Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Record: Devin Grayson

Grayson, who'd been a writer on several DC/Marvel titles from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, is an interesting case, based on her writing for Nightwing and its 93rd issue circa 2004. It was noted at the time that the story involved Nightwing becoming a male victim of a rape by ways of a villainess called Tarantula (the character she featured may not even be the first character to bear that codename). The run was already notorious for getting rid of a few adversaries Chuck Dixon developed as regulars, but the whole Tarantula affair is where it really went overboard.

What made it dreadful and insulting was that the whole scene otherwise made light of a serious issue, much like Brad Meltzer did when he wrote Identity Crisis. And this time, it was a female-vs-male form of sexual assault, taking place on a rooftop where Dick Grayson was sitting in shock at the sight of Tarantula gunning down Blockbuster in issue 93, and then, she basically raped him. It may not have been as visually obnoxious and offensive as the anal rape of Sue Dibny seen in Identity Crisis, but it was still quite disgustingly terrible. It's a prime example of the bad influences of badly written fanfiction encroaching upon superhero comics.

But, most remarkably enough, a decade after the story was published, Grayson, who originally defended the scene as "non-consensual sex", gave an interview to the Bat Universe in 2014 where she turned around and admitted her approach was poor. She said:

I was wrong. I messed that one up and I apologize. My interview comments were uninformed and ignorant and I’m grateful for the chance to revisit the issue.

Rape culture and the mindboggling stupid and insensitive comments some comic creators have recently made about it have been in the news a lot lately and I reject the assertion—put forth in some of those interviews—that as creators we passively reflect society and have no actual influence over it. But I do admit that it can be difficult to filter through cultural currents with the sensitivity and thoughtfulness they deserve. Our work should never be inattentively influenced by our social prejudices, but we, as humans and creators, often are.

I used a literal rape as a metaphorical nadir, and I know better. Or, at least, I should have known better and certainly do now. I was concentrating so hard on other elements of that scene which felt so much more narratively significant to me (Blockbuster’s murder, primarily) that I totally lost sight of the power and non-symbolic consequence of the gesture I was using. By the time I realized the severity of the mistake and how harmful it might have been to actual survivors of sexual abuse and assault (myself included), I had run out of time to make it right. I’m not sure I could have made it right, mind you, but I did at least have the intention of bringing the story back around to it so that the act didn’t exist completely devoid of consequence or analysis. But it does, and I regret that more deeply than I can say. So many factors went into that debacle—including an avalanche of increasingly arbitrary and bizarre crossover demands from upper editorial and the company’s failure to honor previously approved story outlines—but the responsibility for the ineffectiveness and potential harmfulness of that scene lies solely with me.

I would not shy away from tackling the subject of rape again but I would work with it only if I could approach it head on. It’s too charged of an issue to be used to reflect something else. If I could do it over again, I would make very different choices.

While this was written years after she'd stopped working for DC, it's amazing to learn that there's a writer out there who made a mistake but was willing to own up for it. That's a very admirable show of courage to take responsibility for making light of serious issues.

It's also saying a lot more than can be said for Meltzer, who, unlike Grayson, has never admitted his approach in Identity Crisis was distasteful and belittling to victims of sexual abuse. It's had me wondering why a woman can admit to failure, but a man will not.

For now, it's certainly amazing that somebody in comicdom, mainstream or otherwise, is willing to show the courage to admit to error in storytelling development. Grayson's show of guts is something to appreciate.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Profile: Lucy Lane

Lucy Lane

First appearance: Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, April 1959

History: the younger sister of Lois Lane, she began as an airline stewardess and occasional girlfriend of Jimmy Olsen's. When the DCU was reworked in 1986, she was reintroduced as more of an air traffic controller.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in the early 1970s, she was seemingly killed in issue 120 of Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane after a boating accident in Latin America.

What's wrong with how this was done? Depending on your viewpoint, the story from SGFLL was handled far better than a lot of the nastiest storylines DC put out in the post-Crisis era. It did serve as a motivation for Lois in the remaining years of her own series, who quit her job at the Daily Planet at the time and became a freelancer.

Was there anything good to come out of this? A short time later, Lucy was found alive in the series where she'd first debuted, SPJO, towards the end of its own run in the early 70s (both series ended in 1974 and were replaced by the semi-anthological Superman Family, which ran for at least 8 years). She continued into the post-Crisis era and had some pretty good stories built around her.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Profile: Aquaman


First appearance: More Fun Comics #73, 1941

History: coming 2 years after Sub-Mariner's debut in early Marvel books, Aquaman was easily the second most famous seabound superhero, although it was in the Silver Age when Arthur Curry really became significant with the first solo series that ran during 1962-71. It was in this series where Mera was introduced and they married for many years. His creators were Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in the 2nd issue of the mid-90s series written by Peter David (from September 1994), Arthur lost his left hand after a verminous villain named Charybdis - who paralyzed his ability to communicate with sea life - forced it into a piranha-infested pool, where it was promptly turned into mincemeat. He later replaced it with a short harpoon-style blade, not unlike what Captain Hook's got in Peter Pan.

What's wrong with how this was done? Coming at a time when Kevin Dooley - who turned out to be one of DC's worst editors in the 90s - was at work, this was a pretty gratuitous attempt to make the Sea King more "badass". His personality was soon rendered more aggressive and unhinged, and it's apparent Dooley and company were going out of their way to make Aquaman not all that different from other superheroes at the time, who just had to have "drive" so people could supposedly identify with them.

Even today, with overrated writers like Geoff Johns in charge, this hasn't changed so much. Aquaman may have regained his left hand since, but the grisly tone Dooley started (and Johns amplified) still prevails.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Record: Dan Slott

Of all the unqualified writers Marvel/DC could hire as part of their closed-shop clique since the mid-2000s, Slott is one of the worst. He's been part of Joe Quesada's mandate to wipe out the Spider-Marriage, and there have been a few more lugubrious steps he's taken in the career he's had this century. I'll list at least 2 examples for now.
  • He wrote a story in 2014 where Peter Parker's body was taken over by Doctor Octopus, leading to a tacky series called "The Superior Spider-Man", and a storyline where Otto Octavious, in the body of Peter, makes "love" to Mary Jane. Which is basically rape in disguise, as a women's topics website put it.
  • Almost a year later at the Florida Supercon, he went along and justified Joe Quesada/Axel Alonso's opposition to the marriage by saying that Mary Jane is "anti-Marvel", by claiming, "Everyone Peter falls in love with is so classically beautiful, and to me that is anti-Marvel." In other words, he was saying that everything Stan Lee ever thought of conceiving was wrong, while at the same time he implies beautifully structured characters/people are bad ideas. (Next thing you know, he'll be saying Edgar Rice Burroughs and Will Eisner were wrong to make Dejah Thoris and Sheena the Jungle Queen beauties!) And, he completely obscures all the characteristics ever applied to Mary Jane in better days. His defense is superficial at worst, and super-cheap.
Slott is bound to go down in history as one of the worst, most self-important and self-justifying writers, a true embarrassment if there ever was one.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Another try

How long has it been since I last posted anything on this particular blog of mine? About 6 years, I guess. Which is long enough.

Within that time, there have been things happening, and little or none of it was for the better. Like DC and Marvel alike rebooting their universes, pandering to advocates of "diversity" by changing the racial makeup of their cast members - and even their sexual orientation - instead of creating new characters. They've even been pandering to extreme left politics and advocates of censorship (know today as "social justice warriors", for example), all at the expense of everything that ever made the older material work well. And all under the protection of a press that's been backing them to the fullest, without any consideration whether the steps they're taking are making things worse.

As a result, I've been thinking lately that maybe I should try to add a few more entries to this blog, since there are a few more examples, probably even coming from smaller publishers, that will come in as vital information to get an idea what's going wrong with today's comics medium. I'd posted entries for various female characters, and also men, since both sexes have been victims of the political correctness in many ways, and I'll try to add some more. It'll probably take time, since I am busy with other matters and can't always find the time today to write about exactly what I'd want to.

For now, let this be a message that I'm still around to work on this little experiment of mine, and I'm going to keep trying to do more for it. Have a good February 2016.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Conclusion again

It's time again to give it a rest
Well, I guess in my second effort to prove more items that I think could come in helpful, I've done what I could.

It's a shame that, just when I thought there might be light at the end of the tunnel, I and others of my standing were proven wrong. Both DC and Marvel have just kept going with their deaths for the sake of both that and publicity stunts, among other actions that simply register as tasteless. No valid or convincing human drama, no nothing, just more violence, deaths, and other vulgar acts for the sake of desperate publicity is what they're doing.

Worst part is how Geoff Johns and Joe Quesada were promoted to "chief creative officers" for their companies, and neither are any good, as time has told.

Sooner or later, Marvel and DC are going to find that their incompetence and lack of communication with the wider audience will lead to the shutdown of their book publishing divisions, and a large trail of destruction will be left behind.

Is there a way to save these great works of serial fiction? IMO, the best way to do that would be for someone with the money and an interest in the book publishing world to buy the comic book publishing arms of DC and Marvel, meaning that they'd be seperate from the toy and movie divisions (if Atari could split into 2 companies, as they did for nearly a decade, it's possible the same could be done with DC and Marvel). They could also shift to a format other than pamphlets with longer lifespans like trade/prestige format, and that could be the way to go. They could also do away with a lot of the junk this past decade has seen coughed up. Then, maybe they could regain the energy they once had.

But for now, that's just a pipe dream. I do hope that maybe someone who cares, loves superhero comics and has the money it takes can do as I suggest one day. Until then, there's no way we can tell what the future will hold for us.

Now, it's time once again to retire this blog, and only hope that one day, luck will turn the good way again for DC and Marvel.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Profile: Sif

First appearance: Journey into Mystery #102, March 1964

History: the sister of Heimdall and childhood friend of Thor and Balder the Brave, she had been born with golden hair like many other Asgardians, but due to a nasty trick played by Loki, and an attempt he made to fix it, she developed black hair instead. Thor thought she looked even lovelier as a brunette, and thus, Loki's attempt to ruin their happiness failed.

Current status: on Earth with a few other Asgardians, Thor included, in Oklahoma.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: during 2007-2008, when J. Michael Stracynski was writing Thor, and the Asgardians were reborn on Earth in the bodies of humans, he had Sif reborn in the body of an old woman suffering from cancer, with only a special mirror to help show her real image.

What's wrong with how this was done? Knowing Stracynski's modus operandi since the turn of the century, it doesn't take much to figure for starters that anything he does will be like turning gold into straw instead of lovely brunette hair - and his subversion of Sif to the sidelines during that weak story was, for lack of a better word, insulting.

Thankfully, as the storyline ended, her whereabouts were figured out, and she was taken out of the old woman's body and restored to normal. And we can only hope Stracynski never gets his mitts on Thor and the other Asgardians ever again, nor Spider-Man, for that matter.