This is How the X-Men Should be Brought into the MCU

And lo! The geek-gods finally heard our cry and allowed a Fox/Disney deal to happen. Cue jubilant celebration across the internet.

Although this makes the House of Mouse a multimedia goliath with increasingly little competition, the upside would be fans getting what they’ve wanted for years – X-Men and Fantastic Four in the Avengers universe. It’s just in time, too. Infinity War and its sequel end this chapter of a ten-year long saga, so there’s no better chance to introduce them. How do they pull it off, though?

If you’re not caught up on why this hasn’t happened before, here’s the short version: Marvel sold the film rights to their biggest characters in the 90s so they could avoid financial trouble. Spider-Man was bought by Sony, while Fox snapped up the X-Men and Fantastic Four. This meant that Marvel Studios couldn’t use them when they embarked on their own inter-connected movie series with Iron Man in 2008. Things have changed since then, of course – they cut a deal with Sony to include Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, etc – but mutants were still owned by Fox until very recently. Now everyone’s back under one roof. Well, mostly (here’s to you, Venom).

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Perhaps the X-Men have already been and gone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? (Concept art for X-Men: First Class by Matthew Savage)

Anyway, back to the question. How do we introduce X-Men and co.? One method would be to play with parallel dimensions. Doctor Strange has already floated the idea via a ‘multiverse’, so it wouldn’t be all that hard to engineer a threat that requires Professor X, Jean Grey, Magneto, Cyclops et al to hop over and team up with the Avengers. Indeed, the Fantastic Four/X-Men properties are rife with such intergalactic threats. Galactus, a godlike entity that consumes planets, would be a great place to start.

However, I’d prefer a straight reboot like we got with Spider-Man in Civil War. The reasoning is simple. Fox’s XMen movies are great, but their continuity is very tangled after almost 20 years with little oversight. It’d probably be easier to start over, even if this raises the question of where mutants have been for the last few years.

Perhaps the classic lineup of Professor X, Beast, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel all existed in the 50s or 60s. As with Logan, something then curbed mutant birth rates until they were practically non-existent. It’s only now that the mutant gene is starting to manifest again, and this brings the team back together.

Maybe that could lead to a more up-to-date status quo from the comics. In that arc, Wolverine takes over the Xavier School as headmaster while Cyclops, embittered by years of loss and human bigotry, becomes something of a revolutionary. As a result, the old Professor X/Magneto rivalry begins again in the most unlikely of proteges.

This avoids rehashing what’s already been done but still offers a traditional struggle. It also allows Marvel to make a prequel with the old crew should they so wish.

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The Fantastic Four reboot also played with the idea of parallel dimensions (concept art by Steve Jung)

The same could be done with Fantastic Four. It’d make sense for their origin to occur sometime during the space race of the 20th century, and any movies set now could utilise the Future Foundation. This is a school for genius-level children who are taught to harness their gifts for the betterment of science and humanity, and they’re overseen by the Fantastic Four or (as in the Matt Fraction and Mike Allred comic) their replacements. It’d be a chance for them to buy Stark Tower as well after it was put up for sale in Spider-Man: Homecoming; this would weave the FF’s iconic ‘Baxter Building’ into continuity.

And finally, what about Deadpool? He breaks the fourth wall anyway, so there’s no reason he can’t be carted over as-is and make a joke about that fact. They even included an Avengers helicarrier in the background of his first movie, so it’s not too much of a stretch.

There are problems to contend with in all the above, sure, but this is too juicy an opportunity to miss. And hey; it’s just awesome to see the X-Men and Fantastic Four come home at last.

Check back each Friday for more on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

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Am I Crazy for Wanting This in Justice League 2?

Depending on who you ask, last year’s Justice League was either ‘eh, alright’ or ‘unsalvageable garbage’. I’d go for the former, personally; the film had issues, but it was fun enough to compensate nonetheless. It was also an unsubtle course-correction. Where Batman v Superman was dour and cynical, this is a story about believing in others. The journey there may have been bumpy, but the pieces are finally in place for a more hopeful, humorous DC movie-verse. Thank goodness for that.

Not that we should let the past go just yet. Thanks to the grim n’ gritty BvS, there’s a dangling plot thread worth exploring somewhere down the line.

Avast! Spoilers for Justice League and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ahead.

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Getting the team together – concept art by Craig Mullins

Namely, that Mad Max-style scene from the future. Despite being a jarring change of pace that was never followed up on, this remains one of the more interesting ideas the film toyed with. Depicting a post-apocalyptic Earth, it’s little more than a fire-blasted hellscape; aliens have invaded, cities were levelled, and Superman’s gone mental at the death of Lois Lane. He’s taken over the world with a totalitarian regime as well, and Batman’s one of the few heroes left to stop him (i.e. with massive guns and a wicked-cool trenchcoat).

Anyway. Following Batman’s capture and death at the hands of Superman, Flash goes back in time to stop this whole mess from ever occurring. Except Batman thinks this is a dream – oops! – and we all move on without ever looking back. Holy wasted opportunity, Batman!

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Knightmare scenario – concept art for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Except there’s still time to change that. With Justice League establishing the bug-like Parademons and their master, Darkseid, the sequel is a chance to make good on that flash-forward. I’m spit-balling here, but imagine a movie beginning with the (presumably accidental) death of Lois thanks to Batman. This leaves our world undefended while the Justice League squabble amongst themselves. We then skip ahead to Darkseid turning up, making an alliance with the Big Blue Boy Scout Serial Killer, and razing the globe until it’s a desert with his symbol burned into the dust. Boom – we’ve arrived at the BvS scene detailed above within five or ten minutes. We then follow Flash as he goes back in time to warn the League about what’s coming their way. Cue the Justice League 2 title sequence and a film that bounces between present and future.

If nothing else, it’d certainly grab our attention. A tent-pole blockbuster with post-apocalyptic superheroes? Fab.

It’s basically X-Men: Days of Future Past, and that’s no bad thing. The latter demonstrated that a high-concept idea like this works. And who’re we kidding? It’s a compelling hook in an era where there are dozens of superhero films competing for our money.

Of course, that’s assuming DC would even want to reference a movie many despised. It’s no bad thing if they don’t; it’s simply a missed opportunity, and one I can understand them wanting to move on from.

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Parademons, Darkseid’s flunkies-in-chief – concept art by Patrick Tatopoulos

Regardless of what comes next, I hope this is the end of us wringing our hands over DC. These movies always had loads of potential to spare, so I’d love to see the franchise flying high sooner rather than later.

Check back each Friday for more as I go into the weeds on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

Thor: Ragnarok Gives Infinity War a Handy Tip – Sod Tradition

According to the trailers, synopsis, production team, and basically everyone who’s ever been involved with Avengers: Infinity War, this is the bone-crunching end to the MCU.

Well, sort of. What they really mean is that this part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to a close; there are at least half a dozen films still on the docket. However, the old team? Well, they’re probably hanging up their capes for good. In my opinion, that can only be a good thing.

Thor: Ragnarok is a neon-hued case in point. This wickedly humorous end to the trilogy said goodbye to the god of thunder’s seven-year status-quo before offering something entirely different.

Quick, duck! Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok are ahead.

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Sun’s getting real low, big guy – concept art by Ryan Meinerding

Some may disagree, but I’d argue that the film was better for it: it wasn’t precious about the ‘classic’ elements of his mythos, and there’s a ton more the studio can do with the character now as a result. Asgard’s been razed to the ground. Odin’s dead. The Warriors Three were mercilessly impaled (*sob*). Jane Foster is a distant memory. And Thor himself? He’s king of an entire civilisation with no home to call their own. He’s also responsible for safeguarding their culture and very way of life. This naturally lends itself to a different kind of story, one that wouldn’t have been possible before.

Even those iconic props are gone; Ragnarok washed its hands of them too. His flying hammer’s a pile of rubble, and he lost an eye for his trouble as well. Yes, it’s sad to see all of the above ride into the sunset. Nevertheless, the franchise is free to pursue different avenues in the future rather than being chained to tradition.

This is a character who’s been on a journey of profound change, and I hope the same will be true of the Avengers when Thanos, MCU supervillain extraordinaire, blows their status-quo to kingdom come. Whatever’s left will be altered in a big way, and I hope there’s no going back. You can’t move forward if you’re clinging onto what’s already been done.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been a wonderful journey so far. But we’ll eventually reach a point where there’s nothing left to say, and perhaps the best way to keep things relevant is to throw a spanner in the works and see what happens. Iron Man benefitted from this when he turned over a new leaf at the end of Iron Man 3 and became a mentor to Spider-Man in Civil War/Homecoming. 

I hope Infinity War has the same effect on the likes of Captain America or Hulk. That’s if they survive, anyway…

Check back each Friday for more as I go into the weeds on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

The Gifted is a Prequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past, & Here’s Why

Unlike everyone else in movies right now, those at Fox seem a little leery about the idea of a connected universe. There was a lot of speculation that Logan might exist in its own continuity, whilst Legion and The Gifted are keen to go it alone judging by production comments. In fact, it’s been suggested via offhand remarks that the latter is part of its own X-Men universe. Think mutant continuity is complicated enough? Apparently not.

There are advantages to separate continuities (the ability to do whatever you fancy being one of them), but it’s also a missed opportunity. Firstly, it seems like a waste to ignore the world-building Fox’s movies have achieved through much blood, sweat, continuity errors, and tears. Second, there are sneaky ways of slotting it into established canon should they choose to do so. It would appear that Fox have left themselves an escape-hatch into the Singer movie-verse.

This probably isn’t going to end well – concept art for X-Men: Days of Future Past by Goran Bukvic

How? With the right spin, The Gifted could take place a few years before everything hits the fan in Days of Future Past. Quick, to the speculation-mobile!

WARNING – there are spoilers for The Gifted ahead.

In the Days of Future Past timeline, the X-Men are gone and killer robots have wiped out swathes of humanity by the year 2023. A handful of mutants still battle for survival, but defeat is now a foregone conclusion; it’s the end. How does this relate to The Gifted, though? Four years prior to that series, mutant riots caused a disaster known as ‘7/15’. Following this tragedy, the government enacted a crack-down on mutant rights. The X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood have long-since vanished as well, and now those with powers are being rounded up and/or turned into mindless flunkies known as ‘Hounds’ (using similar techniques to the ones in X2, no less).

This tracks with where we left Wolverine and co. in The Last Stand. The X-Men are basically over; Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor X are dead, leaving Storm to head up Xavier’s school before it’s shut down by the military a few years later (this is revealed via promotional material for Days of Future Past). Meanwhile, Logan’s bolted for the wilderness in The Wolverine. Even Magneto’s out of the picture; he’s lost his powers, any followers he gained were rounded up, and his right-hand woman Mystique has been stripped of her abilities too.

As such, what’s left of these teams (Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, etc.) are attempting to help mutants on the down-low despite being picked off one by one. The likes of Angel and Beast are killed by ‘human first’ activists, for instance. It’d therefore make sense for The Gifted’s 7/15 disaster to force the team into hiding at last. It’s the straw that breaks the superpowered camel’s back.

There’s plenty more to connect these stories, too. Blink – the teleporting mutant who appears in both – helped a group of mutants escape prison shortly before the present in Days of Future Past. This tallies with The Gifted’s premiere where she’s hiding after breaking out of jail. Similarly, The Gifted includes Thunderbird, the brother of Warpath in Days of Future Past, and Eclipse, a mutant with comparable powers to the movie’s Sunspot. Their presence – not to mention that of Sentinels, inhibitor collars, and Doctor Campbell (a character who goes on to become a renowned mutant-hunter in the comic book version of Days of Future Past) – only strengthens the relationship between the two.

Then we come to Trask Industries, the smoking gun of this whole theory. They’re the company responsible for Sentinels in Days of Future Past, so their role in The Gifted suggests a connection. It may be a coincidence due to the brand’s iconic role in X-Men lore, of course, but their presence sets up a possible crossover should Fox want it. Equally, Reed (one of The Gifted’s protagonists) mentions that Trask was meant to have been shut down in 2006. Funnily enough, this is when The Last Stand’s set and a short-lived renaissance for mutant rights takes place. It feels as if Fox has left themselves room for to two to be married up somewhere down the line.

I’m more than game for this. How cool would it be to end The Gifted on the opening of Days of Future Past, or run concurrently with it? And anyway, isn’t the X-Men timeline confusing enough without another separate continuity/universe to get our heads around?

Check back each Friday for more as I go into the weeds on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

What the Hell Happened to Diana Between Wonder Woman and BvS?

Mystery doesn’t do us any harm. If anything, it’s the kind of trick that can catapult a story from ‘good’ to the heady heights of great. Audiences remain invested through speculation, and it’s a well-established Fact that things are cooler when you’re connecting the dots. Darth Vader lost some of his mystique after we heard him grumble about sand, for instance. However, Wonder Woman’s different.

WARNING – very mild spoilers for Wonder Woman and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice follow. Abandon ye all hope if you haven’t seen them, etc.

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I’m not sure Wonder Woman is done with war just yet – concept art revealed by Entertainment Weekly

In spite of a painful coming-of-age and the loss of Steve Trevor, the movie ends on a fist-pumping high after Diana overcomes David Thewlis’ moustache. Inspired by what she’s learned, she resolves to protect humanity in the name of love. Then we fast-forward a few decades to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and she’s decided it’s not worth the effort after all (soz, humanity). Having gone into hiding where she can lament our failings and listen to Evanescence or something, it’s the polar-opposite of her heartfelt determination post-WWI. What the hell happened? All we know is that she lived through a ‘century of horrors’, implying that she was involved in some capacity. It’s a weighty question neither film is willing to answer.

Although it’s fun to leave some backstory to the imagination, this arc in particular is worth exploring; not only is it a complete u-turn of Diana’s outlook, it feels as if we’re missing the central chapter of a trilogy (especially if it involves character development so central to the hero’s MO). I may be overcomplicating matters, of course – perhaps Wonder Woman’s resolve was shattered by the beginning of WWII mere decades later, not to mention other recent conflicts – but it seems like we’re missing something.

Hopefully we’ll be filled in during Wonder Woman 2, a movie rumoured to be set in the 1980s, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that it goes even further back in time. Specifically, I’d love for DC to tackle the Justice Society in one form or another. The premier superhero team pre-Justice League, it was comprised of early versions of characters we’ve come to know so well; for instance, a 1940s Flash and cape-wearing Green Lantern (whose weakness was wood, amusingly) were both on the roster. They’re a fascinating group. Formed by the President of the United States to combat the Nazi threat and protect the American home front, this band of ‘Mystery Men’ was involved in at least one undercover government op during WWII. As Wonder Woman later became a member of the Justice Society, perhaps her sequel could take inspiration from this and send the team on a secret mission against the Nazis that, naturally, goes wrong. This would explain why she hangs up the sword and lasso until BvS. It’s the kind of story that writes itself.

I’m not sure how likely this is considering the rumours about Wonder Woman 2’s setting, but a man can dream. It’s a gap in the tale well worth plugging, so I hope we get to see the missing piece of her story before long.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 is the Best MCU Movie (Drops Mic)

I’ve recently been smacked around the head by an epiphany. After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 and squeeing like a squeezy dog-toy, I now understand what everyone’s banging on about when they say that superhero movies should be fun. Although I’ve got a lot of time for grittier versions (a la Man of Steel or Logan), a film that goes for your sense of humour is arguably more… enjoyable? Is that the word I’m looking for? Anyway, you leave the cinema content that all is well with the world and practically bouncing along the pavement. You also get many, many quotable memes out of it. As such, I’d peg it as the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the original. Fight me.

Something good, something bad… a bit of both? Concept art by Andy Park

This is thanks to its refusal to take things too seriously. Volume 2 is wonderfully irreverent, poking fun at itself while bringing back 80s nostalgia with a raised middle-finger. The film isn’t afraid to get weird either – and I mean properly weird. When it’s not using daft locations from the comics (including a living planet, of all things), it’s diving into well-worn tropes that are given a self-deprecating twist. There’s the obligatory ‘follow your heart’/realisation-of-great-power moment that’s shunted off kilter by a certain videogame character, and this is preceded by a ridiculous father-son game of catch mid-way through the story. Guardians knows that it’s silly, so everything’s very tongue-in-cheek. I suppose this is only fair when you’ve got a film starring sentient trees and a talking racoon.

Another bullseye is its strong character-development, of course. Karen Gillen’s Nebula benefits from this in particular, as does Michael Rooker’s brilliant Yondu (out-of-context quote of the day: ‘I’m Mary Poppins, y’all’). The main cast’s arcs aren’t quite so strong this time around, but they still get a thumbs-up as well. The only other MCU franchise that can match it in this regard is Captain America, or – and I know I’ll get stick for this – Iron Man.

Basically, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 hits all the right notes: it’d love nothing more than for you to just enjoy yourself. Seriously, go see it.

Logan: What Happened to the X-Men?

Days of Future Past was a great send-off for the X-Men, all things considered: although we’d watched them be systematically murdered over its two-hour run-time, the final scene (which showed the team alive and well) ended their story on a satisfying note. After six films of heartache, they’d finally gotten their happy ending. However, Logan shows us that we spoke too soon. The X-Men are gone a mere six years later, mutants are dying out and the gruff but heroic Wolverine is a battered shell of his former self. Even Professor X is a husk of what he once was, stuffed out of sight in an overturned water-tower and babbling incomprehensible Shakespeare. It makes you wonder where everything went wrong.

Discussing that takes us into spoiler territory, so be warned – come back later if you’ve not yet seen the movie. The reveal is handled brilliantly, so I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you here.

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No matter what, it’s a far cry from the X-Mansion – concept for Logan by Shae Shatz (via i09

Logan may not give us much to go on, but the scant information it does provide is nothing short of heartbreaking. We learn that several people (upwards of 600, in fact) were injured in an event the film calls the ‘Westchester incident’: as a news anchor points out after the climactic battle in a casino, the effects of this were eerily similar to those seen when Xavier has his seizures. More distressingly, seven mutants were killed in this disaster. Because Westchester is the location of Xavier’s famous school, the implication is clear.

The fact that Professor X’s illness left most of his students in danger is devastating, especially considering how many of them were children. Indeed, while most assume the mortalities were classic X-Men – and director James Mangold alludes to as much – it’s possible that some of those victims were children in the first place. It would certainly add more incentive for Wolverine to keep the truth from his ailing mentor. For a teacher whose pupils’ safety is their highest priority, this is more damaging than any supervillain could hope to be.

Either way, it’s a deeply tragic turn of events. The X-Men thought they’d escaped the end of days but it found them nonetheless. The horror of not knowing exactly what happened makes things infinitely worse, meanwhile: we’re left hanging when it comes to our favourite characters. Are the likes of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm still alive? We’ve got no idea. As Logan’s writer points out, those deaths may not even have been of characters we knew.

That said, we can do some reading between the lines here. Jean is almost certainly a casualty. As one of the most powerful mutants out there, I can’t imagine she’d drop off the radar. Her demise would also emotionally destroy Wolverine all over again, adding to the cynicism that oozes out of his every pore in this movie. He went through hell and back to change the X-Men’s past, so things still going wrong would utterly break him. It’s a similar argument where Storm and Beast are concerned. They’re much too influential not to leave a footprint on Logan’s world, yet there’s little sign of mutants beyond Wolverine’s friends or the children they’re trying to save.

The only hero I can see making it out alive is Kitty Pryde, mostly thanks to her ability to phase through matter. Could she be hurt if intangible? Who knows. I suppose the likes of Cyclops could have survived and faded into obscurity too because of his penchant for angst, but I say that mostly because I’d love to see a story that adapts recent comics where he’s a Magneto-like extremist.

I don’t suppose it matters. Life sucks anyway if you’re a mutant by the time we hit Logan, regardless of whether you were present for the Westchester incident or not. Disturbingly, the mutant race went out with a whimper rather than a bang this time: thanks to foodstuffs that attack mutant-genes in carriers, no more can be born. In a dark twist, the DNA of older mutants is also co-opted as for experiments like Laura. Judging by our protagonist’s desperation to reach the Canadian border, we should probably assume that it’s one of the few countries with any protection left for Wolverine’s kind. Things are truly grim.

That’s a recurring theme of the ­X-Men franchise since Days of Future Past – the more things change, the more they stay the same. We see this clearly in Logan. While the timeline’s been altered, the events of prior films seem to have happened in one way or another in spite of the change. Professor X references the Statue of Liberty from the original movie, Wolverine still has his X-Men Origins dog-tags and he’s held onto the samurai sword from The Wolverine. One of the only alterations is the revelation that Wolverine had a drug-problem, a virgin career in cage-fighting and a position as an assassin when he was found by Xavier in this new reality. It’s reminiscent of the Ultimate comics version of the character, a series where he was employed by Magneto to kill Professor X.

We’ll probably never see how things shook out, of course – it’s much more powerful it’s left to our imaginations. The upside, though? We’ll just have to watch it again and see if there’s anything we missed. What a shame.

Check back every Friday for a new blog celebrating the characters, worlds and craft of geeky pop-culture.

Is it Time for the DCEU to Reboot?

The only thing that seems to be coming out of DC’s film department right now is disappointment. It’s a real blow. Clumsily dubbed the ‘DC Extended Universe’, this is a franchise that’s careening downhill whilst engulfed in the fire of bad reviews. On top of the critically-panned Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad, two directors have left The Flash in ironically quick succession. Additionally, The Batman has struggled to pin down a director after Ben Affleck – who also stars in the titular role – stepped down from behind the camera last month. There are even reports that he’s close to hanging up the cowl itself. When paired with rumours of trouble surrounding Wonder Woman (even if that’s since been refuted), it’s hard not to think a reset is desperately needed.

Concept art from the abandoned George Miller Justice League film - via SlashFilm
Concept art from the abandoned (and seemingly much cheerier) George Miller Justice League film – via SlashFilm

Tempting though it is, I’d be gutted if Warner Bros. threw in the towel. The last two instalments were less than stellar, but seeing Man of Steel consigned to the scrap-heap along with them breaks my heart. Despite having problems of its own, the film’s depiction of Krypton is nothing short of breath-taking. Moreover, I maintain that the first two-thirds of that film were spot-on. After a sympathetic journey to find his purpose in life, a now-humanised Superman becomes the hero we know and love once he’s donned his costume. He laughs, smiles and, above all else, does what’s right. But then it all goes pear-shaped with disaster-porn battles and a climax that understandably turned off fans. I’d argue that it only veered off the rails when Clark had his trippy, on-the-nose dream-sequence with Zod.

Similarly, its sequel had plenty of good ideas to work with. No, really. They simply weren’t executed well (though that’s a discussion for another day) thanks to its director and writers who’ve had a stranglehold on things thus far. To scrap the series without giving someone else a crack of the whip would therefore feel wasteful. Considering how the lauded comic scribe Geoff Johns has just taken charge, things may start looking up at last. We should at least see what he does first.

Nevertheless, I wonder what the result would be if they were to call things quits. Perhaps a soft reboot (a la X-Men: First Class) might be the best course of action. Future films could zero in on Wonder Woman’s past, Batman’s career pre-Superman in the 1990s or side-step entirely with new and unknown characters. The already in-production Shazam would be a great place to start, for instance. Introducing a young boy who’s given the power to transform into an adult superhero, it’d inject a sense of wide-eyed wonder that’s in high demand after so much gloom.

If DC followed this path, there’d really be no need to reference prior films at all. Each of the above can happily stand alone.

Failing that, they could even hand off to a new generation like Marvel is rumoured to do after Avengers: Infinity War’s sequel. Maybe the recently-announced Nightwing film – following the original Robin as he strikes out on his own – could be the first step on that road.

All the same, my preference would be for a completely fresh break set in the past. One ace DC has up its sleeve is a long and illustrious past stretching back into the WWII era: the Justice League weren’t the first team to protect our world. Known instead as the Justice Society, this group included Wonder Woman and an elder generation of the Flash and Green Lantern. There’s your ‘in’ for an audience arriving with fresh eyes.

Better still, it featured characters we’ve never seen in cinema before. That includes the mystical Doctor Fate, Sandman (who’s reminiscent of Watchmen’s Rorschach), the original Atom and happy-go-lucky Stargirl.

By focusing on this band of ‘Mystery Men’ and women (as they were known back then), you reverse the mistakes DC has made up until now. To begin with, returning to the Golden Age of comics where heroes do good because they’re upstanding people is something we’re missing in today’s dark, naval-gazing equivalent. Secondly, it’s not obviously a reboot so we’d avoid audience fatigue. As far as they’re concerned, this could fit into the universe they’ve come to know already. If they respond well, you’d then build back up to the present-day cast.

Whether DC has it in them to be so bold is another matter, of course. Changing tack would mean abandoning the many projects already in production. With Aquaman, Flash and The Batman already gearing up, that’d be a wasted investment Warner Bros. may not want to contemplate. However, If Wonder Woman and this autumn’s Justice League hit another critical brick wall it’ll probably be time to call things quits regardless.

Check back every Friday for a new blog celebrating the characters, worlds and craft of geeky pop-culture.

Here’s Why Sorcerers Didn’t Appear in the MCU Before Doctor Strange

Comics have some truly cracking catchphrases. “It’s clobberin’ time” and “great Caesar’s ghost” immediately spring to mind. However, the ever-iconic Spider-Man quote “with great power comes great responsibility” outdoes them all. Despite being over 40 years old, it arguably remains the best-known of all superhero quotes. That resilience probably has something to do with the fact it’s true; influence and ability can do a lot of good, but they also have the potential to be abused. This is a danger history makes very clear.

The world of magic is a strange place. Concept art by Marvel.
The world of magic is a strange place. Concept art by Marvel.

Bearing that in mind, it’s no wonder magicians are so secretive within the world of Doctor Strange. They’re some of the strongest players on the field. Namely, no manner of high-tech suit can match the ability to manipulate time or hurl your opponent into another dimension. Even thunder-god and painfully well-built Thor would struggle when combating a sorcerer who can travel across space at will. Consequently, it’s a talent that must be rigorously monitored and/or protected from those who’d abuse it. The film’s villain and its finale demonstrate just how devastating a wizard gone bad can get.

That’s my response to the question of where these magic-users were in prior movies. Besides being kept busy with mystical threats (up to and including demonic monsters Captain America simply isn’t equipped to handle) the risks of such an ability can’t be sniffed at. They also explain why those like Stephen Strange wouldn’t want it to become common knowledge. While every Tom, Dick and Harry would want to use it for petty gain, shady characters abusing magic is a scarier proposition. When criminals and generally nasty pieces of work can manipulate the weather or summon demons, I dread to think what’d be left of anyone caught in the middle. What could the average shmuck do against that? It’s David vs Goliath, except Goliath can summon weapons from thin air or fire portable bombs from their fingertips. As an example, political assassination would be a breeze when you can just warp into your victim’s office.

Accordingly, Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One must have the last word on ‘strict’. We see this through her harsh entry requirements. There’s little indication of sorcerers operating outside her order either, so I’m guessing she’s got a monopoly on the market. Why is another matter, though. I can’t imagine hers is the only school of magic out there. Do they scoop up any would-be magicians before they can make a mess or stamp out rival organisations? It’s a question that’s never really answered, and the resulting speculation heightens her menace.

It opens a fascinating can of worms too. Because Merlin, wizards and classical monsters are part of Marvel’s comic canon, we’re left to wonder if they exist in the film universe as well. Were the Salem witches ‘real’, for instance? Is Bigfoot an actual thing? What about vampires and werewolves? The possibilities are endless, and that’s an exciting prospect for this series going forward. Considering how crowded the superhero market is right now, a fresh twist can only be a good thing.

Luke Cage is Right – Secret Identities Don’t Work

Netflix’s Marvel shows put a bullet in the head of daydreams; they underline how becoming a paragon of truth, justice and the American way can’t possibly end well. You’re more likely to end up in a hospital ward than the front page.

Unlike his Hell's Kitchen counterpart Daredevil, Luke Cage doesn't bother with masks - concept art and poster by Marvel
Unlike his Hell’s Kitchen counterpart Daredevil, Luke Cage doesn’t bother with masks – concept art and poster by Marvel

Being beaten to a pulp would be the least of our worries, though. Keeping your secret identity that way is probably nigh-on impossible in the modern age. Perhaps Luke Cage has the right idea. The eponymous hero – currently living in Harlem – doesn’t bother hiding who he is. Biologically altered until practically nothing can hurt him, he’s an everyman who looks out for the average Joe. No masks are required when bullets bounce off your oh-so buff chest.

It’s probably for the best. Even if it can halt a 10mm slug, unbreakable skin can’t stop cameras. That’s a very real possibility nowadays. Appearing on CCTV is more of a certainty than a what-if thanks to recent surges in public surveillance. Although you could argue society’s better for it, the last few decades have seen us dragged into something of an Orwellian nightmare. Today’s world is one of scrutiny, electronic tracking, traceable e-commerce and phone tapping. According to the NY Daily News, cities such as New York boast around 17,000 CCTV cameras. In the meantime, London has ‘roughly half-million’ at its disposal. Good luck trying to avoid those when you need to pull on your cape and tights.

I appreciate that this is the equivalent of stamping on a child’s favourite toy, but the straightforward romance of twentieth century comic books is a thing of the past. From the medium’s golden age to its 1960s resurgance, closed-circuit cameras were a rarity. It wasn’t until 1968 that they started appearing on major US streets, so disappearing into an alleyway to change was still plausible. Now’s a very different story. As the UK reality series Hunted demonstrates, escaping detection is difficult when someone with time and a whole team of staff wants you found.

The programme’s elevator pitch is a stroke of genius; how long can a handful of average people last when they go on the run? Following both fugitives and pursuers, it’s terrifying to see how much info Big Brother has at its disposal. Unless you’re well-trained, obsessively paranoid or exceptionally lucky, you’re almost guaranteed to be tagged by someone’s surveillance system. Moreover, they’d track down most unsubtle disturbers of the peace – e.g. your average superhero – in ten seconds flat. The only characters I can see avoiding this are the likes of Superman, Spider-Man and Batman. One can travel or change at superspeed, another literally dons his costume on the side of skyscrapers and the last has enough cash to make suitably cool tech that’ll cover his tracks.

Unfortunately for them, security cameras aren’t the only way to keep track of someone. Besides email and browser history, the long arm of the law can track your buying habits as well. When you’ve got no powers to rely on and need down-to-earth gear keeping you safe it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Police can trace that kind of purchase if they’ve got a warrant to do so (and know what they’re looking for, of course).

Amazon’s therefore out of the question, leaving under-the-counter cash transactions or an outfit you’ve put together yourself. And if that’s the case, why are you in the superhero business anyway? You could make a killing selling cosplay costumes.

In essence, escaping the fuzz would be difficult should you take the law into your own hands. They’d have a lot of reason for wanting you found, good intentions or not; you’d be a vigilante who leaves assault and property damage in their wake. I dread to think what the legal ramifications of that could be. Just imagine a thug suing you for breaking his arm.

Not having a secret identity might save you a lot of hassle in this regard, but – as anyone who’s ever seen a superhero story knows – this won’t end well. You’ll make enemies, and if they know where to find you they’ll hold every card.

With that in mind, working with the authorities or receiving proper training isn’t the worst idea going. That’s the crux of Iron Man’s argument in Captain America: Civil War, and in a real-world context it doesn’t seem so unreasonable. 

I wonder if Luke Cage’s decision to fly solo without protecting his identity will come back to bite him. Judging by his stablemates Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion.