Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two Sides To Every Story - The Diocese of Davenport's Response to the Mathew Shepherd Scholarship (manufactured) controversy:

Here's the press release from the Diocese of Davenport regarding the Matthew Shepard Scholarship fiasco currently running amok in the media.  I don't see this making headlines, only Scholarship Sponsor Rich Eychaner's chest thumping.  


Yes, this isn't Exactly what Eychaner wants...no one always gets what they want, every single day. Being expected to compromise isn't "Bullying".  It's life.  It's what adults do.  We talk all the time about expecting people to meet "halfway across the aisle", and that's exactly what the Diocese of Davenport, and Bishop Amos are doing here.

The pressure that needs to be exerted here is on Eychaner.  He's a grown ass man, and it's time for him to act like one.  The kid in question is just that: A kid.  Let him be a kid and not a toy soldier.  What Eychaner does to his scholars is  psychologically damaging.  He takes them from High School and thrusts them into the spotlight, expecting them to take on teh weight of the world and media scrutiny to bolster Eychaner's agenda.  



Keaton gets the scholarship.  He gets recognition at graduation.  The Scholarship gets acknowledged and the audience at graduation will know what the Matthew Shepard Scholarship is, what it does, and who it helps.  The only one who doesn't get what he wants is Rich Eychaner...and he's throwing a fit about it.  


Read this press release, please.  If you know Keaton, reach out to him and tell him this is a GOOD thing.  This is compromise, this is acceptance...this is LIFE done right.  



RE:                         Response from the Diocese of Davenport regarding the Matthew Shepard Scholarship

The Diocese of Davenport congratulates Keaton Fuller on receiving the Matthew Shepard Scholarship.  Keaton will be presented the award by a member of the school staff at the awards assembly along with background information concerning the award. 

The Diocese has a long standing policy regarding guest speakers.  This policy was explained to Keaton’s parents at their meeting with Bishop Martin Amos last week.  It states: "We cannot allow any one or any organization which promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church to present at a diocesan institution."  Bishop Amos also expressed his congratulations for Keaton’s reception of the award and recognized his hard work in achieving it.

We are glad that Keaton and his family chose to pursue his education at Prince of Peace Catholic High School in Clinton, IA.  We hope that Keaton will benefit from the generous award and wish him well in his academic pursuits.

The Diocese of Davenport is declining requests for interviews.

Monday, May 7, 2012

GAP ANALYSIS - Mind The Gap #1


Okay, like I’ve said over the last few entries:  MIND THE GAP from Image Comics is now on the shelves.  I’ve bitched about the trouble I had to go through to get a copy…I’ve raved about how great a comic it was…so now it’s time to pick the book (or, more specifically, the mystery it presents) apart. 

So, the quick recap of the story (to this point) is this:  Ellis (Elle) Petersen, daughter of a (presumably) wealthy family is attacked on a subway platform and as a result, she’s in a coma.  No one knows (or is saying) who attacked her, or why she was attacked. 

…In fact, we’re not even sure she was meant to be as attacked as she was.  I was calling this an “attempted” murder mystery, but after a couple of readings, I’m finally clued into the fact that I was way off base.  From Page Five:

VILLAIN: “It’s Done Then?” (‘It’ being…whatever happened to Elle)
ATTACKER:  “Not Exactly As Planned…”
VILLIAN: “Explain”
ATTACKER: “She reacted less than well.  She’s a bit roughed up, but the package was delivered.”

Now…god help me, an honest-to-God English Lit major, for missing this the first two times reading through this, but…whatever happened to Elle was nothing to do with killing her, or even ‘roughing her up’…but, whatever was supposed to happen did happen…and the violent part of the attack was an afterthought. 
So what exactly was ‘it’?  The event that was supposed to happen, and did happen, with some violent side-effects?  Well, we’re not sure, but there may be a really good hint about midway thru the issue (but, we’ll get back to that in a bit…). 

Now, along with us not really knowing what happened to Elle, or why, we of course don’t know who did it.  But, we do KNOW who did it.  Writer Jim McCann explains in a text piece that the attacker has been named in the first issue.  Now, the characters named are:

Ellis ‘Elle’ Petersen – our victim and our main character
Jo Wilson – Elle’s best friend
Min Petersen – Elle’s Mother
Carlotta – The Petersen’s Maid
Dr. Gina Geller – an ER doctor at the hospital where Elle is taken
Dr. Hammond – a bastard of a doctor at the hospital where Elle is taken after her attack.
Dane Miller – Elle’s boyfriend, who comes across as very suspicious throughout this first issue
Eddie Petersen – Elle’s douchebag of a younger brother
Mr. (Ed?) Petersen – Elle’s father.  He’s not explicitly named, but at one point, Dane calles Eddie ‘Junior’, so it’s probably that Elle’s father’s name is Ed. 
Megan Kyle – an ER Nurse working alongside Dr. Hammond and making Geller’s life harder than it needs to be
Harold Crenshaw – a doctor, of some sort, familiar with Elle and some issues she’s been having
Miles – Crenshaw’s assistant
Blake Robert “Bobby” Plangman – a…new ‘friend’ Elle meets in her coma

Now, again, in his text piece, McCann clears Jo and Min of the ‘attack’, but not necessarily being behind the attack.  As illustrated in the script snippet above, the person who actually attacked Elle is working under orders from someone else.  And at the end of that text piece we’re told …TOLD…”No One Is Innocent!” 
I repeat:  “No One Is Innocent!”  Not “No one is above suspicion!” or “Rule No One Out”.  No, No One Is INNOCENT. 

Interesting, no? 

Anyway, someone ordered someone else to do something to Elle that, in the process, got her roughed up a bit. 

Vague.  Very, very vague, when you put it like that. 

But, of course, there’s more to it than that.  To wit:  Elle, in her coma, is still…’somewhere’.  And that ‘somewhere’ is referred to as “The Garden” by Elle’s new friend/guide/antagonist within this shared experience (The Garden): Blake Robert “Bobby” Plangman (Bobby, from here on out). 

The Garden is something like that ghost ward in the Hospital in “Being Human” and the limbo place in the movie “Insidious”.  It’s a nowhere/anywhere you need it to be type of place where disembodied spirits/consciousnesses roam waiting to ‘pass on’ or (presumably) wake up in the real world. 

While there, Elle meets Estaban, a middle-aged Hispanic man who comes to tell Bobby goodbye (because he’s ‘moving on’/dying).  Elle ends up in Estaban’s hospital room and reaches out to touch his hand, and finds herself sucked into body, waking up, and speaking Spanish (a language that, perhaps, the Korean Elle might know, but not a language we’re told she knows prior to that). 

SO!  Is this ability to body hop her spirit/consciousness into dying/dead/people in comas a Side-effect of Elle’s attack…or is it the actual intended outcome of the attack? 

Confused?  Okay, let’s back up…

On page 22, after Nurse Kyle catches Dr. Geller reading Hammond’s private patient files (on Elle) and rats her out to Hammond, Geller and Hammond have a confrontation. 

GELLER:  “How is it exactly that a patient who is barely a 4 on the Glasgow Scale is registering higher than normal brain activity?” 

(The Glasgow Coma Scale is a neurological scale with the purpose of giving doctors an objective way of recording the conscious state of a person.  A ‘Less than four’ is BAD, very Bad.  A patient with a Glasgow rating less than 8 is severe…Elle being less than 4 is all sorts of bad)

Then on Page 39, Geller is either in her office or at home writing down notes on Elle’s case (presumably from memory) and has written down:
-          Stimulus response nil
-          Head trauma minimal
-          Missing from report: Tox Screen
And is in the process of writing down: “Test for Propo…” when she’s interrupted. 

Common sense leads you to believe the next letter she’s writing is an ‘f’, and a Google search for ‘Propof’ asks you if you’re meaning to search for ‘Propofol’, which is an intravenously delivered hypnotic agent for mechanically ventilated adults. 



So Elle’s barely hurt (remember, the Attacker describes her as ‘roughed up’), but completely unresponsive (Glasgow < 4), and may be on a drug that is a hypnotic agent and delivered intravenously.  And “the Package was delivered”…

Aside from all of this is Harold Crenshaw…another doctor (presumably…he mentions ‘appointments’) who knows Elle and has an assistant (Miles) who has enough fears about Elle and has been projecting them enough to make Crenshaw afraid and describe the situation as “potentially highly volatile”.  He hears about Elle’s attack (from a blocked call…more on THAT later…), and rushes off to go to “The Lab” and then the Hospital.  He’s actually intercepted on his way there by a fake deer (More on THAT later too…), swerves off the road and then when either dead or unconscious (I’m guessing the latter), has the briefcase he was carrying stolen by the hoodie wearing attacker who was on page 5. 

Now…phone calls:  All the information about the attack is communicated by cellphone or landline.  Elle calls Jo as she’s being attacked, Jo calls Dane…SOMEONE calls Min…Carlotta calls Ed and Eddie…and then, again, SOMEONE calls Jo and Dane to tell them what happened to Elle and where she’s at (it’s pretty damn clear it’s not the Peterssen’s…they’re not fans of either)…and then SOMEONE calls Crenshaw. 

So…who’s this SOMEONE?  Is it the same someone?  Presumably, the SOMEONE who calls Crenshaw is trying to hide their identity, because we see his caller ID come back as “Blocked”, rather than “Unavailable” or even “Private Number”…and then he’s intercepted on his way to the hospital. 

Now, in this text piece I mentioned way up at the top, McCann dismisses Min from guilt in the attack, but again, NO ONE IS INNOCENT…and it’s interesting that Min gets a call from SOMEONE, and follows that up by calmly telling Carlotta that she already tried calling her son and husband and couldn’t reach them…(already called them?!?). 

And in that same vein, McCann really, really wants us to think Dane’s behind this. 

The first time you see Dane is when Jo calls him.  He pulls his phone and…something else…out of his pocket and throw it on his couch…and it kind of looks like another phone. 

…and he’s wearing a hoodie.  A dirty, stained hoodie. 

…and then we see the attacker, in a hoodie, talking on a cellphone, being told by who I referred to as “The Villain” to wipe Elle’s phone.  Meaning the attacker has the phone, not Elle…

…and then Dane shows up at the hospital (who knows how he found out), wearing a hoodie that seems to match the one worn by the attacker…it’s clean now (so was the attacker’s). 

He’s there momentarily, longer than Elle’s family, long enough to have a bit of a standoff with Eddie…and while he’s there, he tells Elle:

“Come on Peanut, we can’t end like this.  Your Last Memory can’t be…Just kick this thing’s ass.  The Rest we can figure out.  I Love you. Remember that, okay?”

Now…we know from page 2 that the night before the issue starts, Elle and Dane had a fight.  Something that made Elle change Jo’s ringtone on Dane’s phone to “Fuck You” by C-Lo Greene (Which, is weird…why would his girlfriend change her best-friend’s ringtone on her boyfriend’s phone)…but the fight was the night before.  Elle was attacked early in the morning.  (VERY early, about 4:43 am…oh, and Dane wasn’t home then…he was just walking in when Jo called him)…but would her ‘last’ memory REALLY be that fight? 

Or would it be him attacking her…or at least accosting her, and her reacting badly, ending up in her being ‘roughed up’? 

There’s also him leaving Elle’s hospital room, telling Jo he needs to go pick some things up at the theater where the three of them work.  Jo even points out that it’s a Tuesday, and the theater is ‘dark’ on Tuesday.  But Dane sticks with that.  And he jets, before Crenshaw is called, leading to his car crash, caused by a fake deer. 

A Fake Deer…

…which would be found in a prop department (possibly), at a theater. 

Did Dane just tell Jo he was going to the theater to pick things up in order to establish an alibi and give deniability if he were later to be seen with a fake deer?

It ALMOST seems like McCann is making it too easy to point out that Dane is guilty…he’s got to be a complete red herring…unless who actually accosted/attacked Elle isn’t the main antagonist here, and it’s whoever is pulling the attacker’s strings. 

So…yeah…WOW, I just wrote 4 + pages on a single (first!) issue of a comic book.  And that’s not counting the review of the issue earlier!  That has to be a record! 

One issue…44 pages…a lot of questions, some theories, and a world of possibilities. 

Bring on Issue #2!!!!

MIND THE GAP #1 - A review



Despite blood, fire, death, corporate incompetence, and the utter breakdown of technology (SEE: Previous Blog Post), I was able to get my spoiled little hands on a copy of Mind The Gap #1 last week (the week it was actually *supposed* to hit stands). It actually arrived just an hour or so after I got my copy of Fantastic Four #1 in the mail, and honestly, for a moment there, I was conflicted over which comic I was happier to say I owned!

Written by Jim (Return of the Dapper Men, Necrosha: Dazzler) McCann*, and art by Rodin (Morning Glories) Esquejo and Sonia (X-Force, X-23) Oback; Mind The Gap is long-form fiction, in the same vein as Morning Glories (also from Image...also a book you should be reading), only this time it's an (attempted) murder mystery. McCann takes a page from mystery writers by using this first issue to introduce readers to all of the major characters, and mentions in the text piece at the end of the book, that at least one of these characters is behind the attack that is the impetus of the series.  Apparently at the end of Mind The Gap #1, you know everyone you need to know...you know the what, now as the series progresses, we will discover the "why".

If straight-up 'whodunits' aren't your thing, let me make it clear that there's more going on here than a simple attempted murder and figuring out who did it and why.  There's a supernatural element that at first seems like a way to work the central character into the book as a part of its narrative, but by the last page, you find out  there's a lot more going on here than just exercising creative license...and it quite possibly provides the book a reason for continuing longer than what a murder-mystery s/could without overstaying its welcome.

Artwise, If you're tired of people going on an on about how Batwoman is "the best looking comic on the shelves", then I've got some good news: MIND THE GAP makes Batwoman look like amatuer hour, and barring one of the classic master painters resurrecting and getting into comics, you're not going find a more beautiful looking book from any publisher currently avaialble.  Marvel fans should be familar with Sonia Oback's work, having done work on Uncanny X-Men, X-Force, and the second X-23 mini series from a few years back; and Rodin Esquejo provides the absolutely stunning and lifelike covers of Morning Glories that you may have seen as you all pass it over every month...I read more than a fair share of comics each month, and I honestly can't even point to any other book that's currently being published and is in the same league as Mind The Gap. When  someone told me last week they had heard the art in this book was "lifeless",  I momentarily considered calling the cops because there's no way whoever said that wasn't on drugs...a lot of them.  

What's sure to be a Huge plus in the reaction for this book is the diversity of the cast.  Mind the Gap has at least  10 central characters (maybe more depending on how much of a part "Bobby" and then the assistant play...and whether or not the bearded doctor guy died in his accident...), and the "White Heterosexual Male" seems to be fairly (read: not predominantly) represented.  Esquejo and Oback portray the cast without playing up stereotypes, and McCann manages to introduce them without announcing "hey everybody, look at me, I'm actually showing the real world as more than just a bunch of plain white faces!" Hopefully people take note of this, and the book gets deserved recognition for its cast as well as just its plot and (fantastic) art.  

To be sure, there's a lot of buzz surrounding the new Image books these days...mainly, I suspect, based on people trying to make sure they get their hands on the 'next' Walking Dead or Chew (read: make a huge reurn-on-investment),but the fact that they seem to keep selling out, issue after issue, means that the people buying up all the new #1's like what they're reading and coming back for more, and Mind The Gap is just as quality as Saga, Fatale, or America's Got Powers.  And considering it's 44 pages, for only $2.99, Mind The Gap is a steal. There's absolutely no excuse for passing it up in leiu of any of the stuff that Marvel or DC is throwing your way (especially since the delay that pushed Mind The Gap from May 2 to May 9 made it avoid direct competition with Avengers Vs. X-men and the 'big' New 52 Next Wave debuts). As long as the art team can keep up the pace of a monthly book (or at least every 6 weeks if life starts to get in the way), and McCann can keep the central mystery relevant and interesting without letting the book get LOST in itself (see what I did there kids?  That's some "god I kick ass" level wordplay...), then I see absolutely no reason I won't be returning to this book for (hopefully) years to come.  

I have a lot more to say about this book, but this is a review, and not an analysis, so I'll leave that for later...hopefully I can get that up by Wednesday, after the rest of the rest of the country gets to see this book for themselves.    



*Look, MOST people cite McCann as writing "Hawkeye and Mockingbird", which he did, but he also wrote the only DAZZLER comic to come out in...jesus, like...25 years or so, so let's remember that, okay?  Cool...Thanks!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

GAP ANALYSIS - Mind The Gap #1: The Ordeal, OR, First World Problems Defined

It feels like it's been forever since Image Comics announced MIND THE GAP from Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo, and Sonia Oback...It feels like forever since I (Dutifully) pre-ordered my copies of the first issue...I waited, I was excited, I talked the hell out of this book to anyone who would listen, using the cover of the Image book MORNING GLORIES and later the 9 page prologue that was available on ComiXology as my basis for thinking people needed to pay attention to this book.

"It comes out May 2," I told them...and it did.  Or, at least, for some people it did.

It was about a week ago that the announcement came across the Internet:  A fatal car accident near the Diamond Distribution Center in Texas would cause a handful of books expected to be out on May 2 to instead be pushed back a week until May 9.  and yes, MIND THE GAP was one of those...maybe.  Depending out of which distribution center your state was serviced.  It was Sunday, April 29 that I found out that the shop I pick up my comics from on Wednesday morning was one of those serviced out of the Texas center...two days later, I found out that ALL of the stores in my area got their books from that Distribution Center (even the one that swore to me that they were out of a center in New York).

Salvation came in the form of an email from Matt, the owner of Cup of Kryptonite (the store where I go on Wednesday mornings) telling me that he had re-ordered some copies in advance, and would be coming direct-ship from Tennessee, and not Texas.  I wouldn't be getting it on Wednesday morning, but I'd have it by Wednesday afternoon.  Okay, that's cool.  I'm an adult, and can wait a couple of hours.

...then CoK got their afternoon UPS drop off, and the box containing the books from Tennessee wasn't there.

Finally I decided "what the hell," and grabbed my Kindle Fire.  I dislike reading comics digitally, I feel like it's cheating somehow.  Nevertheless, I figured it was going to be my best chance to read the damn book and get it out of my system.  So I fired up the ComiXology app on my Fire, and there it was...listed as "Unavailable".

I waited a few hours, checking back here and there to see if it was up yet...eventually, it disappeared from the listings altogether. I thought I had to be going nuts, so I shut the Kindle off, restarted it, restarted the app...still not there.  In a fit of desperation, I grabbed my phone and downloaded the ComiXology app on to it.  I'm not entirely sure why I thought it might be different...but oddly enough, it was.  MIND THE GAP #1 was listed, and available for download and purchase!

Now, you have to understand...this book is GORGEOUS.  The artwork is breathtaking and intricate.  And when you factor in that I don't even like reading comics digitally in the first place, by me acquiescing to even consider reading it on my tiny little 4 inch screen...well...that's how badly I wanted to read the damn book.

So after countless text messages, Words With Friends requests, a phone call, and me staring at my phone and watching the % Complete bar crawl to the right, it FINALLY told me that the comic was downloaded and the "Read Now!" icon appeared.  FINALLY!!!  Success!  I shut the door to my office and readied myself to strain my eyes by trying to read this book on my phone.

Now...remember that 9 page prologue I mentioned that was available earlier and I used as an example as to why you should buy this book?  Well, turns out, the 9 page prologue was in actuality the first 9 pages of the book... (which is 44 pages...so, even still, MIND THE GAP #1 is almost twice the size of your standard super-hero comic, I'm not complaining...about that...).  This meant that I needed to start reading on page 10 to begin seeing 'new' material.  Read page 10...read page 11...12...13...14...flipped to page 15, and the screen went black, followed by the words "Data File Corrupt.  Cannot Load Data."

...Seriously.  SERIOUSLY.  SERIOUSfuckingLY.

I know, I know, I KNOW, this is the epitome of a 'First World Problem'...but COME ON!  How do you NOT at that moment start to take this personally, and with a huge dash of paranoia thrown in for good measure.

Anyway...it's now Thursday afternoon, and I finally have my copy of MIND THE GAP #1.  It looks beautiful, and I can't wait to actually dive in an read it from cover to cover.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Could this be the most important (mainstream) comic of 2012?


Okay, so I know I said in my last entry that I’d cover the new Captain Marvel series this weekend, but I lied…I wanna talk about it now. So I am.

We know, for a fact, that Marvel Comics is gearing up a new Captain Marvel series, that’s not up for argument. So far though, the only hint we’ve gotten as to what this series will be about is a rumor from the comic site Bleeding Cool saying it will be written by up and coming author Kelly Sue Deconnick, and star the current Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, in the title role (you can see the story here: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/03/12/kelly-sue-deconnick-reinvent-ms-marvel-as-captain-marvel/ )

Now, let’s ignore for the moment that I’m a huge Carol Danvers fan and that this rumor has me excited simply because I would love to see her get another solo-book. I want to focus on why the possibility of a Danvers helmed Captain Marvel series would be one of the most important steps forward for a major publisher’s female characters that could be taken.

Carol Danvers first appeared in the late 60’s (March 1968 to be exact) as a supporting character/love interest/foil for their recently introduced Captain Marvel. She was the chief of security at a NASA base where the alien Captain’s alter-ego worked undercover while doing reconnaissance for his interstellar race. And for almost a decade, Danvers was just that: a female supporting character whose motivations were influenced solely by a male protagonist. Then, in January of 1977, Carol found herself cast as Ms. Marvel in the pages of MS. MARVEL #1. Marvel touted this new series as the introduction of a heroine fit for the age of Women’s Liberation, making sure readers knew it was MIZZ Marvel, not Miss Marvel or Mrs. Marvel. Carol Danvers was a self-made woman…despite the fact that her powers were solely derived from an alien ray that transferred Captain Marvels powers to her…and that her costume was modeled after Captain Marvels uniform…oh, and I could be wrong, but I guess that belly window was supposed to be the cuper-hero equivalent to bra-burning? I don’t know…maybe…

MS. MARVEL, the comic, lasted 23 issues before ending in April of 1979, and the character met perhaps one of the worst fates to ever befall a super-hero when in AVENGERS #200, she was date-raped, impregnated, and then gave birth to her rapist, all before deciding that she was in love with her son who was in fact the same man who raped her, and then went off to live happily ever after with him (no, seriously…that’s exactly what happened. It’s like the super-hero version of most of the GOP introduced reproduction legislation this year…). Then there was a bunch of stuff with Rogue from the X-men and yadda yadda yadda…Carol Danvers, as Ms. Marvel, was off the board from late 1980 until 2005 when she showed up and kind of off-the-cuff announced “oh, yeah, I’m Ms. Marvel again…”

And…whatever…long story short, she got a second solo series that lasted for 50 issues, had 2 ‘specials’, and an annual. All said and done, Carol Danvers, as Ms. Marvel, has enjoyed one of the longest, continuous publishing schedules of any female Marvel hero (Spider-Girl has 100 continuous issues, with She-Hulk coming in at 60). But none of that explains away my actual point, which is why this new Captain Marvel series is truly an important step for the publisher…for that, we go back to the reason for her creation.

Regardless of the reason spoon-fed to readers for the creation of Ms. Marvel (she’s Women’s Liberation in a cape!!!), looking back on it, it was pretty much done as part of a mad copyright grab by the publisher that saw the creation of Spider-Woman and She-Hulk. Get as many different versions of your main characters under your umbrella as possible, it seemed like, before someone else comes along and steals the idea away. And while Carol may have grown into a fully realized character in her own right, she still gets the stigma of being a female knock-off of a male hero.

BUT…if these rumors are true, and the new CAPTAIN MARVEL series, launching this year from Marvel features Carol, not as MS. Marvel, but as CAPTAIN Marvel…it gives her a unique opportunity to do what most , if not all, female knock-off heroes are denied.

Like it or not, BatGIRL can never step-up to become BatMAN. Spider-Woman is denied that as well. While it would be possible for X-23 to someday become Wolverine, or She-Hulk to become simply THE Hulk…they’re still going to be seen as “the female Wolverine” or the female Hulk” by most comic readers. But, whereas “the Hulk” and “Wolverine” are names of heroes, “Captain Marvel” is a title, a mantle to be taken up and worn proudly (and yes, it doesn’t hurt that there has already been a female Captain Marvel, but she had ZERO ties to the original hero).

Honestly, I thought, and predicted, that the final issue of the latest Ms. Marvel series would end with Carol taking the name of Captain Marvel for herself, and was rather let down when that didn’t happen. She’s certainly earned it, many times over. She’s proven herself to be a true hero, a strong human being, and a staunch friend. And unlike so many characters – male and female, she hasn’t proven her strengths my posing and posturing and having a flawless character. Carol Danvers may have been created to be background dressing and then turned into a de-facto copyright protector, but what she’s been turned into over decades of ups and downs is about as three-dimensional as a comic book character can be.

Why it's time for a new Man-Thing series (for real)...


Two days ago I was almost peeing myself in excitement over the teases and rumors spilling out ahead of announcements that Marvel Comics would make at this weekend’s WonderCon. The first was for a new Captain Marvel series that (may, or may not) star Carol Danvers in the title role (this is LONG overdue in my opinion, and if it pans out to be true, I’ll explain why this weekend…), and the second was for a new Man-Thing series, entitled “The Infernal Man-Thing”. And as excited as I am over the prospect of Colonel Danvers *finally* taking up the mantle of Captain Marvel, I was more excited over the news that Marvel was taking a chance on their very own ‘muck that walks like a man’. Sadly though, the official announcement of “The Infernal Man-Thing” was made today, and even though what we’re getting is beyond my wildest imagination, it still leaves me feeling disappointed.

“Infernal Man-Thing” is not a new series. Rather, it’s a three issue mini-series parsing out a ‘lost’ graphic novel by the now deceased Steve Gerber. Gerber, who passed away in 2008, didn’t ‘create’ Man-Thing, but he certainly breathed what true life the character has into him. He took the reins of Man-Thing’s adventures in the long defunct series FEAR, and steered it away from being a story about a super-hero caked in swamp-quag and crafted a long running analogy of the way society was back in the early 1970’s.

From FEAR #11, published in December of 1972, through the October 1975 MAN-THING #22, Gerber turned the swamp that gave the creature life into a microcosm of the world at large. Man-thing was less of a super-hero as he was an observer of the events that transpired around him…if you’re a cat owner, you’ll totally understand what his role was in these stories. He’d wander into a situation, and as long as they kept his interest, he’d stay around, curiously watching; involving himself only through happenstance or the reaction of the more cognizant participants. He would soothe, he would protect, and if or when it became necessary, he would attack to defend himself. Man-Thing saw himself cast as the bane of an industrialist who sought to exploit the Everglades swamp in which he resided, a witness in the supernatural trial of a suicide, and the catalyst for a fear-born witch-hunt and book burning. All of these events were motivated, not by some costumed super-villain, but by ordinary people’s reactions to the world around them.

And that’s why I’m disappointed by the full reveal of what “Infernal Man-Thing” actually is.

If there’s ever been a time to launch a new Man-Thing series, it’s right now. Ostensibly, the argument could be made that since DC Comics has had critical and commercial success with their Swamp Thing series, Marvel could try and capitalize on that to line their own pockets. Additionally, you could argue that Marvel is severely lacking in the ‘something for everybody’ categories, since by and large they ONLY publish super-hero books (JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY being the main, are really, Only, exception). But I would go so far as to say Marvel needs to launch a quality Man-Thing series because…well…the world today kind of sucks.

If done, and done right, Man-Thing could capture the hearts and minds of its readers and, if given a chance to grown an audience, it could enjoy some real longevity on retail shelves. The news is rife with stories of corporate greed, bullying, mounting racial and gender-based tensions….people from all walks of life are feeling the strain of a failing economy and the crumbling of the American Dream. People are clinging to their religion, their guns, their demagogues, all in the hopes that something, someone, somewhere will make life better for them. And if Marvel put their best foot forward and tried to capture the spirit of Gerber’s Man-Thing, then they could have a book that would speak to everyone out there feeling a sense of fear and loss for what the future holds.

And this is something that they can’t do with their current stable of books. When you’re dealing with people who can fly through the air, control the weather, or who live in mansions or gilded towers…how can that relate to the way people are feeling in their homes at night? When Emma Frost can liquidate her billion dollar empire to fund the X-men, or when a sentient landscape starts mass-producing “Diamonds the size of grapefruits” as we saw in this month’s WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, how can you ever feel a connection with these heroes when your paycheck can’t stretch comfortably from one week to the next?

Man-Thing is neither good nor evil. He is neither conservative nor liberal, neither democrat nor republican. He simply…is. He watches, he observes, and he influences and IS influenced by his surroundings and the emotions those around him project. You could say, in a way, he is a creature torn between nature and nurture, with his actions of the moment being defined solely by the stimuli he is given.

For sure, a new Man-Thing series wouldn’t be an easy book to write. You’d need to find someone who truly ‘got’ the character. After Gerber left the character in 1975, Marvel tried their best to find someone who could pick up from where he left off, but sadly, they failed. Gary Freidrich, who was one of their main ‘go-to’ writers at the time, tried and was panned so badly he was removed after only three issues. After that, Marvel went to Chris Claremont who was a rising star thanks to his work on the X-Men book…he too couldn’t manage to recapture Gerber’s magic. Trying to write a Man-Thing series that is done in the Gerber (read: ‘correct’) way would require a writer who was able to put their heart and soul into the book, to give the stories a true and accurate voice, while having to deny one to the main character. Luckily, I think Marvel has a few writers in their stable who could do just that. Peter David springs to mind immediately, and Jeff Parker (who currently has Man-Thing in his stable of characters as part of the Thunderbolts) at least understands the character enough to make sure he isn’t cast into a role outside of his capabilities, and certainly Marjorie Liu has shown from her work with X-23 over the past couple of years that she’s more than capable of crafting emotional stories with two-dimensional characters.

And, if nothing else, it would make way for Marvel to put out a contemporary book called GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING that would probably at least pay for itself since people would buy it just for the title pun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Batwoman...I don't get it...


Dear Batwoman...

We need to talk. About you, about me...about us. This...this isn't working. I'd like to say that it isn't you, that it's me...but we both know that isn't true. It's you.

You flew into the public eye looking completely beautiful and wrapped in a pre-fabricated controversy. You were a lesbian. Good, good for you. That pissed off certain people and got others excited about a character debut that normally wouldn't be newsworthy at all. Unfortunately, that seemed to be about all you were able to bring to the table that made you worth noticing.

You were introduced in 52, and if I didn't know better, I'd almost think you were meant to die in that series as well; saved only by a last minute change of heart. Sure there's not anything to back that up, but with all the publicity you got before you even started appearing in comics, one would imagine DC would have had...well...SOMETHING lined up for you after that series ended but you got nothing at all. And by the time your star turn in DETECTIVE COMICS started, I had stopped caring all together about the pretty new toy that DC had trotted out in front of the mainstream press.

I gave your series a chance this September because I had seen some preview art and it was gorgeous...I also felt it was important to support your book for two reasons: 1.) You would be only the second LGBT character to headline a mainstream comic; and 2.) you were a woman headlining her own comic as well. Both of those ranks need swelling and if my dollar bills meant your book found success then so be it.

Your first issue was pretty...oh so pretty, and if I were one of those who was more captivated by art than story I would be buying multiple copies of your book each month so I could conversely collect it and wallpaper my rooms with it. But I'm not...and your story left a lot to be desired.

Your most vocal fans told me to go pick up "Elegy" and BATWOMAN #0 and that once I read those I would understand how wonderful BATWOMAN #1 was. It was a request that at first I took issue with; after all, shouldn't I have been able to pick up issue #1 and fully understand and appreciate it? Isn't that what the whole "New 52" was all about?

For almost a month I resisted buying these back issues. Then one day, on a whim, I picked up the MADAME XANADU: DISENCHANTED trade paper back and fell in love with the art by Amy Reeder. Someone told me that she was going to be drawing you in your second arc, and that she had illustrated part of BATWOMAN #0 previously. Based on that I acquiesced and hunted down a copy of that book to see if it would help me understand the glory that others find in you but that had since evaded my eye...and while I was buying that, I picked up those fabled four issues of DETECTIVE COMICS as well so I could read this "Elegy" storyline that so many voices have acclaimed.

And so on Sunday night last I curled up in bed, 6 comics lay beside me. The issues of "Elegy" and the issues 0 and 1 of your eponymous title. I thought for sure that when I was done I would finally 'understand'. Sadly, I don't.

I get that you have 'daddy issues'. Your father was your friend and your confidant, and then later you discovered that he lied to you. I've seen that before. I've seen it better. I'm a Polaris fan and a Scarlet Witch fan...the super heroine with father problems is old-hat to me.

You're being hunted by a cult who worships crime...every character worth holding their own title has an arch-nemesis, but this "Religion of Crime" was after you in 52 back in 2006 and is still after you today. You ask them "Why" and I find myself asking the same thing. One would think that after 4+ years we'd have some idea why they have such an obsession with "The Twice Named" (as an aside...what the hell does *that* even mean?!?)...we don't.

And then there's the immediate plot to this acclaimed Elegy story. The Religion of Crime finds Gotham to be their Holy City yet they keep trying to destroy it. Is that even supposed to make any sense? You'd think if that's the way it worked, the entire Jew vs. Muslim conflict would be over rather quickly, no?

So that brings us to the whole 'lesbian' thing. Like I said, good for you. I like lesbians, they're cool. But I'm starting to think that's the only thing you have going for you. Like...people like you because you're a lesbian, or are afraid to point out that your stories are rather, shall we say "Substance Free" because you're an LGBT character and their worried that criticizing the book will turn into and argument about perceived homophobia. But I'm beginning to think that's what people 'see' in you.

I don't say this to be rude or condescending. I don't say this to take away from the fact that only you and Marvel Comics' Daken can lay claim to being LGBT characters with their own books...and I don't say this because I want your book to fail. I say it because...well, you and I just aren't meant to be together.

I wish you luck in the future, both as a super-hero and as a pioneer. But for me, you're not a ground breaking lesbian, you're just no-substance wrapped in a pretty exterior...which, I guess, makes you more like a young circuit queen gay boy.

Yours Truly,
RJD