Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kirby Lives!

Yesterday was the 95th birthday of Jack "King" Kirby.  Lots of people have done a far better job than I could talking about the King, and his influence on pop culture, and I'm not going to try to out do them here.  I don't feel like I know the man's work nearly well enough to talk accurately about the scope of his accomplishments. It's not my place, really.  Of the work that I do know, there's very little of it that I can easily describe in less than several hundred words.  The exception being Devil Dinosaur, which I can explain in two: BEYOND AWESOME.

Anyway, last night I was laying in bed, getting ready to read, when it occurred to me that both of the two comic book collections I'm currently working on are all Kirby, all the time.  The one is Walt Simonson's run on Orion.  Of all the sequels to Kirby's original New Gods story (which I read a couple years back) that I've read, it feels the most in-tune to what Kirby was really trying to say, the most that seemed to represent the true meaning behind his cosmology.  And the other, the next book I'm reading for my Making Marvel Mine series, is the Masterworks collection of the Golden Age Captain America, the first 4 issues of the earliest Captain America stories.

It hadn't even occurred to me until just then.  Somehow, though, it seemed appropriate to celebrate his birthday with these stories- one of his earliest brilliant creations, and the best follow-up to one of his later, mind-blowing works.  And it's weird to think about- just a few months after the Kirby-co-created "Avengers" rocked the cinematic world- but without even meaning to, Jack Kirby changed the world, in a way few others ever could.  Not just because of the sheer mountain of ideas the man had, but the way he executed them, the dynamic style, the in-your-face attitude, the "demon-dinosaurs fighting space monsters and sort of accidentally being involved with Adam and Eve" nature of it all (did I mention that Devil Dinosaur is beyond awesome?).

It's easy to say that the man's work stands on it's own, because it clearly does.  I was 8 years old when he died, and still, he's been a huge influence on me and the world around me, in ways I can't begin to fully describe.  It's a strange and beautiful thing to think about.  Jack Kirby's youngest granddaughter is using the occasion of his birthday to raise money for the Hero Initiative, a foundation that helps struggling comic book creators with financial support to pay off medical and living expenses.  Please, if you can, help support these people.  Odds are, Jack Kirby influenced your life in ways you didn't know about too. 

Plus, that one time he helped saved American civilians from being gunned down in Iran.  No, really.  They're making a movie about it right now.  So, if you want, give money because of that, too. 

All hail the King!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Calling 'Rape' Anything Other Than 'Rape' Doesn't Change One Fucking Thing, Assholes.

Hey everybody.  How ya doin'?  Was your weekend swell?  Mine started pretty good.  I went rock climbing for the first time ever (mostly because I figured I could write about it), and that was cool.  And then I pet the cat a bunch and played video games, because my goblin-murdering skills are most epic.  You see, I raise the difficultly level by having the cat lay on top of my left hand, making it impossible to move, I simply have to aim and stab and hope for the best- it's great!

Point is, my weekend was off to a lovely start.  And then, well, this happened.

You've probably already seen that, because it (rightly) made the entire internet explode over the last couple days.  It's obviously beyond offensive, you don't need me to tell you that.  And when I saw it on Sunday I got annoyed, but called for reason- asking friends from all political affiliations to join me and denounce an obviously stupid and offensive comment.  I tried to be above it all, and move on.

... But then it just kept nagging at me.

Obviously Congressional Representative and Senate-hopeful Todd Akin has already backed away from these comments.  He's done what politicians always do whenever they realize they've said something that pisses off everyone, and said he misspoke.  On Mike Huckabee's radio show (Huckabee is a fan of his), Akin said:

"I made that statement in error. Let me be clear: rape is never legitimate; it's an evil act that's committed by violent predators. I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong, and for that, I apologize."

Now, on most issues where "a politician says something stupid, then apologizes", this would be the part where I'd argue we should accept his probably-bullshit apology and move on, because fuck it, who cares?  Politicians lie and manipulate facts and generally abuse information on a general basis all the friggin' time.  It's their job, and I follow enough politics that I am very well versed in their manipulating techniques.  As a normal thing, a politician saying something stupid then backing away from it never phases me.  But this IS NOT a normal thing.  RAPE IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE.  I just... there's no other way to say that.  This is not about politics.  At all.  And then the Congressman kept going on the Huckabee show.  And this is the best place to start really getting into this:

"I was talking about forcible rape.  It was absolutely the wrong word."

Okay.  I'm going to explain this very slowly and precisely, because, while I know all my readers are attractive and intelligent people, I want to be absolutely sure that NO ONE can be confused about this.  Representative Akin says he was talking about "forcible rape."  So maybe he doesn't quite understand what the term "rape" refers to?  You see, the word "rape" is the term used to describe unwanted sexual advances that are forced upon one person by another. All rape, by definition, is "forcible rape." This is about as basic an understanding of the term as exists.

So, okay, if Representative Akin meant "forcible" when he said "legitimate" (try not to think to hard about that line of logic, I know it makes no sense, but let's play along with him for a moment), and all rape is forcible, let's reexamine his initial statement from that video: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate [forcible] rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."  Now, best case scenario here, Representative Akin is getting some breathtakingly bad medical advice.

Let's put aside empathy for a moment and stick to pure science fact.  I understand that Todd Akin probably doesn't have to worry too much about getting pregnant, but this notion of "no pregnancy from being raped" is categorically false.  Actually, it's worse than just normal-false, because the horrible evidence seems to suggest just the opposite: statistically speaking a child is more likely to be conceived through rape than through two consenting people who want a child. 

Back in 1996, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology did a study that found that in fertile women who were raped, 5% of the assaults resulted in pregnancy.  Now that's pretty awful by itself, but how does that compare to, say, intentional sex for the purpose of procreating? Well, a study published in 2003 in Human Nature found that the chances of procreation were doubled in incidents of rape, compared to deliberate attempts to create a child.  I don't like reprinting these numbers, because frankly, it makes me extremely uncomfortable to think about.  But people need to understand just how WRONG Representative Akin's comments are.  There's nothing excusable about them.

Hey, you want me to make matters even worse?  Of course you do!  Let's take a look at which members of Congress are on the Committee of Science, Space, and Technology.  You know, Congress' "Science Division" committee.  And what's this?  Why, it's Congressmen Todd Akin, from Missouri's 2nd District!  So, are we to infer that a member of the Congressional Science Team is confused about how rape, pregnancy, and sex actually work?  I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that one.

No matter what, minor details like "science", "facts", and "reasonable common sense" all say that Representative Akin is completely wrong.  Hell, he's said so himself, just ask him.  He said something stupid, realized it, and promptly apologized- just check his new advertisement asking our forgiveness for him.  He could still be a senator, you see!  He doesn't really think rape is okay!

The thing is, I don't really believe him at all.  I don't mean I think he's down with raping people- only truly horrid human beings think rape is a good thing, and seriously, a pox on all of those people.  But I just don't think he understands what is so fundamentally horrible about his general outlook.  Representative Akin doesn't seem to understand what all the fuss is really about, why all these people think rape is such a big deal.  And he's hardly the only one.

Look at a variety of people who've come out in support of his bogus statements.  Here's Iowa's Representative (and general crazy person) Steve King, suggesting he'd never heard of a girl getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest:

REPORTER: You support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that would provide federal funding for abortions to a person that has been forcefully raped. But what if someone isn’t forcibly raped and for example, a 12-year-old who gets pregnant? Should she have to bring this baby to term? 
 KING: Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way and I’d be open to hearing discussion about that subject matter.

Make no mistake, it was a "Gotcha!" question, but then he made it worse, by having a spokesperson clarify his comments with the following:

What he was saying was, he personally does not know a girl who was raped.  He never says, ‘I’ve never heard of that.’ There’s a fine line between ‘I’ve never heard of that’ and ‘I don’t know personally anybody who’s been raped. There’s a difference. There is a difference.

THAT is BULLSHIT.  Everyone knows someone who has been raped.  Fucking. Everyone.  A 2007 Department of Justice report has 18% of women in America admitting they've been the victim of sexual assault.  What's more, the 2012 statistical report on Criminal Victimization, has over 188,000 rapes and sexual assault reports in 2010 alone. Remember, these are only what's reported, and many analyses believe the numbers are considerably higher.

Then there's Governor Mike Huckabee, who, as I said, is a friend of Todd Akin.  Yesterday, he added to the fray:

"Ethel Waters, for example, was the result of a forcible rape.  I used to work for James Robison back in the 1970s, he leads a large Christian organization. He, himself, was the result of a forcible rape. And so I know it happens, and yet even from those horrible, horrible tragedies of rape, which are inexcusable and indefensible, life has come and sometimes, you know, those people are able to do extraordinary things."

I am beyond being at a loss.  This so completely misses the point- how is it that anyone can think this is a reasonable addition to the discussion?  "Sure, rape is bad, but some babies born out of it aren't total monsters."  WHAT? But his point isn't really supposed to be about rape (even though it is).  He's talking about why he thinks women shouldn't abort rape-babies.  Let's cut the crap; that is the real objective off all these dudes (you'll notice all of them are dudes) and their "knowing more about rape then women folk" bollocks.

In their precious zeal to make all abortion, no matter what, illegal, the GOP has decided they don't give two fucks about why a woman might dare consider terminating a pregnancy.  That's it.  It's that simple, no matter how they try to defend it.  Once again, the Republican party is backing congressional bills to make all abortion, no matter the circumstance, illegal.  That's from last night; the optics of the GOP women's-voter-gap be damned.  It's gone beyond comical; a large percentage of congress- mainly Republicans, almost exclusively men- straight up don't really care about women's rights.  You can't explain their actions in any other light.

It's not just men, of course, nor is it just the GOP, but it's certainly more prevalent with that group in particular.  Abortion rights have always been complicated, but how is it possible that, in 2012, people have been having actual debates about insurance companies paying for birth control pills?  How can a Congressman go a national television, talk about rape like it's no big deal, and then act surprised when the entire country freaks out at him?  How did we get to here?

There's a total lack of empathy here.  It's not that these people don't care about women or women's rights, they just literally never think of them.  Not as people, anyway.  They here phrases like "the female demographic" and picture concepts, not people.  They argue that things like male privilege and rape culture don't really exist, because, after all, there was the feminism movement in the 70's and such.  That took care of all women's rights issues forever, right?  But- and I know I'm going to blow people's minds here- that is not how real life works.

If you have any questions about why this stuff matters, go check out those last two links.  No, seriously, go do it.  All the other links I've posted are really just there for you to fact check me and to prove I'm not just making this shit up (Spoiler: I am not.).  But those two are about fundamental parts of our culture that we, as a society, don't like to talk about.  Hell, we don't like to even acknowledge those things exist.  But they do.  It's an uncomfortable truth about who we, as a people, are.  All the bullshit political comments above?  They're a part of it.  It's not about just abortion, it's not about joust about freedom, it's about basic human dignity for everyone, and how that flat-out does not exist yet.  And I, for one, wish it would change.

I'm not gonna lie, these people make me really, really angry.  To the point where I'm not sure I can keep writing much more coherently about them.  But please, if I leave you with only one thought, it's this:  Don't just let people off with a slap on the wrist when they say shit like this.  Whether they're politicians, your neighbors, your own family- it doesn't matter who.  Rape isn't a feminist issue, or a pro-choice issue, or even a women's issue.  It's a human issue, and every person on the planet should 100% be opposed to anything that marginalizes it.

And that's what you've done, Representative Akin, and all the people who have supported his comments.  Marginalized rape.  And I'm not going to sit here and pretend otherwise.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Truly Terrible Film Reviews: Shattered Spirits

Ah ha!  You see what they did there?  Those crafty writers used the word “spirits” for a title of a movie about alcoholism!  Yes!  It’s that sort of brilliant writing chops that will fill this awful, predictable, and (worst of all) boring film.  Honestly, when I realized there was a made for TV film about drug addiction starring Martin Sheen, well, I knew it was bound to be unintentionally hilarious.  And about half the time, it is.  And the other half of the time, it’s just really, really boring.  Oy.

If you think this pun is stupid, congratulations.  You are a reasonable human being.

Alright, before we meet Martin Sheen, we meet his family.  None of their names matter, so I won’t bother with them.  There’s his teenage daughter, who apparently does all the cooking and cleaning in the house.  There’s his wife, who I think was the mom from Harry and the Henderson’s, but honestly it’s been too long since I saw that for me to be sure.  She doesn’t do much except go to work and pretend to not ignore her children.  There’s the younger son, who’s good at doing… whatever 9-year-olds do.  I don’t know.  And then there’s the loser older son.  He’s skipping school, flunking out of everything, and generally being a moody teenager.  He wants to go on a field trip that costs $50 (which, in 1986, probably was more like $100, so man, way expensive!), but his mom doesn’t think his father will let him, since, you know, he’s a loser who’s almost dropped out.  Martin Sheen comes home, in a jolly old mood- that is, until he catches his loser son in a blatant lie.  However, they make a deal- if loser son studies all weekend, he can go on this field trip.  Fair, and amicable.

So later, the family is off to the daughter’s concert (sure, why not), and Martin Sheen is hilariously rocking a tumbler full of scotch as he gets the whole family into the van.  But dirty business is soon afoot, as Martin Sheen realizes that the lawn hasn't been mowed!  Martin starts yelling at his older son for not mowing the god damn yard already, and saying that said son can no longer go on the field trip.  Now, full disclosure, I wasn't paying that much attention at the beginning, so I'm not really sure if Martin DID tell his son to mow the yard or not.  But his son never denies these instructions, and rushes inside to pout.  Daughter storms off in annoyance, presumably walking to school (or church, or whatever) to do her solo.  The rest of the family all stays in the house, I guess abandoning the daughter?  Anyway, older son steals 50$ from his dad's wallet- because he is a bad person- and Martin gets even more ripped and proceeds to mow the hell out of the lawn.

Now, I've done some pretty awesome things, over the years.  I've won hearts, completed most noble quests, even beat world leaders at croquet that one time.  But I will never, ever in my life be as happy as drunk Martin Sheen is mowing the lawn.  There's this hilarious zen quality to it- watching him cackle as he just mows the ever loving shit out of that lawn- watch that scene, an lo, you shall see true happiness.  It truly is the highlight of this movie, which is both awesome and unfortunate (because there's a lot more to go).

Anyway, the next day is the younger son's baseball game, and when older son (who's been banned from going on the $50 field trip) doesn't show up to go to the game, Martin Sheen knows something is up.  Realizing he's missing a 50, he tracks down the field trip bus and makes older son come with him.  At this point, he's angry, but understanding, and although he's not letting his (thieving) son go on the field trip, he tries to consul him by letting him try driving the family van home.  This goes well, UNTIL Martin Sheen sees a TAVERN.  Dun dun dunnnn!!!!

So yeah.  He has his son pull over, and he goes and gets shitfaced for a couple hours.  Then, when his son tries to get him to go home, Martin insists that he can't drive (likely true), and tells his learner's-permit-havin'-son to drive home and have his wife come get him (terrible idea)(the son driving home by himself part, not the wife rescuing Martin Sheen part).  Well, this is an ISSUES MOVIE, so naturally when the kid tries this, he gets pulled over by the cops, and both father and son end up in jail. It's here where we get our first 100%, no way to argue against it, truly asshole moment from drunk Martin Sheen. He basically forces his son to tell the cops that he stole the van while his dad was inside the bar.  They let his son off with a warning, and they let Martin off with a "teenagers, amiright?"  Irresponsible of the cops?  Sure.  But who really cares?

Some time later, it's younger-son's birthday, and someone needs to go pick up the cake. Martin offers to go get it, but he gets distracted by BOOZE.  He misses the entire party, and when his family comes to find him later, he eventually turns violent.  Back at home, we reach the films climax with Martin Sheen smacking his older son around for a while.  From there, it's 30 minutes of denouement as we get a push-pull of "You're an alcoholic!"  "No I'm not!"  "Yes you are!"  "No I'm not!" and some boring family counseling scenes. I could go in to details, but honestly, I don't want to waste your time with it, because it is super-boring.

The film doesn't really resolve, so much as simply end.  The kids are taken away, then Martin's forced to move out, and eventually after some AA meetings, he gets to move back in.  Only, it's revealed that he's still drinking, at least a little, and.... that's it.  Uh, the struggle against his demons of alcoholism goes on, or something?  I guess?  The End.

Guys.  This is a terrible way to resolve a plot.  The writers failed Storytelling 101 here. He didn't learn his lesson that "booze is bad" (I assume that was the lesson?), because he's still drinking.  And while that may be closer to real life than a lot of movies, it's a bad way to tell a story.  We need to resolve the conflict in a story, that's the whole friggin' point!  If there's no lesson learned, then what are we, as an audience, supposed to take away from the movie?  "Well, that was depressing/boring/stupid/inappropriately funny."  Without a final resolution, that's it.  Sigh.

But hey, Martin Sheen mowing the lawn while blitzed.  Classic.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Waiting for Batman Doodles

I did these 2 weeks ago, while waiting to go see The Dark Knight Rises and being all pissed off about not getting to a midnight showing the night before.  Don't know what the weird black dot is in the top of some of them, must have been something wrong with the scanner.  Anyway, just thought I'd post these because.

Don't mind the notes in the first one, that was for something else.  Meh.  I'll actually post something of value some time soon, I promise.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Live Blogging First X-Men #1

I'm gonna try something new, just because I can.  I'm Live Blogging my initial reading of Neal Adams' vanity project (with Christos Gage on writing assist) The First X-Men.  I've never done this, before, so it should be interesting.  Also, I'm doing it as I talk to my good friend Patrick, who will snark with me even though he's not reading the book.  Should be.... something?  I guess?

me:  Ok, it is time.  Time to read First X-Men.
 Patrick:  Is it about cavemen
 Sent at 5:37 PM on Wednesday
 me:  (Open's page 1) It doesn't appear to be,
 Sent at 5:40 PM on Wednesday
 me:  I'll give them this much credit, page 2 is a splash page of a  dude exploding and throwing Wolverine off the page.  It's a hell of a cold open.
 Sent at 5:45 PM on Wednesday
 me:  Hey, it's gonna be a Wolverine/Sabertooth buddy cop show!
 Patrick:  so they are the first X-Men?
 Sent at 5:48 PM on Wednesday
 me:  I think this is them forming the first X-Men.  They're rescuing mutants from an early "government mutant determent center" place that Wolverine conveniently found out about off camera.
 Patrick:  so...
they should call them the W-Men
since Charles Xavier has NOTHING to do with it
 me:  At the moment?  Yes.  Also, dudes in robot suits are now fighting them
 Sent at 5:50 PM on Wednesday
 me:  Does the name "Holly Bright" sound familiar to you?
I can't place it
telepath, by the looks of her
 Patrick:  she must be new
 Sent at 5:54 PM on Wednesday
 me:  Looks like she makes you see your dreams, maybe.  Or maybe she's just a telepath.  Hard to guess this early in
 Sent at 5:56 PM on Wednesday
 me:  double page spread of a giant dragon monster thing that the bad guys are seeing!
Only 20 pages in this comic, but that's 2 splash pages taking up 3 pages!
 Patrick:  lol
 me:  calls herself 'Holo'.  Wikipedia doesn't pick anything up.
 Patrick:  She must be new
Google doesn't have anything on her
besides an actress on imdb who has been in like two things
 me:  Our buddy cops and recently added team mate rush off!
Now it's Moira and Charles at oxford
And they're talking about getting married
I'm sure that will end well.
 Patrick:  oh so we are bringing Xavier into this , lol
this sounds...
like a fanfic
 me:  Well, we knew it was a vanity project going in
 Sent at 6:01 PM on Wednesday
 me:  Okay, so the three of them have actually gone to England to find Charles, as he was the next person on the government's "mutants we want to hunt down and possibly dissect" list that Wolvie snatched from the government lab
 Sent at 6:03 PM on Wednesday
 me:  And Charles doesn't want to admit to them that he's a telepath, let alone join Wolverine's little "help young mutants" squad
Actually, Xaiver's acting like a total douche, which makes a certain amount of sense
 Sent at 6:05 PM on Wednesday
 me:  Apparently, after all these years, Charles never learned to tell the difference between hearing a person's voice and hearing a person's thoughts
Which, uh, I'm pretty sure is a contradiction from, like Uncanny #1.  I can see the panel in my mind...
 Sent at 6:07 PM on Wednesday
 me:  Here's the panel
with, uh, some shots of James McAvery too
 Sent at 6:09 PM on Wednesday
 me:  Apparently the next name is Magneto's
And we get a shout out to the scene in the Argentinian bar in First Class
and then it's too be continued...
Welp.  That's that.
The plot's paper thin, and the art is... Sometimes pretty ok.  Mayne a little too rushed?
I wish they would have had someone ink Adams' pencils, rather than have him ink himself
But, this was billed as the story about "why Xaiver formed the X-Men", and I can see the threads, I suppose.
 Sent at 6:14 PM on Wednesday
 me:  Honestly, it wasn't horrible.  Wasn't brilliant by any means, but I was worried it'd be a lot worse.
 Sent at 6:15 PM on Wednesday
And that was that.  That was kind of fun.  Maybe I'll do it again next issue?  We'll see, I guess.