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We're Kick-Punch-Block, otherwise known as KPB!

Helping to expand the Fighting Game community locally in the heart of NYC, nationally, and eventually worldwide.

Ramblings & Rants: Modern Comics & Today’s Issues

Today, I'm going to be writing about something a little different than usual. As big of a nerd as I am, I of course dabble in many things, not strictly fighting game related. I love comics, cartoons, anime, and so on. 

One of my favorite things are super hero stories, as I've been around them my entire life. My father had rooms full of long comic book boxes, enough to stock a small comic store, and I spent many of my childhood days just exploring years of these boxes and discovering stories. This love and enjoyment, of course, bled into my adult life, leading me to become immersed in every piece of super hero on TV or the big screen. There are too many stories I love for me to adequately keep up with the comics, especially with their current business plan of retconning everything every few years. Despite this, I check in with comics whenever I see an interesting story, or new character being introduced. I like to stay informed, I hate the feeling of seeing some of my favorite characters interacting with a character I don't know.

So, what's the problem? I'm really sick of the modern comic story method of shoehorning modern issues people are upset about into stories. I know it must seem like a silly problem to have, but it drags me out of every story that I see it in. Let's start with an example. Supergirl is of course a well known super hero, and she eventually got her own show on CBS. So, as a person who really enjoys Supergirl, I was incredibly excited to sit down and stick with this show from start to finish. In fact, Supergirl holds the privilege having one of the most amazing fights in DCAU. What I wasn't ready for was the ham-fisted feminist issues that would be beating me upside the head every other scene.

In the first episode, there is a woman who sees Supergirl on TV. This woman makes a comment about it being nice that there's finally a female superhero so her daughter has someone to look up to. This was a minor example, but it's the first one I remember really sticking out. A comment like this would be more likely to come from someone watching this show than someone in a world where Superman and Supergirl are the only two heroes. That's not so bad a moment though, but I clearly remember it because it broke my immersion. There were a lot of these moments in the show. For example, later in that episode, Supergirl is fighting and losing against some alien while everyone else watches. A guy makes a comment like "I don't think she's strong enough" to which Supergirl's adoptive sister responds with "Why, cause she's a girl?!" That moment shattered any semblance of immersion I had, because you can feel the fact that a real person wrote that scene into the script.

Supergirl is a Kryptonian, many, many times stronger than any man on the planet. In comics, the only reason she isn't at Superman's level of strength is because she arrives several years after he did and hasn't absorbed as much solar radiation. So, in this Supergirl show, these characters are completely ignoring the fact that she's an immensely powerful alien and focusing on the fact that she has boobs. Both the men and women of the show do this, in an attempt to set up, I don't know, feminist slam dunks?

Supergirl, of course, is just one example. Such examples can be found in modern Harley Quinn comics as well, though those are more grounded because she's just a girl with a hammer (... sometimes), though it'll also come into play with the new Thor, who's entire origin story was focused on taking a man's source of masculinity. Similar themes can be found in the new Killing Joke movie, which sets up Batman to be an almost comical "I'm the man and you gotta do what I say cause I'm a man and you're a girl" parody of himself. These things aren't just related to feminist issues, though, as there are some very obvious political shots being taken at Trump in recent months (literally putting his face in comics) which sit equally well with me. When I'm reading a comic, I'm reading a comic. If I want to think about Trump or feminism, I'll go online.

Now, of course, this doesn't mean meaningful stories can't be told that parallel real life issues. My favorite and most well understood example of this in comics is the X-Men. The X-Men were mutants that just wanted to be accepted into society. Mutant children wanted to belong, they wanted to go to school just like everyone else, but other people wanted to keep their schools and way of life segregated. Sound like anything to you? The subtlety of this comparison was great. It was a parallel, but didn't restrict itself to the "White vs. Black" analogy. They crafted a world where mutants existed, and tailored the story to what would happen in a world like that. And the best part? This analogy doesn't need to be made to enjoy the story, and it can even be substituted with any other similar conflict. An LGBT person can look to these old X-Men comics that came out in the 70's and feel empathy for these characters, knowing what it was like to go through that.

I guess, that's the crux of it in the end. With these recent methods of talking about feminism in comics, there is no other comparison to be made. The writers are pretty much telling me what the issue is and why I should care. If it ever isn't an issue, those moments will lose meaning, whereas stories that simply make parallels can be enjoyed by themselves, as part of their time, and long after when similar issues arise.

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