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Posts Tagged ‘Justice League of America

Over the past couple months, some people have been going batshit crazy over the fact that Kevin Keller (who is – wait for it – GAY) transferred to Riverdale High to spend eternity in high school with Archie and the gang. Granted, this is a big step for a property that allowed Spire Christian Comics to make a bunch of super-conservative comics starring the Riverdale gang back in the seventies, but there are plenty of other important (and often borderline offensive) gay moments in comics that the refreshingly normal Kevin Keller doesn’t even hold a candle to.

(10) Mikaal “Starman” Tomas joins the Justice League – Since its debut, the Justice League has been one of the least gay-friendly teams around. Considering how many members have come and gone from the team’s rosters in its 50 years of existence, it’s amazing that there hasn’t been a single gay member on the League until now. Following his Cry for Justice series, James Robinson took the opportunity to insert Starman into the team in May 2010’s Justice League of America #46. Considering how familiar the Justice League brand is, even to casual readers, I’d say this is a big leap forward in acceptance of LGBT characters in mainstream comics.

(9) Superman and the pink kryptonite – Well, this happened. You know how different colors of kryptonite have different effects on Superman? Well, in April 2003’s Supergirl Vol 4 #79, a Superman from an alternate timeline is exposed to pink kryptonite that causes him to, um, really, really like Jimmy Olson’s bowtie. I don’t know what’s better; an oblivious Lois in the back wondering what’s gotten in to the Man of Steel or Jimmy Olson in the foreground looking both slightly weirded out and very, very confused. Either way, it’s kind of awesome that DC (and not some parody/middle-aged woman’s slash fiction) had the guts to make a character as quintessential to comics as Superman gay, even if it was for all of one panel.

(8) BOOM! Studios’ 3rd Anniversary Party – In 2008, Californians were up in arms over Proposition 8, which would prevent same-sex couples from getting married.  Meanwhile, BOOM! Studios was getting ready to celebrate its third year of operation by throwing a big party at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. After booking the bar, BOOM! discovered that Doug Manchester, owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, had recently donated $125,000 to ProtectMarriage.com, masterminds behind Prop 8. So what does BOOM! do? Probably one of the greatest “fuck you” moves of all time, turning their own 3rd Anniversary party into a gay pride party.

(7) Rawhide Kid miniseries – This is one of those things that falls into the “one step forward, two steps back” category. In 2003, Marvel comics revived its 1950’s cowboy hero Jonathan Clay, the Rawhide Kid, gave him his own title,  and decided to retcon him as a homosexual. This marked the first time that a mainstream comic company had actually given a gay character their own book (albeit a limited series), which is rad. Only problem is, Marvel decided to put The Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather on its MAX imprint (which is pretty much just full of comics meant to offend everybody) and make him the most stereotypical gay character ever. And, um, guess what? As of last Wednesday, they began releasing volume two. Yay?

(6) Buffy and Satsu – The Buffyverse has always been kind to gay characters ever since Willow came out in season four of the television show. Still, it was  a bit of a surprise when during Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #11-12, fellow-slayer Satsu admits to being in love with Buffy and, following a fight with Twilight, the two of them comfort each other. Granted, it was just a two-time thing, but it was executed respectfully and cemented a bond between the two characters.

(5) Apollo and Midnighter from The Authority – When Warren Ellis created the Authority, Wildstorm’s Justice League parallel, he decided to make Apollo and Midnighter (their Superman and Batman, respectively) a non-overtly gay couple. Following his run, Mark Millar took over and decided that the perfect way to close the first volume of The Authority would be with a wedding between the two heroes, celebrated by the masses rather than frowned upon. Now, if only Midnighter would have worn something a little less ridiculous to it.

(4) Renee Montoya and Kate Kane headlining Detective Comics – In August 2009, Greg Rucka  (who we’ve applauded time and time again for his work with female characters) got his hands on Detective Comics. With Bruce Wayne lost in time and Dick barely getting the cowl, somebody had to get top billing. Enter Kate Kane as Batwoman and Renee Montoya as the Question in issue #854 as stars of the main and co-features respectively. Now that the “Elegy” storyline is complete and Rucka has left DC, JH Williams III will be co-authoring an ongoing Batwoman book with W. Haden Blackman (X-Wing: Rogue Leader), the first time a gay character has had their own ongoing book.

(3) Valerie Page in V for Vendetta – In Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Britain is taken over by Norsefire, a fascist group, who criminalizes homosexuality (along with being Jewish, Pakistani, black, or Muslim). Popular lesbian actress Valerie Page is incarcerated and writes out an autobiographical letter to whomever finds it detailing her persecution. Just before she is scheduled to die, she slips her letter into the cell next to hers with the hope that they will escape. This letter ends up in Cell V, acting as the impetus which causes its occupant to destroy the internment camp and become the vigilante V. Later, this same letter is given to V’s protégée, Evey, which causes her to become his successor.

(2) Hulkling and Wiccan’s GLAAD award – For a company that fucked it up so bad with The Rawhide Kid, Marvel attempted to make up for it with the teenage romance between Hulkling and Wiccan (first hinted at in Young Avengers #7). Allan Heinberg, the writer for Young Avengers, is openly gay himself and decided that making the pair of heroes a couple would give gay comic readers something they could identify with. In 2006, both Heinberg and Marvel received a GLAAD award in recognition of this decision.

(1) Northstar coming out – In March 1992’s Alpha Flight #106, while the team fights Mr. Hyde, Northstar happens upon and and takes in Joanne, a baby dying of AIDS. Turns out that fellow Canadian superhero Major Mapleleaf’s own son was a homosexual and died of AIDS, causing him to freak out and attempt to kill Joanne. To stop Mapleleaf, Northstar confesses that he too is gay. Northstar’s coming out issue received all sorts of media attention, what with comic books still being considered children’s fare (the Comics Code Authority banning gay characters outright) and it being a whole five years before that episode of Ellen. Truly, this was the most groundbreaking moment for gays in comics.

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Comic book villains are notoriously ridiculous, see: the Batman rogues gallery.  Honestly, one of the scariest villains in all comic-dom is a psychotic clown. When we think about these things too hard, it hurts our brains. But we suffer for our art, so here’s High Five!’s Top Ten! Most Ridiculous Villains We Could Think Of!

250px-Brave_bold_28(10) Starro the Conquerer – Allright, Starro is actually a bit scary. I mean, he’s got mind control probes and he can use them to take over a planet which was STILL pretty scary when TNG did it. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about a giant starfish. Seriously. A giant star fish was the Justice League’s first big foe (not timeline-wise, appearance-wise, nitpickers). Starro’s greatest power is that he is integral in every telling and re-telling of the Justice League’s origin, which is pretty impressive for an echinoderm. This is why people look at me weird when I try to explain comics to them.

79361-59377-sugar-man_large(9) Sugar Man – Sugar Man showed up acting like a total creeper in Age of Apocalypse, which might be one of the greatest examples of convoluted nineties Marvel storylines, but it’s also one of my favorites so I forgive it. Sugar Man is a four armed blob of evil from another dimension. He can shrink and grow at will, he’s got a razor sharp tongue, and he can put himself back together again – which is convenient if you look like a twisted psycho Humpty Dumpty.

turtle-goldenage-smallturtle3(8) The Turtle / Turtle Man – The best thing about the Turtle is that there were TWO of them. Jay Garrick had his Turtle (whose slowness gimmick was meticulous planning) while Barry fought the Turtle Man (who had slowness-themed weapons). When the two Flashes met, so did their two Turtles, forming the worlds slowest alliance. After Wally showed up, the two Turtles tried to kidnap him. They forgot that he had friends in high places (liiiiike, the JLA Watchtower). The Turtleses were easily defeated and sent to jail. Occasionally, they still dig these lame characters out DC Comics Limbo and have them try to slow down all of Keystone City (in what must be the most lackluster issues EVER).

JSA-86-int(7) Gentleman Ghost – The Gentleman Ghost doesn’t seem too threatening. Essentially, he’s got the exact same powers as Casper. And the best part? He’s so easy to take down! Find a virgin (try your local comic shop, OH DAMN!) and give them anything made out of Thanagarian Nth metal. Then tell said virgin to hit Gentleman Ghost with it repeatedly. Turns out that ghosts can’t touch virgins or pass through Nth metal. Hooray! The day is saved! I vote Devon Sawa plays him in the Hawkman movie, which probably isn’t in development. Yet.

doubledown(6) Double Down – OK, so if you lose all your money at Texas Hold ‘Em, what do you do? Duh, you shoot the guy who beat you and then the razor sharp (for whatever reason) playing cards will replace your skin. You can pluck them off and toss them at people! You can control them with your MIND! Best part? Double Down isn’t a freakish Silver Age holdover – he first appeared in 2001 in Geoff Johns’ Flash: Iron Heights. He’s a really gross evil Gambit. Think about it, he’s throwing his mutant ripped off skin at you. The Flash Rogues are nothing if not ridicu-larious, but ewwww.

bluesnowman(5) Blue Snowman – So the Blue Snowman is neither a man nor made of snow. No, she’s a bitter orphaned daughter of a scientist who invented a freezing beam to help humanity. Yeah, you read that right. So Blue Snowman threw on some dude clothes and decided she’d use the freezing beam for villainy, because really – are freezing beams actually good for anything else? Blue Snowman debuted fighting Wonder Woman in 1946, before anyone realized that the blue lady in the newsboy hat was probably into girls. She was probably into Wonder Woman, which is cool. But unmasked, Blue looked exactly like Wonder Woman. Creepy. God, Wonder Woman comics were so fucked up back in the day.

230px-Polka_Dot_Man_04(4) Polka Dot Man – Polka Dot Man first appeared in 1962 wearing a suit with Polka Dots that he could pluck off and turn into pretty much whatever. Guns, cannons, a pink fluffy bunny. No one ever really explained why this guy felt the need to commit polka dot themed crimes, but did Batman’s rogues ever need a reason to be batshit crazy? He showed up again a billion years later, hit a cop, got the shit beat out of him, sued Gotham city, and got the cops sent to psychotherapy. And honestly, the Gotham cops should probably be going once a week anyway, so maybe Polka Dot Man served a greater purpose in the end.

spidergirl(3) Spider Girl – DC’s Spider-Girl didn’t get bitten by a radioactive anything. She can just grow her hair at will like a fucking Play-Doh accessory. Let that simmer. Plus, she is also able to control her hair and move it like an extra limb. She has the power of being that dude with the beard from that creepy Skittles commercial. Seriously, her whole backstory is that she tried out for the Legion of Super Heroes, but really only to hit on the guys. She didn’t make it, so like all rejects, she went villain. She doesn’t scare me at all, I’m pretty sure I had a doll with that power. Raise her arm! Her hair REALLY grows! Wow!

tdc-burnidiots(2) Turner D. Century – Turner D. Century has a sorta Robin-esque background. After his father kicked the bucket, he was taken in by an old multi-millionaire. The only difference was that this millionaire was pissed off at society for letting their manners go to shit. Solution? Raise young Turner D. Century as if it were 1900, down to the sweet handlebar moustache. Eventually, he took it as his mission to revert all social mores back to what they were pre-World War I (take THAT, minorities and women!) but he was defeated by Spider-Man and eventually killed by Scourge in the Bar With No Name purge. The best part about this totally lame Golden Age-like villain? He first appeared in 1980!

Big_Wheel_Marvel(1) Big Wheel – “Big Wheel?” Really, anything named “Big Wheel” should never be evil. Childhood: ruined. Apparently Big Wheel was a failed businessman who got caught sticking his hand a bit too deep in the company cookie jar. One blackmail led to another and he wound up the proud owner of a wall-climbing wheel. With guns. He dies, but this is comics so NOT REALLY, comes back to life (like you do) and decides to try to be one of the good guys by helping Spider-Man. Turns out crooked businessmen with big, gunny wheels don’t make good heroes. Who’da thunk? Also, now we know where Mr Garrison got the idea for his, um, dildo-powered monowheel.

I love comics. I find the stories, characters, legends, mythology, drama, and the inexhaustible “OH S**T!!!” moments to be thoroughly compelling and most importantly: entertaining. That I feel this way is hardly surprising; I am writing for this blog. Also obvious are the talents of our beloved authors who create these fine works of literature. Any connoisseur has their favorite author. Bendis, Moore, Morrison, Ennis- all of these come to mind. Some of us love a solid story about capes (Bendis or Johns), some of us love to see the boundaries of the medium stretched (Moore), and some of us just love to have our minds blown by convoluted stories of higher reality (Morrison- and before you give me crap for saying he’s convoluted: yes he is, I love his work, but he did write Seaguy).
While I’m sure most of you are thinking of someone I should have put in that list, I doubt many of you are surprised at my choices. But, let’s be honest folks: these guys are more than slightly one dimensional. Before you rush to post angry comments stop to think about it. I’m not talking about the characters they write for, or the scope of the events they depict so passionately. What I mean is this: when you read Moore you know that paranoia, dystopia, and god-hood are probably involved. Reading Morrison? I guarantee that you’ll read about a higher reality, that it will make a lot of sense until the last third of the story when you’ll have to re-read 15 pages to figure out what the hell happened. Johns or Bendis? Classic capes all the way. Are the stories good? No question. But, I’m sure you know the basic premise, scope, and range of the issues you’ll be reading before you open the book.
Again, wait before the angry comments of, “What about….” I’m not interested in exceptions and I’m most definitely not questioning the talent of these authors. My point stands: artists of any medium are usually good at one thing and they stick to it. But, that isn’t why I’m writing this post. What I really want to talk about is an author capable of doing more than one style. I want to talk about Mark Waid. My intense respect for this man may be less than mainstream, but let’s take a minute to look at the remarkable range of technique Waid uses with confidence and ease.
First let us tackle the obvious: Kingdom Come. Any modern comic library without this work is incomplete. No question about this. If you like superhero comics and you don’t own a copy of Kingdom Come then I question why you’re reading a comics blog. If you ever questioned why DC places so much importance on Superman you’ll find your answer here. And a whole hell of a lot more. Many characters are beautifully re-imagined, the intense story is delivered with surgical precision, and you’ll come to realize that Mark Waid understands superheros better than you ever will.
Keeping with precision story craft and impeccable understanding of character we see another great Superman tale: Superman Birthright. Birthright was important as more than just a modern imagining of the Man of Steel. Here we see not only a graceful depiction of the Godfather of superheroes (I mean Superman folks) but also a powerful consideration of Lex Luthor. I think this is the only TPB my wife and I both read in one sitting on the same night. Quite literally I read this, made her read it after me, and it dominated our conversation the rest of the evening.
Difficult for any fan of Waid’s modern interpretations of classic archetypes we see his bold usage of Silver Age style. Not characters. No, I mean style. In works like JLA: Year One and Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold Waid actually makes us feel like we’re reading something written in the 1960s, and more importantly we LIKE that he’s doing that. In these works you get more than dystopia or horror. You get something lacking in most modern comics: fun. How many authors would dare to have Martian Manhunter explode his head in an attempt to elicit laughter from a fledgling JLA? And how many would do that two years after writing something like Kingdom Come? I guarantee that many of you don’t like Waid because of these works. And if you feel that way I guarantee that you’re under 35. I’d further argue that if you’re over 35 you take my side on this one. Mark isn’t just campy or juvenile. He’s taking the same deep understanding he has for Gold and Silver Age characters and he’s applying it to Gold and Silver Age storytelling. Love it or hate it you have to admit that takes skill.
Next we consider something outside of the classic cape stories. A work Gregory Rucka has described as “…inspired, remarkable for it’s depth and ambition” we look at Potter’s Field. This is a timeless puzzle story of murder. Released on the fledgling Boom! imprint you’d never guess this was written by a man with unparalleled understanding of characters from DC and Marvel. Potter’s Field is remarkable not only for it’s intrigue and mystery but also for it’s gritty and fallible characters. There is no humor, there is no justice. Only mystery, compulsion, and atonement. If you didn’t read the spine you’d never peg this as Waid. (incidentally this book was given to us by the author in exchange for a Green Lantern ring which makes it even more awesome)
While my favorite Waid stories are his creator owned works like Potter’s Field and Irredeemable- arguably his most epic, ambitious, subtle, and nuanced work to date- it is his crystalline understanding of characters and genre coupled with masterful pacing of story that makes this man a winner. Whether you enjoy Waid as much as I do is irrelevant. What is undeniable is this here is a rare example of skilled writing in multiple areas of storytelling.  Somehow the dichotomy of being great at one thing vs mediocre at many things doesn’t seem to apply to Waid. While DC and Marvel seem to maintain a cold relationship with the man I, for one, love that. Plus he writes a deliciously cantankerous Twitter feed. My colleagues like to recommend a drink at the close of a post. Waid, you get a strong ale and held aloft with  sincerest respect. Feel the Power of Rock & Roll.
-Jonny

“… another testament to Waid’s skill as a writer; nothing is wasted.”

-Greg Rucka, February 2009

I love comics. I find the stories, characters, legends, mythology, drama, and the inexhaustible “OH S**T!!!” moments to be thoroughly compelling and most importantly: entertaining. That I feel this way is hardly surprising; I am writing for this blog. Also obvious are the talents of our beloved authors who create these fine works of literature. Any connoisseur has their favorite author. Bendis, Moore, Morrison, Ennis- all of these come to mind. Some of us love a solid story about capes (Bendis or Johns), some of us love to see the boundaries of the medium stretched (Moore), and some of us just love to have our minds blown by convoluted stories of higher reality (Morrison- and before you give me crap for saying he’s convoluted: yes he is, I love his work, but he did write Seaguy).

While I’m sure most of you are thinking of someone I should have put on that list, I doubt many of you are surprised at my choices. But, let’s be honest folks: these guys are more than slightly one dimensional. Before you rush to post angry comments, stop and think about it. I’m not talking about the characters they write for, or the scope of the events they depict so passionately. What I mean is this: when you read Moore you know that paranoia, dystopia, and god-hood are probably involved. Reading Morrison? I guarantee that you’ll read about a higher reality, that it will make a lot of sense until the last third of the story when you’ll have to re-read 15 pages to figure out what the hell happened. Johns or Bendis? Classic capes all the way. Are the stories good? No question. But, I’m sure you know the basic premise, scope, and range of the issues you’ll be reading before you open the book.

Again, wait before the angry comments asking, “What about….” I’m not interested in exceptions and I’m most definitely not questioning the talent of these authors. My point stands: artists of any medium are usually good at one thing and they stick to it. But that isn’t why I’m writing this post. What I really want to talk about is an author capable of working in more than one style. I want to talk about Mark Waid. My intense respect for this man may be less than mainstream, but let’s take a minute to look at the remarkable range of technique Waid uses with confidence and ease.

First let us tackle the obvious: Kingdom Come. Any modern comic library without this work is incomplete. No question about this. If you like superhero comics and you don’t own a copy of Kingdom Come then I question why you’re reading a comics blog. If you ever questioned why DC places so much importance on Superman you’ll find your answer here. Plus a whole hell of a lot more. Many characters are beautifully re-imagined, the intense story is delivered with surgical precision, and you’ll come to realize that Mark Waid understands superheros better than you ever will.

Keeping with precision story craft and impeccable understanding of character we see another great Superman tale: Superman Birthright. Birthright was important as more than just a modern imagining of the Man of Steel. Here we see not only a graceful depiction of the Godfather of superheroes (I mean Superman folks) but also a powerful consideration of Lex Luthor. I think this is the only TPB my wife and I both read in one sitting on the same night. I read Birthright, then made her read it after me, and it dominated our conversation the rest of the evening.

While many love Waid for his vision of the future- many take issue with his bold usage of Silver Age style. Not characters. No, I mean style. In works like JLA: Year One and Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold Waid actually makes us feel like we’re reading something written in the 1960s, and more importantly we LIKE that he’s doing that. In these works you get more than dystopia or horror. You get something lacking in most modern comics: fun. How many authors would dare to have Martian Manhunter explode his head in an attempt to elicit laughter from a fledgling JLA? And how many would do that two years after writing something like Kingdom Come? I guarantee that many of you read Brave and the Bold and thought: lame. And if you feel that way I guarantee that you’re under 35. I’d further argue that if you’re over 35 you take my side on this one. Mark isn’t just campy or juvenile. He’s taking the same deep understanding he has for Gold and Silver Age characters and he’s applying it to Gold and Silver Age storytelling. Love it or hate it you have to admit that takes skill.

Next we consider something outside of the classic cape stories. A work Gregory Rucka has described as “…inspired, remarkable for it’s depth and ambition” we look at Potter’s Field. This is a classic whodunnit. Released on the Boom! imprint you’d never guess this was written by a man with unparalleled understanding of characters from DC and Marvel. Potter’s Field is remarkable not only for it’s intrigue and mystery but also for it’s gritty and fallible characters. There is no humor, there is no justice. Only mystery, compulsion, and atonement. If you didn’t read the spine you’d never peg this as Waid. (incidentally this book was given to us by the author in exchange for a Green Lantern ring which makes it even more awesome.)

While my favorite Waid stories are his creator owned works like Potter’s Field and Irredeemable– arguably his most epic, ambitious, subtle, and nuanced work to date- it is his crystalline understanding of characters and genre coupled with masterful pacing of story that makes this man a winner. Whether you enjoy Waid as much as I do is irrelevant. What is undeniable is his rare ability to write so well without using the same hat trick over and over.  Somehow the dichotomy of being great at one thing vs mediocre at many things doesn’t seem to apply to Waid. I, for one, love him for that. Plus he writes a deliciously cantankerous Twitter feed. My colleagues like to recommend a drink at the close of a post. Waid, you get a strong ale held aloft with  sincerest respect. Feel the Power of Rock & Roll.

-Jonny


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