Agents of SHIELD Part 2

CLARK GREGGThis is the second in my two part review of the first season so far of Marvel’s Agent’s of SHIELD television show. If you just watched Captain America: Winter Soldier and want to get caught up, this is the place. Tonight on ABC they’re airing episode 17 again along with 18. So don’t read 17 if you’re going to watch it. Needless to say, spoilers ahead.

S01E11 “The Magical Place”

Since the beginning of the series when someone asks where Coulson went when he died, the word was he went to Tahiti. And whenever he hears that word, he says, “It’s a magical place.” The audience and Coulson’s captors want to know the truth behind that statement. Edison Po tortures Coulson to get it but when he fails to get any information, the Clairvoyant kills him remotely leaving Raina in charge. Raina convinces Coulson to use a device to retrieve his memories because he’s just as interested in finding out what happened as they are. He sees flashes of Dr. Streiten using robots to work on Coulson’s brain while Coulson begs to die. Meanwhile, Victoria Hand and SHIELD work to rescue Coulson. After his rescue, Coulson confronts Dr. Streiten who admits Coulson was dead for days and that he’d lost his will to live until they manipulated his brain with false memories. It’s also revealed that Michael Peterson is alive and implanted with an eye device though he’s lost his leg and sustained other injuries.

This was a great follow up to The Bridge and finally partially answered the big question of the series. How did Coulson who died in The Avengers come back to life? We also learn that apparently the Clairvoyant doesn’t know everything because they know nothing when it comes to Coulson’s resurrection.

 

S01E12 “Seeds”

With the team back together, they go to a SHIELD training facility where a machine is being used to freeze people. Fitz befriends a cadet there named Donnie who reminds him of himself. After helping Donnie out, Fitz finds that Donnie and his friend Seth are creating a giant version of the ice machine in an effort to get the attention of Ian Quinn. Meanwhile, Coulson and May follow a lead on Skye’s origin finding out that 24 years earlier, a SHIELD agent died protecting Skye who was considered an Object of Unknown Origin. Back at the Academy, Donnie and Seth turn on the machine causing all sorts of havoc. A lightning bolt hits the machine and the SHIELD team is able to shut it down, but Seth is killed. Donnie is taken to the holding facility called the Sandbox and secretly now has ice powers. Later Coulson makes a call threatening Quinn. Quinn responds by mentioning that the Clairvoyant says ‘Hello’.

This episode was a combination of ‘anomaly of the week’ and continuing the ongoing plots and it works well. We get the return of Quinn and the revelation that he’s working for the Clairvoyant. We also get another piece of the puzzle when it comes to Skye. And we get yet another villain who gains superpowers and may become a problem later.

 

S01E13 “T.R.A.C.K.S.”

Hot on the trail of Quinn and the Clairvoyant, the SHIELD team infiltrate a train carrying something Quinn wants but are instantly found out thanks to a double cross from their contact named Russo. May kills Russo and the team ends up at one of Quinn’s mansions. In the basement Skye finds Michael Peterson alive in a stasis chamber. Peterson is outfitted with an artificial leg. The leg says ‘Deathlok’ on it. Quinn asks Peterson to prove his loyalty by killing Skye but he refuses. Quinn shoots Skye twice and leaves. The team save Skye by putting her in the stasis chamber to keep her alive. Peterson manages to escape, but Quinn is captured.

This was a major episode for a number of reasons, but one of the big ones is the word ‘Deathlok’. Deathlok is a well known Marvel cyborg. Agents of SHIELD finally has its first Marvel hero. It’s also another episode where a team member is in peril and stays that way through the end of the episode.

 

S01E14 “T.A.H.I.T.I.”

The team arrives at a SHIELD medical facility but they’re only able to stabilize Skye. They realize that the only thing that will save Skye is whatever saved Coulson. They find that Coulson was taken to a place called the ‘Guest House’. Agent John Garrett and Antoine Triplet arrive to take custody of Quinn, but Coulson won’t let him go until Skye is safe. Garret and Triplet join the team as they infiltrate the Guest House facility. They find the drug Skye needs. Fitz brings it back while Coulson further investigates the facility and finds that the drug is derived from a dead blue alien corpse. Unfortunately the place is rigged to implode and Coulson doesn’t get any more time. He races back to stop them from injecting Skye but he’s too late. They’ve injected her and it works. In the final scene of the episode we see someone called Lorelei take mental control of a newlywed man and drive off with him.

The arrival of Bill Paxton as Agent Garrett is a welcome addition to the show. He’s got a genial world-weariness that we expect of a veteran field agent and really seems more like how I thought much of Coulson’s team should have been when the show began. The revelation of the blue-skinned alien source for the miracle drug is a complete surprise though the immediate destruction of all evidence was a little to X-Files-like for my tastes. Still, this episode effectively uses what has come before and moves the plot forward in a big way.

 

S01E15 “Yes Men”

It turns out Lorelei is from Asgard and has the power to sway men just by talking to them. Lorelei soon hooks up with a biker gang and puts them all under her sway. Meanwhile the SHIELD team investigates energy fluctuations consistent with the arrival of an Asgardian. They quickly run into Lady Sif last seen in Thor The Dark World. She is in pursuit of the escaped Lorelei and joins up with Coulson and the others. They catch up to Lorelei at the biker bar but she enchants Ward who leaves with her to Las Vegas where they hook up. The team follows them to Vegas but when they raid Lorelei’s hotel room they discover that with Ward’s help, she’s taken over the Bus. After a brief battle including May and Ward fighting, the team retakes the Bus and Sif returns to Asgard with Lorelei. Later, Coulson tells the freshly healed Skye about the origins of the drug in her system. May gets on a direct line phone and tells someone “Coulson knows.”

This was another episode that brought things in the right direction. Having a secondary character from a recent movie helps increase the interconnectedness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and adding the intrigue of May secretly reporting to someone else keeps us guessing as to what’s really going on.

 

S01E16 “The End of the Beginning”

After briefly being attacked by Deathlok, Triplet and Garrett arrive with Agent Hand, Agent Blake, and Agent Sitwell on the Bus. Coulson explains that they are going to split into two-person teams and pursue various leads on the Clairvoyant. Coulson grants Skye official SHIELD agent status and has her split the teams. Sitwell is sent away to a tanker in the Indian Ocean at the last minute. Triplet and Simmons stay at the Hub where Simmons is hoping to use their equipment to secretly analyze Skye’s blood. Following their lead, May and Blake are attacked by Deathlok. Blake is seriously injured, but plants a tracker on Deathlok. After the attack, the team decide that Thomas Nash, the supposedly catatonic man May and Blake were coming to see must be the Clairvoyant. They use the tracker and go to an abandoned horse track where Deathlok escapes but they find Nash in a hospital bed speaking to them through computer screens in the room. When he threatens to kill Skye, Ward shoots and kills him. Later Coulson realizes that maybe Nash was not the Clairvoyant. He confronts Ward who denies everything. Meanwhile when Fitz tries to create a secret line to Simmons, he happens upon May’s secret line. Skye tells Coulson about this just as May confronts and tries to shoot Fitz. Before she can do anything more Coulson pulls a gun on her. Then the Bus suddenly changes course and we find that Agent Hand back at the Hub is ordering that everyone on board be killed except for Coulson.

This was arguably the best episode of the series so far, incorporating nearly every character introduced so far in a plot that moves the Clairvoyant story ahead in a big way. There’s also the small nod to Captain America: Winter Soldier when Sitwell is sent to the ship where we find him in the opening minutes of the movie. The Clairvoyant’s identity is still up in the air and Agent May’s loyalty is entirely uncertain. At this point, a show that’s been doing done-in-one, mostly predictable episodes for most of the season is suddenly firing on all cylinders.

 

S01E17 “Turn, Turn, Turn”

In an episode that aired only four days after Captain America: Winter Soldier premiered, everything changes. Garrett joins up with the team on the hijacked Bus after being attacked by drones. Skye discovers a code and deciphers hit learning of the Hydra infiltration of SHIELD. The Bus lands but the team escapes into The Hub before Hand’s people can take them. At this point, Coulson is convinced that Hand is the Clairvoyant. Meanwhile Hand confronts Simmons and Triplet and orders them to swear allegiance to Hydra. When they refuse, she reveals that she believes Coulson is Hydra. Garrett insists to Coulson that they must kill Hand. Coulson notices a slip up on Garrett’s part and realizes that Garrett was the Clairvoyant all along. After a brief battle Garrett is captured. They learn that elsewhere, Nick Fury is believed to be dead and Captain America stopped a Hydra plot. Ward offers to join Hand in taking Garrett to their holding facility the Fridge. On the way there, Ward kills the guards and Hand as it turns out he was working for Garrett all along.

As far as I know, no television show has ever so directly tied into a movie that just came out in theaters. This episode was so much a part of what happened in Winter Soldier that it wouldn’t be out of place on the Winter Soldier DVD. It’s also an episode with a bunch of huge shockers including the identity of the Clairvoyant, the death of Agent Hand and a seeming betrayal by a founding member of the team. Personally, I’m hoping the betrayal is real and not a double-agent sort of thing. This is also the first episode that mentions SHIELD’s classic enemy, Hydra. It must have been frustrating as hell to be handed this show and been told they couldn’t mention Hydra for the first sixteen episodes.

Summary
As the show winds up its first season, there are all sorts of unknowns, not the least of which is whether or not it will be picked up for a second season. After what was admittedly a slow start, Agents of SHIELD seems to have found its footing and isn’t content to just sit there. Here’s hoping the remaining episodes continue the uptick in quality.

-       Jack Cameron

Agents of SHIELD Part 1

ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." - Season OneIn just a few short years, Marvel has done the unthinkable and created an entire ‘universe’ of characters that spans multiple movie franchises and televisions shows. Marvel’s first attempt at a television show is Agents of SHIELD. What I’m going to do in this article is basically bring everyone up to speed on what’s happened on the show, where we are now, and why I believe it’s one of the most underrated shows on television. In other words, if you watched Captain America 2 and now want to get into a show that heading into the home stretch of its first season, this will catch you up.

Before I get into the individual episodes, I’m going to talk about what the creators of this show had to deal with from the outset:

The Good:
They had the advantage of being a spin off from one of the most successful movies of all time. The Avengers was seen by pretty much everyone. It made over a billion dollars and cost hundreds of millions to make using some of the top talent and special effects in the business. They also had hundreds of thousands of comic book fans.

The Bad:
Television works on much smaller scales and much smaller budgets. Even if they wanted to, they didn’t have the kind of money necessary to have super-powered craziness with huge explosions every week. While they might have a built in audience thanks to the Marvel movies, much of that audience has an unrealistic expectation of the level of special effects that are possible in a television show. Similarly, there are a ton of comic book fans who want to see comic book characters every week and quite a few of them are tied up in licensing or being used in other upcoming movies.

Don’t get me wrong. Agents of SHIELD had its problems starting out that could have been avoided, but the creators also assumed that their viewers would stick around for the whole season to see how things played out. Those of us who have are glad we did.

The Episodes:

S01E01 “Pilot”

In the opening episode we get Agent Coulson who was last seen dead in the Avengers back among the living and running a team that consists of tech geniuses, Leo Fitz and Gemma Simmons (aka FitzSimmons), field agent, Grant Ward, and pilot and secret badass Melinda May. Their first assignment together is going after a hacker group called Rising Tide and investigating a guy named Mike Peterson using some cobbled together technology that gives him superpowers. This was done to him by a group called Project Centipede. Mike is warned by a hacker named Skye that SHIELD is coming for them. Skye is part of Rising Tide. Skye is detained by SHIELD and becomes a reluctant recruit after they save Peterson’s life.

As pilot episodes go, they effectively created some mysteries. (How is Coulson back from the dead? Who and what is Centipede?) And they managed to mention the Extremis technology used in the recently released Iron Man 3. But the introduction of the team members was a bit bland and none of the characters besides Coulson seemed very interesting. Also, the super-powered guy just seemed to be some guy and not a known comic book character.

 

S01E02 “0-8-4”

In the second episode, the team flies to Peru where they meet up with another team led by an old ally of Coulson’s. They track down an “084” or Object of Unknown Origin. In this case it ends up being an old Hydra weapon. Coulson’s ally betrays them and the team use their various talents to outsmart or otherwise beat the other team and gain possession of the object. Later, Skye reports to a member of Rising Tide that she’s infiltrated the SHIELD team. Samuel L. Jackson makes a quick cameo as SHIELD director Nick Fury and warns Coulson about Skye and complains about damage to the plane.

The second episode basically established what an average episode of Agents of SHIELD would be. SHIELD team goes somewhere to investigate something remotely related to something in a previous Marvel Movie, hijinks ensue, SHIELD teams wins. It’s also the first episode where we get a good look at their flying base. Unfortunately, the ‘bus’ as they call it has all the intrigue and style of an actual city bus. This is not the Millennium Falcon.

 

S01E03 “The Asset”

The third episode starts out with some fun as a Dr. Franklin Hall is kidnapped by his former business partner Ian Quinn by using technology that defies gravity. Vehicles go flying and it’s the most interesting special effect so far. The team ends up using Skye to infiltrate a shady party being thrown by Quinn. When they finally get to Hall, they find out he allowed himself to be kidnapped so he could destroy the device Quinn is creating. When Coulson tries to stop him because of the danger, Hall falls into the device. SHIELD puts the device into secure storage without knowing that Hall is still trapped within it.

For comic book fans this was a somewhat interesting episode as Franklin Hall is better known as the super-villain Graviton. And things are certainly set up here for Hall to return as Graviton at another time, but again, it’s not as if Graviton is an A-List villain and technically he didn’t even really appear in this episode.

 

S01E04 “Eye Spy”

This episode had a woman known as Akela who was perpetrating seemingly impossible heists. The team catches up with her and find that she has an eye implant that is giving her orders and has a bomb that will go off if she disobeys. FitzSimmons put together some tech to mimic it and send Ward out to do the job while they work on removing Akela’s bomb. Meanwhile Coulson tries to catch up to the guy behind the orders. Unfortunately, it turns out his lead has an eye bomb of his own and dies before anything can be revealed. They successfully save Akela but remain in the dark on who was behind the plot.

This episode introduces the threat of a new Big Bad. It helps that seemingly anyone might end up with the eye implant but again, long-time comic book fans who have been waiting for a Marvel comic television show were likely annoyed by a plot that seemingly has nothing to do with comic book stuff.

 

S01E05 “Girl In The Flower Dress”

In Hong Kong, a guy with flame powers shows them to a girl in flower dress named Raina. Raina kidnaps him. SHIELD investigates and soon discovers that Raina’s people learned about this guy through Rising Tide. They pick up an old flame of Skye’s named Miles who happens to be another member of Rising Tide. Not trusting either of them, they are both brought to the bus in handcuffs. They raid the Centipede complex where flame guy (now calling himself Scorch) is located. Raina escapes. As soon as Scorch is freed, he attacks the SHIELD agents and they’re forced to kill him. Later, Skye tells Coulson that the whole reason she joined Rising Tide was to find more information on SHIELD so she could find what happened to her missing parents. Meanwhile Raina visits a man named Edison Po in prison and asks him to contact ‘the Clairvoyant’.

While the villain in this was a bit dull, this episode was the first to mention the Big Bad of the series, a mysterious individual known as ‘the Clairvoyant’. It also gave us a central mystery of Skye’s character and her desire to find her parents. So much of these early episodes involved planting seeds. The thing with planting seeds is that it’s not as interesting as what happens afterward. Many of the criticisms of this show have to do with lacking the patience to wait for the long-form storytelling to reveal itself. These aren’t done-in-one episodes. They’re building something.

 

S01E06 “F.Z.Z.T.”

The team investigates a series of strange deaths that turn out to be caused by an alien virus from one of the Chitauri helmets from the Battle of New York. Simmons gets infected with the virus. Coulson disobeys a direct order in order to save here and though a cure works, she almost jumps from the Bus to save the rest of the team not knowing the cure worked. Later Coulson talks with Agent May about his recent physical which showed nothing wrong. He insists he feels different. She tells him that’s only natural given his seeming death.

While putting one of the team members in legitimate danger is a plus, the fact that the team member was out of legitimate danger by the end of the episode lessens the impact. And at this point, the thin reference to the Avengers movie is just that. While it’s nice that they included Agent Blake who was last seen in the “Item 47” Marvel One Shot on the Avengers DVD, it’s not a very good tie in to the rest of the Marvel Universe. The only thing of importance that happens in this episode is that Coulson disobeys a direct order. This is a first and a possible indication of the differences between who he is and who he was before his death.

 

S01E07 “The Hub”

The team arrives at a base called The Hub. We meet Victoria Hand, the director of the Hub. She sends Fitz & Ward on a mission to stop something called the Overkill device. Skye and Simmons try to find out more about the mission and Skye ends up knocking out Agent Sitwell when he catches her hacking into the system. They soon discover there is no extraction plan for Fitz & Ward. They tell Coulson and after a brief confrontation with Hand, they go and rescue Fitz & Ward who successfully stop the Overkill device. Meanwhile Coulson manages to get some information about Skye. She was apparently brought to an orphanage by a young SHIELD agent. He asks May to look further into it. Coulson tries to find out more about his own recovery but finds his access is denied.

This is the first appearance of Agent Hand and the first appearance in the series of Agent Sitwell who was also in Avengers. The episode also helps reestablish the fact that while the team is often on their own, they belong to a much larger organization that they answer to. However, it also reminds us that SHIELD isn’t always the most noble of organizations. While it’s nice to have some progress on the Skye’s parents thing, it’s also not that strong of a plotline. And then there’s the big question of how Coulson came back from the dead. This is basically the biggest mystery of the series and seven episodes in we feel about as frustrated as Coulson himself on the lack of progress on this storyline.

 

S01E08 “The Well”

In a direct tie-in to the recent movie, Thor: The Dark World the team deal with the aftermath of those events in London and go after a hate group that has come into possession of something called an Asgardian Berserker Staff. Whoever wields it becomes consumed with rage. The team gets help from an expert named Dr. Randolf who turns out to be an Asgardian himself. When Ward touches the staff he finds himself consumed with rage and memories of his abusive brother. The team manages to recover the staff and after everything, Ward and May hook up.

They heavily advertised this as a tie-in to the Thor sequel but as tie-ins go, it was a fairly weak one. Not one character from Thor showed up and really this was just mopping up the fallout from the action packed movie. When one of the big hooks of the show is how it’s connected to this larger universe, it was a bit of a letdown. The sudden relationship between May & Ward seems kind of extraneous and there perhaps simply because there was no sex in the show.

 

S01E09 “Repairs”

The team investigate a woman named Hannah who they believe has telekinesis. They soon discover that it’s actually the work of a guy named Tobias who is stuck between Earth and another realm. He’s trying to protect Hannah but the results seem to consistently be violent. Tobias defeats Agent Ward but is talked down by Agent May causing him to disappear into the unknown realm and leave Hannah alone.

There isn’t much to say about this episode. If someone were to point to one episode that justifies some of the disdain some people have for the show, it’d be this one. For the most part, it’s an entirely forgettable episode with nothing of any real interest happening.

 

S01E10 “The Bridge”

Coulson recruits Mike Peterson onto the team, giving the team their first super-powered member after Edison Po is broken out of prison by enhanced Centipede soldiers. The team walks into an ambush and soon find that the Centipede soldiers also have the eye implants they encountered earlier. Raina and others become interested in Peterson because it seems his enhancements have stabilized. They kidnap his son and offer to exchange him for Peterson. The exchange happens on a bridge where it’s revealed that they actually want Coulson. Peterson tries to stop it but it’s too late. The resulting explosion seemingly kills him and Raina gets away with Coulson. Raina tells Coulson they simply want to know how he came back to life.

This was the last episode before winter break and the first cliffhanger episode of the series. It was also a marked improvement from previous episodes. The abduction of agent Coulson makes for powerful drama as he was most of the force behind his team. This was the episode where strings from previous episodes start to matter.

Next Up: In Tuesday’s post I’ll talk about the remaining episodes up to last week’s tie-in with Captain America 2.

Captain America The Winter Soldier Movie Review

winter-soldier-70s-poster-paolo-riveraI started collecting comic books when I was 12-years-old. The thing that intrigued me most about Marvel Comics was the concept of a shared universe. The TV shows and movies I watched and the books I read all took place in their own little self-contained universes. No matter what happened on the A-Team, they were never going to end up in Hazzard County. So when I realized that the stuff happening in an issue of Uncanny X-Men had a direct impact on what was happening in X-Factor, I got a bit giddy. The idea of telling separate stories that interconnected and built on each other was just a fantastic concept to me. I would read my Marvel Comics and think to myself, “If only they made movies like this….”

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the comic book movie I’ve wanted to see since I was twelve years old. If you’ve never seen a Marvel movie and you see this, you’ll want to see the others. If you’ve watched every single piece of Marvel cinema so far, you’ll geek out at the level of detail they’ve thrown into this movie.

While previous Marvel movies have had some loose connective tissue between them, this is the first to fully embrace the continuity and use it to build a better story. The way that The Winter Soldier blends characters from Iron Man 2 and Avengers in with characters from the first Captain America and all new characters is so seamless that you almost have to watch it twice to notice.

It helps that they’ve developed a cast that so fully inhabits their characters that you never doubt for a moment who they are. Chris Evans is Captain America. He plays him with equal parts strength and aw-shucks-boyscout. In one of the opening scenes he takes out about a dozen armed guys all on his own with the just the use of his shield and it just works. And yet for all of his heroics, he maintains that man-out-of-time persona that makes him so an intriguing character.

While Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury has been popping up since the first Iron Man movie, it’s not until The Winter Soldier that we really get to see how much of a bad ass Nick Fury is. There’s a car chase sequence early on where Fury gets to be every bit the hero all of the much more colorful superheroes have been in previous movies.

Similarly, Scarlet Johansen probably gets more screen time in The Winter Soldier than she did in The Avengers and she certainly gets to flesh out her character a bit more. The chemistry between her and Chris Evans’ Cap works perfectly. They’ve got nothing in common except their goals, but their mutual respect helps them build the sort of trust that only soldiers really understand.

Speaking of soldiers, the introduction of Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson as the Middle East War vet turned superhero known as Falcon is pitch perfect. The friendship that grows between him and Cap feels authentic from the beginning.

I can’t say too much about the guy who play the title character of the Winter Soldier without getting into spoiler territory, but he’s one of the more inspired villains we’ve seen so far in Marvel’s cinematic universe.

As if this weren’t enough, somehow they managed to get Robert Redford to play Alexander Pierce. In this Pierce plays the control-freak Secretary of State which is a far cry from the fiercely loyal bureaucrat from the comic books, but that’s fine. I’m not someone who feels the movies have to always echo the comic books. Personally, I’m enjoying the differences.

I wasn’t sure about the idea of having Joe & Anthony Russo direct The Winter Soldier. They’re primarily known as sit-com directors and have never done anything like this before, but they pulled it off spectacularly. There’s even a small moment that fans of Community will love. Rumor has it these guys are signing on for Cap 3 and I can only hope that’s true.

Captain America The Winter Soldier is the most confident Marvel Studios movie made yet and definitely the most entertaining. This movie is proof you can do a great Marvel movie without Robert Downey Jr. The most exciting thing for me is how the events in this movie have no choice but to directly tie into the small screen as Agents of SHIELD can’t possibly be the same after the events of The Winter Soldier. The fact that Marvel is so willing to put all of this continuity together just shows exactly how good they’ve become at doing this. Next up for Marvel Studios is their most ambitious film yet; Guardians of the Galaxy. It will be the first movie they’ve done with no big name actors, and no recognizable heroes or villains. But given their track record, I have every intention of seeing it opening weekend.

-          Jack Cameron

Want To Lower The Abortion Rate? Provide Free Contraception

ABORTION PROTESTWhen it comes to abortion, most debates hinge on the fundamental disagreement about when life truly begins. Most anti-abortion proponents contend that life begins at the moment of conception and that at that point, the fertilized egg must be treated with all the rights of a human being. Most pro-choice sorts contend that a fertilized egg isn’t a human being any more than a pinecone is a pine tree. This disagreement isn’t the sort that can be definitively resolved because no amount of evidence is going to change either side. And so the abortion debate has gone on for years and years with no end in sight because of this irreconcilable difference.

And so in this article I will not attempt to persuade you one way or another when it comes to when life begins. In fact, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that somehow we know for a fact that human life begins at conception. With that point conceded, let’s take a serious look at the issue of abortion.

If abortions truly are killing human beings then it is in everyone’s best interest to make the abortion rate as low as possible. The reflexive response and the response by most Republicans and conservatives is to ban abortion entirely. This is understandable but it fails to pay attention to history.

The first abortions in America were not performed after Roe v. Wade. At the time that abortion was legalized thousands of abortions had already been performed. Most were performed under terrible conditions by unqualified ‘doctors’ that charged far too much money. Many mothers died under these circumstances. The important take away here is that making abortion illegal did not stop abortions. It simply made them much, much more dangerous. People who want to make abortions illegal may have their hearts in the right place, but if their intent is to lower the abortion rate, this isn’t the way to do it.

The absolute best way to lower the abortion rate is to make sure that unwanted pregnancies never occur in the first place. Again, the knee-jerk reaction to this is a sensible one: If people don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex. Naturally, that makes perfect sense. But much like some people will get abortions regardless of what you want them to do some people are going to have sex regardless of whether or not they should have sex.

The problem with many standard Conservative responses to abortion is that they tend to assume that all people will behave a certain way. They assume that if abortion were illegal all women with unwanted pregnancies would not seek out illegal abortions. They assume that if people cannot afford contraception and don’t want to be pregnant they won’t have sex. But the reality is very different.

If you’re looking for something that will lower the abortion rate but still account for those who have sex and do not want children, the best option is to provide contraception. When contraception is free and easily available, the abortion rate plummets. This isn’t just opinion. Studies have shown this to be true.

A common Conservative argument against providing free birth control is that sex is not a human necessity and that tax dollars should not be spent on something like birth control. But if this is your argument against providing free birth control, the question has to be asked: Which is more important to you, saving money or saving the lives of the unborn? Regardless of your answer, providing free birth control is still the correct answer.
Most women who have unwanted pregnancies do not have health insurance. This means that if they give birth, the state is going to have to pay for it. A quick look at the cost of child birth vs. the cost of birth control pills reveals that the cost of one child birth is enough to pay for birth control pills for twelve years. That cost isn’t including all the additional healthcare costs associated with having a new child. It’s astronomically more expensive to pay for a woman to have a child than to pay for a woman’s contraception. If you’re looking to save money and lower the abortion rate, providing free contraception is the simplest and best solution.

-          Jack Cameron

Superhero Hollywood

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-PosterAre you excited for the new Captain America movie? I know I am. I’ve been collecting Marvel Comics since I was 12 years old. It’s great to see some of the world’s most talented people making some great movies out of some of my favorite characters. In a very real way it’s like being 12 all over again. Opening weekend, I’m going to be there. And I’ll be there for Guardians of the Galaxy this summer. I’m a Marvelite and I can’t help myself. I love it.

However, I’ve also been collecting comic books for over a quarter century. I’m aware of the history of comic books. I’ve been there for part of it. And so, I feel it’s necessary to deliver a warning to those of you who do not collect comics but do go to see comic book movies. I know there are millions of you because I’ve seen how many people go to the movies and how many people go to my local comic book shop. As I watch these comic book movies make billions I become afraid that the local movie theater is going to end up being like that local comic book shop’s shelves.

Most people think that comic books automatically equals superheroes. This was not always the case. In the late 1950s it was Western comics that were all the rage. Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt Outlaw and Gunsmoke Western were Marvel’s big hits. There were also romance comics and ‘true’ crime comics and horror comics. And then there was Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15 (The first appearance of Spider-Man). And of course DC had Superman and Batman and eventually the Justice League and whatnot.

By the time I got into comic books in the late 1980s, my local comic book shop was 95% superhero comics. The first comics I bought were GI Joe comics. They were some of the only non-superhero books Marvel published. But soon I was collecting Uncanny X-Men and then New Mutants and X-Factor and Wolverine and Excalibur and then X-Force after New Mutants ended. It was years before I really started to get into comic books that didn’t involve super powers.

Recently my girlfriend started buying healthier food for us to eat. She told me the other day, “I don’t care if you eat it. It’s just a matter of it being available for you to eat.”  Her point was that we tend to consume what’s in front of us. I bought super-heroes mainly because that’s what they had at the shop. This isn’t to say the shop didn’t carry anything else. There were plenty of independent comics that had nothing to do with superheroes, but I didn’t buy them because they didn’t relate to anything else I was buying.

My fear with these incredibly successful comic book movies is that soon, the movies will consist of 95% superheroes. Recently the head of Marvel Studios said that with all of the franchises they’re starting up, it wouldn’t be unexpected if they started coming out with three or four movies a year. Of course that’s just Marvel. That’s not including DC/Warner Bros. or the various Marvel properties that other studios have such as Spider-Man and X-Men both of which are not only talking about the sequels to the movies that are coming out this year but sequels to those sequels.

So my warning is this: Go ahead and see the comic book movies. But please, please, please see other movies too. See Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. See Chris Nolan’s Interstellar. See anything and everything that interests you that doesn’t have a cape attached to it….or prepare yourself for theaters where the person talking in the theater is asking “What’s that character’s power?”

Like I said, I love Marvel’s movies. I enjoy watching them. But I’m also interested in things that don’t involve super powers. Last year, the most powerful movie I watched was simply one man against the elements. He had no super-powers. That movie was All Is Lost starring Robert Redford. This year, I’ll be watching him in Captain America 2.

- Jack Cameron

The Return of Ruin Your Life

FrontCoverSeven years ago I published Ruin Your Life. I called it my ‘self-destruct book’. What had started as a series of articles on a long defunct website had become a guidebook to doing all the wrong things the right way. My mother bought ten copies and handed it out to friends. My father read it and the following week, politely asked that I remove his copy from his home. My friends bought copies. Four separate friends who I’d never known to own books told me it wasn’t only the first book they’d ever owned, it was the first book they’d ever finished. People bought copies and gave them as gifts. My employer at the time chose to buy a copy for every employee of the company. Most enjoyed it, some quietly placed copies on my desk. At one point I even met with a producer about optioning Ruin Your Life for a movie.

Ruin Your Life is a book that it seems is either loved or reviled. I’ve heard from people who just open to random chapters and read when they’re bored. I’ve also heard from people who think I’m a terrible human being for writing any of it.

A few years ago I let the paperback edition of Ruin Your Life go out of print. I felt that it had run its course and that as long as the digital copy was still available those who hadn’t had the chance to purchase it could still enjoy it.

And then I got a call from an old friend. He was starting up a new publishing endeavor and wanted to know if I wanted to bring back Ruin Your Life to include in his catalog. This coincided with a handful of others asking if I had any spare paperback copies available. (I don’t.) Still, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea.

I thought about whether or not I wanted to add some new chapters or something, but the truth is I didn’t have anything more to say on that particular topic. Ruin Your Life has chapters about lying, cheating, buying drugs, talking to cops, having affairs, and driving like a maniac among other things. The chapters missing from the book are chapters that simply weren’t good enough to include them.

I buy a lot of DVDs and I’m not a fan of when studios double-dip and come out with some new edition that has all this extra stuff. I already spent the money the first time around. The changes I’ve made to Ruin Your Life are mostly cosmetic ones. If you already have a paperback copy of Ruin Your Life, I’ll be the first to tell you that there’s no reason to buy this new edition.

That said, if you don’t have a paperback copy or you do but want to give one to a friend. You should let me know right now. I’m publishing an new edition of Ruin Your Life and for you viewers of my website, I’ll sign copies and send them to you myself at less than you can buy the paperback when it’s available on Amazon.com.

So if you’re looking for a signed copy of the new paperback edition of Ruin Your Life click the button below.

buynow

For more excerpts, memes, and other related fun, go to the official Ruin Your Life Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/ruinyourlifebook

-          Jack Cameron

31 Days of Comics Challenge Day 31: A Comic You’d Hate to Leave Off a List of Comics

y-the-last-man-yorick-ampersand-dr-mann-355-y-the-last-man-10990774-394-595Comics tend to be a boy thing. And what I mean by that is that the comics themselves tend to star boys and tend to only have girls as secondary characters or eye candy. It’s unfortunate. But luckily the best creators out there find a way to utilize female characters as well as males. Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra decided to go one step further with his comic, Y: The Last Man.  In Y: The Last Man, every male on the planet dies in the first issue…except for one guy named Yorrick and his monkey.

I didn’t know much beyond the premise when I bought the first trade paperback of Y: The Last Man, but once I read it, I was hooked. I decided to buy every subsequent volume and read them all once the comic was completed. The result was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had.

Y: The Last Man is both a post-apocalyptic story and a story of the sexes. It’s gutsy and impressive. There has been talk of making a movie of it, but of course it never seems to get much traction. After all, who in Hollywood has the guts to do a movie with only one male character?

For more on the 31 Days of Comics Challenge click here.

This has been a fun little experiment both in daily posting and in exploring various comic books. I hope you’ve had as much fun as me and that you’ll take the time to check out some of these stories.

- Jack Cameron