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On story and writing – Part Three: The case for Miles Morales


Lots of comments have been tossed around regarding this version of Spider-man.  How it’s caving to political correctness.  How it’s filling a quota.  How it’s giving into SJWs (as though that was an evil all encompassing term).

But Miles Morales plays a bigger role than any of that.  Miles Morales reflects the 21st Century.  He is the mirror on the real world.  He also acts as a new and different way to tell stories.

Let’s face it, there’s a large number of straight, white, millionaire superheroes that exist in the comic book universe.  From Tony Stark to Bruce Wayne to Oliver Queen.  Yes, Peter Parker was a different type of character in that he was always trying to make ends meet, but he still held two of the three identifying factors of the atypical superhero archetype.  Miles is a break from that.

How a poor white man views the world, how he reacts to it and how he is challenged to overcome obstacles is very different from how a poor black man deals with similar things.  Even more so when that man is a black Latino.  By giving Miles the Spider-suit, you’ve just opened up a new world of story telling.

It also brings about something very new and exciting, in that it passes the torch, so to speak.  Sure, it could be passed onto May Parker, so we could have Spider-Gril, but why not pass on the torch to Miles as well.  There’s nothing saying there can’t be a Spider-man and a Spider-girl web swinging through New York City.  After all, there’s over 30 million people that live there.

Comic books have reached a dry run, thanks in part to the fact that you can only tell the same type of story so many times before it gets very old very fast.  When you have a new character like Miles, those stories seem different because suddenly it’s a completely different person viewing the situation.  Much in the same way that Kamala Khan is now Mz. Marvel.

The usual comments detracting this move only prove one thing.  We are not in a post racial society if there are still people saying that a black man can’t be Spider-man.  Even if the detraction starts with “I’m not racist, but…” then chances are the detractor more than likely is racist.

Denying a character like Miles denies a new type of story telling.  And nobody wins when that happens.

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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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On story and writing – Part One: The Argument For Lady Thor


Ye be warned, spoilers abound beyond this mark

There’s been a huge number of arguments for and against the use of Jane Foster as Thor.  Of course we have the usual detractors who argue in most screeching fashion that Thor isn’t just a title, but it’s a name.  It’s the name of Thor Odinson.  Then there’s the other side that drew great attention to the fact this is a different way of telling a story that suits a narrative in the 21st Century.

For those not in the know, the power of Thor which is granted to one worth enough to wield the hammer of Thor has passed on from Thor Odinson and onto a woman.  For several issues of the Marvel Comic series, we’ve been given not so much one hint as to just who this woman was.  Recently, it’s been announced, that fans of the comic are going to see just who it is.

It’s Jane Foster.

But there’s a further interesting narrative that comes with it.  As Thor, Jane Foster has the power of the thunder god, and she has been deemed worthy of wielding the power of Thor, thus becoming the Thunder Goddess.  If she puts the hammer down, however, if she relinquishes the power of Thor, she not only becomes a mere mortal, but she also has to fight an ever more cruel enemy than anything the Underworld could toss at her.

Breast cancer.

Wield the power of Thor, become a goddess and fight great evil in the protection of mankind.  Reject the power of Thor, face the reality that she could die thanks to a very harsh and unforgiving disease.

This isn’t just an incredible twist on a comic book character.  It breathes new life and new ideas into the character.  Which paves the way of telling new stories.  When faced with a great evil, Thor will act in a certain manner.  But Jane Foster wielding the power of Thor will act in a manner more befitting of herself.  As a woman, she brings a whole host of life experiences to the table that differ greatly from what Thor Odinson has experienced.  Coupled by the fact that Foster is a scientist, it brings about a new way of looking at just how science and myth collide, and how science explains myth.

By demanding that the “feminist” Thor run stop, fans of the comic series are denying themselves of a brand new way of story telling.  Instead of the same old kinds of stories, we’re now introduced to a whole spectrum of stories that is incredibly different.  That type of thing should be embraced, because if there’s one thing comics have had a difficult time in doing, it’s breathing new life into their stories.  Often it’s the same thing over and over again.

Not so much swapping the gender of Thor, but giving the hammer, the Power of Thor to a woman, has actually done a better job of breathing new life into the character than any grim and gritty reboot has ever done.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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Representation vs Tokenism


There’s a new term being bandied about.  And that term is tokenism.  To coin a phrase from the Princess Bride:

Tokenism is essentially what many people of colour went through during the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement (and, similarly, what many women went through).  All white club invites a black person to join their ranks, there, they’ve done their job by allowing black people in their club.  Don’t need to bring in anymore.  That’s what tokenism is.  Doing the bare minimum to say a group is not racist by having their token black friend.

Representation is actually mirroring people in the world.  The world is made up of more than just white, straight, cis, men.  There’s women, gay men, lesbians, black, Asian (of which there is a grand diversity in that group), trans and so on and so on.  And within each group is a grand diversity.  You’ll find men, women, straight, gay, lesbian, and transgender people among those who are African American, for example.

But the group claiming that representation is merely tokenism doesn’t really get it.  People aren’t asking for one or two aspects to be represented in a work of fiction (comics, books, television, movies, and so on).  Because often that creates a stereotype, or that representation is treated like a stereotype.  Here’s a list of good examples of representation:

  • Sam Wilson as Captain America
  • Batwoman, a Jewish lesbian
  • Renee Montoya, a.k.a. the Question, a lesbian woman of colour
  • Misty Knight
  • Spider-Gwen
  • Apollo and Midnighter
  • Connor Hawke, Green Arrow
  • Cass Cain, Black Bat
  • The entire run of Fearless Defenders
  • Justice League United
  • Ms. Marvel
  • Captain Marvel

There’s a lot more than that, but you get the idea.  A few of those characters (see Connor Hawke) don’t exist in the comic book universe they used to anymore.  I was going to include Katar Hol from John Ostrander’s run on Hawkworld, but after I thought about it for a while, that version of Hawkman is a good example of tokenism.  It wasn’t until late in the Hawkworld run that the read learns his mother is a Cherokee woman.  Making Katar, a Thanagarian, half Native American.  Two reasons why this is tokenism.  First, it is never mentioned once in the early run of Hawkworld nor in the three issue prestige format.  Second, the Tribal Nation used was Cherokee, which yes, is a tribe but considering Katar’s father was scouting the northern and midwestern regions of the States, it could have easily have been someone from a Dakota Nation, Huron Nation, Mohawk Nation, Miq’maq Nation or Algonquin Nation.Thirdly, whenever a Native Tribe is mentioned, it’s usually Cherokee or Apache.  This is also commonly used when white people say they have Native American ancestry (yeah, dude, my family was from New York, I was born in New York, and never left New York, but we have Cherokee blood in us…. sure, right, whatever).  In that case, Katar’s a good example of making an after thought tokenism.

Similarly, it’s the same thing by deciding Booster Gold is Canadian, though not nearly as bad.  I mean, it’s possible he could have been from Canada, but of course he’s born in Toronto.  Dear comic book writers who aren’t Canadian, please try and name five other Canadian cities.  If you can’t, go get an atlas and do some research.  It’s equally easy to do this with people of colour, or people with alternative lifestyles, genders, sexualities, and even women.

So don’t go around saying that representation is just tokenism, because it’s not.  It is so not the same thing.  And we don’t need to go over this conversation over and over again like other conversations.  As to bring up another quote from Princess Bride:

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2015 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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Black History Month – Dwayne McDuffy


I am a huge nerd.  A massive comic book nerd.  At least I was back in my younger days.  So it would be remiss of me to focus this blog on Black History Month for the month of February without mentioning someone who was even more passionate about comics than me.

I’m talking about Dwayne McDuffie.

Dwayne McDuffie is a comic book writer and a creator who worked on the animated series of Static Shock (which her created directly), Justice League Unlimited, and Ben 10.  McDuffie was also integral in the creation of the minority owned and created comic book company Milestone Comics.

He has also won three Eisner Awards for his work in comics.

His breakthrough into comics came when he interviewed for an assistant editor position at Marvel Comics.  At Marvel, he helped create the company’s first super hero trading cards.  Also while at Marvel, McDuffie wrote a mini series called Damage Control, a series that takes place in the aftermath of superhero/supervillain battles.

McDuffie became a freelancer in 1990, and wrote for Marvel, DC Comics, Archie Comics and wrote Monster in My Pocket for Harvey Comics.  In the early 90s, McDuffie along with three partners, founded Milestone Comics, with a desire to showcase not only multicultural characters, but multicultural creators as well.  McDuffie explained the reason behind the company.

If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren’t just that character. They represent that race or that sex, and they can’t be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. You know, Superman isn’t all white people and neither is Lex Luthor. We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn’t do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that’s wider than the world we’ve seen before.

Thanks to a distribution deal with DC Comics, Milestone was able to get it’s product to the local comic shops.  McDuffie helped create or co-create many of the characters, including Static Shock, Hardware, Icon, Xombi, and the multi-ethnic superhero group the Blood Syndicate.

He left comics to begin writing and producing which included Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, Scooby Doo, and wrote the scripts for many episodes of Ben 10.

In 2007 he returned to comics, where he wrote Firestorm until its cancellation, Fantastic Four, and wrote every issue of Justice League of America vol. 2 from 13 to 34.  He also wrote Milestone Forever which was an event that put the Milestone characters into the DC Universe.

In 2011 McDuffie died due to complications during emergency heart surgery.

McDuffie’s legacy lives on and helped open the door to many black creators who wanted to get into comics.  And that legacy is continuing as Milestone Comics looks ready to launch once more.

On a personal note, McDuffie’s work in comics also opened my own eyes to minority characters.  Ones that were not treated as a stereotype, and helped me in creating what I hope are believable characters in my own Heroic League Project.  From Free Spirit to Emerald to the Bowhuntress to the Owl.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Fun, randomness

 

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Three of the greatest love stories of all time


This is about three of the greatest romance plots in all of literature.  At least, I think they’re the greatest.  Since they happened, both have been ripped up and destroyed with either the launching of a Nu universe, or a deal with the devil.

I’m talking about Lois and Clark and Peter and Mary Jane and Katar and Shayera Hol.

Yeah, I’m talking about comic books.

Lois and Clark, perfectly depicted by Dean Cain and Terry Hatcher in the television series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Lois and Clark were perfect for each other.  Lois was a determined reporter who dug for a story, but the best thing she represented was keeping Superman human.  Or at least, keeping him down to earth.  Granted, Clark Kent had lots of help with that, as his earth parents were simple farmers who lead a simple life and taught the young Clark about goodness and aiding those less fortunate.

But the context of Lois and Clark was amazing.  The relationship that eventually lead up to their marriage was something very unique.  A man born of a different planet with powers of a god and a woman who was working in a man’s world.  Lois respected Clark (eventually) and Clark adored Lois.  Each had qualities they admired in the other.

When DC Comics ended that relationship, it was almost like something died.  Having Superman start a relationship with Wonder Woman takes something away from the human aspect of things (and it does as much damage to Wonder Woman, who I believe is much better as a woman who doesn’t need to be in a relationship).

Meanwhile, over at the Marvelous Competition, the other big name in comics had his own romance.  The Spectacular Spider-Man and Peter Parker really were two very different people.  Spidey quipped puns while rounding up the bad guys, while Peter had a tough time making coffee.  For him to end up marrying Mary Jane Watson was a long shot.

But it did end up happening.

Then at some point in comics’ history, Peter made a deal with the devil and the wedding that had happened was no more.

But now, it’s coming back.  Peter and Mary Jane are getting back together (hopefully this will have a ripple effect and will bring back the Man of Steel and Lois Lane into a relationship in the Distinguished Competition).

These two relationship for me are only shadowed by another that has since disappeared.  Since the Golden Age of comics, the pairing of the Hawks (Hawkman and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman) has been not only a marriage of love, but also an equal partnership.

This relationship continued into the Silver Age, when Hawkman and Hawkwoman became space cops from the planet Thanagar.  Katar and Shayera Hol not only were married, but they also had a very healthy professional relationship.

By the time the Modern Age (read: the 90s) rolled around, Katar Hol and Shayera Thal weren’t married, but they were starting a relationship of their own.  This sadly ended when Katar Hol was killed in a fight against the Hawkgod Avatar, which eventually released Carter Hall.

It seems DC really hates marriages, quite evident when it was nixxed to have Kate Kane marry Maggie Sawyer.  Which is a very unhealthy thing to have happen.  Healthy relationships in comics are just as good as having the good guy win.  They also do a thing called character development.

Sometimes, I long for the old days when relationships like Lois and Clark, Peter and Mary Jane, and Katar and Shayera were a normal part of comics.  I had really hoped that Kate and Maggie would have become one.  And it was refreshing to see one with Midnighter and Apollo.

While DC may like going down a darker path and making sure their characters aren’t happy, I’m glad to see Marvel taking a chance (like that’s a new thing, I guess), and reuniting an old relationship and making it new.  Maybe DC can take a pointer on this instead of the Milquetoast things they’ve been doing lately.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Fun, randomness

 

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Steven Attewell: Steve Rogers Isn’t Just Any Hero – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money


Steven Attewell: Steve Rogers Isn’t Just Any Hero – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money.

This is an incredible right up on Captain America, and why he’s most likely a left leaning liberal and progressive and not an alley of the right wing Tea Partiers.

But the real reason I had to chime in was that Steve Rogers is my favorite superhero. Why? Because unlike other patriotism-themed characters, Steve Rogers doesn’t represent a genericized America but rather a very specific time and place – 1930’s New York City. We know he was born July 4, 1920 (not kidding about the 4th of July) to a working-class family of Irish Catholic immigrants who lived in New York’s Lower East Side.[1] This biographical detail has political meaning: given the era he was born in and his class and religious/ethnic background, there is no way in hell Steve Rogers didn’t grow up as a Democrat, and a New Deal Democrat at that, complete with a picture of FDR on the wall.

Steve Rogers grew up poor in the Great Depression, the son of a single mother who insisted he stayed in school despite the trend of the time (his father died when he was a child; in some versions, his father is a brave WWI veteran, in others an alcoholic, either or both of which would be appropriate given what happened to WWI veterans in the Great Depression) and then orphaned in his late teens when his mother died of TB.[2] And he came of age in New York City at a time when the New Deal was in full swing, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor, the American Labor Party was a major force in city politics, labor unions were on the move, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was organizing to fight fascism in Spain in the name of the Popular Front, and a militant anti-racist movement was growing that equated segregation at home with Nazism abroad that will eventually feed into the “Double V” campaign.

Then he became a fine arts student. To be an artist in New York City in the 1930s was to be surrounded by the “Cultural Front.” We’re talking the WPA Arts and Theater Projects, Diego Rivera painting socialist murals in Rockefeller Center, Orson Welles turning Julius Caesar into an anti-fascist play and running an all-black Macbeth and “The Cradle Will Rock,” Paul Robeson was a major star, and so on. You couldn’t really be an artist and have escaped left-wing politics. And if a poor kid like Steve Rogers was going to college as a fine arts student, odds are very good that he was going to the City College of New York at a time when an 80% Jewish student body is organizing student trade unions, anti-fascist rallies, and the “New York Intellectuals” were busily debating Trotskyism vs. Stalinism vs. Norman Thomas Socialism vs. the New Deal in the dining halls and study carrels.

And this Steve Rogers, who’s been exposed to all of what New York City has to offer, becomes an explicit anti-fascist. In the fall of 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor, he first volunteers to join the army to fight the Nazis specifically. This isn’t an apolitical patriotism forged out of a sense that the U.S has been attacked; rather, Steve Rogers had come to believe that Nazism posed an existential threat to the America he believed in. New Deal America.

The original Captain American comics are awash with this New Deal/anti-fascist spirit: in his March 1941 premiere issue published by Timely Comics (prominently featuring the eponymous hero socking Hitler in the jaw), FDR comes up with the idea for Captain America as a solution to fascist fifth-columnists interfering with America’s war-readiness program. In a deliberate thumb in the eye to Hitler’s racial science, Steve Rogers is turned from a malnourished working-class intellectual into the very image of the Aryan Superman Hitler fetishized by a Jewish refugee scientist – alternately named Joseph Reinstein or Abraham Erskine – who is then gunned down by a Nazi agent.[3] Captain America takes up the shield presented to him by President Roosevelt, and then spends much of his early issues fighting sabotage and subversion on the home front.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2015 in Fun, randomness

 

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2014: In Review – Representation


2014 has been a mixed bag when it comes to representation.  By that, I’m talking about the representation of visible minorities and those who have different sexual orientations.  I say it’s a mixed bag due to the fact that it hasn’t been exactly the best year for such things.

We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of really good authors, both up and coming and some long time authors, make big strides in writing books and putting characters into them that do represent people of colour, women of colour, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  So we’ve got a good representation there.  But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

captainmarvelmsmarvel

Books, while good, aren’t visual catching.  Comic books, Television and movies, on the other hand, are pretty in your face when it comes to representation.  And this year has been pretty whitewashed, male, and heterosexual.  In other words, the same bland crap we’ve received all the time in the medium.  There have been strides, however.  The excellent tumblr blog DC Women Kicking Ass has gone out of it’s way to showcase good comics (not just from DC) that not only feature women, but a diverse range of women.  Storm came out this year, Ms Marvel had a great run this year, doulby good considering the book is about a Pakistani American teenager.  Captain Marvel, and others.  Marvel Comics has done well with their stable, but that doesn’t mean there’s still some flaws there.  It took them a while to finally announce a female lead movie in Captain Marvel, but the fanbase is still waiting on one for Black Widow.  And it hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows for female lead books, there’s been some cancellations, such as the Fearless Defneders, for example.

wonder-woman

Meanwhile, the Distinguished Competition hasn’t been doing much better.  Trying to follow in Marvel’s footsteps, they’ve announced a great deal of movies that are forthcoming with Wonder Woman being in the mix.  How it’s going to turn out is unknown at this point in time.  But at the comic book level, things haven’t been doing so well.  Female lead books aren’t doing well.  One of the best written books is being cancelled after a hack kneed decision of making sure superheroes don’t lead happy lives was announced.  Batwoman won’t get married, and to add insult to injury, the current writing team (who replaced the original writing team) decided a kidnapping and rape would have been a great story arch to the series.  There’s also the Huntress, both Wayne and Bertinelli.  Helena Wayne was essentially stuffed in a refridgerator, and Helena Bertinelli is hardly recognizable as the daughter of a mob boss anymore.  One good light is that the Secret Six is back, written by the pre-52 creator Gail Simone.

secretsix

Outside of the big two, there’s been other promising titles, such as Bitch Planet written by Kelly Sue Deconnick.  So, there’s some progress, but it’s painfully slow.  Here’s hoping 2015 picks up the pace a bit.

This is a screen capture from Dreamworks Prince of Egypt.  Which was a superior film than Exodus: Gods and Kings.

This is a screen capture from Dreamworks Prince of Egypt. Which was a superior film than Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Movies haven’t exactly been great either.  The biggest disappointment was Exodus: Gods and Kings, where every character is portrayed by a white person which is strange for a region that is predominantly filled with brown skinned people.  And to those who say that white Europeans were traveling around, think again.  It was Middle Eastern and South East Asian people (Arabic, North African, Pakistani and East Indian) who developed the Silk Road.   The movie didn’t do well at all at the box office, and one comment said it all.  For people of colour, don’t think of Exodus: Gods and Kings as a missed opportunity but as a bullet dodged.

coxgracemock

It isn’t all bad, though.  We’ve had a lot of really great discussions and education with people who have been working hard to turn the old stereotypes on their heads.  Laverna Cox and Janet Mock, along with Laura Jane Grace have been really working hard to show that transgender people are just everyday ordinary people.  And that there is a huge difference that comes up in interviews with transgender people as opposed to cisgender people.  There’s differences in the interviews with gay and lesbian people than there is with hetero people.

And there year did come to a close with a picture perfect ending.

Korrasami

The Nick cartoon, Legend of Korra ended on a bang of a hote, as the finale for Book four showed something incredible.  For the first time in a kids cartoon (in recent memory, at least, and completely visible), Korra walked off into the sunset (spirit portal) with Asami, marking a same sex relationship.  This was confirmed by series co-creator Bryan Konietzko:

You can celebrate it, embrace it, accept it, get over it, or whatever you feel the need to do, but there is no denying it. That is the official story. We received some wonderful press in the wake of the series finale at the end of last week, and just about every piece I read got it right: Korra and Asami fell in love. Were they friends? Yes, and they still are, but they also grew to have romantic feelings for each other.

The only downside to all of this, is that it’s taken so long.  We’re almost at 2015, and we’re still fighting to have proper representation in books, comics, movies, and television.  We made some gains, but there was an equal number of failures and fumbled balls.  Hopefully, 2015 will see more major wins as far as representation goes.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2014 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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