Black Widow and the Face of Family in the MCU

I’ve seen Black Widow!  Well, I guess a better way to put it is I keep seeing Black Widow ;).  It holds a special place in my heart.  Black Widow marks the return of two long running traditions.  My first showing on July 8th was the return of a Marvel movie opening night AND the return of seeing a movie after dinner on my birthday!  The latter is something I’ve done since high school but was naturally on hiatus last year as our local Covid lockdowns were in full force.  It felt so good to be back.  Each time I’ve seen it since, I’ve noticed how comforting it feels to be in a darkened theatre again and hear those pages flip as the Marvel logo appears on screen.  Black Widow is special for many reasons beyond my own traditions, too.  Scarlett Johansson FINALLY has her own solo film as Natasha Romanoff, a character she debuted in 2010’s Iron Man 2.  Yay!  And what a film it is.  It’s magnificent, one of the best within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Black Widow is the film Natasha (and Scarlett Johansson!) has always deserved.  I’d argue Natasha, more than any other character, best personifies the most important recurring message in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this film illustrates all she is brilliantly.    

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Desperately Seeking Susan: What Happened to the Doctor’s Granddaughter?

When I began watching Classic Doctor Who, it was like a whole other world.  The show – from its pacing to style to the character of the Doctor – felt very unfamiliar.  But I soon found my rhythm, loving it for what it was and how it flowed into the Doctor Who I fell in love with.  I was immediately fascinated by Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter!  So often I’ve seen the Doctor mourn their lost family, grieving all those who died when Gallifrey burned, leaving them the last of the Time Lords.  But here Gallifrey still hung in the heavens and the Doctor was travelling with his granddaughter!  I couldn’t wait to learn all about Susan and her relationship with the Doctor.  It left me wanting to explore her character, what it felt like to meet one of the Doctor’s blood relatives, and ponder what happened to Susan after she parted ways with her grandfather.

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Spider-Man and Mockingbird: The Allure of the Workplace Romance

Welcome to the ninth installment in this li’l series using Spider-Man comics to explore the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life)!  Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird is a scientific genius, Avenger, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and super spy whose relationship with Peter Parker would be a central part of Dan Slott’s final years writing The Amazing Spider-Man.  In Bobbi Morse, Peter found a witty, compassionate partner who could kick his ass and/or inspire him when he needed it.  Every bit as smart as Peter, she’d meet him in his brilliance and push him further.  As Mockingbird, she stood beside Spider-Man to face everything from Skrull invasions to Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign to the Zodiac terrorist attacks to Hydra takeovers.  Being a superhero herself, Bobbi could share Peter’s entire life.  Oh, and they worked together.  Which is good because, you know, nothing can ever go wrong when you date a coworker.

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Black Widow: A Comic Book Retrospective – ‘10 through ‘20

I DID IT.  I DID IT.  It took me three years but I read over 300 comics and have successfully walked through all fifty-seven years of Black Widow’s comic history!  Natasha Romanoff has gone from a character I was familiar with from Avengers comics and team-up stories to one of the comic characters I know best of all.  I AM SO HAPPY I DID THIS!  Now, with a month left until Black Widow finally hits theatres, I’m examining the stories marking Natasha’s journeys from 2010-2020.  As usual, kudos goes to Kiri (of Star Wars Anonymous) for casually asking if Black Widow was ever blonde in the comics (she was! see ’00-’10) waaay back when the Avengers: Infinity War trailer came out and kudos to my over-committing parts for deciding to read everything from Natasha’s first appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (1964) up through Web of Black Widow (2019-20) instead of just googling it.

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Reconsidering Harley Quinn: Just Who Is the Clown Princess of Coney Island?

Harley Quinn has had legions of loyal fans for ages.  For a long time, I mainly knew her as the Joker’s girlfriend on Batman: The Animated Series.  I knew DC had brought her into their comics’ continuity.  I knew she and the Joker had broken up (maybe? sort of?).  I knew she’d shifted from villain to antihero to star in her own comic.  I’d heard her referred to as “DC’s Deadpool.”  But what about her brought such adoration among readers?  In a 2016 interview with Vulture, DC Comics’ Publisher and CCO Jim Lee said, “I refer to her as the fourth pillar in our publishing line, behind Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.”[1]  That’s HUGE.  Lee is equating Harley to DC’s Trinity, their Big Three, the foundation upon which DC is built.  After reading the near 100 comics comprising Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on Harley Quinn (yes, I got excited and bought them all (no, I have no regrets)) I get it.   

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Thor the God of the Unworthy – Reframing the God of Thunder

Jason Aaron’s time writing Thor – from Thor: God of Thunder to Thor to The Mighty Thor to Thor (again) to War of the Realms to King Thor – produced the defining version of the character.  No one, at least in my humble opinion, has ever done more with Thor nor understood the character, their world, and its theological fertility more than Jason Aaron.  Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir to become Thor herself was the heart of Aaron’s run.  But for that to happen, Thor Odinson had to find himself unable to lift the hammer.  This idea – the idea of Thor being unworthy – ties together much of what Aaron did.  Its seeds were sown in his very first arc, as Thor faced the brutality of Gorr the God Butcher.  Its actualization would lead to Jane lifting Mjölnir and becoming the mightiest Thor and the greatest of all the gods.  Its effects would culminate in Thor Odinson’s climactic battle with Malekith the Accursed during the War of the Realms and it would shape the sort of king Thor would become.

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Spider-Man and Michele Gonzales: Hook-Ups, Hang Ups, and Bad Habits

I never would’ve guessed when I started this series it would hit an eighth installment.  What can I say?  Peter Parker’s dated a lot of women.  This series explores the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics.  Michele Gonzales is an interesting chapter in Peter’s romantic history, as his roommate-turned-drunken-hook-up.  Yet the one night stand isn’t what’s most unique about Michele in regard to Peter.  Of all the women in his life, Michele Gonzales absolutely refuses to ever take any of his shit.  Granted, plenty of women have called Peter out, held him accountable, and challenged his negligence.  But Michele does so from the beginning, never accepting a single one of Peter’s lame excuses.  She knows what she’s worth.  She knows what a healthy partner and/or good person should be.  She has no time for bullshit or games.  And I love her for it!!  Peter’s baggage and bad habits kept them from becoming a couple yet, in that, Michele and Peter’s flirtationship reminds us of what we may be missing out on when we fail to own and address our own issues.

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Captain America and the Redemption of the America Dream

Four years ago I wrote a piece titled, “Captain America and the Defense of the American Dream.”  I posted it on Inauguration Day and it considered how we, as a nation, should respond to Trump’s election, using Captain America as the frame for analysis.  It examined Captain America as a character, his history, and what lessons he could offer when the world we thought we knew was turned so completely upside down.  Now, four years later, Joe Biden is about to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States alongside Kamala Harris – the first woman, first Woman of Color, first Indian America, and the first Asian American to hold the office of Vice President.  I find myself looking to Captain America once again, to the brilliant narrative Ta-Nehisi Coates’ has been telling in Captain America since July 2018, as I try to process the last four years and consider my roll in the future.

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Spider-Man and Betty Brant: Complicated Affairs of the Heart

In the seventh installment of my li’l series exploring the variety of romantic archetypes found in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics, I’m examining Peter Parker’s relationship with Betty Brant.  This relationship represents a lot for Peter.  She was his first date.  She was his first girlfriend.  She was his first crush-he-saw-as-love.  But as they grew up their relationship became complicated.  We love to invoke that relationship descriptor – It’s complicated – and Peter and Betty perfectly embody it.  We’ve all been there ourselves though, in one way or another, so in their relationship we find something that resonates and – maybe! – something that makes us feel a little bit better about our own complicated loves, too.

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Spider-Man and Captain Marvel: The Super Friend Zone

In this series, exploring the variety of romantic archetypes found in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics, I’ve looked at some sweeping romantic experiences.  Your first love!  Your Soul Mate!  Your “What if…” person!  Love offers us great variety in experiences when we seek it.  But SOMETIMES romantic exploits carry a far more significant risk.  SOMETIMES we find ourselves looking at a friend – someone we’ve always clicked with, someone we enjoy being with, someone we fit with so naturally – and wondering if there could be something more to that relationship.  Then SOMETIMES we try to claim the Siege Perilous and make that friend a significant other.  This is not for the faint of heart.  However, Spider-Man and Captain Marvel are courageous individuals so, like so many of us before them and since, they braved this harrowing quest fraught with great risk to see if they could find that something more with each other….or if they’d end up falling right back into the Friend Zone.

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