Diversity in Comics Does Not Have to be Exclusionary

Eric Powell, writer/artist of The Goon, released a video over the weekend (link is safe, but video is NSFW) about supporting diverse content in creators in comic books. In it, he makes some decent points. However, those points are completely overshadowed by some gross generalizations and crass content.

As Marshall McLuhan once said and millions have restated ever since, the medium is the message. And when your medium is a representation of a corporately owned superhero forcibly sodomizing an independent comics creator, well, anything else you're trying to say is going to get lost in the shuffle of discomfort and homophobia.

Should you read comics besides superhero books published by Marvel and DC? If you find ones that appeal to you, then yes, of course you should. We're in a period where there is probably more content available in more genres that at any point since the Golden Age. In fact, we've got a huge one up on the Golden Age in that most of it is, in fact, of high quality and not rushed out the door by teenagers working under near-sweatshop conditions. There are multitudes of great comic bookery going on right now that can and should appeal to nearly everyone, even a lot of those folks who think don't they like comics. Seek those out. Buy them. Read them. More great cartoonists making a living wage off their good work and being able to produce more of it is always a good thing.

But if you like Marvel and DC superhero books, you should feel free to read those, too. I think Powell's intent would have been better served if his message was more along the lines of "if you like these things, then give these other things a shot" instead of "if you don't buy the things I tell you to then you're a bad person and you're ruining the entire industry and by the way BUTTS!!!! LOL!!!!! AMIRITE?!?!"

Like what you read, read what you like, and vote with your wallets. It's that simple.

Death be not proud, nor much of an impediment.

Rough week in the comic book world, huh? People and institutions alike dropping like flies. And yet, I can't worry too much about any of it. Why? Because it's comic books, people! Nothing stays dead for real (or for long) in Funny Book Land. Here, let's run down the list.

1. The Comics Code Authority

You can argue that the first nail was put in the Code's authority back when Marvel left in the early part of the aughts, but it was pretty toothless for a good, long time before that, so this was clinging by a thread for a long time, anyway, and it will still live on even amongst its biggest detractors in the form of ironic t-shirts.

2. Wizard magazine

Regardless of your opinion of the magazine, if you're a comics fan, I can pretty much guarantee you read it at least once (though probably more often, if you're being honest). It had it's ups and downs, but led to enough success to lead Gareb and company into publishing comics of their own and, eventually, buying up half the convention circuit, which will continue, as will the mag itself in online form allegedly, so I don't see Wizard going gentle into that good night just yet.

Still damn shitty to see so many people lose their jobs without warning, though.

3. The Human Torch

As Bully pointed out, someone is always dying in The Fantastic Four, so often that I sometimes wonder if maybe dead is their normal state, interrupted by intermittent periods of life. So Johnny's dead now, he's been dead before, he'll be dead again, but he's doing much better at plenty of other points in time.

Hey, maybe those cosmic rays made the FF into Tralfamdorians! Well, without making them look like toilet plungers, anyway.

4. Fitness guru and juice enthusiast Jack Lalanne

Oh, come on, Jack totally counts as a comic book character! He had muscles, wore that one red jumpsuit for years, and even was on "friendly wave and a smile at passing helicopter" terms with Batman and Robin, as seen in the opening scenes of Batman: The Movie.

Sure, Mr. Lalanne may be at a bigger disadvantage than the rest, seeing as he's a real person. But honestly, he never struck me as the sort of guy to let a little death slow him down. I mean, would you want to be the one to break the news to the guy? No, no you would not, because even in his 90s, he'd beat you to death and maybe even juice your remains.

Jack Lalanne, dead? I doubt it. Pining for the fjords, maybe, or even just tired and shagged out after a prolonged squawk, but I'm pretty sure the dude's immortal.*

*All of this is meant in fun, of course. Rest in peace, Mr. Lalanne.

Unabashed Shilling

I have a few books up on the eBay right now, the first volumes each of Image's Proof, BOOM! Studios' The Unknown, and Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, so if those are the sorts of things you're interested in, maybe go over and bid?

There's more to come, too, but I'm starting slowly. And I'll try not to spam the blog too badly with announcements either.


Short and occasionally SPOILERific reactions to recently read (though not always recently published) comic bookery.

Superman: Earth One - Everybody and their third cousins talked about this online when it was released a few months back, and I don't know how much I have to add that you probably haven't already seen elsewhere. I will say that I thought J. Michael Straczynski's characterizations were pretty good (his Perry White was especially nice, I thought), but the plot was just another Superman fights the aliens story, and the new villains were incredibly generic. I get that he wants to make this fresher and not just the umpteenth retelling of Superman's origin story, but a.) I'd have preferred to see a name villain, especially since there's nothing here Brainiac hasn't done before, and better; and b.) making the Kryptonians the victims of an attack rather than their own hubris totally saps the pathos from their part of the story. I'll stick with the traditional Superman, thanks.

Power Girl Vol. 2: Aliens and Apes - Besides the fact that the subtitle better described the issues reprinting in the first volume, this was just about perfect. Fun, well-plotted, and downright charming, which wasn't something I was expecting at all from this series - or, really, almost any series in the current DC climate - even considering the pedigrees of the writing tandem of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and artist Amanda Conner. I dig the life and world built for PG: her attempts at a personal and professional life, her friendship with the new Terra, her rivalries with Golden Age holdovers like Ultra-Humanite and Satanna the Tiger Girl. But most of all I love Conner's artwork. She handles the high action and quiet moments equally well, balances strong and sexy, and has the best comedic timing in comics today. It's a damn shame they all left this book, because like I said the other day, if they all did this book forever, I'd read it forever.

Amelia Rules! Vol. 4: When the Past is a Present - Jimmy Gownley just gets it, you guys. Very little of my childhood resembled anything that Amelia and her friends go through (except for maybe dressing as a superhero at inappropriate times, but even then, I was nowhere near as serious or organized as Reggie is), and yet every word and picture rings true. In this volume, Amelia survives her first school dance, helps a friend cope with her father being sent to serve in Afghanistan, panics at the thought of her mom dating again, and tries to learn her family's history. It's sweet, it's powerful, and more often than not, it's legitimately laugh out loud funny. My 5 year old son was peeking at this when I left it on the table and seemed interested, so I think he's at the age where I can share this with him, and I'm pretty psyched. Also, I'm now dying to play "THANK GOD YOU'RE OPEN!" at local convenience stores.

Batman: The Black Casebook - It has come to my attention that there are people out there who don't enjoy the oddball 50s "Time Travel Crimes on Venus" antics of Batman and his associated hangers-on. What is wrong with said people? Do they not enjoy things that are fun? Do they not realize that their steadfast refusal to accept these funny book stories into their hearts helps the terrorists win and/or makes the baby Jesus cry? I just don't know. What I do know is that this book - a compilation of some of the most bizarre stories from the 1950s Batman books (which is really saying something) that Grant Morrison not only took as inspirations for his run up to and including R.I.P. but also made them actually work within the context of modern Batman - is pretty damn awesome, and my only complaint is that it's too short. Please, DC, let's make a continuing series of this! Give me the origin of Ace the Bat-Hound (where they had to give the dog a mask to protect his secret identity!), the various origins of the Superman-Batman team, the time Bat-Mite started to become a cheerleader for Batwoman, and most of all, give me Rainbow Batman!

Saturday Morning Tunes: The Doctor Who Theme on Mario Paint Composer

Two things that get talked about a lot in our house, Doctor Who and Mario, together at last thanks to Mario Paint Composer. Thanks, interwebs! (via Nerdist)

Friday Favorites: Power Girl

Power Girl never had an easy go of it. Starting off as an after market Earth 2 Supergirl stand-in, she spent her appearances in the 70s angrily trying to stand out on her own merits and defending her bustline. She spent the 80s and 90s dealing with constantly shifting origin stories, being, quite frankly, pretty shrewish, and also defending her bustline. In the aughts, though, I think they finally got her right. Rather than focus on what she wasn't, writers finally (and brilliantly) helped her find true strength, personality, and the wherewithal to to turn her life from tragedy into triumph. Still lots of jokes about the cleavage, but she seems to laugh it off a lot more easily now.

Of course, a lot of the improvement comes from the art of Amanda Conner, who can express more personality on the page with a single facial expression than the most flowery words of even some of the best writers, and she's worked with some good ones while drawing Power Girl. The 4 parter with Geoff Johns from JSA Classified was fun, if heavy on the continuity (shocking, I know). The first 12 issues of her ongoing, though, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, have fun, action-packed plots, and are probably some of the most charming and endearing comics written in the last 20 years. If you haven't read those issues, go and get the trades. If you have anything resembling a soul, you'll very likely enjoy them. If Palmiotti, Gray, and Conner wanted to work on the Power Girl book forever, I'd read it forever.

And lo there came a lazy Tuesday pre-snowstorm links post.

Comics Alliance tells us the tale of Gotham High, the Batman-related cartoon that never was, an idea so bizarre it goes off the charts and comes back in the other side on the "brilliant" end of the spectrum. I don't know what's more fun to think about, what this series would have been like, or the mass faneurysms its very existence would have caused.

Speaking of Batman cartoons, the Onion AV Club has started reviewing Batman: The Animated Series from the beginning as part of its TV Club feature. It's great reading so far.

The Comic Geek Speak podcast just recorded its 1,000th episode! Well, technically 1,230th counting unnumbered special episodes and whatnot done over time, but no matter the number, it's a hell of an accomplishment. Congratulations, guys!

The Monkeys You Ordered takes New Yorker cartoons and gives them literal non-punchlines punchlines, and as you'd expect, the end result is funnier than any actual New Yorker cartoon has ever been.

Mike Maihack has quickly become one of my favorite artists out there on the inter-ma-web. His website is here. His webcomic Cleopatra in SPAAAACE! is here. Consider giving him your attention and, if you can swing it, some of your monies.

Pretty Sketchy: Will he save the West, or RUIN it?

It's DC's greatest Western hero*, the gentleman, scoundrel, and would-be bon vivant Bat Lash, as sketched by Athena Voltaire and Cipher co-creator Steve Bryant, which came as a pleasant surprise as part of a Secret Santa gift from someone over on the Comic Geek Speak forums. Yee-haw!

(Seriously, though, go and get the Showcase Presents Bat Lash volume if you've never read any of Bat's stories before. Brilliant writing by Sergio Aragones and Denny O'Neill, gorgeous Nick Cardy artwork, and since it's one of the slimmer Showcase volumes, it'll only put you back a tenspot.)

*This is not up for debate.

The Cookie Puss Chronicles

Having grown up watching Boston UHF/cable superstations, I saw a hell of a lot of Carvel ads growing up. They were poorly made, and the "gargling hot asphalt" voice of the late Tom Carvel really wasn't made for advertising, but they piqued my curiosity all the same. Partially because, come on, cakes shaped like chocolate whales and aliens with a strange acceptance for being eaten are kind of cool, but mostly because there weren't any Carvel stores where I grew up in Maine. And by the time I moved to Rhode Island in my 20s, the one store located here in the Ocean State had closed and was left empty and boarded up for years.

Carvel cakes have remained available in the supermarkets here in RI, though, so I have been able to sample their product sporadically, and I have generally enjoyed it. Having grown up eating occasional Dairy Queen ice cream cakes, foodstuffs so dense and hard that I've seen them laugh off attempts to cut them with restaurant-grade electric knives, my expectations were pretty low, but the Carvel version has generally been pretty good, and admittedly gets extra points for being something you can actually get into with a spoon instead of a flamethrower. But the supermarket cakes were all generic round or rectangle affairs, and maybe the occasional football. The spokescakes like Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss eluded us. Until last month.

Armed with vacation time, an un-daredevil take on the bucket list concept, and nothing better to do, Erin and I sought out a nearby Carvel store, and found one just over the border in Connecticut, on the way to Foxwoods, as it would happen, so I'm sure we've passed it before without ever realizing it, and sharing space with a Subway, which was unusual, but clearly an idea whose time has come. We didn't think to call ahead, which would have led to no small amount of swearing if they hadn't been open or didn't have the cakes, but our lack of planning didn't bite us in the ass (for once), and they were both open for business, had plenty of product to unload on us, and judging by the overall lack of people, maybe even a little grateful to have someone to sell something to (a mid-afternoon Monday in December in New England probably aren't the best time and place to sell ice cream, admittedly). There was some debate between the whale and the alien, but in the end, Cookie Puss won the right to come home and find its way into our hungry maws.

Aside from the minor setback of the nose being pistachio ice cream and not mint like we were hoping, I have to tell you this thing was fucking delicious, my friends. I had been wanting to sink my teeth into one of these for over 30 years, so my expectations were pretty high, but Mr. Puss here did not disappoint (nose excepted). The soft serve and little cookie crunchies in the interior were tasty enough, but bonus sugar cone and two ice cream sandwich eyes? Well played, Tom Carvel, you fantastic dairy-product-makin' bastard, you. The Beastie Boys were right to immortalize this creation in rhyme, or at least co-opt and misspell its name, anyway.

How often do things live up to your lifelong expectations? Pretty much never, people. Cookie Puss was so worth the drive. A tasty part of my own personal pop cultural heritage. Can't beat that.