Wedneday’s Reviews: Retcons and Amazing Fantasies

Hey folks! This week, I’m deciding on doing a review-rant. Yes, they can be one in the same.

As I read this week’s copy of The New Avengers #10, I can’t help but be ridiculously upset with how it turned out.

This is about retcons. Although it is getting ever-so-closer to Marvel’s big Fear Itself event, I can’t help but feel driven to DROP this comic due to the over-ridiculousness of this retcon.

For those who are unfamiliar with what a retcon is, in a nutshell, it stands for “Retroactive Continuity.” What that means is one may go back into time and adjust the events of the past to explain what happens in the future.

For a hypothetical example, we’ll take the X-Men. Most people know that Professor X started the X-Men, consisting of Cyclops, Angel, Jean Grey, Beast and Iceman.

Now imagine a new issue of X-Men, where they explain their history, and suddenly there was a new X-Men who was part of the team – but no one ever talked about him because he worked on another island, behind-the-scenes. Then suddenly in the future, that character appears and everyone’s best friends.

That’s retcon. But it’s a part of comics. How can comics from the 60’s, with arguably simplistic origin plots still be relevant in 2011? Well, retcons help with that – and for the most part, they can be very interesting and neat.

In this recent issue of The New Avengers however, I’m down-right disappointed.

The New Avengers

The New Avengers #10
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato & Howard Chaykin (pencils), Rain Beredo & Edgar Delgado (colours), Joe Caramagna (letters), Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo (cover). $3.99

The issue flips back and forth through timelines between 1959 and the present. Starting off in ’59, we see Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan finding Sabretooth in a bar. After mild negotiations, Fury hires Mr. Creed as an Avenger. Yes, Sabretooth.

Fast-forwarding to 2011, and continuing from the previous issue, the New Avengers attack a H.A.M.M.E.R. installation, headed by Superia. Mockingbird is shot, and for most of the issue, we watch our heroes fight off the endless H.A.M.M.E.R. hordes while calling an ambulance for Mockingbird. Literally, that is all that happens in the present.

In 1959, after retrieving Sabretooth, Dominic Fortune, Namora, Kraven, and Bloodstone are hired – all to be “secret” Avengers. Indeed, a league of villains are now Avengers – all before the “official” Avengers team arrives on the scene in 1963.

Leaving on a strong note, we are brought back to the present where rescue vehicles have arrived for Mockingbird, only for Superia to raze the entire ground beneath them. If it wasn’t for comics, Mockingbird would for sure be dead. But we won’t know until next month! Ahhh!

The comic as a whole does not stand out as anything spectacular. As soon as the first villain was hired, I really could not have been surprised to see anyone else be taken in as the idea of this particular retcon ruined any fun I would’ve had with this comic. I digress.

Deodato is on the ball with this issue, penciling all of the present-day moments, while Howard Chaykin focuses on the 1959 plot. Although both are strong artists, I felt as if Chaykin’s style was a bit light for the seriousness of the book. At one part, Mockingbird is splattered in blood while Spider-Man holds her in his arms. The scene is gritty and dark, moody and in despair. The next scene however, we’re brought to a location where shadows disappear and faces are less-serious than prior. Although I greatly enjoy Chaykin’s art, I feel as if it was wrong for this particular issue. And yet his take on Sabretooth was a bit too childish for me, while his Kraven was spot-on.

And after this issue, I’ve concluded that Deodato draws an excellent Thing.

As for the structure of the story, flipping back and forth between fun and sunny places to a battlefield hurt what seriousness the story had. It felt like flipping channels between an intense episode of Law & Order: SVU and Teletubbies. It was sudden with no transition. It simply didn’t work.

Certain dialogue choices by Bendis also took away from the plot. Nonsensical remarks spewing from Thing early on, then to Ms. Marvel versus Superia mindless jabs, and Spider-Man having fun looking for a cellphone to save a life – all of it damaged the intensities of the moments drawn by Deodato. However, with Chaykin’s work, the dialogue seemed more natural. How is this happening?!

Definitely taking a swan-dive, The New Avengers needs to pick up some smart choices in writing and plotting for it to be saved.

Grade: 5/10

Inner-Fanboy Rant

I love comic books as much as I like turtles. In result, retcons are commonplace and something which I should expect from comics. But not since Secret War, have I felt that Bendis did a retcon so over-the-top that I disagree with it.

Now admittedly, the story is not done yet, so who knows where it will go – but I feel as if it’s not going in the right direction. But when you take serious villains – some which are notorious monsters, and put them on a team, you have a problem. And I’m not talking personality issues, either.

If anything, it seems down-right insulting that the first Avengers – regardless of being “official” ones or “secret” ones are the bad guys. That would be literally like suggesting Professor Xavier had a set of X-Men before the actual X-Men came out – it’s absurd and mind-boggling.

Retcons usually have to explain themselves later on, too. Recent retcon’s like with X-Men’s Deadly Genesis, or Spider-Man’s One Moment In Time, worked for me, because they were explained and honestly, could not be as far-fetched as the “powers that be” were involved with Spider-Man’s, while telepathy and clever storytelling was a part with the X-Men’s. With the New Avengers, we’re fortunate that most of the villains are either dead, or haven’t been used in so-long that the retcon does not have to be adjusted in the future. Sabretooth and Bloodstone are dead, while Kraven is dead-but-alive-now-doing who-knows-what. Dominic Fortune has been MIA for years now, and Namora disappeared with the Agents of Atlas since its cancellation – unless I’m wrong with that.

I guess I’m really just disappointed with how this came about. Admittedly, it has TONS of time to sway another way, but I really feel as if this is just going to hurt my faith in The New Avengers for the next little bit.

Amazing Fantasy

Amazing Sale

As a complete side-note, Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), the first appearance of Spider-Man, as officially reached the million-dollar club with Action Comics #1 (1938, first Superman) and Detective Comics #27 (1939, first Batman).

Amazing Fantasy #15, CGC 9.6 sold for $1.1 million

“The sale of this legendary comic is second only to the Guinness World record 8.5 VF+ Action Comics #1, which marks Superman’s 1938 debut that was also sold by http://www.ComicConnect.com last year for a whopping $1,500,000.” – Comics Price Guide.com

Amazing, eh?

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21

The first Friday of each month, I will review a classic comic from my own personal collection.

This month, I’ve decided on something I’ve been putting on the back-burner for a while. The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 – the wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane.

I’ve been wanting to do this since Joe Quesada re-did the wedding issue with his One Moment In Time story arc to compare notes, but really haven’t gotten around to it. It’s also not something I wanted to do – compare two storyboards – but it’s something I wished to revisit. So let’s begin!

Amazing Spider-Man

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (September, 1987)
David Michelinie (writer), Paul Ryan (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Rick Parker (letterer), Rob Sharen (colours), John Romita Sr.(cover). $1.25

The story opens with Spider-Man tackling a few foes – from Electro to some common thugs – it’s a breeze for Spider-Man. Heading home, he meets up with Mary Jane where she is busy prepping for their upcoming wedding. Taking limos to do her chores, Peter Parker starts to think how her lifestyle – in comparison to his – seems a bit different.

At work selling photos of Spider-Man beating on Electro, Robbie Robertson sends Peter into the lunchroom for a wedding surprise party. There he receives a cheque from the Daily Bugle to help out with his wedding expenses. As Parker leaves, he runs into Betty Brant just to say hi. Parker then thinks about how he used to like Brant and how his life could’ve been different with her.

Afterwards, Parker goes to Aunt May’s for dinner, awaiting Mary Jane and her Aunt Anna to arrive. Aunt May was looking through old photos earlier and had them out. Peter decides to look through them too while May baked a pie. Peter finds an old photo of Gwen Stacy and tells himself that he was planning on marrying her first.

Mary Jane and Aunt Anna arrive and the four have dinner. After dinner, Peter and Mary Jane announce that they are getting married to May and Anna. (I’m just as surprised as you that they waited days before the wedding to say anything).

As they leave, MJ gets picked up by a friend named Bruce – a man trying to win over MJ’s heart before the wedding – and even offers her two tickets to Paris. Meanwhile, Paker goes to ask Flash Thompson to be his best man.

As the story progresses, MJ goes out and parties with friends while Peter remains home – thinking about how his will be. He slips into a dream where Spider-Man marries Mary Jane. Uncle Ben is there to support Spider-Man, while heroes and villains fill the pews of the church. Suddenly, Gwen Stacy arrives to give Spider-Man a goodbye kiss, and all of the villains defeat the heroes in the crowd then go after Mary Jane!

Peter awakens from his dream to realize that by being Spider-Man, Mary Jane will have dangers to face.

Spider-Man Annual

Inching closer to the wedding date, Peter has his bachelor party with Flash and Harry Osborn at a bar, and the three discuss relationships and as long as Peter loves Mary Jane, everything will be fine. Mary Jane celebrates her bachelorette party with friends, while Bruce appears and yet again and tries to win over MJ’s heart.

Then comes the day of the wedding. Everyone is gathered at the church, worried about how late both Mary Jane and Peter are. Fortunately, both show up around the same time – and terribly late. They have the wedding on time, and MJ surprises Peter with two tickets to Paris for their honeymoon.

By the end of the story, they head back to their small apartment and Peter wonders what they are “doing in a dump like this.”

MJ simply replies, “Living happily ever after!”

And with the end of the story, we have Peter Parker and Mary Jane married up until the events of Civil War. A twenty-year marriage ain’t bad nowadays, right?

. . .

Well the issue itself was presented very well. A definite look into the insight of both Peter and Mary Jane makes the story that much more intriguing as near the end, you can’t really tell where the story will go.

On the down side of things, that’s also the problem: there is too much negativity coming from Peter about the wedding. With Mary Jane gone all of the time and living a lavish lifestyle – not to mention he seemed as if he was going to end the wedding at a dinner in earlier in the book – it’s more surprising that they did get married. Admittedly, if this was a standalone book, this story simply could not work properly unless Peter lived the rest of his life as a lie. Fortunately enough, that is not the case here.

As for the other exciting parts to the book, Jameson’s hilarity throughout the wedding party at the Daily Bugle gave me some laughs. Robbie’s kindness always shines through, and the action scenes at the beginning were just enough to keep the reader interested in the love story which fills the rest of the book.

Art by Paul Ryan gives great depth in his work as particular scenes from Spider-Man on rooftops, to a wide assortment of Marvel characters, to a crazy bachelorette party, can all look and feel different from one another.

But to grade it as a standalone issue, the book doesn’t really work. But since that clearly is not the case, bravo for an intriguing plot!

Grade: 6/10

Wednesday’s Reviews: Part 2 – Fantastic Four, Avengers, and more X-Men!

As promised, here is part two of my reviews for this week.

Fantastic Four Final Issue

Fantastic Four #588
Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Dragotta (pencils, inks), Paul Mounts (colours), Rus Wooton (letters), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

The final issue of the Fantastic Four.

I don’t think any amount of words could capture what both Hickman and Dragotta put into this issue. The amount of raw emotion really draws the reader into the story with no words. Quite literally, there are no words spoken until the final page of the book.

The book goes over the immediate moment when Johnny dies, up to a month of mourning with the Fantastic Four and Marvel family.

Gut-wrenching moments with Dr. Doom arriving at the funeral, while Thing unleashes anger upon the Hulk and Thor – all are breathtaking moments which had my own eyes swelling up.

The secondary story involving Spider-Man and Franklin Richards places Spider-Man as the face of helping, reasoning, and understanding.

I really don’t think there is anything bad to say about this book. It’s a wonderful, sad, yet optimistic way to conclude the series.

Grade: 10/10

Avengers

Avengers #10
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer (inks), Dean White & Paul Mounts (colours) Cory Petit (letters), John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Dean White (cover). $3.99

Despite the this cover and the last one, there has really been zero action between The Hood and the Avengers. The majority of the story is the members of the Illuminati gathering the Infinity Gems from their hiding spots. Namor, Thor, and Red Hulk go into the furthest depths of the sea to gather a gem, while Professor X and a large band of Avengers encounter the Danger Room to retrieve another. Iron Man and friends go to Area 51 – a place which Tony Stark apparently owns, to get the third – but The Hood is already there. He snatches the gem and teleports to the next closest one – that being in the possession of Thor.

And that’s really the book in a nutshell. Pages are dedicated to unlocking, swimming, and finding the gems. I am aware that they are to show the importance of how secretive of places the gems were in – but it felt like watching the doors opening in Mystery Science Theater 3000 – only this was about 20 pages of it.

Admittedly, there was a fight in the Danger Room, but it really lacked oomph and trailed quickly into a who cares what happens because there didn’t seem to be any threat from the machine.

Another lull appeared in the story where for I believe, for the fourth time, we see faces bunched up on a page like this. It’s pretty bad when I’m able to start counting on these things in these issues.

A slow story from Bendis with half-decent art from Romita drags this current issue into the ground. Definitely a step-down from last-issue.

Grade: 4/10

X-Men Serve and Protect

X-Men: To Serve and Protect #4 of 4
Chris Yost, Kathryn Immonen, Jed Mackay & James Asmus (writers), Derec Donovan, Stuart Immonen, Sheldon Vella, Eric Koda, Sandu Florea & Miguel Munera (pencilers), Wade Von Grawbadger, (inker), Andres Mossa, Jesus Aburto & Jeremy Cox(colourers) Dave Sharpe (letters), Guiseppe Camuncoli & Marte Gracia (cover). $3.99

In the final issue of the X-Men: To Serve and Protect anthology, four very-different stories wrap up the series. The first involves Rockslide and Anole versus Mr. Negative and the Serpent Society. This story spanned all four issues and grabbed the attention to the reader in each book. Coincidently, it was written by Chris Yost, making the two unknown X-Men really stand out as both relevant and hilarious characters. Great cartoonish art and colours was also portrayed by Donovan and Mossa.

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen run the second story involving both Gambit and Hellcat – on a date! Hilarity ensues as Gambit’s frustration of Hellcat’s care-free attitude make for an interesting night. Kathryn’s storytelling, as far as I can see with her shorts as well as Osborn and Heralds, are beyond-witty and really excel at true storytelling in a limited space. Kathryn shines as one of Marvel’s best writers.

The third story by Mackay and Vella was probably the weakest story out of the bunch, but arguably one of the oddest stories in the whole series. Dazzler, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing act as a super heroine trio, “Dazzler and Her Radical All-Girl Roller Death Squad!” Indeed. They fight M.O.D.O.R.D. (The Mental Organism Designed Only for Roller Derby), as well as Armadillo, Klaw, a Sentinel, Whirlwind, and even Doctor Bong. The three find that Chadmaster (or the Grandmaster in disguise), is letting her fight so she can have cosmic powers. Of course, she beats up Chad because she’s a mutant pop star that roller blades. What else could she want?

The final issue by Asmus, Koda, Florea, Munera and Cox features Psylocke and Hercules defeating the Griffin. After winning, Herc offers Psylocke a chance to “union” with him. We’re then taken to a flashback where the two met before in London above a beaten Crimson Dynamo. There, Herc asks her the same question. Flashing forward to the present, Herc innocently asks, “so. . . did we?” followed by a sock in the face by Psylocke. Brilliantly executed and dramatically simple, the final story was my favourite to the entire series (and not because Psylocke is a favourite of mine).

A great mash up of stories by a group of immensely talented writers – X-Men: To Serve and Protect concludes its series very strong.

Grade: 8/10

Godspeed, and keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: Part 1 – X-Men, X-Men, and X-Men

Interestingly enough, I fell ill again. Luckily, I am much better than I was yesterday – well enough to get reviews up this week, too!

But get this: There were so many comics this week, I have to split them up into two different posts! So this post will involve just some X-Men comics that came out. I’ll also be avoiding New Mutants #22 due to the fact that I already am doing another X-review in the next post.

So for now, here is X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Men, and just plain ‘ol X-Men.

The next post shall feature X-Men: To Serve and Protect, The Avengers, and the final issue to Fantastic Four, #588.

X-Men Legacy

X-Men Legacy #245
Mike Carey (writer), Clay Mann (pencils), Jay Leisten (inker), Brian Reber (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Leinil Yu & Marte Gracia (cover). $2.99

And so chapter one of the Age of X begins, and boy, do we get some action here. In fact, three quarters of the book is really introducing characters and placing them in context of the story. We see Rogue, or “Legacy” or “Reaper” – depends on who is speaking to her – as an executioner to injured mutants. Cannonball orders Cyclops around. Legion helps forge the shield around the base. Danger runs the jail. . . Well, I guess not everyone is doing something different than their Earth-616 counterpart.

But what where the story really shines is post-battle. Wolverine – powerless – runs the bar. We see Psylocke, Iceman, Colossus, Gambit, and many others chatting about the battle and giving some back story involving how they got to where they are. Some involving the Phoenix destroying Albany, and others involving the Mutant Liberation Front.

Rogue, or Legacy, or Reaper, eventually finds a downed soldier who fought the mutants and turns out to be a mutant herself named “Katherine Pryde.” She is held in the jail by Danger, amongst many other psychic mutants. One being a unconscious Charles Xavier.

Although skeptical with the first issue, slowing seeing things unfold really adds intrigue to the pacing of the story. Not to mention seeing mutants use their powers for other means rather than what we’ve been used too really adds a neat spin on things. The second chapter in New Mutants #22 definitely throws a lot more into the story and changes focus for Rogue to be the main character – as she has been with Carey being the main writer.

Clay Mann’s artwork certainly shone in this issue as a particular scene involving Legion’s “Force Warriors” really wowed me. He perfectly gave them an appearance of hierarchy, but down-to-earth people.

A good first chapter with a bit too much fighting and little story to want readers to hang on. However, once you pick up chapter two in New Mutants #22, you’ll not want to stop reading.

Grade: 6/10

Uncanny X-Men

Uncanny X-men #533
Matt Fraction & Kieron Gillen (writers), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inker), Justin Ponsor (colours), Joe Caramagna (letters), Greg Land & Justin Ponsor (cover). $3.99

Two major stories continue in the fourth installment of Quarantine. Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde fight Sebastian Shaw, while the X-Men off of Utopia, managed by Angel, try to snuff out the Sublime corporation who is now trying to sell off the X-Gene like a drug to rich people. – Yes, suddenly is “cool” to be a mutant – especially if you’re rich, for some reason.

Meanwhile, Sebastian beats up Emma Frost, making her run away (for a good reason, I’m sure), leaving Fantomex and Kitty Pryde to remain with Shaw.

Regardless, Angel’s X-Men crash the party which leads Sublime to hand out doses of Wolverine and Deadpool to everyone in the audience – leaving the X-Men greatly outnumbered. Cyclops, now aware of Sublime’s intentions, decides it’s time for the X-Men to break quarantine and fight back.

Although finally finding its place for pacing, the story is still a bit jumbled up. For example, the Shaw story could easily have been concluded already and is being stretched out for god-knows-what-reason. Secondly, I cannot figure out why people would want to be mutants. I think Fraction tried to justify it with Sublime’s “X-Men” looking cool saving people – but so what? The story seems forced by this means.

And I’m done talking about Greg Land. I’ve seen all of these faces in the book before. There’s nothing new here with his static characters. One particular panel had me literally laughing out loud. If you accused him of tracing Emma Frost before, then in this panel, he did it with a rabbit.

If it wasn’t for the art, this book would have scored at least a five.

Grade: 3/10

X-Men

X-Men #8
Victor Gischler (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils, colours), Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jaime Mendoza & Al Vey (inkers), Joe Caramagna (letters), Terry & Rachel Dodson (cover). $3.99

Spinning from Spider-Man’s earlier issues for the storyline “Shed,” the X-Men team up with the wallcrawler to figure out why people have gone missing into New York’s sewers. By now, they’ve discovered it involves lizards, but of what design? Spider-Man suggests Kurt Connors’ but no one really has any answers. When a few children go missing, the team figures it has something to do with being loners and losers at school. Discovering their social networking sites, they find the children have one thing in common: they’ve been talking to someone and told to meet up at a certain location. Luckily with Wolverine already out in the field, he goes in to watch one kid get kidnapped by a lizard. Unfortunately he gets beat up and the kid is taken away – for research.

If there is one thing that drives this story, it’s Chris Bachalo. He, hands-down, draws the best Wolverine. The final few pages with Wolverine fighting the lizards is probably some of the best action I’ve seen him in all-year (minus Uncanny X-Force). His exaggeration with Spider-Man’s eyes also draw great attention and sets moods. Bachalo is flawless with his storytelling through art and is great at showing expressions.

Although not much progress is given through this issue from Gischler, the new X-Men series has a lot of promise as it picks up tons of steam – especially with Bachalo at the artistic helm.

Grade: 7/10

Wonderful Wednesdays!

Since the Green Lantern trailer was a big hit, of course the Cowboys & Aliens trailer becomes posted this week as well. Click HERE for the trailer.

I am also thankful for everyone who checked out my blog on Sunday about Body Image in Comics. If you haven’t read it yet, it wouldn’t hurt to click HERE to check it out.

And as for comics this week, I was pleasantly surprised by all my picks. X-Men #5, Avengers #7, Thunderbolts #150 and Osborn #1 all blew me away. Only one blew me away over how bad it was though.

Out of the four, X-Men trailed the weakest due to a lack of everything. Avengers #7 continues Bendis’ and JRJR’s run with a new storyline already seeming better than the prior six issues. I blindly picked up Thunderbolts #150 today as I haven’t followed them with Marvel’s “Heroic Age” franchise. I was awed by how wonderful the story was and where each character stood in the Thunderbolts team. It also featured a re-print of Thunderbolts #1 from 1997. Yes, this book was 96 pages and well-worth the read.

Osborn1

Osborn #1

However, my favourite story this week comes from Kelly Sue DeConnick (wife of Matt Fraction), and artist Emma Rios. Osborn #1 is the continuation of Norman Osborn’s jail-time post his Dark Reign.
The story surprisingly features little of Osborn himself, but the events going around him. I will definitely keep this story spoiler-free so you all go out and BUY this book immediately.

Ben Urich uses his fellow Front Line writer Norah Winters to make a story about how Osborn is dealing with life in the Raft.
We are also introduced to a priest who speaks with other high-risk inmates and eerily has a Green Goblin tatoo on the back of his neck.
Also introduced are a senate sub-committee on Human Rights whom discuss what to do with Osborn – since he has not been charged with anything as of yet.
Needless to say, as the story progresses, Winter’s discovers that she cannot write a story about Osborn because he has been transferred. Where? No one knows. Only the committee and priest does.

Where the hell is this story going?!

So please, please, PLEASE pick up this book. It is such a sinister story. No doubt in my mind that it will be an amazing mini-series.

Major praise goes to Ben Oliver for that wonderful and eerie cover page with Osborn staring down at the reader. It creeps me right out.

Grade: Infinity/10

X-Men #5

This story for sure was a let-down. After months of building up a huge battle between both the vampires and the mutants, we literally get maybe four pages of actual fighting. The rest continues from X-Men #4, where speaking through video screens – bickering at each other – is the main source of action.

XMen5

The reader also learns how Wolverine turned into a vampire and how it is to be cured. All aside, this has been the weakest issue of the new X-Men series, despite it arguably being the most-anticipated one in terms of getting sh!t done. Also, you would figure Wolverine leading a vampires to kill the X-Men would be a lot more exciting. Alas. . .

Although I will give credit to humour – especially when Cyclops accidentally suggests that Emma Frost is “tough skin,” followed by her gloating personality, describing herself as “glamorous” rather than a “form of mine and lump.”

I also cannot knock Paco Medina’s art. Despite the lack of action, the scenery and spreads of the ocean, as well as the short battle were all penciled with great attention to detail. One specific panel where Archangel sheds to his Death appearance – just wow. I highly recommend that you pick up his run of Deadpool Vol 2 in 2008. He definitely is a great artist.

I really hope Gischler really gets this story together – either to make this vampire run conclude with a bang, or set up a new plot for the team.

Grade: 4/10

Also, I’ve updated my “Pull-List” page until the end of January, while also updating my “Who am I?” page too.

Expect a Classic Comic for Friday. Or else!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Body Image in Comics

As I’m sure you have read, I did a blog post a few weeks back about women in comics. Actually, it was entitled “Women in Comics.” Go figure.

This time, I wanted to sort of tackle that subject again. I was completely unaware how much attention it would take on as that blog remains my highest-viewed blog at this time.

What I want to discuss in this blog is what the title suggests: Body Images in Comics.

But why?

I have read comics my entire life. I watched television shows based on comics. I have seen movies based on comics. Through them, I have seen heroes use their strength to help the defenseless. I’ve seen the weak preyed upon and defeated by good. By all means, comics are reflections of good versus evil. They are a comment on our society and its laws. They comment on what happens in the world. They stand out to say something which others can not. In a way, comics are parallel to our real world and a way to open discussion for real world events.

Some basic examples is the Marvel Civil War story arc, Spider-Man’s “great power comes great responsibility,” Batman’s struggle of a dual identity, X-Men’s fight against racism, the Avengers constant struggle for good, etc. There’s thousands of ideals people can pull out from comics.

But there is one idea that is arguably neglected. Comics show off wrong body images for their readers. And I do not mean, “the Hulk is an impossible body image to replicate.” Keep on reading.

UXM532

People can read comics and take away great values from them. Yet when it comes down to basic hypocrisy, comics take the cake. (And me too, unfortunately for reading and supporting them.)

If arguably, comics are to reflect how we are as a society, then we all must be ashamed of ourselves for what people are in comics are: the impossible. I’m also not talking about super powers and crazy nonsensical time-traveling plot points.

Disasters of examples

As I have mentioned (and probably could go on about it for decades, I’m sure), is the impracticality of Emma Frost. As you may already know, I am a huge fan of the X-Men and X-related comics. I read everything available from them. In one of the most recent X-Comics (X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1), Emma Frost is in a beauty salon getting herself all prettied-up when Mandrill shows up and tries to seduce women to go out with him.

Emma steps in and states that women are not to be seen just for sex and gives Mandrill a run for his money. The whole irony is that Frost is at a salon – starting off in the story naked – no doubt. Obviously there is a huge contrast to Frost’s hypocrisy in the story, but it is not focused on.

Taking a look at Emma Frost above in the cover of Uncanny X-Men #532 (to be released in a few months). Now, I’ll take a look into Emma Frost inside The Marvel Comics Encyclopedia (2006, pg. 104). Emma’s height is 5’10”, and her weight at 125 lbs. To quote Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar, “Yeah. In your bra.” Admittedly, those “facts” from the book are ludicrous.

Cable Deadpool

Let’s take a look at Cable now. He’s probably a fan-favourite for most X-fans – heck – most comic fans love Cable. He’s just so awesome. Look at him! I mean, he’s not going to take crap from anyone! He’ll kick anyones butt! Alas, he’s also an impossible person. With all that gear on him, plus his physique, he has no problem running or walking, nor do I ever recall him getting exhausted from running with that gear on in the comics. Deadpool on the other hand has more definition to his body than a dictionary – where his body may be proportionate to his size, his muscles are only too-extreme for his physique and only weighing 210 lbs at a height of 6’2″ (2006, pg. 76).

I’m sure no one is going to turn to their significant other and say, “Look more like Emma Frost,” or “Beef up like Cable,” but these people are meant to be icons in a world where their stories are a vehicle for commentaries on the world. These characters are meant to be voices to the masses – whether it be to tell the story or to represent a message or value. Yet they are dwindled down to eye-candy or impracticality – arguably taking away any message the comics have. (And case-in-point with X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1).

But EVERYONE? Really?

Some comic characters are just fine with who they are. I mean, take a look at Dardevil below. He is in great shape for what he does, and it is not really exaggerated unless the artist wants to explode him with huge muscles. But traditionally, below is how everyone pictures Daredevil. Then there is Forge. He has never been considered a physically strong man and works primarily within sciences. As such, he has never been overly muscled for a male character.

ForgeDD

We can physically see a difference between the realistic views and the ridiculous ones. What I am trying to get at is that we as a society can recognize sex in ads and condemn them for being too racy. We like comics to be our voice over many issues, yet a lot of us sit back and get bombarded by hyper-sexualized characters within comic books and still may argue that it is fine.

It’s in real-life

For another case-in-point, let’s take another look at that cover with Emma Frost on it, followed by this ad from Jean Paul Gaultier apparently selling perfume. Is there really much difference between the two?

jpad      Frost

It is pretty crazy. Yet we’ll be the first to condemn that ad before we even think twice about the comic book, for the most part. And that’s just the comic cover.

But women aren’t the only gender sexualized in comics. (Given there’s only one other gender, I’ll leave it to you to guess who else is sexualized.)

ckad       Cap

And Captain America’s is someone to look up to. He is a hero by definition. Looking at the Calvin Klein ad, a “MAN” is defined as a parallel to how the model looks in the ad. The image is uncanny to Captain America, or even Superman.

Even as the years have progressed, what a “man” should look like has became more and more over-the-top. Let’s take a look at Michael Keaton in Batman from Tim Burton’s 1989 movie and compare it to Christian Bale’s Batman in The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan’s 2008 epic. (You can click the pictures for a closer look on both.)

keaton      Bale

Note how Keaton on the left is less-defined than Bale on the right. The muscle mass between the two costumes are both ridiculous, yet the Bale costume becomes more-than-necessary.

Nipples

And sure, perhaps you do not recognize the subtle differences between the characters. Perhaps you do not care whether or not you can see George Clooney’s Batman nipples. Maybe you even think that I am over-exaggerating this too much.

All I see is a problem though. People love being superheroes or villains. People look up to Spider-Man and Wonder Woman as icons who will save the day. And yes, readers of comics look at stories not solely for their comments on real-world events, but also for the entertainment. I’m sure the characters are drawn the way they are because it also sells. Sex sells, so comics can too.

But do they have to?

Unfortunate conclusions

Golgotha

I mean, we can have great stories without hyper-sexualized characters. I doubt X-Men would have a lesser fan-base if Emma Frost wore a parka for the entire run. Oh wait, she tried in X-Men #166 from 2005, and it totally defeats what I just suggested. She’s saying, “Chilly, isn’t it?” (It took me a long time to remember which issue this was in).

Do we need comics to be like this? No. Do we want comics like this? Some of us do, probably, yes.

But ultimately what do these characters serve the way they are? A hypocrisy in our thinking? Is it sexual deviancy? Is it a degradation of our society? Does it objectify people? Does sexuality make the characters more prominent? Does it matter what the superheroes are wearing?

Maybe all of the above or none of the above.

The fact is that it is still there. Where the world in comics is a parallel to our own real world, perhaps their physical perfection is simply a mimicry of our fallacies as a society.

Maybe their falseness is a contrast to our reality?

I also know I’m not alone in these feelings. Two blogs I read regularly will often times bring up the idiocy of comics when it comes to the portrayal of body image.

Check out 1979 Semi-Finalist and ComicBookGrrl on their takes on how comics are depicting of people.

Also, don’t forget to sound-off below.

Until then, have some more food for thought and keep an eye on your kids for them, okee dokes?

‘Nuff said.

Where Have I Been?

Whoa! Hi! I’m back. Where have I been all this time? I haven’t put my comics in their long-boxes for over a month now! I’m a terrible human being. But aside from what, where have I been?

Aside from reading comics and working, I went to a concert of Devin Townsend on Wednesday (yes, I updated the setlist). Keeping the details short, I met him – he is my idol – I was front row-center – and I walked away with the setlist and his guitar pick. Win! Then I performed a concert on Thursday with my band Superheroes (click to add us to Facebook!), while also spending the past two weeks practicing and recording Superheroes first EP for said show. We managed to sell a few copies yesterday, so thank you to everyone who supported us and came out! We had a blast!

As a side note, despite the name, we do not sing about superheroes. Sure, I may put a few action figures on my amp, but that’s the extent of it.

But what a week of interesting news! Martin Sheen is confirmed to be Uncle Ben in the new Spider-Man movie, while Sally Field is in-talks for Aunt May. Also, Scott Pilgrim comes out on Blu-Ray Tuesday, which I am very excited for. I loved the movie, as well as the books. The books were definitely better, however, the movie was done extremely well. I applaud both versions.

Well, I feel like a bit of a dink, not being able to give full-fledged updates as of late. I had planned on doing a full-blown last-and-this week’s comic review, plus one Classic Comic, but alas, I’ve just been too busy to keep up with it all. But I hope you all at least got a chance to see my Halloween costume as the Red Skull here? I really enjoyed doing it up. Unfortunately, living in the city I was in, no one knew who I was. And get this injustice:
Of course I went to a bar on the Saturday (the 30th) and I saw a guy dressed as Captain America. Going up to him as the Red Skull, he had no idea who I was! Brutal! My other friend dressed up as the Black Cat and ran into a Spider-Man/Spider-Girl couple costume. As she spoke with them, neither knew who she was as the Black Cat!

What sort of injustice is this?! Suddenly it’s cool to be dressed up as a superhero not knowing anything about it? That’s almost as bad as me dressing up as a Power Ranger and not knowing who Zordon was, or as Luke Skywalker and not noticing Darth Vader walking past me. I just think it’s ridiculous. Anyway.

I want to start fresh next week. (Please give me a second chance?!)

If you like, I’ll review my favourite comic of this week! Deal? Okay!
Despite a hefty week of comic collection for me: Chaos War #3, Namor #3, X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1, and Generation Hope #1, the best comic went to Taskmaster #3!

TaskMaster3

Taskmaster is a pretty unknown Marvel villain. I mean, he is popular, but there are more popular ones out there. This is Taskmaster’s second miniseries, but has been around the Marvel U for decades. You may have seen him recently in the Siege series, helping Osborn’s dark reign upon Asgard. Since the defeat of H.A.M.M.E.R., Taskmaster’s whereabouts have been unknown. To make a long story short, various villainous agencies, such as HYDRA, A.I.M., and so on have teamed together under one group called the Org, and are trying to stop Taskmaster from, well, being alive. Only, he doesn’t know why. Here, you should stop reading unless you want to hear ***SPOILERS***.

Well in the story, we find out from Nick Fury, talking to Steve Rogers, that Taskmaster is ex-SHIELD. I know, eh? And the reason why the Org is trying to stop him is because he knows too much. But Taskmaster doesn’t remember – and we find out why in the story (I’ll leave that spoiler for you to read). Regardless, the story develops so much in this third issue that there is so much to talk about!

Firstly, the cover! A Town of Hitlers! Yeah. Read the story. Secondly, the humour is off-the-charts with this book. I mean, it’s coming off as a more serious Deadpool comic to me. We have a wise-cracking villain who is trying to discover his past while the world of villains is being thrown against him. We get to see Taskmaster do some great moves with his powers (which we also find an origin for), while we are also introduced to a new villain named Redshirt. This villain, although very serious, has some of the funniest panels I’ve seen in recent comics.

Writer Fred van Lente is from The Incredible Hercules fame, so his story-telling would naturally have a sense of humour while still making massive plot still seem stable to the Marvel U. Mixed in with Jefte Palo’s art and Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colours, and you have yourself a great story with fantastic images and a twist – literally – on every page.

Although it has some radical story-telling, Taskmaster has turned to be quite possibly one of my favourite mini-series this year.

Grade: 10/10

As for me folks, I plan on having an article posted sometime next week involving blogs and storytelling. It may not even be comic-related (although highly likely)!

Thanks for hanging in there folks!

Keep on Space Truckin’!