Monday, September 11, 2017

About partisanship in the church

I'm not a terribly political person. I identify myself as a moderate or centrist - that is, I do not identify myself as a supporter of any particular political party. Since I came of age as a voter I have voted for four different parties in federal elections (which is easily done here in Canada). To those telephone pollsters I am one of those 'undecideds' who make up their figures.

I'm actually more opinionated about politics in the USA than I am in Canada; I try not to be, being very conscious that I am not a citizen of that country and I should be guarded when I speak about their political situation. Still, here I am today, about to write about US politics. I'm doing so not for the sake of the USA but because of encounters I have had with fellow Canadians on these issues.

Being a fairly unpolitical person I don't often share political messages on my Facebook page but a friend shared an amusing link entitled A Christian Defense of Donald Trump and I thought it funny enough to share with my own friends. This brought condemnation from one of my personal friends who took exception to my making fun of Trump and, rather than rebuke me in person or via email or personal message, spoke his mind there on my timeline. Said friend was a fellow Christian and told me I should be praying for Trump instead.

My friend was correct that mockery was not the most Christian way of responding to that situation. But it was a difficult message to receive because of the source - because this friend of mine was himself one whose Facebook timeline was full of political messages reposted from elsewhere, collectively espousing a pro-right wing/anti-left wing message, along with many climate change denial posts. The sense I had was not so much that my behaviour was being called out on Christian grounds but on partisan grounds. Upon reflection I was further troubled that in the week we had this confrontation I had celebrated my birthday but received no birthday greeting from him; I was serving in the mission field in Angola yet had received no encouragement from him; is this what Christian fellowship looks like?

There is no particular case for Christians being majority right-wing. Truly, we ought to be divided 50/50 - half of us on the right, half of us on the left. Yet we unmistakably tend towards the right. Why? According to James 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." The message of looking after "orphans and widows in their distress" is an attitude which those on the left are in favour of, whereas the right-wing tends to advocate for self-sufficiency. There are also the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 25:34-36: "‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’"

Still, Christians tend towards the right; the right, of course, includes those parties which are against abortion, against gay marriage and other such issues which - for so many Christians - are a political deal-breaker. I understand why so many of my fellow Christians vote on the right-wing; heck, as a centrist I'm empathetic to their reasons (the four parties I've voted for have included the Conservative Party).

But Donald Trump is not a particularly right-wing candidate (except in that xenophobia and white nationalism seems to be a hallmark of the right-wing). He does not hold to any particular Christian ideals about charity or forgiveness towards others and has only paid a bit of lip service to the anti-abortion lobby. And yet so many Christians in the USA voted for him and many Christians here in Canada seem to feel they ought to support him as well because he represents right-wing interests. This is the partisanship which upsets me.

When Barack Obama was US President I saw many of my Christian Canadian friends criticizing him. I also heard a rant from one who accused him of being a secret Muslim (yes, such people exist even here). This too, seems to have been mere partisanship; I repeatedly saw in Obama a Christian man who was attempting to live up to Godly ideals in the midst of a compromising, pragmatic position. He was still vilified by Christians, simply because he came from the left-wing.

This, then, is why I originally shared the link to "A Christian Defense of Donald Trump." For a joke where the punchline is literally nothing it reveals a truth about we Christians and our willingness to adhere to dogma rather than the Holy Spirit. So many Christians clicked on that link anticipating an essay which would draw from scripture in order to explain why so many of their fellow believers supported that man. The joke is that there is no defense, but many - such as my friend - do not find that funny and are all-too eager to leap to his defense. I would be astonished - but also very pleased - if I saw this friend come to the defense of Rachel Notley or Justin Trudeau on the same basis he did Donald Trump, instead of making a false idol out of 'Team Right Wing.'

My friend once told me one of his favourite things about Jesus is that he was boldly confrontational, that he did not bow to the conventions of his time and would sharply criticize those in positions of power. And yet, when it comes to a right-wing politician, my friend suddenly became very upset at the idea of criticizing our world leaders. He's right, we are called to pray for them. But more than that, I agree with those leaders in the church that the rise of Trump amongst right-wing Christians speaks to the need for revival - and this revival is needed not only in the USA but here in Canada as well.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" - Matthew 5:43-47

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Rest in Peace Len Wein

In 2015 Herb Trimpe - artist of the first appearance of Wolverine - passed away. Sadly, the author of that comic book has likewise joined him.

In March of this year Bernie Wrightson - artist of the first appearance of Swamp Thing - passed away. Sadly, the author of that comic book has likewise joined him.

His name was Len Wein. I met him once at a comic book convention. As I grew up primarily a fan of Marvel Comics and Wein had stopped working for them by the mid-70s I wasn't exposed to much of his comic book work. Still, during his time at Marvel in the 1970s he made some tremendous additions to the Marvel Universe: Wolverine, the 'all-new, all-different' X-Men team members Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus & Thunderbird, and that fondly-remembered hero of the hoodoo Brother Voodoo.

While I haven't experienced much of his writing for DC beyond a handful of Swamp Thing comic books he did, of course, cast a large shadow over DC, such as serving as editor on Watchmen, the most influential comic book of the 1980s. He also became a television writer as his creations Swamp Thing & The Human Target were adapted into TV series. He wrote a fun episode of that great Canadian animated program Reboot ("Between a Raccoon and a Hard Place") and a few episodes of the 1990s X-Men and Batman animated programs.

In many ways Wein hasn't been given his due by comics; I understand DC treated him fairly well over the decades, but when you consider he co-created Wolverine and the all-new all-different X-Men, even though he ultimately didn't have much to do with their eventual success (Chris Claremont being the one who turned those characters into Marvel's top stars), as the originator of them it feels like the name Len Wein should be spoken of in reverance. Wow! There goes Len Wein! Instead, my personal memory of Wein will be the time I met him at a convention: he was napping at his table because no one was interested in meeting him.

Rest in peace Mr. Wein.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Death of the Author Struggle

"I caution people against meeting writers whose work they admire. Once you find out the guy's a slob in real life, how can you not let that color your impression of his work?" - Mark Gruenwald

Recently, Joss Whedon's ex-wife has spoken out about how he treated her during their marriage, particularly about his conducting affairs with younger women in his employ and emotionally manipulative behaviour towards her. This has caused some hand-wringing amongst Whedon's fanbase as they try to come to terms with the legend of Joss Whedon they themselves eagerly fed versus the reality of Joss Whedon.

The Death of the Author theory is just that, a theory. As much as we claim we can separate the work from its artist, we truly can't. If we could, we wouldn't spend quite so much time delving into documentaries and biographies of famous artists, would we? But I suppose this is a lesson every generation has to learn about its heroes and in the age of the internet it is a lesson which is disseminated much more speedily. There was a time (say, 20 years ago) where you could be a huge fan of Roman Polanski's films yet be entirely unaware of the controversy surrounding him; now, simply printing his name online is guaranteed to provoke a discussion of his statutory rape charges. Once you learn that about him it's up to you to figure out how you feel about his art; does it make a difference to you, or doesn't it?

It was about 20 years that one generation of fandom was disillusioned in its adulation towards George Lucas. As Star Wars fans struggled to come to terms with the prequels and how they felt about Lucas, many migrated their devotion to the then-rising star Joss Whedon. Although for about a decade he was just a cult TV series writer, he seemed to hit upon everything fandom valued: sharp dialogue which was lathered in sarcasm and deep cuts from popular culture; a genuine affection for many pop culture works; a particularly strong emphasis on female empowerment.

Time will tell how he will be remembered; it ought to be enough that he put his name on some works which people have a fondness for. In Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry is widely-beloved not so much for any of his personal beliefs or even particular scripts he authored but because he was the first to conceive of Star Trek. So Whedon is assured to be well-thought of in the future as people will continue to enjoy Firefly et al. He also directed one of the most successful film of all time (The Avengers, in case you forgot) so he's guaranteed to be remembered in histories of popular culture of the 21st century.

What I am observing is a fanbase which feels personally betrayed by these allegations; George Lucas was simply a man who helped tell some good stories until - uh-oh - he didn't. With Whedon, there was an ethical component: people looked to him as a moral teacher -- which means you've got problems if you're looking to popular culture to orient your moral compass.

Personally, I like it when my values are reflected in the media I consume. On the other hand, I like media which challenges my values as well, to a certain degree; I can handle a bit of Steve Ditko's Objectivism, Robert A. Heinlein's freaky free freedom or Mad Men's narcissism, although each of those three have inevitably tested my tolerance. I think what I've most responded to in Whedon's work has been his existentialist philosophy, which doesn't perfectly mirror my own but strikes along similar lines.

It is fallacious to think that any human could be a great moral teacher - people will let you down sooner or later; that's the cynical response to the fall of Whedon. However, I'm not comfortable leaving it there. Occasionally there are creative people who have been exposed from behind the curtain and not found wanting. Above I quoted Mark Gruenwald, about whom there seems to be not a single negative anecdote; his work certainly isn't above reproach but his personal life appears to have been a honourable one; my favourite comedian Jack Benny is another whose personal life holds up under scrutiny. Yes, we each have our failings, but some skeletons loom larger than others; not every creative person has a Polanski-esque skeleton in their closet, but if you're placing your hope in a creative person it might be best for you to imagine that they do.

"It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sumbitch or another." - Mal Reynolds, Jaynestown

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Defenders season 1 (2017) Creator Credits

Here's my latest attempt at assigning credit for the elements seen in Marvel Cinematic Universe programs. This time it's the Defenders, a show which has... pretty much nothing to do with the comic of that name. The full list of MCU creator credits is here.

Frank Miller: creator of Elektra, Matt's college girlfriend; Elektra becoming an assassin who wields two sai in battle while wearing a red costume (Daredevil #168, 1981); of the Hand, a clan of evil ninjas who battle Daredevil and Elektra (Daredevil #174, 1981); of Stick, Matt and Elektra's mentor (Daredevil #176, 1981); of Stick training Matt how to use his powers (Daredevil #177, 1981); of Elektra dying in Daredevil's arms (Daredevil #181, 1982); of the Hand's ability to mystically resurrect fallen warriors (Daredevil #187, 1982); of Stick's order and their war against the Hand ninja clan; of Shaft, a member of Stick's order who battles the Hand (Daredevil #188, 1982); of the Hand seeking to make Elektra their chief warrior and resurrect her; of Stick and Shaft dying in battle with the Hand (Daredevil #190, 1982); co-creator of Turk as a recurring foe of Daredevil (Daredevil #159, 1979); of Josie's Bar, a dive bar in Hell's Kitchen tended by the titular Josie (Daredevil #160, 1979); of Murdock wearing stubble in both of his identities (Daredevil #228, 1986); of Sister Maggie, a nun who cares for Daredevil in her mission (Daredevil #229, 1986)

Roy Thomas: co-creator of Karen Page learning Matt Murdock is Daredevil (Daredevil #57, 1969); of Turk Barrett, a gangster who fights Daredevil (Daredevil #69, 1970); of Luke Cage, born Carl Lucas; Cage's enemy Shades; Cage used in a prison experiment which granted him superhuman strength and unbreakable skin; of Luke as a Hero for Hire in Harlem (Hero for Hire #1, 1972); of the Defenders, a team of super heroes (Marvel Feature #1, 1971); of Iron Fist, alias Daniel Rand, orphaned at the age of ten and raised in the city of K'un-Lun, where he trained in the martial arts to become their greatest warrior, passing every test and trial before him until gaining the power to channel his chi into his fist, making it superhumanly powerful; Iron Fist called a "living weapon"; Wendell Rand and Heather Rand, Daniel's parents who perished nearby K'un-Lun; K'un-Lun, a hidden city found in the Himalayas which exists within another dimension and only connects to Earth at intervals spaced years apart (Marvel Premiere #15, 1974); of Daniel Rand fighting the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, an immortal dragon, and received a dragon-shaped brand on his chest from the dragon along with the power of the Iron Fist (Marvel Premiere #16, 1974)

Brian Michael Bendis: co-creator of Jessica Jones, a cynical, alcoholic, superhumanly strong private detective who was briefly a costumed super hero, now runs Alias Investigations; Jessica becoming involved with Luke Cage; Luke Cage with shaved head and goatee (Alias #1, 2001); of Matt Murdock as Jessica Jones' lawyer, coming to her aid when she is arrested on suspicion of murder (Alias #3, 2002); of Malcolm, the nearest person Jessica has to a secretary (Alias #6, 2002); of Jessica having a past with Killgrave which left her with PTSD (Alias #24, 2003); of the Night Nurse, a medic who treats superhumans (Daredevil #58, 2004); of Misty Knight and Luke Cage having a romantic relationship (House of M #3, 2005); of Elektra as the leader of the Hand (New Avengers #27, 2007)

Stan Lee: co-creator of Matt Murdock, a lawyer who also fights crime as Daredevil by using his superhuman sensory powers; Daredevil costume with horns on head and red lenses; billy club as Daredevil's primary weapon; Murdock partnered with his slightly overweight college friend Franklin "Foggy" Nelson at Nelson & Murdock law firm; Karen Page as Murdock & Nelson's secretary and object of affection to both men (Daredevil #1, 1964); of Daredevil's ability to detect lies (Daredevil #3, 1964); of Killgrave, a man who can control the actions of others through the sound of his voice (Daredevil #4, 1964); of Daredevil's red costume; of Daredevil's gimmick billy club which includes a cable line (Daredevil #7, 1965); of Matt becoming involved with Karen (Daredevil #8, 1965)

Chris Claremont: co-creator of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing as allies (Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #32, 1977); of Misty Knight's background as a police officer (Iron Fist #1, 1975); of Misty Knight suffering an injury to her right arm (Iron Fist #3, 1976); of Colleen Wing following the path of bushido and wielding a katana (Iron Fist #7, 1976); of Jeryn Hogarth, a lawyer who works for Daniel Rand (Marvel Premiere #24, 1975); of the Iron Fist as a title which many have held over the centuries (Marvel Team-Up #64, 1977); of Iron Fist and Luke Cage fighting in their first meeting as Iron Fist strikes him with his chi (Power Man #48, 1977); of Luke Cage's criminal record being cleared (Power Man #50, 1978)

Gil Kane: co-creator of Hell's Kitchen as locale patrolled by Daredevil (Daredevil #148, 1977); of Iron Fist, alias Daniel Rand, orphaned at the age of ten and raised in the city of K'un-Lun, where he trained in the martial arts to become their greatest warrior, passing every test and trial before him until gaining the power to channel his chi into his fist, making it superhumanly powerful; Iron Fist called a "living weapon"; Wendell Rand and Heather Rand, Daniel's parents who perished nearby K'un-Lun; K'un-Lun, a hidden city found in the Himalayas which exists within another dimension and only connects to Earth at intervals spaced years apart (Marvel Premiere #15, 1974)

Michael Gaydos: co-creator of Jessica Jones, a cynical, alcoholic, superhumanly strong private detective who was briefly a costumed super hero, now runs Alias Investigations; Jessica becoming involved with Luke Cage; Luke Cage with shaved head and goatee (Alias #1, 2001); of Matt Murdock as Jessica Jones' lawyer, coming to her aid when she is arrested on suspicion of murder (Alias #3, 2002); of Malcolm, the nearest person Jessica has to a secretary (Alias #6, 2002); of Jessica having a past with Killgrave which left her with PTSD (Alias #24, 2003)

George Tuska: co-creator of Luke Cage, born Carl Lucas; Cage's enemy Shades; Cage used in a prison experiment which granted him superhuman strength and unbreakable skin; of Luke as a Hero for Hire in Harlem (Hero for Hire #1, 1972); of Claire Temple, a physician who falls in love with Luke Cage; of Cage's foe Diamondback (Hero for Hire #2, 1972); of Mariah, an African-American woman who becomes a Harlem crimelord and fights Luke Cage (Hero for Hire #5, 1973); of Luke Cage exclaiming "Christmas" as an epithet (Hero for Hire #11, 1973)

John Byrne: co-creator of Misty Knight's background as a police officer (Iron Fist #1, 1975); of Misty Knight suffering an injury to her right arm (Iron Fist #3, 1976); of Colleen Wing following the path of bushido and wielding a katana (Iron Fist #7, 1976); of the Iron Fist as a title which many have held over the centuries (Marvel Team-Up #64, 1977); of Iron Fist and Luke Cage fighting in their first meeting as Iron Fist strikes him with his chi (Power Man #48, 1977); of Luke Cage's criminal record being cleared (Power Man #50, 1978)

Bill Everett: co-creator of Matt Murdock, a lawyer who also fights crime as Daredevil by using his superhuman sensory powers; Daredevil costume with horns on head and red lenses; billy club as Daredevil's primary weapon; Murdock partnered with his slightly overweight college friend Franklin "Foggy" Nelson at Nelson & Murdock law firm; Karen Page as Murdock & Nelson's secretary and object of affection to both men (Daredevil #1, 1964)

Archie Goodwin: co-creator of Luke Cage, born Carl Lucas; Cage's enemy Shades; Cage used in a prison experiment which granted him superhuman strength and unbreakable skin; of Luke as a Hero for Hire in Harlem (Hero for Hire #1, 1972); of Claire Temple, a physician who falls in love with Luke Cage; of Cage's foe Diamondback (Hero for Hire #2, 1972); of Luke Cage exclaiming "Sweet Sister" as an epithet (Hero for Hire #4, 1972)

Sal Buscema: co-creator of Luke Cage as a member of the Defenders (Defenders #17, 1974); of Luke Cage exclaiming "Sweet Christmas" as an epithet (Defenders #24, 1975); of Iron Fist as a member of the Defenders (Defenders #62, 1978); of Luke Cage exclaiming "Christmas" as an epithet (Hero for Hire #11, 1973); of Spider-Woman, heroine Jessica Jones is based upon (Marvel Spotlight #32, 1977)

Len Wein: co-creator of Luke Cage as a member of the Defenders (Defenders #17, 1974); of Daredevil as a member of the Defenders (Giant-Size Defenders #3, 1975); of Daniel Rand fighting the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, an immortal dragon, and received a dragon-shaped brand on his chest from the dragon along with the power of the Iron Fist (Marvel Premiere #16, 1974)

Larry Hama: co-creator of Daniel Rand fighting the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, an immortal dragon, and received a dragon-shaped brand on his chest from the dragon along with the power of the Iron Fist (Marvel Premiere #16, 1974); of Colleen Wing, a Japanese woman, ally and sometimes love interest of Iron Fist (Marvel Premiere #19, 1974)

Steve Englehart: co-creator of Patsy Walker wanting to be a hero (Amazing Adventures #15, 1972); of Mariah, an African-American woman who becomes a Harlem crimelord and fights Luke Cage (Hero for Hire #5, 1973); of Luke Cage exclaiming "Christmas" as an epithet (Hero for Hire #11, 1973)

John Romita: co-creator of Luke Cage, born Carl Lucas; Cage's enemy Shades; Cage used in a prison experiment which granted him superhuman strength and unbreakable skin; of Luke as a Hero for Hire in Harlem (Hero for Hire #1, 1972)

Jason Henderson: co-creator of Colleen Wing as a member of the Hand (Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow #1, 2010); of Colleen leaving the Hand (Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow #3, 2010)

Ivan Rodriguez: co-creator of Colleen Wing as a member of the Hand (Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow #1, 2010); of Colleen leaving the Hand (Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow #3, 2010)

Doug Moench: co-creator of Iron Fist battling ninjas (Marvel Premiere #18, 1974); of Colleen Wing, a Japanese woman, ally and sometimes love interest of Iron Fist (Marvel Premiere #19, 1974)

Wally Wood: co-creator of Daredevil's red costume; of Daredevil's gimmick billy club which includes a cable line (Daredevil #7, 1965); of Matt becoming involved with Karen (Daredevil #8, 1965)

David Mazzuchelli: co-creator of Murdock wearing stubble in both of his identities (Daredevil #228, 1986); of Sister Maggie, a nun who cares for Daredevil in her mission (Daredevil #229, 1986)

Joe Orlando: co-creator of Daredevil's ability to detect lies (Daredevil #3, 1964); of Killgrave, a man who can control the actions of others through the sound of his voice (Daredevil #4, 1964)

Steve Gerber: co-creator of Luke Cage exclaiming "Sweet Christmas" as an epithet (Defenders #24, 1975); of Daredevil as a member of the Defenders (Giant-Size Defenders #3, 1975)

Roger McKenzie: co-creator of Turk as a recurring foe of Daredevil (Daredevil #159, 1979); of Josie's Bar, a dive bar in Hell's Kitchen tended by the titular Josie (Daredevil #160, 1979)

Gene Colan: co-creator of Karen Page learning Matt Murdock is Daredevil (Daredevil #57, 1969); of Turk Barrett, a gangster who fights Daredevil (Daredevil #69, 1970)

Ed Brubaker: co-creator of Iron Fist taking the place of Daredevil (Daredevil #87, 2006); of the Iron Fist called an Immortal Weapon (Immortal Iron Fist #7, 2007)

Tony Isabella: co-creator of Matt Murdock's Catholicism (Daredevil #119, 1975); of Misty Knight, an African-American detective (Marvel Premiere #21, 1975)

Dan G. Chichester: co-creator of the Chaste, the name of Stick's order (Daredevil #296, 1991); of Daredevil wearing body armor (Daredevil #322, 1993)

Jay Faerber: co-creator of Iron Fist battling the Hand; of the Hand seeking to control Iron Fist's power (New Warriors #7, 2000)

Jamal Igle: co-creator of Iron Fist battling the Hand; of the Hand seeking to control Iron Fist's power (New Warriors #7, 2000)

Alex Maleev: co-creator of Night Nurse, a medic who treats wounded super heroes such as Daredevil (Daredevil #58, 2004)

Olivier Coipel: co-creator of Misty Knight and Luke Cage having a romantic relationship (House of M #3, 2005)

Marshall Rogers: co-creator of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing as allies (Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #32, 1977)

Pat Broderick: co-creator of Jeryn Hogarth, a lawyer who works for Daniel Rand (Marvel Premiere #24, 1975)

Jimmy Palmiotti: co-creator of Colleen Wing wearing a white jumpsuit (Daughters of the Dragon #1, 2006)

Billy Graham: co-creator of Luke Cage exclaiming "Sweet Sister" as an epithet (Hero for Hire #4, 1972)

J.M. DeMatteis: co-creator of Foggy Nelson learning Matt Murdock is Daredevil (Daredevil #347, 1995)

Khari Evans: co-creator of Colleen Wing wearing a white jumpsuit (Daughters of the Dragon #1, 2006)

Justin Gray: co-creator of Colleen Wing wearing a white jumpsuit (Daughters of the Dragon #1, 2006)

Arvell Jones: co-creator of Misty Knight, an African-American detective (Marvel Premiere #21, 1975)

Travel Foreman: co-creator of the Iron Fist called an Immortal Weapon (Immortal Iron Fist #7, 2007)

Michael Fleisher: co-creator of Jessica Drew's occupation as detective (Spider-Woman #21, 1979)

Jim Starlin: co-creator of Daredevil as a member of the Defenders (Giant-Size Defenders #3, 1975)

Carmine Infantino: co-creator of Spider-Woman's Jessica Drew identity (Spider-Woman #1, 1978)

Matt Fraction: co-creator of the Iron Fist called an Immortal Weapon (Immortal Iron Fist #7, 2007)

Ruth Atkinson: co-creator of Patsy Walker, a red-headed young woman (Miss America #2, 1944)

Frank Springer: co-creator of Jessica Drew's occupation as detective (Spider-Woman #21, 1979)

John Romita, Jr.: co-creator of Matt Murdock going to regular confession (Daredevil #267, 1989)

Jim Shooter: co-creator of Hell's Kitchen as locale patroled by Daredevil (Daredevil #148, 1977)

Marv Wolfman: co-creator of Spider-Woman's Jessica Drew identity (Spider-Woman #1, 1978)

Otto Binder: co-creator of Patsy Walker, a red-headed young woman (Miss America #2, 1944)

Ron Wagner: co-creator of Foggy Nelson learning Murdock is Daredevil (Daredevil #347, 1995)

Tom Sutton: co-creator of Patsy Walker wanting to be a hero (Amazing Adventures #15, 1972)

Joe Quesada: co-creator of Matt Murdock wearing red-tinted sunglasses (Daredevil #1, 1998)

David Michelinie: co-creator of Elias Wirtham, a physician (Amazing Spider-Man #344, 1991)

Ann Nocenti: co-creator of Matt Murdock going to regular confession (Daredevil #267, 1989)

Kevin Smith: co-creator of Matt Murdock wearing red-tinted sunglasses (Daredevil #1, 1998)

Ross Andru: co-creator of the Defenders, a team of super heroes (Marvel Feature #1, 1971)

Leinil Francis Yu: co-creator of Elektra as the leader of the Hand (New Avengers #27, 2007)

Erik Larsen: co-creator of Elias Wirtham, a physician (Amazing Spider-Man #344, 1991)

David Kraft: co-creator of Iron Fist as a member of the Defenders (Defenders #62, 1978)

Marco Checchetto: co-creator of Bakuto, a member of the Hand (Daredevil #505, 2010)

Ron Garney: co-creator of the Chaste, the name of Stick's order (Daredevil #296, 1991)

Michael Lark: co-creator of Iron Fist taking the place of Daredevil (Daredevil #87, 2006)

Antony Johnston: co-creator of Bakuto, a member of the Hand (Daredevil #505, 2010)

Scott McDaniel: co-creator of Daredevil wearing body armor (Daredevil #322, 1993)

Andy Diggle: co-creator of Bakuto, a member of the Hand (Daredevil #505, 2010)

Bob Brown: co-creator of Matt Murdock's Catholicism (Daredevil #119, 1975)

Jean Thomas: co-creator of Night Nurse; Linda Carter (Night Nurse #1, 1972)

Win Mortimer: co-creator of Night Nurse; Linda Carter (Night Nurse #1, 1972)

Sam Rosen: creator of the Defenders logo (Marvel Feature #1, 1971)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Thoughts on artificial gravity

Last week I was watching the prestige science fiction film Arrival and it made me think about Star Trek and Star Wars.

Wait - stop! No, come back! Hear me out!

In Arrival the mysterious alien ships visiting Earth can be accessed by their human visitors through a sort of airlock. Because the ship has artificial gravity on board this causes people entering the ship to suddenly float at a right-angle as they shift from Earth's gravity to that of the ship's.

It's a moment meant to emphasize the strangeness of encountering another species but it caused me to reflect on how this science is normally used in science fiction. Some science fiction avoids the question of gravity aboard ships at all, preferring zero-gravity environments. But in Star Trek and Star Wars, the world's two most popular science fiction franchises, artificial gravity is a given.

The issues surrounding artificial gravity rarely come up on Star Trek. From time to time there would be a gravity failure on one of the ships. Enterprise, being the series set at the chronologically earliest point of the franchise, played with gravity a little more than the others - there were certain gravity glitches the characters would experience.

Yet Enterprise ignored an idea which Arrival explored - what about the airlock? That series frequently had alien visitors board the ship through its airlock (as transporter technology wasn't fully reliable). What would have happened if a visiting ship had to dock at a 90 degree angle because of its physical shape? What would a boarding sequence look like in that instance?

But then I began to think about artificial gravity in Star Wars and realized, "oh yeah - they have that too." Many have argued Star Wars is more fantasy than science fiction and I'm afraid I'm about to repeat that argument. Space and technology in the Star Wars films is extremely familiar and lived-in. Everyone is accustomed to being around some 200 different species at any given time, traveling through space at faster-than-light speeds is a given and the franchise's most popular vehicle is deemed "a piece of junk" by its universe's standards.

Where I would say Arrival and Star Trek hold concepts in common is that the characters experience a sense of awe and wonder as they're exposed to the wider universe. In Star Wars, all of the awe and wonder is calculated as an effect upon the audience, not so much as to be experienced by the characters. That is, we in the audience are supposed to think the Millennium Falcon is cool; those in the film do not.

What would exploration even look like in the Star Wars universe? It seems as though everything in that franchise has to be somehow connected to the Force. If you're mastering the Force, what else could the universe offer you? Among their thousands of culturally-acclimated aliens, why would people in the Star Wars universe want to go seeking another race? What purpose do planets serve in the Star Wars universe beyond military and commercial ventures?

The aliens in Arrival possess certain abilities (no spoilers offered) and the knowledge they carry changes the course of humanity. In Star Trek, various aliens have been shown to possess different abilities or cultural values which provide interesting contrasts against humanity's (one notable Trek race has the same abilities as the Arrival aliens). But in Star Wars, the only people credited with particular powers or beliefs worth coveting are those who use the Force. It is, as David Brin has argued, a pro-elitist perspective. For all that multiculturalism seems to be a universal norm in Star Wars (outside of the very British Imperials) the Force divides the universe into haves and have-nots. To paraphrase George Orwell, in Star Wars all people are equal but some are more equal than others.

And that's what the artificial gravity made me think of. Even Gravity didn't inspire me to think this much about gravity.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Rest in Peace June Foray

99 years is a pretty good run.

June Foray was one of the last living legends of the Old-Time Radio era. She was also a beloved voice actress in animation (Rocky & Bullwinkle, Looney Tunes) but radio sharpened my appreciation for her talents. She collaborated many times over the decades with Stan Freberg, including as a featured player on his all-too-brief Stan Freberg Show in 1957. You can hear the entire series at archive.org and I highly recommend you listen to them all - it was one of radio's funniest comedy programs.

She appeared all over radio - Family Theater, Lux Radio Theater, Command Performance, Favorite Story, CBS Radio Workshop, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. She also performed in an episode of my favourite radio series Suspense - the 1956 version of "The Man Who Stole the Bible."

Thanks for the laughs, Ms. Foray.

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Now let's be perfectly clear, here." The Divided States of Hysteria #1-2 review

Although a tag for Howard Victor Chaykin already exists on this blog from previous articles I am not exactly a Chaykin fan. Most of the Chaykin comics I have read over the years have been stories he drew and someone else wrote. Of those stories I read which Chaykin did write & draw, I didn't find that they held my interest.

Chaykin has certainly been talked about in the comic book industry lately due to his new Image series The Divided States of Hysteria. Who would have thought a series with that title would rattle people's cages? Indeed, in an editorial found in issue #1 Chaykin recalls the first announcement of this series at Image Expo being greeted by "a neutral, mostly uninterested audience." That changed when issue #1 came out and several people (many of them comics industry professionals) were outraged by its contents, followed by a second outrage at the preview art for issue #4's cover, which resulted in a change of covers. All of that hit before issue #2 had even come out!

I attempted to follow the discussion but what I found difficult to ascertain was what exactly it was about issue #1 that people had a problem with. No one was posting panels or quoting dialogue to show what they hated. In fact, the response seemed to be "it's so terrible I can't even begin to tell you, so I won't." Lacking this context, I became more and more interested in the series. I hadn't paid attention to any of the promotion - I read the Image solicitations every month and the solicits for The Divided States of Hysteria left no impression on me. But now I was learning what it was about and that was... intriguing. I am, certainly, a reader willing to indulge viewpoints I don't agree with - witness my previous entries on this blog re: Steve Ditko or Dave Sim. Issue #1 was sold out but a 2nd print came out to coincide with issue #2.

Above all, The Divided States of Hysteria is an exercise in venting. This is an angry comic written by an angry man - an angry liberal man who sees much to be outraged by. The reaction to this series, then, is an outrage against outrage over the thing which outrages both groups. It is almost impossible to keep from seeing the content of this series (and the reaction to it) as emblematic of the ugly side of the USA as seen in last year's election. In The Divided States of Hysteria, one liberal points his finger and says, "Look at this hellhole we live in!" And his peers gasp, "How dare you draw our attention to that!"

But what is The Divided States of Hysteria actually about? It is set in the near-future shortly after the US President (presumably Trump) and most of his cabinet have been assassinated, but this has only led to even worse things for the state of the nation as people become more and more divided (hence the title). The central protagonist is Frank Villa, a Pentagon official who learns of a looming terrorist attack and fails to avert catastrophe. Consequently he loses his government job and is hired by a private firm to put together a team of operatives to hunt down the people responsible for the attack (a consortium of Muslim, black supremacist and white supremacist allies-of-convenience).

Villa's four operatives are introduced in issue #1 and recruited at the end of issue #2. Each is in prison when Villa finds them: Henry Noone is a black supremacist who went on killing spree which targeted only white people (obviously drawn from recent real life "anti-white" gunmen in the USA); Christopher Silver appears to be a transvestite sex worker who was assaulted by her three johns and shot them all to death; Paul Berg is an expert poisoner who preys on wealthy people ("the 1%" as he calls them); Cesare Nacamulli is a serial killer who targets random people to avoid forming identifiable patterns.

It's the character of Christopher Silver who provoked the aforementioned outrage. It's actually a little difficult to pin down Christopher's gender but she appears to be a man in women's clothing (no surgery); I use the term 'her' because it's what the story uses. She's introduced in a three-page sequence in #1 where she's seen with her three johns, who feign outrage upon 'discovering' she has a penis (Silver notes in her narration they knew that when they hired her and were pretending so that they could claim the "trap defense"). When the trio begin beating her she takes a gun from her purse and shoots them all dead. Christopher stands apart from the others because her punishment is unjust - she acted in self-defense, whereas the other three prisoners were sociopaths preying upon others: white people (Noone), the wealthy (Berg) or strangers (Nacamulli). Silver is picked for Villa's team not because she's in the same league as the others, but because the johns she killed were coincidentally linked to the terrorist network.

I can't bring myself to be outraged by the treatment of Silver because the story's perspective is that Christopher Silver was wronged. She is granted a righteousness the other anti-hero protagonists do not possess. For all I know, she'll turn out to be the conscience of this series (or then again, maybe there is no conscience). Chaykin has called this a "revenge story" so it stands to reason that the person who was wronged will attain vengeance by the tale's climax. I understand people speaking out against this comic book because they don't want to read it - they shouldn't. I can't bring myself to agree with those who don't want this book to exist - there, I must side with Chaykin's remark: "I’m being impugned from my side of the aisle–by the sort of people who say such things as “I’m all for artistic expression, but…” It’s that “but” that undercuts all that “…all for…” No, you’re not really. If that were the case, there’d be no buts."

I'm afraid my problems with The Divided States of Hysteria will be of little interest to anyone. Chaykin has a bad habit lately of abusing his pages with Photoshop. A behind-the-scenes feature in issue #1 shows the transformation of a page of Chaykin's pencils into the finished product and I much prefer the lines on the penciled page - whenever a Photoshop background or graphic is used it's wicked obvious and jarring. The use of computer-generated imagery to fill in details feels cheap, which I'm sure is intentional - Chaykin spent time with Wally Wood early in his career and one of Wood's mantras to his apprentices was "Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up." Wood would have loved Photoshop. Further confounding are the two kinds of lettering boxes, seen below:

First there's the blue narration boxes which look like they belong on a 1999 Geocities page (so says the owner of a 1999 Geocities page), then there are the speech balloons with their tiny, near-invisible tails which cause momentary confusion when trying to follow which person in the conversation is speaking. I've called out Chaykin's comics for this one before and I'm afraid I must again - letterer Ken Bruzenak: you are my least favourite part of this comic book. Your lettering consistently interferes with my ability to follow the story being told, which is just about the last thing lettering should do.

Perhaps because I am not a citizen of the USA I have a few degrees of removal from their toxic political culture and can better enjoy this book as an outlet of liberal rage. Certainly when I think about the state of politics in the US, I get a bit angry; mostly depressed. I am not one who normally advocates on behalf of offensive/provocative art - I say, 'well, I agree in principle with its right to express itself but I sure don't want to read it.' I don't enjoy exploitation films, the exploitation 'homages' of Tarantino, 'rape revenge' films, splatter films or 'torture porn'; I was never an angry youth so I never enjoyed young angry music. Yet here I've read these two issues for sake of getting better informed on the controversy and find myself interested in following the plot. Weirdly, then, for the first time in my life I find myself reading a Howard Chaykin comic book I'm willing to follow regularly. Uh... thanks, people who wanted this story banned!