Somehow, it slipped my mind that this month is the 61st anniversary of the debut of one of the characters who would come to define Marvel Comics, The Incredible Hulk. Though it was dated May of 1962, the first issue of The Incredible Hulk actually came out in March. Here’s the cover, featuring artwork from Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman.
It’s obvious from the cover that The Incredible Hulk was still a work in progress when he made his debut. First off, he’s grey instead of green. Secondly, while Bruce Banner was always portrayed as being a scientist who kept a tight grip on his emotions, I don’t think he ever looked as nerdy as he did on this cover. Third, the Hulk himself looks more like an oversized version of Frankenstein’s Monster than the Hulk that readers would eventually come to know and love. Though it is not mentioned on the cover, Banner initially transformed into the Hulk whenever the sun went down, like a werewolf. The Hulk coming out whenever Banner got mad was a later invention.
Because Marvel could never decide whether they wanted the Hulk to be a hero or a monster, the first run of The Incredible Hulk came to an end after just six issues but Marvel kept the character around and eventually gave him a regular feature in Tales to Astonish. He was even one of the founding members of The Avengers, though that didn’t last for long. Marvel eventually figured out that Hulk worked best as a loner and he was embraced by a counterculture who disliked the military almost as much he did. The character proved to be so popular in Tales of Astonish that he eventually took over the entire comic and the name was changed (again) to The IncredibleHulk. Hulk’s been a Marvel mainstay ever since, appearing on both television and in the movies.
Just a few months after introducing themselves to the world, the Fantastic Four appear to be on a crime rampage! The Thing swims out to an oil rig and knocks it over with one punch. The Human Torch melts a memorial. The Invisible Girl steals jewelry. And when New York suffers a huge blackout, witnesses report seeing an arm stretching it’s way into a powerplant and flipping the off switch!
The Fantastic Four claim that they’re innocent and it turns out that they are. Four shape-shifting aliens, known as the Skrulls, have traveled to Earth and are pretending to be the Fantastic Four so that the government will turn on them and it will be easier for the Skrulls to take over the planet. Fortunately, Mr. Fantastic figures out what’s going on. Not only does he fool the Skrull commanders by showing them back issues of Journey Into Mystery and Strange Tales and saying that they’re actual newspapers about the monsters that exist on earth but he also hypnotizes three of the Skrulls on Earth and convinces them that they are cows.
I’ve always liked the Skrulls and it’s always bothered me that they seemed to lose almost every war that they got involved in. How could the Kree defeat the Skrulls? And was it necessary to add insult to injury by having Galactus eat their homeworld? The Skrulls just could not catch a break and I think that’s one reason why they’ve always been popular. With their ability to change their shape and adopt the powers of the heroes that they’re imitating, the Skrulls should have been unstoppable. They should have conquered this planet a long time ago. But the Skrulls, for all of their powers, could just never seem to get it together. To paraphrase Uncle Ben, with great power comes truly rotten luck.
Fantastic Four #2 was not only the first appearance of the Skrulls but it was also the first instance of a Marvel super hero team thwarting an invasion of Earth. (Eventually, Earth being invaded would become a monthly occurrence in the Marvel Universe.) The issue also introduced a major Marvel theme. The Fantastic Four may have saved the world from Mole Man just a few weeks before the Skrulls arrived but it didn’t take long for the general public to turn on them. It was a lesson that would later also be learned by Spider-Man and the X-Men. The general public is extremely fickle when it comes to its super heroes.
And it all started with four shape-shifters coming to Earth. The Skrulls may never win but Marvel still owes much to them.
Fantastic Four Vol. 1 No. 2
“The Fantastic Four Meets The Skrulls From Outer Space”
Script: Stan Lee Pencils: Jack Kirby Inks: George Klein Letters: John Duffy
Above, we see Captain America punching out Hitler on the cover of the first issue of his new comic book.
It’s an image that we’ve all seen before. It’s often held up as a perfect piece of wartime propaganda, as well as an answer to question of what should be done to anyone who wants to follow in Hitler’s footsteps. However, the most important thing about this cover is often overlooked.
It was published in December of 1940.
In 1940, America was officially neutral. Europe was at war and, while the U.S. was on the side of the Allies, the country still hadn’t entered the conflict. Due to the trauma of World War I, many American voters and politicians were still “isolationists,” saying that it was not America’s place to get involved in a conflict taking place on the other side of the world.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, however, disagreed. Kirby and Simon were both first-generation Americans and they understood what was happening in Europe. As Jews, they understood the evil that Hitler represented and, Simon later said, they both felt helpless whenever they heard reports about what was happening from the members of their family who were still in Europe. In one of his final interviews, Joe Simon said that he and Kirby created Captain America to serve as the antithesis of Hitler. And, with this cover, Simon and Kirby left no doubt where they and Captain America stood on the issue of neutrality. What is often forgotten today is how much courage it took to take that stand in 1940. At a time when comic books were viewed as being for kids and avoided taking a stand on anything beyond being anti-crime and also when there were any who still defended Hitler and shared his anti-Semitic views, Simon and Kirby took a stand and, to his credit, publisher Martin Goodman took that stand with them.
When this issue first came out, it sold a million copies. At the time, that was an unheard of amount. Though it would be another year before the U.S. officially entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Simon and Kirby took an early stand and created a great moment in comic book history.
Today marks the centennial anniversary of the undisputed King of Comics, ‘Jolly’ Jack Kirby! This creative genius was responsible for some of the best known (and loved) characters of the 20th Century, and his influence is still felt to this day. Rather than using my meager words, here’s a gallery of comic cover art featuring the amazing talent of Jack ‘King’ Kirby!
Evil elitists are plotting to transmit mind-controlling madness, turning America’s citizenry into docile sheep to do their bidding! No, I’m not talking about today’s election (though I could be!), it’s the plotline of CAPTAIN AMERICAN AND THE FALCON: MADBOMB, Jack Kirby’s 1975 seven part epic collected in this 2004 graphic novel release. The King was making his return to Marvel after five years working for rival DC, and took over the reigns of his baby Cap’s monthly book as writer/artist/editor.
Kirby was never a great writer, but he shines in this tale of an attempted hostile takeover of America by a group of elitists using the Madbomb to control the populace and rule the good ol’ USA. Cap and the Falcon are enlisted by no less than Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to thwart the fiendish plot. King Kirby’s artwork is stunning, embellished by inkers Frank Giacoia and D. Bruce Berry. Kirby gives us…
That, in a nutshell, is my main thought when it comes to Captain America: Civil War. It’s a movie that we spent a year anticipating. It’s a movie that we were continually assured would be great. And it’s a movie that, unlike Batman v Superman, actually lived up to all the hype. It’s also a movie that has already been reviewed here on the Shattered Lens. Check out Arleigh’s review by clicking here and be sure to check out Gary’s review as well.
So, what’s really left for me to say about Captain America: Civil War? Beyond, of course, that it was freaking awesome.
Of course, it’s hard to talk about Captain America: Civil War without also talking about Batman v Superman. Both films start with the same basic idea: the heroic activities of super heroes has led to cities being destroyed and innocent people dying. In Batman v. Superman, Batman takes it open himself to avenge the destruction of Metropolis and expose Superman as being the biggest false God since Baal. In Civil War, the United Nations announces that, from now on, all super hero activity has to be cleared with them. In Batman v. Superman, Batman and Superman are manipulated into fighting each other. In Captain America: Civil War, Captain America and Iron Man are manipulated into fighting each other. In Batman v Superman, Jesse Eisenberg plays a neurotic villain. In Captain America: Civil War, Daniel Bruhl plays a neurotic villain. Batman v Superman features more heroes than just Batman and Superman. Civil War features more heroes than just Captain America and Iron Man. Batman v Superman ends with a promise of more films to come. So does Civil War. Both films are huge and expensive star-filled spectacles and both of them are a part of a larger cinematic mythology. They both even have roughly the same running time. Of course, Batman v Superman seems even longer while Civil War is over far too quickly.
And yet, Civil War is a thousand times better than Batman v Superman. For all of its sound and fury, Batman v Superman is ultimately an empty shell. I left the film feeling not at all emotionally moved but definitely deafened by all the explosions and the yelling and the ranting and the pounding score. As I left the theater, the world sounded like it was underwater. Batman v Superman opens with the world exploding and the explosion continues for another two and a half hours. Civil War, on the other hand, takes its time. After the initial battle scene (which features a nice cameo from the great Frank Grillo), Civil War slows down. It explores its characters and their relationships and their motivations. The first hour of Civil War may be dominated by people debating but its compelling to watch because, after 8 years, the MCU and the characters within feel as alive as the world outside the theater.
In Batman v Superman, Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck appeared to be acting in separate films. That’s not a problem in Civil War. When you watch Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr., you believe that they are friends and, when they fight, you don’t just thrill at the action. You mourn the end of a friendship. If Batman v Superman‘s battle ultimately felt hollow, the final battle in Civil War leaves you wincing in pain.
Which is not to say that Civil War is not a fun movie. It’s the most genuinely fun film that I’ve seen so far this year. There’s a joy to the best films of the MCU, a joy that — with the exception of Gal Gadot’s cameo — was totally lacking from the somber and self-important mess that Batman v Superman. I have never heard an audience applaud more than they did while watching Civil War. The film may have been dominated by Evans and Downey but every citi of thzene MCU got a chance to shine. Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, and Elizabeth Olsen all proved their worth to this new cinematic mythology. After years of using Halloween to pay homage to Scarlett Johansson, I may have to go as Wanda Maximoff this year. After seeing Hollywood waste her off-center and damaged talent in films like Godzilla, it was good to see Elizabeth Olsen playing Wanda as if she could have been a cousin to her character from Martha Marcy Mae Marlene.
The audience saved their loudest and most enthusiastic cheers for Tom Holland, who claimed the role of Spiderman as his own and thankfully freed AndrewGarfield to go back to being the intriguing actor that we all remember from The Social Network and Never Let Me Go.Holland doesn’t have a large role in Civil War but he’s still well-served by the film and the script makes great use of the character and Holland’s energetic performance. As opposed to the super hero cameos in Batman v Superman, Spiderman’s appearance didn’t just feel like merely a teaser for a future film. He belonged in the story.
Of course, Civil War is dominated by the battle between Iron Man and Captain America and it says something about how successful the MCU has been that the battle feels less like a marketing gimmick and more like the natural result of what happens when two differing worldviews come into conflict. When Tony Stark sides with the UN, it makes sense. Ever since the very first Iron Man, Tony has been motivated by both guilt over making weapons and a fear that he doesn’t deserve his success. Of course Tony would side with the UN. Doing so not only allows him to alleviate his guilt but it also frees him of responsibility for any future actions that the Avengers may take. It makes just as much sense that Captain America would feel the exact opposite. His name is Captain America, not Captain United Nations. When the UN was founded, he was still frozen in a block of ice.
(Also interesting to note: Civil War was the first MCU film that I could follow without once having to ask my boyfriend for any background info on who all the characters were. The MCU has become such a part of our culture that we all know the characters, regardless of whether we have ever read a Marvel comic or not.)
There is a nominal villain. Daniel Bruhl plays Zemo and his role is actually pretty small. That said, Zemo is definitely more interesting than the typical MCU villain (he’s certainly more memorable than Corey Stoll was in Ant-Man) and Bruhl does a good job playing him. (Watching Civil War, it was hard not to think about how much better SPECTRE would have been if Bruhl, as opposed to Christoph Waltz, had played Blofeld.) But, for me, the real villain of the film was the U.S. Secretary of State (played by William Hurt). The character represented everything that all good people hate about the power structure. William Hurt turned him into the epitome of unthinking and unreasonable authority.
After Civil War was released, Salon’s Amanda Marcotte (who, let’s just be honest, ceased to be interesting the minute that she sold out and briefly worked for John Edwards in 2007) complained that Captain America had become “a douchey Libertarian.” I would argue that 1) Captain America is definitely not douchey and 2) it’s his “libertarian” stance that makes him a hero. Captain America does not represent any institution or ideology and he doesn’t take orders from faceless bureaucrats. Captain America doesn’t need permission to do the right thing. As played by Chris Evans, there’s something undeniably poignant about Captain America attempting to cling onto his idealism and his belief in personal freedom in an increasingly complicated and totalitarian world. When told that he has a duty to become an anonymous, order-taking drone, Captain America says, “NO!”
(As a sidenote: If you want to see what the world expects Captain America to become, check out William Klein‘s Mr.Freedom.)
I know that some are claiming that Civil War is the best MCU film so far. I wouldn’t quite go that far. The film never quite reaches the lunatic heights of Guardians of the Galaxy nor does it match the subversive glee of Winter Soldierrevealing that smug old Robert Redford is an agent of HYDRA. But, no matter! Captain America: Civil War is pretty freaking great!
Here are the other MCU reviews that have appeared here on the Shattered Lens:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier wasn’t just a surprise hit for Marvel Studios and parent company Disney in 2014, it also showed the general public that there was more to Captain America than just a flag-waving symbol of America’s past glory. Captain America was a character that wasn’t the hip, wisecracking Tony Stark. He wasn’t the tortured soul in a monster’s body like Bruce Banner as the Hulk. He didn’t have the Shakespearean gravitas that was always lurking behind Thor and his complicated Asgardian family. No, Captain America was considered too straight-laced, blonde and blue-eyed goody two-shoes.
Captain America: The First Avenger focused on those very qualities. Steve Rogers was just a skinny, asthmatic young man from Brooklyn who wanted to do his part during World War II. It would be thanks to an experimental super-soldier serum that Steve Rogers’ body finally matched the inherent goodness and will to defend the little guy. For some, this initial introduction to Captain America was too hokey, but was entertaining enough. His next appearance in 2012’s game-changing superhero team-up The Avengers saw him be part tactician for a burgeoning superhero team and part comedy relief.
It would be with The Winter Soldier that the rest of the general public finally got to what comic book fans have known for years. This is a badass man, out of his time but always fighting the good fight and staying true to his convictions and principles. What was seen as hokey idealism became something of a beacon of selflessness and the moral center in a modern world that was steeped in shades of grey. It helped that writing team of Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus (who wrote The First Avenger) finally found a pair of directors in the Russo Brothers (Anthony and Joe) who understood just what made Captain America relevant in this day and age of cynical anti-heroes.
It’s no surprise that the Russo Brothers were tasked with continuing the work they began in the Winter Soldier with McFeely and Markus with the film that would complete the Captain America trilogy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would be quite a task in getting Captain America: Civil War off the ground and moving forward under all the weight of nearly every MCU superhero (minus Thor, Hulk and Nick Fury) in attendance and the introduction of two new ones to the universe.
Did the Anthony and Joe Russo pull off this massive undertaking? Or did they stumble to not just the huge cast and many storyline threads the way Joss Whedon did with the ambitious, but flawed The Avengers: Age of Ultron?
I’m happy to say that the Russo Brothers did better than succeed but may have just made the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and proved that Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige was correct in placing the brothers as the new captain of the massive thing called the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it enters Phase 3.
Captain America: Civil War is set just a year after the events of Age of Ultron where the Avengers barely defeated Tony Stark’s mad A.I. Ultron and it’s decision to wipe humanity from the planet. While the team did save the world from global extinction they also didn’t save everyone. there were still hundreds, if not, thousands of Sokovians who died during the battle. The same could be said for all the battles since the alien invasion over New York. The Avengers, led by Captain America, have saved the world from invading aliens, world-dominating terrorist group and killer A.I robots. Yet, the collateral damage caused by these battles have begun to weigh not just on some of the Avengers, but has made the governments of the world see the team as a sort of super-powered private military group who don’t obey international laws and borders. Yes, they’ve saved humanity many times from destruction, but at what cost.
It’s during a battle early in the film as Captain America and his team stop the theft of a biological weapon in the city of Lagos, Nigeria that collateral damage and deaths rear it’s head once more as Wanda Maximoff (aka the Scarlet Witch) accidentally allows a suicide bomb vest explode too close to a nearby high-rise causing the deaths of several aide workers from Wakanda.
It’s from this event that the world finally have reached a tipping point and want to put the team under U.N. control with Tony Stark agreeing to the plan to help assuage his guilt over the deaths caused by him creating Ultron. Some of the team understands that government oversight that the Sokovian Accords puts on the team is the right thing to do. While others, especially Captain America, think it’s best to leave the team to continue to be their own masters instead of beholden to a bureaucracy whose agenda may not be conducive to saving lives.
It’s a subject matter that was explored in some fashion in an earlier superhero mash-up but one that failed to stick the landing. Yet, even this battle of differing ideologies between Captain America and Iron Man only becomes part of the foundation to the true narrative for Civil War. It’s the friendship between Captain America and Bucky aka the Winter Soldier and how the former must try to prove the latter innocent of another terrorist attack the world thinks he’s responsible for. Those Avengers who signed the Accords must now bring in Bucky dead or alive while Captain America with the help of those who didn’t sign try to prove his innocence and find the true architect of the terrorist bombing.
Captain America: Civil War succeeds where the earlier superhero film failed because of the groundwork laid down by the 12 previous films released to make up the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. From Iron Man all the way up to Age of Ultron, these twelve films flesh out the backstory and characters that make up these heroes. We’ve gotten to know what motivates them to risk their lives for the greater good, but we also see glimpses of the inter-personal conflicts that looks to tear the team apart from within.
There’s not enough that could be said about the masterful work done by the Russo Brothers in juggling the personalities of twelve superheroes (two getting their initial introduction to the MCU) and giving them enough to do in the film to make them relevant to the proceedings instead of just becoming glorified cameos. The actors playing these characters have had many films to own the roles and each and everyone hits it out of the park. The stand out from the veterans in the ensemble cast still remains Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr as Captain America and Iron Man, respectively. Yet, it would be the arrival of the two new heroes into the mix with Chadwick Boseman as the newly-crowned king of the technologically-advanced nation of Wakanda, T’Challa and Tom Holland as the teenage chatterbox and dumpster diving tech genius Peter Parker aka Spider-Man.
Boseman as the Black Panther adds a certain level of gravitas and regal fury to the proceedings which balances the edge between serious to comedic. His Black Panther has his own agenda in getting involved in this intra-familial squabble. He has his own agenda and if it means siding with Iron Man against Captain and his team then he would do so if it succeeds in helping him finish his mission. It helps that he looks damn cool in what has to be the best superhero costume thought up by the designers in Marvel Studios.
It would be Tom Holland as the young Peter Parker and Spider-Man who steals the show whenever he’s on-screen. This is the Peter Parker and Spider-Man that comic book fans have been waiting for. While Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield succeeded in portraying some of the character’s personality, they could never fully capture what made Spider-Man such a favorite amongst comic book readers. This Spider-Man is geeky and not at all hip and cool, but with a sense of right and wrong that comes having great power means shouldering the responsibility to use it for good.
Captain America: Civil War, with its exploration of many profound ideas and themes, is still a superhero film and a tentpole blockbuster at that and audiences still want to see the action up on the big screen. Boy, does this film have action and enough of them to spare. The action scenes range from the grounded hand-to-hand fighting the Russo Brothers used to great effect in The Winter Soldier (this time around with the help from Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, directors of John Wick to provide 2nd Unit Directing help) up to the superhero battle that raises the bar on such things set at an evacuated airport in Leipzig, Germany.
This 6-on-6 tête-à-tête between friends and colleagues takes the climactic battles in both Avengers films and does them better. With each hero using their abilities to great effect in conjunction with their allies and against those they are fighting. There was never a time during this near on 20-minute action scene did it ever get confusing. Many filmmakers doing superhero (or just plain old action films) could learn a thing or two from how the Russo Brothers and 2nd Unit directors Spiros Razatos, Stahelski and Leitch choreographed and filmed all the action sequences in Civil War. It was near-perfect with only wishful thinking that Gareth Evans from The Raid films could’ve been asked to help out to make things perfect.
As huge and bombastic the film gets with this airport fight, it would be the final throw down between Captain America and Iron Man at the end of the film that we get the emotional heft the film needs to keep itself from becoming just another loud and explosive superhero film. This fight becomes personal and shows how fights between close friends become the most brutal and heartbreaking. Neither combatants are wrong about their stances in the fight, but they’re also wrong in not being able to think things through. These two alpha males who have a friendship full of respect but also combativeness throughout the years of the MCU that finally explodes into all-out war when a tragic secret from both Tony Stark’s and Bucky’s past come to light.
It’s a fight that has no winners and for a superhero film that is a major change from the usual narrative (especially within the MCU storytelling playbook). The film ends with the very team created to save the world from all threats even more unsure of their place in the ever-changing and ever-judging world. It’s a bold move by Marvel Studios to start their Phase 3 that would culminate in the battle to end all battles with the two Avengers: Infinity War films (soon to be retitled) which happen to be under the master-class guiding hands of the Russo Brothers in the directors’ chair and the writing duo Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus.
In the end, Captain America: Civil War manages to capture not just what made comic books and films adapted from them fun and exhilarating, but also able to tackle some serious ideas and themes both existential and personal. It just goes to show that one doesn’t need to sacrifice one to have the other. One can have serious and dark but also be fun. It’s a balance that’s difficult to do, but when the people involved in creating such a story stick the landing then we a classic in the making. It bodes well for the rest of the films in Phase 3 to have such a great beginning, but also raises the bar for the other filmmakers following in the wake of what Anthony and Joe Russo have concocted. Let’s hope they are all up to the task.
We are just two weeks away from the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and just a week from the premiere of Netflix’s Daredevil Season 2. What better way to remind people that there is another hero vs hero film coming out to start off the summer than with the final full trailer for Captain America: Civil War.
One things which distinguishes this latest and final trailer happens right at the very end. One could almost say that this was the trailer’s post-credit sequence.
Captain America: Civil War swings into action on May 6, 2016.
It’s that time of the year when the country (to some extent the world) witness a sporting event that’s become almost ritualistic in how it gathers it’s audience. I’m talking about the yearly Super Bowl pitting the NFC champions against the AFC champs. Even if one wasn’t a huge fan of football, the Super Bowl has become such an event day not just for the game, but the half-time show. Then there are the commercials which has become just as anticipated as the game itself.
It’s this day that we get major studios plying their upcoming films for the summer blockbuster season and Disney is not a studio to let this day pass without showing something new regarding one of their biggest films this summer.
The first Captain America: Civil War trailer a couple months ago got everyone anticipating the film. Now we have the Super Bowl TV spot to fan the flame of hype for the film that dared to go up against Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice when they both had the same release date: May 6, 2016. The latter film blinked and opted to dominate the film landscape a couple months earlier.
This tv spot emphasizes the fractured nature of Avengers that lends to the film’s title of civil war.
So, which team are you on? Are you on Team Captain America? Or are you more the Team Iron Man?
Captain America: Civil War is the opening shot of Marvel’s Phase 3 for their cinematic universe. The huge success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both in the box-office and among critics, even convinced Marvel Studios and Disney to pit this upcoming sequel against DC’s own Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. One of the two had to blink and move their release date and it ended up being DC.
In what many have called Avengers 2.5 due to the amount of Marvel superheroes involved in the story, Captain America: Civil War will look to explore the consequences of the collateral damage incurred by Captain America and his teammates in the Avengers whenever they fight it out in public. The destruction of Midtown Manhattan during the Battle of New York was the start. The wreckage of three advanced SHIELD Helicarriers in the Potomac was another. Yet, it looks like the destruction of the capital city of Sokovia during the team’s fight against Ultron may have been the straw that broke the global governments’ back.
So, will Tony Stark and his team of Pro-Registration win out over the out-gunned Team Captain America who do not want to be beholden to the agendas of any world government?
We shall find out when Captain America: Civil War drops on everyone on May 6, 2016.