X-Men: Now A Little Less Astonishing.

14 08 2013

1376426459The most-talked-about superhero wedding of the decade. Sibling rivalry at its worst. A heartbreaking tale of an alien artist. A world shrouded in ice and on the brink of an apocalypse. These were a few of the memorable moments that Marjorie Liu has shared with us during her all-too-brief tenure on Astonishing X-Men.

What made this book so special in a myriad of comics on the shelf featuring Marvel’s band of mutants?

If comic book readers have learned anything over the past few years, it is that there will never be a shortage of mediocre stories featuring brawls between A-List superhero teams or Wolverine SNIKTing everyone and everything in every title (because, let’s face it, he really IS in every title). Once in a while, though, we are treated to a rare gem that doesn’t rely on a “This changes the Marvel universe forever!” gimmick. If you haven’t been following Marjorie Liu’s run on the Astonishing title, then you’ve left that rare gem buried in the sand.

I have always been a proponent of stories that rely heavily on character development. A story is only as strong as the characters presented in the pages. Looking at her previous work with Marvel (NYX:No Way Home and the X-23 solo series), it should not have come as a surprise to readers that Ms. Liu was going to waste no time in digging through the fluff and getting down to the emotional core of her ragtag band of X-Men.

Whether it be societal prejudices (Northstar and Kyle), familial ties and the trauma of abandonment (Karma and Susan Hatchi), a flirtatious friendship and budding romance (Gambit and Cecelia Reyes), a search for oneself (Warbird), or even the reflection on failed past relationships (Iceman), Astonishing has dealt with an entire airport of baggage that life throws out on a daily basis. An extra dimension was given to these characters which showed readers that they aren’t just swinging fists used to clobber eachother in a battle royale for the fate of the world. They become relatable and empathetic.BRfd6deCQAAIQib

This is not to say that Liu’s run on Astonishing did not have its fair share of knock-em-down, drag-em-out moments. We witnessed Bobby Drake bring about a modern day glacial age that made the Blizzard of ’77 look like a few passing flurries. It doesn’t get more action packed than that. Liu is just constantly aware that if these characters are put in mortal danger, the reader needs to first care about them. That hearkens back to the importance of developing a character and giving the audience a reason to concern themselves with the well-being of said character.  

After the series concludes with issue #68, I will truly miss having Astonishing X-Men as part of my monthly pull list. Marjorie Liu’s knowledge of continuity and passion for the characters coupled with stunning art from the likes of Mike Perkins, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Phil Noto all made for something very special that I will undoubtedly revisit time and time again.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Printed Words.

9 08 2013

If we have learned one thing from Orson Scott Card’s vocal bigotry against the LGBT community and the “Skip Ender’s Game” campaign (as launched by GeeksOUT), it is that a creator’s actions outside the scope of the work they are doing can, and WILL, effect said work regardless of the quality or merit of the finished product. From what I am told, Ender’s Game is quite a fantastic piece of literature and judging by the names attached to the cinematic adaptation, it stands to reason that the film will be quite a sci-fi spectacle as well. Thanks to Card’s deplorable, dehumanizing, and very public attitude towards a segment of the population, I won’t be shelling out my hard-earned gay money to help line his pockets.

With that being said, at what point do we, as a niche market (the LGBT community being an even smaller niche within that niche), separate the art from the artist? Is it even possible to do so when the artist chooses to squawk his reprehensible opinions in a manner such as Card’s? Representatives from Lionsgate Entertainment as well as members of the cast and production have stated that the film “should be judged on its message, not the personal beliefs of the author” and that Card’s views are “completely irrelevant” to the film adaptation.

My apologies to everyone involved in the production of Ender’s Game, but that is far easier said than done. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, however despicable they may be, there are always consequences to airing them out like so much dirty laundry and, unfortunately for Mr. Card and Lionsgate, they are seeing this firsthand.  

Separate the art from the artist. Sorry, it can’t be done… not completely… not 100%.

Meeting Gail Simone at Emerald City Comic Con 2013

Gail Simone at Emerald City Comic Con 2013

It’s a two-way street, however. For every one Orson Scott Card who has been shamed for his unpopular opinions and less-than-respectable character, there are plenty of artists who not only respect but appreciate their fans for their support. They are humble and excited to meet and talk with you. They are Marjorie Liu at Comicopia, Gail Simone at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Marc and Bridget Silvestri playing with Will’s kids at Niagara Falls Comic Con, and Phil Jimenez excitedly joking about a Roulette/Danielle Moonstar miniseries involving a Las Vegas casino, a stripper pole, and free-flowing alcohol. 

These are the artists who will benefit from a fan’s inability to completely separate the art from the artist. These are the writers who will the focal points of stories that begin with “Remember how awesome it was to meet so-and-so?” and they are the creators whose new book might sell an extra copy to a fan they gave a hug to at a signing. 

Orson Scott Card will undoubtedly be playing the victim angle for the foreseeable future, especially if the box office sales for Ender’s Game are as low as his respect for cultural diversity. He would do well to remember that this PR catastrophe was his own doing and he is the cause for his art’s suffering. 

Like it or not, there is no undoing the connection between the art and the artist. Not only is that fine with me as a consumer but I am sure it is also fine with all those writers, pencillers, inkers, colorists, etc. whose wonderful personalities and character help their art flourish and succeed. And to those artists, we thank you… wholeheartedly.