Archive for August, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Rubber Biscuit!

Awright, it’s Friday, and a lot of us can look forward to a nice long Labor Day Weekend. I think that means we can get started with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from September 1942’s Police Comics #11 by the great Jack Cole. Plastic Man meets up with a villain who can grow to colossal size. What’s the best way to deal with a giant nogoodnik? Probably not like this:

Your lesson for this Labor Day Weekend is to avoid swallowing plastic. Stick with hot dogs, okay?

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The Cape of Good Hope

Wearing the Cape: A Superhero Story by Marion G. Harmon

Feels like it’s been too long since I got to do a review of a non-comic book, so let’s go ahead and take care of that right now. I’ve had this particular book in my “Need to Review” backlog for a while, delaying talking about ’cause I liked it so dang much.

So this is “Wearing the Cape: A Superhero Story” by a guy named Marion G. Harmon. It focuses on Hope Corrigan, a society girl and freshman at the University of Chicago — after a terrorist attack by a supervillain who calls himself the Teatime Anarchist, Hope winds up with superpowers of her own, including superstrength, nigh-invulnerability, and the ability to fly. She’s quickly recruited into the Sentinels, one of the country’s most prominent superteams, and quickly finds her life turned upside-down. She’s given a superhero codename (Astra) and costume (padded, partly to make her fit the expected superheroine profile and partly because she’s short, thin, and looks like she’s underage), and Atlas, the country’s most famous superhero, agrees to train her as his sidekick.

From there, we get super-battles, feats of derring-do, and a heck of a lot of training, so Hope doesn’t accidentally crush her parents when she tries to hug them. She has to somehow make time for school and her old friends, while also getting to know her new teammates, including Atlas, the magician Blackstone, the slinky psychic Chakra, the acrobatic Harlequin, the speedster Rush, and the vampire Artemis. And she has to worry about the prediction she hears from the Teatime Anarchist, that if she doesn’t survive the coming days, the future is doomed. But can she trust the villain who caused her to gain her powers? Can she even trust her super-powered teammates?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a great story, lots of fun, lots of action, and pretty much everything you want from a superhero story. Plus stuff you may not be expecting, too.

There’s a great level of realism here — not so much that it stops being about people who pick up cars, run at superspeed, or read minds, of course. But we get lots of details about what life would be like for a superteam. For one, there’s not a lot of real crimefighting that goes on — they’re mostly there for serious emergencies, to provide backup for police and emergency services, and to deal with super-powered threats. Superteams also have large dedicated staffs of professionals — mostly working to monitor the police bands and dispatch heroes to wherever they’re needed. Also on staff? Clothing designers. Because superheroes don’t sew their own costumes.

Hope also has to learn to deal with her powers realistically — including being careful not to injure normal people. But she also learns hand-to-hand combat so she can deal with all the superstrong supervillains out there. And she learns why it’s not a smart idea to bash your way through a wall when you can go through a door or window instead.

But all the realism in the world won’t do your superhero novel much good if there’s not some action to go along with it — and this book delivers. From the opening scene, we get a couple of elevated highways getting pancaked into each other, and that’s followed by battles against superpowered gangsters, mind-controlled mobs, and plenty of super-terrorists, as well as an extended trip to provide relief during a catastrophic earthquake. The action is furious, desperate, bone-shaking, and just all around excellent.

The novel’s other big strong point is the characters. Astra, Atlas, Artemis, Hope’s parents and friends, Blackstone, Chakra, Riptide, and tons more — all are pretty well-defined, very likeable, and you want to read more and more about them. Harmon is planning quite a few more novels in this series, and that’s a good thing, ’cause that means a lot more stories about all these interesting people.

The lone point that I didn’t like? I thought the romance in the story was a bit tacked on and maybe a bit unrealistic. But it’s a minor point out of a novel that I really enjoyed immensely.

Go pick it up.

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It’s Good to Be the King!

Ladies and gentlemen, today would have been Jack Kirby’s 95th birthday. Shall we pay tribute to his awesomeness?

He’s still the King of Comics.

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Poison in the Well

Obviously, I never read the “Weird Tales” pulp magazine back in its glory days — or really, any other time, since it mostly hasn’t been published while I’ve been alive. But any fan of horror or weird fiction reveres it because it was one of the first magazines to publish authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Manly Wade Wellman, Theodore Sturgeon, C.L. Moore, and many others. It’s been revived periodically, mostly because the “Weird Tales” name and logo still carry a lot of weight for fantasy and horror fans, but the revivals have only rarely been successful or long-lasting.

The latest incarnation of the magazine seems to have screwed things up badly. It seems that the current publisher decided that the magazine’s connection to the past would be to the poisonous racism held by the pulp writers in the ’20s and ’30s…

Victoria Foyt’s self-published novel Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls Part One is set in a dystopian future where solar radiation means the Coals (with dark skin) can survive better than the fair-skinned Pearls. Pearls cover their white skin with dark make-up, and the black love interest of the 17-year-old white heroine Eden – shown in blackface make-up on the front cover and in promotional videos – is described as a “powerful, beastly man”. At one point, Foyt writes: “Eden flinched. One of them was touching her. White-hot light exploded in her head. Before she knew it, she blurted out an incendiary racial slur. ‘Get your hands off of me, you damn Coal!’”

The novel has been the subject of widespread attacks across the internet, with readers criticising it as “incredibly racist to pretty much every reader. Especially readers of colour”, and as a “white supremacist fantasy”. “The coals/pearls contrast is itself offensive: after all, coal is dirty and cheap, whereas pearls are beautiful and valuable,” wrote one blogger. Some readers have said they are considering boycotting the magazine.

Foyt, who self-published Revealing Eden but has previously been published by HarperCollins, has defended herself on Facebook and in blog posts, saying that she “abhor[s] racism”, that the book has received many positive reviews, and “if you ask if all these reviewers are white then consider that you have a racist point of view”.

Here’s some more info from the previous publisher and from an author whose first story was published in “Weird Tales.”

Obviously, it’s really sad to see a magazine with the pedigree of “Weird Tales” lower itself to publishing white-supremacist screeds, and to support them by publishing editorials claiming it isn’t racist, especially when it’s clear to everyone that the editor wrote it strictly as a cynical Cover-Your-Ass maneuver.

But it’s also part of an ongoing problem we’ve seen in the geek community — particularly in comics and gaming. Most of the recent controversies have been tied to the sexism and homophobia in the comics and gaming worlds, but the only reason that racism isn’t more noticeable is because the racism hasn’t been nearly as blatant as the sexism or homophobia.

The good news is, I think, that opposition to all the -isms in geek hobbies — sexism, racism, and homophobia in particular — is growing and becoming more vocal. It used to be that this kind of garbage was just accepted, but it isn’t anymore. Wanna publish a racist story in your magazine? Guess what — you’re going to get metric tons of angry letters about it. Wanna put rape fantasies in a Tomb Raider game? You’re going to get a ton of bad publicity about it. Wanna promote sexism in your comics? You’re going to be met at every convention by people who will call you out about it.

Doesn’t mean the struggle’s over — the struggle’s probably never over. It’s still important for people like us who hate getting our geekery mixed up with racism, sexism, homophobia, and other hatemongeries to keep speaking against hate. But from a business perspective, it’s becoming more clear all the time that the way to success means you have to avoid anything that’ll make you look like a hater. It’s a big, diverse marketplace out there, and you can’t make much money by excluding potential customers.

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Friday Night Fights: Fighting Yourself!

Hey, you ready for Friday Night Fights? How ’bout you over there, you ready for Friday Night Fights? And you in the back, yeah, the guy wearing the onesie, you ready for Friday Night Fights? Well, let’s get to it then — it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from February 2005’s Teen Titans #19 by Geoff Johns, Mike McKone, Marlo Alquiza, and Jeromy Cox, in which Tim Drake as Robin goes traveling through time and meets up with Tim Drake as Batman. Turns out they don’t get along.

Okay, y’all have a great weekend, and I’ll see you guys next week…

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Blog Transformation

So this hiatus didn’t really go the way I expected it to. There was a lot less “not writing blog posts about comics” and a lot more “writing blog posts about comics.” Nevertheless, I’ve had some time to think things over, and it looks like I’ve figured out a few things I want to take forward from here.

First of all, there’s going to be a lot fewer comics reviews here. Comics reviews are relatively easy, especially when you don’t have anything in mind that you want to rant/enthuse about. But really, they’re pretty boring, both for you guys and for me, too. And it’s depressing to look at your schedule for the week and start planning out when you’re going to write a dozen comics reviews every week. It’s even worse when you get home from work and realize that your leisure activity for the evening is going to involve reviewing comics when you’d rather be doing just about anything else.

I also got a look at the pull-list from my local comics shop recently, and it was a distressingly long document. And I kinda realized that there were a lot of comics I was reading just for the sake of the blog, not because I was getting a lot of enjoyment out of them. And that’s insane. My house is crammed to the gills with comics that I don’t care about. Why keep that up? There’s no reason to.

So I went through my pull-list and cut more than half. I dropped a lot of titles I’ve enjoyed but have gotten less enthusiastic about — Batman, Spider-Man, Fatale, Dial H, Morning Glories, Snarked, Unwritten, even B.P.R.D. They’re still good comics, but I’m mostly reading them because I feel like I should be, not because I want to. I’m releasing myself from any self-imposed obligation to keep reading them.

And from now on, I’ll review comics if I feel like it. If I don’t have anything I’m enthusiastic about, I won’t review anything. If I find something outstanding, unusually enjoyable, unusually un-enjoyable, I’ll let ya know. But I enjoy this blog a lot more when I’m not forcing myself to do review after review after review. I have more fun commenting on comics news, analyzing comics, typing up some random silliness, and even reviewing graphic novels and regular prose books.

So we’re gonna see if changing things up helps my overall sanity level, see if we can get me back to enjoying comics blogging again. If this works, fantastic. If it don’t work, ehh, what can you do?

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Desperate Relationships

So this happened.

When DC Comics rebooted its entire line of superhero titles last year, the publisher did away with Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane to pave the way for a new romance. Without further ado, EW can exclusively reveal that Superman’s new partner in love is no mere mortal, but a superhero icon in her own right: None other than Wonder Woman. herself.

So the first thoughts that went through my mind were outrage and disappointment… but after that, I started thinking a bit more about it, and these were the words that ran through my head:

“Oh, DC, are sales down? Are the higher-ups at Warner’s grumbling about how the company’s doing and what potential damage you’re doing to the trademarks? Are you jonesing hard for the oh-so-addictive thrills of getting the news media to pay attention to you and of randomly pissing off the fanboys who, for now, shell out the cash for your books? Too bad, guys, so sad.”

The sweaty, flailing, wheezing desperation for controversy-for-the-sake-of-controversy makes DC look increasingly weak and inept. I mean, really, they don’t even work to promote their books as good storytelling, good art, good writing — it’s all focused on manufacturing controversy, however they can get it.

I feel sad for the writers and artists who are trying to create good comics in the face of DiDio-Johns-Lee’s ham-fisted gropings into the world of marketing. Because they’ve made it pretty clear that they don’t care about making good comics, they just care about trolling the readers with badly thought-out ideas, trying harder and harder to piss off feminist comic fans, and getting interviewed by entertainment reporters. It’s a sad state of affairs for any good comic creator.

But for the company itself? For DiDio and Johns and Lee? I just want to laugh. They’re fooling fewer and fewer people by the minute, and I don’t know if they realize that.

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Spike’s Peak

I know, I know, just yesterday, I said I was taking a hiatus — and fine, I will, I promise! But sometimes, some crazy fool thing jumps out at you and just demands you hit it with your blogging stick.

See, there’s this preview for Teen Titans #12 that was just released yesterday. I haven’t been reading the series, and couldn’t tell you exactly what’s going on, but apparently, Wonder Girl has some kind of new armor that’s a big to-do. And it looks like this:

That’s a quarter-ton of liquid crazy, mixed with another four hundred pounds of boiling-hot stupid.

That armor consists of a lot of ripped clothing, bizarrely floating hair, and gigantic, completely unsubtly phallic spikes.

We keep talking about how the DC Reboot was basically DC’s attempt to turn back time to the rotten days of 1990s Image Comics. And this is really the most embarrassingly crass example of that aesthetic. It’s a horny 14-year-old boy’s vision of what both femininity and badassery look like — except I think horny 14-year-old boys have a bit more maturity than the people currently running the show at DC.

Come on, Warner Brothers execs, I will throw you a pizza party if one of you guys steps in and calls a halt to the ongoing disaster at your comics division, okay?

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Sorry, kids, I’m going to take a break for at least a few days. I spent the weekend trying to sort my comics, get rid of the stuff I didn’t want anymore, and try to clean the house up a bit… and it was definitely less than a success.

I got rid of quite a few comics. But I ended up keeping a lot more than I expected. I guess that’s good news — it’s nice that there are still some older comics out there that I still enjoy re-reading. But it’s also bad news, ’cause holy zambonis, do I need to clear up some of the space and storage issues in my house, and having shortboxes piled up high against the walls doesn’t do anything to make my house more liveable.

So I’m taking a hiatus, ’cause I’m sick of sorting through comics, and I’m frustrated by how the comics stash keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I need to figure out how I can make the house cleaner and easier to live in. And figuring that out may require me to start getting a heck of a lot fewer comics, which will definitely affect the future of the blog.

Long story short: Taking a break. Trying to clear up more floor space. See you guys eventually.

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Friday Night Fights: Nothing’s Ever Easy in Easy!

It’s been less than a week since the death of Joe Kubert, and I feel like spotlighting some of his work for this week’s Friday Night Fights. You guys up for it? Then let’s get rolling.

From May 1964’s Our Army at War #142 by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, here’s Sgt. Rock and those Combat-Happy Joes of Easy Company vs. a Tiger tank!

Hats off and sound the bugle.

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