Category Archives: It’s All Connected
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected – Just a Kid from Brooklyn: Captain America, American Memories of World War II, and the MCU, Part II
In the first part of this essay, I briefly sketched the construction of American memories of World War II that began slightly before the war and continue into the 21st century. In many ways the war has become a defining part of American identity, and the dominant, triumphal memory narrative we have created about it serves to elevate American participation in the war almost to the level of the sacred, and certainly to the realm of the simple black and white, good v. evil duality that is much more comforting than any messy and contradictory reality might be. The character of Steve Rogers/Captain America is one of the more perfect cultural artifacts to illustrate this process of memory construction, and the ways in which counter-memories, which challenge the dominant narrative, inevitably influence the national mythology.
Warning: The following article contains justifications, backronyms, and head-canon. Reader discretion is advised.
The moment when the scales fell from my eyes was about midway in the first Iron Man (2008) film. Tony Stark has escaped his captors, the Ten Rings, and has returned home. Pepper Potts is approached by a well groomed civil servant type who’d like a few words with Tony Stark.
But here’s the thing. He introduced himself as Phil Coulson, agent of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. That was an ingenious acronym in a storytelling sense. By 2008 the word “homeland” had been abused so much that it would make anyone’s brain shut down. Okay, I picked it up, but for the majority of viewers it wouldn’t have meant anything.
Coulson leads a strike force against Obadiah Stane (that doesn’t turn out so well), and eventually he asks Pepper to just call them S.H.I.E.L.D. Then we get the post-credits sequence. Spoiler: Nick Fury shows up.
Follow me after the jump where we’ll take a closer look at S.H.I.E.L.D. through its ever-changing state in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected – Just a Kid from Brooklyn: Captain America, American Memories of World War II, and the MCU, Part I
Captain America is a symbol, and Steve Rogers is an ideal. The former is the manifestation of the best that the United States of America can be, and the latter is the exemplar of citizenship that creates it. Yet this iconic character was born in defiance, and is inextricably linked with the largest and most horrific conflict in the entirety of human history. World War II left between 70 and 85 million people dead, or somewhere between three and four percent of the world’s population at the time. European Jewry was all but eradicated by a systematic, industrialized genocide. The infrastructures and economies of Europe, the Soviet Union, Japan, China, and the Philippines (among others) were largely smashed. In Great Britain – one of the victor nations – food rationing continued until 1954, nine years after the war had ended. How then, did Captain America, the paragon of American humanist and egalitarian virtue, spring from such poisoned fields?
But then 2008 happened. Iron Man came out and walloped audiences at the end with an appearance by Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury and the introduction of the Avengers initiative. Rapid announcements of a series of Marvel movies came, and the concept of the Marvel Cinematic Universe began to take shape.
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: The Gold Rush – The Marvel Cinematic Universe Hits the Motherlode
There’s gold in them thar hills. Nuggets the size of your bulbous head. Great seams of it riven in the rock, opening up gleaming veins for the sun to bedazzle. Each one of those nuggets is a hero, and each hero is serious bank. Marvel’s got a sack full of nuggets, hell a whole damn trainload, all bound from the coast to amaze with their shinings at your local thee-ate-er and thousands more worldwide. And we all know money begets money, except when it doesn’t. Hell, many’s the time it doesn’t. But since the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man in 2008, there’s been a conscious plan to make the most successful pantheon of interconnected movies this planet has ever seen. And gosh goldarnit, that plan is working. I don’t even know why I’m talking like a snaggletoothed prospector from 1849, but it seems pretty clear. While DC’s been panning in the river, Marvel’s built the mine, and those cars just keep coming up with their golden freight. Not every movie’s a major claim, but together, sons and daughters, together they’re the motherlode.
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: Golden Glitter & An Underlying Darkness-The Legacy of Tony Stark In The MCU (Part 2)
Part one of Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: Golden Glitter & An Underlying Darkness-The Legacy of Tony Stark In The MCU took a close look at the similarities between father and son, Howard Stark and Tony Stark, including their personalities, business interests and shared legacies. At the same time, it laid the groundwork for the younger Stark’s role as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest purveyor of malice.
Tony Stark and his Stark Industries conglomerate create weapons of mass destruction. This is known.
Midway through the first Iron Man (2008) film, after being tortured and, after seeing his company’s products sold to terrorist organizations and used for evil purposes, Stark comes to a marked and important turning point in his life wherein he states: “I don’t want a body count to be our only legacy.” An altruistic statement, to be certain, by a man who’s bravado is only surpassed by his bank account. Still, it’s a significant distinction to make that, at this time, Stark truly sets out on the path to becoming heroic.
But in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, everything that Tony Stark creates for noble, upstanding and heroic purposes always gets twisted in ways that transform that sense of benevolence into objects of mankind’s destruction.
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: Golden Glitter & An Underlying Darkness-The Legacy of Tony Stark In The MCU (Part 1)
The main purveyors of superhero stories are, of course, the comic book publishers, large, medium and small. Marvel Comics, arguably the most globally successful of those creators, has birthed no fewer than a grandiose thirty-four films over the last decade and a half, with two more set to be released later this very calendar year. The most eagerly anticipated of those yet-to-be seen films must be Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), a film whose original garnered over $1.5 billion in box office receipts in 2012.
That’s a tidy sum for movie that had an approximate budget of $220 million. And that bottom line doesn’t include the lucrative franchise offerings of licensed toys, video games, magazines and all the ancillary products featuring the Marvel Comics characters of Captain America, the Hulk, Nick Fury and Thor.
Yes, everyone loves a superhero. And these days, everyone loves the character of Tony Stark, the superhero known around the globe as Iron Man.
Brilliantly played with zest and aplomb by actor Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark, the Iron Man, is known as the quick thinking, fast-talking, faster acting, mustachioed playboy with a golden ticket in the form of his parentage, as well as an all-important golden suit of high-tech armor.
But beyond his humorous quips, his intrinsic glamour and his numerous heroic deeds, there lays a dark lining to the legacy of everyone’s favourite, shining character. It is a legacy that Tony Stark has both inherited and, in fact, cultivated, through his own personal failings.
And so much good and bad in the Marvel Cinematic Universe exists because it.
Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected: An Unofficial Guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – An Introduction
Imagine a world on the grandest scale.
A world where a hovel in South America is connected to a skyscraper in New York, a beach mansion in Malibu, all the way to the floating head of a giant, mysterious celestial being.
Imagine a world where technology and science and mythos coexists easily and with a reasonable explanation.
Imagine a world full of heroes that, despite their differences, can unite and inspire.
Image a world of hope.
That’s the Marvel Universe in a nutshell.