Archive for Marvel

“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:

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SEATTLE, Cascadia
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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.

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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!

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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)!

Feminist Comics Starter Pack: How Graphic Novelists are Subverting Patriarchy and Gender-Normativity, Buffy and Beyond

Posted in anthropology, art & music, celebrities, comics, feminism, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

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Lets talk about some badass anti-sexist comics & characters! Buffy! Runaways! Y-the last man! the Young Avengers!! American Virgin!!! and so many things written by Grant Morrison (esp. the Invisibles)!!!! I flaked out on posting some of these thoughts a long time ago…

Oh, if this isn’t the era of making good on old promises, I don’t know what is. As I’m fond of doing whenever we tread dangerously close to the annuls of geekdom, I’m hereby warning you that its gonna get priiiitty-darn geeky in a hurry, so suspend your usual aplomb,if_i_had_a_hammer check over your shoulder for nosey co-workers who might report you to the nerd Gestapo, and if you’re an insider, check your self-reproach at the search window- cuz we’re going to feminist nerdville, population, nosotr@s!

We’ve alluded previously (“we” ya know, royally speaking), to emergent feminisms withinBUFFY2-23-FC-01mic/ graphic novel genre, and I’ve been angling to give that theme a little more exploration…

The veritable 10,000 lbs gorilla in the room of course is Ms. Buffy Summers, since she provided such a crucial opening. So lets just get that out of the way before airing any reflections on new challenges to male supremacy, gender normativity, and heterosexism (and believe me, we’ll only manage to barely tip our hat to that iceberg on this post).

[I should warn you of spoiler alerts, even though I’m not writing on any super recent content on any of the titles. Just, if you don’t wanna know who’s transgender or who has a gay crush on whom, or any major plot arcs, then you’d best skim for the recommended titles and not read this till después]

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the project, not just the character), both on the television, and most certainly beyond in the season 8 comics, has been bold, imaginative, and inspirational, (even if a bit 2.5 wave-ish, IMHO), in its championing of a popular feminism. That last attribute, its accessibility and high public profile, are perhaps its greatest contributions. Anyone who’s taken the time to listen to the commentary on seasons six and seven of Buffy (dorks!) understands how explicitly the writers (and especially creator/ writer Joss Whedon) set up sexism/male supremacy as the villain for the prime time show (groundbreaking, obvi), and the totally awesome seachange of women sharing power with women, embodied by the army of slayers from the TV finale and season eight.
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Whats awesome, is hearing some of the female-identified writers from the show speak about this explosion of Whedon’s original idea of a single heroine with tons of latent power, to an organic realization of a truly feminist ideal, when every ‘potential’ slayer is given full slayer powers through the goddess-like witchcraft of everyone’s favorite red-headed lesbian witch, Willow. Fucking righteous.

Okay, lets not get too abstract. What was Whedon’s initial anti-sexist set up? A reaction to the unavoidable paranoia of women alone in the dark in the city… their vulnerabilities, the objectification of women as objects (specifically vampire dinner), and the bizarre displacement of men’s fucked up/ violent/ entitled-feeling desires as the fault of women who “dress like they want it” (that line in particular was used in the show where scantly clad femmes are blamed for attracting vampires- WTF). Right, so that was Joss’s reaction.

By season eight, Buffy transcended patriarchy not only making men yearn for the kind of power that women so ferociously wielded on the show (from Anya, to Ms.Calendar, to Faith, Tara, Glory and Kennedy, not to mention the original Scoobies themselves), such that by the end of the television run of the show, the entire paradigm shifted from “how do we show women being defiant of men’s power and violence” to “how do we envision women sharing the power they build through relationships as a community of anti-sexist feminist praxis”? buffyarmy

Okay, the feminist praxis bit is my own cherry on top, but you get the picture. By time there are thousands of slayers being trained up in Buffy’s European castle, we’re in a different world from the predatory un-dead men of the hellmouth. I can’t believe I have a blog where I can write a sentence like that, and where people like you can read that. Some corners of this world are just it seems (:

and we live in world where comics that were being written post 2003 have that as a pop-feminist foundation, beyond which we get all kinds of serious (by which I mean totally badass-ferocia).

Next up is Runaways, which is awesome for many reasons (chiefly, the superb writing by creator Brian K Vaughan, and the astounding & witty character development), but is worth mentioning here for a couple reasons. First, taking a cue from Whedon, the Runaways quickly settle on Nico Minoru as their leader, one of very few super hero (anti-hero?) teams that is fronted by a woman of color. She’s a fierce fashionista of substantial power, who has a goth-streak and who struggles very realistically with her sexuality. Totally crush-worthy… karolinaimage5vol2iss7

which is why Karolina Dean spends part of volume two coming out, through exploring her crush on Nico. Ultimately though, its not Karolina’s chronicle of queerness that proves the ulitmate stroke of subversion (this arc was published after the L-word had already broken ground- although it was still unique in the world of mainstream comic books).

More groundbreaking was the revelation that Karolina’s betrothed, Xavin (a shapeshifting skrull, who initially appears as a black teenage alien- wait thats redundant… a skrull is a type of alien), comfortably changes genders and pursues their feelings for Karolina as a transgender lesbian. This was just five or six years ago, all playing out in Marvel comics so- Wow! Xavin’s friends switch which pronouns they use for hir/them as their gender expression/presentation shifts from comic issue to issue, though Xavin mostly interacts with Karolina as a fem lesbian once she (Xavin) realizes that Karolina prefers women (sexually speaking).
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Brian K Vaughan moves past the quotidian politics of generation Y teens by taking a feminist bend to the apocalyptic crisis of September 11th, 2001 in his other graphic novel, Y the Last Man, which was published by the edgy DC/Vertigo Comics.
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Here, Yorick Brown and his magician’s assistant/ pet monkey, Ampersand are the only surviving mammals with a Y chromosome. I can do the novel no justice here, buy its worth skipping around to some feminist touchstones that come up in the witty writing of Y the Last Man, including militant Amazon feminist separatists (who ritually cut off one of their breasts in political solidarity, and who burn all the world’s sperm banks), a planet of ubiquitous/normalized F-M transgenderism (and the sexwork that comes with it!), a little S&M rite of passage stuff, queer/co-parenting, a secret all female-run spy network (dating back to the Revolutionary War), and a whole lot of girl-on-girl lovin.7-1

Basically, Y the Last Man is a realistic take on the “what if” concept of a gendered apocalypse, where virtually all the power-hoarding men (ie, all men) die out overnight, and the world wakes up to a dystopia where: 1) the American highways don’t work cuz all the truck drivers are men and they all died on the highway, leaving the wreckage of sixteen-wheelers everywhere, 2) the highest ranked woman in the entire US Government is the secretary of agriculture (anyone else having Laura Roslin/ Battlestar Galactica flashbacks??!) who then assumes the office of the presidency, oh and 3) the strongest military in the world becomes that of Israel, which, as you know, is the only army where women are fully 50% of trained harbingers of destruction. Shit makes for an interesting read! No super-heroes here!

avengersscreencapea3Young Avengers. Not much to say. The hot leading men are gay lovers. BFD. Its a welcome change, but we were ready for that ceiling to be shattered like 30 years ago. Still, Hulkling and Wiccan are key-yute together!

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Jumping tracks, Vertigo’s American Virgin “follows the life of Adam, a teenager who is a born-again Christian preacher, and his struggle with issues of his sexuality and faith as he plods step by step toward a lascivious world of desire, temptation, and cultural taboo. In exploring such faux-pas of protestantism, American Virgin whisks readers along a non-stop journey that takes us everywhere from homo-social groups in southern Africa to Phallic worship ceremonies in Japan, the Gay Games in Australia, and an Indian marriage ceremony where Adam and his girlfriend learn about the traditional roles of intersex hijra in sexual rites of passage.page81_2 Throughout the whirlwind tour, Adam’s near constant companion is his stepsister, Cyndi, who is sexually liberal”, which is to say she’s a sex worker, and super-not ashamed of it, who ends up dating a sketchy Australian guy, who turns out to be trans and maybe not that sketchy? I dunno, I stopped working at a comic shop reading around then and don’t quite know how the story panned out, but shit was cancelled last year which is a huge bummer since writer Steven T. Seagle was taking American Virgin and its readers to new and unexplored levels. Le sigh…

Ya know, next I was gonna grapple with Marjane Satrape, whom you have prolly either read first-hand, or seen a film adaptation of Persepolis- but I decided its not even worth a whole spiel here. Long story short, the implication that liberation for Persian women can only come from accessing an escape valve to the West is a dangerous concept, (ooh la la, I’m in France, now I can be a strong feminist artist with political clout), even if those aren’t her real politics and its just her own story and not a world-view she espouses. 6a00d834515c2769e200e54f2826e88834-640wiWhich is not to say I shun the work entirely. It was very worthwhile for me and is for most people- I just want to append it with some critical thinking (which the film does not entreat). From what I hear from friends who’ve seen her, Satrape is an engaging thinker and speaker, and has pretty good politics, so lets just leave it at that…

Great. So last, and possibly my favorite is The Invisibles, where legendary characters like Lord Fanny explode gender, identity, race/ ethnicity, fucking witchcraft and of course sexuality in myriad dimensions (often literally). There is no effing way I can do the Invisibles justice in a paragraph or two, so I may just have to blog about it more fully on another occasion, but but but, a cursory mention of the fag-identified, super tranny ferocia, Lord Fanny is in order.
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Lord Fanny may be my favorite comic book character of all time. Of the 5 members in the invisibles cell that form the core of the graphic novel, Lord Fanny embodies Grant Morrison’s project of anarchistic destruction of all normativities. She is a brazilian witch (of mexican ancenstry), who was supposed to be born female. Coming from a long line of witch-priestess women, Fanny’s grandmother takes matters into her own hands and insists that fate-be-damned, this baby boy will be raised as a girl and continue the lineage of family witches. Dude. fanny_drawBadass Granny even slits Fanny’s inner thigh in order to fool the gods into believing that Lord Fanny has finally menstruated and become a woman worthy of their blessings and powers!

Like Xavin of the Runaways (only 10 years earlier), Lord Fanny unapologetically oscillates between male and female pronouns, can be seen trying on silicone tits in a London sex shop, and beyond simply sporting butch or femme clothing, she splashes the pages with cameos of fallatio in almost every city the Invisibles visit. Her nonchalant confrontations with homophobes is reason enough to read the Invisibles, but stick around for the invisibles crew as a whole: feminist power-sharing, leather fetishes, über dyke combatants, san francisco sex parties, and a grand scheme to sabotage the US Military’s attempt to hide the AIDS vaccine deep underground in the American Southwest!
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I think the main theme in these graphic novels is not only who these writers and protagonists are, nor what they do or represent, but the ways in which these characters and plots provoke new relationships within the comic book universe. Who these women, trannies, fags, and dykes are in relation to their team mates, their enemies, their world, and the reader is the real feminist push behind books. We are forced to see things relationally, and not just follow a bunch of jacked up men from battle to battle kicking each other’s asses.

oh boy. now I’m all excited about re-reading all of these gems! Check ’em out! Let me know what you think! And next time, I’ll try and highlight some of the great contributions of independent comics to our bold feminist world…

This post would not be complete if I did not address the obvious elephant in the room: serialobjectification of female bodies in comic books. Voilá:

Fangrrl Power,
Sunshine Superboy

Axes & Origins

Posted in art & music, maps & mapping with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

Right. As in “ACK-sees,” plural of “axis”. Oh nebermind.

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I’ll make you a deal. See, I really want to take a look at the new X-Men Origins situation that we’re about to have on our hands, (and not just because, like, “who doesn’t like a male lead with a Huge Ackman- I mean Hugh Jackman?”), but I want to reach out to the non-fangirrls among you. The late bloomers. I was close to 25 when I first read a mainstream comic, and it took a couple years of gateway indie comix, graphic novels, and pictorial zines before I had any interest whatsoevs in the nonsense. And I never thought I would This was also back in a day before Marvel decided that any-old dastard could be cast in a lackluster hollywood tarnishing of perfectly respectable titles (I mean, c’mon, Ben-fucking-Affleck??!). Oh also, this was despite the fact that my father (yes, the “jewmaican” one) used to be a graphic artist, doing the colors on everything from the Maxx to Vampirella and Heavy Metal, to some Akira, and Sandman stuff, and a couple WildC.A.T.S. comics back in the day. Holycrap, looks like I just transferred to the digression express without even noticing my saunter over to the opposing platform.

My apologies.

So that deal: I’m gonna do my thing on mainstream comic schmoo-schmoo today, and I promise that my next post will give some time to what IMHO are some of the bestest independent comics and comic artists this side of the Village Voice– AND I’ll run down my topsies of gateway graphic novels that will blow your mind (i.e. “recommendations”), and we’ll call it fair and balanced, kosher? Tall order perhaps? We’ll see…

X-Men (movies) so far…
In brief, the first movie was a modest, but perfectly satisfactory endeavor. The casting was pretty rad, though personally, I was bummed by rumors that Danzig was originally supposed to be cast as Wolverine, until there was some drama-drahm (shite, thats not very fangrrrl of me to use the word “bummed” is it?). We even forgave them for really stretching the limits by casting Hallie fucking Berry as Storm. Meh, one can’t expect hollywood to suspend hollywoodification in on a dime. It was a good time.

Then X-2 came along, and pretty much rocked as the best comic-to-movie adaptation ever! Seriously. There was action, there was character development, there was a bangin’ script and plot twists that kept the most cynical of fanboys on seat-edge. Right, and there was the not so subtle sub-plot about abortion/ teenage pregnancy, and queerness and coming out and New England WASPy family drama… Fucking A, it set a new standard.

And then, there was… gawd, do we even have to acknowledge its existence? The expression FUBAR’d comes to mind. I mean, jeez! The “Beyond All Recognition” piece of that is not to be taken lightly. They had it all set up, the perfect… whats that “sport” analogy? Layup? Right, the basketball thing? Well, they were all good to go with Jean Grey-Mother-Fucking-Phoenix, and instead of going all intergalactic Shi’Ar/ Emkron Crystallistic, they just killed everyone off, drafted the X-Men to work for Uncle Sam (without problematizing it in the least), and had the Phoenix use unparalleled psionic powers to just make a mess. We have a word for that here at wordpress: FAIL.

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Which leaves us where? I dunno. I’ve never really understood why kids totally lose their shit over the Wolverine character. I can get into him nowadays, mostly because it took me a second to realize that his power was not just “oh I’m a dude with indestructible claws” but “dude, I have ultimate healing powers, am hard pressed to age, let alone die, and I may be short, but I’m ripped as all hell”. Yeah, that I get. But Wolverine, and especially his mysterious origins, always struck me as an angsty pre-teen/ hypermasculinity trope. Bor-ring…

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But yeah, as far as this movie looks (I had low expectations for a movie based on the “furball”), hyper-masculine tropes notwithstanding, I’m going with “cautiously optimistic.” I mean, they busted out Gambit for this one. Thats automatic bonus points (my fav X-man, maybe just above Emma Frost and “Fantomex”- pictured below- in the Grant Morrison run of New X-men).41566-fantomex_400 Speaking of Emma Frost, I’m not banking on a big role in this Wolverine-centered script, but I’ll settle for the cameo in the trailer! (She’s the badass- pictured above- who can choose between being the world’s 2nd best psychic OR turning her skin into fabulous/indestructible diamond!!!). I am NOT expecting a killer, ensemble blockbuster… which is why I may be pleasantly surprised. Apparently “the kids” have a leaked copy that is circulating (thats the word on the street in Queens where my sister’s former students- high school mind you- are circulating some verson of X-men Origins that lacks special effects!!)

Me, I’m patiently waiting to catch this shit in the theater like a proper adult big kid fangrrl, cuz homegrrl can’t be bothered to NOT have huge screen and blasting surround sound.

Seriously, peep this shit:


I’m sorry, baddass black cowboys? Didn’t we just blog about that???

Oh, I almost forgot to share my shoutout to the cartographers and zoologists in the crowd. Checkit!

Dark Grey indicates "wolverine" habitat. You'll note its mostly in Canada.
Dark Grey indicates “wolverine” habitat. You’ll note its mostly in Canada 🙂

Let me see your mutant face!
Sunshine Superfüry