Greetings, my envoys of envelopes! Your fake post-apocalyptic mailman’s mailbag is overflowing this week. Are the Agents of SHIELD actually bad guys? Would Constantine work on Legends of Tomorrow? Can I talk about both Spider-Man movie franchises purely in terms of the Titanic? Turns out I can!


Age of Marvels

Matt L.:

Hey Mr. Postman,

What is the deal with everyone wanting the MCU Captain Marvel being the lame Carol Danvers? Anyone who is a true comics fan knows that Monica Rambeau is the real Captain Marvel. Every image on this site of Captain Marvel is the blonde hair blue eyed gentrified version of the character. For all of the talk about how Peter Parker is old and outdated, why is this character excluded from that? Don’t we deserve a strong black female hero in the MCU. I think Taraji P. Henson would kill it as Captain Marvel. What say ye?

I think Taraji P. Henson would kill it as Captain Marvel. What say ye?

That’s a great question, mainly because it doesn’t have an easy answer. Obviously I’m all for diversity in my superhero entertainment, but I’m also a huge fan of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel way more than Monica Rambeau. How can I reconcile this?

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Well, first off, I’ll debate your theory that Monica is the “real” Captain Marvel. I know Monica used the name first when she debuted in 1982, and continued using it until 1996 or so; meanwhile, Carol went by Ms. Marvel from her 1967 debut until 2012 (with brief periods of taking the monikers Warbird and Binary).

The problem was that Monica’s use of the Captain Marvel name was pretty random. She didn’t have anything to do with the Kree scientist who came to Earth and first took the name Captain Marvel, and her powers had nothing to do with him either — instead, she gets exposed to some random energy and then can convert her body to anything on the electromagnetic spectrum. In the comics, her lack of connection to the original Captain Marvel eventually gets to be a problem for the original’s son, and Monica takes the name Photon (which I think suits her powers better anyways). Meanwhile, not only did Carol get her powers directly from the original Captain Marvel, inheriting his legacy, she paid her dues as Ms. Marvel for 45 stinking years before she got the name she had deserved the entire time.

Say the character of Batman died, for good (I know, it’s ludicrous, but just go with it). Now, Dick Grayson has been Batman’s heir apparent for decades, whether as Robin or Nightwing; if anyone should take the cowl and the name, it’d be him, right? Now, imagine… oh, DC introduced a brand-new character to be Batman instead. Let’s call him Azrael. In this scenario, Azrael is an excellent character, but eventually he goes away and the Batman name lies dormant. That is, until years later, when Dick Grayson finally takes his place.

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Look, this isn’t an exact replica of the Captain Marvel conundrum, but it’s close. All I can tell you is that I really like the Monica Rambeau character, but seeing Carol Danvers finally take the name Captain Marvel felt right in a way that it never did with Monica.

Now, none of this really has to do with why we’re getting a Carol Danvers movie instead of a Monica Rambeau movie, but there are reasons. 1) Monica’s popularity declined in the late ‘90s, and has never really increased for whatever reason. Meanwhile, Carol came back in a big way in the ‘00s, and Marvel is very much paying attention to what’s hot in the comics as a guide of sorts to the movies (e.g., Civil War, Inhumans, etc). 2) As nervous as Marvel is of having a superhero movie with a woman or a person of color as the lead — and they clearly are — I imagine the idea of a superhero movie with a female lead of color makes them weep in pure horror at the potential lost box office revenues. Hopefully if Captain Marvel and Black Panther are successes — and I hope to god they are — the MCU can continue to diversify. Now, I’m not sure that we’re going to ever get a Monica Rambeau movie — again, she’s barely in the Marvel comics anymore — but hopefully the Captain Marvel and Black Panther movies are just the start.

For the record, I think Taraji P. Henderson would make a fantastic Carol Danvers, for whatever that’s worth.

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[Warning: Mild Spoilers for recent Agents of SHIELD episodes ahead.]

Track & Shield

Insert clever name here:

Greetings, O Brickened One.

Here’s a thing about Disney’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD bugging me: who does SHIELD answer to now? One.

Before Winter Soldier, SHIELD was a government agency that was supposedly accountable to the US government and maybe also the mysterious “World Council. Then we learned that SHIELD was like 90% HYDRA, the government shut it down and SHIELD officially ceased to exist.

Nevertheless, a few pockets of folks led by Phil Coulson and Admiral Adama continued on their own, operating under the SHIELD name to thwart HYDRA’s evil plans. This new SHIELD was kind of like Batman; whenever they learned of an Evil Plot they’d strike from the shadows to stop it then slink away before the authorities showed up. So far so good, right?

But then in the second-to-last episode of season 2, they learn about the existence of the Inhuman Day Spa. And Coulson and Adama are united in the belief that they have to go there and put all the Inhumans on SHIELD’s “Index” of superpowered people, and it seems like the audience is supposed to agree with this.

But why? It’s one thing to go out and put a stop to Evil HYDRA Plans to conquer the world but it’s a totally different thing to show up at a hippie commune full of people who aren’t hurting anybody and force them at gunpoint to be put on some kind of index with the clear threat that if any of them step out of line SHIELD is going to use that info to drop the hammer on them. This is kind of dickish thing to do, but it would at least be somewhat understandable if SHIELD was operating under the authority of a government. But they’re not.

Why should we be rooting for these guys exactly? Who are they accountable to? Or am I just giving all of this waaaaay more thought than the show’s writers ever will?

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I feel pretty confident Jed Whedon, Melissa Tancharoen and the other SHIELD showrunners have thought about this, but I don’t know that they’ve come up with any particularly great answers. If they have, they’re saving them for next season.

Who does SHIELD answer to? Well, nobody. They obviously have their own funding — let’s hope that they sell patents to their various technology as opposed to selling weapons to various countries full of lunatics — and since the World Government Cabal is no more, SHIELD is in charge of itself. The show tried to mitigate this recently by giving director Coulson a little committee he has to work with, but he’s still the director, so he’s in charge. We know Coulson’s a good guy — we’ve seen him be a good guy since his appearance in the first Iron Man movie — so SHIELD must be good by default, right?

Also, the show wants us to root for SHIELD because they’re supposed to be the good guys. They fought the evil HYDRA, so that’s good, and they’re led by Agent Coulson, who’s been an unequivocally good guy since his debut. Plus, as Agents of SHIELD has shown, there’s always a chance for people with powers to turn evil, be manipulated, or lose control. Yes, these Inhumans may be living in peace, but then there’s that little Inhuman girl who lost her mind her mind in Bahrain and started killing people. The Index by itself isn’t punishment, just a way for SHIELD to prepare in case something — or someone — goes wrong.

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Those are the reasons the show wants us to root for them.

The problem is that it’s really hard to root for an organization, especially one as checkered as SHIELD. Even if SHIELD hadn’t been taken over by HYDRA or led by the always morally murky Nick Fury, you can’t expect audiences to get excited by the idea of a big-ass semi-government agency, even if they’re trying to protect people. The bigger problem is that since being installed as director, Coulson has served SHIELD a lot more than he’s improved it. He’s followed Fury’s lead and kept secrets from his team, for no other reason it seems than to make sure half his people mistrust him. He’s trying to do the same things SHIELD did — like index all enhanced humans, whether they were bothering anybody or not — without ever thinking if it was the right thing to do.

Bureaucracy is the death of morality. SHIELD may have the intention to protect everybody in the world, but SHIELD cannot be heroic unto itself. It has a goal, and inevitably it does whatever it needs to to achieve that goal, which eventually gets into to some gray moral areas. That’s fine, because we’re supposed to be rooting for the actual agents of SHIELD — the people who try to fulfill the goal, but have the ability to judge right from wrong and decide if SHIELD is going about things the right way. But, with the exception of Skye, all the other agents seem completely happy to toe the company line, and hope that audiences go along with it more or less because they’re not HYDRA.

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This is my biggest problem with the show — well, that and the fact that SHIELD is invariably its own worst enemy. Whether they’re keeping secrets from each other, causing massive problems that would be completely avoided if people would just share information, or whether they’re plotting against each other for the umpteenth time, it’s been really hard to see them as actual heroes. Not that I mind conflict between characters, or moral conflict, but it seems like the Agents of SHIELD are allergic to trusting each other. I know they’re all spies, and intrigue is to be expected, but it would be nice if somebody could trust somebody else for more than an episode.

I don’t think it’s an accident that SHIELD has worked best when its directly fought against HYDRA, an evil organization whose main job is basically just being evil. Rules may have been broken and grey areas entered into, but the fact of the matter is that SHIELD is always going to look like the good guys when compared to a group whose mission statement includes the line “We are going to take over the world MWA HA HA HA HA.”


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Heckblazer

NotAMonster:

Hi Mr. Postman,

The Morning Spoilers today, when Stephen Amell said he’d have liked to have made a cameo on Constantine before it was canceled got me thinking: is there a compelling reason that they couldn’t bring Constantine in as a consulting member of The Legends of Tomorrow?

Artistically would you support that idea?

WB Studios owns the show. Now that NBC has canceled it, the rights should revert fully back to WB, and they can shop the show around to whatever channel they want — and I can’t see any reason why they couldn’t gift the character to Legends of Tomorrow. If there is a problem, I’m guessing that Legends of Tomorrow has maxed out its casting budget, and can’t afford to add Matt Ryan to the league.

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Which is a shame, because Ryan’s portrayal of Constantine was the best part of the Constantine show by far. Adding an acerbic asshole like Constantine to any group is almost always a recipe for entertainment... although based on today’s trailer, it seems like Arthur Darvill’s Rip Hunter is trying to fulfill that role to an extent. Still, I think adding a bit of magic to the Legends mix would probably work out wonderfully, given that there’s already technology, time-travel, possible resurrection, and girls with wings. Magic seems the natural next addition, don’t you think?

But I think I’d still rather have Constantine the series continue than add Constantine to Legends. The show was finding its feet and as I’ve said before, taking the show off NBC primetime and moving it to basic cable would solve at least have the show’s problems. It just boggles me that Syfy isn’t tripping over themselves to pick this series up. They need a superhero show so bad, and this one is practically gift-wrapped for them. Oh well.


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Attack on Titanic

Tristan K.:

Dear (not Kevin Costner) Postman,

Why does everyone hate on Amazing Spider-Man 2? I enjoyed that movie, and overall I think it’s rather decent. Objectively though, I can still understand how it didn’t meet expectations, I can understand that people don’t like it, or even that they think it’s not that good. Everyone has different tastes and opinions and all that. What confuses me is that amount of hate it gets. I see it a lot more now that Spidey is back in Marvel’s hands, however tentatively. People speak about the latest movie as if it was the sole blame for the ruination of the Spidey franchise. Does no one remember Spider-Man 3? That is one godawful movie, no matter which way you cut it. If anything sank the franchise, it’s that installment. ASM 1 & 2 maybe just weren’t good enough to save it, I can get that. It’s like blaming the life rafts for the sinking of the Titanic, though. I don’t mean to imply that just because Spidey 3 was horrible, all subsequent movies get a free pass, but why does ASM 2 seem like it gets all the bad press? Is it just short memory? Is there some glaring problem I missed? Please use your wisdom and future knowledge to help me understand.

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You’re conflating a few issues. As a franchise, Spider-Man is gold. He’s the biggest and most profitable and most recognizable superhero in the world. If Spider-Man 3 or Amazing Spider-Man 2 had actually ruined the franchise, then they wouldn’t be making more Spidey movies. Instead, they only wrecked those iterations of the franchise.

By your analogy, Spider-Man is the Titanic, and the ship is perfectly well built. The problem is that the company that owns the Titanic keeps hiring captains who are idiots. In the case of Spider-Man 3, Captain Raimi sailed right into an iceberg, apparently in the belief that the passengers on the SS Spider-Man actually wanted to hit an iceberg. The ship sank, with the Captain giving finger guns as he went down with the ship.

As for Amazing Spider-Man 2, you’re right in that it wasn’t as transcendentally awful as Spider-Man 3. But it was just as overstuffed and cluttered and nonsensical as Spider-Man 3. To continue your analogy (which I’m really enjoying) director Marc Webb managed to hit the same damn iceberg that Raimi hit only a few years ago. The ship only glanced the iceburg, and didn’t quite sink. However, everyone knew that iceburg was there. They knew hitting the iceburg would be problematic. And Webb hit it anyways. Now, sure, the SS Spidey didn’t sink, but would you trust Webb to continue sailing the damaged ship? Hell no. You’d start over with a new ship and a new captain who could hopefully avoid these problems entirely.

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Face Facts

Matt:

Given that Face-Off was RIDICULOUS, i.e. nothing is off the table, what do you think about the possibility of Face-Off 2, wherein the kid that John Travolta brings home at the end (pretty much stealing Nic Cage’s kid) as his own grows up to be good, but his own biological son, ostensibly killed by Nic Cage’s Castor Troy in fact survived, was raised by Castor Troy’s ilk and became a de facto evil mini-Nic Cage? Sort of like Mister Miracle and Orion in Jack Kirby’s New Gods? It’s insane anyway, so I don’t see any reason we can’t double down on crazy.

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I was going to point out that John Travolta’s kid is unequivocably murdered by Nic Cage in Face/Off’s opening scene, thus rendering your idea impossible, then I remembered that Face/Off is a movie about John Travolta and Nic Cage switching faces and no one being able to tell the difference (their voices change because scientists put a microchip in their throats. A microchip). So having Nic Cage somehow tricking Travolta into thinking his son is dead, raising him secretly, and somehow never once mentioning this in the original movie is at least as plausible.

So yeah, I’d watch the hell out of that movie. The only question is where could you find two young actors who could possibly ham it up enough to play mini-Travolta and mini-Cage? Who could possibly come close to the scene where Nic Cage, as a priest, grabs a choir-singer’s ass and suddenly orgasms? I will take suggestions in the comments.


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Medicine Woman

David L.T.:

Dear Postman,

In answering a question about what versions of Batman Rob likes, we learned two things. One was that Rob enjoys talking in the third person. The second is that the Adam West incarnation is one of Rob’s favorite. Thus, I’m curious what Rob thinks of the current Batman 66 comic title as a continuation of the series. While I think the Green Hornet story line was a little bloated (the comic really works best on low scales and short stories), it’s been overall a fantastic tribute to my favorite Batman incarnation. Is the comic working for Rob as a fan of the 60s Batman? And how long can a comic like this keep up?

Related, I’m wondering what Rob thinks of the slow introduction of Harley Quinn into the world of 66 Batman through the comic. Does the character fit that world? And who should have played her in the original show?

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Rob will take this out of third person, because Rob thinks it’s going to get insanely annoying if he keeps it up.

Since virtually all the villains of Batman ’66 have at least one sexy evil sidekick helping them out, honestly, I think Harley Quinn might work even better here than in regular Batman comic continuity. The fact that the comics have started slowly, introducing Dr. Quinn (which is actually a much better name) as a psychiatrist as Arkham, who goes crazy for a very Batman ’66-appropriate reason, is why the comic is so great — it’s adding depth and continuity and crazy-huge action to the premise of the original TV series.

I think I’ve said this before, but imagine if the ‘60s Batan show had a $70 million budget for each episode. Imagine Adam West’s Batman in a scene like the truck chase in The Dark Knight. The Batman ‘66 comic is not only fantastically in line with the show, but it’s improving upon in ways that stay true to the original, and it’s been an absolute treat to read. Did you know Batman builds a giant Bat-robot? You truly haven’t lived until you’ve seen a giant robot designed to look like Adam West’s Batman.

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Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!


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