Tag Archives: comics

Is There Anything Wrong With Self-Censorship?

I know I’m a little late for Banned Books Week, but I had a discussion with Moritheil on Twitter the other day that turned from why people were more enraged about a certain webcomic’s rape joke and not a Colombian telenovela about an abused girl living in poverty to a debate on censorship and self-censorship. I feel like the debate needs a bit of further exploration.

First of all, I’m against any form of legal censorship. I would never ever want to legally ban a book, a theme or any other thing that would hinder creators from expressing something in their works. However, journalism ethical standards were pounded into me during college. Not only was I required to take a class purely on ethics, but many of my other degree-related classes talked about ethics as well. What I took away from those classes is that your article, novel or other form of creative work could very well hurt a person or cause them to harm themselves. Every professor I had classes with had a story where an article they wrote and published caused a subject to kill themselves or lose something that impacted them a lot, like a job, their family, etc. There were many other times when one of their subjects would threaten to do harm if they published the article. Whenever such stories came up, my classmates and I wound up being questions on what we would do. Did we risk publishing if it meant someone was harmed? Was there something else to be gained by going ahead and printing it? Even when there was some benefit behind it all, how did we feel knowing that we might have blood on our hands? It was heavy stuff to consider when none of us had ever published much more than local news stories.

While I wouldn’t say this issue comes up much on this blog, my twitter or the other places I write the most, I have been thinking about the potential emotional and physical impact creative works have on other people. There have been more than a few webcomics that have taken jabs at rape, women and other things that weren’t funny to a lot of people who got very mad about said jokes.

But forget for a second the people who are able to get loud and vocal about it, what about the people who don’t speak up? What about the men and women who were raped? What about the women who are mistreated every day by men? What about jokes about murder or suicide, for example, and how it affects those who lost someone? How does it feel to be a victim of rape, abuse and murder and read these jokes? It must hurt a lot, I imagine. Yet do creators stop to think about who they’re hurting as they write these gags? Doesn’t seem like it.

Comics creators are one of the creators that think the most about whom they’re creating for. Living with one creator, having read manga for so long, it’s obvious to me that a lot of them think about “will this sell” and “will my audience like this.” While a lot of comics creators love what they do immensely and do it in part to fulfill their needs to create what they love, very few never think about who’s going to be reading. But do they think about who they hurt at the same time? Sometimes, but I’d really like to see them do it more. Here’s where self-censorship comes into play.

I’ll reiterate that I don’t want to put any bans on any creators. What I would to do is encourage creators, especially comics creators, to think about whom they might hurt with a joke and make the choice whether or not that needs to be their punch line. Would they actually change their material because they stopped to think about it? I don’t know and it’s up to them.

On the other hand, plenty of creators do this all the time. They decide whether or not a certain subject would be appropriate for what they are doing, tossing out ideas left and right that they are against or think their audience would react poorly to.

Now, dear readers, do you think trying to encourage creators to think about those who might be negatively affected by their work is outright censorship? What about self-censorship? How do you feel about comics creators choosing to specifically avoid certain jokes and topics? Is it wrong for people to be enraged and hurt by creators who choose to include such topics? Are we oppressing these creators’ choices by saying we’d like to see more sensitive punchlines or are our values as a society changing ahead of some creators’?

What do you think?

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Comics & Girls: We want to kick ass

It has been said that super hero comics are male fantasies. I don’t remember when and I don’t remember where, but it’s true. So when Hope Larson posted the results of a survey on what women want from comics, it was clear that every female who read those results was hoping to see more comics that satisfy female fantasies.

Girls and women want mainstream comics to change to include them. By include them, I mean that Marvel or DC shouldn’t be creating separate comics for the ladies (which is terribly sexist), but to allow female readers everywhere to read a comic without cringing at a super heroine who looks like a Barbie doll who’s gone under the knife or sighing at stories where women take a backseat to a more powerful male hero.

That isn’t to say we want all those male heroes to be replaced by strong women in outfits that don’t make them look like hookers, but that we’d really like more of a team dynamic. More ladies stepping up to the plate would be nice. If we can look up to those ladies and not see someone who looks like her primary function is to make guys horny and isn’t kicking ass as much as she should. Below are my suggestions to help make super-hero comics more accessible without compromising what makes them popular in the first place…

1. Stop with the Porn Star Barbie: I get that guys want their eye-candy, but to be honest it grosses me out (and a lot of other girls I know) to see the way most ladies are drawn in comic-books. It’s actually one of my main complaints about comic book art is that everything is so grossly over-exaggerated and 0ver-stylized. I am not saying that needs to change drastically, but it would really really be great if got to see some thick girls (they don’t have to be fat girls,  some girls are just naturally thick at their healthiest weight) or girls that can fit into bra sizes regularly sold at Kohl’s or someone who wears sneakers with their crime-fighting garb instead of some ridiculous heels. Don’t force everyone to show off their tits either. Let a girl cover her chest up. Maybe then she can show off her J.Lo booty. Maybe there are some male readers who would really like to see some J.Lo booty. And a lot of girls with big butts ARE proud of them. Anyway, you don’t have to change Emma Frost’s bra size. Just stop turning her into some exotic dancer whenever she puts on a costume. It would actually be way nice to see the men toned down too.  The one really nice thing about Kick Ass was that Mark Millar did not force us to believe that Kick Ass was anything more than a normal guy with a normal body type. And let’s face it, few people are instantly attracted to men with monstrous muscles when they walk down the street but intimidated!

2. None of this: If you clicked on that link, you just saw a bunch Disney princesses and other characters in various states of sexy pin-up girl. They are also in various states of vulnerability, with the exception of Maleficent, and undress. Guys, your first reaction may be “so what?” but there are tons of women out there who look at something that has art like this and choke down guilt for buying something so demeaning just because they like the story or a character. It’s like making a girl buy condoms when she would never ever make you buy her tampons or pads. It’s uncomfortable and what if someone notices? Awkward! In this art, these female characters have to pose like models when most of them AREN’T models. Do you ever see the guys pose like that? No. Because that would look (excuse my language) gay.  So they get action shots or power stances when they’re on a cover, but when a woman (or women) gets one, she’s more likely to look like she’s auditioning for Victoria’s Secret.  Where are the ladies’ power stances? Just once, I’d like to see a bunch of women on a cover with no tits pushed out for the world to see!

3. No more sexual violence: Like the above, it makes women in these comics vulnerable. And do we ever see a male super hero become the victim of sexual violence? Uh, no. That would be emasculating. Guys wouldn’t respect Batman anymore if he had to reach for the soap in a prison shower. Even gay characters don’t have to deal with that kind of violence. So why is it O.K. for the ladies to be the subject of that kind of violence? It isn’t no matter how you put it. If you can’t make it happen to both men and women without turning off your readers, THEN DON’T DO IT. Figure out some other way for a character to be humiliated and shamed. It’s not impossible.

4. Treat your ladies like they are your bros: Not every woman in super hero comics has to be so much a part of the team that she only dates/marries/sleeps with/etc. with other super heroes. There are plenty of girls who wouldn’t even think of dating some of their guy friends because they don’t want to ruin that friendship or make it awkward. And where are the great romances between super-heroines and their civilian partners? I can’t think of any that are as well-known or long-lasting as Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson or Clark Kent and Lois. Sure, it’s normal for a group of close friends to have hookups, but that can easily lead to the kind of drama you left back in high school. Do you really want to read about that AGAIN? Wouldn’t it be cool for more super heroes and heroines to find love and acceptance outside the world of capes? Yeah. Wouldn’t it be cool for them to still be totally active as a super hero with super hero and non-super hero friends? Oh yeah.  I want to see more super heroes and heroines just be great friends who plan parties and go drinking with the X-Men AND people outside the JLA.

5. Let the ladies kick ass and take names: It’s not that they can’t, it’s that men so often steal the spotlight. Letting a lady shine every once in awhile will probably make her more popular. Then all the much-ignored super-heroines might be able to become the stars of blockbuster movies and whatnot. That seems like a really great way to monetize the ladies. Either way, if publishers depend on what they know will interest the readers they already have, they lose a lot of opportunities to create interest where there wasn’t any before.

6. Don’t make your super hero comics about romance: Let’s face it, if women were getting into capes because we wanted to squeal about such and such with so and so, we would probably avoid all the issues that didn’t focus on a romance. Ladies like action too! That’s why any devout female reader buys comic books.  We know where to get our romance fix a lot faster and a lot cheaper than collecting tons of issues of comics. That isn’t to say you can’t include romance at all, but include it in such a way that a reader is getting a glimpse of the life outside super hero life. Let them do their laundry on top of going out on a date. Show real life when you’re showing real life! Super heroes need to make dinner too! In the end, you should be creating your super hero comics for everyone. Not just women, not just men, not just children. Expand your market as much as you can and you’re more likely to get more readers. It can’t hurt to try. What have you got to lose? Readers you didn’t have before anyway?

By starting to cater to more than just grown men and children, comic book publishing companies will be fulfilling not just male fantasies, but female ones as well.  Not just women, but catering minorities or other ethnicities will probably have more of an impact than most publishers would think. I know the way the Jewish community works, anything that involves Jewish people some way somehow gets talked about in Jewish papers worldwide. I doubt other communities are much different. If a comic book company does it right, they’ll get good press with an untapped audience. People will probably buy their stuff just because it’s got an Armenian or Cambodian or transgendered super hero or heroine. Why? Because  people will think it’s cool that someone in the mainstream media is finally paying attention to THEM.

What we have now is a world of fans that would love growth, but an industry that relies too much on a world of fans who are stuck in their ways. Just look at the comments of this interview with Hope Larson, who did her survey in order to better reach more people who would want to read her comics. The misogyny, hatred and arrogance of some of the commentators will just make super hero comics a dying breed because people will start moving over to where their fantasies are satisfied.

It’s time to get with it. Starting with the ladies and working our way through everyone else.

Another great read on the subject:

The Problem with Representations of Women in Comics – Jezebel.com

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Guest Post: Sam Kusek’s V-Day Gift Guide for Comic-Loving Lovers

Whether you are in a romantic relationship or are just single and loving it, Valentines Day can be an important day for all of us. It’s good to let people know how to you feel about them, showing them that you care deeply. Heck, I still get a card from my grandma every year! For those of us who are heavily invested in comics and manga though, we’d like to add our own personal touch to our gifts and good wishes! I know that I love introducing my friends to manga & comics, helping them understand the art form and I can’t think of a better opportunity to give out some good books!

1. Red Snow by Susumu Katsumata; Published Drawn & Quarterly – This anthology of short stories about life in rural Japan and its mythical folklore is sure to impress any history buff you may have in your circle!

2. Pluto by Naoki Urasawa; Published by Viz – I can’t recommend this series enough. Not only is it a stunning reinterpretation of a great sci-fi tale, it is emotionally touching! A must read for anyone with a soft spot for robots!

3. Swallowing the Earth by Osamu Tezuka; Published by Digital Manga Publishing – Even with all the crime dramas on television, you can’t beat a classic noir story! Tezuka keeps us on our toes at every turn as he explores the complex relationships between men, money, woman and gold!

4. GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto; Published by Viz – Gogo Monster may not be the most straightforward story (it really makes you think and rethink your opinions), but its certainly got its charm! If you have any artsy friends or someone looking for a “deeper” meaning in life, pass this along to them.

5. Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori; Published by Tokyopop – Thought hard to find, this series really is worth searching for. Starting its original run in the 60’s, Cyborg 009 deals a lot with race relations and unity, as nine strangers from around the globe have their lives changed forever as they are changed into machines of war!

6. Nana by Ai Yazawa; Published by Viz – The quintessential girls comic. The story of two utterly different girls who share the same name and pretty soon, the same apartment. It’s an amazing series and a great read for any girl who is going through some big life changes.

7. Cat Eyed Boy by Kazuo Umezu; Published by Viz – If you are a horror fan or know someone who likes a good scare, look no further. CEB is a great example of all Japanese horror, getting under and into the skin of the reader. Not only that, but the main character is cute enough to hit a warm spot with anyone.

8. Earth X by Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross; Published by Marvel – Marvel has some great characters under their belt, but how great can they be when they are put to the ultimate test of just being a face in the crowd? Check out this exciting first of 4 books that makes you question everything you thought you knew about Marvel.

9. Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez; Published by DC – In a similar vein to Earth X, this book changed the DC universe forever, giving birth to some new great heroes and eras but bringing death to some of the most beloved. It’s an essential read for understanding the DC universe today.

10. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; Published by Harper Perennial – Finally, this is for anyone who truly wants to make comics a profession, whether as an artist, marketer or whatever. McCloud is a visionary, touching upon perception and the way the human mind works to explain everything you could ever think of (and not think of) about comics all across the world!

Thanks and I hope that you and your loved ones find some good things to read!

~Sam Kusek


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Update from Columbia

Hey everyone,
I am having a great time in Columbia, it is really a much more exciting country than most would think. Things are pretty safe in terms of going out and doing touristy things, although a governor from one of the Columbian departments (read: states) was kidnapped and assassinated while we’ve been here. It’s hard to feel shaken by it since he was in a department far away from where we are and one that is closer to the FARC-controlled areas. Clearly FARC is only bothering with bigwigs and not tourists like us, although it’s a shame there’s still some drug-related problems here.

Bogota was a lot of fun to be in. I mentioned on Twitter a particular restaurant outside the city called Andres Carnes de Res. It is like Disneyland if Disneyland was about eating, drinking and partying (read: dancing.) It seats over 3000, which boggles the mind in terms of logistics, but they have it organized well enough that the food is still fantastic and the service is not too bad either.

Also in Bogota is a fantastic Gold Museum (Museo de Oro in Spanish) that shows how the pre-columbian (meaning before the times of the conquistadores if you are confused) people worked, revered and wore their gold. In contrast to Peru and the Incan and Pre-Incan cultures I am used to, it was a lot different. The actual gold-working techniques came from Peru, but the pre-columbians in Columbia made amazingly detailed small objects while the Peruvian cultures went for bigger more dramatic pieces embedded with precious stones. Still, the Museo de Oro in Bogota was fascinating. My mother and I expected to go for an hour and wound up spending three whole hours there. We aren’t really museum people, so that is saying a lot.

Another museum in Bogota I would like to mention is the Botero museum. Obviously, Botero is one of the Columbia’s most famous figures after Shakira, Juanes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His art style is absolutely fascinating and the famously fat figures he paints are not just his default style, but a commentary on various social figures, events and institutions. One of my favorite paintings is one of a blonde archangel done in the style of Cusqueña art (which is a religious art style based in Cuzco, Peru that supplied all of Latin America with religious art in the colonial times. The Peruvian side of my family used to have a large collection of Cusqueña art, so I became very interested in it via interest in my family’s history.) My mother’s favorite was the fat Mona Lisa. Also housed in the museum is a collection of other surrealist paintings and sculptures by other famous artists, which Botero owned. There were paintings and sculptures by Picasso, Chagall, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas Dali and many many others, which was a lovely addition to the extensive catalog of Botero’s works.

Now we are in Cartagena and have had a wonderful time so far. We went to a private island hotel in the Caribbean sea and went swimming and snorkeling all day. It was a lot of fun, even though I’m not a beach person at all! The snorkeling was just fantastic. The old city of Cartagena de los Indios is also very beautiful and it reminds me of Havana, Cuba if Havana had been allowed to keep all it’s old architectural glory instead of falling to ruins under Castro’s rule. (Yes, I’ve been to Cuba! It has been awhile though.) There are lots of little side streets and places to explore, it’s like a very exciting labyrinth. The old city is actually a walled city because of Sir Francis Drake, who I’m sure you all remember in your elementary school history books as being one of the great “explorers” of the New World. Well, here he’s regarded as a dirty pirate! Since this used to be a Spanish colony, when Sir Francis Drake, under Spain’s worst enemy, England, attacked the city, looted it and almost burnt it down. Let’s just say history books here probably don’t regard Sir Francis too kindly.

Other than that, I’ve been fighting off stomach problems (yogurt helps if you ever have stomach problems in foreign countries by the way) and a sore throat (somehow, magically, in constant 85 degree weather and 40% humidity of Cartagena, I got a sore throat/cold.)

I’ve also determined that Columbia does have something of a comic book subculture, but that it is something of a rich city kid’s thing. Other than that, the country is in a state where Dragonball and other such anime programs are airing on TV, which has fueled a small interest in the related toys and card games. Beyond that, I don’t think most of the country is aware of anime or manga at all.

We have a few more days in Cartagena and then we move onto Medellin for New Year’s Eve. I am kind of looking forward to the cooler weather and whatnot. Medellin is also Botero’s hometown so I’m sure we will get to see more of his fabulous artwork. Then it will be time to come home! I’ve had a lot of fun, but I would definitely like to go home soonish and be able to share all my great photos with you.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas (btw, Columbian Christmas decorations are way better than the ones in the U.S. They have seriously outclassed us in that aspect.) and will have a happy New Year as well.

Cíao!

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Comic-Con creator, Shel Dorf, dies at 76

Shel Dorf

Comic-Con creator Shel Dorf

Comic-Con creator, Shel Dorf, died on Tuesday at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego from complications related to diabetes according to this Los Angeles Times article.

Dorf, an avid comic book collector, started the convention in 1970. Only 300 people attended the first Comic-Con, but now the convention has grown to over 125,000 and is the leading comic book and pop culture event in the world. Now Comic-Con not only hosts comic-book geeks and creators, but major Hollywood studios, TV shows, celebrities and authors from every nook and cranny of popular culture.

While I wasn’t terribly familiar with Shel Dorf and his achievements before his death and I’ve only been able to attend Comic-Con once, I feel eternally grateful for what he created. Not only did he create a place for geeks like me to converge upon once a year to glut ourselves on our nerdy hobbies, but a culture of geeks getting together and appreciating what they love.

Comic-Con basically started a culture of interest-related conventions, especially within the sci-fi and fantasy communities, that eventually led to modern anime and manga geeks like me to have anime conventions. Like I said earlier, I’ve only been to one Comic-Con, in 2008, but I HAVE been to many many anime conventions.

Before Comic-Con, there weren’t too many pop-culture-related conventions. Now, San Diego Comic-Con International hosts two other conventions, Alternative Press Expo and Wonder-Con, and there are dozens of spin off Comic-Cons around the country. Then there are the anime conventions, which, while I can’t prove it, I am sure came of someone’s idea to create a Comic-Con for anime fans.

Conventions like these are some of the high points in my life. Not only do I get to unabashedly display my geeky interests with pride, but I get to meet tons of people who have similar interests, buy tons of cool stuff and meet the people who create the comic books and cartoons I love. I’ve got so many memories of conventions that I could go on for hours. I won’t because I’m sure no one’s really that interested. The point is, the conventions are really fun for so many people.

I know when I went to Comic-Con International 2008, I went with one singular purpose: to do everything I could that was even remotely related to my favorite show: Avatar the Last Airbender. I dressed up as one of the characters, met the creators and numerous people who worked on the show, I met fans whom I still speak to today and I got to meet a lot of other comic book creators I would have never dreamed of ever meeting before.  The autographs, pictures and memories I have from that convention will stay with me forever.

So, Shel Dorf, I thank you for creating something that makes so many people happy each year. I love you for it and have since I was 15 and attending my first anime convention. Rest in peace, man.  And thanks again.

Comic-Con International’s tribute to Shel Dorf

Shel Dorf Tribute site

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Data Visualization: Best Selling Graphic Novels of September 2009

Hi everyone!

One of my assignments for the class that was to do an alternative story form for this blog. I struggled a little bit with what I should do, but finally I decided on a data visualization chart!

While I would have loved to do the best selling graphic novels of 2009, we aren’t quite done with this year yet and 2008 seems a little old, so I chose to do a visualization on the best selling graphic novels of September 2009.

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Click on the picture to see the full visualization at Many Eyes!

Just to reiterate, I only created this visualization for educational purposes so it should be covered under fair use. I totally respect that this information belongs to Diamond Comic Distributors owns the rights to this information. If the original copyright holder of the information would like to confirm this with me or my professor you can e-mail me at dorihuel@calpoly.edu and my professor ,John F. Leach, at jfleach@calpoly.edu.

Please don’t sue me. T_T

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Why I love Scott Pilgrim and so should you

I first read “Scott Pilgrim” when a good friend lent it to me a few years ago. Reading the rest of the five volume series eluded me until I got an extremely considerate Valentine’s Day gift from my boyfriend. His other gift idea was earrings, but he forever earned awesome boyfriend-points by giving me comic books instead.
Enough about my personal life because “Scott Pilgrim” is becoming a movie. This news is not recent by any means, but that does not make it any less cool. The “Scott Pilgrim” movie, entitled “Scott Pilgrim v. The World” as is the second volume of the series, is exciting because it largely departs from any other comic book movie you’ve ever seen.

Why’s that, you ask. Well, think about all the comic book movies you have probably seen. “Superman,” “Spider-man,” “Batman,” “Watchmen,” “Iron Man,” “Sin City” and most recently “Surrogates.” Do you see a similarity between any of these movies?

Serious, summer-blockbuster, money-making ACTION movies.

While “Scott Pilgrim” has it’s fair share of  fights, all the characters are  normal hipster kids, a few of whom may or may not have a strange super power. Let’s put it this way, if Scott Pilgrim himself is a super hero, then I’m the President of Venezuela. Pilgrim’s super powers have more to do with being kind of a loser who’s obsessed with video games and his band.

The premise is simple, to get the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim must fight off her exes all the way from an unrequited crush in middle school to a man with more control over Flowers than she lets on. For each ex defeated, Pilgrim wins some coins, a la the old Super Mario games.

What’s important about “Scott Pilgrim” is that there hasn’t been a comic book movie in my recent memory that wasn’t about the action since “Persepolis,” which wasn’t quite the same box-office success as the latest “Batman” movie.  Best of all, people are excited for “Scott Pilgrim v. The World.” Quite promising for a comic book movie that won’t really be focusing on a spandex clad hero and a grossly mutated villain. People will go see this movie, and if it’s done right, it will win the box office.

My only complaint is that Michael Cera is playing Scott Pilgrim. Cera, who has previously starred in “Juno,” doesn’t really scream care-free Canadian twenty-something to me so much as awkward, gangly high school freshman. Perhaps it didn’t help that “Juno” scared the living daylights out of my reproductive system even though I’m not a teen anymore and therefore cannot have a teen pregnancy. I don’t care how much indie-movie cred Cera has, he just doesn’t visually portray the character for me. It won’t ruin the film for me, but it might ruin my slight infatuation with the character.

MSNBC article on a new direction of comic book movies

Some photos of cast members

Some video blogs from the set

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