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!

https://www.facebook.com/therealbatmanchronologyproject

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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.

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First, the HONORABLE MENTIONS:

25. Stormwatch Vol. 3 #19-24 (Jim Starlin/Yvel Guichet) DC
24. Avengers Vol. 5 (Jonathan Hickman/Jerome Opeña) MARVEL
23. Habit #1 (Josh Simmons/Wendy Chin/Karn Piana) OILY COMICS
22. Fran (Jim Woodring) FANTAGRAPHICS
21. Occupy Comics (various creators) BLACK MASK STUDIOS
20. Sex Criminals (Matt Fraction/Chip Zdarsky) IMAGE
19. Prophet (Brandon Graham/Simon Roy/et al) IMAGE
18. Saga (Brian K. Vaughan/Fiona Staples) IMAGE
17. Hawkeye Vol. 5 (Matt Fraction/Javier Pulido) MARVEL
16. Mind MGMT (Matt Kindt) DARK HORSE
15. Manhattan Projects (Jonathan Hickman/Nick Pitarra) IMAGE
14. Sandman: Overture #1 (Neil Gaiman/JH Williams) DC/VERTIGO
13. Batman Vol. 2 (Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo) DC
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And now my TOP TWELVE for 2013:

12. Boys’ Night (Max Landis/AP Quach) SELF-PUBLISHED @ SASSQUACH.COM
I don’t read nearly enough online strips, but I really should. Especially if there are more quality strips like this on the web. AP Quach is a real talent—her sad middle-aged Mickey, Goofy, and Donald are A+ material (and a pretty sick tribute/fuck you to Disney).
boys night out 1

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11. Pretty Deadly (Kelly Sue DeConnick/Emma Ríos) IMAGE
Speaking of female talents, this book 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

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10. 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.
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9. 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.
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8. 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

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7. 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

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6. 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

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5. 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

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4. 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

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3. 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

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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+.
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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

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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…)

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<3

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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:
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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.

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by Jamison Weber
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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.
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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.

http://imgur.com/a/2NLIJ

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?

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Interview With Yours Truly on Unleash the Fanboy

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The awesome Unleash the Fanboy website, which is always at the forefront of reporting on comic news, movie news, reviews, and geek culture, has been a big supporter of the Real Batman Chronology Project for some time now.

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Recently, Unleash the Fanboy, which has interviewed some of the comic book industry’s biggest names in the past, took the generous time to interview me about the Real Batman Chronology Project! Please check it out and leave some comment love. Thanks everyone!

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Nexus on the Longbox Project

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For those of you that haven’t been to Max Delgado’s Longbox Project, you are missing out. Delgado has created a wonderful environment where comic book fans from all walks of life can reflect and remember some of their more personal connections to the medium. This online community is growing every day and as it does, a wealth of touching stories about comic book culture/history are being logged and archived. Yours truly had the honor of having an article added to the Longbox Project, entitled “A Nexus on the Spectrum of Love.” Check it out (link below) and leave some love! Oh, and submit a story/article of your own! The more the merrier.

http://thelongboxproject.com/collector-projects/2014/1/31/a-nexus-on-the-spectrum-of-love

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On Alan Moore’s Latest Morrison-Bashing: Still Bums Me Out, and THIS TIME He’s Got No Point At All

Alan Moore did it again. I said I wasn’t going to comment, and I won’t say much. But if you’ve been following for the past few years, Moore has been fueling his rage in a crescendo of anti-superhero comics hate-speech that rivals nothing we’ve ever seen before in the history of the industry except for maybe Fredric Wertham’s Seduction.

The always wonderful Pádraig Ó Méalóid interviewed Moore (in what is meant to be his final public interview, supposedly) for his wordpress blog Slovobooks. While always articulate and damning with his superior wit and undeniable intellect, Moore sends himself off in probably the worst way ever, coming off at times like a whiny asshole that has lost touch with reality and wants to fight with fisticuffs against fanboys, his critics, Morrison, and the actual inanimate comic books themselves. Some folks might find this type of behavior on Moore’s part as simply lending itself to his persona of being the weird Occult demigod that has become the genius curmudgeon in his old age. Of course, there’s an argument for that—maybe he’s just adding to and playing the role of the “Moore character.” But I disagree. His interviews have not only been filled with such unwarranted venom and vitriol against things and people that I love, but filled with venom and vitriol that seems to come out of nowhere. Half of what Moore says that I take offense to wasn’t even directly brought up by Ó Méalóid. It’ Moore’s world. We are just living in it.

(On a side note, I wonder what Ó Méalóid thinks of Moore these days. Ó Méalóid is one the preeminent Moore scholars and someone that knows Moore personally. But even after the interviews and investigations of the past few years, Ó Méalóid summed up that he felt that Moore was the one primarily responsible for continuing the Morrison feud and that Moore has been mostly unfair and unwarranted in doing so).

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Harry Edmunson-Cornell wrote an op-ed for SeqArt yesterday that summed up my feelings about Ó Méalóid’s “final Moore interview.”

I wrote a small bit in a comment-response on my previous post about Alan Moore that I felt was a fitting end to the discussion on a man who has shaped my life so positively (writing some of my favorite works like Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Top Ten, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). My comment response is still a fitting end to the discussion on Moore, so I’ll include it verbatim below:

“What’s even more frustrating [about the latest Moore interview] is that I picked up the Miracleman reprint (by ‘THE ORIGINAL WRITER and Garry Leach’)—I’ve read the series a dozen times before and it’s always moved me. Re-reading it, I still got chills. Why does Moore insist on tarnishing his own legacy? It’s almost as if he hates superhero comics so much that he wants to attack the strongest things about it (fandom and Grant Morrison) in an attempt to alienate himself as much as possible from the genre. It just doesn’t make sense. Literally, NO OTHER CLASSIC COMIC BOOK WRITER has trashed the genre the way Moore has. I mean, could you imagine Neil Gaiman, fifteen years from now, pooping all over superhero comics via a 20-page WordPress blog interview? Inconceivable.”

The sad thing is, I can imagine Moore, fifteen years from now, fifteen years angrier, having removed his name from literally every comic book he ever worked on (validating in his mind the total purge of the comic book medium from his oeuvre, in a sense cleansing his past of the vile superhero history that he thinks tainted him) and still chugging along on the 750,000th page of Jerusalem, which will still be unreleased.

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On Alan Moore’s Latest Hero-Bashing: Still Bums Me Out, But He Has a Point

The following entry is a completely stream-of-consciousness response to reading a recent Alan Moore interview in The Guardian. With that in mind, take this with a grain of salt or with a cube of ultra serious sugar. Doesn’t matter. I’m just flying-off-the-cuff after reading it and putting down whatever comes to my tired and overworked brain. So, don’t be offended by anything I say, fanboys. I love you.

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So the old bugger is at it again. Alan Moore has done so much for the art of superhero comicbook writing that he really has earned the right to say whatever he wants about the current product. But man, for such an articulate and eloquent speaker, he sure does spew forth a lotta angry-pants doo-doo when the topic of superheroes comes up. Now I’m not saying his recent Guardian rant in particular is doo-doo, just most of his dialogue on superheroes lately. In fact, I happen to agree with parts of this snippet, as I will delve into below. In case you missed it, Moore said:

“I haven’t read any superhero comics since I finished with Watchmen. I hate superheroes. I think they’re abominations. They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don’t think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.”

First of all, I find it hard to believe that Moore hasn’t glanced at a single superhero comic since the late 80s. But if that is somehow true, then he’s missed arguably some of the finest superhero comics ever, written by the likes of so many amazing creators that I am hesitant to even name a mere handful for fear of leaving too many out. And if Moore really has somehow avoided all that then he really should hold his tongue. However, Moore is at least in touch with, even if he hasn’t seen them himself, superhero movies in regard to how strongly they are doing at the box office these days and what their target demographic is. He also seems well-versed in the audience that purchases superhero comics as well. And he doesn’t even really exaggerate. Superhero comics are bought mostly by males in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the film adaptations have a similar audience—maybe skewing a bit younger and registering a bit more female percentage, but still pretty much the same.

Moore is a curmudgeon-to-the-max and is a huge asshole when it comes to being a debbie downer about an industry that put him on the map and essentially made him a superstar. And I hate his negativity in regard to superhero stuff, mostly how he tends to throw out blanket statement after blanket statement, as if all of the genre is trash no matter what. While I disagree with Moore’s overall rhetoric, I do think there is something to be gleaned from the bit where he states, “I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.” It’s another blunt and unforgiving choice of words by Moore, aimed right at the heart of superhero fans, but there is truth in this statement.

Before I explain, let me preface this by saying: I don’t like superhero movies—not one bit. They offend my personal taste in cinema, containing everything I despise: big budgets, the stink of Hollywood, way too much bad CGI, mainstream dude-bro action tropes, terrible scores, sexism galore, bastardized versions of classic stories, trying to insert stark realism into pure fantasy in all the worst ways, etc… (I could go on and on, but I digress. And unlike Moore, I’m not about to make a blanket statement here either. There are some superhero flicks out there that I enjoy, like Tim Burton’s Batman films, parts of Watchmen, the first Iron Man, parts of the first Thor, and Avengers. But even these films that I dig only serve to further the idea that superhero comics are nothing but single-layered low-brow trash—yet another reason I’m so down on superhero movies). Let’s face it, virtually all superhero movies are aimed those who feed on the lowest common denominator of mainstream pop culture. Think about the average superhero fan. Better yet, think about the average Batman fan. The average Batman fan, to use Moore’s words, does take simple base pleasure in delighting in a concept designed to entertain the mind of a twelve-year-old. HE is much less versed in the comics and more well-versed in the more mainstream film adaptations or the generalized interpretation of the incredibly famous character. How many of these fanboys love the swervey, sex(ist)ually gratuitous, grim’n'gritty, torture pornographic, blood-splattering, fisticuff-stuffed, Michael Bay-esque explosion-packed game of throwing women in the fridge left-and-right that superhero comics and movies can so often be? A LOT. It almost makes me cringe to be listed among them. I most certainly am a die-hard superhero fan and a “Batman fan,” but when I consider myself those things, it is on a much deeper, and frankly different, level.

Honestly, if I didn’t read superhero comics the way I do—by processing every bit of in-story information in an attempt to sort out continuity inconsistency amidst the limitations of the genre, while simultaneously analyzing deeper levels of story-structure and how editors and multiple writer/artist combinations effect the construction and sustainability of a complex serialized semi-real-time narrative—then I wouldn’t have much interest in superheroes. Bearing in mind that MOST people who love superheroes don’t even begin to think about what I’ve just said even in the slightest, it makes me realize that MOST people who love superhero comics (and superhero movies, which offer literally none of what I love about superheroes from the list above) might actually be “emotionally subnormal.” But then I just feel like a big jerk for even thinking that. I guess you could say I kinda feel like a big Alan Moore.

Dude, fanboys, dude.

Dude, fanboys, dude.

Maybe I’m just tired of meeting my supposed “peers” who rhetorically ask, “You’re a huge Batman nerd, too!?” It’s after two minutes of one-sided conversation with these folks—usually about “how the Bat-tumbler is badass” or “how sick awesome Joker was to slice off his own face” or “how David Goyer and Chris Nolan are geniuses”—that I realize the answer to their initial question is a resounding, “Not in the same way you are, man. Not even close.”

I also happen to like pro wrestling. You can’t even imagine my “peers” in that realm. But, to each his own, right?

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Chronological Game Changer?

Insert Clayface onto the list of “bad childhood Bat villains.”

Basil Karlo: Portrait of a sad, neglected goober kid. (From "The Dark Knight #24").

Basil Karlo: Portrait of a sad, neglected goober kid. (From “The Dark Knight #24″).


But I’m beyond over this “bad childhood bad-guy” bunk, so let’s move on.

Do we have a possible game changer (from a chronologistical perspective) in Forever Evil: ARGUS #1?
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The whole “five years ago” “six years ago” thing has been a clusterfuck from day one. YEARS AGO from when? What if DC has been dialing back from a set point the whole time, but we haven’t reached it yet or it simply hasn’t been revealed yet?

Take the above scene for example. This is recently inaugurated President Barack Obama, not some analogue or fictional generic prez dressed up to look like Obama by a wily artist; this is the Barack Obama, as specifically named in other DC books, notably by Geoff Johns himself in Green Lantern. Granted, this is still the DCU, so things don’t have to perfectly mirror the real world, but I submit that writer Sterling Gates wouldn’t overcomplicate things just for the sake of doing so—I submit that Gates is writing this scene with a firm historical reference in mind i.e. to be, as he explicitly says, occurring “a couple months into Obama’s presidency,” meaning roughly around March 2009. If true, this means that when Obama says that Darkseid attacked Earth “last year” then the Prez means 2008.

But damn it if I didn’t have the Darkseid attack (and JL response to said attack) as occurring earlier than that! I originally took the “5 years ago” from JL #1 to mean “5 years before the 2011 reboot” aka 2006. Then I realized the “5 years ago” label from JL #1 actually meant “5 years before the series caught up to the present in JL #7” aka 2007. But if 2008 is when Darkseid attacked then does “5 years ago” mean “5 years before whatever happens when Forever Evil ends”? And if that’s the case, does that mean we (the ENTIRE Internet) have been misreading the “5 years ago” labels?

But let’s focus on Batman for a moment, shall we? It’s now possible that the JL debuts in 2008 thanks to Forever Evil: ARGUS #1. But let’s say Obama’s dialogue is just a bunch of non-formal approximations and the JL debut should be in 2007 instead (if not for the simple sake of keeping our chronology intact as is for now). It’s possible, no? Either way, it gives me a sneaking, shuddering suspicion that Batman’s 1st and 2nd years should maybe be mashed together into a single year. We’ve always been led to believe that Superman came six months to a year before the JL and that Batman came six months to a year before Superman, right? What do you think? Are there some heavy changes that have to be made?

It’s definitely still a clusterfuck, I’ll tell ya. The “five years ago” Obama/ARGUS scene above is definitely happening in early 2009, which means that it is occurring “five years before the conclusion of Forever Evil” (OR “five years before what follows” OR “five years before the conclusion of the six-issue Forever Evil: ARGUS series that will conclude in 2014″). What does that all mean? It means that whatever (whenever?) DC editorial is using as its chronal axis-point for all of these silly temporal labels cannot be one single point. (If it were a fixed point at 2014, then the Darkseid attack would also take place in 2009, but we know that is occurs at least a year before the Obama/ARGUS scene)!

The clusterfuckery of this time game that DC is playing is akin to, or at least reminds me of, the Zero Hour game of chutes-and-ladders that DC dabbled in back in 1994-2001 where the timeline was always leading up to the current moment, sliding constantly to keep itself “fresh and new.” Add a bit of the “grim” and a bit of the “gritty” and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. But seriously though, what do y’all think!?

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DC’s Real Problem: Nonexistent PR Combined With Didio’s Lack of Tact

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The recent JH Williams-leaving-Batwoman debacle is upsetting. It’s upsetting because it’s yet another high profile creator quitting a DC title (cue asshole Brian Michael Bendis cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West) and it’s another hiccup in the development of a great character. But it’s also upsetting because it’s a PR nightmare for DC. Why does Didio come off like such a massive heel? Why can’t Didio respond by saying the following:

“We’d love to see Kate Kane grow and develop as a character and surely a marriage to Maggie Sawyer would do that in spades. And we definitely support gay marriage one hundred percent and always will! However, as unfortunate as it is, we have storytelling across the board that must comply with the world that is being built in a shared universe. Right now, her marriage (and the Killer Croc origin that Williams wanted to tell) would not fit in with what we have in mind for the greater DCU. Maybe at some point further down the line things will be different. We have a blueprint for the multiverse we are building with the New 52 and certain things (including Kate being married) would throw a wrench into the mix. It’s nothing against Williams’ ideas personally. I would go into further detail about exactly why Kate’s marriage would cause problems continuity-wise, but that would expose story details that we aren’t ready to reveal at this time.

As the leader and face of this company, I understand and take full responsibility for the eleventh hour editorial changes and for the ostensible heavy-handedness in regard to our writers here at DC. Jim Lee and I will do our best moving forward to communicate better with our writers and artists in the future. We never ever want to stymie our talent or block their creativity. Nor do we want to drop a bombshell on them at the last minute. But due to the complicated nature of re-writing the entire line, turbulence and problems can occur during this “work in progress” era. Please know that the New 52 reboot is ultimately something we are doing because we love our product and our consumers. We hope you are enjoying it so far and we have big plans that I’m sure you all will enjoy in the near future. I personally apologize to anyone who may have been upset by the nature of Williams’ departure (and other recent departures), but please know that the ship is sailing smoothly and we are working very hard to make sure that everyone involved with DC is happy, including our fans, who are the best comic book fans on the planet.”

There. Now that’s Public Relations. DC should hire me. Or at the very least let me run Didio’s twitter. Hell, I’d do it for free! The ComicBeat compared Didio to Vince McMahon. And it’s totally true. He’s so cold and mean! Do I actually believe everything I wrote above? If the world was a better place then I would. But I know that Didio, since 2004, has made a perfect science out of selling comic books. The numbers don’t lie. Alternate cover stunts, arcs that feel like bad TV seasons instead of showing that the characters have much longer lives that need greater development than that, shocking deaths, summer blockbuster crossovers, movie and video game tie-ins—let’s face it, these are the things that have proven to be financial successes. Strong character development, cohesive and engaging narrative that moves forward and often changes the status quo, and allowing creators to do what they want—these make for good writing, but ultimately the average American doesn’t read comics for that. Hell, the average American will never even see my website or ComicBeat or even ComicBookResources or Newsarama! It’s a shit world, guys and gals. Are there any gals left? Or have they been driven away yet?

I get pretty steamed about this stuff, but it’s only because I love comics. More to the point, it’s because I love DC Comics. Why am I really mad? Because I’m tired of the Internet community shitting on DC and for Didio giving them so many reasons to shit on DC. And then instead of having some grace and some decent PR, he adds fuel to the damn fire. I’m not gonna be one of those trolling web commenters that says “lifelong DC fan, no longer buying any of your books, Marvel is doing better stuff now anyway, blah, blah, blah.” That ain’t me. In fact, that is almost as bad as how Didio has responded to the situation. I do read everything that comes out on Wednesday, so I am well-versed enough to say honestly that Marvel has been putting out better quality books lately. But despite that, I’m not a Marvel fan. For me I can’t just switch. Captain America, Spider-Man, and the X-Men just don’t appeal to me. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter. To me, those characters ARE comics. Period. And I love them too much and I am too intertwined with their history, whether or not it exists anymore, to drop them. I’m in it for the long run.

Hopefully something serendipitous occurs, because, boy, we all could use a little bit o’ something good to happen to this eye-rolling, head-shaking industry.

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UPDATE: Didio’s latest in regard to denying Kathy and Maggie their marriage: “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests.”

SHUT UP ALREADY, Danny Boy!

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