Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
An Archie Comics collection was recently banned in Singapore because it features the marriage of gay character Kevin Keller, but Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men #51 managed to escape a similar fate and remains available.
Although that 2012 issue depicts the wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu, Singapore’s Today reports the Media Development Authority determined it was a balanced depiction of same-sex marriage.
“The issue featured characters who objected to the wedding and this offered a balanced treatment on the issue of gay marriage,” an MDA spokesman told the website. In the comic, by Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins, Warbird tells Northstar she “doesn’t recognize the validity of the ceremony vows,” and therefore won’t attend.
The MDA is tasked with both promoting and regulating Singapore’s media industries. Under the Content Guidelines for Imported Publications, those “that encourage, promote or glamourise sexually permissive and alternative lifestyles and deviant sexual practices are generally not allowed.”
Even as Marvel further expands its mutant universe in April with the debut of X-Men by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel, it will cancel two more X-titles as part of the finale of the “X-Termination” crossover event.
The publisher’s solicitations for April reveal that it will end David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre’s Age of Apocalypse with Issue 14 and Greg Pak and Andre Araujo’s X-Treme X-Men with Issue 13, with the latter teasing that “Kid Nightcrawler makes the ultimate sacrifice.” The two series will be sent off with interlocking covers by Guiseppe Camuncoli that connects to Astonishing X-Men #61, by Marjorie Liu and Matteo Buffagni, which was also part of “X-Termination” (see all three above). That title survives.
Both Age of Apocalypse and X-Treme X-Men recently had dropped below the 20,000-copy mark, traditionally viewed as Marvel’s “line of death,” with the former selling an estimated 19,337 copies to the direct market in December, and the latter just 16,682.
The nominees have been announced for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s 24th annual Media Awards, which honor outstanding portrayals of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.
The nominees for outstanding comic book are:
When Marvel orchestrated the wedding of Northstar to his boyfriend Kyle Jindau in this summer’s Astonshing X-Men #51, it received considerable attention from the media for it forward-leaning acknowledgment of gay rights. And earlier this month at Dragon*Con, a longtime gay couple and an army of cosplayers recreated that special moment.
Professional costume maker Brian Parsley and his longtime boyfriend George Lewis recreated the moment (as Northstar and Kyle, respectively), in front of an enormous crowd of friends and fellow cosplayers. While it wasn’t an official marriage ceremony (as Georgia has a ban on same-sex marriage), the Florida-based couple said if Georgia allowed it they would have made the ceremony official. Here is a video from the event:
Declaring Marvel has “crossed the line,” a Florida fundamentalist group has launched an email campaign in an effort to convince the publisher, parent company Disney and retailers to pull from distribution Astonishing X-Men #51, the June issue that depicts the much-publicized wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu.
Asserting that the comic “asks kids to fantasize about having their own same-sex nuptials,” the Florida Family Association laments on its website “that the comic strip actually has a blank wedding that children can use to make their own same-sex wedding. Talk about propaganda.” That’s a reference to the Phil Noto variant cover (above), which depicts wedding photos of 10 heterosexual superhero couples, as well as Northstar and Kyle.
In a call to “take action,” the organization encourages supporters to send a form email to Marvel, Disney and retailers stating that it is “shameful that two companies like Marvel and Disney would deliberately create a superhero homosexual wedding for our children to embrace and mimic. These companies should show more respect to the overwhelming majority of families who do not want their children targeted with immoral social propaganda through comics.”
Publishing | Don MacPherson rails against the current numbering and renumbering practices by Marvel and DC Comics: “I realize other publishers have adopted irregular numbering schemes as well, but DC and Marvel are the ones driving things in that direction. Constant relaunches with new first issues, renumbering those relaunches to exploit a big-number milestone such as a 500th issue, half issues, zero issues, issues with decimal points, Greek letters … it’s exhausting and irritating, and I’m certain it’s frustrating for people preparing price guides and collection databases. Next I’m guessing there will be a series numbered in an alien math rooted in a fictional Kryptonian base-14 numerical system.” [Eye on Comics]
Digital comics | David Brothers articulates what the problem is with DRM: “What I realized is that DRM has a lot of benefits for the publisher, but next to none for the consumer. Blizzard can track exactly who plays Diablo III and when, which is valuable for gathering demographic data, off the top of my head. ComiXology can tell publishers exactly what contexts their comics will appear in and on what devices. DRM is about control, basically, rather than being a value-add. It’s a limiting service, rather than one focused on expansion, and the people most affected by it are consumers who actually want to consume this stuff.” And it does nothing to stop piracy, either. [4thletter!]
“The wedding of the year”–at least according to the promotional email I got yesterday–hit comic shops both virtual and real this week, as Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle tied the knot in Astonishing X-Men #51. The issue came with quite a bit of publicity for Marvel, along with the protests from anti-gay marriage factions, gay marriages in comic shops and a show of support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (as well as an invitation to his house for a BBQ).
But once all the pomp, circumstance and hype is over with, we’re left with a comic story, one crafted by Marjorie Liu, Mike Perkins and Andrew Hennessy. Was it any good or not? Here are a few reactions from around the web to tell you what a few folks thought of it:
Andy Hunsaker, CraveOnline: “Comic book weddings are much like pro wrestling weddings – they almost always go disastrously wrong before they can ever manage to go right. However, with Astonishing X-Men #51, Marvel shows they’ve got more integrity than the WWE by actually going through with their hyped-up same-sex marriage rather than chickening out and admitting it was a publicity stunt, like WWE did with Billy & Chuck several years ago.”
Martin Gray, Too Dangerous for a Girl: “This is really rather good. Yes, Marvel has pumped this wedding for everything it’s worth in the real world, but as a special issue it holds together rather well. While the wedding party isn’t attacked by the Circus of Crime or whomever, the other tradition of gorgeous nuggets of characterisation is adhered to by writer Marjorie Liu. So we have Rogue wondering what would have happened had her two evil mothers, Oracle and Mystique, tied the knot, while Wolverine recalls the tragedy of his own wedding day, without raining on Northstar’s parade. And there’s a lovely line from Beast emphasising that the heroes of the various teams really are simply one big (occasionally) happy family.”
Astonishing X-Men has been in the news lately, bringing some much-deserved exposure for the covers that Dustin Weaver has been doing for the comic. Take, for instance, the cover to issue #52, featuring Karma giving her robotic leg a tune-up.
“Not your typical X-Men cover, I think. Convincing the editors to let me go with this idea took some doing,” Weaver said on his blog. “You know how they tell you to pick your battles, well I picked one. But now I’m left to wonder, if I’ve only got so many battles I can fight, did I pick the right one?”
I’d say yes.
Check out the complete cover (with a bunch of fun background details) after the jump, and head over to Dustin’s blog for more on the process he used to create it.
Sales charts | The American Booksellers Association has released its list of the top-selling graphic novels in indie bookstores for the eight weeks ending May 27. At first glance, it looks like it’s mostly literary graphic novels (Habibi, Are You My Mother?) with a healthy sprinkling of The Walking Dead. [Bookselling This Week, via The Beat]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses the second issue of Batman Incorporated, which features Batman’s lover and Robin’s mom, Talia al Ghul. [USA Today]
Comics history | Could comics history have been radically different if Jerry Siegel had a different last name? Larry Tye, the author of the new Superman a biography, talks to Fresh Air about the origins of the Man of Steel and how he changed over the years: “The editors in New York over time started to exercise their editorial control. They saw this as both a character and a business. They would go down to the level of dictating just what his forelocks looked like. They could be too curly. His arms should be shorter and less ‘ape-like.’ And Joe should get rid of his hero’s ‘nice fat bottom.’ His editor told him that he worried that that made Superman look too ‘la-dee-dah.’ And they were really concerned about the image of the character.” [NPR]
Nearly lost amid all the media attention over the upcoming wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu in Astonishing X-Men #51, and the response by One Million Moms, is the revelation that the event was originally planned for another Marvel series — albeit one canceled almost five months ago.
Responding on his message board to news of the impending nuptials, former Alpha Flight artist Dale Eaglesham wrote, “This drives me absolutely crazy: Greg [Pak], Fred [Van Lente] and I do all the work of bringing the series back and they cancel it on us. Why didn’t they let US do the wedding ‘event’ which is clearly garnering attention, to stimulate readership [and] perhaps keep Alpha Flight going? This pisses me off. Oh no, let the ‘X’ books do it, as if they don’t get enough attention. Sigh. … This wedding was in the works on AF.”
Marvel has not yet responded to Robot 6’s request for comment.
Standing in stark contrast to One Million Moms’ new effort to convince Marvel and DC Comics to immediately abandon all plans involving gay characters, a motion has been introduced in Scottish Parliament to acknowledge the wedding Northstar and to declare that “same-sex marriage should not be restricted to the world of literature and fantasy.”
Lodged Thursday by Mary Fee, a Scottish Labour Party member representing West Scotland, the motion states: “That the Parliament welcomes the news that the Marvel comic, X-Men, will feature its first same-sex marriage, which will feature Northstar, believed to be the first openly gay comic superhero; understands that, in 1992, Marvel was the first comic publisher to reveal a gay superhero; notes that Northstar is not the first gay character to have had a same-sex marriage in the comic book world, and agrees that same-sex marriage should not be restricted to the world of literature and fantasy.” It’s supported by eight other Members of the Scottish Parliament.
There’s a scene in the 1938 screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby where Cary Grant’s character discovers that Katherine Hepburn’s character has taken his clothes in an attempt to keep him from leaving her. In desperation, he puts on the only thing he can find — a sheer, pink robe of hers — and storms around the house, looking for something else to wear.
When the owner of the house arrives and demands to know who the strange man is and why he’s wearing that robe, an exasperated Grant shouts, “Because I just went GAY, all of a sudden!” punctuating the word “gay” with a leap into the air.
I’ve been thinking of that moment this week, as the mainstream superhero publishers seem to have been metaphorically running around in metaphorical ladies nightwear, metaphorically leaping in the air and shouting: DC and Marvel have gone gay — or “gay!” — all of a sudden.
Of course, the bit in Bringing Up Baby was meant to be a joke, the very sight of the virile, handsome, zenith of masculinity Cary Grant dressed in women’s nightclothes was in and of itself so ridiculous as to be funny without elaboration (although the image has since taken on some irony, given decades of speculation about Grant’s personal life, but let’s not get into that). It was also made more than 70 years ago.
This morning’s exclusive announcement on The View of the impending nuptials of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu in the pages of Astonishing X-Men probably didn’t go quite like Marvel envisioned, as a giggling Joy Behar could hardly wait for the applause to subside so she could ask, “Do you think Batman and Robin could come out of the closet now?” And Whoopi Goldberg’s more heartfelt observations about the diversity represented on the cover of Astonishing X-Men #51 were quickly forgotten so they could move on to the next item about an unfortunate typo on the sign for the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
But as awkward (and, some would suggest, over-blown) as that promotional rollout for this wedding may have been, Robot 6 contributor Graeme McMillan reminds us that it could be worse by taking us back in time to 1987 and “the tongue-in-cheek ceremony” at Shea Stadium for Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson — officiated by Stan Lee, and attended by 50,000 baseball fans. Below, you can watch Entertainment Tonight‘s coverage of the publicity stunt, as well as the bizarre and excruciatingly long preview on Good Morning America in which the interviewer asks “Spider-Man” and “Mary Jane” whether they would have “children that were like, you know, little spider-babies or would they be normal, human babies.” You can also check out the much shorter segment on The View.
Publishers, creators, retailers and fans rolled into Chicago this weekend for the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2. While the convention officially kicked off Friday, the announcements started rolling out Thursday during the Diamond Retailer Summit. After going through Kiel Phegley’s lengthy report on CBR, I’ve pulled out a few tidbits that publishers shared with attending retailers:
• Dynamite Entertainment shared that the first issue of Garth Ennis and Aaron Campbell’s The Shadow, which comes out next week, will likely go to second print. Following their Vampirella and Pantha projects, they also plan to roll out more of the former Harris Publications characters they now own, and they said they plan to work again with Kevin Smith in the future, who they’ve worked with on Bionic Man and Green Hornet.
• Dark Horse Comics announced two Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff miniseries; one featuring Spike and one featuring Willow (Editor Scott Allie spoke more about them with CBR). In addition, legendary artist Russ Heath will draw some pages in an upcoming issue of Buffy. Dark Horse will launch a new Dragon Age series in August, following the online miniseries that’s been running on Dark Horse Digital. They also confirmed that Becky Cloonan will return to Conan after James Harren’s three issues, and they announced Ex Sanguine, a five-issue miniseries by Tim Seeley and Josh Emmons. Finally, The Goon will go monthly with issue #40.
Marjorie Liu is the sort of writer other writers envy. We in the comics world know her for her Marvel work, including X-23 and Black Widow and, most prominently, her just-announced gig as writer for Astonishing X-Men, but she has a whole other life as a prose novelist. Her latest books are Within the Flames, the tenth in a series of paranormal romances about shape-shifters, and The Mortal Bone, an urban fantasy novel about a woman whose body is covered with demonic tattoos that come to life. I talked to Marjorie this week about her work in all three genres, and her plans for the near future of the X-Men.
Brigid Alverson: You were writing prose novels before you wrote comics. What sort of adjustments did you have to make to your writing (both style and process) when you moved from one medium to another?
Marjorie Liu: I had two great mentors when I first started: my editor, John Barber, and editorial assistant, Michael Horwitz. Both of them “held my hand” through the process, giving me sample scripts and a lot of wonderful advice. What I found that helped (sometimes, not always) was focusing just on the dialogue. I’d imagine these characters caught in the moment, and write down their conversations. Then, I’d break it into panels.
But yes, it was an adjustment. When I write a novel, I’m responsible for every aspect of storytelling: I have to provide the visuals, all the emotion, through my words. Plus, the story is a lot longer—upward of 100,000 words. Comics are much shorter, and I have a partner-in-crime: the artist, who tells the story through his or her illustrations. It’s such a privilege to participate in that kind of storytelling.