Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Coming Out

Photo from Peter Salanki from Flickr  Some rights reserved
I am bisexual.

Typing out that sentence, those three simple words, makes my palms sweat. The idea of posting this makes my heart hammer against my rib cage. It's weird seeing it typed out. It's scary. By 28 years old, I thought I had a decent understanding of who I was.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not ashamed of who I am. But flatly stating it, coming to terms with this new dimension of myself--or rather, embracing the part of me I've been pointedly ignoring--is dizzying. It's like realizing you have an extra appendage nobody ever bothered mentioning. All you can do is stare at it and wonder, "how the fuck did I not see this before?"

Looking back, there were guys in school that I was...er...very interested in. But, of course, I told myself that didn't mean anything. I'd had girlfriends. I was attracted to those girls. So there was no way I could be gay. I just found some guys very interesting, that's all. He's just really nice, or really cool, or really confident. Just a healthy admiration of a fellow guy. Totally not a crush, though.

In high school and college, I found myself low key seeking out portrayals of queerness, especially gay men. Rent; The Bermudez Triangle; Rocky Horror Picture Show; Spring Awakening; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Boy Meets Boy--these were all stories I sought out and consumed greedily if bashfully. Sometimes, I wondered why those narratives seemed to strike such a chord with me, to speak to me so directly. I wasn't gay, so why was I so affected by these portrayals? I decided I was just especially empathetic. More woke than the average straight man. That's all.

Except for living vicariously through movies and books, I pushed that part of me as far away as possible. I had a handful of semi-romantic, kinda girlfriends and more than a few one-sided crushes. Then, I met the woman who would become my wife. She was funny. She was smart. She had a quick, sharp wit like no one I had ever met. She rocked my world. We dated for about a year before we got married. After that, I figured whatever feelings I had was a moot point. After all, I certainly wasn't going to be seeking out other romantic encounters.

Still, those feelings never went away. Sometimes that made me feel really guilty, like I'd somehow tricked my wife into marrying me by lying. I would catch myself staring at Chris Evans and Idris Elba, but I told myself I was just very comfortable with my heterosexuality and that's why I could appreciate--objectively--another man's handsomeness.

I couldn't tell you what specifically made me start to put a finer point on things. I mean, watching Chris Evans rip a log in half in Avengers: Age of Ultron certainly made things harder to ignore, but I was too afraid to put a label on those feelings, even just for myself. I started testing the waters, talking about male attractiveness a little more openly to see how my friends and family would react. I always kept a shrug and a wry smile at the ready to easily deflect in case I met any pushback. "Hey. Objectively, Hugh Jackman is a handsome son of a bitch. You can't argue with that. That's just facts."

Gif from Jeanette Grey's Tumblr
If anyone suspected anything, they never said, but I doubt it was even noticeable. Still, it felt like I was taking this huge risk by putting myself out there even just that little bit.

Once I did admit things to myself, I thought that might be enough. But it still felt like I was lying--to myself, to my wife, to my friends. It took me a week of failed starts and stops to finally come out to my wife. I wasn't sure how to bring it up. Do I mention it off-handedly? Do I sit her down so she can ask any follow-up questions she might have? Maybe I should write her a note and leave it on her pillow so I could get a decent head start in case she decided she wanted nothing more to do with me. Every time I would start to bring it up, my heart would start pounding, my breath would grow short, and I would chicken out.

Finally confessing to my wife that I was attracted to women and men was one of the scariest moments of my life. A thousand worries rushed through my mind. How would this change our relationship? How would it change how she looks at me? Would she still find me attractive? Would she become jealous or suspicious every time I talked to another guy? Would she dismiss me, tell me it was just a phase or that I was just watching too much Rantasmo on YouTube?

I shouldn't have been worried. This is, after all, the person I married, the person I love more than anyone in the world. She was completely supportive of the news and has since been helping me look for pride merch and portrayals of bi and gay men so that I can better understand myself and what this all means.

In a way, it's like looking at the world through new eyes. I saw a post on my Facebook Timehop recently from the day gay marriage was legalized in the United States and Arkansas. When I read that post now, I know the B in LGBT+ stands for me. It feels good to finally be able to say it:

I am bisexual.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Become a Pod Person

Photo by Derrick Tyson of Flickr. 
Lately, when I haven't been listening to audiobooks at work, I've been listening to podcasts.

Additionally, I've been really into horror stuff--stories, books, movies. I think it's because things have been so politically bad, a word where plants will dig their way under your skin and slowly devour you from the inside seems far better than a world in which 45 is president. So here's my podcast suggestions--horror edition.

1. Pseudopod

This is an obvious one, and I've mentioned it before. Pseudopod is one branch of Escape Artists, which is a multi-professionally-paying publication group run and owned by Alastair Stuart--who is a great guy and very cool. Pseudopod is their short horror fiction podcast series. Each week, episodes clocking in around 30-45 minutes long are published, read by some amazing talent. The episodes change in genre weekly, so there's always something different on there. If you're not feeling a story one week, you can always come back next week for a fresh offering, and since the show has been on for a decade or so, there's TONS of back episodes to listen to. Highly recommended. I always recommend episode 433, "20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism."

2. Welcome to Night Vale

Another obvious one I've mentioned before. I imagine some would possibly argue that Night Vale isn't horror because it's not exactly extreme. No swearing (except occasionally in the songs they play during the weather), and no gore or anything graphic. Just eerie, odd, and quirky. But the show runs a fascinating gambit of episodes from the entertainingly quirky, to the eerie and unnerving, to the tragic.

If you don't know the pitch, it's essentially NPR if it were set in Stephen King's Maine. (It's literally set I believe somewhere in Nevada, but you get the idea.)

While the show has a loose ongoing story line, you can easily pick almost any episode to start listening and you'll eventually catch on. Seriously, jumping into episode one is just as bizarre and humorously odd as jumping into episode 25. They provide plenty of context clues and explanation in each episode so you know who people are. You may miss out on some of the character growth and change, but sometimes the show fucks with you in that regard anyway--for example, they released an epilogue episode that followed up on the events of their book that had not even come out yet, with lots of "Well, I don't have to explain that, do I? You were all there. You all know what I'm referring to."

3. Shock Waves (The Deep End of Horror--Better Than Sex)

The next two I have aren't horror fiction, but rather focus on horror movies. Shock Waves is the reboot of a podcast formerly known as "Killer POV." I'm not sure why the old one went under and why they relaunched with a new name--I haven't gone back and listened to the old show--but I can highly, HIGHLY recommend Shock Waves.

The show is hosted by Rob Galluzzo (Senior Editor of Blumhouse.com), Elric Kane (This Week In Horror and Inside Horror), and Rebekah McKendry (Editor In Chief of Blumhouse.com). I really appreciate Rebekah's presence on the show. It really helps break up the cast having a woman to contribute her perspective on the horror industry. Otherwise, it would just be three dudes, and that's just not as interesting--we tend to overrun the genre.

Most episodes follow a similar structure: they talk about what horror movies they watched last week (or sometimes expand to what horror related things they've done--such as festivals, special projects, etc.), then they go over to Ryan Turek (Blumhouse Director of Development ) for a segment called "Pick of the Week." He usually picks a neglected or little known horror movie, but sometimes recommends horror soundtracks, too. And then they delve into a long interview with someone from the horror industry.

My favorite episodes I've listened to so far are episode 2, in which they interview some folks from Scream Factory and we learn the fascinating ins and outs of film rights for distribution (it doesn't sound interesting, but trust me, IT IS!!!), episode 4, which features an interview with possibly my favorite modern horror director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush), episode 7, in which they interview the Soska Sisters (directors of American Mary and hosts of Hellevator), and episode 14, in which they interview the writers behind The Final Girls and we get to hear what the horror genre means to two gay men--a perspective often lacking in the discussion.

Seriously, I love this show, and it comes out weekly, so you have PLENTY of content.

4. The Faculty of Horror

While Shock Waves is great for a horror industry look, sometimes their discussion is a bit surface level. If you want a show that digs down into the symbolism of a movie, the history of those symbols, and the context in which the movies were released, then The Faculty of Horror is the show for you. And best of all, they frequently approach their film discussions with a feminist angle, which is extremely welcome.

The show is hosted by Andrea Subissati, the Executive Editor of Rue Morgue magazine and host of a great YouTube channel (The Batcave), and Alexandra West, author of Films of New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity (totally added that to my Amazon wishlist). Together, they really dig into what makes a horror movie tick. While some episodes focus on one movie and its impact, most of the time they take on two movies that share a common theme.

Their episode on The Blair Witch Project gave me a new appreciation for the movie, and since they're Canadian, their look at Pontypool revealed aspects of the film of which I was completely ignorant. A couple more episodes I highly recommend: episode 19 on eating disorders in Drag Me to Hell and Black Swan, and episode 36 on motherhood in Goodnight, Mommy and The Babadook.

I actually found this podcast because they guest hosted an episode of Pseudopod (see? Bringing it all back around, eh? Eh??) and loved their academic approach to analyzing the story after we heard it. Honestly, I WISH there were a Faculty of Horror style podcast about horror literature because I would be so fucking there.

Check out these podcasts, I think you'll like what you hear.

If someone has any suggestions for podcasts hosted by LGBT+ folks or hosted by people of color, please let me know. I follow the Graveyard Shift Sisters blog, but sadly, they don't have a podcast. I would love a Shock Waves or Faculty of Horror style podcast that focused specifically on the queer and/or people of color perspective.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Comics Project Update: March 2017

As part of my on-going comics project, I update monthly with what comics I bought and anything weird or interesting I stumbled across. Each post will have a running list, and I'll update with the new titles and where they fall chronologically.

I came up with the order of the books from this comment of all the Batman trades in chronological order (up to Flashpoint), this trade reading order list for Superman, and this one for Batman. I judged the rest for myself based on release dates and what the story depicted.

I want this list functional and readable, so I didn't focus on perfect chronological order. I tried to keep decent chunks of individual runs together where possible, then backtrack chronologically if necessary for a chunk of a different title--except in cases where something important was introduced, like a character dying, coming back to life, etc.

Below you'll see the list of canon DC titles that I own at this point. The ones in bold are the ones that I got this month.

  1. Crisis On Infinite Earths
  2. Batman: Dark Victory
  3. Batman: The Killing Joke, Deluxe Edition
  4. Justice League International, Vol. 1
  5. Justice League International, Vol. 2
  6. Justice League International, Vol. 3
  7. Justice League International, Vol. 4
  8. The Death of Superman
  9. Batman: Knightfall, Vol. 1
  10. Impulse: Reckless Youth
  11. Justice League: A League of One
  12. JLA Titans: Technis Imperative
  13. Young Justice: A League of Their Own
  14. Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds
  15. Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies
  16. Superman/Batman Vol. 2: Supergirl
  17. JLA: The Hypothetical Woman
  18. Teen Titans Vol. 1: A Kid's Game
  19. Teen Titans Vol. 2: Family Lost
  20. Teen Titans Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls
  21. Teen Titans Vol. 4: The Future is Now
  22. Teen Titans/Outside​rs: The Insiders
  23. Teen Titans: The Death and Return of Donna Troy
  24. The OMAC Project (Countdown to Infinite Crisis)
  25. Infinite Crisis
  26. Teen Titans Vol. 5: Life and Death
  27. Supergirl Vol. 1
  28. Batman: Face the Face by James Robinson
  29. Teen Titans, Vol. 6: Titans Around the World
  30. Teen Titans, Vol. 7: Titans East
  31. Superman: Up, Up, and Away!
  32. Superman: Back in Action
  33. Superman: Last Son of Krypton
  34. Superman: Camelot Falls, Vol. 1
  35. Superman: Camelot Falls (Vol. 2)
  36. Superman: The Third Kryptonian
  37. Superman: Redemption
  38. Superman: Escape from Bizarro World
  39. Superman: Shadows Linger
  40. Blue Beetle (Book 1): Shellshocked
  41. Blue Beetle (Book 2): Road Trip
  42. Blue Beetle (Book 3): Reach for the Stars
  43. Teen Titans, Vol. 8: Titans of Tomorrow
  44. Blue Beetle (Book 4): Endgame
  45. Batman: Batman and Son
  46. Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul
  47. Batman R.I.P.
  48. Final Crisis
  49. Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds
  50. Teen Titans Spotlight: Raven
  51. Wonder Woman: The Circle
  52. Time Masters: Vanishing Point
  53. Superman: Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel
  54. Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin (The New 52)
  55. Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
  56. Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls
  57. Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection (The New 52)
  58. Batgirl Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends
  59. Batwing Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom
  60. Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain's Journey
  61. Justice League International Vol. 1: The Signal Masters
  62. Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench (The New 52)
  63. Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others (The New 52)
  64. Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (The New 52)
  65. Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  66. Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  67. The Movement Vol. 1: Class Warfare (The New 52)
  68. Justice League United Vol. 1: Justice League Canada
  69. Justice League United Vol. 2: The Infinitus Saga
  70. Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted (The New 52)
  71. Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places
  72. Bizarro
  73. Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged

Like I said last month, I'm trying to get the four major events of the DC universe--the three Crises books and Flashpoint. There are other important events--Zero Hour resulted in Hal Jordan turning evil and disappearing/dying for a long time in comics continuity and Convergence set the stage for DC Rebirth as well as bringing Preboot Superman into the New 52 continuity. But those weren't the big continuity rewriting events that the Crises books and Flashpoint were. Those are also kind of the way I divide the modern era of DC comics.

As you can see, I FINALLY got Final Crisis. It was pretty terrible. What I'm learning is Grant Morrison is, at best, a writer whom I finish and say, "I think this is what happened??" I don't need stuff spoonfed to me, but stories should generally have a followable sequence and boy Morrison can't do that to save his life. At least the Batman books--Batman and Son, Al Ghul, and RIP--Morrison is staying focused on one story-ish. With Final Crisis and all of the goddamned cosmos and the entirety of DC's roster at his disposal, the book spins out into a series of events that become so abstract and difficult to follow, so jumpy and choppy, that by the end of the book, I closed it, set it aside, and actually said, "...what?" outloud.

The ONLY thing I got out of it was that Batman died, but not really because he got kicked back in time to the caveman era because comics and because there's no way DC would actually kill off their biggest cash cow.

I got the next volume in Teen Titans--I am at this point, about halfway through collecting the run started by Geoff Johns in 2003. I was very glad that I caught up and read Blue Beetle volumes 3 and 4 before I bought or read Teen Titans volume 8 because it turns out Blue Beetle volume 3 overlaps with Teen Titans volume 8. There's one issue in particular in volume 3 of Blue Beetle the features the Teen Titans. And when reading Teen Titans volume 8, I was surprised to see portions of that issue were included, and then Blue Beetle keeps showing up in the subsequent issues, which is great! Jaime in the Teen Titans finally!

I have two more volumes of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle to get and I will be finished with that run until Rebirth. I have no desire to collect the New 52 Blue Beetle. No Ted, Jaime hides his powers from his parents, almost kills one of his friends. Just...nope nope nope.

I also got JLI volume 4--the last one I'm worried about since volume 5 is far more expensive than I'm willing to spend and volume 6 ends with a cliffhanger. There is no volume 7. This means that besides trying to track down the volumes of Birds of Prey that Ted pops up in, the next Ted Kord stuff that I really need to collect is 52 and I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League. I don't care to get the follow up to that one either, Formerly Known as the Justice League, because from the reviews it's a weaker retread of Can't Believe and more sexist, which I'm good without. I get enough of that in the otherwise decent comics I already collect.

I also got The Killing Joke from my LCS because it was super cheap and...I dunno...it's a classic? It leads to the creation of Oracle--although it should not get any credit for that since it was another writer coming along to try to fix that mess. I just got it for completeness since it is so seminal, if unintentionally so.

My quick review: The Killing Joke is overhyped garbage. It was interesting to see a back story to the Joker, but it was honestly too short to effectively tell the story it tried to tell. It didn't need padding. It needed time to better tackle Batman and the Joker's relationship--and to give more time to Barbara. Make the story at least partially about her--and not like how they did in the movie where they made Barbara into Batman's fuck buddy and pining girlfriend---UGH GOD DAMMIT WHY DC WHY???

I'll go into it more later, but the volume of Supergirl I got was...very uneven at best. It started decent, but about halfway through goes way off the rails. I thought the guy at the counter at my LCS was being kind of a jerk when he said "Just fyi, this book doesn't have, like, a story. It's just sort of random things happening." He was right.

And that other Final Crisis book up there is a tie-in that features, as I understand it, the resurrection of both Connor Kent and Bart Allen, which I need to read as part of my Teen Titans collecting. It's so far pretty good--far, far better than Final Crisis.

For April, I'll obviously keep collecting Teen Titans, try to finish up the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle run, but I'm also tempted to jump ahead and start collecting some of the stuff that leads into Rebirth because those trades are finally starting to come out and I want them so baaaad--*grabby hands.* Especially because of the gonzo nonsense I've seen about the current Superman run and how they're explaining Preboot Superman. It look like the kind of over-complicated mess that I love about comics. So I might try grabbing Flashpoint, and then jumping straight to Convergence and the Preboot Superman stuff. I dunno. We'll see.

If you have any thoughts about, drop me a line in the comments. Want to discuss books I've recently purchased or read? Any suggestions for books I missed? Just please, no spoilers.

Happy reading!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Thoughts on Wonder Woman (2009 animated movie)

Property of DC and Warner Bros.
Four years ago, I wrote:
DC has made 9 Superman movies, and 5 animated movies (although the Justice League movies can certainly count since he's sort of their leader, and the Superman/Batman movies count for both Superman and Batman, obviously.) 
DC has made 10 Batman movies, and 6 animated movies (although, again, the Justice League movies could certainly count--especially Justice League: Doom, and the Superman/Batman movies count for both of them). 
DC has made one direct-to-dvd animated Wonder Woman movie in 2009. 
In 60 years of films being made, Wonder Woman has had one shot to herself.
Last week, I finally had the opportunity to watch the animated Wonder Woman movie and well...

Look, I wanted to like this movie. I wanted to be swept up in the epic majesty of a Wonder Woman movie that, let's face it, we'll never get in live action. DC's animated stuff is far and away better than anything they've done in live action in years. We'll never get a Justice League movie half as good as Justice League: Doom. Or a Superman movie as good as Superman vs. the Elite. I wanted this to be a home run. This seemed like the moment. It was even written (in part) by GAIL SIMONE! She wrote one of THE definitive Wonder Woman runs.

But if you look at the back of the DVD box, a story reveals itself:

  • Story by Gail Simone and Michael Jelenic
  • Screenplay by Michael Jelenic

Fun fact: crediting writers as "Robert Bob White & Lamar Bone" on movies means that the writers were a writing TEAM. Crediting writers as "Doug Funnie and Roger Klotz" means that they wrote separate drafts of a work. Which goes a long way in explaining why the overall story is fine, but there are moments that feel like they were written by someone who doesn't really get Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston to be someone women and girls could look up to the way boys and men could look up to Superman. I don't want to get into Marston's philosophy because it's super complicated (involving sexual bondage play and polyamory). There have been whole books written on how his ideas colored the creation and early themes of Wonder Woman. The most important aspect of Wonder Woman is that she is ALL WOMAN, from lineage to birth.

Wonder Woman comes from a race of warrior women that lived on an island (Paradise Island, no less) isolated from the rest of the world, which is referred to as Man's World. It's a veritable utopia. On top of being fearsome warriors, the Amazons are also known for showing mercy and compassion. They have their problems, but their society is almost the paradise their name claims. One unavoidable issue is that no one can have children--there are no men and it takes two to tango, as the saying goes. Queen Hippolyta builds a child out of clay and prays to the gods in a fit of loneliness. Her prayers are heard and Wonder Woman is born.

Let me emphasize: Wonder Woman comes from an island of ONLY women, and her very creation involved NO men. Depending on which run, it's one of the goddesses--Aphrodite or Athena usually--that grants Hippolyta's wish.

From The Legend of Wonder Woman by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon from DC Comics
The movie mostly follows a tweaked version of George Perez's post-Crisis Wonder Woman origin, and as far as that goes, it's pretty good. The battle sequence at the start is great with lots of great banter and women kicking ass. Ares as the main villain is good, and Hipolytta having had a relationship with Ares before the Amazons fucked off to their own island works well. The problem comes when Steve Trevor arrives on the island.

Steve Trevor is a fighter pilot whose plane is shot down by enemy jets on their way back from a mission. He's exactly what you'd imagine a fighter pilot character to be--dripping arrogant, swaggering charm, but with a heart of gold. Nathan Fillion was well cast for the role--he has the Han Solo charm thing down.

When Trevor first lands on the island, he accidentally stumbles on a watering hole where the women are bathing, playing, etc. He says, "This is too good to be true." Then a spear crashes into a tree in front of him and he adds, "Yep. It is."

This was meant to be funny, and maybe if Trevor had snuck up to the bushes and the camera had stayed on him and his reaction--with splashing sounds and girls giggling in the background or something--maybe it would've worked. Instead, the movie took pains to zoom in on misty, barely covered naked women, sexualizing them when they aren't being sexual. The camera, and by extension the audience, is forced into Trevor's viewpoint. If the camera alone weren't enough, the music makes it obvious that they are being sexualized.

This isn't the only time this happens.

From Wonder Woman (2009), property of Warner Premiere and DC Comics.
Later in the movie, Diana chases Trevor down in the jungle. After a brief struggle, they square off and Trevor comments, "Wow...I think I like you." Far be it for Steve Trevor to actually grow to respect Diana because she's such a gifted fighter, though, instead the camera INTENTIONALLY PANS DOWN TO WONDER WOMAN'S ASS to make it clear he just means she's hawt.

From Wonder Woman (2009), property of Warner Premiere and DC Comics.
As I said, characters don't have to be perfect, and Trevor occasionally cracking jokes about Diana and the Amazons' beauty might work if done right. But he does it CONSTANTLY, and it's clear we're supposed to agree with him. You can practically hear the frat boys elbowing each other and chuckling to themselves.

The Amazons take him back to their lair and while using the lasso of truth to interrogate him, he says, "Your daughter has a great rack." I ask you, if you were being held prisoner and interrogated by a foreign power that has already demonstrated both that magic is actually real and a willingness to kill you if necessary...would "lol bewbs" REALLY be the first thing on your mind? Really???

From Wonder Woman (2009), property of Warner Premiere and DC Comics.
Later, after Diana takes Trevor back to Man's World, and after a great scene between Diana and a young girl that's being excluded from playing pirates with the boys, Trevor makes a crack that Diana needs new clothes before he gets arrested for solicitation, implying that Wonder Woman's outfit looks like something a prostitute would wear.

How? She's wearing a swimsuit, for god's sake. It's not like she's wearing Starfire's abomination of an outfit from the New 52's Red Hood and the Outlaws. And even if she were dressed like Red Sonja...so? Does that mean Hercules, The Martian Manhunter, and Hawkman should keep an eye peeled for the police, too?

All images property of DC Comics.
Also, later in the movie, Steve Trevor tries to get Diana drunk so he can score with her--the movie leaves it vague what exactly he expects, but it's gross whether he wanted sex or a handshake. Just throwing that out there.

After all of the derogatory comments, the objectifying and condescending to her, after ALL OF THAT, he has the absolute audacity to lecture her on how men aren't actually that bad and not everything is about sexism and you just don't get it because you're new here. As if a woman raised outside of a patriarchal society wouldn't have a better barometer for noticing patriarchal oppression. And again, it's not that he says this, but the fact that the movie clearly agrees with Trevor and treats this like some death blow against feminism and a big victory for Steve Trevor.

In spite all of that, I was still trying to chalk this movie up as an imperfect but ultimately fun romp. But two things happened that pissed me off and tipped the scales toward in the negative. Both of them take place during the final battle with Ares.

1) Ares has raised an army against the Amazons and is growing more powerful the longer the battle goes on. Diana shows up to do the butt-kicky superhero thing. Ares says something "bwa ha ha, I'm unstoppable." And Diana says "How do you expect to defeat Zeus if you can't even beat a girl?"

From Wonder Woman (2009), property of Warner Premiere and DC Comics.
2) After getting punched so hard she flies into the reflecting pool at the base of the Washington Monument, Diana stands up and says, "Well, I have learned one thing. It's not polite to hit a lady."

From Wonder Woman (2009), property of Warner Premiere and DC Comics.
Okay...so...for one thing, the idea that Ares should feel ashamed that he can't beat a girl, that his inability to beat a girl not only reflects poorly on him, but proves he can't defeat Zeus is obviously rooted in the worst kind of sexism. For another thing, neither of these concepts make ANY sense being parroted by Diana, not even ironically. She was raised in a world of WARRIOR WOMEN. The BEST warriors she's ever known are ALL. WOMEN. ALL OF THEM. She not only wouldn't say this bullshit, she would find it offensive to her very core. It goes against everything she was ever raised to believe and everything she's ever known.

Looking at Jelenic's credits on IMDB, he's mostly written Batman and Teen Titans, Go! stuff. He was very much the wrong choice to tweak, adapt, or otherwise assist with this movie if this is what he came up with.

Ultimately, while the movie has some good moments, it left me feeling frustrated because even though the title character is Wonder Woman, it feels like Steve Trevor is our actual point of view character. And, respectfully, I don't care about Steve Trevor. I care about a kick ass feminist superhero overcoming villains with grace and compassion. I care about Wonder Woman.

I just...I just want good Wonder Woman movie. Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Teen Titans! ...oh...

Property of DC Comics
Growing up, I loved superheroes, and I liked the idea of comics, but I wasn't able to read any of them. I think we might have had one comics shop in my town very briefly when I was very young, but if we did, it closed down before I was really old enough to care about comics. Most of my superhero knowledge and experience came from cartoons--Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Justice League, and of course, just into the new millennium, the early 2000's series Teen Titans.

I'd always been a superhero geek, but Teen Titans was special because it mixed capes with my other favorite thing at the time--anime. Using anime conventions helped differentiate that show from the other DC animated shows that came before it. The show was frenetic, dynamic, colorful. I loved it.

When I finally started collecting comics in college, one series that I wanted to jump into was Teen Titans, but which run to jump into?

I looked at the old Wolfman/Perez comics, and I wasn't really interested in that run--I didn't really like what they did with Raven, she didn't seem like the snarky, dry, Daria-esque character I loved from the show. Plus the art style was too old school for my taste--my tastes have long since changed, but this was me just starting out.

I finally settled on what looked like a promising run--Geoff John's Teen Titans run. The art style was just what I wanted--bold colors, clean lines, slightly stylized figures, and it featured Robin, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven. This was as close as I was likely to find to the TV show.

Since I first started collecting them, my tastes have changed, broadened. I learned more about comics, and I've learned how to appreciate and love the cartoon, while understanding its place in the larger canon and history of the team.

What I can say is if you're interested in reading a Teen Titans run, the early volumes of Geoff John's run aren't a bad place to start. The first book does a decent job of setting up the book, its premise, the characters, and characterizing them. Beast Boy, sadly, is like the TV show only so much. He's goofy, he likes to clown around and joke, but he also leers at girls and makes gross lewd jokes that really don't sit well with me, but that does get toned down a lot by the second volume. Volumes 1 - 4 of that run are a great read.

Property of DC Comics
After that, however, things become pretty rocky.

Between volume 4 and volume 5, several other books happen, and those books are of mixed quality.

There's two books that cross over with the Outsiders, a superhero team that are really not my taste. I think the idea behind them is that they're meant to be an adult Titans team but grittier and more "mature." I found the book joyless, overly serious, and boring. Because of this, the volumes were a chore to read, but one volume furthered a plot about Superboy's origins that was already set up in the main Teen Titans book, and the other volume--The Death and Return of Donna Troy--can really be understood by the title.

The latter book is actually a re-released collection of two other trades--Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, and The Return of Donna Troy. Both, in my opinion, were terrible. Graduation Day is three issues of mostly pointless fighting culminating in Donna Troy's death--but not before another character is killed off for no reason. The Return of Donna Troy was just confusing. One of Donna's many origins is that she's actually a descendent of the actual Greek Titans of myth, and when she dies she goes to rejoin them. But it's actually more complicated than that, as Donna can remember both her life as a Greek Titan and her life as a Teen Titan and the Greek Titans want her to forget about her former life as a superhero for...reasons? And it ties into an intergalactic war on another planet between the hawk people of Thanagar and it's just...ugh. No.

Besides the crossover volumes with the Outsiders, volume 5 of Teen Titans is a crossover with the events of Infinite Crisis. It doesn't make any sense without having read that event since one Titan actually dies during Infinite Crisis. If you've read the event, the book is actually pretty good and effectively explores how the individuals on the team dealt with the characters death and their feelings of loss. It is, however, weakened in that it doesn't really tell a complete story, instead just providing more context to the main event.

Property of DC Comics
After Infinite Crisis, DC had all of their comics jump forward 1 year to shake up the status quo, create some interest and mystery, and to serve as a jumping on point for new readers. Volume 6, Titans Around the World, was pretty good, but that 1 year jump forward was a strength and a weakness. It was basically a new series as far as the reader is concerned, and provided a convenient jumping on point for new readers, but they tried to shove in way too many new characters. Where the first volume had a more manageable team size and plenty of time to introduce the team, this one tried to jam a bunch of new characters (and lesser known characters at that) into the narrative too quickly. It's enjoyable, but you can feel the cast size getting away from the writers a little and the plot goes a little too fast.

Things started to fall apart with the latest volume I purchased, Volume 7, Titans East. The first issue is actually good, exploring the origins of Kid Devil, a lesser known hero and new addition to the team. Everything after that is garbage.

The "Titans East" concept was set up a little in the previous volumes, barely, and it ultimately doesn't make any sense anyway. Deathstroke goes through all this trouble to set up an evil Teen Titans--including dragging Cassandra Cain's Batgirl through the mud--but when we learn why he sets up the anti-Titans, it literally makes no sense. I cannot put into words how completely divorced his reasoning for attacking the Titans and his actual plan are from each other. It would be like if I said, "I started trying to snort an entire watermelon up my nose and claimed I only did it because I needed to consume more vitamin D. Not to mention, his reasoning is so trite and forced, I literally groaned and rolled my eyes while reading it.

Property of DC Comics
On top of the stupid resolution, the book was extremely difficult to follow. It was one long, incomprehensible fight scene. Characters from other books popped up out of nowhere. Kid Flash is now suddenly older and has replaced Wally West as the Flash without any explanation. The Titans fought evil clones of Superboy and Bart Allen, and literally none of this has any set up. Plus, the Joker's Daughter and the Riddler's Daughter only show up to tie into Countdown to Final Crisis. The only way I was able to understand what in the blue hell was going on was through Googling and having previously watched some old episodes of Atop the Fourth Wall.

The next volume is Teen Titans Volume 8: Titans of Tomorrow, featuring future dark versions of the Titans. The last time they showed up, it was a pretty interesting look into a potential future and a fun little story about choices and consequences, but I'm not really thrilled with rehashing these characters so soon. They were more interesting as a potential future than specific antagonists to come back and harass the group further.

From what I've read, the book should right itself when Scott McKeever takes over writing duties for Geoff Johns, but right now it feels very phoned in. I'm holding onto hope, though, since soon Blue Beetle and Static Shock will be joining the group. If you're interested in the run, the first 4 volumes are great, but you can probably skip the rest unless you're a completionist. We'll see how the run continues, and I'll keep y'all posted.

Have you read the run? What did you think? Have you read ahead? No spoilers, but does it get better?

Friday, March 3, 2017

My Comics Project Update: February 2017

As part of my on-going comics project, I update monthly with what comics I bought and anything weird or interesting I stumbled across. Each post will have a running list, and I'll update with the new titles and where they fall chronologically.

I came up with the order of the books from this comment of all the Batman trades in chronological order (up to Flashpoint), this trade reading order list for Superman, and this one for Batman. I judged the rest for myself based on release dates and what the story depicted.

I want this list functional and readable, so I didn't focus on perfect chronological order. I tried to keep decent chunks of individual runs together where possible, then backtrack chronologically if necessary for a chunk of a different title--except in cases where something important was introduced, like a character dying, coming back to life, etc.

Below you'll see the list of canon DC titles that I own at this point. The ones in bold are the ones that I got this month.

  1. Crisis On Infinite Earths
  2. Batman: Dark Victory
  3. Justice League International, Vol. 1
  4. Justice League International, Vol. 2
  5. Justice League International, Vol. 3
  6. The Death of Superman
  7. Impulse: Reckless Youth
  8. Justice League: A League of One
  9. JLA Titans: Technis Imperative
  10. Young Justice: A League of Their Own
  11. Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds
  12. Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies
  13. Superman/Batman Vol. 2: Supergirl
  14. JLA: The Hypothetical Woman
  15. Teen Titans Vol. 1: A Kid's Game
  16. Teen Titans Vol. 2: Family Lost
  17. Teen Titans Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls
  18. Teen Titans Vol. 4: The Future is Now
  19. Teen Titans/Outside​rs: The Insiders
  20. Teen Titans: The Death and Return of Donna Troy
  21. The OMAC Project (Countdown to Infinite Crisis)
  22. Infinite Crisis
  23. Teen Titans Vol. 5: Life and Death
  24. Batman: Face the Face by James Robinson
  25. Teen Titans, Vol. 6: Titans Around the World
  26. Teen Titans, Vol. 7: Titans East
  27. Superman: Up, Up, and Away!
  28. Superman: Back in Action
  29. Superman: Last Son of Krypton
  30. Superman: Camelot Falls, Vol. 1
  31. Superman: Camelot Falls (Vol. 2)
  32. Superman: The Third Kryptonian
  33. Superman: Redemption
  34. Superman: Escape from Bizarro World
  35. Superman: Shadows Linger
  36. Blue Beetle (Book 1): Shellshocked
  37. Blue Beetle (Book 2): Road Trip
  38. Blue Beetle (Book 3): Reach for the Stars
  39. Blue Beetle, Book 4: Endgame
  40. Batman: Batman and Son
  41. Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul
  42. Teen Titans Spotlight: Raven
  43. Wonder Woman: The Circle*
  44. Time Masters: Vanishing Point
  45. Superman: Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel
  46. Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin (The New 52)
  47. Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
  48. Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls
  49. Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection (The New 52)
  50. Batgirl Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends
  51. Batwing Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom
  52. Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain's Journey
  53. Justice League International Vol. 1: The Signal Masters
  54. Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench (The New 52)
  55. Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others (The New 52)
  56. Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (The New 52)
  57. Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  58. Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  59. The Movement Vol. 1: Class Warfare (The New 52)
  60. Justice League United Vol. 1: Justice League Canada
  61. Justice League United Vol. 2: The Infinitus Saga
  62. Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted (The New 52)
  63. Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places
  64. Bizarro
  65. Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged

Once upon a time, DC writers told stories about whatever the hell they felt like. Sometimes, if they wanted to tell a story that didn't strictly fit into the established canon, they'd write a story set on some Other Earth--Earth Two, Earth Three, blah blah blah. This eventually became too confusing for readers--wait, which Earth did that happen on? Did that actually happen, or was that on one of the other Earths? 

In order to simplify things, DC published an event--Crisis on Infinite Earths--in which all of the other Earths and timelines were eliminated and streamlined into one easy to follow series of events.

This lasted for all of five minutes because of course it did. Since then, it's been sort of a DC tradition to periodically have big events that rewrite portions of their timeline or otherwise affect big changes:
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in the death of Silver Age Flash Barry Allen as well as the streamlining of the DC universe timeline...for a while...
  • Zero Hour resulted in the eventual death of Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan.
  • Infinite Crisis resulted in the deaths of several characters as well as rewriting Wonder Woman's and Superman's origins (again).
  • Final Crisis resulted in the death of the Martian Manhunter and the temporal displacement of Batman.
  • Flashpoint resulted in the entire DC universe rebooting back to zero (sorta, kinda, depending on how editors were feeling at the time). This new timeline is referred to as the New 52.
  • Convergence introduced the pre-New 52 Superman into the New 52 timeline through time shenanigans.
  • Rebirth has so far resulted in DC trying to reinstate some of the legacy and history that was lost when they rebooted everything in Flashpoint.

The ultimate point of me making this list, besides boredom and God's failure to install Normal Human OS 19.89 in me, is that some of the best books and arcs for characters--supposed classics--don't fully make sense unless you understand the context of the book.

Here's an example: one of the best known arcs in comics is the Death and Return of Superman. You can read The Death of Superman and mostly understand it (mostly because it's just a big dumb fight scene, but I digress), but when he comes back to life, there's a little extra reading required to fully understand.

Superman is reborn from a Space Womb that's actually leftover Kryptonian technology from when he first arrived on Earth. This is set up in John Byrne's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin for the character, Superman: Man of Steel. In that that re-imagining, instead of Superman arriving on Earth as a baby, he travels through space in a fancy space incubator and arrives partially grown. This is THE REASON Superman can be reborn, but it doesn't really make sense if you haven't read John Byrne's origin. It looks like the writer just pulled something out of his ass.

AND YET, although The Death of Superman was still considered canon, as I said above, Superman's origins actually got changed in Infinite Crisis. It wasn't the first time that Superman's origin had been rewritten in canon, and each of those rewrites usually altered Superman's powers slightly--does Superman need an air mask in space or is he fine? How strong he is? Can he fly or just jump really far? How fast is he? Does he have any memories of Krypton or his parents? Are his Earth parents alive or not? 

You get the idea. You can't really pick just one origin and read it without losing the meaning and context that the older comics were operating under at the time they were published.

All of that is to say that so far I only have two of these big events, and I would like to collect the rest.

My main goal is still to finish collecting the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle and continue collecting the Geoff Johns et al run of the Teen Titans. However, both of those series are bumping into one of the Big Events I don't have yet--Final Crisis.

Final Crisis is heavily tied in with the Grant Morrison run of Batman and deals heavily with the introduction of the fourth Robin, Batman's flesh and blood son Damian Wayne.** It's also the event in which Batman dies and the first Robin, Dick Grayson, takes over as Batman for a while. So this month, in addition to Blue Beetle and Teen Titans, I started working on getting the Batman books that lead into Final Crisis.

Two places where I made spur of the moment exceptions are: 

1) I bought Teen Titans Spotlight: Raven even though it takes place further ahead than I am in Teen Titans because that book is usually hella expensive, but I caught it listed in good condition and crazy cheap, so I snatched that up. Plus, it's supposed to stand on its own, so even though I don't know WHY Raven isn't with the Titans, I should be able to read it and enjoy it.

2) I bought Wonder Woman: The Circle for the same situation as the Raven book above. It's normally at least $40 because the Amazon Marketplace said so, but I found it listed for surprisingly cheap, so I jumped at the chance.

You might notice my picture looks a bit different, and that's because the line of books no longer fit on their original shelf, so I moved them over to a wider bookshelf. While moving the books, I ended up re-arranging my list a little--mostly taking the Blue Beetle run out of the middle of the Superman run and putting it at the end. I've read the whole Superman run, and it reads just fine, and nothing happens in Blue Beetle that dictates it interrupt the flow of the Superman books. I also made some changes on my to-be-bought list that will keep the future volumes of Teen Titans and Blue Beetle more closely together, too.

My plans for March are to keep collecting Teen Titans, keep collecting Batman up to Final Crisis at least, and try to finish up the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle run--especially because he joins the Teen Titans soon after his run ends.

If you have any thoughts about, drop me a line in the comments. Want to discuss books I've recently purchased or read? Any suggestions for books I missed? Just please, no spoilers.

Happy reading!

Friday, February 10, 2017

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

A while back, I attended yet another protest--this one much smaller in scale. A group of us went to one of our senators' local offices and spoke to his staff there.

We all went inside to speak to the senator's staff, who were very friendly and professional. I expressed my concerns with DeVos and education, and my concerns with Sessions and the Muslim ban executive order. It was all in all a very pleasant experience. I mean, the crowd was mostly elderly white people. They weren't really rabble rousers.

It also helped that there was no police presence during our protest. As I mentioned in my Women's March post, police presence among white people can be almost a background element, but when police are called in because a protest is happening, even if the crowd is white, it immediately changes the tone and environment of a protest. It puts people on the defensive and makes them feel like they're under attack--and in many cases, they are. The police set the tone with how they approach the situation--calm and genial, or armored and armed.

It definitely speaks to my preconceptions, but when I see old, white, Southern people out, I immediately expect them to start ranting about Muslims taking over our country, or Barack Obama being a Kenyan socialist, or some other nonsense. To see so many people expressing concern, frustration, and anger at 45 and his blunderfuck of a first week gave me some hope.

There was a Muslim family that arrived slightly late and kept to the back of the group with me, so I got to chat with them a little bit. Their story is like so many others'--they have family that has been going through the process to be allowed into our country, and now they're worried they'll be denied entry. Their bravery to come to a protest--especially in a red state like Arkansas--was breathtaking. While I figured the protest would be small, if there were any counter protesters or if the cops did get called for whatever reason, they were taking a big risk.

After speaking with our Senator's office, we discussed further potential actions, encouraged each other to keep up the protests and calls--the Tea Party was cited as proof that this can work if we stick to it. We pointed each other toward resources for upcoming events--the Science March, the Tax Day march, local events and meetings of activists groups--and then, most people packed up and went home.

I was about to leave myself, but hung back because the the local news asked to interview the Muslim man and his family. I saw him wrestling with the idea, and he asked me and a few others if we would stand with him while he did it. We agreed. He clearly wanted to say something, but needed the moral support.

He kept his voice calm, respectful, and chose his words carefully, but this was clearly something that he was emotional about--of course. At one point, he got a bit fired up and started to say something about the new administration, and then stopped himself. Instead, he said, "This is a very scary time. The future is very unsure. But we are proud to be Americans. And the support that everyone showed here today fills me with hope."

His statement wasn't in any way shape or form radical. And yet, he started and stopped several times, requesting they let him start a thought over, or taking time to compose his thoughts. He chose his words with extreme care. Watching him struggle for just the right tone of non-threatening admonishment was heartbreaking and infuriating. The white people that had gathered together were able to be incoherent, hurt, angry, annoyed. They were allowed a full range of emotions. But this man had to keep himself tightly composed lest he send the wrong message.

The remaining five of us were getting ready to leave when some white lady came over. I couldn't hear her at first. She was too far away from where I was standing. All I could make out was, "...they're coming." At first, I thought she was someone from the protest that I didn't recognize--maybe a late arrival, so the first thing my mind jumped to was some sort of counter protest. Then I heard an older man standing closer to her shout, "Did you call the cops on the TEA PARTY when they were here protesting??"

I assume that she worked at one of the nearby businesses that shared the parking lot with the office because she smiled in that smug, self-satisfied way that petty people do when they think they're really getting one over on someone and said, "We do this for everyone. You're allowed your opinion..." and I didn't hear the rest because the older man jumped in to start arguing with her again.

I'll admit, a contrarian part of me wanted to stay just out of spite. I didn't want that lady to think I was leaving because she claimed she called the cops. Plus, we were legitimately doing nothing--the protest was over. Everyone had left. We were five people standing on a sidewalk. Everything was already done.

I hung back long enough to make sure the Muslim family was leaving--I was worried what an encounter with the police would mean for them. Once they left, I left, too.

Something that continues to impress me is how petty conservative people can be. I see a group of pro-life people standing outside of a Planned Parenthood literally every weekend. Somehow, the vitriol, obstruction, and hatred directed at liberals, minorities, and President Obama were fine. Now, when the shoe is on the other foot, liberals are expected to just get on with life and any disagreement is treated tantamount to treason, or at least greeted with a snide "snowflake," "safe space," or other things Twitter eggs consider the height of intellectual discourse. It's a cognitive dissonance that continues to surprise me even though it shouldn't.

All that said, seeing this kind of action, even if it's just small, local stuff, makes me feel some hope. The problems our nation is facing isn't going unnoticed. Even in my deeply red state, people have been awakened and they're pushing back. As the protest chant goes: "The people united will never be divided."

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Comics Project Update: January 2017

As part of my on-going comics project, I update monthly with what comics I bought and anything weird or interesting I stumbled across. Each post will have a running list, and I'll update with the new titles where they fall chronologically.

I came up with the order of the books from this comment of all the Batman trades in chronological order (up to Flashpoint), this trade reading order list for Superman, and this one for Batman. I judged the rest for myself based on release dates and what the story depicted.

I want this list functional and readable, so I didn't focus on perfect chronological order. I tried to keep decent chunks of individual runs together where possible, then backtrack chronologically if necessary for a chunk of a different title--except in cases where something important was introduced, like a character dying, coming back to life, etc.

Below you'll see the list of canon DC titles that I own at this point. The ones in bold are the ones that I got this month.

  1. Crisis On Infinite Earths
  2. Batman: Dark Victory
  3. Justice League International, Vol. 1
  4. Justice League International, Vol. 2
  5. Justice League International, Vol. 3
  6. The Death of Superman
  7. Impulse: Reckless Youth
  8. Justice League: A League of One
  9. JLA Titans: Technis Imperative
  10. Young Justice: A League of Their Own
  11. Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds
  12. Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies
  13. Superman/Batman Vol. 2: Supergirl
  14. JLA: The Hypothetical Woman
  15. Teen Titans Vol. 1: A Kid's Game
  16. Teen Titans Vol. 2: Family Lost
  17. Teen Titans Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls
  18. Teen Titans Vol. 4: The Future is Now
  19. Teen Titans/Outside​rs: The Insiders
  20. Teen Titans: The Death and Return of Donna Troy
  21. The OMAC Project (Countdown to Infinite Crisis)
  22. Infinite Crisis
  23. Teen Titans Vol. 5: Life and Death*
  24. Batman: Face the Face by James Robinson
  25. Superman: Up, Up, and Away!
  26. Superman: Back in Action
  27. Superman: Last Son of Krypton
  28. Superman: Camelot Falls, Vol. 1
  29. Superman: Camelot Falls (Vol. 2)
  30. Blue Beetle (Book 1): Shellshocked
  31. Blue Beetle (Book 2): Road Trip
  32. Blue Beetle (Book 3): Reach for the Stars
  33. Blue Beetle, Book 4: Endgame
  34. Superman: The Third Kryptonian
  35. Superman: Redemption
  36. Superman: Escape from Bizarro World
  37. Superman: Shadows Linger
  38. Time Masters: Vanishing Point
  39. Superman: Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel
  40. Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin (The New 52)
  41. Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
  42. Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls
  43. Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection (The New 52)
  44. Batgirl Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends
  45. Batwing Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom
  46. Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain's Journey
  47. Justice League International Vol. 1: The Signal Masters
  48. Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench (The New 52)
  49. Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others (The New 52)
  50. Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (The New 52)
  51. Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  52. Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  53. The Movement Vol. 1: Class Warfare (The New 52)
  54. Justice League United Vol. 1: Justice League Canada
  55. Justice League United Vol. 2: The Infinitus Saga
  56. Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted (The New 52)
  57. Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places
  58. Bizarro
  59. Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged

The Amazon Online Marketplace is weird. Books will be normally priced for months, even years, and then one day, arbitrarily, the prices spikes up to $50, $60, $70. There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason, and then just as arbitrarily, book prices will drop back down to the normal range.

Such is the case for Teen Titans Vol. 5: Life and Death. It was normally priced, and then BOOM $70. No reason that there should be a spike, and only for this book, not the rest of the trades in the series.

I'll admit, I wasn't exactly super stoked to get this book. It's just "Infinite Crisis as told by the Teen Titans." And since I've already read Infinite Crisis, I already know what happens to certain members of the team. For completion's sake, I need it, but I was just going to skip it and wait to see if the price dropped. Then I found it for $19 online and decided to get it while the gettin's good. It's starred, like my Blue Beetle volumes from previous updates, because it hasn't come in yet.

The other books were actually books I got as part of a great sale at Barnes and Noble--buy two, get one free doncha know--and I wound up getting quite a few comics. Only 3 of them were DC, though.* 

Justice League United looks, honestly, like a proper spiritual successor to Justice League International--at least from the cover. We'll see if it's any good. But "Justice League Canada" has me sold in a big way, plus it's a team that features Supergirl, the Martian Manhunter, and NOT BATMAN.

Batgirl: Wanted was actually me finally following up and trying to finish Gail Simone's Batgirl run. I love Gail Simone's books, but I've been trying to hold off on getting New 52 books until I've bought a few back back trades. But then, I also want to read Rebirth whenever that stuff starts becoming available, so I should try to catch up so I know what's going on.

My continued goals for the time being are to finish up getting Blue Beetle and Teen Titans stuff. This Teen Titans run is stupidly long, so that might take a while. Blue Beetle will take less time. After that, I think I'd like to start collecting the Grant Morrison Damian Wayne Batman saga. Partially because it's really THE defining thing about Final Crisis, and I'd like to start getting the BIG EVENTS that divide up the DC timeline so this thing starts taking more of an obvious timeline shape.

If you have any thoughts about my trades, drop me a line in the comments. Want to discuss books I've recently purchased or read? Any suggestions for books I missed? Just please, no spoilers.

Happy reading!

*The other 3 books I got were Marvel: The new Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther, Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur, and the first volume of the post Kelly-Sue Deconnick Captain Marvel before Civil War II assassinates her character.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Women's March on the World

I attended my first political rally on January 21st, 2017. It was the Women's March on Arkansas, a sister march to the Women's March on Washington in response to the incoming presidential team and their horrid ideas for policies on women's health, social justice, economic justice, and many, many, many other platforms.

I had some difficulty with my sign. I saw a lot of great signs online, but I didn't want to rip off someone else's clever sign with no way to credit them. I decided on a quote, but who to quote?

At first, I thought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr--one of those quotes that white people conveniently ignore. A lot of Dr. King quotes, though, use the word "negro," and a white man carrying a sign with that word would probably send the wrong message. My wife suggested I quote a woman since it was, y'know, the Women's March, and I'm embarrassed that she even had to suggest the idea.

Here's my finished sign:

I watched many, many livestreams of the protests in Ferguson, so I wasn't really sure what kind of environment to expect. Even when the Ferguson protests were peaceful, the cops were many and on guard, usually clad in riot gear, driving military vehicles, some with snipers stationed on top. I remember the tear gas grenades, the running, the screaming. The whip-crack of rubber bullets whizzing past whichever brave person was livestreaming the horror.

We decided to come up with a game plan just in case. What if the police were antagonistic and hateful? There are so many police that take the phrase "Black Lives Matter" to be anti-police, which is patently absure, but what would we do if they deployed tear gas or pepper spray? Tear gas would likely be deadly in my case--I've had asthma since I was born. What if the crowd stampeded to disperse from the police, what would my wife do? She frequently has to use a cane to walk due to nerve damage on her left side.

We decided to be as prepared as we could. We bought 2 bottles of milk from a grocery store and kept them in a cooler which I kept in my backpack. We also packed beef jerky, nuts, bottles of water and other snacks just in case, along with my inhaler. We brought along a scarf in case we needed to cover our faces from the tear gas.

My wife and I live in the northwest corner of our state, and Little Rock is nested right in the center of the state, so it was a good 3-4 hour drive to get down there. We left around 6:45 AM to make sure we got there before 11:00 AM so we could find a place to park.

When I actually arrived at the march, I was struck by the size. I have never been to a group as large as that one before, even counting concerts and graduations. There was something immediately reassuring to see so many people that gathered together to protest in a deeply red state where I have felt virtually alone for a long time.

The second thing that struck me was how white the crowd was.

It was after seeing the racial makeup of the crowd--all those white ladies and so many white little girls--that I knew we'd be okay. Plus, the local organizer was a white woman as well.

There were tons of people that--I would later read that the estimated attendance was around 7,000 people. That was the largest demonstration in Arkansas history if I recall correctly. At first the crowd was daunting, but soon the energy, the anger, the passion, and love of this country got me amped and ready to march.

Unlike other sister marches that were apparently long treks through the city, this one was set up to be very short--just 3 or 4 blocks, I believe--to the steps of the state capitol. From there, we would listen to a series of speeches and then go to an expo of various local activist groups so that we could try to stay engaged.

The speakers were almost better than the actual march. As inspiring and amazing as being among so many fed up and awakened people was, the speakers were the real highlight. I have a pretty bad impression of my state. I feel those feelings are deserved given our state's history and our perpetual failure to live up to the ideal of America. So I didn't expect but was pleasantly surprised that this march, organized by a white woman, wasn't even hosted by that white woman. She did speak, eventually, but the event was hosted by a black woman activist, and featured gay, black, Latinx immigrants, and Muslim voices for the majority of the time. I was so glad that the people given a platform were worthwhile, with real messages that everyone needed to hear.

Unfortunately, personal circumstances meant that we had to leave slightly early--I think we only missed the last speaker--and after we got some food, we made our way back to the expo where we checked out some local activist causes and learned about what could be done

This was my first big political thing, but it definitely won't be my last. Even though marching and protesting is one of our constitutionally protected rights and a duty as politically engaged citizens, it felt so good to stand among the many saying that what was happening was not okay. My favorite chant of the day was, "Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!"

While among those, people, though, something kept fluttering at the back of my mind, buzzing just at the edge like a fly. As you can see from my photos, I was in a sea of white faces. There were other folks there that marched with us, which you can also see in my photos, but the crowd was overwhelmingly white and female. And the same was true at the expo. I saw, mostly from afar, a handful of cops throughout the day. They were polite, friendly, and kept their distance, mostly leaned against their cars which were blocking off side streets to clear a path for our march. It wasn't until we were leaving the expo that the idea took full shape.

As we were leaving the expo, we pulled down a side street to try to figure out how in the hell we were going to get back to the interstate. I haven't been to Little Rock since probably 2010 or 2011. It's been a long ass time. And even then, I've only been to Little Rock a handful of times. City travel makes me nervous--lots of traffic, surprise "right turn only" lanes, dummies with a deathwish, and general unfamiliarity with the terrain. So we paused a stop sign while my wife pulled up the GPS on my phone.

At the corner of where we were stopped, the city had cut into the hill to make space for the road and the sidewalk and built an off-white, grayish brick wall that staggered upward and downward matching the rise and fall of the hill's slope. A young black man was resting against the to of the wall, which was about waist high or so, reading his phone. If I had to guess, I'd say he was somewhere between 16-18. He was slight in build, average height. He wore a light gray hoodie or a sweatshirt. I didn't really even pay any mind to him at first--he was background just like the old couple walking on the other side of the street. What drew my attention was when not one, but two police SUVs pulled up in front of him and set off their lights.

This kid wasn't doing anything suspicious. He was leaning on a street corner reading his phone. Maybe he was waiting for a ride. Maybe he was resting. Maybe he'd stopped and was checking out a YouTube video someone linked to him on Facebook, or responding to a text from his mom. Who knows? But as far as I know, standing on a sidewalk isn't against the law. And yet, two different police vehicles felt the need to stop and flash their lights and interrogate him. For what?

The discussion was slightly animated. The kid talked with his hands a lot. He was clearly annoyed about being bothered for Standing While Black, but thankfully, the cops eventually went on and left him alone.

I saw two different kinds of police that day. The police at the march kept a respectful distance. They smiled, laughed, and joked with the protesters. They were relaxed. Hell, we even had someone with a giant stack of purple fliers with "Black Lives Matter" printed on them. No one seemed hostile or put off.

The other cops were more predatory, watchful. They weren't the cops I saw at the march around all those white ladies. They were the cops I didn't even notice at first in the largely black, slightly run down neighborhood the expo was held in later. It was only after seeing the young man questioned that I suddenly became aware of how many cops there were in the area--a cop watching the building the expo was held in, a cop that someone pulled over in an old beauty salon parking lot, and at least two or three cop cars that pulled up to stop lights while we were looking for a place to park.

At the time, none of this really registered with me. I'm white, and while cops make me nervous for various reasons, my discomfort is probably the same that most white people feel around them. It's the same discomfort teenagers feel when a teacher walks past them in the hallway. It's a deference to authority. But I've never been afraid of being shot, of being targeted for my skin color, of being questioned because I was standing and reading my phone. Police can just be another thing in the background for me.

It was a sobering reminder that I and most of the people that I marched with have wildly different experiences than black folks and many other communities of color. And when people began to inevitably praise the Women's March movement as "protesting done right" because of the low arrest records and lack of police pushback, I couldn't help thinking about the sea of white faces I saw and of that young man's face when those two vehicles pulled up.