Monthly Archives: February 2016

Why Do Toy Companies Make it Difficult to be a Cap Fan?

I’m currently in the process of redoing my toy room. A fresh coat of paint, a new floor, some more Cap-themed décor- it’s coming along nicely. But as I’m starting to put my toys back onto their shelves (and thus moving things out of the living room and giving my wife less reason to kill me in my sleep) I’m starting to realize a mind-boggling fact- toy companies are making it really tough for little kids to be Captain America fans.

Don’t get me wrong- I absolutely love this age we’re living in right now. It’s a great time to be a fan of the Star Spangled Avenger. You can’t walk into a Walmart or Target without seeing Cap’s face plastered on a sign, a card, or even on a box of cereal. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped usher in a whole new excitement behind one of comic books’ greatest characters, and I want for very little now. Ten years ago I was struggling to find even a Cap T-shirt, but today I rolled out my Captain America area rug, took a sip out of my Cap coffee mug, and sat back and though, “Man, this is a Golden Age.”

Yet with all the great merchandise coming out, I can’t help but feel like little kids are getting the shaft. You see, while they can buy a Captain America action figure in pretty much any store in creation, they have nothing for that Steve Rogers toy to do. Toy companies see him as just a small piece of the Avengers pie, meaning that very little time is devoted to Cap himself.

Growing up I was a Spider-Man fan. He was just everywhere, and our options back then were really either Spider-Man or the X-Men (unless you wanted to go DC). There wasn’t a lot of media presence for Marvel at the time, but there were always Spider-Man toys on the shelves, and I was 6, so it seemed like a perfect fit. Flash forward to 25 years later and Spider-Man is still dominating toy aisles.

Ol’ Webhead has a bevy of variations released throughout multiple lines. You can get regular Spidey, Ben Reilly version, Scarlet Spider, Black Costume, Spider-Armor, Iron-Spider, Scuba-Spidey…the list just keeps going. In addition to his many iterations you can also get a plethora of Spider-Man villains for him to fight, because, well, if you have a Spider-Man in his Spider-Buggy driving through the Spider-lair, he’s going to need a super villain to be chasing after, right?

When I was growing up, one of my favorite things about Spider-Man was that every now and then my parents would get me a new bad guy for Peter to beat on. Doc Ock was usually my go-to lead baddie, but it was always so exciting to shake things up and have Rhino break out of jail, or Electro rob a bank. And yeah, Spidey occasionally fought Magneto or Sabertooth, but there was always a special joy that came from recreating a scene I had read in a comic or seen on a cartoon. And when I wanted to go a little wacky I could always throw “Stealth Mission” Spider-Man into his missile launching Web-copter and go for a joy ride. But when things came to Cap…well he always kinda just showed up on occasion to help that little Parker kid out, since he usually never had his own bad guys to fight, or his own vehicles to drive.

That brings us to the crux of my issue. Captain America has 75 years worth of great supporting characters that kids could be playing with right now, and most of them would make awesome toys, so why don’t companies like Hasbro try to garner more interest in them? Everyone uses the argument “Well, Cap fight Nazis, and I doubt K-Mart wants a Nazi on a toy shelf.”, which is very true, but we currently live in a time when Cap no longer fights Nazis. Thanks to the movies he fights Red Skull and his evil HYDRA organization. Not a swastika to be seen. The die-hard Cap fan in me cringes a little when I say this, but I think, from a marketing standpoint, that this was a brilliant play. It should have opened up the door for a 4 year old to have a Red Skull Playskool toy, but I still don’t see any around. Now why is that?

And let’s talk about the variants and vehicles here, because I feel like it’s another place where toy companies just keep missing opportunities. Cap has over a dozen different comic looks, and plenty of room for “out-there” variants, I don’t know why no one is taking advantage of it. What I wouldn’t give to see kids outside today playing in their yards with Artic Mission Cap, driving his red, white and blue snow buggy to catch the villainous Batroc. Again I have to ask- why are toy companies afraid to use Cap the same way they do Iron Man or Spider-Man?

Now keep in mind that this argument is not solely held for Cap’s sake. Hulk, Thor, and Antman all seem to share this issue. They are all just “Iron Man’s backup”. It’s a little upsetting that my kids will never be able to play with “Anti-Venom Armor Captain America” while taking on the Serpent Society, or have Space Thor stopping Loki from stealing the Asgardian Shuttle.

Even jumping beyond little kids, we have Hasbro’s ever-growing Marvel Legends line, which, while finally bringing in some more obscure characters, still leaves a lot to be desired. In this newly released “Captain America Classics” wave, we get a new Cap, Agent 13, two Cap villains (Cottonmouth and Scourge), one Iron Man villain (Whirlwind), one Avengers villain (Taskmaster), and one Avengers B-lister (Mockingbird). For a “Cap-themed” wave, we only really get about half the wave being Cap characters. Yet look at the Spider-Man Legends released at the same time. One Spidey variant, one Spidey…uh…supporting character? (Spider-Gwen) and 5 Spidey villains (Venom, Speed Demon, Beetle, Mad Jack, and Morbius). Now THAT is a themed wave.

At the end of the day I just feel the need to ask again- Why do toy companies make it difficult to be a Cap fan? Right now the only thing a four-year old can do is buy a basic Captain America and either have him help the Avengers or fight the Avengers. Though I suppose the latter is good prep for Civil War.

What do you guys think? Am I completely off here? Let me know.

 

Advertisements

Captain America: Sam Wilson #6 “You better believe there’ll be spoilers” Review

image

After the ups and downs of our new Cap book, the first story arc of Captain America: Sam Wilson draws to a close. Just 6 issues in and we can see Nick Spencer has a writing style all his own which gives us a fresh new take on the adventures of the Shielded One. It’s quirky, and humorous, and, as we’re about to realize in this issue, has nothing at all to do with the main character.

The last two months of the book I complained about Spencer using Sam Wilson, our shiny new Captain America, as more of a prop than an actual hero. He spent more time as a target of ridicule, a werewolf, and then a paralyzed werewolf than he did anything else. But, see, I’m optimistic. I knew that Sam would pull an ace out of his sleeve before this arc was over- after all, it’s his book, right? Well, let’s take a look.

We pick up where we left off last month- Sam is an immobile werewolf tied to a chair and thrown out a window. At the last second his new buddy, Joaquin, swoops in to save him from being the world’s furriest street pizza, but the momentum sends them both tumbling to the ground just as the Serpent Squad closes in for the kill.

As we should be used to by now, Viper, leader of the Society, starts up with his high-horse speeches before ordering his team to attack the new Falcon and the statuesque Cap-wolf. Cap tells Joaquin to run, and run he does as the entire Serpent Society chases him through the bustling streets of NYC.

Then we get a few panels of in-your-face social and political commentary. Because so far the themes were too subtle (?), and Spencer wants to make sure you get it. We jump back to Joaquin who is fighting for his life against an army of snakes when Sam gambles on an unusual, though kinda neat, strategy- he is going to use the psychic connection he has with Joaquin (thanks in part to Redwing) to help the scrappy little guy fight off his attackers.

Quickly the fight turns in favor of Joaquin, who looks an awful lot like Machine Man with wings, thanks to art by Joe Bennett. Then some more social and political commentary. Because it’s funny. I guess. Anyway, Joaquin seems to be gaining the upper hand until, as Sam points out via narration, the Serpents’ sheer numbers are able to overpower the little guy. He goes down hard and Cottonmouth is quick to step in and chomp off poor ol’ Falcon’s face. Ouch. Then more commentary. Not even good commentary. Just heavy-handed “it’s not just about super heroes, kids!” stuff.

Sam has all but given up, what with being a paralyzed pound puppy, as the Society moves in to finish him off when suddenly Joaquin comes to the rescue! His genetic manipulation a few issues ago also provided him with regenerative powers, meaning that the writers can phone it in any time this character is in danger! God, I’m so sick of regeneration powers. Such a lazy writing device.

Anyway, Mr. I-Will-Never-Die starts to fend off the slithering enemies when Diamondback, who had been sort of hitting the sidelines this entire issue, decides she’s had enough and swaps sides, helping Joaquin fight off his attackers. Why she couldn’t have decided this earlier and saved Joaquin from Cottonmouth I have no idea. Would have saved me a facepalm over healing factors, but whatever.

Suddenly the lovely Misty Knight makes her entrance with a sexy “get away from her, you bitch!” kind of pose. Now things are getting good! Oh, wait. She just stands there? She doesn’t fight? Oh. Well…uh…at least she looks good?

Now overcrowded with characters who, aside from the Serpent Society, Joaquin and Diamondback, are doing absolutely nothing, the book is digging around for direction. Maybe if we hadn’t spent time with all the damn commentary, we could have had some character development, or more time for the climatic action scene. Something.

But, see here’s where things get either better or worse depending on your perspective. There’s just so many characters with a whole lotta nothing happening that the book needs something to further the plot. Viper finally decides that its time to finish off Captain America, and moves in for the killing blow, ranting and being creepy as ever when he hears a faint sound. Enter D-Man driving a chain gun toting buggy, blasting Creedence on the stereo. He simply drives in and runs everyone over, saving the day. And you know what? I’m ok with that. At least they did something with D-Man for the first time in 6 issues, and unlike bringing Misty into this “final showdown”, good ol’ Dennis was actually useful. GTA style useful.

Then some more stupid commentary. Could have been three panels of fighting. Just saying.

In the midst of all the Dunphy-driven chaos, Viper takes the opportunity to slither away, but is abruptly stopped by by a shield to the face! Finally Cap does something! And it was off-screen! Sigh. We go three issues now where Sam, the main character of our book, has done next to nothing. He’s been the equivalent of a talking MacGuffin, I just can’t help but wonder if that will show to be a huge misstep on Spencer’s part. But I digress.

We get some final “shoved down your throat” commentary about corporate America, greed, and how it’s currently a necessary evil. Cap arrests both Viper (and I would assume the rest of the Society) as well as some big business honcho who was using the “Serpent Solutions” development package. Instead of being regarded as a hero for, as Sam puts it, “Taking on the Serpent Society and some of the most powerful men on the planet”, even though all he did was get beaten, tied to a chair, and eventually wake up to arrest some people, the media decides to focus on him meeting up with Diamondback at the strip club a few issues back. That part was actually kinda funny- Fal-Cap-Wolf-Pig. Just imagine Al Gore saying it.

We close out the story with the official introduction of Joaquin as the new Falcon. He poses in his costume which harkens back to Sam’s original green outfit from the early days, and while I appreciate the throwback, I don’t really know how I feel about the bare-chest look. I’m sure it’ll grow on me though, as I found Joaquin to be one of the more enjoyable aspects of this story, if you don’t count the stupid regeneration thing.

Assuming you’ve made it this far, I think you know where I stand with this issue. Overall the story was good, but everyone knows a bad ending can ruin a great story. Luckily this last issue wasn’t terrible, just very weak. Hopefully Spencer takes it easy on the political satire in the next arc. I don’t mind it as an undertone- I mean, all the best Cap books have had some sort of commentary on something in the social or political climate, but it just felt like there was too much in this last issue. To paraphrase the Robot Devil: “You can’t just go around having your story announce how it feels! It lacks subtlety! That makes me feel angry!”

Celebrate Free Comic Book Day with Captain America!

Marvel revealed the cover of the upcoming FCBD: Captain America #1, the special one-shot issue heralding in the return of the original Captain America, Steve Rogers! Check out the snippet from the press release!

FCBD_Captain_America_Cover

[…]FCBD CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 brings you the titanic return of Steve Rogers as Captain America! Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz bring you one of Steve’s first adventures since his dramatic return in the pages of AVENGERS: STANDOFF. Just in time for their new series Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 later that month! Then, go deeper into DEAD NO MORE, a top secret storyline coming later in 2016! If you got the chance to bring someone back, would you?[…]

I absolutely love that cover art! Free Comic Book Day is May 7th, so if you’ve ever been interested in Captain America (which you should be) then this is a good way to try it out without having to pay for it! Simply go into your local comic shop and take one!

They’re free, don’t worry.

 

 

Captain America: Sam Wilson #5 Spoiler-full Review

STK693570

Yup, I’ve decided to give up on hiding spoilers this time out since, well, the cover of Captain America: Sam Wilson #5 kinda does the same thing. Right from the first glance you get told “Introducing the New Falcon” and, if you’ve been following the comic at all, you can pretty much piece together who it is. And even then, on the off chance you hadn’t guessed it already, the first page of this issue comes right out and, via narration, tells you “My name is Joaquin Torres, and I’m going to be the new Falcon.”

Writer Nick Spencer does a good job of making us like this new Falcon right from the get-go, too. We get some of his backstory- Joaquin is a seventeen year old kid from Arizona and a self-proclaimed good Samaritan who helps border crossers by supplying them with food and water. He sums up his experience which started Cap on this wacky adventure, explaining that he was kidnapped by the Sons of the Serpent and shipped to Dr. Malus, which, as we learned last issue, was all part of a plot by the newly re-invigorated Serpent Society. We also learned in that same issue that while Cap, who is currently a giant werewolf, is suffering from a temporary condition, Joaquin’s half-bird gig is more permanent. This has something to do with his DNA being mixed with Redwing, Cap’s partner in flight, who just happens to be a vampire. Or something. Yeah, I know. Just roll with it.

Anyway, Joaquin narrates us through his frustrations with being locked up in a hospital room and being looked after by D-Man (poor Dennis is criminally misused once again) when all he wants to do is soar free. And he means that literally- his half-birdness comes complete with a set of organic wings.

We move from learning about Joaquin to a flashback informing us as to why Rachel ended up in the situation she was in last issue. Just like last month, Rachel (AKA Diamondback, one of Steve Rogers’ old flames) breaks our hearts. Poor girl, she just can not catch a break. I’ve been detached from most of the Marvel Universe outside of Captain America, so I don’t know if this is a recent development or not, but it turns out that she was engaged to former SHIELD agent-turned-villain, Constrictor. Ol’ Connie (yup, that’s what I’m calling him) is sick and it sure looks like he dies three pages into the flashback. With the rent overdue and no way of making money, our beloved Diamondback starts stripping, which is where she meets up with the sinister (though incredibly enjoyable) Jordan Stryke, AKA Viper. He offers her the opportunity to “get her life back on track” by joining back up with her old running crew. All she needs to do is help the Society take out Cap. So, you know, no biggie.

That finally gets us caught back up to where we were last issue. Cap, still in his werewolf form, is tied to a chair in the Serpent Society HQ. He’s been zapped by one of Asp’s “Venom Bolts”, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of this issue. For those keeping track, this means that the first half of this issue had no Cap in it, and the second half of this issue has a Cap that can’t do anything. While this does a lot to help establish Viper as a smooth-talking, venom filled mastermind, it means our titular character has a grand total of 10 word bubbles, four of which are only one word. Now I’m not saying this isn’t a good issue, I’m just saying that between last issue and this one we seem to using Cap as more of a prop than a character. He gets a fun exchange with Viper, but just like last month, this book is owned by the bad guy. I love the Serpent Society as much as the next guy (probably more, honestly) but seeing as this is the start of a new comic with a new Cap, I’d like to see more of him.

During Viper’s sleazy monologuing, Misty Knight, who you probably forgot all about by this point, gets to have some ass-kicking fun, complete with one of the best lines in the book (“I’m here to fight the Serpent Society”, she tells the receptionist while checking in). She’s on her way to save Cap, but while she’s occupied downstairs with the Sons of the Serpent, Viper finishes up his posturing and throws Cap out a window. Yup, just like that.

To finish up this month’s book we jump back to Joaquin and his narration. Seems his new Falcon powers also come complete with Redwing’s mental link to Cap, allowing him to know that Cap is in danger and in need of help. He escapes from the hospital and swoops in at the last minute to catch Cap before he hits the ground, saving the day. Somehow, in the 20 seconds it took Sam to fall from the top floor, the entire Serpent Society was able to make it downstairs and across the street to meet our heroes for next month’s final confrontation.

A rather entertaining, though scattered, start for the new Falcon. Spencer gives us a lot of good reasons to like Joaquin- he’s a typical American teen, but clearly has a respect for Captain America which should make him a strong sidekick. I get more of an early Bucky vibe from him than a Falcon vibe, but that should match well since our current Cap is already providing us our dosage of Falcon.

My major complaint this issue, again, was the lack of Captain America in a Captain America comic. It was still a solid story, and I’m really enjoying the return of the Serpents, but introducing a new character into Sam’s team while under-utilizing the current members seems like an odd choice.

Issue 6 will finish up Spencer’s first story arc on the book and I’m curious to see how he pulls everything together before we head into “Avengers: Standoff” and the return of Steve Rogers.