Thursday, February 11, 2010

More on Captain America lampooning Right-Wingers

UPDATE 3:07 PM 2/11: Earlier today ComicsAlliance posted an excellent and much more thorough piece on this same subject.

This panel from Captain America Reborn #5 would've been a nice end to my post yesterday, because it would've illustrated a point that I failed to make yesterday and that is that Captian America has always been a more-or-less liberal comic for decades.

Here we see the Red Skull in possession of Steve Rogers' body invoking the slogan of Ronald Reagan's first run for President (if the image is a little blurry I apologize for the quality of my scanner, I assure you the Skull-possessed Cap is saying, "TIME FOR A NEW MORNING IN AMERICA"). While like the Tea Party that got Ed Brubaker in so much trouble with FOX this is only a slight jab at the political right, it's part of a long tradition.

For example, back in the '70s Cap took on an ersatz version of himself that had been active in the 1950s (who is actually the villain in the Tea Bag issue, but that's another story) who had been a virulent McCarthyite. While the confrontation with '50s anti-Communism (which btw, was horrible and destroyed people's lives) was two decades late, it illustrates the point that Cap stands for a version of America that is inclusive and that protects civil liberties. It's from the vanilla multiculturalism of this ethos that brings us the Falcon as Cap's buddy. It's also what made Cap the perfect opposite for Iron Man in Civil War.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Captain America, Tea Bagged

Apparently the Tea Party Movement doesn't think that political free speech is okay in comics. Following the appearance of the panel below in Captain America #602 and the Falcon calling Tea Baggers "angry white people," right wingers have been calling foul.

"I was perplexed by this," London said. "It seems to me there was a clear effort on someone's part to undermine the Tea Party movement."

These people are fools. And hypocrites.

Nancy from Pittsburgh, who commented on this NYT article, says it best:

The tea baggers can dish it out, but they can't take it -- especially when the comic simply copied ACTUAL signs from their astro-turf rallies. What a bunch of whiners!

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Luke Cage goes to jail

Earlier today, Newsarama broke the story that as part of Marvel's new Heroic Age, my main man (and yours) Luke Cage will become the leader of a new team of Thunderbolts when the series shifts directions come May, with current author Jeff Parker still at the helm.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, since the late 90s the Thunderbolts have been the stars of Marvel's team book featuring supervillains who are acting as heroes. As Newsarama reporter Chris Arrant rightly points out Thunderbolts has been one of Marvel's most "metamorphic" books. When it got its start, they were a team of supervillains masquerading as heroes during a time when all of the Avengers were sealed in a pocket dimension. As time passed, they learned that doing good was actually quite rewarding and strove for redemption. In its most recent incarnation the team has been SHIELD HAMMER Director Norman Osborn (aka the Green Goblin)'s crack team of assassins. Entering this new Heroic Age, the book will again be about redemption and the team will be based out of an island supermax prison with Luke Cage as their redemption coach and taskmaster.

My first thought was, "Well, I'm going to be reading Thunderbolts come May." This is, of course, the natural response to any time Luke Cage is included in any comic book. I was hoping he would be on the roster of Ed Brubaker's Secret Avengers, but hey, it's good to know he'll be around and I like Jeff Parker. (And if Wolverine can be in three team books, there's still hope.)

Then I read this gem from the Newsarama interviewer:

let's speak first to their new leader – Luke Cage. I know he's not back in prison, but Cage is an ideal person to lead up these criminal rehabilitation-cum-team program – his origin was him in prison where he traded parole for taking part in an experimental procedure which gave him his powers.

Yes, of course, because Luke Cage was once abused by a guard and then experimented on in prison while serving time because his former best friend planted heroin in his home, that makes him ideal to rehabilitate sociopaths.

Neither of the Marvel guys contradicted the interviewer or pointed out, "Well, yes, for a crime he didn't commit..." And while I agree with Jeff Parker's assertion that, "Luke knows a thing or two about justice, hard choices and second chances," so does, y'know, Spider-Man and Captain America and really any superhero that's interesting to read.

One can list off reasons why Luke Cage is a good leader all day. I mean, the man frickin' lead the Avengers at one of the roughest points in their history and that was a team full of lone wolves. That being said, it seems fairly obvious that he's been picked for this spot because he's the major Marvel superhero for whom having served time is an integral part of his character. And since his aesthetic so caught up in that of 70s blaxploitation film, it's not hard to put two-and-two together why he's the Avenger we most associate with being a criminal despite the fact that the only two crimes he's ever committed (excluding those on Latverian soil) were escaping from a prison where the guard literally tried to kill him by locking him in a chamber of superheated experimental chemicals and violating the Superhuman Registration Act. I just don't know how I feel about the only black Avenger being the guy they send to prison to rehabilitate their former foes.

You know, Hawkeye actually was a criminal who redeemed himself into being a superhero and nobody's hollering, "Hey Clint, you done time, why don't you come lead the Thunderbolts."

I can see Luke taking this on, because he's pro-social like that and has a really strong sense of the individual's responsibility to his/her fellow humans. I'm just afraid that's not what the comic is going to be about.

Let me lay it down. I hate it when Luke Cage is written all hard and bad ass. Don't get me wrong, he's a bad ass, but he's also a softy with a really good sense of humor. I don't want to read umpteen issues of Luke Cage, Ex-Con Hard Ass Laying It Down On Ghost For Misbehavin'. He's more charming than that.

I'm also probably bitter because I deeply want a Heroes For Hire book starring Luke, Iron Fist, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Jessica Jones, and everyone's babies written by, say, Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker with someone awesome on art. But, I guess till dreams come true, I'll be reading Thunderbolts.

Rest assured, I'll let you know how I think it is.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What's Really Good

1. Milestone Forever's first installment comes out TODAY! My peeps know I'm all about the creator owned universe and company put together by McDuffie et al. back in the 1990s that brought us amazing titles like Blood Syndicate and Icon. Unfortunately, it seems like the miniseries, which wraps up the old Milestone continuity and folds it into the mainline DC Universe, has been parred down to two instead of three issues. Although, given how DC has acted since it acquired the rights to use the characters, this should come as no surprise. 5 page preview: HERE.

2. I've finally jumped on reading World of Hurt: the Internet's #1 (and possibly only) Blaxploitation webcomic! It's superb. New strips every Wednesday.

3. Afrodisiac came out. Sadly, my store hasn't gotten my copy yet. Everyone else on the Internet seems to like it.

4. David Brothers is blogging Black Future Month over at 4thLetter!. David is a BAMF. It should be tight as hell.

5. Israeli metal band Orphaned Land has a new album coming out. Also, they have the audacity to call themselves Jewish Muslim Metal and dress like this:

6. The Black Panther cartoon's theme song.

Monday, November 16, 2009

So, as I have said before, I really love webcomics.

Here is a new little fun friend called Techno Tuesday.

Check it!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Is this not the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?

DCU class of 2009

Over the past year, we've seen a handful of newish DC characters that have received extended treatment for the first time. Since 2009 is rapidly coming to a close and new DC characters don't have a track record for having a lot of staying power, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about some of the ones on my radar and their prospects in the DC Universe.

In this post I talk about Batwoman, Accomplished Perfect Physician, The Super Young Team, Saint Walker and the Blue Lantern Corps, Larfleeze a.k.a. Agent Orange, Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps, Tim Drake as Red Robin, Damian Wayne as Robin, The Tattooed Man, Azrael, and Nightwing & Flamebird in that arbitrary order.

Batwoman -- As has oft been stated, though Batwoman debuted in 2006 as a part of 52, she was in limbo until this year when she took over Detective Comics following Brucie's death. Before, you could make a lot of pretty fair claims that her only characteristics were that she was: A. Rich as fuck. & B. Renee Montoya's ex-girlfriend.

I think it's fair to say Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams' current run on Tec has pretty much destroyed all those criticisms. I won't bother to go into detail about how good Tec starring Kate Kane is right now, because, well, everybody knows it and there are people with bigger soapboxes than mine giving this series rave reviews. I do have two points worth mentioning though:

1. Batwoman is different from the umpteen other woman, often lesbian, protagonists Greg Rucka is writing in mystery comics at any given time (see his new series from Oni Press Stumptown) in that she's not wracked with constant depression and doesn't have any longstanding substance abuse issues. For someone whose twin sister was abducted at a young age and later resurfaced as a cult leader bent on killing her, Kate Kane is fairly well adjusted person with a stable family life. I like that.

2. The biggest reveal of the Batwoman's first issue of stardom in Tec (#854 for those keeping track) was that Kate Kane had been a mousy dyke all along and the lipstick lesbian with ravishing red hair act was something she did to disguise her secret identity. The idea of a superhero changing how she or he performs her or his gender identity (or race, for that matter) is intriguing to me as a cultural critic/academic d0rk. So, it'll be neat to see what's done with that.

Batwoman's Future in the DCU: That a Batwoman named Kate Kane has been an established member of the Batman family in the past works in her favor. So does the notoriety she's been able to garner over the past two years with little to no actual page time. She also has a huge advantage over the rest of the crop new DC characters in that she's easily recognizable even if you don't know there is a Batwoman. It's like--"Oh, a woman dressed as Batman, she must be Batwoman." It's not like if you see Accomplished Perfect Physician you're like--"Oh hey, a Chinese guy in a culturally foreign blue outfit flying around and whistling at people, must be like some kind of Accomplished Perfect Physician!" And, as stated, her series is done by creators who are supercompetent. I think we'll be seeing a fair amount of Ms. Kane in coming years.

Accomplished Perfect Physician -- While we're on the subject of 52 characters that needed to be fleshed out, let's talk about Accomplished Perfect Physician of the Great Ten. For those who don't read as many comics as I do, the Great Ten are the Chinese state-sponsored team of "super-functionaries" in the DCU. Accomplished Perfect Physician is the first of these characters to be treated in a way even slightly more than superficial and this wasn't until last week when he starred in Great Ten #1 written by Tony Bedard with pencils by Scott McDaniel. He's a political dissident, more-or-less, and the rebel of the team. This puts him constantly at odds with the Communist Party and the team's leader August General in Iron. His power is really cool. He can heal and destroy stuff by whistling and clicking at different pitches. I'm kind of obsessed with him right now.

Some of my DC fan Internet colleagues (namely Diamondrock and Scipio) have accused the Great Ten (and by extension Accomplished Perfect Physician) of being little more than Grant Morrison throw away concepts, but I disagree. I'm with Mr. Morrison in thinking we need more new and cool characters to keep superhero universes popping and while I ragged on how DC and Tony Bedard used the word diversity in soliciting this series, on the whole superheroes should be less white and less North American.

In the name intellectual honesty, I will put forward that I don't know enough to know how accurate Bedard's portrayal of Chinese culture and historical religion are. So, I'm going to refrain from commenting on them.

Accomplished Perfect Physician's Future in the DCU: I have no faith in DC's ability to do anything with this character or the rest of the Great Ten beyond the current maxiseries. They don't publish a lot of books about protagonists who aren't either North American or extraterrestrial. The Great Ten will linger in continuity like the Rocket Red Corps and the Global Guardians as things that would exist when you combine the logic of the DCU with the logic of real world geopolitics, but will likely only be brought out as decoration. I could see Accomplished Perfect Physician maybe leaving the Ten to join the Global Guardians or being assigned to them by the Chinese government to get him out of the way.

However, what I think could be a really cool idea is to have Accomplished Perfect Physician join a post-J'onn J'onns/Trinity-are-M.I.A./Hal Jordan-has-defected/Black Canary-is-in-charge Justice League. In the Martian Manhunter's wake, he could be the new Mr. Justice League. Not being under thumb of the Party would be really liberating for him. However, like J'onn, he would not be able to return to his homeland and family (only in this case for fear of persecution). Furthermore, he would also be culturally alienated from his Western colleagues. This might not be what most people would want out of a JLA book, but when par for the course right now is the Atom and Green Lantern torturing criminals while the Green Arrow watches, then I think I'm at least as competent to be making decisions about the future of the JLA as the people who are actually making them.

The Super Young Team -- I accept that many people will always find this team annoying. In fact, I'll accept that they are annoying, objectively speaking. That being said, there's something about Most Excellent Superbat's swagger and Shy Crazy Lolita Canary's drinking problem that bring a smile to my face every time I think about the team. Maybe I wouldn't be so impressed with them if their miniseries hadn't been the only comic in 2009 that was narrated as Twitter updates.

The Super Young Team's Future in the DCU: Like the Great Ten, they'll be in the background as decoration. I don't see this team developing much of a following.

Saint Walker and the Blue Lantern Corps -- Okay, so this guy's head look like that of Dennis Kucinich with a stocking-tentacle sown to the back, but he's got pathos, man. I'll give you that the idea of a corps of six or so really zen dudes who are separate from the Green Lantern Corps and whose hope-based powers include charging Green Lantern's will-powered rings 200% capacity, but have no offensive powers of their own when not in the presence of the will-powered Green Lanterns is very very hokey and a lot like something from a fantasy-based strategy game, but so is pretty much everything coming out of Green Lantern these days.

That being established, Saint Walker's little origin story was the only really entertaining and original part of the over-priced money grab that was BN Tales of the Green Lantern Corps. I love these guys as the gurus of space. I really hope the dude who looks like Ganesha gets developed as a character.

Saint Walker and the Blue Lantern Corps' Future in the DCU: Before I comment here, I want to put forward the caveat that I haven't had time to read this week's issue of Green Lantern Corps, so everything might have already changed.

It would seem unnatural for Ganthet to stay on as the Guardian of the Blue Lantern Corps after Blackest Night is over barring something crazy/awesome like John Stewart being made the sole Guardian of the Universe happening. Maybe Saint Walker and the rest will be given reign of the Blue Power Battery without Guardians or perhaps Saint Walker will be made the blue Guardian. In any event, I hope they stay a part of the cosmic DCU. Though, I can easily imagine all the Blue Lanterns dying, in a last ditch sacrifice effort to defeat Nekron.

Larfleeze a.k.a. Agent Orange -- Everyone is in love with Larfleeze and for good reason. He looks like a Muppet and greedily hoards things. That's a pretty awesome M.O. for a villian. Of the non-Green Lantern Corps, the Orange Lanterns are the most creative concept because they're actually just hard light constructs of people that Larfleeze has killed.

Larfleeze's Future in the DCU: It is only a matter of time before Larfleeze is the Wolverine Deadpool of the DCU and everyone is an Orange Lantern.

Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps -- I know he and the Red Lantern Corps are supposed to be monster villains created by the Guardians' arrogance and that's supposed to be really frigtening and compelling like Oh no! Godzilla is destroying Toyko, maybe we should not have made nuclear weapons because now we cannot control the monster we have created! but Atrocitus is ugly, and is vomitting blood in that picture, and doesn't compel me.

Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps' Future in the DCU: I feel like the Red Lantern Corps isn't a sustainable thing to have floating around the DCU. They'll all retreat to Sector 666 and froth in lava and vomit blood once Blackest Night is done.

Tim Drake as Red Robin -- Following Bruce Wayne's death, Tim Drake went from being one of the coolest and most competent people in the DCU to a depressing and delusional character in a really annoying costume.

Tim Drake as Red Robin's Future in the DCU: Unfortunately, Tim Drake's character has kind of been developed into a corner. Even before the introduction of Damian Wayne as Robin, who actually is a Boy Wonder, Tim had lost his credibility as the young-up-and-coming-Robin by facing so much death (dad, girlfriend, two best friends...), by being so ridiculously awesome, and by being too old. Still as long as Dick is around, he can't be the Robin-who-has-graduated-to-being-his-own-man. Furthermore, they can't kill him and make him the dead-tragic-Robin, because that would be too depressing and has been done before. I guess that's why they've decided to make him the crazy-ass-Robin-who-suffers-from-paranoid-delusions.

I don't know what the future holds for Tim, but I really hope it involves a reunited Johns-era Teen Titans (now that they're all alive again) and doesn't involve that ugly Red Robin costume. It doesn't necessarily have to be even written in a book anywhere as a story. I'd just like the end of this Red Robin series to be there and leave it be. He's in the background chilling with them or something. You'd see him in the background at companywide events. He's been on the reserve JLA roster.

Damian Wayne as Robin: I love Damian. He's such a little bastard (no pun intended). In the set of all functional Robins, Batman's ten year old son who was raised by R'as Al Ghul is probably the most twisted you could make work for an extended period. It'll be really interesting to watch him learn how to be a human being.

Damian Wayne as Robin's Future in the DCU: Damian is Robin now. End of story. Start making plans for a new Young Justice book featuring him and Wally West's kids.

The Tattooed Man: Okay, so I know this guy has been around as a villain for a few years, but his recent (anti?)heroic miniseries merits his discussion here. Unlike other DC superheroes, who are loved by people, the police and governments and rarely (excepting Kryptonians for the next couple months) cause political or social controversy, black DC superheroes, with the one exception of Mr. Terrific, are more like Marvel superheroes.

* Consider Superman, Jimmy Olsen, and Metropolis PD trying to bring in Black Lightning for murder.

* Consider that time John Stewart was arrested for crimes commited by Hal Jordan and then extradited to apartheid South Africa Namibia where he was brutally tortured and then when he escaped joined the anti-apartheid movement and then Superman made Hal Jordan reign him in because they knew better about correct responses to racial apartheid than John Stewart and then John Stewart went to space and accidentally didn't save the planet Xanshi from blowing up and 10 billion people died and J'onn J'onns yelled at him and then Hal Jordan's crazy on again/off again girlfriend violently murdered John Stewart's wife for no reason. Yeah, that time sucked.

* Consider Steel becoming national persona non-grata and blamed for terrorist attacks on DC when his secret identity was revealed on television.

Even Cyborg used to be in a gang. That's why, while I thoroughly enjoyed Final Crisis Aftermath Ink it felt like I was reading more of the same. Still, The Tattooed Man's response to the perceived moral ambiguity of his situation has been interesting and not standard DC. I really don't understand how he's going to maintain the revenue stream to keep gangs under his control without drugs and prostitution, but it'll be interesting to see him try.

The Tattooed Man's Future in the DCU: Well, given that cliffhanger of him shaking hands with Deathstroke, I guess we'll all just have to read Titans to find out.

Azrael -- For a character whose been around for such a short time, Michael Lane has a had quite a few really good stories told around him or involving him, but at present I can't say I know the character very well or have a sense that he's the master of his own fate. Azzarello's first issue of the new on-going was really strong, but the story was more about the mystery that Lane was uncovering and told us little about Lane himself other than that his personal life is a wreck which should be self-evident given: A. the amount of weird mental and physical programing the army did on him to make him an ideal replacement for Batman and B. the fact that he spends his nights as a sword-wielding religious vigilante, wearing a suit of armor that is slowly driving him insane.

Azrael's Future in the DCU: Pretty short, I'd venture. Did I mention that the armor is slowly driving him insane? I should add that the first issue of his series ends with a flash forward to an image of him crucified.

Nightwing & Flamebird -- These two are my absolute favorite. I love how they fly around and punch stuff and make out in the sky. I am so envious of them. They're even cooler now that they're wearing more Superman-like costumes. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm head over heels for all the protagonists' of the Superbooks right now.

Nightwing & Flamebird's Future in the DCU: If we take prophecy seriously, and it's superhero comics so we should take it more seriously than we do in real life, we shouldn't be too hopeful because Chris and Thara are avatars of two immortal gods/lovers who are destined to die while saving New Krypton. I'm not too sad about this though. Unsustainability has been a given in the New Krypton set up from the get go and it's part of its charm. We've all known from day one that Kandor will be back in the bottle and Mon-El will be back in the Phantom Zone before all is said in done. That's what makes the little taste we're getting so scrumptious.

Let me know what you think!

Also, I'm sure I've missed some characters that are worth mentioning. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts about them as well.