Mighty Marvel Monday: Toy Companies, Lady Villains, and the MCU’s TV Problem
It’s Monday, which means it’s another Mighty Marvel Monday.
We start off this week with a round up of the Marvel-icious content published on WWAC this past week. First up, Funko Fanatic Wendy Browne interviewed Funko Marketing Manager Hilary Gray about their Marvel Collector Corps boxes. I’m also proud to say that one of my other WWAC projects, Comics Academe, put out part two of Nancee Reeves’ series on teaching Ms. Marvel at a large southern public university.
WWAC also published two articles addressing Asian characters (or lack thereof) in Marvel’s media. In The Misrepresentation of Daredevil’s Elektra, Ardo Omer looks at the characterization of Elektra as a sociopath, and its implications. In New Mutants Movie: Where’s the Karma? new contributor Chloe MacPherson questioned the absence of Xi’an Coy Manh, also known as Karma, in the context of Marvel’s very public mistakes and #whitewashedOUT.
So first up–some casting news! Thor: Ragnarok is shaping up to have another amazing cast. I already mentioned Tessa Thompson’s inclusion as Thor’s new love interest, but this past week she was confirmed as Valkyrie. Marvel also announced Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban (MY LOVE!), confirmed Mark Ruffalo’s involvement as the Hulk, and, most amazingly of all, Cate Blanchett as Hela (based off of Hel in Norse mythology), a mystical supervillain and daughter of Loki (timelines what).
I don’t know much about Hela, but I do know she’s had some truly horrible costumes and storylines in the past (Like the Ultimate-verse storyline where she blackmails Thor into having sex with her so she can have a son. Gross.)
Let’s hope that Blanchett taking on the role reinvigorates the goddess with the respect (and clothing) that is her due.
The announcement of Cate Blanchett as the main villain is suspiciously timely, considering the biggest story this week for Marvel was probably the surprising reveal by Iron Man 3 writer Shane Black that the original villain for the movie was supposed to have been a woman–and was possibly Rebecca Hall’s character Maya Hansen, who, he explained, had her role reduced significantly in other drafts:
All I’ll say is this, on the record: There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem. Which is that we had a female character who was the villain in the draft. We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female. … So, we had to change the entire script because of toy making. Now, that’s not Feige. That’s Marvel corporate, but now you don’t have that problem anymore.
This is hardly the first time that Marvel’s (and Disney’s) toy division’s outdated ideas about what toys little boys and little girls will buy (or what toys their parents will buy). The #WheresRey campaign was only the most recent of many on the part of parents asking for more toys for their daughters–and their sons. Even Mark Ruffalo publicly spoke out on the issue, tweeting:
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) April 29, 2015
Stephen Colbert called attention to the issue recently on The Late Show. “The Marvel Cinemeatic Universe is a bit of a sausage fest,” he complained. He also pointed out the irony of the no-girls-allowed attitude of the toy execs, quipping that, “It makes sense. Girls don’t play with dolls.”
A few days later, Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter appeared on Colbert’s show, and he brought up the issue–and lack of Jessica Jones toys–with her, to Ritter’s outrage. “Girls can sell toys!” she exclaimed in the clip below. When Colbert asked her if there was a Jessica Jones toy (there isn’t, sadly), she replied, “I don’t know if there is yet, but there should be, and I bet it would sell huge. And I’m going to make some phone calls after this.”
But until the Jessica Jones doll is available, Ritter invites us to “Just get a Barbie, put on some cool jeans with rips, some boots, and a motorcycle jacket, and there you go.” Now, if you know anything about WWAC, you know that we love Barbie. I put out a general call for a Jessica Jones Barbie to the WWAC community, but I’m putting it out to you at large as well. I want to see your Jessica Jones Barbies! Also, I will personally knit Barbie-sized Jessica Jones scarves for every submission.
It’s timely that Colbert reminds us how Jessica Jones is important considering the sausage fest that is the MCU, but, as many would point out–being part of Marvel’s TV universe, which is supposed to be part of the MCU (as opposed to DC’s policy of separation, where the TV shows have nothing to do with the DC movies, for better and worse), doesn’t mean as much as people might think. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet alluded to Marvel’s disinterest in the show and her character at Wizard World Des Moines last weekend.
During a Q&A session, Bennet was asked about the absence of certain Avengers on the show, which has had appearances by Samuel L. Jackson and Jaimie Alexander in the past, to which she replied:
I don’t know. People who make movies for Marvel, why don’t you acknowledge what happens on our show? Why don’t you guys go ask them that? Cause they don’t seem to care!
During the same Q&A, Bennet was also asked if she’d like to appear in the MCU, which was when she replied:
The Marvel Cinematic Universe loves to pretend that everything is connected, but then they don’t acknowledge our show at all. So, I would love to do that, but they don’t seem to keen on that idea.
The fact that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is growing even more apart from the MCU is disappointing to many fans, including myself, who had initially signed on to the show’s premise as being supplemental to the MCU. But with this past season introducing Inhumans, Hive, the Kree, and ending with Life Model Decoys, it’s begun to feel as separate from the MCU as Supergirl is from Batman vs. Superman–but without the benefits.
It’s also ironic, since, as this recent Vox article points out, the MCU has begun to feel like a TV show and not a movie franchise. One of the fair criticisms of Captain America: Civil War is that you cannot go into this movie without having seen not just one but multiple other movies. I personally see this as a benefit–the interconnected, intertextual relationship between Marvel’s movies is one of their strengths. But this also comes at a price, and though the Russo Bros were better at handling the burden than Joss Whedon in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the question people should be asking Feige is whether this burden should exist at all.
It will be interesting to see how future Marvel directors answer this question. Ryan Coogler hinted at this recently in an interview when asked how Black Panther will fit in with the rest of the MCU (and the possibility of directing a film version of the Broadway musical Hamilton):
It’s a specific challenge. What Marvel’s doing, and what you see a lot of studios doing now that Marvel has done it so successfully, is making content that exists in a particular universe, where the characters tie in and crossover, and I think that’s a great creative challenge to me—to make this movie as personal as possible. It’s going to be my most personal movie to date, which is crazy to say, but it’s completely the case. I’m obsessed with this character and this story right now, and I think it’s going to be very unique and still fit into the overall narrative that they’re establishing. I grew up as a comic book fan, and the same things used to happen in the comic books. You’d have Wolverine’s books, and they’d be so much darker and more brutal than the X-Men books, but they’d still fit in when you open the pages of the X-Men book. It’s new to movies, but it’s not new to storytelling.
One of the bonuses of the Disney/Marvel relationship has been Tsum Tsums, and Marvel will be showing their appreciation with a new Marvel Tsum Tsum miniseries and a series of variant covers this August. We finally have some previews, and they’re all kinds of adorable. Check out the gallery below!