Tag Archives: marvel comics

Teabagging Captain America

Tea Bag the Liberal Dems before they Tea Bag You!!Marvel Comics have earned the wrath of Fox News and the Tea Party Movement for featuring protestors holding placards with Tea Party slogans on in the latest issue of Captain America. Hilariously for an all ages comic which was at one point vetted by the Comics Code Authority, it even includes the slogan “Tea Bag the Libs before they Tea Bag You!”

Stop the Socialists!So far all very hilarious but it is a shame that Marvel have capitulated so quickly, with Editor in Chief Joe Quesada blaming the letterer and insisting that the protestors were not meant to be Tea Party protestors but rather “a generic protest group” who just happen to be “anti-tax”.

To this poor bear of little brain on the other side of the Atlantic, Quesada’s distinction – and the American right’s indignation – are both a little hard to understand. What Quesada seems to be suggesting is that if an explicit link between the real Tea Party movement had not been made that somehow the implicit link would not have been there. Meanwhile the Tea Party Movement themselves seem to be getting their knickers in a twist because of the use of a placard which, for anyone else, would be excruciatingly embarrassing.

Within all this is the more substantive accusation that Marvel were implying that the Tea Party Movement was racist, on the grounds that a black character did not feel comfortably mingling in a crowd of “angry white folks”. Quesada’s defence here is somewhat more robust, and rightly so. He could have gone further: not only was it realistic to give a black character qualms about the protestors but isn’t it an issue the Tea Party themselves need to address?

All this comic has done is hold a mirror up to the Tea Party and ask questions (whether Quesada is comfortable about admitting this or not). If the Tea Party don’t like what they see, they need to ask themselves questions. But then, since when has that stopped them from doing anything?

The writing’s on the hand wall.

My name… is Victor*

Reading the latest issue of Tripwire this weekend, I spotted this little morsel in an interview with Paul “Human Nature” Cornell about his comic book series Captain Britain and MI-13:

Tripwire: Placing it in that context lead to a cameo appearance from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. I heard that there was also going to be a cameo from Opposition leader David Cameron, but my understanding is that this isn’t happening now.

Paul Cornell: My plan was to portray him in a favourable light. Basically, he was going to be meeting with Dracula on the Moon and Dracula was going to say, ‘If you do this tiny thing for me, then I will use my influence in Britain to get you elected.’ And we’d have Cameron saying, ‘Yes, yes, I will think about your proposal. That sounds great.’ And then going home and immediately calling MI-13. But the lawyers said that even for a couple of pages the slightest possible hint that a real figure might be doing something bad wasn’t allowable. The only way that we could have Gordon Brown in there [in an early issue] was tyhat he was being thoroughly heroic. That applies to the use of all real figures in Marvel really.

All well and good, but I also picked up a copy of Captain Britain and MI-13 issue 10 today. In it, Count Dracula talks with another character about plotting to bring down the UK government. On the moon (this is clearly where all top level business meetings take place). And that character? The Fantastic Four’s arch nemesis Doctor Victor Von Doom.

Clearly Marvel Comics seem to think that Cameron and Doctor Doom are essentially interchangeable characters. The question is: what do they know that we don’t?

* And yes, I am deeply sad for quoting an obscure Prince (or rather, squiggle) album.

Comics’ Final Crisis?

Just back from my occasional jaunt down to central London to pick up my comics from Gosh!. I have to admit I’m making these trips with ever decreasing levels of enthusiasm these days, for several reasons.

Firstly, there is the fact that I generally feel out of touch with the market these days. This problem started about 18 months ago when the UK’s comics trade paper Comics International vanished, only to reappear a few months later under the guise of a new publisher. The transition has not been a happy one, with the magazine struggling to come out on a monthly basis and when it does appear it is out of date, riddled with too many typos and has an amateurish style that I find a little hard to take. I fear that the editor Mike Conroy isn’t really up to the job. Certainly I thought twice about buying the latest issue and having bought it don’t really feel it was worth my while.

For a semi-detached comics fan such as myself this is disastrous from the point of view of the industry. I don’t have any desire to go back to the days when I used to get Previews on a monthly basis and apart from ignoring the UK scene, the US magazines are similarly hype-driven. So how do I find out what’s going on? I’m finding it increasingly difficult and that is reflective in the stuff I buy.

Secondly, there are the comics themselves. I’ve always been more of a DC reader than a Marvel one. This is for the simple fact that it was DC that largely lead the UK-brain drain that lead to people such as Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and Grant Morrison working stateside and so it was via them that I got my first real taste of US comics. But for the last four years or more, DC has been vanishing up its own fundament. While Marvel has opted to make itself more accessible, spurred on by its successful film franchises, DC has become increasingly inward-looking.

It began with a 1986 12-part maxi-series called Crisis on Infinite Earths (actually, it began before that with various previous “Crises” but this was the focal point), in which the DC “multiverse” of infinite interlocking parallel universes became just one. It is always a bad idea to set a rule in a sci-fantasy setting like “no parallel universes” – look at how Doctor Who and Torchwood has toyed with the subject – and as a result DC spent the next 20 years bending and even breaking it, coming up with complex ideas like Hypertime to explain it all.

This all eventually lead to the Infinite Crisis – part 20th anniversary celebration of the Crisis of Infinite Earths, part second attempt to sort the whole bloody mess out. This directly lead to 52, a weekly series that ran for a year between May 2006 and May 2007 in which it was revealed that the second crisis had lead to a return of the multiverse – or rather a multiverse of 52 parallel universes. Conveniently this allowed DC to incorporate a number of their other superhero universes into “official” canon. And so, the Wildstorm universe is now part of it (glossing over the fact they have been running crossovers between Wildstorm and DC for over a decade now), the various Elseworlds series each have their own world and even old properties such as the Charlton and Fawcett now have their own worlds back. Even the animated series now gets its own “official” universe.

The problem is, no sooner have they revealed this, but they’ve started on a mission to blow this multi-verse up too. Immediately following 52 was another weekly series called Countdown. Already at least one world has been destroyed, and no doubt more are to follow in the now scheduled Final Crisis which writer Grant Morrison apparently describes as “The Lord of the Rings of the DCU”.

We shall see, and with Morrison at the helm I shall certainly be getting it. But the last four years has required a lot of forbearance. I didn’t bother with Infinite Crisis and by all accounts I was wise not to. 52 was good, Countdown has been distinctly average and the seemingly endless Countdown spin-offs have been worse than that. The whole thing has apparently been a hit but I’m left wondering who with?

There are two types of comics I read: things that I actually like, which tends to include 2000AD and pretty much anything penned by Joss Whedon, and stuff I buy out of habit. I’ve been buying far too much of the latter of late. And while DC have been pretty bad here, Marvel are just as bad offenders with their Civil War and Zombie-everything. I’ve already been sucked in but in what way is this accessible to new readers? They appear to have got caught in the same rut that Doctor Who got caught in in the 80s – fans writing for fans, keeping the community blissfully happy but not catering for anybody new.

So much for the superheroes, my other quandary lies in the fact that I find it increasingly difficult to find my way around what is sometimes rather snootily described as the comics “mainstream” – i.e. the stuff out there which isn’t all about lycra-clad musclebound buffoons who periodically blow up planets. A big Sandman fan, I got rather tired of the ever poorer cash-ins that Vertigo devised to milk that particular cash cow. Alienated by all that, I now get the impression that I missed out of some really good stuff. But how do I tell the good from the bad? I got quite into the indie-scene in the mid-nineties and was impressed by the range of good material out there. But the chaotic schedules left me a little lost. I gave up on Strangehaven having completely lost track of when the next issue was due out.

Overall, I’m feeling a little lost. I’m sure there are websites out there which can supply me with news, but it’s tough figuring out even where to start. It seems that the comics industry has found its little niche and is quite content plugging away at it, leaving it to the film industry to occasionally give it a boost. I’m not sure how sustainable all this is in the long term: if a relatively hardcore fan like myself can get alienated, isn’t there a danger this will all collapse on itself in ten or so years time?