‘Marvel’s Agent Carter’ Still Has Work to Do

With a proverbial bang, Marvel’s Agent Carter’s season two came to an end Tuesday night. Whitney Frost was defeated, Peggy saved the day with a little help from her friends, and the love triangle that has been a thorn in the side of this show was finally settled.

While a solid and entertaining season, it left me feeling a little saddened by the fate of our favorite S.S.R. agent for four reasons. Continue reading ‘Marvel’s Agent Carter’ Still Has Work to Do

Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Thirteen) — Kanan: The Last Padawan Redux Boogaloo

All I need to know in life I learned from Star Wars

Okay, not strictly speaking true, although the various Star Wars properties are serving to remind me of many important lessons I’ve picked up along the way many of which, to my mind, are those most important to pass along to my children.

I’ve tried to delve into different parts of the universe, the illustrative characters ranging from Ezra Bridger to Vader, the books from Obi-Wan & Anakin to those featuring the original trinity.

I find myself returning for the third time (and no walking carpets have torn my arms from my sockets to make it happen), however, to Kanan Jarrus (featured, for those following or catching up, in both part two and part six).

I guess Kanan has a lot to say, as do the writers responsible for bringing him to both screen and comic.

Property of Marvel Comics
Property of Marvel Comics

As a reader, I’m bummed that there’s only one issue left in Kanan: The Last Padawan (though I’m grateful it was extended to twelve from the originally intended five). Good news: Rebels has already been renewed for a third season, and I don’t see the journey ending anytime soon, so there are many more journeys on which we’ll be accompanying the Ghost and her crew.

I think anyone who’s been following Kanan in print will agree, however, there’s something very special about this glimpse into the past of one of the few Jedi to survive the execution of Order 66 and about the character himself who, by all rights, should have ended up a depressed hermit on some crappy border world or in thrall to the Sith.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Thirteen) — Kanan: The Last Padawan Redux Boogaloo

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 11): The Vision

It’s interesting, considering the medium of choice, that all the Gather ‘Round Padawans have, thus far, dealt with human characters. Superhumans (Spider-Woman), Inhumans (Ms. Marvel), and formerly human (The Spectre) perhaps but all, at their core, humans.

Time to remedy that.

This time, I’m delving into the world of synthezoids or, rather, one synthezoid in particular. One who wants nothing more than to be human. To be one of us. To feel what we feel, to form the bonds we form, to connect to that greater thing we apes have by privilege rather than by right (and which a good many of the ants in the colony really don’t deserve): the human race.

In this, the eleventh Padawans, I want to focus on The Vision. Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 11): The Vision

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 10): OBI-WAN & ANAKIN

All I need to know in life I learned from Star Wars.

Well, okay. Not all. If you’re still following the Gather ‘Round Padawans series (and if you have, or are, thank you), I’m hoping I’ve convinced you to, at the very least, consider the idea of comics as medium rather than as superhero sub-genre and that comics across age and subject spectrums have a lot to teach us about life, parenting, and everything.

If you’re new to the series, welcome. Warm up your brain salmons because this time, I’m taking a look at the Marvel’s new Obi-Wan & Anakin title and one honking, important parenting lesson to be found therein.

Property of Marvel Comics
Property of Marvel Comics

Take a close look at the text in the panels above. Then take a look at what Obi-Wan is doing. Whose lightsaber he has.

Do you see what I see? Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 10): OBI-WAN & ANAKIN

Literary Empathy, or How Spider-Woman Made Me Okay With Men Who Write Women

In recent years, some of my favorite female heroes have found themselves with their own titles. Women such as Princess Leia, Black Widow, and Spider-Woman leap off the page showing that women are just as hard core as their male counterparts. In every single one of these cases, I have only one slight disappointment and this is that the author was male. Every time, despite my excitement and adoration of the character and story, my heart sank a bit. Why, I asked myself, aren’t there women writing our stories? These are our heroes. Men have enough heroes of their own. Why can’t they stick to writing their heroes and give us a chance to write our own?

On the most logical level, I hate myself for asking these questions. I am a woman who defines herself more in terms of gender equality than the “women for women” feminism. These concerns are therefore causing an existential crisis. This gut reaction makes me feel sexist because I question men’s ability to write the female experience.

Continue reading Literary Empathy, or How Spider-Woman Made Me Okay With Men Who Write Women

Avengers, Assemble… LEGO! ‘LEGO Marvel’s Avengers’ Giveaway

The newest LEGO Marvel game is all about the Avengers of the Marvel cinematic universe. In the upcoming title you’ll play through some of the key moments of that universe, including the clash with Loki in the Battle of New York and fighting against Ultron in the sky over Sokovia.

Continue reading Avengers, Assemble… LEGO! ‘LEGO Marvel’s Avengers’ Giveaway

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Eight): Ms. Marvel II

Who among us has never dreamed of being a superhero? If you clicked the link to this article, I imagine you have done so at least once in your life. I have done so many a time. I am thirty-seven and I still do it. I even wrote a superhero novel because if I can’t do it, my imaginary friends can.

When you envision yourself as part of the cape and tights brigade, are you being you or are you someone else? In fantasy land, I’m usually at least three inches taller and definitely fifty pounds thinner, I have ringlets instead of barely tamable frizz, a much cuter nose, and I can run in heels while brandishing my rapier wit. And a katana.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Eight): Ms. Marvel II

Review: Ant-Man Bonus Features — Small But Mighty

For those of us who are not Marveled out, Marvel Studio’s Ant-Man is a great film to add to our arsenal of movie night selections. You get all the greatness of a Marvel film with the added heist aspects of Ocean’s Eleven and shrinking comedy of Honey I Shrunk the Kids with a bonus shirtless-chiseled Paul Rudd. Continue reading Review: Ant-Man Bonus Features — Small But Mighty

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Seven): Sam Wilson: Captain America

Captain America. The quintessential all-American hero. Nice Brooklyn boy willing to subject his body to medical experimentation to win the opportunity to fight for the little guy, freedom, and your grandma. Always has been. Still is even though someone else has taken up the title, the mantle, and the shield.

Steve’s thoughts on his chosen successor? “When I handed that shield over to Sam, it didn’t come with a rule book. I trust him to do what he thinks is best for our country.”

A large sector of the population, however, isn’t willing to accept the new Cap as “their” Cap despite Steve’s endorsement. Why? A questionable past? Does he booze it up with Stark? Go on shooting rampages? Run people down with his car on the sidewalk in Vegas? Sell drugs? Do drugs? Embezzle SHIELD funds? Play his music too loud? Kick puppies?

Nope.

Sam Wilson is daring, daring, to Cap while African American.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Seven): Sam Wilson: Captain America

When Violence Gets Personal: Kilgrave and the Tenth Doctor

Considering our abiding love for Daredevil, it’s no surprise that the adults in my household are mad about Jessica Jones. Mad in the good way. Mad in the shaking my fists at the sky and shouting, “Finally!” kind of way. I’m not a reader of comics much, but a big fan of all things Marvel. And, tired of seeing female superheroes erased from t-shirts and toys and posters, it’s good to be watching a show where she’s front and center. She’s a badass. She’s complicated. She’s flawed. She’s broken. She’s powerful.

Plenty has been said on this matter. I’ve finally finished the first season, and I’ve got lots of thoughts.

But I’m not talking about Jessica today.

Today I’m talking about Kilgrave. (Caveat: minor spoilers below.)

Continue reading When Violence Gets Personal: Kilgrave and the Tenth Doctor

Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Six): The Kid, The Cowboy, The Devil, and Foggy Nelson

The crew of the Ghost has been through a lot in their two seasons of existence. There has been discovery and triumph, victories and the forging of a family. There has also been tragedy and loss, frustration and shattered hope.

This week’s episode, Legacy, was well and truly heartbreaking.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Six): The Kid, The Cowboy, The Devil, and Foggy Nelson

Between the Bookends Dec 2015: Ms. Marvel, Teen Angst & The Science of Parenthood

This month the GeekMoms have been preparing for the holiday season, but we have still found time to do some serious reading. Selections this month include bad teenage poetry, a Hobbit-style adventure in post-war England,  advice for hosting a steampunk tea party, and a bad-ass female superhero trying to manage her own life as well. Read on for our December recommendations. Continue reading Between the Bookends Dec 2015: Ms. Marvel, Teen Angst & The Science of Parenthood

Geeky Coffee Cozies to Knit and Crochet

Even though paper coffee cup sleeves are biodegradable, they still create unnecessary waste and use needed resources. Most of the time these sleeves end up in the trash instead of recycled. Why use a boring paper sleeve when you can rock a piece of geeky art work instead?

These projects are very quick to finish and require only a small amount of yarn. They make good stocking stuffers or birthday gifts. They are practical, unique, and sure to please. I use mine on both disposable and reusable cups. Here are six free patterns for coffee cozy sleeves you can knit and crochet:

Continue reading Geeky Coffee Cozies to Knit and Crochet

Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

In our house, we limit screen time, maybe an hour a day. For the first two years, we capped TV watching at an hour a week.

We also tend away from the licensed products.

You know the ones I am talking about, the Elsa socks, Batman toothbrushes, or Elmo dolls. So imagine my husband’s surprise when I announced we were giving our two-year-old nephew Spider-Man for Christmas.

It all started with a sentence:

“I’m going to lose!”

Continue reading Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

Disney on Ice! Celebrates ‘100 Years of Magic’ On Tour Now!

Finding Nemo Disney on Ice "100 Years of Magic" \ Image courtesy of Feld Entertainment
Finding Nemo from Disney on Ice “100 Years of Magic” \ Image courtesy of Feld Entertainment

Disney on Ice! is on tour this year with the 100 Years of Magic. With 100 years to cover, I’m excited to see the over 50 member cast bring fan favorite characters to life on ice. Feld Entertainment is promising to bring an long list of Disney favorites to the rink. In the past, I’ve seen the Disney Princesses, Frozen, and Toy Story brought center stage and will see the addition of Finding Nemo, the Lion King, and other Disney misfits.

With 100 years to cover, there is also an impressive list of dance numbers and songs for Feld to pick from and it will be interesting to see which ones they decided were the most influential for this show.

For tour dates and ticket prices, head over to Disney on Ice! and see when they are stopping by a rink near you.

Stay tuned to GeekMom for a full after-show review in September!

 

‘Lego Marvel’s Avengers’ Coming in 2016

LMA_KeyArt__QtrSz Digital
Image source: Lego Marvel Avengers cover art

If you’re like us, you can’t get enough of the Lego video games. Lego Dimensions comes out in September, and we just have to wait a little bit longer for the next one. Lego Marvel’s Avengers will be released on January 26, 2016 in North America and January 29, 2016 in Europe. It’s the first console game to include the stories and characters from The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

GameStop pre-orders will also get the Silver Centurion Iron Man minifig, also playable in the game. Pre-orders online will come with it, but if you buy in-store, it’s only available while supplies last.

Lego Marvel’s Avengers will be available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and Windows PC.

The game will follow the storyline of the two Avengers movies, which you can get a hint of in the peek at a few of the characters below:

Bruce Banner (Age of Ultron)
Bruce Banner, image courtesy of The Lego Group and Marvel
Hulk (Age of Ultron)
The Hulk, image courtesy of The Lego Group and Marvel
Speed
Speed, image courtesy of The Lego Group and Marvel
Ms Marvel_Kamala Khan
Ms. Marvel, image courtesy of The Lego Group and Marvel
Thor_Jane Foster
Thor, image courtesy of The Lego Group and Marvel
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, image courtesy of The Lego Group and Marvel

Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’ Is This Summer’s Big Crowd-Pleaser

Marvel's Ant-Man Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd)  Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2015
Marvel’s Ant-Man
Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd)
Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal
© Marvel 2015

Let’s just get this out of the way right from the get-go: I loved Ant-Man. It does not pass the Bechdel test, and it would be awesome if Marvel could get it together and do that one of these days. This is not the movie where they see the light.

Having said that, I still loved it. I haven’t been this excited to write up a movie in a while. As I write this, I just left a screening about two hours ago and couldn’t wait to talk about it.

Note: only minor and vague spoilers in this review.

When Ant-Man was announced, I wasn’t terribly excited. In the whole scope and scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was hard to imagine where he would find his place. What could they do with him? Paul Rudd’s casting helped, and then the trailers really helped. By this week I was so looking forward to it.

And it didn’t disappoint. Ant-Man the movie is completely aware that it is about Ant-Man. It’s light and fun and full of skeptical looks from Paul Rudd, like he is in on the absurdity of it with us. It plays with Ant-Man’s size in a way that takes advantage of all the action sequences a proper superhero movie should have. But it also throws in spot-on little jokes to remind us not to take it all too seriously. Because we are talking about an Ant. Man. The Thomas the Tank Engine scene was perfect.

Forget the science of how Rudd’s Scott Lang shrinks, and really forget the plot. Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket wants to sell shrink technology to the highest bidder, but Michael Douglas’s Dr. Pym, who invented the tech, wants to stop him. But that’s actually not what’s important.

Marvel's Ant-Man L to R: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2014
Marvel’s Ant-Man
L to R: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll)
Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal
© Marvel 2014

The characters are the big draw here, along with a big save-the-world heart. Despite some occasional swearing, this is the most family-friendly superhero movie to come along in a while. The gore isn’t very gory, and the scares aren’t terribly scary. And Lang is doing everything to make his young daughter proud, and to protect her future.

The very first scene gives us a surprise appearance by a favorite Marvel lady, and somehow after that I just knew I was in for a treat. Paul Rudd is exactly the Ant-Man this movie needed to take a tiny character with Aquaman-caliber superpowers and make him worth a big screen. Michael Douglas’s Dr. Pym is a great genius trying to stop the bad guy (Corey Stoll) from letting advanced science fall into the wrong hands. Evangeline Lilly got a pretty awesome bonus scene during the credits.

But Michael Peña stole the show. He played Scott Lang’s prison buddy Luis, a man who was arrested for stealing two smoothie machines. He is glorious and surprising in every scene he’s in, whether he’s talking about wine tastings or “sublime” Mark Rothko paintings.

Marvel's Ant-Man Luis (Michael Peña) Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2014
Marvel’s Ant-Man
Luis (Michael Peña)
Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal
© Marvel 2014

This movie did two things really well: It got back to the kind of humor that made the first Iron Man such a standout (remember when no one could picture Robert Downey, Jr. as a superhero?). And, it made an army of ants that weren’t creepy crawly. They are actually sort of adorable, and I didn’t think it was possible to make a movie that would give me all the feels about ants.

But I do, I have all the feels about ants. And Ant-Man. And Michael Peña. Stay to the very end of the credits, there are two bonus scenes.

Marvel's Ant-Man Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)  Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2015
Marvel’s Ant-Man
Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)
Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal
© Marvel 2015

GeekMom attended a promotional screening for review purposes.

Marvel Offers Unlimited Comics for 1 Cent

Marvel-1Cent
The Marvel Unlimited promotion is valid through July 27, 2015. Photo: Marvel.

Remember when you used to be able to get comics for just a few cents? Well, Marvel is making comics available for a penny—about 17,000 of them.

The company just announced plans to offer its Marvel Unlimited service for the introductory price of 1 cent. As part of the San Diego Comic-Con festivities, this deal will only be offered to new subscribers and only for the first month.

However, that’s an awful lot of eye candy for the price of well… penny candy. The collection features 75 years of Marvel Comics, which includes The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and so much more. If it seems really overwhelming (in a good way, of course), click over to the Discover section, which allows users to search by storylines, characters, or creators.

To get the discounted goods, you will need to use the promo code PENNY during your checkout process. Just know that this offer is only good through July 20, 2015. (Editor’s Note: The offer has been extended through July 27!) There are a few other restrictions as well. Like, don’t expect to cancel your current subscription to get the discount; the offer is only open to new and former (now-cancelled) members who have not subscribed with a promotional offer in the last 6 months. It also doesn’t work on gift subscriptions, Annual, or Annual Plus memberships. Make sure to read the fine print!

The Marvel Unlimited app is available on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. After the 1-cent promotional period is up, expect to pay $9.99 per month. However, that fee ensures that you’ll always have plenty to read, since both classic and new issues are being added on a weekly basis.

DIY Black Widow Fix for My Daughter: #WeWantWidow Too

I am sure you have all seen the hashtag #WeWantWidow going around, imploring Marvel to include more of the Black Widow character not only in merchandising, but to the collective Avengers movie universe.

A movement is growing. It was exciting to get the update from our friends at Legion of Leia.com about the Black Widow Flash Mob that took place on June 6. The idea was created by Kristin Rielly, founder and editor of Geek Girl Network. The outcry was sparked by the Avengers: Age of Ultron’s lack of the Black Widow character. The voices included female Disney and Marvel fans from around the country, coming together to take change in their own hands.

My four-year-old’s untimely demand (most of them do come when I am in the shower) seems to be right in step with this social media uprising.

WeWantWidow
Left: Target Avengers hat, with no Black Widow Photo: Melody Mooney. Right: Target Let’s Go pink girls’ shirt. Photo: Target.com.

So after my shower, we went searching for Avenger team items. The cute hat above was found at Target and did not include Black Widow. Sadly, it didn’t shock me. I think I had gotten used to the gender inequality when it comes to finding female Marvel, DC, or Star Wars characters in merchandise from local stores. Most of Ella’s geekware items have been purchased in the “boys” section. In all fairness to Target, just this summer there has been a recent influx of superhero clothing, so they seem to be taking steps to offer more for girls and women. One was even found that included Black Widow. It’s a good start.

0609150927
Photo: Melody Mooney

Choosing to get the hat, I asked Ella why she thought Black Widow was not on it. Her answer was, “She was off saving people and saving Hulk and Captain America.”

We decided to add her to the hat ourselves. We found a picture of Black Widow in Ella’s Captain America: The Winter Solider coloring book. It was chosen because it had her on the cover. Coloring the picture together, I mentioned that sometimes if we want to change things, we need to find solutions and do it ourselves.

Maybe someday Ella will be writing for Marvel or designing clothing. She might be packing up this hat as a sentimental reminder of her youth on her first astronaut mission to Mars. Those DIY, problem-solving skills may just come in handy if her mission team needs something important mended.

Whatever her future, it is my hope as her GeekMom that she remembers that she is the architect of her own life and to put on a towel before jumping out the shower with ideas to change the world.

In her own way, she is joining in by saying #WeWantWidow too.

PicsArt_1433872476099
Marvel Avengers hat with Black Widow inserted. Photo: Melody Mooney.

Watch The New Ant-Man Trailer

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Image credit: Marvel Studios

Only a little more than six weeks to go until one of the founding members of The Avengers sees if he can measure up to the standard the rest of the MCU has set–even at a half-inch tall. Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd up against Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket and premieres July 17, 2015. Watch the latest trailer here:

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

avengers2blackwidow
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.

avengers2whedonscarjo
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.

I Watched All of Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ and Now I Don’t Know What to do With Myself

Image: Netflix, Marvel
Image: Netflix, Marvel

Is this what I’m to expect of my superhero stories now? A gut punch? A blinking out of the darkness of the theater (or my living room, but hey, I’m feeling like Ponyboy right now, mkay?) into a world that just doesn’t seem to make as much sense as it did before? A search for meaning? Weird dreams that I’m running from crazed Russians and bald-headed men in suits only to find out that I’m the one that’s been sent to save Hell’s Kitchen?

There have been other adaptations of Daredevil, but I don’t want to talk about those. I really don’t have to. That’s what rocks so much about Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix for me. Unlike so many other superhero retellings, it didn’t have to pay homage (*cough*superman*cough*) or lumber along trying desperately to re-invent itself and tell everyone that this time it’s different. It just kicked ass, took names, and moved along.

I’m babbling. But it’s a little hard to process.

My husband and I watched the entirety of Daredevil in about a week’s time. Sure, by binge TV standards that might not be too fast, but keep in mind we’ve got kids and jobs, and a crazy busy schedule. Essentially as soon as the kids were mostly asleep, we’d run to the living room and watch the next episode. We are, in every respect, a target market. Recent favorites include mostly anything Marvel’s done, Justified, and Game of Thrones. Even more telling than the time spent at the console was the fact that even though Game of Thrones premiered in the middle of our viewing, both of us really wanted to just watch more Matt Murdock kicking butt in Hell’s Kitchen and get our questions answered.

Okay, so no. It’s not going to change the way television is made. It might not be for you. But the series succeeds in many ways that, for me, were unexpected.

First, there’s no dumbing down to get a lower rating in the movie theater. This stuff is raw, gritty, bloody. It’s a superhero for adults with adult sentiments, viewers who aren’t interested in tie-in backpacks and t-shirts. This is so often the curse with comic book related film and television, it gets marketed to death and watered down so they can make money off of kids (and well, judging by my desk at work, some parents, too).

The other thing I noticed? It’s cut like a movie. One of my biggest complaints about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the gorram commercial breaks. Having to edit a show around commercial interruptions just makes for some really awkward moments in terms of pacing and plot. It made me really wish that S.H.I.E.L.D. could have the Netflix treatment. It gave them time in every episode to really paint the mood without rushing. And I think it’s one of the reasons that the villain is so very complex and almost… almost… someone you can pity. It’s also why it didn’t get bogged down in dreaded comic book origin story mode. It didn’t have to. It’s hard to do that when you’re pressed for time. But Daredevil, for the most part, was just time well spent.

And the performances? They were great. I mean, it’s got the luxury of being an ensemble cast. Even the (sometimes very short-lived) villains each had their own moments in the sun. Charlie Cox is growly and great, just a hint of his English accent punctuating his vowels now and again. He is what he needs to be, and is strongest when he’s trying to balance the guilt and shame of his chosen profession with his calling as a lawyer, often right in front of his friends.

More than anything, Daredevil just shows how much more room there is to go in the streaming TV medium. It has some hiccups (could’ve used some more complex women, perhaps; occasionally the gore got gratuitous, and the climax didn’t quite hold up to the very end) but it’s also just the first season. Considering it’s already been renewed, and how long it took for Matt to get his full suit (seriously, I cannot believe the interminable wait on that one) there’s a whole lot more story to tell.

Natania is a member of the Netflix StreamTeam.

An Awesome Assemblage of Avengers Again

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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.”

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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.”

avengers2ultron
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.

Get Ready for Free Comic Book Day 2015!

Batgirl approves of this message! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Batgirl approves of this message! Image: Dakster Sullivan

Free Comic Book Day is May 2nd, and this year there are 50 different books available including: Wonderland (Zenescope), Gronk (Action Comics), Pokemon (Boom), Avengers #1 (Marvel), Secret Wars #0 (Marvel), and Divergence (DC Comics). I’m always excited to get my mitts on as many books as I can (and after I’ve grabbed all I’m allowed, I’ll send my son and husband to get the rest).

I’ve patrolled my local comic book store in costume the past three years and I have a few tips for anyone who is new to this day or new to some of the titles on the table.

powDon’t judge a book by its cover. Just because a title has a kid-friendly cover, doesn’t mean it’s a kid-friendly story. I saw more little kids with Zenescope in their clutches last year than I care to have seen, and each time I walked them back and pointed to a more age-appropriate title for them.

powMany of the FCBD books are jumping on points to get readers interested. You can bet if there is a title on the table that there is another book in the store that your child or you will be interested in.

powSupport the store with your wallet. FCBD costs the stores a lot of money each year, so help them out by buying something while you’re there. Most stores have sales and discounts on various titles that day, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

powMeet fellow fans and ask for recommendations. If you see someone else grab something you like, ask them if they have any recommendations for other books. If you don’t like a particular title, ask for recommendations that are different.

powCome in costume! FCBD is like a mini-comic book convention. Come dressed as your favorite character or let your child wear their favorite character attire (even if that means it’s their Batman PJs with the cape on the back).

powMake a day of it! Get to the store when they open for the best selection of free books and then, hit up another store, and another, and…well, you get the point. Not every store stocks the same FCBD books, so the more stores you hit up, the better your chances are of getting a wider variety.

powContests! Stay updated on contests and giveaways at your local comic book shop and on FCBD Facebook page. A few of these contests require pictures of you with your books, so take pictures of your family with their picks.

Regardless of how you plan to spend the day, have fun with it! Oh, and grab as many books as you can. You never know when you can trade a Wonderland or Avatar book for something else down the road.

For a complete list of free books, check out the Free Comic Book Day website or call your local comic book store to see what they will be stocking that day.

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.

 

 

Crafters, Assemble! Make Your Own Captain America Bulletin Board

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

It might not be made of vibranium, but your kids will love having Captain America’s shield hanging on their wall nonetheless! With just a few inexpensive items from your local craft store, you can turn a small round cork board into a shield that will always catch your kids’ attention.

Thanks to a sale at Michael’s, I found everything I needed for this project for less than five dollars total.

What You Need

Captain America Bulletin Board

  • Round cork board, approximately 7″ (available at Michael’s)
  • White star (wood or paper), approximately 3.5″
  • Red, white, and blue acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Hot glue gun
  • Twine and thumbtacks or sticky Velcro strips

Get Crafting!

Start by drawing a circle the same diameter as your white star in the middle of the cork board. If you’d like to use a template, take the opportunity to encourage the kids to go on a quick scavenger hunt around the house for circles you could trace. Trace or freehand two more circles so that the stripes are approximately half an inch apart.

Once your lines are lightly traced, begin by painting the middle circle blue.

Captain America Bulletin Board
A coaster and bowl served as my templates. Photo: Kelly Knox

Allow the blue paint to dry completely. Next, paint the two red stripes, keeping the middle stripe free of paint. Paint the outside stripe along the edge of the cork board. Allow the red paint to dry completely.

Finally, paint the middle stripe white, and let it dry.

Next, hot glue the white star into the center of the blue circle.

Captain America Bulletin Board
Photo: Kelly Knox

Once the paint is dry and the hot glue has cooled, flip the cork board over. To hang the board, you can use Velcro strips on the wall, but I’ve had varying success getting those to stick well to cork board. The board is even small enough to glue magnets to and stick on the refrigerator.

You can also take two thumb tacks, and press them lightly in the middle of the board. Tie a string (at least 4″ in length) on the pin of each tack, and then press them in completely. Tie the two strings together.

Captain America Cork Board
Photo: Kelly Knox

The bulletin board is now ready to hang on the wall! Pin reminders, homework, and more on your new star-spangled bulletin board.

For more Marvel-themed family crafts, check out my She-Hulk clothespin doll and Squirrel Girl TP roll doll!

Chloe Bennet and Clark Gregg Talk ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ at Emerald City Comicon

Image courtesy © Emerald City Comicon
Image courtesy © Emerald City Comicon.

Chloe Bennet and Clark Gregg took the stage at Emerald City Comicon to talk about their favorite parts of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., along with hints of what’s to come in the upcoming action-packed episodes.

Both actors gushed about the cast and crew of the ABC series. Bennet feels a “sense of family” on the show, which Gregg echoed by saying that Bennet feels like a daughter to him. She also mentioned an interesting dynamic with Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) as Skye grapples with her new powers, and revealed that not only do the two characters grow closer, we’ll also see parts of May’s past in upcoming episodes. (The Cavalry, anyone?)

Image courtesy © Emerald City Comicon
Image courtesy © Emerald City Comicon.

Bennet also shared what’s in the future for Skye as she learns more about what it means to be Inhuman. “She grows a lot,” she said. Luke Mitchell’s character is part of that journey, serving as her guide into her new life.

Gregg was a little more coy about upcoming episodes of the show, but did say, “People who like the Inhumans will be satisfied by what’s coming up.”

When asked about additional characters from the Marvel cinematic universe crossing between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the films, Gregg would only say with a smile, “There’s always that possibility.” A fan of the way Marvel is telling an overarching story across multiple media, Gregg left the impression that there are still surprises to come.

With Coulson and his crew so active in Marvel’s world, sooner or later The Avengers are going to find out. When they do, a fan asked, which does Gregg think will have the most intense reaction? “Coulson would like to see Cap happy to see him alive again,” he said. “But I hope Banner wouldn’t be too angry about it.”

Both actors seemed genuinely happy and excited to chat with their fans and be a part of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Growing up, [pretending to be] a Disney princess was not as exciting to me as being a superhero,” said Bennet. “And now I get to be one!”

Gregg echoed her sentiment. “I’m really proud of what the show has done and where it’s going… I get to go to work and be my 11-year-old self every day.”

Passion and History in ‘She Makes Comics’

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Image by Respect! Films

Being a geek is becoming more and more mainstream. Yet there are still stereotypes of what makes a geek a “geek.” Being a comic book fan is a quintessential sign, and often linked to the old-school idea of socially-inept, single guys. For women who proclaim their love of comics (like me), it’s just…strange.

But that is changing. I was just invited to a Fan Girls Night Out at my local comic store by another mom who is also into comics. There are more of us than you realize. And although it may seem new to the mainstream world, it is far from abnormal. The history of women in comics as both fans and within the industry stretches back to the beginning.

The new documentary She Makes Comics is an eye-opening and heartfelt look at women within the history of comics, and I highly recommend watching it. The film is directed by Marisa Stotter and produced by Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert of Respect!Films. It is executive produced by Sequart’s Julian Darius and Mike Phillips and by Columbia University comics librarian Karen Green. It is a series of interwoven interviews of passionate people with different roles and points of view. My teenage son and I watched it together, finding it informative and entertaining.

Did you know that women and men made up equal numbers of comic book readership before the 1950s? American comics were about many topics, had various settings, and reflected every possible interest. By the ’70s, women readers started to drop off dramatically, partly due to the focus on male superheroes as the best-seller comic book theme, as well as the feminist movement awakening a generation of women who were tired of the same “wedding bliss” ending. An underground women’s comic movement began, and it was fascinating listening to the creators talk about it on camera: both the excitement and the fears.

Several women really changed the comic book world, from Wendy Pini, the original chain-mail bikini awesome cosplayer who then created ElfQuest, to Janette Kahn, former publisher of DC who broke the glass ceiling, to Gail Simone, notable comic writer, and author of Women in Refrigerators, an unapologetic look at how female characters are unfairly treated in comic stories, to Kelly Sue DeConnick, the creator of the hugely popular female Captain Marvel, and many more.

How do women get into comics in the first place? Better comics. The consensus of the interviewees was: Give us a variety of women featured, complex characters, and in-depth storytelling. As an X-Men fan, it was cool to know how many other women in this film cited that series as their turn-on to the whole genre. The fact that the male creator of the series had two female editors makes sense. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was another “gateway” comic, again, with a female editor. In fact, that editor, Karen Berger, is credited with developing the talents of some of the biggest names in comics for the past several decades.

I personally got into comics in the 1990s, and was quite alone. I took my two young children to the comic book store and was the only female there, let alone a mother. I found it interesting to hear about that time period. The film talked about how more women were getting into the creative side of comics then, but still not equally represented by a long-shot. The industry was not welcome to women or women-centered stories, but also, women are not as confidant in promoting themselves.

Comics used to be sold in supermarkets and bookstores, but then only in specific comic stores that were (and mostly still are) very much a bachelor den of boob posters and all-male staff who assume a girl is only there because she is dating a comic book fan. In 1994, a support organization for women in comics was created called Friends of Lulu which put out a book helping comic book stores understand how to attract more females to their stores—why shut out the biggest consumers in the country? The internet ushered in a huge change. This has given women a place to connect, collaborate, and share their love of comics. The film also mentions the influence of the manga craze during that time as well, with comics targeted to girls.

There is so much to this film, but what stood out to me most was the passion of the people interviewed, and the range of ages. I loved hearing from the elder pioneers in the industry, as well as the younger talents of today. Inspiring the next generation of comic creators came up a lot, and is something I support wholeheartedly. Everyone should be able to express themselves in whatever medium suits them best, boys and girls. Check out the film!

She Makes Comics is now available to order on DVD and as a digital download at SheMakesComics.com.

GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.

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.