Are you interested in an African-influenced space opera?

From its very beginnings, the USAmerican comic book industry has been dominated by white characters. Whether we’re talking genres like crime, romance, horror, or science fiction, the industry has demonstrated a very clear bias in favor of white people (specifically white, heterosexual, cisgender men, but my focus here is on race). This holds true for my genre of choice: superheroes. For most of the history of superhero comics, white people have been headliners. From the Golden Age to the Silver Age, through the Bronze Age and into the Copper Age, the overwhelming majority of characters with their own comics have been white people. Even when writers began featuring characters of color in their stories (think of heroes like the Black Panther, the Falcon, Shang-Chi, Sunfire, Red Wolf, Karma, Danielle Moonstar, Storm, Tyroc, Dawnstar, Invisible Kid II, Vixen, Vibe, Black Lightning), these characters were typically members of teams, or background supporting characters. Rarely did they carry books of their own. It was almost always white people who had their own comics.

Even as we entered the Modern Age of comics, there have still been relatively few comic books featuring People of Color as the main characters, at least not at Marvel and DC. That’s not to say there have been none. Milestone Comics was a DC imprint in the 90s which featured primarily African-American leads in all their titles (Milestone 2.0 is on the way in the not-to-distant future too). And in the last few decades, a handful of characters of color have held their own titles at Marvel and DC-some for a short time, others for several years (Steel, Black Panther, Storm, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Ms. Marvel and others). But even today, the industry is still dominated by white characters.

The lack of People of Color starring as the lead in their own books falls on the shoulders of creators and publishers to a large degree (some of it is certainly the market to some degree). The people making comic books and producing comic books have predominately been white. So of course, they’re going to write and publish what they know. As a result, we’ve had a plethora of white characters. It’s not necessarily a deliberate thing. I don’t believe writers for DC or Marvel down through the years said “I want to create a new character or a new comic book and I want a white lead character and mostly white supporting cast”. Nor do I think the Editors-in-Chief at Marvel or DC sat down and said “We need to publish another book with a white character as the lead”. But the bias in favor of white people that exists all throughout our society manifests in all its corners. And “white” has long been considered the default in our culture. It’s the automatic assumptions laden in society (which can be seen when you realize that white people are often described as “that guy” or “that woman”, but People of Color are often described as “that black woman” or “that Hispanic guy”). It’s the standards of beauty that use white folks as the default. And yes, it’s the default to white characters on the part of creators and publishers of comic books when new titles and characters are created.

While the Big Two publishers have made strides to diversify their staff  in the last few years, their ethnic diversity initiatives have a long way to go before they reach anything at all representative of the wider USAmerican population. Similarly, while their publishing lines have expanded to appeal to ethnic demographics outside of white folks, they have a loooooooong way to go before they’re putting out enough product to satisfy the appetites of People of Color looking for greater diversity in the Big Two. For those people looking for books featuring People of Color in starring roles, or those looking to support creators of color, or both, it may be necessary to explore beyond Marvel and DC. Beyond superheroes. And beyond print comics for that matter. One example of a book featuring an ethnically diverse cast by a Person of Color recently came to my attention. New Jersey-based artist Paul Louise-Julie has worked to craft something visually stunning in his creation, Yohancé.

Continue reading “Are you interested in an African-influenced space opera?”

Are you interested in an African-influenced space opera?
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Bats in the Bromley belfry

Masked vigilantes prowling the streets doling out justice to ne’er-do-wells are typically the province of comic books. These fictional vigilantes operate outside of the law and rarely have any official oversight, no governing body to regulate their actions. Usually, their strong moral character ensures that they only punish the guilty (leaving aside the fact that the vigilante sets themselves up as a judge and jury; something else they have no authority to do) and don’t typically present a threat to civilians (though as we see every day in USAmerica, organizations who are governed and regulated by official entities still trample on the rights of civilians and get away with it). For these reasons and more, it behooves civilians to not engage in vigilante activities, no matter how well-meaning they might be.

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Bats in the Bromley belfry

The Fabulous Art Of: Héctor Barros

In their regular series Best Art Ever, Comics Alliance spotlights artwork by working professionals, rising stars, and talented fans. Thanks to this series, I’ve been introduced to the work of many amazing artists. Here are several pieces by one such artist, Héctor Barros. Enjoy!

Head on over to Barros’ Tumblr to check out more of his amazing work.

The Fabulous Art Of: Héctor Barros

A bit more gender diversity from Marvel Studios

One of the many upcoming projects from Marvel Studios is the long-simmering Doctor Strange movie. In the comics, Doctor Stephen Strange was a talented yet arrogant neurosurgeon who sought to regain the use of his hands after a tragic accident. He traveled around the world seeking the best doctors to repair his hands, but all to no avail. Despondent, distraught, broke, and homeless, Strange continued his search and eventually learned of the Ancient One, a hermit in the Himalayas who might be able to assist him. While he is initially rebuffed by the hermit, Strange eventually proves his worth and the Ancient One agrees to help the doctor, though not by repairing his hands. Instead, he trains him in the use of the mystic arts and eventually grants him the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme.

Why all this background about Dr. Strange and the Ancient One? Weeeeell, Marvel is currently in the casting stage for the upcoming Dr. Strange film. They already have Benedict Cumberbatch lined up to play the arrogant, former neurosurgeon, and they might be close to picking someone to play the Ancient One. And they’re thinking outside the box on this one. In a move that many (myself included) see as a positive step, actress Tilda Swinton is in talks to play the Ancient One:

The Ancient One is a hundreds year old mystic who has mastered magic and travels the Earth, battling demons, later settling in the Himalayas with an order of monks. In the comics, The Ancient One was an older, Tibetan man, — and earlier in the film’s production, they had talked with Ken Watanabe, Morgan Freeman and Bill Nighy for the role — but the character’s identity is being altered slightly for the film. In the film, the character will train the villainous Baron Mordo before sensing evil in his heart and turning to mentor Dr. Stephen Strange, eventually bestowing on him the powerful Eye of Agamotto.

Swinton’s casting is exciting for a variety of reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and superhero movies as a whole) don’t need another all-powerful male character; there are plenty of those. It’s honorable that Marvel was looking at a group of actors that were ethnically diverse, but even better than they were thinking further outside of the box to cast a woman.

For all that Stan Lee’s work at Marvel was groundbreaking and noteworthy, he was still writing comics at a time when women were not well represented in pop culture because the socially approved role of women was homemaker or housewife. Yes, Stan created the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, and the Invisible Girl, but they were frequently relegated to the role of damsels-in-distress or the girlfriend (and dear Odin, Stan wrote many a cringe-worthy scene involving female superheroes). Meanwhile, their male counterparts rarely (if ever) received such treatment. No, male characters in the various titles written by Stan got to be more than the boyfriend. They didn’t have to worry about being hogtied, captured, and held hostage waiting for a savior to swoop in and free them. The men got to steer the plot. The women were treated as window dressing. So it probably never crossed Stan’s mind that a woman could serve as mentor to Doctor Strange.

It’s sad in a way. Like so many people back then (and plenty today), Stan Lee’s creativity was constrained by an adherence to rigid gender roles imposed by society-he was thinking inside the box. As a result of such limited thinking, Stan Lee’s comics did not-contrary to a long-running narrative about Marvel Comics-“reflect the world outside your window“. How could it, when the Marvel Universe as created by Stan was populated by a sea of white, male faces (with a few women and a smattering of black folk included for token attempts at diversity)? That’s not what the real world has ever looked like.

That’s one of the reasons I like the idea of casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Women exist in the world outside my window (and everyone else’s). Yes, some women are housewives and homemakers, but they’re also sanitation workers and teachers, doctors and dental hygienists, lawyers and judges, astronauts and chemists, sociologists and electricians, librarians and painters, writers and activists, and so much, much more. That’s why it makes sense to me for Hollywood executives to widen the pool of potential candidates for movie roles. Instead of treating men as the default, they’re slowly beginning to realize that women can do the same things as men (hello Charlize Theron in Fury Road), and that includes playing the role of wise and aged mentor to the master of the mystic arts.

A bit more gender diversity from Marvel Studios

The Fabulous Art of Jenny Frison

I just happened upon a post over at Bleeding Cool highlighting the alternate covers for Spider-Gwen #1. Among them was one image that really stuck out to me:

That alternate cover is by artist Jenny Frison. More of her lovely work can be found on her DeviantArt page. Here are a few more examples of her awesome art:

The Fabulous Art of Jenny Frison

Marvel Studios went fishing and made a huge catch

After weeks of speculation, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have reached an agreement to share everyone’s friendly neighborhood wallcrawler.

It’s been talked about for a while now, but only as rumors. Would Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures reach some sort of agreement concerning Spider-Man-an agreement perhaps, that would allow the web-slinger to appear in Marvel Studios movies like The Avengers? That speculation, hoped for by many, has now become a reality, as an agreement has been made between both companies to share Spider-Man:

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.

Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.

Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.

Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko back in the 1960s, Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (the correct spelling of his name includes the hyphen), has become (arguably) Marvel Comics’ flagship hero. The character, known for the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility”, has been the subject of countless comic books, cartoons, coloring books, novels, records, and children’s books. The Spider-Man movies-5 in total, including the 3 directed by Sam Raimi and the 2 directed by Marc Webb-have grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide. Unfortunately for Marvel, because they licensed Spider-Man to Sony Pictures in 1999 (long before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe-MCU for short), they haven’t been able to make use of the character (or any of his villains or supporting cast) in their movies. Much to their chagrin, I’m sure. One of the appeals of the Marvel Comics Universe (and the MCU) is the shared nature of their fictional world. Characters interact with one another on a regular basis. That was the basis (in part) for the creation of the Avengers. Not having access to their flagship character while building their shared universe had to be frustrating for Marvel Studios execs. With this new deal, Marvel Studios will now be able to expand their cinematic universe to include Spider-Man, and from the looks of the above press release, they’re already making plans.

If I had to guess, those plans include Spider-Man participating in Captain America 3, which will be based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s 2007 comic book mini-series Civil War. The story centered around the creation, in the wake of a tragedy involving superheroes, of the Superhuman Registration Act. The SRA required all superhuman beings to register their abilities and identities to the federal government. Iron Man supported the SRA. Captain America opposed it. Spider-Man initially sided with Iron Man but eventually switched sides and joined with Captain America. A significant moment in the story occurred when Spider-Man revealed his secret identity before the eyes of the world. The three characters are incredibly important to the story and when Marvel Studios announced that Captain America 3 was going to be a cinematic version of Civil War, I wondered how they would fill the Spidey shaped hole in the story. While it’s not been confirmed by Marvel, I think it’s quite likely that Spider-Man’s first MCU appearance prior to his own movie will be in the third Captain America movie.

No matter where his first MCU appearance occurs, one thing is certain: Andrew Garfield will not be reprising his role as the wallcrawler. In fact, the studios are apparently looking to reboot the character again. According to Variety, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures want the character back in high school, which means finding a younger actor to portray him.

Actors have yet to be approached, and sources say Sony is looking to hire a new director to replace “The Amazing Spider-Man” films’ Marc Webb before tapping a new Spidey. The studio also needs to figure out whether it wants to go with another Peter Parker or introduce another character that suits up as Spider-Man, including Miles Morales, whose father is African American and mother is Puerto Rican.

Sony has put the character, played by Tobey Maguire and Garfield, in Midtown High School before, but the plan is to spend more time in the setting and explore his awkward relationship with other students while fighting crime out of the classroom. Midtown is a major setting in the comicbooks, and Peter Parker also returns to the school to become a science teacher in storylines.

One of the side effects of the Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios deal is a reshuffling of the release dates for upcoming Marvel Studios movies:

Disney has even pushed back almost all of Marvel Studios’ slate of upcoming films to make room for Sony Pictures’ next Spider-Man film, starting with Thor: Ragnarok, which will relocate from July 28, 2017, to Nov. 3, 2017. That, in turn, will bump Black Panther to July 6, 2018, Captain Marvel to Nov. 2, 2018, and Inhumans to July 12, 2019. The two Avengers: Infinity War movies, however, are still slated to open on May 4, 2018, and May 3, 2019.

Despite the change in release dates (I’m particularly bummed about Captain Marvel and Black Panther being bumped), I am excited to finally see Spider-Man interact with the heroes of the MCU. Now, if only Marvel could somehow reach a similar deal with FOX over the rights to Fantastic Four and the X-Men…

Marvel Studios went fishing and made a huge catch

Pushing forward

According to Merriam-Webster, diversity is defined as “the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc”. A diverse workforce, for instance, is one in which you find people of varied backgrounds and with varied physical qualities. For many, diversity is thought of in terms of race or sexual orientation, but it goes far beyond that. According to Loden and Rosener, there are two main dimensions to diversity. Within the primary dimension are unchangeable characteristics, such as race, age, ethnicity, physical qualities, sexual orientation, and gender (the last one is changeable however–gender is not an innate quality of an individual, it is a social construct; despite the fact that one can change their gender, that is no basis for the discrimination or oppression of trans people and if you think it is, you are a shithead). The secondary dimension consists of those qualities that are not inherent. These more malleable characteristics include parental status, religious beliefs, income, education, and military experience (via Arizona.edu; source: Loden, M, & Rosener, J. (1991). Workforce America!: Managing Employee Diversity as a Vital Resource. Homewood , IL: Business One Irwin.)

That’s what diversity is, but why is it important? Why should it matter that queer people desire better representation in comic books? Why does it matter that this years Academy Award nominees were a sea of white faces? Why are people so happy that the next Ghostbusters movie will feature an all-female cast?

Other people matter. That’s why.

For too long the message from society has been that the only stories that matter, the only experiences that matter, are those of male, European-American, cisgender, heterosexuals (MEACHs). That is not true. It has never been true (though many people think it is). Recognizing that all humans have dignity and that we all matter means that our stories matter. Our histories matter. Our experiences matter. Maybe they don’t matter to MEACHs (though certainly there are many in that group who value the lives, stories, and experiences of others), but the world doesn’t consist of, nor does it revolve around that group. Unfortunately, for too long in USAmerica, almost everything has catered to the desires and wishes of MEACHs.  The overwhelming majority of movies produced by Hollywood have reinforced the idea that the only people who matter are MEACHs. Our politicians have been and largely continue to be predominately MEACHs. For a long time in this country our workforce was dominated by MEACHs. The protections of the government were extended only to MEACHs for much of our history. In effect, the message sent by U.S. society is that unless you were a cisgender, heterosexual, white male, you did not matter.

Thankfully, that is changing.

Hollywood for instance, is beginning to see that there is market for and money to be made in movies featuring women.

THR reported Aug. 2 that Sony wants to launch a female-led reboot of Ghostbusters from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. Two days later, the studio said it is targeting 2017 for a woman superhero film set in the Spider-Man universe. Marvel Studios, whose Guardians of the Galaxy lured a 44 percent-female audience on opening weekend (the biggest share of any Marvel film) is said to be close to greenlighting a Black Widow pic forScarlett Johansson. And The Expendables producer Avi Lernersaid Aug. 4 he wants to shoot a female spinoff Expendabelles in 2015 (Sylvester Stallone says he wants Sigourney Weaver to star).

Even as U.S. box office is down about 18 percent this summer, women and girls are driving some of the biggest success stories, including Maleficent ($727.5 million globally), The Fault in Our Stars ($263 million worldwide) and Lucy(a $43.9 million U.S. opening). They follow female-fronted smashes The Hunger Games and Frozen. “It used to be people would look at the success of individual titles and look at them as being the exception to the rule,” says Columbia president of production Hannah Minghella. “But I don’t think we can think that way anymore.”

Of course there is resistance to Hollywood’s diversity initiatives. The Manosphere (helpful glossary here) is filled with whiny, entitled douchenozzles.  These people (largely MEACHs) weren’t happy to hear about an all-female Ghostbusters movie.  While some tried to mask their sexism behind complaints like “Hollywood is ruining our childhood” and “what about nostalgia” and “women aren’t funny, how can they be Ghostbusters”, it’s plain to my eye, that they are really whining because they aren’t the only ones being catered to any longer.

“Our childhoods”. Really? As if your childhood is magically going to be retconned and your memories will be wiped. Your childhood still remains the same. The movie you watched as a kid hasn’t changed. Your memories haven’t changed. Nor will they. So stop your whining you spoiled, petulant brats. The world does not revolve around you.

Diversity in Hollywood can be seen in the upcoming Aquaman movie, featuring Jason Momoa in the title role. In the comic books, Aquaman has always been a MEACH (just like the target audience), but Momoa is Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli to be exact).  When the Aquaman movie hits in 2018, children and adults of Hawaiian background will get to see themselves represented on the big screen, something that is, to say the least, quite rare. Not only that, but they’ll get to see themselves represented in a heroic manner.  This-diversity-is a good great thing and Momoa is excited, not just for himself, but his kids:

“It’s awesome as an actor to know what your future is going to be because I have children and I’ve busted my ass to put food on the table,” he says. “It’s awesome knowing that I’m going to be in Justice League because my son is the biggest Batman fan and my daughter loves Wonder Woman. It’ll be cool for them to see me in something because they’re not going to be watching Game of Thrones or Red Roadanytime soon, but now they can see Daddy kicking ass in IMAX.”

Momoa joins fellow ass-kickers The Rock and Vin Diesel as a new breed of ethnically ambiguous action hero. As a Hawaiian, it wasn’t easy for Momoa to break into Hollywood.

“I’ve had to bust ass to be in this industry. A lot of things are very black and white,” he says. “Aquamanis especially cool because being a Kanaka Maoli—being Hawaiian—our Gods are Kanaloa and Maui, and the Earth is 71 percent water, so I get to represent that. And I’m someone who gets to represent all the islanders, not some blond-haired superhero. It’s cool that there’s a brown-skinned superhero.”

Yes, it is cool. In large part because it will show that heroes can come in all races and ethnicities, not just European-Americans. This is only one step, however.  Other important steps: Cyborg, starring Ray Fisher, due in 2020 and Black Panther, featuring Chadwick Boseman, in 2017.  Four examples do not, of course, magically make Hollywood more diverse.  Beyond superheroes and beyond increasing the on-screen presence of People of Color, women, and other minority groups, Hollywood needs more Black, Asian, Latino, and female directors, screenwriters, producers and more. Then there are the supremely underrepresented groups in Hollywood, like trans people, people with mental or physical disabilities,  More. More. More. Don’t stop until Hollywood accurately reflects USAmerica, rather than just MEACHs.

The comic book industry is another area in the United States that needs to diversify. Traditionally the domain of MEACHs, mainstream USAmerican comics have diversified somewhat over the last 15 years. There are an increasing number of women creating comics. There are an increasing number of female-led comic books (for instance, Marvel currently produces Thor, Angel: Asgard’s Assassin, Storm, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen, Silk, and an all-female team of X-Men; She-Hulk and Elektra were cancelled recently).  Despite this, things in the land of USAmerican comics are far from perfect, and one young girl recently decided to express her dissatisfaction with DC Comics:

The letter reads:

Dear DC comics,
My name is Rowan and I am 11 years old. I love superheroes and have been reading comics and watching superhero cartoons and movies since I was very young. I’m a girl, and I’m upset because there aren’t very many girl superheroes or movies and comics from DC.
For my birthday, I got some of your Justice League Chibis™. I noticed in the little pamphlet that there are only 2 girl Chibis, and 10 boys. Also, the background for the girl figures was all pink and purple.
I remember watching Justice League cartoons when I was really young with my dad. There are Superman and Batman movies, but not a Wonder Woman one. You have a Flash TV show, but not a Wonder Woman one. Marvel Comics made a movie about a talking tree and raccoon awesome, but you haven’t made a movie with Wonder Woman.
I would really like a Hawkgirl or Catwoman or the girls of the Young Justice TV show action figures please. I love your comics, but I would love them a whole lot more, if there were more girls.
I asked a lot of the people I know whether they watched movies or read books or comics where girls were the main characters, they all said yes.
Please do something about this. Girls read comics too and they care.
Sincerely, Rowan.

This letter expresses the feelings of many comic book fans.  A DC Comics rep responded on Twitter:

Despite the advances made in the comic book industry (which, btw, is more than just Marvel and DC; I focus on them because they are the Big 2 publishers and put out the vast majority of comic books on the racks), there is still a long way to go and the bigwigs at Marvel and DC are not the only ones who realize this.  BOOM! Studios founder and CEO Ross Richie says he wants to help push comics forward:

It’s Keith Giffen’s fault. I keep telling people that he talked me into it in a dive bar on L.A.’s west side. But the truth is that I started this company out of the spare bedroom in my apartment because I couldn’t believe the guy that created Rocket Raccoon thought I could do it. Maybe we could bring something to comics that hadn’t been there before?

I’ve loved comics since 1976. I never thought I’d publish them. Sure, I’d worked with giants of the field, including Barry Windsor-Smith, Howard Chaykin, Jim Starlin, Walter Simonson, and others too numerous to mention, when I was a young marketing turk at Malibu Comics 20 years ago. But me, publish comic books? You’re crazy.

So it’s 10 years later now. Comics publishers don’t often make it that far, do they? We should do a victory lap right now.

But who wants to look backward when there’s so much more cool stuff around the bend?

Let’s talk about the future.

Have you ever had a friend that shared a lot of your interests, but they didn’t read comics? You gave them Watchmen, you gave them Y: The Last Man, you gave them X-Men. But nothing stuck. They liked the idea of comics, but there wasn’t a comic book that felt like it was made for them…

Let’s go make that comic book for them. Together. As fans, as creators, as retailers, as the press, as publishers. All of us. Let’s talk about how we can allPush #ComicsForward. Because comic books should be for everyone.

We know where we’ve been—our favorite eras, our favorite characters, our favorite runs. We already know all of that. I’ve got a garage full of Silver, Bronze, Copper, and Modern Age comics and I love them.

But the medium of comics has never been more on the forefront of driving pop culture and as fans of this art form, we have a rare opportunity to take that interest to the next level and embrace an entire generation of potential fans who don’t read comics right now.

We can make a new Golden Age.

At BOOM!, we’ve carefully selected new projects in 2015 that we believe will help Push #ComicsForward. These projects will take on risky subject matter, introduce new characters from diverse backgrounds, and debut a swath of new creative voices to the industry.

Just in the first few months of 2015, we’ve launched a gaming-inspired humor comic in Munchkin, two projects that tackle the complex climate in the Middle East with Burning Fields and The Realist, five series with unique female leads (Curb Stomp, HaloGen, Cluster, Help Us! Great Warrior, and Giant Days), a period crime project (Hit: 1957), and an original graphic novel about the cutest crabs to ever start a revolution (The March of the Crabs). And we’ve only just begun. But this movement isn’t just about BOOM!, it’s about all of us. We’ll be devoting a ton of our time and energy in 2015 to work with the press, conventions, and social media channels to keep the conversation going.

If you know me, you know I’m the “Challenge Accepted!” guy. If there’s a problem that hasn’t been solved or a project that seems insurmountable, I’m the first one to jump in. This is a big challenge, but I want you to join me in taking it on.

No one thought comics targeted at All Ages was viable until KaBOOM!. Now it’s the norm. No one thought an all-female cast of characters with an all-female creative team had a shot in the Direct Market—until Lumberjanes. And who would have guessed that an oversized limited series like Memetic, starring a hearing-impaired, gay college student and a blind, African-American general about a meme-induced apocalypse, would garner rave reviews? We did.

If you believe comics are great just the way they are, this isn’t for you. If you think superheroes are the only kinds of stories worth telling in comics, this isn’t for you. But if you want to see everyone reading comics—your aunt, your co-workers, your niece, your boyfriend, that kid down the street—let’s Push #ComicsForward in 2015.

Together.

ROSS RICHIE

Founder & CEO

BOOM! Studios

This is the type of thing I want to see more of, and not just from the comic book industry. Not just from Hollywood. I want to see greater diversity everywhere. Not just for me, as a gay, black male. I want to see women represented better in society. I want to see Asian-Americans granted more prominence. I want to see the lives of Latinos treated as if they have value. As if they matter. I want to see trans people recognized as human beings with rights, and I damn sure want to see greater representation of them. Everywhere. Because they matter. That’s the lesson to be learned. Everyone matters. Not just male, European-American, cisgender, heterosexuals.

Pushing forward

“What football team are you rooting for?”

To the best of my memory, I first heard that question as a bartender when I worked at Bob Baumhauer’s Wings Sports Grill (which was waaaaay back in the halcyon days of 1999). In the 7 years I worked there, I can’t tell you how many times I got this question. Mostly it was men asking me, but I had more than a few women pose the question too. It wasn’t an outrageous question to ask, given that I was working at a sports themed restaurant, but I found it mildly annoying that people would assume that I was interested in football. Over the years and across multiple jobs, I’ve had the question asked many more times. Hell, at my current job, I was asked just last week.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like USAmerican football. It just doesn’t appeal to me at all. And that’s not from lack of exposure. Growing up, two prominent pop culture touchstones were often found in our household. The first was sports; specifically basketball, baseball, and yes, football. My father was all about sports, and could really get into his games. Talking (sometimes loudly) to the television in response to a play, a referee’s decision, or a player’s conduct? Yeah, that was my pop. You know those things you did deliberately as a child to annoy your parents? Those things you knew would irritate them?  No, I never did anything like that. I was a model child. I have no idea what my father’s face looks like if I stand between him and a football game. For all that football was a regular presence in the house, I never took to it. I did take to the second pop culture touchstone; thanks to dad, I found myself fascinated and utterly enthralled with USAmerican comic books.

My father was the one who bought me my first comic book- Marvel Tales #155, a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #17 (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko). I think I still have it in my enormous comic book collection (its north of 10K) that I really need to pare down. Sorry. Digressed. My memory of my childhood is spotty, but I think the next comic book I owned was Superman Vol. 2 #3 (writing and art by John Byrne).  If memory serves, this comic was in my Christmas stocking in 1987. The next year, my father (who was in the military) was shipped off to north Alabama. That’s when I began collecting comic books. I remember there was a convenience store across the street-Circle K, I think-from the military installation we lived on. On a regular basis, I’d take my allowance and ride my bike to the store and buy a comic book. I also found myself buying comics from private collectors who would set up shop outside the Post Exchange (a shopping center on the base). My collection began to increase substantially when I turned 16 in December of 1991. With a vehicle (my parents bought me a 1984 Mazda B2000) I was able to visit actual comic book stores, and boy did I ever-it was during the 90s that I bought most of my 10K+ collection.

So if there’s a story featuring dueling superhero teams and you ask me which team I’m rooting for, chances are I’ll have an answer.  But if you ask me which football team I want to win, don’t be surprised when you hear “I don’t follow football. I’m not rooting for any team.”

That’s what you’d hear any other year.

This year is different though. This year, for the first time in my 39 years on this several billion year old planet, I’m rooting for a team to win the Super Bowl.

The good-natured Super Bowl rivalry between Captain America star Chris Evans and Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt has moved beyond a charity bet to inspire a charity T-shirt.

As CBR noted last week, Boston native Evans and Seattle resident Pratt dug in for their own Civil War:  If New England wins Super Bowl XLIX, Pratt will don a Patriots jersey and make an appearance at Christopher’s Haven in Boston, which provides a home away from home for young cancer patients and their families while they undergo cancer treatments at nearby hospitals. but if the Seahawks win, Evans will dress as Captain America and visit Seattle Children’s Hospital while carrying a 12th Man flag.

Now TeeFury is getting in on the action with a “Chris Vs. Chris” shirt, featuring the familiar helmets of “The Outlaw” and “The Patriot.” Proceeds from sales benefit Christopher’s haven and Seattle Children’s Hospital. The shirts are available for purchase through Feb. 10.

Who am I backing?

Well, Chris Evans is hotter than Chris Pratt, so I lean toward the Patriots, but really…I want Evans to visit Seattle’s Children’s Hospital and I want Pratt to visit Christopher’s Haven. Because I think that would be an awesome present to the children in both places. Can both teams win? No? Shows you how much I know about football. Maybe they’ll both take up their respective challenges no matter which team wins.

“What football team are you rooting for?”

"What football team are you rooting for?"

To the best of my memory, I first heard that question as a bartender when I worked at Bob Baumhauer’s Wings Sports Grill (which was waaaaay back in the halcyon days of 1999). In the 7 years I worked there, I can’t tell you how many times I got this question. Mostly it was men asking me, but I had more than a few women pose the question too. It wasn’t an outrageous question to ask, given that I was working at a sports themed restaurant, but I found it mildly annoying that people would assume that I was interested in football. Over the years and across multiple jobs, I’ve had the question asked many more times. Hell, at my current job, I was asked just last week.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like USAmerican football. It just doesn’t appeal to me at all. And that’s not from lack of exposure. Growing up, two prominent pop culture touchstones were often found in our household. The first was sports; specifically basketball, baseball, and yes, football. My father was all about sports, and could really get into his games. Talking (sometimes loudly) to the television in response to a play, a referee’s decision, or a player’s conduct? Yeah, that was my pop. You know those things you did deliberately as a child to annoy your parents? Those things you knew would irritate them?  No, I never did anything like that. I was a model child. I have no idea what my father’s face looks like if I stand between him and a football game. For all that football was a regular presence in the house, I never took to it. I did take to the second pop culture touchstone; thanks to dad, I found myself fascinated and utterly enthralled with USAmerican comic books.

My father was the one who bought me my first comic book- Marvel Tales #155, a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #17 (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko). I think I still have it in my enormous comic book collection (its north of 10K) that I really need to pare down. Sorry. Digressed. My memory of my childhood is spotty, but I think the next comic book I owned was Superman Vol. 2 #3 (writing and art by John Byrne).  If memory serves, this comic was in my Christmas stocking in 1987. The next year, my father (who was in the military) was shipped off to north Alabama. That’s when I began collecting comic books. I remember there was a convenience store across the street-Circle K, I think-from the military installation we lived on. On a regular basis, I’d take my allowance and ride my bike to the store and buy a comic book. I also found myself buying comics from private collectors who would set up shop outside the Post Exchange (a shopping center on the base). My collection began to increase substantially when I turned 16 in December of 1991. With a vehicle (my parents bought me a 1984 Mazda B2000) I was able to visit actual comic book stores, and boy did I ever-it was during the 90s that I bought most of my 10K+ collection.

So if there’s a story featuring dueling superhero teams and you ask me which team I’m rooting for, chances are I’ll have an answer.  But if you ask me which football team I want to win, don’t be surprised when you hear “I don’t follow football. I’m not rooting for any team.”

That’s what you’d hear any other year.

This year is different though. This year, for the first time in my 39 years on this several billion year old planet, I’m rooting for a team to win the Super Bowl.

The good-natured Super Bowl rivalry between Captain America star Chris Evans and Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt has moved beyond a charity bet to inspire a charity T-shirt.

As CBR noted last week, Boston native Evans and Seattle resident Pratt dug in for their own Civil War:  If New England wins Super Bowl XLIX, Pratt will don a Patriots jersey and make an appearance at Christopher’s Haven in Boston, which provides a home away from home for young cancer patients and their families while they undergo cancer treatments at nearby hospitals. but if the Seahawks win, Evans will dress as Captain America and visit Seattle Children’s Hospital while carrying a 12th Man flag.

Now TeeFury is getting in on the action with a “Chris Vs. Chris” shirt, featuring the familiar helmets of “The Outlaw” and “The Patriot.” Proceeds from sales benefit Christopher’s haven and Seattle Children’s Hospital. The shirts are available for purchase through Feb. 10.

Who am I backing?

Well, Chris Evans is hotter than Chris Pratt, so I lean toward the Patriots, but really…I want Evans to visit Seattle’s Children’s Hospital and I want Pratt to visit Christopher’s Haven. Because I think that would be an awesome present to the children in both places. Can both teams win? No? Shows you how much I know about football. Maybe they’ll both take up their respective challenges no matter which team wins.

"What football team are you rooting for?"