Posts by Author: Christopher David Lawton
 

The Rescue Blues

Shenmue1It’s E3 week. For gamers around the world, this is like first Christmas in June, where among the lights and smoke and mirrors, we receive small little nuggets of sunshine in the form of game announcements and updates. This year was no different, with various companies announcing some big games, like Halo 5 and Mass Effect 4. But, in my opinion, it was Sony that stole the show this year with a pre-show press conference with the announcement of three highly-anticipated games. The first two, the Final Fantasy VII remake and The Last Guardian, were definitely welcome surprises, with the former a long-stated desire of fans and the latter long-since dead, but it was the third announcement that seemed the most shocking and exciting: Shenmue 3.

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The Savagery of Red Wolf

anadm (1)I want to talk about representation. I know what you’re saying: Chris, you’ve already written two columns on representation. Isn’t that enough? Why do you hate this horse so much that you gotta just keep beating it? Well, because it’s not enough, that’s why. And when you are fighting nearly a century of comic books that have featured one group primarily (white males), followed by the diminishing othering of marginalized groups through gross stereotypes, two columns isn’t even the bare minimum. It’s not even enough to scratch the surface. So, I want to talk about representation, but I want to talk specifically about how not to do it.

When I wrote my column about Miles Morales, I argued that representation is important, and I laid out my hopes that Miles would continue in some capacity, and later when it turned out that he would find his way into the normal Marvel universe, I was super excited. I praised Marvel for the decision, as I did for the recent revelation that Bobby Drake – Iceman, if you’re nasty – is gay. In both instances, I praised Marvel because I firmly believe these two characters have interesting and unique stories to tell, stories that I feel many readers can relate to. It’s important to tell these stories, and I’m very, very happy that’s happening.

Which brings us to the topic on hand today, though. How do you handle it when an attempt at representation ends up doing more harm than good? Enter Red Wolf.

Over at Comic Alliance, James Leask already wrote a fantastic article on the issues with the recent promotional art featuring this latest iteration of one of the earliest Indian superheroes. If you haven’t done so yet, please go read that column before you proceed. It has important information on the history of Native representation in media, specifically on the physical design of such characters. It’s important to understand some key concepts which Leask brings up, concepts like the “Dead Indian,” the historical accuracy of stereotypical dress, and “savagery” vs. “civilization.” Needless to say, this topic is quite charged, and there are some deep-rooted historical ideas at play here, not just in comic books, but all media, and in this little thing we call real life.

All of what Leask writes is valid and important, and he’s not the only one. Since Marvel’s announcement, and the promotional imagery was released, many people have voiced similar ideas specifically around Red Wolf’s dress. He looks like a stereotypical Indian, like he’s waiting just off screen, ready ready to fire his bow and arrow at John Wayne. The outcry has been so strong that editor Tom Brevoort recently freaked out at a fan’s reasonable question on Tumblr, stating that Marvel “thought that when people read the story, as opposed to judging wildly from a piece of promotional art, they would understand the character.” Aside from the idiocy of assuming that we can’t make judgments about characters based on promotional imagery that the company is releasing to promote the character, it also shows a lack of understanding of what such stereotypical imagery brings to light.

Red WolfTo understand this, one must first dive into the history of native characters and the problematic representation within. The big issue with the imagery isn’t just that it’s stereotypical, but more importantly, what sort of ideologies those stereotypes reflect. The buckskin pants and the bone necklace create an embedded connection to nature for the character, something that is backed up by his name, Red Wolf. This association with nature is something that has long been present within the depiction of Native characters. From the old western trope of the Indian listening to the ground to determine how far away someone is, to the more modern presentation of the mystical Indian shaman, Native characters are inexplicably linked with nature. In comic books we see this in a number of ways. All four iterations of Red Wolf all received their power from a wolf God. The classic X-Men Thunderbird was first shown chasing down and wrestling a buffalo to the ground. Even the origin of Apache Chief, from the old DC Super Friends TV show, involves him fighting off a bear. In addition to all of this, Indian characters are often shown to be great trackers, an attribute that is again linked to a mystical kinship with nature.

This isn’t an isolated incident, and it’s certainly not only a historical problem. Even modern Indian super heroes exhibit this, and from the looks of the promotional material, Red Wolf doesn’t look to change that pattern.

By now, you may be wondering why all of that matters. Who cares if Indian characters are linked to nature? To understand the answer to that question, you must understand the link between nature and savagery, as present in the American frontier ideology. This dates back centuries, but it is best stated in “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” by Frederick Jackson Turner. A historian, Turner presented this essay in the late 1800s in an attempt to explain American exceptionalism. Specifically, Turner believed that American individualism was forged on the frontier. We left civilization and entered the frontier, where we tamed the wilderness on our own, and eventually we became something wholly separate from our European forefathers: American. Turner’s theories rely on one specific aspect: the frontier (nature) is uncivilized and savage.

So, where do Indians fit into this thesis? While Turner doesn’t spend much time on the subject of Indians, they are usually reduced to members of the savage wilderness, no different from a grizzly bear or a wolf. They are members of this nature, savage and untamed, and it is up to the American to tame them, which he eventually does. At best, he “civilizes” them. Barring that, he makes them disappear. In the real world, we tried to do this through the Indian boarding schools and reservations, two concepts that are as terrifying as almost anything white people have ever come up with.

While Turner’s thesis has long been shooed away by modern theorists, the ideas were so prevalent for so long that they infected pop culture for over 100 years. They still do. In western fiction, the frontier is presented as a dangerous and terrifying place, where residents are always on the very brink of death. Only by the grace of God go they. Even towns – bastions of civilization – are not immune to the threats of the frontier. Lawlessness reigns supreme, and a man’s only salvation is his gun. Etc. Etc.

And, of course, the savage Indian, whose inexplicable link to nature is evidence of his savagery. Circle the wagons, the injuns are attackin’! Whoop! Whoop! Paleface speaks with forked tongue.

While I doubt that Marvel is not going to go full-bore into this classic Native representation, let me ask you a question. If they did, would it seem off to you? If you saw that character walking around parroting Apache Chief lines from 1975, would you bat an eye?

“Indian… legend… tells of… a… great eagle…”

If you saw a character dressed like Red Wolf saying that, would that seem out of place? I would argue that for most of you, it wouldn’t. Most of you wouldn’t even realize what was happening.

That’s the power of this ideology. Based on the outfit that Marvel has trotted out, they intended to evoke an imagery of Native savagery, and in doing so, they have invoked long held perspectives on Native people. And that’s why it’s problematic, Tom Brevoort. That’s why there’s all of this “wild” speculation over a promotional image. Because it doesn’t matter how you portray him as a character in the comic; by pulling out this stereotypical imagery, you have guaranteed that almost every reader will come into this comic with preconceived notions about the character based on deep-set ideology created by over a century of portrayals in pop culture.

Can you use these preconceptions to counter these ideologies in a ironic way? Absolutely. But, in order to do that, you have to have already established a history of understanding that such portrayals are wrong. And, judging by how mainstream comics have handled Native characters, we are far, far from that point. Let’s try to get it right a few times first before we try to shake up the system.

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The Importance of Bobby Drake

xmen40

I don’t normally start out my column with a spoiler alert, but since the nature of today’s column is from this week’s issue of New X-Men, I thought I would state one here, especially if you’ve lived under a rock and haven’t been on like Facebook or anything. Of course, now, I’m just typing enough text so that I know the little textual preview on Facebook won’t spoil the first official line of the column, which is coming…

Now.

This week, Bobby Drake came out of the closet. What’s most impressive is that he managed to do so without the typical press release hype and fanfare that traditionally accompanies such controversial “events.” (For an example, look no further than the time the mainstream press spoiled the death of Captain America the day before the comic was released.) This information, however, was not provided by a press release, but leaked to the Internet through a couple of pages that most likely originated in a review copy of the issue, or a direct email from some marketing manager who was disappointed because he couldn’t write a press release to announce this.

What’s slightly less impressive, but still impressive though, is how well the reveal works, from a historical, cultural, and literary perspective.

The reveal itself comes about in an interesting way. Within the story, Beast goes back in time to bring the original five X-Men to the future to stop future Cyclops, who is kind of acting crazy. The original X-Men meet up with their future counterparts, and wacky sitcom antics ensue. During one particular scene, telepath Jean Grey pulls young Bobby Drake aside and essentially outs him. She points out that she can read thoughts, and she knows he’s gay. The conversation is a little hokey, but ultimately ends in a hug, albeit one in which Bobby says he has no idea what he thinks of all of this.

(You can read some of the pages over here.)

As with most events like this, the reaction from fans has been mixed. Some people are praising this decision, especially since Iceman IS one of the original X-Men – this is as OG as you can get, in this regard. For these people, this announcement also follows years of speculation as Iceman’s personality and relationships have always come across as more bravado than anything. Overcompensating much, maybe? For these people who speculate on a fictional character’s sexuality, this confirmation has been very much welcome.

Other people haven’t been so excited, however, as many people see the move as further pandering to a political correct society that is trying to force us to be tolerant of others, a novel concept I know. Others still see this as nothing more than another publicity stunt designed to snag the brief surge in sales that inevitably follows the announcement hitting the mainstream press. (It has hit the mainstream press, by the way. It remains yet to be seen whether this will affect sales or not.)

I went back and forth on how much I wanted to write about all of this, because I think that plenty of people have already written about it, and most likely, they’ve written about it more eloquently than I can. I do, however, feel compelled to talk about how awesome I feel all of this is, and why I think this particular story arc works so well.

First, on a cultural level, representation matters, guys and gals. Was this a publicity stunt? Maybe. Was it done to increase sales? Probably. Corporations rarely do anything that isn’t intended to make money in some sense. However, none of that really matters. This move increases visibility, diversity, and representation within comics, and all of that is important. Additionally, it’s representation of a group of people that is rarely represented in comic books. Bobby Drake suppressed his sexuality years ago, because it wasn’t accepted. Additionally, it wasn’t accepted in a time that humanity hated him for being a mutant. As his dialogue shows, it might have been too hard to be both, and one was certainly easier to put away than the other.

How many people over the past few decades have made this very decision, because they felt like they had to? How great is it that they now have someone in comics that represents them and their struggle? How awesome is that? Publicity stunts, and pandering, and etc, etc, etc, aside – how great is that??

And, I’m sorry if it feels forced, but sometimes we have to force diversity. We have centuries of literature that has been filled with characters that are remarkably white, male, and straight, and that doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon, as evidenced by any media that ever comes out, ever. We are all consumers that have been surrounded by and indoctrinated by that ideology, and made to believe that this is all normal, and that ideology is difficult to overcome. Sometimes, it has to be forced, because if it’s not, it will never change. (Thankfully, you can think of “forced” diversity [which I think is in itself a problematic term, but that’s a debate for another column] as a pendulum. As diversity increases, so does representation and visibility, and eventually, we can overcome that embedded ideology, and it begins to lessen and lessen, and the pendulum can swing back to a more level and adjusted pace. Until it does, though, “forced” diversity is a necessity. It just is.)

And, because they’ve chosen this route, how awesome is this on a narrative level? Suddenly, you have a younger Bobby who is processing all of this, while you also have an older Bobby that is still trying to suppress it. That is a unique take on this conversation, and while I have a lot of problems with Brian Michael Bendis, he needs to be praised for this move on a literary level. This is interesting.

Additionally, he’s written the reveal in such a way that doesn’t ruin the past fifty years of continuity. Those stories still happened. Bobby still had all of the heterosexual relationships he has had. He has still been a man-whore for all of these years. But, man, doesn’t this make all of those stories that much more interesting? Because of this shift, we can suddenly re-read these stories in a whole new way, and that is awesome. We have fifty years of continuity that can suddenly be re-read, and in doing so, the text can present entirely new meaning and analysis. On a strictly story level, this is fantastic.

(Now, I’m not saying that the retcon is as smooth as, say, James Robinson’s Starman, but let’s face it: No retcon is as smooth as Robinson’s Starman. This is still pretty darn great, though.)

And, really, guys, if this doesn’t belong in the X-Men, I’m not sure where it belongs. This is a comic that has never hidden its “agenda” of social progressivism. The writers haven’t always been great at it (I have a grad school paper on Thunderbird I should post sometime), but they have always tried. And they should always be commended for at least trying to increase diversity in comics and bring about social change, regardless of whether or not they succeed.

Now, I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said by other people, and honestly, writing this, I think I’ve echoed other people a bit too much. So, I do feel a need to add something to the conversation. So, I think I want to talk about Jean’s role in all of this.

To be fair, there has been some valid criticism of the entire dialogue, and that has centered around how Jean brings all of this about. Specifically, she reads Iceman’s mind and badgers him until he admits it. Essentially, she outs him, which is very problematic. There is also some troubling dialogue concerning gay versus bi. And I think criticism of this dialogue is absolutely valid. (And, really, should be laid at the feet of Bendis, whose dialogue has always felt stilted to me.) However, I think there is another consideration that must be made. This is a Jean from the same period as the young Bobby, to whom all of this is happening. This Jean has been raised in the same environment and culture that has created the need for Bobby to suppress his sexuality.

While her part in the conversation is awkward and troubling, she has also been raised in a time in which the appropriate conversation has not yet been established. In this sense, Jean becomes an analogue for the very world that has forced Bobby to become what he has become over the past fifty years. So, while yes, outing someone in the way that Jean Grey outs Bobby is never okay, in doing it in this way, it becomes a snapshot of the hegemonic status quo that existed at the time (and still exists today). While she can be praised for her acceptance and tolerance, her actions and dialogue also reveals the depressing lack of understanding at the time, and the desperate need for such an understanding, a need that continues fifty years later.

Maybe I’m giving Bendis too much credit, but I like to imagine that this was all intentional. Even if it wasn’t, though, it continues to create additional layers on this already awesome narrative cake. Hooray!

Ultimately, I don’t know where this will go. Maybe Iceman has this moment and promptly forgets about it. Maybe his younger self helps his older self come to grips with his identity. Maybe he doesn’t. I don’t know. But, what I do know is that the events of New X-Men #40 are important, and I think they’ll have a pretty potent impact on the future of diversity in comics. And for that reason, I am excited.

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Clean Reader: Censorship?

Clean Reader1.

If you run in the same circles as me — circles which read literary blogs — there’s a good chance you saw a new mapp (short for mobile application [just coined it.]) making a few waves. The mapp is called “Clean Reader” and seeks to scrub your e-books of all filth and debauchery, replacing the words in question with family-friendly terms, like “freak” and “bottom.”

The mapp gained a bit of international attention last week when author Joanne Harris posted a scathing critique on her blog. And almost instantly it blew up, forcing the issues of authorship and censorship to the forefront of Internet discussion, as different authors weighed in, and even a few journalists threw their opinions into the ring. As a fan of words and literature in general, these types of discussions are my jam, and I’ve followed the debate closely, nearly salivating over each new entry into the saga. There were issues of copyright thrown about by armchair lawyers, and horrible metaphors about blue cheese dressing thrown about by the mapp creators. Big authors got involved. Small authors got involved. Dogs and cats started sleeping together. It was madness. It was Sparta.

I went back and forth over whether I would join the conversation. What could I add to it, I wondered aloud, most likely disturbing the other people at the bus stop. Who is this guy ranting to himself about books, they most likely thought. They exchanged nervous glances to each other, and a heavy air of awkwardness settled upon all of downtown Omaha. Then, I’m sure the conversation switched in their minds. They probably then thought, well, this guy probably knows what he’s talking about when it comes to books. He’s probably read a lot. Well, that settled it. I couldn’t let down my new friends at the bus stop. I needed to rant about books for a while, and this seemed like a decent topic of conversation.

So, let’s talk about the debate.

On one side of the debate stands the mapp creators. Why did they create the Clean Reader? Well, according to them, their daughter came home from school “a little sad” over a book she had been reading. The book had “a few swear words” and “she really liked the book, but not the swear words.” They wondered if there was an app that would automatically censor books, and there was not. So, they created one. It’s a good story of American entrepreneurship, really. They saw a gap in the market, and they filled it.

Of course, then the shit poop hit the fan when Harris posted her thoughts on it. Detractors of the mapp tend to follow a couple of different lines of thought. First and foremost is the idea of artistry. Most authors, like Harris and sci-fi author Chuck Wendig, feel that since an author takes such great care in selecting words, changing the words of the book ultimately hurts the artistry of the text.

They also take some issue with the motivations behind the changes in these words. Since the mapp creators are Christian, all of their edits are rooted within that religious belief:

Fuck = Freak

Bitch = Witch

Damn = Darn

Jesus = Geez

And, so on.

The argument is that by encouraging such censorship of artistic material, the mapp perpetuates an outdated and dogmatic morality that has a history of oppression and suppression, which can be dangerous to all involved. As Harris writes in a later post:

As to confusing children, I think that trying to pass off both the words “anus”, “buttocks” and “vagina” as having the same meaning is very confusing indeed, not to mention damaging. It is tantamount to abuse to encourage children to be ashamed of their bodies, and to be ignorant of these terms. My daughter knew all the Latin dinosaur names by the time she was four, so I hardly think a few anatomical terms would confuse a normal child. With respect, I believe that you are the ones who are confused on this issue.

 

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Personally, I’m of two minds on the entire debate. First, I understand the issues of artistry and clarity with in my work. My wife and I have this discussion periodically. When I write, I sometimes use vulgarity and profanity. When I do, I try to be as intentional about the issue as possible. Words have power, and they are tools, and if I choose specific words, I am intending those to words to carry with them all of the weight that they do. Sometimes, “crap” is not enough.

That said, I am also a firm believer in audience consuming media as they want to. Here’s a not-so-secret: I make it a point to not look at women other than my wife in a sexual manner. This includes women on the street as well as women on the screen. Am I perfect at it? No. Not at all. No one is perfect. But, I am very intentional in my choice to keep my eyes only on my wife as much as I can.

And this bleeds over into movies, music, and TV as well. Because I’ve made this choice, I make a decision with every piece of media I consume. I weigh the content of that media versus the commitment I’ve made, and I determine whether the appeal of the media is worth the content. A few months ago, my wife and I were looking for a movie to see. We briefly considered Gone Girl, but after telling her some of the stuff I had heard about the movie, we decided not to. There is very explicit sexual content in the movie, and for me, that’s just not worth it, even if people say that the movie is amazing.

(Now, I want to be sure I clarify: I’m not saying that Gone Girl shouldn’t contain what it contains, or that the movie shouldn’t exist, or that people shouldn’t watch it. I am merely stating that I chose not to watch it because of a decision I made three years ago.)

Which brings me to Clean Reader. Because of my choice, I can understand the heart behind its creation. It’s an appealing idea to be able to consume great stories without having to worry about any material that makes you uncomfortable, for whatever reason. And, ultimately, I think you should be able to do this, especially if you’ve already purchased the book. It’s yours, you should be able to do with it what you want. When I read a book, I am a note taker. The margins of many of my books are filled with notes and observations. I’ll underline sentences and circle words, and the pages often end up looking more like a mob hit than great literature. Now, I understand that note-taking is in no way equivalent to content censorship, but I do think it serves to illustrate how we all consume books differently. Some of us write in the margins, some of us don’t. Some of us want to read profanity, some of us don’t.

Honestly, I think that this is one of the cool things about literature. It can be shaped and formed by its readers, because really, it belongs to the reader. In English studies, we teach our students about the concept of audience, and how the audience works with the text and the author to generate meaning. The audience is an active participant in the process creation.

Which leads me to probably my biggest concern with the arguments of many of the authors against Clean Reader. Yes, you are the one that wrote the book; yes, you are the one that chose specific words. That is all true. But, once the book leaves your typewriter and goes out into the world, it belongs to the readers to do with what they will. To assume otherwise is to adopt the pretentious, elitist position of Modernism, which sees authors as the utmost authority on the text. Do they have authority? Absolutely. I’m not arguing against that. But, they don’t have absolute authority over the text. The reader plays a vital role in part of that process.

And that’s okay. That’s what generates conversation and reinvigorates old works. It’s why literary theorists, a hundred years later, can look at a book like The Virginian and say, “Wow. These western books are certainly making an interesting statement about male sexuality and relationships on the frontier.” Did Owen Wister intend that? Who cares. It’s one way we’re reading the book now, and it has kept the book alive over a century later.

(Again, I am not equating a queer reading of The Virginian to outright censorship, I am only using it as an example of how authorial intent is not paramount.)

And, honestly, the fact of the matter is that often the author has no say in what version goes out to the people. Here’s a story: Stephen Crane wrote Maggie: A Girl of the Streets in one way. He tried to sell it, and he was unable to, so he self-published it. Then, he wrote The Red Badge of Courage, and it sold huge numbers. Suddenly, everyone wanted to publish Maggie, but when they did, they edited the Hell out of it. Language, content, etc, etc. Nothing was safe from the editor’s scissors, and what we ended up getting was a watered down version, with none of the punch and impact that the original version had. I’ve read both versions, and his original version is much, much better. But, the edited version was what readers had for nearly a century, unless they were lucky enough to find one of his original self-published copies, which were rare and expensive. Crane‘s authorial intent mattered little when it came time to publish. For better or worse, someone else edited that book to remove content they found questionable, and that’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.

 

Clean Reader23. 

If it sounds like I’m coming out in support of Clean Reader, I’m not. I don’t support Clean Reader. Let me say that. But I don’t support it for different reasons that other authors. I don’t support it because, like most censorship, it’s merely a band-aid on a sword wound. If you have issues with content in books and media, censorship is not the way to handle it. All censorship does is mask the content. The meaning and intent is still there.

KidzBop is a fairly popular series of CDs that offer sanitized versions of popular songs for kids to listen to. Their method of sanitation involves cutting out all of the dirty words and occasionally cutting entire verses. That’s fine. But, the content and context of the song is still there. Take for example, This Love by Maroon 5. On the surface, sure, it’s a fairly standard pop song with a catchy rhythm. But, look a bit closer at the lyrics, and you’ll find such gems as “I tried my best to feed her appetite, keep her coming every night, so hard to keep her satisfied.” Yes, there are no bad words, but that’s a fairly explicit line in a song that is played on a CD intended for children. Likewise, a lot of times, just sanitizing the words in books isn’t going to change the content that much. Without the “F-word,” Game of Thrones still contains extreme violence, and sex, and politics, and all manner of material some people might find questionable.

While I can appreciate the heart behind creating a mapp to make a book more family-friendly for children, you have to wonder: is profanity really all the creators should be worried about? Their daughter was sad because of the profanity. That’s okay. But, was she sad about anything else in the book? Was there sexual content? Was there violence? If your biggest concern with a book is whether or not a character says “fuck,” you have got your priorities all screwed up, because I can guarantee that a lot more was happening in that book than just some profanity.

Instead of creating a find-and-change app, maybe talk to your kids about the media they’re consuming. Find out why they’re troubled by the words. Find out if there’s other stuff in the book they should be troubled by. And, if so, why aren’t they troubled by it? And, honestly, maybe they shouldn’t be reading it, if the content is that big of a deal.

Taking kids out of the equation, I would say the same thing to adults as well. If your convictions about content are that powerful, then maybe you shouldn’t be reading the material, because just changing the words is going to do nothing to sanitize the real content of the book. And if the words are the only problem you have with the book, then maybe you should rethink your priorities. Because, I think they might be a little skewed.

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Down the Wire (Volume 1)

The-WireWhen I sat down to do my column this week, I was a bit torn. See, normally, I spend the better part of two or three days just trying to find something to write about. This week, though, I was struck with a bunch of different topics, all of which I thought would be super fun to discuss, and about each of which I thought I would have more than enough to say. How do you choose? I briefly considered going to the race track and randomly assigning each column topic to a separate horse and just let the racing gods decide my fate. Ultimately, though, I determined that was a less than ideal road, since horses scare me, as do people who frequent race tracks in the middle of the week, or on the weekends for that matter.

Instead, I decided I would combine my topics into one giant, super, Voltron-like column, in which I would simply move from one topic to another, laying out some brief and quick responses on a variety of issues. So, without further ado, let’s begin our journey down the wire in the magical land of television, a vast wasteland, as Newton Minnow once called it.

1. X-Files is coming back. Hooray. We’re going to get another six episodes of Mulder saying, “Believe me, Scully, it’s totes the albino chupacabra bigfoot terrorizing this town. Haven’t you been paying attention to the folk tales?” And then Scully is going to be like, “Bah. There’s no such thing as an albino chupacabra bigfoot.” And then, lo and behold, it turns out to be the albino chupcabra bigfoot.

2. Coach is also coming back. With original star, Craig T. Nelson. Too bad that, so far, the only returning character they have announced is easily the least interesting character in the original series.

3. Guys, DC’s decision to pull the Batgirl variant is a good one. It’s not pandering. It’s not censorship. Everything from the composition to the details within the cover paints a troubling image of power, and one that does not fit within the context of the current book. Stories do not exist within a vaccuum — there is a real world that shapes and informs them and gives them meaning. And it isn’t that the meaning of the story changes as the real world changes. It’s more that as the real world changes, we start to notice different meanings within the story, and that enhances the story itself. The other side of that equation is that the process can also reveal very troubling points of the story as well, and that’s not something that can be ignored. The Killing Joke is a good story, but it’s problematic in a lot of ways, and they are ways that should be talked about and discussed. We don’t have to erase it from comic continuity, but we also don’t have to idolize and glorify it either.

4. Marvel’s new Avengers book looks pretty amazing and remarkably fresh, and I love it for that.

5. On that note, I’m happy Miles Morales has found a home post Secret War. He needed one.

6. And Sam Wilson is awesome.

7. And while I haven’t read the female Thor, I’ve heard really good things about it. I should pick up the trades.

8. Remember when everyone was freaking out about Jesse Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor, and then they released that image, and everyone was like, “woah. What a great casting choice!” Hey Rhys, the next time you give me grief about going bald in my early 20’s, I’m going to point to this image and say, “see? Hair just drags you down. Losing your hair? That makes you a great actor.”

9. Idris Elba in Star Trek? Yes. Please.

And there you have it. If you were hoping for something more in depth on any of these topics, I apologize. Actually, no I don’t. It’s my column. I can write whatever I want. If you wanted something different, though, come back next week. I’m sure I’ll have something you’ll hate even more.

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