EGO: LIVING PLANET, DEADBEAT DAD

“Didn’t you want to find out who your father is, Peter?”

-Gamora to Peter Quill

Ego-The-Living-Planet

Hey true believers! Isn’t it fascinating that the MCU’s plans are coming to fruition? Ain’t it even cooler that we fast approaching the cream of it all… the Infinity War!

I think it’s amazing that this far, we can say that Marvel’s story both on the small and big-screens has brought us to this point at last. Thus begins the countdown to the final act and build up of it all and we begin to get a glimpse of this in Marvel’s recent blockbuster success, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Here we are introduced to a marvelous inclusion to the cinematic canon as well as a well-crafted continuation to the first film, and every minute of the same is equally savory!

Let it be noted, this is the first film in Marvel’s cache that’s not a typical ‘super-hero’ film…whereas one could argue that the heroes are eager to be just that, heroes, they do it in the most unconventional way. This, they do by making the film, a family film with one agenda, winning you (the viewer’s) heart. The family-centered nature of the movie is a fantastic and timely movie with one answer to the question, “what does it truly mean to be family?”

True to Marvel’s history in the comics, GotG Vol. 2 delivers on its chosen relatable theme and captured the heart of all its viewers. If anything, watching Peter, Gamora and Rocket try and figure their place in the world was a great way to delve into their worlds. In this way, we are exposed to a present reality, the presence of a new kind of family dynamic. Here one chooses their family and finds their place and purpose. It’s very hard not to see a parallel with the Christian message of inclusion of the believer to a chosen family of sorts.

For true to the nature of the world, our biological relations may not all turn out right and we do suffer. Some of us do not end up finding true family among our own kin and we end up finding safety, warmth, love and identity among those we don’t share any blood-ties. It’s curious how this concept works and how its tied to the spiritual…gangs, Bloods and CRIPs, local and international, consider themselves a type of family and look out for their own and there are often rituals involved to show allegiance to the same. These rituals tend to involve tests, pain and even blood. Odd isn’t it?

But here’s where it gets even more peculiar and bear with me for a minute, we find that there really is life and a sense of joy in these settings, including the religious realm. It stands to reason that the cosmic and powerful nature of Ego drove him to associate himself with divinity, a god with a small ‘g’. He was what Marvel’s cosmos would consider gods, a celestial…and we are about to see more soon in Thor Ragnarok later on this year.

Look at it this way, Peter’s biological father though powerful as he was, and belonging to a race of vastly superior beings to anything else in the MCU was not only untrustworthy but was selfish. Peter was not his son in the same way that Bruce wasn’t his father’s child in Ang Lee’s Hulk (2002); they were their parent’s project. Nothing more. It’s also peculiar that much of the character flaws attributed to Ego in GotG Vol. 2 are the very traits associated with many deities in the ancient pantheistic world…they are powerful, but are unmarked by love. So you have a god but he or she comes with trace amounts of care, compassion and love…what an offer ey?

What makes this argument is Ego’s treatment of Peter, he uses him for his own ends. The whole time they’re interacting, he was simply manipulating Peter to use him and his power for his own bizarre ends. What a dad, ey? But hey, don’t take my word for it. Peter himself does say, “No wonder I got issues… (points)that’s my dad!” Heh. It’s actually quite funny, that Peter later realized what value Yondu added to his life by keeping and raising him and basically being a father to him.

Something crazily important to note here though, Yondu was riddled with flaws. He just wasn’t the perfect man. Heck, he was a leader of the ravagers and we learnt that he kept Peter because of his size as a child to steal stuff (now we see why Baby Groot was the ideal candidate for the ‘kill Ego scene’). But, above all, Yondu cared for Peter and grew to love and raise him as his own son. Now that’s fatherhood!

I thought that it’s quite a relatable that the message of Guardian’s was that their is beauty in imperfections, although, it doesn’t necessarily advocate for the abnormal scenario to become the norm. Rather, as a movie that seeks to capture the hearts and minds of its audience, it captured its soul.

And oh, I almost forgot, the comics have a version of God and yes, he’s a celestial. Yes, God with a capital ‘g’…

The One Above All…

Caution though, he’s just as bad…

Advertisements

IRON FIST: NETFLIX AND THE ‘WHAT NEXT’

MARVEL’S IRON FIST: WHAT WENT RIGHT, AND WHAT WE CAN DO

iron_fist

It’s amazing to see how the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) has built up its interconnected universe on the small screen. Time, chance, coincidence and opportunity all seem to have worked to Marvel’s advantage as they have not only seen success in their most popular titles, but have also seen the return of some of their long-lost titular characters such as Spider-man, Blade, Daredevil and Punisher. Now, it was the worry of so many of us fans that each of these individuals wouldn’t get justice done to their characters, but again, the MC did us proud.

Taking into consideration the fact that the MCU is the first of its kind to weave an interconnected universe in the form of movies and the small screen, it should not therefore, be a cause for alarm when they dare to try something new. I am careful to point this out since there is so much that the MCU is still yet to discover—and building a unique feel, theme and story for every character is not knew to Marvel, let alone its comics. One way to look at it is that, like the comics, Marvel has never shied away from tackling current issues (sorry DC, but Marvel did this better).

Perhaps one of the most daring moves by Marvel under the leadership of its forerunners, Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, being one of them, Marvel broke the approach to doing comic-books. Also, on the same note, it could be said that the decision to take certain concepts from DC and flip them was a conscious decision to prove that they could do it better. Though debatable, it’s still a fascinating topic for fans to discuss. So, I’ll leave that to you true believers. If we could then take that understanding to mind, then we could argue-all Marvel fans out there-that we could not have gotten some of the most memorable characters that the world has seen had Marvel (called Atlas then) not dared to create characters who challenged the norm and what defined super-heroes, we wouldn’t have been thrilled to see what’s going on before our very eyes this day and age.

It would not have been thrilling to plead for Sony to let go of Spider-man; or for us fans to plead for Punisher, Daredevil to be brought back; or to even hope for the return of the X-Men and the Fantastic 4 to Marvel from Fox. That is why we fight for them to be brought home, like the father of the Prodigal Son story, only that this time we go after him and try to drag our son home. We LOVE these characters, RELATE to them and acknowledge the UNIQUE attachment we have with them. Think about this for a moment, which discriminated parties in this world cannot see themselves in the X-Men? Which child of colour cannot see himself as Spider-man or as Black Panther, a king? If psychologists are correct, that is the kind of mental stimulation that challenges the imagination and helps a kid realize his potential in such a dark world that probably won’t like him because of such silly things as their skin-color or their gender.

Then in comes a character like the Iron Fist. It’s taken me some time but I feel ready to talk about the new Netflix show of the titular character. You see, it’s crazy to attack Marvel on the account that they should have made the Iron Fist Asian—on that, I agree with Comicbookcast2, Comicsexplained and Nerdsync; there is no need, because Danny Rand isn’t of Asian descent. The second critique is that of its main character played by Finn Jones—in his defence, there was no need to attack him on social media to the point that he quit Twitter. Yes, let’s admit it, depending on whose writing the story, Danny Rand Iron Fist has always been a bit quirky but wise, and at times dead serious. Trying to find the fine line between both iterations is tricky, especially if adapted for the small screen as a live-action feature.

Kevin Tencharoen (I sure hope I spelt that right), some of you might remember that name from the Mortal Kombat live-action series that was created a couple of years back. He was one of the minds behind it. I know some of you will immediately have a light-bulb moment and realize something…Marvel took a risk with the one person well-known for birthing a martial arts-based series some years back. But, given what Marvel had, they risked, yes, they did, Harold Meachum was a more horrible villain than his Earth 616 counterpart; Colleen Wing’s story and relationship was discussed; Davos’ deviousness and 2-Faced nature; Danny’s complicated, action-filled life as the Iron Fist was aptly portrayed as well as his desire to build his father’s company and seek justice for his family as well.

I will agree on one thing, the pacing is slow and they could have done something about that. Behold the blessed place of the critic and fan; the position of evaluator and analyser. We can critique it but we also have to do it in a manner that will see the characters built and brought back in Season 2 better than ever. So, I plead with you, the MCU exists not for Marvel but for us, let’s help them build it better.

MARVEL’S GHOST RIDER: THE CONCEPT OF BRIDGING TWO WORLDS

WHY MARVEL’S GHOST RIDER IS WORTH LOOKING INTO

“This is what I look like when I’m smiling”

-Johnny Blaze

Ghost-Rider_1.jpg

With rumors beginning to flood the internet and fan-boys (such as myself) and fan-girls going with the buzz of the small screen flow, I felt that it is about time that we discussed this peculiar character; Ghost Rider. I have to point out here that the character has been rumored to appear soon on Netflix with a new actor as the vexed Johnny Blaze. Although this is some big news, I feel that there are still some fans who’ll greatly miss Nicholas’ Cage’s portrayals of the character.

To start this off I feel that I should be clear here and point out that although some of you out there might rate McFarlane’s Spawn higher than Ghost Rider, I want to assure you now that there is more to consider here when it comes to the latter. You see, unlike Ghost Rider, Spawn is limited to the spiritual aspect and does not fully, ‘walk both worlds’ as Ghost Rider does. Again, Spawn is a single individual who does not quite draw on any other being’s power other than his own in order to do what he does. Last but not least, I’d love to point out that Ghost Rider’s ties to Zarathos are quite unique and raise the Rider’s threat-level higher than that of Spawn when it comes to raw might and power. [Don’t get me wrong here, but Spawn IS an amazing character with incredible power, though he is no match for Ghost Rider as you’ll soon see].

Ghost Rider’s link to the mystical is through the ancient demon, Zarathos. Zarathos was Mephisto’s challenger when it came to seeking rulership over hell. What’s interesting about this is that he was almost as old and as powerful as Mephisto, and had already amassed for himself a large number of followers in his bid to take over Mephisto’s throne. By the time he was discovered and trapped in a crystal by Mephisto, he had waxed powerful. This way hell’s threatening divide was stopped up and mended.

Later on, Mephisto uses this very crystal to create the Ghost Rider. A process he undertakes by merging the crystal to the ‘soon-to-be’ Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze. What makes this particular Ghost Rider special to me is the fact that he did not make his pact with Mephisto out of selfishness, but rather out of selflessness. In his pursuit to save his dad, Johnny does the unthinkable and makes a deal with Mephisto who had since pursued and tracked him down for his own personal reasons. Conveniently for Mephisto, Johnny was in a desperate state and he used this to his own advantage and made the desperate Johnny into the Ghost Rider, while simultaneously denying him the one thing he wanted; the health and life of his father.

Tragic though, this may be, it speaks volumes about how we become what we least expect because of devastating circumstances that come our way. As though led by misfortune, Johnny’s loss became his greatest consolation for justice as he took on the mantle of the Ghost Rider! Now, tasked with the job returning wandering escaped souls [back] to hell, Johnny takes on the eery, mysterious and mystical persona of the dark angel, Zarathos.

Endowed with incredible power, the Ghost Rider is born. Zarathos’ power is freely given to Johnny to bring in the escaped spirits to their rightful place but [then again] here’s the twist; Zarathos lends all of his power to Johnny because through him, he gets to do that which he has painfully longed to do…he gets to bring justice to himself by getting revenge on the one being that put him in his present situation, Mephisto. This great power is alluded to in the World War Hulk Series when Ghost Rider intentionally avoids fighting the Hilk because of fears that the collateral damage would be severe. Basically, he knew that his might, combined with that of an enraged Hulk would cause death and that was not his mission when confronting him.

Why I bring this up is because of a little known fact; the Rider fights against Mephisto, rather than for him. In this way he is a very remarkable character. Intimidating though the Rider might be, he does not shy away from being what the Rider’s innate nature is-a fusion of two beings to create one new one-the Spirit of Vengeance. Allow me to make my point here; it is at this point that the Rider truly walks both worlds. He is as much a son of sorrow as a human being, as well as the expression of a disgraced spirit. He is capable of understanding as well as navigating his way mentally and physically in the astral and the physical plane.

As a Christian, I find this tremendously helpful in concretizing my understanding of what the Christian is. He is very much a being walking in two worlds; that of the spirit and the material. Not only is he called to do so, he is to embody the divine spirit that lives in him; that is, Jesus Christ himself. As the Scriptures would say, “as he lived, so also ought we to live…[and] as he is so also shall we be.” This has profound implications, especially when we consider that we become ‘Sons of God’ (see my previous posts on the concept of ‘son of god’ as applied to Christ). We are also said to be be transformed…but I’ll go more into that in a separate post soon.

Please remind me!

Remember, to keep riding and keep searching :-)!

BLACK PANTHER: THE MOST UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO BLACK THEOLOGY

God works through me, the same as you. There is no feat I achieve that you are not capable of.”

-Black Panther

XJ02tlJ7-1-.jpg

As fascinating and as unexpected as it may sound, the Black Panther is indeed a very important figure in comics. This exception of the Black Panther does not exclude other significant black superheroes of authority and influence such as the Blue Marvel. But, the Panther takes first place because he came before the rest. His impact on African American thought was revolutionary. At a time when the African American community battled with self identity, Marvel Comics showed that they could rise up to the occasion and create a character who would be the image of African Americans. The Black Panther, though unassociated to the group that went by the same name did something unimaginable. It not only changed how African Americans saw themselves, it also demonstrated that though they originally hailed from Africa [which had been christened the ‘Dark Continent’ in the sixties], that they and their homeland were not so ‘dark’ after all.

In a manner that must have stunned DC readers at the time, the Black Panther was a point in and of himself. Unlike DC’s Cyborg, the Panther was not a sidekick, he was his own authority. He has remained, since the time of his creation, a king, a genius of Marvel’s top cream, a superhero and a priceless contribution to the Avengers’ team on panel. Now, here’s where some of you may ask some questions like, “Wasn’t Marvel just trying to capitalize on a present issue to earn some extra income?”. The answer, a resounding “No”, here’s why; Stan Lee had pointed out that he did not like his character being ‘shadows’ of the so-called ‘main hero’ because he felt that they took something away from this main hero. He later on went to state that he would not do to any of his characters what DC had done to Batman’s Robin and subjugate them.

At a time when comic books themselves were seeking relevance, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics were on the right path. Seeking to create characters of substance, and relatability; meaning that the selling point of the characters would not be on their power or abilities but on their diverse personalities, weaknesses, challenges and ability to ‘rise up’ as it were after being knocked down several times over. This, if I must say, is a strength. And as recent comic news is showing us, Cap’s history has been re-written. He is now a triple agent and a HYDRA project?? Anyway, many fans are a bit confused about this reveal but this story is bound to be one that may lead fans to respect the Captain even more. Some of you might be skeptical but watch this space…

Now, to the issue at hand, Black Theology and Black Panther’s contribution to the same. Black theology has had a very powerful influence on American society as a whole. Be it loved or hated, it is a force to reckon with. Seeing the likes of Martin Luther King Junior, pardon me, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. springboard the revolution in the U.S. that shook the very core of the rest of America we got the best comparison to the Black Panther character. We got Barack Obama, an educated African man who made African American history through his dual heritage as a Hawaii-born black man. It’s this point that makes me respect Marvel; they looked into the future by being great analysts of the present. I speak and express myself in these posts as a young African man of black descent and I have grown up reading comics. Not only do I love them, I relish their perspectives on several events. As an African theologian, I am thrilled to see the parallels that can be made from the comic book/fictional realm and the realm of theology. If some of the greatest ministers advised other preachers/theologians to hold a paper in one hand and the Bible in another, then comic books qualify right there near the newspaper.

Kudos Marvel on bringing the character to the big screen in Captain America Civil War!

“The more different we are, the more we find that we are the same”

-Chinese Proverb

ODD VISION: MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE THEOLOGY

WHY THE MCU IS ESSENCIALLY A THEOLOGICAL PLAY

“Finally, I’ll do it myself.”

-Thanos

timeline.0.jpg

The MCU; this franchise has got to be one of the largest and greatest franchises seen on earth in history. Since its inception, it has given comic book lovers as well as newbies to the comic book lore plenty to think about regarding the comic book genre. Initially-and some of you might not know this-comic book companies such as Marvel and DC struggled for a long time to have their material taken seriously among the general populace. This was a phenomenon that could not be blamed on the wider youthful audience who devoured their content so much so as their parent/guardian influence who largely opposed the comic book industry as soon as it began to tackle real-life problems through metaphors and allusions in their highly illustrated pages. This was a great turn in history according to many comic historians as it saw the rise and prominence of the comic book genre as a serious category of literature.

Who knew that comic books once struggled with such things? It’s child’s play, isn’t it…or is it really? There is plenty of history concerning this matter and I wanted you to get acquainted with it before we moved on to my point today. [I sincerely hope that the great minds behind the MCU do not forget this]. If this history is not clear enough, another thing to be established right off the bat is the fact that the series, as well as the movies follow specific themes; a matter that Anthony and Joe Russo alluded to in their interviews about the films. If this is anything to come by, we can all agree to a great extent too that the MCU has been stupendously successful in executing this plan.

Whereas Marvel heroes and stories tend to be incredible as well as tragic, heart-wrenching, uplifting…basically human at its core, the emphases in the comics echo the same things. It is not the power-set/skills/abilities that make the hero but their character and person. Who over what is the main point preached in the pages of the comic books. If this point is in any causing doubt; Iron Man, his caption was ‘Heroes are Made..’, with Daredevil, his caption was ‘The Man without Fear’, and with Spider Man, his caption is ‘With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility’. Each of these captions summarize the characters as well as their stories.

Extending the heart of the comics into the MCU as Marvel has done so far is nothing short of incredible (no pun intended, sorry Hulk). Each of these characters have become more relatable as their worldviews, goals and aspirations, as well as their deepest desires and stances are communicated to fans and newcomers alike to the big and small screens. It is with this in mind that I want to make my point.

With all that’s been said about the comics, the characters, their development, as well as the MCU as a whole, it is clear that there’s something else intended to be communicated to the audience from the midst of all this knowledge. Think about it for a second; the success of a good story relies on the development of the characters, the story as well as their own as well as the greater external enemy. I know that right now some of you know who I am talking about. This is Thanos (I couldn’t use his quote and not discuss him now, could I?).

Thanos in the comics is supposed to be to the Avengers what Apocalypse is supposed to have been to the X Men in X Men: (Age of) Apocalypse the 2016 film. Although the movie was a let down, I have to point out that this was not due to the characters’ power set but because of lack of his development in the story and this robbed him of his menacing personality as we know him to be in the comic books. Thanos on the other hand is odd, he, like Apocalypse views himself as a god, but his aspiration is not mere power for the sake of it but for love.

Yes, essentially the MCU is about the extent of a being who fancies himself a god, demonstrating his love to mankind. Not in the Judeo-Christian manner of self sacrifice of the deity but of the sacrifice and manipulation of others to achieve a single goal; ultimate power. Some of you must be like, “Waaait a minute, are you saying that the MCU is actually something akin to a divine tale?” The answer, “Yes. Yes, it is”. The downside as well as the beauty of this lies in the fact that audiences get to see that the Infinity Stones do not reveal Thanos’ power in the end, but rather his greatest weakness. Kinda odd, right? But that’s the point. It’s kinda like a reverse biblical Tower of Babel scenario. The ‘god’ is brought down by ‘mankind’ (i.e. the superheroes who are ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’) when he seeks to disband them and ruin their already-strained interpersonal relationship. In the end, the ‘god’ is shown to be powerless as the highest tower of humanism and auto-soteriology is built. The message? Well, I’ll let Nick Fury say it from the first Avengers’ film;

“Yes, they [i.e. the Avengers] are dangerous. Our world knows that…every world knows that (now”