Warning: People who use the phrase “playing the race card” need not apply to the following post. I guess that rules out, y’know, our entire political class, but oh well. Anyway, a trio of recent pieces have taken on the issue of race in contemporary superhero comics and movies.
Perhaps the most high-profile of the three pieces is Chris Sims’s essay on “the racial politics of regressive storytelling” for Comics Alliance. Sims argues that DC Comics’ current penchant for restoring the Silver Age versions of Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom, the Legion of Super-Heroes and so on has the unintentional but regrettable effect of pushing their successors — in many cases, non-white characters created to replace their slain or off-stage white predecessors — to the sidelines. While he’s quite clear that he doesn’t believe Geoff Johns or any of the other writers or editors involved are motivated by racial animus, he laments the way in which several decades’ worth of minority characters are now becoming “footnotes” in the race to create comics that evoke the creators’ and readers’ memories of their childhood favorites. I’m sympathetic to the obvious truth in Sims’s argument — replacing Ryan Choi with Ray Palmer, for example, does indeed “whiten” the Atom concept once again. But as I wrote in an essay on my own blog, I think the blame lies not with Johns and his Rebirths and Brightest Day and so on, but with the creators who, instead of creating strong non-white characters out of whole cloth like Luke Cage or Storm or Black Panther, simply put new guys in the old guys’ outfits, thus all but inviting readers to think of them as substitutes and pine for their original favorites.
With Kick-Ass in theaters and Marvel’s Daredevil-driven Shadowland event on the horizon, it’s a good time to be a street-level vigilante hero. Now you can be one in the privacy of your own home, thanks to blogger Jon Hasting’s DIY RPG Street Level.
Hastings says he drew inspiration for designing his homemade game in large part from the ’70s & ’80s Marvel characters who will be throwing down in Shadowland — Moon Knight, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Punisher, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist and so on — as well as indie takes on the concept from Mike Baron’s Badger to Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass. Now, what I don’t know about role-playing games could almost fit into the Grand Canyon, but it looks to me like Hastings captured the spirit of what makes these characters fun: The skills your character can develop include “finding shit out,” “taking a beating,” “doing violence,” “telling people what’s what,” and “keeping your shit together” (for those interested in doing a Daredevil: Born Again-style campaign, I guess), while the amount of “Heat” you’ve drawn to yourself from either traditional law enforcement or the criminal underworld is a major factor in your success or failure. Actual superpowers are optional; if you want your character to be able to light his fists on fire thanks to some experimental drug/martial-arts mojo, that’s fine, but it’s also fine to just have him roll out of bed, put on a jumpsuit, and beat up some muggers.
Hastings is concerned that he may have overdesigned the game, but he needs to have it playtested to be sure. Why not give it a spin yourself?
Whether or not Kick-Ass tops the weekend box office — it probably will — its marketing campaign has ensured the movie’s infiltration of popular culture. Nikki Finke points out that this morning’s Boston Herald features this political cartoon by Jerry Holbert.
Following Wednesday morning’s announcement that the long-discussed Batwoman solo title would indeed debut in July — without Greg Rucka, but with J.H. Williams III, joined by co-writer W. Haden Blackman and, later, artist Amy Reeder Hadley — I braced for another onslaught of mainstream-media coverage.
After all, newspapers, cable-news networks and entertainment websites have a long fascination with lesbian socialite Kate Kane, aka the “lady-lovin’ Batwoman,” that dates back to her May 2006 unveiling in The New York Times, and continued through her July 2006 comics debut in 52. That fixation with the “hot lesbian” — or “flame-haired lesbian,” if you prefer — began anew almost three years later, after DC Comics announced that Batwoman would take the lead in Detective Comics during Batman’s “death”-induced absence.
So it stands to reason the official confirmation of a Batwoman monthly series would draw the same sort of attention, right? After all, the elements that fueled the previous media frenzies are still there: homosexuality, the familiar Bat-brand, the idea that comics are a children’s medium. But this go-around, things have been relatively quiet.
Conventions | On the eve of the inaugural Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, the Chicago Reader examines the escalating competition between convention owner Reed Exhibitions and longtime Chicago Comic Con organizer Wizard Entertainment: “It’s but one battleground in a war the two powers are waging across the country — an epic struggle that some observers see as a contest between the forces of good and, well, not so good.”
Writer Deanna Isaacs touches upon the rise of Wizard’s Rosemont event to the second-largest comics convention in North America, and its more recent decline. She quotes a couple of local retailers who have become “disenchanted” with the show. But Wizard CEO Gareb Shamus shrugs off the complaints: “Everybody’s going to tell you this or that. You’re talking about one person. We have 1,000 vendors at our show in Chicago, and they make a lot of money.”
The Daily Herald interviews C2E2 show-runner Lance Fensterman, who says he expects between 35,000 and 40,000 attendees this weekend. The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, offers its own preview, with eight “must-see” convention events, and brief Q&As with Alex Ross and Jeff Smith. [C2E2]
Cartoonist Michael Cho took on the film adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass for the cover of the Village Voice Spring Arts Guide 2010. “I don’t really know much about the movie,” Cho writes, “but it was fun to draw an action scene for a magazine cover.”
See the full cover and a related spot illustration on Cho’s blog or at The Village Voice website.
(via Super Punch)
Publishing | When Japan’s largest publisher, Kodansha, set up shop in the United States last fall, many expected a major shake-up in the North American manga market. But so far, Kodansha USA Publishing and Kodansha Comics have been awfully quiet, re-releasing only the first volumes of Akira and Ghost in the Shell. So Gia Manry goes to the source, the general manager of Kodansha USA, and learns … not a whole lot, actually. Except that the manga giant plans to create a website. [Anime Vice]
Publishing | Comics publishers are generally tight-lipped when it comes to sales figures — unless, of course, those numbers are really, really impressive. That’s the case with the hardcover collection for Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass, which Marvel reports has shipped nearly 100,000 copies since its release on Feb. 17. Almost 40 percent of those has gone to the direct market. [press release]
WonderCon kicks off Friday in San Francisco, and movie studios and television networks will be there, promoting spring and early-summer projects like Doctor Who, Happy Town, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time — and, oh, yeah, Iron Man 2 and Kick-Ass. Those latter two bring with them convention-exclusive posters.
The first (available at Booth #242) is a mini-poster spotlighting Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. It’s nothing spectacular — just a straightforward shot of the actress in costume — but it’s an improvement over the pretty-awful domestic poster for Iron Man 2.
The second, which you can see after the break, concludes the series of Kick-Ass character posters inspired by World War II propaganda imagery. The previous three are so-so, with only the one for Red Mist actually clicking. But the con-exclusive poster for Big Daddy, with its slogan of “He’s Watching You,” is pretty creepy, and calls out for a “Ceiling Cat”-style meme.
Yeah, that’s right, Nicolas Cage is watching you, um, doing whatever you’re doing. And he’ll be available to sign the poster on Saturday.
According to blogger Erin Polgreen, the answer is yes. Making the case at (of all places) Spencer Ackerman’s national-security blog at the progressive website FireDogLake, Polgreen alleges that in books ranging from Superman: Red Son to Wanted to Kick-Ass, Millar portrays even strong female characters like Lois Lane, Wonder Woman and Hit Girl as inveterate second bananas to their books’ male protagonists. She also gets some shots in at what she sees as the dubious racial politics at play in Wanted and Kick-Ass, where the ethnicity of various non-white minor characters is played as a punchline.
It’s interesting to see an argument against Millar’s treatment of “minority” groups (women are, of course, the majority, but you wouldn’t know it from comics) hinging on something as comparatively innocuous as his female heroes not proving as heroic as his male ones, given the far more violent and ignominious fates he frequently doles out to his characters. For example, if I were in one of his comics, I’d take out a big fat life insurance policy on any gay and/or black people I knew in-universe the second he came aboard. And with regards to women specifically, you’d think the treatment of rape in books like Wanted and Ultimate Comics Avengers would have at least raised Polgreen’s eyebrows, if not her ire. But hey, we report, you decide.
This past weekend South by Southwest in Austin hosted the premiere of Kick-Ass, the movie adaptation of the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. The film was accompanied by a panel featuring both creators and members of the cast … and a trio of really cool retro posters that attendees received. Above is one featuring the Red Mist, and you can also check out the ones featuring the title character and Hit Girl.
Ahead of the movie’s world premiere on Friday at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Lionsgate has released outdoor posters for Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of the Icon comic series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
The film, which stars Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Mark Strong and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, will be released on April 16. You can see the individual character posters after the break.
Artist Steven Anderson depicts characters from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass in the style of children’s book illustrator Roger Hargreaves (author of the Mr. Men and Little Miss series). Anderson’s Flickr account features similar takes on Red Mist, Wolverine, The Hulk, Nick Fury and numerous other comic-book characters.
(via Super Punch)
Nothing says “hyper-violent superhero comic” quite like this adorable paper toy from Cubeecraft, based on the title character from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass. The toy is available for free download here; assembly required. (There’s also a Dick Tracy figure.)
The eighth issue of Kick-Ass is due from Marvel’s Icon imprint in January. Matthew Vaughn’s film adaptation is set to open on April 16, 2010.
(via Super Punch)
Last month the star of Ghost Rider and the upcoming Kick-Ass sued his former business manager for $20 million, blaming him for financial problems that include more than $6 million in tax liens. However, in a countersuit filed last week, Samuel J. Levin claims that by the time the actor hired him in 2001 Cage “had already squandered tens of millions of dollars he had earned as a movie star.”
Levin asserts that he advised Cage he would need to earn more than $30 million to maintain his lifestyle, and persuaded him to sell a dozen automobiles and his comic-book collection, which included copies of Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #1 and All-Star Comics #3.
But by the time Ghost Rider was released in 2007, Cage reportedly had fallen back into his old habits: Levin contends that in that year alone the actor purchased three homes worth more than $33 million, 22 cars, 12 pieces of expensive jewelry and 47 pieces of artwork. Within a year, Cage’s tally of homes had reached 15. He also owned an island in the Bahamas, four yachts and a Gulfstream jet.
No wonder he’s so eager for another Ghost Rider movie.