Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Night Fights: Battiln' Jack - Round 7: Tails, You Lose!

We enter into tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Battlin' Jack tails-up with a tale from Bizarre Adventures#27, written by Bob Layton and Jo Duffy and illustrated by Dave Cockrum and Ricardo Villamonte.

Synopsis: Thanks to a bad interaction of their teleportation powers with Darkforce radiation (which you may recognize if you watched this past week's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode), Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler and the X-Men's old enemy The Vanisher are transported to a mysterious planet of beautiful women who offer to make each of them their god king (no relation to this guy). Nightcrawler, despite enjoying his surroundings immensely, is duty-bound to return to Earth. He gets directions to a portal back to Earth, but there's a catch: Not only can he not take anything from the alien dimension with him through the portal, but he must also bring everything he originally came with back through with him, otherwise he will end up stranded in an unknown location. Unfortunately, everything Kurt brought with him includes Vanisher himself, who doesn't want to abandon his newfound status.

Yes, that is Nightcrawler swordfighting with his hand and his tail. Because that's just the way Kurt Wagner rolls.

I've decided to take this week's fight music selection by the tail with a recent song by Queens Of The Stone Age.

Now go ahead and high-tail it over to Spacebooger's site. And don't forget to vote!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Our Comics Culture Deja Vu

To quote a certain morose aging British pop icon, stop me if you think that you've heard this one before:

1. Female comics [reporter/professional/blogger/casual fan] on the internet expresses an opinion on a comics-related subject. Said opinion is generally a valid criticism but it is deemed exceptionally controversial by a small but highly vocal subset of dudebro comics fanboys by virtue of said woman's critique expressing [criticism of/challenging opinions about/insufficient fawning over] their [favorite comic/creator/fandom/viewpoint].

2. Said woman is judged guilty of the oh-so-unpardonable "crime" of Speaking Out While Female (or SOWF for short).

3. The same woman is attacked online by said dudebro fans, sometimes egged on by a creator with legions of fans and twitter followers. Said attacks begin with questioning her authority, knowledge, professionalism and credibility but then escalate to the point of issuing the woman online rape and death threats.

4. The woman recounts her horrible harassment experience on their Twitter feed/blog/Tumblr.

5. More female comics creators, staffers, journalists, and amateur bloggers are inspired to relate their horror stories of harassment and abuse.

6. Popular mainstream comics blogs write about the woman's harassment story and more articles appear, including myriad "[you/we] men need to [stop harassing women/speak up/hold each other accountable/fix this]" articles.

7. Reactions among various male professionals and fans vary:

a. Some are shocked -- SHOCKED, I tell you! -- that this type of behavior happens in their fine comics establishment.

b. Some deny that this type of thing happens or is widespread, or say it's no worse than other industries.

c. Some accuse the women of being "too emotional". Commence mansplaining.

d. Some use strawman false equivalency arguments: "But men are threatened too." (That was an actual response on Twitter from a male poster.) Bring on the victim-playing.

e. Some get overly defensive. Cue "not all men" response --- to a question that nobody asked.

f. Some make empty showboat gestures.

g. Some actually defend said rape threats and claiming they constitute free speech, demonstrating a frightening ignorance about both free speech and its limitations.

h. Others join the women online in being pissed. And asking questions. And trying to figure out how to stop it. And expressing frustration. and so....

8.  Much brainstorming among fans and professionals about how to fix the problem ensues.

9. Some male professionals take to their blogs/Tumblrs/Twitter feeds to take a verbal stand against the abusive behavior. Unfortunately.....

10. None of them are upper level management.

11. Said upper level management, particularly at the Big Two, remains utterly silent and unresponsive on the issue, and so....

12. Nothing major gets done. Meaning...

13. Abusive parties face absolutely no real world consequences whatsoever. Offending comics pros retain their high-profile flagship superhero jobs on books like Superman or X-Men without so much as a reprimand. Harassers continue harassing with impunity.

14. Poorly moderated comic site comments sections remain poorly moderated comic site comments sections.

15. New distraction takes everyone's attention. Story dies. Much online outrage dies with it.

16. Marginalized parties continue to be abused online. Some give up completely. Many quit their [careers/blogs/online presence].

17. Many women and girls looking to have anything to do with comics are discouraged from doing so.

18. Comics companies (particularly the Big Two) and comic site forums continue to pander to lowest-common-denominator straight white dudebros, leading them to feel more irreplaceable. And more empowered. And more entitled to use that power.

19. Repeat step 1.

It's become a broken record. The same damned broken record. Being played over and over and OVER....!

And it's infuriating. And frustrating.

These are people who let even a scintilla of power go to their heads, despite being lifelong fans of characters like Superman whose entire reason for being is to teach us not to let power go to our heads. In their minds, their right to be as abusive and assholish as they want trumps the rights of others, particularly women, to even safely exist in what these would-be gatekeepers deem "their" spaces. They consider their abusiveness and harassment to be free speech when what it actually represents is the suppression of others' freedom of speech. (They also forget that threats of violence such as rape actually aren't constitutionally guaranteed speech.)

This lowest common denominator doesn't comprise a majority of geeks, or even male geeks, but they seem to be the ones with a disproportionate level of power. The ones that comics companies and blog comments sections apparently deem irreplaceable and vital to the continued well-being of comics.

But they're not. They're a fucking cancer.

They cost the industry the diversity it needs to keep from becoming stale. They cost the industry potential readers driven away from an environment that makes them feel unwelcome. And they cost us things like this.

That was a self-portrait by Tess Fowler. Beautiful artwork, don't you think? Can you imagine her drawing a Vertigo or Image series, or even a Big Two comic like, say, Wonder Woman? Well, you can forget about it, thanks to sexual harassment. How many talents like her were denied to the industry because they deemed it too hostile to them? How many potential classics did we fans never get to read?

Too damned many.

It's important that we self-assess and call out bad behavior among ourselves and those we associate with. Even shunning them if necessary. However, that alone won't be sufficient, in much the same way that neighborhood recycling programs are useless if we let Koch Industries subsidiaries poison entire states' water supplies or cause tar sands leaks. We have to pressure the big publishers and comics media sites to take action. We have to raise enough of a stink that they can't ignore it.

It won't be easy. These bullies are very dedicated to maintaining their dysfunctional status quo. They're less prone than we are to be distracted by things like having real lives. (Remember, these are the folks who send rape threats to women who dare question the need for enormous fake breasts on an underage girl.) Their optimum condition is the use of power on those they deem weaker than themselves; our optimum condition is to relax and get on with our lives.

But it's necessary for the sake of not only our hobby, but the lives of our wives or sisters or daughters.

Or, in my case, potential future daughters.

Those of you who don't follow me on Twitter might not be aware that my wife and I are expecting a second child this fall. We've decided to find out the baby's sex in advance, though we're not far enough along to test yet. If we have a daughter, I don't want her to have to go through the shit online that women are going through today.

I think we, as individuals and as a comics culture, have to take a leaf from the late Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain.

It's even more important for comic industry brass to heed his example.

Because if they don't follow Cobain's lead in vetting their fan base and their books' creators, they may find their industry following his example in another manner:


(Special thanks to Andrew Weiss and Tom Foss for creative inspiration. But an even greater thanks to heroines like Janelle Asselin and too many others to name for continuing to speak out.)

Friday Night Fights: Battlin' Jack - Round 6: Hopping Down The Bunny Trail!

For tonight's Friday Night Fights: Battlin' Jack, I''ll be presenting some chocolate-covered horror featuring a certain famous holiday rabbit in a story called "Hopping Down The Bunny Trail" courtesy of Unexpected#202 and collaborators Michael Uslan and Tenny Henson.

WARNING!: This is one you might want to hold off showing your children, as it even scared the hell out of Teenage Me back in 1980.

Synopsis: A series of signs have been mysteriously posted around the village square inviting children to participate in "The Easter Bunny's Hunt" at the Krieger place. Thinking the event is being sponsored by the town, the parents allow their kids to attend. As the kids approach the house, they are greeted by a mysterious but familiar creature.

Uh-oh. That's never good.

And so begins the Easter Bunny's chocolate reign of terror. (Between you and me, I think he might also have been mad about having to share his holiday with that goody two-shoes Jesus.)

Our fight music in honor of tonight's bit of Easter theater is by XTC.

For more bunny binging, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Or the Easter Bunny might get mad!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Night Fights: Battlin' Jack - Round 5: Patsy's First Cat Fight!

For tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Battlin' Jack, I'm highlighting the first opponent Patsy Walker ever faced one-on-one as Hellcat, courtesy of Avengers#148 by Steve Englehart, George Perez, and Sam Grainger. Synopsis: The Avengers have been transported to the Squadron Supreme's world, so they split up to gain their bearings and look for the Serpent Crown. Here, the Beast and Hellcat are beset upon by some members of the aforementioned Squadron. Patsy is confronted by the Squadron's equivalent of Aquaman known as....

....Amphibion. (Sigh.)

Who propmtly makes the big mistake of saying this:

Not a good move, Fish-Face.

And so Amphibion and his male chauvanism prove to be....all wet.

Tonight's fight music is a little feline fun from Al Stewart.

For more cat fights, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Night Fights: Battlin' Jack - Round 4: How To Be A Good Samaritan, Rat Queens Style!

For tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Battlin' Jack, I'm offering a special tutorial on how to be a good Samaritan and help your fellow human beings, courtesy of Hannah of the Rat Queens. Here she is shortly after waking up in an unnamed tavern after a....rough night.

Notice how Hannah is approached by an elderly gentlemen in need of assistance. Now what do you suppose she does in this situation?

If you said, "Punch the aforementioned old dude in the teeth", you're correct.

Now, what's our lesson from tonight's example, readers?

Taken from the special Rat Queens Free Preview offered on Comixology. Text for tonight's lesson was written by Kurtis J. Biebe with illustrations by John "Roc" Upchurch. This preview was provided in advance of the Rat Queens ongoing series, which I cannot recommend enough (though the occasional rough language and violence suggest it may not be for really young readers).

Tonight's fight music is a similar lesson provided by Nick Lowe.

For more benign bashing, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

And Now....The Debut Of A VERY SPECIAL Guest Writer!

Notintheface here. Today I'm doing something with my blog that I've never done before: For this one day, I'm turning over the writing reins of Stars And Garters to another writer. I'm letting a very special someone write a post for my blog. 

My own son "A.J." has decided he wants to follow in the old man's footsteps and try blogging. So I figured there was no better way to encourage his creative aspirations than to give him a shot on my blog just for one day. Here he shares his thoughts on what got him interested in comics, the lessons they taught him, and the role gender plays in his enjoyment of the medium. This is his first written essay.

Take it away, son!


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Well, what say you? Pretty insightful commentary for a one and a half year old, don't you think?