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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Profile: Lionheart


Real name: Kelsey Leigh
First appearance: Avengers #77 vol. 3, March 2004

History: this character, created by Chuck Austen, a onetime hack writer for Marvel, and artist Oliver Copiel, debuted as a third Captain Britain. She was a divorced mother with 2 children from southern England whose house had been invaded by thieving gang rapists who left her scarred across the face with broken glass when she tried to fight back against them. Her husband Richard was too terrified to help, and this led to their divorce.

Later, she found herself stuck in the middle of a battle between the Avengers and the Wrecking Crew. After Captain America and the Wasp were downed, Kelsey came to their help by holding up Cap's shield to guard them from a blast, but suffered injuries that led to her temporary death. She was resurrected by Brian Braddock, the original Captain Britain, and given a choice between the Sword of Might or the Amulet of Right to become a replacement for Brian in the CB role. She chose the former artifact, and discovered that if she were ever to reveal to her children who she really was, it would lead to their deaths.

What's wrong with how this was done? Not only was Brian depicted failing to warn Leigh of the consequences coming from the wrong choice of artifacts/weapons, the story setup was unbearably cruel, separating a mother from her children, as though the gang-rape and cowardly husband premise weren't bad enough. Adding insult to injury was how all this practically made it seem as though Leigh was paying for resisting her rapists by getting slashed; as though it were wrong for her to fight back. It's practically an example of writers who hate their own creations.

And they added insult to injury by depicting Leigh joining forces with a villain called Albion because she was angry at Braddock for what happened to her.

Was there anything good to come out of this? Fortunately, I think Chris Claremont, still working for Marvel at the time, fixed everything in a short series he wrote called New Excalibur; sort of a sequel to the old 1988-98 series. After Albion tried to assault the UK with his own dark forces and Excalibur fights back, she finally recognizes the mistakes she made, turns back to good and helps Excalibur defeat Albion. Brian then decides to set things right by reuniting her with her children and mother, thus putting an end to a very misguided storyline.

So in a modern era where you have Marvel's modern staff turning out some of the worst ever tales you could find, there was a silver lining with this case.