A movie story idea for Black Widow

Okay, ideas are a dime a dozen. But I still offer the Marvel movie franchise a story that would be perfect for Black Widow. And the beauty of it is that Marvel already owns the story.

In 1989, Marvel Comics published The Agent. Written by James Hudnall, it is the story of Rick Mason, freelance spy, and his battle against supervillains taking over South American countries. I loved its James Bond dialog, spy action, and a non-super hero who defeats supervillains with his brains, skills, toughness, and wisecracks: I do have a superpower. I’ve got the power to make you wish we never met.

Black Widow was born to be in a spy movie kicking supervillain butt. All The Agent story will take is one little protagonist gender flip. I know screenwriter Jac Schaeffer does not need my help, and I am glad the screenwriter is a woman, but I have wanted to toss this idea out there for years. So now I did. So there.

P.S. Please do not do an Electra-type movie. Nobody likes CGI ninjas. Nobody.


X-Men: Apocalbully.

apocalypseI liked Captain America: Civil War. Fun ensemble fight scene, a decent take of the old Civil War story line (I was wondering how’d they spin its old “take off the mask or go directly to jail” storyline), and Spider-Man and Ant Man were a hoot! (I gotta develop my bug-based super.) And by the way, Abigail Nussbaum, as far as you saying it is really about men who solve their problems with violence instead of talking, the TV show At Midnight said it best: no one would sit through over two hours of Captain America: Civil Discussion.

I have not seen X-Men: Apocalypse yet, but I remember not reading every comic book Apocalypse strutted into. The big and really really really really really powerful mutant who thinks genocide is a snazzy way to accomplish world harmony. He’s John Galt without the 40 page screed and with so much superpower that the writers can’t figure out exactly what those powers are. (Decades later and I still don’t know and Wikipedia is kind of iffy.) Maybe one of them is mutant jumping-jacks, why else would his elbows and hips be cabled together? Every time I thumbed through those old X-comics (on the rack, try before you buy!), Apocalypse was standing tall, puffing out his chest like a teen bully about to shove a nerd into the swimming pool, and telling me how he was going to mutantly and powerfully destroy lots of people. I remember what Red Mask said about Captain Triumph in Grant Morrison’s Animal Man: “Nice guy, but he had the personality of a deck chair, you know?”

And that movie preview scene where Apocalypse is choking Mystique? Holly would kick him square on the nose. Hard. Sonic boom, 9.9 on the Richter scale hard. Super Holly Hansson hates guys who pick on people who cannot bench-press as much as they can. As a writer, she’d hate a boring bully worse.

Apocalypse, watch Biff in the Back to the Future movies. You can learn something.

P.S. I reserve the right to take some of this back if I like the movie.

Gimme a girl fight!

Marvel WomenI saw Batman V Superman, and I repeat to its director: BATMAN AIN’T DUMB! The movie is grim and sad and darkly dark except for the desert scene shot in eyeball-scorching sunlight. The only fun in it is Wonder Woman’s all too brief kick-ass fighting, let’s hope some other director does her movie and realizes that the audience would like to smile once every decade or so. Oh, and dream sequences make lousy motivators (almost as much as clouds being lousy villains), what’s wrong with reality doing that?

Have not seen it yet, but I know Captain America: Civil War will be a lot more fun. But Salon beat me to the punch and listed twelve Marvel superheroines who could have fixed its lack of women problem. How could they not have Carol Danver’s Captain Marvel? She’s military, she’s tough, she’s smart, she’s gonna have a Marvel movie, she’d have been perfect! And I’d have given a couple pints of blood if She-Hulk (tall, green, Raquel-Welch-esque amazon, and Bruce Banner’s cousin) could have gone toe-to-toe with Captain Marvel! Strength vs. strength! Super-jumping vs. flying! Hulk fists vs. energy blasts! Every fanboy’s dream: A SUPER-STRENGTH GIRL FIGHT!

P.S. She-Hulk is a lawyer, a superpower if there ever was one. A courtroom scene would have been neat: She-Hulk kicks butt in that vicious battlefield! Unless the other side hires Saul Goodman.

P.P.S. I won’t know which side Super Holly would be on until after I see the movie. She’s very independent, but she has a job on a superpowered peace corp: if she’s going to punch bad guys, she might as well get paid for it. She’d growl if Tony Stark/Iron Man hit on her, and she’d seriously crush on Steve Rogers/Captain America.

Super Working Stiffs

Even superheroes gotta earn a living. (Billionaire Bruce Wayne excepted.)

Like Ant Man. Gets out of prison, tries to earn a living with a private security company, and doesn’t do well at it. Poor guy. I love it.


I also love Marvel’s new Hellcat! comic book. The art is fun, the writing is funny and warm. Issue #1 had Hellcat encounter a low-level super villain. He had money troubles, “I’m just trying to live my life, y’know?” Instead of a huge fight, she talked him out of stealing and rented a room from him, she needed a place to live. Then she visited a comic book shop, had a beer, and started a super(hero) temp agency. She ended issue #1 with: “I, Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat, am going to work retail.” That is VERY refreshing!

It reminds me of Harvey Pekar. In his comic book American Splendor, Harvey wrote about his life as a file clerk in Cleveland: “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” Many of his stories were about his different jobs, and how his file clerk job was a cornerstone of his life. As a real life person, Harvey never put on a cape.

I take that into account in my story writing. My superheroine, Super Holly Hansson, is paid to put on her cape and do super heroics, Holly considers herself a working stiff. Unlike the current movie Superman, calling her any kind of god would be a great way to get a fat lip. Like Harvey Pekar, Holly’s comic book writing also earns money. It is a huge cornerstone of her life that she loves a lot more than punching out Harry Headbutt when he tries to “ROB BANK, GET MONEY, BUY TEN POUND STEAK, AND NOT LEAVE TIP!” And Holly’s love interest, Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert, became far more human when I finally gave him his day job as a movie critic.

My supers can get government-funded jobs and be paid for putting on the cape and doing super heroics. Beats putting on masks and running around looking for trouble at three o’clock in the morning. The police get to do that.

P.S. Why do my supers put on capes? Same reason cops wear a badge.

Two ways not to use superhero names and titles.

AForce_CaldwellI have obsessed over character names. I recently spent a few hours coming up with one that alliterated and had a sound that exposed the character’s character. I have recently found two ways that character names should not be used.

First, in the A-Force comic book, Marvel’s first all-female superhero(ine) team does a bad habit: characters announce their superhero titles when they show up in a scene. I think that once upon a time, some Marvel editor-in-chief mandated that writers have the superheroes announce themselves by their titles every time they entered a room. Imagine the Avengers living room. “Hello Hawkeye, I see you on the couch watching the news! It is I, Captain America, returning from a mission!” “Yes, Captain America! I see you are five feet nearer to the refrigerator than I! Mind grabbing me a beer? This is an adult comic book, after all! Hey, who is that my eagle eye now spies in the doorway? The Mighty Thor!” “Yes Hawkeye, it is I! The Mighty Thor! Hey ho, Captain America, I see you approaching the fridge! Any mead in there?”

Okay, A-Force did not do this THAT much. I am going to give it another chance. A new creative team, writer Kelly Thompson and artist Ben Caldwell, will be taking over soon. I think Ben’s art looks great, and I have high hopes for Kelly’s writing. But Kelly, please, go easy on the title announcing. I have been guilty of similar name-bombing myself, so I know of what I speak. Real people don’t talk like that!

Second, I am in a nice critique group where one person wrote on one of my stories that I could make a list of characters at the start of the story. Comic books have done that. It can be entertaining. The first page of Metamorpho #13 listed the characters: “Rex (Metamopho) Mason–Leading (Element) Man! Simon Stagg–Character (Harrumph) Actor? Frank Zorb–The ‘Heavy’–and is he ever!”

I used to do this years ago when I handed out chapters to critique groups. But even with a sugar coating (Alfred Hitchcock’s advice), a character list at the story start now feels too expositiony. I now give my super guys and gals their names and powers within the story itself, as in any prose story. I break enough rules already.

Some Like It Hulk!

With a few friends, I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron. IN STYLE! 3D at the Century in Mountain View, in big plush reclining chairs. Where I put my feet up, laid back, drank cherry coke and munched popcorn and geeked out. Life was good.

As to the little Black Widow controversy (SPOILER ALERT! Read no further unless you want a little bit of the movie revealed!), I thought it was very logical that Bruce Banner (Hulk) and Black Widow (Natalia) would be drawn to each other. Two damaged people who have left lots of destruction in their wakes. Bruce: unable to have relations without Hulking out. Natalia: unable to have children, thanks to her nasty former handlers. It was a touching scene when she told Bruce about her past (and fie upon those who hate that scene, grow a heart already).

You know what? After this movie, I am convinced Black Widow deserves her own movie. Even though it would likely be dark and gritty, considering her past. I can always floss my teeth after the movie.

But I kept thinking of the ending of Some Like It Hot, which I rewrite below for when Bruce, well …

Natalia: Okay, you have the other guy under control. But we still can’t get married.
Bruce: Why not?
Natalia: Well, in the first place, I’m not a natural born citizen.
Bruce: Doesn’t matter.
Natalia: I beat up guys! I beat them up all the time!
Bruce: I don’t care.
Natalia: I have a terrible past. For years, I was an enemy spy, and worse.
Bruce: I forgive you.
Natalia: I can never have children!
Bruce: We can adopt some.
Natalia: But you don’t understand, I’m a Black Widow! [throws Bruce across the room for emphasis] An unstoppable, unapologetic engine of destruction!
Bruce: [gets up, Hulks out, tears off his shirt, and smiles] WELL, NOBODY PERFECT!

Female Super Teams? Oh, yeah!

a-forceAfter so many sausage-fest (I mean, all-male) teams, I want to see more women teams. I want to see the dynamics and the dialogue and every other way that the team would feel more femalely.

The new Ghostbusters movie will be an all-female team. Great idea, except for one thing: the original movie was a four star movie. Siskel and Ebert (remember them?) said why not remake a lousy movie to be a good one instead? (Cough, cough, Battlestar Galactica, cough). My advice: you got great actresses, you’ll have great special effects, but the movie will not be worth a hill of beans unless you have a GREAT script!

And we have a new Marvel Avenger team coming up: A-Force. “Joy of joys” says the comic book geek (yeah, I just said that), I’ll try it out! Why? She-Hulk will be on the team, and hopefully she will get to use her lawyer skills, I love her in the courtroom (I am watching Better Call Saul while I write this). What is even more promising? A-Force will be written by FEMALE WRITERS! One of them, Willow Wilson, is writing the new Ms. Marvel, a teenage superheroine who is learning the ropes and is the most entertaining girl superhero on the comic racks right now. (Well, Batgirl is pretty good right now. Readers, pipe up if you know some more out now worth reading.)

We need more female-lead actresses, more female superheroes, and more female writers for comic books and movies. Sausage is okay, but too much in the diet can clog the arteries. And how the heck else will I be able to write Super Holly well if I do not have role models?

By the way, I advise the A-Force ladies to avoid supersuits that ride up their butts. Super Holly really hates when that happens, especially during a fight and she can’t yank it back into place and she’ll growl and the villain will get scared for the wrong reason.