Archive for March, 2013


This Week in Panels: Week 184

March 31st, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Happy Easter into April Fools Day. No April Fools update from me this year, since I tend to forget about it until it’s April. I will have another one of those Injustice Profiles update tomorrow and a bunch more for the rest of the week. I just wrote up Hawkgirl’s profile and the research twisted my brain into a pretzel. Goddamn it, DC.

My Easter peeps include Gaijin Dan, Jody, Was Taters, Matlock and Space Jawa. Nobody’s reading Age of Ultron, it seems. I always find it funny when a big event comic gets ignored on this.

Before I get to panels, I have another improv show this Saturday! 4:15 at the UCB Theater in NYC! Go see it if you’re around!

All-Star Western #18
Justin Gray, Moritat and Glenn Fabry

Aquaman #18
Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier

Batman Incorporated #9 (Taters’ pick)
Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham

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Uncanny Avengers, X-Men, Rick Remender, and Oppression Comix

March 29th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Here’s an image from the latest issue of Uncanny Avengers 5, drawn by Olivier Coipel, inked by Mark Morales, written by Rick Remender, and colored by either Laura Martin, Larry Molinar, or both:


I saw this excerpted on The Beat and I thought it was pretty funny. I disagree with what Alex is saying, but lots of comics characters say things I disagree with, and I’m not reading this comic anyway, so that’s a double dose of “who cares.” But I’ve also seen similar sentiments expressed elsewhere — by actual, non-fictional people, I mean, not other cartoon characters — and that always secretly bugs me, so whoops I do care a whole lot and my jaded exterior is a false face.

I have two problems with this, but they come more from a theoretical perspective than a “I don’t like this story” perspective. For the phrase “the m-word” to be viable as a concept, Alex’s speech can’t be about “mutant,” which has been the accepted way to refer to the X-Men for basically ever. Professor X does it, Magneto does it, and I figure basically every X-writer has approached it as a neutral way to refer to m-words nine times out of ten. It has been used in negative ways, but so have the pretty much neutral words black, Jew, gay, and probably everything else. The offensive part of “black bastard” isn’t “black.” It’s “bastard.”

Alex’s speech, to make the metaphor work, has to be about “mutie,” which is about as close as mutant-oriented slurs get to “nigger.” Alex’s speech is the equivalent of a black dude saying “Don’t call me black,” which is a thing that definitely gets expressed that I don’t think holds up under scrutiny at all. It prizes blind assimilation over actual acceptance. It’s not “I’m just like you” so much as “I’m just like you because I don’t mention this part where we’re different that makes you uncomfortable.”

(Yes, I’ve seen the Morgan Freeman video, people who are rushing to post it in the comments as some type of counterpoint. “Stop talking about it” is the stupidest advice anyone ever gave for solving any problem in the entire world. Nothing fixes itself.)

Luckily that’s my other point: this is naive in a way that I appreciate (honest!) but will never, ever believe in. I get what Alex is saying, but it also depends on the entire world magically changing their points of view to one that doesn’t view you as a threat. It’ll work on some people, especially if you’re a pretty mutant, but it will have less than zero effect on everyone else. “Don’t look at me like a black guy,” said the black guy who somehow forgot that racism is a system that doesn’t magically go away if you personally ignore our differences. There are years — centuries in real life, decades in comic books — of momentum that don’t just stop because you make a semantic change. This is the opposite of realpolitik. It’s tumblrpolitik. As far as workable philosophies go, it makes a nice image macro or touching edit of A Softer World.

But! Who cares? I’ve disagreed with stuff in comics before, and in X-Men comics in particular, pretty much ever since I first saw one of those idiotic “Professor X is Martin Luther King and Magneto is Malcolm X!” comparisons. (They aren’t, not even close, and you can’t support that position without being real ignorant of like… anything about everyone involved.) I’ll somehow limp along and live my life without holding a grudge over Alex “Havok” Summers believing something different from me in a comic book I ain’t reading.

BUT! I do think doing this sort of story with the X-Men is a mistake. The X-Men are, in the eyes of both Marvel and the vast majority of fans, an oppression metaphor. Mutants-as-blacks, mutants-as-gays, mutants-as-outcasts. You can fill in the blank with your preferred marginalized group, up to and including white dudes. It’s a tremendous asset to the franchise, because everyone feels alone and like an outcast sometimes. The X-Men are feared and hated by a world they are sworn to protect, which sets them up as underdogs.

BUT!!! This is an example of the franchise flying too close to the sun and getting too specific, which is usually a mistake. The metaphor has worked for so long because it’s amazingly broad and they rarely ever address the actual factual parts of being marginalized within the text. The X-Men franchise is a soap opera about pretty people having sex and fighting evil and sometimes disfigured bad guys, but somehow they’re still underdogs and we love them for it. They’ll borrow specific things here and there, but fictionalize them to the point that they have a taste of real life, rather than a full bite.

There are a few good and recent examples of the franchise going specific. The Fraction/Land run on Uncanny X-Men had an anti-mutant take on Prop 8 I think, and I’m pretty sure that Bendis is mining black nationalist language and tactics for his take on Cyclops but don’t know for certain. Peter David and Larry Stroman kinda explored this years ago in X-Factor with the term “genetically-challenged,” which used humor to kill the tension and keep you into it.

Nailing this kind of specificity is a tough row to hoe, and if you tilt too far toward realism — toward acknowledging the actual oppression that provides fodder for X-Men stories — the balance gets entirely upset. In this case, “the m-word” is clearly, clearly, trading on “the n-word,” a censored version of the word “nigger.” That pulls Alex’s argument from being the kind of pie-in-the-sky optimism that is common to the franchise (my favorite example is Professor X’s speech during X-Cutioner’s Song, I think) to something that we look at with real world eyes. It reminds us that people still get called niggers for no reason at all, and that makes the metaphor that’s central to the X-Men seem cheap.

So in as much as I am upset with or at this scene, my problem is basically that, as a dude who is familiar with the X-Men and aware of how race is treated in my culture, I can’t buy it. It doesn’t work from a marginalized perspective, and it doesn’t necessarily do the X-Men franchise any favors, either. That’s a suspension of disbelief thing, so it ain’t a big deal. I though this was funny, tweeted about it, read other people talking about it, and then I saw this:

Which is kind of a bummer, and by kind of a bummer, I mean ughhhhhhhh. It’s a dumb response when “sorry it didn’t work for you, I hope you stick around” or dead silence will do. (“Kill yourself” in any form is a pretty bad look in a situation like this.) That was when I realized that this was a whole thing already, and I thought about tweeting Remender about it, but I’m blocked for whatever reason (I honestly don’t know why) so I didn’t.

While talking to Joe Hughes, my editor at ComicsAlliance and fellow Black Dude In Comics, Remender said that the story/scene “has nothing to do with black people. It’s about imaginary mutants.” and that “the n-word doesn’t own the concept.” Which is crazy. I mean, kids still do the s-word, b-word, d-word thing, but adults? In 2013? About an X-Men comic? You can’t tell me that “the n-word” has no influence on “the m-word.” That’s crazy. That’s like… I can’t even think of a good comparison. “The m-word” is related to “the n-word” because it’s a euphemism for a hurtful word introduced with the idea of decreasing the power of the original word. Arguing that it isn’t related at all requires some pretty amazing mental gymnastics. And if you honestly believe there’s no relation between the two… I don’t know, dude. I don’t have any jokes or anything to soften the blow — this is like ground level stuff.

Later, Jason Aaron sent these perfectly reasonable messages (among others) as a way of defending Remender:

Which is true! It doesn’t match up all the time. But what I think is very relevant here is that the X-Men are a lot of things to a lot of people, but one of the most important things they are — I’m talking top two, right after “sexy people with cool powers” — is an oppression metaphor. You cannot escape this. It is built into the X-Men’s DNA. It wasn’t there at the beginning, but by the time Claremont got through with them? It was in there. It’s indelible, like Gwen Stacy for Spidey or Batman not murdering dudes. The oppression metaphor is a vital piece of the engine that makes the X-Men work.

It’s part of the incredible tapestry that is the X-Men, and it’s a big part, so you can’t really blame people for looking at it through that lens by default. And you especially can’t blame them for doing it in a story that specifically invokes that metaphor. I understand that the X-Men are a lot of things, but going by this page, the oppression metaphor is explicitly invoked. So of course people are going to look at it through the lens of real life oppression. It’s childish but… “he started it” is pretty apt here.

This isn’t even some kind of tough guy “if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen” thing. Remender cranked the heat up, put a quart of water on to boil, walked away, and came back like “Wow this boiling water should totally go drown itself in hobo piss, who does this water think it is?”

My biggest problem with this is Remender’s response. Scott Summers’s weird brother saying things is pretty immaterial to me, except as a way to start a conversation. But telling people who are participating in a discussion that you invited to drown in hobo piss is aggravating. It’s contemptuous. This guy is writing Oppression Comix and when questioned on a fine point, he goes to “kill yourself?” And obviously it’s metaphorical and he doesn’t think dissenters should actually kill themselves, but if I led this piece with “if all these straight white dudes keep acting out and then telling me how offended I get to be over something they did I swear I’ma hit somebody with a hammer, whoo lawdy this racism is killing me inside” you’d probably get upset at me, and with good reason.

I’m sure the usual gang of idiots crawled up his butt with idiotic harassment, but cripes dude maybe there is a better way to handle that than blanket-shaming everyone who doesn’t agree with you. It’s not hard to not be a dick. Ignore the trolls. Talk to the people with actual concerns. Ignore the people with actual concerns. Deflect. Pretend like nothing is going on. Do anything but sit there and tell a bunch of people who are dead in the center of the X-Men target audience and whose day-to-day life often provides fodder for X-Men stories to shut their yaps because mutants aren’t actually black/gay/whatever and your story has absolutely no basis in real life, even though your story is quoting an actual real life argument.


which I guess is some kind of sarcastic ironic supergenius double bluff I’m not smart enough to get or something, because it just looks another stupid and tone deaf message after a day full of them from where I’m sitting here on my ivory throne. Besides, that finger of mine that’s wagging? At this point, it’s far from the pious one, hoss.

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 1

March 28th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Lately on the Something Awful forum, there’s been a thread about the upcoming Injustice: Gods Among Us game. A good percentage of the people who read and write in that thread aren’t comic fans, but are simply interested in the new game. That leads to a lot of questions based on various discussions. Questions like, “Who is Black Adam and why is everyone excited about him being in the game?” “Wait, what happened to the Green Lantern with the funny crab mask?” “What’s the deal with Flash, again?” “Hold on, Black Adam gets his powers from saying ‘chocolate egg cream’?” and mainly, “What the hell are any of you even talking about?”

For the hell of it, I started writing up profiles for each of the 24 announced characters. A guide that explains what each guy is about in a way that gives their backstories and notable moments, while spotlighting the stupid and cool aspects of their histories. I did a couple and it went over really well, so I’ve been trekking on. It’s actually been a complete blast to write.

So I figured, what the hell, I might as well repost them here. Send your non-comic reading friends and be edutained.


Before I get to the game’s cast, let’s take a quick look at the DC universe itself.

DC’s continuity is a complicated mess. Originally, back in the 30’s and 40’s, DC hit the scene with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and other Golden Age heroes. Popularity died down a bit except for the first three (early Wonder Woman sold a lot through the years due to being a thinly-veiled fetish comic) and during the late 50’s/early 60’s, DC reintroduced a lot of their ideas. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were more or less the same concepts, but Green Lantern went from being a magical dude in a cape to a space cop in spandex and the Flash went from being a dude dressed as Mercury to a masked man with lightning bolt ears. Eventually, they figured out a storyline reason for this. The Golden Age of DC takes place on Earth-2 while the “modern” stuff takes place on Earth-1. This is discovered when 60’s Flash teleports himself to Earth-2 to meet the original Flash. This also meant that Earth-2 Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were all about 20 years older than their modern counterparts.

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monday mixtape chthonic

March 25th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

monday mixtape chthonic from brothers on 8tracks Radio.

Eight songs here, which should play in random order. I don’t know where the title came from. I found it on a list of c-adjectives and liked how it looked. Anyway. The list:
-The Weeknd – Life of the Party – Trilogy
-Pulp – Party Hard – This Is Hardcore
-blur – Death of a Party – blur
-STS – We Threw A Party – GOLD RUSH
-Regina Spektor – The Party – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
-Prince Paul – War Party feat. Horror City – A Prince Among Thieves
-OutKast – movin cool (the afterparty) – big boi and andre present…
-Method Man – Party Crasher – Tical 2000: Judgement Day

One thing that gets lost when people try to legitimize rap by going on a crusade about how it’s poetry is that rap is so much more than rhyming. It’s the way you enunciate the words to the beat (flow), it’s the way those words sound (voice), it’s the way those words are put together (skills), and something indefinable, like charisma or coolness. It’s ad-libs and asides and hooks and everything. “Rap is poetry” doesn’t work because it files off everything that makes rap different from poetry.

Method Man’s “Party Crasher” is one of my favorite joints on Tical 2000. It paints an incredibly vivid picture of one night at the club, from the pushy douchebag doorman to the dudes looking for someone to jack to enjoying the night. There are so many moments in here that can’t be talked about like they were poetry but totally make the song. Mef talking about choking while smoking, “million dollar broke niggas” being an incredible turn of phrase, that “you know what this is” aside just before dude gets done dirty in the bathroom, and — my favorite part — “Niggas! yeah, gon’ turn the party out!”

“War Party” is something else. It’s like the ultimate Goon Theme Song. This is what the nameless dudes in movies and music videos who mean mug at the camera listen to to get hype. Some of my favorite rap songs are joints where a bunch of dudes just get in and get out, and this song is a good example. I’m also a sucker for a song with an outro composed entirely of threats, pimp.

I’m not sure who wrote this, but I really dig this retrospective of Earthtone III and their place in the music industry. They’re incredible, first, and they’re Big Boi, Dre, and Mr. DJ, second. OutKast. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that Dre and Big produce, too, because it so rarely ever seems to come up. With good reason, I think — Organized Noize deserves more acclaim than they get, which is a lot — but it’s still sorta weird. This piece does a great job of placing them in context.

Maddie Collier wrote a pretty interesting essay about rap and cunnilingus. Not safe for work, obviously, but more for language than pictures. I don’t think I’d have had as much trouble as she did finding rappers who are all about putting some south in their mouth, but maybe that’s selection bias. I notice it more when rappers say they don’t than when they say they will. One seems normal, I guess, and the other is weird. There’s a G Rap line she quotes that struck me as weird even when I was heavy into KGR. Like — son, you’re down for killing how many people? But you’re the chicken of the sea? Yuck. Either way — fascinating essay. There are all these nooks & crannies of rap that go underexplored or are approached in asinine and blatantly untrue ways, so I really get into seeing stuff like this. It means I’m one step closer to reading someone’s groundbreaking piece on white girls and rap.

I wrote about Mike Allred & Peter Milligan’s run on X-Force and how good it is. Wrote about Air Force 1s, too.

-I wrote about this Miley Cyrus twerk video and linked the Grantland piece on my tumblr, too:

This is real fascinating to me, even once you take her getting it out of the equation. I’m from Georgia, right? Ying Yang Twins’s “Whistle While You Twurk” hit when I was in 10th grade. The last two songs I really remember popping off super hard and killing the radio before I left for Spain was Luda’s “What’s Your Fantasy” and Ying Yang’s “Whistle While You Twurk.” Luda was the new hotness, but Ying Yang were on some whole other thing. They shouted out a strip club in my hometown, and flipping Whistle While You Work for a song about strip clubs was an amazing choice. This song, and twerking by extension, reminds me of a very specific time and place in a very visceral way. It’s a time machine.

And now, in 2013, we’ve got ex-Disney stars twerking on camera. Life is crazy. It sorta puts me in mind of when Dave Chappelle told everybody what skeet means and then everyone ran that into the ground.

I saw Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers this weekend, featuring James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Gucci Mane. It was terrible, but terrible in a way that I thought was interesting. Not interesting enough to be happy about paying train fare and movie ticket prices for it, but interesting like “I’m glad I saw that so that now I don’t have to watch it ever again.” A few notes:

-Is this what spring break was like? I missed out on that experience, but if it’s just a bunch of goofy looking white dudes pouring beer on topless white chicks and their token black girlfriend in a pantomime of peeing… I’m good, bro. Surely there is a better way to get into some debauchery.

-Selena Gomez looks like somebody’s little sister. It’s really distracting. She’s the babyface di tutti babyface.

-James Franco: utterly ridiculous, but I forgot he was Franco for a while, so maybe it was good? He was equal parts excruciating and perfect.

Spring Breakers is tedious, but tedious in an almost exciting way. It feels like it’s three hours long, and I was definitely checking my watch at the end. But I liked some of what I saw. I would see something awesome — the girls in prison, posed around the room like dolls — and then I would have to wait thirty minutes of troll-looking twins and excruciating voiceovers before the next cool thing.

-The shot composition was great. There were a gang of shots that I thought were really, really fascinating. You could probably pull a lot of visual inspiration from this flick.

-The editing was awful. It felt like the movie was an overlong music video set during one hellish Spring Break moment of bouncing boobs, bikini-covered butts, dudes with guns, and alcohol. There’s no sense of place, not at all. There’s no geography. It’s all one place at one time.

-The party’s over once the black dudes arrive, and I’m pretty sure every single black lady in the movie is either naked, silent, a stripper, or all of the above. Gucci Mane is blank. There’s some interesting subtext going on, but the text is like… I made a joke about this movie being Set It Off for white people to friends ages ago. It kind of is? It is coded very, very white in terms of POV, even down to the worst thing that could happen being black dudes treating you exactly like white dudes treated you about thirty seconds before that scene.

-The most concise review I can think of: Spring Breakers is like Vice Magazine putting on a production of Belly entirely in the form of tumblr posts.

Open thread. What’re you reading/watching/hearing/enjoying?

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This Week in Panels: Week 183

March 24th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Hey. Panel time. Full house this week as I’m joined by Was Taters, Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa, Brobe, Jody and Matlock. You want to be added to the list? Send me some panels next week. Gamble a stamp.

Action Comics was a pain to pick a panel from. There were like a hundred great choices at its disposal.

Action Comics #18
Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Sholly Fisch and Chris Sprouse

All-New X-Men #9 (Jody’s pick)
Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen

All-New X-Men #9 (Gavin’s pick)
Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen

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My Trouble with Disc Binging

March 23rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Every geek has to have some kind of collection, right? It’s practically mandatory. Me, I don’t really have anything of note on the comic end. I don’t so much collect comics as I just keep some. I don’t really buy figures often unless I’m at New York Comic Con and feel the need to get a souvenir or there’s a sale at the local comic shop. I don’t even really collect much in terms of wrestling.

What I do have is an extensive DVD collection. A disgustingly extensive DVD collection. Now I’m gonna talk about it.

I guess it started to take shape in my senior year in high school, 1999-2000. I spent a year working at a local video rental chain West Coast Video. It was a laid back job. The most laid back being the time me and a friend were forced to work during the Superbowl. Pretty sure we had two customers the whole day, so we just watched Clerks because who was going to yell at us? It was such a different time back then because DVDs were new, so the store was 75% VHS tapes and another big chunk was video games.

We always had to have some kind of DVD playing, though at times we were able to just put on music and let it slide. The problem with the DVD mandate was that, like I said, DVDs were new. And we were in public. There are NOT a lot of DVDs you can show when you Boolean that. Suffice to say, I must have watched Yellow Submarine a million times without never truly watching it at all because I was busy with other stuff. Weirdly enough, I had Amazon’d a copy of obscure B-movie Six-String Samurai (about Buddy Holly as a samurai in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas) and played that all the time despite us never even carrying the movie in the store.

When I went to college, I expected to come back every break and work at the store again. Unfortunately, I came back Thanksgiving to discover that my store was closed. Apparently, they didn’t pay the rent and got locked out one day. That was that. I shouldn’t be surprised with management’s lack of competence in that regard, since I’m suddenly recalling how on my first day at work, the manager showed me her brand new back tattoo of Animal from the Muppets wearing an Austin 3:16 t-shirt while drinking a beer. How did that place not burn to the ground?

In college, I had some friends to hang out with every now and then, but I never led a very active social life. It was all video games, writing and watching movies in my spare time. Over the next few years, my DVD pile grew quite a bit. At this point it was about having your favorite movies catch up to the new hotness. They’re finally releasing Night of the Hunter on DVD? Sweet! Count me in! Pulp Fiction is being rereleased as a two-disc set with a buttload of extras? Great! I’ll just give my “interactive menus listed as the only extra” copy to my roommate!

After college, I ended up falling into my job at Barnes and Noble, which I only left last week after seven and a half years. That compounded my collection quite a bit. For one, twice a year they’d have “buy 2 get 1 free” DVD sales and that became a reason for me to eventually own the entirety of Batman: The Animated Series and all of its spinoffs. Then they’d have me cover breaks for the Movies and Music department, which meant a lot of standing around a half hour at a time and seeing stuff that looked worth picking up once the shift was over. With other sales and new releases that I felt the need to get immediately, my collection got bigger and bigger over time.

The Movies and Music section of my B&N did pretty bad business for a long time. It didn’t help that it’s in a large mall and directly under it was an FYE store that sold the same DVDs for less. Eventually, that store went out of business itself and that’s when it got dangerous for me. It’s one thing to buy DVDs that you go out of your way to find. It’s another thing where a store that specializes in DVDs is closing down. The DVDs all get crazy discounted and I’d visit there and pick up a bunch of stuff. Then a few weeks later, the discounts would get crazier and I’d buy more stuff. It becomes me realizing, “Why yes, I would like to own the complete Dolemite if that’s what you’re selling it for.” I still haven’t watched a single minute of that box set. The prices get lower and lower and by the end, I bought a shitload of stuff.

Coincidentally, with FYE out of the way, the Movies and Music section of B&N has been making money hand over fist for the last couple years.

By this point, my collection’s gotten out of control. I look like a goddamn hoarder. There’s a literal wall of DVDs stacked in my place and it has to go. So I got rid of it all.

Not the DVDs. I got rid of all the boxes. What do I need them for?

I picked up some of those disc wallets via Target, each enough to carry 224 discs. It took me hours, but I was able to alphabetize the entire library and stick them in FOUR of those bad boys. Though the one thing I haven’t added to the disc wallets is my set of CHIKARA wrestling DVDs. The only information on the tops of the discs themselves is the date of the show, so I’d rather just keep the full package on that.

Suffice to say, I already have my hands full. Whenever I got a new DVD or two, I’d keep the box aside and eventually re-alphabetized the whole mess a year later. With the improv stuff taking effect in my life, the DVD buying kind of dried up because I actually had something that I cared about spending money on.

Then about a month and a half ago, I saw the sign at a nearby Blockbuster store that I only see because it’s next to a grocery store I frequent. The place is finally closing down after all these years of Netflix kicking its ass. Like the vulture that I am, I went in and picked up a bunch of $7 DVDs.

A few weeks later, I returned again and got a bunch of $5 DVDs.

Then $3 DVDs.

Then $1 DVDs.

It’s a crazy experience because it’s like a barter system. Buy Damage starring Stone Cold Steve Austin? No thanks. What if it’s $7? No thanks. $3? Eh… still no. $1? Sure, why not.

Once things wind down some more, it’s amusing to see what’s left on the shelves. Apparently they overestimated the success of Zack and Miri Make a Porno because there’s like 50 copies of it. Not to mention a bunch of copies of the Spirit and other tripe (not counting Punisher: War Zone. That shit is awesome).

Then you see movies that you’re completely shocked nobody else has picked up. Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman? Clue? Raising Arizona?! Big Trouble in Little China?! The Never Ending Story (aah-aah-aah aah-aah-aah aah-aah-aaaah)?! What’s with you people?!

After weeks of bouncing back into the store, I’ve garnered about 50 DVDs. Now I need to buy a new disc wallet. I don’t think that’s so much a cry for help. What is a cry for help is that one of the DVDs I just bought is Monster Brawl. I’ve already seen it before and it’s as bad as you’d expect.

I think I only did this so I can force myself to review it one of these days.

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The Higher They Fly, the Harder They Fall

March 20th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday, my badminton partner Chris Sims wrote a piece on the weekly comic tie-in Injustice: Gods Among Us, based on the upcoming game by Netherrealm Studios. For the most part, he and I disagree on it. I think it’s a fun series while he considers it one of the frontrunners for worst comic of 2013. The one thing we do agree on is the dire first three issues, though he certainly minds it a lot more.

The series tells the story of how Superman comes to take over the world in the name of the greater good, ultimately leading to a DC version of Civil War. Through the first three issues, we see the Joker devise a situation where after he shoots Jimmy Olsen in the head, he kidnaps Lois Lane and tricks Superman into killing her. He does this by dosing Superman with Scarecrow fear gas laced with kryptonite so that Superman thinks Lois is Doomsday and shoves her into orbit. And it turns out Lois is pregnant too. Then Joker blows up Metropolis. When in custody, Joker’s questioned by Batman and they argue over Superman’s integrity until the Man of Steel busts in and angrily puts his fist through Joker’s chest.

The whole “fridging of Lois” thing is what made me aware that the comic even existed, but I didn’t care to read it until seeing some panels from the fourth issue, where Green Arrow keeps Harley Quinn in custody himself so that Superman doesn’t execute her as well. Even Sims admits that that’s a well-written bit and has some positive things to say about the issues that follow. And yes, while I claim the series is worth checking out, I mainly mean AFTER the Joker plot.

That said, the discussion on the matter made me realize a state of comics that nobody really touches on. As unfun as Superman being tricked into killing his wife and unborn child is, I’m not all that offended by it because “fridging” or not, it’s a step that the writer kind of had to make based on years upon years of righteousness. It’s a fucked up thing, but it’s the double-edged sword that comes from the purity of comic book heroes. It definitely could have been pulled off better in this story, but it’s a necessary trope.

It makes me think about something Grant Morrison’s talked about during his Batman run. Over the decades, the way the Joker has been written has evolved into something nasty, both in the character’s context and in the writing context. He went from being a goofball obsessed with “boner crimes” to a man who’s killed more people than polio. He went from flying around in a clown-faced helicopter to cutting his face off and having it reattached like a Halloween mask. The explanation is that by figuring out the Joker and his crimes, Batman puts a cage over him. Joker has to think bigger and more twisted to escape the cage and Batman puts a bigger cage around that. It escalates and the next thing you know, Joker’s chopping his face up.

Every now and then, a writer will play with a superhero’s refusal to kill and see where that goes. Sometimes it leads to a hero deciding at the last second, “No, I can’t do that.” Sometimes they’ll be totally ready to do it until getting interrupted and realize later that it’s probably for the better. Then there are times when they really go through with it. Whether it’s a good story or a bad story, I don’t envy the writer who has to set up that plot development because you’re forced to go over the line.

When I think of superheroes who strictly don’t kill, the four who pop into my head are Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Daredevil. Each and every one of them has had at least one story that shows just what it would take to make them kill. Most of the time it’s a non-canon story that can get away with it easily (ie. Injustice) while other times it’s a canon story meant to be part of the bigger picture of the serial storytelling.

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monday mixtape bumaye

March 18th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

monday mixtape bumaye from brothers on 8tracks Radio.

Eight songs here, which should play in random order. The list:
-D’Angelo – How Does It feel – Voodoo
-Big Boi – She Hates Me feat. Kid CuDi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
-Kitty – Smiledog.jpg – haha im sorry
-Iggy Azalea – Down South – Trap Gold
-J Cole – Lights Please – Cole World: The Sideline Story
-Fabolous – Louis Vuitton feat. J Cole – Soul Tape 2
-Jean Grae – Supa Love Acoustic – Dust Ruffle
-The Weeknd – High for This – Trilogy

Iggy Azalea sounds like she’s always one “Yeah~ho!” away from being Gangsta Boo. I think I like her voice over her production (generally Diplo, for the tape I linked), but it’s hard to not hear Chyna White or Diamond or Trina (especially Trina, “Down South” could easily be a Trina joint like “Look Back At Me”, which is as NSFW as it is incredible) when she raps. I got the same problem with A$AP Rocky, but Iggy’s nice enough that I haven’t given up. It’s this weird dissonance, I guess, where I hear one thing and instead of listening to that, I’m remembering something else.

I was talking out loud on Twitter the other day about white girl rappers. It’s real interesting to me, because a few have come up (or come to my attention — same thing) over the past few years. There’s a couple different types of white girl rappers, I feel like. There’s the Kreayshawn/Iggy Azalea route where you rep your whiteness as hard as you can, like a badge of honor or the point of a knife. Hence Kreayshawn repping White Girl Mob as hard as she can, and Iggy rapping about hanging out with “white bitches” and “black bitches” in a very black flow. There’s an “I double dog dare you to say something” in there.

Kitty, fka Kitty Pryde, is the other type. I described it as “Tee hee I’m white” on Twitter, I think, and it’s this self-aware awkwardness where she knows what you’re thinking but don’t really care. “You say, ‘This little white girl is ruinin’ hip hop’/I say, ‘Damn right!’ And take a lick of the Ring Pop,” right? There’s a tease in there. I like Kitty a lot, in part because she’s pretty good at being pretty funny.

White girls in rap is a real interesting subject for me. It’s different than white dudes, but I’m having a hard time finding people talking about why and how. There’s this whole cultural quagmire there, where we’re checking off several boxes and what results is… whatever this is. I’m really interested in the repping part of things, because being white is presumably as awesome as being black is, but racists screwed that up for white people in a big way. Fine lines, right?

“She Hates Me” is my favorite song on that Big Boi album. I love that version of Jean Greasy’s Supa Love.

I like Tom Spurgeon’s thoughts on working for free. Personally, my “Should I work for free” flowchart goes “Are we related? Did I give you my phone number? Are we friends? Do I like you?” and if the answer to all of those is “no,” then you’re coughing up the cash. If the answer to any of those is “yes,” then I’ll think about how much effort it would take me, what you would get out of it, and how much more money you have than I do before I make a decision. Easy-peasy. (If I don’t like you, the answer’s always “no,” tho. Even if you’re willing to pay double.)

This joke Sam Humphries found is absolutely savage.

Chris Randle wrote about issues with the people who use Kickstarter and the culture of Kickstarter itself. It’s good.

-A reader named CC emailed me out of the blue the other day to talk about my review of Moto Hagio’s Heart of Thomas on ComicsAlliance. She said she took issue with it (!) and wrote a paper that in part addresses it (!!) and wanted to give me a headsup (!!!). I really wanted to know what she meant, and she was kind enough to email me back and give me an autopsy. It was really enlightening, and she picked up on my subconscious uncomfortableness with shoujo, which showed up in how I approached writing about the book. Looking at what I wrote and she said, my takeaway is that I made the mistake of approaching the book as an outsider, a looky-loo, instead of digging into what it meant to me, which I do with basically everything else. So I ended up unintentionally giving the book short shrift, something I was consciously trying to avoid. Life is weird. She’s posted the first part of her paper here, with the second to follow soon. I’m looking forward to it. You can find more of her writing here. She’s really smart, and I’m not just saying that because she caught me half-stepping.

Sean Witzke invited me to take the place of Tucker Stone on the Travis Bickle on the Riviera podcast. I couldn’t make it, but Dr Racism should did. They talked about Out of the Past, Female Prisoner Scorpion 701, The Long Goodbye, and Stray Dog. Pretty good way to kill 90 minutes.

I wrote about Garth Ennis’s approach to heroism in recent works.

I watch a lot of Rocky & Bullwinkle. It’s all on Netflix, so you should, too.

NBA 2k13 is, as ever, game of the year.

I watched Children Who Chase Lost Voices this weekend. I liked it. It’s in a Ghibli mode, which is actually pretty distracting. I’m reading Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa right now, and the movie feels incredibly inferior to that. I’m doing a terrible job of why I liked it, huh? I think I liked the overt Miyazakian elements, the fantasy and communing with nature and being friends/family stuff, but the movie ended up being about a boring dude with a boring problem and a boring dead wife. I would’ve liked it more if Asuna was the focus of the end of the movie, instead of just a prop so that some guy can get over his grief. But… it’s still worth watching? The designs are really nice and the animation is pretty. “Watch this! Parts of it suck!” Sorry. Trailer:

Open thread. What’re you reading/watching/hearing/enjoying?

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This Week in Panels: Week 182

March 17th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yo hey yo hey!

Welcome to ThWiP. It’s a great day for me as after seven and a half years, I’ve finally parted ways with Barnes and Noble, moving away from the retail world. I had some good times there, but it feels nice to move forward.

This week I have panels from Gaijin Dan, Was Taters, Jody (my now-former coworker), Matlock and Space Jawa. Taters kind of hated both Batman comics from this week, so she chose those panels for the sake of sabotage. Makes sense. Both are about Batman dealing with the loss of Damian, which interferes with Taters dancing on his grave.

Avengers Assemble #13
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Pete Woods and Mark Bagley

Batman #18 (Taters’ pick)
Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Andy Kubert and Alex Maleev

Batman #18 (Gavin’s pick)
Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Andy Kubert and Alex Maleev

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Wrestling is Weird: The Undertaker vs. Yokozuna Saga

March 15th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Last week, the wrestling industry lost Bill Moody, known best for his portrayal of the spooky mortician manager Paul Bearer. In a scummy business, Moody was considered like the Tom Hanks. Just about everyone referred to him as the nicest guy. The other night on Monday Night Raw, they did a night-long tribute that showed a bunch of his career highlights. His first appearance, his big returns, the first appearance of Kane and so on. One clip that appeared towards the end was a completely bizarre one involving Mr. Fuji and Nicholas Tuturro. Thinking back to that clip, it made me realize how that was the final stage of a feud that when viewed together in one collective chunk is one of the most outright surreal storylines in all of wrestling history.

Let’s reminisce about the utter insanity that is the Undertaker vs. Yokozuna.

In the blue corner, we have the Undertaker. The invincible zombie wrestler has been a huge deal in the WWF ever since debuting at the end of 1990. As a monster heel, he was once pushed to the heavens in one segment where he both manhandled the Ultimate Warrior and shrugged it off when Hulk Hogan slammed a belt into his face. He turned face due to outright popularity and became something of a special attraction for a few years. Despite having a gimmick as silly as being an undead dude in kitchen gloves, he’s been treated as a serious character, even to this day. At the time of this story, he’s coming off a feud with Giant Gonzalez, a wrestler whose gimmick is that he’s really tall and fake-naked.

In the red corner, we have the late Yokozuna. An extremely large Samoan depicting a Japanese sumo wrestler, he also became a huge deal immediately. Managed by Mr. Fuji, Yokozuna rose through the ranks within months, dominating the Royal Rumble and defeating Bret Hart at Wrestlemania. By this point, he’s only suffered two losses and both controversial. Still champion, he’s been feuding with Lex Luger, who foolishly threw away what appeared to be his only chance to win the title.

At the end of November, the stage is set for Survivor Series 1993. In a PPV filled with four-on-four elimination matches, the most high profile is the All-Americans (Lex Luger, Tatanka, Rick Steiner and Scott Steiner) vs. the Foreign Fanatics (Yokozuna, Ludvig Borga, Quebecer Jacques and Quebecer Pierre). During this, Tatanka has been on an undefeated streak that’s been in place since his debut, almost two years earlier. A televised match between Tatanka and Borga ends with Borga being the first to pin Tatanka after some interference by Mr. Fuji and the use of a chair. The Quebecers had set it up so that Steiner Brothers are stuck in their locker room and can’t do anything as the Foreign Fanatics put the boots to Tatanka. Yokozuna crushes Tatanka’s ribs with a couple Banzai Drops as the Quebecers hold Luger back. Luger eventually reaches the ring, but his buddy is in rough shape and definitely won’t be able to compete at Survivor Series.

With only a couple weeks left, Luger and the Steiners do an interview to explain that they have found a replacement. They introduce the Undertaker to a huge ovation. Hey, he’s a great acquisition, but what the hell does a magical walking corpse have to do with America? He explains.

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