What If Marvel Studios Made Blaxploitation Movies?

By St. Paco

If you were ever a fan of Marvel Comics from, say, 1977 to now, then you've probably run your eyes through an issue or two (or twenty) of Marvel's long-running What If...? title. For those who aren't familiar with the book, the stories in What If...? explore themes that deviate from or alter completely the established norms of Marvel's literary canon. For instance, on the cover of What If...? #1, readers were asked to consider, "What if Spider-Man was a member of the Fantastic Four?" Then, over the course of eighteen pages the writer and artist explored that idea without it actually impacting 'real' comic book continuity.

It was with a similar concept in mind that I made a limited series of "Marvel Blaxploitation" mini movie posters. The process permitted me to do some serious "What if...?" imaginings of my own. The very first of these was, "What if there was a fourth Iron Man movie with Ghostface Killah in the title role?" For those of you who don't listen to much hip-hop, Ghostface Killah is a member of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan. In addition to his main kung-fu movie inspired stage name the rapper also uses the comic book inspired nicknames, Iron Man and Tony Starks (ol' shell head's billionaire alter ego). To illustrate how much of a fan the man is, his first solo album was even titled "Iron Man."

Click to enlarge

In the bestselling book, The Wu-Tang Manual, author and Clan founder, RZA, reports that everyone in the nine-member crew grew up collecting comics. But it was Wu-Tang member Method Man who had, says RZA, "the most extensive collection...boxes and boxes of comic books." Like Ghostface, Method Man (another stage name taken from kung-fu flicks) also uses the additional comic book inspired nicknames of Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider. In the Marvel universe, for you who don't know, motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze is the true identity of the flame-headed Ghost Rider. And it should probably be said that Meth's well-known love of marijuana 'blazing' has as much to do with these other nicknames as does his love of comics.

"It's my testament to those burned, play my position in the game of life standing firm / On foreign lands, jump the gun out of the frying pan
into the fire, transform into the Ghost Rider"
– Method Man, "Triumph"

Due to my own diehard affinities for hip-hop and comics, and sincere appreciation of Wu-Tang, Method Man and Ghostface Killah were obvious choices for the first pieces in the “Marvel Blaxploitation” mini movie poster series. It was originally only planned as two-parter but after finishing the two, I felt the urge to keep brainstorming to see what else might come out of it. The blaxploitation movie concept seemed like a good concept for at least one more mini-poster, which would give me a triptych/trilogy. But it was actually good for two more.

Although it took a few days to come up with the theme for the third piece, I eventually decided on one that would put Blade on screen (so to speak) with Nick Fury. Much to Marvel's credit, the company was already firmly on the cutting-edge of zombie lovin' pop culture with their Marvel Zombies comics. I even give them credit as trendsetters, since well before the other now-popular vampire franchises had come about, Marvel had three Blade films in theaters.

Mindful of the fact that Blade was also Marvel's first successful film franchise, the third piece permitted me to see him--quite deservedly--linked to the existing film universe of characters for which he paved the way. I also think that seeing Wesley with Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson resurrects his character's image from the muck of those franchise killing "sidekicks" played by Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel in Blade Trinity, the last Blade film.

(That’s right. I said it.)

The last piece in the series is based on a fairly popular "what if" scenario that plays out often in the minds of many comic book fans: "Who would win the fight between Storm of the X-Men and Thor?" Because Thor is the 'god of thunder' and Storm's mutant super-power enables her to control the weather, this one's a natural match-up. Thor is generally thought to have the upper hand in the battle, though, the most frequent reason being because: "He's a god!" But this…basically non-argument has less significance than many seem to realize.

Like virtually every god of ancient lore, Thor isn't immortal. He can be injured and even killed. Thus, with his mortality squarely in mind, I designed my mini movie poster...and then began writing a fan fiction piece in which Storm, who was worshiped by the people of her native Kenya as a goddess, opens up a shocking can of 'whup ass' on the god of thunder. It's a story rooted in religious lore and science-fact that would've made the late Dwayne McDuffie (who tried to tell a similar tale during his run on Fantastic Four, before nay-saying editors shot it down) very proud.

[Twirls mustache]

In addition to being just pure fun, the long process of making this mini-poster series caused me think a lot about power. More specifically, it made me think a lot about about the power of money and the power of images in American popular culture--as well as in traditional human societies. On a smaller and perhaps oversimplified scale, this series also allowed me to ponder what it must feel like to have the power to green light multi-million dollar movie deals, choose scripts, hire actors, directors, composers, musicians, and marketing & design firms.

Frankly, for a film buff like myself (yes, in addition to my many other obsessions), meditations on what it might be like to have movie mogul power was a wee bit intoxicating. But it also depressed the hell outta' me, too, recognizing even more now how very insular Hollywood is and how few have access to that world. Despite the fact that I may never get a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, for a little while at least the simple process of making these faux film promos enabled me to feel as if I had behind-the-scenes access (and front row seats) to some of the best superhero movies never made.


[Video On Demand] Kanye West - POWER

[Mixtape] Shaolin Soul Food

It had been in my head to make a compilation mixtape featuring many (or most) of the Ghostface Killah tracks that have old school soul samples. Then, after finally getting around to going through all of GFK's albums to gather the necessary songs, it occurred to me that there were also similar sounding tracks recorded by "Chef" Raekwon that fit nicely with the desired vibe. As Rae is also Ghost's main partner-in-rhyme, I think that it also works out quite well to have him as the second featured voice on the "Shaolin Soul Food" mixtape.

Come an' git it.


Ghostface Killah - Shaolin Soul Food

01 Intro [feat. Raekwon] - Ghostface Killah
02 Biscuits [feat. Trife Da God] - Ghostface Killah
03 Good Times - Ghostface Killah
04 Wallabee Champ - Ghostface Killah
05 Ms. Sincere - Raekwon
06 My Corner - Raekwon
07 Ason Jones - Raekwon
08 New Wu [feat. Method Man & Ghostface Killah] - Raekwon
10 Walk Around - Ghostface Killah
11 Holla - Ghostface Killah
12 Bathtub (Skit) - Ghostface Killah
13 Save Me Dear - Ghostface Killah
14 Dragon Style - Raekown
15 Shakey Dog - Ghostface Killah
16 Big Girl - Ghostface Killah
17 Let It Be Me (Interlude) - Linda Jones
18 Miranda - Method Man, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon
19 Dangerous - Method Man, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon
20 Wu Banga 101 [feat. GZA, Raekwon, Cappadonna & Masta Killa] - Ghostface Killah



Crisis in Electric Ladyland Revisited

In the satirical essay "Crisis in Electric Ladyland", I wrote about how in the past three-plus decades, super-hero characters of African heritage have been disproportionately given powers and/or names related to electricity. At the time there were as many as ten such characters in comics and cartoons. Only one, though, was a Marvel Comics creation (Storm), and she was the very first of the  type. The other nine (ten, actually) repetitious character types were all linked to the DC universe.*

So, in light of Marvel's track record, I find myself giving them a pass on Jaime Foxx's Electro in next summer's Amazing Spider-Man 2. This even though it will add yet another of this repetitive character type to an ignoble list. [Grimaces] Sure, it would be great to not be adding a 12th such character to the list at all (The Golden Blaze from the DC Comics-related Warner Bros. Entertainment was the 11th). But in fairness to Marvel, I have to give them the nod.

Even more bothersome, I find myself now interested in seeing Amazing Spider-Man 2. Prior to Foxx's casting, I hadn't a smidgeon of interest in the Spider-Man relaunch--because I love the Maguire Spider-Man movies. (Well, the first two. The last one wuzza' let down.) As for the SM relaunch, I have not seen the first one and won't trouble myself to rent it in the meanwhile. But when its sequel does comes out...on DVD, I'll check it out just to see the villain.

[Kicks rocks]

*The Marvel super-villain Thunderbolt was not included in the list on a technicality: his actual powers aren't related to electricity.


The Secret Origins of Grandmaster Flash

    Joseph Saddler was another teenager from the Caribbean, raised in the Bronx, who shared Herc's obsession with music and electronics. But unlike the muscled Herc, the diminutive Saddler was a perfectionist. Saddler spent hours watching Herc in Cedar Park run his "merry-go-round," and saw that Herc was visually locating the starting point of the breaks, dropping the needle and hoping for the best. When he switched back and forth between the turntables, Herc never really stayed on beat.

    Saddler went home and worked at getting it right. Living in the South Bronx, he didn't know about the downtown DJ innovations that Hollywood had discovered, like "beat matching" (aligning the tempos of records) and "slip-cueing" (using headphones to audition and cue a record before releasing it into play). Saddler had to invent them himself. He came up with this own names for the techniques: the "peek-a-boo system," and "clock theory." In the elaborate setting of his bedroom, Saddler took the science of DJing further than anyone had. Before long, he could "cut" between duplicate copies of a record seamlessly, without dropping a beat. Since most breaks were agonizingly brief, the quicker the cut, the shorter the breaks he could use. Saddler got really fast. His friends called him "Flash," like the comic-book hero who possessed superhuman speed.

Source: The Big Payback, pg. 19


Stardate: Supplemental

Like many other Americans who don't speak Japanese, I still manage to listen to ridiculous amounts of Japanese music. Ridiculous amounts. So I wanted to make a compilation mixtape to share some of that listening experience here. Superflat State of Mind is full of the kinds of selections that I'd play for anyone who's interested in samplin' the sounds of J-Pop, but having absolutely no idea where to start--or who to start with. This mix, however, prolly isn't your stereotypical compilation, meaning one filled with the sugary sweet voices of all-girl pop acts. Most of the tracks are by soulful Japanese (or in some cases half-Japanese) r&b artists. There's also a fair share of hip-hop flavor, as well. And though most of the words are sung in the Japanese tongue, there's a smattering of English that might have you singing right along.

P.S. This mix was in heavy rotation during the production phase of several of my recent art pieces, hence the title and cover art.

Superflat State of Mind, Vol. One
01 Red & Blue - Aisha
02 Two As One [feat. Chemistry] - Chrystal Kay
03 Letter In The Sky [feat. The Jacksons] - Ai
04 We Standing Strong [feat. Jay'ed] - Emi Maria
05 Embrace - Boom Boom Satellites
06 Apple - Tam Tam
07 My Endless Love - Pushim
08 Come Back to Me - Chrystal Kay
09 575 - Perfume
10 Love Me After 12AM - m-flo loves Alex (Clazzieque Project)
11 One Way Love [feat. Verbal (m-flo)] - Kana Nishino
12 Shawty [feat. Synergy] - Chemistry
13 Who's Theme - Minmi/Minmi
14 I Wanna Know You - Pushim
15 23:30 - Perfume
16 Fly [DJ Mitsu Beats Remix] - Aisha
17 Road to Riches [ft. Cavalier & MeccaGodzilla] - Kojoe
18 Darkness World [Feat. 般若] - Emi Maria
19 Realize - Jasmine
20 サヨナラは言わなかった [ft.光永亮太] - mihimaru GT


Captain's Log: Stardate 11222013

Lost in Translation (Episode I), St. Paco, 2013 

" It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you without a strong rhyme to step to." – Rakim

YKFS has been all but abandoned over the past few months. It's for good reason, though. In addition to my writing and research for an essay collection I plan to publish, I've made a return to my art/graphic design roots. When I'd decided to do a zine show to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of KFG earlier this year (Time flies, right?), I decided to create other stuff for the show as well: limited edition decorative prints, a painting or two...or three, and even some  t-shirts. So, during this long leave of absence from the blog interwebs, thirty or so pieces have been made. In addition to all that, there are other design projects now in various phases of development. One of them will be blogged about in a couple of days, so check back for it. Oh, and please enjoy the next few posts--cuz it'll prolly be a while before I'm blogging again.

Thanks for reading.


Brought to you (Again) by the Number Five, St. Paco, 2013

I Saw the Mach 5 in Gold (After Demuth), St. Paco, 2013