Hypocritical Hyperbole

The Abomination of Obama's Nation

There Is No Escape: Why My Enjoyment Of Media Varies Wildly From Yours August 23, 2011

Filed under: Six Months Late — Micah Griffin @ 22:26

One of the things that’s been made completely clear to me in the past few months is that I am very much unlike the typical consumer of media. I see a lot of problems in the things I watch and read and listen to, and that is a rare thing. Not the nitpicky fanboy internet thing where people hate just to have something to hate on, but social issue that have been problems for hundreds of years that people seem to be able to just ignore.

One of the reasons people are so ready to ignore this stuff (and get super defensive and pissed off when you try and make them not ignore it) is because all consumerist media is an escape for them. They work hard, they have kids, they have family issues, their life isn’t where they want it to be so they plop on the couch and turn on the tv or catch a book or go run and listen to some music and it takes them away from their immediate problems.

A lot of it is some sort of wish fulfillment. I’m coming to find out more and more that a lot of it is an escape from things they didn’t even know bothered them. This doesn’t mean they’re racist or sexist or ableist bla bla bla. But for a lot of people, hearing about these issues annoys them. For some reason, people wanting equal treatment are annoying. It’s a thing. There’s also these people that just want to go to a world where they are catered to entirely, and no one else is thought of.

There’s a bunch of other things too.  A bunch of stuff. A lot of people never think about these issues. They’re so use to the way things are they never notice the stuff I notice. TV, The News, Comics, Books, certain genres of music, plays, everytihng. They’re a certain way. To suggest they should be different is crazy to them.

Here’s my life. I’m into social justice. Really into it. When I was younger I wasn’t as into it, but it was always on my mind. I grew up the only black kid surrounded by a large variety of white people. Every day of my life I was reminded of that. Not by noticing visually the lack of other people of color, but by people directly saying something to me that pertained to my race. Black people should be like this, why don’t you do things this way, what’s with your hair? can I touch it? what color do yo upee. You know your palms are white because you eat oranges. Being black is a curse cause people are suppose to be white, that’s why your skin changes color when you get cut. Hey you’re black why do all black people do this. Look at the news, black people committing crimes. Hey did you steal my stuff? Those kids who constantly try to beat you up are just bullies, the fact that you’re black has nothing to do with it despite them saying it has everything to do with it. You’d be better off dating someone from another school because they have more black people, it’s bad to date any of these white girls. If you look me in the eye it’s a sign of defiance and you shouldn’t do that. Don’t look at those white girls cause you’re a scary black kid. Ooga Booga. Hey, do you like bananas? Have you been to jail? O look, a noose in your locker. That’s not racial though. The KKK isn’t so bad.

Every day. Every single day something of this nature and so much more. That was normal for me. There was more and other stuff. My Great Aunt is mentally ill and spending time with her in her nursing home was very influential. I was bookish (because hanging out with all those white kids I grew up with was not happening) and read a great number of history books. I spent my summers in North Carolina with either my mother’s parents or my Dad. While my dad was at work I roamed around the streets and hung out with a bunch of different people. That’s where I started to understand some of the ideas of social justice. It was the summer after I graduated I had my first experience with the most vile and evil people I have ever personally met, those who stand outside abortion clinics and completely defame everything they claim to stand for. Completely disgusting humans on every level.

This isn’t about that. This is about how I started working with people who were into social activism. This is about how this is part of my life. My life is being a Black Male in America. My life is having Black sisters and brothers. My life is helping young kids develop increasingly essential skills like researching schools, filling out college applications, writing scholarship essays, and stuff like that. I help some kids read and tutor here and there. Mostly I deal with poor and minority kids who traditionally have a longer and harder road to academia than other segments of society. It’s not a lot, I know. It’s very very small. It is something though. I deal with social issues in my life.

I fill my life with articles dealing with social injustice. I read a lot of them. I post some. I plan on writing more about these things and actually having something insightful to say. So here’s the deal. A lot of what I deal with is how the media portrays certain people. It’s a big focus of my life. It’s something I believe is important, and growing more so every day. There is a disturbing trend of regressive attitudes in this country. It’s scary. A lot of those attitudes make it into the media we consume, and when we consume that media without ever thinking or questioning, it  informs our thoughts without our knowing.

Do yourself an experiment. Make a chart or a graph if you’re nerdy. If you’re not, just keep tabs and really look. Look at the racial diversity of the characters in your media. Look at how each member of certain races are characterized.  Look at why type of person is from each race. Look at the Gender breakdown within those races.

What about Gender? What’s the breakdown there and how are each of them treated? How do they act? How do others treat them? If inanimate objects are involved are they gendered? Are we sexualizing animals for some reason?

Look at the sexual orientation of characters. Look at how characters identify. Look at how they act. How many bi characters do you read and how are they portrayed. How are the characters around them shown to react to the bi character. Look at relationships between gay characters.

Look at how many characters have different concepts of gender identity as a whole. How many queers are there? Are there any transexual characters are there, transgender ones? Same as before, look at how they are portrayed.

Look at marriages. Look at relationships and partnerships. Is there any polyamory? What about characters that choose to be together and not be married? How are married couples portrayed? How are long time couples portrayed? How are new couples. Look, I’m doing it, only talking about couples. What about open relationships? What about deep non physical relationships?

How are sex pairings treated? What are the characters attitudes towards sex?

Notice how many characters are physically handicapped or mentally handicapped.

I don’t want to destroy your hobbies. I don’t want to invalidate every piece of media ever. What I want to do, is point out where these things could be better. What I want is open discussion. What I want is for people to go “yeah, things can be better. I don’t have to settle for what’s given.”

For me, I can’t escape. There’s not really a world for me to go to to get away from these things. The closest is Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. Maybe Shatter. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy anything else. It just means that I can’t get lost in them. They’re not a vacuum planet for me to hop into where nothing else exist but this world. All this stuff we enjoy is very much connected to the real world, and the real world is rife with problems. Our media is a reflection of that. No matter how you try and separate it, it’s there. All the little annoyance and giant glaring elephants are right there staring you in the face, and for me, that’s no escape.

Note: I am going to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite this post until I get it right. This is a very important piece of information about me. The idea is basically simple, the things most people escape into is not an escape for me. I am going to explore this in different ways. This is part of the whole finding my voice thing I’m doing. If you don’t so much like it, maybe the next one will be worded better.

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Of Civil Wars and a Final Crisis: Where Good Heroes Go To Die and Better Heroes Take Their Place

Yeah, you read that right. This isn’t even some big controversial statement. I prefer Dick and Bucky to Bruce and Steve. Both for entirely different reasons. Bruce Wayne is pretty freaking awesome. There’s no denying that. In a lot of ways Steve Rogers is a pretty awesome dude, once you get past the “I’m the most boring human ever because I’ve been frozen for 70 years” thing. Just for me, Dick’s “I know how to actually be a moderate human being” and Bucky’s “I’ve been frozen for 70 years, but also brainwashed, and for reals though, I’m a cool dude” works much better. It’s a tone thing. It’s no surprise. I much prefer books to be less oppressive. I’m not a huge fan of material that is so dark it suffocates. Not that Batman or Captain America ever really get there (but man do a lot of Batman writers try) but Steve and Bruce are much closer to that way than Dick and Bucky.

Whatever, this isn’t about that at all really. This is about editorial confusion, story confusion, and how eerie it is that both Batman and Captain Ameica suffer weird deaths during an event, that was different (however slightly) from the events that killed them in other books? Not eerie at all, actually. This is super hero comics. These are company wide crossover events. Things goof hard.
Let’s look at this. Both Final Crisis and Civil War are rife with problems. Both attempt to bring up good ideas, and both do interesting things with the story, but neither executes fully on the promise and idea they started with. Partly because they needed to fit into the traditional narrative structure of of the Super Hero Comic Summer Event. They also starred characters who were deeply involved in an intricate story outside of this event.
On Captain America’s side things are much clearer. Cap gets shot by Crossbones. Also, Cap gets shot by Sharon Carter who was being mind controlled. Dead. Not so hard. The only problem is that I really don’t get it gelling with Civil War. This is a story that’s about the problems with super hero secret identity. (Note: I have this idea to compare and contrast this with Identity Crisis and explain why IC is one of the worst super hero stories ever created. Not that Civil War is great, just that it’s not IC and as such is a paragon of secret identity story telling). Captain America, though everyone knows who he is, believes it is fundamentally important for Super Heroes to exist anonymously. They have to have their secret to not only keep them and their loved ones safe, but to also be a symbol. This doesn’t mean they can’t be held accountable, especially in the super hero world when they all know each other. If not who each hero’s secret identity is, they know how to find them while in costume. Especially in the Marvel Universe, where 98% of Capes operate out of NYC. Iron Man believed in registering every single super powered person out there to keep the public safe. If everyone knows who you are they won’t be as scared of you?

Captain America played a good role in that story, his surrender at the end of it made sense. What happened after didn’t, but it’s hard to end these big events, because they’re not all designed to be stories. This goes back to my last post about selling a full story. It kind of does, but then it gets lost in it’s own spectacle.

Whatever. The Crux of this post, is that Captain America is doing this one thing in Civil War, going underground, fighting the man and stuff. Mark Millar didn’t totally sync up with Brubaker, but whatever, it happens in these types of things. Then Ed Brubaker wrote the mini series where Red Skull had a time gun that Sharon shot him with because he didn’t actually want to kill him but to trap him in time and bring him back to use sort of like Bucky was used, and that was dumb. The story was cool to watch, but the conceit was stupid.

Batman is entirely different. Batman is hit with Darkseid’s Omega beam with sends a person through a series of worse and worse lives in alternate dimensions. Batman is also blown out of a helicopter. Batman also is not really Batman but a clone of  Batman. Batman is also stuck underground being psychologically tortured by evil scientists and thinking he’s dying and in different forms, and also not?

You see why it’s taken me so long to get to these posts? It just don’t make no sense. This isn’t the mild confusion of what really happened to Steve Rogers, this is absolute chaos. This is editors totally falling asleep on the job and a writer doing all the things he wants, and no one really knowing why he’s able to do it. Final Crisis is a cool story about Darkseid coming to Earth and just wrecking shop, and Batman is the only man who can stop him. It’s also about how Superman is the most hopeful individual ever and only someone as incorruptable as him could set the world back, and how what makes him tick is that his one hope in life is for a happy ending. <3. That got sappy.

So Sappy. Back to Batman.

No. Back to both these guys.

Both of these guys go out in the same way, which is they didn’t actually go out. Maybe this is some way of saying you can’t kill these guys. That no matter what, they find a way to survive. This is some triumph of the human spirit stuff.

Quite possibly this is about stupid comic book conventions. What better climax to a story than to off your main character, then to not off your main character because that was never the plan.

Maybe this is about the awesomeness of being able to play with time and do whatever you want with the medium of comics. Maybe this is about horrible villains who, no matter how dark and “realistic (ugh)” they get are still, at their hearts, comic book villains who really just like the fun of fighting their hero.

It could be this is a secret homage to Silver and Bronze age stories. It could be just a cheap and easy way to sell a bunch of comic books, then write yourself out of it in order to sell more and more comics.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what it is. What both Final Crisis and Civil War, for me, were was a bridge into some super awesomes books we wouldn’t have gotten if we had to rigidly stand with what we always do.

We have 70 years of Bruce Wayne being batman. We have 70 years of Steve Rogers being cap (well. . . .). Let me have my two to three years of something different. And boy do we get it.

Over the next month or so I’m going to just gush all over what Brubaker does with Bucky, starting with what Brubaker does with my favorite Avenger, Eli Bradley. Love that kid. Then I’ll absolutely bleed love juice all over Batman and Robin. Seriously, Batman and Robin is so great. So great. I promise I’ll make you love Bucky and Dick way more than you ever loved Bruce and Steve.

Well, no. Probably not. But you’ll at least get to understand why I love the switch up so much.

 

Where I wish I Could Support a Good Idea But Worse Ideas Stopped Me August 11, 2011

Filed under: comics,Six Months Late — Micah Griffin @ 18:52
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So I’m all about digital comics. I’ve been cleaning and organizing my comics and I just have too many of them. There’s a lot of comics I want to read but the only way to find them is on Ebay, back issue diving, dime bins, or at conventions. That’s a lot of work for books I’m not entirely sure if I want to read or not. Major companies like DC and Marvel only reprint certain trades, most of which aren’t the ones I’m wanting to read. If I could get all these things for cheap I totally would.

I also would like to buy brand new books digitally, I just can’t get behind the price point for most of these things. There’s no way I’m paying cover price for a digital book. Absolutely not. I’m not even too jazzed about the $2 price point on some of these brand new books. This is not an issue of me not apprectiating art and not wanting to financially support the work that artists do. This is a value proposition based on the  limited amount of funds I have. This isn’t a woe is me post. I’m just saying I’m not rich. For the cost of six issues at full price I can see at least four movies at the drive in (that includes gas). I can buy four or five Mass Market paper back novels at the used book store. I can go to a couple of museums and look at art. I can go to my local art gallery crawl and eat a nice dinner for two as well. So it’s sometimes hard to justify the $2 and $3 an issue.

Now, for $0.99 it’s not so bad. It’s not great, it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad. I’d love them to be cheaper, considering that’s more than I paid for the majority of the comics in my collection. It is known that I have a thing for getting a bunch of books at the flea markets, storage unit sales, and hotel conventions. Cheaper the better. There’s value in that for me.

Whenever a brand new book comes out at $0.99 I’m interested. I think this is great and awesome and what more companies need to be doing. I feel like you have removed a good number of obsticles from me getting into your new book. This is very much the case with The Uniques. More imporant than the cheap new issues is the free first issue. I’m down for this. I was ready to buy all nine issues available just to support the idea. Fortunately I read issue one first.

This is what I found inside:

Yeah, he says douche fag

So leading up to this there isn’t a single black face in the book. First ones we see just happen to be criminals. You can say whatever you want, but that’s some bullshit. The first representation I get of people that look like me in your book are committing crimes? I’m out. On top of that, our heroes, the people we are suppose to be rooting for, throw out a horribly offensive homophobic slur! All this happens in one page. It’s just off putting to me. I did read the rest of the issue. Some other black faces show up, but they’re not in more than two or so panels. They don’t do anything. One says “word, yo.” That’s it. The stuff is just racist. I’m headed to a dinner party so I won’t explain why this is the case. Honestly, if I have to explain why this is SUPER problematic then I probably don’t even want to have this discussion with you as it won’t go anywhere.

So while I’d love to support the Uniques for issuing out new comic books digitally at the most (and honestly only) reasonable sustainable price, I just can’t support the content that’s inside the book.

 

Secret Six and the Curse Of the Flawed Logic! August 8, 2011

Filed under: comics,Six Months Late — Micah Griffin @ 19:55
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This actually isn’t a post about Secret Six, per se. This is a post about something that’s been bothering me but I couldn’t put any words to it. So like, people talk about diversity in comics and bla and bla and the answer always is as follows: When a book comes you have to buy it, then you have to tell everyone you know about it. If the book is good more and more people will buy it. If you get the word out the book will be a success and won’t get cancelled. If you yell to the rooftops,  no matter what the book is, or the subject matter of the book is, the book will take off and be a success.

While there are numerous flaws to this argument I am too tired to argue this along with everything else I normally argue.  Then I’m listening to a podcast today that was celebrating the life of the Secret Six comic book and I felt like I had just been slapped about the face! With the full hand!

I will look up the Villains United! numbers later, they’re really not so important to this discussion. I just was curious. Also, that’s a good book and people should read it.

Secret Six Mini Series issue 1: 54,940

Secret Six Mini Series issue 6: 35,510

Secret Six Ongoing Issue 1: 31,664

Secret Six: Issue 34: 19,562

I got all these  numbers from Comichron, which is a pretty stellar resource.

What does this tell us? Not much at all really. It says that the longer a series goes on the less people are buying it. It is known each issue sells less than the prior issue. It happens almost without fail. The important part of this is that Secret Six is one of the most beloved books of the past four years. So many comic book podcasters praise this books to the seven capital cities of heaven. Websites that review comics give it consistently high ratings. I’ve heard it highly recommended in all four shops in the Charlotte area. Secret Six is a known entity. Ever listen to the DC Panels from SDCC (not so much this year, but it even showed up there) or that one time they put them up from NYCC? Secret Six is brought up. People are always thanking Gail Simone for writing it. There is absolutely no lack of love for this book. No one can say that fans aren’t passionate about it or getting the word out.

What’s the end result? Every single month less and less people read it. No less people are talking about it. The people who are still reading it are no less passionate about the book. Everyone who reviews it agrees that the book is still of a super high quality. The only complaint I’ve ever heard is that the new artists on the book aren’t as good as Nicola Scott, but Sweet Christmas, not many people are. So not so much of a complaint there. I stopped reading the book a year or two back, but I stopped reading everything a year or two back. I picked up issues here and there and loved them so much I decided to go and pick up the trades. I know the book does well in trade, but if everyone who dropped the book in the past three years went to trades it’d be much higher on the sales charts for comics and graphic novels.

This isn’t even a negative article. I’m just pointing out the thing that’s been in the corner of my mind that I couldn’t reach. I’m not saying stop praising your favorite books. I’m not saying to not tell everyone you know that they should be reading what you love. I’m just saying sometimes it doesn’t matter how much or how hard you shout, people don’t want to listen. It feels like the entire online comic book community got behind this book, and look what happened. I think DC would’ve kept floating it because it is so critically acclaimed, but c’mon. Eventually even without the big September relaunch this book would’ve fallen to the 10,000 range and DC would’ve axed it. Sucks a lot.

Turns out, there was nothing we could do about it.

 

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Pt 1. Man In a Fridge August 6, 2011

Filed under: Six Months Late,Video Games — Micah Griffin @ 13:35
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I just booted up Tomb Raider: Anniversary because I’ve always loved the idea of the Lara Croft games, but never really got into them. I had an N64 instead of a playstation as a kid so that was out.  By the time I got a Playstation 2 the Lara Croft games had dive bombed into awfulness. Then came Crystal Dynamics.

Crystal Dynamics is a really solid developer. I don’t think any of their games win awards for best of the best, but their games always work. You turn it on, you play it, you like it, you turn it off and all is well. Putting them on Tomb Raider to right the ship was the best idea anyone around Lara Croft had since they went about making the first movie.

I’m just about an hour into it and there’s a lot of stuff here. One of the reasons I never played Tomb Raider as a kid (even with friends) is because Lara Croft is an absurd character. The redesign kept much of that absurdness, only toned down to slightly less offensive forms. The beginning of the game has a cut scene where someone tells Lara to go do stuff, I skipped it. I really can’t abide a majority cut scenes. The actual game game starts with a Man in a refrigerator moment.

Lara Croft doesn’t need to wear clothes. She’s a super hero. We start in the mountains of some country we don’t care about. There’s a native of the land with a huge backpack full of stuff he needs to move around, except no rope to help Lara climb up. No big deal, Lara has a magic video game grapple hook. I need to write a feature about video game grappling hooks. Metroid Prime  may be the only game that actually has one.  This is off topic.

Lara Croft is standing in the snowy mountains surrounded by death and cold in nothing but her short-sleeve shirt, short shorts, a pair of pistols, and a magical grappling hook. That’s all. It’s freezsing outside, no leg warmers, nothing on the arms. This is what we’re dealing with. A character who’s main purpose to try and sell video games based on her sexual appeal, and never do we dare to limit her sexual charms by putting her in outfits that someone might actually wear when traversing through ice cold mountains.

That’s the whatever of it though. Once I’m able to get past this I’m assaulted with one of the dumbest animations I’ve ever seen. It’s Lara’s handstand. Throughout the game you’re climbing over stuff (which is part of the real fun of Tomb Raider) and often times when you’re pulling yourself up onto a ledge, you’ll do a handstand. This serves no point, especially since there’s an animation of her actually just climbing up the same way every pereson on other human being ever would climb up a cliff face. It’s frustrating because I know what it is. There is so much good going on in this game from a gameplay standpoint that it just makes the dumb stuff more frustrating. The only reason she does these absurd animation is to show you, again, how sexy she is. I get it. Lara is a sexy character, now let me play my game. It really says something about who they think is playing this that the only way their target audience will finish this game is if they’re constantly rewarded with shots of Lara attempting to earn a few extra dollars on the side.

No biggie though. I already gave Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix my two dollars, and I knew what I was getting into when I started playing this. The rest of the game is good enough for me to ignore all this stuff.

Oh, and about our dude in a fridge. This dude is eaten by wolves right before you enter the tomb. Lara then kills the wolves and leaves the dude’s body (along with his giant backpack of presumably useful stuff) outside, cause yeah. That’s just how she rolls.