Sam Wilson as Captain America

Why diversity among A-listers matters: the new Thor and Captain America

Much has been written about this by everyone else over the past week, but I guess I’m obligated to chime in as well. Marvel’s announced plans to replace Captain America and Thor. For Thor, a woman will be assuming the role of the Mighty One after Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) rejects him as being “unworthy” of the role. For Captain America, Steve Rogers is forced to retire after his Super Soldier Serum’s somehow removed, causing him to age into an elderly man. Cap’s replacement: the Falcon (aka Sam Wilson), his longtime crimefighting partner and best friend. In addition, Marvel’s just announced at San Diego Comic-Con that Sam will be getting a second title, in the form of leading the Mighty Avengers in their renumbered comic this fall, “Captain America & the Mighty Avengers.”

My two cents: I’ll agree that it’s another gimmick, as we’ve seen heroes “replaced” plenty of times before, and I assume Cap at least will be Steve Rogers again in time for/not long after next year’s “Avengers 2″ movie at a minimum. (Or at least, expect a lot of “flashback” stories and reprints of Steve-Cap’s adventures.) There’s also something to be said for creating new comics featuring the Falcon and one of the women in the Thor mythos in their traditional identities.

On the other hand, it’s hard for books featuring secondary or brand-new characters to catch on, as a lot of fans either don’t have money to try something new (given comics run $4 a pop) or refuse to try anything new. There’s also issues with underrepresentation of minorities as A-listers. DC opted to promote Cyborg into being a founding JLAer in the New 52 reboot, but otherwise, all the Justice Leaguers stayed Caucasian. DC’s allowed some less-than-A-listers to become minorities, but how they’ve been handled leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. For instance, Alan Scott in the New 52′s now gay, but they killed his boyfriend in the second issue. The New 52 Wally West (who was an A-lister as the Flash between the mid-80s and several years ago) is Black, but he was introduced as having run-ins with the law. Wally’s shown being arrested for vandalism in his first appearance, and arrested again for shoplifting in his most recent appearance. This strikes me as completely tone-deaf and clueless on DC’s part. Meanwhile, Marvel’s had success with introducing more and more minority characters and women in their own books (Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Miles Morales), but seems to have decided to take the path of replacing mainstream Marvel Universe Caucasian A-listers—at least temporarily—with minorities and women.

Of course, there’ll be those whining about how Marvel is “being PC,” but they’re probably the same people who got hot under the collar about Miles Morales, Kevin Keller, and—years ago—John Stewart as the animated “Justice League”‘s Green Lantern. The latter had the same complaints I see now (“being PC,” “he’s not the real GL,” “gimmick,” etc.), but John went on to become one  of the most popular characters on the show, proving the naysayers wrong. More recently, Nick Fury‘s Ultimate universe version, a Black man, has become the main go-to version of Fury in non-comics media. Marvel’s even introduced a lookalike version of the African-American Nick Fury into mainstream continuity as the until-now-unknown son of the Caucasian Nick Fury.

Even if Marvel’s changes prove temporary, I suppose there’s hope it might open the room to a more permanent change down the road for an A-lister, assuming the country’s changing demographics don’t force such changes even sooner. That or, of course, these characters finally entering the public domain as many of them should’ve years ago under less insane and corporately biased/bought off copyright laws, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Comixology

Comixology finally allows DRM-free comics

In a move that’s been well overdue, Comixology announced today that it’s allowing downloads of DRM-free comics.

For quite awhile, I and others online have disliked the heavily DRMed model of Comixology, which given its near-monopoly position and  that several publishers will only publish via Comixology makes the DRM particularly obnoxious. This is finally a welcome move. I do  have to wonder if it’s in response to Image Comics successfully offering DRM-free comics for awhile now, and thus stealing some business from Comixology. Or if it’s in response to the backlash Comixology’s received from losing in-app purchasing/being bought by Amazon. Or a combination of the above.

The new download feature launched today. To download the comics, go to your Comixology account’s “My Books” section, where you’ll see download options for various comics purchases. The formats are PDF or CBZ. (I prefer CBZ.)

It’s not a complete victory yet. While the option for DRM-free is turned on, Comixology notes it’s up to each publisher to decide whether to offer such an option. The only ones to go DRM-free so far: Image, Top Shelf, Thrillbent, Dynamite Entertainment, Zenescope Entertainment, and MonkeyBrain Comics. While I could see some smaller publishers (hopefully IDW, Archie, and Boom Studios) go DRM-free, I’m guessing it’ll be quite awhile, if at all, before we see DC or Marvel go DRM-free. Thus, I’d assume the market for pirating superhero comics wont’ be dying off anytime soon. Of course, if possible, you should still buy the DRM-free comics through the publisher’s own websites (including Image’s), as the creators will see more money from sales (Comixology takes 50% of all sales made through their store).

For those who still want alternatives to Comixology, see my post on the topic.

Clay Walker and Kevin Keller's wedding

Minorities in cartoons: Clay Walker

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Clay Walker, a character in Archie Comics.

(SPOILERS aplenty about the “Life With Archie” series below…)

Clay exists in Archie’s “Life With Archie” series, which has just concluded as of this writing. The series presented the Archie gang as twentysomethings. Each issue featured two different alternate futures: one in which Archie married Betty, another where Archie married Veronica. Both futures had similar events. For instance, both futures saw Moose finally dumped by Midge due to his violent temper, which was apparently part of what it took for him to finally clean up his act. Jughead also ended up owning the Chocklit Shoppe in both futures. Differences included the aforementioned Moose becoming Mayor of Riverdale in the “Veronica” future, and Jughead marrying Midge in the “Betty” future. (If curious, the “Veronica” future sees Jughead marry his longtime admirer, “Big” Ethel Muggs.)

Fortunately, Clay exists in both futures, and leads the same life in both. Clay is a physical therapist and native of Baltimore who helps the adult Kevin Keller recover from injuries sustained during an unnamed Asian/middle eastern war (no, probably not the same “generic Asian conflict” Rhodey was in). During the recovery, the two grew close and eventually fell in love. After Kevin recovered, the two decided to get married, with the wedding held at the Chocklit Shoppe and officiated by Riverdale’s mayor. (Yes, Riverdale’s in a state with legalized same-sex marriage… probably out on the east coast, per various references dropped in recent Archie comics stories.) Clay was also supportive of Kevin’s run for the US Senate, while making his own career change—replacing a retiring doctor (and taking over his clinic) in Riverdale.

Clay also fell victim to violence himself, as he was shot while trying to intervene in a convenience store robbery. Fortunately, he managed to recover. Later, Clay found a new client at his clinic (and worker at the Chocklit Shoppe) that started to follow him around for some reason…which turned out to be the shooter at a recent mall shooting in a neighboring town. Unfortunately, while Clay and Kevin were saved from further gun violence (when the shooter emerged at fundraiser for Kevin), Archie wasn’t so lucky.

With the ending of “Life With Archie,” this might be the last we’ll see of Clay. Unlike the Archie gang, Clay doesn’t have a teenage counterpart in present-day stories, especially given Kevin doesn’t meet him until he’s an adult. Of course, this being comics (and Archie continuity never as strong as that of their DC/Marvel cohorts), a teenaged Clay could show up someday…

Betty and Veronica #273

Anthony’s Archie Comics picks for October 2014

Here’s a look at what’s coming out from Archie in October. Full solicitations are available here.

Comics

  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2, on sale Nov. 5, $4
  • Archie #661, on sale Oct. 29, $4
  • Betty and Veronica #273, on sale Oct. 15, $4

Trade paperbacks

None.

Comments

For those wondering, there’s no “Afterlife With Archie” out this month despite being October, the most appropriate month for a horror-themed comic. There is an issue due out in late September (Sept. 24), however.

“Archie” this month leads off a spate of Christmas stories (despite being October), including the annual visit by Jingles the Elf, Santa’s little bumbling helper.

“Betty and Veronica” continues its storyline of the girls leaving Riverdale.

I notice Archie seems to be putting out a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog comics. There’s three regular Sonic comics (including a new title based on the upcoming “Sonic Boom” TV series), one digest, and two trade paperbacks. Sonic’s books are top-sellers; the regular Sonic comics regularly outsell the only regular Archie comics left—”Archie” and “Betty and Veronica” (with the cancellation of “Kevin Keller”). Thus, Archie no doubt wants to milk its licensed property for all it’s worth.

Super Secret Crisis War #5

Anthony’s miscellaneous comics picks for October 2014

Here’s a look at what comics are coming out in October.

IDW

Full solicitations are available here.

  • Dexter’s Laboratory, vol. 1: Dee’s Day TPB, $18
  • Cartoon Network: Super Secret Crisis War! #5 (of 6), $4
  • Nelvana of the Northern Lights (HC), $40

Image

Full solicitations are available here.

  • Oddly Normal #2, on sale Oct. 22, $3

Boom Studios

Full solicitations are available here.

  • Steven Universe #3, $4
  • Garfield #30, $4
  • Lumberjanes #7, $4

Dark Horse

Full solicitations are available here.

  • #1 for $1: Action Philosophers, on sale Oct. 8, $1

Fantagraphics

  • The Ghost of the Grotto, Starring Walt Disney’s Donald Duck, on sale Oct. 7, $13
  • Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: “The Son of the Sun,” vol. 1 (The Don Rosa Library) (HC), on sale Oct. 4, $30

Comic strip compilations

  • Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics, vol. 2: 1968-1969 (HC), $50

Comments

Seeing wider release this month is a volume collecting “Nelvana of the Northern Lights.”

Superman and Aquaman guest-star in the second volume of the compilation of the 1960s Batman newspaper comic strip.

Don Rosa’s run on Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck are being collected in chronological order, starting with his first Uncle Scrooge story, “The Son of the Sun.” Also being released this month is a low-cost reprint series of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics aimed at children.

Chromebook

Can Chrome (and a Chromebook) fill in for my usual computing tasks?

Lately, I’ve been reading (and writing) about Chromebooks, the simplified laptops backed by Google’s Chrome OS that basically use the Chrome browser (and Linux) as the operating system. Besides the allure of a new gadget, I’m also interested in a laptop that’d be less heavy to carry around than my two-year-old Linux Mint-running HP laptop, which weighs in at a hefty 5.3 lbs./2.4 kg (per its specs). While I’d like a MacBook of some sort, I currently don’t have the money or means to buy one. A Chromebook, however, would be affordable (the cheapest ones start at $200), would weigh half of the HP laptop’s weight, and would suffice until the day I could afford a MacBook. It’d also let me give my laptop to my family, who could use a newer computer; they’re using the now-seven-year-old Dell tower I gave them running Xubuntu 12.04.

Of course, Chromebooks have some compromises, being heavily browser-based, which led me to wonder how much of my usual computer activities could be done on such a platform. While I still have my Mac Mini as my main computer (and the Mini’s not going anywhere), I do run Chrome on my computer. Thus, I tried out various browser-based apps, websites, and Google Docs/Google Drive to see what running a Chromebook might be like. So, here’s a list of my computer uses, and how well Chrome/the web in general filled in:

  • Blogging/managing my website: I already write most of my blog posts in WordPress’ visual editor itself, as well as sometimes using TextEdit on my Mac. Google Docs would thus work nicely for writing purposes.
  • Article writing: I use LibreOffice on my Mac for more substantial writing. Google Docs can convert to/from LibreOffice’s format, plus I can also access Docs from my Mac.
  • Graphics/photos: I already upload photos to Google+ Photos, so photo management is resolved. (On the Mac, I also store them in iPhoto.) I normally create what few graphics I need, like the header image for this site, in GIMP. The website Pixlr does offer some basic graphics creation and editing (resizing photos, etc.), and seems to be the recommended choice for Chromebook users. I tried Pixlr, and it seems like it’d do if I really needed to manipulate graphics on the Chromebook (i.e., I didn’t have access to my Mac).
  • Email: I already have Gmail, of course, so I’d have access to that. Ditto via webmail a few other email addresses I use.
  • Social media: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all accessible through the browser, or through a few browser add-ons like TweetDeck.
  • Web surfing: Of course.
  • Videos: YouTube works normally. One advantage over my Linux Mint laptop is that there’s support on Chromebooks for Netflix. As for my own videos, while Chromebooks obviously wouldn’t have capacity for my entire video collection, it does support playing common formats (MP4, MKV, AVI) via Google Drive or an external thumb drive.
  • Music: I’ve already uploaded my music collection to Google Play Music, which allows it to be played back on any Android device or through a browser; thus, it’s supported normally in Chrome. Of course, it’s just MP3s; my lossless files would have to stay on my external hard drives/Mac. Streaming services like Pandora also work normally.
  • Podcasts: Google Play Music for some reason doesn’t directly support podcasts. While the proposed integration of Android into Chrome OS would help the podcast situation (per the various podcast Android apps), for now, Feedly’s podcast support or just downloading them directly from their websites would be the way to go.
  • Finances: A place where Chromebooks—or rather, the Web—comes up short. I use a stand-alone program (Jumsoft’s Money for OS X) to keep track of my checking and savings accounts, as a glorified electronic checkbook. For a budget, I use a LibreOffice spreadsheet. The spreadsheet was easy to import into Google Sheets (the spreadsheet component of Docs), but I didn’t see any web-based service that could really replace the stand-alone program I use. Mint.com and the like are popular, but those won’t let me manually enter new purchases, which doesn’t work for me. (I can already access my bank account online!) Thus, I’d have to wait until I got back to my Mac to enter purchase information.
  • Evernote: Evernote has web based access and various apps, so I could easily access it from Chrome.
  • KeePass: There’s a few Chrome plugins that’ll let me read my KeePass database.
  • Comic reader: Another “fail” spot for the Chromebook/Chrome. The few Chrome plugins I tried that let one read CBR/CBZ formatted comics failed to work for CBZ files (CBR ones worked OK). I suspect it’s due to the clunky way ZIP files are handled by Chrome (CBZs are just renamed ZIP files). Fortunately, I can read such comics on my Mac, tablet or phone.
  • ZIP files: From what I read, Chrome OS will support ZIP files, though it sounds a bit lackluster (mounting it like an external drive and moving files from there?).
  • eBooks: There’s some support via Chrome plugins, etc., for eBooks, though I’d rather use my tablet for those.
  • Connecting my Nexus 4/Nexus 7: I’d have to use the “cloud” via Drive to transfer files between a Chromebook and the Nexus devices, which is what I do now anyway. However, support for MTP (the transfer protocol switched to by Google recently) is supposedly coming for Chrome OS, so I’d be able to plug them in directly.
  • External hard drives: Like other Linux distributions, Chrome OS supports Windows- and Linux-formatted external drives, but doesn’t really support OS X-formatted ones that well. Still, I have Google Drive and an external thumb drive for moving around data.
  • External keyboard/mouse: From what I read, they’re supported by Chrome OS.

 

So overall, while I wouldn’t want to make it my sole computing device, it looks like a Chromebook could replace my Linux Mint laptop. The only downsides would be the areas of spending tracking and reading comics files, but neither’s a showstopper, however. A Chromebook would also be worth the tradeoff of gaining Netflix access, as well as a much more lightweight laptop to take with me on trips.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Cartoons at the box office: We’ve got a gorilla for sale, a movie gorilla for sale…

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” continued to do big monkey business at the box office this weekend. The film topped the box office again against lackluster competition, earning $36 million, for a total to date of $139 million domestically and $101.5 million overseas, for a planet(-of-the-apes)-wide total of $240.5 million. (Yes, that should do it for the ape puns this week…)

Elsewhere, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” opened this weekend as the only other major animated film this summer besides “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” The opening weekend for the sequel to the spinoff of “Cars” didn’t do as well as the first “Planes” film, however. “Fire & Rescue” made $18 million this weekend (lower than “Plane”‘s $22 million opening). Still, since it only cost $50 million to produce (the same direct-to-DVD budget as the first film), it should easily be profitable/successful in the long run. It’s already made $9 million overseas so far, for a global total of $27 million. Forbes jokes that maybe we should get “Rise of the Planet of the Planes” to explain what happened to the humans in the world of “Cars.”

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” fell to fifth place, earning $10 million. Its domestic total stands at $227.2 million and international total at $659.1 million, for a global take so far of $886.3 million. Box Office Mojo figures it should pass $1 billion easily by sometime in August. Again, it’s apparent that people like this film (or non-North Americans do, at least), at odds with the near-universal backlash I’ve seen against it.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2″ came in eighth place, earning $3.8 million, for a domestic total of $160.7 million and an international total of $223.9 million, or a global total of $384.6 million. Since its budget was $145 million, it’s easily a successful and profitable film.

“Maleficent” fell to ninth place, earning $3.3 million. Its domestic total stands at $228.4 million and international total at $468.8 million, for a global total of $697.2 million. I’d imagine it’ll cross $700 million sometime this week.

Next week sees Scarlett Johansson’s “Lucy” open, a film based on the idea of her character gaining a vast variety of superpowers after gaining access to using 100% of her brain—which of course is a falsehood, as people do use 100% of their brains, but don’t tell Hollywood that. The other major film opening is the Rock’s “Hercules” film, which’ll probably do better than that other Hercules film that was out back in January. Either way, it’ll just be a time-killer weekend before the following weekend, when “Guardians of the Galaxy” opens.

Kindle

Amazon announces its new “Kindle Unlimited” service

Amazon’s announced “Kindle Unlimited,” an all-you-can-read ebook and audiobook service for participating authors. Basically, a “Netflix-for-books” as TechCrunch describes the service. Kindle Unlimited includes some big-name books (the Hunger Games trilogy, etc.), as well as Kindle-only exclusives. The service is limited (for now) to the US, and is $10/month. More in the TechCrunch article below:

Amazon Officially Announces Kindle Unlimited, Offering Endless Reading And Listening For $9.99 A Month | TechCrunch

It sounds impressive, though wonder if it’ll have the same flaw as Netflix, that is, not having all of the newest or biggest books. I’d also note that this is not only competing with existing similar services (Oyster, etc.), but also that long-standing service every town has for free, the public library. Kindle Unlimited’s one advantage over the public library might be in its selection of ebooks, per how expensive ebooks are for libraries to buy (which thanks to DRM/greed/fear of new media by publishers are way too expensive). Still, the public library has all of the paper versions for free, for those who don’t mind putting their electronic device aside.

Flickr Creative Commons image by Andreas Kambanis.

Life With Archie #16

Archie banned in Singapore over gay marriage storyline

One Million Moms isn’t the only entity whose ire Archie has raised with the storyline where the adult Kevin Keller gets married. It looks like they’ve also ticked off the country of Singapore, or at least its censors, per this Comics Alliance article:

Singapore Bans Archie’s Kevin Keller Gay Marriage Comic.

I’m pretty sure they felt the story fell under “deviant sexual practices” and “alternative lifestyles,” per the article’s listing of their censorship board’s rules.

Singapore’s been recently debating censorship of media, one of the various aspects of the strictly conservative country where homosexuality is illegal. The Simpsons episode “Bart vs. Australia” was a parody of the then-current news story about Singapore’s “caning” of an American teenaged vandal. Recently, Singapore’s libraries (under pressure from an anti-gay group) have recently removed and destroyed several children’s books that were thought to “promote” homosexuality, though said removal did meet with some protests.

War Machine

Minorities in cartoons: War Machine

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is James “Rhodey” Rhodes, an Iron Man supporting character who’s best known as the superhero “War Machine.” Rhodey first appeared in “Iron Man” #118 (January 1979), and was created by David Michelinie and Bob Layton. His debut as War Machine came in “Iron Man” #284 (September 1992).

Rhodey’s backstory states he served in the military as a Marine on tours of duty in southeast Asia. While he was originally involved in the Vietnam War, comic book time’s retconned the war involved in Iron Man’s origin into a “generic Asia-based conflict” (as shown in the movies). Anyway, Rhodey’s helicopter was shot down by Viet Cong (or “generic Asian conflict enemies,” I suppose); while grounded, Rhodey encountered Tony Stark (fleeing in his prototype armor from his captors). Rhodey and Tony teamed up to fight their way through the various war threats and got back to safe territory. Afterwards, Tony offered Rhodey a job as his own personal pilot, which (after several other post-war jobs), Rhodey accepted.

During an early 80s storyline that saw Tony temporarily incapacitated (due to alcoholism) from both running his own company (due to a hostile takeover) and functioning as Iron Man, Rhodey assumed the role. Rhodey fought against various Iron Man foes, and took part in the classic crossover “Secret Wars.” Eventually, Tony regained control over his personal life and business career and resumed functioning as Iron Man, though Rhodey would substitute for him on several other occasions.

In the early 90s, Tony was suffering from a nervous system failure, and turned over control of the company to Rhodey, along with a new experimental suit of armor nicknamed “the War Machine.” Rhodey took over Stark’s company and became Iron Man again, but discovered that Tony was alive and secretly undergoing an experimental life-saving procedure. Insulted that he was lead to believe Tony was dead, the two’s friendship became strained, with Rhodey quitting, but keeping the War Machine armor. The two eventually made amends, and Rhodey continued to have various adventures on his own (and in his own ongoing comic series) as War Machine. A 2013 storyline found Rhodey leaving the War Machine identity to take on a new armored identity, “Iron Patriot.”

As a major Iron Man supporting character, War Machine’s appeared both in his own comic series and in pretty much all Iron Man-related media to date. War Machine’s most high profile media appearances would be in the “Iron Man” trilogy of films. There, Rhodey was played by Terrence Howard in the first film and by Don Cheadle in the next two films. Despite a lot of online speculation as to the change (which became a running gag in the “I’m a Marvel, I’m a DC” series of YouTube parody videos), it turned out Howard was replaced by Cheadle merely due to a contract dispute.