Funnybook Babylon

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



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





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.

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-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!

July 30, 2011

Avenging the Week – SDCC Leftovers

Filed under: Articles,Avenging the Week — Jamaal Thomas @ 11:02 pm

With the flood of news last week from San Diego, its inevitable that some things will escape notice. Here are two overlooked picks from the San Diego Comic Con, along with some other ephemera.

At DC’s Vertigo panel, Derek McCulloch announced Gone to Amerikay, an original graphic novel about Irish immigration to the United States over the last 140 years that he worked on with Colleen Doran and Jose Villarubia. McCulloch described the book as a “historial epic with a crime story and a ghost story and a couple of love stories and all kinds of things in it”. Sounds intriguing. Here’s a preview:


Nate Powell, author of 2009’s Swallow Me Whole, a critically acclaimed comic about young siblings struggling with neurological disorders, premiered Any Empire, a new original graphic novel for Top Shelf Comics. In Any Empire, Powell explores childhood, fantasy, violence and the pervasive presence of military culture in America. Check out Chris Mautner’s interview with Powell for Robot 6. Any Empire is due in stores on August 9th. I can’t wait.

any empire 03

I love his use of negative space.

One Soul. A book by Ray Fawkes that simultaneously follows the lives of eighteen individuals from a number of time periods from gestation to maturity one panel at a time and weaves them into a narrative about spiritual journeys. It’s the kind of narrative that would make an excellent prose book or film, but a comic book? Fawkes raises the stakes by telling the stories in a unique manner that brings a mosaic to mind. In the words of iFanboy’s Paul Montgomery, “every page is part of a two page spread of 18 panels. Each of those panels is devoted to one of the 18 characters”. Confused? Check out an excerpt below.


I admit it, this is a cheat – this book was announced at C2E2 and is currently available at your local comic book shop, bookstore or Amazon, but I found out about it during SDCC, so I’m including it anyway.

Other Interesting Links

One More Thing: On July 28th, the US Southern District granted Marvel Comics’ motion for summary judgment against Jack Kirby’s estate, concluding that Kirby’s work for the publisher from 1958-1963 were “works for hire” as defined by the Copyright Act of 1909. In 1972, Kirby signed an adhesive agreement in which he assigned any property interest in any of the works he created for Marvel to the publisher. The Kirby heirs sought to terminate his assignment of his federally protected copyrights in these works purusant to the Copyright Act of 1976. After negotiations failed, Marvel went to court for an official declaration that it owned the property in question, since the agreement signed in 1972 also contained an acknowledgement that the work Kirby had done for Marvel was as an employee for hire. The court decided that there were no material issues of fact and that Marvel was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Read the decision (pdf) here and commentary from Colleen Doran here. This is a tragedy for the Kirby family, but it’s hard to imagine a different outcome.

As Judge McMahon wrote, “this case is not about whether Jack Kirby or Stan Lee is the real “creator” of Marvel characters, or wheether Kirby (and other freelance artists who cerated culturally iconic comic book characters for Marvel and other publishers) were treated “fairly” by companies that grew rich off the fruit of their labor”. It’s important to distinguish between natural and legal rights – the court system is not the only (and sometimes not the best) way to resolve controversies. There are other ways.

Stephen Bissette (artist of Swamp Thing, horror anthology Taboo and Tyrant) recognizes this distinction, and advocates for a fan boycott of Marvel products:

“I don’t question the legal logic Marvel’s attorneys made, and the court decision reflects. However, nothing is being said about the conditions under which Kirby signed, and was pressured to sign, the contracts presented. I don’t think “extortion” is too unfair a word to use, particularly in the very public case of the Marvel artwork “return” contracts.

That is a moral issue here, and Marvel’s pattern of decades of effectively slandering, maligning, and dimissing Kirby and his legacy is, too.

If, in the 1970s, Neal Adams and Jerry Robinson hadn’t rallied around Siegel & Shuster, who had multiple signed settlement contracts with National Periodicals to wield against them, agreements they had signed over their lifetimes (agreements they and their legal reps—like Albert Zugsmith—had negotiated), nothing would have changed.

Adams and Robinson brought to the public the moral case, the moral outrage, over the treatment of the creators of Superman.

At that time, the legal matters were considered “settled.”

C’mon, folks: Jack changed a century, the medium, the industry, our lives, and Marvel.

Let’s change how the rest of this onfolding story goes.”

Read the whole thing. It’s an incredibly compelling argument. I’m tempted to say that this won’t make a difference. Marvel is an extremely profitable arm of a multibillion dollar media company and is far less vulnerable to collective action than it was fifteen years ago. I don’t know if readers would be willing to forgo entertainment for an abstract principle – the last boycott was about the quality of the books being published. I wonder if the majority of fans even know who Jack Kirby is, other than Stan Lee’s sidekick. I fear that any call to collective action will reveal the reactionary vein in comic fandom. I’m afraid that it won’t matter. But even if it doesn’t make any difference at all, I don’t know if I can justify continued economic support of an unjust system.

January 7, 2011

Avenging the Week – Succumbing to Peer Pressure

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Jamaal Thomas @ 10:39 am

After a lengthy winter hiatus, Funnybook Babylon is back for 2011!

Apologies for the unannounced break – a wedding, work responsibilities and the holiday season conspired to keep me away from regular blogging for the last two months.

This week we’re going to embrace convention with part one of my randomly selected Cool Things in 2010 List! In the next week, we’ll take a look at the Top Ten Pamphlets (series or limited) bought in 2010 Not Named Daytripper of the Year, the Top Five OGNs of 2010 and other fun things.

10. Daytripper

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I may be in the minority, but 2010 was a pretty good year for comics. Chris Ware’s “Lint” was a modern classic and the best book of the year by far. Darwyn Cooke exceeded expectations with The Outfit, his latest adaptation of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels. David Hine and Shaky Kane pushed the limits of comic book storytelling with The Bulletproof Coffin (check out the first issue here). Brandon Graham’s King City brought back memories of when comic books could still surprise.

At the end of the year, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s Daytripper was the book that truly haunted me, that still lives on in my imagination. Daytripper is a laconically paced post-modern fable about one man’s (Bras) journey in life. Each issue took place over a short period — ranging from a single day to about a week — in a different year of the man’s life, focusing around a moment that helped define him as a person.

On one level, the brothers are telling us a series of archetypal stories suffused with magical realism, but their naturalistic approach to character development and dialogue set the book apart from other good Vertigo books. The brothers also collaborated on the art, which is nothing short of breathtaking. Dave Stewart is on coloring, and turns in another masterful job.

I don’t think that any book this year affected me as personally as Daytripper. I saw parallels to my own life throughout this book, ranging from Bras’s evolving relationship with his father, his career challenges, and his tumultuous love life. I know this sounds like a worn cliche, but Ba and Moon did an amazing job of capturing the sense that life is a journey: the son worships his father as a child, feels lost in his shadow for a bit, reconciles himself to his father’s legacy, and as an old man finally understands him. In the end, Ba and Moon tell a deceptively simple story with amazing art, which is all I can possibly expect from a comic.

Although all four of the books I cited in the first paragraph were more formally ambitious, when I think about the comics published in 2010, Daytripper will be the first that comes to mind. (more…)

October 2, 2010

Avenging the Week pt. 10 – The One Before the New York Comic Con

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Tags: — Jamaal Thomas @ 3:50 pm

Daytripper, Hulk, and a tardy response to Shield critiques. As always, spoilers below.


August 25, 2010

Avenging the Week pt. 9 – Raised on Robbery

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Jamaal Thomas @ 8:43 am

And we’re back, with looks at S.H.I.E.L.D., the new Power Man mini, and Thunderbolts. Plus: Brief Recommendations, Miscellany and Links of the Week! Spoilers abound!


July 25, 2010

Avenging the Week – San Diego Special

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Jamaal Thomas @ 5:50 pm

So, another San Diego Comic Con’s come and gone, filled with tantalizing news and previews of the comic books, films, television shows and videogames that we will all discuss during the coming year. I’m here to provide you with a guide to some of the more interesting announcements and previews buried in the four day flood of information.


July 20, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt. 8 – Knowing When He’s Home

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Jamaal Thomas @ 4:11 pm

Welcome back to Avenging the Week. This is a short one, in which we briefly discuss Daytripper and take a look at tomorrow’s comics today. As always, spoilers below!

June 13, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt. 7 – Standing on Men’s Shoulders, or Locking Them in a Studio with a Mic

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Tags: — Jamaal Thomas @ 9:58 pm

After a short sabbatical, I’m back with a brief look at the first issue of Thanos Imperative, the second issue of SHIELD, and the seventh issue of Daytripper. And links. Can’t forget the links.

Spoiler Alert: I will be revealing plot details of all three books (particularly Daytripper).


May 25, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt 6 – The Chronic Break

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Jamaal Thomas @ 3:34 pm

This is going to be a very busy week for me in the real world, so this’ll be a light one. I hope that these links and random commentary will tide you over until next time. This week: Farel Dalrymple, the Roots, comics art, The Things We Should Be Discussing, links, and Tomorrow’s Pull List Today!


May 18, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt. 5 – Back to the Trap

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Jamaal Thomas @ 3:01 pm

This week we briefly step back into the world of mainstream superhero comics with reviews of Dark Avengers and Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne. I also take a quick look at the recent Glyph Awards, and lay some links on you. Spoilers below.


May 7, 2010

Avenging the Week, Pt. 4 – Rookie Season

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Jamaal Thomas @ 4:54 pm

Fight to grow old
Fight to be humble
Fight to stay bold
And then one day, fighting doesn’t make sense
Spending time together’s just another expense
I just want to love, but I ain’t been right
How can I do us and can’t keep on the lights?
This is my plight
I don’t have a plan
Tomorrow is far, I’m talking distant lands
But that’s not true, I do what I can
I work so hard that my face stays tan
Beg you to meet me, work ’till you know me
Sleep with the world, and still feel lonely
I just want to love, and be loved back
You just love to dance, I can’t touch that

-Allure (Must Have Been Love), T.Shirt X Darvin Silva, Tan-Face Children EP.

I love debut works by new comics creators in the same way that I love first albums, or a director’s first film. It’s thrilling to watch an artist discover their voice and articulate ideas that have been percolating for a lifetime. I’m often so caught up in the creator’s exploration of the form that I tend to forgive flaws far more than I would for an established creator. It’s hard not to suspend judgment for these kind of books – every page feels like it’s bursting with enthusiasm and creativity. The final product tends to be something fearless, unburdened by convention. Sometimes there’s nothing better than consuming art without any preconceived expectations. No track record, no established characters, no legacy to live up to. Just the creator and the page.

April 25, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt. 3 – In Memory Of… Edition

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Tags: — Jamaal Thomas @ 8:12 pm

In this trife life, there ain’t nobody you can trust
Plus, there’s no justice, it’s just us
In fact, watching your back, it be a must
And each and every day around the way gats bust
And jealous so-called friends will try to set you up, it’s called betrayal

-Keith Elam, a/k/a/ GURU, Betrayal

Loki shall have battle with Heimdallr, and each be the slayer of the other. Then straightway shall Surtr cast fire over the earth and burn all the world; so is said in Völuspá.

Glyfaginning (English translation) , a depiction of Ragnarok.


April 16, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt. 2 – How the World Ends

Filed under: Avenging the Week — Tags: , , , , , — Jamaal Thomas @ 4:37 pm

This week – Cooke shows us how it’s done, Hickman and Weaver keep us guessing, and MoCCA is predictably awesome. Note – Spoilers Below!


April 9, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt. 1 – The Origin Story

Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in an ideological battle, a corrections officer of any kind. Never, never try to put the author “in his place,” making him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers. Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.

-John Updike

Hello. The quotation above is reflective of what I’d like to do with this column. It’s an idealized view of criticism that I plan to strive for in this this column. I expect to fail on a pretty regular basis, but it’s always important to have a goal. The plan? A weekly review and potpourri/linkblogging with commentary column. Warning: Spoilers below.


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