Category Archives: Politics

Tell IDW and Hasbro You Support Aubrey Sitterson

Comic writer Aubrey Sitterson is the subject of the latest targeted harassement by an online group of organized trolls who are attempting to get him fired from his work on G.I. Joe. While they claim it’s about a Tweet, by their own words this is a long term campaign due to their disagreement over his support of diversity and inclusion. These same individuals regularly target African American, female, and transgender creators showing they are racist, misogynistic, and transphobic.

It’s time for us to take action and make your voice heard in support of Sitterson.

We are asking you to contact both Hasbro and IDW Publishing to show your support and send an email to the two in support of Sitterson.

It’s unacceptable that Sitterson is being targeted and we here at Graphic Policy stand behind him 100%. Hasbro and IDW caving will set a precedant that will have chilling ramifications within the comic industry going forward.

Educator’s Perspective: “Sh*t My President Says”

It’s said that no work of literature is written in a vacuum.

One of the first things you learn to do as an undergrad in any course in literature is to unpack the political, cultural, and societal implication of whatever it is you’re reading, because whether the author intended it or not, he or she was assuredly influenced by the circumstances in which it was written.  Even as a high school student I learned that Shakespeare’s fascination with witchcraft in Macbeth is likely an influence of the King under which he was writing, who had an interest in the occult himself; The Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm both have their roots in a kind of British political anxiety, and the only way that On the Road can be more of a manifesto of the early counterculture movement is if copies of it are beaten by riot officers.

Yet I’ve always been more interested in the political, cultural, and social capital hidden away in the more obscure media, the stuff that, for whatever reason, has for so long escaped the notice of conventional scholarship. Though teachers have long adored the political cartoon there remains a strange, standoffish attitude toward the comic book, as though we’re all still in the 1950s and Dr. Wertham is sitting across from us making all sorts of uncomfortable eye contact over a stack of World’s Finest. Thankfully that attitude has receded significantly in recent years and I’m happy to see more and more that teachers like myself are having success in using the rife political and cultural content of comics as a springboard to discuss ideas as diverse and grandiose as race relations, diplomacy, and the importance of de-mystifying the “other”ness of foreign cultures, peoples, and ideologies.

The conversation about the political and sociocultural implications of comics – really, of all media – is always hobbled somewhat when it hits a K-12 classroom environment.  There begin conversations about correctness and age-appropriateness, and whether a book can or should be introduced to the student population for fear of indoctrination. Year after year mainstays like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird are called into question by school boards and parent groups across the country, and while their reasons are varied they general boil down to what we want our children to discover about who and what we are.  Works that are censored for classroom use have a common thread: they oftentimes highlight the worst of us, in an attempt to ensure that we avoid making the mistakes of our ancestry.

That being said, it seems highly unlike that Shannon Wheeler’s “Sh*t My President Says” will ever see regular use as a implement of classroom instruction, given that it is both a comic book, and therefore still a subject of academic uncertainty by some of my colleagues, and demonstrative of one of the most deranged, startling, and ultimately embarrassing garbage fires of the 21st century.  It is eye-opening in its candor, tragically funny, vitally informative, and ought to be required reading for anyone hoping to study the political machine of the early 21st century. It may very well be one of the most important historical artifacts of this decade.

All because of Twitter.

“Sh*t My President Says” is a perfect example of the historically-embedded nature of media. Even without Wheeler’s accompanying caricatures of Trump as a riotous toddler with a phone fetish, the collection of our mentally-errant President’s 140-character temper tantrums provides a sobering look at just how we got to where we are. Taken with Shannon Wheeler’s supplemental artwork, the Tweets take on a second life: their childishness is thrown into a stark relief with the inclusion of the author’s idealized boy king Trump, and indeed the whole work might read as a fiction were we not living it as we are now.

From a teachable standpoint, nothing beats a work that provides the subject’s words as they were uttered while simultaneously offering a responding critique of them. In this way Shannon Wheeler has submitted to his audience a kind of living primary source, an artifact that both serves to document history as well as record our collective reaction to the oftentimes unbelievable events of our current political climate – which, of course, is a form of history in and of itself.

Is it teachable? Absolutely, and pertinently so: in much the same way that we recognize the crassness of the language in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or the sexuality of “The Awakening” as indicative of the societies and cultures of the time in which they were written, Wheeler’s compilation of the fractured thoughts of our enfeebled Commander-in-Chief are likewise a reflection of the state of our society. Wheeler provides a means to process an pivotal event in American political history in a way that is accessible for its simplicity, honest for its presentation, and as painless  an experience as it could be possibly be for the author’s satirical approach to her bumbling, foolhardy subject matter.

Nevertheless, I give Mr. Wheeler a great deal of credit for his work in compiling this trainwreck of a timeline in recording the Trump tweets he has.  For the levity with which it is presented, there is something truly sinister about seeing these words become actions, and those actions engender other, more awful actions. Longtime exposure to those levels of ego-maniacal word vomit cannot be healthy for an individual, and I hope sincerely that Mr. Wheeler recovers quickly for his exposure.

While its unflinching revelation of the worst of our potential all but guarantees it never sees widespread classroom use, I fully expect that passages from “Sh*t My President Says” will find their way into political science and literature classrooms across the globe. This cutting work of comics journalism is a vibrant reminder of how we ended up in this mess, and I wager that there’s more than a few daring educators willing to make the case that, like Mockingbird and Rye, just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye to its implications.

Literature isn’t written in a vacuum – but sometimes the stuff that inspires it sucks nonetheless.  It’s our job to learn from it, and works like Wheeler’s make that possible.

Scott vs Demons Takes on Bureaucratic Mistreatment of Chronic Health and Disabilities

As part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, Artlink launches Scott vs Demons, a comic which takes a satirical look at the bureaucratic mistreatment of vulnerable people with chronic ill health and disabilities. The comic takes as its starting point the experience of Scott Davidson, a young man with autism, and goes on a flight of fantasy where we get to experience the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) assessment process for the ridiculous farce it is.

In these difficult times we can become come desensitised, unable to take in just what austerity measures mean to vulnerable disabled people. Artlink, as an arts and disability organisation, have witnessed the distress caused by PIP assessments and decided the best tools we have at our disposal to highlight this are art and humour. To expose the quite frankly absurd assessment process Artlink commissioned writer Alan Grant and artist Robin Smith, under the direction of Scott Davidson to explore the process and hopefully make people start to talk about its impact. Scott vs Demons is the second comic made by the team. In it they parody the PIP assessment questionnaire, use a ‘rat-zappa’ to remove the demons of red tape and Scott shifts from victim of an assessment process that has little understanding of his disabilities and its impact on his day to say life, to an action hero fighting social and political injustice.

“The Department for Work and Pensions has told its disability benefits assessors to discriminate against people with mental health conditions compared to those with physical problems. New guidelines from the department to assessors for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit appear to explicitly single out those with mental health conditions who suffer identical impacts as those with physical conditions.”
Jon Stone – Political Correspondent, Independent, March 2017

Personal Independence Payment (abbreviated to PIP and usually pronounced as one word) is a welfare benefit in the United Kingdom that is intended to help with the extra costs of living with a long-term health condition or a disability. PIP was introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012. In response to the austerity agenda it aimed to cut spending on benefits by 20%; instead costs have risen. In response, new rules were introduced in 2017 which, many charities say, has left vulnerable disabled people without support. The whole system needs urgent improvement if it is to accurately assess the support that people need. Charities that represent mental health and learning disability groups claim that people with these conditions are being negatively affected as current assessments do not recognise that these conditions are as severe as other impairments.

The Social Security (Scotland) Bill was introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance MSP on 20 June 2017. The main purpose of the Bill is to pass control of a number of social security benefits from the UK Government to the Scottish Government. The Social Security Committee is the lead Committee scrutinising the legislation and will begin taking evidence on the Bill at Stage 1 in September 2017. The Committee has issued a call for views on the Bill; the deadline for submissions is Wednesday 23rd August 2017.

Artlink is an arts and disability organisation established in 1984. Artlink believes participation in the arts has an important role to play in realising personal and social change. Their aim is to increase opportunities to take part in the arts for those who experience disadvantage or disability in the East of Scotland. The individual is central to all thei work; they inform what the organization does and how they do it. For more information visit www.artlinkedinburgh.co.uk. Scott Versus Demons is part of a series of publications commissioned by Artlink.

Comics are available through Artlink, and are priced at £2.99 or can be downloaded from www.artlinkedinburgh.bigcartel.com for £1.50. Comics will be on sale at various comic and book retailers as well as online.

Movie Review: Detroit

Kathryn Bigelow‘s newest shows off her impressive talent as a director capable of creating relentless tension, but her cast and the social message are the real stars here.  This is, unfortunately, one of those great movies that all the people who really need to see it and understand it never will. (See also: Fruitvale Station)

Set against the backdrop of the 1967 Detroit riots, this tells the true story of the police raid on the Algiers Hotel where several people were shot and police accused of misconduct and brutality. This has been described as a horror movie where the unkillable monster is racism, and that is about the perfect description.

But even better, it depicts racism not as just a character flaw of a few bad apples, but as a systemic oppression that disadvantages people of color at every turn. So, the monster is not just specifically the bad cops– it’s the whole system. And so even though this is a movie about what happened 50 years ago, it’s a movie about what’s happening yesterday, today, and tomorrow as systemic racism continues to plague us. It’s also a morality lesson about what happens when a director like Bigelow, who is white, uses the privilege she has to elevate the stories of others and speak out against these injustices.

A director at the top of her craft

Kathryn Bigelow is amazing here. All of her ability to craft tension and human drama that we’ve seen in previous outings like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty are on full display here.  Most of this centers around the major focal point of the movie: a situation at the Algiers where the police line up everyone against the wall and interrogate them about who has a gun and who was shooting at the police.

She also expertly draws out amazing performances from her cast. John Boyega plays Melvin Dismukes, a security guard who gets caught up in the raid on the Algiers and is stuck between worlds as he tries to de-escalate the situation. Algee Smith is Larry Reed, lead singer of soul group The Dramatics, who was at the hotel along with his friend and the band’s manager, Fred. Smith also lends his singing voice to the film, which provides some amazing color to an otherwise stark, bleak depiction of those days. He also appears on the soundtrack with Reed himself to provide a sort of musical denouement for the film. Some final scenes showing his life in shambles after the incident also show the after-effects of this brutality, and his performance is on point.

Anthony Mackie (Captain America:Winter Soldier, Civil War; The Hurt Locker) also delivers a stellar performance, but both he and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Keanu) are drastically underutilized. In fact, neither of them shows up until halfway through the movie. But given how the film was marketed and Mackie receiving top billing, you might expect more screen time. But that expectation will be unfulfilled. But what it lacks in quantity, it amps up in quality. Playing a recently discharged Army vet, you can see the wheels in his head turning: “I risked my life in ‘Nam for this?!?”

What you can say, though, is that each actor gets their due, gets their moment to shine, and it all plays in to making the main story a cohesive whole. Bigelow knows not only how to extract every ounce of tension out of these scenes, but also Oscar-worthy performances from several of her actors.

The movie’s major flaw that is also its biggest strength

But, this movie has some problems. I mentioned Mackie not showing up until halfway through. That’s part of it. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to the following conclusion:

My wife and I recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. (WHAT?!) It made me think back of the time of ring shopping and what a process that was. But we ended up getting a great deal on the main diamond in her ring because it had this giant inclusion, or flaw, in the middle of it. But somehow that little hollow space made the gem sparkle even more brightly.

Detroit has a problem like this. We don’t meet any of our main characters until almost 20 minutes into the movie. Our opening scene is the incident that sparks the Detroit riots, as police raid a club operating without a liquor license, and we’re introduced to Officer Frank (Chris ChalkGotham, Homeland), the only black officer in this all-white police squad.

His story is then abruptly dropped and we don’t see him again.

As the riots begin, we see a young Congressman John Conyers speaking to an angry crowd and calling for peace.

And then we never see him again.

And Mackie and Mitchell don’t show up until halfway through the movie.

The audience gets a sense of violent whiplash as we’re thrown new characters and left wondering exactly whose story we’re supposed to be following.

This is a problem, but when you look at it again, it is brilliant.

One of the things Bigelow does best is she inherently sides with the rioters. A riot is a grim, irrational and desperate act. But the opening of the film serves to put us in that mindset and gets the audience to take part of the mob mentality where it truly does seem like the only solution is to start smashing and burning things.

It hurts the cohesiveness of the story, but I think the payoff in tone and theme is a good trade-off. But, it’s still a flaw in what is otherwise a really good film.

The race issue and using your privilege in a positive way

So, a lot has been said about Bigelow, a white woman, making this movie so specifically about racism and police brutality.  In a post film Q&A livestreamed to Alamo Drafthouse locations nationwide, Chris Chalk mentioned that this was the way it was supposed to be: Kathryn Bigelow could choose to make any movie she wanted to, and she chose to tell this story. That’s how you use your privilege — to lift up others’ stories and others’ voices.

She’s not appropriating the story, nor making it about white characters, nor telling it from their point of view, as is often the case with so many movies about race (Mississippi Burning, for example).

And perhaps most importantly, she isn’t telling a story just about racism and racism as a personal flaw. She paints it as systemic and woven into all of the various ways a black person may interact with the system.

This centers specifically on her depiction of the police and the other law enforcement involved. On the micro-level, we have our three main cops who are eventually charged with the murders and assaults at the Algiers. And we see three very different types of people– I will call them the Three Little Piggies.

WARNING: The rest of this section contains plot elements/historical elements that some would consider SPOILERS. If you don’t want to know more, skip to the next section until after you’ve seen the film.

The first pig built his house out of straight-up racism. But even he doesn’t think he’s a bad guy– he sees people burning down their community and asks “How is this America?” He sees this as a failure of the government to smack down bad behavior– that the police need to come in with a strong hand and take out the bad guys. (Sound like anyone we know?)

The Second Little Pig isn’t necessarily racist, but he’s working the system pretty hard. When The First Little Pig says he shot someone because he was reaching for his gun and had a knife, he corroborates the story, “Yeah, I heard him say ‘Drop the knife.'” Good cop covering for bad, and is indifferent about race, or at least not inherently anti-black.

Our Third Little Pig is really nervous and probably isn’t malicious at all. But because he isn’t playing the same game the other two are, ends up using their same tactics to even more brutal effect.

Pigs 2 and 3 eventually squeal, because they know their actions were bad, but then their confession is thrown out because they were deprived of their union lawyer before they were questioned. The system worked to protect all three cops under a code of silence where they all cover for one another.

And so it doesn’t take every cop being a racist to cause a problem. The system is the problem.

One of the other problems was the lack of accountability or oversight by other law enforcement. The raid on the Algiers took place because National Guard troops thought they were under fire from that vicinity, and fired back. National Guard and State Police personnel were on the scene, but eventually left when they saw what a shit show it was becoming. A Michigan State Police officer saw how bad it was, and walked out, telling the three white Detroit PD members, “this is a local police issue.”

And there were other failures– ones all too common today, yesterday, and most likely tomorrow. There was the all white jury. There was the slick lawyering that made the case that we couldn’t be sure who shot whom at the Algiers. And then there was the sea of faces in the courtroom– the front rows filled with white faces in blue police uniforms, and the back rows filled with black faces. Again, Bigelow’s eye for detail here helps show how even these more subtle nuances create a tone for the system and set it up to fail to deliver justice.

Again, in this whole narrative, there only had to be one guy who really hated black people. But the system literally allowed him to get away with murder.

I’m not so naive to think we can ever get rid of racial prejudice, (nor should we try to legislate this), but I do hope that we can take a hard look at our systems and ask how they might perpetuate inequalities and oppression.

Detroit vs. Dunkirk

It’s hard to talk about Detroit without referencing its peer, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.  Spoiler alert: (not really) I’m giving both films the same rating– a solid 4 out of 5 stars. But when I wrote my review, I noted how white and male-centric Nolan’s choices were and why that rubbed me the wrong way.  Others have weighed in on whether telling the story this way whitewashes history, eliminating the contribution of non-white soldiers.

No matter where you come down on this argument, I want to make one thing extremely clear: these are artistic choices, and especially when you have directors like Nolan and Bigelow who have a large amount of creative control over the film (in the case of Nolan, he was acting as writer, director, and producer), these choices are worth pointing out and asking why.

Whenever a director makes a film that is completely white and completely male, that erases from the historical record the contribution of non-whites and non-males and contributes to a culture that says that white and male is standard, and everything else is an aberration.

That is not to say that Dunkirk is racist, or Christopher Nolan is racist. But they are films designed to do well at the box office by portraying white male heroism at its best, just as in hundreds of previous movies about white male heroism in World War II. And they are designed to be awarded by the Academy and other groups who judge films. It’s not that individual Oscar voters are racist– but there’s a reason #OscarsSoWhite was a thing, and it’s that a film like Dunkirk is designed to please that section of the audience. It is a movie that is everything we are told makes a movie great.

Let’s also be clear– Detroit is also designed to be that same sort of Oscar-bait, but for a completely different reason. When people talk about Hidden Figures, 12 Years a Slave, Fences, or Selma, they don’t bring up the same things a person brings up first when praising Dunkirk. They immediately go for talking about the racial aspect of the film and how heartbreaking it is, etc, etc.  It’s simply not the same sort of meritocracy we expect, or want, out of our prestige pictures. Even in judging the relative merits of movies, we hold movies with a racial element to a different standard. And that’s the difference between personal racism (let’s be clear– no one who needs to see this movie to understand what’s happening in terms of race in this country is going to see it or have their minds changed by it) and systemic bias. Oscar voters didn’t need to be personally racist to snub Ava DuVernay for best director for Selma and instead nominate Bennet Miller for Foxcatcher. (Yes, I’m still mad about that. Probably always will be.) But systemic biases can be in place that cause these outcomes.

As for directors’ choices, Nolan chose to make a war movie about World War II– a story that anyone who paid attention in history class knows about. He chose for his heroes archetypal British stiff-upper-lip types, especially the people he loves to work with, and did great with them!  Bigelow chose to make a movie about an incident largely forgotten, and also largely prescient in terms of the current state of affairs in 2017 with the Black Lives Matter movement responding to the murder and assault by police of hundreds of  African Americans across the country. She chose a story with a diverse cast and diverse characters. And even though there were two white women who were brutalized by the police as well, she never makes the story about them.  (As an aside, there are still not enough female roles in this film, especially not enough for women of color. Despite history being history. . .  well, I’m just tired of Samira Wiley showing up in a walk-on supporting role and not getting to do more– you know what I’m saying?) And she told her story in a gripping way that never lets the audience go. And despite the film’s dropping characters in a jarring and unsettling way, it serves the tone and theme of the film.

Nolan took an easy story to tell– one that has been told before in dozens of different ways– and made it intentionally hard with a chopped up timeline and continuity. Bigelow took a hard to tell story and delivers it seared and sizzling to the plate, but still raw and bloody in its center– “black and blue” as you would order it at a steak joint. Nolan chopped up the story and timeline to show off how smart and skilled he is. Bigelow chose to drop characters and make the audience uncomfortable for the sake of making them uncomfortable and in the mindset of what it must have been like to be in Detroit in 1967. They’re both ultimate craftsmen at the top of their game. But the reason they’re making unconventional choices is a world of difference.

So both of them are excellent films with a few flaws, but the context of why they are the way they are is all the difference.

Final thoughts

It’s pretty clear how much I liked this movie. I am still not perfectly comfortable with its problems, but I think it was a good way for Bigelow to get what she wanted. Again, this is one of those unfortunate films that everyone who needs to see it never will. And those who will probably already know– but hopefully this will fuel their passion to maybe make real changes in how we do things in our country. Bigelow might be preaching to choir, but someone needs to be passing out hymnals. And this is as good of a song as we’re going to get.

4 out of 5 stars

The Alt-Right’s Hero Based Stick Man is Coming to Comics

You might not know the name Brett R. Smith, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work through Image, Devil’s Due, Aspen and DC Comics. The colorist is now hoping to make money off of hate by delivering a comic for the pro-Donald Trump conservative movement hate group alt-right.

Smith is a staunch conservative and recently worked on the Clinton Cash graphic novel adaptation which Smith claims was commissioned by White House propagandist Steve Bannon in 2016 in an attempt to sway millennials. That graphic novel become a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Now Smith is working to bring the criminal controversial conservative web celebrity Kyle “Based Stick Man” Chapman to comics.

“Based Stick Man the Alt-Knight” was a nickname given to Chapman after a video featuring him assaulting Antifa protesters with a wooden rod went viral in March during protests at the University of California, Berkeley. He was arrested for the assault and spent a few days in jail during that time he became an alt-right white nationalist celebrity. Chapman has a long history of arrests including robbery, theft, and selling weapons which has led to repeated incarceration and parole violations.

While Chapman doesn’t consider himself racist, his wife is Asian and son half-Asian, he is the founder of the “virtually all-white Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights” and considers himself a “proud defender of ‘American nationalism'”. That has put him on the radar of hate group watchdogs like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. It shouldn’t be surprising he’s become a celebrity in the white power nationalist movement and that celebrity is being turned into a comic.

Now Smith, along with conservative comic writer Mike Baron (Nexus, The Badger), are bringing the racist icon to comics in hopes of taking on the “social justice warriors” in the comic industry. Baron has issues with companies changing the race and gender of characters to reflect the shifting demographics of America as opposed to creating new characters. Baron also apparently overlooks the comic industry’s past history of just slapping on “woman” or “girl” to an existing character (Batman, Batwoman, Batgirl) or long history of mantels being passed down (Hal Jordan to Jon Stewart and the apparently ok Hal Jordan to Guy Gardner).

Smith has said “This is not only a culture war, this is war. The highest form of warfare is to subvert the culture because you don’t have to raise a standing army. We’re never going to change the culture from Washington. We’re going to do it from comics, from movies.”

It’s unknown if Smith and Baron are aware of Chapman’s long rap sheet and their promotion of a repeat violent offender.

This isn’t the first conservative comic to be released and it certainly won’t be the last, but it’s the most blatant attempt for a cash grab to make money off of the alt-right movement in comics.

(via Mic)

Under The Fleur De Lys: A Closer Look at Quebec Superheroes

The patriotic superhero has been a staple of comics since Simon & Kirby’s Captain America. Canada has had a few of its own, beginning with the wartime adventurer Johnny Canuck, through Captain Canuck in the 1970’s, Northguard in the 1980’s and their recent reboots from Chapterhouse Comics. But what about superheroes from Quebec?

After all, Quebec is an important part of Canada, going back as far as 1763, when France ceded New France to the British. In 1791, the original Province of Quebec was divided at the Ottawa River into Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario). In 1841, the two were re-combined into the United Province of Canada. Finally, in 1867, Quebec became one of the founding provinces of the Dominion of Canada. In fact, the term “canadien” was originally used to mean francophones.

Knowing this, English-speaking Canadian writers generally feel it’s important to include Québécois characters in any Canadian series. But despite the best intentions of the creators, it is very difficult to write Quebec superheroes with authenticity.

First of all, there are not one, but two language barriers at work. Not only is it a challenge for  English-Canadian comics writers to write French fluently, but the French that is spoken and written in Quebec is unique. Joual, as it is known, is a highly-specific dialect, like Yiddish or Creole (some go so far as to call it a language of its own). Because of its historically lower-class status, it was not taught as “correct” French; even my peers who spent years in French immersion schools never learned how people in Quebec actually speak. Writing it is something else entirely: until the Quiet Revolution of the 1960’s, and the work of writers such as Réjean Ducharme and Michel Tremblay, joual rarely, if ever, appeared in print.

Toronto writers such as Kalman Andrasofszky (Captain Canuck, Agents of P.A.C.T.) and Meaghan Carter (La Fantôme) use translators for the dialogue of their Québécois characters. But this practice has its limits: in the case of Carter, her translator and proofreader (Mederic Berton and Xaviere Daumerie) are European and use expressions that, while French, are not Québécois. (“tu nous as fichu une sacrée pagaille,” for instance.) Also, as Andrasofsky pointed out to me (which I can confirm from my own experience), no two translators ever totally agree. To write Kébec’s working-class dialogue, Andrasofsky turns to a number of francophones, including Gabriel Morrissette, co-creator (with Mark Shainblum) of Fleur de Lys. For example, one person may translate “son-of-a-bitch” to Kébec calling an enemy “un câlisse,” but another may have gone another route. In the 1980’s Northguard stories written by Shainblum and drawn by Morrissette, Morrissette provided the Québécois dialogue.

Morrissette acknowledges that American readers simply don’t understand that Quebec French is different from European French. You can see that difference in the first appearance of Northguard, when a security guard calls in for backup when the hero blows past: “J’ai un fou qui se garroche en d’dans!” the guard exclaims in perfect joual. In Northguard, he and Shainblum worked hard to give the book authenticity: “If we were going to show Montreal, we were going to show it as it really was,” he told me.

But to show something as it really is requires research. Morrissette, having grown up with European comics as well as American, was used to artists who were able to do extensive research and use accurate references. But with the tighter production deadlines of American comics, “even three days to do research was a luxury!” Mark Shainblum, in writing Northguard and Fleur de Lys, was able to draw on the fact that he had grown up and lived in Montreal: “I was immersed in all of it. I grew up during the rise of Quebec nationalism and the election of the first PQ government in 1976 [the Parti Québécois’ raison d’être is to make Quebec an independent country] and all the psychological shocks to the system that meant for Quebec, anglophone and francophone alike.”

For La Fantôme, Carter visited Montreal and its Ecomuseum and collected reference photos. But, she adds, “I’ll be perfectly honest and admit I did absolutely zero research for the character’s background!… If the story was about being a Montrealer/Quebecker… then I would have placed a lot more importance on that kind of research – or would have felt completely out of bounds writing such a thing. However, I feel that Fantome’s story is not about her background and more about investigating the Ecomuseum and being a superhero, so that’s where I focused the writing on.” Andrasofszky echoed a similar reluctance, stressing that both Fleur de Lys and Kébec are “supporting characters in other peoples’ books.” He also pointed out that, in action series, no matter how much you want to put in, “you have to cut, and cut, and cut again… It’s hard to find the time. I just want to get to the alien invasion.”

So does the fact that these are stories in the superhero genre limit the writing of these Québécois characters? “Quebec as its own unique entity has little if nothing to do with Fantome’s story,” says Carter. About Kébec, Andrasofszky says that he didn’t want her language to define her character: “I didn’t want to say, ‘Oh, she’s francophone and therefore…’ She’s a number of different things.” He tries to give an impression of their background (using language to highlight  their class differences, for instance), but stresses that they are “living individuals that are more than the product of their culture.” As for Kébec and Fleur de Lys’ costumes, he was more circumspect: “It (Captain Canuck) is a book about a flag-wearing super-hero… It’s not about addressing politics… Maybe it’s a missed opportunity… I don’t know that I’m qualified to deal with that.”

I asked Shainblum if it was possible to have a flag-wearing superhero who was not political. “No,” he said. “And why would you even try? It defeats the purpose of the project… I mean, we struggled with it, Phillip Wise [Northguard] struggled with it himself.” On creating Fleur de Lys: “I wanted a Quebec-themed female character in the series, a yin to Northguard’s yang. And I wanted her to be a Quebec sovereignist to balance the maple leaf effect of Northguard, and give them a chance to actually discuss the issue and let me air some of my feelings about it.” Indeed, in New Triumph #4, Phillip and Manon discuss the Quebec independence movement in a way that’s surprisingly sympathetic, coming from an English Montrealer, and gives us insight into both characters and their motivations. Shainblum’s treatment of Manon Deschamps is by far the most authentic portrayal of a Quebec character in superhero comics, and an excellent example of the possibilities within the genre.

Quebec holds a unique place in Canada and North America. Its distinct language, culture, and history can be obstacles to creators from outside the province working fast to meet deadlines and genre conventions. But those challenges could also provide rich opportunities for those who take the time and make the effort to dig deeper below the surface of the fleur-de-lys flag.

Proceeds from Calexit to Fund the Become The Government SuperPAC

Superheroes are synonymous with comic books, while SuperPACs are ingrained in the current political landscape, and now there’s an unlikely crossover between the two worlds in the works. Matteo Pizzolo, the writer of Calexit and the co-founder of Black Mask Studios, is starting a SuperPAC called Become The Government to support first-time candidates from non-partisan backgrounds in the 2018 midterm elections. Pizzolo will contribute his writing royalties from the acclaimed ongoing Calexit comic book series to support Become The Government. Last week the first issue of the series by Pizzolo and artist Amancay Nahuelpan was released with a print run of 25,000. Within 24 hours, the book had sold out at the distribution level and at most major comic book retailers, prompting publisher Black Mask Studios to immediately initiate a second printing.

In Calexit, the citizens of California struggle to seize power back from an autocratic government. The ongoing series tells the story of Jamil, a 25-year old courier (aka smuggler), and Zora, a 27-year old leader in the Pacific Coast Sister Cities Resistance, who escape together from a prison camp in Occupied Los Angeles, where martial law has been in place for the past year —  ever since America’s demagogue President signed an executive order to deport all immigrants, and California responded by proclaiming itself a Sanctuary State. Each issue of Calexit will also include non-fiction material about local sustainability and grassroots campaigning for 2018 elections.

Become The Government will be an independent-expenditure-only political action committee focused on supporting first-time candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. The group, which will select candidates to support but will not donate directly to them nor coordinate directly with their campaigns, intends to advocate for candidates who bring fresh new ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the position.

Help Save Net Neutrality. Take Action Now!

take actionToday we’re standing in support of Net Neutrality here at Graphic Policy. You might notice the site acting weird, taking a bit to load for example, in an effort to show you what a world with Net Neutrality might be like.

There are many different definitions of what exactly Net Neutrality is, but it’s basically the ability to the go where you want and do what you want on the internet without extra charges, artificially slow accessibility or blockages.

Net Neutrality protects us the consumer. It stops internet providers from slowing down, degrading, or even blocking content or access to online content. It also prevents deals where those with deep pockets can pay to be heard over start-ups or other competitors. When over 70% of Americans have only one option for internet providers in their area, this is a big deal.

But here’s possible scenarios in a world without Net Neutrality, and outlines why this is important:

  • Your internet provider provides you the option to buy voice over internet from them, so they decide to degrade or block the competition, making them the only real option,
  • Your internet provider owns some of the content it delivers (for example Comcast and NBC) and block other services to watch the same or similar content so you have to use their video on demand service,
  • An exclusive deal is struck where a service, say a video game platform or digital comics platform, pay and become the only distributor or platform of that content through your internet provider,
  • Business pay, or people have to pay, to have their content delivered quicker, in an age where ever millisecond counts (think stock trading or online ticket buying). The haves can outpace the have-nots when it comes to online activities.

Internet1I can go on and on with these types of scenarios, and Comcast and Verizon have been fighting to end Net Neutrality and the internet as we know it. The idea of Net Neutrality is to keep the internet a free and open platform for innovation and expression.

Please take action now and contact the FCC and Congress to make your voice hear so sites like ours have an equal chance to be heard as those who can spend money to do so.

The Battle for the Net begins now!

San Diego Comic-Con Will Stay in San Diego Through 2021

Announced earlier today, San Diego Comic-Con will remain in the city of San Diego through 2021. The convention has an impact of $135 million dollars a year. Negotiations to stay took over a year.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer emphasized that improvements need to be made to expand the convention center and guarantee the convention stays in the city. Limited space is a concern for the convention, something mentioned multiple times through the presentation. Hotel space, and negotiations with local hotels, was also highlighted. Hotel prices and the difficulty of obtaining rooms has been a concern.

2019 is the 50th anniversary of the show.

You can watch the announcement below.

 

Six Days in Cincinnati: A Graphic Account of the Riots That Shook the Nation

In 2001, a young black man named Timothy Thomas was shot by police, and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati erupted in protest. It was the first major urban uprising since the Rodney King riots a decade previously in LA. Ten years later, Ferguson happened, and Cincinnati was largely forgotten. Until now.

Dan Mendéz Moore was 17 at a time and a budding activist. As an adult, he looks back at this life- and history-changing week, and through interviews with participant, vividly tells the story, in the form of a nonfiction graphic novel (or as we like to call it, comics journalism). This is the first non-academic book about this story. We hope it isn’t the last.

The result is moving, informative, and provides an immediacy and emotional urgency to the story that text alone rarely conveys. Discover this important and relevant piece of history.

You can get the riveting graphic novel Six Days in Cincinnati now from Microcosm Publishing.

 

 

 

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