Conservative Comic Book Pundit

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Comic Book Encyclopedia by Ron Goualrt

A slick, lavishly illustrated book, only hard core collectors or casual fans should be interested in this. There is no information that cannot be found in a hundred other places, and small factual errors abound. [Two examples: 1 - In the entry on Ghost Rider, the wrong Ghost Rider is identified as the star of the Hammer Lane mini-series from Marvel Comics. 2 - In the entry on Captain Marvel II, the encyclopedia confuses Captain Marvel II with Captain Marvel III (The son of Captain Marvel II) and implies they are the same character.]

This book has a very, very pretty appearance and looks good on a bookshelf, but it doesn't reward either the casual reader or the dedicated student of comics. The information provided is on a "scratch the surface" level - at most, a total comic novice might benefit, but there are better books out there than this one for novices. There's no depth to this book, and the reader will learn nothing new.

But it looks nice.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Two quick notices.

Small one first. I reviewed Ultimate Iron Man by Orson Scott Card below. Another good review (and one that doesn't talk politics) is here at Ain't it Cool News.

The big news? Bizarre as it may seem, comic creator and political outsider Frank Miller (who really didn't like Reagan, but seems to have a political philosophy influenced heavily by Ayn Rand) is

(wait for it)

Writing a comic about the battle between "Batman [and] Al Qaeda." Check out the happy announcement here.

I have absolutely no idea what this will be like. None whatsoever.

Why is he doing it? Miller said: "Come on, somebody had to do it."

Whatever he creates, it will not be boring

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Favorite Creators?

Well, last time I discussed Alan Moore a bit. Despite his very, very, very liberal views, I regard him as one of the masters of the form, and much of what he produces challenges me and I always come away enriched - I may (almost) never agree with the moral point he is making, but I find my self glad he made it anyway.

Which is how dialogue between the right and left should be. It's too bad demonization occurs far too often in today's political landscape.

Other favorite creators of mine? Well, I'll give one for now: Kurt Busiek.

Kurt Busiek writes the types of stories every fan wants to write. They fit well within continuity, are simultaneously larger than life and intimate on a personal level, and reward the reader after multiple return visits. Astro Cityis his best work, but his other work (such as the recent JLA/Avengersseries) shines nearly as bright.

As for his politics? I have no idea, nor do I really care. He is a good enough writer that his politics aren't that obvious. He tells wonderful, moving and exciting tales that ring true. That's enough for me.

Besides this Blog is about comics. Political conservatism informs my views, and the recent politicization of many comics (from Black Panther to The Amazing Spider-man to Captain America) motivated me to start this blog, BUT - I really just want to talk about comic books.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Rich Johnston hates conservatives?

What a surprise.

It's not that I care about his largely uninformed rants about how evil conservatives are (he thought Marvel comics was giving into evil by printing the war comic Combat Zone: True Tales of GI's in Iraq which is an okay comic, told fairly well. Yeah, it's got an agenda, but it doesn't sink to the level of propaganda like the new Black Panther series).

Anyway, Alan Moore once wrote a decent comic called V for Vendetta. It's not as great as his best work (Watchmen, Swamp Thing), but competent work from Alan Moore reads better than 90% of the comic books out there.

It's a good read - standard sci-fi trope of a loner fighting against a future dystopian/totalitarian government. But, as with all Moore creations, the wonderfully bizarre, yet somehow ordinary characters carry the day.

It's being made into a movie with Natalie Portman, so it's all the buzz among comic fans and followers. (Of course, considering how badly the Hollywood factory has screwed up Alan Moore's other comics From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I'm not holding my breath for a faithful adaptation).

So of course, this allows for weird, bizarre and paranoid leftist rants. Much like how, over at the Internet Movie Database, the "user comments" for Dr. Strangelove are a hotbed claiming that Gen. Jack D. Ripper is really George W. Bush, etc.

I have no real argument here, since it's hard to argue with paranoid fools, but there you go. Comics, by and large, are created by liberals. Alan Moore is very liberal, but he's also a gifted writer/creator and his works are (overall) brilliant, so I don't mind.

However, we should allow the conservatives to have a voice. For all of Rich Johnston's complaining about how in the USA and Britain there's some sort of subtle censorship going on, he's one of the loudest voices FOR censorship in comics. He wanted Orson Scott Card off Ultimate Iron Man, and ranted and raved about how Marvel comics was being taken over by neocons (a typical liberal bogeyman) because of one comic about the Iraq war. Somehow, he missed all the anti-Iraq war comics Marvel was putting out (including the brief stint Captain America had under the Marvel Knights label).

Friday, March 04, 2005

Not really a comic book topic, but....

it is a Geek topic. Geeks have it rough. I fully embrace the fact I'm a geek and try to turn my geekhood into a dissertation or something. But - Even the Israeli army thinks we geeks are too weird for service.

An excerpt:
Ynetnews has learned that 18-year-olds who tell recruiters they play the popular fantasy game are automatically given low security clearance.
“They're detached from reality and susceptible to influence,” the army says.
Fans of the popular role-playing game had spoken of rumors of this strange policy by the IDF, but now the army has confirmed that it has a negative image of teens who play the game and labels them as problematic in regard to their draft status.
So if you like fantasy games, go see the military psychologist.
Thousands of youth and teens in Israel play "D and D", fighting dragons and demons using their rich imaginations. The game has also increased in popularity due to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
However the IDF does not approve of this unusual hobby and prevents "D and D" players from being considered for sensitive army positions by labeling them with low security clearance.
"We have discovered that some of them are simply detached from reality," a security source told Ynetnews.

I wonder how the US army views this? So, if I sign up for the US army (something I'm seriously considering doing in the next few years), perhaps I have to reveal if I'm a geek. Or maybe they should have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about geekness.

As they say in that classic Movie The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra - Oh, well.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Black Panther #1

I have no images, but you can read the whole issue online for free (and its all legal) here.

The Black Panther is a really cool character, and a great concept. Christopher Priest had a great run recently, despite it ending prematurely and with quite a few plot threads hanging.

This new author, Reginald Hudlin, apparently writes screenplays, not comic books, but he shows that he has a good feel for the form. (Either that, or artist John Romita, Jr. is covering for him nicely.)

As far as continuity goes, this seems to be a "return to the roots" - a year one type tale, as most of the events seem to take place before the Black Panther appeared on the scene lo those many years ago in 1966 in Fantastic Four #52.

There's a lot to recommend here. The history of Wakanda (the fictional African country the Black Panther rules over) gets a nice fleshing out and the heritage of the Black Panther is deepened. And I find it totally believable that the previous Black Panther could have kicked Captain America's butt. I may be patriotic, but in comic books, the Panther is more powerful than just some guy who gets his powers from the Super Soldier serum.

However, there's a lot to not recommend as well. The first part takes place in 5th century A.D. and features African tribesman who say things like "stay cool!" Perhaps the writer needs to read Ursula K. LeGuin's essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie." {At least the language was not as bad as "Young Ancient One" from the short lived Epic anthology, where Doctor Strange's mentor fights villains in ancient Tibet and says things like "Bite Me!").

Beyond that however, the writer apparently hates the Bush administration and considers Condi Rice a race traitor. Much of the issue is taken up with deliberation among the Bush cabinet (or a facsimile, as Condi is called "Dondi") trying to cook up a reason to invade Wakanda so that Halliburton can drill for oil there.

And that's where the whole thing loses its credibility. Instead of creating realistic characters with complex motivations (possible and desirable in comics) or at the very least treat the characters as human beings, the writer has decided to create unfair caricatures.

If your a liberal, you might think he's right on. Speaking as a conservative not totally happy with the Bush administration, I have to say: Get over it. The people involved are humans, with complex motivations. Caricatures with simplistic motivations only exist in propaganda and conspiracy theories. With his portrayal of the White House, the writer (Reginald Hudlin) has declared his intention to write propaganda rather than entertainment or art (yes, comics can be artistic).

SO, if you want to read fairly well written, excellently drawn and exciting propaganda, this is the comic for you. If you want a well told tale, go elsewhere. (I recommend Ultimate Iron Man).

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ultimate Iron Man Review

[Reviews on this site will mostly be fairly informal]

This comic, when first announced, was a hot-button topic. It was supposed to be a major coup by Marvel comics: award winning, best selling sci-fi author Orson Scott Card has agreed to write a superhero comic book! But, Rich Johnston's weekly column Lying in the Gutters over at Comic Book Resources started the debate by pointing out some of Orson Scott Card's more "reactionary" views on homosexuality. Many fans declared that OSC should not be writing a comic, since his views were apparently too out of the mainstream. Others expressed fears that he would use his position as an author to write a story bashing gays or something.

[It should be noted that OSC is a practicing and orthodox Mormon (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), so his views on homosexuality reflect his faith].

Anyway - the actual first issue of the series is here, and it is a great comic. OSC's roots as a sci-fi author really show, as the pseudo-science used in many comic books is given a more plausible explanation than most comic book science has. In fact, the science behind Ultimate Iron Man functions as just as much of a character as the main characters.

And the main characters are well-drawn, vital and whole. Going beyond most comic characterization, OSC shows off his flair for dialogue and allows the characters to be unique, individual and as fully developed as any character in his novels.

As for the homosexuality issue? Never comes up. In fact, the vision of heterosexual marriage shown in this comic is far from ideal. There's plenty of unfaithfulness and adultery going around, plus a bit of tragic true love. There is no attempt by OSC to push and agenda here (except he obviously has a dim view of the extremely rich - but I don't see activists complaining about the poor treatment of the upper class in literature).

But anyone who has bothered to read any of OSC's work would realize he saves his condemnation of homosexuals for his non-fiction. In his fiction, homosexual men have appeared only twice - in Songmaster and the Homecoming series - and in both cases, the men were portrayed sympathetically and treated with respect.

In any case, I doubt sexual politics will show up at all. Heck, Tony Stark (Iron Man) didn't even appear in this issue, except as a fetus and this was his comic!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Okay - a few more things.

This blog will mostly be about comics. It will not always feature political postings. However, the title (up at the top), is meant to give fair warning/full disclosure.

I love comic books. I am a PhD student (thus, apparently I'm highly educated and all that) who loves the form and the content of comics. However, I am also very much a conservative. There are a few issues I am a moderate on, but overall I would say I am conservative.

However, I am not Republican, though I vote for Republicans more than Democrats. I tend towards the libertarian axis of conservatism, and as such I have voted for more Libertarians than Democrats, although I don't feel at home in any political party.

I have a Master's Degree in American Literature.

On with the blogging. Expect reviews and odd comments mixed with socio-political commentary. Or don't. It's up to you what you should expect.

First post.

There's not much here (yet). But there will be soon.

Just to get a feel for me (I'll post later): I mostly read Marvel comics, but I also read a few DC comics. I loved CrossGen and Valiant comics (both now defunct), find Dark Horse comics a mixed bag, and can't stand Image comics.

My current favorite series is a fantasy Western called "The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty" by Beckett comics. But Spider-Man is my favorite character.

More later.