Archive for the comics Category

Secret Lair, NYC: Mapping Marvel’s Heroes and Villains

Posted in comics, maps, maps & mapping with tags , , on March 5, 2012 by Sunshine Superboy

A good friend of mine once asked me what the main difference was between Marvel and DC comics.

Not wanting to completely nerd out on her, I highlighted the great distinction that the DC Universe has fantasy urban spaces, Gotham, Metropolis, Star City etc.

daredevil highline park

Matt Murdock aka Daredevil in the Highline Park of Manhattan

Meanwhile the Marvel Universe is situated in our own utterly realistic geography: the X-men now in San Francisco were based just north of New York City in the Hudson Valley, and as the map below shows, from Daredevil (above), to the Avengers to Captain America’s Brooklyn apartment so much of the Marvel U is not so hard to plot in the varied neighborhoods of New York.

So lets have a look, shall we?

Marvel Heroes NYC locations map

Now this is a fairly old map, but I still think it illustrates the spatial dimension of the Marvel Universe rather well, giving us a sense of the proximity of the Fantastic Four’s “Baxter Building” HQ, of Avengers’ Tower, and all the rest of it, and where they are in relation to frequent sites of battle and intrigue such as Times Square, the Empire State building, and all them bridges that connect Jersey and all the boroughs of my native islands.

Anyone wanna help me make an updated Marvel Comics Map of New York City?!

How ’bout THEM big apples?
Sunshine Superboy

Ain’t No Such Thing As a Superman: Gil Scott Heron, Action Comics, and Global Superpower

Posted in art & music, celebrities, comics, politics, race, racism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2011 by Sunshine Superboy

This weekend, we lost the legendary badass Mr. Gil Scott-Heron at the age of 62.

Gil Scott-Heron was a Jamaican-American composer, musician, poet and author whose writings and recordings provided a vivid, and often stinging, commentary on social injustice and the black American experience; his declamatory singing style, allied to the overtly political content of his work, made him widely recognised as one of the inspirational figures of rap music.

Dude was only 18 when he wrote what is perhaps his best known piece The Revolution Will Not Be Televised– an attack on the mindless and anaesthetising effects of the mass media and a call to arms to the black community:

You will not be able to stay home, brother/
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out/
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip/
Skip out for beer during commercials/
Because the revolution will not be televised

Gil Scott-Heron’s Aint No Such Thing as a Superman

This reminds me of last month’s abdication by DC Comic’s Superman, of his American citizenship in Action Comics #900

The key scene takes place in “The Incident,” a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President’s national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.

Superman replies that it was foolish to think that his actions would not reflect politically on the American government, and that he therefore plans to renounce his American citizenship at the United Nations the next day — and to continue working as a superhero from a more global than national perspective. From a “realistic” standpoint it makes sense; it would indeed be impossible for a nigh-omnipotent being ideologically aligned with America to intercede against injustice beyond American borders without creating enormous political fallout for the U.S. government.

… or within American borders for that matter. The truth is that rather than fighting for justice, Superman has always fought for the American Way, which encompasses a hegemonic cosmology of what exactly counts as ‘justice’ and ‘injustice’. Why did an inter-galactic super-being align himself with an imperialist Superpower in the first place? Oh yeah, he was raised in Kansas and indoctrinated (in the 40s and 50s of all moments!) into a fundamental belief in the supremacy of the American Way, and the perspective that US domestic and foreign policy was totally where its at.

Now while I understand that everyone (left and right) is getting excited (knickers in twist), about Superman’s renunciation of US citizenship, I want us all to think on the analysis of Gil Scott-Heron and keep a few things in mind:

1) The motivation for this move does not stem from a sudden realization that the US is a problematic imperialist power, and should therefore be counter-balanced in some way. Rather, Superman doesn’t want his independent actions to reflect poorly on US diplomacy. He is doing this to aid the State, not to critique it. J Edgar Hoover would have lobbied Superman to do the same thing, if he could, and if we imagine this as some parallel to our very real world, I’d bet Hillary Clinton had something to do with this abdication. Now Superman can show up in the streets of Tehran without his presence being tantamount to a declaration of war.

2) Clark Kent, our grand hero’s alias, remains a US Citizen, and therefore, all of this rhetorical posturing is empty. A super-being with the power to fly and the asylum of a Fortress of Solitude on a stateless continent of ice has little need for citizenship in any event, and certainly needs no assistance to navigate national borders. Beyond this, however, the very real powers of a US Passport, and all the rights associated with American citizenship are fully retained by Our Glorious Hero, so all of his “I’m a global citizen” bullshit is just that. I’d like to see Clark Kent go ex-pat and pursue citizenship in Palestine or Taiwan, or Tibet for that matter, and then Action Comics can claim some sort of political solidarity for what thats worth. What we should be asking ourselves is what is it that Kent’s US Citizenship allows Superman to do, that renouncing it entirely would not?

3) The power, legitimacy, and resource hoarding that once was unflappable behind the seal of American citizenship has dissolved somewhat in the 21st Century. Anyone, including Mulit-national corporation and the US State Department itself, wishing to maintain such command has made strategic shifts to re-brand from “American” to “Global”, “International” or “Worldly”. In the globalized, post-colonial world, power is hard-pressed to get away with much exertion of force or influence without waving some UN, World Bank, IMF, or “coalition” cred- and this is just Superman doing the same.

I won’t pretend for a minute that the editors at DC Comics are as savvy and strategic as all this. In DC’s attempts toward verisimilitude, however, they’ve come marvelously close to capturing the zeitgeist of global power, transforming Superman into just another heuristic for understanding the multi-lateral shifts of imperialist power.

In our own world, then, Scott-Heron remains correct that there ain’t nothing but a superman, afterall, what would an all powerful being need with a US Passport and a stable position in a major media firm in New York City?

Up Up and Awaaaaaaaaaay!
Sunshine Superboy

“Real Life Superheroes”: Up with Costumes, Down with Crime on the Streets of Seattle

Posted in comics, humor, politics, racism, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

the shins as superheroes

indie band, the Shins, spooning as super heroes

I just want to point out that in order to be a “super” hero, you need to have a “super power” (even if thats just being a frickin’ maniacal billionaire- see Bruce Wayne or Bill Gates). Otherwise, you’re just a “hero” which ain’t all that bad, so why try and front like you can cling to or walk through walls, or like you have bulletproof skin, clairvoyance, or the gift of flight.

From an actual story in the actual news:

**********************************************
SEATTLE, Cascadia
real life superhero
Green Reaper, Penelope, Thorn, Thunder 88, Buster Doe, No Name, Catastrophe, Gemini and Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle. These are the names of the costumed superheros who are now patrolling our city, ensuring your safety… I know. We’re excited too.

The PI reports late on Thursday that a group of masked vigilantes calling themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement has been patrolling Seattle streets for a few weeks now. They wear costumes, they ride around in a Kia at night looking for trouble and occasionally, they get stabbed. Seattle Police think they’re silly at best, dangerous at worst. They cite cases where one darkly clad crusader was nearly shot when he came running out of a park in the middle of the night, or when a woman saw a bunch of costumed freaks pull up to a gas station and thought they were there to rob the place.

“Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle” seems to be the one member that the cops and the media have the most info on–and still, it’s not much. We know he’s a 22-year-old man who met with police at the station last month in near full regalia: black cape, blue tights, black fedora, white belt and mask. He’d have brought the rest of his gear, he told them, but it was being repaired after he got stabbed trying to break up a drug buy. But don’t worry. Jones tells the PI that he and his squad are professionals.

“I don’t condone people walking around on the street with masks. Everyone on my team either has a military background or a mixed martial arts background, and we’re well aware of what its costs to do what we do.”

The crew appears to draw a lot of its marching orders from real life super heros dot org. That’s right, dot org. Also, another site noted by the police has an actual “manual” for becoming a super hero. It’s packed with info on picking out fly crime fighting “threads” and weapons, assembling a kick-ass utility belt, keeping your “hero health” in tip-top shape and finding pressure points on your enemies that will render them incapacitated.

Nowhere on the site are any tips for finding a girlfriend [or boyfriend?] or holding down a job.

It’s not clear how the Rain City Superhero Movement is alerted to crimes. They may have police scanners, they may have inside sources, or simply internet access to the Seattle Police Dpt blog. They don’t, at this point, have a skyward pointed spotlight of any kind or a direct line to Mayor McGinn.

But they do have our attention. And it’s likely that that’s all they wanted in the first place.

*************************************

Okay, so at first glance… kinda bad-ass, if you can get past the LARP feeling of it (Life Action Role Play). But I have something to say here, and its a critique simultaneously of these Puget Sound vigilantes, and of Batman, the Justice League, and some of Marvel’s “crime fighters”. And thats this:

who the fuck decided that these things were “crimes”?

Minor drug possession? Vandalism? Petty drug deals? I’m sorry, but feeling some-kinda-way about the Prison Industrial Complex, I’m actually more invested in de-criminalizing this bullshit than reinforcing the cops, let alone beating people up, who 98% of the time are poor and brown and probably desperate.

If owning-class men with the means to buy utility belt gadgets felt like hunting down “criminals” outside of the system, why not pick up the slack of the police, and chase after white-collar criminals? Its pretty widely agreed (especially in the wake of ENRON, Bernie Madoff, toxic loans, and mortgage scams, though thats clearly the tip of a melty iceburg), that corporate crime is the most rampant and most severe crime and has the lowest rate of crime-busting! Go kick some ass, LARPers!

prison industrial complex

If you want to make me feel more safe, I’d love it if you could storm board meetings, planning commissions, law offices- hell the police department itself, and bring some real justice into the picture. In the mean time, how about everyday people take everyday steps to learn more about community accountability and transformative justice so we can more effectively end violent neighborhood drug circuits, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and workplace harassment. These are things that we are more than capable of handling in-house (thank you very much, but you can be on your way officer), and even be stronger as a result of it.

If there’s one take-home lesson from these bold (if politically uncritical) costumed warriors, its that we don’t need to sit around waiting for the state (in the form of courts, cops, jails, and inadequate public defenders), to make our communities safer. We can step up and do that ourselves by practicing restorative justice and even transformative justice. Indeed, community responses that sideline punitive/ retributive measures are quite possibly the only thing that will make our neighborhoods into better places.

Up up and Away,
Sunshine Superboy

oh, also (PS) the superhero manual has a page about women’s self defense including eye gouge techniques and stuff. Guess what? Anyone of any gender can read it (if they can read english)!

Here Comes Science! (pixels included)

Posted in comics, feminism, humor, science, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 10, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

its Sexy Science Friday!
Here are a couple little web comics from our pals at diesel sweeties.

use science properly

sexy science

Up up and Away,
Sunshine Superboy

Why should college kids be the only ones to stress about midterms?

Posted in comics, humor, maps with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

meh.
obama midterm election map cartoon

I mean, really, why should college kids be the only ones to stress about midterms?

LOLerskates!
SS

Death or Glory: The Racial Politics of Regressive Storytelling

Posted in comics, race with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

Who needs regressive storytelling when you can have politically progressive heroes and innovative villains?
RedHood_Incognito

Above is a mesmerizing rendition of the Hood, the main character, behind Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ new and highly lauded superhero noir series (Marvel Comics). Unfortunately, DC comics suffers tragically from a lack of imagination, and heralds instead its own bygone era of heroic representation, embodied by great white heroes.

In the last 5-10 years, I’ve grown pretty excited at the emergence of a new cohort of black and brown superheroes in the mainstream comics world. Nevertheless, unlike Marvel, DC has begun to roll back franchise after franchise, opting to shelve brown and mixed-raced inheritors of heroic mantles (often in bang!-yr-dead permanence), in favor of bringing back the euro-descendant old skool. Even when such returns require inexplicably miraculous, zombie-like resurrections.

lady gaga telephone comic

Ultimately, my issue isn’t so much that there needs to be some untethered prominence of brown comic characters, (again, Brubaker is doing some of the most interesting writing and he’s dealing with white folks of questionable ethics. Even Lady Gaga features Beyoncé once in a while). Rather, to resort to dredging up old white heroes and placing them back in their old roles is not only socially suspect in sidelining brown characters, but its creatively stifling and essentially a sign of intellectual weakness in the ranks of DC.

reposted from Bleeding Cool and comics alliance:

In [last May’s] comic book solicitations, Ray Palmer made a return to comics as the Atom, following in the footsteps of characters like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen in what Chirs Sims likes to call “regressive storytelling.” These are stories that look to the past instead of the future, setting things back to the way they were rather than progressing them to what they should be next, rendering huge swaths of their fictional universe irrelevant because they didn’t star the One True Version of a character.

“The Good Old Days” have become a driving force in the comics industry in particular and DC Specifically (and Geoff Johns even more specifically, as DC’s Creative Director who is personally responsible for regressing Green Lantern, Flash, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Hawkman, Aquaman and others), and it’s all built around a desire to recapture a feeling these creators got when they were kids. But there’s an unintentional side-effect to all this regression that often goes ignored: The piece-by-piece white-washing of the DC Universe.

It’s been a running gag among my friends that in comics, only white Americans ever find meteors, get splashed with chemicals or get visited by spacemen, everyone else (from Jack O’Lantern to Black Bison to the Gaucho to Apache Chief to Samurai and so on) has to have a power that relates to their race or their country — specifically, the broad stereotypes drawn from white Americans’ perception of their race or country. It’s almost inescapable, and it reinforces the idea that non-white characters are defined solely by their ethnic differences.

But Ryan Choi, as the Atom, was a character that actually had a character, and was one of the few Chinese-American characters in comics that didn’t have powers relating to Kung Fu dragons. He was just a guy with super-powers that was filling a role that nobody had bothered to do anything with in years.

And now he’s been shoved into limbo so that Ray Palmer can come back, reduced to a gentrified footnote so that the DC Universe can a little bit more like it did in 1978.

chinese-atom

Below are no fewer than Twenty-Two Legacy Characters who have been offed by DC writers and editors:

1. Amazing Man II (William Everett III) African-American. Killed by Mist (Caucasian).

2. Atom (Ryan Choi) From Hong Kong. Choi was severely beaten and murdered by Deathstroke (Caucasian) and his band of Titans. The mantle he inherited from Atom II Ray Palmer (Caucasian) has now been passed back.

3. Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) Half-White, Half-Asiatic. Cassandra is still alive but has been replaced by blonde hair, blue-eyed Stephanie Brown (Caucasian).

4. Black Adam (Teth-Adam). Inheritor of the power of Shazam. Former member of the Justice Society of America turned genocidal madman. The wizard Shazam (possible Canaanite) has turned Tenth-Adam into a statue.

5. Cheetah III (Sebastian Ballesteros) Argentine. Killed by Cheetah II, Barbara Ann Minerva (Caucasian).

6. Dr. Midnight (Dr. Beth Chapel) African-American. She took up the mantle of the original Dr. Mid-Nite (Caucasian). Slain by Eclipso. The legacy of Dr. Mid-Nite has now been passed on to Dr. Pieter Cross (Caucasian).

7. Eclipso (Alex Montez) Latino. Commits suicide to stop the original Eclipso from taking over his body. The Eclipso entity goes on to possess Jean Loring (Caucasian) and back to original host Bruce Gordon (Caucasian).

8. Firestorm (Jason Rusch)
African-American. When the original Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond, Caucasian) was killed, his powers were passed to Jason Rusch. During Blackest Night, Black Lantern Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond) forcefully merges with Jason Rusch. Now Ronnie Raymond is alive and permanently merged with Jason Rusch creating a new, white Firestorm.

9. Green Arrow (Conner Hawke) Mother is half-black, half-Korean. Father is white. When his father, the Green Arrow Oliver Queen (Caucasian) came back to life, Oliver decides that both he and his son can share the Green Arrow title. However, Conner gets turned comatose by Dr. Sivana. Conner comes back to life and abandons the Green Arrow identity. Now Oliver Queen is the only Green Arrow.

10. Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) Half-Irish, Half-Latino. Once Green Lantern Hal Jordan (Caucasian) came back from the dead, Rayner loses his place spot as the Green Lantern of Earth and his membership in the Justice League of America.

11. Guardian (Jake Jordan) African-American. Jake Jordan was given the title Guardian by the newspaper Manhattan Guardian which purchased the rights from Project Cadmus. He is replaced by clone of the original Guardian Jim Harper (Caucasian).

12. Hawkgirl (Kendra Saunders)
Latino. Kendra gets killed by Black Lantern Sue Dibney. Then gets brought back to life as the Golden Age Hawkgirl Shiera Hall (Caucasian).

13. Hawkman (Katar Hol, post-Zero Hour) Half-Cherokee, Half-Thanagarian. Banished to limbo. Katar Hol becomes reconstructed as the Golden Age Hawkman Carter Hall (Caucasian).

14. Hero (Hero Cruz)
Latino/African heritage) Keeper of an H-Dial previously used by Robbie Reed (Caucasian), Chris King (Caucasian) and Vicky Grant (Caucasian). The only H-Dial currently in use is the one belonging to Robert Reed.

15. Isis (Adrianna Tomaz) Egyptian. Instilled with the powers of the goddess Isis, Tomaz tried to use her abilities to reform Black Adam and become a superhero. After being fatally wounded by the Horseman of Apokolips, she tells Black Adam that his violent ways were for the best. She gets resurrected and sexually assaulted by Felix Faust. The wizard Shazam (possible Canaanite) has turned Isis into a statue.

16. Jai West (Half White, Half Korean) Son of the Flash (Wally West, Caucasian). Jai gained super strength powers thanks to his connection to the Speed Force he shared with his fraternal twin sister Iris. However, their connection to the Speed Force was altered by Reverse-Flash (Caucasian). Only Iris West (the more Caucasian looking twin) gets to use the Speed Force. Iris becomes the super speedster Impulse while Jai currently sits around playing video games.

17. Osiris (Amon Tomaz)
Egyptian. Shares the powers of Black Adam (Egyptian). Osiris sought to be a superhero, even going as far as joining the Teen Titans. But after accidentally killing the Persuader (Caucasian) to save his sister’s (Isis, Egyptian) life, he became shunted by society. He was later killed by the Horsemen of Apokolips Sobek. Osiris came back to life at the end of Blackest Night and joined Deathstroke (Caucasian) and his Titans in killing the Atom Ryan Choi (from Hong Kong).

18. Son of Vulcan (Miguel Devante
) Latino. When the original Son of Vulcan (Johnny Mann, Caucasian) died, he passed his mantle onto Devante. Miguel joined Titans East only be attacked and left comatose by Trigon.

19. Tarantula (Catalina Flores) Latino. Flores adopted the Tarantula identity to honor the Golden Age hero Tarantula (Jonathan Law, Caucasian). She sacrifices herself to in a battle against a small army of super villains over a Neron created “Get Out of Hell Free” card.

20. Tempest (Joshua Clay) African American. Killed by the Chief (Dr. Niles Caulder). His name gets taken up by Garth, the first Aqualad (from an offshoot race from Atlantis).

21. Wildcat (Hector Ramirez) Latino. Former boxing protégé of Ted Grant (Caucasian), the original Wildcat. Killed by Killer Croc in an underground fight club. The mantle was reverted back to the original Wildcat Ted Grant.

22. Wildcat (Yolanda Montez) Latino. Fought crime as the second Wildcat. Slain by the original Eclipso. The mantle was reverted back to the original Wildcat Ted Grant (Caucasian).

Seeing them all in a list, with their respective fates enumerated makes me feel some kinda way about these literary shifts.

Up Up and Away?
Sunshine Superboy

Rebirth of Calvin: Captain Long Ears, a kid graphic novel

Posted in comics, humor with tags , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by Sunshine Superboy

this comic review is a repost, but I want to dedicated to my BFF, Kenny, who cried with me the morning that the last strip ever of Calvin and Hobbes printed (its a magical world… tear… tear…)

-SS

Diana Thung’s kids’ graphic novel Captain Long Ears reads like the most bittersweet Calvin and Hobbes strips, filtered through Taiyo Matsumoto’s Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White.

Captain Long Ears is a young boy (AKA “Michael”) who pals around with a stuffed gorilla called Captain Jam. The two of them lead a rich, imaginary life as a pair of space ninjas who are traversing the galaxy in search of Captain Big Nose, who, we come to understand, is Michael’s absent father.

Michael’s mother is an overworked single parent, and she doesn’t even notice when Michael sneaks out to the local circus, where he meets a maddened baby elephant who was captured by poachers. The elephant — “Little Big Nose” — quickly becomes part of Michael’s fantasy life, and Captain Long Ears and Captain Jam decide that they will rescue him so that he can lead them to Captain Big Nose. Thus begins a sad and exciting adventure, as heartbreak and imagination vie with one another for the heart of a likable, clever kid.

Thung unapologetically mashes up Watterson and Matsumoto — Michael is clearly Spaceman Spiff meets White from Black and White — and the effect is really tremendous. Michael is one of the most likable and endangered kids’ comic heroes in the canon; you root for him even as you worry about him, and all the while, you’re laughing with him and his clever, subversive fantasy life.