Tagged: Blackhawk

Ed Catto’s Person of the Year

Ed Catto’s Person of the Year

Cosplayer Family image 2

It’s that time of year to pause and look back at the best of and the coolest stuff of the year. It’s always fascinating to compare and contrast what you feel was more important with what everyone else feels what was important. It doesn’t really matter what the topic or industry is – there’s bound to be disagreements. I was especially amused when the roundtable on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show was criticizing Time magazine’s choice for Person of the Year. So naturally, I started thinking about who should be the Person of the Year in Geek Culture. And the more I thought about it – the more I was convinced this was the time for one of those high concept pronunciations. So for Geek Culture Person of the Year – I choose The Cosplayer.

The Cosplayer embraces and exemplifies so much of pop culture. Its almost as if cosplayer collectively are playing another role – the proxy hero for Geek Culture.

bombshell-ww-1Convention Growth

Cosplayers, by definition, dress in costumes at comic conventions. Oh, sure, we saw a lot of cosplay during Star Wars’ opening weekend, recently on Back to the Future Day and a slightly different flavor of it all at the various Santa Con pub crawls. But by and large, cosplayers cosplay at comic cons. And that’s where so many of the big stories have been this year. In 2016, there were more comic conventions than ever before. And there were more high quality conventions. And there were more fun small conventions. And more international conventions. Attendance records were routinely shattered and the convention season now stretches to cover the entire calendar from January to December.

But with this growth has also come some growing pains. The mix of attendees, and their reasons for attending conventions, is changing dramatically. Geek Culture at comic conventions now means so many things beyond comics. At some conventions, some dealers of old comics struggle to find their place in the new order. New, often unexpected, exhibitors are always jumping into the fray. Even the traffic patterns of convention aisles is changing, especially as taking photos is now a much bigger part of the experience than it once was.

And the Cosplayers aren’t the only reason for these changes – but they are a big part of it. Their goals at a convention might not include shopping, treasure hunting or snagging artwork from a favorite artist. On the other hand they bring a level of enthusiasm and creativity that’s not seen in any other gathering. So many gatherings of super-passionate fans, everything from the US Open Tennis Championships to the National Dog Show, encourage fans to be there as spectators – not participants.

Diversity and Acceptance

Baked into the idea of today’s cosplay is a wonderful non-judgmentalism. If you cosplay as Superman, you don’t have to be tall and muscular. You don’t have to be a man or white. You’re even applauded for stretching the original character’s concepts into something new and different. And that’s whey we may see a steampunk Superman or a Stormtrooper Superman.

Diversity BCC Cosplay GLC Shazam
So you don’t need a super-physique to cosplay super-characters. Sure, there’s some shallow, judgmental lunkheads out there, but the wonderful overwhelming mindset that cosplay brings is a celebration of all different body types. And in today’s hypercritical social media atmosphere, so often based on passing judgments via “likes”, it’s an important cultural counterbalance.

CA_BatmanOn-Ramp for New Fans

Back in the day, there were always a few blowhard know-it-all-fans (cough, cough) who took great pride in their knowledge of trivia and backstory about certain comic characters. New fans often felt condescension when these fans, the industry’s culture version of Wine Snobs, looked down their noses at the rest of fandom.

But Cosplaying has worked to change that. If someone wants to cosplay as a certain character, but doesn’t know all-there-is-to-know about a character, it’s fine! There have been reports of the old guard shaming new fans when they cosplayed “incorrectly” (i.e., not getting their characters’ details correct.) But lately, it seems that this unfortunate paradigm is flipped on its head, and now cosplayers are applauded for trying new things and celebrating them in the costumes.

Green Arrow New DelhiIt’s a Family Affair

How wonderful it is to see the way that Geek Culture now embraces families. I’m a second-generation comic fan. Both my mom and dad read and traded them back in the way. And my dad would flip through my new comics stack and enjoy the latest Jonah Hex or Master of Kung Fu.
At conventions today, it’s wonderfully common to see families cosplaying together. Usually, it’s a dad who’s introducing the kids to his favorite hobby. But at the recent New Jersey Comic Expo (it was a great show), I was thrilled to see two brilliant cosplayers dressed as Captain America and a female Red Skull bring their parents, portraying a Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers. 

Cosplay Knows No Borders

Like Geek Culture, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Cosplay is now a part of every major Comic Convention. In fact, this morning I was sent a Buzzfeed link showcasing “27 Cosplayers from Comic Con who are Absolutely Nailing this Costume Thing”.

Mike Gold and Blackhawk Cosplay BCC* * *

So here’s a holiday toast to the creativity and passion of all 2015’s cosplayers. Congratulations on being voted as my “Geek Culture Person of the Year”. Now start planning for next year.

(Note: The Editor is profoundly embarrassed to note that it is he who is standing to our right of Blackhawk, in a photo taken at the ComicMix booth at this year’s Baltimore Comic Con.)

Mindy Newell: I Want To Believe

Military Comics 11Sometimes I think I’m living in a comic book world.

Comics have often reflected the events going on in the real world. During World War II, American comics vilified the Axis Triumvirate, i.e., Germany, Italy, and Japan – Superman was fighting a German paratrooper on the cover of Action Comics #43, and Marvel (then known as Timely Comics) presented the All-American hero, Captain America, who, in a story written by and drawn by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, punched out Adolf Hitler on the cover of his eponymous first issue, cover-dated March 1941. In Gleason’s Daredevil #1 (July 1941), the red-and-blue hero also took on the Führer, as did the Human Torch and The Sub-Mariner in the autumn of that same year.

The Boy Commandos, again from the team of Kirby and Simon working for DC, were four orphaned kids from the United States, England, France, and the Netherlands. They form an elite fighting unit under the command of Captain Rip Carter to fight the Nazis and appeared on the newsstands in the winter of1942. In Green Lantern #5 (May, 1945), the Emerald Crusader brings a bigoted Army private to Nazi Germany to show the private the rotten fruit of racism. Quality Comics’ Blackhawk first appeared in Military Comics #1, August 1941.

The Japanese didn’t get off easy. In The Nightmares Of Lieutenant Ichi or Juan Posong Gives Ichi The Midnight Jitters was published by U.S. Office of War Information for the Pacific Theater, and secretly circulated in the Philippines to boost morale during the Japanese occupation of country.

During the Korean War, the United States Department of State authorized the Johnstone and Cushing Company to create and publish the comic book Korea My Home, which was a true propaganda masterpiece worthy of Joseph Goebbels. In direct contrast, EC Comics debuted Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales; these comics did not propagandize war as a “field of honor,” but showed the killing fields for what they were – im-not-so-ho, the real reason why EC Comics was attacked and shut down by Congress… although William Gaines, Al Feldstein, and Harvey Kurtzman, most notably, kept up the good fight by continuing to publish Mad Magazine, the “original” subversive comic magazine for us baby boomers.

But it’s all propaganda, whether you’re on the right or the left of the political 50-yard line.

During the Reagan administration (I have a picture in my mind of Ronnie in the Oval Office ignoring the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and dreaming up “trickle-down economics” and pulling the Marines out of Lebanon while giggling over the gang’s antics in Riverdale and munching on some jelly beans), the CIA got into the business of publishing comics – though it was credited to the fictional “Victims of International Communist Emissaries,” whoever the fuck they were supposed to be – in 1984 with Grenada: Rescued from Rape and Slavery.

Get this – the storyboards were delivered in a Washington, D.C. taxi, where the head of the company received a suitcase full of cash for them. Ooooh, James Bondian skullduggery! The comics were airdropped over Grenada prior to the American invasion of the island, and, according to Wikipedia, “were intended to justify the American intervention in the country by describing the rise of communist forces there and how their presence demands military intervention” and “outlines President Ronald Reagan’s justifications for the invasion: alleged oppression and torture of the local inhabitants, threats to American medical students on the island, and a potential domino effect leading to more Communist governments in the Caribbean.”

Also under Ronald Reagan – he who got away with the Iran-Contra scandal – and the CIA was the 1985 The Freedom Fighter’s Manual, distributed to the Nicaraguan Contras during the fight against the Sandinista government in that country.

This one if fucking unbelievable!

It states that its purpose is that of a “practical guide to liberating Nicaragua from oppression and misery by paralyzing the military-industrial complex of the traitorous Marxist state without having to use special tools and with minimal risk for the combatant,” and instructs the readers on all the “various techniques” the “guerilla fighter” can use to fight the oppressor, up to and including terrorism. Okay, it talked about non-violent protest (work slowdowns, wasting resources), but it also instructed the reader on “minor sabotage, how to set fires with makeshift time fuses, demonstrated the making of Molotov cocktails and using them to firebomb government buildings.”

It also is a political manifesto on the necessity and ultimate goal of guerilla warfare:

“…guerrilla warfare is essentially a political war. Therefore, its area of operations exceeds the territorial limits of conventional warfare, to penetrate the political entity itself: the political animal that Aristotle defined.”

This comic was repackaged and retitled “Afghanistan: The Mujahedeen’s Handbook for Overthrowing the Evil Empire” and redistributed to Osama Bin Laden’s team of freedom fighters in Kabul.

Only kidding!

Propaganda. It’s not just for kids anymore.

 

 Mike Gold: Superhero Movies of the Ancients

Don’t you just hate it when work interferes with work? It’s a sure sign that you’re working too hard.

I am rarely accused of this. Nonetheless, it’s late Tuesday, my column goes up early Wednesday, and I’ve got more work stuff I’ve got to do. So, instead of the well-researched, rabid screaming think piece that surgically eviscerates the comic book world as we know it today, I’m going to share with you some stuff I love.

There was a time when comics fans were in touch with related media such as illustration art, pulp magazines, science fiction, old time radio and newspaper comic strips. This was a time that preceded the mega-million dollar superhero motion pictures in which many fans find their legitimacy. No, what we had were movie serials. Most of them preceded comic books per se, but not those media noted above that were our cultural forbearers. Some of these serials were a lot of fun. A couple were brilliant. Most were crap, but, to be fair, Sturgeon’s Revelation – 90% of anything is crap – is as vital today as it was when he stated it around 1958.

Keeping this in mind, and acknowledging one person’s crap might be another person’s holy grail, I want to share with you some of the heroic fantasy serials I deem worthy of attention.

SupermanWe’ll start with what I regard as the best superhero serial of them all: the above-illustrated Adventures of Captain Marvel. Well acted, well written, fairly faithful to the Fawcett comic book, and featuring special effects that were quite good for their time and minuscule budget.

Whereas we’ve had a lot of other superhero serials, including the surprisingly well-made Spy Smasher (another Fawcett hero), the second-rate The Phantom, the third-rate Batman serials, and the god-it-truly-sucks Captain America serial, my second favorite are the two Superman serials, particularly the second, Atom Man Vs. Superman… Atom Man being none other than Lex Luthor. Superman was played by Kirk Alyn, who later had the lead in the pathetic Blackhawk serial (for one thing, the Blackhawk serial really didn’t have any air fight scenes). Noel Neill, who reprised the role in the 1950s teevee series, played Lois Lane.

Captain AmericaA lot of fans dislike these serials because the flying scenes were animated. Animated not like Ray Harryhausen, animated like Hanna-Barbera. I suspect kids in the late 1940s didn’t have a problem with it, as it really isn’t that bad. Ms. Neill was the perfect Lois, and she continues to hold that title to this day. Kirk Alyn was fine as Superman, kind of cute as Clark Kent, and in costume he looked better than anybody save Christopher Reeve. An oddity: Lex Luthor was played by Lyle Talbot, who also played Jim Gordon in the second Batman serial as well as a major part in The Vigilante serial, based on DC’s long-running Action Comics feature. He also appeared in an uncountable number of television shows.

There’s more. A lot more. Really good ones such as The Shadow, The Spider, and the best of the bunch, Flash Gordon.

Next week.