Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shameless Plug Time: Dynamo Guns

Mind my dust here.... Now that's out of the way it's shameless plug time! Today's plug is from my friend Trevor Pledger's up and coming web-comic Dynamo Guns.

Set in an alternate old-west where Tesla's technology electrified the west, the new Marshal in town and the sheriff team up to take out the outlaw "Boom Boom O'Brady". And anything with a weapon called a "Tesla Colt" is great.

Plus I just did a guest page, so it's a self-serving double-plug!

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Cry for Justice

So I'm cruising the internetz and I stumble upon some previews and reviews of Justice League: Cry for Justice, a new miniseries starring a gung-ho Hal Jordan as the new leader of a more "Proactive" Justice League.From what I've read in previews, saving the two-fisted dialogue of Hal Jordan, the message seams a little unsettling to me. Hal's new agenda is to take the fight to the bad guys in response to the recent deaths of Batman and Martian Manhunter. But what scares me more is the fan response to the recent justice league situation that seems to have a subtext of racism, hawkism, and all round thirst for grim and gritty that's really exposing some of the less tasteful realities of many fans.

First is the race factor, which is rather indirect, but still a point of concern. Like many people have noted, this is an all white league free of the editorial chains put on McDuffie's ragtag motley crew, but I don't see it as a problem. The real problem is from the bottom up as we saw the fervor of the DC fans at the elimination of the "racist" McDuffie team and the fanwanking around the new leader GL. With Hal as a significant group of fans' Great White Hope: a staunch authoritarian man's man of superheroes not like Kyle Rayner or that two bit black knockoff.

On the topic of Hal, his characterization is the most disturbing thing that noone's bringing up. His league seems to revolve an idea of being a hit squad to avenge the death of heroes who died in the line of duty rather than, you know, saving people, which isn't "proactive" enough. Busting bad guys before they do something is sketchy since they would have to do something to be "bad". This league seems to built on the premise of superheroes for superheroes above all else. It's almost synonymous with crooked cops only looking out for their careers and the fraternity of cops instead of being public servants. Throw in the torture of Killer Moth and you have a team mentality that smacks of preemptive strikes, and protection by "any means necessary." And people are loving it.

Now I know this is makebeleive but on the heels of recent events do you think the general consensus on Cry for Justice say something about race relations in the comic book community and the acceptable if not applauded hawkism over servitude for positions of power inside of comics and in the real world, just a bunch of fans looking for some old fashion super fights, or am I blowing this out of proportion?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Gambit for Minority Characters

*Here's a post a made over at girl wonder.org about minority characters in american comics, much thanks to the zine and to the editor Jenn for making all make sense.*

A Gambit for Minority Characters


As a second generation nerd, I had comics and sci-fi and various other forms of geekdom thrust upon me. Being both black and a nerd, I developed a unique outlook on a culture and fandom that is stereotyped as being only home to “pale-face” males. So let share some of my funny observations through a different, (dare I say, darker), lens.

Race relations in comics are a complex but hilarious game of public relations chess with certain pieces being more valuable or played differently depending on their race. You can't go into a complex chess game without some sort of winning strategy, right? Most of these pieces are black, but other minorities are also pawns. After some intense study of the game, I have discovered some of the strategies.

Rule 1: White on White, Black on White, but hardly ever White on Black
With the exception of the early Tarzan comics, comic book brawls were restrained to white males pounding on other white males in the good old days. With the flood of black characters in the 70's, black heroes also joined in on fighting the white villains. One would think this gave the white heroes a chance to fight black villains but that is hardly the case. They might be able to get away with it in special team ups "There is no way Spidey is getting away with slugging a bunch of black crooks without Luke Cage making an appearance to validate it." The sad thing is that this sort of thing is contrary to treating people according to the value of their character and not the color of their skin.

Rule 2: Give the hero a black friend
This follows the real world logic that a single minority friend qualifies the person (in this case the writer and character) as non-racist. Sometimes they are dopey Jim Crow sidekicks like Ebony White in the classic Spirit comics or a more honorable teammate like Captain America's buddy Falcon. The recurring theme with these black buddies is that they are almost as good as their white counterpart but not quite. This strategy has thankfully been phased out for the most part with Falcon coming into his own and most of Marvel and DC's black buddy characters moving into solo roles.

Rule 3: Keep it in the family
This is probably one of the weirder rules in the comics game but it piques my interest. Many minority characters are interconnected by blood as if they are part of the lineage of the “good ones". Recently the nephew of the deceased Bill Foster (Goliath), Tom Foster, was chosen to take up the mantle of Goliath. Would it have been too outrageous for an unrelated black person to take the mantle seeing as Bill wasn’t related to Pym? One of the more outrageous examples were the hints that Bishop was somehow a descendant of Storm, when it was already confirmed that he was a descendent of the aborigine mutant Gateway (throwing Bishop’s identity as an "African American" for a loop). It’s as if the writers forget that there are many different types of people with darker skin and that they don't all come from the same village.

Rule 4: Have them deal with minority (re: urban) issues
This rule was very prevalent in older comics, but it is thankfully being pushed by the way-side today. Nonetheless, it was popular enough to merit mention here: many minority characters only appeared to deal with minority issues, which for writers seemed to mean the experiences of inner-city, urban (a.k.a. “ghetto”, a.k.a. “hood”) living. There are some exceptions, like Black Panther’s original run, where he dealt with issues threatening his entire fictional country. But consider Misty Knight, who was ghettoized and relegated to a small pocket of the Bronx – a literary ethnic enclave for her to reside in. Why can’t we have minority heroes who are assimilated into American culture and live in the suburbs, instead of the mean streets of Chicago?

Rule 5: One’s alter ego and powers is forever tied with one’s racial identity
This one goes deeper than the wealth of black superheroes with “black” in their names (although it is funny to note that Black Manta, a character that has hardly ever been seen without a mask, was made black because, I guess, we just can’t have enough stupid puns involving the African-American skin tone). I’m also thinking of the various jungle-themed black characters like Vixen and the billions of cookie-cutter “strong black men” superheroes who play off the Mandingo stereotype. One of the more shameful ones would be the Middle-Eastern Dust, whose power is to turn into sand. She’s a mutant, not someone who gained their powers through an accident involving her environment (like Sandman), so we’re supposed to accept her mutation and her background as a funny coincidence.

The only way we can stop this sort of clich├ęd writing and one-dimensional depiction of minority characters in this all-encompassing chess game is to stop playing. Look at these characters as three-dimensional human beings, not as racial playing pieces used to win or lose an epic battle of identity politics Writers should stop thinking of racial quotas and diversity for diversity’s sake, and get back to writing characters to showcase the breadth of human experience.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Flip-Flop is Dead

While the fate of the single issue, 22 page comic or "floppies" versus the success of the graphic novel, trade, or phone book anthology "like shonen jump" has been a recent hot topic due to rising prices across the board I think it's the debate of this era in comics.but the verdict has been passed for most fans already that the floppy is dying or already dead in the water but I want to investigate how this happened.

Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, cost is an issue brought up with the death of floppies. The recent rise of comics to $3.99 by the big two has been irking many fans as a sign of an archaic format but let's really look at the change. Most of these comics have been stuffed with "bonus material" to justify the new price. Now if you're raising the price there's nothing bonus about the material that trades up space where more story could have been.

Speaking of price, lets take some time out to think of the marketability of floppies for a minute. We're in a recession for goodness sake! Comics are an elastic good "we'll only pay so much for them over necessities" , so lower the price and cut the cost. I really wouldn't care if my issue of Ultimate spidey came in newsprint and in B/W instead of that glossy stuff if I can save money and buy more comics. And this is essentially why the phone book kicks the but of floppies in the money department.

Speaking of big books, the inception of the trade has damaged the floppy's life through "writing for the trade" the industries current style of writing decompressed stories that take several issues to tell. This leaves us with single issues that feel incomplete and the feeling that you've been cheated out of your money.

But the final and most damning nail in floppies' collective coffin are their distribution. Like a quarantined victim of some super virus, the floppy has been exiled by its masters to the decrepit layer of the comic book shop, with no hope of broadening a fan base while trades and graphic novels roam the plains of every Borders and Barnes and Nobles in the land.

A ray of hope shined when there was an announcement that Marvel would be distributing tons of marvel "products" to Walgreen across the US. We soon learned that the knuckle heads at Marvel only meant everything from action figures and bedspreads and not actual comics...And we wonder why floppies are dead.

So contrary to popular opinion the floppy format did not die because it at lived its time and was simply out modded. The industry and the consumers, through our validation of buying the new style of writing did everything in our power to make the floppy obsolete. I'm not claiming superiority of any format but I just want to live in a world where floppies can be done right and coexist with big books.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Foot in the Door

Hello people in the interweb! Welcome to Whizz Bang, my comics blog.......

Yeah I know, one of a million comics blog. The difference I think is that I want to talk about comics in the greater aspect of literary criticism, something I think many fans and creators don't like, because comics are "special". You have to forgive my anger, as an aspiring comic creator that stuff tweaks me. So expect me to cross reference comic book reviews with novels, movies, and TV.

Being the political dork that I am I'll often dump some industry news, rants, and raves from time to time. I just love to pick at comic economics because, to be honest, it's too easy to do.

Besides a writer/literary critic and a industry nerd, I'm an artist. So any relevant sequential art news, reviews, or opinions will go into Whizz Bang.

So that's Whizz Bang in a nut shell; Comics theory, Industry news, and Sequential art mixed with sporadic randomness. And since no man is an island I think the medium and this blog will thrive on debate so I greatly welcome any comments and constructive criticisms.