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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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 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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February 28, 2014

Avenging the Week: A Comeback?

Filed under: Avenging the Week,Blurbs — Jamaal Thomas @ 4:18 pm

[Originally posted on Between the Stations, where you can find more Jamaal-y goodness about pop culture. I typically post these linkblog posts on that site (check out weeks 0, 1 and 2), but decided to reblog this one here because of the comics-related commentary.]

Another sleep deprived week with Jamie the Bean… This was supposed to go up on Saturday, but you know, life and all.

This week: links, a new playlist and a rambling rant. On a personal note, I’m still planning to run in the Run for the Wild 5k run held by the Wildlife Conservation Society. All donations are welcome and will help the WCS protect African elephants from the high demand for illegal ivory. If you can’t donate, please consider running in the race (if you’re in the New York area) or a race like it in your neck of the woods. Click here to support and here to participate. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Songs of the Week 

Light and Truth from 1283210117 on 8tracks Radio.

Rambling Rant of the Week

ff_team

fantastic21f-1-web

The Fantastic Four is an amazing idea from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, a blend of adventure, monster and superhero comic that has endless story possibilities. It’s also a valuable piece of intellectual property owned by Marvel Worldwide, one of the strategic brand priorities of Disney Consumer Products, one of the five business segments of the Walt Disney Company. The Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox ( a multinational formed from the ashes of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation) purchased the film rights to the Fantastic Four from Marvel before it was purchased by the Walt Disney Company. The Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation released two movies based on the Fantastic Four property. Although the movies grossed over $600 million worldwide, Fox wanted to replicate the success of the Walt Disney Company, which had generated over $5.6 billion in revenue from the movies set in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, so they decided to reboot the franchise with a new director and a new cast (on an unrelated note, they also decided to extend the X-Men franchise of films (over $2.3 billion) with Days of Future Past and Apocalypse). The new Fantastic Four movie will be directed by Josh Trank, the guy behind Chronicle, the almost good movie about teenagers with superpowers. As you almost certainly know, the cast was announced this week and will feature Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. Jordan’s a young African American actor most well known for his confident, layered performances in the Wire, Friday Night Lights and Fruitvale Station. This announcement created a mild controversy on the internet, since the Human Torch has always been depicted as a blond haired, blue eyed white guy.

Does changing the race of a character like the Human Torch really matter? Of course, if only because making him non-white means that writers were obligated to tie him to a specific culture and background. Most of Marvel/DC’s characters/properties are white by default, but only in the most generic way imaginable – the vast majority are featureless WASPs from a culture that only exists in advertising campaigns. One of the problems with treating white people as some kind of default ethnic/racial group is that we forget that ‘white’ is a broad category that contains a diverse array of cultures and subcultures. We should expect writers to dig below generic racial designations to explore the rich diversity within a group for all white and black characters. Although there are a handful of white characters who are assigned a specific ethnic background, they typically tend to be little more than a collection of crude ethnic stereotypes or their background serves as a piece of trivia.

This is not accidental. It’s important to remember that these characters were originally designed as children’s entertainment in action-adventure stories and rooting the characters in a specific time, place or culture wasn’t a priority. They were archetypes, folk heroes for kids in post-war America. The details didn’t matter. Over the years, these characters have become valuable intellectual properties and brands designed to appeal to mass audiences, and preserving some ambiguity around a character’s background is useful, particularly when property owners want the character to appeal to a multi-generational international audience over an extended period of time. During the same period, writers and artists told hundreds of stories about these characters (many of which were considered ‘official’ parts of that character’s history), but at their core, they are still archetypes. Johnny Storm is the hot-headed younger brother who loves fast cars and faster women. A guy who doesn’t take things too seriously and is both brighter and braver than he knows. A guy who can look like anyone.

The bigger question is whether the casting decision should matter at all to audiences who want to see stories informed by a wide range of cultural experiences featuring people of different backgrounds on the silver screen. No. I’ll be excited when I see a superhero story about an original fully realized character from an underrepresented group developed by creators from diverse backgrounds. I’ll be even more excited if Mr. Jordan continues to get roles that are equal to his talent.

Images of the Week

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behindscenes

via Nina Liss-Shultz at Mother Jones. Check out the Women’s Media Center’s bracing report on the status of women in the media here (pdf). This is something we should keep in mind every awards season. It’s hard to think of the handful of nominees as the best American film has to offer when the barriers to entry for women and people from diverse backgrounds are so high.

2014-02-21 19.06.55

-Javier Pulido, with color art by Muntsa Vicente and lettering/production by VC’s Clayton Cowles, She Hulk #1. Words by Charles Soule. This is one gorgeously composed comic. Everything about this page is amazing – from the layout that makes the reader feel like they are trapped in a maze to the use of the text in the word balloons as a way to simulate the feeling of being buried in legal jargon. I also can’t help but love Soule’s capsule history of Tony Stark’s business concerns.

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-Aaron Kuder, with color art by Wil Quintana and letters by DC lettering (really DC?), Action Comics #28. Words by Greg Pak. I love the way Kuder and Quintana depict emotion. Lana’s warm smile shows readers all they need to know about the relationship between the two characters.

Podcast of the Week

Jamelle Bouie (the Daily Beast) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (Atlantic Monthly) join NPR/Post-Bourgie‘s Gene Demby to discuss the Michael Dunn murder trial. Brilliant stuff. In a perfect world, the three would have a monthly (or even quarterly) podcast.

Trailer of the Week

The Hip-Hop Fellow, a documentary following 9th Wonder as he teaches a “Standards of Hip-Hop” course at Harvard University, explores the relationship between hip-hop and academia and the rise of hip-hop studies. via 2 Dope Boyz.

 

That’s all for now. See you next week! And let me know if you’re interested in seeing more of these on Funnybook Babylon!

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…)

September 21, 2012

Who’s Going To Bring the Game Back?

Filed under: Articles — Jamaal Thomas @ 1:00 pm

About two years ago, David Brothers recommended Brandon Graham’s King City in a conversation and in a series of great posts at 4th Letter. At that time, there was no collected edition, and only selected issues were available in my local store. I nodded, politely smiled, and bookmarked the posts (which also include these three gems). I made a mental note to pick up King City if it ever came out in a collection. I was in the middle of reading something or watching some “epic”/”novelistic” television show, and had a long list of things to read and watch in one of my queues so I was in no rush. I read an issue or two, but didn’t really connect with the book until I picked up the collection published by Image Comics earlier this year. After I read the first issue, I was hooked. When I was reading the fourth issue, this song came up in my shuffle:

For a few minutes, I was transported back to 1995. There was something that just clicked. I navigated to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and pressed play. As I saw Pete compromise his principles and walk home in the rain, Ghostface told Raekwon that “this is my last time god, I’m hanging this shit up if this shit don’t work right here god.”

Image 1

Something hit me, and this is what came out when I tried to speak.

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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 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…)

June 27, 2012

Baseball, Then Mass Suicide: My First Favorite Comic

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

Most of my posts lately have been trawling through comic book history, and this is no exception. This month marks the 25th Anniversary of me being an active comic reader. In June of 1987 I had just finished up 2nd grade and began deliberately following contemporary comics with Avengers #283. As detailed in the Origin Stories podcast with David Brothers, the Avengers were my entry point into superhero comics: my dad’s collection was low on Spider-Man or X-Men content, and most of the 1960s DC stuff seemed hopelessly corny, even for a little kid. But the Avengers encompassed the whole Marvel Universe, with a sprawling rotating cast and guest stars. When I checked in a decade and a half after my father’s collection cut off, there were still familiar faces — think anyone who turned up in this summer’s movie — along with a bunch of new faces. It was exciting to see tradition and innovation side by side, and I know I thought in twenty five years newcomers like La Espirita and Captain Marvel could be my generation’s Captain America and Iron Man.

Well. (more…)

May 31, 2012

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

Filed under: 5-10-15-20,Articles — Chris Eckert @ 11:06 pm

We’re back — at the very end of May — with another installment of 5-10-15-20, where we look at comic book history in convenient five year installments. I’ve started to figure out the workflow of digging up all this information, and I’m curious: what sort of features are people interested in seeing? Significant releases? Character debuts? Industry happenings? Births and deaths? Funny covers? Please let me know in the comments.

FIVE YEARS AGO – MAY 2007

The #1 Comic Book Five Years Ago was Fallen Son: Captain America

Fallen Son Captain America Romita

Yep, another month with Jeph Loeb’s all-star adaptation of On Death and Dying at the top of the charts! (more…)

May 15, 2012

Jack Kirby and The Great Chain of Being (Screwed)

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , — Chris Eckert @ 1:20 pm

So in just two weeks, Marvel’s The Avengers has made a billion dollars worldwide. Over the past fourteen years, films based on Marvel superheroes have grossed over nine and a half billion dollars at the box office, and with the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man 3, Wolverine, Thor 2 and others, you can expect to add a couple billion more to the ledger in the next year or so. As anyone reading this probably already knows, Jack Kirby — co-creator of the characters starring in Avengers and many of these other blockbuster films — does not receive credit in the films, nor does his family receive even the smallest scrap of this massive revenue stream.

CORRECTION: Apparently Jack Kirby’s name is listed in the credits of Marvel’s The Avengers, a film I have not seen. I was under the mistaken impression that he was not credited in two films I did see recently, Thor and Captain America.

In Thor, the credit “Based on The Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby” is placed in the latter half of the end credits, in between those for Stand-Ins and Production Supervisor.

In Captain America, the credit “Based on The Marvel Comic by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby” is placed in the latter half of the end credits, in between those for Stand-Ins and Supervising Sound Editor.

In Marvel’s the Avengers I do not know the placement of the credit. It may also be easy to miss. A story circulated last month in which Stan Lee seemed to indicate Kirby’s name was not in the credits for the film. This was later confirmed to not be true. Having seen neither the film itself nor the corrections, I passed along this incorrect statement. Jack Kirby is credited in Marvel’s The Avengers. He just isn’t being paid for it.

Plenty of other pundits have remarked on this — Steve Bissette, Tom Spurgeon, David Brothers, our own Jamaal Thomas to name just a few — and recently Spurgeon provided a handy list of all the creators whose work led to the Avengers becoming a billion dollar movie.

That list reminded me of a comment from a few months back, in response to another good Kirby post from Brothers. RS David said:

The result of the Kirby trial changed the way I purchased comics too. Essentially, I cut out all Marvel comics focused on Kirby creations (unfortunately that included Parker’s Hulk, but still buying Thunderbolts).

On one hand, this is a perfectly rational response. Marvel’s lack of respect towards the Kirby estate is a massive, prominent thumb in the eye of treating comics creators like human beings. If you’re not prepared to go cold turkey, dropping the books most clearly built off Kirby’s unrewarded labor seems like the logical thing to do. But in practice, this is a tangled web. (more…)

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