Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blackest Night: JSA #1-3 Thoughts

You know, I get the impression that James Robinson was phoning it in for these comics.  What tipped me off wasn't the deus ex machina ending.  Or the fact that characters - particularly the women - were acting like morons.

What tipped me off was the mention of "Jamal Thunder".  His name is Jakeem.  Robinson didn't even bother to get the character's names right.  Thirty seconds on Wikipedia would have been enough to prevent that error.  There is no excuse for that sort of mistake.

James Robinson just didn't care.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Marvel, Sidekicks and Mutants . . . Oh, my!

I've read that one of the main reasons that Marvel doesn't tend to have teenage sidekicks is because of the influence of Stan Lee, who dislikes them.  However, the fact that Marvel Comics as a whole adopted this policy amuses me.

I can get them not liking the idea of child endangerment.  But, frankly, this approach is just silly.  The X-Men have had dozens of teenage members.  And their death rate is comparable to DC's sidekicks, maybe even worse given the mass "depowerment" of mutants that resulted in plenty of deaths.

And, really, you might as well call the teenage X-Men sidekicks.  That is, if the X-Men were actually treated like superheroes.  But most of the times, they don't even get to be considered superheroes, because we wouldn't want to mess with the status quo and show mutants gaining more acceptance.  (Because we all know that the civil rights movement did absolutely nothing.  We still have "white only" water fountains, Jim Crow laws are still in effect, and the idea of actually having a black president is just plain silly.)

But then again, the lack of mutant acceptance is likely due to them tending to cause widespread destruction with their powers and the fact that the "good" mutants are often huge assholes (see Cyclops, Emma Frost, etc.).  And which is worse?  Being a regular sidekick, or being a teenage X-Man (an unofficial sidekick with just as much danger and having half the universe hate you because they're bigots)?

Monday, February 15, 2010

An Open Letter to James Robinson

Mr. Robinson:

You have written some excellent comics.  I won't deny that.  In fact, I've greatly enjoyed your work.  But you've developed a bad habit that worries me.  I first saw signs of it in Starman #38, when you killed off Blue Devil, Amazing Man and Crimson Fox.  I later found out that you had only intended to kill off Crimson Fox, but DC editorial told you to kill off the other two as well.

But it was the beginning of a disturbing trend.  Recently, you've killed off quite a few characters, often with little or no introduction.  You made Plastic Man - the epitome of a fun-loving, goofy hero - into a depressing, angst-ridden mess.

You brought back the most vile, disgusting villian ever to blight the pages of DC Comics.  You killed him off soon afterwards, but his presence was an unwanted taint on the comic.  He degraded and derided a character I love.  But she defeated him.  Her victory should have left her proud and triumphant.  Instead, she was left naked and broken.

You congratulate yourself on creating a well-rounded character who happened to be gay, but in that same issue you killed off his partner, destroying a happy couple that you had created.

You took a character whose most prominent trait was putting her family above all else, and you had her killed as she attempted to murder one of her family members.

You reduced two strong, independent women to mere notches on a man's bedpost.

But through all this, I kept telling myself that things would improve.  "He's a great writer.  Things will get better."

Then you killed one of my favorite characters.  Off-panel.  You left it open for his eventual resurrection, but it was too late.  Even if he is alive and well at the end of the story, his death was the last straw.

I cannot enjoy your writing anymore.  You've killed too many, snatched the joy from the characters who survived, made light-hearted characters bleak and taken the fun out of reading about them.

Mr. Robinson, you probably will never read this, but I hope you do.  Because I want you to know this: you've lost a fan.

Lady Momus

Edit: I have since learned that the favorite character I mentioned was killed off in another book not written by James Robinson.  But that isn't enough to win me back.  It seems like every character Robinson has touched lately has ended up dead, angst-ridden or acting out-of-character.

I cannot and will not be a fan of a writer who kills off characters without a thought and doesn't bother to do any research about the characters he writes.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why the Mutant/Minority Metaphor Doesn't Work

I'm not a huge Marvel fan, but I do like the X-Men.  However, one of the things that always bugs me when I read X-Men books is that some authors seem to think that the treatment of mutants is a perfect metaphor for the unjust treatment of various minority groups.

Yeah. I know the reason that I hate minorities is because they're always blowing city blocks up with their eye beams and chalking up billions of dollars in property damage and injuring/killing civilians every time they fight each other with their super powers.

The "mutant = minority" metaphor is complete BS.

Comparing the fear and hatred that your average Joe in the Marvel Universe has for mutants to the fear and hatred that a real bigot has for a minority is downright offensive.  In real life, bigots have no real reason for their hatred and fear of others outside of stupid, superficial things like "they have more/less melanin than I have" or "their ancestors came from a different country than my ancestors." In the Marvel Universe, you would have to be insane not to be wary of mutants, if not downright terrified.

Mutants are perpetually in a state of war with each other.  Xavier's Academy was a recruiting station for a private mutant army masquerading as a school.  The "students" routinely fought a group of terrorist mutants, causing massive property damage, death and mayhem.  Not only that, but most of these battles are not explained to the general populace, so it would be easy to assume that both groups are nothing but super-powered gangs.  (And that's not getting into the many times that Xavier screwed around in people's heads in order to keep his private army a secret.)

Mutants - even the heroic ones - routinely ignore laws, and not just the anti-mutant legislation. They behave as if they are above the law, ignoring any law that isn't convenient and not bothering to explain their actions. If you're going a private war in the streets, it's going to hurt your PR if you don't bother explaining that you were attacking a terrorist, mass murderer or any of the other assorted psychopaths that the X-Men routinely deal with.
On top of all that, mutant powers manifest at puberty, which pretty much guarantees that the section of the population with the least amount of self control ends up with abilities that could result in plenty of accidental death and destruction.  You'd have to be insane not to be scared of emotionally immature, hormonely driven teenagers with no self control developing super powers.

Edit: Fixed typo.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

JSA on Smallville

I watched Smallville for the first time last night.  My dad told me that the JSA was scheduled to appear, so I decided to give the show a chance.  (The JSA is my favorite DC team, so I'd probably give any show a chance if they appeared.)  Of course, I didn't realize it was a 2-hour event, so I only saw the last half.  Here are my thoughts on it:

Who the heck is Chloe?  Seriously, I have never heard of this woman before.  I'm assuming she was created for the show, because I have no clue who she's supposed to be.

The costumes and special effects are pretty bad.  But they're so bad they're good.  I laughed when I saw Clark's eye beams.  It's like the older live action superhero shows or movies, where the effects are cheesy but the cheesiness is part of the charm.  It gives the show a nice "retro" feel.

I love that they got Daniel from Stargate as Hawkman, although I really wish they hadn't gone with such a scratchy voice.  He's a good actor, but the voice made it hard for me to take him seriously.  And it's strangely appropriate that they got him to do the part, considering that Hawkman's known for being reincarnated, and Daniel was best known for dying and coming back to life.

I like that they included Stargirl, but I spent the whole time bashing the portrayal.  For one thing, she's supposed to be 16, and if that actress was 16, I'm Queen of England.  At least she's skinny and short, so as long as you didn't look at her face, you could almost pretend she was 16.

I'm sad that Jay didn't appear, although I understand why he didn't.  Same reason Alan Scott didn't.  If they'd been involved, the threat would have been over before the first commercial break (second, if they'd been taking they're time).

The writers obviously know that the comic reading crowd is an important part of their audience, so they're kind enough to throw in lots of comics references.  Kudos for that.

Overall I enjoyed the episode, even if I did get lost at points.  I'm curious about the rest of the series, and I'm tempted to watch some more.  I'm just not sure if it's worth watching 8 seasons of what appears to be, at its heart, a soap opera starring superheroes.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Damage- The Scott Summers of DC Comics

Cyclops is well known among comics fans for having a screwed up family tree.  I honestly wouldn't be surprised if somehow he ended up being his own grandpa, cousin, son and mother.  While I don't think DC has any heroes with a family tree quite that screwed up, I think Damage (Grant Emerson) comes close.

Because as convoluted as Cyclops' family tree is, at least he stuck with 1 mom and 1 dad.  Damage has at least 6 mothers and 14 fathers.  (Not including foster family.)

Damage was the son of Al Pratt (the Golden Age Atom) and his wife, Mary.  Vandal Savage had Mary killed immediately after the birth and then began tinkering with his DNA.  Damage received DNA injections from members of the JSA, All-Star Squadron and JLA, which eventually lead to him gaining super powers.

Martian Manhunter ends up being his "principal genetic father" because his Martian shape-shifting DNA is what allowed the mixing of the DNA without Damage dying (although he almost did anyway).

The other DNA "donors" are: two Flashes (Jay and Barry), two Green Lanterns (Alan and Hal), both Black Canarys (mother and daughter), Wildcat, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Hourman I, Dr. Mid-Nite I, Starman (Ted Knight), Ms. America, Johnny Quick, Liberty Belle, Aquaman, and the Atom (Ray Palmer).  There are possibly others, although these are the ones specifically mentioned.

With such a screwed up family tree, is it any wonder Damage has issues?

Teen Titans 1, Grant Morrison 0

I'll be honest.  I hate it when politics get brought up in comics.  99% of the time, the writer will misrepresent the opposing viewpoint, end up being preachy, get the facts wrong, or it will interfere with the story.

I like Grant Morrison's writing.  I don't believe he's a veritable god of comics like some people seem to think, but he's definitely produced quality material.  Animal Man is perhaps one of my favorite series that I've read of his, but it's very preachy at points and it suffers for it.  The worst part has to be Animal Man becoming a vegetarian.

I am not a vegetarian, but I have a great deal of respect for people who are willing to completely change their diet in order to do what they believe is right.  That shows real commitment to their beliefs.  However, Animal Man is a Grade A asshole about the whole thing.

He forces his family to adopt his new eating habits, including his wife.  She is noticeably ticked, but he doesn't care and continues to toss out meat in spite of her objections.  Later, he lectures his son because his son had the gall to eat a hamburger.

Like I said before, I respect vegetarians.  However, I have zero respect for people who attempt to impose their beliefs on others.  If you want others to adopt your views, you don't just force them.  You talk to them.  You tell them what you believe and why, and give them a compelling reason to consider your point of view.  Animal Man imposes his beliefs on his wife and kids with no regards for their opinions or beliefs.  And the story treats it like this is a good thing!

With all due respect, Mr. Morrison, if I wanted a sermon, I wouldn't be reading a comic.  I'd be in church.

Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum is Beast Boy from the Teen Titans animated series.  He is a vegetarian because as he puts it in one episode "I've been most of these animals."  Which makes sense.  I don't think I could look at pork the same way if I'd spent time as a pig.

Although Beast Boy does attempt to win the Titans over to the "soybean-y goodness" of tofu, he's not a jerk about it.  If the others are having meat, he'll fix something else for himself, although he will object if the others want to order meat on a pizza that's for all of them.  He doesn't harrass them about their food choices, and they don't harrass him about his.

Raven said it best (in response to Beast Boy offering her tofu burgers): "I respect the fact that you don't meat.  Please respect the fact that I don't eat fake meat."

Maybe someone should buy Morrison a Teen Titans DVD.  He might learn something about respecting other people's beliefs.