Saturday, 29 May 2010

Superman Vs. Doctor Who

I've been totally inspired by the brilliant Brave and the Bold: The Lost Issues to mess about on Photoshop and create some dream team ups. My previous effort can be found here, Superman Vs. Morrissey. Today I've teamed the Man of Steel with another of my heroes, The Doctor!

Full credit to Brave and the Bold: The Lost Issues for not only doing this type of thing before me but for doing it way better than me too. Check it out, it's great.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Racism and The Atom (Spoilers for Titans: Villains for Hire #1)

Last week DC Comics released Titans: Villains for Hire #1. During the course of this issue Ryan Choi, the man who temporarily replaced Ray Palmer as the Atom, is hunted down and killed by the hired villains of the title. There is of course, a large section of the internet now devoted to the wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the Ryan's fanbase. This is usually the case when a character is killed off. Even Tazmanian Devil got a few vocal mourners when he was recently turned into a rug in Justice League: Cry for Justice.

Usually I keep out of the online bitching and griping that is so common among comic book fans. In this case though it's difficult not to agree with Ryan's mourners. Like many of these fans I see no reason for Ryan to have been killed off. It is a fact that Ryan's predecessor, Ray Palmer, has recently returned to the role of the Atom. However the two characters have such distinct personalities that there seems to me to be no reason why there could not have been two Atoms, just as there are three Flashes and thousands of Green Lanterns.

One argument in favour of the death is that the murder of a relatively prominent superhero that the readers already have an emotional investment in validates this particular group of villains as a credible threat. However I would argue that this is possible to achieve with the death of a character created purely for the purpose of being a victim of the villains. If you don't believe me then check out Grant Morrison's brilliant Seven Soldiers. The first issue of this epic series is narrated by The Whip. The Whip is a journalist who follows in her grandfathers footsteps and becomes a superhero. She does this in order to write a series of newspaper columns on what it is like to be, in her words "a super cowboy." At the end of the first issue she, along with the rest of her team, is killed by the main baddies of the series. Although the Whip's only appearance to date was that one issue, Morrison was able to get us right inside her head. She's written in such a way that we can't help but get emotionally invested in her, and her death really carries a lot of weight.

So in my opinion Ryan's death was a bit of a cheat, a shortcut into our hearts. The writer didn't need to get us to empathise too much with him during the issue as that emotional investment was there already for a large portion of the readership. There is however another criticism being bandied about by many of Ryan's mourners that I just can't agree with. In fact it's more of an accusation than a criticism. An accusation of racism.

Ryan was of Asian descent. This has led many to say that Ryan's death has damaged the diversity of the DC Universe. Fair enough, but others have taken it further and implied that Ryan's death was a racially motivated decision on the part of DC Comics. For example, Ryan's Wikipedia entry was recently updated to say that he had been killed off "because he isn't white enough to be a superhero." This is, of course, nonsense. Don't get me wrong, the DC Universe needs more diversity and I honestly think that Ryan's death was a bad move. But to actually accuse DC of deliberate racism is absurd. I sincerely doubt that Geoff Johns, Dan Didio and Jim Lee are, even as we speak, sat in a board room, all clad in white robes, plotting the systematic elimination of every single minority hero.

It does seem that if a minority character is killed then DC are guilty of racism. But if minority characters are given a deliberate push to the mainstream, for example the inclusion of John Stewart in the Justice League, then accusations of tokenism are thrown about. It seems that DC Comics just can't win. How about we, as fans, stop looking at characters as black or asian or lesbian and just see them as characters. Let's question whether John Stewart deserves to be in the Justice League based on his personality and what he brings to the team dynamic. Let's question whether Ryan should have died based on his merits as a character, not based on filling out some minority quota.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Fantastic Four - Worth Twenty Quid?

In this time of economic crisis the last thing a struggling artist/penniless chump like me should be doing is blowing twenty quid on Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's entire run on Fantastic Four. Sure, I'm a big fan of Millar and Hitch's work, but I'd read mixed reviews about this run and I've only ever been a casual fan of the exploits of Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben. So it was with some trepidation that I approached these issues. If I'm gonna give up food for comics then those comics had better be pretty damn good!

The run is far from 100% perfect. Hitch's art seemed a bit more rushed than usual in places and Millar's writing lacked the arresting blockbuster punch of his usual work. Although, considering these stories contain the construction of a replacement planet Earth, a showdown with a dimension hopping Marquis of Death and an Anti-Galactus, then this should give you some idea of the very high bar of arresting, blockbuster-iness that Millar has set for himself in his other work.

These small niggles only really come to light when the run is compared to other Millar/Hitch projects such as Ultimates. As FF stories in their own right I loved them. The characterisation seemed spot on. Reed was every bit the eccentric genius, and Sue was the matriarch, not just of her team but of the entire superhero community. Johnny is displayed as an attention seeking hothead leaping from one fame seeking project to the next. Being a superhero isn't enough for his ego, he's also trying to set himself up as a rock star and a reality TV star. Ben, the tragic monster, is involved in a relationship with a down to earth teacher that you just know is going to go tits up. It's all spot on. My favourite arc in the whole run involves a visit to a Scottish village for Christmas. The story feels like classic FF, but also contains shades of The Wicker Man and Doctor Who.

The best thing about the run is that despite storylines that contain planet sized body counts and suffering endured for millenia, the whole thing has a lovely, cosy, family atmosphere to it that really suits the characters. Millar seems to have allowed his nasty edge and dark sense of humour to take a back seat and as a result you really get a sense that despite the threats, tragedy and adversity, the Fantastic Four really love their life.

So in conclusion, I enjoyed it, but I know a few people didn't. Perhaps it's because I'm coming to it as a casual Fantastic Four fan? Perhaps there have been far better FF stories that make Millar's efforts pale in comparison? I've heard great things about Mark Waid's run on the title, and I have every intention of checking it out one day. All I know is that I felt it was twenty quid well spent, and that's all I wanted.

I'll finish off with the best theme tune to a cartoon ever!