Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Record: The MSM Hall of Shame

“MSM” is an acronym for the Main-Stream Media that can be found as a reference to it in many places across the blogosphere today. Like, say, to the New York Times, Boston Globe, CNN, Washington Post, Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and other assorted bastions of dishonesty in reporting the news. That dishonesty in news reporting, let me tell you, can and does extend to comic books as well. I’ve seen more than enough dumbed-down, sleazy, sensationalized, double-talking and extremely dishonest newspaper and TV articles on comics over the years, and this, a topic that can be expanded if and whenever I find something worth filing here, is where I’ll be posting some of the worst quotes I can find or that I know of from the loathsome MSM, with boldfaced linings included to emphasize the propaganda. Now, let us take a look at some of the biggest stinkers we have in store here, all courtesy of our real life versions of J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle.

First, there’s this treacly stuff:
A few weeks ago, I recommended DC's "Identity Crisis," a seven-issue miniseries by best-selling novelist Brad Meltzer ("The Zero Game," "The Millionaires"). Meltzer has 6 million books in print, two movies in production and a WB pilot that just finished shooting _ and his "Identity Crisis" has already drawn glowing commentary from The New York Times, New York Post and Spin magazine.

For a change, the Captain agrees with all the hype. "Identity Crisis" No. 1 is now on the stands, and it actually brought tears to my eyes.

As advertised, the miniseries begins with the death of a Justice Leaguer and plays into a larger mystery involving some early recruits of the JLA _ but not big guns like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Instead, the story focuses on "B-list" players like The Atom, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Black Canary and Zatanna. But before we get into that, we have to pay respects to the victim. I'm not easily moved by a comic book, but this death was poignant, chilling and touching. Meltzer captures the characterization of DC's major and minor players flawlessly, while at the same time weaving an intricate tale of intrigue and profound grief. And the art is by Rags Morales ("Hawkman"), whose subtle and richly textured work wrings surprising emotion from chiseled faces and sculpted physiques.

No, I won't tell you who the victim is. Besides, most people _ even many comics fans _ wouldn't recognize the name of this character, who is actually pretty minor as these things are judged. But I will say it's a character who's been around since 1961, one I've always liked and one I'm chagrined to see take a dirt nap.

Which, despite the Revolving Door of Death in comics, I think is pretty permanent. Sure, a lot of characters come back from the dead in fantasy fiction; it's hard to name a superhero who hasn't been dead at least once. But some characters do join the choir invisible and remain there forever _ the population of the planet Krypton, for example, as well as Batman's parents, Spider-Man's Uncle Ben and Captain America's wartime partner, Bucky Barnes. And I'm pretty convinced that this character, in the parlance of comic-book fans, is "Bucky dead."

Which alone is pretty significant, and it's just the beginning. At the end of the first issue some Leaguers meet secretly to chase down the villain they're certain did the deed. And why they're so positive is part of the mystery ... because they keep alluding to something that happened in the League's early days, something unspeakable, something this group has been keeping secret (somehow) from the likes of Batman, Superman and J'onn J'onzz. That something, whatever it is, is the mystery behind the murder _and this ancient fanboy, who was around for the League's early days, can't wait to see the clues come together. - Andrew Smith, June 15, 2004, Scripps Howard News Service
Well, that’s strike one. He seems to think that the media attention alone is unique in and of itself, and his position isn't really clear either. Then, there’s this disgusting dud:
This seven-issue miniseries kicked off with the brutal murder of the wife of a Justice League member, a beloved character that’s been around for more than 40 years -- followed by a flashback revealing that she had once been raped by a supervillain. Add to that the revelation that some Justice Leaguers have used brainwashing in the past to alter the memories and personalities of certain villains. How can I possibly be enjoying this?

Well, possibly because it’s a riveting murder mystery by novelist Brad Meltzer, who’s also the creator of Jack & Bobby on The WB. And because it’s a challenging examination of the moral issues confronting those who fancy themselves heroes. And because it’s a crackling tale wherein the horrific events service the story, instead of being offered up as shock value.

Yeah, I’m still pretty appalled by the death of Sue Dibny, wife of The Elongated Man (seen recently on Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited). And I’m distressed by the near-murder of Jean Loring, ex-wife of The Atom. And I’m flummoxed by the news that some of our heroes haven’t always acted altogether heroically.

But there are only three issues to go, and I still have no idea who the murderer is, or what his ultimate plan is. Or what the ramifications of the League’s dirty tricks will be. Or, for that matter, who will survive until the end. I may shocked, but I’m also fascinated. - Andrew Smith, October 3, 2004, Scripps-Howard News Service
Strike two. Sensationalizing Sue Dibny's death and violation, telling us all that it's "a riveting murder mystery" without even giving any points or details from within the book to strengthen his stance or explain more clearly why he thinks it's a wonderful book, and even implying that the League is actually the one to blame for this mess. Then, there’s this megabomb:
The most controversial series of 2004 was "Identity Crisis," a seven-issue miniseries by mystery novelist Brad Meltzer and artist Rags Morales starring DC's Justice League of America. In the first issue, the pregnant wife of second-tier superhero was murdered in a brutal way. While the murder mystery (one that was truly a challenge) was the "A" plot, the investigation by the superheroes set off a domino effect, revealing that the victim had been raped by a supervillain years ago _ and in retaliation (and self-defense), a small cabal of Leaguers used their superpowers to, effectively, render the villain mentally incompetent. This also had negative repercussions, which were revealed slowly like the layers of an onion.

The whodunnit was wrapped up with "Identity Crisis" No. 7, but the many unresolved red herrings and the ramifications of the League's moral lapse are just beginning to be addressed, and will spread throughout all of DC's books in 2005. Love it or loathe it, "Identity Crisis" was truly an event, a slow-motion car wreck that generated more than 100 pages of comments on my message board alone. - Andrew Smith, December 21, 2004, Scripps-Howard News Service
Three strikes and you’re out. It sounds more as though he's pre-determined his position, and whatever descriptions he does provide here are as superficial as ever.

In March 2005, he followed up with this junk, in dealing with Countdown:
Skip ahead to 2004, to another summer blockbuster called Identity Crisis. This story, by mystery novelist Brad Meltzer, killed off a long-running, semi-beloved, B-level character (the wife of The Elongated Man, for the record), but more importantly, established that the Justice League had a dark secret: Once, when a villain named Dr. Light (seen on Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans) threatened the Leaguers’ families, some of the second-tier members used magic to alter the man’s mind – and made him, essentially, a nincompoop. Worse, Batman caught them – and they used magic on him, too, to make him forget.

Oops. It may be bad form to tug on Superman’s cape, but one guy you really don’t want to keep a secret from is The World’s Greatest Detective. Oh yeah, Batman found out that his “friends” messed with his mind – his mind! – and he ain’t happy about it.

So we come to Countdown. And yes, Batman’s up to something. Something really ugly, it’s hinted darkly.
Yeah, but does Mr. Smith actually say whether that's a good or a bad thing from an artistic viewpoint? Not really. In fact, he doesn't even seem say much in the ways of an actual opinion at all. IMO, that rates as little more than just servicing the industry in pure knee-jerk style.

And Batman caught them? What's that supposed to mean, that he was opposed to their actions, when here, he himself had also approved of mindwipes in the Silver Age?

To make things even more insulting besides the injury, he even has the sheer gall to refer unclearly to Sue as "semi-beloved" and a "B-level character", as though that literally makes TPTB's actions legitimate. Why do I doubt that he's a comics fan? Then, there’s this little sopster:
Death was everywhere in the best comics of 2004

The dead had a very good year in comic books.


X-Men's Jean Grey died. Again.

A few of Marvel's Avengers died in a scenario that "dissembled" the legendary group.
Spider-Man thought his late girlfriend Gwen Stacey had returned from the grave, only to find a greater mystery involved.

There was death everywhere, the ramifications of which will be played out for months and maybe even years to come.


2. "The Avengers/ Dissembled Storyline" (Marvel). To shake up the series, Marvel is taking huge risks, alienating some longtime fans in the process. Favorite characters were killed off, and another went criminally insane, making for a fascinating tale of epic and often ugly proportions.

3. "Identity Crisis" (DC). Writer Brad Meltzer spun a murder-mystery nailbiter in which the Justice League had to confess a few of its own sins, proving superheroes can sometimes do the wrong thing for the right reasons. - Terry Morrow, Scripps-Howard News-Service, December 29, 2004
Don't be fooled by that last line, because despite that, the heroes' actions are portrayed in a negative light. As for the article, what's really dreadful is that it worships what you might call the golden calf of death.

From the ultra-establishment shoe-polisher, The Comic Fanatic:
"The killer wasn’t a superhero! In fact, the killer wasn’t even super-powered…just a craftier than usual, “normal” person with close ties to one of the Justice League!"
And it wasn't even challenging a discovery either. (And contrary to what this sugary article says, the "killer" didn't have all that close a tie to the League. What misleading propaganda.) If you've read the file, you'll notice how it doesn't even mention that the culprit was a woman, let alone poor Jean Loring. And you'll also notice just how sensationalistic the whole article is too.

My my, with comics coverage like this, is it any wonder comic books aren't taken seriously?

Then, what's this:
The past also gets a makeover in "Identity Crisis," a riveting seven-part series from DC Comics ending in December.

The series reveals that members of the Justice League of America tampered with the minds and memories of some supervillains in the past to keep loved ones safe.

That discovery leaves other heroes to question whether the end truly justifies the means.

Among those means: performing a sort of magical lobotomy on the villainous Dr. Light after he raped Sue Dibny, the wife of a long- time superhero, Elongated Man.

Sue is murdered by an unknown killer in the first issue; the rape, told mainly off-panel, is revealed in flashbacks.

Comic-book readers are used to villains plotting to take over the world. But rape?

"That is a little bit rougher," acknowledges Dan DiDio, vice president and executive editor of DC Comics.

"But we tried to tell that in the most responsible way possible."

The story has generated a great deal of controversy -- and DiDio couldn't be happier.

"The last thing I want to do is ever tell a story that is met with general apathy," he says.

"Identity Crisis" is part of an effort to give more emotional weight to the heroes of the DC Universe, home to Superman, Batman, the Flash and countless others.

"There's always been certain perceptions about DC characters being a little bit softer," DiDio says. "The DC characters have always been very proactive and very heroic and very set in their ways in how they do business, and we wanted to look at them in a different way."

The series will have longterm effects, DiDio promises.

"It's a tonal shift in how our characters act and behave in the DC Universe." - Bill Radford, Colorado Springs Gazette, November 7, 2004
It would seem that the writer was paying lip service to a lie. Tsk tsk tsk. 'Cause by now, just about anyone and everyone is aware of how "responsible" that all turned out to be. Longterm effects though? Sadly, yes, and in the worst ways possible.

A year later, the same writer wrote this following item:
DC's editors approached Meltzer after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. With those attacks giving Americans a new appreciation for firefighters and other everyday heroes, DC wanted a story that explored the risks its heroes faced when they donned masks and capes.

To give the story emotional weight, DC gave Meltzer a list of characters he could target for death.

But Meltzer, a best-selling novelist whose only comicbook work before "Identity Crisis" was a six-issue arc of DC's "Green Arrow," wasn't interested at first.

"I had no desire to kill a character for no good reason, not just shock value or sales," Meltzer says.

But in more talks with editors, an idea clicked.

"I said, 'You know what, I got it. Let me go.' In my head, it all made sense to me."

A few days later, he returned with the pitch for what would become "Identity Crisis" -- a murder-mystery that at its heart is a story of loss and families and heroism.


To protect their loved ones, DC's greatest heroes had voted to perform "mindwipes" on some villains, erasing key memories. The JLA went a step further with Dr. Light, performing a sort of magical lobotomy on him.

When one of their own, Batman, objected, a mindwipe was performed on him.


"I wanted to put a human face on both sides of this equation, hero and villain," Meltzer says.

What Meltzer didn't know was that executive editor Dan DiDio would seize the threads from "Identity Crisis" and pull them together in plotting the future of the DC universe.

The mindwipes have been a key element in various titles as relationships between DC's heroes have soured -- most notably the ties between the big three: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Similarly, the newly reinvigorated villains from "Identity Crisis" have proved critical to DC's current direction.

"The beauty here is that Dan saw what he had," Meltzer says. "I thought I made a sweater and he realized he was building a bigger quilt."

Meltzer has the inside scoop on what's ahead for DC's beleaguered heroes -- though he, of course, isn't telling. Geoff Johns, one of his closest friends, is writing the "Infinite Crisis" miniseries.

A longtime comics fan, Meltzer is thrilled to see so many stories spinning out of "Identity Crisis.

"To see this level built on something that we started, there's no greater kind of geek moment than that." - Bill Radford, Colorado Springs Gazette, September 12, 2005
There are a lot of things that remain unclear in the above, or that don't get told, or that are meant as excuses to plead innocence. But most dishonest of all is that, in contrast to the previous column by the same writer, the rape of Sue is not even mentioned in the piece. Incredible how dishonest the people working in comics today have become. Worst of all is that the newspaper that published the column printed it on the very week of the 9-11 memorial, which makes it all the more offensive.

Also, I noticed these reviews on the ultra-knee-jerk Newsarama. Contributor Troy Brownfield, whom I have a low opinion of, once again turned down credibility by saying that Jean Loring has been played repeatedly as a villianess over the years when reviewing the Day of Vengeance miniseries. Pure Wizard-worthy propaganda.
"Things kick off with arrival of the new Eclipso. If you don’t know already (and why shouldn’t you, if you’re interested? The preview pages have been on the DC site for weeks), that would be Jean Loring, ex-wife of the Atom and (IDENTITY CRISIS SPOILER!) killer of Sue Dibny. Frankly, I’m good with this. Regardless of what some people think, Loring has been played as a villain repeatedly in the past, so someone positioning her to receive the black diamond isn’t a crazy idea."
Excuse me? What's that you say, Mr. Brownfield? "Repeatedly"? Let's get some facts straight here, shall we?

The only times Jean Loring was portrayed as "bad" were in such stories as The Atom and Hawkman #45 in 1969 (and was cured of her insanity soon afterwards in Justice League of America #80-81), when she was brainwashed by a sub-atomic race called the Jimberin, who wanted to turn her into their puppet queen, and in Super-Team Family #11 in 1977, where she was brainwashed by another gang of bad aliens.

And if Brownfield in any ways thinks that The Atom #11 from 1964 is anything to back up his propaganda, well then, let's take a look at this synopsis right here, from Darkmark's Comics Indexing Domain:
Synopsis: Ray Palmer, on an ocean voyage, is forced to walk the plank by a woman who appears to be his fiancee, Jean Loring. As the Atom, he discovers that Jean and the rest of the crew and passengers have been replaced and imitated by invaders from another dimension.
So a villainess she was? Oh yeah, right, that's the best one I've heard all day.

What Mr. Brownfield's done here is little more than to trash talk the way Wizard magazine can and does, and to voice such an argument without confirming his facts only sinks it even further. Comics readers old and new deserve much better.

And here's something from Capt. Comics where he goes the wrong route with Scarlet Witch:
"But in a larger sense, "House of M" is the logical culmination of the Scarlet Witch's long, troubled and convoluted history." - Andrew Smith, April 17, 2005, Scripps Howard News Service.
What? Is he justifying Bendis's atrocity? Shameful.

Then, what’s this here:
What a year to be a comics reader.

It was like the two big comics companies, DC (publishers of Superman) and Marvel (publishers of Spider-Man), figured out exactly what fans wanted and gave it to them.

DC proved itself to be the biggest kid on the block with month after month of stories that led into "The Infinite Crisis," a story line so beautifully complex that it will take another year to play out.

The writers, led by Geoff Johns, looked at the human part of the superheroes, the man in Superman, and showed that they are just as susceptible to fear, love, hate, jealousy and every other human emotion. Batman devised a fail-safe anti-superpowers system that backfired, which ultimately led to Wonder Woman murdering a villain to save Superman's life.

By stooping to the level of the bad guys, the heroes caused the one thing to happen that they always feared -- the organizing of the villains into an army. Then the writers did something that many fans yearned for but never thought they would see: They brought back the original Superman. He's the one who started his career in 1938, aged, married Lois Lane and was last seen in 1986 flying off to the other end of the universe, never to be seen again.

Well, he's back, and he's not happy at what's happened while he was away.

Marvel, not to be outdone, changed reality by taking a third-rate character -- the Scarlet Witch -- and making her the shaper of worlds. The world that emerged when she was through is different and certainly more interesting.

The impressive thing about Marvel's project is that the writers, led by former Clevelander Brian Bendis, built on what had gone before. All the clues were there, especially with the Scarlet Witch. How could we not have noticed that her powers seemed to change to be whatever they needed to be?

What might have been sloppy writing two and three decades ago was turned into proof that there was a lot more to her powers than silly hex bolts. "Made you trip," whoopee.

After all, this was a woman who brought the original Human Torch back to life (the second or third time) and likewise Wonder Man, with just an errant thought. She also gave "birth" to two boys from her imagination. Is there anything she can't do?

In fact, would it surprise anyone to learn that the Scarlet Witch was responsible for a lot of the inexplicable things that have gone on in the Marvel Universe?

It's been a long time since things were this good.

Sure, both companies still put out some junk, but that's best left ignored. Look at the great stuff. - Michael Sangiacomo, Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 2006.
As far as I know, Wanda Maximoff's Hex power alters probabilities, not reality. Where does he get off implying otherwise? He even kept on with this a year and a half later:
Marvel Comics underwent not one, but two, such world-changing events in two years. The first occurred when the Scarlet Witch, a character long believed to be a B-level heroine with the unpredictable power to "hex" things, proved to be one of the most powerful people on Earth.

No one ever thought much about how her hex power worked, but it turns out that it affects the world on a fundamental level. She had been using her power subconsciously for years, but recently she went a little bit nuts. - Michael Sangiacomo, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 2, 2007
Bleah. It only gets worse with this:
At Marvel, a superheroine called the Scarlet Witch went koo-koo last year and pretty much destroyed the Avengers. Not content with that, she used her reality-altering powers earlier this year to transform the world into an alternate one in which mutants were in charge, under supervillain Magneto - the "House of M."� So in recent months, familiar characters like Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four have been doing some very unfamiliar things in an unfamiliar world. - Andrew Smith, Scripps-Howard News Service, October 4, 2005
From which this article must've come, I presume. The way he uses that word "koo-koo" is really insulting, as is the way he uses the boolean of "a" instead of "the" when referencing Wanda, as if she were literally some obscure character. The same tactic was also featured in this column too.

Next, there's this dismal take on Infinite Crisis:
Since the death of the Elongated Man's wife, Sue Dibny, in the spring of 2004, DC Comics has put its fans into an emotional and multilayered story crossing over most of its best titles (around 78 comic books, to be more exact), which has led up to the current, universe-shattering developments in this monumental seven-part miniseries. - Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, January 28, 2006
GAH! Somebody please gag me with a spoon! And it only gets worse with this one:
Best-selling thriller author and architect of DC Comics' popular miniseries Identity Crisis, Brad Meltzer, begins the construction of a new era for the Justice League of America.


Overall, I am not sure how many times readers can deal with the shenanigans of comic-book publishers who feel they need to reinvent a series to boost sales. However, fans should give this new Justice League a chance, if only based on how Mr. Meltzer handled his Identity Crisis. - Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, August 26, 2006
I usually find this newspaper better than some of the others, but "Mr. Zad" is decidedly a rhinestone in a bundle of gems. For by now, those more in touch with reality than Szadkowski is know just how exactly Mr. Meltzer handled his so-called miniseries.

Next up is something from a writer for the Weekly Standard and Philadelphia Inquirer who's lost my respect as a conservative:
Last year Brad Meltzer, the guy who got me back into comic books with his outrageously good Identity Crisis, rebooted DC's Justice League of America series. Like Identity Crisis, it was jaw-droppingly good. The stories were interesting and the characters were written more intelligently than you have any right to expect in a comic book. - Jonathan V. Last, on the Galley Slaves blog, September 17, 2007
I once thought Mr. Last was a great op-ed writer. But then I discovered what his taste in pop culture was like, as this could indicate, and my respect for him plummeted tremendously. What's really bizarre about this is how Last, a man who said once that he found DC's special called 9-11 September 11th 2001: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember, offensive because of moonbat storytelling angles that were injected into the book, completely fails to recognize that Identity Crisis may have very possibly contained similar left-wing storytelling approaches. But even without the political creepings, that he would legitimize a story with violence and misogyny as horrific as what IC contained is still disgusting enough.

As a conservative myself, I want to make perfectly clear that Mr. Last does not speak for me on the issues surrounding IC and should be absolutely ashamed of himself for his hypocrisy. He has lost my respect for him by upholding the perverted storytelling method employed in IC. And he did no better when he wrote the following in the Weekly Standard during 2013:
(You can see Miller’s brush strokes in what might be my favorite Batman moment. In Brad Meltzer’s series Identity Crisis, Batman attempts to explain his existence, saying, “People think it’s an obsession. A compulsion. As if there were an irresistible impulse to act. It’s never been like that. I chose this life. I know what I’m doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn’t that day. And tomorrow won’t be either.” There are a number of deep truths wrapped in this bit of self-justification, but the overarching conceit, of course, is a lie.) - Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard, July 24, 2013
Almost every time he talked about comics between 2007-13, he'd make at least one reference to IC, which told practically nothing about the story's premise. Nor does he consider how the line he brought up obscures Bruce Wayne's motivations for becoming a masked crimefighter - the murder of his parents at the hands of a criminal. The line he's quoting only makes Batman sound idiotic to boot, as though he really IS obsessed. It reminds me of a time when I discovered Last apologizing for Steven Spielberg's Munich and the moral equivalence it's built on. Truly awful. Besides, isn't it Meltzer who's trying to "explain" Batman's existence?

Then, what's this cliched comment we have here on Mary Marvel:
Mary Marvel couldn't buy face time in the past 10 years, but now that she's turned evil, she's hot. - Michael Sangiacomo, Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 5, 2008
Uh uh. No. she. is. not. And I'm sick of hearing that aggravating notion that only by turning the heroes evil will they be interesting.

Then, we have a case of another sugarcoater who says that Rags Morales:
...rose to the limelight with the groundbreaking mini-series "Identity Crisis" and some of DC's top books such as "Hawkman," "JSA," and "Wonder Woman." - John Hardick, Pennsylvania Express-Times, March 2, 2008
For crying out loud, put a lid on it already! And if articles about history books bear some importance, here's something insulting to the intellect:
Speaking of early comic books, another historian named Mike Madrid has done some yeoman work for all mankind - and all womankind, as well.

Madrid is author of "The Supergirls" and "Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of the Golden Age," so you can guess he knows his beans when it comes to the good girls of comics. With his new book, "Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of the Golden Age of Comics" ($16.95, Exterminating Angel Press), he shows he knows the bad girls, too.

Madrid confines himself to the "Golden Age of Comics," roughly 1938-1951, but even with those restrictions, he finds an assortment of femmes fatale whose variety is really quite amazing. Unlike 1940s good girls - invariably white, well-to-do and demure in their civilian roles - villainesses are free of the gender roles and expectations of genteel society. Once they declare themselves evil, they can be who or what they want to be. They were even free to not be white - several were women of color, otherwise hard to find in the Golden Age.

In fact, Madrid makes a compelling case that the only way a woman could escape a dull life as a devoted wife and homemaker in the 1940s and '50s was to be evil. "By abandoning any connection to society and living as outlaws, these women gain autonomy," Madrid says. "They give up any semblance of a normal life in order to control their own lives. The irony is that they have to steal, cheat and kill in order to have their freedom." - Andrew A. Smith, Bellingham Herald, December 25, 2014
It's not often I read something so stunningly illogical and offensive to the cortex. If they turned to a life of crime, especially murder, then they're not people to admire. As expected, he doesn't even bother to acknowledge the pioneering businesswomen of early times, nor the ladies who served in the Air Force during WW2. He's even done an awful disservice to Black and Asian women, IMO.

And there we have it, everybody. Explanations why I am fed up to the chin with the MSM, and why you should be too. If you’re a newspaper reporter/editor, or even an employee at some internet website who’s going the knee-jerk route and sensationalizing awful nightmares like Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled, bear in mind that you will not escape scrutiny here, and for your insult to the public’s intellect, thou shalt have your disgraceful propaganda engraven here in stone. Some people may be afraid to take issue with you propagandists. I am not, and for your sins, you will face your punishment by my judge’s gavel.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Profile: Batgirl 2

Cassandra Cain, Batgirl 2
First appearance: Batman #567, July 1999, during the No Man’s Land crossover.

Current status: believe it or not, not only did she abandon the path of goodness that the Masked Manhunter’s Gotham family tried to help her find, ditto her secret ID, she’s now become the leader of the League of Assassins. Yes, that very League that Ra’s al Ghul founded back in the Bronze Age.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: her [illegitimate?] father, ganglord David Cain, never taught her real vocal or written languages. Rather, he just taught her how to study body languages, for the purpose of making her an assassin. When she joined up with the Bat-family, she did learn more about how talk and communicate, yet she still remained very limited in dialect, and was unable to accomplish much in mathematics, if at all.

Batman is also guilty on his own end regarding his personal failure to provide Cassie with an education (it appears that no Bat-writer to date has written Babs Gordon, her predecessor, as giving her a real education either). Nor had she been taught any real social skills, and the Masked Manhunter even went so far in taking control of her as to forbid her to have any real contacts with the superhero community (come to think of it, he probably didn’t allow her much activity in the general public either). Finally, to add insult to injury, she abandoned her superheroine’s role and became a leader for the League of Assassins.

What’s wrong with how this was done? No real character development for Cassie, as a result. One could reasonably argue that there was some kind of editorial restriction and sabotage that kept a character whom readers do want to like from having any truly positive developments, like how she comes of age with learning to talk and read books, and now that I think of it, such an argument could have something to it. In any case, the failure to actually develop her seriously, and then, the only thing DC Comics could think of doing with Cassie was to turn her into a crook, not to mention their refusal to cut it out with the Bat-control-freakiness, just goes to show how badly the concept of character development has dropped out of sight within the industry.

So, despite any claims to the contrary, this can serve as but a bit of proof that comics today are very far from being “realistic”, and that the writers, publishers and editors who put these books out don’t really mean what they say when they tell you that they’re writing something realistic, or even developing the characters in any genuine way. Time will tell if we find out that editorial heavy-handedness had anything to do with these negative non-steps taken.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Profile: Robin 1/Nightwing

Dick Grayson, Robin 1/Nightwing
First appearance: historically speaking, Dick Grayson first debuted in 1940 in Batman, though by today’s standards, that would be regarded as the Robin of Earth-2, who, while he grew up, he never took on a different codename for himself, and has since been written out of continuity. If it’s the Silver Age we’re talking about, that’s a good question. I would say that the Dick Grayson we know today debuted in the mid-1950s. He took up the role of Nightwing in 1984, at the time taking his name from an old Kryptonian legend, later on just thinking of the name himself in post-Crisis years.

Current status: still a member of the current Outsiders, though whether you could call him a leader with the way it’s being written is remains in question.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in Nightwing #93, he was raped by a villainess called Tarantula.

That does sound hard to believe, doesn’t it? But, in the age of the internet, little seems hard to swallow anymore. The writer, Devin Grayson, and DC themselves, admitted that this was what happened, but put it lightly, saying that they had “non-consensual sex.” There are plenty of search results available on Google, and you can see which ones are the best.

It took seven issues until Nightwing went after Tarantula in issue #100, beat her in a battle and took her to jail, and even that was underwhelming.

What’s wrong with how this was done? It was pointlessly written, in the ways of a sloppy fanfic. In fact, now that I recall, Devin Grayson did dabble in fanfiction writing before she’d turned to comics writing, but which doesn’t make this any good.

Seeing as this took place during the same year as Identity Crisis came out, one could wonder: was it done as some kind of a moral equivalence to put alongside Sue Dibny’s own violation at the hands of Dr. Light, to show that they’re capable of writing a story in which even a male character is victimized? There’s no way to be sure, but, what proof does DC have that the audience is asking across the board for even male characters to undergo rape?

Whether the victim is male or female, it’s not justified and it’s not called for either way. Period.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Profile: Jade

Jennifer-Lynn Hayden, Jade
First appearance: All-Star Squadron #25, September 1983. A few months afterward, she became a team member in Infinity Inc, the teens-to-young adults series that starred the offspring of the Justice Society, which ran 1984-88.

Current status: resurrected in Blackest Night 8.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: while she may have shone her metaphysically acquired GL’s light in Infinity Inc, where she was a team member when she first started out, in later years, she became a very underwhelmingly used (underused?) character. For example, in Green Lantern #111 Vol. 3, when she had a chance to really prove herself in saving John Stewart from the villainess Fatality, Jenny-Lynn instead finds her power running low, and it’s thanks to the fact that then paramour Kyle Rayner comes back from space at that very moment that’s she saved from being trampled by Fatality. She lost her powers again in the following issue, and while she did acquire some similar to those of her mother, the Thorn, it was only when Kyle became a superbeing called Ion that he restored her power. Courtesy of an editorial mandate, she ended up turning against Kyle in a cynically written finale to the 3rd GL volume by dumping him for another guy. In the latest take on the Outsiders, she had some of the weakest lines like “I should be leader.” Then, in the Rann-Thanagar War special, she was killed, or at least it seemed that way, and the powers she was carrying went back to Kyle, turning him into Ion again. She’s turned up as a ghost recently.

What’s wrong with how this was done? Green Lantern #111 Vol. 3 was a colossal ripoff – instead of writing it as a showcase in which she could prove herself effective with even a half victory,* it denies her even that much, instead relying on Kyle to save the day. The editorially mandated finale in the third GL volume did not help matters either. Nor does killing her off in an Infinite Crisis lead-in story help.

And there you have it. A green-skinned chick with potential, maybe even She-Hulk style potential, was repeatedly trivialized for the sake of the male characters, or lack of interest from the writers. In fairness, it is possible that editorial fiats could’ve played a role in sabotaging any pitched possibilities to give her a real spotlight.

Of course, this is also what happens when the audience fails to show the same interest and offer the same support for DC heroes as they may for Marvel heroes. Maybe the Identity/Infinite Crisis debacle will help to change all that?

Was there anything good to come out of this? There's fortunate news, that yes, room was left for Jenny-Lynn to return, as she did turn up as a ghost in one of JSA’s last issues, and towards the end of Blackest Night, she was revived. Those who understand that “there are no bad characters, only bad writers” would do well to take note of the fact that they have a chance to think up proposals that could hopefully help Jade make a good comeback.

We could even suggest writing more fanfics about Jade. I only found one fanfic, and she may not exactly be the main star.

* I say that because I remembered a story from Incredible Hulk #218 from December 1977 in which Doc Samson scored a partial victory against the Rhino. As some might agree, a story like that could work for a lot of other protagonists as well, Jade included.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Record: Chris Claremont

Unlike most others, I don’t participate in the Claremont-bashing that’s cropped up in the past several years. Well, not for the same reasons most others do anyway. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything that I don’t hold against him in complaint; there is sadly some things, and while it may not be that long a list, here’s a few things on his resume which really anger me.
  • The Phoenix story, which first appeared in X-Men in 1979. What is it exactly that disgusts me about it? Is it that IMO, it runs the gauntlet of stereotyping a women as a mass-executioner? Well, that could be one of the problems I personally have with it as of today. But I certainly am furious about it because of all the imitations it’s led to! Which will come up next.
  • Some time after Jean Grey had been absolved of the Phoenix fiasco, along comes another story in which Claremont recycled the story again, this time involving one Madelyne Pryor, a clone of Jean whom Scott ended up marrying for a time before breaking up.
  • In 2003, in the JLA: Scary Monsters miniseries…AUGH! It’s the Phoenix ripoff again! This is when Wonder Woman comes under the influence of a cursed pond, and is subsequently turned into what was described as “Dark Diana”! In other words, Claremont had the chutzpah to actually reference his own past work in a way. But all I can say in response is – enough!
  • In 2001, when he wrote X-Treme X-Men, he killed off Psylocke needlessly, when noone was asking for it, for nothing more than shock’s sake. Well at least I can thank him for bringing her back 4 years later, and be thankful that Joe Quesada backed off of his ridiculous barring of resurrections (this certainly held true for writers of Claremont’s standing; some others seemed to be granted special privileges to do it whenever they wanted to).
Well, that’s not a long list, is it? But it does tell in some ways, if not all, why I take issue with Claremont, which is not that he does like strong chicks who can prove themselves in combat and stuff like that, but that he a]writes a story in which a pretty lady is turned into a lethal monster, and b]recycles it ad nauseum to the point of where I really ended up shunning it, and also c]that he led to a lot of writers leading to character assassination upon said pretty lady, by not being able to decide what she is or isn’t!

The Phoenix saga is one that must be brought to an end.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Profile: Batgirl 1/Oracle

Barbara Gordon, Batgirl 1/Oracle
First appearance: Detective Comics in 1967

Current status: today, she works as computer master Oracle, the info broker in the DCU for many superheroes and other crimefighters.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: in 1988, in Batman: The Killing Joke, she was shot and paralyzed by the Joker, who’d arrived at her apartment with the intent of striking at both Commissioner Gordon and his niece. After shooting her, he added insult to injury by photographing her in her helpless state.

What’s wrong with how this was done? Some could argue that it was sensationalism gone amok. Perhaps additionally troubling is that DC decided to put the premise in actual continuity, when writer Alan Moore hadn't intended it that way when he first began it.

Was there anything good to come out of this? The good news is that Alan Moore, when he wrote that special back in 1988, did handle it well, by providing Babs with her own viewpoint/voice, and handled it with a lot more sensitivity than what you find in many of today’s writers. Also, Babs has since become Oracle, and proved herself effective even in a wheelchair, both as a combatant* and as a computer whiz.

And since then, the really grisly elements of the Killing Joke, such as the Joker’s porn photography, have been discarded from continuity.

* Not that she actually does go around as a vigilante; far from it, but when danger's about, she doesn't ever cop out.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Profile: Jesse Quick

Jesse (Quick) Chambers
First appearance: Justice Society of America #1, 1992

Current status: officially joined the JSA and married Rick Tyler, son of the first Hourman.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: Geoff Johns didn’t exactly make much use out of her when he wrote the Flash from 2000-2005, and in the middle of the run, in issue #200, he wrote that she put all her energy into Wally West to fight the new Reverse-Flash, but as a result of doing so, she knocked the exact connection she has to her father’s special speed formula, which she first began taking at a young age, out of place, and couldn’t access it properly.

What’s wrong with how this was done? Her act in and of itself may have been with noble intentions, to help stop a demonic fiend, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that Johns seemed to have done it simply as a way of all but writing her out of use, instead of trying to make some real use out of her as a character.

Was there anything good to come out of this? Yes, in that Johns at least didn’t try to go overboard with Jesse the way that other writers, Johns himself included, did with other femmes during that year of 2005. Speedsters do have some kind of luck, don’t they? She has since become the new Liberty Belle, the role first assumed by her mother, Libby Lawrence, and has married Rick Tyler, who himself takes up the role first assumed by his father, Rex. The scientific experiments the two of them worked on must've even had a real romantic impact on each other, since as of now, they are a smokin' hot item together, to the point of where it'd look like they're "joined at the hip."