Throwback Thursdays: Top 10 and Identity

There’s an oft-problematic sub-genre of superhero comics I’ve always had a particular affection for nonetheless. It’s a genre I have a difficult time even coming up with a name for; one where the nigh-incomprehensibly complex nature of a sci-fi/superhero setting and the gritty humanity inherent in “real life of superheroes” type content collide. Series like Transmetropolitan, Astro City, and Powers fall into that category, and those are some of the greatest comic series of all time. But there is one that I tend to forget about and, as a result, don’t often go back to: Alan Moore’s Top 10.

Top 10 - Squad Room

The Gang’s all here. (Screenshot from Top 10.)

As a police drama set in a city where literally every resident is some sort of superhero, robot, mutant, monster, goddess, or alien, Top 10 hits a lot of zany-but-dark notes. But unlike the (truly brilliant) series Powers by Brian Michael Bendis, Top 10 is much more lighthearted in its take on “how do you do policework when suspects are superpowered beings,” and tends more towards “comics continuity gone wild”-type jokes and narratives.

Top 10 features a dazzlingly diverse cast in an almost unimaginably complex multiverse, but the stories that it tells are surprisingly relatable, due in no small part to the character-focused writing by Alan Moore. The art by Gene Ha crams nearly every page with enough Easter eggs and references that they sometimes come off as being from a Where’s Waldo book. But the comic also, like many of Alan Moore’s greatest works, tackles some very controversial issues in ways that can be (sometimes subversively) heavy-handed and trope-y. Though much of the more problematic content in these books does offer a nuanced and honest look at things like racism, sexism, homophobia, and police corruption, it also sometimes comes off as playing for pure shock value.

Note that this article is about the original 2000-2001 run of Top 10 (and to a lesser extent its prequel The Forty Niners) rather than the 2008-2009 run by Kevin and Zander Cannon (who also worked on the original).

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The It Movie Floats to the Top but the Representation Sinks

Until recently, I wouldn’t have considered myself a horror movie person by any stretch of the imagination, but I have been improving my horror education. I decided to watch the original 1990 It movie which came out this weekend in preparation for the the new one, which I greatly enjoyed—well, for the most part. Let’s face it: Stephen King isn’t exactly known for his stellar endings and the original It was no exception. The movie might even be the most infamous of Stephen King’s bad endings. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the movie and Tim Curry’s performance of the menacing clown Pennywise. With that in mind, I was excited and anxious about the new film. It is pretty much considered a horror movie classic at this point and remakes don’t always live up to the original, but the trailers looked good and so I entered the theater with high hopes. While the movie was excellent, scary, and extremely well made, I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, by the lack of representation. Just a fair warning, I have not read the book so I am entering into this critique not knowing the original source material, only the movies.

(pic via elizabethaimee)

Spoilers for the new It movie ahead, and some for the original as well. Also warnings for mentions of sexual assault and child abuse.

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Throwback Thursdays: Those Caught In-between, a Look Back at DMZ

I wish I could say the themes and messages of Brian Wood’s DMZ are less relevant than they were a decade ago, but that is not the case. If anything, this story has become more relevant as the years go by. But even though the central concept of an irreconcilable ideological divide leading to a second American Civil War seems to become more depressingly realistic with each passing day, the stories about humanity and human nature during wartime that DMZ tells remain compelling.

DMZ - Escpe From New York

You know it’s going to be dark when an Escape From New York reference is the most lighthearted bit. (screengrab from DMZ)

Looking back on DMZ, it is tempting to think of it as prescient. But set against the backdrop of the war on terror and the reality of a post-9/11 world becoming firmly established in the American zeitgeist, it was also very much a product of its time. Yet by focusing on the reality of war for the people stuck in one, the result is essentially timeless.

TW: Discussion of 9/11 and life in a war zone. Violent imagery.

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Looking Back at the Game Devs of Color Expo 2017

A couple weeks ago, I got to go to the Game Devs of Color Expo in New York City, and I have to say it was quite the experience. While I’m not a developer myself, gaming is my preferred sector of nerd culture. And for the unaware, I’m a person of color. Add these factors up and this was an event I needed to attend.

Luckily, and full disclosure, I was provided a press badge for entry.

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Throwback Thursdays: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale and the story’s frightening relevance in Trump’s America has led to a resurgence of interest in the original book. I read it back in high school, but watching a couple episodes of the show rekindled my interest in reading it again. Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to listen to a copy of the audio book. Atwood’s magnificent prose delivers a chilling, timely tale of a world where women have lost all control over their own lives and bodies. Despite its 1985 publication date, the book engages with numerous issues that remain relevant today, especially in light of current events.

Warning for discussions of slavery and rape below. And, of course, spoilers through the very end of The Handmaid’s Tale novel.

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Lesbian Matriarchs, Smokeleaf Dealing, and Doomed Pyromaniacs: The Diversity and Zaniness of Rimworld

I’m a fan of story games. Deep RPGs with a lot of character development or walking simulators with well done environmental storytelling tend to be the ones I look out for. I also, however, have a huge weakness for good sim/strategy games; particularly space-related ones like Galactic Civilizations. But even games like the Civilization franchise (okay, mainly Civ V) often keep me going well after bedtime. I also generally want games with good representation (which unfortunately often just means some representation). Rimworld, though still in early access, hits most of these notes and has proven a pleasant surprise thus far.

Rimworld-The Spot

The town mothers have a sweet pad. Though I’m not sure who decided the Muffalo could sleep inside. (screenshot from Rimworld)

As a colony sim that plays with the amount of control you have over AI-generated stories that develop between colonists, the potential for complex and diverse scenarios to emerge is similar to that of a game like The Sims and one that provides some interesting opportunity for social commentary, tackling serious issues but not taking itself too seriously in the process.

To give you an idea what exactly I mean, I’ll tell two of those stories: one about a quasi-utopian space-weed dealing colony run by lesbian matriarchs, and one that got burned down by a stressed out pyromaniac and devolved to cannibalism.

TW: Discussion of (non-graphic) extreme violence, drug use, and ableist/sexuality/gender stereotypes after the jump.

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Throwback Thursdays: 1776 The Musical

It’s almost the Fourth of July, and for those of us here in the United States, we’ll soon be celebrating our nation’s founding. For me, that often meant watching 1776 with my parents, and I have to say that I adored this musical. The film version of the musical 1776 came out in 1972, and the musical itself came out in 1969. It follows John Adams as he tries to get a difficult, cantankerous, and often divided Congress to agree on American independence.

However, if you are a Hamilton fan, this musical might be a disappointment for you. This movie is very white and almost entirely male, with the exception of two female cast members, only one of whom plays a significant role. Regretfully, while there are some great moments in this musical, as far as representation goes, it definitely falls short.

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