CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTMENT

By Kira Kristine

Everybody strap in and hang on, we’re gonna talk about Marvel’s Civil War.
 
It’s a wide-sweeping fact that everybody hated it. (Even you; don’t lie to me.) Everyone but people who ship Steve Rogers and Tony Stark and/or those who love pointless superhero fighting, and also don’t mind wild mischaracterization. 
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Because Wild Mischaracterization is the name of the Civil War game, with a side of “Angst For No Reason” and a lot of “Grown People Acting Like Babies”. 
 
My biggest issue with the arc isn’t any one of these things, it’s that Civil War could have been decent, and easily. It’s a good idea for a story - I will defend this until my dying day - and it could even still have had gun control and Patriot Act allegories without coming off heavy-handed and preachy.  
 
If you’re lucky enough to have never read it, here’s a run-down: a largely untrained group of meta-humans accidentally blows up a suburban city block, destroying a bunch of houses and an elementary school. There’s a push by regular humans for something to be done to prevent this in the future, because duh, and someone concieves of Registration, a way for the federal government to log superheroes, their powers, and their secret identities, as well as attempt to train them to control these powers.
 
There’s obviously some basic issues with this; the foremost being safety for the heroes involved. A lot of these people have spent fifty telescopically-timelined years meticulously guarding their secret identities out of fear for both their and their families’ well-being. It’s framed as a civil liberties issue, that one’s Fifth Amendment rights covers not having to admit to superpowers.
 
Naturally, nobody can discuss this like a reasonable person, at least not for long, because it quickly turns into a petty dick-measuring contest (like most Marvel events) between Captain America and Iron Man (at one point in the thick of the War they meet clandestinely in the basement of a ruined Avengers Mansion to argue and fight sans-suit-and-shield, which solves nothing and is also pointless, unless you’re setting up a gratuitous sex scene for a fanfic.)
 
Almost everyone splits into pro or anti- Registration camps, the latter joining Cap in a very stupid secret underground clubhouse while the former, under Iron Man, start arresting non-complying supers, including literal children, and warehousing them in the Negative Zone. It’s a mess. The X-men and mutants in general are all “oh wow, being persecuted for having superpowers? Wonder what that’s like,” and stay out of it for the most part.

(Editor’s Note: It is very curious to me that the X-Men took a neutrality stance in this event, since they have been fighting mutant registration since the early 1980s.  Maybe they forgot that they are also costumed super humans and would be required to register?  It’s especially strange given that their numbers had just been decimated by Scarlet Witch, and that mishandled registration could have quickly turned into the imprisonment and death of the last 298 mutants in the Marvel Universe. - Steven)
 
It all ends with Cap getting shot and dying briefly, Registration goes into effect, everyone mostly goes back to normal except there’s a bit with Spider-Man and Mary Jane never having been married because of the Devil. The usual.
 
It’s all very unfortunate because of my earlier assertion that it could have been good. The Super-Hero Registration Act is a thing that would happen, or at least be proposed, were any of this real.
 
Think of the gun control debate in the U.S.
 
As liberal as U.S. laws are governing weapons sales and background checks and whatnot, there’s still a level of legal oversight. Nobody’s allowed to just up and buy firebombs, for example. There’s plenty of automatic weapons that remain illegal. (There’s plenty that are legal, but this article is about a comic-book dick-measuring contest and I don’t want The Boomtube editors to get flack.) Someone kinda, for the most part, keeps an eye on these things, is what I’m saying. 
 
The metaphor breaks down a little because superpowers are largely innate parts of the heroes in question and not inanimate objects. They can’t just be like, “well I don’t want to register so I’ll sell off my ability to X, Y, and Z.” Which is where the Civil Liberties come in.   
 
"But why," you groan, facepalming, "are you bringing this up now? It’s been ten years since this bloated monstrosity floated into our collective comic book spheres and we’re just trying to forget."
 
Because if these unfounded Marvel Studios rumors are to be believed there’s gonna be some iteration of it playing out in rapid angsty live action right in front of our faces at some point in the not-too-distant future.
 
Sure, it’s the same goddamn thing we all hated, but it’ll be rehashed in a neat two-hour package. They have to have some brevity! No time for pages-long Cap monologues about how he’s too stubborn to even think the word “compromise,” at least not if you also want to fit in Tony Stark angsting publicly about the garbage decisions he “has to” make.
 
Ok, it might actually not be that great, but it’ll be better than the comic book was and then we can be like “yeah but the movie was good,” something we don’t get to say very often.
 
But do you wanna know how to fix it? 
 
Mix it with Marvels, the critically-acclaimed trade that follows Phil Sheldon, Normal Newspaper Man through decades of living under the shadow of superheroes. Reading this, you become aware of the sheer helplessness and terror that non-superheroes in this universe must feel on a daily basis (especially if you happen to live in New York City. Yeesh.) And not just from the bevy of villains tormenting the world; the protagonist loses sight in one eye from collateral damage to a building during a fight he was trying to photograph. And if being a nobody on the street is bad, it’s worse to be associated with these heroes. Gwen Stacy’s death plays a large role, not as motivation and character development for Peter Parker but as her own narrative of living in this terrifying world among giants, and the immediate and violent danger that comes with the wrong people knowing your name.
 
Marvels (and its not as amazing but still good sequel, Eye of the Camera) is beautifully written, beautifully conceived and it’s the polar opposite of Civil War while still addressing the same issues. You can feel the excitement and fear these people experience, v.s rolling your eyes at the ridiculous antics of bumbling characters trying to push forward an awkward plot. 
 
The narrator wrestles with the idea of these people, these Marvels, being superhuman in every way, guardian angels of humanity in perpetual combat with their demon brethren. At the same time, he and others are cataloging their fundamental humanity; Sue Storm and Reed Richards’ relationship woes. Janet Van Dyne’s divorce from Hank Pym, the formal citing spousal abuse and the latter undergoing a public break-down. Steve Rogers’ personal politics at odds with his uniform and country.  Tony Stark’s alcoholism. Ororo Monroe’s hair and clothes reflecting the hell out of the counter-culture of the 1980s. These are people; maybe not entirely normal people but people nonetheless, and as the narrator comes to understand, they are not ideas.      
 
Back in reality, this is obvious. A good character in any medium is three dimensional and feels real, even when they’re doing things that defy the laws of reality. It’s why there’s so much relationship drama in comics mixed in with the explosions. The mess surrounding the Registration Act was unnecessary and contrived because it took the characters from people to ideas; two-dimensional billboards for one stance or another. Get rid of that, and maybe then we’ll have something worth watching, rather than a super-powered dick-measuring contest.
CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTMENT
By Kira Kristine
Everybody strap in and hang on, we’re gonna talk about Marvel’s Civil War.
 
It’s a wide-sweeping fact that everybody hated it. (Even you; don’t lie to me.) Everyone but people who ship Steve Rogers and Tony Stark and/or those who love pointless superhero fighting, and also don’t mind wild mischaracterization. 

Read More

The Gang Kills Deadpool
By Angela Kucera
Everyone wants a Deadpool movie. Literally everyone, even your grandmother, who has never heard of a Deadpool but knows she wants a movie about it. Babies are being born saying “if I don’t get my Deadpool movie soon I’m going right the fuck back up there I swear to god”.
I don’t know when or why this started. Was it the terrible Deadpool in the first Wolverine movie (Wolverine Origins aka Wolverine, as opposed to Wolverine 2 which was THE Wolverine)? Was it the general boredom with gritty but righteous superheroes (because god save us from another “I have a city to save WHERE ARE THE DRUGS I am gonna murder the shit out of the last member of my race” superhero movie)? Because that I understand.
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But what I really don’t understand is what sort of Deadpool movie people think they are going to get. Do they think they’ll get some wacky, actually accurate movie? Or do people really want some sort of gritty, dark “I am so full of man-pains and troubles that this spandex suit can barely contain them” mess (see: Man of Steel, assuming you replace spandex for Kryptonian spandex/leather hybrid).
So here’s the Deadpool movie I’m proposing, based on my extensive knowledge of the character (read: I’ve seen some stuff on the internet and I hear he really likes food trucks):
Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly as Deadpool, in an Office-style “breaking the fourth wall” thing where he works in a taco truck. Minimal superheroing, because let’s be realistic here: any superheroing that Deadpool does is accidental. He’s not a superhero, he’s a special magic man in a suit who likes doing disgusting things (Charlie work), making nonsense (hornets in a box), and probably writing weird plays. Hell, Wade Wilson probably eats cat food when nobody’s looking, we don’t know!

That’s the sort of Deadpool movie the world needs. Not another “OH GOD THE TRAGEDY AND THE PUNCHING” spectacle, not another “LOOK HOW MUCH WE QUIP HAVE WE QUIPPED EVERYONE TO DEATH” (+punching) extravaganza. Just a regular nonsense movie, like some sort of Super Troopers meets The Brave and the Bold meets It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia mess that has no real plot beyond “this man is ridiculous, how can we best showcase the fact that he is his own Infinity Gem of nonsense?” There are enough gritty, sad superhero movies thanks to DC. The current run of Marvel movies has the market cornered on “+10 punching, +25 heart”, so that role is filled. But both of those leave a giant, gaping void that a nonsense Deadpool movie would fill: the fact that superheroes are ridiculous creatures. They’re people (and aliens, and robots, and mutants) who run around in spandex and punch danger in the face. The fact that there’s no ridiculous silliness in there, is leaving out the best part of comics.
I’m not saying that a Deadpool movie shouldn’t have fighting or witty dialog, I’m just saying that the focus of the movie shouldn’t be either of those things. The focus should be on the fact that Deadpool himself is absolutely ridiculous, and the best things to see him do are perfectly normal things.
Picture buying a soda from Deadpool. Deadpool checking your coat somewhere. Deadpool fitting you for a bra. Any of those things is better than whatever garbage-filled punch-a-thon Ryan Reynolds (god bless his abs) would shit out. Ryan Reynolds wants to be Deadpool, he wants to bring that to the screen, but he doesn’t have the necessary qualities to do it. He’s not ridiculous. He’s muscles and frowning faces and terrible Green Lantern-ness.  
Ryan Reynolds would never do this, and this is what Deadpool needs, this is what Deadpool is:

The Gang Kills Deadpool

By Angela Kucera

Everyone wants a Deadpool movie. Literally everyone, even your grandmother, who has never heard of a Deadpool but knows she wants a movie about it. Babies are being born saying “if I don’t get my Deadpool movie soon I’m going right the fuck back up there I swear to god”.

I don’t know when or why this started. Was it the terrible Deadpool in the first Wolverine movie (Wolverine Origins aka Wolverine, as opposed to Wolverine 2 which was THE Wolverine)? Was it the general boredom with gritty but righteous superheroes (because god save us from another “I have a city to save WHERE ARE THE DRUGS I am gonna murder the shit out of the last member of my race” superhero movie)? Because that I understand.

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A GUIDE TO PRIMATES IN DC COMICS
By Steven Miller
So basically my boyfriend and I were watching a lot of Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice recently, and we started thinking about the fact that there are like, a million super-primates in the DC Universe. What’s the deal with that? Yeah, I don’t really get it either, except that I guess apes are cool? I dunno. Anyway, here’s some of the most relevant primates of DC Comics in alphabetical order.
You know, just in case you need it.
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Beppo – Beppo was a lab animal that stowed away in baby Kal-El’s rocket. What I’ve learned from Beppo is that all Kryptonian animals have the same power set as regular Kryptonians, which is pretty terrifying, I think. Anyway, he causes a bunch of super trouble that gets blamed on toddler Clark Kent, but then he got lost in space.


Congorilla – “Congo Bill” got a magic ring from a witch doctor, and rubbing it let him transfer his mind into the body of a gorilla. Makes sense. He decides to fight crime and protect “Africa”, and eventually his human body dies, and so now he’s just a dude in a gorilla body.


Detective Chimp – Bobo T. Chimpanzee is a monkey that gained the ability to communicate with humans and animals after a visit to the Fountain of Youth. He also solves crimes and wears one of those Sherlock Holmes hats…so yeah.


Djuba – Djuba is basically just a gorilla that wears a mask, but the more interesting part is that he’s the sidekick to B’wana Beast, who is a dude that uses his powers to combine animals into chimera characters. AWESOME.


Garth the Ape Man – Garth was…I guess a hired thug? He appeared in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Tyger, Tyger”. It’s considered to be a universally bad episode where a scientist turns Catwoman into literal cat woman. Garth was the scientist’s first experiment, and so now he’s a gorilla that still chooses to wear clothes and a hat.


Giganta – This is a technicality maybe, since Giganta isn’t known to be a gorilla woman…but it’s a weird origin nonetheless.  A scientist dying of a blood disease accidently transfers her consciousness into a test gorilla (so much gorilla science in the DCU…it can’t be a coincidence… WAKE UP SHEEPLE!) She surprisingly doesn’t like being a gorilla, so she abducts and transfers her consciousness into a size-changing strong-woman (convenient), becoming the Giganta we know today.



Gleek – Gleek was the monkey sidekick of the Wonder Twins from the Super-Friends cartoon. He hasn’t really been seen since, feasibly because of Fox’s Glee lobby that’s ruining America. Thanks, Obama.



Gorilla Grodd– About 50% of the time, whenever you see a super-intelligent gorilla in DC comics, it’s Grodd. He was just a normal ape, until he met some aliens that made him telepathic. His group of gorillas built a super advanced civilization, and then Grodd decided to take over the world. It didn’t really turn out. He’s mostly a Flash villain for some reason.



Monsieur Mallah – Monsieur Mallah is maybe my favorite DC primate for a few reasons. First of all, he’s been showing up a lot recently (in both Batman: Brave and the Bold and Young Justice). Secondly, he’s a Doom Patrol villain.  Third, he wears a beret. Finally, he is in a homosexual/robosexual/brain…sexual? Relationship with The Brain, who is literally a living brain in a robot body. So romantic.


Silver Monkey – He’s not really a monkey, just an assassin in a monkey costume, but I think that’s pretty cool, too.


Solovar – Solovar is another of the Gorilla City gorillas, and he’s the opponent to Grodd.


Titano – Titano the Super-Ape is ill-defined, but there have been like 10 versions of him. Basically he’s a giant ape that shoots Kryptonite beams from his eyes. Yeah.


Ultra-Humanite – Ultra-Humanite comprises the other 40% or so of all hyper-intelligent primates in DC Comics. UH is a scientist who can transfer his body into the bodies of other people and animals. For some reason he likes being in a gorilla body, so he stays that way a lot.

A GUIDE TO PRIMATES IN DC COMICS

By Steven Miller

So basically my boyfriend and I were watching a lot of Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice recently, and we started thinking about the fact that there are like, a million super-primates in the DC Universe. What’s the deal with that? Yeah, I don’t really get it either, except that I guess apes are cool? I dunno. Anyway, here’s some of the most relevant primates of DC Comics in alphabetical order.

You know, just in case you need it.

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GETTING A “REAL” SUPERHERO EXPERIENCE
By Mike Balderrama 
Sorry, folks: I hate roller coasters.
It’s something about the whole sensory experience: the stomach-churning as you wait in line; getting strapped in, only to be launched into the air—reaching dizzying heights—this odd dichotomy of ultimate freedom and sternum-bruising confinement.
It’s that whole experience that left me wanting (and slightly fearful) when Six Flags New England came out with Superman: The Ride of Steel back in 2000. Back then, I was a freshman in high school—a little too introverted for my own good—so when our class went up there to celebrate finishing the PSATs or something, I stayed earth-bound and watched everyone’s backpack. Needless to say, I didn’t share in the “Superman experience.”
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Since then, We’ve seen a number of other superhero-themed roller coasters. Six Flags has the benefit of WB tie-in branding, so Batman, Green Lantern were all a-go-go. (But just like the movie industry, apparently they can’t even make a damn Wonder Woman roller coaster. Even when the final episode of the Lynda Carter series took place AT an amusement park. Come on, people. Think of the retro tie-ins!!!)
It totally makes sense. You’re given a chance at weightlessness—a fleeting moment of flight that only costs a pricey admission fee to the park rather than an even pricier trip on the vomit comet. People crave at least some fraction of the rush it must be to wield limitless power—even if it’s over in less than five minutes.
I think about all those Spider-Man rides down at Universal Studios where you are in a contained craft looking through 3-D glasses as Stan Lee shouts to you thwipping through a fictionalized New York. We long for the sensory experience.
I remember reading an article over a year ago about people paying to be kidnapped for fun (ugh, I’m pretty sure it was GQ or something. Feel free to judge). Even within a scenario like that, it’s the individual trying so desperately to put out there in the world that there’s something special and significant about them. Maybe they’re a spy, or someone with a secret (or secret power), and HYDRA or LexCorp is trying to extract the info. It’s an extension of fantasy that comes from an imagination fed by talk of X-genes, the CADMUS project, or even that alien technology stuff in Ex Machina.
When I was five years old, my dad and I went to Universal Studios in California where I got to do The Star Trek Adventure. You put on the costumes, filmed on Trek sets—and could even take home a souvenir VHS copy of your exploits. Can’t we build a better superhero experience? One that feeds all of these various sensory and experiential fulfillment needs?
I could imagine a Doctor Strange ride or experience in the same vein as the Harry Potter experience—where you could don some magical artifact that allowed you a sorcery lesson with the Supreme himself. Why not an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D laser-tag or paintball match against HYDRA? There, you could have opposing factions, even a mole in the midst of your group. It forces you to work together and save the day.
That’s what seems to be missing from all of the current rides and attractions we have for the superhero experience: other people. It’s such an isolating experience getting strapped into a coaster or other vehicle. Actually being a hero means saving people (or stunt doubles/actors in my proposed scenarios). It means having to work together even with differences/different powers—isn’t that why we love the various Justice Leagues or Avengers? Batman likes to work alone, but even his actions have consequences to those around him. I wouldn’t mind a ride that simulates driving the Batmobile—but the element of catching a villain ought to be balanced with the need to avoid crushing cars or blowing up buildings (lest Alfred chastise you over the batphone).
If designers could strive to create these sorts of experiences where people (read: customers) can play out these superhero fantasies on a seemingly grander scale, I guess my hope is that you can transfer those internalized desires to do what is right into the outside world. When my friends stepped off the Ride of Steel I could tell they were a little different after going up, up, and away. There was a spring in their step—just a drop more of adrenaline in their system. It almost looked like they could levitate. Give me that, but give me more.
Look, all I’m trying to say is I want a Fraction/Zdarsky Sex Criminals-themed ride. Is that too much to ask?

GETTING A “REAL” SUPERHERO EXPERIENCE

By Mike Balderrama 

Sorry, folks: I hate roller coasters.

It’s something about the whole sensory experience: the stomach-churning as you wait in line; getting strapped in, only to be launched into the air—reaching dizzying heights—this odd dichotomy of ultimate freedom and sternum-bruising confinement.

It’s that whole experience that left me wanting (and slightly fearful) when Six Flags New England came out with Superman: The Ride of Steel back in 2000. Back then, I was a freshman in high school—a little too introverted for my own good—so when our class went up there to celebrate finishing the PSATs or something, I stayed earth-bound and watched everyone’s backpack. Needless to say, I didn’t share in the “Superman experience.”

Read More

Not So Black & White: When Comics Explore Race Using Aliens as a Social Majority
By Stephanie Hoos
Upon leaving the theater after seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, only one thing struck me: I was seeing a movie where the aliens were the ones who held both the ethnic and social majority, but a white male still came out on top. How did this happen? How did this narrative come to be? And, most importantly, did I believe that this was truly about whiteness, or was it more about the construction of society and how we all perceive race? 
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Peter Quill, AKA Star Lord, is kidnapped from Earth and dehumanized (har har, dehumanized in an alien movie – no one else got that? No? Anyways…) by his captors only to work his way up the ranks and become a second-class citizen in an alien (both literally and figuratively speaking) society. Once Quill stumbles upon “the orb” and the orb-hunting Gamora, his plight changes and his purpose refuels him to realize his potential and become a leader of a group of justice-seeking individuals who have all experienced their individual traumas. Their mutual healing becomes the happy accident of the successful completion of their mission to deliver the orb’s contents to their proper authorities, etc. Shenanigans ensue. All is won. 
 
The part of the story that strikes me as most poignant is that Quill’s kidnapping from earth, where he would have grown up to be the quintessential example of authority (a white male) is cut off and redirected. He, by default, is no longer socially superior. His identification changes, his posture changes, and his goals change the moment he is given an overarching purpose that challenges his low-life status. 
 
The example of the outlier as hero is relevant across the entire comic spectrum from mutants to millionaires. It is difference that is always emphasized as the platform for plausible heroicness (and, yes, that’s totally a word). Once achieved, though, this heroicness gives the man in the suit permission to be considered one of the crowd, while standing head and shoulders above it. Superman is an alien who fights for humans. Bruce Wayne is a millionaire who fights for the everyman.  Professor X is a man in a wheelchair who can render the strongest man useless just by using his mind. The exceptions in comics become the rule. 
 
Quill, though, has an exception that we don’t usually see: he’s white at the beginning of the story and white at the end of the story, but his whiteness means something completely different at the beginning than it does at the end. His evolution from geek to chic is similar that of any white male colonist narrative. All of a sudden, we find ourselves right on the set of Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, The Last Samurai, and – finally – Avatar. 
 
Side note: One huge problem I have in Avatar as well as this movie, in particular, is that actors of color always play the aliens. Why does that bother me? Well, it sets a precedent that, in our human world, actors of color are only fit to play aliens because they are alien to our white dominated society. It also enforces typecasting and general racism, but – most importantly – it tells each story as if it’s obvious that there are people in the world who aren’t white and those people are not the same as those who are white. They are different and not different in a positive way. They are meant to be colonized, changed, and uprooted from wherever and whoever they are until they become exactly like us. Or, alternatively, they can choose the depths to which they’d be willing to break their backs to make us accept them – only to have us isolate them even more from us and market their dehumanization and colonization for all to profit… 
 
We can break down the general white male as colonizer story into something simple: generally unlikeable white male feels lost and out of touch as a result of internal struggles or external trauma, white male stumbles upon “alien” lands with “alien” occupants only to feel lost and like an outsider, white male befriends local male and seduces local female, white male becomes integrated into alien society and begins to identify as one of them (rather than the original “us”), white male goes against his land and people of origin and fights his background as well as memories of trauma left behind, white male finds peace and a new home with his new people who now embrace and accept him as one of their own. 
 
Quill’s narrative is not all that different, and we even have all of the aliens played by people of color who prove that his acceptance into that community both externally and internally mirrors that of a white male growing into the community of minority inhabitants. However, the aliens are not an ethnic minority either socially or politically in Guardians of the Galaxy. The alien planets are societies of their own with political power and social capital. That said, Peter Quill’s acceptance doesn’t stem from distrust of whites or humans evolving into Quill’s embrace of their culture, but rather something unbelievable happens…
 
HUGE SPOILER HEADED YOUR WAY FOLKS!!!
 
We find out that Peter Quill IS an alien!?!?!?!? WHAT!?!?!? How did that happen???? Stop it!!! Really??? The white guy in a movie about aliens ends up not being totally white and human and huge and handsome and… WHAT!??!? 
 
Ok ok ok, we get it. This is supposed to put a wrench in it all. And it does. It proves something that comics have rarely touched upon and almost never come out and say: race is a social construct that we, as people, create from scratch and enforce over decades of systematic fallacy and political intervention. We create inequality from absolutely nothing real, just like Peter Quill’s narrative proves. You can still be white, you can still be a minority, you can be a failure as a junker, and you can be a success as a Star Lord. What you cannot help and what you cannot change is society’s perception of those things until you can prove you are worthy. You are just like them. You are somebody. 
 
And this white guy wasn’t a somebody until he proved he was just like every other nobody walking on this alien planet.  That’s possibly slightly reductive, but the point is there: whiteness as allegory proves that society deems who is worth more and who is worth less or worthless. That’s something determined over time with honed and systematic crafted dogma of the day. 
 
Peter Quill’s ascent into the position of white male authority only happened because we found out he wasn’t human at all. He was able, without anyone knowing, to pass as a human in a world full of aliens. Then, he was able to pass as alien in a world full of human haters. He was able to be a card-carrying member of the majority. He actually earned his alien club card. This is a societal narrative, and a constructive one regarding the character of characters we deem powerful and present in the story of human existence as told through comics. This human isn’t human. He is, though, telling a human story. He’s telling the story of someone who struggles with identity in a world that hates him because of something he cannot control and only embraces him based on that very same something he cannot control. Why aren’t we looking at each other or reading comics and wondering, who is the white guy in this story? The answer might surprise you. 

Not So Black & White: When Comics Explore Race Using Aliens as a Social Majority

By Stephanie Hoos

Upon leaving the theater after seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, only one thing struck me: I was seeing a movie where the aliens were the ones who held both the ethnic and social majority, but a white male still came out on top. How did this happen? How did this narrative come to be? And, most importantly, did I believe that this was truly about whiteness, or was it more about the construction of society and how we all perceive race? 

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SUPER-FOODS
By Mike Balderrama
Dear, BoomTube friends,
I’m writing today to make a formal pitch to you: I want BoomTube to also be a FOOD BLOG!
Let me explain:
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We’ve all had them: supermarket sheet cakes with a hastily piped-on S-shield of frosting; cupcakes with mounds of icing on which a lazy hand dropped a hokey plastic disc emblazoned with an Avengers (TM) logo. But we’ve also cracked open a can of Spaghetti-Os with special noodles shaped like your favorite characters from the cancelled-too-soon series The Batman. 
It’s a mix of good and bad, isn’t it? Chowing down on a fruit roll-up has a little more zazz if you’re eating Victor Zsasz (although, I’m pretty sure they only printed Two Face and The Joker on those Dark Knight tie-in boxes). Here are two of my picks for the worst Superhero tie-in foods that I had to endure during my childhood.
1) Spider-Man Cereal (1995)

Fact of the matter, this was already a disappointment because it couldn’t even claim to be an original cereal. Just the TMNT cereal with differently molded blobs of marshmallow. Don’t get me wrong, I love rice Chex, and I love the marshmallows you might find in Lucky Charms, but combining the two left an unsavory flavor in my mouth. Also, a cereal company like Ralston couldn’t live up to the promise of two power-house General Mills products.
Can we talk about the marshmallow shapes? I distinctly remember the TV commercial showing a mock-up of the intended iconography as it morphed into the actual marshmallow shapes: a red spider, an orange pumpkin bomb, a blue camera, and…Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin (??)—all transformed into red blob, orange blob, blue blob and white blob respectively.
I barely finished a box at age 11. You can now still find these awful things lingering on eBay for way too much money.
I will say this about it: from a packaging perspective, I much prefer it to newer versions linked to the Spider-Man film franchise. Here, at least Spider-Man is shaking his fist at the sheer ridiculousness before him. Today, we’re bombarded with an action-shot where the web-slinger is usually firing his web-shooters toward the bowl. Often times it comes off like his web fluid is the cereal milk? I dunno, the imagery is super confusing and unappetizing.
2) Superman Vitamins

I was a Flintstones kid. (Ten million strong and growing!) I actually liked eating them. I found them to have a nice citrus kick, sort of harder Smarties. Fred always tasted the best. But then I discovered comic books and superheroes as a little child. Dad would pop on the John Williams Superman score, and I’d run around the condo with my arms outstretched like I was whizzing through the sky. It made sense that a growing kid would need some vitamins befitting the Man of Steel, right?
Was. I. Wrong.
They were so chalky! And bulky! They always left a sour taste in my mouth that a glass of milk only made worse. They also felt bigger than Flintstones vitamins. Shaped like crest of the House of El, they were dense little health supplements. The only thing that made me get through them was pretending they were different forms of Kryptonite that would alter me in new and fantastic ways. Like that Silver Age story where Superman uses a bunch of different colored rocks to split into Superman Red and Superman Blue. Otherwise? Gross as hell.
The Final Scores:
Spider-Man Cereal: 2/5 “Kingpin ‘Shmallows”
Superman Vitamins: 1/5 “Not even humming “dunnn dunnn dunnnn DUN dunuuuuh” could get this bad taste out of my mouth.”
If you have Superhero food you want to review we’d love to publish your work! Hopefully we can make this a regular segment to supplement our usual BoomTube offerings. E-mail us at hello@theboomtube.com!

SUPER-FOODS

By Mike Balderrama

Dear, BoomTube friends,

I’m writing today to make a formal pitch to you: I want BoomTube to also be a FOOD BLOG!

Let me explain:

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JODOROWSKY’S DUNE
By Steven Miller
When I heard that the Dune documentary was finally being released, I hopped online to find where it was playing. Typically whenever there’s something out of the mainstream coming to theaters, it’s not coming anywhere near me. I usually end up waiting for the DVD or Netflix release, because typically I’m not going to drive 5 hours to see a movie. But I looked anyway…maybe it would be coming to Jacksonville? But to my surprise, it was screening right here in Savannah, Georgia. A local film group lobbied to bring Dune to our town, to the least popular of our seven theaters.
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So recently I wandered into a dark theater to view the legacy of one of the most amazing movies that never happened. Fortunately, I was not alone; there were three others there as well. I wasn’t sure what to be prepared for, but I was definitely not disappointed in what I got.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a documentary about the story of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to make a film about Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic, Dune. Dune tells the tale of two royal families vying for control of Arrakis, a desert planet home to the spice/hallucinogenic drug mélange.  It actually feels a lot like an allusion to the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, except that it was written in 1965. The young Paul Attreides eventually befriends the Fremen (the locals), and is revealed to be the messiah of the Fremen people. He also rides some giant sand worms. It’s a great book, one that would be tough to adapt to screen.
Jodorowsky saw this as a chance to bring a new experience to the world, to make audiences feel like they were on drugs, even if they weren’t. Jodorowsky sets out to find his “spiritual warriors” that would help bring his film to life. I was struck by the passion that Jodorowsky had for every step he was talking to make this film. His excitement was contagious, and I couldn’t imagine not wanting to be part of the project, based on how he explained it.
Character concepts by Moebius

The first Spiritual Warrior he found was Moebius (Jean Giraud). Moebius is easily one of the most incredible illustrators of the 20th century, working mostly with graphic novels such as The Incal, Airtight Garage, and Blueberry. Moebius was incredibly quick and had a vast vision, helping Jodorowsky develop character designs and a phone book-sized storyboard laying out the entire film, panel by panel. There are only two copies in existence today, one of which belonging to Jodorowsky himself. It’s value is likely priceless, because of the rarity and cult status. The most interesting thing about the storyboard and its completeness is that Jodorowsky never read the book! I assume he got some Cliff Notes, but the entire process mostly came from his own brain and how he thought things ought to be. It likely would have looked nothing like the original novel’s story, but maybe that’s not so important.  His next warrior was H.R. Giger, who, was extremely weird. You sort of expect that the guy who later went on to design the Alien franchise would be kind of creepy, but yikes. I’ll give you a moment to go Google him. He also has this gravel-y Swiss German accent that just…woof. Let’s not talk about it. Giger was charged with developing the villainous Harkonnen planet, with buildings and palaces that look skeletal and metallic.  Dan O’Bannon, a relative newbie working on John Carpenter movies, was hired as the warrior for visual effects. Chris Foss was hired to do concept art for the ships, based on his work on sci-fi novel covers.
Jodorowsky and Moebius’ GIANT storyboard book

It was a massively talented team. Jodorowsky recounts tales involving his recruitment of Pink Floyd to do music, of bribing Orson Welles with food from his favorite restaurant every day on set, and of agreeing to pay Salvador Dali $100 a minute for his portrayal of the Emperor.  There was a sort of fate attached to everything he did. He wanted to hire David Carradine and Mick Jagger, and then there they were in the same hotel or club as him! It was like everything was syncing up with this mystical energy and excitement.
Harkonnen palace by H.R. Giger. The mouth opens and ships land on the tongue.

But then the problems hit. Dune was maybe too wild, too long, and too expensive to make. Jodorowsky had managed to raise a good part of the money he was expecting to need, but no production companies would sign on for it. They loved everything they were seeing, but didn’t believe in Jodorowsky as a director, and they didn’t believe the film could actually happen.  And that was it. After painstaking pre-production, casting, and concepting, it was over before it began. This crushed Jodorowsky. And how could it not? To pour your entire life into a movie, to feel it as the biggest thing to change cinema, only for it to fall flat so close to being reality. I felt powerfully sad during this movie. Certainly, I already knew the outcome since Dune wasn’t a movie I could ever go see, but watching it felt like seeing a part of Jodorowsky and his team die. Jodorowsky didn’t make many movies after that, it stamped down his creativity for a long while. Yet, there was something still uplifting in Jodorowsky’s outward spirit. He turned the negative into a positive. Yes, he said, yes…we will not make the movie!
Jodorowsky tells a story about going to see David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune in the theater after his own version failed. He was so sick, he had to be dragged in. He looked up to Lynch and though he was an incredible film maker. But then the movie started and it was terrible! He was so happy that it was a flop, that someone else hadn’t succeeded where he had so painfully failed. He realized that this wasn’t maybe the best reaction, but a human reaction.
Ship concept by Chris Foss

Even though Dune didn’t ever happen, parts of it can be seen in other places, and one could argue that many sci-fi classics could not have happened without Dune. After the failure of Dune, O’Bannon wrote the screenplay for Alien and wrote Total Recall. He got fellow Dune-r H.R. Giger to design the aliens. Giger’s Dune work could be seen in the other films of that franchise and Prometheus. Foss also went on to work on Alien, as well as Superman. Story elements of Dune were eventually used in Jodorowsky’s Incal and Metabarons graphic novels.
Jodorowsky’s Dune is a sad, funny, sweet, and strange tribute to a man with incredible vision and new ideas about the viewer experience.  I left wondering what our movies today would be like had Dune been a reality…how might it have changed our perceptions of cinema? I guess we’ll probably never know, but maybe some day, in some way, Jodorowsky’s vision will finally come to life; he’s already done all of the hard work.
See this film. See this experience. See this work of art that almost was.

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE

By Steven Miller

When I heard that the Dune documentary was finally being released, I hopped online to find where it was playing. Typically whenever there’s something out of the mainstream coming to theaters, it’s not coming anywhere near me. I usually end up waiting for the DVD or Netflix release, because typically I’m not going to drive 5 hours to see a movie. But I looked anyway…maybe it would be coming to Jacksonville? But to my surprise, it was screening right here in Savannah, Georgia. A local film group lobbied to bring Dune to our town, to the least popular of our seven theaters.

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"BAD NEWS, EVERYONE!" OR WHAT’S TO BE DONE ABOUT UATU?
By Mike Balderrama
(Originally published after the release of Original Sin #1)
Laurie:Uh-huh. Ahuhuhuh… Jeez, y’know, that felt good. There don’t seem to be that many laughs around these days.Dan: Well, what do you expect? The Watcher is dead.

Okay, that’s not a real quote. That’s a wholesale theft from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ The Watchmen. I just finished Original Sin #1, and I don’t know what to feel about it.
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More specifically, I was left to gather *real important opinions* about a Marvel Universe figure we rarely see, (but when we do, we’re very much in trouble): Uatu the Watcher. He’s dead now, and for some reason a bunch of superheroes are left to track down the murderer.
Oh, and he’s been blinded. Sort of like Earth X, but not? Well, blinded for someone else to see, rather than blinding so Uatu can’t see.

I could have sworn he was immortal…wasn’t there something about him being chock full of Delta-rays—couldn’t he only die if he lost the will to live? I’m getting ahead of myself, but with all these tiny notions bubbling up in my mind, I found myself wanting to know more about this mystery figure who apparently isn’t mysterious enough that you can take Nick Fury’s flying car to go visit his home.

I think this seems to be the biggest beef I have with The Watcher: everyone knows about him. For a cosmic entity that has been charged with observing the solar system in order to pass on the record of the universe once our reality dies and is reborn, he gets pretty talkative.
I’m vaguely remembering a scene in the ‘96 Onslaught story arc of the X-Men, where a dormant Apocalypse wakes up and Uatu just pops up. He doesn’t say anything, he just knows he needs to show up to keep an eye on what’s about to happen. That’s the kind of thing a Watcher should do: create this instant unease and gravity to the situation.

Only problem is, when you use Uatu too much as a plot device to drive home the fact that *YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION, THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT* then you undermine any sense of subtlety and delicate tonal shifts in your story.

He’s become a bit of a joke in the Marvel Universe—a sort of galactic boogeyman. “Reed, don’t build that machine. Wouldn’t want The Watcher to show up…”

And yet, when he shows up, more often than not he helps out heroes in order to solve the unsolvable problems. His primary mission is non-intervention, but that rarely happens. Uatu is really bad at his job.
He’s the guy who told the Fantastic Four about the ultimate nullifier in order to push back the destruction of Galactus. The Dreaming Celestial even reported that Uatu has broken his oath well over 400 times.

Based on what we see in Original Sin #0, looks like this kind of behavior is hereditary. His father was the one who handed over nuclear technology to the Prosilians—the act that made the Watchers the rules-oriented curmudgeonly bunch in the first place. Uatu is portrayed as desperately exploring the multiverse in the hopes there’s a version of reality out there where his dad made the right call. Perhaps this is equally a self-reflection considering the sheer volume of intervening he exhibits on a regular basis.

Well, now that he’s dead, what do we do with him? What could have been done differently to make him a compelling enough character to keep around in the Marvel Universe?

I really liked reading All-New X-Men #25 where Hank McCoy is visited by a shadowy bald-headed figure forcing him to face his reality-compromising act of bringing the O5 into the future. You think through the whole thing that it’s Charles Xavier, only for Uatu to step out of the shadows. That’s a powerful scene.

This is an all-seeing, all-observing figure with limitless power on the scale of Galactus. Conceptually, I would think our megacephalic friend would be so beyond the average human’s comprehension, that no one should be able to see him except for a handful advanced level superheroes. It’d make him a bit more of a horrifying figure—maybe people can talk about him, but when you are trying to discuss something you’ve never seen or heard before, imagination can run wild.

He could serve much more as a threat or a warning when portrayed in a hazy shadow in the corner of a scene—the flash of his eyes or his silhouette the only thing readers can pick up at the back of a panel.
I admit, I love the idea of a duty-bound figure who leaves his post to help. [It’s also what makes the Silver Surfer so interesting. Similarly, Uatu and Norrin Radd freak people out when they show up to the party (which admittedly is really funny—most recently seen in the new Slott/Allred Surfer series)]. I want to see an Uatu casually guiding people when they’ve gone astray, or coaxing them to better things. Wouldn’t it be fun to read an Uatu series where he goes around helping the Marvel Universe? Each issue he has to solve some problems, all while making sure his fellow Watchers don’t find out? Maybe make it like Quantum Leap where Sam, Al and Ziggy are all rolled up together in a bald-headed entity with a taste for fashionable robes. How can you not make a regular series with a character that actually has a lunar base? It’s outright wasted potential.

It’s too bad a series like Original Sin was the reason I got thinking more about Uatu the Watcher, since he won’t actually be around anymore. Fingers crossed he comes back before Wolverine ultimately does.
Uatu is dead, y’all. Long live Uatu.

"BAD NEWS, EVERYONE!" OR WHAT’S TO BE DONE ABOUT UATU?

By Mike Balderrama

(Originally published after the release of Original Sin #1)

Laurie:Uh-huh. Ahuhuhuh… Jeez, y’know, that felt good. There don’t seem to be that many laughs around these days.
Dan: Well, what do you expect? The Watcher is dead.
Okay, that’s not a real quote. That’s a wholesale theft from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ The Watchmen. I just finished Original Sin #1, and I don’t know what to feel about it.

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WHO ARE THE REAL VILLAINS HERE?
By Stephanie Hoos
When I was small, my mother took me on our annual lunch-box shopping trip. I wish I could express the seriousness with which I approached this excursion, but I doubt even words could do it justice. I looked forward to it. I planned it. I utilized it as an opportunity for self-expression. Each year, I would contemplate the cartoon character or animal that defined me, the color of my name that would pulse off of the plastic, and – of course – the shape and color of the lunchbox itself. One year, I settled on a yellow rectangle that I brought to the front of the store. I said with confidence, “I want the beast.” And that’s when confusion ensued.
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“You want what?” my mother asked, clearly flabbergasted because the year earlier I had a bunny rabbit hopping across a pink synthetic square.

“I want the beast, Mommy. Belle’s beast.” I had recently become obsessed with Beauty & The Beast. The Beast and I were, in my mind, destined to be best friends.
“Are you sure you don’t want Belle?” My mother was clearly not only perturbed by my choice of lunch-box character, but she was also pretending not to hear me so that she could sway my decision. Finally, we agreed I could have the Beast on my lunchbox, as long as my name was in large pink capital letters just above the ascot and dinner-jacket wearing creature.
This particular incident highlights many things for me. From a feminist theory standpoint, it screams all sorts. However, that’s another topic and article entirely. It was mostly the question of the Beast’s validity as a “hero” that got me thinking. The undisputed villain of that particular Disney tale is Gaston, the burly if not somewhat self-obsessed pony-tailed lad who can’t seem to read a book without pictures. However, the Beast is not exactly nice. He’s got one thing, though, that separates all heroes from all villains: audience empathy. That’s right. We feel sorry for the Beast, so he can’t technically be a true villain. A villain, in our estimation, has no redeeming qualities or sordid backstory to force us to gaze inward at our own demons and reach for understanding. As such, the Beast is a permissible hero. He is cursed, ruined by circumstances beyond his control, and doomed unless he can fall in love and break the spell.
What, though, did I see in the Beast that made him lunch-box worthy? I believe, looking back, that I found the Beast vulnerable and not all that scary. The key word we all look for is “misunderstood.” Can a hero truly be a hero if he is not likeable or does not show positive moral fiber? Not usually. It’s only when we give ourselves permission to feel something for a hero that he or she is actually allowed to become one.
This, of course, is a layered commentary with many a twist and turn. The most recent Captain America movie is awash with this question of who or what is a true villain or hero when those who once inhabited one role immediately switch to the other, even without choice (no worries, friends… I will NOT post any spoilers, but Kira did last week in her article). I ask you, reader, to take some time during your next comic or graphic endeavor to ask yourself whom you see as a hero and why that is. It will bend your mind to extremes you never thought possible.

A hero is a hero is a hero… isn’t he?
Greek and Roman mythology, fairy tales, and even proverbs give us insight into heroism and hedonism through lessons. We are told what we can and should do in situations of doubt and distrust, and we follow the example of the individual who comes out clean on the other side of insurmountable odds, labeling him or her a hero. This dichotomous structure leaves very little room for empathy for the “bad guy,” which gives very little room for doubt as to who said bad guy is. Often villains are introduced through the horror of an initial crime. The hero swoops in and rescues the innocent, while the guilty villain faces justice. Then, the character’s backstory reveals something that we rarely consider when labeling heroes and villains: motive.

Victor Freeze (Mr. Freeze) was never motivated by pure selfishness, greed, or narcissism. His wife’s death is his one and only motivation to behave as he does. Though several series turns muddy the waters of Nora’s arrival in a cryogenic state as well as the illness that required her to enter said state, the motive remains very much the same. Each of Victor’s crimes against Gotham citizens, Bruce Wayne included, has roots in his original heartbreak. Do we judge Bruce Wayne for acting out of his desire to avenge the death of his parents? Then why would we similarly judge Victor Freeze for doing the exact same thing in the name of his wife? It’s only because we do not believe Bruce Wayne’s internal conflict motivates him to behave badly that we call his actions heroic. It motivates him to harm only villains. Were their positions switched, would we be so sure that Bruce was the hero?
Heroes must utilize the positive influences of a mission, true love, or even vengeance as a means of overcoming a tainted past, tragic flaw, or misconstrued origin story (this goes for every hero from Apollo to Captain America). That being said, many a comic book reader has gotten it wrong by pointing fingers and passing judgment at the wrong person. And, in doing so, we prove the greatest point of all: no one is a true hero and certainly no one is a true villain.
When considering reasoning and backstory, one can look at Catwoman as a representation of utilizing crime as a means to an end, rather than a vindictive sociopathic tendency (depending on which origin story you follow). Selina Kyle steals to survive, and she also protects the interests of those who society deems unsuitable to protect: thieves, prostitutes, and the generally derelict. She believes that justice is equal opportunity, as opposed to a right reserved for pristine individuals. Her burglary becomes the subject of much debate once Batman gets involved, but Catwoman never fights Batman as a way of hurting others. She’s only trying to support and express herself in the only way she’s learned how to do so.

Judgments Judgments
Real life can sometimes be the ultimate in complicated. How often have we pointed fingers at someone and said, “That’s wrong!” or “You shouldn’t do that!” when we would rarely put ourselves on pedestals of moral authority? If you are not prepared to call yourself perfect, then how can you judge the imperfection of others so harshly? (Anyone see any glass houses around here?) The same could be said for comic and graphic content. The greatest heroes/villains of all are the ones that do not show us clear-cut examples of purity or pornography. They straddle (no pun intended) the divide.

The most flawless example of this (other than my Beast analogy of days gone by) is Magneto. The beloved X-Men “villain” is Charles Xavier’s best friend and mutant colleague. He is anti-human because he sees humans as the enforcers of anti-mutant laws and dogma. He is, of course, at war with himself and the entire world regularly because he believes xenophobic action requires equal reaction. His hatred for the human race is also informed by his childhood experiences in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He has seen evil firsthand, and he is therefore traumatized and fueled by it all at once.
I would argue that Magneto isn’t really a villain because every reader has empathy for him. That’s not to say that Magneto doesn’t show villainous behavior, but his behavior is informed by something traumatic that forces readers to show compassion for his cause. He displays the tattoo he received in Auschwitz as a symbol of what humans can do to other humans; let alone what humans can do to mutants (also known as the perceived other). It makes X-Men an allegory, a warning for the capacity humans have to harm one another in the name of eradicating difference. However, would a kid out there feel comfortable putting Magneto on his or her lunch-box? I think so. Why? Because Magneto is an individual who fights for a cause that a reader can champion: standing up for oneself after being beaten down by an oppressor.
The natural reaction to those who commit acts of violence is to shake a head or wag a finger. I think that’s reductive. Heroes commit acts of violence constantly in the name of a cause or belief, and we only label those individuals as heroes because of a perceived moral component of justice. Rarely do we apply that gaze to a perceived villain, mostly because we want to see the hero win. Never do we think about contextualizing and cross-examining the violence of every hero and villain (according to their overarching accepted labels) and actually consider the motives vs. causes of their actions as a means of re-perceiving their status. As such, it becomes not an exercise in morality but an exercise in enforcing an already determined morality that we’ve already subscribed to.
When agreeing with a friend over an argument that took place with a third party or choosing a side in a debate, take the stance that appeals most to you because you believe it to be the moral choice. We do that anyway. Then, ask yourself if you could take the opposite stance just as convincingly and with just as much conviction. If you can, then maybe you can similarly put yourself in the shoes of one of your “favorite” villains: the Joker, General Zod, Doctor Octopus, etc. and feel yourself see their motives, fears, informed pasts, and even feelings. Then ask yourself how much violence your hero has committed for the sake of defeating that villain. Is it justified? Maybe. But, the next time you’re in that moment of readership, with that responsibility of becoming an empathetic reader staring you down, ask yourself the most important question: Who is the real villain here?

WHO ARE THE REAL VILLAINS HERE?

By Stephanie Hoos

When I was small, my mother took me on our annual lunch-box shopping trip. I wish I could express the seriousness with which I approached this excursion, but I doubt even words could do it justice. I looked forward to it. I planned it. I utilized it as an opportunity for self-expression. Each year, I would contemplate the cartoon character or animal that defined me, the color of my name that would pulse off of the plastic, and – of course – the shape and color of the lunchbox itself. One year, I settled on a yellow rectangle that I brought to the front of the store. I said with confidence, “I want the beast.” And that’s when confusion ensued.

Read More

THE ADVENTURES OF HELLBOY AS A BOY
By Ben Rawluk
It’s a bit different with, say, Superboy. Well, the Silver Age Superboy, who was a Superman as a boy. Because you knew that Clark would eventually grow up, move to Metropolis, meet Lois Lane. You were maybe sad that he would eventually stop travelling to the future to hang around the Legion of Super-Heroes (except once in a while, always with a funereal pall over the proceedings, the lingering whiff of nostalgia) and certainly that Lana Lang was probably never going to marry him in a “real” story (but do you want her stuck with her high school sweetheart, really?).
But Hellboy.
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Hellboy is the opposite of Superman.  If you show his adventures as a kid, you are foreshadowing. Because Hellboy has always been portentous—people are constantly implying the full extent of his future, constantly whispering to him from dark corners.  Hellboy is used to spirits calling out his birth name—Anung Un Rama, the Great Beast—while he’s in the middle of hunting some random vampire or something.  And what did little Hellboy have to look forward to, way back when?  The apocalypse, and death.  Having his heart ripped clean out.  Being dragged down into hell.
Near the end of 2013, Dark Horse released The Midnight Circus, a pretty hardcover pairing Hellboy’s creator Mike Mignola with his recent artist partner Duncan Fegredo.  Fegredo is a personal favourite of mine, which made me hotly anticipate its arrival.
The Midnight Circus is a story about Hellboy as a boy.  More specifically, it’s the first story of Hellboy as a boy since Hellboy as an adult died, and went to hell.
When Superman died, it was an event, a major shake-up of the status quo, nobody knew what it meant. When Hellboy died, it was a plot point, a moment to change the course of his story, but it wasn’t presented as if we’d never see Hellboy again.
But it did give us the opportunity—while ol’ HB fell through layers and layers of existence—to look back.
In 1948, Hellboy has been on Earth for approximately four years, though he’s already about six or seven years old, emotionally.  Everyone at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence treats him like he’s just a kid, almost a mascot, running around underfoot.  They have to stop themselves from talking about their latest romantic exploit in any detail because he’s just a kid, and his life is small and controlled, with regular education.  And his father…
Trevor Bruttenholm is an aging academic who suddenly finds himself with a research subject, a son, and a threatening harbinger, all in one.  He doesn’t have to deal with teachers asking for interviews because HB is a problem child (although he does get into trouble), he has other academics showing up in his office and forcing him to look at ancient prophecies talking about how HB is going to grow up to destroy the world.  And sometimes they leave the door open.


The Midnight Circus details one night out in the life of Hellboy.  Blocked from hearing salacious details about romance, catching the drifting remarks about the danger that lurks within him, HB pockets a lighter and a cigarette stolen from a Bureau agent, then heads out into the dark to smoke it like a big boy.  To rebel. To—something.  Something I love about Mignola’s approach to Hellboy as a kid is that he tends to do stuff without even knowing why, which feels very accurately portrayed.
He almost lights up, only to be distracted by drumming—the drumming of strange, nocturnal clowns, marching down the road.  Abandoning match and cigarette, HB runs off after them…off to join the circus…

The Midnight Circus, like so many things in Hellboy’s world, has a doubled existence.  I recently encountered an article celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Hellboy that talked about how Mignola avoids the pitfalls of presenting horror in comic book form—it’s hard to navigate and generate surprise, when your reader might glance across a page and see the “punchline” before you get to it—by focusing on the uncanny, the unsettling, and this is something that Fegredo excels at as well.  There is menace in the linework, in the shadows playing out behind the circus folk.  Hellboy is witness to a summoning as the circus sets up shop for the night, and competing demons-cum-carnies seek to coax him into temptation.  Knowledge of the self, of his destiny, is jangled in front of him.
In and around this, Mignola and Fegredo thread other ideas, notably picking up an early edition of Pinocchio and weaving that into the narrative, another story of a not-boy running off to the circus, of being transformed by the experience.  Fegredo is given three modes to work with—one, his standard linework; two, reproductions of Pinocchio’s story; and three, a sumptuously painted night with the circus, where HB is overcome with portents, drowning and swallowed by a metaphorical whale.

The key to The Midnight Circus is that it takes advantage of the “You know what happens.”  Hellboy doesn’t, not at first, but he grazes against foreknowledge on his night out.  He already knows that he isn’t human, but this is his first real glimmer at being a monster, and the tension that this creates. It also establishes something about him, something which has played out over twenty years of publications—that Hellboy always turns away from self-knowledge, tries to avoid it, believes that in turning away he can rewrite it.  He meets himself in the Hall of Mirrors and runs away, and continues to run from decades and decades.
 

THE ADVENTURES OF HELLBOY AS A BOY

By Ben Rawluk

It’s a bit different with, say, Superboy. Well, the Silver Age Superboy, who was a Superman as a boy. Because you knew that Clark would eventually grow up, move to Metropolis, meet Lois Lane. You were maybe sad that he would eventually stop travelling to the future to hang around the Legion of Super-Heroes (except once in a while, always with a funereal pall over the proceedings, the lingering whiff of nostalgia) and certainly that Lana Lang was probably never going to marry him in a “real” story (but do you want her stuck with her high school sweetheart, really?).

But Hellboy.

Read More

Hey gang, I wrote an article for the Savannah Art Informer about my experience with cosplay at Dragon Con.  Check it out!
Note: I am not this awesome Aquaman cosplayer. I’m the nerd in the Lannister jersey.
Savannah Art Informer

Hey gang, I wrote an article for the Savannah Art Informer about my experience with cosplay at Dragon Con.  Check it out!

Note: I am not this awesome Aquaman cosplayer. I’m the nerd in the Lannister jersey.

Savannah Art Informer

WHO DID IT BETTER? COMPARING KINGDOM COME TO ITS NOVELIZATION
By Mike Balderrama
I was given a gift on Friday night.
While celebrating a friend’s birthday party, we were all gathered in the reading room of a local bar/restaurant. Surrounded by bookshelves with a sort of “take a penny/leave a penny” policy, one can browse everything from trashy romance novels, to dusty tomes of presidential correspondences from the Jackson administration. There was even an Animorphs book. But on these very shelves, tucked away near the Thomas Harris, a book I didn’t even know existed was waiting just for me: Kingdom Come.
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Yeah, that Kingdom Come.
In an instant, I was transported back to 1993 when I kept, in a plastic sleeve, my young-adultified version of The Death (and Return) of Superman comics, entitled Doomsday & Beyond by Louise Simonson. Clearly this too must be some sort of watered down chapter book with the occasional toss-in of low-res comic book images, right?

We’d been subjected to a truncated oversimplification of the plot, a gloss of the major themes, all while keeping with the average sterility that came from an early 90s book geared at youths (that simpler time when the Scholastic bookmobile roamed the streets and way before the term “tween” was ever coined).
Welp, I was wrong. This thing definitely surprised me when I burned through it over the weekend. Novelized by Elliot S. Maggin, the book version of Kingdom Come takes the original text, and adds a completely new layer to Norman McCay bearing witness to an end-times battle amongst the superheroes: namely Norman McCay.
The Elseworlds comic had its focus more on the action of the scene, with the occasional check-in by Norman and the Spectre. For the novel, it’s 100% from Norman’s perspective. We are given full mediation through his eyes. Where the comic book panels often depicted Norman and the Spectre hovering over the scene, with the reader as primary witness, now the reader is privy to the conflicted priest as much as we get a first-hand account of the conversations among heroes and villains. This narrative integrity waffles a little bit, when we’re also given a peek into Superman’s thought process, so it doesn’t stay entirely pure to Norman’s eyes, but I admired the attempt at fleshing out the all-seeing observer.
One of the harder bits to digest while I read was my own self-awareness that I was reading a comic book book. Let me give an example:

"Beneath Gotham was a thick layer of solid bedrock. In the bedrock was a second city, a latticework of bubbly caverns already old when the last march of glaciers had laid down the surface above. A collection of bubbles of gas from when the Earth was young had jammed up together and gotten caught in the formation of the bedrock. Millennia later those gasses leached out or combined with other elements and left behind, under the suburbs of Gotham, the endlessly rambling cave that became the home of the first flying mammals who inspired Batman’s standard, and then of Batman himself.
Another mass of gaseous bubbles had collected and congealed and found a sinecure for some hundreds of thousands of years under the land that became Gotham’s Midtown. Eventually the gas had leached out of here as well and left behind a cavern and a narrow passageway to it. It was in a corner of this cavern that the Spectre and I found our non-corporeal selves.”

I caught myself a few times—getting drawn into a highly descriptive scene, only to be pulled out when matter-of-factly Maggin lists off DC comics characters. In a way, I get that from the comics as well: “this is serious business about superheroes and myth and religious text, and power.”
It was the kind of comic book book I would probably write myself. Melodramatic, overly descriptive, investing heavily into the inner workings of my favorite superheroes—a test and testament that declares “hey, guys, I getthese characters.” For all the sort of silliness I can associate with the novelization of a comic book, picking up Kingdom Comeoddly enough inspired me to open up a Word document to knock out one of those Rejected Pitches scenes we’ve always thrown your way. It was an invitation to look at the story in a new way, and one that probed me to temper my own assumptions of a Mark Waid script and an Alex Ross-drawn book.
I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know who Elliot Maggin was before I did my usual Google snooping. Not only is he a fantasy and science fiction author, but he was a principal writer for Superman comics for over a decade between 1971 and 1986. A number of the books he wrote before Kingdom Come were Superman stories. It’s no wonder why he got this assignment, and he managed to world-build beautifully. Apparently he also keeps horses. Says so in his bio.
Is this a New York Times bestseller? No. Is it worthy of a Caldecott Medal? Definitely not. There are only 4 illustrations in it. Can you buy it for less than $1 and burn through it on a plane ride or at the beach? Absolutely. Why not pick it up and chase it with the original comic. May inspire you to write like it did for me.

WHO DID IT BETTER? COMPARING KINGDOM COME TO ITS NOVELIZATION

By Mike Balderrama

I was given a gift on Friday night.

While celebrating a friend’s birthday party, we were all gathered in the reading room of a local bar/restaurant. Surrounded by bookshelves with a sort of “take a penny/leave a penny” policy, one can browse everything from trashy romance novels, to dusty tomes of presidential correspondences from the Jackson administration. There was even an Animorphs book. But on these very shelves, tucked away near the Thomas Harris, a book I didn’t even know existed was waiting just for me: Kingdom Come.

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SILVER SURFER: PARABLE
By Steven Miller
“Why cannot they realize that the truest faith is faith in oneself? What has made them so desperate to have others show them the way?”
I have to admit, I’ve been on a Moebius kick lately; I’ve been trying to gobble up everything I can find to better understand his artistic genius, one which never quite penetrated American comics. But there was one fleeting glimpse of what could have been, an experiment in exploring the western style, and that was Marvel’s Silver Surfer: Parable.  Written by Stan Lee and illustrated and lettered by Moebius, we got to see an incredibly fine comic with very little action. Instead, Lee and Moebius sought to open the readers’ eyes to the harsh truths of our world, of the trap of following blindly. It’s always a timely message.
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Parable opens with a falling star, and then chaos. A man sits in an alley, talking to himself about his lack of purpose, his lost faith. Of course we know who this shrouded man is, but his story is left a mystery. And then Galactus comes. He is a great beast, an unbelievable mass of life. Moebius uses the opportunity to expand and contract the size of Galactus to make the reader feel the impossibleness of his being.

But of course, there’s always someone around the corner to exploit any tragedy, we see this daily in the news by religious leaders, by terrorists, and by the media itself. Colton Candell, a failed televangelist, decides to utilize this new religion of worship to Galactus as his spring board to power. He urges the world to bow down to Galactus, to listen to his words, as he has come to save us. Colton has no idea what Galactus has in store for Earth, and the great hunger that constantly consumes him. And so Colton marches humanity toward its death. He doesn’t listen to his sister and he doesn’t listen to the shrouded stranger, finally revealed to be a mission-renewed Silver Surfer. Surfer challenges Galactus; on his last visit to earth, he vowed to not attack Earth again. Galactus, in his cosmic wisdom explains that he has no plans of attack.  He has discovered the weak will of humans, and is exploiting their need to be lead. He will let the humans destroy themselves, thus not breaking his vow, but sating his hunger a little longer. It’s a pretty brilliant idea, one that we’ve seen play out in many ways in our history, from Salem to the Red Scare. When humans fear the unknown, they begin to turn on each other in some very ugly ways.

The story can’t end that way. Ultimately, Colton’s sister is the turning point for Colton’s greed. Angry about what Colton is letting happen, Elyna tries to stop the battle between Surfer and Galactus, and she is killed. Like waking from a dream, Colton, and all of humanity, realizes their error, and that things were never what they had hoped they were. They fight back, and Galactus leaves, vowing to come back when Earth has forgotten what it had just learned.

Silver Surfer is praised as a savior, as someone who is fit to rule over them. Surfer can’t believe they’d be so quick to blindly follow someone again, and so he turns the crowd against him. Only Colton, a lost voice in the crowd, realizes what Silver Surfer was doing for humanity, the freedom he was truly giving them.

I can’t help but be really impressed with the degree of storytelling involved in Parable. Stan Lee is a very polarizing personality, but it’s difficult to criticize the way in which he spins this tale, the voices he gives to the characters, the message he so clearly presses through. In this story he creates a strong mission statement, one that is often rare to find in American comics.  Moebius was apprehensive about doing this book, but took on the challenge, experiencing the “Marvel Method” for the first time. I believe that this is an example where that looseness paid off. Giving Moebius the freedom to draw what he wanted, I think it helped to ensure his voice was represented in the collaboration. Silver Surfer is Moebius as his most distilled; it’s one of the most un-Moebius books, but also clearly him.   It’s a real treat to be able to read this story and the included commentary to get a clear vision of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

SILVER SURFER: PARABLE

By Steven Miller

“Why cannot they realize that the truest faith is faith in oneself? What has made them so desperate to have others show them the way?”

I have to admit, I’ve been on a Moebius kick lately; I’ve been trying to gobble up everything I can find to better understand his artistic genius, one which never quite penetrated American comics. But there was one fleeting glimpse of what could have been, an experiment in exploring the western style, and that was Marvel’s Silver Surfer: Parable.  Written by Stan Lee and illustrated and lettered by Moebius, we got to see an incredibly fine comic with very little action. Instead, Lee and Moebius sought to open the readers’ eyes to the harsh truths of our world, of the trap of following blindly. It’s always a timely message.

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THE BATMAN BIBLE: PART FIVE
By Ben Rawluk
This is it, the final piece of Ben’s puzzle, celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Batman! We hope that you’ve enjoyed exploring some classic Batman stories and have reflected on your own experiences with the Bat.
Happy Birthday, Bruce!
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XXIII. THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS
It is important to note that “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” takes place in 1955, on a parallel world, in the “present day” of that parallel world—which goes unreferenced in the present day, beyond brief shots of aging dreamboat Bruce Wayne with his typewriter and pipe, though I know in retrospect that the “present day” Gotham of that parallel world would have been protected by a grown-up Dick Grayson in a terrible, terrible Robin costume alongside Helena Wayne, the Huntress.
This is the last story in the book, though, and it details an aging Bruce Wayne, and while I was first starting to understand the nature of DC’s multiverse—again, in retrospect, the multiverse already murdered by the Crisis before I had my hands on the book—in my mind, this was a story of the end of Batman, the retirement of Batman.  The fact that it took place on “Earth-Two” didn’t matter to me.  In the grand scheme of the book as a whole, it was the concluding chapter of a long, continuous history.
The Batman lands on the rooftop of police headquarters for the old song and dance: Jim Gordon’s fired up the Bat-Signal, there’s been a message, a “gift” left behind by the Scarecrow.  Batman takes it—having released some fumes—but has to shelve it in favour of attending the wedding of an old girlfriend, Linda. He bemoans his friends—the Flash, Superman—settling down into marriage.  He broods on the loss of Linda because of his life as Batman, his loss of Julie Madison way back when.  He broods but tries to look happy, the dapper Bruce Wayne, and greets his friends, Dick and Kathy Kane—I didn’t know who she was, but she would shortly reveal herself to be Batwoman.
And then the wedding breaks down because of the Scarecrow.  The Scarecrow induces a cavalcade of terrors on the wedding guests, narrating the entire time, facing off against Batman and Robin and Batwoman.
I nearly died when I saw Batwoman, way back.  Her strange, swooping mask.  The fact that her colour scheme made no sense with the themes of Gotham, like a grandiose bird of paradise with no interest in adhering to Bruce’s aesthetics.
The Scarecrow faces Batman, and triggers a fear.  More specifically, he seems to wipe away the people in Batman’s life—Robin, Batwoman, Linda, they all dissolve before Batman’s eyes, suddenly vanished.  Except they aren’t, of course, this is all a hallucination.
Batman takes off.  He needs help.  He finds himself turning to another old flame, a woman who fought with him but later retired, the Catwoman.  Selina Kyle.  Selina claims to have no memory of her time as a criminal, but agrees to help him anyway.  They face Scarecrow in Gotham University, succumbing to various phobias while the villain lectures.

What I like about the story, what I liked about it then but can focus on and articulate much better now is that it is about Bruce Wayne being forced to shed Batman.  He has to.  Batman is scar tissue, he’s a defense mechanism, he is representative of all Bruce’s trauma, and Scarecrow makes all this trauma toxic but amplifying his natural fear—a fear of abandonment—until Bruce has to let go of it.  He and Selina have to unmask for each other.  The two of them are forced to peel away the things that build their secret identities—Bruce’s childhood loss, Selina’s abusive marriage and lies about the “amnesia” that she claimed caused her to become a villain—in order to defeat the Scarecrow.  Because those things are so core to Batman, the whole story does read like the end, even if it’s on a parallel world.  It doesn’t matter, because it extrapolates from the very heart of the mythos.
Sometimes I feel strange about liking this one.  I mean, obviously that has to do with Batman receiving a happy ending, and Joe Staton’s artwork is outstanding.  The introduction of Batwoman to my nine-year-old self—resplendent as the harvest moon—burned brightly in my subconscious for decades.  But it’s still “and then they get married because that’s a happy ending.” But I can’t help it. Batman and Catwoman play a game of crime for decades before they finally peel away the posturing.  This is how Batman ends for me—it isn’t murdering the Joker like some awful webcomics might suggest.  It’s being given the opportunity to unmask, to finally process the trauma and let it go.
It’s very evocative.  I love the Scarecrow because he feeds into Man-Bat, that “who cares that magic isn’t real because we’ve reproduced it with science” atmosphere.  The gothic doesn’t care about its origins, only that you can feel it in your bones.  I love Scarecrow because he’s a consummate super-villain, narrating his attacks and delivering a scholarly article on why you are about to die.  Robin and Batwoman are teased only to disappear before our eyes, then squabble and struggle to get Bruce to see them again.  He has to turn to Catwoman because there’s no one left that he can really trust, their relationship safe because it has always existed at the arm’s length of escape.  That tension fills every panel between them.
And I like that it references and revels in the storybook Gotham of Once Upon a Time but doesn’t let them having their storybook protections.  She wasn’t Catwoman because of amnesia, she was Catwoman because of rage and trauma, just like him. The amnesia was a lie, and the story refuses to let them have their lies.  Their interactions aren’t arch and sexy in the same way because they’re older and working together and have no time to flirt, but consequently they get deeper into each other and start to connect in other ways.
This is how Batman must end for me: not dead in alley, crumpled atop of a broken clown.  Pulling his mask off, finally, because he knows that will stop someone who cares about from disappearing.

XXII. THE END
It doesn’t matter how old I get, how much more I know about the history of Batman and Gotham City. It doesn’t matter how many arguments I get into about whether or not there should be supernatural elements involved, or whether he could beat up Superman, how stupid Robin might be. The crises and reboots don’t matter.  I can’t get away from this book.  This book is woven into my soul, has become bedrock for me.  It doesn’t say: This is Batman.  It says: This is all Batman.  All of this is Batman. All of it.  I could argue forever about him, maybe, because there are so many angles. We’re all allowed our perspective on Batman, whether I agree with yours or not. It’s okay.  He has so many angles.  So many cowls.

THE BATMAN BIBLE: PART FIVE

By Ben Rawluk

This is it, the final piece of Ben’s puzzle, celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Batman! We hope that you’ve enjoyed exploring some classic Batman stories and have reflected on your own experiences with the Bat.

Happy Birthday, Bruce!

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