Monday, January 18, 2021 

Another look inside the mind of writer Andy Schmidt

Here's an interview Multiversity Comics conducted a few weeks ago with Andy Schmidt about the new take on the Earth-3 Crime Syndicate he's writing for DC, which decidedly tells quite a bit more about what he - and the interviewer - must think of Superman:
I love the way the press release states the various team members: A paranoid titan, a narcissist, a nihilist, a broken moral compass, a sociopath, and a sadist. Which of those lovely personality types has been the most fun to dig into?

AS: Oh, good question. I am really enjoying writing a Superman character as a grade-A jerk. Not going to lie, it’s less about him being outright evil and just being about the worst human I can imagine—and then making him worse because he’s unstoppable. Ha ha!

I find writing the sociopath and the sadist to be kind of disturbing. But hopefully that means I’m writing them correctly.
If that's what he thinks of dealing with even so much as a variation on Supes, I don't think we should be deceived by what he says about sociopaths and sadists, mainly because he hints he considers them a perfect ingredient. Making this the umpteenth example of far too much emphasis on darkness, and villains. That the interviewer finds such glee in gushing over concepts like nihilism and sadism makes it worse. No wonder heroism's been belittled so terribly.

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Cyborg and Beast Boy "merge" together, while other Titans die in Future State

Rough Magazine reveals what kind of crummy happenings take place in the Teen Titans' Future State connection, to two members who'd been best of buddies in the past:
In Future State: Teen Titans # 1, readers got a big surprise when it was revealed that Beast Boy and Cyborg now share the same body. HQ reveals that, in the future, several heroes on the team died, while others gained new names.

[...] On top of all the deaths, the team also had an additional cut, with the Cyborg and the Beast coming together in one body. HQ does not explain how this happened, but it is implied that the “merger” occurred at the same time that the other Titans died. The new hero has the combined personalities and qualities of the two heroes.

Called “Cybeast”, the hero is still an important part of the team and would be on a mission, in search of the spear of fate, to stop the villains of the plot, called “Four Riders”.
It may be a moot point, but all this does is reduce the two characters' effectiveness as cast members, their agency, and their independent voices in the Titans team. But, what else can you expect when the publisher is on its last legs?

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Sunday, January 17, 2021 

Jack Kirby's son sides with the politically correct

It's very sad when the descendant of a legend goes along and serves as an establishment tool, or what Vladimir Lenin called "useful idiots". Yet that's exactly what Neal Kirby, the son of Jack, did when he gave CNN's Jake Tapper exactly what that awful news station wanted to hear, taking Captain America and making this fictional creation and politicizing him even more than the rioters at Capitol Hill allegedly did, to say nothing of seizing an opportunity to attack Donald Trump:
Neal Kirby, the son of late Captain America co-creator Jack Kirby, has condemned the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday. In a stirring statement, Kirby also slammed insurrectionists who donned symbols of the Marvel superhero, writing, "these images are disgusting and disgraceful. Captain America is the absolute antithesis of Donald Trump."

CNN anchor Jake Tapper obtained Kirby's full statement to the insurrectionists, which also detailed the origins of the iconic comic book character.
And here's that galling item right here: It's very sad the junior Kirby (who himself is an old man today, I know) is another example of an ignorant, uninformed leftist. On which note, I think it's crucial to look at who's mentioned in the following paragraph:
"My father, Jack Kirby, along with his partner Joe Simon, created Captain America in 1941. Perhaps the most iconic symbol of patriotism since the 'Spirit of 1776,' Captain America has stood as a symbol and protector of our democracy and the rule of law for the past 79 years," Kirby wrote. "He was created by two Jewish guys from New York who hated Nazis and hated bullies. Captain America stood up for the underdog, and, as the story as written, even before he gained his strength and process from Army scientists, always stood for what was righteous, and never backed down."
Does the junior Kirby know Simon was right-wing, and was against Osama bin Laden? Come to think of it, where was this guy Neal when Axel Alonso and Nick Spencer turned Steve Rogers - however momentarily - into a Nazi-Hydra hybrid? How is it possible somebody like this can only speak out when a real life political situation in the District of Columbia occurs, yet has nothing to say about Marvel's vicious abuse of his own father's co-creation, which has been going on for nearly 2 decades now? Much as I admire pere, I cannot admire fils, because it's clear that Neal's the kind of man who's not being altruistic, and is likely unwilling to consider the evidence turning up that Antifa infiltrated and caused the riots. If Captain America was created to hate Nazis and bullies, surely he'd be created to hate Islamofascists and Antifa, but under SJW-Marvel, that's haram (taboo). Worst is how a CNN reporter who meddled in elections is milking this for all it's worth to suit the left's cause, not because they're actually fans of Cap.

Adding to the disgust is propagandist Noah Berlatsky, who wrote the following in the Observer, and there's some mind-boggling details finding their way in here:
And yet, American ideas about heroism and Nazi ideas about heroism shared certain preconceptions, and you can see those, disturbingly, in Captain America too. Steve Rogers in the original comics was a weakling unfit for military service who volunteered for a military super soldier serum program. The story of an inferior specimen transformed into a blonde-haired, blue-eyed perfect specimen of manhood uneasily evokes Nazi doctrine about eugenic unfitness and Aryan perfection.

More than that, Steve is not himself Jewish, and is, inevitably, white.
Is this serious? Is he saying the ethnic race originally hailing from the west end of Asia isn't white?!? Well, it gets worse:
I say “inevitably” because virtually all popular superheroes in the 1940s were white, like all American heroes at the time. To represent America at the dawn of the superhero, the hero had to be a white Christian man, because America, like Nazi Germany, believed in the physical and moral superiority of white Christian men. A superhero could hit Hitler on the cover of a comic book in the early 1940s only if that superhero shared a bunch of Hitler’s ideas about who was virile and heroic. It would take almost 30 years for there to be a mainstream Black superhero; Captain America’s sort-of partner, sort-of sidekick, the Falcon, created in 1969 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan.

Captain America, and America, were complicit in white supremacist ideology, which held that the best of America, and that the most super of heroes, had to be white. Nor are Trump supporters the first ones to recognize that Captain America is, in some unfortunate respects, on the side of an American Way that doesn’t have a lot to do with justice or truth. Comics creators over the years have frequently examined the downsides of America by examining the downsides of Cap’s legacy.

One of the most interesting and powerful Captain America comics is the 2003 miniseries Captain America: Red, White & Black, by writer Robert Morales and artist Kyle Baker
. The comic is set in 1942, shortly after Steve Rogers has become Captain America, and the super soldier serum has been lost. In a plotline inspired by the racist Tuskegee syphilis experiments, a group of Black soldiers is ordered to be test subjects to rediscover the serum. They all die from hideous side-effects, except for Isaiah Bradley. Berlatsky condones that loathsome, nasty desecration of Kirby and Simon's creation. This is certainly telling. Obviously, he doesn't even consider that there's Slavic peoples who have blonde hair too, and even some people in Britain and Ireland, where Steve Rogers' ancestry came from, have blonde hair as well; certainly in the former. How fascinating somebody's hell-bent on damning all men - and women - with blonde hair as abominations. He seems to miss that Superman was dark-haired, and was far from being portrayed as a devout Christian. And the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick)'s hair was brown. That aside, as a white man myself, I'm offended if Berlatsky's saying I'm not. Obviously, he doesn't think Kirby/Simon are either. This is just plain sick. And then, lo and behold:
A more recent, better known, and more controversial storyline is the 2017 series and crossover Secret Empire, by writer Nick Spencer. In Secret Empire, the nefarious Nazi collaborator the Red Skull uses the reality-altering powers of a device called the Cosmic Cube to change history. He tweaks the past so that Steve Rogers was recruited early in his life by the Nazi-like organization Hydra. Captain America therefore becomes the ultimate sleeper agent: a fascist plant at the heart of the United States. It’s as if masked American movie heroes didn’t start out fighting fascists, but instead sallying forth to commit racist murder—which of course is exactly what they did in The Birth of a Nation, the celebrated 1915 film which celebrates the Ku Klux Klan.
This is just as repellent, because he's not really condemning the story, seeing as he didn't condemn the Morales/Baker mess. Yet he tries to worm his way out of this atrocious propaganda by telling us next:
Both Red, White & Black and Secret Empire end on somewhat positive notes. In the first, Steve Rogers shows up to bring Bradley’s white supremacist American tormentors to justice and reassure readers that America isn’t like that any more. In the second, Cap is restored to his non-Hydra self. In comics or Hollywood films, you can fix America’s history of racism, fascism and hate with a few well-turned phrases and a deus ex machina or two. Not so much in real life.

None of this is to say that Captain America is really a white supremacist icon. Captain America isn’t really anything. He’s a symbol and a story, which can be used and abused in various ways by various people. He means what we want him to. Neal Kirby is doing a service by trying to wrest him from the grasping, small-fingered hands of the worst people on earth.

But Jim Crow is older than the Falcon, and racism is older than Captain America. Jack Kirby put a flag on his hero to fight for the best in this country. But it’s hard to reference the best without invoking other aspects of the nation as well. We have to do more than just assert that Trump isn’t Captain America. We need to create a better country than Jack Kirby’s, or than ours, if we don’t want Trump to wear that flag.
I think that's saying Kirby was just a naive man who didn't know diddly squat about his own country, which, according to the twisted mind of Berlatsky, was irredeemably racist and other degrading elements, and he doesn't even consider Cap a good form of escapist adventure. By that logic, even Spider-Man wasn't, nor were Iron Man and the Avengers. And don't be shocked if he'll be damning Stan Lee next for creating his take on Thor in the Silver Age, based merely on the God of Thunder's having blond hair. If Berlatsky's website, Hooded Utilitarian, is still in publication, I won't be linking to it anymore, and haven't for a long time anyway, because this is simply unbearable. He says he admires Neal Kirby for speaking out against what the left wants us to believe were right-wingers on a rampage, yet he throws Jack and Joe's co-creation under the bus anyway, and chances are the junior Kirby will never condemn him for insulting Jack's hard work. It's very sad when the descendants of famous people turn out to be tilted towards PC ideologies.

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Saturday, January 16, 2021 

Some history of Black comics artists as far back as the Golden Age

The Orange County Register posted an item about historian Ken Quattro's quest to find information on Black comics artists from the past century, including the notable illustrator Matt Baker, who created Phantom Lady, for a history book called Invisible Men:
Twenty years ago, comic book historian Ken Quattro began digging for information on an artist named Matt Baker.

“I couldn’t find anything about him anywhere,” says Quattro during a phone interview. “The only thing people knew, basically, was he died when he was young and he was Black.”

A comic book fan since the early 1960s who has written thousands of articles on the subject, Quattro kept searching and that quest resulted in his book “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books,” published by IDW imprint Yoe Books.

“Invisible Men” profiles 18 artists who were primarily active during the Golden Age of comics, a period that covers the late 1930s through the mid-1950s. Quattro spent 15 years researching the book, which looks at the creative work of Elmer Stoner, Robert Pious, Owen Middleton and many more.

Quattro, who was a historical consultant for the film “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” and is an expert on the legendary cartoonist Will Eisner, eventually found out about Baker, who died in 1959 at the age of 37. A well-respected artist in his time, Baker was known for drawing women in the pinup style of the ’40s and ’50s, and his work became collectible in the decades to follow.

When Quattro began asking about the artist’s life, the common perception within the comic book world was that Black artists were extremely rare in the industry. But the more he researched the more he discovered that this assessment wasn’t quite accurate.
Well see, there have definitely been some, even if the racism of that era made it difficult to maintain a well known reputation. But you know what's really sad? Depending what these guys dealt with, chances are the sex-negative advocates of today would see to it that they're obscured anyway, because the artists in focus defied political correctness in ways they hate. Is it any wonder you see SJWs today deliberately erasing significant illustrators from history?

I applaud Quattro for his research, which helps prove any modern PC claims false. But it's a shame that there's only so many PC advocates who'll still pretend these notable Black artists never existed, and obscure their memory if they consider their art contrary to their twisted beliefs.

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Friday, January 15, 2021 

Scarlet Witch has definitely suffered considerably, for more reasons than the NYT would have us think

In an interview with the New York Times about the new WandaVision on TV, they talk about how Wanda Maximoff's suffered badly, without recognizing it's for more reasons than they actually let in on. More specifically, they actually "normalize" the worst writing moments in recent history:
In several decades of comics, Vision and Wanda shared a romance that was much more intricate: They dated, married, had two sons, broke up and reconciled. (Also — and here is where it gets messy — Wanda discovered that her sons were actually the missing pieces of a demonic villain, who reabsorbed them; then she lost and regained the memory of her vanished children; and then she vengefully unleashed her powers to rewrite reality itself.)

With “WandaVision,” Feige said that he had wanted to honor the complexity of the title characters and Wanda’s reality-warping abilities but also to leaven the story with tributes to sitcom history.
What a most fascinating error they make: failure to distinguish between what makes a good or bad story via meritocracy. IIRC, this whole series draws from a Tom King tale, but the reality-warping draws from Brian Bendis' inconsistent take on Wanda from Avengers: Disassembled in 2004. And the NYT have no problem with this, I see. The pretentious Feige just confirmed what he really wants to "honor" is Bendis' roach of a story, which made Wanda out to look like a madwoman, all for the sake of retooling the Avengers into his idea of a team title: street level to a certain extent, casting obvious choices like Wolverine and Spider-Man during the first half of Bendis' run. It was all a lot of trash. But Feige and company, in their superficial view of the MCU, blinded by moneymaking at all costs, won't recognize that.
As with many of the Marvel movies, there is also a central mystery running through “WandaVision,” asking viewers to ponder the ever-changing reality that envelops its romantic leads.

[...] What “WandaVision” adds to this formula, she said, is an element of “creepiness — the idea of shattering that safety in a calculated way.”

Matt Shakman, who directed all nine episodes of “WandaVision,” said that the series ultimately tells a story of “grief and trauma and how we hold onto our hope.”

“Wanda is probably the person who has suffered the most of anyone in the M.C.U.,” he added. “And so the show is always grounded in that. Even though what you see are faithfully recreated television shows, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.”
Well she certainly has suffered in some way or other, but not in merely the ways they think. What's she suffered from is at least a few moments of poor writing and status quo setups where she's all but forced into specific roles, not because it makes sense, but for shock value and sensationalism. Even her twin brother Quicksilver's been treated better than how Wanda was in Bendis' tale, leading as it later did to House of M, whose main purpose was declaring "no more mutants". And those particular storylines, regrettably, have come to color much of the modern narrative in Marvel, in some of the most negative ways possible. Although recent Avengers stories seem to have avoided making her into a mad villainess, the recent X-Men stories have taken the opposite route. With that kind of inconsistency, how can you expect an audience to appreciate anything?

And trauma and grief have been cornerstones of King's writings without even amounting to anything meaningful. If this is what the latest slate of live action Marvel films and TV shows are built on, it'd be better to change the channel.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021 

Joseph Illidge keeps up the advocacy for political correctness

In another example of PC beliefs on display, I discovered Joseph Illige, an editor who once worked for DC, writing all about how the leftist idea of social justice must be incorporated into Marvel - and practically every other publisher and such - as though they'd never actually done it before:
On May 25, 2020, a 46-year-old Black man named George Floyd was killed during a brutal, forceful apprehension by Minneapolis Police officers. The following day, video footage of Floyd’s killing was widely distributed through social media, and the first of many protests nationwide began that night.

America reached a boiling point, and the overflow spilled into the businesses of various global industries and corporations.

The American comic book industry was no exception.
But no honest mention of the horrifying arsons committed last year in areas like Seattle, Washington, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, let alone Floyd's own criminal record, right? Guess not. Among the publishers who pathetically pandered to the PC mindset was Valiant:
Valiant Entertainment, publisher of the “Bloodshot” comic book which served as source material for the film starring Vin Diesel, delivered a message to the public beginning with the sentence “Black lives matter.”, a clear reference to the global activist organization and movement founded seven years ago after the killing of Trayvon Martin. The final line of text in the publisher’s message was the Black Lives Matter hashtag.
Wonder when Valiant will be turning out its final comic, seeing how far their business has fallen last year, and the film adaptation tanked, maybe deservedly? The whole notion anybody has to get political like this is dismaying, especially when it's as knee-jerk as it's been.
With the end of an historic year for America and a new year of anticipated change on the horizon, we are compelled to examine how these three industry leaders proceeded to modify their businesses in alignment with their public statements, well aware that some projects and initiatives preceded the catalyzing act of George Floyd’s murder.

Marvel Comics, leader of the comic book industry’s Direct Market which encompasses comic book publishers, distributors, and retailers operating mostly within the United States, made a handful of announcements throughout the last half-year as a reflection of Disney’s stance for inclusion and against racism.
Does that stance include opposition to anti-white racism? Not only does Illidge obscure the serious issue of the arsons, murders and sexual assaults that BLM has practically wound up condoning in their selective reactions laced with violence, he even acts like race-based representation never happened before in past history (why no mention of Christopher Priest, for example?). It's just sad. He later hints he's dissatisfied with Valiant in the following:
In a move which effectively and further distinguishes them from the primary superhero publishers, Valiant Entertainment made no new announcements in 2020 of projects involving Black writers.

However, in October the company re-announced the upcoming return of their horror series “Shadowman”. The titular character is a Black man with mystical powers who serves as the newest guardian between Earth and “The Deadside”, an extradimensional realm full of demonic creatures and sorcerers.

Valiant’s awareness of the cinematic horror genre business as dominated by producer/writer/director Jordan Peele of “Get Out”, “The Twilight Zone”, and “Lovecraft Country” is made clear through one of their cover variants for “Shadowman”, an homage of the movie poster for “Us”, a Peele film. Utilizing the imagery of Black horror for a book starring a Black lead makes sense from a marketing standpoint. Regardless of the absence of a Black writer for the series, Valiant Entertainment’s “Shadowman” is being designed and positioned to attract consumers, including and especially Black consumers.

As a publisher proudly standing with Black people worldwide against systemic racism and proclaiming the truth of how much the lives of Black people matter, Valiant Entertainment’s lack of announcements for new stories or projects with Black writers is seemingly paradoxical.
There's honestly something wrong with putting that kind of an emphasis on horror themes, because Illidge himself risks making it sound as though horror is a great genre where to star Black protagonists, and draw consumers. What about comedy and fantasy adventure? Why don't they factor in here? This is ludicrous, right down to his hinted dissatisfaction with whether Valiant's keeping on with the politically motivated vision he's upholding. Besides, has it ever occurred to him that if any systemic racism is still prevalent, it's because of the left-liberal politics he regrettably condones?
Marvel and DC are inescapable brands with characters eight decades old, and the comic book publishers are the IP engines of multimedia universes worth billions of dollars. They are owned by global media and communications giants with long-term goals based on the continuing multi-platform delivery of superhero narratives.

Clearly, both publishers can and will take the risk of publicly and proudly increasing their stable of Black writers in a nation suffering from a schism regarding the perceived value of Black lives.
But what good has it done when no talent or merit factors into the argument or the finished product? DC's fortunes are already looking gloomy, so there's not much point in lecturing us about how and why his former employer should go about their business when said publisher could be halfway out the door as it is, with Marvel close behind. Another mistake Illidge makes is failure to properly acknowledge all lives matter, based on personality, as Martin Luther King argued in his time.
Valiant Entertainment, on the other hand, is a company with characters shy of being three decades old. A publisher operating in the superhero game alongside Marvel and DC Comics by primarily focusing on the production of White male hero ascendant stories. The risk of showing the comic book industry that Black writers are equal to their White peers, through hiring more Black writers, is relatively greater for Valiant.

That said, 2021 is a great opportunity for the publisher to embrace the courage their name exemplifies. The same courage they showed on June 1, 2020, when they made a public statement in support of Black lives and “against the injustices of systemic racism”.

Standing hand in hand with the top two superhero publishers, Valiant Entertainment made the statement of conviction that human equality is necessary for a better society.

In service of a moral imperative.
Some "valiance" they demonstrated alright, along with a "moral" imperative. Did they take a general stance against violent crime in all forms? Doesn't sound like it. So what's his point? He's coming off rather one-sided, I'm afraid.
This year, entertainment companies far and wide have noticeably increased their Black writer pools, so we would be hard-pressed to believe that public support of Black writers endangers the profit imperative. Just as we would be hard-pressed to believe a publisher publicly embracing Black lives would leverage Black suffering to elevate themselves during a time of economic, social, and political upheaval.

In 2020, the comic book industry was the nexus for a reckoning with its inherent sexism, sexual harassment, and racial injustice. The response was a partial purge of sexual predators, staffing changes to facilitate the promotion of female executives to higher positions, and both the increase and promotion of Black executives. Publishers including BOOM! Studios, Image Comics, Vault Comics, and IDW took action to varying degrees in service of a better comic book industry.
Racial background doesn't endanger profit. Lack of merit, and too much ideology, does. That's one of the reasons why Ta-Nehisi Coates is such a vastly overrated writer. Besides, something tells me the problems with sexual harassment won't stop with the way they're handling things.
There is no industry conceivably more nimble, more suitable, more qualified to support Black lives through action than the comic book industry, and the expectations for its leaders to usher in an era of permanent change will be high, as a result.

With the end of corporate bloodbaths on the horizon and the redesigned publishing plans aligning with the publishers’ capabilities, increased hiring of Black writers is both feasible and expected. The idea that two publishers have to share one high-profile Black writer does not track with the vast number of high-profile Black writers across the various entertainment mediums.

Those Black writers would be well-served at companies with a diverse workforce reflecting a well-rounded worldview, with Black editors and executives to serve as their mentors and supporters because they understand and live in the world through a distinctive and insightful existence. A perspective that cannot easily be understood regardless of the number of books and workshops produced and created to explain racism.
This sounds more like ghetto mentality than an effort to really be part of a wide crowd. It implies it's virtually impossible for whites and Asians to understand anything about it, period. And it's not going to guarantee sales will improve. At the end, he says:
The measures needed for lasting systemic change must be integrated into corporate infrastructures, baked into the companies, their promise to the world, and the hearts and minds of their staff.

Otherwise, the collective actions of the day will serve as nothing more than a temporary crossover event of borrowed ideologies, lacking an arc toward true justice.
Again, lack of talent is what'll bring them down. Also notice how he avoids acknowledging whether there's a problem with leftist ideology, apparently more interested in making it sound like whites "borrowed" the very ideology to explore it for their own personal interests. Some way to thank Stan Lee for his own past efforts. I'm very disappointed with Illidge, who's only being political here, and not willing to ponder that ideology as conducted today is exactly why US comics are flopping so badly. Because the way they're written serves more to create a divisive atmosphere than a unifying one. Most Japanese manga, if they allude to politics, don't go out of their way to cite real life parties like Republicans and Democrats the way US comics are, and say the former are inherently bad while the latter are inherently good. That's why some manga and anime creations can have what it takes to make you think, even if you don't agree with the overall premise, in contrast to modern US mainstream, which spectacularly fail to learn a thing or two from their Asian counterparts.

And most consumers in general don't like being lectured and preached to the way the industry's doing now, something Illidge fails to consider, in his leaning toward ghetto mentality. It's a shame such divisive viewpoints have wound up perpetuating an atmosphere wherein the US is sadly collapsing from political correctness laced with alarming antagonism coming from leftist ideologues. Racial quotas do not improve entertainment value. Only merit does, yet people like Illidge continue in their refusal to ponder that. And that's why the mainstream industry as we know it is falling down.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021 

The PC crowd believes the Punisher should be put to an end altogether

A writer for Adventures in Poor Taste is making a case based along political lines for retiring the Punisher as a concept, most regrettably enough, following all the mayhem in the District of Columbia the other week:
It may be time for Frank Castle to go the way of Pepe the Frog.

On May 8, 2017, cartoonist Matt Furie held a funeral for one of his creations. That creation was Pepe the Frog, a character in his 2005 series Boy’s Club who, despite initially being a fun-loving amphibian who found joy in the simple pleasures of life, like peeing with your pants all the way down, became a symbol of hatred and bigotry around the world. After his hapless stoner beginnings, Pepe reached everlasting popularity on 4chan, and eventually among pro-Trump circles. By the 2016 election, Pepe’s visage was seen endorsing deplorable acts of violence and hate.
A moment, please, for commenting on the "nature's call" cartooning. What do they think is so great about cartoons where characters urinate? Is that really something to joke about? AIPT's writer suggests he thinks so.
Initially, Furie wasn’t terribly concerned about Pepe’s newfound appropriation, saying it was “just a phase.” As that phase lasted longer and longer, however, and the Anti-Defamation League identified Pepe as an anti-Semitic hate symbol, Furie came to terms with the character no longer belonging to him. Surrounded by his fellow anthropomorphic roommates, Andy, Brett and Landwolf, Pepe was laid to eternal rest on Free Comic Book Day 2017.
Oh for heaven's sake. Even if what they say is true, the character still belongs to the cartoonist, and he shouldn't have forfeited his creation that easily. It's the fault of the racist hooligans who exploited the character for their twisted goals, not the cartoonist's. If it's unacceptable if Marvel had canceled Black Panther because of the real life group with a similar name going around with arms in the late 60s, why is it suddenly okay when something like this happens today? Now, let's turn to the main problem with this dreadful article: it's something surely intended to bury Frank Castle as a concept under the tomb of political correctness:
Fast forward four years, and not only is Pepe the Frog’s usage still rampant amongst the alt-right and other hate circles, but another comic book character has been championed as a rallying cry for violence: Frank Castle, aka The Punisher. The Punisher, a violent vigilante who dispenses justice how he sees fit, has long been a favorite of edgelords and Hot Topic kids everywhere, but recently, he has become more and more associated with specifically right-wing violence (and, paradoxically, police, despite The Punisher alter-ego existing as a way to circumvent the justice system).

We’ve already talked at length here at AIPT about legal routes Marvel could take to stop the proliferation of their intellectual property being illegally produced and commandeered by people with firefight fantasies (and helped make some progress!), but in light of yet another horrific demonstration of domestic terrorism in the United States this week, several comic book creators have been discussing the merits of Marvel simply retiring the character altogether.
Obviously, such people must consider the original Death Wish starring the late Charles Bronson invalid by their new-age standards, since that was one of the places where Gerry Conway and Ross Andru got their inspiration from for the Punisher (the main place was Don Pendleton's Executioner novels). Of course, the really sad thing is Conway's pretty much rejected his own creation today, lest we forget, and many of these PC advocates exploit his weak positions for all they're worth. But if they're really so concerned about "alt-right" movements, how come they don't identify any clearly? Is it because the "Groypers", an extremist group whom the formerly prominent columnist Michelle Makin actually defended, costing her reputation with the wider conservative movement, are actually going more after any right-winger they consider illegitimate, like Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk? Now there's something fishy alright. As for "domestic terrorism", would they consider this incident in San Diego such a case?
Of course, that won’t instantly stop anybody from using the symbol anymore. Despite the “funeral”, Pepe the Frog is still ubiquitous in the dark corners of the internet, a rallying symbol of the depraved. In his 2016 Time article about Pepe, Furie wrote, “It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate … but in the end, Pepe is whatever you say he is.” And that’s true of Frank Castle, too. There’s nothing Marvel or anybody else can do about countless army guy LARPers thinking storming the U.S. Capitol with guns is a funny troll or an opportunity for social media likes — the genie’s out of the bottle. But officially severing ties with Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru’s creation would be the boldest way Marvel could condemn the violence being carried out, at least partially, under their intellectual property.
But all the AIPT writer's doing is demonstrating a failure to understand on what grounds the Punisher was originally created - to battle murderous criminals far worse than himself, with the primary motivating factor being that Frank's family was murdered by mobsters who were in the midst of conducting an execution in the woods of NYC's Central Park, when the Castles accidentally stumbled onto their activities among the bushes. To make matters worse, AIPT's writer made sure to distort Frank's history:
Well, it’s worth exploring what Marvel’s intentions originally were with Frank Castle, and what he’s evolved into. The Punisher’s first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129 depicted him in no uncertain terms as a villain, a bloodthirsty murderer who has no problem ending others’ lives to get his way. Around a decade later, the character had morphed into something of an antihero, a psychologically ill griever who tries to do what he sees as the right thing. In the early 2000s, the skull logo gained popularity with soldiers in Iraq, and his introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in season 2 of Daredevil cemented that connection when Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the character was that of a former soldier stationed in Afghanistan with PTSD. Face and heel turns are not terribly uncommon in comic books, and as the general public’s fascination with antiheroes and the troubled grew over the years, Frank was a perfect lens through which Marvel to explore it.
Like I said, all this demonstrates is an inability - or worse, outright refusal - to acknowledge the Punisher's original development as a vigilante taking on some of the most loathsome felons deserving of serious punishment. Stan Lee once told Alter Ego in the mid-2000s that he suggested the character's codename too, so I guess that means Lee must be judged guilty as sin for his own oversight in the Bronze Age. Why does the AIPT writer even bother reading Marvel's comics then, past or present? He decidedly has no business doing so with that kind of mindset. He caps it with:
But things are different in 2021, especially in America. Political, racial, and class tension have been steadily growing, and this past week, it reached a horrifying crescendo that the world witnessed with shock and sadness. Glorifying serial killers, no matter how layered or nuanced the story is, is simply unconscionable for a global creator of consumer culture in this society.

Maybe instead of erasing the character altogether, the answer is to take Frank back to his roots as an irredeemable villain, a scourge to be eradicated by the heroes that patrol the same streets he does. But like Jamal Igle said on Twitter, the very concept of The Punisher has become corrupted, and it’s time for Marvel to reckon with it. Like Pepe before him, putting Frank Castle to eternal rest probably wouldn’t result in the end of his association with extremists, but the character may be too far gone for Marvel to profit from him with a clean conscience.
The Punisher will be put to rest soon, by Marvel's own financial downfall as they continue to put out plenty of dismally written stories the MSM isn't even grateful for in the long run. What's really weird is that, in a way, it's the characterization since the turn of the century that's coloring the PC crowd's vision of Frank, but mainly an obsession with throughly distorting the original vision, and Conway won't even show the courage to clarify anything. Nor does anybody ask if Antifa, who infiltrated these gatherings, were the ones wearing symbols like these, nor whether such scum are even remotely capable of wearing skulls of any kind.

And if anybody's wondering about more mainstream news sites doing the distorting, Newsweek presented the following, expected dishonesty:
Frank Castle, aka "the Punisher," was never much of a good guy, even though he is ostensibly the hero in the comic books, films, and TV shows featuring him. Since debuting in 1974, he's been portrayed as an angry vigilante hellbent on fighting crime using any tactics necessary. He's variously tortured and kidnapped enemies, and forget him about adhering to the traditional law or legal system.

So what does a mostly wholesome entertainment company like Marvel do then when this fictional face of ruthless anger is adopted as a symbol of very real and very dangerous violence? That's what a lot of people have been wondering in the aftermath of the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol. There were multiple claims on social media about rioters wearing the same skull logo that adorns the Punisher's costume, and at least one very clear photo exists of someone brandishing the symbol.

[...] The white skull emblem, as well as the Punisher himself, is a popular symbol among the Proud Boys and other extremists. This had led to even some ardent fans of the Punisher to call for Marvel to change the logo, halt Punisher projects for the time being, or even outright retire the character.
Do those extremists include Antifa and Black Lives Matter? Not according to the vision of a horrible magazine like Newsweek, that's for sure.
The pop culture site Bleeding Cool theorized over the weekend that Marvel may have secretly done away with the Punisher without telling anyone. It noted there haven't been any new Punisher comic books published since November. Also, Netflix's The Punisher show starring Jon Bernthal was cancelled in 2019, and no known film or television projects are on the horizon for Mr. Castle.

However, there are still collections of Punisher comics scheduled for this year, and rumors surfaced in December of Bernthal returning as the Punisher in a rebooted Daredevil project. (Marvel reportedly has to wait for the screen rights Netflix owns on the character to expire before they can use him again.)
No doubt, they want censorship to reign supreme. You can be sure they'd do it with Golden Age Captain America tales too, given the chance. While most mainstream comics from that era were far from gory, they still had elements that weren't PC, and to these propagandists, that's just plain taboo. This is just absolutely shameful. And it looks like Marvel already has fulfilled their wishes, though in a way, it's a blessing, because now, if that's the case, Frank won't be subject to more liberal abuse like he's suffered for 2 decades, which I'm sure some PC advocates would love to do even now. Including somebody who already did in the early 2000s:
"The people wearing the logo in this context are kidding themselves..." said Garth Ennis to Syfy Wire. Ennis had a multi-year run writing for the Punisher character, and he spoke about why he thought people commandeered the skull logo. "What they actually want is to wear an apparently scary symbol on a T-shirt, throw their weight around a bit, then go home to the wife and kids and resume everyday life. They've thought no harder about the Punisher symbol than the halfwits I saw [on Wednesday], the ones waving the Stars & Stripes while invading the Capitol building."

Bernthal and Ennis aren't the only prominent names attached to the official Punisher upset about extremists trying to adopt the character. Co-creator of the character, Gerry Conway, decided to take action when he saw the skull symbol appropriated for hate this past summer by those fighting against the Black Lives Matter movement, including some aggressive police officers. Conway launched a fundraising initiative for BLM that called on artists of color to create their own T-shirt designs that incorporate the skull.
By any chance, is Ennis repentant for his anti-superhero vision, to say nothing of injecting blatant leftism in the early 2000s, insulting victims of 9-11 with a MAX title where Frank refuses to take on al Qaeda, and just plain exploiting the whole creation to further his own political agendas? To be sure, no, so it's funny he's supposedly "upset". Those who should really be upset are the people who admire Punisher, yet may have turned a blind eye to how Frank Castle became the tool of far-left ideologues as time went by. Including Ennis, yet Newsweek's guaranteed never to mention it. No surprise if Bernthal turns against the creation he played on TV either, let alone his own leftism.

It's really too bad Punisher's suffered such a terrible downfall as a creation, and exploiting the character for far-left agendas clearly didn't make him immune to calls for censoring out his use in fictional stories. Arguably, the shift to radical leftist politics made things worse. Now, Punisher's bound to end up gathering dust on the shelves for all the wrong reasons, abandoned even by some of the leftists who'd created and worked on him in the past. That's what cancel culture's amounted to these days.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021 

The left-behind legacy

Rob Salkowitz wrote at Publishers Weekly about where DC could be headed, now that AT&T could either be licensing them to another business for story publication, or closing them down altogether:
The world’s #2 superhero comics publisher is undergoing a stress test. DC Comics, the venerable publisher of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Watchmen, and dozens of other celebrated superhero characters, looks to be caught in the corporate restructuring taking place at its parent company, AT&T, along with other divisions of WarnerMedia, which the telecom giant acquired in 2019. After several rounds of layoffs and controversial business decisions, comics fans, comics professionals, and retailers are speculating whether DC, or its parent company, will choose to abandon comics publishing or the comics shop market entirely.

Early in 2020 DC parted ways with longtime DC universe copublisher Dan DiDio. That turned out to be the first act of a major housecleaning. September saw the departures of a host of longtime executives, among them, editor-in-chief Bob Harras, senior v-p Hank Kanalz, and well-known editors Brian Cunningham and Mark Doyle. This was followed by a second wave of layoffs in November which took out the last of DC’s veteran comics marketing and distribution staff. Even Michelle Wells, elevated to coeditor-in-chief in August after overseeing DC’s successful children/young adult graphic novel line, was let go in the last round of layoffs. And there is word of more to come.
Whether or not they do, it's atrocious how even a business analyst won't dwell on whether lack of artistic merit led to this. If the young adult line were really a success, do you honestly think DC would be dropping employees from the payroll? Their stories have been like an armpit for years, and they took things from bad to worse after they got political. But Salkowitz is right about one thing: stories like Identity Crisis were controversial, because they were intended as shoddy publicity stunts. Where he's wrong is failure to research and raise the topics for discussion.
Back In April, in the teeth of the retail Armageddon brought on by the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, DC abruptly terminated its relationship with the comics shop market’s largest (and, for all practical purposes, only) distributor, Diamond Comics Distributors, to go into business with two new firms, Lunar and UCS, retail operations that were transformed into national comics distributors. By October, the UCS-DC relationship was over—though it’s not entirely clear who fired who—and now Lunar is the sole distributor for DC periodicals.

That’s a lot of disruption at a company that, by the numbers, seems to be doing pretty well. DC’s top titles are selling well in comics shops. In the trade book market, collected editions of recent series like the Three Jokers, White Knight, and Dark Metal are doing well, such backlist perennials as Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series have lived on the bestseller lists for decades, and the company’s burgeoning line of young reader graphic novel series like Superhero Girls, Swamp Kid, and Gene Yang’s recent Superman vs. the Klan are garnering critical praise as well as new fans in the hot tween-and-teen book market.
But they're not doing well, and it's not because they changed distribution services, though the MSM would like everyone to think it. They're tanking because the stories are meaningless, increasingly political, and even overly violent. If the encroaching leftist politics hadn't driven me away from their output, the jarring violence in the writings of Geoff Johns, to name but one notorious example, would have. But, the main mistake Salkowitz makes here is failure to provide sales figures in digits. Obviously, somebody realizes that, once the wider public sees how only so many individual titles sell far below 100,000 copies for a pamphlet, and none sell a million, they'd be laughing all day. What if that's why the UCS relationship fell through?
More importantly, DC remains an IP gold mine for AT&T’s media divisions. Adapted into a TV series, Watchmen was not only a gigantic hit for HBO but a legitimate cultural milestone that took home a raft of awards. Several TV-adapted titles that incubated on DC’s former streaming service, DC Universe (now downsized into a digital comics subscription service)—including the moody Titans and Doom Patrol, both adapted from the comics—have made the jump to HBO Max. Other adaptations, such as the extended Arrow-verse (the interconnected shows Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Black Lightning), have brought the goofy, convoluted charm of old-time DC storytelling to the CW network. On film, DC’s latest blockbusters Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Aquaman have received praise, and the much-anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 was released in theaters and on HBO Max over the holidays.
And by now, it's clear WW84 was a flop compared to the billion bucks the first movie made. As of now, the sequel's made $131 million globally, but that's still quite a plummet compared to its predecessor. So what's Salkowitz's point? Most award ceremonies, if they still occur these days, are just excuses to give politically motivated awards back and forth to the same ideologues. That's also what drove some of the "Arrowverse" TV shows, with Supergirl easily the worst victim.
Nevertheless, the value of all that content has not squelched persistent rumors that DC (or its parent company) is fielding offers to license out its comics publishing or get out of the comics business altogether. Following the first purge, Jim Lee, DC’s surviving publisher, took the extraordinary step of telling the Hollywood Reporter: “I don’t think they want to stop us publishing comics. Comics serve a lot of different purposes and one of them is, it’s a great way to incubate ideas and create the next great franchises. We want to continue that. Why would you want to stop that? Why would you want to stop creating great content that could be used across the greater enterprise?”—a hesitant response that didn’t sound like a ringing vote of confidence.
Would it be good news if DC were licensed to another business? Only if the licensee proved the ability to avoid retaining an agenda driven leftist vision, would do their best to clear away all the material from the past 20-plus years that did not stick with a consistent direction for continuity, and even made an effort to change the publication format to something more along the lines of trade paperbacks going forward. Unfortunately, I've got a feeling that wouldn't be the case, and if not, that's why a closure will be for the best.

In these next paragraphs, Salkowitz comes close to acknowledging what went wrong, but doesn't go far enough:
Throughout this period, DC cultivated an intense fan base of increasingly middle-aged and older, mostly male readers with stories that constantly revised and reinvented the superhero genre and its mythology. But the publisher also broke ground in the early 1990s with the mature-themed, creator-owned Vertigo imprint, a pioneering precursor to the graphic novel imprints of today, which brought Sandman, Preacher, Fables, and other highly regarded multigenre nonsuperhero comics properties to book shelves with an ambitious trade paperback program.

All that is in the past. Vertigo went into a death-spiral after founding editor Karen Berger departed in 2013, and was shuttered for good in 2019. The company’s publishing strategy of endless crossover “events” (bringing its heroes together in special series) eventually exhausted the patience of readers and retailers, and DC’s close partnership with distributors and retailers has now withered as key personnel are gone. Indeed, the last round of layoffs at DC has fans as well as comics professionals wondering out loud about the ongoing viability of the direct market sales channel without DC Comics’ titles.
Well now we're getting somewhere, but he still avoids a serious look at their artistic direction, which was awful, and fails to acknowledge the failures with at least some of their superhero output in the 90s, mainly Green Lantern, which suffered badly under Gerard Jones for starters, and Ron Marz next. I'd even suggest the retcons to Thanagarian Hawkman hurt it, and it's funny how most people who bring up the "convoluted" history of Hawkman don't acknowledge that the errors began at the dawn of the 90s, following the Hawkworld miniseries by Tim Truman. Yet nobody supposedly dismayed argues in favor of clearing away those severe retcons, because they're too politically correct to call for a bold step to distinguish between what could be repaired, or left in place.

Say, and when they cite "mostly male", are they implying something's wrong with a boys' genre and market? The only thing wrong is an inability to draw in younger crowds, and make it more inviting with a more complete story in something like a paperback, to say nothing of keeping the story self-contained. If you want to bring so many heroes together, even that should occur in a stand-alone book, not something that spills over into as many books as possible. And another fault? Increasing political correctness. It could take eternity to recover from that. And Salkowitz is as much to blame, due to how he keeps it at a superficial level, and won't even admit people like him have to share the blame, because they wouldn't object to DC's executives becoming sleazebags and ideologues. If that doesn't change, it'll be the saddest part of the legacy they're leaving behind.

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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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