Category: Columns

With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too”

With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too”

We have made it to the final installment of the Ithaca College Writing Assignment awards. The students in the class that helps run Ithacon were tasked to submit a guest column entry for this space and we have a winner. You can see the previous runners up on this site from the past two weeks here and here.

The winner is Caleigh Clarke who took on a pop culture accepted opinion and challenged it. What really set her over the top is that not only did she take issue with prevalent take on movie making, she presented an alternative example of what she was looking for from feminism in pop culture movies.

Men Direct Feminist Films Too

By Caleigh Clarke

When I think of female-directed films with a superheroine, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman comes to mind. It is the first of its kind, with Captain Marvel and Black Widow following and trying to erase the previous sexist works of Catwoman and Elektra. It follows Diana Prince, an Amazonian goddess, as she joins American spy, Steve Trevor, to fight in World War I as she believes it is a result of the Greek god of war, Ares.

This movie was definitely marketplace feminism. They wanted to appeal to the little girls who would go on to buy the lunchboxes, t-shirts, and costumes after watching the movie, like with most superhero films. However, does this have to be the case in our modern world saturated with superheroes? Are superheroines just there to be a “look, feminism” moment? Or are executives starting to break the mold?

I thought of comparing Wonder Woman to a superhero film that I personally loved and was critically praised- Black Panther . Released just one year after Wonder Woman , the movie follows the titular character who is crowned king of Wakanda after his father’s death, but is challenged by a man who seeks to use the country’s resources for a world revolution. Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther is filled by many women, mainly Nakia, Shuri, Okoye, and Ramonda. These female characters are integral to the story and success of T’Challa. Nakia is not merely his love interest. She holds a lot of agency. Her goal is not to become queen of Wakanda, but rather convince T’Challa to reveal Wakanda as a country and open its gates to help people with their advanced technology. She is also a spy fighting for enslaved women, she is expertly trained which we see in her first appearance on the screen. Continue reading “With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too””

As Is: Guns and Covid, for Fun and Profit

If you see me walking down the street / And I start to cry each time we meet / Walk on by, walk on by. — “Walk on By,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, 1964.

Here’s one of the reasons why I’m not completely opposed to handgun ownership.

You’re at the supermarket, and you’re wearing your mask. Yeah, I know, lots of people have been vaccinated, including your writer, but according to a scientific study I just made up those that refuse the jab tend to be the same ones who won’t wear a mask. Even if you’re two weeks past your second shot, the issue of your ability to pick Covid up and pass it along to those selfish schmucks who won’t do the right thing remains, as of this posting, unsettled. There are indications that the vaccines provide some benefit in this regard and that’s swell, but until Doctor Fauci, Doctor Fine and Doctor Howard tell us otherwise, it is polite to protect others, even the inconsiderate assholes.

Fun fact: with so many Q-morons refusing to get the jab, we are not going to achieve herd immunity. Well, maybe I’m wrong, and drinking bleach and shoving an ultra-violet lamp up your ass does work after all – I’m told it’s quite a buzz – but I have yet to read of any studies confirming that.

O.K. So you’re masked in the supermarket, remember? And some maskless dickhead is blocking the aisle while loudly mocking your completely unAmerican passion for consideration. You ask him, politely, to get the hell out of the way. He responds by mocking your snowflakeness and insisting he has a constitutional right to not wear a mask because it infringes on his freedom.

You respond — well, I respond — “Where in the constitution does it say you have the right to kill strangers?” After he tells you the 600,000 deaths is Deep State bullshit, you respond — well, I respond — “Perhaps we can agree that the constitution at least implies you have the right to self-defense?”

I know you can’t have more than 100% of anything, but I am absolutely certain that at least 155% of Q-morons will agree with that statement. So you (well, certainly I) respond: “So you agree that, out of self-defense, I can fucking shoot you, right?”

And then you look this fool right in the eye and you reach around to the back of your belt and make a gentle pulling motion.

At this point, nine out of ten Q-morons will get out of your way. Make certain your shirt is pulled out from behind your belt, and just walk on by.

Well, unless you’re Black and the Q-moron is a White cop. Do not take unnecessary risks. Statistics matter.

That’s it for today, folks! Don’t forget to tip the waitstaff, and praise the lord and pass the ammunition and we’ll all stay free.

With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident

With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident

As we bring you some of the highlights of the writing assignments from my Ithaca College Promoting and Managing ITHACON class, this week is the first runner-up by Maya Lewis.

Maya’s column spoke to us from the a very emotional and introspective place. Some of the things that good media can do is promote introspection and inspiration. Maya found that in the HBO show Insecure. The way that she relates to the show and how it has affected her are what we are looking to promote here at Pop Culture Squad.

Insecure Made Me Confident

by Maya Lewis

Growing up, my mother was always against me watching copious amounts of television, to the point where she had me convinced that if I watched too much TV, I would lose brain cells. And I believed her, that was until I got older.

I started to find a comfort and joy from bingeing shows and fell in love with the feeling of immersing myself into the lives of different characters and their storylines, both emotionally and mentally. It was both therapeutic and freeing, and nothing compared to the feeling I felt, when I was able to recognize parts of myself within certain characters, allowing me to form a deeper connection with both them and the show itself. Unfortunately, this feeling did not occur often, as I rarely encountered shows that starred young black women as leads, who did not play into stereotypical tropes. However, this feeling changed during the summer of 2017 when I discovered Insecure, which is a comedy-drama television series set in Los Angeles and stars Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji, who plays her best friend, Molly. The show is centered around these two women, who are both in their late 20s, navigating through different aspects of their lives. Continue reading “With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident”

With Further Ado #143: Guest Column Contest Second Runner-Up – Make Mine Marvel Movies

With Further Ado #143: Guest Column Contest Second Runner-Up – Make Mine Marvel Movies

At Ithaca College, the class Promoting and Managing ITHACON was presented with an assignment. They were challenged to write a guest column for this space. The submissions were varied and showed that the student writers gave the assignment a lot of thought and effort. Some of the topics that were tackled were surprising and made the reviewers challenge some of their own perspectives.

In the end, we found that there were three spectacular entries that we will post over the next three weeks. The second runner-up entry will be published first. It is by Jordan Green and it made our little old fanboy hearts well up with joy.

 

With Further Ado Writing Assignment

by Jordan Green

Marvel Entertainment has a special place in my heart. When the first Iron Man movie was released, I was nine years old. Today, I am 22 years old and cannot think about my life without reflecting on the impact Marvel Entertainment has had on me. My father used to read Marvel comic books growing up, but that love for reading comic books was not passed on to me. Marvel Entertainment found a way to close that gap between my father and I by creating so many amazing movies and series that have created long lasting moments in my life. Marvel Entertainment has created numerous fantastic projects that have impacted my life in ways both in and outside the movie theater.

The first Marvel movie that I remember watching was Captain America: The First Avenger. It is a fantastic introduction to Steve Rogers and how he became an American hero. History has always been one of my favorite classes in school, so having a story based in the second World War immediately grabbed my attention. Chris Evans was perfect for the role of Captain America, getting better with each new movie that incorporated my favorite Avenger. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my favorite movies of all time, not just Marvel movies. Joe and Anthony Russo perfectly brought Captain America into the present day and made a then 15-year-old Jordan love Captain America even more.

Starting the movie off with the “On your left” scene was fantastic at setting the expectations of fans everywhere and introducing fans to a new Avenger, one that will have a [current] Disney+ series. The elevator fight scene from Winter Soldier is one of the coolest action sequences I have ever watched. I was on Captain America’s side in Captain America: Civil War and further loved what the Russo Brothers did with his character arc in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The Russo Brothers were able to show how a military hero lost faith in authority. I loved the ending Captain America was given in Avengers: Endgame. Every time I watch Captain America dance with Peggy Carter, I tear up. Steve Rogers finally got to have a dance with the love of his life after being denied that opportunity for so many years because of his heroic sacrifice. This was the ending to his story arc that I wanted for him. I truly loved Captain America’s character arc throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Entertainment has helped grow many of my relationships with family and friends. I remember seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron with my father and older brother in theaters. I remember the group of friends I saw Infinity War and Endgame in theaters with, and how much closer it brought us. Both movies were released on Fridays, and once all of us finished classes, we drove as fast as we could to the movie theater to get afternoon tickets to see these blockbusters. After seeing Infinity War, I frequently heard my friends quoting funny moments from the movie when we all spent time together. One of my best friends that I saw these movies with is incredibly tall, so we nicknamed him “Groot” based on the character from Guardians of the Galaxy. That made “I am Groot, I am Steve Rogers” even funnier every time that quote was referenced. This was one of the many moments that Marvel Entertainment helped strengthen my relationships with family and friends.

The sheer shock and awe in the theater during each of these movies are experiences I will never forget. Some of the moments I remember the most were Thor’s entrance in Infinity War, Captain America hoisting Mjolnir in Endgame, and the emergence of the blipped heroes from portals before the final battle in Endgame. It was too perfect that the Russo Brothers referenced Winter Soldier with Falcon saying “On your left” to Captain America. People in the fully packed theaters started clapping during these moments, which usually is highly disliked, but felt acceptable at the time. I look back on these experiences with a great deal of fondness, thinking about these moments as all-time life experiences I will tell my future children. As I write this during the COVID-19 pandemic, I wish I could relive these experiences again. I grew up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and my life would be drastically different

 

Editor’s Notes:

This type of fandom and excitement about pop culture is what we strive to support here. Thank you to Jordan for sharing your feelings about the MCU.

Also, Jordan submitted this before The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiered on Disney+. We are very interested in what they think of the show. Maybe Jordan will come back with a guest review column if we can convince them. 

Happy 420. We’ve Still Got A Long Way To Go

“Please don’t waste your energy on me my friend / cause we still got a long way to go / We’ll meet again someday / but right now just go away / ‘cause I still got a long way to go.” Michael Bruce, Long Way To Go, 1971

Happy 420, a holiday that, I dare say, gets happier each year.

In the past six months, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota and Virginia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. That means as of this writing, its use is legal for adults in 16 states, the “District” of Columbia, and Guam – not to mention Canada, Mexico, and a rapidly increasing number of industrial nations.

Another 20 states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana and most of those are entertaining complete legalization. More than two-thirds of all Americans support legalization, and this cuts across both political parties and those who identify as liberal, progressive, conservative, libertarian, and Anglo-Saxon.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, we spend nearly four billion dollars each and every year enforcing the existing marijuana laws. 45% of all inmates in federal prisons are there for drug-related offenses (source: Federal Bureau of Prisons). 1.5 million people are arrested each year for drug-related offenses and over 500,000 are behind bars (source: The Economist). We are spending in excess of twenty billion dollars keeping these miscreants behind bars each and every year.

Of course, a highly disproportionate number of weed inmates are not white men and certainly not white men who are “of a certain age.” It bears noting that a young person with a prison record is extremely likely to be marginalized throughout his or her “career,” and, thus, is equally likely to be a financial burden on society. This should go without saying, but if it did, then it wouldn’t be an issue.

You’d think there would be more productive ways to spend our tax dollars, including (but not limited to) reducing taxes.

But if you did, you wouldn’t be President Joe Biden. He’s opposed to national legalization efforts, and his schedule has been tied up firing some of his staff members who have admitted to prior weed use. This liberal icon has been very busy putting our money where his mouth is. It should be noted that Joe Biden, like his legal predecessor and like this writer, does not consume alcohol.

Of course, there are people who are opposed to legalization. There are the usual religious totalitarians who are convinced their invisible hoary thunderer gets angry every time anybody receives any enjoyment out of life. There also are the self-appointed moral monitors who believe Reefer Madness was a documentary.

And, of course, there’s the prison-for-profit racket, a gaggle of soulless entrepreneurs and investors who are all too happy to feel your pain all the way to their bank.

I firmly believe in the original conservative philosophy that demands we “mind our own business.” Here’s a fun fact: when Benjamin Franklin designed the very first American coin, one side states “Mind Your Business” and the other side declares “We Are One.”

I think we would do well by remembering those two phrases, particularly during these difficult times when our nation and its values are under armed attack by those Anglo-Saxon separatists.

Or… maybe… let’s legalize marijuana just to save the money and to free resources that actually will inure to the benefit of our society. Old school Republicans — who seem to have been purged from the party that carries their name — should embrace this idea just to kick big government in its big ass.

Of course, there are other ways to celebrate 420. Personally, I’m partying down at my local vaccine clinic and getting my second jab. I’m told I will likely get sick for a couple of days, and I appreciate the wisdom of the “but it beats getting Covid” mantra.

Hey… party on, Mike!

And have a safe, healthy, and amusing 420. After what we’ve all been through, we deserve it.

Bicycle Day – Our Celebration of Innovation

“I want to ride my bicycle / I want to ride my bike / I want to ride my bicycle / I want to ride it where I like.” Freddie Mercury, Bicycle Race, 1978

Happy Bicycle Day!

Okay, outside of a mawful of ancient hippies (ahem), there aren’t a hell of a lot of people who know about Bicycle Day, and I suspect some who have heard of it couldn’t care less. How’s that for seducing you into reading further?

Tomorrow’s holiday, 420, is better known these days with the legalization of adult recreational cannabis sweeping the nation. There’s a lot I can say about that, and I probably will — tomorrow. As I said, today is Bicycle Day. First things first.

 

Way back in 1938, a Swiss scientist named Albert Hoffman synthesized a respiratory and circulatory stimulant named lysergic acid diethylamide, or as it is more popularly known, LSD. He then put it aside for five years. Evidently his employer, Sandoz (a great name, since abandoned), really wasn’t concerned about return on investment. Dr. Hoffman rediscovered his chemical creation during the height of World War II and he promptly did what anybody who was stuck in the middle of the second war to end all wars would do — he ingested the stuff. Evidently, that wasn’t his plan; he said some of it sort of spilled on him while he was re-synthesizing. Or, as The Fugs said, “it crawled into my hand, honest.” I don’t know why Hoffman was covering his ass, as nobody had invented a test for LSD use at the time.

About an hour later, Dr. Hoffman felt very restless and slightly dizzy. “At home, I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed… I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away,” Albert revealed in 1980.

Three days later, Hoffman tried it again, this time most certainly on purpose, and he did so at the lab. He was taken home to sleep it off – on a bicycle! This bicycle ride taken during the first intentional LSD trip by its creator first was celebrated in 1985 as Bicycle Day at Northern Illinois University. Thanks to Covid, I am sitting at home in the Atlantic Northeast and not on a bicycle riding through the streets of DeKalb — as if I’d ever done that in the past.

LSD’s potential as a treatment for depression and other serious mental health conditions has been well considered for about 70 years. Lately, the concept of using various psychedelic drugs (including mushrooms) as treatment has undergone serious reconsideration, and the medicinal use of such substances is being renewed in several states. Recreational use is also under consideration; evidently, while cannabis is not the gateway drug President Biden and other science-deniers claim it is, legalization of recreational marijuana may very well be. Nonetheless, some very hopeful and positive results with respect to depression and sundry mental health conditions have been reported.

(I am assuming “mental health conditions” remains the politically correct way of referring to it this week. I don’t know; the American Psychiatric Association can’t update its DSM-5 fast enough.)

I admire Dr. Hoffman’s reaction to his own experiment. Mind you, experimenting on yourself in a non-clinical setting might not be the smartest move you could make. To quote the great Johnny Knoxville, “Hey, kids, don’t try this at home!”

If you find yourself without two-wheeled transport today, there is another way to celebrate the holiday. Drew Carey, of television and stand-up comedy fame, has been doing a truly terrific free-form rock and roll show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage every Friday for several years now, and tonight — yeah, it’s Monday, not Friday — Carey is broadcasting a special Bicycle Day tribute to psychedelic rock on SiriusXM channel 21 today from 10 pm to midnight EDT.

Leave it to Drew Carey to come up with the on-target way of celebrating Bicycle Day, a day of invention, innovation, introspection, and independence.

As for the use of psychedelic drugs in the 21st century — hey, folks, it’s a brave new world.

With Further Ado #142: ITHACON 2021

With Further Ado #142: ITHACON 2021

When I was a little kid, my family spotted a flyer on the bulletin board at a Fay’s Drug Store for ITHACON – a comic con that was going to be held in nearby Ithaca, NY.  I could barely contain myself as it sounded like a glorious event.  My family had been to Ithaca many times, as my dad was a Cornell University alumnus, and we’d often go back for homecoming.

I probably should have won some award that year for “kid who nagged their parents the most”, but somehow it worked.  And it was a glorious day! So many comics! So many collectibles! So many professional comic creators! And a building full of fans – just like me – who loved this stuff.

Fast forward to today – this amazing comic convention is still going on. And it is the 2nd longest running convention in the nation, right after The San Diego Comic-Con, also known as Comic-Con International.

And by a strange twist of fate, I teach at Ithaca College’s School of Business – and one of the classes I teach focuses on tradeshows and conventions. In fact, the students have a hands-on opportunity to plan and manage an actual convention – ITHACON.

These students work with the “senior management team” of ITHACON  – longtime enthusiasts and volunteers – through a unique partnership with Ithaca College.

Bill Turner is the visionary guy who started it all, and he’s still working hard on ITHACON- –  forty-six years later! “For my part, I find it hugely gratifying that what we began just as a celebration of something we personally loved has been embraced by new generations and the broader society  – not only the convention itself, but the comics,” said Bill.  “In the 1970s we were a source of amusement; press coverage leaned toward “Can you believe that a grown man reads comics?” Now our geeky fan activities have become mainstream. I’m especially pleased to see that the creators who we wanted to meet and honor are finally receiving the recognition they deserve, even if they were not allowed to retain the rights to, and reap the financial rewards from, their work. And an educational institution like Ithaca College adopting ITHACON into its programs is something wonderful that I had never foreseen.”

“Ithacon is a family tradition,” said Becca, who is also part of the management team. “We enjoy sharing our love of costumes, science fiction, art, and games every year.”

And we’ve brought in some amazing professionals to get the students up to speed. Just last week, in fact, Word Balloon Podcast’s John Siuntres held a workshop to help hone the students’ moderation and interviewing skills.

The students are energized and ready go!

“I’ve been to a few different virtual events during Covid but I’m excited for Ithacon because I got to be a part of how this virtual event came to be,” said Maddie Jacobs, a senior at Ithaca College.

Tess Kneebone, also a senior at Ithaca College, shared some thoughts too. “Ithacon 45 is allowing me to put my Live Event minor into action while adapting to real world circumstances like the pandemic,” said Tess. “This experience has changed my close-minded perspective on virtual events and has allowed me to see the endless possibilities virtual events can offer. As graduation is just around the corner, I can confidently say that I am ready for anything the world throws at me.”

Stan Lee

Like so many other conventions, ITHACON will be virtual this year. It’s coming up fast – Saturday April 24th and there’s so many cool events planned on platforms like ZOOM and Discord.  Admission is free.  (So is parking!) You can see the full schedule here , but let me also call out:

The Lost Stan Lee Tapes: It turns out that in 1975, Stan Lee came to speak at Ithaca college. We have the “long-lost” recording of his talk, and we’ll be analyzing this with noted Stan Lee author Danny Fingeroth.

Ross Richie

ITHACON hosts Ross Richie: The charismatic CEO & Co-Founder of BOOM! Studios, Ross Richie, was a guest lecturer in class recently.  The students really enjoyed to speaking with In fact, they couldn’t get enough of him, so they’ve invited back for a panel Saturday at noon (9 am PST).

We’ll be spotlighting two of our favorite publishers, AfterShock Comics and AHOY Comics!

There will be plenty of bargains, collectibles and crafts available at this year’s special ITHACON Virtual Dealers’ Room featuring both retailers and entrepreneurial artisans.

Gaming: While these panels and experiences are expected to be the highlight of the online convention, there will be a number of gaming rooms via Discord with different games ranging from social deduction games like Among Us to party games like The Jackbox Party Pack.

WandaVision captured the attention of everyone, and ITHACON is celebrating with two panels- one is a deep dive into the WandaVision series and the other is a creator spotlight with comics writer Roger Stern – the creator of Monica (Captain Marvel) Rambeau, the breakout character from this Disney+ series.

And there’s so much more, including Cosplay, an LGTBQ panel, Crafting for Kids and an illustration workshop featuring one of my favorite artists, Steve Ellis.

Fans are encouraged to visit the ITHACON website, Ithacon.org , for additional details and information about the event. And don’t be shy about following their socials: Instagram (@ithaconny), Twitter (@ithaconNY), and Facebook Group (Ithacon).

I hope you can join in the fun and I’ll “see you” there.

Snarky Six: Gorilla My Dreams

Snarky Six: Gorilla My Dreams

With Kong v Godzilla lighting up movie theaters real and virtual, it’s time to revisit that wonderful phenomenon, our gorilla-laden comic books.

The big apes have been a cultural force since staples started to bend and popcorn started to pop. I’m sure there have been thousands of doctoral theses written explaining why people are so attracted to our simian brethren, but I am certain about one thing: in the 1950s and 1960s, when you slapped a gorilla on the cover, you sold comic books.

By the time the Comics Code came into being, publishers were trying to cater to their horror-story-loving audience by deploying these colossus of sinew and fur as the Big Bad. Fine. But, just as those horror comics before them, things started to get kind of weird – particularly at DC Comics, and then, particularly when editor Julius Schwartz was involved. Here are six stunning examples of the form, each completely lacking in the type of realism that readers of the time demanded.

6. Tomahawk. As we began to realize the whole cowboys-and-Indians thing was exploitative, inaccurate and bigoted, Tomahawk — one of DC’s longer-lasting features — switched from chasing native Americans to protecting America from the evil British. It’s nice to see that by this time Tomahawk and his Rangers opened their ranks to the people they conquered. Obviously, when you’re taking on a gorilla so huge King Kong would cross his legs in shame you need all the help you can get.

5. Strange Adventures. I haven’t counted, but it’s possible that this particular s-f title had more gorilla covers than the Planet of the Apes. This one is my favorite, as it explains exactly why reading is, indeed, fundamental. I should point out that the covers to this Julie Schwartz title were by and large quite compelling. So compelling, in fact, that the actual stories rarely matched their impact.

4. Judge Dredd. The big ape thing was not just an American thing, to be sure, but in the world of Judge Dredd having a big ape Judge was just another day in Mega-City One. In fact, I’d say it was about as surprising as the sun coming up. Note that this guy is called “Judge Heston,” in tribute to the astronaut who inspired one of Jack Kirby’s best covers. Take a closer look and you will see the name “Heston” was engraved on the badge by, evidently, someone who’s penmanship was lacking in an opposable thumb. Evidently, Judge Heston had a thing for doing Batman-like poses.

3. Bizarro Titano. If all you know of Bizarro is the current not-well-defined Solomon Grundy pastiche, you’re missing out on “Tales of the Bizarro World,” one of the most unusual, bizarre, and clever volumes in the greater Superboy oeuvre. The original Bizarro was manufactured by a malfunctioning duplicator ray that was shined upon the Boy of Steel. Bizarro wasn’t an ape, but he sold comics during the JFK administration as though he was. Before long, there were Bizarros made of all the members of the Superman family and many of the members of the DCU at the time… not to mention a Bizarro Marilyn Monroe hanging out with a Bizarro-President Kennedy. God, those were good times. It wasn’t too long before Superman’s simian foe Titano got his own Bizarro doppelgänger. Fair is fair. Which leads me to…

2. The Real Titano. Talk about upping the ante: Not only was Titano a truly great ape, but he had Kryptonite rays beaming out of his eyes. This made Superman’s day all the more difficult. Like the original Superboy Bizarro story, Titano’s initial appearance ended quite nicely and in a laudable, humane fashion. But, as noted above, later somebody found that Bizarro duplicator ray. I loved this story, and I even remember where I was when I first read it

1. Grodd. There’s no contest (in my feeble brain, at least) that Gorilla Grodd is the most impressive ape in all comics gorilladom. He is one of the most evil of all the DC villains. He’s got one of the best backstories in all bad guy history, and his world (Gorilla City; I would have given it a more impressive name) is fully developed, fascinating, and fodder for many a good subsequent story. Grodd looked great in The Flash comics, and he looks even better on The Flash television series. In fact, he’s one of the three reasons I still watch that show. I don’t think he’s in next year’s movie (the one with several Batmans), but I’d hardly be surprised if he shows up. Just as long as you’re not sitting behind him at the theater.

Honorable Mention. There were plenty of gorilla covers in the pulp days. This particular one deserves notice because the name of the magazine is Zeppelin Stories and, therefore, the stories therein are built around zeppelins. Those things were to biplanes what King Kong is to Detective Chimp. So, yeah, that’s a gorilla hanging from the ladder hanging from the gasbag, which is why the story is called… “The Gorilla of the Gas Bags.”

I swear, if there’s just one more comic book in me and I can find the right publisher, it will have an absolute killer gorilla cover.

Thanks to my pal Marc Alan Fishman for unknowingly yielding me his snark space.

With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books”

With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books”

At Ithaca College, I teach a business course called Hidden Entrepreneurs. In this class, we explore and dissect entrepreneurial lessons from the lives and activities of non-traditional entrepreneurs.  These are the folks who are NOT on Shark Tank. These people are the often unrecognized entrepreneurs who nonetheless “make it happen.” Their stories are amazing, and there is so much to be learned from studying them.

Author Ken Quattro has done me one better in his brilliant new book, Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books. This new book details the lives and careers of black comic book creators.  Some are astonishing, some are heartbreaking, and they are non-traditional artists.  Their stories, for the most part, have been forgotten in the mists of time. So, it’s all the more important that historian Quattro, a real life comic book detective, has hunted down all the information and connected all the dots.

Quattro has done this all in a fun, engaging book. The stories of these artists’ trials and tribulations are almost all more interesting than the short comic stories included in this volume.   It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us, though. His The Comics Detective site is brilliant and always informative. Continue reading “With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books””

Brainiac On Banjo #110: With This Ring…

Brainiac On Banjo #110: With This Ring…

It’s gone away from me / The thrill is gone baby / The thrill is gone away from me / Although, I’ll still live on / But so lonely I’ll be / The thrill is gone – The Thrill Is Gone, Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell, 1951

Today, as we currently reckon time, is the day DC Comics launches a brand-new Green Lantern title. Have they done this previously? I mean, previously in 2021. I know it’s only early April, but every week they do not introduce a new Green Lantern title, or at least a new Green Lantern, seems to me to be a rare week indeed.

I’m not complaining about this new series. I haven’t read it. I haven’t even decided not to read it, but, as the song goes, the thrill is gone.

I clearly remember buying the first silver age Green Lantern in late July of 1959. I was a week shy of nine years old, and new superhero launches were very few and quite far between. I took to it as though it were a barbecue beef sammich. A rocket crashes (I’m telling you the short version) and inside the rocket is a dying alien. His ring — his ring! — sought out the nearest fearless person worthy of herohood and found a test pilot named Hal Jordon. Go figger; a handsome white American dude. He said “OK, fine, you’re worthy. Put on this ring and go figure it out. I’m dying here.”

It was really cool. The artwork, storytelling, and design work were stellar, and the new guy could do anything as long as he wasn’t using that ring on anything yellow. Yellow? Do you know how much stuff out there is yellow? For crying out loud, yellow and green are next to each other on the color wheel! Yet the stories were so compelling I accepted that, just the way I accepted his tedious, time-consuming oath. I eagerly followed the three Showcase issues, I was pleased to see he was in the original Justice League of America six months later, and then I was thrilled that he got his own series — all within 10 months!

In no more than a few years, Green Lantern’s bosses thought there should be a standby GL just in case Hal meets the same fate as his predecessor. Guy Gardiner wasn’t around all that much, but he was there when he was needed.

Several years after that, the little blue men with the Dr. Zorba haircuts decided the neighborhood needed still another backup Green Lantern. It was nice to see, John Stewart, a Black man get the gig, a very rare thing for 1971. But I got to thinking…

The little blue men, who took to calling themselves the Guardians of the Universe (the other Guardians have a tree), had divided all of the universe into 3600 sectors (that number later doubled; after all, the universe is ever-expanding). Each sector had its own Green Lantern. OK, initially that was really cool because most of the other GLs did not appear to be humanoid, and such diversity was not so fully embraced in the comics of the time. Hal, and Guy, and John all worked in Sector 2814 and by now all three were full-timers.

Why does Earth get three while every place else only gets one? There’s something really unfair about that.

Kyle Rayner became still another Earthman Green Lantern. That’s four from the same sector. In the ensuing years Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz and now Keli Quintela became part of this overwhelmingly Earthish group of heroes. Even the original-original Green Lantern, Alan Scott from the 1940s, got retconned into this horde, and others in history have popped up from time to time. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein is or was or will be a greenie as well.

Is Anya Savenlovich still a Lantern? Probably; in comics, nobody ever disappears forever. Does anybody remember Charlie Vicker? I think he grew up to be Ryan Reynolds. And then there’s Donna Parker, and I think Jennifer-Lynn Hayden, a.k.a. Jade — Alan Scott’s kid — is back on the scene along with her father’s increased exposure in the DC universe du jour.

I won’t go into the Green Lantern who appeared in last month’s Zack Marathon. That wasn’t a comic book, and if it was supposed to be it never would have been published.

To be fair, I don’t mind the GLs from those thrilling days of yesteryear. History goes back a bit, and it makes sense that the ones from the 20th century were not the first. But I’m not as certain about all those many Green Lanterns from the “future” that lurk around every corner.

The whole Green Lantern concept is no longer special, but, then again, I’m no longer nine years old, my behavior notwithstanding. Soon there will be as many Green Lanterns as there were Elvis impersonators — and Green Lanterns have a much longer shelf-life. Of course, now somebody is going to come up with an Elvis Presley Green Lantern, but I doubt AT&T will pony up the licensing fees.

You may very well be a Green Lantern. If so, please don’t take this personally — I’d take the gig too, if offered. But my power ring wouldn’t work on anything gray.