Tagged: Jughead

Ed Catto: Will Eisner Week Ramp-Up

Will Eisner Week is almost upon us. It’s become a fantastic time for libraries, schools, colleges and bookstores to promote graphic novels. And this year will be all the more memorable as we’ll also be celebrating the centennial of Will Eisner’s birth.

(It’s the centennial of Jack Kirby’s birth as well, but we’ll save that for another column.)

As you probably know, Will Eisner was one of comics’ visionaries. While he may not have actually created the first graphic novel (I tend to side with Jim Steranko on that landmark), he is clearly one of the most important people in promoting graphic novels and comics to the general public.

He was an innovative artist and an impressive entrepreneur. Looking through the lens of today, I think his most enduring legacy is as a champion of creativity.

With that in mind, I want to talk about three comic series that are fun, creative and imbedded with bit of Will Eisner’s enduring spirit (no pun intended) whispering to every reader.

And because we all live in the real world, let’s take note that there’s even a little more that’s impressive. While creatively inspired, each of these series is well packaged but still, comparatively, affordable.

There’s been a lot of frustration lately with the prices of the big two publisher’s comics. On one hand, Marvel is still charging $3.99 for comics but discontinuing the inclusion of digital versions. They will instead be offering snippets of longer stories that they hope fans will be interested in buying. Thus far, reaction to being served what essentially are ‘promo ads’ instead of content has not been positive.

On the other hand, DC Comics, despite a recent public declaration to hold their line at $2.99, is more frequently charging $3.99 a comic. And the comics that are still $2.99 are published twice month, so that’s really setting back fans $5.98 to keep up.

One can argue that these monthly prices are less important as fans migrate to enjoying trade paperback collections and digital versions. But it is all the more impressive when “smaller” publishers can offer great comics on better paper and charge only $2.99. And that’s exactly the case with these three series:

Television’s Riverdale has been generating a lot of buzz on the CW. The various Archie titles are lot of fun too. I just gave the new Jughead title a try for the first time and I’m glad I did.
This gorgeous pink cover caught my eye, but the story inside was fun and fresh and made me hungry for more. This comic, like many of the new Archie titles, offers fans a main story and a reprint back-up story, complete with an introduction to the classic tale from the series’ writer.

Also of note, and this is where we get to the Eisner part, writer Ryan North employs a clever new technique. Jughead, as narrator, provides a little extra narration at the bottom of each page. It’s snarky and surprising. This innovation is just like eating potato chips, once you start you just want more.

I’ve talked about Brian K. Vaughn’s and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls here before. But I what I really love most about the latest issue is the cover. It is striking, clever and courageous. The image is intriguing and the colors stand out from everything else on the racks. Special bonus points to the creators for having the conviction to wrap the cover design around to the back cover.

It’s this boldness and creativity that, to me, is the embodiment of Will Eisner’s vision.

Moonshine is a fantastic Image series that’s a mash-up of horror stories and Bonnie and Clyde. I wasn’t clamoring for such a mash up, but I’m so glad that Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso created it. These two are masters of their crafts at the peak of their games. And together, they have that Lennon/McCartney vibe that to which, as a reader, you’re just elated to have a ringside seat. I missed the first few issues so I started with issue #4. But you know what? That didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit. I just snagged issues 2, 3 and 5 at Comics For Collectors in Ithaca last weekend (we were in town for the fabulous Chili Cook-Off) and I’m so glad I did.

My planned March efforts won’t be as creative as these three series, but they will be fun. I’ll be celebrating Will Eisner Week locally and leading a presentation at the local library followed by a screening the next night of the Eisner documentary. If you’re in the Finger Lakes region, stop by!

And during Will Eisner Week – and beyond – treat yourself to some creative and contemporary comics.

 

Dennis O’Neil: Technology Always Precedes Art

 

Archie Jughead

Let’s hop on back 40,000 years into the past and watch a fellow named Urg make marks on a cave wall with a piece of flint. We happen to know that Urg has only recently learned that he can make these marks and he is now in the process of finding a use for them. Hey, listen… he’s now making sounds. Could they be words? Can they give us a clue as what he thinks he’s doing?

URG: Ar-chee! Jug-heed! Ann-tee-loop!

And now we fire up our time traveling whatsis and behold! – we find ourselves in the pages of a comic book. The panel we’re in shows those Riverdale High funsters Archie and Jughead strolling down a sunny street. Nearby, enjoying a snack of grass, is an antelope.

ARCHIE: Hey Jug! Isn’t that an antelope?

JUGHEAD: Sure looks like one. Wonder why the artist put that in!

Okay, half turn to the left or right, depending on your political preference, and we find ourselves in the real world – that is, the world we happen to inhabit. We’ve just snuck through a back door into this week’s topic (and yes, maybe I’m being generous in calling what follows a “topic.”) In one sentence, here we go:

Technology always precedes art.

That’s really all I have to say, but I’ll expend a bit more band width anyway.

Remember Urg? He found that he could put scratches on the cave wall and then discovered that these scratches could be pictures and suddenly he was an artist! Time rushed forward and Urg’s descendants put Urg-like scratches into clay tablets and then people had both pictures and writing and then later descendants of Urg invented paint and canvas and various kinds of printing inclluding high speed presses driven by steam and photography and radio and television and silicon chips and the bank width I’m expending…

Urg sure had a lot of descendants and a number of them, maybe without realizing exactly what they were doing, put gadgetry devised by someone else to expressing themselves and amusing their neighbors and pretty soon, there stood Disneyland. And much, much more.

That “much, much more” might be a problem, unless it isn’t. Cinematic technology can put spectacular images on the screen and if we have a toy, we humans will play with it. (I saw a planet explode just the other day.) And all those explosions and chases can serve the story that contains them, but on another level, they’re spectacle. What I fear is that the spectacle is overwhelming drama and theme and the other stuff that can be put on screens and so we’re collectively losing valuable gifts the ancients knew about, things like catharsis and empathy. Am I tilting at windmills? Maybe. Probably.

The exploding planet happened in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I’ll certainly see the next episode in the Star Wars franchise.

Mike Gold: Reality’s Slippery Slope

HostilemanSeven random thoughts on a post-Valentine’s Day afternoon.

I’ve started to measure time in “DC Comics Reboots.” Usually about four years, give or take. In other words, if Abe Lincoln used that designation his most famous speech with have started “21 DC Comics Reboots ago…” Yes, I know DC insists it’s not a reboot, despite cancelling and replacing their entire superhero line with new versions of the same old thing. And I suppose Superman doesn’t have a Big Red S.

Jughead 4O.K. Jughead is asexual – although I’d bet he won’t be in the CW teevee series. But I ask you this: did Kevin Keller out him by saying so in public at Riverdale High? Don’t get me wrong; that was a great scene and it feels as though the revelation was common knowledge. But, like Martha and Joe before me, I hadn’t thought about asexuals being a class of people subject to routine discrimination. It’s been a while since a mainstream comic book actually lit the flames of thought inside my fevered brainpan.

Deadpool was the Airplane! of superhero movies. Brianna Hildebrand’s scene where she halts the big battle sequence in order to finish texting was brilliant and Stan Lee’s cameo was the finest use of a nonagenarian comic book writer ever. However, I think Stefan Kapicic owes Paul Frees’ estate a check for his use of Boris Badenov’s voice, and at the end where Morena Baccarin worked things out (no spoiler alert), I kind of felt sorry for Detective Jim Gordon. Although, to be fair, Morena’s had a great deal of varied superhero work in recent years.

IDoctor Faten last month’s issue of Doctor Fate – a wonderful and soon-to-be-cancelled New52 series – writer Paul Levitz deployed my favorite verse from the Koran. Yes, sports fans, I actually have a favorite verse from the Koran. Of course, Islam being an organized religion and therefore greatly disorganized, the verse is phrased in a variety of ways and its veracity has been questioned by some. But the line goes “Blessed is he who makes his companions laugh” and I think that’s a great sentiment. Nice job, Paul.

Riddle me this: How many Spider-Men does it take to fill the Marvel Universe? Answer: How many have you got? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more Spideys right now than Green Lanterns. So stop bitching about the inevitability of concurrent Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers Captains America. That’s only two. Thus far. Oh, wait. Isn’t there a teen-age girl from 2099 or from another, no-longer existent universe? O.K. Three.

Wonder WomanCounting up the number of secret origins devised for Wonder Woman over the past 75 years is akin to defining π to the last decimal point: you’re going to give up or die of old age before you complete your mission. I might have read them all, but I’ve probably read nearly all. And the current one that’s unfolding in Legend of Wonder Woman is, by far, the best thought-out and best realized of the bunch. Kudos to Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon on a thankless job – thankless because it’s not the origin in the upcoming Wonder Woman movie and, therefore, probably will be ignored. I hope not.

Now that Playboy magazine has dropped the tits’n’snatch, the relic from the beat generation has decided to off the cartoons as well. This surprises me only because its two most famous cartoonists, Gahan Wilson and Hugh Hefner, are still alive. Well, in ‘Ner’s case, that’s subject to debate. Nonetheless, it’s a shame that the magazine that regularly gave us the work of Jack Cole, Jules Feiffer, Shel Silverstein, Bobby London, Harvey Kurtzman and Willy Elder will not extend that welcome to a new generation of artists. I’m not sure what Playboy’s place in this world might be, but I’ve been asking that question for several decades now… as have a great, great many of former and current employees and contributors to the publication. It’s not the end of an era; that era ended the day Al Gore learned how to spell “Internet.”

 

Joe Corallo: Greater Queerness

kevin-keller-it-gets-better2Over the last week or so, we’ve seen two positive affirmations of the greater queer community at two of the biggest comic franchises. Over at Archie Comics, Jughead is officially asexual. Down at Marvel, the pansexual Deadpool crushed box office records for an R rated movie at the box office. Will these queer portrayals in comic culture start a push for better and more complex looks into the sexualities of the characters we read and watch, or are we in for more of the same?

Let’s start with Archie. For years, Archie Comics has been slowly reinventing itself. With the help of creators like Dan Parent, the openly gay Kevin Keller has been a breakout student down in Riverdale. Following some years later, Chip Zdarsky has Jughead officially come out as asexual. I think it was an interesting choice having Kevin Keller be the one to use the word asexual in conversation with Jughead, rather than Jughead use the word himself, as a way of seeming to carry the tradition on from one character on the queer spectrum to another. And the way the conversation went did so without taking away from Jughead’s agency, unlike Marvel’s poor handling of Iceman being outed in All-New X-Men nearly a year ago.

I applaud Archie Comics and Chip Zdarksy for expanding its representation to this sexual orientation minority. Asexuality is something that both inside and outside the queer community has been argued over and is often misunderstood. Asexuality manifests in different ways for different people. For Jughead, he also identifies himself as aromantic, which is perfectly fine. Not all asexuals are aromantic. Asexuals don’t necessarily have an entirely non-existent sex drive. They may just have a low sex drive. They may end up in a monogamous relationship with an opposite sex or same sex partner where they may engage in sexual activity. That doesn’t mean they aren’t asexual. Just like when a bisexual person is in a monogamous relationship, that doesn’t suddenly mean they aren’t attracted to the opposite gender of their partner. And no, it is never, ever, ever your job to try to help them see that sex is great and they’re missing out. Ever. Never ever. Please always remember that.

kevin-keller-first-kissThis isn’t something I immediately knew and understood at a young age. It took time. I remember as a teenager on the internet in the late 90s to early 2000s checking out sites like the now defunct xy.com and chatting with a few men who identified as asexual. At the time, I thought if they weren’t sexually attracted to the same sex they wouldn’t be here, and that they were repressed and looking for someone to help them come to terms with their sexuality. That was wrong of me and I understand that now.

Some of the arguments and tension towards the asexual segment of the queer community comes not only from some of the misunderstandings, but it also comes from asexual treatment in our society and laws versus treatment of people in the LGBT community. The asexual community hasn’t necessarily in the minds of other people been affected the same way by our laws. That’s not entirely true in that an asexual who is not also aromantic could have potentially been denied the ability to marry who they wanted until recently, as well as being affected by other homophobic or transphobic laws on the books.

Asexuals also have to deal with societal pressures like most people in the queer community do. I certainly can relate to being in uncomfortable conversations with people that were aggressively heterosexual in nature when I was younger, either not out or not as confident at the time and not being sure how to handle the situation. Not to mention the conversations about how you need to have hetero sex before you can rule it out. Again, please don’t tell people they need to have sex to understand themselves and especially never imply to people that you are the one they should be having sex with in that scenario.

Moving on to Deadpool, I’ve mentioned in at least a few of my previous columns that although Deadpool is being billed as the first pansexual superhero in a major motion picture, that we have to wait and see how that ends up being handled. My fear was that most of Deadpool’s behavior that falls outside of the heteronormative would end up being joke fodder. I was at least partially right.

This isn’t really a spoiler for anything major in the movie, but if you’re avoiding anything regarding details in the Deadpool movie (or want to avoid the kind of vulgar subject matter that conspires in the movie) you may wanna skip the next paragraph.

Now that we got that out of the way, here’s the deal. We do see Deadpool engage in some behavior that’s considered outside the norm. He’s confident in himself, his sexuality, and it doesn’t make him any less of a powerful and threatening character. However, most of the instances when he’s doing something outside the heteronormative, it’s a joke. When he’s with his girlfriend they have a montage of different holidays they have sex on. For International Women’s Day, she ends up pegging him. It’s played for laughs. Other instances including kissing a pizza delivery boy on the cheek after threatening him, and complimenting his male taxi driver. This doesn’t necessarily help all that much in terms in pansexual representation.

If sexuality outside the norm is played purely for laughs, it’s just a joke and it’s not about being inclusive. That’s not also to say that we shouldn’t have any fun with sex and sexuality either. And I will give Deadpool credit in that it’s good to see more heroes who have less traditional sexualities and can help combat the dated and offensive notion that queer people are somehow weaker and can’t be taken seriously. More and more characters in nerd culture like Doctor Who’s Captain Jack Harkness have been coming out and combating this for years now, but stereotypes are damaging and linger.

Between Jughead and Deadpool in this last week, I feel that it was one of the best weeks for greater queer representation in comics and comic culture. Sexuality is not black and white, and I think these characters and the stories being told with them in comic culture are helping to show that sexuality is complicated, fluid, and can’t truly be encompassed by a single word.

Oh, and it can be profitable at the box office too.

Martha Thomases: Jughead’s Sex Life

Jughead Asexual 1This column is going to make me sound old.  Really really really old.

In the new issue of Jughead by Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson, Jughead comes out as asexual.  As I write this, it hasn’t yet appeared on the stands, but I’ve loved the series so far and I’m really looking forward to it.  Still, the news sent me on a tour of the Internet to exciting new avenues of political correctness.

(Note:  I want to be politically correct here.  I am trying to understand people who are new to me, and I want to be polite and respectful.)

The first thing I found out is that this isn’t even really news.  Comicbook.com had the story way back on September 25.  My first reaction was surprise that this didn’t show up on any of my feeds at that time.  My second reaction was admiration for Archie’s publicist for getting two hits with the story.

The next thing I learned is that I didn’t really understand what asexual meant.  I thought it just meant a person who wasn’t interested in sex.  I was wrong.  If you read the link (and it’s fascinating), you’ll see that identifying as asexual is much more complicated than my initial assumption.

As most things are.

Jughead Asexual 2Living life and meeting people is the easiest and most fun way to have one’s assumptions challenged. When I was a kid, society told me that homosexuality was a perversion indulged in by people who were too immature to form meaningful relationships.  I learned differently when I met actual gay and lesbian people.  Society told me that sex was only for reproduction, and that it was something only men liked, something that good girls only did so they could have babies.  I learned differently when my own hormones kicked in, and feminism became a thing.  Society told me that transgender people had extreme cases of body dysmorphia.  This is a case where society not only told me the wrong thing, but actual science has made it possible for there to be emotionally healthy alternatives to “just learning to live with it.”

And just in researching this column, I found out about skoliosexuals, about whom I was completely ignorant.  I look forward to maybe meeting some and having even more of my assumptions shattered.

At the same these changes in social attitudes happened, comic books grew up.  My childhood was filled with stories about Lois Lane wanting Superman to give her a “super-kiss.” Characters might wear revealing costumes, but they were all chaste.  It wasn’t until underground comix, and then the direct market, that a mass market saw comic book characters who had adult relationships with adults.

(Note:  Yes, it is my opinion that an awful lot of comic books are still smarmy and giggly about sex.  So are most humans.  Alas.)

This week, we’re seeing a comic book character who is shocking because of his lack of interest in sex.  He is being written (I think, based on the few pages I’ve seen) respectfully, as a character, not a caricature like Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.

(Is Sheldon supposed to be asexual?  Or is he supposed to just be really repressed?  Or don’t the writers even think about such things when all they want is a laugh?)

As an old person, I find myself looking at Jughead indulgently, thinking that as a teenager, his sexuality is probably at its most fluid, and that he might just be going through a stage.

And then I realize what I sound like, and try to shut up.

Tweeks: Love Riverdale

archie-1The Tweeks would not exist without Archie. These were our first comics and we loved them. We still love them. Archie taught us to love comics and teen drama. So this week we talk all about Archie and make a case for the few kids out there who haven’t read Archie for whatever reason to get on it. We also review Afterlife with Archie (we admit, we were afraid to read it!) and Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty.