The Superhero Issue That Taught Me Compassion

So, it started off with a tweet I saw from Tess Fowler, an amazing artist whose work I’ve enjoyed, asking a simple question about the comics medium:

And I replied with the following, speaking purely from the heart:

Marvel_Two-In-One_Vol_1_86

Ben and Flint enjoying a brew instead of throwing fists.

This issue in particular has always stayed with me, even if I forgot some of the details when I first got it. Unlike a lot of my friends who are fellow comic lovers, I never had much of a mind for detail in who drew and wrote what and when, so some research was in order.

Written by Tom Defalco and drawn by Ron Wilson, Issue # 86 of Marvel Two In One was a comic I had picked up as part of a four issue reprint Marvel had done in the 90s, even though the original had first been printed in April of 1982, during the reign of Jim Shooter as Editor in Chief. Back in the 90s, and this is only my hypothesis for I’ve not found any proof about it, Marvel was reprinting a lot of classic Marvel titles, from the origin stories that brought us Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four and others, to wholesale series such as Classic X-Men and Classic Spider-Man, possibly because Marvel was getting close to going bankrupt.

At any rate, I picked up the The Thing mini-series because I liked Ben Grimm and how un-superheroic he looked. Maybe it was something I was picking up on, being a fat kid in high school who didn’t look like any of the six pack, beefed up, superheroes I admired but unable to articulate why.  I was more drawn to the characters who were, for lack of a better word, ugly.

Like Ben Grimm, rendered into a rock like golem by cosmic rays, or Bruce Banner, transformed into the Hulk from absorbing gamma radiation.

I could understand Ben Grimm’s frustration at being mocked for his appearance, as I’d been mocked, bullied, and picked on for being fat. He was someone I wanted to see happy and loved and cherished, because it meant I could be too.

And it was Ben Grimm who taught me kindness and compassion, although it took me a few more years after high school, and a couple courses in Feminism, to better and more thoroughly apply such a profound lesson.

The basic plot is that Ben Grimm is angry and frustrated, and, upon hearing of The Sandman being at large once more,  finds him at a bar, and challenges him to a fight!

And Sand Man surrenders.

This shocks Ben, so much that he buys a round of drinks and simply… listens to Sandman, who tells him his name is Flint Marko, talk about his life and the choices he made and the mistakes befallen him that lead him up to that moment.

Just having a superhero comic where the team up is of two men talking about their problems instead of fighting or joking or brushing it aside really opened up my eyes not just to how much more a superhero comic could be, but in how men could do things differently. It was, in a way, one of the first instances of positive masculinity that didn’t deal in the language of violence.

That’s always stuck with me over the years, that sometimes if we just listen to people who might appear to be bad, we find decent human beings who make mistakes and, finding themselves in a deep hole, are unable to climb out without a helping hand.

And I’m not talking about truly ugly-hearted people whose minds are coloured with bigotry, ignorance, and racism, as the Friends of Humanity and the Red Skull’s are, but people who simply struggle to survive.

The issue ends with Ben giving Flint twenty bucks and wishing him well, hoping that he stays on the straight and narrow, and thus began the start of Flint’s heroic journey, all because someone decided to listen.

Superhero comics have taught me a lot over the years, such as with great power comes great responsibility, how bigotry and racism should have no place in our society, as well as how far a little kindness and compassion can go. I like to think it’s part of what’s shaped me into (I hope) a good person.

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Finger Waving & Tone Policing – A Nick Spencer Story

Hello everyone, in this video I take a look at Captain America: Sam Wilson Issue #17, and the complete and utter failure to understand what social justice activism that Nick Spencer satirizes.

Since, you know, satire is supposed to punch up, not down.

I’d also recommend people check out this article by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw on the comic as it has some additional insights into just how badly Nick Spencer screwed up and why.

Enjoy!

Brain Food At The Movies – Episode 14

Hey everyone, it’s my review of the amazing fanfilm about Storm, Rain!

Done by Maya Glick, this fanfilm has been three years and two kickstarters in the making and the wait was well worth it! This movie was just perfect, with a great artistic style and a wonderful performance by Maya Glick, who completely rocked the Punk Rocker Storm outfit.

Be sure to watch the movie here and support this artist’s amazing work!

Blind Spots

Sorry about the radio silence here! Between work, dealing with anxiety, and my computer finally dying and the new one taking its time to get here, my output has been really, really low.

I’m trying to turn it around, so I figured I’d talk about blind spots in relation to writing diverse characters, specifically the case of Brian Michael Bendis and Spider-Man Issue #2.

I admit to being a bit late to this party, as I’m not a regular reader of the adventures of Miles Morales, mainly on account of just not being a fan of Bendis’ writing. I just get this sense of how much he hates writing superheroes and was, from what one friend told me, instrumental in ripping apart the relationship of the Vision of Scarlet Witch.

Also, randomly killing off Ultimate Gwen Stacy for no good reason? Yeah, never was a fan of that.

So, when he made Miles Morales, the half black/half-‘hispanic’ new Spider-Man of the ultimate universe, I gave it a pass, same as I did for Silk, as created by Dan Slott.

After all, when your introduction of the character is of someone hidden away by men ‘for her own good’ and shown to wear webbing in a sexy pin up pose, it’s loaded with Ick Factor, made all the worse for Silk being Asian.

But enough about Dan Slott… heck, the less said about him when he’s not checking up on google alert for his name and bad writing, the better.

In the latest issue of Spider-Man, a vlogger excitedly discusses how cool it is that there’s a new Spider-Man on the scene after footage of him fighting a demon is uploaded online. The footage shows that part of his costume is torn and his brown skin shown through it.

Miles’ reaction to the vlogger is to not like being the black Spider-Man, which the vlogger does not call him, and wants to be counted on the content of his character instead of the colour of his skin.

Now, other people have explored this issue, and much better than I ever could. In fact, I highly recommend everyone reads “Gamergaters are rallying behind the new Spider-Man for all the wrong reasons” by Charles Pulliam-Moore. He and another friend really dive into the material and about how troubling it is for a young, biracial boy of colour to not want to discuss his skin colour.

And while you’re at it, listen to Fresh Out Of Tokens. It’s a great podcast about diversity in games, but in the latest episode, episode 39, they spend some time on this topic as well. It’s roughly in the last 10-15 minutes of it and definitely worth a listen.

What troubles me, and was highlighted by a discussion I had yesterday, is the age-old idea that because one has relationships with people of colour, either as friends, colleagues, family, or lovers, it does not mean that you’re suddenly immune to being racist.

It is, as one friend once told me, not a one time immunization shot, but an ongoing process.

This is important to highly because in the interview Bendis has with Comic Book Resources, he talks about the people in his life who face bigotry and being judged on their looks, as well as his being Jewish.

And yet, all I could hear was “I have black friends! I have black friends! I can’t be racist, I have black friends!”

Yeah, so do I, but that doesn’t mean I won’t automatically say, do, or write racist things. I’m constantly educating myself and watching what I say and examining it because as a straight, white, cisgender, able bodied male from Canada, I am at the top of the privilege pyramid.

Privilege is a hell of a thing, and it comes in many forms. In her book Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafetreia?, Beverly Tatum, in her exploration of racism and how it affects us, points out that she has privileges others don’t. She might be a black woman living in America, but she also has straight privilege, cisgender privilege, and able bodied privilege.

So even though Bendis is Jewish and has a black daughter and knows many black people and other people of colour, he has privileges others don’t, and that can result in blind spots.

And damned if there wasn’t a glaring blind spot about Morales dismissing his blackness which is, again, better explained and discussed by the people in the links I provided.

It also doesn’t help that Bendis has said to tune in next time, continue reading, when facing criticism over this. That feels like an excuse to run away and not face up to what people have said of his writing, and seeing as how he is someone writing a character who is afro-latino, he has a greater responsibility to ensure he writes a good message.

Yes, he’s human and he makes mistakes, same as the rest of us, but it’s especially harmful when Bendis is so dismissive, to say nothing about the character of Danika Hart, the vlogger. It feels like a shot at all the SJW tumblr types, as though to say they care more about diversity than quality, when really one can have diversity AND quality.

After all, look at the latest Star Wars movie.

So, while hardly being enamored with Bendis’ writing to begin with, I think I’m going to be sitting this one out. After all, when our writing ensures that Miles Morales is going to become Gamergater’s Vivian James entry into comics, you’ve fucked up.

Also, hispanic means you speak Spanish. It’s not the same as being latino. Get it right, Bendis.