Monday, October 05, 2015

Top Five Characters I'd Like to See in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

With the caveat that Marvel has movies planned out until at least 2019, and that they're pretty rapidly getting to the point where you could run a cable network that showed nothing but MCU properties...there are actually some characters I still think they haven't gotten past fan rumors. I've got a few favorites I'd like to see, like:

5. She-Hulk. I'd do this as a TV series like "Daredevil" or "Jessica Jones", only a bit more light-hearted. Jennifer Walters is a high-profile attorney (I'd probably make her a district attorney) whose life turns upside-down when she's injured by mob bosses and given a blood transfusion by her cousin, Bruce Banner. (Obviously, this is something you'd have to work in later, once Bruce's whereabouts became known. I'd toss out the "rare blood type" thing, and make it an emergency transfusion given on the spot using improvised equipment.) Now she's invulnerable, super-strong, and really not interested in being anything other than an excellent district attorney because she believes in the criminal justice system as a way of dealing with law-breakers. But of course, it's never that easy.

4. Quasar. What I've always liked about Quasar is the idea that what made him a hero was that he wasn't aggressive or bitter or generally angsty. Literally, that's what made him a hero--he got these super-powerful quantum bands that could do all sorts of amazing stuff, and he was the first guy that didn't think of them as a weapon. The people who did all wound up blowing themselves to kingdom come with them. I would run with that, and make it clear that he's a hero who thinks first of his powers in terms of protecting people and limiting the abilities of bad guys to cause trouble, and then put him into an escalating series of cosmic crises where it gets harder and harder to save everyone.

3. Monica Rambeau. I grew up with her as "Captain Marvel", so to some extent I think it's a shame they're using Carol Danvers even though she's pretty awesome herself. But I like the idea of a super-powered New Orleans harbor patrol officer who takes the same approach to big epic cosmic Avengers-themed bad guys that she does to her everyday police work, and who survives the craziness by bringing everything back to police procedural principles. Every crime has a perp, a motive, a method, and evidence. Oh, and she is so not impressed by Tony Stark.

2. The Runaways. I actually think the Runaways would work better as a series of movies than as a comic, because their one big flaw as a superhero team is that they don't really have any big reason to keep fighting evil after they take down the Pride. (Yes, I know, Vaughn tried to sell the whole "they feel responsible for the uptick in crime after the Pride are defeated" thing, but it never felt comfortable.) In the movies, having a smaller number of good arcs isn't such a bad thing. And frankly, you almost don't need to touch the first story at all to make a great film.

1. Ms Marvel. Honestly, who else was it ever going to be? I really think the only reason she doesn't have her own movie yet is because they're using "Agents of SHIELD", 'Inhumans' and 'Captain Marvel' to lay the groundwork for her admittedly complex origin. (Okay, I tell a lie, it's not that complex--she got gassed with alien mist that awakened alien DNA. But comics fans will tell you it's complex.) Seriously, they don't need to change a thing, just bring her into the movies with a good actress playing her and do all the stuff they're doing right now and it will be awesome.


Jim S said...

I hope I don't in trouble with this. The problem with Ms. Marvel isn't her origin. It's that she is a VERY specific character. The genius of Stan Lee (and I think it's Stan as opposed to Jack and Steve) is that his characters are, for lack of a better word, generic.

Peter Parker. White bread name. Nothing ethnic about him. But he's very relatable because he's a nerd who has problems nerds of all hues can relate to. In fact, if someone were to say he was a classic Jewish nerd, I'd have no problem with that, but he's not Jewish. His aunt is a yenta who plays the guilt card. But again, not Jewish.

Don Blake - lame doctor. Reed Richards - brainiac. Brave, but not specific to place or culture. Even Stan's tough guys - Nick Fury, Ben Grimm - are generic New York tough guys. I guess Nick is supposed to be Italian and Ben Jewish. But other than generic poor guys from the tenements who came up through hard work, nothing Italian or Jewish about them. So they are relatable.

Ms. Marvel, on the other hand, is VERY SPECIFIC. She is muslim. We see her ask for advice from her Iman. Nice advice, but when did you ever see Peter Parker go to a rabbi, minister priest? He'd go to Robby. Her brother is, I think, deliberately unemployed. I just know sometime in the future some less-talented hack is going to run with that thread and it will be a disaster.

Instead of dad being overprotective, he's a Pakistani muslim who isn't sure about America. Again, that kind of character requires a delicate touch. I am not saying it can't be done, but go on the Mary Sue web site and see the comments pages where even the best intentioned stories get eviscerated for not being diverse or LGBT positive or against women. I am not making this up. I read a review of Brooklyn 9-9. The author complimented the show for its diversity. In the comments, someone wrote that yes it was diverse and from a white priviledged male. Though she had some problems with the lead for being a white male. The show was created by Adam Sandberg for himself. But because the lead was a white, straight male, there was a strike against it, even though the commenter liked it.

I am not saying that shows shouldn't be diverse. I am saying that anytime someone who isn't gay or black or female writes a character, they tend to get dragged over the coals. Sometimes that is deserved, but often isn't. It is definately a trap. Doint a TV show is hard, and having to look over your shoulder for the diversity police becomes a huge hassle.

Having said that, having casts that reflect reality matters. In the old days, Stan could do Sue Storm, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Matt Murdock, Peter Parker, and create characters that people related to. But the country's demographics have changed, I understand that. Have no problem with that. But there is a danger. Make a character Larry Liu and have him refer to his Chinese ancestors and he's a stereotype. Have him be generic with the Larry Liu name and you're blanding (is that a word) the character.

It's a danger and I don't know the solution.

Or I could be wrong. I hope you understand that my heart is in the right place.

John Seavey said...

I do understand that your heart is in the right place, but I think you are wrong. I think the key to Ms Marvel's popularity is that she's not generic and she's not a stereotype--she's a Pakistani Muslim woman and it's part of her character, but it doesn't make her any less relatable for those of us who are none of the above. G. Willow Wilson is showing that you can make a sympathetic character that we all understand and whose day-to-day struggles are the kind of thing we all go through (questions about relationships, difficulties with well-meaning parents who don't really understand you, et cetera) without making them default to "straight white able-bodied cismale".

You're right that if the show's done badly, it could become a stereotype, but that's a reason to do it better, not to avoid doing it at all. The solution is to make sure that the people involved are telling their own stories--Sama Amanat, the book's editor, and G. Willow Wilson, its writer, are both Muslim (Sama is also Pakistani) and are providing a wealth of authenticity that keeps it from degenerating into a stereotype. A TV show would need to do the same. It isn't easy, but it is worth doing.