writings at Mbird on animation, superheroes and other things

Since 2010 I've written ... a lot for a site called Mbird.  Mainly I've written about film, but particularly animated for big and small screen and particularly about superheroes, a genre of film that is not taken particularly seriously by a swath of film critics and film historians.  When I was a kid I wanted to get into animation and comics but I very quickly discovered I was not cut out for going very far in working with visual media.  In high school and college I shifted toward writing and music, but I haven't lost my love of animation as an art form.

I learned about Mbird through Michael Spenser, aka Internet Monk. I commented at a few posts at Mbird and one day in 2010 DZ asked if I would be open to writing a review of Toy Story 3, I think it was.  In perhaps too characteristic form I decided to write about the then full trilogy of Toy Story films.  That's possibly a good or a bad thing that if someone asks me to write about X my writerly instinct is to discuss the alphabet because to understand X you need to know a few things about what comes before and after.  That's a virtue and a vice in writing.

Anyway, the first thing I wrote for Mbird was about the Toy Story films.

Toy Story as a Journey of Heroic Repentance
http://www.mbird.com/2010/08/toy-story-as-trilogy-of-heroic/
http://www.mbird.com/2010/08/toy-story-as-trilogy-of-heroic_12/
http://www.mbird.com/2010/08/toy-story-as-trilogy-of-heroic_19/

now ... with a supplemental essay discussing Toy Story 4 since the series is no longer a trilogy.
https://mbird.com/2019/07/toys-as-shepherds-and-shepherds-as-toys-guiding-the-lost-in-toy-story-4/

I also wrote about Brave, which I think is an under-rated entry in the Pixar filmography.
http://www.mbird.com/2012/07/mothers-and-daughters-and-bears-oh-my-pride-and-expectation-in-brave/

Around 2011 DZ asked if I would be game to write about the DC animated universe, broadly defined as the superhero cartoons developed by Paul Dini and Bruce W. Timm.  The idea was a brief discussion of the shows overall as the idea was pitched to me.  The idea I got as I began writing it was ... you'll see ... significantly more ambitious.  It isn't even technically complete.  The first part would set the stage for early 1990s animation by looking at trends in 1980s animation in the wake of FCC policy changes and a series of ideas that I later refined into a set of essays called "Optimus Prime and the Religion of Toys".  "Cartoon Nostalgia, Cartoon Revolutions" now feels like a very rough draft of ideas that I've had time to refine with help from broader reading on a couple of topics.

Writing project on DC animated universe

DZ at Mbird asked me if I'd be willing to write an overview of the DC animated universe
PART ONE
Cartoon Nostalgia, Cartoon Revolutions
http://www.mbird.com/2011/06/cartoon-nostalgia-cartoon-revolution-part-1-blasts-from-the-past-keep-on-blasting/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/06/cartoon-nostalgia-cartoon-revolution-part-2-let-us-now-praise-famous-toys-transformers-and-beatles/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/06/cartoon-nostalgia-cartoon-revolution-part-3-cartoon-morality-in-transformers/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/07/cartoon-nostalgia-cartoon-revolution-part-4-cold-war-moral-clarity-and-post-cold-war-moral-ambivalence/

My favorite writing for Mbird, by far, is what is "Part two" of my analysis of the DCAU.  I'm happiest with what I wrote about Batman: the animated series. As works submitted to MBird go I'd say Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire is my pop cultural analysis magnum opus.

PART TWO
Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire
http://www.mbird.com/2011/09/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-1/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/10/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-2/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/11/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-3/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/01/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-4a/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/02/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madess-of-desire-pt-4b/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/02/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-part-4c/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/03/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-4d/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/03/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-4e/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/04/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-4f/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/05/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-part-5a/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/07/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-5b/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/07/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-madness-of-desire-pt-5c/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/08/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-5d/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/09/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-6a-apostasy-and-salvation-in-gotham-city/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/09/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-6b/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/10/batman-the-agony-of-loss-and-the-madness-of-desire-pt-6c/

Ironically I finished "Part Three" earlier, a discussion of Superman: the animated series.
PART THREE
Superman: An American Icon at War with (and for) His Own Legacies

http://www.mbird.com/2011/04/superman-an-american-icon-at-war-with-and-for-his-own-legacies-part-1-of-5/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/04/superman-an-american-icon-at-war-with-and-for-his-legacy-part-2/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/04/superman-an-american-icon-at-war-with-and-for-his-legacy-part-3/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/05/superman-an-american-icon-at-war-with-and-for-his-legacy-part-4/
http://www.mbird.com/2011/05/superman-an-american-icon-at-war-with-and-for-his-legacy-part-5/

Then ...

PART FOUR: JUSTICE HAS ITS PRICE--THE ORPHANS AND EXILES OF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE

This set of essays isn't finished as of 2019 and I've meant to finish it but I just ran out of steam. As of February 2019 I've got a lot of sketches for the Green Lantern essay but it isn't finished yet.  The plan was to discuss each member of the core seven in Justice League/Justice League Unlimited.  So Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl and the Flash are, theoretically, pending.  But I only got to the "big three".  Perhaps I can finish those essays in time.  This "Part Four" aimed to extend the criticism/analysis of the DCAU into its final televised phase.

Superman: Saving the World from Better Worlds
https://www.mbird.com/2013/06/saving-the-world-from-better-worlds/
Wonder Woman: Maid of Honor in a Dishonorable World
https://www.mbird.com/2016/04/wonder-woman-maid-of-honor-in-a-dishonorable-world/
Love at Arm’s Length: The Dark Knight Can Do Anything but Give You His Hear
https://www.mbird.com/2016/04/fists-of-justice-love-at-arms-length-the-dark-knight-can-do-anything-but-give-you-his-heart/

I also wrote an extended piece of criticism about Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, since I don't just so happen to be a fan of Christopher Nolan's films.

A PATH THROUGH THREE PRISONS: BRUCE WAYNE IN NOLAN'S BATMAN TRILOGY
http://www.mbird.com/2012/07/a-path-through-three-prisons-bruce-wayne-in-nolans-batman-trilogy-pt-1/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/08/a-path-through-three-prisons-bruce-wayne-in-nolans-batman-trilogy-pt-2/
http://www.mbird.com/2012/08/a-path-through-three-prisons-bruce-wayne-in-nolans-batman-trilogy-pt-3/

Since Nolan wrapped up his trilogy I have written less about film for Mbird.  There were ... other reasons for a decline in literary activity on this front in the period spanning 2012 to 2015.  If you're a regular reader of this blog you probably know what those reasons were and there's another page of tagged and indexed posts that covers that material.

But I have contributed to Mbird semi-regularly.  Here are some other contributions I've made over the years.

Flavours of Failure in Edgar Wright's Blood and Ice Cream trilogy with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
https://www.mbird.com/2013/12/flavours-of-failure-in-the-blood-and-ice-cream-trilogy/

Wrote a review of Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises.
https://www.mbird.com/2014/03/mockingbird-at-the-movies-ambition-and-delusion-in-the-wind-rises/

Terry Teachout on pop culture and the need for a balance between high and low
https://www.mbird.com/2014/07/terry-teachout-on-pop-culture-and-the-need-for-a-balance-between-high-and-low/



Paths to Glory Light and Dark: Star Wars Recovers Its Pelagian Heart
https://mbird.com/2015/12/paths-to-glory-light-and-dark-star-wars-recovers-its-pelagian-heart/

I got a little bit of disagreement on the Star Wars essay and, it if helps, I was writing about a theory that the sci-fi franchise nostalgias we've seen in American film tend to cluster around the 1960s and 1980s based franchises.  In other words, the utopian and dystopian cinematic franchises Hollywood keeps coming back to also seem to correspond to nostalgia for the blue state romance of the JFK years and the red state romance of the Reagan years and how "we" collectively embrace or dread elements of American imperial influence.  Star Trek was a utopian embrace of American empire while Planet of the Apes could be read as a fear of it, if you will.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2016/01/nostalgia-and-anxieties-of-empire.html

On account of Mbird writings I confess I have become a Whit Stillman fan ... and I was happy to write about Love and Friendship when it came along.

LADY SUSAN FINESSES DOWNWARD MOBILITY IN WHIT STILLMAN’S LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
https://www.mbird.com/2016/09/lady-susan-finesses-downward-mobility-in-whit-stillmans-love-and-friendship/

THE RED TURTLE, BEAUTIFUL BUT NOT SUBLIME
https://www.mbird.com/2017/03/the-red-turtle-beautiful-but-not-sublime/

DEFEAT EVEN IN VICTORY: WONDER WOMAN, CRITICAL RESPONSE, AND MODES OF LOW ANTHROPOLOGY
https://www.mbird.com/2017/06/defeat-even-in-victory-wonder-woman-critical-response-and-modes-of-low-anthropology/

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING … WITH FROSTING SO GOOD YOU CAN FORGET THERE’S SOMETHING OFF ABOUT THE CAKE
https://www.mbird.com/2017/07/spider-man-homecoming-with-frosting-so-good-you-can-forget-theres-something-off-about-the-cake/

RAISING THE STAKES IS LOWERING THE STAKES FOR JUSTICE LEAGUE
https://www.mbird.com/2017/11/raising-the-stakes-is-lowering-the-stakes-for-justice-league/

THE REAL BATTLE LINES IN THE INCREDIBLES 2
https://www.mbird.com/2018/06/the-real-battle-lines-in-the-incredibles-2/

Stan Lee, Generational Alienation, and Spider-man: An Aspiring Novelist Becomes a Comics Legend
https://www.mbird.com/2018/11/stan-lee-generational-alienation-and-spider-man-an-aspiring-novelist-becomes-a-comics-legend/

The ideas of "Cartoon Nostalgia" have come full circle more recently in a set of essays I've written called ...

In a way this next project can be thought of as a "Part Five" of the DCAU series, an exploration of the longevity of what for many film critics and film historians might be the most shamefully lowbrow of lowbrow art, films and television shows based on Hasbro toy lines.  I play with a theory partly indebted to Marshall McLuhan's axiom that television is a "hotter" medium than film because of the level of attentional investment it requires.  The lower brow arts that involve toys are more immersive because you bring your play time with the toys into any experience of the film or television with you. By contrast, the higher the brow of the art, the more indirect and vicarious the art-religion experience tends to be and the more credentialing you have to get to be part of that art cult.  Whereas, by contrast, if you bought one or two Transformers or got them as a kid, you're potentially "in".  That series is ...

OPTIMUS PRIME AND THE RELIGION OF TOYS
part 1
https://mbird.com/2019/01/optimus-prime-and-the-religion-of-toys-part-1-the-total-work-of-art-as-a-transformer-of-culture/
part 2
https://www.mbird.com/2019/02/optimus-prime-and-the-religion-of-toys-part-2-the-birth-of-cybertronian-tragedy-the-cyclic-deaths-and-rebirths-of-king-optimus-prime/
part 3
https://www.mbird.com/2019/03/optimus-prime-and-the-religion-of-toys-part-3-mass-producing-the-monomyth-joseph-campbells-unintended-legacy-and-ours/

and something about the 2019 Spiderman film Far From Home
https://mbird.com/2019/07/spider-man-far-from-home-is-fun-but-sacrifices-character-to-plot-twists-and-gags/