Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
On Thursday’s episode of The Nightly Show, host Larry Wilmore turned his attention to “dork diversity,” and fan resistance to such changes as the possibility of a black Spider-Man in the rebooted movie franchise, or the female-led Ghostbusters. To explore the subject, he turned to a panel that included Sana Amanat, Marvel’s director of content and character development, and artist Phil Jimenez.
“Let me see if I can explain it to you,” Wilmore said in his introduction. “Nerds don’t have a problem with women; they have a problem with change. I’ll give you an example: Nerds are upset at black stormtroopers in the new Star Wars movie. Do they have a problem with stormtroopers being black? No. They have a problem with you changing their definition of a stormtrooper. I’ll be a little clearer: If the first time you introduce oatmeal to a nerd it has maple syrup in it, it better have maple syrup every fucking time, or it’s not oatmeal.”
For the past week, Kamala Khan fans have been gathering at Kamalacon, a Tumblr celebrating the one-year anniversary of the first issue of Ms. Marvel. I have no idea whether this is a grass-roots thing or some clever guerrilla marketing by Marvel, but it’s fascinating to see the range of fans who have contributed cosplay photos, selfies with their collections, Kamala-themed playlists, and fanart that ranged from sketchbook drawings to animated GIFs to cookies and Funko sculptures. There was even a virtual gift exchange.
Kamalacon kicked off with a series of essays by readers about what Kamala Khan means to them. The first thing that struck me on glancing at them was the diversity of the writers. There’s something universal about Kamala’s story that appeals to many readers, from a Muslim woman who sees parallels to her own life to the white guy who compares it to Quasar to explain what makes Ms. Marvel good and Kamala bad—and makes a good point:
People talk about why they need diversity in comics, and usually it boils down to the importance of representation. But it also just makes better comics. Kamala Khan can tell stories and do things and go place that Wendell Vaughn simply can’t. When a publisher only stocks Wendell Vaughns in their creative toolbox, they’re putting artificial limits on the kinds of stories they can make. They cheat themselves and their audience. As long as Kamala’s on the beat, the industry’s headed in the right direction, however slowly.
Controversial ads on the sides of San Francisco buses that equate Islam with Nazism have been defaced with images of Marvel’s Kamala Khan, accompanied by slogans like “Stamp Out Racism.”
According to SFGate, these banners — only the latest purchased by blogger Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative — went up on buses on Jan. 9, and feature an image of Adolf Hitler and Palestinian Muslim leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, who opposed Zionism. With the headline, “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s In The Quran,” the ads encouraged an end to aid to all Islamic countries.
Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson and editor Sana Amanat are in impressive company on BuzzFeed list of “21 Kick-Ass Muslims Who Changed the Narrative in 2014, which includes a Nobel laureate, a religious scholar and an Olympic athlete.
Written by Ahmed Ali Akbar, the rundown singles out not only the duo behind the creation of teenager Kamala Khan, the Pakistani American superhero, but also the character herself.
Legal | Algerian cartoonist Djamel Ghanem is seeking asylum in France as the prosecution and plaintiff appeal his acquittal on charges that he insulted Algeria’s president in an unpublished cartoon drawn for the newspaper Voix d’Oranie. The newspaper brought the criminal charges against Ghanem; in possibly related news, Ghanem is suing his employer for seven years’ unpaid wages. Ghanem now claims Algeria wants to make an example of him. [Radio France International, Ennahar Online]
Conventions | Mark Rahner, who has been going to Emerald City Comicon since the first one in 2003, initially as a reporter and then as a creator, talks about why the event has grown so big (75,000 attendees are expected this weekend) and why it’s still awesome anyway. [Seattle Weekly]
Academia | The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, is adding a masters of fine arts degree in applied cartooning that will allow students to focus on using the comics medium for journalism, medicine, business and other fields. [Valley News, press release]
Creators | With the arrival of the second issue of The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman talks about the joy of writing the first series and returning for this one, why he chooses to pen a story as a comic rather than a novel, and how his process differs as well: “When I’m outlining a comic, I write down the numbers 1 to 24, and I jot down what’s happening on each page, because I have to think of things in terms of pages, and double-page spreads. In a novel, if I want to move a scene, I just cut and paste. In a novel, it’s a completely different conversation.” [CNN]
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, looks at the uptick in comics conventions — he pegs ticket sales at $600 million, which is 80 percent of the dollar value of the whole comics market — and discusses some recent events and trends, including the new cons that are popping up all over and the increased international interest in connvetions outside the United States. [ICv2]
Publishing | Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter makes the list of “10 Inspirational Leaders Who Turned Around Their Companies.” [Entrepreneur]
Creators | Colleen Coover posts the full transcript of her recent interview with Paste magazine about sexism in the comics industry. [Colleen Coover]
The “Guy Card” doesn’t exist. No one can take away your masculinity however you choose to define that. So get out there and take dancing lessons or moisturize your face (note: I have no idea what would constitute the removal of a Guy Card because it doesn’t exist). In fact, there’s no such thing as a “Girl Card” either, so fail at wearing heels and makeup with impunity because no one other than yourself should have the power to call you on it. Be you, because that’s all we can be; pleasing everyone else is just way too hard.
What we do or don’t do shouldn’t be an indicator of gender, or race or sexual identity. I mean, we can make guesses, but that doesn’t tell you who you are inside, and it’s the inside that really counts, or so years of cartoon morality lessons have taught me. There’s no such thing as “not black enough” or “you act too gay to be straight,” because that says more about the person making those statements than the person they’re defining. The United States started out as just some humble little colonies trying to forge their own identity, coming to America to be themselves.
And some people want to be Carol Danvers.
WARNING: A spoiler-free review of Ms. Marvel #1 lies ahead, and I promise this is about as preachy as I’m going to get.
Since the new Ms. Marvel was announced in November as Kamala Khan, the 16-year-old daughter of Pakistani immigrants, there’s been a lot of discussion about the significance of the character, both to Muslim readers and to comics. But journalist Shehryar Warraich takes the conversation a step further, by soliciting the opinions of Pakistanis.
The United Press International article is an interesting read, as Warraich, who’s based in Lahore, Pakistan, found reactions to be largely positive, although at least one woman expressed concerns that the Marvel comic might be part of “a conspiracy to discredit Pakistani society.”
However, the vast majority of the others quoted in the piece seemed quite hopeful about the potential effect of Kamala, both on Pakistani girls and on the country’s image.
“Pakistanis will feel proud to see their girl helping people and playing a positive role,” author Mobarak Haider told UPI. “Kamala Khan is not only representing her compatriots in this role, but Muslims as a whole. Her character could have a great impact on Muslim families living in the U.S. The concept will make parents understand that by giving girls confidence, they can build a fabulous future.”
The article also provides a good opportunity to link to the Ms. Marvel production blog, which features exactly what you would expect: character designs, process pieces and the like.
Ms. Marvel #1, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, arrives Feb. 4.
Events | The British Library is staging a “long overdue” exhibit on comics, called “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” which will feature comics in a variety of genres from the 19th century to the present. Featured items include The Trials of Nasty Tales, which chronicles the 1972 obscenity trial of the editorial staff of Nasty Tales. “I went to a very traditional school where they would raid desks and take comics off to the orchard to burn them,” said Dave Gibbons, one of the contributors to The Trials of Nasty Tales. “Fast forward 40 years and they now invite me to the school to lecture on graphic novels.” The exhibition runs May 2-Aug. 14. [The Guardian]