defrog: (Default)
Stan Lee is gone, and even if I wasn’t late to the game, I don’t know what I could say that hasn't already been said.

My own experience is similar to others of my generation – by the time I started reading superhero comics, Stan Lee wasn’t writing so much anymore, and pretty much all of his creations had been taken over by other writers. But I knew who Stan Lee was via the Marvel editorial pages – “Stan’s Soapbox”, et cetera – and I was aware that he was the guy who had thought up these characters. I wasn’t a fan of all of them, but I did like Spiderman, the Hulk and X-Men, among others.

I’m pretty sure it’s no coincidence that these were the characters that seemed to struggle with an inability to fit into society for various reasons. A lot has been written about how Stan’s greatest contribution to comics was adding a layer of human complexity to the Marvel universe – just because you have superpowers doesn’t mean people will like you or your life will be better. I don’t know if I consciously thought of that while reading Spiderman or Hulk, but it was definitely core to the X-Men comics.

Obviously, not everything he did was great (Nightcat comes to mind – and that Backstreet Boys cartoon). On the other hand, I admired his ability to come up with character ideas almost on the fly – many wouldn't work, but his ethos seemed to be that no idea is too outrageous or outlandish, because who knows, it might actually work.

So yeah, I think he’s earned his rep as one of the greatest visionaries of comics.

To be sure, he had his critics. Which brings me to Bill Maher and his silly op-ed about how it’s somehow Stan Lee’s fault that Trump is president because comic books make you stupid. Or something.

I can’t add much to what Neil Gaiman has already said in one tweet – Maher is clearly trolling with a very old argument that anti-comics people have used for decades, so his argument is not only invalid, it's not even original.

Also, it’s hard to take Maher (who presumably only reads intellectual books) seriously when he goes around claiming that vaccines cause autism.

And so much for Bill Maher.

Nuff said,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
As you know, Adam West is gone.

Like a lot of people, West was a pop culture icon of my childhood thanks to the syndication of Batman. And whatever his qualities as an actor, he was perfect for the role – too perfect, perhaps, although West was able to reconcile himself with it. And that’s good.

Also, like a lot of people, he was my first Batman experience – in my case, it was the TV show that led me to read the comic books, rather than the other way round. And of course there will always be debate about how “authentic” West’s Batman was – after all, the whole show was meant to be ironic camp fun for 60s hipsters who laughed at Batman’s ultra-square demeanor.

And yet it wasn’t. While the show was essentially conceived as a sort of superhero sitcom, they were serious about Batman’s squareness, if only because he was meant to be the sane centerpiece of an insane crooked world of flamboyant supervillains, and a counterpoint to Robin’s youthful impulsiveness to do what feels right vs what is right – even if it’s a detail like pedestrian safety or being too young to legally enter a nightclub.

Here’s one way of looking at it – college-age hipsters watched it in the 1960s and laughed at Batman’s goody-two-shoes squareness. Primary school kids in the 1970s like me watched the reruns and saw Batman as the ultimate role model – the guy who stands for justice, defends the defenseless, obeys rules and laws (apart from the ones against vigilantism, of course, but who thinks of that when yr eight?), and generally does the right thing for the Greater Good of society.

In other words, we didn't see the irony – we saw the superhero we thought Batman was supposed to be. And we aspired to that. As you do when yr a kid.

Of course we grew up, and in my case I did see the goofy, hokey side of it all (and as Mark Hamill has pointed out, it says a lot that West was able to play the role for laughs and seriously at the same time).

By that time, too, we had The Dark Knight and characters like Wolverine, the first of many bad-ass superheroes who were perfectly fine with killing bad guys and delivering snappy one-liners while doing it – which Adam West’s Batman would never have done in a million years.

Don't get me wrong – gritty realism and graphic violence has its place in comics. I liked Frank Miller’s take on the Dark Knight, and it’s an aspect of the character worthy of exploration, and one that has been explored well, possibly to the point of ad nauseum. But it’s just one aspect of a multifaceted and contradictory character. And West’s Batman is arguably at the core of the character – he may be an orphan who dresses up like a bat to punch the crap out of criminals, but he is also grounded in a very clear sense of right and wrong, and there are lines he will not cross.

Naïve and oversimplistic? Probably. But why not? For my money, superhero stories don’t have to be “realistic” in order to be entertaining or meaningful. They also work as basic good vs evil stories where good generally wins, eventually – and does so on its own terms rather than stooping to the level of evil. And the “terms” can be generally defined as what we think of as ideals of morality, citizenship and justice – where crime never pays and the bad guys never get away with it, but ensuring that without breaking the confines of a fair and impartial justice system. The fact that the real justice system is neither fair nor impartial – to say nothing of the fact that vigilantism technically is by definition extrajudicial – is beside the point. Classic superheroes tended to operate according to the principles of that system regardless of whether the system itself did or not.

We need stories like that, just as we need stories that focus on what happens when the system fails us. Because I don’t think you can really appreciate the significance of the latter without appreciating the aspirations of the former.

Also, as Neil Gaiman intimated in a Riddler story, the former is just more fun. And it’s evident we’re starting to see a backlash at least in DC films that have gone for gritty realism vs Marvel’s lighter approach. I personally love the Nolan Batman films, but that was a specific cycle of films. There’s no need to make the whole universe like that. Anyway, you know you’ve gone too far with the Dark Knight angle when the Lego films are making fun of you.

I suppose some might point to Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin as proof that light-hearted cartoony Batman doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s a fair comparison, partly because Schumacher went against the expectations of franchise fans at the time who expected Tim Burton’s version, but also because the problem with Batman and Robin wasn’t the one-liners, overacting villains and cartoon sound effects – it was a bad story, too many supervillains, a very clumsy and forced attempt to shoehorn Batgirl into the franchise and Robin basically acting like a petulant jerk.

So, anyway, respect to Adam West for helping create a square, straight-edge Batman that we could look up to and yet not take too seriously, all at once.

Go West,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
And she is sick of yr “boys will be boys” crap.

[Via Superdames]

PRODUCTION NOTE: This is from Hit Comics #47, 1947.

FUN FACT: This is the kind of comic that makes Men’s Rights Activists very sad. And by “sad” I mean “insanely furious at this unfair feminazi oppression I mean is complimenting a babe on her looks a crime now” etc.

It’s a fair cop,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
ITEM: Ike Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel Inc, gave $1 million to Donald Trump’s alt.debate fundraiser for veterans groups, and Marvel fans everywhere have vowed to boycott all Marvel comics and films until …

Ha ha. No. Just kidding. Not about Perlmutter – about fan boycotts.

This is one of those stories that highlights the problem of using boycotts to punish CEOs for supporting candidates and causes you find offensive – what happens when it's a company whose products you actually love to the point of fandom? It’s easy to boycott Chick Fil-A and Hobby Lobby when you don’t really go there anyway. Even if you do, it’s not like you can’t get chicken sandwiches and home décor/craft supplies somewhere else.

But that doesn’t really apply to Marvel, obviously. Yes, there’s always DC or Image or indie comics, but they don’t publish Spiderman, X-Men, Avengers or those other Marvel characters you like. And DC’s films suck (supposedly).

Therein lies the dilemma for people who base their economic consumption choices on political ideology (or at least the ones who are big comics fans) – how do I square a Chick Fil-A boycott with the fact that I still read Spiderman comics? And can my social conscience handle the dissonance?

It’s been pointed out that Perlmutter technically gave the money to a charity fundraiser, not Trump’s campaign. Then again, if Perlmutter wanted to support the vets, he could have done that easily without Trump’s involvement. So it’s fair to say Perlmutter doesn’t mind being publicly associated with Trump, which may or may not say a lot about his character.

At the same time, though, while Perlmutter’s personal politics may swing pretty far to the right, that doesn't seem to be filtering down to the editorial level, otherwise – for example – Ms Marvel wouldn’t be a Pakistani-American written by G. Willow Wilson (a Muslim woman), probably.

Speaking of whom, I recommend this blog post from Wilson, who is naturally dismayed that her boss is directly or indirectly supporting a candidate who would just as soon keep people like her out of the country.

As she points out, the problem with boycotting Marvel (and this is true of just about any boycott of a big corporation) is that it wouldn’t really punish Perlmutter financially, but it would punish everyone else who works at Marvel.

Her advice: do what yr conscience tells you, but if you really want to make a difference, you can start by helping out vets organizations that have refused Trump’s money, like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

That’s good advice. Consumer boycotts rarely hit their intended target or make much of a difference, especially these days. Why not do something positive?

Do the right thing,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)

[Via Johnny The Horse Part 2]

Zombies can do that, you know.

Cat power,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)

[Via Maddd Science]

Linked in,

This is dF

defrog: (devo mouse)

[Via The United States Of Babylonia]

Dude’s got a point.

They live,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)

[Via The High-Strung & Knife-Happy Hillbilly Blues Revue]

I get this a lot.


This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Every conservative I know seems convinced that if Bernie Sanders wins the presidency, this will happen.

[Via Stupefaction]

But then they say that about every Democratic candidate.

Working man blues,

This is dF

defrog: (science!)

[Via The Abominable Lady Phibes]

Sincere-type ham,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

[Via Flashe Non Deux]


This is dF
defrog: (Default)
popeyepanels: Seems that way. E.C. Segar, 1932.

[Via Public Domain Drive In]

Who you calling “half pint”,

This is dF

defrog: (life is offensive)

Details here.

Evidently you can thank Donald Trump for this.

I am pleased. This was my favorite strip in the 80s, and still is today.

Wake up,

This is dF
defrog: (elvis hell)
Question of the day:

Please explain.

[Via Trashcompactorzine]

Suicidal failure,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
ITEM: Marvel is killing the popcorn movie. Furthermore, it doesn’t care. And Avengers: Age of Ultron is proof.

So says this op/ed piece in Wired, which is not a diatribe against popcorn films, but against the approach that Marvel has taken to them, and the effect it’s having on the overall popcorn-film genre.

I don’t agree that A:AoU will have a knock-on effect on all popcorn films – fans love it, critics mainly liked it, and the box office take is healthy, so Disney/Marvel and other studios have all the incentive they need to do more things like it.

That said, I do think the article brilliantly sums up the way I feel about the whole Marvel Cinematic/TV Universe. Namely: Marvel’s stipulation that each part must serve the whole. Apparently the A:AoU script had to conform to Marvel’s guidelines to the point that a number of scenes served no purpose except as set-ups or promos for other Marvel franchises.

From the article:

•So, once Marvel’s formula has deprived the movie of (a) time for the characters, (b) the potential for the story to unfold in a surprising way, and (c) meaningful consequences, we then get each character’s maximum 10 minutes of focus (which is now more like five or six) cut down even further, with ads for other Marvel products. In Age of Ultron, we lose several minutes of valuable time that could be spent developing our characters to visit Wakanda and establish Andy Serkis as a villain, not because he’s important to the plot—he’ll totally disappear after this one scene—but because there’s going to be a Black Panther movie. Thor has to be taken out of the action for a while so that his scientist friend can help him hallucinate the premise of Infinity War. Captain America gets a flashback that doesn’t relate to the plot, but does remind you that he used to date Peggy Carter, who you can catch every week on ABC’s own Agent Carter! Etcetera.

Now, I get that the above is more of a problem for an ensemble franchise like The Avengers than it would be for a standalone MCU franchise. And I also realize that interconnectedness is a key feature of the Marvel comics.

The thing is, that's easier to do with comic books that have been around 50+ years than it is with films and television. Universes don't mean much if the characters are one-dimensional and the stories are nothing but a series of epic fight scenes.

And even then, I have to say one of the reasons I stopped reading Marvel comics in the 90s was that same emphasis on interconnectivity in the Marvel Comics Universe. The result was too many damn crossovers. It got to the point that you had to read ten or eleven titles to be able to follow what was going on. Which of course was fine with Marvel because $$$$$.

Apparently Marvel wants to do the same basic thing with the films and TV shows and spinoffs of both. IMO, eventually it's going to backfire. Some MCU fans I know are already complaining that some of the TV shows have writing that's not Whedon-levels of clever. God knows how they're going to feel when they realize that Robert Downey Jr can't play Tony Stark indefinitely, which is going to ruin the continuity.

And now Warner Bros/DC are looking to emulate the same Cinematic Universe formula (since DC Comics, of course, does the universe/crossover thing as well), which seems to be a problem for a lot of fans because the existing DC film aesthetic has already been established by Chris Nolan’s Batman films and Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel. Which is apparently a bad thing because those movies sucked.

Which is news to me. Not Man Of Steel, of course (which I haven't seen, but I know it wasn’t that well received by Superman fans), but the Nolan Batman films. I seem to remember comics fans generally liking them (especially The Dark Knight), apart from some minor quibbles and the inability of The Dark Knight Rises to live up to TDK. Then the MCU happened, and now suddenly it seems all the fan sites are talking about how the Nolan films were actually awful the whole time because they’re not as fun as the MCU films and are about stoopid things like intelligence and emotion.

I might be imagining it. Or my memory is faulty. Maybe it’s just that Nolan’s Batman was better by comparison to every superhero film before it, but now it suffers in comparison to Iron Man and the Avengers cos they're superhero films done “properly”. That’s arguably true of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films – I remember fans seemed generally impressed with the first two (not so much the third one, admittedly), but none of them have really aged well. Which I suppose is one reason why they rebooted it.

Anyway, I’d just as soon both Disney/Marvel and WB/DC drop the whole Cinematic Universe concept – especially if it’s only going to serve as a cross-promotion tool for other properties.

FULL DISCLOSURE #1: I haven’t seen A:AoU. Or any of the Marvel TV shows.

FULL DISCLOSURE #2: I like Zack Snyder as a director. And I don’t care who knows that.

Avengers disassemble,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
By today’s standards, anyway.


[Via Donner Party Of One]

Seriously. If Ernie Bushmiller drew this today, half of America’s newspapers would refuse to carry it and he’d be put on an FBI watchlist.

But then aren’t we all?

Blow up yr school,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
You know you’ve reached a certain milestone in journalism when comic strips qualify for fact-checking.

You know you’ve reached a certain milestone when comic strips qualify for fact-checking.

Okay, Doonesbury is an exception, since it’s more of a political cartoon satirizing current events. Still, I find it interesting that people find it necessary to check the validity of a claim in a comic strip.

But then some of us already insist on applying objective journalism standards to comedians and novels. So why not comics?

The PolitiFact article doesn’t show the full strip, but you can read it here.

As for the CIA spending $81 million on torture lessons … well, that’s the country the majority of Americans have decided they want to live in, so I don't have anything to add that I haven’t already said.

Verified for accuracy,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
I’m old enough to remember this.

[Via My Monster Memories]

Also, this:

FULL DISCLOSURE: I haven’t seen the new TMNT film, admittedly in part because it doesn’t really look all that good. But surely it can’t be any worse than this.


Shell shocked,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
And here’s why.

[Via Stupefaction]

Never forget,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
It’s Banned Book Week in the US again, in which we celebrate freedom of speech by commemorating all the people who try to take it away from us.

I’ve written before about the importance of Banned Book Week at a time when books are easily available outside of libraries (where book banning is usually attempted). You can read that here if yr so inclined.

Meanwhile, I thought it was interesting that Banned Book Week reportedly has a special focus on graphic novels this year – which may be because Jeff Smith’s Bone made the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2013. (Also, the Captain Underpants series – which evidently counts as a graphic novel – has topped the list for two years in a row.)

One reason this interests me is because some people would argue that comics should be more subject to restrictions than books – especially in school libraries – because books are mainly words, see, whereas comics are pictures. It’s one thing to describe sex and violence – it’s another to show it. So it’s okay to ban graphic novels to protect the children. QED.

Something like that.

As you might imagine, I don’t really agree with that. For a start, well-written words can plant images in yr head more powerful and disturbing than any picture/drawing/painting. There are scenes in American Psycho that are extremely nasty. A graphic novel version wouldn’t necessarily be any worse (though I suppose it depends on the artist, of course – and here is where you may make yr Rob Liefield jokes now).

Second of all, the point isn’t whether a particular book or graphic novel is unsuitable for kids – it’s who gets to make that decision. And I’ve always believed that authority belongs to (1) the librarians who decide what to put on the shelves, and (2) parents. It does not belong to some nervous busybody out to make sure no one else gets to make that decision for themselves.

Anyway, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has put together its own list of graphic novels that run afoul of self-appointed library censors. It’s an interesting list – some are predictable (Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, Maurice Sendak), some not so much (J. Michael Straczynski!).

Also, Alan Moore shows up a lot more than you’d think.

Keep on reading,

This is dF


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