Conservatives simply cannot believe Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) dared to wear a costume on Halloween
“As House Democrats prepare to officially blow up their Majority with impeachment, @RepKatiePorter is prancing around dressed as Batman,” the National Republican Congressional Committee tweeted on Wednesday. “This is how seriously these clowns are taking impeachment. #CA45”
Diversity amongst geeks has been a popular topic as of late. You would be hard pressed to find a comic convention without at least one diversity panel. Usually, though, there are panels about the diversity amongst fans, creators, cosplayers, actors, and fictional characters.
Usually, these panels focus on the heavy hitters of diversity: race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. And yes, these are all very important issues that need to be discussed. I know. I’ve argued on these very points myself on numerous occasions. Still, these aren’t the only groups that should be discussed. One group intersects them all. The disabled.
I bring this up because over the weekend, comics writer & Mine! Contributor Tee Franklin announced she would be no longer attending Baltimore Comic Con(Full Disclosure: Various ComicMix staffhumans are guests at the Baltimore Comic Con). This is because, despite her notes about her needs, the convention placed her in a distant spot from the door and bathrooms. Because of Franklin’s disability, she would not be able to make the regular walk through the floor. When she asked for a table change, the con staff told her sorry but there is nothing we can do. So Tee made the decision to skip BCC, which has disappointed a number of her fans. And this isn’t a unique event. This is Franklin’s first year doing conventions, and three of the four shows failed to assist her.
At least one table swap was offered by another creator, but by that time Franklin had already decided to skip no matter what. As a popular creator, this is a serious blow to attendees but teaches valuable lessons that every convention needs to be aware of.
When we talk about diversity, we should mean everyone. Every single person has a unique experience and view of the world. And everyone wants to see people like themselves successful. That’s why characters like Oracle have always been so important to this community, and why writers like Jill Pantozzi were so disappointed when they changed her back to Batgirl. I find Faith from Valiant inspiring and I would be upset if they suddenly made her skinny.
Franklin has only been tabling at cons a short time, and it’s possible that the conventions aren’t equipped to deal with disabled exhibitors. However, I doubt she is the first or even the fiftieth to make these requests. BCC has announced changes to their exhibitor planning to alleviate this issue from happening again in the future, which is a step in the right direction but comes too late for 2017. As we continue on this journey of diversity, we must remain inclusive of everyone, not just the groups we remember.
Detective Comics is the longest running American comic book series. It was so important to the publisher, an outfit called National Periodical Publications, that one day they officially changed their name to reflect comic’s initials. They became DC Comics. Oh, sure, Detective Comics Comics doesn’t make sense, but let’s not split hairs and just chalk it all up to simpler times.
I’ve been reading Detective Comics for as long as I’ve been reading. Batman was the lead character since #27, 1939, and in the early days I admit I’d often choose the latest issue of Batman – with that big Batman logo – instead of the latest Detective Comics.
But then, right about the time that I was actively buying and reading comics on my own with minimal parental supervision, Detective Comics shifted direction. Batman’s superhero adventures morphed into detective and mystery stories. Many stories embraced a whodunit feel. And as an adolescent who was trying to leave behind the camp of the Batman TV series, this version seemed in synch with I wanted at the time.
Actually, Detective Comics would have many incarnations over the years. For a while it became “The Batman Family” and offered a variety of adventures of Bat-characters and detectives. Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, helped initially by Walter Simonson, created one of the most definitive versions of a mysterious yet well-rounded Batman in a 70s run of Detective Comics. And for a while in the 80s, the plotlines of Detective Comics were intertwining with the Batman title, like comic double helix/DNA strands, to create a twice-monthly ongoing soap opera style narrative.
Surprisingly, I’m really enjoying the current Detective Comics series that’s part of DC’s Rebirth. Like so many TV dramas, it’s about a team of people working together in the cause of justice. In his book The Caped Crusade and the Rise of Nerd Culture, author Glen Weldon made the point that Batman always starts by being a loner and eventually transforms to a person surrounded by a group or family. That’s definitely the case here.
Each issue is adorned with a classic Detective Comics logo and the stories are full of lush, detailed art that often showcases smooth and confident inking.
One would think a traditionalist like me wouldn’t enjoy a Batman Team book, but somehow it all works.
But the other day, I ended up enjoying an old treasure. I happened across my ragged copy of Detective Comics #414, 1972. It’s a wonderful comic for so many reasons. I won’t say, “they don’t make them like that anymore,” but… they don’t.
The powerful Neal Adams cover creates a stunning sense of urgency. It might seem odd that a lighthouse is causing Batman to burst into flames while a ghostly specter angrily lords over it all – but it sure does look great.
From the vantage point of today, I’m especially impressed that the paste-up person in the production department tried to minimize the logo with a window-like effect. I understand that it’s necessary, but the trade dress just seems out of place on this stunning illustration
The lead story stars Batman. It’s called “Legend of the Key Hook Lighthouse,” and starts off in a unique way – with a poem.
“One of the pleasures in working for editors like Julie Schwartz was that he’d allow his writers to stray from the beaten path, do wacky stuff like open on a poem,” writer Denny O’Neil reflected. “I remember very few details, but I do recall enjoying the writing of the story.”
The pencils for this page, by the often under-rated Irv Novick, are inked in a clever olde tyme/Gibson Girl style by Dick Giordano. The unorthodox inking visually reinforces the poem in this unique opening sequence.
The action starts in earnest on the second page. There we first see Batman, lurking in rafters of a Florida bar. He’s been tracking a planned arms sale and is just about ready to pounce.
The villain is the forgettable General Ruizo. He was a kind of a one-hit wonder, but without the “hit” part. The character who really steals the show is Loosy. She’s a faded beauty with a sordid past and a lifetime of regrets. She’s the type of character that you seldom see in the comics, and her tale of redemption, and Batman’s eventual respect for her, is heartfelt, natural and enduring.
To O’Neil’s credit, Loosy is the type of character that you remember for years. I’ve remembered her for about 45 years.
Batgirl and her detective boyfriend, Jason Bard, star in the second story, “Invitation to Murder.” The Frank Robbins, a fantastic artist, wrote this mystery. Longtime comics veteran Don Heck supplied the art. One might reflect on the inky similarities of Robbins’ and Heck’s art styles, but Heck’s art on this particular effort seems rushed and uninspired.
Still… extra points go to Babs (Batgirl) Gordon for one of the quickest costume changes – and the reverse change back into civilian clothes – in comic book history. In this adventure, she seems to transform in those little white gutters between the panels!
This was the first issue of Detective Comics that had jumped to the then-overwhelming price of 25 cents. In order to compensate drastic price hike, several additional stories were added. But even so, Carmine Infantino implored fans to listen to the publisher’s reasoning for the price increase. “Let’s rap,” he asked in the half-page editorial notice. He explained that they would be adding pages added to compensate for increased price. “Not just ordinary pages,” he promises, “but specially selected stories that we were planning for special time…and that time is now!’
These special pages, in this particular comic, included two reprint stories. One story is a Gardner Fox/Carmine Infantino mystery thriller, where the actor who plays the lead in a TV show called Mark Gordon, Private Eye is whisked to Venus. They needed the help of real detective and thought the TV broadcasts were a documentary. This premise would be repeated many times over the years, most notably in the faux-Star Trek movie: Galaxy Quest.
It’s notable that the Venusians seem to look just like the Martians of the DC mythology. They are both tall green beings with blue capes topped off by oversized “opera style” collars. But who knows, maybe this was all a prank courtesy of J’Onn J’Onzz.
You may recall that J’Onn J’Onzz, The Martian Manhunter, was also a Detective Comics alumnus, so perhaps it was fitting. It all comes full circle, as J’Onn J’Onzz is now on TV each week in the Supergirl series.
(I still can’t believe that he’s on TV every week.)
The other reprint, a detective story called “The Australian Code Mystery,” is a real treat. Alex Toth’s art is masterful, creative and economical. David Vern wrote the story, and Mike Gold had some interesting insights about him:
Given my background in the youth social services field, at DC Comics I often was the go-to guy when somebody wanted to get a youth culture reference right. One day in, I believe, 1977, I was in my office pontificating on the subject of the availability of “pure” THC (tetrahydrocannabinol; the psychoactive part of marijuana). Lots of kids thought that various street drugs actually were THC, and I pointed out that THC per se wasn’t readily available outside of a laboratory that isn’t in the United States. I was asked about “angel dust,” which, in those days, often was sold as THC. In fact, angel dust usually was phencyclidine, a.k.a. PCP. As I said the word “phencyclidine” Dave Vern was visiting the office next to mine. He came running in to my area.
“Phencyclidine?” Dave asked. “PCP?” “Yeah,” I responded. “Angel dust.” Dave went into an excited and unending rant. “Great stuff! Powerful hallucinations! Makes a man out of you!”
“Well, sure, if you don’t mind the delusions and risk of seizure,” I replied, trying to be humorous.
“Of course it does! Why else use the stuff?”
“Because that’s the shit they inject into large simians in the last reel of ape movies!” I pointed out.
“Damn right it is,” Dave responded. He was about 53 at the time, and in those days serious, knowledgeable dopers did not look like Dave Vern, who appeared as though he might fill in for Principal Conklin on Our Miss Brooks. After Dave returned to his chores, one of the folks in my office said, “What would Batman say?” I think a better question would involve one of his best-known co-creations: What would Deadshot say?
Yes, David Vern, later called David V. Reed, was responsible for many important elements of Bat-Mythology. In addition to co-creating Deadshot, he also revamped the Batplane and reintroduced The Joker and Two-Face. Vern wrote “The Joker’s Utility Belt,” which would be adapted as memorable episodes of the 1960s Batman TV series. Two of his Batman stories, “Ride Bat-Hombre, Ride!” (drawn by Dick Sprang and Charles Paris) and “The Last Batman Story–?” (drawn by Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano) are among my personal favorites.
The back cover ad, announcing the short-lived Hot Birds toy, is just glorious! I imagine that the folks at Mattel were asking, “How can we extend the Hot Wheels brand?” Whoever raised their hand in that meeting and suggested, “What if we make them airplanes?” would have been regarded as a genius in my neighborhood. My brother Colin and I, aided by our neighborhood gang, instantly embarked on a mission to collect all the Hot Birds die-cast planes.
There were only six Hot Birds produced. Upon reflection, that’s probably a good thing.
But hey, that’s enough nostalgia! I’m looking forward to the next issue of Detective Comics. And kudos to all the talented creative types who take a magazine that’s been published since 1939 and making it seem so fresh and new!
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For more of my Bat-writing, be sure to look for The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide no.46 for my Legends of the Dark Knight essay. It’s on sale this summer. You just won’t be able to miss Jim Steranko’s Bat-Cover.
I got around to reading this comic a few hours after picking it up, and it really was a good, fun time. We follow the sci-fi adventures of racer Domino Swift as she fights biker gangs and the world around her of both legitimate and illegal racing is fleshed out before us. Other than perhaps getting a little lost reading one or two of the action sequences, it was a smooth and enjoyable read.
There is one thing about the book that stands out to me though.
No one attached to the book is black. The entire creative team and the editor, Jeanine Schaefer, are white. The letterer, Aditya Bidikar, is Indian which is important as we don’t have enough Indian voices in Western comics. This does, however, leave the book without a single black voice attached.
Is that important?
It can be for a few reasons, one of which is related to how comics compares to other media. In prose, you’re often dealing with an author and an editor so you have little room to add more voices. When it comes to television and film, you have much larger groups of people working on them and the characters are played by real people. Maybe the creators are all white, but if the characters are black, they’re played by real people who can be admired and idolized who can benefit from that in their careers and inspire other people to be actors. In comics, particularly mainstream American comics, you can easily end up with teams of between four and a half dozen or more working on a single story. If a team that isn’t black is making a comic with a black protagonist you have a situation where only non-black creators are making financial and professional gains from a book while many black and other marginalized creators aren’t getting the same levels of press and encouragement.
Is that what we want? It’s worth pondering.
Also worth considering: this team in particular is the same team that was involved in the horrifyingly transphobic and misguided Batgirl #37. That issue is so infamous to me I didn’t even have to look up the issue number; I just know it. The team created a terrible villain using dated trans tropes that disgusted me to the point where I didn’t read anymore of that Batgirl run until issue #45 to read Alysia’ Yeohs wedding – and that wasn’t enough to bring me back in. The damage was done.
The team apologized for the events of issue #37 and the collected edition was edited to remove some of the most damning content. Do I believe we have to chase every creative team out of comics who make big mistakes like this? Absolutely not. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to trust that creative team with handling certain characters outside of their own experiences. Sometimes it’s important to have a team with people from a community you want to do a comic about to avoid a Batgirl #37 situation.
To a lesser extent, but with more consistency, we saw this happen with Iceman in different X-Men comics the last couple of years. I’ve been critical of how Iceman has been handled by Bendis as well as Lemire and Hopeless. Now Marvel is moving in a new direction with Sina Grace, a queer man, at the helm on the new Iceman solo series. Though the series isn’t out yet, I’m familiar with Sina’s other comics works and this seems like a step in the right direction.
There are also examples of comics that do have representation on the teams that have been wildly successful. Another title at Image, Bitch Planet, has been a big hit. Though Kelly Sue DeConnick is mostly writing women of color, her co-creator is Valentine De Landro, a black creator whom I’ve been a big fan of since his tenure on Peter David’s X-Factor, and the two of them together pulling from their own knowledge and experiences have crafted a brilliant comic that towers above most of what you’ll find one the shelves and spinner racks. Without a black voice behind Bitch Planet we might be getting a very different book that could easily be missing those high notes.
While I do believe it is important to have at least some representation in your comic of the people you’re writing about, it’s still possible to put out a good comic without that. Motor Crush #1 is a fun read and is worth considering. If supporting black characters in comics is important to you, definitely give this a chance. If supporting women in comics is important to you, Babs Tarr and Jeanine Schaefer are worth supporting. If supporting creators of color is important to you, you’re gonna have to look elsewhere.
Maddy has been pretty vocal this year about how she is with DC, though even more than Rebirth, Batgirl and Birds of Prey, we are both obsessed with DC Super Hero Girls. Yes, it is aimed for girls 6 -12, but we dare anyone to not love this. Start with the video shorts and eventually move onto the books and toy. And now there’s a new movie.
DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year premiered at Comc-Con, but just this week it’s been released on DVD and we already know it will be running non-stop on every little kid’s minivan TV. Apparently there’s so much action boys like it too. Why oh why was this not a thing when we were kids?
At SDCC, we were able to chat with Tara Strong (Poison Ivy/Harley Quinn), Grey Griffin (Wonder Woman), Anais Fairweather (Supergirl), Teala Dunn (Bumblebee), Stephanie Sheh (Katana), Jennifer Coyle (producer), and Cecilia Aranovich (director) about what they bring to the movie and to the characters. We also find out why a movie about a group of teenage girl superheroes is so important to them and in what ways they identify with their characters.
If there every were a set of sister cooler than The Tweeks, it would have to be Shawna & Julie Benson. There, we said it! And it’s so true. They are the absolute coolest & nicest & most talented!
For those of you who haven’t been waiting (im)patiently for the release of DC’s Rebirth Batgirl & The Birds of Prey, let us briefly explain how awesome it is.
The Birds of Prey are a team of female superheroes who team up to fight villains. The team consists of Barbara Gordon, Black Canary, and Huntress, as well as a few girls who pop in to help out sometimes (though not in this latest one). The comic was revamped for DC’s Rebirth and was released yesterday. So, off you go to the comic book store or to download it, whatevs, just do it. The Birds of Prey are one of Maddy’s all time favorites, so according to Maddy, it’s even better than Tweeks Approved!
Anyway, back to The Benson sisters! They wrote the comic (among all sorts of other stuff, google them) & Maddy had a chance to talk to both Shawna & Julie about these fantastic ladies. In this interview, you’ll find out about what we can expect from the Birds, what’s up with Barbara Gordon/Oracle, some possible special guests, and then we talk about guacamole and leather jackets and nail polish.
The Benson sisters also are both, no surprise, Team Maddy.
Okay, first off — Warning! This Batman movie is not for kids! Batman: The Killing Joke is the first- R-Rated DC original animated movie ever. It’s based on the comic created by Alan Moore & is known for being particularly disturbing and dark. This is what sets up The Joker as the baddest villain in Gotham. You know how Batgirl ended up in a wheelchair and then became Oracle — well this is how she ended up paralyzed.
Batman: Killing Joke had it’s debut at Comic-Con and Maddy was there to interview the voice of Batman himself (Kevin Conroy), Ray Wise (yes! THAT Ray Wise!) who voices Commissioner Gordon, and writer Brian Azzarello (who not only adapted the one-shot to the script, but added additional material to the story to give Barbara Gordon a story arc).
In the wake of Comic Con, so many fans were talking about just one thing – BATMAN:THE KILLING JOKE and the new R rated DVD release. Cast members Kevin Conroy,Tara Strong & Ray Wise join us to talk about their respect for the classic story and how it was transformed from page to screen.
This past weekend was the arguably biggest event on the geek calendar, San Diego Comic Con. It is an explosion of headlines, news clips, and video spots that most geeks salivate over. However, I was not one of them. That’s right, I spent the biggest geek weekend of the year creating Sesame Street characters out of fruit. It was awesome.
My niece, Baby Destructo (as I call her), turned three last week and wanted a Sesame Street birthday party. Elmo is kiddie crack, I swear. As she is my very favorite person to spend time with, my family and I spent the weekend trying to make it the best day of her year.
Hanging out with a three-year old is a reminder of how active an imagination can be. She was always pointing to nothing and seeing trains or butterflies coming through the house. She makes force lighting and names everyone after My Little Pony characters. We sat together and she read books to me, and even has her favorite book memorized. My personal highlight though was when she pointed to Spock on my t-shirt and said “I like him.”
Towards the end of the weekend, when she was all passed out from playing her favorite game of me chasing her through a museum, I finally got to check out some of the highlights from SDCC. I was particularly disappointed to see some news pieces. A male con staffer decided to hijack a Women in Film Production panel to teach the panelists about the film industry. I can’t quite understand why, but he thought that he needed to help the female panelists explain their careers and run their panel for them. Then I checked out the reviews of The Killing Joke. I admit, I haven’t seen the film yet but the descriptions I have read are not promising. They took Batgirl, whose part in this comic is small in itself, and added a storyline that made her a lovesick child who only seems motivated by a man.
I was excited to see the Wonder Woman trailer; it was a surprising breath of fresh air after reading some of the others. It was a strong woman standing up and being an equal partner with a man while fighting for the equality of others. I would love to see more of strong female characters in all media, but what really hurt was seeing that a strong female character was dragged down. Mostly though, I think about the world that my tiny, imaginative, smart niece is growing up in.
Media will shape her more than any generation before her. She will grow up in a world where equality is an active topic, where in her formative years a woman is the first presidential nominee for a major American political party. But in the same breath, entertainment has dragged its feet in making changes. Every time we get a Ghostbusters or Buffy, another demeaning instance seems to rear its ugly head.
We have a responsibility to the future to make sure that our entertainment is diverse and equal. And in some ways it seems silly. After everything that has happened, this fight should be over but the current climate of this country has proven otherwise.
I want my niece to grow up in a world where she is treated equally along with everyone else. So the next time you read something that is not quite right or hear a joke that uses a minority group as the punchline, think about the future you want for the next generation.
This week we took a little trip to one of our favorite places in the world…
Target to check out the new DC Superhero Girls dolls and the new Black Widow doll (action figure, if you wish) from Marvel. Maddy also explores the choice of geek socks made for women that somehow forgot to include women.