TO LAND IN THE UNCANNY VALLEY
By Stephen T.
From my limited research, the uncanny valley is a term used to identify the sensation of revulsion that happens when we as humans see a representation of another human that is too close to real.  When this happens, the brain is sent conflicting signals of “person” and “not person” at the same time, creating this effect of confusion and discomfort.  In comics, the use of either stylized or hyper-realistic illustration is common, but most artists stay clear of this danger zone.
Today we will explore some illustrators who dare to stand at the edge of this valley and laugh at (or fall into) the abyss.
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Greg Land is an American illustrator employed by Marvel and DC comics.  He has worked on many comic books since his introduction in the late 1990’s.  He has come under some scrutiny for his illustration techniques, mainly taking photographs or other illustrations and tracing them to create new work.  Appropriation, at its heart, is an art-making technique that many illustrators, artists, and designers have used to their benefit and to the aesthetic enjoyment of their viewers.  Land, however, seems to hit that sweet-spot just before “zombie movie” and right after The Polar Express with his work.  Looking at illustrations by Land send my brain down into the uncanny valley, making it hard to interpret the actual writing or story progress in specific books he is illustrating.  My eye immediately is distracted by the faces, sending disorienting messages of “person/not person” from the page.
Uncanny X-Men #501 by Ed Brubaker and Greg Land

In the image above, it’s easy to tell what is happening.  The X-Men character “Pixie” is involved in some kind of fight, and is being attacked with a baseball bat, or other blunt object.  Her hair is fluttering around her, and action lines in the background indicate that she and the blunt object are about to collide.  However, look at her face.  It almost looks like she is smiling.  We can clearly see her teeth, and stretched lips as though she is shouting in pain, but this is conflicting with the shape of her eyebrows and eyelids which are lifted upward in a peaceful and almost friendly way.  In my first reading of this image, I didn’t know whether to feel nervous for this character’s imminent death, or feel a sense of calm from the relaxed and peaceful nature of the face.  In a hierarchy of symbols, a neurotypical brain will respond to the human face first, and decode that information before looking at the surrounding symbols and decoding those.
Uncanny X-men #501 by Ed Brubaker and Greg Land

Zooming in to the cover of Uncanny #501, we see similar conflicting backgrounds and facial features.  The realistic face of “Pixie” in this image shows her having multiple facial wounds and other trauma, but her face is similarly relaxed and almost happy.  Her head is tilted backward and her eyebrows are raised in an almost pleasurable way.  Her lips and teeth are still visible, and she is not slack jawed as one might expect an unconscious person to be.
Uncanny X-Men #508 by Matt Fraction and Greg Land

Another concern comes from the cover of Uncanny X-Men #508, in which the “Sisterhood of Evil Mutants” is poised to attack the X-Men.  These characters might be in a “sisterhood”, but only two of them are actually sisters.  Why, then, do all of these women look so disturbingly alike?  At a glance, this could be a photomontage of one woman wearing different outfits and hairstyles.  The faces are so alike that it becomes almost disturbing to look at.  In the issue itself, if the characters did not have different colored costumes, it would be excruciatingly difficult to tell who was who.  While reading this, and other issues illustrated by Land, a concern is always keeping the story straight.  Because the X-Men cast has so many caucasian characters with similar body types, and because Land illustrates them so similarly, it creates confusion in initial readings of the material, hindering the enjoyment of the story these issues are trying to tell.
Uncanny X-Men #510 by Matt Fraction and Greg Land

Though the theme of the ‘glory of battle’ is sometimes present in comic books, I’m not sure that I would be as happy as Madelyne Pryor and Emma Frost are in the above cover for Uncanny X Men #510.  The confusing visual symbols of the too-realistic, smiling faces, combined with the overly accentuated features of both women make for a troublesome read.  As my brain is identifying both of these images as “human”, I cannot help but feel anxious about the awkward placement of Emma Frosts’ head, chest, and stomach regions.  If I were encountering this figure in real life, this person would have suffered massive spinal injuries, or be living with severe scoliosis.

Wonder Woman “Spirit of Truth” pg. 24-25 by Alex Ross

Another artist who strays into the uncanny valley is Alex Ross.  His work is widely known for being very photorealistic and painting characters with very human characteristics.  In this panel of Wonder Woman, Ross uses hyper-realistic shading and colors in the figures portrayed, and in the background.  Despite the feeling of “too real”, the characters expressions are natural, and seem to convey the appropriate emotions of concern, fear, and understanding.  Looking at this image does still slightly confuse my “human/not human” sense, but in a more subtle way that is intriguing instead of repulsive.   Most effective here is Ross’ use of light as is bounces off of surfaces to make them appear very three dimensional.  Using a limited color palette, he makes an effective use of value contrasts of light and dark to create drama in the images.  Ross can’t help making the faces in the panels just a bit over-expressive, and this does set off a “yes/no” response when compared to their perfectly-painted bodies.  Looking at Wonder Woman’s collarbone, or the civilian character’s hands and arms is somewhat confusing at first glance.  Ross’s art, while still in this uncanny valley, hits on the more “human” side in the company of images like photographs and realistic paintings from the Baroque period of European art.
Harlequin Valentine by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton

UK Illustrator John Bolton strays close to the edge of this Uncanny cliff, but only looks over the edge.  His illustrations like this one for Neil Gaiman’s Harlequin Valentine use realistic, but vaguely distorted human features to capture the characters emotions and motives.  In this panel in particular, the female character is still and pensive, while the Harlequin character seems to bend around her as if his body were more fluid than a human person.  These details, along with the delicate shadows and highlights make Bolton’s illustrations captivating.  I am again searching the page for what is real, and what is not real, and in this instance it is actually helpful to the narrative.  (Though Bolton uses a photorealistic style is used in this graphic novel, he works in a variety of styles depending on the story.)
While something can be said for the triumph of making your drawings look more and more like real life, I think that the first priority in a comic book or a graphic novel is the communication of the feelings and emotions that do not come across in the characters’ dialogue.  People writing comics obviously take long time developing scripts and thoughts for characters to have, but ultimately there is a hierarchy of symbols that will lead your eyes to look at representations of people and human faces first before anything else.  In this image-based media, it has always been so interesting to me that many times the quality or style of the images are not thought of as having the same weight as the written script.  In these three very similar styles it becomes apparent that images in a comic book or graphic novel can help or harm our ability to read and understand a good story.
The images in the infographic are (L-R) John Romita jr, Frank Quitley, Stuart Immonen, Mike Mayhew, Greg Land, Famke Janssen from X3, Jean from Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and cosplayer Linda Le.

TO LAND IN THE UNCANNY VALLEY

By Stephen T.

From my limited research, the uncanny valley is a term used to identify the sensation of revulsion that happens when we as humans see a representation of another human that is too close to real.  When this happens, the brain is sent conflicting signals of “person” and “not person” at the same time, creating this effect of confusion and discomfort.  In comics, the use of either stylized or hyper-realistic illustration is common, but most artists stay clear of this danger zone.

Today we will explore some illustrators who dare to stand at the edge of this valley and laugh at (or fall into) the abyss.

Read More

Female Justice League Line-Ups!
By The Boomtube
Inspired by benito-cereno and his requests for all-female Justice League teams, your friends here at The Boomtube decided to toss our teams into the ring. Check them out below. Reblog and comment on Disqus to tell us how right or wrong we are, and add your picks for your Justice League Lady teams!
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ANGELA

Mera
Raven
Big Barda
Oracle
Cassandra Cain
Vixen
Miss Martian
Angela started out with a bold move…not including Wonder Woman. Right or wrong, she’s got plenty of heavy hitters on this team. A few of the characters on this line-up could potentially toe morality line, but fortunately she also included Oracle to help keep them all honest.
BEN

Wonder Woman
Hawkwoman
Zatanna
The Question
Negative Woman
Bulleteer
XS
Here’s what Ben had to say about his lineup: 
Wonder Woman - The diplomat, the mythic hero, the representative of the Trinity. Wonder Woman has rallied all-female super-armies and has led the Justice League in the past (including the “Justice League of Amazons”). She brings the physical strength and the gravitas necessary when dealing with ancient gods and monsters. Diana’s government and U.N. connections are also very, very important.

Hawkwoman - Hawk continuity is a mess, so let us imagine Alan Davis’s rendition of Shayera Hol from The Nail, with the best components of Shayera’s personality from the JLU cartoons. Hawkwoman is not as physically powerful as Wonder Woman, but has been involved with the League for a significantly long time. Hawkwoman specializes in liaising with law enforcement (always important when super-vigilante groups are involved), and extraterrestrial situations. I liked The Nail’s version of Shayera as grieving a lost husband, so I think this version of Hawkwoman is similarly single, although I think they may have gotten a divorce due to the fact that Katar’s kind of a dick.

Zatanna Zatara - The third of the classic old hands, Zee has a lot of power and connections in the magical community that even Wonder Woman hasn’t been able to cultivate. While she isn’t in a position to comfortably negotiate with gods like Diana, Zee does bring a wealth of resouces with her and as she’s had the most “public” career, she tends to function as the Public Relations side of things, as well as thinking about things like budgets. Zatanna is often defined by her relationship with her dead father, though, which is one of the reasons I didn’t kill off Hawkman.

The Question - Renee Montoya is the Gotham connection. While she doesn’t have as many ins with the Bat-Family (mostly just a connection through Huntress), she remains an able detective with an almost relentless sense of justice. She often feels at odds with the more powerful members - particularly Wonder Woman - and is still prone to some of the excessive behaviours of her past (womanizing, drinking to excess). Renee is the on-the-streets member, and perfect for situations that require finesse and a lack of explosions.

Negative Woman - Valentina Vostok is a veteran of the Doom Patrol and in my version, still possesses a budded-off Negative Spirit seething inside of her. She has no hair; if Valentina is seen in public with blonde hair over top of her specially-treated bandages, this is a wig. I like the idea of Valentina struggling with the realities of her disability (seething radiation inside of her, some limitations on her old powers) and some small sense of vanity. Others have used the Bride as a monster figure, and I’m using Valentina in a similar role. She’s visually striking and there’s something quite insidious about her. She is recruited by Wonder Woman directly, as she is a Russian national. Valentina expects the Justice League to be world-class and not focused on the United States. 

Bulleteer - Alix Harrower has barely done anything since Seven Soldiers, which is such a shame. Invulnerable and super-strong, Alix is recruited through Zatanna, who found her in the wake of the Sheeda invasion, using her magic to gather others involved in the “Spell of the Seven.” Still relatively untested in battle, Bulleteer relies heavily on Wonder Woman and Zatanna for mentoring initially, but ultimately finds Diana a little too aloof (she’s the leader, her head’s everywhere) and ultimately bonds with Negative Woman, as both women struggle with what has been done to their bodies without consent.

XS - Timelost Jenni Ognats of the Planet Aarok, descendent of Barry Allen. Probably on the wrong Earth as well, by this point. I have a soft spot for XS. Fast as fast can be, Jenni is not actually new to being a hero, having proven herself in the far future, but she has no reputation in the here-and-now and is frankly in awe of women like Princess Diana and Hawkwoman. She fills the Flash role and I would see her abandoning her Legion uniform (although she keeps it, her flight ring and utility belt in a safe place) in favour of something more in line with her Family tree—something not unlike what Flash Beyond wears.

And then as a bonus, I’d cast Amanda Waller as official government liaison, as much as Diana and Negative Woman stress that they aren’t an American government-funded body..

STEPHANIE



Wonder Woman
Hawkwoman
Big Barda
Echo
Phoenix
Cass Cain
Oracle

Stephanie made a bold choice here in “crossing the streams” into the Marvel Universe. There’s a lot of physical strength on this team. Phoenix’s presence would certainly make Oracle’s job a bit easier, as she can keep a mental connection between the group, but Oracle could still fill the strategist role.

MIKE



Saturn Girl
Zatanna
Inza
Boodika
Lyta Hall
Empress
Mary Marvel

Here’s what Mike had to say about this team-up:

"A tear in space-time sends a semi-amnesiac Saturn Girl back to the present-day DC universe. Materializing right before Barbara Gordon/Oracle, all she can mutter over and over is "Krypton will be the death of us all."

Maybe it’s Superman? Could it be Supergirl or Superboy? Maybe it’s the jarred city of Kandor brimming with potential destruction. Maybe it’s a threat the universe has yet to encounter. Regardless, an increasing uneasiness arises within the hero community, particularly towards those with Kryptonian DNA.

Word spreads across the known galaxies, and in order to curb fear, Oracle volunteers to assemble a team that is fully capable of shutting down any perceived threat from the overpowered Kryptonian community. She aims to assemble a hardened crew of psychics and magic-imbued women who gather regularly to train—taking on galactic incursions or secret missions, all while acknowledging that one day they may be asked to turn on a friend and ally.


The first recruited is Zatanna, magic extraordinaire. Through her, they are able to reach out to the newly minted Dr. Fate—Inza. With her is pupil Hippolyta (Lyta) Hall, also known as Fury. She has been touched by the Dreaming, and is able to cross between the natural and supernatural worlds. Lyta has a close connection to Fate, considering her deceased husband held the title briefly.

Next they recruit Empress—telepathic manipulator, who contains a piece of the Anti-Life Equation in her mind. She supports Saturn Girl closely, and they improve one another’s mental abilities as she tries to repair the broken memories of the potential dark future Saturn Girl yearns to prevent.

On their first outing to acquire a number of magic-imbued items, they come to blows with a returned Mary Marvel in Khandaq. She has seized Black Adam’s powers for her own, and struggles to work through the surge of great mystic power and rage. The team forms a tenuous alliance with her, and she exhibits a hardline anti-hero drive.

Suspicions toward Kryptonians spread all the way to the Green Lantern Corps, considering that Daxamite Sodam Yat has become the entity Ion. An inner circle of the Guardians restore Boodikka a fraction of her “humanity” back, but she retains a number of her enhanced Alpha Lantern powers. She appears before the team at the end of the first arc to serve as the final member of their squad.

The newest incarnation of the Seven Soldiers is born: The Seven Soldiers of Shadow.

It is an uneasy pact—there are doubts about the mission as a whole—having to tactically take out a trusted hero. Sometimes they will take exploratory missions into the Phantom Zone for “target practice,” or break into the Fortress of Solitude to learn from the Eradicator. It unsettles many on the team, and a crisis of ethics bubbles to the top.”

STEVEN




Amanda Waller/Cyborg
Amazon
Lois Lane/Etrigan
Green Lantern Barda
Ystina the Shining Knight
Danica Williams, the Flash Beyond
Renee Montoya, Batwoman
Here’s what Steven had to say:
“Okay, so I cheated.  My pitch for the all-female Justice League is similar to Marvel’s Exiles, meaning that this team is made up of characters from different points in the DC Multiverse. This is already a thing that happens a lot, so it’s not a stretch, and it’s the kind of book that DC really needs. I want this book to be WEIRD and funny awkward, yet teach readers about the multiverse in an easy to understand way. I plan to do a pitch for The Boomtube down the road for this team, so I’ll try to keep it brief here:

Cyborg (NEW):  After an accident at STAR Labs, Amanda Waller is revived, but now as much machine as woman.  I really wanted an excuse to use Amanda Waller, but give her a super-powered twist. Like other incarnations, she is initially anti-Justice League, but after her accident she discovered just how much she’s been lied to all these years.
Amazon (Amalgam): Princess Ororo of Themiscyra is, well, I mean come on. We need to respect that there was a period of time where I could read about a mash-up of Wonder Woman AND Storm. God, the 90s were so great.
Etrigan (NEW): I have a deep love for Silver Age Lois Lane and her constant schemes to trick Superman into getting married. I briefly considered just including Black Lois on the team, but I really wanted a magic user.  And so instead, Lois tries to learn a magic spell to make Superman fall in love with her. It doesn’t work, and instead she becomes bonded to Etrigan the Demon! 
Barda (The Nail): In The Nail, Big Barda was a Green Lantern, whose ring was bonded to a motherbox. In addition, the soul of Scott Free was trapped in her ring and could project itself. Barda is already a badass, but also having a connection to the Corps was something I thought would be useful.
Ystina, the Shining Knight (Current Universe): I really wanted to include one character from the current Earth, but still be a little out of place. Hence, we have Shining Knight. I love her story in Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, and I thought she could be a good companion to Etrigan. Lois and Ystina would both be a good point of entry for discussions about gender identity, since Lois is sometimes male and Ystina is a female who presenting as male. They also both have that medieval thing going. And we get a Pegasus out of the deal.
Danica Williams, the Flash (Justice League Beyond): I needed a speedster, and isn’t Danica just amazing? She gives me a future angle, and also brings some brightness and humor that this team needs. I also see her as a vehicle for “Flash Facts”, to explain different crises and changes to the multiverse that have happened over the years.
Batwoman (NEW): After witnessing the death of her lover Kate at the hands of Two-Face, Renee Montoya takes on the mantle of Batwoman.  I was sort of inspired by alternate histories from the new Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman book, and I was thinking about ways that Renee’s life could have gone differently had she not stepped into the role of The Question.” 
MAX

Shining Knight
Amethyst
Streaky the Cat
Kara Zor-El (Depowered)
Power Girl
Huntress (Earth-2)
Looker
Here’s Max’s story:
"So basically this whole thing revolves around Shining Knight and Amethyst, because they’re really awesome and maybe meet up while doing some sword and sorcery stuff. They get along, they use swords. It works. During some Multiverse bullshit, they meet Streaky the Cat, and find her quite agreeable. Streaky likes Amethyst a lot. So they decide to hang.
Because Streaky joins them, so does her handler, Supergirl. Kara recently lost her powers due to reasons, and has been generally sad and floundering, except that she’s become an Instagram sensation while taking pics of Streaky in action. Mostly because she feels bad and doesn’t have anything better to do, Power Girl decides to try and raise Supergirl’s spirits, so she also joins up. She’s an unexpected heavy hitter. Steven wants me to push some sort of Olsen Twins gag where PG pretends to be SG, but i’m not really into it.
Huntress has been palling around with PG since they got here from Earth-2, so she decides, ‘what the fuck’, and joins up with this JL team. Who else is she going to talk to?
Finally, Looker happens to be a big fan of Kara’s on Instagram, and so she uses her animal manipulation to convince Streaky to let her join the team. Plus, Looker also just really likes cats. She has a lot of powers, but can really only help out after dark, which is somewhat inconvenient.
Mostly the team is kind of weird and sad, but mostly, they really like Streaky! Shining Knight and Amethyst don’t really even realize a team has formed around them; Ystina is from the past and is a little bit naive, and Amethyst is just happy to have some friends.”

Female Justice League Line-Ups!

By The Boomtube

Inspired by benito-cereno and his requests for all-female Justice League teams, your friends here at The Boomtube decided to toss our teams into the ring. Check them out below. Reblog and comment on Disqus to tell us how right or wrong we are, and add your picks for your Justice League Lady teams!

Read More

COMIC BOOK LEGO PLAYSETS I WANT TO SEE
By Mike Balderrama
The Lego Movie just came out on DVD this past week, and it got me thinking about one of of my favorite components of my hands-down favorite childhood toy. Lego now has super heroes.
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As a product of the late 80s and 90s, I built with Lego. The day I found out you could pop out the legs from the pelvic portion of a minifig, you bet that I put blue legs onto a base—thus making an iconic “underwear on the outside” Superman figure. Rudimentary? Sure. But Lego is so much about tapping into the imagination with what you build. My Superman took down his fair share of bald-headed yellow Lex Luthors with their oddball monster machines conjured in my Elementary school brain.
I’m pretty sure the Batman Lego sets were the first to hit the scene. That blew my mind in college. I even remember shipping a set across the ocean to my significant other because of our mutual love of the caped crusader. Since then, I’ve been increasingly happy with what those wacky Danes have managed to produce for children in the new millennium. My parents have a rule about tossing a tiny Lego set in my Christmas stocking every year, so I’ve been lucky to catch these treats as they hit the scene.
Admittedly, in the Lego Move (a Warner Brothers produced film), there were no Marvel-property minifigs on display, BUT walk down any toy aisle, and you have the ability to pick up a Hulk Lego set with one hand, and Wonder Woman with the right. Even within those Marvel sets, you can have Wolverine AND Thor—something that won’t happen up on the big screen for a very long time thanks to those pesky film rights.
You know what, Lego? There are plenty more sets I’d love to shop for. So as much as I want to throw all listicles into the red hot fire of Rao, here are a handful of suggested playsets of varying feasibility. Ole Kirk Christiansen? Call me, buddy.

Marvel

1)X-Mansion. Yup. Just give us all the X-Men figures you can. I want to see a danger room and everything. Someone made a prototype shown above (and described in better detail here). It features upwards of 45 characters, and it’s amazing. Uncanny, even.
2) Here’s an easy-to-execute hard sell. Lego 1602. You can convert a lot of the pirate and knight sets no problem. Lots of fun scenes to play out like The Inquisitor at the Stake.”
3) Gotta have that Gwen Stacy George Washington Bridge set, right? No. Not at all. That’d be like asking them to release an Alex DeWitt refrigerator set. Let’s class it up a little bit with some Maximum Clonage! Who wouldn’t want a Scarlet Spider, a Kaine, and a skeleton in a smokestack? Comes with 50 Gwen Stacy clones.
DC
1) There should be a huge magic set! It’s gotta happen. Dr. Fate will mentioned briefly in the Constantine TV show; he had a part in Smallville; and carried some big episodes of Young Justice and Justice League. Get this guy a minifig! With that same mold they use for The Incredible Hulk—work out an Etrigan figure as they do battle against a tiny Klarion the Witchboy (complete with Teekl the cat)!
2)Lego Mogo. Needs no explanation, and even less elaboration. Quick question: how many pieces of Lego would make up a planet-sized character?
3) Too many Lego Marvel things revolve around New York City. First, let’s get some Luke Cage love, shall we? Second up, let’s base his sets around  that Hero For Hire period of his life when he patrolled Chicago.
The Rest
1) I want a Lego Technic/masterbuilder set of the WE3 animals. Work some hulking machines around those gender-binary Lego Belville cat dog and rabbit figures. That’s a strong way to turn it around in their favor.
2) HELLBOY. Hands-down serious. This could be amazing. Get some BPRD going on too? A custom bulked-up arm would be a real treat, but any opportunity to show some Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman is worth it. If you want to do some cinematic callbacks, those Golden Army designs would result in some beautiful clockwork-style builds.
3) Manhattan Projects. What better way to convince your parents to buy you some Lego than saying “it’s historical!” You know, the kind of Alt-History where Robert Oppenheimer’s evil twin is conducting all sorts wonky mad-science and fighting the Illuminati.
What sorts of comic book themed Lego sets would you want to see? Post a comment below. Hey, if you’re the type of person who prefers Playmobil, you can sound-off too!

COMIC BOOK LEGO PLAYSETS I WANT TO SEE

By Mike Balderrama

The Lego Movie just came out on DVD this past week, and it got me thinking about one of of my favorite components of my hands-down favorite childhood toy. Lego now has super heroes.

Read More

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND COMIC BOOKS
By Angela Kucera
What follows are Angela’s thoughts about child abuse in comics and how characters have become stronger in spite of their traumas. We think this goes without saying, but we’d like to issue a TRIGGER WARNING on the following content.
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In the brain/body/heart dynamic of comic books, trauma is the body. It’s the vehicle that allows for the actual act of being a superhero, it is the power that lets the characters be great. Every superhero has a tragic back story, some sort of trauma that set them up for the greatness that they reach.
Some characters are powered by their trauma, they use the damage that they sustain to protect themselves and others. And some others turn their traumas into powers themselves, splitting themselves into the protector and the protected.
Bruce Banner is probably the most famous comic character who did that. The Hulk is literally a manifestation of his anger at the fact that his father abused him and then murdered his mother.


(Hulk: Season One by Fred Van Lente) 
Bruce is ashamed of the fact that he is angry, he’s ashamed of the Hulk. He doesn’t let that shame keep him from doing the right thing (except for World War Hulk? Does that even matter in canon right now? I have no clue what is proper 616 canon anymore and what isn’t, but I don’t think anyone really knows.), but he is two parts of the same person: the Hulk is the anger and power that Bruce wanted as a child, and Bruce is the scared, distrustful child that couldn’t protect his mother or stop his father.
That isn’t to say that the Hulk is perfect, that he’s the adult in the situation, because he has the anger and the control of a child, whereas Bruce has the control and functionality that an adult needs. Together they make the full person, the full spectrum of the consequences of childhood abuse.
Another character that was abused as a child and fractured as a result is Crazy Jane from Doom Patrol. Like Bruce, she was abused by her father, though he repeatedly molested her as opposed to the non-sexual physical abuse that Bruce received at the hands of his father. Her personality began to fracture into different personas during her childhood, with her actual person (Kay) being replaced by someone named Miranda. Later on in her life, Miranda is the victim of an attempted rape, which triggered flashbacks to her father’s abuse and completely fractured her personality.
Crazy Jane’s powers are based on all of the different personas that she has, each one has a different skill set and comes forward as needed. They all live in a mental subway station, which is simply called The Underground.

(Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison) 
The pain these characters suffered, the unimaginably terrible things that they faced and put inside themselves because it was the only way to stay safe, is also the source of their power. Comic books normally show us the monsters outside, the ones that can be punched away, but the monsters inside are secrets. They’re one-off showy things, like an angry psychic ruining your day.
Comics normally tell us that, as soon as the fight is done, as soon as the monster is gone, then everything is fine and normal. Sometimes a character will have some minor trauma, a mild drinking problem that gets retconned by the next writer to take over, but it’s rare for a character to show that trauma stays with you, it stays hidden inside of you in a place that no punching can reach, and that sometimes you have to either swallow it and accept it, or you have to fight it until there’s nothing left of you.
These characters became the monsters that they needed to punch, because it was the only way to survive. That doesn’t mean that they became something bad, that they literally became the monsters that hurt them, just that they became the pain and the trauma inside themselves to do good, to prove that the abused doesn’t always become the abuser, but instead can become the hero.
Showing childhood trauma, normalizing childhood trauma, is a powerful thing. deantrippe talks about the power of comics in overcoming childhood sexual abuse in his comic Something Terrible. He was able to use the power of superheroes, even though they aren’t real, to heal from something horrific. Showing actual characters who suffered those same sorts of abuse? Can and will help so many to heal, to learn to use the power their monster gave them to be stronger and to be better. It also teaches them that there’s no shame in it, that there’s no weakness in having these demons inside you.

(Saga by Brian K Vaughan) 
Just because trauma is the body that supports comics, doesn’t mean that they don’t also show us that we can overcome, that our traumas don’t destroy us. We can be stronger than we thought, we can beat the monsters inside of our heads and hearts, just like they beat the monsters in their worlds.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND COMIC BOOKS

By Angela Kucera

What follows are Angela’s thoughts about child abuse in comics and how characters have become stronger in spite of their traumas. We think this goes without saying, but we’d like to issue a TRIGGER WARNING on the following content.

Read More

DIAMONDS ON MY NECK, DIAMONDS ON MY GRILL
By Stephen T. (words and illustrations)
First of all, before we even start talking about Emma Frost we need to put this on a foundation.  Emma Frost is a ridiculous character.  Nothing about this person was created to not serve an entertaining purpose.  Her accent, her hair, her love of capes, it’s all supposed to be flippant and campy.  She is, in part, based on a fake persona that Emma Peel from The Avengers used to sneak into a secret organization of sadists.  That being said, Ms. Frost has become an integral character in the past decades, proving that she can, in fact be a real person after a long time as a villain and a fan-fiction bondage fantasy.
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Not being alive in the 1960’s, I formed my opinions about this character based around her depictions in New X-Men by Morrison/Quietly, Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon/ John Cassaday, and Xenogenesis by Warren Ellis/Kaare Andrews.  I’m including artists in this creative team list, because while it’s important for me as a reader to hear what the characters are saying, I don’t generally “read” comics.  I mostly just look at all the pictures, and expect the dialogue to sublimate out from the images, or for the images to be so profound that I need to look at the text to see the layers of nuanced detail.  In the care of these creative partnerships, Ms. Frost was a central character and teammate of the X-Men.  She provided comic relief, but also did useful things like use her telepathic abilities to give the field team access to languages and cultures of the places they visited.  She also still wore a lot of capes, a gravity defying bustier, and some severe cutouts.  But I was willing to overlook that for meaningful looks and quips like “top class breeding”, and “…By nature, I’m my own best friend”.
In Morrison/Quitely’s New X-Men, Frost’s ‘Kate Moss’ looks and aloof quips helped her steal panels from more serious characters.  Her antics in Cyclops’ psyche earned her some negative criticism, as she used her mind manipulation to encourage Summers’ psychic infidelity.  Her teaching abilities were showcased as well, training a team of psychics to perform nuanced, subtle attacks that were her trademark.
Whedon/Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men takes a more subtle approach.  Emma’s personality is tested as she becomes more integral part of the core team of X-Men.  Whedon writes her as actively having to choose to be a “good” person every day, and this strain is backed up by a score of meaningful looks drawn by Cassaday, mostly directed at new team member Kitty Pryde.  I love this segment of X-writing, because Whedon is really good about showcasing the personalities and motivations of the characters.  He, for instance, makes a point to remember that Emma really needs that first cup of coffee to get going.  Also of note, instead of just drawing a blue flash around Emma’s head when she is using her powers, Whedon makes a point of Frost explaining to her victims just exactly how she is destroying their brain functions, with humorous results.
I am not a fan of boob-holes, but Andrew’s re-design of the X-Uniforms for Xenogenesis was smart in general.  I love any time heroes get to change clothes, especially if it means a step away from all that spandex.  I applaud Ellis for writing in that Emma took initiative to make sure her uniform was different from the rest of the team, even though it retains stylistic details.  She shows off her more powerful side in this mini-series, incapacitating many of the enemies the team comes across without lifting a finger.

It’s interesting that of all the X-people, Emma gets to change her uniform more than anyone else on any team.  In New X-Men, as in current Uncanny X-Men (2014) issues, she bares the most skin when she is out of her depth.  In the first, it is to make up for the disparity of telepathic prowess between her and Jean Grey.  A recently power-reduced Emma bears a similar look, exposing the entire center third of her body.  Her response is generally, “I paid enough for this, why not show it off?”  Ellis/Andrews may have been hinting through their humorous wardrobe malfunction that Frost needs to steal attention when she feels out of her depth.  This awkwardly sexy uniform helps her to draw the gaze of others so she has time to assess situations and anticipate enemy movements and saves the team several times.
Doing some field research (looking at the #emmafrost tag on tumblr) quickly gives access to a lot of the problems with this character.  The first and most obvious is that her glaring sexuality makes Frost a target for people who enjoy drawing very strange, pornographic fanart.  This is not unexpected, but still ridiculous and awful.  Going in search of some kind of Emma Frost homage, I was met with the reminder that this character is still seen as a joke because of how she is portrayed physically.  Another issue is Jean Grey.  Jean [or a clone of jean, or an echo of Jean, or a dream about Jean] is always a nusance in any Marvel comic book, but her comparisons to Emma Frost are troublesome.  Initially set up in Morrison/Quitely’s New X-Men as a sub-plot where Emma tries to seduce Scott Summers, it made her a romantic rival to Jean Grey, and further cast her in a bad light for many fans of Jean and Scott’s relationship.  These two characters are obviously alike in some ways, but they are not a binary.  Grey is an Omega Level mutant who has been possessed by space birds, cloned, and has only really shown love to a couple of people in her life.  In reading this description, it might be possible to match up these experiences for both characters, but while Jean has been used over and over as a tortured plot device, Emma gets to be a person, seemingly because of her lower power level and attitude problems.  Also, Jean is dead, so get over it.
Finally, while it doesn’t affect her portrayal in comics, Emma Frost’s casting of January Jones in the X-Men: First Class film was particularly upsetting.  A lot of things are upsetting to me about these films in general, but this version of the character left a lot to be desired.  In comics, early “White Queen” Emma Frost possesses a domineering and almost masculine quality that we don’t see here.  And since .gif-s of this are now infused throughout the internet, it’s almost impossible to see one without the other.  Now newer fans may associate her with this “White Bread” version of the character, which is disconcerting.
So what’s to become of a deposed, dumped, deplorably dressed queen?  She does have a lot going for her.  She is a teacher, and though she has interesting ways of showing it, has the best interests of her students in mind at all times.  She has bags of money.  She used to have a powerful boyfriend, but now that’s all over.  In recent storylines, and in short pieces like Dark X-Men, Emma has shown that she can quit anytime she wants and get anywhere, anytime, anyplace, any dude.  But she has chosen, as far as the current story is concerned, to stay with the X-Men, at least, Scott Summers’ team of mutants.  Also, in very recent developments, artists like Kris Anka are beginning to depict Emma in ‘normal human clothes’ as well as her team uniform.  This unexpected toning-down of her overt risqué dress was really refreshing, even if the storyline it accompanied was less than astonishing.

Based on her beginnings, I probably should be impressed that this character has received all this attention and fanfare.  In another possible future, this character could have only lasted a couple of years, and we’d have a reformed Selene or Madeline Pryor on an X-Team.  And wouldn’t that be crazy.

DIAMONDS ON MY NECK, DIAMONDS ON MY GRILL

By Stephen T. (words and illustrations)

First of all, before we even start talking about Emma Frost we need to put this on a foundation.  Emma Frost is a ridiculous character.  Nothing about this person was created to not serve an entertaining purpose.  Her accent, her hair, her love of capes, it’s all supposed to be flippant and campy.  She is, in part, based on a fake persona that Emma Peel from The Avengers used to sneak into a secret organization of sadists.  That being said, Ms. Frost has become an integral character in the past decades, proving that she can, in fact be a real person after a long time as a villain and a fan-fiction bondage fantasy.

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SEARCHING FOR COMICS IN HONG KONG
By Steven Miller
Néih hóu! Greetings from Hong Kong!
I recently spent a month in Hong Kong for work. It was incredibly exciting, but being in one of the most densely populated places on Earth can actually be quite lonely. If you’re not in the heart of Hong Kong, and don’t speak any Cantonese, it can be quite difficult to make connections and have companions on the island.
I’ve always been able to connect with people who are interested in comics; it’s a subject easy to debate, but is finite in scale so that most fans are at least familiar with most important stories.  I was also curious to know what comic shops must look like in a city of over seven million people.  So I set out to explore Hong Kong and discover comic shops along the way.
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I wanted to search out western comics. Manga is highly embedded in Hong Kong, as in other East Asian countries.  I pass by several newsstands on my way to work stacked with manga. But that doesn’t interest me too much; I don’t read hanzi, so they wouldn’t be worth anything to me beyond novelty and maybe some interesting art (I’ve been afraid to look for any yaoi or bara).
But no, I was curious to see what was available here for people like me looking for superheroes. Superhero merchandising is HUGE here. You can’t cast a shadow without running into someone wearing a Wonder Woman shirt, or carrying a Spider-Man backpack, or playing Candy Crush on his or her Superman shielded Samsung. Chinese clothing brand :CHOCOOLATE even somehow managed to lock down Bruce Wayne as a mascot.

Doubtful.

And the toys? The toys are everywhere. You know those fancy bishoujo and Hot Toys figurines and statuettes? If you’re in the market for toys, Hong Kong has got your back.  But comics, those seemed more hidden. I did a lot of wandering, a lot of Google searching, and spoke with a few ex-pats interested in comics. I kept coming back to the same response: there isn’t much, but here’s where to go.

As it turns out, there are really only two comic book shops in Hong Kong (with an additional shop, which is a spin-off location, in Kowloon).
Two of the stores happened to be right next to each other, so I hopped on the MTR (the Hong Kong rail system) near my office in Sham Shui Po, transferred to the Island Line, and 30 minutes later I found myself in Causeway Bay, one of the premiere shopping districts in Hong Kong. After getting lost a few times, I finally found the Causeway Bay Centre, a decidedly confusing and rundown shopping mall. I then headed to the basement.

Metro Comics: Metro Comics was very heralded online by ex-pats and others helping people on message boards figure out what the deal was. Metro was actually very clean and organized, which is a rarity for any comic shop in the US; clutter in comic shops drives me bonkers. There weren’t any back issues to speak of and what I also didn’t find here were any deep cuts; probably the most obscure find were trades of Shade The Changing Man and some other Vertigo classics. Instead, this shop was heavily focused on new releases, primarily Marvel and DC. This is great for direct market readers who depend on their weekly floppies, but for a collector, there probably is nothing new here.

Image care of the Googles.
Clark’s Comics: Down the hall is Clark’s Comics. I’m not sure if there’s a real Clark involved or it’s a reference to Superman, but this store was markedly different than the last; namely the amount of content.  This store was about the same size as the last, but overflowing with comics and merchandise. Unfortunately, this was actually a detriment to my shopping experience. Boxes were stacked to the ceiling, and I had to slide through on my side to reach certain corners of the store. It didn’t leave much browsing space; there was one other customer inside, who had to exit so I could: Human Tetris. Clark’s had a lot of new books, but I could also tell they had more back issues, and maybe had more treasures to be seen, but I couldn’t see them. There was an action figure that caught my eye, but just barely caught. I had to move several toys out of the way to reach it. It was quite overwhelming (despite small space) and I again ended up leaving with no books.

Metro Comics 2: Back in Mong Kok, Kowloon, Metro has a second location that I went to today in the basement of the CTMA Centre. The selection was pretty similar to the first location, but had a few more toys. The stock also seemed even more recent than the 1st store.

Probably the first thing I noticed about all of these stores was the size. Each of these stores was about the size of an average walk-in closet. It’s not so surprising. Hong Kong boasts the most expensive retail spaces in the world. Reuters recently reported that sales space costs on average $4,328 per square foot in the Causeway Bay area where Metro and Clark’s are located. That price tag makes it pretty clear why the shops are so small and there’s very little back stock. Sprudge ran a story earlier this year discussing the economic impacts of Hong Kong rent in regards to the precarious existence of specialty coffee shops. You need to move merchandise and the reality is that people are purchasing new books, not back issues. That’s something we see overwhelmingly in the US.

A photo I took of Metro Comics 2. This is the average size of all 3 shops I visited.
Comics are also not an especially profitable market for retailers, so it’s clear that these stores are actually doing quite well. It seems there may be a supply and demand factor taking place here. Most sales figures only account for US distribution and sales; I’d be curious to know what international figures look like. But the bottom line is that western comics have some things working against them in in the East. Translated comics also not especially common and not a target demographic for most comic companies. Also, only about 3% of the Hong Kong population has English as a 1st language, and about 35% speak it as a 2nd language. I’m sure that puts some parameters on who is buying.
So the verdict? I was a bit disappointed. If I was in Hong Kong more permanently and didn’t read new releases digitally, I’m sure these shops would be like an oasis in the desert. Much about comic collecting is about the hunt and there wasn’t anything that excited me. However, I give these shops owners a lot of credit for having the determination to sell comics, an industry where shops are constantly shutting their doors. It’s a tough market, and even tougher when the rent is high. I’m here for another week, so there’s still a chance I could be surprised.  Hong Kong is a city full of surprises.

 

SEARCHING FOR COMICS IN HONG KONG

By Steven Miller

Néih hóu! Greetings from Hong Kong!

I recently spent a month in Hong Kong for work. It was incredibly exciting, but being in one of the most densely populated places on Earth can actually be quite lonely. If you’re not in the heart of Hong Kong, and don’t speak any Cantonese, it can be quite difficult to make connections and have companions on the island.

I’ve always been able to connect with people who are interested in comics; it’s a subject easy to debate, but is finite in scale so that most fans are at least familiar with most important stories.  I was also curious to know what comic shops must look like in a city of over seven million people.  So I set out to explore Hong Kong and discover comic shops along the way.

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PRETENDING YOU HAVE SUPERPOWERS
By Mike Balderrama
Last week, I babbled on about wanting to see theme park rides give us the real Super Hero experience. Today I come to you saying that, actually, I have super powers.
Yup. I have super powers, and I have ever since I was a little kid.
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I can move things with my mind. When I was 6, every time I walked close enough to the grocery store, with a flick of my hand, the sliding doors parted. They were no match for the psychic force I held.
I also have all the super hero gadgets you could imagine.
In kindergarten, whenever I put my backpack on, it was actually a jetpack. I was The Rocketeer, and could zoom around the playground at Mach 91. That’s not even a real measure of speed, that’s how fast I can go.
I’m also an ace pilot, or at least my dad taught me how. When we were driving home late at night on an open road in his Honda CRX, he’d let me push the button on the safety brake. It was actually a secret missile launcher. When he gave the order, he’d tap the brakes and I’d see in the rearview mirror the back of the car light up like we were taking evasive maneuvers. Those bogies never saw us coming.
I got to thinking about these special powers after coming out of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I find that a really successful comic book movie is the one that makes you look to pretend that you’re the one in the movie. I live in DC, so I took the Metro home from the theatre. I’d tucked my Metro card inside my sleeve, so that when I reached the turn-style, all I had to do was flick my wrist like Magneto and the machine gave way to my awesome, uncanny power (also my wallet, technically. Dang, fares are high…).
After Batman Begins,I found myself driving around late at night in the summer, pretending my black 1994 Volvo 850 was the tumbler. A little fast acceleration followed by shutting off all the headlights and slowing down so the “cops would lose me” on an empty stretch of I-81 outside of Syracuse, New York. (Kids, don’t actually do that. If someone was sharing the road with you, that’s really really dangerous).
Haven’t we all popped open a jar of pickles or Newman’s Own pasta sauce like we were Superman? Don’t tell me I was the only one chomping on a pretzel stick like a cigar with six dinner knives between my fingers at the college dining hall calling everyone “bub,” because that’d make you a liar. Did you know I can patch into Oracle at any given moment? She goes by Siri now…y’know, because the Court of Owls is monitoring this frequency…
I went bowling with a friend of mine the other weekend, and as I threw the ball down the alley I knew a strike was imminent. How could I not turn my back on it, reach my hands out to the heavens and make a little “kraKOOM” right out of Jack Kirby’s vocabulary?
I snack on little frosted donuts like I’m Galactus. I’m looking out the window at the stars like I can communicate across a sea of stars to the GL Corps—and don’t get me started if I’m wearing a ring. If I loosen my tie and take off my glasses, you can bet I’m pretending that I’m in a telephone booth.
Cape or no cape, we shape our secret powers around our every day lives. Like Longshot, I have a knack for timing bus transfers perfectly. When I’m pissed off, it’s a good thing I have the same training as Dr. Bruce Banner, or everyone would be in a lot of trouble right now.
What powers do you have locked away? Can you track the pizza guy with your keen hunting sense of smell? When that amp gives off insane feedback at the club, was that actually your Canary Cry?
Sound off.
Preferably with cool sounds like “fsheww,” “bwooooonh” or “pchrrrrraaaaawwww.”

PRETENDING YOU HAVE SUPERPOWERS

By Mike Balderrama

Last week, I babbled on about wanting to see theme park rides give us the real Super Hero experience. Today I come to you saying that, actually, I have super powers.

Yup. I have super powers, and I have ever since I was a little kid.

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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.”

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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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