This Week in Panels: Week 27

March 28th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Time for another installment of TWiP, which is almost late since I was too busy watching the All-American American Jack Swagger be awesome. Oh, and Shawn Michaels is apparently retiring too. But the Jack Swagger part is more important.

Amazing Spider-Man #626
Fred Van Lente and Michael Gaydos

The A-Team: Shotgun Wedding #2
Joe Carnahan, Tom Waltz and Stephen Mooney

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Black History Month ’09 #14: Simple, Ain’t It? But Quite Clever.

February 14th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I don’t read comics because of Jack Kirby, but I do enjoy them more than I would because of the ones he created.

There are a few hero pairs out there, groups like Superman/Steel, Captain America/Falcon, Iron Man/War Machine, Scott Free/Shilo Norman, Captain Marvel/Monica Rambeau, Hal Jordan/John Stewart, and maybe a few others. Generally, I’m talking about either the black replacement or the black sidekick.

madbombMost authors tend to set up a situation in which one hero is better than the other, sometimes even to the point where one hero defers to the other just based on stature. Other times, the black heroes are left to languish for years. John Stewart is kind of clearly the red-headed step child of the Green Lantern Corps, being the only one without regular panel time. Shilo Norman was in limbo for years and Monica Rambeau still hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s almost always a little off balance.

Kirby’s treatment of Captain America & the Falcon was pretty amazing. Even though Captain America is an icon and a war hero, their relationship was one based purely on friendship. Falcon wasn’t consumed with hero-worshipping Cap, nor was he just on sidekick status. They were just friends. They would hang out, do things together, and get into adventures. It was a buddy movie, rather than anything involving sidekicks.

I mentioned it last year, but Kirby invented Gabriel Jones, Black Panther, Flippa Dippa, Vykin the Black, Black Racer, Princess Zanda, and Mr. Miracle over the course of his career. I’m sure that he created more, but these characters alone are impressive. What Kirby did was push forward a diverse cast of characters. He was a guy who did the stories he wanted to tell, and those stories weren’t all-white.

In an email, Tucker Stone from The Factual Opinion said this to me:

Wouldn’t it be better if you hired a writer who pitched a black story because that’s the story he wanted to tell? I flat out refuse to believe that there’s nobody with one. There’s a million douches with fantasy stories about Power Girl. There’s somebody with a black Firestorm story. Wouldn’t you just be starting from a cleaner point? A point where you say, hey, this guy is black so fucking what. I have a story I want to tell. Instead, you get: this guy’s black now. Figure it out and make it work.

That’s what Kirby did. He wasn’t given an order to create a Black Superman or Black Firestorm. He just wrote about black characters because he thought it’d be a good story, not because there was a need for a New Diversity Initiative. No one in a board room was sitting over his shoulder, telling him to make his books ethnic or urban or whatever fake word we are using now to mean “black.” He wasn’t trying to fix anything. He wasn’t trying to be anti-racist.

He just did it because he wanted to.

That’s how it should work.

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Steve & Sam, BFFs

August 6th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I’m working on a post about black people in comics right now, but you’re going to have to live with this other post about the same thing for today. I have to put in some work on that other piece, because I think it deserves it.

This one is about Captain America & The Falcon.

This was originally one of my least favorite Kirby works, if only because Panther and the 4th World were full of big ideas and bigger executions. Cap & Falcon wasn’t as sexy as his other stuff. I’d always assumed it was just by-the-numbers superheroics. What’d I’d read of it years ago seemed like regular old superheroics. I thought it was just like his old Joe Simon Cap jawns.

It definitely has its high points, though. It’s essentially a high octane buddy movie. Cap & Falcon are two best friends who stay in the thick of battle. The art is pure Kirby– impossible poses, punches, and maneuvers. Those weird double fist uppercuts/body slams that throw people over your head, the amazing and impossible flips, and kirby krackle. All of it is in here.

What’s even more remarkable is how Kirby juxtaposed the mundane with the insane. Cap & Falcon has a black lead character, so Issues tend to come up sometimes. They have a discussion about slavery, Falcon distrusts the government, and so on.

You could easily paint Sam as the Angry Black Man, but that’s needlessly reductive. He’s conscious of the past, which makes him conscious of the future. You can either speak up or keep getting sand kicked in your face, right?

Throughout the book, whether his name is on the cover or not, Cap & Falcon are portrayed as equals. They fight together, live together, and come close to dying together. The people they meet treat them as equal threats. He isn’t the sidekick. He isn’t the Black Version Of Captain America Who Is Almost As Good As The Real Thing But Not Quite. He’s the partner. He’s the equal.

I’m kind of consistently amazed at the deft touch Kirby had when it came to black characters back in the day. It isn’t perfect, and the jive talk is pretty awkward (“It took two hundred years, Falcon… but this country’s grown up!” “Jive! It’s still trying, friend! I’ll stake my life on that!”), but Kirby pretty much sat down and did it better than some people do it now. He approached things from the right place, and I really appreciate that.

Really, though… Captain America & The Falcon can be summed up in one image. It’s an image of two best friends arm-wrestling on the kitchen table and talking smack before a mind ray zaps into the room and turns both of them crazy.

What, you thought I was kidding?

Later on, Henry Kissinger tells them to call him “Henny.” Some nights, Henny hits the bar and orders two Thug Passions. He pours one out for the homey Tupac and tosses the other back like it was nothing.

There’s so much to love about this series. Leila is awesome, but has disappeared down the same black hole as Glory Grant. I’d love to see her show up again, since last I remember, she was in Priest’s Cap & Falcon. I’ve talked about Kirby here, here, and here.

Jack Kirby is like Darwyn Cooke for me. I love them, but the work doesn’t exactly hit every month, so I tend to forget exactly how much I love them. And then I find, or remember, something they did and I realize that I’m a huge stan all over again.

Big ups to Chris from FBB for sparking this post thanks to an offhand image link and hilarious discussion.

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Stop, Drop, and Throw Dem Bows

June 14th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Courtesy of Pedro Tejeda at Funnybook Babylon, a piece on why Falcon being burned alive on the cover of Captain America 29 really isn’t that bad, dudes. Also, he calls me a “respected black man,” and I just cannot turn that down.

But, really, though, he makes some good points.

I personally feel that the reason, it went over our heads is a slightly more sinister one than us missing the malicious intent hidden in the cover. I hate the fact that a lot of people look at this cover and just see a black man on fire. In some cases, people don’t even mention Snap’s name at all. It’s as if no matter how much the character is developed, advanced in status, or just outright written, readers won’t be able to get past his skin color.

This is the catch-22 that lies at the heart of trying to fix comics. It can make people too cautious, and keep [group] safe and out of danger and… boring. It can be too overzealous and make [group] into a victim. Where is the middle ground? Is there one? That’s the question that everyone has to answer for themselves.

I really like Brian Azzarello’s Loveless. It’s a Reconstruction-era Western, with all that entails. The latest issue, the one that dropped this week, features kind of a lot of black dudes getting lynched and buried. A massacre is the centerpiece of the book. Men come into a township and murder every single able-bodied black male in front of their families. The families don’t even get to cut down the bodies.

It’s harsh and it’s ugly and it’s offensive… and it’s kind of a really good comic series. If I was a different person, I can pinpoint exactly what problems I’d have with the series and be right.

How’d I decide this? Why? I think it’s because I trust the writer to be better than what the story could be. I can point and say “Atticus is going to do this, this, and this” over the course of the next story arc to make this crime right. I don’t feel malicious intent in this, just an attempt to tell a story as it should be told.

“Where do you draw the line?” is something that you should think about, sometimes. Just realize that, a lot of the time, your reasons won’t be consistent or make sense.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: The Finale

March 28th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

I feel kind of silly making this article since it was supposed to be done months ago. There are several things that kept me from finishing it, but I’m going to take the easy way out. All the time I usually use to write these What If articles was really used to pretend I was writing for Lost. I love writing Sam the Butcher’s dialogue the most.

Starting it off, here’s a series of sig images I made for the Batman’s Shameful Secret sub-forum at Something Awful. I guess they worked.

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Deadshot’s Tophat and Other Beginnings: Av to Be

December 10th, 2006 Posted by Gavok


Uncanny X-Men #141 (1981)

Here we go with Avalanche’s first appearance, fighting alongside Mystique and her mutant terrorist squad. He had a scene earlier out of costume where he looked completely generic. It was one of those scenes that makes me wonder if it’s a law that whenever a supervillain team is introduced, all the members need to fight each other over something petty while showing off their powers.

“Nobody calls me that! Now I’m going to hypnotize you into thinking you’re a chicken!”

“Hey, leave him alone, ya creep! Eat heat rays!”

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 17

October 24th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

Sorry about that. Real life schedule sort of held me back for a bit. But I’m getting back into the swing of things and we’re almost done with this. Just a reminder for the artist types reading this, I could use your help.


Issue: Volume 2, #57
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Mike Harris
Spider-Man death: No
Background: There’s no exact turning point here. Frank Castle has always been on the run of the law. Every once and a while, he gets caught. In this story, while in prison, Frank meets Nick Fury. Nick has kept an eye on Frank and wants him to lead a SHIELD strike force. No more going after the petty dealers. Now he’ll be going after the top drug lords with weaponry Frank’s never imagined using. With a choice between that or spending the rest of his life in prison, Frank makes the right decision.

Wouldn’t you know it, Frank Castle has never had so much fun. With his hand-picked troops behind him, Frank goes after high profile villains he never thought he’d ever get a chance to go up against. We see as he and his boys go after the Yellow Claw and bomb his drug crop into oblivion. He actually seems far less cynical now, feeling that he’s actually in a war he can win.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 10

September 11th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

Before we hit the halfway point, things are about to get pretty freaking dark. Insert your own Luke Cage/Falcon/War Machine joke here.


Issue: Volume 2, #22
Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Ron Lim
Spider-Man death: No
Background: After turning on Galactus, Silver Surfer was punished by being forced to stay within Earth’s atmosphere. Whenever he tried to fly off, an invisible barrier would bounce him back in. Eventually, a powerful being named the Champion came to Earth and helped destroy the barrier, permitting the Surfer to travel the universe and experience more adventures. In this reality, the Champion never does come to Earth.

Surfer rams into the force field again and again, still annoyed. The Fantastic Four show up, explaining that they haven’t figured out an answer to what’s holding him back, scientifically. They ask the Surfer to join their team, since it’ll give him a home, something to do and having him around would help Reed’s research into how he could break through the barrier. The Surfer thinks about it and takes them up on the offer.

I don’t have to tell you that they dominated. We get a two-page spread that shows the Surfer aiding the other four in punking out Annihilus, Dr. Doom, the Frightful Four, and others. It’s like God Mode in comic book form. Plus we get this amusing image:

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Pride of a Panther: Top 5 Black Men

July 10th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

Dr Sivana shol is a smart 'un!So, anyone who spends any amount of time speaking to me tends to find out that I am very, very pro-black. There’s a song by dead prez that goes, “Thirty-one years ago I would’ve been a [Black] Panther.” This is so true in my case that I have actually gone back in time and helped found a chapter of the Black Panther Party in Brooklyn. I did this when I was a little older. Time travel is tricky, all right?

I was sitting here thinking, as us intellectual types are wont to do, and I’m not feeling the love, comics. You aren’t treating your black characters right. You call Jason Rusch, the new Firestorm, a token, an affirmative action quota kid, and all kinds of other nasty names. Bishop? Bishop had a perm. What kind of self-respecting, non-pimp black man wears a perm? Virgil “Static” Hawkins and his imprintmates at Milestone went the way of the dodo, despite being some of the best comics to come out of the ’90s. Static was the first Ultimate Spider-Man, if you get me. Don’t even get me started on the reaction to Captain America: Truth – Red, White, and Black, or the kind of glaring lack of writers of color at the big two.

It’s cool, though.Captain Marvel in Blackface Blacks in comics have come a long way. Luke Cage used to be a patently offensive stereotype, though he’s been pretty well gentrified now. Stepin Fetchits abounded during the early years of comics. Comics great Will Eisner even had his own little stereotypical black kid running around. Did we have it as bad as Chop-chop and Egg-fu? Well, yeah. Stereotypes, unless played very carefully, tend to be ugly, ugly things.

Anyway, this is all introduction to the meat of the matter. A lot of black heroes are wack, but there are some gems, too. For every Black Goliath there’s a Black Panther, dig? So check the list and let me know what you think. Read the rest of this entry �

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