Posts Tagged ‘Marvel’

Homo Superior

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Re-publishing a lost article from 2003.

Recently an art professor friend and I were talking about art and storytelling. The touchstone of the conversation was a quote from Clifford Geertz, a Harvard Professor of Anthropology: “Art is the story that people tell themselves about themselves.” Geertz’s comment was in reference to ritualized, cultural traditions of Bali where he was living.

Exactly what does this point have to do with mutants and the X-Men? I’m getting to that.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created The X-Men in 1963, and theatrically billed them as “The Strangest Teens of All!” As Jewish men, it was natural to draw upon their own life experiences in creating the foundation which became the mythos of the X-Men: outsiders trying to co-exist with others in a society largely not their own. Lee and Kirby spun stories of intolerance and persecution, but also of survival.

Now, the notion of “outsiders” is broad and can be applied to any marginalized group within a society. It comes as no surprise then that after the revival of the X-Men in 1975 (which featured an extremely culturally-diverse team) and the advances made by the post-Stonewall Gay Rights Movement, that closeted teenagers and adults related to the outsider status of the X-Men as they began to discover themselves. The “mutant equals outsider” metaphor resonated strongly, and was co-opted to become “mutant equals gay.”

How could it not, when you considered these facts: Mutant traits first appear during puberty; Mutants are often alienated by their families and friends; Humans are fearful and intolerant of mutants; Many mutants, like gay people, are able to pass for “normal”; The Legacy Virus is the comic book analog of the AIDS pandemic, just as mutant registration recalls the ultra conservative cries of the 1980s to quarantine people with AIDS; Mutants may think they’re the only one “like this” until they come across other mutants and, like LGBT folk, create their own families of choice to forge their own sense of place in the world.


Cultural Watch Dogs & Captain America

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

captainamerica385Writers tackling social issues in comics have good intentions though the products of those intentions range the gamut from outstanding to just plain bad. The two part story in Captain America #385 and 386 from 1991 falls closer to the bad side than not. It came to my attention in an Ebay search because of the seller’s description: “Cap rescues pornographers, gay rights activists, rappers and others from the right wing Watchdogs who are out to enforce their brand of All-American morality with the unwanted “help” of US Agent who is out for revenge”. Captain America rescuing gay rights activists? How did I not know about this story?

It turns out  gay activists are never mentioned as I discovered while recently reading the pot boiler two parter with the titles “Going to the Dogs” and “For Righteousness’s Sake”. However, including the LGBT community as targets by  the right wing group Watch Dogs, who are the villains in this tale from Mark Gruenwald and Ron Lim, isn’t a difficult stretch of imagination. They have more back story than seen in this story including a connection with USAgent, which you can read here and here. The Watch Dogs are ostensibly stand ins for the Ku Klux Klan. White robes were swapped out for purple spandex uniforms and orange metal vests emblazoned with a snarling dog face symbol and topped off with visor helmets. The color scheme practically shouts comic book villain though who can imagine macho, right wing villains actually choosing purple and orange as uniform colors? Their mission statement is spelled out in their initiation vow:

“I solemny vow to walk the virtuous path, to safeguard society from the forces that would corrupt it, and destroy the enemies of decency, of morality,and of the values upon which our country was founded”.


Superheroes Going Viral

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

By Jericho  Wilson

shadowhawk01HIV as Metaphor for Diversity in Comics

It was an honest mistake. Reading Grant Morrison’s Multiversity #1 from DC Comics, I saw a square-shaped bottle with an orange & brown label that looked exactly like Sustiva, one of the medications I take for HIV. In the midst of a discussion on Facebook with fellow gay geeks, I got all excited and posted about it. But alas, I was mistaken. Another fan pointed out that a few pages earlier the word “Zoloft” (medication for depression) was visible on the bottle in very small print.

Damn. I got all hyped that Morrison’s lead African-American protagonist might also be HIV+ making a book with an already very diverse cast even more diverse. Aside from my embarrassment at missing the label in a previous panel, I shrugged my shoulders figuring that was the end of it. Then a friend sent me a message on Facebook: “Would you like to write a piece about your thoughts on an HIV+ hero as representation?”

Well, there was an angle that was the farthest thing from my mind. That is because I think the subject is unrealistic for many reasons. HIV+ heroes? Very, very rarely does any major multimedia company allow such a thing to ever happen, let alone would most writers even propose the idea. Granted, there are exceptions with controversial stories by brash creators. And you can count them all on one hand.


Ren Kimura

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Contributed by Mike McDermott

Ren Kimura is a young Japanese-American woman who grew up with a very regimented childhood, directed by her very traditional parents who tried to shape her into their idea of a model citizen through school, studies and pre-selected hobbies. One of the hobbies they selected for her was ballet, which sparked a love of all dance in Ren. Her parents considered ballet just one more discipline for her to master as part of her well-rounded development, but Ren wanted to explore all forms of dance.  Her parents did not approve, nor did they approve of her sexuality when they learned she is a lesbian. Since she still lived in their home and they paid for her tuition, Ren followed their rules…but snuck around behind their backs to continue her study of dance.

Ren is one of millions of humans who are descendants of ancient Inhumans, a race of superhumans whose powers come from exposure to the Terrigen Mists.  During one of his invasions of Earth, the mad titan Thanos launched an attack on the home of the Inhumans, causing an explosion that spread a cloud of Terrigen all over the Earth. This Terrigen cloud activated the dormant powers of millions in Inhuman-descendants, including Ren, causing them to enter a cocooned state and emerge transformed into Inhumans.

Ren emerged from her cocoon with her hands transformed into a strange metallic substance. Ren soon found herself caught in a crossfire between troops of Thanos, who were slaughtering all of the newly powered Inhumans on sight, and Caroline Le Fey and her Doom Maidens, who were capturing the cocoons to try and recruit the new Inhumans to their cause. The Defenders arrived on the scene and defended Ren, and she soon found that she could use her new powers to join in the fight.  Afterwards Annabelle Riggs of the Defenders bonded with Ren, using her own status as a newcomer to the world of super-heroics to relate to Ren and help her cope with her unexpected changes. Ren joined the Defenders, and began a romance with Annabelle soon afterwards.
Ren’s hands and forearms are now composed of metal, and her fingers have transformed into razor blades. Her fingers can extend as long metallic strands, with the blade at the tip. She can use these as whips, or to propel herself by using them like grappling lines. Although Ren has no combat training, she has adapted her dance skills to serve as a unique and fluid fighting style, twirling her razor-sharp whips around as she dances.

Ren first appeared and was outed in Fearless Defenders #10.

Please read Dr Annabelle Rigg’s profile.

All rights reserved by Marvel Comics.

The Vamp

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

vampContributed by Ronald Byrd

Nothing is known about the Vamp’s life prior to her entry into the subversive criminal organization known as the Corporation; the lover of the Corporation’s east coast head, Senator Eugene Stivak, the Vamp was assigned to infiltrate the international law enforcement agency called SHIELD, and she, along with another double agent called Blue Streak, joined SHIELD’s Super-Agent program, in which capacity she wore the energizing absorbo-belt and served alongside genuine heroes the Texas Twister and Marvel Man (later known as Quasar). While serving as a SHIELD Super-Agent, the Vamp was also active as a Corporation agent in the form of the Animus, a psionic-powered, neanderthal-like, and apparently male superhuman; her ability to assume this new form was presumably given to her by the Corporation’s genetic engineers, who evidently worked under criteria different from that of most other subversive scientists (although, in all honesty, for all we know it is the Animus who is the original form and the Vamp who is the transformation, which would lend the Vamp’s romance with Senator Stivak a rather unusual subtext). Thus, the Vamp targeted the super-hero Captain America in the form of the Animus, even while she was posing as his ally in SHIELD.



Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Contributed by Michael McDermott

Mephisto is a demon who rules a fiery “hell” dimension. He is a being of pure evil, and his entire existance seems to be devoted to causing suffering and capturing the souls of various mortals. Mephisto has many different forms and appearances, and although his natural state appears to be male, he can assume a female form when it suits his purposes.

Over the years Mephisto has been a threat to nearly every character in the Marvel Universe, and has targeted various heroes as Adam Warlock, Thor, Wonder Man, Black Panther, Hellcat, and many others in his schemes. The hero he seems most interested in is the Silver Surfer.

In one encounter, he assumed the form of the the female Nova, and seduced the Surfer and managed to trick him into surrendering his soul. The Surfer was now Mephisto’s property, although he did eventually manage to escape.

Mephisto: “You exist for my amusement… to do and be anything I desire… take any shape… serve any purpose. It is mine to deem you slave… or lover… or nothing.” (Silver Surfer vol.3 #100)

Given that he is a creature of pure evil, Mephisto is ob-viously incapable of love, and therefore his sexuality changes to suit whatever scheme he is currently involved in. This is best illustrated in a scene from Black Panther #2, where Everett Ross asks Mephisto if he is gay. His reply: “No. At least, not today.”

Mephisto has a son,Blackheart, and in an alternate future has a daughter named Malevolence. There is no information on who the mother of these offspring is.

Mephisto first appeared in Silver Surfer #3, volume 1 and is outed in Silver Surfer #99 & 100.


All rights reserved Marvel Comics.

The Answer II

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Contributed by Michael McDermott

answer2-1David Ferarri was a patriotic young man who was pressured into military service by his father. David was described as being “too sensitive” for the service and he felt miserable in the military. Eventually he was killed in a hazing, due to his “different lifestyle”.

However, it was eventually revealed that Ferarri’s death was simply a cover story so that SHIELD could recruit him into their enhanced soldier program.  Unfortunately, Ferarri proved to be mentally unstable, and became a terrorist calling himself “The Answer”. In a scheme for world domination, he teamed up with the Crimson Dynamo, kidnapped Nick Fury, and stole a nuclear missile. Together, Captain America and Nick Fury were able to stop Ferarri and take him into custody.

Ferarri should not be confused with the original Answer, who is an old Spider-Man foe. David is the brother of Connie Ferarri, once a love interest of Captain America. His first appearance was only in a photograph in Captain America #20 (Vol 3). He appeared in issues #42 and 43.

All rights reserved Marvel Comics.

Rebecca Cross

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Contributed by Michael McDermott

Rebecca Cross ran away from home when she was sixteen, and took a bus from her home town of Lago, NY to the next town. No one knew where she went, and it was assumed that she was kindapped. After a month had passed, her mother hired private investigator Jessica Jones to find out what happened to Rebecca. She suspected that Rebecca’s father might have something to do with the disappearance, because she thought that he had displayed a sexual interest in Rebecca.

However, the father denied those accusations, and Jones believed that he had nothing to do with the disappearance. During Jones’ investigation, she uncovered rumours that Rebecca was a mutant, and Lago is a small town with a minister who preaches anti-mutant sermons. However, Jessica found no evidence to support the rumours that Rebecca was a mutant; she simply appeared to be a “different” girl who didn’t fit in to that small town.

A few days later, Mr. Cross was found murdered. While the body was being taken away, Jessica overhears a little boy muttering “that’s not funny”, and realizes that he knows where Jessica is. Before Rebecca left, she told this one boy where she was going, because she liked him and didn’t want him to worry. Jessica finds Rebecca in a club, with her new girlfriend, reading poetry. Jessica takes Rebecca back home despite her protests. During the car ride, Rebecca explains that she ran away because she could no longer tolerate the bigotry and racism in her hometown. She went to the next town over, and found people who didn’t have the same bigoted attitudes, and who didn’t mock her when she tried to express herself. She also met a girl whom she fell in love with. Rebecca tells Jones that she will not go back to living in Lago, and she will run away again at the first opportunity.



Monday, June 16th, 2014

Contributed by Mike McDermott

twitchy1Twitchy is the codename of the senior data analyst for the Worldwide Counter-terrorism Agency (WCA). His codename is likely based on his nervous and high-strung nature, as though he were constantly on a caffeine overload. Twitchy was formerly Agent 14 of SHIELD, and was abducted and replaced for an unrevealed length of time by the alien shape-shifting Skrulls as part of their secret invasion of Earth. When he and the other captives were eventually rescued, Twitchy discovered that much had changed in his absence–including SHIELD being disbanded.

One of his fellow abductees, the former-SHIELD-agent-turned-Avenger Mockingbird, decided to fill the void by starting her own espionage agency (the WCA) and turned to her fellow abducted ex-SHIELD agents. Twitchy was one of her first recruits.

Twitchy’s skills as data analyst were used in most of the WCA’s missions, including operations against Dr. Monica Rappaccini and A.I.M., Crossfire and the Phantom Rider. He ran communications and satellite coverage, as well as preparing the data for mission briefings, etc. Hawkeye also employed Twitchy’s skills to help him locate Mockingbird’s family, by hacking through the firewalls around their files.

Twitchy is a master hacker, and an expert in various communications systems and computer technologies. As a former SHIELD agent he presumably also has some degree of training in armed and unarmed combat, although likely not to the same extent as the field agents.

Twitchy has a partner named Roland, with whom he has two dogs. Roland is apparently aware of Twitchy’s occupation, since they have a designated safehouse to evacuate to. Twitchy’s parents are unaware that he is a spy, and may also be unaware of his sexuality–Twitchy has said that he and his parents have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on most aspects of his life.

Twitchy first appeared in New Avengers: The Reunion #2, and was outed in Hawkeye & Mockingbird #4. His appearance is based on his co-creator Jim McCann.

All rights reserved Marvel Comics

Sphinx II

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Contributed by Michael McDermott

Thousands of years ago, when Anath-Na Mut first absorbed the energy of the Ka Stone and became the original Sphinx, he was overwhelmed by the incredible power and emerged from the temple into the desert in a dazed state. A poor, lonely outcast Egyptian woman found him lying there in the desert. She took care of him, and nursed him while he adapted to the new power and regained control of himself. The woman soon fell in love with him, but the Sphinx had no interest in her, and simply left as soon as he had recovered. The woman spent the rest of her life in unrequited love for a man whose name she never knew. She grew old alone, and eventually died.

However, that was not the end of her. She found herself reborn in the body of an Egyptian boy, with all the memories of her previous life still intact! She had absorbed some of the Ka Stone energy that had leaked from the Sphinx when she first encountered him. S/he was still obsessed with a passion for the Sphinx, and schemed of a way that they could someday be reunited. During a later life, as the wife of the Pharaoh, she arranged to have herself buried with the Sceptre of Ka, which she could someday use to focus the powers of the Ka Stone which the Sphinx wears upon his forebead.

The woman continued to be reborn through the centuries, in bodies of every gender, race and walk of life, but she always maintained her romantic obsession with the Sphinx. Her patience finally paid of when the Sphinx returned as a super-villain, and he was eventually destroyed in battle with the planet-eater Galactus. Her most recent body was once again that of an Egyptian woman, Meryet Karim. She learned of the Sphinx’ destruction at the hands of Galactus, and returned to her homeland to retrieve the Sceptre of Ka from one of her old burial sites. With it she was able to absorb the Ka energies that had been dispersed into the atmosphere when the Sphinx was destroyed.