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Posts Tagged ‘comic books’

I hadn’t planned to go to Wondercon today, but events fell out such that I was going to be in the area, and I could get the time off, so we went. When we last visited, three or so years ago, Wondercon was Comic-con’s little brother, colorful but far less intimidating, and far easier to navigate. What a difference three years can make.

Apparently a lot of people have decided that Wondercon might be less stressful, because now they all want to go there. We arrived at the Anaheim convention center area at noon. We actually had our badges before two. Not much before, but still. Yeah, it took two hours to park, shuttle from our parking, and get our badges. And this was with pre-registration. Admittedly, there were times when that was the only fact that kept me in the building (since we’d already paid up).

Finally, though, we got through, and from then on it was everything we hoped for–and less. “Less” as in fewer people, and no more lines (although we had written off trying to see any panels, which might have changed the dynamic). We spent our time in the dealer’s room, a well-stocked and diversified marketplace largely devoted to comic book shops, but also featuring books, clothing, jewelry, and a seller of custom furniture designed specifically for gamers(!). And of course there was the people-watching.

Odd as it may be for a writer, people-watching is not my favorite pastime. But today–cosplay has come a long way in the past several years. I saw some very good character impersonations today, most notably Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.* Many of the most ambitious costumes were apparently manga and anime characters, with which I am not familiar, but they were impressive.

One of the most pleasant (and disappointing) aspects was inspecting the used comic book vendors’ wares and pointing to various items: “I’ve got that,” was good; “I used to have that, and now it’s worth–oh, don’t tell me!” was not so good. There was more of the latter than the former. Who knew they were going to start making X-Men movies when we were kids?

Perhaps the high point was seeing Nichelle Nicholls greeting fans, and at the moment we walked by, she was being approached by two small girls (maybe ten years old) wearing classic Star Trek uniforms. The looks on their faces as they met this iconic woman were priceless. I doubt they will ever forget what they did today.

I won’t forget it soon, either, because by the end of the day I could hardly walk. That’s one big exhibit hall! Will I go again? Probably, but I want to be a guest next time and avoid the lines. Or become a superhero and fly over them…

 

*I know what you’re thinking, and get your mind out of the gutter. I can’t help it if women make better cosplayers. There were a couple of remarkably good Jack Sparrows, too.

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We went to a presentation the other day featuring cast members and show runners from the CW‘s four superhero shows: Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. We had a fine time; all of the panelists were entertaining and the whole thing was moderated by Kevin Smith, who had the audience in stitches. Kevin’s introduction described how as a kid, he had read comic books to be transported, and how they always made him feel like a better person because they were all about the good guys and their triumphs.

This made me think: Literature is virtually always about the good guys winning. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, for example George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman (no relation to The Flash), but you’d really be hard-pressed to find a book or comic where in the end you weren’t supposed to root for the good guys. Oftimes, the good guys are bad guys, but those are anti-heroes, bad guys you root for because their adversaries are even worse. Are with you with me so far? Of course you are, this isn’t controversial.

So why is it, then, that comic books are blamed for the decline of Western Civilization?* These are highly moralistic stories. The good guys virtually always win. They put their lives on the line, without pay, issue after issue for decades, sometimes (in the case of Marvel heroes) in the face of public ridicule, scorn, and even persecution. Who doesn’t want to live in a society where everyone is ready and willing to take on evil and stand up to oppression? How can a medium which produced Superman be bad?

I know a lot of the knocks against comic books are the same as are leveled against science fiction: it’s juvenile, it’s poorly written, it’s unbelievable. And I ask each of those the same thing: Have you read this stuff lately? Have you ever read this stuff?

Granted, comic books have a tendency to make you believe that violence (no matter how reluctantly practiced) solves every problem. But I would argue that being a “force” is less important than being a “force for good,” or at least it was when I was reading.

When I was a kid, reading comic books was not viewed by my parents as an optimal use of my time. I would argue though, that comic books (and later pulp novels) did as much to form my moral outlook as religious education, or upbringing. I’m not saying I’m going to stand in front of a runaway truck or face down bank robbers–but I am saying that if I had a little influx of cosmic energy, you might hear…

“Who is that masked man, anyway? He’s straight out of a comic book!”

 

*Yes, there were the EC comics of the 1950s. But really, it was the 1950s!

#SFWApro

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A little late to the party, but since my theme is based in the 1960s, I don’t suppose a few weeks really matters. You see, back when I was (first) collecting comic books like a madman, everything Superman did was, well, “super.” All his powers were super, his cousin, dog, and probably his dry-cleaner were “super,” and even his mistakes were “super-mistakes.” (Kind of like “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.“) As time went on, this trend faded. But it seems that the era of “super-mistakes” has not passed away.

As anyone who is interested is aware, at the end of “Man of Steel,” Superman kills General Zod. (I had heard something of this ilk was up, and never saw the movie. But it’s common knowledge now.) This editorial decision was not popular in some quarters (to say the least). And it appears that the ghost of this choice has never been exorcised; it still haunts the sequel, “Batman v. Superman.” Zack Snyder, the director, is having none of it.

“People are always like ‘You changed Superman.’ If you’re a comic book fan, you know that I didn’t change Superman. If you know the true canon, you know that I didn’t change Superman. If you’re a fan of the old movies, yeah, I changed him a bit. That’s the difference. I’m a bit of a comic book fan and I always default to the true canon…”

Well, yes and no. When he was first introduced, Superman was like the Punisher. It is rather shocking to our latter-day eyes just how ruthless he was. But that was 75 years ago. He’s changed. In many ways, becoming both much more powerful and much more controlled.

Now, we’ve gotten used to cinematic heroes who kill–even superheroes. I’m a fan of “Arrow,” but man, that guy has laid out his share of baddies. And Deadpool’s coming out; he’s not exactly a pacifist. (Not to mention Wolverine…) But there’s a large and critical difference between those guys–and almost everybody, really–and Superman, which is…he’s Superman. Faster than a speeding bullet, flies, can’t be hurt by much of anything.

Face it, the only thing between Superman and taking over the world is that he doesn’t want to. The only thing between Superman and getting rid of anyone who annoys him is that he doesn’t kill. Because he chooses not to. And now, Zack Snyder, you’ve taken that away.

So, yeah, that’s a super-mistake. Now that Superman has killed, he can kill again. What’s to stop him from being the super-bully? Superman was always the one you could look up to, the one who always did the right thing. Now he’s just another vigilante. And yes, that’s what “Batman v. Superman” is all about. But you know by the end of the movie they’re going to be friends, or at least colleagues. So you’re left with a tortured killer who roams the city seeking justice in memory of his lost parents–and Batman.

Sorry, Zack, but you were handed the goose that laid the golden eggs…and you broke them to make omelets.

ETA: Better late than never.

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Sometimes, a subject will just leap out of the closet at you like a hatchet-wielding maniac and force itself on you. It’d better not do in a bookstore in California, though, because that could be illegal.

You can’t make this stuff up. In California, it is illegal to require someone to buy a copy of a “horror comic book” as a condition of selling him a different book or magazine. (Business & Professions Code Section 16603.) On the one hand, I guess it’s comforting to know that we’re protected by law from demented magazine vendors trying to force their wacky “horror comics” into our kids’ hands. On the other hand…really? This is a thing?

As anyone who has any familiarity with the history of comic books will have surmised by now, the law was passed in 1955, after the bizarre Seduction of the Innocent scandal. Violation was punishable by a $500 fine and six months in county lock-up. But if you think that was strange, the law was updated and the fine doubled in 1984! (Wait, 1984. Why does that year ring a bell?) And if you live in California, you understand how odd that statement truly is–the Legislature actually voted on a bill?

You might think that I’m just throwing this out because it struck me as a weird and interesting blog post, but you’d be (partly) wrong. I’m putting this up as a public service. I mean, I know a lot of people who are planning to go into the burgeoning magazine stand trade, and I wouldn’t want them to stumble into a legal quagmire without any warning. Think of this as a signpost: “Warning! Horror comic book quicksand!” I know I will sleep better tonight because I’ve done my bit to make the world safer for booksellers.

So next time Amazon “suggests” that you might want to buy an EC comics anthology just to “bump up your purchase to qualify for free shipping,” don’t fall for it. And if you live in California, you might want to think about calling the cops.

 

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So now Fox News is defending supervillains. Fox and Friends recently defended the Supreme Serpent against Captain America (who is now apparently not living up to his name), because preying on immigrants only meant that he was concerned with illegal immigration. Yeah, well, other than the fact that Fox is now taking its talking points from a comic book, and the bad guy at that, who could have a problem with this…?

In fact, I think Fox has dropped the ball–and so have comics. For years we’ve been beaten up, kidnapped, threatened, terrorized, and even killed by supervillains who didn’t grow up here. If the government were doing its job, none of these guys would be a problem, and Cap, Batman, Spider-Man…those guys could concentrate of real, home-grown American crooks. As a public service, then, this site is going to call out some of those non-native invasive species who should be deported post-haste.

Doctor Doom. Let’s cover the big guy first. Sure, he’s got diplomatic immunity as dictator of Latveria, but can’t we revoke his diplomatic status or something? I mean, who’s more important, Doc Doom or the New York-born Fantastic Four?

The Red Skull. I know we let in a lot of Nazi rocket scientists after the war, but he wasn’t one of them. So how does he get here to fight Captain America all the time?

Batroc the Leaper. French. Again, Captain America (contrary to Fox) is the only hero living up to his name.

Ra’s Al-Ghul. I mean, the guy’s the head of the oldest criminal gang in the world. And Batman is the only one who wants to send his sorry behind home?

Pretty much everybody Iron Man’s fought in the movies. Whiplash? Russian. The Mandarin? Supposedly Asian, probably English, but certainly not American. And while we’re on the English, haven’t there been about a thousand English bad guys in movies in the last thirty years? We’re way behind the curve here!

Loki. Now there’s somebody we can agree doesn’t belong here. Good thing we’ve got Thor. Wait, what? He just plopped down without a visa? Good gravy, we’re going to need some heavy hitter to boot him out. How about Wonder Woman? Seriously? Okay, Superman. He’ll take them all–no. No way. Superman? Really? I thought he was from Kansas!

I guess he’s not from Kansas anymore…

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