5 arguments against overt, negative criticism of super heroes and comics

How respectable are comics, really? Comic book movies attract millions of people to cinemas. But what level of respect do these characters in costume receive?
Some might answer:
Yes, they are a respectable character archetype.
It’s not about the money the films garner.
The characters have meaning for the audience. We can look up to their example, if we want.
But others might argue that a man or woman lifting a car overhead, wearing bright colours, is disrespectful. Childish, and meaningless: a shallow stories punctuated with special-effects.
For situations where the criticism is negative in the extreme, there are several valid replies.
Here are five arguments against overtly negative criticism of super heroes and comics

1. Comics cross generations. Comics are stories that have the Same impact to an 80 year old as an 8 year old.

You might here someone say, or imply, that comics are for children. Comics connect with people of any age, or at least have the potential to reach people of any age. And media that unites generations is valuable.

2. Comics show ideas Of justice. Abstract concepts like justice become concrete and meaningful in comics.

Justice can be abstract. Abstract concepts are difficult to understand. A well researched and pitched comic story can act out and demonstrate abstract justice. They make justice concrete. And concrete concepts are easier to grasp.

3. Comics speak out against oppression.

Many different productions – novels, TV, and theatre- speak out against oppression. But comic books have gained a large platform. With that platform, they can speak out against oppression. Comics have supported the disenfranchised for decades, going back to the stories of Marvel’s X-men in the 1980’s.
Of course, no media is free of problematic issues. Some comics arguably maintain oppression. This point falls beyond this article’s scope, but is a fair point worth discussion.

4. They show us that caring about values and communities is fun.

Comics such as Ms.Marvel tell stories about thriving communities. Super Heroes in comics can care about their community. Comics tell stories that represent core values (humility, compassion, empathy) in a fun and engaging, playful way.

5. Superheroes in comics embody Communities. We follow their journeys, and gain a modicum of empathy.

By representing diverse communities more and more, audiences gain an insights. They get to know other people, and other communities we are not familiar with. Like argument number 3 above, other media can achieve this. Comics combine words and pictures, however. They can give insight in a unique and engaging way not found in other media.
These arguments were gathered from a talk held at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) on super heroes and the real world, which I wrote about in a previous post.
For more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

The best Marvel comics to read if you’re enjoying Marvel’s movies.

It’s becoming harder to find a place to jump in and start reading the comics that inspire Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. A new movie arrives almost every three months.

However, there is one solution:

Listen to comic book experts for their advice on what’s worth reading.

The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane hosted a panel discussion on comics in the real world last Sunday, May 28. The panel is part of the Marvel exhibition in Brisbane. The guests shared their expertise on comics  and the Marvel Universe – in print, and on screen.

The GOMA website summarised the career of each guest:

  • Professor Jason Bainbridge, Head of the School of Communication, University of South Australia
  • Ryan Griffen, Creator of sci-fi television series Cleverman
  • Dr Naja Later, Sessional Lecturer in Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. And Sessional Academic, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne
  • Dr Paul Mason, Lecturer in Art Direction, Griffith Film School, and comic book illustrator on Kid Phantom (Frew Publications)

I was excited to see Ryan Griffen, the creator behind the new Cleverman series, share his thoughts and expertise. The season one story arc and plot were excellent.

Dr. Paul Mason is the skilled artist behind the new Kid Phantom comic from Frew Publications based in Sydney, Australia. It is always worth listening to Paul’s insights.

And for the first time, I thought it was exciting and interesting to listen to Dr. Naja Later, Prof. Jason Bainbridge, and the panel MC Scott Stephens.

Goma Panel Guests shared which comics are excellent “jumping in” points for new readers. Here’s their recommendations:

Ryan Griffen – Black Panther And The Crew (2017)

Paul Mason – Fantastic Four 1960’s collected editions or omnibuses

Naja Later – Bucky Barnes as Captain America (2004 – 2010)

Jason Bainbridge – The original Secret Wars (1984)

Four excellent recommendations for any Marvel fans who are enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can find more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

MIT admissions video captures Marvel’s new Iron (woman) man Iron Heart

I had a myriad of questions after watching the video, but nothing that couldn’t be answered with research later. However, I did quickly find a blog post by Mechanical Engineering and Robotics student and blogger Salem G, which describes all the behind the scenes work the team powered through to produce such a stunning video.

In the short video new Ironman – or Ironwoman, using the code name Ironheart – 15 year old Riri Williams, formulates and fabricates a new suit of armour, before collecting a metal tube. Contained within are admission letters for new MIT students. Delivering an admission letter from the world’s highest ranked University is a heroic act indeed. Hermes was the messenger of the Greek gods, and was renamed Mercury when admitted to the ancient Roman pantheon. Is there a pattern here? Mythological messengers with metallic names make deliveries? The behind the scenes blog post can be found on the MIT admissions blog page.

Marvel elements and minerals other than Adamantium

The Marvel Universe is a home to several different types of fictional elements and minerals. However, since Marvel Studios does not own the copyright to the X-Men, and their associated elements and minerals, Adamantium has only appeared in the X-Men films, and the Wolverine films. This post is a short list of some of the fictional elements, minerals, and substances that appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe other than Adamantium.

Vibranium – Mined in Wakanda, used by Black Panther, Captain America, and Ultron.

Black Panther’s claws and armour are woven and developed from this raw material. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ultron created a powerful shell for its memory and software to reside on. Despite the strength and durability of this element and it’s derivative alloys – Captain America’s shield is the most well known example – the shell broke. Three other elements working together were able to destroy Vibranium. These are “Badassium”, Uru, and an Infinity Stone.

“Badassium” – A New Element from Tony Stark.

This is the new element Iron Man created after following an encoded schematic left to him by his father Howard Stark. He hacked together a particle accelerator in his basement, and used the stream of particles to forge this new substance. Although there is no reliable source for this, Stark wanted to patent his new element as “Badassium”.

Energy from this element, housed in his armour’s arc reactor, was able to damage Ultron’s Vibranium shell.

Uru – Mythical and magical, the alloy or element Thor’s hammer is made out of.

Thor’s hammer Mjolnir (“Mye-Mye”) is made out of this mythological metal. Uru requires the kind of heat found in the heart of star to become malleable and manipulated. The elements or mineral refined into Uru can only be found in Nidavellir, one of the nine realms. The magical side of the element means that objects are created with enchantments that allow a spiritual bond to form between the carrier, and the Uru object. Thor’s bond with Mjolnir is an example.

Lightning channelled through the hammer, along with Stark’s  New Element, was also able to damage Ultron’s Vibranium shell.

Infinity Stones – A complete mystery, possibly a mineral like other gemstones, but could be anything.

It’s not clearly stated what mineral these stones are made from. They are referred to  as “singularities” by the collector. The term singularities has a wide range of meanings. For example, the state of the universe before the creation of stars and planets is sometimes called a singularity. Based on this information, the Infinity stones could be made of anything. The Vision carriers  the Mind Stone embedded in his forehead. He can fire a powerful beam of gold energy using the stone.

Gravitonium – A new element discovered in a mine on Earth.

in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, scientist Dr. Franklin Hall studied gravity, and developed a theory that an exotic material could control gravity. Eventually, he discovered Gravitonium in a mine. After a series of event in Agents of SHIELD season one, Hall was trapped inside the Gravitonium, and the element was stored away. It is likely the Doctor will return at some point in the future.

Outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there remains an extensive list of imagined and fictional substances. One article on Wikipedia attempts to round up and catalogue these elements and minerals. I have just one follow up question – are there any other elements, minerals, alloys, or other substances that stand out, or should be catalogued?

Elastic or Super Stretching: A list of elastic heroes part 2

Flexibility when big, life changes happen is a helpful character trait to possess or develop. This first blog post lists and compares several of these characters in the order they were first published (by publication year). This is part 2 of a two-part post.

I think flexibility is the main reason why super heroes with elastic or super stretching powers are fascinating. They embody adaptation. They can work around most physical obstacles, rising to impossible challenges. At the same time, they look unusual and strange. They connect to the sense of being an outcast or an outsider that comic book characters explore (the X-Men being a long standing example).

Dhalsim, 1991

Dhalsim from the Street Fighter series has less extreme and flowing stretching powers. He can’t elongate his body into a sheet, but his arms and legs still spring out, which is an effective fighting tactic in the two dimensional world of Street Fighter. Some writers have criticised Dhalsim’s cliched and racially stereotyped design; Dhalsim is a practising yoga master from India. He wears skulls and breathes fire. These characteristics show Dhalsim’s elastic design was not deeply thought out or planned when he, and the cast of Street Fighter 2were initially created. He is one part of an ‘international’ cast of characters. Looking for depth, flexibility, and outsider status would be difficult considering the stereotyping behind his design.

Luffy (Monkey.D.Luffy), 1997

Monkey D. Luffy is the pirate captain of the Straw Hat pirates from the long-running One Piece manga. He has several traits in common with Plastic Man. Both have morally chaotic decision making skills, and extreme, stretching abilities. They also have a sense of humour and optimistic buoyant personalities. Luffy has the middle initial of “D”, which marks him as an outsider in the One Piece world. Another elastic hero marked as an outsider.

Mrs. Incredible, 2004

In 2004, Helen Parr appears in the Disney Pixar animation The Incredibles. Similar to Mr.Fantastic, she is a strong family figure, and like Mr. Fantastic, would make tremendous
sacrifices to protect her family. Her elastic powers are also similar to Mr. Fantastic. Mrs. Incredible also made a significant sacrifice in her life when she gave up being a hero entirely to raise a family.

Jake the Dog, 2008

In 2008, Jake the Dog is the first prominent, non-human shape shifter and elastic hero. His story arc progresses from a more carefree adventurer, to concerned parent. He shapeshifts not just to fight and carry Finn around, but also to adapt to his changing responsibilities. He starts in the same, chaotic place as Luffy and Plastic Man, but transitions to become more similar in character to Mr.Fantastic and Mrs. Incredible.

Ms. Marvel, 2013

Finally, in 2013, Ms. Marvel arrives. Her abilities include shapeshifting and stretching, similar to Plastic Man and Luffy. Kamala Khan fights prejudice and stands out as a diverse role model. Another elastic hero with outsider status, who is an authentic American Muslim character, concerned with the safety of everyone in her New Jersey community. The depth and thought behind Ms. Marvel’s design and writing contrasts with the ideas and stereotypes hastily used to create Street Fighter character Dhalsim. Ms. Marvel needs to be flexible to take on prejudice in her community toward Americans who are also of the Islamic faith.

An interesting trend observed just from the publication year is the increase in shapeshifting and stretching characters since 1997. Moving into the 21st century, flexibility is an increasingly valuable character trait. We can see a bit of our own struggle to be more flexible with the demands of contemporary life in these characters.

So, are these insights valuable, or just over thinking? You can head back in time, and read about elastic heroes before 1990 on the Wallflyer.

Elastic or Super Stretching: A list of elastic heroes part 1

Flexibility when big, life changes happen is a helpful character trait to possess or develop. This first blog post lists and compares several of these characters in the order they were first published (by publication year). This is part 1 of a two-part post.

I think flexibility is the main reason why super heroes with elastic or super stretching powers are fascinating. They embody adaptation. They can work around most physical obstacles, rising to impossible challenges. At the same time, they look unusual and strange. They connect to the sense of being an outcast or an outsider that comic book characters explore (the X-Men being a long standing example).

Plastic Man, 1941

In 1941, Plastic Man arrives in Police Comics #1. He is the earliest hero in American comics publishing with stretching powers. A reformed thief, Plastic Man has an overwhelming sense of humour. This brightness was later contrasted with depths of sadness when the character appeared in several Justice League of America story arcs during the 1990’s. Flexible and elastic characters can change with the times. They embody adaptation.

Reed Richards, Elongated Man, 1961

Almost exactly 20 years later, in 1961, two more elastic heroes appear. One more arrives for DC, and a prominent stretchy heroes appears at Marvel Comics. These two heroes are the detective Elongated Man, and the super scientist and Fantastic Four team leader Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). Richards is a character with strong family connections. He would literally stretch to great lengths to defend his family. Elongated Man is also a character with strong family connections. Like Plastic Man, he is also the survivor of almost overwhelming tragedies, having lost his wife Susan Dearbon (before New 52 relaunch at DC comics) and almost losing Susan again (after the New 52 relaunch) in Secret Six.

Elastic-Girl, 1963

Elasti-Girl of the Doom Patrol appears in 1963. She represents the outsider interpretation of elastic and stretchy heroes. Also experiencing loss and tragedy, she and her team died in a battle to save a small fishing village. Like Elongated Man, she has returned following the New 52 relaunch, however.

Flat Man, 1989

In 1989, a hero with limited stretching or elastic powers called Flat Man appears at Marvel comics. Flat Man joins the Great Lakes Avengers, who are often sidelined or maligned by the Avengers, or the X-Men. Combined with the Flat Man’s character development – gaining the confidence to admit to himself that he is gay and eventually come out to his teammates – the outcast status appears in connection with another elastic hero.

Are these ideas of flexibility, of overcoming obstacles, and being an outcast justified and relevant, or just overthinking? Part two on the Wallflyer will cover heroes after 1991 – Dhalsim, Mrs. Incredible, Monkey D. Luffy, Jake the Dog, and Ms. Marvel.

Update 22/2 Link to part two added to the last paragraph.

DC Comics imprint Young Animal to publish Bug! The Adventures of Forager

Calling out to Comics foundational creator Jack Kirby – on the 100 year anniversary of Kirby’s birthday – Forager Bug arrives under the DC comics imprint Young Animal. Bug! The Adventures of Forager is a six issue mini-seres set to debut on May 10, 2017. The creative team stepping up for the project are Michael, Lee, and Laura Allred. I’m looking forward to the colouring, and universe exploration settings, following the creative team’s work on Silver Surfer for Marvel comics.

On the origin of their interest in the character, Lee Allred says:

“Ever since Mike and I read a battered copy of NEW GODS #9 in the waiting room before guitar lessons, we’ve loved Forager the Bug..A kinetic action hero on one hand, an alienated, introspective youth on the other—he’s the quintessential Young Animal character.” -Lee Allred, DC comics interview.

For more information on the character, DC comics has a Media Release. And Comics Alliance has a history of the character.