Posted by: Doc Comics | August 18, 2019

Superheroes, the original AntiFa

“Today, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America. International fascism again looms large (how quickly we humans forget – study these golden age comics hard, boys and girls!) and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down. Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.” ~ Art Spiegelman, The Guardian

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When news broke that Art Spiegelman, the comics legend who won a Pulitzer Prize for his Holocaust memoir Maus, was asked to remove criticism of Donald Trump from his intro for an upcoming Marvel book, controversy again erupted over the political underbelly of our American Superheroes. As we have explored here time and again and again, the superhero fantasy is a powerful synecdoche for American exceptionalism, fascistic flirtations, and warring political ideologies within today’s headlines. Amidst our super-charged contemporary political landscape, superheroes are once again being called into service to warn America and the world of resurgent fascist threats to traditional democratic values.

Sadly, America has been here before.

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In its opening weeks, AVENGERS: ENDGAME has proven a critical and financial success. The bold cinematic experiment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has transformed what used to be a nerdy niche of pop culture into worldwide Hollywood gold as a dominant film genre. Comics fans are both thrilled and amazed at seeing childhood icons translated to the big screen, but perhaps even more significantly, the films also have transformed movies. “This generation is more invested in serialized storytelling than they are in two-hour narratives,” observes Joe Russo, who directed Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” with his brother, Anthony Russo. The ambitious gamble that was the MCU has thus remade mainstream storytelling over in its own image, bringing comic book tropes, conventions, and plot devices into cinema.

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Posted by: Doc Comics | March 13, 2019

Is Captain Marvel “political” enough?

After several rocky controversial months of review-bombing by internet trolls, the CAPTAIN MARVEL movie finally debuted to eager audiences and solid critical reception. As the first Marvel Studios film with a female lead, it is inevitable that fans would engage the movie in search of Feminist themes and ideological motifs. Rather predictably, the Hollywood blockbuster is a mixed bag of big-screen popcorn and pop-feminism cloaked in colorful costumes and comic book Easter Eggs. As CBR puts it in a very astute essay: “Yes, Captain Marvel is ‘Political’ – Just Not in the Way You Think.”

[Spoilers in the links, FYI.]

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Posted by: Doc Comics | January 4, 2019

Into The SpiderVerse

A surprise joy of 2018, arguably the Best Superhero Movie of the year and “one of the best superhero features ever made,” the animated feature Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an instant classic that offers surprising freshness to the well-known mythos of Marvel’s beloved hero. But it also just may be an essential breath of hopeful optimism needed to revive heroism and offer an antidote to these darkly cynical times. But by golly this beautiful smart movie does so while being amazingly FUN!

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Posted by: Doc Comics | November 21, 2018

R.I.P. Stan Lee

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The passing of Stan Lee, legendary creative face of Marvel Comics and co-creator of iconic superheroes known world-wide, marks the end of an era. Few names are as synonymous with comic book superheroes, and “Stan the Man” enthusiastically embraced his role as the defacto voice for comic books with unmatched zeal and EXCELSIOR as the Godfather of what became the Marvel Comics media empire. As fans and the industry mourn his passing, Lee’s legacy is being rightly memorialized with tributes, heart-felt eulogies, and also some necessary criticism of his penchant for self-aggrandizing myth-making.

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Posted by: Doc Comics | September 19, 2018

The Best Graphic Novels of All Time

I was asked to contribute to this list of must-read Graphic Novels, which was a difficult task and I’m a bit crestfallen that ALL STAR SUPERMAN didn’t make the cut. Still, some great recommendations here that I’ve added to my own pull list!!

“The Best Graphic Novels of All Time” list from The Reading Lists.

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The task of narrowing my top 3 was always gonna be a tough task. There are a lot of criteria that could be put into play: the most groundbreaking, original comics? Most influential? Or perhaps the most significant in terms of cultural impact or influence upon the comics medium? And since they were specifically focusing on “graphic novels,” then I took that to mean specifically-created direct-to-market one-shot ‘adult’ stories rather than compilations of comic book storylines into “trade paperback” form. Thus, I threaded the needle on these criteria and made my case.

What do YOU think, superscholars? What would be your Top 3 Graphic Novels of All Time?

Posted by: Doc Comics | April 25, 2018

Superhero Anti-Myths?

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In a pretty interesting article at Pacific Standard Magazine, Noah Berlatsky takes on the notion that superhero stories are mythology. “Unlike myths, superhero sagas suggest that justice is actually attainable,” Berlatsky asserts. Furthermore, aside from some superficial similarities, these Nietzschean superhero narratives actually run counter to a lot of the usual socio-cultural functions of Myth.

“The whole premise of the superhero is that the Gods are dead and irrelevant, and that humans can, and should, expand to fill the space left in the cosmos by that divine absence. … In comparison to selfish, philandering, all-powerful jerks like Ego or Zeus, superheroes start to look like a pretty good ethical model, Superheroes wouldn’t just accept that Iphigenia has to be sacrificed for no reason. Instead they’d feel empowered to confront injustice and evil and to make the world a better place. Give Job a super-suit and let him grab Satan by the horns. If myths say that we should be powerless before injustice, then, yes, let’s do away with them and make some anti-myths about getting empowered instead.”

The downside of these Superhero Anti-Myths, however, is that these narratives of every[hu]man underdogs work “only if you believe the myth that your fellow humans are kinder and wiser than the gods.” So are these superhero stories perhaps too utopian in their presumptions about human nature? Maybe TOO democratic, or alternately, inherently fascistic and dangerously delusional when wed to American populist politics?

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Posted by: Doc Comics | March 26, 2018

Do We Need Superheroes? Yes or No

Co-Sign.

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Here is a take on the answer YES


In his book, Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and A Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, Grant Morrison talks about how, when he  was a child growing up near a nuclear sub base in Scotland, he was afraid of the nuclear bomb. Then, as now, he notes that like anything else, before it was “real” the nuclear bomb was originally an idea. This was and is the same thing with Superman. He states that

It’s not that I needed Superman to be “real,” I just needed him to be more real than the Idea of the Bomb that ravaged my dreams. [He was] the human imagination, such a perfectly designed emblem of our highest, kindest, wisest, toughest selves, that my Idea of the Bomb had no defense against him… (xv)

Morrison speaks of a truth here that I…

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Posted by: Doc Comics | February 9, 2018

Reimagining Black Power with Black Panther

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The excitement over Marvel Studio’s Black Panther movie has hit a fever pitch ahead of its opening weekend, and this moment has been a long time coming. The King of Wakanda generated a lot of buzz with his central role in the Captain America: Civil War film, stoked by notable comic book runs from Christopher Priest or Reginald Hudlin and award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, but in today’s #BlackLivesMatter moment of reckoning with a resurgent White Supremacist Confederacy this comics icon’s Afrofuturism has increased significance.  Indeed, the Politics of Being a Black Superhero are on screen for all to deliberate.

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TIME magazine ran an essay contextualizing the significance of the BLACK PANTHER film for today’s culture… and its representative power for audiences.

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Posted by: Doc Comics | January 25, 2018

Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” turns 25

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It’s hard to understate the impact that Scott McCloud has had on comics scholarship. His 1993 book Understanding Comics revolutionized how the public and many fans perceive the comics medium, igniting debate and introspection over the power of comics. His books and concise explanations have become must-read touchstones for most Comics Studies courses because of his elegance in conveying the invisible art of much visual communication. McCloud’s 2005 TEDtalk “The Visual Magic of Comics” is a wonderful primer.

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You can listen to a fascinating interview with the 99%invisible podcast, wherein Scott returns to contemplate the legacy of his ideas: “Powerful visual communication both speaks and is silent.”

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