With all the cosmic events that are happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, why are stories like Daredevil’s even significant?

My @Quora answer to With all the cosmic events that are happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, why are stories …

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

#ALL_LIVES_MATTER

Daredevil's stories matter for the same reasons your story matters. President Obama gets more press in a day than most of us will get in a lifetime. Does that mean our lives matter less, to us?

Comic companies are always forced to ask the question: If I have cosmic stories with beings who are like gods, can alter the very fabric of reality, shape matter and energy at will, why should a guy who beats up muggers get the same kind of treatment in the comics?

Because to the guy struggling to pay his bills who experiences a mugging one day and loses a month's pay, that is a world-shaking event. His life is rocked. Screw the cosmos, how will I feed my family, pay my rent, get to work without money? This man needs a hero, too. Someone who relates to life at his scale.

You see, Peter Parker relates to the common man. The average fellow on the street may not know WHO Spider-Man is but he knows he cares. He's relatable. Spider-Man stops to save construction workers from the sides of buildings. Helps women getting mugged in alleys. Protects the common citizen from the most extraordinary of problems, in a way people can relate to.

https://youtu.be/02S6ucfp1sU
When people meet Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Superman, these guys are awesome. Full of awe. Far removed from the common man's experience. They are like gods. You don't relate to gods. You tend to worship them. Their story is one of aspiration, you aspire to be like them but you recognize they are distinct from you, the same way you are distinct from your pets.

The common man is looking for something a bit more down to Earth. Daredevil is his hero. Batman is his hero. Spider-Man is his hero. These guys may play in the Big Leagues, but remember the little guy in all of this. They work first hand with the people, not as a concept, but as a concrete reality.

Yes, they can be scary too. That is part of their mystique. But ask the people whose lives they change with their "small" acts of heroic bravery and they will all tell you about their encounter with one of those "little" heroes.

It's not the scale of the hero, its not the cut of his jib, its not the flash of his cape. It's the moment when he helps someone figure out what matters in their lives. A moment of self discovery. A moment of transformation. A moment of something bigger than they are.

It's a problem heroes have been contending with for a long time. And one not easy to shake. Ask Green Lantern:

It's the story that matters, the same way the ancient tales of Hercules and Odysseus matter. Hercules was a hero whose strength was legendary and though his tales told often of his strength, he was known for his challenges, his drunken rages, his inability to forgive, his moral failings were ultimately his undoing.

Odysseus lacking the brawn of the former was forced to be clever, to learn from his opponents, to out-think his foes. Stories are for the people reading them, seeking to find new ways of thinking, new ways of being. Sometimes we fight against the world from the position of Hercules, confident in our power and ability to protect ourselves.

And sometimes we have to fight like Odysseus using our wits, planning ahead, thinking tactically when our enemies are simply more powerful than we can overcome.

Stories both great and small, of heroes whose power rivals stars and mere men whose feet are made of clay both can teach us how to be. They can help us, define us.

#ALL_STORIES_MATTER

With all the cosmic events that are happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, why are stories like Daredevil's even significant?

Is Thanos able to lift Mjolnir without the Infinity Gauntlet? And with it?

My @Quora answer to Is Thanos able to lift Mjolnir without the Infinity Gauntlet? And with it?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Thanos is awesome; he's just not Mjolnir-lifting awesome. He's in good company…

Thanos, often called the Mad Titan (rarely to his face, by the way) is a being of incredible capability and prowess. A master of alien technologies from hundreds of worlds, his natural gifts make him a force to be reckoned with in close combat or at range. His prodigious intellect means he is rarely out of his depth even when dealing with the Marvel Universe's most intelligent or inscrutable beings such as the cosmic entities. Despite his enhancements both cybernetic and technological, nothing in his arsenal will lend itself to lifting or breaking the enchantments upon Mjolnir as laid by Odin.

But I bet you're asking: Who is Thanos? For the answer to that question, we need to talk about his family…

Enter: The Eternals

Thanos was a member of a humanoid species called the Eternals. The Eternals were part of a project created by the Celestials designed to bring forth metahuman potential (for a still unknown reason) among Humans and thousands of other species across the galaxy.

The Celestials manipulated the DNA of Humanity to create three separate subspecies. Deviants, Humans and the Eternals. The Eternals were one subset of the Human species altered by the Celestials for their experimentation.

What were the Celestials looking for? They never say. They never admit to why they performed the experimentation that links the human genome and the possibility for mutant capability. We do learn in the seminal Thor #300 if your species doesn't meet their rigorous standards, they will erase their failed experiment from existence. 

The two other subgroups of Humanity were: the Deviants and the Eternals.

  • The Deviants, an evolutionary offshoot of humanity, were their first experiments and are genetically unstable.
  • Their forms varied wildly and it was said that no two Deviants looked alike (which always made me curious how they reproduced…perhaps technology was involved.)
  • They boasted a wide array of superhuman levels of ability, some of their members were easily as powerful and capable as the Eternals, just with more skin, teeth and back hair problems.

Their next experiments, the much better looking Eternals, were more successful in certain respects:

  • The Eternals are capable of absorbing cosmic energy within their cells and releasing it in various ways. At a rest state, all Eternals can lift ten tons without effort.
  • Their bodies are far stronger, faster, more resilient, and heal faster than a human's even without the use of their cosmic energy. Their senses are sharper and more acute than a Human's and their mental capacity is in far excess of the average Human.
  • In addition to their natural resilience, all Eternals may channel cosmic energy for superhuman feats. Each Eternal may have different levels of capability depending on their personal training and preferences.
  • These feats include super-speed, flight, increasing invulnerability, strength enhancement, energy projection at range, mental powers and matter manipulation.
  • The most sophisticated and well trained with these powers may use all of them with equal facility. Being such as Mentor and Zuras, have few equals among the Eternals.
  • While the range of abilities for each Eternal varies widely, they have proven themselves to be a match for most modern metahumans on the Marvel Earth, with speed and strengths as great as Thor, Iron Man and for brief periods, the Hulk. Their technology far outpaces the most advanced on Earth.
  • The versatility of their powers has even secured one or two of them honorary roles among Earth's mightiest heroes, the Avengers. See Avengers: Sersi and Starfox.

  • Primitive Humans were unable to tell the difference between these godlike Eternals and the actual "gods" of the Marvel Universe, often confusing them because of their physical similarities.
  • An unknown schism would eventually split the Eternals into two groups, one led by Zuras and the Other by Mentor.
  • Mentor's group left Earth but were intercepted by the alien Kree and shot down their ship over the moon of Titan.
  • The survivors using their cosmic powers would create a new paradise there and remained hidden.

Titan, homeworld of the Eternals was just once a barren land mass. It is the biggest moon of Saturn. The Eternals first arrived when they had a conflict with the Kree armada. The Kree shot down the Eternals ship, forcing them to crash into Titan. From there on, the surviving Eternals formed a colony underground, then they employed artificial life systems. From then on, the Eternals made Titan a place of knowledge and meditation.

The Mad Titan, Thanos

Of all of the Titanian Eternals, none save Mentor are the equal of the most powerful of them, often called The Mad Titan, Thanos.

  • Thanos is a mutant among the Eternals, born with Deviant Syndrome increasing his physical abilities and his mental instability.
  • Thanos has always had a lust for power and has expanded his abilities far beyond his brethren. His physical strength is unmatched by the Eternals.
  • He can lift one hundred tons or more. He has stood toe to toe with Thor, Iron Man and the Thing simultaneously and easily held his own. This is without using any form of augmentation or manipulation of cosmic energy.
  • He is also believed to have been further enhanced using alien cybernetic technology giving him even greater physical durability and resistance. He has taken blows from Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, and was unfazed.
  • While Thanos rarely uses his energy projection abilities, they are quite formidable. He is able to project energy from his eyes and sheath his hands in an energy field capable of destroying any matter it touches.

Thanos isn't just a jock. Despite his incredible physical capabilities, Thanos' greatest asset is his unmatched intellect.

  • He has scoured the galaxy learning whatever he could from whomever would teach him.
  • He is a master of alien technologies which has allowed him to battle against the Universe's mightiest beings such as the Stranger, the Elders of the Universe and even Galactus.
  • His genius-level intellect has even tapped into mystical powers allowing him to commune with forces such as Eternity and to woo the Conceptual Entity known as Death.
  • Thanos plays the long game. He can manipulate and study multiple enemies simultaneously pitting them against each other usually to his benefit.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe

While the Thanos of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have different abilities than his comic counterpart he will surely be as competent and as dangerous. His taste in gauntlets is certainly the same.

But could he lift Mjolnir?

As to whether he could move Mjolnir with the Infinity Gauntlet? That is an unqualified yes.

  • With the gauntlet he has the ability alter reality at the fundamental level. Using the completed Infinity Gauntlet he is able to do nearly anything he can conceive of.
  • When Thanos acquired the Gauntlet in the comic universe, for one of the few times all of the Universe's greatest cosmic powers, not known for getting along, gathered together in agreement. Thanos could not be allowed to maintain ownership of the Gauntlet. These were beings who power eclipsed even the powerful Odin Borson.
  • Odin's enchantment is nothing more than a stain on the hammer that the Infinity Gauntlet would allow Thanos to remove it at will.

At the point he would be able to lift Mjolnir, he would no longer have a need or a desire to do so.

Is Thanos able to lift Mjolnir without the Infinity Gauntlet? And with it?

Why do Japanese have blue eyes and blond hair in anime?

A Question from

Quora Logo

Answered by Martin Schneider:

Keep in mind that anime follows a complex visual language, where seemingly innocuous elements carry deeper meaning. And hair color is among the first and foremost, especially when dealing with female characters.

Meaning that in most cases, the color of an anime character’s hair does not reflect some natural hair color or a racial stereotype – instead, it is supposed to be a hint towards their personality and their role in the plot.

I guess it’s high time for yet another crash course in anime hair color symbolism… take a seat.


Yellow hair:

The most widespread meaning is simply “someone special”. This holds especially true for shoujo (for girls) manga/anime titles, where you can pretty safely bet that the most important female lead will be blonde. Occasionally, it can also signify “the rude/inconsiderate foreigner”, for example a non-Japanese character with an abrasive or rude personality – but that’s more of an exception than the rule.

Blue hair:

…typically signifies a quiet, softspoken, intellectual, sometimes even introverted character – albeit often one with a surprisingly strong will. In addition, such characters tend to get portrayed as refined, tradition-oriented and feminine, quite often even as examples of the Yamato Nadeshiko ideal.

Red hair:

…strongly suggests a tomboyish, inconsiderate, loud, often headstrong, “leader” archetype. This character will often charge ahead and/or speak her mind without holding back. In the extreme case, this behavior will go all the way to the point of acting rash or even stupid. Also tend to have voracious appetites.
Note: agressive shades of orange pretty much fall into the same category.

(Bright) Green hair:

Mostly extinct these days – but bright green hair is most often the sign of the “genki girl”, another comedy-oriented character archetype. Such a character is chipper, upbeat, active, sports-minded and energetic. However, unlike a redhead, this character is more feminine and less prone to blindly rushing ahead – and usually displays normal or above-average levels of intelligence.
Note: darker shades of green typically carry similar connotations as “blue”.

Purple hair:

Also near-extinct – at least when it comes to intense shades of purple. What is still somewhat common, however, is characters with lighter/paler shades of purple. These almost always come with long, flowing hair and typically signify some sort of detached, noble, cultured, dainty, often even mysterious, “fantasy princess” archetype.

Pink hair:

Ah yes, pink. The one color that has undergone the strongest shift since the beginning of my anime career. Originally, this color was rare, and reserved for a select few childlike characters. But then… the moe phenomenon happened. And made this color the industry standard for dozens of “cutesy-moe-female-leads”. Today pink hair is pretty much everywhere… yet some of the attributes have carried over. Even today, pink characters still tend to be not very bright, somewhat innocent, naive – and often idealistic to the point of being silly.

Brown hair:

Brown stands for “warm+friendly normal” and is the most common “day-to-day-life side character” haircolor. Similar to black, the underlying message is not very strong – still, brown is most popular for longtime childhood friends, or all sorts of “safe/reliable” love-interests. Characters with this hair color tend to play some role in the plot, and be close friends of the leads, but they still represent normality and following social expectations… sometimes to the point of being boring.

Black hair:

Being the most widespread Japanese hair color, this does not nearly carry a meaning as strongly predefined as most others – in fact, it can simply mean “the everybody”. However, in cases when the character has long, flowing black hair, it can be intended as a shorthand for “noble lady / Japanese princess / idol of the whole school” characters. In that respect, it sometimes once again overlaps with the Yamato Nadeshiko notion.


Surprised that you didn’t find “white” in the list, yet? Well, that is because luminance/brightness is typically on an orthogonal scale to the various colors above…

Simply put, the brightness of a character’s hair communicates how down-to-earth<–>otherworldly a character is. The darker a color, the more that character lives in the here and now – and the brighter, the more esoteric, distant, magical and surreal he/she is…

With the extreme version of that trope, signifying “utter otherworldliness”, being plain white:


Disclaimer: The archetypes listed here describe the stereotypical expectations that characters of a certain hair color will incite in an experienced audience of anime viewers. But guess what, sometimes the industry dares to *gasp* subvert expectations. In other words, these are strong, recurring patterns – but not hard-and-fast, immutable rules.


TL;DR:
Hair color in anime carries an intended meaning – and that meaning will typically easily override any sort of “normal” coloring that you would expect in terms of “realism”. As such, in most cases, it is futile to try to interpret any anime hair color as being a representative of some real-world race/hair color.

Why do Japanese have blue eyes and blond hair in anime?

Why are people in the Marvel Universe more upset about mutants than any other metahumans there?

On the Scifi.stackexchange someone posits a question after watching this video of the Honest Trailers series on the X-Men trilogy. His question reads:

“As CinemaSins snarkily wisely noted in “Honest Trailers – X-Men Trilogy“:

In the world where people cheer the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Spider-Man, those same people will inexplicably hate the X-Men.

Why is that so? As far as I know, all these superheroes exist in the same exact comic universe, yet X-Men seem to always be significantly more disliked.”

While the most popular answer from the Stack article answers the question from the rarefied air of intellectualism, saying

“It’s the tyranny of evolution. Sooner or later, you have a species that will have a genetic or technological advantage and that species will always conquer a species without that advantage. Carthage, the triumph of the Homo sapiens over the Neanderthal showed us that. Now what do we have? We have Homo superior versus Homo sapiens. On a level playing field, Homo superior wins every time.

That is a quote by the character Wade in season 4 of Babylon 5, explaining why he believed all telepaths in that universe needed to be either murdered or enslaved for use by “normals” (homo sapiens). The same guidelines clearly apply in the Marvel Universe.”

I posted a link so you can read the entire article at your leisure.

However, I disagreed strongly with this answer.

It is unlikely my answer will gain any traction because his is a rather easy to understand perspective but I posted my own answer by trying to look at the problem differently.

Rather than approaching it from a purely intellectual perspective, I tried to see the problem from the perspective of a person living in the Marvel Universe rather than from the viewpoint of a person looking at the Marvel Universe from the outside.

Why Fear the Mutant?

There are factors which play into the fear of mutants more than most metahumans from the perspective from a person living in the Marvel Universe.

Uncertainty

A person living in the Marvel Universe has a life very different from yours and mine. His world is an uncertain one.

  • One day Mr. Average is on his way to work and there is suddenly an invasion of Kree warriors bent on battling the Avengers right on the freeway he’s driving over. The battle ties up traffic for hours, costing him money and prestige at his job. Hundreds of people are injured in the collateral damage of buildings and cars being destroyed. (See: Kree-Skrull War)
  • A month later, after they managed to repair the bridge, the Mole man ventures up from his subterranean lair and battles the Fantastic Four. Mr. Average’s car is destroyed as one of the Mole Man’s monsters trudges through the city before being put down by Ben Grimm. Hundreds of people are injured or even killed. (See: Fantastic Four #1, 1962)
  • Three months after that Mr. Average, riding the bus to work now, finds his bus under attack as a powerful and hidden mutant is riding the bus with him, in disguise. Mr. Average escapes with a few burns and a deep abiding fear of giant robots which randomly attack buses full of normal people to reach “dangerous” mutants. (See: Master Mold, X-men #16, 1962)

Mass Hysteria

  • Every day after each attack news pundits like J. Jonah Jameson espouse about the dangers of mutants, Spider-Man and superheroes in general. But mutants catch special flack because they could be anyone. You. Your neighbors, the person on the bus next to you could be a mutant.
  • Look how powerful hysteria is on our modern Earth when the random threat of terrorism is used to manipulate how people feel about other HUMANS. We created the Patriot Act, we dropped bombs on foreign countries for the FEAR of terrorism. The single act of the destruction of the World Trade Center over a decade ago STILL has people in the grip of fear.
  • Now imagine you had events like this happening every year, some of them, not all of them are due to the mysterious mutants living among us, with fantastic powers capable of wiping out all of humanity with the blink of an eye, (so the news media sells it, no matter that it in the case of certain mutants is actually TRUE).

A Legitimate Fear of Incredible Power

As an individual without fantastic powers and a need to go to work, protect your family, pay your taxes, be a decent individual and maintain a role in society, the very fact that you may feel insignificant compared to the mutant superbeing carrying away the stadium you were hoping to watch tonight’s baseball game in undermines your self esteem, hell, your very sanity as you see the impossible being done before your very eyes.

  • Imagine Mr. Average learns the person carrying away your stadium is a mutant, a being who was born this way and whose probably manifested as a teenager. He has a twelve year old daughter and a ten year old son. Could this happen to him? Is it possible that his children could have this mutant gene you hear so much misinformation about?
  • What about that town that was blown off the map out there when those Young Warriors fought that criminal Nitro? Everyone was killed. Could that happen here? Should mutants and superbeings be registered? (See: Civil War)
  • Maybe Strucker has the right idea. Maybe the best thing that could happen is we kill all the mutants before they take over the world. (Not knowing that it has already happened more than once and been reversed; See: House of M). Being an ordinary human in this world would be a terrifying experience akin to living in a warzone where you had no options but to run and hide whenever anything happened.

We Have Seen the Enemy…

Why do mutants have it worse than the rest of the metahuman community?

  • Most of the metahuman community makes an effort to be seen as being on the same side as normal humans. At least some of them have been revealed to be normal humans (Tony Stark, Hawkeye, Black Widow) resemble normal humans (Thor) or were once normal humans (the Hulk).
  • But mutants were born this way, their appearances vary wildly, along with their powers, many in learning to control their powers, harm innocents and even if they become “good” mutants have blood on their hands. When they are evil mutants, they seem to relish their powers and kill without reservation. There are reports (however unreliable) that more mutants are being born every day.

What is a normal man to do in a world where the uncertainty of his very existence depends on a very thin line of metahumans to protect him from the ever-growing menace of mutant power on an Earth in an ever-expanding hostile universe of threats? Aliens, gods, intelligent machines are terrifying but they are the Other.

Mutants? They are us. And they are everywhere. 

What are the shiny circles on Thor’s costume?

1559112-thor

Asgardian Fashion 101

Writing for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange, I came across a question about the Mighty Thor that has piqued my interest only in that I had never seriously considered the classic Thor costume and its design. What are those circles on his costume supposed to be? <empty stares; looks of confusion>

I left the question alone for a few days while other writers on the site tackled the problem. My writing calendar was full and I was sure some of the site’s capable admins and moderators would find some worldly wisdom that I, even with all of my superhero history, did not have an instant answer for.

You know what they came up with? Nothing. Fan rumors. Suspicions. European Defense Initiative Bio-Mechanical Suit, from Earth 1610’s Ultimate Thor.

ScreenHunter_688 Jul. 24 15.15

I was compelled to intervene. Here I was a Thor aficionado and I didn’t know the answer but I knew the European Defense Initiative Bio-Mechanical Suit wasn’t it.

Here is what I discovered. <cue fanfare> Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Bupkiss.

My Official Answer

“There is little in the way of historical references in Marvel canon for the circles on Thor’s chest tunic. He has had this costume since his first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83 (1952).

ScreenHunter_684 Jul. 24 01.09

If you know anything about me, you know that wasn’t going to be enough. I did a cursory scan of the Journey into Mystery series and the early Thor comics with no results. Then I knew I would have to go meta.

What follows is my research and speculation about those circles. If you know something more concrete, please share it with me through the comments below.

Can history be our guide?

With that said, we can look perhaps into history and see if we can determine what the artist Jack Kirby was hoping to show in this costume design. If we can assume this design was inspired by Thor being an ancient god of war, then perhaps it would be considered a stylized armor design. Since Thor is a superhuman being, he might have little use for armor in his day to day life, but might want to remind his enemies of his valor with a costume that resembled an armor he may have worn at one time. It was a good idea but nothing in my historical rummaging in Journey into Mystery or early issues of Thor, showed this.

Case in point: Here is a picture from Tales of Asgard, Journey into Mystery 101. In it young Thor is seen wearing his costume as we knew it from the classic Kirby era. Since he is wearing it into battle, it is safe to assume it must double as armor for the young godling. Everyone else is festooned in armor that looks like armor, though they resemble classic Earth Vikings wearing platemail instead of chainmail.

ScreenHunter_689 Jul. 24 15.57

Tales of Asgard, Journey into Mystery 101

If his costume is indeed supposed to be armor, then perhaps what we should look for is an example of an armor with similar properties. Having a bit of history under my belt I remembered an armor accessory I thought might be a match. It was called the Lauersfort Phaelara.

1024px-Lauersforter_Phalerae_Museum_Burg_Linn

A closeup of the Lauersfort Phalera, Burg Linn Museum Center, Krefeld, Germany

One of the first and earliest potential armor designs which bears more than a passing resemblance would be the 120 AD, Legionary Roman armor. The phalerae medallions, the large shiny metal disks share a similar placement (though not exact) on the Roman armor. The disk were usually covered with the faces of prominent leaders or mythical beasts denoting bravery or skill in battle. Legion armies also carried them on their banners as group awards for the regiment.

Roman Legionary

From the Augustan period, both infantrymen and cavalry men received the same award when an opponent was killed and his equipment seized: a series of nine phalerae which gravestone reliefs show were worn on leather straps on the upper torso. Once again, these decorations were intended for soldiers up to the rank of centurions. –Armed Batavarians: Use and Significance of Weaponry and Horse Gear, by Johan Nicolay; Amsterdam University Press.

ScreenHunter_679 Jul. 24 00.56

Turkish, Antique char-aina, (chainmail with mirror plates), Russian Zertsalo (Ottoman inspired)

The phalerae medallions were not unique to the Romans. The Celts wore similar devices for religious reasons and similarities could be found in ancient Mongolian, Chinese, Russian, Ottoman and Japanese armors, often designated mirror armors for their shiny appearance.

Art Imitates Life

Thor has had many different costume designs, many actually resembling armor rather than the cloth or leather of his early designs. These later designs were more inclined to use actual armor plates to depict the circles in his early costume designs, strengthening the appearance to phalerae medallions, even including ornate designs in some of them. I suspect this was a design issue that came about when later versions of Thor’s costume were reimagined by new artists.

I am willing to be one of those artists knew what phalerae were and decided to incorporate that design element into the armor. We don’t know that Kirby wasn’t influenced by phalerae but some of these on the newer armors are too similar to miss.

ScreenHunter_681 Jul. 24 00.58

Conclusion

While we have no definitive proof the circles on Thor’s early costume were indeed a representation of phalerae medallions, it is at least historically possible the original design may have been inspired by early armors from the Roman, Ottoman and Persian armor designs which incorporated similar elements.

Note: While Vikings did wear armor into battle, it has not been shown to be an integral part of the armor designs to wear phaelara into battle. Most vikings wore leather furs, cuirboilli (boiled hardened leather) or chainmail tunics with shields into battle.

2390113-viking_soldiers

A fairly realistic depiction of Viking armor and weapons circa the 5th century AD.

3469162-1849783-asgard_by_mark_brooks__001__01_

Asgardians, warlike yet fashionable.

30 Cubed is OVER!

My writing challenge for May, 30 CUBED, is OVER. 

You can partake of these stories here, while electron supplies last: https://storify.com/ebonstorm/30-cubed-speculative-fiction-for-the-…

30 stories in 30 days introducing 30 new characters has, as usually, been both grueling and gratifying. I also had four other writers who participated and I have watched their works improve every day. (You guys were great!)

For myself, I have completed 24 of the 30 days with a new or continuing tale of speculative fiction. As usual, I tried not to tackle low hanging fruit: no vampires, no werewolves, no zombies. To make it harder, I would not tell more than one tale of alien invasion (though I love them so). This month has netted me about 40,000 words, give or take.

I created or augmented four serials, one of which I will be entering into Jukepop this month as an ongoing story.

Serials (4)

Air Conditioning (Parts 1-5) – I always write a tale of alien invasion. In this story, the aliens are completely oblivious to the existence of Humans on Earth, since they never touch down on the surface of the planet and don’t appear to notice Humanity at all. Humanity’s reaction to the creature, however, varies wildly.

A Mistress in Thunder – The Spear of Heaven (parts 1 and 2) – Started as part of a serial I was writing elsewhere, I found the character of Radi, the Mistress in Thunder, warrior, titan and all around bad-ass, too compelling to not start more than one thread at the same time. I have three different points in the character’s life and it has been a excellent story so far.

Apostate, Magus, Barbarian (3) – I also added to the first Radi, Mistress of Thunder serial stream with the beautiful, fierce and oh so Black princess and her two future companions, Uriel the Magus, less than evil sorcerer of the Shattered Realms and Kom the Ukla who has a penchant for mega-violence and a love of fried human fingers…

More Tales of Tech Support – I added to the already over-the-top adventures of a technical support agent for Farnsworth’s Monster Emporium and Death-Ray dealership, Todd. In this selection, Todd is winnowing down the candidates for the next hiring wave. Like everything Todd does, he maintains his aplomb under the most difficult circumstances.

Writing Prompts (7)

Five of the stories were writers prompts from other publications or contests with strict limits on what I could produce. Limitations force me to be creative and to envision stories I might not otherwise try. Writing prompts can make you grow.

1. Come Forth the Rising Tide – required I take five random characters from a list on Chuck Wendig’s site and weave them into a short story. (I will probably make something much longer because I had so much fun with the characters.)

2. Yearning was a photo prompt from SciFiIdeas.com which has become one of their featured stories when I was done. It can be found on their site.

These three stories were written for a UK short story contest of 500 words and a sensory theme. I will be submitting them on Monday.

3. Betwixt: An avenger of a South American tribe takes the battle to his corporate enemies after being empowered by two opposing mystic forces.

4. Bismillah: An Middle Eastern son of a sheikh loses his vision and discovers his senses and mind growing more acute to compensate.

5. Damned Decent: A Good Samaritan meets an unusual stranded vehicle on the side of the road and offers to help.

6. Can You Make Room for the Impossible?: A biomech research officer, MX2 and Scoutship Pilot Alena Maximoff investigate a survey call from a planet with wildly conflicting data, unusual enough for a Scoutship to consider investigating. This story came from a writing prompt sent to me by a friend on StartYourNovel.com. I have written five other stories on his site, so we have become friends.

7. Adleiavde: A tale of a young man and his quantum-challenged feline, Addie who had a habit of appearing exactly as people wanted him to be… This was a writing prompt from my monthly writing group I participate with on LinkedIn Sci-Fi Readers, Writers, Collectors and Artists. I won the month of May with this short story and plan on submitting it to Daily Science Fiction for publication.

Clifford Engram, Paranormal Investigator (4)

Keeping Engram in my mind for his next adventures, I planted four seeds.

1. A Drink and A Smile: A rendezvous with an old girlfriend in order to get information on a case, leads to gratuitous violence, poison and death. Not a strange outing considering Engram used to date a Dweller-in-the-Dark.

2. With Just a Spot of Darkness: Introducing Ink, reveals another primary group of metaphysical entities who believe it is their duty to protect the human race by rendering judgement on it. Ink works for them but disagrees with the process. She and Engram are sure to butt heads in the future.

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3. The aforementioned Betwixt, where Paulo harasses the megacorporation which destroyed the rainforest where his tribe once dwelled peacefully. Now Paulo living between all concepts exacts his cruel revenge.

4. How the Other Half Lives: A tale of a family whose patriarch is unable to come home and meets his family for the first time on a trip to a very far away beach. Clifford Engram will meet this family in the future. They will not invite him to the beach…

One Shots (6)

Stories not related to anything else. They come, they go and blaze like meteors in a summer sky, brief but awesome.

1. The Moment of Truth: A knight on a long quest decides he has done enough for the world and wants to just go home free of predestined events. It is dark humor best suited for those who know a bit of roleplaying games and how gamemasters force players on adventures.

2. Sterlings: A hot-blooded scientist, after discovering a plant which can survive and transform water from saline to fresh, realizes he wants to try and woo his equally passionate wife back. His flower of choice is the sterling rose he created in his lab.

3. Sun Kings: A tale of aliens on a mission of mercy. They arrive near Earth to recharge within our sun and to inform us that an extinction-level-event is going to happen soon and there is nothing they can do to help us except…

4. Night Terrors and the Bears who Abet Them: A strange story of a legendary Teddy Bear and the Night Terror trained by him.

5. Humanity Redux: An alien intelligence watches Humanity as we go through a growth state without being aware of how far we’ve already come.

6. Uncovered: A writer has died and learned he was not quite good enough to get into Heaven. His only hope is for his work to be discovered in the future and inspire enough people to have his sentence changed. But almost all copies of his work have been destroyed after World War II…

What will I do after I come back from the brink of Madness?

Send stories to anyone and everyone who is interested. Retool my websites to account for these new stories and my latest work on Medium.com. I have written thirty stories there since the beginning of the year in addition to these.

Most importantly get my work out there. My social media work has paid off and continues to grow my readership. My blog/websites are slowly coming along and I hope the retool will increase my readers further. I will be extending several of my other serials as well, focuses on finishing them and putting them into print.

We are at the midpoint of the year and I had planned to sell 18 stories this year. I am up to number 10 and have eight more to go. It has been slow going but I am not about to give up now. We are going to INCREASE SPEED, not slow down.

LET’S KEEP WRITING. If you need a writing partner, look me up.

I have a writer’s group on Facebook: ‘Dammit, I’m a Sci-Fi Writer, Not a Doctor’: and we are always looking for new voices of genre and speculative fiction to share ideas, blogs, and stories: https://www.facebook.com/groups/471829406194599/

You can find my speculative fiction at:

http://HubCityBlues.com

https://medium.com/@ebonstorm/latest

http://30cubedsf.wordpress.com

Captain America, Winter Soldier (spoiler-free review)

Captain America - Winter Soldier

by Brandon Easton

Saw CAPTAIN AMERICA 2: THE WINTER SOLDIER last night and really have nothing bad to say at all. There were a few issues with story logic but outside of minor nitpicks, I’d have to say this is AS good as THE AVENGERS and definitely the best “solo” MCU movie to date. (MINOR SPOILERS)

The best way to describe this movie is “balanced.” It achieved an almost perfect balance between comic book-style action, humor, character development and story sophistication. Taking a page from the Robert Ludlum/Tom Clancy school of 1970s-era Cold War espionage pop culture storytelling, The Winter Soldier (at the VERY least) establishes a formula for Marvel Studios that if used repeatedly, should guarantee the cinematic dominance of Marvel IPs for the next generation.

Expertly adapted from the critically-acclaimed, award-winning “Captain America” comics series run from writer Ed Brubaker – the movie takes the source material very seriously (and as a side note, if you haven’t read the story this is based on, I would strongly suggest you do so immediately) – and spins the direction of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe to a place no fan could have imagined.

What carries this film are the performances from the core cast – Chris Evans has grown on me as an actor and it is somewhat disappointing to learn that he wants to retire from the role when his contract expires – but Scarlett Johanssen, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford and Sam Jackson turn in strong, somber moments that propel this beyond the pulp trappings of Thor and the last two Iron Man films. The actors seem much more relaxed than in Avengers and it feels like they’ve been given more freedom to explore the characters and not worry so much about corporate blowback from Marvel Studios or their parent company Disney. Evans has great chemistry with Mackie, Jackson, Redford and Johansson and all their scenes feel natural with the right amount of dread when necessary and levity when you least expect it.

The identity of the “Winter Solider” is not a shock to anyone who’s read the comic books or paid attention to all the press releases from Marvel Entertainment, yet, we all sat there waiting for the big reveal of Bucky as the Soldier, experimented on by Arnim Zola to be the Nazi/Hydra version of Captain America.

The fallout of the super conspiracy within the Marvel Universe and what this means for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and Captain America 3 is just plain awesome. This movie pushes Captain America from being a B-level punchline in the pantheon of costumed heroes to a legitimate superhero in the eyes of the (non-comic-book-reading) audience. The story unfurls at just the right pace – when the character development reaches its apex, then a massive-action-set-piece drops into the script. To continue on this point – Marvel Studios has basically trashed the convenient existence of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and this makes me wonder what this means for the TV series AoS?) – and created a new, more dangerous, less predictable and an altogether shadowy status quo – sort of like a combination of the gritty-post-Mike Zeck PUNISHER 1980s Marvel Universe and Ed Brubaker’s vision of the spy-comic 2000s Marvel Universe.

As a longtime viewer of comic book movies, it was nice to see well-choreographed fight sequences using real-world martial arts. That, I think, represents the mindset of the filmmakers: inject just enough “reality” into the movie to grab the attention of even the most ardent anti-comic book moviegoer and then dazzle them with incredible stunts and the trademark big Marvel-finale.

The diversification of the Marvel heroes on screen is important for the continued growth of the brand and to capture younger viewers of all backgrounds. With the exception of Blade, Anthony Mackie’s Falcon was the first Black superhero featured in a Marvel Comics movie (Sam Jackson as Nick Fury doesn’t count, and neither does Idris Elba in Thor). The exploration of Black Widow’s background and character motivation is just enough to whet our appetites for the eventual Black Widow movie (and after her performance here, I’m certain Scarlett Johansson can carry an action movie on her own – as we shall see this summer in the Luc Besson-produced LUCY). One other thing – I never understood why everyone thought she was “hot” but after this movie – wow, she really is a beautiful woman.

For all the excellent things I have to say about the actors and the setting, the core element that holds this movie together is the amazing screenplay. It would have been easy to tell another Avengers-style caper but the level of restraint and constant references to Marvel Comics, 1970s-spy thrillers, PULP FICTION (the best meta-reference in movie history), COMMUNITY (yes, Abed shows up) and past Marvel movies makes this something special.

I enjoyed every second of Captain America 2: The Winter Solider. From the introduction of Batroc, to the old school version of Zola, to the well-designed construction of double-crosses (and some were obvious), to the after-credit tie-ins to AGE OF ULTRON, I can’t give a higher recommendation. See this in the theater. The Falcon flight scenes are worth the price of admission.

© Brandon Easton 2014, All Rights Reserved

Brandon Easton