Category Archives: Commentary

Watching the Watchmen. A Deep Dive Into “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”

Watchmen

HBO‘s Watchmen has debuted and the first episode exceeded expectations. The show called for multiple viewings and deep examination of scenes, characters, scenery, and so much more.

Below is what stood out in the first episode… warning, spoilers!

Bass Reeves – The show opens with a silent film featuring Bass Reeves. Reeves was real and the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi. He mostly worked in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Reeves is rumored to be the inspiration for The Lone Ranger. The silent film features a masked Reeves with a rope around a white police officer’s neck bringing him to justice. It echoes the end of the episode where Don Johnson‘s Judd Crawford is hung by it looks like Louis Gossett, Jr.‘s Will Reeves.

Tulsa Race RiotWe’ve written about this real-world event. There’s a lot of solid details included like the soldier wearing a WWI uniform. Some of those who took up arms served in the war. The inclusion of the planes as well is a nice historical touch. This scene sets up the young boy at the end with the note and the baby he picks up. It’s likely that Louis Gossett, Jr.’s Will Reeves is this boy grown up as he has the note in his lap (he could be the baby instead). During the teaser, Reeves says he’s 105 years old which would make him about 7 years old during the riot. It also hints as to who Reeves might be.

Hooded Justice – Hooded Justice first appeared in 1938 in the Watchmen world as a vigilante. His identity is never revealed and there are enough contradictions it’s unclear as to who he might be. There’s a good chance that Reeves is indeed Hooded Justice. That’d make him 24 when he first became a hero so his character would be the right age to be a member of the Minutemen.

The show is one that also is about the details. Hooded Justice is seen on the side of the bus as Angela Abar heads to her business. Hooded Justice also is seen in the animated video playing behind Judd Crawford. There are strong hints that HJ plays a role in the show as he’s one of the few original heroes from the comic shown multiple times.

Hooded Justice also was a closeted gay man in the comics who faked dating Sally Jupiter. At one point Sally’s daughter Laurie believes HJ is her father. He was really in a relationship with Captain Metropolis. He’s the character who beats the Comedian for raping Sally. Laurie also is in the show as Laurie Blake, an FBI agent. Blake is the Comedian’s real-world last name.

Watchmen Smiley Face

Yellow bandanas on the police – The standard police officers cover their faces to protect their identity. The bandanas they use are yellow, like the iconic smiley face from Watchmen.

At the end of the episode we see blood dripping from Crawford’s body onto his badge. It’s similar to the blood drip on the Comedian’s smiley face pin in the original Watchmen.

The scene in the school – Angela Akbar is talking to a class about her cooking business. She initially makes eggs into a smiley face, a yellow one. Other things that are noticeable in this scene:

  • Vietnam is referred to as a state
  • Robert Redford is shown in a grouping of four important Presidents. Richard Nixon is next to him. In the trailer park, Nixon is a statue on the outside and a trailer says something negative about Redford. Later, Don Johnson’s Crawford is listening to talk radio where they’re talking negatively about Redford and a gun program.
  • A poster of a squid is shown in the back echoing the alien attack at the end of the Watchmen comic.
  • Reparations are mentioned which could be a reference to the Tulsa Race Riot which reparations were recommended for families impacted by it. It could also be a broader program involving slavery.

The squids – There’s the poster of the squid in the schoolroom and they fall from the sky like rain. It’s bad enough there’s a cleanup crew dedicated to them that we see working in a neighborhood. This is a reference to the “alien attack” that happened in the comic which looked like a giant squid. Later in an interrogation scene, there’s a mention of a government conspiracy about interdimensional attacks.

7th Cavalry – This was another nod to real-world history. The 7th Cavalry was lead by Custard and battled in Little Big Horn. This is why Angela Abar was texted that. There’s a lot of history with this military unit to unpack but they’re known for numerous battles against Native Americans.

Watchmen End is Nigh

Future is Bright – When Angela is going to her business a man is holding a sign that says “The Future is Bright.” This is the exact opposite of Rorschach’s “The End is Nigh” from the comics.

Jeremy Irons’ Adrian Veidt – Veidt is one of the few characters from the original comic. A newspaper article says Veidt is dead but he’s clearly not. He’s living in a castle with two servants who are most likely created by Veidt as part of whatever plan he has. Mr. Phillips, his butler, hands a horseshoe to cut a cake and Veidt’s look is one of confusion and disappointment as something is off. There’s rumors as to who these two characters might be but so far there’s no indication this is true.

Watch and clocks – The clock is an important motif of the original Watchmen. Veidt is given one as a present. In the next scene during a dinner between Crawford and Abar, the overhead shot looks like a clock. 7th Cavalry is after watch batteries. We hear tic-toc in numerous scenes.

Unanswered questions:

  • Why does everyone think Veidt is dead?
  • When Don Johnson’s Crawford is leaving from his home a picture is shown that we assume is him and his father. Whatever history is there might be why he’s killed.
  • Why was Oklahoma chosen for the musical other than the show takes place there? I just don’t know the musical much.
  • The police have an Owlship. Is this the new heavy armored vehicle like real-world police are buying from the military?

Visual standouts:

  • There’s the shift from Veidt and the watch to the dinner with the chandelier looking like a watch.
  • The overturned truck at the end of the Tulsa scene looks like the front windows of the Owlship.
  • When the kids at the end of the Tulsa scene are looking at the burning city you can see the title of the episode a bit above them as the viewer is situated behind the title.

So, that’s everything that stood out to me. What’d I miss? What stood out to you?

Graphic Novels Suck!

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1

One benefit of transitioning from the corporate world to the library world is that I get to work with and handle comics (or graphic novels as they like to call them.) on a daily basis. I mean I literally got paid to order and enter the ordering information for the first volume of Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garron’s Miles Morales: Spider-Man comic today and then at my other job at a public library, I got to show a couple of kids (whose first library card I made.) where the Pokemon “comics” were. It’s pretty awesome, but there’s a bittersweet lining to it too.

And that lining is that in the minds of many of the people I interact with at work, whether that’s colleagues or patrons, comics are still solely for kids. Yes, I know it’s a cliche, but it was corroborated by Eric Reynolds, the co-publisher of Fantagraphics in an interview with Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg of the Cartoonist Kayfabe podcast where he talked about how well comics by Dav Pilkey or Raina Telgemaier were selling, but how those sales don’t translate to the adult or even the YA market. Kids comics (and manga) are booming, but unless you’re already into the world of comics, or it’s something evergreen like Watchmen, Maus, or Fun Home, it seems like comics are not a viable reading material for, say, post-college age adults.

And I hate that I don’t feel empowered to recommend comics and graphic novels to adults at my work unless they’re already checking one out. For example, I told a patron who checked out Manhattan Projects to check out Jonathan Hickman’s recent X-Men work and that we would probably be ordering the complete hardcover in the winter. However, if a patron likes spy novels, I probably won’t recommend Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet or Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s The Coldest City. I think a lot of this is how the graphic novels are shelved. (In the teens and kids section at one job, and hidden away on the 2nd floor at another.) But it might be a personal thing too.

In my mind as a comics critic/fan and librarian-in-training, I have two wolves inside me. One is out here trying to champion comics as either serious literature or something that can appeal to everyone like young adult dystopian novels, airport novels, or Oprah’s Book Club nonfiction. (She makes some pretty great choices.) Then, there’s another, admittedly bad, wolf that relishes in comics’ history and reputation as the “bastard child of art and commerce” and doesn’t give a shit if the people around me look down on the medium or see it as only fit for children and people, who need help learning how to read. (This is hilariously reductive because comics require both verbal and visual literacy to be understood.) I also enjoy having a little fun and saying things like the latest issue of Batman has more literary value than anything James Patterson and Tom Clancy. (It’s true, especially when Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison were writing the book.)

Batman "Enough"

What both wolves really like to come to blows over is the term “graphic novel”. The good wolf likes to emphasize it when talking to patrons because it reminds them of a currently respected medium. (The novel, which used to be seen as trash once upon a time.) The bad wolf likes to say that it’s a meaningless term, especially for trade paperbacks of ongoing series with multiple writers and artists. Both wolves agree that graphic non-fiction, memoirs, and medicine belong with their respective subjects and not with “graphic novels” because that makes so sense. Would you shelve a non-fiction book about anxiety next to J.D. Robb’s latest vapid thriller?

If I had my way, I would call anything that told a sequential story in both words and images a comic, plain and simple. However, graphic novel does have some marketing value even though some of the ways it’s used and overused are utterly banal. But, hey, if leads to a comic being checked out, I’ll use the word.

I have high hopes that as film and television shows of different genres that are comic book adaptations continue to be released, members of Generation Z keep reading comics even after their teachers and other adults say “They’re below their reading level” (This adds to their punk rock value, to be honest.), and cartoonists like Gene Luen Yang and Ed Piskor speak at prestigious book events (Aka they mainly focus on prose.) that comics will end up being just another item on the reading menu. Maybe, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will get elected president in 2024 and invite Alan Moore (He’ll probably decline.) and Dave Gibbons to chat Watchmen.

But, for now, I need to dig a little deeper and get better at recommending comics to people who aren’t children, teenagers, “geeks”, or fans of science fiction and fantasy. (I got a librarian at my work, who read Mort Weisinger-edited Superman books and 1960s Marvel comics as a child, seriously hooked on Saga.) I need to be a little less precious about semantics and use the term “graphic novel” as a tool for promotion instead of something that numbs my brain and makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I need to understand that some people might not have the visual literacy levels to read and enjoy comics, which is okay.

And my final takeaway is that I need to read more manga. Seriously, I went to a Barnes and Noble in the Louisville, Kentucky suburbs and there were four full rows of manga. Because of the prevalence of public transportation and the lack of a Comics Code incident leading to one genre taking over the industry due to censorship, manga of all genres is easy to obtain in Japan, and maybe it’ll be like that the United States. But, for now, it’s time to crack open Uzumaki by Junji Ito. (Once I knock off all the others on my “to be read” list).

White Nationalism is the Issue. Video Games and Media Don’t Cause Violence

video games controller

With recent tragedies on everyone’s minds, some people are looking for a cause and culprit other than the shooters and perpetrators of the recent terrorist attacks in Dayton and El Paso. Unfortunately, some are blaming media, including video games, for violent behavior in individuals. We know this isn’t the case; banning or regulating media content, even more, won’t solve the issue.

Christopher J. Ferguson, the chair of the Texas A&M International University’s department of psychology and communication, among others including federally funded studies, have shown there’s no link between violent video games and real-world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression. There’s no need for more federal studies, when there’s been federal studies completed. Past research has been mixed, at best, and often weakened by substantial methodological flaws.

It’s clear that real-world statistics don’t back up the coordinated rhetoric championed by the Republican party and elected officials. It’s a coordinated deflection from the true cause of attacks, white nationalism, and loose gun laws. That’s the true threat to America, not video games.

The facts also back up no connection. While video game sales have increased, according to the FBI’s own statistics, violent crime has been steadily decreasing. In 2011, violent crimes nationwide decreased by 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, it’s decreased by 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales. Other nations play the same video games and don’t see the violence and shooting that we see here in the United States.

While Trump also blames mental health, video games have been shown they can be used in therapy including for treating mental health issues.

The reality is President Trump’s own rhetoric fuels the violence and terrorist attacks. When an individual joked about shooting immigrants at a rally, Trump laughed. Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes. Both Trump and the El Paso White Nationalist used the term “invasion” when describing immigrants.

Hate crimes in the country increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, marking the third straight year of a spike in hate crimes, according to an FBI report released last November.

At the same time, federal courts – including the Supreme Court – have routinely held that government regulation of media, including video games, is unconstitutional.  Funding more studies – or passing laws that then get fought out in courts – costs taxpayers millions of dollars. That’s money better spent on treating the mentally ill or shoring up and improving background checks for weapons purchases.

We’ve seen these same conversations before. In the 1950s comic books were blamed for truancy, violence, and homosexuality in youth. This lead to hearings in the United States Senate. We look back on this piece of history and laugh out how ludicrous this claim was then. It’s just as ludicrous today when the conversation turns to video games and their effects.

There’s no easy solution to prevent violence like these events. But focusing on the wrong things isn’t the answer. Make your voice heard today.

Stay Through the Credits of Avengers: Endgame, You Monsters

What the hell, people? I feel like I’ve been saying for a decade, “True fans stay through the credits.” Not just because we want to see The Avengers eating shawarma or watch “that Ayesha chick” talk about Adam Warlock, but because now that’s just something we do! And now someone said “There’s no extra scene at the end of Avengers: Endgame” and you’re like, “Welp, that’s it, then!”

No no no no no no no no no.

First of all, it’s totally misleading to say “There’s no extra scene at the end.” It’s also patently false to say (as numerous sites have reported), “There’s nothing at the end of the credits.”

There’s something. I won’t say what, but stick around for it.

Why? Because. . . True Fans Stay Through the Credits.

Think about it. 11 years. 22 movies. I know you have to pee because it’s been 3 hours of excitement and you ordered that giant movie-sized Dr. Pepper, so go and then come back. But stick around. Because True Fans Stay Through the Credits.

Not only is it a great way to pay respect to the literally thousands of people who worked on this movie, but you might learn something. Like, wow. . . lots of people have assistants. Or, oh, I didn’t know the name of that song that they used and now I do. Or ask, “What’s a key grip?”

And here’s the best part– you know where literally the only place in public where it’s ok for you to discuss what just happened in this movie is? In that theater. Right there. Not in a restaurant or coffee shop afterward. Not in the bathroom or on your walk out of the theater.

Keep your butt in that seat and use those credits to process what you just saw. You’re going to have feelings. People die. People don’t die. Torches get passed. Evil and good are in the balance. Things get blown up!

And? Think about this for one second, True Believers– this is the last Stan Lee cameo we have.

This movie leaves you with so much to process, so much to talk about– and talk you should and talk we must. So do it there in your theater seat!

Because you’re going to have to shut up about it until you get someplace private. It is literally the perfect place! Because you know with 100% surety that everyone in earshot of you just saw what you just saw.

And? Because True Fans Stay Through the Credits.

Stay through the credits and pay very close attention to the end. Then go speculate about what the heck that meant.

Nuff said.

Cold War Paranoia: Star Trek’s Legacy of Secret Klingons

Guest post by Mark Turetsky

Star Trek DIscovery

Star Trek: Discovery has broken new ground for diversity in the franchise, featuring Sonequa Martin-Green as the first woman of color to headline a Star Trek series, as well as Anthony Rapp as the first openly gay TV series regular. Despite this progress made in casting, however, Discovery has revived a harmful trope from Trek’s early history.

Discovery borrows a major plot point of its first season from 1967’s “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Tribbles is a perennial fan favorite episode, regarded as one of the best of the original series and beloved for its comedic tone. This tone, by the way, came courtesy of producer Gene L. Coon, according to The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry, the executive producer and creator of Star Trek, considered broad comedy the domain of shows like Lost In Space. While Roddenberry was away writing a Robin Hood pilot, Coon took advantage of his absence and produced three comedic episodes back to back. The story goes that when Roddenberry returned to the set, he called a meeting with Coon, after which Coon quit the show.

Star Trek "Trouble with Tribbles"

The episode centers around a space station that’s loaded with a cargo of grain bound for a Federation colony on a disputed planet near the Klingon border. Kirk and company match wits with bureaucrats, Klingons, and fuzzy little balls of cute called Tribbles. Kirk and Spock discover that the grain has been poisoned, sabotaged by a Federation official name Arne Darvin. It turns out that Darvin is actually a Klingon spy, surgically altered to look human.

In the original series and the Kirk-era movies, the Klingons were an obvious allegory for the Soviet Union, with the Federation taking the role of The United States. The original Klingons were dark-skinned (literally white actors colored with shoe polish) with wispy facial hair, and speaking in not-quite-Russian accents. In his script for “Errand of Mercy,” the first episode to feature Klingons, Gene L. Coon describes their appearance  as “oriental.”

With this in mind, it’s hard not to see Darvin as an outer space version of a communist infiltrator, worming his way into the Federation government, committing sabotage for his evil masters.

Charlie Brill

Leonard Nimoy referred his friend Charlie Brill, a Brooklyn-born Jewish actor for the role. It’s a curious bit of casting, considering the pernicious association between communism and Judaism, from the Jewish Bolshevism canard that came out of the Russian Revolution, through the Hollywood blacklist of the 40s and 50s, all the way to the antisemitic dog whistle of “cultural marxism” that persists today. Notably, when Darvin returned to Star Trek in the 1996 Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations,” he had assumed the identity of Waddle, a wandering gemstone merchant, which is, as far as occupations go, not entirely disassociated with Jewish people.

Also, the crime that Arne Darvin commits in “The Trouble With Tribbles” sounds a lot like a medieval libel against Jewish people: well poisoning. In the 14th century, during Black Plague times, there was a belief among Christians that the plague was caused by Jews poisoning wells. This led to the raiding of hundreds of Jewish communities throughout Europe, ending, as such things do, in mass slaughter. This wasn’t just a purely medieval one-off occurrence; the accusation of well poisoning, both literal and metaphorical, persisted through the 20th and 21st Centuries, tying in everything from Stalin purging Jewish doctors for supposedly poisoning Soviet leaders to conspiracy theorizing about Jews causing the AIDS epidemic.

Which brings us to Star Trek: Discovery. While the series is set roughly ten years before The Original Series, it very much reflects the culture and values of today. The cold-war Soviet Klingons of The Original Series have been replaced with hardline religious zealots, who in the first season waged a holy war against the Federation in the name of reclaiming its cultural purity for the glory of Kahless, a figure from Klingon history revered almost as a god.

Into this story comes Ash Tyler, played by Shazad Latif, an actor of mixed Pakistani and British heritage. Tyler is a Starfleet security officer from just outside Seattle, who escapes imprisonment and torture by the Klingons. The character at first appeared to offer a sober exploration of PTSD, dealing with the trauma of his ordeal, but instead he turned out to be a Klingon agent named Voq, surgically altered (just like good old like Arne Darvin) to appear human. Unlike Darvin, Voq isn’t aware that he’s a Klingon, and actually believes himself to be Tyler. He’s a sleeper agent, somewhat akin to Laurence Harvey’s character in The Manchurian Candidate, but with the sci-fi twist of radical gene-altering surgery and memory transplantation.

What started out as a positive, nuanced portrayal of a character of mixed-Pakistani descent got undercut by turning him into a religious sleeper terrorist. There are enough of those on TV already, in just about every season of 24, or the prestige Showtime drama Homeland. We could even look to an episode from Trek’s first season, “Balance of Terror,” for a better treatment of a similar subject: Spock faces suspicion and xenophobia from members of the Enterprise crew when they discover that Romulans are identical to Vulcans. Stiles, the navigator, accuses Spock outright of being a Romulan spy, only to have Kirk call out his bigotry for what it is, out in the open, right on the bridge of the Enterprise.

There does seem to be hope for Ash Tyler, though. The second season of Discovery has recast him as an intelligence agent for the shadowy Starfleet spy organization Section 31. He’s still a Klingon who thinks he’s human, but the writers seem to want to put that storyline behind them and have it just be another angle to the character’s traumatic past. Of course, it’s television, and I’m sure Tyler will be dealing with buried Klingon programming just as soon, and for as long, as plot demands.

The producers of Discovery don’t get nearly enough credit for the homages they make to the rest of Trek (cue the cries of “Discovery doesn’t care about canon!”), especially with this season’s loving and detailed treatment of TOS’s original, failed pilot “The Cage.” It’s disappointing, though, that they not only returned to this particular well, but poisoned it in their own contemporary way.


Mark Turetsky is a voice actor and audiobook narrator of more than 75 books living in Northern Louisiana. He writes the Star Trek comedy twitter account @RejectedDS9. His work can be found at www.markturetsky.com.

Messages from Midgard #1

Welcome to Messages from Midgard #1, the weekly “War of the Realms” column where I will break down every core issue and tie-in of Marvel’s blockbuster summer event. As a fan of both the superhero and fantasy genres (I was into Lord of the Rings almost a decade before I picked up my first comic.), I’m cautiously excited for this event. I mean, Punisher shooting Elves in one of those classic, sketchy New York City warehouse is pretty epic, and that’s only one of many things that happen in War of the Realms #1.

A couple reasons I’m intrigued by “War of the Realms” and wanted to this column is, first, I think that it flows organically out of Jason Aaron‘s seven year Thor story starring both Odinson and Jane Foster and surviving numerous new #1’s, additional adjectives, minis, and events. It was first mentioned way back in 2013’s heavy metal meditation on godhood that was Thor, God of Thunder. To be honest, I thought Malekith showing up was just a forced tie-in to the underwhelming Thor: The Dark World film, but Aaron definitely proved me wrong. In his work on Thor, he has crafted tremendous arcs for characters like Odin, Loki, Freyja, Volstagg, and even baddies like Laufey, Cul Borson, and the corrupt Roxxon CEO Dario Agger. And these get to be played out loud on Marvel’s biggest stage.

The other reason is that I’ve sat out the last couple Marvel events. I didn’t read anything connected to “Infinity Wars” or “Spidergeddon” and was only hate reading the main Secret Empire series in the end. (I have checked out some of the X-Men stuff like Extermination and “Age of X-Man“.) The break was nice, but I kind of want to give them another stab and checking out one connected to one of the better superhero runs of the 2010s could prove to be a good move.

In the future, most columns won’t have a 300 word introduction, but will have a one paragraph headline followed by analysis of each issue of War of the Realms and its tie-ins plus if you should buy, read, or pass each one. It will close with my general opinion of the event and tie-in’s so far and end on my favorite panel of the week. (I might even answer reader questions.) Without further ado, let the “War” begin!

War of the Realms #1

Don’t take out that second mortgage or pack a lunch instead of buying one today, War of the Realms #1 is the only “War of the Realms” related material out this week from Marvel. Writer Jason Aaron, artist Russell Dauterman, and colorist Matthew Wilson give the comic and series the full fantasy novel treatment with a double page spread map of the Ten Realms with Midgard in the center. There is a lot of exposition about previous events in the War of the Realms that have been told in different Thor comics, but I’m not super bad about because it’s the first issue. Also, Aaron tries to offset it with humor like Spider-Man swinging around in the Bronx and running into Freyja fighting off Dark Elf assassins on a brownstone roof top.

Aaron and Dauterman also hit some strong character beats in War of the Realms #1 beyond Malekith and his Dark Cabal attack Midgard and various superheroes. The first character that appears in this comic is Odin, who because of his unwillingness to change and estranged relationship with his wife and sons, has led him to sit in a ruined Asgard. He’s sad, alone, and a perfect target to be Julius Caesar’d by some Dark Elf assassins. This is just the first issue so he will probably come back, but even though he got help for his alcoholism in a previous issue of Thor and bonded with Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider in a previous issue of Avengers, it was too late. His failures have a cost, namely, death. Dauterman serves up some fantastic panel compositions for his last moments that look like a gleaming dagger before an overhead shot of the stabbing assassins. Wilson uses golden colors before muting them as Odin meets his end.

Another character that is written reasonably well in War of the Realms #1 is Loki whose motivation as far as I can tell is that he wants bring on the end of the all realms, not some Dark Elf played by Christopher Eccleston in heavy makeup. He understands Malekith’s plan to take out and isolate the big Asgardian players (Odin, Thor, Freyja) and even protects Freyja by cutting off his father, Laufey’s, hand. But then he gets taken off the board via cannibalism. This is definitely a fake-out for the Father of Lies, and hopefully, Aaron has a big plan up his sleeve a la Kieron Gillen in Journey into Mystery and not just a generic wild card he can use to spice up plots. In Loki’s “final” moments, Dauterman does an extreme close-up of his face to show his vulnerability around his biological father and beloved, adopted mother. His ability to tease out these moments and beats visually as well as draw epic battle sequences are why he is such a good fit for this book.

The rest of War of the Realms #1 is really just a slugfest starring the cast of Thor, the cast of Avengers, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Punisher, Wolverine, and Dr. Strange. Aaron uses quips to get down to the essence of each player and then turns them loose with Spider-Man playing the role of long time Marvel fan, who is new this whole of “War of the Realms” thing. He and the various Asgardians have a whole mismatched comedy vibe going, and Spidey as well as Aaron’s gift for humor keeps the story from being action figures moving around or overly melodramatic.

It’s nice to have the first issue of an event actually have an action set piece and not just focus on aftermath or talking heads, and Russell Dauterman’s art has an easy to follow, Mike Allred quality to it. Captain America’s shield has motion lines, and the double page spreads are more than just pin-ups. Even if War of the Realms is just a generic sub-fantasy creatures for aliens-invasion storyline, the book will be worth checking for his nuanced figure work, layouts, and Matthew Wilson’s colors alone that all come together in the final page that seems to be an homage to an underrated scene in Avengers Infinity War.

War of the Realms #1 doesn’t have any shocking, cliffhanger endings, but Jason Aaron does solid work with Loki, Thor, Odin, and Freyja’s arcs to show that this a family epic that happens to an epic epic now. Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson create interesting layouts and compositions even in the crowd scenes as Dauterman becomes the heir of George Perez in this way. It’s fun to go back and pore over different panels and find fun details like a Dark Elf killing a civilian with a Howard the Duck standee although it’s easy to find the focus of each panel in the early go-round.

The amount of exposition might piss off some of the Jason Aaron reading faithful, but fun battle scenes that don’t drown out all the character beats makes War of the Realms #1 a solid start to the event. I actually want to see what Loki is up to in Thor and see Punisher, Wolverine, and Daredevil’s interactions with various fantasy genre beings in War Scrolls. There are some real Hellboy: The Golden Army and Fellowship of the Ring prologue vibes, and it’s worth reading. Overall Verdict: Buy

Panel of the Week

In an issue full of loud action, it's the small panel of Cap knocking out yet another loud mouth totalitarian that has an impact. (Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson in War of the Realms #1
In an issue full of loud action, it’s the small panel of Cap knocking out yet another loud mouth totalitarian that has an impact. (Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson in War of the Realms #1)

The Blacksuperpower Universe Thrives Despite Entertainment’s White Privilege

Guest post by Kwanza Osayefo

There is an odd resistance to the concept of a world where only black people have superpowers. Yet, we’ve all accepted nearly 100 years of media in which only white men have superpowers.

Black representation in media hasn’t even reached levels that reflect actual demographics in the US – so opposition needs to chill out. There’s just one comic where only black people have superpowers.

****

It’s weird that people take for granted that blerds have accepted casts of entirely white comics for the history of the medium, but when the characters are mostly black, some of those same people start feeling a way.

I created BLACK because I was inspired by seeing my face and culture represent in Milestone comics. Their absences meant young black kids today wouldn’t have that same acknowledgment of themselves as I did.


The White Kickstarter campaign from Kwanza Osayefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, and Khary Randolph ends Sunday, March 31 at 11:59pm EDT.

Below you can find the variant cover for White and first five pages of the series.

White #1 Kickstarter variant

New Rule: Bill Maher No Longer Gets to Talk About Topics He Knows Nothing About

stan spidey

Source: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

I’ve been thinking about this since I first read about that Bill Maher blog post within which he calls into question Stan Lee‘s legacy, the intelligence and maturity of comic book fans, and the continued relevance of comic books in today’s world. I’ve been thinking that I didn’t want to write about the comedian who makes a living pissing people off, who’s only relevant in controversy, and that I didn’t want to add another article pointing to his blog.

But then, in a quiet moment, I realized I was a little bit miffed at his words, and decided to try and find the blog post in question to see if he had been ever so slightly misrepresented. He hadn’t been. His words, which a vast majority of comicdom have taken umbrage at will be pasted at the end of this post should you want to read them without visiting his blog post.

Given that this was posted less than a week after Stan Lee’s passing, there have been numerous articles covering Maher’s November 16th blog post and the reaction to it. There has been a lot of vitriol and anger. People have called him callous, attention seeking and irrelevant, but that Maher made such tasteless comments shouldn’t really surprise anybody. In what I understand to be a standard case of saying dumb things to provoke people and get a reaction because he’s a “comedian,” Maher has stayed remarkably true to who he is.

He is, like all of us, entitled to his opinion. And if he thinks that the young adults of this world are basically over grown children because of comics, well, then fair enough. If he wants to casually dismiss the death of a man who many of us hold in extremely high regard (even if he had his faults), then that’s his right. To do so after cashing a paycheck for Iron Man 3 is a bit hypocritical. Possibly he’s still bitter over being fired by ABC, which is also owned by Marvel’s parent company Disney.

But to do so whilst getting some pretty key things wrong? That really makes me laugh. With anger. Within his first two sentences, he has some pretty large, but easily researched, errors – and this is what, I believe, is the source of the anger directed at him.

The guy who created Spider-Man and the Hulk has died, and America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie, I guess.

Firstly, Stan Lee didn’t create Hulk or Spider-Man alone, and never claimed he did (though there are valid arguments as to how much he contributed, this is neither the time nor place for that). Claiming he did invalidates the contributions of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, two men with legacies that should rival Lee’s, and who inspired just as many as Stan did. Stan Lee inspired millions of comics fans to do a lot more than just watch a movie. A half hour of research would have turned up so many examples of this – whether it be industry professionals or fans like you and I, Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) touched the lives of millions across his decades in comics.

kirby ditko.jpg

Source: co2comics.com

But sure. Say he inspired us to, I don’t know, go see a movie. What has Bill Maher inspired anybody to do? His career high was DC Cab in 1983. That’s a genuine question by the way, because I’ve never really paid much attention to him before.

Which may also be part of the reason for his blog post. Maybe he’s angry at the outpouring of grief over of Lee’s death, or maybe he wanted to use Stan Lee’s death to further a political agenda against millennials making America dumber. That is, after all, what the majority of the blog post is about. Once he grabs our attention with his casual disregard of Stan Lee’s death, he hits us with a treatise about millennial stupidity, blaming it in part on comics. Because comics are the One Thing that millennials didn’t give up and consequently remained dumb.

And that, my friends, is also a little out of touch.

He also makes the leap that somehow a public that’s interested in comics and comic related entertainment is a factor in our current state of politics. This ignores the history of comics that have been regularly progressive and forward thinking, far ahead of society. From Superman’s fight against political corruption, to Captain America advocating for entry into World War II a year before the US did, to discussing issues like drug addiction, the AIDS crisis, advocacy for LGBTQ rights, and so much more. A society truly into comics wouldn’t result in the election of Donald Trump. Maher doesn’t seem to know that but that hasn’t stopped him from opening his mouth on the topic. But, that’s a regular thing for Maher, whether it’s vaccines, Islam, or his inability to challenge his alt-right guests who he provides a platform (when even tech platforms are deplatforming them). Again, Maher speaks on a topic he knows little about but seems to hold comics impact on a level they just aren’t.

Fewer people read comics than, say, watch sports. Or play videogames. The latter has also seen a surge in popularity over the past three decades, but isn’t mentioned in the blog post. Probably because nobody famous enough in videogames died the week Maher wrote his blog post. But Stan Lee did, and so comics became his target.

Fine. Whatever.

But I don’t need to tell you millennials aren’t dumb. Nor that comics are a form of literature. You know this. Maher doesn’t, or doesn’t care. He doesn’t care that he has the wrath of comicdom coming down on him because right now we’re all talking about him.

So screw you Bill Maher for using Stan Lee’s death as a launching pad for your inane tripe. Screw you for using the death of a legend to try to bring yourself to relevance.

Screw you.

stan lee middle finger.jpg

Source: reddit


The text below is directly from Maher’s blog post. A link to the original post, and the hundreds of angry comments is further down.

The guy who created Spider-Man and the Hulk has died, and America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie, I guess. Someone on Reddit posted, “I’m so incredibly grateful I lived in a world that included Stan Lee.” Personally, I’m grateful I lived in a world that included oxygen and trees, but to each his own. Now, I have nothing against comic books – I read them now and then when I was a kid and I was all out of Hardy Boys. But the assumption everyone had back then, both the adults and the kids, was that comics were for kids, and when you grew up you moved on to big-boy books without the pictures.

But then twenty years or so ago, something happened – adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature. And because America has over 4,500 colleges – which means we need more professors than we have smart people – some dumb people got to be professors by writing theses with titles like Otherness and Heterodoxy in the Silver Surfer. And now when adults are forced to do grown-up things like buy auto insurance, they call it “adulting,” and act like it’s some giant struggle.

I’m not saying we’ve necessarily gotten stupider. The average Joe is smarter in a lot of ways than he was in, say, the 1940s, when a big night out was a Three Stooges short and a Carmen Miranda musical. The problem is, we’re using our smarts on stupid stuff. I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important.

Source: Adulting

With Great Power, There Must Also Come Great Responsibility: A Tribute To Stan Lee

Stan Lee

Source: sciencefiction.com

Stan Lee has passed away. Five words that comic fans knew would come, but hoped never to hear. But there they are.

TMZ reported that the legendary comic creator died in hospital in the early hours of Monday, November 12th. He was 95.  Upon hearing that news, like me, you’re in shock and your heart is probably broken. Stan Lee, a man who has had such a tremendous impact on the lives of so many people of all walks of life is no longer with us.

Stanley Martin Lieber never intended to have his birth name published in a comic because he always wanted to write the Great American Novel, so he would instead use Stan Lee to sign off his first Captain America story.  Stan Lee may have never written the Great American Novel, but he had an instrumental hand in creating and shaping something much more important; generations of comic and superhero fans.

stan spidey

AP Photo/Matt Sayles

For many of us, as kids we had no idea who created the comics or the cartoons they inspired. We had no idea that a lot of the colourful characters came from Stan Lee’s pen and Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko’s pencil. At least I didn’t. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the man in the Soapbox was responsible for a lot of what I was reading and watching in my formative years. Whether it was X-Men: The Animated SeriesSpider-Man or the Marvel Power Hour my Saturday mornings were spent engrossed in superhero cartoons based upon characters from the comics Lee wrote in the 60’s.

Later I would find my way to the X-Men, and through comics I would be introduced to some of the best people I have ever known (including my wife), few of whom I’ve actually met in person. Because that is the magic of Stan Lee. His work connects people of all ages, all creeds and all nationalities. Through his work, my life has changed. I don’t know where I would be without comics, and  I don’t know who I would be. Uncle Ben’s often misquoted famous words came from Stan Lee, and with his great power he accepted the responsibility of his position – whether it was subverting the Comics Code to publish a story decrying drug use or giving every misfit or marginalized child a place at Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, Stan Lee’s writing saved as many people as the characters he co-created.

I never knew Stan Lee, nor did I ever get the chance to meet him. But he has had an immense and unfathomable impact on my life. Comics have become such an integral part of my self identity over the years; they still make up the bulk of my reading materials, and have of late become the source of most of the movies I will see in the theater. Stan Lee has been synonymous with comics, despite his long association with Marvel Comics, and his passing marks the end of an era.

stanlee.jpg

thenewestrant.com

There will be hundreds, if not thousands of tributes to Stan Lee in the comings days and weeks. There will be people using this time to take issue with how much credit Stan Lee deserves with the  writing in those early X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man stories, among others. But this isn’t the time for those discussions. Not now. Now is the time for us to grieve for him in our own way; some will be feel the grief like a gamma radiated fist to the gut, and some won’t know what to do with themselves.

Stan Lee has passed away, and the world has lost a beacon of the comic book industry. A family has lost a father and grandfather; industry veterans have lost a mentor; and we have all lost a man who, through his stories and infectious energy, inspired us to be better than we were.

Stan Lee’s comics have influenced and permeated nearly every aspect of popular culture these days, and Stan Lee’s hand can be seen in many of the Marvel characters on screen. Characters he helped create have been part of some of the biggest movies in the 21st century, and have appeared on more pieces of merchandise than any of us can honestly fathom. His legacy will live on in the characters and stories he co-created. Stan Lee may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

stanhulkspidey.jpg

Source: docnyc.net

‘Nuff Said.


Also published on Ramblings Of A Comics Fan

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