Thursday, March 30, 2006

Kevin J Taylor

Prep Time Posse is a little different. The fact that we all love comics and its many shapes and forms is one of the reasons why we formed this little cabal of miscreants. Now my goal was to track down some of my favorite artists and get a little insight into how they go about creating the things they do. So when I first contacted Mr. Taylor and he was down to do this interview I was what the kids say, "geeked". Despite my fanboy gushing over his works Kev was super cool and urbane. The guy has a wit and style that really shows in his work, something that can't be said about a lot of artists today.

Now for all those faint of heart lets get this out in the open; KJT's books aren't for the kiddies, they're for grown folks. Some will complain that its sexist, misogynistic, and pornographic, well it could be, its what you take from it. To me his work is art plain and simple.Kev is one of my favorite artist in the medium and he's one of the best erotic artist in the business. To me he's the American equivalent to artists like Serpieri and Manara, except "rawer". So for all you "18 and overs" out there do yourself a favor when you finish reading this interview. First clean yourself off then click on over to and buy some the man's graphic novels and art books.

MM: I really appreciate you being able to take some time out and have a talk with the PTP blog. First I'd like to ask you to give a little personal background information/bio about yourself. Where did you grow up how did you get introduced to art?

KJT: I was born in Brooklyn but I grew up in Harlem in the Polo Grounds, right across from the Rucker basketball park. I guess I got into art and drawing from watching cartoons and picking up comic books.

MM: How and when did you decide you wanted to make comics?

KJT: In junior high school two other artist friends and I were the only wanna be comic artists in the school, so we created our own by folding sheets of typing paper in half and writing and drawing our own stories and characters, which were just rip-offs of the Marvel and DC heroes.

MM: Who are some of your favorite creators in the industry, who has influenced you?

KJT: I don't have any current favorites in comics but as far as influences in the early stages, there was Gil Kane, Barry Windsor Smith, Billy Graham and Neal Adams. Over the years I've focused on artists outside the industry, like the fantasy painters and soon I began studying European comic artists whom I have more in common with than the American artists as far as how my books look sequentially.

MM: How did you break into the industry?

KJT: While working in several animation studios I wrote and illustrated my first book "Model By Day" and sent copies around to several independent companies. After almost a year and a few "Not at this time" notices, Rip Off Press picked it up, and that was the beginning.

MM: Did you ever want to do mainstream books for the Big 2 or were you only interested in putting out creator owned titles?

KJT: Most artists that were into comics started out wanting to work on the characters of Marvel and DC mainly because it seemed an easier way to get into comics. But the talent in those companies were so inbred it led artists to finding ways of publishing themselves. Now it's the other way around, once you have a successful self published book. My books have done well, but because of the adult genre, I've never been invited to work for other publishers and that's fine by me. I like the fact that I own everything that I've ever done.

MM: I see on your site and in your art books (Foreplay and Body by Taylor) that you get a lot of commissioned work. Do you like doing these works more than your comic related stuff or are they equally enjoyable?

KJT: Commissioned work helps to pay the bills. Doing comic books and graphic novels is grinding, especially since I do everything myself. They're both gratifying in their own way but both require a different mindset.

MM: Your work is extremely erotic to say the least. Some would call it pornographic. How would you describe or classify it? Have publishers ever told you to tone it down? Do you ever find yourself doing any self-censoring?

KJT: I don't try to describe or classify my work-I'd rather leave that to everyone else. I'm an artist. Bang. Art is what the audience brings to it, what people have been taught or convinced what "art" is supposed to be. It's just too bad that nowadays skill doesn't seem to be a requirement in a lot of so called "art".

I've never been asked by anyone to tone it down-in fact, publishers and fans have been constantly asking me to "amp it up". As far as censoring myself, people expect to see hardcore sex in most of my books so there's no need for censoring. But I do have to edit the scenes in order to keep the story moving. I can't make any sense out of other adult comics that have ten or twelve pages of nothing but close ups of penetration shots. There are only so many ways you can draw a dick going into an orifice. Believe me, I've tried them all.

MM: Could you describe your creative process? How do you go about creating a commissioned piece versus you doing a Girl graphic novel? Do you use models? What are your preferred media to work in? I know from your comics and art books that you use very traditional media like markers, watercolor and inks but have you experimented with non-traditional ones like computers or programs like Photoshop or Painter?

KJT: Doing a commissioned work has its difficulties in that I have to get a story or mood across in one image-in a graphic novel I have several pages to build on in order to get a point across to move the story along. I can't describe my creative process except to say I begin knowing how I want the piece to end and I'll just have to work towards that. My creative process isn't confined within any time frame-it's a never ending dilemma. With models, I use them when I have time-they're fun to work with. I use mostly water based media in my published work, but I've experimented in just about everything. I never know what I may feel like using at any given time. At this time, I've never experimented with computer art because I have no use for it. I prefer painting with brushes as opposed to clicking and dragging. Maybe in the future, but right now I only need my computer to answer e-mails and to check out those pop-up ads for "transvestite bikini waxing" products. (Trust me, I only look. There are a lotta freaky people out there.)

MM: Your dialogue tends to be extremely real and very raw. I remember reading certain parts of Body Heat and thinking, "This guy must be black", because the dialogue seemed very authentic. I think very few writers can write convincing urban (for lack of a better term) slang and not sound contrived or completely corny. Your work sounds, feels, and reads as being very real. Do you think to non-urban readers 'get' all of the dialogue?

KJT: As a writer, you're inviting the audience into your world,
or into the world and characters that you've created. You can't really be concerned with catering to any particular audience, unless that's your main goal because if the audience is into the work long enough, they'll catch on and understand the language of the work. But I do put in phrases that even my publisher doesn't get. Like in the third volume of GIRL: The Second Coming, Jaleira says to Jill "Jilla, please." My publisher thought it was a typo until I let him know that sometimes my characters only speak in typo's.

MM: In hunting down some of your more rare books (Kama Sutra and Lust) I've noticed you seem to have a huge following in Spain and I would assume other European countries as well. You have a lot of your works reprinted under the Coleccion X and the Kiss books. How is your work embraced overseas? Do you have a bigger following in the European market? If so why do you think that's the case?

KJT: So far my work has been published in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian, not to mention some illegal magazine in Swedish. I'm currently working on other possibilities in other countries. My work does well overseas
and the fans have a different respect for it that I admire. There's not a bigger following there, but it's out in the open more than it is in the states.

MM: Tell us about your most famous, and one of my favorite characters, Girl. Is Girl/Jaleira based on a real person or an amalgam of real people? What do you find women's reaction to her tend to be? What do you find is women's reactions to your work in general?

KJT: Jaleira was initially based on a girl I saw one summer day in downtown New York. I recreated her look from memory as best I could a year later, especially her clothes, in the first pages of the first chapter of "The Girl". Over the years, her looks were altered along with my idea of her.

Women's reaction to Jaleira has been positive, once they got past Jaleira's looks and their own insecurities and focused on the stories. Women seem to like the way my female characters speak and the fact that they're in control of sexual situations, and in particular the way I depict body language and interaction. For the most part, women prefer my stories over my individual paintings and that's fine with me. I've gotten letters from guys and I've even met a few men that have told me that some of my books have gotten them laid. I'm not sure how true any of that is but, if so, it's a hell of a good reason to leave one of my books lying around.

MM: How many more Girl: The Second Coming books can we expect?

KJT: At the moment I'm working on the fourth and final volume of Second Coming. After that, I'll work on something else. Right now I'm not sure if it will be "Girl" related.

MM: Are you ever going to revisit your other characters? Will we ever see another Fang or Model by Day?

KJT: I would eventually like to revisit both FANG and MODEL BY DAY. I'm just not sure what medium it will be in.

MM:Any chances of us seeing new characters?

KJT: I have sketchbboks and notebooks full of different characters and stories that I'd like to get out there. I'll just have to decide what should come next and, more importantly, when. Hopefully, I'll have the strength to see them through, however I decide to do them.

MM: Speaking of Model by Day what was up with the TV movie from the 90's? I never saw it personally but did you have any hands on involvement with that?Any chance we'll ever see Girl or Fang move on to other media?

KJT: I had nothing to do with the Model By Day TV film except that I provided the source material. My credit was the "Based on characters created by" credit. It did pretty well when it aired and it still plays in Canada where it was filmed, so if you get any Canadian tv stations you might catch it one evening. As for any of my other characters making the leap to another form other than printed, we'll have to wait and see what happens. I'm not against it, but I'll have to have a bigger hand in it if it does happen.

MM: What do you think is the current state of the comic's industry? Has it peaked? Is it on its way out or is there still life left in it?

KJT: To be honest, I haven't been paying attention to what's been happening in the comics industry. I haven't even been in a comic book shop in well over a year now. But there are still comic book conventions advertised in some papers I read, and Hollywood seems to be going comic book crazy, so I'm sure the industry is doing well. After all, every industry has it's peaks and valleys,
like the huge decline in music sales a few years back and the lack of movie ticket sales before that, but those industries are still thriving. Why should the comic book industry be any different? Even as I write this, there's a tv commercial for the film version of Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta" . Comic books will be around for a long time.

MM:What comics are you reading these days?

KJT: None.

MM: What advice would you give to anyone trying to break into comics?

KJT: I'm no good at giving advice, especially about getting into comics because I got where I am by navigating through a series
of unorthodox influences to learn my craft, then forgetting them and finding my own way of doing things. There are far more qualified artists and editors who like nothing more than giving advice to young artists and, from my experiences of having heard a lot of their advice, they basically like to hear themselves talk.
If you really feel the need to do comic books for a living, then find your own style and be stubborn about it. Stubbornness isn't necessarily a bad quality-it's what's kept me painting all of these years. But, if I were to have any advice for any would be comic book artist, it would be to get a real job with a steady paycheck and health benefits. You'll thank me later. (Especially if my books help you get laid.)

MM: Finally, what can fans look forward to seeing from you in the future? Any new projects? More Girl? Please feel free to pimp anything you got coming up.

KJT: All I have coming up is GIRL:The Second Coming vol. 4, hopefully by Christmas 2006. I'm also doing a lot of commissioned work and most of them will most likely end up in
a future art book. Besides that I'm trying to update my website but that may take a while. I'll try to stay in contact to let you know when that's back up and running. Until then, I have to get back to work. It's only 1:16 a.m. and I'm way behind schedule. But that's normal for a comic book artist. Peace.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Part 1: Team Phoenix

In some Internet circle during the whole Jen/Brad/Angelina saga, some gals made t-shirts to show who they supported and thus "Team Aniston" shirts were spawned. Of course, there are clones like "Team Jolie", "Team Brangelina", "Team Lachey", "Team Lohan", etc. team frost
As an X-fan girl, I'd rep "Team Phoenix." Mind you I love Emma Frost. She's the baddest bitch, has no qualms about her shady past, and what she'd do to you if you cross her. I'm on "Team Frost", but my problem is with Cyclops. I hate him.
Whenever I see two chick(enhead)s fighting over a guy, I all I can think is "Is he really worth it?" As for Cyclops, it's a definite no.
Like Rachel asks Havok in X-Men Unlimited #11 what Team Phoenix are thinking: Did Scott ever really love her? Maybe he should have taken some advice from Jay-Z, "Be an adult, have an affair and shit."
wicked stepmother?

Cyke and Jean were the X-Men's Reed and Sue Richards. After they got married in X-Men #30,
we thought they would eventually settled down and start having all those kids from alternate/possible futures. through death and through life
Sure, their lives are fucked up by this superpowered craziness, but love should keep them together. Instead now Reed and Sue have two kids, and Cyke's fucking the Emma "X-Bike becuase everybody's had a ride" Frost.
no need to comment
Maybe Scott isn't as jaded as the rest of us to believe that Jean won't come back, but we readers know mutants are N.E.R.D. like Pharrell, Chad, and that other guy. Just ask Colussus and Psylocke. Even Emma was MIA (okay, so she was in a coma).
By now we all know Jean's death equals "free to fuck some other broad" cards. The writers don't have the intestinal fortitude to make Cyclops a bad guy and have him willfully cheat on his wife, so they get rid of the wife.
Oops! Emma's surprise menage a trois didn't quite work out

Sure, it's not the first time Cyclops has shacked up with a broad while Jean's pushing up daisies. He married Madelyn Pryor.
He's not like Wolvie, Kurt, and Gambit, who have no problem lovin' 'em & leavin' 'em. These dudes keep moving on, but Scott gets tied down.
But why Emma Frost?

Part 2: Cyclops is into BDSM
Most of the ladies in Scott Summers life fit into a simple pattern: red-headed Jean Grey look-a-likes or sexy psi-talents.
The first group is obvious, so let's move on to the second group. Excluding their powers, they don't have much in common - the girl next door, the dragon lady, and the ice -oops, I mean diamond queen.
Their powers may have different facets, but at the most basic level they all share telepathy. What could be so sexually appealling about this power? Maybe Scott wants to know what it feels like to "get served by her while she's serving me" (my apologies to Common). Or just what it feels like for a girl to borrow from Madonna.
On the outside, all three seem cold and aloof, but there are hints they are freaks.
Psylocke's costume is a bathing suit, but the freaky detail are those strips up and down her legs. Is she into bondage? Well, she is British.
BetsyBossyDark Phoenix on Myspace
Jean's dark side was first shown when she was seduced into being the Hellfire Club's Black Queen. Just check out her corset, garters, and fishnets. And we all know when Emma first turned up at. Even Maddie got turned out as the Goblin Queen. So there's your S & M.
Who knows what scenarios go down in Cyclops' sick mind. When his costume covers his head , it makes him look like a gimp.
All that's missing is the ball gag.
It's always the leader types that like to be dominated. It's their way to release a little pressure off of their shoulders. I don't even want to look to closely at Cyke's relationship with Professor X.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Infinite Crisis - yeah, so what?

It's not that me on this.

Am I the only person who's...unimpressed with Infinite Crisis?

Sure, I'm buying each issue just like most of you are, but it's primarily for collecting status. The artwork is great (A-game, dawg), but the storyline so far has been spotty. Let's comment on some of the major IC events (including the Countdown to Infinite Crisis events) one at a time.

*DISCLAIMER* If you haven't been keeping up with IC so far, then I'm sorr, but I'm finna spoil an awful lot of it for you.

1. Maxwell Lord kills the Blue Beetle. Not cool, Ahmad. Not cool. I actually liked Ted Kord! (well, not like that, know). What I don't like is...well, I'll get to that later. Also, it's gonna give Booster Gold a "Fire" complex: he's going to spend the next several decades regularly moping about his lost buddy, and I'm not sure if that baggage is going to make him a better character.

2. A big ol' mess a' OMAC robots start downloading into peoples bodies and attempting to exterminate any and all superheroes who get in their way. Would be cool...that is, if the friggin' Wachowskis hadn't've thunk it up first. Just because WB owns both The Matrix AND DC Comics does not give them permission to allow in-house biting.

"OUCH! CotDAMN, heffa! What kinda chiropractor is YOU 'posed to be?!"

3. Wonder Woman kills Maxwell Lord, and everyone (especially Superman and, of all people, Batman) start hatin'. Big. Effing. Deal. Wonder Woman is supposed to be an Amazon warrior. Warriors kill when the need arises. Why is everyone so shocked that WW killed a mofo who was trying to use Supes to kill the Pre-Time King? I especially don't understand where Batman comes off finger-pointing. I know he's still carrying the baggage of his parents' deaths, but that was different. This isn't about killing an innocent. It's about getting the job done. The way that Supes and Bats are handling this, and their condescending tone towards Diana (one person I don't think it wise ot talk down to) is quickly turning their scenes in IC into daytime soap-opera pastiches. Why don't they all just fuck an' make up, like the Days of Our Lives folk do?

(As an aside, if they really wanted to piss off Supes, Batsy, and *Gary Ownes announcer voice* THE WOOORLD AT LAAARGE, they shoulda had WW slice Lord up with the sword, instead of having her do the head twist thing. They way it's drawn, it looks like she's trying to get a kink outta his neck or summin').

4. The Villians all Unite into the Legion of Do-, er, The Society. The whole thing reads like a extra-length episode of Challenge of the Superfriends. Granted, it would be an above-average episode, but every time I read a Villians United issue or crossover, I just see Hanna-Barberaishness all over it.

5. Eclipso and Spectre go on a magic-destruction rampage. Okay, this was sorta cool (primarily because of the Shadowpact and the Detective Chimp--everyone loves a talking monkey), but it created so many plot holes. Spectre killed Shazam, right? So why does the Marvel Family still have power? Who's tossin' them lightning bolts? The main benefit (besides the talking monkey): a Black man is going to be the new Spectre! How cool is that?! *crickets*

6. There's an intergalactic war betwe--you know what? Let's just skip the whole Rann-Thangar War thing, because it was lame as hell. Or maybe I'm biased (I hate space epics).

Am I the only person who had An American Tail flashbacks while reading Power Girl's sides of the story?

7. Power Girl. Power Girl! Power Girl!! All boob jokes aside, Power Girl is probably the best thing DC and IC have going for them right now. They're using a lot of this story as a showcase for her and an opportunity to restore her original origins. And it's all coming off great. Everytime Power Girls stomps, lands, or whatevers into an IC crossover-related story, I'm never disappointed (get your minds out of the gutter, ASAP).

7. Earth-2 Superman, Earth-2 Lois, Superboy-Prime, and Alexander Luthor return from their nirvana. Ah, the meat of the story. Most of the situations and scenes involving these characters are great (especially Superboy-Prime -- nuttier than Jif, Skippy, and Peter Pan combined -- fighting a good chunk of the DCU heroes). But the whole "we saved the wrong Earth--this Earth is too dark, so let’s bring back the perfect Earth" thing is waaaaay too tongue-in-cheek and wink-wink-nudge-nudge for me. And I CAN'T be the only one who feels this way.

8. Alexander Luthor was behind allll the craziness in the COuntdown to IC stories. Does it not surprise you that a Luthor, no matter what universe he's from, can't be capable of a LITTLE evil?

9. Oh look, Donna Troy's back. Yay. And Jason Todd. Huh? And...Holy Moley...KID ETERNITY?!

10. Almost forgot...I hate the new Blue Beetle. I hate his face. I hate the fact that he's like 12 or something. I also hate the fact that he looks like a woman in costume. You'd think ancient mystical powers would be a lot less gender-ambiguous when it comes to fashion design. of right now, Infinite Crisis is rating as a great big heap of "whatever, man" to me. Granted, it's more accessible than the original Crisis on Infinite Earths (but of course, most 80's comics were on that uber-complex thing), but it's almost too transparently a marketing ploy to boost interest in DC Comics. Ah, well...I'm sure when I'm 50 I can net a cool couple of bucks for my IC-related stuffs. And that is the motivation that keeps me buying.

Except for that Rann-Thangar stuff. Screw that crap.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Playboy Talks Comics

The new issue of Playboy covers comic books and their revolutionary impact on the world, so you can, you know, read it for the articles. (And let's face it, perverts. With their photoshoots being so altered away from reality with airbrush & photoshop, the articles are the best thing Playboy has going for it.) Luckily I saved you $7 and scanned the article.

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5

Now if you want the pages with that naked wrestler chick, you gotta go buy the mag.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

My Love for Psylocke

One of my initial fav comic book characters was Psylocke. Nowadays I might front like it was because she was the only popular Asian character in the Marvel Universe (Jubi-who?), but really, we all know it was because I was young and she was half naked.

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Looking back at those days in X-Men history, near the end of Claremont's first reign when Jim Lee was putting his boot in the profession, up until around the time where Fabian Nicieza was Brian Michael Bendis-ing the house of Marvel (and with much more compression at that), it's easier to get a clear picture of what the fuck happened to Psylocke. It's one of those cases where, like with Phoenix or Superman, a character's defining traits are also what makes them eventually boring.

So what was Betsy Braddock all about? Due to all the changes in body, mutant powers, boyfriends, and heck, even personality, Betsy represented all things identity crisis. As phoenix bird is to constant resurrection, weird butterfly thingie is to constant transformation. And for any young asian kid who experienced any cultural identity angst whatsoever, Betsy's (literally) white-person-in-an-asian-body dilemma was the ultimate expression of Banana.

Whereas Jubliee was just full of self-hatred, Psylocke's situation was more nuanced and, given the right writer, could have led to some great characterization and soft-handed exploration of the western/eastern cultural divide. Unfortunately, most writers didn't know what to do with ol' Betsy, leading to some horrible character arcs and a bunch of boring ninja stories (and ninjas, in my book, are very hard to make boring. Good job, Nicieza.)

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While Psylocke's sexuality is what made her interesting and memorable in the first place, it also allowed her to be easily dismissed as a masturbatory fantasy. It's a card that could have been played differently. As a stuffy British upperclass socialite/model, Betsy Braddock was all proper and boring. After walking through the Siege Perilous and emerging as a ninja-trained Japanese woman, Betsy's new skills and abilites brought with them a new appreciation for her body and what she could do with it. Claremont nailed this when he described Psylocke as an "action junkie", who preferred physical combat over using her telepathic powers even though it put her in danger.

So what happens when a stuffy Brit turns into a lithe bombshell newly in tune with her physicality? She lets loose. Unfortunately, for many of her less sophisticated writers, phsyical and sexual liberation meant turning Betsy into a one-dimensional slut. There were all the bathing suit scenes, the crotch-shot ninja kicks, etc. And then Betsy had her flirtation with Scott Summers and the character was forever marred.

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For sure, there's a double standard going on in the industry with female characters being called whores and whatnot (and I do wince at having such slurs being launched with such ease at an asian female), but for all the times Logan tried to lay the adamantium bone on Scott's girl Jean Grey, he never once up and licked her face. That shit's freaky. More importantly, Logan's love for Jean had been written believeably and touchingly. Psylocke just got down like that for no reason, and from there, nobody knew what to do with her.

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The whole horribly executed idea of Scott/Betsy/Jean's love triangle was quickly written away (Jean confronts Betsy, who stabs Jean with her psychic blade, thus explaining herself to Jean but not to the reader), and we were pushed right into the equally horrible Revanche/Kwannon story where we find out Betsy's old white body was out galavanting this whole time with a Japanese chick inside of it. The X books were always One Life to Live-ish, but the return of British Betsy, with its unbearably literal interpretation of Psylocke's duality, goes down as one of the worst X-Stories ever in my book.

By this point, both her sexuality and identity crises had gotten so bloated that Marvel had to tame her down. She was paired up with Angel (damn these rich white guys, stealing our women who have their women inside of their bodies!) - two characters who had become boring and stale and were thus left to grow irrelevant with each other. If the X-Men were Friends, Betsy and Warren were Monica and Chandler: together because nobody else wanted to deal with them. Her "action junkie" angle was reduced to lame danger room sessions where Betsy trained alone with monkish dedication. Yawn.

Over the years she underwent more transformations, developing the new (lame) power of travelling through shadows and a Harry Potter-ish lightning bolt on her face to go along with it, sacrificing her telepathy, gaining new telekinetic powers, getting gutted by Sabretooth, etc. There was more identity angst to come, Warren at one point exclaiming "you're not the same person I fell in love with!" She got dumped by Warren after taking up with Thunderbird III, again a relationship with little real emotional weight to it, thus leaving her open to more accusations of sluttish behaviour, and then was eventually killed off.

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Cleavage. Even when comatose.

Recently, Claremont resurrected her and has been taking a stab at redefining the character. Her telekinetic powers are stronger than ever, which leaves her pounding away at things instead of using the surgical precision that telekinetics are usually portrayed as having. And more importantly, with Alan Davis in tow, Claremont has been portraying Betsy as more British than ever. She drops English phrases here and there and has a much sharper tongue than before - ah those Brits and their British wit. These could all be promising developments, but I'd much rather see them written by Joss Whedon than by Claremont. Who wouldn't love to see Joss's Emma Frost pitted againt the new Betsy Braddock? Just imagine the one liners about her history with Scott.

For now though, my once favourite character will continue to languish in never-was, coulda-woulda-ville. As Brubaker takes over Uncanny, Claremont takes Psylocke with him to Exiles or New Excalibur or whatever it's called - both Claremont and Betsy effectively being removed from 616 continuity. I still got love for Psylocke, but in retrospect, I can't help but wonder. While Warren anguishes over whether she's the same woman he fell in love with, looking back, I'm wondering not only why I still love her character, but also why I ever did in the first place.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Saving Patriot Bradley

Have you ever felt the weight of being the black kid in class? It’s not what we would call a “good feeling”. When I was in college, I had all the same pressures that other students had of never ending school work that bordered on oppressive, holding down a job that should have paid me over ten thousand more than I was getting, and just trying to find my place in society. And, oh yeah, being the sole representative of the black race. That kinda shit can weigh on you.

I mean, its college, right? That means any class that begins before 6:15 p.m. is going to have at least 20% of its students stroll through late. Yet, if I was part of the late crew, I’d get that look. You know which one I’m talking about: the I-guess-CP-time-really-exists look. So, those first 2 years of school I worked my ass off. I never missed an assignment, I’d hurdle over the crippled in order to get to class on time. I figured that my classmates and professors were going to use me as the barometer of all things black whether I agreed with it or not, so I was going to paint a good picture…even if it was in graff style.

Black characters in comics have the same issues. If we’re talking superhero comics, then they’re mainly relegated to background and supporting characters (aka someone for the villain to kill in an anniversary issue). A few pop up here and there, but more often then not, the end result leaves something to be desired.

Let’s look at the first black superhero to have his own title. His name was Lucas Cage, but he was hailed as some sort of Power Man. Now every hero has his or her own hook. That hook usually occurs in the form of their powers. Now Spider-Man can do anything a spider can. Cage…had steel hard skin. Scratch that possibility. Well, how about characterization? He really wasn’t that much different than anything found in the average Harlem theater around that time. No, Mr. Cage’s gimmick was that he’s a hero that wasn’t above charging people in order to help them. >sigh< I never saw Captain America checking green cards before he saved anyone’s ass.

It didn’t get much better for good Black heroes. Storm, while immensely powerful, seemed to get into situations that would reduce her mind to that of a frightened little girl every three issues. Plus there’s the whole blue eyes and flowing white hair thing. T’challa, the Black Panther, has usually been the standard for well-done Black heroes. He did have that first appearance, where he whooped the collected asses of the Fantastic Four. Of course there’s really no where to go but down from there. When he started headlining Jungle Action, it seemed like every cover had him beaten and his clothes ripped up. Daredevil, a blind man, can fight thirty-seven ninja ghosts, and still not get a scratch on his costume.

I think there are times when Black readers expect so much out of Black superheroes, because we know how rare they are to come by in these books. Every fault and misstep gets magnetized since they’re the black kid in class. There’s no balance. It’s even gotten to the point where there’s a stigma that black comics don’t sell? Why, because they handful that have actually had their own series eventually get cancelled. Shit, Hardware and Icon were published three times as long as most comics in the last few years.

Even though I fully understand the expectations that are placed on black heroes, when it comes to the Patriot, I think fandom (and some creator’s) reactions to him have been extreme. The Patriot, who fronted as if he got a super-soldier powered blood transfusion, was revealed to have been using a mutant growth hormone in order to give himself super powers. Suddenly, everyone from message board users to Joe Quesada have called him a “junkie”. Even with all the pressures a Black hero representation has on him, the reaction still doesn’t make sense to me.

It’s okay for Luke Cage to have a participated in an experiment in which an injection enhances his strength and durability. Nobody bats an eye when Captain America can easily be seen as the poster boy for long lasting steroid usage. There’s a hell of a lot of heroes, in all colors that have had chemicals give them their powers. Shit, I don’t even remember Patriot even being portrayed as addicted to the serum. I guess the junkie label seems too harsh to me. I mean honestly, let’s say he was addicted to using powers to be a hero (for free!), is that really so bad? Whatever helps him cope, right? After all, he’s part of the next generation that will have to carry the weight of the race on his back.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Everything You Know is Wrong Pt. 2 - Death & Comics

Ah, Death in Comics. That perennial hot button issue sure to whip any red-blooded fanboy in a frenzy. Talking about Death in Comics is about as dangerous as yelling "Naked Jessica Alba Photos" in a crowded Comic Convention, so I'm going to proceed with caution here and urge you to do the same. My platform is simply this:

Death in Comics is fine and dandy. It's you who's fucked up. I mean that in the nicest way possible.

I think when it comes to these kind of debates, the best thing to do is take a step back from the realm of comics and have a look at storytelling in general. We comic readers tend to suffer from a bit of the tunnel vision from time to time. A little perspective is probably in order.

But first, a story:

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Meet Isis and Osiris. A couple of well-meaning Gods who wanted nothing more than to rule their ancient land in peace. Things are going pretty well, too, until Osiris gets murked by Set (his own brother, no less). Set not only kills Osiris, but then cuts him up into little tiny pieces and scatters them throughout the world.

The End.

I'm just kidding, of course. The story continues. But imagine if it hadn't? What a shitty story, am I right?

What actually happens is, Isis then travels the world collecting her lover's pieces (talk about your ride or die chick) and with a little help from her friends, brings Osiris back to life. They currently live in Palm Springs with their three beautiful tabbies and occasionally hear from their son Horus, the Sun God.

Now, wasn't that better? I think so.

My point is this: Death and resurrection have long been cornerstones of myth. From Osiris to Persephone, Elijah to Lazarus, Jesus to Superman, and so on and so forth, this theme of rebirth just seems to pop up all over the place. It's a story that's been told for centuries, and continues to be told today. In comic books, in temples, and even in nature. Every year Winter comes along at the same exact time, and every year Spring is sure to follow.

But you mean to tell me that the minute Hawkeye catches a bad one that suddenly enough is enough? Come on now. Let's get serious.
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Okay, maybe I'm being too broad. No one is saying that death is a bad storytelling device, right? It's just that death has gotten out of hand in comic books. Fair enough. Let's shift the focus back to comics, so I can tell you why you're still wrong.

More and more, I find that fans are clamoring for a stringent "Dead Means Dead" policy. I can understand why. It's very direct sounding and it rolls off the tongue nicely. It's the sort of thing that looks good on a T-Shirt. Something we can all get behind. Well, I can't. Not entirely, anyway.

Consider this: If dead always meant dead, then who would we be left with today? I contend that most of your favorite superheroes would have been long gone before you were ever even born.

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Sorry, kids! That's it! The End! No more Superman stories! Dead means dead, after all! Hope you held on to those back-issues!

Now see, that's no fun, is it?

Is this truly what you wish upon future generations of comic book readers? A world with no Professor X? With no Green Goblin? With no Superman? Kind of selfish, don't you think?

You know who I blame? The comic book guys.

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Yeah, you.

The long-term comic reader.

Those cynical bastards who have been reading Spider-Man since Amazing Fantasy #15, and cry bloody murder anytime they come across a plot thread that vaguely resembles one from 1974. They've been there and they've done that. (Ironically, most of them have never been anywhere near there and they have most certainly never done that.) They're bitter and they're jaded, and have been in the game for far too long to recall a time when a costume change or a return from the grave was cool as hell.

Superhero comics are, for the most part, like an amusement park ride. Thrilling little jaunts that exhilarate our inner child and ultimately end up right back where they started. Sure, there are plenty of twists and turns here and there, but the course is pretty much set and nothing ever really changes. And on some base level, we all know this to be true. Much in the same way we know that Charlie Brown will never kick that goddamn football, and the Coyote will never catch that goddamn Roadrunner. He'll just fall off that cliff and keep coming back. The only thing that allows these rides to continue to captivate us is our willingness to allow them to do so.

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If you're tired of the ride, maybe it's time to stop blaming the ride.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Why Bring Back The Dead?

I hate when Marvel and DC bring back characters from the dead. I always have. The only character that gets a pass in this department is Phoenix/Jean Grey, because the Phoenix is supposed to come back time and time again. But no other character deserves a second chance if they had been killed previously. Don't you like how DC has that Lazarus Pit to explain how people come back in their universe? It's a lame attempt at bringing the characters back.

In recent times who has come back to life? Psylocke in Uncanny for no apparent reason. Colossus in Astonishing. While that was a cool surprise, I will have to say that I was dissapointed to see him return. It ruined his legacy, and made the issue he died become useless in the broad scheme of things. And what about Bucky? Wasn't he supposed to be one of the characters that Marvel would never bring back? Lame, lame shit. Don't even get me started on Hawkeye. DC is not without their mistakes in this department. Case in point: Jason Todd. This dude was a Robin who had his ass beat to death by Batman's greatest villain, and they decide to bring him back in this increasingly lame IC (that said, I like the mini, but each issue is getting worse and convaluted). And these are just the tip of the iceberg. And these are just recent characters that have come back from the dead.

Superman, Green Arrow, Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, Cyclops, Iron Man, Multiple Man, Apocalypse and countless others have all fell into this category. I have a feeling that DC is on the verge of bringing back Barry Allen Flash, who remains the best and one of the only deaths that has remained without the possibility of a return. Batman missed the boat because Bane only broke his back. Spider-Man has just had his ass kicked to the point of death by Morlun. Nightcrawler and Kitty almost died during the Mutant Massacre, but were only severely injured. The point I am trying to make is that the comic book would be a much more serious form of literature if the stories were kept the same when they were written. Think about how different the universes at DC and Marvel would be if the previously mentioned characters stayed dead. It would have been forced to be different, and I don't know about you, but I think that would be pretty sweet. Sure we wouldn't like it at first, but damn I think the stories would be pretty damn interesting.

Next time you decide to kill someone, either do it for good, or just don't kill someone you like enough to bring them back eventually because it ruins the legacy that they were built on.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Marbles' Quick Hits for the Week of March 2...

INFINITE CRISIS #5- I liked the chuch scene, especially the conversation between Ragman & Mr. Terrific. But what's the scoop on John Stewart's hair on page #2? It's not a fade, it's a stop.

Who is the current Flamebird?

Did Batman almost crack a smile at Booster taking control of the situation?

Did Lex stick that crystal in Superboy's pocket? I think this is a set-up.

The confrontation between the Supermen was "Eh..." but I liked the interaction between the Wonder Women.

George Perez is the man.

This Breach character is the Captain Atom of Earth-8? Huh?

The crew in the Batcave...who is that between Black Canary & Mr. Terrific? Nice to see Black Lightning in the game.

Who was that saying< "I can't do this..." to Raven in Bludhaven?

The Superboy-Monitor is dumb. I don't like the fact that they brought the Anti-Monitor back anyways.

Overall, a good issue. Not the best one but good. I could have done without all of the multiple earth images. Once is enough.

MS. MARVEL #1 - This was a total impulse buy. I liked her in the last volume of the Avengers, especially her fight with alcoholism. I really used to like her a lot as Binary in the Avengers. And as the individual who had her life stolen from Rogue, she had a lot of great untapped potential (see Uncanny X-Men #182).

I think we all know why that kid on page 3 always has to be Luke Cage.

I didn't know that Jessica Drew & Carol Danvers were that tight. Jess acted funny towards her in New Avengers #15. But I liked the down-time interaction between the 2.

"The X-Men have a publicist?" Great scene.

I like this "unfulfilled potential" that Carol Danvers is feeling. She thinks she can be a more inspiring hero than she is. What i'd like to see is for her to try to be that ideal hero and not make it. I think that would be a true test of her (or anyone's) character.

Carol Danvers and Johnny Storm? Another great moment.

I like the Brood as villains but I'll hold judgement until i see what their motivation is this time.
All in all, a very good start to this series. I think i'll give #2 a chance. I've never heard of Roberto De La Torre but he showed some nice, solid artwork.

UNCANNY X-MEN #470- I liked the cover. It was simple. Does Cannonball really need a "C" on his chest? The pilot angle is a cool look. We don't need the Sesame Street assist.

Psylocke's workouts are getting played out. If she's going to remian a ninja, then she can die.
Val Cooper as an X-Buddy is annoying.

I don't really like the Shi'ar Death Commandos. Who runs the Shi'ar Empire these days?

Rachel's visit with the shrink could have been much more revealing and compelling. Instead, it was the exact same line she's been spouting since she arrived in our timeline.

This issue was pretty forgettable. Nothing of consequence happened. They'll have to do much better to close this story out.

NEW AVENGERS #15- I missed this and #16 because my shop ran out. Consider this a late-late pass review.

I like Ms. Marvel & hope that she joins. Why did it appear the Jessica Drew was avoiding her when she showed up? And even Wolverine didn't show her any love. Don't those 2 go back a long ways?

See my review of Ms. Marvel #1 for my feelings on her little speech.

I hope Wolverine stays with the Avengers long-term. It would be a fresh outlook for everyone. He'd be operating by different rules and in a different sort of spotlight. If done right, it could offer a really good take on him.

Why was Luke Cage ice-grillin' Logan? I wonder if he's going to give him a speech about teamwork, solidarity, etc.

Spider-Man's concerns were handled superbly. I've always liked Robbie Robertson and the way they used J. Jonah Jameson was perfect. The backstab was a great and I think accurate touch.

I'm enjoying this book. Not every issue has to be a slugfest for it to be entertaining.

*** MARBLES ***

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