May 2, 2016

The Transformers Pointless Awards Show

The Transformers Pointless Awards Show
Ben Smith

I’m going to be honest with you, from the moment I had a son, I have been waiting for this to happen. My two young sons have fallen in love with the Transformers. Their enthusiasm has reignited mine, and since I don’t know how long this is going to last, I’m going to milk it for all it’s worth.

With that being said, and this being written during the (equally pointless) movie awards season, I present to you the following completely random list of Transformer achievements.

MARVEL COMIC SERIES MVP: DECEPTICON

Shockwave


Shockwave was an inconsequential lackey in the original cartoon. He was given one job, to guard the exit to the space bridge on Cybertron, and he failed repeatedly. However, in the comics, he was a certified badass, defeating the Autobots nearly on his own and seizing command of the Decepticons from Megatron.

Despite a puzzling period of being bossed around by Ratbat, and a brief stint with being dead, Shockwave returned near the end of the series to turn his Cyclopean eye towards conquest again.

(Shockwave being one of the coolest looking Transformers ever designed should not be underestimated in my lifelong fascination with him.)

Recommended reading: Transformers #5

MARVEL COMIC SERIES MVP: AUTOBOT

(Tie) Grimlock and Blaster



Comic book Blaster was very different from the light-hearted, pop culture fan version of the cartoon. He was a hardened, even jaded, warrior that was feared and respected. His two-part storyline early in the series, which doubled as a look back at Cybertron, was an early gem.

Grimlock eventually rose to the ranks of Autobot leader following the death of Optimus Prime, but any wisdom and competence he briefly displayed was quickly replaced by arrogance and intimidation. (It was kind of funny to read all these Autobot warriors that hated Grimlock, but were too scared to do anything about it. It was like a high school where all the kids were too scared to do anything about the school bully.)

Grimlock and Blaster’s opposing views came to a head when they participate in a trial by combat on the surface of the moon for leadership of the Autobots. (If those words don’t excite you, comics may not be for you.) Grimlock would also go on to play a major role in the latter part of the series, under writer Simon Furman.

(I would really love to have given this award to Ratchet, for his early role as the only surviving member of the Autobots following a deadly battle, struggling to save his comrades, but he didn’t play a major role in the remainder of the series, for the most part.)

Recommended reading: Transformers #41

GREATEST CARTOON EPISODES: PRE-ANIMATED MOVIE

(This was actually much more difficult to limit to 10 than I anticipated. The Gambler and Masquerade get honorable mentions. That doesn’t even get into some great first season episodes like More Than Meets the Eye and The Ultimate Doom.)

10. Hoist Goes Hollywood

Hoist and some of his fellow Autobots get involved with a movie project, that at one point leads to them wearing these masks…



…and ends with a pretty great scene in which Hoist uses old school movie effects to bluff the Decepticons into abandoning their current scheme.

9. Trans-Europe Express

A good old fashioned race for charity (and to see who the fastest Autobot is) turns into a battle to defeat the Decepticons. One of the belligerent human racers even grows a heart at the end, sacrificing his one-of-a-kind car to save the day. I’ll even overlook Bumblebee tying as a winner of the race.



8. The Search for Alpha Trion

Introduces the female Autobots, and retroactively introduces a love story between Optimus Prime and female Autobot leader Elita One. Also introduces Autobot mentor Alpha Trion, who would be a minor reoccurring character.

Incidentally features one of the only moments in the cartoon where Shockwave seemed like a character to be reckoned with.



Of course, it lasted but a moment.

7. The Key to Vector Sigma Part 1 & 2

Not only does this epic (at the time) two-parter bring back Alpha Trion, it showed us how new Transformers are created, and introduced two of the all-time best combiner teams, the Aerialbots and Stunticons. (I cannot possibly explain to you how excited I was when the second episode aired, after waiting a full 23 ½ hours since part one ended on a “to be continued.” Three words that never failed to create anticipation with a dash of soul-crushing impatience. No kidding, a multi-part cartoon storyline, for kids of my generation, was the most epic thing that could ever happen, every single time. Even when they would split up and air the Transformers and G.I. Joe animated movies over the course of a 5-day week, I would still watch those every single time. I was weirdly fascinated to see where they would end each episode.)

6. A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur’s Court

Rumble: “What is this place anyway?”

Starscream: “Our tomb.”

(You have to hear the way the line is delivered to find it as funny as I do.)

An eclectic mix of characters (Warpath, Hoist, Spike, Starscream, Rumble, Ravage, and Ramjet) travels back in time to the age of knights and kings, and have to find a way to produce energy for themselves (so they can fight each other, obviously). Notable for being one of the few episodes where Optimus Prime does not appear at all, and Megatron appears only briefly at the very end. (Let me state that again, the heroes of this episode were Warpath and Hoist. That would never, ever, happen on a cartoon today. Those are two of my least favorite Autobots of all time, and I can still appreciate the courage to headline them for a full episode without any Optimus Prime at all. Outnumbered by Decepticons, even.)

5. The Golden Lagoon



Autobot geologist (you read that right) Beachcomber stumbles upon a hidden natural paradise, that also happens to contain a golden pool of liquid that makes Transformers impervious to harm. This is actually a pretty profound comment on the costs of war, as the paradise is destroyed as a consequence of the Autobots and Decepticons battling over ownership of the pool.

4. Cosmic Rust



A deadly rust plague makes its way to Earth and infects the Transformers. This leads to scenes of one of my favorite things ever, decrepit Transformers occasionally losing limbs.

3. The God Gambit



The Autobots crash-land on an alien planet followed by the Decepticons, where they are mistakingly worshipped by the local populace as Gods. Subtly, this was some potentially controversial subject matter for a ‘80s action-adventure cartoon.

2. War Dawn

The naïve Aerialbots travel back to the past of Cybertron, witness the beginning of the war, and unwittingly contribute to the creation of Optimus Prime and Elita One. Also features an appearance by young Alpha Trion. This is without a doubt the most comic book-like story to ever occur in an American cartoon.

1. Auto-Bop



A spiritual sequel to Make Tracks, where Tracks (incidentally my all-time favorite Transformer) became friends with a youth named Raoul. I loved everything about these episodes in the city. Most of the early Transformers episodes took place in barren southwest looking landscapes, but these took place in the heart of a city. It was always nighttime, with darkly lit animation. Not to mention it featured a blue corvette that could fold out a pair of wings and fly like an airplane. The plot involved Starscream and Soundwave using a hot local nightclub to brainwash humans into working for them. All that, plus the only on-screen battle between Blaster and Soundwave in series history. Without a doubt the greatest cartoon ever produced by human beings.

INEXPLICABLE FAVORITE OF MY SONS THAT I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO FULLY EMBRACE

Bumblebee

In their defense, since the live-action movie in 2007, Bumblebee has been far more cool than he ever was in the original cartoon. Bumbebee was the herpes of the original series, nobody wanted him but you couldn’t get rid of him. That alone could be forgiven, but my problems run much deeper.

I am not a tall person. As a kid, I was very small. So out on the playground, when me and the other kids were ready to play as Transformers, without fail someone would always go, “you should be Bumblebee. You have to be Bumblebee because he’s the smallest.” F**k that dear readers. I was Tracks or Mirage, and those kids could kiss my shiny metal ass.

GREATEST CARTOON EPISODES: POST-ANIMATED MOVIE

(I would really love to include the 5-part Five Faces of Darkness, but the animation is so bad it’s laughable. They obviously rushed it out to follow the animated movie. If the animation wasn’t so so very bad, it would be a pretty great story.)

5. Only Human

Two words: Cobra Commander.


4. Dark Awakening

Rodimus Prime versus zombie Optimus, and Rodimus loses.



(Quick digression, a lot of the post-movie episodes are actually pretty good stories, with appealing visuals that almost always took place in the dark of space. The problem is that they replaced all the characters you loved with Rodimus Prime and Wheelie.)

3. The Rebirth Part 1-3



The series closed on an absolute doozy, introducing the Headmasters and Targetmasters, including the massive Fortress Maximus and Scorponok. I spent the rest of my childhood wondering when the series would continue. (Isn’t that sad? Be sad for young Ben!)

2. Starscream’s Ghost/Ghost in the Machine



The ghost of Starscream possesses other Transformers so that he can steal replacement eyes for Unicron. If you can’t appreciate that sentence, comics aren’t for you. (I know this isn’t a comic, but it’s basically the same thing.)

1. The Return of Optimus Prime Part 1 & 2



This was a bonafide event for me and my fellow fourth-graders. Optimus Prime returns to battle a deadly hate plague and save the universe. (I remember a rerun of Dark Awakening was on one day, and at the end was a new teaser to “come back tomorrow for the return of Optimus Prime!” This was the greatest thing that had ever happened before the invention of the internet.)

BEST NEW AUTOBOT INTRODUCED IN THE ANIMATED MOVIE

Ultra Magnus



Some might like you to believe its Springer, but the correct answer is Ultra Magnus. He was the coolest looking, his toy had an all-white version of Optimus Prime as its truck, and he was voiced by Robert Stack. Eat that, Mr. Cool triple-changer with the best lines… (Ignore that he probably had the shortest and most incompetent tenure as Autobot leader ever. And that’s with Rodimus Prime also existing.)

BEST NEW DECEPTICON INTRODUCED IN THE ANIMATED MOVIE

Galvatron



C’mon, no explanation needed.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: DECEPTICON

Starscream



As cool as Megatron was, Starscream was just so much more interesting. Megatron banishing him from the Decepticons always led to the best episodes of the cartoon ever. His plots to gain greater power were ready-made for entertainment. In the comic, Starscream was at the center of one of the greatest storylines of the series, when after he attains ultimate power, the Autobots and Decepticons have to team-up into separate teams around the globe (old school Justice League style) to defeat him.

Recommended reading: Transformers #50

Recommended episodes: Starscream’s Brigade, Auto Berserk

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: AUTOBOT

Optimus Prime



Could it really have been anyone else? If you have any doubts, consider this. I’ve heard an anecdote before, don’t know if it’s true, that Transformers in the mid-‘80s was the highest selling toy line in the history of toys. At the very least, we can agree it was extremely successful. When they idiotically decided to kill Optimus Prime (spoiler alert) in the movie, it subsequently murdered a beloved cartoon series, and initiated the death spiral of a massively successful toy line. The people in charge realized their mistake and tried to bring Optimus back, but it was already too late. I can’t think of any other instance where the death of a major character consequently killed an entire franchise.

(Of course Transformers, like Ninja Turtles, will never die. In every subsequent new iteration of the cartoon, Optimus Prime is always a prominent character.)

Recommended reading: Transformers #24, Transformers #40

Recommended episode: Prime Target

SINGLE COOLEST SHOT IN THE HISTORY OF EVER

Megatron chillin’

#likeaboss


Apr 28, 2016

Hidden Gems: Halo and Sprocket

I've been a fan of Kerry Callen since we launched the Comics Cube, mainly because his blog is a hoot. Among the features on his blog that have gone viral, here are animated GIFs of classic comics:


Super Antics:


And this particularly popular pair of images:



So with all this, I've been particularly interested in his creator-owned series, Halo and Sprocket. Unfortunately, they're not easy to find, so it took me years and a bit of luck at the recent Komikon to find a copy of the first volume, Welcome to Humanity.





This series is quite clever, and if you've read enough of the Cube, you'll know I particularly like wit and cleverness, especially in shortform content. This story about an angel, Halo, and a robot, Sprocket, who live in a single woman's apartment (with the woman, Katie). Halo is put on Earth to help Sprocket adjust to humanity. It's not easy, because the two of them take everything so literally.



The stories vary in length, but there are no multi-parters. It's pretty much ruminations on various events and figures of speech that we encounter in our everyday lives. At one point, Katie takes Halo and Sprocket to an art show, and they don't understand art at all. Finally, Sprocket finds a piece that appeals to his sense of aesthetics. Kinda.


I can't really say much more without spoiling the stories because they're so short, but they're really quite fun and clever that it does provoke some thought about certain things we consider routine.


Also, at one point, Sprocket asks Halo, "Can I borrow your flaming sword of vengeance?" And you know, I thought that was pretty funny.




Halo and Sprocket is available, in full color, now on Comixology.

Apr 25, 2016

Dreamwave's Transformers: Mo Money, Mo Problems

It Was All a Dream: Exploring Dreamwave's Transformers
Part 4: Mo Money, Mo Problems
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

Previously, on Back Issue Ben, I decided to cover Dreamwave’s Transformers. I have reasons. They have been covered elsewhere. The War Within was a prequel detailing the early days of Optimus Prime as leader of the Autobots. He used to be an accountant, which I find both amusing and horrifying, also for reasons detailed elsewhere.

That’s about it, let’s continue.

TRANSFORMERS: THE WAR WITHIN #4
Story: Simon Furman; Pencils: Don Figueroa; Inks: Elaine To; Colors: Rob Ruffolo

“This world is older than you can possibly imagine…”



The mysterious voices continue talking to Optimus Prime, even as he lay unconscious (or whatever robots are when they’re knocked out, dormant?). He boots up in a panic, looking for where Megatron might have landed.



Back at Decepticon headquarters, Starscream has assumed command of the Decepticons, following his sneaky betrayal of Megatron (a trademark of his). He orders Shockwave to continue his assault on Iacon, while in-house he wants every scrap of information downloaded from Laserbeak.

Optimus searches for more guidance from the voices, but they have nothing more to say. His self-reflection is cut short when Megatron blasts his way into the room, ready to resume their fight.

Grimlock meets with his team of Kup, Wheeljack, and Ironhide. Prowl believes the Decepticons have made a tactical error focusing all their forces on Iacon. Prowl plans to keep them focused on Iacon, while they covertly evacuate essential hardware, and then strike back at unmanned Decepticon arsenals and positions.

Ironhide mocks Grimlock’s assertion that they “let Iacon go,” since it sounds a lot like what Optimus Prime said about Cybertron.

Megatron is easily handling Optimus Prime, all while boasting about the untapped power held within the Matrix. He imagines a mobile Cybertron no longer bound by orbits or spacial topography. Optimus doesn’t understand why Megatron believes the Matrix is so powerful, it’s merely a conduit to the past.

Optimus (finally) strikes back, throwing him into some exposed electrical wires. (A move reminiscent of the titanic battle between the two during Transformers the Animated Movie. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I may have watched that movie in my life more than any other movie. Probably more than the next four movies combined. Yes, this is a point of pride for me.)

Starscream has finished downloading Laserbeak’s info, confirming that there is a mechaforming sub-structure under the surface of Cybertron, a second skin. Once the war is won, you could theoretically wipe away the mess made of the planet by bringing that layer to the surface.

In Iacon, Shockwave’s assault continues. (I heart Shockwave.)



Optimus Prime puts up a good fight, but Megatron is able to crack open his chest cavity, causing energy to burst forth.



Grimlock and his crew arrive at the edge of the former Forum of Enlightenment. Their specific mission is to find and, if necessary, rescue Optimus Prime.



Megatron and Optimus are engulfed in the energy released by the Matrix.



Next thing they know, they both find themselves on a world that looks very much like Earth.



This series cruelly teased me with Tracks, and has failed to produce him since. Luckily, it’s been entertaining enough to make up for it, but this slight shall not stand. I will have what’s coming to me!

TRANSFORMERS: THE WAR WITHIN #5
Story: Simon Furman; Pencils: Don Figueroa; Inks: Elaine To; Colors: Rob Ruffolo

“What is it with you and authority, Grimlock?”

Ironhide, Wheeljack, and Kup question Grimlock about his lack of respect for authority. I’m not sure they get an actual answer, but knowing comic book Grimlock, I’m going to chalk it up to Grimlock respects strength, not cunning.



In Iacon, Shockwave and the Decepticons finish cracking the defenses of the city. A small squad of Autobots, led by Prowl, prepare to fight them off.



Grimlock and his team discover the engine turbines renovated by Megatron. Grimlock believes this discovery takes priority, as it threatens all of Cybertron. They spy on the nearby Starscream, who is ordering the Constructicons to reroute the power from the turbines. Grimlock orders the others to shut down the turbines permanently, while he continues to search for Optimus Prime.

Optimus and Megatron try to determine where they are, when they look down and see future versions of themselves battling over Sherman Dam (fans will recognize this scene from the original Transformers cartoon).



Megatron says the Matrix isn’t just a window into the past, but is giving them a glimpse of the future as well. Megatron’s beliefs that they are destined to escape the confines of their world have been confirmed, and that he will create a universal dynasty. (The best Transformers comics and cartoons always reference the original cartoon in some way. This is just an objective fact, and has nothing to do with my personal bias.)



Scrapper tries to explain to Starscream that rerouting the power is no simple task, but Starscream doesn’t care. He has his own plans now.

Ironhide, Kup, and Wheeljack listen to Scrapper and Starscream. There is no more time, the Decepticons have to be stopped now, before the entire surface of Cybertron is destroyed by whatever they’re planning.

Megatron and Optimus Prime have continued their battle, when they timeslip again. This time, they get a preview of the age of the Headmasters and Targetmasters. (Hubbs would snicker at the mention of the Headmasters. Who is Hubbs? Nobody. He’s nobody.)



Grimlock tracks Optimus through the path of destruction and smashed Decepticons he left in his wake, deep into the bowels of Cybertron.

Kup, Ironhide, and Wheeljack attack the Constructicons, despite being severely outnumbered. Starscream demands Scrapper finish the job.

Optimus Prime and Megatron are once again engulfed in energy. Megatron takes a swing at Prime, but he fades out of view before him. Optimus finds himself back in the present day, pulled free by Grimlock.

Optimus insists that Megatron must be stopped. Grimlock lectures him about needing to be a strong leader, one that makes a stand, here and now, instead of running away. Instead of evacuating.

Grimlock hadn’t come to rescue him, but bury him, if need be. Optimus has one chance to prove himself, remove Megatron from the equation permanently. (Early on in the cartoon, Grimlock was a much more intimidating presence, along the lines of his depiction here. The Dinobots were the heavy hitters of the Autobots in those early appearances, only brought out to cause much damage. Somewhere along the line, the writers turned them into bumbling idiots only used for comic relief.)

The battle continues in Iacon, as well as deep below the surface. Prowl and his squad have fallen to Shockwave up above, while down below Starscream activates his device. The release of energy cracks the surface of Cybertron with its destructive power.

(Seriously, with all the comics that have been published of the Transformers between then and now, you’d think Tracks would have gotten some action. Are there no fans of Raoul out there?)

TRANSFORMERS: THE WAR WITHIN #6
Story: Simon Furman; Pencils: Don Figueroa; Inks: Elaine To; Colors: Rob Ruffolo

Iacon collapses in a series of massive explosions.

Deep within the planet, Optimus Prime prepares to end the threat of Megatron forever.



Kup, Ironhide, and Wheeljack are pinned down by Decepticons, while the turbines threaten to turn Cybertron inside out, destroying all their friends on the surface.

Scrapper warns Starscream that the energy from the turbines isn’t compatible with his platform, and it’s beginning to overload.

On the surface, Shockwave and the Decepticons retreat from Iacon back to their home base.

Optimus and Megatron continue their battle, only this time, Optimus letting loose with everything he’s got. This time, there are no more limits, no conscience holding him back.


Scrapper warns again, that the power they’re misusing will tear Cybertron apart, but Starscream doesn’t care. Either Cybertron will be his, or nobody’s.

Grimlock arrives to back up Ironhide and the others. Optimus Prime emerges from the depths and joins Grimlock, Ironhide, and the rest. The planet has called to him for help, and they must answer its call. (Optimus is starting to become the warrior and leader that we know. My little accountant is all growns up.)

Prime relays orders to Wheeljack, and directs Ironhide and Kup to lay down some cover.



Kup is pretty much the worst Autobot ever. He’s the equivalent of your grampa telling you stories of back in the day. Great for Thanksgiving, not so much for an action cartoon. But you know Hubbs used to take the toy with him everywhere as a kid. That and old Obi-Wan Kenobi.


Optimus tells Grimlock that he’s taking command of his team, whether he likes it or not.

Starscream makes a strategic retreat. (Like I talked about last week, this is a suitable situation for Starscream to retreat. He doesn’t just retreat anytime there is a fight. You hear me, imaginary critics!)



Wheeljack locates the point of origin of the raw energy fueling the turbine. Optimus Prime orders the Autobots to retreat to the surface.

Wheeljack lets fly a missile into the energy source, destroying it and the turbine in a massive explosion.

Wheeljack quickly joins the others in escaping to the surface. (It would be kind of funny if they killed Wheeljack in both of their new series, but alas, he escaped this one.)

Later, Optimus and the others stand over the smoking crater that used to be Iacon. The Autobots finally understand Optimus Prime’s earlier thoughts. There can be no winners or losers in this war, only a wasteland.

Yet, Optimus Prime has changed his mind, they are staying on Cybertron. If they don’t end the war here on this planet, it will only escalate and spread throughout the galaxy.

Grimlock asks where they will go now that Iacon is destroyed. Optimus says they will dig in here, and all across Cybertron. They will fight the war from the inside out. (The war within, get it? Well, you should!)

A severely damaged Megatron finds his broken comrades. (I’ve always been, and continue to be, a sucker for Transformers missing arms or legs. Faces and bodies cracked and broken. In related news, I am not normal.)


Soundwave asks Megatron what happened, but he cannot remember anything. (Optimus beat him stupid.)

Later still, Grimlock gives Optimus Prime an update on status of forces. Optimus talks to Grimlock, tells him he understands what he goes through. When he fought Megatron, he tapped into something dark and buried. Had he killed him, he would have given in to it. (Yes, but you would have saved so much later misery. This is a war, Optimus.) They all walk a fine line, but some of them are a little closer to the edge. The real enemy is (wait for it) within.

Optimus shows Grimlock the compact disc (ha!) he received upon becoming Prime, containing the combined wisdom of those who came before him. (Look, maybe discs are still relevant media in their culture.)



“But you know what,” he says, as he throws the disc into space.

“I choose my own path!”

The need to always focus on Optimus Prime, Megatron, Grimlock, and Starscream in every project can get tedious at times, but makes complete sense for a series like this. It absolutely should begin with them.

Like I said last week, this series absolutely held up to my memories of it. All the metaphors for things “within” were a little much, but not in an annoying way. Grimlock and Starscream were right on point with my personal interpretations of the characters. Figueroa did an outstanding job of redesigning the characters, but still making them recognizable enough to the versions we know. Furman, is, well, still Furman. One of the best Transformers writers that ever did it.

A good story, great art, and the best characters ever devised by human beings. Can’t ask for more than that.

Next week, I don’t know, I’m writing this 4 months before it’s on the internet anyway. It could change.



Apr 21, 2016

Why We Can't Talk About Nice Things

Why We Can't Talk About Nice Things
Travis Hedge Coke


I want to talk to you about Wonder Woman: Earth One. Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, and Nathan Fairbairn did some fantastic things in that comic and avoided pretty much all of my fears for how they’d handle things. It’s not shouting “Look at me! Annotate!” with loud winks and nods (though there are a lot allusions, to other comics, to social theories, to the creators of Wonder Woman, though only one is credited - and that by contract). It’s a fun adventure about a young woman leaving her small, isolated home to explore the big world and save a busload of sorority girls and stuff. It’s sweet.



We can’t talk about sweet things, though, as comics fans, as superhero fans, because it agitates a segment of the broader fandom. It bugs them.

Supergirl is my favorite TV show serializing right now, and it’s really cute. It’s sweet. And, virtually every conversation around it is “fans” who are mad she’s not in a belly shirt, that Jimmy Olsen is hot, that they keep having little girls on the show (like, twice in one season!) as if little girls are important enough to be on a tv show and get saved! “Cute” is a way to dismiss the show and Melissa Benoist, the actress playing the lead. It isn’t a way to praise either, because we have internally, as a community, decided it’s an insult.

There’s an Etsy shop selling the most adorable comics and cartoon-themed dresses and I am absolutely in love with them. But, if I shared pictures of them, or the idea of them, on pretty much any major comics or anime forum right now, within two hours, I’ll have posts complaining that “they” don’t need to interlope on the real fans like that, “they” can have something else, somewhere else. I’ll see posts about how this is PC pandering that proves that Tumblr is making everything girly.

Patsy Walker: Hellcat and Starfire are two of my favorite currently serializing comics, and Starfire is canceled soon, of course, but it got a year, which isn’t bad these days. They’re cute, fun comics. And, they’re clearly written by functional, cognizant adults, which I can’t really say for a lot of super-books serializing right now. But, because there’s not blood spraying everywhere, constant rape threats, and the leads don’t shove their breasts at the reader or a nearby proxy for the reader who will oooh and aaaah over them, they’re “fuckin kids books.”

That’s where we’re at right now. We can’t have fun things. We can’t have nice things. Kids can’t even have kids’ books, not that I’d call a comic with serial murderers, slavery, and a scene of someone literally up someone’s butt necessarily a kid’s book. (Who’m I kidding? I’d have enjoyed that a lot as a kid.)

How many of you have seen someone insist Deadpool had to be R-rated because “Deadpool is always R-rated” and not just because it made the movie better?

If that’s true, how is it that Joe Kelly’s beloved run that basically defined the parameters of classic Deadpool never rises above PG-13 levels? Or, Fabian Nicieza’s Deadpool and Cable made it fifty issues without going R? Have there been Deadpool comics that would get an R-rating with the level of what they say and show? Sure. They are, even right now, the rare animal.

It's the equivalent of guys who insist real Dragon Ball has a bunch of swearing and Goku is a villain. Because, they saw this thing on the internet one time and they know.

I’m not blaming the internet. Wikipedia is not more dangerous than any other earnest encyclopedia, online or in print. What is dangerous is half-assed research, or taking a small sample and extrapolating the universe out of it. And, combined with our seemingly-desperate need to be hard-asses about everything right now, that results in deciding that Supergirl focusing too much on Supergirl having friends, fighting supervillains, and inspiring girls, that should could spend showing us her panties and killing more people. Or, at minimum, acting like Man of Steel’s Superman and being grimacy and very serious about all things. It’s how we get “Deadpool is always R-rated, it’s practically X, it’s just cray-cray-cray-zzzyyyy!”

We all pick and choose our criteria, our reference points. It’s impossible not to. But, do we also acknowledge that those we choose are done so for subjective reasons? That our preference and our focus is subjective?

Having something nice, or something cute, or charming, something fun, is not depriving the world of things that are hard or intense or brutal. One is not more real or more true to life than the other.

The internet and life have made us all experts, but somehow, having to share space has convinced some people that anyone enjoying different things than them, or enjoying the same thing but in a different way is depriving them of theirs.

That’s how we get to “The problem with Supergirl is that it’s too girly.”

We are still stuck in this mode where it’s very common for someone to accuse people of being fair-weather fans (why the hell shouldn’t they like something more when it’s cool to them, then when the character is in a show they don’t enjoy, the show has a bad season but they like the previous season, etc?), accusing cosplayers or t-shirt wearers of just liking the look or the pattern, an emblem, but not knowing the history of the character or the designer of the emblem. Oftentimes, these accusers are guys who own some kind of SWAT or Female Body Inspector or I Am a Hardcore Extreme Badass t-shirt that reps something they’re clearly not, but do they see this? Probably not.

What’s wrong with wearing a shirt because you like the emblem on it? If it looks nice, that’s good enough.

A costume? There’s nothing worse than deeply-researched Halloween costumes, for sure, so why would I worry about it with a cosplayer at a convention? People wear stuff because it looks cool all the time. Why do you think Deadpool has all those pouches?

Apr 20, 2016

The Subtle Misdirection of Spider-Woman's Baby Daddy

There will be spoilers for the new Spider-Woman series. 

When Marvel relaunched their line last year, they jumped forward into continuity by eight months. The relaunched Spider-Woman, written by Dennis Hopeless and illustrated by Javier Rodriguez (note: my #1 reason for buying the book) had a simple hook for the new direction: she was pregnant.



Instantly, I as a reader who had been following Spider-Woman since the last series asked, "So who's the dad?" After all, in the entire previous series, Spider-Woman didn't have a love interest. And if it weren't going to be a big reveal, why would they hide the identity of the dad? They even make a point of hiding it early on at the expense of a certain Armored Avenger.


The story takes Jessica Drew into an intergalactic hospital, where she's sitting with a bunch of alien soon-to-be moms. And I, for one, considered the possibility that the dad was an alien character we've met before.



And yet, when Spider-Woman gives birth in the story, the baby is perfectly human.



And at the end of the story, Jessica finally comes clean to Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel). There is no dad. She was dating someone and was disappointed at a negative pregnancy test. So she got a donor.



Motherhood wasn't something that happened to Jessica Drew. She chose it.



And Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez made us dwell on the identity of the dad, thinking the dad was the point of the story. But they did the most mundane payoff possible, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The story was never about who the father was. The story was always about Jessica Drew, a woman who chose to have a child. And if we paid attention to the story, that was always the point. But we focused too much on what wasn't there — the dad — to see it.
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