Tagged: Airboy

Martha Thomases: New and Bright and Shiny

PaperGirlsMy knee is feeling much better. Thanks for asking.

More than a year ago, I shared my resolution to sample more new books. How’s that working out?

Two comics I bought last week show why trying new stuff is great.

Well, I mean, if trying a new series by two talents who have proven themselves over and over again can be called “new” stuff. Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang are at the top of their game in Paper Girls. The story of a group of four girls who deliver the morning newspaper in suburban Ohio, these two men manage to capture a lot of what it feels like to be pre-pubescent and female.

Of course, it’s much much more than that, with dreams and fights and scary creepy guys wrapped in mysterious robes. The creative team has a lot to play with, even if they limit themselves to the toys in the first issue.

americatown(In an odd bit of synchronicity, the New York Times had an article this past Sunday about the disappearance of the word “tomboy”. I’m not sure if the main characters in Paper Girls are tomboys or not. The series is set in the 1980s, so they wouldn’t refute the Times’ thesis, which is too bad, because it is the kind of petty inconsequential fluff that the paper likes to equate with feminism.)

I also bought the third issue of Americatown, by Bradford Winters, Larry Cohen and Daniel Irizarri. When I bought the first issue, I was really proud of myself because I’d never heard of any of those guys. It turns out that Winters and Cohen have careers in television and movies, and are probably much more well known to the general public than the comic book talent I follow. I mean, Winters created The Americans, which I’m sure has more viewers than any comic book out there.

Airboy 4The premise is what intrigued me. In the near-future, the United States is no longer the economic and political utopia we present ourselves to be today. Large numbers of American citizens emigrate to other countries in an attempt to find a better life. The series looks at a group of people who sneak into Buenos Aires, and their attempts to avoid the law, find work, and take care of their families.

There’s a lot of entertaining detail here. The “Americatown” of the title makes me reconsider the stereotypes and downright racism I bring to a visit to Chinatown or Little Italy. And speaking of racism, I found it much easier to identify with the plight of the undocumented immigrants in this story because they look a bit like me and they speak English. Maybe this reflects poorly on me, but it shows the good stuff that can happen if more people read this series.

Have I picked up any duds lately? Yeah, probably. I didn’t like Public Relations at all, thanks to creepy sexism and jokes that weren’t funny enough. If you’re reading it and you like it, perhaps you can tell me what I’m missing. Please continue to enjoy anything that makes you happy.

Now, if only issue four of Airboy would come out ….

Martha Thomases: Where Have You Gone Mr. Robinson?


It’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of James Robinson. I’ve loved his work since I saw preview pages of The Golden Age more than twenty years ago. Those first few pages gave me goosebumps. When I met James, I thought he was cute and funny and completely charming. I’m a sucker for an accent.

So you can imagine how upset I am that I seem to be on the wrong side of the most recent kerfuffle in comics, the depiction of transgendered characters in the second issue of Airboy. I read that issue, and I didn’t notice.

That’s on me.

I’m writing this because I think the reaction is overblown, and I think I might be wrong about that. I want to untangle my thoughts, and ask for advice on how to see this differently. Is this a failing of empathy on my part? Do I have a blind spot brought on by thoughtlessness or privilege or something else or all of the above?

(Note: I don’t want anyone to turn this around into some kind of “It’s their fault because they’re too sensitive” screed. I’m not blaming the victim. People read something and they have emotions about it. That’s what fiction is for.)

I read the first issue and thought it was hilarious. The depiction of James and artist/co-conspirator Greg Hinkle was so over the top and filled with self-loathing that I related immediately. With the drugs and the drinking and the indiscriminate sex, the story seemed to show a couple of middle-aged guys behaving in a way that I (and most of my friends) got out of our systems in our twenties.

And then (SPOILER ALERT!) Airboy showed up.

In the second issue, the one that upset some people, James and Greg try to figure out if Airboy is really there or if they’re hallucinating. Airboy is just as confused. They go to a bar. A gay bar that attracts drag queens (their usage) and transgendered women. James doesn’t let Greg explain that part to Airboy.

Hence, Airboy is upset when he discovers that the person who blew him in the bathroom has a penis.

In between, there is a two-page scene in which Robinson complains that he can’t get what he wants from writing comics for DC and Marvel. He says he’s pigeon-holed as the “Golden Age” guy. Rather than wondering where Airboy was at this time, I was too busy feeling guilty that perhaps I was part of the audience that contributed to James’ professional problems.

And when the story revealed where Airboy had been, I was more surprised that a comic book hero, already depicted as rigidly proper and straight, had participated in a sex act in a public restroom. At that point, his partner and her genitals seemed like the least startling element.

When I read about the controversy later, I felt terrible. Some people said they felt threatened. Others complained that the transgendered characters weren’t even characters. A few called for a boycott. A few demanded the scene be expunged from the trade paperback.

I went and re-read the story. I still didn’t get it. The transgendered characters aren’t developed, but neither is any other person in the story but our three leads. The bartender is there to serve drinks. The drug dealers are there to deal drugs. James’ then-wife, Jann, is there to show what James is pissing away. The point of view of the story is deliberately myopic.

To his credit, Robinson apologized. It’s a nice apology, heartfelt and contrite and gracious. He explains what he was trying to do, but he doesn’t try to weasel out of the hurt that he caused.

So, help me out here, members and allies of the LGBTQ community. What am I not seeing? I get that it’s thoughtless, but hurtful?

It seems to me that the solution is not to (only) bitch about this particular story (which every reader should do when so moved), but to enable more people to tell more different stories. A comic book medium with more transgendered writers and artists telling the stories they want to tell would lessen the impact of this particular comic book.

In the meantime, I’m grateful that my crush on James never came to anything. Clearly, I would have disappointed him.


Martha Thomases: Cat Con?

Bass Weejuns

When circumstances prevented me from attending a comics convention in my hometown this past weekend, I felt a little guilty. These are my people. My clan. Don’t I have just as much of an obligation to attend these gatherings as I have to attend Thanksgiving dinner with my family?

(Side note: Just like when I miss a family dinner, I worry that everyone was talking about me.)

And then I found out about this happening the same weekend, a cat convention in Los Angeles. Not a convention attended by cats (which would be awesome, if only for the bar scene), but an assembly of cat lovers, cat fans and cat nerds.

That is amazing.

Because I wasn’t there, I don’t know how much CatCon was like the San Diego Comic Con. I mean, there were panels and people selling merchandise to fans, and even some celebrities. No one dressed up like their favorite cats – at least not according to the article – but lots of people wore t-shirts and socks and probably other items with pictures of cats on them.

Lots of people wore cat-ear headbands. So I guess it was a lot like the San Diego Comic Con ten years ago or so.

Naturally, I wondered if other geek communities had their own gatherings. Not conventions, really, because usually a convention is an industry event, not a recreational outing. Comic conventions have expanded to include other pop culture fandom, such as movies and television and animation and even radio, sometimes, so I’m not wondering about pop culture cons.

I know that we knitters and fiber nerds have places to go, and there are antique auto shows for people who like antique autos. There are garden shows for people with lawns, or at least decent window boxes.

There are certainly political conventions, but those are mostly for professionals, not fans. Some political activities (like LGBTQ Pride parades and NRA conventions) have street fairs or indoor marketplaces for fans. I’ve seen ads for festivals extolling environmental issues and vegan lifestyles, but I’ve never seen any news coverage of them.

What other kinds of conventions could we have? What subjects attract enough of an audience to profitably sell merchandise, to allow for fun assemblages and room for geeky outbursts?

I collect lenticular, and I sincerely doubt there are enough of us to support a marketplace, because otherwise lenticulars would cost too much and it wouldn’t be fun to collect them anymore. More people collect cookie jars and salt-and-pepper shakers, but I’ve never seen a show for them.

And what would the panels be like: What kind of cookies maintain the value of your collection? Pink Sea Salt: Design Choice or Sexual Preference?

I think we need more events like these. I think every sub-group should find a way to get together and celebrate their quirky affections. Here’s a smattering of some I might consider attending:

  • Silly Putty (can be combined with any comic book convention as long as it doesn’t mar vintage books)
  • Bass Weejuns (panels can include discussion of which coins are coolest in penny loafers, and which bandages work best on heels during the break-in period)
  • Soap (Bar or Liquid — which is most authentic; New Trends in Smells)
  • Umbrellas (Threat or Menace?)

The more we celebrate our individual passions, the more people will share them. And the more people who share them, the more we’ll look for other things to enjoy together. It’s not impossible to think that we might achieve peace in our time over a mutual affection for the new Airboy.

Let’s do it, people!


Mike Gold: Airboy Takes Flight – Again

Airboy Cover

This may be hard to believe, but every once in a while the good folks at ComicMix L.L.C. act as though we really are a corporation. Yeah, it’s hard for me to believe that, too.

Last Sunday, our “senior” staff (a phrase that has nothing to do with age, until August 4th) met at Martha Thomases’ plush Greenwich Village condo. Adriane Nash and I were there right on time, but Glenn Hauman was caught in traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel, an all-too-common experience for those trying to escape the land of Christie. Not a problem; Martha’s kittycat Selina (yep; Selina – fangirls, go know) was making a rare public appearance. The conversation turned to this week’s comic books. I started out bitching about Bizarro #1 and Martha defended it nicely. No, I did not complain about internal consistency. I stopped doing that around Adventure Comics #285. Then Martha asked:

“What did you think of Airboy #1?”

“I haven’t read it yet, but it’s at the top of my pile” I lied. Everybody knows I read my comics on my iPad. “I love the character, but I’m annoyed Chuck Dixon didn’t write it.”

Martha was about to say something like “Yes, but James Robinson did” but it is even better known that my opinion of James’ work is so high that if he were writing the back panels of milk cartons I’d sell my cow. So, instead, Martha said “Chuck Dixon could not have written this book.” Then she smiled that smile that would make the Cheshire Cat jealous.

Chuck Dixon has been writing Airboy off-and-on for 30 years for at least three different publishers. IDW has been Omnibusing it lately. Obviously, I like it. Indeed, I like the original Golden Age character. It was Dick Giordano’s favorite as a kid and we used to talk about it on the commuter train after leaving DC for the day, much to the chagrin of our fellow travelers who really didn’t care to eavesdrop on a couple of extreme fanboys.

I told Martha I was really looking forward to it, and she repeated “Chuck Dixon could not have written this book,” this time with a sort of Lauren Bacall delivery.

“Fine,” I replied. “You don’t have to ask me twice to read a James Robinson comic book.” Or a James Robinson milk carton. “I’ll give you a call when I’m done, probably around one in the morning.” Martha goes to sleep when the sun goes down, and she knew I was kidding. She knew I’d email her at one in the morning.

And I did. I sent her a screen dump of just one panel of the issue. I sent her this one.

Airboy panel

The naked guy is James Robinson. The clothed guy is Airboy artist Greg Hinkle. That was my review.

Martha was absolutely right. Chuck could not have written it.

I mean, he still could write Airboy and James even explains why in that very issue. But this one is something else. It reminds me of the script and layouts to the unpublished Sonic Disruptors #11, but only about three people would know that and one of them is dead.

Go buy the book. You’ll see.