"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Legal | Danny Bradbury takes a look at the financial and copyright aspects of online comics in an insightful article spurred by the recent dust-up between The Oatmeal and FunnyJunk. Among other things, he parses out how The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman makes $500,000 a year from his comic, why Inman and other creators object to their work being published elsewhere without attribution (and why they sometimes don’t care), the legal protections they can use (and how they sometimes fail), and how sites like Pinterest avoid the problem. There’s also an explanation of why FunnyJunk attorney Charles Carreon is suing Inman et al. on his own behalf, rather than FunnyJunk’s: “Carreon has now effectively abandoned the threat of a FunnyJunk lawsuit, stating that he was misinformed by his client. His letter claimed that all the comics had been removed from FunnyJunk, but Inman pointed out dozens that were still there.” [The Guardian]
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d start things out with Wolverine and the X-Men #11 (Marvel, $3.99). I was worried this series’ intersection with Avengers Vs. X-Men might put this book in a tailspin, but from the preview it looks copacetic. Aaron has real amazing grips on these characters despite being less than a dozen issues in, and Nick Bradshaw has quickly come from being a surprising follow-up to Chris Bachalo to arguably being more in line with the book than Bachalo himself. Next up for me would be Walking Dead #98 (Image, $2.99), the low march toward #100. After that I’d get FF #18 (Marvel, $2.99) for something arguably better than its parent book Fantastic Four. I hope this title lives on past Hickman’s run on the book, because it’s succeeded in being more than the stereotypical kids team book. After that, I’d snap up Supercrooks #3 (Marvel/Icon, $3.99). Leinil Yu is on a real high here, doing art that goes up against his great High Roads and Silent Dragon era work. Mark Millar’s story is really optimum Millar-style work, but Yu’s storytelling and rendering here are the best in some time.
If I had $30, I’d buy one additional thing: Empowered, Vol. 7 (Dark Horse, $16.99). Adam Warren has really blossomed since his days doing Dirty Pair, and Empowered is a great second act showing the seedy side of superheroes. Adding to that, Adam Warren keeps up a great online presence over on DeviantArt and releases all sorts of magnificent process sketches to go along with the book.
If I could splurge, I’d spend my grocery money this week on Batman: Death By Design (DC, $24.99). Like some sort of Mister X meets Dark Knight crossover, this book is an interesting work especially in contrast with the day-to-day of DC with New 52. I still think of Chip Kidd more as a designer than a writer despite reading his first novel, but I hope this breaks that in my mind and allows me to see him for both his creative avenues.
“One ‘defense’ for not making the effort to be inclusive is, ‘Aw, but man, I don’t want to have to think about this stuff, I just want to read/write stories.’ And, y’know what? We’re sympathetic to that. Thinking about it can be really taxing, confusing, and depressing. Imagine if you had to think about that stuff all the time. Perhaps due to being not white? Or not male? Or not straight?”
– Brian Clevinger, explaining why Atomic Robo is specifically designed to be as inclusive as possible, while still telling awesome stories
Okay, now I’m picturing the authors of Alec and Subway Series standing shoulder to shoulder, swords in hand, fending off the critical Ringwraiths as Craig Thompson cowers Frodo-style in the background. So yeah, the headline’s a bit dramatic. But in light of critic and scholar Nadim Damluji’s thoughtful and widely linked critique of Thompson’s massive new book Habibi, I thought it worthwhile to direct you to a pair of acclaimed cartoonists’ responses.
Damluji argued that in treating the Orientalist art and literature of the past as just another genre to play with, Thompson ended up perpetuating some of the very stereotypes he presumably set out to subvert when he decided to set his near-future fantasy in a fictional but still recognizably Arab/Islamic culture — particularly where sexuality and male-female relationships, often used by Western nations as a pretext for action against Middle Eastern ones, are concerned. Eddie Campbell responds that Thompson’s interest in these topics, or more generally Love, are consistent; the Middle Eastern trappings of the tale are just the vehicle Thompson selected to get where he’s going:
It’s no secret that Golden Age comics were full of racist imagery, especially Golden Age jungle comics. But Steve Bennett at Super ITCH pointed out something today that I hadn’t noticed in the examples that I’ve read. Like most jungle girl comics from that time period, Rulah the Jungle Goddess is racist at its very concept: “a standard-issue bored thrill-junkie/society-girl aviatrix who crashed her plane in Africa. There she saved a tribe from a tyrant’s rule who were so grateful the natives dubbed her Rulah, Jungle Goddess and made her their ruler.” A couple of things differentiate Rulah from similar comics, though.
There’s so much I find fascinating about Vaneta Rogers’s Newsarama interview with Steel #1 writer Steve Lyons that I hardly know where to begin. I suppose I’ll start by saying that there’s a lot to be excited about in the comic, which kicks off DC’s “Reign of Doomsday” event. For example, I’ve long argued that Steel is one of the most undervalued characters and designs in DC’s pantheon. Iron Man’s powers, Thor’s hammer, Superman’s cape, and an African-American folk hero’s name? That’s pure gold. And seriously, what a great design: The Alex Garner cover to the issue — itself part of DC’s genuinely awesome iconic-cover line-up for the month of January — is practically payoff enough. Plus, in a genre often (and accurately) decried for its lack of strong non-white heroes, John Henry Irons is an armor-clad, hammer-wielding, ‘S’-shield-wearing super-genius whose role in Metropolis’s scientific and business community is basically “the anti-Lex.” Tough to top that.
Similarly, at nearly two decades’ remove from the controversial “Death of Superman” storyline, I’m much better able to appreciate Doomsday him/itself. He’s no longer just the out-of-the-blue newcomer who got to deliver the coup de grace to the Man of Steel over more “deserving” villains like Lex Luthor (and set sales records in the process). Rather, he is to the villainous side of the superhero genre what the Hulk is to its heroic half: The power fantasy in its purest form, i.e. giant unstoppable guy pounds the crap out of everyone in his way. On an inner-eight-year-old level, that’s a thing of beauty. And remember how in his original appearances he slowly shedded a Kirbyesque jumpsuit-and-goggles look to reveal badass bone spikes and claws jutting out of every possible place on his body? He’s basically a microcosm of the direction of the entire superhero genre from that period, a walking symbol of ’90s excess at its boldest and best. Finally, in story terms, he accomplished the pinnacle achievement for any DCU villain: He killed Superman! Okay, so he got better, but still. As I believe Geoff Johns has argued, Doomsday’s name alone should scare the crap out of every character in the DC Universe. As such he’s a terrific basis for a crossover event.
Given that folklore was my minor in college, I’m always pleased when a creative discussion touches upon a work that finds its roots in folk or fairy tales. With that in mind I recently jumped at the chance to interview J.D. Arnold & Rich Koslowski regarding their new book from Top Shelf, BB Wolf and the 3 LPs (released in June). As described by Top Shelf: “A farmer and family man by day, blues musician by night, and a drinker of fine spirits at any hour, BB’s life seemed simple. But this fragile peace comes crashing down when the LPs decide to take his land by any means possible. When all is lost, BB lashes out, setting into motion acts of revenge only a Big Bad Wolf could unleash.” In addition to discussing this tale of blues and racism, the creators detail a musical project connected to the book that will be available at San Diego. Top Shelf offers a seven-page preview of the 96-page book here.
Tim O’Shea: Rich, as the guy behind Three Geeks and Three Fingers, are you un-nerved or reassured at how the number three seems to track you down, even when you’re not writing the story?
Rich Koslowski: Well, it was all part of a “grand master plan” I had in mind with the magical number 3. Seriously. It kind of got derailed, though, when I did The King with Top Shelf. Couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get that book out there.
I’ll have to see if I can get that big idea back on track somehow.
As part of a series of posts on the racial attitudes that drove the United States into the Civil War, blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates has posted a small but powerful gallery of 19th-century anti-Irish cartoons and illustrations. As gorgeously drawn — by the all-time-great political cartoonist Thomas Nast in some cases — as they are jaw-droppingly benighted, they’re posted by Coates to demonstrate the ease with which today’s interested readers can access primary documents rather than relying on the potentially biased work of interpreters. Another silver lining: Given the total assimilation of Irish Americans, they’re proof that even the most stridently held prejudices can fall before their twin opponents truth and time.
Comics creator Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Prime Baby) has made a webcomic to explain why he won’t be going to see the Last Airbender movie in theaters—in short, Gene takes exception to the producers’ decision to use an all-Caucasian cast for a movie in which all the characters are Asian. He makes the argument better than I do, though, and of course a lively discussion breaks out in the comments section, so go, read.
I’m not a big movie fan anyway, so I’m much more likely to while away a summer afternoon with the manga.
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.
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.
I watched an old Robert Mitchum movie a couple of weeks ago. It was a war film called Gung Ho! about the formation of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion and its first mission against a Japanese garrison on Makin Island. I’ve seen a lot of war films in my life and many of them have disturbed me, but something about this one was especially unsettling. It felt real, and not just because of the excellent use of the stock footage. (I assume it was stock footage, but it was so well edited that it looks like it could have been shot especially for the movie.) It was the emotions that felt so genuine. Especially the anger and the hatred towards the Japanese.
A lot of the war movies I’ve seen were filmed years if not decades after the wars they depict were already over. Gung Ho! was filmed a year or so after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The hurt and the fear and the anger were all fresh and those feelings overshadow the entire movie. Watched today, you can either dismiss it as racist garbage or you can be powerfully impacted by it as an historical document; a time-capsule of what it was like to be a (non-Japanese) US citizen in the early ‘40s. I shouldn’t have to say – but I will – that none of what I’m talking about here is meant to excuse racism in general or the horrible atrocities inflicted on Japanese Americans during that period. Obviously I don’t approve of the way this country handled its feelings, but for the first time in my life I understand the feelings themselves.
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