Update on Avengers: Age of Ultron, a problem with the media, and IMAGE comics sees growth

Woo Hoo!  The first full frontal view of

the Vision in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron




Shaq wants to be a police officer.

Shaquille O’Neal has applied to be a reserve police officer in Doral, Florida, NBC reports.

The NBA veteran has played a police officer on Southlandand in Grown-Ups 2, as well as serving as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, Miami Beach and Golden Beach, Florida over the years. In 2011, he was accused of abusing his contacts in Miami law enforcement to follow his wife when he suspected an affair.

I mention this story for a few reasons:

1- I find the obsession with celebrities in the United States to be utterly bizarre.  These are people that most of us will never meet, who have plied their talents to achieve varying degrees of fame, but at their core, they’re just as human as the rest of us.  Sure, in many cases, they have more money, more material things, and more publicity, but I just don’t understand the interest in following the lives of celebrities.  I am knocking it to a certain extent.  All too often, the trivialities in the lives of celebrities are deemed more important that ongoing civil rights violations, police militarization, violation of the rights of journalists, the ongoing treatment of immigrants, the use of drones to murder enemy combatants, the denial of climate change, the insidious attempts to inject creationism into the classrooms, and any number of other issues which impact the lives of millions of people.  By impact, I don’t just mean inconvenience.  For example:

  • The continued attempts to deny women the right to an abortion directly impact their ability to care for themselves and their families.  That contributes to poverty (among other things), which also negatively affects our economy.
  • The use of drones to kill enemies in other countries, with no trial being held, is a direct violation of human rights.
  • The opposition to marriage equality continues to be framed as an issue of “religious liberty”, yet at its heart, that is merely an excuse for bigotry.  Playing the “religious liberty” card doesn’t make bigotry disappear.  If anything it highlights the fact that some religious beliefs are harmful and should be discarded.  Why is it harmful? Oh, I dunno, bc people who play this card use it to deny basic rights to LGB individuals. To deny others their human rights is to not treat them as human.  Such dehumanization should not be tolerated in any society, let alone the so-called “exceptional” country known as the United States.
  • The ongoing examples-almost daily now-of police brutality in this country *ought* to horrify most people.  Yet far too many people support the actions of the police. These people don’t see that the increasing use of force by police departments across the country is not in proportion to the threat they face.  The use of extreme force has become commonplace, as has the presence of military equipment.  In fact, police departments across the country are increasingly adopting militaristic tactics.  All of this from people who are supposed to be ‘serving and protecting’ us, not treating civilians as enemy combatants.

These issues, and so many more *ought* to have the attention of the media, and the public consciousness far more often than they do.  Taking a look at news headlines, Facebook news feeds, or flipping through the channels on television, I know that human rights issues are covered.  I just don’t think they’re sufficiently covered, nor are they given the full analysis they deserve. What is given airtime, news coverage, or magazine stand attention is celebrity culture:  who’s dating whom, who broke up with whom, who is pregnant, who was sited somewhere, what someone was wearing and more.

Again, I’m not {completely} knocking that.  I certainly don’t want the news to  be filled to brimming with only issues of daily examples of gun violence, human rights travesties, or the continued struggle of black Americans to be viewed as fully human, but I do think that the media pays a disproportionate amount of attention to trivialities in the face of issues of far greater importance.  Yes, in some ways, they’re just feeding the desires of the public, but the media ought to do a better job balancing what people NEED to hear against what they WANT to hear.

2- (and this is a distant second, compared to my first point)- I found this story at Comicbook.com, yet the most significant link between Shaq and comic books is the movie Steela 1997 film based on the DC Comics character Steel.  Other than that, there is no tie between Shaq and comics. The news that Shaquille O’Neal wants to become a reserve police officer seems incredibly out of place on a comic book news site.

3- Tying back to my first point:  who cares? Obviously, I know that some people do, but this news amounts to “someone wants to become a police officer”.  Since when is that news?  Oh yeah, since many people in the US are obsessed with celebrities.   They don’t care if the average Joe or Jill becomes a police officer, but a celebrity?  That’s a different story.  That’s cause to perk up (or not, in some cases).

One thing that *does* interest me:  why does Shaq want to be a police officer?  I’ve begun wondering if law enforcement is attractive to authoritarian types:  those that love to have and wield power.  Those that are aggressive bullies who want to exert their power over others.  I don’t know that this is the case with Shaq.  In fact, I have no reason to suspect this, as I don’t know the man.  But I would like to know his reasons for wanting to be a police officer.  Given the abuses of power committed by an increasing number of officers in this country, I think the public is justified in knowing why an individual (no matter who they are) wants to enter the police force.

(incidentally, it may seem like a paradox that on the one hand, I’m complaining about trivial stories while blogging about pop culture, but the difference is I’m not part of the media.  It is not my job to report on the news that the public needs to hear.  The media is and *should* be held to a higher standard than a blogger.  Of course, one can look through my posting history and see how often I do talk about important issues, and realize that I do in fact, follow my own advice-while I’m interested in pop culture issues and I certainly do blog on them-this blog entry being a prime example-I also, and very often, discuss issues of human rights; remember, I’m not against discussing celebrities and pop culture-I’d just prefer a better balance from the media)




Image Comics h
as experienced continuous growth in the last 5 years.  More growth than Marvel or DC, who continue to dominate the comic book market.  Why is that?  Chase Magnett at Comicbook.com speculates:

I have some guesses, but they are speculation. The numbers are limited to telling us that Image is growing. Observation and experience will have to be our guide when discovering what the publisher is doing right. I believe the answer is two-fold: quality and diversity.

Image prides itself on the high quality of all of its publications. Semi-annual Image Expos are used to show off upcoming releases and the top tier talent associated with them. There are plenty of unknowns discovered there as well, but few receive the kind of attention that a popular writer like Jason Aaron or Matt Fraction does when announcing new titles. The consistent quality of a large array of titles has also helped to create an Image brand – one that assures readers they can expect Image comics to be consistently better than the standard fare.

That same array of titles is, in addition to being well crafted, also very diverse. What I mean by diverse is not limited to a single factor. The characters, stories, and settings all reflect a wide variety of experiences. Image publishes comics that can be classified as science fiction, fantasy, horror, slice of life, superhero, and a number of other genres, unlike Marvel and DC, which primarily focus on the superhero genre.

This second factor I believe to be every bit as important as the first, if not more so, because it opens the door to new readers. Readers have a variety of tastes; not everyone loves the same things. In every successful narrative medium a diverse number of types of stories can be found. Yet in comics, the majority of stories are about the same concept. Image may be attracting more readers simply by offering quality comics that are about something besides superheroes. In doing this, they are capable of not just shifting the market share, but growing the entire market.

It is estimated that in 2012 Americans spent about 10.9 billion dollars on movies and 15.4 billion dollars on video games. In 2012, Diamond sold 518 million dollars of comics to comic stores. Even accounting for digital sales and sales abroad, that number does not come close to 1 billion. Comic properties may be big business for Hollywood, but comics are still a small business. The name of the game isn’t control of the current market; it’s growing that market. No publisher is showing the same skill or efficiency in playing that game than Image Comics.

The story is not that Image is successful, but that it appears to be expanding its audience. That’s what I think these numbers are saying and, if I’m right, the rest of the industry needs to start paying attention to what Image is doing right. Comics are an inherently creative medium that is too powerful to be restricted to a small readership.

One of the strengths of Image is that they produce a diverse array of comic books.  I think they (along with lesser known comic book publishers, such as BOOM!, IDW, and Dark Horse) recognize that for comics to continue to be a successful entertainment market, they have to appeal to a wide variety of people.  To do that, one must open up the storytelling possibilities to genres other than superheroes.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking cape comics.  Hell, I love them.  At the same time, I recognize that not everyone does, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to create a diverse array of titles to appeal to a diverse array of tastes.

Update on Avengers: Age of Ultron, a problem with the media, and IMAGE comics sees growth