Aug 28, 2017

#Kirby100: Before and After Kirby

Today marks the centennial of Jack Kirby, the King of Comics. It's difficult to explain to anyone just how much Kirby influenced comics — as Neil Gaiman once said, his impact is so big now that we just take it for granted. To help with that, Art Lyon posted these wonderful comparisons to show...

Before and After Kirby
by Duy (and Art Lyon)

Here's punching before Kirby, and how Kirby revolutionized it:



Computers:


Spaceships:


Art clarifies that this doesn't necessarily mean Kirby's way is better:
It took me a long time to appreciate Kirby.
The one on the left *is* lovely. I'm not saying "worse -> better", just that Kirby's is thinking-outside-the-box lovely.

But the impact is undeniable. Before Kirby, there was a set of rules, emphasizing clarity over power. After Kirby, clarity isn't sacrificed, but power, the unorthodox, and scope were given the attention they needed.

And to close that off, here's two covers featuring a Man-Ape stealing three books from a library. One was drawn in 1956, before Jack Kirby revolutionized comics. The other was drawn in 1973, after the Marvel/Kirby revolution. Can you spot the difference?


Happy birthday, Jack. Long live the King.

(And thanks, Art.)

Aug 26, 2017

The X-Men Are the Game of Thrones of Comics

Game of Thrones is shaping up to be one of the best television series of all time.  After six seasons of multiple main characters basically living out their own storylines separate from each other, those characters and storylines are all starting to converge in a wonderful way.  It’s great getting to this point, but it was a subtly frustrating thing over the past seasons how isolated the characters all were from each other.  It is a distinct feeling I had experienced before, all the way back at the dawn of the 1990s.

The X-Men Are the Game of Thrones of Comics
Ben Smith

The Siege Perilous was an object given to the X-Men as a thank you for defeating a powerful enemy.  Its purpose was to give each of the X-Men a brand new life if the burden of being a hero ever became too overwhelming.  Narratively, this gave Chris Claremont a fresh start to experiment and tell new stories.  Rogue passed through the Siege Perilous first, while fighting Master Mold and Nimrod.  Psylocke would later telepathically persuade the rest of the active X-Men through the portal to avoid the Reavers, who were waiting to ambush them at their Australian base.  As a result, the X-Men spent the next year in publication time separated and on their own.



The X-Men passing through the Siege Perilous was shown in the course of Wolverine’s fever dream, after the Reavers had nailed him to a giant X.  A mutant runaway named Jubilee, who had been hiding out in the X-Men’s secret Australian base, helped Wolverine escape from the Reavers.



Polaris, having recently overcome being possessed by Zaladane, ended up in Muir Isle with Moira MacTaggert and Banshee.  Her magnetic powers have disappeared following the ordeal, replaced by enhanced strength, speed, and size.  Together with Forge and a few other ancillary mutants, they would form their own super team.



Psylocke discovered a new life as an Asian ninja assassin, after the Hand switched her body with a character named Kwannon.  She had been brainwashed to work for the Mandarin (as part of the Marvel-wide Acts of Vengeance event) before her mind was restored by Wolverine.



Colossus found a way to become even more boring, as an artist working in Soho.  He had some adventures against the Shadow King.



Dazzler returned to a life of celebrity as a movie star, only with no memory of her past life as a vigilante hero.  She would face a terrifying ordeal at the hands of an obsessed stalker fan.



Storm was reborn as a teenage girl in Cairo, Illinois.  (This was a big deal in Southern Illinois where I grew up, not far from Cairo.)  Her adventures as a thief would have her cross paths with a mysterious new mutant named Gambit, and they become partners in crime.



Wolverine, Psylocke, and Jubilee formed a small team that may have been my favorite triumvirate in comic book history.



It doesn’t hurt that most of the Wolverine and Jubilee issues were drawn by the, at the time, fast-rising superstar artist Jim Lee.  The X-Men books had a pretty fantastic rotating art team at the time, which included Marc Silvestri and Lee.  Most of the Forge issues were drawn by less-talented artists.  I will not comment further.

Rogue inexplicably found herself in the Savage Land, having sex with Magneto, and fighting the previously mentioned Zaladane.



At the beginning of the X-Tinction Agenda crossover event in 1990, Storm and Gambit had linked up with Banshee, Forge, and X-Factor.  They were having trouble co-existing in Xavier’s mansion with the new team of Cable and the New Mutants.



Havok was the last of the X-Men to finally reappear, as a commander for the Genoshan Magistrates.  It was their attack on the mutants that kicked off this multi-part storyline that crossed over between all the monthly X-books.

Over the course of the X-Tinction Agenda story, the disparate different groups of X-Men would come back together to beat Cameron Hodge.  Storm was restored to her adult body. Following the event, the X-Men were finally back, but were all now wearing those hideous yellow and blue uniforms.



For a 12 year-old boy, over twenty issues of being separated seemed like a lifetime.  It was killing me to get that new issue every two weeks and see that they were still all separated.  Looking at the publication dates now, I see that it really only lasted for about 15 months.  

This was a pretty bold strategy for Claremont to take with the series, considering it was probably already the dominant franchise in comics by that point.  There were entire 3-issue stories dedicated only to Forge and Banshee, or an entire issue of just Colossus where he doesn’t even armor up once.  This is unfathomable considering Marvel won’t publish a single X-Men book without Wolverine in it today, and he’s currently supposed to be dead.

All that frustration and waiting made it all that much sweeter when the team finally did reunite. Much like Game of Thrones as all of our favorite characters are finally crossing paths.  I’m going to overlook that not too long after they all finally rejoined, I had decided I was too old for comics and gave them up for several years.  Turned out it was a great jumping off point.

Still, after over a year of Dazzler and Forge and Colossus solo comics, it was great to know that the X-Men had been restored, and they were out there fighting to save people that hated and feared them again.  It’s the way it should have been, and always should be.

Aug 22, 2017

Pryde and the Spider

Over the years Peter Parker has dated many women. Some of those women are very familiar, like Mary Jane, Spider-man’s red-headed wife. Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man’s greatest love. Or even Felicia Hardy, AKA The Black Cat, Spidey’s some time girlfriend. But did you know Spider-man used to date a member of the famous superhero group, the X-Men? Yes, you read that right. Peter Parker and Kitty Pryde, also known as Shadowcat, used to be a couple, albeit in the Ultimate Universe, where we have a younger Peter Parker and where the characters are different than their regular Marvel universe counterparts.

Pryde and the Spider: The Relationship That Wasn’t Meant To Be
By Migs Acabado


Way back in the early 2000s til the mid-2000s, Ultimate Spider-Man was the most popular Spider-Man book. It successfully put Spider-man back on the list of best-selling monthly titles. Writer Brian Michael Bendis put a lot of surprises and shocks in the book, like having the Green Goblin throw MJ instead of Gwen off the bridge and surviving the fall, and the Venom suit being created by Peter and Eddie Brock’s father. After the Ultimate Hobgoblin Saga, Peter and Mary Jane broke up in a very emotional story. Then in 2005, it was teased in an issue of Wizard Magazine  that Peter wouldhave a new girlfriend. What I didn’t know was that Bendis would pick a character outside Spider-man’s world.

I was so surprised when I found out that Peter’s new girlfriend was Kitty Pryde! I thought you could never do that. (After finding that out, my 16 year old self thought: “Hey, if Parker can do that, I can also date the girl from the other Catholic School.” But I should’ve warned my 16 year old self that you should not apply what you learned in comics to your real life.) In an awesome story from the Ultimate Spider-man Annual called “More than You Bargained For,” Peter is dealing with his breakup with Mary Jane and Kitty Pryde is also dealing with her breakup with Bobby Drake (Iceman). Kitty decided to call Peter Parker since she has a big crush on him. They decided to meet up, and they had a date in the mall. At the end of the story, they hook up and became a couple. In the succeeding issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, Kitty Pryde was regularly featured. Peter even helped her and the X-Men defeat Deadpool and the Reavers when they captured the team. 



MJ became jealous of their relationship when the news became public that Spidey is dating Kitty Pryde. Then after the Clone Saga, Peter realized that he still loves MJ and broke up with Kitty, ending their relationship.



I was big fan of their relationship. Even though it wasn’t perfect and problems like not being able to see each other when Peter is out of his costume or the distance between where they live often gets brought up, I still wanted them together! For me, Peter found a perfect girlfriend that he doesn’t have to worry about. She can protect herself and doesn’t whine that her boyfriend is Spider-Man. I was mad at Bendis when he decided to end their relationship, which lasted for only a year. At the end of the Clone Saga, Kitty rushed to Peter’s aid but she saw MJ and Peter together. That scene is really heartbreaking, and I thought Peter came off as a jerk. If you want to return to your ex, at least have the decency to inform your current girlfriend that you don’t want to be in a relationship anymore. 



During that time, Aunt May had already found out that Peter is Spider-Man. It would have been nice to see how she and Kitty would have interacted. Following the Clone Saga, Kitty moved to Peter’s school since she left the X-Men. It would have been nice to see them as a couple during that time — what they could have done to hide their relationship and how would they interact with MJ. I really wish Bendis had made it last for a couple of years. I know Peter and MJ will eventually be together, so he should have explored all the possibilities in the Peter/Kitty relationship while he could. But despite being cut short, it was fun when it lasted. For Kitty Pryde, Peter Parker is the one who got away.

Aug 21, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok and the History of Hela, Goddess of Death

On the surface, Thor and his cast of characters can seem a little bit silly. They all talk in this flowery Shakespearean accent, and walk around on rainbow colored roads. As a kid, I was never big on medieval trappings, so a bunch of characters sword-fighting or throwing hammers didn’t seem that appealing. I was entirely wrong. In preparation for the release of Thor: The Dark World, I decided to finally give the much-celebrated run of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Thor a try. What I found was arguably the best cast of characters in all of comics.

Thor: Ragnarok and the History of Hela, Goddess of Death
Part 1 – A Game of Cat and Mouse
Ben Smith

Batman and Spider-Man may have great supporting casts, and a deep roster of excellent villains, but the villains only sporadically appear, and the supporting casts are made up usually of civilians. Great civilians, but civilians nonetheless. The great thing about Thor’s supporting cast is they’re all great heroes in their own right, perfectly capable of supporting their own ongoing comic book series. The Warriors Three, Sif, Balder, and Loki have all had their own comic at some point in time, to name a few.

Along with great allies, Thor has a wonderful roster of frequent antagonists. My love for Karnilla the Norn Queen is already documented. Fangirls have been swooning over the exploits of Loki for years now, thanks to the movies. There’s also Ulik, Odin himself, the Enchantress, the Executioner, Malekith, and last but not least, Hela the Goddess of Death.



Hela, as played by Cate Blanchett, looks like she’s going to steal the show in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie, which is no easy task in a movie that teases a fight between Thor and the Hulk. Which means there’s no more perfect time to look at her comic book beginnings than now.

(All stories written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, unless otherwise stated.)

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #102

The early Thor comics had backup tales in each issue called the Tales of Asgard. In this Tale, many years ago Thor yearns to be worthy of lifting the mighty Mjolnir. When he learns that Sif has been kidnapped, his selfless vow to rescue her finally makes him worthy enough to wield the mighty hammer, and yet he’s so determined to rescue Sif that he doesn’t even realize what has happened. (Fascinating that Sif plays an important role in one of the key moments in the history of Thor.)



Yet, through various machinations, Sif has ended up as a prisoner of Hela, the Goddess of Death. Thor offers his life in exchange for Sif, and Hela is so inspired by the noble act, she lets both of them go free. (The first appearance of Sif and Hela in the same short story is impressive. It’s not even the main feature in the comic. That’s two of my four favorite Asgardians.)

THE MIGHTY THOR #133

Quick tangent, in the main story Thor meets the mysterious Ego the Living Planet. As Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 killed at the box office early in the summer movie season, and Ego coincidentally was a major part of the film. Here’s a panel of Ego creating a mortal body for himself.



(SPOILER WARNING, it’s absolutely nuts that Starlord’s father in the movies is Ego the Living Planet. Just so you know, that is not his comic book origin. Normally I’d find this annoying, but Ego being the father of Starlord is just so weird and crazy, that I can’t help but love it. SPOILER OVER.)

Anyway, none of that has anything to do with Hela, I just thought it was relevant to current Marvel fan interests.

In another Tales of Asgard backup, Harokin, leader of the barbarian hordes, has been fatally defeated in battle by Thor. All of Asgard gathers around to witness the arrival of Hela, who has come to claim the fallen warrior.



All of Asgard must then turn away as Hela and her latest victim make his final voyage into the afterlife. Yet, when Harokin arrives at Valhalla, he is greeted by friends and the promise of an eternity of endless battle. A perfect end for a mighty Norse warrior.

All of the Thor characters are pretty wonderfully designed. Hela and Karnilla in particular, both have those fantastically complicated headdresses, which are simultaneously glorious and impractical. I’m sure both women are figuratively made of steel, but that still has to put a strain on the neck, mighty or not.

THE MIGHTY THOR #150

Thanks to the evil machinations of Loki and (my beloved) Karnilla, Thor has been bested in battle by The Wrecker. On the edge of death, Thor is visited by the specter of death herself, Hela.



Thor convinces Hela that while a spark of life remains in him, she cannot yet claim him. Hela is patient and therefore agrees to turn her back to him, essentially letting him go. She fully expects that she will be escorting him to Valhalla soon enough anyway.

THE MIGHTY THOR #154

Thor visits the gravely wounded Sif at the hospital, only to once again be visited by Hela. Fearing that Hela has come for Sif, Thor is relieved that she has only come to remind him that she let him live a couple of days ago. (Hela is always good for a reminder of how altruistic she was in not killing you previously.)



She also came to taunt him with a tantalizing peak at the glory that is Valhalla, where an eternity of fallen warriors engage in everlasting battle. (In a nice callback to that previous Tales of Asgard story, Harokin gleefully beckons to Thor, and is really talking up the benefits of Valhalla to him.)



THE MIGHTY THOR #186

(By this point in the series, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott had taken over as the art team. Buscema’s Thor may not have had the same level of barely contained action and kinetic pace, but his figurework was arguably more beautiful than Kirby’s, so he has that going for him.)

While Odin is locked in dangerous combat with the mysterious Infinity, Thor is lured away from the action by a strange faceless creature. The creature had been sent by Hela, to lure Thor to her for yet another attempt at ending his life prematurely.



Thor resists, and so Hela hits him with a powerful bolt of energy that acts as an aging spell.



As Thor rapidly ages toward his death, Hela departs, confident that she will be able to claim him very soon.

THE MIGHTY THOR #188

In the not too distant past, Hela had attempted to claim Odin’s spirit while he was in the throes of the Odin sleep, but his spirit proved too strong to be claimed, even by her. It split off into a powerful new entity she would subsequently name Infinity.

She allowed Balder to free the other half of Odin that had remained in his sleep pod, setting into motion the events of the past few issues.


This is a great cosmic panel by Buscema and Sinnott.

His two halves restored into one (with help from Loki and Karnilla) Odin has once again cheated death. But since Hela is dead set on taking a life, Odin stays true to form and offers up his son Thor in his place. (Odin is a dick.)

THE MIGHTY THOR #189

Hela mentally prepares for the task ahead of her, finally claiming the life of the Thunder God. She believes that by doing so, it will break Odin’s spirit, allowing her to forgo the painstaking task of collecting her victims slowly, one by one. (Finally, a bit of motivation for why she so eagerly pursues Thor.)

Loki has come to Hela’s domain, to inform her that Thor has attempted to avoid his fate by escaping to Midgard. (What a snitch. Anyone that has ever watched The Wire knows that snitches get stitches.)

Undeterred, Hela travels to Earth in search of Thor, disguising herself as a mortal woman. She is immediately threatened by two unsavory men attempting to rob her, so she kills them even though “it was not yet your time.” (That’s what you get for being assholes.)
Hela is delayed for a bit by a few illusions Thor placed in different locations across the planet. Annoyed, Hela decides to make Thor come to her by threatening the lives of firemen who are in the middle of fighting a fire.



When Dr. Blake gets the news over the radio that firemen are aging rapidly at the scene of an incident, he knows he must leap into action as Thor, even though Hela will surely be waiting.

Thor arrives in time to save the building and snuff out the fire. Thor prepares to fight off Hela yet again, but she threatens to kill all the mortals if he does not yield. Reluctantly, he does yield.




THE MIGHTY THOR #190

Balder pleads with Karnilla to open a window into the events on Midgard, so that Odin can see the danger Thor is in. Sufficiently convinced to intervene, Odin uses his power to remove the mortals from danger, giving Thor a chance to escape.



However, Hela is a master of all space and time, and Thor’s attempts to flee prove to be unsuccessful.



Hela moves in for the kill, but is interrupted by the arrival of Odin himself.



Hela is not impressed or deterred, and continues to move in for the kill on Thor. Odin intervenes, blasting Hela with his mighty scepter and killing her. Thor fears the consequences of killing death, and is quickly proven correct when the natural order of Earth is thrown into disarray. The population of insects triple, trees and plants overgrow and engulf the land, and people in pain are suffering without the sweet release of death.

Odin knows that he cannot allow a universe without death to continue, even if it means his son Thor will die, and so he returns Hela to life.



Restored to life, Hela quickly hits Thor with her trusty rapid aging gimmick. Odin uses his power to bring Sif to Midgard, so that she may be at the side of the man she loves as he dies. Instead, Sif pleads with Hela “woman to woman,” to spare Thor. (I’m not sure if this dialogue is sexist or not. Okay, it’s probably sexist. I make no excuses. Please read comics anyway.)



Sif offers to sacrifice her own life in exchange for Thor’s. Hela is so moved by the noble gesture, that she restores Thor to full vitality, and allows them all to live on that day. (Okay Hela, you already fell for this bit once, get your act together. Once a pitcher knows you can’t hit a fast ball, that’s all they’re going to throw at you.)



Before she departs, Hela makes sure to remind them to enjoy life while they have it, because they will all feel her touch eventually. (What a buzzkill.)

Hela, much like my beloved Karnilla, would make the most of her short time in the spotlight in her early comic book appearances. (Again, both women also seem highly enamored with overly complicated headgear. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.) So far, she’s been foiled every time from claiming the spirit of Thor as her own. Will she ever succeed? You should keep on reading and find out. Or maybe, MAYBE, if I’m feeling up to it, I’ll continue chronicling the adventures of Thor and Hela in a part 2. But you all have to be nice to each other.

Next time, maybe more Hela?

Aug 19, 2017

Only Silly Comics: Perception and Personal Responsibility in The Multiversity

Only Silly Comics
Perception and Personal Responsibility in The Multiversity
Pop Medicine
Travis Hedge Coke

“THIS IS ONLY SILLY COMM-IX — MAKES NO SENSE — ONLY PRETEND!”
The smartest monster in the room, in Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity

I am only now getting around to understanding The Multiversity as a whole, single, cohesive work, and not as a collection of related short stories or themed larks. When it was being serialized, there was frequent hype about how each issue stood on its own, frequent responses along the lines of this issue being impenetrable, this other, too easily understood. We all missed a lot. All of us.

The Multiversity is composed of a wraparound story and a series of nested, smaller stories, most taking place on one or more alternate reality. An army of evil scientist doubles from each reality have banded together to move, reality to reality, conquering. Simultaneously, ultra-cosmic monsters, called the Gentry, haunt and stress-test the worlds, infesting the minds of individuals and corrupting whole cultures and nations. Fear of the masses. Overintellectualization convincing you that you’re secretly an idiot pretender. The fear of mortality and underachievement. The fear that the world is a madhouse. And, the only clues to save us all are in the form of comics somehow moving from the world of their creation to alternate worlds, seemingly at random.

Nothing on its surface told us it would be about colonization, except, everything. The baddies talk of gentrification. The characters experience and engage in bigotries. There are colonizing wars and the fall and rise of empires. The monsters specifically infest people’s minds and alter their behavior.



In They Make Us Like Them, Kelly Kanayama wrote elegiacally and disturbingly about the gentrification of place and of souls, of how The Multiversity brought her to tears, how a long game development upset her and proved a revelation. And, over on comics message boards and social media, she got made fun of and dismissed, a lot, mostly — and yeah I’m saying this because it matters — by white men.

That's how we, as a broad community of readers of the same piece of work, reading and digesting at the same time, in union, understood the comic. Broadly, we looked for the same comfortable touchstones, and we made the same trained and generic assumptions. And, we missed a lot.

If someone saw more than us, we shut them down. If we saw ourselves in the villains, if we saw our weaknesses in accusations, we flinched, and denied, and decried. Annotations sprung up immediately, and all the annotation attempts were incomplete, many of them were half-assed, most attempts didn’t even make it through every issue/story in the graphic novel/relay race that is The Multiversity.

The scale of the story was a bit beyond what we were trained to expect and what solicits sold us. We knew it was about multiple realities. We knew that so well, we really didn’t look for anything deeper than “it’s about alternate realities” and, “it’s about comics.”

The comic anchored itself on readers being able, eventually, to acknowledge logical fallacies. We can fear all these things, but we have to know, ultimately, that the fears only go so far before they become ridiculous and untrue. It’s okeh to fear death, but stuff dies. It just does. It’s good to worry if you’re being too pretentious, being too critical or not critical enough, but eventually, you have to take stock and trust yourself.

Largely, though, as we read these comics upon each release, and again even, when the collected edition first arrived, we did not take fair stock. We did not acknowledge the fallacies, but like the Gentry, themselves, we got stuck fast in the morass and muck of those fallacies.
___________________________________
None of This is Real

The biggest thing I’ve realized about The Multiversity, lately, is that the story that seems the most “realistic,” the most trapped, claustrophobic, bounded and intricate, the Watchmen riff entitled Pax Americana as well as In Which We Burn, isn’t real. I know it’s not a true story. I understood none of the characters breathed or were born for reals for real, but it’s a story about it not being real.

In In Which We Burn, The Question invoked “the hunchback” and “the soldier,” which are metaphors for the question mark and the exclamation mark, and thereby, synecdoche for the question and the answer. He does this during an investigation, so naturally, it seems like he is simply looking to turn his question into a conclusion. But, here’s the thing: The Hunchback and the Soldier is an Aleister Crowley essay about how, we know this world is false, an illusion, when we become enlightened, but even when enlightened, while we are in that illusion, we get caught up and treat it as if it is real and therefore of the strongest significance. Added to that, the answer, the exclamation to the Question’s line of questioning, his investigation is, it seems, the same as the ultimate answer in the Crowley essay: None of this is true. None of this is real.



Another story/chapter in The Multiversity, is explicitly a fictitious document. Ultra Comics is a comic that exists on our Earth, our world, that can be read by us. It’s that in our work and in the fiction of The Multiversity. While the other stories represent many alternate realities that exist within the context of the whole story, in what is termed the “local multiverse,” that comic is just an artifact. The fictional world within is less real than the other fictional worlds, because it’s just a fiction.

That comic, then, draws attention to its irreal nature, it’s superfluousness if the only important thing is whether something is in continuity with and has physical, causal affect on other stories. The characters from any other two chapters of The Multiversity can meet, shake hands, kick each other, but the characters from Ultra Comics are fake even in the context of The Multiversity.

I was prepared for that. I could take that in. But, the irreality of In Which We Burn is different. And, the only difference is that other comics verified it’s “truth,” and that In Which We Burn did not at any point tell me, explicitly, that it was a work of fiction. That the closest to physical reality it will ever come is that there are ink on paper copies and there are digital reproductions that shine across screens.
___________________________________
We Are All Biased

The next thing I realized is that it is not only one small bit in this story, another angle in another story, that are about race or culture, but that The Multiversity is about ethnicity. And, it is about not only the biases of others in this respect, but our biases. We judge these worlds. We judge them on sight, and only slightly revise, for the most part, when confronted with elements we had not considered, but laudatory and condemning.



In #earthme, Sister Miracle, a young black girl, tweets about her life and, on learning of real alternate realities, ponders what it would be like to meet another her. And, as readers, we condemned her. We condemned her for throwing a party. We condemned her for tweeting — often in tweets. We were encouraged to with the selfish-sounding title of the story and a world where superheroes were unnecessary and people are, instead, painters and doctors, where children are simply children, who go to school and parties, who play video games and talk to one another.

And, in a later story, Captain Marvel and the Day That Never Was!, which is tonally structured as a nostalgic, simple, genuine superhero story, a white girl, Mary Marvel, literally writes out good deeds in a “good deed ledger” and, on learning of  real alternate realities, ponders what it would be like to meet herself, we cheered her on. We were ecstatic. So good. So pure. Just what the world needs.



Now, this Mary Marvel lives on an Earth that, in the 21st Century, has only just sent astronauts to the moon. It’s a world that is, according to what we see of one American city and a few other locales, exclusively white except for a couple time-displaced racial caricatures.

“Just what the world needs.”

We got fed biases and, largely, we accepted them. Those who did not were dismissed or made fun of.
___________________________________
We Can Discern

In The Multiversity, many characters read comics to learn, as well as to be entertained. They read to understand. Kyle Rayner flips through a comic in #earthme to see just what’s going on in modern comics. Characters try to solve mysteries by looking at the paper and ink quality as well as narrative content. A Flash (DC jargon for someone, usually heroic, who moves at super speeds) reads the set of comics that make up the majority of The Multiversity, to deduce the baddies’ plans and how to best thwart them. Reading for information and for tone is a common occurrence throughout the overall story.

We could follow suit.

Our first read does not have to be our last. It doesn’t even have to be the map we use.

We all have biases, just as the characters in The Multiversity, but just like them, we can look past our biases, we can feel a bias, feel internal tug of what feels right or believable, and still analyze that feeling and the situation, to judge appropriately and be fair.

Feeling that characters are real is not the same as knowing they are flesh and blood or believing so. It’s okeh to find one kind of characterization more believable than another. It’s okeh to recognize one kind of racism, but not another. To identify one kind of paternalism or sexism, but miss a different paternalism, a different form of colonizing dominance.

“There’s a sliding scale to what civilization will tolerate at any given time,” says Ultra Comics (the character) in Ultra Comics (the comic and chapter of The Multiversity). He is speaking to us, the readers, who are invited to see this fiction through his senses, with his perspective, and he continues, “Civilians who murder are criminals, while soldiers who kill are heroes.”

And, on the same page, the comic itself, or the narrator who is not the protagonist tells us, “Think, man with the multi-mind — Think!”

If all readers are Ultra Comics while they read, why is he a man, and why is he a white man? Why is that our global avatar?



If Ultra Comics is the narrator and Ultra Comics, the character, is the comic, too, the pages and ideas of Ultra Comics, how can there be narration talking to him and us?

Because these are biases we accept with little question until we are made to question them. Pretty much, until we are told to. Even if you aren’t a white man, there's a part of anyone from an anglophone culture that expects to see white men as the realest and at the fore, as the majority, in anglophone entertainment. That expectation is a colonization.

Most of our anglophone entertainment, despite the sad cries of a few pathetic loudmouths, is through white male eyes, ears, and privileges. Even when it has a black face or a female voice, it’s often still dominantly a white male perspective. Because that perspective has more effectively colonized many of us, including flesh and blood white males, than any physical, societal colonization has accomplished. It’s not the voice of a real, or individual straight white generic male, but a voice that is in their heads, too, a voice some of us created and all of us have, in our way, fostered. Straight white guys have less reason to question it or see outside what it allows, in anglophone cultures, but it’s talking through all of us. It’s a colonization beyond nationalism, and more subtle than physical invasion, but no less warfare, no less about finance and control. Our brains are territorialized.
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All Comics Are Ultra Comics

All comics are Ultra Comics; all stories. It’s all fake, it’s all unreal, even when we try to tell the truth of things. Perspectives are misinterpretation and riddled with assumption. Criticism has an angle. Every criticism has an approach and drive behind it. We achieve desires.

When the evil Dr Sivanas from multiple realities converge to conquer the heart of the multiverse, they do so by turning it into a pop up. They build something crassly mimicking the original architecture and shove track lighting and cubicles inside. They turn the mundanity of evil into a cartoon that seems harmless, except they’re destroying us all. And, they’re beat by condescending, self-congratulatory strongmen. That’s the moral axis of Captain Marvel and the Day That Never Was!

The Nazis, in splendour falls, aren’t only in the past or over there. They’re the world. They’re us and everybody else, because Nazi conquest became everything, and then, has to be nothing. The world has to appear to not have a unifying politic. That’s why some people get so bent out of shape when you say racism is global or talk of “the Patriarchy” or “patriarchies.” Nazi is so much nothing/everything, that the German agent, Dr Sivana, finds modern naziism not Nazi enough, and wants to overthrow Nazi Earth, to return to a purer, directed Nazi Germany.



The thing is, that’s not an alternate Earth, in the broad strokes. That’s us. All these Earths are us, the worlds, these realities. We are an overly simplistic didacticism of good vs evil. We are layers of racism and conquest slapped atop each other over generations. We are video game player and doctors, child laborers and soldiers. This is a world of naive magic and ceaseless variations of war.

And, we are also, not purely or solely any of these things. The same way, each of the fictive worlds is portrayed and embodied by a single comics story in The Multiversity, but our world is without, is outside the story, and the element we contribute is a document, and artifact we can read and they can read, but nobody can go down into because it is not, in that fashion real.


“THIS IS ONLY SILLY COMM-IX — MAKES NO SENSE — ONLY PRETEND!”
The smartest monster in the room, who doesn’t realize he only exists in comics

It is often difficult for us to reconcile the irreality of fiction and that it still all matters. That existing and mattering are not the same. That factual and felt are neither contrary nor reliant on each other.

We either continually think and accept new ideas, approach new data and interpolate it, or we resist that development and growth and remain stagnant. The stagnancy probably breeds fear, teases it to monstrous proportions, but learning and changing also puts us at potential risk. It’s hard for any of us to admit when we were bigoted or missed something. When we made an ugly assumption. When the wrong call felt, to us, to be the most reasonable.

We can be discerning if we want to be. We can be better. Can, is not is. It is not are. For that to be, we need to be vigilant, to be accepting, and to take action.

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