Archive for April 12, 2020
Marvel Comics’ Thor is renowned for his incredible strength and physique – but in the Marvel Universe, he still has to contend with many powerful beings, including other gods. One of Thor’s best friends (and regular sparring partner) is the Greek god Hercules who also became an Avenger in the comics.
Longtime fans of comics know that Hercules may be Marvel's strongest hero, raising his level of strength and greatness beyond the reach of even cosmic beings. But while “Herc” loves to boast about this incomparable strength (along with his drinking prowess and popularity with women)... one time he admitted that Thor was much stronger than him.
The story took place in Thor #356, an issue that saw writer Bob Harras take over writing duties from regular writer Walt Simonson. The cover showed Hercules shoving Thor out of frame, telling him that Simonson was on vacation, “and so art thou!” What follows is a hilarious Hercules story where the Greek god (aka the “Prince of Power”) tells his version of who the strongest god truly is.
The story begins with Hercules and the Avengers’ butler Jarvis (a human in Marvel Comics and not the A.I. he is in the MCU) out running some errands While passing through a park, the two chance upon some boys having an argument over which superhero is the strongest. Seems one of the kids, Matthew, is a Thor fan who’s being bullied by the other boys. The bullies goad Matthew into asking Hercules who’s stronger: Thor or Hercules?
Hercules, not realizing why Matthew is asking him the question, begins regaling the children with the “true” story of his last fight with Thor. Naturally, Herc can’t resist embellishing the tale – telling the kids how a depressed Thor once begged Hercules to arm wrestle with him, hoping that if he could beat the Prince of Power just once, “my life will have meaning once more.” Hercules wins the match with absolutely no effort and a sulking Thor throws a temper tantrum by smashing Hercules over the head with his Uru hammer Mjolnir.
Enraged (but not the least bit hurt by Thor’s puny blow), Hercules hurls Thor out of Avengers Mansion and gives him a sound thrashing. Thor attempts to defend himself, but Hercules is naturally too strong – a fact that Thor keeps admitting as Herc smashes him with a street lamp, a city bus, and a Volkswagen. In the end, he lifts the entire island of Manhattan just so he can dump Thor into the East River. Hercules even adds additional details – including how he stopped in the middle of the fight to help a little old lady cross the street (only to have her hit Thor with her purse and tell the Asgardian to “get a haircut!”).
As Hercules continues his tale, Jarvis notices Matthew is looking increasingly upset. Finding one of Matthew’s drawings of Thor, Jarvis immediately realizes what’s really going on and whispers the truth into Hercules’ ear. Distressed that his story has hurt an innocent child, Hercules immediately switches gears – telling the kids that just as he was about to land the final blow, Thor suddenly made an incredible recovery and began pummeling Hercules.
Realizing too late that Thor had simply been faking weakness the whole time in order to lull Hercules into a false sense of security, Herc finds himself at the receiving end of a final blow so powerful that “I landed in a place the gods forgot – New Jersey!” His story delights Matthew and disgusts the bullies who stomp off (but not before Hercules warns them not to mistreat “a friend of Hercules”). He then invites Matthew and his mother to dinner with the Avengers.
Although known for being a braggart (and a drunkard and a womanizer), Hercules’ generosity of spirit is legendary in myth and in Marvel Comics. Even if the truth about which god is really stronger may never be known, Hercules’ choice to throw his (made up) fight reveals that while Thor may or may not be the strongest of all gods – Hercules managed to outclass the Thunder God this time with the strength of his heart.
It's a claim being made more and more, but allow us to be clear. No, the Coronavirus pandemic isn't going to kill the superhero genre. COVID-19 has brought the world screeching to a halt, having a particularly pronounced impact on the entertainment industry, with the global box office largely shut down. To illustrate how dramatic a loss that may truly be, in 2019, Disney was the first studio in history to surpass $10 in the global box office; in 2020, there's informed speculation the pandemic-induced stock crash means they could be acquired by Apple. It's the perfect indication of just how much the world is changing as a result of the virus.
Disney's position of dominance in Hollywood has been strongly influenced by the popularity of the superhero genre. This year's superhero blockbusters have been slashed; 2020 will be the first year in a decade with just one MCU flick coming out. Meanwhile, the comic book industry that inspires these movies is itself in crisis. By March 23rd, Diamond Distributor, responsible for distributing physical copies of comics to retailers across the planet deciding to shut down, the Direct Market has essentially closed. It's now been weeks since new comics were released in any significant numbers, and with no return to business as usual yet in sight.
The global pandemic is undoubtedly going to cause lasting changes in popular culture. Somewhat inevitably, there's even been speculation the entire superhero genre could be killed off by the virus. Fortunately, these fears are somewhat overstated.
It's important to place the current state of the comic book industry in its correct context - and that can only be done by understanding the history of sequential art. After all, that's essentially what comics are; as Scott McCloud argues in his book Understanding Comics, a comic uses sequential pieces of art to present a narrative or message. Viewed in that light, comics can be traced back to Reformation times, when Martin Luther presented complex political and religious messages by placing two wood-carvings next to one another. It wasn't until the 19th century that comic strips really became used purely for entertainment purposes, and the 20th century saw the rise of the comic book industry as we know it. And superheroes have been a core part of that industry since the 1940s.
This historical context serves as a salutary reminder that, at heart, comics are a popular form of art. They've existed for hundreds of years, and they're not going anywhere. What's more, comic books as we know them have been selling for decades, through times of social and technological upheaval. Until Coronavirus, the worst crisis to face the comic book industry was when sales collapsed in the 1990s, driving Marvel Comics to the brink of bankruptcy. This resulted in the birth of the modern distribution model. And for years now there have been signs this model is flawed and no longer fit for purpose; publishers and retailers alike have resisted allowing it to evolve, but change is an inevitable part of life, and Coronavirus is likely to simply accelerate what was already going to happen in the end.
It's too soon to say what the post-Coronavirus comic book industry will look like; the Direct Market is likely to be dramatically weakened, with many retailers closing their doors for good because income has been slashed but essential expenditure - such as rent - remains. That will force publishers to pursue different strategies, and already there are rumors some are looking at multi-distributor models, weakening Diamond's current dominance. But however tragic this may be for some profitable and beloved retailers, and however painful the transition may be, the comic book genre as a whole will survive. Changes in distribution may mean changes in form, frequency of publication, or the number of books released each week; but the art form will remain.
The same is true of the superhero genre as a whole. According to the critics, superheroes lack cultural relevance right now, because society is facing a threat it can't punch or blast out of the sky. No superhero can KO a virus, and team-ups are out of the question as a breach of social distancing rules. The argument is an amusing one, and it has the virtue of at least treating superhero comics and movies seriously; it assumes they should have social and political relevance in the first place.
But the argument is still very much flawed. It forgets that escapism can be valuable in and of itself, allowing people an opportunity to forget the real world for a time. Right now, men and women all over the planet are sat at home under harsh, draconian lockdown conditions, and every time they switch on the TV they're reminded of the pandemic sweeping the globe. The superhero genre offers a simpler world, one in which good will always ultimately triumph over evil, and in which the bad guys really can be taken out with a repulsor blast or a Batarang. Far from rendered meaningless by the pandemic, the superhero genre can serve a different purpose, allowing people a chance to catch their breath as they read a comic or watch a film or TV series. Furthermore, in a time like this, escapism should not be seen as secondary; it is valuable, perhaps even essential for us to retain our mental health.
No doubt many are seeking to escape by returning to some of the things they grew up with; that explains why the Disney+ streaming service is massively exceeding expectations, with over 50 million subscribers worldwide in spite of a limited range of original content. To put this in context, Disney originally anticipated acquiring between 60-90 million subscribers by the end of 2024. Meanwhile, Marvel Comics has smartly launched a promotion on their Marvel Unlimited library, offering free reads of classic stories like the Dark Phoenix Saga, the complete Civil War event, and Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw's Thanos Wins miniseries. ComiXology has wisely extended its free trial period from 30 days to 60. All this capitalizes on the sheer power of nostalgia, which has plenty of time to exert a powerful influence given the number of people sat at home right now.
All this means Coronavirus isn't going to kill the superhero genre. It's true individual stories will change; no doubt comics will indeed reflect on the pandemic somehow, just as they dealt with the AIDS pandemic in the '90s or wrestled with the horror of 9/11. There are already rumors Marvel Studios has subtly rewritten episodes of the upcoming Falcon & Winter Soldier miniseries to remove a biohazard sub-plot, although these are unconfirmed. But the superhero genre itself will survive, and in truth will continue to thrive.
Fantasy author Neil Gaiman has revealed that there were alternate and deleted scenes from an episode of Doctor Who. In 2005, the BBC drama came back to the television screen, and TV viewers followed the incarnations of "The Doctor" as he traveled around space and time fighting against the forces of evil. Gaiman made his debut as a writer in the sixth season of the series.
In season 6, episode 4, "The Doctor's Wife," the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) were sent to an asteroid outside of the universe to work with the inhabitants, to save themselves and stop House. Although the episode received positive feedback, some scenes did not make it into the show. "The Doctor's Wife" was Gaiman's first time writing a script for Doctor Who.
Neil Gaiman posted scripts pages for the episode on Twitter, revealing his original idea for the opening scene with the Doctor and the scene with Rory and the Zero Room. In the original opening scene where the Doctor receives the Time Lord Message Box, Rory wasn't supposed to be included in that part of the episode. However, the producers took things in a different direction. Also, the scene with Rory and the Zero Room was changed because of budget reasons. Rory was originally going to levitate, but that was cut. In addition to these two parts, another big scene was changed.
The final scene of this episode was also altered, according to the writer. Originally, Gaiman wanted to have a conversation between the Doctor and Amy after Rory left the universe. He also revealed that the Doctor was supposed to give Amy the Daisy Chain. Although he was satisfied with the ending, Gaiman still wished he had kept the original ending. In addition to "The Doctor's Wife," Gaiman also wrote season 7, episode 12, "Nightmare in Silver."
Neil Gaiman is well-known as a novelist, for books such as American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. Several of his books have been adapted into movies and TV shows, most recently, Good Omens, an Amazon Prime Original that Gaiman wrote as well. Longtime fans of the writer were eager to see his take on the Doctor, partially contributing to the success of the episode. It's unclear whether he will come back to write another script for the Doctor Who, but it's clear the character remains important to the author.
Source: Neil Gaiman/Twitter
The trailer has finally been released for RuPaul's Secret Celebrity Drag Race. Fans have been waiting for the premiere date of this Drag Race spin-off for months. The new version of the show will air April 24.
The original version of RuPaul's Drag Race is now in its 12th season. Fans have seen successful spin-offs before with seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars, RuPaul's Drag Race Thailand and RuPaul's Drag Race UK. The franchise has also created less successful spin-offs such as RuPaul's DragU as well as a Christmas special called RuPaul's Drag Race Holi-slay Spectacular which was panned by critics and fans. With the success of the highly rated and critically acclaimed 12th season, audiences have high hopes for the Secret Celebrity version of the show. It will air concurrently with the regular season of Drag Race, giving fans a double dose of RuPaul during this quarantine time.
The trailer for the Secret Celebrity Spin-Off gives fans a sneak peek at which drag queen favorites will be returning for the show. Fan favorites Alyssa Edwards, Asia O’Hara, Bob the Drag Queen, Kim Chi, Monét X Change, Monique Heart, Nina West, Trinity the Tuck, Trixie Mattel and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo will all return to help celebrities compete for prize money to donate to a charity of their choosing. Rumors have been flying about which celebrities will appear on the show to compete in drag, but the commercial for the premiere makes it clear that the show wants to keep it a surprise. According to Vulture, Four-time Emmy Award-winning host and executive producer RuPaul said, “We put these celebrities through it! Because no matter how famous your charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent is, you still put your pantyhose on one leg at a time.”
There are certainly several LGBTQ celebrities and allies queer fans want to see on the show. There are also some famous personas that the queer community hopes do not make an appearance. The conversation around queer-baiting has received a lot of attention lately. Several celebrities and brands have jumped on the gay pride bandwagon, which can be both thrilling for the community and seemingly pandering. Some say it even feels a bit exploitive. We hope the show chooses true fans of Drag Race and hopefully showcases a lot of LGBTQ celebrities.
We will have to tune in to VH1 on April 24 to find out. If there is one thing we are sure of in this time of isolation its that we can never get enough Drag Race.
In a weird twist, Spider-Man once faced a villain named Corona who threatened New York City - and whose creation had unwittingly released some sort of chemical-induced illness. Superhero comics have a rich history of social commentary, and in the '90s Marvel embraced themes of public health in an unexpected way.
Marvel's attention rested on the contemporary AIDS crisis, with several Spider-Man arcs confronting the wall-crawler with the horror of the condition, and Doctor Octopus attempting to find a cure. Meanwhile, the X-Men were faced with the terrifying threat of the Legacy Virus, a heavy-handed analogy for AIDS that targeted only mutants. But in amidst all these stories, one stands out from the rest as oddly prescient given the current Coronavirus pandemic.
In Spectacular Spider-Man #176-177, Kurt Busiek and Sal Buscema introduced readers to a new villain named - of all things - Corona. She was the manipulative sister of a wealthy scientist who cared little for ethics, and had willingly allowed herself to be subjected to dangerous experimentation. This left her transformed into an unstable, post-human state, with her cells producing energy that allowed her to transmutate matter at will. The process was degenerative, however, and was gradually killing her; Corona launched a spate of attacks upon her brother in a desperate attempt to acquire an antidote she needed.
In truth, Corona's brother - a little-known character named Cedric Forrester - was the true villain of the story. He'd ignored safety rules, and as a result he'd unwittingly flooded the city's water supply with the same chemicals that had granted his sister super-powers. All over New York, people began to collapse, suffering from debilitating - and potentially fatal - fevers. Spider-Man found himself faced with an impossible situation, battling to prevent Corona taking the antidote because the city needed it as well; the fever struck particularly close to home when his wife Mary Jane collapsed with it.
The story reads rather uncomfortably in light of the current Coronavirus pandemic, but it wasn't really foreshadowing at all; Busiek chose the character's name because "Corona" is the Spanish word for "crown," and his quasi-villain considered herself crowned with glory and power. It is possible Busiek learned the double-meaning, that there is indeed such a thing as a Coronavirus, and this inspired the fever plot; but frankly, that's not necessarily the case. It's more reasonable to suppose this is just an odd coincidence. Regardless, Corona appeared one more time - in Spider-Man Unlimited #3, and Marvel asked readers to let them know if they wanted to see her return as some sort of antihero. Presumably they didn't get much interest, because the Spider-Man comics have completely forgotten her.