web stats

CSBG Archive

What I bought – 27 January 2010

“The more civilized we become, the more horrendous our entertainments,” Frex said. (Gregory Maguire, from Wicked)

This is kind of a misleading cover, as the dude isn't in it that much, but it's still pretty keen Batman should get some carbs in him! CHOMP! Check out that Williams cover! Another cool cover by Alan Davis! So much drama! I hate that trade dress so much! Warning: This scene actually takes place inside the comic! Yes, a little dude with a big cleaver shows up in this book I hope she at least didn't let Doom take some of her gum!

AstroCityDarkAge4.1Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four #1 (of 4) (“Vengeance is Mine”) by Kurt Busiek (writer), Brent E. Anderson (artist), John Roshell (letterer), and Alex Sinclair (colorist). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

There’s not much to say about this particular issue of Astro City that hasn’t been said about every issue of Astro City. Fifteen years in, I’m probably not going to convince you to pick it up if you haven’t already, although it continues to be an excellent comic. The Williams brothers’ quest for vengeance on the man who killed their father continues into the 1980s, and the Silver Agent’s tale is somehow involved, which is nice. I want to point out, however, that I’m not sure what their plan for revenge is. Do they want the murderer to suffer? Because if they just want him dead, then Royal pulls a classic “James Bond villain” mistake in this issue. He could easily kill him, but he talks instead, letting the guy escape. I have to believe he only wants him dead, because he smashes into a heavily guarded facility with seemingly no plan to leave with him, so why not shoot him? Oh, Royal, you screwed up. Maybe Charles wants to be in on the kill as well, but if so, maybe they should both crash in on the facility. I don’t know. It just seems like a lame excuse to force the series to continue. Busiek hasn’t really told us what the Williamses plan to do with him, so I guess we’re supposed to assume they want to kill him slowly. If so, Royal had the perfect opportunity to tell him (and us) that he was taking him away, so his foolishness in letting the bad guy escape is at least understandable.

Anyway, it’s Astro City, which means it’s quality entertainment. And yes, that’s the Busiek-verse’s answer to Swamp Thing on the cover. Will it capture Mike Sterling’s heart like the original has? I doubt it. Still, he’s keen. Because he’s a plant with a moustache. Yes, that’s keen.

One panel of awesome:

He's like a 1970s porn actor ... um, if porn actors were giant plant creatures, I mean ...

He's like a 1970s porn actor ... um, if porn actors were giant plant creatures, I mean ...

BatmanandRobin7Batman and Robin #7 (“Blackest Night Part One: Pearly and the Pit”) by Grant “Like I care what MarkAndrew says about me!” Morrison (writer), Cameron Stewart (artist), Alex Sinclair (colorist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

As much as I didn’t loathe Philip Tan’s work on this comic, it’s still a relief to see Stewart, mainly because Stewart is really, really good. I still wonder why Morrison seems more Morrisony when he’s teamed with a good artist – that’s weird. The script shouldn’t be that influenced by the artist, should it? I’m talking about the actual dialogue – there’s no reason why Stewart, for instance, should make Morrison give us the nifty dialogue between the jailer (or, this being a veddy British comic, should that be “gaoler”?) and Batman or the dialogue between the Pearly King of Crime and Bats. But it sparkles in a way that the dialogue in the previous three issues didn’t. I don’t know enough about Morrison’s process to know how he writes, but while I can understand how the action scenes are choreographed better when he has a better artist, I don’t get why his dialogue seems to work better when he has a good artist, too. Strange.

While the dialogue in this book is very keen (I just love all the British supervillains that the God of All Comics throws out casually), the overall issue isn’t great. Without even getting into the fact that we know Bruce Wayne won’t be resurrected in this comic (although I suppose this could somehow lead into Morrison’s mini-series that brings him back), it’s still kind of disjointed. I know we’re supposed to trust our Great Bald God that everything will work out, but although I enjoyed this issue (mainly for Stewart’s art and the scenes before the end), it’s still a weirdly unexciting issue. Batwoman’s sudden appearance doesn’t help, because it’s such a weird place for her to show up. She doesn’t know she’s in England? Really? Bizarre.

Story continues below

But man, that glorious first action sequence is something, isn’t it? And if that’s not Michael Morice from Justice League Europe as the Queen’s Jailer, I’ll be sad. And I guess Batwoman is referring to Final Crisis at the end, right? Nice to know Morrison, at least, is still referencing that, even if no one else is. And I know the word balloons on page 19 are reversed, but I wish what each character is saying is really what Morrison meant for them to say. That would turn this book into a surreal masterpiece.

One panel of awesome:

I know our Dread Lord and Master already posted this, but dang, that's cool, ain't it?

I know our Dread Lord and Master already posted this, but dang, that's cool, ain't it?

Chew8Chew #8 (“International Flavor Part 3 of 5) by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Lisa Gonzalez (color flatterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

It’s the dreaded middle issue in a five-issue arc, which usually means everything slows down in between the insane opening and the hellacious climax, full of useless padding because the writer wants to fit it into a decent-sized trade. Man, I’m bitter, aren’t I? Layman avoids that to a degree, as there is less insanity and not a ton of hellaciousness in this issue, as Tony gets a bit sidetracked from his principal mission. He does, however, get to find out where a champion cockfighter is being kept, which is kind of fun. What makes the issue work is Guillory’s tremendous art (no surprise there) and the fact that Layman is getting better and better as a scripter, so the fact that the plot feels a bit trifling (Poyo will be back, claims the letters page, but not, it seems, in this story arc) doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of reading this. We get the return of a much beloved character (yes, after only 8 issues, this comic has beloved characters), a fun stand-off between Tony and his sheriff ally and some bad guys, and a fantastic final page that kickstarts the main plot once again. It’s the kind of thing that makes this such a fun book – I won’t give it away, but Guillory’s final page is stunning, and it shows once again that Layman is doing a really good job with plotting the book – I cannot wait to read issue #9. But Tony really has to work on his anger management issues, doesn’t he?

I’d like to point out that Layman’s cat died this week. If he’s reading this at all, I’d like to offer my sincere condolences. We’ve lost two cats in the past few years, and it’s always difficult. I hope he feels better.

One panel of awesome:

Behold ... Poyo!

Behold ... Poyo!

Detective861Detective Comics #861 (“Cutter Part 1 of 3″/”Pipeline Chapter Two Part Two”) by Greg Rucka (writer), Jock (artist, “Cutter”), Cully Hamner (artist, “Pipeline”), David Baron (colorist, “Cutter”), Dave McCaig (colorist, “Pipeline”), Todd Klein (letterer, “Cutter”), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer, “Pipeline”). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

J. H. Williams leaves the book (to work on a Batwoman ongoing, apparently) and Jock takes over, so we’ll see how that affects the praise of the book. When I didn’t list Detective as one of the best ongoing series of 2009, I did so because I just didn’t think Rucka’s writing was that strong. I’m more interested in writing than in art (I’ve gotten much more interested in art in the past few years, but I’m still a writing guy), and I just didn’t think Williams’ stunning art overcame the writing, which certainly isn’t bad, but isn’t anything great. Rucka’s writing on Stumptown, for instance, is better than that on Detective. It’s the same reason I didn’t have Asterios Polyp on a “best-of” list – was the art so, so brilliant that it overcame a fairly pedestrian story? Not to me. Your opinion may be different, of course.

So now that Jock, who is a very good artist but perhaps not as excellent as Williams, is on the book, what can we say about it? Well, we can say the same thing about it that has been true since Rucka started on the book again: It looks very good, but the story is fairly standard. Jock isn’t quite as astonishing as Williams, but he puts together a page very well, and his scratchy linework actually suits the gritty story very well, in a way that Williams’ more refined look may not have. And the final three pages (the split double-page spread showing Batman and Batwoman, both chasing different people in similar fashion and the final page, showing the construction of the girl Cutter wants) are gorgeous. But Rucka’s story is kind of dull. Maybe there will be something different about these criminals, but a kidnapper and a guy who cuts body parts off of women aren’t terribly interesting. Rucka falls into two very dull clichés in this issue: First of all, Cutter escapes for no discernible reason. Batwoman knocks him over and … he disappears? What happens? I’m serious – what happens in this sequence?

Story continues below

Rucka obviously can’t have Batwoman defeat the bad guy in the first issue, but the way he escapes is … bizarre. Is it a failing of the writer, or did the artist fail to translate the script correctly? Beats me. And then, later, we’re introduced to Kate’s cousin. Gee, you think she’s going to be a target very quickly? Out of all the young women in Gotham, he happens to choose Bette? I mean, I guess she vaguely knew one of the other victims, which might mean Cutter tracked her that way, but … it’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? It feels like a bad cop drama on NBC. Come on, Rucka! I will say, though, that I didn’t have a problem with the way Renee and Helena handled things in the back-up story. Greater good and all that. What’s Tot’s problem? It’s human trafficking, for crying out loud!

I’ll be here for the entire Cutter arc, at least. I think Rucka is leaving the book after that, perhaps for good. So it’s on probation. I do like Rucka as a writer, but it seems like the flaws in the book were overshadowed by Williams’ great art. Can Jock also cover them up?

One panel of awesome:

Yes, Helena Bertinelli is bad-ASS!

Yes, Helena Bertinelli is bad-ASS!

FantasticFour575Fantastic Four #575 (“Prime Elements 1: The Abandoned City of the High Evolutionary”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Dale Eaglesham (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

WARNING: I’m going to use vile language in this section. I’m going to use language that I rarely ever say, because I don’t like it. I don’t like when other people use it, and I think the world would be a better place if no one ever used the words again. But I’m going to type them, because I think it’s important. So just be warned: I’m going to use vile language. And I’m not going to write much about this particular issue of Fantastic Four. I’ll get my thoughts about that out of the way first: I’m glad Eaglesham’s back, because he’s very good, and as much as I think Hickman has some good ideas about this book, this issue was kind of messy, from the explanation of what’s happening in the High Evolutionary’s city to Ben’s abrupt change (I know what the explanation for the change is, but it happened instantly!) to the Mole Man’s inexplicable disappearance (Reed saying he “slithered back beneath the Earth” doesn’t help) to the undramatic way the city rises to the surface to Hickman relegating the aftermath of the city’s rise to a text page at the end – it’s messy. This is a four-part story arc (I think), so we’ll see how it plays out, but it’s a messy way to begin the story.

But I’m done writing about the issue itself. I want to deal with the fall-out from last issue, in which Valeria called Franklin a “retard.” I wrote at the time that it bugged me, because Valeria is supposed to be smarter than Reed is, so why would she use it? I also wrote that I know why Hickman does it – she needs to identify Franklin by a “pet word” so that it pays off later in the issue. But it’s still not a good word to use. I compared it to using the n-word to describe someone and whether that would be okay. I thought that Hickman could have used a better word to indicate what he wanted to indicate in the issue. In the comments, Dan pointed out that Val would have the maturity level of her age despite her intelligence, a point I’ll get back to. Matt S., a few comments later, wrote:

Don’t compare the r-word to the the n-word. It’s hyperbolic and devalues your argument. A word that can be considered comparable to “retard” is “bitch” in my view. Also, I hope you realize the irony of your commenting on the use of “retard” while using the word “rape” to prove a point in the same review.

Story continues below

And then Chris Tolworthy agreed with Dan: “This to me is the only thing that makes Val believable. Nobody is super perfect in EVERY area, especially not young children.”

I didn’t respond to Chris, because I felt I addressed it when I responded to Dan’s comment. I also addressed Matt’s:

Dan: I certainly think it’s appropriate for Val to act like a kid, but I wasn’t sure how she had been portrayed. I don’t often read FF. The only recent exposure I’ve had to Val is in Hickman’s brief run, and she’s been acting like a grown-up. If it’s well established that she’s super-duper intelligent but still acts like a child, that’s cool. That’s why I wasn’t too offended by it, just wondering!

Wow, Matt. I didn’t want to get into this too much, but how is is hyperbolic and devaluing my argument? It’s an insult and degrades the person using it and implies that someone who is actually retarded is somehow of less value than anyone else. That seems extremely comparable to the n-word. “Bitch,” as unpleasant as it is, suggests a behavior of someone that they can control – “You’re acting like a bitch.” “Retard” suggests that someone is just too dumb to live, and that’s why I’m annoyed by its usage. It’s very personal to me, of course, as my daughter is what you would call “retarded,” as her development has been slowed due to a brain injury. She’s “retarded,” but calling her a “retard” would be, to me, akin to calling someone the n-word – it would imply that she has less value as a human because she probably won’t contribute anything to society (she may, of course, but it will be a tough road for her). That’s why I don’t like it as an insult. I’m certainly not perfect and use words as insults that I probably shouldn’t, but I’m working on it!

As for using “rape” … I’m not sure what you mean. Rape is a definable action, and I’m not using it hyperbolically, like “George Lucas raped my childhood!” I think that’s a stupid way to use it, mainly because it devalues actual rape. I’m pointing out the disturbing trend toward more violence against women in comics and how it seems to happen in very popular titles. I hope more people read this issue of Fantastic Four and realize that you can have a dramatic comic that doesn’t feature rape or dismemberment. That’s what I meant.

And there I was prepared to leave it. Until this issue. Two people write letters to Marvel about Hickman’s use of “retard,” both taking him to task for it for pretty much the same reason I did. Hickman responds as you probably would expect him to:

Regarding Val. Yes, she is super-intelligent. However, emotionally and psychologically, she remains a toddler (one of the cool things about her as a character) … so she’s mostly id. And, in truth, this makes her behaviorally closer to someone like Johnny instead of Reed.

Now, like Johnny, this does not mean that she is not capable (or willing) of thinking about how her words or actions affect others … In fact, in that very issue (#574), she and Franklin commit an amazing act of compassion by helping Artie regain his ability to communicate — truly helping someone disabled.

In the face of her actions, I’m not sure how you can portray her words as anything other than the type of playful/mischievous/competitive/cruel behavior that exists between siblings of this age.

It’s just how kids talk.

It is. I hate it when other kids say mean things to my children. I hate it when my kids say bad things back, and I hate it when I have to punish them for it, but this is the world … and I choose to write characters that live and breathe – that act – like real people.

Because if this is going to be a book that matters … that really means something, then it has to be about a real family. A real family that loves each other not because of the good they do, but also in spite of the bad.

Story continues below

I wrote something that you didn’t like and it upset you. If that makes you angry with me, I completely respect that. But if you come here each month expecting something else of me, then there’s nothing I can do for you. I write how I write. It’s the only way I know to do it.

While I appreciate Hickman addressing this, I think there are some things wrong with this statement. He specifically calls Val a “toddler,” which is what on-line sources call her. I get that in the Marvel Universe, real ages are rarely used, but a “toddler”? Really? So she’s younger than my 4-year-old? Or is my daughter still a toddler? When I think toddler, I think someone who is not able to walk very well. Val might be super-intelligent, but does that mean her motor skills are highly advanced? She certainly doesn’t “move” (as much as people in comics move) like a 2- or even a 3-year-old. She looks like she’s about five. Let’s be generous and say she’s four. Even if she’s two, she’s more intelligent than everyone else, remember? So her communication skills are probably fairly highly developed, and she understands a great deal more than your average 4-year-old, right? Let’s use my daughter as an example. She gets angry at us or at people on television if they use the word “stupid,” because we’ve told her over and over again that you don’t call people stupid. She doesn’t understand the distinction between calling something “stupid” or even calling the actions of a person “stupid” (as in, “Why is Katee Sackhoff on 24 acting so stupidly?”) and calling the person stupid. We have told her so often that it’s not nice to say it that she gets mad at us if it slips through our lips. I cannot imagine her calling someone “stupid” without us around – she might, but from the way she acts when she hears it our presence makes me doubt it. She’s not that devious. She might be “mostly id,” in Hickman’s words, but she also understands that some things are hurtful and she shouldn’t say them. We have to tell her what they are, of course, and it takes a while, but she learns. And she’s a lot less intelligent than Valeria. My point is that kids learn. Pointing out that they’re kids isn’t an excuse.

And where would Valeria have learned that word? From other kids? Which other kids, pray tell? She doesn’t seem to hang out with other kids, and anyway, which kids would she hang out with? If she is indeed a “toddler,” she can’t go to a “normal” daycare because she’s too evolved for them. She probably doesn’t go to school, because she’s too smart. The only kids she seems to hang out with are Franklin, Artie, and Leech. Artie can’t talk. So she learned the word from Franklin or Leech? Maybe, but they don’t seem to hang out with a lot of external kids either. Did she learn it from her parents or Johnny or Ben? I find that difficult to believe. And if she heard it and used it, why wouldn’t her parents have told her it’s wrong? Do they not know she says it? Then that’s on them. When Hickman writes, “That’s just how kids talk,” I have to call bullshit. Kids talk the way their parents teach them to talk, especially one who’s relatively isolated like Valeria is. If Valeria talks like that, it’s because her parents don’t pay enough attention to how she’s talking. Especially if she’s as young as everyone claims she is. I’m sure my daughter will start saying things I don’t like when she goes off to kindergarten full-time, but after a year in pre-school with a bunch of other kids, she still doesn’t say much that’s disrespectful or insulting. When she does, it’s usually more selfish stuff – instead of asking nicely for something, she’ll demand it. And she doesn’t insult her sister even if she’s mad at her, because we’ve made it clear that we won’t tolerate it.

Story continues below

The problem with Hickman writing that, as I see it, is that he wants to have things both ways. I know he didn’t invent Valeria’s ridiculous precociousness, so I can let him off the hook somewhat, but it’s an issue with a lot of writers – they have no idea how to write different voices. Hickman writes that he has kids, so he knows that kids talk a lot differently than adults – but Val doesn’t. She talks like an adult, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it was because Jeph Loeb (who I believe turned Val into this kind of character) didn’t want to write a child. Loeb has kids, too, so why it’s so daunting is beyond me. It seems like writers don’t want to try to write like a child talks, so they ignore the differences. Hickman wants to write Valeria as a genius, but then falls back on the “she’s just a kid” excuse when she says something stupid. It doesn’t wash. Plus, he writes that if this book is about a family, then they love each other in spite of the bad. That’s all well and good, but given the dictates of a Marvel-published comic, we see very little child-rearing in Fantastic Four, because there’s no room for it. Valeria calls Franklin a “retard” and we never see if she does it in front of her parents (because she doesn’t know any better, right?) and how they respond. It’s completely non-contextual, and therefore we have to believe that Valeria says this to Franklin all the time – and that Reed and Sue are okay with it, or at least not paying attention. That’s really my problem with it (and I wrote in the original review that I wasn’t too put out by it, but Hickman’s defense made me reconsider, even though I’m still not too bent out of shape by it – I’m more distressed by his defense of it) – if Val doesn’t know any better, we have to conclude that no one has told her it’s a poor choice of words. And that gets back to the parents.

Matt S., in the original comments, said I shouldn’t equate it with the n-word. That’s ridiculous. “Retard” has a very specific, insulting connotation. People use it in other contexts – you can use a fire extinguisher to “retard” the flame, for instance – but I still think it’s akin to the two words I don’t use, nigger and cunt. When someone uses those words, they are very clearly equating the person to whom they are speaking with a certain group, and they see that group as less than human. I used to teach in an at-risk school, and I had many black kids and many Hispanic kids in my classes. They, and the white kids who were in there, often called each other niggers. They claimed, of course, that “nigga” is different from “nigger,” but I told them it wasn’t. I told them that by using that word, they were allowing other people to use it to describe them, and that it was originally an insult by racists to indicate that black people were less than human. This really didn’t give them pause, but my point stands – if friends call each other nigger, they have no right to bitch when some racist calls them that. They allowed it. I submit that it’s specifically meant to dehumanize the “other.” I don’t know the ethnicity of anyone who comments here except everyone’s favorite, T. T., in case you don’t know, is black. He might be a lightning rod for controversy, but he’s very intelligent and whether you agree with him or not (most people around here would say “not,” I’m guessing), he always thinks through his opinions and articulates them very clearly. T., I would think, would object to being called a “nigger.” It reduces everything he is (and granted, I don’t know too much about him, but I know some things) to a single, demeaning stereotype. It’s the same thing with cunt. That reduces women to a single sexual stereotype. It’s another vile word, because someone using it thinks of women solely as something to fuck – they’re not people, they’re holes. Consider our female contributors to this blog. They all are intelligent young ladies who have valid opinions about comics – whether you agree with them or not. If I call Kelly a “cunt,” that indicates that I have no interest in her thoughts, because I don’t see her as a person (I would also expect her to somehow reach right through the computer and rip my heart out through my mouth, and I wouldn’t blame her). When you can reduce someone like that, it’s far easier to do horrible things to them, because they’re not human. Calling someone a nigger or a woman a cunt is a step on the way to lynching and rape. If that sounds ridiculous to you, I’m sorry. Of course 99% of the people who call someone a nigger or cunt is not going to lynch or rape them (that statistic is just pulled out of my ass, in case you didn’t know), but people who lynch or rape others have that mindset. If you want to insult a woman, I can’t think of a worse one than cunt. Even calling someone stupid means that you look at them as a person – a stupid one, maybe, but still a person. Calling someone a cunt reduces them to a body part. Very ugly.

Story continues below

So what does this have to do “retard”? In much the same way, retard reduces a person. They’re “slow.” They can’t contribute anything to society. They drain the public weal because they need constant medical attention or special schooling. Why, exactly, do we need them? Wouldn’t it be easier if they all went away? Calling someone a “retard” makes them less than human, and who cares about getting rid of them then? Let me tell you something not many people like to talk about: My life would be a LOT easier if my older daughter weren’t around. It’s horrible to contemplate, but it’s true. But guess what? My life would be a lot sadder, too. And all children are like that. My life would be easier if my 4-year-old, who’s “neurologically typical,” wasn’t around – she’s a lot to handle. Everyone’s lives would be easier if all those old people weren’t draining our taxes with Medicare. And what about those smokers? Wouldn’t everyone’s life be easier without them around? Using terms like “retard” distances us from the humanity of the object, in the same way that nigger and cunt do. Some people, I’m sure, use it because they are completely uncomfortable around those who aren’t “normal.” It takes a great deal of time to get used to a developmentally disabled person. My daughter is seven-and-a-half and still in diapers. That takes some getting used to. But we’re humans – we adapt.

I do not think Hickman was thinking of all these things when he wrote “retard.” I think he was honestly doing what he explained he was doing – making Valeria more of a child. But that’s laziness. I certainly don’t want everyone in comics or movies or television of literature to use “correct” language all the time – that would be boring. But if Hickman is going to use language like that, he has to be aware of what he’s really doing. I can’t imagine he would have Valeria call Franklin “my nigger” – even though that’s the way many kids talk (yes, they’re older than the Richardses, but still – it’s the excuse Hickman uses!). He understands that it’s not something you use in a mass-market comic book, even if he’s striving for verisimilitude. He would, in other words, censor himself. I just wish he had thought a little more about this particular word choice, because, to me, it’s in the exact same ballpark. But that could just be me. Maybe I’m, you know, stooooopid.

One panel of awesome:

Eaglesham really does a nice job with that spread!

Eaglesham really does a nice job with that spread!

All right, I’m done. Let’s move on to actual reviews. Won’t that be fun?

Northlanders24Northlanders #24 (“The Plague Widow Part Four of Eight”) by Brian Wood (writer), Leandro Fernandez (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Hey, it’s a comic! Phew! One of the cool things about Wood’s writing (not only in this comic, but overall) is the way he reveals new layers of characters slowly, so that we form opinions about people and then get them upset by new revelations. In this issue, Gunborg, the thug of the first three issues, decides to strike out with some men to the next settlement to find out if the plague has struck there too, and if not, if they can lend some assistance. He does this in his typically brutish way, but it’s still a noble endeavor. We can guess at his motives, but it’s still something no one else is willing to take on, which is made clear the way his men give up after one brutal night among the wolves. Gunborg may be a scumbag, but no one can fault his bravery. It’s stuff like this that makes Wood’s writing so interesting. And, of course, the fact that someone is murdered in this issue, which will have serious complications for Hilda down the road, I imagine. It’s about to get somewhat nasty inside the settlement – well, even nastier, I suppose – and I’m looking forward to it.

As for Fernandez – I really can’t say enough about the excellent art. His vistas continue to be amazing, giving us both a sense of the isolation of the settlement and the close confines of the town itself. And Gunborg in his thick winter cloaks looks almost inhuman, which is part of the effectiveness of the story – how did Gunborg manage to make it through the snow and back? He must be something other than human! Fernandez conveys this nicely even though Wood doesn’t in the writing. It’s well done.

Story continues below

Ah, another good issue of Northlanders. Of course it is!

One panel of awesome:

Oh, Gunborg, you crazy bastard - don't ever change!

Oh, Gunborg, you crazy bastard - don't ever change!

SecretWarriors12Secret Warriors #12 by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Stefano Caselli (artist), Sunny Gho (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The other Hickman offering this week continues to puzzle me. I really want to like Secret Warriors, but it’s also a bit of a mess, as if Hickman can’t quite figure this idea of 22-page chapters out. Yes, this ends on a fairly decent cliffhanger. But it’s still a very slow burn, and it’s still a lot of people sitting around talking. Hickman’s ideas have always been ahead of his actual writing skills, and when your ideas falter a bit, it makes the flaws in the scripting all the more obvious, and I think that’s what’s happening with SW. Hickman can’t decide if this is a spy comic or not, so we get a lot of spy stuff (which is keen) mixed with bad guys wearing utterly ridiculous outfits because it’s a superhero book. Some writers (and artists) can get away with that, but it’s not working here. Ironically, it feels like Caselli is making the people look a bit too “realistic,” which makes their outfits look all the more ridiculous. We’re supposed to feel the menace when all the Hydra people get together and Gorgon talks about a traitor in their midst, but I just thinking how goofy they look. The art is good, but perhaps it doesn’t “fit” the book too well. Of course, if Hickman made up his mind about what book he’s writing, that would help, too. I mean, the first few pages, in which Gorgon fights the agents of Leviathan, is good stuff – Caselli does a marvelous job with the action. There are plenty of hints that Hickman knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s all leading to something, but it still feels off-kilter a bit. It’s hard to describe. I’ll see how “Wake the Beast” plays out and hope Hickman pulls it together. The first arc got me to stay with the book, but since then, it’s been flailing about a bit. We’ll see.

One panel of awesome:

That Gorgon - such a tough guy!

That Gorgon - such a tough guy!

UnknownDevilMadeFlesh4The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh #4 (of 4) by Mark Waid (writer), Minck Oosterveer (artist), Andres Lozano (colorist), Javier Suppa (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

I guess Waid has decided that this is going to be an “ongoing” in the way Hellboy is, or Atomic Robo; that is, a never-ending series of mini-series. That’s fine and dandy, especially if Oosterveer draws every “book,” but it’s kind of frustrating, because each ending so far has simply led directly into the next, and after this, I don’t know when the next chapter is coming out (at least after the first mini-series, we knew the next was following pretty directly). I’m not too put out by it, because Waid does allow Catherine to solve the mystery of the weird town in Alabama, which is nice. This feels more “complete” than the first mini-series does, probably because Waid knew the sequel was coming out almost right away (I don’t think there was even a month between them, although there might have been one) and therefore knew we wouldn’t have to wait. It’s a little bit of a strange strategy, but if it works for him, I say go for it!

Although Catherine largely solved the mystery last issue, in this issue we get to find out exactly what’s been going on, and we also get the explanation behind the fact that Catherine is supposed to be dead but isn’t. It moves the book into the metaphysical arena even more than the first mini-series did (and considering that one had Catherine visit the afterlife, that’s saying something), and I hope that Waid manages to bring it back to Earth a bit next time out – I enjoy the weirdness, but in small doses, and the fact that Catherine is a skeptic keeps things grounded a bit. Waid has done a good job balancing those two opposing forces, and this issue goes a bit wonky with the mysticism. I hope it goes the other way when he returns to the series. If, of course, he does.

Story continues below

One panel of awesome:

I love how her hallucinations are just kind of commonplace now

I love how her hallucinations are just kind of commonplace now

UnknownSoldier16Unknown Soldier #16 (“Dry Season Chapter Two”) by Joshua Dysart (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Oscar Celestini (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Pornsak Pichetshote has a nice post over on the Vertigo blog about Alberto Ponticelli’s process and how it’s changed since the first 12 issues. I’m not sure if I mentioned this last time out, but I think I like the old process better. In one regard, I agree that it makes this arc more “noir-ish,” which works with the story, as Dysart is telling a murder mystery that just happens to be set in a refugee camp. In another regard, the fact that Ponticelli is now doing the “modeling and tonal work” (to use Pichetshote’s words) means that the scratchiness of his earlier work is lost, as the art definitely looks “smoother.” I like the scratchiness because this is a gritty comic, one that takes place in the margins, as it were, even before we consider a great deal of it takes place in a desert. It shouldn’t have a sheen in any way, but Ponticelli’s new process gives it one, albeit not a gloss like some art has. It’s hard to describe it, because I’m not good at discussing art, but the camp in this arc looks less horrible – Ponticelli still gives us a sense of how poor the places are, but it looks less dirty and feels less awful, and it’s due mainly to the way he’s creating the art. It’s still very good art, but I think it doesn’t convey the abject sadness of the situation in Uganda. Dysart certainly doesn’t want to beat us over the head with it, so Ponticelli’s art was very good at helping us get a feeling for the way it is in Uganda. With this new process, we can intellectually understand the conditions under which the people live, but viscerally, it’s not as apparent. Too bad.

It’s fairly keen to see Moses being a doctor again as well as trying to solve the murder of the camp’s doctor. Dysart has a nice way of building the mystery while keeping the situation within the context of the civil war and advancing the general story. There’s the immediacy of the murder, but we’re always aware that things continue to happen in the outside world, and Dysart has done a good job blending the two. This arc, it seems, is much less about the war and more about Moses and what he’s going through, but because Moses’ situation dovetails well with the war, we still get plenty of politics, too. And I’m glad DC keeps letting Dysart update us on the situation in central Africa, because it gets so little coverage in the States. It’s good to learn more.

This continues to be a fascinating comic. Check out the link above, because it’s keen.

One panel of awesome:

Can't we all just get along?

Can't we all just get along?

XFactor201X-Factor #201 by Peter David (writer), Bing Cansino (penciler), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

You know, if you get past the bad puns and, with Cansino, the awful haircuts (what’s up with Mr. Fantastic?), Peter David continues to show how it’s done with regard to the single-issue format. David might not be the greatest writer (he’s very good, but is he great?), but he still knows how to make each issue an event, from the way he teases future events to the very nice ending, which confirms something we believed, but in a fun and surprising way. And hey – it’s detective work! Okay, Jamie doesn’t do a ton of it, but enough to lead him to the final page. This is the kind of book that just keeps chugging along – 52 issues and counting – and it’s enjoyable every month. David knows these characters very well, so they all have distinctive voices, and he does a good job writing conversations – they might be a bit smart-alecker than ones we have, but they sound like people talking, in a completely different way that Bendis characters sound like people talking. There’s not much to say about this issue – it moves everything along, and it’s fun to read. Isn’t that enough?

Story continues below

One panel of awesome:

Oh, those krazy kids!

Oh, those krazy kids!

Here’s some interesting news: J. D. Salinger has died. He was 91. I’ve actually never read The Catcher in the Rye and don’t have much desire to. Here’s something I don’t understand: Why does anyone know he’s dead? According to the article, his son announced it in a statement from his literary agents. But that’s not my question. Salinger probably didn’t care if anyone knew he was dead. When do you need to alert the world that someone is dead? Do they need a Wikipedia entry? I mean, did his son need to announce it to the world? It’s something I’ve thought about with regard to someone like Steve Ditko. Why did Salinger’s son need to announce it? If someone famous dies, usually a lot of people find out about it fairly soon. But Salinger lived in seclusion. What was the reason to announce his death? Anyway, requiescat in pace, Mr. Salinger.

In happier news, ABBA World opened in London this week. Man, if only I lived in London. I’d be there every day! I’m sure plenty of British comics creators were there. Maybe they can come by and tell us about the experience!

And now, let’s check out The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Zeroes And Ones” – Jesus Jones (1993)
2. “Under Attack” – ABBA (1982)
3. “A Lifetime” – P. M. Dawn (1995)
4. “We’re In This Together” – Nine Inch Nails (1999)
5. “Waterloo” – ABBA (1974)
6. “Never Satisfied” – Living Colour (1993)
7. “All My Little Words” – Magnetic Fields (1999)
8. “Outsider” – Chumbawamba (1997)
9. “Future Love Paradise” – Seal (1991)
10. “Come” – Prince (1994)

And how about we fire up some totally random lyrics?

“Walking for meditation
Watching television for as long as I want
People got science but makes no sense
Still can’t do anything for cutting out violence
When I think of something, it goes out to space
Then it comes back to me in another shape
We know we are not apes
But we could make sweet seedless grapes”

Man, that’s weird. But who is it?

Sorry for the rant today. I said it didn’t bother me too much, and then I launch into this. But the explanation for it bothered me more than the actual usage, so I figured I had to pontificate once again. Forgive me!


I’m pretty sure Val is only 3. That was stated in the first or second issue of Hickman’s run.

I’ve been on a message board before that wouldn’t let anyone use the word gay as an insult, but to them retard was fair play… their reasoning was that “retards can’t understand what the word means and that it’s an insult so it didn’t matter.” So after trying to explain to them why it was a lame excuse they wouldn’t accept it so I told them they were being “gay” and got kicked off the board.

Oh yeah, and comics. The two Hickman comics were the only two singles I bought this week. I’m really loving his Marvel output and can’t wait for SHIELD. Red Mass for Mars was good, but I can’t find any of his other Image work.
I’m trade waiting for Batman and Robin though.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 28, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I enjoy Secret Warriors a lot, but I keep feeling as if it’d work better as a prose narrative. So much of it is about subtle implication and indirect dialogue that the visuality of comics seems…superfluous, or wasted somehow.

@Joe H

Hickman’s Image stuff is awesome and available in trade. ‘The Nightly News’ and ‘Pax Romana’ smoke any of his Marvel stuff. And I really like Secret Warriors…

I’m just going to say, I agree that the use of the word “retard” probably shouldn’t be thrown around so much, especially in mainstream, all-ages comic books.

However, in the context of a small child calling another small child a “retard”, it’s honestly way, way more understandable than – for example – The Goddamn Batman calling Robin the same thing, because as an extremely-intelligent adult, Bruce Wayne should just know better. But, you know, Frank Miller. Anyway…

I think going at-length to the extreme you did forces Hickman into a far more negative light than he deserves, because really, be it a mistake or “lazy” or not, he had zero ill intentions and was only trying to make the kids sound like kids. Perhaps if he included a panel of Sue scolding Val for her choice of word, yes, that would have been more appropriate. But just picking-apart every single thing every single character says, and then doing the same when the man in question offers an honest explanation, seems a bit over-board.

But hey, by all means, if you feel passionate about it, go for it. I just hope you truly mean it when you said that you don’t want to see this kind of censorship ALL the time, because there must be lines drawn on both sides. Example, would it have been more appropriate for Val to call Franklin “dummy”? Because, if you get right down to it, calling someone a dummy is a cuter way to call them a retard. But it’s a word that’s no doubt easier on the senses and doesn’t rile-up these kind of arguments.

Just, you know, stuff to consider…or not.

I’m with you on the whole “retard” thing, Greg. It just doesn’t make any sense in the context of the series, and though it is a word still used by adolescents, I know that its usage is WAY down compared to when you or I or Hickman were kids. And it as the equivalent of the “n-word.” It’s hateful and ignorant.

Val is 3? She’s not drawn that way at all. More like 6 or 7 at the youngest.

Re: Morrison’s process: He uses a lot of place-filler dialogue in his scripts and then rewrites the dialogue after he sees the art. So it makes sense that a great artist would bring out the best in Morrison, while a Philip Tan would bring out the equivalent of a Philip Tan level of dialogue quality.

Read “Catcher in the Rye.”

“Jeph Loeb (who I believe turned Val into this kind of character) didn’t want to write a child.”

I’m pretty sure that Loeb only ever handled the character when she was the Claremont-created teenage version of herself from the future, not as a little kid. There were hints that she was *going to be* highly intelligent at various points in her early little-kid-version period, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t until Millar that the whole “smart as Reed and talking at a high-level and actually working with super-tech” take on the character really reached fruition.

(Note: anything involving the sucking-or-not status of the above authors is completely irrelevant to the point.)


January 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Fuck You Hickman!

Not really, but that was an interesting point.
I wonder about the C-bomb part though – although not tolerated in polite society, over here at least you hear it all the time – not for the meaning you give it though… I think it’s just a very rough sounding word, and so a favourite of those insulting someone.

David knows these characters very well, so they all have distinctive voices, and he does a good job writing conversations – they might be a bit smart-alecker than ones we have, but they sound like people talking,

Is Peter David the superhero writer version of David E Kelly?

On the vile language rant, I’m not sure I agree with your take on the C word – when I’ve heard it used to describe a person, that last thing I think of is female genitalia.

In fact, I’ve rarely seen/heard it directed at a female – on it’s own it takes on the same meaning as “asshole” (mean/cruel person, non-gender-specific), and when paired with an adjective becomes near meaningless (“Old c***” just means old person, mean-ness/cruel streak and gender not implied).


January 28, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I’ve actually never read The Catcher in the Rye and don’t have much desire to.

You really should fix that – it’s excellent.

Like reading a Wes Anderson film.


January 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm

There were hints that she was *going to be* highly intelligent at various points in her early little-kid-version period, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t until Millar that the whole “smart as Reed and talking at a high-level and actually working with super-tech” take on the character really reached fruition.

So he turned her into Jenny Quantum?

The character didn’t work in The Authority… why do it again?

X-Factor is consistently the best written X-book every month, and this has been true for years. And Peter David is the best writer at Marvel right now.

Funky: No idea, ask him. I was only talking about who did what, not why or whether or not it was good.

Andrew: you seem to be referring to the Brit usage of the c-word; in North America it’s pretty much strictly considered concentrated misogyny at its strongest.

Linking the word Retard and the word Nigger is not a good connection. Neither is linking it with Bitch. The real comparison I see is the word Midget. Both words are used to describe people with a certain medical condition (Being a midget or functional retardation), but are also applied to people with similar characteristics, though they don’t have the medical condition (a stupid or very short person). Now, you say that you have a retarded daughter, but you wouldn’t want her being called a Retard? Well, too f***ing bad, because she’s a retard, just like I’m a Jew. Before you disagree with the comparison, think about how Jew is immediately associated by skinheads with a greedy, subhuman sort of person. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m a Jew. And there are far more negative connotations to Jew in the deep south than there are to Retard. And Hickman certainly didn’t seem like he was affirming those negative connotations. He was having kids talk like kids (and yes, a toddler with an increased vocabulary but toddler level social intuition would have no problem using the word retard. There are kids at my Jewish Socialist Summer Camp who use gay as slang for lame. But they don’t mean harm by it, and that’s much more of a hot button issue. This also applies to the Midget/Little People thing going on. The PC word is now Little People, but for the life of me I can’t guess why, since it sounds so much more condescending than midget which ACCURATELY DESCRIBES THEIR MEDICAL CONDITION. Same deal with retard and “special” or “mentally challenged.” Sugar-coating the way we talk makes us a culture where we’re so goddamn afraid of stepping on each other’s toes that people are morbidly obese, not REALLY F***ING FAT. People are elderly, not old. And despite this, kids still use these things and always will. Hickman’s dialogue provides a much more realistic view of youth in America than your phobia of offense does.

Whew, flew off the handle a bit there. My apologies. But the point stands.

And here’s where your argument gets me. You begin by arguing that the word dehumanizes the subject. Fine. However, that’s how people talk. You then claim that you don’t want solely PC words in comics, but then you start arguing on a character continuity front and, here’s the thing, still cling to a moral high ground. You don’t get to do that when your primary point is character continuity for a character that’s undergone significant revision under many different creators. Just admit that the word offends you without jumping through so many hoops.

Two final comments:
First, Reed and Sue seem about the most hands-off parents possible (what with the S.H.I.E.L.D. and the science and the Galactus and all the things that would cause them to leave a genius level child alone for a while while they’re saving the world. Or they leave her with Johnny, who isn’t too mature.

And second, you taught your child not to insult anyone. At all? Really? Good luck to her whenever she makes it out to this funny little thing called the real world, which is full of ugly (in a moral sense) people who do ugly things and need to be insulted. It’s called quality control. For instance, Glenn Beck is a stupid f***ing idiot who needs to be dragged into the street, kneecapped, and punched in the head until his spasms subside and he lies broken and bloodied to be played with by the necrophile boys and used as a urinal by baboons in heat.

That got a little Spider Jerusalem.

Well, I’m off.

BMBG: I have a much bigger problem with Batman using it, to be honest. It really grates on me, even though I don’t read the book.

I may have been harsher than I meant to be with regard to Hickman, and I want to stress again that I certainly don’t think he was being mean-spirited when he used it. I really do think he was trying to make Val more of a child. I got the feeling his defense was kind of “Well, if you’re offended, too bad,” which rubbed me the wrong way a bit. I could be wrong, but that’s what I felt. If he didn’t understand why that might be a bad word to put in Val’s mouth and someone brought it up, he could have just apologized and said he wouldn’t do it again. It sounds like he’s trying to justify it, but I just don’t think it’s justifiable, even by saying “that’s how kids talk.” Again, I don’t buy that, because I’ve seen evidence. Especially, as Nawid said, she’s 3. I don’t think Val should have used any insulting term, unless Hickman had gone to great lengths to show that it was done jokingly and only with him. Heck, I probably wouldn’t have been too bothered by “retard” if he had laid the groundwork. I was more bothered by the fact that it came out of nowhere, because again, if she had done it before in the presence of her parents, I expect they would have stopped it. I still think Hickman could have used a different kind of marker to indicate what he wanted to indicate.

As for the c-word, I guess that’s a cultural thing. I hardly ever hear it here, and only as an ugly insult.

Tim: That’s cool to know about Morrison. And it explains a whole crapload, actually!

All right, I’ll read the book! Sheesh!

How did you get that Batwoman didn’t know she was in England? I figured she just didn’t know she was in that coal mine because she was tranquilized, put into a coffin, and probably transported from wherever she got beat up.

Yeah, I also don’t get where you got the “she didn’t know she was in England” part.

As for

And I guess Batwoman is referring to Final Crisis at the end, right?

I believe she’s referring to Blackest Night, which this issue I believe is nominally set after.

By the way, looking back at the issue again (to double check that Final Crisis vs. Blackest Night thing), I’m now convinced that it is the figures in the panel that are reversed and not the word balloons. Because even if you switch the word balloons, the panel STILL doesn’t make sense. So it’s got to be that the panel was somehow reversed before the word balloons were set.

“Calling someone a nigger or a woman a cunt is a step on the way to lynching and rape.”

Yeah…thats where you fell off your soapbox a bit and I drifted away from whatever you were saying.

The problem I had with the scene was that Val is suppose to be this Mary Sue character thats super smart and shit, so I don’t believe she would use the word “retard” like that. If it was just some kid, then I’d be like whatever and hope the PC crowd covers their ears so they aren’t offended.

There was a similar discussion back with Batman and Robin #6, when Damien was like “I was expecting scary, not gay”, and the PC crowd jumped up with “ZOMG HOMOPHOBIC REMARK MORRISON/DC IS SO IGNORANT BLARGH!”. Uh, he’s ten years old, and while also a genius like Val, behaves like a little kid all the time. He a whining, posturing, somewhat immature child, and its not out of character from him to causally throw around the word “gay” as an insult.


Cameron Stewart on MillarWorld said that they told him to switch Batman/woman around, and I guess there was some mix-up cuz they switched the word balloons too :/

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 28, 2010 at 9:33 pm

It’s your column (or blog): so pontificate away. That’s your right.

All we can do is read to agree or disagree. That’s our right.

I guess thinking Batwoman didn’t know she was in England was a bit of a leap from when she says “Where am I?” That’s my bad, but I do wish she didn’t come pretty much out of nowhere. But yeah, I guess she probably did know what country she’s in. As for the Blackest Night comment … whoops. I haven’t been reading it, so I forgot about it.

Aryeh: Why so angry? Why should we use outdated words to describe something? You’re Jewish, so you’re a Jew. People use “Jew” in many different contexts beside an insulting one. “Retard,” however, is almost exclusively used (when it’s a noun) as an insult. Just like the n-word. You make the point about the kids at your camp using “gay.” Okay. Where do they hear that sort of stuff? From adults. Kids learn from adults, and that’s all there is to it. If the adults are ignorant, the kids will be. You can rant all you want about political correctness, and that’s fine, but why should we use words that we know are hurtful when we can use different ones? For instance, my daughter, according to my wife, is not “retarded.” It’s such a general term to mean “slow” (which is, of course, the definition) that it’s inaccurate. My daughter has a traumatic brain injury. Why not use that? Because it’s harder when you know nothing about her – it’s so much easier to use “retarded.” Hey, that covers everything! But aren’t we supposed to be better than ignorant people?

I do agree with you that Reed and Sue are crappy parents. But again, it’s never addressed in the book. The only time we ever see them being parents they’re being all lovey with their kids. Kids don’t need brief moments of their parents being lovey with them. Kids need adult supervision and guidance. Valeria obviously isn’t getting that.

So I’m supposed to teach my daughter whom she’s allowed to insult? Really? The correct response to Glenn Beck (to use your example) is to ignore him. Insulting him adds fuel to his crazy arguments. I don’t want to live in your world. I’d rather teach my daughter to be respectful even when people are picking on her, and that insulting people makes her just as ignorant as they are. That’s what my parents taught me. It took me a while to learn it, but they did. I’m sure my daughter will use poor language, but that’s why she has adults in her life who don’t think that’s a very good way to live life. I’m perfectly happy that I don’t go around insulting people. I can’t imagine being so angry all the time that I want to do something like you suggest to Glenn Beck. Really? He’s insignificant, to be honest.

Jeremy: I’m sorry I went too far for you. C’est la vie. I actually didn’t have a problem with Damien saying that, because I think it’s been fairly well established that he’s immature and extremely arrogant. I can envision him saying something like that, and nobody had to say “That’s how kids talk.” No, that’s how DAMIEN talks, and that’s the difference. To say that a super-intelligent 3-year-old would talk like other kids is a bit disingenuous, and that’s my objection. Hickman hasn’t done enough with Val to make me believe that she’d talk like other kids.

Read “Catcher in the Rye.”

Don’t. It’s awful.

You really should fix that – it’s excellent.

Like reading a Wes Anderson film.

The hell it is. Vonnegut’s novels are more like Anderson films.

I don’t think I was the right age or mindset when I read Catcher, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Just my two cents. I’m a 39 year old Latino reader with an autistic son. Thank you for articulating my feelings so well. Rant on!


January 28, 2010 at 11:08 pm

The hell it is. Vonnegut’s novels are more like Anderson films.

I don’t think I was the right age or mindset when I read Catcher, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Blatantly you weren’t the right age or mindset, because it’s brilliant.

But really, a lot of Bottle Rockets, Rushmore and Tenenbaums are straight out of Catcher – Max Fischer is very close to Holden Caulfeld, Bottle Rocket has a character coming out of an experience close to that of Caulfeld at the end of Cather – it even has conversations echoing those in Catcher – and several of the Tenenbaum’s characters have echoes of characters found in Catcher.
There are still echoes in Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited, however, by that point, Wes is clearly moving away from his influence into his own territory.

You may not like the film, but denying the similarities between the work of Andersen and that novel is ludicrous – he has intentionally tried for them.

Other than Vonnegut’s lightness of tone, and an ironic viewpoint, though, of the two of his novels I’ve read – Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five – I don’t really see any influence or similarities at all.
(Actually a lie – the square island would be right at home in an Anderson film).


January 28, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Whew, flew off the handle a bit there. My apologies. But the point stands.

It doesn’t – it was a ridiculous point.

Basically I shouldn’t correct a kid who calls someone they think is a cheapskate a jew, because that’s how kids are, they don’t mean harm, and what can you do?

That got a little Spider Jerusalem.

Not even close.

It’s a stylistic and thematic thing for me with the Anderson/Vonnegut comparison; their direct, yet off-kilter delivery gives their audiences a sense of a warm layer of humorous humanism underneath a head of foamy cynicism. Sort of.

Maybe I would’ve loved Catcher as a depressed 14 or 16 year old or something, but it didn’t work for me as a depressed twentysomething. I hated the character of Holden Caulfield.

But I feel bad for disparaging Salinger; I don’t want to. I’ll surely read more of his stuff in the future. And his son Matt was Captain America in an awful movie that only I love. So points for that.


Sue and Reed being bad parents was addressed by JMS in the first arc of his year on FF. NYC child welfare studied the children’s home situation for a few issues. I don’t know the reasoning for the final verdict because I stopped buying comics in the middle of that run, but it has been touched on before.

The insult comparisons are ultimately a waste of time and energy. I shouldn’t have got into in the first place, but obviously these terms elicit a strong reaction in folks. It’s a waste because I think everyone (in the ideal situation) develops their perspective from personal experience and while testimonials can help paint a broader picture, it’s still just an accent to an individually-unique world view. Hickman writes from his. You write from yours. I write from mine. I’m sure that we all have personal evidence that lead us, and all the other commenters, to feel the way we do about this subject.

My last post was a complete clusterf***. My bad. I’m going to try to adress this in as organized a fashion as possible.

Your point: Calling someone a retard dehumanizes legitimately retarded people.
My point: No it doesn’t, because no one refers to functionally retarded people as retarded anymore; they call them “special” or “challenged.”

Your point: Retard is comparable to Nigger because both dehumanize the subjects.
My point: See above, and remember that Nigger has a long, convoluted history of racial tension and connotation behind it. Retard, to put not too fine a point on it, doesn’t. It went the route that midget is traveling. A specific term adapted for common use and rejected by the group it describes. Pretty simple.

Your point: Hickman should have censored himself, because you and a sizable group find casual use of that word acceptable, and Valeria would probably not use it.
My point: Welcome to the party. People have been using Retard as a casual derogatory term for so long it’s almost inapplicable to people like your daughter (despite that it indicates someone’s brain functions as retarded, or stunted). Hickman isn’t applying the term to that group, and in fact condemns its usage (making Val seem more childish). As for characterization, as I said before, Val has the vocabulary of a genius who lives with Reed Richards (who, as a scientist, probably has to use the term retarded every now and then) but has the social finesse of a girl her age. To her, this is the equivalent of calling her brother a butt-head.

Your point: I’m getting unnecessarily angry.
My point: Yeah, I am. It pisses me off a good deal when someone feels the need to keep society so clean and PC that they get angry because a derogatory term is used once. And jumping through logic hoops involving continuity to justify the offense they take at the use of that word, when in fact the use of that word was condemned in the story in the first place. Hm. Probably should have brought that up in my last post. When I get angry I get incoherent.

Your point: It’s ugly, and that’s how kids talk, but it should be censored.
My point: It’s ugly, and that’s how kids talk, but since it implies no malice towards the group in question, is fairly innocuous at this point in time. And again, there’s an element of condemnation towards that behavior.

FunkyGreenJerusalem’s point: You’re no Spider.
My point: I know. I’m certainly no Ellis, and certainly no Spider. But I was referring to some borrowed terminology from issue 4 in that last paragraph.

Your point: Glenn Beck should be ignored
My point: Maybe that’ll work. But maybe Glenn Beck speaks to a very large portion of our country that feeds on ignorance and rabble-rousing. Maybe ignoring that subset of right-wing conservatism will cause them to pack up or go home, or maybe they’ll use that lack of opposition to push forward shit like bans on gay marriage. See, there’s this funny thing called confronting the negative elements of society and working to eliminate them. And a big part of that is condemnation, and by extension, insults. Even the most peaceful protesters on record, Ghandi and MLK, did this thing where they said that religious strife and racism respectively are bad. And that the people who perpetrate them are ignorant. I might lean towards the psychopathic, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to condemn someone to stop them. And I know from personal experience that taking the higher ground in an argument and not pushing or throwing insults back is a fun way to get stepped all over by kids who might, I don’t know, pick on you for having a mentally defective sister. Just a thought.

Oh, and:

Your point: my Jew argument made no sense.
My point: You’re right!

See, there’s this funny thing called confronting the negative elements of society and working to eliminate them. And a big part of that is condemnation, and by extension, insults. Even the most peaceful protesters on record, Ghandi and MLK, did this thing where they said that religious strife and racism respectively are bad. And that the people who perpetrate them are ignorant. I might lean towards the psychopathic, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to condemn someone to stop them.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. … Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ”
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, Martin Luther King Jr., 1967

Is there a setting or something that adds asterisks to the word fuck?

I wasn’t talking about violence there. I was talking about confronting societal evils and challenging them with words. Which MLK undoubtedly did.

Apparently not.

I was juts doing it in my posts because I didn’t know the policy on swearing here. From henceforth I shall dorp the f-bomb in all of its unmitigated glory.

Anyhoo. Seeing as I don’t read FF and am completely unfamiliar with the character of Valeria, I guess I will have to throw this one out to the crowd: Notwithstanding the language issue, does she actually behave like a 4, 6, or 8 year old, or is she basically a small, brilliant adult?

Interesting read, Greg. I think you raise an important question here: Why IS Katee Sackhoff acting so stupidly on 24?

Salinger probably didn’t care if anyone knew he was dead. When do you need to alert the world that someone is dead? Do they need a Wikipedia entry? I mean, did his son need to announce it to the world?

I’m not myself a Salinger fan, I too have yet to read Catcher, although unlike you I do plan on getting to it one day (you can stop laughing now). However, there are obviously many other creators who I am fans of, and I would absolutely want to know if they had died. The last one that comes to mind is John Hughes, whose death touched me to a surprising degree, given I’m not a particularly emotional person (although Breakfast Club never fails to make me cry, although obviously only very manly tears). It is, I guess, a slightly absurd notion to feel some sort personal connection to someone who you have never, and I guess now will never meet, but it is I think a fundamental part of being a fan.

As you well know, Greg, in terms of what creators ‘owe’ their fans, many fans go way, way too far. However, at the same time, I don’t think that creators exactly owe their fans nothing either. To inform fans of a creator’s death is the very least that a creator’s estate could do for their fans, so I, in conclusion, I think the announcement was justified.

Interesting read, Greg. I think you raise an important question here: Why IS Katee Sackhoff acting so stupidly on 24?

She’s a supporting character on 24 having a personal sub-plot – it’s a requirement.

She’s a 3-year-old who behaves like a much older child (basically like a 10 or 11-year-old to my mind) due to super-smarts.

I think Hickman had Valeria call Franklin a retard not just to make her more of a child, but to depict her as a specific type of child. Hickman seems to me to be building up the idea that Valeria has quite a bit more of a mean/aggressive streak than her brother, who’s usually portrayed as well-meaning but immature at worst. Valeria is more likely to act out when she knows she can get away with it and clearly likes to boss her brother around– or, as we see in 574, belittle him.

I think what we’re supposed to take away from the incident is that Valeria is capable of being shockingly judgmental and condescending in a very casual, matter-of-fact way. Using softer terms would’ve defanged the character beat entirely. I notice her dialog is in a smaller font than usual in that balloon, or at least seems to be, so I think it’s explicitly supposed to be not loud enough for her parents to hear. Franklin seems used to it and not to take it very seriously, but I don’t think that indicates readers should be blowing it off, too.

Now, it is fair to say, “I don’t think I should have to read a word that I find revolting in a comic book, because I [live with / work with / sympathize with] disabled persons in my life and it only makes me think of wretched ugliness.” But there’s really no way to act upon that sort of thinking short of complaining to Marvel about the language ever appearing in books that aren’t clearly “adults only” material like the MAX line.

I will also point out here that I haven’t read Hickman’s defense of why he used the word, because I have a habit of not reading creator interviews, statements, and suchlike until after a run is completed. I don’t read materials like that until after a run is over, because I like my first reaction to a comic to basically consider the thing on its own terms. So if Hickman ever said at some point, “Valeria is totally not meant to look like a mean-spirited little brat by calling her brother that name,” well, I wouldn’t know!

It’s true, but Katee Sackhoff’s character goes beyond the call of duty with her dumbness. It’s like the writers’ gave her character a shovel and she’s whacking herself in the head with it as she digs her own grave.

Glenn Beck is a stupid f***ing idiot who needs to be dragged into the street, kneecapped, and punched in the head until his spasms subside and he lies broken and bloodied to be played with by the necrophile boys and used as a urinal by baboons in heat.

I wasn’t talking about violence there. I was talking about confronting societal evils and challenging them with words.

Riiiiight. Obviously words like “punched”, “kneecapped” and “necrophile”.

I realise, or perhaps I hope, that you don’t actually think those things, and were merely using empty hyperbole. I guess the problem that I have, or one of many, is that empty hyperbole is the stock-in-trade of blowhards like Glenn Beck, and the last thing that the American political landscape needs is excessive emotion in lieu of quiet reason. You can hardly speak like that and then go and accuse Glenn Beck of “rabble-rousing”.

There is a difference between ignoring Glenn Beck, and ignoring the community he represents. Yes, we should fight for, say, gay marriage, but that doesn’t mean that we have to engage Beck directly. Sure, that community exists, but Beck is at the very extreme of it, and he has views that go further than that of most of his listeners. Beck operates on pure emotion, defying all reason. He is not a target that can really be debated, other than calling for his violent death, and so is better ignored. Instead, there are many more moderate and more reasonable figures, who are probably much more influential than Beck, that we can actually engage with. Ultimately, if the fight against right-wing prejudice is going to be won, and I think it can be, then it is going to be won by addressing the moderates, who might listen and come to agree with you, and excluding the extremist, who will never listen and just drag you down to their level. To split the population into extreme right and extreme left is never going to help the left, and never going to help the country.

See, there’s this funny thing called confronting the negative elements of society and working to eliminate them. And a big part of that is condemnation, and by extension, insults.

But what do you mean “condemnation”? If you mean condemning the idea, then I absolutely agree with you. But if you mean condemning the person, then I think you go to far. And what do you mean by “insults”? Calling an idea ‘ignorant’ is deprecating, but I don’t know that I would call it an insult per se. Rather it is a statement of fact. I don’t think that insulting your opponents will get you anywhere, otehr than looking petty and over-emotional. Do you need to “condemn someone to stop them”? I don’t think I’ve ever read either MLK or Gandhi condemning anyone, let alone insulting them. As I pointed out earlier, MLK fought with love, not hate.

When you say “I know from personal experience that taking the higher ground in an argument and not pushing or throwing insults back is a fun way to get stepped all over by kids who might, I don’t know, pick on you for having a mentally defective sister” (it’s daughter, but anyway), you seem to be comparing the argument over, say, segregation or gay marriage to a schoolyard spat. And certainly in the hands of someone like Glenn Beck it is, because he has a childish mentality. I just don’t think we should adopt a childish mentality in response. It’s a shallow victory to be the best child, and it’s a shallow victory to ‘beat’ Beck, and not prejudice itself.

Hate the sin, Aryeh, and not the sinner.

I’m second-guessing myself even as I’m writing this, because I’m not sure that it needs to be said, but I’m going to say it anyway.

I think that the essential difference between the n-word and the r-word is that, by using the n-word, you are criticising someone, or something, for being black and by using the r-word criticising someone, or something, for lacking intelligence. To use the n-word as a criticism, then you are asserting that being black is in someway inferior, something that is not just morally repugnant, but scientifically inaccurate. However, to use the r-word, you are asserting that being unintelligent is in someway inferior, a sentiment that most seem to share.

How are we to judge a person? The right thing, I believe, would be to judge a person on how much good, or evil, that they do. In that case, a severely intellectually disabled person, although unlikely to do much good, is also unlikely to do much evil, and in that case would end up somewhere in the middle of the general population. Of course, that is not how we judge people, at least not the only way. On this very site, we laude our artistic heroes for their works of great intellectual merit, and criticise those who we feel have not met the bar. Can we congratulate intelligence without simultaneously criticising lack thereof?

A distinction may be made between calling a person a ‘retard’ and calling their actions ‘retarded’. However, it is, I believe, a distinction without difference. When, say, a co-worker of mine performs an action that is, in my belief, unintelligent, then I criticise them for being unintelligent (although not in those words and not to their face). Yet if a severely intellectually disabled person were to work at my work they would commit many unintelligent actions, and accrue much criticism for that. I can’t see that calling an action ‘retarded’ is anything other than calling it the action an action a retard would likely commit, and to criticise a person for acting like a retard would be to criticise retardedness itself.

Racial differences are, quite literally, cosmetic, so incorrect distinctions made on the basis of race are distinctions which need not, and should not, exist. Yet, while we continue to value intelligence, and I’m afraid that we must, then we must also denigrate the lack of intelligence. The n-word represents a concept that we can get rid of, while the r-word, unfortunately, does not.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 29, 2010 at 5:04 am

24 – where noone and nothing is what it seems to be.

24 – a high-tension series that runs on nitrogen and pushes their characters to extremely extraordinary and desperate measures.

24 – where Katee Sackhoff is far from the Starbuck character of Battlestar Galactica fame.

24 – Is Bauer’s gonna die this time? ;-)

I’m going to pass on the whole bad words things.
Some really great panels this week!
While reading both Batman and Robin and Detective, I had a moment where I tried to compare Jock and Stewarts drawing of Batwoman. I think I like Cameron Stewarts’ the best.
Is it just me, or does it seem that Jock could do a “better” job as an artist? His artwork always seems a bit rushed or intentionnaly stylized to looked like it was rushed. I just feel like he doesn’t do as good of a job as he could and it makes me sad. He’s a terrific artist.

Alain Champagne

January 29, 2010 at 5:31 am

I’m glad you brought up the value of intelligence thing, Ted.

I know the main article suggests not using the word idiot, but I gather people would rather see “Happy Birthday, idiot”?

I’m curious whether any emotional ‘retardations’ stir up the same sentiments. Anybody dislike the word psychopath? Or even the word child? When Val turns 4, I doubt anyone’ll make a big deal of “Happy Birthday, Psycho”.

Val’s got the brain. Franklin’s got the heart. Them’s the breaks. This issue made it extremely clear. Continuity goes on.

By the way, the main article’s argument that using the word nigger/nigga between friends enables racists to use the word hurtfully… Sorry, but this doesn’t make any sense. I’ve had enough words about words to know I won’t win anyone over, but intention *does* matter. I mean, what are words but vehicles for intention? I mean, I think it’s pretty clear Hickman doesn’t have any sort of anti-retard agenda, and if he’s guilty for using a word regardless of his intentions, then you and I are just as guitly.

Some final words: fat, ugly, weak. Ever use these words? They’re offensive to the fat, the ugly, the weak. I know it’s a stretch, but it’s got some truth to it, and I doubt you’ve complained about their appearance in comics.

Aryeh — Your argument pretty much falls apart when it turns out that “midget” has no basis in medicine or clinical terminology at all, but was instead put into widespread usage in referring to dwarfism by PT Barnum in advertising for his circus.

Check it out:


I think that if you went into an actual kindergarten with 5 year olds, or a classsroom with 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 year olds, you would find the word “retard” flying freely among the kids, despite the best efforts of teachers. I see that you don’t like the word, but it is hardly realistic to think any kid wouldn’t know it and use it.

Alain does bring up an interesting point. Intent is a huge factor in any form of communication. I mean if I tell someone “You don’t know what you’re doing,” it may sound mean and uncomplimentary and possibly offensive. But intent can make the meaning of that statement to a matter-of-fact comment from a teacher to a student just beginning their lessons. It could be a belittling comment between rivals. Or if said in a jokingly way it could be good natured ribbing from one friend to another.
So, if I call something hot does that mean I think that thing is attractive? Or does it have a high temperature? If I call someone dope am I using slang for stylish or do I think they’re foolish? If I call someone a fag does that mean I think they’re homosexual or are they annoying? Some people would argue that saying “fag” is different because it’s equating homosexuality with being annoying, but that logic implies all definitions are tied together and intent accounts for nothing.
And let’s say that there’s another language that uses, oh let’s say “spic,” as a word for “cool.” These people come over to America where “spic” is a derogatory word and keep using “spic” as “cool.” Are they being insensitive? And let’s say they find out what “spic” means in America. Are they allowed to keep using it? How about when they go back to their home country? What about someone learning the language? Is he allowed to say it when speaking that language?

There’s definitely not any clear cut answers (which is why I don’t mind censoring myself in front of people that might be offended by certain language), but I do think it is important to give the of intent of a word a good look before getting too hot blooded.

Food for thought: Idiot and moron also used to describe mental conditions as well, until they passed into common usage as insults. Retard may be going that way as well, for better or worse. That said, I think it’s a poor word for Val to use. If she’s smarter than Reed, as the series seems quite willing to jam down our throats, it should be apparent to her that retard is the sort of word used by mean-spirited kids who are not that smart themselves, and as such it’s kind of beneath her. “That’s how kids talk” isn’t a good excuse when your kid character is a supergenius that blows even the finest mind on the planet out of the water. While I think Hickman should have chosen his words better, as evidenced by the shitstorm here, I think it’s also disingenuous to assume he’s going around burning down Special Ed classes or the like. He was attempting some sort of accuracy, and while he may have failed, hyperbolic outrage is probably unwarranted.

Also, for what it’s worth, the actual issue this month? Kinda pissed me off. It had some good ideas at work but was really poorly paced. I mean, a bullet-point epilogue? Why not just give it a second issue so it could breathe. Still, The Thing stole the show.

Aryeh: there is no such thing as ‘legitimately retarded’. It is NOT a medical term. It is a slur, pure and simple.

It is unacceptable. It is just as unacceptable as the big N or gay as an insult.(Or Indian referring to someone not from India…etc. etc. )

When you argue AGAINST that (like your argument about little people vs midget) you are forgetting one simple thing: YOU don’t get to define what an insult is. The group who is being labelled does. Once it has been made clear, if you keep using that term, you are an asshole. Period.

Let me give you an example. I have red hair. I HATE the term ginger. Do I expect people to know that? No, because it is a personal thing. However, once I tell someone I hate that term, if they then use it to refer to me, they are an asshole.

Why do we call little people that? Because they take offense to older terms. Should they take offense to midget or dwarf or whatever? It doesn’t matter whether you or I think they should, simply that they do.

I once worked for a guy that claimed calling a seikh ‘towel-head’ was no different than calling him (who was a couple of generations away from England) a ‘limey’ (which he didn’t mind, therefore – in his mind – the seikh shouldn’t mind either).

To me this is just willful ignorance.

Now then, in context, is it okay for characters to use unacceptable language, since there are people who do (like Aryeh, possibly).

The problem here is the normalization of language. The more you see people or hear people use a word, it becomes more and more accepted. Would a 3 year old (that is so stupid. There is no way she is drawn and written as a 3 year-old. But what can you say… she is written differently from book to book) say something like that? Sure. Should the writer use it?

To me, it is okay to use it ONLY if she gets called on it. If she called Franklin that and then was told by an adult, or even Franklin, that she shouldn’t use that word, it could read as beleivable without being offensive.

Aryeh — Your argument pretty much falls apart when it turns out that “midget” has no basis in medicine or clinical terminology at all, but was instead put into widespread usage in referring to dwarfism by PT Barnum in advertising for his circus.

Check it out:


It would if the whole midget thing was a central part of my argument. It’s not, although thanks for pointing this out to me so I don’t mess up an argument with false information in the future.

Riiiiight. Obviously words like “punched”, “kneecapped” and “necrophile”.

Hey, pulling from a post I freely admitted was a clusterfuck. Yay for you. Use my coherent post only in the future. And incidentally, I do have some rage issues.

I just don’t think we should adopt a childish mentality in response.

My point is that insults aren’t necessarily childish, and teaching someone never to insult people can turn out very badly, because confrontation is a part of life. And I used Ghandi and MLK not as examples of my pro-insult stance but as examples that even the people farthest from it still use an element of condemnation. But that’s besides the point. Calling out people for being racist? That’s an insult. Should we not do it?

“She’s a supporting character on 24 having a personal sub-plot – it’s a requirement.”

Or, more simply, she’s a character on 24. ;-)

But did Val insult Franklin? I didn’t see that. I guesss it’s all in the context – one thing you can’t do while reading comics is “hear” the characters.
I mean, I call my best friend (a woman) dumbass and cunt all the time, and she calls me an asshole and fucker all the time. And it’s not an insult (or insulting) to her or me.
Like someone said above, if Val had said that to Franklin and Sue heard her and then said something to her THAT would’ve been that. But yeah, these guys are lousy parents. And Hickman SHOULD adress that if he wants to write a real family: Franklin is old enough and Val is smart enough to call Reed and Su on that.
One last thing, even though idealism is what precedes experience and cynicism is what follows, you should always tell your kids (like I do mine) what Jesse Custer’s dad told him: “You have to be a good guy. ‘Cause this world is just too full of bad guys”
See? Comics are fun, educational AND help you raise your children. :)
All the best to everyone,
Luis Jaime

I teach kids with autism. I’ve had to deal with some children who are very much aware of what the word “retard” means, after someone called them that. You can’t say, “oh, they don’t know they were insulted.”

It’s a derogatory word. Other students might say it in conversation, but they’ve learned not to say it around my students. Or laugh at or insult my students, at least when I’m there. I work in inner-city Boston, too, not a cozy suburb, and hear every other word in the book from the student population. Not retard, though. Children can be taught to speak respectfully, and it is a goal worth persuing.

The R word should not be used. Someone somewhere (maybe here) said the mentally handicapped don’t know when they are being insulted. I beg to differ. My friend’s step-daughter knows, and I’ve seen her react when someone says something unkind to her regarding her condition.

I’ve only used the C word in referring to a woman a couple times, and not even once concerning my ex wife. It’s a word I have stopped using a long time ago because I know it is hurtful.

Aryeh Harris — you sure come off as insensitive in your first post. What makes you such a hard person?

Salinger’s seclusion makes his death noteworthy. At some point he withdrew from the public spotlight and attempted to have all of his writings pulled from the marketplace. His 4 novels remained in print obviously, but he supposedly kept on writing. The story is that he has as many as 20 unreleased novels in his home, copies of which he has only shared with close freinds and family. Its been speculated that the world will see these novels only after Salinger’s death, so announcing it makes sense. Especially if the son stands to make money of it.

This is obviously part of a secret plan on Marvel’s part to make Valeria extremely unpopular so there won’t be any outcry when she’s erased from the continuity entirely.

(I would wager any amount of Latverian currency that Valeria’s existence is the second of the ‘genies’ that Joe Q wanted to rebottle… [the spider-marriage having been the first])

Funky: You have to read more Vonnegut. Specifically, “Breakfast of Champions”. Not only is it one of Vonnegut’s best novels, but it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read, period.

I downloaded and read #573 and #574 to get a feel for the book – I’m sorry, industry! – and while I share Burgas’ extreme dislike for the word and don’t think it’s appropriate for an all-ages comic, FF isn’t an all-ages comic. I would go as far as suggesting that its current ‘A’ (Which, confusingly, means 9 and older) rating is probably off the mark, too, considering #573 features a character stamping on a living brain followed by Banner Jr. punching them so hard their jaw is bloodily ripped off of their face.

Thanks, Greg, for your heartfelt words about the hateful term “retard.” I haven’t cared about the FF since about midway through Jimmy Carter’s presidency — for that matter, with every passing day I care less & less about comics in general (yay, depression!), *especially* new releases — but the use of the term in *any* context, in *any* medium, is one that a lot of people find hurtful. (For what it’s worth, I remember writing a letter back in the summer of ’83 — I recall the precise season & year only because it occurred while I was interning at the U. of Arizona Press — to Maximum Rocknroll objecting on pretty much identifical grounds to their record reviewers’ use of “retarded” as an all-purpose insult.)

Probably I wouldn’t care so much if my sister weren’t Down syndrome … but, y’know, she is.

So, again — thanks.

I tried Hickman’s Fantastic Four for the first time this week, and found it much like I found his Secret Warriors – a little confusing and cold. I’ve quite enjoyed his creator-owned work, but his Marvel stuff isn’t working for me and I have to agree with “messy” as part of the problem. I hadn’t seen any of Dale Eaglesham’s work in a while (Winick’s Green Lantern run, maybe?), but I was really impressed with his stuff here – I got a clean Kirby inked by Sinnott vibe from it.

This is the first time I thought the Question 2nd Feature outshined the Batwoman lead story in Detective. Not sure if it was Williams’ absence or a lackluster plot, but I thought the shorter story zinged and Hammer really shined. I’m going to be sad if this character/story/team stop being published regularly.

Also, freedom of speech is the bomb.

Also, all condolences, thoughts and prayers to John Layman. We just lost one a few weeks ago and it sucks. Hang in there – when you’re ready, adopt a shelter cat!

Here’s one thing I’ve found: intelligence and wisdom don’t necessarily overlap. They can, for sure. And great intelligence can greatly inform great wisdom. But they aren’t mutually inclusive by any means. In fact, great intelligence often doesn’t go with kindness, empathy, or goodness.

For a real life example, look at me. By pretty much any standard, my intelligence is well above average. I’m fairly well-read, widely educated, and have a knack for abstract thought and concepts. That said, I often make decisions that are unwise—many of which revolve around hurting other human beings with my, quote-unquote, thoughtless words. I can be both a bastard and a retard under their respective non-literal and quite hateful definitions. I know and care for people who are clinically retarded and think the world of some of them. And that hasn’t stopped me from carelessly using the colloquial pejorative related to their condition as an offhanded insult for people who don’t suffer in the way these friends do. I also have in careless moments said people were lame or dumb—though I know very well how difficult life has been made for my friends who are literally lame and can imagine the same for those who are literally dumb.

If I, being quite intelligent and having the wisdom of decades to guide me, still act carelessly, hurtfully, and sometimes even hatefully toward other humans, it makes perfect sense to me that a child (whether three or seven) no matter her intelligence could act as bad or worse. Valeria shouldn’t be excused for inadequacies, but as with recognizing the position of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, we should be able to understand where she’s coming from and maybe even why.

I’m going to remove myself from this discussion. I feel like I’m getting too invested in it, and to be honest I’ve done a pretty lousy job of organizing or supporting my arguments.

But, before I go:

From Rusty Priske

Aryeh: there is no such thing as ‘legitimately retarded’. It is NOT a medical term. It is a slur, pure and simple.





I’m late to the party here, but I had to throw in my two cents’ worth. Words have the power you give them. Someone above raised the question of how offended you would be if Val had called Franklin a dummy. How about idiot? Moron? Imbecile? The last three were, of course, legitimate medical terms for degrees of mental retardation. All of them took on more derogatory meaning, and so they were phased out of “polite” conversation. Retard was never a legitimate term, although of course retarded is. The point is that these words came to be regarded as rude or offensive, and so people phased them out unless they meant to use them as a blunt instrument to deliberately cause offense.

To me, the sentiment is much more important than the word. If I speculated as to your canine ancestry or inquired as to the marital status of your parents, I may not be using offensive words, but I’m clearly expressing the same sentiment. If I call you a no-good, lying, worthless excuse for a human being, is that worse than casually using a non-PC word when I’m talking to you?

Context is important, but even more important is whether or not you (the hearer) choose to be offended by the words you hear. When I talk to my parents about a movie they’ve seen, the first thing they mention is how many profanities were in it. “There were two D’s and 4 H’s, and even a GD!” I don’t even notice those things. I don’t use those words as a regular part of my vocabulary, but I don’t make it a point to be offended by them when I hear them. If someone uses profanity constantly, I find that annoying, and I’ll probably choose not to talk to him very often. But I’m not going to be bothered by casual use, as long as the sentiment behind the profanity (determined by tone and context) is not hurtful.

Once you say that a certain word should never be said, you give that word enormous power. So many comedians are foul-mouthed because they know that profanity elicits a reaction, and any reaction is better than no reaction for a performer. Once a word loses its shock value, it becomes just another word. There are many terms used in “polite” conversation today that would have been frightfully offensive in the past.

I can certainly sympathize with your sensitivity to the term retard. My pastor has a daughter who is functionally retarded, and he told my wife that he and his wife will sometimes (jokingly, and never in her presence) refer to her as a retard. I was shocked. Obviously they love their daughter, and would never think of insulting or demeaning her. But I think that was their way of owning her disability, in the same way that blacks use the n-word, and homosexuals use the word queer (now there’s a word that’s gone from normal to offensive to politically correct!). Once a group owns the term, it can’t be used to hurt them any more. However, those who want to hurt people who are different will always just find another word to use.

OK, so now I’m confused….

Am I still allowed to like “Cunty McCuntlips” as my favorite joke name?

Mayeb we should just come up with one word that’s derogatoty and offensive to EVERYONE, so there’s no debate.

Something like BELGIAN…….

And how about automatic spellcheck…??? jeesh, my typing blows…..

“And where would Valeria have learned that word? From other kids? Which other kids, pray tell? She doesn’t seem to hang out with other kids, and anyway, which kids would she hang out with? If she is indeed a “toddler,” she can’t go to a “normal” daycare because she’s too evolved for them. She probably doesn’t go to school, because she’s too smart. The only kids she seems to hang out with are Franklin, Artie, and Leech. Artie can’t talk. So she learned the word from Franklin or Leech? Maybe, but they don’t seem to hang out with a lot of external kids either.”

Well, Franklin hangs out with the Power Pack kids a lot, and it’s easy to imagine Jack Power using that word. So there you go.

“Hickman wants to write Valeria as a genius, but then falls back on the “she’s just a kid” excuse when she says something stupid. It doesn’t wash. Plus, he writes that if this book is about a family, then they love each other in spite of the bad. That’s all well and good, but given the dictates of a Marvel-published comic, we see very little child-rearing in Fantastic Four, because there’s no room for it.”

I honestly don’t see why one thing should be an obstacle to the other, and I don’t see the “she’s a kid” as an excuse at all. Having Val say stupid stuff, or as Hickman phrased it “playful/mischievous/competitive/cruel” stuff to her brother, IS writing her like a real kid. You mentioned that many writers don’t write kids like a child talks, but like it or not that IS how children talk to each other; kids do say mean things to each other, especially siblings. If we’re going to criticize writers who write children who speak like adults, then in the name of fairness we should give credit when a writer attempts to write children who speak like children, even if the children in question are saying reprehensible things. A young child calling her brother playful/competitive/cruel names is completely in-character. I saw that as a legitimate attempt to write a child like a child, but now Hickman is being criticized because he wrote a young child who talks as insensitively as a young child.

Maybe Hickman could defuse all the indignation that this word attracted by having Val’s parents tell her not to use that word again, the next time she does it. Because it would also be in-character for Susan to educate her kids, and it would be a great example of the “child-rearing” that as you pointed out is usually absent from the FF’s comics. But I don’t see how we can deny that children DO talk like that to each other. They’re just kids. Yes, Valeria is intelectually privileged, but sadly an advanced intelligence does not necessarily include an advanced sensitivity to other people’s feelings or an awareness of political correction. And in my opinion, showing that despite her intelligence Val isn’t perfect was a very interesting piece of characterization, that actually showed that a brilliant child would still say childish things (including calling her brother hurtful names). I thought it was an insightful way to express Val’s emotional age through her dialogue, and an effective way to write children as children.

"O" the Humanatee!

January 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

My feeling is that we’ve got to set Valeria’s word use in context. That context is one of Marvel’s best-known, longest-lasting titles, one that few people, unless they pay close, close attention to comic book ratings (I had no idea it was an “A” title, or even what an “A” rating means), would think to be anything other than a general-audience comic. That’s certainly how I, as an adult who’s been reading FF since childhood, read it, and why I and many others are bothered when we see graphic violence in general-audience comics. So the question isn’t whether kids in real life use the word retard; it’s whether the same standard is being applied to “retard” as to other terms that widely cause offense. I wonder if the commenters offering the “characterization” defense of the word would be equally accepting of using the N-word (even with a fairly innocuous context and pronunciation like “What up, my niggah?”) to depict character. The word “faggot” probably wouldn’t appear in a mainstream Marvel comic book unless the intention was to show that the character was an out-and-out (sorry, unintentional pun there) “bad guy” (or girl). (By the way, I disagree with Greg’s chastising his black students for their use of the word “nigga.” It’s their word to use as they wish, and if they accept it being used in the same way by other students, that’s their business. Just as I feel that when I and other Jews tell Jewish jokes it’s OK, but it may not be OK for others; it depends on who’s telling the jokes and how.)

The term “retard” is, or should be, well-known to be offensive to many people, for all the reasons discussed above; it’s not idiosyncratic to object to it. So the question for me is whether Hickman had an acceptable alternative that would achieve his desired ends. This discussion has actually made me appreciate more what Hickman was trying to do with the word – or at least what I hope he was trying to do. He says (in the quote above; I haven’t read his full reply), that it’s “just how kids talk.” But it also expresses – and maybe someone said this above – Valeria’s sense of superiority to and disdain for her less-smart brother. Not that it cannot also be a term of affectionate teasing – are any of us really unfamiliar with familial nicknames, or epithets in other contexts, that have multiple meanings and emotions behind them?

Could another term not so clearly offensive carry that quality of being a private nickname that carries some affection but is laced with disdain? I don’t see why she couldn’t call him “stupid,” “dope,” or something similar. Though Greg teaches his daughter not to call other people stupid, I suspect he wouldn’t have the same degree of objection if Valeria had used that term.

The key thing here appears to me to be the difference between, on the one hand, terms that label an individual’s temporary qualities or that an individual asserts about themself and, on the other, terms that imply that something is an inherent property of a person or that reduce a group to a particular attribute. Despite what a few people have said above, I think there’s a different force behind “That was a foolish thing you did” and “You’re a fool.” If a friend says seriously, “I’m a fool,” I will tell them that at worst they did something foolish. And if I say I’m a Jew, I’m asserting my Judaism as a central part of my identity. Another person saying the same thing about me is stating that _they_ see it as a central fact about me – an entirely different thing, even if they’re not insulting me. And there’s almost always a problem when anyone generalizes to the point of saying, “Jews [or worse, ‘the Jews”] are [or ‘do’] this ….” (Of course this doesn’t apply when the attribute is definitional. Saying “Jews hold Passover seders” isn’t offensive, even if not every individual Jew does.)

Of course these things can be colored by intent and context, but the “default” meaning is the central one. If I affectionately call a friend an asshole, I’m playing off the normal meaning, not using a completely different one. And you know what, I may also be feeling some disdain for him. Teasing is a very complicated thing. (Incidentally, there’s a field of linguistics called pragmatics that deals with how we generate these “indirect” meanings.)

“there’s this funny thing called confronting the negative elements of society and working to eliminate them.”

Yeah, like calling people out for using dehumanizing slurs, perhaps? You’re not a particularly intellectually rigorous individual, are you, Aryeh?

Anyway, the thing that annoys me most about Hickman’s FF is how buff Eaglesham draws Reed. He has veins jutting out of his massive, sculpted biceps! It’s just… wrong. The guy is a stretchy scientist, not Thor, for crying out loud.

"O" the Humanatee!

January 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Nick: I’m with you about Eaglesham’s Reed. And have you seen how Bing Cansino drew him in the latest X-Factor? Doesn’t Marvel use model sheets anymore? Johnny’s also a little buffer than he’s generally been shown.

I’m also a little perturbed by what a wide, square jaw Eaglesham gives Reed, and how flat Reed’s face sometimes looks. I wonder if he’s trying to evoke Kirby – but Eaglesham draws much more realistically than Kirby, and Kirby tended to draw everybody with wide faces. Also, and perhaps now I’m getting really picky, there’s something off about the way Eaglesham sometimes depicts Reed’s stretching. (Look at page 3, panel 1, of FF #575: Why is Reed flattening himself out?) It’s as if Eaglesham’s breaking some unstated rules about how Reed stretches. Not all stretchable characters stretch alike: Reed has never disguised himself as a piece of furniture like Plastic Man.

This is not a general critique of Eaglesham, who’s otherwise a very solid artist.


January 31, 2010 at 4:19 pm

It’s a stylistic and thematic thing for me with the Anderson/Vonnegut comparison; their direct, yet off-kilter delivery gives their audiences a sense of a warm layer of humorous humanism underneath a head of foamy cynicism. Sort of.

Maybe I would’ve loved Catcher as a depressed 14 or 16 year old or something, but it didn’t work for me as a depressed twentysomething. I hated the character of Holden Caulfield.

That’s what I feel with Anderson/Salinger similarities – on the surface, The Royal Tenenbaums is a hilarious colourful film full of crazy characters – where as if you get past the jokes and the sets, it’s a film about a family all having massive nervous breakdowns, all skirting around the edge of mass depression (it’s amazing only one of them tries to top themselves).

What I enjoyed about Cather, was that Caulfield was such a smug, self-serving prick – I can see why people love him as some sort of anti-hero, but like with Tenembaums, get past his one liners and humour, and it’s a kid utterly disconnected from the world around him, having a mental breakdown.
I wonder how people who see him as a hero reconcile that with the end where he’s in hospital recovering from his breakdown.

But I feel bad for disparaging Salinger; I don’t want to. I’ll surely read more of his stuff in the future. And his son Matt was Captain America in an awful movie that only I love. So points for that.

The plastic ears one from the 90’s?
That’s hilarious.

Hickman may be right to say that Val is simply speaking like kids do, but that’s not quite the point.

Others have already mentioned that there are plenty of other words that Marvel wouldn’t have published from Val’s mouth, even if kids would have used them. ‘Retard’, given its specific negative connotations should be considered as one of those.

To get the same, insulting pet name vibe, Hickman could just as easily have Val call Franklin a ‘dork’. The silly cunt.

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives