Archives for posts with tag: Batman

swampthingnerdtrivia

For the past couple of months I’ve been hosting Comic Book, Etc. Nerd Trivia at My Parents Basement Comic Book Bar in Avondale Estates, Georgia. In a short time, the game has grown quite popular and I’ve had the chance to reconnect with some old friends and meet plenty of news ones. I’ve been hosting general trivia games with Outspoken Entertainment for a couple of years and I’ve sneaked a fair share of Batman questions here and there, but I’d always had a larger comic book game in the back of the mind. One of the owners and an old friend Tim approached me over a year ago about asking some trivia questions at their Dollar A Pound Comic Book Yard Sales that they held leading up to and to raise money for the opening of the bar. These yard sales were fun affairs with beer, barbecue, music, and of course, comic books. I’d set up a table, sell some art (not much (sad emoji)), and ask a few questions and folks could win bags of comics. When they opened the bar last summer (2015), the response was tremendous. I have a ‘comic book’ news alert on my Google news and every day there was a new article about my friends’ comic book bar. After a few months of continued success, Tim thought they were ready for trivia and I hosted the first game on December 1, 2015 to three teams made up of employees- not a great start, but not uncommon for a bar’s first game. I was a little worried, especially since conventional trivia knowledge dictates that winter is the worst time of year to try to start a game. My worries have since subsided as our last game hinged on standing room only. I think everybody that has come so far has had fun and will keep coming back.

mpb

The spot is actually in the old building of the James Joyce Pub and can be found just outside of downtown Decatur near the set of Scream 2 and the Waffle House Museum, just past the Avondale Estates border. Firstly, there’s a lot of nice things to say about the bar itself. The parking situation is divine and if you don’t drive, it’s a short walk from the Avondale MARTA Station. They have a phenomenal patio, which is where I host the games. It’s actually quite toasty in the winter thanks to modern science. Inside, the decorations are special, many one-of-a-kind treasures and something new every week. I can’t speak to the food as I haven’t eaten it, but some of it smells really good. Their beer menu will impress your friends if your friends are into beer menus. I drink their craft root beer every week and I love it. It’s syrup-heavy and light on the bubbles. The owners are wonderful. All of the staff that I’ve dealt with has been beyond delightful. Having hosting games all over Atlanta and its surrounding villages, I’ve been witness to how many restaurants and bars operate and this one is special. They actually save the discarded golf pencils from the week before and give them to me when I return. That’s just one example of their courtesy. From what I can tell, they’re kind and courteous to the customers, each other, and me. As far as trivia locations go, every place will give the winners a gift certificate to the restaurant. I’ve hosted a few $100 games too where my company puts up some cash to drive excitement. However, My Parents Basement does something different. In addition to gift certificates to the spot, they also give tangibly fun prizes like comics, funko pops, beer coozies, wall art, key chains, and more.

coverphoto

I write the games themselves and we’ve had a few theme games. The week that the Force Awakens awoke, we hosted a Star Wars themed game. On December 23, the categories were themed around Christmas Carols, but the content remained comic book, etc. nerd subjects. In honor of Alan Rickman’s passing, I created a round based on his characters in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Harry Potter films, Alice in Wonderland, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The February 9th game will contain elements to celebrate Spring Festival. On February 16th, I’m excited to host a game that celebrates the contributions of black creators and the adventures of black characters for Black History Month. Similarly, I look forward to hosting at least one game for Women’s History Month in March (along with a Batman v. Superman game, of course!). My enthusiasm might surprise you because I’m not black or a woman, but you forget that I’m an historian and I love history months! As I put together the game for Black History Month, I’m reminded of the embarrassing lack of characters of color in mainstream nerd media. I think creating such a trivia game would be a good exercise for the editors and executives that oversee the modes of production. It would be impossible I think to create a meaningful trivia game about transgender characters for a mainstream audience at this point in our history and it’s still pretty difficult to do it for black characters. I remember Daniel Amrhein  did some exhaustive research about representation in the big superhero teams over the course of a year at Dragon Con a few years back. He did his best to quantify how different characters of different races, genders, and maybe sexual preference or religion compared in terms of appearances in big titles like X-Men, Justice League, and Avengers. He kept having to qualify his findings by pointing out that “yes, Wolverine is non-American, but he’s white non-American” or “technically four women heroes appear in fifty-something panels, but they only say a combined three and a half sentences.” As I put together the games, his remarks resonate with me as the difficulty isn’t simply having characters of color, but having characters of color that matter. (If you ever get a chance to hear Daniel speak, he puts together a really good presentation and provides ample evidence for his conclusions.) One way to gauge how a character matters is to see if a general audience can answer a trivia question about them. Luckily, the players of my games aren’t a general audience. These folks are pretty clever, well-read, well-watched, and well-versed. The players have gotten into any fights or shoot-outs or orgies or anything; pretty civilized.

swampthingnerdtrivia

If you find yourself in the Atlanta area on a Tuesday with an urge to show off whatever wisdom you’ve siphoned from a lifetime of watching cartoons, reading comics, and shouting at video games, I welcome you to join us for a game. You might win something, see a celebrity, fall in love, who knows? If you find yourself in the Atlanta area on a Wednesday in a similar mood, I hear there’s a geek trivia game in Sandy Springs that I haven’t check out yet, but maybe you and I could go together. We’d probably make a great team. If it’s Thursday, I think you’ll have to find something to do, but Tuesday will come quicker than you think. Before you attend, you may want to go and ‘like’ the facebook page because I give away an answer every week. While you’re on that darn facebook, you should go ahead and like the page for this site.

Advertisements

titleslide

Dragon Con was a blast and I felt like the DC Comics and Cultural Studies panel went well. I’ve had a few requests so I’ve posted my paper “Discipline & Punish: Michel Foucault & the Suicide Squad” here. Hopefully I’ll get around to posting my paper from last year some time soon, but until then, enjoy this one.

noncriminalslide

comics and popular arts conference hosted by dr. sivana

With Dragon Con less than two weeks away, the schedule for Dragon Con’s academic side-con has been released and I thought I’d share it with you here. While some events certainly appeal to me more than others, I’ll likely attend as much of the comics programming as my volunteer schedule allows. Quick observations: The schedule is pretty dominated by gender studies stuff. There seem to be a lot more television based panels than last year and most of the comic book stuff is on Monday. Sunday has almost nothing.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Friday

11:30 AM Comics, Trauma, and Psychiatric Disorders  (Hanover F Hyatt)

  1. Austin Hendricks (Georgia Regents University), “Waiting for Heroes: An Examination of Psychological Disorders, Existentialism, and General Strain Theory in Superhero Films”
  2. Kari Storla (University of Southern California), “Superheroes, super trauma: Is trauma in superhero comics a human or superhuman experience?”

2:30 PM – Game of Thrones: The Dark Time – (M301-M302 – Marriott)

        CPAC Panelist: Matthew J. Brown (UT Dallas)

4:00 PM – The Wayfaring Gater and Other Traveling Metaphors  (Westin, Chastain FGH)

CPAC Panelist: Richard Scott Nokes (Troy University)

7:00 PM – Of Monsters and (Super)Men (Hanover F – Hyatt)

  1. Corey Goergen (Emory University), “’It’s [Not] Alive!’: Disability, Eugenics, Zombies, and Frankenstein’s Creature”
  2. Shanna Early (Emory University), “Are Superheroes Monsters: Of Monsters, Superheroes, and the Law”
  3. Stephanie Larson (Emory University), “Dial Meow for Murder: The Figure of the Feline in Horror Literature, Film, and Comics”

8:30 PM – Roundtable: History of Gender and Race in Comics (Hanover F – Hyatt)

Comics Scholars: Daniel Amrhein (Independent Scholar), Matthew J. Brown (UT Dallas), Kari Storla (University of Southern California)

8:30 PM – Anime, Manga, and Japanese History  (Location)

  1. Yasemin Davarcı (Ankara University), “1904 – 1905 Russo Japanese War in Historical Japanese Manga”

8:30 PM – Hannibal Fannibals– Horror Track (Peachtree 1-2 – Westin)

        CPAC Panelist: Damien Williams (Kennesaw State University

Saturday

10:00 AM – Wonder Woman and Greek Mythology (Hanover F – Hyatt)

  1. Daniel Amrhein (Independent Scholar), “Wonder Woman and the Reappropriation of Women Warriors of Greek Myth”
  2. Matthew J. Brown (University of Texas at Dallas), “Love and Strife, Aphrodite and Ares – Marston’s Manichean Reconfiguration of Greek Mythology and Philosophy in the Wonder Woman Comics.”

11:30 AM – Hannibal: Brunch (Peachtree 1-2 – Westin)

Aaron Abrams and Scott Thompson dissect Hannibal’s elegant take on the horror genre

CPAC Panelist: Damien Williams (Kennesaw State University)

5:30 PM – Virtual Reality in Japanese Anime

        Panelists: Damien Williams, Michael Bugajski, Carl Dull

8:30 PM – Roundtable: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Comics – (Hanover F – Hyatt)

Professional Participants: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Amanda Conner, Laurenn McCubbin

Comics Scholars: Kari Storla, John Flowers, Tini Howard (Cape Fear Community College), Daniel Amrhein (Independent Scholar)

8:30 PM – Sense8 – Is this just another Cluster? (M301-M302 – Marriott)

 Panelists: Matthew J. Brown

Sunday

11:00 AM – CPAC Scholars Forum

Topic: Incorporating Comics and Pop Culture in the Classroom.

7:00 PM – Philosophical Perspectives on Japanese Anime

Scholars Carl Dull and Michael Bugajski discuss the philosophical themes in Madoka Magica and Cowboy Bebop.

8:30 PM – Diversity and Sexuality in Comics (Hanover F – Hyatt)

        CPAC Panelists: Johnathan Flowers (SIU Carbondale), Daniel Amrhein (Independent Scholar)

10:00 PM – Con Culture and the changing face of Fandom (Hanover F – Hyatt)

CPAC Panelists: Molly Dilts (Pennsylvania State University), Kari Storla (University of Southern California)

Monday

10:00 AM – Comics and Feminism (Hanover F – Hyatt)

  1. Molly Dilts (Pennsylvania State University), “The “Fake Geek Girl”: Female-Occupied Space and Masculinity in Geek Culture”
  2. Tini Howard (Cape Fear Community College), “Thinking Outside the Fridge – Changing Comics with the Subject/Object Problem”

11:30 AM – Kelly Sue DeConnick in Focus

  1. Ahmed Younis (Chapman University), “Comic Feminism: Re-Imagining Traditional Perceptions of Heroism”
  2. John Flowers (SIU Carbondale), “Captain Marvel and John Dewey’s Theory of Imagination”

Response: Kelly Sue DeConnick

1:00 PM – Comics in the Classroom Hanover F – Hyatt)

  1. Elizabeth Perkins (Morehead State University), “Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to College Freshman Utilizing the Portrayal of Crime & Justice in Superhero Movies and Comics”

2:30 PM – DC Comics and Cultural Studies  (Hanover F – Hyatt)

  1. Durf Humphries (Independent Scholar), “Discipline and Punish: Foucault and the Suicide Squad”
  2. Jessica Dambruch (Old Dominion University), “Rev Up Your Harley: Cultural Constructions of Gender In The Batman Universe”

supergirlschoolin

sendforthesuicidesquad

The Suicide Squad have been in the news a lot lately, especially since the release of the trailer for the 2016 film. As I put together my presentation for this year’s Comics and Popular Arts Conference, I’m becoming more and more entrenched in the lives of Task Force X as my presentation tries to place the Suicide Squad within the timeline of modern discipline and punishment as put forth in Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. As I go through the source material, I’m also reading a lot of what people are writing online about the upcoming movie and I notice a dearth of articles written about the movie by people who have much experience with the actual comics. In an attempt to bring comic books back into the discussion of comic book movies, I thought I’d put together a few interesting tidbits about the Suicide Squad as they appeared in the comics.

braveandthebold26

1. The Suicide Squad is older than the Justice League…sort of.

When the Suicide Squad first appeared in DC Comics The Brave and The Bold #25, they weren’t a chain gang of super-villains, but rather of a state-sponsored group of everyday heroes having not-so-everyday adventures. None of them had any superpowers and none of them had criminal notoriety. In many ways, they barely resemble the Suicide Squad in the comics today or the Suicide Squad as its been portrayed in popular media (Smallville; Batman: Assault on Arkham; the upcoming Suicide Squad film). What connects the original Squad to the contemporary Squad are the memberships of Rick Flag- a character who hasn’t been on the Squad in the comics for a long time- and Karin Grace- a character that, excepts for a few issues in the first revival of the Squad, has largely been lost to comic book history. Still, that old Suicide Squad of scrappy superpowerless do-gooders appeared in the pages of The Brave and The Bold before the Justice League, which made its debut in The Brave and The Bold #28.

legends1

2. Those thugs were first assembled to defeat Darkseid.

While the Suicide Squad mostly goes on sketchy espionage missions to serve the interests of A.R.G.U.S. or Checkmate, they were first brought together to defend the planet against the terrible tourist from Apokolips, Darkseid. In his usual fashion, Darkseid has attacked the Earth on many fronts- physical, social, and psychological- which has made ordinary folks despise ‘heroes.’ Superheroes become unable to perform their basic function and villains are brought in to do the hero work. This may remind readers of how Lex Luthor, Captain Cold, and others came to perform heroic feats in the recent Forever Evil storyline when the Justice League was incapacitated by being locked up in the ever-unstable Firestorm matrix motel.

legends3

ss1

3. They are a group of predominantly white super-powered convicts being bossed around by a high-ranking government official, an out-of-shape and overweight black woman.

In the United States, we haven’t had a black female president yet. We haven’t had a female president and it’s arguable that we’ve only had half of a black president. In our most female-filled congress of all-time, only 20% of the elected officials serving in the legislative branch are women. Only half of the fifty United States have ever elected a black person to the House of Representatives. There’s only been nine black senators ever and only one of them was a woman. Still, overseeing the Suicide Squad isn’t really the responsibility of an elected official, so we can assume Amanda Waller wouldn’t have to campaign for votes. Well… no CIA director has ever been black nor female. The same is true regarding directors of the NSA, FBI, and ONI. Carolyn Payton was black and a woman, but she was just served as the Director of the US Peace Corps which seems like a job that would bore Amanda Waller. Growing up in poverty, it seems strange that Amanda Waller would also have the social connections to end up in such a position. Likewise, it’s not until Amanda Waller is skinnied up in the New 52 that she has any real military experience as part of her background. Sure, the US  government is racially biased against black women in terms of promotion and Amanda Waller lacks the necessary background and physical fitness to perform her job, but we find Amanda Waller directing the affairs of the Suicide Squad, literally holding their lives in her hands- such is the unlikely magic of fiction.

ss5

Are we finished with ways that the Suicide Squad narrative does not accurately reflect the way racial tribes manifest their power through our social institutions? Worry not, because despite the fact that nearly half (1 million) of the entire US prison population (2.3 million)  is black, nearly all of the members of the Suicide Squad are not black or were not black during at least part of their history- Bronze Tiger, for example, or Deadshot who has never been black until the casting of Will Smith. While short-time Squad member Black Adam has black in his name and is literally African, he’s got lighter skin than Betty White. While blacks and other ethnic minorities account for significantly less than whites in Suicide Squad membership, such disparity is not uncommon among super-teams as the superhero genre suffers famously for its lack of diversity. On the other hand, women consistently make up a larger percentage of the Suicide Squad than most super-teams (looking at you, Justice League/Avengers….), which is a little odd since men make up over 90% of the US prison population.  As statistically unlikely as the Suicide Squad’s roster would be in the real world, it is essential to the dynamic of Suicide Squad because who is the Suicide Squad?

ss10

4. Amanda Waller is the Suicide Squad.

The Wall wasn’t part of the original Suicide Squad from the B&B days- there weren’t a lot of black female characters in 1950s comic books. She didn’t arrive on the scene until the Legends mini-series that introduced the world to the Suicide Squad as we understand them today and she’s been with them ever since. While the Squad certainly has its usual suspects (Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Enchantress, Plastique, King Shark, Killer Frost, Count Vertigo- to name a few), the only constant is Amanda Waller. As a character, Amanda Waller remained pretty consistent during her tenure in the DC universe. She’s operates from some shadowy government organization (Checkmate, ARGUS), monitoring and managing the world’s ugliest secrets. She doesn’t take shit from anybody, even presidents. Her existence is kept somewhat a secret, but she’s got connections everywhere. Physically, she’s short and heavy-set. Her figure distinguishes her from the bombshells that make up most female characters in the superhero genre. Her weapons include the power of persuasion and the ability to circumvent bureaucracy.

ss6

Following in the 2011 film Green Lantern, Amanda Waller is portrayed by the lovely Angela Bassett- a casting decision that would have significant effects on the character. While the actress retained Waller’s authoritarian attitude, she did nothing to portray the character’s physical attributes and turned Amanda Waller not only into a sex symbol, but a much more physically violent character. Bassett’s portrayal heavily informed the way Amanda Waller would appear in the New 52, the company-wide overhaul that occurred in September 2011, the same year that the Green Lantern movie came out. In the New 52, Amanda Waller is a former member of Team 7 and actually joins the Suicide Squad in punching up the bad guys. The military background, weapons mastery, and martial arts expertise give Amanda Waller new strength, but at the cost of the original character. While I miss the original Amanda Waller character, I must admit I really enjoyed the New 52 Suicide Squad. The storylines related Waller’s past came across as very fresh, but I wonder if they couldn’t have created a different character- one skinny ex-military bad-ass and Amanda Waller instead of one skinny ex-military bad-ass as Amanda Waller.

ss2

ss3

5. Belle Reve is the official Suicide Squad prison.

The inductees of the Suicide Squad Hall of Fame come from the halls of Belle Reve prison in Louisiana. Amanda Waller is the on-again off-again warden. The prison first appeared in Suicide Squad #1 back in 1987. It shares the same name of Blanche Dubois’s lost estate in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire and translates roughly as “beautiful dream.”

ss7

ss8

 

bigbadsupes

For trade readers, April has seen a lot of action along the fringes of the Superman meta-narrative. Elseworlds, alternate Earths, alternate timelines, clones, and adaptations- we live in a time of many Supermen. I’ve written previously on how Batman is preparing us for travel through the multiverse and today I’m going to discuss how Superman’s multiple existences in the multiverse allow us to confront and cope with some of our fears- or rather, just one fear: evil Superman. (bad Superman?)

kalelwhiplash

This month saw the publication of three trades that deal with an alternate Superman and each of these alternate Superman are more evil than the Superman archetype. Each of these titles stand among some of the best DC is publishing- compelling stories that twist the Man of Steel into a reflection of the terrors associated with absolute power and nigh-invulnerability.

blackmassonkrypton

In Earth-2 Vol. 5: The Kryptonian, a Superman under the control of Darkseid has come to post-Apokolips Earth-2 to bring about a revival of Apokoliptian terror. The fear that our greatest heroes will come under the power of tyrants is not an irrational fear and Earth-2 is full of deceitful authorities coming from all angles.

earth2haildubstep

The heroes of Earth-2, including a Red Tornado Lois Lane, attempt to use Clark’s adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent to bring Superman to his senses. This strategy is common when trying to calm Superman down. It seems very natural to us because we believe that humanity is what makes Superman good which is all sorts of problematic, but it comforts us to think that our way of life could keep a god from doing terrible things, which is odd in itself as many comfort themselves by worshiping a god that does in fact do terrible things and swear allegiance to an employer who might not care if they live or die.

montgomeryclarkburns

In Justice League 3000, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman have been resurrected alongside Superman in a morally questionable experiment completed by the Wonder Twins in the distant future.

jl3k

These Wonder Twins differ greatly from the original Wonder Twins and that can be said for all of the members of the Justice League. Of these not-exactly-cloned clones, Superman falls the shortest of his legacy.

justice3kidiotsupes

Here, Superman is a sex-crazed blood-thirsty idiot who keeps forgetting that he no longer has the power to fly. This depiction of an imbecilic Superman preys upon the same fear that perpetuates the dumb jock stereotype and inspired so much protest against George W. Bush’s presidency. We are afraid of the stupid and the powerful. Being powerless in the face of mediocrity can feel worse than being powerless in the face of brilliance- here, there is no respect for the fool leading you, no hope.

injusticejokerheart

In Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Two, the story of a Superman driven to vengeful murder and then obsessive fascism continues as more and more DC Comics characters try to make sense of this totalitarian Last Son of Krypton. I’ve really enjoyed Injustice. When it first came out, I avoided it because I didn’t want to read a comic book based on a video game, but when I heard Mike Miller, one of the artists, speak about it at Dragon Con (and then subsequently found a copy of the first trade for $5), I decided to pick it up. Immediately I was impressed at how well Tom Taylor grasped the characters. I should mentioned that Tom Taylor wrote about this fascist Superman and also wrote the Earth-2 Darkseid-controlled Superman. Maybe he has an irrational fear of Superman and his therapist suggested he work through those issues by bringing his fears to their absurd conclusion. In Year One, Superman ended war. In Year Two, Superman must figure out a way to keep the peace. To do so, he needs an army and Lex Luthor has developed a pill that will allow normal humans to rock and roll all night while simultaneously partying every day. The pill even let Alfred beat up Superman.

supermanarmy

Superman’s motivation towards absolute rule comes from the Joker tricking him into killing Lois Lane, their unborn child, and the entire city of Metropolis. Superman just wants to keep everybody safe. This motivation creates a very different totalitarian Superman than the classic Red Son where Superman’s drive towards a one-world government-dictatorship is more philosophical than emotional. All these stories of Superman going over the edge really make me want to reread Red Son. In both cases, Batman is there to oppose him. In Earth-2 and Justice League 3000, alternate Batmans prove to be the voice of reason in the face of a radically imperfect Superman.

redson

All of this evil Superman stuff just off the heels of Forever Evil, a storyline than spanned nearly the entire New 52 universe and featured Ultraman, the Crime Syndicate’s answer to Superman, as one of its main villains.

ultramanvsultraman

As well as Superman works as a metaphor for absolute good, he also works quite well as a metaphor for absolute evil.

goobyebrianandcliff

With the release a few weeks ago of Wonder Woman Vol. 6: Bones, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s spectacular run on Wonder Woman is now available in full in trade format. The story, told over 35 issues and a few annuals, is compiled in six volumes each sporting a one word title: Blood, Guts, Iron, War, Flesh, and Bones. I imagine DC will release the run in a more concise form- maybe two volumes? omnibus? In its current state, you’ll want to read all six volumes as it is one complete story with suspense constantly building to a very classy plot twist.

wwtop

Tasked with rebooting Wonder Woman for the New 52, Azzarello and Chiang made the bold decision to alter her origin story- exposing her origins from clay as lie told to Diana by her mother Hippolyta to keep her own affair with Zeus a secret from Diana and more importantly, Hera, who have demanded retribution for another woman sharing a bed with her husband as is the custom among Olympians. This change to Wonder Woman’s origin story brought forth scores of fantastic characters, a true pantheon of pun-masters. The scripts for this story possess a wit rare in comics or any other medium- a wit that perhaps can only perform in the medium of comics and a wit unabashedly fond of puns.

wwgod

I spoke at length about Wonder Woman’s introduction to her extended family tree at last year’s Comics and Popular Arts Conference at Atlanta’s Dragon Con. With each issue, Wonder Woman becomes more acquainted with the citizens and standard operating procedures of Olympus. Hephaestus, Hades, Eros, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Cassandra, Artemis, Apollo, Demeter, Strife, War, and a Wesley Willis-inspired Milan are just a small sample of the colorful characters Wonder Woman now finds herself related to. The whole family adjusts not only to Wonder Woman, but other surprise family members come in to shake things up- particularly the one known only as the First Born.

wwc4playpeeweewar

Because Wonder Woman has her hands full with all of this family drama, the rest of the DC universe stays largely off the pages of these books with the exception of regular appearances by Orion of New Genesis (not old Olympus). Readers who follow Superman/Wonder Woman know that Superman’s absence from the adventures outlined in this story has left the Man of Steel with some feelings of inadequacy.

wwcovers

The lack of other DC superheroes is a bit of a blessing. Readers can read this run without feeling the baggage of an entire universe’s continuity. The series has since the New 52’s inception been a title that non-superhero readers could digest more easily than more continuity-rich titles like Green Lantern, Superboy, or any of the Trinity (War or Sin) related titles. Because of this, I highly recommend the collection as a gift for beginner readers. While the book contains a healthy bit of violence, some sexual content, and an intrinsic critique of religion, I believe the book is not only appropriate for young readers, but particularly valuable to a younger audience as it introduces them to Greek mythology as well as sophisticated story-telling elements in a way that’s more enjoyable than formal education.

wonderwomancoveralls

As the New 52 comes to a close, this run on Wonder Woman will be remembered as one of the best elements of the reboot. Unlike other great runs (Manupaul and Buccellato’s Flash, Williams and Blackman’s Batwoman (especially), Johns and Reis’s Aquaman) that have ended, this series demonstrates a more perfect overall architecture. As I read the final pages, I feel more satisfied as the story came to its conclusion. The only other run from the New 52 that comes to mind that demonstrated the kind of forethought seen here is Morrison’s Action Comics but the creative teams behind both titles approached rebooting two of DC’s biggest titles. I don’t include Snyder and Capullo’s Batman here because their run hasn’t ended (and hopefully won’t end for a good long while)

wonderwomancovers

 

killingjokeobama

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.

toodangerousforyoureyes

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.

naziboobies

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.

batcisco

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.

tropicalheath

 

 

 

 

Shaun the Sheep with the Hot Pot

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…

harleyundies

…while she surprised me with this Red Hood toy.

redhood

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!

batmite

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.

blackcanary

starfiresoe

thenew52ends

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.

endofnew52

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.

bw52

bw5

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.

endofnew52superwonder

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.

%d bloggers like this: