Hypocritical Hyperbole

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Shadowland: Power-Man (Where Spidey is Kinda Sexist) January 12, 2012

Filed under: comics,Social Commentary — Micah Griffin @ 22:18
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So I pick up this book from the library cause I heard it wasn’t completely deplorable. Know what? It’s not completely deplorable. In fact, it handles some issues (mainly race and the politics of growing up and out of your neighborhood and the reaction of the people left behind) better than pretty much any other main stream super hero books I’ve read in the past year or so. Honestly though, none of that holds up past the end of the first issue. Well, that stuff holds up, it’s just all completely undone. And it’s undone by something stupid, that has no call for being there.


What added benefit do we get from spidey’s sexism here? None. It has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Any number of spidey quips would’ve worked there, and he has millions. Sexism just isn’t called for. This is what doesn’t happen now. You don’t get to go “it’s a joke.” That’s not a good excuse. That’s just something people in privilege like to say so as to police and invalidate the responses that the people they’re offending. It’s lazy. This writing, though, isn’t lazy. Nothing else in this book leads me to believe that the writer is lazy with anything involved here.

So here’s what could’ve happened. I could be missing the secret sarcasm font and this is poking fun at casual sexism. The problem with that is that there are no indications that this isn’t playing off the old notion that women have naturally softer mental dispositions than men. There’s nothing that comes before or after that says to me Spidey(Fred Van Lente) knows this is ridiculous and that other characters around know this is ridiculous. The line before is fine, and from there the joke could’ve gone to so many places. Soft like a pillow. Soft like cuddly bunnies. Soft like Drake. All of these acceptable. He’s actually a writer so Fred could have come up with a billion better lines than I can, but he used woman.

So the other option I’m forced to think about is that we’re supposed to laugh that spider-man is soft like a women. Because women are soft. And we all know that women are soft. So it’s funny. Because spider-man is a man, and therefor not soft. He’s not supposed to be or allowed to be soft. Because he’s spider-man, not spider-woman. Who is soft? because women are soft. Like goose down and marshmallows.

The thing is, I love this book. I’m a fan. This was just a misstep that didn’t need to happen at all. I’m not saying this book shouldn’t exist or Fred Van Lente shouldn’t ever write again. I’m just saying he shouldn’t do stupid things like subtle sexism in his books and that would make them all the better.


Captain America: Where It’s Been 70 Years, All Those Nazi Should Be Dead By Now August 9, 2011

Filed under: comics,Social Commentary — Micah Griffin @ 19:19
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I haven’t forgotten about the Captain America part of what I’m doing. I just don’t have as much of a grasp on the character as I do with Batman. I mean, Batman has had fifty bajillion TV incarnations and he was  DC’s Wolverine for a while where they put him in seventeen books each month. Also there’s this:

So I had to take some time and think about what I wanted this Captain America series to be about. Didn’t actually take me too terrible long to figure it out. This is going to be about Nazi. Naw, not really, but the first question I had when I got deep deep into the story is how are these guys still alive? I know how Steve is alive. Frozen and all that. Bucky went through some stuff. Red Skull is on that juice. I get that.

How the hell old is Arnim Zola? What’s the deal with Baron Zemo? What about Baron Strucker and the Grand Director? Doesn’t Crossbones backstory date him back to the 50s with the communist era Red Skull? Maybe they explained it here and I missed it? It’s  just one of those things that’s kind of funny about comic books. Captain America’s origin is something we can’t change now. When Stan Lee resurrected him in the 60s he set the direction for the character forever.

It’s weird, because most of the big market super heroes have origins that we can’t mess with, the difference is most of those aren’t time dependent. Captain America is facing a smiliar (yet much less dramatic) problem to the Justice Society of America. I have no doubt that  the JSA will show up in the new DC Universe sooner or later, what I’m wondering is how they’ll go about it. World War II only gets farther and farther away from us. Pretty soon a lot of things are going to have to change. If Marvel ever has to reboot Captain America again then Steve is going to wake up and not be dealing with his friends being super old, or meeting their children, but meeting his friend’s children and great grandchildren. WWII was so long ago that his significance won’t have the same impact. Why would an Iron Man that got his start in the 1990s, a Thor who didn’t come to earth until 2002, a Spidey who starts slinging webs yesterday, or a Luke Cage who’s been cleaning the streets of Harlem up for ten years now buckle before Cap? Yes, his actions could play a part, and he has the ability to adapt and all, but in a little while this time gap is going to pose a problem. With more characters like the Eli Bradley Patriot or the Victor Alvarez Power Man showing up in the Marvel U Respect is going to be much harder to earn. No more of this, he’s an old white guy, he must know what’s right in the world, stuff. (Note; I like Captain America a lot. I’m cool with how he has the respect of everyone in the Marvel Universe save for Eli. I’m just saying with the Marvel Universe being a cynical place Cap coming right in and taking over is going to be a much harder sell.)

Even more, his Villains that weren’t frozen in Ice with him? The heck are they going to do? Baron Zemo (my personal favorite Nazi of all time) is going to have been a Thunderbolt for sixty years waiting on Capt to come back. Now, if creators stopped fooling around with all this realism jazz it wouldn’t be that big a deal, but in trying to keep things “real” Cap is going to need an all new rogues gallery.

This is not at all what I really wanted to talk about. I really wanted to talk about the feasibility of using Nazis as enemies in the 2010s. This was originally going to be about how the Nazi has lost some of it’s evil impact. Yes, Nazi are evil, but they’re also a joke at this point. It’s one of the reasons I get uncomfortable with retconning real life history. Back to the post I wrote about the integrated army, eventually people are just going to forget that stuff. Things like that Magneto: Manifest book will keep the awfulness of Nazis around, but more and more they’re just the butt of jokes and very easy fodder. Sometimes they’re just lazy writing. Someone’s like “we need to make this dude a bad guy. how we do that?” and someone else is like “duh, he was a Nazi.” or “he collected Nazi memorabilia” or something like this.

If we reboot Captain America in 2039 for the hundred year anniversary how much will anyone care that Baron Zemo use to gas people for fun? Or will Hydra just take over? As weird as it sounds, that might be the best thing to do. It’s one of the strongest part of the New Captain America movie. Maybe they’ll have to remove the Nazi part from all of their backgrounds for the characters to work. I honestly don’t know.


Black Spidey and Why I love the Internet August 2, 2011

Well, there goes that. Yup. I was going to write a super engrossing series of posts about why I love Ultimate Spider-Man and why I’m glad to let it go after eleven years. I may still do something like this, but there’s less need now. See, I was writing that post under the assumption that the new spider-man was going to be another white kid. I work under that assumption because I’ve been reading fiction for quite a long time and you can just assume the main character of any newly announced book is going to be white. Him being white wasn’t a turnoff necessarily, it’s just that I’ve spent eleven years in this world with this character and another one that’s almost exactly like it wasn’t appealing. I wasn’t judging the new book. I was just moving on from an idea. I had every hope the new book was going to be great.

Then word comes around that the new Ultimate Spider-Man was going to be black. I didn’t think much of it at the time, rumors are rumors and Marvel wouldn’t let this kind of thing happen even in the Ultimate Universe. Then they did, and I was like, woah. Am I excited because this new Ultimate Spidey is going to look a little like me? YEAH. That isn’t the whole, though. One of my favorite parts of Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man run was the soap opera high school drama Peter Parker went through. Having a spider-man of Black and Hispanic heritage can add quite a lot to the story. If Bendis can get the dialogue and social circles right, as well as manage to avoid a lot of Black/Hispanic teen character story cliches this could be something special.

Quick Aside: Hey everyone, kid’s half Hispanic, too. Let’s not throw that away. This can lead to sooo many awesome opportunities, AND it kills double minority bird.

On top of this we have Sara Pichelli on the art. Sara Pichelli draws good, and is woman. Bonus! Overall I’m super excited about what’s going to happen with this title. It’s a shame it won’t sell and that Marvel won’t let me buy their books digitally because I don’t own any apple products.  Good luck to Marvel on this. Shame this didn’t happen a little bit before the current deadspin we’re in in comics, and before the current crop of readers decided that putting dark faces in their books just was a sign that book needed dropped.


Quick Post On Alternate Universe Deaths July 26, 2011

Filed under: comics — Micah Griffin @ 22:31
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It is known that some of my favorite comics of all time are alternate universe comics. A lot of my favorite stories are ones that take place in a world that’s very familiar to ours with just the right changes to make things interesting, or with people we know in worlds they can’t comprehend. These are fun stories for me.

There was a time when Marvel and DC were both putting out a decent amount of these books either with What if?s or Elseworlds respectively. Occasionally the alternate universe stuff would cross over with or take over the currently timeline of events for something truly special like the “Age of Apocalypse” stuff in the X-men. The most I could ever dream of was a book that regularly explored these ideas like “exiles.”

These types of books (in general) come in two basic flavors with a lot of variants. The first flavor just explodes in your mouth like a big piece of awesome. These books mostly just revel in the idea of being in an alternate universe with very little concern with plot or character progression. A lot of those stories were “Where can we take superman or batman now?” I like these stories. To me they’re just a lot of fun.

The other flavor is the kind that looks at characters and attempts to figure out what makes them tick by putting them in an entirely alien environment. These stories tend to try and figure out something special to say. Some try not to call attention to how different this world is and just make a straight story out of it, and others needle you with exactly how different it is.

What all of these have in common is that the best of them know not to hinge important moments on the death of a character (or even a switching of roles). If you’re going to kill off certain people it either has to be written into the world before we get there or it has to just happen and have us not pay too close attention to it.

Killing off an alternate version of a character I love won’t invest me emotionally in a story. That just will not do it. Now, if I’ve gotten to know this character in the course of reading this book then it’s all good. If that death is poignant and meaningful then okay. But if out of nowhere female Batman takes a knife through the heart by alternate blue haired Crazy Quilt I’m not going to cry. Sorry. The same rules sort of apply to obscure characters. Oh, you killed freedom beast? Look how I weep. Oh, right, I haven’t seen him in a book since 1990. Same thing goes when you dump Kyle’s girlfriend into a fridge.

When you kill someone in a story it’s suppose to say something. Either, “Wow a lot of people sure are dying.” or “Wow, this person is crazy.” or “Wow, this is such a tragedy.” Or possibly not any of those things, but something. When you hinge the entire emotional weight of a book on one scene of someone dying that person has to be someone I care about. Killing off an Alternate X-man in 2099 isn’t that.

That’s really all I have to say. The elseworlds thing seems to be slowly (much to my delight) creeping back in to super hero comics. DC has an entire summer event dedicated and we haven’t seen that since 2005 (aww yeah House of M).

Whatever is below here has little to do with anything, just isn’t enough for an entire post. It is tangentially related.


This applies to something else as well. Here’s the deal. Killing off or drastically changing a character that we see fairly often in our universe is one thing. We’ve seen it a lot and it sometimes works. Hinging the emotional weight of your book on the reveal that a character we haven’t ever seen do anything than die anyway is just boring. I’m sorry. Is it a neat twist when it happens? Yes.

Just know that Martha Wayne has never meant anything to me, so making her into the Joker means nothing to me. Thomas Wayne as Batman doesn’t mean an awful lot, but it does mean more than Martha as Joker. If these were the Kents we were talking about, then sure. We have a long history with Ma and Pa Kent. We absolutely have no history with Martha Wayne. We have at least seen Thomas Wayne cut someone open once or twice in his foyer. Martha just drops her pearls. Then she goes and kills Two-Faces daughter and Commissioner Gordon. Not doing it, guys. I’m not saying the idea isn’t super neat. I’m just saying that playing the story for emotion isn’t a good idea because no one has enough history with the character for this to actually matter. Nazi Guy Gardner? Cool, that works. Joker Martha Wayne? Could be anyone. We have no character to reflect this version off of.


Captain Batman and the Months Long Adventure July 25, 2011

In the mid 2000s (Starting in 2004 with Captain America and 2006 with Batman) Marvel and DC gave control of two of their more iconic characters (Batman being super iconic and Captain America being more popular as an idea than as a character in the universe) to two of my favorite writers. Grant Morrison is an all around crazy person and shares my love for silver age (and somewhat bronze age) super hero comics. Giving him creative freedom on Batman turned out to be a better decision than even I could have imagined. Ed Brubaker is partly responsible for writing my favorite book at that period of time Gotham Central.

These books are entirely unrelated save for the fact that looking back at things now I’m pretty sure that these are two of the best comic book stories of the past decade and possibly two of the best stories for each respective character. Neither of these is a perfect thing, but it is proof that when you get the right fit for a situation and don’t go around trying to muck it up you can get magic.

While Brubaker was able to tell his Captain America story all in the Captain America  book (with, I think, one exception being some stuff in the Civil War Event) Grant Morrison’s work hopped from Batman to Final Crisis to Batman and Robin with a side of Return of Bruce Wayne thrown in. I don’t believe we’ll ever see a “Grant Morrison’s Batman” Omnibus the same way we have the Captain America Omnibus for Brubaker, which is sad. That said, thanks to my local library (I do own every issue of Morrison’s Batman run, I’m just too lazy to pull them out of the long box) I can follow the progression almost as easily as I can with cap.

Over the next few months I plan on exploring both of these books again and finding out why they worked so well. I’m doing them both at the same time because there are definite elements that match up. Both of them explore past concepts delightfully well, both of them involve dead sidekicks to differing degrees, both of them include a torch passing at some point, and both include the death of the main character. Also, they’re both really good and I want to read them and talk about them. Which, really, is the reason to do something like that.


X-Men/Spider-Man #1 January 11, 2009

X-men/Spider-man #1 and 2. – Issue 1 was fun enough. Takes place when Gwen is alive and dating Petey. Kraven gets out of jail and goes to hunt Spidey again. He says Spidey is a mutant and the X-men freak out and want to go give him a hand. Well they fight and we learn there’s other stuff going on. A-
Cue issue two where years and years have passed, Kraven just died and the mutant massacre is in full swing. Black suit Spidey meets up with the x-crew to pass along some news about what Kraven was doing and they go find a certain bad guy’s hide out.Well they find the marauders and have a fight with them in the Morlock tunnels. midway through the fight the Marauderse show them what’s beneath the tunnels. We end with said bad guy looking at Kraven’s grave looking all menacing.

Gotta say, the covers are great. I wish they covered the whole book instead of just the left two thirds though.