Author Archives: Ashley Leckwold

HeroesCon 2018: A Tale in 3 Panels

HeroesCon felt a little different to me this year.

Maybe it was the fact the event snuck up on me as a scrambled to get ready and gave up on the idea of cosplaying as I packed for the con. Maybe it was the fact that my one usual guaranteed time of the year to see Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue Deconnick was not actually guaranteed since Fraction cancelled and Deconnick never even made it on the guest list to begin with. Maybe it was the fact that my year away from the comics community in an attempt to be a wrestling news writer sucked the life out of me and I was in the middle of a creative dry spell. Even now, I feel regret writing this up more than two months after the fact as I currently get ready for my next convention, but that’s literally how bad it was.

Still, “different” doesn’t mean “bad” and I still had a great time at HeroesCon this year. Especially getting a chance to get to hear from new creators or ones I wasn’t as familiar with.

The first panel I made it to was the Batman Family panel, which featured Cully Hamner, Joelle Jones, Lee Weeks and Ben Caldwell talking about their experiences of working on books in the Gotham universe. Moderator Adam Daughhetee tried to see if they could go the entire panel without mentioning Batman, but that only lasted about two minutes of a 60 minute panel.

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The entire panel was enlightening about what it is like to immerse yourself in Gotham as a creator and featured a lot of complimentary words on Tom King, but I walked away from this panel especially charmed by Caldwell and Jones. Caldwell because he spent a lot of the panel talking about the YA comic he’s working on with Frank Miller about Carrie Kelley, my personal favorite Robin. You could tell that his love of the character has been a genuine lifetime one since he first read The Dark Knight Returns, which he personally described as operatic and cartoony over the dark and gritty reputation it has earned over the years. He described his work with Miller as being “very carnival-esque,” keeping in line with the vibe of The Dark Knight Returns while still doing their own thing and expressed happiness that DC isn’t afraid to aim for younger readers anymore. It’s hard to imagine Miller writing for a younger audience, but Caldwell’s enthusiasm for the book has me convinced. As for Carrie Kelley, he summed up the appeal of the first girl to be Robin very succinctly: “She curses like a sailor and shoots things with a slingshot. What’s not to like?”

As for Jones, she was quietly hilarious through the panel. I had been familiar with her work through her Dark Horse Comic Lady Killer, but hearing her talk about process and Catwoman was on a whole other level. She talked about taking pressure off of herself by setting her Catwoman book in another city instead of Gotham, which had given me my first suspicion that something was going down in Batman #50. She also expressed regret over making Catwoman’s dress so complicated because she didn’t know other artists would be drawing it, let alone cosplayers attempting to make it. “I would NEVER sew that dress.”

The next day had my favorite panel of the weekend, which was about wrestling and comics. The panel included Tini Howard, Andy Belanger, and J Gonzo.

I always worry about panels about wrestling turning into real life wrestling internet, but it was actually a fascinating discussion about, and to paraphrase Howard here, the type of storytelling like comics, wrestling and drag that deals a lot with the liminal spaces between the fiction and the creator. “I really respond to wrestlers that when I look at them and I can see ‘you’re an artist!’”

Belanger especially had a lot to contribute to this discussion since on top of being a comics creator and working on wrestling comics for Boom! Studios as well as an upcoming one for Image that takes place in space, he wrestles as well under the name ‘The Animal’ Bob Anger for IWS in Montreal, which has also paid host to Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, PCO, and Vanessa Kraven, among others. He treats them as equal creative outlets, saying, “There’s zero difference between me making comics and me wrestling.”

While Gonzo didn’t have experience as a wrestler, he did talk a lot about his book La Mano Del Destino, which features luchadors fighting battles for corporate overlords, and the idea of masked luchadors being judged on actions instead of their identity. He also talked about the time he created a character named Mil Amores for a Halloween stand up comedy gig and stayed in character the entire time. Amores was a luchador who constantly gave love advice, but could never not contextualize it for wrestling. I definitely picked up La Mano Del Destino from him after the panel.

As for Howard, along with her discussions of the cross sections of wrestling and comics and even calling me out for the story of when I met Diamond Dallas Page’s daughter, she  summed up the experience of being a newer wrestling fan who is not immersed in decades worth of history and childhood feelings in one sentence that I have borrowed shamelessly since the con: “I don’t have a 20 year hate boner for Stephanie McMahon.”

Finally, the Sunday panel titled “Dotted Lines” was another very affirming moment of the weekend as it featured creators talking about queer representation in comics and included Howard, Dan Parent, Yoshi Yoshitani, Tamra Bonvillain, Sarah Stern and Eryk Donovan.

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As many panels with queer creators start, early influences and first encounters with queerness in media came up. Yoshitani and Donovan talked some about Ranma ½ and Yoshitani, who identifies as genderfluid, went further to mention the persistent trope of a woman disguising herself as a man and having the man fall in love with her. Howard, unsurprisingly, mentioned Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and how she mentally imagined herself turning Alicia Silverstone into a vampire and living in a Barbie Dreamhouse together.

Of course, it wasn’t all laughs as Bonvillain brought up the first time she ever saw a trans woman on screen: the scene in Crocodile Dundee where he assaults a transwoman. She admits that it sucks a lot and served as a reminder that not a whole lot has changed since the 80s.

While the panel bounced back and forth about queer coding, tokenism as a creator and with characters, and one hilarious discussion about Kimberly in Power Rangers being a bright and peppy murder machine, I think what stuck with me the most was Parent talking about the creation of Kevin Keller for Archie Comics. He admitted that when working on the creation of Keller, he wanted to be sure it didn’t come across as some sort of publicity stunt or an after school special, but have Kevin be a likeable character in his own right. “In my head, Kevin was supposed to be the gay version of Archie.”

Kevin has gone in many different directions since his introduction, including the version on Riverdale that cruises in the woods and the bit more mature version in Life With Kevin, but Parent admits that the initial pushback he got with Kevin was not because he was gay. Rather, it was because Kevin’s coming out story didn’t include harassment and hatred. Parent admitted that maybe that was true, but for Kevin, it worked. “This is Archie Comics. This is what a coming out story is SUPPOSED to be like.”

Stern followed up that there is, can, and should be room in comics for coming out stories like Kevin’s, but also stories of complicated queer people who may not fit in the idyllic world of Riverdale. “There’s value to Archie and there’s value to ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t have done that.’”

HeroesCon felt different this year for me, but I think in a weird way, I needed it to be. By shaking my comfort zones with the con, I was able to spend time appreciating creators I was not as familiar with personally, finding new stories to lose myself in and coming to appreciate the thought process behind characters I thought I knew. It was a good way to hit a reset button mentally and think about how I want to tackle my next set of stories.

Review: The Life of Captain Marvel #1

672995._SX1280_QL80_TTD_.jpgWhenever I talk about Carol Danvers’ backstory, I tend to parrot the way I once heard Kelly Sue Deconnick say the words “Psyche Magnitron.” With a cartoonish condescending tone and a slight eyeroll. While Carol’s history has been up and down since her inception, the story of how she gained her powers never stops being so weird, at least in a modern sense. Carol Danvers gained her powers because she wished she could be as strong as the man she was trying to get close to and then received his powers through… DNA fusion transfer after the explosion of a Kree wish machine? It’s definitely a comics backstory.

Deconnick has admitted on panels that she did try to change Carol’s backstory to her saving herself at the time of the explosion due to time travel wackiness, but was stopped by editorial during the writing process. Writer Margaret Stohl, who has taken the torch of the Carol Corps with gusto since taking over the book after Civil War II, has hinted in her run about the planned changes to Carol’s backstory. However, it’s not until now with The Life of Captain Marvel that we’re seeing just how radical it might be.

The Life of Captain Marvel #1 opens with Carol’s memories of spending summers in Maine with her family, specifically how she would spend time with her brothers Stevie and Joe Jr, who have been alluded to in varying degrees throughout Carol’s history. Marguerite Sauvage does an amazing job of presenting a soft and idyllic memory that soon turns bad as Carol remembers the awful abusive nature of Joseph Danvers and it becomes interspersed with current day as Carol has a panic attack while fighting Moonstone and Tanalth on Father’s Day. The page of Carol’s mother looming over her, imploring her not to make her brothers’ abuse worse is probably the most memorable page of the issue and just proves the range of emotions Sauvage has at her disposal.

As Carol comes down, she and Tony end up having a long heart to heart about the complicated nature of family PTSD and fathers. This is probably my favorite part of the issue just from how heartfelt Stohl writes the friendship between Carol and Tony and just how warm Marcio Menyz’s colors are. Carlos Pacheco ends up being a bit hit or miss for me especially with regards to his faces, but he does intimate feelings and moments very well, which plays especially well to his favor in this issue because there are so many of those as things get more real. Not to mention his page of Carol flying through the air as she goes to visit her mom in Maine is just absolutely stunning.

Carol’s visit to Maine quickly becomes a lesson in “You can never go home again” though when in the middle of an argument about why Carol’s been away, she lets her brother Joe Jr. drive off drunkenly and he ends up crashing his car off a bridge. She tries to rescue him, but he ends up sustaining long term brain damage. In her guilt over the incident, a short visit turns into nine months as Carol helps her mom take care of JJ. Tony tries to get her to come back, but she refuses.

At this point, it seems like the entire mini-series might just be Carol coming to grips with her guilt and her trauma with not much superheroics. Stohl writes it in such a heart rendering way though that I could easily read six issues of Carol unpacking her past by just talking it out with friends and family.

But then… the bottom falls out, and suddenly, neither Carol nor the reader really know what Carol’s true backstory is. It’s a brilliant and unexpected twist that suddenly makes me want to read the entire story now.

Margaret Stohl’s take on Captain Marvel has all been leading up to this moment and if the first issue of The Life of Captain Marvel is any indication, it is the revamp/dissection has desperately needed for years. It just might be going in a different direction than any of us expected.

Story: Margaret Stohl Art: Carlos Pacheco and Marguerite Sauvage
Story: 9.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Euthanauts #1

STL086173.jpegThe day my great-grandmother died was the closest I have felt to an out of body experience. It had been two weeks coming with Louise Risko stubbornly holding onto staying on this plane of existence as she did with most things in life, but I still couldn’t prepare for the sudden chestpunch of knowing she was fully gone. My dorm suddenly felt like a box I couldn’t escape from. I didn’t know who to call or who would even want the full brunt of this sudden wave of grief. When I went to bed that night, it felt like my soul was trying to escape my body. As if it wanted to chase after her.

I hadn’t really felt that feeling again since that day. Not even when my grandfather died two months later. Tinges of it came back listening to ‘Lazarus’ by David Bowie on repeat shortly after he passed and I certainly felt the same anxious buildup the day Prince died and it ended up compounded with Finn Balor losing the NXT championship that I just sort of ended up screaming in my kitchen. Maybe it was less of a “hadn’t” situation, but more that I didn’t want to. Not all the way.

But Euthanauts #1… It’s the only comic that has made me want to revisit that feeling.

Euthanauts #1 is the latest Black Crown book from writer Tini Howard following her hilarious and poignant shoot ‘em up mini-series Assassinistas with Gilbert Hernandez. I wasn’t certain if I should review this book because I do consider Tini a friend and we certainly did talk a lot about this book at MomoCon this year while I helped her with her table. But I couldn’t not know what it was about after spending a weekend hyping it up to people, parroting her spiel about it and hoping that it stuck in people’s minds. Finally reading it though, I think I was underselling it.

The issue follows funeral director Talia Rosewood on possibly the strangest day of her life when she encounters Dr. Mercy Wolfe, a “dead woman walking” out to dinner on her last day alive. Talia admits that death is all she can ever think about and “…in some way, I felt like this woman was calling me out for that.”

Talia would end up right about that, but probably not in the way that she thought.

Most of this issue is getting to know Talia as a protagonist as she gets immediately thrown into the deep end of her adventure and it’s a credit to Tini that I feel like Talia is someone I’ve known for years. Not in the sense that I can see the shreds of Tini in her, but in the sense that she’s someone in my friend’s group I’ve known for years, but haven’t really had a chance to hang out with. Somehow though, we inevitably end up having super deep conversations at parties probably because of that disconnect. And that’s probably the same reason Mercy picks her to be her tether as well.

Nick Robles is on art for this series and I have to say, while I wasn’t familiar with his work before this series, he makes a hell of a first impression. The way Talia exists so casually and so fashionably as a curvy protagonist is amazing in of itself in a way that it shouldn’t be in comics, but as soon as that oxygen canister makes contact with Talia’s head and she starts questioning what was real and what wasn’t, Robles’ art truly comes alive as we get our first look into Death Space. The digital review copies we receive are often just fine for reading and reviewing, but I desperately wanted to rip this one from my screen and somehow dive into it. To experience how that world glows and breathes.

After being away from comics for a while, Euthanauts #1 is one of the most engaging first issues I have read in a while. While the story does throw you into the deep end right away, it gives you the tools you need to begin to breathe and understand what it’s going for. Much like Talia, it stays rooted while beginning to look deeper into itself. While Tini Howard and Nick Robles’ story is ultimately rooted in something that is inevitable and terrifying, the fact it can make me look back at one of the worst days of my life and wonder just what exactly happened when I tried to sleep that night is a book that is definitely worth re-reading.

Story: Tini Howard Art: Nick Robles
Story: 9.5 Art: 10.0 Overall: 9.75 Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Dragon Con 2017: The “Men In Comics” Panel

Good morning, Dragon Con,” said Kelly Sue Deconnick, bright and bubbly to start the panel. “We’ve asked you here today to join us in our destruction of the patriarchy.”

It certainly felt like the type of crowd to be devoted to destruction of the patriarchy in the room. It was 11 a.m. on a Monday at Dragon Con, where everything feels exhausting and hungover, so you certainly have to be committed to be here. Not to mention it’s a Women In Comics panel.

At least so we thought.

As the panel began with Deconnick, Babs Tarr, Megan Hutchinson, and moderator Jami Jones, they revealed to us that after several discussions over the double edged sword of Women In Comics panels and a few last minute decisions, this was not going to be the rote but necessary Women in Comics panel. Instead, it was going to be a panel of all women talking about Men in Comics.

What then ensued was 60 minutes of sarcastic brilliance on a Labor Day morning.

Presented in the way of all-white or all-men panels on diversity or women in comics, the panelists took it to the next level, briefly transporting to a world where all the dense questions and bad takes about diversity in comics were applied to white men.

“People are understandably guarded about fake male fans,” Deconnick said during the Q&A when asked how to reach male readers, followed by a suggestion about testing the cred of said fake male fans a little bit.

Another attendee asked for advice as a queer woman about how to mentor straight men getting into comics. Tips about critiquing their art at their table or meeting up at “BarCon” after the show abound at that point. So did the laughter.

It certainly helped that the audience was all in on the joke, especially the men in attendance who were great sports about the way the panelists talked to them condescendingly in the way some male professionals speak about women. Deconnick even asked one male attendee a twirl for the room. It really all did feel too familiar, which made it even more ridiculous.

There was even two new character tests created during the panel! The first being “The Bendis Test,” which is to see if two named male characters talk about anything besides a woman. The other is “The Sexy Hammer Test,” which is if a man in a story can be replaced by a sexy hammer and still tell the same story. Still, the representation of men in comics shouldn’t just boil down to that, as Deconnick said. “Try to make men that men like, but women… also sort of like.”

Between all the jokes and Tarr sarcastically going “Who?” the first time Bendis was mentioned, the most telling moment of the panel was when Jones asked if they were going to talk about favorite male creators in terms of looks or their books. Deconnick paused and told of a Bleeding Cool message board thread that was FMK over women creators. She advised not to go that route, but concluded with, “I’m not bitter, but I have a long memory.”

While the rest of the panel continued from there, with the panelists commenting on how Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher were handsome in different ways along with being good writers and Deconnick making jokes about how Bendis has a big imagination for writing Spider-Woman when he is neither a woman nor a spider, the “I’m not bitter, but I have a long memory” comment stuck with me the most. I feel like that is something that could have easily been said by any of the women on the panel or in attendance. For all the jokes cracked and sarcastic comments made, it was all rooted in the reality of a community that still treats women as a sideshow attraction instead of as serious creators and characters.

Still, for a Monday morning at the end of a five day long convention, it felt good to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

For more quotes from the panel, my livetweet thread can be read here as well as in the #MenInComics hashtag.

HeroesCon Proves Good Comic Shows Don’t Have To Be Hard to Find

“Hello neighbors,” I say to the circle I’m standing in the middle of.

“Hello neighbor,” the circle intones back happily, including Bitch Planet co-creator Kelly Sue Deconnick, who is running this panel. This is just one of the games she’s taught us. The same games she teaches her Girl Scout troop to teach them how to set boundaries and learn about their community.

“I love all of my neighbors, but especially the ones who watch professional wrestling,” I say to the circle. I cover it professionally. I wanted to see if someone was at least interested.

Silence. No one gets up.

“Just me? Okay.”

I change my prompt to those who like combat boots and we scramble to find chairs, leaving someone else in the center to greet their neighbors. I’m not salty though. It’s not long before I’m talking to someone else about pro-wrestling at the end of the panel. It’s HeroesCon after all. Most of us are just neighbors who haven’t met yet.

HeroesCon is an annual comic book convention in Charlotte. Every Father’s Day weekend, comics creators and fans from all around the country descend upon the Queen City to mingle and to sell books and art. It was started by Shelton Drum, the owner of the local shop Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, but the con has extended beyond the reach of the shop. Especially 35 years on.

I went to my first one in 2014 on a whirlwind day trip from Atlanta to Charlotte, determined to meet my newfound comics heroes Deconnick, Matt Fraction, and Chip Zdarsky. Three years later, I’m still making friends and greeting friends every time I walk the floor, and that’s honestly part of the charm of HeroesCon.

The con is unique in this day of entertainment industry powered comic cons, where comics often take a back seat to television and movies. HeroesCon is comics and comic creator focused, still even after 35 years. The local CW affiliate sets up a booth where they give prizes away relating to the DC Comics TV shows on the network, but that’s about as far as the TV involvement goes. Walk a little further, and you’re bound to find some of your favorite creators sitting at tables, selling their books and art. Or maybe even your future favorite creator. That same con three years prior? That was the first con I met Babs Tarr, excited to see the Bosozoku Sailor Scouts art in person. This year, she was selling exclusive trades of Motor Crush that could only be found at the convention, with Domino and Lola blasting past Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find. It’s hard not to feel proud.

The games panel is different from the other panels I was able to make it to during the weekend. The other two were more traditional. Well, as traditional as you can get with Zdarsky talking about going undercover at a skeezy nudist resort as the long way of saying his parents are into Sex Criminals during his spotlight panel and Fraction reading quotes from his supervillain daughter Tallulah Louise during the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds panel (which I livetweeted here).

It feels like only a panel that could work at HeroesCon though. Laid back and concentrated on being open. There is no pressure to participate. It’s not crunched and stressful like Dragon Con and it’s not about promoting the next big property. We’re here to learn about our community. To share in a mutual love.

“I feel welcome in my fandom,” Deconnick asks the room in a game of Across the Room, where we cross to the other side of the room to join a line.

I stay firmly planted for the time. I feel welcome at HeroesCon. It’s not a con of exclusion. They’re here for all fans of comics. But comics fandom? I’m a queer woman. I barely feel welcome. For pro-wrestling? I constantly feel like I’m loitering around a door, screaming at the residents inside, even if I do write about it professionally.

“I want to make people feel welcome in my fandom.”

There, I take the opportunity to aggressively stomp across the room.

“My mom wanted me to give you a hug from her,” I tell Deconnick after the panel. She met my mom at a Bitch Planet signing in Toronto a couple of years ago and asks me about her every time we see each other at a convention. We exchange hugs and she ‘awws’ about my mom.

It’s one of those things I wish I could tell me of three years ago about, nervous about meeting her idols. It’s also one of those things I feel grateful to HeroesCon for. Helping break down barriers and anxieties to help me figure out my career.

Every year I’ve gone, it’s expanded a little more, but it still feels like a family reunion. It’s the con I look forward to the most every year just because I get to see my comics friends without the added extra stress of packing five days worth of cosplay or having to time running across five hotels to make it to a panel in a basement. It drains my wallet with good art and good food, but it’s welcome. Where else can Kris Anka make jokes about having to fix Joe Quinones’ art when I come to pick up a commission of Captain Marvel? Or the press liaison that I have not previously met recognizes me and thanks me for tweeting while he goes to attend to delivering extra books to creators from the shop?

HeroesCon is special in those ways. It’s not about the big press push, but reminding the world that comics and the people who make them can be pretty great. And that everyone can and should be welcome in their fandoms, despite whatever state laws exist in North Carolina or in the patriarchal confines of old fandom structures.

Review: The Mighty Captain Marvel #2

mighty-captain-marvel-2Confession from your reviewer: I didn’t read Civil War II except for the tie in books that occurred with the books I was already reading, the previous run of Captain Marvel included. Not just because I had no interest in the concept, but I also had no interest in reading Brian Michael Bendis completely trying to tear down all the work that had been put into my favorite superhero over the past four years just to make Iron Man look right.

Luckily, other writers have been trying to course correct with Carol during and after Civil War II, one of them being Margaret Stohl currently on The Mighty Captain Marvel. In the second issue, we see more of the issue Carol is running up against with the shapeshifter and the Kree refugee nicknamed Bean.

Stohl so far in the first two issues and the zero issue has done a great job at capturing the stubborn diplomat air that Kelly Sue Deconnick had all over her run of Captain Marvel, especially when running up against the “problems she can’t punch.” For this one in particular, it’s trying to figure out why Carol’s powers go haywire whenever Bean gets close to her and tolerating the “Cap’n Marvel” TV show that’s supposed to pay for Alpha Flight’s budget for the year.

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Admittedly, the TV show subplot has been my least favorite part of the comic so far. I understand what they’re trying to go for, with Carol confronting her newfound popularity in the Marvel universe that runs parallel to her rising star with comics readers over the past five years. Plus, this issue makes a subtle jab at whitewashing with showing the cast member playing Wendy Kawasaki being revealed to be “blonde” with curly hair (there’s a colorist error here, I believe since the cast member is redheaded in the comic despite multiple references to her being blonde). However, it’s a subplot that ultimately feels shoehorned into the book to make some statement about how wrong media gets about comics stories. It feels awkwardly done and doesn’t currently add much to the current plot besides awkwardness for Jessica Drew to laugh at. And Jessica isn’t even in this issue.

Ramon Rosanas has been on art duties for the comic and unfortunately, his work is very stiff and lifeless in comparison to some of the past artists on Captain Marvel books. Which is rough considering how nice Michael Garland’s colors are and how fun Stohl’s writing has been. Maybe he’s still getting used to the character, but it’s really disappointing when there’s only one page I like out of the whole book artwise and it involves a shape shifter impersonating Carol’s alien tentacle cat.

Criticisms aside, The Mighty Captain Marvel #2 has been doing a pretty decent job of getting Carol back on track after Civil War II. We do see some of her guilt still residing after the entire thing, but the series is more focused on Carol balancing her work and her newfound popularity. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next, especially in regards to the Kree refugee crisis.

Story: Margaret Stohl Art: Ramon Rosanas Colors: Michael Garland
Story: 7.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

WWE, Linda McMahon and why she cannot be the new head of the Small Business Administration

wwe-logo-featuredI’m a pro-wrestling fan. Mostly WWE due to access, but I try to keep abreast of what is happening in promotions like Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling as well and I just started following my local indie fed Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment late last year. I unabashedly love Finn Bálor, Bayley and Sami Zayn, have been published by Paste Magazine with my thoughts on WWE, and I’m even going to Wrestlemania in Orlando this year to mark my two year anniversary as a wrestling fan.

So when WWE co-founder Linda McMahon was appointed by President Donald Trump to be the new head of the Small Business Administration, naturally I was asked what my opinion was on the matter.

Well, without my usual use of four letter words to pepper it, my opinion is such: Linda McMahon is an awful choice due to her own history with how WWE is run.

Let’s review, shall we?

  1. Linda McMahon donated six million dollars to a Super PAC supporting Trump. This is on top of the five million “donated” to the Trump Foundation by her and WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon between 2007 and 2009. While Linda has not actively been involved with the company since 2009 when she began her first unsuccessful Senate campaign, she still has some equity within the company (the McMahon family holds 90.4% interest). There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it, Linda McMahon bought her way into the SBA position with money earned from WWE.
  2. WWE classifies the wrestlers we see on TV every week as independent contractors, despite the grueling travel schedule that sees them on the road anywhere between 250 to 300 days a year and the amount of high risk that is involved in the position. While WWE has tightened up their medical care and wellness policy in the past decade, it still leaves the wrestlers without company based health insurance, social security, or unemployment. McMahon has tried to justify this in the past, speaking on the royalties, merchandising, and contract deals that are unlike any other sport that will also classify their athletes as independent contractors. However, unlike those other sports, WWE doesn’t have an off-season nor a union for its wrestlers. This also doesn’t include the multiple lawsuits brought on by former employees, including a recent concussion lawsuit, the fact former WWE wrestlers like Perry Saturn have had to take to GoFundMe to take care of medical expenses, or that current Raw General Manager Mick Foley has admitted that he is on a “handshake deal” with the company and currently doesn’t have health insurance to cover hip replacement surgery. It’s a gross misclassification, especially for a publically traded company that brings in millions of dollars every year.
  3. Out of the company’s ten highest paid wrestlers in 2015, only one was not white and none of them were women. Adding into the fact that non-white and women superstars only receive a fraction of marketing and merchandising that white men receive, despite WWE constantly bragging about how far they’ve come with women’s wrestling in the past few years. For example, current Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss did not have a shirt available for purchase until two weeks after her championship win. She does now, but that leaves it down to one champion within the WWE that doesn’t: Rich Swann, the current WWE Cruiserweight Champion and one of two current black champions within the company (the other being Smackdown Tag Champion Jason Jordan). Behind the scenes, no women writers are currently employed. Despite small advances that have been made within the past couple of years, it’s obvious that WWE still has some ways to go in regards to race and gender but no way to address it as of yet.

The facts are clear: Linda McMahon has done and will likely do nothing to address issues within small business of misclassification, employee rights, and gender/race pay gaps. To place her in this position, especially when she still has equity within WWE, is dangerous. She bought her way into the position after her aspirations of politics failed and she is unqualified to address the growing concerns of small business in America.


Tell your Senators NO on Linda McMahon for SBA. Call your senators, especially if they are within the Senate Small Business Committee. A vote is expected within the week.

You can look your Senator up here and call, email, Tweet at them to not support Linda McMahon for this position.

 

You can watch the hearing below.

Review: Shade, the Changing Girl #3

stcg_cv3_dsWhen asked in interviews about the body horror of her series InSEXts, Marguerite Bennett would often describe the central conceit of the series in regards to how being a woman in this society is a body horror of its own. When asked by Paste Magazine about that common thread in her works, she said, “…If you are told that by virtue of your birth, you must offer your body and heart and compliance and emotional labor in the service of others and be grateful for the chance to be subservient to someone your society actually values and reflects in stories of heroism—you are going, very much, to be consumed by the ideas of monsters with power instead of human beings without it.”

I was thinking about that quote a lot when reading over this particular issue of Shade, the Changing Girl. While Cecil Castelucci and Marley Zarcone aren’t exploring body horror with Shade, they are taking more of a route of introspection, making it very clear that beneath all the Madness, alien visitation and the horrors of high school, Shade, the Changing Girl is a series about changing yourself and coming to grips with the person you used to be and the person you’re expected to be because of it.

While the reader still doesn’t know much about Loma Shade’s past, we and Shade are learning more and more about Megan’s. In short, Megan Boyer was kind of the worst. The palimpsest of Megan’s memories is becoming clearer and Shade struggles with the balance. “It’s hard enough to sit with your own thoughts. Even stranger to creep around in someone else’s leftover memories.”

Shade has been a dense work since it began a couple of months back, but this particular issue took me a couple of reads to fully appreciate. Now that Shade’s initial enthusiasm about being on Earth has faded off, she now has to begin to face the complications of actually being a teenage girl. Let alone a teenage girl who has been called a “toxic human” and a “sociopath” by her peers and distressed her parents to the point they were willing to pull the plug on her before Shade took over. Castellucci’s balance of telling finding oneself in the madness is gorgeous and made even better by Zarcone’s art and paneling. The two-page spread of Shade crawling around in Megan’s memories shaped like the plan of a house was particularly brilliant.

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As a result of trying to figure out the balance, Shade realizes that she’s going to have to start acting like Megan in order to survive the Madness and live on Earth. Probably not a moment too soon because not only is Meta getting closer to figuring out what is going on, but River starts to suspect that maybe there is something alien about her. Just in time for her to rise from the pool to strike her teammates, give into the Madness, get detention for it and for Megan’s spirit to feel the call of the Madness, of course.

Speaking of Meta, we get to see a bit more of life on the planet in this particular issue. Mellu Loran is trying to close in on the Madness Vest while Lepuck tries to figure out how to wake Loma up from her enclosure before it’s too late. Since I’m not as familiar with the original Shade, The Changing Man series, the importance of Loran was initially lost on me, but this month’s bio material includes a biography of her and what she’s been up to since she and Rac Shade called it quits. Between this, Mad Dog showing up in Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye and the brilliant and mostly silent Dial H for Hero backup in this issue from Tini Howard and Sanya Anwar, I feel like I’m learning more about obscure DC and Vertigo characters from Young Animal than I have anywhere else.

Shade, the Changing Girl #3 continues the brilliant work of the series as Shade travels deeper into Megan’s psyche and memories to try and understand both Megan and herself. It leaves a certain vulnerability that wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting besides high school and Castellucci and Zarcone tell a story that makes it worth revisiting.

Story: Cecil Castellucci Art: Marley Zarcone and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 8.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.25 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + The Divine #24

tumblr_ohs9labcrg1uxdbsko1_1280As we head into a new year, the Gods are heading into theirs. Well, the beginning of 2015, but it has been a year since Laura found herself wanting everything Amaterasu had. Now she does, but at what cost?

A lot of The Wicked + The Divine #24, the first traditional issue back, is a lot of quiet reflection of where the Gods are now a year later now that Ananke is gone and they’re on their own. In the letters section, Kieron Gillen talks about how the Gods are very much in the same boat as the readers in that they don’t know what happens next. This seems especially true for Persephone, who spends a lot of this issue in her own head. While Amaterasu seems rather excited about the future (and no longer feeling ‘boring’ if her kiss with Persephone on the ledge of the Strand is anything to go by), the rest of the Gods seem less sure.

One of my favorite things about this issue is how much it captures the feeling of New Year’s Day. While the beginning of the issue captures a brief look at the revelry of New Year’s Eve with Matt Wilson’s glowing fireworks and a kiss, most of the issue is the eerily quiet hangover of the first day of the New Year. Some of it is literal with Persephone waking up in Baal’s bed with Sakhmet with Minerva warning her not to hurt Baal. Other parts of it are atmospheric, with the grey morning Persephone rides into past an adoring crowd and the silent work of Cassandra and the Norns in the ruins of Valhalla. It feels like that long, deep breath, where you seem to not just be recovering from the night before but the entire year, and taking a long pause before you tackle the rest.

Besides the atmosphere, the fashion in this issue is on point. It has to be a tough act to go back into the regular flow of the issue after the lush interiors from Kevin Wada on #23, but Jamie McKelvie is solid as usual creating fitting and believable street wear for Persephone, but also giving Minerva bright and youthful fashion befitting a 13-year-old in 2015. You have to wonder if her new fashion is a reflection of her new independent state, since she is not only without Ananke but without her parents. She also manages to be the most mature member of the Pantheon, but that’s probably to be expected with the Goddess of Wisdom.

Speaking of fashion, so much of this issue is what the kids would call “hair porn.” Persephone’s hair was the showstealer of this issue, even when it was messy the morning after a roll with Baal and Sakhmet.

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However, the quiet doesn’t last for long as Persephone and Cass confront Woden, who all lay their cards on the table, leading to the most silver age-esque closing scene of the issue.

As the “Imperial Phase” begins in earnest, The Wicked + The Divine #24 is much like the day it takes place on. A deep and quiet breath before jumping into the deep end. The calm before the storm. And if the last page is any indication, there are high stakes in play in this brave new year.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with  a FREE copy for review.

Review: Motor Crush #1

motorcrush-01_cvraEvery so often, when we’ve all begun to settle on our year-end best of lists for comics, a new number one comes along in December that shakes up those lists and causes you to happily go back to the drawing board as a reviewer. Bitch Planet #1 was that comic in December 2014 and now Motor Crush #1 from Image Comics is that comic for December 2016.

I got an early look at Motor Crush back in September when the creators Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr hosted a panel about the comic and gave away an ashcan that included the first half of this issue. While I was majorly impressed with what I saw, it didn’t really occur to me that I was looking at what was still a work in progress.

Between what I saw in September and what is being released on shelves has definitely been polished up. A new, cleaner lettering style from Aditya Bidikar and colorful designs from Tom Muller that are meant to immerse you in the world of Nova Honda completely. Fresh pastels from Tarr and added narration gives a way better sense of who Domino is as a character.

A lot of what you can expect from this first issue is learning about our hero Domino Swift. Inspired by Willow Smith in both terms of look and attitude, Domino is a tough and headstrong young woman with a lot of promise and a lot more secrets. Some that will even leave you gasping if the end of the first issue is any indication. However, Team Motor Crush does a good job at making her and her struggles rather complicated and nuanced instead of going straight for “brooding hero with a secret.” Plus, that wouldn’t match the bright neon setting of Nova Honda anyway. I seriously want to know how a book of ink and paper manages to actually glow the way this issue does.

I recently compared Mother Panic to the comic series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys in terms of pace and tone, and I was nearly ready to do the same for Motor Crush. However, that isn’t true. It’s more like the album companion My Chemical Romance released three years prior titled Danger Days. Frenetic and joyful even in the darkness, Motor Crush is about finding your place in the world and trying to survive set against a futuristic backdrop of motorcycle racing. While the first issue is mostly set-up, it refuses to let off the gas as you follow Domino along on her journey and the jolt of the ending leaves you wanting another ride as soon as it is over. You owe it to yourself to take a ride with Motor Crush.

Story: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr Art: Babs Tarr
Story: 9.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

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