Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

More on that Accomplishment Thing

April 12, 2019

Well, another two months, and so another update on how this is going.

DVDs and TV shows continue to be the stars of this. I’m almost finished Season 3 of Voyager (watch for comments on the first three seasons soon) after having finished Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. I also finished GI Joe, Star Trek the Animated Series, and Daria, and am on Season 3 of 2 Broke Girls. I’m on pace to finish both in the next couple of months which will let me move on to other things. I’ve also managed to watch some movies and get those off my plate. So it’s going quite well.

Reading is going all right as well. My pace is slower than I’d like — I’m currently reading a Thrawn book and have had a couple of recent days when I’ve read two pages maybe — but I’m still getting through things. That Thrawn book is the last thing I want to get through before turning to classic literature, and while I have a couple of history books that I was trying to get through first I’ve stopped because I really want to get started on those other works.

Video games went better but have now crashed out completely. I finished Sunrider Academy and started playing Knights of Pen and Paper, but work has gotten extremely busy which pretty much kills any time I had to play video games. I’ve poked around a bit with the retro games but in general have better things to do than play video games, and was having trouble deciding what game to play anyway. I’ll have to see if things change once work settles down.

And projects went terribly. I’ve made starts on a couple of things but haven’t started on the AI stuff I wanted to do. This is despite the fact that doing these things is officially in my schedule even when I’m busy. I’ve still spent more time playing video games despite that not being on my schedule. So this is something that I really need to work on.

However, I have kept up with the blog and am even settling into a better routine, and with the “Philosophy and Pop Culture” posts always have some philosophy in a week, which is good.

So, why is it that DVDs and reading work so well while everything else doesn’t? Well, it’s because I always watch TV to settle down before going to sleep. Thus, I always have some time carved out to watch DVDs. And since I read while watching TV, that gives me a set time to read as well. This time isn’t vulnerable to distractions because I’m not going to do anything else that evening and anything else that I want to do I can do while watching. So they’re the only things that get a set and consistent amount of time each week. And if things get a little busier or things take longer than I thought, I’ll still have some time set aside to watch something. So not only are they at convenient times in the schedule, they’re also more flexible.

With projects and video games, I not only need to set aside time to do them, in order to make any real progress I have to dedicate significant time to them. If I have an hour, I can watch three half-hour shows, but am not going to make any programming or writing progress. I might be able to squeeze a blog post in. If things take longer than I expected or I get distracted, then that will kill that session for those things. When I get busy, that only makes it worse as I have less time to do them in the first place, which only makes it easier for me to end up in a position where I don’t really have the time to do them when I was supposed to.

I’m going to try to make more of an effort with projects in the next couple of months, although I won’t for video games. We’ll see if this makes a difference.

I Am Made of Ink

February 25, 2019

So, the next essay in “Avengers and Philosophy” is “I Am Made of Ink”, by Roy T. Cook, which examines She-Hulk’s ability to break the fourth wall and so essentially do a meta commentary on comics, that she gained after they rebooted her own series (a couple of times). Most of the essay simply traces her doing so and how she did it, which isn’t all that interesting philosophically, but at the end the question is raised over whether She-Hulk really has that ability in-universe or if she’s just insane.

I don’t want to try to answer the question, but just want to look at the implications of it. Marvel is generally a bad example for meta-comics issues because Marvel has had a long-running gag that the comics do exist in the Marvel Universe as written and characters comment on them rather frequently. So you can definitely get some meta-commentary on comics from that, like when the Thing was upset about them making a minor encounter out to be a major one and took it up with his editors with some comments about why they might do that. What makes characters like She-Hulk and Deadpool unique is that they often seem to believe that the world is a comic book world — and not really a “real” world — and that they can talk directly to the audience.

So, then, does that mean that they realize, ultimately, that they aren’t real? What would it be like to realize that you and everyone you know aren’t actually real, and that the world itself is not real? You’re living in the equivalent of a dream, and while you can use that fact to manipulate some things, the fact remains that you have to act as if the world is real and has rules, because it does. When you exploit your knowledge of the true fabric of reality, all you are doing is noting the rules that that fictional realm has. You aren’t actually in control of it, and you know that it’s not real and that it’s under the control of someone that is, in fact, really real.

This would seem likely to drive someone insane if they weren’t already.

But this involves accepting that you’re actually a fictional character, and not merely a character in an alternate universe or something similar. If one could deny that, then one could avoid the complications. However, in order to do that you’d have to avoid thinking about the fact that you have a writer that determines what you do and what happens to you. It’s no coincidence that many of the stories featuring characters that are aware that they are characters end up with them rebelling against their writer and trying to write their own stories. In general, neither She-Hulk nor Deadpool seem to constantly think of themselves as slaves to the whim of the writer, but if they did then that would create both strong fatalism and a strong belief in a “god” above all else, which again hasn’t really been explored in those comics.

In general, this sort of meta-knowledge is used for humour. However, if the characters really did ponder the philosophical consequences, the results are likely to be far more depressing. Perhaps that’s best in a medium designed primarily for entertainment.

Does Great Power Bring Great Responsibility?

February 18, 2019

So the fifth essay in “Spider-Man and Philosophy” is “Does Great Power Bring Great Responsibility?” by J. Keeping. This essay examines whether Spider-Man and Uncle Ben are right when they say that “With great power comes great responsibility” and in what sense that is true, using the example of the Good Samaritan as a framework to, essentially, ask if we are morally obliged to be the Good Samaritan if we are capable of doing so.

I’m going to start in a little bit, and start by examining why Peter Parker and Uncle Ben at least seem to think that the statement is true. Keeping points out that we already know that “Ought implies can” and so perhaps we can argue that “Can implies ought”. This does seem, at least in part, to be the reasoning that the Parkers are employing: the more power you have, the more you can do, and so the more you are obligated to do. However, it seems more reasonable given at least some interpretations of the origin story is that Uncle Ben really means that the more power you have, the more you are obligated to not misuse it, to use it to help people instead of to harm them or for your own selfish reasons. This is actually fairly well-established in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie, where Uncle Ben gives that advice explicitly in response to Peter getting into a fight at school, and in fact explicitly saying that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. It can even be argued that Peter’s failing in that movie and in the later movies was entirely about putting selfish interests ahead of what is right or reasonable, as he lets the criminal go because the manager screwed him over — rather than apathy as the original comic portrays it — and chases after Sandman and the original criminal just to get revenge. So perhaps all it really means is that we always have to use whatever power we have to help others and not just ourselves, and the more power we have the more careful we have to be to not abuse that power.

Peter Parker, however, seems to believe otherwise. He sees his refusing to stop the burglar as a moral failing in and of itself, even if he only failed to act out of the apathetic “It’s not my responsibility” motive that is more common to his origin. He definitely seems to be holding himself to the principle that if he could prevent a harm and chooses not to then he has done something wrong, and has not lived up to his genuine responsibilities. Later, Keeping talks about causes and how causation is complicated, but Peter doesn’t seem to be claiming that if he didn’t prevent the harm he’d be the cause of it, but instead that he would make himself, in some sense, at least partly responsible for that harm. This, of course, seems to follow from Peter’s interpretation of Uncle Ben’s death: he could have stopped the event by stopping the criminal, he didn’t, Uncle Ben was then killed by the criminal, and so Peter is partly responsible for his uncle being killed. The cause of his uncle’s death was always the actions of the criminal, but Peter, through his inaction, is at least partly responsible for that because it was his actions that allowed that situation to come about. Again, this is clearer in the Raimi movie because Uncle Ben was only even there because of Peter: Peter lied that he was going to the library to study when he was really going to participate in a wrestling match for money, and so when Uncle Ben gave him a ride and returned to pick him up he had to park in that area where the attack happened. Moreover, he only chose to give Peter a ride because he wanted to talk to Peter about Peter’s change in behaviour after getting his powers, including that fight. Uncle Ben was placed into that position in large part because of Peter’s selfish decisions, with disastrous, though unintended, consequences.

Which, then, leads to what I think the driving force behind Peter’s adoption of the strong form of “With great power comes great responsibility”: consequentialism. He takes on an equally strong form of consequentialism that argues that you are responsible for the consequences of your actions regardless of what your intentions were. Peter didn’t intend for Uncle Ben to die when he chose not to stop the criminal, but that is precisely what happened. Thus, he has to intervene to prevent harm when there’s even the slightest possibility that there will be because otherwise he would be partly responsible for that harm if those end up being the consequences. Sure, others might prevent those consequences or there may be other reasons why they won’t happen, but Peter can’t take that chance. To map that to the Good Samaritan story, if the Good Samaritan had simply walked on by as well, someone else might well have stopped and helped the victim. But if no one did, or especially if no one else came along and the victim had died, then the Good Samaritan would clearly have been at least partly responsible for his death. To Peter, the Good Samaritan would have been responsible in part, but so would the others who passed by. And so Peter refuses to ever pass by.

This fits into the main discussion underlying most of Keeping’s essay: the distinction between positive and negative duties. Roughly, positive duties are duties to take specific actions, while negative duties are duties to not take specific actions. Keeping ends up arguing that we aren’t morally obliged to do our positive duties as those generally are things that help people, while we are obligated to do our negative duties as those harm others. The problem is that while early in the essay Keeping properly excludes duties that we have accepted, like being a parent, because they don’t map to what either Peter or the Good Samaritan were doing — as neither have any particular responsibility to help those they are trying to help — nevertheless those responsibilities are, in fact, positive duties, and in fact can only be claimed to not be so if one takes the tack that Keeping later takes and argue that if not doing them would cause harm then we have to do them, but harm is what Keeping used to define negative duties. In short, taking this tack means claiming that taking the other action would cause harm and so would end up being a negative duty. But this move seems to prove too much; it’s way too easy to redefine any positive duty as being one that might cause someone some kind of harm and thus turn it into a negative duty. We can still avoid obligating us to do them by appealing to how reasonable the demand is — as Keeping does later — but at that point the distinction isn’t doing much for poor Peter … especially since he would disagree that we don’t have an obligation to perform our positive duties.

The issue here is that we all think that there are times when helping someone is a duty and where not harming someone is not a duty, so to divide our duties into positive and negative duties and then claim that our positive duties are optional and our negative duties mandatory seems, at a minimum, to be too shallow an analysis. What we need to do is focus in on those cases and see when we think that we are obligated to do something or not do something and when we don’t think that. This seems to have two components. The first ties directly into what Peter and Uncle Ben hold: what we are capable of doing. But the second component is the more important one, which is what it is reasonable for others to demand of us. Every time we consider what our moral duties are, we not only have to consider what we can do for others but what claims others legitimately have to our efforts. No one can demand that we sacrifice our lives for theirs, for example, unless we were directly responsible for placing them in that situation … and, perhaps, not even then. But people can indeed legitimately demand that we not kill them just because they’re in the way and we’d have to walk two more feet if we didn’t. Yes, these are extreme positions, and there’s a lot of room in-between them, but I think they get the point across: some demands are unreasonable and so can never rise to the level of duties, while some are indeed reasonable and would rise to that level.

It’s pretty easy to show that directly harming someone else without exceptionally good reason falls into the “obligation” category because it is trivial to show — or at least claim in a way that seems reasonable — that asking someone else to not harm you is a pretty reasonable request. It’s also pretty easy to show that no one has an obligation to put their lives and health on the line again and again for no recompense and, to tie it back to Spider-Man, to be demonized for doing that, even if we can consider someone heroic who does so and wish that we could be that self-sacrificing. And, in fact, it’s that it isn’t really an obligation is precisely why we find it so admirable: living up to ones obligations to help others is admirable, but helping others even when one isn’t obligated to do so is even more admirable.

So for the Good Samaritan, a case can be made that the demand is so minor — an inconvenience and a little bit of money — and the consequences so extreme that the Good Samaritan really should be morally obligated to help the victim. This, however, doesn’t really seem to be the case for Spider-Man. As Green Arrow commented to the original Justice League members in the Justice League cartoon, if Spider-Man wanted to quit and focus on his own life, no one could say that he hadn’t done enough to justify the move. We cannot demand that he keep sacrificing his life and his body and his relationships to help others, especially as there are other heroes out there who can take up the slack … even if we might admire him for doing so. He’s neither uniquely positioned to stop those harms nor has he taken any action that would obligate him to do so.

Peter has great power, but has merely accepted great responsibility. His great power doesn’t obligate him to accept the responsibilities that he has accepted, but it is, in fact, that fact that makes him the admirable superhero that he is.

Should I Boycott Ideological Entertainment?

January 17, 2019

So I’ve been talking a bit about ideologically infused entertainment this week, talking about Doctor Who becoming Social Justice Oriented and a bit about how the Persona games, in general, aren’t. Recently, I came across a post at Vox Populi talking about Marvel inserting a drag queen into its comic with reactions to this, especially in the comments, calling for boycotting Marvel. This raises the question: you’ve found that either a new work that you were considering buying or an existing series is or has become ideologically infused, and in particular to an ideology that you aren’t in agreement with (whether that’s Left, Right, Front, Back or whatever). What should you do? Should you boycott it?

The first thing to think about is whether or not it really is ideologically infused. If you just look at this specific Marvel example, that’s not really enough to conclude that it’s ideologically infused. Drag queens as characters aren’t uncommon. After all, Persona 5 includes one and we wouldn’t call that game ideologically infused. The important thing to remember is that while the notion that all media is ideologically infused (or political) is just plain wrong, creators have their own views and biases and sometimes, no matter how careful they are, those views will bleed through. Just because a work expresses positively an idea you dislike or denigrates an idea you like doesn’t mean that it’s pushing that as an ideology. It just might be a creator unconsciously including an idea that they hold that you don’t. It doesn’t seem to be reasonable to stop consuming an entertainment media because they happen to hold different ideas than you do, or at least that’s not reasonable for me.

Now, people will protest that in the Marvel example they’ve done plenty to prove that they are, in general, ideologically infused, which isn’t an unfair complaint. So, what do you do then? Well, what we need to consider here is that the worst ideologically infused works are essentially deliberate propaganda: they are works designed to present a specific view and encourage you to adopt it. And what I think, for me, is that I shouldn’t boycott propaganda works for being propaganda works, but instead should judge them just like I’d judge any other work of entertainment: Are they entertaining or not? If I’m being entertained by them regardless, then I don’t see any reason to stop consuming them. And if I’m not being entertained by them, then the boycott problem solves itself.

I have two main justifications for this:

1) Most works that are deliberately ideologically infused aren’t very entertaining anyway. So the very worst of the lot will solve themselves anyway.

2) If I recognize that something is just propaganda, it’s not likely to impact my actual thinking. In fact, once I recognize the views that it’s trying to promote, I’m actually quite likely to spend my time arguing against them rather than giving in. So there seems little risk of the propaganda having its intended effect on me, so I can indeed treat it like any other form of entertainment.

Now, the objection will arise here that if I and others still buy it, then the companies will continue to produce it. If we don’t like ideologically infused media — and I don’t — then the only way to make people stop producing it is to vote with our dollars and not support those attempts. For me, my counter is that if it’s entertaining, then it is fulfilling the purpose of entertaining, and so is worth my dollars. I don’t feel the need to vote with my dollars for things other than “entertaining” when it comes to my entertainment.

But this is one of those things that is actually subjective. If you don’t like something that a company does and want to stop giving it your money, knock yourself out. We all have our own desires and principles and lines we won’t cross. For me, though, when it comes to entertainment, my line is entertaining. I don’t want to put more thought than that into my entertainment. If you do, then that’s fine, but you don’t really have an argument saying that I shouldn’t.

If I have to put too much effort into filtering my entertainment media, then all I’m going to do is retreat to the things I already have and already like. Ultimately, this is what will kill ideologically infused media. The more work buying entertainment media and being entertained becomes, the more people will find other ways to be entertained … and ideological infusion of entertainment media always adds more work, both in buying it and consuming it.

Thoughts on “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

December 12, 2018

I was not impressed with the “Amazing Spider-Man” movie. As such, I never watched the second one in that series, and was hesitant to buy the new movie because I wasn’t sure I’d like it. It’s available on Crave, however, and so since I can watch it without paying anything extra I decided that it was worth trying this first collaboration between Sony and Marvel.

And it was disappointing.

The big problem here is that while it isn’t a bad superhero or a bad Marvel superhero movie, it’s not a very good Spider-Man movie. Or, rather, it’s not really a Spider-Man movie at all, in the sense that it touches on the themes and aspects that make Spider-Man interesting as Spider-Man. Sure, the trappings are here: the school life, Aunt May, Liz Allen — a rarely given nod to the comics — a hint at MJ, the suit, the webslinging, and the Vulture and Shocker names. But like Aunt May turning from a frail elderly lady to one that’s “unusually attractive” according to Tony Stark, the movie insists on taking new spins on all of these things that leave them as Spider-Man elements in name only and loses all of the things that makes them important and interesting.

Take why Peter can’t just tell May that he’s Spider-Man. In the comics and in most adaptations, there are two reasons given. One is that May’s health is too frail: a shock like that could kill her. This is obviously not a concern here, even as Peter says that with what she has gone through — which is never specified — Peter can’t do that to her. Why? Never answered (and the end of the movie implies that she finds out anyway). The other is that if Spider-Man’s enemies find out who he really is, then they’ll go after the people he cares about, which Raimi’s first movie actually had happen. While Vulture threatens to do that to Spider-Man, he never does, and when asked at the end of the movie who Spider-Man is denies knowing. So that threat is off the table. This is only made even less credible by the fact that his friend Ned finds out how he is and, despite almost spilling the secret on many occasions, nothing terrible happens. On top of that, the AI in Peter’s suit pushes him to tell Liz Allen who he is when he’s crushing on her, and Peter has no argument for why he shouldn’t. So why can’t he tell people who he is? The movie never tells us that, despite it being a major part of the character for so long.

And that’s really the issue here: what makes Spider-Man Spider-Man is the focus on character and character arcs. The plots are often nonsensical, but that’s because they’re only there to provide mechanisms for Peter’s characterization, character arcs, and character issues. All the the memorable events in Spider-Man tie into this. The death of Uncle Ben that he could have prevented, forcing him to accept that his great power gives him a great responsibility, which also ties into his being forced to choose between his life and responsibilities as Peter and his life and responsibilities as Spider-Man. The death of Gwen Stacey, driving home the idea that anyone he loves will be targeted by his enemies. The number of people close to him who have their lives ruined by Spider-Man, like Liz Allen and a number of others. The fact that his life as Peter Parker is not usually a good one, in spite of and often because of his life as Spider-Man. The fact that many people treat him with fear, suspicion and hate despite all the good he does as Spider-Man. All of these character arcs are what is interesting about the character, and give us a hero who despite all of these things still goes out and acts the hero out of his sense of responsibility.

Spider-Man has no character arc in this movie. Sure, there’s handwaving at him wanting to be a big hero and Avenger and learning at the end that he doesn’t need to be that, and that he has to learn how to be a man on his own before becoming the Iron Man-like hero, but these are just handwaved at. Vulture gets more character development that Spider-Man does, and Vulture’s development is pretty shallow itself. But without that, all we have is the plot. Not only is the plot uninteresting, that’s not what we watch Spider-Man movies for.

I also found that Vulture’s suit was far too impressive for a Spider-Man movie. He’s a monster in that thing, while even when he was using Tony’s enhanced suit it really looked like a huge villain against a pathetically underpowered Spider-Man. That Peter screws up most of the heroics throughout most of the movie doesn’t help. In general, it’s supposed to be Spider-Man’s wits and determination against the gimmicks of his enemies, but for most of the movie none of that happens, and only at the end does Spider-Man’s determination come into play … and, ultimately, Vulture defeats himself, so it doesn’t even matter.

Ned is annoying, especially in how he doesn’t really seem to care at all about protecting Peter’s secret identity, despite being his best friend. They hint at Michelle being MJ, but she’s nowhere near attractive enough for that role and has a really annoying personality to boot. The crush on Liz Allen comes out of nowhere and isn’t developed enough to work, especially since she isn’t one of the iconic Spider-Man romances and so pop cultural osmosis can’t kick in to give it some gravitas. I liked their attempt to use it, but it wasn’t developed enough to overcome its obscurity. And that she’s Vulture’s daughter seems too contrived to work, and is brought up too late to have the emotional impact it needed.

The humour works for the most part, and I really liked the Captain America spots, not only because they were funny but because they reminded me of why Chris Evans made a perfect Captain America. The last one was brilliant.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad movie, but it’s not what I want to watch when I watch a Spider-Man movie, which made it come across as far more boring than it would otherwise. It’s okay, but I’m kinda glad I didn’t actually buy it.

Thoughts on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

September 28, 2018

So, quite a while ago I talked about X-23 (2010) and said I’d talk more about TPBs that I was reading. I, uh, never really got around to doing that. But as I noted this week I recently read Peter David’s “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” and since I couldn’t actually write blog posts this past weekend due to not having power, I thought it would be a good idea to slide a relatively quick commentary on it here to fill in my Friday spot for this week.

The series takes place in the middle of but mostly in the aftermath of Civil War, where Peter has revealed his secret identity to the world, rejected the pro-registration side, and become a fugitive. It brings back a number of characters and situations from Peter’s earlier days, like restoring Flash from his coma — with amnesia so he has forgotten being Peter’s friend, bringing Betty Brant back into the picture, and having Liz Allen write a book bashing Peter for how he treated her when they were together and he was hiding his secret identity from her. Heck, he even mentions Felicia at one point. It goes even further when it has a cross-dimensional version of Ben Parker arrive to cause some issues for the team, adding in a future version of himself as well as of his daughter, who gets turned into a kind of a Joker-type villain due to misfiring nanites that her lover uses to try to break her out of a virtual prison. At the same time, a supernatural being created solely out of spiders is trying to breed with Flash or him and kill Peter, and others show up, like Mysterio and Chameleon.

To be honest, that’s the weakest part of the series: the plots. They are long and convoluted and confusing and very often rely on continuity that someone new to Spider-Man won’t really get. The book is pretty good at explaining what happened before so that we aren’t lost, but it’s hard to build that emotional connection that many of them require in order to pull them off. The supernatural threat is the weakest of them, while the Ben Parker storyline is interesting but ends rather oddly in order to set up the next one. All in all, the plots are nothing to write home about.

But where it does shine is in the character interactions. The Flash plot starts annoying, but builds towards the end as Flash gets to reveal his non-bullying side. Betty Brant gets some great interactions with both Peter and Flash. Liz Allen’s character arc is short, but reveals that she didn’t really want to smear Peter, but needed the money the book would provide and so didn’t feel like she could complain too much without risking that … which then leads to Betty Brant getting involved. But the best one is probably how it deals with Jameson discovering that Peter was Spider-Man all along, with a lovely short arc that involves him firing Robertson, facing down Spider-Man in a long discussion, and reconciling with Robertson.

Peter David has always been really good at funny dialogue, which makes him a perfect writer for Spider-Man. And as expected, it really works here. Each character gets humour in their own voice, but also probably make more jokes than at least some of them would normally. The humourous touches really add to the enjoyment of the work, even when the plots themselves aren’t really wowing anyone.

Overall, it was entertaining. None of the plots are classic plots for good reason, but it handles the Civil War upheaval about as well as could be expected, and the character arcs actually do manage to build in the emotions that they needed to succeed. It was definitely worth reading.

My Lists Are Long …

August 3, 2018

So, I’ve talked about the lists I’ve updated and created to try and get things done. The three lists that are on the blog are, well, all rather long, and also aren’t entirely complete. For example, I only have three hourly shows listed on my list of shows to watch on DVD despite the fact that I do indeed have a rather large library of DVDs to watch, that contain both shows that I’ve never watched and shows that I have watched but really want to watch again. In fact, I’m not sure that I’ll return to Knight Rider after finishing Dynasty, and so it might not even be accurate (the half-hour list is pretty much right). And when it comes to my reading list, I have a large number of philosophical works listed and, on top of that, have a number of works that count as “literature” that I want to slide in there at some point. Oh, and I’ve already mentioned the six+ boxes of fiction that I want to read. Essentially, I’m setting up lists that, if I try to complete everything on them, will likely take me years to complete.

I might be overthinking this a little …

That being said, I am making progress. I’ve made good progress on the history books that I wanted to complete, and so can expect to finish the list in a couple of months or so. He-Man has stalled a little since I started slipping Dynasty in as well, but that’s only because I’ve taken time away from it to watch Dynasty, which means that I’m about half-way through it. All I really need to do is live up to my bargain and actually watch the half-hour show in the evenings, after watching one or more episodes of the hourly show and hitting a convenient time point. And I’ve still made some progress on He-Man anyway, especially in the last few days. Finishing Persona was a coup, and I’ve started Persona 2 and am making progress with it … although it turns out that games are working out the worst, because every time I play Persona 2 it reminds me of how much better Persona 3 and Persona 4 are, and a number of things keep reminding me of other games that I’d like to play. Thus, I feel the most dissatisfied with the games I’m playing, and there actually isn’t an alternative like I had with “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, which was to read it for an hour or so and then read Deadpool graphic novels in my general reading time. I don’t have free general game playing time nor do I have a lot of games that I could play in general spare time to at least let me play a game that I want to play or enjoy. The counter to that is that for video games there are far fewer games that would make me feel that way; Persona 2 is just a special case, and only because I like the modern Persona games that much more than them that it drags down my enjoyment of those games.

However, an issue with this is that I have little programming projects in the queue as well, but the pressure to finish these things tends to distract me from doing them. It’s not so much that I consider those things more important than the programming projects, but that I consider them at about the same level, and due to time constraints it doesn’t really work to do them in the early weekend afternoons like I had planned. What I’m finding is that my morning stuff plus cooking lunch plus cleaning up takes me just past the starting point for those projects, but then that wouldn’t leave me a lot of time before I’m supposed to play games (and I only have a few days to do that as well). I don’t want to delay playing games because a) I need the hours to get through them in any reasonable amount of time and b) I don’t want to play them too late because then I might not fall asleep that well. Plus, playing them too late would also cut into the time I can explicitly watch those DVDs. So it’s just easier for me to start playing earlier and then finish earlier, and I still get my watching and reading done as well. It just ends up cutting off all of those little projects, which then makes me feel bad that I’m doing nothing on them.

I think a reshuffling of my schedule is in the offing …

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how I progress with this and how satisfied I’ll be with the whole thing as time goes by. So far it hasn’t been terrible and it has been nice to finish some things that I’ve always wanted to finish, but there have been moments when the things that are supposed to be mostly fun haven’t actually been fun. We’ll have to see if they’re fun enough for me to still have some fun with things while still feeling that I’m progressing.

“What Do I Most Want to Rewatch” Ranking of the MCU movies

July 18, 2018

So, I’ve now mostly caught up to the MCU movies — at least the ones that are out on DVD — and so I thought it might be good to do a ranking of them from best to worst. Now, I’m going to steal a line from Chuck Sonnenberg and not try to rank them on the basis of which movie is objectively best. No, I’m going to rank them strictly on personal interest: which of them _I_ like the best. And, in fact, given that this is me and one of my main criteria for movies is whether or not I’d watch it again, I’m going to rank them with the primary criteria being which of them I most want to rewatch when it comes time for me to look for a movie to watch, with some other factors coming into play when the ranking is close.

Note that I’m only doing the MCU movies, and not Marvel movies as a whole, so this leaves out the X-Men movies and Spider-man movies, including Homecoming (because I haven’t seen it yet). I’m also not going to talk about “The Incredible Hulk”, because I haven’t seen it, either. If I was doing all of the Marvel movies, Deadpool would win by a landslide.

1 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

As a movie, this is the one that I most want to rewatch, although the ending can drag a bit. It has good character dynamics, an interesting plot, a plot that ties into the overall plot of the MCU movies well, a plot that also has a strong personal connection to Cap, good new characters, and interesting revelations about some existing characters. It gives Maria Hill a chance to show off, Black Widow a chance to develop, and develops relationships between Cap and Falcon and Cap and Black Widow (the “Secure the engine room, then find me a date.” “I’m multitasking.” exchange is both funny and revealing) and even Cap and Fury. The action works well, the drama works well, and the movie hits the right notes with its humour, too, cracking the right jokes at the right times. Again, other than the ending dragging, it’s a good movie and one of the reasons that I think they actually managed to do Captain America right.

2 – Marvel’s The Avengers

Building off of the characters that were already established, this movie is just a plain fun movie to watch. The action works, the jokes work, the drama and interpersonal dynamics work. The plot is serviceable and Loki makes an interesting villain. One can nitpick over its flaws, but at the end of the day it’s really just entertaining.

3 – Captain America: Civil War

I don’t like it as much, and the ending drags even more than the ending to “The Winter Soldier”. But the action scenes are good and I really like the interaction between Vision and Wanda. It’s probably an average Avengers movie, which is how I consider it to be as opposed to a Captain America movie.

4 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

This carries on a lot of the themes from “The Avengers”, and so gets a boost from that. It’s also the bridge from “The Avengers” to “Civil War”, which makes it a movie that I rewatch when I want to watch those two movies again. But on its own it’s okay, decent, kinda entertaining. There are some good lines and scenes, but at the end of the day it just doesn’t do as much for me as the other three movies do.

5 – Guardians of the Galaxy

This movie is mostly a sci-fi comedy romp, which makes it entertaining to watch. But it is mostly disconnected from the greater MCU, which means I have no other reason to want to watch it, and the second movie isn’t as entertaining, so I have no reason to want to watch it as a precursor to watching that one. So I watch it when I’m in the mood for it, specifically, and it’s entertaining enough that that does indeed happen relatively frequently.

6 – Thor

I like the movie, but most importantly I also like “The Dark World”, which means that I get some push to watch it when I want to watch both. Unfortunately for it, I don’t care for either of those two movies as much as I like the other ones on this list, thus it has to be placed beneath them. It’s good, but not that good, and the movie that follows it is also good, but not that good.

7 – Captain America: The First Avenger

I found the movie okay the first time I watched it and liked it better the second time I watched it, but it has one major, fatal flaw: it’s not as good as “Winter Soldier” is. Well, okay, there’s another, probably more fatal flaw: I don’t need to watch it to follow “Winter Solider” or “Avengers”. Thus, watching it only makes me think about watching them instead, which means that I tend to think of that ahead of time and so go watch one of them instead. Good movie, but not as rewatchable as the others.

8 – Iron Man

Of the Iron Man movies, this is the one I like. However, the other movies appeal to me so little that not only do I generally not want to watch them, when I do think it might be nice to watch the entire trilogy having to watch the last two movies turns me off the idea. Which means that I rarely decide that I want to rewatch it, even though mentally I do think that it would be nice to rewatch it on occasion. It’s kinda like Mass Effect in that regard: I’d like to watch the first movie again, but that means watching the other two to watch the entire arc, and I don’t really want to watch the entire series just for what I liked about the first one.

9 – Ant-Man

I keep forgetting that I have this movie on DVD. The movie itself is good enough that it should probably be higher on this list — it should likely overtake “Iron Man” — except that it has no necessary link to any other movie that I own and anything else in the MCU. I just did rewatch it and it was fun, but that’s all it really is. It’s not good enough to be watched on its own and there is no reason to watch it to watch the better MCU movies. So, again, I keep forgetting it exists, which is why I don’t rewatch it. Duh.

10 – Thor: The Dark World

I like the movie, but it falls into the low end of “Good” just above “Meh”. That means that I don’t really have any reason to actually watch it specifically. So I only watch it when I watch “Thor”, and sometimes not even then. It doesn’t make me want to watch “Thor” again, and isn’t a movie that I need to watch if I myself decide to watch “Thor”, so it only comes into play when I want to sit down to watch “Thor” movies. And the third one is not appealing enough to make me do that.

11 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

As I commented when I watched it, it tries to do way too much, and nothing from the first movie really pushes you to watch this one. In short, it’s “The First Avenger”, only not as good a movie. It’s a “Meh” movie with little link to the other movies I have.

12 – Thor: Ragnarok

The same thing applies to this as applies to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”: it’s a “Meh” movie that you don’t really need to watch to understand any of the other movies right now, and the other two movies don’t provide enough of a lead-in to make me care about watching the entire “Thor” trilogy. My impression of this might change when I rewatch it to get the parts I slept through, but the fact that I haven’t done that yet is a pretty damning indictment of it as a movie that I want to rewatch [grin].

13 – Doctor Strange

This is a solid “Meh” movie that I don’t need to watch for any of the better movies, since it came after them. There are serious problems with it and it isn’t the Doctor Strange movie I was hoping for. Right now, I have no idea when I might watch it again.

14 – Iron Man 2

I have no interest in watching the last two Iron Man movies, but this one is higher on the list because it is the first appearance of Black Widow and that interests me enough to consider watching it again, even though when I do I usually regret it.

15 – Iron Man 3

Since Black Widow isn’t in this movie, I usually just regret it when I rewatch this movie. I don’t think either of the movies are bad, but they just don’t really interest me.

16 – Black Panther

This movie has the same issue that I have with “The Force Awakens”: the more I think about the movie, the less I like it … which is what generated my long thoughts on the movie (which don’t even mention that I found his suit being entirely bulletproof a detriment for a melee combatant). I didn’t enjoy the movie the first time I watched it, liked it less the more I thought about it, and so have almost no desire to ever watch it again. It’s also disconnected from the main MCU and has no initial movie to drive a desire to see the next stage in the arc. I am as likely to watch it again as I am to watch TFA … or, actually, less so, because I might watch that when I watch all of the Star Wars movies, and that is not going to happen for “Black Panther”.

Your chance to help decide what I write about!

November 29, 2017

So, I’ve been running with the three updates a week schedule for quite a while now, and it seems to be working out pretty well. It even managed to survive my incredible busy time without all that much of a hitch. In doing this I’ve also started to figure out what things work, what things don’t and how things can work out better in my schedule, which then might start to make the blog more predictable consistent in how things work and what sort of content you might see here. In short, there are certain types of content that work pretty well whether I’m busy or not, and that are also things that I like talking about and am going to do some things with anyway, so I might as well talk about them.

The key is that what works best for the blog are things that I can watch, read or do at any time and then comment on later without having to refer back to the original source material that much. If I can do that, then it really makes my blog writing more flexible and so gives me things that can be done in a relative hurry if I’m busy but that I can do in free time if I’m not busy. TV shows are the ideal for this, and books are probably the worst (since to comment on arguments fairly I generally want to quote from them). But since a lot of these things are things that I haven’t focused on or that are suddenly fitting into my schedule better than they did before, I’m also a bit short of things that fit into those categories and so need to find some new sources for those sorts of posts.

Here is your chance to guide me towards new things to try in those areas.

So, one thing that I’ve found myself lately is watching Extra Credits youtube videos and commenting on them (which in their case means “Disagreeing with them”). In fact, I’m planning on commenting on another couple of them in the near future. But other than SF Debris, I don’t really watch a lot of youtube videos, especially when it comes to gaming. And about the only other commentator on games that I read consistently is Shamus Young, and I’m thinking about digging through his old columns — which he is planning on revisting himself, making this so much easier — to find some other things to talk about. But what other video game commentators do you guys like to watch or read who might have things to say that I might find interesting and want to talk about? While ones that I would probably disagree with are in some sense good — because it’s always pretty easy to write posts disagreeing with people (Hi, Extra Credits!) — I’m also open to people who just say things that might bring up interesting, tangentially related ideas for me to talk about (Hi, Shamus!).

A couple of caveats, though: for youtube videos, the videos can’t be longer, on average, than a half-hour, and can’t be Let’s Plays. Text reviewers are not only excluded from those restrictions, they’ll get precedence because it’s easier for me to read them anywhere and quote them if I want to talk about what they’re saying.

Another thing that I’ve recently started doing more frequently is commenting on TV shows that I’m watching in general, which you saw with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Transformers, and most recently Cheers. I’m currently watching Frasier, and will talk about it as things go along, and I still have a show like Wings waiting when this is done. But since I don’t watch a lot of TV in general, I don’t have much of an idea of what shows might be worth watching, and for my purposes — see the upcoming caveats — don’t want to risk trying something out that I don’t think will be good.

Right now, there are a number of caveats. First, for at least the next year it looks like half-hour shows are what I’ll be watching, and that’s all that I could do for the blog because it would take me too long to watch hourly shows to be useful for generating content on the blog. However, that isn’t limited to sitcoms, as it can fit into anything that is half-hour in length and sounds interesting, like cartoons (for example). Second, these have to be completed series, and it has to be the case that I can get the entire series for a reasonable price. Ideally, if I can order them all on, that would be wonderful. EDIT: I’ll pretty much be buying DVDs, so if it’s not out on DVD the chances of my watching it are slim to none. Third, they can’t be too long; the eleven seasons of Frasier and Cheers are probably about the limit, although that’s more number of episodes rather than number of seasons.

As an example, I’m right now looking to see if I can get Hot in Cleveland — which I’ve talked about before — and maybe, now that its run is done, 2 Broke Girls if I can get the seasons for a reasonable price. Big Bang Theory is out because it is still running and is too long anyway, as is something like The Simpsons for the same reason.

I’m also interested in getting suggestions for books to read and talk about. I do want to keep reading and writing about deeper and more serious topics like that, even though it takes me a while to get around to commenting on them (I have finished reading Philipse’s book, for example, but still have to finish writing posts about it), and I’m a bit out of the loop on what the most recent or, for some genres, even what the popular books and topics are. So I’d be looking for suggestions in the genres of theology, philosophy, and history primarily. I’ll also consider requests for TPB comic editions (but, at least for now, not Alt-Hero).

Now, just because something isn’t listed here doesn’t mean that I won’t be writing about it. For example, I still intend to write about video games, but that will still be limited to the ones I play, and I won’t be soliciting ones to consider as something new so I can talk about it on the blog. And I’ll talk about music and my own eccentricities and do song parodies and talk about computers and write philosophical posts regardless. It’s just that these are categories that it is both relatively easy for me to write about and that I’m fairly uninformed about what’s out there that I might want to get into and write about, which is why I’m asking for suggestions here.

Also note that this isn’t like Chuck’s requests. I don’t put these on a list and promise to have them completed at some time in the near future. I’ll do them if I feel like it and get time and can get them without breaking the bank. I’ll try to respond to all comments as to whether there’s even a chance of it and I’ll try to put something up for things that I’ve bought and so plan to get to at some point, but any suggestion you make here is a suggestion that I’ll consider but may not do, even if I think it’s a good one.

Diversity in Comics …

April 19, 2017

So, comic book sales aren’t going all that well. And so the question has arisen of whether that decline is being caused or helped by diversity, or if diversity is the way to solve that decline. Alex Brown at is arguing that diversity is not, in fact, the problem. She’s responding specifically to comments from David Gabriel:

Later, Gabriel gave another interview that, in part, rehashed that hoary old proverb that diversity doesn’t sell: “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.”

As I’ve already said, Brown thinks he’s wrong. I’ll get into her arguments later, but I think it will best frame the discussion if I give my opinion first:

Diversity doesn’t sell.

Now, when I say that, I don’t mean that a diverse cast of characters won’t sell, or that a female or black main character won’t sell, or anything like that. For the most part, if the characters and book are well-written and get noticed by readers/consumers, they’ll sell. What I mean by that is that using a claim of “This is diverse!” will not, in and of itself, drive sales, at least beyond the short-term, especially in a field that hasn’t actually been diverse. The problem is that, from the start, you are going to have some fans that are deeply resistant to anything that might be considered as diverse or deviate from the norm. Maybe those fans are indeed racist and/or sexist, or maybe they just see it as too deep an intrusion of politics into their media. These people, as soon as they hear “It’s diverse!” as a selling point, are automatically going to avoid consuming that product. Now, the argument is that those fans will be balanced out by more “diverse” fans who would buy it for the diversity, but the problem is that if that’s not a form of media that they would normally buy they aren’t likely to stay with it or even pick it up in the first place because, well, they likely don’t really like that media in the first place, and not everyone — yes, not even all nerds or geeks — like every type of “nerdy” media. So the hope to balance those who hear the word “diverse” and spit with those who hear the word “diverse” and have their ears perk up probably isn’t going to happen.

But even if it would, trying to sell on the basis of diversity has an impact on “middle-of-the-road” consumers like myself. I’m probably as middle-of-the-road as you can get here, and when the main selling point of a work is “Look how wonderfully diverse it is!” my immediate reaction is “… Really? That’s the best you can say about it?” How about talking about how great the story is? Or the characterization? But simply saying “It’s diverse!” leads me to think that that diversity is the main point of the work, and not the story or characters or whatever. And I get very skeptical about a work when the best people can say about it is that it has a diverse cast. That skepticism will get me to avoid spending my money on it, and instead to buy things that are “safer”, where I know — presumably — what I’m going to get. So trying to sell it on diversity is going to push away people who don’t care whether it is diverse or not, but are worried that diversity is the only thing it has going for it.

So, while I say that a work being diverse isn’t going to hurt its sales, promoting a work for its diversity will. Now let’s look at Brown’s view on diversity and how it isn’t the problem:

Disregarding the sugarcoated PR update Marvel made praising diverse fan favorites, Gabriel’s comments are so patently false that, without even thinking about it, I could name a dozen current titles across mediums that instantly disprove his reasoning. With its $150 million and counting in domestic earnings, Get Out is now the highest grossing original screenplay by a debut writer/director in history; meanwhile, The Great Wall, Ghost in the Shell, Gods of Egypt, and nearly every other recent whitewashed Hollywood blockbuster has tanked.

But are these really good examples? Get Out is a fairly unique take on horror, and benefited from that. Ghost in the Shell is the best known name out of the other examples, and was likely going to be a hard sell given that it is based on anime, which a lot of mainstream audiences have never heard of (as an example I, who is more tuned in to these things than the average person, had heard of the anime, but never watched it). She’s trying to do the comparison based on a movie that had some racial implications vs some movies that she calls “whitewashed”, but doesn’t compare the impact of genres and quality and what impact that might have on their sales. So it’s hard to say that it’s just “patently false” when her examples aren’t ones that would, well, prove the statement.

So let’s look at comics specifically. Maybe those examples will be better:

Even sticking strictly to comics, Black Panther #1 was Marvel’s highest selling solo comic of 2016. Before Civil War II, Marvel held seven of the top ten bestselling titles, three of which (Gwenpool, Black Panther, and Poe Dameron) were “diverse.” Take that, diversity naysayers.

Black Panther #1, which had a big following from the movie tie-in and was an established Marvel character, did well, certainly. That being said, it would be a bit odd to challenge Gabriel using that as an example, since he talked about returning to core characters instead of promoting diversity specifically and, well, Black Panther, as I just said, is a core Marvel character. So let’s look deeper at the monthly numbers, starting in April, where Black Panther, Gwenpool and Poe Dameron were all in the top ten. The thing to note here is that those were all #1s, and Marvel had another #1 in that top ten, which was C3P0, which she ignores (droids obviously not being “diverse”). #1s always get a bump due to them being the first issue, and all of these had ties to other things that would get them noticed. As I’ve already mentioned, Black Panther got a boost from the publicity from Civil War. Poe Dameron was linked to “The Force Awakens”. And Gwenpool was linked to both Deadpool and Spider-man, and was such an odd concept that people might definitely be interested in checking it out just to see what the heck was going on with it. Obviously C3P0 got the same boost.

So let’s look at what happened the next month, which had Civil War II 0 and maybe some other Civil War II crossovers. Black Panther #2 fell to 9, Poe Dameron fell to 12, and Gwenpool collapsed to 45. But that could be the influence of Civil War II, right? Not likely. Amazing Spider-Man #12 didn’t move at all compared to #10 and was only slightly 10,000 higher in sales than #11. Spider-Man Deadpool #5 sold basically the same as Spider-Man Deadpool. Star Wars and Star Wars Darth Vader didn’t lose any ground at all (Darth Vader actually sold more issues in May than in April, Star Wars had a slight decline). And Deadpool, despite releasing two issues that month (11 and 12) stayed roughly the same as well. So it’s far more reasonable that the decline came from the issues no longer getting the #1 boost than from Civil War II.

In June, more #1s flood the top ten, and so they lose even more ground (Black Panther comes in at 27, Poe Dameron at 43, and Gwenpool at 76) but Black Panther’s sales are mostly flat while both Poe Dameron and Gwenpool lost sales. For comparison, Star Wars stays flat, Darth Vader loses some — but also has two issues in the month — Amazing Spider-Man loses but has three books in that month, including the Civil War II tie-in — which didn’t lose when compared to Amazing Spider-Man in May — Spider-Man Deadpool’s sales are flat, as are Deadpool’s.

So, given these numbers … I’m not sure what “that” the diversity naysayers are supposed to “take”. It doesn’t really look like the new, diverse comics outperformed those focusing on core characters after the glow from their first issues faded, and most of them had influence from core characters or other media buttressing them in the first place. This is not a good argument that the idea that diversity doesn’t sell is just patently false.

Brown then moves on to differentiate the old school comic fans from the modern comic fans:

Comic book fans generally come in two flavors: the old school and the new. The hardcore traditionalist dudes (and they’re almost always white cishet men) are whinging in comic shops saying things like, “I don’t want you guys doing that stuff…One of my customers even said…he wants to get stories and doesn’t mind a message, but he doesn’t want to be beaten over the head with these things.” Then there are the modern geeks, the ones happy to take the classics alongside the contemporary and ready to welcome newbies into the fold.

So, technically, by this I’m both? My subscriptions included — when I still had them in force — Deadpool, Darth Vader, and Agents of Shield (with the latter clearly being “contemporary”). So I like my classics and I like my contemporary, and don’t care one way or the other about “newbies”. However, I am indeed one of those customers who says that I like stories an I don’t mind a message, but I don’t want to get beaten over the head with it. And, to be honest, I can’t see what’s wrong with that. Is Brown going to suggest that being beaten over the head with a message is a good thing? She could be trying to argue that what they see as “being beaten over the head with a message” is nothing more than being diverse period, but she’d need to a) demonstrate that and b) well, actually say that. Which she doesn’t as she moves on:

This gets to the point made by a woman retailer at the summit: “I think the mega question is, what customer do you want. Because your customer may be very different from my customer, and that’s the biggest problem in the industry is getting the balance of keeping the people who’ve been there for 40 years, and then getting new people in who have completely different ideas.” I’d argue there’s a customer between those extremes, one who follows beloved writers and artists across series and publishers and who places as much worth on who is telling the story as who the story is about. This is where I live, and there are plenty of other people here with me.

So, Brown is promoting customers who don’t care about the specific characters, and don’t care about the specific stories, but care about who is telling the story? I mean, okay, there are writers and artists that I might chose to follow to books that I might not otherwise buy, like Peter David or JMS, because I like what they do. But even then I’m not likely to pick up a work with a character that doesn’t interest me. And for artists, that’s more likely to be an exclusion list than a “Oh, I like their art but hate the character and story, so I’m going to buy it!” So … where do I fit in this paradigm? And where do the “old school” customers who do follow writers and artists around fit?

Or, does Brown really mean that she cares not about their skill, but about who they are? Does she follow them because she likes their work … or because they are themselves “diverse”? This would indeed be a difference, but I’m not sure that it’s one that we should promote as being a good way to approach comics, or that comics should try to appeal to these customers who don’t seem to care about the actual product.

Blaming readers for not buying diverse comics despite the clamor for more is a false narrative. Many of the fans attracted to “diverse” titles are newbies and engage in comics very differently from longtime fans. For a variety of reasons, they tend to wait for the trades or buy digital issues rather than print. The latter is especially true for young adults who generally share digital (and yes, often pirated) issues. Yet the comics industry derives all of its value from how many print issues Diamond Distributors shipped to stores, not from how many issues, trades, or digital copies were actually purchased by readers. Every comics publisher is struggling to walk that customer-centric tightrope, but only Marvel is dumb enough to shoot themselves in the foot, then blame the rope for their fall.

I have to agree with her, in some sense, on this. As I’ve said before, the subscription model is terrible, which stops me from subscribing. This is at least in part because they keep cancelling and rebooting books, and because they keep driving events that would require me to buy far more than I’d like just to get the entire story. Brown says more about this in the post and all of those points are reasonable. I do agree that this is probably causing more of the problems than “diversity”. But as I said above, the solution to that is not going to be promoting diversity, because that doesn’t help.

When you look at the sales figures, the only way to claim diversity doesn’t sell is to have a skewed interpretation of “diversity.” Out of Marvel’s current twenty female-led series, four series—America, Ms. Marvel, Silk, and Moon Girl—star women of color, and only America has an openly queer lead character. Only America, Gamora, Hawkeye, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (cancelled), are written by women. That’s not exactly a bountiful harvest of diversity.

But Brown thinks that, indeed, that’s the solution. On what evidence? What evidence does she have that ramping up the diversity is going to improve their numbers? None of her examples demonstrated that at all, and weren’t bountifully diverse themselves. And then she says this:

Plenty of comics starring or written by cishet white men get the axe over low sales, but when diversity titles are cancelled people come crawling out of the woodwork to blame diverse readers for not buying a million issues. First, we are buying titles, just usually not by the issue. Second, why should we bear the full responsibility for keeping diverse titles afloat? Non-diverse/old school fans could stand to look up from their longboxes of straight white male superheroes and subscribe to Moon Girl. Allyship is meaningless without action.

So, those who are diverse and thus would be the intended audience can’t be expected to, you know, actually buy comics in the way that keeps them afloat. Instead, those who are not the intended audience and many of whom who have no interest in being an “ally” in the first place need to belly-up to the bar and buy those comics for … reasons. Riiiiiiiiight. Or, you know, they can keep buying the comics that they, you know, actually like and let you buy the ones you like and keep them going. If you can.

Really, this is just ridiculous. If the comics can’t appeal to their own intended audience enough to get enough sales to avoid cancellation, then they should be cancelled, and appealing to those outside of that audience to save them is just … well, doomed to failure, and utterly entitled.

“Diversity” as a concept is a useful tool, but it can’t be the goal or the final product. It assumes whiteness (and/or maleness and/or heteronormitivity) as the default and everything else as a deviation from that. This is why diversity initiatives so often end up being quantitative—focused on the number of “diverse” individuals—rather than qualitative, committed to positive representation and active inclusion in all levels of creation and production. This kind of in-name-only diversity thinking is why Mayonnaise McWhitefeminism got cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi while actual Japanese person Rila Fukushima was used as nothing but a face mold for robot geishas.

So, know who “Mayonnaise McWhitefeminism” is? Scarlett Johannson. That’s a great way to encourage “allyship” by tossing an ally under the bus, and then driving the bus forward and backwards a number of times just to really drive home how loyal you are to your allies.

Also, I agree that making diversity the goal is not a good idea, because it leads to simply counting diverse characters/writers/artists instead of making sure that, for example, things are actually done with those characters and their diversity or that you are getting interesting, quality and also different narratives. So, given that … how come her examples above are all about counting the numbers? She just counts the numbers across more fields than simply the characters in the books themselves. Kinda hypocritical.

At the end of the day, using diversity as a main selling point doesn’t work. Diverse audiences won’t flock to media they don’t care for just because it happens to be diverse, those who hate diversity will avoid the titles like the plague, and everyone in between will just throw up their hands in frustration and retreat to those boxes of comics they have in their basement because, hey, at least they know what they’re getting. Brown’s arguments in favour of more diversity aren’t demonstrated and Gabriel’s comments ignore the real structural problems in comics that have nothing to do with diversity. Until people can figure out what’s really going on, comics are not likely to recover.