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Monday, April 13, 2020 

"Spider-Island" is not something to read during the Corona crisis

Here's a crummy article in the Peterborough Examiner where propagandist Andrew Smith lists 11 of what he thinks make for great reading during the Coronavirus pandemic crisis. But, he goofs, for example, with one item that might be from the Justice League of America, but which he doesn't clarify, and simultaneously belittles it:

Back in 1975, a kind of pollen infects Thanagar, Hawkman's home planet. In fact, the Winged Wonder is one of the first victims, who then infects the Justice League.

"I'd been equalized," he explained, "as had almost the entire planet! Those particles from the alien were microbes ... which affect people when they exert themselves —making them physically equal to everyone around them!"

In other words, it "equalizes" everyone's strengths and weaknesses to make them all average. It affects people mentally, too:

Green Arrow: "What do you make of it, Batman?"

Batman: "Why ask me?"

Honestly, it's a pretty silly premise. But it's worth your while just to see Batman as a C student.
Again, this may have come from the Justice League's title, but no specific issue number, let alone title, is given, so how can we figure out at ease whether it's from the League's adventures, or, from any Hawkman solo tale, recalling there were a few published as backups in Detective Comics at the time? Why, now that I think of it, for him to say the premise of the story is "silly" is decidedly an insult to a time when writing was far more respectable than today's offerings. If we look upon the story as a vague parallel to real life, there could be something in it to think about. I also don't approve of citing Y; The Last Man here:

In the first issue of DC Comics' "Y: The Last Man" in 2002, an unknown plague wipes out everything on the planet with a Y chromosome, except for a young escape artist named Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand. The source of the plague is never definitively explained, as Yorick is chased around the world by hordes of women —including ninjas, Amazons and the Mossad —who either want to kill him or breed with him.

It's a terrific read, and a TV series has been in the works for a while at FX. I'd have rated it higher, except that the pandemic is little more than a set-up for writer Brian K. Vaughan's exploration of gender roles, commentary on modern society and a crackerjack adventure story.
I'm wondering why we're supposed to think a leftist story where Republican women and the Israeli Mossad are depicted as a bad lot (something Smith conveniently obscures) makes for great pastime? Apparently, that's the kind of modern society commentary we're supposed to think is legit, to the point where it makes little difference whether the plague's origins are left unexplained.

Smith also recommends a recent DC event from the time Dan DiDio was still around, along with an older Marvel event from Joe Quesada's time as EIC:

Somewhere in the DC multiverse, there is an Earth exactly like the one we read about in DC Comics, but isn't ours. Because in this one, as depicted in the "DCeased" miniseries, Darkseid won.

Sort of. In "DCeased" #1 in 2019, the ruler of Apokalips combined an aspect of Death (known as the Black Racer among the New Gods) with the Anti-Life Equation (long story) and created a disease that turns everyone who sees it into a ravening, cannibalistic monster (a "fast zombie" in nerd-speak).

And it's spread on the Internet. So it infects anyone who looks at a phone, or a Wikipedia page, or Netflix ... yeah, pretty much everyone.

It doesn't go well. Darkseid is the first victim, and he destroys Apokolips. In his last moments henchman DeSaad infects Earth, and pretty much the whole Justice League goes full-on, super-powered zombie. I won't spoil the ending, but there's a sequel out currently —"DCeased: Unkillables" —which should tell you something.

It's really well done. I would have ranked it higher, only it came out in 2019, and Marvel Comics beat DC to the punch by 14 years:


Somewhere in the Marvel multiverse, there is an Earth exactly like the one we read about in Marvel Comics, but isn't ours. In fact, Marvel helpfully tells us that it's Earth-2149, for those fans who are mapping the multiverse. (And you just know they exist.)

On that Earth in 2005, a superhero known as The Sentry arrives from outer space, already infected with "The Hunger," which transforms people into fast zombies with a single bite. He bites a bunch of Avengers, and super-speedster Quicksilver spreads the disease globally. I don't want to spoil anything, but it's probably enough to tell you that the last hope of mankind ... is Magneto.

The story is by Robert Kirkman, who had created "The Walking Dead" at Image Comics two years previously. You can find it in "Marvel Zombies" and related miniseries.
I think we could do without zombie balderdash, regardless of whether these stories supposedly echo the current crisis, and it makes no difference whether Kirkman is the writer. Besides, I find it irritating how comics like his are considered such a big deal based on the darkness they're built upon. That kind of political correctness is exactly what's devastating entertainment.

But now, here's the really big, tasteless mistake for a recommendation:

An unnamed disease, invented by Spider-Man arch-foe and clone-maker The Jackal, gave all of Manhattan's residents Spider-Man powers in a clutch of Marvel titles in 2011. That's pretty awesome, except as the disease progressed, victims mutated into giant spider-monsters.

Which, as downsides go, is right up there with cartoon holes in your body. Writer Dan Slott kept the story moving along briskly so that we didn't have to dwell on that too long, and everyone got cured anyway. But it's worth it to watch J. Jonah Jameson become a giant, hairy spider —and finally stop talking.
I'm convinced at this that anybody who sugarcoats Slott's career knows more than enough about him, and has no qualms with the ill-treatment of Mary Jane Watson for over a decade after Quesada destroyed the Spider-marriage. Slott's already proven he's no writer, and it's strongly advised not to take any recommedations of his work at face value. Not even if Spidey's media adversary is depicted winding up in a dreadful situation like the above.

At the end, Smith says:
That's a wrap. There are a lot more bizarre diseases in comics than those listed above, but those are my favorites. Maybe knowing we won't turn into giant spiders will make COVID-19 a little less scary? God knows we could use a little good news.
None of which would be coming from him, that's for sure. Whether we'd turn into big spiders is besides the point. What matters is when somebody sugarcoats awful writing and scribes, and recommends reading those at a time like this. No way. The good news for Marvel will be when Quesada finally leaves their employment entirely, and come to think of it, Dan Buckley too.

Update: here's also a column he wrote at the Bryan Eagle, where he insults a few of the creations who debuted alongside the Golden Age Flash in 1940:
OK, I’m not going to shed any bitter tears over The Whip, Cliff Cornwall or Red Rian of the Sky Police, who are deservedly forgotten. Or even “Johnny Thunder,” a humor strip whose biggest claim to fame is introducing Black Canary – well, aside from Johnny being a founding member of the Justice Society of America. He was eventually replaced there by Black Canary, as he was in his own strip, so I can forgive his omission at the 80th birthday party.
And I'm not going to take his insulting dismissal of these Golden Age creations at face value. Certainly not what he says about Johnny Thunder. Guess he really doesn't have what it takes to appreciate humor, or how Johnny subsequently got a co-starring role in the Justice Society. Some people just don't have what it takes to appreciate products of the past.

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The equalizer plague was from JLA 117-119.

Gotta admit, I enjoyed Y: The Last Man in all the TPBs I read at the library. Yes, BKV has silly liberal views, but he's still a fun writer. Marvel Zombies was hokey fun in the "Walking Dead" vein with all of Marvel's toys. Hadn't heard of DCeased (worth a look to see).
My real question: will stories in the future look approvingly at the dystopia we're facing currently? Will those who don't social distance or put on masks be shamed if we choose not to? Because right now, it looks like a lot of young, mindless kids are accepting of social stupidity in the name of "health," meaning they have no problem giving up the Constitution/Bill of Rights. Not too thrilled with that, or them.

"I find it irritating how comics like his are considered such a big deal based on the darkness they're built upon. That kind of political correctness is exactly what's devastating entertainment."

Are you saying Republicans don't like zombie stories?

I would be curious to know what link you see between political correctness and dark story lines. Most zombies in comics do not think much and do not have strong political beliefs one way or the other.

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