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Saga’s Cyclops Novelist is Totally A One-Eyed Sci-Fi Version of Samuel Delany

Awesome writer and fan Imogen Binnie got us all geektastic when she pointed out this genius match-up.  And it’s basically undeniable.  Not only does Mr. Heist, Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan’s subversive revolution-inciting novelist, bear an uncanny resemblance to the legendary Sam Delany, but also…

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Both Mr. Heist and our (cyclops-deprived) universe’s own Sam Delany are masters of ideas, using the “low brow” genres to examines big ideas about social justice. And…

Okay, so, maybe besides the awesome beard, the resemblances stop there (as far as we know, Mr. Delany has never had an alcohol problem or threw up on babies)… but, bad first impressions aside, if Mr. Heist is in anyway inspired by the one and only Sam Delany, the Saga-verse just got that much doper. And just when you thought it was impossible to fan-crush on Saga any harder. Oh yeah, did we mention issue #15 is out this week?

Bam.

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Indie Wednesday: Hip-Hop Icon DMC Bringing Color & Cool to Comics

DMC_CharacterDesign02After the world tragically lost visionary Run-DMC member Jason ”Jam Master Jay” Mizell in 2002, founding member Darryl “DMC” McDaniels swore, out of respect to Mizell, that he’d never make new music. But DMC remains committed to the pursuit of social justice through the arts, and has ventured into (or rather returned to; turns out this king of cool has always been a bit of geek!)  the world of comics with his new indie imprint Darryl Makes Comics. 

Fittingly, the first project from the imprint will be a graphic novel set during the height of hip hop glory in 1980’s New York, titled DMC. That’s right, DMC. The story will kick off with an alternate universe version of DMC himself, a universe where DMC never became a rapper, but instead fought for justice as a superhero. But DMC is only the first hero the comic will introduce, the comic promises an exciting cadre of diverse heroes who’ll bust up the typical hero paradigm, add a little color to the comics world, and switch up the style we’re used to. You can see for yourself in the preview of DMC #0 over at EW.

Featuring veteran talent like Damion Scott, Dexter Vines, Ronald Wimberly, and Chris Sotomayor, the imprint promises diversity both in its pages and behind them. In an interview with Jay Deitcher over at UnleashTheFanboy, DMC got real about his geeky roots…

“For me, before hip hop came over the bridge from the Bronx to change my life… It was comic books.”

about why geeks rock so hard

“The reason why this world has everything that is cool and influential is because of geeks…The geeks create everything.”

and why the “King of Rock” is bringing all his cool to the comics world

“People seem to forget that hip hop was always so evolutionary, and revolutionary.…whether it was a record, whether it was a graffiti, whether it was spoken word, whether it was a break dance, it represented those conditions that are continually the things that we fight for…The comic book is going to have the consciousness of what hip hop… is economically, politically, and socially relevant, if that’s the word.”

DMC #0 was offered exclusively at NYCC earlier this month, but you can nab the whole first graphic novel when it drops in January 2014. In the meantime, satiate your taste for geeky-cool with this throwback…

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5 Black Horror Films You’ve *Got* to Watch This Halloween

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We all know that when things get all stalking-creepy-music-stabby in a horror film, the nearest Black person is about to meet  the pointy end of a kitchen knife or an unfortunately convenient pitchfork, but not before regretfully exclaiming  something of the “Aw hell nah!” variety.

Aside from the occasional Brandy or Ice Cube or LL Cool J (hm… sensing a “musical negro” trend here) who manages to survive the homicidal white guy or freakishly murderous animal, there aren’t too many horror films where the (single) Black character has made it out alive, or past the first 10 minutes for that matter. But even more striking is the dearth of horror films featuring a Black lead or just more than the one (disposal) Black character.

Or at least not so many contemporary ones. Turns out there have been some pretty dope subversive horror movies (lots in the Blaxploitation era) featuring Black casts, Black villains, and even some Black survivors!

1. Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde (William Crain, 1976)


So you ever notice that most of the scary homicidal murderers in horror films are white guys or creepy little white girls? Yea. So did director William Crain back in the 70’s. In this race-centric rewrite of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Crain serves up a world of racial reversal, commentary, and subversion, casting the film’s hero as a respected Black doctor who is transformed into a horrifying homicidal white man after he takes an experimental serum.

2. The People Under the Stairs (Wes Craven, 1991)

“Your father’s one sick mutha, you know that? Actually your mother is one sick mutha too.” –Fool

The People Under the Stairs is a real rarity in the horror genre — a horror film featuring a strong Black cast and created by a major director, the famed Wes Craven.  On top of that the film deconstructs the veneer of the “happy suburban family” and highlights the issues of wealth disparity and the class wars of the 80’s.  Our hero is “Fool,” a young black boy who joins up with two men from his bleak housing project to rob the house of the wealthy, money-hoarding, crazy pants slumlord that is trying to evict Fool’s family. Fool and the others lives aren’t exactly full of sunshine, but when they make it into the house, they find themselves living a whole different kind of nightmare. Rumor has it Craven wants to rescue the film from obscurity with a (appropriately timed, given the latest in wealth disparities) remake. Check a better breakdown of the film over at Quirks & Splatters.

3. Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992)


This was the nightmare that haunted 80’s babies and kept them away from the bathroom mirror at night for years. Riffing on the legend of “Bloody Mary,” the movie tells a much more harrowing and realistic story of a Black man in the 1800s killed for sleeping with a white woman.  An artist and the son of a slave, the man was maimed and killed by a lynch mob after the white woman he fell in love with was found out to be pregnant with his child. The mob chopped off his painting hand and replaced it with a hook, which becomes his weapon of choice once he goes all legendary and starts killing folk who chant into a mirror the same taunt that his murderers did, “Candyman…”. It’s a whole lot of scary, all the more so for its drawing on historical truths.

4. Sugar Hill (Paul Maslansky, 1974)

George Romero created a whole new type of zombie with the phenomenon he started back in the 60’s with Night of the Living Dead, and this new kind of zombie stuck.  Since then zombie movie after zombie movie has featured a bunch of undead white folk chasing around and nom-ing on other white folk. (Romero’s own Night of the Living Dead actually had a Black hero in Ben Hanser and could be analyzed as one horrifying commentary on Black persecution (in fact it has been! Peep a clip of The American Nightmare documentary about it)).

sugar hillBut Sugar Hill took the zombie back to its Haitian and Voodoo roots when the movie’s heroine Sugar Hill takes revenge on the white gangsters who murdered her boyfriend by conjuring up the dead to do her bidding. It’s strangely, considering it’s Blaxploitation era, a PG movie. It’s also just strange, mildly problematic for a number of reasons, and kind of hilarious. A perfect throwback for the folks who like Halloween but hate actually scary movies, for anyone tired of the modern (endlessly starving) zombie, or for anyone who likes a good revenge film but couldn’t quite stomach Django…

5. Shadow: Dead Riot (Derek Wan, 2006)

Okay, so this one is so so so so sooo campy and ridiculous and, yes, quite bad. But it’s a horror movie led by not just a Black hero, but…gasp! a Black female hero! Solitaire is our hero, who gets thrown into a women’s penitentiary that isn’t all on the up and up, but it’s not just crooked prison guards, beefed up inmates, and creeper doctors that she whips her kung fu skills out on… oh no, it’s way better than that. Turns out the prison hosts the super-powerful ghost of a ex-inmate put to death for murdering pregnant women, and he’s back with an army of zombies (that’s right) to torture the women prisoners. But Solitaire’s got a few roundhouse kicks and some super strength that he’ll have to deal with first. Yup. Recommend watching with copious amounts of hard liquor.

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Fearless Defenders Needed to Be Canned, But Please Salvage the Heroes!

It’s not the popular opinion, but here is one woman thrilled to hear about the cancellation of Cullen Bunn and Will Silney‘s Fearless Defenders. The apparently too-small (despite the outpouring of lamentation across the internets) community of its readers, however, are understandably distraught about it.  I say understandably, because the most common lament is about the loss of an all-female ass-kicking team of some of the coolest superladies in comics.

It’s true. The comic promised new life for fan favorites who’ve been lost in blurry backgrounds of splash pages and random panels across Marvel comics for some time now. Fearless Defenders was supposed to give us a no-nonsense leader in the born-leader Misty Knight, a powerful Dani Moonstar unleashed from the strictures of X-Men adolescence, and a snarky Elsa Bloodstone rescued from the obscurity of third-tier heroics, serving up one delightfully geeky bouquet of big personalities and heavy hitters.  But instead it gave us “Ya Ya” feminism and a thinly-veiled boyhood fantasy realization starring Valkyrie.

Cullen Bunn even admits in the issue #1 letters column that he was all about this  project because he’s always wanted to write Valkyrie. And the preference shows… Valkyrie had an interesting storyline, complete with a one-sided lesbian love affair, a little existential rage beast dilemma, and a mission from god or something (one that she basically lazily failed at).  And every other character was just kind of there… for some flimsy reason or another; it certainly can’t be because they actually like each other. Their chemistry is basically defined by caustic sarcasm, bravado, and what looks like barely concealed tolerance of each other. Seriously, the motivations for each character to be a part of this new all-women team were about as flimsy as Misty’s belly shirt.

Taking a bunch of awesome characters, each of whom could easily lead their own comic, and turning them into Valkyrie side-kicks is just the first problem. As great as it’d be to see another all-female team in comic book land, there are just so many other reasons I’m so very unsad to see this comic go:

2. We’re women and we’re so awesome! Girl power! Ya! Superheroes or Spice Girls?

Feminism is awesome. A superhero team comprised of all women is awesome. Given the fact that there have been so so many all-men super teams throughout comics history, it’s pretty sad that there haven’t been more all-women teams. But it’s probably because whenever the women get together to do some bad guy punching they’re so distracted by the fact that they’re all-women that they spend the whole time cheering about it and sticking their tongues out at their boyfriends who didn’t think they could do it.

Yea… so there was an entire issue dedicated to the men in these women’s lives being all wompy and imposing their textbook male privilege on their womenfolk by trying to encourage them to disband. The women, though, are of course too strong for all of that nonsense so they show off their baddie-punching skills they roll their eyes at the menfolk and promptly humiliate them for their efforts. Female empowerment is awesome, but issue #9 read like a third graders review of the Spice Girls movie.

Compare Fearless Defenders to Brian Wood’s all-female team in X-Men and be ready for a study in contrast.

2. Did you know that lesbian women are attracted to all other lesbian women always?!

Okay. Annabelle Riggs was awesome, a great redeeming quality of the series. She was a marvelous contrast, and later a great and almost too literal foil, to the high, mighty, I’m-basically-a-god Valkyrie. And it’s wonderful to see more LGBTQ characters in comics, but, as many fans expressed frustration about, she was basically “put in a fridge” with the whole body-switching nonsense, which seemed more like an easy out from having to actually explore Annabelle’s crush on Valkyrie and Valkyrie’s (not-exactly) rejection. Then, just in issue #10, came another hit. A second lesbian character appeared! And lo! Annabelle immediately gaydar-ed her and was trying to tap that (possibly statutory style…), because, apparently, lesbian women in the Marvel universe are so thirsty for it that they basically set the bar at “is she gay?”

 3. The covers…

Everyone’s been harping on this one. Some fall on the side of “they’re fun!” and others are squarely in the camp of “wtf?”  The covers were indeed fun, drawing on different concepts and pop culture fads, like a paper doll Valkyrie. Fun! I’d love to see something like that in the letters column or in a back promo page or something, but does that really belong on the cover? I suppose it depends what you think covers are for, but I think most comics artists would probably agree that the cover should in some way capture or represent the story that the issue tells… ideally. Too often with Fearless Defenders  it was a serious stretch. And their worst they gave the impression that the content would be as frivolous as the covers. Of course there are other types of gimmicky covers, like the ones that tease a superhero’s death or otherwise dramatize what happens inside to get you to pick it up. So maybe Silney and Bunn were going for a spoiler-free, drama-free, anti-marketing strategy or something… Either way, the cover is what gets folk to pick it up in the store. So if sales were the problem…

4. We Don’t Have to Throwout the Heroes With the Comic!

The biggest reason I’m not sad to see this comic go is that with the death of Fearless Defenders the dope super women who composed the team now have a chance to join other teams and become major players in other comics. While Fearless Defenders was pretty bad, it did give us a Misty Knight, Dani Moonstar, Elsa Bloodstone, and Annabelle-possessed Valkyrie back in action. So maybe other heroes in the Marvel verse will get word that these ladies are taking names and, given all the crazy ish going down with the Avengers, maybe they’ll give them a call.  I hear Luke Cage and crew could use a hand.

Here’s hoping a strong writer with some solid knowledge of and enthusiasm for the characters will get her hands on some of these heroes and do them justice. That’s not to say Cullen Bunn is a bad writer. Not at all. The man has shown his chops on several other titles including The Sixth Gun, but this was like a bad marriage, or better yet like a polygamous marriage where Valkyrie was wifey #1 and everybody else got cleaning duty.

It’s sad to see an all-female super team composed of such amazing characters go, but (barring our high hopes of seeing some of them lead their own comics) we’d rather see them well-written. In all fairness Fearless Defenders had some good elements (like Annabelle Riggs!) but they were mixed in with a lot of bad. Representation is only part of the equation; the bigger problem facing women characters in comics is how they’re represented. And sorry, but we can do better; we don’t have to settle for just any old female-led comic.

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Because Sometimes You Gotta Geek Out to Get Away

It all started with Animorphs… We all have our geek origin stories — the first time we picked up a comic book, blew on a Nintendo cartridge, packed your first “In Case of Alien Encounter” bag complete with requisite towel. And for many of us those firsts are followed by more and geekier firsts — first Con, first cosplay, first Dungeons & Dragons game, first Doctor…

For us, the geeky, the appeal of these things requires no explanation. I mean, swords…dragons…time travel! Seriously, how could anyone not be into it.  But alas, the pathologizing ensues. They say we read fantasy novels because we’re trying to escape miserable or mundane existences. We dig slaying dragons because it’s phallic miming or posturing that establishes us as powerful in the moral-centric patriarchy in which we exist… or something. We hear these things and we scoff and roll our eyes. Clearly whoever is making these arguments is in some serious denial.  I mean, space travel…mutants…giant robots! Who doesn’t love that ish?

And it’s true, these things are just straight-up awesome. That’s why they’re finally getting their due in this new geek = chic world.

But then again, there’s that day that day your boss yelled at you like you were a crying little girl’s sad dog and you proceeded to kill all of the fellow adventurers at your weekly D&D match in the most humiliating ways possible…

Or once when you got the embarrassing kind of sick from a bad batch of clam chowder at the office holiday party and pretty much convinced yourself everyone would instantly forget this terrible origin story once your powers manifested…

Or that time you found out your boyfriend might have a seriously fatal illness, and, as you waited for the results over the next three weeks, you spent over several hundred dollars on in-game currency, buying shiny new armor and fighting evil blighted mini-demons with your ruthless guild mates…

Escapism? Power struggle? Psychological blah blah reason for obsessive fictional world involvement? Yeah…

So, the geekery. Sometimes it’s awesome for it’s own sake, sometimes it’s a statement, sometimes it teaches us to see beyond ourselves (that’s what Geek Outsider is all about!), and sometimes… it just saves us from having to deal… And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

So, in light of the  three-weeks of video game-saturation that left Geek Outsider quiet for awhile, can we say thank The Restaurant at the End of the Universe for geekery?! Geekery and it’s fantasy-laden salve that helps us disappear, understand, and/or deal with the realities of existence in a world chock full of bad news.

The point is we’re back. Geek Outsider is back, because geek is good, and we missed you guys. Thanks for sticking around while we got mad boss gear for our Trickster Rogue to distract from real-life worries.  See you on the dope side of awesome!

Ichy getting chummy with his "Mohawk friends"

Fantasizing History: Sleepy Hollow, White Redemption, and Literally Empowering Brown Folk

In a recent editorial in The New York Times, A.O. Scott took a few race-centric blockbusters, like The Help and Django Unchained to task, or rather to uncomfortable truths. But not for the reasons one might think.

What Scott pointed out was that these films offer a sense of redemption for white consumers, who attend them out of a sense of duty to acknowledge the very real horrors of slavery and the civil rights era. And in the theater, when the helpful white good guy throws caution to the wind to help their fellow suffering blacks, they can mourn that distant past, identify themselves with this mythic hero, and shame and hate the carcicature-d evil racists, leaving the theater with a relief that such horrors are a thing of a dark and incomprehensible past and that they themselves are morally well-adjusted in an era where race is no longer such a pressing issue.

This pop culture distancing, he argues, is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the conversation about race we’re (not) having in this country.

And he’s right. There are examples everywhere. One recent and hit-you-over-the-head example can be found in the (fun and awesome) TV show Sleepy Hollow.  Created by a bunch of white guys, the show has achieved strides in television history simply in the casting of the show, which features not just a Black female lead (basically unheard of in a supernatural TV series), but a whole host of frequently appearing black and brown faces, and all while actively shutting down racial stereotypes. It’s dope, and it makes one really really like this particular bunch of white guys.

But funny enough the one stereotype that remains is actually smeared all over the show’s side-kick white guy (Seriously. Love. It.) Ichabod Crane, who is basically a progressive white apologist and history revisionist.

Of course, the entire show is a fantastical re-imagining of history as one big shit-show fight-to-the-death with…well, Death and his demon friends. But the particulars of what gets revised is telling.

Ichy getting chummy with his "Mohawk friends"
Ichy getting chummy with his “Mohawk friends” during the war.

Like when Crane gets all “no way!” about the genocide of Native Americans: “What?! The Native Americans were decimated? But they were my friends! We fought alongside them against the evil Brits.” This is true to an extent. Many Native peoples fought alongside the Patriot soldiers, but just as many were siding with the Brits in hopes that a British victory would choke the steady stream of colonists stealing Native lands…

At first, one is inclined to scoff at Crane’s role as adorable white guilt assuager. But actually, in a fantasy television series, alongside historical revisions that place the headless horseman in the Revolutionary War, is the only place such shenanigans belong.

Black Americans have been using fantasy and science fiction to rewrite history and write new Conde’s novel takes Tituba out of obscurity and writes her prominently into history, from her youth in Barbados to meeting Hester Prynne, to her escape from being burned as a witch.  Not only that, but she removes the yoke of victim-hood that stalks Black history and endows Tituba with supernatural powers as well.futures quite some time.  One great example is Maryse Conde’s historical fiction novel I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salemwhich draws on the true story of a Black woman who was the first to be accused of being a witch before the Salem Witch Trials got all epic and bloody.  But beyond the fact that she was accused and managed to escape with her flesh intact, we know little else about her.

But what’s the point of such fantasizing? Well Conde’s novel is certainly a metaphorical reclamation of history and it spreads awareness of the fact that Black people were there too.  It’s also a feel-good book (despite all of it’s sadness) for Black readers, because it puts brown faces in histories that we’ve learned had little to do with us.  We root for the hero hard between the tears. Many non-fictional scholarly books do this for other eras and events.

(At this point, can’t help but give a shout-out to this dope Tumblr Medieval POC that aims to debunk the myth that Black people weren’t around in Medieval Europe).

But it’s in the fantastical revisionings that Kindred‘s Dana Franklin gets to kill the white guy who owned her ancestors, or where Harriet Tubman gets to be a pants-wearing steampunk spy, psychic, and freedom fighter.

This gets at the very definition of fantasy for fans — it’s where we can go to utterly escape reality, that includes white guilt. There Black people can turn to fantasy to empower their history literally by imagining superpowers into the hands of their ancestors or just knock-around the mastuh. And white folk can turn to fantasy to pretend it was evil vampires who were the slave owners or make friendlies between the colonists and Native American communities.

cover of Balogun Ojetade’s “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman”

Now, revisions that cleanse whites of historical wrongs are problematic in movies like The Help, where they masquerade as possible truths, because they further obscure the real historical truths that are already obfuscated by incomplete or non-existent records, the dehumanization of whole groups of people, essentially by the white power structures that write history.  And they deny the role of the marginalized peoples of the world in history as anything other than victims.

However, when such revisions appear in the context of ridiculous story lines like those of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Sleepy Hollow it’s basically an admission that notions of the white power structure forged by our messed up history can be warm-fuzzied away are just as ridiculous as an acrobatic axe-wielding Abe Lincoln Matrix-style dodging a horse thrown at him by an angry racist vampire.

So, I roll my eyes a little at the adorable need for such white guilt cuddlies, but I ain’t mad. It’s happening in exactly the right place, right before some other absurd ridiculosity goes down.

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Indie Wednesday: The Rockthrower, A Palestinian Phenom Goes from Throwing Rocks to Throwing Curveballs

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As you know, we’ve kind of got a thing for New Paradigm Studios here at GeekOutsider. Their Watson & Holmes series is stayin’ on point and we’ve been looking forward to their latest The Rockthrower for some months now. And New Paradigm’s Karl Bollers just launched a Kickstarter to finish up the The Rockthrower and put it in stores in a pretty, shiny, graphic novel format.

The Rockthrower by Karl Bollers, Dave Ross, and Gene DeCicco crashes two worlds apart right into each other when washed up baseball scout David Willis spots a beacon of hope for his career, in the most unlikely place — footage of an encounter between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.  One of the young Palestinians has got an arm on him that Willis has never seen the likes of, so he boards a plane and goes knocking on doors to find the kid.

Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned, but it seems eventually our “rockthrower” finds his way to the Major Leagues where Middle East meets West, and who knows what’s in store. But because it’s New Paradigm, we can trust it’ll be good!

So spare some of that pocket change and support the project over at Kickstarter!