Category Archives: Politics

Punisher Logo with “Blue Lives Matter” Gets Removed from Police Cars

The Punisher is a vigilante who uses murder, extortion, torture, kidnapping, and threats of violence in his war on crime. He’s also apparently what some police officers look up to. The Catlettsburg Police Department in Eastern Kentucky added the Punisher skull logo to eight police cars with the words “Blue Lives Matter.”

The design was spearheaded by Police Chief Cameron Logan who worked with a vinyl decal shop on Louisiana to print the decals (was there no decal shops in Kentucky!?). A similar decal is being sold by David Klotz Enterprises out of New Jersey. There it’s listed as the “Thin Blue Line Punisher Skull Window Decal.”

The design was approved by the city council and Mayor Randall Peterman. One member objected, but he was elected after the approval. His criticism is over the cost, not the message. The idea was to “give back to the police officers.” Which begs the question what is this “giving back?”

The Punisher is a vigilante who breaks the law by killing criminals, making himself judge, jury, and executioner. A veteran, he’s exactly what the police are being accused of, abusing the rights of individuals. The police chief sees it as a “warrior logo.” Which makes one wonder if he endorses what that skull logo represents.

This is the latest example of the mainstreaming of the Punisher who debuted in 1974 and has starred in numerous films and appeared in the second season of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil with his own solo television series soon debuting.

The character is the antithesis of the law and order police are supposed to represent. He has in fact murdered police officers in his “one man war.” Not to mention the irony of appropriating intellectual property without permission. You know, theft.

This isn’t the first time controversy over police using the logo has arisen. A Georgia SWAT team used the logo in a video showing off their militarization. The military has often used the symbol in units. If the Punisher is someone that police look up to, it’s no wonder so many citizens are being murdered by police.

(via Lexington Herald Leader)

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President Luthor and President Trump are More Similar Than You Think

lex-luthor-for-presidentThe most controversial election of all time!” That was a marketing line for the storyline run by DC Comics that saw Lex Luthor elected President of the United States in the DC Universe. Collected in the “President Lex” trade paperback, the story ran through the various series of the time from an impressive collection of creators. Having recently reread the collection, it’s a frighteningly prescient story far ahead of its time, primarily because it could have easily been talking about the recent election of Donald Trump.

Opening up with “The Why” by writer Greg Rucka and artist Matthew Clark, we get the motivations of Lex Luthor’s run as he makes an announcement about his decision to run. Surrounded by the Superman logo, we’re presented with a Lex Luthor whose ego has clearly been hurt and driven by a need to be in the spotlight. In a mostly wordless six pages we get a sense that Luthor is driven for his competition with the Man of Steel and needing to be in the spotlight and in charge. That sound familiar?

In 2012 it was reported that Trump’s decision to run was made partially due to his humiliation at a White House Correspondent’s dinner. According to Republican trickster Roger Stone, Trump’s motivation was partially an “I’ll show him” attitude to President Obama and the shade thrown Trump’s way at the event. It’s ego to him, and we’ve seen from his outbursts and Twitter tirades, the man is all ego. But that simple coincidence isn’t all when it comes to the Presidential run, and win, for the two celebrity businessmen turned politicians.

One of the biggest decisions a Presidential nominee can make is their Vice Presidential choice. In Trump’s case, it was Indiana Governor Mike Pence. In Luthor’s it is former Kansas Senator Pete Ross. In a weird coincidence, a real life Pete Ross ran for Shadow Senator for Washinton, DC. So, in both cases we have a “big city” businessman choosing a mid-west politician as their running mate.

As part of the story Luthor is accused of harming Atlantis with some technology and after “going to trial” he talks his way out of it with a settlement and offers to pay reparations for the damage done. Trump has at least 75 lawsuits against him and his businesses and infamously settled the Trump University case during his Presidential run.

While lots of empty talk continues, action hasn’t been taken to help the people of Flint, Michigan and the water crisis occurring there. Due to neglect and outright criminal action, the water is poisoned for the people and damage done to those who have already ingested so much of it. The people of Suicide Slum in Metropolis too have been hurt with water poisoned from Luthor’s upgrading of the city with alien technology. While some areas benefit, Suicide Slum is left behind by those in charge, the people left to rot.

Luthor’s business is much like Trump’s as well. Lex Luthor has Lex Tower, Trump has Trump Tower, both ruling out of it. Luthor turns over his company to Talia Head (actually Talia Al Ghul), but he doesn’t really give up control instead dealing with Talia directly.

The election itself has many parallels. The outcome isn’t a blowout, resulting in a close election going on well into the night, a reality of the Trump/Clinton race. Luthor, like Trump, plays the media to not just make over his persona but deliver his message to the people with free air time. Perry White on the other hand, ponders if there was more they could have done as the fourth estate during the election itself, a similar introspection that existed within the media after Trump’s election.

perry-white-fourth-estate

That hand-wringing extends to Superman and Batman. Both at a point debate if they should intervene to dig up dirt on Luthor. Superman is the the one who doesn’t want to, believing in the process and letting it play out, an attitude reflected by many who say we need to “stand with the President” and “give him a chance.”

aquaman-head-of-statePost election there are similarities. Luthor’s election is met with protests and he threatens to out Batman and his allies’ identities by using the NSA, FBI, CIA, and more. While we haven’t seen Trump directly do that, there’s some oddness concerning the current issues between the Trump administration and the intelligence community.

But, there’s a foreign policy move that’s odd. In one issue as part of the collection, Aquaman tells Superman that Luthor is the first world leader to reach out to Atlantis and take it seriously as a nation. The extended hand is something reminiscent of current talks with Russia and Trump’s willingness to praise the country so many see as an adversary. It’s a break in the previous foreign policy and one might argue, the right policy. Today, it would be easy to see the parallels, but this was originally published in 2000 and 2001.

What does the story tell us about President Trump’s future? President Luthor was impeached due to his going insane and trying to kill Superman. This was after a fairly competent run though. We haven’t seen that same competence out of President Trump, but talks of impeachment swirl about a month into his Presidency.

The Comics Are All Right: Now’s The Time to Be Political

greater_coat_of_arms_of_the_united_states-svgI began “The Comics Are All Right” feature to explore the inner workings of the comic book industry and give a take that’s focused more on data, facts, and examples, not opinion. And for the most part I’ve succeeded diving into actual sales numbers and trends, throwing out hypotheses as to the direction of the industry, giving examples of publishers and stores that are breaking the marketing mold, and more. And, I think I’ve done a decent job of staying away from opinion (Yes that is an opinion. The irony is not lost). But, this one is going to be opinion, sort of. Here we go:

The comic industry needs to get political!

Now, this particular column isn’t what you think it is. I’m not going to debate that politics and comics go hand in hand (they do and have a long history together). No, this is a call for the industry and publishers to become aware of possible legislation and policy changes over the next years and how it’ll impact them.

For almost seven years I worked as the Online Advocacy Director for the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA). During that period we monitored legislation and built campaigns to allow video game consumers to have a voice in the political process about legislation and proposals that directly impacted them. At times those campaigns overlapped with the needs and wants of the video game industry itself. We tackled issues ranging from censorship, broadband expansion, a Supreme Court case, video games and health, Net Neutrality, broadband caps, and more. I’m proud to say, we never lost a battle.

The comic industry will face legislative issues (they always do beyond censorship) and it’s time we recognize this, and do something beyond it. Here’s just a sampling of what we’ll likely have to deal with in the years to come and why it’s important.

Repeal of the ACA aka Obamacare – The pay for comic creators can be pretty low and add on top of that a lack of benefits and it’s clear that eeking out a living as a creator isn’t the easiest or most rewarding career there is. Freelance creators are forced to purchase their own healthcare through the ACA, from a union, a spouse, or through another job. That first option is currently at risk with threats of a repeal which will cost an estimated 18 million people their insurance in the first year.

Our insurance system is flawed, that’s not what this is about, this is about ensuring an easy way for self-employed individuals to gain insurance, not be discriminated against due to pre-existing conditions, and benefiting women and helping with their choice of birth control.

A repeal would increase costs by either putting some individuals in a high cost “risky pool,” deny coverage outright, or increase out of pocket benefits. It’s estimated that women will have to pay $1.4 billion in copay for birth control for instance.

That’s less money in the pockets of creators. More freelance jobs needed to take. Possibly greater cover prices due to the need to charge more by freelancers. Decreased health. Less money means less traveling for conventions. Less interaction because time spent online is time not spent earning money.

Quality of life will decrease for those in the industry.

What this means is the industry needs to start thinking of solutions. A guild through which freelancers could purchase insurance or publishers offering ways for creators to buy into their offerings are both solutions. Now is the time to think this through before it’s too late.

Import Tax – The Trump administration has threatened to create an import tax, the theory of which is it’ll force manufacturers to produce items in the United States. I’m not going to go into the legality of this or how flawed the economic theory is (that’s for another post). Instead, if it goes through, the import tax won’t be paid by corporations, it’ll be paid by the consumers. That $3.99 comic will now be $4.99 or $5.99. Nothing changes except higher retail prices which equates to fewer items sold, stores struggling further, and publishers cutting back or going out of business. No one gains in this scenario, from the consumer through to the publisher, we’re all screwed.

Repeal of Net Neutrality – If you sell digital comics or use the internet to market, you should care about this issue. At it’s basic core, Net Neutrality is the concept that like content online should be delivered at like speeds (it’s more complicated than that, but we’ll stick with the basics). If Comcast offers you internet and voip phone and another service offers voip, Comcast wouldn’t be able to slow down the competitor to benefit their service.

If Net Neutrality goes away the internet becomes pay for play with content producers shelling out money making it more difficult for upstarts to get noticed. It would allow internet providers to outright block content and websites. It could slow down connections making it more difficult for creators to talk to fans, their publishers, or fellow creators to work on projects.

That’s not even getting into data caps.

The Return of SOPA/PIPASOPA/PIPA is online censorship. The legislation was first put forth in 2011 and threats of new versions rear their ugly head every year. We beat it once. It doesn’t mean we will definitely beat it again.

European Rules on Copyright Infringement – Lets not focus on a “what if” and instead focus on the now. A current proposal by the European Commission would adopt new rules requiring platforms to scan and filter user uploads for copyright infringements.

Want to share that cool art? Yeah, not happening. Want to upload a gif? Nope.

SOPA/PIPA was a similar plan and was defeated here in the US, but this is one that’s being discussed, today. As is, the copyright system and its tools are broken. The DMCA is used in ways it wasn’t meant to and the one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. A rule like this is an affront to the rule of law and freedom of expression and if you’re in Europe, this should concern you.

Immigration and Travel – The Trump administration that has put out an Executive Order that has thrown our immigration and border system into chaos. Individuals are being asked to hand over their phones and unlock them even if they are US citizens. Not to mention the disturbing questions being asked and social media being mined. The EO threatens all of us, but if you’re a foreign creator or US creator (citizen or not) who has to return from overseas, I’d be nervous right now. Do you enjoy creators being flown from overseas to conventions? This could impact that, at a minimum.

Publishers, creators, and we the fans, need to organize and be aware. These issues will impact our enjoyment within the industry and the ability for publishers and creators to deliver. Now is the time to band together. Now is the time to build an apparatus to lobby and help speak on our behalf. Now is not the time to sit on the side and watch it all pass us by.

Seattle Comic Book Retailer Comics Dungeon Goes Non-Profit

c4c3Seattle comic book retailer Comics Dungeon has announced that it is getting rid of its for-profit status becoming a non-profit corporation. Comics Dungeon, Inc. will be changing its name to Comics for Community, Compassion and Culture, C4C3.

C4C3 will focus on raising money to bring more comics and graphic novels to libraries and the classroom. One hundred percent of all profits will be given to schools, educators, and libraries through a new grant program. The initial profits will come from the operation of Comics Dungeon, but there will be an expansion with fundraising programs to accept cash donations as well as comic aA nd related donations.

The store has been in operation for 25 years with the current owners Scott and Lainie Tomlin owning the store for 11 years.

In the announcement Scott Tomlin, C4C3’s president said:

After being part of the community for over 25 years, we wanted our focus to be giving back to the very community that built our success. The Comics Dungeon retail store name will remain the same.

Lainie Tomlin, the company’s vice president said:

Our goal is to encourage more willing readers, including English language learners, and across many topics and genres.

Joining them on the board of directors are Kazu Kibuishi, 15-year comic creator of the bestselling Amulet, Flight and Copper series, Rob Salkowitz, educator, columnist and author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture”, Tracy Williams, education activist, experienced educator and curriculum director in Washington state public schools at Walla Walla School District, Spokane School District and Seattle Pacific University.

Congrats on the change and looking forward to seeing what you all do with the new status!

Raise $ for the ACLU by shopping with Birdcage Bottom Books

Birdcage Bottom Books is committed to ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard and that everyone is treated fairly and equally. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has worked for over 100 years to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

For the month of February, when you buy any products from BBB or any of the following artists/publishers, 50% of the sales will be donated to the ACLU:

ALCHEMY COMIX/Jonathan Baylis Jeffrey Lewis
Pat Barrett Jesse Londergan
Josh Bayer Alec Longstreth
Marek Bennett Jonas Madden-Connor
BIGUGLYROBOT PRESS/Adam Pasion Daniel McCloskey
BIRDCAGE BOTTOM BOOKS/J.T. Yost Justin Melkmann
Kevin Budnik Ben Mitchell
ASTRO PLUS PRESS/Josh Burggraf Chris Monday
Kevin Cannon Hazel Newlevant
William Cardini NINTH ART PRESS / Dan Mazur
Aaron Cockle Alabaster Pizzo
CZAP BOOKS/Kevin Czapiewski Ansis Purins
Glynnis Fawkes Desmond Reed
Hugo Fitzgerald RETROFIT/BIG PLANET COMICS/Box Brown
Mike Freiheit ROBOT PUBLISHING CO./Robert Goodin
Katie Fricas R. Sikoryak
Tatiana Gill Holly Simple
Delaine Derry Green Sam Spina
GRINDSTONE COMICS/L. Nichols Whit Taylor
Ayun Halliday Meghan Turbitt
HIC & HOC PUBLICATIONS/Matt Moses Sophia Wiedeman
Paul Hoppe Jess Worby
Gideon Kendall Eddie Wright
KILGORE BOOKS/Dan Stafford Jeff Zwirek

bbb-aclu

The UN Teams with The Smurfs for The International Day of Happiness

smurfs-startThe United Nations Foundation is teaming up with the Smurfs for a smurftastic program called “Small Smurfs Big Goals” to help promote The International Day of Happiness which takes place March 20.

The day of celebration began in 2013 as a “way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of human beings around the world. The day is also a good opportunity to highlight the Sustainable Development Goals, a global plan of action that, if achieved, will lead to the well-being of all people. These 17 interlinked goals, adopted by the 193 Member States of the United Nations, protect our people and our planet so that everyone, no matter where they live, can live their happiest lives.”

The Smurfs will help promote the plan to protect all people and the environment through the 17 goals listed below:

  1. No Poverty – End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. Zero Hunger – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Good Health and Well-Being – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Quality Education – Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
  5. Gender Equality – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation – Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth – Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure – Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Reduced Inequalities – Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities – Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Climate Action – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Life Below Water – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
  15. Life on Land – Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
  17. Partnership for the Goals – Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The Smurfs is a Belgian comic franchise created in 1958 by the writer/artist Peyo.

This is the second comic book characters the United Nations has teamed up with in the last year to help promote a program of theirs. In October 2016 the United Nations designated Wonder Woman as an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. In March 2016, Red from Angry Birds was appointed Honorary Ambassador for Green for last year’s International Day of Happiness. The United Nations was criticized for the Wonder Woman appointment, but nary a mention from individuals about Red or the Smurfs…

You can click to watch the advertisement being run now to promote the team-up below.

Can Star Wars’ Rebel Alliance Be a Force of Resistance to Trump? Listen on Demand and Find Out.

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

Stories of resistance to tyranny are a powerful Force for change (pun intended). Star Wars‘ mythos are more relevant than ever and we’ll be discussing fan communities using Star Wars to fight the Empire with Brian Young.

Brian works on the Imagine Better campaign to form a Rebel Alliance for a better Star Wars fandom.

Young has produced political documentaries for the Disinformation Company and written for Huffington Post about politics since 2007, but he’s also a big Star Wars fan. He writes for StarWars.com and Star Wars Insider Magazine and hosts one of the largest Star Wars podcasts: Full of Sith. He talks regularly about Star Wars and politics, but only occasionally at the same time, but not for lack of wanting to.

He is @swankmotron on twitter.

Can Star Wars’ Rebel Alliance Be a Force of Resistance to Trump?

rebel-symbolStories of resistance to tyranny are a powerful Force for change (pun intended). Star Wars‘ mythos are more relevant than ever and we’ll be discussing fan communities using Star Wars to fight the Empire with Brian Young.

Listen to the latest episode of Graphic Policy tonight at 10pm ET.

Brian works on the Imagine Better campaign to form a Rebel Alliance for a better Star Wars fandom.

Young has produced political documentaries for the Disinformation Company and written for Huffington Post about politics since 2007, but he’s also a big Star Wars fan. He writes for StarWars.com and Star Wars Insider Magazine and hosts one of the largest Star Wars podcasts: Full of Sith. He talks regularly about Star Wars and politics, but only occasionally at the same time, but not for lack of wanting to.

He is @swankmotron on twitter.

Listen to the show when it airs live tonight at 10pm ET.

PETA Takes Aim at Games Workshop and Warhammer

peta-facebook-logoPETA, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, has sent a letter to Games Workshop CEO Kevin Rountree asking for fur garments to be removed from their “Warhammer characters.” Warhammer is two games and settings Warhammer Fantasy/Warhammer: Age of Sigmar are fantasy based and Warhammer 40K is a futuristic grimdark world. Both games are tabletop miniature games where players build physical model kits creating an army to battle their opponents. Both games’ stories are violent featuring over the top violence, demons, fascist rules, xenophobia, and genocide. But, it’s the treatment of make believe animals that has PETA up in arms, not the Slaanesh hoards wearing human skin.

The letter reads:

I’m writing to you on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to ask that you consider removing “fur” garments from your Warhammer characters at the next opportunity.

From the mighty Leman Russ and Horus Lupercal to Chaos Warriors and the Sisters of Silence, Warhammer features an abundance of characters who wear what appear to be animal pelts, which just doesn’t add up. These battle-hardened warriors are known for their martial prowess – but wearing the skins of dead animals doesn’t take any skill.

Indeed, nothing on the bloody battlefields of Warhammer’s war-torn world could match the horrific reality that foxes, minks, rabbits, and other living beings experience at the hands of the fur trade. Those killed for their fur typically first endure a bleak life inside a tiny, filthy wire cage before being electrocuted, drowned, or even skinned alive. Or they may be out minding their business and get caught in horrific bone-crushing steel-jaw traps – often languishing for days before eventually dying of hunger, thirst, or blood loss.

And while we appreciate that these are fictional characters, draping them in what looks to be a replica of a dead animal sends the message that wearing fur is acceptable – when, in fact, it has no more place in 2017 than it would in the year 40,000.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

5th-edition-njalWhile the letter is interesting it shows a lack of knowledge of the worlds Games Workshop has created, either ignoring the fantasy setting or conflating the two games, not to mention some of the claims… they clearly haven’t read any of Chaos’ tomes. Some of that makes what happens to animals fuzzy happy times.

The tabletop miniature game’s world has also been depicted in novels, animated film, and comic books. Currently, Titan Comics is publishing two series set in the world.

This isn’t the first time PETA has stepped into the world of geekdom. The organization has criticized various video games in the past and even used video games to help promote their cause. I look forward to their eventual tabletop miniature wargame rules set.

Roxane Gay Pulls Her Book from Simon & Schuster Due to Milo Deal

roxane-gayAuthor, professor, editor Roxane Gay has announced that she is pulling her next book from Simon & Schuster in response to the publisher’s decision to publish a book by alt-right leader/figurehead Milo Yiannopoulos.

The book, How to Be Heard was to be published in March 2018 by TED Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The controversy began when the publisher announced it would publish a book by Yiannopoulos with a $250,000 advance. He’s a high-profile leader of the alt-right and has organized harassment campaigns against those he disagrees with for the lulz. He rose to prominence through GamerGate, the online troll group mainly focused on video games, when he latched onto their cause.

On Monday the CEO of the publisher sent a letter to authors that the upcoming Yiannopoulos book would not contain hate speech (though one wonders how much will be plagiarized).

Gay said she wasn’t interested in doing business with a publisher that would give Milo a platform.

Though TED Books and Threshold are vastly different imprints, they both reside within Simon & Schuster and so I guess I’m putting my money where my mouth is. And to be clear, this isn’t about censorship. Milo has every right to say what he wants to say, however distasteful I and many others find it to be. He doesn’t have a right to have a book published by a major publisher but he has, in some bizarre twist of fate, been afforded that privilege. So be it. I’m not interested in doing business with a publisher willing to grant him that privilege. I am also fortunate enough to be in a position to make this decision. I recognize that other writers aren’t and understand that completely.

You can read her full statement at Buzzfeed.

The issue with Simon & Schuster extends to the comic book industry for many reasons, just one of which is the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s signing onto a letter defending the book publisher and decrying what they see as censorship.

Gay herself is a comic book writer herself and currently writes Black Panther: World of Wakanda published by Marvel Comics. Marvel’s CEO Ike Perlmutter is a Trump supporter and will be involved in some compacity with the administration. It’s unknown if her boss’ stance there will impact her further involvement with the comic publisher.

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