You know them? They are owned by Disney, they are brother to Marvel Studios that produces those box office shattering movies that have been all the rage for the last several years.
Well Marvel Comics while not the money maker of the film or video division, is the idea-space for those other mediums, and as such has an importance that belies its modest publishing revenue. As such, they are not going any place.
That said they could be doing better. But at every turn the publishing arm seems to be almost antagonistic to their customer base.
Tactics such as over-saturation of the market and expensive cover price of its titles ($4 is way too much to pay for an ad strewn comic with no additional content) translates into the audience (me) making a conscious choice to avoid all their books at best, and limit my consumption to one or two titles at worst.
Enter… THE MIGHTY AVENGERS.
THE MIGHTY AVENGERS by Al Ewing and the criminally castigated and underrated Greg Land is my favorite Marvel Comic, and the only one I purchase monthly.
Now don’t get me wrong there are other Marvel books I like, Aaron’s THOR, Remender’s CAPTAIN AMERICA and UNCANNY AVENGERS, the new MOON KNIGHT and IRON FIST has me interested, and if all those titles were $2.99 rather than $3.99 I would pick them all up. But I really do feel if any company can successfully ‘hold the line at $2.99′[an euphemism for not raising prices]… it is Marvel Comics, and their refusal to do so… is a misplaced arrogance, a belief that the entrenched fan-base will buy the books regardless.
It is a price gouging mentality, and I am proof to the contrary.
Rather than them getting $15 a month from me for five $2.99 comics, they get $3.99 for one comic. That greed, that one dollar extra cover price, has cost them $11 from me, $11 that now gladly goes to Image Comics or Dark Horse Comics.
And more than that, I am now trained to wait. I’ll wait till a Marvel series gets collected and is available at my local library and I’ll read it for free. So yeah Marvel Comics, that $3.99 cover price… here is one concrete case where you have actually lost business because of it. So great job there.
And the one Marvel Comic that I do get, is Ewing and Land’s MIGHTY AVENGERS.
Al Ewing creating a frenetic and pulp-inspired book that every month delivers a satisfying story, and one of the only books on the stands that offers multiple characters of color, treated respectfully (rather than as punch-line’s such as other Marvel Books are doing. Example being ‘Nick Fury’ gate. :).
Movies made workable the character of Nick Fury, by using the popularity of actor Samuel Jackson.
Now Marvel Comics wants to integrate that successful character from the movies with the 1960s comicbook version. So the brilliant way Marvel Comics decides to do that is by labeling the Black Nick Fury as the ‘son’ of the White Nick Fury. Wtf? Really? :).
That’s the direction you’re going? Can you say demeaning, bigoted and stupid? Hey Marvel here’s a solution for you… How about they are both just Nick Fury, with no relationship to each. Nick Fury being a title, like ‘Christopher Chance’ that gets passed to whoever is worthy. Took me two seconds to come up with a better way for both Nick Fury’s to coincide without demeaning and denigrating the Samuel Jackson version.
Who would have thought it would be the movie Marvel Universe that would get it right, and the comic-book Marvel Universe that would increasingly be the disappointment.)
Which is why Al Ewing’s MIGHTY AVENGERS is such a treat and a surprise. Despite being hamstrung with having to participate in Marvel’s various events (could not be less interested in Marvel’s Crossovers) Al Ewing manages to use the handicap of the crossover as a springboard to tell his own highly imaginative and absorbing tales of werechickens (don’t laugh, it’s pretty cool)and inter-dimensional evils, while at its heart always being a very generational story. A book that is about… Fathers and Sons.
Add to this Greg Land, who has had to suffer the recriminations of people with not a fiftieth of his talent, self styled art ‘critics'(parrots jumping on a bandwagon) who unable to create art, and ignorant even of the process, yet think themselves schooled to heckle their betters.
If you think Greg Land uses ‘porn stars’ for some of his inspiration, I would say two things to you, 1/ who cares and 2/you probably watch way too much porn. :).
Every artist from Jack Kirby to Gene Colan had a little stock/trace file, for poses or buildings or cars or fashion. You know why? Because it is a bloody job and stock photography and images are tools, and drawing, making your deadlines, is a job. And being able to take those inspirations, regardless of where they come from, and craft a functional and beautiful story out of it, takes immense talent. Greg Land is an immense talent, and his work on MIGHTY AVENGERS is drop dead gorgeous, brimming as it is with 70s Indie Black Empowerment images.
So from writing to art, there is a one-two energy Ewing and Land have going here, that hopefully will continue for sometime. But when and if MIGHTY AVENGERS goes the way of other Marvel Titles, here’s hoping these guys create a similar creator owned title at Image.
I would love to see Al Ewing creating his own pulp-inspired or sci-fi tinged characters, and Greg Land drawing them. For all the good things Image has, a book with a majority of ethnic characters is not one of those things.
Perhaps it is time there was such a book.
So Marvel for all my bashing on them has to be applauded for THE MIGHTY AVENGERS. But if all involved really want the series to grow, 1/add a letters page and back-matter, 2/focus on stand-alone stories primarily, and 3/making it a $2.99 rather than $3.99 book wouldn’t work.
But other than that a fantastic read, month in and month out.
Oh and Al and Greg, two more suggestions, One/change the preamble that starts the book to be something with a little more import and oomph, and two/ Let Luke Cage take back the name Power Man. It’s a good name, and it’s his.
Thanks for reading and if intrigued by the above you can buy back copies of the Mighty Avengers or the Trades here:
This is an idea that the filmspotting podcast covered in their latest episode, and while they had intriguing choices it spurred me to a slightly different list and slightly different choices.
If you can only, for whatever reason, have the films of five directors to watch, on a desert island, for an uncertain amount of time, or for all time… what five directors do you choose? Fritz Lang? F.W. Murnau? Louis Feuillade? Alfred Hitchcock? David Lean? Orson Welles? Ousmane Sembene? Mary Harron?
They list very interesting choices, not as good as the names I list above (I’m joking), many of which I myself am a cheerleader for (Kurosawa, Howard Hawks), but it occurred to me that diversity, particularly when it came to Hollywood films, was a rare exception rather than a rule. And that concerned me because, if I am trapped on a deserted island with the filmography of only 5 directors, that I wanted the filmography of at least a couple of those directors to represent the ethnic width and breadth of the human condition. The beauty of a range of colors and women and cultures.
I being someone who even today gets bored with the lack of diversity of films, the idea of being stuck with films not representative of the larger world, and the rich tapestry of people in it, gave me pause. For all our berating of terms like political correctness (which when really defined is respect, so when people rail against political correctness what they are really arguing against is giving people respect) we have become a more intolerant and stratified society. And part of that I think has to do with our mass media. Our obsession with vilifying the other.
The (seemingly increasing) lack of diversity in recent films and television, being I think a dangerous sign of a tail wagging the dog society. Of a vocal minority calling for a return to ‘the good old days’ which, when finally viewed, never really were that good.
Hollywood has from its inception been a propaganda machine, where a few people’s fiction altered often negatively many people’s facts. And before discussing Desert Island directors, another discussion has to be had first… about the values of film. Not the value of film, but the values portrayed or reiterated or held dear, in perhaps too many films. We have to talk about exclusion and stereotyping in films beginnings, and in film’s present.
While willing to give a slight pass to pre-1960 films given their historic placement, I have less interest or sympathy for segregated and nearly Apartheid rich, post-1960 into 21st century, Hollywood films. Or worse the 21st century version of Step and Fetchit, black actors used to deliver White Messages. Be it MONSTERS BALL or TRAINING DAY it’s the eye-bulging, debasing, cartoonish extremes, that Black actors are saddled to wear, that hearkens to what is worst in cinema.
If the choice is between only debased caricatures… of people of color, ala Frank Darabont or David Ayer or practically no characters of color ala Woody Allen, I’ll take the latter evil. But ideally the filmmakers I want to support and revisit, are those who can represent characters of color with the same broad diversity we grant to the human race, the Michael Manns, the Carl Franklins, the Tony Scotts, the Gordon Parks.
This idea of us as hero and villain, Sexual and chaste, brilliant and imbecilic, honorable and flawed, important and funny, savior and victim. In the 21st century that diversity of roles is generally relegated to White actors. In the 21st century the number of Hollywood movies that portray characters of color with any of those positive aspects listed… are few and far between.
Even supposed mass market films like XMEN FIRST CLASS and SIN CITY reek of this ingrained stereotyping and caricature as truth, when it comes to the non-pale characters. And I could deal if this mentality and programming and white wish fulfillment was the occasional film, however in the last two decades it has become practically every film and tv show. The White hero has a woman of color pining for him, his backup girl typically. And the male actor of color, seldom a protagonist, and even less seldom does he get the girl, he is now relegated to comedy relief or side-kick; Rochester for the 21st century. Far have we drifted from the sexually virile Black stars of the 70s.
This creates a cinema of exclusion and to some extent, social engineering. Our facts are shaped by our fictions, arguably more than anything else, and a cinema of marginalization, legitimization and feminism of the male of color, bodes not well.
We are not DW Griffith we are not Cecil B. DeMills making entertainment for a virulently segregated, Jim Crow America. We have made some progress since then, and for filmmakers not to acknowledge that progress or that shifting audience, is to take a stance against that progress, and against that diverse viewing base.
We are not in the early days of the 20th century, we are in the early days of the 21st and while it is a filmmakers choice whether to be exclusionary or boring or homogeneous to a fault, you do so at the risk of failing to become a better filmmaker. You do so at the risk of making scared, redundant, and repetitive early 20th century films, here in the 21st century.
Well I’ve gone on about the pitfalls of cinema, here 15 years into the 21st century, now let’s discuss the strengths of film. The people I think are portraying an America and a world far more intune to the one I walk through, where heroes can be both Black and White.
In the Hollywood system the names are few, but welcome, and waiting… waiting for viewers, reviewers, actors, writer, producers, studios, and directors to recognize there is an inequity, a growing one, at the heart of our fictions, that much be addressed to make our cinema and ourselves… better.
Those filmmakers are (among others):
The late great Gordon Parks
The late great Tony Scott
The very much with us and Great Michael Mann
The very much with us and Great and underutilized Carl Franklin
Very, very different directors, but what they were all able to do, sometimes for a single movie, sometimes for multiple movies, is something so rarely done in Hollywood today that it’s like there is an unofficial Hayes code prohibiting it…
…prohibiting having a movie with a character of color or Black character as both heroic protagonist and a male with a functioning libido, who doesn’t have to die or be sacrificed for the majority. :)
Outside of the great explosion of films in the 70s extending a bit into the 80s, and the subsequent eradication of locally controlled/independent theaters, The Heroic, virile Black hero has become a scare commodity on Theatrical screens.
Which is why when it gets done well… these days, such as in Peter Berg’s poorly named and badly marketed HANCOCK… the film becomes a wild success. Because there is a large population starved for empowering images of themselves. 2013 with its BUTLER and FRUITYVALE STATION and 12 YEARS A SLAVE, showcases Hollywood’s debasement attitude when it comes to theatrical releases. “Multiple characters of color? You better be a comedy, or telling us about getting your ass whupped.” :) .
Hence 2013s abundance of films of victimization, while they should be valid stories that have their place, if you counter them with just as many films of triumph, or winning, or adventure, or thrilling action and heroism. However the Heroic Tale is a rare one, and that is the failing of the system we have to change. Without the heroic myth to contrast it, tales of victimization are just an assault, a tool, a club… to beat a population into shape.
— to be continued —
I think the above link does a good summary of the case and its outcome.
Florida is a state known for its howling miscarriages of justice when it comes to cases involving color.
I’m reminded of the case of Lionel Tate, the 12 year old, mentally disabled child, who killed another child, Tiffany Eunick. The mentally disabled child, a black child was charged as an adult and sent to prison. A savage rending of any concept of justice.
We have another such rending of justice here in the Martin Zimmerman case. In this case you have a self appointed vigilante, using the cover of neighborhood watch (I’m typically in favor of neighborhood watch, but not the gun packing variety) to instigate an incident that ended with the death of an unarmed 17 year old.
When we put it upon ourselves to police others we must first be able to police ourselves, and in the case of Martin and Zimmerman, you have a population and a state engulfed by 50s ideas of segregation, and fear, and a lynch-mob mentality that today sanctioned the murder of a black child for what amounts to nothing more than walking in a ‘white’ neighborhood. Similar to those cases of 12 year old boys lynched for looking at white women.
So what is to be done?
Well I’m in favor of boycotting not just the municipality of Sanford but Florida itself. Economic reprisals baby! Don’t spend a single dime or dollar [particularly if you are a person of color] with Sanford based businesses. Or for that matter Florida businesses.
Let’s see how well they like it if this Colored population, that does the bulk of the buying and living and dying in any municipality, stopped condoning the evils of that municipality with their money.
It is a resolution… to be tried. Boycott Sanford. Boycott Florida. Boycott Disney World.
Okay that could be a bit harsh to toss a whole state under the bus, but if that’s what it takes to get examined Florida’s judicial landscape of ‘not quite seperate but still unequal’, then that is what must be done.
David W of BadAzz Mofo, the publisher of the FANTASTIC BadAzz Mofo Magazine of the same name, also runs a way cool blog, that I need to visit more often.
The Invisible War
From Oscar(R)- and Emmy(R)-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated; Twist of Faith) comes The Invisible War, a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of America’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military. The film paints a startling picture of the extent of the problem–today, a female soldier in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. The Department of Defense estimates there were a staggering 19,000 violent sex crimes in the military in 2010. Twenty percent of all active-duty female soldiers are sexually assaulted. The Invisible War exposes the epidemic, breaking open one of the most under-reported stories of our generation, to the nation and the world.–from the filmmakers
Well that… troubles me, to put it lightly.
It does not however surprise me.
Unfortunately given the rash of atrocities associated with our military, particularly in the last dozen years, the tale THE INVISIBLE WAR has to tell while infuriating, is not surprising.
I have to think it has a lot to do with that rash of news stories about the military being in dire need of soldiers, and filling their ranks by any and all methods; some extremely suspect.
Here’s the thing, for every person who is in the military for the right reason and to do the right thing, you have three people who… in no manner, no way, and for no reason, should have passed the screening process and been given a gun, and put in a position to control others, much less in a position to end lives.
At the best of times, and to the best of people, such responsibility… is to be watched.
But seemingly, no one is watching anymore. So we end up with a rash of incidents about people who cannot even control themselves, being given a gun and sent all over the globe to control people and cultures that were old when America was but a dream. And doing it badly.
Again not all our soldiers, hopefully not the majority, but enough. Enough bad apples to spoil the pie.
And this isn’t just about our military over there. This is about our police force, and our prison guards here. This is about a culture of oppression and the cost we all pay for turning a blind eye to a police/slave state… it is about rule by terror. And the thing about terror, it doesn’t respect boundaries real well.
There’s no way to sow terror and horror, without reaping it. Without breathing it in. And when the mandate from the top, to this immature and often volatile young world police force is to, still, spread shock and awe… the results as we have seen, are not pretty.
When in our name, soldiers are given authority to terrorize and devalue the other with impunity, you get American torture prisons, you get American concentration camps, and eventually you get that behavior coming home to roost. You get the abhorrent methods used to pacify the resistance of those we disagree with abroad, brought home… to be used against those we disagree with here.
It becomes our method for relating to everything, and everyone. Even our own. Barbarism as national policy.
And maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe it’s an American male population that instead of being raised on movies about saving damsels in distress and opening doors for ladies, finds entertainment in movies and video games about women getting raped and tortured and killed. The truth is… we do not rise above our fictions, we become them. The fifties dreamt of space and the sixties saw us achieve it. In the last two decades the mass media of America has been about fear and terror and torture and mistrust, and we are living up… to those dreams.
Maybe in the mad rush to devalue the other, all we have done is learned to laughingly… devalue ourselves.
I don’t have the answers. But we better damn sure start looking for them. And it begins with asking the hard questions. Is our military doing right? If so, how? And if not, how? And what can we do, to make our soldiers not victims nor puppets nor fall-guys for an administration of madmen?
These are questions, especially as yet another election devoid of any real choice (you can pick corporate meat puppet 1 or corporate meat puppet 2) approaches, that we have to ask and answer.
Because the security and rights of anyone in this country, any soldier, any woman, any person, is tied directly to the amount of security we give even the least of us.
Our liberties as citizens are only as secure as the liberties of those we disagree with. is tied to how we treat enemy combatants, prisoners, foes (which as history teaches us, will be our governments friends tomorrow. Never hate for your government, because to your government it is all just a game of dollars and cents). Because the lines we cross cannot be easily uncrossed, and the human rights we ultimately eradicate when we violate the other… are our own.
Go see the trailer here, and see what questions and what answers you come up with.