Tag Archives: marvel

Light and Darkness

                I often like to think of life in poetic themes. One of the themes that I find myself coming back to is one of light and darkness. Light, is everything good and right in the world. Laughter, hugs, love, coffee, candy, sunshine, rain, swimming, and relationships. Darkness is everything wrong and broken in the world. Hunger, tears, pain, death, wrath, jealousy, and conflict.

                As often as I have moments of brilliant Dead Poets Society inspired expressions of good in the world, I have a love affair with the darkness. My sister and I both do. No one else in our family, does. Not our parents, grandparents, or any of our cousins. We love the macabre. Dark comedies, antiheroes and just plain dark material. Edgar Allen Poe, The Mysterious Geographical Explorations of Jasper Morello, and any number of other authors that kill their darlings.

                My sister and I have very different reasons for our love affair with the darkness (definitely an affair). I don’t entirely understand why for my sister, but for me it is because to ignore it, and not give voice to it is deafening to my soul. I am all too aware at every given moment of the sadness and despair that everyone carries with them. Hurts, betrayals, loss of loved ones, and all sorts of wickedness, all leave a mark people.

                I see these marks in their eyes. I see it in the way people walk, I hear it in cracks in voices, and I see the tears that it causes. I don’t forget it. I remember the hurt and pain I have seen in others. The only way I knew how to deal with this is to turn it into stories. Dark and macabre. To help people tell their painful stories. To listen to tails of darkness, and then share my own.

                Marvels Agent’s of Shield is the best show I have ever seen that shows us how we are supposed to react to evil. In the beginning of the series Colson follows faithfully with SHIELD’s modus operandi of keeping secrets and only telling what needs to be known, begins to change and has faith in people to handle secrets.

 Rather than hide the truth from Skye, Colson tells her of all the people who have died, and all the chaos that has happened around her. As we watch her respond, Colson narrates for us, “The world is full of evil, lies, pain, and death and you can’t hide from it. You can only face it. The question is when you do, how do you respond, who do you become?” How do you respond? Who do you become?

                

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Marvel: Agents of Shield

Marvel Agents of Shield

Marvels Agents of Shield is not what I expected. I admit that I so loved Marvel’s Avengers, and believe it to be a masterpiece that I fully engage myself in, therefore my expectations were a bit skewed. I was hoping for the deep questions posed by such television series as Lost and Heroes. These series ask questions about what makes us human, how do we connect, what are we willing to do to survive, how far are we willing to go to protect those we love. The audience is shown the heart, emotions and internal struggles of most of the characters.

Why I expected these questions I do not know, because neither the Avengers or any of the other Marvel films ask these deep questions. They are concerned with how people change, and overcoming great obstacles—“simple” themes of life. Agents of Shield shows us good verses evil. The question that it may be raising is, “how do we deal with evil?” “How do we deal with people doing wrong that are doing wrong mostly because of their situation?”

The reason I say, ‘may be raising,’ is because the main character Agent Coulson seem to already have it figured out. He is a Captain America type character who is already good and has a moral compass that points him to always seek the third alternative that works everything out well. The questions aren’t worked out by characters that are struggling with internal conflict with good and bad responses to tough situations. Coulson knows what to do and does it.

I applaud the show for two things, with a caveat. The first is that they do make a very simple portrayal of good and evil. There is the good guys and the bad guys. However, it also blur both evil and justice. The bad guy of the pilot is simply caught in a bad situation and is not in control because of a biomechanical device. We never see justice enacted in response to him killing someone.

The second point I applaud them for is that Coulson brings compassion and grace to those that need it. His life mission is helping those who are in need. He is the good guy through and through.

                In all the series does capture the idea of old comic books. There were good guys and bad guys, things were simple. The only complicated thing was figuring out how to stop the bad people without anyone, including bad people, getting killed. Modern comics deal more with difficult choices that must be made. It is like the difference between The Brady Bunch and Modern Family. Though fun and entertaining, placed next to the more dirty down to earth modern t.v series, Agents of Shield, seems to be lacking depth.


Iron Man

Iron Man

                Iron Man is the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, is the most popular character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the character that brings the most attention to the Avengers. I attribute this to the fact that he is the most relatable character of the Avengers. He has a long list of character flaws that make him the most human of all of them.

                Unlike Captain America who has a near flawless character and motivation for all of his decisions, or Thor who is a demi-god, and the radioactive Hulk, Tony Stark is completely human and makes decisions like any normal human would. He is selfish, egotistical and at times moody. Even in the moments when he makes the heroes choices, he makes those choices off of a very real very tangible human motivation—anger, revenge, desperation, fear of death, and love.

Black Widow and Hawkeye, although they do seek revenge in the Avengers against Loki, are also portrayed as doing it out of duty and training. Captain America makes his choices out of a seemingly God given desire to always do the right thing for no other reason than that it is right. Captain America may be our ideal, but Iron Man is the one we relate with. Which begs the question, should he be a hero that captures our imagination?

As a comic book fan, I say yes. As a Christian, I still say yes, so long as we know the direction he is heading. The story that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is telling of Tony Stark is one of growth and change. He moves from the first movie as a selfish narcissist with many moral and relational failings, to one that has hope and a purpose for his life that motivates him to press on towards good.

Although we see his character flaws plainly, I do not believe that is what captures our imagination when we watch him, that is not what influences us after the film is over. What influences us is his victories and his sacrifices. In the first movie his heroism is out of recklessness, anger, desperation and a love for Pepper. In the second, it is out of an idea that that is what heroes do. In the Avengers we see him finally grasp on to doing good because it is the right thing to do as he risks getting trapped in the worm hole.

If we pattern our lives after this pattern and movement towards good for the right reasons, then we have caught the good in Tony Stark. The character defects are there, raw and in your face. But those make him more tangible and a better example of overcoming personal issues more than any other marvel movie to date. To the Christians, I say do not forget, that there is not one Biblical character who did not have serious moral issues other than Christ, and many of the worst (Sampson) are in the Hebrews hall of Faith.


Marvel Comics and Binding Stories

The ancient myths of the Greco-Roman and Norse God’s were shared in order to show the listener how to live. It showed them how to behave in society. It demonstrated the relationship between men and women. It explained why the weather changed or why catastrophes happened. It explained the motivation for wicked deeds and what honor is. They also helped to hold together the whole of society. Since everyone in a society knew the same stories and lessons from the stories, it added a thread of commonality.

Joseph Campbell spent most of his life studying myths. His goal was to find the common threads in myths around the world. One of the themes that came up in most cultures is the quest of the hero. A hero overcame obstacles in order to become the person he needed to become. He would prove his worth, his place in society, become a man etc. These stories showed young men what they were supposed to do to become a man (women were often left out or given secondary roles). The quest could include defeating a monster, traveling to a distant place, or often a death and resurrection.

In America, we have many movies, but we have few stories of lore to guide the young generation in how to live. We have historical figures, like Davy Crockett, George Washington, Daniel Boone, and Martin Luther King Jr. but they are given a cursory telling at best. I am rather disappointed that such fantastic historical figures are not held up as bedtime and campfire stories. However, I am very thrilled that the United States is starting to tell stories of its own mythical heroes.

Our American Heroes are comic book heroes. Currently the comic book industry that is dominating the market is the Marvel Universe. Marvel is the company that has produced the heroes known as, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor, The Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, Ant Man (who is not like an ant in the same way that Spider Man is like a spider) the X-Men and many others. For many years, comics and baseball cards were what young boys would spend their allowance on every week.

Until the release of the recent blockbuster hits, Marvel Studios was slowly going under. Comic book sales were down and their profits were disappearing. Now bought by the Walt Disney Corporation, Marvel Corp. is taking the United States Culture by storm. With no signs of stopping the production of their main heroes, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, as well as planning to continue to add more Marvel heroes. Marvel is a major force in shaping our thinking. This is especially true because now they are making good movies. Through the flop of the Hulk films, the mediocre Fantastic Four, and the dismal falling of Spiderman, it seems that Marvel is learning to make good movies.

These good movies are not just fun to watch, but they are actually beneficial for our American character and culture. The marvel heroes, who will be the subject of the next several postings, are teaching young people the importance of right over might, relationships, honor, personal growth, learning from mistakes, and good choices.
The marvel movies are also so wide spread that they offer a semi common thread to the USA. They give an actual story to follow, and not just the commonality of consumerism, hard work and baseball.