Tag Archives: superheroes

An Outsider Review of Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ premiere

SHIELD-cast

So this is what it looks like when Joss Whedon gets a budget — hover cars and sniffing microbots.  Tuesday night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premiere was loads of high-tech fun. We got booms and bangs, plenty of shiny science hooblah, and loads of Marvel Easter eggs to satisfy our nerdy fan appetites.

Not to mention, for the Whedonites in the room, there was a lush offering of dramatic one-liner exits, mostly delivered in the awkward geeky snark of Agent Coulson, and that punchy overly-self-aware dialogue we all adore from any Joss flick.

And because it’s Joss, we also got women kicking ass, nerdy women scientists, one kind of annoying magic female computer whiz, and at least one scene of male debasement in the truth-serum afflicted Agent Grant Ward. Loved it.

Indeed between lead character Skye’s computer gymnastics, alien biology nerd Agent Jemma Simmons‘ quirky science diagnostics, cameo by boss S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill, and Agent Melinda May‘s epic baddie take-down, we’ve got the ladies sufficiently distant from any kind of metaphorical refrigerator or damsel trope.  Well done, team. 5 stars out of 5!

Melinda May takedown!

But what about our brownfolk/POCs? [spoilers]

Well, it does pass our Token Test –we’ve got Melinda May holdin’ it down for POCs on the S.H.I.E.L.D team and we got Michael Peterson, the factory worker who had “some tough breaks,” as our cast of saviors proclaims while looking downcast before rushing to the rescue… which naturally includes a shot to the dome piece for our tragic newbie “super”hero.

But not until our dear Mr. Peterson gives a heartfelt speech about underdogs like him getting “stepped on,” and then *boom* shot to head. Seriously. At that point, he was all calm and Coulson was giving his best “I feel you, bro,” couldn’t they have just been like “hey, now that we’re all full of feels, mind if I inject you with this thing that’ll keep you from blowing up? ‘Cause that’d totally make you a hero…” Or hey, maybe he isn’t impervious to bullets, ya know? That wasn’t actually established so, uh maybe try shooting him in the arm or something, ya? Jeez.

But nah, shot to the head is way better. Ya, I get it, dramatic effect. Shock! How Dare! Oh wait… phew, it’s cool. The slow music over the scan of shocked then suddenly relieved faces makes for better TV. Then again, I’d really love to tune into a show (or, oof, the news) someday where the black dude doesn’t get shot. Ah, someday.

As for other POCs, I was particularly charmed by Skye’s game-time use of stereotyping, when she kicks a dude from a stereotypically-dressed “gang” of Latinos (who just happen to be waltzing by)  in the balls just knowing that they’ll proceed to turn on the POC violent rage and fight the desperate Black dude strong-arming her into helping him. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like she would’ve had better chances yelling “help!” in the midst of a train station full of white folk, who probably would’ve stepped in the minute they saw dainty, shiny-haired white girl being man-handled by sweaty grungy Black dude anyway, than crossing her fingers that a group of “hot-blooded” minorities would walk by at the right time for a little chauvinism manipulation.

Yea… that 3 minutes of airborne Latino “thugs”docks ya at least 2 points out of five, 2 off for the head-shot ’cause I’m bitter, but back up one for the Shepherd cameo, because yes. So 2 out of 5 for the POC rep.  Do better.

But we’re holding out hope still. And we’ll be back for Episode 2, mostly out of fanlove for the Whedon team, and with hopes that Skye will try to snark Agent May and get her ass handed to her.

Other things we’re looking forward to:

More Easter Eggs!
Gimme some Hawkeye, gimme some Infinity War, gimme some Luke Cage Mighty Avengers refs!

What Made Melinda May Get Out of the Field?

Agent May‘s got that gruff thing going for her way better than Agent Ward. There’s just gotta be some juice on how she got so damn good at hitting things and why she would rather staple red tape together than body slam grown men.

What Happens in Tahiti Stays in Tahiti?

By now we know something wonky went down with Agent Coulson in this metaphorical “Tahiti,” and methinks it’s got something to do with the crazy Matrix moves he put on display when angry super guy threw a van door at him…

Also cause this awesome toy Coulson exists
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When Superheroes Get Knocked Up: A Q&A with the Creator of Hot New Web Series “Super Knocked Up,”

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What happens when the world’s hottest superhero and the world’s baddest supervillain get super hot and heavy? Well, in this case, butt-kicking baddie Jessica James (aka Darkstar) gets super knocked up after a delirious one-night stand with heroic hottie Captain Amazing.  And these super star-crossed lovers decide to raise the baby together… even though they’re kind of mortal enemies. Hilarity, hijinks, and a lot of messy diapers ensue in this geeky web series by independent writer/producer Jeff Burns.

Super Knocked Up is a brand new web series that looks at superheroes (and villains) like we’ve never seen them before — pregnant, changing diapers, and utterly terrified by the challenge of raising a baby.  The series is currently in Season 2, and has just launched a comic book based on the series. Check out episode 1 after the jump, then mosey on over to the Super Knocked Up Youtube channel for more. But if you need more convincing, we’ll let Jeff Burns take it from here…

Geek Outsider: So, first things first, how’d you come up with the idea for Super Knocked Up

Jeff Burns: I was taking an online screenwriting class through ScreenwritingU and our first assignment was to come up with a concept we would take and write a feature-length script from during the course.  I’ve always loved superheroes and comic books so I was playing around with a lot of different superhero concepts.  And I was trying to come up with something unique.  The lessons we learned in the course really focused on coming up with a unique story.  So one day doing the assignment for the course it just hit me: what would happen if a super-villain and superhero had a baby together?  I loved the idea as soon as it came to me and knew I had to write it.

GO: In a genre where heroes (and villains) never age and superkids just sort of appear, you’ve given us puke, contractions, and diapers, what inspired you to take on such a “messy” taboo topic in the awe and glamour of the superhero genre?

JB: Seeing all my friends’ gross kids.  Just kidding!  I think that’s a reflection of the whole series.  I really wanted to make this a real-world look at superheroes.  So we focus on the characters and their relationships and what it’s like to be a super-villain and commit crimes but also have to raise a baby.  I think the comedy comes from all those real situations you don’t normally see superheroes and villains in.  And I think it really helps the audience to relate with the characters.  They see Jessica and Michael struggling to raise a kid just like they do with their own kids.

GO: Super Knocked Up is, obviously, a hilarious comedy, but it’s also touches on something that the superhero genre tends to back uneasily away from… pregnancy (dun, dun DUN!). How do you find a balance between the obviously hilarious situation and the hard emotional reality of mothering?

JB: Thanks so much for noticing that!  That’s something we try very hard to do in the series: balancing comedy, drama, action, and romance.  Again, I think it all comes from me making the decision right from the beginning that this was going to be a show about two real people who can’t stand each other forced into a horribly awkward (and funny) situation where they have to raise a baby together.  Oh yeah, and they happen to have superpowers.  It’s not a show where it’s all about the superpowers and you don’t get to learn about the characters.  Super Knocked Up is all about multi-layered characters who you can really get into.  And I think if you have real characters who are well-developed and have clear wants and needs, then those real moments organically come from there.  Jessica’s need to have a family, something she’s never had.  Michael’s need to find a woman who loves him for who he really is, not his Captain Amazing super-persona.  Those things I think create the touching and real, dramatic moments.  And then you throw in that they’re enemies and can’t stand each other and have to raise a baby and a lot of comedy comes from that of course!  I love how putting Jessica, this kick-ass super-villain who isn’t afraid of fighting any hero, as a new mother with a tiny baby scares the crap out of her and totally throws her off.  She can beat any hero.  But this little baby is kicking her ass.  That’s super-funny, but it’s also totally real and relatable.

GO: The series is called “Super Knocked Up,” but hero Jessica James is already dealing with diapers, and time seems to move pretty fast in the series. Will we be seeing Baby grow up? Can you give us a hint as to the longview for the story?

JB: We did move the pregnancy along very quickly as I wanted to get to the birth of the baby.  But time won’t move as fast after this.  The baby will always be a baby and won’t grow up super-fast like often happens in shows.  As the show progresses, the focus becomes even more on Jessica and Michael’s relationship and the choice Jessica has to make between being a super-villain and being with Michael and the heroes.

GO: With a predominantly female cast and a leading lady who’s also a mother, are there any challenges you feel as a writer writing not only mostly women characters but also writing about motherhood?

JB: Well I’ve always wanted to be a hot, female super-villain so I’m just channeling that!  Thank you for pointing out all the cool female roles there are in Super Knocked Up.  I’m really happy about that.  I love writing kick-ass female roles.  That’s what I always tend to write.  For me as a writer, I don’t see a challenge in being a man writing female roles.  And this is why.  I’m writing the character.  If I have the character really well-developed and fleshed out.  If I know what drives the character.  What they want.  What their inner, hidden needs are.  If I know them inside and out, then it doesn’t matter what they are.  They could be male, female, an alien or whatever.  I don’t think it’s about gender.  It’s about understanding people and understanding your characters.  That’s how I always approach it.

GO: So, who’s your favorite female superhero of all time? Supervillainess?

JB: My favorite female superhero is Huntress.  I think she’s so kick-ass.  And she’s definitely the most similar character to Jessica (Darkstar) in Super Knocked Up.  They’re both kick-ass, independent, don’t take any shit characters.  But both have a more vulnerable side underneath those hard exteriors.

For a super-villain, I’ve always loved Talia al Ghul.  Her father Ra’s al Ghul is a great villain too.  I love the romantic interplay between Talia and Batman.  The fact that they’re enemies but she wants to be with him and there’s obviously feelings between them.  That’s cool!  And kind of like Super Knocked Up I guess!

GO: Any plans for the (incredibly dope!) comic? Will it be ongoing? Will it be hitting the shelves at local comic book shops anytime soon?

JB: Hey thanks for the kind words about he comic book!  First, let me give huge props to my Artist Donny Gandakusuma, Colorist Kefas Armando, and Letterer MaGnUs for doing an amazing job bringing the comic to life.  I had such a blast making it with them.  I’ve always loved comic books as I mentioned, so getting to make my own was a dream come true!  We have Issue #1 out so far.  And right now, people can download the digital version for free on our website. They can also get a print copy on there too!  I actually have met a couple of artists recently online and at comic cons who want to do some shorter comic stories in the Super Knocked Up world.  So most likely what I’ll do next are some comic stories outside of the main narrative of Super Knocked Up but about the SKU characters so fans can learn more about their backstories and what brought them to this point in the main SKU narrative.  I’m definitely excited to do more comic books!

GO: Speaking of which, now you’ve got a web series and a comic, are you hoping to get this story into any other medium? Will you be at New York Comicon?

JB: Oh yeah!  We’ve been doing to a few comic cons every year for the past couple of years now.  We just got back from Boston Comic Con.  And we will absolutely be at NYCC!  I went two years ago and absolutely loved it.  I mean I got to play Quidditch for the first time there.  What can beat that?  Last year we were in rehearsals and about to shoot Season 2 during NYCC and were super-bummed we had to miss it.  But I’ll be there all four days this year and can’t wait!  Just recently, I got to go to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time.  That was beyond amazing!  My lead actress Jourdan Gibson and I were on the “Webseries Creators Assemble!” panel there and had such a good time.  And my web series friends Jonathan Robbins from Clutch, Matthew Carvery from Asset, and Mike Donis from Pete Winning and the Pirates are at Fan Expo in Toronto this week and are representing Super Knocked Up for me there along with their great shows.

GO: What’s next for the series? Can you give us any info on fun new characters and entanglements to look forward to?

JB: I’d love to do two more seasons (we’re currently in Season 2) to finish off the full story I have laid out.  There are some new villain characters, but mostly it focuses on the super-fun characters who are already established.  Things heat up even more between Jessica and Michael.  In more ways than one…  And you’ll get to learn more about Jessica’s past and there are definitely some big surprises.  So keep watching!

GO: Anything else you’d like to say to the geek outsiders out there?

JB: Thanks so much for being fellow awesome geeks!  And if you check out Super Knocked Up, I would really, really appreciate it.  I think you’ll really enjoy it if you give it a chance.  It’s a different, fun spin on the superhero genre.  As an independent web series creator, the more people watch the more likely I and my awesome cast and crew can keep making more cool episodes.  So please check us out and support other web series too!  There are so many amazing web series being made right now.  It’s an exciting time to be a creator and a viewer!

6 Activists Who Punch Injustice in the Face Harder Than Their Superhero Counterparts…

So this happened last week –  some super awesome kids donned superhero costumes to rally for student/youth rates for MBTA (Boston’s public transportation system) passes, so that they can afford to get to and from school/work/extracurriculars. The injustice here is that most of the students who are taking the public trains or busses are from lower income neighborhoods, and they are literally paying to go to school.

Young Superheroes protest the MBTA (photo courtesy of Steve Annear and Boston Magazine)
Young Superheroes protest the MBTA (photo courtesy of Steve Annear and Boston Magazine)

These kids’ costumes were pretty darn creative, with names like Affordabili-T (the MBTA is affectionately called “the T” here in Boston).  Seeing these kids don capes to protest injustice got me thinking…

As much as superheroes must enjoy punching things in the name of Justice, I bet they have no small amount of envy and awe for the activists who punch the clock, fighting against injustices that have a more ethereal power. So, here are a few superheroes and the real life activists they so wish they were.

Reed Richards & Neil Degrasse Tyson

They may call him Mr. Fantastic (actually, hardly anyone calls him that anymore), but he’s no match for the fanaticism that Neil Degrasse Tyson wins from his nerdy nerdy fanbase. They are both super-super-super geniuses, but Degrasse Tyson’s got that cool factor that nobody can best, and he pulls it off while wearing this. Meanwhile, no matter what badassery Reed Richards pulls off when he goes all stretchy, he always looks pretty ridiculous. What they both share is a love for space and scientific curiosity, but while Richards is engrossed in his work and exploration, Degrasse Tyson takes his knowledge to the people as a public educator. True true Richards did start a school for alien/mutant/powered youngsters, but he kinda left that in the hands of a reluctant friend to take off on a (fine fine emergency) space trip. Fine, so they’re both awesome, but seriously, who wouldn’t want to be Neil Degrasse Tyson? Just look at how cool this man is!

She Hulk & Justice Sonia Sotomayor

She-Hulk has always been an activist lawyer. As a criminal defense attorney, she’s taken on tough cases involving her superhero brethren as well as civil liberties cases and cases against corrupt corporations, she’s even argued before the Supreme Court.  She’s a tough lawyer too, and rarely seems to lose anything other than her temper, which is something she’ll have to work on if she ever wants to be anything like her own heroine Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor has been serving on the Supreme Court of the United States since 2009, and is the first Latina and third woman ever to serve. The two women began their careers around the same time with She Hulk (aka Jennifer Walters) first appearing on the scene in 1980, while Sotomayor first entered private practice in 1984.

Daredevil & Chen Guangchen

A lot of people made the Daredevil joke when it first came out that Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, managed to scale a wall and escape from the house where he was imprisoned.  But the truth is, these two have more in common than being blind acrobats. Both are lawyers, Guangcheng is self-taught, and both conduct their fights for justice both in the courtroom and on the streets. Chen Guancheng has long been an activist in China, fighting for civil rights for women and the poor and against unjust family-planning practices.  Though he was persecuted by the government for his activism, jailed for years, and put under house arrest along with his family, he chose to stay in China rather than seek refuge abroad, until his life and his family was threatened. He now resides in Matt Murdock’s own New York, but his fight is still in China. Similarly Matt Murdock, rich as he is, chooses to keep his fight in Hell’s Kitchen where he lawyers (often pro-bono cases) by day, and not unlike Guancheng’s heroics, battles villains with his stunning acrobatics by night.

Black Panther & Wangari Maathai

Black Panther (T’Challa) may be king and sworn protector of Wakanda, and with his supergenius and his cat-like moves, he’s kept the already flourishing Wakanda safe and thriving by forging international friendships, employing his genius innovations, and safe-guarding  the vibranium that nourishes Wakanda’s wealth and security. Nary an ounce of magical substance in sight, the late Wangari Maathai worked miracles for her native Kenya, using the resources at hand, and she did it against all odds. She became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her environmental and political activism, founded The Green Belt Movement that created  jobs for thousands of Kenyan women and enriched Kenya’s resources simultaneously, demanded democracy and investment from her government, and she was eventually elected to Parliament. Okay so this one is a little unfair. It’s sort of impossible to be more amazing than Wangari Maathai, which is probably why the chronic overachiever T’Challa  clearly holds her as a model.

Aquaman & Ric O’Barry

He might be an Atlantean king, but Aquaman probably owes a nod of respect to activist Ric O’Barry, who has made it his life’s work to save dolphins from captivity and from hunters. He founded The Dolphin Project* back in 1970 to educate the public about the plights dolphins face, and he was featured in the award-winning movie The Cove,  where he exposed the hunting of dolphins off the coast of Japan.  Aquaman is a bit busy ruling his underwater kingdom and fighting pirates and superbadguys, but he clearly took a tip from O’Barry when, back in the 80’s with the launch of the New Earth series, his origin story was rewritten to include his being raised by dolphins, rather than his original backstory of a love affair between an Atlantean woman and a lighthouse keeper.

Oracle & Anonymous

Barbara Gordon started her superhero career as Batgirl back in the 60’s, but an on-the-job encounter in the 1989 with the Joker left her paralyzed from the waist down. Rather than turn in her cape, she put herself behind a computer and becomes Oracle, putting her considerable hacker skills to work in support of superheroes fighting injustice. She even leads of team of femme fighters who often act as her field agents. While she might have started her hacker activism before the hacktivist group Anonymous, which wasn’t founded until 2003, this ragtag group took it to a whole new level. They operate with total anonymity on a global scale, taking on corporations and social causes in innovative ways all over the world through the work of thousands of internet freedom fighters. Actually, ten bucks Barbara Gordon has donned a Guy Fawkes mask every so often…

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*The link for The Dolphin Project has been updated to the correct website.