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Identity Politics and Representation in Comics
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Leress
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

To be fair, Lamb there is another thread created where people wanted you to talk about Islam as to not get this one off topic.

Here
http://tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=56301
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MGuy
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Sac you seem to be missing the part where people aren't arguing that you're a bigot. That's pretty much accepted right now. 'You're' the one who is trying to claim different and people are telling you that no one will believe you unless you explain yourself otherwise. You refuse to so until you explain otherwise you're now like OS, a proud bigot who does not feel any need to explain themselves.
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Sacrificial Lamb wrote:

* Ms. Marvel (not male like the others, but still relevant; Marvel created a new Muslim version of the character; I am ideologically opposed to Islam....for many reasons, so even if I like her as a character....I reject giving Muslims unearned legitimacy, considering how cruelly dangerous so many of them are in the modern world)


Kamala Khan is a great character. She's kind, courageous, and well-written. And she's the sort of person that every fucking one should aspire to be. And I dare you to claim otherwise.

Ms. Marvel is one of the best, if not the best, comic series of the year.
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Sacrificial Lamb
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Leress wrote:
To be fair, Lamb there is another thread created where people wanted you to talk about Islam as to not get this one off topic.

Here
http://tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=56301


I wasn't even aware of that thread until now, and I already said that I have ZERO desire to discuss Islam with the posters on this site anyway. Seriously, an entire thread obviously devoted to fucking with me? I'M NOT THAT IMPORTANT. And I didn't come to the Den TO DISCUSS ISLAM. Why GIVE AMMUNITION for people to fuck with me....when they're just going to fuck with me anyway? I will discuss roleplaying games, the gaming industry, and occasionally comic books and other forms of popular entertainment. That's it.

So forget it; I'm still not taking the bait.
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Sacrificial Lamb
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

MGuy wrote:
Sac you seem to be missing the part where people aren't arguing that you're a bigot. That's pretty much accepted right now. 'You're' the one who is trying to claim different and people are telling you that no one will believe you unless you explain yourself otherwise. You refuse to so until you explain otherwise you're now like OS, a proud bigot who does not feel any need to explain themselves.


Then don't believe me. Unlike some other people, I can tolerate dissent. That's the great thing about opinions; everyone has one. Isn't it wonderful?
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Sacrificial Lamb wrote:
Leress wrote:
To be fair, Lamb there is another thread created where people wanted you to talk about Islam as to not get this one off topic.

Here
http://tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=56301


I wasn't even aware of that thread until now,


I posted the link in this thread. Pay attention, man.

Quote:
and I already said that I have ZERO desire to discuss Islam with the posters on this site anyway.


But you will gladly discuss, at length, your refusal to discuss the issue. I didn't start the thread to fuck with you. I started the thread to try and get you to stop derailing this one, because this thread is interesting in inverse proportion to how much you are in it.
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Sacrificial Lamb
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
Sacrificial Lamb wrote:
Leress wrote:
To be fair, Lamb there is another thread created where people wanted you to talk about Islam as to not get this one off topic.

Here
http://tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=56301


I wasn't even aware of that thread until now,


I posted the link in this thread. Pay attention, man.

Quote:
and I already said that I have ZERO desire to discuss Islam with the posters on this site anyway.


But you will gladly discuss, at length, your refusal to discuss the issue. I didn't start the thread to fuck with you. I started the thread to try and get you to stop derailing this one, because this thread is interesting in inverse proportion to how much you are in it.


Alright; fine. As of this post, I will cease to discuss my refusal to discuss Islam.

Problem solved.
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CapnTthePirateG
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Eh, I might as well throw my two cents into this debate, though I am fully expecting to get my nuts chewed off for not agreeing with all the politics here. I also don't actually read that many comics anymore, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

It seems the biggest problem here is that the character transitions are sorta kinda not really going to happen. Sure, right now we have Lady Thor, Miles Morales, whoever...but these guys aren't gonna stick around. As soon as the next continuity reboot hits I will bet actual money that these people go right back to being the same collection of boring white people and Lady Thor/Miles Morales/etc are going to disappear - giving me the vague impression that they are showing up to temporarily give Marvel +2 progressive points and then when the next Spider-Man movie comes out the character will go right back to being a white dude.

So I don't think the people who are saying "why don't you come up with some new characters who are black/Asian/gay/transgender/whatever" are really in the wrong here, because having temporary minority characters who immediately revert to white men upon being exposed outside the comics world is not really a good way to add minorities to comics.

Granted, I'm approaching this from the perspective of the Marvel movies right now, which (at least the Avengers) had a collective of white dude superheroes and one lady. The one African character getting his own movie is literally called "Black Panther". I don't think I need to explain further, do I?

My point is that if you want to have strong minority characters, you need to have interesting characters who are permanent AND they need to be characters in their own right, not "Batman but black". Batman but black feels like a stupid temporary attempt to cash in on black people because we all know that when the next Batman movie comes out he goes away. Inventing a new, cool, well written minority character for the next Avengers movie and using that to kick off a comics line permanently would, IMO, be a better way to go about it.


Footnote: I don't think passing the mask stories work particularly well, regardless of the identity of the recipient, because they will just be reset on the next movie/grim and gritty reboot/whatever. Part of this is because the medium is so set on retelling the same old shit like origin stories 500 million times that actual change - at least to an outside observer like me - seems unthinkable. If comics were actually going to commit to making Batman black (just an example) and Bruce Wayne permanently retired in favor of his adopted black son (or something) and future Batman movies kept the black Batman, I'd be ok with this. The "omg Thor's gonna be a woman in some spinoff comic for a few years before Don Blake comes back" is what I object to.
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Leress
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Granted, I'm approaching this from the perspective of the Marvel movies right now, which (at least the Avengers) had a collective of white dude superheroes and one lady. The one African character getting his own movie is literally called "Black Panther". I don't think I need to explain further, do I?


Actually you do, since I don't understand the point you are trying to make with this portion your dialog.
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CapnTthePirateG
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Why is the black guy EXPLICITLY called out as black? I don't have an objection to him being black or there being black superheroes, but why can't he just be a superhero who happens to be black instead of making a big deal over how black he is? You wouldn't call a gay wizard superhero Gay Rainbow Magic, would you?

(I may be conflating him with people like Samurai and El Dorado on superfriends for this particular trope, if so, I apologize).
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MGuy
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

CapnTthePirateG wrote:
Why is the black guy EXPLICITLY called out as black? I don't have an objection to him being black or there being black superheroes, but why can't he just be a superhero who happens to be black instead of making a big deal over how black he is? You wouldn't call a gay wizard superhero Gay Rainbow Magic, would you?

(I may be conflating him with people like Samurai and El Dorado on superfriends for this particular trope, if so, I apologize).
That's his comic book name. Black Panther is literally his character's 'mask' name.
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Leress
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

CapnTthePirateG wrote:
Why is the black guy EXPLICITLY called out as black? I don't have an objection to him being black or there being black superheroes, but why can't he just be a superhero who happens to be black instead of making a big deal over how black he is? You wouldn't call a gay wizard superhero Gay Rainbow Magic, would you?

(I may be conflating him with people like Samurai and El Dorado on superfriends for this particular trope, if so, I apologize).


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_panther

He is named after the animal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_(comics)
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Black Panther is named after an actual animal that actual black people of the time had adopted as a totem of strength. It's why the hardest wing of the black civil rights movement called themselves "Black Panthers."



Black Lightning is named after a land speed record setting motorcycle that was also used as a totem of black empowerment.

Black Goliath is named that because... um... he's black. Unlike the other Goliaths in the Marvel universe, who are not black. Eventually they changed Black Goliath's name to one that was less blaxploitation and then killed him off in Civil War because Civil War was actually dumb as shit.

But it's important to note that in the 70s, Black Goliath actually was a step forward for African American inclusion and black people at the time were glad he was around. Like how Speedy Gonzalez is super racist and embarrassing, but Hispanic kids still loved him because he's all they fucking got.

-Frank
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

CapnTthePirateG wrote:
Why is the black guy EXPLICITLY called out as black? I don't have an objection to him being black or there being black superheroes, but why can't he just be a superhero who happens to be black instead of making a big deal over how black he is? You wouldn't call a gay wizard superhero Gay Rainbow Magic, would you?

(I may be conflating him with people like Samurai and El Dorado on superfriends for this particular trope, if so, I apologize).



To reitterate what the others said, he is named after the animal. They could have just called him the Panther, I guess, but that wouldn't have had the same punch, and would have brought to mind other famous panthers.



Furthermore, Black Panther isn't a superhero name. It's his royal title as Chief of the Panther Tribe. This is separate from his title as King of Wakanda, though the two titles are generally held by the same person.

Anyway, it's a mistake to think of T'Challa as a Black character. He's a king from a country where practically everyone is black (his adopted brother, Hunter, is White). Skin color doesn't matter at all in Wakanda. It's politics are drawn along very different lines.

T'Challa is a powerful Black man, but he comes from a place completely outside of American racial politics and thus provides an outsider's point of view on it.


The Black Panther is actually one of the more interesting stories out there. You've got Wakanda, this hyper-isolationist federation of tribes joined together under a single monarch. It has avoided the ravages of European colonialism due to isolationism, and is in some ways more advanced than the outside world as a result. Then some white guys with guns show up and basically take over by force, because they want to steal Wakanda's vibranium. T'Chaka, the king, is killed, but T'Challa, his son, is able to turn Klaw's weapons against him.

Their response to this rude awakening is to send as many people as they can to school in Europe and America. Within a generation, Wakanda has some of the most well-educated leaders and scientists in the world.

There's an interesting dichotomy between the ultra-advanced cities and the rural tribesman who are trying to hold on to their tradition ways of life, which is the primary political conflict in Wakanda.
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sandmann
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 4:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

CapnTthePirateG wrote:
It seems the biggest problem here is that the character transitions are sorta kinda not really going to happen. Sure, right now we have Lady Thor, Miles Morales, whoever...but these guys aren't gonna stick around. As soon as the next continuity reboot hits I will bet actual money that these people go right back to being the same collection of boring white people and Lady Thor/Miles Morales/etc are going to disappear - giving me the vague impression that they are showing up to temporarily give Marvel +2 progressive points and then when the next Spider-Man movie comes out the character will go right back to being a white dude.


The thing is that people don't actually care about that. See, comicbook identities are not that nailed down as people always say. We all have this vague idea how superman and batman behave, but that is not nearly as nailed down as you pretend. In "Batman TAS", Superman tries to persuade the Bat into joining the Justice League because friendship is magic and teamwork is superb. But then comes "The Batman", and now it is the Bat talking about the advantages of teaming up and Supes is the lonesome wolf. Characters can be explored, and character traits being dropped happens all. the. time.
"Superman: Red Son" was a comic book about Superman, except he's a stalin-era communist. People have bought and read that. And it wasn't a permanent thing, so I am at an absolute loss why "Gay Batman" should be any problem, even when it's just a one-off thing.

Sacrificial Lamb wrote:
If Marvel created their own black, female, "pansexual" superhero with a NEW superhero name and identity, I would not object to it at all. It would still be political pandering, but it would be a million times more acceptable....because it wouldn't be an obnoxious CO-OPTING OF A LEGACY CHARACTER.


I'm seriously curious what you consider "political pandering", so I'm gonne ask: Let's say DC creates a new comic, and it's -

- Gay Batman (as in "Bruce Wayne dies and Jonny Gay takes over")

- Gay Batman (as in "Bruce Wayne is gay")

- Batman and his gay sidekick

- New gay Hero as part of the Bat-family

- New gay Hero without pre-existing legacy/family/theme

what would you NOT consider to be "political pandering" to gays/liberals/whoever? Serious question.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Something that bugs me with this discussion of inclusiveness and 'welcoming women and minorities' is that... well the American superhero comic isn't even what top sellers in the US are, doesn't match sales from comics created by non-white non-Americans who are quite often non-male too.

Jane Foster-as-Thor's sales numbers don't compare to Sailor Moon sales in the US from 2001, yet it gets a lot more press because White American men made it, the creator of Sailor Moon is a non-White non-American woman, Naoki Takeuchi.

So I'd say there's still a lot of racism/xenophobia/nationalism in the way the comic book industry is reported in America. I still remember going to some comic book shops and the white American comic book guy owner had a super disdainful look when I went to the counter with manga, but that happens less often as the years go on.


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CapnTthePirateG
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

sandmann wrote:

The thing is that people don't actually care about that. See, comicbook identities are not that nailed down as people always say. We all have this vague idea how superman and batman behave, but that is not nearly as nailed down as you pretend. In "Batman TAS", Superman tries to persuade the Bat into joining the Justice League because friendship is magic and teamwork is superb. But then comes "The Batman", and now it is the Bat talking about the advantages of teaming up and Supes is the lonesome wolf. Characters can be explored, and character traits being dropped happens all. the. time.
"Superman: Red Son" was a comic book about Superman, except he's a stalin-era communist. People have bought and read that. And it wasn't a permanent thing, so I am at an absolute loss why "Gay Batman" should be any problem, even when it's just a one-off thing.


The problem I have isn't that Gay Batman exists. If Batman wants to be gay with another consenting adult dude he has every right to do so. I just think it's really shitty storytelling to make him gay temporarily and then wipe it away, or a communist temporarily and then wipe it away, or...

The problem is that the media always turns it into a "dancing bear" thing where the big deal is that he's gay, and not that he's Batman. If an iteration of the Bat happens to like the dudes, he likes the dudes. No one gives a shit what he does. It doesn't make him any less cool if he's gay. It's just stupid to have that as a temporary change to his character which is gonna get wiped in the next reboot - and that goes for most of this. Yes, there's a comic book about Superman being a communist. But outside comics-land, Superman is gonna be a straight white dude. All of the Superman movies have had straight white dudes. I guarantee you that the next Superman movie makes him a straight white dude. Yes, maybe Superman is gay in spinoff comic #64 that violates the Marvel variant of Lucas continuity, and the media will go off about that for a little while and spinoff comic #64 will get more sales due to neckbeards whining about Gay Superman. Which conveniently raises sales. But at no point will we get Gay Superman: the Movie because the status quo is God.

Rereading what you wrote though, I suspect my problem is less with identity politics and more with comic continuity (or lack thereof).
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DSMatticus
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 6:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Complaining that changes are pointless because characters will revert is kind of stupid.

First, some changes are going to stick and some aren't. If you're waiting for Captain America to start punching racist caricatures of east asians again, you're going to be waiting awhile, because the whole "no longer a racist asshole" thing is sticking just fine. Peter Parker's you-know-what with you-know-who probably caught you off guard, but I don't think anyone expected Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson to stay married. Samuel L. Fury is working just fine, and they could totally do a Miles Morales Spider-Man T.V. series/movie and if done well probably make that stick or at least create an alternate version capable of standing on its own legs.

Second, why does it matter? Name a superhero, and odds are good that a half dozen different individuals have held that identity. Identity swaps have been a part of comics for more than half a century. Yes, Bruce Wayne always seems to find himself back behind the Batman mask, but along the way a bajillion other people have worn it and done their own thing with it. The only thing that's changed - and I mean the only thing - is that now minority characters are being included in the game of musical chairs masks; which means that at any given time there are going to be more stories featuring characters other than straight white men and more chances for one of those changes to be among those that stick.

Comic books have been about throwing shit at the wall and then later reverting the 90% of it that doesn't work since the fucking Silver Age. There has never been a time in the history of comic books when the identity and traits of major characters were not in constant flux. This is how it has always been. This is what the industry has always done. This is nothing new. The only new thing is that the specific changes being made at the moment are the kind that make certain people very uncomfortable.
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CapnTthePirateG
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

DSMatticus wrote:
Complaining that changes are pointless because characters will revert is kind of stupid.

First, some changes are going to stick and some aren't. If you're waiting for Captain America to start punching racist caricatures of east asians again, you're going to be waiting awhile, because the whole "no longer a racist asshole" thing is sticking just fine. Peter Parker's you-know-what with you-know-who probably caught you off guard, but I don't think anyone expected Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson to stay married. Samuel L. Fury is working just fine, and they could totally do a Miles Morales Spider-Man T.V. series/movie and if done well probably make that stick or at least create an alternate version capable of standing on its own legs.

Second, why does it matter? Name a superhero, and odds are good that a half dozen different individuals have held that identity. Identity swaps have been a part of comics for more than half a century. Yes, Bruce Wayne always seems to find himself back behind the Batman mask, but along the way a bajillion other people have worn it and done their own thing with it. The only thing that's changed - and I mean the only thing - is that now minority characters are being included in the game of musical chairs masks; which means that at any given time there are going to be more stories featuring characters other than straight white men and more chances for one of those changes to be among those that stick.

Comic books have been about throwing shit at the wall and then later reverting the 90% of it that doesn't work since the fucking Silver Age. There has never been a time in the history of comic books when the identity and traits of major characters were not in constant flux. This is how it has always been. This is what the industry has always done. This is nothing new. The only new thing is that the specific changes being made at the moment are the kind that make certain people very uncomfortable.


Hmm. I honestly was unaware of the whole identity-shifting thing being a 50-year old tradition at this point - I was honestly under the impression that these guys stayed pretty much the same till recently.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is I think it'd be better to advance a progressive viewpoint with actual permanent characters rather than temporary subs. However, if all the industry does is fuck around by throwing crap at the wall...then by all means continue and hopefully we can see the Miles Morales movie or something.

I fully support making certain people very uncomfortable.

Just my two cents.
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Prak
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 7:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Not SL (thank god), but I consider it political pandering when DC says "Hey! We're going to announce a gay character! Give us a month!" and then that gay character is "Alan Scott, the Green Lantern no one fucking gives a shit about anymore because he's from three retcons back and not actually active in most continuities, nevermind that this is a complete asspull because we're afraid to make a character people care about gay."

That's pandering. "This new person who wears the Batwoman mask" is not pandering. "This new person who wears the Batwoman mask is a lipstick lesbian" is pandering, but in a different way. "This new non-superheroing member of the Bat family just told Barbara they're trans in a scene that was written realistically and respectfully" is also not pandering.

Every single one of those is a thing that happened (though I may be misremembering which JSA character was retconned gay)
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Sacrificial Lamb
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

sandmann wrote:

Sacrificial Lamb wrote:
If Marvel created their own black, female, "pansexual" superhero with a NEW superhero name and identity, I would not object to it at all. It would still be political pandering, but it would be a million times more acceptable....because it wouldn't be an obnoxious CO-OPTING OF A LEGACY CHARACTER.


I'm seriously curious what you consider "political pandering", so I'm gonne ask: Let's say DC creates a new comic, and it's -

- Gay Batman (as in "Bruce Wayne dies and Jonny Gay takes over")

- Gay Batman (as in "Bruce Wayne is gay")

- Batman and his gay sidekick

- New gay Hero as part of the Bat-family

- New gay Hero without pre-existing legacy/family/theme

what would you NOT consider to be "political pandering" to gays/liberals/whoever? Serious question.


I think we all know that "Gay Batman" would just be another gimmick.

But I don't actually know the answer to this question, because comic book creators would have to make an interesting character that actually resonates with people first. I will, however, point out a few interesting characters from TV, mythology, and comics that are "LGBT"....and then let you come to your own conclusions.

(1.) Hercules: Even though Marvel Comics doesn't make a big deal about it, he is actually a bisexual character. Making the comic book version of Hercules into a bisexual man is not political pandering, or propaganda......because the mythological Hercules was presumably bisexual as well. And you know what? That's fine. Herc is a FUN character, and he always has been. Watching him share "the Gift" with an obnoxious super-villian is always a treat. He is much-needed comedy relief, when Marvel Comics get too dark.

(2.) Daken: What can I say about this guy? Charming, mysterious, and also completely ruthless, cruel, and depraved. Marvel made a much bigger deal about this guy's bisexuality, but he was always his own character.....even when he PRETENDED to be Wolverine for Norman Osborn's team of super-psychos.

(3.) Eric Northman: This character is from the television show, True Blood. He's a 1,000-year-old vampire with regeneration, super-strength, and super-speed. He's charming, intelligent, and honorable. But he's also a ruthless and bloodthirsty bastard. He may prefer women (like Sookie Stackhouse), but he did have at least one sex scene on the show with a man, and flirted with a couple other men as well. I never felt like his sexual orientation was "political pandering" to SJWs. Bisexual or not, Northman is a strong, well-written, masculine character.

(4.) Lafayette Reynolds: This character is also from the television show, True Blood. He's a short order cook, and a medium.....that is capable of communicating with the dead. His character is darkly humorous, and just happens to be gay......which works just fine.

(5.) Risa Del Toro: This character is from Vertigo's comic book, "Bite Club". She is a vampire from a family of ruthless mobster vampires.....and she is also a fiercely depraved, ruthless, bad-ass evil bitch. She's entertaining though. Oh, and she also happens to be either a lesbian or bisexual.

(6.) Hector: This one is another Marvel character. He's a former member of the Pantheon, and a descendant of Agamemnon. His powers include an extended lifespan, and a healing factor....while using an energy flail as a weapon. He originally appeared in issues of the Incredible Hulk back in the early 1990's. And yes, he is gay. This one had very little screen time, since he was part of a larger cast of characters. He was put into some interesting situations though. Maybe they could have done more with him, but they didn't. Basically, he just happens to be a gay man among a large (but interesting) cast of characters, and that's it. There were times when that comic book series had great art. Gary Frank rocks.

These are all LGBT characters, and none of them make me feel pandered to. I DON'T see the writers making their sexual orientation as either bisexual or gay for the sole purpose of creating a cynical marketing ploy designed to placate obnoxious social justice warriors.

In other words, their sexual orientation does NOT feel like either a political statement, or marketing gimmick. It's just a detail of their character, and it works.

These are all originally-designed characters (except for Hercules, who is a mythological character), and not an attempt to co-opt a pre-existing legacy character. I respect an attempt to create original characters, with their own unique identities.

Now I don't know if this answers your question, but I hope that it helps.
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CaptainComics
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Green Lantern’s got a long history, and a lot of chaacters have used the name. The original, Alan Scott, started out popular enough to get his own series with his own name on it (back in the 40s, you started in something like RADIO COMCS or WHIZ COMICS as one of several features, and only got a book with your name on it if you were really big) and ended up unpopular enough to play second-fiddle to a dog. After over a decade of no appearances, during which several fads such as teenage romance, comedy talking animals, knights, cowboys, and giant monsters came and went across the comics industry, superheroes came back in vogue and a new Green Lantern was created.

So the Alan Scott-Hal Jordan hand-off wasn’t really a transition, but more of a reboot. Green Lantern was effectively dead, and while he clearly wasn’t completely forgotten, there certainly weren’t a ton of Alan Scott fans clamoring for his return or anything. When Hal showed up in 1959, there were very few expectations and it’s a good bet that the vast majority of the folks reading the comic hadn’t even heard of Alan Scott.

The character’s name wasn’t the only thing that changed with the new character. The ring was alien technology now, instead of magic, and instead of being just one person, the Green Lantern was only a single representative of a universe-wide police corps, each member guarding a single universal sector. Importantly, this concept clearly allows for there to be many Green Lanterns at any given time, and makes transitioning the identity from one character to another make a lot more sense than for, say, the Martian Manhunter, who is supposedly the only Martian left in the universe (not actually true, but close enough for government work).

So we’ve got room for multiple GLs, we’ve got the establishment of the character everyone knows as Green Lantern – now we can talk about the actual legacies and how they were handled. There have been five or six Green Lanterns of Sector 2814/Earth, but only two of them involved an actual change in the starring character of the comic. All the others have been either fill-ins of six issues or less (there were four issues where Jennie-Lynn Hayden/Jade was the star while Kyle Rayner was off in space or something, for example) or primarily appeared in secondary books or Justice League issues (Guy Gardner is the prime example here). So the two we’ll talk about here are John Stewart and Kyle Rayner.

John Stewart is the Green Lantern you may have seen on the JUSTICE LEAGUE and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED animated series. He’s an architect, a marine, and a black man, and he was introduced in the 70s when there was a growing desire to see heroes of color in the pages of the comics (as there is now). Now, here is where the specifics of the Green Lantern concept combine with a difference in the style of execution that made this transition, to me, far easier to swallow than what’s going on nowadays.

See, being Green Lantern is a job (although to my knowledge the Guardians don’t actually pay them), and a very important one to the universe. How exactly prospective Lanterns are chosen has varied somewhat over the years – at one time there were computers on Oa that would choose people, currently the rings can just sort of find people – but there may be multiple beings on a planet that would be acceptable candidates. In that case, one or more of the additional candidates can be designated as back-up Lanterns, prepared and trained to take over should the current ringbearer be rendered dead or otherwise unable to perform his or her duties. Guy Gardner was the first to be chosen as Hal Jordan’s second, but sustained brain damage and spent several years in a coma. So John Stewart became the backup GL, and appeared several times in that capacity. Finally, a storyline came up in which Hal Jordan gave up the ring, and John Stewart then naturally took over as Green Lantern of Earth, and starred in the book until it was retitled Green Lantern Corps and became an ensemble title, with John, Guy, and several alien Lanterns all sharing the spotlight.

So what makes this transition work, quite frankly, is just the amount of setup that went into it. The concept of the Green Lantern backup was introduced years and years before Hal ever showed any indication of leaving the Corps. John was established to be that guy, and appeared in a minor capacity over the years before he got his shot at the spotlight. When the storyline happened, everything seemed perfectly natural, because the work had been put in to make it so.

In contrast, the modern replacement stories don’t have that kind of setup. While it has been established that the hammer of Thor will bestow its power upon those who are worthy, such people are exceedingly rare in the universe, and there certainly isn’t a mechanism in place to ensure that if the original Thor dies, someone will take his place. In fact, when he actually died in 2004, NOBODY REPLACED HIM – and it stayed that way for three years, until he came back and reclaimed his hammer, which had landed for some reason in a field in Oklahoma. While there have been retcons establishing that there are in fact forces looking to create a new Captain America during the multiple long periods in which he has been thought dead, every one of them up until the Winter Soldier storyline was established to have been a bad replacement one way or another – they’re crazy, usually, and the best one got off easy being just a jingoistic jerk that sucks at throwing the shield who no one wants to work with. It was important that even though everyone wanted to, you COULDN’T JUST GET ANOTHER CAPTAIN AMERICA. As for Spider-Man – we just don’t need two of them. We’ve got like twelve Spider-Women and none of them can hold a series for more than five minutes.

So how can we use John Stewart as a template for other replacements? Put in the work, and do it early. Nowadays, storylines happen suddenly, create enormous shifts in the line for about eighteen months, and then get reverted back or shifted to something else equally unrecognizable by the next storyline. There are a lot of factors at play with this, from writers having generally shorter tenures on books now than they once did, to the constant desire for world-shaking changes on which to hang a marketing campaign and get a sales boost - rumor has it that an executive recently declared that a major character should be killed off every quarter, for the resulting boost in sales brought by such an event. This environment makes long-term planning, or even organic improv-style story progression, extremely difficult, and it is now a true rarity in the industry. That's a shame, because many of these works would really really benefit from taking a bit more time to establish the facts. If, for example, it had been established that Jane Foster was worthy of lifting the hammer, then it would seem more natural for her to take on the power when the opportunity arose. If it had established that the OZ experiments were still being carried out sometime BEFORE Ultimate Spider-Man died, then it would seem like less of a weird convenient coincidence when one of the genetically altered spiders just happens to bite this Mile Morales kid.

Next: Kyle Rayner


Last edited by CaptainComics on Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

sandmann wrote:
See, comicbook identities are not that nailed down as people always say. We all have this vague idea how superman and batman behave, but that is not nearly as nailed down as you pretend. In "Batman TAS", Superman tries to persuade the Bat into joining the Justice League because friendship is magic and teamwork is superb. But then comes "The Batman", and now it is the Bat talking about the advantages of teaming up and Supes is the lonesome wolf. Characters can be explored, and character traits being dropped happens all. the. time.


Well, yes and no. This all goes back to the issue of continuity and consistency. You're talking about multiple different alternate media interpretations of a character. Obviously you can have Adam West Batman act one way, and Michael Keaton Batman act a different way, and Christian Bale Batman do something contradictory to both of them. And since they're all drawing on source material that has itself had numerous interpretations of the character of Batman, then all three of them could even be "faithful to the comics." But the important thing is that it is recognized that all of these guys are DIFFERENT PEOPLE NAMED BRUCE WAYNE. They are variations on a theme.

That's not what's being discussed here. We're talking about a single, shared, ongoing continuity, in which the Batman we're dealing with is supposed to be THE SAME GUY he was yesterday, and the day before, and three years ago when he learned Bat Psychic Karate, and five years before that when he had that great team-up story with Superman, and ten years before that when he had his first fight with Mr. Freeze. In this context, there is some drift as creators come in and out with their own takes on the character, but generally it is the norm and not the exemption for a character to remain largely consistent, possibly growing and changing as a result of the stories in which he is featured but not suddenly espousing contradictory character traits, memories, or opinions without justification.

sandmann wrote:
"Superman: Red Son" was a comic book about Superman, except he's a stalin-era communist. People have bought and read that. And it wasn't a permanent thing, so I am at an absolute loss why "Gay Batman" should be any problem, even when it's just a one-off thing.


Red Son wasn't just not a permanent thing, it wasn't a thing about Superman at all. Red Son was an Elseworlds Story, which is DC's term for a story taking place in an alternate reality from their standard comics - for Marvel, the term is "What If?" since that was the title of a monthly comic with this gimmick that they published for a while. It's essentially fanfiction published by the actual company. Red Son Superman is not and never was the Superman in any actual issue of Superman, just like Dark Knight Returns Batman isn't the Batman from any issue of a Batman book. This had no effect on Superman as a character at all.

DCMatticus wrote:
Complaining that changes are pointless because characters will revert is kind of stupid.


Again, it's only stupid if you don't have the larger goal in mind of actually solving the representation issue. If you want to see a comics landscape in which we have a more diverse lineup in ten or fifteen years, then recognizing that this isn't solving the problem IS EXACTLY WHAT WE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT. The companies need to find a way to diversify their lineups in a permanent and lasting way. One of the reasons many people are classifying these changes as "gimmicks" and "pandering" is because they are essentially paying lip service to progressive desires without actually putting in the work to make things actually progress. This pisses off conservatives who don't like hearing about progressive issues, and it pisses off progressives who want to see real change rather than flavor-of-the-week stuff. If it was one character, it would be an idea executed poorly. Doing it with three of the biggest characters at once, during a line-wide relaunch, with the quality of writing we've been seeing, just makes it marketing rather than storytelling, and this isn't a problem that can be solved solely by marketing. You need to produce quality work as well.

DSMatticus wrote:
Identity swaps have been a part of comics for more than half a century. Yes, Bruce Wayne always seems to find himself back behind the Batman mask, but along the way a bajillion other people have worn it and done their own thing with it.


As I've said before, identity swaps are only common in comics as compared to other media. It's actually a big deal when there's a new guy wearing Hawkman's wings or Aquaman's swimfins. But more than that, the stories that used to come out about identity change-ups used to fit two distinct patterns, neither of which are being used here.

The first pattern might be categorized as "absence makes the heart grow fonder." In this pattern, an established character is removed from his or her identity and replaced by a character designed as a foil for the original. If the original was kind, the replacement is cruel; if the original was grim, the replacement is all flowers and sunshine. Eventually the replacement "goes too far," the original comes back from the dead or out of retirement or whatever, the pair fight, and the original is reinstated as "the one, true Marvelous Lass!" The important thing of this storyline is that even though the original is removed from the picture, the story is really actually about them and not about the new person. The Reign of the Supermen, the Knightfall arc, and the storyline where John Walker replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America all fit this pattern.

The other pattern is "use it or lose it." Not every character is a big seller for a comics company, but every IP is valuable (or at least potentially valuable). So maybe you've got a the rights to a great name like Cosmicman, but nobody is buying comics starring the guy. If you don't publish something with Cosmicman in the title, you'll lose the trademark, and then some other company can make a comic called Cosmicman and potentially rake in some cash. Incidentally, this is exactly what happened to DC with Billy Batson/Shazam/Captain Marvel. So if this version isn't popular, you come up with a new one. Maybe it's the old guy with a new personality (Marvel's preference), maybe you make up a new character to have the name (DC's typical strategy). Either way, you can publish a clearly different Cosmicman and see if anyone likes that idea. If they do, you're making money. If they don't, you wait five years and try again. Sandman, Starman, and the Blue Beetle have all successfully used this pattern.

The new batch is not like these previous patterns. They appear to be trying to directly transfer the popularity currently enjoyed by some of the biggest names in comics to characters that WOULD NOT SELL if they were published with their own names on the cover. And yes, that includes Miles, because he failed to reverse the fall of Ultimate comics sales that had begun long before his first appearance (I certainly don't think Miles is the cause of the collapse of the Ultimate line, but he's not the solution to it either).
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