Archives for posts with tag: dr. fate

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2014 was an interesting year for comic book covers. Some Vertigo titles experimented with putting the first panels of the story on the cover. Independent publishers like Image Comics, Top Shelf, and Oni Press drew inspiration from wells outside of traditional comics to unleash some phenomenal design and the Big Two continued to offer loads of variants while still ruining covers by filling them with ads for movies and TV shows. Convention floors, the blogosphere, and comic book shops had readers and creators discussing the merits of covers while speculators looked for hidden Easter Eggs and social activists looked for opportunities to progress a higher discourse. Two covers in particular stirred more conversation in 2014 than all others. The re-reboot of Teen Titans and a reboot of Spider-Woman faced resistance specifically from critics for whom the representation of women is elemental to their comics critique. Here I will discuss both those covers and the cover of the second volume of the Justice Society of America omnibus. Before I begin, let me just admit that my white male privilege allows me to write this article without fear of rape or death threats. It’s disgusting that we live on an internet where a noticeable portion of its populace respond to ideas they find threatening with threats of physical violence. The fact that such behavior finds a home in discussions about comic books is especially sad- what would Superman say if he saw you writing rape threats to a stranger because of her opinion on a comic book cover?

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For the first issue of their latest Spider-Woman reboot, Marvel recruited the talents of Milo Manara, an Italian comics creator known for his hyper-sexual style. Full disclosure: I’m not a Marvel reader and don’t have any emotional ties to Spider-Woman as a character. I am however a fan of erotic art and have an appreciation for low brow art. I also appreciate the long standing tradition of sequential art itself as a marginalized art form. When I heard an esteemed erotic artist would provide art for a mainstream variant comic book company, I thought it sounded like a cool idea. I love diversity among artists and believe comics generally benefit from outside influence. For example, I think the Scribbenauts variants and most of the Robot Chicken variants that DC’s been using look pretty dumb, but I appreciate that such distinct styles are been experimented with and I like to see a wild mix on the comic book shelves. Still, much of the controversy had little to do with those few defenses I just offered, but rather focused on the use of such an artist to promote a book that had been admittedly targeted towards women and on book about a character that many female readers had identified as an example of progressive representation. A lot of male readers and the creators responsible for creating it took the criticism very personally.

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Some readers found humor in the controversy.

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Some readers got scientific.

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News operations outside of the world of comics like TIME magazine even picked up the story, reporting on the cover controversy and supplying Marvel with a bit of free publicity.

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The other cover that drew a great deal attention is the first issue of the re-rebooted Teen Titans. Unlike Spider-Woman, the Teen Titans are characters that I do follow and for whom I have developed some sentimental attachment. The controversy over this cover began when former Bat-title editor Janelle Asselin wrote an article about its cover where she described it as “not just a terrible comics cover, it’s a prime example of how even the most corporate comic book companies can make basic mistakes regarding the potential audience for a book.” I have a little trouble with her describing it as a “prime example” as it seems as if she picked it arbitrarily. Her critique of the cover is largely valid; I just think it can be applied to scores of other covers that supply greater evidence to support her criticism. You can read her original article and you won’t find anything too confrontational. You might feel a little bad for Kenneth Rocafort being singled out for a trend and tradition in comics that is much larger than his own contribution to the medium, but Asselin articulates pretty clearly in her article that her intention is not to attack the artist.

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Asselin’s complaints are in some ways more justified than those made against Spider-Woman and in some ways less. For example, Spider-Woman is a variant cover and this Teen Titans cover is the official cover. On the other hand, the Spider-Woman cover is explicitly sexual while the Teen Titans cover more subtly directs attention towards Wonder Girl’s breasts. Both Asselin’s critique of this cover and the general complaints about the Spider-Woman cover made specific points about how the two books are targeted somewhat to female readers. In that instance, the real criticism is “hey comic book companies, you’re marketing your books poorly!” not “hey comic companies, you’re perpetuating a hate crime!” Disgustingly some of the public responded the criticisms as if they had been the latter “hate crime” accusation by responding themselves with very hateful speech and even threats of physical violence. Coupled with the species-wide embarrassment that was Gamergate, geek males looked really bad in 2014. Not simply because they acted like monsters towards others, but they demonstrated such resistance to advancing the mediums they purport to love. Of course, this demented vocal element of the comics reading community represents only a small portion of that community. Neither the critique against Spider-Woman nor the one against Teen Titans were revolutionary nor were they particularly sophisticated, but they absolutely belong in our discussion of comics which makes the toxic reactions so absurd. I find Asselin’s critique to be somewhat arbitrary and forced. I find the controversy over Manara’s Spider-Woman a little dumb because 1) it’s a variant cover, not the official cover 2) it’s painted by an erotic artist with the intention of being hyper-sexual, so being upset with it parallels hating ice cream sandwiches for being delicious. Still, both critiques have value. Now I would like to present a critique of the cover used for the second volume of the JSA omnibus that requires less nuance to explain.

First, let’s look at the cover:

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For the cover of the omnibus, DC Comics decided to use the wrap around cover from JSA #50, an iconic cover featuring most of the primary players in the series. In terms of aesthetics, I think DC could have used better images for both volumes, but this isn’t a discussion of aesthetics. As you can see, the characters that appear on the front cover are Green Lantern, Dr. Fate, Wildcat, Captain Marvel, the Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sands, and Hawkman. These are all important characters though some are more prominent than others. Two things that the characters all have in common are their race and gender.

Second, let’s look at the full image from JSA #50‘s wrap around cover to see what other members of the Justice Society appear on the back:

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Here we see the rest of the team: Atom Smasher (white male), Power Girl (white female), Hawkgirl (white female), Black Adam (middle eastern male), Mr. Terrific (black male), Jakeem Thunder (black male), Hour Man (white male), and Stargirl (white female). As you can see, all of the women and minorities have been placed on the back cover. Because this image is originally from the fiftieth issue, what we are seeing here is DC Comics deciding to make the same offense twice. None of these offenses- Manara’s Spider-Butt, Rocafort’s Wonder-Boobs, or the JSA’s occasional instance of segregation- are end-of-the-world problems, but they ought be discussed while creators and readers alike consider the vulnerability of the medium and the value of constructive criticism in order to produce higher quality art and tell more compelling stories. While conventional wisdom tells us not to a judge a book by its cover, we should recognize the role the cover plays in determining the reception, reputation, and overall destiny of the book.

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Today marks one year of Wayne Xiao Long: The World’s Second Greatest Detective patrolling the rooftops of hyper-Gotham. Though the site suffered a few lulls when AT&T took it upon itself to punish me with no internet and terribly insulting customer service, I’m pleased with what’s been accomplished here. I’ve gotten to speak with a lot of people from different aspects of the comic book industry and I’ve discovered new ways that sequential art extends beyond the comic issue. The ESL crosswords continue to be really popular and I apologize that I’ve made and subsequently lost several that never ended up on the site. In my tutoring, the last few months have focused largely on mechanics and grammar, so there aren’t any fresh ones. I might get around to making so more aimed at native speakers. While the site has attracted a lot of crossword and comics enthusiasts, a tremendous number of readers have found this site in pursuit of adult fare. Perhaps as a thank you to all the readers, I’ll draw some of the more popular search items that bring people here such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Gay Sex,” “Nude Zatanna,” “Nude Black Canary,” and “gay sex treasure hunter.” Probably the most disturbing search term that frequently comes up is “crush fetish.” Yeah, I might take a swing at drawing a Gay Sex Treasure Hunter- it might even like the ridiculous picture of Cyborg at the top of this article.

This Cyborg appears in Flash: Our Worlds At War and surely tells us something about imagined racial realities in the United States in the twenty-first century. Vic Stone is one of the characters who I think get one of the best and most long overdue makeovers in the New 52 and seeing him in this Jiveborg set-up from 2001 reminds me of just how desperately Cyborg needed a reboot. The writer of Flash: Our Worlds At War Geoff Johns has a long history of reviving characters and transforming them into more vital elements of the DCU, most famously Barry Allen’s Flash and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern. Immediately prior to the New 52 reboot, Geoff Johns created the Flashpoint storyline which gave Cyborg a leading role, allowing him to further shed his Teen Titans stigma and sit at the grown up table of Justice Leaguers.

I really like Geoff Johns. I would vote for him for political office as I think he has an incredibly thoughtful grasp on global politics and what issues affects Americans locally. His depictions of Keystone City and Coast City echo of a very genuine patriotism and belief in American ingenuity. In the recent released Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics documentary, Johns speaks about the use of villains as metaphors for larger dilemmas facing humanity and that’s something he does particularly well. Whether creating the richly complex members of the Red Lantern Corps, all of whom comment on some compelling and topical  form of abuse, or portraying villains like Goldface with an understanding of labor unions that is neither superficially supportive nor dismissive, Johns pours a lot of the real world into his comics. He gave the ring back to Hal, life back to Barry, and to Aquaman? His arm and much needed shave, plus a little studio time with Diana in Flashpoint. Johns brought the Justice Society onto the small screen in Smallville, bringing Dr. Fate, Hawkman, and Stargirl to life in stunning fashion.

Still, I have a bone to pick with Mr. Johns. DC Comics recently released two New 52 trades by Johns. First, they released Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis and then they released Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis. The problem is that these two books are essentially identical and DC is just forcing its readers to buy 6 issues twice for the thrill of reading Aquaman #0. It’s not as if Aquaman fans arent’ reading Justice League. The whole thing stinks of greed beyond normal comic book greed. It’s a pity.

Anyway, happy Year One to Wayne Xiao Long! Thanks for reading!

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

(warning: some pictures might not be suitable for all audiences)

Dragon Con this year went pretty well. I enjoyed nearly every panel which I attended, which was considerably less this year as I volunteered for the first time. As usual, the panels from the academic conference were the most interesting. I must admit I had the most fun at my panel, “Comics Through A Socio-Political Lens.” The other speakers were very nice and delivered witty papers. The crowd was engaging and even included a real life superhero- Jet from the Rock City, Alabama! I got to speak with a lot of artists and writers, such as Neal Adams, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Connor, Brian Stelfreeze, Darwyn Cooke, Van Jensen, and others. Because I was a volunteer, I ended up meeting a lot of movie and TV stars including Malcolm Macdowell, George Takei, Edward James Olmos, and the guy who plays Hank on Grimm. I did feel a bit starstruck meeting the cast of Smallville, especially Allison Mack- talking to her was just like talking to Chloe Sullivan. Supergirl is even more beautiful in real life and Brainiac has been working out. The other volunteers I met were generally nice. Some of them were more interesting than others.

The most interesting person I met wasn’t actually a guest at Dragon Con. I was walking out the Marriott when I spotted a guy wearing a Strange Talent of Luther Strode t-shirt and I complimented him on it. It turns out he’s Tradd Moore and he gave me a copy of Luther Strode Vol. 2, which was pretty sweet.

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

After Dragon Con, I realize that I left two great titles from the past year off the list of best comics. Obviously the omission of Luther Strode is a bit embarrassing and perhaps even a little corrupt in light of his recent generosity, but it’s definitely a book that stood out this year. The other omission is the unreasonably controversial and incredibly well-done Before Watchmen series, which I really feel like rereading after hearing Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Connor talk about it.

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

 

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