Funnybook Babylon

August 12, 2015

Marvel’s Mutant Metaphor Massacre

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , — Chris Eckert @ 10:40 pm

So here’s something that comes up in Team Comics conversations every few months and I never get around to putting in writing:

Mutantkind as a demographic group is a terrible analogue for any real world demographic group and people should probably stop doing it.

mutant-registration-act-of-1987

I have no idea if Stan Lee or Jack Kirby had the Civil Rights Movement on their minds in 1963 when they created the X-Men — it certainly doesn’t peek through much in the text if they did — but it’s undeniable that for four decades writers have mined that vein, and it’s resonated with a ton of readers. Individuals who are feared and hated for what they are, the search for safe spaces to “be themselves”, the path to taking pride in their identity, drastic measures taken to hide or “cure” their differences, it’s completely understandable why so many people of so many stripes saw themselves in these stories. If those stories helped anyone grow as self-actualized individuals that’s fantastic and I don’t want to take that away from any human past, present, or future.

This was all well and good back in the 1970s when writers were able to tackle racism, homophobia, religious persecution, etc. in coded terms, flying under the radar of the Comics Code Authority. But it’s not the 1970s anymore and Marvel can (and should) just go ahead and tackle those issues directly. If the creative staff at Marvel isn’t sure they can handle these topics using real people and cultures properly, go ahead and find some people who can.
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June 24, 2015

Because I Was Kind of A Jerk to Mark Waid on Twitter

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 11:41 pm

Earlier tonight I responded to the announced creative team for Marvel’s All-New, All-Different Avengers book with the following tweet:

Was this snarky? Probably. Was it justifiable? Yes and no. To clarify, here are three things that are frustrating about the all-too-neccesary efforts Marvel and DC (and really, all of American media) are making to produce entertainments that depict something other than white dudes. (more…)

May 12, 2015

RIP, Lawrence Business That Did a Commercial That Had Batman Torturing Osama bin Laden!

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 9:42 pm

I don’t know about anyone else, but as a former resident of Lawrence, Kansas my social media was BLOWING UP today with news of the demise of Payless Furniture, a fixture of the edge of the town where the Target and the movie theater were. I don’t know anyone who ever actually purchased furniture from them, or even set foot in their store, but they were known for having big signs and flashing lights on their storefront, and taking out local ads during the sort of things I watched in college (professional wrestling, BET ComicView, the then-new Adult Swim programming block) that were dumb and obnoxious in a way that probably would have gone viral had YouTube existed.

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April 24, 2015

The Punisher: A Conservative Fantasia Part One

Filed under: Articles — Chris Eckert @ 12:29 pm

I realize all of this is slightly premature since there is one more issue of The Punisher coming before Secret Wars kicks in, one that promises to address “what will happen to those Frank has left in his wake” so it’s possible that this issue will feature a repudiation of everything that has come so far. But having now re-read the current Punisher series by Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads (with assistance from Kevin Maurer, Carmen Carnero, Moritat, Felix Ruiz, Brent Schoonover, and others) I can’t help but notice an incredibly obvious and pretty gross conservative undercurrent that is extreme even for a series about the Punisher. The overall storyline is very much the simultaneous government-fearing/military-worshiping sort of thing you get out of the modern conservative movement, and the downright contempt held for the (primarily minority) criminal class, repeatedly labeling them “thugs” and “homies” and “the have-nots” is hard to ignore. In the interest of brevity, this first exploration of the series is going to focus on the latest in a series of “women pushed too far” who become acolytes of the Punisher. Bear in mind, the pages excerpted below comprise the majority of the pages she appears in, so I feel like I haven’t lost any nuance or depth the character has been given. Wait, she took some night school classes in art so she could identify the skull ring as a “memento mori” because she doesn’t want to be just “a pretty face on the force.” There you go, all the background required or given on the character!

In The Punisher #1, Frank gives a skull ring he took from the bullet-ruined hand of a drug runner (who he subsequently pushed into the water and calmly watched get eaten by alligators) to an unnamed female police officer:

skullring01 (more…)

April 23, 2015

Oh, So THAT’S Why the Current Punisher Series Reads That Way

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 11:25 am

I picked up a couple of trades from the library of the current Punisher series by Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads a couple of months back. I thought the art was nice, but felt the storytelling made me uneasy. I’m not upset about the alternative take on the Punisher himself: long-running iconic IP has to be flexible, and if Edmondson/Gerads’ take on Punisher is that he’s a sardonic, handsome man who has a regular diner he posts up at and befriends the other regulars, so be it. But beyond the character himself, the stories make out Punisher to be a role model not only to random street vigilantes, but explicitly to active members of the military and the police. There’s even a cop who is taken off the force for trumped up charges and decides that maybe her best recourse for TRUE JUSTICE is to go Punisher and start indiscriminately mowing down all of the “urban” “savage” “thugs”, which is to say a bunch of youthful minorities. Similarly, the Punisher saves some military folks from a Mexican drug cartel, and they are so inspired by his example they take his war over to Afghanistan, in scenes that also involve indiscriminately mowing down a bunch of people who aren’t white.

As highlighted by some heated exchanges yesterday on Twitter, part of this second story is an allusion to real-life figures like “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, whose group really did wear Punisher skulls while fighting overseas. Early on in that discussion, someone off-handedly commented somewhere that both Edmondson and Gerads are “avowed conservatives” and while that is certainly an easy inference to make from the book itself, any sort of personal avowal was news to me, so I started Googling.

One of the hits for “Nathan Edmondson” “conservative” is an interview from 2009 that doesn’t have anything to do with his own beliefs, but happened to mention off-handedly how “[Edmondson] recently “retired” from [his] position (as Director of International Programs at the Leadership Institute) to write full time.”

That name rang a bell, and sure enough, The Leadership Institute “provides training in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organizing, youth politics, and communications. The Institute teaches conservatives of all ages how to succeed in politics, government, and the media.” According to Wikipedia, its alumni includes luminaries such as Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Jeff Gannon, Mitch McConnell, and Mike Pence. As to Edmondon’s involvement with the Institute, there isn’t much out there besides a number of references to his position, including one in a 2008 newsletter from the World Congress of Families, a group that not only actively opposes gay marriage in the United States, but straight up repped for Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” laws last year.

While I have no idea what Ales Kot was referring to, and have no way of seeing into the heart of Edmondson or anyone else involved with this book, he certainly does seem to be a conservative! Which explains a great deal about this current run on the Punisher.

April 1, 2015

The Buyers Guide to DC’s Convergence’s Battleworlds

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , — Chris Eckert @ 11:17 pm

So Convergence came out today, and it sets up a story that everyone is calling a rip-off of Marvel’s impending Secret Wars event. Obviously, both stories are callow rip-offs of Countdown: Arena, which itself was a crude homage to when I was a kid and had my Transformers fight my Star Wars toys and invade my brother’s Castle Grayskull. I laughed scornfully at Marvel’s big “Reading List” for Secret Wars, since it assumes you’ll want to read every single little side-continuity that will be thrown into its own mini-series this summer:

secretwarsreading

Come on, do people really need to read Future Imperfect or Weirdworld or Secret Wars II just to get the references coming up? Probably not. But it wasn’t until I read Convergence that I realized it was at least rather smart of Marvel to present readers the option.

DC identified 41 “Universes” that will be mashed together like the Darth Vaders, Soundwaves and Man-E-Faces of my youth. Some of them span thousands of comics, while one of them barely spans a comic book at all. A great many of them are completely out of print. One of them seems to confuse Atlanta with Seattle. Without doing all that much research, here is your Buyers Guide to the World of Convergence! (more…)

January 13, 2015

Let Us Look Back at Wizard’s Twelve Sexiest Moments in Comics

Filed under: Articles — Chris Eckert @ 2:49 pm

It’s 2015, and Wizard: The Guide to Comics hasn’t been published in almost four years. But it’s been at least a decade since Wizard actually mattered. There are many comics readers out there who don’t remember when Wizard was an important industry organ, and may not even know what Wizard’s deal was. In short: it came of age right as Image (and Valiant, and a legion of other New Universes) was ascendant, when gimmick and variant covers walked the Earth like titans, and people were excited about how superheroes were going to become multimedia sensations and genuine investments.

Over twenty years after Wizard began, superheroes and comics dominate the media landscape, Image has matured into a genuine powerhouse publisher of all manner of comics, Valiant is back for its third or fourth attempt, and pretty much everything else Wizard represented has faded into vaguely frightening punchlines. But it’s still worth remembering Wizard. For those who never read it, Wizard’s editorial voice calcified in the mid 1990s into “A fraternity run by middle schoolers who have never actually had a beer or seen a boob, but are really excited at the ideas of both.” So in 2001, Wizard peppered its Price Guide section with a dozen of “SUMMER SIZZLERS: COMICS’ SEXIEST MOMENTS.”

Looking back at these twelve moments gives us a nice snapshot of where the comics press (and to an extent, pop culture) lived thirteen years ago. I tried to enlist my roommate Jessica (who definitely never read Wizard) to comment on each of these picks too, but she got through about three before she started skimming and declining the offer with a “GAHHHHHHH. Gross. So many terrible thiiiiiiings. Ugh.”

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October 11, 2013

Why Don’t We Know More About Superhero Eating Habits?

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , , — Chris Eckert @ 8:56 pm

I’ve been reading a lot of Incredible Hulk comics by Len Wein (with Herb Trimpe and Sal Buscema). I’ve been reading a lot of everything really; sitting by a sporadically ringing telephone has literally been my job description for the past nine months . At first I read books that glared at me from my mountainous “To Read” pile, but as the weeks wore on I started just letting whatever was sitting around my local library (or my own bookshelves) guide me.

Which brought me to these issues of Hulk. My dad had a ton of them, and they’ve since been handily collected in a big Essential phonebook. One particular issue held a totemic place in my youth: Hulk #182 directly follows Wolverine’s Collector’s Item First Appearance, and he appears on the first page, jumping onto a helicopter and leaving Hulk to wander through the forest. That’s pretty much all Hulk does in these stories, wander from place to place getting confused and angry.

hulk186-hulkdoesntknow (more…)

May 5, 2013

Funnybook Babylon: The Crossword Puzzle!

Filed under: Articles — Chris Eckert @ 1:17 pm

wally-crossword

Forget podcasts: all the cool kids are doing crossword puzzles now! And unlike Wally, you don’t even have to have a near-death experience and find one in a gutter to be a cool kid!

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April 4, 2013

Reading on the Job: I Have a Lot of Problems with Chuck Klosterman

Filed under: Articles — Tags: — Chris Eckert @ 12:55 am

If you follow my “personal” blog (and let’s be honest, you don’t) you may have noticed that my current work situation involves a grotesque amount of time to Read. This has been a pleasure, as the past few years have shown a marked decrease in actual, sit-down-and-read-something-cover-to-cover Reading. I still read a ton of comics, feature articles, interviews, lengthy blog posts, and other things that count as “reading”, or at least more than skimming USA Today and Buzzfeed does. But ever since I got a smartphone and a tablet, I find a lot of my time formerly dedicated to Reading is now spent listening to podcasts, messaging, chatting, chasing the latest story/controversy on Twitter/Tumblr/Reader.

Even when I sit down to Read something, I find myself drifting away every few pages to look something up: What’s a quincunx? Why does the name Frederick Exley sound familiar? This lady’s birthname cannot seriously be Fuschia Dunlop, can it? Is there a picture of her on the Internet? Is she pretty? And then an hour later I am five pages into the book and two hundred pages into the Internet. With my job’s hermetically sealed cubicle, revelation is deferred, little Reading momentum is lost, and I am forced to write long, demented shopping lists to research in the evening.

I’ve spent most of my days catching up on things I have been meaning to Read over the past few years, and much of my bookshelf is full of “important” (read: sad) subjects: fiction and non-fiction on the decline of the American Empire and the systematic dismantling of our nation by cartoonishly greedy corporations, interviews with an author that are shattering in the hindsight context of his suicide, novels where the world ends in slow prosaic literary ways, memoirs about how that band you liked a lot in high school were mostly miserable, sociopathic junkies. This can get to be distressing when you are sitting at a desk for eight hours a day and ninety percent of that time is given to reading in solitude. Don’t even get me started about the time I was reading an essay about how sitting will kill us all and we received a memo about how we need to limit the amount of time we spend standing because it might distract our co-workers. I quickly realized I should start bringing some Light Entertainment to read as well. Which led me to a book about death from an author I had almost forgotten to dislike.

Coincidentally, this is the same outfit I bought in several color combinations to wear to the aforementioned job.

Coincidentally, this is the same outfit I bought in several color combinations to wear to the aforementioned job.

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September 30, 2012

5-10-15-20: Comic Book History for August 2012

Filed under: 5-10-15-20 — Chris Eckert @ 10:15 pm

Yes, this is terribly late. I spent the end of the summer consumed with two tasks:

  • Packing, moving, and unpacking the truly excessive volume of books, comics, and ephemera I have accumulated (Mission Accomplished!) Thanks to all members of the FBB Army for helping me move, and even the people who have never appeared on the podcast and did not murder me for asking them to lug around boxes full of old Comic Buyer’s Guide clippings and Ultraverse trading cards.
  • Job Hunting! That’s still ongoing, but if you’re hiring feel free to drop me a line.

I nearly scrapped this, but had already completed all of the research and half of the writing, and I could not imagine shelving this for an entire five years: who knows what sort of crazy Web 4.0 technology will have supplanted blogs by then? Plus, what if the comics industry is dead by 2017? — so here it is, just a month or so late. So travel back with me won’t you to August 2012, so that we can travel back even further!

FIVE YEARS AGO – AUGUST 2007

The Number One Comic Five Years Ago was World War Hulk #3
2007-wwhulk

Another month of WWH in the top spot. I don’t have anything significant to add about this comic, so let me tell a story about drop-in tutoring at 826NYC, which for Brooklyn parents/kids’ information, started last week ! I was tutoring a first grade boy who for some reason had been given a Childrens’ First Biography style chapbook about Anne Frank as a homework assignment. From what I could tell, the student’s class had not covered World War II, nor the concepts of Nazism, anti-Semitism, or concentration camps. This made the Anne Frank biography — which glossed over all of these issues to talk about a little girl hiding out from the police and eventually being caught and killed — a baffling read.

I did my best to explain all of this to a seven year old, and he expressed appropriate confusion as to how such things could happen. Every time I would try to explain something in World War II in the context of World War I, he would interrupt me and get angry, insisting that we were talking about World War II, not World War I. After I insisted that the first World War was important to understanding the circumstances of the second World War, he paused, thoughtfully.

“Does World War Hulk happen before or after these World Wars?” (more…)

July 31, 2012

5-10-15-20: Comic Book History for July 2012

Filed under: 5-10-15-20,Articles — Chris Eckert @ 11:08 pm

It’s the end of the month, so that means another installment of 5-10-15-20. Not a lot of blockbuster debuts to discuss this month, although Vertigo has a couple of big scores that I probably don’t spend nearly enough time discussing. Do you have strong feelings about either book? Let me know in the comments!

FIVE YEARS AGO — July 2007

The #1 Comic Five Years Ago was Thor #1

2007-Thor1 (more…)

July 16, 2012

Doubleshipping Gone Good: Jeff Parker on Hulk

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 7:39 pm

<img class=”aligncenter” src=”http://funnybookbabylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/hulkchartfinal-small.jpg” alt=”hulkchartfina
As I mentioned
last week, I’ve been doing some research about Marvel’s recent headlong dive into doubleshipping many of their titles. As has been discussed elsewhere, the accelerated scheduling is most often noticed when it derails a book someone is enjoying with an inconsistent revolving door of creators. But if you’re not a regular Weekly Wednesday Shopper, it’s easy to overlook situations where everything falls into place.

Assuming no last minute derails in the production of the final two issues, Jeff Parker will have written thirty-four issues of Hulk before the title switches over to She-Hulk in October. By the time the final issues ships (scheduled for August 29) there will have been twenty-three months between the first and last issues of the run. That’s eleven extra issues above and beyond the standard monthly output.

This sort of frequency is increasingly less unusual at Marvel, but what does seem unusual is the consistency at work: every single issue has shipped with the solicited artist on board, and the changeovers between artists has occured at logical storyline endpoints. With only a few exceptions, even the inkers, colorists, and letterers have remained consistent and worked on all the same issues as their associated pencillers. And to top it off, there have only been six pencillers — Elena Casagrande, Dale Eaglesham, Gabriel Hardman, Ed McGuinness, Carlo Pagulayan, and Patrick Zircher — across nearly three dozen issues. The recently relaunched Daredevil hit that number within twelve issues, Ultimates had EIGHT artists on itsfirst dozen issues.

All of the creators and editors involved deserve kudos, and beyond simple logistics and work ethic, Hulk has continued to be an entertaining read, performing the seemingly impossible trick of taking an incredibly goofy and gimmicky Jeph Loeb “creation“/murder mystery and turning it into a compelling story I look forward to reading.

All joking aside, I am still pulling together information on the doubleshipping, and I wanted to work on my chart making. More to come!

July 12, 2012

What’s Going On With Marvel NOW!? Nine Thoughts About October 2012’s solicitations

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , — Chris Eckert @ 6:55 am

Marvel released their October 2012 solicitations earlier this week, with numerous mysterious gaps that will presumably be filled in this weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con. In the meanwhile, here are nine things about the information they did release that I apparently found interesting enough to blog about! These mostly boil down to complaints, but I tried to keep it balanced, and I am interested in reading at least half of the books I discuss. Expect a longer post about double-shipping titles after all the SDCC hoopla dies down. But for now, check out these Covers ‘N’ Comments!

UncannyAvengers 1 Cover

Uncanny Avengers #1: I’m not about to speculate on what will shake out of the Avengers vs. X-Men mega-event, nor am I going to crack wise about putting John Cassaday on a flagship monthly book — his track record shows that he’s one of the more prolific artists to get tagged with the “slow” label — but I do want to comment on one of the eight variant covers announced for the book: the “Deadpool Call Me Maybe” variant by “TBA”. I’m not the target market for variant covers or for Internet Meme Jokes, but I find it amusing that this is clearly a joke someone at Marvel came up with too close to deadline to actually commission the cover before soliciting it. (more…)

July 1, 2012

5-10-15-20: Comic Book History for June 2012

Filed under: 5-10-15-20,Articles — Chris Eckert @ 11:05 pm

Like sands through an hourglass, this is the latest installment of 5-10-15-20. I know this is a little late, but how am I supposed to remember that June only has 30 days? It’s not like there’s a children’s rhyme about it. Or calendars.

As always feedback, particularly about how you’d like to see more ____________ or less ____________ is appreciated! On with the history.

FIVE YEARS AGO — JUNE 2007

The #1 Comic Five Years Ago was World War Hulk #1
2007-worldwarhulk1 (more…)

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