Does whatever a spider can…

I’m struggling with writing blogs at the minute because I’m playing the new PS4 Spider-Man game and it’s fucking awesome.

There’s been lots of great Spidey games over the years, and in many they manage to capture some of what made Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s creation great, but this (so far) seems to get it. The fact the game is an open world game that allows you to just swing around New York in the sort of detail that’s astonishing to watch is another added attraction as you could spend hours swinging around and not even playing the story.

So I’ve got quite literally loads of blogs that are half finished, and I’ll endeavour to put the game down long enough to actually finish some over the next week which will be easier said than done!

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Comicsgate supporters have no idea what they’re talking about

I’ve spoken about Comicsgate before, but it is one of things that isn’t going away so a bit like a fungal infection we’re going to have to deal with it, and one of the ways it seems we’re going to have to do it is by breaking things down as simply as possible as it is clear Comicsgaters have no idea what the fuck they’re on about.

If that sounds obvious then let me explain. The main goals of Comicsate that the creator Jamal Igle collated are as follows..

1. Hire people based on merit. Pay your dues and you eventually get your own title, Noone jumps the line because of race sex whatever

2. Retain people based on sales

3. Don’t attack the customers. in a word professionalism

4. Minimize politics in stories.

Sounds nearly reasonable til you look below the surface or have any sort of knowledge of the history of the American comic book industry because 1/ is nonsense as people have been hired because of past glories, or who they know for decades but they were white men, but it does seem to be only women or non-white people who they have issues with and the idea that  say, women have jumped the gun is utter bollocks is you’re aware of your history.

2/ is complex. I’ve seen Comicsgaters argue that ‘Person X’ shouldn’t be in comics because their titles doesn’t sell, but the fact is they may have a small print-run but all of it sells to the direct market rather than having overstocks sit with the publisher. Something like say, X-Men Gold, will have large amounts left over. Also if you have someone who’s been writing a title for years and it sells well, but as a publisher you feel the title needs a bit of a shake-up then sales don’t enter into it. Nobody, and I mean nobody in comics is safe from this. Again, there’s plenty of examples of this in history.

3/ is simple. The customer isn’t always right and frankly, if you’re being a wanker online to a creator then you’ll get it back. Customers should be listened to but any business needs to gain new customers, and if old ones don’t like it, then fuck off. It really isn’t even as brutal as that, but this is complex and can’t be reduced to simplistics.

4/ is bullshit. It can be argued the creation of the American superhero is in itself a political act as Superman was created by two Jewish-American immigrants to give a voice to the American working class, including America’s growing immigrant population. Superman was their protector in his early years before he became a propaganda figure in WW2.

And while watching one of the many threads on Twitter about this, I spotted this post.

I pointed something out which got a reaction…

Ethan van Sciver has indeed went right to the end-user and managed to get half a million bucks off them for this.

Now if people want to give their money to this is fine, but don’t think this is new. It isn’t. People like Dave Sim or the Pini’s were re-writing how the industry worked back in the 1970’s, and self-publishing was hardly a new concept then. The rise of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter ensures that any creator can go direct to an audience and raise the capital needed to publish their work, so Van Sciver isn’t changing the world, regardless what his followers think.

No, the fact is Comicsgaters are being taken advantage of. They don’t have the knowledge of the history of comics, or indeed, how the industry works. They’re also seemingly universally youngish having been brought up on a diet on 90’s Image Comics, or your pretty stands Marvel/DC superhero fare. They don’t want ‘change’ because their voices have always been listened to & the idea they’re not the focus of attention means Van Sciver and others on the far right, sorry ”alt-right”, have zoomed in to fill people’s heads with nonsense. Essentially they’ve weaponised ignorance and that’s dangerous potentially as Comicsgate (like Gamergate before it) does have a large number of people involved in it and those at the top of the foodchain are perfectly aware they’ve got young, malleable, alienated men and boys to use as footsoldiers in this culture war they’re desperate to start.

Comicsgate isn’t going away but neither is it going to change the industry. What we have to do is ensure it doesn’t grow to suck up more people and we can do that by educating people. If people don’t want to listen then we have a problem but we have to fight the ignorance of Comicsgate.

RIP Marie Severin

When Russ Heath recently died I mentioned he was one of the last greats of American comics. Another of the last greats has sadly passed away with Marie Severin who died at the age of 89.

Severin for me isn’t just responsible for the version of the Hulk (working with the great Herb Trimpe)  I think of wherever I think of the character, and there’s been some great versions of the character over the decades. Her Hulk wasn’t a massive, musclebound monster but something elegant, brutal and tragic.

As for her Doctor Strange it’s not Ditko, but she took elements of Ditko to go on a different path helping create characters like the wonderful Living Tribunal.

But her role in the formative years of Marvel Comics is one often underplayed, or just plain ignored. She acted as art director, colourist, production editor or just anything to keep Marvel publishing comics on track and looking good just as she made EC Comics look good with her colouring in the 1950’s.

It’ll be her more cartoony, humour work she’ll be remembered by and some of it is just amazing.

There really isn’t too many greats left now, and Severin for years never got the acclaim she deserved because she’s a woman however her death has highlighted not just her talent but the fact that in the history of American comics, Marie Severin was one of the most important figures in its development for decades. She’ll be missed.

A word for Comicsgate supporters

I’ve mentioned Comicsgate and the frankly, fucked upness of the entire ‘movement’ (they believe there’s a conspiracy to enact ”forced diversification” upon the American comics industry) which is trying hard to become a ‘thing’ like gamersgate but keeps failing badly. That however doesn’t make it a pain or something that sees people involved in it doing their best to harass people (mainly women) in the industry or just interested in comics.Every now and then they do something so depressingly fucked up it makes you depressed. to be sharing the world with these people.

The latest blip goes like this. An old interview with the late Darwyn Cooke was posted, which prompted the poster to say that were Cooke still alive, then he’d support Comicsgate. This caused Cooke’s widow Marsha to come online to Twitter and put people straight.

You’d think people would have the intelligence, if not the decency to accept Marsha Cooke’s word as after all, she would have known if he husband was a homophobic, racist, misogynist with strong feelings of woeful self-pity. But no, that isn’t what happened. Instead Marsha was attacked by Comicsgate supporters, and you can see some of the replies here. You can also get a larger picture of what Cooke was dealing with in this Bleeding Cool piece. In that latter piece it’s clear that Ethan Van Scriver (one of the so-called creators of Comicsgate_ is doing his best to stoke things up while seeming ‘reasonable’ but a reasonable man wouldn’t carry on wittering about SJW’s while letting his followers pile on the widow of a man they’re trying to claim as ‘one of theirs’.

This for many was enough so a variety of creators have spoken out against the Comicsgate crowd who themselves say are just ‘criticising’ the industry. Putting aside the fact there’s little good in the way of comics criticism out there (a topic for another time) the idea that Comicsgate is about criticism is nonsense. They clearly want to return to some long gone time when it was only boys and men who bought American superhero comics (and we’re only talking about this particular genre) and women are reduced to bit roles at best.

These people are of course the same folk being Hoovered up by the ”alt-right” movement because out there in the world there’s a lot of sad, angry young men looking for easy reasons to blame what’s wrong in their life on others. Which is where people like Van Sciver come in to poke, and feed the issues these people are suffering with so that gay, lesbian, trans, black, Asian, or indeed anyone not a white American male is blamed for all the wrongs with comics and these people participating in comics is making the industry die. And here’s Van Sciver to make things perfect with his creation, Cyberfrog.

You might laugh at this (and feel free, it is shite after all) but it raised over half a million dollars in a crowdfunding effort. There’s a lot of people out there willing to pay for this so it has a market and I don’t deny it shouldn’t exist, but where the problem lies is in Comicsgate trying to make the entire American superhero comics industry the same.

The fact is these people want less diversity, less variation and they want to return to a time when they thought (or in some cases, are told because they’re too young to remember these days) comics were simple and for a huge audience of sweaty boys. Fact is we’re in an actual Golden Age of comics. Anyone can create comics and publish them online while the market for comics isn’t translating to sales for Marvel and DC (and there’s a blog in itself as to why this isn’t the case) there are more people from a more varied number of backgrounds interested and reading comics than at any time in the 35 years or so I’ve been in the industry in some shape or form.

People like Van Sciver keep his followers constantly angry, constantly locked as the victims unable to accept any responsibility for themselves and this alienates people from society. So for Comicsgate followers the ball is in your court. You can carry on like you are, or grow up and take some responsibility for your actions. Learn to be a better person and speak to people so you develop some empathy and you never know, maybe then you’re life will be better than harassing a dead man’s widow.

RIP Russ Heath

Russ Heath was one of the last surviving artists from a Golden Age of comics has died aged 91, and I guarantee you’ve all seen at least one piece of his art even if you’ve never read a comic in your life because thanks to Roy Lichtenstein’s theft of his work.

Heath worked for decades in an industry which may never have paid him well, but kept him in work which for many artists isn’t the case.  The fact he barely touched superheroes choosing to draw a wide variety of genres but it is the war comic he’ll be best known for.

But is Roy Lichtenstien’s use (And by ‘use’ I mean uncredited theft) of his work that means you’ve seen a Russ Heath piece of art but you have no idea who drew it. You probably thought it was Lichtenstein. As artist Dave Gibbons points out, Lichtenstein just did bad copies of more talented people’s work but it the marketing of, and the idea that Lichtenstein ‘elevated’ junk art into something else (when in fact all the stuff that makes Lichtenstein’s work art is there from the people he’s ripping off) which rankled Heath til well into his old age.

Heath is his later years addressed this in a one-page comic for The Hero Initiative; an organisation designed to help comic creators in need.

For me it’ll be his Sgt Rock material I remember him best for.

Heath was an original that should have died a millionaire, but didn’t. Losing him means we don’t have many of the greats that formed the language of modern American comics left. He’ll be missed.

”Herb Trimpe: We Love You!”

I’m a massive fan of Herb Trimpe. Ever since starting this blog I’ve made this clear over and over again, and although back in the day it was fashionable in some quarters to mock Trimpe’s art, I always stood by his work until the recent trend is to praise his work. Trimpe for me drew the definitive version of the Hulk. Kirby’s Hulk was fine, but Trimpe made his Hulk capable of more than just rage and angst. His work with Marie Severin is just wonderful.

I even loved his Captain Britain.

However Trimpe’s later work from the early 80’s onwards suffered because he was drawing everything it seemed as editors picked someone reliable and able to hit deadlines. By the 90s he’d drifted into doing whatever he could and became a bit of a lost figure amongst the Liefelds, McFarlanes and Lee’s.

So imagine my surprise to come across this from 1970 when Trimpe was well and truly in his prime. Made as part of a college project,”Herb Trimpe: We Love You!”is a fantastic bit of archive featuring not just Trimpe, but footage of the Marvel Bullpen in 1970.This is a piece of prime history about an artist who deserves greater acclaim than he got when he was alive.

The strange sexless word of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The other night I was watching Avengers: Infinity War on Blu Ray and totally enjoying it as much as I did at the cinema. As is always the case I watched the deleted scenes and a wee thing stood out. Firstly watch the scene of Vision and the Scarlet Witch fighting Thanos’s Black Order in Edinburgh.

That line from the Vision about staying in bed and the Scarlet Witch’s smile is a cheeky little reference as to what Wanda and the Vision have been doing in Edinburgh apart from drinking in every pub in Rose Street and eating kebabs. Here’s the deleted scene; spot the incredibly small difference…

It’s only a few frames and it’s a longer shot on Wanda’s smile after VIsion’s ‘we should have stayed in bed’ comment, but those few frames change Elizabeth Olsen’s smile from a knowing one to a bit of a dirty ‘phwoar, I’ve got a super-powered sexbot’  kind of smile. It then dawned on me that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a chaste universe where people smile at each other or make jokes, but nobody, well, actually fucks. Hell, there’s barely any kissing let alone anything that might make Thor’s hammer twitch.

But it wasn’t always like this. Back in Iron Man in 2008, Tony Stark is shagging anything with a pulse, to the point where it’s hinted that he’s doing the deed with his pole-dancing staff.

There’s an attempt to set up a romance in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, but it isn’t helped by the lead pair of Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman having zero chemistry togehter onscreen, and Branagh concentrating on the more Shakespearean/Kirbyesque aspects of the story, while Captain America being the eternal virgin was a nicely hinted part of the characters sacrifice in WW2. ”He never came home for the girl” was loaded with meaning.

Through to Iron Man 3 there’s still a feeling that the people inhabiting the MCU live like normal people with the same urges but then once Disney have bought Marvel, the films become more celibate, sure there’s a longing glance between Bruce Banner and the Black Widow but it doesn’t go anywhere. Captain America might get a snog but he’s going to get nothing more than that. Sexual relationships don’t exist in the MCU (unlike the Marvel television shows, especially on Netflix, where characters are at it all the time) and have been replaced by this 1940’s style of interactive human relations where there might be a glance, or an odd cheeky line but no pants are ever dropped. It’s a very Disney, very bland vision. The one part of the MCU that stands out is the Guardians of the Galaxy, and this video from Lindsay Ellis explains some of the complexities going on in these films.

Two films where the expectation of Quill getting the girl has been dangled in front of us, and it’s never happened thanks to some very clever writing from James Gunn. Sadly much of this is wasted in Infinity War for the sake of the plot, but it shows there’s still room for emotional complexity in a series of films aimed for a family audience that’s action orientated.

I understand why the MCU films are like this. Marvel are now owned by Disney  and they need to reach as large an audience as possible but in creating a formula (and the MCU films as entertaining and fun as they are, follow a strict formula) they’ve created a strange sexless world that can be as violent as they can get away with for a 12A certificate but human relationships are limited to side-glances and marriage plans.I’m not saying the MCU should become like the Netflix shows, but perhaps rounding out the characters may make them a bit less 2-dimensional and a bit less Disneyfied because right now Disney is in danger of homogenising our entertainment and that isn’t a good thing.