Archive for August, 2010


This Week is Next Week

August 21st, 2010 Posted by Gavok

So bad news on my front. My computer is dead (murdered! Moltar, serve the first course!) and I won’t be getting it back until Tuesdayish. Since I can’t do any meaningful updates off my Droid, tomorrow’s This Week in Panels will have to be merged with next week’s edition.

Ah, well. At least I can catch up on my reading.

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Stop Jockin’ Jay-Z [Thunderbolts 147]

August 19th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Black people! Comics! It’s been a while, but I’m back for my crown.

There’s tendency in comics to write pretty generic black guys. You occasionally get the Samuel L Jackson Fight the Power Angry Black Fella types, but more often than not, you’re looking at a slightly watered down version of that same type. Sanitized Shaft. Diet Dolemite. Toothless Tommy Gibbs. Put Bishop (pre-mega murder spree), most depictions of John Stewart, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Mr. Terrific, and Steel in a room together. First, note their hair. Second, note their personalities. They’re all kind of really moral, upstanding human beings… but with an edge. Maybe they used to be mad at the man. Maybe they sometimes have flashy nods to whatever standard of blackness they were born into. Who knows, who cares, but a bunch of black dudes with basically the same moral compass is boring.

(Fully half of black women in cape comix, excepting Storm who has been kept in safety away from all things black up until recently, tend to pop into the snakecharming neck, nuh uh I know that chick didn’t just do what I just saw her do, tell me I didn’t just see that, super ghitto around the way girl stereotype a little too easily. The other half of black women in comics is Vixen, who is like Animal Man, but stuck in boring stories.)

There are no rules for writing black people in comics, and anyone who’d tell you otherwise is someone not worth listening to. In my family alone is a vast range of characters, some less than positive and some exemplary. Everything counts, everything is true. The thing is, sometimes people trip into pitfalls when writing black people, and black guys in particular. You could easily make a list of mis-steps.

One is slipping in slang. Slang is an intensely regional thing with several outside factors. I don’t talk like people from New York talk, but we do share some slang because of shared history or culture. Have you ever seen somebody write “crunked?” I can almost guarantee that person isn’t from the south, because “crunk” is its own past tense. You didn’t get crunked last night, you got crunk. Slang shifts and warps depending on where you are. You wouldn’t catch me dead saying “hella,” but I can’t quite scrub “might could” or “one more ‘gin” from my vocabulary. You seriously can’t just urbandictionary this stuff and expect to get it right.

Another way is by showing how ROUGH and TOUGH these guys are by throwing in some of that old “urban flavor.” Since they were raised on the streets they’re a little harder than some milquetoast whiteboy like Spider-Man! So they’ll slang it up, call somebody a @#$&()&, and then fist bump another guy right before hitting a villain with a yo mama joke or something. And sure, there’s that thing black people do where they nod at each other on the street (don’t front like you haven’t seen it and/or don’t do it on occasion) which makes our white friends ask “Do you know that guy?” in a hushed whisper. I can see how that’d cultivate this crazy idea that there’s a quiet coalition of people with a thug just waiting to jump out of their skin. But (wait for it) not everybody is from the cold, hard streets. Some folks are from the suburbs. Some folks are country.

The biggest offender in my mind, though, is something that probably got widespread appeal back during the blaxploitation era, resurrected by Snoopy Doggy Dogg, and then it caught fire and died when Destiny’s Child dropped a single. I’m sure you know it–some variant of a guy going “SAY MY NAME!” It’s raw dog alpha male braggadocio, a way of humiliating someone by forcing them to acknowledge the fact that you’re better than them. If you’ve ever played Madden NFL 2004 and broke out an eighty yard run to TD off a ridiculous quarterback sneak with Michael Vick, you know exactly what I’m talking about because you’ve done it yourself (I know I’m guilty).

It’s corny, it’s stupid, it’s cliche, and people do it, but I don’t necessarily want to read about it. It’s shorthand for Cool Black Guy, which really just means Black Guy Who Threatens People Other Than Me And Maybe My Friends, and that’s offensive, Mr. Charlie.


Thunderbolts 147. Jeff Parker, Kev Walker, Frank Martin. Here’s two pages and the two spreads that follow them.

And well… they did my least favorite thing and they pulled it off. It’s not forced, it’s not awkward, and it’s honestly the most flavor Cage has had since the Azzarello/Corben CAGE mini from almost ten years ago. The setting, the timing, the violence, all of this is dead on. It’s perfect, it’s believable, and it’s fantastic. It’s not just “Hey, by the way, this guy is black, remember?” It’s a show of authority, it’s a big dog showing his charges exactly who the alpha male is around here.

I like Cage, but I haven’t like liked him in ages. He’s been pretty bland and neutered under Bendis’s run. It’s not that I want the old Cage, the Kurt Busiek/Jo Duffy Cage back, but I kind of do. This thing that Parker and Walker are doing here, though, is the best of both worlds without ignoring either of them.

Every story is true. But, if you’re going to tell some of them… at least put in the work and get it right, like these guys did.

All right? Peace.

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The Cipher 08/18/10

August 18th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Stuff What I Wrote: SLG needs legal help, Deathlok demolishes, and BPRD brings Hell to Earth.

Music What I Bought:
Curren$y – Pilot Talk: I like Spitta, but dude seriously needs to start switching up his flow and subject matter some. I like weed, slow flows, and other people’s (pause) as much as the next dude, but an album full of it was unexpectedly draining. Curren$y varies from into it to lethargic from song to song, and sometimes the production vastly outshines him. This one isn’t bad, but I’m not sure if I’ll still be spinning it in a couple weeks. I think what it is is that I don’t like it as much as How Fly, his mixtape with Wiz Khalifa. Still, the production is dope, the guest spots are ill… this album is straight. Video: King Kong.

Kassin+2 – Futurismo: I’m fully unqualified to actually discuss this album in terms of technique or artistic merit, but The +2s are dope and make this kind of really funky, relaxed, hype, dance music. That doesn’t make any sense, but listen to “Ponto Final” and a few other cuts. You can sit around reading to this stuff, or shake it like a salt shaker. Kassin+2 also did the music for Michiko e Hatchin, one of the dopest shows out that has yet to actually get licensed for release.

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach: I bought this one on Graeme‘s recommendation and was left pretty pleased. I liked the Gorillaz in high school (though apparently the song goes “I ain’t happy,” not “Iiii’m happy”) and this kicked off this whole thing where I’m spending all of my time listening to the Gorillaz and figuring out what I like about it. Right now, it’s “I like the range and versatility.” Later, it may be something else. I’ll tell you what, though. I’m really interested in theatricality and gimmicks and narrative, and Gorillaz are all of that rolled up into one. Video: Stylo (with Mos Def and Bobby Womack [!!!!])

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack): Do you know how often I buy movie or tv show soundtracks? Almost never, that’s how often. I liked the music in the movie enough to grab the soundtrack, though, and I left pretty dang pleased. I hadn’t heard Metric before, but I like the way that sounds. The in-movie stuff, the Sex Bob-omb songs? Those sound great, too. “Garbage Truck” is fantastic. I could do without the chiptunes song, tho. Bleah. Black Sheep (featurette)

Stuff What I Been Reading: Shade (finally started book 3 after a few false starts), other stuff

Stuff What We Gonna Buy:
David Days: Amazing Spider-Man 640, Atlas 4, Hellblazer 270, King City 11, New Mutants 16, Thunderbolts 147
Esther Planet We Reach is Dead: Tiny Titans 31, Streets of Gotham 15, Power Girl 15
Don’t Gavin Lost In Heaven: Authority The Lost Year 12, Azrael 11, Green Lantern Corps 51, Age Of Heroes 4, Atlas 4, Avengers Academy 3, Avengers And The Infinity Gauntlet 1, Deadpool Corps 5, Deadpool 26, Marvel Universe vs The Punisher 2, New Avengers 3, Secret Avengers 4, Shadowland Power Man 1, Thunderbolts 147, Darkwing Duck The Duck Knight Returns 3

Stuff What Is A Drag:
This OMIT story in Amazing Spidey. Extremely pretty, but extremely who cares. Should’ve just kept on going with the status quo instead of explaining something boring.

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Three covers and three words.

August 18th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Three November covers and three words to describe each of them.

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Batgirl #13 Play-by-Play

August 16th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

A new year, a new team, a newly-shifted love interest.

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Fourcast! 58: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Movie

August 16th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is out!
-It is, of course, based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s fantastic comics series.
-Spoiler: both of us liked it.
-Spoiler: Esther hasn’t read the books.
-Spoiler: David is totally in like with Aubrey Plaza.
-Spoiler: After the movie, he may also be totally in like with Ellen Wong, aka Knives Chau.
-At the end of the movie, David really thought that Scott was going to choose Knives over Ramona. While he’s okay with the fact that it didn’t happen, it would have been a nice twist.
-Capitalism: You can buy volume one or volume six, or really any of the books, for like six bucks on Amazon.
-Capitalism: You can also buy this bundle, but I dunno. I’m no math major, in fact I can only count to four, but I think that the individual books are cheaper than the bundle. But hey, it’s your cash, homey.
-Capitalism: There’s a soundtrack, too.
-The movie’s good, y’all. Stop worrying about the box office. It doesn’t matter, it has no bearing on how good the movie is, and however much money it did or didn’t make should not affect your opinion of the film or reflect your taste in comics.
-Besides, if it only did okay, then you get to pretend like no one has ever heard of your favorite movie, so you can use phrases like “cult favorite” and “sleeper hit.”
-Seriously, shut up about the box office.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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This Week in Panels: Week 47

August 15th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

This week we have a special collaborator Was Taters who didn’t want me to credit her, but I am anyway. So there.

I personally love the pick for Batgirl #13, because I’m imagining that Meatwad is nearby, off-panel.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth New World #1
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis

Batgirl #13
Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez

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Summerslam for Comic Fans

August 15th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Tonight we have what I guess would be considered the WWE’s third most important show of the year, Summerslam. I mean, on paper, it’s supposed to be the secondary Wrestlemania, but everyone and their imaginary friend loves Royal Rumble more. I look forward to the show despite the roadblocks it sets up. There are only six matches signed. One of these matches is a throwaway Divas match I couldn’t care less about. One of the championship matches is Rey Mysterio vs. Kane and while I love Kane and don’t mind Mysterio, I don’t need to be reminded of their abysmal, “Is he alive or is he dead?” feud.

So why am I so jazzed about the show? Team WWE vs. the Nexus in an elimination tag match. The Nexus has been one of the better wrestling storylines in past years, despite its own set of roadblocks (Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson being fired, Wade Barrett’s visa problems, Ricky Steamboat’s injury). I can only hope the storyline doesn’t get killed as of the end of Summerslam, yet at the same time, I don’t want them to last long enough to get destroyed by a returning Triple H. God, I really don’t want to see Triple H involved with this in any way.

For those new to the big main event, here it is laid out DC Comics style.

(click for bigger version)

Let’s see who we got on here…

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Fear of a Black Panther Part Two

August 14th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Tucker spent some time talking about how Panther’s Rage is about T’Challa’s failure as a leader. There’s a good reason for that: it’s the glue that holds Panther’s Rage together. You can’t not talk about it.

Except now that we’re fully into the story and all the preambles are out of the way, McGregor starts to stack the deck against T’Challa. In part four, the one drawn by Gil Kane, T’Challa wrestles a rhino to the ground to rescue a child. He kills the rhino in favor of the child’s life, which is a pointed statement in and of itself, I think, but the way in which he does it is what’s important. He wrestles the rhino to the ground and snaps its spine, something he learned by watching westerns. T’Challa’s buccaneering habits are learned. The Black Panther, with initial caps and constant swashbuckling, is an act. He saw them on tv, or read them in books, and have adopted them as his own.

T’Challa easily and casually remembers the name of a farmer, stunning him. (Grant Morrison would use this technique thirty-some years later for Bruce Wayne in his run on Batman.) The farmer’s wife is unimpressed, focusing on his “outworlder” girlfriend. She sees the Americans he has emulated and the fact that he has brought back an American girlfriend, Monica Lynne. She feels the pain of desertion. Her husband feels the love of his king. Both are correct.

The conflict is easy to see, but McGregor doesn’t stop there. Before the farmer and his wife appear, Panther slumps over the rhino’s corpse and says, “No loss this time, Monica. This time I won.” He’s four issues into this story and he’s already cracking under the pressure.

T’Challa’s constantly struggling, and not in the way that heroes struggle against villains. He’s fighting to not actually choose between American culture and Wakandan culture. He’s fighting to keep his kingdom, despite the fact that he left it behind at will in the past. He’s fighting to keep both Monica and W’Kabi. He’s fighting Killmonger and he’s fighting the results of his own swashbuckling. He wants it both ways, and even though he knows he can’t have it, he’s still fighting for it. He’s selfish. When the pressure becomes too much, what does he do? He goes to the river to brood alone, like a child.

Panther’s battles manifest themselves in several ways over the course of Panther’s Rage. At the heart of each of them is the question of Wakanda versus America, in one way or another. Sometimes he outright fails. Sometimes he triumphs. He never actually wins, however. His victories are caked in loss.

The farmer who T’Challa recognized was killed by zombies that very same night, leaving his wife and child alone. When the wife comes to the palace, requesting that the king go find her husband, T’Challa immediately goes to investigate. He runs afoul of those zombies and is beaten easily. He eventually escapes and runs back to the castle. He doesn’t win. He doesn’t even retrieve the farmer’s body. In fact, the farmer’s body sits there, baking in the sun, until the next night when T’Challa gets his nerve up to go back to the graveyard. The wife doesn’t find out that her husband is dead until later because T’Challa is preoccupied with his own problems. Result: failure.

Yes, there are zombies and monsters in Panther’s Prey. The villains have names like Baron Macabre and Lord Karnaj. Yes, their names are goofy and stupid, about as generically superheroic as you can get. Except: Macabre is a mask, someone playing a role. Karnaj emphasizes that Erik Killmonger, the villain behind the villains, gave him that name. The zombies are rebels, dressed up with fake talons and ghoulish makeup.

This is Killmonger’s plan, and it’s a doozy. He’s using T’Challa’s language, superheroes and faked up gimmicks, to terrorize Wakanda. He’s playing on the superstitions of the populace to get the job done, and he’s using the very thing T’Challa deserted Wakanda for to do it. It’s America vs Wakanda, but viewed through a twisted mirror.

Monica is accused of murder partway through these chapters and exonerated in the final one. Just before proving Monica’s innocence, T’Challa approaches his prey and idly makes a reference to Alfred Hitchcock in his thoughts. “Damn! he thinks. Must all of his reference points be so foreign to his native land?” Wakanda attacked his American woman, and even in the middle of that, he’s fighting Wakanda vs America on the inside.

Panther’s Rage puts me in mind of Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr’s run on Daredevil, where every act of violence was a sign of Daredevil’s shortcomings as a hero. A hero can solve problems without making mistakes and without anyone getting hurt. T’Challa, however, has already made his mistakes, and now the only thing that’s left is the pain.

What’s sad about that is that T’Challa won’t be the focus for all of the pain. The farmer dies and his wife and son suffer. Monica is harassed and imprisoned. W’Kabi has lost faith in his king. Wakanda is being battered by Killmonger’s Death Regiment. Taku, T’Challa’s good friend and a definite pacifist, is forever tainted when he experiences the horrors of the war against Killmonger firsthand.

T’Challa? Some people just kind of point out how much he’s screwed up and he gets beaten up every once and a while. These three chapters lay the consequences for his actions on everyone but T’Challa, which in turn serves to increase his burden. Everyone around T’Challa ends up twisted and distorted by the pressure of the situation. Monica is miserable. W’Kabi is furious. Taku is understanding, but even he’s losing his patience. This is T’Challa’s fault.

Taku is the saddest casualty of this war, for my money. He’s quiet and sensible, seeking only to help where he can. The narration describes him as a man who “listens instead of inflicting his personality upon others.” Despite this, he’s not afraid to call T’Challa out on his crap. When T’Challa is pulling his ‘woe is me’ act beside a river, Taku sits beside him and they speak. T’Challa laments the fact that he has lost W’Kabi, and Taku says, “Part of it is Killmonger. Surely you know that?” T’Challa, clearly misreading Taku, goes off on how Killmonger only wants to govern Wakanda according to his own desires. Taku, though, brings the ether and asks T’Challa if he has been any different.

Taku befriended Venomm, a villain from chapters one through three, and refers to him by his first name, Horatio. While Venomm did side against Wakanda, he is still a human being, and Taku manages to pull that out. When it comes time to strike back against Killmonger, Taku must betray his friend. When he expresses that thought, W’Kabi reacts with shock. What betrayal? They don’t owe Venomm anything. Taku knows the truth, though. He says that by betraying “a confidence,” he has “betrayed [himself] as well.” Being true to yourself means being true to yourself at all times. Bending your rules just shows how little you believed in those rules. Taku is a man of integrity, and T’Challa’s actions have forced him to break with that integrity in a way that he is not comfortable with.

While W’Kabi is eager to do battle against Killmonger, Taku simply did the best he could to intellectually prepare for it. It didn’t work. When Lord Karnaj kills a child as a side effect of trying to kill Panther, Taku loses it. In a killer and mostly silent Billy Graham page, Taku approaches Karnaj, shrugging off two sonic blasts. He drops his spear, because certain jobs just require the satisfaction of working with your hands. He beats Karnaj near to death, ranting at him all the while, before Panther stops him. Even W’Kabi, who believes that everything that Killmonger’s lackeys get is what they deserve, is troubled by this new change.

I feel like there weren’t a lot of superhero comics working in this mode back then. You can trace every terrible thing that happens in Panther’s Rage can be easily traced back to T’Challa’s betrayal, which places a certain measure of responsibility on his shoulders for the entire situation. Amazing Spider-Man flirted with it during the death of Gwen Stacy storyline for about three pages and a half (also in 1973), and Green Lantern had the hamfisted “What about the brown skins, Mr. Charlie?” scene, but this is an extended takedown of a hero and a deconstruction of him at the same time.

McGregor, Graham, and Buckler are going hard at who T’Challa is and what he represents, and the result is a story where the superhero doesn’t look so superheroic any more.

Next is Tucker, with parts seven, eight, and nine. It’s got a winter wonderland, dragons, and marital strife.

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Friday the 13th is Awesome!

August 13th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

You know what rules? Awesome Video Games.

That’s one of the earlier episodes, admittedly before they really hit their stride and got good production values. Awesome Video Games is an internet series brainchild of Fraser Agar. There’s a good possibility that you’ve already heard of the series, but I only got into it recently, so to hell with it. Awesome Video Games is basically a parody of all the live action video game ads, promotional VHS tapes and TV shows from the late-80’s/early-90’s. Back when everyone who played video games was depicted as a totally radical dude with sunglasses. You know, like these guys from the Game Boy comic.

The show stars happy-go-lucky skater idiot Chet and his even stupider and more childish brother Ace. The two are a mix between Bill & Ted, the villain from The Wizard, the host of the Gamepro TV-show and basically every incompetent contestant on Nick Arcade. As they preview and review the newest titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System, they’re usually accosted and annoyed by their father Dad, who mixes aspects of everyone’s father merged with a vaudevillian charm. Often, he’ll scream at them to take out the trash, even — as shown in that above clip — if it’s in the middle of the night for some reason. A lot of the time, he’s there for Chet to point out that parents just don’t get it.

Although they have a zest for gaming, the duo are absolutely horrible at it and have no idea. It isn’t that they’re just bad gamers, it’s that they rarely understand how to even play the game in question. They think that Duck Hunt is about protecting ducks and performing cover fire to defend them from the sinister dog. They’re stoked when a fan letter tells them that there’s a secret SECOND level of Super Mario Bros. that you get to by not turning off the game when you get to the first castle (“No wonder it’s so hard to find. It’s underground!”). And man, I can’t even put their concept of Double Dragon’s gameplay into words.

Hours into discovering Awesome Video Games, I found that they’ve released a DVD of the show, featuring the first 43 episodes (excluding the Christmas specials) and with three additional episodes never released for one reason or another. Also, it has a ton of bloopers, some deleted scenes, commentary, some seriously high-quality animated menus by Retro Mike and a crapload of other extras. I found the whole concept of the show so fresh and entertaining that I felt the need to support them. See also: this post.

To further spread the love, here are some of the better episodes:

Gyromite: As Dad shows he’s a bigot when it comes to the game’s “greedy smicks”, the boys discover a newfound robot friend ROB to help them beat the game. ROB continues to screw up again and again, begging the question: is ROB more sinister than he appears? Short answer is yes. Meanwhile, a new dance craze sweeps the nation.

Game Genie: A very special episode. Ace and Chet’s shady cousin Lester visits and gets them hooked on codes. Sure, it may get their scores high and bring them to the next level, but it’s still an irresponsible gateway into a downward spiral.

Bad Dudes: To help rescue the NES game’s president, the boys dress in the coolest outfits they can find, thereby making Ace extra punchable (in the outtakes, the guy playing Chet is doing all he can to not tear his face off in a fit of rage). Their enthusiasm for badness starts to concern Dad, who wonders if they’ve been behaving wrongly behind his back. COMPLETELY UNRELATED, “the government himself” calls up the boys to see if they truly are bad enough to save the president.

Sonic the Hedgehog: In a remake of sorts of the first couple episodes, Ace and Chet are as excited and inept when it comes to Sonic the Hedgehog and the brand new Sega Genesis as they were with Super Mario Bros. and the NES. But man, the Green Hill Zone his HARD!

Have at it. It’s all good fun.

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