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Pull list for March 2 2016; Objections to a white Iron Fist

March 1, 2016

No work tomorrow, reviews will go up.

I’ll go to the store for: A-Force #3, by G. Willow Wilson, Kelly Thompson, Jorge Molina and Matt Milla; Mockingbird #1, by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk.

I’ll also review: Avengers Standoff Assault On Pleasant Hill Alpha #1, by Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz; Black Widow #1, by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson; Deadpool #8, by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli and Ruth Redmond; Old Man Logan #3, by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo; Uncanny Avengers #6, by Gerry Duggan, *deep breath* Carlos Pacheco, Dave Meikis, Scott Hanna, Mariano Taibo, Antonio Fabela and Richard Isanove; Uncanny X-Men #4, by Cullen Bunn, Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard.

So 2 comics picked up, and 8 reviews. Odd week.

I’m most excited for the two comics I’m getting. A-Force has been enjoyable so far, with the second issue being better than the first, and now the team is assembled and I look forward to seeing where it goes. Also, Dazzler! I hope we see more of her Roller Derby career. And Mockingbird’s a character I have a lot of appreciation for, and I like supporting female creators. So that book should be a lot of fun.

My March Marvel pull list: A-Force #3, Mockingbird #1, All-New Wolverine #6, Ms. Marvel #5, Vision #5, Weirdworld #4, Silver Surfer #3, Spider-Man/Deadpool #3, ANAD Avengers #7, Silk #6, Ultimates #5, Captain Marvel #3, Power man & Iron Fist #2, New Avengers #8, Angela #6, Hellcat #4, Squirrel Girl #6, Moon Girl #5. 18 titles. Not bad.

So, by this time, you’ve heard the Iron Fist announcement. That he’ll be played by a white guy. I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed by this. I was hoping they’d go with an Asian-American actor. Instead, they’re keeping the Mighty Whitey angle, which is disappointing. Iron Fist is a character who is inherently Problematic. He’s built on cultural appropriation. That was the reason for his creation. He’s a white guy who moved to Magic Tibet and became better at being Magic Tibetan than the actual Magic Tibetans were. This is, of course, not a terribly unique story. There are tons of stories out there of white people adopting a foreign culture and being better at it than the people born to it. But I’ll actually get back to that.

Before I continue, I do actually want to make one thing clear: “Problematic” does not automatically mean “bad.” It means “has problems.” We all love things that are problematic. One could make the argument that pretty much all fiction is problematic in one way or another. Sometimes it’s from ignorance, sometimes it’s an intentional choice made for the sake of narrative cohesion. Karma is a character who can be described as problematic (a lesbian whose backstory involves rape, which is problematic because of the myth that gay people were abused when they were young), but she’s an amazing character and I will fight anyone who disagrees. So when people say something is problematic, they don’t mean it’s bad, or that people are bad for enjoying it, or anything like that. They’re simply stating that there are elements about it that are problems. So, no, you’re not racist for wanting Danny Rand to be portrayed by a white actor. No one is saying you’re racist for wanting that. OK?

OK. So as I said, there are a lot of stories about white people becoming The Best at a non-white culture. Stories that exploit those cultures by using them as a vehicle to explore a white guy’s struggle. These stories have been around for a long, long time, and they’re still happening today. Think Dances With Wolves. (Then think of a Native American actor in a lead role.) Think of The Last Samurai. (Then think of a Japanese-American in a lead role.) And this, I think, is the key point that people keep missing: The Iron Fist controversy isn’t really about Iron Fist. It’s about the larger context in which Asian stories are told using white people. Asian-Americans don’t get to be heroes. They don’t get to be the heroes of the stories that should be theirs to tell.

And to people outside the Asian-American community, the criticisms of a white Iron Fist feel like they’re coming out of nowhere. Because we don’t have that context. We’re not cognizant of that history of cultural appropriation. But it’s something Asian-Americans have been talking about for a long time. It’s just that everyone else only just now noticed it. Iron Fist is simply the point at which white people noticed Asian-Americans raising complaints. And some people chose to add their voices to those of the Asian-American community, trying to give their complaints a signal boost, to spread awareness of the larger problem. And some people just want to watch a damn TV show. And as I said above, that’s fine! Nothing wrong with just wanting to watch a damn TV show. But maybe try to listen to what’s being said and acknowledge that Asian-Americans do have some valid complaints about the broader issues being discussed?

And there is more to the social context than just the cultural appropriation. Hollywood does not have a good history in regards to race. Whitewashing still happens. Still. In 20-fucking-16, whitewashing is happening. A movie just came out, set in Ancient Egypt – Egypt! – where the leads were white. White guys as Ancient Egyptians! And it got some attention, but not that much. Nowhere near the levels of outrage – OUTRAGE! – that have been thrown at people who wanted an Asian-American Iron Fist. The Dr. Strange movie cast The Whitest Person Ever as the Ancient One. They looked at the Ancient One, saw some problematic stereotypes in the character, and rather than try to write the character in a way that avoids or subverts those stereotypes, they said, “Just make it a white person.” This is a major movie from a major studio. And a studio that’s actually been criticized for a lack of diversity, a studio that’s known for long time that people have concerns about its racial representation. And they still whitewashed the Ancient One! Because they knew they could. Because they knew that a small number of people would object, but most people wouldn’t care. All the people who got angry about the idea of an Asian-American Iron Fist, insisting that they have to stick to canon and that changing a character’s race is wrong and why not ask for existing characters to be used or make new characters and all that crap? Yeah, they’re all pretty much silent on the Ancient One being whitewashed. They don’t care about it. (And by the way, the “make new characters” argument is also simplistic bullshit that doesn’t take into account the barriers to access against minority creators and characters.) For my part, I’m boycotting Dr. Strange. I won’t support whitewashing. Fuck you, Marvel, for pulling this sort of reprehensible bullshit. No damn way am I spending money on any movie that whitewashes. It is morally indefensible. There are mountains made of the shits I do not give on how Tilda Swinton does in the role. She does not belong in that role. She should never have been cast in the role. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter how good her performance is, she still should not have been cast in the role. No performance can every justify this whitewashing.

So. Shit like that is part of why people wanted an Asian-American Iron Fist. And I’m disappointed they went with a white guy. I’ll probably still watch the show – at this point, I’m kinda waiting to see who they get as writers, because if the writing room is filled with a bunch of white guys, then that’ll be a big problem – but my interest in it isn’t very high.

But! Moving away from that. I read Epic Canadiana Vol. 1. My review:

The worst I can say about this anthology is that it went by too quickly. This is a really fun collection of stories about Canadian superheroes (mostly based on early Canadian superheroes, from WW2). There’s a nice focus on diversity, with characters of different races and religions, and an openly LGBT hero, as well. It’s all tied together with a framing device about a wealthy woman trying to bring an old hero out of retirement. It’s good stuff. Each story is well-written and well-drawn.

I will say I liked the second volume better. But this is still great. Definitely recommend it.

And, I finished The Ill Fortune To Be Dark In the Eyes, by Berlin Gunning. My review:

I received this book free through Goodreads Giveaways. I wasn’t impressed. There were a lot of questionable choices here. For one thing, setting it in the present but without modern technology, mores, knowledge or anything else the least bit contemporary, just seemed pointless. Gunning clearly wanted to write a medieval story, so why not just set it in a medieval era? Why specify that it takes place in 2008, and then leave out everything modern? The bigger problem, though, is the writing style. She’s clearly going for a classical literature writing style, the kind of style you’d find in 19th century fiction, and earlier. The thing is, it just comes across as pretentious. It’s distracting, and I rolled my eyes at so many phrasing choices. I also found myself confused at a lot of events, as things happened that just seemed to come out of nowhere. A character ended up in prison and I had no idea how she got there. Motivations for some actions are never explained. There were times I had no idea what was going on.

The allegorical elements were also really heavy-handed. It tries to suggest that racism is as stupid as discrimination based on eye colour. But it’s so heavy-handed that it comes across as ridiculous.

This was not a particularly good book.

So, that was disappointing. Next up, I’m thinking Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, by Sean Howe. It should be a fun one.

On to Kickstarter stuff: I received Hustle Cat, a Visual Novel I backed. It’s a lot of fun. It’s got really good writing, and really good humour. It also has cats, so yay. There’s also a guy in it who is entirely too pretty. I object to how pretty he is. As a straight man, I should not be so attracted to him.

And some projects worth backing: The Switch, by Keith Champagne and Tom Nguyen. It’s about a supervillain who who commits and random good deed, likes it, and decides to be a superheroine. Both creators have done some DC work, and while I haven’t read any of it (obviously), it does mean they’re professionals and know what they’re doing. Important note: She has a talking cat. The project’s fully funded, and has reached a stretch goal to expand it to 80 pages (from 64), so this is coming out. Why not show it some support?

The Other Side Anthology, a collection of queer paranormal romance stories. In addition to being about queer stories, it also has a fairly diverse set of creators – not just queer creators, but also people of colour. I’ve backed anthologies like this before, and they’re always great. This one’s still a bit short of its goal, but has 3 weeks to go, so give it some love.

The Invention of EJ Whitaker, written by the Gibbs Sisters, with Mark Hernandez and Hasani McIntosh on art. This is a steampunk comic about a black woman trying to become a distinguished inventor at the turn of the century. The creative team is all people of colour. I firmly believe comics needs diverse creators. Plus, it looks like a fun story. I could wish for a cheaper tier for a PDF – $10 for a 24-page comic is a lot – but it’s worth supporting, nonetheless. It needs another couple thousand dollars in the next three weeks, which it should make.

And, finally, Upside Down: Inverted Tropes In Storytelling Anthology. This one’s prose stories rather than comics. The concept is to take some common tropes and cliches, and twist them around. Once again, the creators are diverse. Some of the tropes they mention being inverted are “Magical Negro,” “Yellow Peril,” “Women In the Refrigerator” – so some stories will be dealing with some problematic tropes. Others will be things like Love At Fist Sight, the Chosen One and The Singularity Will Cause the Apocalypse. So, some less serious stuff. Regardless, it looks really interesting. And, again, over three weeks to raise another $3000 or so. Throw some support behind it.

My schedule for this week: 12-8:30 Friday. That is all. Yep. So, posts every day except Friday.

And that’s all I’ve got for this week.

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