Mindy Newell’s Year-End Bests And Worsts
So here we are at the end of 2014, which is the time for media folk to opine about the best and the worst of the year in all the different areas of our overcrowded, put-upon lives. So though I rarely think of myself as part of the media folk crowd, I’ll include me in that description for this column, since all of you have so kindly considered my words, thoughts, judgments, attitudes, and so forth important enough to peruse over the last twelve months.
So here we go, in no particular order, and not divided into “best” and “worst”…
I applaud Marvel Comics’ writer G. Willow Wilson (great name, by the way, so alliterative!) and artist Adrian Alphona for introducing the comics world to Kamala Khan, an American Muslim teenager from Jersey City, New Jersey. Kamala’s parents and family are traditional, observant Muslims (for the most part), but Kamala just wants to be what every teenage girl wants to be – not different from her peers. But she is. Not just because she’s Muslim. It’s because she’s also Ms. Marvel.
In a time when bigotry is rampant in these United States – our President is a Muslim Kenyan socialist dictator terrorist determined to destroy America, and, oh, by the way, he’s *gasp* B-L-A-C-K – I just absolutely love that the House of Ideas has embraced the opposite of the disease named xenophobia. There is no better cure.
Just a few weeks ago at my daughter’s birthday dinner, we got into a discussion of the state of music these days. I said that I think there is nothing out there that can compare to the music produced during the ‘60s, certainly nothing like the great concept albums of the Beatles, the Stones, and so forth. Not for the mass public, anyway. It’s all manufactured pop crap. Certainly nothing that is going to hold up to the test of time. Said brother Glenn, “So where do you think great popular art is being produced?”
“Television,” I said instantly. “We in a new ‘Golden Age.”
“When she’s right, she’s right,” said Glenn.
There’s been a lot of really fantastic television these days. Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Transparent, Outlander, and certainly comics are rocking our personal screens with The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. But my vote for the best TV show of 2014 – as if regular readers can’t guess before I type out the letters – is Homeland.
Homeland not only made everyone forget – well, sort of – Brody (for more see my earlier column on the series here), but it amped up the tension to equal the heyday of 24 – and beat Jack Bauer at his own game by never forgetting that it is also a study of the emotional, and psychological scars borne by those who serve their patriotism in the coldest of wars.
Best taking on of a role already inhabited by fan favorites: Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord in Doctor Who. David Tennant and Matt Smith made indelible marks on the saga of the Gallifreyan, between them raising the Doctor into the realms of a worldwide phenomenon shared by only two modern myths – Star Trek and Star Wars. I can well imagine the trepidation with which Mr. Capaldi must have felt when he was given the keys to the TARDIS, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t slept the night before the his debut premiered. But he made it his own; an original interpretation in which, im-not-so-ho, the Doctor had to figure out if, of if not, he’s a good man. “I don’t know,” said Clara. And I’m still not sure if the Doctor can accept that maybe he is, even if he did, at long last, salute Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
Politics and World Affairs 101. (Hey, you know me – I wasn’t going to let this topic slip away.) This year was definitely one that went way beyond any introductory college course. The most “do-nothing” Congress in the history of this country, all based – again, im-not-so-ho, on the biases held against our President. (Reference first sentence in fourth paragraph of this column, please.) ISIS, jihadist Crusaders determined to raise the Ottoman Empire from the dust of history using beheadings with modern-day scimitars and social media propaganda, is the biggest threat to any type of peace in the Middle East – and the world – since Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party. And yes, that is really how I feel.
Meanwhile Vladimir Putin seems determined to lead a new Soviet Union – and for those who may point out that the Russian economy is in freefall…well, countries have gone to war because of failed domestic policies. And homosexuals in Russia are the new scapegoat, replacing Jews.
Best (and worst) on the domestic front this year. It seems to me that the American people have finally woken up and are marching in protest again against our own “black boots” (not to reference Nazis again, but…) who – shades of the pre-Civil Rights Act era – seem to feel they have a right to kill black men and anyone else who doesn’t “salute” them fast enough. I only hope the protests continue to the level of the social activism in which I grew up during the ‘60’s, and now dwindle away like the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Worst “Oh, God, I knew this was going to happen” moment: “The Mystery of Malaysian Flight 370” was televised on CNN. Just waiting for it to show up as an episode of “Ancient Aliens” sometime in 2015.
Dumbest comics controversy of 2014 (though I can understand the uproar) was that cover. Yeah, you know the one I mean. Jessica Jones as Spider-Woman with her ass up in the air.
The other dumb comics controversy – the stupidest, I mean – was DC’s decision not to allow Batwoman to marry her long-time love, civil rights lawyer Maggie Sawyer. Not only does it reek of bigotry and ignorance, not only does it go against the biggest non-issue in recent American history, i.e., gay marriage, but it’s based on an edict that “no DC superhero is allowed to be married” as “heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives” because it would make for “less dramatic stories.” As if marriage is always a state of bliss. Um…no. And kudos to J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman for walking away from such ignoramity.
Most exposed comic character: Starfire. Once upon a time, back in the Wolfman-Pérez days of New Teen Titans, she was a nuanced character. Now she’s just…exposed.
Speaking of DC and stupidest. How about their contest concerning Harley Quinn? the company asked for tyro artists to draw a scene from Harley Quinn #0 which specifically asked for: “Harley sitting in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances, all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before her inevitable death. Her expression is one of, ‘Oh, well, I guess that’s it for me,’ and she has resigned herself to the moment is going to happen.”
Announced just before National Suicide Prevention Week.
Oh, wait, a lot of that happened in 2013.
Well, it’s still “worst of” bad news.
So what kind of stupidest stuff has DC done in 2014?
Turned Wonder Woman into a caricature of a feminist icon – whiney, spoiled, and bitchy.
Batgirl featured a literal “cartoon” of transgender characterization in the imposter Batgirl, who was actually a dangerous, deranged man. Um, btw, that’s not transgender. That’s cross-dressing. Either way, it was incredibly insulting to too many individuals. (The creative team of Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr apologized…and meant it.).
Merchandizing sexualized and insulting t-shirts with Superman “scoring” with Wonder Woman, and mottos like “Training To Be Batman’s Wife.”
Releasing a book for toddlers and early readers called “Superheroes Opposites” in which “Wonder Woman pushes a swing” with a little girl on it, while Superman, on the opposing page, “pulls the machine,” which looks like some combination of a Deere tractor and deep-sea oilrig. Anyway, it’s enormous and definitely very heavy. Yeah, I’ll be buying that book for my 15-month-old grandson soon.
DC sure isn’t Jenette Khan’s company anymore!
But DC didn’t just become the leading anti-feminist comics company in 2014. I found this at www.Whatculture.com:
“2014 also saw DC leaning on some wonderfully old-school gimmicks to try and boost sales, including falling back into the nineties speculator boom trope of providing shiny covers to try and entice people into buying flagging books. They planned to provide 3D variant covers for climactic final issues of their year-long crossover event Future’s End, a process which apparently requires certain special chemicals.
“One of which is called microcystin, and is highly toxic. Exactly the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to, say, get into a municipal water supply.” Woops, that’s exactly what happened though! Some sort of spill at the printing plant where the books were being published caused the deadly toxin to end up in Lake Eerie, which provides the water supply of eleven million coastal inhabitants in Northwestern Ohio.
Yes, DC poisoned the water supply of eleven million people. Lex Luthor would be proud.”
Okay, I’m sure DC comics weren’t the only books being published at the printing plant. But I just have three things to say:
How come stuff like this doesn’t happen at Marvel?
And, at least based on this list of “worsts,” I don’t think I’ll be working for DC anytime soon.
And, based on this list of “worsts,” I’m not sure I would want to.