Meet the Skrulls
March 14, 2019 2:16 PM   Subscribe

"Skrulls have been many things in the Marvel Comics over the past 60 years: superhero impersonators, religious extremists disguised as humans, canon fodder in any number of Avengers brawls. In Captain Marvel, they finally get the storyline they deserve." [Linked essay & post below contain major spoilers for movie Captain Marvel.]
Marvel comics have given readers sympathetic Skrulls before, but their shape-changing abilities and dramatic ears and chins have historically coded them as untrustworthy and alien. They're a version of the old sci-fi trope of the alien race that infiltrates society to replace humans. They can even, dangerously, be seen as stand-ins for immigrants or minorities; they are Other. Captain Marvel upends that, calling into question assumptions about who is the Good Guy and who is the Bad Guy in any war narrative. Do we side with people who look like us? (Kree, even with their blue skin, still look more human than Skrulls do.) Or do we side with the people who are forced into hiding? [More from Elana Levin on podcast Graphic Policy Radio.]

👽💚 Evan Narcisse at Polygon, The MCU finds a political conversation in Carol Danvers, the Skrulls, and Marvel history: "Like Black Panther before it, Captain Marvel taps into real-world happenings to turn subtext into actual text. Most superhero stories wind up largely upholding the status quo: A villain gets defeated and any promises of systemic change trickle out on an incremental, individual level. What makes Black Panther and Captain Marvel more political than, say, Winter Soldier, is how the main characters move to re-order whole societies or cultures."

👽💚 Actor Ben Mendelsohn Tells Us All About Playing Your New Favorite Skrull, Talos, in ‘Captain Marvel': "Keeping the lid on [the twist] has obviously been part of what we’ve been trying to achieve with that. So it’s been very much 'bad guy bad guy' stuff. And then, obviously, the sun will come out. But if it stays dry until the day, or day after, or whatever, that’ll be fantastic. [...] So, one of the first things I did when I knew I was going to be playing the Skrull, I went back to their first appearance in Fantastic Four in like 1962. And they start out as kind of these tadpole-y, kind of insipid, kind of semi-frog amphibian malevolent dudes that go and shape-shift into the Fantastic Four. And then they do a jewelry heist, wreck a water tower or some bullshit like that, right? [.…] It’s all very Cold War and mustache twirly and all of that sort of business. And then you’ve got the next decade of development, of what the Skrulls become. So one of my first kind of conclusions and liberation points was, you know what? There’s a Skrull, this is their first appearance. This is how they were first conceived. And they bear very little resemblance anymore to how they appeared when we first meet them. So you can throw it out. You can throw out the book of orthodoxy on it. Because it’s not there, you know? It’s not there."

👽💚 Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige Explains What’s Happening With The Skrulls After Captain Marvel: "People have asked, 'Oh, so are they all good?' And I'm like, 'Is anybody all good?' So that's part of becoming dimensionalized characters. [The capacity for them to be bad is still very much out there], as it is - for better, for worse - for all of us." Slashfilm: "The idea [certainly was] to subvert the expectation of the pointy eared green aliens. And Ben Mendelsohn and even subverting people’s assumption that Ben Mendelsohn will be playing the villain.”

👽💚 In a stroke of great corporate synergy™ AND/OR extremely awkward timing, this month Marvel Comics began publishing the comics miniseries Meet the Skrulls, which is basically "The Americans but the Russians are Skrulls!" with a Skrull spy family living undercover as humans.
posted by nicebookrack (29 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
This is a great post, very informative and well-researched with lots of cool links about Skrulls! Yep, some very positive, pro-Skrull articles here. Definitely giving me some food for thought about Skrulls and how I should feel about accepting their long-term presence in the MCU and wherever else they might...pop...up.

guys I think nicebookrack might be a Skrull
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:08 PM on March 14, 2019 [37 favorites]

And Ben Mendelsohn and even subverting people’s assumption that Ben Mendelsohn will be playing the villain.”

I even thought to myself 'what if Mendelsohn isn't the baddie?' Then I mentally upgraded myself for such a ridiculous conception.
posted by biffa at 3:14 PM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Jude Law, however, only ever plays fine upstanding people.
posted by Artw at 3:17 PM on March 14, 2019 [18 favorites]

We saw the movie. I thought it was "ok". Regardless of that, while I'm not super familiar with Skrull/Kree (in fact I couldn't remember that the Kree were the baddies (unless that's just changed/gone back and forth over the years, then whatever).

Anyways it got me thinking maybe this can get the Shi'ar and when Disney gets the rights back to X-Men, they can use this to bring in the Prof X gets kidnapped/they think he's dead plot from Uncanny 300 or whatever it was.

And then I see the Shi'ar are coming to the dark phoenix film (not sure if that's still fox or what) so... hmm...

Anyways, I think it's sad that so many edgelords think it's cool to hate the movie just cuz someone likes it. If you don't like it, fine, just don't like it, why piss in someone else's cornflakes?
posted by symbioid at 3:21 PM on March 14, 2019

Don't forget that a Skrull recently died while disguised as Squirrel Girl and that was the only Skrull on Earth meaning there are no Skrulls on Earth now and you shouldn't be at all suspicious.
posted by ckape at 3:24 PM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Skrulls mean they can bring back Chris Evans etc for one off appearances!
posted by biffa at 3:29 PM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

(See? Everything's fine.)
posted by ckape at 3:31 PM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Two things: (1) if I'm not mistaken there's a bit of a Blade Runner counting situation with the Skrulls, as there are four shown at the original crash site but only three accounted for anywhere else in the movie (the one who dies, and then the two Carol befriends) -- that seems like a story hook for later. (2) The movie's bizarre allegorization of the Skrulls as (seemingly) Palestinians is really not going to sit well when they make them the bad guys anyway two or three Phases from now. I just don't see how they'll be able to resist.
posted by gerryblog at 4:03 PM on March 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite Skrull-related exchanges from the movie (from memory, forgive paraphrasing):

FURY: Can you become a cat?
TALOS: What’s a cat?
RAMBEAU: Can you become a filing cabinet?
TALOS: Why would I become a filing cabinet?

As someone who read all the old school Fantastic Four collections as a kid, I was happy the newly sympathetic Skrulls did not wind up hypnotized to think they were cows.
posted by ejs at 4:11 PM on March 14, 2019 [24 favorites]

See, I wanted the cows.
posted by runcibleshaw at 4:12 PM on March 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

Unlike cats, apparently filing cabinets are universal in the galaxy. Which would make them a seemingly perfect Skrull disguise.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:21 PM on March 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

It feels like the mcu just gets to integrate 60+ years of narrative trial and error from marvel writers, and then make the stories even better
posted by eustatic at 4:23 PM on March 14, 2019 [15 favorites]

“It’s weird, I don’t remember ordering one filing cabinet, let alone 600…”
posted by The River Ivel at 4:25 PM on March 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

The more media I read/watch, the less and less thrilled I get by SFF that presents fictional groups as evil based on species, etc. rather than ideology or actions. It creates a convenient built-in antagonist that's allegedly apolitical, but the larger applicability of the metaphor always ends up feeling sour. And there will always be Nazis, unethical scientists, and venture capitalists to punch instead.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:40 PM on March 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

Oh man. The skrull-cows. Between this and the current Doom Patrol show, the universe is conspiring to make me want a live-action version of Morrison's Skrull Kill Krew.
posted by FallibleHuman at 4:44 PM on March 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

^^^^This! I want a Skrull Kill Krew movie!
posted by brand-gnu at 4:59 PM on March 14, 2019

We were discussing the whole plot twist with the Skrulls and Marvel hit us with a double whammy. Because as comics readers we know the Skrulls are baddies, and as movie fans we know Mendelsohn is going to be the baddie. And the producers of this film knew good and well what those expectations would be and took full advantage of our anti-Skrull racism.

So often comic fans have an inside going into these movies, even if they aren't reading up on all the set photos and spoilers, because they know the source material. I know what's going to happen with Mysterio in the next Spider-Man. I've got a pretty good guess of how Shazam is going to end, if not in the climatic battle then after the credits. Anyone who hasn't read the books (or remembers the umpteen tv shows, cartoons, and games with these characters) will be in for a surprise. So it's nice to see that get turned on its head for once.
posted by thecjm at 5:43 PM on March 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

The most recent Squirrel Girl story involved a very odd sort of Skrull invasion.

why aren't you reading Squirrel Girl right now
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:14 PM on March 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

(I'm not reading Squirrel Girl right now because I'm going through Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel OMG I need her to meet Wolverine on screen)

The Skrulls we met are mostly good, but the Super Skrull is still out there, with all the powers of the Fantastic Four. Only this time there is no perennial Marvel third wheel Rick Jones...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:18 PM on March 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I like Science Guy.
posted by Artw at 7:33 PM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Okay, I've pointed Elana over here. She's got a lot of other great stuff, like her recent essay on Christian Death's "Figurative Theatre" which just got into the sweet sixteen of the March Vladness Tournament of Goth. (So make sure to vote for it next week!)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:11 PM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

...religious extremists disguised as humans...

I've been trying to warn everybody about those for years. Wake up, sheeple!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:59 AM on March 15, 2019

People have asked, 'Oh, so are they all good?' And I'm like, 'Is anybody all good?' So that's part of becoming dimensionalized characters.

I really like this. The whole shapeshifting things make the Skrulls good villains, so inevitably we're going to see a plot involving Evil Skrulls. But that doesn't mean we need the Skrulls themselves to be a race whose hat is "evil shapeshifters". It's a fine line to tread, but doing so is a lot more interesting than just saying, "Oh, yeah, those evil aliens from the comics? They're good now."
posted by tobascodagama at 5:32 AM on March 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

The thing is though, for us comics fans we **DIDN'T** know that the Skrulls were the baddies. One thing I always liked about the 616 continuity was how in the Kree/Skrull war there really wasn't a good side and a bad side, but rather two sides that were both horrible and which both contained some good people as well.

Are the Skrulls in 616 an oppressive and dangerously expansionist empire who seek to subvert an take over pretty much every other polity in existence? Yes, absolutely.

Are the Kree a bunch of fanatics who slaughter civilians by the billion to preserve their own hegemony and justify their actions with the Skrull threat? Yes, absolutely.

Are the Shi'ar even more aggressively expansionist and oppressive than the Kree? Yes, absolutely.

And yet, each one of those groups contained individuals who were heroic and noble and generally pretty decent people, sometimes even if they were also warriors who fought for their deeply flawed and mostly awful empire.

You can't cram that sort of nuance and grey vs. grey story into a two hour movie, or at least not while you're also telling the story of Carol Danvers you can't. So I totally get why they decided to go for a more straightforward story of the Skrulls being oppressed and a reversal of the idea that the big shiny militaristic power is not really the good guys they want to pretend they are (though, since Ronan was the bad guy in Guardians of the Galaxy it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone watching the Marvel movies that the Kree aren't all that nice).

But I do hope that in future Marvel movie we get to see stories involving the Skrull being awful too, they hinted at it. Talos said his hands were filthy, and if he was a Skrull infiltrator he was likely understating things (hint: they typically killed the person they were impersonating, tying up Fury's boss was Talos being very, very, atypically nice and gentle).
posted by sotonohito at 5:58 AM on March 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

I also liked the way the Skrulls demonstrated the weakness in having a super secret and shadowy organization like SHIELD with a single person running things at the top, because, yeah. That's a single point failure just begging to be exploited by replacement, mind control, or some other subversion attack.
posted by sotonohito at 6:01 AM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Morrison's Skrull Kill Krew.

Morrison AND Millar, which really shows. Have read this recently (it was on Marvel Unlimited) and boy it has not aged well.
posted by Artw at 6:13 AM on March 15, 2019

i'm not really an in-depth comics person, but fandom-adjacent, so my understanding of the skrulls was they were 'bad guys' (honestly im going to blame all the 616!stony fics) so this reveal was definitely something of a pleasant shock (but i was already delighted by mar-vell being a woman, so my cup runneth over so to speak). still, this movie is threading a very fine needle i think, between the watsonian vs doylesian levels because it's one thing to engage seriously with the anti-imperialist anti-demonisation of refugees story, but i'm also having to contend with the massive real life promo that plays up the USAF connection at every turn (i've seen shots of even recruitment ads playing in us theatres?). i don't know where i land on it most days, tbh.
posted by cendawanita at 9:38 AM on March 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

I enjoy that as a rather nice judo flip, TBH.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

yea, i'm fond of the movie, so it's no problem for me. not to mention it's not like US DoD hasn't been a big part of american blockbusters, what more the MCU. It's a very having-my-cake-and-eating-it attitude though, and now that i bring it up, it reminds me of China and their growing moviemaking clout, it's been interesting to watch similar propagandizing taking place there, with even less narrative space to be contrarian.

but, back to the skrulls!
posted by cendawanita at 10:10 AM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

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