Family Meeting!


Comic fans:  should they drown in "hobo piss?" This week, one Marvel Worldwide, Inc. (dba "Marvel Comics") superstar answered, "Yes."

Rick Remender (Red Sonja: Vacant Shell) took to his twitterhorn to inform comic fans who didn't like a scene in Uncanny Avengers #5 that they should imbibe the aforementioned urine of train-dwelling vagabonds: "Heads up-- if Havok's position in UA #5 really upset you, it's time to drown yourself [in] hobo piss.  Seriously, do it.  It's the only solution." Comics Alliance noted that the last time Remender had wished for his audience to gulp down the body waste of railway transients had been one week earlier, when he tweeted: "If I'm ever a bitter old man fixated on mainstream comic work of my youth I hope God does the right thing and drowns me in cold hobo urine."

What set off this roaring rampage of calls by Remender for members of his own audience to be sprayed in an unending procession of golden showers from locomotive-minded drifters? In this most recent case, it was a page of Uncanny Avengers where he wrote the X-character Havok stating his position on minorities: minorities shouldn't self-identify as minorities because they're all humans.(?)

Of course, minority status, whether that's race or sex or whatever, usually isn't seen as a disjunctive quality by actual minorities, or at least shouldn't be. In other words, if you say you're black, Hispanic, some variety of gay, you really don't also have to add that you're a human being-- the fact that you're talking and not masturbating over a pile of your own feces should usually clue the astute observer in on the fact that you're of the homo sapiens persuasion. Race, sex, gender-- these are additives: a person can only become human + X, Y, or Z; the human part, there's no subtracting. Denying that to me is punk shit, designed for basic bitches, but apparently, the punk band NOFX wrote a song which disagreed with that premise, which Remender tweeted that "pious finger waggers" should listen to.

After his editors woke up, Remender later retracted these comments, deleted tweets, and claimed in interviews that his tweets were caused by his anger at being called a racist by unidentified people on Twitter (none of which I've been able to locate—can you find them? They may have been private tweets. Maybe he was publicly tweeting at private tweets?). "I meant the comment to be sort of goofy, but that's clearly not how it came across.... None of these characters or their dilemmas should be read as metaphors for any real world position I personally take on anything." Remender added, "I think we all get to share ownership to the identification of being/feeling on the outside to varying degrees." Congratulations, minorities-- you get to "share ownership" of feeling like an outsider with Rick Remender. Ain't you lucky?

So, no, none of Havok's idiotic opinions on minorities are shared by Rick Remender, except that if you question Havok's basic-bitch opinions on minorities, Rick Remender will screech about how you should drink hobo piss and then insist that you listen to punk rock music in order to learn serious sociopolitical lessons therefrom.

But, you know... as a goof.

The Newsarama interviewer added: "Positively or negatively, one thing that scene definitely did was spur a debate. How intentional was that on your part? Which is to say, should Havok's position not necessarily be seen as the be-all and end-all on the subject, but rather one fictional character's take, which could very well be designed to be open to reader interpretation?" Well-played.

So, classic comics: bomb jumped on by interviewer; comic fans blamed; tweets deleted; situation defused. If comic fans want to feel like comic creators want them to ingest piss, they'll just have to settle for reading Marvel Comics. And that's the story.

Did you enjoy that story? Man, I sure did.

I really like this story because as a cranky old crank, it's exactly how I want my interaction with mainstream comics to be. We live in this world filled with old things that large businesses are very intently trying to use to separate us from our meager savings and distract us from the filth they're making of the world. Hollywood is on track to lose $125 to $140 million dollars on a Jack & The Beanstalk movie. Made by Bryan Singer, a once promising storyteller who threw his talent away on diminishing-returns superhero stories-- I've heard that one before! A Jack & the fucking Beanstalk movie-- they think we're cretins! Soon, the Star Wars movies come back, and we have to deal with Those Sad People again, or even worse, jokes about Those Sad People.

And we pretend that working on these things isn't a political act. Why? How is there not a politics to it? Havok is an old character. Havok was created back before people were cool with minorities existing, basically-- that only happened three-quarters of the way through Stevie Wonder's guest appearance on the second season of The Cosby Show. "What about the time the Cosby Family lip-synched on the staircase?", one might ask, to which I say, "Get your own comic book column! How dare you? How dare you? This is my chance to shine, you son of a bitch."

Remender denies responsibility, and relentlessly blames comic fans: at first the horrible fans misinterpreting his words, and then the horrible fans who spurred him to tweet in a way that was misunderstood. That's just comic pro SOP. "None of these characters mean anything! Read all about them!" Comic fans didn't write that speech-- comic fans are only for being pissed on. The blame goes to them, regardless. But at some point, doesn't working on old stories become a mandate for old ideas? Doesn't a culture obsessed with old characters invite old thinking? Mainstream comics storytelling is stagnant-- they're back to shoving crossovers into bags again, and another Bob Harras regime is back to a creative team merry-go-round. Why would anyone reasonably expect any more thematic progress? "Minorities, quit talking so much about being minorities" isn't any younger than "mutants, feared by a world who fear their cowardly lot," or however it goes.

I just like all that. I like the idea that with Roddy Piper sunglasses on, every Marvel comic is really just filled with the word SUBMIT. That makes comics way, way more fun to me. It's the world I want to live in; my hobo is the Emperor of the North, and his piss I would gladly toast. So, yeah, I just really enjoyed this story.


Now Nathan Bulmer:

And now back to Tucker:

I'm not sure when comics featuring talking food became a proving ground for our living cartoonists, but all the best ones seem to have a couple of "banana fucks with apple" stories. God bless. Here's some more new comics.

In the last minutes of the Avengers movie, the Thanos character showed up, revealing himself to an American movie-going public who couldn't be expected to identify him, regardless of the fact that he attained some internet notoriety a few years prior, when websites like The Hooded Utilitarian and iFanboy threw away their differences so as to best unite behind marveling at the image posted above, where Thanos is depicted as pilot of a small helicopter that says, whimsically, "Thanos" on its tail boom. Some Marvel Comics fans will be quick to point out that Thanos was used consistently throughout the last twenty years, both as the lead villain in a '90s mini-series about a glove with magic gems (not to be confused with the magic ring that DC's Green Lanterns wear, or the ten magic rings soon to be featured in Iron Man 3, cresting the digits of Sir Ben Kingsley, who is tasked with playing The Mandarin, a yellow peril villain whose continued usage in Marvel Comics is a testament to the power of the simple truism that no matter how offensive it is, Marvel could sell you a video of your sister getting fisted as long as it's Claremont-approved. Thanos is also the ultimate evil force in a labryinthian series of Marvel comics written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning that went under the names Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, and the delightfully titled Annihilation, which reportedly made good on the term by regularly depicting the genocide of a whole bunch of third-string Marvel alien races. And while those fans aren't wrong--Thanos has enough popularity that you can still get some grunts of recognition when you take a leather work glove and BeDazzle the knuckles--even Marvel knew that none of the millions of people who came out of Joss Whedon's digital sarcasm fiesta were going to reap vast amounts of pleasure reading 18 volumes of Marvel Comics that were mostly about Nova (a human space cop with talking clothes, basically David Hasselhoff with KITT stuck to his body) and a bunch of overly serious animals, including a raccoon. And there's a talking dog from Russia. He's kind of funny.

Marvel's solution was two-fold: First, they let all that Abnett and Lanning stuff fall out of print. Second, they hustled two of their more popular writers into the drivers' seats to get these characters cooked up again. Brian Michael Bendis struck first, with a Guardians of the Galaxy comic written in his decade-old decompressed style, and as of this week, it was Jason Aaron's turn, with the publication of Thanos Rising, a mini-series that will tell us of the villains past. Why do they call him Death's boyfriend? Why is his skin like that? (Specifically, his skin is like that because Jim Starlin openly stole from Jack Kirby's design for the Darkseid character, but that isn't going to be the reason they give in a Marvel comic.)

It's easy to pick on something like this: that doesn't mean it's not worth doing, but there's nothing wrong with owning it. This is a comic that takes a mass-murderering Marvel Comics villain with an unexplainably silly costume and rewinds us to when he was a little alien boy in the same unexplainably silly costume (a tiara?), and then it shows us his upbringing, which is essentially the same upbringing you've heard about when you watch a cop show and the detective says, "His mother tried to kill him when he was born, he grew up shy, not a lot of friends ... then he turned 12"—and everybody leans forward to hear what happened, because you know it's gross. I'd like to believe that this isn't a recipe for disaster, but the only reason I'd like to believe that is because that's what you're supposed to do, you're supposed to give things chances before you shrug them off, and you're supposed to let it slide when people who are just trying to pay the bills. That's what they tell you in school: Give the corporation a chance to tell you a bedtime story about Lil' Thanos! Why do you hate fun?

It isn't a disaster though, honestly. It's dumb, sure. If you have any axes to grind, there might be a good case to be made for the prosecution of Mr. Aaron regarding the fact that this is a story about a boy whose mother tried to kill him because of how ugly he is, how he went to school and might have grown up nerdy and shy, drawing pictures and playing, if it wasn't for the twisted machinations of some manipulative girl in his class. Simone Bianchi doesn't try that hard, and the few flashy chances he takes don't make up for his apparent unwillingness to depict the comic's biggest emotional moment in a way that's immediately legible. (One of the odder problems with contemporary Marvel and DC is that a huge amount of the initial creative control is given to editors who, when presented with the actual comic, don't use any of that power to point out that the artist hasn't done a very good job of drawing a corpse in such a way that you can tell that it's the same character who was alive two pages prior. It's hard to sell horror when it takes longer than a minute to figure out that what you're seeing is supposed to surprise you.)

Still, one can at least give some credit to Marvel: they did manage to publish Thanos Rising before the next big Marvel movie. Simon and Schuster--the last publisher standing in the cage match of who-publishes-American-2000AD-collections--decided that they would hold the American publication of Judge Dredd: Origins until mid-March of this year, making it almost five years since the story originally appeared in the UK. (Unless you wanted the Spanish edition, which came out in April of 2011.)

For the most part, Origins takes a different tack to revealing back story than Thanos Rising. Dredd isn't a character that needs explication--even a cursory reading of a generic Dredd story will give you everything you need to make sense of him. It's in the mountain of Dredd, the piles of John Wagner-written adventures where the character deepens and fleshes out. It's a long-term project, and when Wagner departed from the book last year, it was less a political move than an aesthetic choice. If he can't finish writing the character--and because of corporate ownership, he will never be allowed to--than the best he can do is design a thru line for Dredd's past and eternal present, sculpting meaning out of years of doing-the-work.

Of course, Dredd's origin isn't much--he's a clone of Judge Fargo, the man who came up with the Judge system--and he was named Dredd because the scientists thought that sounded scary. And while Wagner is as unable as Jason Aaron to resist the temptation to depict Dredd as a child, he knows better than anyone else that it's not Dredd readers want an explanation for, but the world Dredd lives in. How did America end up like this? Who is to blame? How did a bunch of fascists on awesome motorcycles with talking guns end up taking over and ruling with (sometimes literally) iron fists?

Well, because this comic was originally published in 2007, the world ended because an apocalypse-obsessed U.S. President from Texas stole the election and started a global nuclear holocaust because he was A) crazy as shit and B) too fucking stupid to realize that the rest of the world wasn't going to bow down to him just because he said to. If that doesn't sound familiar, you've never read an issue of 2000AD published during the period of time that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were reinventing ways to irritate the rest of the world. Pat Mills could irritate Katrina vanden Heuvel.

While picking on Bush is fun, it doesn't have enough meat to last an entire story, and Carlos Ezquerra--one of the few major early Dredd artists who still works on the character--is ill served by the digital coloring that saturates every millimeter of blank space. Origins has high points, but like Thanos, the intent overshadows the story.

Intent, however, is pretty much all you're going to find in How To Fake A Moon Landing. A collection of one-note missives debunking various bits of conspiracy and pseudoscience (the titular one, of course, but chiropractors and Jenny McCarthy also get it in the ear) by Darryl Cunningham, the book takes less time to read than it would to research any of the subjects, making it an excellent primer for people who want to argue with their parents about why they should be scared of fracking. They should, of course, but as anybody who has ever had a debate regarding subjects like these already knows, it isn't science and facts that win arguments with regular people, it's in your tone and the ability to not lose your temper when your mother says something dumb.

How To Fake A Moon Landing doesn't have any of that. Its facts are in order, the research is sound--none of that is a problem. The artless, boring-by-choice visuals work well to deliver the information... but that's all they do, and by the time you get to the third chapter, the book has settled into such a predictable trudge through choir-preaching that when Darryl stops to say, "While I've been drawing this chapter, I've heard from a few people who have told me that chiropractic therapy has eased or even cured their back pain," there's a rush of excitement. Maybe something else is coming! Maybe this won't just be a maniacal slog through the mindless hectoring tone that cripples every good intention.

No such luck. By the time you get to the Global Warming chapter, Darryl's solution to not having a character with glasses barking at you is to introduce a penguin, and then you get to watch the glasses guy bark at him instead.

I do like the way he draws that tree, though. Almost as pretty as this baby.