Money is the real superpower as vendettas dominate plotlines – when did these guys stop championing the oppressed?
It’s 75 years to the week (give or take, comics haven’t always had precise issue dates) that the first Superman comic hit the newsstands.
While he wasn’t entirely unprecedented, Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1 was a watershed moment. In short order dozens of caped imitators were launched to exploit the reading public’s immense appetite for stories of strong men in tights punching lumps out of one another.
Interestingly though, Superman’s earliest foes weren’t giant robots or genetically modified supercriminals. That first story – Superman: Champion Of The Oppressed – saw the illegal Kryptonian immigrant right a miscarriage of justice, put an end to a domestic abuse case and strike terror into the heart of an unscrupulous political lobbyist.
The simple farm boy from Kansas was morally grounded in that same post-Depression sense of moral rectitude that informed Preston Sturges or John Steinbeck.
Fast forward 75 years and superheroes are bigger news than ever. But they aren’t just regular Joes with a talent. The two biggest box-office stories right now are billionaire playboy, industrialist and crime-fighter Bruce Wayne and billionaire playboy, inventor and retired arms dealer Tony Stark. Batman and Iron Man respectively.
The plot of the first Iron Man movie was centred on a boardroom battle between Stark and his rival, Obadiah Stane. The second focused on a business rivalry between Stark and a rival arms manufacturer, Justin Hammer. Expect more corporate shenanigans in chapter 3, due next week.
Similarly Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan’s feted relaunch of Gotham City’s crimebusting vigilante, involved a corporate sellout from within Bruce Wayne’s own company. There was more of the same in the concluding part of Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.
So when did popular culture grow up and fall in love with the military industrial complex?
In part, the recasting of billionaires as supermen is down to the current trend for realism. Money Supermarket threw together some figures on how much it might cost to become a superhero. Batman came out at around $690,000,000. The price of becoming Iron Man was an even more impressive $1,600,000,000.
Now, those numbers are fanciful estimates rooted in the weird science of superhero world, but they’re probably in the right order of magnitude. Until we find a planet populated by creatures who can fly and shoot lasers from their eyes, or an interstellar police force armed with near-omnipotent jewellery, money is the only real superpower.
Of course, billionaires aren’t the only heroes of hit superhero flicks. There’s also The Hulk (scientist employed by the US military), Captain America (super-soldier created by the US military), Hawkeye and Black Widow (assassins employed by a US-dominated covert military force) and Thor (a god).
And that was just The Avengers.
Marvel also devised Spider-Man, but his adventures are often surprisingly domestic in nature. He spends more time disciplining family friends who have morphed into lizards or goblins than standing up to slum landlords. Marvel’s X-Men do, to their credit, seem to care about events beyond their immediate social circle.
DC Comics has enjoyed fewer cinema successes than its great rival Marvel. Its only recent live-action superhero flick apart from the Batman films featured Green Lantern – a test-pilot employed by a US defence contractor who became a sort of space cop.
All that may well change in June when Man Of Steel, a second attempt at rebooting the Superman franchise, reaches cinemas. Plot details are still sketchy, but the principal antagonist seems to be exiled Kryptonian warlord General Zod.
There’s a skein of New Testament self-sacrifice running through many Superman stories, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw an element of that here. But as it currently stands Man Of Steel does feel as if it might concern a super-powered vendetta where the “little man” is irrelevant except as cannon fodder.
Don’t misinterpret my angle here. I love this kind of film. There’s barely a superhero flick that I haven’t seen and at least partly enjoyed. But just for a change of pace it would be nice to see the supermen stop fighting among themselves and becoming Champions Of The Oppressed again.
The publisher of Britain’s longest running comic says no decision has been taken on whether it will cease publication.
Read more: ‘No decision’ on Dandy’s future
The comedian’s hard-won reputation and popularity could be permanently damaged by his ‘morally wrong’ tax arrangements
Jimmy Carr was performing in Stockport on Friday night, under the tagline “leave your conscience, common decency, and moral compass at home”. Which is the same, joked Twitter users, as his tax advice. Online, in the newspapers and in the stalls, it’s been open season on Carr this week, as news of his “morally wrong” tax arrangements (in the prime minister’s rush-to-judgment) made one of Britain’s most successful standup comedians the subject, and no longer just the teller, of cruel gags.
Cruelty – or at least the appearance of it – is Carr’s stock in trade, and he’s been doling it out for over a decade. Having quit an unloved job in marketing aged 26, in the throes of what he later described as an early midlife crisis, Carr turned to comedy (and had therapy, renounced his Catholicism, and lost his virginity) at the turn of the Noughties. His first standup show was called Bare-Faced Ambition; he never wasted time with false modesty. The show introduced a standup whose tart and tasteless mode arrived near fully formed. He joked about rape, teased Stephen Hawking about his motor neurone disease, and made up a spoof press quote for his poster: “Jimmy Carr is the bastard child of Cecil Parkinson and Sara Keays.” You can’t say we weren’t warned.
At the time, his supercilious amorality seemed daringly new – and came hand in hand with an irresistible joke-telling skill. Here was a master craftsman of the one-liner to rival the great American gagman Emo Phillips. The jokes were so adroit (“throwing acid is wrong, in some people’s eyes”) and the aloof personality so obviously a caricature, it was hard to take offence as Carr jabbed his rapier at the audience’s soft liberal underbelly.
But, like Al Murray’s Pub Landlord character before him, what started playful and even subversive ended up crude – a prime example of what we initially assumed was being sent up.
In recent years, Carr’s live act has become less varied, less sharp, more wearyingly obsessed with anal sex and the flouting of supposed taboos. No matter his obvious intelligence and personal charm, I’ve left his last two shows depressed by the low horizons and the grim atmosphere Carr’s comedy generates. On both occasions, Carr invited questions from his audience and used this kind of response: “Is it shoplifting if you rape a prostitute?”; and “Why is your mum always wet?” In this context, Carr’s default defence – he’s just trying to make people laugh – feels beside the point.
And yet, Carr’s reputation as a fearless sayer of the unsayable has been sustained by a succession of media-stoked controversies, over his jokes about amputee servicemen (“we’re going to have a fucking good Paralympic team in 2012″) or a car crash quip in the wake of a pileup last November. These gags, and that reputation, explain much of the schadenfreude surrounding Carr’s exposure this week. The rest can be traced either to the bizarre conviction on the part of some commentators that Carr is leftwing (of which I’ve seen no evidence in 10 years watching his comedy), and to the same ambition and careerism that has long made Carr the butt of other standups’ jokes.
There has never been any shortage of Carr-sceptics in the comedy industry, from old-school comics such as Jo Brand (Carr, she once told me, “appeals to all the people out there who think ‘where have all those delicious anti-women jokes gone?’ “) to this generation’s favourite curmudgeon, Stewart Lee, who patronisingly spells out the jokes in his own set “for all the Jimmy Carr fans in the audience”.
In the Twitter-storm over Carr’s behaviour this week, colleagues including Charlie Brooker and Frankie Boyle showed little sympathy. “It’s OK to avoid tax,” tweeted Boyle, “providing every time you do a joke about a town being shit, you add ‘partly down to me I’m afraid’ under your breath.” But Carr has his supporters: comics including Rufus Hound, John Bishop and even the militant lefty Josie Long shifted blame from him to the system of which he has taken advantage.
Will Carr’s career survive the row? Ken Dodd never entirely shook off the tax-dodger tag. Carr’s armour-plated, high-status persona will be harder to sustain now we’ve seen him vulnerable. His position on Channel 4′s current affairs comedy The 10 O’Clock Show has obviously been compromised: hypocrisy isn’t a good look for a satirist. I suspect Carr will ride it out, but his ambition as stated in a recent interview (“a great comic is loved and … I aim to be”) now looks that much harder to realise.
When Jim Davidson, of all people, cropped up on BBC1′s This Week on Thursday to defend not just Carr, but tax-dodging in general, it brought to mind Stewart Lee’s gag when in 2004 Carr accused Davidson of plagiarism: “If you write a joke that Jim Davidson can steal, it’s time to think about changing your material.” The same goes for tax arrangements: if yours are approved by Jim Davidson, it’s time to think about changing your accountant. By the time of his midweek apology, Carr had come to that conclusion. Whether it will rescue his popularity and hard-won media ubiquity remains to be seen.
After enduring Sarah Mulvey’s righteously indignant April 22 letter, “Texting in the proper context,” to see what inspired Mulvey’s diatribe. Dillon made no sweeping generalizations about all Japanese women. Mulvey incorrectly accuses him of doing so, apparently to justify unleashing a cliched cascade of feminist vitriol. This straw-man technique is intellectually lazy and totally invalid here.
Dillon was simply satirizing people obsessed with texting. Furthermore, the old “Charisma Man” comic (which Mulvey cited) did not “pander” to the white, male English-conversation teacher; it was self-deprecating social satire. Mulvey’s gender-empowering dogma apparently prevents her from getting the joke.
See the article here: Dogma gets in the way of joke
The original cheque used to buy the Superman comic character from its original creators for $130 sells in an online auction for £160,000 (£101,000).
See the rest here: Superman cheque makes super price
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope–a film by Morgan Spurlock explores this amazing cultural phenomenon by following the lives of five attendees as they descend upon the ultimate geek mecca at San Diego Comic-Con 2010. One on one interviews with…
Read the original here: 80% Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope
The last time U.S. President Barack Obama met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was obvious that the two men distrusted and despised each other. This time (March 5), their mutual dislike was better hidden, but the gulf between them was still as big, especially on the issue of Iran’s alleged desire for nuclear weapons.
There is something comic about two nuclear-armed countries (5,000-plus nuclear weapons for the United States, around 200 for Israel) declaring that it is vital to prevent a third country from getting a few of the things too — particularly when that third country, Iran, has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and still abides by it, while Israel has always refused to sign it. But never mind that.
See the original post: Delusional pretexts to attack Iran
Rich Burlew becomes crowdfunding site Kickstarter’s most successful creative project
The author of a self-published webcomic about a band of heroes in a fantasy role-playing world has raised more than $1m (£600,000) from fans on “crowdfunding” website Kickstarter to bring his stories back into print, making The Order of the Stick the richest creative work in the crowdfunding site’s history.
Author and illustrator Rich Burlew launched The Order of the Stick online in 2003. Following the comic fantasy adventures of a collection of stick figures in a role-playing game world as they struggle with enemies and the rules of the game, much of the story is available online for free, but Burlew also began self-publishing parts of it in paper format in 2005. When the costs of keeping it in print proved too high, Burlew turned to Kickstarter following repeated demands from readers, launching a project in January to raise the $57,750 he needed to rerelease the books in print.
Yesterday, he closed his fundraising project with 14,952 backers and $1,254,120 raised, making The Order of the Stick Kickstarter’s most funded project by a single person ever and the most funded creative work the site has ever seen.
“I’m still shocked,” Burlew said. “I was tragically underprepared. I never thought we’d get anywhere near the response we’ve gotten, and it’s been a daily struggle to keep up with the progress of the whole thing. What I was thinking when I hit the Launch
Japanese comics have been translated into English and other languages by the hundreds, but overseas publishers have long overlooked one of the biggest local genres: gag manga. Their usual excuse is that Japanese humor, which relies heavily on untranslatable wordplay and cultural in-jokes, doesn’t travel well.
But on the evidence of Daigo Matsui’s “Afuro Tanaka (Afro Tanaka),” a laugh-till-you-hurt comedy based on Masaharu Noritsuke’s award-winning gag manga, they are missing out on some comic gold.
Read the original here: ‘Afuro Tanaka (Afro Tanaka)’