Sunday, January 29, 2006

Corruption of the Innocent

You know, I like a good SVU episode as much as the next guy, but I'm really getting tired of every character and their sister and brother ending up with sexual dysfunction in their past to add cheap gravitas to a story. "Spider-Man/Black Cat" is only the most recent offender because Kevin Smith is way too slow, but it comes on the heels of "Sins Remembered," "Identity Crisis" and the subsequent fallout, and whatnot. I mean, I'm all for dark, mature stories in comics, but there's nothing mature about the sudden revelation of a long-repressed memory of sexual abuse.

Confusing "sex" with "mature" has long been a problem. I'd say that "Batman: TAS" is a more mature series than "Baywatch," because "Batman" had depth of plot and character, and it employed violence and story to evoke emotional reactions and make allegorical points about the actual world; "Baywatch" had bouncing breasts.

Sexual abuse is no different from T&A in this regard. It's easy; it's like printing your own emotional impact. After all, it's a terrible adversity to overcome (makes hero seem stronger), it's universally evil (eventual triumph of good over evil), it's humanizing (makes character relatable, vulnerable), and it's often repressed or unmentioned (easily inserted into continuity and never referenced again). It's a writer's emotional wet dream.

Unfortunately, writers finally realized this in an era where talking about sexual indiscretion wasn't taboo for comics, and now it has spilled all over. There was a time when it was shocking that Tim Drake's girlfriend was assaulted (though I don't recall the details of that story); it was stomach-turning when Barbara Drake was shot and then photographed provocatively in "The Killing Joke." When Sue Dibny's rape was revealed, hot on the heels of her brutal death, it felt like nothing so much as adding insult to (fatal) injury. When Felicia Hardy let her black cat out of the bag, my reaction was "oh no, not another one."

Sidebar: I realize that relationship problems are part and parcel of the Spider-Man mythos, but must every person he knows be affected by this? Mary Jane had an abusive father, and she was being consistently sexually harrassed when I started reading Spider-Man comics; Gwen Stacy had her affair with Norman Osborn, there's the Felicia Hardy thing, Aunt May almost ended up marrying Doctor Octopus, even Pete himself was molested as a kid, if we're to believe the Spider-Man/Power Pack special on Sexual Abuse. New York may be a worse town than previously thought.

So, here's my open message to comic writers: stop it. Cut it out. Not every origin or backstory in comics, particularly the female ones, needs to be fleshed out with a dash of rape. It's not mature, it's cheap. It's insulting, both to the character and to the reader's intellect. We know you can all do better than that. Prove to us that you know how to add emotional significance to characters without resorting to sexual trauma. We know that rape is your new toy, since restrictions and standards have loosened up so significantly, but it's time to remember all the other toys, and to realize that everything is best in moderation. We can handle the occasional Sally Jupiter or Terra, just remember that sexual assault isn't an everyday plot device; save it for those really gut-wrenching stories, and not just the ones you want to seem artificially emotional.

Remember how to touch us without "touching" them. You did it before, it's time to do it again.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I am a bandwagon whore

Always remember...
Have you ever seen a more cuddly looking comic creator?

Oh Jesus, it's like an MC Escher drawing!

Red on yellow, kill a fellow

and of course,
True dat.

Update! One more...
He's a robot in disguise!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Like a Layer Cake of Suck

The other guy in my office area is singing off-key to a country version of Aerosmith's crime against humanity, "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing." And I don't have my headphones today. The gods are cruel.

I'd be rapidly approaching 100 posts, if I posted with any sort of regularity that might suggest rapidity. Unfortunately, my leisure time has been scaled far back. I haven't read more than a third of what I've bought as far as comics in the last month or so. I have managed to watch an episode or two of Superman off the new DVD set, and I suffered through "The Wiz" (Joel Schumacher said "how can we make "The Wizard of Oz" more flamboyant?") and the new "Amityville Horror" (it's fun to see what other horror movie every scene is stolen from), but that's material for a different place and time.

Well, Schumacher-bashing is good anywhere.

So, how about that Infinite Crisis #4? Crazy stuff. I freakin' hate the Multiverse...let's hope that this is a temporary Earth-2.

Get it, like "temporary tattoo"? Ah, nevermind.

Anyone see "Flash and Substance" yet? You know, the new Justice League Unlimited episode (actually, "Dead Reckoning" is the new one, but I can talk about that one later)? It's freakin' fantastic...reminiscent of "The Greatest Story Never Told" from a season or two ago. It's not quite as funny, but it's a great representation not only of a different take on superheroics, but also on why Wally West is unique and important to the League. I wish Flash comics were as good as this.

Of course, most Americans won't see more JLU 'til sometime in the Spring. The only reason I've seen it is because I lack scruples when it comes to new JLU, and I procured the episode through less-than-particularly-legal methods. If Cartoon Network is going to play dirty with the series, why shouldn't I?

Of course, the problem with all that is that I can't really blog about the episode, great though it was, without spoiling everything. Sure, I could put it below the "Read More" fold, but that would require a depth of HTML programming that I'm too lazy to attempt today.

Diamond still hasn't shipped my Deluxe 13" Limited Collector's Edition Super-Duper Mega Ultra Awesome Happy Friendly Go! Superman figure. Even my LCS owner is starting to get upset about it. It was supposed to be a part of my birthday present, way back in the first couple of weeks of December. Now, over a month and a half later, there's no word except that it's on "back order." Lame. Between that and the shipping delays, Diamond is really ruffling my feathers.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Quick! Great things about All-Star Superman #2

*Superman's robots--not android replicas, but actual robot versions of himself, with an awesome inverted color scheme.

*The Super-key update. Honestly, so much more intelligent than the giant arrow-shaped key that points at his "secret" fortress.

*How casually Superman discusses all the awesome stuff in his place.

*How there's a sense of weariness and worry about Superman, but that he's trying to mask it from Lois.

*References to the Superman of DC One Million. Does this mean that One Million is no longer the official future history of the regular DCU, but is shifted to the All-Star universe? Or do they just have convergent timelines? Either way, cool.

*Lois's reaction to the news. Fan-freakin'-tastic.

*Frank Quitely.

*The Bluebeard/Cupid & Psyche plot. "Don't go in the back room," with a pleasant twist. It reminds me a lot of some of the older stories in the Showcase Superman collection, except that Superman's not actively testing Lois's fidelity.

Great issue. Can't wait 'til the next one!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

He's not actually going to talk about Spider-Man again, is he?

Heavy boots of lead fill his victims full of dreadHave you heard? Spider-Man has decided to amalgamate his black costume and Iron Man's armor. And he got some prosthetic mechanical spider-arms, kind of like the ones that sprouted out of Spider-Woman III's back.

What, you don't remember Spider-Woman III? She was the one who changed costumes more times in 18 issues than Hank Pym has since 1961.

So, yeah, that sounds fantastic, right? Apparently this costume is "story-driven," and will lead Spider-Man into his role in the upcoming "Civil War" crossover. JMS has a game plan for exactly how long this costume will be around. So, at least it's temporary. I just hope it's really temporary.

But, I predict that, once Spider-Man learns the "terrible price" that loyalty to Tony Stark will cost him, somewhere in the middle of the Civil War crossover, he'll tear the costume off and go back to his old duds, renouncing his support for Stark and joining the other side.

I have a few major problems with Spider-Man nowadays. Granted, I've explored these problems before (here and here), and I'm going a little different route today.

J. Michael Straczynski got me back into Spider-Man. Not after the Clone Saga, no, I give Mike Wieringo credit for that. No, JMS got me into Spider-Man after John Byrne and "Chapter One" made me run for the hills.

I should blog about "Chapter One" sometime. And finish that post I've got on "Birthright." Yeah.

Red and Yellow: Kill a FellowI discovered Babylon 5 when Sci-Fi Channel started showing the series. I denounced it when it started as a rip-off of DS9, and probably mostly didn't watch it because I was bitter that no channel in my area would carry DS9. Naturally, that was a dumb thing, and now that I've seen nearly all of B5, I can appreciate both it and DS9 for their very different takes on life aboard a space station.

Anyway, when I heard that JMS was coming to Spider-Man, I was psyched. I bought his run from the start; I own every issue from those halcyon days. I'd never been a fan of John Romita Jr. (though his dad's my favorite Spider-Man artist), particularly on Spidey, but I think he really grew into the book and his work grew on me. I loved the totemistic idea; I really enjoyed the way he picked up on how many of Spider-Man's villains are animal-based, and what might have caused that. Morlun was a lame villain (too much like Morbius), but I was intrigued by Ezekiel, and I liked that JMS "got" Peter and MJ in ways that most didn't.

There's a lot to like about JMS's Spider-Man, particularly in the early days of his run. He upset one status quo and restored another; he made Spider-Man fun and funny, and he added a new take on Pete's powers.

And the best part of that Morlun arc was when Spider-Man, having spent the whole story questioning his fate and origins, said "you know what, it doesn't matter," that even if he was scion to the spider, he was second cousin to radiation, and a child of science. He stopped Morlun with his brain.

So, I figured, that was it (more or less) for Spider-Totem. Sure, I expected a resolution of Ezekiel's story, but other than that, I didn't imagine that the mysticism would be such a big deal, and it really wasn't. When it was, it was done well. Meanwhile, JMS gave us some fun stories about Dr. Doom and Loki, and some lame stories about characters like gangster Frankenhulk.

Of course, when the mysticism was done, JMS should have been done too. That was the end of his story. Once Ezekiel was gone, there was no reason for JMS to write Spider-Man anymore. But, much like Mark Waid (*cough*Flash*cough*), he simply didn't know when to quit. We got Gwen Stacy's "Identity Crisis"-inspired super-aged illegitimate children from Norman Osborn. We got the new Molten Man. We got Peter getting wedged into the New Avengers. I dropped the title after "well-he-really-isn't-the-Molten-Man-he-just-looks-like-him-and-has-the-same-powers-making-him-totally-redundant" blew up Aunt May's house, though the quality had been getting more and more inconsistent since long before that (wasn't there a lame time-travel story in there someplace?).

So, after hitting a roadblock with traditional superheroics (looking at most of JMS's Spidey-stuff, it's definitely not his strong suit), and realizing that magic and cosmic events are really more his area of expertise, I can understand why JMS would return to the Spider-Totem stuff in "The Other." But, the magic's run its course. We learned our lesson in the first battle with Morlun; the spider-totem stuff is bupkis. Whether or not it's real, it's inconsequential. It certainly shouldn't be mutating Pete's body and making him into a murderer.

What started as a neat throwaway idea has come to define the character. Kind of like time travel and the Flash during Waid's run, or wacky gadgets and Batman in Loeb's run on that book. JMS is floundering, and the only way he knows how to regain the success he had is by taking Spider-Man deeper into the realm of kooky mysticism. There's a reason it feels tedious by now, it's because JMS himself told us that the story was over and done with after the first arc. JMS told us through Spider-Man that all the magic didn't matter. Now that it's become the defining characteristic of Spider-Man, we're left to wonder why we should care.

I think it's also because Marvel editorial and the writing staff have no idea how to handle Spider-Man. No idea whatsoever. It's the only explanation for the fact that Spider-Man is in the Avengers and keeps taking important roles in these huge, universe-spanning crossovers. Spider-Man is not a universe-spanning guy. Cosmic stuff is way out of his league. Yeah, it's fun to see him team up with Dr. Strange or Loki once in awhile, because he's clearly out of his element. Saddling him with magic and mysticism so he fits better is just plain damaging to his character. Removing science and sticking him into the cosmic realm artificially strips away a good portion of what makes Peter unique. Peter's storylines ought to be character-driven, not driven by plot and new costumes and powers. Sure, it's harder to write, and much harder to fit into a trade, but no one said writing a flagship character would be easy.

Oh, and what's with the whole "we threw out your costumes, but I've redesigned one for you" crap? Peter parker sews his own costumes, what does he care if they get thrown out. It just means a few more hours hovering over a Singer with spandex, using his spider-sense to avoid the needle.

Read More!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Delay scandal

For the second week in a row, the comic shipment to my LCS has been delayed. Yes, that means that last week, because of the holiday on top of the delay, I received comics on Friday. Three weeks without a useful Wednesday among them.

The problem with this is that comic delays are hazardous to my wallet. When comics don't come into the shop, but I do, I end up staying probably longer than I otherwise would. I don't just skim what's in my bag, I talk to Tim (da owner) and paw through 50-cent boxes.

Sluoocheeng Tooerds Gumurreh, eh Rubert Burk, a-bork bork bork?Between sales and delays and low-volume weeks, I've bought almost every issue of "The Power Company," based solely on testimonial and a love for Grummett (and a most-of-the-time love for Busiek). I've read one issue. The "Bork" special. Because I was amused that someone would name a character after a rejected nutjob Supreme Court nominiee. What can I say, I'm politically-minded.

Oh, and I have no self-control.

So I get to spend more money at the shop tomorrow. Not much, since there's really very few comics out this week. At least, very few that I buy. I just wish I could have picked up the whole load today. Would've felt like I was spending less.

Le sigh. Any other midwesterners having comic delay problems?

For the Ladies

Just a quick post before bed (and before I really sit down to discuss this in detail).

To the ladies of the comic industry and comic fandom: I stand with you. I support strong women in comics (both in content and in production). I support less cheesecake. I don't like Frank Miller's portrayal of women, I try not to remember the "Bad Girl" era, and I hope that these sexist jackasses in the industry, whoever they may be, will get their comeuppance in a swift and painful manner.

Not all fanboys are greasy sleazeballs. I'm right beside you, 100%. You go, girls.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I've got the JLblUes

New episodes of JLU have been delayed 'til Spring. Some speculate that this is to coincide with the release of Superman Returns. Some speculate that this is to coincide with the release of the first JL season set on DVD.

I speculate that it's because Cartoon Network doesn't know their arse from a hole in the ground. They drove He-Man into cancellation with haphazard scheduling and no advertisement. They'll show all the available episodes of a series in one chunk, then wait six months to ever mention the series again. It's happened to JL multiple times already. Seems like only Adult Swim knows what it's doing. Cartoon Network would rather show six hours of "Kids Next Door" and "Ed, Edd, and Eddy," than put on a variety of shows, maintain a static schedule, and actually use the wide variety of programming rights they own.

Would it be so hard to air Teen Titans and Justice League in the afternoons, during the mid-season breaks? Would it be so difficult to air them even once a week? Is it too much to ask that Superman and Batman: TAS not be limited to late-night Boomerang?

To say nothing of the fact that they've apparently cancelled Teen Titans. What a shot in the foot. Honestly, that has to be one of their most popular series; every friggin' kid I have contact with watches it, and it's a damn good show. Why oh why would they cancel it?

Unless the big reveal comes that they'll be doing "Teen Titans Unlimited" or something concurrent with the proposed Legion of Super-Heroes series. Then, all CN sins will be forgiven.

Except killing He-Man. That was just a crappy thing to do.

Monday, January 09, 2006


My computer works again! Posts forthcoming!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

It's two-thousand-and-what?

God, those Christmas posts are starting to look dated. And my incomplete posts keep filling up the Blogger dashboard. It's been a homework-heavy week back at school (rassin'-frassin' trimester schedule), and my personal computer committed electronic suicide, so I'll complete 'em as soon as I can. Also, I have a whole lot o' reviews waiting in the wings, and I should have more on Thursday or Friday. So, updates coming soon!

Happy New Year!