Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thursday Thoughts #1

First off, a big shout out to When Fangirls Attack! for the link love. Not only was the link accompanied by a strong recommendation to read (aww, thanks guys!), it also boosted my visitor count.

Seriously considering turning this into a feminist comics blog, just to keep up the stream of readers.

But no comments yet. Not even from James Meeley. James, if it helps, I really did enjoy your wife's list of good or bad superheroes to date. That was some funny stuff right there. Not sure how it fits into your belief that "a super hero comic is not the platform for 'exploring sexual identities'", particularly the bit where she suggests Namor would be bad in the sack or that Ralph Dibny could inflate his body parts "the right way," but whatever. I guess as long as it's not two dude holding hands.

On another note, did you know I bought comics today? A crapload of them. Too many to review tonight, but I did break down and buy Civil War, which I had only been skimming in my local comic book shop.

You know what? It's really good. The art is amazing. The shot of the Patriot leaping through the air, just a quiet little WOW moment in the midst of a lot of talking heads. Fantastic. And the writings been good too. Not as strong in the dialogue or characterization (besides Tony, no one seems to have second thoughts about the side they've chosen.) But Spider-Man unmasking on national television? J. Jonah Jameson fainting? Yeah, right here and now I'm willing to say that's better than anything that happened in Infinite Crisis, and coming from DC fanboy like me, that's saying something.

My only major complaint is that they stacked the deck to one side. I mean, I understand Iron Man's position, in the abstract I already agree with it. And if it was Iron Man, military industrialist and former secretary of defense, vs. Daredevil, defense attorney and vigilante, you would have a classic debate between the government's need to protect its citizens vs. the individual's right to privacy and autonomy, balanced by two characters of roughly the same popularity. And if Iron Man had Spider-Man as a proxy, Daredevil could have used Wolverine.

But once Captain America took a side, the moral debate was over. (I don't remember where I first read that. If you remember, or you wrote it, could you tell me in the comments section?) Cap's right. He's always right. He's Marvel's equivalent of Uncle Sam. Heck, he IS Captain America. So once he chose the anti-registration side, the debate was over. At that point, it becomes clear that there is more going on here than good people violently disagreeing over the best solution to a difficult, complex problem. Once Cap picks a side, it means there is something else, something ANTI-AMERICAN about the other side, something driving the heroes to war.

And once that element is introduced (and please let me be wrong about that), the actual, meaningful debate will be over. And THAT would suck.

Course, Millar could surprise me. Captain America could express some doubts about his decision. Spider-Man's life could improve now that he's taken true responsibilities for his actions. And if Cap's side does turn out to be the wrong side, and Captain America realizes this and Learns a Lesson, I'd be willing to declare Civil War the best cross-over miniseries I've ever read.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Flame On!

Allow me to tell a story. Two weeks ago, Kalinara posted an open letter to guys about what she wanted, which was basically that female characters be written with the same depth and respect as male characters. It was neat, respectful, entertaining, and I agreed with it 100%. I believe my entire response at the time was "woot."

Then, at about the thirtieth comment, along comes James Meeley. James has a blogger profile, but doesn't have a blog of his own (as far as I can tell, he had at least two, but both have shuttered. Anyone know what that is about?) Anyway, not having a space of his own, James uses the comments page as an open forum to tell "feminist comic fans" that they "need to remember" that their, ugh, "impatience" hurts the cause of feminism by turning "people" off.

Let me take a moment to say that disliking feminists for their impatience is like hating the homeless for being hungry. You dick.

James doesn't help his case by peppering his comment with wonderfully condescending phrases like "This is just a little something you should keep in mind."

Well, Chris and Ragnell weren't going to stand for that, and after trying to engage him on Kalinara's thread, Ragnell took it to her own blog to bring the little cretin to the light of day.

Only, she does something interesting. She removes her name, as well as James's, and ask us, her audience, to judge them both knowing only what they wrote, in its entirety. This is where I enter the story. I call it like I saw it (and you can read it for yourself if you'd like.)

And, without knowing which is which, pretty much everyone agrees that James was in the wrong and Ragnell, while maybe a bit too snarky, was in the right. But there's one guy who doesn't think James said anything that terrible, and thinks that it was Ragnell's dismissive tone that really turned the whole thing into a snarkfest. And I would have thought "well, that's more forgiving than I would have been" and not thought about it again.

Until he takes a second post to call me out, by NAME, for suggesting that James, and I quote "is some serial killer of kids on death row, not someone who had an opinion you disagree with."

Guh, wha? I actually had to go back to re-read what I wrote. What I actually said was that Chris and Ragnell's comments were "a little aggressive... but, as we'll see below, he [James] deserves what he gets." I thought the meaning was pretty clear and pretty mild.

James's defender read that as "he gets what he deserves," (which is subtly but meaningfully different) which somehow immediately translates into "he's Ted Bundy and needs to DIE!"

Who could do that? Who could say there was nothing offensive in James's post, which let me remind you separates out "feminist comic book fans" from "normal comic book fans," but saw death threats in mine? Who is that desperate to start a fight?

Why it's James Meeley!

Yes, that's right, classy guy that he is, James Meeley defended himself in the third person as if he were someone else entirely.

Now, Ragnell hid her part of the conversation too, but she NEVER defended herself, and even engaged in strong self-critique by suggesting her comments were the result of a hair trigger.

Once again, Chris steps in with a pithy bon-mot that calls James on his asshole-ness. Not being the wit that Chris is, I actually call James on it directly, call him on misquoting me and taking offense at phantoms in the air, and try to explain to him what I found offensive, because he obviously found nothing offensive at all.

I don't know what button I hit. But clearly it was labeled "MELTDOWN." He goes off the rails. He flat out refuses to engage the actual debate (with the fantastically patronizing "well that's your opinion,") before going on misquote me, again, taunt me for "backtracking and apologizing" (I had done neither), malaprop "alliteration," claim immunity from criticism from anyone but Kalinara (who was, in fact, criticizing him, but he wasn't responding to her, either) then explicitly equates feminists with SUPERVILLAINS! On a feminist, superhero comics blog!

WOW!

The comments go on. I think I acquit myself well (though Jenn and Anonymous do an even better job) and you get to learn about Terry Long, but my point is...

Who does that? No really. What did he think was going to happen after saying something like that? How could it possibly help his case that he DID support feminism but didn't support their methods? Did he think he was going to have ANY credibility after defending himself in the third person? It's moronic.

I'd say he was just being an asshole to get attention, but you know what? It's way, way beyond that. It's so assholish that it becomes counter-productive. He becomes like a practice dummy for feminist writers. The targets on him are so large you could hit them blind-folded and drunk (which I assume is the state Chris actually blogs in).

So, James, if you're reading, I invite you to post a response on my blog. You seem to be blogless right now (no really, what is up with that?) and might need a space to vent your charming blend of paternalism and homophobia. Your lovely wife Heidi can comment as well. I'd love to hear your opinions on the new Batwoman, the use of rape in comics, minority superheroes, and other topics of interest.

I could use the punching bag.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tuesday Night Recommendation #6

Nextwave #6



Part parody, part satire, part surrealism, and part EXPLODO, NextWave has been Warren Ellis's most purely entertaining comic yet. You may not learn something, you may not feel any deep emotions or connections to the characters.

But you WILL laugh.

Basically, Warren Ellis has taken some of the lesser known and under used characters that Marvel had lying around, put them all on the same team, and unleashed them on some of the weirdest monsters in the Marvel Universe, which so far has included Broccoli Robots, a Corrupt Cop/Voltron giant, and Fin Fang Foom including the funniest page involving Fin Fang Foom ever drawn, until he topped himself the very next issue!

But don't take my word for it. Take Warren's.

BUY THIS BOOK!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Jim Corrigan for the Defense

When it comes to discussions of vigilantism, I mean, superheroes, the question always comes up, "Why doesn't he just KILL him?"

Now, besides the fact that it deprives your ongoing series of a good villain, there's also the fact that a lot of people are anti-death penalty, including Batman and me.

I'm not talking about shooting criminals in self-defense or the defense of others (rabid dogs need to be put down), or in the middle of a war. That's fine, justifiable, and darn exciting storytelling. But EXECUTING captured criminals to keep them from escaping and killing again? I just don't hold with that.

Except for this guy:



But he has three major advantages over, say, Manhunter or the Punisher.

One, he's the wrath of God. So there's no question about his authority. God put him in charge, it's God's universe to do with as the Presence wishes, you can't really argue with that.

Two, he's omniscient. So there's no question of his accuracy. The Spectre will never kill an innocent man. No later DNA evidence will exonerate the executed. No false alibi will hide the true criminal. No confession gotten out of duress will convince the Spectre of anything other than the truth. If you're innocent, he knows. And if you're guilty, he REALLY know.

Three, he's dead. So there's no question of his impartiality. The world holds nothing of interest to a man with no body and no real connection to the living. He cannot be bribed. He cannot be threatened. He will not kill a man simply because he does not like him, or his kind of people. He will not increase executions so he can seem tough on crime. He will not decrease them to show concern for a minority group. An intelligence without a physical, fallible brain, the Spectre may be the single most rational being on the planet.

Only a being with the proper authority, absolute knowledge of the murder, and complete disinterest in the outcome of the event should be allowed to say who lives and who dies. Everyone else WILL make a mistake eventually (I cannot believe that the Punisher hasn't killed an innocent person at least once).

Plus, the Spectre gets all creative when he kills people. Anyone can just shoot a guy in the head, or break a neck. It takes someone pretty vicious to turn a doll collection into hungry zombies.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

J. Jonah Jameson Was Right

A week late and a buck short but...

So the big news LAST Wednesday was about Spider-Man publicly unmasking in Civil War #2.

A lot of bloggers were really upset about this move, because it "ruined" the character. I argued that publicly unmasking actually made a lot of sense, because:

a) instead of being an unaccountable vigilante acting outside the law (J. Jonah Jameson's perfectly justified objection to Spider-Man), he's taking personal responsibility for the choices and mistakes he's made and will make as Spider-Man. It also allows him to testify at trials, be called in to help the police, and in general be a BETTER protector of the city;

and b) he's not exposing himself and his loved ones to any MORE danger, he is actually helping PROTECT them. Now they know WHY they are being targeted by villains who ALREADY KNOW who he is AND he's scaring off the villains who might want to attack Mary-Jane, supermodel, but not want to mess with Spider-Man, Avenger.

Furthermore, I pointed out there are several successful superheroes in the Marvel-verse whose true identities have never been secret, specifically the Fantastic Four.

I feel that masked vigilante heroes only make sense when, in the case of Robin Hood, Zorro, Batman and V, the hero FUNDAMENTALLY does not trust the established authority. Spider-Man, who is very civil hero, clearly DOES trust in the power of the press and government to protect and help people, so why is he hiding his identity from them?

But Carla at Snap Judgments made a good point. I've addressed the literal arguments against unmasking Spider-Man, but not the metaphorical ones. That Spider-Man, the story and character, lose a lot of their power if Peter Parker is a public hero. And while I agree that this drastically changes the character and story, I don't think it hurts the character at all.

Let's look at Spider-Man metaphorically. Peter Parker is an Average Joe, maybe a little smarter and harder working than most (he had TWO after school jobs, not counting the vigilantism and pro-wrestling). He's low on cash, gets ignored by girls and picked on by bullies.

Spider-Man is his secret talent, the place he can go where he's not only strong and fast, but also funny, admired and feared! And when you consider that Peter was bitten by that spider when he was 15 but was NEVER known as Spider-Boy, you can see that the mask didn't just hide his identity, it also hid Peter's age. As Spider-Man, he was treated as an adult!

So when Peter was a teenager, the duel identity made a lot of sense. He had a talent and a secret life he loved, but one his Aunt would NEVER have approved of, and respect and admiration from a public that would NEVER have taken him seriously if they knew how young he was. Think of a rock singer who hides her talent from her parents, because they don't approve of that kind of music, and hides her age from the band because they'd tell her to go home if they learned she was in high school.

But as an adult, the duel identity becomes metaphorically problematic. You have to ask who is he hiding his true self from, since he's not doing a very good job of hiding it from the Green Goblin and Venom. He's hiding who he is from his friends, the government, and the public at large.

Going back to the singer, if a 25 year old teacher decided to pursue her rock career, would she hide her background because her parents still didn't approve? Or would she say "No, I'm an adult and I'm proud of my talent, AND I'm proud of being a teacher, and I don't care what anyone else thinks"?

Unmasking is a very adult way of taking responsibility for his life and saying to the world, "I am Spider-Man, and I'm proud of what I do." If you're going to argue that he shouldn't take that kind of adult responsibility for his life, that he should hide who he really is from friends and foes alike, then you have to argue that Peter should never have turned 18, graduated from high school and moved out of Aunt May's house. And MAYBE THAT'S TRUE.

But personally, I believe that the strength of an ongoing story like Spider-Man is character growth, that stories build on what came before but shouldn't reproduce them. Growth necessitates change, and it won't always be positive, but, to me, it makes a better story.

That's not to say I don't have specific problems with the context of the unmasking. I think the debate in Civil War, whether super-powered people should be registered and contained by the government, is one-sided (no, they shouldn't) and just off the much more interesting debate, whether all CRIME-FIGHTERS (like, say, the Punisher) should be registered and contained by the government. And* I wish that this change didn't come hot on the heals of three major changes to his powers, living arrangements, and costume, all within the last two years. Each one of those changes is big enough that you kind of wish the writers had two or three years to play out the implications and new story possibilities before the next BIG CHANGE.

But you know what? I like it, and I want Marvel to keep this as the status quo for as long as possible. I think a Peter Parker who tries to have both a normal life and still hold up his great responsibilities, allowing everyone he knows to know why he is the way he is, could show a more complex and interesting character than the repetitive "Oh noes, how can I save day and not reveal who I really am to the people who love me and think that know me so well" stories that got worn out by Superman long before poor Peter Parker picked-up his power.


*Edited after actually buying and reading Civil War. Turns out the debate is exactly what I wanted it to be, just one-sided.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Don't Let the Door Hit You on the "S" on the Way Out

From what I can tell from the previews, the following is Lois Lane's plot from Superman Returns:

After Superman left, Lois was scared and indecisive. She didn't know who would protect her and keep her alive with Superman gone.

But after a long time by herself, she started blaming Superman for leaving, and became a strong independent person.

But now he's back.

From outer space.

She just walked in to find Clark there with that look upon his face.

She should have changed the stupid locks, should have made him leave his (super-gigantic) key,

if she had known for just one second he'd be back to bother... she. (work with me here)

< Disco Beat >

Go on now go walk out the door
just turn around now
'cause you're not welcome anymore
weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
you think I'd crumble
you think I'd lay down and die
Oh no, not I
I will survive
as long as i know how to love
I know I will stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
and I'll survive
I will survive

< /Disco Beat >

ahem.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tuesday Night Recommendation #4

JLA CLASSIFIED #22



Vibe, man.

Vibe!

and if you AREN'T Scipio...

JLA CLASSIFIED was the title that was my Justice League fix after JLA proper turned nigh-unreadable.

It is exactly what I think all comics should be. Self-contained stories that are only as much a part of continuity as they need to be: from the deeply grounded in history Gail Simone run to the possibly in continuity, possibly not Warren Ellis run, from the Seven Soldiers launching Grant Morrison run, to the tragic irony of the way WAY out of continuity Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatties run, this title has been a wonderful playground where the writers can play with the toys they want, without having to worry about sharing them (or BREAKING them).

And it really has been ALL STAR, as these top writers have been matched with some of the finest (if sometimes under appreciated) artists in DC's stable. While Ed McGuinness's name might move some issues, Butch Guice, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and Kevin Maguire are MASTERS of their craft and turned out consistently top-notch work.

And this, I am sure, will be no exception. Comic book veteran Steve Engelhart is teamed with the criminally under-appreciated Tom Derenick to tell the story of JLA: Detroit, the ill-fated attempt at turning the Justice League into the Avengers. It didn't work, mostly because the writing wasn't there to support them before.

I have a feeling that will change.

So pick up JLA: CLASSIFIED to support different format for storytelling, to support two pros in the field are just not given enough props, to support a team of under-developed characters just waiting for the right writer to bring them to life.

But mostly, do it for Vibe.

meng.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It Had to Be Said #2

Superman's not Jesus.

For that to work, Jor-El would have to be God, sending his son to Earth to save us. That was NOT Jor-El's intention at all. His intention was to save HIS SON.

Pre-Crisis, he sent young Kal-El to Earth because he'd do well here and do great things.

That would make him Moses.

In Smallville, Jor-El wanted Kal-El to conquer the Earth and make it a new Krypton, and Clark had to reject that and fight his biological heritage.

And that would be Oedipus.

Or Romulus, or King Arthur, or any abandoned baby with a great destiny in any myth.

Really, the problem is that while both Superman and Jesus used supernatural powers to try to make the world a better place and inspired others to follow in their footsteps, that's about where the similarities end.

Jesus was a prince of peace, a pacifist who taught that we should turn the other cheek. His greatest act was suffering and dying, and taking it. Superman, on the other hand, FIGHTS a never-ending battle for truth and justice.

Jesus was concerned about the state of your soul and what the next life will be like. Clark is talking about objective truth and material justice in this world.

Jesus renders unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Superman punches Luthor in the face.

Jesus actively tried to be a leader of men and teach his new philosophy. Clark prefers to blend in with the crowd when possible, speak the truth, and let the world decide for itself.

Superman isn't Jesus.

There, it had to be said.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wednesday Night Recommendation #3

but first a few notes:

I got scared off recommending comics because the last time I recommended a comic, you fuckers actually listened to me and it was SOLD OUT by the time I got to the store! ...the Hell?

So great, go out, buy the comic I recommend and support quality work. But don't buy MY COPY!

Also, Manhunter has been uncancelled! Yay! That means you now have a chance to be a hero. The next issue comes out in two weeks. In the meantime, pick up the trade. It's a good intro to the main characters, and you get to watch her male secretary openly hit on Hawkman. Plus, if it sells well, they might put out a second trade, which might sell well, and the whole series could be saved by the trades.

But getting back to this week, there's not a lot I can safely recommend that actually needs help, so I'm going to recommend something a little different.

Jonah Hex #8



Not only is it an easy book to get into, considering each issue is a self-contained story, and all you need to know about Jonah Hex you get by just looking at him.

But it's also NOT a superhero comic. It's an honest to goodness western comic about a bounty hunter in the old west put out by one of THE major comic book publishers. If it does well, it might encourage DC to try even more genres. Sure they'll stay in the pulp adventure range to begin with (crime fiction, space adventure, war stories, maybe even some pirate yarns) but maybe it will lead them to branch out (hospital dramas, medieval romances, low-key character comedies).

So support diversity. Buy Jonah Hex!

Or else he'll shoot you.