Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Killing Robin

Tomorrow marks a sad day for me.  I have loved the characters of DC Comics since I was nine years old.  The first comic book I ever read was a DC comic, Green Lantern #4 by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane.  Last week I began to seriously consider the wisdom of my continuing to support DC by covering their books in my blog and by giving them my money every Wednesday.  I was never a huge Marvel Comics fan, per se.  I guess from here on out I'll be supporting independent and creator-owned comic books.  Books like Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's Walking Dead or the brilliant Terry Moore's Rachel Rising.  But not DC, even though it means ending my half-century-long love affair with Green Lantern.

I can only complain here, and on Facebook and Twitter and such.  And I can only vote with my feet, and with my wallet.  And as far as DC is concerned, I will be walking away and keeping my wallet closed.

Last week I mentioned that, against all rational and sane judgement, DC Comics has hired noted anti-gay author and activist Orson Scott Card to write their new Adventures of Superman title.  I can't support their choice, and I refuse to put my money in his pocket.

Now this happens:  nypost.com: Holy Hit Job!

Yes, in tomorrow's issue of Batman Incorporated #8, Robin is going to be killed off.  They claim he will be going out a hero, saving the world from some clone monster that shares his DNA.  This particular Robin is not the Robin with whom most folks are familiar; he's not circus orphan Dick Grayson -- Dick Grayson these days operates on his own, as the hero Nightwing.  He's the illegitimate son of Batman and Talia al Ghul, the daughter of one of his arch-enemies, the immortal eco-terrorist Ra's al Ghul.  This is not the first time DC has decided to kill a Robin.  The last time they did this was bad enough -- the Joker beat teenager Jason Todd to death with a crowbar before Batman could arrive to save him.  But this is the first time they've decided to kill one who's only TEN YEARS OLD.

I don't care how heroically Robin goes out.  And I don't care much about all the crap that's been written about the latent homoeroticism of the Batman/Robin relationship.  Robin came about in the 1940's when the editors at National Periodical Publications decided that they could sell more comics if there was a character with whom the kids could identify.  A kid just like them, only he gets to hang out with and help Batman.  All the other stuff was laid on later, about how Robin was the one ray of light and humor in Batman's otherwise grim and relentless lifelong war on crime in Gotham City.  They put a kid in the book so that they could sell more books to kids at a time in this country when readership consisted of all ages, and Batman and Superman routinely sold upwards of 100,000 copies each and every month.  Nothing today even comes close to those sales, although a wider range of ages is reading comics these days.

So the kid sidekick was born, and the adults reading comics gradually stopped, and by the 1950's it was a junk medium for children.  That's a bit of an oversimplification, but it's basically true.

Regardless of the wider range of ages reading comics these days, at the end of the day the idiots who produce them need to take a step back and take a hard look at what they are producing.  It's not just grown-up fanboys who read comics these days; kids still read them too.  And they need to be a little more aware of what they produce when what they produce involves violence against children.  This Robin is a little boy.  I don't care who his mom is, or the circumstances of his conception or birth.  I didn't much like the gimmick when he was produced like a rabbit out of a hat after it was revealed that Talia tricked Batman into helping her conceive an heir for her dad's criminal empire, but comics are full of that kind of over-dramatic revelation.  No, what I care about is that they are committing the ultimate act of violence against a young child.

Yes, I know; death in comics is rarely permanent these days.  Despite all the claims to modern sensibilities and values, nobody really dies in comics any more.  This, in my opinion, has had the unfortunate effect of diluting the importance, the tragedy, and the drama when a character dies.  Comics fans used to jokingly say that there were only two characters who had to stay dead -- Captain America's sidekick Bucky and Spider-Man's Uncle Ben.  Well, guess what?  They've both been brought back.  Nobody is hands-off for resurrection.  And apparently nobody is hands-off for killing.

So even if Robin is brought back in a few months, I don't care.  I won't be there to see it.  To pull a stunt like this, especially after our nation seems to be mourning mass murder after mass murder, and multiple deaths by violence of children, is appalling, thoughtless and insensitive.  And I won't be paying for it.

[As always, all images are © and ™DC Comics and are used here solely for the purposes of review and comment.]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Champion of the Oppressed!

"Champion of the Oppressed!"  Those are the first words that Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster used to describe Superman when he first appeared in 1938 in Action Comics #1.  Now, seventy-five years later, the company that owns the rights to the character of Superman is placing his story in the hands of someone who is, in my opinion, one of the oppressors.

This story breaks my heart.  Superman is a character that should be better than all of us.  DC Comics has hired the science fiction writer Orson Scott Card to write the first arc of their new Superman title, Adventures of Superman, which is set to debut digitally in April and in print in May.  Card is probably most famous for his Ender's Game series of books, and for his print adaptations of popular movies into essentially throw-away novels.

But he has no business writing Superman.  Card has written numerous articles which say flat-out that marriage equality -- the legalization of same-sex marriage -- will lead to the end of civilization.  He is on the board of the notorious anti-gay and anti-marriage equality group the National Organization for Marriage (NOM.)  He regularly uses his celebrity to promote his case and his cause, as well as his faith.  (He's a Mormon.  I don't know why the Mormon's are so against marriage equality, but remember that they poured millions and millions of out-of-state dollars into California to promote the repeal of the California gay marriage act.)  If you have read Card's work, you also know that the characters in them who are in any way villainous or antagonistic just happen to be gay as well.

Like I said earlier, Card was a niche writer who achieved a measure of popular success writing novel adaptations of popular movies.  I stopped reading his stuff years ago, mainly for two reasons:  first, I really got tired of just about every villain in his stories being gay, and second, because I find his writing to be hackneyed and mediocre.  There are writers who can make the most ordinary thing beautiful through their use of language, like Ray Bradbury.  There are writers who can blow your mind with their bold ideas when they extrapolate possibly futures from existing technology, like Robert Heinlein.  Card is neither of these.

But I could stand it if Superman were being written by a mediocre hack.  It's happened many times over the past 75 years.  (Just about every Superman story written between 1955 and 1965 is cringe-worthy in one respect or another, but I digress.)  What I can't stand is the idea that Superman will be written by a proponent of hate.  Superman really is the embodiment of Truth, Justice, and, yes, The American Way.  The character deserves better.  DC's audience deserves better.

I will be boycotting DC's Superman books until they either dismiss Card or until his work is finished and he moves on.  I am seriously contemplating boycotting all of DC's books, even though this would mean interrupting my fifty-one-plus years of reading and collecting Green Lantern.  As just one consumer among hundreds of thousands, the only way I can vote on the issue is with my feet and my wallet.  So I'm walking away from DC for now, and keeping my wallet closed.  I urge you all to do the same.

For more information on the story, and to sign a petition asking DC to reconsider their choice, you can go here:
Anti-Gay Writer on Superman?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I would like to appeal to every car manufacturer, car dealer, discount furniture store, sandwich shop and any other company, marketer or advertiser who thinks that it's funny, or amusing, or entertaining, or interesting to have actors dressed as Presidents Washington and Lincoln rap, sing, breakdance or otherwise appear in adverts for their February sales:  Stop.  Just stop.

It's not funny, or amusing, or entertaining, or even interesting.  It's embarrassing.

And maybe a little offensive.  (Yes, Honda, I'm thinking of you.  For shame.)

So cut it out already.

Oh, and this also applies to Ben Franklin ("the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States," as the Firesign Theater said.)  Just saying.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Facebook: Stop This!!

I'm talking about this charming little message:  "This app may post on your behalf, including status updates, photos and more."

Are you kidding me???

Let's make it perfectly clear:  If I have something to say, or post, why, I will say it, or post it.

I do not want any applications doing anything and then slapping my name on it.

Lately there have been a number of apps offered that actually seemed interesting to me.  I never caught the Facebook "Farmville" or "Mafia Wars" bugs, but occasionally something in pop culture comes along that appeals to me, and of course in these days of social media that something invariably has a Facebook presence.  Unfortunately, I have been unwilling to explore any of their applications because the final step, on the page where you click on either "Accept" or "Cancel," has the message, "This app may post on your behalf, including status updates, photos and more."

This is crap, Facebook, and on some level you have to know it.

There is a videogame coming in a few weeks called "Injustice: Gods Among Us" about which I have been wanting to learn more.  On the plus side it involves a huge roster of characters taken from the pages of DC Comics, including my favorite hero, Green Lantern.  On the (hugely) minus side, it seems to be a fighting game and comes from the makers/developers of the dreaded "Mortal Kombat" franchise.  The game now has an app on Facebook which would let me learn some more about the game, see what it looks like, vote on the outcomes of potential matchups, etc.  (Sidebar:  We fan geeks LOVE to vote on stuff like the outcomes of potential matchups.  Who would win, Superman or Batman?  Wonder Woman or Spider-Woman?  Is the Hulk strong enough to lift Thor's hammer?  It's not just eight-year-old kids arguing about this stuff on playgrounds, folks.)

But I refuse to use the Injustice: Gods Among Us app because it may post on my behalf.  And this is just one in a string of recent, well, disappointments.  I want to use the app.  I want to vote.  I do NOT want my entire Facebook family to know that I think that when the chips are down Solomon Grundy is going to lay a smackdown on Gorilla Grodd.  I barely want my Facebook family to know that I know who those characters are.

So ... thanks, but no thanks, Facebook.