Author: Molly Jackson

Molly Jackson: It’s Con and Flu Season!

con and fluNot to sound whiny, but I am miserably sick. I’ve been sniffling and coughing for the past few days. It’s not all bad; I’ve got Star Trek episodes running non-stop and plenty of hot beverages and soup to keep me sated. Still, I just can’t be sick because this weekend holds so much to do!

Amongst other things happening in the city, almost everyone has a chance to attend the In-Store Convention! Despite needing a much better name, it is actually a very cool concept. Comic book stores all over the country simultaneously broadcast a live stream of panels and interviews from the top comic book companies. There are also some celebrities taking part for a full eight-hour day of events.

Now if you are like me and in a major city, then you probably get to go to conventions all the time. However, that is the beauty of in-store con (that is such an awful name!). You get the chance to see every panel, probably much closer than if you were in the audience. And unlike just watching the panels a few days later on youtube, this way you are getting the full con experience. You get to stand on line to get into a crowded space, with poor amenities like bathrooms or food, and spend more money than you would have wanted on cool stuff. Not to mention you will be meeting all these new people who you don’t talk to normally because it’s Wednesday and you just need to grab your comic pull before/after work.

I am willing to bet that this convention was created to help out retailers with another way to drive customers to their stores. And this worse-title ever con can do it. I’ve seen Facebook invites calling people to come to stores and also mentioning sales for that day. I’m betting that other stores might have some other events happening to help drum up foot traffic.

Are you feeling the convention bug again? So go and check out the panel schedule. You won’t have to pick or choose which panels to attend, you can stay there for all of them. Just beware the con flu or end up sniffling like me.

Molly Jackson: Breath of Fresh Air

ComicsPro Logo

Last week was the ComicsPRO Members Meeting. In case you don’t know, this is a gathering of the comic industry, creators, and retailers to discuss the future of comics. A lot of interesting bits of news comes out of these meetings but one thing in particular really grabbed lot of attention. Image Comics head Eric Stephenson gave a speech encouraging change and growth for the industry.

You can read the entire transcript online, but some of the highlights included a look back to the history of comics, an encouragement in creativity, a discouragement of too many titles, and a call to think long-term. As he put it “If you – if any of us – are putting short-term needs ahead of long-term thinking: Stop. Stop stunting your own growth by doing things the way they’ve always been done.

My favorite part of the speech still is “If you are a creator – a writer, an artist, both – the legends of yesteryear have done their work. For decades now, we’ve all been standing on the shoulders of giants. It’s time to stop. Let them have their rest. Now is the time to create new characters, to explore new worlds, to tell new stories.

This speech says a truncated version of things that I have asked for in my columns. While it doesn’t specifically call for diversity, he does mention female supporters of comics during his speech. He also mentions that new creativity and voices are needed and should be given room to grow. I can only hope that this call will bring women, LGBTQ, and racial minorities into the view of comic publishers, so that new, diverse stories can be created.

Reading this speech made me feel hopeful and inspired. Someone out there (and at a major player, no less) cares about the future, not just the present. Someone is looking at what the past has cost us but is trying to learn from it rather than repeat it. As someone on the fringe of the industry, I care if it’s here in two decades. As a fan, I care that there is someone who wants to evolve stories rather than rehash them. In fact, it inspires me to create, to envision and to be bold.

There are real challenges ahead for comics, including ways to bring in new readers, rising costs of printing, and digital comics hurting brick and mortar stores. Now, this speech won’t instigate immediate, widespread changes in the industry. No one believes that it will. However, my sincere hope is that it sparks discussion. Real conversations about the current and future state of comics. And as fans, I think we should all hope that the stories keep getting better, new worlds keep getting created, and new creators lead the way.

Molly Jackson: Highlights from Toy Fair

DC Super Hero Girls

Wow, Toy Fair was an amazing time. Over four days, I saw my wallet cry in pain over how many things I wanted. Have you ever seen a wallet cry? It’s just devastating. But forget the feelings of an inanimate piece of fabric. Let’s talk about some of my highlights from my four days of awesome!

I attended the Manhattan show with my [IGH] site partner, Andrea and we noticed a friendlier tone than past years. Company representatives remembered us from previous years, which meant that it was more like greeting old friends. So, on top of a great experience of hanging out with some cool people, we also got some tidbits that we can’t share. What was really great, especially at the geekier booths, was that companies started asking for our opinions. There were more than one booth were people pulled out their notebook or phone and started quizzing us for ideas! Hopefully we inspired some great toys to come out.

As you might have guessed, I was on a Star Trek hunt. I scoured the floors for 50th Anniversary items. I was a little disappointed that many locations told me that new products were coming but not available for the show. Many places made a point to tell me that they would be unveiling around August for the major Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. However, I was pleased that some of my favorite toy companies were already showing a few pieces to excite and delight me.

Quantum Mechanix, who has done Star Trek pieces for a number of years, unveiled some amazing Kirk and Spock figures. They also said that Dr. McCoy is on the way. Mezco Toyz also showed off their Star Trek additions to their One:12 Collective line, which includes Kirk, Spock, and Sulu. They also mentioned that female characters are on their way to the One:12 line so that means Uhura! And my favorite piece, the ST: TNG Phaser was being shown by Diamond Select Toys. I really want to own that. They were also showing TNG figures, like Deanna Troi and the Borg Queen.

The top of the list was still Wood Expressions Multi-level Chess set, modeled after the TOS chess set. It is smaller than the one on the show, and while it is playable (even comes with Star Trek game rules!), would also make a fantastic display piece.

You may remember a couple weeks ago, when I was talking about my excitement about the changing tide of gender representation in toys. That has definitely held true. A few years ago, when I would ask about female characters, there was always a hesitation by toy makers. Now, companies seemed eager to talk about the female toys added to their line, or the gender-neutral nature of their toys.

Both companies that I mentioned in that last piece, Mattel and IAmElemental, were eager to speak with me about their role in the toy industry. I spoke with the creator of IAmElemental, Julie Kerwin, who radiated energy and excitement to see other companies following her charge to bring girls and women into toys. I also had a chance to speak with a number of reps from Mattel, who all seemed excited by the changes in Barbie and the introduction of the DC Superhero Girls line. Now, when going through their booth, I got to hear things like “Girls want to explore space” and “Girls like to shoot things too!” I know that there are still steps to be made, and battles to be fought. But this year, with even more companies like these, it felt like a cosmic shift in how the industry feels about girls.

So, I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything I saw and loved and wanted to steal. It was an amazing time! The toy industry is bright this year, and I can’t wait to see how everything develops.

Molly Jackson: Tangled in the Internet

Deadpool by the fire

The Super Bowl was this past weekend. I’m sure you know this, as it is a (unrecognized) national holiday. I enjoy watching football; it is a fun pastime to me. (The shock! The horror!) However, the game this year wasn’t all that great. There were too many fumbles and too many errors. Very disappointing indeed. But then again, the Super Bowl isn’t really about the game anymore. It is about the commercials.

This commercial revelation isn’t a new thing either. It has been at least a decade of excitement over the commercials. But even that is beginning to fade a bit as everything gets released online in advance. Now we get trailers for commercials! Or in our case, (bringing this back around) trailers for movie trailers.

As geekdom has become “normal” and accepted, comic book movies seem to have exploded in popularity. This past weekend saw at least five comic book movie trailers, plus commercials that featured comic book characters. However, you didn’t need to watch the game to see them. They were all released on the internet almost immediately after airing.

For those who skipped the game, the weekend also saw a minor feud start up (or possibly flare up) between creators Rob Liefield and Dan Slott about credits on the new Deadpool movie. Things were said, tempers rose, and we all got the ringside seat. In the past, this would have been an internal comic fight but the internet brought it straight to us.

Geeks connecting outside of their basements or comic shops is still a good thing. Now I know geeky people all over the world. Still, with great connection comes great responsibility. We all use the internet as a platform for expression, but it is always interesting to watch companies and celebrities use it to reach the masses.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we are all connected. Now, creators get recognized for their own work globally. Before the Interwebs, we would have had no idea who Rob Liefield was, much less any quotes taken out of context. Bill Finger still would be an unknown and Superman creators Siegel and Shuster would have never gotten any credit in the history books. And without the interwebs, we wouldn’t get tangled up in creator fights or five trailers for the same film that provide no extra info.

So with that random thought in mind, surf safely.

Molly Jackson: Barbie’s Back! Or… Barbies’ Back?

happy to be a kid again

February is always a busy month for me. With the start of the year behind us, I am faced with planning and organizing for the spring. The big event for my winter/spring is Toy Fair in a couple weeks.

Yes, Toy Fair is a major industry event that gives the buyers and press a chance to see what’s coming for the year in the toy world. Now, every year I’m excited to go but this year, I admit, I am definitely more excited than ever before. It took a little while to discover the reason, but it is pretty simple. It’s because of Barbie.

In case you missed the announcement last week, Barbie revealed their line expansion of new body types and racial markers for their doll line. Now you can buy a curvy, tall, or petite doll. You can buy multiple skin types, hair types, or eye colors. Barbie is finally showing that there is more than one type of woman. It may seem like a small change but pairing those image changes with the new career choices and this Barbie would look down on the toys of my generation.

I was never a huge Barbie fan as a kid, but I played with them and I always recognized their cultural significance. I still own some collectible Barbies, including my Star Trek Barbies. But to have Barbie, and by extension Mattel, recognize me and millions of other types of women? That is huge in my book.

The past year or so has seen toy manufacturers start having to listen to their consumers. It has also included campaigns to add women into toy line ups. I personally was part of the We Want Widow flash mobs, where we cosplayed as Black Widow in public to show toy manufacturers that she should be included more in Avengers toy sets. More recently, we got to watch manufacturers stumble over themselves as they rushed to put out Rey toys for the new Star Wars movie. They were shocked and surprised that kids and adults wanted to play as the lead role in the movie.

Fast forward to this year’s Toy Fair. Mattel, one of the major toy companies, has updated one of their oldest toy lines to bring it into a new age. Toy companies like I Am Elemental are still going strong among the sea of other options. In case you don’t know, I Am Elemental is a line of female superheroes action figures based on female figures from history. There will be a panel discussing if the gender divide in toys is justified. The best part is that the toy makers will be there to listen and hopefully learn.

It is true that I might be overly optimistic. The changes won’t be happening tomorrow, or probably even this year. But there is a chance that this change is real and is making an impact right now on the toy world. Encouraging the next generation of women through toys would give us a stronger and better generation to take us into the future. I have to hope that this mindset will stick and if it does, I will be happy to support them. And also play with their toys.

Molly Jackson: Create or Die

create or die

In the past, many writers on this site, myself included, have written columns shining a light on the abused state of minority characters at the Big Two. While I agree with everything said, I think that we have left out the very important point of creating new characters. For the past decade or so, it’s felt like more of a rehashing of characters than creating. C’mon, when was the last time you thought of Marvel as the “House of Ideas” without being sarcastic?

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen aggravating comic announcement from the Big Two. DC Comics is doing what seems like another reboot called Rebirth. This is rumored to bring the comics in sync with the movies and TV shows. Marvel revealed that they are doing another repeat event with Civil War II. All I can do is sigh.

If we want to see more diverse characters in comics, they will need to be created. New heroes and new villains to fill the diversity void. Yes, I want diverse villains. I need someone like me to be evil.

In fairness, Marvel has done some of that with the creation of Kamila Khan, a.k.a. the new Ms. Marvel. She is a great addition to their universe and her creation proves the whole argument about diverse comic company staffs. That series was heralded as a great change for Marvel but it seems to start and end there. Even in Battleworld, their latest event, Ms. Marvel does not fare well.

I understand the desire to use a large stable of artists rather than create. It means that they can avoid the trap of paying royalties to the creators while still swapping in and out lesser used characters. However, the comics are suffering in a major way. Stories are being retold over and over, rather than creating new ones. Creators are saving their very best for their creator-owned titles, but those are not getting the notice like books from DC and Marvel. Rather than innovate, they have chosen to focus on their entertainment properties because they represent a bigger financial growth. However, this will just hurt them in the long-term.

At this point, I feel obligated to point out that today Faith #1 is coming out from Valiant. Faith is an overweight female superhero, which is a unique change in a few ways. While Valiant has driven us all mad with the almost 12 months of promoting the limited series event, it is about an overweight female superhero. While most of you might be shaking your heads that this isn’t needed, there are plenty of overweight women (myself included) that are excited about it. But even more, I’m hoping that this book is encouraging to that comic reading high school girl who has body image issues. Seeing anyone overweight taken seriously, especially at that age, can make a real and positive impact. I haven’t read it yet (because I am speaking to you from the past! Ooooh, Time Travel!), but I am excited and hopeful that Valiant made a great stride here.

There are some great characters at the Big Two. Characters that I love and respect with all my heart. But the world is a changing and growing place, and the heroes we have are not necessarily the heroes we need. We need new heroes to represent the new world we live in: where racial and religious divides still threaten our communities; where gender and sexual orientation are still judged too harshly; and where we, as a global community, have started standing up against the hate to make these changes happen.

When anything fails to create, innovate and change, it begins to die. Hopefully Marvel and DC realize this before it is too late.

Molly Jackson: So Close!

So last night I got the chance to attend the world premiere of Batman: Bad Blood. It was overall a great film; DC is really winning at animated movies. Additionally, this was the first time that Batwoman and Batwing were featured in a DC animated film.

I praise the filmmakers for handling both race and sexual orientation with dignity and respect. At no time during the film did I ever feel that they abused the characters or use their diversity to define them. I really mean that; they handled sexual orientation and race great. Do you see the “but” coming up ahead yet?

The thing I’m going to be miffed at is the female issue. The cast had four named female characters. The first one was our heroine, Batwoman. The second and third were the villains, Onyx and Talia Al Ghul. The fourth was a Wayne Enterprises board member whose name I don’t recall but her basic purpose was to bitch and nag at Lucius Fox. So once we discount her as a non-player in this equation, we have three major female characters. No, you’re wrong; I’m not complaining about lack of female characters. (They actually address that issue at the spoiler event I won’t mention. Another win for the filmmakers to be honest.)

It’s the fight scenes. They had fantastic fight choreography and they don’t get stale in the action. Here’s that “but” you saw coming. Batwoman shows up and ends up fighting one of the two female villains. She rarely fights the main male villains and when she does, she is overpowered every time. The female villains are easier challenges for her. Sigh. She is a military trained fighting machine! She should not go down so quickly in every single fight.

Here is the worst part: I was willing to not dwell on it. It was her first animated appearance, plus it’s obvious they want to continue growing the Bat Family on screen. She will be back so hopefully her next appearance will show a well-rounded superhero.

Then the after-screening panel started. Director Jay Oliva said all the right things; made all the right points about race, gender, sexual orientation, and how fans can keep these things coming if only they support with their moolah. (I’m paraphrasing but I think I get bonus for the correct use of moolah.) I really believe that he wants to showcase strong women in his films and I know that he likes to focus on female superheroes. But then Oliva said how he made sure to include a girl fight in the film and I literally facepalmed right there. I wish someone had taken a picture because I hit my face so hard, I think I left a mark.

Forcing a girl fight isn’t natural. We all know that Batman has fought a woman. We all know that Batwoman has fought a man. However, when two woman are on opposite sides, they must fight because some mysterious movie rule. Can someone give me a list of those? Seriously, I need this list of movie rules for minorities.

You don’t need to include a girl fight for the sake of the girl fight. It doesn’t really add anything of substance to see the women fighting each other. There are occasions where a “girl fight” can add to the story. But to deem it a necessity just for the sake of no actual worthy reason is frankly insulting. Women can be on opposing teams and just fight the opposing males. It’s ok.

In an equal world, women can fight men just like they can fight women. I’m not saying that every time they will be victorious, or that women can only fight men. But I would rather not see how an action sequence is going to play out before it starts. Give the female superhero and villain a change. The results will surprise you and I’m betting in the best possible way.

Molly Jackson Is Cleaning House

Leaving Megalopolis - Surviving Megalopolis 001-001Remember that column I did a long time ago about getting control of my reading stack? Well, now is when it is actually happening. The New Year brings a lot of organizational needs put in me. I feel the need to get my house in order, literally and figuratively.

One of my first steps was to finally get another bookshelf. Bookshelves are important for the organizing process. Integral and much needed. Otherwise, your “organization” is just a stacks of books everywhere hoarder home.

Yes, I’ve got a lot of books. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a person on this site who doesn’t fit that description. I almost think it is a prerequisite to be a big comics fan.

While the process is still ongoing (and possibly never ending), it’s been a great way to locate all the things I e wanted to read but misplaced in the moment. Volume 2 of Letter 44 that I got in October? Found it. My copy of Curveball? Got that on a shelf and out of the stack.

So, you are probably thinking, why do I really care about this? Well, I’ve got two reasons for you. One, you should probably do this yourself. Organizing means rediscovering an old read that you can enjoy again. Or, if you are like me, finding that book you’ve been dying to read but misplaced.

Two, what is really good about reorganizing is once you catch up on everything, you start being able to check out the new stuff coming out. So far, I’ve been able to read new comics coming out today, like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #0 and Leaving Megalopolis: Surviving Megalopolis #1. Feeling free to jump into new series is totally worth it.

The real trick is going to be keeping up with organization. However, with all the new and interesting stories 2016 has to offer, at least now I have some incentive.

Molly Jackson: The Men Of Angoulême

AngoulêmeLast week, my column looked forward to all the potential of 2016. Sure, 2015 had its rocky moments but it also had some great ones. Well, 2016 has arrived and is ready to smack my enthusiasm back down.

This week, the Angoulême International Comics Festival announced the nominees for their lifetime achievement award, Grand Prix Angoulême. This is the 43rd year of the French award, which is considered a great honor to win. However, this year not a single female creator was nominated. That’s unusual considering there is a (albeit just one) past female recipient, as well as a number of past female nominees.

Creators are already taking to the internet to decry this. Grand Prix nominee Daniel Clowes has even removed himself from the running in protest. I do believe that he will not be the last. Other past attendees have also taken a stand against this, stating that they will be boycotting the award votes.

I’ll admit error here; I haven’t followed the comic awards as closely as I probably should. Mostly, creator friends that are posting on Facebook or the follow-up PR emails announcing the winners is the closest I really get to any award show. Still, when a comic I like gets noticed, I am happy for them. When a creator gets recognized for their work, it is a wonderful thing.

One thing I do know is that award competitions have had to grow and change with the changes in the industry. Web and indie comics have definitely affected the field. The changing diversity has affected comic awards too.

In searching for any women comic creators, I found a long list of winners from 2015. Women cleaned up at award shows, with hits like Lumberjanes, Bitch Planet, or Ms. Marvel. After 43 years of this lifetime award, I can understand that it is more men recipients than women. However, I don’t understand the no women. Plenty of women have been building careers in comics over the past 43+ years, despite the challenges they’ve faced. Their hard work and dedication should be recognized.

I think the biggest reason for my disappointment is because the past years’ winner is the head of the nominee selection for the next year. A comic creator was in charge of this and failed to look past gender lines. I don’t know if it was done intentionally or not, but someone who works in the industry failed.

In 2016, isn’t it about time that gender diversity wasn’t an oversight?

Molly Jackson: Full Steam Ahead!

zik24xol_4q Full Steam Ahead

Here we are at the end of 2015. It is crazy and amazing that I have been writing at ComicMix for the past year. Personal tip: Always start things in January, it makes it easier to track time.  Right now, I’m not alone in reminiscing about the past year but frankly, I’m ready to start looking forward to all of the amazing things that 2016 will debut! Here are a few things I am getting excited about….

Next year is the arrival of famed writer Margaret Atwood’s first foray into comics with Angel Catbird from Dark Horse Comics. Atwood’s writing style never struck me as the superhero type, so it will be interesting to see how the story develops. Additionally, I am eager to see if or how the addition of a non-profit charity is integrated into the story.

The other comic I am (weirdly) excited to read is the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comic from Boom! Studios. Yes, I have a soft spot for 90s nostalgia comics and this is no different. While I haven’t kept up with the newer series, I want to see what they do with the characters that I remember from my childhood.

Next year will also be the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. This means a year of celebrities doing fun things in memes, lots of tidbits from the new show arriving in 2017, and the new movie Star Trek: Beyond which will hopefully not suck. I also can’t wait to see what IDW Comics does to celebrate.

Most importantly, I’m interested to see how the events of this year unfold into the next. 2015 was a year of turmoil in the world. In the geek community, diversity became a polarizing issue, whether in comics, TV, or movies. There were protests about female representation in toys, which echoed loud enough for companies to being listening. Enough people clamored about diversity in comics, either for characters or creators, that it became a standard must-have question/panel at most comics conventions this year. Each week the publishers seemed to have a different answer to the problem. In the greater world, the new civil rights movement has only just begun in the US, while other countries are still fighting wars. 2016 will be a defining year for us as the human race and just might be a year of peace and understanding.

So, onward to 2016! Have an amazing New Year!