Monday, March 28, 2011

Captain America Gets Me Banned!

My posting on Captain America got me banned from the "comicbooks" section of  (Or maybe it was my X-Men piece.  I wasn't told why, really.  I'm assuming it was the Captain America piece, as that is the one that got negative comments, and the X-Men one got a favorable comment I couldn't comment on because by then I was banned.)  Yes, I find it  very ironic that my piece on a hero representing America (home of free speech, y'all) got me banned.  I find it more alarming, however, that this does often seem to be how a certain segment of comic book fans react.

Having collected comics since the '70s and working in a couple different comic book stores in positions from clerk to manager, I have seen this type of reaction time and time again.  Say something negative and feel the wrath of fanboys.  They can't debate points, but they can pout and shout.  They can't argue effectively, but they can take their ball and go home.  It's hard to take someone seriously when that is the reaction you get.

My Captain America piece was written to inspire debate and raise questions.  What happened was that people went off half-cocked.  If you read the comments you see that someone thought I called America a dictatorship or some such nonsense.  I actually wrote that America backs dictatorships, something that I thought was beyond debate.  I guess not everyone watches the news.  In fact, my entire piece was pretty tame.  I called out reasons why Captain America as a character doesn't work for me, and why he is hard to write.  I don't think I made any wild claims, but oddly enough, I am banned.  (If it was the X-Men piece, I am even more puzzled because feedback I got on that were all positive.)

Other comments said that I was trying to stir up trouble.  Again, what is with people thinking that voicing an opinion is trying to cause problems.  Have we become so far removed from debate and opinion that we can't see them when they occur?  This is not just a problem with comic book fans.  I've heard this from other people, too.  Expressing a "negative" opinion is "stirring the pot," and "making people feel bad."  (Or even "pretentious," my personal favorite because I've been called that for writing positive pieces, too.)  I review films for Film Threat.  Sometimes, like my current Joy Ride 2 piece, they are negative reviews.  If I only reviewed stuff I liked, I wouldn't be doing my job.  I'm not trying to make people cry.  I'm expressing an opinion.  If I can't write about what I don't like, it gives zero weight to the things I do enjoy.

Perhaps this will get me banned from the "comics" section, but I hope not.  I would have to resort to posting pieces on cute kitten pictures and other things that offer no debate and contribute little to the culture other than making someone smile (which is fine in and of itself, but I think as a society we deserve more).  I am a fan of comic books.  I believe they are a tremendous art form that gets little respect in the world.  When stuff like this ban happens, I can see why.  A great majority of the world treats them like "kid's stuff," and when people act like children you can't blame them. 

Go read the original Captain America piece and seriously ask yourself if I wrote anything that was worth getting banned over.  See if I wrote anything that was even that controversial.  Of course, if having an opinion -- any opinion -- is controversial and ban-worthy, then I'm guilty ... and proud to be so.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Captain America: The Lame Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger is due out soon.  Comic fans are, of course, excited.  The rest of the world?  Most likely a collective shoulder shrug, as Captain America doesn't click with people the same way as Spider-Man, Batman or Superman.  Even his very name says nothing but boredom.

Cap originated in 1941, and was soon kicking Nazi ass.  Symbolically, this image was what America wanted the world to see, and it was echoed in other comic books, and in movies.  America kicking Nazi ass.  As time progressed, so did the country.  Captain America, however, always seemed to remain a few steps back.  While never appearing quite as naive or as out of touch as Superman, he nonetheless always felt behind the times, even when writers tried to give him a current spin.  Even Captain America's archenemy, the Red Skull, was a throwback to the Nazi age, something readers painfully remembered every time he made a Modern Age appearance.

I was never a huge Captain America fan, though I enjoyed the comic when he teamed up with The Falcon.  (I'm sure the writers thought they were being topical as The Falcon was black.)  The reasons he never resonated with me are the exact reasons why I think he fails to resonate with non-comic readers.  A man who dresses in a red, white and blue costume and whose name is as subtle as a herpes sore?  No thanks.  America's values have no place in the America we know.

As a team member, such as in the Avengers, Captain America is tolerable.  He provides a good balance to whatever team he is on.  As a stand-alone character, though, he is, well, as American as apple pie and as boring as sliced bread. 

Back in the 1940s, things could be black and white.  Nazis were bad.  America was good.  Of course, history shows it wasn't that clear cut, but culturally that is the message that got through and was generally accepted.  These days, when America backs dictatorships and routinely tortures prisoners, it's a bit harder to sink your teeth into a character who is supposed to epitomize America.  After all, just what does he stand for?  Whose America?  What America?  Chances are, whatever you would like America to be like, Captain America, rightly or wrongly, represents the exact opposite.  Sort of like liberals saying the news networks are too conservative and vice versa. 

The upcoming movie will probably do well.  New superhero movies tend to do okay from the gate.  I don't think it will click with viewers like other superhero films have, and the fact that it is set in World War II doesn't help that any.  Like the beginnings of Captain America, his ideals will be clear and concrete, or so I think, and that will help viewers at least determine if he is the character for them.  When the Avengers movie comes around, however, things will be far less clear.  We expect quaint values from characters in quainter times, but when we transport them to the modern era with those same ideals intact, we risk making them seem silly and out of place.  If we change them, however, we often lose the character.  That is the dilemma of Captain America.  What will you get, and how will you like it?  If the comics are any indication, the character is in for a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

iZombie: Dead to the World

The first iZombie trade paperback, iZombie: Dead to the World, is due out 3/22/11.  I have not received a copy  yet, but have read the issues this one covers, and I got to say that between the writing of Chris Roberson and Mike Allred's art, this is one great series.

With a cast that features zombies, vampire vamps, werewolves, vampire hunters, ghosts and whatnot who mainly sit around playing role playing games, dating and drinking coffee, this won't appeal to those whose comic book reading comprises mostly of men in tights battling it out over the skies of New York.  That's not to say the comic has no action -- it does.  It's just not the main focus of the story.  This is a book where characters actually talk about their problems and turn to fists last (except in the case of the monster hunters). 

I don't know how the series is selling.  I have long since stopped paying attention to those sort of things.  I do know I've enjoyed it, though I won't be picking up the trade because I already have the issues.  (There are few comics where I have the story in both formats, Preacher being one.)  I will recommend it to certain readers, however. 

iZombie is never going to displace any of the superhero books as a top seller.  It could easily lend itself to a movie or a television series, but I think its fanbase may be too small to make it profitable.  That says nothing to the quality of the work.  If you, like myself, don't live in a world where everything is quick edits and explosions, then you may enjoy taking the time to read a story where the characters actually develop and seem real ... despite being monsters.  (There are humans in the book, too.)  Then again, you may just want to stick to something which doesn't require too much attention on your part.  If so, there are plenty of books out there for you.  They're all about the same, too, so it really doesn't matter which one you pick.

*In an attempt to comply with stupid FTC "laws," the following post has affiliate links, which means if you click on them and order the item, I will earn a comission.  I did not receive any copies of iZombie for free, and nor did I receive the trade paperback for free. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Problem With Grading Comics

If you collect, sell or read comic books, you've heard of the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).  It is the name when it comes to grading comics.  A comic book is submitted to it, examined by trained professionals, placed in a special holder and then the collector and buyer can use this generally accepted grade in order to ascertain a value.

Comics graded by the CGC often sell for more than those that are not graded.  That works out well for sellers, and buyers tend to agree that the everyone can understand and accept the grade.  If you want to read the issue, you have to break open the holder, which negates the grade. 

The pros and cons of grading have been discussed since the company became known, and while there was initially a lot of speculation and backlash, the company has earned its respect.  Heck, even I accepted it, though I have never bought a graded comic or submitted one for grading.  Reading issue #1675 of the Comics Buyer's Guide, however, made me start to wonder about the company again.

In the "CBG Trendwatcher" section there is a piece by Steve Mortenson of Colossus Comics.  In his piece he writes about people buying CGC graded comics at conventions with the hopes of resubmitting a book to the company for "a possible higher grade."  Wouldn't that mean the initial grade was faulty, and doesn't that negate the trust and respect the company has earned?  Even if you would agree that the company can make a mistake and that would be the nature of the beast, doesn't it also say the general comics public doesn't trust the company as much?  After all, if the company were totally trusted, the grade wouldn't change.  So essentially all these people are submitting comics and buying comics at higher prices from a company where the grade isn't all that trusted.

That seems to be foolish.

Knowing that collectors, speculators and dealers are doing this forces me to take this into consideration for any price I would pay for a graded comic, and it means I won't be paying full price for one.  Not even close.  I haven't bought a graded one yet, but I haven't ruled it out for the future, but I do know if I do, the dealer is not going to get his asking price unless it's already well below what I would be willing to pay. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Charlton Comics

As a kid I had a fascination with Charlton Comics.  I mainly devoured the horror titles and The Six Million Dollar Man.  Crappy printing and often crappy art (to sometimes match equally crappy stories) could not keep me away ... and still hasn't to this day.

Charlton books always felt kind of forbidden.  I don't know if that was due to the printing process (which I recall had a real problem with colors), or if it were due to the weird '70s ads it ran.  Reading one of the publisher's comics was almost like sneaking a peek at your father's Swedish porn.  Undecipherable.  Secret.  Dirty.  Of course, the comics weren't porn, but that didn't stop them from feeling that way.  Scary Tales.  Ghostly Haunts.  The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves. E-Man.  What's not to love?

The war titles didn't do too much for me.  I had a few titles, but they were always afterthoughts.  The stuff I bought after everything else I wanted was gone from the rack.  The small store where I purchased them usually had a smattering of the war comics left over.  They were always badly bent. Attack! was a great name for a series, though it hardly lived up to its name.

The mid 1980s saw the end of Charlton.  Gone were the badly printed comics and the reprints that were keeping the company breathing.  To be honest, I barely noticed.  The publisher's circulation had dropped to where I barely noticed the titles anymore.  These days I buy them when I come across them on eBay.  They still feel kind of dirty ... and I think that's why I still like them.