Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Can it Really Be That Bad?

I still kind of can’t believe it has come to this.
When I first read about Donald Trump running for president way back before the primaries, I thought it was a joke. I had to look to see if it was an Onion article. I thought, that can’t be real. The guy is a tool. I’ve always thought that about him. Back when he had his Apprentice show even. I didn’t watch it because I thought the guy was a joke. Even then he was kind of a walking punchline. When I heard the name Trump, I didn’t think class or quality, I thought of a turd that had been plated gold; the illusion of quality on the surface, but nothing of value underneath.

Donald Trump

That was before he began running for president.
As the primaries went on, it became clear that he was going to win the nomination for the Republican party. The closer he came to that goal the less funny it was. He separated himself from the others by “speaking his mind”, by “telling it like it is”, by thumbing his nose at “political correctness.” Translation: he insulted his opponents to their face, and gave voice to all the bigoted, ignorant shit that he thought his people wanted to hear. It’s evident now that a lot of people actually did want to hear it.
As I go about my business today, the day after Donald Trump has won the election to be the next president of the United States, there are a few things that I take to heart. I see a lot of people online freaking out. They are in real despair, and I can understand why, but at the same time, this is Donald Trump we are talking about. This man was elected on a platform with zero substance. He doesn’t have any real plans (not practical ones, anyways). I don’t see him by himself as a real danger to America in the long run.
I don’t think he is a danger because I don’t think he believes anything he has said. I honestly don’t think he knows or cares what is real and what he just made up on the spot. There is no difference to him. I look at him, and listen to what he says, and I see and hear a man that will say and do whatever he has to to make himself look good in the moment. When confronted on anything, he flat denies it or pleads ignorance. When asked about being affiliated with someone that makes him look bad, his answer is always “I don’t know anything about them, I’ve never met them.” When confronted about a thing he has said, he either says it was a joke or that he never said it. It doesn’t matter if he is on tape saying it. He doesn’t know or care what is true. The truth is what he decides it is.
What I’m saying is that I don’t believe the man is capable of understanding consequences or planning anything in the long term. He is a narcissist who lives in the moment, and does the thing that is best for him in the here and now. He’s a giant goldfish in a power tie. I believe that his presidency will be a short one, a smear on the history of America, four years of bungling. He’ll Make speeches saying things people will want to hear, and then not do anything that he says he’ll do because he doesn’t care. He wants to be in the spotlight, to be seen as important and respected. He just doesn’t know what it takes to earn respect.
Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe this will turn out to be a dark time in the history of our country. I sincerely hope it isn’t. The fact is, I never took him seriously, and now here he is, so it shows what I know. The house, the Senate, and the Presidency are all republican right now, so there will be changes, but I have to believe that there are enough republicans who are also decent people, that none of the worst things Trump stands for will ever get further than his campaign speeches. He will sit in his office believing he is  important and ride on the works and deeds of others like he has always done. The ones we should really be afraid of are the people around him, because they are the ones who will be doing all the work.
Trump himself is not the sickness, he is just a symptom. The fact that he won isn’t what hurts, it’s how he won. America has looked itself in the mirror, and what we are seeing now is pretty ugly and difficult to face. I think that if we face it together, we can come out the other side better and stronger for it, and it will take more than one goldfish in a power tie to stop it.
Here is a fish tie. It's kind of the same.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Green Lanterns Disappointment (and corrections)

So a few days ago, I went on a mini-rant about DC comics, and my reasons why I would/would not buy certain issues based on the editorial staff, and how morally reprehensible they may or may not be.

*cough* Eddie Berganza *cough*

Well, it turns out I’m a big fat idiot because I didn’t do any research into the Rebirth lines. It would seem there has been some editorial restructuring I was not aware of.

Alas, last night as I was happily reading my issue of Green Lanterns, a book which I have been enjoying, I noticed something. Now the Green Lanterns book is interesting because none of the traditional Green Lanterns of Earth (Sector 2814) namely Hal Jordan, Guy Gardener, and John Stewart, are in it. It features two newish characters, Simon Baz, a Muslim from Detroit, and Jessica Cruz, a Latina. I like that this book features diverse characters, and I’ve been enjoying their dynamic so far.

No, not THAT Jon Stewart.

Then came last night. I was thinking about the piece I wrote about Supergirl vs Batgirl (not to be confused with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which is a whole other rant for another day) and I decided to check the credits page to see if any women work on the title. To my surprise and horror, not only do zero women work on Green Lanterns, it is also evidently under the editorial supervision of none other than one Eddie Berganza.

Boy did I feel stupid and betrayed.

Pictured: Eddie Berganza

I just days ago wrote a self-righteous screed about buying one title over another based on moral misgivings and using the power of your wallet to send a message. Well the message I evidently have been sending was “we don’t look at the credits anyways, so do whatever and we’ll buy it.”

So I don’t know. I guess don’t listen to me, both of the people who read this blog. Because I, evidently, don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. The good news is, it would seem that the Wonder Woman Rebirth comic is no longer under the same line editor as Superman books, so go out and get that one, like yesterday. Or don't. What the hell do I know?

Seriously though, go get it.

Apologies for going off half-cocked without doing my research. I’ll be cancelling my pull of Green Lanterns (and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps) albeit with a heavy heart because once again I like the characters, but I cannot support a Berganza book. I just can’t. I’ll replace it with Wonder Woman and Batgirl, and that will be just fine.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Don't Read Supergirl, Read Batgirl

I’m kind of done with Marvel comics for awhile. The constant reliance on huge crossovers has me so disappointed and frustrated that I’m just leaving them alone for awhile. But I still love my superheroes, and by all accounts, DC’s Rebirth (not a reboot) rebranding has been pretty good. So, even though most of what I read by (and about) DC comics during the New 52 was somewhat less-than-stellar, I decided to give them a try. Two books, however stand out to me.

First of all, I want to talk about Supergirl.

Supergirl was given a major overhaul in the New 52 relaunch. I don’t know a lot about what she was before New 52 aside from her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 80’s. I do know that the character has kicked around here and there since that time. But in New 52, she came crashing to Earth all over again, and woke up not knowing the language, not knowing where she was or what happened, or why she had crazy new powers, and solved most of her problems by screaming at them or punching them.


I didn’t hate what I read of it, but it was a little frantic, at least the first two volumes. She has a lot of teenage angst, which I would guess anyone would in her situation.

Anyways, towards the end of her New 52 run, the CBS show Supergirl began to air, and it was entirely different. This Kara Zor-El crashed to Earth ostensibly to protect her (then infant) cousin Kal-El at a younger age than the New 52 comic, and was raised by a caring human host family. This Kara, while still something of a fish out of water, is not nearly as intense as the New 52 version. In fact, she is closer to Superman than to her latest incarnation in comics.

Seems more heroic.

Enter DC’s Rebirth. Now Kara is living with a host family, something like what is presented to us in the show. She is still trying to fit into a human world (moreso than in the TV show) but seems to be much more even-tempered than in the New 52, even if she does make rash decisions. I read the Supergirl Rebirth one-shot, which bridges the gap between New 52 runs and the first issue of the new ongoing series. I liked them both well enough. The art particularly in the new one is different and interesting, adopting a more cartoonish lean than the typical DC house style. This book is a nice balance between the edgy angsty New 52 Supergirl and the gee shucks idealism of the CBS show.

I wonder if they are trying to be more like the TV show.

There is just one small problem: The credits page

This book is created by an all-male staff, from the letterers and inkers to the writer and artist, all the way to the line editor one Eddie Berganza. If you read comics and haven’t heard this name, the guy is basically a serial harasser. And rather than relieve him of his duties as the line editor of Superman books (which also contain Wonder Woman by the way) DC simply keeps women out of that line. Women writers and artists aren’t hired to work on Super books at all because I guess this guy can’t help himself? Why punish him when it’s easier to continue to not hire women creators? So Supergirl does not, and will not for the foreseeable future have any women working with her in comics. None. Not even a chance.

As much as I liked the Supergirl book, I can’t help but look at that credits page and shake my head and feel bad for even buying the thing. I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting any more of them even if it received all the critical acclaim ever. My only solace is that I did not add it to my pull list, and the comics shop did not order any extra for me. (The direct market is another animal altogether).

Now Contrast Supergirl with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.

I loved what DC did with Batgirl towards the end of the New 52 run. The Batgirl of Burnside run with Babs Tarr on art, and Brendan Fletcher and Cameron Stewart writing was great fun. I didn’t grab any issues of the Batgirl Rebirth run because I just couldn’t imagine anyone but Tarr on art for it, and plus I hadn’t been reading much DC.

Babs Tarr is a gift.

On a Whim (the same day I picked up Supergirl, in fact) I grabbed the Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Rebirth one-shot, and Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1. They tell an intriguing story that comes right out of the New 52 run of both Batgirl and Grayson, both of which were great series when I was reading them.

How could you not?


AND Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (BBoP) Has an all women creative team. The writing duo of Julie and Shawna Benson, and art by Claire Roe. (The art btw, is amazing. Claire isn’t Babs Tarr, but she’s doing her own thing and I love it). OK, to be fair it isn’t all-female (There are also inkers and colorists, etc), but these are the main creative voices of the book. To have an all-female superteam being written and drawn by a (mostly) all-female creative team is a good thing, and is still, sadly, a rare find in the big two comic publishers.

It also happens to be a really great book.

So If I had to choose between the two, I will continue to read BBoP and will drop Supergirl because I can’t. I just can’t ignore the injustice being perpetrated by DC in its Superman line. Now, to be fair, Wonder Woman’s art is partly being drawn by Nicola Scott, so I guess either things are relaxing a bit, or they’ve separated WW from the Superman line, but that doesn’t change the fact that Eddie Berganza continues to have a job at DC comics.

I will do my miniscule part to support female-lead books in BBoP, and maybe will start reading Batgirl which is written by Hope Larson. And I hope more comic readers will follow suit. The only way to make the big publishers understand is by hitting them in the wallets.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Comic Book Critical Mass

Some time ago I wrote about holes in my comprehensive overall nerdery. While I have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of movies and TV, for example, I had nowhere near that kind of association with comics. I hadn’t read anything since the early-mid 90’s before collectors and speculation nearly destroyed the industry altogether. Well, since I wrote that piece I have returned to comics in a rather big way. I’ve been reading new comics for about two years now and supplementing that with reading back issues and trades from the last decade in whatever format I can find. I’ve developed a basic picture of what comics have been for the last decade or so.

What I see is an industry that in its current form is unsustainable.

My reintroduction

Let’s back up a bit.

I started on a whim with a couple of Marvel titles. Ghost Rider, since it was what I was reading back in the day, and She Hulk, because She Hulk is awesome. I liked these books ok. She-Hulk by far more than Ghost Rider. I then spread out to Ms Marvel and Captain Marvel since they were both relatively new titles. I found that these were good as well. I started grabbing up a bunch of stuff and trying to snag back issues of things that were already well into their runs, both from Marvel and from DC. It was a pretty solid couple of months of comics reading.

From Marvel I was getting She-Hulk, Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Secret Avengers, Spider Gwen, and Silver Surfer. From DC I was Getting Grayson, Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Gotham Academy, and a short run of Batman. Not a ton of titles, but I was enjoying what I was reading.

But then something weird happened.

A crossover event in Marvel called Axis happened, and a series in DC comics called Future’s End happened as well. Out of nowhere comics I was reading took one or two months off of whatever story I was reading (and enjoying) to take part of a line-wide mega-story. I’ll tell you what. I have no interest in line-wide megastories, and least of all tie-in stories that happen in a character’s title that only relate to the main event in a peripheral way. (The DC titles were not affected as badly as Marvel was, to be fair, but I liked the Marvel ones better).

I dropped most of the books I was reading. I stuck to obscure characters that seemed to be immune to the big deal events. I was still happy, albeit with a smaller pull list. I stuck it out with Ms. Marvel, and Silver Surfer, and with Grayson, although Grayson took part in a multi-title robin crossover, so that one went bye bye as well.

What happened next may shock you. Yes, more line-wide crossovers, this time leading to complete reboots of every major series. Everything gets a new number one, unless it wasn’t selling, and then it’s gone completely in favor of a totally new title. Marvel called it Secret Wars. DC called theirs Convergence followed more recently by Rebirth. In both cases, my series all ended. My waning interest ended. I decided that the characters I like, and/or creative teams that I trusted I would read in collected trade paperbacks. I would rather wait 6 months and get a whole arc. It’s cheaper, easier to read, and less of a pain to store at home.

The Direct Market

As it turns out, this practice is bad for comics business. As it turns out, this practice will get the books you like cancelled. You see, comics base all of their success on pre-sales of single issues to comic shops. Trade paperback sales are the comic book equivalent of DVD sales for a movie. Movies live and die based on box office, not DVD sales or merchandise.

This holds true for single issues of comics. If a comic series isn’t bought in single issues, it will languish and die after somewhere between 8 and 12 issues. Comic creators know this, and some even go so far as to lay it on us, the consumers, to support the books we like by buying the single issues. PRE-ORDERING them, as a matter of fact, not just grabbing them up off the shelf at the store or buying back issues. Once a store orders their copies based on customer pre-orders, the publisher’s job is done and they move on unless demand is overwhelming for a reprint. Backissue sales don’t count. Trade paperback sales don’t count. Digital sales don’t count.

There is a long and complicated history as to why this business model functions the way it does, which I will not get into here. But the point is that the system sucks. It sucks for comic fans, and it sucks for potential, not-yet-fans. Relying solely on presales predetermines a comic’s life or death far too quickly. Say a comic is fantastic, but not that many people read it from the beginning. By the time it’s 4, 5, 6 issues in, its sales numbers are already at a point where it will either continue or be cancelled. Even if word of mouth creates a renewed interest in the book, and people catch up via trade or digital version, the damage is already done. And unless you are already a fan, who has a store to go to, who knows what books are coming out, there is nothing you can do.

Are you a casual comic reader who finds paperbacks at Barnes and Noble? Those comics are already dead. Buying them and loving them will not convince the publishers to create more like it. Too intimidated to go into a comic shop and brave elitist nerds or confusing shelves full of titles? Go ahead and buy digital. The comic you love will still get cancelled, so why bother?

A book has to do gangbusters right out of the gate or it won’t last. This system has lead to desperation on the part of the big 2. Comics have to do well right away, so new series are heavily promoted over existing ones, and bombastic crossover events are constantly in the works. It isn’t about telling good stories and building a fanbase, it is about the quick dollar to keep the ship afloat.



Except that, yes it will, and yes, we have. Less than a few months ago, in fact. House divided? You’re telling me heroes will fight heroes? Where did all the villains go? Wait the villains are the heroes now? How original.

That She-Hulk series that I loved and thought was amazing lasted 12 issues. The Ghostrider one made it a bit longer. Ms Marvel actually gained in popularity, and is now a part of the Avengers, which really sucks because you know why? Now she has to participate in all those crossovers. I want to read about Ms Marvel, not an obvious cash grab like Civil War 2.

Occasional crossovers used to happen back when I was reading comics in the early 90s. Occasionally the Punisher would show up for two issues. Maybe once in awhile you would have to buy an issue of spider man to find out what happened to Ghost Rider in a two-part crossover. I don’t mind that at all. It’s fun seeing characters meet and interact. It’s not fun seeing whole giant teams of characters I love not behaving like themselves for the sake of some super huge universe-changing event that will ultimately lead to nothing, and it makes me not want to buy comics until I’ve heard if they are worth reading. But by then it’s too late.

This model is unsustainable. The market demands instant hits, which prompts sensational events, which alienates the readers which leads to lower sales which leads to increased need for hits which creates more sensational events which pushes readers away even further. Superhero comics are circling the drain. The only good thing is that I’ve been out of the game long enough that there is a ton of old material for me to read, so I guess I’ll start there. Maybe by the time I’m caught up, comics will have been reborn as something better than they are now, but I’m not holding my breath.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Boba Fett Sucked (But Was Still Important)

Let me be clear.

Boba Fett, the bounty hunter character from the original Star Wars trilogy, is awful as a character. I've never read about him in any novel, and I probably won't. In the films, he is basically just a cool suit of armor. He was originally created as part of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special for crying out loud. As a cartoon!

Still cooler than you, Luke.

Star Wars as a franchise has a history of making some really cool looking characters that don't actually do much of anything. There was a whole cantina full of aliens in the first film that spawned any number of action figures for characters that were on camera for literally two seconds. Boba Fett isn't the worst offender in this group by far.

What are you talking about, man?

But he is still a totally overrated character, and is inexplicably high on the list of favorite Star Wars characters when he doesn't actually have a character. Smarter, more observant nerds than me have pointed this out before now, so I don’t pretend that his is new information. All he manages to accomplish is tracking the Millenium Falcon to Bespin. After that, he calls the Empire to do his dirty work, collects an easy payday in Han Solo’s bounty, then fails to keep his trophy subdued even though Han Solo is blind and disoriented. He does nothing and goes down like a punk. A tracking device would have been more useful.

Call the Empire now, idiot.

The prequels give us a Boba Fett who is a little kid that sees his Dad? Clonedad? murdered in front of him, and what? Swears revenge against someone? Maybe? I think the Jedi. He is a big nothing in the prequels, and it was such an obvious nod to fans as to make it laughable. Even the clone helmets don’t stay looking like Fett’s for long. Poor little Boba never gets that sweet sweet revenge, unless you count the other clones of his Clonedad shooting all the Jedi in the back. I guess that kind of counts.

Seriously, he is not a character. Name one character trait about Boba Fett that has nothing to do with his profession or his clothes. Can't do it, can you?

But Boba Fett is important, and here’s why:

Without Boba Fett, there are no Mandalorians. Without the Mandalorians, big chunks of story in the Clone Wars animated series don’t happen. Without the Mandalorians, there are no Mandalorian Mercs, a Star Wars cosplay group second only to the 501st. And, my personal favorite, without Boba Fett there would be no Sabine Wren.

Same awesome helmet; now with actual character inside!

If you aren’t familiar, Sabine Wren is a character in the newish Star Wars Rebels animated series, and she’s pretty much my favorite main character in it. She is Mandalorian, with roots in the Mandalorian characters from Clone Wars (don’t want to spoil it). She is also a card-carrying badass. When they need something blown up, she’s the one they ask. But she’s also an artist, a pilot, and a loyal friend.

What I'm trying to say is that she's better than Boba Fett.

So Boba's legacy is bigger than him. Even though he is barely a character, and a sucky one at that, he is still important. He is important because his cool suit of armor inspired a whole race of people, among whom are some pretty awesome characters, like Sabine Wren.

To bring it back around to Boba for a sec, I wonder if he even knows he is a Mandalorian. He was Jango Fett’s “Son” but did he go back to Mandalore? Did he even know? I have to think no, because every other Mandalorian, Sabine Wren included, is a badass, and Boba Fett just sucked. The best thing he did for Star Wars was look cool enough that people didn't realize he sucked.

I can't wait for the Boba Fett solo movie because I have literally zero idea what the character will be like. I hope he's a total idiot who sucks at his job but is extremely lucky. Like, despite his screwups, he still manages to catch the bounty and foil his competitors completely by accident. Haha, what a jerk.

Monday, February 15, 2016

On Pandering and Why it's Stupid

My blog is once again back from the dead. It typically comes back when I have feelings, and today I bring some feelings. I wanted to talk a little bit about pandering, and why it’s bullshit, specifically in geeky media.

Now, there is a lot going on in geekdom lately. People who haven’t been represented well in the past are standing up and demanding to be noticed. Either as a result of creators listening to those voices, or alternatively but probably less frequently, underrepresented people becoming creators, we are seeing a boom in media that has more representation of race, orientation, sex, religion, whatever.

This is a good thing. I can’t imagine how anyone would think that this is not a good thing, or is specifically bad or hurtful to one’s favorite form of media. Maybe some of you don’t understand what I’m getting at. Let me use an example.

Comic books. Comic books have long been dominated, in terms of creators and their creations, by straight white males. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, most of the X-Men, I could go on, but for the most part that’s what was out there. White dudes. Comics have gotten better over time, but for a long time there wasn’t much else. Just white dudes. Today, for whatever the reason, there are a lot of comics that follow female characters, black characters, gay characters, etc. Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Squirrel Girl, Midnighter, Captain America, Thor, Cyborg, Batgirl, Black Canary, Gotham Academy. There are more, but you get the picture.

I’ll choose the new Ms. Marvel as an example. The new Ms Marvel, Kamala Kahn, is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants. She is pretty far from the white male superhero readers are used to. Additionally, the book is written and edited by women, which is not unheard of but still somewhat rare.

Also, get this: It’s a really freaking great book.

And that’s it. That right there is all that should matter. It’s a really great book. It’s one of the best comics I read all of last year, and granted I didn’t read everything out there, but still, really great. It doesn’t matter that it features an immigrant female muslim protagonist (all things that I am not). It told a very human story that translates well to any experience, and it did it in a new and different way. (Variety is the spice of life, people).

Now, I told that story to tell this story.

I frequently go to comics websites to get news of what’s coming, or to get a feel for how a book I’m interested in is doing. I also, unfortunately scroll down to the comments sections. I wish I wouldn’t but I do. It makes me angry. Let me use another example.

There is a lesser-known comic hero by the name of Mockingbird. She is featured in the Agents of SHIELD TV show. She is, as of the writing of this, going to have her own solo series in a couple months, most likely as a result of the popularity of the show. I read a preview article on it that showed some panels and a few variant covers (which is a whole separate issue) and just a basic blurb of the upcoming comic. Then I came down to the comments section. Oh boy…

It wasn’t a torrent of vitriol, to be sure. There were a few comments that said, “hey this looks cool,” or “I don’t care for that art,” and other stuff like that, which is all well and good. Nothing is for everybody. But there were a couple of ranters. (I’m paraphrasing here)

“Enough, Marvel, quit ramming these characters down our throat because they are women or black or gay. I wish they would stop pandering to mindless liberalism.”


I have seen these sentiments again and again. And I stress, this isn’t everybody, but there is at least a vocal minority who are genuinely pissed off that there are Lady Thors and Black Captain Americas out there, and seem to feel like shaking things up a bit is “pandering” to some invisible Social Justice Warriors enclave that is sitting somewhere pulling the strings at Marvel. These are probably the same people that feel like “girls don’t read comics anyway” or that “This hero has always been white since the 60’s why change it”.

Are these people honestly thinking that a publishers are intentionally giving the middle finger to “true fans” (read: straight white male fans) in favor of these “token” minority characters? How would that be in any way good for their business? There may be SJWs pulling the strings, but they can’t make the fans buy the stuff. The assertion is that these characters and stories would be unworthy to publish if it weren’t for their minority status. And, if that were the case, these books wouldn’t sell at all. They would die a quick death. But, they are selling. People are buying them. If people didn’t buy them, the companies wouldn’t be making them.

Look at DC comics. DC has improved in its representation as well, but not quite as well as Marvel. Their flagship characters are still white dudes, and DC is getting trounced by Marvel in sales. (Again, that is direct market sales which is another thing for another time). So I don’t know guys. Maybe these are actually good stories? Maybe, just maybe, we are all tired of the same white muscly dudes in every story?

The idea that the industry would pander to a few knowing they would lose money in this capitalist society is ridiculous, especially given the current hunger in geekdom for new and different things. Comics as an industry are struggling, but it isn’t because of diversity. Quite the opposite. The fans are tired of the same old events and variants and moneygrabs, which is why independent creator owned books are doing so well. And again, those independant books, a lot of them feature diversity, and there is nobody up the corporate ladder telling people what to do. These books are creator-owned. So what does that tell you? Are they pandering too?
No. they are telling good stories. And good stories have good characters. Not white characters, not black characters, not straight characters, not gay characters, not male characters, not female characters, not trans characters. GOOD CHARACTERS. Period.

Pandering isn’t real. In fact, if straight white fanboys were the only ones reading comics, then pandering by definition would feature more straight white dude characters. Right? Huh?

I guess I’m done.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Writing update: Magician's Helper

I got another story out this month!
Bards and Sages Quarterly is featuring my short story "Magician's Helper". Check it out!