Tuesday, July 28, 2015 

The Mary Sue's double-standard on cosplay

I noticed some paradoxes on The Mary Sue in regards to costume partying at conventions. Last December, they attacked veteran artist Pat Broderick because he's unhappy with cosplay. Here's what they say he talked about:
In the comments section of the original post, Broderick goes on to say that (all sic) “cosplay are just selfies in costume, and doing multiple selfies is about the highest expression of narcissium,,,,,” and doesn’t undertstand “why the hell anyone pay for an signiture on a photo with a cosplay character…..” Broderick also cites the same reasoning as Dorman did behind her rant; that though con attendance is up, “this has not made its way to both [dealers and artists].” Broderick suggests that cons “completly seperate the media and cospaly guest into their own seperate shows…”

Other industry pros were quick to jump on the anti-cosplay bandwagon. Raymond Lui, owner of the NY-based Muteki Sales (an anime and tokusatsu dealer who, by the way, had their self-proclaimed “best showing” at NYCC in 2012, with tons of cosplayers in attendance) shared a story about a cosplayer in his booth who said they wanted to cosplay Doctor Strange because of excitement over the upcoming film, but didn’t know much about the actual comic book character. Lui kicked the attendee out of his booth. Artist and writer Mike Wolfer (who most recently Kickstarted “a 96-page, black and white, erotic horror graphic novel”) said that he will “ignore con invites that proclaim, ‘HUGE COSPLAY CONTEST (oh, yeah… and Stan Lee).'”
And according to writer Mark Ellis, he's irritated by:
overweight women in Power Girl and Slave Girl Leia costumes posing, posturing and demanding $20 to take a photo of them. A guy I know just said, “You’re standing around in public looking like a fool…shove your $20″ and took pictures anyway.
I think the point the Mary Sue writer is missing could be: what if Broderick and company are angry at how these costume parties are being staged by people who neither know nor care about the source material, and are turning it into a profiteering scam? What if they see as something akin to licensed merchandise that takes away attention from all zygotes they worked so hard to perfect years before and have no interest in reading the original material? Their complaints may not be fully justified, but there does seem to be something here they're missing.
Making elaborate costumes for cosplay, like official con cosplay guests do, takes an enormous amount of time, talent, and effort. [...]
If the man (yes, of course they have men working for them too) is saying the costumes are hand-made, I'm sure some are, but all of them? I can't buy that. I'm sure there's some companies out there who make at least half the outfits worn at conventions.
Okay, I lied; I do have one idea about this artistic hierarchy. Cosplay is an industry largely dominated by women; it opens up the world of comics—a world which has overwhelmingly felt exclusionary to girls and women—in a whole new way. It allows not only a small subset of women to make money off of their love of comics (something self-proclaimed comic fan Broderick has been doing for decades), but it also allows a large number of female comic book fans who might otherwise feel shut out of the industry to proudly proclaim their love for certain characters or comics. Strange that so many people have taken issue with something that often involves women taking control of their own image, bodies, and sexuality, and commodifying it without male permission or control. So strange.
And since we get to this part, so strange a site that once attacked J. Scott Campbell, Erik Larsen and a few others for complaining about how DC/Marvel were pandering to SJWs took the opposite path here when it comes to cosplayers. So if we refer to the site as one voice, it's bad if mainstream caters to an absurd vocal minority by drawing practical outfits, but okay when cosplayers put on very unpractical outfits? I don't see the logic here. Plus, if we point to the positive, doesn't that prove the cosplayers don't have a problem with the original hot costume designs at all? Those who wear Power Girl outfits with the cleavage obviously don't.

Having said that, it doesn't sound right to make money off of wearing costumes for photos at a convention when you're not a professional. Do these cosplayers have a permit to make money off of photos? If not, then it could be illegal activity, to which the convention staff can object. The article writer shouldn't be encouraging potential lawbreaking.

Later on, they wrote an otherwise accepting take on a cosplay convention that paid tribute to J. Scott Campbell's cover illustrations for Swords of Sorrow:
Gail Simone’s Dynamite series Swords of Sorrow is getting rave reviews, but it did hit a snag earlier this year when a cover by J. Scott Campbell was revealed for issue one. Your mileage may vary on his style, but many fans saw this as an odd move considering the buzz surrounding the all-female writers crossover event and the blatant reference to the Milo Manara Spider-Woman variant cover. However, fans love these characters and epic cosplay has occurred—just not exactly as the artist depicted them.
That doesn't mean the fans they supposedly speak of have serious issues with Campbell's artwork. Otherwise, would they love the characters? Probably not. And, one of the commentors, a woman, said:
I never saw an issue between j.scott campbells cover and the contents of the comic or the fact that the writers were females.
He draws girls doing poses normal girls cant do. So what, the writers write stories about girls doing things normal girls cant do. They wear clothes into battle no woman fighter would wear. They have powers no human could possibly have, and even the artists that may get "approval" from...whomever thinks they should give it...draw the ladies looking way better than they would after epic fights and long journeys. Its a comic book, not a manual on how to be a woman.
Yeah, so I think it's about time this overly fussy site let it all go. Besides, the Manara cover ultimately went to press, and they're clearly too embarrassed to admit their attempts to lambast Marvel for the wrong reasons didn't work. And again, what fans are they talking about? They didn't seem to give any meaty examples. Funny how this site's writers are so sensitive about beautiful imagery, but not about Mary Jane Watson's continued misuse by Marvel staff. If they can make such a ruckus over artists like Campbell and Manara, surely they could complain about the misuse of Mary Jane and Dan Slott's poor writing, but they don't, because writing quality/talent was never their true interest, was it? That's the Mary Sue for you. A site that's all about petty topics, and not about substance.

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Monday, July 27, 2015 

Creator comments on Louisiana theater shooting

Here's what a couple of writers/artists - nearly all familiar names - are saying about the terrible shooting that took place last week at a theater house in Louisiana:

What I want to know is if he thinks arguing for better education is sane talk. I just don't see why nobody complains about poor educational curriculum in public schools that could enable crazies like those to spawn.

But what about innocent civilians in urban areas?

Umm, hasn't that been painfully obvious for centuries? What is the point here? To say only firearms are the problem and not mindsets?

Remember that according to men like Marz, gun-free zones aren't a problem.

Can we go any length of time without hearing leftists blabbing on about gun control?

Hey, that's a good point! Maybe he should tell his buddy above that. Sage advice.

I wonder why nobody, not even this man, cares about education.

Out of curiosity, does he at least respect all the women and minorities who make up a big chunk of the buyers for guns? I'm sure he may realize a lot of the women who bought guns did so for self-defense. And on that note, I don't suppose he might at least be willing to argue that more women should learn karate for self-defense? All these cheapie complaints by these creators solely about guns are not helping. And isn't it weird that they're willing to comment on this incident, but none save but one ever commented on the shooting in Tennessee at a navy base a few weeks before?

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Sunday, July 26, 2015 

2 Grantland columns about 2 X-Men

A writer for Grantland wrote two articles over a year ago about Gambit and Cyclops, one where he may not have laid out his criticism correctly, and the second where he defends the other character. Here's the first one, where he's disappointed with Channing Tatum's choice:
Cocksure without being arrogant, centered but never self-serious, Tatum just radiates good-dude-ness, and it’s hard to begrudge him his chance to give the old superhero-franchise money tree a few shakes. The problem isn’t Tatum. The problem is Gambit. The problem is that Gambit Is. The. Worst.
No, the problem is/was that Gambit has been the most poorly scripted X-Man introduced in the 1990s. How come he didn't append that to the end of the sentence? You cannot blame an imaginary character for the faults of the writers, one of which the reporter does at least have the audacity to mention:
He first appeared in two X-Men comics published in the summer of 1990, and was one of the last major X-characters introduced by longtime Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont before Claremont’s departure from Marvel Comics in 1991. Over the course of his 16-year run on the X-books, Claremont had imbued each member of his sprawling cast of mutant heroes with a degree of weight and dimension that was rare for mainstream comics. But Claremont never quite got around to fleshing Gambit out before he left the book, which meant the version of the character handed off to subsequent writers was essentially just a collection of Claremontian tics and borrowed notions — an accent and an attitude, wrapped in a trench coat inspired by the one Christopher Lambert wears to hide his sword in Highlander. He eventually acquired a government name — Remy LeBeau — and a convoluted backstory, including an estranged wife and a dark past involving X-Men villain Mister Sinister, but as a character he’s never become more than a collection of cool-guy tics.
Yeah, I can agree on that last bit. That was indeed the problem with what little traits Claremont applied for starters to the character. And Claremont did do a slapdash job on his part. But why leave out the successive writers like Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza, the main writers on the flagship X-books during that decade? They were the ones who came up with all that convolution, like being a refugee from two warring gangs with very simplistic names - Thieves and Assassins Guilds, the former whom Gambit was originally part of, and the latter being the mainstay of his estranged wife, Bella Donna Boudreaux. Lobdell/Nicieza were also the ones who wrote the embarassing "revelation" that Gambit indirectly led to the Morlock Massacre, a storyline that should not have been. Again, Lobdell/Nicieza are allowed to get away with their worst writing through the simple step of not mentioning them at all. Gambit didn't "acquire" the additional components; it was the later writers like the above twosome who had the stupid idea of conceiving those fiascos. Why is it so hard to let the world know who these phonies are by just telling the world that they existed and explaining in depth what was wrong with most of their work? Lobdell's own work on Excalibur following the departure of Claremont and Alan Davis was pretty tedious too, yet nobody has the audacity of bringing that up either. (By the way, what do they mean by a "government" name? His last name is just the French way of saying "the lover".)
He was utterly superfluous from the beginning, an edgy Wolverine figure shoehorned into a team that already had a pretty good edgy Wolverine figure in Wolverine. At one point early on, we saw him fight Wolverine to a standstill in the Danger Room while Wolverine’s protégé Jubilee cried in the control booth. It was supposed to establish him as someone not to be trifled with. Even at 13 I understood this to be bullshit.

A word about the trench coat: It’s really long. Totally practical for a master thief who engages in a lot of hand-to-hand combat. He wears fuschia body armor underneath it. He speaks in phonetic-Cajun dat’s-dem-dere dialogue, like someone making fun of Dr. John. He calls men homme or mon ami. He calls women “mam’zelle” and chere, and this inevitably causes women to swoon over him, since one of his superpowers is an almost irresistible charm. People write fan fiction about his relationship with Rogue, who can’t touch anyone for fear of draining their energy; you can tell it’s fan fiction because nobody ever notices that Remy is a smarmy creep.
Well no argument about the costume and personality traits, but it's still the fault of Claremont and his successors for going to extremes making him "cool" for the sake of it, and for rendering him a smarmy creep in their scripts. Similarly, it's also artist Jim Lee's fault for conceiving such a crummy costume. And if the columnist really feels so badly about Gambit, why doesn't he ask for a repair job? Did he actually want Gambit to turn out so badly? Some can argue Wolverine's early dialogue and personality traits in the late 70s weren't so great, but then, Claremont and Byrne started making improvements so that readers would find him more appealing. That this is not even considered by the reporter is honestly mystifying.

He also leaves out how, as worthless as most writing at Marvel is today, they did publish some stories in recent years where Rogue finally gained proper control of her skin-to-skin siphoning power. But if he's hinting at how the writers limited creativity by pairing Rogue 99 percent exclusively with Gambit, I can agree it was a pretty cheap move they made, that led to little more than tales about the twosome agonizing tiresomely. Just a pathetic excuse for not introducing a new, non-mutant boyfriend for Rogue who could help her overcome the problems she had, mentally or otherwise, that made it so difficult to attain control over her siphoning power.

Now, here's the second article about Cyclops, and if he's being straight with us, this is eyebrow raising:
Earlier this month, I wrote a thing about the X-Men character Gambit, of whom I am not a fan. I knew exactly what I was doing when I did this, but I definitely underestimated precisely how many hornets were in that nest. Turns out the Cajun Puss in Boots of the Marvel Universe has a posse, and they don’t take libel lying down. The outrage storm lasted only about three hours, but it was a pretty bracing three hours. Among other less-nice things, I was accused of being motivated by sexual jealousy of a fictional character and angrily told to “STICK TO SPORTS,” both of which were firsts.

That you can make a lot of real people angry by disrespecting a made-up person on the Internet is not news. But I did learn one interesting thing from GambitGate: There are a lot of people out there who really, really hate Cyclops. Whenever anybody suggested an alternative candidate for Worst X-Man of All Time instead of just calling me an idiot, they all nominated Scott Summers, and they all phrased it in the form of a question: What about Cyclops? It was as if I’d left “fire ants” off a list of the worst kinds of ants. One commenter scornfully wrote, “I bet Cyclops is your favorite X-Man.” Then she made fun of my author photo.
First off, it may not be the worst thing one could do by acting hostile to a fictional character. But it's still ridiculous to fault a fictional character rather than the writers, and the reporter didn't do a satisfying job of taking the scripters to task for their botches. Lambasting fictional characters for stuff that isn't their fault is little more than classic projection, heaping what you really meant for the real-life writers onto the characters, yet it only enables said writers to get away with their shoddy efforts. Especially if you don't make clear that some men and women behind the scenes have to shoulder the blame.

However, in his defense, I will say that any Gambit fan who damned Cyclops royally blew their efforts to defend a fictional character. It's already apparent they don't want any improvements made for Gambit (some fandom in that case!), but if they think Cyclops is badly written, they clearly don't want any for him either. Some way to argue logic by turning it all into a grudge match.
...Team Gambit was right about one thing. I’m not a particularly big James Marsden fan, but I am a Cyclops fan.

I know I’m by no means alone in this. Tumblr is full of people who ride hard for Cyclops (or long to see Cyclops ridden hard by Wolverine, because it’s Tumblr). But even there, it’s a defensive kind of love. It’s hatred’s flip side. This is partly because few comic-book characters have ever given their haters more to hate. Despite being a handsome white male who’s lived most of his life in a mansion, Cyclops is prone to bouts of self-pity and furniture-blasting rage. He’s almost never without a cosplayably hot love interest, and yet he’s constantly moping over his past relationships. He’s devoted his entire life to leadership, and yet entire universe-shaking crossover events have been born of his poor decision-making.
Oh for crying out loud! Crossovers are not spawned from a fictional character. Nor was Scott's self-pity and angry fitting. That was all the makings of countless writers beginning with creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and later Claremont/Byrne. If he's got a beef with that, I should think he'd know where to lay it at. But I guess he doesn't, so neither side of this argument ends up any better than the other.
[...] More recently, with the mutant race teetering on the brink of extinction, Scott’s been forced to make some decidedly unsuperheroic moves. He’s sanctioned a secret black-ops strike team to preemptively neutralize threats to mutantkind, and fought a war with the Avengers to protect a potential mutant messiah, which led to him murdering Charles Xavier while possessed by the Phoenix Force. (“He’s always getting possessed, that guy,” former X-Men writer Grant Morrison mused in 2012. “Maybe he likes it.”) Now largely stripped of his mutant powers, he’s currently either an underground revolutionary or a terrorist, depending whom you ask.
I hope that if I ask the guy who wrote this piece, he'll admit this was a case of a fictional character mired in awful writing, which indeed it was. All the fault of trolling scripters like Brian Bendis, who only wound up sinking Marvel's universe further into quicksand. And just look at that, even Morrison couldn't resist making sleazy, cynical comments putting down a fictional character yet offering no criticism of the editors or other writers involved.
To put it in TV terms, Scott was a Jack Shephard (pissy, uptight, martyr-ish leader) and has now become a Walter White — a Difficult Man in black-and-yellow spandex who’ll do whatever it takes to protect his (extended, mutant) family, even if it costs him his soul. Oh, and I almost forgot: After years of being tormented by phantoms of his various deceased red-haired ex-girlfriends, he finally broke the streak by having a “psychic affair” with Emma Frost, a former X-villain who’s tried to murder him a bunch of times. They got together for real after Jean Grey’s second death; that it was probably the healthiest adult relationship he’s ever been in says a lot.

That he’s finally turned antihero isn’t surprising; the weird part is that it took him this long to snap. (Or maybe not. Scott wears special ruby-quartz goggles to contain the force-beam that would otherwise be constantly shooting out of his eyes — even his mutant powers are linked to repression.) From the very beginning — in X-Men no. 1, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, published by Marvel in September 1963, the same month as the first issue of Avengers — he’s the group’s designated killjoy, a teenager mouthing adult platitudes. During a training exercise, when Iceman hurls a bowling ball at the Beast and almost hits Professor X instead, it’s Scott who reads them the riot act: “That kind of horseplay isn’t funny!” Six pages into his first appearance in comics, his fate as a character was sealed. From then on — with notable exceptions, like the stubbly tough-guy Cyclops in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men — writers unsure of what else to do with Scott would portray him as a humorless prig with the mutant power to kill everybody else’s buzz.
Despite acknowledging the existence of writers in real life, he still gives more signs the reporter isn't making a convincing effort to say whether he thinks old-to-new stories are splendidly or badly written. What, did he actually want Cyclops to "snap"? What really bothers me is how he can't even clearly say whether he thinks all this should be done at Jean Grey's expense, and why she had to perish a second time, and can't be her own agency. He's also not accurate when he gets around to describing the 1975 revival for X-Men:
That first issue was a Reader’s Digest version of 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men special, in which Cyclops puts together a new, racially and geographically diverse X-Men team — including Wolverine, Colossus, and Storm — to rescue the old ’60s X-Men, who’ve been captured by a living island called Krakoa. [...]
Umm, that's not quite so. Prof. Xavier put them together after he traveled to their different regions to recruit them. The part about the history of Madelyne Pryor, a clone of Jean, is more interesting though:
[...] In 1986, by editorial fiat, Jean Grey was resurrected — it turned out the Jean who’d become Dark Phoenix and died was actually a duplicate host-body created by the Phoenix Force, and the Avengers had found the real Jean asleep in a cocoon at the bottom of Jamaica Bay, just off Long Island. The X-books were a license to print money, and Marvel had decided to reunite the original X-Men lineup in a new title called X-Factor, written by Louise Simonson — not Claremont, who was positive that Cyclops leaving his wife and infant son alone in Alaska to run around with Jean Grey again was a dick move readers would never forgive.

He wasn’t wrong; to this day, people enumerating the reasons Cyclops sucks never fail to mention the fact that he straight Billy Crudup–ed his wife and newborn kid the minute his old girlfriend turned up alive. Eventually, Marvel contrived an elaborate crossover event called “Inferno,” in which Madelyne was revealed as a clone created by X-Factor’s nemesis Mister Sinister and became the “Goblyn Queen” of an army of demons that proceeded to take control of New York, giving X-Factor and the X-Men no choice but to team up and take her out. There was no other way to resolve the moral quagmire Scott’s life had become: He’d technically cheated on the not-technically-dead Jean with a fake Jean created by the Phoenix Force, then married a Jean look-alike, then effectively left her for the real, resurrected Jean, who was still in love with Scott but also a little jealous because he’d been with two women who looked exactly like her, one of whom was a goddess. I remember actually finding all of this romantic, which says a lot about how comics can ruin your life.
First off, yes, I do think the forced abandonment of Madelyne was sloppy theater-of-the-absurd storytelling that could've been avoided. At worst, it only made clear Jean Grey was not being brought back as her own agency, but rather, as Cyclops' sidekick. If they had to reunite Scott and Jean, what could've been done instead of depicting him dumping Madelyne (and later showing her turning into a Goblyn Queen) was to establish that Madelyne's organs as a clone were deteriorating, and she was dying of natural causes. That would've made any return to be with Jean a lot easier to accept, and even offered everyone an example of a character who didn't die from villain's fire or while turned into an outright villain. Of course, there's still the problem with Pryor's son later being turned into Cable...

But anybody who throws all the blame upon the non-existent Scott is making themselves look like a nutcase. The blame must be laid at the feet of Jim Shooter, because he was the one who wanted it all done for commercial reasons, and Claremont will have to shoulder some too. Cyclops is nothing more than a fictional victim of real life sloppy writing and editorial mandates. I don't mind the idea of absolving Jean of the Phoenix's horrors. I just don't see why they had to set such a poor example with how they handle their female cast. Next, the reporter says the following about Scott:
[...] He lives with failure more than any other superhero, and when his mistakes come back to haunt him, it’s usually in the form of somebody who wants to kill the X-Men. He spent a big chunk of his life striving to further Professor Xavier’s dream of coexistence between humans and mutants, but it didn’t work; now he’s gone militant, and that doesn’t seem to be working either.
Of course not, and that's because of all the modern writers who don't seem to know what to do with him. Now that I think of it, we the audience - and that includes the reporter - may have some blame to shoulder too if we don't know what he should be portrayed as, or can't accept a decent effort like what first began in the Silver Age.
Of course Wolverine is cooler than Cyclops. But that’s because he’s a child’s idea of a tough-guy adult. Cyclops lives in a screwed-up world largely of his own making, the way an actual adult does. Wolverine’s the badass we want to be; Cyclops is closer to what we actually are, and maybe he’s too close to be truly likable. Wolverine is a loner who’s found the courage to care about a surrogate family, whereas Cyclops is never quite at home. Scott has assumed a string of different roles — student, husband, father, superhero, mutant civil-rights crusader, terrorist, guy fused with Apocalypse inside the body of the Living Monolith — without ever actually finding one that fits him. The only thing he’s ever been good at is leading the X-Men, and if you really start breaking down his record, he hasn’t actually been great at that, either. Whedon once nailed Scott’s struggle as a “struggle against mediocrity,” which is just about the most human motivation I can imagine for a superhero — or a human. I don’t know — maybe you’re the best there is at what you do. But I relate to Cyclops because I live every day with the knowledge that I’m not.
Funny thing is that he doesn't seem to thank the writers who portrayed Scott as a polite type of guy. I honestly think Lee/Kirby's starting portrayal was acceptable enough, and it's a shame how a certain segment in modern times only wants heroes who're portrayed as "badasses", to the point where they'd take over the asylum and only do things their way. But it's still ridiculous to say Wolverine's "cooler" than Cyke, because that risks falling back on the same kind of rivalry mindsets that were mutated by Secret Wars. Besides, it's talent of the assigned writers that makes a character "cool", not the weapons or personality. It's how those are handled by writers that does.

And not everybody truly wants to be Wolverine. Some could feel better if they were like Cyclops.

So there's another example of somebody who almost makes logical arguments about fictional characters, yet only succeeds in dampening them. And, from what he says in the second, his detractors did no better than he. It's almost like some comics stories themselves where the villains manage to get away in the end, until the next time the heroes meet and battle them.

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Friday, July 24, 2015 

The AV Club "confirms" Aquaman's a loser

The AV Club set a poor example by asking some illustrators to draw them a "loser" superhero, and one drew up a picture of Aquaman as a loser to the Sub-Mariner, with the writer of the entry saying:
Sorry, Aquaman. Looks like folks have a thing for Namor The Submariner. And Emma Frost, well... looks like she has her sights set on only one man of the sea. Maybe one day things will change!
Even if this was just a joke, it's still not funny. In fact, no matter how much this was played for laughs, it could have a negative impact on Arthur Curry's reputation as a character, discouraging people from taking a look at Aquaman's past tales since the Golden Age. One of the commenters reacted by telling them:
I really hate the "Aquaman is a joke" as instant "fact" among comic geeks.

Let's review: Super strong, near-invulenerable skin, the "has to be in water at least once an hour" thing was done away with long ago, can swim the ocean depths which means plenty of stamina for a fight and has shown no qualms about killing. He's smart and cunning and oh yes, he has every single land mass on Earth surrounded and is king of a high-tech city. And the "talks to fish" thing isn't that funny when he can have a pack of sharks on you in no time.

Namor is much the same but key difference is Orin doesn't let his ego and arrogance get the better of him so much, he's smart and willing to ask for help if need be. So Namor has Emma Frost? Big deal, Aquaman's wife is a hotter redhead who can control the oceans themselves. Put them head to head and Aquaman is the one who comes out on top.
I think he meant to say Arthur rather than "Orin", but let's let that slide for now. This makes me think of some important points to make, having read several of the Silver Age stories Stan Lee wrote in Tales to Astonish from the mid-60s, like how even Namor can talk to fish (as seen in issue 72, where he communicates mentally), and he's not entirely bulletproof: a small Colt.45 bullet might not affect him (and didn't in issue 84), but a larger one from a Magnum pistol or a machine gun has a better chance of injuring him, and indeed, there were times when Namor suffered injuries during that run (like in issue 79 where the National Guard shot at him, wounding his shoulder). And, when out of water too long, Sub-Mariner's strength could ebb, and only improved when he could get wetter again. So how can anybody make putdowns of Aquaman when Namor had some of the same powers and weaknesses? The answer must be that these people didn't read Namor either, nor do they have a high opinion on Sub-Mariner simply because Namor's never achieved the same high profile status Spider-Man's had.

And what's the big deal about Namor paired up with White Queen in the illustration they posted? We know who she is already: a reformed member of the Hellfire Club who later joined the X-Men as more of an ally. Wake us when a brand new babe is introduced for Namor to be mated with. For now, I'd be a lot happier if these phonies in the mainstream press would stop making jokes about 3rd tiers they probably wouldn't make about Spider-Man. It only takes away from the more vital questions about whether there's any good stories published for Aquaman, and in past decades, I'd say there were. And I've got a sad feeling the AV Club will never do a history retrospective on those famous Silver Age gems with Aquaman, so audiences could see something from olden days far more worth their time than what's been produced in the past 15 years.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015 

Why it's hard to do Superman right in the movies

Business Insider took a look at the narrow view some people, Hollywood citizens included, have for the Man of Steel, and what they fail to understand. Trouble is, even the writer of this article has slipped too:
It's easy to think that making a Superman movie is very hard. Just ask the people making it.

"He's a tough character," Superman actor Henry Cavill told Entertainment Weekly when talking up "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." "People like the darker vigilante." Then he offered a possible reason: "I think it speaks to the human psyche more easily rather than the god-like being that we can't really understand."

That's a load of nonsense.

To be clear, we really shouldn't blame Cavill for saying any of this. He's an actor, and a great one for Superman, with what looked like buckets of charisma utterly hamstrung by the dour script driving "Man of Steel." It's also his job to fully understand and portray the character who is in the script, not the one from the comics.
Just a moment now. What does he mean the "one from the comics"? Is he saying what they make in the movies is valid, but not the one back in the four color pages? Because even in comics, there's a script with a character in it. That part is certainly sloppy and unhelpful.

At least he's right that dark-shaded vigilantes aren't the only thing I'm interested in reading about. Even stories with darker angles can wind up badly written, and if you know where to look, there are duds of a darker nature around. The Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive storyline in Batman from 2002 is a perfect example of a dark tale that wasn't worth the paper it's printed on.
It's a shame, then, that the story he's given simply doesn't show an understanding of Superman. It also totally buys into some of the worst assumptions about the character.

There are two popular explanations for why Superman can't succeed in modern movies: 1. He's too powerful; and 2. He's a not interesting, because he's just a big ol' goodie two-shoes.

People are often skeptical that a Superman movie can be good because stories need conflict, and conflict seems pretty hard to come by when your hero is a person who always does the right thing and can't be hurt. That, however, is a reductive way of looking at the character and the secret to why Superman stories are so great: They're never really about him. They're about us.

This is something "Man of Steel" director Zack Snyder and his team almost get, but they come at it from an angle that totally misses the point of Superman. They treat him as a god among mortals, our greatest fear or our great salvation. The problem with this, though, is that it strips the character of his humanity and makes him downright unapproachable.
They also overlook some of the other weaknesses Superman has back in comicdom, like magical energies, something particularly notable in the Silver Age, and was put to use for many years afterwards too. There have even been giant robots who were menacing enough to Supes. It's not just Kryptonite that weakens him. How that continuously escapes many people is mystifying, but proves they never read any of the past tales where these weaknesses were conceived.
There's a great anecdote that legendary comics writer Grant Morrison — the man responsible for one of the best Superman stories in recent memory, 2005's "All-Star Superman" — tells about Superman in his memoir "Supergods." In the memoir, he mentions the inspiration for his story — he was at a convention, and he saw a handsome man in a Superman costume just sitting down and relaxing on a stoop.

That was Morrison's epiphany: The most powerful man alive wouldn't be tortured but instead would be the friendliest, most relaxed person you ever saw. [...]
Quite likely. That's why it's very regrettable Morrison is one of the most overrated writers around, because even some of the Superman stories he wrote at the time of the New 52 reboot were pretentious, and so too is most of his Supergods book. His dark-laden approach to X-Men is another example of how he's not as creative as he'd like other people to think.
Superman isn't good or special because he's an alien who crashes on Earth and ends up being incredibly powerful. He's special because after all that he becomes someone who always does the right thing because he was raised by a couple of decent people from Kansas. That's it.

He is someone with the power to be the most selfish being in all of existence, and he decides to be selfless because he was raised by a couple of kindly farmers. And the beautiful idea behind him is that we don't need to be bulletproof to be that way — we just have to be decent people.
Bingo. Selflessness and altruism are the name of the game, not superpowers. Unfortunately, after making these good points, the writer harkens back to one of the worst of the recent politicizations in DC's output, which he'd reviewed himself:
This is something that has been coming up again and again as I've read through some recent Superman comics lately, particularly Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's stellar run on "Action Comics." The current story has Superman with almost none of his signature powers taking on police brutality, but just before that Pak and Kuder were working with a more classic Superman, complete with cape and powers. In those stories they kept coming back to this basic, beautifully simple idea: Superman doesn't try to beat his foes; he tries to understand them. Even when it doesn't make sense to those around him.
It doesn't make sense why he thinks a story built off of propaganda makes a good example for citation. And there's something fishy about trying to understand his foes without beating them. Is there something too simple/hard about writing a story where Superman actually fights criminals who either do or don't have superpowers, and does his best to emerge victorious? There were stories like those in the past, where, if he ran into people he knew were crooked, he'd work to bring about their downfall without hesitation. IMO, what should really be a focus here is Superman's interactions with co-stars and guests, and how he can help them if they need it, ditto his love affairs with women like Lois Lane. Isn't that what "us" alludes to? As for villains, what should be challenging about them is what kind of weapons they wield, physical, technological and psychological. And they don't all have to wear costumes or masks. Lex Luthor, as one of the earliest and most classic foes, didn't wear the latter, if at all.
To make a good Superman story, you have to embrace a few unpopular notions about what makes good superhero stories: Dark doesn't always mean better or more complex; fighting for good because it's the right thing to do is a compelling enough reason; and heroes' powers aren't their most important aspect (but certainly don't be afraid to show them off).
Yes, that's true. For every good story with a dark angle, there's also a bad one. The Daredevil movie from 2003 was dark, but it was largely unsuccessful (and so was the Elektra movie that followed later).
Unfortunately, that's not where moviemakers have been headed so far. And with the next installment, "Batman v Superman," it looks once again as if we won't get close.
Also because of the politics they've injected into the screenplay. It's a pity the writer doesn't understand why the political slant Pak used in his recent Superman story is just not good either, and insults law enforcement officials in the process. If that's what Pak and company are going to use the Man of Steel for, then they aren't doing Superman right in the comics any more than David Goyer and company are in the latest movies.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015 

The Jewish influences in Superman

A writer for the Jewish Press talks about the Jewish influences that Siegel and Shuster appear to have had in creating the Man of Steel.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015 

Vulture on Archie's modern irrelevance

NY's Vulture section recently interviewed Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples fawned over Archie's drastic changes that haven't helped it by a longshot:
The resurgence of Archie Comics has been one of the most fascinating, unexpected developments in recent comics-industry history. As of just a few years ago, the company was an afterthought in the publishing world, cranking out cartoony, barely noticed tales about Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and the rest. But after a change in management in 2009, Archie Comics began crafting inventive new gimmicks for these 60-year-old archetypes. There was Afterlife With Archie, in which Archie becomes a zombie hunter; there was Archie vs. Predator, in which the Riverdale gang goes up against the alien menace from the Predator movies; and now the company is embarking on its riskiest gambit yet: a gimmick-free, straight-faced reboot of the Archie universe.

Starting with this week’s Archie No. 1, readers will get to see a brand-new take on Riverdale, in which all the classic characters are modern-day teenagers. Realistic comedy is the order of the day: All the characters look like normal humans, rather than the wacky caricatures they’d been in previous decades of Archie storytelling; their adventures are told with naturalistic dialogue, not stilted zingers. Making these characters relevant again (and doing so without coming across as pandering) is a challenge, but Archie Comics has enlisted two industry heavyweights to guide the effort.
What if it turns out this isn't? They've just given signs why this is actually a yawn-inducer: "realistic". They think today's youngsters only care about realism, and make the cartoonish character designs of the past out to be dinosaurs. This is exactly what's wrong with modern thinking - we have a certain segment out there that can't appreciate escapism as it was created. And what if it turns out they're still depicting the Kevin Keller character as gay, and acting like it's perfectly normal? Some realism that'll be, then. The only relevance this would have in that case is to Waid and Staples' politics.

They also don't consider that the company's been an afterthought for the same reason mainstream superhero comics became one: the soaring prices, dismal sales, forced political tales and failure to take up better marketing strategies. That's why there's no real resurgence, and rather than fascinating, their recent steps have been galling. And since when weren't the Archie characters modern-day? This is all a lot of hype and spin, another thing wrong with mainstream comics coverage. Waid answers the first query with:
What would you say to sell someone on an Archie story in 2015?
Mark Waid: That funny is timeless.
Only if it's written well. It's not like their past output hasn't had its share of misfired jokes. Somebody ought to tell Waid his viewpoints aren't timeless.
Mark, you’ve rebooted a number of titles during your career. How does crafting a reboot of Archie differ?
MW: There's less continuity to contend with, frankly. That's not to say there's not consistency in the Archie universe, but Archie's not built like Spider-Man and Superman — no one's going to rake me over the coals for accidentally contradicting some story told in 1967.​
Of course not. What we are going to take him to task for is any injection of politicized standings we find off-putting, and potentially unsuited for children.
What have you thought of Archie Comics' recent experiments, like the dual-timeline Archie tales and the Archie-as-zombie-fighter adventures of Afterlife With Archie?
MW: They're great. In fact, Afterlife With Archie is one of my favorite comics right now, as is Archie vs. Predator, a sequel to the oft-forgotten judicial review case Marbury v. Archie. All of them, as wild as they can get, keep the heart of Archie Andrews exactly where it needs to be — an extra-special accomplishment when you're fighting the Predator.
I don't see how the heart can be kept intact in stories where the tone is so dark, and not for children.
What's most liberating about doing an Archie story?
MW: ​That the characters are built with such elasticity that we can go from a broad slapstick ​moment of comedy to a heart-wrenching beat of romantic angst within the turn of a page.​
FS: Even though I'm terrified of doing a disservice to these characters, there is a kind of reckless glee in doing something brand-new with them. I'm very grateful for the chance to tell a different kind of story with the gang!
The publisher's already done a disservice to their product with the politics they've forced in over the past few years, and I don't see that changing with these two at the helm. Did they ever think that by toning down the cartoonish design, they're actually reducing the elasticity? There was nothing seriously wrong with their products up until the turn of the decade. And if they keep it up, as looks to be the case, then they've only sunk it further.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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