Tag Archives: LGBTQ

8 Awesome Things to Do At C2E2 2018

From April 6 to April 8, 2018, Chicago will be the center of the  pop culture universe thanks to the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), which is held annually at McCormick Place right on Lake Michigan. C2E2 boasts of wide range of guests, who have worked in different mediums, including legendary comics creators, like Jim Lee, Chris Claremont, and Brian Michael Bendis; actors from your favorite cult and sci-fi shows like Alan Tudyk and Charlie Cox, big time novelists like Chicago native Veronica Roth and R.L. Stine, and even podcasters like the creators of The Adventure Zone. There’s really something for everyone at this con.

Graphic Policy will be attending C2E2 on Saturday and Sunday, but here’s a completely subjective rundown of eight of the coolest guests, exclusives, panels , screenings, and of course, after parties that will be going on all three days at the temporary mecca of fandom.

Friday

8. Have an IPA Courtesy of Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics, who has the third largest superhero universe after DC and Marvel, has teamed up with Pipeworks Brewing Company to create a special limited edition beer that will be sold on site at C2E2 as well as Pipeworks’ bottle shop and a few other stores in Illinois and New York. Last year’s beer was connected to the relaunch of Valiant flagship title, X-O Manowar, but this year, it’s named after Livewire, a member of the superhero team Unity.  Going along with her name, Livewire has electricity-based powers, and so her beer: Livewire Raspberry IPA with Lime has a bit of tartness to go with its hoppy beer base.

I’m super into both sour beers and IPAs and look forward to relaxing with the Livewire Raspberry IPA after a long day of crowds and walking at C2E2. The drink pairs nicely with a copy of Shadowman #1, a relaunch of Valiant’s mystical themed superhero, which has an exclusive cover by its interior artist Stephen Segovia that is only available at the convention.

TravisandFriends

7. Enjoy An Evening with Podcast Royalty aka Travis and Friends

The McElroy Brothers (Travis, Justin, and Griffin) have established a veritable empire of podcasts since their advice show My Brother, My Brother, and Me premiered in 2010. Their shows include The Adventure Zone, a Dungeon and Dragons podcast featuring their father Clint, which is getting a graphic novel from First Second Books and Shmanners, an etiquette podcast co-hosted by Travis and his wife Teresa McElroy.

After the first day of C2E2, fans of these and other podcasts can kick back and relax at a special An Evening with Travis and Friends, which is basically the Avengers of current podcasts. The show features Travis McElroy, Teresa McElroy, and Symphony Sanders, who played librarian slaying and child soldier commanding Tamika Flynn on the uber popular Welcome to Nightvale. It should be fun time with plenty of surprises.

Saturday

BendisMillar

6. Remember the Ultimate Universe at the Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis Panel

So, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar have definitely done a lot more comics than Ultimate Marvel ones, but I find it slightly hilarious that the original co-writers of Ultimate Fantastic Four are going to be teaming up for a “one on one” panel at 11 AM on the Main Stage at C2E2.

Both veteran creators are at turning points in their careers with Bendis signing an exclusive deal with DC Comics to write Action Comics and Superman as well as his creator owned Jinxworld books, like Powers, and his own special imprint. In contrast, Millar has disavowed the Big Two and sold his comics company, Millarworld, to Netflix where they will make shows and films based on his work. (Fingers crossed for a Starlight movie.)

It will be interesting to see two former Marvel architects talk about their new gigs, and hopefully there will be some good banter about how most of Bendis’ writing is like a stage play and most of Millar’s is a screenplay… (Alias and Old Man Logan are classics though.)

BlackComicsmonth

5. The #BlackComicsMonth Panel Comes to C2E2

When I went to New York Comic Con in 2015, the #BlackComicsMonth panel, hosted by Tee Franklin (Bingo Love) was one of the most inspirational parts of the con and was very hard to get into. What makes this panel so excellent is that Franklin chooses a range of comic book creators to speak from their own experience about important topics like diversity, living with a disability, mental health, and POC and LGBTQ representation.

For the first time ever, the #BlackComicsMonth: Inclusion in Comics Panel is headed to the Midwest and will be held at 3 PM in Room S405A. The panelists include Franklin, Mikki Kendall (Swords of Sorrow), Shawn Pryor (Cash and Carrie),  Matt Santori (Senior Editor of Comicosity), and in the past, there have been surprise guests like The Walking Dead actor and multimedia entrepreneur Chad Coleman. It should be an excellent discussion about real world issues and a nice break from the hyperbole and announcements of some of the other panels.

DaphneVelma

4. Catch the World Premiere of Daphne & Velma

Let’s be real, Daphne and Velma were easily the most competent and best members of the Scooby Doo gang. They finally get their own live action film in Daphne & Velma, which is having its world premiere at C2E2 before it is released straight to DVD and BluRay on May 22.

The movie is set at a super high tech STEM magnet school called Ridge Valley High where Internet friends Daphne and Velma get to be friends in real life and solve their first zombie themed mystery. Sarah Jeffery (Descendants, upcoming Charmed reboot) plays Daphne, and Sarah Gilman (Kroll Show) plays Velma. The film is produced by Ashley and Jennifer Tisdale’s Blondie Girl company and looks super adorable.

Snikt

3. Party Hard at Geeks Out Snikt! Chicago

There are a lot of after parties to choose from at C2E2, but Snikt! Chicago is one of the best and not just because it’s Wolverine themed. Geeks Out is a super cool non-profit organization that founded FlameCon as the first LGBTQ comic book convention, and their goal is to foster LGBTQ awareness and representation at cons all across the country.

The party will be held at Mary’s Attic, the upstairs part of Hamburger Mary’s in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago starting at 9 PM. It will feature drag queens, gender clowns, circus arts, and of course, DJ Tony Breed to flood the dance floor. It’s a 21+ event, and cover is $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

Sunday

WomenofMarvel

2. Be Enlightened at the Women of Marvel Panel

Even though it has taken them until 2019’s Captain Marvel to get a solo female superhero film off the ground, Marvel Comics boasts a fantastic range of female superheroes from Storm to Angela, Kitty Pryde to Jessica Jones. (Okay, those are some of my personal favorites.) The Women of Marvel celebrates their female comics creators as well as the characters on the comics page.

This year’s Women of Marvel panelists, include producer Judy Stephens (Marvel Becoming), editor Christina Harrington (Astonishing X-Men), colorist Rachelle Rosenberg (Iceman), artist Jen Bartel (America), and writer/artist Katie Cook (Secret Wars: Secret Love.) It will be held at 1:30 PM in Room S404. My fingers are crossed for more details about Bartel’s upcoming Storm solo book that she is working on with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

1. Get All the Feels at the This Is Us  Q and A

I feel like everyone in my office and family watches the NBC hit series This Is Us except me. The show follows the lives of three siblings, who were born on the same day as their father, Jack Pearson (Played by Milo Ventimiglia). It is fairly ambitious for a network TV show and has storylines set in 1980s Pittsburgh as well as modern day. In 2017, Sterling K. Brown won an Emmy and Golden Globe for his performance as Randall Pearson, Jack’s adopted son.

Sadly, Brown won’t be at C2E2, but his co-stars Milo Ventimiglia and Justin Hartley, who play Jack’s son Kevin are doing a panel at 1:30 PM on the Main Stage and can maybe tell everyone what was up with the whole Crockpot ordeal. These actors also have a history of appearing in superhero shows like Heroes and Smallville where Justin Hartley played Oliver Queen years before Arrow. Also, there better be at least one question about Ventimiglia’s rebellious bookworm character Jess from Gilmore Girls. #TeamJessForever

Review: Iceman #11

ICEMAN #11 1Sina Grace ends his run on Iceman with a strong standalone story where Bobby overcomes his neuroses, freakouts about his past and possibly leading his own X-Men team, and a trigger happy team-up buddy in Rictor to help his parents’ neighbor, Mr. Poklemba, come to terms with being a mutant. Robert Gill and Rachelle Rosenberg handle the art duties for the main story while Grace does his first Marvel interiors with flashbacks of Bobby’s life as a young boy and X-Man as he comes to terms with being both a mutant and gay. Grace looks at how religion can (Catholicism in Bobby’s case.) influence one’s coming out as queer in a negative way and provides a fuller look at

Even if Iceman #11 deals with some heavy subject matter, like a priest repudiating young Bobby Drake’s status as a mutant and his parents discussing if they did something wrong with him to be one, Grace and Gill don’t abandon the comedy and dad jokes. After a one page cold open of Bobby’s ideal life, they cut to an extremely awkward pho “date” featuring him and Rictor where they talk about their exes way too much Also, lunch dates are the unsexiest of all dates.

One of my qualms with Iceman as a series has been Bobby’s  lack of interactions with other queer superhero  in a non-hostile way (*cough* Daken), and Grace and Gill remedy this in Iceman #11. Bobby and Rictor banter about how Iceman’s neurotic jokes might be a little bit of a turn-off and then they get to go on a mission together and talk the mutantphobic, telekinetic mutant Mr. Poklemba off the ledge. Rictor sees this team-up as a straight-up neutralizing a violent mutant adventure of the week while it’s more personal for Bobby. Either way, Rosenberg’s scarlet palette coming from a house is never a good sign.

NotAMutant

Sina Grace, Robert Gill, and Rachelle Rosenberg hit the right sweet spot between action spectacle and character introspection in Iceman #11. There’s a sort of silly scene where Rictor is getting tired of Bobby musing over how to reach out to Mr. Poklemba and is about to just knock the new mutant out, and Gill draws a montage of Bobby offering him an ice flower and wearing an ice helmet and wielding an ice sword until he finally ices down, introduces himself as Bobby and Madeline’s kid, and generally interacts with Poklemba on a human level.

Mr. Poklemba is pretty terrible with a house that is the opposite of clean, press clippings about all the bad things the X-Men have done, and has a religious hatred towards mutants, but Bobby doesn’t attack him and tries to help him through a heart to heart conversation. These scenes exhibit his growth as a character, and why he would make a great X-Men team leader because he chooses empathy over brute force and uses his abilities to defuse situations and not ramp them up. For example,  because he has the ability to manipulate the temperature of water molecules, he tells Mr. Poklemba to lower his body temperature so that the rage fueling his ability subsides. He is calm and a helping hand (And has a great ass, I had to.) in the middle of a storm and helps Poklemba  realize that maybe being a mutant isn’t as bad as he thought. Just because you have powers doesn’t mean you have to be a superhero or terrorist.

Iceman #11 has insightful flashbacks where Sina Grace shows his skill as an artist and riffs off the style of Jack Kirby, (possibly) Steve Ditko for the sad young Bobby at home scenes, Jim Lee, and even Stuart Immonen plus a plot featuring a one two-punch of cool ice/earthquake powers and human empathy. The series as a whole has been up and down, but Grace, Robert Gill, and Rachelle Rosenberg end it on a positive note with Bobby starting to realize his potential as both an X-Man and a single, gay man.

Story: Sina Grace Art: Robert Gill, Sina Grace Cover: Kevin Wada
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Group Editor: Mark Paniccia Editor: Chris Robinson Consulting Editor: Darren Shan
Story: 8.2 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Movie Review: A Fantastic Woman

a_fantastic_woman posterIt’s easy to see why A Fantastic Woman, a Chilean drama, is nominated for “Best Foreign Language Film” in this year’s Oscars. It’s a beautiful, empathetic depiction of a trans woman and all of the obstacles she faces.

Marina (Daniela Vega) is a talented singer whom we first meet performing in a nightclub singing a song about how “your love is like yesterday’s newspaper.” She has just moved in with an older man, Orlando (Francisco Reyes), when he falls ill and dies. Dealing with the grief of the loss of her love is compounded when she faces aggressions both micro and macro from Orlando’s family, the police, and society at large because of her status as a trans woman.

Her performance is heartbreaking and layered as we see her deal with her grief while also fending off so much else. It’s hard to watch at times because director Sebastián Lelio puts us through the same emotional journey. But it’s beautiful and complex in ways most films about dealing with loss and grief aim for, but never quite reach.

We are also taken on a journey, falling in love with her and seeing why Orlando fell for her too, as we see just what an amazing, talented, thoughtful, emotional person she is.

And this is going to sound strange, but this is also one of those films where you should also put the politics of it aside for a moment and just enjoy it for how beautiful a film this is. The film’s use of various kinds of light is fun and gorgeous. They also use reflective surfaces and mirrors throughout the film to great effect, although it at times gets a little bit too on the nose. We also get a gorgeous sense of place and a love of the city of Santiago, from its hills to its city streets to its nightclubs, Chinese restaurants, and opera houses. This could have been any city we are more familiar with — Los Angeles, Vancouver, New York, Miami — but it uses its place so beautifully to make us feel at home. Putting the politics back in to this for just one moment, you can plainly see that Santiago is no “s#!thole.”

Now with the politics back, you can’t understand this film as anything but a broadside against those who would deny trans people equal treatment in our society. Can you watch how Marina is treated through the film by Orlando’s family, the police who suspect her of somehow being involved with his death, and society in general and really think this is right?

It should also bring to mind the fact that trans women are far more likely to be victims of violence than almost any other segment of society. The humiliation Marina endures is almost comical in how juvenile it is — if it wasn’t so hate-filled and traumatic. Again, this goes to director Lelio’s touch here. It’s never so overwhelming that we have to look away, but it’s still emotionally resonant and we feel the greatest empathy for Marina. For example (minor spoiler– skip to end of paragraph if you don’t want to know) at one point, Marina is forcibly taken into a car by one of Orlando’s sons and his friends, called “faggot” repeatedly, and then has her face disfigured by being wrapped up in an entire roll of scotch tape. In a lesser director’s hands, this could have gone two ways– either overly comical and not serious enough, echoing the classic scene where Pee Wee Herman plays with tape on his face in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, or being overly traumatic and hard to watch as sort of post modern tarring and feathering. The fact that it threads the needle so well is a testament to this director and the actors knowing exactly what they’re doing.

Una mujer fantastica hits theaters in limited release this weekend, just in time for us to see Daniela Vega present at this weekend’s Academy Awards, and to see whether this wins Best Foreign Language Film. It’s certainly worthy of the nomination.

4 out of 5 stars

Love is for Everyone: Oni Press to Donate Valentine Proceeds to the True Colors Fund

Up to 1.6 million youth experience homelessness each year in America, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender homeless youth communities make up 40% of that statistic. This Valentine’s Day, Oni Press, Sarah Graley, and fans of Kim Reaper, will be donating to Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund as Oni’s 20th Anniversary winter season charity, which was chosen by Executive Editor Ari Yarwood.

Beginning today, the Oni Press Shopify store will have exclusive digital Kim Reaper valentines illustrated by creator Sarah Graley. This sheet of four adorable love notes are available for only $1, with the option for additional donation. All proceeds go to the True Colors Fund via Oni Press.

The True Colors Fund is working to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth by creating systemic change. The organization uses a broad continuum of advocacy, training & education, and youth collaboration programs.

GLAAD Media Award Nominees Have Been Announced

The GLAAD Media Awards nominees have been announced, which includes a category for comic books. The awards “recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and the issues that affect their lives.”

The awards tend to recognize “mainstream” representation, so you’ll rarely see indie comics on the list.

Below are the nominees for comics, and comic related other media. You can find the full list at their site.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women from Annapurna Pictures was nominated for “Outstanding Film – Wide Release.” The film is a loose history of the creation of Wonder Woman.

Wynonna Earp, which is based on a comic series, was nominated for “Outstanding Drama Series.”

Legion‘s episode “Chapter 8” was nominated for “Outstanding Individual Episode (in a series without a regular LGBTQ character).”

For comics, the nominees are:

America, by Gabby Rivera, Joe Quinones, Ming Doyle, Stacey Lee, Ramon Villalobos, Walden Wong, Jen Bartel, Annie Wu, Aud Koch, Flaviano, Joe Rivera, Paolo Rivera, José Villarrubia, Jordan Gibson, Tamra Bonvillain, Brittany Peer, Rachelle Rosenberg, Travis Lanham (Marvel Comics)

The Backstagers, by James Tynion IV, Rian Sygh, Walter Baiamonte, Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)

Batwoman, by Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Steve Epting, Jeromy N. Cox, Stephanie Hans, Renato Arlem, Adriano Honorato Lucas, Fernando Blanco, John Rauch, Deron Bennett (DC Comics)

Black Panther: World of Wakanda, by Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Yona Harvey, Rembert Browne, Alitha E. Martinez, Manny Mederos, Joe Bennett, Afua Richardson, Roberto Poggi, Tamra Bonvillain, Rachelle Rosenberg, Virtual Calligraphy, Joe Sabino (Marvel Comics)

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, by Sarah Vaughn, Lan Medina, Phillip Hester, José Villarrubia, Janice Chiang (DC Comics)

Goldie Vance, by Hope Larson, Jackie Ball, Brittney Williams, Noah Hayes, Sarah Stern, Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)

Iceman, by Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti, Ibraim Roberson, Edgar Salazar, Edgar E. Tadeo, Robert Gill, Rachelle Rosenberg, Joe Sabino (Marvel Comics)

Lumberjanes, by Kat Leyh, Shannon Watters, Carolyn Nowak, Ayme Sotuyo, Maarta Laiho, Aubrey Aiese (BOOM! Studios)

Quantum Teens are Go, by Magdalene Visaggio, Eryk Donovan, Claudia Aguirre, Zakk Saam (Black Mask Studios)

The Woods, by James Tynion IV, Michael Dialynas, Ed Dukeshire (BOOM! Studios)

Why I Won’t Miss Marvel’s Iceman Comic

I have had such a love/hate relationship with Sina Grace‘s Iceman run over its nine issues, but issue nine tipped the scales from “Hey, this is a fun book. I’m feeling it” to “Daken is hot, and it’s nice to see Northstar and his husband, but wow, this is bad.” After spending the five issues having Bobby summon up his courage to come out as gay to his parents via letter, Grace and new series artist Robert Gill have had him let down his hair and relax in the four issues of the “Legacy” era. While having a reunion with his old Champions teammates, Bobby met a cute boy named Judah Miller in L.A. and was thinking about leaving the X-Men and moving to Southern California. This was really a big step for him as a character, and it seemed like Iceman was starting to explore his sexuality more for the first time since he came out in November 2015’s Uncanny X-Men #600.

But that didn’t happen. In Iceman #9, Gill continued to bring the beefcake, and it looked like he and Sina Grace were turning in yet another fun issue with Bobby introducing Judah to his X-Men family and a fight against the mutant-phobic (And probably homophobic) Purifiers while setting up Daken and his edgelord acolyte Amp as the main villain. A throwaway line about the gay former X-Force/X-Factor member Rictor breaking up with his longtime partner Shatterstar should have foreshadowed that events were going to take a turn for the sinister. This is when Daken stabs Judah and makes a joke about fridges, and the plot reason is basically to make Iceman angry and use more of his potential powers.

It’s the “bury your gays” trope in a comic that up to this point has seemed to be about finding your own unique identity even when people hate and criticize you like Bobby’s parents about his life as an X-Man and a gay man.

This trope is even more disappointing coming from Sina Grace, who is a gay man himself, and has written insightful graphic memoirs like Self-Obsessed Nothing Lasts Forever , and even Not My Bag is a humorous, relatable look at balancing an artistic career with a dead end retail job.

Instead of mining the potential of Iceman moving three time zones away from the X-Men and beginning his first romantic relationship with a man, Grace and Gill go for cheap drama and stale story elements. They don’t make an attempt to add Judah Miller to the great stable of “civilian” X-Men supporting characters, like Moira MacTaggert or Stevie Hunter, and just kill him off to further Iceman’s story and make Daken a “more evil” villain.

Also, changing Daken from a seductive manipulator who kisses Judah right in front of Bobby into a remorseless killer makes him much less interesting character. Sure, his powers might have an upgrade, and he might have a new look thanks to the Apocalypse death seed inside him, but the whole sexy bad boy thing goes away. After Daken kisses Judah, there’s a great opportunity for Bobby and Judah to have a talk about their difference in sexual experience, but I guess that’s too mature for a Marvel comic and takes time away from edgy jokes, fight scenes, and mind control drama.

In a very later seasons of The Walking Dead way, killing off Judah does up the stakes of Iceman and finally gives the book a real Big Bad after going more of a villain/antagonist of the week route ranging from Purifiers to Juggernaut and weirdly and slightly more sympathetically, a woman trying to make it in Hollywood by jerry-rigging her own Sentinels. However, Sina Grace falls into the trap of writing gay men as wholesome Modern Family/Will and Grace types, who enjoy fashion and brunching and bisexual men (Really man because Daken is the only bi character in Iceman.) as sexually predatory and villains.

We’re good for fun sexy times and intense flirtation, but definitely aren’t someone to bring home to the X-Men or parents.

I’m not saying that Grace really thinks bisexual men are sociopaths, but it’s a little sad that gay characters, like Bobby, and to a lesser extent after this issue, Judah, can be fully fleshed out human beings with desires, interests, and neuroses while a bisexual character gets coded as the bad guy, who, oops, makes funnier jokes than the good guys. Daken going completely off the rails without having a solid villain motivation beyond his “edgy” bisexual coding is a regressive, boring throwback to the queer coding of Disney villains and using society’s implicit biphobia to make them seem both evil and seductive. It’s up there with connecting Deadpool’s pansexuality to mental illness.

Daken doesn’t have to be a cuddly, Drag Race watching superhero with a strict, no kill policy, but he has to have a stronger character motivation beyond adolescent nihilism or “for the evils”. For example, Steve Orlando wrote the gay anti-hero Midnighter as a murderer, but he killed those who exploited others like he was exploited by the men who experimented on him and implanted his brain with technology to see the outcome of every fight. This is much more fascinating than depraved bisexual serial killer.

Throughout its run, Iceman has suffered from inconsistency in quality from the constantly changing artists to the heavy decompression and sometimes after school special tone of Bobby coming out to parents his in the first storyline. Up to this point, the “Legacy” storyline hasn’t been bad thanks to some fun guest stars like the younger Iceman, Champions, and Northstar and Kyle in Iceman #9, but then Sina Grace decided to sacrifice character growth for hackneyed plot “twists”.

Instead of doing something revolutionary with a rare opportunity to have a gay male character headline his own Marvel book, he falls back on the same old story patterns of mind controlled, queer coded villains and a dead, barely fleshed out love interest to make the light hearted hero darker and more vengeful.

It’s nice to have a mainstream comic book featuring a queer male character as a headliner, but we as readers deserve more than Will and Grace meets Women in Refrigerators, which is why I’ll be missing Iceman less than I probably should. His solo title had an excellent opportunity to zero in on Bobby’s relationships and growth, but now he’ll probably be back as the X-Men’s resident dad jokester and source of untapped potential without even getting to take a shot and see what his life would be outside that world.

Review: Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1

It’s 1953. While the United States is locked in a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, the gay Southern playwright known as Snagglepuss is the toast of Broadway. But success has made him a target. As he plans for his next hit play, Snagglepuss becomes the focus of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. And when powerful forces align to purge show business of its most subversive voices, no one is safe!

Releasing January 3, 2018, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 is one of the strongest debuts of a comic series in a while and sets a high bar for 2018. Written by Mark Russell, the series gives us a fleshed out concept we first saw in the Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special #1 back in March 2017. After that strong tease, I’ve been counting down in anticipation until this limited series was officially released and with that anticipation comes high expectations. Thankfully, even with that Herculean level of build up, the comic not only meets expectation but surpasses them in every way. The Snagglepuss Chronicles is emotionally poignant, brutally honest, and utterly brilliant.

Russell is a master satirist as we’ve seen with his work on Prez, The Flintstones, and more. Much like The Flintstones, Russell is using Snagglepuss in unexpected ways, making him gay, a playwright, and throwing him the middle of the Red Scare of the 50s. Also like The Flintstones’ deft take on current issues like the election, misogyny, toxic masculinity, the treatment of veterans, and religion, this too feels timely as the United States is in the middle of a second “Red Scare.”

While The Flintstones used humor, Snagglepuss seems to instead focus on the emotional punch because while it has been made clear that Snagglepuss is gay in the lead up, he’s very much closeted in the comic. Being gay and in entertainment in the 1950s was a sure way to get yourself investigated by the McCarthy witch hunt, led by a conservative streak we’re seeing rise again today. While struggles for the LGBTQ community still exist, Russell reminds us about how far we’ve come as Snagglepuss sneaks around to experience honest love but also setting this revelation at the Stonewall Inn, the site of riots 16 years later, a historical site recognized and event recognized as a major turning point in the gay rights movement. There’s no doubt there’s symbolism in the location chosen as this is the moment Snagglepuss “comes out” to the reader and the location is used to tell the tale of the struggle of gay individuals in this time period. Entertaining and smart with every minute detail adding to the rich and heartbreaking story.

Russell is helped with the art by Mike Feehan whose style fits the time period and evokes imagery we’d expect with a flair of The Great Gatsby. But, what Feehan does that’s most impressive is blend this world of human and animal to the point it works and you don’t even think about it. No matter how silly the situation, it feels natural and just works. You can see an example of that to the left where both a human and giant pink cat are dressed up as dogs for a play. The concept is so out there but nothing about it seems odd as you get going.

There’s also something to the art adding to the plot of a closeted individual who’s about to be outed. The animal as human can easily be interpreted as stand-ins for obfuscation about the truth of who we are and how we present. It’ll be interesting to see how both the story and art continue in this direction, if they continue. The art adds to the concept that we are more than what we see at the outermost level.

The downside of Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 is that it sets up such high expectations not only for itself, but everything else we might expect in 2018. That’s the trouble with going first, if you’re as good as this is, everything else has to measure up and very little will.

Story: Mark Russell Art: Mike Feehan
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1

It’s 1953. While the United States is locked in a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, the gay Southern playwright known as Snagglepuss is the toast of Broadway. But success has made him a target. As he plans for his next hit play, Snagglepuss becomes the focus of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. And when powerful forces align to purge show business of its most subversive voices, no one is safe!

Releasing January 3, 2018, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 is one of the strongest debuts of a comic series in a while and sets a high bar for 2018. Written by Mark Russell, the series gives us a fleshed out concept we first saw in the Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special #1 back in March 2017. After that strong tease, I’ve been counting down in anticipation until this limited series was officially released and with that anticipation comes high expectations. Thankfully, even with that Herculean level of build up, the comic not only meets expectation but surpasses them in every way. The Snagglepuss Chronicles is emotionally poignant, brutally honest, and utterly brilliant.

Russell is a master satirist as we’ve seen with his work on Prez, The Flintstones, and more. Much like The Flintstones, Russell is using Snagglepuss in unexpected ways, making him gay, a playwright, and throwing him the middle of the Red Scare of the 50s. Also like The Flintstones’ deft take on current issues like the election, misogyny, toxic masculinity, the treatment of veterans, and religion, this too feels timely as the United States is in the middle of a second “Red Scare.”

While The Flintstones used humor, Snagglepuss seems to instead focus on the emotional punch because while it has been made clear that Snagglepuss is gay in the lead up, he’s very much closeted in the comic. Being gay and in entertainment in the 1950s was a sure way to get yourself investigated by the McCarthy witch hunt, led by a conservative streak we’re seeing rise again today. While struggles for the LGBTQ community still exist, Russell reminds us about how far we’ve come as Snagglepuss sneaks around to experience honest love but also setting this revelation at the Stonewall Inn, the site of riots 16 years later, a historical site recognized and event recognized as a major turning point in the gay rights movement. There’s no doubt there’s symbolism in the location chosen as this is the moment Snagglepuss “comes out” to the reader and the location is used to tell the tale of the struggle of gay individuals in this time period. Entertaining and smart with every minute detail adding to the rich and heartbreaking story.

Russell is helped with the art by Mike Feehan whose style fits the time period and evokes imagery we’d expect with a flair of The Great Gatsby. But, what Feehan does that’s most impressive is blend this world of human and animal to the point it works and you don’t even think about it. No matter how silly the situation, it feels natural and just works. You can see an example of that to the left where both a human and giant pink cat are dressed up as dogs for a play. The concept is so out there but nothing about it seems odd as you get going.

There’s also something to the art adding to the plot of a closeted individual who’s about to be outed. The animal as human can easily be interpreted as stand-ins for obfuscation about the truth of who we are and how we present. It’ll be interesting to see how both the story and art continue in this direction, if they continue. The art adds to the concept that we are more than what we see at the outermost level.

The downside of Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 is that it sets up such high expectations not only for itself, but everything else we might expect in 2018. That’s the trouble with going first, if you’re as good as this is, everything else has to measure up and very little will.

Story: Mark Russell Art: Mike Feehan
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Heavy Vinyl #4

HeavyVinyl4Cover“Have I ever really helped anybody but myself/To believe in the power of songs/To believe in the power of girls?”- Metric, “Dreams So Real”

Heavy Vinyl #4 (The comic formerly known as Hi-Fi Fight Club.) cements its legacy as one of the cutest, gayest, and riot grrl-est comics ever in this miniseries finale from writer Carly Usdin, artists Nina Vakueva and Irene Flores, and colorists Rebecca Nalty, Kieran Quigley, and Walter Baiamonte. The comic plays with the most delightful of tropes, including scrappy underdogs fighting shady corporate overlords, the adorable saying goodbye to family montage, and of course, the big damn kiss. Vakueva panel layouts are also very lively and slanted for maximum fierceness even if this comic isn’t a beat ’em up battle royale story. It rocks though.

Even though she has to wrap up the first Heavy Vinyl storyline as well as set up some threads for future stories, Usdin doesn’t skimp on character development, and Vakueva and Flores use visuals to give a glimpse into each member of the Vinyl Mayhem fight club’s personal life. Of course, the manager/team leader Irene has an adorable dog and girlfriend, and Kennedy enjoys hot chocolate with her boyfriend Logan, who has become the Chris Hemsworth to their Ghostbusters and a solid source of comic relief throughout the series. Of course, Maggie has two doting dads, who spoil her with pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice, and Chris is just trying to keep things together as she freaks out every time her parents say “action” with some manga-influenced sweat lines.

HeavyVinyl4interior

My personal favorite intro was Dolores, who is Puerto Rican, and has a close relationship with her family to go with her computer knowledge and Goth aesthetic. Nalty uses plenty of shadows in her room and just a glimpse of sunshine to show that she’s a complex character and not just a sullen Goth. I also like how Vakueva lays out her room and uses body language to show that Dolores feels a little bit of tension in balancing work and school as well as going out of state. Even though the spotlight has mainly been on Chris and Maggie, Usdin has given her a mini arc throughout Heavy Vinyl, and she plays a big, take charge role in the final big reveal with her no-nonsense attitude and technical knowledge. However, she has a softer side too as is revealed in an epilogue that made this 90s geek kid smile.

Even if it’s extraneous to the missing rock star/mind control overarching plot of  Heavy Vinyl, the hella awkward and hella cute slow burn romance between Chris and Maggie is the book’s beating heart. And there’s plenty of pay off in Heavy Vinyl #4 beginning with the complete adorableness that is Maggie falling asleep on Chris’ shoulder during the bus ride to New York. Palty emphasizes the blue sky outside their window, which creates a hopeful vibe while Vakueva and Flores draw one of the happiest faces of all time as Chris looks out the window. They and Usdin channel these intense feelings throughout the second half of the comic culminating in the reddest blush ever when Maggie tells Chris that she obviously knows about her crush. In general, these Maggie/Chris scenes show off the tightrope of romance and humor that Heavy Vinyl ably walks.\

But Heavy Vinyl #4 isn’t all longing glances, sweet montages, and kick ass tunes. Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva, and Irene Flores do a lot of world-building and other big picture things like making the plot of this miniseries just the tip of the iceberg for a conspiracy storyline that is similar to Josie and the Pussycats, but trades out the camp for indie rock earnestness.  Some of the lines about this plot development are super on-the-nose, but Usdin is a smart and has Chris say most of them like “Music is about expression.” Chris’ intense love for the band Stegosaur and hunger  for finding and learning about new music as part of developing her identity as a young woman is a big part of her character arc so the lines really work. Also, the first in-person appearance of Rosie Riot is quite breathtaking.

Heavy Vinyl #4 has it all:  deep character dives, well-developed romance, organic world building, and a passionate tone from Rebecca Nalty’s background colors to Nina Vakueva and Irene Flores’ design choices and fight formations to Carly Usdin taking time to show each main cast member with their family. Music is awesome, stories about that are by women are awesome, and Heavy Vinyl is one of the best comics of 2017.

Story: Carly Usdin Pencils: Nina Vakueva Inks: Irene Flores
Colors: Rebecca Nalty with Kieran Quigley and Walter Baiamonte
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Iceman #7

Iceman #7 has Bobby making an Ice-kaiju to use in battle with his old Champions teammates and also has many character defining moments for him. Writer Sina Grace combines the quick banter and pitched fights of old school superhero team fights with some relationship bits like Iceman going a little further in a sexy way with Judah and chatting with the Champions about his overcompensating, macho ways back in the day at a Russian bakery. Robert Gill’s art is serviceable, and he does something interesting things with spacing like making the new X-Men headquarters in Central Park seemed very crowded compared to Judah and Bobby’s nightly walks in L.A. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors are much the same way even though she makes Bobby’s ice powers look extra badass.

Even though the story is chock full of superhero guest stars, Grace and Gill manage to chisel out an image of Bobby as a hero and man. Iceman is comfortable in team settings, making the jokes, and teaching the younger heroes, but he also wants to strike out on his own, date a new cute guy, and knows that the X-Men are in capable hands. The “villain” in this issue are special effects designers who are hoping to impress a Hollywood studio with their almost lifelike Sentinel replicas. Some heroes would throw these women in jail or in The Raft or somewhere, but Bobby realizes their mechanical talents and desperateness to be significant somewhere and helps find them professor jobs. He can make dad jokes and be honest, empathetic, self-aware, and sometimes impulsive like the end of this issue.

Even though the Champions don’t have their own movie or TV show, like the X-Men, Avengers, or even the New Warriors, Robert Gill and Rachelle Rosenberg deliver on a monster setpiece to open Iceman #7 and cash in on the promise of last issue’s cliffhanger. Bobby displays so much swag, creativity, and leadership in this fight and basically wants to get it over with so he can Netflix and chill with his man. Gill also draws some close-ups of Angel because he is sexy and hell and also because he and Iceman have a close relationship. Later, Grace and Gill use him for innuendo and class consciousness purposes when his wingspan can barely fit in Iceman’s New York apartment. Tempting as it maybe to transform Iceman into a slice of life, romance book, Bobby Drake has been a hero since the 1960s (In comic book years.), and he’s not going to stop even if he goes solo for real this time.

It looks like the Champions team-up isn’t going to continue beyond Iceman #7 although Sina Grace did a nice job of using it to set up an L.A. setting, connect Bobby to non-X-Men related parts of the Marvel Universe, and also dig into why he acted like a macho wannabe flirt in older comics. Grace, Gill, and Rosenberg use Ben-Day dot flashbacks from Bronze Age comics to explore and critique Bobby’s toxic masculinity when instead of treating Black Widow like a powerful ally, he hit on her and was immediately cut down to size. However, he has learned his lesson over the years and is starting to come into his own as a gay man. And this whole freedom thing goes into overdrive towards the end of the issue. But not after he roasts each and every X-Man before movie night.

Iceman #7 is a real turning point issue for the series in both sexy and non-sexy ways as Bobby Drake shows that he can do both the self-realization and transforming his body into Godzilla ice shapes thing. Also, it’s nice to have the same artist on two (not so) straight issues.

 

Story: Sina Grace Art: Robert Gill Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 8.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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