Thursday, May 25, 2017

Profile: Jane Foster

Jane Foster

First appearance: Journey Into Mystery #84, September 1962

History: Foster, a nurse when she first debuted, was assistant to and the first mortal love of Marvel's take on the Norse God of Thunder, Thor, in his mortal guise of Dr. Donald Blake at the time he'd originally had a secret identity. An interesting bit of trivia: at least twice she was referred to as Jane Nelson rather than Foster, as per a handful of early Stan Lee works where some accidental typos remained in place, but the family name Foster ultimately came to be the one solidified for naming her character. She may not have begun as the toughest lady cast member (admittedly, not many of the female co-stars in Stan Lee's first 2 Silver Age years did), but as time went by, she became a much more braver, determined character who wasn't afraid to put up a fight when facing danger.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: when she first found out Thor and Blake were one and the same, she tried to persuade Odin to make her a deity to live alongside Thor. But she failed the needed tests and Odin returned her to Midgard (Earth) with her brief powers and memories of Thor erased, though the latter returned some time later. In Thor #231 from 1975, an entity called Fear tried to manipulate her into committing suicide, and while Sif aided her by merging their life forces temporarily, she later wound up stuck in a pocket dimension the following year in issue #249. Fortunately, Thor and Sif rescued her, and in 1983, in issue #336, she married Dr. Keith Kincaid, the medic whom Thor's Blake identity was meant to resemble.

When the Civil War crossover was published, Jane was shoved into the mess as well. In the third Thor volume, after learning Donald Blake was around again, she divorced Kincaid and lost custody of the child she had at that time. In 2015, she was depicted contracting cancer and was turned into a female Thor, complete with same name as the male protagonist who bears that very name.

What's wrong with how this was done? The stories from early times were done plausibly and respectably (including a What If? anthology tale from the late 70s), without trying to turn Foster into a tool. But forcing her into the Civil War crossover was bad, and it was disrespectful how J. Michael Straczynski and company had her divorce her husband, as though nothing mattered anymore, ditto the child custody loss.

And then, there's that little matter of turning Jane into "Thor" for the sake of publicity stunts and catering to SJWs and "diversity" advocates in 2015, as though such steps alone equal talented writing. Not so at all. Jason Aaron's notions of how to go about were laughable in the extreme, and despite the attempts by leftist apologists to claim otherwise, sales did not hold up, and certainly didn't sell over 100,000 copies (and don't be surprised if plenty of those copies are gathering dust on the shelves and in bargain bins now). It was a decidedly terrible misuse of a character who deserved far better, just like the equally abused Mary Jane Watson.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Record: Eddie Berganza

Berganza is one of DC's longtime editors whose career stretches back as far as the early 1990s. Of recent, he was outed as a sexual harasser. Some of the books he's worked on may even have some bizarre irony to go with his newly discovered behavior behind the scenes. I'll try to list at least a few of his serious errors here, some of which relate to his job as the editor in charge of the Superman titles.
  • In Wonder Woman: Earth One, written by Grant Morrison last year, there's a scene where the book's take on Steve Trevor, changed to African-American, is grabbed in a very inappropriate manner by Diana, while she asks if he's a man. No, it's not shown directly, but it's still very revolting they had to strongly imply it, nevertheless. Not only that, there's apparently a cameo illustration of Berganza himself in the miniseries, which came out around the time the accusations against Berganza resurfaced. Talk about bad timing.
  • In May of this year, in the 23rd issue of the sans-adjective Superman volume they've been publishing (let's remember there were at least two other volumes sans-adjective in better days), Lois Lane got her leg sliced off by a laser shot. Worst, it was shown right out in the open, and not even silhouetted, as previous generations of editors would've thought to do.
So there's at least two examples involving books with both a hero and heroine that he served as editor for, and neither of which have particularly tasteful storytelling to offer. And after what Berganza did, it may not be surprising he was willing to associate himself with such lowbrow elements.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Profile: Shanna the She-Devil

Shanna the She-Devil

Real name: Shanna O'Hara
First appearance: Shanna the She-Devil #1, December 1972

History: a variation on Will Eisner and Jerry Eiger's earlier Sheena, Queen of the Jungle tales from the Golden Age, adventuress Shanna was an early example of a heroine co-created by a woman, writer Carole Seuling, with artist George Tuska, and Steve Gerber provided some extra backup assistance on the scripting. The heroine, also known as Lady Plunder, was the daughter of Gerald and Patricia O'Hara, the former a diamond miner who accidentally shot his wife dead while searching for a rogue leopard that belonged to the mother, and this led the outraged Shanna to take a negative stance on firearms with few exceptions. (As seen in the panel I posted, which is from the 2nd issue, only for tasks like blasting heavy doors open did she see fit to use guns.)

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: both she and paramour Ka-Zar were dragged into the mess known as Secret Invasion, and she killed a Skrull named Pit'o Nilli. I don't think she was ever depicted killing before. Yet that's probably nothing compared to the idiocy of the Marvel NOW event of the early 2010s, where she was killed by a neanderthal on a mysterious island within the vicinity of Savage Land, and though she was resurrected, she was now filled with supernatural powers, all for the sake of it.

What's wrong with how this was done? The biggest problem is that it wasn't organic. Another is the sensationalized approach to storytelling by awful writers like Brian Bendis. And the supernatural powers were unnecessary. This wouldn't have worked with the Black Canary or Lady Shiva over at DC either.

But maybe the worst thing that could happen to Shanna from a real life perspective is that one of the later scriptwriters penning a story where she made an appearance turned out to be a scumbag: Gerard Jones, who wrote a 10-part story for Shanna in Marvel Comics Presents 68-77 in 1991, was arrested at the end of 2016 for child porn trafficking. Now, what might've been one of the better stories starring such a fine creation is going to be tainted for quite a while with the stench of Jones' actions behind the scenes. It's absolutely terrible when something awful like that happens.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Record: Gail Simone

Did I really just say Gail Simone?

Yup, I'm afraid so.

Even the very woman who was one of the architects for the site (Women in Refridgerators) that led me, among other things, to think up this blog, has pulled quite a few very reprehensible stunts that are actually demeaning to women and men alike, whether it's her politics in real life or her own fictional writing, that made me decide finally I'd have to chalk up a special entry with at least a few citations of her grievous errors. So, here's what I can think of:
  • When she was writing the "All-New Atom" an early example of "diversity" run amok, long before Marvel went out of their way to do the same, there was one story where Ryan Choi's climbing a ladder in miniaturized form, and accidentally slips and bangs his crotch. I couldn't help think that this bore traces of male-bashing, even as she and the company were going out of their way to pander to a PC crowd.
  • She went right along with Dan DiDio's jumbled vision for what should be done with the DCU from the very moment Identity Crisis was published, and had no complaints about what harm this could do to Birds of Prey.
  • Why, even when she was writing BoP, there were already signs it would turn out to be as idiotic as Geoff Johns' own writing that was flooded with too much nostalgia, done very tastelessly at that.
  • She was the scripter of Villains United, a miniseries connecting with Infinite Crisis, one of many superfluous crossovers in 2006. In this story, the Fiddler, a villain who first appeared in the late 1940s in the Flash, was murdered by Deadshot. You may not think it's as big a deal as it certainly can be when heroes and their co-stars meet similar fates, but even killings of villains can end up being superfluous, and this one was just another pointless shock tactic at a time when DC really went overboard. Making matters worse, Deathstroke was a cast member, as if it weren't bad enough that Identity Crisis made him look like he hadn't reformed at all.
  • And then, there's Simone's own politics, which are counterproductive to women: she gave her backing to LGBT advocates demanding that transgenders be allowed to use bathrooms, public or otherwise, of the opposite sex, no matter how much risk it could pose for women, and already has. It was stunning how ignorant and heartless her positions were. At no point in any of the Twitter posts and other notes she wrote backing the position did she show any understanding why denying a woman the right to privacy is morally reprehensible. There was no sign she had any second thoughts or understood why being transgender is no defense for making things unpleasant and dangerous for a lady. All she did was present a picture of somebody who lost her moral compass.
  • She further wrote an agenda by emphasizing transgenderism in the Batgirl title she wrote circa 2014, and presenting homosexuality as normal in the process, as if we don't already have plenty of that. Yet no Romanians, Armenians, Chileans or Portuguese anywhere.
This is not something I'm happy to have to bring up. Indeed, it's depressing and I'm writing it with a heavy heart. But the sad reality is that somebody here succumbed to leftism in one of the worst ways possible, and it's made a mockery of what she supposedly complained about early in her career. I think it's fortunate she's not literally the creator of Women in Refridgerators - a lot of the material that got put into its making came from what other people offered as examples, and a few other webmasters were instrumental in writing up the pages, not her.

She hasn't written many comics lately. In retrospect, it's not like she was stratospherically popular either; Birds of Prey only sold 30,000 to 40,000 copies when she was writing it, which is tedious compared to what movies usually sell in tickets. I think DC (and Marvel) wanted to part ways with her no matter how left-wing she was, and the irony is, she was asking for it. I'm sure she'll still be writing comics to some extent down the road, but so long as she sticks with all these bad political leanings and lets it affect her work (and any editors approve of it no matter how alienating), whatever comics she turns out at this point won't be worth the effort. For now, what matters is that she sullied what could've been a respectable reputation, and made an unfunny joke out of her career.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Profile: Sapphire Stagg-Mason

Sapphire Stagg-Mason

First appearance: The Brave and the Bold #57, Dec/Jan 1964

History: the daughter of crooked scientist/industrialist Simon Stagg, she became Rex Mason/Metamorpho's girlfriend (and later wife) and loved him even after he was turned into a man of the elements by the Orb of Ra, which he'd been seeking in Egypt for Simon.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: when a miniseries for Metamorpho was written in 1993, Sapphire had decided by the end that her crooked father Simon Stagg was not worth supporting anymore, and had left him. But several years later, when JLA #52 was written up, this worthy development was ignored, and she was back in Simon's company again as though nothing ever happened. This was certainly also the case by the time Birds of Prey 51-52 Volume 1 was published in 2003.

What's wrong with how this was done? It has the effect of making Sapph-baby into a bimbo, but if anything, it certainly makes a mockery out of everything prior. Of course, it's the writers who have to shoulder the blame. What's surprising is that Mark Waid, who wrote the 1993 miniseries for Rex, inexplicably reversed this turn himself circa the time his JLA run went to press, and if he did, that's downright peculiar.

It's a pretty good demonstration of how plausible story development went out the window at DC as the 1990s came about.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Record: Dave Sim

Now here's an interesting idea for a comics writer whose work we could scrutinize. It doesn't have to be just writers working for mainstream superhero books we could focus on, and the Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim, author of Cerebus, the would-be humor comic about an anthropomorphic aardvark swordfighter that ran during 1977-2004, is somebody whose work was discussed in the past, and having done a little research, I too realized that he's got some viewpoints that are pretty disturbing. So let's see if I can write up the best possible entry here.
  • Early in the Cerebus run, Sim came up with a character called Red Sophia, allegedly a parody of Red Sonja, whom Roy Thomas introduced in the Conan series he'd launched/written in the early 70s that drew on a minor guest character from Robert E. Howard's old stories. And the character Sim featured was depicted as easy to defeat and ditzy. Of all the characters from Howard's own stable he could've riffed on, I wonder why it had to be one based on Red Sonja and not Conan himself, or even Kull the Conqueror? Though the spinoffs from Conan at the time had engaging stories in hindsight, the first Red Sonja title didn't last much more than 3-4 years at best, and was cancelled by the end of the 1970s (Kull's didn't fare much better either), so I'm not sure why Sim considered Sonja a perfect target for whatever vision he set out to employ. In any case, what matters is that he was insulting an impressive idea Thomas had for a sword-and-sorcery heroine, and it's bewildering he'd want to make a girl that incompetent.
  • In the mid-90s, he indicated that he saw nothing wrong with a Vietnamese family disowning their daughter for getting pregnant. He said in that insanity, "I watched an interview the other night on CBC Prime Time with a nineteen-year-old girl from an old-fashioned (which is to say "principled") Vietnamese family. She had gotten pregnant during her last year of high school. She knew that she had brought "shame" to her father, to her family. "But this is a free country, isn't it?" she asks the camera. "That means you can do whatever you want, doesn't it?" The camera was indulgently mute on the subject. The girl moved on. She felt scared that she was going to be a mother. She felt unhappy that she had been disowned by her father, but she also, you know, felt happy when her mother called to tell her that she would answer any questions that she had about pregnancy. She felt most enthusiastically about her school guidance counsellor because he had, you know, just listened to her "spill her guts" and hadn't tried to, you know, make her feel bad." In other words, he wasn't disappointed that the girl's family was rejecting her when, here, she could be bearing them a grandchild, somebody to love and hopefully raise to do good in the world? How somebody can basically dismiss the positivity of life so cynically is galling.
  • He once wrote a crazy essay where he put in a disgusting paragraph that basically implied that it's okay in all instances to use "physical discipline" against women and children. He said, "To me, taking it as a given that reason cannot prevail in any argument with emotion, there must come a point – with women and children – where verbal discipline has to be asserted, and if verbal discipline proves insufficient, that physical discipline be introduced. Women and children have soft, cushy buttocks which are, nonetheless, shot through with reasonably sensitive nerve endings. I believe that those buttocks are there for a very specific purpose intended by their Creator." It's not often I see smut as sick as that happens to be. I can't even begin to describe how his justifications for thrashing make my skin crawl. UGH!
Here's also some video links discussing Sim's justifications of domestic violence. To think that the medium once embraced this man is horrific. On a somewhat related note, some people may know that a certain artist/cartoonist with the initials "C.D" once accused the late DC editor Julius Schwartz of supposedly attacking her sexually in a limousine in article published in The Comics Journal in April 2004. But her associations in the past with Sim are but one reason why I couldn't believe what she alleged, and certainly couldn't take it at face value. I'd written about this some time ago on my main comics blog, and I guess I'll have to add at least one more commentary here as well. How is it possible that all those years before when she was chummy with Sim, she never noticed any of the crap he was spewing out? Why, in fact, how is it possible nobody else in the medium did either? It just simply beggars belief. Are we really supposed to think nobody could've spotted anything of the creepy stuff he'd said from the late 70s to now? I can't buy that. And it goes without saying that the limousine part is just one more contrived-sounding part in this whole bizarre mess. But what really made C.D's allegations come unglued was the failure to present the letter of apology she claimed Schwartz sent to an agent of hers (something else that's ambiguous: unlike movie stars, do cartoonists usually have talent agents? Not that I know of). Ironically, it was Sim and a colleague of his who provided some of the hints just how flaccid her accusations against Schwartz were, even as they acted hypocritically simultaneously.

Another puzzler: when I took a look at an excerpt of the story C.D drew in Cerebus in 1986 that supposedly alluded to her allegation, the way it was set up made it look like it was little more than a case of an ugly quarrel she had with a guy who talked sleazy, but little else. What kind of person who supposedly went through a terrible experience waters it down into a joke? As if that weren't problematic enough, I vaguely recall finding and reading a message she wrote on the old Comicon site in 2001, where, although she admitted Sim once insulted a buddy of hers by bragging about how he thought women looked funny when they're mad, she did anything but condemn him, and as a result, I remain unconvinced she understood the really bad impact of his past commentaries (also, I think I once spotted her conversing with Dan Slott, if that's telling anything). Needless to say, if she really did make a false accusation against Schwartz, that was wrong, mainly because of the harm it can do to actual victims. It's regrettable she'd do that, because I honestly never considered her the worst the medium's got to offer. But, that's life; full of people who just aren't what they could be.

So in the end, it's not that I don't want to believe a man like Schwartz was capable of pulling an offensive act. It's that I can't. Because C.D provided nothing concrete to go by. I don't think Schwartz was a saint, and I'm sure there were still infuriarating things he could've done regardless. But without solid proof, even Sim has no business trying to besmirch the guy's name, and his own writings, in and out of Cerebus, weigh against him very heavily.

Sim's antics started gaining the notoriety they should've had by the late 1990s, and since then, he's been mostly shunned by a lot of other writers and artists. But it's still hard to swallow that nobody within the industry ever spotted any of his atrocious politics years before, and didn't think to distance themselves from him well before.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Special notes: letters I wrote to newspaper editors

I've only done it a few times to date (and I've certainly only got a handful available so far), but I've written some letters to editors of a few papers and a magazine or two to complain about articles I found offensive and misleading (and I'd already presented some of those propaganda pieces here), and I decided this could be the perfect time to post them here for everyone to see and ponder. I don't know if any of these letters were published, and that's one of the reasons I thought this could be the best time to offer a look. I'm going to start with a letter I wrote to a conservative magazine, the Weekly Standard, complaining about one of Jonathan V. Last's stealth promotions of Identity Crisis, this one published in 2013:
Dear editors,

Almost every time Jonathan Last brings up a subject like the history of Batman, or any other DC Comics stories for that matter, he seems to have a bizarre obsession with bringing up a very repellent miniseries called Identity Crisis, as seen in his July 24 article ("How to make nerds Rejoice"). And whenever he does, it destroys whatever point he's trying to make. Not everyone may be aware of this, but back in 2004, Identity Crisis was notorious in comics-related circles for bearing a misogynist slant that trivialized rape and had an almost resolutely male chauvinist viewpoint. The most disturbing thing besides the dehumanizing take on women in the book, however, was that the story structure concealed a metaphor for blame-America propaganda of the kind seen following 9-11.

Given how crudely structured Identity Crisis was, almost like a bad fanfiction tale, it's hard to understand why Last has long chosen to embrace the miniseries, even as he's claimed he detests anti-American conspiracy theories (additionally puzzling: I've never seen him actually describing the story in-depth either), and why he's sided with some of the same left-wing journalists who also supported the comic. Speaking as a right-wing "nerd", I've found Last an embarrassment to my belief system. He might want to consider that sooner or later, there are leftists out there who'll exploit his support of the miniseries for claiming there's a right-wing "war on women" the same way Obama waged propaganda on Mitt Romney in the last election.

Avi Green Jerusalem, Israel [July 24, 2013]
Let this serve as an example of how I am capable of taking on a faux-conservative who did his fellow brethren a disfavor. I have no idea if the editors ever published this letter, which I emailed them the very day the original article was posted on their website, but here's what's interesting: after this, Last did not seem to have anything to say in mainstream papers and magazines for at least a year. I only found one article he'd written about comic books - in late 2014 - and it was pretty generic, about his time collecting pamphlets. He certainly didn't seem to mention Identity Crisis again to date. It's my assumption the letter had some effect, and could've embarrassed him with the senior editorial staff at the Weekly Standard, so after several articles where he blatantly tried to recommend the miniseries in stealth format, he finally wised up and quit the dishonesty. So, who knows? Maybe my letter did have some effect.

Now, here's a few more written a least a year and a half later, to a handful of papers syndicating the columns of Andrew A. Smith (Nashua Telegraph, Sacramento Bee, Indiana Gazette, in example), where I brought up some of his own propaganda tactics:
Dear editors,

In the "Captain Comics" column published on December 28, 2014, Andrew Smith uncritically quotes Mike Madrid, author of Vixen, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of the Golden Age of Comics, talking about how women in the 1940s could only find autonomy by "becoming evil". I see this as an insulting and downright exaggerated claim, since, while there was still sexism in society at the time, Madrid and Smith's claim does not hold up well in real life logic: if they turned to crime, it'd only figure that sooner or later, they'd be arrested, tried and jailed for criminal activity. What’s so “compelling” about that?

It’s also worth nothing that, while women’s status at the time still wasn’t all that great, there was some progress being made for what roles they could find, including jobs as aviators during WW2, and jobs as actresses, singers and fashion store owners were also pretty prominent.

I also find Mr. Smith's claim "at some level, you have to admire them" (the villainesses) insulting. I do not consider it admirable at all that a woman would turn to crime any more than a man; definitely not if it's a violent form of it. And I don’t like the near whimsical tone Mr. Smith is writing in either.

Avi Green Jerusalem, Israel [January 12, 2015]
Violent crime, whether committed by a man or a woman, is not an admirable act, and to suggest nothing is wrong with women committing crimes to gain "freedom" overlooks logic by galaxies. When crimes are committed, it only figures the culprits could end up in jail and become fugitives. These are but examples of the letters I've tried writing to date. To be sure, they may not be perfect, but what really counts is how sincere and dedicated I can be. I'll try to add more as times goes by, and write still more whenever I'm reading a mainstream paper.