Sunday, July 29, 2012

Grew A Mustache And A Mullet....

It wasn't too long ago that all Chick-fil-A meant to me was a lyric in a Ben Folds Five song.

Recently, however, the chicken chain has become a household word, thanks in large part to recent opinions given by its CEO, Dan Cathy, reaffirming his opposition to gay marriage because of his support of biblical family values.

In the wake of that, the controversy exploded.

All across the social networks, many people vowed to boycott the chain. In counterpoint, many people vowed to increase their support by eating there more frequently. The Jim Henson Company withdrew its toys from the chain. (Which, in turn, led to the franchise to issue a notice saying they were pulling the toys out of concern for customer safety. I guess "not bearing false witness" isn't one of those sacred biblical values.) Politicians like Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Joe Merino are attempting to block the franchise from expanding in their respective cities.

Admittedly, I don't really have much of a dog in this fight. My marriage falls within Cathy's guidelines. And I can say I'm boycotting Chick-fil-A, but I have to be honest: I was never really going to eat there anyway. Not exactly a big, principled sacrifice there. Saying I'm boycotting Chick-fil-A is like saying I'm boycotting...Pizza Hut. A completely empty gesture.

Nor am I going to judge anyone else who chooses to either boycott or patronize the chicken chain. That's their call to make, not mine.

However, I have a real problem with how how some people are painting Cathy as an oppressed underdog standing up to the tyranny of the political correctness juggernaut. To borrow an analogy from my fellow blogger Thom Wade, it seems that many people, particularly those on the right, seem to have a really hard time properly distinguishing between David and Goliath.

Now, I'll grant that the moves of Menino, Merino, and Emanuel may be inconsistent and overstepping, particularly since Chick-fil-A has no apparent history of worker discrimination in its hiring practices.

But as far as the rest is concerned? Here's the thing about free speech: Sure, you can say what you want without fear of government imprisonment, but that doesn't mean you have the right to suffer no consequences whatsoever. One of those consequences may be increased unpopularity, meaning suffering boycotts or withdrawal of support from individuals or even from companies like Henson.

And while we're talking about freedoms, let's also remember that Cathy, like myself, enjoys the freedom to marry the person he loves, whereas many of his LGBT detractors do not. And that's thanks in no small part to the efforts of some of the pro-family groups he supports and donates to. All of which puts Cathy squarely in the "Goliath" column.

But if you're really looking for an oppressed David to rally behind, might I suggest another name?

How about Tam O'Shaughnessy?

She was the late Sally Ride's domestic partner for 27 years, but she won't be receiving any of Ride's government death or social security benefits. She's not eligible under DOMA, you see.

And that's the larger, more important question we should be asking ourselves: Why, in 2012 America, do LGBT couples still not have equal marriage rights in the first place?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our National Deja Vu

To paraphrase The Smiths, stop me if you think that you've heard this one before:

1. Horrible mass shooting tragedy occurs in a public place.

2. Media scrambles to disseminate information, unverified and unreliable as it may be, merely to justify the 24-hour news cycle.

3. Details about the shooting pour in from witnesses, leading to the determination of the death count, which is then splattered across online news sites' headlines and TV news stations across America and the world.

4. Half-assed speculation begins on the political beliefs, influences, and motivations of the shooter.

5. Suspect is caught.

6. Politicians, pundits, bloggers and even organizations speculate on what is to blame for the events leading to the shooting. Coincidentally, the culpability always just happens to lie with whatever said speculator already has a personal axe to grind. For example, people already crusading against violent movies put the blame on...wait for it....violent movies. Anti-gay preachers instantly blame it guessed it...homosexuality and our society's "overly permissive" attitude toward it.

7. Idiot politician/pundit speculates that if others in the affected public place had been armed, there would have been less killing and damage, apparently living in his/her own personal fantasy world where "stray bullets" and "friendly fire" don't exist. Said idiot also fails to address the potential confusion of having multiple shooters on the scene, especially for police.

8. Celebrities and politicians, including the president and his political opponents, publicly express their sympathy for the massacre's victims and their families.

9. National pundits bemoan the loss of our "national innocence". Strangely enough, they've never seemed to notice or publicize this loss when it's been in the form of hundreds of "routine" shootings of innocent men, women, and even children(!) scattered across recent months in cities across the country like Chicago. Couldn't possibly be because many of those victims there were urban blacks or Hispanics, whereas these victims here are predominantly suburban whites, could it? Nah!

10. Suspect's name is published.

11. Suspect's arsenal is named and described. We learn that the suspect was able to obtain an unusual amount and type of weaponry much more easily than we would have suspected.

12. People begin questioning how said suspect was able to amass said weaponry so easily without setting off any red flags. They also wonder whether some of said weaponry is too powerful for private citizens to possess.

13. National Rifle Association and its supporters respond to these questions by repeating their "guns don't kill, people do" mantra while reaffirming the absoluteness of the 2nd Amendment, which was forged at a time when "high-powered gun" meant "musket".

14. NRA and its supporters also argue that even the most common-sense gun regulation would lead our country down a "slippery slope", the inevitable result being government removal of all private citizens' guns, leading to the eventual removal of all our other freedoms. Said "slippery slope" is not to be confused with the progression of supporting gun rights ==> squelching new gun regulation ==> squelching any conversation about new gun regulation ==> reversing pre-existing gun regulations ==> fabricating new gun-owner needs like "Stand Your Ground" laws. Totally different animal.

15. Media finds and releases more information about the suspect. And by "more information", I mean practically everything. Total 24-7 saturation coverage. Where he grew up. What schools he attended. His friends and neighbors (cue the obligatory "he was a loner" quote). His favorite activities. His favorite movies, music, and/or video games (the better to scapegoat them, you see). How he dressed. And, most importantly, his picture. That's integral for the next step.

16. Suspect's picture is plastered across TV screens, news websites, and newspaper front pages. Suspect's name becomes a household word in roughly one day. Media makes suspect THE story in the 24-hour national news cycle. All this despite years of trained psychologists instructing media outlets to avoid doing precisely that.

17. Meanwhile, another misanthropic young man watches the suspect's story on his TV and thinks "What if....?"

18. Time passes and both the media and the public turn their attention to other "shiny objects".

19. No meaningful steps to avoid a similar mass shooting from occurring are ever enacted. Instead, we get some trivial, needless, and overreactive new "security theater" measures which really serve no purpose other than to further inconvenience the citizenry.

20. We wait for the next Step 1.

Feeling the deja vu yet?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone - Round 5: Playground Brawl!

Tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone features a good old-fashioned playground brawl with some unconventional elements, courtesy of a Hawkman backup story in Detective Comics#446 titled "The Mystery Of The Flyaway Car!", written by the late E. Nelson Bridwell and illustrated by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson.

Synopsis: A thief steals a mysterious high-tech gadget from an unnamed laboratory. For reasons that are never explained, he ends up stashing the device in Carter (Hawkman) Hall's car. The device somehow triggers his Nth metal anti-gravity belt, so when Carter drives to work with said anti-grav belt in tow, the car starts rising into the air. Carter figures things out and uses the belt to set the car down in a local playground, with the thief in hot pursuit. The thief manages to snag the mystery device from the car and...

The thief still hasn't figured out the whole story, but since he's holding a high-tech gadget and Hawkman is bearing down on him, he decides to go for broke....

...causing Hawkman's flying belt to go crazy!

With no other options, our Winged Wonder decides to utilize the playground equipment, beginning with the swing set...

...and ending with the slide!

(Our fight music for tonight is a video of another playground fight set to music by The Black Keys.)

You know who else won all his playground fights? Spacebooger.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Welcome To The Comics Industry, Where "Fat" Means "Looking Like You Actually Have Internal Organs"!

Question: How do you like the depiction of Batwoman below?

It's by an aspiring artist named V. Oliver Rutherford aka selkiesun. Here's a link to her DeviantArt site.

Confession time: I'm not a professional artist, nor do I work in the comics industry in any capacity. I'm somewhat less-than-familiar with all the art terminologies. I'm just a comics fan.  But having read comics on-and-off since about 1973, I feel I have a strong sense of what I like and don't like.

My opinion of this Batwoman piece? Frankly, I really like it.

Granted, this is a single still, so I can't tell how effective a sequential storyteller Ms. Rutherford is, nor can I get any idea of her skill with action sequences. But based on this, her style meshes pretty well with that of J.H. Williams, and I could see her as a potential future Not Williams. Slap some Dave Stewart colors on this art and it could really sing. Given time and experience, maybe she could be another Jock or Francisco Francavilla.

But that's just me.

How was Ms Rutherford's Batwoman received by actual industry professionals? Here's her account of her portfolio reviews from her visit to San Diego Comic Con (courtesy of Ami Angelwings'  Escher Girls tumblr):

This is not so much a critique post as it is a conformation of how absurd the standards of art in the comic book industry have become.

I traveled to San Diego Comic Con this year and participated in the portfolio reviews they where holding from Thursday to Sunday. Although I will admit I am not the best artist in the world, I really wanted to try and show them that comic book art could be done in a realistic manor while still keeping the superhuman aesthetics of the art form.

This Batwoman piece was the work that I gained the most flack for from all the companies because the anatomy was as they quoted ‘not industry standard.’ At one company (which I shall choose to not name) I was given a full critique on the anatomical incorrections as the following.

“Her breasts are much too small and do not have the lift that superhero women should have. Her jawline is fat and her neck much too long. The style of her hair is clunky and does not flow in a sense that a super human would. Her hips, waist and thighs are too big and she honestly looks fat. No one is going to want to read a comic with a fat female protagonist. I honestly recommend looking at issues of Sport’s Illustrated to get the right anatomy. Those women are the peak of human perfection, and that is what we want in this industry.”

Peak of human perfection? I don’t know about you, but I don’t see living on salad and dietary pills as perfection.

I would like to say this was just the opinion of one editor from one company, but I found similar opinions at almost every review I went to. By the end I was pretty upset, having been following this blog for very long and trying hard to make my anatomy believable and human. But this is not something the comic book industry seems to want, and it’s something that I thought everyone deserved to be informed on.

Again, this is not to bring attention to me and my own art, but rather inform the community of just what their artistic standards are, and why so many what we deem ‘bad artists’ are able to get full careers working for these companies.

I should note that I've heard that Gail Simone has expressed a desire to work with her. And as far as I'm aware, those above reviewers didn't include the aforementioned Mr. Williams or his former Batwoman collaborator Greg Rucka, so who knows what they think?

I have a few thoughts:

"Not industry standard", huh? Well, let's put this critique in perspective by showing you an example of the superheroine anatomy that was recently deemed "industry standard".

Wow! What a high watermark!

The more problematic aspect was the use of Sports Illustrated as an example of the standard. As Thom Wade points out here, what is deemed "perfect female anatomy" in magazines like SI, Maxim, and, in Thom's example, GQ is achieved by photoshop and airbrushing. So you're starting off based on a lie from square one.

Then we have to look at how using these magazines as a template has affected superhero comic book art, particularly female superhero comic book art, over the last 20 years. Here's my analysis: It has fucked it up royally.

Don't get me wrong: There have been a lot of fantastic artists in comics the last 2 decades, including those folks I mentioned earlier. But there have also been many who care more about achieving the sexy Maxim-style female pin-ups than telling the damn story (I'm looking at you, Ed Benes), and who seem to only know "Grey's Anatomy" as "that show with the doctors". And using these types of magazines as the "industry standard" has allowed more of these lesser artists to soar to prominence. And then more artists try to emulate them instead of emulating master storytellers like, say, Tom Grummett. Look at Escher Girls to see some of the tragic results.

You know what happens when you encourage comic artists to rely on Sports Illustrated as their template?

You get Greg Land.

And nobody wants that!
(Special thanks to Ami, Thom, and also Scott Slemmons for this.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone - Round 4: Why You Shouldn't Call Kid Omni-Man "Inferior"!

Tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone is a special extraterrestrial etiquette lesson courtesy of Invincible#75, "TheViltrumite War", by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley.

Synopsis: Invincible and his half-brother Oliver aka Kid Omni-Man, along with other allies, are fighting in outer space against an army of Viltrumites, when one of the aforementioned Viltrumites' insults hits a little below the belt....

...and Oliver returns the favor!

Calling Kid Omni-Man an inferior half-breed?

BIG mistake!
In honor of this Shot Felt 'Round The Universe, tonight's fight song is a special hard-hitting tune by Webb Wilder.
For more below-the-belt brawls, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Proof that Merging With The Phoenix Force DOESN'T Make You Smarter

From the most recent issue of Avengers Academy:

The newly Phoenix-merged Emma Frost arrives at the Academy and encounters Juston Seyfert's pet Sentinel. She decides that the robot is an untrustworthy obscenity and needs to be destroyed.

And what "compromise" does Emma-Phoenix come up with?

Um, let's take a closer look at that, shall we?

Ok, Emma, let me see if I have this right:

You don't trust Juston's Sentinel as is....

....but you trust HANK PYM to reprogram it???

Uh, Emma?

Remember what happened the last time Hank tried to create a new "entirely benign" artificial intelligence persona?

THAT happened.

And you want him to work his "robotics magic" on a Sentinel?

No, Hank, it sounds absolutely freaking horrible!

Christos Gage, Timothy Green, and Jeff Huet demonstrate once again that with possession by an all-powerful cosmic entity doesn't necessarily come wisdom or common sense in Avengers Academy#32.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone - Round 3: Sterankodelic!

Tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone, I thought I'd expand your consciousness with some late-60's comic book psychedelia, courtesy of this Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 story titled "Whatever Happened To Scorpio?", written and drawn by the wondrous Jim Steranko and inked by John Tartaglione, featuring a final showdown between Nick Fury and the aforementioned zodiac-themed villain.

Synopsis: Nick goes out to investigate a possible trouble spot.

(Click to enlarge)
 "Gasoline cans?" you say? "That's it?" you say? Au contraire!

(Click to enlarge)
 And if you think that's strange....

(Click to enlarge)
 (Note: That last panel should look familiar to anyone following me on Twitter.)

But who is Fury's mysteriously powerful attacker?

(Click to enlarge)
 Well, I guess Fury (and we) found out what happened Scorpio.

The fight music for tonight's psychedelic slugfest is this equally hallucinogenic video by MGMT.

For more tie-dyed tussles, click here. And don't forget to vote!

(Special thanks to The Groovy Agent. Follow that link to read the whole story.)