Friday, October 31, 2014 

Jonathan Last sees nothing wrong with Scarlet Witch turned crazy

While discussing a trailer for the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie, the pretentious columnist for the Weekly Standard strongly hints he has no problems with Brian Bendis' awful ideas for how to "entertain". First, he says:
* I understand that this isn’t based, completely, on Age of Ultron. Yet there are clearly some echos and Age of Ultron is the only Marvel event mini-series of the last 10 years that was any good. And it’s not just any good, it’s really good.
No it was not, and I wouldn't recommend Bendis' work on Daredevil either. It was just an excuse for tasteless renditions of nostalgia with various cast members put through some pretty ugly experiences for just for the sake of bleakness. The following is more eyebrow raising though:
* I take it you’ve read the House of M mini-series? Now that would be a sensational movie, but the problem is that it requires putting both Avengers and X-Men charaters on the screen together. Which Marvel can’t do. Yet. And it’s all motivated by Wanda Maximoff going crazy and altering reality on a global scale.
Well, well, well. Now this is certainly a lot more telling of how Last's mind operates, or doesn't. What does he see in a crossover mini whose whole purpose was to serve as some kind of What If? story expanded into a bloated "event", and in the end, another purpose it served was simply to declare "no more mutants", and then proceed to remove the powers from several cast members of X-Men, including Dani Moonstar? And what does he see in a writer who's made a career out of padded scriptwriting? He's not clear on the issue, but Bendis actually first rendered Wanda Maximoff crazy in Avengers: Disassembled the year before House of M was published. And he fails to mention at least a few other very troubling moments in that awful tale, like a nasty crack Hawkeye makes, telling Hank Pym, "don't you got a wife to beat?", which only enforces the exaggerated narrative that Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Yellowjacket is a spousal abuser, and compounded the damage ever further. Also galling was the moment when Carol Danvers said she "hates" Wanda, compounding the impression Scarlet Witch was always long a nutcase, and never actually a troubled teen who along with her twin brother reluctantly joined Magneto but then bolted to join the Avengers and reformed remarkably well under Capt. America's wing. So Last agrees with his leftist counterparts at Comics Alliance that Wanda is a "monster"? Tsk tsk.

Quite intriguing how Last is less subtle here, unlike the times he'd stealthily inject Identity Crisis into a few of his columns about DC's output. Maybe it's because he thinks the audience will be more accepting of a story that doesn't involve sexual assault per se, where a girl simply goes "crazy" than one where a co-star is raped by a costumed supervillain who suffers no convincing consequences for his sick crime, while the former wife of a superhero is made out to look "crazy" herself, and the superheroes of the JLA whom I thought we were supposed to be rooting for are made out to look like baddies themselves. Even Green Lantern Hal Jordan, lest we forget, making it difficult to appreciate the supposed effort to redeem him a decade after Emerald Twilight. Then again, what effort was there, exactly, to redeem Hal if they were going to make him look like he was involved in a coverup scam, and acting like a childish scaredy-cat?

To make matters worse, Last goes on to say:
* By the by, I’d bet that , for a hot five minutes, Whedon seriously toyed with using the Ultimate universe versions of Wanda and Pietro–which had them as (vaguely?) incestuous siblings who were on the verge of getting it on in just about every panel, creeping out all the characters around them. And I’d bet that it kind of killed Whedon to realize that this just couldn’t be done in the big-screen version.
As dismayed as I was by Whedon's leftist tirade against capitalism, I don't think Last should be toying with the idea Whedon might've wished he could mimic Mark Millar's insulting setup in the Ultimates. But oh my, what a load of hypocrisy on display we have here - Last supposedly disapproves of incest, yet is okay with turning Wanda into a psycho? His accepting take on the idea echos Joe Quesada's own hypocrisy, that marriage between Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson is bad, yet jarring violence - including Millar's darker take on Hank Pym's 1981 rendition - and incest between Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in the Ultimates is okay. For somebody who calls himself a conservative, Last sure is quite a poseur. What next, will he advocate turning Scarlett from GI Joe into a literal crackpot? At least we can guess where he stands on Mary Jane Watson, Pepper Potts, Lois Lane, Betty Brant, Lynn Stewart-Pierce, Lana Lang, Sapphire Stagg, and Karen Page.

Once more, Last's demonstrated why he's a bad spokesperson for comicdom, because he doesn't care about the characters and lacks an understanding why there's certain topics you can't present trivially.

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EW detests the Spider-Marriage and supports the faustian pact with Mephisto

Entertainment Weekly's hit a new low, as they announce some news about the Spider-Marriage supposedly being restored, and they think the marriage was awful to begin with:
Marvel has put out another one of its mysterious Summer 2015 teaser posters, and it’s a doozy for Spider-Man fans. Illustrated by Adam Kubert, the teaser is titled Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows and despite being a simple image, it’s absolutely loaded with callouts to some of the most controversial moments in Spidey history.
Putting aside for a moment all the reasons why it's not worth looking forward to even though it is something plenty of Spider-fans want, EW's claim the fans would think it lazy is offensive, because they're saying this for all the wrong reasons.
There are few sore spots in Marvel Comics canon like the Spider-Marriage. Peter Parker married Mary Jane Watson way back in the landmark 1987 comic Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, in a story called “The Wedding!” by David Michelinie and John Romita, Sr. Unlike a lot of comic book story decisions, this one stuck for quite some time—outside of a three year blip from 2000 to 2003 where various crazy plots left MJ either presumed dead or moving away due to marital troubles, the couple never split.
Says who this was a sore spot? Stan Lee wanted to produce a crowd-pleaser, and indeed it was at the time. It was, sadly enough, a small portion of writers/editors who disapproved despite all the fans who did like it, and the worst part is that the list includes some scriptwriters whom I respect like Roger Stern. And just like with many of the crossovers and other "events" that Marvel and DC forced upon their universes, some of the worst storytelling ideas came as a result of trying to undo the marriage. If they really, truly had to undo the marriage, however, then I think the biggest, most irritating problem in all this affair was the staff's inability to do it realistically and build to it incrementally. That's the biggest problem with modern superhero storytelling: they just can't wait. Instead, they hammered everybody with the Clone Saga, then a tale where Mary Jane was taken hostage by a crazy psychokinetic, and then there was the whole Mephisto affair, and wait'll you see what EW says about that:
It wasn’t until the much-maligned 2006 story One More Day that saw the marriage dissolved—not in court, like sensible people do, but by the devil. That’s not a joke. Peter and Mary Jane make a deal with Mephisto, who for all intents and purposes is the Marvel equivalent of the devil himself, to save a dying Aunt May at the cost of their marriage. Mephisto then makes it so no one ever knew they were married. That really happened, and Peter’s been unmarried ever since. The Renew Your Vows poster is a clear callback to the wedding issue, but wait. There’s more!
I think they already told more than need be. It may not be as bad as some of the horrific ideas DC went along with at the time Identity Crisis was published, but it's still alarming and atrocious enough: Peter makes a deal with a devil, and they see nothing wrong with that? I'd like to think they're joking, but the forgiving tone of this article is anything but a joke. Their complete disregard for sanity and responsibility is jaw-dropping. Now, if the "more" they speak of matters:
Deep in that comics abyss that we call “The 90s,” Mary Jane was pregnant with Peter’s child (they were going to name her May), but the Green Goblin drugged her and essentially stole their unborn child. This plot point was then completely dropped, and fans would ask about it for years—although, thanks to One More Day, the answer to that particular question has been moot for some time now. The story was even picked up in Spider-Girl, a long-running and much beloved series that depicted baby May “Mayday” Parker all grown up and taking over for her father.

This is, of course, a very long-winded way of saying look at that little girl! Is it Mayday??!!?!

All these teasers are getting exhausting, yeah? According to Marvel, this is one of the last teasers they have left. There’s no official word yet on what this is all building to, or when we’ll find out, but it looks like the end is in sight!
The end already came and left. If Dan Slott has any part in writing this story, nobody should spend their money on it even if they do restore the marriage, because that doesn't guarantee the writing will suddenly improve. And why does this bit of history matter, but not some of the disturbingly darker parts of the Clone Saga like the time Peter assaulted his duplicate Ben Reilly while a scientist stood idly by, refusing to do anything to halt the jarring act of violence, leaving Mary Jane to do it, and resulting in Peter unintentionally striking her down and injuring her. Sure, when he saw he'd hurt her bad, he ceased, reeling and fleeing the scene in horror, but it was still a very bad storyline, and you can be sure there's people out there who'd wonder how plausible it would be for Mary Jane to forgive Peter after such an act. Even his bashing of Ben Reilly was alarming, since he was anything but a serious criminal. Why doesn't that matter to EW's reporter? That's actually worse in many ways than the Goblin's abduction of their newborn daughter. One could even argue the whole pregnancy was a mistake, depending how they handled it. This is one of the most disgraceful articles about Spidey/Marvel history I've ever seen in a mainstream news source.

I'm sure there's plenty of people out there who've been fed up with how Spidey's being handled now, especially after that Octopus-as-Spidey embarrassment, and if they want to avoid this story too, they'll be justified in refraining, mainly because Joe Quesada's influence is still very prevalent. Indeed, with people like him in charge, it just wouldn't be worth buying this storyline next year. It doesn't translate automatically into good storytelling, and there could always be slop around the corner just as bad as Straczynski's Sins Past debacle; maybe even worse. This is not something to be taken in by any more than a considerable number of fiascos that littered Marvel for years already.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014 

Slott keeps droning on about GamerGate

Some more slapdash pseudo-wisdom from the keyboard of Dan Slott. For example:

We also have major problems with schools that do poor jobs educating children and adults alike.

Correction: He doesn't want to acknowledge that story he wrote where Dr. Octopus took advantage of Mary Jane Watson. I do believe there's a valid case we could make here about the need for better ethics in comics scriptwriting and PR.

He could do a lot better by not commenting on the matter at all. He just can't come to terms with how flimsy some of the accusations made from the side he's taking are, and it's pretty odd how disinterested he is in the ignorance displayed by a few of the people involved. Acting like Tomb Raider's Lara Croft never existed does no favors for the people against GamerGate.

Slott doesn't even care that there are GG supporters - including some women - who have been acting against the harassing cybertrollers, and Zoe Quinn even thanked those who have made an effort to stop them. And I've a hunch that, if he plays computer games, he might be familiar with all the ones the GamerGate detractors ignored. So he'd do better to just let the subject go.

While we're on the subject, here's a screencap of a post made by British writer Andy Diggle, retweeted by Mark Waid:
And I guess J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow were never intended as allusions to journalism ethics either, right? But wait'll you see this reply Diggle gave to a dissenter:

Dear dear. Is he saying advertisers aren't allowed to decide which sites they want to post on, and how? Sounds proto-socialist to me. Very poor ethics on Diggle's part, my my. And does Waid agree with that poor viewpoint? Sigh.

Here's another screenshot of a retweet by Greg Rucka:
Last time I went to her website after this, it was working fine. So sad to see Rucka's only furthering the propaganda of somebody who acts like female protagonists who can kick butt Lara Croft-style don't exist in computer games, which does little more than soak whatever point she's trying to make.

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Marz realizes that ISIS are a gang of savages

It appears Marz has shown a better side of himself, as somebody willing to recognize that the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria is a sick entity:

Amazing. Now Marz is beginning to get the picture of what Islamofascists are really like. I just hope he also realizes the belief system they go by is what's led to these horrors. After all, if communism led the Russians and Chinese to where they've been for many years, then something must've led ISIS to commit the atrocities they're pulling now.

However, he's also tweeted another flawed perception of countries with strict gun control laws:

As I'd once noted, countries with strict regulations are some of the worst places you can be on the globe. And ISIS' use of guns in Syria and Iraq contradicts the notion there's less gun violence in those regions, that's for sure. A similar situation occurred in Somalia/Kenya. And the worst part is that some of the weapons ISIS are using may have come from the USA. I don't suppose Marz finds that disturbing?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014 

Is the Ultimate universe drawing to a close?

The Latin Post says it might take place next year, which wouldn't be too surprising at this point:
Another Marvel comic book series appears to be coming to an end: "The Ultimate Universe."

Marvel Comics revealed an "Ultimate Universe" poster last week that read "The End?" Comic book aficionados debate and speculate whether it is indeed finishing, or that it is a tease for something bigger to arrive.

This particular poster featured a plethora of old, new and out-of-print comic book characters. It is surprising to think that Marvel's "Ultimate Universe" is going supernova, but in recent weeks with the "Fantastic Four" going on hiatus, and the upcoming debut of "Squirrel Girl," the end seems possible. In addition, sales for the series have been up and down.
They could be doing this in hopes it'll trigger a sales spike, but a discontinuation of the line is plausible, given how poor sales are despite the mainstream press' attempts to pretend otherwise. And with the kind of stories they conceived in the Ultimate world, like Mark Millar's alarmingly amoral X-Men, that's why it won't be missed.

They also say something very prematurely:
Marvel's Ultimate Universe has been involved in the widely popular "Secret Wars," a Marvel 12 issue "mega event," as well as the "Ultimate Fantastic Four," the "All New X-Men," as well as the upcoming "Spider-Verse."
Whoa now, if this is the new take on Secret Wars they're talking about, it hasn't even come out yet, and they're calling "popular"? Only with speculators, I'd wager. From the new I've gathered about this new product and at least one more to accompany it, they'll be very expensive, and only those without a care for their money are bound to buy it. And even then, there's always a chance somebody will be disappointed.

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Salon writer gushes over Archie's lurch to PC-ness

A writer for leftist Salon goes fawning over the new, politically correct Archie and the editors/publishers now working tirelessly to wreck it:
Like a lot of people, I used to get those little “Archie” digests at the supermarket when I was a lad. I remember enjoying them, but they didn’t have a big impact on me. Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the rest of the gang are clearly part of the collective unconscious, but they’ve never felt like essential reading. When I drifted away from comics for a while, books like “Maus” and “Watchmen” and “Daredevil: Born Again” stayed with me, but my Archies were the first to go. They felt disposable because the characters never changed. Nobody played it safer than Archie Comics.

Those days are a distant memory. Archie Comics is now known for taking wild chances and daring approaches that put Marvel and DC to shame. The debut of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and the announcement of the batshit crossover “Archie Meets Predator” highlight what’s been apparent for years now: The company formerly known for the squarest and most unchanging characters in comics has become one of the most adventurous and exciting publishers. From the zombie apocalypse to a forthcoming story by Lena Dunham, today’s Archie Comics are anything but disposable or predictable. Improbably, anything goes in Riverdale.
It doesn't occur to him the cast never "changed" because it was aimed primarily at children, and even grownups don't always want certain things to change about famous literary characters, because sometimes, it's just not for the better, and renders them completely unrecognizable. Since Archie's output clearly didn't make a difference with him, maybe he shouldn't have spent his money on their comics to start with.
A brand new series—“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”—is the latest evidence of Archie’s willingness to take a radical new direction with an old character. Sabrina has been popular for decades, perhaps even more than Archie Andrews himself, thanks to the successful Sabrina series that aired on ABC and the WB. But Sabrina’s adventures, like Archie’s, have usually been fairly innocent teenage fare. Not anymore. Sabrina and her world have taken a more serious and historical turn in the new series written by Archie’s Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Robert Hack: they bring surprising gravitas and depth to the concept of a teenage witch, giving Sabrina a backstory full of tragedy while keeping the teen shenanigans. Hack’s art reminds me a little of Tula Lotay’s surreal, boundary-smashing work on “Supreme Blue Rose.” There’s a dreamy feel—or maybe I should say a nightmarish feel—that also fits the series’ specific historical setting, starting in 1951 with Sabrina’s birth. The best trick in this magic-filled book is that even in an older setting with darker horror, Sabrina is still Sabrina.
Yes, that's all we need, isn't it? Tragedy and horror, far more than joy. But to say Sabrina is still the lady she was from the Silver Age even after having this nasty trick forced upon her by these modern writers is dishonest at worst. The idea Sabrina was literally born in 1951 and not just 2 decades ago is pretty laughable, because if she were, she'd be close to 70 now, and that's obviously not the case.
That trick was perfected in the ongoing series that inspired this new spin on Sabrina: “Afterlife with Archie,” which makes Riverdale’s zombie contagion feel appropriately deadly while maintaining the essence of the characters. “Afterlife” is a genuinely moving comic and a helluva accomplishment, thanks in no small part to the moody, evocative art of Francesco Francavilla, whose visuals create a recognizable yet new Riverdale that’s about as safe as the prison from “The Walking Dead.” The critical and commercial success of “Afterlife” led to “Sabrina,” much as the title of “Afterlife” plays on “Life with Archie”—a series that followed two parallel versions of Archie: one who married Betty and one who married Veronica. Both universes culminated in the death of Archie earlier this year. Marriage, death, zombies, alternate universes: Archie has embraced the biggest possibilities of both real life and comic books.
The biggest, maybe, but also the most degrading, like LGBT issues. So Archie turns to horror-thriller style material, and all of a sudden, they're something he wants to read now? I fail to see the logic here.
I asked Archie co-CEO/publisher Jon Goldwater about the company’s innovations, and he said they have a “story first” philosophy, but “don’t want to feel limited or tied down by what’s come before or what anyone else is doing.” He says the current era began about six years ago when he told editors and creators that “everything was on the table. No idea was too crazy and nothing was too precious.” From that meeting came Kevin Keller, who Goldwater believes is “the most important new character at Archie since the original five of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and Reggie.” Keller, like older members of the gang, also appears in multiple versions and universes: he’s already been a superhero and senator.
Keller is important, but not an African-American character who debuted in the early 1970s? Sorry, I don't comprehend. It's obvious by now they don't have any story first standings if they're going to go out of their way to push LGBT issues on everybody, and market adult Archie's "demise" with multiple variant covers.
The company’s confidence is reflected in the recent announcement of “Archie Meets Predator,” which might be the weirdest team-up or mash-up by any publisher. But there is a precedent for this series (a collaboration with Dark Horse Comics) at Archie. As Chris Sims discussed in Comics Alliance, the company’s new creativity isn’t entirely unprecedented: there have been some crazy Archie stories over the years. The best is probably “Archie Meets the Punisher,” a combination of the most unlikely genres imaginable: teen soap opera and vigilante pulp. That’s like “Gilmore Girls” and “Dexter” having a crossover. There have also been “Archie Meets KISS” and “Archie Meets Glee,” so this is another area of the Archie-verse that’s open-ended to say the least.
Yes, that's just what we need too; they associate themselves with other horror-thriller products and a TV program that's pretty sleazy.
Archie Comics is taking chances with less-familiar characters too. Though not well-known, Archie also owns some superhero characters, which they’re rebooting with a new line called Dark Circle: they will include the Fox, the Black Hood and the Shield. The Shield is an especially noteworthy character for reasons old and new. Created in 1940, the Shield is an all-American hero in the vein of Captain America—but who preceded Captain America by a year. In fact, the creators of Captain America changed the original shape of Cap’s shield to avoid confusion with the Shield. For the new Shield series, a woman will be taking up the mantle of this underappreciated hero. Like the female Thor and books like “Rat Queens,” “Harley Quinn” and “She-Hulk,” the new Shield is an example of growing female presence in comic book characters and fandom.
I guess that was expected, and they'd follow Marvel and DC's recent example of changing the gender/race/sexual orientation of any character they please. Well good luck with that. With their sales returns, there's no guarantee this'll encourage anybody to try the latest.
Archie is learning something DC is figuring out with series like “Batman ’66,” a continuation of Adam West Batman: readers are cool with multiple, inconsistent, far-out versions of beloved characters. Also, when you free a character from the prison of continuity—the tangled web of what really happened and supposed counts in the main version of a character—you’re free to tell better stories with greater consequences. When you let stories stand on their own, you can marry Archie, or kill him, or make him fight Predator. Now that the elasticity of the Archie crew has been embraced, it’s hard to imagine any genre or team-up that’s not fair game. Sci-fi Archie? Archie vs. Archer? Who knows?
I'm not surprised the writer may be unaware they did publish sci-fi stories in the past, or that he's overlooking his own notes. It's not so new at all. But his citation of inconsistency is something to comment on. Readers may not mind if multiple versions of famous creations are experimented with, but that's provided it doesn't intrude on the flagship continuity proper, as is already long the case with Marvel and DC. They've also abandoned continuity, which he insultingly describes as a prison. I guess sci-fi novelists shouldn't be consistent either and arbitrarily abandon everything they set up, right?
Anything seems possible in Riverdale. Young me would have been shocked to read that sentence. Who would have guessed wholesome, simple, predictable Archie Andrews would end up the poster boy for the bizarre, complex, freewheeling possibilities of comics?
Yes, judging from the leftist politics of the modern staffers, anything's possible indeed - they've abandoned all reason for the sake of hostility to the very crowds who used to make them a success.

Some of the commentors seem to understand how pretentious the writer's article is, and one said:
Clearly the author, Mark Peters, has not read Archie in decades, or else he is well over 70 years of age.

Archie met the PUnisher 20 years ago.

Life With Archie in the 70s had Archie meeting aliens and encountering some truly marvelous life-and-death situations.

A favorite Life had the gang trapped in the 'Towering Inferno'

An amazing LITTLE Archie in the '70s had the young gang and Miss Grundy contending with a shark (which Jughead later ate).

A two-parter in the very early '70s had the Little Archie gang contending with an undersea kingdom and a sea monster.

A fabulous '60s Life story had the gang trapped in a house in the snowy mountains by an alien who feasted on metal.

Another truly brilliant story had Archie trapped in the tv set (over 20 years before Carol Ann in Poltergeist) and Jughead and Dilton had to rescue him.

And there are Little Archie adventures from the early '60s that don't compare to anything else.

So I'm not sure what stories this author was reading, but it wasn't Archie.

I would love to find the Archie story, Snow Day, or Snowy Day, when the gang and faculty were trapped at the school in a snowstorm.

But endless stories in Life With Archie and Archie at Riverdale High were far more enjoyable than numerous other comic books back then.

Reading stuff like Maus and Watchmen is known as 'growing up', tho I wouldn't part with my Archie books for anything, especially the digests.
I figured he was way off on some of the research. But it's my theory he ignored most of their history deliberately, so he could convey the picture as he wants to see it, and tell everybody reading his slop what to think/believe, which is probably worse. Another said:
Marvel Comics had a superhero character come out as gay in the 1990s. It was a terrible comic, but Archie is only, what, 20 years behind Marvel? And that's not somewhere you want to be.
The story alluded to occurred in Alpha Flight in 1992, when Scott Lobdell, heavy advocator for LGBT causes and far less so for women's causes, turned Northstar gay. Indeed, it was a very badly written, heavy-handed tale, but that didn't matter to the PC advocates of the times like the Boston Globe, one of the mainstream papers that gushed over it without interest in story merit. No, what mattered to them was shoving these leftist agendas of their forth at all costs, even if it meant Alpha Flight would lose audience and be cancelled 2 years later.

The Salon writer does not care about Archie products any more than he does about DC and Marvel's. He only cares about political correctness.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014 

Entertainment Weekly and Crave Online explain the downside of collecting

Entertainment Weekly addressed the topic of collecting comics, and makes some sense about why collecting for moneymaking doesn't pay off:
Like most things made by people, the comics industry is rife with frustrating institutional problems that will probably never be solved in our lifetimes. If you ask five different people about the worst thing to happen to comics, you’d probably get five different answers (or one cheating answer: the 90s). But, as someone who writes about comics, here’s the one that I find the most destructive, the one that gets in the way of a lot of people reading and enjoying great work: the idea that comics are supposed to be collected.

Note how I worded that. There is nothing inherently wrong with collecting comics, but the idea that it’s what you’re supposed to do is what’s destructive, because of what it implies. First and foremost, comics are meant to be read and enjoyed. Collecting comics just sort of happens as a natural extension of that—they pile up, and since they’re serial narratives, you want to hold on to them while seeking out gaps—after all, who wants to have just part of a story?

No, this is about the other kind of collecting.

For a long time (the 90s), comics speculation was huge. Limited edition covers, ridiculously hyped first issues, and The Death of Superman all contributed to this weird atmosphere that led to people treating comics as a sort of commodity, something that might be worth a lot of money someday. A lot of this speculation turned out to be baseless. The economics of it all are complex and fascinating, but the end result is this: it is highly unlikely that you will make a fortune off your comic book collection. Unless of course you have something truly valuable—which isn’t most people.
Well they got that right. And that's why I'd rather buy a lot of this stuff based on how entertaining it is to read about, especially if I can find it in paperbacks.

However, their argument starts to falter when they discuss getting invested in superhero universes and serial fiction, and while there's one part where they score a point, they also proceed to say:
However, there are ways in which a collector’s/completist mentality can turn you off to comics. A lot of times, a book’s direction can be editorially mandated by people outside of the main creative team. Sometimes, these decisions can severely damage how much you enjoy a particular book—DC’s New 52 initiative in 2011 is an example so apt it hurts. And while comics publishers, more than almost any other entertainment industry, really listen to their fans, these sort of frustrating decisions are incredibly regular.
I'm sorry, but while they're right the New52 is bad, their claim the companies listen to readers has been exceedingly untrue for many years already. Even after Marvel backed away from what they did with the Clone Saga, they still wouldn't let go of the idea Spidey's marriage to Mary Jane Watson was the most absolute, flat-out worst thing that could happen, and now, look where we are.

In fact, if the Big Two and some smaller publishers really listened to their fans, do you think DC would've published Identity Crisis, and Marvel published Avengers: Disassembled? Would they have taken every minor character they considered a sacrificial lamb and wiped them out or worse? Would Hal Jordan go berserk and Hank Hall become Extant during Zero Hour? Would Peter Parker have made faustian pacts with Mephisto? The writer of this piece has to wake up and do far better research to realize his claim does not hold water.

Crave Online also brought this topic up, and pointed out how collectors are misled:
Whenever a comic book like Action Comics # 1 is sold for a high price, it’s often used as an example of the collectivity of comics. It’s the idea that comics are more than a combination of words and artwork that tell a sequential story. To some collectors, comics are simply “investments” that have no intrinsic value except for the money that they can be sold for.

Several of the biggest comic companies have played into that mentality. In the last few years, variant covers have risen again as publishers attempt to create collectors items by producing specialty issues. To put it more simply, Marvel and DC (as well as many smaller publishers) create a standard comic book with a set cover image, before offering retailers a chance to order the same comic with a different cover image if they increase their orders to reach a certain threshold.

Essentially, this creates variant editions of the comics that have far fewer copies than the standard editions. 1:10 (one variant cover for every ten copies of the standard issue), 1:40 and 1:100 cover variants are popular once again with the speculators and the people who are willing to pay inflated prices for the same comic that was only $3.99 on the shelf.

It’s in the publishers’ and the retailers’ best interests to pass off these variant covers as collectors items that can only go up in value. But it’s a lie. The variant covers are not inherently valuable. They are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.

In the comic book industry, the publishers and the speculators both contributed to the major crash of the ‘90s, in which the market was flooded with comics packaged as collectors items. Those “collectors items” now appear in the dollar bins of comic conventions because there was no audience to buy them in the first place. Publishers and retailers went out of business because they overextended themselves. And it’s a mistake that the publishers and retailers of the present seem all too eager to repeat.
Without doubt, they're so desperate to make money and stay "relevant" it makes no difference to them if it precipitates their closures in the forseeable future. Yet that is just what's bound to happen, and if the revived Valiant intends to follow this example, they're only going to ensure they depart the market again faster than the original incarnation did.

Speculators are surely worse than mindless publishers, and some even go out of their way to buy multiple copies of the same book, which only proves many comics - especially mainstream - don't have the audience the major publishers supposedly wish they had. This is just why the time has come to abandon the pamphlet format and switch to simpler ones like paperbacks, but the major companies so far have no intention of doing so, no matter how badly they're already selling.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014 

Did Gail Simone really change how we view women in superhero comics?

That's what Vox wants us to think, yet female co-stars are curiously absent from this article. It begins with a note relating to Women in Refridgerators:
In the world of comics, men die noble deaths sacrificing themselves for the good of mankind. In the world of comics, those men are rarely in danger of being killed and stuffed in refrigerators. No, in the world of comics, it's wives and girlfriends who are killed, contorted, snapped, and smashed into the fridge alongside the milk and eggs.
I think that's a bit naive to believe men are immune to some of these awful tropes. Let's remember when Ronnie Raymond, aka Firestorm, was killed in Identity Crisis. That's one example of its sort. Earlier, Hal Jordan died a not so noble death in Zero Hour, and still earlier in Emerald Twilight, he executed thousands of GLC members, some very alarmingly. And I recall the time when Sean McKeever wiped out half of a pair of twins in Teen Titans who were meant as a nod to Wendy and Marv from the Super Friends cartoon. The brother was the one who got mauled to death by a monstrous take on Wonder Dog, and the sister certainly ended up in a wheelchair.
"For so long, we had a few female archetypes and that was it. It was like only three types of women existed in the universe, and that's just completely insane," Simone told me during one of New York Comic Con's rare quiet moments.

Her face sharpened into a grin.

"None of us are alike in real life, so why should they all be alike in fiction?"
I'm afraid even today, we're still not out of the woods, and it's foolish for her to act as though we've come away from this 100 percent. This isn't just superheroines we're concerned about. It's also female co-stars. This article doesn't mention a word about Sue Dibny and Jean Loring, two of the biggest victims of Identity Crisis. In fact, it doesn't even mention Mary Jane Watson or Karen Page. Oh, and it doesn't mention the Wendy and Marv seen in Teen Titans either. Not even the panel where Wendy tried to hide in a refridgerator, in an apparent mocking of the site she helped develop.
What male comic book writers did with women and refrigerators, Simone has been doing to shopworn female stereotypes since she started her comic book writing career at the turn of the millennium. From her stint at Wonder Woman and her gritty, career-defining era on Birds of Prey to her brilliant run on the anti-hero group known as the Secret Six and her chewier, very popular Batgirl and upcoming return on Secret Six, Simone has changed the way we think of female characters in comics.
I wonder why they don't mention how editorial mandates later destroyed whatever good she was trying to do in Birds of Prey, before taking the title away from her entirely? How superficial can they get?
Simone's fearlessness is woven into her writing. When talking about female characters, the general conversation often meanders into a debate of what sorts of representation are good and bad for women. Simone doesn't seem to care about this argument, so much as she cares about writing characters who are flawed, who fail, who aren't afraid of being dark, and who don't live on a pedestal.
Something bugs me about this part. Why do they have to be unafraid of being dark? Why not being unafraid of brightness? With so much darkness eating up superhero comics now, that's pretty awkward to emphasize darkness.
Equality, in Simone's eyes, is letting women in comic book stories being as wicked, marred, and sexual as the men in comic books are allowed to be. Equality is giving female characters as much of their own agency as men get.
This part is ridiculous. Plenty of women in comics have been sexual. I'm okay with the part about marred, if it's synonymous with flawed, but wicked? I find that appalling and besides, there's plenty of villainesses over the years who've been wicked, like Queen Bee and Cheetah. But agency, that I can agree on, since it means making them their own protagonists, in their own right.
"It does a disservice to that character, their themes, and their representation to make them so perfect that they're no longer believable and relatable," Simone said. "I like to see [my characters] flawed, make mistakes, have to work for what they get. Or if they haven't worked for it, they need to have it taken away for a while and to work for it again."
In that case, how come she doesn't tell she's impressed with the hard work Jan Strnad did in Sword of the Atom in the mid-80s, depicting Jean Loring as flawed without being disrespectful to the cast? Something that was destroyed by DiDio's regime in 2004. Which brings us again to the biggest problem this article has: supporting casts have no relevancy here. No mention of Lois Lane either, not even whether past writers made an effort to depict her the same way Simone wants to work on her lady cast. Not even a single critique about how the Super-marriage was broken up for the sake of pairing Supes with Wonder Woman. Although they do bring up the case of the t-shirts, and say that:
Simone wasn't shy in criticizing the company that employs her
But why has she been shy about criticizing the company for publishing an abomination like Identity Crisis? That's considerably worse than the t-shirts. I may have noticed her communicating at times with Dan Slott, and connecting with a man who's written such a reprehensible take on Spider-Man's wife demands serious questions. Was the task writing Birds of Prey worth it when there's such degrading storyboards being etched out in the office next door?
A lot has changed since Simone made her mordant and important observation. Warner Bros. announced on Wednesday that Wonder Woman would finally be getting her own movie. Characters like Mera, Black Canary, and Simone's Batgirl have become more prominent figures in the DC Universe. And there are more female editors, creators, and artists that she can call colleagues, Simone tells me.
I'm not sure Mera's become more prominent, and Black Canary's prominence has dwindled ever since Simone lost the helm of BoP.

For some people, it may be great to hear there'll be a WW movie in the works, but what if it turns out to be another "be careful what you wish for" case? Let's remember the time when a Supergirl movie was produced in 1984, and wound up a major failure. Nobody wants another movie with a superheroine to turn out a dud. The talent of assigned screenwriters and quality of the finished product have to count first.

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7 Gerry Conway tweets

Here comes the latest of veteran Conway's mostly leftist tweetings:

Only the GOP counts? Not the Democrats? Much too easy, I'm afraid, simply much too easy.

Again, what about the Democrats? Will he elect any whom he should blame? Interestingly though, he does suggest he's disappointed by Obama, but not enough and coming much too late:

He may be admitting he's disappointed with Obama, but after two terms, isn't that a bit late to admit it? And he can't resist positing an anti-conservative bias lambasting Reagan either. Just how was Reagan so bad? How was he any worse than Carter? I don't agree with that at all. Didn't the Berlin Wall begin to fall at the time, ditto the Soviet Union?

Another interesting tweet he posted is this one:

I should hope he realizes how terrible it is that the women converting to Islam and joining ISIS are throwing away their lives for such hell-on-earth. Yes Conway, that's reality for you. There's certain women in the world - even Jewish ones - with very poor self-esteem who tragically developed a mentality leading them to throw their lives away. Colleen LaRose was one of them. The worst part, however, is the women who enforce and inculcate this derangement upon other women living under the caliphate. If Conway doesn't think that's a serious problem, that'll be very terrible.

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Friday, October 24, 2014 

Damian Wayne resurrected

DC's editors decided they wanted to resurrect the "son" Grant Morrison came up with several years ago:
It turns out that Damian Wayne will be returning to life by the end of Robin Rises and taking up his old job. This isn't necessarily the most surprising outcome for anyone who has been reading the series. Robin Rises has revolved around Batman using any and all means at his disposal to resurrect his dead son (who was killed last year in the pages of Batman Incorporated), including teaming up with Ra's al Ghul and traveling to Apokolips.
I wonder why his alleged son is so important to him, but not minor characters like Sue Dibny, Elongated Man, Jean Loring, and even Sarah Essen Gordon? Resurrecting Damian in itself is okay - this is a sci-fi world, after all - but if he's so crucial to Batman, why aren't various other heroes and co-stars who suffered offensive fates? Near far as I know, Katma Tui of the GL Corps is still in the grave, and could make a perfect candidate for resurrection too. This storyline with Damian makes it all just plain laughable.

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CBR sugarcoats the history of Secret Wars

CBR wrote about the first company wide crossover, Secret Wars, and how it changed everything, but they won't admit it became a bad precedent, spawning more non-stop crossovers that have effectively ruined organic flows in mainstream writing:
In this age of constant event stories, another superhero crossover surprises no one. But when Marvel Comics announces a new "Secret Wars" by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribić -- as the publisher did earlier this month during New York Comic Con -- it's something to take note of. The name immediately evokes memories in longtime comic fans of an event -- one of the first true "events" -- that left a lasting narrative and marketing impact on the Marvel Universe. The original "Secret Wars" taught the industry that if a company puts its biggest characters in one series, sales will follow.
Oh, that's basically admitting the product is marketed according to popularity rank of characters, and not according to story merit. So if Spider-Man's prominently featured, that's the sales draw, not Moon Knight.
..."Secret Wars" was another toy-inspired comic, but what made it unique was that the toys in question were based on Marvel's characters. Before Mattel launched its "Secret Wars" line of action figures, comics-based figures had no publishing support. "Secret Wars" was supposed to be a 22-page monthly advertisement for Mattel's new line, but what it became was a model many others would follow. Some people point to "Contest of Champions" as the first true "event" comic, but "Secret Wars" actually had lasting repercussions on the individual characters' solo titles and the Marvel Universe as a whole, a template Marvel, DC Comics and more follow to this day.
If they're saying the companies should've published series based on the toys, I don't see the need for that. Much like the comics, the toys should be marketed on their own terms too. What I don't seem to notice in this article is a note on how well the toys sold, and from what I know, they may not have sold that well at all, much like ROM: Spaceknight and Micronauts, also mentioned in the article, did not sell so well either.

Since they've brought up Contest of Champions, it's worth noting that miniseries by Bill Mantlo, one of the first of its kind from Marvel at the time, had some appalling politics featured in it. A couple of minor characters were notably featured, including Arabian Knight, who made no secret he disliked working with a Jewess, Sabra from Israel; both first appeared in two different issues of the Incredible Hulk at the time. What was annoying about that story is how Arabian Knight's apparent racial hostility - to say nothing of his polygamy (he had 3 wives named Maya, Rana and Almira) - were dealt with using kid gloves. He despises Jews/Israel, and they don't distance themselves from him, at least until he renounces the Islamic-spawned beliefs he's going by? IMO, this was a testament to how poor Mantlo's grip on reality was, ditto his research.
According to Jim Shooter, Marvel's Editor-in-Chief at the time, in addition to requesting that Dr. Doom and Iron Man have a less medieval look, Mattel wanted a comic that featured one big story with an overarching theme that the toy company could build its line around. The series didn't feature any special shields, but it did introduce a multitude of character beats that went on to impact the heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe. It was also the first standalone series which saw its storylines spill into most of the Marvel titles published at the time, both directly and indirectly. Mattel wanted big, and Shooter provided. "Secret Wars" became something far more than a book that existed to push toys on kids; it was a blueprint for a new way to brand and sell books. Lots and lots of books.
Translation: a perfect way to coax people into buying books where they may not enjoy the story inside. A perfect way to exploit everyone's wallets. And Mattel never thought about how inconsiderate this was to readers. Biggest problem: the whole strategy wasn't based on story quality per se.

I also don't get what they mean by Mattel's asking both Doctor Doom and Iron Man have less "medieval" looks. Sure, the former had something like that, but it served to make him look more sinister and mysterious. The latter's armor has been anything but antique-style.
Nowadays, after so many crossover events, fans are used to the concept of their favorite heroes gathering in one place to face a huge threat, but in the 1984, this sort of adventure was a novelty. Yes, Marvel published the "Avengers/Defenders War" in 1973, an event that served as a prototype for many future inter-title crossovers, but there was no core series connected to the event. Marvel also published "Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions" in 1982, but that storyline -- which was relatively similar to "Secret Wars" -- did not impact any of Marvel's other titles. "Secret Wars" presented a core title that fans could consume as well as crossing over into almost all of Marvel's monthly titles.
"Used to"? It's more like tired and bored, though there's still a portion of would-be fans out there who keep wasting their money on these tedious tripes and don't care if it's ruined self-contained storytelling.
Shooter reportedly micromanaged the creators of each of those titles, causing discontent amongst creators who were reluctant to derail their books in order to fit in the E-i-C's pet project. But Shooter was the boss, and "Secret Wars" launched as planned, featuring fantastic art by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. Fans who wanted the whole story needed to pick up the core series as well as the ongoing titles affected by it. This sales gimmick is familiar to fans now, but in 1984, it was new and innovative, quickly spawning many clones. In fact, DC Comics looked to the "Secret Wars" template for its "Crisis on Infinite Earths," a crossover event that resulted in the entirety of the DC Universe to be rebooted. "Crisis" was much bigger in scope, but it followed the marketing plan and appeal to collectability established by "Secret Wars."
Micromanagement was exactly the problem, and has since continued to affect the Big Two very badly. Why should the creators have to yield to such a problematic idea that's since taken away their freedom in mainstream? In fairness, if it hadn't affected their titles through direct tie-ins, I'm sure plenty of people would be more forgiving, because it's not like they'd have to make hard choices whether they want to buy every single title, even if they're not interested in specific ones. But that's how Shooter went about it, and that's why I can't call it "innovative", when innovation is just what it helped destroy.
As we mentioned earlier, while it was created as a toy tie-in, "Secret Wars" actually had a very real and noticeable effect on much of the broader Marvel Universe. The biggest change was originally a cosmetic one, but it garnered mainstream attention and kicked off dozens and dozens of stories. One of the machines the Beyonder designed and placed on Battleworld was some kind of replicator device that the heroes used to replace their torn costumes. After his familiar red and blue garment was torn in battle, Peter Parker used the device to create new one. Apparently subconsciously inspired by the black suit of a new Spider-Woman (we'll get to her in a moment), Spidey ended up with a new, black suit, one that that has become iconic in its own right. But the old Parker luck was true to form as Peter actually used the wrong machine. Instead of cloth, the costume was in fact a sentient blob of black goo. This new, alien suit led to a lengthy storyline finding Spidey becoming more aggressive as the symbiote attempted to take control of Peter, eventually leading to the introduction of iconic Spider-foe Venom, a villain who became one of the most important and widely recognized aspects of Spider-Man's world.
Most of those "effects" they speak of didn't last long, not even the new Spidey costume, which lasted 3-4 years at best. To be fair, most of the "changes" stemming from Secret Wars were relatively harmless, and went away after awhile. And the miniseries' goal was not to kill off any characters. But today's crossovers and other events have led to severe lack of direction, or worse, they've come to serve as vehicles for killing off any character the editors choose, selectively or otherwise. I think DC may have suffered worse, because a large number of their crossovers featured at least one character death only for the sake of it, like Blue Devil co-star Marla Bloom's death in Underworld Unleashed, where the star implausibly chose to become a full-fledged devil-in-the-flesh, contradicting the original premise entirely. Like Zero Hour, some of these plot devices made no sense, yet this article's writer did not set out to say a word about the quality of writing. As I know, there were a handful of new characters who showed up (Julia Carpenter, Titania, Volcana), but their introductions didn't have to take place in a crossover to work.
The event also featured a temporary power upgrade for Dr. Doom, who stole the Beyonder's might during the final chapters. By having Doom stand out among the villains that went to Battleworld, Shooter further established Doom as the Marvel Universe's premier villain. Other antagonists were soldiers when compared to Doom, who dared to challenge the godlike Beyonder.
Well gee, they didn't have to do this in a crossover to establish Doom as a prime antagonist. Besides, if he lost the power increase afterwards, then I'm not sure how he could continue to be thought of as a premier villain if he lacked the full power he was given in Secret Wars.
...the X-Men's Colossus was so affected by his experiences on Battleworld that he ended his relationship with fellow X-Man Kitty Pryde. This event took both characters in new directions, as fans saw an end to one of the longest-standing romances in the Marvel Universe.
Say what? It didn't last that long; just 4 years at best. They don't mention the real reason Shooter wanted to move away from this was the problematic age difference between Colossus and Kitty in those early years. While that's understandable, I don't see how this couldn't be done in a stand-alone story back in the X-Men sans connection to the miniseries.
All of these character beats were important to the overall tapestry of the Marvel Universe, but it was in marketing where "Secret Wars" biggest impact was felt. The major comic companies and retailers now knew the power of branding. Fans everywhere had experienced a comic storyline in a way that they never had before, and if sales were any indication, they liked it.
But no longer. With the audience for superhero comics drastically reduced, it should be a lot more obvious today they've experienced "event fatigue", and while the sequel to Secret Wars may have sold well enough, it got a much more negative response. At the end of the article, CBR's writer says:
By the time the "Secret Wars" toys were on clearance at toy stores, the comic book market had been forever altered. As we head towards the new "Secret Wars," it's important to remember what the initial event meant to the industry, the direct market and the characters of the Marvel Universe.
And all this is told without specifying how well the toys sold. Were they blockbusters? I'm not sure. Come to think of it, what were the sales receipts on Secret Wars? If they didn't sell a million per copy, it may not be as successful as they say it was. Worse is the writer's disinterest in noting the bad impact Secret Wars had on creative freedom, and may have alienated quite a few writers from Marvel at the time. If they went over to DC though, that's weird, since they went right along and set up their own crossovers, and may have gone farther overboard than Marvel did. This is just the kind of reporting that's ruining comicdom and proving why CBR's one of the most unreliable news sites on the web.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014 

Marz frames Ottawa terrorist attack as a gun control argument

He's made a comment about the attack and near infiltration of a government office in the Canadian parliament by a jihadist, discussing the topic as if it were something a lot simpler:

Here we go again. This was not a simple matter of a crackpot with no serious political leanings attacking politicians. This was a case of a Muslim convert who was influenced by the Koran (although his father was already a Muslim who'd taken part in Libyan jihad). Does Marz also think the massacre at Fort Hood was simply a superficial case of gun violence? The reality is that it's a case of homegrown jihadism that's eating up countries like Canada and Britain, and the USA. It should be noted that it was thanks to a RCMP member with a gun that the filthy jihadist in Canada was stopped before he could enter an office where a lot of politicians were gathered.

Here's also another tweet by Marz about Gamergate:

Ah, but does Marz understand that books like Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled are built on misogynistic components? Does he even come to terms with how degrading Emerald Twilight is? Sure, he's written a few books in the past with female leads, and co-stars who were just as prominent, at companies like the defunct Crossgen, and now at Top Cow/Image. But he's occasionally given signs he hasn't fully learned his lesson since the time he'd written Emerald Twilight and the fridge scene (like when he wrote the finale for the Kyle Rayner run in Green Lantern), and that makes it hard to be certain he really understands these issues as well as he could.

And what if mine/your girlfriend/wife/relative is somebody who doesn't care much for computer games, and when she decides to look into the topic further, finds it's more about biased, politicized journalism involving petty arguments on the least problematic elements like T&A, and a belief that partisan politics should be injected into computer games? What then? What if she also decides the 3 women involved aren't people she'd want to hang around either, or even some of the folks against Gamergate? And what if she couldn't care less that Intel decided to remove their ads from Gamasutra and had no interest in reading that dopey website anyway? Marz shouldn't assume every women takes the same position on video games, not even other leftists, some of whom could also be part of the Gamergate movement. But then, does that mean he does have a problem with leftists in comicdom who've tolerated misogyny? Unfortunately, he's never written an op-ed in the same vein as Chuck Dixon did about the industry complaining about issues like that, and it doesn't look like he'll ever try to speak out against bad things happening at the Big Two seriously, so I honestly don't know why he's bothering to lambast Gamergate.

Okay, I'll offer some advice. Don't act like journalists are incapable of doing something bad and making mistakes. Besides, what were J. Jonah Jameson and Bethany Snow created for? And tone down all that leftism. Even some of Marz's fellow leftists may have done that already, and if they did, it could benefit comicdom better.

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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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