Tag Archives: controversy

Asian-American Creators in Comic Books As Of July 16th: 2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad

The last time I wrote a post that was titled in a similar format was back in 2013, which followed another the year before. Both were written because at the time events had occurred in the comic book industry that touched on LGBT representation. Given the fact that Western comic books don’t necessarily have a dearth of Asian creators [Gene Luen Yang, Annie Wu, and Jerome Opeña being just a few examples] it’s actually sort of surprising that it wasn’t until this week that I felt justified in putting together a similar post.

What’s unfortunate is, as you can probably tell by the title, that it’s not all good news. With that in mind I’m going to go with the classic “sandwich” delivery, with the positives buttressing a negative. That said, and without further ado-

Greg Pak’s Totally Awesome Hulk #15 Brings a Tear to My Eye

I should probably clarify that I have not read the 15th issue of Totally Awesome Hulk. That won’t actually hit stands until this upcoming October. That said, the cover was released in the Marvel NOW’s Previews Magazine this past Wednesday [with leaks hitting the internet a little earlier]. You can see the cover below in all of its glory-

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Cover art by Mukesh Singh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Clockwise from the very top of the cover is: Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel [Pakistani-American], Shang-Chi/Master of Kung Fu [Chinese], Amadeus Cho/Totally Awesome Hulk [Korean-American], presumably SHIELD Agent Jimmy Woo [Chinese-American], Cindy Moon/Silk [Korean-American], and lastly a character I can’t place who Bleeding Cool cites as being Winter Soldier [which I could not confirm through my own research].

What struck me was that this is a comic book cover from one of the the two major publishers [DC and Marvel] on which every one of the many characters depicted is Asian. It’s also not an established team of Asian heroes like Big Hero 6 [the film adaptation of which you know my exact feelings about]. This is especially notable in light of the fact that other comics like Sam Wilson: Captain America #10-

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Sam Wilson: Captain America #10. Written by Nick Spencer, illustrated by Angel Unzueta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cover art by Marguerite Sauvage.

-and the cover to Black Panther #7 [as seen on the right] communicate the ideas that a) Black heroes exist within this universe and b) just like in many real life situations, Black people can and do congregate together.

Even before these respective examples came to light most of these heroes were fairly recognizable by the public [Storm and Black Panther, Nick Fury Jr.], but they also shine light on the lesser-knowns [Misty Knight, Doctor Voodoo, Spectrum].

The cover to Totally Awesome Hulk #15 is the first major step in my recent memory to bring a similar awareness to Asian representation in comic books, and it’s very clear that a conscious decision was made by Greg Pak [a Korean-American himself] to do this. It’s no exaggeration that just seeing the cover made me emotional, and I cannot wait until October to get my hands on the issue.

Frank Cho Stirs Continues to Stir Up Controversy Over Wonder Woman Variant Covers

There’s no such thing as the perfect week.

Frank Cho, a Korean-American artist and the initial collaborator with Greg Pak on Totally Awesome Hulk [their similarities to the titular character further discussed here], announced two days ago that he would be walking off Wonder Woman as variant cover artist with Issue #6. Deciding to go to Bleeding Cool, Cho explained that:

“All the problem lies with [author] Greg Rucka.

EVERYONE loves my Wonder Woman covers and wants me to stay. Greg Rucka is the ONLY one who has any problem with covers. Greg Rucka has been trying to alter and censor my artwork since day one.

Greg Rucka thought my Wonder Woman #3 cover was vulgar and showed too much skin, and has been spearheading censorship, which is baffling since my Wonder Woman image is on model and shows the same amount of skin as the interior art, and it’s a VARIANT COVER and he should have no editorial control over it. (But he does. WTF?!!!)

I tried to play nice, not rock the boat and do my best on the covers, but Greg’s weird political agenda against me and my art has made that job impossible. Wonder Woman was the ONLY reason I came over to DC Comics.

To DC’s credit, especially [Art Director] Mark Chiarello, they have been very accommodating. But they are caught between a rock and a hard place.

I just wanted to be left alone and do my Wonder Woman variant covers in peace. But Greg Rucka is in a hostile power trip and causing unnecessary friction over variant covers.”

For those who are not familiar with comic book journalism websites, Bleeding Cool excels in tracking a lot of what goes on behind the scenes in the industry. That said, they’re also known for rumour-mongering, a practice with a so-so success rate. They have also devoted many an article to the artist’s last controversy over covers, noting each time one of the illustrations made its way online.

While Rucka has made no official response to Cho or to anyone else asking for comment save for the following tweet:

As far as an actual example of the “censorship” Cho is decrying, pictured below is the aforementioned cover to Wonder Woman #3, with the final cover on the left and the original art on the right:

frankchoww

Notably absent is the character’s panty line, shown on the right. Apart from the cropping, the art appears untouched.

It should be restated that Cho was not fired from the gig, but instead chose to leave of his own volition. As a creator doing work-for-hire the people at DC comics had every right to ask for edits to be made to whatever iss submitted to them. It was also his choice to approach the comic book journalism site most likened to a tabloid to announce the reasons behind this. The true irony is that the artist’s sensitivity over what occurred feels out of line with his approach to the outrage others have felt about his own work.

Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man #1: This Man of Steel is a Boy From Shanghai

Particularly worth spotlighting as the first-ever DC book I’ve decided to buy issue-to-issue, New Super-Man comes from the same writer of one of my favourite graphic novels, American Born Chinese. That book proved that Yang understands a lot of the innate conflict in being Asian-American, living your entire life in a country but never quite feeling like you fit in.

Cover art by Viktor Bogdanovic.

Cover art by Viktor Bogdanovic.

With that in mind, several months ago he wrote a blog post for the DC Comics site in which he admits almost immediately that “I’ve only visited China twice, so my understanding of Chinese culture is through echoes.” That said, he wants to do everything he can to make his portrayal of the character as authentic as possible, and the majority of the post spends time picking apart exactly how and why he landed on the name “Kenan Kong”.

It’s but one example of how committed he is to the authentic portrayals of Asians, and it can be strongly felt throughout that first issue, which was sold in comic stores everywhere this past Wednesday.


It’s my hope that this isn’t the last such blog post that I piece together, and that part of the reason for that will be even more Asian creators working in both mainstream and indie comics. While the news won’t always be positive, the dream is that with even more talent we’ll be able to see the best that they have to offer, especially in regards to pushing representation in my favourite medium.

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Angoulême, #OscarsSoWhite, and the Possibility of Change

I had initially planned on permanently shelving this blog post, for the most part due to the fact that I felt the two incidents I was comparing had come and gone, and I try to stay topical. Then recently Facebook notified me that Kate Winslet not boycotting the Oscars was trending, and just today that acclaimed director Steven Spielberg had some thoughts about the awards ceremony. It appears that a discussion that began with the continuing hashtag #OscarsSoWhite is far from over.

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I wanted to call Chris Rock the one bright spot in this upcoming Academy Awards, but the irony was too much.

This may surprise you, but the focus of this particular blog post isn’t race. It is about social justice in general, though [just because this pony has more than one trick doesn’t mean that he has a lot of them]. Social justice is ultimately concerned with change, a positive transformation of our society, and is more often than not battling against the presumption that this is impossible. I’m going to be covering two somewhat recent events, both surrounding awards shows, that prove it’s not. Continue reading

We’re Fighting For Our Rights, Not Yours: Suffragette and the Persistence of White Feminism

This month I got to go out and cast my vote in the Canadian federal election. I owe this privilege to women who came before me. Women who sacrificed their time, energy, and sometimes their lives because they believed that we deserved the same privileges as men. Because I’m thankful for the sacrifices those women made, I’m ecstatic to see a film coming out this month that celebrates those women and explores what they went through in order to win us the freedoms we have today.

However, if you have been paying attention to the way the film has been publicized, you may have heard about the controversy surrounding one of its marketing campaigns:

By wearing this particular quote on their shirts, these successful white actresses have demonstrated another instance of what many activists and bloggers have begun to call “white feminism”.  In her article, “This is What I Mean When I Say ‘White Feminism'”, Cate Young explains that

“White feminism is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is “one size-fits all” feminism, where middle class white women are the mould that others must fit.  It is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual white feminist, everywhere, always.”

We have seen several recent examples of white feminism play out in our pop culture, like the recent “feud” between Taylor Swift and Nicky Minaj or Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech. However, white feminism has negatively affected the lives of women of colour in more than just the pop culture arena. Consider our right to vote, for example. Continue reading

Je suis Miyazaki?

While the tragic terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo may be a month behind us, that doesn’t mean that a lot of people aren’t still talking about it.  Most recently, one of those people is (quite surprisingly, given his reclusive reputation) famed animator and all around wonderful human being Hayao Miyazaki.

Now if you don’t already know who this guy is, you are a deprived human being.  Go watch Spirited Away, seriously.  The guy is responsible for some of the most beautiful, creative, and thought-provoking animated films of our age.  He also has some great stuff to say about the state of animation in his home country of Japan.

But anyway, Charlie Hebdo.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, a quick summary:  the aforementioned French satirical paper often featured crude, insulting cartoons mocking various religions, and recently contained a few choice ‘toons about the prophet Muhammad, which then sparked a brutal terrorist attack in which 12 of its staff were killed.  Since then, sales of the periodical have skyrocketed, and many have marched in support of Charlie Hebdo under the banner of “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”).  All in all, the victims have been seen as martyrs for “free speech.”

And what does Miyazaki have to say about all of this?  Well, basically, that the Charlie Hebdo comics were a “mistake.”

Clearly, this will not sit well with many.  But hey, let’s let the man explain.

“For me, I think it’s a mistake to make caricatures of what different cultures worship […] It’s a good idea to stop doing that.”

[via Kotaku‘s translation from Yahoo! News].”

So basically… He wants people to be respectful of the dearly held beliefs of others.

Continue reading

Neil Young and the Tar Sands

On January 12, 2014 Canadian singer Neil Young spoke out against the Alberta Tar Sands on his “Honour the Treaties” tour to “raise money for the legal fight against the expansion of the Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta and other similar projects, in Toronto.” I’ve included the video for you to see for yourself below. 


Since deciding to speak out Young has been under a considerable amount of criticism. A radio station in Fort McMurray has responded with a “No Neil” day. They’ve been trying to get the #notawasteland hashtag trending on twitter and banned his music on their station. One of my favorite journalists (that’s sarcasm, FYI), Rex Murphy, insists that Young is a “man who cannot distinguish the nuclear bombing of city from a worksite [and] is plainly in need of rest and instruction.”  A spokesperson for the Canadian government responded by saying that “Even the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day.”

I first heard about Young’s controversial statement on CBC radio as the host asked callers to respond with their opinion. The reoccurring theme coming from callers seemed to be “what does he know”. As a young person I found it especially frustrating when callers would insist that youth would now follow Young’s cause in droves, because you know us young people, we just do whatever celebrities tell us to. Continue reading

Fame Day: The NBA

Let me just be clear, I am a non-consensual basketball watcher. In fact, I’m not really a fan of team sports at all. My only involvement with basketball in high school was the time I was convinced to sign up as manager, and that was only so that I could go on awesome trips with my much more sporty friends, not out of any interest for the game.

Despite my aversion to team sports I somehow ended up with a guy who loves basketball. I’m pretty sure he hid this fact from me until I was in too deep to run away. In fact, when we first met I thought he was this smart, intense, skinny nerd… which was mostly true. What I didn’t know was that he was sick at the time, so later, after we had been dating a little while (and my mom had been feeding him extensively), he started getting back into sports and putting on a lot more muscle. So what’s a girl to do? In the end, I sacrificially chose to continue loving him in spite of his newly toned body.

Anyways, since we have been married I’ve somehow ended up watching a lot more basketball. I think part of this is because we are both students and we spend a fair bit of time doing this:

Continue reading

Django and the N-Word

Let me begin by explaining that this is not a review of the simultaneously acclaimed and decried 2012 Tarantino blood-fest. You want to hear one of those, I’d recommend clicking over to Spill or The Escapist’s “Escape to the Movies.” No, what I want to talk about are some specific elements and segments of the film which have become points of contention, controversy, and debate in the past weeks.

Let’s start with the most obvious:

I. Saying “Nigger” Every Other Word

I won’t claim to know your stance on the word “Nigger”- heck, I’m not even sure of my own stance. Perhaps you view the term as so degrading and reprehensible as to merit burning it from spoken language. Perhaps you believe that appropriating and using the word strips it of its power to even be used as an insult. Maybe you see it as being purely contextual- a term of address with audience and a terrible insult with another.

It’s all Elmo ever thinks about

There are probably strong points to be made on all sides, but perhaps the stance you cannot take is that the use of the word “nigger” was inappropriate for the movie.

Now before you take up the battle-cry of “Tarantino is just trying to shock us!” or “Tarantino uses the word excessively in his other movies!” I have to say this.

You’re right.

It’s Tarantino; that’s not an excuse, that’s a fact. You wanna take up his use of the word in other films, then that’s part of the whole debate mentioned above. Simple truth of the matter is that this use of the word “nigger” would still be controversial if the film had been made by anyone else. So let’s talk about it.

Let’s assume that this movie, with selfish or noble intent, is trying to demonstrate a glimpse of the world in question; the use of that word is almost bound to come up. I might throw out the example of Mark Twain’s classic novel Huckleberry Finn, and while by sheer volume Django probably has Huck beat for use of the word, by percentage I’d posit the two are pretty evenly matched. The escaped slave Jim is repeatedly and almost exclusively referred to as “Nigger Jim,” as are the other black characters in the book. Now Twain was anti-slavery and used that word to demonstrate the dehumanization of African Americans (which is why taking the word out of versions of the book is so dumb), as well as reflect the general use of the word. Now I’m admittedly no historian, but if the writings of Twain and other authors are any indication of the times, I wouldn’t say the film is quite so far off as some critics might suggest.

And speaking of historical accuracy…

II. The KKK, or Lack Thereof

There is a scene in the film during which a group of men wearing white sacks over their heads attempt to stage an attack on Django and Schultz. New Yorker contributor Jelani Cobb writes “Tarantino depicts the K.K.K. a decade prior to its actual formation in order to thoroughly ridicule its members’ (literally) veiled racism.” While that scene was (in my own opinion) side-splittingly hilarious, Jelani, and many others, are dead wrong in assuming that this scene depicted historical inaccuracy.

Take this section from Huckleberry Finn:

Why don’t your juries hang murderers? Because they’re afraid the man’s friends will shoot them in the back, in the dark — and it’s just what they WOULD do.

“So they always acquit; and then a MAN goes in the night, with a hundred masked cowards at his back and lynches the rascal. Your mistake is, that you didn’t bring a man with you; that’s one mistake, and the other is that you didn’t come in the dark and fetch your masks.

Again, this is a Tarantino movie set in a Tarantino universe. That’s not a defense, simply, as I’ve already stated, a fact. If you’re looking for a historical account of the pre-war South, a spaghetti-western revenge flick probably ain’t the best place to look for it. There are going to be certain inaccuracies, and there are going to be things the filmmaker has to get right- but all of that is beside the point (which we’ll get to in a minute). All of that’s to say if you’re gonna try to criticize (or praise) the movie’s deviation from historical truth, make sure you’re (1) doing it for the right reason and (2) that you’re critique is actually right.

III. Samuel L. Jackson as Uncle Tom

In Django, Samuel L. Jackson plays the role of the villain’s head-slave Stephen, who isn’t so much a character as a caricature of the most groveling, snivelling Uncle Tom you will ever see or even imagine. This guy makes Uncle Ruckus look like Eldridge Cleaver.

You are guaranteed one genuine Gordon hug if you know who Eldridge Cleaver is.

I’ve heard people call this portrayal offensive, bordering on “black-face” in its depiction of stereotypical “black” mannerisms. It’s exactly for that reason that I didn’t have a problem with the character.

I really have no reason for putting this gif in here…

See, the entire point is to make fun of the guy- and not just him, but the quisling slaves that did indeed exist. I don’t think that this portrayal robbed the film of the gravity of slavery anymore than Bugs Bunny foiling a cartoonized Hitler robbed WWII of it’s gravity.

Now let’s get right to it-

IV. The Horror, The Horror

LA Times journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan said this of Django’s depiction of slavery: “It is an institution whose horrors need no exaggerating, yet Django does exactly that…”

This is a flat-out falsehood.

If Django Unchained exaggerated the horrors of the slavery, if the film depicted one one-hundredth of the horrors of slavery, I will never write again. Despite the allegations of this critic, the truth of the matter is that we could depict the institution of slavery for a century and be no closer to depicting an ounce the inhumanity of it all than when we first started. Does the film exaggerate slavery? Absolutely not. Does it make light of it? Certainly this was a concern of mine going into the movie, but having seen it, I really don’t think it can be faulted there either. The film does, I believe, make a distinct effort to show slavery as brutish and ugly as possible. Or, at the very least, the slavery scenes; this is, after all, a revenge movie first and foremost.

V. The Point

That’s the thing I feel most people are missing here. This ins’t a movie about slavery, this is a movie with slavery in it. It’s a revenge film in which one sorely persecuted character dispenses well-deserved justice upon his persecutors and we all nod our heads in approval and feel a sense of pride and joy well up as we look into this fantasy where the bad guy does get what’s coming to him. Slavery is the backdrop, not the subject, of the movie, but it’s just such a major issue that most of us are getting hung up on it. The equivalent might be bashing a western on the basis that the actual “wild west” was pretty peaceful- factually true, but still missing the goal of the story.

No, this is not a historically accurate film. No, it doesn’t capture the horror of slavery. No, it doesn’t even try to wrestle with it. No, it’s not a discussion of our checkered heritage. No, it’s not the film to drag that dark, bloody history out into the light of day.

But damn it, it’s a start.