Have you heard the one about Spider-Man?

So the Internet is all a-buzz right now with the big revelation from Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man #700, written by Dan Slott. This issue ends Amazing Spider-Man and Superior Spider-Man #1 will be released next month. It’s even earned Slott death threats. Seriously? Grow up, people. I don’t care how bad the story is (and it’s pretty bad), but at the end of the day it’s still just a fucking comic book.

First off, if you plan on buying this issue and haven’t yet, then I’d like to save you some money and time by advising you not to. Seriously, just don’t do it. Especially for the price Marvel is charging (¥700 on my Marvel Comics iPhone app).

Second, if you’re a glutton for punishment and still want to buy the issue, then you should probably stop reading right now. Because otherwise, I will spoil the ending for you.

In other words, spoilers follow, so turn away now. Continue reading

ComiXology and the future of digital

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a fan of digital. There are a few reasons for this. One is convenience — having everything at your fingertips as opposed to digging through boxes or shelves makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for or just to browse. Another is space. As I mentioned when I talked about digitizing my movie library, I live in Japan and as such, space is a premium. While my area tends to have a lower cost of living than what most people think of Japan, space is still difficult to come by and your chances of finding a big house if you aren’t rolling in cash is pretty slim. A third reason is security. Say you have a ton of books and your house burns down — those books are gone. But if you have digital books, you can back them up in a cloud.

Now this brings us to the point of this post and that’s digital comics. ComiXology is the big dog in terms of digital comics and they have a pretty nice looking app and the guided viewing mode is very cool, zooming in on different panels one at a time.

There is a big problem with digital comics, and digital movies for that matter. The issue of digital rights management or DRM. When you go down to the store and buy a comic book, that comic book is yours. You own it. When you pay the same amount for the same comic on the ComiXology app, you do not own the comic. What you have bought is a license. And it’s a license ComiXology reserves the right to revoke at any time for any reason.

So you’ve paid the same amount of money for the same product, the only difference is the method in which it’s presented. And in one case, you own it. In another, you’ve just paid for a right to view the material, you do not own it. What happens if ComiXology goes out of business? You’ve lost your money and the product you paid for.

Not too long ago, someone created a script that would allow people to back up their ComiXology purchases to CBR or CBZ (archive files that can be read with a comic book reading program). It was posted on Reddit and ComiXology asked for it to be removed. Which they have a right to do. But the problem here is that ComiXology is basically telling me, “you may have bought our product, but it’s not yours. We still own it. All you’ve bought is our permission to look at it, and we can revoke that permission at any time. Without giving you a refund.”

Imagine if you went into a store and the cashier told you, “by the way, we can come into your house at any time and take this back. We don’t have to warn you in advance and we don’t have to give you a refund, because you do not technically own this product.”

Seems pretty draconian to me.

I get that piracy is a big problem. I understand the argument to fight piracy, but my belief is one of the primary reasons people resort to piracy is because it’s just more convenient. When Napster came out on the scene, iTunes didn’t exist. And when iTunes came along, there was still lots of stuff that couldn’t be found. So, people who would have been willing to pay, but they found it easier to just steal.

I’m a humanist, I believe people are mostly good. I think if you give a person the ability to steal something or to pay for it and both options are easy, then most people will pay for it (yes, you’ll get people who will steal, but I do believe these are the minority).

And in the case of ComiXology, it’s not like going digital created comic book piracy. It was around before then in the form of scanners. And a vast majority of comic book piracy is still old-fashioned scanning.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying piracy is right. What I am saying is that imposing draconian restrictions and basically telling your customers, “we own these products and once you’ve paid for them, all you’ve paid for is our permission to use them. You cannot resell them. You cannot keep them. They are ours, not yours.” It’s another way of screwing the consumer.

I basically stopped reading comics when I came to Japan and aside from a few select titles, I’ve more or less stayed gone. I don’t want to get invested in these things only to have them taken away at a moment’s notice. If I can’t have a way to back them up, what good are they?

My new theory on The Dark Knight Rises

There’s been a lot of speculation on The Dark Knight Rises. While it comes out this weekend in the States, here in Japan we’ll have to wait until next week to see it. I’m not too disappointed about that, because generally Japan tends to get movies a lot later than the rest of the world (we’ve still got another month before The Avengers comes out in theaters here, and yes, I’m still pissed about that). Ever since we started hearing about this movie, rumors were flying about what “The Legend Ends” tagline really means. The commonly-accepted theory (I’m not sure who first came up with it, but I first read about it on Cracked) is that Bruce Wayne will die but Batman will live on, potentially in the form of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, John Blake, taking up the mantle.

One of the major hints to this is in Batman Begins when both Ducard/Ra’s al Ghul and Bruce talk about how a man can be destroyed, but a symbol — a legend — can live on. And in the trailers, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) tells Batman (Christian Bale) that he’s given them everything. Batman responds with, “not everything, not yet.” That certainly lends credence to the theory.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m suspicious about this theory. It makes a whole lot of sense. In fact, it makes too much sense. It makes so much sense that it’s almost obvious. And Christopher Nolan is a crafty bastard.

What if, instead of dying, Batman rises with some help? As in, the form of a partner? Now here’s where people will chime in and say that Nolan specifically said Robin won’t appear because he doesn’t feel Robin is compatible with the world he’s created. And Bale has said if Robin appears, then Bale won’t be in that film.

Notice some clever wordplay here, though. Bale and Nolan have said that Robin won’t appear. Robin is just an identity, and one that’s been adopted by numerous characters in the history of DC Comics. Dick Grayson was the first and most-famous. Jason Todd was his successor, who was killed by the Joker. Then came Tim Drake, who was later succeeded by his girlfriend, Stephanie Brown. And Batman’s son, Damian Wayne, is the current Robin. In Frank Miller’s acclaimed graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, a girl named Carrie Kelly became Robin in a future where Batman comes out of retirement.

So Robin won’t appear, and here’s what leads me to my current theory. While Dick is famously known as Robin, that was only his first costumed identity. He’s also taken up the Batman mantle a few times (both in continuity stories and in alternate universe tales). But Dick has another identity — those who are familiar either with the Batman comics or The New Batman Adventures or the current Young Justice cartoons know that Dick Grayson eventually adopts the costumed identity of Nightwing.

Check out this image from The Dark Knight Rises trailer, when Blake draws a symbol in chalk:

In the trailer, this shot is accompanied by a clip where a kid asks Blake if Batman will come back and Blake says, “I don’t know.” Now, it seems at first glance that this is nothing more than a simplified version of Batman’s famous insignia.

But then I recently noticed this:


That’s Dick in his Nightwing identity. Pay close attention to the symbol on his chest. Now compare it to the above symbol from The Dark Knight Rises. The two seem pretty similar, don’t they?

The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and Bruce has stopped being Batman. Maybe when Bane first appears, there is no Batman — and that leads Blake to adopting a costumed identity of his own, inspired by Batman. Perhaps “John Blake” is just a false identity Dick has assumed for reasons as-yet unknown. Maybe Dick is initially a plant by the League of Shadows (we know there will be connections to Batman Begins in this film) and that’s where the John Blake identity comes in. Maybe he sets the stage for Bane’s initial strike and, horrified at how he’s been misled, turns on Bane and the League and becomes Nightwing. He takes on Bane, gets defeated, and his defeat leads Bruce to picking up the Batman mantle again — the Dark Knight Rises once more. And this time around, he’s got back-up.

That’s just one theory. I could be way off-base, though.

NOTE: If you have seen the movie, please do me a favor and do not confirm nor deny any of this post! I want to find out for myself whether or not my theory proves accurate and as I said, I won’t get a chance to watch the movie until at least next weekend. As I mentioned in my review of The Avengers, I already had the mid-credits reveal spoiled by some asshole and I don’t want that to happen again. Once I’ve seen the movie, I will post my own review, which will discuss my theory once again.

Bane vs. Bain

Normally, I don’t talk politics on this blog. I do my best to keep my political views separate from my professional writing because I’m just a pulp fiction writer. I’m not trying to push my political views through my writing or to make any statements in my work about politics (if any such statements are made, it’s 100% unintentional). I just write action stories, period. And I avoid political statements because they really don’t need to be made, and I have no interest in alienating potential readers who might be interested in my stories but are turned off by my personal politics.

But sometimes, something comes along in the world of politics that’s just so ridiculous, it deserves to be commented on. So first, full disclosure: I’m Perry, I’m a liberal. And now, I’ll ask you a simple question:

What do these men have in common?

In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, the guy on the left is Bane, the villain from The Dark Knight Rises (played by actor Tom Hardy). The guy on the right is Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for President. And the question, as you can see in the caption, is a simple one: what do these two men have in common?

If your answer was “absolutely nothing,” then you’d be correct. Congratulations on being a sane individual. But if you’re professional blowhard and successful human/swine hybrid Rush Limbaugh, you believe that The Dark Knight Rises is propaganda against Romney:

Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there’s now this make-believe controversy? Bain…The movie has been in the works for a a long time, the release date’s been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bain…This evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there’s now discussion out there as to whether or not this was purposeful, and whether or not it will influence voters…It’s going to have a lot of people. This movie, the audience is going to be huge, lot of people are going to see the movie. And it’s a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop-culture crowd. And they’re going to hear Bane in the movie, and they are going to associate Bain, and the thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama, the Democrats keep talking about Bain, not Bain Capital, but Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie — “Oh yeah, I know who that is” That’s — there are some people who think it will work.

Source

So, to be clear, Limbaugh’s thesis is that The Dark Knight Rises uses a villain called Bane in order to create propaganda against Romney because of the ongoing story regarding his ties to his former company, Bain Capital (if you don’t know what the situation is with Bain Capital, feel free to research it yourself, I really have no desire to comment on it). This movie has, as Limbaugh himself admits, been in the works for a while. And it overlooks a number of crucial facts:

  • The term “bane” is defined as “a cause of great stress or annoyance” and an archaic meaning is “a thing that causes death.” That’s what the character was named after.
  • Bane was created by Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan, and Dough Moench in 1993 for DC Comics’ “Knightfall” story running through the Batman books. Since then, he’s appeared in other media as well, including Batman: The Animated SeriesBatman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City video games, and, I’m sorry to remind you all, Batman & Robin, the film which almost killed the Batman franchise.
  • I can only theorize, but there seems to be a lot of social unrest and upheaval caused by Bane in Gotham, with his partner(?) Selina Kyle (Catwoman) telling Bruce Wayne that he and his kind have been lording over the masses for far too long. If you want to draw a political message, it seems more like Bruce/Batman represents the 1% and Bane represents the 99%. You’d think that’d be reason for conservatives to start claiming The Dark Knight Rises as a pro-conservative movie. After all…
  • In 2008, conservative commentators were hailing the previous film in this series, The Dark Knight, as justification of George W. Bush’s policies and tactics during the War on Terror. Both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises were directed by Christopher Nolan.
  • Both Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan are lifelong conservatives. As Dixon said, “[Bane]’s far more akin to an Occupy Wall Street type if you’re looking to cast him politically. And if there ever was a Bruce Wayne running for the White House it would have to be Romney.”

In order for Limbaugh’s theory to make any sense, we have to assume that Barack Obama, Christopher Nolan, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan (zoinks, same last name, must be a connection!), and Doug Moench all conspired in 1993 to create a Batman villain named after Romney’s company in preparation to eventually make a movie that would smear Romney and prevent him from defeating Barack Obama in a second-term election (and both Dixon and G. Nolan would had to have betrayed their own political beliefs).

Or what’s more likely is that it’s simply coincidental and people should stop looking for political statements in a freaking Batman movie and just sit back and enjoy it.

These are the kinds of conspiracy theories that make other conspiracy theorists shake their head in embarrassment.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Back when it was first announced that Sam Raimi would not be directing Spider-Man 4, you’d think Sony collectively torched the comic collection of every single Spidey fan, because the Internet exploded with rage. Funnily enough, some of the same people coming out of the woodwork to defend Raimi were also raking him over the coals just a few short years ago when Spider-Man 3 came out — damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess.

Then came the news that Sony would not continue with the existing franchise — instead, they were going to reboot it and keep the films with Peter Parker in high school. More nerdrage followed. The casting of Andrew Garfield in the title role, again met with hatred and disdain. When the first images of the slight redesign of Spidey’s classic red and blue costume, my god, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who was bitching about how this movie would completely ruin Spider-Man. People even complained about the freaking texture of the suit, saying it looked too much like a basketball and that this meant Spalding must be a sponsor on the movie (which I thought was particularly amusing, because the texture is pretty much identical to the texture of the suit worn by Tobey Maguire in the original films).

Throughout all of this, my comment was the same as it is about every comic book movie that hasn’t even come out yet — you’re being premature. Just wait until you get the chance to actually see the movie before you start hailing it as a harbinger of the end times. It’s something that I’ve found increasingly annoying about the fan culture — particularly comic book fan culture — and it’s why I’ve pretty much backed away from the comic book forums I once frequented (and in one case, even worked for). In the past (and I’m not an old guy, mind you), comic book fans were people who loved comic books. Today, comic book fandom seems composed of people who hate comics, but can’t stop buying them. I don’t get it, because it’s not as if Marvel and DC lace the pages of their comics with opiates (although that would be one way to boost sales — if anyone from Disney or Time-Warner is reading this, I’ve got a patent on opiate-laced comics but a price can be negotiated if you wish to use it).

What was I talking about? Oh yes, The Amazing Spider-Man. Well, I’ve finally gotten the chance to see it (for once, Japan gets a movie slightly early as opposed to getting it a few weeks before it’s due for a DVD release in all other countries — we’ve still got about another month before Avengers comes out here). And I don’t want to say I told you so, but… I freaking told you so!

This movie improves on the Spider-Man franchise in virtually every single way — the only place it falls short is the exclusion of J.  Jonah Jameson (and if they do have Jonah in the inevitable sequel, I hope they get J.K. Simmons to reprise the role, because I doubt anyone else could do it). My major criticism of Tobey Maguire in the first three films is that he made a great Peter Parker, but he could not handle Spider-Man. Maguire is a great actor and he plays the nerdy aspect of Parker extremely well. But when it comes to the sarcasm and the wit of Spidey, Maguire looks like a poor amateur at a stand-up open mic night. Pretty much every joke he attempts to deliver in those movies falls flat on its face.

Garfield, however, completely embodies every aspect of the character. He’s got the teen angst thing going for him, he’s got the shy awkwardness, he’s got the slight selfish streak that Peter’s been known to display, and he’s also got the sharp, witty tongue. When Garfield makes a joke or a witty comeback, it’s actually funny. Cliff Robertson’s Uncle Ben was one of the best things about the first Spider-Man, so that would be a difficult role to top. But when you’ve got the great Martin Sheen, you’re on the right track. I wouldn’t say Sheen is better, because he plays a slightly different Uncle Ben than Robertson. He’s a lot more stern and gruff and it’s a great way to handle it. Sally Field’s Aunt May is also a bit more stern, but we don’t get to see enough of her in this film, so it’s a bit hard to compare her to Rosemary Harris.

The rest of the supporting cast is similarly on-point. Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is pitch-perfect casting. I’ve loved Stone ever since I saw her in Easy A. And if there’s one person who can keep up with Garfield’s wit, it’s Stone. The two have wonderful chemistry together. And unlike Kirsten Dunst, who fell into the screeching damsel role in the first three films (and I say screeching because that’s virtually all she did — I do not like Dunst at all, it was the one time when I rooted for the villain to kill the damsel), Stone’s Gwen is actually capable in her own way. She doesn’t play the damsel role, she’s proactive and helps out. Whereas Maguire and Dunst’s interactions were driven by cheesy dialogue and overdone melodrama (try watching those movies again and not cringing whenever these two have a heart to heart), Garfield and Stone feel like real people when they interact. Even when they’re talking about the strange circumstances they find themselves in, they still feel real.

Denis Leary plays her father, Captain Stacy, and Leary is always a joy to watch. And now we come to the bad guy — Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors/the Lizard. He plays both roles perfectly, going between friendly and good-intentioned Connors to the vicious and twisted Lizard. Plus there are definite openings for sequels, which I’ll get to shortly. Even Flash Thompson, played by Chris Zylka, gets more development here than he got in Spider-Man. Whereas in Spider-Man he was just a meathead bully, he gets a little bit more here. After Uncle Ben’s death (that’s not a spoiler, everyone knows Uncle Ben always has to die), Flash has an interaction with Peter in the school and you think it’s going to be another bullying incident — but it turns out not to be. That one scene gives Flash more depth than he had the last time he appeared in this franchise and it hints to the future of the characters in the comics where they eventually become close friends.

The way Spidey moves in this movie reminds me a lot more of the Spidey from the comics. He’s quick and agile and no contortion is too difficult. He’s got very insect-like movements and it’s thrilling, especially on the big screen and in 3D. They’ve also got an interesting way of linking his back-story between the past and present by having his father a former scientist at Oscorp. I thought Oscorp would just be used as a nod to the comics, but we do get a bit more insight into Norman Osborn, although he remains an off-screen presence.

And now, to get into some spoiler territory. Continue on to read the rest.

Continue reading

The New Scarlet Spider

Ben Reilly as the Scarlet Spider

I was skeptical about this series when it was first announced. You see, as crappy as the Clone Saga was in the 90s, there was one good thing that came out of it — Ben Reilly, clone of Peter Parker who took on his own web-slinging identity as the Scarlet Spider. In a really convoluted story where Ben was revealed to be the original Peter Parker and Peter the clone, Ben ended up becoming Spider-Man. The less said about that story, the better. It was very poorly handled, and you can read all about how editorial and marketing forced the story into being such a massive pile of crap over at the Life of Reilly (a really good and informative read).

Marvel eventually realized they made a mistake with the way the story was handled and as damage control, they said Ben was actually the clone and Peter the real deal, and so Peter became Spider-Man again. Of course, they also decided to do two other things, which I rank as two of the dumbest moves Marvel’s done with Spider-Man. First, they revealed Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin), who had been dead for years and who died in a very good story, was actually alive all this time and manipulating Peter’s life from behind the scenes all this time. The other thing they did was kill off Ben Reilly, a perfectly viable character with endless potential.

The Scarlet Spiders from Avengers: The Initiative

Since then, Marvel has teased numerous times that they were going to bring Ben back to life. There was Spider-Man: The Clone Saga, a limited series that told the original Clone Saga story in the way the writers had intended. There was a story focusing on a character from Ben’s past in the Spider-Man books, and they even reused the Scarlet Spider name in the pages of Avengers: The Initiative for a trio of characters as the Scarlet Spiders (although eventually all but one of them died). Marvel even said Ben was coming back to life and he was going to get his own series out of the deal. I was ecstatic about that one, until I realized what day they announced it on.

Can you guess what day it was?

That’s right, April Fool’s Day. That’s just mean, Marvel.

The really irritating thing about this whole thing is then-Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada went on a tirade numerous times about how he hated the fact that Spider-Man was married to longtime love interest, Mary Jane. Quesada felt that a married Spider-Man was less relatable to the audience (apparently, only single guys read Spidey comics).

The whole “relatable” argument has always struck me as ridiculous, whenever it’s used. One prime example is people claiming Superman is unrelatable because of his powers but Batman is relatable because he doesn’t have powers. Never mind that Superman’s civilian life and the way he grew up is a lot closer to the way the majority of us grew up as opposed to Batman’s upbringing. And never mind that no one can really relate to being a globe-trotting, Nazi-fighting archaeologist in the forties or a suave, British spy with an arsenal of gadgets, yet no one complains about Indiana Jones or James Bond being unrelatable.

Anyway, I digress. The thing that annoyed me about Quesada’s argument is that in Ben, they had that single Spidey character. The solution? Bring Ben back and then have two books — one with Ben as a freewheeling bachelor and one with Peter as a married guy. Problem solved.

Instead, we got a story in which Peter and MJ sacrifice their marriage to Mephisto and have him muck with the timestream in order to save the life of Aunt May (who’s likely about to croak in a few years anyway). Because nothing bad could possibly happen by asking the goddamn devil to mess with the space-time continuum.

The new Scarlet Spider

But recently, we got a new Scarlet Spider in a snazzy new costume. And I thought this is it, Marvel has finally decided to bring Ben Reilly back to life.

Then I found out that no, Marvel hasn’t done that. What they did do was bring back Kaine. He was the first clone of Peter, but was imperfect and went a bit crazy and tried to kill both Peter and Ben on numerous occasions.

Now apparently reformed, Kaine was getting his own series as the Scarlet Spider. This seemed to me like another great disappointment. Once again, Marvel had teased with the prospect of restoring Ben, but stopped just short of doing it. Of all the characters Marvel has resurrected in recent years, Ben has probably been the one most-often requested. And yet, he seems to be the new Bucky (previously the only character Marvel would never resurrect…until they did).

The series, however, seemed intriguing. Chris Yost (one of the writers on the excellent Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes TV series) was handling the writing duties, so I decided to give it a shot based on his presence alone.

And despite my reservations, this series is really good! Kaine is a much harsher, darker character than Peter or Ben. The way he handles situations is not the same way either of the other guys would. It’s great fun watching him toe the line between hero and villain in this book.

Am I still upset Ben isn’t back as the Scarlet Spider? Yup. But that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying this take. Yost has got me onboard for the long haul.

The Avengers

Before I get into the spoilerific spoilers of this review (of which there will be plenty, of spoilers that is), let me tell you some things right up front: yes, The Avengers is the greatest superhero movie ever made. Yes, I have seen The Dark Knight and yes, The Avengers is better. I’ll get to why a little later in the review. So if you’re reading this to get an idea of whether or not you should see this movie, then I’ll save you the spoiler risks—go see it right this goddamn instant.

This is the part of the review where I warn you, those who have not yet seen the movie, that what follows will spoil it for you. So if you do not want to read any spoilers, please stop reading right now before you are spoiled. I’ve now bolded some variation of spoiler several times, so if you are not yet aware that spoilers will follow, you hereby revoke any rights to bitch and moan for having accidentally read spoilers. You have been warned. Many times.

Continue reading

Airship 27 releases ALL-STAR PULP COMICS!

All-Star Pulp Comics Vol. 1

Airship 27 and Redbud Studios have just released All-Star Pulp Comics, a collection of seven stories featuring characters new and old in the classic pulp tradition! Included in this collection is a Domino Lady story written by me and illustrated by Rock Baker and Jeff Austin.

This whole project began a few years ago, actually. I had attempted to get together a number of people to do short stories featuring public domain pulp characters. Unfortunately, only two of the stories were actually completed.

About a year ago, I read an interview with Ron Fortier of Airship 27 where he said that Airship 27 did want to do some more comic stuff with pulp characters. I contacted him right away and sent him those two stories, asking if he could take a look at them and if he’d like to use them. Sure enough, Ron loved the two tales and asked if I had anything else. I did, in fact — a Domino Lady story I wrote but couldn’t find an artist for. He asked me to send it over and he liked the script and graciously assembled an art team for the project. Ron also filled out the book by gathering a number of other stories from noted creators in the pulp field and now it’s finally complete and available for sale!

What follows is the official press release:

 

REDBUD STUDIOS PRESS RELEASE

 

AIRSHIP 27 PRESENTS – ALL STAR PULP COMICS

 

Ron Fortier and Rob Davis are thrilled to announce the release of the first Redbud Studio/Airship 27 Productions venture in All Star Pulp Comics # 1.

 

This massive comic one shot features 58 pages of wall to wall pulp adventure in graphic form.  Seven old and new pulp heroes as written by today’s most exciting new pulp writers and brought to glorious graphic reality by super talented artists.

 

Here are the Green Lama, Domino Lady, Jim Anthony Super Detective to name only a few. The volume also contains the very first ever comic adventure of Barry Reese’s highly popular hero, the Rook.

 

The color cover featuring the Green  Lama & the Domino Lady is by Jeff Butler.

 

This is a comic you don’t want to miss and is available only at Indy Planet.

 

 

Women in Comics

I want you to watch this video (apologies for including one that has other clips edited in, I couldn’t find the sequence in its entirety as originally presented):

Now then, I’m sorry to resurrect your memory of that terrible sequence, when we see close-ups of George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell’s crotches, asses and pecs (complete with rubber nipples) as they get into costume in the absolutely terrible Batman & Robin film.

But now I want you to tell me, what is the difference between that opening sequence and this one, from DC’s Catwoman #1?

If your answer is “nothing,” then congratulations, you get a gold star. It’s just as ridiculous and gratuitous as the opening from Batman & Robin. And yet, I’ve seen the very same people who complained about the opening from Batman & Robin being ridiculous try and defend this scene from Catwoman #1. The only real difference is that Batman and Robin are male and Catwoman is female. And I can’t say I’m surprised by this. Because not only was this issue written by Judd Winick, who can barely write a comic story without a sex scene inserted somewhere, but it’s something that’s all-too common in comics. And it’s something that needs to stop.

And this brings us to the main content of my post, which is Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. I was intrigued by the premise of this book. I’m not a fan of Jason Todd’s resurrection, but I was curious about it, wanted to see how it all worked out. And I was completely disgusted by the book’s portrayal of Starfire.

For those who don’t know, Starfire is Koriand’r, Princess of the planet Tamaran who was enslaved and sexually exploited. She eventually escaped and came to earth, where she joined the Teen Titans.

In Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, she’s involved in a sexual relationship with the Red Hood and, according to him, has no memory of the Teen Titans or her old friends. She spends the majority of the issue prancing around in a bikini that leaves very little to the imagination, posing provocatively and propositions her other teammate, Arsenal, for sex.

The argument in favor of this portrayal is that Starfire is “sexually liberated.” But no, that’s not what’s happening. It’s exploitation, pure and simple. She’s portrayed as little more than a plaything for both the Red Hood and Arsenal, there only to please them.

I’ve seen a lot of people (men, mostly) say that this doesn’t matter, that men are drawn with exaggerated proportions just as much as women and both are put into dynamic poses. And yes, that’s true. That’s not my objection. My objection is with the context and the portrayal. The male hero is always emphasized by characteristics of strength — chiseled jaw, bulging muscles, etc. The female heroine is always emphasized by her sexuality — breasts, ass, crotch, etc. You almost never see close-up crotch or ass shots of male characters in comics, but you’d be hard-pressed to NOT find close-ups of women’s breasts or asses or crotches.

But that’s not all. Frequently, female characters are victims of the Women in Refrigerators syndrome, coined by writer Gail Simone. It happened with Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Killing Joke, where she was shot through the spine by the Joker and then put in sexually suggestive poses for the Joker to photograph in order to drive her father, Commissioner Gordon, insane. It was a disgusting scene in an otherwise great book, and it’s something writer Alan Moore has admitted was a mistake and a terrible one at that.

It happened again in Spider-Man and the Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, when it was revealed that the Black Cat was a victim of rape. It happened in Identity Crisis when it was revealed that villain Dr. Light raped Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. It happened to Ms. Marvel when the Scarlet Centurion effectively rapes her and impregnates her with himself. It was so disgusting that writer Chris Claremont basically retconned the story (comic historian Carol A. Strickland discussed it in her article, “The Rape of Ms. Marvel”). Catwoman’s origins were changed by writer/artist Frank Miller in Batman: Year One to make her a prostitute (which is just one in a very long list of examples of Miller being incapable of writing a female character who isn’t a whore).

And these are just a few examples.

This kind of thing is not “empowering” for women. It’s not “edgy.” It’s not “mature.” It’s juvenile, exploitative, and any writer who engages in it should be be ashamed.

There is a stereotype of superhero comics. That they only appeal to adolescent males (or males who still think like adolescents) and exploit and objectify women. It’s definitely not true in all cases and there has been some wonderful work done with female characters in comics (the evolution of Barbara Gordon after The Killing Joke into an extremely strong character, done by writers such as John Ostrander and Gail Simone in the pages of Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey comes to mind).

But comics like Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 only serve to perpetuate that stereotype. It does not help the industry. It does not draw in new readers. It’s demeaning and sickening and it should not be encouraged.

I pose a challenge to any comic creators who might be reading this — stop thinking like twelve-year-old boys with a permanent hard-on and start thinking like intelligent creators. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

For more on this issue, I direct you to Laura Hudson’s article, “The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated’ Sexuality.” She states it far better than I can.

A Question of Continuity

With DC’s reboot/relaunch/whatever-they’re-calling-it-this-week of their line, a lot of people have been questioning what this means for continuity. Some stuff seems to have still happened—for example, with the Batman characters. Dick Grayson is still an adult and running around in his own costumed identity, Jason Todd is still the Red Hood, Tim Drake is still Red Robin, Damian Wayne is still around as the latest Robin, and Barbara Gordon was still crippled by the Joker but is now back to being Batgirl. A lot of stuff from Green Lantern is still considered canon as well. But Superman has apparently been rebooted from the start.

So how does this all fit together?

To put it simply: it doesn’t. No matter how much DC says everything fits together, it never will fit together. Because to fit it all together is impossible.

I don’t claim to know a lot about DC Comics, but from what I do know, they’ve always played a bit more loose with continuity than Marvel has. And it’s no surprise—Marvel really invented the idea of rigid continuity. And when they did, it made sense. I doubt Stan Lee thought these characters would last more than ten years at the most and if they did, going by what had already happened in comics up until that point, it wasn’t likely to ever become an issue.

But it did. It became such an issue that DC came out with Crisis on Infinite Earths in order to streamline their continuity. It was followed by things like Superman: The Man of Steel, which saw John Byrne completely reimagining Superman. If you want to know where Marvel’s idea of the Ultimate concept came about, it was from that. Byrne took things about Superman that he thought worked and tossed out the stuff that he felt didn’t work. And no matter your opinion on what he did, there’s no denying that he redefined Superman for years to come.

Except not everything was streamlined. Lots of stuff from Pre-Crisis was still considered canon (Batman, the Teen Titans, etc). But other stuff wasn’t (Superboy, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, etc). DC writers cherry-picked what continuity they kept and what continuity they discarded. And that’s what we’re seeing now. Yet now, it seems like something extremely experimental and terrible. Why?

The reason this seems so drastic now is because of the Internet. And hey, I love the Internet. I would not have a writing and lettering career if not for the Internet and the opportunities it’s opened up. The upside of the Internet is that everyone has a voice. The downside of the Internet is that everyone has a voice.

I’m sure people had these same questions and concerns when Crisis came out. I’m sure they had them before that, when the concept of multiple Earths was first introduced.

The thing to keep in mind about continuity is that it never fits together completely, no matter what publisher, no matter what venue. In movies, James Bond went from 1962 until 2002 before being rebooted or aging. That’s forty years, and during that period, James Bond was perpetually in his mid-thirties or so (older when you’re talking about the later Roger Moore entries). And there were even subtle references to those past movies. Despite taking place twenty years earlier, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was still referenced in Licence To Kill and yet there was not a twenty-year age difference between Timothy Dalton in 1989 and George Lazenby in 1969. In the very first issue of Fantastic Four, Sue Storm tells Reed Richards that they have to make it into space “before the commies do” (yes, that line actually appears in the comic, Google it if you doubt me). But if we’re to believe that the comics currently take place in the present day, then there’s no possible way the Fantastic Four could have made their first flight during the height of the Cold War. Hell, pretty much all of Tony Stark’s early history is incompatible with the time frame compared to today, as he was probably more of a Cold War character than anyone else.

And with Batman, it’s even worse. Batman has never really been rebooted—all his stories are pretty much in continuity. So you’ve got a guy who is perpetually in his mid-thirties or so who has had adventures that have spanned around seventy years. No matter how you cut it up, there is no way to fit all that content into a twenty-year period.

I’m reminded of a class at the Wizard World convention in Chicago that Joe Casey taught on continuity. And right when the class started, he drew a little circle on the board and he pointed to it and said, “that’s me.” Then he drew a very large Pac Man-esque symbol about to eat the small circle and he said, “that’s continuity.” That was maybe ten or twelve years ago (damn, I’m getting old), but that image has always stuck with me as the perfect example of continuity—because if you’re not careful, it can and will swallow you whole.

So, to all those who gnash their teeth at the continuity conflicts of this new DC Universe, I offer this advice: give it up. You’re fighting a losing battle and you really only have three choices. You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out how it fits together (while ignoring the obvious dated elements), you can give up on DC completely, or you can just go with the flow and treat references to past continuity as little Easter eggs to pick up on.

Personally, I’d rather just go with the flow. Because no matter what continuity it follows, there are some great creators working in this new setting. And if you deprive yourself of those stories because of silly continuity conflicts, then you’re the one losing out.

My view on continuity is that it’s something of a rough guide or a template. Treat it as such but don’t rigidly adhere to it. I guarantee your experiences will be a lot more enjoyable if you follow that advice.