Tag Archives: superman

Fear of a Black Kid Flash. Not so Much a Female One.

wally westAn interesting thing happened last week when in the Teen Titans version of Futures End that a new Kid Flash was introduced in the wake of the company-wide crossover.  Or more accurately another new Kid Flash was introduced. Earlier this year some fans were upset at the long-awaited return of Wally West to the DC universe, the problem that they were upset that the character was black. While this was not too much different from some other reactions – such as the reveal that the Earth 2 Alan Scott is gay – it is interesting especially after this new female Kid Flash was released to little fanfare or reaction. No one at all seemed to complain about this new character, seemingly also taking over the role of Wally West, though the incursion was potentially just as comprehensive. After all the character is never named and could have just as likely been named Walda or Wallis as any other name (thus allowing a nickname of Wally.)

Although they are based off of general consensus and are generally pretty silly, the so-called rules of the internet cover this topic to a degree, specifically rule 63 which states that for every male character that a female version of this character also exists.  While not absolutely true, it is often the case at least with the most popular characters. Some are direct rip-offs, though very rarely does a character assume the actual identity of the character, though the new female Thor is potentially going to change this. The female characters generally are presented in one of two ways. Either they are a female character that is modified into the costume of a male hero, as in the case of Stephanie Brown in the costume of Robin or May Parker in Spider-Man’s costume, or with separate characters in obviously feminine costumes as in the case with Supergirl and Batgirl.  In these cases though the character is separate and not taking over for the main role. While this in itself could be interpreted as a statement of gender, it is still worth noting that each character has their own self and their own past.

kflashThis being the case it would seem that the problem with the case of Wally West is not that directly of skin colour but that of identity. Wally West was an established character for many, and to change something as deep as skin color for many readers meant a fundamental change for the readers. Is this fair though?  If indeed the female character had been named either Wallis or Walda (I know these are more obscure names) would that have been so easily forgiven?

Before answering that it is maybe relevant to have a look at some of the major black characters from the history of comics. A lot of the major black characters came from a time when being black was a big part of their identity, especially with the introduction of these characters in the silver age.  In the case of Black Panther or Black Lightning, there was no question about their skin color as it was right in their names. While this did not hold true in every character (such as with Falcon or War Machine) it was still a notable part of their identity. In the comic book setting where the suffix “–man” is the expected commonality, it was necessary for a time to distinguish between skin color and gender. Black Lightning is perhaps one of the worst cases of this, as for a time his true identity as a black man is hidden behind his hero facade of being a jive-talking street character. He was not allowed to be educated as a hero, instead he was forced into racial stereotypes. Still those stereotypes existed, and they were even there with other characters. If Black Panther were called White Panther instead, the main association with the color to the character would not be skin color.  Instead, someone would expect that the character has some kind of powers related to the word “white.”

There exists a lot of other names in comics to distinguish one version from another. One major example is the previously mentioned example of –girl which is used almost exclusively for female versions of male characters (with the exception of the Legion of Super Heroes characters as well as Wonder Girl), but in terms of the Flash there was already a descriptor for this difference – “Kid”.

As the character gained more depth though, he was no longer associated with his own name and instead that of another, Wally. He became a real hero in the way that real heroes do, that by association by their non-hero names is almost as evident as with their superhero names. In this way it is not possible to have a character named Batman that is not Bruce or a Superman that is not Clark. The question is though, is whether skin color and gender are so tied to those identities. It would seem as though the answer in both cases is yes, except the more so for skin color. Not all fans, but some fans are willing to make fewer exceptions for a black version of a character than for a female version, and perhaps some of this is tied to identity but some is not.

A distinguishing factor here is the previously mentioned aspect of power. Even Supergirl, who is as much Kryptonian as Superman, is never said to be able to match him in power, despite their powers having nothing to do with their specific gender physiology. Equally Stephanie Brown, for the short time that she took over as Robin was never seen as his equal, even being regarded by Batman as an unnecessary risk to be allowed to act in the role. It is thus the case that female characters rarely break the gender role/stereotype of the female gender, but it is not the case with a black character. Black versions of the white characters are usually just as strong and able at superheroics, and this is likely also part of the outrage over the characters. That in some ways the girls will never compete truly for the title, but that the black men can, and this is the true danger with a black version of a favorite character. A black character makes the original white character replaceable, while a female character only makes a lesser powerful version of that main character. In the first case fans will often reject the change, but in the second case it is more acceptable.

In light of all the commentary about the medium in recent months, be it over the black Wally West or over the comments about the new direction for Wonder Woman, it is important to note that certain aspects of the medium and their fans are still stuck with some outdated thinking.

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Review: Futures End Wonder Woman #1 and Superman/Wonder Woman #1

aa01Company-wide story arcs or events outside of the regular continuity of comic series can be particularly frustrating to regular readers, especially when the underlying concept or plot is of little interest to the reader.  Instead of reading the pre-planned progress of the series, fans are left with a choice either to buy into the whole event, or to take it piece by piece and to try to figure out how it affects a specific series.  Previous issues of Futures End have been fairly self-contained in terms of their content. It has been possible to follow along without understanding the bigger picture of the series, rather the event has just had the effect of creating a What If…? scenario where a potential future five years ahead is investigated. This is one the problems with the Futures End version of both Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman. Instead of being standalone issues, the two issues are tied together, a story arc within a story arc.

As a pair of standalone issues they end up in a bit of a weird place. Wonder Woman is about to get a new creative team, and the current direction of Wonder Woman while being wildly popular with fans, is unlikely to continue. This version of the character, though successful from a creative and commercial standpoint, is therefore likely not the one which is going to be seen in the future, rather a different one presumably more tied to the mainstream of DC continuity. This works to the detriment of the story which is not particularly inspired anyway, at least not to start. The story aa02picks up some momentum as it gravitates away from the initial setting, but also loses it again with the appearance of Superman. So far the romance between the two heroes has a been of a misfire for DC. The initial novelty of it was perhaps of interest to some, but the  unnatural handling of their romance has not done much to in grain this among readers and fans.

This would appear to be to the detriment of this story as well but it really doesn’t end up like that.  Instead the writer here has used both series as a way around having limited resources to tell the story. Except for a few panels on either side, the second issues (that being the SM/WW issue) is almost exclusively focused on Wonder Woman as well. The payoff is not as good as one might expect, but it is still better than one is led into believing after the first issue of this small two-part story arc. It may be obvious, but it is still a nice touch to the current incarnation of Wonder Woman as the goddess of war. It is still hard to recommend these two issues, especially as they do not really cover any new ground, but it is nice to at least see the writers get the main character right.

Story: Charles Soule Art: Rags Morales/Bart Sears
Story: 6.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

Is Aquaman a Victim of Power Creep?

aquamanPower creep is a loosely defined term mostly because it is subjective in its application. Generally speaking though, power creep can be roughly described as the general evolution of character’s powers over time. For the fickle readers and writers of comics, these powers becomes part of the character’s canon, and represent abilities and powers which should be perpetuated. In the golden age of comics, Wonder Woman once found herself trapped in outer space, and needing a source of oxygen, she ground her earrings to dust, somehow releasing enough oxygen that she could safely breathe. It did not matter that this was a throwaway occurrence or that it made very little sense, but all of a sudden Wonder Woman’s earrings had the ability to allow her to breathe in outer space. The same kind of runaway powers are prevalent in almost every hero, with debates over who can smash a planet, or a sun or a galaxy.

The advent of power creep is not always to an infinite degree. Sometimes the creep comes and then goes. Many fans either applauded or decried the post-Crisis Superman as written by John Byrne. Gone was the outlandishly powerful character who could scarcely be stopped by any theoretical angle. It seemed as though that anytime that he faced a threat that he developed a hitherto unseen power and that this power became another part of his canon. Fans might even look to the extreme such as in the movie Superman II when he throws his S-symbol from his chest and it becomes a giant cellophane trap for his enemies. In contrast Byrne created a character, that while still strong far beyond human capabilities, still had some limitations. The new more approachable and realistic character was what some wanted to see and what others did not. Regardless, this character did not last long either before returning to near omnipotent powers.

Among the core members of the Justice League and of the A-list of DC Comics characters, Aquaman is the one that has received the most negative attention in the years since his introduction. He was long thought of a running joke among those that looked at the medium from afar, with numerous comedic jabs at his unimpressive powers being a staple of social media and some paid professional comedians. The question is though, how did the character end up as a running gag for so long.The main problem it would seem is in the setting of the character. The undersea world is a great one for exploration, with the likes of Jacques Cousteau having made a career just out of underwater exploration. The appeal of the underwater world is there, but equally in terms of how comics tend to allow power creep onto characters, it also became one of a limitation. For DC characters with such ill-defined power or ability inspiration as “Super”, “Wonder” or “Bat” it is easy to expand their abilities beyond those of those words, as the words can be taken to mean different things, even in the case of “Bat” which might only be a creature to some, but to others represents the night or sneakiness or resourcefulness. “Aqua” it would seem is a limitation in terms of how comic writers thought of powers to develop for the character.

Some writers rightfully pointed to the fact that a character that can swim underwater and withstand the great depths and pressures of the oceans would be equally be superhumanly strong, maybe not the levels of Superman and Wonder Woman, but well beyond that of a normal human. While there were some sensical derivations of his powers, others were goofy. The ability to speak to or command marine life might have been a logical power to attach to the character, but equally this power was ill-defined and also generally useless, at least when it compared to the ability to move mountains or walk through walls. Equally so, when the character lost his hand in the 1990s during a reboot/darkening of the character, it was replaced by nothing other than a small harpoon, the writers once again unable to think of anything for the character beyond the aspect of the sea. His power creep did not occur to a great degree, but it seemed that when it did, that the character just became a bit more aquatic than he had before. Even compared to a pretty aquatic character in Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Aquaman’s powers were very sea based as Namor showed the ability to fly.

aqotherTo be fair since the relaunch of the new 52, the character is one of the DC properties that has really taken off, now ostensibly holding down two separate series at DC, a capability that previously had only been able to be accomplished by Superman, Batman, sometimes Green Lantern and rarely Wonder Woman. It would seem that the serious tone for the character now is one which has aided him, at least in the public perception. As his own entourage of the Others provides his own superhero team, they fill out the slow creep into more powers that another character might have experienced since long ago. As to whether power creep is actually a good thing or not is up to the fans to decide, but for so long it seemed, at least until recent years that Aquaman was left behind in the balance of powers.

Brazil’s Politicians Channel Superheroes

While here in the United States politicians tend to hide their goofy side, in Brazil, it’s a whole other situation. There, politicians have no problem channeling their inner superhero to court voters. Via the New York Times, there an auditor flies through the air like Superman, shooting laser beams from his eyes while using font last seen in He-Man. The candidate for a Catalão City Council seat dressed as Spider-Man and vanquished scoundrels in striped prison uniforms with well-aimed body blows.

This is all a move to cut through and grab voters’ attention. With over 20 political parties, you need to do whatever you can I guess.

If only our elections were this entertaining.

Royal Canadian Mint Unveils New Superman Coin Collection

Following last year’s sold-out Superman seven coin series, the Royal Canadian Mint has introduced four new collector coins featuring DC Comics‘ iconic Superman comic book covers. The coins were unveiled at Fan Expo Canada by the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and Mr. Patrick Hadsipantelis, Vice-President of Marketing and Communications at the Royal Canadian Mint.

These exciting new Superman coins can be ordered directly from the Mint at 1-800-267-1871 in Canada, 1-800-268-6468 in the US, or on the Internet at www.mint.ca/superman. The coins will also be available as of September 2, 2014, at the Royal Canadian Mint’s boutiques in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver, as well as through the Mint’s global network of dealers and distributors, including participating Canada Post outlets.

Check out below for images of the coins and below the jump for more information.

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Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here! And it’s a long weekend! I’m spending it at the NOVA Open and National Book Festival.

Around the Tubes

Kotaku – We Might Be Witnessing The ‘Death of An Identity’ – This might be a good thing.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Comic Vine – Batman Eternal #21

Comic Vine – Black Science #8

Comic Vine – C.O.W.L. #4

Comic Vine – Cyclops #4

ICv2 – Invincible Days

Talking Comics – Outcast #3

Bleeding Cool – Roche Limit #1

Comic Vine – Saga #22

CBR – Saga #22

Comic Vine – Silver Surfer #5

Comic Vine – Sinestro #5

Talking Comics – Superman #34

Comic Vine – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time #3

Talking Comics – Uncanny Avengers #23

Comic Vine – Wayward #1

Talking Comics – Wolverine #12

What If Superman Punched You?

Vsausce3 looks into the science of what would happen if Superman were to punch you!

The Second Trailer for The Death of Superman Lives; What Happened?

It’s the second full trailer for the feature film documentary The Death of Superman Lives; What Happened?. In this second trailer it’s clear the movie goes a little deeper into the misconceptions that the public had of this production, and the effects that had on everyone involved.

SDCC 2014: The Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice Video

If you haven’t seen it yet, the video that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con from Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice has cropped up online. You can catch it below, and if that’s taken down, we’ll find a replacement.

You’d think studios would just accept that film will leak, and release it themselves….

 

Around the Tubes

So, I hear there was this big convention this past weekend…. We’ll continue our coverage over the next few days, while also looking forward to many more to come!

Around the Tubes

Bleeding Cool – Galactus Feasts Upon Castle Doom: Touring the Hasbro Marvel Universe Display – The displays are impressive every year.

HNGN – First Superman Comic Could Be Worth Millions in eBay Auction – Nice!

Kotaku – Marvel Crams The Guardians Of The Galaxy Into Every Video Game It Can – The new Deadpool or Wolverine?

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – Aquaman #33

The Herts Advertiser 24 – Avengers World: A.I.M.pire

The Herts Advertiser 24 – Revolutionary War

Talking Comics – Saga #21

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