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Yay, Viral Charity!

August 17th, 2014 Posted by | Tags:

I got nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. What can I do?

http://www.alsa.org/

Seriously, I was not going to ruin that gem of a shirt. Sorry about your retinas.

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Ghost in the Shell: an interrogation

August 13th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: ,

I’m really enjoying Claire Napier’s ongoing interrogation of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell property. There are three entries in Napier’s “Ghost in the Shell: The Major’s Body” thus far. The first focuses on the first film, the second on Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, and the third on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, a television series. Napier’s doing a kind of writing I like a lot, where she takes a close look at what the work is saying and figures out where she stands in relation to it. The subtext, the themes, the shots the animators choose to create versus how we perceive them…this is good stuff and well worth looking over.

Napier’s posts are extra-interesting to me, as a lapsed Ghost in the Shell fan. I remember watching the movie for the first time on VHS with a few family members, and I watched all of Stand Alone Complex, but it’s been years since I really dove into the franchise, if I ever did at all. Everything I consume now gets passed through a critical lens that I wasn’t capable of back then, so this works as both a trip down memory lane and the revelation of new data.

She asks a lot of questions or points out a lot of things I’d never thought about, like the subtext of the Major often being nude while her male coworkers are clothed. The thing I like the most, something that’s sprinkled throughout the posts so far, is the way she discovers meaning in small things. We all do it, and sometimes it’s derived from subtext (Yes, Superman IS the perfect dad you never had!) and sometimes it’s pure conjecture based on our own experiences intersecting with the text in different ways.

I really appreciate that kind of writing. When I was doing comics journalism/criticism on the reg, a lot of it was boiled down to The Work and The Work alone, thanks to deadline and market pressures. There’s not a lot of outlets that’d pay for those weird, personal, noodly projects and an even smaller audience is interested in reading them. But I cherish posts like that, because it’s like getting a shot directly from someone else’s brain. “This is what this means to me,” freed of any concern about explaining whether the subject is good or worth buying or whatever. It just is what it is.

“The Major’s Body” is particularly poignant for me, because I know Shirow’s work reasonably well, and like most of my friends, I’m disappointed that he’s descended fully into “galgrease” softcore pinups to appeal to otaku instead of the ground-breaking, thought-provoking, world-building comics he made his name on. Appleseed is amazing. A poster of a lady coated in baby oil embracing a dolphin? Much less amazing. So Napier’s thoughts on GitS and The Major join my thoughts on Shirow and galgrease, giving me more ammo to mull over and figure out.

That kind of enthusiasm and conversation is infectious. I watched the first part of Ghost in the Shell: Arise, a prequel series, the other night specifically because I saw these posts and wanted to brush up before reading them. I’m finally going to rewatch Stand Alone Complex now, just to see how it looks and feels with adult eyes.

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This Week in Panels: Week 255

August 11th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

255 Header

 

It’s time for another edition of This Week in Panels (Belated Version)! This week I’m joined by Gaijin Dan, Matlock, TheAnarChris, and Gavok.

Gavok and Matlock decided to have a fun time with Black Widow and Punisher this week. As best I can figure, the two comics are telling the same story, and so the panels from those two comics show the same thing but from different angles drawn by different artists. It’s fascinatingly fun.

I also picked up Superior Spider-Man for the first time ever this week, though I saw it less as purchasing an issue of Superior Spider-Man and more as purchasing a prologue to the upcoming Edge of Spider-Verse because that’s what it was pretty much billed as. They weren’t kidding, either. I don’t know how critical the issue will be when the ball gets rolling for real, but it definitely feels like this is where the event kicks off.

But enough of my yammering, let’s see some panels!

Action Comics Annual 3 [Matlock]

Action Comics Annual #3

(Greg Pak, Ken Lashley, Aaron Kude, Jack Herbert, Cliff Richards, Julius Gopez, Will Conrad, and Pascal Alixe)

angry birds 5 [Gavok]

Angry Birds Comics #5

(Paul Tobin, Corrado Mastuntuono and Dian Fayolle)

aqua others 5 [Gavok]

Aquaman and the Others #5

(Dan Jurgens and Lan Medina)

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Good Reading On The Internet

August 7th, 2014 Posted by |

Here’s what’s up:

-Everything We Love About Ultraviolence: I like the Strawberry Fields Whatever gang, and when Liz Barker goes “hey, wanna write about Lana Del Rey with me?” the only right answer is “yes, let’s do it.” So we did.

-Inkstuds on the Road – Part 12 Rob Liefeld: I loved Liefeld as a kid, hated on him as an adult, and now I’ve come back around to getting it. He’s a beast and this interview is pretty good. He talks a bit about his influences and how he works. He also talks about the influence Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed had on his work, proving yet again that Shirow is one of the best secret pass-phrases to find exciting people in comics.

-I got a tumblr question about nourishing future creators, and the short version of the answer is “Marvel and DC should be secondary or tertiary in that conversation at best.”

-The Garfunkel & Oates pilot is great:

-I only watched 9 movies in July, and only one of them was as good as Tranformers 4.

-Bauer Hour: the 24CAST.: I sit down with three of the best dudes in comics to talk about the best show on TV, the almighty 24, featuring Kiefer Sutherland, king of this counter-terror ish.

-Here’s Why Comic Con 2014 Was Actually Great For Comics: I donated 1300 words to io9 to talk about SDCC this year and why it was great. It’s bad business to donate anything to Gawker, but they’d run a pretty poor piece on the same subject and I got gassed up. It’s probably good reading, though. I like “That sounds like a Marvel & DC problem.” I might have to use that again.

-Diversity in Geekdom: I did an interview the Monday after SDCC about diversity and comics. I ended up getting cut for space reasons, but some of what I said are available as b-sides, sorta. Probably nothing you haven’t heard before, though!

More soon!

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This Week in Panels: Week 254

August 3rd, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , , ,

Welcome back to This Week in Panels, that weekly bit where we cut down comics with a chainsaw until only the most crucial panels remain to tell you everything you really need to know about them.

Helping me hack comics to pieces this week are Gaijin Dan, Matlock, and Gavok. All of us are armed and dangerous, but we’re really not much a threat as long as you don’t let us get in close.

As you might expect after last week, I saw Guardians of the Galaxy this week. The movie didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting, but I’m pretty sure that’s only because what I was expecting was pretty much impossible for any movie to live up to. It’s still right up there alongside Winter Soldier and Dark World to help Marvel’s Phase 2 kick Phase 1’s butt, and it is without a doubt by far the flat out funniest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date – I can’t think of another of Marvel’s movies that even comes close in the number of straight-up laugh out loud moments.

Gavok could back me up on that, too. He flat out said “Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet? Go see Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Provided he’s not too busy morning over Zilius Zox, at least.

But enough of that, it’s time for panels!

all new ghost rider 5 [Gavok]

All-New Ghost Rider #5 [Gavok's Pick]

(Felipe Smith & Tradd Moore)

All New Ghost Rider 5 [Matlock]

All-New Ghost Rider #5 [Matlock's Pick]

(Felipe Smith & Tradd Moore)

Aquaman Annual 2 [Matlock]

Aquaman Annual #2

(Jeff Parker & Alvaro Martinez)

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#selfiegocomiccon 2014

July 29th, 2014 Posted by |

Photo Jul 23, 20 28 09

I really enjoy looking at selfies, but I’m bad at them myself. I think it’s a confidence thing. I feel uncomfortable being in the spotlight and the center of attention. I had braces as a kid, then my gap grew back and a tooth came in crooked, so I smile with my mouth closed now. I’m not too into my smile, so looking at my photos always feels a little awkward. As a result, my instagram is mostly pictures of things and other people.

Photo Jul 23, 12 44 29

This is something I think about a lot, because selfies remind me of running around with a disposable camera as a kid, a toy that usually didn’t get developed for years at a time. I like selfies because it feels very carefree and positive and confident on behalf of the selfie-taker. I respect that a lot, that ability to just put yourself out there, but I balk when it comes to doing it myself.

Photo Jul 24, 10 11 03 Photo Jul 24, 8 40 10

I talk with a few friends about fear a lot. Being afraid to do something new, afraid to finish something, afraid to make a decision. We haven’t talked about being afraid of selfies, but honestly? I think I’m afraid of selfies. My lack of confidence results in an inability to think I can take worthwhile pictures of myself. Fear was a big running theme as a kid at church, too. “God did not give me a spirit of fear,” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” these were mantras that were meant to keep you confident and honest. It was a signifier that fear was an outside imposition, and that we are bigger than fear. Fear is an impediment.

Photo Jul 26, 15 43 31 Photo Jul 26, 15 32 32

Cue #selfiegocomiccon.

Photo Jul 25, 14 44 38 Photo Jul 25, 9 44 16

I went into San Diego Comic-Con with one thought in mind: I can do this. I had to do my day job of proofing and approving books at the printer, and I had to do my con job, which was running or being on seven panels, assisting on signings, and general troubleshooting. It made my schedule very, very tight. I spent maybe half an hour walking the show to see things each day, spread out into five or ten minute increments, before rubber-banding back to the booth or to a panel. My day job had to get done, too, so I was up early and in bed late almost every day of the show to get things done. If I’m behind on my job, my coworkers get behind on their job, so I made sure they had what they needed before the gig opened for business each day.

Photo Jul 26, 8 05 22 Photo Jul 25, 15 29 20

It was tough, and I knew it would be tough. My plan was to balance that toughness with tactical hangouts, maximizing my enjoyment and seeing people I see rarely or whose company I enjoy a whole lot. It worked. I had a great time.

Photo Jul 24, 20 41 42 Photo Jul 24, 16 00 02

My friend Dennis “Edison Rex” Culver, pictured above in a third-person selfie taken by a mutual friend, coined #selfiegocomiccon. I was at a dinner with him and some very good friends, we were all dressed up, and I don’t even remember how it came up, but we needed to record it not for posterity, but for us, because we’re beautiful people who do dope things. So after dinner, in a nearly empty restaurant, we did a round-robin photoshoot, where everybody got photos with each other and we took photos in various groups. We tagged it #selfiegocomiccon, and sometimes #selfiegocomicon.

Photo Jul 26, 15 25 06 Photo Jul 26, 14 04 18

I’d already planned to instagram each outfit I wore each day, which would be selfies, but I decided to directly address my fear by going all in on #selfiegocomiccon. I took a bunch of selfies with my wonderful friends, but I also reached out to strangers. I reached out to cosplayers and also one statue at the 2000AD booth.

I respect cosplayers. I don’t have the confidence to put myself out there like that. I don’t have the patience to carefully put together a costume, either. I recognize the hustle and I respect it. So I wanted to demonstrate it a little. I make it a point to talk to cosplayers at the show and hook them up at signings or give them some of my time if they want it. This year, I stepped toward ultra-casual cosplay. I put together a couple outfits that were directly inspired by things I liked, but not necessarily 100%. I love Monkey Punch’s Lupin the 3rd and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, so I attended the show in clothes reminiscent of Lupin and Kaneda (specifically the pink polo & white pants), but with modifications made for comfort and style.

Photo Jul 26, 18 50 10 Photo Jul 26, 16 00 23

I figured I could draft off their enthusiasm and confidence and steal some for myself, even as I figured out the mechanical aspects of taking selfies (I have long arms, which helps, but you know. There’s angles to this ish.) and learning to if not appreciate, at least accept, my smile. And I did a lot of smiling. I mean, I smile all the time, I feel like, but now there’s a record of me actively smiling. That’s appreciably different. Doing it vs knowing you’re doing it/doing it intentionally. Also I could take pictures of people dressed like cartoon characters I like a lot.

Photo Jul 26, 18 55 20 Photo Jul 26, 18 53 52

That was a big part of another decision I made at the show, which was breaking comfort zones. I’m comfortable, but I’m in a rut. I’m not branching out enough. So I made a bunch of decisions I normally wouldn’t, up to and including wearing a bunch of colors I usually don’t. White pants and white shirt? Whooof…okay. Yellow shirt? Cripes, man. Fine. But I did it, and people dug it. Which was very nice.

What helped me out in a big way was something that happened on the first proper day of the show. I was wearing my Lupin getup, a black shirt over black pants and a powder blue tie. A Lupin cosplayer came into the booth to poke around, and it was like serendipity. I asked for a selfie, she was like “yeah!” and we were off at the races. It helped me out a lot, like a good omen or something. It felt good.

Photo Jul 27, 10 44 57 Photo Jul 27, 9 07 00

If you’re afraid of something…just do it. I was at a basketball tourney over the 4th of July weekend and on the wall was the phrase “NO EXCUSE. JUST PRODUCE.” That’s real talk. No matter what the project is, no matter how daunting, one thing is always true: Ain’t nothing to it but to do it. For me, it was doing selfies until I got over myself and felt comfortable, and then good about it. The support of my friends and passion from cosplayers, who were very kind with their time as I figured out angles and whatnot, helped me over that hump.

As a bonus, here’s a song I like from Space Dandy and a picture of me and fellow Lumberjerk Chris Sims as Sailors Mars and Moon:

Photo Jul 27, 11 41 20

Selfie tips appreciated.

#selfiegocomiccon forever.

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“Diversity Marketing”

July 28th, 2014 Posted by |

The other week I lost my temper and said some stuff about Marvel’s announcements of Captain America and Thor, who are replacing White Captain America and Dude Thor. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, mulling it over, because it’s been pretty inescapable.

I like Marvel’s characters. I think that much is obvious. I like the creators, too. I might quibble with some story details, but big whoop. That’s the smallest thing ever, “I don’t like this specific aspect of a comic that isn’t being written for me.” No me importa, basically. But it’s the marketing that’s killing me, and I think I figured out why.

Marvel’s making moves to increase the character diversity in their books, and drawing ire from the usual gang of idiots. Which I’m all for, even though I’m way more for creator diversity, and believe is a good thing. But the thing that’s grating is that instead of putting the work out on its own merits and marketing it about how great it is, a lot of the conversation around it has been about the basics that hate it.

I’ve been seeing Marvel folks, mostly white dudes but not entirely, retweet or address or bring up racists and scumbags and sexists while pushing their books, positioning themselves as taking a stand against these people talking trash.

They’re hijacking hate to a certain extent, in the Situationist sense, and are using it to market their comics. The new black Captain America, the new lady Thor, both of these announcements were followed, within minutes, by people talking about the people who are hating on the project. “Big ups to all my haters!” is such a soft position, because it positions you as good because these other people are worse.

On top of that, it also colors the reaction to the announcement. If you disagree with whatever for genuine reasons, but you phrase it as “I don’t like that the Falcon is Captain America,” the reaction to that is now tilted heavily toward “Oh, what’re you, racist?” instead of it being something more reasonable. By putting those people front and center, by tweeting about them and giving interviews about how you won’t change the project no matter the response because you believe in your stuff, you’re…it’s not ham-stringing criticism, but it’s definitely preempting it, in a way.

And I think that’s the gross part. I spend a lot of time consciously pushing back against the messages society tells me about being black. The unworthiness, the laziness, the dumbness…all of it’s fake. But I have to stay on the ball, I have to keep Black Is Beautiful in the front of my mind, because black IS beautiful, and it always has been, and it always will be.

But I remember being in kindergarten and getting called nigger on the playground. I remember fachas screwing with me and my friends in Spain. I remember getting followed around stores, people looking at me like I don’t belong, and getting ignored when trying to do my job because there’s a white dude next to me who people assume is the boss of me. This weekend I got confused for a few other black dudes in comics who I don’t even resemble, and it stings every time.

And I think it’s messed up to see somebody who doesn’t know that pain harness it to sell some comics. That’s what’s been grossing me out, that’s what I haven’t been able to properly articulate. It’s the corporate version of dudes crowing about how feminist they are, like being a decent human being means they deserve groupies. “One episode of The Wire, what you know about dope?” right? And I feel like Marvel gets it on a certain level, and they certainly employ people who get it, but they don’t get it yet.

Somebody calling you a nigger ain’t a badge of honor. You don’t show off your gunshot wounds. You don’t crow about how people hate you in the name of making yourself look good. You let the dead bury the dead and leave the garbage men in the rear view or in the ground. They should not matter to you or me not nary an inch.

That’s why it feels like diversity-as-marketing to me. The creative teams are killer, and I like that Marvel is putting the full weight of their machine behind these books. I respect the people creating the comics. But I can’t take seeing people be proud of getting hated on in a way that doesn’t hurt them but forces me to think about how crap and dangerous it is to be black (or anything else) and alive in America in 2014.

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This Week in Panels: Week 253

July 28th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ooga Chaka

Ooga, Ooga, Ooga Chaka

Ooga, Ooga, Ooga Chaka

Ooga, Ooga, Ooga Chaka

 

It’s This Week in Panels! That weekly thing where we…take single comic panels for… summarizing.

I’m feeling real hyped right now…for a certain movie….Guardians of the Galaxy…believe it, it’s a thing!

 

Alright, that’s probably gone on long enough. Helping keep this column full of panels this week are Gavok – the Thief, Space Jawa – the Thug, Gaijin Dan – the Assassin, and Matlock – the Maniac.

And now it’s time to get hooked on some panels.

 

afterlife with archie 6 [Gavok]

 

Afterlife with Archie #6

(Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla)

all new invaders 8 [Gavok]

All-New Invaders #8 (Gavok’s Pick)

(James Robinson & Steve Pugh)

All New Invaders 8 [Matlock]

All-New Invaders #8 (Matlock’s Pick)

(James Robinson & Steve Pugh)

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CHIKARA vs. The Flood: Wrestling with a Kill Count

July 27th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , ,

Last weekend, I took a trip to New York City to watch a CHIKARA show. Between that and the Boston show that followed, CHIKARA has done six shows since their return announcement at February’s National Pro Wrestling Day. CHIKARA likes to focus on overarching storylines every season and in this one, it’s about CHIKARA vs. a massive villain group called the Flood. Wrestling has had many, many good stable vs. evil stable storylines – CHIKARA specially – but there are two things that make this specific one unique.

First, the Flood isn’t just a stable. It’s a super stable made up of other stables like Devastator from Transformers. Or, to keep the nerd references going, it’s like the Secret Society of Supervillains from DC Comics circa Infinite Crisis. It’s several dozen bad guys from CHIKARA’s past banded together under one banner. I don’t even know if there were this many members of the nWo at any single point.

Second, this war actually has a body count. Going with the comic book nature of CHIKARA’s storytelling, they’re actually killing off wrestlers like it was an event comic. Kind of. For the most part, they aren’t outright saying “dead,” but they are heavily insinuating it.

That’s pretty cool to me because as much as I love a cool stable angle, once it starts going it can be really hard to figure out a satisfying ending. It usually just peters out, the heel team turns against each other, or they do some kind of, “If they lose, they have to break up forever,” stipulation. Even the popular BDK storyline only came to an end because two members burned their bridges with the company, one member got signed by WWE, one left wrestling in general, one turned face, one was written off for health reasons and one wasn’t local enough for the full-time schedule.

The big story from mid-2013 to mid-2014 was that CHIKARA was simply kaput. The corrupt owners Titor Conglomerate ended the company and the workers headed off into a handful of far-less-popular offshoots. CHIKARA guy Icarus started a grassroots campaign to get Titor to sell the rights off while the offshoot promotions were systematically crushed by old heel factions out to destroy what was left of the company until Icarus united the CHIKARA faithful against the Flood at National Pro Wrestling Day and announced the return of CHIKARA.

During that time off, the promotion Wrestling is Fun had a ten-man tag match featuring future Flood members Oleg the Usurper, Max Smashmaster, Blaster McMassive, Flex Rumblecrunch and Jaka. Their opponents were no match for them, but what nobody saw coming was what Oleg did to fan-favorite Dragon Dragon.

My God! That’s barbaric!

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The Seven Most Important Panels at SDCC 2014

July 23rd, 2014 Posted by |

THURSDAY, 2:00, Room 23ABC: I IS FOR INFINITY, featuring Nick Dragotta, Rick Remender, Richard Starkings, Jason Latour, Stuart Moore, Ryan Burton, and a few special guests I can’t name yet! This is about the infinite genres comics can do.

THURSDAY, 7:00, Room 23ABC: Hip-Hop & Comics: Cultures Combining, featuring Murs, Mix Master Mike, Kenny Keil, and a few others. It’s about…it’s bout it bout it.

FRIDAY, 11:00, Room 23ABC: I IS FOR INCEPTION, featuring Fiona Staples, Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky, Kelly Sue DeConnick, John Layman, Steve Seagle, and a couple of special guests who do dope work. This one’s about collaboration, and there’s a cover reveal in here. Whose? SHOW UP.

SATURDAY, 1:00, Room 7AB: SAGA, featuring Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I’m not moderating this one, but I’ll probably be present or on A/V duty.

SATURDAY, 4:30, Room 6DE: I IS FOR IDEAS, featuring Scott Snyder, Josh Williamson, Kyle Higgins, Joe Kelly, Brian K Vaughan, and a few special guests. There’s a cool announcement at this one, so come through.

SATURDAY, 7:00, Room 23ABC: Best and Worst Manga of 2014, featuring Deb Aoki, Brigid Alverson, and Chris Butcher. I love this panel—I respect these folks so much. This is the one where I tell you your favorite manga sucks and my favorite manga rules.

SUNDAY, 2:00, Room 7AB: I IS FOR INNOVATION, featuring Amy Reeder, Chris Burnham, Tula Lotay, and some Expo guests who are particularly ferocious storytellers are on deck. This one’s about being an artist in comics, storytelling, and making some good comics.

When I’m not at these, I’ll be at booth 2729, putting out fires and busting heads.

For the Image panels—I brought some random #1s with me. Ask a question, get a free comic, probably of my choosing. I’ve got some Shaky Kanes in here, so stay woke. It’s a random selection of books, but you might get lucky. I’ll have digital codes for a free comic on imagecomics.com falling out my pockets, too. I’ll be the dressed up black dude. Come say hey.

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