day. Chances are good your GeekMom will like this stuff, too.

Photo: Penny Arcade
Photo: Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade Match T-Shirts and Onesies: Mom and her Player 2 can team up in these cute matching tees. There are a bunch of different combinations available, including shirts for older kids and for Dad.



Photo: Oliver Jeffers for Digby & Iona
Photo: Oliver Jeffers for Digby & Iona


Oliver Jeffers Jewelry: Children’s author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers has turned his delightful illustrations into equally delightful jewelry, like this Paper Airplane necklace from his book, The Great Paper Caper.

Continue reading What the GeekMoms Want for Mother’s Day

Iron Man 3: Stark is Back and Utterly Compelling

Iron Man 3 © Marvel
Iron Man 3 © Marvel

Unlike the rest of my GeekMom colleagues, my wait for Iron Man 3 is over. The film was released here in the UK yesterday. Tony Stark had a lot to live up to in headlining the first Avengers universe outing since last year’s phenomenally successful The Avengers but, really, was that ego ever going to let us down?

Here’s my look at Iron Man 3 with advice for parents. It is as non-spoilery as possible but plot points revealed in the trailers and in interviews with the cast and crew are mentioned. Continue reading Iron Man 3: Stark is Back and Utterly Compelling

Kelly Sue DeConnick Helps Girls Leadership Institute With Beautiful T-Shirts

Captain Marvel, Image: WeLoveFine
Captain Marvel, Image: WeLoveFine

Kelly Sue DeConnick is helping Girls Leadership Institute by donating her curation commission on a select line of tees at WeLoveFine. This new partnership features three different designs, each based on characters featured in her titles.

If you’re not familiar with Kelly Sue DeConnick, she writes Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble for Marvel and Ghost for Dark Horse comics. She’s also about to launch Pretty Deadly, a western she co-created with Emma Rios for Image Comics.

The organization DeConnick has chosen to help, Girls Leadership Institute, focuses its efforts on helping girls learn to be true to themselves through a variety of workshops and camps that help not just girls, but parents and educators. Currently they have programs in California, New York and New Jersey as well as a summer camp in Massachusetts.

You can get one of these beautiful designs featuring Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman for $25 at WeLoveFine. You’ll not only have a cool t-shirt to wear this summer, but you’ll be helping girls learn to be strong and confident young women.

There’s a Lot to See–Plan Your Summer Movie Schedule Now

As I sat through a half-hour of trailers at The Hunger Games this past weekend, I realized how many geektastic movies are coming out this summer that I’m going to want to see. Seriously. It’s absolute madness how many geek-appealing movies are crammed into the next few months. I’m already behind, having not yet seen John Carter or Mirror Mirror yet. And since it’s not often an easy task to get out to a movie when you have small children, that means it’s time to make a list and start prioritizing! Bookmark this post with what’s coming between now and September, and let’s make a pact together to see as many as we can. Who’s in?

  • Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope (April 6)
    This one came out a few days ago, but that means you’ve still got a chance to see Morgan Spurlock’s shot at a documentary of the con-fan experience.
  • The Cabin In The Woods (April 13)
    I was lucky enough to see this at SXSW. As I told you then, don’t watch the trailer, but if you’re a Whedon fan, don’t let this one out of the theaters without seeing it.
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits (April 27)
    A PG rating for Hugh Grant’s first animated role means you can take some of your kids to this swashbuckling flick based on Gideon Defoe’s books. The cast also features David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, and Martin Freeman.
  • The Raven (April 27)
    For the high school Poe nerds. John Cusack.

  • The Avengers (May 4)
    May the fourth be with you… no, wrong movie franchise. Couldn’t help it. But this is really the summer blockbuster we’re all waiting for, isn’t it? And when I mean waiting, I mean four years since the first teaser at the end of Iron Man. No pressure, Whedon.
  • Dark Shadows (May 11)
    Frankly, I’ll see anything with crazy Helena Bonham Carter being crazy. This Tim Burton take on the late-60s TV show looks fun, but maybe dollar-theater fun.
  • Battleship (May 18)
    When I heard they were making a movie based on a board game, I imagined a two-hour long version of the old commercials. The trailer looks fun after all (and Alexander Skarsgård? I’m there…), but this movie better feature the line, “You sunk my battleship!”
  • Men In Black III (May 25)
    Really? Sigh. But… who among us of a certain age doesn’t have quite fond memories of the first two? So you know you’re going to have to see this one too.

  • Snow White and The Huntsman (June 1)
    I admit to derisively referring to this as “Snow Twilight.” The movie still looks good, as long as I can get over the casting. Or I could just see Mirror Mirror and call it good on summer doses of that particular fairy tale.
  • Prometheus (June 8)
    This was originally meant to be a two-part prequel to Alien, but has become more of a same-universe story than a prequel. Still wouldn’t hurt to re-watch Alien beforehand.
  • Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8)
    This movie based on a classified ad in The Copenhagen Post seeking a time travel partner (Know your meme!) was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

    The “safety not guaranteed” classified ad, from KnowYourMeme.com
  • World War Z (June 21) Correction: This one won’t be out until 2013.
    Post-apocalyptic horror based on the book by the same name. I’m not a Brad Pitt fan, but I do like zombies and Matthew Fox. I’m making a note to read the book first.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22)
    Based on the novel of the same name, this can go only two ways: really good or really bad. There’s no middle ground in a Lincoln/vampire mashup.
  • Brave (June 22)
    There’s nothing about this animated hero we aren’t looking forward to here at GeekMom. Move it to the top of the list.
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29)
    Just in case your childhood hasn’t been sufficiently relived and/or slaughtered by movies in the last few years, here’s one more dose.

  • The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
    Here’s how this reboot happened: “No Spider-Man 4? Whatev. Guess we’ll just start over.” But it’s Spider-Man, so of course we’ll all see it. The sequel is set for release May 2, 2014.
  • Ted (July 13)
    The quantity I can qualify this as “geeky” is low, but it’s Seth MacFarlane as a talking teddy bear in the story-after-the-story. What happens when the lights go down on a delightfully warm Disneyesque animated flick? This. I saw parts of it at SXSW, and it looks hilarious, as long as you like bong-smoking teddy bears beating up Mark Wahlberg.
  • The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
    MOAR Batman. Personally I’m looking forward to Anne Hathaway’s presto change-o shoes that seem to go from stilettos to flats in pre-release photos.

  • Total Recall (August 3)
    By August, we may feel like we’ve seen it all before… comic-book reboots, eternal sequels… And a remake of Total Recall, this time with Colin Farrell instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger and no trip to Mars.
  • The Bourne Legacy (August 3)
    Bourne movie #4, with no Matt Damon. But it’s not a reboot, and he hasn’t been replaced. It’s simply a whole different movie set in the same universe, but with no Jason Bourne. (I think we can safely put it on the wait-for-dollar-theater list.)
  • ParaNorman (August 17)
    An animated movie with zombies and one kid who can talk to them. Oh, and the witches and ghosts too.

Whew. That gets us through the summer. And if you survive these blockbuster sequels, prequels, and remakes, you’ll be rewarded this winter with The Hobbit in December and (at some point) Mass Effect.

Did I miss any? What are your top three must-sees?

LEGO Avengers Poster!

LEGO Avengers
Image used with permission

Ok, I’ve been trying to play it cool and not get my hopes up about the new Avengers movie coming out in a little over a month. There have been way too many horrible super hero movies made out of material that should have been awesome. Batman & Robin. Spiderman 3. Green Lantern. Need I say more?

So yes, I know this one was directed by Joss Whedon, and he didn’t end up quitting over creative differences or anything.

I started to get a bit more excited about the Avengers when I saw Joss Whedon’s panel at SXSW. He addressed a lot of the concerns I had. This is a movie full of heroes able to carry their own movies, and they’re all together for reasons that better be a bit more compelling than “Gosh, let’s all hero together for a bit.” Whedon assured us that he’d thought of this too and had found a way to both show the discomfort these heroes had with working as a team and the necessity that pushed them into that position.

There’s still a month to go before I can see if this is a movie I’ll sing tales about to my grandchildren, but in the mean time there’s this LEGO Avengers poster that’s just too awesome to ignore. Great. It’s made me want to go buy tie-in products on May 4th, too.

Well played, LEGO Avengers. Well played.