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Showing posts from 2010

Culture, Society, and Comic-Con

In the midst of my morning survey of pop culture landscape and I come across this story on the failure of Tron Legacy, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Watchmen, and Kick-Ass and the role of San Diego Comic-Con in creating or failing to create a success. Since I think seriously about comics and popular culture I have already thought about this. I know, very self serving, the professional media types at write a story and I reply I have already thought about it /:-)

Still, the analysis of the failure of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World after the great buzz at comic-con touched on these issues already. There are several factors playing in the background here. Still my reaction to this story is...duh its comic con!!

If you have a comic or pop culture related movie bringing it to comic-con is the equivalent of bringing water to a person dying of thirst in the desert. Yes, he or she will be happy to see you. That doesn't mean he or she will let you move into their house and eat…

From Comic Book To Small Screen Jessica Jones Series In The Works

From Comic Book To Small Screen Jessica Jones Series In The Works

I'm intrigued by the idea of a Jessica Jones series because of three things. First, the idea of female character linked to Marvel's superhero universe, but not in costume would work well on television. For the most part, that has been the successful model for shows like Smallville and Heroes. Despite NBC's The Cape coming to the small screen in January, the usually approach is to avoid the costume even if the hero has superpowers. Second, a female character has a better chance of picking up a big audience on television, especially if they follow Brian Michael Bendis great characterization. Finally, and most importantly, Jessica Jone is married to Luke Cage in the current Marvel Universe. If the series is successful, even a modest success, more people will get a chance to see Bendis' revamped and modernize version of Luke Cage on television. This would open the door to getting the character into a mo…

Comic Milestone: The Brenda Starr Byline Has Ended

Brenda Starr, the groundbreaking female reporter created in 1940 by Dalia (Dale) Messick, is coming to an end. Starr was a standout female character in the Golden Age of comics. Yet, her success was the result of her popularity as a syndicated newspaper cartoon strip, not as comic book property. Messick created the character for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate and despite resistance from the editors, the character resonated with readers. While initially not appearing in the Chicago Tribune, it was relegated to a Sunday supplement, by 1945 Brenda Starr had a daily strip and was one of the most popular characters in the Sunday paper. In that same year, the character made its first cross media appearance in a movie serial, Brenda Starr, Reporter starring Joan Woodbury. By the 1950s the character appeared in over 200 newspapers nationwide. The character's popularity is noteworthy because in an era where women were expected to suppress their career aspiration and return home after Wo…

Thinking About Cloak & Dagger

Cloak & Dagger (2010) #1 cover by Mark Brooks | Marvel Images | Downloads & Extras |

The return of a Cloak & Dagger solo series is a good thing, but it also gives me a moment to reflect on C&D's place in Marvel comics.

Cloak and Dagger's 1982 appearance coincides with Ronald Reagan's conservative revolution taking hold. There are many elements of the Reagan revolution that bear examination, but the legacy from the "war on drugs" continue to affect us today. The explosion of crack cocaine and the gang culture related to it had a powerful effect on American cities. While many people don't remember, the origin of Cloak and Dagger was very much a reflection of this societal concern.

Tyrone "Ty" Johnson (Cloak) and Tandy Bowen (Dagger) met as runaways in New York. Experimented on by criminal trying to create synthetic heroin, they were given superhuman powers. Not surprisingly, they were retconned to be mutants (the drugs…

Tron Legacy...the title tells the story of the power and the curse of the new cross narrative bleed

Ok, I saw Tron Legacy. It is not a bad movie, nor especially great movie, so it is similar to a lot of mass entertainment. Still, thinking about its release for a few weeks and seeing the pop culture landscape react to it, I gotta take a stab of contextualizing it.

Tron Legacy is the perfect example of major corporate entity (Disney) trying to exploit a legacy property they know (or have been told) is cool, but they don't quite understand why it is cool. The original 1982 TRON was a financial disaster for Disney, but the movie became a cult classic because it foreshadowed our modern cyber culture. The idea of world inside the computer (the GIRD), the struggle to bring "freedom" to the digital world and the fate of the "user" all resonate with an emerging computer culture shifting from industrial computing to desktop/personal computing affecting everyone. TRON spoke to the implication of living in a world shaped by the computer--good and bad.

For kids …

This Week in Spandex – The Invincible Iron Man #32 & Secret Warriors #22

This Week in Spandex – The Invincible Iron Man #32 & Secret Warriors #22

There is no question these titles are some of the best in the marketplace. If you are not reading Secret Warriors and Iron Man you are missing out. While my love of Iron Man is well known, I don't think people realize the complexity of the story being constructed in Secret Warriors. An updated and perhaps better version of previous Nick Fury comics, this title takes a gritty look at the superspy/superhero dichotomy. The original Nick Fury is a Cold War character (unlike the ultimate universe version constructed in reaction to the war on terror). As a result, the aesthetics linked to this character are informed by a ideological struggle associated with global political viewpoints competing against each other. While contemporary comic have made a unconscious (or conscious) link between Hydra and al-Qaeda. This interposition of Cold War global framework within the contemporary global terror…

IM3--Favreau and the New Disney-Marvel Cultural Campaign

Jon Favreau will not direct Iron Man 3 and I can't say I blame him. While rumors that conflict with Marvel drove him out, the reality is it doesn't matter. After doing more to build the Marvel Cinematic Universe than any director alive, he has earned some time off.

With the 3rd film facing the inevitable problem of trying to integrate multiple Marvel movie narratives, it smart to walk away and let new eyes look at IM3. His relationship with Disney is only going to get stronger and he can provide a lot of creative vision, something the Disney/Marvel fusion needs if it is going to be successful. Favreau is moving on to another major Disney movie and he will likely have a hand in shaping the coming Marvel movies as a executive producer. The future for Disney is the effective use of legacy properties and integrating acquisitions like Marvel in way that expand the entertainment experience on multiple platforms. That future requires creative collaborator who understand the pro…

Golden Age Gold Rush?

The recent article from Fine Book Magazine on prices for comics points out a particular problem associated with attention on comic book media. The rush to pay high prices for Golden Age comic book has put the spotlight on collecting and the cultural value of the comic books, especially the superhero comic book. With this rise in value comes a serious re-evaluation by academics and cultural critics. The real value in the article is the overview of price points--Silver Age stuff in six figures, Golden Age stuff in the seven figure range. Rarity is a more complex question than this article reveals. There are a number of lesser known Golden Age characters that arguably would be easier to find, but would the average reader even recognize such characters. Recently, as I was putting together my TEDx Orlando talk, I was cautious not to use characters under copyright protection. Thus those characters from Marvel (Spider-Man) and DC (Superman) were for the most part off limits. On the other…

Superman, Superheroes, and the New Global Media

The run up to TEDx Orlando got me thinking about the origin of the superhero and the link to the American experience. At some point in the future, you will be able to check out my talk online, but I continue to observe the intersection of graphic media and the American experience. Consider the announcement and speculation over the casting of the new Superman film. It comes to no surprise to me that this re-reboot (coming after the less than stellar Superman Returns in 2006) will be an origin story. Interest is strong in part because the names behind the camera have had big success with other comic properties. Christopher Nolan is producing, David Goyer is scripting and Zack Snider is directing and together these innovative creative types have decided to go with an origin story!?!

Some diehard comic fans I know have already asked why, but they are missing the point. The success the collective creators have experience with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, 300, and the Watchmen all re…

Wonder Woman

The ruminations over new activity to bring Wonder Woman back to the small screen once again remind me of the unique place DC Comic characters occupy in our collective mind’s eye. The struggle to produce a Wonder Woman film says much about the challenge represented by the Amazon Warrior/Princess who does not need to be rescued. Despite the growth of women’s role in society, we still assume a paternal and maternal model for men and women's in society. While Wonder Woman is not barred from motherhood, she is not seeking to place herself within the familial framework in an obvious way. Indeed, the recent runs of Wonder Woman have been better in part, because they have embraced the character as who she is--warrior, diplomat, and leader. Wonder Woman is one of the key characters from DC, yet she has not had the iconic stories similar to Batman (The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, or Year One) or Superman ( Greatest Stories or Red Son) in print. Instead, many people know abo…

TEDx Orlando and Supeheroes

I'm gearing up for a presentation on the U.S. experience and Superhero for TEDx Orlando. TED talks are about ideas worth sharing and if you know anything about me you know I am a fan of comic books. I'm a fan of many things, but comics are easy for people to understand. Honestly, given the marginalizing nature of academic endeavors, having something to talk about that people understand is not a bad thing.

Despite my confused appearance, I have a pretty focused approach to scholarship. Yet, regardless of my focus, the vast majority of people dismiss academia. The old saying of "Those that can-do and those that cannot-teach" makes a lot of sense to people. It is wrong, thus proving the need for an education. Still, the United States puts a lot of stock in going out and "doing" as better than the learning and understanding achieved through intense study. Given this popular sentiment, you would think Rollins would be more well-known to the wider public …

The Live Action Impact

The kids are heading back to school, traffic is getting worst, and tax holidays are everywhere, it must be fall. I know, you asking yourself how this relates to comics !?! For comic fans, this is an interesting historical moment. After another summer of big live action comic films, the comic media convergence has achieved success, but now must assess the future. This summer, comic inspired movies delivered big box office (Iron Man 2) and critical appeal (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), but not, in the mind of many, both. In many ways a summer with bigger announcements about comic films (Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, and Green Lantern and so many more in development) than films, the comic fan looking for a live action fix might seem out of luck and forced to wait for months. This is not true, the end of summer also marks the beginning of the new fall television season. In years past, we could look forward to many an action adventure television show that might reference comi…

Black Something.......

My op-ed in the LA Times touches on some of my thinking about race in comics, but if you have been reading this blog, you know there is more to my research. Here is a list for those wondering about blackness in comics.

Black Panther (1966) 1st Black Superhero
Falcon (1969), 1st African-American superhero
Eddie March, Iron Man for one issue (1970)
Black Racer (July 1971)
John Stewart (Dec. 1971, becomes star GL in 1985)
Luke Cage (1972), 1st Black Superhero with his own book
Blade (1973)
Brother Voodoo (1973)
Bronze Tiger (1975)
Storm (1975) 1st Black Superheroine
Misty Knight (1975)
Black Goliath (1975) Get his own book in 1976
Bumblebee (Teen Titans 1976)
Tyroc (1976)
Black Lightning (April 1977), 1st DC superhero with his own book
Vixen (1978), 1st DC black superheroine

This list is imperfect, but it is telling us something about race in comics. As you can see, after the Black Panther a number of black characters are introduced. The first African-American character, the Falcon is very much in the…

Marvel, Iron Man, and Media Convergence

When munitions manufacturer and millionaire playboy Anthony “Tony” Stark goes to observe some of his military hardware in action in Vietnam, he is wounded by an enemy mine and taken prisoner. His communist captors threaten to kill him unless he creates weapons, but in a desperate bid to survive (shrapnel from the mine is slowly moving toward his heart) he works with a fellow captive, Professor Yinsen, to create a chest-plate to support his damaged heart and transistor-powered iron armor that amplifies his strength and destructive power. While Yinsen is killed, Stark escapes to return to the United States. Like most Marvel heroes, Stark’s power is as much a curse as blessing. As Iron Man, corporate spoke-man for Stark Industries, Stark battles Cold War inspired foes to protect his company and his country. Yet, his condition has not been cured; he must wear his armor chest-plate to stay alive. Iron Man was the most political of all Marvel comic characters. Iron Man was overtly pro-…

Free Comic Book Day- A View From the West

Professor John Donovan did me the great favor of checking out comic book shops in his area on Free Comic Book Day. Professor Donovan writes about the anti-communist message in comic for Ages of Heroes, Era of Men, yet he recently shared some new research at the Imagined Power Symposium at Rollins exploring depictions of President Obama in comics. John's take on FCBD is in sharp contrast to my own.

As he explains:
“I had the opportunity to enjoy FCBD by visiting the Boulder area (one hour north of my home in Colorado Springs). From experience, I knew that the best way to celebrate the day would be to visit Time Warp Comics, Cards and Collectibles in Boulder. I was not disappointed. The owner, Wayne Winsett, goes all-out every FCBD. He puts out balloons for the kids, has artists on hand to talk with fans, and has people in costume to entertain the customers. This year he had a batmobile in front of the store (on loan from a private collector), with a Batgirl to pose by the ca…

Free Comic Book Day--Thinking About Appearances

The semester is over and I’m still going. On the upside, I’m going to things like Free Comic Book Day (FCBD)!!! I know, you have a host of questions.

What is "Free Comic Book Day?
Free Comic Book Day is a yearly event when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their shops.

When is Free Comic Book Day?
Free Comic Book Day is held the first Saturday in May.

Are they really free?
Yes, the comics are free to visitors. Different shops have policies on how many free comics you can receive, but you will receive at least one free comic if you enter a participating location. Ironically, FCBD is not free to the retailer, they pay for the comics.

Is every comic book store doing this?
The answer to that question is no. This event celebrates the independent comic book specialty shops. As a result, FCBD is different at each shop you attend as the owner determines on whether or not to participate and how…

SPECS and the Venn of Modern Comics

Vidhu Aggarwal, editor of specs asked me to write a review for volume III. specs is...well, specs. From the webpage:

specs a journal that aims to produce a charged atmosphere around artistic and critical approaches. Hence, specs is willing to live in a constant state of flux, with the mission of propagating strange and involved sympathies between disparate genres and forms. We want to break down hierarchies between poems, fictions, and critical writing. We hope for see pages, warped conversations, and misappropriations between areas of content.

Vidhu, like a lot of my colleague at Rollins, is extremely smart and when I listen very hard I can kinda follow what she says. Case in point, I am helping out with volume III, which has a theme of "toys" in contrast to volume II, which had a theme of "faux histories." It will actually be a very interesting issue. She knows my interest in comics--it is not some dark secret I hide from the world--and she suggested I review co…

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men--The Alchemy of Thematic Engagement

It should not be a surprise that I'm once again returning to discussion of the book. After dealing with a conference presentation on comics at the Florida Conference of Historians meeting in Wakulla Springs,FL I'm thinking about the collection again. The concept is sound, but the publishers' spirits are weak.

So, after some consultation among the editors we have decided to revamp the proposal a bit, to highlight the themes we think are important. This is not to say we have not done that before, we have, and now we are doing it again with the intention of making the links clearer to the less comic savvy reader. One thing that came out of the discussion is me moving away from race in my chapter and incorporating an examination of Iron Man. Don't worry, I will send the chapter out to a journal, so eventually someone will read it.

Moving away from my exploration of race in Marvel does not mean the book will not address race, in fact we have one article exploring Lat…

A New Type of Color Line

My original intention when I started blogging was to create a space to collect ideas and flush out concepts. I try to incorporate current events and new ideas into my thinking about ongoing concerns. Case in point, the President had his first "State of Union Address" this week. Once again, the hidden racial context of the President's term in office came to the forefront. MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews suggested he "forgot the President is black," for an hour. The implication that he needed to forgot the President's color is full of questions about the problematic way he sees the President the other 23 hours in the day.

Matthews suggested the President was "post-racial" using language white people have used to get to a idea that the President is fulfilling the United States' destiny as place where everyone is treated equally regardless of race. While you can see this in many places, this is blog about comics, so..........

Obama has been d…