Tagged: Captain America

Secret Empire #10 variant cover
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The Law Is A Ass #454: Captain America Says Intern Stage Right

When I was younger, so much, much younger than today, Marvel published an epic called “Secret Empire.” It ran in Captain America for seven months back in 1974 and was a classic.

In 2017, not only was I much, much, much older, but Marvel ran another Secret Empire saga. This one ran even more months and made people with class sick.

Yes, that’s an over simplification and not completely accurate. There were many people who didn’t like this Secret Empire, so the odds are in favor of some of them having class. Still, while it’s true that there’s no accounting for taste, I just can’t make anyone liking this story add up. And it’s not because I have no taste for accounting.

The premise of Secret Empire boiled down to this; Captain America’s sworn enemy the Red Skull had a sentient Cosmic Cube, which identified as a little girl named Kobik, alter Cap’s memories so that he was now a sleeper agent for Hydra. Ultimately, Cap became the Supreme Hydra and he and Hydra took control of the United States, turning it into a fascist dictatorship.

Secret Empire had all the sensitivity and feeling of a zombie on novocaine. Marvel currently uses Hydra as a stand-in for Nazis, because Marvel comics and movies are sold globally and many countries have laws making it illegal to show swastikas or other symbols of the Third Reich. So for all intents and purposes other than the symbology, Hydra is the Nazis.

Captain America was the 1941 creation of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, two Jewish men who saw what the Third Reich was doing to the Jews in Europe while prominent Englanders preached appeasement and America practiced isolationism. Simon and Kirby wanted to create a symbol who could, and literally did, punch Hitler in the face. To make Simon and Kirby’s symbol of freedom the head of a stand-in for the Third Reich is like driving with a ten-speed problematic transmission.

Secret Empire went on for twelve issues of its own comic, including the zero issue and the aftermath issue. But wait, there’s more. It also crossed over into something like fifty-five issues of other characters’ comics, oh and another forty-one aftermath issues. I think. I could have missed an issue or two along the way. In fact, I know I missed an issue or two along the way. Who could afford to buy all those comics?

Secret Empire ended when the real Captain America, who was inside Kobik’s mindscape, convinced her to fight back. She did. And with the help of the Winter Soldier, Kobik and the real Captain America escaped her mindscape into to the world. Then Cap beat up Hydra Cap and Kobik used her comic powers to restore the world to its natural state. Kind of a deus ex cubus.

During the course of Hydra’s rule over America it did many things including, and this is where my column comes into it, interning Inhumans, so that they couldn’t use their powers against Hydra. At the end of the story, something had to be done with those interred Inhumans. Fortunately, in Secret Empire #10, the newly-reinstated United States government did the right thing; it released the Inhumans. Unfortunately, when it did the right thing it also did something wrong; it released the Inhumans with strings attached.

Before the government gave an Inhuman his or her release, it asked them to give the government a release by signing a form which “indemnifie[d] the United States government for any harm or harassment you were the victim of” during the internment. It also told the Inhumans they could have a lawyer look over the form, but any Inhuman who wanted that would have to go to another line; implying that their release might be delayed in bureaucratic red tape. Most signed. Maybe all. The comic spent all of three panels on this questionable practice, so it didn’t give us actual numbers.

The thing is, the Inhumans had committed no crimes, made no threats, or done anything by which the United States could justify imprisoning them. So the government was sorta, kinda required to release them because of that pesky old Constitution we keep talking about here in “The Law Is a Ass.” Not releasing the Inhumans would have caused much a due about process.

So if the government was required to release the Inhumans – and it was by cases such as Ex parte Endo – which said the US government could not continue to inter a Japanese citizen who was loyal to the government – it wasn’t very nice of the government, if not downright illegal, to coerce the Inhumans to sign a release from liability before they could get a release from custody.

When the government released the Japanese citizens it had interred during World War II, I don’t think it required them to sign release forms. In fact, a few decades back a federal appeals court ruled that formerly interred Japanese had the right to sue the U.S. government in court even though the suits were brought outside of the statute of limitations window. That fact would strongly suggest the government didn’t require signed release forms, but I don’t know this for a fact. George Takei, who actually was interred, might know. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to ask him.

I do know that inmates who are released from prison after introducing evidence that they were actually innocent are not required or coerced into signing release forms before they are released. I know this because many of these individuals who are released for actual innocence, including one who was a former client of mine, sue the government for wrongful imprisonment. Frequently with success, including one who was a former client of mine. If prisoners who didn’t actually do anything wrong aren’t asked to sign release forms, than interned Inhumans who didn’t do anything wrong shouldn’t have been asked to do so either.

Or, to paraphrase the Bard – because who among us doesn’t paraphrase the Bard from time to time – the evil that men did to the Inhumans lives after them; the good Inhumans shouldn’t have been interred with their bones.

Mike Gold: This Empire Strikes Out

Well, it’s over. Or… is it?

Does anybody else remember Marvel’s Kree – Skrull War? It was one of those mammoth, Marvel Universe shifting events: damn near everybody was in it, it had tons of intergalactic action, some serious character development… everything you could want in a major storyline. Of course, its legendary status was exacerbated with a truly stellar list of creative talent: Roy Thomas, Sal and John Buscema, and Neal Adams.

Here’s the part that might stun “younger” (as in “not-geriatric”) readers. The entire story was told in eight issues! No tie-ins, no auxiliary sidebar rack-space-wasting and largely unnecessary crossovers and mini-serieses. No phony “death” scenes and, therefore, no waiting until those dead people were mysteriously resurrected.

Now, let’s compare that with Marvel’s just-sort-of-ended Secret Empire “event.” You know, the one that came close to burning down the House of Ideas.

Putting aside the antipathy and even outrage expressed by those few fans and retailers who prefer heroes with white robes and pointy hats, Secret Empire consisted of 11 issues written by Nick Spencer (yes, I’m counting issue #0), “fleshed out” by what seemed like thousands of additional comic book tie-ins, auxiliary sidebar rack-space-wasting and largely unnecessary crossovers and mini-serieses and phony “death” scenes. And by “fleshed out,” I refer you to Franz Kafka’s short story “In The Penal Colony.”

Here’s the rub. Spencer’s basic story concept is solid. The cosmic cube, given the form of a little girl who just wants to make everybody happy by improving the world, screws up and retcons time so that the pre-Captain America Steve Rogers actually was a Hydra sleeper agent. He still became Captain America and (I think) just about everything that happened in the Marvel Universe still happened, until Captain America wakes up, takes over Hydra and then takes over America.

There’s nothing wrong with that story, and it could have been told in less than 11 issues, preferably in alternating issues of Spencer’s two Captain America titles. The story would have reflected on writer’s vision and not be watered-down and screwed-up by an infinite number of additional hands. The “Crusty Bunker” model only works when you are seriously behind schedule and have no other options. I suspect readers would have enjoyed it, and retailers would have been eager to rack the series.

It’s not even over. There are several epilog issues coming, some as crossovers, some as “stand-alones” – depending upon your definition of standing alone.

Just as Secret Empire really was an extension of Avengers: Standoff and Civil War 2, Secret Empire leads into a whole bunch of remarkably superfluous-sounding events. You want to restore the original numbering to end long-time confusion and create brand-new confusion? Then do it. You want to restore the “classic” characters to their original white and almost-entirely male visages? Then do it. We all knew you would eventually.

But if you want to restore the magic that was Marvel Comics, then stop doing all these meaningless, overwrought and overpublished events. Stop telling two-issue stories in eight. Stop tying in to more comics simultaneously than most readers can afford to buy, even if we had the time to read them all.

Secret Empire could have been a contender. It could have risen to the level of the Kree – Skrull War. It could have brought big ol’ smiles to the readers’ faces and left retailers with a lot less unsold inventory.

There’s at least one additional reason why so many people have soured on Marvel Comics, and I’ll tell you all about it next week… if I remember.

Joe Corallo: A Certain Point Of View

Okay, so I haven’t written musings on my feelings on fandom in quite a bit, so here goes nothing!

Marvel’s Secret Empire event has received a lot of flack for continuing the storyline of Captain America as a secret Hydra agent. Much of that flack has revolved around the notion that Cap being associated with Hydra is an affront to co-creator Jack Kirby, a Jewish man and a World War II veteran. By having Cap be associated with Hydra, it goes against the creator’s intent.

But – how much so we actually care about a creator’s intent?

From my experiences, it seems we don’t really care that much about a creator’s original intent if the story is considered good. A prominent example is how Gene Roddenberry was opposed to the idea of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (or at least some reported it as such) and was made anyway after his passing. The show for many Trek fans is one of. if not the best Trek despite its perceived deviation from some of Roddenberry’s core principles as previously expressed in the show.

A prime opposite example would be George Lucas and how his vision, particularly in the prequels, of Star Wars is viewed less favorably than Star Wars: The Force Awakens despite the fact that George was not a big fan of the film. He felt the movie was what the fans may have wanted, but not the direction he would have gone. There are many accounts, books, and documentaries covering the franchise and Lucas’ involvement in Star Wars where some try to take credit away from him by saying the original film was saved by editing and it was Irvin Kershner who made The Empire Strikes Back the success that it was. Is that because that’s ultimately how it really played out, or is there some stretching of the truth to fit a narrative that the fans want because George Lucas fell out of their favor from the prequels?

Returning to comics, there is quite a lot we can discuss Jack Kirby and his Captain America co-creator, Joe Simon. They also created Cap’s sidekick, Bucky, who went on to become a Russian assassin during the Cold War known as The Winter Soldier. I think we can all agree that was not their original intention with the character. Some of Kirby’s other works like X-Men are largely impacted more now by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and others than by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; many of which have gone against what X-Men was originally about at its core to much wilder success. Instead of people that were considered freaks trying to get by in a world that hates them, the focus of the X books moved to mostly attractive characters dealing with soap opera type angst. That being said, Jack did do his fair share of romance comics as well.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t put some historical context when we consider these things. It’s absolutely understandable and justifiable for people to react based on those factors with something like Hydra Cap. Perhaps a slightly changed story that struck a different chord with the audience would have had a different result with a similar origin. We can’t know for sure.

One of my favorite Legion of Super-Hero stories is Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Olivier Coipel’s Legion Lost. I think it’s perfectly paced and incredibly compelling. It’s hard for me to not want to read all 12 issues in one sitting. That being said, the story absolutely goes against the original intent of the Legion. These characters were made to be optimistic children following in the ways of Superman. In Legion Lost they are a terrified group in a dark future where everything seems grim and dark. Part of why it works is that there aren’t many stories like this. That’s part of what made things like The Dark Knight Returns stand out before a lot of people wanted to copy that success, despite it not being much like the Batman we knew at the time.

While yes, some people do care about what a creator’s original intent is, it often seems to be much more about the quality of the story telling. If you like the story it just doesn’t matter as much. If you don’t like the story, it’s a reason you can draw from in your argument supporting your feelings. It just might not be a very good or persuasive reason.

Thanks for reading my rant! Maybe next week I’ll talk about shipping characters. I have a lot of opinions on shipping characters.

John Ostrander: Riding With The King

Last Monday was the 100th birthday of the King o’ Comics, Jack Kirby. The young’uns among you might not know the name (or maybe they do; I try not to be a fuddy-duddy most days) but Kirby was a force unparalleled in the comics medium. If you need a primer, Mike Gold wrote an excellent column about him.

Even if you know Marvel only from the movies, you owe him. Captain America? Jack. The X-Men? Jack. The Black Panther? Jack. The Avengers? Jack. And so on and so forth. And not just at Marvel; King Kirby seemed to be everywhere. And not just superheroes; he did Westerns, monsters, romance. And so on and so forth.

I met him in person exactly once.

The first thing I need to explain is that, before I became a professional writer in comics, I was a bonafide geek. Yeah, I still am.

One of the big thrills when I first started was that at conventions I could meet my heroes as a fellow professional. In theory. Not as a peer; that suggested I was an equal and that was not how I felt.

So – it’s early in my career and I’m working the First Comics booth at the Chicago Comicon along with my wife, Kim Yale. We were the only ones working the booth at that moment. It wasn’t in the main room and we weren’t getting much traffic.

Then this small group of people walk by, talking among themselves, and in the middle of it is Jack Kirby.

OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!

(Point of historical accuracy: Back some 30 or so years ago when this story takes place, we never said “OMG!,” at least not in the Midwest. I just wanted to convey the impact of the moment in modern terms.)

Kim later said she watched me turn into a 14-year old fanboy complete with zits. I can’t imagine that was pleasant.

In the group, I spotted Julie Schwartz, himself a legend and an icon. There’d be no Silver Age DC without Julie. Possibly no modern comics industry.

I knew Julie a little through Mike Gold so I hiss at him, “Julie! Hey, Julie! Hey!”

Julie spots me and ambles over. “Hey, kid, how ya doin’?”

“Julie! Introduce me to the King!” I plead.

Julie looks at me like I’m demented and maybe, at the moment, I am. “It’s Jack,” he tells me. “Just go over and say hi.”

“No no no no no! I can’t I can’t I can’t! Don’t you see?! He’s the King!” “Hey, Julie! Help a guy out!”

Julie gives me a pitying look and says, “C’mon, kid.”

I walk over to the group with Julie and he does a nice intro of me. The King shakes my hand, says “HiHowareya.” I babble something about what an honor gee you’re my hero blah blah blah. And it’s over. The King and his group move on.

I wish I could say that I never washed that hand again but Kim would have insisted.

I doubt very much that the moment would have stayed with Jack Kirby but it has stayed with me in vivid detail for a couple of decades. Over the past few years, I’ve met some fans who treat me sort of like I treated Jack. (Trust me, gang; I’m not that impressive and I can give you references.) There was only one Jack Kirby and there will ever be only one Jack Kirby and he just turned 100.

Happy birthday, Jack. Long live the King.

Mike Gold: Jack Kirby’s Moxie

Next Monday marks the 100th anniversary of Jack Kirby’s birth. For one horrible moment, let us consider the following question: what if that birth never happened?

No Captain America. No Fourth World. Probably no romance comics. No Challengers of the Unknown. No Kamandi. No “Marvel Age of Comics.”

Think about that last one for a moment. The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Hulk, Nick Fury, Thor, Silver Surfer, Black Panther… most likely, they would not have existed; certainly not as the astonishing successes they were.

I will avoid suggesting the American comic book medium would have disappeared decades ago if not for Jack Kirby, although a case could be made for that argument. If Marvel Comics didn’t happen the way it happened, it’s possible that direct sales to comic book stores would not have happened, and that little phenomenon certainly has kept this racket alive.

Nobody put more power, more energy, more excitement onto a single page. Even when he dialogued his own work when he created the Fourth World for DC Comics – and, to be fair, his dialogue was damn close to self-parody – his story, his concepts and his ability to deliver sheer entertainment were so strong the reader would forgive his few shortcomings. In fact, after a couple panels, we usually didn’t notice.

From time to time, artists of subsequent generations would be accused of being too “Kirby-esque.” Well, all artists (including writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc.) tend to reveal their influences, particularly in their early stuff. In comics, there always has been a fine line between influence and imitation. And that applies to Jack himself: the visage of Etrigan the Demon, first published in 1972, bears very close resemblance to a mask worn by Prince Valiant on Christmas Day 1937, drawn by the great Hal Foster. And Jack always was upfront about the source material.

I look at this “influence” thing a bit differently. Instead of accusing an artist of being Kirby-esque, I wonder why some of the others are not. In the early days of their careers, a little Jack Kirby moxie would have helped guide them to their own distinctive abilities.

Sometimes I wonder if some later generation of comics talent will not know of Jack Kirby’s work. I have met many a young’un who was sadly unfamiliar with the work of Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Wally Wood, Jack Cole… to name but a few.

I need not worry. If there is one person who has an indelible legacy in the comic art medium, it is Jack Kirby.

•     •     •     •     •

Plug number one: I will be at Wizard World Chicago starting tomorrow, and I will be on two panels: one discussing the bombastic Doctor Who convention of 1982, the first major big-time Who show in the States. For three hot, sweaty days Chicago’s Congress Hotel looked like the San Diego Convention Center on steroids. The other panel will be a tribute to legendary artist Jerry Robinson, on occasion of the publishing of Jerry’s last memoir, Jerry and The Joker. Both panels are on Saturday.

 •     •     •     •     • 

Plug number two: Martha Thomases said it best last Friday, and since I’m about to drive off to the above-mentioned convention I shall re-appropriate her words:

Just a reminder: If you haven’t already, get thee to this Kickstarter page and pledge some money for Mine! the anthology book ComicMix is producing to benefit Planned Parenthood. You might not know it from the Fake News Media, but Planned Parenthood provides necessary health care to millions of people of all ages and genders. In some communities, it is the only place where women can receive pre-natal and post-natal care. In some communities, it is the only place where poor women can get vital cancer screenings. In some communities, it is the only health clinic available, for women and men.

You might also want to pledge so you can get a cool book, with stories by Neil Gaiman, Trina Robbins, Rachel Pollack, Becky Cloonan, Stuart Moore, Mark Said, Amber Benson, Louise Simonson, Jody Houser… and Mike Gold… and Martha Thomases!

Marc Alan Fishman: Epic Barriers to Entry

That thought of a 9-year old girl being intimidated by her local comic shop has not left my mind, kiddos.

I said what I could on the subject just a few weeks ago. Beyond the local comic shop being the culprit for the stagnation we as fans feel for the specific love of the pulp and paper side of comic bookery, there’s a plethora of other barriers to entry. Little mountains that stand in the way for people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and level of declared geekery that make the journey to our shores feel not unlike the one those halflings took from their little town, to that live volcano. And much like that epic, the damned eagles were there all along if anyone would have thought to ask for a quicker trip.

Epic Back Catalogs    

“I like Captain America!” the little tyke exclaims. He’s taken to his local comic shop, allowance in tow. Where, oh where does he begin? If he gets the current issue, he might be wondering why Steve Rogers is an agent of Hydra. Or why Sam Wilson isn’t Falcon. And just how many issues does he need to go back and buy to catch up? Of which volume? And what about trades vs. floppies? Or what if, by chance, the book falls in the middle of an epic crossover?

Touched on lightly in my aforementioned article, the advent of the epic crossover has been a thoroughly exhausting trend weaved into the modern comic book production schedule. It seems once to twice a year now, the big boys of comics (who are the specific targets I’m aiming at here) are hellbent to change the status quo. Grand schemes crawl and sprawl across special mini-series, and dump into the pages of dozens of titles – all in the effort to tell a larger story.

When it was done with years in-between, it was great! Crisis on Infinite Earths, Civil War, or The Infinity Gauntlet each stood as massive touchstones for years to come. Their larger-than-normal villains had massive plans, which required the multi-tentacled reach of an editorial Cthulu in order to come to the final catharsis. And in their wakes? New rules, new books, and time to let what transpired breathe.

Now?  Not so much. Every book becomes mandatory reading, and before you blink, new series are given birth, fail to catch on, and are chucked into the ethereal pit from whence they came. How could a muggle traipse into their local comic shop, cash and enthusiasm in hand, be told in order to jump on board they’ll need to drop serious coin, and spend the remainder of their afternoon reading Wikipedia to make sense of it all? This, of course, leads me to…

Epic Pricing

A standard comic, all-in-all, isn’t that expensive… until you compare it to similar media. A weeks’ worth of books for me (back when I bought books weekly) ran me $15-20 for a small haul. Left on the back of my toilet for easy-reading and metering out, I was done just in time for a whole new set the following week. For roughly the same amount of money I can have both the WWE Network and Netflix… which combined provide me thousands of hours of entertainment I don’t even need to read to enjoy. Apples to oranges you say? Correct, padawan. But tell that to an 8-year old.

Make no bones about it: kids do love comics. The static art being produced in any number of styles, slaved over by teams of passionate creators should be beloved, cherished, and sought after. For Rao’s sake, that is why I toil nightly to produce my own books! But I’d be lying if I didn’t feel like it can be a bit of a hard sell when the average comic can be absorbed in 15 minutes. The economics of it are depressing.

And, to my knowledge, publishers-at-large haven’t exactly solved how to compete. While Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and their next-of-kin pony up money for solid, respectable original content in addition to their bread-and-butter second-hand material… they have all found the panacea to their pricier counterpoints (cable TV, and the movie theater). Simply put, they found a price so low that people can barely argue about their subscription. For roughly ten bucks a month, their consumers have more content available then they can consume.

So, why haven’t the publishers figured this out?

Epic Conclusions on Infinite Earths

As it stands, there are no easy answers. Netflix and the like all started in different places – Netflix as a mail-order rent-a-DVD catalog, Hulu as pricey YouTube – but would up in the same business. DC, Marvel, and the other major publishers each offer a maddening number of ways to consume their comic content. Floppies or trades? Printed or Digital? Direct market, subscriptions, ComiXology, Comix Blitz, or any other number of other ways I don’t know? Because the original content is printed (but doesn’t necessarily need to be), it simply stands to ask the biggest question of all:

In the land of plenty, is the niche market of comic books too splintered to be as profitable as it needs to be… to sustain real growth? Are there simply too many choices out there for a truly casual fan to make a choice they can feel confident in, when it comes to their consumption? And is the looming specter of a digital device being so ubiquitous, how far off are we truly to even needing paper books? It’s why vinyl records made a comeback, and CDs are nearly non-existent. It’s why DVDs and Blu-Rays are slowly being discount-binned into-oblivion. And why we all have at very least… free Spotify or something similar on our smartphones.

In my estimation, the only way comics can truly save the day, is to match what their brethren in other industries have done. There needs to be a singular wave of content accessible, available, and bingeable… offered at a price so low it can’t be argued with. Weekly comics need to still create an eco-system in the direct market… but come packaged in such a way that it allows new readers to have their cake and eat it too. The ocean of content that exists in long boxes needs to be set free, where all publishers can coexist. The eagles are soaring over our heads. We need only ask for a ride into the mouth of the volcano.

Dennis O’Neil: Marvel’s Blame Game

The first time you ever ate a Yummy-Lump candy bar – second grade, wasn’t it? – you were sure you’d never tasted anything so good and you couldn’t wait to taste another. You didn’t have to wait long. Your aunt – the one who lived upstairs and always smelled like wet laundry – loved Yummy Lumps and when she learned that you, too, favored that sugary delight she took it upon herself to be certain that you were never without it. Nice aunty!

Day after day, year after year as soon as you passed through the front door your aunt hit you with the candy and, dutifully, you unwrapped and bit and chewed because aunty was nice and besides your mother seemed to be afraid of aunty and told you that you’d best not offend her sister and so you didn’t. The candy made you want to puke, but so what? You ate it and ate it and ate it…

All this has exactly what to do with the nominal subject of these comments, comic books?

A while back, in what has become a reliable supplier of comics news, and I refer to nothing less than the August New York Times, the paper ran a story headlined Dont Blame These Heroes for Slumping Sales. The adjacent story told the world that, as the headline proclaimed, Marvel Comics was off its game in the money-making department. That’s disconcerting, but far from catastrophic, but the situation got worse when a Marvel executive blamed the faltering sales on the company’s diversity.

Time was, not so long ago, that Marvel’s primary product was superhero stories featuring costumed good-guy vigilantes who went around having double identities and kicking heinous ass. These stalwarts were, with few exceptions, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. (Okay, I’m not sure about the “Protestant” part. Matter of fact, these folk didn’t seem to have religions. Did this disqualify them from seeking elected office?)

Now, though superheroes come in diverse sizes, shapes, genders, ethnicities, orientations. (Of course, you know all this.) The Marvel exec apparently blamed limping sales on the diversity of revamps of familiar characters. The story mentions a female Thor, an Asian Hulk and a black Captain America.

But a respected comic shop owner in San Francisco, Brian Hibbs, disagreed. Mr. Hibbs blames Marvel’s woes on the plethora of series reboots with a Number 1 on the cover. (Number ones can be marketed as collectors’ items and so hobbyists may decide to buy extra copies; the flood of new series (more collectors’ items and the satisfaction of being there from the beginning) andt he promise of significant changes in storylines where, it turns out, there are none.

Questionable marketing tactics, unfulfilled promises and maybe just too much of the same stuff… In olden days these special issues were rare and maybe appeared when someone had a story idea that demanded special handling, and not one that existed just to sweeten profits.

There is, of course, no reason why a comic continuity can’t do both, but maybe it’s not a good idea to do them both every day.

Yummy-Lumps aren’t always yummy.

Molly Jackson: Omaze Me

Scrolling through your Facebook feed, I’m sure you see them. They catch the eye with promises of grand adventures with exciting people. Sometimes you even see a fun video, with celebrities doing crazy things to unsuspecting people. That’s exactly what caught my eye when I saw this video of Chris Evans leading comic fans through an surprise escape room. It isn’t just a jest though. This prank is part of the pitch for his latest fundraising effort through Omaze.

In case you don’t know, Omaze is what celebs use to raffle off experiences to raise money for various charities. People can enter to win for as little as $10, which gets you 100 entries. If you want to spend more, you can get more entries as well as perk items like t-shirts, DVDs, key chains, and so on.

Like I said, you have probably seen links or videos for this website. And you’ve been intrigued by the chance to try your luck. It started with two guys who had a dream to meet Magic Johnson and an opportunity to win it in an auction. They realized there was no way they could afford to bid to win a chance to hang out with them. Rather than just let their hopes be dashed forever, they turned their frown in something positive and Omaze was born.

I’m still super curious about how they got that name though. Omaze sounds more like a stage magician obsessed with alliteration. The Amazing Omaze!

Buying a chance to win like the old school raffle makes it more affordable while raising more funds for those in need. Granted, with the popularity of this site and its wares no one has the best chance to win. I’m guessing that is why they also have some products for sale, both through individual campaigns as well as in the store.

If you haven’t guessed already, this is also a great promotional tool for films as well. It’s become quite the popular site with many of the geek-related films. Ben Affleck raffled off a chance to join him on set at Batman V Superman to support three global charities. Chris Pratt used Guardians of the Galaxy 2 to help build a teen center in his hometown. Both did fun videos that entertain. Honestly, you could fall into a Omaze youtube video hole for a bit. Watch Bon Jovi surprise karaoke singers and Robert Downey Jr. hop around in a bunny suit.

Seriously. A bunny suit.

So, yes, this may just be a PR stunt. But geeks are well known for their charitable giving and activism. I’ve even spent time writing about how great our geek community is about fundraising. This site makes that even easier for more people around the world to take part. And for those who need the incentive, celebrities are willing to give their time to see it happen. And it has worked. Over 170 countries have given to over 150 charities around the world.
The video I shared earlier where Chris Evans kinda tortures comic fans? He is doing it to raise money for Christopher’s Haven, a group that helps support families who have children being treated for cancer in the Boston area. In today’s society, we need all the support that we can provide to charities and people in need. The world is a scary place. If we all come together and support each other, the world can be made better. Every person can make a difference.

And if I can make a difference while hanging out with Captain America, that’d be cool too.

Mike Gold: Face-Off At The Donut Shop!

This week’s heart-stopping controversy revolves around the question “is it ever okay to punch a Nazi in the face?” Such an occurrence happened during the Trump Coronation in Washington last Friday and of course it was captured by news outlets and smartphoners alike. And of course the footage went viral – much as the Nazis themselves did in the 1930s.

Comic books have been beating on Nazis since the invention of the staple, so one might think there wouldn’t be much controversy within our particular donut shop. During WWII, there was no greater Nazi-beater than Captain America – it pretty much was his raison d’être – so it is slightly surprising that the current writer of Captain America (indeed, both Captains America), Nick Spencer, said beating on Nazis is wrong. “… cheering violence against speech, even of the most detestable, disgusting variety, is not a look that will age well.”

Hmmm. That begs the question “is violence a form of free expression and, thus, entitled to First Amendment protection?” I think that’s a fascinating discussion, although I wouldn’t want to go to court on it. It’s definitely a “whose ox is being gored” affair.

On the other hand, we have writer Warren Ellis, no slouch when it comes to writing superheroes and a genuine clever bastard in the Ian Dury sense of the term. He said on his website “… yes, it is always correct to punch Nazis. They lost the right to not be punched in the face when they started spouting genocidal ideologies that in living memory killed millions upon millions of people. And anyone who stands up and respectfully applauds their perfect right to say these things should probably also be punched, because they are clearly surplus to human requirements. Nazis do not need a hug. Nazis do not need to be indulged. Their world doesn’t get better until you’ve been removed from it. Your false equivalences mean nothing. Their agenda is always, always, extermination. Nazis need a punch in the face.”

Far be it of me to paraphrase Mr. Ellis, but I think once you strip away the elegance what he’s saying is “They’re fucking Nazis, you morons!”

I see his point. And I agree with it. Yes, it’s illegal – hit somebody in the face and you risk going to prison. Some things are worth that risk, and if all you’re doing is punching a Nazi in the face, you just might be working for the greater good of humanity. Besides, a few generations ago we used to shoot them.

I don’t have to tell you everything the Nazis stand for, but to mention just a few items they stand for genocide, methodical elimination from society, torture, global domination and Fascism. Please note, I’m referring to Nazis and not to “radical Islamists.” The fact that today’s Nazis use their philosophies to justify anti-Islam activities is confusing, but Nazis lack perspective.

An important aside: We tend to conflate Nazism with Fascism. They are two different things. Whereas all Nazis are Fascists, not all Fascists are Nazis. Many Fascists do not engage in genocide and they seem to be of two minds about torture. They define global domination in strict business terms, and they are actively engaged in nation-running to benefit such domination. They particularly like to work from the “inside circle” of a charismatic government leader’s cabinet. Yesterday’s munitions maker just might be today’s casino operator.

I understand why some teenagers are attracted to Nazism. It’s simple, it’s tribal, it’s brutal (hey, there’s a difference between punching people in the face and hording them into gas chambers), and, damn, they do dress well. But lucky for us, if good art direction was what it took to win a war, we’d all be goose-stepping today.

Back in the 1970s we tried hitting assholes in the face with pies. It didn’t work: we still got Nixon and Reagan and Cheney and Trump. We were so wondrously naïve back then. Punching alt-right leaders in the face might not stem the tide of Fascism in the United States, but maybe it’s a start. It sure beats bullets and bombs.