Classics Track Quarantine Panels: Addams Family at 30, and what if the MCU was in the 1980s?

Dragon Con’s American Sci-Fi Classics Track has continued to do weekly Quarantine Panels, hosted by track directors Joe Crowe & Gary Mitchel, to talk about various subjects, and I was on two recent ones.

2021 marks the 30th anniversary of The Addams Family movie starring Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, and Christina Ricci, and that panel featured Terrific ToniAnn Marini, Sassy Stormy O’Dell, Superlative Shaun Rosado, and me, Joe, and Gary talking about the Mamushka, crashing trains, why Gomez and Morticia are the best couple ever, and how awesome Christina Ricci is.

In addition, Joe & Gary have been playing “what if…?” games — what if the Marvel Cinematic Universe got its start in 1988 instead of 2008? Who would have played the iconic roles? Tom Selleck as Tony Stark? Sean Connery as Ego? Wesley Snipes as T’Challa? Kirk Douglas as Henry Pym? Brian Blessed as Volstagg? It’s crazy-ass speculation galore, with me, Joe, Gary, and Mighty Michael Bailey set Marvel heroes back 30 years — literally!

my Spidey novel is out in eBook!

The omnibus Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours is now out in eBook form! This big-ass book reprints three Spidey novels from the mid-2000s: the eponymous novel by Jim Butcher, Down These Mean Streets by self, and Drowned in Thunder by Christopher L. Bennett. Yes, all our titles start with the letter D. No, I don’t know why.

Anyhow, you can now get the eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Indie Bound, or Apple Books.

The print edition will go on sale at the beginning of June.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “One World, One People”

It’s the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and it’s got Sam making speeches, we finally find out who the Power Broker is, and some closure, along with a lot of setup for the future. It’s had its ups and downs, but it comes to a powerful conclusion. My take on “One World, One People.”

An excerpt:

Right now, today, it’s incredibly important to the people watching the show that Captain America be a black man. In fact, that this episode that establishes Sam as Cap aired the same week as the verdict in the George Floyd trial is a rather bittersweet bit of serendipity. For every step forward, there’s a step back. We elect a person of color president and then we elect a candidate supported by white supremacists as his successor.

Sam Wilson wears this dichotomy on his sleeve (or wings, I guess?). He comes out and says that he knows that his wearing the suit and carrying the shield will piss off a lot of people. But—as he says to Isaiah Bradley in one of the episode’s many denouements—African-Americans built this country, bled for it, and he’s not going to stop fighting for it.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “Truth”

It’s a breather between action scenes as Sam helps his sister while trying to decide whether or not to take up the shield, Walker has Captain America taken from him, and he’s not happy, and Bucky tries to figure out what his next step is, there’s a final confrontation with Zemo, and the Flag Smashers make their big play. Plus a provocative cameo by a famous person playing a venerable Marvel character and the triumphant return of Carl Lumbly’s Isaiah Bradley. My review of “Truth,” the penultimate episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s inaugural season.

An excerpt:

Back in July of 2019, when Marvel Studios announced their Phase 4 plans, I wrote the following on this very web site: “Why is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier still being called that when Sam Wilson is Captain America now? Seriously, calling it that when you first announced it is necessary due to not wanting to spoil Endgame, but now we know that the Falcon is the new Cap. So why isn’t this being called Captain America and the Winter Soldier? Particularly now, it’s important to acknowledge that the symbol of the U.S. is currently an African American.”

My opinion in the last sentence of that quote hasn’t changed—in fact, I feel even more strongly about it given the appalling number of incidents involving African-American citizens being targeted and killed by law-enforcement that keep fucking happening (not to mention increased vitriol directed at Asian Americans)—but I also get what they’re doing here. The history of people who aren’t white in this country is awful, and while things are better now than they were in the past, they’re still not by any stretch of the imagination good. The question for Sam is whether or not he will embody the ideals of America, which are often at odds with the reality of America—or will he be seen as capitulating to that reality in defiance of those ideals?

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “The Whole World is Watching”

The lines between good and bad are significantly blurred in this fourth episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as Sam is the only person acting rationally, nobody trusts anybody, and we’re reminded that no matter what else may be the case, the Dora Milaje will always kick your ass.

An excerpt:

I’ve gone back and forth as to whether or not John Walker is a dick in this space, and this episode makes it clear that it’s not that simple in either direction—indeed, that happens a lot in this episode. In a very revealing conversation between Walker and Lemar Hoskins, we find out that the three medals of honor Walker received were due to a horrible mission in Afghanistan that Walker describes as the worst day of his life. We don’t get specifics, but we don’t need them: the point is that something that we assumed was a badge of heroism (the medals) is in fact an attempt to prettify something very very ugly.

The flip side of that is Karli Morgenthau. She’s trying to help people who have been screwed by the restoration of half of humanity and the attempt to return to normal, but she’s going about it in a way that is also ugly. We pointedly hear a news story that mentions that one of the victims of the destruction of the GRC building last week had only just started working for the GRC and left behind a family. As Sam says to Karli, when you’re killing people, you’re not making the world a better place, just different. If your noble goal can only be fulfilled by leaving children without a parent, then your goal may not be so noble. Then again, even Karli’s fellow Flag-Smashers were caught off-guard and not entirely happy with her blowing up that building…

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “Power Broker”

We get Madripoor, but we don’t actually get the Power Broker. We get Zemo, but we don’t ever see Sam Wilson suit up as the Falcon. We see some nasty consequences for Sharon Carter, but they may not be as bad as we think. And John Walker may actually be as big a dick as his comics counterpart. Lots of stuff happening in the third episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

An excerpt:

This entire episode is about consequences, and I adore it for that reason. It starts with a hearts-and-flowers ad for the Global Repatriation Council that is trying to reintegrate the half of humanity who got dusted by Thanos and were returned five years later by the Hulk. It’s immediately followed by a GRC strike force led by John Walker that is trying and failing to locate the Flag Smashers. The GRC doesn’t come across very well here, not only having SWAT teams and such, but also the Flag Smashers target a GRC storehouse that has a ton of food and medical supplies just sitting there not being given to the refugees in their care. For that matter, we learn one of the reasons for Karli Morgenthau’s founding of the Flag Smashers: her mother Donya contracted tuberculosis in one of the GRC’s refugee centers.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “The Star-Spangled Man”

We’ve got four guys in this episode who have been Captain America in the comics — including the two title characters and John Walker as expected, but also Isaiah Bradley from the brilliant 2003 miniseries Truth: Red, White, and Black. My review of the second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

An excerpt:

Wyatt Russell also does great work, playing the humble aw-shucks-I’m-just-doin’-my-job soldier who’s trying to do the right thing. He’s doing this because he was ordered to, and he considers it a great honor. Russell strikes a very good balance here, as he’s not really a bad guy, but it’s also hard to warm to him, at least in part because his persona as Captain America is so obviously manufactured. He’s trying to fill Rogers’ shoes, but he hasn’t really done anything to earn the accolades he’s been getting. The people in the football stadium are cheering the uniform and the shield, not the person wearing it. Heck, Rogers himself didn’t get taken seriously as a soldier until he rescued a bunch of prisoners from Hydra’s clutches.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “New World Order”

The first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is all setup, but it’s mostly really good setup, and it’s a chance for Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes to get a bit more development as things other than Steve Rogers’s friend. Check out my full review.

An excerpt:

Both Barnes and Wilson are trying to figure out how to live their lives in the titular new world order. When Raynor tells Barnes that he’s free now, he plaintively and frustratedly asks, “To do what?” And Wilson’s attempts to reconnect with his family is nowhere near as successful as he’d like, especially since Sarah has to constantly remind him that he’s the one who went off and joined the military, leaving her to run the family business alone after their parents died, and it’s a bit late in the game for him to be trying to be the responsible brother.

audio of Spider-Man: Down These Mean Streets now out!

After several delays, the audio of my 2005 Spider-Man novel Down These Mean Streets, narrated by the redoubtable Tara Sands, is now available! The book itself is long out of print and hard to find, and there was never an eBook, sadly, but now you can listen to it with the greatest of ease!

You can get it from Amazon/Audible, Barnes & Noble, and any number of other audiobook dealers.

a brief history of Falcon and the Winter Soldier in the comics

In anticipation of the new MCU Disney+ series that debuts on Friday (and which I’ll be reviewing for Tor dot com), I wrote a brief history of both Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in the comics. Falcon was created in 1969 and Bucky in 1941, so as you might imagine there’s a lot of history, plus both of these erstwhile partners to Captain America have also been Captain America at different times.

An excerpt:

While the front stories of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier in the MCU track pretty well with the comics, the backstories have been significantly changed. Sam Wilson is a social worker in the comics, not an ex-soldier, and his wings came from Wakanda rather than the U.S. Army. And the Bucky Barnes of the comics didn’t meet Steve Rogers until after he became Captain America. His MCU role as his childhood friend basically tacked the role of Arnold Roth, introduced in Captain America Vol. 1 #286 by [J.M.] DeMatteis & [Mike] Zeck (1982) as the guy who defended scrawny Steve Rogers from bullies, onto Bucky.