Back Issue Bin: X-Men and the Micronauts

X-Men and the Micronauts-4 Issue Miniseries (1984, Writers: Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo; Art: Butch Guice)

So, comicbook characters are sometimes treated like real people, with their appearances in other books being highly promoted and a cause for excitement. Of course, these are not real people, and they can make an appearance any time editorial decides it is the right thing to do. For a while, Spider-Man was the go to guy for titles, appearing in Godzilla and The Champions, as well as having his own Marvel Team-Up book. Then, the X-Men arrived. An appearance by an X-Man was reason to celebrate, The Avengers were your father’s team, the X-Men were cool and hip. They fought famine in Africa, crossed over with the Teen Titans, and finally, Claremont and Mantlo teamed up for an X-Men and Micronauts crossover!

For historical perspective, this was when Kitty Pryde was Ariel with her awesome green and brown costume.

The Micronauts were a Marvel property that long out-lasted the toy line they spun off from, and as recently pointed out characters from the Micronauts corner of the universe have remained in the Marvel U, from Bug in the Guardians of the Galaxy (the second most recent iteration) to Baron Karza showing up in the Avengers (although not named).

So, the reasons for the two teams pairing up is typical heavy handed comic book stuff.

But, man oh man, does the writing have some big plot holes and contrivances: Kitty is mind swapped with Karza (not the last time that Kitty has been mind controlled, though in a nice nod to why this happened, it is shown that Kitty needs to practice her psychic shields), but while Karza talks through Kitty’s body and no one is suspicious, Kitty still speaks as Karza it seems. Mind-swapping is a big part of the plot of this series, and at no point as a reader do we not say “but why doesn’t character X just say something?!”

So, aside from era appropriate hammy writing, what reason is there to pick this up? It is a great primer to the Micronauts, whose character designs are top-notch. And, there is some surprisingly mature sexual content, both in regards to Marionette and the very young Kitty Pryde, all of which is off-putting and creepy.

It’s an odd series, but for fans of either the X-Men or Micronauts is worth picking up, if only to get some exciting, long forgotten backstory on both teams, as well as appearances by the New Mutants.

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She Can Fly: Das Boot!

This past weekend, among the many DC Comics announcements at San Diego Comic Con, one in particular has garnered a lot of attention, celebration, and bile from fans. Wonder Woman’s costume  for the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice film was revealed on Saturday, and there’s something about it that just isn’t sitting right with some.

tumblr_n9dha0H0g01qbgsmko1_500Wonder Woman’s heroic threads are reminiscent of the costume Wonder Woman is wearing in her current ongoing series. The original Jim Lee design has been (temporarily) ditched for a costume imagined by the series’ artist, Cliff Chiang.  The design is also being immortalized in a beautiful and unique-looking statue (featuring Wonder Woman with a Grecian profile, rare among the same-face renderings that many female statues have). For the film, the vibrant colors of the original design are much more muted, with some touches of Xena-inspired leather and weapons. The overall look of the costume is not what’s causing comic fans to complain, it’s a very small detail- it’s her heels.

Some complain that Wonder Woman is a utilitarian character, one for whom fashion and personal appearance do not matter. Others defend the costume, saying “[Gail] Simone and Nicola Scott said they liked it,” and even arguing that speaking out against the heels can be considered slut shaming.

Nitpicking about costumes is not new, and moreover, comments about female characters being forced into heels is not a new complaint. When Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman costume was revealed, it featured sky-high, knife-sharp stilettos. While Wonder Woman in heels can be palatable (after all, she can fly), the non-powered thief Catwoman in heels is pretty conceptually ridiculous and the use of her heels in the Dark Knight Rises is about as hamfisted as you could imagine.

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DC isn’t the only offender in terms of bad shoes; Marvel’s cinematic universe is flawed as well, with both Sif and Black Widow rocking some sizable wedges in Thor and Avengers, respectively. However, Marvel’s costumes tend to be much less epic-looking, with much more emphasis on straight “realism” and a lot less in promotional pictures of what’s on their feet.

AOG_black widowIs putting Wonder Woman in heels sexist, and only for the benefit of male viewers? I think that’s an overly broad statement. From a costume design standpoint, heels will not only help the petite Gal Gadot appear more Amazonian in height, but they will also help make her legs look more muscular.

Wonder Woman’s heels are not necessarily a step in the right direction for female characters, as it does heavily imply gender stereotypes, but Wonder Woman appearing in any film is a small victory. The next step is for Marvel and DC to up their game and actually take a chance on a female led film. If the recent box office success of films like the Hunger Games and Lucy has shown anything, it’s that women can kick ass and look good, but they don’t necessarily have to wear heels to do it.

GAME THE GAME: d8 Games to Play While You Wait For the 5th Edition of D&D

The latest edition of D&D is scheduled to be released over the next six months. The Boxed Set just dropped. The PHB is still 3 weeks away, and the DMG and Monster Manual don’t hit until September and November.

But what if you just cannot wait? Or what if this new edition has reignited your interest in gaming and you are itchy to roll some dice. Here are d8 games to take a look at that are like D&D but different!

Cover_500px11) 13th Age– Pelgrane Press. Take the lead designer of 3rd Edition and the lead designer of 4th edition, put them in a room, and they will deliver unto you 13th Age. This one is a favorite of Acts of Geek. In our opinion it has some of the best features of all four editions with even more cool new innovations!

2) Castles and Crusades– Troll Lord Games. It will feel very familiar to old school D+D players, but has some interesting innovations to make characters feel unique. Many monsters have interesting features, and are not just HP and AC.

3) Lejendary Adventures– Out of Print, check Amazon or your Local Game Store, or this intro pdf . Since leaving TSR, the Master, Gary Gygax wrote several game systems. This was his last one. There are some brilliant ideas contained within, the game needs some polish, and probably some house rules, but there is great potential contained within. Plus, you know, Gary Gygax wrote it.

4) Pathfinder*- Paizo Publishing. The Most Popular RPG Today! That may not be their tagline but it should be. Don’t be too fooled. It is D&D 3.x with some changes, but they continue publishing product, so folks have embraced it. If you want that 3.x experience, give this a look. Top notch production values and lots of support!

DWcover5) Dungeon World– Sage Kobold Productions. All those other games- old school. Dungeon World- New Wave. Or maybe punk rock. Powered by the Apocalypse, this Apocalypse World derivative will have you approaching roleplaying and dungeon-delving in a whole new way. It just might blow your mind.

6) Shadow of Yesterday– CRN Games. The author flat out tells you this is his fantasy heartbreaker. One of the early wave of Indie Games, the setting is unique and the mechanics support the setting. This isn’t Uncle Gary’s D&D, this is the D&D your dad kept under his mattress (wink). Mature and evocative!

7) FATE– Evil Hat Productions. FATE comes in two flavors FATE Accelerated and FATE Core. The former even is a pay what you like pdf download. (http://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core-downloads/) Fate does thinsg differently, will have you wanting to make characters, but be forewarned, character creation is part of the game and needs to bo done with everyone at the table. It is a generic system, so if you want the Fantasy setting, you’ll have to pick up Fate Worlds Volume One, or just figure it out based on the “implied setting” in the core book.

8) Hillfolk– Pelgrane Press. Robin Laws’ game of Iron Age Drama doesn’t contain a fantasy setting like you might be looking for, but it does contain a whole bunch of other very cool settings. Written by some RPG luminaries. But, if you want your game to feel like an HBO or FX series, give this a try. Your game won’t be about Power Attacking, it will be about interpersonal drama.

Honorable Mention (or is it an outside of the box mention): Numenara– Monte Cook Games. One of the lead designers of 3rd edition wrote this fascinating post-fantasy game that has a lot of similarities to games that use a twenty-sided die (and this game does as well). The setting is not fantasy, but is indeed fantastic. Set aside a weekend to read this one and take it all in, but given that the Kickstarter made over half a million dollars, the quality comes through!

*If you already own Pathfinder, and are looking for something a bit different, pick up Wicked Fantasy– John Wick Presents. All the Pathfinder rules you love, but John Wick’s unique take on a fantasy setting is evocative, interesting, and as always, makes me want to play in one of his games.

Imagine If: Spider-Man, Release Date: 1967

Imagine if Hollywood had released tent-pole comic-book movies starring their iconic characters around the time of the source material’s release date. For the purposes of this experiment, we will say that a movie would be released 5 years after the introduction of the character, and only movies that have been made would be made.

GlassesSpidey-Kurt Russell

It is rumored that on his death bed, Walt Disney scribbled the words “Kurt Russell” on a piece of paper. Kurt had been acting for awhile, but this would indeed be his breakout role. No doubt, the computer would still wear tennis shoes though, just with someone else!

34cf4636c64dbc74e18f1cb196fd1e8c

Gwen Stacey-Cybil Shepherd

“Miss Teenage Memphis” in 1966 was poised for stardom, and producers thought she was perfect for the role.

MV5BMTM5ODY4Nzc2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMDI3ODU2._V1_SX640_SY720_MJ-Shelley Fabares

TV Star, #1 recording, Elvis co-star, perhaps a bit old, producers wanted to capitalize on her pre-Spider-Man fame!

gene-hackmanNorman Osborn- Gene Hackman

Producers saw something they liked in Hackman, who was relatively unknown, and physically, his hair was perfect!

2698_2_largeHarry Osborn-Malcolm McDowell

Member of the Royal Shakespeare company, this would be McDowell’s film debut, his British accent explained away with a boarding school explanation.

george_kennedy

Uncle Ben-George Kennedy

Character actor extraordinaire, this would be a year before Cool Hand Luke won him an Oscar.

1967KatharineHepburnAunt May-Katherine Hepburn

If ever an actress could be tough, it was her!

GAME THE GAME: CONVENTION GAMES

I have run smallish conventions, I have run convention games, and I enjoy playing in convention games. I am looking forward to running 6 games in a couple weeks, and I have signed up to play in a couple games as well.

I have a belief though, that convention games need to do certain things in order to be successful:

-If you are running a demo of a game, showcase what the game is about, what the game can do; sell it. You have potential buyers of the game or folks who have already bought it and are fans.

-Handouts: have printed material ready; stuff players new and old to the game might need to look up. If you can facilitate transparency in your game, make it so it is less about the rules and more about the gameplay.

-Supplies: bring extra dice (heck, if you are promoting a game, buy some dice and hand them out), don’t be afraid of folks using your dice! Bring pencils, paper, tokens, anything the players might need.

-Nametags: given my druthers, I like having “Hello My Name Is” nametags, some folks find it dorky, so as an alternative, use a folded up index card and sharpie. This way the GM and players can all refer to each other in character. Let’s pretend it is a role-playing game, after all!

-Improvise: I put a lot of work into my scenarios (though it might not always show), but I am also willing to go in whatever direction the players want to drive the story.

-Make it a fun experience for every player: there are lots of different types of players, folks with greater mastery of these subtleties have written essays on them. All I will add is know your table, make sure to highlight every player and give them a chance to shine.

-Take as many players as you are comfortable with. I ran a game years ago that was supposed to be 6 players max, but I had prepped around twenty player-characters, so I ended up with 15 people at the table, anytime someone asked what was going on, I invited them to join.

-Make the player-characters cool. It is a con game. Let them be bada$$. Power creep be damned. Yes, there is joy in being the former farm boy turned hero saving the town from orcs, but give even that farmboy some cool stuff he can do! Personally, I want to play archetypes, I want to kick a$$ and take names, on the battlefield, at the bar, and in the boardroom!

-Help the players: you know the rules, help them out, suggest awesome combos they might not know because they might not know what the system can do. A basic attack in 4e is easy, but isn’t it much cooler to use a daily for 4d of damage? It is your job as GM to peel back the curtain and share with them all the cool stuff you put into all the characters, and even to divulge some of the awesome plot points you came up with. They will appreciate your hard work!

-And, lastly, have fun. Understand that every player or GM is there to have fun, as you are. Bring enthusiasm to the table and your fellow players and GMs will appreciate it. Be passionate, be excited, and work together.

Gaming is a communal activity, if we all work together to have fun, we will have fun!

And be sure to bring lots of cough drops, as you might lose your voice!

IMAGINE IF: The Punisher, Release Date 1979

Imagine if Hollywood had released tent-pole comic-book movies starring their iconic characters around the time of the source material’s release date. For the purposes of this experiment, we will say that a movie would be released 5 years after the introduction of the character, and only movies that have been made would be made.

Imagine If: The Punisher, Release Date, 1979

1743108501971 saw the release of the first Dirty Harry movie, 1974 brought 53 year old Charles Bronson back to the silver screen with Death Wish, and in comics 1974 marked the debut of the Punisher.

Producers considered Sylvester Stallone, who desperately wanted the role, but was committed to the Rocky franchise, an unknown actor named Mickey Rourke who Spielberg was hot on, and finally settled on Rourke’s 1941 co-star, Treat Williams for the title role.

f57f6e2ea5752a642f4dd3d33a31a298And, hot off his Oscar win for The Deer Hunter, starring as Jigsaw-Christopher Walken.

And, add in a Spidey cameo by Kurt Russell.

 

She Can Fly: Broad City Review

Slackers have always been popular topic for nerd media. With comics like Scott Pilgrim and the newly reinvigorated Eltingville Club, TV shows like Workaholics and the League, and pretty much any movie starring Seth Rogan, slackers are a character type that a lot of nerds relate to. But there’s one thing about all the slacker content out there, from webcomics to studio produced shows, that bothers me: the lack of female slackers.

Women traditionally play the stooge to the antics of male characters, ultimately holding their hand, preventing them from harm, and looking on as the men coordinate bombastic antics and pointedly avoid work. April Ludgate in Parks and Rec originally started off as a rare example of a female slacker character, but has since morphed into a responsible adult who enjoys working. The Mindy Show skirts the idea of a female slacker on occasion, but the main character is also a successful OB-GYN, meaning she has been through years of college and works every day at an unrelenting job. Even in Seth Rogan’s This is the End, the single female character with more than a minute of screen time, Emma Watson, is characterized as hardworking, determined, and a straight man to Rogan’s pointedly male crew of idiots.

BC1This is why Broad City is so revolutionary. Broad City, executive produced by Amy Pohler, stars comediennes Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson in an episodic, slice-of-life story about two twenty-something women who are wholly unmotivated and prefer smoking pot and talking about what kind of dog they would be to doing their taxes or actually working at their jobs.

That said, Abbi certainly plays second banana to Ilana’s blase attitude towards being an “adult.” Abbi is shown as motivated and driven, wanting to succeed at her job, but ultimately being blocked from her career goal (a personal trainer) and instead having to work janitorial duty. This is a smart move, though, that allows the show to have a straight man who is hijacked into being a slacker by her lack of upward mobility.

The ensemble cast also stars Hannibal Buress as Ilana’s lovelorn booty call. Buress takes on the role that women traditionally play in slacker media: his character, Lincoln, is the straight man of the show. A successful dentist, Lincoln just wants to please Ilana so much that she will decide to settle down and become his girlfriend. This beautiful role reversal (and Buress’ jovial delivery), brings the show full circle in terms of bucking a traditionally all-male trope.

The show also features comedy that could be called “female,” in that they aren’t afraid to use the word “vagina” (albeit in a funny accent) akin to how Judd Apatow movies use the word “dick.” However, the show isn’t alienating towards any particular gender in its comedy, as it features content that is relate-able to anyone who has ever been to New York City, struggled to make money, or maybe done some not-so-legal things.

Still finding its footing, Broad City plays a bit like a female version of Workaholics, with New York City as the setting for the illicit adventures of two women who are just trying to live their lives and have some fun doing it.

Broad City has been renewed by Comedy Central for a second season. The first season is available streaming and will be available on DVD in the fall.

 

She Can Fly is a featured article at the Acts of Geek Network. Exploring pop culture, comics and games from a geek girls perspective. 

She Can Fly: Sex Criminals: Morning After Regrets

Disclaimer: This post contains adult language, adult themes, and adult images.

 

Sex Criminals #1 was one of the best, most unique, comics I ever read.

Sex Criminals #2 was one of the most disappointing second issues I’ve read.

Written by Matt Fraction, with art by Chip Zdarsky, Sex Criminals is a weird, pseudo-fantasy title where a small number of individuals have the power to freeze time…when they orgasm. Quirky!

The reason issue #1 struck such a chord with me is because the title explores something that comics (and most popular culture) up to this point have basically ignored: female sexuality.

SC1Exploring the sexual history (it’s not as dirty as it sounds, I promise) of the female lead, Suzie, as she discovers she can stop time and enter what she calls “the Quiet,” the issues touches on the exploration of topics usually considered taboo in mainstream media, mainly female masturbation. While female full frontal nudity is common in R-rated movies, female masturbation–or worse, female orgasm–can often gain an NC-17 rating for a movie, basically dooming it to never make it to theaters. Discomfort with female sexuality in pop culture is pretty apparent, with the gender inequality of men who have sex being “cool” and “experience,” and women who have sex become “loose” and “skanks.” Comics are not all that different; titles like Sex and even The Boys feature rampant displays of male sexuality, but tend to relegate the female characters to sexual objects to be won or to be abused and mistreated.

Sex Criminals#1 isSC2 a respectful portrayal of female sexuality, the good, the bad, and the bizarre. Best of all, the tone of the issue is not all that serious; it plays off common cliches and has fun with how young teens view sex and sexuality, and the incorrect impressions they get.

Issue #2 dove into the post-puberty history of the male lead, and suddenly the title became much cruder, full of what felt like forced dick jokes and an overwhelming number of dildos. The most disjointed aspect of the issue, aside from totally throwing out the sensitive, sweet, and humorous tone used to develop Suzie’s sexuality, is the fact that “the Quiet” is referred to from then on as “Cum World,” after Jon, the male lead’s, favorite porn store.

This motions to the direction of the rest of the series–Suzie is swept up into Jon’s world. It’s all about his mannerisms, his interests, and his desire to (ultimately) rob a bank. Suzie is relegated to a sex-sidekick, while Jon’s bizarre combination of ADHD and “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” takes lead in the story. It’s frustrating to have such a tantalizing taste of a realistic female lead, with a real sexuality and interesting flaws, only to have her sidelined for the “more interesting” male lead.

SC3I’m always happy to see Image, a company that’s extremely supportive of creator owned content, publish comics with unusual plot-lines and subject matter that has traditionally remained unexplored in comics. Newer titles like Saga have garnered unbelievable amounts of success for Image, and the nuanced storytelling that most current Image titles have is a far cry from their origin as a hip, 90s company that set the extreme trend of superheroes with pouches.

All the same, I’ve seen a number of Image’s titles take a huge tonal shift between the first issue and the subsequent ones.

Sometimes, editorial guidance can mean the different between an okay title and a truly great one. Conversely, too much editorial control can make entire companies falter. Ultimately, comics are about storytelling. It seems that the story Fraction wants to tell in Sex Criminals is not one of female sexuality, so much as sex as a literal weapon, with rude nicknames, gross jokes, and characterization worthy of eye-rolling.

 

She Can Fly is a featured article at the Acts of Geek Network. Exploring pop culture, comics and games from a geek girls perspective. 

Imagine If: Fantastic Four, Release Date 1966

Imagine if Hollywood had released tent-pole comic-book movies starring their iconic characters around the time of the source material’s release date. For the purposes of this experiment, we will say that a movie would be released 5 years after the introduction of the character, and only movies that have been made would be made.

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Mr. Fantastic- Paul Newman

Known for his rebellious personality, Newman was cast against type as Reed Richards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EB07Thing-Ernest Borgnine

An Oscar winner, star of McHale’s Navy, his size and voice made him perfect for the role!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen-Mirren-aged-25Invisible Girl- Helen Mirren

Producers were enchanted by the British thespian, making her screen debut, her accent explained through boarding school…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

z_burtonDr. Doom- Richard Burton

Incredible potential, considered the successor to Olivier, dark and brooding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dustin_Hoffman_-_1968Mole Man- Dustin Hoffman

One of the new breed of method actors, F-4 would be Hoffman’s film debut after some stage and television work.

 

She Can Fly: Don’t Call Her Thordis

In a bizarre example of cross-branding, Marvel announced Tuesday on ABC’s The View that Thor is now a woman.

http://abc.go.com/embed/VDKA0_35fl96jjShortly after the announcement, Ryan Penagos tweeted a quote from writer Jason Aaron: “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR.”

The classic character is no longer worthy to hold Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. Instead, a “brand new female hero will emerge who will be worthy of the name THOR.” While her history and connections to Asgard are still obscure, it might be safe to assume that this character change spins out from the after effects of one of Aaron’s current titles, Original Sin, and the Thor/Loki title that ties Angela in to Asgardian continuity.

MarvelThorWoman1Following the (convoluted) continuity of Thor, other characters who have been worthy of the hammer have included alternate reality female versions of Thor, a horse-face alien, and a frog, so this decision is not so far flung.

Reflecting DC’s Trinity, Thor becoming a woman draws close parallels to Wonder Woman, and has created a hope that the female character will possibly represent a feminist perspective, or at least avoid the attitude of internalized sexism and misogyny that so many female characters have in comics today.

Media outlets are having a heyday. Time Magazine and MTV both celebrate the editorial decision, while other articles are less than glowing. “Thor’s a gal,” Fox News exclaims in one article. “…Watch your back, Captain America.”

In addition to a myriad of both sexist and outraged comments (“Thor isn’t just a comic,” one commenter on MTV wrote. “He is a Norse God. By making him female than [sic] you are trying to change mythology”) and Marvel’s creators and editors being insulted on Twitter after enthusiastically supporting the news, another phrase got tossed around. Many said Marvel is just “pandering.”

MarvelThorWoman3The word “pandering” was also thrown around a lot when Marvel announced Kamala Khan as the new Ms. Marvel. While the official Marvel press release does point to the fact that they are, indeed, targeting a female audience (“This female THOR is the 8th title to feature a lead female protagonist and aims to speak directly to an audience that long was not the target for Super Hero comic books in America: women and girls.”), one has to ask, is this pandering? Or is this a smart decision by Marvel, indicating its acknowledgement that women read and spend money on comics, and want to see more prominent female heroes?

The new Thor: God of Thunder title releases in October and promises to change the landscape of the Marvel Universe, hopefully for the better. With this announcement leading in to San Diego Comic Con, Marvel clearly hopes to increase buzz with a hint that there may be more female-led titles to come.