Category Archives: Politics

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 Daumeri) 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.

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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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Saturday is “Neal Adams Day” in Syracuse

Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con is excited to announce that the Honorable Stephanie A. Miner, Mayor of the City of Syracuse, has proclaimed Saturday, June 24, to be “Neal Adams Day”.

Neal Adams, the prolific and trend-setting comic artist, is best known for his groundbreaking comic art on characters like Batman, Green Arrow, Superman and the X-Men. Adams is respected for his innovative work in advertising and his passionate efforts championing creators’ rights. Adams is the Guest of Honor at Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con this weekend, June 24th and 25th.

The proclamation recognizes that “Neal Adams has been inspiring generations with his skills and vision for the past five decades in comics, graphic novels, and advertising, with his artistic trailblazing, integrity and innovation.

Neal Adams will be meeting fans at his exhibition booth on the showroom floor during this two-day event in downtown Syracuse’s Oncenter.

Our own Brett Schenker will moderate the highly anticipated Neal Adams Panel Discussion Sunday in the Oncenter’s “Hall of Justice” from noon to 1:00 pm.

Neal Adams will also be making a pre-show appearance at Larger Than Life Toys & Comics in the Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY. The event is scheduled from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Thursday, June 22nd and there is no admission fee.

Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con, celebrating its fourth year, moves to the Oncenter’s War Memorial building in downtown Syracuse this weekend, June 24th and 25th. This pop-culture convention focuses on comics, toys, games, cosplay and collectibles. Pre-sale tickets are available online.

Join the Wonder Woman Tweet Chat with #PopPoliticsChat this Wednesday

Wonder Woman is a cultural phenomenon from playgrounds to Hollywood. A character and then movie designed with feminist intent has captivated audiences and become this summer’s biggest hit.

What does Wonder Woman have to say about women’s struggles with patriarchy and which bullets of oppression does she fail to deflect with her magic bracelets?

How are fans already using the movie to organize for women’s empowerment and can the movie be an entry point for better representation moving forward? Can Wonder Woman live up to her potential and can organizers use the box office hit to promote an agenda of social change?

Join us to discuss these questions and more on Twitter for the next #PopPoliticsChat on Wednesday, June 21st at 9 pm ET.

The panelists:

Anita Jackson is MomsRising’s Digital Communications Director. MomsRising.org is an on-the-ground and online grassroots organization of more than a million people who are working to achieve economic security for all moms, women, and families in the US. Anita leads creative communications campaigns that center marginalized voices, support policy-changing grassroots action, and drive organizational growth. Anita’s work on strategic intersectional communication is integrated with every campaign. On Twitter as @Anita_Sarah

Cher Martinetti is a NYC based entertainment & pop culture journalist, humor writer, and host. She’s the founder & managing editor of Syfy Wire’s Fangrrls, a female centric genre vertical on Syfy Wire that launched in 2016. She’s the host of the popular podcast The Churn, the official post-show wrap-up podcast of Syfy’s critically acclaimed space opera The Expanse. In 2017 she cofounded Legion of Women Writers: a professional networking group for women writers that aims to address various issues women writers face in the workplace, such as sexism, sexual harassment, equal pay, and representation in media. On Twitter as @TheCherness

Caitlin Rosberg is a writing, knitting, tea drinking, baking machine with all the requisite robotic enhancements. She is obsessed with her dog and b-list comic book characters named Jim. A regular at Ladies’ Night at Graham Cracker Comics in the Loop, she’s also an editor and counter-of-beans for the Ladies’ Night Anthology, as well as a contributor to the A.V. Club’s Comics Panel. She likes talking and writing about the importance of safe spaces in nerd culture, how to start your own ladies’ night, independent publishing, and diversity in comic books. Ask her about Rhodey. On Twitter as @crosberg.

Suggested Reading/Listening:

Thank Goddess Wonder Woman isn’t Straight: Towards a Better DCEU.  (Comics Beat)  

Graphic Policy Podcast. Wonder Woman: Sex, Race and Walking Away From Explosions Like a Badass.

My Soul Looks Back and Wonders: A Critical Examination of the Wonder Woman Movie  (Son of Baldwin)

The Revolution Won’t Be Saved By Wonder Woman — And That’s Okay  (The Establishment)

Wonder Woman Refuses to Celebrate Violence (Graphic Policy)

On Baseball, Bipartisanship, and Looney Tunes

On Thursday night, Democrats beat Republicans by a score of 11-2 in an annual charity baseball game. And if this were normal political reporting, that would be the only thing that mattered. Scoreboard, scoreboard, scoreboard.

Congressional Leaders at baseball game

Who are these jerks, anyway?

Because it’s simple for the media to report basic facts: polls, standings, vote counts. But think about your life– is there a series of metrics or key performance indicators that can truly reflect your life, your work, your relationships, or the things that really matter? And yet that is how most of us view Congress– through the endless fascination with the scoreboard.

Herein, in my inaugural article (I promise I’ll start talking about movies, comics, and TV soon), I want to talk about baseball, I want to talk about partisanship and the twin-headed dragon that brought us here, and also how, of all things, Looney Tunes offers us a way forward– past just scoreboard, scoreboard, scoreboard.

Because this annual charity baseball game is so much more. Members of Congress describe it as one of the highlights of their year, building important bipartisan relationships. Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) choked up in a segment on NPR describing his *gasp!* friendship with Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan: “I’ve struck him out on a curve ball a couple of years ago, and every time we see each other, we talk about that. And he just came up and gave me a hug. And it is – it tells you how much we share that’s just something away from this.” (emphasis added)

Decrying “partisanship” is not new– it was well documented in numerous academic articles and journalistic exposes, including Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin in her 2007 book Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship Is Poisoning the House of Representatives, where she noted Democrats and Republicans don’t even go to the same cocktail parties any more. People long for the days when Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan would get together for drinks.

Bipartisanship seems the cause celebre of every would-be “centrist” “thought leader” inside the DC bubble who claims that both sides are equally as fault and if only everyone was just “nice” to each other, things would be ok. This is not that article.

Because it not only views relatively recent history through rose-colored glasses, but also paints an unrealistic expectation of what we want and what we desire. Responding to his father being namechecked by both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 debates, Tip O’Neill’s son pointed out the many ways his father fought Reagan and his agenda tooth and nail.

So, what changed? Did we change? Have we gotten meaner? Who started this slide towards more partisanship?

Rather than cast blame immediately (duh, everyone knows it’s the Republicans’ fault!) I’d rather talk about systemic issues that poison the environment for everyone, making a charity baseball game the rarity rather than the norm. Those two systemic issues are money and gerrymandering.

The amount of money flowing into our elections has exploded. The cost of Congressional Elections has nearly doubled since the 1990s, and had its largest jump between the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. What happened then? Citizens United v FEC, of course. And it’s worth noting we don’t even know how much money has been spent by SuperPACs since then, as none of that spending has to be disclosed.

The average member of Congress spends far more time in their work week dialing for dollars and less time actually governing– with the parties demanding they spend 30 hours a week dialing for dollars and being told to raise ridiculous sums like $18,000 dollars per day.

And, of course, who gives money and what motivates donors? Stories of bipartisan cooperation? Or shows of bravado and signalling your opposition to the other side? If your issue is (abortion, taxes, health care), you will not be motivated to help someone who is “selling out” to, cooperating with the other side– you will fund a filibusterer if it prevents your most hated bill from becoming law. This creates and reinforces the in-group/out-group dynamic that turns political parties into merely the teams wearing the other jersey.

And the second issue is gerrymandering. With members of Congress increasingly likely to live in “safe” districts whose only real challenge could come in the primary, you have every incentive to be as far right or far left as possible. Rarely do primary challengers win based on the idea that “we just need to work with the other side more.”

And so these issues, since they are systemic, exist in both parties. But, rather than fall trap to the fallacy that since both sides have the problem they are both equally at fault, let’s be very clear that the overwhelming beneficiaries of more money and more gerrymandering have been Republicans. And very few of them, and none in their leadership, are working on campaign finance reform or redistricting reform. Indeed, many are flatly opposed.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

By removing Big Money and Gerrymandering from the system, we can remove at least some of the systemic issues that keep Republicans and Democrats from working together. But I mentioned Looney Tunes, and that’s where I’m going to end.

Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf are two slightly less-well-known characters from the Chuck Jones classic era, and folks will notice the similarities between Ralph and Wile Coyote. But the key conceit of these cartoons is that Sam and Ralph live together, are friends, and then punch the clock and are immediately working at cross-purposes– usually to inflict violence upon the other.

It is definitely naive to think our politics can be this way. But it’s a nice dream. I’m not saying it’s possible, I’m saying it is worth striving for and far superior to our present situation.

I don’t want our politics to be some mealy-mouthed wishy-washy bland amalgam of discourse, any moreso than I would want to go to a baseball game to see weak hitting, poor pitching, and incompetent fielding. Give me the best– a real challenge of wills with everyone bringing their best. I want grand debates about real issues, and the best ideas clashing against the best issues. I want Republicans and Democrats at each others’ rhetorical throats reminiscent of other great debates among great thinkers in our past.

But I don’t want them to hate each other. I don’t want us to hate each other. And this week– hell, these last six months  several years– we’ve seen what happens when we allow infantile debate and personal vitriol to replace grand ideas.

We should be Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf– and when the workday is over, we punch the clock and go have a drink together. We should be the Yankees and the Red Sox during a tight pennant race. We should try to overcome those things that divide us so a single yearly baseball game isn’t the only highlight members of Congress look forward to where they forge real relationships among political rivals.

Play ball.

MAD Magazine, Get MAD About Trump!

Are you MAD About Trump? There is no president in American history more deserving of being mercilessly mocked, relentlessly ridiculed and savagely satirized than Donald Trump. Luckily, MAD Magazine is here to do the job! #MADaboutTrump 

An all-out comedic assault on the most idiotic idiot ever to reach the White House (George W. Bush and visitors included)! In these 128 pages, is a full-out assail to the chief, spoofing every aspect of Donald Trump’s career.

eaturing a foreword by CNN correspondent Jake Tapper, this book offers MAD’s best reprinted material with the sharpest satiric shots at “The Donald,” comically chronicling his rise from obnoxious businessman to really obnoxious reality show host to uber obnoxious “Commander-in-Tweet.” It’s going to be very, very, very good. Very good.

Please note: MAD will not offer refunds on this book in the likely event of President Trump’s impeachment. Sad!

MAD About Trump: A Brilliant Look at Our Brainless President will be available in bookstores everywhere on Tuesday, June 20th.

Live Long and Run for Congress? Star Trek Actor Running for Congress.

Actor J.G. Hertzler, who played Klingon General Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is running for Congress against Rep. Tom Reed in New York’s 23rd District which extends along New York’s border with Pennsylvania from the shores of Lake Erie in Chautauqua County to the suburbs of Binghamton in Tioga County. Hertzler filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission to run as a

In the announcement, he said he “disagree(s) with everything Reed supports, including his unrelenting support of Trumpster.”

Hertzler filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission to run as a Demcorat for the seat.

But, there’s a twist!

Hertzler will be making appearances some times as himself and some times as Mark Twain. Hertzler sees this as a “valentine” to Samuel Clemens who used the pen name of Twain. Hertzler sees Twain as a brilliant humorist for all ages.

Hertzler is currently an elected town board member in Ulysses, NY.

(via The Hill)

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