SNAP JUDGMENT: With the third Avengers movie becoming a new bank everybody is putting their money into, D. and Andrew finally sit down to talk about the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe capstone event. Be warned that this episode CONTAINS SPOILERS for the movie.
THE LONG CON-TINUITY: After years of teasing the topic, Andrew and D. finally sit down to talk about continuity. It starts with the continuity issues surrounding Star Wars and Disney’s purge of their Extended Universe, before it descends into talk about its benefits, its setbacks, and why it can be used as a weapon.
The ending to St. Elsewhere (re: the reference to the “snow globe ending” in this episode, referring to the very end of the show, St. Elsewhere, where it was revealed that the show was actually just a fictional universe imagined by an autistic child):
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew and D. start with a little Black Panther talk––friend of the show, Kyrun Silva, went on Good Day Sacramento to talk about what the character has meant to him as an independent comic creator––before Andrew discusses the complex but fun fantasy board game, Gloomhaven, while Dan watches the short but effective AMC comic book documentary series, Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics.
[This article has been updated by the author since seeing the film; the content remains spoiler-free. -D. Bethel]
When Marvel’s trailer for Avengers: Infinity War debuted, many comic fans, like myself, were excited. The culmination of ten years of dedicated movie watching will pay off in what MCU mastermind, Kevin Feige, has dubbed “[a thing] you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale.” But being a self proclaimed comic expert, and even having my own YouTube Comic Book Show, means you become the person your friends text when they have questions. One that struck me after the trailer debut was “Who’s the purple dude that looks Hellboy-ish? The bad one who put a jewel into his knuckle?” The question is perfectly fair, although my response was a bit, um, charged:
“Um… Thanos? The Mad Titan. The ultimate villain that has been teased since Avengers ONE. WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHO IS THANOS?!!!!”
That simple question led down a rabbit hole of a discussion with my friend about the fact that they missed Thanos inallthree of his movie appearances (two of which were post- or mid-credits scenes), and his mention in another. Then you have the Infinity Stones and how they fit in (literally and figuratively) with the Infinity Gauntlet and how all of this relates to the average moviegoer. When all is said and done, when you sort the movies out using those requirements, you have the following:
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – Mentioned due to being Gamora/Nebula’s “adoptive” father.
Infinity Stones Appearances/Mentions
Thor (post-credits scene) – Tesseract/Cosmic Cube – Space Stone
Captain America: The First Avenger – Tesseract/Cosmic Cube – Space Stone
The Avengers – Tesseract/Cosmic Cube – Space Stone and The Scepter – Mind Stone
Thor: The Dark World – Aether – Reality Stone
Guardians of the Galaxy – The Orb – Power Stone and Aether – Reality Stone
Avengers: Age of Ultron – The Scepter/Vision’s head – “Mind Stone”, All 6 of the Stones were in Thor’s vision.
Captain America: Civil War – Mind Stone in Vision’s head
Doctor Strange – The Eye Of Agamotto – The Time Stone
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – mentioned Power Stone again
Thor: Ragnarok – Thor was looking for the Stones from when he had that vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
So, counting the above, in order to understand Thanos and the Infinity Stones (minus the Soul Stone.. WHERE IS THAT BAD BOY?) before going into Avengers: Infinity War, a person would have to have seen ten of the eighteen movies over the last 10 years just to understand everything that doesn’t have to do with our main characters. But is all that necessary? Could we shorten the list? Or, alternatively, how short can we make the list and still have it all make sense?
Let’s start out with movies from above you could skip as they are unrelated to most of the Infinity War plot (either secondary mentions of Thanos/Infinity Stones or no mentions).
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Then let’s take out movies that can have single line explanations in Infinity War to remove the bloat:
Captain America: The First Avenger – By the way, the Cosmic Cube/Tesseract was the macguffin of this movie and is seen in The Avengers.
Doctor Strange – The necklace Stephen Strange wears and uses in this movie has time powers and is the Time Stone
Thor: The Dark World – The Aether (aka red mist) was from this movie and that is actually an Infinity Stone.
So removing those means that only fourfive movies in the MCU have to do with the actual events of Infinity War from an understanding of the villain, giant cast of characters, and major plot points.
[UPDATE]: After seeing Avengers: Infinity War I would recommend that you watch All NINE of the below films for the most effective enjoyment of this film aka THE NEW HOTNESS. My recommendation is less due to the plot in all nine movies and more attributed to the character arcs and relationships that help push the plot of the new movie forward. However as far as plot goes, Thor: Ragnarok has been added to the list as it leads directly into Infinity War.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Captain America: Civil War
Not bad. But let’s add in some movies to round out character motivations, and side characters that may be pertinent to Infinity War:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Arguably the best MCU movie and introduces The Winter Soldier who’s a pretty major character at this point.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – MORE GUARDIANS (for real they added another member to the team in this movie. Plus, BABY GROOT!).
Spider-Man: Homecoming – Gives you more information on Spider-Man and his relationship with Tony Stark.
Black Panther – Many of the locations and characters from Black Panther are sure to be important in Infinity War based on the trailers alone.
In conclusion, here is this comic nerd’s list of the movies you should probably watch before Avengers: Infinity War. Additionally, if you swap Avengers: Age Of Ultron for Iron Man (the first) these may be the best movies of the 18 MCU films anyway. The list below is in viewing order (by MCU chronology) with bolded titles being the MUST SEE four films.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Captain America: Civil War
With all nine of these movies under your belt, anyone should be able to enjoy Avengers: Infinity War to its fullest.
Have any suggestions or edits to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Taylor Katcher doesn’t like sand. It’s coarse and irritating and gets everywhere. But he loves comics, typefaces, and most other things to a fault…mostly.You can follow Taylor’s unbridled love for stuff on Twitter.
An article filed by The Hollywood Reporter revealed that 20th Century Fox has slated three movies set in its own X-centric (no pun intended) universe for 2018. While not the biggest of surprises, it at the very least hints at a big push by the Marvel Studios competitor for a larger share of superhero cinema profits. Hot on the heels of an announcement regarding Fox’s other major franchise investment––James Cameron’s Avatar series––revealing their release dates for the next three sequels, Fox confirmed that their blockbuster season will start with the newest entry into Fox’s X-world, and one that is a bit of a gamble at that.
The New Mutants
Announced to open on April 13, 2018, The New Mutants is in pre-production at the moment with Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) directing. The spring release date is a safe one as it allows it to miss much of the summer and winter blockbuster melodrama. This movie has had a lot of speculative casting in the news over the last few months, no doubt gearing up some excitement for a series of characters relatively unknown to the greater populace. The New Mutants were introduced in 1983 as the first major spinoff to theX-Men, bringing back the original conceit: a team of teenaged mutant heroes lead by Professor X. The movie is based on the early issues, specifically on a storyline called “The Demon Bear Saga,” that are well-regarded by fans and critics. The New Mutants eventually became a fertile playground for the notorious Rob Liefeld, who introduced characters like Cable, Deadpool, Domino, and Shatterstar, among others, in its pages. The series ended with issue #100 at which point the series was renamed X-Force. With an X-Force movie desired by the Fox bigwigs, they may be viewing The New Mutants as a stepping stone for that eventual film.
The hotly anticipated Deadpool 2 will follow with an early summer release on June 1, 2018. Summer is big business for blockbuster movies and Fox is clearly betting on the hope that Deadpool will be a contender (which it will very likely be). More importantly, it will be released just under a month after Avengers: Infinity War opens and a little over a month before Ant-Man and the Wasp debuts, placing it firmly in the middle of what Marvel is guaranteeing to be their summer (DC/Warner Bros.’s Jason Momoa-led Aquaman will be opening in July as well, making it a very busy season indeed). In contrast, the first movie was such an underdog contender, it was released at one of the slowest box office points of the year––February––so the new release date definitely shows the confidence the studio has in the character and its creative team. Deadpool 2 recently made the news rounds with the rather surprising casting news that the MCU’s own Josh “Thanos” Brolin will be playing Deadpool’s time hopping straight-man, Cable, which paved the way nicely for this scheduling announcement. As mentioned on the site previously, even though Deadpool 2 has had its share of hiccups during pre-production with the exit of original director, Tim Miller, and taking with him original composer, Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL, the studio filled the open seat with John Wick director, David Leitch, and things are moving full steam ahead.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Finally, the next ensemble X-Men film, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, has been given an opening date of November 2nd, 2018. This is perhaps the most surprising film in the announcement. With the critical and financial wobble that X-Men: Apocalypse had last summer, the future of the franchise was in question among critics and fans while the studio was also being rather quiet. Secondly, while both long-time X-Men director, Bryan Singer, and long time X-Men writer/producer, Simon Kinberg, have hinted at different directions to go with the next film, the reveal of the title in this announcement solidified their direction and ended much speculation since “The Dark Phoenix Saga” is likely the most famous X-Men storyline in its history. One can assume that Game of Thrones star, Sophie Turner, will reprise her role as Jean Grey, but it leaves fans to wonder how much of the other cast will return considering the slapback X-Men: Apocalypse received. While winter is not nearly as fiscally important a season as summer, it is the second largest period for income-generation with, in the past, large franchises like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter opening in November or December. Given the current slate of Marvel Studios and DC/Warner Bros. movies, it looks like, for now at least, X-Men: Dark Phoenix may have fairly light competition. Currently, Simon Kinberg is the favorite to direct, which would mark his feature directing debut, taking the helm from Bryan Singer. This film stands to be the most interesting of the three, as we wait to see how the success of experimental films like Deadpool and Logan influence the overall tone and approach to the now 17 year-old franchise.
While such an X-heavy year may point at a renewed interest in creating a shared universe between the films––that is a natural response to this type of schedule since it is basically what Marvel has done to establish its own––that is probably more speculation than likelihood. If we can pull anything from this schedule it is that despite the public lashing X-Men: Apocalypse took, and with the success of Deadpool and Logan, Fox is willing to put more faith and muscle behind their Marvel franchise in the face of Marvel Studios’ general dominance in the last decade. This is important because, in the wake of that cinematic giant, Fox seems to be finding its own path and voice and is making a different animal rather than just playing in the shadow of what’s been done before, and the new ideas that Fox has recently brought to the table are things that people seem to enjoy. With hope they keep experimenting and help keep the superhero movie genre on its toes in general.
While not about a particular aspect of nerd culture, Frankenfield’s article finds a thread strung through most aspects of geekdom: a legitimate choice between independent and “mainstream” products. In most nerdy and geeky venues, these exist side-by-side––I think of the gaming scene (specifically video gaming; Andrew will have to answer for the tabletop angle) where venues as amalgamated as Steam as well as the more hierarchical PSN or XBox Live give independent products prime real estate in an effort to get both triple-A and the snarkily titled “triple-I” titles on players’ screens. For all the drama that has surrounded video games press in the last few years, it has acted to level the playing field, not through any particular agenda as much as finding good indie games and wanting to share. For all nerdy avenues, Kickstarter and other crowd-sourced funding platforms have been key in getting independent products more mainstream attention, even if it never officially achieves that status.
More than ever, the line between “independent” and “mainstream” is blurring, and I think it’s a good time to ask some simple, problem-posing questions: how and why? I think the second question is easier to answer than the first. The divide is closing because traditional “mainstream” products have become less satisfying over time. Perhaps that’s the wrong word; mainstream products have become predictable and staid even though they still rake in profit. But we see this most popularly, I think, with television (though an argument could be made for any nerd media right now). Even though the major networks are still the ratings kings and producing the most popular content, the revered content is made outside of those avenues, the top producers of which are probably HBO and AMC, currently. It was them, and networks like them, that pioneered the “new golden age of television” in which we now find ourselves. NBC, CBS, and ABC are not the trailblazers here, even if they are the “winners” using outdated metrics.
As for the “how”, that is an answer that produces the most consternation and danger as this movement progresses. The nice thing about the mainstream system is that it provides traditional and, for the most part, proven processes for bringing projects to life. The problem is that, over time, the process became corrupted by brown-nosing who-you-knows with impenetrable baselines for entry. The rise of the independents, as Frankenfield illustrates, took advantage of new media and presented new content on its own terms, letting the audience find it, even if that audience was niche. The problem with this is––and I saw this all the time in webcomics––that, arguably, the independent road to success can only be travelled once. Again, with webcomics, the success of strips like Penny Arcade or PvP or Axe Cop led to unwarranted (and unproven) codification of paths to success and many eager creators became wrapped in false righteousness when their duplication of Penny Arcade‘s arc didn’t provide the same results for them.
With new media––specifically, internet-based media––it seems that roads to success are made out of sand and are erased as soon as they are coursed. It makes “success” a much more malleable phrase for independents than a mainstream product ever could find. It’s why maintaining a self-sufficient comic through ads, Kickstarter campaigns, and regular Patreon contributions could be seen as more of a success than the new Ghostbusters, even though its gross revenue is approaching $220 million dollars (I’m this fully cognizant of the fact that those returns are less than the production budget and marketing budget combined, but there was also Zoolander 2; check those numbers). Whether it’s in the black or not, people still paid $220 million dollars to go see it, which is impressive from an indie standpoint, but to many it’s a mainstream failure, whereas in the context of self-sustaining webcomics we could mean an amount that simply covers hosting costs. If anything, its this relative definition of success that’s going to be making the biggest marks on pop culture in the future, and Frankenfield points to specific examples of this––Louis C.K. and Chance the Rapper––to get this point across.
It’s no secret that I hold Marvel’s persecuted mutants close to my heart, and to that extent, I cherish the filmic versions a bit more dear than many MCU properties if only because of my nostalgic tie to them (while wholly acknowledging that Marvel makes better movies, on the whole). That being said, I have long felt that it would be a mistake for the X-Men and their associated titles to move from Fox to Marvel Studios. To be frank, I was hoping to write an article about it, but Kyle Anderson at Nerdist hit that nail before I did.
I echo Anderson’s point wholeheartedly that the X-Men work best when mutants are the only super-powered people on the planet. I realize this only really exists in the context of the movies as they have been wholly integrated into the Marvel Comics universe since their inception, but as an easily digestible metaphor that can make the largest impact, it’s a context that is much more effective than if they had to interact with super-soldiers and aliens (though X-Men: Apocalypse got a bit close to that mark and, according to Bryan Singer, is a direction he wants to go in the future).
But, referring to what guest Elijah Kaine said during our Shortcast, there currently is room in popular culture for more than one continuity. Naturally, we all assumed it would be a stark line between Marvel and DC because that’s how it exists in the print world. However, we aren’t seeing an effort really coagulating on the DC/Warner Bros. side of things despite their best efforts and it’s also smart to think of things existing more broadly. We have the MCU, we have the Arrow-verse, and we have the X-Men continuity, among others. It’s a much more nuanced and multi-faceted world we live in than, perhaps, we want, but I think, overall, it is better for it.
NOTE: Kyle Anderson is the co-host of a podcast I’ve talked about before––Doctor Who: The Writer’s Room––in which he and Erik Stadnik talk about the writers from classic Doctor Who (1963-1989). They provide incredibly in-depth critical analysis of scripts and their writers that, I would argue, makes it essential listening if you are a fan. This may also make me a bit biased toward Kyle Anderson’s argument, though I didn’t realize he was the author until after I had read the piece.
and, in a slightly different interpretation of the column’s title, here is a video that is “Worth a Look”: