Thought-Provoking LinkBlogging

Graeme is stunned by Mary Jane’s cause of death in his review of Spider-Man: Reign #3, and I don’t blame him. It’s funny but horrific.

At what point did Spider-Man having radioactive sperm ever seem like a good idea? … I can’t believe this ever saw print, I cannot believe that no-one at Marvel thought that having a comic where Spider-Man tells the corpse of his wife – because, yeah, I meant to say that, he’s talking to the corpse of his dead wife – that he killed her with his special radioactive spider-spunk was ANYTHING that should ever be allowed to appear in a comic. … To get an idea of the context of this scene, as he’s saying this, the corpse of his wife is trying to kiss him with some kind of demon tongue. I was so numbed by the idea that Marvel somehow thinks that this is a perfectly publishable idea — that showing Marvel’s #1 licensing jackpot, the same character that they put on all manner of kid products, the same character who’s probably going to have the highest-grossing movie of the year this year coming out at the same time as the collection of this series, as being responsible for the death of his wife (potentially strong story idea, possibility for tragedy, etc.) specifically because of his radioactive jism (somewhere between WTF and TMI, and reducing potentially strong story idea to cheap dirty joke and/or bad idea, and something that I feel is kind of offensive in ways that I can’t really explain) …

A friend’s reaction, after I told him about this review: “Obviously, there are no responsible adults left at Marvel to read this stuff before it goes out the door.”

Ben Towle announces that his Midnight Sun miniseries will end serialized publication with issue #3 in favor of an upcoming book collection, due December 2007. He goes on to discuss the issues surrounding independent comic formats, necessary sales levels, and the changes Slave Labor is facing.

Loren makes an eloquent case for why superhero team diversity matters (link no longer available). Isn’t it interesting that in the team-rushing-towards-the-viewer shot, all of the non-white, non-straight characters are omitted? As Loren says,

Honestly, I don’t think that Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham sat around thinking about how they could ignore these characters. And, those of you who know me or read me long enough know that I honestly do believe that people have, for the most part, good intentions. But, as I said in the comments in my entry on DC’s teaser trailer, not being intentional doesn’t always cut it. You have to BE INTENTIONAL if you’re going to show a commitment to diversity.

I think I’ll bring out Lisa Jonte’s ultimate list of what women want (link no longer available) next time someone tries to have any one woman speak for all of us or trots out the tired chestnut “what comic can I buy my girlfriend to make her love them as much as I do?”

-I want “Empowered” to mean something other than “Tits, ass and guns”.

-I want “Actualized” and “Motivation” to mean something other than “Rape, rape and a side order of rape”.

-I want “Owning Her Sexuality” to mean something other than “Hooker”.

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23 Responses to “Thought-Provoking LinkBlogging”

  1. Jer Says:

    Re: diversity in super-hero comics
    Its easy to ignore the non-white, non-straight characters in Marvel and DC books because they aren’t the big stars. The universes are fairly stagnant – anyone who wasn’t a character before the current crop of writers started reading comics aren’t going to get remembered unless the writers created that character themselves OR they’re going out of their way to showcase that character (as Loren points out). The characters that the writers want to write about are the characters they read about as kids (and probably for many of them, the characters they imagined themselves to be while they were reading the books).

  2. Johanna Says:

    I think you’ve just defined “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

  3. Rich Johnston Says:

    Moore did it first in Watchmen anyway.

  4. Terrence H. Says:

    Before I comment, I will say that I am a male college student in his twenties, part of that demonic demographic that is the root of many of the problems that you spotlight on this site. That being said, I have read Spider-Man:Reign, and the review of the book you highlighted is grossly unfair. There is no scene of Peter gleefully mounting MJ and glowing green little troopers being implanted in the unsuspecting heroine. The crass perspective and bathroom humor is brought by this Graham(he lost all fancy spelling privileges with that review). And from your comments, I gather that you did not even look at the book! I think this is a fabulous site that gives a perspective on comics that is sorely needed, but at least flip through the book before putting up this irresponsible, childish take on it. If it is so bad, wear rubber gloves! While Kaare Andrews work is not groundbreaking, he deserves better than the pervert label that that review slaps him with. All the book says is that MJ got sick from her intimate and constant contact with Peter, the rest is up to the reader. So you can say that excessive kissing was the cause, or maybe old MJ like the “golden showers,” it is up to the reader. But I am supporting Marvel on the internet, so what to I know?

  5. Rob Barrett Says:

    Johanna, I think it’s a bit too early to pass judgment on the JSA image–we have no context explaining the inclusion of those particular characters in the image, nor do we have any explanation of why other characters are absent. Yes, Obsidian, Mr. Terrific, and Jakeem Thunder are missing from the image–but so are straight white guys Dr. Mid-Nite and Wildcat.

  6. Loren Says:

    Jer – I ditto Johanna here. The reason why I wrote about this is, again, because DC had made a big to-do about diversifying its universe. I honestly do think they have good intentions and I applaud their effort, but, as I said, sometimes, those intentions have to translate into something. You have to BE intentional to be diverse.

    Rob – Like I said in my entry, I know it’s just one panel in a panel of many in one book. And, I also say I don’t know what’s happening in order to judge it. BUT, it is an observation on a KEY panel in the book. I realize that there are straight white guys missing, but there are also several straight, white guys in the panel. My observation is not a condemnation of the book, but I do want to challenge readers and creators to ask themselves who are missing from KEY panels because these are the images that stand out most in a book.

  7. Loren Says:

    PS – Thanks for the shout out, Johanna! :)

  8. Rob Barrett Says:

    Loren – It’s potentially a problem, yes. In fact, I’m pretty much with you on the curious presence/absence of Obsidian in the book so far. Mr. Terrific has been getting lots of screen time, Jakeem simply hasn’t shown up in the new volume of JSA yet, but Todd is both there and not there at the same time. As you point out on your site, he seems like a natural character to feature in this particular storyline–making his restriction to single-panel, shadow-form, non-dialogue appearances disturbing.

    I do think this panel stands out in isolation–even though it’s a splash page, it wouldn’t necessarily be the most gripping panel in the entire issue. With someone like Walt Simonson, sure. But Dale’s real gift as a penciller is in the detail work; as many reviewers have noted, his best panels involve his ability to draw distinctive faces forming distinctive expressions (one reason why Maxine has already gripped so many readers).

    BTW, Johanna, note that Dale actually gives Jesse real jodhpurs this time round. Maybe he read your entry about the JSA #1 preview . . .

  9. Johanna Says:

    Terrence, thanks for your perspective. I tried Reign with issue 1, and I didn’t enjoy it, so I’m not planning to go back. I linked to Graeme’s post because I think it highlights a problematic idea, one that is similar to some of the less-thought-out stories of the 70s (like Ms. Marvel’s mind-control rape, or when it was implied that Superboy slept with a mind-controlled woman kidnapped from her home planet).

    Rob — if they do a story about a supervillain who’s specifically targeting non-white members of supergroups, thus preventing them from being part of the rescue party, I’m there! :)

    Seriously, point taken, but visuals are important. If the company’s putting out images that are susceptible to such misinterpretation, that can be addressed by them making sure the more diverse members are included in such poster-style pictures.

  10. Lisa Jonte Says:

    Aw! My list is all grown up and… *sniff* and savin’ comics!

    Thanks for the nod, Johanna. :)

  11. Richard Marcej Says:

    Uh, wait a minute… Mary Jane’s dead?

    Boy, am I out of touch with mainstream comics

  12. Michael Denton Says:

    I think in any standard comic, the inference that MJ was killed through intercourse is not hard to make – given the tone of this series, I find it the most logical leap.

    That said, I don’t find it particularly funny – it’s pretty offensive to me. As I wrote at the Sav Critic :

    The idea of this radioactive sperm killing Mary Jane is offensive because it perpetuates a misconception that cancer can be transmitted from person to person – and worse seems to trivialize how people truly get cancer. It also feels like it trivializes the struggles of people who live with spouses/partners with HIV.

    That’s my filter on it – apparently I’m one of the few (although not the only one) who feels this way, and cop to it being a gut reaction, but that was my instant take on it emotionally.

  13. Lea Says:

    I’m with you, Micheal. It comes (no pun intended) across as yet another ham-fisted attempt at relevance and sincerity.

  14. david brothers Says:

    It’s not trying to be relevant, though. Not at all. It isn’t a study of cancer and its causes. It’s about one man’s grief, and how his guilt over essentially killing his wife wrecked him.

    Spider-Man is about two things: his wife and his powers. His powers effectively killed his wife, and he feels guilty over that.

    For what it’s worth, there is precedent for this. Aunt May got sick after a blood transfusion from Spidey way back when it was still a Lee/Ditko joint, I believe. For her, it was radiation poisoning rather than cancer. For what it’s worth, low doses of radiation can cause cancer, and I think being married to a person who is radioactive for what appears to be decades in the text (Pete’s got grey hair before she dies) could easily result in a grim end like that.

  15. David Oakes Says:

    Yes, there is basis for MJ’s death both in the text – from Aunt May to Better Banner – and metatext – Spider-Man’s powers *always* mess up his personal life.

    But “Reign” explicitly invokes “bodily fluids”. So it is not just Peter’s “Love” that kills his wife. (And her love for him, staying beside him in the face of danger.) Rather it is Peter’s “love (wink, wink, nudge nudge, knowhatimean?)” that “plants cancer in her like a spider laying it’s eggs”.

    I will be the first to admit that it is powerful imagery. Maybe even literary. But it carries the whiff of prurience, like “Woman of Kleenex” or “That’s why they call him Mr. Fantastic…” Perhaps if it wasn’t being sold more on the strength of Parker’s peter than Peter Parker. Perhaps if “Reign” wasn’t trying so hard to be “The Arach-Knight Returns”, right down to the visuals. If it wasn’t yet one more writer/artist sanctifying Miller and hoping to be only half as much. Maybe then it could be taken on it’s own merits. And be given it’s own credit.

    As it is, it truns the death of a long suffering woman and the loss of a wife into frat boy porn. And that shouldn’t be lauded.

  16. Lea Says:

    David: that was very well thought out.

    The story is still stupid.

  17. david brothers Says:

    I’d take issue with the idea that this story is “frat boy porn,” but I get the feeling that we’d end up talking at each other, rather than to each other. We’ll just have to disagree, then.

    (cripes, i can’t believe i used “for what it’s worth” twice in one paragraph.)

  18. Lea Says:

    I meant my last comment for David Brothers.

  19. Tim O'Shea Says:

    I really hope no one in the blogosphere links to the comments section with the title “Golden Showers”. (BTW, I would only infer “GS” if it had been written by Chuck Austen.) Terrence H, feel free to disagree with reviewers all you like, but you don’t exactly sway me with your choice to incorrectly spell Graeme’s name intentionally as some inexplicable seeming attempt to demean his opinion.

  20. Terrence H. Says:

    Aw, I was just funnin. I have no beef with the man or his opinion, but I do not like that the creator gets painted as a pervert because his attempt to create tragedy failed. And I don’t see how I get flack for “GS,” but Graeme can use the terms spunk and jism to his heart’s content. Maybe I should start my own website! But to be clear, I have no problem with him disliking the book, I just get tired of the attacking tone and implications of perversity, when judging the story on its merit or lack thereof would suffice.

  21. Johanna Says:

    The story’s already been judged that way — it’s a wannabe Dark Knight Returns. Now we’re trying to get more enjoyment out of it. :)

  22. Tommy Says:

    I think the Dark Knight comparisons are a bit unfair. The only similarities I can discern is that both stories take place outside continuity and feature the protagonist as an octogenarian.

  23. Anthony D. Says:

    >>At what point did Spider-Man having radioactive sperm ever seem like a good idea?

    Guess after the extremely gory/tasteless Three Stooges “eye poke” by Black Adam to Psycho-Pirate in “Infinite Crisis” and Sue Dibney’s fate in “Identity Crisis” (among multiple other complaints I can think of, including the Joker as nothing more than a second-rate Freddy Krueger knockoff/mindless serial killer vs. anything resembling a criminal mastermind or showing a glimmer of intelligence), I shouldn’t be much surprised by stuff like this anymore… except, well, I still am. Yeesh…doesn’t anyone at DC or Marvel have *any* sense of taste anymore?! And who finds all this stuff appealing, anyway?!

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