Archives for posts with tag: California

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Green_Lantern_v.4_24

While WXL is officially a comic book blog, it’s been a while since I addressed an comics-related issue. I’ve been rereading the Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps, starting with Rebirth. I’ve just finished The Sinestro Corps War and will probably stop after the other Lantern Corps are introduced, but before Blackest Night goes into full swing. It’s hard to read this material without considering the impact that Geoff Johns has had on the Green Lantern and the DC multiverse in general. When Johns and his various and very talented partners-in-crime brought Hal Jordan back as a Green Lantern, he had been possessed by both Parallax and the Spectre, spent a bit of time with the Phantom Stranger, and played a role in bringing about the destruction of both the Green Lantern Corps and his hometown Coast City. In the books leading up to Blackest Night, the GL creative team resolved the matter of Parallax’s infection of Hal somewhat, enabled Hal to shed the Spectre, returned the ring to Hal’s finger, reestablished the Corps and established additional colors, and brought Coast City back from its ashes.

Please don’t take this article too seriously.

Coast City is traditionally depicted as a California city- sometimes it feels like San Diego and sometimes like San Francisco. Its creation fills a void left by Gotham City and Metropolis’s similarities to New York City and Chicago, Star(ling) City’s similarity to Seattle, and the Gem Cities’ similarities to the Twin Cities. In the Silver Age, Coast City embodied much of the essence of California as understood by the American imagination- a little more laid back than the East Coast, but on the edge of the future, cowboys living better through chemistry. More than Metropolis, Coast City was the city of tomorrow. As the 20th century progressed, California dreaming changed its tone and the American imagination adapted, crafting a new vision of what California meant. This new vision reacted to the rise of new subcultures that became closely associated with California- the Beats, hippies, the Manson family, pornographers, Black Panthers, Scientologists, Silicon Valley, People’s Church, Church of Satan, the out gay community, United Fruit Workers, and other strong personalities that informed both California and US identity. Coast City still somewhat resembled San Diego minus the Hispanic population, but it hardly resembled San Francisco by the time it was destroyed in the 1990s. I see Coast City more like Detroit, incredibly optimistic in the Silver Age and ruined largely by outside factors. Detroit came to mind initially because it’s the hometown of Geoff Johns.

Let’s look at what destroyed Coast City and what destroyed Detroit. Once the Oa of automobiles, Detroit’s contribution to US culture and its international reputation has largely been overshadowed by its economic decline. Can you imagine the American experience without Motown or MC5, much less without the automobile? The economy of Coast City when it is first introduced centers around Ferris Aircraft, which isn’t the automobile industry, but both employ machinists, mechanics, and engineers, if you know what I mean. These two industrial cities are destroyed from within and without.

The destruction of Coast City is generally attributed to three individuals:

Mongul loves yellow

Mongul

Is it just me or are there some underlying racial issues with this character? He is a yellow-skinned villain bent on world(s) domination through dynastic rule. His name is one letter away from Mongol, shorthand for Mongoloid (if you subscribe to the antiquated theory of three distinct races (Negroid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid)) which refers to people with ancestry from Asia. He’s built much more like a Mongolian than a Japanese person and his name is likely inspired by the notoriety of the Mongol Empire. In the late 20th century, the failing communist nation of Mongolia posed little threat to Detroit. Japan and its robust automotive industry, however, posed a significant one and that idea continues to find a captive audience. Manufacturing in Asia has only grown as a go-to scapegoat for a decline in US manufacturing. The nations of Japan and Korea developed economically, achieved legitimacy, and consolidated regional influence largely on the backs of their automotive industries. Their rise came at the cost of Detroit.

cyborg superman

Cyborg Superman

As his name implies, Hank Henshaw is a half-human half-robot version of the Man of Steel. In a dangerous partnership with Mongul, Cyborg Superman transforms Coast City literally into an Engine City. Coast City is replaced by an exponentially more industrialized version of itself to serve the ambitions of the foreign power Mongul. Much like Detroit’s woes, there is an undeniable John Henry overtone to the terraforming of Coast City. It’s man vs machine and machine wins.

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Hal Jordan

The legacy of Coast City’s destruction is best characterized by its effect on Hal Jordan. Left so distraught by his hometown’s demise, Hal Jordan allows himself to fall victim to Parallax or what FDR might call “fear itself.” The decline of Detroit has certainly taken a toll on the will power of the people of the city and perhaps in some of their darker moments, people have embraced fear over optimism.

When Geoff Johns brings Hal Jordan back to the Green Lantern mantel, he also brings Coast City back into existence. By doing so, I believe Geoff Johns is communicating a hope for his hometown to persevere through difficult times and eventually revitalize itself. In one of this last moves as Green Lantern kingpin, Johns introduced the character of Simon Baz in his native Detroit, providing a much less nuanced role for his hometown than any parallels that could be brought between Coast City and Detroit.

I like when creators represent, whether it’s Johns placing Simon Baz in Detroit or Robert Kirkman setting the Walking Dead in Georgia. Comics can capture physical and spiritual geography in ways unique to the medium such as Strange Attractors, Deogratias, and Palestine. Of course, the Marvel Universe approaches real-life geography in a way distinctly its own.

In conclusion, I would welcome Aquaman to Atlanta. He’s gonna love the fountains at Centennial Park.

veidt-poison-ivy-panda

The cosplay phenomenon manifested itself, mostly at a grassroots level, from the collision of social forces old and new. Equal parts post-modern hyper-consumerism and ancient ritual, cosplay combines humanity’s celebration of its own imagination and a refusal to accept its natural limits. Like mating dances and funeral marches, it is inherently sexual with its multiple sexual identities decided by its multiple audiences. Through cosplay, the cosplayer rejects their reality in favor of a reality augmented by a fantasy element. The act is both self-destructive and self-affirming. It is both personal and social. During the act, the cosplayer is constantly engaging the character being recreated and through this process, an intimacy is created. For fans of those character, observing others in the cosplay act can stimulate their own feelings of intimacy will the character, exponentially increasing the Barthesian experience of an author losing control of their work while the audience creates its own text from its own understanding of the work. People are attracted to the cosplay community because of the orgy of it all, the give and take of cerebral and sexual signs that compel visceral responses from the intellectual and physiological self.

Cosplay is real people, but it isn’t. The characters are generally more professional than the actors. Cosplay succeeds when it blurs the lines between its multiple realities in interesting ways. Lex Luthor is obvious in the Prometheus suit, but what about his birthday suit? Craftsmanship, creativity, and courage are characteristics that greatly benefit a cosplayer. Veidt.com is a unique voice in the cosplayer universe. Describing themselves as “a stupid little fansite celebrating alt cosplay, post-human culture, and parody,” Veidt offers what a lot of people are looking for in their cosplay- nudity. Veidt is not a pornographic site, but it will likely stir a few of those feelings you discovered during puberty. In addition to its erotic character, Veidt maintains a minimalist aesthetic more John Waters than Andrew Blake, punker than it is pretty.

Additionally, Veidt stands on the merits of its own street credibility or rather its geekdom authenticity. Named after the ozziest of the Watchmen, Veidt demonstrates flawlessly a genuine interest and understanding of comics’ rich culture without the need to boast Comic-Book-Guy-style about its own authority. At a time when an embarrassing number of males in the sci-fi community are attacking females in the community under the ridiculous charge of being fake nerds, Veidt is a site maintained by women that are real nerds- I mean that as a compliment, of course. Sure, you will find Supergirl and Catwoman on their site, but also several Green Lanterns (even a pre-Red Lantern Green Lantern), characters from independent comics, characters of their own creation, and other characters of varying obscurity.

Anyway, I spoke with some of the ladies at Veidt.com and did a few Wayne Xiao Long interpretations of some of their photos. I encourage you to check out their site to see what it is these remarkable women do.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE WOMEN OF VEIDT.COM

WXL: Who are you?

VEIDT.COM: I’m the concept artist behind the alt cosplay site Veidt.com, which encompasses pretty much everything on there, except for the part that actually matters- wearing the costumes.

WXL: You maintain a site that features pop culture news and your opinions, but is mainly known for featuring beautiful and beautifully tattooed women dressed as characters from video games, comic books, and your own imagination. Unlike many other cosplay sites, yours sometimes offers a more intimate look at the bodies of the cosplay models. It’s a very popular site that doesn’t generate income, right? So, my question is, why do you do it?

VEIDT.COM: This was never intended as a for-profit venture, it’s a silly little art project that’s somehow developed a following. There are very definitely real costs to the stuff we do, but have been quite fortunate that whenever we put up a crowdfunding campaign to keep going, the audience has responded. I’m so grateful for their interest and support, which has allowed us to continue growing.

That’s not to suggest there’s anything wrong with generating revenue. I’m very much a fan of capitalism, and will do other things, but I’d like to keep Veidt as freely available as I can, for the foreseeable.

WXL: Your site gives the impression that all of you are friends. How did you meet each other?

VEIDT.COM: There’s definitely a couple of interesting stories there.

People seem to have a lot of distinct impressions about the site and I kinda like that it’s open to interpretation. As long as they know the shoots are very much a collaboration, and that the best ideas often aren’t coming from me, they can think whatever they like.

I am working right now on a story that combines some of the history and experiences of the site, as a foundation for some radical leaps of imagination, to do something I haven’t seen in comics. Ideally, would love to find the right artist to work with, and make it an open-ended one-off comic book. But if not, I suppose it will go out at some point as a prose piece, with supplemental sketches and photos.

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WXL: Two characters your site is particularly fond of recreating are the Green Lantern characters Star Sapphire and Arisia Rrab. These are both characters under the thumb of Hal Jordan in pretty demeaning ways. By becoming Star Sapphire, any of Carol Ferris’s personality other than her love for Hal ceases to exist, revealing a very outdated perception of women. Arisia Rrab is Hal Jordan’s thirteen year-old girlfriend that alters her appearance to allow Hal to continue his pedophilia when they return to Earth. These women surrender control and even meaning over their lives to a man so easily and yet the models on your site seem to have taken a great deal of control over how they use their bodies and they allow themselves to be publicly represented. Was this a conscious choice to use such characters? More generally, what are your intellectual objectives with the site? How do you define the feminist components of your work? What is your contribution to our collective and your individual struggles with gender?

VEIDT.COM: It’s even weirder, as Hal Jordan doesn’t really mean anything to me. The first DC series I devoured, outside of some Batman books, was Grant Morrison’s JLA, which had Kyle Rayner. That lead me to track down the Keith Giffen run, which came highly recommended, and that’s wall to wall Guy Gardener. And then the JL cartoon was John Stewart…all of those characters had great moments, and strong personalities, so when all of the focus seemed to suddenly shift to Hal Jordan, I didn’t get it. I have no idea what’s supposed to make him better than these other guys, and in fact my biggest exposure to Hal was the pacifist fighter pilot nonsense in the beginning of The New Frontier, and that almost made me stop reading- fortunately, I persevered through…it is an exceptional story.

Very aware of the back-stories of Arisia and Star Sapphire, and would love to go off on a screed about Arisia, in particular, but I’ve actually channeled my reactions to and fascination with that character into the more fictional aspect of the story I mentioned working on. Don’t want to spoil that, but I hope it makes for an interesting / alternate / unexpected take on an utterly absurd, yet compelling character.

As for our cosplay shoots inspired by these characters, there’s definitely a degree of satire by exaggeration behind them. Also, one of the motivations for the images was to try to channel some of the comic book, post-human world into our mundane reality. I don’t think I’ve succeeded at conveying that, as the most consistent criticism is of things like power outlets and light switches in the background. That was kind of the point, and I guess I fail at subtext for having to come out and explain it.

And while I appreciate the question on intellectual objectives, I haven’t earned that. I got accepted to CalArts after hs, but didn’t get to go (parents wouldn’t pay for art school.), made and maintained friendships with some people there, though, and because I had an outsider perspective, was able to see how uncomfortable it could get when people spoke way too much about their process. Not taking your work too seriously, I think that’s actually admirable, and can be an asset. But radically overestimating the audience’s interest in the people behind the work, or being an obv try-hard at personal brand building, is just…*shudder.*

I’ve gotten some fascinating feedback from all kinds of people, who’ve noted many things that were, and many that definitely weren’t, intentional. I appreciate getting people’s responses to this stuff.

WXL: Your site celebrates women in comic books and satisfies a desire than many people have. Most people that search for my site end up here because they were looking for naked pictures of Zatanna or some other comic book femme. It’s great they have your site for stuff like that. Are there any male comic book characters that you like to create costumes for and shoot pictures of?

VEIDT.COM: Well, I’m not short on volunteers, which is nice.

We actually did one this year, a Namor shoot for April Fool’s. A friend of mine has achieved some real fame in a particular niche, and he’s got the classic olympic swimmer’s build, so we did this…intending it to be a joke, but it actually turned out kind of amazing. Rarely look at my stuff and think, there’s a shot that could actually sell as a print, or something, but this set had one.

Sadly, someone close to him didn’t appreciate it, and I was asked to sit on them. That’s happened before, someone asking not to run certain pictures, which is fine, but this one kinda hurt.

If I don’t get the okay to use them soon, I’ll try reshooting it with someone else, as the costume and location really worked, and I’m curious to see what kind of reaction the pics might get on the site. We’ve gotten positive feedback from a pretty diverse array of people, so I’m hopeful some might be open to it.

Either way, there’s at least one other idea I has incorporating a male character; will get that done this summer, too.

WXL: Many of your shoots are in rather public locations. Could you share some interesting encounters with or reactions from the general population? Anyone cast a hex or proposition you?

VEIDT.COM: My favorite thing in the world is going hiking, really late at night. Running up and down hills, climbing and jumping like an idiot, it’s very effective for stimulating introspection and creative thought. Started doing it at night because when I’d go during the day, would occasionally run into another hiker, and that took me out of the moment, and tended to made me self-conscious. I bring this up to sort-of convey that I try to avoid people, generally, no matter what I’m doing. [And should the updates on the site abruptly stop, I’m likely dead somewhere in the Santa Monica mountains, or thereabouts. Hiking at night is very fun, but also dangerous and dumb. It’s cool, though, I will have gone out doing what I loved.

So yeah,  we have used public locations, but I’ve studied them in advance, and felt confident we could work there without running into anyone. It doesn’t always work out that way, though. We were shooting on a fire escape, once, and gradually became aware of this squat little guy masturbating from his window in the adjacent building, with a big smile on his face. We waved, and quickly went elsewhere.

It was a little surreal going into a comic store in LA, not long ago, and a couple people were looking at the Post-Human Pin-Up ebook on an iPad. They were going through it, occasionally talking about it, and I’m 3 feet away listening intently, having that comic book moment where Peter Parker has the imaginary half Spider-Man mask on his face, or Bruce Wayne’s shadow suddenly has bat ears, or whatever.

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WXL: I’m guessing that all of the models on your site have thought about this question before. Which comic book character do you think you personally could portray best on screen?

MARNIE: Cassie Hack, mofo!
HAN:  We just did Ravager, she’s the character i most wanted to do. Please, somebody, just make a Titans movie.

WXL: GL fan to GL fan, what do you think is the number one problem with the movie? Don’t say the costume- that’s a cop-out answer for a cosplayer!

VEIDT.COM: Number one problem? Radical over-reliance on ugly CG, and the costume is part of that, but so are the uninspired designs for Oa, Kilowog Potatohead, Parallax, and so many other elements.

But even if you somehow fixed all that, you still have the choice of Hector Hammond as a villain, the charisma vacuum that is Peter Sarsgaard, casting Blake Lively in a role that screamed out for Eva Green, the implausibility of Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, and Sarsgaard as a peer group with a long history, things like the GL oath and Kilowog saying,”Poozer”, which read fine on a comic page, but should probably never be spoken aloud in a film. Why was Tim Robbins in this movie? Bland music that made no impression. Also, no Arisia and no fleeting glimpse of Ferris as her future alter ego.

What it did right is a much shorter list: Ryan Reynolds wasn’t bad casting; at least someone thought to start hinting at a larger shared universe by bringing in Amanda Waller; and Mark Strong was pretty good. Happy we got to see him in Sinestro Corps mode for a few seconds.

GO VISIT VEIDT.COM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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