Why Jessica Jones hates the MCU

You know what I hate most about comic book movies and TV shows? They really, really wish they weren’t based on superhero comic books. Sure, comics can give them the characters and story material for some of the highest grossing films of all time and the most successful Netflix shows, but let’s not mention the source material, eh?

This isn’t new, of course. I’m put in mind of the Tim Burton quote in his feud with Kevin Smith, “Anyone who knows me knows I would never read a comic book”, says the two-time Batman director. More recently however, I saw it in Jessica Jones on Netflix (Daredevil was somewhat guilty of this, too).

One of the big draws of Jessica Jones was that it was part of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, which  basically means it set in the same world as Robert Downy Jr’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. Though it would never happen, it’s entirely feasible within the show that either of these characters could actually make an appearance, and can be referenced in-show. Except Jessica Jones really doesn’t like referencing superheroes. The Hulk is “the green guy” and Captain America is “the flag-waver.” Jessica Jones hates superhero characters so much it can only actually reference them euphemistically, even though a big selling point of the show is that it co-exists with said characters.

Now, on its own I don’t really care about that. The showrunners are clearly going for a particular aesthetic and tone and are keeping as far way from the capes and costumes brigade as possible in order to achieve that. Literally nothing in Jessica Jones would have been any different if it wasn’t connected to the MCU, meaning the connection it does have is nakedly commercial in nature. Say its part of the MCU and you get +X more viewers.

What this really makes me think about is how superheroes evolved from popular, pulpy kids entertainment to being dominated by 18-40 year old men. How this audience seems to need to legitimise the stories by making them as brutal and bleak as possible. “Look, comics aren’t just for kids! This woman got raped, see? This is mature stuff.” But it isn’t mature stuff. It’s juvenile, usually. Bendis got it right with Alias, but for every Alias there’s two Identity Crisis or Superman breaks someone’s neck.

I liked Jessica Jones. I think its a great story of PTSD and surviving abuse and coming out the other end. I think its a great story of not being defined by your abuse or abuser. And I even think linking in the superhero aspect lends proceedings a certain power. I’m just not so sure it should be in the same world as Ant-Man and Rocket Raccoon. My 4-year-old son loves Guardians of the Galaxy, you know? (I censor when appropriate). But I’m betting that come Infinity War we’ll have Daredevil and Jessica Jones in the same shot as Rocket Raccoon and Groot and now I’m totally with the JJ showrunners – they don’t belong in the same place.

This isn’t me saying comics shouldn’t ever deal with these kinds of issues. Of course it isn’t. But I do question the wisdom of superhero comics looking at these issues, especially while they double down on corporate synergy and link everything together for good or ill. There’s a longer entry in here about the nature of franchises, corporate ownership and stewardship of characters. Remind me to write it?

Frank

I’d forgive you for thinking I’d just jacked in the blogging thing. I don’t have a great track record of keeping it regular. The past week’s absence, though, isn’t that. I came down with the flu and tonsillitis and was just pretty wiped out. Trying to write something coherent between dizzy spells and stroking a picture of my bed just wasn’t going to happen. Hopefully this is the resumption of regular service.

I’ve seen comic writers online talk about how, if you’re freelance, you don’t get sickdays like I just had. You get sick, you lose money, it’s that simple. And horrible. And while that’s a particular peril of freelance work that needs to be addressed, it puts me in mind of what I think is a particularly nasty, narrow minded school of thought – suffer for your art . The idea that you need pain to make your work worthwhile, that you need to grind it out. I’m all for hard work to create something, but I draw the line at actual suffering. Art isn’t supposed to be like that. There’s nothing noble or magical or beautiful about suffering, whether you’re creating something or not. Suffering is suffering and anyone who tells you that you *need* to suffer or that it will ennoble you is someone you need to get out of your life. There’s nothing worthwhile in the world that can only be achieved through suffering. There’s always another way.

This puts me in mind too of the related idea of mental illness being some kind of magical creativity enhancer. That the trade off for depression or any other illness is talent. It’s not. (I’d recommend the film Frank if you want to see a great takedown of the mental-illness-as-muse trope.) Mental illness will no more help your creativity than the flu.

Anyway,  just a short one today to get back into things. It’s December tomorrow so expect me to become annoyingly festive as the weeks go on. You’ve been warned.

 

 

 

All Filler, No Killer

First off, an apology. I had always intended to keep my deadlines for the blog, and I was due one yesterday. It didn’t happen. I have no defence other than “I was busy”, which I don’t like so much. I’ll try not to let it happen again, as I know you guys were utterly furious yesterday. Yes, in my head you were all furious. All 18 of you.

The truth is, I’m not sure what to write today. My media intake has been, while steady, also pretty stagnant of late. There’s only so many times I can wax lyrical about the TV shows I watch and the comics I read (the number of which is dwindling rapidly). It’s at the point where, instead of watching something new, I’m rewatching The West Wing. Again. My love for the West Wing is no secret, and one will will be the subject of a much longer blog than the one I am writing today. (Yes, even the post Sorkin stuff. Santos ftw.)

I find that I often go all-in on one medium at a time. I’m either watching a TON of TV, reading a TON of books, listening to a TON of music etc, but never little bits of everything all at once. I’m not sure why. Perhaps my attention span is a little TOO great. This generally leads to me getting really far behind on one thing or another – I haven’t discovered a new band since Chvrches, who aren’t new at all. I have a reading pile that’s approaching my height. I’m tall. Does anyone else work like this? Please, let me know. And let me know if you have any tips on how I can vary my intake a bit without going down rabbit holes.

I wonder if I’m just too entrenched in the “box-set” mentality, so that even when I’m not watching TV I still feel the need to marathon things. (First person to say that my generation lacks patience and we get everything we want instantly gets punched in the face, instantly. Millenials aren’t a thing. Baby boomers who wrecked the world and blame it on my generation are a thing.)

I know, this kind of sucks as a blog entry and is entirely too navel-gazey and quite obviously a piece of filler till I get the time to write something properly. It’ll happen, I promise.

In the meantime, do yourselves a favour and go watch Steve Jobs in the cinema. If you’re more of a plot person over a character person then you might be left a little cold, but the character work in here is absolutely stellar. Not quite The Social Network good, but still fantastic and insightful. Fassbender, Rogen, Winslet and Daniels all put in star turns, too. Oscars all round, if the Oscars were fair.

 

 

 

The pen

I was considering not posting at all today. It’s Armistice Day, and I’ve seen some really thoughtful posts from friends and figured that my planned discussion of the latest Doctor Who episode wouldn’t quite be appropriate. I’d have felt like the guy telling his favourite joke at a funeral.

Wednesday is meant to be culture/comment day on here, so why am I talking about WWI and WWII? Because I’m wondering about how art and writing react to war. We’ve seen war poets like Wilfred Owen write eloquent verse about the horror, the hardship and the wrongness of it. The Rupert Brooke glorifying of a soldier’s sacrifice. We’ve seen war through a fantasy lens in Lord Of The Rings. What will our generation add to this kind of canon? I’d hedge a bet it’ll be things like the Hunger Games and the Divergent series. Even Harry Potter, to an extent. Books for the young, about the young in wartime. Not all wars are declared, or can be delcared. The Hunger Games is about the war on the poor. Harry Potter is about the war against death, against sadness and fear.

There was a theory about postmodernism, forgive me, I can’t remember who espoused it, that no art of real merit could be created after WWII. That after we drop a nuclear weapon on two cities then we’ve pretty much made everything meaningless. Once you can unravel atoms then the form of things doesn’t really matter any more, I guess. This probably explains why postmodernism lacks definition. Nothing matters.

The problem with that, I think, is that it all feels a bit teenage angst, all too easy. Nothing matters, so why bother? Slam the door and refuse to engage. Now, some people quote from great philosophers and some people quote from great artists and musicians, but all too often I’ll quote from Joss Whedon*. In one episode of Angel, the title character says, “If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do.” I think I like that. Yes, we can unravel atoms, but we can also make new ones, smash particles together to discover things we don’t have names for and that will only give us more questions than we had to begin with. I don’t believe in an afterlife, in the great beyond, but that only means that this aimless one I have is more important, and because I live in a free society, I can aim it anywhere I like. Not everyone has that privilege, the boys pressed into war, trenches, airplanes and boats, didn’t have that privilege. So I better make the most of it.

Alter Ego

It’s not long after 6am and my son is snoring loudly beside me. He got up in the early hours thanks to a cough and couldn’t get back over till now. So I’m awake and looking at WordPress, because apparently I now live and die on site stats, and I see a stat that amazes me.

A post I wrote on basic income is clocking in at 243 views. In the grand blogging scheme of things that’s nothing. 243 is what a kid on Instagram
gets of their morning coffee. (it’s pumpkin spice. #pumpkin #fall #blessed etc). For me though, that’s probably the most eyes I’ve ever had on anything I’ve written.

In the indie comics scene I did print runs of 50 or 100, which usually sold out. While I’ve shifted more than 243 units in my time, there was likely a great deal of crossover in buyers. 250+ units was probably about 100 actual people buying issue one and two etc. But this post is individuals and it’s global and cost me absolutely nothing while making those comics I loved so much cost into the thousand pound range. The conclusion is clear. If you want a big audience, use the internet. A shame then that the peak of my internet powers is scheduling a blog update.

The audience reach implications are actually only at the back of my mind. What’s really been niggling at me is how easy it would be to play to the crowd. To chase the stats, the likes, the comments. Superhero comics practically do this as a business model. Kill character X, bring them back heroically 18 months later, watch the fanbase collectively lose it. And if you can have one good guy beat up another? You’re making it rain. And that’s why, with a few exceptions, superhero comics aren’t very good right now.

Before I started the writing blog stuff I toyed with various ideas, including one on why I wanted to write at all, which is a question every writer has asked themselves at one point or another. I’d like to think that no one’s answer is “so I can say the popular thing and tell people what they want to hear”.  That kind of utilitarian content philosophy is worthless to art and useful discourse. I write because I love to do it, because it might be my only talent and because I’m a good day I might say something worth saying.

If one day I stumble into an opinion that resonates with people and gets me those sweet sweet WordPress stats or comic sales then that’s amazing, but from the days of writing power rangers fanfic as an 8 year old I think I knew I’d just be writing anyway.

But please, keep reading.

(Update: Nano, not going well. I’m not cut up about it, been busy, but it rankles. Getting the comics itch again too…)

Health Economy, or Why You Don’t Need To Earn A Living

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I like my gym. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, it’s well equipped, it isn’t too far from my house and there are two novelty oversized dogs that wander around behind reception from time to time. Like most gyms, though, it doesn’t half like a motivational quote. Above the mirror at the freeweight section a banner reads: “Some people want it to happen. Some people wish it would happen. Others MAKE it happen.” It’s a cute trick, motivating you while stroking your ego. You’re one of the ELITE, right? You’re MAKING it happen. The sentence structure alone tells you you’re at least in the top 33.3% of the population, and let’s face it, that percentile is probably lower because you’re just that special, you muscular workhorse, you man of iron. In fairness, determination and the will to do something is a huge part of exercise or going to the gym. Some days you just don’t feel like it, get a few of those in a row and suddenly you haven’t been for a week. Then two. And the more you miss, the harder it is to go back. But there’s a secret ingredient to going to the gym and a healthy life that the gyms don’t put on their banners or turn into a meme for their Facebook page.

Money.

This isn’t me complaining about the price of gym membership – I pay £24 a month for my gym and I think it’s a bargain for what I get – specialist knowledge on hand and well maintained facilities. I could pay less for a no-contract gm like Pure or the Gym Group, but I’ve tried that before and much prefer the culture and atmosphere of my local, independently owned gym. My membership there is a luxury, one I can afford because I have a good job. I buy protein powder to help me along and that too is a luxury. I’ll never complain about the price of any of these things. I think they’re worth it, and no one is forcing me to pay for them. I could go a run or walk more every day and maintain a reasonable level of physical activity for a fraction of the cost. And I do run (though if you want to do it often and at any distance then investing in a good pair of running shoes is advised).

No, this is about the price of health, from what you eat to how much sleep you get and everything in between. It’s no shock to anyone that unhealthy foods are generally much cheaper than healthy options. I could get maybe a few days worth of perishable fruit and veg for the price of several frozen dinners, microwave meals and snack food. In terms of quantity over quality, it’s just not economical to be healthy. This immediately prices huge chunks of the population out of healthier lifestyle choices. This will be down to various factors, like the economic benefits of mass production to businesses, allowing them to price their frozen food more cheaply than the more complex fruit and veg growing industries. Or TL; DR, capitalism. It also has to do with convenience – the most healthy meals are generally prepared fresh, with fresh ingredients. This takes time, which people are pretty short of these days. Maybe they’re looking after children or caring for a partner or parents. Maybe they’re working overtime or two jobs because the cost of living keeps going up and wages aren’t following. So they buy the thing that helps them save time, the quick hit foods, in the oven, in the microwave, whatever. Fuel for the fire. The problem is, a lot of this kind of food doesn’t provide the consistent energy release that can help stave off fatigue and hunger, so you’re tired – so you don’t cook – and you want to eat more. And so it goes. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just circumstance. I’ve done it plenty myself.

And that’s just physical health. Mental health is taking huge hits right now too. Work and financial problems are the top two causes of stress in the UK, according Mind, the mental health charity.  People are working too much, as I said, two jobs or trying to make ends meet on wages that just haven’t gone up fast enough. This, and several other reasons, are why I support a Guaranteed Minimum Income.

The basic idea is that everyone deserves and requires a certain level of income, no matter what, job or no job. Pilot schemes have been carried out, and the results have been more than encouraging. In Dauphin, Manitoba in Canada in the 1970s they tried a GMI scheme and they found that the only demographic who wound up working noticably less were new mothers, and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would see anything wrong with that. Teenagers also worked less, because they didn’t need to contribute to household expenses as they were now helped along by the GMI. This led to grades in school going up and more teens graduated – they could study more and focus on school work more as they didn’t need a job. Hospital admissions decreased during the programme, mental health consultations decreased and rates of domestic abuse went down too. When people didn’t have to stress about money, their lives got better on almost every metric. Mental and physical health got better.

I’m not advocating we had out millions to everyone. I’m saying we’re obligated to make sure people in our society have the bare minimum for a good life. Not benefits, not tax credits, not the Government’s sorry attempt at a “living wage” by rebranding the minimum wage to suit their figures, but a bare minimum income. Because you know what? You shouldn’t have to “earn” a living. A living is what you get just for being here. It’s what you get because you’re here and we’re decent and there are certain things people should just have for being people. Shelter, clothing, education, health, food. There’s no religion in the world other than capitalism that will tell you that we shouldn’t just give this stuff to everyone and work out the rest later. I’m not saying people shouldn’t have to work – if you want that laptop or that car or the new jacket or new trainers or whatever other luxury you have your eye on (like gym membership or protein powders), go earn it. Earn the extras. Food isn’t an extra. Somewhere warm to sleep isn’t an extra. A decent education and medicine when you’re sick aren’t extras. They’re an actual living, and not something you should be expected to “earn”.

We’re all we’ve got. And if we don’t take care of each other we won’t even have that.

Follow Friday

I know its a Twitter traditon, #ff, telling those poor unfortunates who grace you with their attention to grace other people with their attention, too, but I thought I’d carry it out here.

Blogging is a cool thing, and not only for the ego stroke it gives you when you see the number of visits on your site stats creep up. Its cool because it exposes you to other people’s blogs. Other people’s thoughts and opinions. There are blogs out there that put newspapers to shame, writing that would make accomplished novelists hide their faces in embarrassment.

If you’ve stopped by my blog – thank you! I have fun writing it, and its good to know there are people willing to read. But if you’re not too busy, how about checking out some of these guys?

Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth – http://matthewhyde.wordpress.com/  @starmanjack43

 This is a blog run by a good friend of mine, Matthew Hyde. I know, the link is a bit of a giveaway.

Matthew is one of the smartest guys I know. It’s that simple. He’s also got a knack for getting to the heart of subjects that would otherwise elude me. A mix of thoughts of faith, culture, current affairs, history and books, you’ll always find out something you didn’t know before by clicking on to Matt’s blog. Well written, well thought out and updated frequently, Matt’s is everything a good blog should be. Puts me to shame, certainly!

 

The Physical Impossibility of Rad in the Mind of Someone Bogus – http://physicalimpossibility.wordpress.com/  @seanmwelsh

Like cinema? This son of a bitch loves it. Experienced film writer and reviewer Sean Welsh delivers insightful film reviews, thoughtful articles on music and film and interviews with people in the industry. If you’re looking to expand your cinematic horizons, you could do a lot worse than following this blog. I’ll even forgive him for the picture of Superman getting tanked on whiskey.

 

Miso Funky – http://www.misofunky.com/news/ @misofunky

With all the latest news from the Delia-Approved and entirely awesome Miso Funky store, this blog is your one stop shop for cool crafts and handmade goodies with a sense of humour. Have a look and ask yourself, What Would Delia Do?

 

Forty Four Sunsets – http://fortyfoursunsets44.blogspot.com/ @Kirsty44SUNSETS

Now, I know nothing about fashion. As far as I’m concerned, it goes as far as T-shirts with some kind of geek cultural relevance and jeans of gradually darkening shades. Kirsty, on the other hand, is something of an expert. With a chatty, friendly style, a love of fashion and a ton of content, Kirsty’s blog even gets someone as fashion backward as me reading it. Maybe one day she’ll give me a makeover. Maybe one day I’ll live down that I ever suggested it.

And hey, while you guys are at it, tell @pickwick to blog more. Seriously, harass her. If ever there was someone who should be blogging but isn’t (currently) , it’s her.

I’ll stop content dodging soon, I promise!