Sunday, December 26, 2010

TRON: Legacy

The main attraction of the original TRON was the immerse atmosphere. The visuals were just so unique that you didn't really care about the plot. The new version is very similar. The plot is weak but it looks so good that it is worth going to.

The basic premise is similar - a human finds himself inside a computer grid. The specifics have changed with technology.

When the original as made most people accessed a mainframe through terminals. Most people accessing computers were programmers. The characters in the computer were programs. Each program looked like the person who created it. Everything was fine until a new security program called the MCP took over and shut down access between the users and their programs. A program called TRON and a user named Flynn managed to shut down the MCP and open up access to the IO towers allowing programs and users to communicate again.

Nowadays everyone has one or more computers. Today's cell phones have more processing power than a 1982 mainframe and much of the computing has moved onto the "cloud". None of that is reflected in TRON: Legacy. Instead, Flynn worked on building a new, perfect world somewhere - probably in a mainframe or cluster. Flynn created a program named Clu to help him. As in the original movie, Clu looks like Flynn did when he created Clu. Flynn became trapped and, years later, his son goes looking for him and ends up in the digitized world.

TRON was the first movie to make extensive use of Computer Generated Images (CGI). These were limited and very simple. Most CGI shots were not integrated with the live action. Most of the movie was shot in black and white with glowing colors added with back lighting and hand animation. This is not an issue with the new movie. In fact, Clu is one of the biggest effects. Since he is supposed to look like Flynn did in his 30s, the computer animators filmed the modern Jeff Bridges and digitally removed years from his face.

In the original movie, Dillinger, the man who created the MCP also stole some game programs from Flynn. Flynn needed access to the mainframe to prove that he actually wrote the programs. By this point MCP had absorbed hundreds of other programs and was much smarter than Dylan's original creation.

The new movie has a quick appearance by Dillinger's son who was in charge of the company's new operating system. Since the original movie the corporation Encom has gone from producing games to making operating systems. There is a dispute about operating systems being free or proprietary. While this could be aimed at Microsoft, these days Encom is closer to Apple since they are trying to create a walled ecosystem around their computers.

One last note - don't bother paying extra for 3D. The real world parts of the movie were filmed in 2D and it makes very little difference to the parts of the movie taking place in the computer.

A bit of trivia - Flynn wrote a program named Clu in the first movie but it was destroyed early on.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The 1960s Christmas Toy Season

It's hard to believe how much things have changed over the last 50 years, especially in how Christmas toys are marketed.

Back then there were no huge discount stores like Walmart. The biggest toy stores were mom and pop operations in a strip center. Enclosed malls were still in the future. Toys came from downtown department stores (every city had its own department store which was close to a multi-story mall) five and dime stores, and super markets. The first sign of Christmas was the appearance of toys on top of the refrigerator units in the super market. These were the good toys, too. They were big - 2-3 feet long, often with a transparent section so that you could see the toy inside the box. This is where the Johnny Seven gun and the Tiger Tank were sold.

Not long after the toys appeared in the super markets you would start to see ads for them on tv. All TV was broadcast. Since there were only three networks and a scattering of independent stations, the amount of programming devoted to children was limited. There was a couple of hours in the morning dominated by Captain Kangaroo. A local host would show cartoons after school. Some old kid-friendly shows were syndicated between school and the news - shows like Mr. Ed or McHale's Navy. Then there was Saturday morning when 3-4 hours on all three networks was devoted to kids shows. This is when the targeted ads would run.

The other big source of toys was catalog stores, mainly Sears and Penny's. It was an event when the Sears Christmas catalog arrived. It had page after page of toys, some of them exclusive to Sears.

The department stores had their own secret weapon - Santa. Columbus's department store was Lazarus and they went all out. There was a locally-produced morning kids show called Lucy's Toyshop. This was a half hour show with Lucy and a cast of puppets. Starting December 1, Lucy and the puppets would expand the show, adding an extra half hour featuring Santa Claus himself and sponsored by Lazarus. Every year Santa got behind and needed Lucy and the puppet's help to catch up making toys. They had a toy-making machine that would plop out toys periodically. Lucy would examine the toy and make sure that the parents knew that they could buy this toy at Lazarus. The kids also knew that most "Santas" were just Santa Helpers but the real Santa was at Lazarus.

In addition to sponsoring a half-hour daily kids show, Lazarus featured an animated window and a Santa Land. These were done from scratch every year. These days Santa's main purpose is to sell pictures of the kids on Santa's lap. In those days, his job was to get the family into the toy department. To minimize the time spent waiting for Santa, Lazarus had several. I think that they had five at their peak. I remember one year getting in line and seeing all of the kids in front of us and thinking that it would take forever. The lines split up. I expected them to join together again but instead we went around a corner and there was Santa. It seemed too good to be true but I was so happy at the short line that I didn't question it very closely.

Lazarus also had a Children's Secret Gift shop. Parents would send the kids in along with some an envelope containing money and some suggestions. Gift specialists would then steer the kids to buy the proper present and wrap it for them.

Not all toys came from standard sources. Sometimes gas stations and tire stores would get in on it, selling branded toys at Christmas.

Lazarus was not the only place you could see Santa. Zanesville, where I grew up, also had Santas at the shoping center and at the County Courthouse. Santa arrived at the shopping center by helicopter the day after Thanksgiving. Both Santas had special houses set up for them. A few times the Zanesville Santa had his own afternoon show but it never had the production values that the Lazarus one had.

Downtown was always decorated for Christmas. Every lamp post had some sort of decoration and sometimes lights crisscrossed the main streets.

Even the comic page got into the act. Disney often put out a special comic strip in which some of their movie characters helped Santa in some way. This ran from December 1 to Christmas Eve.

This might make Christmas sound highly marketed and it was to an extent but within reason. No one pushed cars as Christmas presents. Toys might be pushed during kids shows but there was little licensed merchandise. These days the big push is at high-ticket items for adults and most kids toys are tie-ins with movies or other sources. The Christmas season was carefully defined as running from the day after Christmas until Christmas Eve. Everyone was closed on Sunday so the number of shopping days until Christmas was posted in the paper.

Everything changed during the 1960s. Malls covered the country. Sears and Penny's changed from catalog operations to mall anchors. The department stores anchored the other end of the malls. Big box toy stores and discount stores became the norm. Everyone opened on Sunday and Santa began arriving the weekend before Thanksgiving. Santa stopped getting his own tv show and moved to the mall. As Viet Nam escalated, war toys stopped being big sellers.

Like Halloween, Christmas went from being a children's holiday to a general holiday with most of the marketing aimed at adults.

1960s Christmas Gifts

I was an only child and my father was a doctor. We were not rich but we weren't poor, either. That meant that I got a lot of good Christmas presents. I ran across a site listing some vintage toys from the 1950s through the 1970s and as surprised at how many of these I had. Here is some commentary on some of them.

The Johnny Seven OMA set was seven weapons in one. It fired three types of projectiles. It could also be set up as a grenade launcher.You folded the legs down and spread them to make a tripod and flipped up the launcher. The stock detached and the pistol grip became an actual pistol. All together, there were two triggers and four firing buttons plus the release for the pistol.

The James Bond Attache Case was something I really wanted. I think that it was a Sear exclusive back when they were a major retailer. It had a bunch of gimmicks right out of the movies. There was a (plastic) knife hidden in one end. You could shoot a plastic bullet. It had a built-in camera and walkie-talkie and separate receiver. It had a trick latch that would fire a cap if you opened it wrong. Inside it had some secret agent identification and a pistol that could convert to a rifle. I continued to use the walkie-talkie receiver for years.

I had both of these consoles. The top one was ok. It had several controls that you could play with but the bottom one was more fun. The bottom one had controls for an airplane with the airplane mounted on top. The throttle controlled the propellers (this predated  jet airliners) and the yoke make the plane tilt up, down, left, or right.

This car dashboard looks familiar. Either I had one of these or a friend did. Either way, its more fun to pretend to fly a plane than drive a car.

The Johnny Astro spacecraft was a neat idea. It used a vortex to lift a small balloon. By using a joystick and throttle you could control the balloon's flight. I found it frustrating. There was too much play in the controls and I could never get the balloon to go quite where I wanted it to go. You also had to use a feather-light touch on the throttle or the balloon would fly out of the vortex and you would have to start from scratch.

My Give-A-Show projector was red instead of blue but otherwise it was just like this one. It projected four panel cartoons. I got a lot of use out of this one.

This car wash looks familiar. I'm sure that I had one. I'm also sure that using it as a car wash was fun for five minutes. After that I used the parts as other things.

Part of the Mattel Thing Maker series. You squirted some colored goop into metal molds then heated them for a few minutes. After they cooled you had soft, rubbery pieces. There were heads, arms, and legs. You used a pencil to hold them together. It was fun until the goop ran out.

The Wham-o Air Blaster was great. There was rubber membrane inside. You cocked it with a lever on top then fired it by pulling the trigger. It created a blast of air and a cool sound. The air blast moved surprisingly slow. I played with it until I wore out the rubber membrane.

I just auctioned off my tank last Summer. I still had the box, too. The tank was controlled by a "walkie-talkie" with control buttons. The walkie-talkie was on a long cord and also held the 4 D cell batteries. It was ok for indoor play but the electric motor was disappointing. The tank was too slow and did not have enough power for rough terrain.

Thimble City was a city block on legs. The set included cars, people, and a couple of pets, all with magnets in their base. There was a pair of magnetic wands that you could use to move the objects around. This was never as much fun as the ads made it seem. When I played with it my friend and I usually kept stealing each other's characters. The pets were the best for this since they left more of the magnets exposed. I remember having an insane amount of fun that way.

This seems like a lot of toys but spread over several years of both birthday and Christmas it isn't even one present per occasion.

While these were fun, the toys I really played with are not on the site. I'll see if I can find some for a future post.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Marvel's Disturbing Women

Marvel has been releasing digital back issues of Ms Marvel. While reading them I got to thinking about how solo women have fared in the Marvel Universe. It isn't pretty. Most of them end up going through transformations, both mental and physical. Many have been victims or had some form of mental problem.

As far as I know, the first Marvel woman to be featured in a solo story in the Silver Age or later was the Wasp in a back-up story. It was pretty forgettable. The Wasp was on her way to meet Henry Pym while wearing a coat over her costume. She saw someone lifting a man hole cover and investigated. He turned out to be an escaping robber. The Wasp didn't have her sting with her (back then she needed her costume to shrink and her sting came from a device she wore on her forearm). She got the robber to surrender by rolling up a piece of paper to make a megaphone and impersonated the Invisible Girl. The robber was afraid that the Thing and the Torch were following and surrendered to the police.

Compared with the other women I will cover, the Wasp did fairly well - right up to her death. She even led the Avengers for several years. Henry Pym had enough problems for both of them. He was initially interested in her because she resembled his dead first wife. They married while he thought that he was someone else. He had several breakdowns and became abusive.

The next woman to go solo was Medusa in a one-shot. The Black Window had her own half-book for a few issues and also went on to lead the Avengers. Her life up until the Avengers Disassemble plot was straightforward although her life became bumpier later.

This is where things get creepy.

In response to the Woman's movement, Marvel introduced The Cat, the first character created, written, and drawn by women. The comic flopped and an effort was made to bring her back. To do this, she was transformed into the half-tiger, Tigra. That also failed and she ended up in the Avengers. Besides going furry and growing claws, she has had periods where her personality was taken over by her cat impulses. She also grew a tail.

The Cat's costume was found by Patsy Walker who put it on and became the Hellcat. She eventually married the Son of Satan who turned abusive.

One of Robert E. Howard's creations was Red Sonya - a 16th century mercenary. The story she appeared in was adapted as a Conan story and she became Red Sonja (with a "j"). In her first few appearances she dressed similarly to Conan with a mail shirt, silk shorts (hers were tighter and shorter), and high boots. She was immediately popular and was given her own comic. He outfit was changed to a scale-mail bikini and she was given an origin. It seemed that she had been a farm girl who was raped. A goddess appeared to her and gave her skill with the sword. The catch was that she could only make love to a man who defeated her. This came close to saying that she could only have sex when raped.

The She-Hulk was created for trademark reasons. Unlike her cousin, the She-Hulk didn't have two personalities although her personality was different when she was green. She eventually stopped using her human form and for a while she lost it completely. Later she went crazy and destroyed a town before being turned back into her human form. From there she worked back up to being the She-Hulk most of the time. I don't think that she used her human form in the last few years.

More important is how the She-Hulk's personality progressed. She became a party-girl who would sleep with anyone. In a lot of ways she is the perfect male fantasy - a beautiful, sexy woman who wears very little and will hop in bed with men with no strings attached.

The Scarlet Witch has never had a solo strip but she did share a comic book with the Vision for a while. Regardless, she deserves special mention. She started out as a reluctant member of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. When the Stranger took Magneto to another world to study, she joined the Avengers and was a member off and on for decades after that. She fell in love with the Vision, an android (or synthazoid) and eventually married him. She had a few false starts about her parentage before learning that her real father was Magneto. While practicing magic, she managed a virgin conception and had twins. It turned out that the twins were actually a product of her magic and eventually vanished. Over time this drove the Scarlet Witch insane and she began using her reality-warping powers unconsciously. She broke up the Avengers, killing or maiming different members in the process. Next she completely rewrote reality in an attempt to recreate her children. Eventually she lost her powers and her memory (for the moment).

After the Cat flopped, Ms Marvel was created as the company's flagship female character. There were issues from the beginning. The character was created around Carol Danvers who had been a supporting character in Captain Marvel. When she first appeared, Ms Marvel had complete amnesia. Her powers were similar to Captain Marvel's and she wore a costume like his except with a scarf, bare legs and cutouts over her stomach and back. The cut-outs were controversial and a pain for the artist so the were quickly dropped. At first neither Carol Danvers not Ms Marvel were aware of the other. When they did become aware, they resented each other. They regarded each other as different people. It took months before the two personalities merged. After that she adopted the sexy costume she wears now.

Ms Marvel's comic lasted a couple of years. After that she joined the Avengers (I think I see a pattern here). She left after a virgin pregnancy. She came to term quickly and delivered a child that grew to adulthood in hours. She married him and went to live with him in a different dimension. Does this sound wrong? Her husband continued to age rapidly and quickly died of old age. Ms Marvel returned to Earth realizing that she had been the victim of mind-control and angry that none of the Avengers saved her. Not long afterward, the mutant Rogue attacked her, stealing her powers and memories.

Carol eventually regained most of her memories. After being kidnapped by aliens she was subjected to some experiments that linked her with a white star. This put her in the cosmic hero class. Taking the name Binary, she left Earth for some time and joined the group the Starjammers. Eventually she returned to Earth and rejoined the Avengers. Her powers as Binary faded and she was back to a variation of her Ms Marvel powers. For a while she called herself Warbird. She developed a drinking problem and had to drop out of the Avengers.

More recently Carol went back to being Ms Marvel in her own book. During the Civil War she was on Iron Man's side. Afterward she was asked to form a new team of Avengers. All well and good except she also sort of merged with an alien and later died (at least for a while). She was replaced as Ms Marvel by Moonstone who has her own issues despite being a trained psychiatrist.

Even though she did not have a solo book, Jean Gray's life deserves some examination. She was a new recruit to the X-Men in X-Men #1. Eventually she and Cyclops fell in love. In X-Men #100 she sacrificed herself by piloting a space shuttle through a solar flare without shielding. This should have killed her but a cosmic being was attracted to her act of self-sacrifice. It took her place and put her in a healing cocoon. The cosmic being's own powers manifested and it called itself Phoenix. The power of the Phoenix was too much temptation for the Jean Grey construct and it killed itself (after killing a world of asparagus people and threatening the Earth). When the original Jean finally finished healing and emerged from the cocoon she discovered that Cyclops had married her clone and they had a child. Cyclops abandoned both to be with Jean. After a few years, all three versions of Jean merged. She and Cyclops married and spent their honeymoon raising Cyclops's son in different bodies in the far future. Jean broke up with Cyclops, regained her Phoenix powers and moved on to another plane of existence.

Update - I forgot Jessica Drew, Spider Woman. At first she thought that she was one of the High Evolutionary's human/animal creations, a literal spider-woman. She spent several issues convinced that she was inhuman and the people were instinctively repulsed by her. It later turned out that she was a normal human who had obtained spider-powers through the High Evolutionary. The reason that people disliked her was because she gave off pheromones that repelled people. Charming.

Like the She-Hulk, Spider Woman mainly existed to tie down copyright. When the character didn't prove popular she was forgotten for years and replaced by a Spider Woman in a black and white costume. Jessica didn't make a come-back until the 2000s.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Heroes and the Law II

Continuing my thoughts on the relationship between superheroes and the law. Previously I looked at how the real world would handle superheroes. Now I will look at how they related to the law in their own universes.

When superheroes were first created at the end of the 1930s, they were an extension of a long tradition of adventurers who either aided the law or took the law into their own hands. This tradition went back decades and included stories about the wild west, the pulps, and radio dramas. Superheroes were descended from heroes such as the Shadow, Doc Savage, and Sherlock Holmes. There were also newspaper comic strips that featured heroes who were costumed or at least wore distinctive dress who were nearly superheroes. These included The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician and the futuristic heroes Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. All of these characters fought crime on some level without official sanction. Beyond that, Prohibition and the corruption it caused left people with a poor opinion of the police. Naturally, people didn't spend much time thinking about the legal ramifications of super-powered vigilantes with all of these other characters in circulation.

The Phantom deserves special mention. He was the secret chief of the Jungle Patrol making him the first costumed hero to actually head a police department.

When Superman first appeared he was obviously working outside the law. In his first couple of appearances he ran a corrupt senator out of town and stopped a war. Just imagine the consequences of either of these acts today.

World War II began just as superheroes were starting to bloom. Most heroes joined the war effort in some manner. Some heroes like Captain America were officially working within the government. The Human Torch joined the police force early on then recruited the Sub-Mariner to help in the fight against the Nazis.

The Golden Age of Comics ended along with World War II and most superhero comics were canceled. The most notable exceptions were Superman and Batman. By the 1950s, Batman had been deputized into the Gotham Police Force and Superman was officially recognized by the UN and the various law enforcement agencies of the world.

In the DC universe, several Silver Age heroes had relationships with law enforcement agencies one way or another. Green Lantern was part of a galactic police force. Hawkman and Hawkgirl were extraterrestrial police officers on earth to learn human police methods. Martian Manhunter's secret identity was a police detective named John Jones. The Flash was a scientist for the police.

Things were a little different when Marvel started. The three original teams in the Marvel Universe all had ties with the government. Nick Fury, who still had both eyes and was working with the CIA sent the Fantastic Four on a mission to stop the Hate Monger. Professor X had an FBI liaison he regularly met with. The Avengers went several steps beyond this. Avengers authority could be used to order police. An Avengers id was an all-access card. Rick Jones used his to see the President without an appointment. Later on these relationships became strained. After Professor X's apparent death, the FBI ordered the X-Men to split up in order to present a smaller target. This only lasted a couple of issues and was probably a sales ploy. The government took a stronger role in the Avengers, ordering them to diversify their membership and making other changes.

Non-team heroes did not fare as well. No one really cared about Daredevil and Doctor Strange operated below everyone's radar but Spider-Man was actively wanted for general questioning and the Hulk was considered an enemy of any country he happened to be in. He was attacked by the military in the US and the USSR.

The next batch of Marvel heroes operated outside the law as often as in it. This included the Sub-Mariner (who had attacked New York a couple of times) and the Silver Surfer (who had attacked the entire world). The next team, the Defenders, was never officially recognized by anyone. At one point it got out that there was no formal membership and the team was overrun by would-be members. From that point on, most teams existed without any relationship to the government.

There were exceptions. The original X-Force presented itself as a private anti-mutant squad. This was actually a cover for the original X-Men to rescue mutants. After they merged with the X-Men, the team became a government-run team of mutants. The British group, Excalibur had an arrangement with the British government which eventually included having Peter Wisdom, a member of a British secret agency, as a member.

After the apparent death of the FF, Baron Zemo founded the Thunderbolts. This was actually made up of super-villains using new names in order to gain official access to the FF's headquarters. The core members eventually decided that they preferred being heroes and went straight.

Out of all of the solo heroes, Captain America has had the closest relationship with the government. He worked with SHIELD many times, more than any other hero. On the other hand, in the 1980s someone in the White House discovered that the government helds the rights to the name and costume and informed Steve Rogers that he was now reporting to them. In order to retain his status as a free agent, Rogers resigned and a new Captain America was recruited. This continued until President Reagan found out about it and he ordered his staff to give the role back to Steve Rogers.

The 1970s saw the rise of the monster comic along with several monster-related heroes. These included the Ghost Rider, the Son of Satan, the Beast, the Werewolf (by night), and a host of others. All of them were hunted by the police any time they became aware of these characters.

During the 1990s, the various mutant groups shifted membership and missions several times. They started resembling gangs fighting over territory rather than heroes and operated outside of the government.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Superheroes and the Law

I was reading some marvel digital comics and hit a few issues from the Civil War arc. That got me to thinking about what the relationship would be in the real world between superheroes and the government. I'll do a second post on how the topic evolved in the comics.

Civil War was meant partly as commentary on the Patriot Act and other policies of President George W. Bush. Because of this background, many of the plot elements were meant to show the government as being over-the-top. The conflict was over an act that required superheroes to register with and work for the government. The split between the heroes was between the conservatives on the side of the government and the liberals who opposed the act.

So, how would today's real world react to superheroes? This gets complicated because many heroes are not actually super. Some are costumes acrobats using archaic weapons (Captain America, Daredevil, Hawkeye). Batman would also be in this group but the DC universe has always been different from ours while the Marvel Universe is based on more closely on the real world.

Anyway... the next group consists of regular people using advanced technology (Iron Man, War Machine). The final group has the people with actual powers. These distinctions can get a little fuzzy. Daredevil has radar sense, Iron Man's armor has been part of him at times. There are also people who use technology or magic to gain powers. Giant Man originally used a gas and later a helmet to change size. Thor used to change back to a human if he lost hold of his hammer for more than a minute. I'm making the call that Daredevil could (and has) functioned with regular vision and that having real powers is more important than how they are obtained. That still leaves Iron Fist who has a real super power but seldom uses it but no classification is perfect. The fact that he can demolish a building with a single punch puts him in the people with powers class.

Now, I'm going to extrapolate from the real world and assume that conservatives would accept superheroes more readily than liberals. My reasoning is that most gun-control advocates are liberal and that the areas with the tightest gun controls are liberal strongholds. The same goes for militia groups and volunteer boarder-watchers. Conservatives support them and liberals hate them. Real vigilantism is very rare but the few examples break down the same way. Bernie Goetz, the subway shooter, comes to mind. He shot four men who were trying to rob him. Liberals believe that the four men were only asking for loose change and were shot unprovoked. Conservatives believe Goetz's version, that the four men threatened him and would have hurt him if he had not shot them.

So, my extrapolation makes me think that liberals would tend to see superheroes as a threat and might start examining the race of offenders caught for signs of racism. Conservatives would be more likely to take superheroes at face value. That would cover the costumed acrobats. With the exception of the Punisher (who would be on the Most Wanted list), the acrobats use bare hands and minimal weapons against criminals who often carry guns.

Things change when we get to the group that uses advanced technology. It is one thing to take out an armed robber with a stick. It is something quite different when you are wearing the equivalent of a tank. It is illegal to own a tank with a working cannon or a warplane with missiles. I doubt that the government would support someone wearing armor that could tear either of these to pieces. Again, I expect that more conservatives than liberals would support this class of hero but I suspect that the majority of the country would want some sort of official control over technology like this. There are strict prohibitions against using US military force against the citizenry. These restrictions would probably be extended to superheroes. They might be treated like firms such as Backwater Security (AKA Xe) which is allowed to carry weapons under contract to the government. Again, support for Blackwater is higher among conservatives than liberals.

This brings us to the people with real powers. Things get trickier when you have someone who cannot be disarmed. They might be forced to work for the government as in the Marvel Universe or they might be treated as contractors. There might be exceptions made for people with powers who do not use them as long as they do not use them. But how do you handle people who start fires because they are irritated or can wreck a city block in a fight over a girl? And this is just the Fantastic Four (in the Silver Surfer's second appearance the Thing started a fight over Alicia and a block of condemned buildings was leveled).

Liability insurance for these beings would be impossible. They would have to have federally-backed insurance like flood insurance.

Just being close to these heroes can be dangerous so they might be ordered to post their location and stay away from locations where people assemble, especially children. In short, we might end up treating superheroes like sex offenders.

Or we might go the route taken in the Incredibles and offer superheroes a deal - retire and receive amnesty or be outlawed. Regardless, I doubt that the real world would be as hero-friendly as the Marvel Universe.