Tagged: Magneto

Marc Alan Fishman: Five Super-Villains I’d Prefer Over Trump

If anyone is living under a rock these days, good for you. There are some of us who aren’t – and we’re living in a perpetual state of fear, revulsion, and panic. Why? Well, not to get too political, but the President of the United States of America is a lying, xenophobic, narcissist with tendencies to say whatever floats past his KFC-soaked brainstem. Over the last one hundred plus days in office, Donald Trump has tried to ban aliens from our welcoming shores, offended our allies, kissed up to our enemies, spent millions of dollars to fire off some weapons, and if you’ve been paying attention lately… obstructing the investigation that could link his campaign to Russia.

It’s comical at this point, if only because as a comic book fan, for once, I now know what it’s like to live under the reign of a super villain. But c’mon. This is America, damnit. And if we’re going to live under the rule of a megalomaniac…  we could do better. My proof:

  1. President Lex Luthor

Under President Luthor, it’s most likely he’d get far better than a Muslim ban passed. Luthor, with his actual fortune, and actual genius-level intellect would easily figure out a way to draft a bill and grease the right palms to ensure all aliens (be they foreign or Kryptonian) be held at the shores of their homelands – impossibly tethered to any nation but Lexmerica. Beyond holding sway over all xenophobes… I mean nationalists… President Luthor would also be a boon to the billionaire class. Sweeping tax cuts and promises of trickle-down economics would be bolstered by stories of how Lexcorp hires hundreds of thousands of people and has cultivated a workforce of go-getters. A few executive orders later and Bernie Sanders would be living in the South Pacific, shouting at the heavens in protest as the .001% soon own 99.99% of the country.

  1. President Norman Osborn

When you think about it, Norman Osborn isn’t all that different from Trump. Crazy hair? Check. Short temper? Checkity-check. Rumors of mafia ties and a fortune built on the backs of the little people crushed back into the dirt? Check-check-1-2-check. But where Norman differs lay at the ground of all who look at us cock-eyed. Trump is a bit of a warhawk. Norman makes Trump look like a dove on an olive branch. President Osborn – gliding across Pennsylvania Avenue on his newest rocket-propelled death-machine – would shoot first, and never ask questions. All in the name of our country’s safety, mind you. North Korea? Smoldering ash. Russia? Newly minted as “America’s Gas Station.” The Middle East? Rebranded as Glassville, as one of the countries (President Osborne doesn’t recall which) looked at him cockeyed, so he ordered it all be nuked until he could see himself smile.

  1. President Magneto

OK, this one might seem odd because President Magneto actually is 100% pro-choice. 100% for universal health care. He taxes the rich and gives it directly to the poor. He welcomes literally any alien seeking help. With his impenetrable magnetic dampening field generators attached to our warships and border, our country is armored against any attack! Sounds good, right?

Well, you’re not a mutant, so I hate to be the bearer of bad news; please go get on the cattle car outside. You’re due at the internment camps for muggles in two hours.

  1. President Darkseid

Look, let’s get this out of the way immediately. Yes, the all-powerful despot doesn’t technically meet the established standards to become President. He wasn’t born on American soil. We’re not even sure if he has parents. And he definitely declined to even apply for citizenship. But on the plus side? It didn’t matter after he used his Omega beams to obliterate Congress, the courts, and… well… all the government buildings and people who worked in it. With that in mind? Life isn’t so bad now, is it? We’re all getting totally ripped working in the salt mines every day. Thanks to the newly added firepits, every day is a blustery 102 degrees – but it’s totally a dry heat. There’s no more debt, save for our miserable lives which we owe to our dark lord and ruler, of course. Say what you will, but at very least? I like that President Darkseid actually drained the swamp.

  1. President Negan

You can call President Negan a bully. I mean, you might as well, he put it on the back of the new $20. But you can’t deny his results. After taking Secretary of Offense, Lucille, to all those folks overseas? We now enjoy half of the world’s supplies! I mean, it was only fair that they give them to us, right? President Negan protects all of us from the zombies. Sure, I’ve never exactly seen one in person, per say. But who needs to, when I know that all the work I’m doing now serves the greater good! With the Cabinet of Saviors in place, we’re all living within our means. And it’s great how forward the nation is with the LGBTQ community. I mean, it’s OK now to be whoever you were meant to be. So long as you don’t rape anyone? You’re totes kewl brah. I sure do miss Glenn though.

And you know what? Any one of these downright bastards would be a welcome change from he who calls themselves our leader today.

Mike Gold: The Shoe’s On The Other Foot

Gay Pride 2015 11

My long-time friend and colleague Martha Thomases does not like wearing high heels. This, of course, is her right. I have been sympathetic to her position, even to the point of referring to it as a contemporary form of traditional Chinese foot-binding.

Gay Pride 2015 19That was until this past Sunday. Now, meh, not so much.

I’ve been to many a Gay Pride rally, including – yep, I’m bragging – the very first in New York. I’ve been to such rallies in several different cities; I’ve been to them after terrible tragedies such as the Stonewall Inn riots and, less than ten years later, the discovery and growth of HIV. Yet each and every march and rally has been fantastic fun, each one a deeply meaningful, fun-filled and life-affirming event. I have always walked away from the rallies and parades feeling much better about my fellow humans – even in my most cynical times that account for some six decades of my life.

More to the point, I always had a great time. Always.

So this year’s Gay Pride march and rally in New York City, coincidently held two days after the Supreme Court finally made marriage equality the law of the land, was something I wouldn’t miss even if I had lost my arms and legs and had to be carried in a basket. Thankfully, I was fully able to walk.

If Elon Musk had been there, he would have figured out a way to capture the energy of the event and use it to fuel a battery that would run every car in America for a year.

There’s no question the gay culture that has always affected our mainstream culture no matter how closeted it had been in the past. Several of our ComicMix columnists have commented on this point and several more may yet: right now, it is the perfect topic for a pop culture site such as this one.

The New York City parade, which attracted more than two million onlookers and, it seemed, about as many participants, was fraught with politicians and corporate sponsors. No, Mike Huckabee didn’t march, nor did any of his fellow Republican presidential candidates. That wasn’t a surprise and, besides, the parade route always was crowded. Delta Airlines, NBC/Universal, Master Card, and Coca-Cola were among the many who entered elaborate floats. So did a great many religious organizations – but certainly not all. Parents brought their children, both as onlookers and as participants.

This year’s parade marshals were two British peers: Sir Ian McKellan, also known as Magneto, Sherlock Holmes, Gandalf and others; Sir Derek Jacoby, a.k.a. Emperor Claudius and both Doctor Who’s arch-enemy The Master as well as The Doctor himself; and Ugandan LGBT activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. All around, a class-act. It was sort of like the St. Patrick’s Day parade, but without the – what’s it called again? Oh, yeah. Blatant bigotry.

The parade ran in a light rain from 36th Street and Fifth Avenue to the Stonewall Inn, a distance of nearly two miles. From my vantage points I couldn’t conduct a scientific study, but I believe there were more adults wearing high heels than not. Of course, I’m also counting the dozens (at least) of paraders wearing stilts.

Seeing all those folks marching in their fine footwear, I think I’ve got to backtrack on that foot binding thing. I figure, it must be worth it.

Gay Pride 2015 51Now… you say you don’t like gay marriage? You’re opposed to it? Somehow, it lessens the value of your marriage? Well, congratulations. You’re in luck. There is no more “gay marriage.”

Now… there is only “marriage.”

(Photo notes: At top – PBS’s rolling billboard for Vicious, starring McKellan and Jacoby. Up there on the right – part of the massive Delta Airlines presence, including a flight attendant with an astonishing hat size. Down here on the left – your humble columnist, posing with the newly transgendered crimefighter, The Shadow.)

 

Mindy Newell: The Amazing Adventure Of Mohall And Newell

So today (Sunday, which is yesterday), Editor Mike sent me a link to a column on The Jewish Daily Forward’s website which asks the question “Do Marvel Movies Have An Anti-Semitic Problem?” – which also happens to be the dumbest article I’ve ever read on their site.

Granted, The Forward – which was born way back in 1867 as a Yiddish language daily newspaper published by dissidents from the Socialist Labor Party – is a left-leaning paper whose heart and soul is the Jewish-American experience, with strong ties to Israel, and its articles are purposely written with that audience as its primary target. And granted, The Forward has not been the only news media outlet that has noted and remarked upon the recent rebirth of overt and increasingly violent anti-Semitism around the globe, especially in Europe. And yes, The Forward should be praised in its unadulterated and unabridged journalism that consistently calls out the perpetrators.

But sometimes the paper looks for boogey-men where no such creatures exist. And in this article, author Susan Mohall is not only trying to lasso the moon but gets critical facts wrong – such as stating that Stan Lee was born in Romania.

Excuse me, Ms. Mohall, but Mr. Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber) was born on December 28, 1922 in New York City, specifically an apartment house at the corner of West 98th Street and West End Avenue. Our pal Danny Fingeroth, former Marvel Comics editor and writer and author of Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero and – by the way – co-author of The Stan Lee Universe, confirmed this to Editor Mike.

Susan Mohall apparently takes umbrage at the fact that the Jewish characters of the Marvel movies don’t go around with yellow Stars of David on their clothing identifying them as Jews:

In the comics, Kitty’s Jewish heritage is extremely important to her. In the movies, her Jewish identity isn’t even mentioned. In “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which introduces us to Pietro and Wanda – a.k.a. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch – the omission is even more blatant. The film portrays Wanda as a baby (despite the fact that the two are twins in the comics) and her name is never even mentioned. Quicksilver’s Jewish identity is at least alluded to.

 “After rescuing Magneto, Quicksilver implies that Magneto might be his father, but if you don’t already know that, then this moment goes by so quickly that it hardly matters as a relevant part of Quicksilver’s character. Quicksilver’s name was also Westernized from Pietro to Peter in an attempt to erase not only Pietro’s Jewish identity but his Romani identity as well.”

Oh, God, I’m so frustrated and annoyed that I wish that I could write this in all caps!!!! Instead I will use numerous exclamation points to assert my impatience with this idiot!!!!! Susan, my dear woman, the X-Men are mutants!!!! For over 50 years mutants have been Marvel’s superhero stand-ins for every single person who has ever been ostracized from society!!!! Ostracized and abused and tortured and killed for their religion, the color of their skin, their political beliefs, their birthplace!!!!

Ms. Mohall also accuses The Powers That Be behind the Marvel cinematic universe of focusing on Magneto as a Jewish villain:

The only character in the X-Men franchise whose Jewish identity is ever specifically mentioned and explored is Magneto. In the first X-Men movie we see Magneto being taken away to a concentration camp, and in X-Men: First Class we see Magneto hunting down and killing Nazis. Magneto also uses his own experiences with prejudice as a Jewish man to justify his violent motives. But while Magneto is a well-written and complex character, he is still a villain who murders people and uses his background to justify it. Having another Jewish character to challenge Magneto would have been excellent storytelling. Instead what we get is the erasing of all other characters’ Jewish identities and the only character who is identified as Jewish is our murderous villain.

Okay here come some more exclamation marks!!!!! My dear Susan, you are beyond words in your ridiculousness!!!! Didn’t you at the least read Exodus?!!!! I’m sorry to have to enlighten you, my dear, but Jews are quite capable of murdering and other quite immoral acts!!!! Please tell me that you have heard of the Irgun!!!! The “paramilitary” organization that splintered away from the Haganah during the Palestinian Mandate (1931 – 1948) and conducted terrorist activities like blowing up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946 because it was a base for the British occupation!!!!

You do know that Menachim Begin, signer of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty with Anwar Sadat, was a member of the Irgun!!!!! Susan, sweetheart, I guess you never heard of Operation: Wrath of God, in which the Israeli government authorized the Mossad to terminate the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes!!!! Steven Spielberg made a movie based on it!!! It’s called Munich!!! I suggest you watch it!!!!

Okay, take a breath, Mindy. Count to 10.

The author also accuses Marvel Studios of “white-washing” HYDRA from its Nazi roots.

“Why is HYDRA’s identity as a Neo-Nazi organization completely sanitized in the movies?…HYDRA originates during World War II as part of the Nazis military. However, Red Skull, the leader of the organization, wants to run things and turns HYDRA into his own terrorist group. But he is never not a Nazi, and HYDRA never abandons Nazi beliefs. From the movies, you would glean that HYDRA just wants totalitarian power. The Nazi part is glossed over. It’s as if the producers are worried about the potential fallout of comparing HYDRA to the Third Reich, which is just so strange, especially since Nazis are the perfect villain. Everyone hates them”

Oh, Susan. I guess you never saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier and you never have watched Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. HYDRA evolved, my dear. It’s gotten smarter, its adapted, it’s gotten smoother – just as our own rat-fuckers learned from Watergate – but it is certainly is still fascist, and it’s certainly not “shy[ing] away from its Nazi roots.”

And, Ms. Susan Mohall, I would certainly be surprised if you have read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Michael Chabon, which tells the (fictionalized) story of the birth of Marvel and the U.S. comics industry, which was 99.9% midwived into life by the sons (and some daughters) of Jewish immigrants.

Including Mr. Stanley Martin Lieber.

And by the way, you forgot to mention Jack Kirby.

Born Jacob Kurtzberg.

 

Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis: Magneto #6

MagnetoWritten by Cullen Bunn. Art by Javier Fernandez and Dan Brown

I’m perpetually locked into trying new books, so sometimes I nearly forget to catch up on those I’ve most recently enjoyed. Lucky for me that the marvelous Magneto has magnetically adhered itself to the top of my pile. It was a fairly light week. For those not keeping score, I can’t recommend this series any more than I already have. What I can do now instead is really spend my time with the titular man (and mutant) hunter and see how he ticks in accordance to Cullen Bunn’s pen.

At the onset of the relaunch (if one would consider this book a relaunch) Bunn’s Magneto sees himself a grey wound in a black and white world of scar tissue. Unhappy at the atrocities that have continually befallen his species, Erik Lehnsherr decides that he will rise to become the judge, jury, and executioner of those charged with murdering a mutant. In issue #6, the deathpool expands to those mutants who have killed their own kind. Mr. Sinister’s Marauders – as Magneto helpfully expounds to himself throughout the issue – are pawns and grunts serving a higher power. It is boy coy and intelligent then that Magneto denotes (again, to himself, I suppose) that he too once raised an army under his fist. In his case though, his pawns were at least decidedly homo-superior. No black-on-black crime for this angry Jew!

Because Cullen puts us in the position of a fly on the shoulder of the master of magnetism, it’s inevitable that we come to see him as our hero. And it’s hard to not be swayed by his joie de vivre when he brutally murders a murderer. Painted as a more elegant Frank Castle, it’s hard to deny Magneto is doing good of a sort. But any follower of Charles Xavier sees then the other side of that coin.

Do I believe in capital punishment? No. Simply put, I don’t feel man has any right – regardless of sin – to take the life of another man. I’m not overly religious (if at all), but the agnostic in me says that when murder is done in the first degree it is a pox on the species at large. I should note I’m a huge fan of corporal punishment. I say why let Hitler enjoy the freedom of death when you can pummel him daily? But I digress. In the case of Magneto, our protagonist is vindicated in his justice in spite of breaking the law in doing so. For making as many mutant killers pay the ultimate price, we see the forest for the trees. This is either Magneto doing as much righteous damage before he’s killed himself, or he’s making a final gambit to become a Batmanesque myth; to become an immortal price to be paid upon those who so choose to hunt homo-superior.

Magneto’s barely scathed in his quest. After laying several Marauders to rest (by way of some of the most inventive and gory methods one could imagine), the plan is set: Magneto will reprogram the next batch of cloned Sinister Slaves to become a new suicide-bomb-ready army of Brotherhood pawns. I don’t know if Mr. Sinister himself is still alive in the 616, but if he is, I’ll assume I should purchase flowers and a condolence card for whomever makes those crazy metal ribbon capes.

The story and pacing throughout the issue is slow, but methodical. A B-story regarding the now limbless Scalphunter leaves a few cryptic beats, and is much needed in the book. The opposing A-plot simply shows Magneto on yet another murder mission. Six issues in and Bunn has the tone and style down. From here on out – and trust me, he’s captured me – I want to see some sharper left turns. Simply put, there’s only so much hard justice a man can take without knowing the true master plan. And if the plan truly is just a death march, it can be said now, and spare us too much more of the same.

Artistically Javier Fernandez and Dan Brown continue to deliver a book that looks as gritty as it reads. The book’s hard shifts in color are some of best I’ve seen in modern comics. The heavy inks here well placed. And Fernandez’s textural shifts showcase a look that simply should not be in a Big Two book… and he’s commended for it. There’s little left to say to the art aside from simply picking favorite moments. The death of a Prism is done so well with simple storytelling that you could almost hear the faint crickle-crackle of eminent shattering. When a book is heard in your head when you’re reading it, the artists are doing their job well.

Ultimately, Magneto #6 is hopefully the last stop on the simplistic potential swan song of Erik Lehnsherr. The book has style, grace, grit, and vigor. My hope then now is to see a plan emerge, and from it, a continuous look into a villain fit to be grey in the continuously simplified world of cape and cowl comics.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Babyface, Heel, or Tweener?

In the pro-wrestling world, you are either a babyface, a heel, or a tweener. If you’re not down with the lingo and you’re suck at contextual clues: babyfaces are the heroes, heels are the villains, and tweeners straddle the line between the two. It’s always clearcut amongst the older generations that the lines between good and evil should be black and white.

In the golden era of comic books (and wrestling, while we’re at it), good guys were lantern-jawed and stood for the righteous. Villains sported crooked smiles, and completed acts of tyranny for no more purpose than the love of chaos. But with the modern era came the shades of grey. Personally, I live for those shades.

My favorite wrestler is CM Punk, a tumultuous canvas of ashen tones, made into a grappler. In his infamous pipe bomb promo (feel free to watch the entire brilliant tirade if you have an hour to kill here) Punk crossed the line between his then heel persona by breaking the fourth wall harder then it’d ever been broken before in the WWE. Through a scathing set of brutally honest speeches, the WWE Universe (the fans) soon learned that the straight edge superstar was more than a set of catchphrases and lack-of-merchandise. Amidst a hot crowd of vicious booing, Punk made his point: he wasn’t an out-and-out heel, he was a human being capable of good and bad. Eventually Punk got everything he wanted, including becoming a bonafide tweener where even if he completed acts of depravity, it was accepted as being a part of a bigger whole. It’s a theme that occurs elsewhere outside the squared circle.

The Punisher, Wolverine, Venom, dare I even say GrimJack, et al… the venerable anti-heroes. Good guys that do bad things, and we love them for it. They cross the line where Batman, Superman, or Professor X grit their teeth and shake their heads. As an audience, we respect, and even love that those heroes are forced to make the hard choices. But the devils that sit on our shoulders whisper sweet nothings to us – we want to see the villains pay the ultimate price. We want to see that the means justify the ends. We need to see that villains can’t always get away with murder, rape, and the like. And yes, we love it when those good men do bad things, because wish fulfillment is a vice we can all enjoy. Ask every Tarantino character immortalized in celluloid.

Most recently I’ve found a love for NBC’s Hannibal, which seeks heavily to relish in the subtle pathways between the light and dark sides of man. Dr. Lecter is a monster – a veritable Satan if ever there was one – but in his defense, he tends to only eat the rude. Humorous perhaps, but we as the audience are made to feel a wisp of compassion every now and again for the man-monster that Hannibal is. Much like Bret Easton Ellis makes us root for sociopathic serial killer in American Psycho. Never before had I read a novel where I’m rooting for a man to feed an ATM a kitten before. But there, Ellis shaped the world as such to make me see that beyond the pure chaos that Patrick Bateman represented, was a man living as a metaphor for the facade that existed in the go-go eighties. Can’t get that reservation at Dorsia? Well, that’d drive you to murder too, when you know that missing that squid-ink carpaccio is akin to you just being a failure in everything at life! Get my meaning?

And let’s get a little spoilery, if we can, eh? Seen Days of Future Past yet? If not, skip down a paragraph. For the rest of you, what did you think? I thought “Wow! They really played up the notion that these were actual human beings capable of an array of emotions!” Now I know that’s a bit of a complicated thought coming from a movie that was mostly made as an apology for The Last Stand, but I digress. Of all the things that made the movie enjoyable to me, was the fact that characters like Professor Xavier, Raven, and Eric Lehnsherr were allowed to respond from a place of emotion and thought, rather than because of a plot dictating them to do what’s right or wrong. In one of the best set pieces of the film (barring the whole Quicksilver sequence which was just fun as all get-out) came when Magneto decided that he was done being a pawn in a greater plan. With Bolivar Trask not murdered, the future was in flux, and Magneto, freed of his concrete and plastic prison stole a baseball stadium, rewired the Sentinels, and attempted to stage a bit of a coup. And when he lost? His best friend didn’t do the right thing; he let him go because he still cared for his troubled friend.

Therein lay the heart of my love for the tweening of fiction. When authors (me included) allow characters to be more than the sum of the plot and story beats, the audience is better for it. While there is a time and a place for white and black, I implore you to look beyond the simple. Complexity breeds intelligence. Intelligence allows for a deeper enjoyment of a piece of art. It’s sure fun when Al, Kung Fu Monkey Master of the Samurnauts clocks the evil pirate Blackstar with his bo-staff because it’s clear he’s the good guy… it’s a nice beat. But the true fans will enjoy the moment further because they know that when Al makes the critical strike, it’s make because of the torturous acts Blackstar used on former Samurnauts in the name of chaos. The blow is beyond justified – it is struck with anger, hatred, and desire for pain. Those shades of grey elevate what would be good defeating evil, into a personal vendetta.

At the end of the day, aren’t we all better people when the world is depicted in three dimensions?

 

Box Office Democracy: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Bryan Singer was making watchable superhero movies when no one else was and because of that I want to give him a lot of slack.  I’ve even mostly forgotten Superman Returns ever happened.  I liked more about X-Men: Days of Future Past than I didn’t but there’s a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that if this were a movie by a less famous director I would be ripping it apart instead of trying to patch the pieces together.

The plot is so much of a continuity nightmare that I spent a fair amount of time wondering if it was a bizarre homage to mid-90s X-Men comics.  I’m not sure anything in the first two movies holds up at all anymore and I’m quite curious when exactly Mystique decided she wanted to look like Rebecca Romijn instead of Jennifer Lawrence as most people are pretty much done changing physically in their late 20s.  An awful lot of characters that act like they have no history at all in the first X-Men film had apparently been hanging out regularly for some 30 years before it started.  I understand this is the consequence of a movie series lasting 14 years and starting before every superhero franchise had to be a well-crafted franchise but I can’t ignore that this movie now exists in a world with those well-crafted franchises in it and it just all feels so unpolished.

There are also some insane contrivances in service of the plot.  Charles Xavier doesn’t have his psychic powers because he’s hooked on Hank McCoy’s mutant heroin that lets him walk.  I’m not bringing external baggage with that heroin comparison as it is absolutely dripping off the screen.  I could have lived and died without needing to see Professor X tying off a vein.  Wolverine is also incapacitated by a traumatic flashback during a scene where he could have easily fixed everything that goes wrong and sets up the third act.  The Wolverine I know and love from the comics isn’t quite so delicate and I’m really not buying that time travel makes someone so consistently portrayed as hard this emotionally vulnerable.

X-Men has the most star power of any film franchise and the cast really shines in this one.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are, again, amazing as Xavier and Magneto and watching them have more and more emotionally charged scenes as their friendship moves toward the enmity that will define their relationship going forward.  Hugh Jackman has to carry a lot of plot in this one and he does it while still managing to radiate Wolverine in that way he’s done so much.  While rebooting the series might clean up some of the continuity and put them on equal footing there’s something about having people like Jackman (and Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and even Shawn Ashmore) inhabiting these roles for a decade and a half that serves the belivability of a movie about people who can walk through walls and turn in to metal.

Spoiler: Like every movie that involves time travel, X-Men: Days of Future Past ends with a scene where the main character comes back to see the changes he’s made.  In this movie one of the first ways Wolverine knows that he’s in the good future instead of the bad one is that Bobby Drake is dating the person he’d rather he be with.  A touching moment but also a shout out to the ‘ship culture of the Internet I thought.  A moment of “hey, Wolverine is just like us” thrown in to what is otherwise a bit of a soft reboot.  It’s not good or bad it’s just interesting and that is, unfortunately where a little too much of this film ends up.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: All New or All Now?

Fishman rt 140419Over the last few weeks I’ve made a concerted effort to balance my pull list between DC and Marvel. As I’d been gone from weekly books for a few months, I figured it’d behoove me to give a fighting chance to both of the big boys of comics to impress me. To prove to the self-proclaimed king of snark, that there exists good mainstream cape and cowl rags still on the racks. For those who follow my review column over at MichaelDavisWorld, you’ll probably recognize what I’m about to say. Let me not bury the lead, kiddos: Marvel good. DC bad. DC very, very bad.

Superior Spider-Man. Magneto. Ghost Rider. She Hulk. New Warriors. All books I picked up with half a snicker, save perhaps for Spidey. Launching a full-on series (as in, not a “1 of 6” mini-series like they did back in the day) with venerable B, C, and D listers is not a way to drive insane demand to the local comic retailer, I thought. Each in their own right are good characters, rich with backstory, and plenty of defining moments, don’t get me wrong. And yes, save perhaps for Magneto, all of the aforementioned titles had previously been a thing. Never though, have they been anything that you launch with guns blazing. Then I cracked them open, and gave them a read. And it all made sense. All New Marvel Now? Well, that’s synonymous with taking a risk, telling a good story, and letting characters be unto themselves. It’s a novel concept that was seemingly stamped into oblivion when Image Comics begat Spawn. But I digress.

This is not an object lesson on conceptual trends – mostly because my knowledge base would be bolstered not of first-hand knowledge so much as Wikipedia page entries. This is however, a reckoning with modern day storytelling. Marvel’s Now initiative, as I’ve noted before, seems to be about the slow burn off of older concepts and heavy continuity, and letting rise a phoenix (no, not that Phoenix…) from the ashes… born anew.

She-Hulk has been many a gal in her time. And in a single page splash on her March issue politely nodded to it. And with it, poof! The book continued to be about a bold new modern take on the character. A human (granted, a large, green, shapely human) who has intelligence, emotions, and exists in a world that doesn’t revolve around whatever team she’s seat-filling for her Hulkier cousin.

The New Warriors, reformed now after the last person forgot about their downfall a few epic-crossovers ago, set about finding their inner heroes once more. Largely (again) a team built of newbies, loose-ends, and forgotten morts (looking at you, Speedball…), the relaunch hits a small heart string of my own; harkening back to the innocent-fun of books like The Order, The Defenders (the Fraction-penned ones), and Slingers.

Magneto, yoked with just about the longest rap-sheet of who-could-recite-it-all mythology is given a chance to breathe in his own title. Now, without a Brotherhood, or X-Men yelling at him every panel… his book is a quiet, brooding, sharp bit of work. He’s weaker in his mutant abilities, and that makes him a deadlier man. And anytime a writer can write a Holocaust flashback scene that doesn’t make me feel like they’re shooting for the lowest common denominator? Well, it’s a sign something is being done right.

I could go on, but frankly, just read my individual reviews. The unifying factor that exists across all of these new books is clear to me. Mickey’s stopped cracking the pressure valve so hard. The fact that Marvel’s editors have the wherewithal to produce titles that care more about the individual truths that exist within the character(s) they’re reintroducing is beyond refreshing. Combining young and fresh talent to produce these books – each with an art style that is decidedly a step above house style only adds to the appeal. Ghost Rider’s slick magna-esque art helps feed the hellfire that churns through the LA backdrop. She-Hulk’s retro-chic flat art takes the Hawkeye approach to storytelling. And anyone around the shops in the last year or so, know that ain’t no one bad mouthing that book. The key to all of them being critically praised (by me at least) lies within the fact that each book touches in some way on the lengthy barriers to entry with each titular character, and then takes a nice ninety degree turn and goes it’s own way.

And by comparison, DC releases a book like Aquaman and the Others. A book that pulls a plot from any rote team origin you’ve already read, marries it to artwork that feels like any one of seven or eight other current DC titles, and then has the gall to double back on itself to do literally nothing to set itself apart from what has been done before it. I gave a synopsis of the book itself to my podcasting cohorts, and even they were floored at how unoriginal and awkward it all was. And here, in the New52, where there’s absolutely no chains to previous continuity, the best they could deliver was something that felt like Captain Planet (the bad United Colors of Benetton stuff) smashed with G.I. Joe (the whole evil henchmen and shrouded evil guys trying to unsuccessfully smash and grab artifacts stuff). Sad, really. Especially given the fact that a guy like John Ostrander exists, and would have done something amazing with the concept.

I could go for miles on the contrasts in presentation. I could labor all of you to churn through endless paragraphs going over the economics of it all; how Marvel and DC must keep the publishing alive less for huge profit, and more for idea incubation. I could make impassioned speeches as to how DC should consider the New52 a bust, and start All New Now’ing their way through their rich backlog of characters – letting young and fresh creative teams strip down to the bare-essentials, and enjoy telling singular stories that elevate and celebrate the essence of the characters. I’d probably spend another half page just finding quirky ways to insinuate that Bruce Timm become the EIC, and steer away from the sun. But why bother? If DC doesn’t care… for the while, neither should I.

For now… Make mine Marvel.

 

Enter…the Chronos Corps! The First Look at Uncanny Avengers #19!

Kang the Conqueror has returned, and he’s brought some friends! This April, the blockbuster “Avenge the Earth” arc continues in Uncanny Avengers #19, from the New York Times Best Selling Creative team of Rick Remender and Daniel Acuña! Assembled from the splintered fringes of time and space comes Kang’s Chronos Corps, and they’ve arrived on Planet X with a terrible offer. Now, Havok must reunite the surviving members of the Uncanny Avengers in a race against time to save the planet! But with Magneto and his human hunting X-Force closing in, how far is Havok willing to go to save all he holds dear? No fan can afford to miss the epic Uncanny Avengers #19, on-sale this April!

UNCANNY AVENGERS #19 (FEB140716)
Written by RICK REMENDER
Art & Cover by DANIEL ACUÑA
Variant Cover by AGUSTIN ALESSIO (FEB140717)
FOC – 03/31/14 On-Sale – 04/23/14

Mindy Newell: Who Are You?

“Whooooooooo are you? Who? Who? Who, Who?”

WHO ARE YOU
Composed by Pete Townsend
The Who, 1978

Picking up from last week

All our super-powered mythic creations, whether hero or villain, man or woman, are avatars—whether we realize it or not.

Superman, of course, is the Big Kahuna avatar of comics. Every corrupt politician that Superman put in jail, each mobster who pulled a gun and watched the bullets bounce off Superman’s chest, every misogynistic wise-ass jerk who insulted a woman and was punished by Superman was really being punished by these two bookish, nebbishy, and schlemiel-y kids from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, who weren’t able to fight the anti-Semites or win the gorgeous goyishe blonde.  I doubt very much either of them were consciously aware of the psycho-sociological underpinnings of their alien hero who would capture the world’s imagination, but it’s all there, as many critics and writers, including Danny Fingeroth, Jules Feiffer, Grant Morrison, Scott Bakutman of Stanford University, and A. C. Grayling of The Spectator have noted.  Grayling’s article, “The Philosophy of Superman: A Short Course”, discusses the need for a Superman over the decades since his creation in the 1930’s, including the early 21st century and events post-9/11, stating that:

…caught between the terrifying George W. Bush and the terrorist Osama bin Laden, America is in earnest need of a Saviour for everything from the minor inconveniences to the major horrors of world catastrophe. And here he is, the down-home clean-cut boy in the blue tights and red cape.

Others more erudite than I am may have used more polysyllabic pronouncements when analyzing the characterization of the Man of Steel, but I will say that he is a fugue, an escape, an exodus into a world in which, simply put, the good guys win.

Depending on your definition of “the good guys,” of course.

(more…)

Mindy Newell: Making The Cut

Newell Art 130930Mindy went to her grandson’s bris today. Meyer Manuel, known in Hebrew as Avraham, is named for all three grandfathers. He had his first taste of wine, too, suckling on a cloth dipped in Manischevitz. It’s supposed to “quiet the baby,” which means lead him into a drunken stupor, so that the pain of the circumcision will be dulled. It didn’t help.

Meyer Manual cried, and Alix wept, as did most everyone else; the only ones not crying were Jeff, who did look shaky but stayed strong, looked shaky but he managed okay. The only ones who didn’t cry were the moyel (the artist performing the procedure) and Grandma me – the moyel because, well, that’s his job – and also he was wonderful, attentive to Alix and Jeff and incredibly caring to Meyer Manuel – and as for me, well, I think because I’ve seen so many circs (as we say in the biz) in my other life as an OR nurse that I knew what to expect, and also, I needed to be strong and calm for everyone else, meaning I had my professional face on.

Brit Milah: (Hebrew) “Covenant of circumcision.” Commonly referred to by its Yiddish term, the Bris, it is the Jewish religious ritual in which the male infant is circumcised at eight days old.

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised.

Like so many Jewish commandments, the brit milah is commonly perceived to be a hygienic measure, so think about this. The early Israelites were primarily desert dwellers. Now, all you men out there, think about getting some sand between the foreskin and the head of the penis.

Eeewwwwww!

Pretty smart, those Children of Abraham.

Also very intriguing – although the Torah does not specify a reason for the choice of the eighth day for performing the brit milah, medical research has discovered that an infant’s blood clotting mechanism stabilizes on the eighth day after birth.

Now how did they know that? Trial and error? (I hate to think of all those newborn baby boys bleeding out before their parents got it right.) Or was it “Ancient Aliens?” Did some advance civilization, mistaken for gods and angels by the Hebrews, instruct them on the rite of circumcision?

Hmmm…

The translation of the words sung during the opening of Battlestar Galactica is something like this, from the Sanskrit:

We meditate upon the divine light

of spiritual consciousness

May it awaken

our intuitional awareness.

Did Ronald D. Moore actually connect with the cosmic consciousness when he rebooted Battlestar Galactica? Were the three angels who visited Abraham actually Admiral Adama, his son Major Lee Adama, and Gaius Baltar?

Are any superheroes circumcised?

Certainly Gim Allon, aka Colossal Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes would be, as it has been established that he is Jewish. As would Marc Spector (Moon Knight), Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver), Reuben Flagg (American Flagg!), and Irwin Schwab (Ambush Bug).

As would be Max Eisenhardt, aka Magneto. And Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing. And Ray Palmer, also known as the Atom.

Superman?

Well, some people think he’s Jewish.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten, Esq.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis, PhD