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Whedon talks Avengers, But What About After the Avengers?

Whedon talks Avengers filming day one | Moviehole

Joss Whedon's message about the first day of shooting on the Avengers marks a key moment in Marvel's ongoing cinematic campaign. Bringing the Avengers to the big screen will basically act as the culmination of several years of careful construction of Marvel's cinematic universe. If you doubt this fact, a quick look of the Thor trailer shows Iron Man, Hulk, and Nick Fury. While films outside Marvel Studios have had no indication of a shared universe, Marvel produced films are all about the shared universe. We should not assume success, indeed problems related to the cost and time associated with making special effect heavy films has emerged as a problem for DC and Marvel related films. The time and money associated with bringing superheroes to life on the big screen is considerable. Moreover, they still need to make a good movie, something that is no easy task. Still, the odds are in Marvel and DC's favor. They have recognizable characters and each films helps to build anticipation for the next.

Nonetheless, the question of where the Avengers sit in our collective mind's eye remains. Is it the culmination of threads begun in the first Iron Man or is it the beginning of new era of Marvel movies? I think it clear that Marvel wants the Avengers to be the foundational film that opens up the the cinematic universe in a very big way. We can already see minor (fan favorite) characters in Thor (Hawkeye was in the trailer). The post Avengers cinematic moves will be interesting. We know we will see Iron Man 3, but we don't know what else will see the light of day. Perhaps Ant-Man, Iron Fist, or Black Widow could make their way to the big screen. In my mind the key to Marvel post Avengers films should be taking those characters with the greatest potential and making them household names. This is what happen with Iron Man and it could easily happen again. In terms of diversity, always a question in comics, Marvel has the obvious Black Panther movie demanding to be made. This would be a good choice, but a difficult one given the actual Black Panther Party's role as a target for conservative anger. I have no doubt the Black Panther film will be made, but perhaps a lesser known, but equally important character should be considered.

In the 1970s Marvel introduced a host of African-American characters. All these characters drew on pop culture tropes influence by shifts in African-American social and political rhetoric. Character such as Misty Knight (1972), a private investigator modeled after Pam Grier’s Coffy, seemed to continue the stereotypes established in film, while new characters such as Brother Voodoo (1973) and Blade (1973) incorporated horror and supernatural elements that departed from the urban problem framework, while retained blaxploitation references. By the all-important measure of having a single character book however, Marvel Comics’ notable debut in the mid-1970s came in the form of Black Goliath.

Created by Stan Lee and Don Heck in 1966, Bill Foster was a black biochemist introduced in the pages of the Avengers. Foster endured a challenging childhood in Los Angeles’ Watts ghetto to become an upstanding adult. He served in Vietnam and attended the California Technical Institute, earning a doctorate in biochemistry. After school, he got a job as a research scientist for Stark International. After working with biochemist Henry Pym, aka Giant-Man, Foster improves Pym’s size changing formula. Foster’s 1975 appearance in Luke Cage,Power Man was his first appearance as Black Goliath and does little to depict him as future hero. In the story Foster uses the Pym formula in an attempt to deceive his ex-wife into coming back to him. The ruse backfired with the arrival of her boyfriend, Luke Cage, who uncovered the truth. The resolution of this story does not get Foster the girl or really signal the beginning of a crime fighting career; indeed the character seemed confused and tainted by the deception.

Nonetheless, Foster returned to comic pages in his own book written by Tony Isabella and Chris Claremont and drawn by George Tuska. The description on page one sets the stage for new African-American hero that in some ways returned to the assimilation vision of the early 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

Bill Foster—Dr. William Barrett Foster, DSc, PhD—a child of the GHETTO who has pulled himself up out of the Los Angeles slums to become director of one of the nation’s most prestigious research lab, A man whose research has given him the power to instantaneously grow to a height of FIFTEEN FEET, with the strength of a TRUE GIANT, A man who has become…a Hero.

The stories in Black Goliath emphasize that hard work and good values could overcome a crime ridden ghetto and past mistakes created by poor personal decisions. Both assertions reference the debate that emerged after the publication and subsequent public outcry over Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report from the Office of Policy and Planning Research. The Negro Family: The Case For National Action (1965) argued for government action to counteract the destructive effects of slavery on the modern black family. It also helped to illustrate a complex debate among both black and white commentators about the personal values, gender beliefs, and societal realities that needed to be resolved in order to re-build African-American families and support community success. In launching Bill Foster into his own solo title, Marvel writers did not reference the black power stereotypes found in Luke Cage. Instead, the new series begins with Foster as the head of research and development for Stark International in Los Angeles. In the first issue, the character’s origin is re-examined and the reader is shown the extent of Foster’s scientific prowess, his intention to use his power to make a difference, and his rejection of the duplicitous actions associated with his early Black Goliath appearance.

In many ways, Foster would be the perfect character to introduce to a movie audience. The struggle over values versus environment the character was clearly intended to represent has not gone away. Indeed, the charge confrontation in public life today over the role of the government versus the rights of the individual means those debate have as much, if not greater traction today. Moreover, as a African-American character with ties to Tony Stark and the Avengers, he would make sense in the cinematic universe Marvel has created. There is no way of knowing which characters will make their way to the screen, but if Marvel wants to bring lesser known characters to the public, Bill Foster/ Black Goliath offers the chance to surprise and engage an audience primed to see more.

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