Superhero Sunday: Thunder & Lightning

Thunder (aka Anissa Pierce) in The Outsiders

THUNDER (aka Anissa Pierce) and LIGHTNING (aka Jennifer Pierce) are the superpowered daughters of DC superhero BLACK LIGHTNING.
After striking her bargain to wait until she graduated college, the eldest daughter Anissa donned costume and became Thunder the very day of her college graduation and was soon recruited by Red Arrow’s superhero team The Outsiders. She bucked heads often with fellow Outsider Grace, whom she eventually began dating. She has the power to control her own density and can do so to make herself invulnerable, and she can create powerful shock waves by stomping on the ground. She was recently kicked off The Outsiders team when Batman reorganized, but has helped the team out (without Batman’s permission) by collaborating her girlfriend Grace who is still on the team. She first appeared in 2003 in Outsiders vol.3 #1.

Lightning (aka Jennifer Pierce)

Jennifer Pierce was thought not to have any powers, until her powers manifested as a teenager. She gained the power to absorb electrical energy and project it in powerful blasts, and she can also use this energy to fly at the speed of light. But initially she had difficulty controlling her power and felt like a freakshow, so her father contacted the Justice Society of America who welcomed her, and though still in her teens, her father allowed Jennifer, who was more reluctant, to become Lightning. Created by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, she first appeared in Justice Society of America v.3 #12 in 2008. There is some tension between the two sisters, and they even fought each other when their father was a fugitive and Lightning as part of the JSA was charged with arresting him. Thunder took her father’s side and fought against her sister.

Constructing kinetic worlds: the futuristic films of TED Fellow Kibwe Tavares

Check *this* guy out! Kibwe Tavares – architect, animation geek, Afrofuturist – making some really amazing animated films…

TED Blog

Kibwe Tavares combines his training as an architect with his love of storytelling and animation to create futuristic 3D animated/live action films with social and political depth, creating incredibly detailed, vivid, and kinetic visual environments to entice audiences. His short film, Robots of Brixton, distributed on the internet, won a special jury prize at Sundance. And his film studio Factory Fifteen will soon release Jonah, about a giant jumping fish in Zanzibar (trailer shown, bottom).

Tell us about Robots of Brixton

It’s an event that happened at the start of my childhood. This event helped give the black community a voice, and helped put me in the position as the young black academic that I was when I made it. I thought it was an important story to retell, but I used tools I’d been working with, like character animation and visualization, to retell it so that it…

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Superheroes in Defense of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and LGBTQ Characters in Comics

You may kiss the groom!  Northstar and Kyle Jinadu get married in Astonishing X-men #51
You may kiss the groom! Northstar and Kyle Jinadu get married in Astonishing X-men #51

Many argue that politics don’t belong in comics. I hear those arguments. I even understand them. But, obviously I don’t subscribe to that school of thought. On the contrary, I think comics are a perfect medium for political reflection. Fiction and literature have a long history of social critique and reflection, using story to show society its reflection – its progress, its missteps, its blind spots… And comics (comics are literature too), as a serialized medium, are unique in their ability to keep up with the times, to keep that reflection current.

So, today being an important day, one that will forever alter the face of American society when the U.S Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, let’s take a look at how comics have kept up with the times…

Northstar and Kyle Jinadu get married!

One of the biggest moment in gay rights in comics occurred just last year, when X-men member Northstar (aka Jean-Paul Beaubier) proposed to his long-time boyfriend Kyle Jinadu in Astonishing X-men #50. In issue #51, Kyle and Jean-Paul became Marvel’s first gay married couple at a beautiful ceremony in New York’s Central Park.

The couple also claims the distinction of being one of few married couples at all, as well as being a mixed-race couple and a mixed  super-powered–no-powered couple to boot! The marriage issue was a huge hit among comics readers, but it wasn’t all celebration, at least not in the Marvel universe. The issue made sure to depict that this is a fraught issue, and while Kyle and Jean-Paul had a beautiful ceremony with the support of many of their super-powered friends, the idea didn’t sit well with everyone. A keen acknowledgment that the human tensions around the issue don’t go away with a change in law.

kyle northstar wedding

Same-sex marriage became legal in New York in July 2011, so Kyle and Jean-Paul’s wedding, taking place in May 2012, was no hopeful fantasy land wish. in the real world, a same-sex New York wedding was already a precedent. In comics anything is possible – Asgardian gods descending from the sky to mingle among us, alien invasions, wealthy, technologically superior African nations led by Panther kings, wealthy entrepreneurs who become technology-enhanced superheroes… But I suppose, sometimes, it’s the real world that beats fantasy to the punch. On that note, the happy couple are still face some very real world issues, with Northstar, who is French-Canadian, facing possible deportation because his same-sex marriage is not (hopefully soon was not) acknowledged in national law…

Kevin Keller and Clay Walker get married in Life With Archie #16
Kevin Keller and Clay Walker get married in Life With Archie #16

Northstar wasn’t the only comic book character that got in on the action. Archie Comics was actually a bit ahead of the game. In January 2012, on the tail of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and months before the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, Kevin Keller, an openly gay active U.S. Military Officer in Archie Comics married his partner Clay Walker in the all-American town of Riverdale, NY. This was also a mixed-race couple (I wonder if there’s gonna continue to be a trend here…).

While same-sex marriage has only recently hit the scene in comics, openly gay comic book characters are much more common!  This includes DC Comics‘ own Batwoman, who is probably the most high-profile openly gay comic book character. She recently proposed to her girlfriend. Wonder if she’ll be getting hitched anytime soon…  DC also pulled a pretty controversial move, around the same time that Archie and Marvel were stirring things up, when the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott came out with DC’s New 52 relaunch. One Million Moms threw a foe-ful fit, of course.  Unfortunately, DC faced the other side of the battle, when they hired anti-gay-marriage writer Orson Scott Card as a writer for a digital comic Adventures of Superman. 

Willow: Wonderland #3
Willow: Wonderland #3

Gay characters in comics are hardly new. Many awesome creators had their eyes open from the jump and saw that LGBTQ folk have always been here and queer. Though she started off on television, lesbian superwiccan Willow of Joss Whedon‘s original tv series Buffynow headlines her own comic Willow: Wonderland which is in it’s 5th issue. It’s also seriously awesome and you should all go pick up the trade whenever it’s out.

There are quite a few other LGBTQ characters hanging around the margins of comics. Get a brief on a few of them in this great slide show at The Week.

And speaking of the margins, there are some creators addressing love and sex in interesting and strange ways under the radar. One of the most jarring I’ve found is Our Love is Real by Sam Humphries and  Steven Sanders (Image comics), which came out in 2011, with much love from industry insiders. It’s not LGBTQ exactly, but rather depicts a world where the bounds of who or what one can love are seriously blurred and open, including some who have love affairs with minerals. Clearly there’s some symbolism and commentary in there…

Gay characters and LGBTQ topics have had some presence in comics, and that representation is increasing as we become a more open society. Still it’s a pretty sad reflection that even in the fantastical worlds that the “low brow” medium of comics create, the idea of a magical green-glowing ring that grant limitless universal powers to its wearer is more fantastical than a ring that lets two members of the same-sex the simple right of legal recognition… That space habitation, intergalactic wars, and giant red crime-fighting demons have long had a place in supreme unreality, but gay marriage was a far stretch of the imagination…

Makes you wonder where else the notion of resolving some injustice is so crazy a notion that we can’t even imagine it in our most imaginative mediums… We could probably make up a whole genre of social fiction from historical examples alone.

With the Supreme Court’s ruling out this summer, here’s hoping gay marriage rights for all doesn’t remain a fiction.

Batwoman proposes
Batwoman proposes

Superhero Sunday: Dani Moonstar

Moonstar all Valkyrie-d out
Moonstar all Valkyrie-d out

Moonstar (aka Mirage aka Psyche) was born as Danielle “Dani” Moonstar a member of the Cheyenne Native American Tribe in Boulder, CO. She first appeared in Marvel Graphic Novel #4: The New Mutants in 1982, and has been a part of various Marvel groups over the years, mainly the X-men, but she also had a brief stint with S.H.I.E.L.D, and at one point she resided in Asgardia after being selected as a valkyrie. Just last week she appeared in The Fearless Defenders #2 by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney, and will likely become a permanent member of a new all-female team alongside Asgardian princess Valkyrie and the bionic kung-fu powerhouse Misty Knight.

Moonstar’s mutant powers began to manifest when she was around 10 years old, as an empathic ability to communicate with animals and to project manifestations of people’s fears and desires. When these powers first appeared, she could not control them. She began having nightmares and visions of a demonic bear, and shortly after this her parents mysteriously disappeared. She was taken in by her grandfather Black Eagle who connected her with Charles Xavier, and she soon becomes the co-leader of a group of students at Xavier’s school, called the New Mutants, which originally included Cannonball, Karma, Wolfsbane, and Sunspot. Moonstar’s parents are eventually returned to her once she and her teammates face off with the demonic bear of her childhood visions.

In a particularly awesome chapter of her life, Moonstar is kidnapped by Enchantress along with the other New Mutants members, which now includes new member Magik, and taken to Asgardia.  Magik attempts to use a teleportation disc to rescue the group, but ends up teleporting them all to random places on Asgardia.  Moonstar ends up in a valley, where she rescues a winged horse that was trapped in mud and barbed wire. Moonstar bonds with the horse who just so happens to be Brightwind, one of the “Choosers of the slain”, who proceeds to select Moonstar to become a Valkyrie.Moonstar Bring It

On Asgardia, Moonstar fights alongside other valkyries and her powers are amped by her valkyrie powers, giving her the ability to see an aura of death around those in mortal danger, to physically fight Death itself, and to make her mental projections into solid physical beings. She’s so insanely superpowered that she beats up on Gods, like Ares and Hela, goddess ruler of Hel. However, her horse Brightwind is later killed in battle, and she returns to Earth shortly after, where she has a brief stint at S.H.I.E.L.D., before losing her powers in the House of M crossover.

Even without her powers, though, she’s still a force to be reckoned with, and proves it again and again. Nonetheless, she’s removed as leader of the New Mutants by Emma Frost, but remains a contributing member of the team (after a lot of fighting about it with Cannonball (Sam Guthrie)), using her hardcore hand-to-hand combat skills and her skill with various weapons. Her original weapon of choice was the bow and arrow, but she’s hardly gun shy…

Moonstar packs heat after losing her powers
Moonstar without powers is kiiinda scarier…
Moonstar Fearless Defenders
A de-powered Moonstar in Fearless Defenders #2 by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney

At one point she makes a deal with Hela and temporarily gets back her powers, but by the time she appears of Fearless Defenders #2, she remains depowered yet still hard to take- down. Moonstar is one of few Native American characters in comics, and is very proud of her Cheyenne heritage, bonding with other indigenous characters and wearing visible symbols of her culture.  Villains seem to always get a kick out of calling her “Pocahontas” after which she promptly kicks their asses.

She may not be officially part of the Fearless Defenders team yet (she hasn’t even met up with Misty and Valkyrie), but she’s a formidable addition. Good call Marvel.  Also, incredibly brief review of Fearless Defenders #2 — waaaay better than the first issue, like by a lot.  I was seriously concerned after issue #1, but this issue is definitely making me keep it on my list. I don’t doubt that this is in no small part due to Moonstar, who is just an incredibly dynamic character. I’m also loving that this team-up looks like it’s gonna have two non-powered women on the team.  Ballsy.

PAXEast Day One

Life-size Lara Croft model from the New Tomb Raider

Massive nerdery exploded on the harbor yesterday. Packs of gamer geeks from across the U.S. descended upon the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, armed with backpacks to load up with swag, laptops to plug into LAN parties, and decks to dominate at the tabletop tournaments.

Since the Con sold out early, I only managed to nab a badge for Friday, but SO worth it, if only just to marvel at the only place in the world where there is no line for the women’s restrooms.  That said, women were pretty well represented on the fan side of things. And the Tomb Raider panel showed that there are incredible women on the development side turning out some really awesome stuff.

There was even a little (very little) brown-folk representation, at a booth featuring Independent Game Festival award winner Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios), a combat game inspired by Mexican folklore and traditional Mexican culture.

Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios)
Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios)

With a name like Guacamelee, it definitely deserves a skeptical eyebrow raise and hesitant side-eye. But maybe it’s a beautiful work that celebrates an often under- and mis- represented culture in geek world. We’ll see…

In the meantime, the rest of the Con was a bombardment of everything from the big corps and online games to tabletop tournaments, Nerdcore jams, indie RPGs and MMOs, cosplay geniuses, and even a geeky furniture design business.

Here’s a couple of highlights:

GAMES!

WildStar looks like it’s going to be amazing. Graphics look great, and the story is fun – clashes between races from across the galaxy ensue when a dreamy planet called Nexus is discovered and hordes of galactic beings descend upon it, some to colonize, some to protect and defend it, some exiled and looking for a new home, and some are just there to wreak general havoc for the shit of it. Definitely signed up for the beta on this one.

With the Beta for The Elder Scrolls Online out this month, it’s no surprise that there was a 2-3 hour long line of fans at the Bethesda booth, where the insanely awesome trailer was booming on loop entrancing and tempting Elder Scrolls fans into their secreted gameplay section.

Another one that grabbed my eye, purely by it’s beautiful design was Contrast by Compulsion Games. It’s quite the departure from the shoot-em-up battles, galactic space wars, and  zombie frenzy survivalist games flashing on the screens around the rest of the Exhibit Hall.  This game is set around a cabaret and a little girl named Didi. The player plays Didi’s invisible friend Dawn, who can literally become her own shadow for stealth purposes, etc.  It’s an interesting idea that makes for a spectacular design, but I wonder if the concept is strong enough to hold action, story, and strategy…  I might give it a try just to find out and look at all the pretty.

A couple others worth checking out…

…if you’re into stealth games: Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment)

…if you’re into quirky survivalist, gather/collect games that show no mercy: Don’t Starve (Klei Entertainment)

…if you’re into significantly *less* quirky survivalist zombie games that scare the bejeezus out of you: The Last of Us

Fun fact: Ellen Page was the model for lead character Ellie
Fun fact: Ellen Page was the model for lead character Ellie

COSPLAY!

I’d do a  whole feature on it, but it’s been done better over at Kotaku.

I will however, add to the love for Amy Demicco’s supercrazyawesome battle dress made out of Magic cards.

Amy Demicco logged 200+ hours to create this beast.
Amy Demicco logged 200+ hours to create this beast.

GEEK CHIC!

Over at the Geek Chic booth, a cadre of very fashionable geeks were opening our nerdy eyes to the possibilities of furniture for your gaming habit. You don’t have to settle for long boxes for your comics or the coffee table you commandeered from your parents for your Friday night Dungeons and Dragons parties.

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Throwback Thursday: Meet the Milestone Universe part 1

Comicazi has a great selection of older comics. It’s the only place I’ve found in Boston with a size-able collection of Milestone back issues. Every few Wednesdays, after I buy my new issues, I take a comb through some of the racks of long boxes full of old singles.

Shadow Cabinet #0 (1994)
Shadow Cabinet #0 (1994)

Last week I nabbed a copy of Shadow Cabinet #0 by Dwayne McDuffie, the pioneering comic lover and creator of Milestone Comics, and Robert L. Washington III.

This 1994 issue begins the “Shadow War” story arc and stars all of the major Milestone characters –  villains, superheroes and sidekicks – even introducing a new character Xombi, whose title comic came out around the same time.  

If you’re new to the Milestone Universe, Shadow Cabinet #0,  might be an overwhelming introduction. That said McDuffie and Washington do a pretty remarkable job working with such a large cast, briefly showcasing the powers, quirks, and personalities of each without too much sacrifice to the story’s action. They gave themselves 48 pages to do it, which gave them a little space to maintain the story arc and flesh out the characters as much as possible in brief bursts of stylized dialogue in between punches.

At times though things do get a bit jumbled and you wonder how any of them manage to talk so much in the melee of electromagnetic pulses, rain of razor-sharp steel, and stomping elephant-rhino morphs. In short, if you’re new to Dakota and the Milestone Universe and you dive into this issue, it’ll feel exactly like meeting your boyfriend’s very large Italian family… at Christmas… while the room is spinning because you had too much wine.

But let’s use this as a chance to meet a few of the faces of the Milestone Universe anyway…

Hardware #1
Hardware #1 (1993)

Hardware (aka Curtis Metcalf) first appeared in 1993  in Hardware #1, which was among the first Milestone comics to be published. Curtis was a genius child whose talents and the interests of a rich patron helped him to ascend from his working class roots to a brilliant inventor making lots of money for his patron and now boss Edwin Alva Sr. After he is denied the respect he’s earned for his inventions, and Alva tells him he’s just “a cog in the machine. My machine”, Curtis starts looking into Alva’s business for a little leverage only to find that Alva was a serious criminal. When the legit ways of going about turning in Alva don’t work, Curtis takes justice into his own hands and turns his genius towards himself to create Hardware. Hardware is trained in martial arts, but his main “superpower” is his own genius and the crime-fighting inventions that come out of it, including flight weapons, armor, and sometimes just smart strategy for taking down the bad guy.

Icon vol. 1
Icon vol. 1 (1993)

Icon (aka Arnus, aka Augustus Freeman III) is from an alien planet called Terminus. He crashed landed in his vessel in the American South in 1839, and his ship reformed his appearance to look like the first human who encountered it, which was a Black slave woman named Miriam, so he became a young Black man and took on the name Augustus Freeman. In the late 20th century, we meet him again as Augustus Freeman III, having assumed the identity of his own son. He is a rich corporate lawyer living in Dakota City.  When he encounters a young woman who is part of a gang of youth robbing his mansion, one of the young women Raquel Ervin witnesses him using his alien powers. Raquel is a young aspiring writer from Paris Island, the poorest section of Dakota, and she confronts Augustus for being a privileged and powerful Black man and not using those powers to help the poor and marginalized in Dakota. Augustus is thus inspired to become Icon and he takes the young Raquel under his wing as a side-kick Rocket, gifting her with a belt that gave her the power to manipulate kinetic energy. Rocket fights crime by his side, but rebellious by nature, she never stops challenging him, especially his conservative politics and values. She later becomes pregnant by her boyfriend and gives birth to Amistad Augustus Ervin, becoming one of the few teen mothers in comics. She continues to fight crime and be a badass mom at the same time. Icon and Rocket first appeared in 1993 in Icon #1 by Dwayne McDuffie and M.D. Bright, which was one of the first Milestone comics.

Static #1 (1993)
Static #1 (1993)

Static (aka Virgil Hawkins) was a fifteen-year-old self-professed geek when his life changed after the events of the Big Bang in Dakota left him with various electromagnetic powers. Most lost their lives in the events of the Big Bang, which was marked by the release of what police believed was tear gas they were using to break up a confrontation of the city’s gangs, but was actually an experimental mutagen nick-named “Quantum Juice”. When the agency that orchestrated the event tried to capture Virgil for experiments, he fought back, discovering his abilities and becoming Static. Static continues fighting crime in Dakota while coping with all the typical teenage stresses and messes, but he does it all with his own geeky flare and punchy witticisms. He later befriends Rocket and other heroes in the Milestone universe. Static has been the most successful of Milestone’s creations, appearing numerously in the DC universe, getting a (now cancelled) reboot in DC’s New 52, and also appearing in his own animated television series Static Shock.

Founded in 1993, Milestone Media was a beacon in the comics industry, where there were few Black characters and fewer popular or non-stereotyped ones.The glory only lasted 3 years though, with the company becoming defunct in 1996.

Dwayne McDuffie by Denys Cowan
Dwayne McDuffie by Denys Cowan

Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle were among the founders along with Dwayne McDuffie (rest in peace), and they continue  Milestone’s legacy in their work. Several of the Milestone characters have survived the imprint, however, and occasionally appear in the DC universe in small roles.

As you’ll see, these folk are kiiinda super awesome-mazing, and we should all campaign for their hardcore revival.  Towards that end, I’ll keep shouting ’em out here at GeekOutsider, and we’ll meet up with more of them next week!

Fashion Geek of the Week: Beyonce Is A Cosplaya

Beyonce as The Queen B
Beyonce as The Queen B

Anyone who hasn’t seen Beyonce’s newest music video (clip) for her song “Bow Down“, go ahead and fill two minutes of your life with stunning originality. Go ahead…

Right?! What is she wearing?!? And why can’t I wear that to work every single day??

Okay, so Beyonce has gotten a lot of flak for this new song, but we don’t care about that. Just look at that outfit? The Queen B has worn her share of outrageous, eye-full-of-skin combos, and she’s been praised and damned for her fashion choices, but I’m gonna have to step aside from the boos and yays and give her a gleefully geeky nod for her very public affection for cosplay.

Beyonce as Sasha Fierce
Beyonce as Sasha Fierce

Yup. You heard right. Cosplay. Beyonce Knowles-Carter is a cosplayer – cosplaya if you will (her style is a little too fly for that final ‘r’). And it’s not just her latest foray into what I can only call steampunk-inspired Elizabethan Funk. Indeed, Beyonce has been cosplaying ever since she let it out that she had an alter ego who takes over her body to wreak rhythmic havoc on stage – Sasha Fierce.

Sasha Fierce wears diamond clad jumps suits (a la Dazzler, if you ask me). Her magical powers? Entrancing dance and singing abilities, a staggeringly unchecked confidence, and bullwhip hair.

Beyonce-Droid
Beyonce-Droid a la Metropolis

Beyonce has also cosplayed as various other characters of her own invention, including the Sauran-esque android in “Single Ladies” who’s recruited two cloned henchmen on a quest for a special ring, an animorphing warrior queen, and now a mythical Black Elizabethan royal, who can apparently bend the space-time continuum, reigning over a court of hip-hop jesters and funky courtiers (we can get into her reclamation of the (literally) powdery white regality of this era in future post).

Beyonce as half- Wonder Woman, half-Vixen
Beyonce as Wonder Woman/Vixen/Tigress medley

Beyonce has taken cosplay to a whole new level, creating characters of her own, dressing the part, and performing their stories on-stage and on-screen. Just because she’s famous and super hot doesn’t mean she isn’t a super geeky role player. Her styled performances are a solid nod to cosplay, steampunk, maybe even larping… not to mention the sci-fi and historical play she ropes into her costumed affairs, like “Single Ladies” and “Bow Down”.

Admit it B, you’re just a big nerdy geeky geekface. And it look good on ya.

Beyonce’s not the only one, however. Music and costumed performance are basically kissing cousins, and many contemporary and historical music artists take full advantage of the opportunity to play. Madonna, Janelle Monae, Lady Gaga, Nikki Minaj, and even Gene Chandler, who logged a stunning performance as Duke of Earl in the 50’s… which is exactly what I’ll leave you with. Cosplay in the mainstream? Let’s call it popcosplay.