NRA: Killer pacifists

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 71-74

As World War III continues, a global broadcast begins to all the people of the Earth:

“Ladies and gentlemen, from an unknown location, we bring you, live, Global Community potentate Nicolae Carpathia.”

Generally speaking, when world leaders are set to make a somber pronouncement, you don’t want to make the introduction sound like the next act in a variety show.

Before Nicolae begins his big speech, Jerry Jenkins wants to make it clear to readers that this man –the Antichrist, who has just slaughtered tens of millions of people by nuking London, New York, Chicago, Washington and assorted airports — is the Bad Guy. To underscore that point, Jenkins gives us this:

The potentate looked amused as he was being introduced and winked at a couple of his ambassadors. He pretended to lick his finger and smooth his eyebrows, as if primping for his audience. The others stifled chuckles. Rayford wished he had a weapon.

Rayford seems to have forgotten that he is flying a weapon, but the point there is about his wishes, not his actions. That’s meant to remind us that he’s the Good Guy. And it’s true –Good Guys don’t chuckle while cities get vaporized. They probably wouldn’t just sit around, idly letting it happen, either, but Jenkins is not wrong about the not-chuckling.

What follows here is Nicolae’s big speech. This speech is awkwardly phrased and bland — so much so that it takes a page or two before one realizes how impossible and unbelievable it is. This passage manages to be both dull and bafflingly weird at the same time.

To appreciate just how weird, let’s recap where we are in our story. Nicolae Carpathia has been global potentate for more than a year. This position of unchecked global power was created just for him, unanimously and voluntarily, with every nation on Earth (except Israel) cheerfully surrendering its sovereignty and every individual cheerfully surrendering their rights, begging to be ruled by him with no further say in their own government.

This happened, we were told, because Nicolae is a pacifist — a champion of nonviolence and global disarmament. Specifically, he championed the dismantling of all nuclear weapons. This was what people wanted, what they demanded, because they had been led to believe that nuclear weapons, somehow, had been the cause of the calamitous disintegration of all of their children.

That’s a deliriously weird premise for a story, but it’s the story we have been given. All the children, everywhere, evaporate instantaneously. The people of Earth come to believe that this was due to “electromagnetism” caused by unused nuclear weapons and so they all decide to dissolve their national governments and appoint a pacifist as global “potentate” to rule over the entire world with absolute power.

Can such a story be convincing? Is it possible to imagine such a string of events actually happening in any realistic world meant to seem anything like our own?

Well, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins think this is perfectly plausible and true-to-life. More than that, they think this is not just a believable story, but something that will actually happen, soon, in real life, just the way they describe. They say the Bible says so, somewhere, if you study it in just the right way.

So if you find this unrealistic or implausible, boy will your face be red when it all occurs just exactly this way according to prophecy.

And but so, we arrive at this point in the Left Behind saga. Nicolae Carpathia, fiercely anti-nuclear pacifist, is the beloved and benevolent ruler of the entire world (except Israel). He is so very beloved and so very benevolent that he has been ceded unlimited power, constrained by nothing other than his own beloved benevolence. That’s how things have been for more than a year.

Until now. Now, suddenly, in the last 24 hours of our story, everything has completely changed. The benevolent pacifist has been unmasked as a murderous tyrant. This same Nicolae has just nuked London, New York, Washington, Chicago, and various airports. These attacks are still taking place — aerial assaults carried out by the only air force in the world. Tens of millions of people are dead and dying and the whole world knows that it is Nicolae who is killing them.

And now, for the first time since being unmasked, Nicolae is about to speak to his subjects:

“Ladies and gentlemen, from an unknown location, we bring you, live, Global Community potentate Nicolae Carpathia.”

What will he say? There is nothing to say, nothing that he can say, except the hideous truth. “Mbwahahahaha,” he must say, “I am evil, evil, eeeee-vil! Submit or die, puny humans. All will love me, and despair!”

But he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say anything like that. The newly unmasked Nicolae just tries to pretend he’s still wearing the mask — tries to pretend that the whole world hasn’t just seen his true self revealed without it. And everyone plays along with that.

“Brothers and sisters of the Global Community, I am speaking to you with the greatest heaviness of heart I have ever known. I am a man of peace who has been forced to retaliate with arms against international terrorists who would jeopardize the cause of harmony and fraternity. You may rest assured that I grieve with you over the loss of loved ones, of friends, of acquaintances. The horrible toll of civilian lives should haunt these enemies of peace for the rest of their days.”

I’m sorry if you knew anyone in New York, but I had to nuke it in “the cause of harmony and fraternity.”

“As you know, most of the ten world regions that comprise the Global Community destroyed 90 percent of their weapon hardware. We have spent nearly the last two years breaking down, packaging, shipping, receiving, and reassembling this hardware in New Babylon. My humble prayer was that we would never have had to use it.”

In the aftermath of any mass-casualty event, it’s always important to praise the brave men and women who serve in Shipping & Receiving.

“However, wise counselors persuaded me to stockpile storehouses of technologically superior weapons in strategic locations around the globe. I confess I did this against my will, and my optimistic and overly positive view of the goodness of mankind has proven faulty.”

Every time I try to read that last sentence it seems to mean something different. This whole speech reminds me of Bilbo’s birthday farewell — “I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

“I am grateful that somehow I allowed myself to be persuaded to keep these weapons at the ready. In my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined that I would have to make the difficult decision to turn this power against enemies on a broad scale.”

Keep in mind as we slog through this rambling, vacuous speech, that the authors have insisted all along that Nicolae Carpathia is the greatest orator in the history of the world. This is a recurring theme in our journey through these books (see “Meet the GIRAT” and “Oratory“). The authors make superlative promises, then follow up with less-than-average examples.

If you are writing a story that requires a character to be a great orator, then you have two choices: 1) Either you are going to have to write great oratory of the sort that will make readers think, “Wow, no joke, that’s some great oratory;” or 2) You are going to have to write around it, by portraying how others respond to this character’s oratory, showing its effects without ever showing the thing itself lest your own writing fails to do it justice.

Jerry Jenkins here is giving us his best shot at that first approach. This three-page speech of Nicolae’s is what it looks like when that approach utterly fails.

Nicolae attempts to blame most of the death and destruction on these terrorist-enemies, saying they were “trained by the American militia” and used “secretly stored weapons” from Britain and Egypt. The authors intend this to be a plausible-sounding claim. In their minds, apparently, American militia groups would be an effective source of training for aerial attacks and the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

“While I should never have to defend my reputation as an antiwar activist, I am pleased to inform you that we have retaliated severely and with dispatch. Anywhere that Global Community weaponry was employed, it was aimed specifically at rebel military locations. I assure you that all civilian casualties and the destruction of the great populated cities in North America and around the world was the work of the rebellion.”

So I’m still a pacifist despite nuking all those cities, and I only nuked those cities because I had too, and it wasn’t me who nuked those cities, it was those other guys who don’t have nukes.

Again, this speech is presented not just as great oratory, but as persuasive. The people of the world accept this nonlinear and unreasonable line of reasoning.

Nicolae finishes off with what the authors regard as a stirring, inspiring crescendo:

“I know that in a time of global war such as this, most of us live in fear and grief. I can assure you that I am with you in your grief but that my fear has been overcome by confidence that the majority of the global community is together, heart and soul, against the enemies of peace. … You may rest assured that as we reconstruct and reorganize, we will enjoy the greatest prosperity and the most wonderful home this earth can afford. May we all work together for the common goal.”

Tens of millions dead and the authors imagine that this speech is adequate to the moment. They imagine that it will comfort all who seek comfort, reassure all who need reassurance, and answer every concern of those demanding answers after this epic slaughter.

The authors typed up this speech, skimmed it over, and thought, “Yep, that ought to do it. That’ll convince the entire world to rally behind Nicolae.” Remarkable.

The piece of this I want to focus on here is Nicolae’s insistence that none of this alters his status as a strict pacifist. Despite his retaliatory overkill and his enthusiastic employment of lethal violence against millions of civilians, he insists he remains a pacifist and “an antiwar activist.”

That’s the giveaway word, “activist.” Nicolae Carpathia is the global potentate — he is the sovereign, the emperor, the monarch. No monarch thinks of himself as an “activist.” If the potentate wants something done, he doesn’t engage in “activism” — he just commands it to be done.

But antiwar activists are what Tim LaHaye thinks of whenever he hears the word “peace.” And Tim LaHaye does not like antiwar activists. He is certain they are all lying about their true intent.

Most of us read Nicolae’s speech and we find it ludicrous that he still claims to be “a man of peace.” You can’t say you’re a pacifist, then resort to massive lethal violence, and then still say you’re a pacifist.

But LaHaye doesn’t see that as a contradiction. This is what he believes all pacifists are really like. They are all sneaky and disingenuous. None of them truly rejects violence, that’s just a ruse — a trick to get us to let our guard down so that we will be defenseless when they attack. For LaHaye, Nicolae isn’t a fake pacifist, but the archetype of a genuine one.

LaHaye’s odd notion of “peace” and “pacifism,” comes from two sources. First, and most importantly, is the thing that shapes his identity — and the theology of these books — more than anything else: the John Birch Society. LaHaye isn’t just a Bircher, he’s a frozen-in-amber 1960s, Southern California Bircher.

This means that, for LaHaye, everything is filtered through the lens of the Cold War. The conflict between the free, Christian West and godless Soviet Communism is the most important moral struggle of all. But that doesn’t mean that the godless Soviets are the most important enemy. Birchers like LaHaye were never all that worried about the Soviets themselves, whose moral and military inferiority seemed obvious. No, what they were most worried about was the possibility that treasonous Americans might weaken our superiority by talk of peace. LaHaye never feared that the Communists could win. He feared that the hippies and “antiwar activists” would make America lose.

That danger, then, required the greatest vigilance. True Americans must always be watchful against the dirty hippies with their sneaky, subversive talk of “peace.” Such enemies within might accomplish what the Soviet Army never could, tricking America into letting down its guard.

No surprise, then, that Tim LaHaye’s portrait of the Antichrist is someone who calls himself an “antiwar activist.”

The other source of his misunderstanding of pacifists is Tim LaHaye’s misunderstanding of Jesus. In LaHaye’s mind, Jesus is just exactly like this too. All that talk of blessed peacemakers, cheek-turning, and greater-love-hath-no-man and such was also just a ruse. The whole time he was talking like that, Jesus was just keeping his powder dry, biding his time until what LaHaye calls the “Glorious Appearing.” At that point, Jesus will return in spectacularly violent fashion to wipe out all his enemies in an orgy of blood and death.

That is how Tim LaHaye thinks of the Prince of Peace. That is what he imagines is the real agenda of anyone who calls themselves peacemakers or pacifists. Just like Jesus — and just like Nicolae — they’re only putting on an act until the day when they reveal their true agenda.

So to LaHaye, it’s not at all strange that Nicolae continues to call himself a pacifist even as he kills everyone in Chicago and plans to kill everyone in San Francisco. The only thing that’s strange about that to LaHaye is that anyone would ever expect a pacifist to do otherwise.

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  • lofgren

    I would like to nominate Alexander Knox, the reporter from the 1989 Batman movie, for the title of Anti-Buck Williams. If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, check it out. Knox is perhaps the greatest hero in the story.

    Knox is sarcastic, cynical, and his taste in news runs a little towards the seedy. But he’s also a truth-teller and a relentless reporter. He has a tape recorder in his hand in half of his scenes, and in the rest of them you get a sense he’s got his thumb twitching over the record button in his jacket pocket. He’s not afraid to ask difficult questions of powerful people even though he knows his access will be revoked. (Questions like: “Is there a six-foot bat preying on the criminals of Gotham? And if so, is he on the police payroll? And if so, what’s he pulling down, after taxes?”) He thinks most people are corrupt, greedy, and vain, and he’s proved correct over and over again.

    When the Joker offers 20 millions dollars to the people of Gotham to attend their half-completed bicentennial parade, Knox turns up with Vicki Vale to document the whole fiasco. “Get the pictures,” he tells her wearily. “Gotham’s greed.”

    But when the Joker shows his hand and triggers his giant parade balloons to pump Smilex gas into the air, threatening to kill tens of thousands of people, Knox stops being a reporter for the only five minutes of the entire film. Covering his mouth and nose with a drywall dust mask and armed only with a wooden baseball bat, he wades into the toxic cloud and charges sociopathic machine-gun touting goons. Literally single handedly – he needs one hand to keep the mask on his face – he beats three of the Joker’s henchmen until they let go of their tethers and lose control of their balloon, allowing it to float away and saving perhaps hundreds or thousands of people.

    Sure, Batman then swoops in to save the day in the dumbest sequence of the movie. But Batman’s locked in an airtight jet, isolated from the horror below.

    And you just know that the minute he regained consciousness after Vale hit him with that car, he was limping to the steps of Gotham cathedral to grill Commissioner Gordon for a quote while the Joker’s body was still warm, and Batman and Vicki were still making out while dangling from that grappling line a few hundred feet over their heads.

    Alexander Knox: the Anti-Buck.

  • Carl Eusebius

     You know Knox is the real deal by the way the people in power react to seeing him. Lt. Eckhart blasphemes as soon as Knox appears, already preparing some lies to try to throw him off. When Knox gets to Bruce Wayne’s party, he goes right after the chief of police, the district attorney, and the mayor, all of whom do their best to avoid talking to him. Especially the mayor, who immediately says “No comment” and gets the hell out of there.

    Reporters these days are sought out by politicians, not avoided, because they’ll say whatever you want them to say. They’re basically another public relations department for the government, dutifully reciting whatever they’ve been told by the White House Chief of Staff so they’re sure to be on the guest list at the next fancy party.

    Not all of them, but there are a whole lot more Bucks out there than Knoxes.

  • Jessica_R

    The Avengers just came out on DVD and I’ve enjoyed watching it again for my favorite hero, Agent Coulson. He doesn’t wish he had a weapon, he doesn’t carefully chart his escape taking great pains to tell no one, he grabs a weapon and faces an insane demigod. His story line still makes me tear up. And is time zones away from the absolute inhumanity and cowardice of these books. 

    “You lack conviction.” 

  • Ima Pseudonym

     “THAT’S what it does…” has to be one of the most awesome lines in a movie of the last ten years.

    I think they’re bringing Coulson back for the next movie.   My feelings about this are somewhat mixed, but I’m leaning toward “joy.”   I’ve got a real soft spot for Badass Normals who manage to face down godlike enemies. 

  • Matri

    Heck yeah.

    The way he faces everything with a bored expression on his face, not even reacting. He makes K look like a twitchy rookie by comparison.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think they’re bringing Coulson back for the next movie.

    Hadn’t heard that. Had heard he’s part of the SHIELD TV series, but I’m not sure if that’s the same continuity, or, if it is, where in the timeline it falls.

  • Bificommander

    So basically, Nicolae tries this tactic from:
    “We come in peace! We come in peace!”

    It’s amazing that even after his speech, I still don’t understand exactly what Nicolae’s defense is. He admits that only he has advanced weapons left, then claims that he’s only hitting precise rebel targets. So… who’s leveling entire cities in his version of the story? Is entire down town Chicago taken over by rebels, and how does that constitute there being a small minority of rebels?

  • Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 274 pages

  • Twig

    The greatest superpower of all:  The power to have stupid enemies.
    Brave New World.  Winning isn’t any fun.  Once you’re lord of the contented stupid masses, there’s not much else to do and there’s not even anyone to talk to.

  • chris the cynic

    I think Coulson should come back because:
    a) I don’t think he died.
    b) The Avengers need to have a “What the Fuck, you Bastard?” moment at Fury for using Colson’s death when Coulson wasn’t dead.
    c) If it comes out that it was Coulson’s idea to use Coulson’s death (which it was, look at his last word’s on screen) it’s going to be interesting to see the reaction to that and I honestly have no idea what it would be for any of the characters.  That might be further complicated by the fact that he, presumably, thought he was going to die when he suggested the idea.

    The truth behind c, by the way, is a major part of the reason I don’t think he died.  He finishes trying to tell Fury to use his death to rally the team, finishing by passing out, the medical shows up immediately, Fury claims Coulson is dead and uses it to rally the team.

    No part of that even suggests that Coulson actually died.  No part of it suggests that he survived either, but in movies I err on the side of survival when there’s complete ambiguity.  Hell, when there’s any ambiguity I err on the side of survival because movies tend to do that.

    I may have overdone the italics.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I like the way you think…but the director of this film is Joss Whedon. Remember Serenity?

  • chris the cynic

    I do remember, but I also remember, and cling with hope to the memory of (even though I don’t have a link on hand), an interview in which Joss Whedon said he was very concious of the fact he was playing with other people’s toys here.  Which, I’m hoping, means he knew better than to break them.

  • lofgren

    He’s dead. Although maybe he could return as Deathlok?

  • Tricksterson

    Given that one of the first rules of superhero comics is that unless you actually see the dissected body on the slab they aren’t dead and even then there’s room for doubt…

  • fraser

     And we know life model decoys exist in the Avengers screen universe.

  • Jessica_R

    Actually, killing off Coulson wasn’t Whedon’s idea but Marvel’s. His response was “You know they’re going to blame me right?” 

  • chris the cynic


    And I mean the question seriously, is that true or just a really good joke?

  • Jamoche

    Yes, I read it in an interview. Whedon started with a “can’t break someone else’s toys” approach, Marvel pushed for it for pretty much the reason given in the movie.

  • Jessica_R

    It is true, it was Marvel’s call and Whedon joked that he knew outraged fans would think it was his doing yet again.  (And truthfully, as much as I’ve grown to like Whedon I think his eagerness to play Grim Reaper with his creations is a bit much. But oddly enough I didn’t mind Coulson’s death because it felt organic to the story, heartbreaking, but not gratuitous “Oooh look how dark and edgy we are.” )

  • lofgren

    I think it’s important that Coulson actually died and that Avengers 2 avoid any “HAHA FOOLED YOU” shenanigans for the same reason I think Jason Todd, Gwen Stacy, and General Zod should have stayed dead. Heroes need to have the death of somebody meaningful on their watch in order to teach them that they can’t save everybody. (Of course every single one of those characters has been resurrected in the comics, every one in storylines I thought were pretty terrible, but at least Jason Todd and Zod’s returns were well-received by fans so what do I know?)

  • depizan

     I felt like it was horribly convenient, which is why I’d rather it was a trick.  It just feels like better storytelling to me that way.  But it’s very definitely a your millage may very type of thing.

    It may simply boil down to how overdone one feels the trope is.  I think the “team that can’t get on bonds over the death of a lesser person” trope is so stale you could use it to hammer nails (pretending for a moment that tropes are slices of bread).  And killing off one of the few non-superheroes to motivate the superheroes irks me because I already have issues with the whole superhero thing.  Granted, Avengers is much, much better than most superhero stuff on that count, what with having three non-powered people on the team.  And in showing off other badass normals in Shield.

    Still, the convenience of it really diminished its impact for me.  (Though so did the fact that Whedon was involved.  I pretty much expect some tragic death if his name is on it.)

  • lofgren

    I think the “team that can’t get on bonds over the death of a lesser person” trope is so stale you could use it to hammer nails (pretending for a moment that tropes are slices of bread).

    I think it’s common because it’s necessary. Not necessarily the team bonding, but something in the story needs to show that despite his power, the hero can’t simply make everything OK. Superhero stories, by their nature, are going to show over and over again a character with inhuman capabilities wading into an impossible situation and walking away unscathed, both spiritually and physically. To counter the impression that putting on a batsuit will allow you to solve all of your problems, Jason Todd has to die, and the hero has to come to terms with that and decide if the mission is still worth pursuing even if those close to him might suffer. Basically, at least once in their story, every hero must confront a grievous failure and make the choice to persevere. Otherwise, he’s just not as much of a hero in my opinion. It’s one thing to be Spider-Man before Gwen Stacy, when it’s all about quipping and adventure. It’s another to be Spider-Man the day after your choice to help others has killed your girlfriend.

  • depizan

     Hero confronting grievous failure =/= team that can’t get on bonds over the death of a lesser person.

    Not to mention there are lots of ways for a hero to fail.

  • lofgren

     Hero confronting grievous failure =/= team that can’t get on bonds over the death of a lesser person.

    Just because two things are not identical does not mean that one thing cannot be both. Are you saying that you disagree that Coulson’s death serves this function?

    Not to mention there are lots of ways for a hero to fail.

    Well sure. Again, are you asserting that some other event in the movie serves this function?

    I guess what I’m asking is, yeah, so? What’s your point?

  • depizan

    I guess what I’m asking is, yeah, so?  What’s your point?

    I’m not sure why you’re getting snippy about a movie, but my point is: I wish the movie makers had been a bit more creative in how they got the team together.  I feel like the “kill somebody to bring together a group of people who don’t get along” trope is overused.  As I said originally.  Granted, since the team is the Avengers, if names are going to mean anything, I suppose they have to have something to avenge.  It just felt convenient to me.  Obviously, it worked fine for you.  People have different opinions and different tastes.

  • Tricksterson

    Never really cottoned to “Avengers” as a team name.  I always liked the admittedly less popular Marvel superteam, the Defeders.  Not to mention that the Defenders power structure was looser, more democratic nearly to the point of being anarchic.

  • Madhabmatics

     Morbius the Living Vampire + Blade team up movie. Get Wesley Snipes on the phone.

  • Hawker40

    “It’s one thing to be Spider-Man before Gwen Stacy, when it’s all about quipping and adventure. It’s another to be Spider-Man the day after your choice to help others has killed your girlfriend.”

    I think the earlier (first issue!) story where Peter’s refusal to stop a common criminal led to the death of his in loco parentis Uncle Ben Parker had more effect…
    No, wait, you’re talking about persevering, not starting.  Never mind.

  • caryjamesbond

    The show-don’t-tell rule was really hammered home to me by Ernest Hemingway. Despite being a certified Great Writer with his own Nobel and everything, he avoided ever showing any of his characters writing.  Robert Jordan, for example, was a writer, but in the middle of a war. The one time he DID show an artist in peacetime, in “Islands in the Stream”  he made the character a painter. Probably, I suspect, because Hemingway knew that any attempt to show one of Jordan’s short stories would only look like one of Hemingway’s stories, and when your style is that distinctive, it would only look silly to have your character writing the same way. 

  • Ursula L

    The Nobel Peace prize going to the EU makes complete sense to me.   

    Especially when you remember that things like facilitating trade, economic security, unifying the currency, etc. aren’t the goal of the EU at all.  They’re the tools of the EU.

    The goal of the EU, as everyone was crawling out of their respective pile of rubble and looking around, was “Shit.  How do we stop ourselves from doing that again.”  

    And by that standard, the EU has succeeded remarkably well, with a longer track record of success than pretty much any other Peace Prize winner.

  • Lliira

    Yeah. Europe is something of a standing joke among historians for being the place where everyone’s favorite pastime is killing each other. (Historians tend to gallows humor. They kinda have to.) The fact that that joke is no longer apt is almost unbelievable, after millennia of Europe being basically a charnel house.

  • fraser

     I’ve often thought of that when politicians announce that the US can only be safe when no country on Earth can possibly pose a military threat to us. If Europe tried following that standard, half the continent would be scorched Earth today.

  • caryjamesbond

    If Europe tried following that standard, half the continent would be scorched Earth today.

    That is almost exactly what kicked off the first world war.  Germany was seriously freaked out A) by the complete naval hegemony of the British and B) by the  British/French/Russian alliance that essentially surrounded Germany with potentially hostile nations. 

    If you want to read something depressing beyond belief, the first few chapters of “The Guns of August” will do the trick.  Incompetence, glory seeking, and paranoia all around. 

    Ironically, one of the more important factors that lead to the length and destructiveness of the war was Britain’s unwillingness to fight. If they’d gone in harder and faster, they might’ve A) kept the Turks out of the war and B) smashed the Germans in Belgium, precipitating a quick peace. 

  • Makabit

    I can almost see the idea of the disarmament itself working. People would be hysterical following the disappearance of the children (and Bible-thumping Aunt Agatha), and would be willing to believe almost anything in the face of a completely unbelievable situation, perhaps even that nuclear stockpiles did it with electromagnetism. Of course, it would require a deft hand to convince people of that theory–a deft hand Nicolae does not really seem to have…but it could happen.

    At this point, though…Lord, it just doesn’t work, does it?

  • Madhabmatics

    Who cares about Coulson, do you realize that ROCKET RACCOON and GROOT are coming to the big screen?!

  • EllieMurasaki

    Call me when Black Widow or Black Panther headlines a film.

  • Madhabmatics

     I’m sorry, I think you miss-spelled Mr Miracle for the second hero.

    a Mr. Terrific + Zauriel team-up movie would be a fun use of a black superhero too though, it would be like a buddy cop movie except with more “I know you aren’t an angel, Zauriel.” “I totally am an angel!”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wiki tells me Mr Miracle’s DC. Marvel Cinematic Universe is never going to contain DC characters. Or X-Men or Spiderman, as the movie rights to them are with companies other than the one handling the MCU.

  • Madhabmatics

    Well I guess if you are going to settle for only Marvel awesome black superheroes in movies instead of having DC ones, you’ll have to live without the best New God character teaching people that There Is A Life Equation. :P

  • lofgren

    Marvel seems to be making an effort here and there to make the cast more diverse, Nick Fury being the most obvious example. They’re somewhat limited in what they can do because they are probably concerned that fans would react poorly to a gender or race switch of a first tier character like Iron Man, and they can’t wave a magic wand and generate sufficient interest in a third stringer like Black Widow or Black Panther to make it worthwhile for them to make a movie.

    Although the Black Panther comic has been doing well for a while now, and I know for a fact that they have investigated the possibility of a movie or TV show. I’m not sure why those plans have been abandoned or delayed.

    Not that I am saying people should be totally satisfied with the only minorities being black sidekicks (is War Machine even in Iron Man 3?) or, in Fury’s case, the guy whose entire narrative function is to fail so that the heroes can come in and save the day. Pressure should definitely be kept on Marvel in order to push the franchise in a more diverse direction. I’m just saying that, given the constraints of a stable of characters that was mostly established by the end of the ’60s, they do seem to be listening.

    I’ve always felt like there is something really weird about the politics of Black Panther. It’s tough to know what to make of the Wakandans. On the one hand, they found themselves in possession of technology vastly advanced over their neighbors, and yet didn’t use that technology to massacre, enslave, and/or subjugate everybody around them until their local environment could no longer support their empire and it collapsed into a dark age. On the other hand, their advanced technology allowed them to develop beneficial inventions like a cure for cancer, which they don’t bother to share with anybody, and they’re all kind of supercilious dicks (this is acknowledged in the comics – pride is not a sin for Wakandans, it’s just the frank understanding of the obvious fact that they are irrefutably superior to everybody else). On the gripping hand, both of these features of their fictitious culture make me think that Wakanda is nothing but African Orientalism. It’s great that Black Panther is a black super hero and all, but I can’t shake the feeling that anybody who’s actually from Africa should find him at least a little offensive. He’s really only a slight improvement over Apache Chief.

    One thing that really bugged me about X-Men: First Class was that there was absolutely no reference to the very real race issues of the 1960s. You would think that a black cab driver in 1962, who is also secretly a mutant, might have a few words to say to the two white CIA guys who jump into his car and reveal that they have been secretly tracking you and say they understand your pain because they have also been discriminated against for their easily concealed god-like superpowers. The movie seems to suggest that racial strife ended with the Holocaust.

    To make up for this, it might be nice to see a movie about the origin of Nick Fury. In the comics, Nick Fury was used against his will as a test subject for the Super Soldier program that created Captain America (Black Nick Fury’s origin story was merged with that of Isaiah Bradley). It would be interesting to see how young Nick Fury feels fighting for a country that has performed medical experiments on him and literally enslaved him, and how he feels about Captain America, the golden boy who became a celebrity and was treated as a hero for undergoing a procedure that was safer and more successful for having been tested on Black Americans first. And it would be especially interesting to see what changes to allow him to rejoin the military that used him as a lab rat, and eventually to become the head of SHIELD.

    I actually didn’t like the comic book treatment of that story all that much, but there is an epic in there that says a lot about the relationship of Black Americans to their government from the 1930s to the present. I’d really like to see it done well, and I think it would be a hell of a lot more interesting than Black Panther.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m not sure why those plans have been abandoned or delayed.

    I saw an interview somewhere regarding plans for including Black Panther in the MCU to the tune of Africa is a strange and foreign place, particularly the parts that have money, and it is hard to do strange and foreign places.
    This was after the release of Thor.

    Haven’t actually read any comics myself (excepting Sandman, the Supernatural tie-ins which they are crap do not read them, the first issue of Princeless, and the issue that came free with the Avengers Blu-ray…yeah, I think that’s all of the comics I’ve ever read), so I’ve no idea what you’re talking about in the rest of it, but those definitely sound like problems that need fixing.

    Thing to note: Pretty much every variation of Sherlock Holmes ever (excluding Elementary due to newness) has much Holmes/Watson fanfic. Psych, which is a creative descendant of Sherlock Holmes? There’s lots of Shawn/Lassiter and not a hell of a lot of Shawn/Gus, even though one would think the Holmes/Watson dynamic would spawn much more fic than the Holmes/cop-who-hates-his-guts dynamic. Gus is black, Shawn and Lassiter white. And any canon that has the buddies vibe that Tony and Rhodey have in Iron Man 1 and 2 ought to be overrun with fic slashing those characters. Nope. Tony gets slashed with Steve or Bruce, apparently on the strength of a few minutes’ interaction with the slashee in The Avengers and whatever the hell’s in the comics that most MCU fans know only through Wikipedia and fannish osmosis. Rhodey of course is black and Tony, Steve, and Bruce all white. MCU Nick Fury gets hardly any love, when, really, it’s Samuel L Jackson, we ought to be all over that.

    I’m not sure what my point was anymore, but I definitely had a point for which this is valuable background information.

  • lofgren

    Well your comment made me laugh out loud, so it seems like a cogent point to me.

    Just a quick rundown of the history of Wakanda:

    Wakanda is a fictional African nation. Sometime in ancient history, a meteor made of highly malleable yet strong metal called vibranium (the stuff that Captain America’s shield is made out of) landed in Wakandan territory. As a result of this, the Wakandans had for more powerful metal tools than their bronze-spear-wielding neighbors. Instead of using those weapons offensively, they followed a doctrine of total isolation. The comics assume that because the Wakandans skipped straight past the bronze age to the vibranium age, the rest of their technological advancement was similarly accelerated along a path similar to what the rest of the world accomplished over the next few thousand years, and beyond. In the modern age, they are super advanced. They have a flourishing space program (which in the Marvel world means direct contact with extraterrestrials), have cured almost all diseases, and most of their population is concentrated in a high tech city that appears to made of nanites. Black Panther is the recipient of their version of the super soldier serum, as well as their king.

    It’s a very cool idea, actually, but it’s the kind of thing that is usually done with Atlantis or some other entirely fictional society that doesn’t mischaracterize any real-world culture. As the primary representative of Africa in the Marvel universe, Wakanda’s presentation seems a little unfair to actual Africans.

  • lofgren

    Oh, and since you are probably not aware, Nick Fury was a white guy for about 40 years. The Marvel universe was revamped around the turn of the century. Already planning the movie franchise at that point, Marvel contracted Samuel L. Jackson’s likeness for the new version of Fury, and part of the deal stipulated that Jackson would play the character in the eventual films.

    It’s not an especially glamorous character. But as roles for minorities in superhero movies go, it’s progress.

  • Ross

    As I understand it, the primary Nick Fury is still a white guy. The Samuel L Jackson version of Nick Fury is from the Marvel Ultimate Universe, where Spider-Man is a street kid named Miles Morales, Professor X and Wolverine are both dead, Captain America has actual superpowers, and the Avengers are called the “Ultimates” instead.

    Back in the 90s, they made a backdoor pilot movie for a SHIELD series. For Nick Fury, they cast… David Hasselhoff.

  • lofgren

    Note: Marvel universes are numbered, with the original universe being 616.

    I would hesitate to call the 616 Nick Fury the “primary” one at this particular juncture. He’s retired and doesn’t have much of a presence in any book anymore. Nick Fury Jr., who is based on the Ultimate Nick Fury, is now the leader of SHIELD, but SHIELD is not quite as significant and powerful in 616 being more of an espionage agency as opposed to the Ultimate SHIELD which is a national defense agency and clearly the model for the movieverse version. Ultimate SHIELD has a significant presence in almost all Ultimate books, Nick Fury has a major presence and a stunning amount of power, was responsible for commissioning many of the experiments that created the non-mutant Ultimate characters, and I believe is more recognizable both to comic and non-comic audiences at this point.

    Which version of each character should be considered the “primary” is of course up for debate. Is it the most recognizable? The most successful? The most modern age appearances? The most sales? Etc.

    But in the specific case of Nick Fury I think it is safe to say that Ultimate Fury has surpassed his predecessor for the moment.

    (Calling Miles Morales a street kid is a little weird. His family isn’t wealthy, but they do have a home, and Miles is a gifted student who attends a private boarding school. If Captain America has super powers beyond 616’s super strength, reflexes, and speed then I missed that development.)

  • Ross

     My understanding is that 616’s Captain America’s strength is Considerable But Not Super, whereas Ultimate Captain America is strong enough to do things like punch tanks.

    When I suggsted that Ultimate Nick Fury isn’t the “primary” Nick Fury, what I really mean is that however important he is out of all the Nick Furies there are, the universe he’s in and the superheroes he interacts with are *not* the versions you think of when you think of the Marvel roster of superheroes.

    Just like however important Alan Scott is, when you say “And then Superman and Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern teamed up to fight Lex Luthor”, the Green Lantern in that sentence isn’t Alan Scott.

  • lofgren

    When I suggsted that Ultimate Nick Fury isn’t the “primary” Nick Fury, what I really mean is that however important he is out of all the Nick Furies there are, the universe he’s in and the superheroes he interacts with are *not* the versions you think of when you think of the Marvel roster of superheroes.

    OK, but the movie world is clearly heavily inspired by the Ultimate universe. Ultimate Iron Man, Captain America, and Hulk are all very similar to their 616 counterparts. Aspects of the characters that are different in Ultimates are actually carried over into the movies. So for a lot of people here, those characters ARE the ones that they picture, more so than the originals.

    Since the stories are ongoing, components are fluid. After the success of the Ultimate Captain America, which emphasized his military background, 616 Captain America also started to more strongly resemble a soldier than a super hero, for example by carrying guns and killing enemies as a soldier would rather than knocking everybody unconscious with his shield – although that’s also related to Marvel’s decision to abandon the Comics Code.

    Iron Man’s attitude in the films is more reminiscent of Ultimate Tony than 616 Tony, mostly because 616 Tony went through his transformation back in Vietnam and has now been a “responsible” corporate leader and a super hero for decades. 616 Tony is a binge drinker who gets blackout drunk. Ultimate and Movie Tonys are functional alcoholics.

    Movie Hawkeye does not resemble 616 Hawkeye much at all, but he is very similar to Ultimate Hawkeye. You get the picture.

    Even in the Ultimate ‘verse, Miles Morales is Spider-Man II, Spider-Man I being of course Peter Parker. Other than being a teenager in 2001 instead of 1981 (or whenever the current 616 Parker last had his origin updated to), Peter Parker is recognizably the same character and due to the timeline alone resembles the Peter Parker from the most recent film more than the Parker of 1962 or the current 616 Parker.

    (None of this applies to Ultimate Thor, who emphasizes his lightning powers more than 616 Thor and has a very different personality. Movie Thor is very much the 616 character and bears little resemblance to the Ultimate version.)

    Your mention of Alan Scott is a perfect example. If this was 1955 and you made that statement, then Alan Scott would definitely be the Green Lantern you are talking about. If it was 1975, you’d be talking about Hal Jordan. If it’s 1995, you COULD be talking about any of about five characters, but most people would STILL think you are talking about Hal Jordan because none of those other characters has ever surpassed his popularity.

    In the same way that Hal Jordan has eclipsed Alan Scott, I think it is safe to say that Ultimate Fury has eclipsed 616 Fury in terms of popularity and recognizability, at least for the moment.

  • lofgren


    Ultimate Captain America is strong enough to do things like punch tanks.

    That never happened.

  • Tricksterson

    Yes, the Marvel movie universe cherry picks both from the standard universe and from the Ultimate universe.

  • PatBannon

    Black Widow is white.

  • lofgren

    I believe the point is that Black Widow is a woman.

  • Ken

     616, Ultimate, Earth-Prime – call me old-fashioned, but I liked the Silver Age “Continuity Editor? What’s that?” approach, where any writer could do anything in any issue, and everything reset by the next issue – or by the next story in the same issue, sometimes.

    You could do things like have all Earth’s children disappear, or all governments dissolved and replaced with ten Evil Overlords, or nuclear strikes destroy major cities, and two chapters later the characters had all forgotten about it and their most pressing concerns were buying a new car or finding a nicer apartment.

  • lofgren

    Although I believe you are thinking of the Golden Age under the Comics Code, when all superhero stories were written for very young children or imbeciles.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Black Widow is white.

    Which invalidates my point that the MCU has not yet had and is not planning any films where the title character is female…how, exactly?

  • Joshua

    Your post did not make it clear that you were talking about gender as well as race. I was also confused by what you wrote.

  • EllieMurasaki

    …yes, because it is so hard to tell from a graphic that emphasizes the white-male-ness of all the MCU title characters that maleness is important as well as whiteness.

  • Madhabmatics
  • Dmoore970

    Speaking as one who is old enough to remember the Cold War, a lot of the debate over the War on Terror seemed drearily familiar.  People dredged up a lot of arguments I had heard before — that we were facing an existential threat, that survival trumps all, that in the face of the crisis, that we had to match an enemy of unparalleled ruthlessness, that  our values were a luxury we could no longer afford, etc.  

    And, yes, when there were enough nuclear weapons pointed at each other to destroy the whole world population several times over, I feared that it just might be true.  And then the Soviet Union turned out to be WAY overrated and collapsed without a shot being fired.  Now granted, the Cold War never actually touched our shores.  9-11 did.  But somehow after you have heard those arguments once, you are not willing to fall for them a second time.

  • Jamoche

    From (yes, it still exists): 
    Quantum Romneyism: Romney holds a superposition of all political opinions until you observe him, then they collapse based on the audience.

  • Ethics Gradient

    Not sure where this should go, but since these threads are the go-to place for unbiblical behaviour by Real True Christians, and also possible signs of the apocalypse, this seems as good as any: has anyone, especially Fred, got comments on the trademarking of a public pose of prayer by a millionaire? Could Tim Tebow be an antichrist? Or, La Haye and Jenkins-style, the Antichrist?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Copyright, trademark and patent have officially gone freakin’ haywire. (>_<)B

  • ohiolibrarian

     How do you trademark such a common pose? And SURE he didn’t trademark it for profit … uh huh.

  • Lori


      How do you trademark such a common pose? 

    In a sane world you would not be able to.


    And SURE he didn’t trademark it for profit … uh huh.   

    I think this article makes a good case that Tebow isn’t in it for the money. It’s way worse than that–he’s in it for the control.

  • ohiolibrarian

    We’ll see whether Tebow sends ‘cease & desist’ letters or tries to collect damages to see his motivation. But … what was the patent office thinking to award it? We really need to reform patent law to stop this kind of crap.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But … what was the patent office thinking to award it? We really need to reform patent law to stop this kind of crap.

    Not Invented Here had a storyline where a character patented parentheses. Of course, in order to make it vaguely plausible, that storyline had to be immediately preceded by one in which another character was hacking high-security databases for kicks, mentioned that he’d just hacked the US Patent Office database, and left the computer without closing what he was doing…