Thursday, November 14, 2019 

Digital art has pluses, but doesn't always prove effective as some might think

The New York Times ran an article about computer technology all but replacing the old brush and inks, and changing the meaning of lettering and coloring. Artist Yanick Paquette told them:
In Mr. Paquette’s view, readers are wary of digital art; their minds may look for tricks or shortcuts. “When something is too perfect, too crisp, you lose the human sensibility,” he said. To draw an army of Stormtroopers, he could draw one and digitally create a battalion, but he does not. “If I spend all my time drawing all the Stormtroopers, they are humanized and your relationship to the art is different.”
Personally, I don't mind digital artwork, but I understand there are those who don't find it appealing. So long as the most computerized-looking art doesn't take up the bulk of what's produced, and isn't forced upon the mainstream in the mandatory way Marvel earned notoriety for in the early 2000s, I think it's possible to ensure entertaining storytelling with it.

This article also, most unfortunately, just had to make use of statements by Chris Eliopoulos, a letterer who's been working with a certain writer chosen by celebrity status to pen a most disgusting 2004 comic book:
At his peak, Mr. Eliopoulos was hand-lettering 30 comics, each averaging 22 pages, per month. But working digitally is faster and more lucrative, he said. A penciler could make $100 per page, but typically finish only one per day. A letterer could earn less per page, but produce several and make more than an artist.

For the popular “I Am …” series of graphic novel biographies of historical figures, which he illustrates and which are written by Brad Meltzer, and for his own projects, like a forthcoming children’s book, “The Yawns Are Coming,” Mr. Eliopoulos uses a hybrid of freehand digital lettering, eschewing his library of fonts. “It takes more time, but I think anyone you talk to will say, if we could, we’d stick to hand lettering because it’s organic and it’s art.”
Whenever I see the name of the "novelist" who penned a certain repllent DC miniseries that wouldn't go over well in the post-Harvey Weinstein era, it really fills me with distaste. It's bad enough Paquette's worked with Grant Morrison, since he's put out some items in poor taste too, but that Eliopoulos is working with a writer who made light of sexual assault in said miniseries is honestly disturbing. It's certainly irritating the paper just had to mention him. I'm sure there's dozens of other letterers who could've contributed to the article far better than than Eliopoulos does, yet for some reason, they chose him, and naturally, no queries ever raised about Meltzer's abomination. IMO, it takes away from the more positive impact this article could've had.

I think digital tech can have its good advantages for comicdom, so long as the art isn't overly digitized. But papers like the NYT decidedly aren't the best place to bring up the topic. Certainly not if they're going to make sugarcoated, superficial references to writers who don't deserve the mention.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 

Washington Post says Disney's bound to ruin Marvel, but then suggests a double-standard

The Washington Post theoretically made the points detractors have made about Disney serving as an example of corporations destroying what they get their mitts on, yet at the same time give strong hints of double-standards at work:
But while Disney executives appear convinced that Marvel’s star will make Disney+ the center of gravity in the vast and dangerous streaming universe, the consolidation of Marvel’s canon on Disney+ presents a fresh opportunity to reflect on the company’s domination of mainstream American culture — and all that comes with it. Marvel’s radical storytelling made the company a fixture of the comic book ecosystem, but the growing stakes present fresh problems. Corporations are notoriously obsessed with unrestrained growth, and their politics (and many compromises) have come to usurp the political efforts of the source material itself. Burning bright with commercial and mainstream success, those pressures threaten to strip Marvel of its radical roots — and to destroy everything that made the weird, wonderful property so valuable in the first place.

Indeed, there’s a growing anxiety over the hegemony of the Marvel Universe, captured in Martin Scorsese’s recent critique of Marvel’s place in the American cinematic cosmos. While Scorsese’s main target is corporatized entertainment — “market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption” — the subtext of his complaint is that Marvel lacks the daring to produce an impactful cultural product. [...]
My, there's something fishy in their allusion to political efforts. I don't deny politics were alluded to in the older material, but it was never in such a blatant way as modern ones have come to do. Here's where things become really troubling, and reveal the hypocrisy of the writer's arguments:
But now that Marvel is a central pillar of American culture, Feige and his corporate paymasters are not immune to the politics that shape cultural products such as TV and movies. Sure, readers have complained about changes to their beloved characters for years — establishing African American Sam Wilson as Captain America or Jane Foster as a female Thor, for example — but Marvel enterprise has faced growing criticism for this apparent corporate spinelessness in recent months after the comics publisher pulled a pair of essays from upcoming collections. One, by “Maus” author Art Spiegelman, referred to President Trump as the “Orange Skull” — a reference to Captain America’s Nazi foe, Red Skull. The other, by longtime Marvel scribe Mark Waid, criticized the current state of American civil society as “deeply flawed.” Both removals, in the eyes of devoted Marvel readers, represented acts of political cowardice. There’s also Feige’s feeble response to Scorsese’s criticism: that “Captain America: Civil War” was a powerful piece of cinema because it included a “very serious theological and physical altercation” — not, despite the movie’s focus on a piece of legislation, a political debate.
I beg your pardon? Who says most people have a serious issue with Marvel avoiding the kind of politically charged leftist items Spiegelman and Waid came up with? Or, isn't it funny how the reporter's making it sound like left-liberals are the only devoted ones who found the diversity-pandering tasteless? Besides, Feige and his filmmakers are already preparing their movie and TV slate for the very politics the WP's advocating, and they're not in charge of the comics per se.

IMO, the essays themselves were cowardice. And if the WP thinks leftist essays are valid, then rightist essays must be considered the same. Yet in all their own leftism, they have no interest in pondering that.

With that kind of double-talk and obsession with politics, it's no wonder this pathetic article holds no weight. It's just more tedious attempts to blur out what went wrong with Marvel in any capacity or division, while failing to admit the obsession with far-left agendas is exactly what brought down the publisher. What made Marvel special was the entertainment value and story merit, not the politics.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 

4 recent interviews with Bill Sienkiewicz

Artist Bill Sienkiewicz, who, let's remember, is quite a boilerplate leftist, was interviewed by Forbes about his career, and a trilogy of new books he's publishing. Their beginning paragraph says:
For four decades, Bill Sienkiewicz has been a trend-setting artist and storyteller whose distinctive style smuggled avant garde notions of design, expressionism and fine art sensibility into the pages of comics like New Mutants, Moon Knight, Elektra: Assassin, and graphic novels like Stray Toasters and Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix, permanently expanding the visual vocabulary of American comics. Mainstream media audiences probably know his work best from the FX series Legion (featuring a character he co-created with Chris Claremont in the pages of Marvel’s New Mutants) and for his alarming interpretation of the Daredevil/Spider-Man villain Kingpin, seen in its full, terrifying glory in the recent animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feature film. Those who follow him on social media also know his work doing beautiful memorial portraits of recently-departed celebrities and people of note.
We also know he's been quite political at times, and takes a rose-colored view of awful leftists like Jimmy Carter, and until some time ago, was hostile to the Comicsgate campaign in a way not all that different from a 9-11 Truther - believed it was inherently evil because he wanted to. Sienkiewicz's leftism takes away from the better impact of his work whenever he veers into politics.
ROB SALKOWITZ: So you’ve got the new art book out… what can you tell us about it?

BILL SIENKIEWICZ: I’ve been approached over the years to do art books but kept holding off. A retrospective seemed daunting, like something you do when you’ve been around for a while. People wanted me to do a comic art book for a while, but I work in a lot of different arenas – I do stuff for TV, animation, music, and so on – so I wanted a comprehensive book. When Six Foot Press approached me, I felt like I was dealing with people who understand comics and art: they’ve done stuff for MOMA and other institutions, and weren’t looking just for superheroes and punching and stuff.

I mean, there’s a lot of comic art in the book as well. Having grown up loving comics but always hearing about how they’re just for kids, I’ve set my career toward changing people’s mind about that. I wanted the books to reflect that combination of comics, illustration and fine art.
I don't think he'll change many minds if they realize comics have been exploited for the worst liberal propaganda over the past 2 decades or so, and he did nothing on his part to tone down the rhetoric.
RS: What’s the through line or big story about your journey as an artist that you want people to come away with from the books?

BS: The through line for me… it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about, especially over the last couple of weeks. People have been running down comics – and now comic-based movies – as something juvenile and basically unserious. I’ve always loved the medium, but I could see that comics as an art form were getting the short end of the stick in every way. As an artist in school, if you drew comics, it limited your possibilities – and certainly your dating options! Maybe kids thought superheroes were cool. But getting anyone over a certain age to appreciate comics as art was a struggle.

For me, I filtered that through my own artistic influences – abstract expressionism, jazz, classical illustration, European and Japanese comics too. I wanted to do work that tells the story and could be respected as art. But I worked up to it. If I had gone into comics with the abstract style first, they wouldn’t have hired me. I “Trojan Horsed” my way in with a traditional style.

I hope people will look at what I’ve done as making a contribution to something bigger. If it’s created something of interest and advanced the medium, the perception into something new, that’s the goal. It puts my work in a context in terms of comics and culture.
Hey, I don't deny he has made some significant contributions ever since his debut at age 19 in the late 1970s (these days, if I'm correct, you have to be at least 21 to get the jobs his peers like Marv Wolfman and Gerry Conway got when they were in their mid-teens), but again, if and when he's ever sunk into political rhetoric and run the gauntlet of attacking people who could be his own fans, that's where he veers into dismay.
RS: The subject of the artistic merit of comic-based movies and TV seems to be big right now. How does that tie in to what you’re saying about the medium?

BS: For me, hearing Scorsese come out and say that stuff, it felt weird. My whole goal as a kid was to get people to respect the medium as much as I did. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for a long time. Hearing the art form denigrated my entire life, I want comics treated as literature, as journalism, as art – and as cinema. I’m not just talking about superhero movies.

With Scorsese and Coppola, I respect their work and opinion. It’s influenced me. Another example… early on in my career, after I started changing my style, I was under the impression that Art Spiegelman [Maus], who I know, we’d talk comics and art – I heard through other people that he “despised my work” and thought it “wasn’t comics.” It was illustration or whatever. That always stuck with me, because that’s the last thing I wanted to be. I thought comics could do anything, and I was disappointed that Art was taking it on himself to define what “comics” were. I later found out that wasn’t exactly what he said.

But the point is, it just feels like, you know, no matter who you are, you don’t get to decide what is or isn’t the art form. It’s not for me to say, even if I don’t like a style, to say that’s not comics, or that’s not cinema. It just feels presumptuous. It’s always been a big tent. Comics can do anything. Film can do anything. When you start judging, maybe it’s fear. It’s awareness of mortality.

Stuff is always changing. It’s about the inclusiveness. It fits in somewhere in the continuity. My work is built on guys who came before me. And if my work has influenced other people – and I’m aware it has – they’ll influence the next generation. Scorsese is still pushing those boundaries.

Honestly, my biggest complaint about the Marvel movies is that they replaced that part at the very beginning, where they used to show comic book pages drawn by Jack Kirby and the old artists, with clips from the movies. Forgetting the source material is worse than anything they’ve done with the movies as movies.
Now here's someplace where he's making a certain amount of sense. Marvel threw Kirby - and Joe Simon - under the bus at the turn of the century after they started forcing their co-creation, Captain America, into tales rife with Chomskyism like the Marvel Knights labeled run, which subsequently was discarded, yet hard-left turns still prevailed in what followed, as Ta-Nehisi Coates' run demonstrates. If the Marvel movies don't contain any direct nods to famous artists and writers in their credits or elsewhere, if at all, that's certainly not doing much to prove the filmmakers truly respect the medium. I gotta admit though, it's pretty surprising to learn Spiegelman, who's very left-leaning himself, may not have been impressed with Sienkiewicz's work. Maybe his political upbringing had something to do with that?

There was even a recent interview at Comics Beat, where Sienkiewicz said at the end:
Maveal: With all of the things that you have — and continue to — try with your work in mind, what do you have to say about being considered one of the first artists to bring in a distinct fine art influence into the comics world?

Sienkiewicz: Comics are art. There is no difference to me. So in that sense I just feel like I’m another one in line of the tradition of people who have done fine art. I may have brought in some things that art more associated with the traditional sense of fine art, but that’s only because I know the medium can handle it. That’s why I love seeing all of the young talent coming up. They’re defining the terms of what comics and art means now. It’s expanding the language and the medium and I absolutely love that. Anything you throw at comics, it can handle it.
Well if he believes it's art, he should avoid fighting with anybody taking a position he doesn't agree with, like Comicsgate supporters; not that he actually has for a while already, after what happened to Billy Tucci. If he believes the medium can handle it, maybe he should consider it's capability of handling right-wing values too. Or is that too much?

Sienkiewicz was also interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter, whose interviewer said something odd:
Comics is also a more immediate art form, in a way; it's a populist medium, obviously, but the speed of production. You can create work and it immediately gets to an audience. There’s something to that. I’m curious — how did you choose the work represented in this first volume?

A lot of that was Six Foot, and Ben Davis, who did the essay. I kind of left that up to them and my art rep, Sal [Abbinati, who edited Revolution]. There were certain things that I want, and those things might go in the second or third book, but what I think they trying to do, because of the work that they’ve chosen, is present the work in a way that best exemplified their point of view. In that respect, I deferred to them.
If only it were "populist", but if that's supposed to serve as a positive description that makes you think, the sad reality of comicdom now is how it all but serves as a platform for leftist agendas and other insanity, which is hardly what I'd call populist, or obvious.
Is there still a dream project? Is there still a sense of "this is the thing I still need to do"?

There is sort of a nebulous dream project. I’m thinking that, because I’ve worked in so many different styles, I’m almost thinking it might be the time to not necessarily move away from doing stuff for DC or Marvel or corporate gigs, but to dive into what Frank [Miller] did with Sin City, where he took himself back to what he was into as a teenager. I love the idea of doing a three-pager that’s just silly, then a dozen pages that are painted and have a deep, operatic, Wagnerian aspect to them, and then another thing that’s a pop song. Somethings that are narrative, and some things that are not. It’s like waking up in the morning and drawing something and asking, "Is it a horse, is it a cat, is it a cow?" No, it’s blue. It’s like that. It’s jazz.
I think it would be the time to move away from mainstream, so long as you have rotten apples like Quesada/DiDio continuing to run the store. Besides, corporatism, I am now convinced, has brought down the quality of industry and merit considerably.

The LA-ist website also interviewed him, and he said:
Sienkiewicz feels like superhero movies are going through the same growth process that comics did, with critics refusing to accept them as legitimate art.

"Comics are actually quite accepted [now]. Even though they're usually referred to as 'the source material,'" Sienkiewicz said. "All of the s—-, and the heat that we got, and the dismissive stuff that comics got when I was growing up — it's all on the films."

He said that he understands where Martin Scorsese is coming from in his critiques of superhero movies, but that he isn't seeing all that those movies — or that comics — can be.
I do think comics are art (at least as long as the products in question don't go overboard with poltiical rhetoric)...but I don't think the films are. Certainly not if they're exploited for the sake of leftist propaganda, as Kevin Feige's signaled will be the case going forward. And alas, if the difference between sales of comics and movies says anything, it's that the film adaptations are accepted, but not the source material, because in contrast to movies, they sell only several thousand copies apiece, and goodness knows how many are gathering dust on shelves and in storages, because they could be non-returnable, by far one of the biggest mistakes the industry made in comparison to other mediums.
Sienkiewicz hopes that the new series of art books helps indoctrinate people into his art, introducing them to something different.
Well good luck with that. But if he goes overboard with leftism in any of his future projects, and makes the mistake of commenting on issues like Comicsgate by demonizing the supporters - which could easily include moviegoers who saw the very items Scorsese's got problems with - then Sienkiewicz won't be proving it's a welcome - or different - environment at all.

I wish it could be said Sienkiewicz is doing the industry a favor, but I suspect, in the end, far less than he's allegedly hoping for will be encouraged to try. If anything, it's a real shame he's been so blatantly political these past years, which does carry the risk of alienating customers.

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Monday, November 11, 2019 

I really don't mind if Martin Scorsese doesn't think highly of Marvel movies, or any comic movies

Veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese recently got on the nerves of the politically correct by comparing them to theme parks and not considering them serious art:
Martin Scorsese calls Marvel movies “theme park rides,” Francis Ford Coppola labels them “despicable,” Ken Loach compares them to “hamburgers.”

Over the past few weeks, Marvel has taken a legitimate beating from some cinematic legends, and this is happening during a vulnerable time for a hit factory moving past the Avengers and into a more openly political and woke phase.

Oscar-winner Scorsese went first, saying of Marvel and comic book movies in general, “Theaters have become amusement parks. That is all fine and good but don’t invade everything else in that sense,” he said. “That is fine and good for those who enjoy that type of film and, by the way, knowing what goes into them now, I admire what they do. It’s not my kind of thing, it simply is not. It’s creating another kind of audience that thinks cinema is that.”

Oscar-winner Francis Ford Coppola said, “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again.”

Ken Loach sums it up this way, “They’re made as commodities like hamburgers, and it’s not about communicating, and it’s not about sharing our imagination,” he said. “It’s about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation – they’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise, and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema.”
And it's been the case for more than a decade already. It's been nearly that much time, and when Thor was first adapted, it was one of the earliest examples of Marvel race-swapping characters, with Heimdall one of the first characters to undergo this political correctness. And the films did become monotonous years ago too. Now it's bound to become worse, as social justice pandering looks to become more blatant, with the Captain Marvel movie a recent example.

Disney CEO Bob Iger didn't make things any better after he snuck in a race card:
While speaking to the Wall Street Journal in California on Tuesday, Iger (Disney owns Marvel) responded by name-checking Scorsese and Coppola and thumping them over the head with the ole’ race card:

I’m puzzled by it. If they want to bitch about movies, it’s certainly their right… It seems so disrespectful to all the people that work on those [Marvel] films who are working just as hard as the people who work on their films. … Are you telling me Ryan Coogler making ‘Black Panther’ is somehow doing something that is less than what Marty Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola has ever done on any one of their movies?
Oh, now that was uncalled for. If Iger was smart, he wouldn't have said anything, and come to think of it, he wouldn't have been profane. He really gives profiteers a badder name than they already have.

Scorsese later defended his positions in a New York Times op-ed (also via Breitbart):
For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves. [...]

Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.

They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.
Maybe the biggest problem about the Marvel movies is that they don't have re-watch value, and they lack romance, in what must be their laughable idea of "family-friendly" marketing. I honestly don't see much point in their being anymore, other than to make quick bucks over something that won't be solid memory in the future. The worst part, though, is that even the independent cinema Scorsese may wish were given more recognition has become awfully preachy too in the past decade, which doesn't bode well for what Scorsese may advocate either.

Now, if it matters, the head honcho of Marvel's film division, Kevin Feige, gave his take on the controversy to the Hollywood Reporter, but I don't find his defense very impressive:
"I think that's not true. I think it's unfortunate," Feige says when asked about the notion that superhero movies are a negative for cinema. "I think myself and everyone who works on these movies loves cinema, loves movies, loves going to the movies, loves to watch a communal experience in a movie theater full of people." [...]

But Feige has long maintained that Marvel Studios seeks to make different types of films, and over the years has touted 2015's Ant-Man as a heist film and 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a political thriller. In response to Scorsese, Feige brings up more recent examples of the risks the studio has taken, noting that Marvel hasn't made an Iron Man film since 2013 and instead pitted Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark against Chris Evans' Captain America in 2016's Captain America: Civil War.

"We did Civil War. We had our two most popular characters get into a very serious theological and physical altercation," Feige says. "We killed half of our characters at the end of a movie [Avengers: Infinity War]. I think it's fun for us to take our success and use it to take risks and go in different places."
If there's any "risk" not worth taking, it's killing off characters. Certainly if they're heroes. So if that's something Scorsese was complaining about - a lack of characters being terminated for the sake of it - I have to disagree, if only because of how abominable it became in comics proper, recalling my past knowledge of what both DC and Marvel did with both superheroes and co-stars. To me, "risks" has to be the courage to focus on meaty subjects like fighting modern day terrorism, or at least developing metaphors for it. But Hollywood being what it is today has failed even that much.

Oh, and I don't see what's so great about adapting the dismaying 2006 crossover Civil War either. And to make matters worse, as the article says:
Feige is currently developing shows based around Ms. Marvel — the studio's first Muslim hero — as well as She-Hulk and Moon Knight. All three will appear on the big screen after their Disney+ debuts, the exec confirms.
Islamic propaganda is something that, if you know where to look, you'll see Hollywood's been doing for quite a while to boot. Quite the opposite of what could've been done post-9/11. What an embarrassment.

In the end, what matters is that showbusiness is on the decline, and sooner or later, the entertainment industry's bound to collapse altogether, so long as they cling bitterly to their ultra-leftist positions. I honestly don't care if Scorsese or Coppola feel this way, because junk-food cinema isn't everything, and not all of it's written to make you think in a good way. So, while there are some disagreements I may have with these filmmakers over what the mistakes are in a comics movie, I'd say that they otherwise raised good points, and this shouldn't be the only thing clogging up the movie theaters every week. Still, for all we know, the future grosses of the Marvel movies may decline, as people come to realize how bad the reliance on PC becomes.

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Saturday, November 09, 2019 

2 tiresome tweets by Ron Marz

It's not often enough lately I've paid attention to what leftist writers like Marz are saying, so here's two more items he posted of recent. For example:

Wow, even after a year or so, Marz is one leftist comics industry contributor who's still making a big deal out of a mere graphic novelist, and gushing over the leftist attorney representing Waid in Meyer's lawsuit. According to this Breitbart article about Zaid, he's also representing the anti-Trump movement:
Mark S. Zaid, the attorney representing the so-called “whistleblower” in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, tweeted in 2017 that the “coup has started,” adding that “impeachment will follow ultimately.” [...]

Fox News reported Zaid’s tweet Wednesday, which drew attention to his long, extreme anti-Trump Twitter history.
And this is apparently why Marz now considers Zaid some kind of "hero" and "savior", right? How sad. Marz also wrote:

Looks like he sought another opportunity to attack Trump, however subtle this is by comparison. How dreary this is by now too. Marz keeps on being Marz, and a Trump-basher to boot.

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Friday, November 08, 2019 

Foreign Policy thinks comics could save international relations, but it's doubtful

Foreign Policy published an argument by 2 Cambridge academics who believe comics can become the savior of international connections:
In new research at the Cambridge University’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy and Oxford University’s Institute for New Economic Thinking, we are experimenting with a communications medium capable of blending both narrative and visuals: comics.

Defined as “sequential art,” comics generally communicate content through a series of images bound together in a linear narrative. Although there is some cultural variation in style and substance across countries, this familiar, accessible medium holds wide appeal and can convey the most nuanced or serious information to audiences everywhere.

Perhaps that is why comics are commonplace in classrooms and newspapers, and have also found application in health care, in science communication, and in helping people digest insights from data. Yet they’ve rarely been deployed in public policy discussions.
As it so happens, they have been, if you consider the 19th century French cartoonists who used their illustrations to comment on political affairs of the day (Honoré Daumier was one example), so this is a bit of an exaggeration. And the reason I doubt comics would avail in policy discussions is because the UN rejected Wonder Woman a few years ago as a mascot figure for one of their projects. If that kind of pettiness prevails in policy conferences, comics and cartoons won't prove very influential, not even at universities, many of which already adhere to this kind of embarrassing leftism. On which note, the writers say at the end:
Still, time spent devising comics—or working on other forms of public engagement—counts for little in academic tenure or promotion decisions. That should change; it’s hard to reap the benefits of the billions of dollars spent on research if academics cannot convey why what they do matters.

Comics are one medium that can help bridge this divide.
If leftist social justice mentality dictates what makes for suitable material at universities and in politics, no, they can't. So billions of dollars are wasted anyway, but no surprise leftist academics can't figure out their communist approach is why their recommendations won't succeed. And no surprise if Foreign Policy won't acknowledge it either.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2019 

A Forward columnist goes soft on Bendis

A writer for The Forward recently addressed Brian Bendis' upcoming unmasking direction for Superman, in a query whether the Big Blue Boy Scout will still be Jewish without his secret ID:
But as with any great institution, disruptions are inevitable. Two developments in comics, one confirmed and one rumored, are now challenging foundational elements of long-established canon. Both of these moves strike at the Jewish ethos endemic to the form. That’s not a bad thing, though. In fact, these changes mark yet another triumph for the art as its stories attain the status of modern myths.

First, for the confirmed report. On December 11, Superman will reveal his secret identity, Clark Kent, to the world in Issue 18 of the new “Superman” run by Brian Michael Bendis. This is the first time in his over 80 year history that the Last Son of Krypton will go public with his alter ego. The development will send shockwaves through the DC universe, as Bendis insisted, in an interview with The New York Times, that the self-outing will not be a “fake-out,” like so many short-lived comic gimmicks.
It's clear this writer isn't an expert on comicdom, and didn't even read the NYT article properly, or he'd know Clark Kent's secret became public 4 years ago via Lois Lane, and while I haven't read every Superman story out there, I'm sure there's at least one from the pre-Crisis era where Superman's secret was exposed, even if it didn't become the norm. I know the Silver Age Hawkman's secret ID was revealed in the mid-60s, but that was considered slapdash and quickly ignored.
For a bullet-proof man, keeping both identities separate is largely a means of protecting the more vulnerable people in Kent’s non-superpowered life. But on a deeper level, Kal-El is really defending himself from the fear of being labeled an outsider.

Of course, the culture of 1938, the year Superman was first seen heaving a car on the cover of Action Comics Number 1, is different from the world of 2019. Actors now appear under their given, Jewish-sounding names. Jews, while still a minority and still at risk, are more open about their faith and now boast decent numbers in states and towns that resemble Smallville more than Metropolis.

So, perhaps the question in Superman’s mind, as presented by Bendis, is the right one: “Who was he lying to protect?”

In a world where being openly Jewish is less fraught — or at least more protected — does Superman’s parallel of a private cultural life and public-facing professional one apply to Jews today?

Definitely. It is hard to imagine a time in America — or any country other than Israel — where Jews won’t have to face the dissonance of presentation that Superman so clearly signifies. And beyond the Jews, his predicament speaks to other minorities, to immigrants — to anyone, in fact, who feels the need to hide some of themselves away.

It’s precisely because this dynamic has spoken to so many that Bendis’s plans for Superman are an urgent and welcome evolution. Rather than losing something in the central dualism of Superman, we will gain stories of acceptance, pride, truth and the pitfalls of coming out to the world. No more longer will Superman be a closeted Kryptonian, but, in Bendis’s words, “the best version of himself.”
Let's see if I have this right. It's so much more important Superman reflect a metaphor of whether Jews should be open about their background than whether the Man of Steel's hiding his ID as Clark Kent to avoid all the attention supervillains and organized syndicates armed with high-tech weapons would give him regardless of ethnical/cultural background, that Superman must unmask entirely for the sake of a horrid writer's dreadful visions for what entertainment should be like? Please. I won't say it couldn't work, and it certainly did in the Flash during the 90s. But even if we don't get heaped with tales of Supes and Lois Lane being targeted by so many villains they have to live in the Fortress of Solitude, we're still bound to get some awfully pretentious tales laced with Bendis' contempt for the audience, to say nothing of leftist social justice pandering, which he seems to have taken up lately.

And as for Superman lying to protect anybody, it would be more his ability to roam freely and operate as a journalist in his Clark Kent ID, without worrying he'll be set upon by crooks who could be wielding Kryptonite and/or sorcery-based weapons, recalling there have been times when Supes was ideally depicted as vulnerable to magical energies. In years past, the reason he didn't reveal his secret to Lois was in order to protect her from being targeted by the same villains who'd target him in their cowardly efforts to strike at the Man of Steel in revenge for the justice he meted out, with not the least of the bunch being Lex Luthor. Why, IIRC, Kitty Pryde often kept her identity as a mutant secret for many years for similar reasons, so it's not like Superman's the only one whose background is either Jewish or a metaphor maintaining a secret ID to avoid the wrath of criminals driving them into living in an isolated camp.

I don't think it's a good idea to start drawing metaphors like this for real life, and certainly not when Bendis already proved he's a bad lot. And it's not the only one - the writer also addresses what may be a rumor at this point commented upon by a Times of Israel contributor: Magneto being race-swapped to black in an upcoming X-Men film:
The second major shakeup in comics with large Jewish implications is still hearsay, but is already stirring up strong feelings. Recently, there have been whispers that X-Men villain Magneto, a Holocaust survivor whose persecution informed his views on mutant separatism, might be recast as a black man in upcoming films.

The Times of Israel ran an op-ed by Thomas Brown wondering “ Would a race change for Marvel’s Jewish Magneto be anti-Semitic?” His conclusion was, essentially, “No, but…”

Brown writes of Magneto: “His identity as a survivor of the greatest genocide in modern history became inseparable from his identity as a Mutant and informed his violent crusade against the persecution of Mutants.”

(Of course, Magneto could also be black and harbor similar feelings, and many believe that the character, whose Jewish roots were a later development - as admitted Brown admits - was modeled off of Malcolm X.)

After suggesting that Magneto might be a Jewish and black or a survivor of a more recent genocide somewhere else in the world, Brown argues that the casting of a non-Jewish Magneto, while well-meaning and something he’d welcome, sends the wrong message in regard to representation.
There's just one little thing: in the comics, it was indicated - at least during the 80s or 90s - that Erik Lensherr was of Romani descent, and his 2 children, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, certainly are. It actually is mentioned in the op-ed, although Brown describes it as a "revelation", even though Magneto's a fictional character. And if Erik was established as Roma a few decades ago, then the casting of a non-Jewish character in itself is a moot point. I'd argue it's just whether Erik is race-swapped to a non-white that we should consider it ludicrous, both in comics and films.
Given that plans for Magneto’s casting have not been verified, any motives that might be ascribed to Marvel Studios are speculative. Accordingly, Brown’s thesis falls at times into straw man territory, but it does give us something to consider: To what extent can Jews still claim these characters and stories as proprietary?
Say, here's a good query that leads to a vital point: the comics creations originally developed by Jews in the Golden/Silver Ages have since been hijacked by people who, no matter what their background, have no respect for their classic creators. Captain America's surely a leading example in this regard, what with the way Kirby/Simon's GA creation was exploited for the most rabid leftist platforms since the turn of the century.
It should, instead, come as a source of tremendous pride that less than a century into the form’s creation, superhero comics have become a part of a global mythology. They are a format to be re-imagined, reworked and re-calibrated to a moment in time, probed for new truths and challenged on their essential premises. What could be more Jewish than that kind of Talmudic rethinking?

The urge to change the understanding of Jewish comic canon is not a threat. Rather, it’s a sign that we have made ourselves understood.
Sigh. No, we haven't, and I don't think this should be compared to Talmudic thinking either. If the guy were smart he'd notice and acknowledge that today's superhero comics have been hijacked for leftist causes, with Marvel's Secret Empire crossover representing the worst of the more recent iterations. I'm guessing he doesn't respect "Truth, Justice and the American Way" as a slogan in Superman either, which could suggest why he thinks a "global mythology" is acceptable, even if it means draining much of what makes the creations work in the first place, such as core values. This is a leading reason why Captain America may never recover. "Globalism" isn't just an ambiguous concept, it's one of the reasons why sane societies collapse, as they did due to "multiculturalism", which made no distinction between what constitutes a sane belief system and ideology and what makes for barbarism, as does the Islamic religion.

I don't like how the Forward reporter who wrote this item is apparently using the argument of Jewish metaphors to justify what Bendis does in his writing, mainly because it's not story merit-based. If it wouldn't be a good idea for other segments of society to do that, then even in mine, it obviously isn't either, and it doesn't guarantee solid storytelling. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if the Forward reporter doesn't even bother to review Bendis' stories a year or so from now to see how well it all turns out artistically. Even though, as Bendis has proven in the past, his scripting is perfectly dreadful.

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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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