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Sunday, August 19, 2007 

Cannibals with jetpacks are NOT funny

Let's say that there was a story in which Osama bin Laden were depicted flying around on a jetpack. Would you find that funny or even entertaining in any way? If the answer to that is no, then you'll understand what my problem is with All-New Atom #14.

Some people seem to think that All-New Atom #14 is some kind of classic. I don't and here's why.

I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later that any favorite writer of mine was going to do something that I'd find offensive, and I'm sorry to say, but Gail Simone now joins that list.

On this page here are the pages and panels from All-New Atom #14. The plot involves three heroes going to the afterlife in their search for Ray Palmer (well, so it seems that way). They meet quite a few heroes and villains using jetpacks, and it turns out that Hitler is using a jetpack in the afterlife too as he tries to attack the heroes.

Here's my problem with it: It's not that Ryan Choi kicks the shit out of the fuhrer. That's what's appropriate. The problem is that the whole idea of seeing the fuhrer with a jetpack to begin with, in and of itself, seems to be depicted here as funny, and some of the people I've seen talking about this certainly seem to think so. ("Fun panel of the week"? I'll try to explain more about why I think not.)

What's the problem with how this is done? Simple. Real life cannibals are not a laughing matter and to depict them as this book does, flying around on jetpacks in what's apparently meant to look hilarious, is walking a very tricky tightrope, because it can minimize the evil. There are quite a few other savages throughout history that, to depict them wearing jetpacks in what's meant to be a funny light, would be inappropriate too. For example, Rameses, the sick little pharaeoh of Egypt, Mohammed, the leaders of the Islamic Caliphate and the Arabic conquests during the seventh century, the Turkish leaders who slaughtered more than a million Armenians in Turkey in 1915 during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin, the Japanese army generals who conducted the Rape of Nanking and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Franco, the dictator of Spain during WW2, the Vichys, Saddam Hussein, Yasir Arafat, Che Guevara, Mao, and even current tyrants like Ahmedinejad, the Janjaweed militia in the Sudan, Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong-Il. We could probably even add King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who were whitewashed to some extent at times, but in truth were both autocratic leaders of France in the 18th century who later got beheaded for the crimes they committed against the people of France.

In fact, should Hitler even be shown having a jetpack at all, any more than bin Laden?

There's also another problem I have with this: when All-New Atom kicks the fuhrer, he says "stupid jetpack Hitler". The problem is that the line is meant to be funny, and like I said, things like this are no laughing matter, and shouldn't be dealt with that way. It's actually an understatement to say something like that, because the real exclamation would have to be "filthy, crawling piece of shit Hitler". Putting it as a funny line waters down the seriousness of what's involved. It also makes Choi look ridiculous; like an idiot. Is that how to portray a hero in a situation involving seriousness?

The answer is no. Furthermore, it just underscores at least one accusation that was made that the way Ryan Choi is written is stereotypical. Even if his adventures are meant to be tongue-in-cheek, that doesn't mean that he should be depicted as a sort of befuddled 12-year old with an even more questionable accent. In fact, the accent alone may be the biggest problem about him: aren't most college profs usually well educated in English pronunciations according to where they'll be working? It's hard to believe he could be taken seriously by the faculty with the pidgin accent he sports here.

I'm guessing that this approach was inspired by The Producers, which was also a colossally overrated movie that made a joke out of savagery. How is it that some people haven't learned from just how bad that movie was? I certainly don't want it among my video collection. Similarly, I'm not going to support this book from DC if that's how they're going to write a story involving real life cannibals.

It's one thing if you're going to depict say, Mohammed as the subject of political cartoons like those published in Jyllands Posten two years ago, but then again, did the cartoonists who worked on those depict the founder of the Religion of Peace sailing around on a jetpack as if that were meant to be funny even to those who find his cannibalism obscene? Of course not. What they were doing was sending a message to the worshipers of the RoP that if they're going to worship and advocate cannibalism themselves, then they're going to be rewarded by having their "prophet" mocked. But as even those who uphold the caricatures of Mohammed may agree someday, the founder of Islam and jihad is not a laughing matter.

I realize that Simone obviously didn't mean to be offensive to the wrong crowds, or didn't realize this whole premise was offensive. But if not, then that's why, if she's smart, she'll apologize and learn from her mistakes. I understand that it's not something that's been in serious discussion before, but depicting real life savages as comedy is simply in bad taste, and those who're doing it now should consider.

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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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