MIT admissions video captures Marvel’s new Iron (woman) man Iron Heart

I had a myriad of questions after watching the video, but nothing that couldn’t be answered with research later. However, I did quickly find a blog post by Mechanical Engineering and Robotics student and blogger Salem G, which describes all the behind the scenes work the team powered through to produce such a stunning video.

In the short video new Ironman – or Ironwoman, using the code name Ironheart – 15 year old Riri Williams, formulates and fabricates a new suit of armour, before collecting a metal tube. Contained within are admission letters for new MIT students. Delivering an admission letter from the world’s highest ranked University is a heroic act indeed. Hermes was the messenger of the Greek gods, and was renamed Mercury when admitted to the ancient Roman pantheon. Is there a pattern here? Mythological messengers with metallic names make deliveries? The behind the scenes blog post can be found on the MIT admissions blog page.

Marvel elements and minerals other than Adamantium

The Marvel Universe is a home to several different types of fictional elements and minerals. However, since Marvel Studios does not own the copyright to the X-Men, and their associated elements and minerals, Adamantium has only appeared in the X-Men films, and the Wolverine films. This post is a short list of some of the fictional elements, minerals, and substances that appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe other than Adamantium.

Vibranium – Mined in Wakanda, used by Black Panther, Captain America, and Ultron.

Black Panther’s claws and armour are woven and developed from this raw material. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ultron created a powerful shell for its memory and software to reside on. Despite the strength and durability of this element and it’s derivative alloys – Captain America’s shield is the most well known example – the shell broke. Three other elements working together were able to destroy Vibranium. These are “Badassium”, Uru, and an Infinity Stone.

“Badassium” – A New Element from Tony Stark.

This is the new element Iron Man created after following an encoded schematic left to him by his father Howard Stark. He hacked together a particle accelerator in his basement, and used the stream of particles to forge this new substance. Although there is no reliable source for this, Stark wanted to patent his new element as “Badassium”.

Energy from this element, housed in his armour’s arc reactor, was able to damage Ultron’s Vibranium shell.

Uru – Mythical and magical, the alloy or element Thor’s hammer is made out of.

Thor’s hammer Mjolnir (“Mye-Mye”) is made out of this mythological metal. Uru requires the kind of heat found in the heart of star to become malleable and manipulated. The elements or mineral refined into Uru can only be found in Nidavellir, one of the nine realms. The magical side of the element means that objects are created with enchantments that allow a spiritual bond to form between the carrier, and the Uru object. Thor’s bond with Mjolnir is an example.

Lightning channelled through the hammer, along with Stark’s  New Element, was also able to damage Ultron’s Vibranium shell.

Infinity Stones – A complete mystery, possibly a mineral like other gemstones, but could be anything.

It’s not clearly stated what mineral these stones are made from. They are referred to  as “singularities” by the collector. The term singularities has a wide range of meanings. For example, the state of the universe before the creation of stars and planets is sometimes called a singularity. Based on this information, the Infinity stones could be made of anything. The Vision carriers  the Mind Stone embedded in his forehead. He can fire a powerful beam of gold energy using the stone.

Gravitonium – A new element discovered in a mine on Earth.

in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, scientist Dr. Franklin Hall studied gravity, and developed a theory that an exotic material could control gravity. Eventually, he discovered Gravitonium in a mine. After a series of event in Agents of SHIELD season one, Hall was trapped inside the Gravitonium, and the element was stored away. It is likely the Doctor will return at some point in the future.

Outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there remains an extensive list of imagined and fictional substances. One article on Wikipedia attempts to round up and catalogue these elements and minerals. I have just one follow up question – are there any other elements, minerals, alloys, or other substances that stand out, or should be catalogued?

Elastic or Super Stretching: A list of elastic heroes part 2

Flexibility when big, life changes happen is a helpful character trait to possess or develop. This first blog post lists and compares several of these characters in the order they were first published (by publication year). This is part 2 of a two-part post.

I think flexibility is the main reason why super heroes with elastic or super stretching powers are fascinating. They embody adaptation. They can work around most physical obstacles, rising to impossible challenges. At the same time, they look unusual and strange. They connect to the sense of being an outcast or an outsider that comic book characters explore (the X-Men being a long standing example).

Dhalsim, 1991

Dhalsim from the Street Fighter series has less extreme and flowing stretching powers. He can’t elongate his body into a sheet, but his arms and legs still spring out, which is an effective fighting tactic in the two dimensional world of Street Fighter. Some writers have criticised Dhalsim’s cliched and racially stereotyped design; Dhalsim is a practising yoga master from India. He wears skulls and breathes fire. These characteristics show Dhalsim’s elastic design was not deeply thought out or planned when he, and the cast of Street Fighter 2were initially created. He is one part of an ‘international’ cast of characters. Looking for depth, flexibility, and outsider status would be difficult considering the stereotyping behind his design.

Luffy (Monkey.D.Luffy), 1997

Monkey D. Luffy is the pirate captain of the Straw Hat pirates from the long-running One Piece manga. He has several traits in common with Plastic Man. Both have morally chaotic decision making skills, and extreme, stretching abilities. They also have a sense of humour and optimistic buoyant personalities. Luffy has the middle initial of “D”, which marks him as an outsider in the One Piece world. Another elastic hero marked as an outsider.

Mrs. Incredible, 2004

In 2004, Helen Parr appears in the Disney Pixar animation The Incredibles. Similar to Mr.Fantastic, she is a strong family figure, and like Mr. Fantastic, would make tremendous
sacrifices to protect her family. Her elastic powers are also similar to Mr. Fantastic. Mrs. Incredible also made a significant sacrifice in her life when she gave up being a hero entirely to raise a family.

Jake the Dog, 2008

In 2008, Jake the Dog is the first prominent, non-human shape shifter and elastic hero. His story arc progresses from a more carefree adventurer, to concerned parent. He shapeshifts not just to fight and carry Finn around, but also to adapt to his changing responsibilities. He starts in the same, chaotic place as Luffy and Plastic Man, but transitions to become more similar in character to Mr.Fantastic and Mrs. Incredible.

Ms. Marvel, 2013

Finally, in 2013, Ms. Marvel arrives. Her abilities include shapeshifting and stretching, similar to Plastic Man and Luffy. Kamala Khan fights prejudice and stands out as a diverse role model. Another elastic hero with outsider status, who is an authentic American Muslim character, concerned with the safety of everyone in her New Jersey community. The depth and thought behind Ms. Marvel’s design and writing contrasts with the ideas and stereotypes hastily used to create Street Fighter character Dhalsim. Ms. Marvel needs to be flexible to take on prejudice in her community toward Americans who are also of the Islamic faith.

An interesting trend observed just from the publication year is the increase in shapeshifting and stretching characters since 1997. Moving into the 21st century, flexibility is an increasingly valuable character trait. We can see a bit of our own struggle to be more flexible with the demands of contemporary life in these characters.

So, are these insights valuable, or just over thinking? You can head back in time, and read about elastic heroes before 1990 on the Wallflyer.

Elastic or Super Stretching: A list of elastic heroes part 1

Flexibility when big, life changes happen is a helpful character trait to possess or develop. This first blog post lists and compares several of these characters in the order they were first published (by publication year). This is part 1 of a two-part post.

I think flexibility is the main reason why super heroes with elastic or super stretching powers are fascinating. They embody adaptation. They can work around most physical obstacles, rising to impossible challenges. At the same time, they look unusual and strange. They connect to the sense of being an outcast or an outsider that comic book characters explore (the X-Men being a long standing example).

Plastic Man, 1941

In 1941, Plastic Man arrives in Police Comics #1. He is the earliest hero in American comics publishing with stretching powers. A reformed thief, Plastic Man has an overwhelming sense of humour. This brightness was later contrasted with depths of sadness when the character appeared in several Justice League of America story arcs during the 1990’s. Flexible and elastic characters can change with the times. They embody adaptation.

Reed Richards, Elongated Man, 1961

Almost exactly 20 years later, in 1961, two more elastic heroes appear. One more arrives for DC, and a prominent stretchy heroes appears at Marvel Comics. These two heroes are the detective Elongated Man, and the super scientist and Fantastic Four team leader Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). Richards is a character with strong family connections. He would literally stretch to great lengths to defend his family. Elongated Man is also a character with strong family connections. Like Plastic Man, he is also the survivor of almost overwhelming tragedies, having lost his wife Susan Dearbon (before New 52 relaunch at DC comics) and almost losing Susan again (after the New 52 relaunch) in Secret Six.

Elastic-Girl, 1963

Elasti-Girl of the Doom Patrol appears in 1963. She represents the outsider interpretation of elastic and stretchy heroes. Also experiencing loss and tragedy, she and her team died in a battle to save a small fishing village. Like Elongated Man, she has returned following the New 52 relaunch, however.

Flat Man, 1989

In 1989, a hero with limited stretching or elastic powers called Flat Man appears at Marvel comics. Flat Man joins the Great Lakes Avengers, who are often sidelined or maligned by the Avengers, or the X-Men. Combined with the Flat Man’s character development – gaining the confidence to admit to himself that he is gay and eventually come out to his teammates – the outcast status appears in connection with another elastic hero.

Are these ideas of flexibility, of overcoming obstacles, and being an outcast justified and relevant, or just overthinking? Part two on the Wallflyer will cover heroes after 1991 – Dhalsim, Mrs. Incredible, Monkey D. Luffy, Jake the Dog, and Ms. Marvel.

Update 22/2 Link to part two added to the last paragraph.

DC Comics imprint Young Animal to publish Bug! The Adventures of Forager

Calling out to Comics foundational creator Jack Kirby – on the 100 year anniversary of Kirby’s birthday – Forager Bug arrives under the DC comics imprint Young Animal. Bug! The Adventures of Forager is a six issue mini-seres set to debut on May 10, 2017. The creative team stepping up for the project are Michael, Lee, and Laura Allred. I’m looking forward to the colouring, and universe exploration settings, following the creative team’s work on Silver Surfer for Marvel comics.

On the origin of their interest in the character, Lee Allred says:

“Ever since Mike and I read a battered copy of NEW GODS #9 in the waiting room before guitar lessons, we’ve loved Forager the Bug..A kinetic action hero on one hand, an alienated, introspective youth on the other—he’s the quintessential Young Animal character.” -Lee Allred, DC comics interview.

For more information on the character, DC comics has a Media Release. And Comics Alliance has a history of the character.

How to write a comic script with Justice League of America Rebirth #1

The Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 has some layered character writing that shows internal struggle. I’ve written a brief recap of key moments for three characters: The Ray, Lobo, and Killer Frost.

The Ray is a new super hero, protecting Vanity City, Oregon, but two sentences of conversation set him up as an outsider.

Two parents on the street see him flying overhead, and acknowledge he saves lives, but admonish his possibly dangerous light powers. When offered JLA membership, listening to the mission of the JLA, which is human heroes and not gods, Ray says

“I don’t know if I’m human…and I’ve never been part of anything”.

-The Ray, JLA Rebirth #1

People see Ray as an outsider, and he views himself as something other than a human. Othering the Ray is one way to present an LGBTIQ character in a comic script. The Ray’s struggle of being left out plays out later in a scene with the entire team assembled. He tries to enter the conversation, but is quickly silenced by Lobo (“Adults are talkin’ kid”).

It’s no surprise that one of the teaser panels for later JLA issues is the Ray attacking Lobo. The conflict Ray feels of being an outsider, an other, silenced by Lobo, informs his actions.

Lobo presents as a harder, tougher, and unstoppable force of masculinity, which expertly covers interests that would not been seen as masculine- intelligence for complex science, and attention to detail.

He’s violent, loud, and takes any oppurtunity to put down his team mates. Intelligence and attention to detail are not typically masculine behaviours. Yet, when Lobo sees the skill in quantum physics from the Atom, Ryan Choi, he shows interest and respect, clashing with his careless, aggressive persona. His word choice softens slightly when talking to the Atom. It’s an example of character showing layers that conflict and clash.

Killer Frost also shows layers. Her name and appearance implies something frozen, emotionally locked, with cold affect. She attempts to be a warmer, more heroic person overall, despite her Killer Frost history.

While powered up with the ability to freeze water in the air, sculpting ice at will, Killer Frost craves heat. She tries to warm up to her team mates, but is judged as dangerous because of her struggles with heat addiction. She is a character facing a tough, self-improvement challenge. Showing restraint when judged for her past, and warmth despite being treated coldly by others. There are some layers here, and a comment about the judgment of others by their presentation, and their past.

In a team book, where space for development is constrained, JLA: Rebirth #1 character writing is a good example of showing inner conflict where space is limited.

How to Write a Comic Script with Monstress #8

Monstress #8 lurches its characters into a restrictive environment. They’re on a boat, sailing to a forbidden island. Restricting the setting for a comic script might cause writing blockades, with only limited space to move the characters around. However, close environments allow for conflict to play out more quickly.

Maika Halfwolf is a character with deep internal struggles. She experiences two powerful conflicts. She is caught between two distinct races within the Monstress world, and battling a powerful, old god living within her called a Monstrum. In contrast, her traveling companions Kippa and Ren face less of a constellation of problems. The face more direct obstacles.

Kippa learns to Swim.

Ren avoids Evisceration by the ship’s pirate crew, who despise the intelligent race of talking cats, called Nekomancers, to which Ren belongs.

Monstress has excellent comic script elements – a detailed and expansive world building ethos combined with clever wordplay.

Fans of the fantasy genre might remark on the word choice of Nekomancer, which combines the Japanese word for cat (Neko), and the suffix “-mancer”, deriving from Greek (mantea) and Latin (mantia) origins meaning “oracle or divination”. A wordplay on the word and Necromancer, and the act of Necromancy.

Issue #8 is a great example of the Monstress world building ethos. Being on a boat at sea might seem restrictive, but Monstress #8 inviting elements of the ocean into the story.

Maika’s internal struggles rise to the surface again, as she fights with the pirate crew, and has to be separated and isolated. Maika’s isolation represents a large struggle for her character.

As a person caught halfway between two races in the Monstress world, Maika’s struggles explore the theme of isolation – and the fear, rage, and pain that follows.

To enact these themes, and play out Maika’s internal struggle, Monstress #8 introduces shark and octopus characters.

The octopus character has a tentacle torn off by Maika, after they strike her across the face. The stakes are low for the Octopus, who can grown back a limb, but for Maika, the stakes are raised. The shark behaves as one would expect a shark to behave – they are delighted by the sight of blood. Small details such as these show the stellar world building ethos in Monstress, where character motivations and desires are clear when new elements appear.

The consequences of this rage? The ship’s captain isolates Maika up in the crow’s nest, where she is separated from almost everyone.

In Scriptwriting, and when exploring themes of isolation, having the captain suggest Maika accompany her to the Crows Nest – the highest point on a ship – is a deft way to use a limited setting – a boat in this issue – to further the theme and storytelling.

This scene – Octopus insult, Maika retaliation, Shark laughing at blood, subsequent isolation – is one example of the detailed world building ethos, and expertly enacted combination of character desires and theme expansion in Monstress comic scripts.

You can read more about Monstress on the Image comics website.