“Futures End”: An Arc That Matters (?)

There’s been a lot of mumbling and grumbling about the Internet in regard to The New 52: Futures End and how it will ultimately affect the greater DC multiverse. Many have been complaining about how it is yet another in a long line of “What If”/”Elseworld”-type possible future stories that doesn’t really matter. However, in the narrative of Futures End, let’s not forget that the main premise (outside of myriad other mini-divergences) is that Terry McGinnis is sent back from a dystopia forty years in the future where Brother Eye has taken over the horrible stinkin’ world. Terry goes mistakenly to 2018 (“5 years later”) instead of earlier in order to stop Brother Eye and prevent his horrible future from happening. The world of “5 years later” that Terry winds up in shows a post Earth 2 War scenario where things are very different from 2013/2014—and dystopian in many ways as well. But let’s not forget that the REAL dystopia in question–the possible future that must be avoided and the one that Terry will likely erase is NOT the “world of 5 years later” but the “world of 40 years later.” The “world of 40 years later” exists because Brother Eye (obviously with Brainiac’s help or stolen tech) took over the world AFTER everything that led up to “5 years later” HAD ALREADY HAPPENED. In fact, we will supposedly see what specifically leads to the “world of 5 years later” in the upcoming weekly Earth 2 mega-saga.

Futures End #12. THIS is the possible future that Terry McGinnis wants to/will erase. Fine by me.

Futures End #12. THIS is the possible future that Terry McGinnis wants to/will erase. Fine by me.

Batwing: Futures End. On the other hand, Terry McGinnis doesn't have ANY problem with a future where Batman Inc building an underground prison on Dinosaur Island is a possibility. And neither do I!

Batwing: Futures End. On the other hand, Terry McGinnis doesn’t have ANY problem with a future where Batman Inc building an underground prison on Dinosaur Island is a possibility. And neither do I!

So, to reiterate, Futures End doesn’t seem like the one-off “What If” alternate/possible future arc throwaway. Why would DC devote over 100 issues of material to something that was throwaway? (I know, I know, we’ve heard it ad nauseum that DiDio is crazy and doesn’t share the same vision as the fans, etc… etc…, but seriously, folks, I won’t believe that this is throwaway garbage until I see it morph into throwaway garbage before my very own eyes.) The throwaway future that is chopping block fodder for a superhero narrative of this nature is the cyborg Brother Eye dystopia 40 years later, NOT the Futures End 5 years later. Terry has no aims to undo the Earth 2 War or anything that has occurred in the blank time between 2013/2014 and 2018. Unless this really is utter bullshit on the behalf of DC’s gimmicky editorial team, then “5 years later” is canon. I hope the “5 year later” we’ve been shown in Futures End really is canon because it’s also a fairly bold vision, decently written, well-illustrated, and quite structurally cohesive as far as weekly comics go. (In fact, I find it much more sensical and enjoyable than its other weekly competitor Batman Eternal.)

There has also been a lot of Web hubbub made about the fact that DC’s three weekly mega-arcs (Futures End, Earth 2, and Batman Eternal) all will wrap-up conveniently at the exact same time next year. The publishing of Multiversity and the Anti-Monitor’s appearance in Justice League both getting thrown into the mix recently also seem to hint at something major coming up in regard to continuity and the overall line. I won’t speculate, especially since the last thing I want to do is enter the deep dark minds of the DC brain-trust—what a scary place that must be. But I will end by saying that if all of these items aligning together here-and-now hint at something big coming up in 2015, then my immediate questions, and the whole reason for this post, are: What is Futures End leading up to? And, bluntly, what IS Futures End?

In conclusion, many fans are clearly fed up with the direction of DC Comics lately. (Just read any comments section on CBR or Newsarama these days.) The New 52 reboot started off pretty ugly in the first two years or so, so folks still reading (out of loyalty, addiction, or whatever) are either ready to jump-off or desperately ready to be satiated with something good. With a brilliant wrap-up on All Star Western and brand new titles coming out like Gotham Academy, the new costumed Batgirl, and even what should be Gail Simone’s triumphant redemptive return in Secret Six, DC is in a prime position to deliver on the promise of what the New 52 was supposed to have been in the first place—something fresh, thrilling, positive, and truly game-changing. But even my patience is wearing thin too. One of the reasons I love DC Comics so much is because I’ve always felt that it, as opposed to other companies, has the most POTENTIAL as far as characters, universes, and history. Right now, that potential is at a level it hasn’t been at in a while and it’s ready to either crash or crest. Not to mix metaphors, but here’s to hoping that the creative think-tank in the executive offices in Burbank know how to take the ball and punch it into the end-zone.



Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Is There a New 52 Editorial Mandate Against Batcave Trophies?

Forever Evil #4: The Bachelor Pad

Forever Evil #4: The Bachelor Pad

Just a bit of speculation on my part, but have you all noticed that the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the giant penny are no longer being shown in any comics? Across the board—whether it is Batman Eternal, Detective Comics, Batman/Superman, Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, or Justice League—the classic dinosaur and penny trophies haven’t been shown in months. Despite multiple artists renditions of the Batcave in each of these titles, the dino and the penny haven’t been drawn in the Batcave since Forever Evil and the immediate Forever Evil follow-up Nightwing #30—in an issue where the large dice trophy and giant question mark are both curiously destroyed during a sparring session between Bruce and Dick.
Nightwing Vol. 3 #30. Gratuitous trophy smashing. For graphic effect? Or an actual editorial sign that these trophies are being done away with?

Nightwing Vol. 3 #30. Gratuitous trophy smashing. For graphic effect? Or an actual editorial sign that these trophies are being done away with?

And in the most recent issue of Superman Unchained (issue #7), Scott Snyder has the villain WRAITH attack Batman in the Batcave. Almost symbolically, during the epic movie-like battle, the penny, dinosaur, and giant playing card are destroyed! I’m not sure where exactly Snyder’s Superman Unchained arc fits into continuity yet—I was thinking well before Forever Evil, but maybe that isn’t the case? Maybe this is Snyder wiping the slate clean so to speak.

Superman Unchained #7. Will Superman straighten out that penny in issue #8? Or is the tragic loss of a rare Phil Kane sculpture?

Superman Unchained #7. Will Superman straighten out that penny in issue #8? Or is this the tragic loss of a rare Phil Kane sculpture?

Superman Unchained #7. The T. Rex goes extinct? Or will we see his snarling robot face again? Superman Unchained #7. The T. Rex goes extinct? Or will we see his snarling robot face again?[/caption]

In all previous continuities, Batman had hundreds (if not thousands) of trophies littering the Batcave. In the more-serious era of the New 52, Batman’s only trophies have been the giant penny, the T. Rex, the giant question mark, the giant dice, the giant playing card (which Batman actually made himself), and some weird alien things in aquarium tubes (but the latter is minor compared to the main five). That’s it. So, if you combine Superman Unchained and Nightwing #30, ALL MAIN FIVE of the New 52 Batcave trophies are done away with. (One slight caveat: Worlds’ Finest #19 does show the T. Rex and likely goes after Forever Evil. However, it was released well before the publication of Forever Evil‘s conclusion, Nightwing #30, and Superman Unchained #7.)

Could there have been an editorial mandate to eliminate the colorful trophies from the Batcave? I’m not saying that the elimination of the iconic items like the T. Rex or the penny is necessarily bad or good. I’m sure purists would hate the idea. Those playing Devil’s Advocate would probably say that the items have little to no bearing on what is currently going on in Batman canon. Others, still, will say that these missing items could reappear anytime (just like dead heroes and villains)—either simply just by reappearing without a word addressing that they were absent in the first place OR with the offscreen “retcon” that they were repaired and re-displayed. My interest lies mainly in the fact that no one seems to have noticed these disappearing trophies. (Or no one cared enough to notice.) But if it is true—that a mandate was made to get rid of ‘em—I’m more curious as to why? Do you guys and gals think that we’ve entered a new phase in the history of Batman comics where trophies aren’t a part of the mythos? Does a Batcave sans throwback cornball-era T. Rex and penny make more sense for 2014? In either case, how do you feel about it? Or is this a conspiracy theory that is incorrect or not even worth discussion? Shout at me!

Oh, and if you haven’t already, LIKE us on Facebook!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Meet the Guardians and see the movie critics are calling the “Best Marvel Movie Ever.”

Meet the Guardians and see the movie critics are calling the “Best Marvel Movie Ever.”



Get tickets to see it starting August 1st!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gail Simone’s Batgirl: The Curious Case of Continuity Criminality

COMING THIS FALL... Batgirl New 52 2.0. A welcome change brought to you by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. Here is why I am especially excited for this lovely new direction...

COMING THIS FALL… Batgirl New 52 2.0. A welcome change brought to you by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. Here is why I am especially excited for this lovely new direction…

I’m over-the-moon with excitement for the new Batgirl creative team that is coming in the Fall. Brenden Fletcher says that the new team will inject a bit of Veronica Mars and Sherlock into the title! Can’t wait. But I’m not just excited about the narrative and visual shift. I’m also excited about the CONTINUITY SHIFT! In case you haven’t been following my project or closely reading the entire DC New 52 line like I have, you might not have known that Gail Simone’s run thus far on Batgirl has been a continuity nightmare the likes of which I haven’t seen in decades. To be fair, editors Katie Kubert and Mike Marts (and Mark Doyle) are probably just as much to blame, if not more than Simone. No one really seems to care about the problems, though, and this is probably likely due to the fact that no one is really reading Simone’s book anymore. And this is unfortunate because Batgirl is a great character (when handled well).

Let’s break down how Simone, Kubert, et al have exactly erred. First off, Simone has now scribed 33 issues of Batgirl, the entire run of the fourth volume so far, all except for issue #25. This is a run that began in September 2011 and continues on into the present. We are going on three years real time and, according to the entire DC line, nearly two-and-a-half years in-story time (narratively speaking).

Batgirl #28

Batgirl #28

In Batgirl #28 (published April 2014), Simone states outright that Batgirl #1 through Batgirl #28 comprises a mere “few month” time period. This is INSANE. Twenty-eight issues equaling a “few months”? I’ve read the stories and done the chronological math. And no matter what, Batgirl #1 has to take place a month or so before X-Mas 2012—(Christmas is a big part of the narrative in Batgirl #4-6). That means Simone was trying to retroactively compress her entire #1-28 run from a FULL CALENDAR YEAR into a “few months.” No way, Jose. Even if we were to place Batgirl #4-6 around X-Mas 2011 (where I originally incorrectly had it on my timeline), it still makes references to Bruce’s gentrification project from Batman #1, which would be premature by nearly a year. (Bruce’s gentrification project isn’t fully fleshed out until either late 2012 or early 2013, in-story time.)

Batgirl #32. Also, have you noticed how Fernando Pasarin's disgustingly rendered facial expressions all look exactly the same on each character? Seriously, it looks like everyone's face is getting sucked into a vortex that starts at the tip of the nose. But I digress...

Batgirl #32. Also, have you noticed how Fernando Pasarin’s disgustingly rendered facial expressions all look exactly the same on each character? Seriously, it looks like everyone face is getting sucked into a vortex that starts at the tip of the nose. But I digress…

And guess what? Simone, Kubert, and Marts keep on committing continuity crimes! In the most recent issues of Batgirl, issues #32-33, there are some heinous continuity errors. Batgirl #33 specifically takes place after James Junior meets with his dad in Blackgate in Batman Eternal #13. However, Batgirl #33 takes place right after Batgirl #33. The problem here is that Simone tells us that the linked Batgirl #32-33 occurs roughly TEN DAYS after Batgirl #24, in which Jim Gordon shoots Ricky Gutierrez. This is nuts. Batgirl #24 is a part of the “Wanted Arc” that is linked to Batgirl #23, which occurs at the latest way back in September (in-story time). This means Batgirl #32-33 must be at minimum THREE to THREE-AND-A-HALF MONTHS after Ricky gets shot. TEN DAYS, Gail! TEN DAYS!?!?

With this added flub, Simone has made it so that her arc comprising issues #1-34 supposedly only spans about four months tops. However, because Batgirl is interacting in a shared universe (Simone herself even references other titles quite frequently!) the actual amount of time that passes between issue #1 and issue #34 has to be minimum over ONE FULL YEAR. Let’s look at this another way and if it’s not clear by now, it certainly will be. Batgirl #1 takes place around November 2012. According to Simone, Batgirl #34 takes place around March 2013. This already seems totally fucked. This means Simone wants us to believe that the following all occur in three months’ time: the entire “Court of Owls Saga,” “Death of the Family” arc, Batman Incorporated Vol. 2, “Throne of Atlantis” arc, “Natalya Trusevich death” arc, Superman Unchained, multiple Detective Comics arcs, multiple Batman/Superman arcs, multiple Batwing arcs, multiple Birds of Prey arcs, “Gothtopia,” multiple Justice League arcs, “Trinity War,” Forever Evil, Forever Evil aftermath arcs, “First Contact,” and the first 13 issues of Batman Eternal. I’ve made a timeline. This is easily (and specifically) over a year’s worth of narrative. And every arc and title seems to accommodate and work with the other stories accompanying it in the overall timeline. That is, every arc and title EXCEPT for Gail Simone’s Batgirl.

Batgirl #1

Batgirl #1

But that’s not all, folks. Even before issue #1 we’ve got problems. Simone gives us the history of Batgirl’s paralysis and recovery and things ain’t right either. As stated in Batgirl Vol. 4 #1 and Batgirl Vol. 4 #14, Barbara Gordon miraculously recovers from her paralysis (only weeks after receiving a radical mystery treatment in a special South African clinic). Simone goes further, telling us that Babs’ full recovery happens almost exactly three years after becoming paralyzed. This, howver, cannot be true. The most amount of time there could have possibly been is just shy of TWO YEARS. The New 52 timeline is greatly shortened. Four Robins in five years, plus a Batgirl squeezed in for good measure. If Babs was Batgirl for a year, as Simone also tells us (in issue #0), and then quits for an indeterminate amount of time and then gets paralyzed for three years, we are talking nearly five years’ worth of time before her return! The only way that works is if Batgirl debuts before the first Robin, which is ludicrous!

When Simone says “three years of paralysis, 3 years ago” in Batgirl #1, she is writing from December 2012 (in-story time), which is “2 YEARS of paralysis, 2 YEARS AGO.” Either Simone messed-up and said “3 years” instead of “2 years” OR she messed-up by not realizing that other writers would insert Batgirl into continuity prior to her use of the character. The problem here, again, is that Simone delivers specific information without regard to the fact that other writers use Batgirl (chronologically) before she does. To extrapolate upon this even further, we can look at the fact that Batgirl appears in Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics, and I Vampire definitively MONTHS BEFORE her supposed re-debut shortly before X-Mas time 2012, as Simone implies directly states.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Simone’s Batgirl is a worse violator of continuity than any other New 52 book thus far. And this includes the works of Tomasi, Morrison, Tynion, et al—who simply refuse to play by the rules but are vague enough that things tend to work out anyway. Simone, on the other hand, not only definitively ignores all the events of the DCU that are going on around her own title, but even frustratingly violates her own internal narrative time and time again.

Batgirl #32. You SHOULD be sorry!

Batgirl #32. You SHOULD be sorry!

For the life of me, I just can’t understand it. Simone has written some really cohesive and brilliant work in the past—Secret Six and Birds of Prey come to mind. I’ve never known Simone (and editors) to stray so far from the collaborative effort. Not only that, but the overall feel/energy of the title has been unimpressive and lackluster—but that is the subject of a wholly different article. I know that Simone has stated that it was difficult to work with Kubert and Marts, but the last couple issues have been under new editor Doyle. While the positive energy has lifted a little bit, the continuity errors continue. This entry might’ve seemed like a pointless rant, but since my project deals primarily with issues of continuity, this stuff has great bearing upon what I do and how I do it. Managing TIME is fundamental to the artistic craft of storytelling. Time and a clear delivery of the way time flows within your narrative allows for your characters to grow, to learn, to reflect, to feel joy, to feel loss, to build relationships, and to DEVELOP. Without a clear sense of time or an order for time (whether it is straightforward, backwards, or nonlinear), the story itself begins to lose credibility and impact. How time and order (i.e. continuity) are handled by a creator will ultimately determine the strength of a story and the strength of the characters populating the story world in which they live. It is because of these constant problems, ever since Simone rebooted in September 2011, that Batgirl has been a failure both critically and in regard to how it jibes with the rest of the company line. Hopefully with the new creative team, Batgirl will get the shot in the arm that she deserves.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On “Batman Eternal #11″ and Feminism in Superhero Comics

"Batman Eternal #11" by Tim Seeley (et al) & Ian Bertram, 2014.

“Batman Eternal #11″ by Tim Seeley (et al) & Ian Bertram, 2014.

I don’t usually write reviews, and if I do it is more of a commentary or analysis. I am also generally down on reviewing single issues, especially since they are taken out of the context of the whole arc. After all, we don’t judge a whole season of television based upon one or two episodes. (Although I do understand that we don’t mainly because TV seasons function much differently than continuously ongoing comic book narratives.) However, I was so delighted by Batman Eternal #11, I thought I would do a short write-up about it.

Overall, the narrative is well-paced and the framing cemetery scene works like a charm as a lead-in and a lead-out. The details in this issue go a long way to continue hooking me into the ongoing arc, despite the fact that several major plot points are put on hold.

But Batman Eternal #11 isn’t perfect by any means. Having the “fathers” theme permeate an issue all about female characters is a tough one-shot to write, especially for a team of male writers. Twenty pages about female characters having “daddy issues?” Hmmm—that sounds problematic already. It’s hard to script a version of events that don’t ostensibly take some agency away from the female protagonists if they are dealing with emotional paternal issues that seem to either outweigh or drive the physical actions they take. That does happen in this story to a certain extent. What also complicates things is that Gail Simone has already re-written a Batgirl that is very involved-with and bound-to her father in the New 52. Similarly, this has always been Stephanie Brown’s lot. Having Jason and company put a leash on Batgirl doesn’t help matters for her characterization as a competent female hero either. For Catwoman, her ties to daddy Falcone have long been hinted at in the old continuity, but this issue seems to cement it in the New 52. (Although, there could always be a swerve coming and Falcone might be a bit of misdirection—the letter is simply signed “Your Father.”) No matter who Catwoman’s pop might be, I’d argue that Catwoman walks away from this issue the strongest though—with her “I don’t need a daddy” line seemingly giving her agency back (if we decide to read that line as truly empowering).

But guess what? I’m not here to trash this title. In spite of these aforementioned pitfalls, I would argue that the overall narrative is actually a gallant effort at writing a legitimate feminist piece of superhero literature. Whether it succeeds or not is up for debate, but the idea of the hunky Brazilian TV star Gonzolo Dominguez as the object of the “female gaze” certainly speaks to the idea that the writers were attempting to say something in a cheeky feminist vein.

Gonzolo Dominguez, the sex object.

Gonzolo Dominguez, the sex object.

Furthermore, while some things in the text don’t work as well as others, the idea that comes through resoundingly to me is the idea to show strong humanized female characters who poorly relate to their fathers. There will always be complex ways to read superhero comics that have female characters powering through a male-dominated world. I’m not sure if the written parts of Batman Eternal #11 truly showcase the women of the Batverse in the shiniest of possible light. BUT, I’d argue that the written parts mostly do. A feminist portrayal that falls flat is still leagues better than the usual outright sexist trash that we normally see in comics today. As part of my defense, I challenge you to recall all of Laurie’s “daddy issue” stuff from the always mega-praised and regarded-as-flawless Watchmen. I think Batman Eternal #11 handles the idea of father-and-daughter relationships much more gracefully. But even if Batman Eternal #11‘s attempts at feminist commentary still don’t live up to our/your standards, Batman Eternal #11 DOES undoubtedly serve as a perfect case-study for a positive feminist statement through IAN BERTRAM’s ART.

This is what a REAL woman looks like.

Scorpiana in the flesh.

Man, oh man. This brilliant art. Ian Bertram. Where do I even begin? Before going into its feminist qualities, let’s examine the style. Some have called it a mash-up of Chris Burnham and Frank Quitely. I think that is the highest compliment, but also a disservice. I can seriously see this guy ascending the ranks and becoming a legend like those two are, but in his OWN right. Beyond the kinetic style, squishy consistency, and gloriously exaggerated expressions—the old school detail reminds me of Moebius or Italian superstars like Vittorio Giardino, Guido Crepax, or Milo Manara—Bertram really nails it. The always illuminating Matt Santori-Griffith even compares Bertram to Edward Gorey!!! After seeing this masterpiece, I’m dying for him to get an opportunity to draw more DC characters. In many ways, this is the art of Underground Comix finally breaking through into the mainstream.

Beyond his amazing style and mastery of the pencil in regard to superhero illustration, Bertram has also fully grasped the right way to visualize feminist art via the female form. This rarely, if ever, is done in superhero comics. And when it is attempted it is usually done very poorly. But this is not the case for Bertram. In superhero comics, when is the last time you saw women—gloriously ALIVE women—drawn with curves and drawn to be realistic and NOT solely for the purposes of male gaze or objectification? One of my favorite reviewers, Martin Gray, compares Bertram’s women to those painted by Peter Paul Rubens! Each woman that Bertram pencils, from Batgirl to Julia to Stephanie to the art models to Leganza to the librarian to Scorpiana to Starfire to Selina, has a unique body type. Thus, you really get the feel that these are unique characters. This isn’t Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld or Kenneth Rocafort plugging a random head onto a 90s Wonder Woman or Jean Grey body. And these aren’t Barbie dolls with anatomically incorrect structures—tits so big they’d topple over if they tried to walk. Don’t get me wrong, Bertram’s Scorpiana and Starfire are two of the sexiest superhero illustrations I’ve seen in ages. This is only a testament to Bertram’s greatness. He can capture sexiness without objectification. Bertram sees Scorpiana as a, for lack of a more appropriate term, big-breasted woman, so naturally, he gives her the curves to match.

This IS what a REAL woman looks like. I've been reading comic books so long I'd almost forgotten!

This IS what a REAL woman looks like. I’ve been reading comic books so long I’d almost forgotten!

Take a look at Starfire. This is the first Starfire that looks legit, anatomically speaking. She is runway model thin, ribs showing, small-breasted. Think about that, folks. When has Starfire EVER been drawn with small breasts. When has Batgirl ever been drawn that way either? These are teenage girls and Bertram is the FIRST person in the last DECADE-plus to draw them (in main continuity) correctly looking like goddamn teenage girls!!

Teenage girl. Check. Anatomically correct. Check. Sexy. Check.

Teenage girl. Check. Anatomically correct. Check. Sexy. Check.

And now THE EXACT SAME CHARACTER HOW WE USUALLY SEE HER. Teenage girl. Check. Anatomically Correct. Not even close. Sexy?

And now THE EXACT SAME CHARACTER HOW WE USUALLY SEE HER. Teenage girl. Check. Anatomically Correct. Not even close. Sexy?

Artistically, this is a hallmark issue for so many reasons and I don’t think people are giving Bertram enough credit for treating the female form with RESPECT. Sadly, the cover does just the opposite and looks like an awkward lesbian porn scene featuring a sexist Barbie version of Scorp and a sexist ass-up Barbie version of Batgirl scissoring each other. Notice the difference between Bertram’s Scorpiana and the usual version of Scorpiana we’ve seen in the past? It’s akin to a  touch-up artist on a bad glamor mag going crazy and chiseling the cover model’s legs into hotdogs using Photoshop.

This is an offensively sexist jacket camouflaging a brilliant feminist comic underneath. Don't judge a book by its cover. Sigh.

This is an offensively sexist jacket camouflaging a brilliant feminist comic underneath. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Sigh.


Not to mention, when has Red Hood’s costume ever looked cool? This is Bertram doing straight-up old-school Batman the Animated Series action. (Although, he does make a rookie mistake in the vein of a “talking is a free action” error with the middle two panels, having Red Hood deliver a monologue’s worth of dialog in the time it takes Batgirl to turn her head and say “You?!” It is possible that Seeley was partly to blame for this as well. Reviewer Drew Baumgartner mentions Jason’s awkward stance here as well. Again, a rookie mistake that should be overlooked.)

More please.

More please.

This, IMO, is a landmark issue and one of the best New 52 issues that has been released thus far. No matter how you receive the narrative, the REAL story lies in the artwork—a vibrant tapestry of what hopefully is a trend that continues.

Nuff said.

Nuff said.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Incredible Shrinking New 52

tiny titans 30 p 17

Is it me? Or is it getting real cramped in here? Hope you aren’t claustrophobic because we, dear readers, are headed into the compression machine (or trash compacter, if you wish). There ain’t no wide open spaces on this New 52 chronology. It’s tight. REAL TIGHT.

I spent a full 40 hours this past week (in addition to working my full-time job) to completely overhaul the New Age timeline. The end result is probably something most folks won’t like, but I feel it is what DC Publishing and Editorial have been aspiring toward ever since the reboot. What has been their great aspiration? To make 2013’s Forever Evil the official point from which the ridiculous multitude of “SIX YEARS AGO” and “FIVE YEARS AGO” time-stamps emanate. Therefore, SIX YEARS AGO (aka “Zero Year” for Batman) is 2007. Year One is therefore 2008 and so on and so on. This keeps it simple: Batman’s Year Zero gives him the single solid extra year before the JLA debuts a year later (in Year One). Doing it this way, Jim Gordon’s promotion to Commissioner in 2009 jibes with the information being given in 2014’s ongoing Batman Eternal.

Here’s why y’all ain’t gonna like this new version of the New 52 timeline. It really does screw over the Robins, demoting them to the “interns” that DC Editorial spoke of way back in 2011 when angry fanboys and fangirls were ranting and raving about the loss of relationships between their beloved Boy Wonders and their Papa Batman. As sucky as it may be, this smooshed-up crammed-in super-compressed chronology works best and that’s why I’m going to stick with it for better or worse.

Let’s briefly run down (using Batman as our focus, of course) what the history of the New 52 looks like now that we’ve reached a critical point (post-Forever Evil, start of Batman Eternal, etc…). You’ll see exactly how compressed things are, how short the Robin tenures have to be, and what continuity errors have been made.

YEAR ZERO (2007)

October/November – Snyder/Capullo’s “Zero Year” ends (likely).
November – Joker debuts.
December – “Saga of Ra’s Al Ghul.” Damian is conceived.

YEAR ONE (2008)

January to February – Catwoman debuts.
March – Damian, thanks to the magick of the sci-fi robot womb, is born already. Baby Damian begins rapidly aging immediately.
March – Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy debut.
April/May – JLA debuts and has first few cases.
June – The Flying Graysons die. Dick adopted by Bruce.
July – Dick begins training.
November – Dick comes up with “Robin” name.
November – Deadshot debuts.
December – Dick wears Robin costume for the first time versus Shiva.

YEAR TWO (2009)

January. Scarecrow debuts.
January. Dick graduates to costumed patrolling.
January. Jim Gordon becomes Commissioner.
January. Batgirl debuts.
February. Harvey Dent becomes District Attorney.
February. Batman, Gordon, and Dent take down McKillens.
February. Batman, Gordon, and Dent take down Falcones.
March. President Obama sets up ARGUS.
March through June. Mad Hatter, Harley Quinn, and Clayface debut.
—————————Bat-Woman Kathy Kane debuts.
—————————Ventriloquist debuts.
—————————Kathy Kane fakes death.
—————————John Mayhew attempts failed Club of Heroes.
—————————Batman undergoes sleep tests with Dr. Hurt (Zur-En-Arrh) and fights —————————substitute Batmen only to have memory blocked.
—————————JLA moves into The Watchtower.
July. Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face.
July. Dick quits, becomes Nightwing.
July. Jason Todd becomes Robin and begins training.

January. Jason finishes training and goes on first patrol.
January. Batgirl retires.
February through May. Killer Croc debuts.
—————————Black Mask debuts.
—————————Batman forms The Outsiders.
June. Jason killed by Joker.
June. Barbara Gordon shot and paralyzed by Joker.
June. Tim becomes new (Red) Robin.
July. Victor Zsasz debuts.
September. Bane debuts and breaks Batman.
Late December. Batman returns and defeats Bane.

YEAR FOUR (2011)

January through March. Contagion (Ebola Gulf-A virus unleashed).
—————————Emerald Twilight/The Final Night/Day of Judgment/Green Lantern: —————————Rebirth mash-up.
—————————Gotham earthquake.
—————————Ra’s Al Ghul dies.
—————————Hush debuts.
—————————Bruce undergoes Thogal ritual.
March through April. An actual three-year-old but looking like a ten-year-old Damian is —————————delivered to Batman (“Batman & Son” arc).
—————————Bruce begins dating Jezebel Jet.
—————————Dr. Hurt’s Substitute Batmen return.
—————————The Black Glove debuts.
—————————The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul.
—————————“Batman R.I.P.” arc.
May. Batman is captured, cloned, and zapped into the past by Darkseid
May. Batman’s friends bury his clone, mistaking it for him.
May. Dick becomes Batman, replaces Tim with Damian as new Robin.
June through July. Azrael debuts.
—————————Batwoman debuts.
—————————Dick defeats James Gordon Junior.
—————————“Batman & Robin Must Die!” arc.
August. Bruce returns and immediately starts Batman Inc.
August. Batman starts recruitment drive for Batman Inc.
September. Flashpoint.
September. Batman & Robin Vol. 2 #1

YEAR FIVE (2012)

January. Batman & Robin Vol. 2 #2-8
January. Batman and Catwoman start banging.
April. Dick retires as Batman and becomes Nightwing again.
April. Barbara recovers from paralysis and becomes Batgirl again.
April. Batman and Nightwing fight a returning Jason Todd (“Under the Hood” arc).
April. Batman and Robin defeat Jason Todd and Scarlet.

. . .

And the chronology speaks for itself moving forward from here. But as you can see, things are quite compressed like they never have been before. Dick spends six months training and six months in costume, equaling roughly a year as Robin. Jason spends six months training and six months in costume as well. Tim, despite probably training afternoons, begins his (Red) Robin tenure doing in-costume patrols right from the start. Like Dick and Jason, he will also be Robin for about a year. Furthermore, all of the Robins must go back-to-back-to-back-to-back in order for their “internships” to fit.

The Peter Tomasi-scripted downfall of the McKillen Sisters is said to occur three years before Erin breaks jail and gives Harvey Dent a life-altering acid face wash. However, the debut of Two-Face can only correctly take occur a mere six months after to jibe with everything else. Don’t worry, though—this is the same author that came up with Damian’s aging process, so continuity be damned.

Barbara Gordon, by Gail Simone’s own scripting, becomes Batgirl after Jim Gordon is made Commissioner. This means that there is no way she could possibly have been crime-fighting for a year, taken some time off, and then been paralyzed for three years after that. The most amount of time Babs could possibly have been paralyzed for, by my intensive brain-draining calculations, is a few months shy of two years. This isn’t the first time Simone has thrown me for a loop, so whatevs.

Batman is only out of commission for about three months when Bane breaks his back.

Nearly everything in Year Four is a mashed-up, sped-up, mucho-compressed version of its former Modern Age self. Even Batman’s missing time courtesy of Darkseid’s Omega zaps is hella-compressed. In order to give room for everything else, he can only be gone for a mere three months. Thankfully, as crazy as this sounds, Dick’s nearly year-long tenure as Batman is not altered!

“Under the Hood” is significantly altered, mashed-up, and compressed—moved much later than when it occurred in the Modern Age and then conjoined with his later Morrison arc (where he became a red-headed stepchild and teamed with Scarlet). I think we can actually happily erase the red-headed stepchild version of Jason from continuity. At least thank the New 52 for THAT.

Once you get into the main parts of Year Five and Year Six, which contain the New 52 issues themselves, things don’t get any less tight. In fact, Year Six (2013) is so jam packed that it covers nearly every day of the calendar year with narrative. Are there too many Batman books coming out these days? All I see is $$$$$$$$.

And, of course, there are a few “…YEARS AGO” editorial nightmare text boxes that make no damn sense no matter how you spin it, but that is par for the course. There actually aren’t that many, and certainly not enough to warrant mentioning here. Although, the “SEVEN YEARS AGO” tag in James Tynion’s second feature to Detective Comics Vol. 2 #0 is wrong because it puts Bruce’s return home to Gotham too early to link up correctly with Snyder’s specific time references within “Zero Year.”


Like it? Love it? Hate it? Think it’s utter crap? Think I’VE lost my marbles? Want to return to a New 52 timeline that is fourteen years long instead of six? Getting SICK of timelines? Let me hear what you think!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

We Are Now On Facebook

So, I finally joined the 21st century and joined Facebook. Please be a doll and LIKE The Real Batman Chronology Project’s brand new Facebook page! There’s not much on there now, but it will be a great place to check for updates and re-blogs. And it will be yet another great place to hear from folks out in web-land!



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Better Late Than Never: Best of 2013

I know it’s March. I should have done this in December or January, but the reason I was hesitant is because I really didn’t read many new comics in 2013. Instead, I read a ton of older stuff. But with the caveat of having been a bit out of the new comic loop this past year, here is a list based upon what I did read.



25. Avengers Vol. 5 (Jonathan Hickman/Jerome Opeña) MARVEL
24. Habit #1 (Josh Simmons/Wendy Chin/Karn Piana) OILY COMICS
23. Occupy Comics (various creators) BLACK MASK STUDIOS
22. Sex Criminals (Matt Fraction/Chip Zdarsky) IMAGE
21. Prophet (Brandon Graham/Simon Roy/et al) IMAGE
20. Saga (Brian K. Vaughan/Fiona Staples) IMAGE
19. Hawkeye Vol. 5 (Matt Fraction/Javier Pulido) MARVEL
18. Manhattan Projects (Jonathan Hickman/Nick Pitarra) IMAGE
17. Sandman: Overture #1 (Neil Gaiman/JH Williams) DC/VERTIGO
16. Batman Vol. 2 (Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo) DC
15. Fran (Jim Woodring) FANTAGRAPHICS
14. Boys’ Night (Max Landis/AP Quach) SELF-PUBLISHED @ SASSQUACH.COM
boys night out 1


And now my TOP THIRTEEN for 2013:

13. Pretty Deadly (Kelly Sue DeConnick/Emma Ríos) IMAGE
Jumping from the female talent of AP Quach at number 14 straight to some more talented females, Pretty Deadly has got quite the amazing pair of women behind the wheel. Only three issues came out in 2013, but they were beautifully drawn and slickly-scripted. Comic book Westerns can often be hit or miss, but this one hits the bullseye dead-on.
Pretty Deadly 002-005

12. Can’t Lose: A Friday Night Lights Fanzine (Melissa Mendes and various creators) SELF-PUBLISHED
One of the best comic book tributes to a TV show that I’ve ever seen. If you were a fan of FNL (who wasn’t?) then the mere existence of this little book is an ultimate gift from a higher power. Genuinely touching and hilariously funny. It’s been out-of-print for months, but if you are nice to me I’ll let you borrow a copy.

11. Thor: God of Thunder (Jason Aaron/Esad Ribić) MARVEL
For most of my life, I never really “got” Marvel’s Thor. Why was he so often depicted as a clean-cut regular superhero type akin to Superman? I always felt the characterization was off. Instead, I always thought of and liked the idea of the Thor of actual Norse myth—the grizzly drunkard, tough-ass Viking prince, lazy and bored with being immortal. The question then became: How could this character ever even be a hero? And along comes Jason Aaron to show us the way. In Aaron’s vision, Thor would live to see his Midgardian (and Asgardian lessers) come and go. And no matter how much he simply wanted to fight, chase women, and drink just like the warrior mortals below, he’d always have a greater responsibility as a deity. And he would learn both the true meaning of what it meant to be a god—the true meaning of love and family and the cosmos. Aaron finally made me buy into Thor as both a true god AND a superhero. And to top it all off, you have the incredible work of Esad Ribić, one of the undeniably best artists in the business. His gorgeous layouts and pencil work give the epic, grand feel that we are actually spanning eons with the gods themselves. This is some Heavy Metal barbarian space fantasy wet dream shit we are talking about here. Unfortunately, Ribić only did a handful of the issues in 2013, otherwise this book might have been higher on my list (like it was in 2012). Aaron’s so-so Malekith arc to end the year surely would have come off better with Ribić on art duties.
Thor - God of Thunder 005-018

10. FF Vol. 2 (Matt Fraction/Michael Allred/Laura Allred) MARVEL
Anytime you get the Allreds onboard, you already have a book that goes straight to the buy-pile. And this is no exception. Matt Fraction is at the top of his game as well—channeling DeMatteis and Giffen’s old JLI with humor, delightful awkwardness, more humor, melodrama, and the occasional high-stakes winner-take-all war scenario. And while it can lay the comedy on a little thick every once in a while, the overall sophistication and near perfect delivery will win fans over every time, especially since way too much “grim & gritty” gets shoved down our throats these days.
FF v2 012-015

9. Young Avengers Vol. 2 (Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie/Mike Norton) MARVEL
Kieron Gillen. What a refined and cultivated writer that has taken the medium to new heights with Young Avengers. This reminds me of what Joss Whedon used to be capable of back in the day with Buffy and Astonishing X-Men—really wonderful group characterization and group dynamic. Plus the youthful spirit of the gang captured and delivered so well, along with a charming and realistic representation of LGBT folks that isn’t seen enough in mainstream comics. But like most truly wonderful comics, its the meeting of the writer with great artists that puts a book over the top. In this case, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton are a match made in heaven for Gillen. McKelvie and Norton capture motion and emotion brilliantly—those facial expressions remind me of Kevin Maguire’s best stuff! This trio of Gillen, McKelvie, and Norton also really really GETS the comic book medium. They use the panels and title pages and text boxes and even space in-between panels in ways that I’ve never seen before! And that’s saying a lot because I’ve seen a lot. Fraction and Aja have done similar things with Hawkeye, but Young Avengers really pushes it to the limit and beyond. It is possibly the most innovative and inspiring superhero book of 2013. Also, Noh-Varr rules.
Young Avengers v2 010-003

8. Nemo: Heart of Ice (Alan Moore/Kevin O’Neill) TOP SHELF
Anyone who knows me knows that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a personal favorite of mine. For my money’s worth, there isn’t a more interesting, dense (in a good way), and pleasing book than Black Dossier. Now, while Black Dossier this certainly ain’t, it still scratches my LOEG itch. I hope crazy pants Alan Moore continues writing LOEG until the day he dies. Kevin O’Neill, as always, delivers here as well, adding a ton of H.P. Lovecraft and E.A. Poe stuff to his illustrative oeuvre. The insane ever-expanding world of LOEG is just as much O’Neill’s baby as it is Moore’s. Whenever a new LOEG book is set to be released, I eagerly anticipate the art the same way I used to anticipate DC characters getting the Bruce Timm treatment for the first time in the old Animated TV Universe. I’m dying to see O’Neill’s latest versions of men, women, and monsters from classic pop lit. If you care as much about re-use of licensed properties/public domain characters, narrative world-building, comic book continuity, ANNOTATIONS (!), arcane references, and experimental storytelling as I do, then this is a book for you.
Nemo - Heart of Ice (2013) (digital-Empire) 033

7. Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 (Grant Morrison/Chris Burnham) DC
After eight years, the greatest run (IMO) in the history of Batman comics concluded in 2013, kicking-off a new era for DC and simultaneously concluding the Modern Era in grand fashion. Doesn’t get much bigger and better than that, right? It pains me to say it, but we may never see a Batman book like this again. The story of Damian Wayne (and everything in-between), from “Batman & Son” straight up to the final issue of Batman Inc, will be tough to top in regard to narrative build, character development, scope, energy, or sheer brilliance. I salute you both, Mr. Morrison and Mr. Burnham. Speaking of Burnham, his illustrations and layouts are the very definition of sharp. (Batman Inc would have gone higher on my list, but I really believe that the New 52 reboot disjointed this story enough to knock it down a couple pegs. It was hard to ignore that fact that the first half of the tale took place in a completely different continuity.)
2013-03-27 07-46-52 - Batman Inc 09-019


6. Hip Hop Family Tree (Ed Piskor) FANTAGRAPHICS
DOPE. The ultimate history of hip hop down to the tiniest detail. And drawn by the master illustrator Ed Piskor. It’s pedagogic, well-researched, perfectly organized, and damn entertaining.


5. Batman & Robin Vol. 2 / Batman &… (Peter Tomasi/Patrick Gleason) DC
Batman Inc, in my humble opinion, was nearly flawless. Its “sidekick” series Batman & Robin (which morphed into Batman &…) couldn’t even have existed without Batman Inc and was initially meant to be a compendium of sorts to Morrison’s arc. So, how can a secondary title trump Batman Inc on my list!? Well, once the B&R snowball picked up speed as it rolled faster down the mountain, Pete Tomasi and Pat Gleason had on their hands a surprising story that was so damn good it seemed like it was operating in another New 52 Universe—a better one. I’ve been a huge Tomasi fan since Black Adam, Outsiders, Nightwing, and Final Crisis: Requiem. Not to mention his stellar views of the Bat Family as group editor. While many writers in the industry struggle with (or simply avoid) showing the more human aspects of super-humans, Tomasi tackles the subject head-on, injecting a life of legit love, loss, and joy into characters that usually never take off their masks and never stop baring their teeth while punching bad-guy guts. Tomasi knows the Bat Family isn’t just another superhero team and he actually makes the Bat Family believable as a family. But don’t forget this is still a superhero comic book series, and don’t forget that Tomasi worships legends like Denny O’Neill, Bob Haney, and Jim Aparo. These influences are obvious and welcome. Hell, in 2013 Batman & Robin gave us one of the most touching post-death requiem tales delivered in the form of a completely “silent” issue AND a team-up featuring Batman and Frankenstein! What’s not to love. Last but not least, Gleason has quickly become one of my favorite artists. It’s at the point where I associate the image of Batman not with Sprang, Burnham, Capullo, Adams, Rogers, Breyfogle, Daniel, Lee, Miller, or anyone else—I associate it with Gleason! The elegant consistency of his line-work never fails to impress, always breathing energy and detailed vitality into the backgrounds and characters. The grotesque details of his Joker and Two-Face—I needn’t say more.
2013-04-10 07-46-57 - Batman and Robin 19-020Batman and Robin (2011-) - Two-Face 024-003

4. Mind MGMT (Matt Kindt) DARK HORSE

Kindt’s mind-fucking comic series about disbanded/disavowed-mind-wiped-super-spies-with-powers is undeniably a masterpiece. I hope that other comics companies learn a lesson from this series because I’d love to see DC or Marvel superheroes written like this. Basically, Mind MGMT is a book about powers and building teams with powers, but it’s done so incredibly well that it takes on a life of its own far beyond that trite sounding premise. The brilliance of Mind MGMT‘s narrative lies in how the world is so vivid and so fleshed-out, but not at the expense of the greater narrative, which commands you and compels you to continue lest your brain melt out of your skull. Mind MGMT, in spite of its large scope and tons of characters, never gets hung up on back-story and world-building. And at its core, the book is about legitimately strong females (Meru and The Eraser), something so lacking in most mainstream comics these days. I will admit, it took me a while to get on board with Kindt’s sloppy pencil aesthetic and unorthodox lettering, but once you get it, then you really get it. Read Mind MGMT. Erase your mind. Then read it again.
Mind MGMT 016-013

3. Aama Vol. 1 (Frédérik Peeters) SELF MADE HERO

“Wow” is all I can say. A few critics compared this novel—which came out a couple years ago in Europe, but had its first North American release this year—to Alejandro Jodoworsky’s stuff. And it not only lives up to Jodoworsky’s greatness, but even equals it. This is only the first volume (of three), but I can quickly imagine Aama far surpassing Jodoworsky’s vision. I’m hoping Peeters becomes a big name in the States now that Aama is available. We’d be better off with more of his amazing sci-fi elegance on our American bookshelves.

2. Templar (Jordan Mechner/LeUyen Pham/Alex Puvilland) FIRST SECOND BOOKS
The first chapter or this book was released in 2010 and I ate it up with a spoon. Then nothing. No follow-up, no word from publisher First Second. Until 2013. Not only came the next chapter, but the whole shebang—all three chapters in one final beautiful-looking single book. It was definitely worth the wait. Templar is essentially a documentary comic about the fall of the Templar Crusaders in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It’s a gripping story filled with violence, political intrigue, double-crosses, conspiracy theory, and implications that reverberate all the way to modern day. And much of the greatness in Mechner’s tale is that it delivers the factual information (intensively and scholarly researched, I might add) about the Templar history in the form of an adventure story that is one part Umberto Eco, one part Indiana Jones, one part Ocean’s Eleven set in Medieval Times. Templar‘s narrative is a touching, deliberately and exquisitely frustrating, page-turning, edge-of-your-seat ride and I’d recommend it to anybody. For nearly 500 pages, Pham and Puvilland gloriously draft both intimate character moments AND movie-style action scenes/swashbuckling sword duels. Their medieval streets and buildings are illustrated so well and with such precision, I felt like I was living in that era as I viewed page after page. A+.
street_206-07-2010 01;44;06PM

1. Jupiter’s Legacy (Mark Millar/Frank Quietly) IMAGE
A freakin’ Mark Millar book as my number one!? Hey, I’m more surprised at myself than anyone else! I’ve always thought of Millar as an amazing “idea man” whose writing always leaves something to be desired. Jupiter’s Legacy isn’t perfect, but it sure got me thinking the most in 2013 and it sure moved me the most in 2013. It’s because of those reasons, Jupiter’s Legacy jumps to my number one. I love the start of this series (only three issues came out in 2013) for its direct op-ed take on the modern global economic climate and for its spot-on Superman analogue, The Utopian. Millar wasn’t afraid to talk about the “problems of Capitalism” in this series—rising unemployment rates, rising inflation rates on valueless fiat currency, a crooked world banking system, environmental destruction on a global scale, enormous disparity of wealth, and massive debts piling-up. And Millar does so by making us look at Superman in a different unique light. Millar shouts, “Let’s talk about how Superman (i.e. The Utopian) refuses to help usher in an alternative structure of governing despite the aforementioned ills of society!” And I shout back, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore… and I love superhero comics too!” This is a series that I’ve been waiting for a long time. Oh, and Frank Quietly is still THE MAN. Possibly, dare-I-say-it, the best comic book penciler ever? OK, obviously I am a HUGE fan, but hey, who wants to argue? I’ll take you on! Overall, Jupiter’s Legacy has blown my mind with its kick-ass (no pun intended) start right outta the gate—superb art, subversiveness with sci-fi capes and masks, and a real dialogue about modern socioeconomic politics. A++. (On that note, issue #4 just came out and jumped forward nine years after The Utopian’s death and the subsequent replacement of global Capitalist ideology with a supposedly better “socialistic” system. And, wouldn’t ya know, things are even bleaker than they were before. Sort of throws a wrench into my praise for Millar’s politicking. Or does it? Hopefully, we’ll see what I feel should be the most important part of the series, flashbacks to the nine years of attempted “socialist implementation by superhero.” Otherwise, Millar’s “big idea,” like in many of his other books, will fall flat and we might not see this on 2014’s list. But for 2013, my hat’s off to Millar and Quietly. I hope Jupiter’s Legacy stays strong and continues to poke, prod, and provoke.
Jupiter's Legacy 002 (2013) (c2c-1920px) (DarkAngel-Empire) 018Jupiter's Legacy 002 (2013) (c2c-1920px) (DarkAngel-Empire) 013


While I still have your attention, here are the BOOKS I LOVE IN 2014 SO FAR:

Moon Knight Vol. 6 (MARVEL) -Warren Ellis!
Young Avengers Vol. 2 (MARVEL) -Concluded in early 2014, but worthy of next year’s list.
Loki: Agent of Asgard (MARVEL) -Picking up right where Young Avengers left off in all the right ways.
Thor: God of Thunder (MARVEL)
Jupiter’s Legacy (IMAGE)
Batman &… (DC) -The revamped Two-Face origin is the best Two-Face origin BY FAR.
Miracleman (MARVEL) -Gorgeous reprints of one of my favorite series!
Evil Empire (BOOM!) -Politics in comics, anyone? We’ll see. Strong first issue though.
Stormwatch Vol. 3 #25-29 (DC) -Concluded in May 2014; This run was critically panned. Everyone hated it. Not me. I admit I’m a sucker for Starlin, but I will defend this run to the grave.
Batman Vol. 2 (DC) -Duh.
Nemo: The Roses of Berlin (TOP SHELF) -One-shot. Is this the weakest of the LOEG books so far because it has less pop lit references and more film references? Maybe, but it still love it. Also, as a student of film, I kinda dig the slight change.
Forever Evil (DC) -Sure it’s Geoff Johns being Geoff Johns and it has all the flaws of every other “major event” series, but this is Johns amped up to ludicrous levels. This is “grim & gritty” on green Kryptonite cocaine. SO enjoyable. (I just hope it leads somewhere or else I just might change my mind…)



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Challenge of the Gods: Atheism and Wonder Woman Fandom

For anyone who doesn’t know, Marvel has just launched their new Ms. Marvel series to great critical acclaim. In a commendable effort to add diversity to their main line, the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, is a Pakistani-American teenager with an Islamic faith. As someone who believes comic characters should be more diverse in terms of race, gender and sexuality, there’s a part of me who finds this to be great. As an atheist, however, I cringed when I heard that her religion would be a big part of her character. The idea of a new character that openly subscribes to any theistic religion is something that I find incredibly unappealing. What the publisher is essentially saying is, here’s a new character who has a faith, that is, who openly believes extraordinary claims about the nature of the universe and she requires no evidence to justify her beliefs. We would never expect a large publisher like Marvel Comics or the self-proclaimed Muslim convert G. Willow Wilson to ever portray Islam or any accepted mainstream religion in a negative light, and given the despicable and morally objectionable teachings written in all the holy books of the Abrahamic religions, they might as well be introducing a new hero who belongs to a cult; the tenets of which instruct and condone slavery, subversion of women’s rights and critical thinking, infanticide, anti-homosexual rhetoric, and general anti-humanism. I picked up the first issue of this series and read it. I was mostly perplexed by the over-the-top douchy-ness of all the secondary characters until I became alarmed near the end of the book. In a scene where Kamala appears to be hallucinating, she meets apparently “spiritual” versions of Iron Man, Captain Marvel and Captain America spouting utter nonsense. The scene only serves to reinforce the religious idea that questioning or rebelling against one’s faith only leads to negative results. Frankly, I was disgusted.

An hallucination dressed as Captain America makes Kamala regret trying to live her own life free of misogynistic traditions and superstition.

An hallucination dressed as Captain America makes Kamala regret trying to live her own life free of misogynistic traditions and superstition.

Every time she reminds the reader that she’s a religious person, we can’t help but remember that she’s been tragically indoctrinated into an ideology of hate and narrow-mindedness. Because Islam is a mainstream, accepted religion in the real world, and because the book’s writer is religious, we will probably never see Kamala overcome this. Do we need more diversity in comics? Absolutely. What we do not need, however, is more representation from groups who actively or passively subvert diversity. It is as if the editors at Marvel thought, “Hey, our line should be more diverse. Lets improve our diversity by positively representing a group of misogynistic homophobes.” Creating a brand new female character of an ethnicity other than Caucasian to star in her own book is certainly two steps forward, but making her inexorably tied to an ideology that in and of itself undermines diversity is three steps backwards, in my opinion. This was an easy drop for me.

This essay is in no way meant to only target Islam. There are other characters of faith that have this problem as well, and of course not just at Marvel. The Helena Bertinelli Huntress is perhaps the most annoying religious character there is. This murderous antihero never seems to let the reader forget how Catholic she is, and in case she isn’t talking about her faith, you won’t forget due to the enormous crucifix between her breasts. I can’t help but roll my eyes when I see her appear on panel. Then there’s Wonder Woman… but wait. I love and adore Wonder Woman. However, her faith is a big part of her character, right? Why do I love Wonder Woman? I found this question intriguing, and after a lot of thought I figured out the answer, which is primarily what this essay will examine, as well as the role that religion should play in comic books.

So do I find Wonder Woman to be an awesome character despite her faith? I would argue that the thing that Wonder Woman writers refer to as faith is, in fact, not faith at all. Faith is defined as a strong belief in a god or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than evidence. Diana believes that Zeus and the rest of the Greek pantheon exist not because the Iliad claims they do, or from anecdotal accounts of other people who believe they exist, but because she’s met them personally, has been to Olympus and Tartarus, fought with Ares, and measured the empirical effects that these intercessory gods have had on the earth. When Diana prays to Hera or Athena for strength, she doesn’t have faith that these goddesses will come through for her, but rather a reasonable expectation, much in the way that a child has a reasonable expectation that if she is hurt then her parents will take care of her and bring her to the doctor if necessary. Diana has evidence to support her reasonable assumption because she knows Athena personally and has directly and empirically observed her worldly intervention in the past. If I ask a friend to pick me up from work and he agrees, I have a reasonable assumption that he will pick me up from work. It may not necessarily happen. He may get a flat tire, get stuck in traffic or forget, but I still have a reasonable assumption that he will be there based on our previous agreement and relationship. I don’t need faith for this and neither does Diana.

Secondly, Diana’s “religion” has no tenets, commandments, doctrines or holy books. Greek mythology is assembled through ancient poetry that once acted as moral parables for ancient Greeks. According to my research, Greek paganism has made no assertions of eternal punishment contingent on lack of belief or thought crimes, but rather Tartarus is the underworld where the souls of those who committed wicked acts would ultimately arrive. Diana has no mandate to convince people that Zeus exists, nor any impetus to, but rather that specific responsibility lays with the gods themselves.

Thirdly, Diana is a humanist. At her birth she was gifted, among other things, with the wisdom of Athena. As someone who knows the gods personally, she has witnessed their imperfections. They are often petty, irrational, angry, murderous, vengeful, or jealous, but these behaviors are not at all reflected onto Diana. Even Athena, who is portrayed as a strong, independent and stoic, lacks compassion, can be conniving, and comes off very cold. Also her motivation, like that of all the gods, is to bring new worshipers to the gods of Olympus.

Athena and the other goddesses explain to the newly created amazons that their purpose is to bring men to worship them.

Athena and the other goddesses explain to the newly created amazons that their purpose is to bring men to worship them.

Athena coldly addressing Hippolyta about her mistakes, and offering no warmth.

Athena coldly addressing Hippolyta about her mistakes, and offering no warmth.

In this sense, Diana is morally superior to even Athena herself, as she possesses said compassion. Diana is not motivated to do good by increasing worshippers for Athena or any god, but rather her moral system is something she has developed herself through her own ability to reason. She sees that she lives in a world with other people, assumes generally that life is preferable to death, that people generally don’t want to have their possessions stolen, and that health is preferable to illness, thus acts in such a way to maximize the welfare of humanity, which is not at all a reflection of the gods themselves. This is consistent with the wikipedia definition of humanism: “Humanism is a group of philosophies and ethical perspectives which emphasize the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers individual thought and evidence over established doctrine or faith.” I believe the most profound example of this occurs during Greg Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman, wherein due to the machinations of Athena, a child is turned to stone by Medusa, who then threatens to turn thousands of people to stone. In order to defeat her, Diana permanently blinds herself, deeming that humans are of even greater importance to her than her own eyesight and the will of Athena herself. This act of sacrifice in the name of humanity makes Diana superior to the very gods that created her. Most importantly, Diana’s love for humanity is not in any way contingent on whether or not people believe Zeus exists. She is not motivated by pity for wayward souls, but rather she is good for the sake of being good.
Diana blinds herself with Medusa's blood, to ensure she never sees Medusa's gaze, for failure here would result in the deaths of thousands.

Diana blinds herself with Medusa’s blood, to ensure she never sees Medusa’s gaze, for failure here would result in the deaths of thousands.

Furthermore, Diana is willing to forsake her gods at the drop of a hat for the people she loves. This is something few real world Christians or Muslims would ever admit to.
Diana forsakes the gods for a single hair on Donna Troy's head in one particularly beautiful moment from Gail Simone's run.

Diana forsakes the gods for a single hair on Donna Troy’s head in one particularly beautiful moment from Gail Simone’s run.

Lastly, I really like what Greg Rucka did to set up the reactionary Christian right groups as villains in his run on the book. In his first arc, “Down to Earth”, Diana writes and has published a book of humanist essays and speeches that comes under heated criticism by the Christian Right who forms a group absurdly named “Protect Our Children.” The primary public detractor of Diana’s book goes on television to denounce the book and Diana’s representative, through asking the right questions, causes the man to betray his own sexism and the absurdity of his argument. This is, in my opinion, one of the most satisfying moments in comic book history.
Reactionary right-wing pundit reveals his ignorance on national television.

Reactionary right-wing pundit reveals his ignorance on national television.

There you have it! Wonder Woman is awesome. She stands in stark contrast to one of the other characters with “faith” that I mentioned earlier: The Huntress, Helena Bertinelli. Helena’s religious thinking is much more consistent with real world religious thinking. Helena believes in the Christian god without vetted evidence. Granted, in the DC universe the Christian god may in fact exist. We’ve seen Constantine and Swamp Thing visit hell. We have both Linda Danvers and Zauriel who claim to be angels in service of the Christian god. However, Helena presumably knows nothing about Swamp Thing or John Constantine, thus believes because simply because she claims to have “felt his presence”, which, of course, is in no way independently verifiable. Observe this scene from Phil Jimenez’s Wonder Woman run, where the always awesome Artemis makes way more sense than the Huntress:
Artemis explains the human need to believe in gods, regardless of whether or not they exist.

Artemis explains the human need to believe in gods, regardless of whether or not they exist.

There are more reasons than what I’ve just written that I love Wonder Woman. When in the hands of a capable writer, her kindness and love for humanity work to elevate those around her. Since this essay is already getting pretty long, I’ll just say this about religion and comics. Ideally, I don’t think it should be represented at all. To not alienate readers, a character’s religious convictions should probably remain ambiguous. That said, I do very much enjoy when comics are critical of religion. Hellblazer, for example, is very cynical about religion, and I love it. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pages in all of comics that addresses the topic of religion. Paul Cornell’s Lex Luthor gets in spot on, in my opinion.
Lex tells it like it is.

Lex tells it like it is.

by Jamison Weber

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weber is a long-time comic book fan in his mid 20s with an Economics degree from UCSD. Currently he is working toward a graduate degree in mathematics education in Arizona, and continues to nourish his passion for comic books whenever he gets the opportunity.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Don’t Worry, We’ll Fix It In Post

Image from Raffnav (http://imgur.com/a/2NLIJ)

Image scanned by Raffnav (http://imgur.com/a/2NLIJ). Text/art by Snyder/Capullo. DC Comics.

In the good ole days, trade paperbacks were simply collections of the single issues. Sure, there might have been a color correction here or a word bubble attribution fix there. But these days, especially with Scott Snyder, trade paperbacks are a chance to completely change, edit, and redo narrative as the creator sees fit. “The Death of the Family” TPB features a bunch of changes that differ from the original stories. One of Snyder’s changes shows that Joker’s big “revelation” to the Bat-Family is actually that he says nothing at all. Does this change the story? Or does this not really make a difference? Is this just for the benefit/eyes of the trade reader that doesn’t read issue-to-issue like us Wednesday Warriors? Also did Snyder worry and make changes when he realized that some well-informed folks read his Joker as a regression back to homophobic “gay-panic” super-villains of yesteryear? Check out the link below (by by Raffnav) for details.


What do you guys think, not just about Snyder’s trade edits and where they come from, but also how they might affect continuity as well? Also, I’ve heard that some New 52 Justice League trades have alterations and edits that stray from their original single issues. Does anyone know of any other big single issue to TPB edits that we should be aware of?

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments