Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hey Kids! Comics!

    I grew up with comics. From the time I was about three or four I was exposed to the graphical storytelling art form. It all started off with my older sister’s DC Comics collection. She had several comics but I remember her Superman and Justice League comics especially (I think she also had some Wonder Woman issues too).
    It was too long ago and I don’t remember any specifics of the comics but I know Superman and Jimmy Olson had some adventures together. I also remember the various Green Lanterns and Flashes from the old Crisis crossovers.
    Next up was Green Lantern. I had a few issues of that at a point where Hal Jordan quit the Green Lantern Corp for a bit and John Stewart took his place (and also quickly revealed his secret identity to the world). Around the same time, I also had a few issues of ROM: Space Knight. I remember an issue of ROM where he was changed back into a human and also his girlfriend took over his partner knight’s (Starshine) body.
    I also had a few scant issues of the old Marvel Star Wars comic. It was okay but even as a kid I felt it sometimes strayed too much from what made the movies so great.

    I got more heavily into comics with G.I.JOE: A Real American Hero. I loved the toys at the time and started buying the comic at issue #50. I enjoyed the stories as well as the art. Shortly after, I also started buying Transformers as well (also toys I collected at the time). G.I.JOE was a gateway drug that got me heavier into other comics such as Captain America (during Mark Gruenwald’s long run) as well as X-Factor (Simonson run) then later comics such as the Avengers, X-Men and several others.
    I also got into Batman for a while around the time Tim Burton’s movie came out (I actually preferred the comics interpretation more). At some point I took a long break then came back years later, picking up with Batman again and a few others.
    Eventually, all the gimmicks got on my nerves and I slowly dropped away from comics entirely. I’ve gone back every so often time and again over the years but it seems like newer comics just don’t have that same spark the older ones did.
    I like old school comics best. One and done stories. Or ones that are multi-part stories that actually entertain you with a good story. Too many modern ones do nothing to entertain you or change anything. I read a six issue Justice League origin (new 52 one) where barely anything happened! For $5 an issue I expect better.
    There’s also too many events and other dumb gimmicks (remember the foil and holo covers of the 1990s? Or the trading cards?) Just tell me a good story! Why is that so hard now? Are the writers incompetent or do the companies not permit them to do so, focusing instead on immediate cash grabs instead? Either way, it’s just not the same.
    The lack of quality in the comics from the Big Two are a part of why I think the MCU movies are so popular. They’re generally more concise. One and done (while being part of a bigger story arc with the Infinity Stones. But that doesn’t usually overwhelm the individual movies). Sadly, as time goes on, I think the big over-arcing stories might eventually ruin the MCU and DCEU as well. It’s inevitable somebody somewhere will think they’re a storytelling genius and attempt some ill-advised mega story that loses the audience in the process.
    Anyway, just give me a good story and I’ll be happy.


Monday, May 4, 2020

Back in the Kitchen. Where You Came From!

   I was watching a video on Youtube earlier that was talking about Naughty Dog Studios (Uncharted video games; The Last of Us) and how they were pandering to a feminist agenda, brought on by indulging a “crazy lady” that was more concerned with pushing her “progressive” agenda then allowing the Studio to produce good games on their own merits.
    Scandalous! Completely unbelievable!
    But... is it true?
    I looked into the matter a bit and found they were talking about Anita Sarkeesian, a well known woman that lectures and leads an organization that promotes strong female and ethnic diversity in media.
    Supposedly, she’s forcing her awful feminist agenda on Naughty Dog, making them include LGBTQ characters, relegating male lead characters to background characters and so on. She even got Amy Hennig (herself a woman and well known writer/producer of the Uncharted games) fired from the Studio when she didn’t tow the progressive line.
    The video ( is by a movie/video game critic I follow on Youtube who goes by the nomme de plume “The Critical Drinker”. He’s not afraid to tear movies a new one and his schtick is generally entertaining. Usually, I agree with him when he calls something good or bad (he’s also a novelist apparently).
    I have noticed a strong tendency of his to decry perceived “social justice” movements in media. Kathleen Kennedy is the devil, for example, forcing her feminist evil on Star Wars and making us have a crappy character like Rey be the star of the films at the expense of the classic characters. (Although he also rightly points out that Rey is an underdeveloped “Mary Sue” character with no story arc or real personality to speak of). He’s also gone off on the new New Warriors series (a lot of people have, if we’re being honest) and this Anita Sarkeesian woman.
    His video spawned the typical comments one would expect: What’s she ever done? Why is she setting women back? She’s a fraud. Make your own female stories instead of hijacking existing ones. Blah, blah, blah...
    It occurred to me while writing this that the original video is most likely intentionally sensationalist to get hits. It’s far from the first time somebody has done that online and it won’t be the last.
    I don’t know what Ms. Sarkeesian’s ultimate goals are. Maybe she is just trying to make money decrying perceived social injustices in media. Maybe her motivations are purely altruistic. Most likely, the truth lies somewhere in between the two extremes.
    But... is she wrong?
     Certainly there have been some stories in pop culture with strong female characters–many of James Cameron’s movies come to mind. But predominantly it seems like movies are dominated by white male or white characters generally. I’m white myself and I can understand a writer/creator wanting to tell stories from their perspective.
    The world is not predominantly white though. Stories where everybody is white are not reflective of the world we live in and haven’t been, frankly, ever. According to Wikipedia white people only make up 11.5% of the world population. This didn’t happen in the last twenty years either. It’s been that way for centuries. Shouldn’t modern story telling reflect the world we live in?
    You can tell a story where a damsel is in distress. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem, I think, is popular culture relied far too heavily on it at one time and there’s a perception that’s still the case. Personally, I find strong female characters to be far more interesting from a story telling perspective.
    There is a tendency among some to take it too far though. For a while in the nineties it seemed like every time a male writer wanted to tell a story about a strong female character she ended up savagely hating men and only sought recourse in the arms of another woman. (A lot of pulp comics from smaller publishers seemed to relish this sort of thing). A strong female character doesn’t have to be a militant lesbian and I think people who only see things that way are very poor story tellers/idiots.
    If you want a character to be gay that’s fine. But use it properly. Don’t use it in some bizarre gimmicky way. Find the truth in that character’s soul and explore it properly. Anything less is insulting to everybody frankly.
    Why is your female a strong female character? What circumstances made her that way? How does she see the world? If she’s a lesbian, what’s her perspective on the world?
    I’ve tried to tell stories with strong women in them (although I prefer to write pulp-style stories and I’m not certain it always comes through as well as intended). Strong women are far more interesting and believable then ones who are helpless eye candy.
    We need more female protagonists and strong female characters in storytelling in general. How they are “strong”, of course, should depend on the story needs. She doesn’t always need to be a kick-ass warrior in the traditional sense. It can be a woman who meets life head-on, a strong mother figure, etc.
    We also need more representation of so-called minorities. If you’re telling a story about a man, why does he necessarily have to be white? Is it critical to the story you’re telling?
    Which is not to say that I agree with the idea of re-casting established characters as being a different color/gender. I don’t have a problem with Miles Morales as he’s his own character–similar but not identical to Peter Parker. I don’t see why they re-did Matt Trakker as a black man in IDW’s M.A.S.K nor did I really like redoing Nick Fury in the comics as a previously unknown son of African heritage who takes up the name.
    But Static, Black Lightning and Kamala Khan are their own characters. Why not try to introduce more characters into mainstream comics, television or movies that way? If they’re interesting enough they will eventually catch on. Stop rewriting history and make some instead.
    We definitely need more women, minorities and differing viewpoints in storytelling. But we need them to be well thought out and at least attempting originality. Don’t shoehorn it in there to win points with somebody. Be genuine in your desire to tell new stories with people from other walks of life.
    In the end, everyone matters, no matter who they are or what path they may walk...