On Wednesday, September 11, hailing from the northern wilderness of Canada, the iconic Marvel character, Wolverine, is now at Build-A-Bear Workshop.
Known as one of the gruffest, most irascible, totally cynical and brooding heroes of the X-Men, Wolverine takes the stage as an online exclusive collector’s item. Complete with his classic costume and soft claws, he is ready to take on any opponent.
I’ve said many times no one was more Milestone than Dwayne McDuffie. Denys Cowan’s larger than life idea created the company. Dwayne showed up with the details for that idea.
Milestone has made an impact on the comics world to be sure. Most would say comics have had an impact on the world and I would agree.
Just as no one was more Milestone than Dwayne, there was no one more ‘comics’ than Len Wein. That may be my opinion, but I defy anyone who knew Len to prove me wrong. Comics at their best induce moments where you’re living within the world you’re reading about. As an adult, if you’re lucky that feeling will last a few minutes if you achieve it at all.
As a child, those moments lasted hours maybe even longer depending on your level of interest and in my case your level of pain. Some of my childhood memories are as vivid now as when I was eight years old. Some thankfully are faded one memory so horrid I repressed it only to have it surface in a series of dreams (nightmares) later confirmed by my mother as a memory.
Don’t get me wrong I had a wonderful childhood except for the times it wasn’t. Then it was bad, hence the repressed memory. But remembering any occasions reading comics was, as we say in the hood, All Good.
Len’s presence always made me think back to when I was a kid. For most kids in grade school, there was nothing more important than Saturday, Sunday and summer any time away from school.
Kids who loved comics were a wee bit different.
Yeah, we loved summer but where I grew up no two days were as important than Tuesday and Thursday. Those were the days the new comics came in. I lived on Beach 58st, Far Rockaway Queens. The store that sold comics was on Beach 67th street. I could walk there in about twelve minutes or bike there in about three.
Since it was in my ‘hood’ odds were I’d still have my bike and comics when I exited the store. That may not be the case with the comic store located at Beach 40th street-not my hood. We called it the 40. The 40 had a much better selection and a spinner rack! Until then I’d never seen one before, and yeah it was a big deal.
My grade school best friend Julian Butler and I were distraught one comic book Tuesday because Silver Surfer #1 was not in the new comics. We prayed for what must have been the longest two days of our young lives it would come on Thursday.
“I’m not going to the 40,” Julian told me. “You’re stupid if you do.”
Julian had been beaten up his bike stolen at the 40. My friend Earl and I were chased from there my mother told me never to go back.
Julian was so right.
Going there would be stupid, and I almost never disobeyed my mother.
I was stupid I went there and I did say ‘almost.’
What else could I do? Comics were magic and my first love. When in love people do stupid things. Yeah, it was stupid, but it felt like magic.
Each moment I spent with Len Wein I was blessed with the magic of time travel because it felt like I traveled back to that time when I’d risk a beat down for a comic book.
At his graveside service, Len wanted a joyful sendoff, and his family and friends didn’t disappoint he got one. Fantastic Len stories genuinely funny were plentiful. I’m a hilarious guy, but I couldn’t speak let alone tell a humorous tale I was so heartbroken over his passing.
Others were just as heartbroken they were stronger than I and I’m glad they were. Still I think Len would have liked me to tell an amusing tale or two.
I’ll try and do that now.
Len’s life force was pure love. If you were fortunate enough to know him, you felt that. Always positive upbeat joyful and there for you. Len never brought you problems, but few were better with solutions. His cool calm and enlightened manner made his advice damn near spiritual.
That manner also cost me a Hugo Boss jacket.
“I know who you are,” I said with deadpan seriousness.
We were having lunch at an Oakland restaurant during Wonder Con. Len stopped looking for a waiter to look at me… like I was crazy. “Brilliant, changing one word of your teachings and who would ever think Buddha was a Jew?” I said as I looked attentively into his eyes.
He laughed so quick and hard whatever diet soda he was drinking ended up all over my Hugo Boss. He got the joke before I finished telling it. During the con whenever I would see Len talking to fans I would greet him by bowing my head and asking him to honor me with an autograph on; Len and the art of motorcycle maintenance, the way of Len, etc., etc.
You get the idea, but it took you a second. Len was quicker on the upbeat than anyone I knew. Len insisted he pay for the dry cleaning of my jacket and I should have let him. I left Oakland forgetting my blazer was in the cleaners.
Any time spent with Len was memorable. Some so outrageous if others were not involved no one would believe me. There was the time I drove some of the biggest names in comics to a party along the way we encountered both police then a car full of gangbangers.
Both confrontations featured loud blasting music from my truck. Not the Hip Hop you’ll expect from an early 30ish Black man but show tunes.
Yeah, I like a good musical, surprised?
“Maria” from, the West Side Story soundtrack greeted the cops when I slammed to a stop alongside them. I was speeding and did not see the patrol car until last minute.
Len was riding shotgun he shot me a ‘be calm’ look. I calmly asked the cops for directions which they gladly gave no doubt Len’s broad smile putting them at ease.
The cops drove on, and the music resumed with ‘America.’ My car was full of white people who all started singing at the top of their lungs.
I like the island Manhattan.
Smoke on your pipe and put that in!
I stopped at a red light glanced to my right, and my heart stopped.
Right next to us was a car full of gangbangers.
I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
All at once I turned off the music, and everyone stopped singing. I’m praying these guys were not fans of musical theater. Len rolled down his window smiled and said. “Know it?” The banger behind the wheel nodded slightly then said. “Everything free in America.”
There was a beat of utter disbelief before both vehicles broke into laughter. I threw up some look like gang signs and shouted “West Sideeeeeeeee!” Without missing a beat Len added; “Story.”
Yeah, that happened.
When I was around Len beautiful things like that happened all the time. His presence made me time travel to my younger self. I became the kid who couldn’t wait to buy new comics every month couldn’t wait to see what happened to Spiderman when he grew six arms. No way I could stay calm after Oliver Queen walked in on Speedy with a needle in his arm.
How could anyone be patient after seeing the ad for Swamp Thing # 7?
I felt I was in the fourth grade back to PS 105 when around Len.
That was always a good thing even if I’m too stubborn to see at times. The odds of a fourth grader no longer hating but becoming friends with a reformed bully are the stuff of After School Specials. That’s what happened after I almost killed Ronnie Williams. I hit him in the back of the head with a chair when he took my Fantastic Four #73.
I forgave Ronnie but kids forgive like they eat candy, they could care less how sick it makes them.
The odds of a now successful middle-aged black man from the hood with the chips stacked against him (on his shoulder) disregarding a history of conflict with the former (gone to his) head of a major comic book company?
The odds of A middle-aged successful black man with a chip on his shoulder from the hood crying like a little girl after reading the former’s gone to his head accounts of Len?
Trump becoming President of Mexico in a landslide win was a better bet.
Finishing each installment of Paul Levitz’s ‘week of Len’ on Facebook stabbed me with a razor blade of sadness. The narrative was written wonderfully, and for the briefest of moments, Len was alive. I almost made an “I never knew that…” call to him. After my mom passed, I dialed her number and began to leave a message on her answering service on three separate occasions.
To me in every way but blood Len was family and each tick of the clock believing he was still here was a gift. What Paul’s Facebook post gave me the comments took away by bringing me back to this damn reality.
He meant so much more to the world than what the press focused on. Yes, he was a fabulous writer, but he was an even better man. Len was the kind of person who cared about things that need to be cared about.
Sounds simple, but try naming five people you can truly say that about. Len didn’t need a hurricane to do the right thing.
This inadequately written offering has taken me weeks to write as I’m hurt and not seeing things clearly. I’ve been here many times. The Seven Stages of Grief are more like a ‘quick start’ guide to me these days.
I’ve lost many in the last few years just look at the tributes I’ve written then add eight.
Len’s death is different; it’s harder because Len while fighting his battle looked out for me while I was fighting mine. I tried to look out for him; I failed repeatedly.
When at rock bottom battling depression Len and his wife Christine insisted, I come to dinner with them one night. That was a night left alone I fear my inner demons may have won out.
The restaurant was six minutes away it took a Herculean effort and almost two hours to get there. They waited, called, waited, called and may have saved my life.
Whenever Len was in the hospital, I’d attempt to see him. The closest I’ve gotten was sitting in the hospital parking lot willing myself to move. I don’t see people in the hospital it’s something I just can’t do.
I spoke to Len about that he understood.
A week before Len died he called and asked me to come by his home. I called Christine to see when would be a good time.
I didn’t go.
I had every intention of going set a date took out the third row of seats in my SUV to fit Len’s wheelchair so that I could take him to lunch and then I moved our meeting date.
Len died the day before the new date.
Something in me died the moment I heard.
Len set the standard of integrity kindness fair play and honesty. He loved his fans like friends, loved his friends like family and loved his family above all. Knowing he would have understood not seeing him before he died gives me little relief.
I’ll try to be a good friend to Christine and Michael their support kept me from completely losing it when It should have been the other way around.
I loved that man; we, all of comics loved that man if you knew him or not you loved Len Wein.
I fear this is a pain I may never get over and fear my time traveling days are over.
So be it.
The time I spent with Len is well worth me staying put and trying to be a better man.
If you’re a regular reader of my work, you will notice there is no profanity in this piece out of my love and respect for Christine Michael and their family who may want to read this account.
Those new to my work who may seek out other articles by me be warned I swear and use hood slang often and I’m about to so again because Len loved this line:
Heaven, you smell that? That’s Len Wein; he’s the shit.
I don’t always get around to seeing movies that I want to see while they’re in the theaters. I prefer seeing movies first in the theater and preferably in IMAX. I love the big screen and I think that’s how they were meant to be seen. I don’t mind seeing it later on the small screen, especially if I still have the memory of seeing the large-scale version.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, I just don’t get around to getting to the movie theater in time to catch the feature. Logan was one of those films.
As you already probably know, Logan is the last film that Hugh Jackman will make playing Wolverine. It’s a part that made him a star and that he basically owns. This time it’s set in the not too distant future of 2029 and things have not gone well for the mutant population. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the film and want to, best stop reading now or you may learn more than you want to.) By inference, we learn that there are almost no mutants left and none have been born in the past 25 years. There was some kind of unspecified disaster around the school in Westchester NY several years back.
Logan is now keeping it on the down low near the Mexican border as a driver/bodyguard. He drinks a lot and he’s sick; his mutant healing factor is fading and the adamantium that laces his bones (and claws) is poisoning him. He’s also taking care of Professor X, Charles Xavier (played once again by Patrick Stewart, who has said this is also his last go-round with the X-Men), who is also ailing. The man with the most powerful brain in the world is losing control of it; every once in a while, he has seizures that wreak havoc on everyone near him.
Into Logan’s and Professor X’s life comes an 11-year-old girl named Laura who is a mutant, who may have been created in a lab where she was dubbed X-23. She also has retractable claws, rage issues, and a violent nature. Sound like anyone we know? She is Logan’s “daughter” in that his DNA was used to create her.
The movie is a road picture, one in which Logan, Laura, and Professor X are chased as they try to find their way to a possible haven. The film is very violent (having earned an R rating) and bleak. Very bleak.
Professor X founded the X-Men in the belief, the hope, that mutants and normal humans could find a way to live together. His frenemy, Magneto, didn’t think they could and his path was more violent. He saw humans and mutants as being at war.
Evidently, Magneto was right. That appears to be the premise of Logan – very few mutants are left and the ones that exist are being hunted. Xavier was wrong.
That’s also been the premise of more than a few X-Men comics that touch on the future. I don’t recall seeing one such future where Professor X’s vision came true. I will admit, I find that a bit depressing. It seems to me to undercut some of the basic premise of the X-Men – that there is hope that all these different types of people can live together. The X-Men have been stand-ins for so many different persecuted minorities. Xavier’s dream, his vision, has always held out hope to me that our differences can be overcome, however tough the battle.
That’s not what Logan seems to say.
I don’t know if I have the right to gripe. My career seems to be about anti-heroes and bleak characters and bad times; it’s how I make my living. I can certainly see the allure in taking that attitude in Logan; it feels closer to life as we see it these days. More and more so all the time. But maybe that’s why we need a little more hope.
This is not to say that Logan is a badly made film; far from it. It’s not simply violent; it’s intelligent and well written and has wonderful performances. In the blu-ray pack that I bought, I had a chance to experience it in black and white. They call it Logan Noir and it has the feel of noir films of old. I was very impressed.
I was also a little saddened. It’s hard to watch a dream die, especially one that was meant to give us hope. These days, I think we need all the hope we can get.
This week we unbox April’s Loot Wear — all 5 subscriptions (For Her, Socks, Wearables & Tees!. The theme was Primal and featured were items from Beauty & The Beast, Wolverine, Godzilla, The Legend of Zelda, Ren & Stimpy & more.
If you want your own Loot Wear – you can get it at lootcrate.com
Having finally caught and absorbed James Mangold’s Logan, the finale to the OG X-films, I find myself hoping that the execs behind the soon-to-be-released Wonder Woman and Justice League movies were taking notes. A caveat: I’m going to attempt to keep my lens wide this week. While I don’t believe I’ll be spoiling anything more than people on your Facebook feed have blathered about, be nonetheless forewarned.
Before I get into my listicle (they’re what make articles click-baity, don’t-cha-know), let me quickly pontificate. Logan was one of the most powerful superhero films I’ve ever seen. Perhaps second only to The Dark Knight. It was a straight-forward small-scale road picture that kept a handle on a single-thread story, presented as an homage to the westerns it evoked throughout the picture. In spite of a heavy-handed two-hour run-time, the film itself moves at a steady pace. The performances are top-notch, with Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman taking astounding leaps above their initial performances of Charles Xavier and Wolverine circa 2000. Sweet Rao I feel old just typing that. But I digress. On with the listercizing!
Things get dark, but never for the sake of needless angst.
The first thing DC should take note on… and perhaps highlight, circle, underline and install neon lights around… is that it’s perfectly acceptable to be maudlin if it’searned. X-Men, X2, and to a much-much-much-much lesser extent any of the other X-films did much to pile on the action and gravitas towards the mutant life en masse. But Logan abstains from needless retreading. Instead, it delivers us heroes who are hurt inside and out. It gives them needs, wants, and desires that don’t coincide with some greater plot or McGuffin. And when a McGuffin lands in their lap, they pleasantly drape it in subtext (Charles Xavier, through his delusional state, would seek to mentally communicate with any over living mutants, wouldn’t he?) that earns the gravitas the film requires. And when a character screams to the heavens in a shrill cry of anger and sadness, it comes by way of two-hours of earned malaise and not because it looks cool.
Show. Don’t tell.
During a lull between brutal set pieces, Professor X waxes poetic about the final days of his former academy. He doesn’t speak in pure exposition. He drifts in and out, dancing around nuanced and painful memories, and ultimately evokes the feeling of tragedy and regret deeply rooted in his psyche. We never hear the full details of what occurs. We never see some spiffy CG recreation. And we never need to.
In addition to Charles’ admission of guilt and shame and the slow reveal of X-23’s backstory, Logan elicits the show-don’t-tell ethos that DC needs to heed. While yes, we get the obligatory backstory tacked to her early on, it’s delivered without hanging a lampshade on it time-and-again. Laura is feral and untrusting. She’s lethal and raw. While we see her drop her guard eventually, it comes over the course of many scenes and instances where Dafne Keen shows us how powerful a performer she is. Logan never once feels the need to montage our way toward understanding a new norm.
Keep the violence real, believable, and still other-worldly.
The biggest issues I’ve had with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad came solely in their fetish for destruction. Logan certainly was built for violence. But when it occurs, it’s not only earned by the stakes in the story, it comes layered with emotional and physical fallout. As Logan and others are forced to fight a youthful Wolverine clone (my one spoilery thing, I apologize…), suddenly fighting a savage killer with a healing factor feels like a true threat. It also stands to note that even in the climax of the film — with multiple combatants, gunfire, and viscera — there’s no death for the sake of spectacle. War is waged for hope, humanity, and vengeance. All that, and there’s nary a single beam-being-blasted-towards-the-sky. Natch.
The story is fearless in the face of predictability
If nothing else could be counted on by DC after seeing Logan, it should be the safe admission that sometimes it’s OK to tee-up a predictable story. There’s nary a single twist to the picture if you pay clear attention. But, due to the patience of director Mangold, we get a film that never needed to rely on ham-fisted trickery to earn the 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The potency lies in the characterizations and believable escalation of antagonism. Villainy in Logan is no less super-villainous that Lex Luthor creating Doomsday, or Darkseid declaring war on Earth. But it’s the reactions of our heroes that carry us through to the end credits. Jokes occur naturally and not at the behest of breaking a tense and necessary silent moment for the sake of relieving the stress on the audience. Mangold lets the story unfold through deliberate character-driven motivations. We never see the puppet-strings of action-figure-merchandisers creating moments for future marketing. Honesty and artistry over bottom-dollar-profits. And because of it, the fans have carried a hard R-rated film to over 500 million dollars in ticket sales.
I know Justice League and Wonder Woman are being built to pitch out to a larger PG-13 audience. But the sincere hope remains that DC paid attention. Logan was amazing not because it used the word fuck a few hundred times, but because the story delivered earned every last fuck delivered.
This week, we’re going to talk about identity politics and geek culture. One of the themes (or, perhaps, lessons learned) of this political season was about people who feel left out. These are the folks who aren’t really climate change deniers and certainly most aren’t bigots. But they are folks who feel like no one who is talking to them, listening to them or speaking up for them.
Clearly, some bristled when women and minorities jostled past them to assume positions of power and responsibility in their workplaces and communities. They might have big hearts and a welcoming mindset when they meet new people who don’t look like them or act like them… but they get a bit resentful and preoccupied with cultural differences. It’s the little things, like when they notice there are so many with kids “strange sounding” names in their grandson’s 2nd grade class.
Many of these folks tuned into the message from a candidate who promised to make them feel more comfortable in their own hometown.
That’s all clearly a generalization, but I see the same thing happening in Geek Culture. I hear many older fans lamenting that comics today miss the mark. They are uncomfortable with the new stuff and the changes to the old stuff.
I find this so hard to understand, as I do believe we are living in a Pop Culture Renaissance. There are so many innovative and brilliant comics being produced that just keeping up with the really excellent choices has become a Sisyphean task.
I hear fans, and some comic shop owners, complain that Marvel doesn’t get it. They are frustrated that new characters have taken on the mantles of their favorites like Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain Marvel and even the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Much like corporate America in the real world, these title roles used to be occupied by white males, but now they are held by women and minority characters.
Last week in The New York Times, Nicolas Kristof wrote about a Bernie Sanders’ identity politics quote. Basically, Sanders was saying that it’s less about the person’s background and more about the job they do.
I wish it was that easy, but it’s not. So many of us want to see a certain person in the job role and then want that person to do the job our way. Some of us want to see people just like themselves, while others, like me, celebrate the strides made and appreciate and applaud diversity.
I visited a comic shop last night. While there, the owner talked about how Marvel is still producing comics that his customers don’t want to read. The one recent win he mentioned was a new comic called The Unworthy Thor. In the Marvel Comics mythology, a woman has taken over the mantle of the Thor, and this new series puts the traditional Thor character (a white Asgardian or Norwegian – take your pick) back on center stage and in the title role.
It’s a tough balancing act. On the one hand, a publisher wants to appeal to our better angels and invite new people to the party, and on other hand, they need to appeal to what some of their original long-time consumers say they want.
There are no easy answers …not in the Geek Culture Club House nor on America’s political stage.
And folks on both sides might be talking about this upcoming issue of Sam Wilson: Captain America.
We all know that Geek Culture has taken over our American civilization. Young’uns may not realize there was a time when the Geek was looked down on and sneered at and frequently beaten up for their lunch money… which is embarrassing when you’re 24. Now, superheroes have taken over the movie box office and can be found in one version or another all over television.
Further proof: the current issue of Entertainment Weekly not only has Benedict Cumberbatch on the cover as Doctor Strange, the majority of the double-sized issue is taken up with a listing of the Fifty Most Powerful Superheroes. How much more geeky can you get? The very quintessence of geekdom is arguing about which superhero icon is better.
EW set up a rating system and asked staffers to rank the superheroes accordingly. The nine categories were Cultural Impact, Bankability, Design, Modern relevance, Mythology, Nemesis, Originality, Personality, and Powers. They could get up to ten points in each category except for Cultural Impact which was worth up to 20. Total: 100 Pts. The emphasis, I think, was weighted towards superheroes who have appeared in movies; witness bankability. Given it’s EW, that makes sense; they, like the movies, are trying to appeal to the broadest audience.
Their #1 is Wonder Woman. This might surprise more hard-core comic geeks. Given the rise of the awareness of women and Gal Gadot’s appearance as Diana in Batman V Superman, perhaps not so surprising and not unwarranted.
#2 for EW was Spider-Man, followed by Batman and Superman with Wolverine rounding out their top 5.
For myself, I would have made Superman at the top of the list by virtue of the fact that none of the others exist without him. Superman was the first and set the standard – the colorful costume, the secret identity, the larger than life exploits – every hero or heroine that followed used that template is some fashion. Bankability? It was the huge financial success of the Last Survivor of Krypton that spurred the other publishers (not to mention Superman’s publisher) to get more of the same out there on the newsstands.
Look, I know that there were other superhero types before Supes or around the same time such as the Phantom and the Spirit or, over in the pulps, the Shadow. In comics, however, it was Superman who set the standard. In feature-length movies as well; the first Superman movie debuted in 1978. The first Batman film followed more than a decade later. As good as they are, none of the other superheroes has had the same cultural impact as the Man of Steel.
Don’t get me wrong; I’d also place Wonder Woman high up on the list. I think Batman is my #2 but WW would never be lower than #3. Spider-Man? Yeah, he’s important enough to be #4 but I think I would make Iron Man my #5 given the fact that the film launched the Marvel Cinema Universe, sometimes known as the Might Marvel Money Making Juggernaut. Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr are its cornerstone; if it had flopped (and some thought it would), it would have been tough to make the others… fly.
But that’s what makes this issue of EW so geeky. Listing the heroes according to some criteria is at the very heart of geek culture. Since every list is subjective, there is no one list that is right and final and definitive, no matter how much some geeks might insist that their own list is all that. I know my list isn’t the final word on the subject; it’s just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
The very fact that EW’s list exists, that they devoted so much time and space and attention to what is essentially a very geeky enterprise, shows that Geekdom has conquered the world.
This past week has made me reflect on life and death. Some of it has been personal, some of it has been David Bowie related, and some of it has been comic book related.
Despite never having met David Bowie, he’d been a part of my life for a while with his music, movies, and other works. And a celebrity of his status is hard to not be reminded of, regardless of if you’d like to avoid him or not. From his music being in a many films, to just hearing his songs in played on the radio, bars, and grocery stores, Bowie is just so entrenched in our pop culture that he’ll live on for the rest of my life, even though he physically hasn’t.
Comic book story lives and deaths are a little different. I probably didn’t need to tell you that, but it sounded like a good segue so here we are. Character deaths in mainstream comics are becoming more and more a staple of the medium. The increase in character deaths is leading to an increase in characters coming back to life. Oddly enough, characters who would sell a lot of books with their deaths get killed off (see Superman, Batman, Phoenix, Wolverine and more!) or characters that no one seems to know what to do with (see Coagula, Kraven The Hunter, and more!). Just like real life!
When it comes to characters coming back to life, it’s a bit harder to suspend your disbelief. At least for me. And I’m not saying that to mean in these worlds with alien worlds, alternate dimensions and time travel (just to name a few) that someone coming back from life is where I draw the line. It’s more just sad how these fictional characters we know and love seem to put more effort into bringing back their pals that sell books than bringing back all of their good friends, relatives, and innocent bystanders they’ve watched die over the years. Always comes down to the bottom line with these superheroes. It’s a damn shame. I know I’ve plugged X-Statix before, but if you haven’t read it the book does touch on that point.
Anyway, the big two used to at least try to take a break between ending lives in their comics and starting up lives again. Currently Marvel is advertising that they have a character coming back to life and a major character death coming up soon. The line between life and death in mainstream comics has become so blurred, with brief lives and briefer deaths. All as the ultimate gimmick to keep you wanting more.
This hasn’t always gone off without a hitch. Alexandra DeWitt’s death in Green Lantern sparked enough outrage to create Women In Refrigerators which helped to launch Gail Simone’s career. More recently, Joshua Fialkov quit a gig writing Green Lantern because they planned on killing off prominent black superhero John Stewart.
These two instances do have similarities. Yes, they’re both controversies in the various Green Lantern comics, but that’s not what I was getting at. It’s that both instances involve killing off characters that are not straight cis white guys. In one they’re killing off a woman, and in the other they’re killing off a black man. In both, the idea was to kill off a character that would have motivated at least one straight cis white man to take action and do the right thing. In one, Kyle Raynor was pushed to stop Major Force at all cost, and in the other different Green Lanterns would have been motivated to solve the mystery of who killed John Stewart. The latter of which caused such an uproar that DC cancelled its plans to kill off John Stewart.
And all of this got me thinking about deaths in comics and how it’s linked to diversity. Death in comics can be a double edged sword when it comes to diversity. On the one hand, if you’re only killing straight cis white guys, isn’t that implying that the only characters worth killing off, the only characters that could elicit a strong emotional fan reaction straight cis white guys? On the other hand, if you kill off a woman or minority character, wouldn’t you just be depleting from the already small (albeit growing) pool of women and minority characters in comics, and possibly using it as a tool to push a straight cis white guy to action?
I’m sure we can all think of a lot of potential examples in our heads right now. What if Marvel killed off Steve Rogers (again)? Sure, that’s making room for Sam Wilson to really assert himself as Captain America even further, but in a way doesn’t it have the implication that Steve Rogers is more important? What if Marvel killed off Sam Wilson? Wouldn’t that lead to Steve Rogers somehow probably taking the role of Captain America back, taking a step back in diversity as the cast of characters gets just a little more white and a little less black? It’s something to think about. At least I’m thinking about it.
If they would just come back anyway, then that’s not great for diversity either. In DC Comics 52 series showcasing the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, we got characters like Batwoman stepping up, and The Question passing the torch from Vic Sage to Renee Montoya, as Batman and Superman and some others are out of the picture. It was a flirtation with diversity that ended with our beloved white heroes Superman and Batman coming back from obscurity as Batwoman and The Question fell back a bit. The Question has even went back to being Vic Sage after The New 52 reboot. Go figure.
DC has other examples of this, like bringing back Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern instead of maybe delving more into John Stewart, and more. Over at Marvel, they killed off Wolverine, and now X-23 has taken the reigns in her own book All New Wolverine. Speculation of Wolverine coming back (Not Old Man Logan, who is already back, but the real deal Wolverine) in 2016 has been high. If he comes back, isn’t that a step backwards for diversity? Even if they still try to push X-23 as Wolverine, won’t it eventually just move back to Logan? They must know that over at Marvel, and that makes it a little troubling to think that they would be willing to undermine their own progress. Maybe they won’t though, but it’s something that’s more than possible, it’s likely.
Often character deaths in mainstream comics lead to brief lives of those that take their place. The Death of Superman brought us Steel, but since Superman’s return he’s often been used very sparingly and rarely with much thought or creativity outside of his original creative team. These are all just some examples of life and death in comics, and how they can work against diversity or hold diversity back. If Marvel and DC are really going to take diversity seriously, they may need to let the dead rest in peace.
I understand it’s complicated, I know that no one wants to throw away an opportunity to make a few bucks, and work for hire contracts keep many creators from wanting to invest their hearts and souls into characters they don’t own. However, something needs to change. Some of the current ideas in mainstream comics need to be allowed to die, and new ones need to be born and thrive.
Last week, we went to The Marvel Experience during its stop in San Diego.Taking place in seven large domes, visitors become S.H.I.E.L.D recruits who undergo training in order to fight alongside the Avengers against Hydra in a final showdown. It reminded us of a Marvel themed amusement park, but is it worth the ticket price (ranging from $24.50 to $34.50) when it comes your city?Watch our review to find out.