First Trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The newest trailer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Official Teaser by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Um, okay?

If I knew little of the Avengers upon first being untroduced to the MCU, I know absolutely nothing about this Shang-Chi and his (their?) connection to the rest of the Marvel characters. Disappointingly, the trailer itself didn’t answer a single question of how they’re connected either. Oh, we got a lot of fisticuffs and action—speedy fight scenes handsomely filmed, sure—but no answers.

If the rest of the trailers aren’t going to link Shang-Chi to the characters or events we already know, I doubt I’ll want to see the movie in the theaters. I might not even rustle up the enthusiasm to see it on disc via the library.

At the time of this writing, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to open September 03, 2021, in the U.S.

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Superheroes and Fascism

There’s an idea that sometimes raises its head in pop culture discussions that superheroes are fundamentally fascist. (Here’s a version of the argument from a few years back, some pushback from the time, and some more recent reflections on the same idea.) The essential argument is that superheroes are a version of the might-makes-right ideology of fascism, grounded in the idea that the only way to solve problem is to look to a single, nearly (or actually) superhuman individual who reshapes the world, often with violence. Superhero stories portray a world incapable of coping with injustice without the intervention of such a superior individual, which is the same claim made by fascist movements, whether past or present. Others have objected to this idea, pointing out that while fascists seek power, superheroes traditionally reject it, many of them even hiding behind secret identities to avoid even taking credit for the good they do.

As with many challenging ideas, there may be some merit in both sides of the argument, but I think it helps us make sense of the debate to look at it from a greater distance and think about both superheroes and fascism in the deeper context they both draw on: heroes. I’ll speak specifically about the heroes of Greek mythology—in part because they are the ones I know best, and in part because they were particular points of reference both for the fascist movements of the twentieth century and for the creators of early superheroes—but similar patterns can be found in cultures throughout the world.

Heroes in ancient Greece were not just figures of myth and story; they were surrounded with religious, cultural, and political significance. Their significance varied, though, with time and context.

Some of the earliest signs of the veneration of heroes is archaeological. In the 800s and 700s BCE, there is evidence for religious rituals at tombs dating from the Mycenaean period hundreds of years earlier. The people of the ninth and eight centuries had very little understanding of the realities of the Mycenaean kingdoms, but they seem to have associated those tombs with heroic figures from their mythic past. These characters first appear to us in literary form in the Homeric epics as warrior kings like Achilles, Agamemnon, and Odysseus, but their legends must have been circulating in oral tradition for generations before.

In the eighth century, these heroes were claimed as literal, direct ancestors by aristocratic families around Greece. These families maintained the ceremonies at the Mycenaean tombs and sponsored the poets who performed epics like the Iliad and Odyssey. The claims they made to descent from such famous heroes were political, part of how they competed for power against rival families. The epics reflect the way in which heroes were perceived as the exclusive property of the aristocrats—when the rank-and-file soldier Thersites dares speak up against Agamemnon in the Iliad, the hero Odysseus gives him a dressing down for daring to challenge his betters and threatens to strip him naked and beat him with Agamemnon’s scepter. When Odysseus returns home to Ithaca, he comes home not as a leader of the whole community but as an avenging warlord defending his own property against rivals. (Homer, Iliad 2.212-277; Homer, Odyssey 22)

But heroes did not remain the sole property of the aristocrats. In the volatile politics of the seventh and sixth centuries, those who agitated to wrest power from the entrenched aristocrats and create more inclusive democratic governments also laid claim to the heroes. Figures of myth were reinterpreted not as the literal ancestors of specific families but as part of the shared heritage of whole communities. Some heroes were claimed by cities in the regions they were historically connected to, such as Theseus in Athens or Orestes in Sparta. Other heroes, like Heracles, were more wide-ranging, and could be invoked by the Greeks who traveled and settled throughout the Mediterranean.

The process of making these heroes the collective heritage of a community rather than the exclusive property of aristocratic families had many aspects. Unlike the private tomb cults of the ninth and eighth centuries, heroes and their worship became part of communal religious practices, including public shrines and festivals. The stories of heroes were reimagined; unlike the Homeric heroes, who behaved as larger-than-life aristocrats defending their own private interests, heroes of the later archaic and classical periods were defenders of their homelands and peoples who stood for justice. Theseus, for instance, is portrayed unifying the people of Athens by journeying through Attica and around nearby coastlands slaying dangerous monsters and subduing bandits and murderers—a long way from Odysseus slaughtering his wife’s suitors to defend his own home and property. Heroes were often physically incorporated into the life of the community through the practice of collecting and preserving what were believed to be their bones. Herodotus recounts how the Spartans brought the bones of Orestes back to Sparta from neighboring Tegea to give them victory in war and how Greek preparations for the naval battle against the invading Persians at Salamis included sending a ship to the island of Aegina to retrieve sacred images of the hero Aeacus and his equally heroic sons. These relics belonged to whole communities, not to single families. By these means, the exclusive, aristocratic heroes of early Greece became the collective, democratic heroes of the classical age. (Herodotus, Histories 1.67-68, 8.64, 8.84; Plutarch, Parallel Lives, “Life of Theseus”)

The tension between these two kinds of heroes—the exclusive ones who justify the power of a narrow elite and the inclusive ones who stand for the best qualities of a whole community—is not unique to ancient Greece. We can see it repeated in cultures throughout history up to the present day. The “heroes” involved need not be figures of myth and legend, either; historical figures, celebrities, and political leaders can receive the same treatment as well.

Fascism and superheroes both draw on this history, but they apply different aspects of it. Fascism looks back to the exclusive, aristocratic kind of heroism that claimed a connection with great figures of myth and history to justify the power of a limited group, whether defined by class, ethnicity, family, or political affiliation. Fascist leaders of the twentieth century claimed the heritage of a semi-historical, semi-mythical past as an exclusive property of their followers. Modern quasi-fascistic movements have a similar obsession with jealously gatekeeping their own chosen semi-historical models, from the inhabitants of medieval Europe to the Founders of the United States.

Superheroes, by contrast, represent the inclusive, democratic response that makes heroes represent not the interests of a self-defined elite but the aspirations of a broad community. Superman is the immigrant experience in the US writ large. Captain America stands for the courage and integrity of Americans at their best, while Iron Man represents Americans rising to do the right thing despite the arrogance and materialism that defines them at their worst. The “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” is the neighborhood Spider-Man for a reason.

So my answer, in the end, is: no, superheroes aren’t fascist, even if they draw on some of the same roots. Fascism is the modern world’s darkest kind of heroism; superheroes are our answer.

Image: A version of Captain America’s shield, photograph by ze_bear via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

History for Writers looks at how history can be a fiction writer’s most useful tool. From worldbuilding to dialogue, history helps you write.

Ryan Coogler Is Developing a Wakanda Series for TV

Fantastic news for Wakanda fans! Tor.com reports that “[a]ccording to Deadline, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has made a 5-year television deal with Disney. His first scheduled project will be a drama set in Wakanda that will be featured on Disney+.”

Flickering Myth Coogler Black Panther Set w Boseman

Apparently developing this series is a part of a broader deal between Coogler’s production company Proximity Media and Disney.

Although we don’t have any other details yet, not even a tentative name, I’m pretty excited. I absolutely loved Black Panther, and as long as he keeps—or is allowed to keep—to that ethos, I have high hopes for the series!

Image via Flickering Myth.

Latest Wonder Woman 1984 Teaser

Warner Brothers has released a new 60-second Wonder Woman 1984 teaser:

WONDER WOMAN 1984 – CCXP :60 by Warner Bros. Picture on YouTube

We see a few new scenes and voiceovers. I assume it’s Diana’s mother who says in the first half of the video “This world is not yet ready for all you will do” as a lead-in to some amazing stunts, like lassoing the tail of an airplane or a bolt of thunder(!).

I confess I’m sceptical of how well those kinds of stunts might work; I mean that I have a hard time imagining them not looking ridiculous. I guess we’ll see. (Eventually. We’ve been too busy to talk about when we might want to see WW84.)

2020 has been a difficult year for the performing arts, too. Apparently, to recoup some of the losses, Wonder Woman 1984 will be shown in selected theaters in the U.S. and concurrently streamed on HBO Max. The release date here is December 25, 2020.

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Make Your Own Superhero Snowflakes

Some awesome people’s skills include puzzling out how to have paper snowflakes come out gorgeous. You remember the ones we made in elementary school: fold a piece of paper in sixths or eights, go to town with scissors, unfold the paper, and Bob’s your uncle. Mine weren’t always that decorative, but the ones below sure are.

Sonia Harris designed five template patterns for free download (personal use only): Batman, Iron Man, Punisher, Storm from X-Men, and Wonder Woman.

Sonia Harris Mashup by Eppu

Laughing Squid shared designs by Abby Bartels from Fun.com. (Note: My browser gives me a security warning about Fun.com, so proceed with discretion.) My favorites are Captain America and Iron Man; also included are Batman, Harley Quinn, Hulk, Joker, and Thor.

Laughing Squid Bartels Captain America
Laughing Squid Bartels Iron Man

Thanks to these templates even I could do some scissor magic for this end-of-the-year season!

Images: mashup of Sonia Harris’s snowflakes from her photos by Eppu Jensen. Captain America and Iron Man by Abby Bartels via Laughing Squid.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Native American Cosplay of Captain America

Casey (otherwise known as hot.glue.burns on Instagram) made a Native American variant of Captain America’s costume for the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con. And the cosplay is both inventive and gorgeous!

Poster Cosplay in America has copied & pasted some of Casey’s thoughts:

“I originally brainstormed this costume in late 2015, but I really started rolling on production this last year, once I committed to this years SDCC… My main goal was to make a Native American variant of a fan-favorite character. I was immediately drawn to Captain America because of everything he symbolizes as basically the poster boy of a nation. To me it was the perfect parallel. And once I visualized the red and white bone breastplate on my abdomen, I knew this was something I had to see through.

“A lot of old school leather work with the awl! The majority of the armor was made from a base of 6mm EVA foam with 3 oz deer hide glued over it. The pieces were then stitched together with sinew or leather lace. Using this technique allowed me to form curves and build the necessary bulk of the armor pieces while also getting the suede textures I was looking for. And a whole lot of beading!”

Found via Good Stuff Happened Today on Tumblr.

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

Crossposted from the Playfully Grownup Home blog.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Second Trailer for Wonder Woman 1984

A new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 is out:

Wonder Woman 1984 – Official Main Trailer by Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube

I don’t know about you, but for me the most delightful thing in the trailer was the quick glimpse of young Diana running into an arena with other amazons. She was an absolute joy in the first movie!

Pedro Pascal, the actor for the male antagonist Max Lord, does a very good job—I’m repulsed by the character already; I just hope the performance isn’t too huge a hock of ham. I’ve only seen Pascal in Kingsman: The Golden Circle (plus a smattering of smaller roles in a variety of tv series), so I don’t have much to go by.

Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen reprise their roles; that’s lovely. I did complain, if you remember, that Antiope should be bought back when I was writing about the first trailer. I hope she doesn’t just get shunted into a mere flashback.

What we can tell of Kristen Wiig’s performance looks good, too; I’ve seen her in Ghostbusters and The Martian and enjoyed her voice acting (e.g. How to Train Your Dragon and the Despicable Me series); here’s hoping the trailer doesn’t lie in this respect.

I’m also delighted that Patty Jenkins has been given the chance to write the story and screenplay, not just direct. Here’s hoping she can make 1980s more interesting and less cringe-worthy than when I went through it!

According to IMBD, WW1984 is now set to release October 02, 2020. We’ll see whether the pandemic eats up this premier, too…

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Living Vicariously Through Social Media: India-flavored Wonder Woman Cosplay

Isn’t this Wonder Woman cosplay by Deepika Mutyala A-MAZING?!

Deepika Mutyala Wonder Woman Cosplay1

Deepika Mutyala Wonder Woman Cosplay2

Deepika Mutyala Wonder Woman Cosplay3

She’s also posted a behind-the-scenes video on YouTube looking at some aspects of making the costume and the accompanying video; head there if interested.

I can’t believe I haven’t run into this before…! However that happened, I’m glad I did finally see it. What a fantastic team effort.

Images: unknown, found via Afua Richarsson on Twitter.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Second and Last Black Widow Trailer

Under two months to go to the Black Widow movie, and we have a second trailer.

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow | Final Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

There are a few more clues of the Taskmaster character. He apparently has taken over the Red Room and somehow brainwashed / controlled a number (a class?) of Widows. Nat is shown connecting with her first found family, with some amusingly (and painfully) familiar bickering at the dining table. Since trailers always lie, I’m hesitant to call the writing good on the basis of what we’ve seen so far, but I’m cautiosly optimistic. Just, please, let it not be utter crap (like so many female-lead superhero movies of yore have been).

Otherwise, from the filming or type of action shown, somehow I get a similar wibe as Winter Soldier. As that’s one of my favorite MCU stories, this is a good thing. 🙂 Also, I’ll be glad to see northern European neoclassical cityscapes; it reminds me of home.

Black Widow opens May 01, 2020.

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Black Widow Special Look Trailer

The Black Widow movie is released in just under two and a half months, and a special look trailer is out.

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow | Special Look by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

We see more action, but still relatively few plot points are added to the first trailer: for example, the character I assume to be the Taskmaster remains officially unnamed in the clip. We do hear that a new class (a “vault”) of widows has been trained, which has lots of spin-off potential.

What I really enjoy the most, though, is that we see at least three women being pals (well, for certain values of pals at least) and kicking ass while at it. Sure, some of the stunts look a bit ludicrous, but show me a superhero movie that doesn’t have overdone action in it. The point is, women get to do it, too, and not just the lone Smurfette pasted in to flash cleavage. These women—like the other characters in the story—are highly trained and they are finally allowed to act it. Fucking finally!

Leverage Sophie It Is On

Black Widow opens May 01, 2020.

Image: screencap from the tv series Leverage (“The Office Job”, season 4 / episode 12) via Oui, Mais Non (insertusernameici) on Tumblr

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