Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Comics Diversity: This Topic Makes Me Thor

Diversity has become a dirty word in certain parts of the internet. Those places are often populated with assholes, but they're loud, and they're vocal, and they make sure we hear them.

I wanted to talk about comic book diversity because I find diversity very interesting and something that we should all be striving towards as best we can in this broken, twisted up system we have to work with.


There's a certain samey-sameyness to video games that has been well documented at this point. Recently Ubisoft got into a shitload of trouble when they had the audacity to say that females were too hard to render. Now, I read one tweet from an animator that said that it does take extra work to create a separate model for females as they are built different, would move somewhat differently, and you know? Fine. Okay. But if developers can spend millions of dollars making sure the environments, water, fires, winds, and stubble on some dude's asshole looks realistic...why can't they toss that little bit of extra work toward females as well?

I don't want to talk about video games, though. I want to focus in on comics, which have had their own series of struggles besides the lack of diveristy (see: escher girls and the hawkeye initiative).

When you think of superheroes, the first several that come to mind are dudes. White dudes usually. Almost certainly straight. And sure, you can come up with a few women off of the top of your head, but one could easily follow those female names with, "Okay, and how many have their own consistent solo title?" The answer would be: not many.

Which is why Marvel is particularly interesting. They've been killing it lately with the diversity. They announced that the Thor that we all know has lost the ability to wield his hammer, and a new Thor--a woman--will take over. There are of course interesting things to consider: "Thor" is the name of the character...so...it is considered a title now? Like "Darth" in Star Wars? Because we've been told that make no mistake she is Thor.


And we also have a new Captain America: Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon.

People often get their undies in a chaffing, sweaty bunch whenever their superheroes start getting fiddled with. They see a black Captain America and start stammering and screaming "PC Police" at the top of their lungs until they pass out. But for little black boys and girls, seeing a black Captain America is going to mean the world to them. Since most of the heroes that are "cool" and get the most attention are white...this is huge.

Sam isn't the first black person to take over Caps role, and history hints that he won't be permanently Cap, but it is still significant.


Honestly...I wish he would be. I wish that this new Thor were permanent, and they were to actually significantly shake up their roster. Not for token diversity. Not to make some point. But because there are two problems with this approach. Those same people flipping their shit because Sam is now Captain America often suggest that people just make more black super heroes. Which...fair enough. But you know what? Those heroes don't have the built in audience. Those heroes don't have a legacy. People don't buy those heroes like they do Captain America.

As Chuck Wendig says:
"But you also have to realize that new characters regardless of gender / sexual preference / skin color / nationality / etc. have a hard time reaching new readers right out of the gate. They run the risk of being marginalized heroes. One of the great things about taking iconic pre-existing characters and flipping them around is that it says, hey, these top-shelf characters aren’t just restricted to one segment of the population (i.e. the Straight White Dude contingent)."
Storm is only just now getting a solo series (as far as I know). And she's been around for nearly 40 years. But she's always been a part of a team. The X-Men title has only recently rolled its roster around to feature an all female team. You don't see books lead by women or minorities stick around for nearly as long as you see Spider-Man--who had several other series featuring him besides Amazing Spider-Man, which made it to issue 700(!!!) before rolling back over to a number one issue.

But, Chuck also cautions: [Only adding diversity by creating new heroes] runs the risk of sounding like, “Yeah, sure, you can have your super-ladies and whatever, just keep them over there. Go play in your own sandbox. This one is ours.”

Making one of the main, powerhouse heroes at Marvel or DC black or a woman or gay or Islamic or transgender is a friggin' game changer, y'all.

But there's another problem to Marvel's diversity initiative: eventually the status quo will be restored.

Superman has died a few times. The first time it was a big deal, but no one really cares anymore. With alternate realities and deus ex machinas out the wazoo, it's only a matter of time before the characters come back. Johnny Storm has done it once, Jean Gray has basically become Kenny from South Park, and Captain America has died once before, too. But they always come back.

Occasionally, super heroes find themselves unable to fight, and they get someone close to them to carry on their name. The thing is: these heroes eventually come back: see Captain America's 800 different versions of this story as an example. Almost never are permanent changes made to a super hero. Little costume changes, maybe, but almost never is the original super hero killed off.

Sometimes the replacement spins off into their own persona--like War Machine--but the original hero almost always come back.

Captain Marvel was able to make the switch from the male alien Mar-Vell to the semi-human female Carol Danvers because Captain Marvel wasn't a huge name. He didn't have the legacy that Thor or Batman or Superman does. The Shield (the proto-Captain America) is able to have a gender-flipped reboot because its a small-time super hero comic.

(c) Archie Comics Publications, Inc.
And that's a problem. Because as admirable as making Captain America black is, it doesn't matter quite as much when we reestablish that straight, white dude is the default setting by hitting the reset button after a year or two.

So...I honestly hope these changes are permanent, even if they won't be. Because if Cap is permanently black, if Thor is permanently a woman, then boys and girls of all races and creeds are going to see that and be reminded that they DO matter, that comics ARE for them as well. And I think that will lead to more PoC and female writers, which both Marvel and DC desperately need.

A photo of Vishavjit Singh (Credit: Fiona Aboud)
This is a complicated issue, with lots of implications, but its worth the struggle. Because its the right thing to do.

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For a more critical look at Marvel's decisions, I urge you to check out this excellent post on Nerds of Color (link from N.K. Jemisin's Twitter).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dear White People: Are Y'all As Excited About This As I Am?


I've been excited about this movie since the concept trailer. The fact that its getting a theatrical release now? Hell to the yes, y'all. Seriously. I will watch the shit out of this movie.

Monday, July 21, 2014

2013 Comic-Con Follow Up


Comic-Con is coming up soon. Every year ('11, '12, '13) I write about news from Comic-Con. Usually, I start with a recap/follow-up of stuff from the previous Comic-Con, and then move on to my reactions to the new announcements. However, last year's post got ri-goddamned-diculously long, so I decided to split it into at least two posts: the follow up, and the new reactions.

With that said, let's get started.

Twixt
Way back in 2011 I wrote about Francis For Coppola working on a new movie. It was announced at the same time as Ridley Scott's movie, and it was interesting to see two famous directors working on movies announced at Comic-Con. It came out without really any buzz. In fact, I didn't know it had come out until last year.

Well, it was finally added to Netflix and I watched it. And...yowza. It earned its terrible Rotten Tomatoes rating. The thing is, though? I liked it. Not in the "it's a good movie" sense. In the "this movie is so ridiculous, what is even the hell?" sense. As I said previously, it looks like Francis Ford Coppola just discovered how to use green screen. Val Kilmer plays a drunk, but I think he might actually have been drunk. Bruce Dern was amazing. I think they had to use so much green screen because Dern had already eaten all of the scenery. It was amazing, just not in the way they wanted it to be.

Uglies 
Still basically no news. My reaction stands.

Jurassic Park 4 - aka "Jurassic World"
They have finally decided to kick this movie into high gear it seems. I don't have a lot to say. I've read up on it a little, but the most interesting news so far is that Chris Pratt is starring in it. Since Chris Pratt is on the road to ruling the world (The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.), I'm going to say I'm intrigued--because who doesn't love Andy Dwyer?--but not, like, frothing to see this or anything. Possibly more to be announced at Comic-Con.

The Hobbit 2: Please God Make It Stop
I know I said the first one felt a bit bloated, but that I still enjoyed it. I don't know what changed about this one, but I hated hated HATED this one. It started out promising, but every action piece that happened would quickly spiral out of control. Going down the river, bouncing off of orcs like its a goddamned video game, paying homage to Scooby-Doo while outruninng Smaug in the mountain. Just...fuck this movie man. It felt like a waste of time and left me angry. Plus: a second white orc? I thought the whole goddamned point was that there was only one, and that's why he was unique? What the fuck is this bullshit?

Horns
Horns is FINALLY coming out. I'm sure they'll talk about it more at Comic-Con, but I am STOKED for this one. Daniel Radcliffe looks like he's done a great job. I've talked previously about how excited I am about it.

Here's a link to the trailer. It comes out in October. Fuck. Yes.

© EW/Doane Gregory/Red Granite Pictures
Insidious Chapter 2
So...Insidious Chapter 2...well...man...

I loved the first one. Still do. Great, great work with minimal CG, and mostly practical, well paced scares. And it's not that the new one is bad--it's not...per se.

It just feels pointless.

Like, it feels like they could have cut this thing down to 30 minutes and just tacked it on to the end of the original without causing any problems. The majority of the movie is slow and drags because they explain things that YOU ALREADY KNOW, BECAUSE YOU WATCHED THE FIRST ONE. And some characters act extremely stupid given that this film takes place the same night as the previous.

But it's almost worth it to watch Patrick Wilson go ape shit by the end ala The Shining. Seriously, at least worth one watch for that. And there really are some creepy, scary moments. But the story just wasn't there this time, which means that, ultimately, it feels like a waste of time.

You're Next
You're Next is hard to describe without spoiling. It's just one of those movies. So this will sound very unintentionally vague, but: you should go see this movie because it is awesome.

If you liked the original Scream, you will like this movie. It's made in a similar homage/take down style of the home invasion genre, and is absolutely worth it. I remember being frustrated because it looked generic...but it's anything but. And it's worth it  going in not know much of what will happen. As I've said before, give it a shot.

Oldboy
Unfortunately, I still haven't seen either of these. They're both on Netflix, but I just haven't had the time.

Godzilla
I really liked Godzilla. Like, it wasn't great, but it was quite enjoyable. It's one of those movies where the promise exceeds that actual finished product. I hope they make a sequel and learn from their mistakes of this one to make the next one great.

The biggest problem is that the main characters are boring. Extremely, generically, astoundingly boring. And I did not give a shit what happened to them. By contrast, Godzilla was actually given a lot of character development and felt real and fleshed out and interesting, despite him being a CG monster. Weird huh?

Oh, and the movie fucking tricks you into thinking Bryan Cranston is the main character. He is not. And his story, what little there is, was FAAAAAR more interesting than the actual main character.


The Crow
I still have not seen the original movie. And I still know basically nothing about this. So...reaction stands.

Riddick
I hated Riddick. It took everything that was great about Pitch Black, and it shat all over it. It made me angry as all get out. This movie series is a clear demonstration of the creators not know what made the original so great and ruining, not once, but twice now.

As I said before, just go watch Pitch Black again. Save yourself the trouble.

I, Frankenstein
I never saw this. It looked boring. Maybe someday, but I don't really care.

Catching Fire
This movie is so good it almost makes me dislike the first one on sheer principle. If you enjoyed the first one, you will love the second one. It manages to make the Hunger Games aspect feel new, despite it being a sort-of rehash of the first movie. It doles out the emotional beats perfectly. The shaky cam is gone. It is phenomenal.

I'm sure they'll have info about the third one at Comic-Con.

300: Rise of an Empire
I haven't seen this one, but I've heard it is both stupid, and kind of enjoyable because of it. The main dude is a block of wood--so I've hard--but Eva Green is supposed to have stolen the movie in a big way.

Robocop
I didn't see this either. It looked very stupid. I heard its better than it has any right to be, but is still ultimately pointless.

Ender's Game
I didn't see this because Orson Scott Card is hella problematic and I'd prefer to devote my money to movies that don't make my testes shrink up in discomfort.

Captain America: Winter Soldier
I can't say that I enjoyed this one as much as the first one, but comparing the two is also almost impossible. They are so very different films. But I dug the hell out of this movie. Samuel L. Jackson is always awesome, Chris Evans will always be Captain America to me, and while Black Widow was pretty damn awesome, Anthony Mackie's Falcon stole the whole damned show.

I want a Falcon movie baaaaad now.

I will say: tired of seeing giant spaceships crash back to Earth at this point. Can we try something else for a climax now, filmmakers? Please?


Thor: The Dark World
I enjoyed the first Thor. It was pretty decent, but definitely not my favorite of the Marvel films. This one? I did not like. It's not that it was bad, but there was basically no emotional connection for me. Thor was so generic and bland that I didn't give a shit whether he lived or died, succeeded or failed. The only thing keeping me checked in was Loki, who was admittedly very awesome, as always. But ultimately...I didn't care.

X-Men: Days of the Future Past
This was probably my favorite superhero movie this year so far. It was fun, it was unique. It didn't look like everything else. Did I mention it was fun? The superhero movies are starting to get Super Serious and this movie was like, "naw, Wolverine time travelling, guys. Quicksilver goofing around in hyperspeed." Just as good as First Class, and with the added bonus of Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart being awesome together. Bring on the sequel!

Avengers 2:  Age of Ultron
I want to see Falcon. I'm excited to see him in this. The rest is gravy.

I'm sure there will be stuff at Comic-Con.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Chris Pratt has become so endearing that he alone could see me on this movie. But actually, the very first trailer was all I needed to know: a space opera with an off-beat tone where a group of intergalactic failures try to be superheroes? Yes. All the yes.

Now: PLEASE for the love of God, Marvel, feature a cameo from Carol Danvers as either Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel and PLEASE for the love of God, Marvel, make a Captain/Ms. Marvel movie!


Amazing Spider-Man 2
This movie was both better than the first, and worse. The story was all over the place, but this was the most true to Spider-Man's personality that I've ever seen.

True, there were too many villains, and they REALLY hurt the Green Goblin's character by shoving him into the last act of the film, and true, Jamie Foxx's Electro was basically a black Edward Nygma from Batman Forever, but ultimately, I liked this movie because emotionally it hit most of the right beats, even if the story was pretty awful.

Superman/Batman Movie
Since writing this, they've made it seems almost weekly announcements. I didn't realize they only announced it last year, because it feels like it was announced years ago.

This  comment from last year:
Where's a Flash movie?  Or an Aquaman movie? (And before you scoff, maybe try reading Geoff John's New 52 issues of Aquaman--he's a badass.)  Or, my personal complaint, where the hell is the Wonder Woman movie?
It's funny I said that since this movie is basically "Justice League: The Prequel." I'm not sure if they decided to do this because of the buzz from the general population or what, but now Aquaman has been added (with great casting, as Aquaman is, unquestioningly, a bad ass), Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Cyborg are supposed to make at least cameos.

There's the obvious surprise that Ben Affleck is Batman. There's the more stripped down, comics-friendly suit he has. They cast a former Israeli military member as Wonder Woman. While the movie doesn't look good, it certainly look interesting.

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Those are my thoughts on all the movies and stuff I talked about in last year's Comic-Con post. Once Comic-Con is over, I'll post my thoughts and reactions to all the new stuff announced. Since I've become much more into comics in the past year or so, I might post some stuff about those as well, depending on whether they announce anything that interests me.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bad Ass Song of the Day

Enjoy one of my favorite indie bands cover a guilty pleasure pop song.

You can always count on TeraBrite to inject a little badassery and adrenaline into a song to give it a bit of a kick.


Find more songs on their channel: TeraBrite