Tag Archives: jim lee

Epic Fail Of The Week: DC Comics Drops The Ball On ‘The Wall’ in Suicide Squad

By Arturo R. García

The image above is the last page of DC Comics’ new Suicide Squad #1, which debuted yesterday. And to the chagrin of many fans thus far, the woman in the panel on the left is writer Adam Glass and penciller Marco Rudy’s “reimagined” take on Amanda Waller.

In her original incarnation, seen at right, the woman known as “The Wall” was notable not only for being a non-superpowered human with the confidence and cunning to stand up to the likes of Batman, but to be consistently presented as DC’s resident spymaster (she was frequently involved with prior incarnations of the Dirty Dozen-like Squad), but for being depicted as powerful without looking like the “superhuman ideal.”

The character has also emigrated onto other media platforms. CCH Pounder voiced an animated version of Waller in the Justice League Unlimited animated series; Pam Grier played her on television during the final season of Smallville; and earlier this year, Amanda Bassett stepped into the character for the movie Green Lantern. That said, Waller’s involvement as a “star” in the comics has primarily been restricted to espionage-type titles like Suicide Squad or Checkmate, where she was part of an ensemble. She’s never been called upon to carry a title on her own.

Which makes the decision to revamp the character – whether it was Glass and Rudy’s choice, or something dictated to them by DC head honchos Dan DiDio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns – even more ill-considered than their decision to draw up a Suicide Girls-like character (seen at left) and call her Harley Quinn. What made Waller unique was that she really did look like a regular person – she just had enough of an iron will to maneuver herself into a position of power. For DC to seemingly transform her into one more skinny gal seems to be a particularly arbitrary choice in a company-wide relaunch that has already divided its’ existing fanbase. Or, if this move was made in order to entice new readers to give the new Squad a shot, then who does this company exactly want to attract? This guy?

Update: Glass was quoted by Bleeding Cool as saying, “Amanda Waller is not defined by her size but by her attitude and she still has plenty of that.” Which doesn’t explain the change at all, of course. Bleeding Cool also reported that Rudy has been replaced as the penciller for the series in favor of Federico Dellocchio.

The Extra-Large Racialicious Guide To San Diego Comic-Con 2011, Part II

By Arturo R. García

If you saw Part I yesterday, you saw that the Black Panel, traditionally held on Saturdays, had made its’ way to the Friday morning line-up. Luckily, more panels have stepped up to fill the POC void on Saturday, and Sunday looks to be book-ended by some interesting stuff. Not that we’re too biased. The line-up is under the cut.
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Race + Comic-Book Notes, Part 1: Comics Alliance Speaks Up

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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Remember when we asked, “Will Jim Lee Take After The Brave And The Bold?”? Apparently the answer is no. But we have to give props to Chris Sims at ComicsAlliance for also noticing this.

Late last week, Sims published a column calling out DC Comics after another round of white-washing its’ primary cast – in this instance the most recent Atom, Dr. Ryan Choi, was killed off, allowing his Silver Age predecessor, Ray Palmer, to don the red-and-blue mask – another nod to the penchant for nostalgia Lee and Geoff Johns are overseeing at the company:

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — I’m certainly not an exception to fan culture, and there are stories that push my “Oh hey, I remember that” buttons as hard as anyone else’s — except that the form it takes ignores that much of what made Jack Kirby or Cary Bates or Alan Moore or Frank Miller so exciting wasn’t what they were doing, but that they were doing things that hadn’t been done before. Instead, we’re in an industry right now that wants to constantly reset itself, running on nostalgia rather than innovation, moving backwards instead of moving forwards, and while I complain about it both often and at length, it seems to be what the majority of comics readers want, no matter how wrong-headed I think it is.

The switch of Palmer for Choi comes on the heels of the company’s latest event, Blackest Night, and another change, involving Firestorm. For the past few years, the character’s primary alter ego was Jason Rusch, a young black character who went from his own short-lived solo series to being included in the Justice League of America. (Indeed, there was a brief stretch during Dwayne McDuffie’s run writing JLA where the team included not only Rusch, but Vixen; Kimiyo Hoshi as Doctor Light; and Green Lantern John Stewart. Compare that line-up to this somewhat less diverse team.) At the conclusion of Blackest Night, though, we learned that Rusch and his own white predecessor, Ronnie Raymond, would have to bond to form the flame-headed hero – but that it was Raymond providing their shared body’s “default setting.” These decisions look even more questionable when you factor in the following:

* The heavy promotion given to problematic “retro” stories like First Wave.
* The replacement of Cassandra Cain as Batgirl for Stephanie Brown.
* The “off-camera” killing-off of a half-Asian child character, Lian Harper, in the critically-reviled Cry For Justice miniseries. When questioned at a convention about the decision to kill Harper off, DC Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler said, “I’m happy it upset people because it means that the story had some weight and emotion.”
* The lack of attention given to the Milestone Universe characters aside from Static, and issues with McDuffie’s Milestone Forever mini-series.
* The cancellation of the Great Ten mini-series before its’ conclusion.

batb1Add these developments up, and DC Entertainment’s animated offerings almost look like products of a rogue operation: the Brave And The Bold cartoon actually played out a Raymond/Rusch union first – but with Rusch supplying Firestorm’s skin color – and has consistently featured Choi as The Atom and Jaime Reyes as the Blue Beetle (the series’ only misstep has been re-imagining Katana as a Silent But Deadly Asian character type). Also, the company’s newest animated offering, the soon-to-debut Young Justice, features a new Aqualad, a black character, at the very forefront of its’ promo photo:

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And as Sims notes, these revisions extend beyond the heroes themselves:

Even the regressions of ostensibly white characters often have racially charged consequences: Wally West’s interracial marriage to Linda Park has been sidelined in favor of on-the-go suburbanites Barry Allen and Iris West, and Kyle Rayner (who was created as an Irish-American but later “revealed” to be the son of a Mexican-American CIA agent) has suffered the strange fate-worse-than-death of a fictional character who gets demoted from a starring role to a supporting one. He’s still a Green Lantern, but he’s not the Green Lantern.

Most damningly, Sims illustrates his point with a team portrait of Johns’ take on the “classic” Legion of Super-Heroes, a group which ostensibly represents a more united humanity as part of a larger group of worlds in the 31st Century:

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Damn, I guess we didn’t make it to space after all!

There’s a disappointing epilogue to Sims’ story over at Comic Book Resources: In previewing Titans For Hire, where the people who killed Choi get to star in their own series, Jeffrey Renaud brought up the question of Choi’s death with writer Chris Wallace:

Renaud: Do you have a message for the twitterati and fans of the character that are angered/saddened/upset by his death, because some are even saying this death was racially motivated?

Wallace: Only that I, too, will miss Ryan. He was a great hero all the way until the end, and that’s how I’ll always remember him. I hope others will, too.

In this characterization, anyone who objects to Choi getting killed off for the sake of boosting Slade Wilson – yet another white character – is some Other on Twitter, i.e. “not a Real Fan,” and wondering about the racial implications here is clearly the work of a conspiracy theorist. Meanwhile, Wallace ducks the question entirely with a homogenized “eulogy.”

In his conclusion, Sims notes possibly the best part of Choi’s character: his super-hero ID wasn’t derived from his ethnicity. In part two, we’ll look at some of Marvel’s newest characters; some fit that description, and some most assuredly do not.

Will Jim Lee Take After The Brave And The Bold?

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By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

jim leeJim Lee reached some rare air Thursday, when he was introduced as co-publisher of the renamed DC Entertainment. The move makes him the highest-ranking Asian-American working for the comics industry’s Big Two (Cuban-American Joe Quesada is Editor-In-Chief at DC’s nemesis, Marvel). It also places Lee, who has already been running DC’s WildStorm imprint since its’ inception in 1998, in prime position to help the company move in a more progressive direction – one DCE’s animation division has seemingly had no problem embracing for the past decade.

The latest example of this trend has been Batman: The Brave And The Bold, which has featured POC characters since debuting in 2008. The series’ first episode, for instance, featured Jaime Reyes as the Blue Beetle. (DC Comics took advantage of this exposure by cancelling the Blue Beetle comic book the very week the episode aired.) More recently, BATB has featured the second Atom, Ryan Choi and the newest Firestorm, Jason Rusch.

But DC’s positive run actually kicked off in 2000, when Static Shock debuted. It scored three Daytime Emmy nominations in four years, winning one in 2003. So how could a show featuring a black character win both critical and commercial praise on TV after being part of the ill-fated Milestone Comics line? Well, as Static’s creator, Dwayne McDuffie told me last year:

“It was available to kids who hadn’t made up their minds about what superhero was cool yet. They like this guy. They didn’t know they were supposed to like Green Lantern more. It’s easier to win over a new audience than someone who’s been reading Barry Allen as The Flash for 30 years and can’t let it go that he’s been dead for 30 years and need to see Barry Allen again. There’s a racial component to that, but probably a bigger piece is old guys stuck in the mud.”

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McDuffie also had a hand in the next instance of a black character getting to shine in a DC Animated Series, as part of the creative team for the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series. This incarnation of the League not only featured a black Green Lantern in John Stewart, but also devoted screen time to both an IR romance between himself and Hawkgirl and a relationship Stewart went on to enjoy with Vixen, another black character. Considering that, when the series started, Stewart probably ranked lower on the comic-book totem-pole than four white Green Lanterns, Stewart’s emergence was a welcome sight, and he’s emerged to become a bigger player in GL comic-book canon because of it.

So, even if it’s Geoff Johns who is in charge of “shepherding” the DC/Vertigo/WildStorm characters across media platforms, Lee’s ascension, one would think, would allow him to speak up for characters like Reyes, Rusch and Choi – positive POC characters that, though it’s leery to admit, the comic-book industry is going to need to develop in order to attract new readers, rather than rely on re-re-re-re-revisiting the Silver Age for an audience that’s only getting older.