Funnybook Babylon

January 11, 2009

“Get your politics out of my superheroes!” “Get your SUPERHEROES out of my POLITICS!”

Politics! Superhero comics! THE TOPIC OF TODAY!

Superman #24

Superman #24

Anyone reading comics news sites has surely seen the 175-car pile-up that is the Robot 6 comment thread to Bill Willingham’s article on politics and superheroes. (I love how the Superman picture chosen there is the Alex Ross pose that mirrors the famous Alex Ross Obama t-shirt.) The comment thread is a completely unjustifiable clusterfuck, the kind of thing Internet bingo cards were invented for, that’s pretty quickly devolved into the standard ideological baiting and namecalling you always get when people talk politics on the Internet, with poor Kurt Busiek standing in the middle as an oasis of sanity.
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October 22, 2008

Pull List Analysis for October 22, 2008

It’s a big week for known quantities at Marvel and DC, as their respective Summer Blockbusters stretch into sweaterweather.

finalcrisis4

After last week’s Rogues’ Revenge and Legion of Three Worlds tie-ins, the fourth issue of the core Final Crisis title by Grant Morrison and JG Jones (and Carlo Pacheco, and Doug Mahnke… what up’s, Jonesy?) drops, its “gap month” extended to ten weeks. We’re also getting Submit, a one-shot by Grant Morrison and Matthew Clark. David will be stepping up with annotations later today.

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October 9, 2008

FBBP #75 – O Captain! My Captain!

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 10:23 am

A lively discussion of Captain America is followed by an impromptu rambling eulogy for DC’s Minx line of graphic novels. None of us (and I’m guessing none of you) are the target young female audience for these books, but that doesn’t stop us from devolving into a McLaughlin Group style roundtable on how Minx succeeded and failed.

August 27, 2008

FBBP #68 – Out of Nowhere…

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 9:29 am

With Pedro and Jamaal doing adult things, we brought in a ringer. Jon Bernhardt came up from Baltimore to chat about the first issue of Air, G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Perker’s new Vertigo ongoing.

Then, a surprise visitor arrived just in time for our discussion of Captain America #41 by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting. I bet if you whisper “Captain America” three times in your bathroom mirror, Pedro will show up at your house too, looking for beer.
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March 26, 2008

FBBP #50 – Featuring the Peerless Power of David Brothers

This week features blogalaxy surfing zen master David Brothers as we talk about Pedro’s attempts at sub-super villainy, review Cap, Iron Man, Death of the New Gods, Incredible Herc, and War is Hell. We even talk about he who should not be named who is spoiling books for Tom Spurgeon. It’s our 50th show, so that means… nothing right?

Notes after the Jump.

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December 18, 2007

Random Bits and Pieces

They are owned by huge, creativity-deadening corporations and operated by lawyers and marketing executives who lord over the worst creative decline I have witnessed in a long time, particularly in films. In television, companies like GE view properties like NBC the way realtors view square footage. GE does not care what is on NBC. So long as the programming is relatively inoffensive, they want to earn as much per square foot as they can.
Alec Baldwin

It’s a slow, slow time in the comics blogosphere, so when I decided to take a break from writing memos and preparing for meetings, I had to write about some completely random things. Two of them are related and all are tangentially connected to the comics industry.

1. Newsarama posted the first part of a wide-ranging interview with Paul Levitz, publisher of DC Comics, about the state of the company. Some interesting quotes:

In response to Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited program:

I wish Marvel well with it. I hope they’ve figured out something that a bunch of fans like at a price that the fans find appropriate, and that it’s a workable model for them. If it is, we’ll certainly look hard at it over time.

I think we have a few different views of the area than Marvel, one is if we’re going to do something where we’re distributing our material online, then we would certainly want to have figured out how the talent was going to participate in revenues that we were going to make. And that’s an extraordinarily complicated nightmare. If you set out to say…we’ve published probably 40,000 comic books in the course of our history…so if in one extreme you sat there and said, “I’m going to put 40,000 comic books online for people to read, the prospect of sorting the rights out for that, writing checks to the talent is pretty nightmarish.

This brings two things to mind. The obvious one is that I think that Levitz should hold company workshops on communicating a message to the media. He’s saying things designed to resonate with every audience. If you’re a fan, he implies (in his discussion of the administrative difficulties) that when DC figures out an online initiative, it is less likely to limit the amount of material available to the degree that Marvel has. If DC wanted to release limited portions of its archives for an online service, working out talent payments would not be particularly overwhelming. I would imagine that a publisher would be able to track the number of people who are accessing particular issues/runs, and develop some kind of pricing system. If you’re a creator, he’s telling you that DC will not take any rash actions before figuring out your compensation.

His patience and deliberation could also be seen as a positive for management/shareholders (to the extent they know that DC is part of Time Warner).

There’s no question that people are willing to read some comics online if they don’t have to pay for them. The question is: does anybody have a value proposition where a reasonable number of people are willing to pay for them? Will people ultimately want it all to be ad-supported, which seems how most online entertainment is being delivered these days? And is there an ad-supported methodology that makes sense for flat comic book pages?

Owners/managers of traditional i/p companies don’t want to hear about non-monetized technical innovation. The truth is, that on some basic level, no one knows whether online ad support is or will be sufficient to fully replace present revenue from print ads. In the end, we all know that it’ll have to, but that’s in the future. Managers want to keep their job now. Shareholders want a return in the next few months. This kind of hard-nosed skepticism is great for them.

His responses are also candy to the media:

NRAMA: Has DC done any kind of study or estimate in regards to how much money it feels it has lost due to online piracy?

PL: I haven’t a clue.

This is the kind of ‘honesty’ that makes journalists wet. If you don’t believe me, look at John McCain. Phony straight talk is like manna to the media.

But the more interesting, less obvious point made in the interview is this:

If you set out to say…we’ve published probably 40,000 comic books in the course of our history…so if in one extreme you sat there and said, “I’m going to put 40,000 comic books online for people to read, the prospect of sorting the rights out for that . . . is pretty nightmarish

I read a good article a couple of weeks ago about this, but I assumed that since Time/Warner employed so many attorneys, someone would have been working on this. It’s kind of sad.

2. Dick Hyacinth was right about the Trader Joe’s Gorgonzola Walnut Tortellini. It is really good, especially for a Lazy Man’s dinner.

3. Tom Brevoort on the Marvel Creative Retreat:

For the next 48 hours, we’ll be brainstorming on the overall direction of the future of the Marvel line, from the end of 2008 and the climax of SECRET INVASION well into 2009 and beyond. There are a bunch of ideas and plans already buzzing through the halls, but inevitably everything is going to change before our metting time is done. The only real certainty is that there’ll be some moment somewhere within the two days when I’ll change color.

Like in the past, it’ll be an interesting combination and collision of any number of creative mindsets, and virtually nobody’s storylines will escape completely unscathed–but hopefully better for having come through the experience. For myself, the two big areas of interest will be in getting to know Matt Fraction, who’s been doing some outstanding work lately, and who’s really a guy to watch, and spending some time picking the brain of Allan Heinberg, who’s one of the best guys in the business when it comes to breaking stories and making sure that character motivations and reactions remain true to the characters. This is the first Marvel summit that either of these guys has attended, so it’ll be interesting to see how they interact with the rest of the group (and how the group functions without Mark Millar or J. Michael Straczynski in the room this time, both of whom had other commitments that prevented them from attending.)

This is the moment when the future gets decided, so look for updates as things progress.

Even though I like quite a bit of what Marvel publishes, and think that the quality of the writing, art, and editing has undergone an amazing improvement since the 80’s – ’90’s, these kinds of corporate retreats kind of make me nauseous. The older I get, the more my enjoyment of comics is connected to an appreciation of the craft and creativity that goes into them (1). I really don’t care about the strategy and the coordination. When I read Bendis’ Daredevil, Brubaker’s Captain America, or Pak’s Incredible Hulk, I’m interested in their work, and not its relationship to an intricate larger universe. I guess that the shared universe aspect of the genre (at least as practiced by the Big Two) doesn’t really appeal to me anymore. Or maybe it’s just that I used to work for a big corporation, and got cheery e-mails like this for company retreats that made me want to stick pencils in my eyes.

(1): I wouldn’t say that this is a maturity issue, just a personal one. There’s nothing worse than when people link maturity to appreciation of a genre. You didn’t ‘grow out’ of it, you just stopped liking it. And there is a real difference.

June 14, 2007

(Black) Men on Fire

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , — Pedro Tejeda @ 6:14 pm

This is my first article on race at FBB, something I have been avoiding from the website’s inception. Part of it is my fear of getting pigeonholed as the black comic blog. There is nothing wrong with being classified that way, but I feel that FBB really isn’t written in that direction.

What spurred me on to talk about race though is the outrage on the blogosphere about Marvel’s fascination with setting black dudes on fire. Toronto’s Chris Butcher in a tirade about the awful Marvel Zombie Spidey Loves MJ cover (awful mostly due to being derivative and just not well done) remarked about not liking the cover for Cap 29, and he’s not the only one.

Cap 29 or Brother on FIRE

The problem here for these guy is that Sam “Snap” Wilson is on fire on the cover. They question Marvel’s decision to depict a black man on fire so close to not only numerous cover controversies, but also the death of “Black” Goliath. This week’s issue of New Avengers, as Graeme McMillian pointed out, doesn’t help Joey Q’s quest to prove he’s not intolerant out. Elektra sets New Avengers leader Luke Cage on fire! That doesn’t make much sense at all. She has never set people or fire before. Why do it now and to Luke Cage of all reasons? Does Marvel really just want to destroy their public image?

There seems to be some outrage here but the problem for me is that I just don’t get the questioning on this topic. I don’t understand what makes the Falcon cover offensive. I asked blogger and respected black man David Brothers if he saw anything wrong with this cover and he saw nothing to be offended about either. This is where the disconnect is. These well meaning white guys saw this cover and saw a black man on fire, we instead saw that the main focus of the book was now shifting towards Snap. This period of time following the death of his friend would be painful and possibly question his feelings about America. At no time did either of us just see him as a brother on fire. Why did we miss it? Are we just insensitive? Are we quislings to our respective races? Do we need our ghetto passes revoked?

I personally feel that the reason, it went over our heads is a slightly more sinister one than us missing the malicious intent hidden in the cover. I hate the fact that a lot of people look at this cover and just see a black man on fire. In some cases, people don’t even mention Snap’s name at all. It’s as if no matter how much the character is developed, advanced in status, or just outright written, readers won’t be able to get past his skin color.

At the end of the day, I want equality for characters of all races, and the end result of that progress is they got to be put to the wringer as badly as Spider-Man does all the time. I thank Brubaker for putting Sam on the same level and just not thinking him as a “black man”.


Disclaimer:

David and I both think it is insanely awesome when characters set themselves on fire as a political statement or to jump with two uzis firing into a group of bad guys. We don’t think its awesome to set a people on fire for their ethnicity.

edit:

I saw Brubaker post the following thing in Butcher’s blog. Took the words right out of my mouth.

Ed Brubaker Says:
June 14th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

I would just like to point out that the Falcon having his costume lit on fire on a cover is not inherently racially insensitive. If he was hanging from a tree while a cross burned, then yeah, I could see your point. But the burning of people isn’t an iconic racist image, it’s iconic for witches and religious heretics.

I didn’t even think of him as a “black man” when I suggested the image to Steve, I thought of him as a superhero whose costume we wanted to get rid of.

I generally like your posts and agree with a lot of what you have to say, but I resent the idea that I’m somehow a racist for treating The Falcon the same as I would treat any other superhero in one of my books. To me, treating different races and genders and sexual orientations differently than I would a white male character is the definition of racism.

May 2, 2007

Captain America as imagined by Mel Gibson

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamaal Thomas @ 11:09 am

desiccated cap

Why? Why didn’t Tony cover Cap’s torso? Why is Marvel choosing blatant Christian imagery? Why was Sharon shocked enough to confess her crime?

You know, I actually would like to see a Cap movie done by Gibson.

Courtesy of The Beat, by Heidi MacDonald, and the fine folks at Marvel.

March 11, 2007

FBBP #2 – The American Dream

This Week on FBB we talk about DC Nuptials, Litigious Writers, and the year’s most barechested man-movie based on a graphic novel.

Reviews for this week: Mighty Avengers #1, Detective Comics #829, and The Authority #2. Guess who is fighting over Captain America’s death this week? That’s right, Pedro and Jamaal.

This is Funnybook Babylon for March 11th 2007.

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