Archive for September, 2013


This Week in Panels: Week 210

September 30th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Heya. So the idea was that Friday I was supposed to do another installment of This Character in Panels because it was the 4 year anniversary of this weekly segment. Then when working on it, I remembered that it takes like ten times as long to do one of those updates as it does this. Yeah, so I’ll try to have that done tomorrow. The last week’s been a complete mess for me and I’m super glad to have it all done away with.

Elsewhere, I’ve written a review of Street Fighter Origins: Akuma that got posted at Den of Geek US.

This week ends Villains Month at DC, meaning I can go back to knowing what it is I want to read from that company. Thanks to Matlock, who read about 95% of that experiment and gave me panels for it. Also thanks to contributors Gaijin Dan and Space Jawa.

Action Comics #23.4
Sholly Fisch and Steve Pugh

Aquaman #23.2
Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard and Geraldo Borges

Avengers #20 (Matlock’s pick)
Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu

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ONE & Murata’s One-Punch Man: Pure Cape Comics

September 26th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

One-Punch Man is an ONE & Yusuke Murata joint. It runs in Weekly Shonen Jump (preview pack here), an anthology of boys’ comics that’s currently serializing Tite Kubo’s Bleach, Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, a colorized version of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z, and several other series. The gist is simple and enjoyable: Saitama wanted to be a hero, so he trained. He trained so hard that he actually became capable of ending any fight in a single punch. He dreams of having a glorious, devastating battle, but it doesn’t happen. It can’t happen. He’s too good. He’s Slacker Superman, and he’s in a gag comic.

A big part of my enjoyment of OPM is that ONE & Murata clearly love the same things I do about superheroes and shonen comics, but have no patience for the nonsense that infests both types. So OPM feels very lean and easy-going, but explodes into incredibly enjoyable high action.

Chapter twenty-six came out this week and is the finest cape comic I’ve read in ages. I try to avoid hyperbole, and that sounds hyperbolic, but dig:

Mumen Rider is a Class C hero. His power is that he has a bicycle and moves like JUSTICE CRASH!, where he throws a bicycle at someone, or JUSTICE TACKLE!, when he tackles someone. He’s a normal dude with a heart of gold, but hearts of gold and bicycles only take you so far against a nigh-invincible Deep-Sea King. A wise man knows his limitations and acts accordingly.

The Deep-Sea King, he of the heart nipples and massive strength, has spent the past few chapters tearing through every hero in sight, including ones with names. He hammers Genos, Saitama’s cyborg sorta sidekick, and is ready to finish the job when a JUSTICE CRASH! grabs his attention. He manhandles Mumen Rider, Looney Tunes-style, by simply intercepting an attack and beating Mumen Rider against the ground repeatedly.

one-punch-man - 01

But Mumen Rider stands up again.

What makes a hero? Is it the powers? The tortured past? The borderline-authoritarian insistence that you know right from wrong better than anyone else? Or is it something else? For me, growing up, it was scenes like this, when someone looks at injustice, holds up a hand, and says “No,” no matter the risk that entails. It echoes through Frank Miller’s Sin City, the Michelinie/McFarlane Spider-Man, and even a little bit in Jim Lee-era X-Men. It’s all over Hiromu Arakawa’s Full Metal Alchemist. You can see it in real life heroes. A hero is someone who is willing to throw their life away to protect someone else, regardless of their level of skill or destiny. You get up out of your seat and on your feet and you tell them people “No.”

That near-suicidal courage is inspiring. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone, that we’re all in this together, and that one man can make a difference if he tries. It’s hope. Something works as it should in our fallen world. And so:

one-punch man - 02

When Mumen Rider showed up, these people were excited, but confused. They’re locked in a shelter to hide from Deep-Sea King’s attack, and they’ve seen him utterly dominate another, higher-ranked hero. They know that Mumen Rider has no chance. But a little bit of courage, a little bit of confidence, goes a long way. They believe because he believes.

Mumen Rider has no chance. Deep-Sea King clobbers him effortlessly. But in taking a stand, Mumen Rider did exactly what a hero should do. He held the line.

one-punch-man - 04

Saitama catches Mumen Rider before he falls. Saitama tells him “Good job. Nice fight,” and carefully lays him on the ground. Saitama understands and respect sacrifice. In a way, Mumen Rider is the hero Saitama wishes he could be. He wants that glory. So he treats Mumen Rider with the respect and tenderness that he has not just earned, but deserves.

There’s a few pages left after this sequence, but that panel of Saitama catching Mumen Rider? That’s the real cliffhanger. That’s what’s going to get you hype, because it’s a moment for you to reflect. You know that Saitama is invincible. You know that he only gets beaten in his dreams. You know that he’s a little dumb, but genuinely kind. You know that he’s a hero. You know that heroes win, especially in cape comics, and you know exactly how Saitama wins his fights.

Deep-Sea King has caused a massive amount of destruction, shown a callous disregard for life, and generally acted a fool because he can’t be stopped. He’s a bully.

Here comes Justice.

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This Year in Panels: Year 4

September 23rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to This Year in Panels, something I’ve been doing every 52 or so weeks since starting This Week in Panels. As you should know by now, This Week in Panels is all about taking the comics that me and my buddies (Was Taters, Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa, Jody, Matlock, Brobe, Dickeye and anyone else I might be forgetting) have read and cut them down into one representative panel. The kids love it.

ThYiP is a little best-of take on it where I only choose one panel from each week but I can’t double-dip on the same series. For some nostalgia, here’s Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3.


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

Age of Apocalypse #12
David Lapham and Renato Arlem

All-New X-Men #8
Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez

All-Star Western #19
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Staz Johnson

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This Week in Panels: Week 209

September 22nd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Hey! It’s you! I’m busy as hell this week, but I’m still going to be doing a bunch of ThWiP off-shoots over the next couple days. Tomorrow it’s This Year in Panels while this Friday I’ll be doing the return of This Character in Panels. Why? Because it’ll have been four years as of Friday, that’s why. Ah, the days of ThWiP Week 1 in 2009.

Back when people still remembered Skaar.

So anyway, this week brings us the end of Injustice: Gods Among Us for the time being. “Year One” just ended and there’ll be an Annual in November. Then it relaunches in January. In the meantime, I’ve written a retrospective/review of sorts for Den of Geek US the other day. Speaking of which, I’m going to be doing more hands-on stuff with that site, so that’s pretty exciting for me.

This week I have my fellow Injustice reader Matlock, who is still reading up on most of the DC villains comics. Gaijin Dan still has his manga and Was Taters makes her grand return. Let’s get to it.

Action Comics #23.3
Charles Soule and Raymund Bermudez

Batman #23.3
Frank Tieri and Christian Duce

Batman ’66 #12
Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell

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Musical Crumbs

September 20th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes a song will have that one part that I kind of obsess with more than the rest. As a kid, back when Wayne’s World was the big thing, I’d feel like I was waiting out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” for that section towards the end where it picks up and starts talking about devils and the fandango and whatnot. And while I’ve always loved Alice in Chains’ “Rooster”, it’s really the intro and outro that act as the star of that song.

There are times when I only hear a brief snippet of a song and find myself wanting more, whether it be part of a full-fledged song, a commercial or a cover medley. It’s kind of like how awesome it was when Eric Cartman sang “Poker Face” on South Park that they eventually released a full version for Rock Band. That was a dream come true.

Here are six other songs I would have killed for seeing expanded into something bigger.

6) The Snickers Carpool Singing “Greensleeves”

A few years ago, Snickers had a beautiful ad campaign about a Viking, a pilgrim, a Hawaiian dude, Henry VIII and Caesar on a road trip to Asgard, enjoying the FEAST of Snickers all the way. This led to a commercial where Henry VIII reminisces about how he used to have a troupe of minstrels sing to him when he’d eat. The Hawaiian dude, who hasn’t said a single word or done a single thing in all the other commercials ever since being picked up, starts singing “Greensleeves” with a most beautiful voice. After a moment of confusion, everyone joins in.

I’m inexplicably intrigued with Henry’s reaction when the singing starts. He freezes up like he either doesn’t know what the fuck is going on or he’s getting overly wistful. Then the comradery kicks in and I smile every time.

Coincidentally, the awesome “Every Man has a Plan” theme that played in the first commercial was released in full, which is sadly gone from YouTube.

5) Weird Al’s Polka Cover of “Chop Suey”

Weird Al Yankovic is known for tossing polka medleys onto most of his albums, usually to touch on songs from the era he didn’t get around to parodying. They tend to be catchy, though not especially spectacular compared to his other stuff. Off his album Poodle Hat, he sang a medley called “Angry White Boy Polka” featuring everything from “Down with the Sickness” to “Real Slim Shady”. 50 seconds into this song, he sings a really unique take on System of a Down’s “Chop Suey” that I’d love to hear a full version of.

Similarly, I would really love to hear more from his polka cover of “Blame it on the Alcohol” off his last album.

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The Electric Lady & Doris: “Something sinister to it.”

September 20th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

For Janelle Monae’s Metropolis, a series of albums which in turn contain suites that tell the story of Cindi Mayweather, a robot sent from the future to restore freedom and love, the apocalypse brought with it stifling social mores, unbearable rules, and emotionally-devastating limits on personal expression. It gave us a squeaky clean Pleasantville at the expense of everything that makes us who we are.

Janelle Monae as Cindi Mayweather, and sometimes just Janelle Monae, has a lot to say to you, fellow citizen. Here she is on “Lettin’ Go”:

Oooh! I got a call today, from my job up the block
It was my boss to say, “You know we like you a lot
But we don’t need you, J, you daydream too much!”
Well, man, I’m glad y’all let me go!

’cause with no 9 to 5, it’s a brand new day!
My rent’s due but I’m a party any way!
I feel so alive, stress just faded away!
It’s time to live my own life!

Getting fired sucks, but she sees it as an opportunity, not a tragedy. It’s something that puts her closer to her goal, so she’s going to take it in stride. The stress came from not following her dream and living her own life, right?

On “Sincerely, Jane” after listing a litany of problems with how we live, she exhorts us to be better:

Are we really living or just walking dead now?
Or dreaming of a hope riding the wings of angels?
The way we live, the way we die
What a tragedy, I’m so terrified
Daydreamers, please wake up
We can’t sleep no more

On “Tightrope,” a collab with her longtime associate Big Boi of OutKast, she digs right into it:

Some people talk about you
Like they know all about you
When you get down they doubt you
And when you tipping on the scene
Yeah they talkin’ about it
‘Cause they can’t tip all on the scene with you
What you talk about it
Talkin’ about it
When you get elevated,
They love it or they hate it
You dance up on them haters
Keep getting funky on the scene
While they jumpin’ round you
They trying to take all your dreams
But you can’t allow it

People are going to hate on you, and the proper response is to dance all up on them. You let your glow do the talking. The point is that you do have dreams, but your dreams are being taken from you. You’re meant to keep your dreams closer and damn the consequences.

“QUEEN,” featuring Erykah Badu, opens with a punch:

They call us dirty ’cause we break all your rules down
And we just came to act a fool, is that all right (Girl, that’s alright)
They be like, “Ooh, let them eat cake.”
But we eat wings and throw them bones on the ground

Monae wants you to know exactly who she’s talking about through the android metaphor: it’s us, the normal people, the people with restrictions imposed upon us that we just can’t abide. We don’t play that aristocrat stuff over here. That’s not our life. I like that the music video is explicitly presented as being about how Monae and Badu created works of art that are repellent to the restrictive, oppressive future:

She’s got a few bits in here that sound like rhetorical questions, but they aren’t, not if you listen closely.

Is it peculiar that she twerk in the mirror?
And am I weird to dance alone late at night?
And is it true we’re all insane?
And I just tell ’em, “No, we ain’t,” and get down!

She’s not willing to argue any of these points. She’s just explaining to the person giving her grief about being who she is that she doesn’t care what they have to say. Is it crazy that we’re like this? No, of course it isn’t. None of this matters, no one else’s approval matters, because she’s going to do whatever she wants and have her a good old time. The booty don’t lie, because it knows what it’s meant to do. It has purpose, and that purpose is to dance. And that is true of Monae-as-Mayweather, too. She has a purpose. And you don’t get to stop it.

I like that she positions dancing as a weapon, in addition to being fun. Dancing is one of those things that’s often seen as a corruptive influence by puritans and squares. It’s about sex and getting to do whatever you want, no matter how illogical. This is closer to being a sexual and love-oriented revolution than a violent uprising. She makes it plain on this excerpt from a skit called “Good Morning, Midnight” on The Electric Lady:

Woah, woah, woah! That’s that ignorant rusty-dusty nano-thinking nonsense I been warning y’all about. Please stay away from fools like that. Love not war, we’re tired of fires, quiet no riots, we are jamming, dancing and loving. Don’t throw no rock, don’t, break no glass just shake your ass. Ooh just shock it shake it baby with the Electric Lady. Here at 105.5 WDRD.

But you get my point—Janelle Monae makes motivation music, and she’s doing it through a classic type of sci-fi story to do it. The Electric Lady, the latest release in Metropolis, parts four and five of seven. I’m having trouble picking a favorite song on this album, because though I like a few of them more than others, they all sound so good to me in context with each other that I couldn’t pick if I wanted to. The front of the album is weaker than the back half, but the back half has bangers, too.

I talk a lot about Young Jeezy over Lex Luger beats is black superhero music. And it is, or it was back when Jeezy was the man on these streets. Because Jeezy was talking about rising above, or having risen above, and doing incredibly exciting things with an iller-than-it-needed-to-be flow. Jeezy, at his height, is music to flex to.

But Monae’s motivation music is cut-a-rug music. You want to bounce, you bob, you tap your foot. I like the video for “Dance Apocalyptic” a lot, because at first you think it’s kind of a “Hey Ya!” riff:

which is super tight if you believe the totally untenable idea that Killer Mike is following in Big Boi’s footsteps and Monae stepped into Andre’s shoes, but honestly it’s just cool because it’s really cool. It’s well done. But if you think about what you know about those music performances in the context of The Electric Lady, you might realize that she’s spreading love and freedom through a format that was once considered harmful for teens because it got them all worked up with all the gyrating and such. Nothing’s an accident. You’re listening to a story.

Like the X-Men at their very best, Monae’s Cindi Mayweather represents all of us. She is dancing for all of us. She’s a messianic figure because she is meant to show us the way to brightening our lives, and through our lives, the world. It’s not necessarily afrofuturism, I don’t think, but she’s definitely doing that sci-fi thing of talking about the modern day through a very thinly-veiled metaphor.

Cindi Mayweather is here to save us all. But maybe we ain’t worth saving.

An early single from Doris, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All’s resident superlyrical dude Earl Sweatshirt’s highly-anticipated album, was “Chum.” Here’s a chunk of the first verse, and the music video, too:

It’s probably been twelve years since my father left, left me fatherless
And I just used to say I hate him in dishonest jest
When honestly I miss this nigga, like when I was six
And every time I got the chance to say it I would swallow it
Sixteen, I’m hollow, intolerant, skipped shots
I storm that whole bottle, I’ll show you a role model
I’m drunk pissy, pissing on somebody front lawn
Trying to figure out how in the fuck I missed moderate

And the first half of this kicks my guts out, and the flash-forward to sixteen hits bone. Doris isn’t a story like The Electric Lady, but it is a picture. It’s what Earl chose to reveal on wax, a point of view he has developed as filtered through music. That POV probably isn’t 100% Earl, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s here, and we can look at it, and we can figure out what kind of picture Earl is painting.

Earl’s Doris is post-apocalypse too, and this apocalypse brought with it a different kind of emotional devastation. Where Monae’s audience are suppressed, Earl’s are depressed, wobbling under the weight of the world. They’re depressed because nothing can be trusted, not girlfriends, as on “Pre”:

Dealt with addiction, fell for the bitch with the
Pale butter skin who just packed up and dipped

not his perception, as on “Sunday”:

All my dreams got dimmer when I stopped smoking pot
Nightmares got more vivid when I stopped smoking pot
And loving you is a little different, I don’t like you a lot
You see, it seems like

and definitely not his city, as on “Hive”:

From that city that’s recession-hit
With stress, niggas could flex metal with peddle to rake pennies in
Desolate testaments trying to stay Jekyll-ish
But most niggas Hyde and Brenda just stay pregnant
Breaking news: death’s less important when the Lakers lose
It’s lead in that baby food, heads try to make it through
Fish-netted legs for them eyes that she cater to
Ride dirty as the fucking sky that you praying to

Stress kills, and he smokes an incredible amount of weed, which is actually not surprising on “20 Wave Caps,” which features supersmoker Domo Genesis:

Smoking ’til I’m loopy as a motherfucking toucan
20 minutes, burn a fucking quarter back to two grams

and he can’t even trust himself, as on “Burgundy,” which opens with Vince Staples letting him know that nobody cares how he feels, they just want raps:

My grandma’s passin’
But I’m too busy tryin’ to get this fuckin’ album crackin’ too see her
So I apologize in advance if anything should happen
And my priorities fucked up, I know it, I’m afraid I’m gonna blow it
And all them expectations raising because daddy was a poet, right?
Talk all you want I’m takin’ no advice

I’m a sucker for all of this stuff pretty much, from the dadraps to the sadraps. And I think Earl is pretty great at it, and it’s down to both his lyrics but also something in his voice. He sells the frown better than most guys do. Drake can do it, but there’s no hint of opulence behind Earl’s words. Drake had it and lost it, but Earl never had it. The city’s dying and everything’s rotten inside.

Earl paints a vivid picture, and I’ve been spinning Doris pretty much since I got it, with A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord being the previous winner and Monae’s The Electric Lady being the latest. There’s something about Earl’s lyrics, and Monae’s lyrics, that keep me thinking about the songs and mulling over lines until they take crystal-clear shape, and it’s for entirely different reasons.

Monae wants us to rise up from the mud. Earl makes us follow him through it. It’s frustration music, that kind of thing you put on so you can say “Bruh, I don’t fuck with no cops” or feel bad about your absentee father or just narrow your eyebrows and put a mean look on your face. Earl’s stuck, and we’re stuck alongside him. He’s not going to be doing any dancing any time soon, and really, he talks about his vices like they’re burdens, too. He’s doing what he can to cope and keep his head above water, but that doesn’t mean that he’s thriving. He’s getting by. He’s maintaining maybe. But even that can slip. And then it’s a wrap.

“Muddy” is how Doris feels to me, but without any of the negative connotations “muddy” might bring with it. It’s slow head nod music, something to vibe to or relax to, but not necessarily something I would want to drive around to, even though I bet it sounds amazing coming out of a trunk. It’s a downer, but a pointed one. Earl’s lyrics and the music are both gonna wear at you, but they feel good when you’re in a foul mood. It lets you focus that black cloud over your head onto something other than yourself for a minute. And that’s necessary.

Monae and Earl are both talking about us as we live today. They just have different points of view on what we need to do to survive. Dancing is catharsis, but moping and spewing venom can be cathartic, too. Monae wants you to know that there is a brighter day, a better way. You can dog on her all you want, you can raise your voice all you want, but you do not have a say in her life. She’s going to do her thing, and in so doing, show us the path to Heaven. Earl, though. He has no interest in saving anyone, not even himself, but the act of just telling his story is enough to tell somebody else “You’re not alone.” When he said that he used to say he hated his father in dishonest jest, but couldn’t work up the nerve to just say he misses him, that kind of thing is heart-stopping. I know what that feels like.

Monae is salvation. Earl is confirmation.

Two sides of an argument. Both well worth listening to.

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“Racists React To [thing]” posts are just passive white supremacy

September 17th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Over on tumblr, franzferdinand2 asked:

Just wanted to say your crack earlier about people using racists on twitter as some kind of weird “I’m not racist” barometer really got me thinking. Journalism has managed to make gawking at obvious racism something to be consumed.

Franz is referring to stories like this, or this, or this, which I tweeted about a bit the other day. Today, I’m expanding on those tweets. I’ve got a lot of moving parts here, but bear with me. The tweets:

Those stories actually really make me frustrated with the people who put them up and the people who share them. I think these types of stories are actually a kind of passive white supremacy. I call it passive because it’s not the result of a conscious choice to prop up white supremacy. It’s actually coming from what I think is a good place on the part of the website or anyone involved, a desire to spotlight someone overcoming not just personal adversity, but specifically racial adversity too. There’s an extra oomph in that story. It’s nice when people do things and racists can only sit there impotently.

Which I understand, and empathize with. But nine times out of ten, more column inches are devoted to how racists react to them, and then occasionally how they react to the racist, instead of their actual accomplishments. The accomplishments have always been considerable, whether she’s Nina Davuluri, the first Indian-American Miss America, Gabby Douglas doing super well in the Olympics, or Amandla Stenberg playing Rue in the Hunger Games.

Stenberg has the best first name ever, was the best part of Colombiana, and is a promising young actress. I don’t know anything about Miss America except that it’s weird we still do that kind of thing, but I assume they don’t just hand out that crown to anyone. You have to have some merit, and you have to have more merit than the next woman to go home with the crown. Sports stories are always interesting, and I bet the eventual ESPN 30 for 30 on Douglas in ten years is gonna be great.

All of these people have stories that are pretty interesting, and that’s without the outside input of people who quite literally would have never mattered in any even vaguely meaningful way to the people they are insulting. With that input, their story shifts from “really talented in their field” to “really talented in their field, also hated by racists.” Which is true, racists hate a lot of people, but a lot of things are true that aren’t regularly and consistently reinforced through the media.

These types of stories elevate the racist feedback above the only real issue at hand: some people did a cool thing and deserve press for it. They privilege the voice of the racist above the accomplishments of the actual person who is being attacked. Here’s a search on Jezebel for “Amandla Stenberg.” There are three posts about the racist tweets. There is one about her being cast in the role. There is nothing in-between. There is nothing of substance about this actress on that site, but there are three posts about racists reacting to her, her reaction to racists, and racists reacting to some other actor who dared be something other than white. They haven’t mentioned Nina Davuluri once without mentioning racism.

I most commonly see these stories with non-whites, and it’s usually a pretty even mix of men and women, maybe tilted a little toward women due to selection bias. The effect of tagging brown faces with hate narratives a dozen times a month all over the place online—and occasionally super often depending on what you choose to follow, in terms of blog subjects—causes a connection in your head with that negative stigma. It’s why when I say Somalia you think Black Hawk Down and starving children, the Middle East and constant warfare, China and disgusting smokestacks. It’s why black-on-black violence is a problem, a real tragedy, and white-on-white violence isn’t even a concept in your head.

We get a limited number of stories by and about non-whites, and women too, in comparison to white dudes. Think of how often those stories are about conflict or hate or death, the unbelievable burden of being brown. Think how many major movies starring black people are action vehicles and how many deal in black misery like it’s pornography. These stories are almost always othered—The Fast & The Furious being a notable, and rare, exception. It’s not about us over here. It’s about things that happen over there, to them, instead of here, to us, whether over there is Detroit or Beijing. The hate narrative becomes part of your definition of that group, and that affects how you treat people of that group.

So he’s articulate, she’s such a strong black lady. They’ve overcome so much adversity, like… racism! Which, again, positions them apart from you. You’re not racist, but you’re not them, either. People aren’t doing racist things to you. That happens to other people. Or maybe you’re a victim of racism, too, but what do you get out of seeing people say racist things?

No, these lists and posts are a chance for people who believe they aren’t racist to confirm their own internal assessment of themselves, and also how racism works. The story being “hated by racists” instead of “incredibly accomplished” gives people a chance to react against it. They share it with an affirmation that they, the sharer, are not anything like the racist. They scorn the racist. In fact, sharing this is yet more proof that they are not, in fact, racist, because racists should be scorned on sight. Which is cool, A+ for motivation but more or less a C- in execution in terms of being useful or helpful or anything but self-serving.

The racism this story depicts is binary. It’s on or off, is you is or is you ain’t this racist, and that encourages the idea that racism isn’t something you personally do or are. It’s something other people do. You don’t do that, right? So you aren’t racist!

But any colored folk can tell you that’s not how racism works. Everybody is a little racist. There are hundreds of learned reactions to different groups of people to unlearn, not to mention the areas of society where racist sentiment is implicit instead of explicit, like zoning laws or the prison industrial complex or the war on drugs. It’s in all of us. We’re gonna have to live with that racism until we fix it and our selves, and viewing racism as a binary personality choice doesn’t allow for that.

That’s why people react so strongly to being called “racist” when they say something totally racist or suspect, or their work being called “racist,” or occasionally even just hearing the word “racist” in like a fifteen meter radius or something and their “I’m Not A Racist!” alarm goes off. They aren’t like those people, no, not at all. Their personal definition doesn’t allow for internalized racism. Which is adorable.

So, in that sense, these posts help prop up white supremacy. But there’s more.

This stuff trickles down, just like everything else has trickled down over the years. It’s how culture works. We tell ourselves stories so that we might combat the stories that are thrust upon us. People talk about sexy Asian girls, black dudes with big dicks, black chicks with big butts—those aren’t positive stereotypes. They’re stereotypes that reduce a people to objects of desire, and animalistic desire in the case of black people in particular. Black men having big dicks isn’t a compliment. It’s a sign that they were closer to animals than humans, filled with uncontrollable desire thanks to their firehose of a penis. (Consider the tenor of a lot interracial porn if you don’t believe me. That didn’t come out of nowhere. There’s a long history that you don’t even need a book to understand. Or read this, which looks like a great resource.)

So: “Black is beautiful” battles “black is disgusting.” “I am somebody” served to convince children that they were, in fact, somebody, when every little thing in their life told them different. Black men became kings and black women became queens because the narrative was that they were lower than trash. It’s counter-programming.

These posts are programming, too. When you consider that we get precious few stories about us in comparison to white men, the impact of every single story is elevated. If you most often see stories about young black girls reacting to racists, then you’re going to associate young black girls with the struggle. If you only ever hear about Iraq when it’s wartime, you’re going to associate Iraq with that. If the only story you hear about Islam is violent jihad, you’re going to feel a spike of fear when you see a woman in a veil in the TSA security line. It’s why I see a cop and think about what I’m doing that might get me shot, and a cop sees me and thinks about what I’m doing that’ll get me shot.

And that, at its heart, is what white supremacy does.

White supremacy is a self-sustaining enterprise, a system, but that doesn’t mean that everyone involved in that enterprise believes in white supremacy. When white is established as the default, then the default story is a white story. That positions all other stories as Other, Alternative, and you think of the people in those stories that way, too. White supremacy is nothing but “White first, y’all second” and it’s not as easy as just deciding you aren’t racist.

White supremacy infests everything. That’s why Obama is still our “first black president,” instead of the first word being wrong and the second word being meaningless. Black sits apart from white, for reasons both intentional (for a long time they couldn’t be president because all that cotton needed picking I guess, I’m fuzzy on the rationale) and completely incidental (no black person had a chance of getting elected because they didn’t have access to the same resources whites did).

Things go around online occasionally that make people go “This is what racism looks like.” Sometimes it’s a young black male being shot down by an old white man, sometimes it’s a burning cross. It’s true: those are often indicative of racism. But by that level of racism is seen as the only level of racism. “Hey, this dialogue you wrote–that’s kinda racially suspect, isn’t it?” isn’t a personal attack, but every time I say it, no matter how hard I try and soften the blow (and I spent years pulling punches and getting blown up at anyway), somebody gets mad because their personal definition doesn’t allow for any type of racism, even accidental or incidental or institutional.

Racism is intentional and unintentional, and that’s why looking at race like a binary proposition sets up ideas that end up hurting everybody in the end. You have to be willing to accept that a little of the poison is in you, too, if you want to understand why these ideas persist after all this time and in so many different areas of our life.

So yeah, I’m not a fan of those stories. I don’t like the way they distort the reality of life. It makes black life seem like a burden, instead of a life with ups and downs. It messes up the way we view other peoples, and that trickles down to how we interact with them on a personal and foreign policy level.

I want fewer stories about racists and more stories about the people the racists hate. But that won’t happen, because those posts do gangbusters in terms of hits. You get to point and set yourself apart from them, people get to be sure that they’re on the right side of history, and you get to show support for a brown face by attacking a white face.

But it’d be better if you just supported the brown face in the first place and thought harder about why you’re sharing what you’re sharing.

Read the commentary on this post to see how racism manifests itself in subtle ways, in the absence of malice, hoods, and dead bodies.

This is real life. This is how it works. Everything we take in has a point and an effect. Think twice. Dig past the surface-level and try to understand that if it’s bigger than whatever makes you feel good for not being them, whether they’re racists or colored folks who are the victim of racism. Try harder.

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This Week in Panels: Week 208

September 15th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Howdy. I didn’t read too much this week (though I did pick up the Street Fighter Origins: Akuma comic, which was neat), but Matlock went the distance. Goddamn. He’s flanked by Gaijin Dan and Space Jawa. Normally, I’d follow up this update with This Year in Panels, but next week is closer to the actual ThWiP anniversary, so I’ll do it then.

Which is a reminder that if you want to contribute to the second attempt at This Character in Panels, you’re more than welcome. I’ll be doing that update on Friday the 27th.

Apologies for the low level of updates here. It’s been busy times for me. I’m working full hours at my job, I’m doing the Den of Geek thing and I have assignments to do for my sketch writing class. Once that last part is finished with, I’m sure I’ll be a bit more prolific here. In the meantime, I have two new Den of Geek articles up. One for the 10 Most Uplifting Moments in Professional Wrestling and another in the form of a guide to the current TMNT storyline City Fall.

Now this is the part of Sprockets where we show panels.

Action Comics #23.2
Greg Pak and Ken Lashley

Aquaman #23.1 (Gavin’s pick)
Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin

Aquaman #23.1 (Matlock’s pick)
Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin

Read the rest of this entry �

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DC Comics: All the Single Ladies

September 12th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Recently, DC Comics’s problems have reached sitcom levels in terms of errors and misunderstanding. The most interesting of these recent incidents is easily the Batwoman situation. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman had announced their leave of Batwoman at #26 due to the same 11th hour editorial changes that have annoyed countless other creators into skipping town on DC, but claimed the straw that broke the camel’s back was that they could allow Batwoman to get engaged to her girlfriend, but they couldn’t get married. That created a backlash at DC for what appeared to be an anti-gay marriage stance.

While it made for some good schadenfreude, it didn’t really seem to make sense. DC heavily hyped up Batwoman’s debut for being a crime-fighting lesbian. There’s supporting character in the pages of Vibe who’s both gay and married. Hell, Marvel and Archie Comics have both made a killing off doing a gay marriage issue. Then what’s the problem?

The truth, as it turns out, is much stranger. In a twist on the old line, “I’m not racist! I just hate everyone equally,” DC Comics appears to simply hate marriage, whether it be straight or gay.

At first it just seemed like a stealth coincidence. With the New 52 reboot, it made sense that Clark Kent would no longer be married to Lois Lane and that Barry Allen would no longer be married to Iris West. They’ve been given the chance to rebuild towards those stories and retell them with a modern touch. Meanwhile, Wally West is no longer married to Linda because he simply doesn’t exist. But there are other married couples in the New 52, right? Aquaman and Mera are together and Animal Man has two kids. No, DC can’t be against marriage to the point of scorched earth, right?

As it turns out, this is what Dan Didio had to say at Baltimore Comic-Con the other day. “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. That’s very important and something we reinforced. People in the Bat family their personal lives basically suck. Dick Grayson, rest in peace – oops shouldn’t have said that – Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.”

Which is kind of a weird thing to say, since Tim Drake was able to make “having a family” work for fifteen years. Then they fixed that and made him just as insufferable as Batman around the time when even DC realized that Batman was too insufferable and needed to be fixed.

It also seems to ignore police officers and firemen and other real life heroes, but… yeah.

So DC is only against the Batman-related characters being married, right? Except word’s been going around that Aquaman and Mera aren’t officially married. Sure, she’s his “queen” and they live together, but Johns has made sure not to mention that they’re husband and wife. It’s said that this will be explained in a future issue.

Well, at least we have Animal Man and Ellen Baker, right? Except they’re in the middle of a messy separation based on the death of their son Cliff. This whole part becomes really suspect based on the background. Lemire’s Animal Man started off feeling like a strong successor to Grant Morrison’s defining run and even made direct references to it early on. The latter part of Morrison’s run had a point that killing loved ones and generally crapping on the heroes for the point of drama is kind of a stupid thing to do.

How strange that years later, Morrison and Animal Man would both play the “kill the hero’s son” card at the same time. You have to wonder, though. Animal Man plays up the idea that heroes shouldn’t be married because their family will pay for it (even though unbeknownst to the main cast, it’s not Buddy’s fault, but because of his daughter’s fate as champion of the Red. Long story) and it’s being pulled towards Buddy being on his own. You have to wonder how much of that decision is based on editorial interference.

The comparison to Marvel is obvious. After all, they made huge waves with their Spider-Man marriage controversy. The One More Day incident is something I still don’t agree with, but I understand. Here’s the thing, though. That’s just one character. Yes, there are plenty of marriages that don’t work in Marvel, but right now, there’s still such pairings as Reed Richards and Sue Storm, Black Bolt and Medusa, Northstar and Kyle and Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Hell, I’m pretty sure Absorbing Man and Titania are still together.

While the editorial fuckery is a major problem with DC, I think one of the other major problems is the company-wide edicts (such as my new favorite, “Batman never sits. EVER.”). Despite Marvel’s problems, they’re pretty good about giving you variety. For every gritty Avengers Arena there’s something fun like Superior Foes of Spider-Man. You have options.

DC isn’t giving much in terms of options these days and this Villains Month bullshit epitomizes it. Everything is dark and everyone is horribly dying. They had something going with Blue Beetle, but then they canceled it, brought it back and retold it as something needlessly darker and it got canceled twice as fast. They’re trying to push Harley Quinn as a madcap romp, yet they just released a comic of her murdering legions of innocent children for the hell of it. Because THAT’S somebody I want to cheer for and laugh with.

In the end, I think about a scene from 52. Tim Drake, trying to get over how insufferable DC made him, was training with some monks and one asked him a riddle. Something like, “A duck is sitting inside a glass bottle. How did it get there?” After thinking about it, Tim realized it was because the monk telling the riddle put it there. The duck was fictional, just like everyone in the DC universe. You know why marriages don’t work for superheroes, DC? Because YOU say they don’t. The actual creative team thought it was a good idea and could work, but what do they know?

They know to look for work elsewhere, I suppose.

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I’m running a charity 5k on 9/21!

September 9th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I’ve never run a 5k before, but I’m going to do one in about two weeks for the sake of Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer, who are sponsoring a 5k walk/run to combat cervical cancer in African women. Here’s the details:

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancer causes of death for women in Africa, even though it is the most preventable! Worldwide, over 500,000 women are diagnosed, and more than 280,000 women die of cervical cancer, every year. Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer (PINCC) creates sustainable programs that prevent cervical cancer by educating women, training medical personnel, and equipping facilities in developing countries, utilizing proven, low cost, accessible technology methods.

Each walker or runner has a goal, sort of an optional minimum buy-in. If you don’t make it, that’s fine and you can still run, but if you do make it, or exceed, then you’re helping out a little more. The goal for runners is $250, and I hit that over the weekend, but surpassing the goal is great, too. The more money we raise, the more resources PINCC earns, and the closer we get to meeting the $25000 goal for the entire 5k. Competitors have raised around $9000 so far, so we’re a little under halfway there.

So, if you have the money and inclination, I’d appreciate it very much if you’d pledge for my run. I don’t have anything to offer you in exchange, though if you have ideas let me know, but the donations are tax deductible. I’d like to blow past the goal, personally; double or even triple it, but whatever we do is whatever we do, and every bit helps.

The run is on 9/21. You can check the site out and pledge on my page here. Thanks for whatever you can do.

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