Iron Man #6: Brian Michael Bendis’ Riri sadly no Jessica Cruz

Comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis recently gave an interview with Marvel on his approach to writing, and during the exchange he took time to discuss Invincible Iron Man’s Riri Williams. He said that at this stage in the game the character “doesn’t know who she is yet,” which is interesting since it appears as though he is equally lost.

It is perfectly okay for a character to lack self-awareness, but readers should generally be able to peg the character and empathize with him/her within the first or second issue.

The problem with Mr. Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man after six issues is that he seems to think readers should just love his character because the entire Marvel universe loves her. Unlike DC’s Jessica Cruz, who became a hero after overcoming crippling anxiety and fear, Mr. Bendis’ creation stresses out because too many individuals and groups want to experience her awesomeness first-hand.

For those who have been wondering why Marvel’s sales have faltered over the past year while DC’s Rebirth continues to impress, look no further than IIM #6. It should serve as a case study in what not to do if you want to build momentum for a new character.

Anyway, check out my latest YouTube review for a full rundown of why IIM fails while books like Green Lanterns: Rage Planet have guys like me saying, “Who is this Jessica Cruz character? She seems kind of cool.”

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Secret Empire #0: Nick Spencer pens love letter to postmodernism

Marvel’s next big event, Secret Empire, has arrived with issue #0. For those who wondered over the last year if writer Nick Spencer could craft an interesting Hydra-Cap tale, the answer appears to be “yes.”

The problem, however, is that once again a hero’s legacy is offered for sacrifice at the alter of postmodernism.

Just because a man could do something, it doesn’t mean that he should. While I must admit that Mr. Spencer is an intelligent and organized writer, at the same time he is rightly being criticized by fans who are disgusted with the idea of turning a cultural icon into a tool of Nazi Germany. No matter how much Marvel protests the Nazi-angle, there really is no denying it.

There’s much more to say on the topic, but for a full run-down I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. As always, feel free to sound off with your thoughts in the comments section below.

Renew Your Vows #6: Gerry Conway, Ryan Stegman give Marvel blueprint for success

The sluggish sales of Marvel comics as of late is no secret. The “House of Ideas” is on fire, and anyone who has paid attention to the industry for the last couple of years knows it. Luckily, there is a way to extinguish the flames, and the answer comes from the creative springs of writer Gerry Conway and artist Ryan Stegman.

If Marvel truly wants to fix what ails it, then it will look to Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #6.  Sound storytelling, strong art, respect for classic characters and an absence of weird political preaching is the key to motivating readers who are disgusted with the Marvel brand.

For more on this topic, check out my latest YouTube review and hit the “subscribe” button if that video format is up your alley.

As always, I invite you to leave your two cents (or more!) in the comments section below.

Dan Slott’s moral relativism takes Peter down Otto’s path in Amazing Spider-Man #26

Moral relativism is a problem in Marvel comic books these days. If you ever wanted to see what it can do to a good character, then look no further than The Amazing Spider-Man #26 by writer Dan Slott. The character who recently resorted to corporate espionage to gain access to another company’s intellectual property rights now has decided to risk everything to topple a sovereign nation.

Yes, that’s right, Parker Industries is supposed to be a technology empire worth billions, but its CEO is willing to risk it all — the jobs of his employees, the Uncle Ben Foundation, the livelihood of his shareholders — all for some out-of-the-blue quest to take down Norman Osborn. Peter Parker under Dan Slott has turned into a Captain Ahab-ish character who is on the hunt for an elusive green whale. And to find the mysterious Goblin Whale he will do anything — no matter what the costs or who he hurts in the process — to make it happen.

In short, when Doctor Octopus calls Spider-Man a “self-righteous twit” in an issue of ASM, the reader should never side with the villain. Sadly, that is exactly what happens in ASM #26.

For more details, I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments section below, as always.

X-Men Gold #1: The house that Axel Alonso built gives Marvel Ardian Syaf controversy

It seems like not a week goes by without Marvel Comics having some sort of PR nightmare, whether it’s smaller things like Gabby Rivera’s America making a gang of “privileged” white cyborgs the enemy, or what we saw this weekend with X-Men Gold #1 — artist Ardian Syaf’s decision to put anti-Christian and anti-Semitic messaging into his work.

Yes, that’s right, of all the books to go down bigotry path, it had to be the book that is supposed to be the “gold” standard of tolerance and acceptance.

There is much more to say about this issue, so for all the details on The House the Axel Alonso Built and its slow-motion implosion, I invite you to check out my latest YouTube video. As always, make sure to subscribe if the format is up your alley, and please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Marvel’s ‘America’ by Gabby Rivera: Sales VP David Gabriel’s ‘diversity’ lie exposed

Marvel comics made quite a bit of news this week after its Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, gave an interview with ICv2 on sluggish sales. He completely distorted the cold hard reality that fans are tired of politicized comics to say that we really just have a problem with “diversity.”

To see just what a disingenuous liar Mr. Gabriel is, I have provided a review of Marvel’s America by Gabby Rivera. I purchased the first two issues, which appear to be a perfect storm for social justice activism.

Check out my latest YouTube review to learn all about the “privileged” and evil white cyborgs who try to destroy Sotomayor University, or the being of “white energy” that imprisons an entire planet until it is defeated with America’s “brown fist.” I wish I were joking, but I’m not.

As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments section below.

Editor’s Note: Our good pal Dave Huber just wrote a piece for The College Fix that touches on Marvel’s partisan politics problem: Don’t be fooled: ‘Get Woke’ campaigns really mean ‘Agree With Me (or else)’He was also kind enough to reference my review of America.

Why do people hate? Answer: They fear the price of love, which is sorrow

My wife was working an overnight shift not long ago and I had the apartment all to myself. I used that time to think about my love for her and, more specifically, the metaphysical price of that love. I thought about how my love grows exponentially with each year that passes, the grief I would feel if she died tomorrow, and then marveled at the level of suffering that awaits the first one of us to pass away many decades (I hope) from now.

Translation: The price of love is sorrow. We are all debtors to love. There is no escaping it, and anyone who truly engages in such a conscious act of the will towards another human being must pay the bill.

Given this truth, it is reasonable to conclude that many of the perpetually angry people you encounter on a day-to-day basis (whether online or in person) take on that state as a kind of defense mechanism. They may not even be conscious of it, but on multiple levels they are scared of sorrow and, by extension, terrified of truth.

“Okay Doug, that’s all well and good,” you say. “But why is this relevant to my life?”

The answer, dear reader, is that how you answer life’s big question — “Why are we here?” — will determine how you absorb and process the inevitable love-born sorrows to come. If the love within us is infinite (while paradoxically being able to grow within our finite bodies), then a commensurate level of pain will ensue as a result of losing a spouse or a child. If you have not seriously pondered the aforementioned question, then it behooves you to begin now, as on some level you too are running from truth.

The longer a man runs from the truth, the more likely it is that his final destination will be a place of hatred, anger, and spiritual unrest.

The follow-up response now becomes, “Okay Doug, but how do you plan on absorbing grief?”

This is where I humbly submit to my non-Catholic friends that all I have is an answer as viewed through my own faith. Even if you do not agree with my conclusions, I hope that there is something — no matter how small — that helps to comfort you in the years to come.

It is my assertion that many American preachers you see on television who subscribe to what has been called the “prosperity gospel” are, besides perverting the Christian faith, setting people up for spiritual and psychological failure. They want to experience the Glory of God without the Cross. They weirdly stress the idea that material wealth springs from faith in the Lord when, in actuality, one should dwell in the Crucifixion of Christ: It is through the Passion that we gain self-knowledge and (although counter-intuitive to non-believers), peace and joy.

Saint Catherine’s The Dialogue is perhaps one of the best sources for understanding this concept. The 14th century mystic’s encounter with God produced the following:

“The willing desire to bear every pain, even death, for the salvation of souls is very pleasing to me. The more the soul endures, the more it shows that it loves me. By loving me, it comes to know more of my truth. The more it knows, the more pain and intolerable grief it feels at the sins committed by others against me.

You asked me to sustain you and to punish the faults of others in you. You did not say that you were really asking for love, light, and knowledge of the truth. I have already told you that as love increases so do grief and pain. Those of you who grow in love also grow in sadness. I say to you all, if you ask, I will give it to you, for I do not deny anything to the one who asks of me in truth.

The love of divine charity is so closely joined in the soul with perfect patience that neither can leave the soul without the other. If the soul chooses to love me, it should choose also to endure pains for me in whatever way that I send them. Patience cannot be proved in any way other than suffering, and patience is united with love.”

There is much more to unpack here than a single blog post would ever allow, but for brevity’s sake let me once again reiterate that anyone who wants to fully experience love must also willingly accept that they can only do so by embracing pain, suffering, and sorrow.

A Catholic man knows that when he suffers for love — true love — he can rest easy, as he is being drawn closer to Christ on the Cross.

J. Michael Straczynski: Partisan writer hits the block button because douglasernst.blog is effective

JMS1

Regular readers of this blog know that on any given day there will be an honest comic book review or a post that exposes the hypocrisy of partisan writers within the industry. If a book is good — like Renew Your Vows — I’ll say it. If a book is bad, like Brian Michael Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man, then readers will know exactly why. Certain Marvel scribes have tried to claim over the years that this blog is irrelevant, but a strange thing keeps happening to me: Writers and editors who I never even talk about block me on Twitter. That seems like an odd action to take for someone who is not effective…

Consider J. Michael Straczynski, for instance. I never talk about the man in my blog posts, never tweet the man, and in the rare events I have mentioned him in my comments section I have been extremely kind. He was the last writer on The Amazing Spider-Man who got me excited about the book after years of mediocre writing. He “gets” Peter Parker, and if it weren’t for weird “Gwen-rape” stories then I would have even more nice things to say about his work.

Why, then, did he block me on Twitter? Tonight I ran across his name in a follower’s feed and thought, “Hmmm. JMS. I wonder what his tweets are all about,” before getting Twitter’s classic “you are blocked from following…” message.

I tweeted, “I guess he’s not a fan of limited government?” before checking it out via another account, and what do you know? I was right!

JMS Melania

Just like most of the other industry writers, J. Michael Straczynski is such a petty man that he turns First Lady Melania Trump into a vehicle to attack her husband — because it must feel so good to get dozens of “likes” or “loves” on social media for rage-tweeting.

Whether it’s Hydra-Cap writer Nick Spencer talking about the “myth of the good Republican” or ASM writer Dan Slott telling Christian supporters of Hobby Lobby to go to “Christ-Land,” this blog has consistently called out their mean-spiritedness and hypocrisy. And because it has a growing number of readers here and on YouTube, guys like Mr. Straczynski have taken notice.

Given this latest development, I will once again reiterate to you, dear reader, that if you want to see someone expose the self-proclaimed “tolerant” comic writers for the intolerant ideologues they are, then you have come to the right place. And since Mr. Straczynski was so concerned about what yours truly might find in his Twitter feed, I will give it extra attention going forward.

Stay classy, Mr. Straczynski.

Exit Question: How long will it be before Mr. Straczynski starts using weird comments about Barron Trump to attack his father?

With apologies to Jeremiah Wright, Marvel’s ‘chickens come home to roost’

Fans have been scorned, taunted, and belittled by comicbook creators on social media for — politely now, mind you — daring to ask questions about altering long-time characters and stories all for “diversity’s” sake.

You know the routine by now. Doug, myself and many others have written about it ad nauseam.

Still, the creators have continued in their snobbish, egomaniacal ways.

However, now there is this from Newsarama (emphases mine):

According to David Gabriel, Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Print & Marketing, a sales downturn at the publisher that accompanied a “big shift in the entire industry” beginning in October 2016 came as a result of many factors, including, according to the executive, the market “turning up their noses” at any title not featuring a “core Marvel character.”

Suggesting the answer to the question of why people’s tastes suddenly changed was better answered by Direct Market retailers, Gabriel told ICv2 that “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,” he explained. “That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”

Dan Slott Renew Your Vows

And Jon Del Arroz’s (love that name) article from a couple of weeks ago is spot-on:

Marvel has a diversity problem.

In that they have none in terms of diversity of thought. They are a pure social justice propaganda arm. This is dangerous when it comes to creating art, as if you have everyone thinking in lockstep, unable to get outside the box, you’ll have creative stagnation. More than that, when you turn children’s adventure fiction into adult message browbeating, you lose any semblance of fun that a product formerly had. It’s no wonder that sales have dropped by about half, when they have an entire writing core of every single one of their monthly writers hell-bent on a crusade of alienating half of the country in some social engineering through comics.  I don’t exaggerate my numbers either, and I did some leg work for you all so you might better make educated purchases, or lack thereof, of Marvel Comics. …

According to marvel.com, there are 18 writers on the current releases. I went through each and every one of their twitter accounts to give you a summary of where they spend their time on social media in terms of politics. I don’t mind people getting political occasionally, or even necessarily holding left wing views, but when it’s constant beating the drum of anger and hate, that’s what makes an SJW, and that’s where one needs to stay away (and is a primary reason for Marvel’s steep sales decline in recent years).  Here’s a brief summary of the writers’ twitter feeds, as I’ve gone through all of them for you:

Mike Costa – Constant Anti-Trump posts.

Jason Aaron – Anti-Trump, has #resist greenpeace retweet from inauguration. However, he doesn’t post politically very often, not pushing some anger crusade all the time.

Brian Michael Bendis – Anti-Trump posts, but posts so much it’s not a large percentage of his tweets.

Cullen Bunn – Rabid anti-Trump.

Becky Cloonan – a couple of snarky anti-Trump posts pre-election, but no political posts since. From the feeds, appears to be the sanest of the Marvel staff.

Gerry Duggan – Constant Anti-Trump posts, retweets Bernie (he can still win!).

Al Ewing – British, and doesn’t seem to post a lot of American politics, but very heavily steeped in globalism in immigration “rights” in his posts. Anti-Western civilization. 

Roxanne Gay –  Constant rants about feminism, anti-Trump posts. 

Zac Gorman – Complains about Republicans as “joke”, but only one recent post as such. Low percentage of political tweets.

Derek Landy – Anti-Trump, not overwhelming in political posts. Mostly sticks to posts about writing.

Kate Leth – Regular anti-Trump posts. Constant complaints about some boogeyman “privilege”, rambles at racist, sexist, etc., “white dudes”.  Rants about queer issues.

Stuart Moore – Regular posts anti-republican, anti-Trump.

Greg Pak – Complains about “representation” of different races. Lots of anti-Trump posts.

Dan Slott – Anti-trump rants all the time. 

Charles Soule – Constant anti-trump rants.

Nick Spencer – Rants about trump/republicans and calls anyone who disagrees with him flat out evil.

G.Willow Wilson – “Muslim” Ms. Marvel writer, rants anti-Trump posts all the time.

Chip Zdarksy – Constant anti-Trump posts.

That is  … “100% […] extreme left-wing ideologues who hate half of the country [and] have nothing nice to say about the USA or its president ever,” Del Arroz continues.

Comic fans of goodwill, those with nary a racist/sexist/homophobic etc. bone in their bodies, have been blasted as just that by creeps such as Dan Slott, et. al. all because they’ve asked simple questions regarding characterization and stories.

Many, like Doug and myself, have pointed out that Marvel’s permissive attitude towards horrendous creator behavior on social media is hardly an appropriate business model.

I feel like going on a Randy Quaid-in-Independence Day-style rant: “I’ve been sayin’ it. I’ve been sayin’ it for ten damn years. Ain’t I been sayin’ it? Yeah, I’ve been sayin’ it.”

I — we — knew all this nonsense was unsustainable. We knew the chickens would be seeking out that proverbial roost.

Advice for Catholic gentlemen: You weren’t meant to be ‘a good person’ — you were meant to be a saint

Last night my church had a presentation on the Internet and social media. I attended because I thought my job (and the many hours it requires me to be online) might give me some insights into the subject that may benefit others. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was offered afterward, which got me thinking about a time in my life when I embarrassingly yelled at God — and the lesson that followed shortly afterward.

Roughly six years ago, my life was filled with many personal and professional transitions. There were stresses involved, and on one bad day I pulled the car over to the side of the road and screamed, “What the f***! I’m just trying to be a good person! What the F***! Why are you doing this to me?!”

Without going into details, something I would deem miraculous happened following that outburst, which would lead me to believe the following: We weren’t mean to “just” be “a good person” because we were meant to be saints. We obviously cannot all die as saints, but that is what we must strive to be.

We live in a world where the Internet is omnipresent and the rule of thumb is that it gives us what we want faster … and faster … and faster. Anything you crave, the Internet can provide in a hurry. If you want to be a saint, you have access to all of their wisdom. If you want to explore all sorts of fiendish behavior, then your desire is just a click away. Whatever you want to put into the infinite caverns of your heart, social media can supply — good, evil; love, hate; peace, violence; temperance, concupiscence, and on and on.

The point is that “just” being “a good person” is never good enough, but especially not in a world where technology allows for hyper-exposure to our worst vices. Perverts become hyper-perverts. Partisans become hyper-partisans. Rage is intensified, and flesh’s already-ravenous desire for flesh is awash in images of bodies … and bodies … and bodies.

It is my prediction that in the years ahead you will see a small cadre of rare spiritual pearls emerge within a black sea of ghouls already torturing and raping people live on social media, beheading people in the Middle East and North Africa, and living only for hate.

That is why “just” being “a good person” is not good enough. From all sides you are being bombarded with spiritual blows to sap and warp your will. Invisible sludge is being thrown in your spiritual eyes and shoved down your throat because in time it blinds a man and clogs the arteries of his soul.

The answer to all of this is to strive — every day — to become more like the saints. The process is painful, but it is a good pain. I promise.

Perhaps the best way to explain the spiritual growth that is needed in this time and this place in history, I should point to the old bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Witness the physical and emotional strain he imposed upon himself while sculpting the perfect body and winning the Mr. Olympia title. Anyone who exercises knows that pushing the body — the finite body — to its limits is painful. Now consider doing that to the spirit, which is infinite.

Virtue is something that is very real and tangible, despite being invisible. It paradoxically has a kind of mass and a weight to it even though it’s not something that can ever be measured. The reason for this is because virtue is part of the realm of the infinite. The human heart contains conduits to the infinite  — chambers to the divine, if you will — but your body as a whole is, again, finite. That is why as one grows in spirit it often feels like his body is under enormous strain.

Like the weightlifter who adds more iron to his routine, the man or woman who engages in strenuous spiritual exercise brings themselves to tears. The difference is that instead of muscle breaking down and building up, the soul often feels like it is being torn asunder. In some ways it is, because its worst elements are being ripped off and replaced with that which is good and pure.

If you’re wondering why sin does not produce similar experiences, it is because that behavior produces a kind of spiritual atrophy. Just as a man often does not feel the pain of a slothful lifestyle until diseases like diabetes set in, the soul can shrivel in slow and steady increments.

We are living in a very unique time in history. Every year it seems as though technology improves by leaps and bounds. Each new milestone brings with it enormous potential for spiritual growth or decay. It is my hope that you realize that aiming to be “a good person” is like shooting for the the outer ring of the bullseye in a game of darts — only life is not a game and the consequences of your actions here and now have eternal consequences.

If you push yourself each day to live as a saint, then I have no doubt in my mind that upon your death you will be welcomed home by the one true God who loved you in eternity well before you were cradled, in time and space, in your mother’s arms.