Fearless: A Requiem for the Defenders.

18 10 2013

tumblr_mteam7F0V11qzidaoo1_1280In February of 2013, if you were to tell me that my favorite book of this year would be mainly comprised of C and D-List superheroines and villainesses, would I have believed you? Yes. Yes, I would. If you’ve had the opportunity to speak with me about my love of comic books for at least five minutes, you would quickly find out that my unwavering love for underused and underutilized female characters knows no bounds.

For those of you not in the know (yes, I hold you all mostly responsible for the book’s cancellation), Fearless Defenders  spun out of the events of Fear Itself: The Fearless, arguably the only good tie-in associated with the Fear Itself crossover event. The first issue hit store shelves just prior to Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle which, coincidentally, would be the first time that I had the priviledge of meeting the book’s scribe, Cullen Bunn. His excitement about the new book was palpable. I remember discussing Misty Knight with him and stating that she doesn’t get the love she deserves even though she’s pretty much Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown with a robot arm!

battleThe book brought together a ragtag group of female superheroes to battle the love child of Doctor Doom and Morgan Le Fay as she and her army of Doom Maidens attempt to usher in world-wide destruction. The team leadership role was split between Brunnhilde (Valkyrie) and Misty Knight. As the story progressed, the team’s ranks would expand to include a bookish archaeologist (Annabelle Riggs), a resurrected Amazonian warrior (Hippolyta) a depowered mutant (Danielle Moonstar), a snarky British monster hunter (Elsa Bloodstone), an exiled sorceress (Clea), and a newly activated Inhuman (Ren Kimura). Even with such a large and diverse cast, Bunn had no problems adding to each character’s development within the story and giving each lady her own, distinct voice.

Caroline Le Fay’s team of Doom Maidens was also made up of a veritable who’s who of “where the hell have they been?” villainesses… Ruby Thursday. Quicksand. Sylvie Lushton (The Enchantress). Titania. Scorpia. Mindblast. Shriek. When a creator pulls characters like this out of “comic book limbo”, it’s pretty safe to say that it has more to do with his/her affinity for the character and less to do with editorial mandate.

titaniaWill Sliney handled the pencilling for the series (save for issue #7 in which Stephanie Hans took the helm for Clea’s return). To say that his work was consistently enjoyable would be an understatement. His characters’ facial expressions were crisp and clearly demonstrated the appropriate emotion required for the panel (the pseudo-condescending looks and side-eye that Elsa would throw Misty were some of the most memorable). During some of the epic smackdowns and battle scenes, characters were never lost due to murky artwork which is more than some other artists on the top-tier books can boast. Sliney’s pencils, coupled with both beautiful coloring from Veronica Gandini and Mark Brook’s absolutely stunning covers, made for some unforgettable visuals.

If we have learned anything from Marvel Comics over the years, it’s that nothing this good ever lasts forever (read: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s Alpha Flight reboot, Jeff Parker’s Agents of Atlas and Atlas) It’s easy for folks to say that books that lack an A-list character like Captain America or Iron Man will never make it. I don’t necessarily believe that to be true. Books featuring these characters are going to sell, regardless, and yet they are the titles that generally receive the most promotion and the heaviest push from Marvel. It’s well beyond time that publishers give the underdogs a bit more of a boost instead of leaving them to tread water until they’ve become exhausted around issue #12. The fans and creative teams of these books deserve better.

FDWhile the fanbase of Fearless Defenders may not be as large as that which reads any one of the sixty Wolverine-centric titles that Marvel pushes out on a monthly basis, I can safely say that we are a dedicated and vocal fanbase. Perhaps my memory deceives me, but I don’t recall seeing any Savage Wolverine readers organizing a cosplay photo shoot based on the book at this year’s NYCC.

Fearless Defenders was one of those rare gems that my eyeballs eagerly gobbled up each month on the day it was released. It represented both female and queer characters in not only a positive but also a powerful light. Saying it will be greatly missed just doesn’t seem appropriate enough of a sentiment.

My hat goes off to Cullen Bunn, Will Sliney, Ellie Pyle, Stephanie Hans, Veronica Gandini, Phil Jimenez, and the entire team involved in the title. I know I speak for many others when I say “thank you.”

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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.





The Geeks Take Manhattan.

23 10 2012

A little over a week has passed since my first experience at NYCC (New York Comic Con to those of you that are not in the know) and very little has been able to calm the buzz that I still get when I flip through the photographs that document the epic weekend. Not only was it my first NYCC but it was also my first comic con in general. I suppose it was a “go big or go home” type of scenario. A regular sink or swim kind of deal.

An overnight drive from Buffalo to New York City kicked things off. Will behind the wheel and me dozing on and off in the passenger seat. Long car rides (along with short ones and everything in between) bring out my narcoleptic tendencies. Stopping at an unattended gas station in Deliverance-land led to my commenting about how the horror movies of yore always began with the kids from the city getting lost in the sticks and pulling over at the dilapidated gas station for help before finding themselves strung up on meat hooks in a redneck’s basement.

Breakfast was had at the McDonald’s on the corner of W. 34th and 10th Ave. There was a parking lot. It’s seems a rarity to find any place in Manhattan that has its own parking lot. We had a schedule to adhere to so the hotcakes and coffee were devoured promptly before marching down to the Javits Center for Day One of the convention. The time was about 5am.

To say that the first day was an overwhelming whirlwind would be an understatement. Maneuvering through a sea of Adventure Time, Bane, Harley Quinn, and (female) Loki cosplayers would bring us face-to-face with some of the most respected names in comic books from both the present and the past. Chris Claremont’s face with it’s proud and nostalgic smile as he would thumb through an old issue of New Mutants and comment about the scandal that Emma Frost’s less-than-there wardrobe caused. Kieron Gillen drawing a sad-face of Leah on the cover of Journey Into Mystery #641. Posing for a quick photo-op with Clay Mann (he may or may not need to slap us with a restraining order). Halting the queue to catch up with Marjorie Liu (who we previously befriended in Boston) and make tentative coffee date plans for the near future.  “We were worried you were going to be a dick.” is what we said to Rick Remender because we were worried he was going to be a dick. He laughed and wasn’t at all a dick. Cosplayers. So many cosplayers on that first day. Robin and Raven. Kitty Pryde and Lockheed. Emma Frost and Wanda Maximoff. She-Ra.

I suppose it would be criminal to leave out the fact that the day ended with a Carrie Fisher meet-and-greet.

Fatigue, bruised shoulders, aching lower backs, and hunger followed us back to our hostel in Chelsea where we agreed  that we would concentrate moreso on “just having fun” during Day 2 instead of slowly killing ourselves in order to get as many books signed as we possibly could. We would parrot our declaration of “just having fun” over the course of Day 2 whenever frustration would begin to set in. But first, sleep… sweet, sweet, luxurious sleep.

Sleeping through the alarm led to a mad dash back to the Javits Center the next morning. Thankfully Day 2 was about “just having fun.” Chuck Palahniuk was our first stop that morning. Gracious, friendly, and very willing to give advice about the best way to go about reigniting my desire to start writing again. A more creative day for cosplayers, it seemed. Selene. Lady Deathstrike. Marrow. Jubilee, X-23, and Pixie. Even the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and a Little Sister from Bioshock. Northstar was sketched in my Astonishing X-Men trade by current cover artist for Marjorie Liu’s run, Phil Noto. Another visit to Clay Mann (see: restraining order) where he sketched Destiny, Mystique’s deceased lover, on a comic book backing board. Clay’s X-Men Legacy tie-in issues to Necrosha centered on her brief return from the dead. During the “Gay Marriage in Comics” panel, I would be branded the “guy with the beard and hipster glasses” when posing a question regarding the future of gay characters being portrayed as anything but “safe” and the “good guys.” Chuck Palahniuk, during his panel, would read a new short story, Boogeyman, before hurling plastic, severed limbs into the audience (autographed, of course).

“Just having fun” on Day 2 still led to extreme exhaustion. A quiet take-out dinner on the High Line would follow the day’s events. Will and I enjoying eachother’s company and a view of 8th Ave. below.

Day 3. Last Day. No sleeping through alarms. Our big goals for that day were a meet-and-greet with Grant Morrison and sketches by Phil Jimenez… ok, and getting as many of our remaining books signed as possible. The hour-long queue to meet Mr. Morrison was worth the wait. We had the chance to discuss some of the elements omitted from the finished product of Final Crisis. A very friendly man, that Mr. Morrison. Return visits to Chris Claremont, Peter David, and a handful of others would provide opportunities to stretch our legs while we waited 3 hours (give or take a minute or two) for Phil Jimenez. An incredible artist who was providing work at no charge made the wait something I will do again for years to come. As he sketched Tarot of The Hellions for me, Phil mentioned that he loved the character and he originally pitched the idea of a Hellions ongoing to Marvel back in the day. 

Not even a missed flight home could dampen the natural high I was on (and it didn’t) as we ventured back to Boston at the conclusion of the day. It was a weekend of incredible experiences and realized opportunities. These are the memories that will be bagged, boarded, and added to my collection to revisit again and again. Appreciating in value, no doubt.

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