Archive for March, 2012


Dictator vs. Wrestler: Vega and the Vegan

March 29th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Wrestlemania 28 is a couple days away and I feel the need to write up something on it. So let’s see… wrestling… wrestling… I could always talk about—no, I did that already. Um… Oh! I can talk about my favorite wrestler, right? Sure! Right now my favorite would probably be current World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan. Second favorite, actually, but I’ve already written at length about Mark Henry, so I’ll go with the American Dragon.

Daniel Bryan’s really come into his own as Smackdown’s top heel. He’s also garnered quite a smark following to his recent heel catchphrase. Whenever he wins, survives a match with the title or even stands in the corner during an AJ victory, he begins to loudly celebrate and scream, “YES! YES! YES! YES!”

It didn’t take long for the internet to put 2 and SF2 together by merging it with a meme about M. Bison during the Street Fighter Saturday morning cartoon from the 90’s. In a scene, Bison reacted a little too happily to seeing Guile get beaten up by a mutant and the show went to commercial on a dramatic cliffhanger of him screaming, “YES! YEEEEESSSS!” Maffew from Botchamania had his own version, but here it is simplified.

That got me thinking. The similarities between M. Bison and D-Bryan go further than that. You just have to dig deeper and see that the villain of Street Fighter and the villain of Smackdown exist more as counterparts than you’d think. For the hell of it, here are some comparisons between the two.

M. Bison was originally named Vega, but when Street Fighter 2 came to America, they had to change him to M. Bison due to legal reasons.

Daniel Bryan was born Bryan Danielson and wrestled under that name until coming to WWE. Then they changed his name so they could hold onto the marketing of his image. According to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla canon, Bryan’s true name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, which happened to be the same real name of opponent Kenny Omega.

M. Bison claims that, “This place will become your grave!”

Daniel Bryan got buried for 90% of his WWE tenure.

In Street Fighter x Tekken, M. Bison is accompanied by Juri, a pandering minx of a fighter who should by every reason want to kill him for all the abuse he’s put her through.

Daniel Bryan is accompanied by his GIRLFRIEND AJ, a pandering minx of a wrestler who should by every reason want to kill him for all the abuse he’s put her through.

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“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce”

March 28th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce” is something Young Jeezy said on his hit song “Put On” with Kanye West. It’s probably my favorite color-related punchline. Yes, that is a category in rap, and yeah, dudes like Young Dro have raised color-based wordplay into an art form. (Sidebar: “The platinum is grey like grandpa/ Spray the Chevy all kinda sour apple colors/ Diamonds up in my charm look like pineapple suckers” aYO!) I could explain this line, but it’s easier to show you these images I got from this guy’s site:



“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce.” I live for that sort of thing. Anyway.

Back when I was young, black, and depressed in the early 2000s (yeah, big deal, ya big dummy), I spent a lot of time wearing two things. Video game t-shirts, because I got them free from both my GameStop job and my “write about video games on the internet” job, and shirts in varying shades of black. I didn’t wear black because I was all wrapped up in the idea of being sad. I wore black because I was basically lazy. (Same reason I wore the game shirts, too.) Black matches everything, it looks nice longer than white does, and… well that’s about it, honestly. It’s a versatile color.

But if your closet is full of black shirts, some with funny jokes set in Helvetica or involving ampersands, guess what: black is awful boring. When you add in the fact that my shoes tended to run toward dark browns and blacks, I figure I was looking double terrible.

So part of my ongoing attempt to become an actual grown-up is expanding my personal palette. Black is probably always going to dominate — black hoodies are the best hoodies, especially when they have little details like blue interior trim and a small white logo, and my black Polo Rugby with the big skull is never not going to be my favorite shirt — but there’s plenty of room for me to add some sauce into the mix. To experiment, to broaden my horizons, to wear actual colors instead of just being as lazy as I can be when it comes to clothes shopping.

I’ve been thinking of my ongoing wardrobe expansion primarily in terms of colors and color combinations. The specifics of the clothes isn’t that big a deal — as I’ll discuss in a later post — but the colors are what’s most crucial in my mind. You can’t tell if a shirt is a polo or a tee at a distance, but you can tell that it’s bright blue or ugly orange.

My first move was to figure out what colors I didn’t want. I’m open to whatever colors happen to be present on a shirt, but the dominant color is what I tried to pay attention to the most. I’ve never particularly liked orange, and yellow tends to be way too bright for how I like to look. And honestly, yellow needs another color for it to work for me. Lakers gear is a good example of that, and so are the Blue Angels. I could probably swing pink, but the problem with that is that I don’t really like pink as a dominant color, either. As a flourish? Sure. Dominant? Nah. I love it when I see somebody rocking a garish pink, though, like they just got beaten up by mob of angry Lisa Frank binders, though. That’s a statement.

I do like reds, though, like you’d see on a Bulls or Hawks jersey. I like basically every shade of blue, too, from so pale it’s basically white to navy to sky blue. Green is pretty okay, but not a favorite of mine when it comes to clothes colors. I love brown, too, usually a deep, fall-y, 1970s detective suit-y brown. My oldest pair of shoes right now are a pair of brown Nike Ace 83s, and they’re my official beaters, something to wear when I’m feeling lazy or making a quick run somewhere.

“Wow, David!” you’re thinking. “You like brown, blue, and red? You’re soooo brave and progressive. Should I give you my phone number and hotel key now or later?” Shut up.

I made a conscious decision to branch out, too. I want to rock some things I’ve never rocked before. I want to blaze some trails I’ve never been down. So I decided to pick a color I don’t usually get down with and figure out how to run it. It took about one second to eliminate orange from the equation (I guess I really hate orange). I flipped through some fashion blogs to look for inspiration. (I reblog the stuff I like sometimes.) I don’t remember what I saw, but I eventually decided on purple.

I’m not really a purple type of dude. It’s one of those colors I decided was for girls when I was a kid, because young boys think stupid things, so I sorta wrote it off. But at the same time…purple is a Lakers color. Purple is my grandmom’s favorite color. It’s a royal color. And if I’m uncomfortable with it for stupid reasons… I might as well get comfortable with it for good reasons. I might as well own it like I invented purple.

It basically took buying one shirt, this lavender polo from Old Navy, to turn me around. I like polos in general, and this one forced me out of my comfort zone shortly before depositing me in another. It looked nice when compared with my skin tone, and oh man. Oh MAN. Why didn’t anybody ever tell me how well purple and black go together? A stiff black and a deep purple is crazy. It looks SO good. On me, of course, but also on other people, I guess.

I’ve expanded a bit since then, mostly buying purple shirts, but my favorite purchase is probably this purple Nike web belt I picked up for twenty bucks. It’s varsity purple, according to Nike, and in the same range of purple as the Lakers logo. I think purple jeans might be a bit much, but shirts, watches, belts, shoes, jackets? Yeah, I’ll do that. My next purple grail is this Jordan Brand Varsity. It’s mulberry, but it looks like the exact purple I need to match this belt and the details on my Chris Pauls.

The other half of this color thing for me is how colors work together. Wearing a new color doesn’t mean anything if it looks stupid. Mixing and matching colors is fine and fun, but I’m really fond of what I’ve been thinking as “spot color.” I’ve got a black suit, and I like to have black suit with a black shirt, and then a white tie with white kicks. Or black jeans, black shoes, red shirt with black detail. All black everything and then a purple belt or white kicks. Building up a shape with items that are the same (or similar) colors and then a splash of something else for some flair. Creating a visual style that has a certain level of flash.

I like clothes that are solid colors, or feature one color above all the others. Not exclusively, of course, but just as a matter of general preference. It lets me get away with the spot color thing pretty well, in a way that a shirt that’s grey on blue wouldn’t. I still own way too many black shirts, too, and I don’t want to ditch them. How do I make them look better? By making whatever colors are on that shirt stand out by being conscious of the rest of my clothes, all the way down to my shoes. I’m all no show socks everything (almost, I keep tripping over ankle socks when I do laundry), so socks don’t really matter any more.

Picking colors was another fashion choice that I made and then decided I felt good about. I’m wearing and contemplating wearing stuff I normally wouldn’t, and my wardrobe is looking nicer accordingly. I’m going to Emerald City Comiccon this weekend, and I briefly entertained the thought of going all purple and black everything. I’ve got the wardrobe to pull it off now, but I feel like it’d be a bit much. I’m probably just going to pack a couple of purple-oriented outfits for Friday and Saturday (I already know exactly which, in fact) and then match the rest of what I have to wear to whichever pair of Air Force 1s I decide to pack and how the weather’s looking (rainy).

It’s a nice feeling to get up in the morning and go “What do I want to look like today?” rather than grabbing jeans and a shirt at random in the dark and trusting that everything’s gonna match. Versatility and diversity is crucial.

(I donated all the video game shirts to charity.)

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Sharknife Power Level: Tight!

March 28th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I was heavy into Warren Ellis in 2005. I was on the Bad Signal mailing list, even, and I remember him hyping a lot of comics. I feel like there were three comics that were Big Deals in 2005. One was Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim. The other was Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg’s Street Angel. And the third was Corey Lewis’s Sharknife. All of these comics were examples of what I think was being called the New Mainstream at the time. The New Mainstream was an alternative to the old mainstream, which was corporate cape comics. The New Mainstream was mostly creator-owned adventure comics, some of them with goofy high concepts, but these three were pretty much golden. I’m sure you’ve seen the Scott Pilgrim flick by this point, which is about as good of an adaptation of that comic as you’ll ever see. If you haven’t read Street Angel, you should. (I’m still waiting for a chance to see that Street Angel indie film that those Australians did years ago.) It’s very good. Lewis’s Sharknife was good, too.

In fact, Sharknife is a pleasantly weird comic. It feels like one of those comics where the creator just empties out his brain on the page. Whatever he’s into, from music to video games to tv to whatever, ends up there in black and white. I don’t know Sharknife‘s secret recipe. I catch a lot of what Lewis is throwing — Street Fighter, kung fu, Power Rangers, manga (my guess is Akira Toriyama) — and that’s always cool. We’re probably around the same age, judging by the stuff he’s into.

But all of that stuff is secondary to what makes Sharknife so good. Sharknife works because Lewis gets that style is substance. How you say something is as important as what you’re saying. Something like a Lil Jon single isn’t gonna be that complicated. But Jon knows how to say things in a way that’ll get you hyped up and throwing elbows. It’s a combination of lyrics and music in the case of rap, but for comics, it’s a combination of ideas and art. The words matter, sure, but “He headlocked a bear” is .0001 as effective as a drawing showing the same thing.

Sharknife has style. You can see it in the logo and lettering, for one thing. Lewis’s sfx, with its filled-in letters and irregular forms, are idiosyncratic and perfect for the series. They look like they should bounce over the page rather than just sit on top of the art. Have you seen what happens when lettering shows up in a cartoon? His sound effects are like that. His art sits comfortably in that “manga-inspired” lane, for lack of a better descriptor. He does super deformed characters, he does super detailed characters, and his sense of design leans toward videogame flourishes. Everybody gets a cool touch to their wardrobe or costume. People have names like Ombra Ravenga and Caesar Hallelujah.

The feel of Sharknife is kinda like how people describe action or kung fu movies to their friends. The Killer is a deadly serious movie, but nobody is dour when explaining it. They’re psyched, they’re excited to even be talking about it. Words spill out of their mouths and they get ahead of themselves, but it’s always fun. That’s what Sharknife is like. There’s this bit where Sharknife is fighting in his restaurant and a table full of patrons freaks out and worries that they’re gonna die. Sharknife turns, says, “It’s cool!!!!”, and then slams the table through a wall while the patrons scream “Thanks Sharkniiiife!”

Sharknife is full of stuff like that. Those little flourishes and embellishments make the comic. The story is goofy, but simple. Busboy by day, superhero by slightly later in the day, Sharknife fights evil and protects the chinese food restaurant The Guangdong Factory! But the cast is filled with Megaman-style villains (i.e., ones with real specific gimmicks) and weirdos.

All of this takes place in a heightened version of reality, or maybe just a Saturday morning cartoon. Or a Saturday morning cartoon version of a really good video game. Something like that, but anyway, the point is, physics and realism don’t matter. Sharknife is go with the flow comics. It’s id comics. You just want to let it seep into your brain and see what switches it flips. And Sharknife is a good comic, too. That’s what’s most important. All of the style and video game-y stuff coalesce into a really solid form and make for a supremely entertaining comic.

I haven’t read Sharknife ZZ yet. I expect to like it as much as I like the first one. There’s a lengthy preview below, and you can and should buy both Sharknifes on Amazon (Volume 1 and Volume 2), at your local comic shop, or digitally (volume 1 and volume 2). When taken together, you’re looking at what, 400 pages of good comics? More than worth it.

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Steve Lieber & Rachelle Rosenberg on Alabaster: Wolves

March 28th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I like Steve Lieber’s work, though I’ve been crap at saying so. I spoke briefly about Underground, his book with Jammin’ Jeff Parker, and even did a podcast about it. He’s done other stuff I liked. I remember some Batman-related work, a 52 spinoff… stuff here and there.

I was surprised to trip over his work in Dark Horse Presents 9, in a story called “Alabaster: Wolves.” I didn’t know he had comics work coming up to begin wtih, but the real bombshell was how good it looked. I like when good artists suddenly show up better than they were before. It’s like–what changed in this person’s life? What did they change about their approach? Did they happen upon some new technique by accident? If you look at Daredevil Frank Miller and Ronin Frank Miller, something is different. Quantifiably different, yeah? It isn’t incredibly different, but it is different.

Same thing here with Lieber. I can’t really put my finger on it, but his story in DHP 9, featuring a script by Caitlín R Kiernan and colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, popped. Some of it is Rosenberg’s great palette. Flammarion, the albino girl, stands out in the grungy watercolor-y surroundings, and the splash of red across the werewolf’s cheeks is so good. But Lieber’s faces feel like they shot up another level, or maybe to a sideways level, or something. His body language is great. Lieber even drops the backgrounds out of a few panels, including one in this post, and it just looks great.

I dunno. I don’t really have anything to say but “look how nice a job Lieber and Rosenberg did on this comic.” I liked Kiernan’s script, too. I liked all the parts, so much so that I’m on the hook for Alabaster: Wolves 1 in April despite not knowing nothing about the series. That’s a good feeling. It’s like finding something new in the middle of something familiar. “I like this guy’s work, so let me take a–WHOA, what is this? This looks great!”

You can check out DHP 9 for like four bucks. There’s some Kristian Donaldson, Richard Corben, and Geof Darrow in there, too, so I can’t really see you being disappointed with it, art-wise. Great Mignola cover, too.

edit: Turns out Dark Horse released this eight-page story for free this week.

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The White Man’s Burden, Not The Black Man’s Dream

March 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

It’s frivolous in the face of this, but it bears being said: everything matters when it comes to race and racism. Even these stupid old comic books that I spend my time reading. Everything is a brick in the wall or a straw sitting on the camel’s back. Race, as a concept, is ingrained in our society and way of thinking. It’s inescapable.

That understanding, that knowledge of the fact that race is way more than just the Ku Klux Klan and being scared of black people, is why I looked at Mark Millar’s assertion that he was going to create a top 10 black hero with the sidest of side-eyes. A quote, again:

’cause here’s the thing. Millar sees dollar signs. He’s over here thinking “Black people are cool now, guys!” and trying to figure out how to get a black dollar. He wants to ride a wave, to capitalize (and please believe I mean “convert into capital,” meaning dollars) on a trend, and that trend? That trend is my life. It’s not even a trend at all, it’s the blood that runs through my veins and my mom’s and my grandparents’ and everyone before them. I’ve been reduced to a column on a spreadsheet.

And I’m supposed to trust a guy whose idea of Cool Black is Samuel L Jackson, who was surprised that black people suffer from the same conditions as white people, who has consistently portrayed black people as objects of scorn for his white protagonists, who made a big to-do about creating an “African-American Hulk” in his crappy comics so that he could do a joke about how it’s weird that people call black Brits African-American sometimes and have a dude living like he’s straight out of a rap video to create a top 10 black hero? A guy who sees dollar signs, rather than dreams, when he thinks of black people? “You speak to me in words and I look at you with feelings.” There’s a gap in there between us, and it’s not a nice one.

Millar setting himself up to put coloreds at the forefront of comics sounds like another overseer to me, to be perfectly frank. Or at best, somebody who doesn’t know nothing about nothing attempting to do me a favor, even though every single other favor he’s done has gone down in flames. It’s the white man’s burden in four colors. “There are no popular black superheroes… I shall have to create one!” No. I reject your whole position and whatever lazy high concept comic book that comes out of it. Holler at me when there’s ten writers in mainstream comics who are black, and then you can talk to me about doing me a favor. In fact, just do me one favor, Mark. Don’t do me no more favors.

I spent a few years on this blog relating black history and comics in an attempt to… I don’t know, exactly. Part of it was sort of examining myself, part of it was an earnest attempt to point out when and where comics companies got race right and wrong. Overall, though, it was a reminder. “Black people love this stuff, too, and we’ve even contributed in a major way to the field.”

I’ve been reading comics since I was old enough to read. I graduated from David Michelinie to Judy Blume and stories featuring Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown. This stuff is in my blood. I couldn’t escape it if I tried. I’m just as much of a fan as Comic Book Guy. But I’m never treated like one, not by the companies I grew up loving. It’s the story of America writ small, drawn into a 9-grid. A crucial part of the evolution of the country or format, but downgraded to second class citizens when it comes time for representation. Racism is fractal like that. It winds its way from your thoughts, into your choices, into your society, into your world view, and then into your society, into your choices, and then into your thoughts. It’s self-perpetuating.

I didn’t do any Black History Month posts this year. I thought last year’s creator-focused approach was a nice send-off, and to be frank, it’s pretty emotionally exhausting to spend the month thinking real hard about black pathology and representation in comics. I think the creator-only approach was good, because I later finally realized that Marvel and DC do not, and will not, ever care about black people. If blacks had money, they’ll court them, and they have over in relatively minor ways over the years. But when it gets right down to it… Marvel and DC, two for-profit corporations, won’t care until the dollar signs are there, the fans won’t care because the characters don’t matter, the creators won’t get a leg up because the corporations don’t care, and I was just busting my fists against a stone wall instead of using my brain.

I’m working on course-correcting, but it’s a new way of thinking. Ever since childhood times, “comics” has always been a synonym for “Marvel and DC, and then maybe some other folks.” But if something or someone isn’t giving you what you need, and making no noises to imply that they might in the future, bounce. They don’t care about you. They don’t even really like you, unless you’re toeing the company line and paying cash money for their comics. The stuff that I like? That I consistently praise to the high heavens? Those are exceptions. Those aren’t things that Marvel and DC make bank off of. I was stupid for expecting the Big Two to change. They have no reason to. None at all. None that make business sense, anyway.

So, why stay? Why continually put yourself through this torture? You like the characters? I like a lot of things I don’t take part in any more. There’s always going to be new characters to enjoy, so why stay after they have proven that they don’t need you? Why stick around and let mercenaries like Millar come in out of the sun like vultures, ready to fix things by taking advantage of you and your culture?

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that’s just the way it is.

March 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

This Trayvon Martin thing has crawled all the way under my skin. In part because it’s an absolute travesty, which I feel like is obvious to anyone with two eyes and half a brain. But really, it’s because I’ve heard this song over and over again, ever since I was a kid. “Say sir when speaking to authority figures, keep your hands out of your pockets, look directly into their eyes, be respectful, do everything you can to make sure that my firstborn son doesn’t come home in a pine box because people can and will hurt you for no reason past your skin color.”

One of the biggest tragedies in the Trayvon Martin case isn’t that he was hunted and murdered and his killer will probably get away scot-free. It’s that a mother and father lost their son for a senseless reason, and now their son is an idea. He’s a cautionary tale. He’s a prop for someone else’s argument, and will be until the end of time. He’s not even a statistic. At least with a statistic, it’s anonymous and eventually fades into nothing. An idea is inescapable. People are already taking that boy’s name in vain, using his photo and name however they wish and to prop up whatever point they have to make. I’m probably guilty of it myself, just by writing this paragraph.

There’s a lot of Brothers boys. My little brother is 22. My littlest brother turns four this year. I’ve got close boy cousins that range from 10 to 18 or so. I’m slimmer than most of ’em, but we’re all pretty tall. Tall enough and black enough to be threatening by default, to know not to mouth off to the police, to know how many black people are in a room within seconds of walking in, to knowing exactly how angry we can get in public before we become a Problem. It is what it is.

None of us are innocent, despite what we might tell our parents. Stories like Trayvon Martin’s, or Sean Bell’s, or Kathryn Johnston’s, or Oscar Grant’s prove that the first thing people are going to do when I get shot is look at what I did to deserve it. Not even in a funny Richard Pryor, “It oughtta be against the law to make a motherfucker want to kill you,” sort of way, either. I mean people are going to go out and look for the things that I was involved in that make me less of an innocent, and therefore more worthy of being killed. He smokes weed? Probably a drug dealing thug. Oh dang, he has a tattoo in Swahili on his arm? Is that gang-related? Did he hate white people? Is he a radical black nationalist? Came from a single parent household, huh? Got up to hoodlum stuff while he was overseas? Let’s find some old girlfriends, what do they got to say? What’s with those scars up and down his arms? Have you seen his iTunes? Did he buy all this murder music? I made a joke the other day that my library is 1/4 drug dealing music, 1/4 drug using music, 1/4 murda muzik, and 1/4 love songs. Pick your proof. Build your picture of me.

Right now, Reuters (and the New York Times, and other outlets) is reporting that Martin was suspended from school for ten days because they found a baggie that might have at one point contained marijuana in his backpack. It didn’t have weed in it, mind. It might have. It’s irrelevant to the case, but there’s an intimation there, a hint that Martin wasn’t just black, he was black. Aggressive. Angry. Whatever stereotype you choose to fill-in to his blank so that you can make an informed decision on how to feel about him getting shot after buying candy and tea during the All-Star game. Since he had maybe smoked weed at seventeen years old, several weeks before he was tracked and murdered by a guy with a gun and an inflated sense of his own authority, he had maybe had it coming. After all, drugs, right? Something something gang banger something. Rap music.

This happens every time. It happened to Oscar Grant, it happened to Sean Bell, it happened to Kathryn Johnston (who was 92 years old when she was shot and killed and had officers plant drugs in her home), and it happened to Shem Walker. Remember that guy? He came home to his family’s house to find a suspicious stranger sitting on his stoop. Knowing good and well that nothing good will ever come of that, he told the stranger to move on. The stranger had earphones on and didn’t hear him somehow. Walker went to remove the man physically, for obvious reasons, they got into a fight, and then the stranger pulled a gun and shot him in the chest. The stranger, of course, was an undercover cop, waiting out a drug bust down the road. In the days and weeks after the shooting, we found out that Walker used to be a convict. Why? Because… because, man, just because. Because that somehow has something to do with him not wanting some suspicious dude on his mother’s porch. Son was 49 years old, I don’t know how old his mother was, and he was killed for doing exactly what he should have done in that situation. He was killed for being a good son. But he went to jail once you know? Never mind whether or not he was reformed. He was a convict.

Martin’s story — all of these stories — is a reminder. It’s a reminder that you have so little control over your life that who you are doesn’t actually matter. All that matters is what other people can make you into. You’re not a person, not in the end. You’re just a thing to be used and discarded, no matter how good of a guy you were, no matter how cute your daughter is, they’re going to find something on you and that’s going to be that. Sorry, but Mister Charlie needs grist for the mill.

It’s depressing. I’m depressed. I’ve had a hard March. I’ve been pretty much checked out, if we’re being totally honest with each other. It took me several days to realize that I almost actually died when I had my bicycle accident on 02/29. If the lady behind me hadn’t hit her brakes coming down that hill after I wiped out and savaged my knee, I’d be done. Zipped up in plastic, when it happens, that’s it. The month that followed has been positively absurd with the number of things going wrong, breaking, and whatever else. (The month isn’t over yet and there’s good odds I’m due one more poor turn, ha ha!) I’ve been bummed for weeks, running as fast as I can to stay ahead of the devil, and this Martin thing is like… it’s cold water to the face. It’s a “Welcome back!” from reality, where America chews up and spits out the ones who need it most, where life isn’t fair and you were stupid for thinking it was fair in the first place, where being black makes you a target to the people sworn to swerve and protect and a threat to everyone else. Reminds me of something Sarah Jones once said. “It is the thickest blood on this planet/ The blood that, sprays and spills in buckets/ soaks and stains the nightly news, but fuck it/ A colored life still ain’t worth but a few ducats.”

And it’s racism. All of it. It is unquestionably, objectively racism. It’s not some guy going out to lynch nigras for looking at white women, but that’s not the entirety of what racism is. Racism is a system. Racism is a way of thinking. Racism is subconscious. Racism is an entire country being trained to suspect an entire race of being shifty, lazy, or suspicious by default. I have to prove that I’m not a threat? How about I make America prove it doesn’t want to murder me, since there’s way more precedent for that than some skinny kid being a savage. If I have my hood up and I’m not smiling because I’m having a bad day, I’m a threat, someone to make you clutch your purse or hug your girl closer. I’m a thug? C’mon son. I’m just having a bad day in the big city. Get real. You’ve been trained to see brown skin and go to “Threat!” first instead of “Person!” You’ve been brainwashed.

The craziest part of this brainwashing is how a very basic situation has been twisted into something incredibly ugly. An unarmed child is shot and killed for doing nothing but walking home by a man with no authority who had been told to stand down by the police. This is cut and dry. You can look at this and go, “Oh, that’s a tragedy.” But because the kid was black, because everything is ultra-politicized, because racism is so ingrained in the DNA of the United States of America, this is somehow a controversy. I repeat: an unarmed child was shot dead by a grown man. This is one situation that everyone should be able to understand. It’s a nightmare scenario for every family ever. And yet… the news is telling us that the child may have possibly been a thug, a drug dealer, a hoodlum, a monster, as if any of that has anything to do with why he got shot. There are people out there actively digging up (incorrect) dirt on Trayvon Martin as if that matters at all. He’s a… I don’t even know, a point in a long-running argument, an abstraction about the evils of black youth.

The flip side of that coin is that “Black people are cool now.” Saving them, at least.

The past few weeks have been pretty bad for trend hopping. There was the Kony 2012 crew getting up on their white horse and riding into Uganda by way of Youtube so they could… make Joseph Kony famous? That guy is personally responsible for the dislocation of millions, the murder and rape of thousands of children, and worse. Guess what: he’s plenty famous already, and your idiotic, soundbite-ready youtubes aren’t a help except to people whose idea of activism is turning their location on Twitter to “Iran.” Trayvon Martin has given plenty of people a chance to beat their chest, including a bunch of Occupy Wall Streets advocating violence at a peaceful march. Geraldo is off somewhere telling black people how to live their lives. Everyone is all choked up at black men and women sharing their stories of racism and appalled at the world we live in. Everybody’s got a cause, everybody feels bad… I’m not without sin myself, this essay is proof positive, but I can’t tell you how depressing it is to see my white friends suddenly discover police brutality (hey there, occupy wall street), or racism, or realize that every single one of their black friends has a bunch of stories about times that their race negatively affected their lives. It’s so obvious to me, and it sucks and is unfair that even support sometimes feels like an attack. Where have you been that you didn’t notice this until now?

The experience of being black in America is one of being constantly reminded that you are black in America, with all the drama that comes from it. The preferred term online amongst… whoever for black people is People of Color, or POC. I hate it, because yo, first, everyone has color, and second, how about you don’t define me in opposition to somebody else? I feel like that should be a basic human right. The right to not be not-White. It’s basic things like that that are what I mean. I can’t escape the fact that I’m black and have built-in baggage, even if I wanted to.

A post-racial society is a myth, and everyone who claims to be color-blind is an idiot. Race is inextricable from our daily life, for better or for worse. That’s part of why so much of my comics-related writing has revolved around the intersection between black people and comics. It matters to me, on a deeply personal level, and I’m trying to figure out how to make that come across, from my first stumbling and clumsy steps to the targeted icepicks to the neck in blog form that I wish I was better at using today. I can’t not think about it, because almost every time I read a comic, I’m reminded of it.

I’m constantly being reminded of the fact that I’m black and how terrible being black can be almost every time I take in something. Music, movies, real life, love, friendship, whatever. It affects everything. You can’t be race-blind. Not when every movie with a black star is the tipping point for black cinema, or when the cool new way to say a woman has a nice butt online (“DAT ASS!”) is explicitly satirizing somebody’s fake idea of a black rapper (specifically Rich Boy), or when a discussion on white British soul singers somehow turns into a referendum on who “owns” a certain type of music. Not when, in America, white is always going to be treated as the default. There’s gonna be that twinge, that feeling of “Oh, this is talking about me or people like me,” and it’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid.

And black is beautiful, man. I wouldn’t trade being black, being who I am, for the world. But, boy would I love to jettison some of the baggage associated with it. I don’t like looking at Trayvon Martin and seeing me and my brothers and my cousins. I don’t like talking to the homey Cheryl Lynn and having her point out that at a certain point, the light goes out in the eyes of little black boys, and then realizing that there’s a reason I stopped smiling in every picture I have of myself past a certain age. I don’t like realizing that every connection I made to a popular character comes via metaphor or inference, rather than actual fact. Real life is hard enough without that baggage.

With it… well, life goes on regardless. Trayvon Martin has graduated to being a symbol, rather than a person. He’s a chess piece to be used to show that black people are horrible, that police brutality exists, that kids these days are a problem, that the news media is broken and corrupt, that America eats its young. In death, as in life, he’s treated as something less than human. It’s incredibly unfair, and there’s no solution on the horizon.

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This Week in Panels: Week 131

March 25th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Hey, everybody. Nice week this time around. I read comparatively little, but I got enough backup from Gavok’s Little Helpers to make this a strong week. Plus David Brothers — who has sworn off Marvel/DC for the foreseeable future — pays me in panel interest with a whole bunch of third party stuff. Other than him, I have Was Taters, Space Jawa and luis.

Taters is inconsolable for the loss of Tiny Titans. Keep her in your thoughts, y’all.

The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week #2
Christopher Yost, Eric Pearson, Luke Ross and Daniel HDR

Batman #7 (Taters’ pick)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Batman #7 (Gavin’s pick)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Read the rest of this entry �

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nah, son.

March 25th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Same dude that said this, for the record:

“While down at the shops, I saw a black guy with [Down syndrome]. Amazing, as this is something my friends and I had queried for years. Is DS genetically localized to Caucasians. Yes, I’m now about to waste 20 mins phoning a couple of my pals to say so, but now me appetite has been whet and I’m curious if there are any Chinese or Indian Downs Syndrome people out there. Given that Scotland is almost entirely white my chances of seeing one here are slim, but I’m certainly on the look out now.”

Since deleted off his forums, of course. I had to dig it, and a couple other choice bits, up a couple years ago when the ending of Kick Ass gave me a screwface. I’m sure you’ve seen his other comics that make being black into something exotic or terrible, yeah?

That’s mighty white of ya, Mark, but I think we’ll be okay. We can handle this one on our own, buddy. We’re good, really. Go on ahead and keep doing your thing. Over there. Go thataway.

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Frank Miller: Best In Flight

March 23rd, 2012 Posted by david brothers

One thing I’ve long enjoyed about Frank Miller’s work is how he draws a body in flight. Not in motion, though he’s good at that too, but in flight. Leaping, falling, swinging, jumping, or flying. He has this way of suggesting bodies flashing past at high speeds and spinning through the air that’s… elegant, is the closest word I can think of for it. Especially mid- to late-era Miller. The big splash in Dark Knight Returns — you know the one, if not, guess and you’ll probably be right — is obviously cool, but it’s not as raw and frantic as his Sin City and 300 work. I actually have a selfish wish that he’d gotten to do a real Spider-Man job at some point over the years, just because he’s so good at this and he’s fond of lean, scrawny heroes. Would’ve been the best leap forward in Spider-stylings since Todd McFarlane.

I like this page from the end of 300, color by Lynn Varley:

I love the claustrophobic stillness on that first page. Everything is on hold, like a pregnant pause. Every panel is one still moment, fraught with tension. I actually love the little zoom from “You there, Ephialtes.” to “May you live forever.” And then, at the peak of the stillness, “Stelios.” And then:

Stelios coming out of formation and into the air. This is Stelios on the way down, long after his leap. He’s all muscle, whether leg or arm, and his cape is all the way Batmanned out. There’s such a shift between these two pages, from claustrophobia to freedom, maybe. Anyway.

I can’t decide which page of Holy Terror is my favorite. Here’s one of them, though.

Miller does some of his best work yet in the service of a story that doesn’t even deserve it. He also does some of his worst work, so I guess it evens out. But this page of Fixer chasing Natalie Stack is like a shot across the bow of cape comics, most particularly the ones that sit in Miller’s lane: Spider-Man, Daredevil, Punisher, all those books that feature dudes running across rooftops and through alleys in New York.

There isn’t even a lot to this page. The building is a raggedy amalgamation of every building ever. Look how thin it is, how many pipes and antennas sit on top of it, and that useless pipe going down the side. The night sky is just a splash of white with a smudge of black clouds providing flavor. But look at Natalie Stack flipping up and over that pipe. Feet together, arms in the process of flexing, and body nearly horizontal. There’s a sense of momentum in her body language. She looks like people do when they jump over fences at high speeds. She’s not just climbing or running. She’s moving.

And then there’s that fist. The staging here is great. You’ll occasionally get a story where Batman lurks in the shadows for part of an issue (most recently in David Lapham & Ramon Bachs’s City of Crime, I think), but by and large, if there’s a hero on the page, he takes precedence over everything. Not here. Here you just have a fist and a taut rope. You don’t even have to see the Fixer to know that he’s moving fast. All you have to do is let the image sink in a little. Think about that taut rope, the angle of his arm and where his body is likely positioned.

I also love the punctuation-less word balloon, something that too few comics creators utilize these days. “Oof.” has a different impact on your brain than “oof” does. Exclamation points are excitement. Periods are flat. A lack of punctuation has a sound and import all its own. It should be a tool in the toolbox, rather than an exception.

Another favorite:

The rope, the loops, the soles of the Fixer and Natalie’s feet… I just love how this looks. People talk a lot about flying representing freedom. The freedom to go anywhere and do anything at will. Freedom in its purest form. Nobody can tell you “No” or hold you back. But nobody ever talks about swinging. You don’t remember being a kid and that vicious thrill you got when you could swing on a rope or slap your way down the monkey bars at recess? Of sitting in a swing, getting up as high as you can, kicking your shoes off even higher, and then launching yourself into the air to risk either death or glory?

I don’t want to over-sell the feeling, but I grew up in and around areas where monkey bars were everywhere and chain link and wooden fences were even easier to find. But there’s definitely a thrill, every single time, when you don’t climb a fence so much as leap over it, pushing yourself up and over. It’s different from flying and falling, but equally dangerous. It’s like the bastard child of both of them. You could screw around and catch your hand on the sharp part of the fence instead of the round pole, or misjudge your jump and land on the fence or worse. But if you hit it just right, that combination of momentum and weightlessness kicks in and you feel real good. It’s a thrill.

That’s what that page feels like.

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Coriolanus & I Saw The Devil

March 22nd, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Coriolanus (directed by Ralph Fiennes, script by John Logan based on a story by William Shakespeare, 2011): I think I came into this one with the wrong expectations. I’ve never read the play, and the trailer made it seem much more exciting than it actually is. Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes, a blood feud that leads to a man being outcast, more than a little homoeroticism… Fiennes gave this interview, I forget where, and he explained that the rivalry between the two plays out like a love story. The trailer makes it sound like a good time at the movies. Instead, we get all of that, but with added interminable monologues, slipshod analogues between Rome and Now, and nothing ever resolving satisfactorily.

There are bits I liked, of course. I thought the modernized Rome was a really cool setting, and Fiennes’s son was very interesting. This was my first real exposure to Jessica Chastain (she has a really familiar face), and she was pretty okay. Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox were great, though, definitely the highlights of the film.

But past that? Past the actors I liked, I had a hard time staying awake for this one at 1315 on a Saturday. The accents weren’t a big deal, but the monologues were a well-delivered huge bore. It needed more of the midnight parties involving head shaving and barbershop chairs or ugly fistfights in dusty, blasted apartment buildings and less of people walking around a room, looking everyone in that room in the eye, and talking about their motivations.

The people I saw it with loved it, though. Maybe the trailer just tricked me.

I Saw The Devil, directed by Jee-woon Kim, written by Hoon-jung Park, 2010 (Netflix): I watch a lot of these revenge movies. I had this one in my queue for months, though, before a pal talked me into watching it. Two weeks later, I finally watched it, and it was pretty okay. It stars this dude Byung-hun Lee, who I liked a whole lot in GI Joe and The Good, the Bad, the Weird. This one was pretty okay, but frustrating at the same time.

I Saw The Devil is a revenge movie with a point, which tends to be exponentially less successful than revenge movies that don’t have one. Luckily, though, the point is “Don’t go too far with your passion or everything will fall apart,” or something like that, so you get a lot of exploitative violence to go along with the cheap, unearned, and unlikely ending. In fact, while the ending is imploding in slow motion, you’re treated to shots of a new height for revenge in these revenge pictures.

But from back to front, this is a movie about a secret agent (of some sort, you only ever see him do one secret agent-y thing, other than all the revenging) hunting down the dude that killed his lady. There’s no subtlety here, near as I can tell. Lee tracks Choi Min-sik, breaks his bones, cuts his tendons, and generally goes in as far as torturing a man goes. The guy runs, then figures out who Lee is, and then goes on a rampage. Lee’s boss wants his badge and gun. Blah blah blah.

Director Jee-woon Kim takes an uncomfortable, rather than gleeful, approach to the violence. Ears get cut off, there’s gallons of blood and guts, someone’s Achilles tendon gets cut at one point… it’s cringeworthy violence, rather than “Oh MAN!” violence. But at the same time, it gets that cringe not through some type of moral point of view or anything like that. The camera leers over the stabbings and crackings. You see skin break and hear bone’s crunch. The direction is pretty effective, actually, and I’d like to see more from this guy, maybe in other genres.

The ending doesn’t work for me because so much of the movie is concerned with slow pans over trauma. The movie says one thing (“Mmm, here’s a little shocking violence!”) and the ending says another (“Mm, violence… bad idea, bros.”) and doesn’t do a good enough job to bridge the gap between the two. There’s a leap that never gets made between the spectacle and the moral. It’s aight watching, but nothing exceptional. The style of violence sets it apart from a lot of other movies in this genre, but the script isn’t good enough to keep it from feeling bland in the end.

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