Culture on My Mind – Disney Investor’s Call 2020

Culture on My Mind
December 18, 2020

This week, I’m thinking Disney.

It’s been a weekend since the Disney Investor’s Call, but it’s taken a few days to parse all of the news from the four-hour long presentation on all things Disney, including Star Wars and Marvel Studios.

It was almost like a mini-D23 Expo to close out a troubling year. But it did come with news that the Mouse House was planning on expanding their streaming offerings within the next few years, including around 10 Marvel series, 10 Star Wars series, 15 additional series under the Disney banner (Disney animation, Pixar, and live action), and 15 completely new movies under those same banners.

There will be a price hike on Disney+ to cover it. The service is going to $7.99 a month in the United States, coming from the 86 million subscribers they picked up in the first thirteen months as well as anyone else who wants in on what the House of Mouse has in store.

Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra in ancient Asia, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world—it’s going to take trust as well.

This computer-animated adventure film stars Kelly Marie Tran as the titular Raya and Awkwafina as Sisu, the last dragon. It is directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, co-directed by Paul Briggs and John Ripa, produced by Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho, written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, and scored by James Newton Howard.

This film was originally set for a November 2020 theatrical release, but due to COVID-19 it was pushed back to late March 2021. The investor call revealed that it will be released to Disney+ on March 5th alongside a theatrical release. The streaming release will be on the Premium Access side of Disney+, meaning that it will require an additional fee to access. If it follows the Mulan model, it will likely become widely available around three months afterward.

Star Wars

Ahsoka LogoThe Star Wars news started with what might have been a no-brainer after this season of The Mandalorian.

There are a lot of dark clouds surrounding Rosario Dawson at the intersection of Star Wars fandom and the LBGTQ+ community, and she has a lot of work to do to regain trust given the allegations against her. I don’t discredit anything that the LBGTQ+ community has to say about it. Disney has made many strides forward in representation and diversity, but the casting of both Rosario Dawson and Gina Carano has told many people that there is still a long, long road to travel.

That said, given her status, I would have been very surprised if Disney had let Dawson go after a one-shot appearance as one of the most famous modern characters in the franchise.

There are not a lot of details surrounding the Ahsoka Tano limited live-action series, but Dave Filoni is slated as showrunner. Which, of course he is, because she is his creation.

I am excited about this for many reasons. I’ve loved Ahsoka since her premiere in 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, even if my fellow fans were not. Trust me, despite what franchise detractors claim now, they were certainly not fans of her twelve years ago. But in that time, she has expanded the philosophy of the Force beyond the Skywalker films, and has been an avatar for Dave Filoni to take the reins of the Star Wars universe after literally studying at the feet of George Lucas for the animated series that followed the 2008 film.

I just wish someone else was in the lead acting role, y’know?

Rangers of the New Republic Logo

The Ahsoka series is apparently going hand-in-hand with Star Wars: Rangers of the New Republic, a live-action series from executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni that will intersect with future stories and culminate into a climactic story event.

Whatever that means, anyway. I’m guessing that either we’ll get some clues as The Mandalorian wraps its second season, or maybe we already have with that golden badge that Cara Dune received from the New Republic.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Logo

Last August, Lucasfilm and Disney announced that Ewan McGregor was returning to his prequel trilogy role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in a series set on the Tatooine dunes. We found out from the call that the series will take place approximately ten years before A New Hope, or effectively halfway into his self-imposed exile after Revenge of the Sith. The series will be helmed by Deborah Chow, who directed in season one of The Mandalorian.

The big news here is that Hayden Christensen is returning to the role of Darth Vader for the series. It’s only been relatively recently that Christensen has warmed up to Star Wars fans after the fire and venom they flung at him after the prequels. Seriously, if you want to see how bad some supposed fans can be, read up on the troubles that Jake Lloyd, Ahmed Best, and Hayden Christensen have had in light of the nastiness of fan letters.

It’s not clear if Christensen will be in flashbacks or in the Vader suit, but I’m eager to see how the story goes because I loved Ewan McGregor’s interpretation of Kenobi.

After that, they talked about the next feature film.

Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984 will be directing a Rogue Squadron film.

Coming to theaters in December 2023, this film will follow the next generation of starfighter pilots in the Star Wars universe. It also fulfills a dream since Patty Jenkins, the daughter of a fighter pilot, has always wanted to make a fighter pilot movie. She’s also a Star Wars fan. It’s a match made in heaven.

We’re also getting a film directed by Mandalorian and Marvel alum Taika Waititi, but no details are available.

Star Wars logo bundleFinally, we have a last bundle of television series.

Lando Calrissian’s getting a show, but we have no idea if it’s Billy Dee Williams, Donald Glover, or another actor in the svelte capes.

The Cassian Andor (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) series is finally being talked about. The Tony Gilroy spy thriller will star Diego Luna as Cassian Andor with Stellan Skarsgard, Adria Arjona, Fiona Shaw, Denise Gough, Kyle Soller, and Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma.

Leslye Headland, Emmy Award-nominated creator of Russian Doll, is in charge of a Dark Side mystery-thriller called The Acolyte, which is set in the final days of the High Republic era. That’s well before The Phantom Menace.

Star Wars: Visions will present ten short films in an anthology from the world’s best anime creators.

A Droid Story will take us on an epic journey with a new hero guided by R2-D2 and C-3PO.

And, last but not least, The Bad Batch will continue the Clone Wars story with the elite and experimental clones introduced in The Clone Wars: Season Seven as they navigate the turbulent times just after the fall of the Republic. This one might be the hardest for me to watch since I’m not a fan of the clones who executed Order 66. It all depends on what happened to the Bad Batch as Palpatine gave the order and what happens to them afterward.

I have seen people complain already that it’s too much, too soon. First, this is a plan for years, not months. Second, everything but Rogue Squadron and Taika Waititi’s film will be behind a paywall so you need to pay to play. Third, this is nothing compared to Marvel Studios.

Marvel Studios

The investor call brought the final trailer for WandaVision, a series dealing with Wanda Maximoff, Vision, the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, and the dawn of Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It premieres in January.

The series will also include Teyonah Parris as a grown-up Monica Rambeau (Captain Marvel), Kat Denning as Darcy Lewis (Thor and Thor: The Dark World), and Randall Park as FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Ant-Man and the Wasp).

We also got a first look at The Falcon and the Winter Solider, a post-Avengers: Endgame and post-Spider-Man: Far From Home series with the new Captain America (played by Anthony Mackie) and Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier as they take on Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl, Captain America: Civil War).

They briefly addressed Chadwick Boseman and the Black Panther legacy: Black Panther 2 is definitely happening with Ryan Coogler back at the helm, but they will not recast the role of T’Challa. I’m still pulling for Letitia Wright’s Shuri to become the new Queen of Wakanda.

Disney also announced a few new surprise titles for Phase Four.

Marvel logo bundle

Secret Invasion will star Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury as he battles a (ahem) secret invasion of Skrulls with shapeshifting Skrull ally Talos (Captain MarvelSpider-Man: Far From Home). This is probably going to be loosely based on the comics event of the same name.

Ironheart stars Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, a young black girl from inner city Chicago who reverse engineers Tony Stark’s armor to become the protector of her neighborhood. I am definitely onboard for this.

Don Cheadle will return as War Machine/James Rhodes in Armor Wars as Marvel explores what happens when Iron Man tech falls into the wrong hands. We got a taste of that in Iron Man 2.

We’ll also get a “live action holiday special” with the Guardians of the Galaxy cast (written and directed by James Gunn) and a series of shorts featuring new characters in the Marvel universe via I am Groot.

F4Ready for another surprise? Just over a year after regaining the rights to Marvel’s First Family, director Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and the third Spider-Man MCU film) will be in charge of Fantastic Four.

The Fantastic Four have been notoriously difficult to capture on film, but with Watts in charge, I’m expecting about the same level of levity and charm as he’s shown through the two Spider-Man films so far.

We got a first look at What If…?, which explores stories of alternate Marvel Cinematic Universes where one little thing changed the whole world. What if Peggy Carter was the super soldier instead of Steve Rogers? What if T’Challa was taken by Yondu, thus becoming Star Lord? What if…?

There’s also a first look at Loki, a series that looks like a ton of multiverse-bending madness. It also features Atlanta’s famous Marriott Marquis hotel. I’d know those elevators anywhere.

Oh, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania! Peyton Reed is returning to direct, Kathryn Newton is taking over the role of Cassie Lang, and Jonathan Majors is Kang the Conqueror.

Is that enough? Of course not. Marvel still has Black Widow on May 7th, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on July 9th, The Eternals on November 5th, and the third MCU Spider-Man film on December 17th.

Thor: Love and Thunder (enter Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (which just announced newcomer Xochitl Gomez to portray America Chavez!), the Black Panther sequel, the Captain Marvel sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and a Blade movie are still in the wings for 2022 and beyond.

We also have Hawkeye (Hailee Steinfeld is Kate Bishop), Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani is Kamala Khan), She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany in the title role with Tim Roth and Mark Ruffalo returning as Abomination and Hulk), and Moon Knight being developed for Disney+.

And… breathe.

Disney Live-Action

Love ’em or hate ’em, Disney’s still revamping their back catalog in live-action/computer animated form. However, given the tumult presented by COVID-19 on the motion picture industry, the upcoming remakes of Peter Pan and Pinocchio will join Lady and the Tramp and Mulan on Disney+ instead of theaters.

Peter Pan and Wendy will star newcomer Ever Anderson (the daughter of Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson, who also plays a young Natasha Romanoff in Black Widow) and Alexander Moloney. Yara Shahidi will play Tinker Bell and Jude Law will play Captain Hook.

Yes, a black Tinker Bell. Prepare yourself for a whole new crop of close-minded bovine excrement from that particular sector of the internet.

Pinocchio will star Tom Hanks as Geppetto and Alan Cumming as Honest John, with Robert Zemeckis at the helm. Tom Hanks is a universal treasure, so I’m excited to see what he does with this.

Jungle Cruise and The Little Mermaid will still be released in theaters, and we’re also getting sequels to Enchanted and Hocus Pocus. I get the former, but I’m hesitant about the latter.

Disney Animation

On the success of the DuckTales reboot, Disney is breathing new life into Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, this time in the hybrid live-action/computer generated format. John Mulaney and Andy Samberg are the chipmunk brothers in a world where cartoons live side-by-side with humans. So, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? style?

Lin-Manuel Miranda is coming back to Disney animation with Encanto, a new animated film set in Colombia dealing with “the dangerously wonderful chaos of family” combined with elements of magic. Encanto will be the studio’s 60th animated feature film.

Princess Tiana (The Princess and the Frog) and Moana will be returning in their own respective musical animated series, and Baymax (Big Hero 6) and the characters of Zootopia will also be getting their own shows. Disney also announced that they’re teaming up with the Pan-African entertainment company Kugali to develop a science fiction animated series called Iwájú, which showcases a gorgeous, Afro-futuristic world.

We’re also getting another crack at A Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this time as a 3D computer animated series. Not my cup of tea exactly, but it will probably work for the fans. Blue Sky Studios is working on an animated sequel to Night at the Museum, which was a fun and chaotic trilogy.

Pixar also has some dishes for the table: We also get a Buzz Lightyear origin story and a Cars series. I’m skeptical about both of those, but they’re still working on feature films too, including Luca and Turning Red.

Lucasfilm

Willow LogoLucasfilm also chimed in with news of a fifth Indiana Jones film with Harrison Ford back in the fedora, James Mangold in the driver’s seat, and a target date of July 2022.

They added a Willow television series to the mix, including Warwick Davis returning as the great sorcerer Willow Ufgood in a story set decades after the 1988 Ron Howard film.

Finally, Lucasfilm will be adapting Tomi Adeyemi’s New York Times bestselling novel Children of Blood & Bone, which features a young African girl in a coming-of-age adventure to restore magic to her forsaken people, the Maji.

Untitled Alien Series

FX Alien LogoTo wrap this all up, the call also contained news of a television series coming to Hulu via FX based on the Alien film series.

Noah Hawley, the writer and producer known from his work on Fargo and Legion, has been tapped to run this series. Rumors abound that Ridley Scott, director of 1979’s Alien and sequels Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, is being courted as executive producer.

All we have so far is that this series will take place on Earth, a first in the franchise if you ignore the two Alien vs. Predator films. And, honestly, most people do.


That’s a lot to cover, but it’s also a bright future for Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney/Fox properties. Keep an eye out because the next few years are going to be packed.

I know I’m excited. If my social media feeds are any indication, I’m not the only one.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Quarantine Con, Episodes IX and X

Culture on My Mind
June 26, 2020

 

This week’s “can’t let it go” is yet another panel from the Classic Track Irregulars!

Well, really, two panels. And a bonus feature.

Still broadcasting from their respective socially distant quarantine bunkers, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track panelists have returned. First, the panelists put their suits back on and swear under oath that Krull, Lost in Space, Doom, and Starship Troopers are okay to watch and enjoy. This week’s avocados at law are Sherman Burris, Kevin Eldridge, and Darin Bush.

As an added bonus feature, Classics Track co-directors Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel offer a blooper reel of sorts with the lost thirteen minutes from a crossed wire. This is what happens when you think you’re streaming live to Facebook, but the panel is broadcasting to YouTube instead.

Here are thirteen minutes of fun that were had when the panel thought everyone was watching.

The tenth entry in Quarantine Con is a celebration. It was Joe Crowe’s birthday, so Gary Mitchel and Dr. Scott Viguie arranged an Ask Me Anything party where the Classics Track’s fans could ask Joe… well… anything.

There’s even a surprise phone call from Joe’s mom! “Lord have mercy,” she says.

That’s a lot of content for a week, but if there’s one thing that a track dedicated to the entirety of science fiction media greater than ten years old understands, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

They have a lot more fun discussions planned in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to the YouTube channel and the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook.

 

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Quarantine Con, Episode VIII

Culture on My Mind
June 12, 2020

 

This week’s “can’t let it go” is yet another panel from the Classic Track Irregulars!

Broadcasting from their respective socially distant quarantine bunkers, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track panelists have returned to talk about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But, not the Marvel Cinematic Universe that you know. Rather, the one that might have been.

Classics Track co-directors Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel are joined by Van Allen Plexico and Darin Bush to talk about what would have happened if we got the MCU in the 1970s!

As before, Joe and Gary will be hosting more of these, so stay tuned to the YouTube channel and the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook.

 

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Dragon Con 2019

Dragon Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – August 29 through September 2, 2019

Logo_no_background

Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me, and a family reunion of sorts as I catch up with dear friends from around the world. This year will be my eleventh time attending and my fourth year as an attending professional. If you plan to be there, these are the places where you will be able to find me over Labor Day weekend.

I have fifteen scheduled program events in five days, and I’m sure more will pop up over the course of the con. Come find me and say hi!

The convention app is available now – look for Dragon Con by Core-apps in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store – and contains the current schedule of events. The list of confirmed guests, performers, artists, and attending professionals is available on the official Dragon Con site.

Dragon Con itself takes place in downtown Atlanta spanning five hotels (Sheraton Atlanta, Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and Westin Peachtree Plaza) and the AmericasMart Atlanta exhibition center. The convention draws approximately 70,000 to 80,000 attendees annually and showcases one of the city’s most popular parades on Saturday morning at 10am.

Dragon Con prides itself on contributions to charity and the community. You can find more information about those efforts on their webpage. Each year, the convention partners with a local charity organization and this year’s partner is the Atlanta Affiliate of the American Heart Association. It’s a personal selection for the convention and the donations are in honor of long-time Comics Director Thom Trainor, who lost his battle with heart disease in July of 2018. Dragon Con will match all donations made this year up to $100,000.

If you’re new to the convention, consider stopping by the Dragon Con Newbies group on Facebook. It is run by Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony, and me, and is an in-depth community resource for information about this massive (and sometimes overwhelming) event. Memberships (tickets) for this year’s convention are also still available.

If you want a printable copy of my schedule, I have a convenient PDF.

Note: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.
Revision History:

    • Rev 0 – 23 Aug 2019: Initial post.

I will be around starting Wednesday. Pretty much the standards of wandering the hotels, picking up my Hard Rock Dragon Con gear, and catching up with some friends.

1:00p-5:00p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours (4 hours)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to get a ‘lay of the land’ and find your way around the hotels? Did you know there’s a food court? Meet others new to Dragon Con and get a tour with some veteran con-goers. Groups leave every 30 minutes. Last tours will leave approximately 4pm.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

5:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Q&A (1 hour)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share tips and tricks.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

Other Events of Interest
10:00p-12:00a: The ESO Network 2019 DragonCon Meet & Greet (2 hours)
Westin, Bar 210
Hosted by the ESO Network

10:00a: Dragon Con Newbies 101 (1 hour)
Main Programming
Hyatt, Regency V
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share their tip and tricks for making your experience an awesome one.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

2:30p: Captain Marvel: Blast from the Past (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
From her beginnings as a female foil to her own place in the MCU as a pre-eminent powerhouse, we’ll consider just how Carol Danvers and her story work in the MCU and her future as a stand-alone hero and Avenger.
Panelists include: Bethany Kesler, Casi Hamilton, Jenna Johnson, Kelley Harkins

5:30p: New Series Doctor Who (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Crystal Ballroom
With Series 11 over, this panel discusses what Chibnall did in his inaugural series as show-runner & the impact of the Doctor & her companions.
Panelists include: Angela Hartley, Robert Bowen, Allison Lane, JM Tuffley, Robert Lloyd

7:00p: Battlestar Galactica Anniversary Panel: The End…? (1 hour)
Military SciFi Media
Westin, Chastain DE
It’s the 15th anniversary of the start, and the 10th anniversary of the end of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica…are we ready to talk about it? What is the verdict? Where might a future reboot of BSG take us?
Panelists include: Andrew E.C. Gaska, Kevin R. Grazier, Van Allen Plexico

8:30p: Classic Sci-Fi Charity Theater: Mac and Me (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Witness the 1988 kid-meets-alien movie that totally was not an, um, homage to E.T. It’s this year’s movie watch for charity — you have to donate to the Dragon Con charity TO GET OUT.
Panelists include: Darin Bush, Gary Mitchel, Joe Crowe, Chris Cummins

Other Events of Interest
11:30a-12:30p: David Tennant (1 hour)
Marriott, Atrium Ballroom

10:00a: Classic Sci-Fi Roll-a-Panel: Batman’s 80th Anniversary
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We can’t possibly cover all Batman movies & TV shows & cartoons in one panel. So we’re doing TWENTY in one hour, with audience members choosing the Bat-topics on our one-of-a-kind Bat-d20 (we auction it for charity at the end of the panel!)
Panelists include: The All-Star line-up from the American Science Fiction Classics Track

1:00p: Earth Station Who Presents: Deconstructing Doctor Who (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
What are the essential elements of one of the most popular science fiction series for over 50 years? The Earth Station Who crew lead an in-depth discussion on the what, why, and how of Who.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Mary Ogle, Tara Newman

5:30p: Farscape Anniversary Fan Panel (1 hour)
Military SciFi Media
Westin, Chastain DE
Farscape was a monumental show for its weaving together of intricate stories, compelling characters, practical effects in puppetry, and strong visual storytelling. Come aboard Moya as we look back on 20 years of this fan favorite.
Panelists include: Amy J. Murphy, Amanda, James Henson

Other Events of Interest
12:00p: Doctor Who Trio
Epic Photos

2:30p-3:30p: David Tennant (1 hour)
Marriott, Atrium Ballroom

11:30a: Bond, James Bond 007, Anniversary Edition (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
The Bond Film Franchises has a number of anniversaries this year including the 50th Anniversary of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” the 40th of “Moonraker,” the 30th of “License to Kill,” and the 20th of “World is Not Enough.” This panel discusses these films and more.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, John L Flynn, Bob Nygaard, Caro McCully

4:00p: The Amazing Sci-Fi Worlds of Steven Spielberg (1 hour)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Our tribute to the creator who took us from sharks to dinosaurs to flying bikes to the Temple of Doom and back.
Panelists include: Michael D. French, Sue Kisenwether, Jessa Phillips, Jonathan Williams, James Palmer, JC De La Torre

10:00p: UHF: 30-Year Anniversary Sponsored by Spatula City (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
See the epic Weird Al Yankovic movie — OR YOU GET THE FIREHOSE. Bring your own spatulas for a celebration where we don’t need no stinking badgers.
Panelists include: Kevin Eldridge, Shaun Rosado, Kevin Eldridge, Noel Wood, Beth Van Dusen, John Hudgens

Other Events of Interest
5:30p-6:30p: Catherine Tate (1 hour)
Epic, Imperial Ballroom

7:00p-8:00p: RetroBlasting Presents the Vehicles that Drove the 80s (1 hour)
Marriott, M103-M105

11:30a: Classic Sci-Fi Roll-A-Panel: 1979 & 1999
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We have too many movies we want to celebrate and panels we want to have– so we’re doing 20 of them in one hour! It’s a lightning round crowd participation melee of geekiness that’s bigger than the Deep Blue Sea! This year we’re talking about sci-fi movies from 1979, and 10 movies from 1999, from Black Hole to Wild Wild West — Audience members roll a giant customized d20 to choose which movie we discuss, and then at the end of the panel, we auction the d20 off for Dragon Con’s charity.
Panelists include: The All-Star line-up from the American Science Fiction Classics Track

2:30p: Endgame: MCU (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
For the final panel of the con, we’ll look at the final film of this part of the MCU. There was a lot of fan love, and some crazy timey wimey stuff, and the sad loss of some of our favorites.
Panelists include: Bethany Kesler, Lisa Manifold, Alison Sky Richards, Jenna Johnson

Debrief: Atlanta Comic Con 2019

Debrief: Atlanta Comic Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – July 12-14, 2019

 

 

Saturday night’s all right for geeking out! Atlanta Comic Con 2019 has come and gone and this year was a blast. My involvement was limited to the panels in one day, but it was a fun day to be there.

After a trip on MARTA and a short walk, everything started with a visit to DougPool7 who was lounging on a beach chair by the ticket lines. I have seen a lot of Deadpool cosplays over the years, but this one really made me laugh.

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Deadpool on Vacation! #AtlantaComicCon

A post shared by Michael Falkner (@womprat99) on

You can find some more of his vacation antics on his YouTube channel.

Most of my time and all of my panels for the day involved a Drop of Mikes, which you may remember after the Council of Michaels that we assembled at Dragon Con 2018. The first panel of the day was So You Want to Start a Podcast with Mike Faber and Michael “Howdy” Gordon.

We had a great discussion with the audience as we talked about how to start a podcast, why you’d want to in the first place, and the basics of Podcasting 101. Once again, I promoted Tee Morris and his fantastic reference book Podcasting for Dummies. We also fielded a simple question after mentioning that, in general, no one is going to get rich and famous as a podcaster: “Why bother?”

We were pretty unanimous with the answer: Podcasting is a hobby and a labor of love, and as long as it remains fun, it’s still a worthy pursuit.

All in all, the audience was content with our advice. We fielded a few questions and offered a few more tidbits after the panel was over, and then we joined up with Michael Bailey to walk the con floor for a bit.

The four of us reconvened for The MCU: What Now?, our panel on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We had a wonderful turnout for the panel, even after half a row left when we told them that we would be discussing the most recent Spider-Man film. It’s entirely fair that they left, but we knew that couldn’t have an authentic discussion about the future of Marvel in film without including the twists and turns in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

This panel was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a while. The questions were intelligent and engaging, especially from the kids in a pretty diverse audience. There was also a spirited discussion about whether or not Thanos could wield Mjolnir with was quite enlightening. They actually changed my mind after the panel.

From this point, we bid the Fabers adieu and settled in for the afternoon and evening. Mike Gordon, Michael Bailey, and I grabbed some lunch, caught up on all the events since the last time we had been together, and toured the show floor until it closed at 7pm. After that, we settled on a bench in the lobby area and waited for our 10:30pm panel.

It was fun to watch the cosplayers and chat about all things geek – Bailey’s expertise on all-things comics is helpful in filling the gaps in my knowledge – but we were certainly baffled about scheduling a Batman retrospective panel so late in the night.

Regardless, after the awesomeness that was this Black Adam cosplayer, it was time for Holy Pop Culture: Batman at 80.

The Batman panel was pretty fun. Based on the time, we were worried about having an audience, but fifteen diehard Bat-fans (and one dude who wanted a relatively quiet place to catch some shuteye) joined in the fun. Michael Bailey led the discussion from Batman’s origins in Detective Comics through his evolution and rise over the decades to the character’s unfathomable popularity today.

After that, it was time to head home.

I’d like to thank the staff at Atlanta Comic Con for their hospitality and hard work. I’m definitely looking forward to visiting (and hopefully participating) again in 2020. I also extend a huge thanks to the Michaels – Faber, Gordon, and Bailey – for a great day of camaraderie and geeky fun.

Atlanta Comic Con 2019

 

Atlanta Comic Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – July 12-14, 2019

 

 

I will be at Atlanta Comic Con this year! I have three panels on Saturday, so come find me and say hi!

 

The convention schedule is available now. The list of confirmed guests, performers, and artists is available on the official site.

Atlanta Comic Con takes place in downtown Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Note: All schedules are tentative until the convention ends.

 

Saturday 11:00a – So You Want to Start a Podcast (1 hour)
Room C109
Have you wanted to start a podcast, Or do you have one and just want to talk shop? Well this is the place that will talk about how to create a show, what kind of equipment you will need to start, and where to post your new shows. In this Q&A session we will hope to point you in the right direction.

Saturday 1:30p – The MCU: What Now? (1 hour)
Room C102
The Marvel Universe has been on the big screen now for over 10 successful years, but last year it all came crashing to a halt with a snap of a finger. Now one year later we have been introduced to Captain Marvel and have seen the results of Avengers Endgame, but what’s next? Join the crew from the Earth Station One Podcast as we talk about some possibilities for new directions for existing heroes and some new ones on the horizon. We will be recording this panel live for a future episode of our podcast.

Saturday 10:00p – Holy Pop Culture: Batman at 80 (1 hour)
Room C110
Batman turns 80 this year. Join us as we spend an hour talking about his evolution over eight decades as well as his influence on and presence in popular culture. Holy puns will be kept to a minimum.

 

 

 

Cleaning Up After the Storm: Reflections on Black Widow in the Age of Ultron

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This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron

 

Natasha Romanoff, better known as Black Widow, is a strong female character and role model in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

Throughout the movies so far, she has held her own as an agent of SHIELD and as an Avenger. She has capably stopped threats both on a planetary and galactic scale, ranging from Justin Hammer’s robot army and HYDRA to Loki and the Chitauri. In the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron, her status remains unchanged.

Both critics and audiences have responded phenomenally to the newest installment in the record-breaking franchise, but complaints have still arisen about how Black Widow has been treated by marketing and the film itself. Chief among those grievances is the phenomenon of “Mommy Widow,” a claim that writers and directors are betraying the character by spotlighting her maternal instincts.

In the film, Romanoff and Bruce Banner (human alter-ego to the Incredible Hulk) have developed a relationship. During a peaceful interlude at Hawkeye’s pastoral farmhouse, Romanoff and Banner are discussing their future together, and Banner laments that they can’t have the life that the archer does: a happy nuclear family. The roadblock, he claims, is the Hulk, which is always one angry moment away and, in all likelihood, is now a genetic curse.

To defend her position – a woman who is proactively seeking companionship instead of being the lustful target of the male gaze – Romanoff shares the details of the backstory the audience discovered minutes before thanks to the induced hallucinations of the Scarlet Witch’s mental sorcery.

Natasha became the assassin she is today in a place called the Red Room. In the flashback, we see that her training was intense (to say the least), and that part of that training was taking human life. Romanoff’s graduation ceremony was her own mutilation.

“You know what my final test was in the Red Room? They sterilized me, said it was one less thing to worry about. You think you’re the only monster on the team?”

Romanoff wasn’t calling herself a monster because she couldn’t have children. She simply wasn’t. The agency behind the Red Room, presumably the KGB, cut her apart in an effort to create the perfect killing machine. As seen in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, Romanoff is trained to use her sexual allure as a weapon. One can assume that this makes KGB assassins similar to secret agents like James Bond, a man who is famous for having sex in every one of his nearly 25 films just to get to the target.

This is the origin of all that “red in the ledger” that Widow wants to erase. She’s not lamenting the loss of her motherhood, but rather the lack of free agency that chains her to her work. She considers herself a monster that was created the moment her freedom was taken away.

The “Mommy Widow” argument continues in a discussion of her role on the team. In Age of Ultron, she’s racing to the rescue and picks up Captain America’s discarded shield, stating, “I’m always picking up after you boys.”

That snarky line is more of a window to her role on the team than it seems. Since her debut in Iron Man 2, Romanoff has been saving the Avengers or delivering a critical hit in every film. In Iron Man 2, she pretty much single-handedly took out Justin Hammer’s guards and helped to shut down his robot army. In The Avengers, she brought Hawkeye back from his Loki-induced stupor and wielded the scepter to shut the Chitauri portal. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she literally guided Captain America to not only avoid capture by Hydra but was also instrumental in stopping their genocidal plan. She is, in every sense of the phrase, always picking up after the team. She’s the deal closer.

From the very beginning, Romanoff and Coulson have been the guardians of the Avenger Initiative. They were the front line, courting and babysitting Tony Stark, pushing the right buttons to incorporate Banner, investigating Thor’s arrival, and integrating Captain Rogers to the current era. In essence, they were the parents of the movement, always working for and reporting directly back to Fury. That is a huge amount of development for two characters who started out as secondary non-solo-film roles. They may not have major leading roles, but they are the heart of this universe, and continue to be in their respective roles as team leaders in different branches of SHIELD.

Part of that character development comes back to the relationship with Banner, a pairing that critics claim is Mommy Widow’s arrival at motherhood with a bouncing baby Hulk to nurture.

In The Avengers, it was plainly obvious that Romanoff had only met Banner on paper. She respected the man and outright feared the power of The Other Guy. She set up a typical martial sting operation, complete with a strike team, to take Banner down if necessary. Admittedly, that’s a 180-degree spin from where they stand in Age of Ultron.

However, the film clearly establishes that the Avengers haven’t just been sitting around waiting for the next movie premiere since we saw them last. They explicitly mention that it has been a long hunt for Loki’s scepter, and that means that the team has been working together for a significant time off-screen. The Avengers have developed a great sense of teamwork, as evidenced in the film’s opening gambit at the Hydra base, as well as a way to tame the Hulk when they need him to “Code Green” against a threat.

This wasn’t the only development that occurred off-screen: Stark built more suits after he “Clean Slated” his entire line in Iron Man 3, and overcame his PTSD from the Battle of New York; Rogers and Stark developed a new uniform for the captain, including a short-range retrieval system for the iconic shield; Stark Industries built at least one new model Quinjet (since SHIELD no longer has the capability) and a series of automated armor-bots; the world has come to resent the Avengers and the havoc they wreak; and Hawkeye had a family.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is so vibrant and alive that it continues to breathe and evolve even though the cameras are off.

The fact that this team picked Romanoff, the character who feared the Hulk the most, to be his handler speaks volumes about her character and role on the team. It is reasonable that the Romanoff/Banner relationship has grown beyond Widow being petrified of the Big Guy because their lives have continued between the films. That makes Widow more than just a swooning love interest with mommy issues and even more than just an ass-kicking blunt instrument to deploy in battle.

Romanoff is three-dimensional, and therefore a truly strong, living and breathing female character instead of the typical comic book trope of a pair of absurdly large walking breasts in spandex waiting for a fridge to fall into.

Even without a solo film outing (which is no excuse for her not to have one), Natasha Romanoff’s status as a strong female character and respectable role model in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe remains intact and promises to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

 

 

Cross-published to RevolutionSF on May 13, 2015