This is a portrait of my friend Jia Jia. It’s based on a photograph taken about three years ago. If I remember correctly and I can’t sweat to, the photograph I worked from was actually taken by her then-boyfriend/now-husband Chinese rock star Yu Dong of the Bear Minorities and Doc Talk Shock. I did a panda version of Doc Talk Shock a while ago (image below). Yu Dong is the one with birds on his shirt. The drummer you may recognize from the group Horse Horse Tiger Tiger.
Here’s another slew of panda portraits. Subjects include happy young pandas in rocking chairs, panda academics exploring the substance and consequence of popular culture, the War Corps Starlord, and a fantastic noodle spot in Mableton, Georgia called Scott’s Eats and Sweets that I highly recommend.
“Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible.“
If scholars were more like pandas, it would be easier to secure a faculty position.
April marks the 75th anniversary of Batman #1, the first appearance of the Joker. To commemorate this, DC Comics will be releasing variant covers featuring the Clown Prince of Crime for nearly all of their titles this June. The one title that will not feature a Joker variant has generated a bit of controversy. Raphael Albuquerque produced a cover for Batgirl that pays homage to Batgirl and the Joker’s most iconic confrontation- the Joker’s amusement park opera of sadism and avant garde photography, The Killing Joke. The brutality of the source material and consequently the nature of the cover didn’t jive too well with fans who see the recently rebooted Batgirl as a safe haven among more explicit titles on the rack. DC Comics and Albuquerque responded to the criticisms swiftly and decided not to release the variant. This move demonstrated a sensitivity to these fans and that sensitivity then drew criticism from other fans who saw the move as“irrational censorship.” Personally, I like the cover.
I also admire Raphael Albuquerque’s response to fans who found the image offensive. His public messages have demonstrated a genuine concern for readers, reflecting the good character of an outstanding artist. Of the new Batgirl creative team, I can’t say Cameron Stewart looks good at the end of this though. He’s come off as pretty self-righteous, unsupportive of his fellow artist, and generally self-important. He writes as if the cover presented by Albuquerque featured Nazi boobies or something else so ridiculous it would never appear in a comic.
Variant covers celebrate the desires of a democracy- you can choose among many covers. If you want to see stupid looking Scribblenauts, buy a Scribblenauts cover. If you like a comedic cover on a book that deals with serious issues, buy a MAD or Robot Chicken cover. If you’re so addicted to steampunk that you require steampunk elements in all of your reading materials, you can buy steampunk variations. Do 3-D lentical covers give you seizures? Read a 2-D cover. Can’t decide? Wait until the trade publication and hopefully there’ll be a gallery in the back pages. Batgirl readers would miss no story elements by purchasing the standard issue. Like the Spider-woman controversy, I have trouble understanding the great threat posed by a variant cover as it exists on the margins and can be ignored without sacrificing from the desired experience of readers who don’t like the cover. The Teen Titans cover that I discussed in the same article at the Spider-Woman article was the official title, so for that reason, its protest made more sense to me. However I felt the criticism lobbied at the Teen Titans cover were somewhat arbitrary- the cover wasn’t a particularly good example of the elements of comic book art to which Janelle Asselin wanted to draw attention. Asselin’s criticisms made more sense for addressing comic book culture at large and probably would’ve benefited from waiting for more suitable cover.
While highlighting the on-going rift between what Dan DiDio calls “the tumblr crowd” and the inspirations for Comic Book Guy, I worry the commotion made over this Joker cover has only made matters worse. The decision to pull cover triggered a paranoia in many fans that a new Comics Code is coming. Considering the minimally offensive nature of the cover, their fears might not be misplaced. Certainly other artists will make future decisions about their art under the influence of what has occurred and we may miss out on some visionary art. Albuquerque created the cover with the best of intentions to no reward (maybe you’ll go pick up the back trades of American Vampire after seeing his awesome Batgirl cover- I recommend it. Scott Snyder’s writing is top notch) and other artists who see that may hesitate especially considering the vagueness of the cover’s crime. Is the damsel-in-distress such an offensive trope that women will become invincible? Will artists be afraid to show female characters being vulnerable? Such scenarios are absurd extensions of very real actions taken by the readers, creative team, and publishers of Batgirl. Alternately, instilling a greater sensitivity in artists could have phenomenal results that allow comic books to achieve their true potential as the greatest story-telling medium.
Dear Jon Stewart,
After more than fifteen years of hosting The Daily Show, you’re moving on to pursue other interests. While you will be missed, the decision is quite understandable and the world waits to see what you will do with your new found free time. Your recent foray into professional wrestling seems to be a positive indicator for things to come- the kind of thing Barthes or Kaufman would’ve done. You resemble the intellectual love child of those two gentlemen.
I also admire your directorial debut Rosewater telling the harrowing story of Maziar Bahari. As a television star and film director, you perform much better than as a film star.
While socially important, Rosewater was also pretty funny. That seems to be the paradigm in which you function best. Some of your directing techniques were hit and miss, but it’s your first movie and my criticisms may be a bit nitpicky. The actor you got to play Jason Jones looked almost identical to him, except a little fatter. I liked how you employed certain techniques like showing Dr. Strangelove and the Ayatollah on the street, but I thought the hashtag following everyone in the city was a bit heavy-handed, obvious, corny. Still, it was a good movie. My wife and I made a real date of it. We watched it on Amazon Prime and ordered take-out from one of your favorite restaurants- American Roast Beef? Yes, Sir!
Let me encourage to make more films- perhaps reboot Bob Fosse’s Lenny or maybe that’s too obvious. Franz Fanon bio-pic? Maybe stick with Iran and get Alan Arkin to play Mossadegh before he dies. Perhaps something with Jello Biafra- I know you have those punk rock roots like a punk rock tree. I’d be remiss if I didn’t push you to follow your destiny- the ring chose you for a reason.
Especially when there are still so many dangerous lunatics wielding the yellow light of fear.
I’m not just writing this letter to congratulate you, but to express some concerns about the state of your legacy.
While it was sad to see Colbert go, I’ve enthusiastically welcomed Larry Wilmore and the Nightly Show. I’m not crazy about that name- I still think Minority Report works better. I take beef with some of the ways Wilmore has been cheated. 1) His budget is obviously less than Colbert’s. His correspondents never get to travel. 2) Hulu is racist. My wife and I used to watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report on Hulu and whenever the Daily Show would finish, it would immediately offer Colbert. Now that Colbert’s done and you have a new sister show, Hulu is subtly driving viewers away from your family of shows. When the Daily Show finishes, Hulu brings up Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, or some other white guy named Jimmy. What’s up with that? Before you leave, you should tell Hulu to cut that shit out.
I’m also pretty concerned about who is going to take over your responsibilities as host of the Daily Show. Is there anyone in the bullpen up to the task? You’ve got a great crew of writers and on-air personalities, but I believe their destinies lie somewhere besides behind the fake news desk. While I strongly discourage letting another short white man host the show, Henry Rollins should at least be on the short list (no pun intended). Have you considered either Harold or Kumar? They could’ve gotten George W. Bush on the show and, in all fairness, they make a better marijuana comedy than you. If Hillary doesn’t win in 2016, she’s pretty funny. Both Obamas will be coming into some free time soon. Cecily Strong may also seem like a good choice, but I discourage recycling Weekend Update alums on the Daily Show. It’s like watching porn that an ex-girlfriend is in. Beyond Harold or Kumar, my strongest recommendation would be Aisha Tyler- she’s funny, smart, quick on her feet, and quite easy on the eyes.
Whoever you chose as your successor, make it count. It’s a great responsibility, which sometimes accompanies radioactive spiderbites.
In conclusion, Jon Stewart of Earth, the World’s Second Greatest Detective wishes you luck.
As mentioned earlier, we celebrated Chinese New Year in my household last week. Unfortunately we had some issues with our induction cooker for the hot pot and ended up cooking all the food on the range, but a good time was still had by all those able to attend and those unable to attend were dearly missed. Anyway, I thought I’d share the decorations from our celebration.
The year of the sheep (aka Year of the Horse Part 2) has commenced and I hope your homes are overflowing with good fortune. Since moving to the United States three years ago, my wife and I have celebrated Spring Festival by inviting friends over for Sichuan-stlye hot pot. We’re doing it again this Saturday, introducing some new items while keeping the classics. By accident, we discovered a way to make our yuanzi even more delicious.
Tonight we actually ate some of the best Vietnamese food I’ve had, which feels hyper-globalized to be eating Vietnamese food on the Vietnamese New Year with my Chinese wife celebrating the Chinese New Year in Mableton, Georgia of all places. The spot is called Scotts Eats and Sweets and it’s worth the trip outside the city. The place looks a bit like a Little League concession stand from the outside.
The missus and I also celebrated by exchanging gifts. We went with a typical Spring Festival theme- the gifts had to be red. In some twist on the Gift of the Magi, we ended up getting each other Harley Quinn & Joker gifts. I got her these lovely Harley Quinn undies…
…while she surprised me with this Red Hood toy.
For last year’s Spring Festival I made decorations with horses to match our guests’ personality (a Mexican horse, a satanic horse, a horse from the Simpsons, etc.) and these year I will do the same with 羊 🐑 (sheep/goat/ram). Stay tuned. I’ll probably post pics of the 羊 decorations on Sunday.
Happy New Year! Light some fireworks!
With the announcement that the New 52 would be coming to an end, DC Comics also announced 24 new (or at least variations of previous) titles that would be debuting in June and the creative teams that would be working on them. Of the titles, a few stand out to me- Cyborg with art by Ivas Reis and Joe Prado, a couple of Robin-related titles, a Midnighter book, to name a few. Similarly new creative teams on current titles were announced and I’m intrigued to see how American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints writer Gene Luen Yang taking over Superman- an author who writes about alienation writing about my favorite alien. In honor of the new titles, I’ve thrown together a few ugly bits of fan art. In addition to the Bat-Mite image up top, you’ll find renditions of Black Canary and Starfire.
After weeks of ambiguity regarding the fates of their titles after moving their offices from New York to California, DC Comics cleared things up somewhat with a statement this week. The simple answer: The New 52 is dead! Long live the New 52! The truth: DC Comics is removing the label New 52 and making continuity less of a concern if favor of greater diversity in story-telling. DC is not simply shedding the label, but also an ideological commitment to an experiment. The experiment? A new (err..rebooted) and thoroughly connected (err…though filled with holes) universe (err…multiverse)! Originally planned as 52 titles a month published in sync, following a universal timeline, the New 52 was a lofty ambition. For the experiment to work, creators had to work within a tight framework not only in narrative, but in artistic style- prompting the oft-used terms “DC house-style” or “Jim Lee house style.” These rules allowed a pretty cohesive fictional universe to thrive, but also alienated many creators and readers who wanted stories outside the framework of the larger experiment. By abandoning the New 52 and their ideological commitment to the New 52 experiment, DC Comics will be opening itself up to new, smaller experiments. The publisher’s lineup will be more chaotic this June not only because many titles will leave and many new titles will arrive, but those new titles and even the continuing titles will draw from a larger creative arsenal- new creators, new styles, new impressions on the characters, and new impressions on what super-hero comic books can do. To be fair, DC Comics continued to publish an assortment of books outside of the New 52 such as Lil Gotham and all those video game-related titles. Now new books like Bat-Mite and Bizarro promise to approach comics without the baggage of the New 52 experiment. The official word from DC suggests the end of the New 52 is motivated purely by creative ambitions, but it’s obvious to most readers that DC has found an awkward but workable solution to several concerns: 1) the move to California 2) the stress of managing the big continuity 3) the desire to attract more casual comics readers (the ones reading Image titles) 4) the New 52 is destroying itself.
That 4th one can be broken down to specific problems within the New 52. I believe the beginning of the end came when the original creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman left Batwoman over creative differences on whether or not Batwoman would marry. While this was not the first dispute-driven departure of a respected creator during the New 52, this departure, unlike George Perez leaving Superman, shook up something that most people believed the New 52 was doing right. Fans and critics alike couldn’t say enough nice things about the work being done on that book. The rush to replace Williams and Blackman with not only a talented creator, but one with a little LGBT cred to ease PR concerns, left Batwoman in the hands of Marc Andreyko and the book got noticeably worse. After Geoff Johns and associates completed their run on the Green Lantern titles, DC found a new creative team, but things fell apart and they again found themselves scrambling the fill some roles. Luckily they found a sort of dream team to take over those titles. Most problematic about the Green Lantern creative team shift, Geoff Johns wrote an epilogue in his final issue of Green Lantern, an epilogue whose authenticity would come immediately into question as the new creative team found ways to destroy all the love stories in that blossomed in that epilogue. Other books saw transitions. The success and failures of titles in transition were surprising. I really expected Chew’s John Layman to write a better Detective Comics while Jeff Lemire wrote a Green Arrow story unlike anything else he’d ever written, reinforcing what his run on Animal Man had suggested- the guy who draws those creepy picture book also has a visionary take on the super-hero model. Another reason why I see the Batwoman shift as the beginning of the end can be seen in the fifth collected volume of the title- an inconsistency that runs along the spine, singling out the volume among all other New 52 titles as the unmentionable yet obvious stain on the whole endeavor.
Look at that tiny little five! How embarrassing that must be for Batwoman Vol. 5: Webs! The other book that sticks out in a complete New 52 collection is Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family because it’s white instead of black. While it may still drive the obsessive and compulsive a bit mad to look at, the change is obviously intentional. The tiny 5 on Batwoman Vol. 5 appears to be a Freudian slip, a subconscious expression of shame in ruining one of the New 52’s best titles.
Since the official announcement of the New 52’s end, I’ve tried to figure what the New 52 really has been. Despite all the Convergence hype, it feels like the experiment is going out with more a whimper than a bang. There’s no real story to tie up as far as I can figure. So the question remains what was the New 52?
Here are 52 things I think made the New 52:
1) The Court of Owls
2) Wonder Woman’s new origin story
3) introduction (and reintroduction) of Vertigo characters into the DC universe
4) Superman-Wonder Woman love story
5) Triumphant revitalization of Aquaman (Throne of Atlantis arc)
6) Titles created just to foster the continuity experiment (Blackhawks, Team 7, OMAC, Threshhold)
7) Crime Syndicate and Forever Evil
8) Darkseid’s destruction of Earth-2 and Superman’s subsequent reign
9) Death of Damian Wayne
10) Skinny Lobo
11) Rotworld arc
12) Justice League Dark formation
13) Central role for The Phantom Stranger
14) Central role for Pandora
15) Future’s End
16) Joker cut off his face
17) Muslim Green Lantern
18) Gay Green Lantern
19) Young Green Arrow
20) Walking Barbara Gordon
21) Brother-killing Batgirl
22) Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham
23) Penguin takes control and loses control and regains control of Gotham criminal underworld
24) Catwoman takes control of Gotham criminal underworld
25) The Riddler brings Gotham to its knees
26) Batman Eternal and Jim Gordon’s blues
27) The most sophisticated Mr. Mxyzptlk story in DC history
28) Guy Gardner became a Red Lantern
29) The Guardians of the Universe were replaced by new Guardians of the Universe after proving themselves fascist tyrants one too many times
30) Kyle Rayner continued to become more messianic
31) Hal Jordan became the leader of the Green Lantern Corps
32) Superboy was a clone of Superman’s wicked son Jonathan Lane Kent from the future and also there were other Superboys
33) Cyborg Superman is… Supergirl’s father?
34) Lucius Fox’s son becomes Batwing
35) Harley Quinn did it with Deadshot
36) H’el on Earth (and Krypton)
37) The Culling of Teen Titans and Ravagers and a general feeling that Scott Lobdell was going to end up writing every title in the DC universe
38) Short lives of good titles (I, Vampire; Voodoo; Mr. Terrific; Captain Atom; Dial H)
39) Huntress and Power Girl, the World’s Finest of Earth-2, arrived on the primary Earth
40) Daniel West is the Reverse-Flash
41) Bad futures depicted in Justice League 3000, Future’s End, Superboy, Teen Titans, and the Legion of Super-heroes
42) Aimless movement from the Legion of the Super-heroes
43) Two heavy-handed comics nobody liked (The Green Team and The Movement)
44) Martian Manhunter with Stormwatch, Martian Manhunter without Stormwatch
45) The return of Lyssa Drak and a Sinestro-led Sinestro Corps
46) Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE and other Dark titles
47) Trinity War
48) Lights Out, Relic, and the draining of the emotional spectrum
49) Trying to figure out what to do with Darkseid
50) Trying to figure out what to do with Deathstroke
51) The Rogues with super-powers
52) Company-wide campaigns particularly in Septmember- 3D covers, MAD variants, Scribblenauts, Robot Chickens, Zero Year, etc.