The best Marvel comics to read if you’re enjoying Marvel’s movies.

It’s becoming harder to find a place to jump in and start reading the comics that inspire Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. A new movie arrives almost every three months.

However, there is one solution:

Listen to comic book experts for their advice on what’s worth reading.

The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane hosted a panel discussion on comics in the real world last Sunday, May 28. The panel is part of the Marvel exhibition in Brisbane. The guests shared their expertise on comics  and the Marvel Universe – in print, and on screen.

The GOMA website summarised the career of each guest:

  • Professor Jason Bainbridge, Head of the School of Communication, University of South Australia
  • Ryan Griffen, Creator of sci-fi television series Cleverman
  • Dr Naja Later, Sessional Lecturer in Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. And Sessional Academic, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne
  • Dr Paul Mason, Lecturer in Art Direction, Griffith Film School, and comic book illustrator on Kid Phantom (Frew Publications)

I was excited to see Ryan Griffen, the creator behind the new Cleverman series, share his thoughts and expertise. The season one story arc and plot were excellent.

Dr. Paul Mason is the skilled artist behind the new Kid Phantom comic from Frew Publications based in Sydney, Australia. It is always worth listening to Paul’s insights.

And for the first time, I thought it was exciting and interesting to listen to Dr. Naja Later, Prof. Jason Bainbridge, and the panel MC Scott Stephens.

Goma Panel Guests shared which comics are excellent “jumping in” points for new readers. Here’s their recommendations:

Ryan Griffen – Black Panther And The Crew (2017)

Paul Mason – Fantastic Four 1960’s collected editions or omnibuses

Naja Later – Bucky Barnes as Captain America (2004 – 2010)

Jason Bainbridge – The original Secret Wars (1984)

Four excellent recommendations for any Marvel fans who are enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can find more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

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Netflix’s Iron Fist scheduled only limited time for martial arts choreography

In an interview with the Telegraph journalist Tristram Fane Saunders, Iron Fist actor Finn Jones described the limited time that the Netflix and Marvel Studios production team set aside to practice the martial arts choreography required:

[H]e [Finn Jones] only had three weeks to train before filming. “Unfortunately, with the filming schedule, I wasn’t given as much time as I would have liked to continue the training.” Shooting for 12 or 14 hours a day took its toll. “I was learning those fight scenes just 15 minutes before we shot them, because that was the schedule… It would be 2am, 3am, I’d just done a long day of work, and usually the stunt department would come up and say ‘Hey, right, we’ve got this huge 30 person fight and you’ve got to learn it right now.’ So I was learning it on the spot, within 15-20 minutes, and then shooting it. That was the reality for six months.”

This sort of tight schedule does not leave room for the show, ostensibly about the best martial artist in the Marvel Universe, to even attempt to match the standard of martial arts scenes set by some of the best martial arts films created and screened in the past decade. Namely, The Raid and its sequel The Raid 2. These are two intense films.

Comparing the martial arts scene planning in Iron Fist to the successful Raid films directed by Gareth Evans shows a road not taken by Netflix and Marvel Studios.

It is likely that casting actors with diverse backgrounds, and training in martial arts and combat practices, would have contributed to a better film experience overall. At the very least, it would have addressed the historical problems of race and bias associated with Iron Fist. In an interview with Fred Topel at Crave Oline (2014) Evans described the process of creating a martial arts fight scene:

Note: Silat is a style of Indonesian martial arts.

I think a lot of times it comes down to what the fighter’s background is. For Iko and Cecep [Arif Rahman] when they fight, obviously we use more pure Silat. Even then, different styles of Silat inside that fight. When it comes to Iko fighting in the prison riot against 15-20 people, those guys all come from different martial arts backgrounds. Once we figure out what their background is, we try to design their fighting skill to be relevant to what they study.

Had Marvel Studios and Netflix invested time and planning into casting actors experienced in martial artist, they could have produced scenes closer to the current standard of martial arts film – examples like The Raid and it’s sequel. Considering the high standard of direction and scene construction in other Marvel Studios work, this comes as a surprise.

You can read the complete interview with Gareth Evans at Crave Online

The Telegraph interview with Jones, despite the inflammatory title, offers a fair summary of the facts surrounding Marvel Studio’s and Netflix’s Iron Fist.

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.

Taika Waititi, Marvel, and Entertainment Weekly Present Thor: Ragnarok photos

Spoiler Warning: For those avoiding Marvel Studios spoilers, this post shares quotes from the film’s director, and photos of the cast.

Alongside a set of new Thor:Ragnarok photos, Entertainment Weekly published an interview with key cast members of the new Marvel Studios film, and director Taika Waititi. On the more comedic direction of the film, Waititi says:

“I think sometimes people mistake a tonal shift as ‘We’re just going to make some ridiculous broad comedy where no one gives a s— what happens and everyone gets stoned and sits around talking about saving the universe,’ ” Waititi says. “We want people to care what happens and care that the hero succeeds. I think tonally it’s like a slight shift. I don’t feel nervous — I feel good about it.” Taika Waititi on Thor: Ragnarok, published in Entertainment Weekly, March 8, 2017

Inviting the audience to care instead of feeling alienated is a challenge. Comedy often has a way of reaching audiences, however, cutting through tension, and managing the emotions of a scene.

On another note, the costuming alone looks impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing Jeff Goldblum in motion dressed in the fancy red, blue, and gold Grandmaster costume. Also, I’d like to take a moment in memory and respect of Thor’s long hair, which is now gone. Thor: Ragnarok is set for a November 3, 2017 US release date.

Iron Fist lead Finn Jones left twitter on Sunday night (temporarily)

This is not a “hot take” (The phrase makes me shudder, because it implies thoughtlessness and chasing social media metrics). Having written about the Iron Fist trailer, it would be remiss to ignore, or fail to mention, more of the impact online talk and discussion about Iron Fist has had on viewers of diverse backgrounds, specifically Asian American audiences, and Asian audiences worldwide.

This post is selected sections from a report of what happened written by E. Alex Yung for Vulture.com, and a reblog of Asyiqin Haron’s writing from Geeks of Colour – Why Iron Fist Danny Rand Should Be Asian-American. This post is intended to promote inclusive, diverse film and writing by sharing writing from diverse creators.

Well, we can’t all be woke white bros. Finn Jones, the star of Netflix and Marvel’s upcoming superhero production Iron Fist, quit Twitter this weekend after getting into a debate about race and representation with Asyiqin Haron, the creative director of Geeks of Color. The whole thing started when Jones tweeted out Riz Ahmed’s speech to the Parliament about representation with an Upworthy-esque headline: “Representation is important. and here’s why.” The tweet raised eyebrows because Jones didn’t seem to recognize the irony that his upcoming role as Danny Rand in Iron Fist is yet another story of white exceptionalism: White guy goes to Asia, learns a martial art, and is better than the people he learned it from. Hi-ya!

While the character in the comic book is also white, the casting around Iron Fist stirred controversy because it seemed like a missed opportunity to cast an Asian person in the role rather than rehash a tired narrative. (In fact, actor Lewis Tan, who is on the show, has said that he was also up for the part.) Haron, who has previously written about why Iron Fist should be Chinese-American, engaged in a conversation about race and representation with Jones on Twitter. When Jones wrote that the show was “the most diverse” one out of the Marvel-Netflix bunch, she replied, “That’s great and all but you do see why Danny Rand being white is problematic right?”

The full report from Yung at the Vulture also contains screen caps of the relevant tweets.

Asyiqin Haron’s article: Why Iron Fist Danny Rand Should Be Asian-American discusses several key points: Asian audience don’t need to see more white saviours, it would bring more depth to the character, Asian characters knowing martial arts is not [necessarily] a stereotype, and white versions of Iron Fist already exist in the source material.

That’s two articles, and there are many others. Checking on the #AAIronfist hashtag on twitter also gives an insight into how Iron Fist has impacted Asian American audiences, and Asian audiences worldwide.

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.