Archives for posts with tag: LGBT community
Spoiler alert: Slade Wilson shoots his eye out!

Spoiler alert: Slade Wilson shoots his eye out!

Welcome to second installment of the World’s Second Greatest Detetective’s 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide! In the first installment, I offered suggestions to those shopping for fans of the television programs The Flash, Gotham, and Smallville, the video games in the Batman: Arkham-verse and Injustice, and the film Man of Steel as well as some suggestions for a person’s individual fancies regarding Superman. While I enjoyed writing that list and believe it could come in handy for a handful of holiday shoppers, I felt quite embarrassed when I got towards the end (blogger’s exhaustion as it were) when I realized I had compiled a list almost exclusively contained heterosexual white males. This is 2014 and while heterosexual white dudes still dominate comics in both content and the industry, there are plenty of interesting characters and talented creators who have overcome the default settings that always inhibited Western media. I’ve included a mere fraction on this list.

COMICS FOR A LESBIAN WHO LIKES BATMAN AND HAS AN ELEGANT TASTE IN DESIGN: Batwoman has consistently been one of the most beautiful books in the past decade. Like Batwoman’s costume, the book’s art has experimented heavily with black, gray, and red to create a superhero book that looks more like a haunted luxury hotel than a comic book. You have two options really: before the New 52 or in the New 52.

BEFORE NEW 52: Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s run on Detective Comics has been collected in Batwoman: Elegy. This book stands well by itself and costs less than $20, but if you really want to impress…

NEW 52: I’d recommend the first 4 volumes of Batwoman. J.H. Williams III sticks around and is joined by W. Haden Blackman. Their departure from the series was a small controversy and the story told in these volumes came to an underwhelming conclusion in the first issue contained in the fifth volume, but don’t let that discourage you.

COMICS FOR A LESBIAN WHO ALSO LIKES BATMAN BUT PREFERS CRIME NOIR: I suggest you take a look at Batwoman and if you think the person on your list would like it more if there were less skulls, you need not worry. Renee Montoya, one of Batwoman‘s ‘Eskimo sisters’ and a supporting character on television’s Gotham, is another prominent bad-ass lesbian in the DC universe. Her appearances in the New 52 have largely been limited to the background of the various Bat-titles, but prior to the New 52, Renee Montoya was kind of a star. I recommend Batman: War Games, any of the Gotham Central collections, and The Question: Five Books of Blood. Having made those recommendations, I should admit that I believe 52 is the best Renee Montoya story ever told, but I do not recommend you purchase 52 for a novice DC Comics reader. Much like I wouldn’t suggest Crisis on Infinite Earths for a fan of The Flash television program, 52 requires a good bit of background knowledge to fully appreciate.

COMICS FOR COWGIRLS: Without thinking too deeply on it, I’m going to declare Pretty Deadly as the best current title featuring a female main character, strong female cast, and predominantly female creative team. While I haven’t read everything out there, I feel pretty confident in my assertion because few artists provide layouts that can compare to Emma Rios’s pages and her style works so well with the story Kelly Sue Deconnick has written.

There’s only one collection of Pretty Deadly available, so if you really want spoil the cowgirl in your life, I recommend your pick up all the volumes of The Sixth Gun, a slightly brighter tale than Pretty Deadly with a significantly less creepy art style. The Sixth Gun is also appropriate for a wider age range than Pretty Deadly.

COMICS FOR READERS WHO WANT HISPANIC CHARACTERS AND ARE CAPABLE OF SHRUGGING OFF PATRONIZING STEREOTYPES: In the New 52, there are two characters that I consider guilty pleasures- actually that’s true, a lot of them that are guilty pleasures that require a suspension of  some of my values in the hope of developing a sophisticated world-view beyond good and evil- whether my affection for scantily clad superheroines, ultra-violence, or a bit of racism, something about reading comics makes me lower my ethical guard and it is in this state that I fell in love with the lovable gay Mexican undocumented immigrant Bunker of Teen Titans and to a lesser extent the Detroit-born Latin cheeseball Vibe, appearing in various titles including a his own short-lived title series. I’d recommend the collection of the Vibe series, titled Justice League of America’s Vibe: Breach, to people who like the fashion in Joel Silberg’s cinematic masterpiece Breakin’. There’s plenty in Vibe that worthy of being subjected to the harshest of structuralist, post-colonialist, deconstructionist, etc. critiques- have a friend writing a thesis on representation of Hispanic Americans? This is the book!

However, I find Bunker much more enjoyable than Vibe. Heavily defined by his sexuality, ethnicity, and geographical origins, Bunker comes across as a bright-eyed bundle of sunshine optimism. Everything in the US is awesome! Everything about being a superhero is awesome! Teen Titan Friendship is awesome! I’ve written before about the Othering of the Bunker character and in that post, I focused primarily on Bunker’s portrayal as an immigrant more than as a Mexican gay man and I still believe it is the most heavily contributing factor to his characterization.

COMICS FOR FANS ON THE CONSTANTINE TELEVISION SHOW: If the person on your list likes Constantine, I suggest you go the source material and start at the beginning of the Hellblazer titles. Most of the volumes are priced at $19.99 and can be found cheaper in the rainforest. Each collected volume is about 300 pages, so a single volume is a pretty hefty gift. If the person on your list likes Constantine but wishes John Constantine ran into Superman and Swamp Thing on a regular basis, I’d push you towards the New 52 Dark titles like Justice League Dark (soon to be a major motion picture…maybe), Constantine, The Trinity War, or perhaps the Forever Evil: Blight collection (but that only really works if you also pick up Justice League Vol. 5, Justice League of America Vol. 2, and the Forever Evil main collection…well, maybe not…)

COMICS FOR FANS OF THE WALKING DEAD SHOW WHO EITHER ALREADY READ THE WALKING DEAD OR FIGURE THEY’VE SEEN THE SHOW AND DON’T REALLY WANT TO GET WRAPPED UP IN THE COMIC: There are so many zombie comics out there now and many of them are pretty good. Want a funny zombie book? Try Last Resort. Want a zombie story set in wartime Afghanistan? Try Graveyard of Empires. Prefer the Vietnam War? Try ’68. Is the zombie enthusiast on your list like to be one step ahead of  the crowd (a good move during the zombie apocalypse)? I’d recommend the collection of the digital comic iZombie or the animal zombie tale The Other Dead as both will coming to the small screen some time soon. Still, my top recommendation for zombie books is Revival. It’s a small town tale that does it’s best to reconcile the humanity of their reanimated loved ones with the terrifying implications of the dead coming back to life.

Blogger’s exhaustion has hit again. I should return to present the 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide pt. 3. If you have a comic fan that you’re having trouble shopping for, feel free to send me a description of their interests to waynexiaolong@gmail.com or leave some info in the comments below. Feel free to do so after the holiday season has passed- I’m happy to consult on gifts for any occasion. If one of your celebrity friends had their nude photos leaked by hackers, you might not want to give them a copy of The Killing Joke.

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froglonliness

When I was living in China, the internet was my primary tool for keeping up with life in the Western world. Internet censorship (or “harmonization” as the Chinese call it) limited my access to the Internet Movie Database, Facebook, and a number of other sites, but I was able to regularly access of a number of sites that might expect to be censored like one of my favorite art sites or this awesome oracle for insight into the lives of Chinese people. Living with such restrictions on my internet taught me to exercise caution on the net. One peculiar symptom is my resistance to engage in internet argument, a side effect that may be silencing my voice, but doing so in my best interest. I’m also not sure if credit belongs with the restrictive policies of the Chinese government or with the rise in general awareness of the consequences of web presence. Either way, I fucking hate censorship and that point will come into play further along in this report.

I found a cure for homesickness in the site 9gag which, while an international site, is primarily in English and dominated by Americans. This site introduced me to meme culture and kept me abreast of the stupid jokes Americans were telling to each other. Similarly my wife uses a Chinese site Qiu Shi Bai Ke to reconnect with the stupid humor of her homeland. Globalization enthusiasts will not be surprised to find out that the same material can often be found on both sites. I see a gif of somebody hitting their nuts on a Tuesday and my wife sees it on a Wednesday- one world, one dream. We can’t spread basic health education to all corners of the Earth with all the resources of the developed world, but fart jokes and nip slips travel at the speed of light. As is the case in most instances of intercultural exchange, the information can change meaning from culture to culture.

lazy college senior becomes depressed upon arrival in the middle kingdom

I kept following 9gag for a while. It served as a stupid enough distraction from whatever I was supposed to be doing, but like other sites in the same vein, it became overwhelmed by reposts, pictures of pets, products people bought or desired, and depressed people bragging about their infinite sadness. I eventually made the shift to HugeLOL, a site created by people from the 9gag community who were fed up with humor-lacking material and reposts clogging up the streets of 9gag. While HugeLOL definitely featured more joke-related images, the frequency of racist, misogynistic, and anti-gay imagery noticeably increased. This material wasn’t topical either- über-misguided patriotism condemning Islam or immigrants, but that kind of racism that’s almost too stupid to take seriously like “Black people love fried chicken” or “Women shouldn’t be allowed to drive because of their menses.” There was complaint from the HugeLOL community and the moderators made efforts to purge all racist content with minimal success until they hardened their community standard guidelines and policies and created an alternate site that would be free from moderation called HiddenLOL. At HiddenLOL, a person could post anything and the only thing (except perhaps a child porn post) that could cause the removal of content was the downvoting of the community.

As a free speech enthusiast, I eagerly explored the contents of HiddenLOL and followed it closely in the early days of its inception. I found some of the sexually graphic material disturbing, but mostly I found it pretty funny and some of it quite innovative. The flood and popularity of racist material shocked me. The site quickly became overrun with slavery and Holocaust humor. Hitler became a mascot, giving rise the unfortunate title for fans of HiddenLOL- “HidLers.”

As much as the appearance of desktop Klansmen-rapists-Nazis in my online community surprised me, I was much more taken aback at how these vulgar advocates for free speech often took positions staunchly against material that was sexual in nature. A web democracy of sorts was giving freedom to choose their content and with that freedom, they consciously chose and actively worked to make the platform about hate and then with equal enthusiasm, worked to remove sexual content. I won’t lie and say the sexual content can be equated with love. Some of it featured pretty violent imagery, usually towards women because the some of the community equated rape violence with slapstick. The objective of the sexual material was humor, not romance, but I would say the material was predominantly motivated by a love-driven laughter rather than spite (except in the cases of rape violence I mentioned early).

I’m pretty open-minded about content. I have a discerning taste to be certain, but I approach most content as an artifact of its time, given its the benefit of the doubt that it is has social value. Largely I feel pity for those whose opinions I oppose and I admittedly do feel anger towards them, but I cherish freedom of expression above most things and wouldn’t want to deny someone an outlet for their ideas. The idiotic memes of American rednecks or the “GAAAAAAAAAAAY!” comments on every youtube video and news article don’t scare me nearly as much as the consolidation of major media outlets, encroachments on net neutrality, or the influence of religious groups on education and public policy.  The most alarming conclusion I’ve drawn is that some people prefer Hitler to pornography. I like sex. I like sex in art, in movies, in literature, in real life. The truth is I like sex more than Batman and I like Batman a lot. I can’t imagine thinking about hating any race of people more than I think about sex. Every single citizen of France could take turns pooping on my doorstep for the rest of my life and I would still think about sex more than hating the French, so how much do these people hate?  Is there an equivalent to the orgasm in this depravity?

Should I really be surprised? Kids see a lot more guns than genitals and that’s how somebody (a wicked cabal? the silent majority? everybody) wants it. For a species so obsessed with both sex and violence, we’re incredibly resistant to understanding their consequences.

As someone who prefers pornography to Hitler, I struggle to understand the mindset of people for whom the opposite is true.

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.

hal jordan loves jewelry

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.

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