So last week was a big week for comics news.
Well if you follow the actual industry news, every week is a big week, what with new exciting projects being announced like noted guy I know on the internet, Jim Zub being tapped to write a Baldur’s Gate comic, or DC running Gail Simone off Batgirl. What I meant to say was it was a big week for mainstream comic in the mainstream news.
And by that, I mean he mainstream news totally misrepresenting several fairly common if not minor events in comics out of what appears to be willful ignorance.
I know (because you’ve told me) that a lot of my readers don’t really follow comics, so it’s likely that you’ve heard the following snippets in passing: Thor is getting a sex change, Captain America is becoming black, and Archie was killed off.
Now, technically those are true. But here in reality town, they are not that at all, not even a reasonable facsimile of that. Believe me, I can get behind a well told and sensitive tale in which Thor realizes that he doesn’t identify as male anymore and has to seek out very special treatment to reassign his gender because transitional gender reassignment surgery won’t work on gods. And you better believe I would pay money to read a social-commentary laden throwback where in 1950, the Red Skull uses some Super Science to turn Captain America black so that the racism directed at him will break his spirit only for Cap to team up with a young Martin Luther King Jr to reignite his belief that All Men Are Create Equal and turns the table on the Skull.
I… don’t actually want to see Archie killed though. In any context. I mean I don’t love the character (Jughead superiority represent), but I wish him no specific harm and don’t get the point of killing him off—which I’ll discuss in a moment.
None of that it happening though. Not in the way the news is putting it. Plus, once you know the real story, you’ll realize that none of this is actual news. For example…
Thor is Not Getting a Sex Change
You thought I was going to post something insensitive like ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’ didn’t you?
I have heard that line no less than two hundred times this week. It’s gotten to the point that if I hadn’t read a satirical article about the new costume, I would have thought Thor was literally being turned into a woman. And despite what some of the panicking fans are saying; yes, that makes perfect mythological sense.
I apologize in advance to all the folks out there who have the hots for Loki thanks to his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but… Loki’s totally been a lady. And not just nt he ‘he can shapeshift’ thing that happened in the comics, he has, at times been a biologically functional female capable of giving birth.
And she did give birth at least once.
To a horse. Yup. That happened. And Odin rides that horse. In the Thor movie, you can briefly see said horse, Slepnir, as Thor’s mount as the protagonists (and Loki) raid Jotenheim. He’s riding his nephew in front of and presumably with permission from its mother.
So yeah, Thor actually becoming a woman? That’s actually be more accurate to the mythology than his inexplicably blondness (mythic Thor is a redhead). And yet, that is not what’s happening here.
What is happening?
Well according to actual comics news, Thor will find himself rendered unworthy to wield his mystic hammer Mjolnir (likely due to some stupid reason from the Original Sin summer event) and another character will have to take up the weapon and the name FOR MIDGARD!
This character is apparently Angela from the comic series, Spawn. I admit that I haven’t done appropriate research, but I’m pretty sure she’s a literal angel. Like in the Judeo-Christian sense.
An… angel named Angela. McFarlane, creator of spawn might have managed to make the only good Image comic of the 90’s but he is not a good namer of things. Even Spawn is… a hall-spawn. I mean, I like the character, I liked the movie, but dude—seriously?
Anyway, of course a literal angel is worthy of wielding Mjolnir. A lot of people can.
Oh yeah, that’s why this isn’t actually news. While Angela will be the first woman to take up Thor’s mantle, this isn’t the first time the Son of Odin needed to tag in a substitute. Just off the top of my head, he’s also been temporarily replaced with 90’s antihero substitute (and stuttering dope), Thunderstrike, and the awesomely badass alien hero, Beta-Ray Bill.
In the end, Angela is just carrying on a grand tradition of legacy-bearing when it comes to the Thor name. My only real complaint here is that the mantle wasn’t picked up by a female character with, you know, ties to Thor like The Enchantress or especially Sif, who is a noted ass-kicker who would definitely have something to say about Thor being rendered unworthy.
Or Hela. Let’s not beat around the bush, Marvel. If you’re going to headline a woman taking up the Thor name, how about Loki’s daughter who has no love for his father—and is also a three-story tall giant? I would cram my money directly down the writer’s throat to see that happen.
But I’m down with Angela taking the role. Which s more than I can say about…
Steve Rogers is not Becoming a Black Man
There is an infamous Lois Lane: Superman’s Girlfriend story wherein Lois uses a magic… thing… Superman builds to turn her skin color brown so she can go undercover in her own version of Black Like Me. There are a lot of social concerns with this sort of thing, not the least of which is putting a famous character in black face.
…but I’ve got to admit that as a man of mixed race who is mostly black (who of course is not speaking for his entire race)… I like the idea of cultural icons being forced to view the world through the eyes of a different people.
There is a lot of talk about privilege on the internet, but most of it is unfortunately in the form of ‘you are privileged, therefore your thoughts and emotions don’t count’. Which is bullshit because the original point of the concept is to say ‘hey, your experiences as someone who is white or male, or heterosexual, etc, gives you a certain understanding of things that is different from those of someone who has not because the world treats them in a different way. Please recognize this fact before you assume a given view you might have is objective’.
In the real world, you just have to take everyone’s word for it that what they say are their experiences are true—which is unfortunate because trusting one another is the first thing we tend to throw out the window. In fiction, however, you can totally turn someone black or gay or into any minority group for a while so they can experience it first hand and then report it vicariously to the audience.
So while there were some inadvertently racist and uncomfortable about the Lois story, it was in the end poignant and topical… as far as a silly Silver Age tale could be at least. Which is why in the year 2014, I believe we could actually get a story about Captain America somehow ending up in the body of a black man and witnessing an America wher some people are very, very bitter and spiteful that a black man became President and it would be good if still controversial.
That… is not a thing that is going to happen. Instead, like Thor, Steve Rogers is passing on the mantle of Cap to another True Hero who happens to be black.
The part that annoys me is that he’s also a great hero in his own right and shouldn’t have to play substitute teacher. You see, the man who is taking over as Captain America? Sam Wilson, who you might know from Captain America: The Winter Soldier as The Falcon.
The Falcon is one of the very first black superheroes and has been friend and partner in crime-fighting to Steve Rogers for longer than I’ve been alive. Despite his powers being solely a set of high-tech wings to make hims fly (usually), The Falcon usually uses his wits and technological knowledge to take down the forces of Hydra more often than Cap himself.
He is Batman if Batman could fly and didn’t need gadgets because he’s just that smart..
And that’s why I’m not a fan of this. The implication is that being Captain America is such a huge honor and responsibility (Sam will reportedly get shield-throwing training from Steve) that it’s a step up from any other hero guise… but the guy they’re doing it with is one of the only guys for whom this is less a stepping up moment and more helping your friend move a couch (made of evil and super science). It also sort of implies that The Falcon identity can simply be tossed aside for the Captain America one, which anger me because I am a fan of the Falcon.
How much of a fan? Well Barn Owl is a fusion of Iron Man and… THE FALCON. Yep, that’s why you weren’t able to figure out what characters he was based on—because most people sadly dind’t know The Falcon until earlier this year.
I can only hope people realize how great Sam is from the movie and demand he gets his own ongoing.
Also, and this is important: There already was a black Captain America. In fact, he was the first: Isaiah Bradley. As revealed in Truth: Red, White and Black, Bradley was forced into taking a prototype of the super-soldier serum in Marvel’s version of the Tuskegee Syphillis Experiments. He gains powers, but at the cost of his health rapidly declining.
If that sounds like a certain superhero webserial’s backstory, that isn’t an accident.
Oh, and neither Bradley nor Steve Rogers were the last Cap. There was even a Mccarthy era anti-communist Cap who extolled the virtues of Cold War paranoia and racism. Yup. That happened.
And that brings us to the last bit of this trifecta if misunderstandings:
Archie Was Killed Off… In Two Alternate Timelines
There are several layers to this one, so buckle up.
For two solid weeks, my local news lost its shit over the fact that Archie Andrews, venerable every-teen and flagship character of the Archie Comics company was going to die in the penultimate issue of the Life With Archie comic series.
They milked it for all they were worth and judging by the anchor banter, it was clear that some of them honestly thought Archie and Archie Comics were both gone forever and we were witnessing the passing of an age.
Well… we were witnessing the passing of an age. Specifically, the passing of the Archie Comics company into the Bronze Age of Comics (possibly the Dark Age, it’s too soon to tell) some thirty years late. Oh, and they entered this age THREE YEARS AGO.
Allow me to explain. For those of you not familiar with Archie, he is a character created n the 1940’s, a contemporary teenager who lives in the idyllic town over Riverdale. He sort of exists as an preteen’s idea of what high school must be like: wacky hijinks, school dances, starting a band—with none of the problems like drugs, bullying beyond mild shoving and name-calling, pressure from all fronts, etc. It’s a very Silver Age franchise in that everything is formatted for gags and there’s no continuity or serious attempts at character development.
Is it bad? I would say no. It’s a bit bland and I prefer the Disney Duck-verse comics like Uncle Scrooge, but when you get down to it, it’s a comic that’s just there for fun and that’s all it needs to be. Can it be more?
That’s the question that began what I like to call the Great Riverdale Experiment back in 2014. Archie Comics started releasing comics that were out of their standard mold. Betty and Veronica’s spin-off books started having story arcs with a hint of female empowerment and very little Archie at all, the editorial mandate that the characters MUST be drawn in their original, 70 year-old style was loosened for several books—and Life With Archie was launched, coming out of one of the most weirdly ‘comic book’ moments in the Archie franchise.
Life with Archie was presented as a story that sought to answer a question generations of young Americans have been born and grown old never learning: what would it be like if Archie picked either Betty or Veronica instead of stringing his two love interests along.
The result was a story that shockingly diverged the Archie timeline into two alternate timelines like a Claremont X-men story: one where Archie chose Betty and another where he chose Veronica. Even more amazing, the stories were serious and topical. A little too serious and topical if you ask me—like Ms. Grundy, the venerable teacher, marrying the principal Mr. Weatherbee… then dying. Or the fanservice character Cheryl Blossom developing breast cancer.
Among the high points was Kevin Keller, the first gay character in the Archie-verse not only getting married, but running for Senator of… whatever state Riverdale is in. He even takes up a gun control platform after his husband is shot and put in the hospital.
… and that is where we get to the final storyline of the Life With Archie series. As a worrying number of gun rights activists in real life seem to think, someone takes issue with Kevin’s gun control platform and decides that the best way to prove the guns are awesome and safe… is to shoot Kevin with one. In what would have been a stunning twist if not for all the media attention, good ol’ Archie leaps to defend his friend and takes the bullet in both timelines, ending, rather fittingly, Life with Archie.
You caught that right? It’s the end of Life With Archie. Just Life With Archie. The other books, which LWA establishes exist as part of a multiverse continue ticking along with a very much alive, young and goofy Archie. This was merely the end of The Great Riverdale Experiment.. Phase 1.
The march to modernity isn’t over yet. Kevin Keller—the ‘present’ timeline Kevin—has his own series now and has since 2012, the new storyline-based Betty and Veronica is still going, and…
Believe it or not, there is and even darker weirder alternate Archie Universe. Behold my friends: Afterlife With Archie. That’s the Archie characters… in a goddamn zombie apocalypse. And because zombie stories hate me on a personal level (it’s mutual) Jughead is of course Patient Zero. This comic started in October 2013 and is still going.
But yeah, apparently Archie’s death in an alternate timeline is what changed everything about Archie. Not the alternate timelines, or the drastic new art, or the freaking zombies. Good job news monkeys. Next time I need to know comic news, I’ll stick to The Outhouse.
That’s it for this week, true believers!
Before I go, I’m proud to announce the release of the first ‘Short Tales From The World of Ere’ short story, Rakne’s Tale: Hearing of Grievances, which is a prequel of sorts to Rune Breaker, featuring the minor character Rakne in her first adventure as an Assassin.
This is an ebook exclusive story that won’t show up on the site (save for a sample going up for 5th Wednesday this month). Right now it’s available for $2.99USD from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, and PageFoundry. Coming soon to iTunes, Kobo, GooglePlay and DrivethruRPG.