Journey Into The Unknown…!

That’s a pretty remote section of the Edu-Mountain, for sure.

The art pretty much does all the work for me today, which is good…because it took a while to do. It’s a heavy handed metaphor for my most important task today…which is delivering the grades to admin for the few seniors in my class.

I teach Tenth Grade English. If you are in my class, and a senior, it is because you needed to credits for English class. In California, to graduate with your A-G requirements, you need to get a C or higher in four years of English, a total of Eight Semesters. If even one of those is screwed up, it can be a major obstacle to graduation or college. Or both.

If you are actually still in school (not having dropped out) as a senior, taking my class, you pretty much have decided that you WANT the credits. In many cases, the students are recent immigrants, who simply weren’t in the United States when they would have taken Tenth Grade English, and are getting the credits as soon as it is convenient. However…I can say with certainty that if you have made it to this point in my class, and are a senior…you CARED. Somewhere along the line, getting that piece of paper with your name on it really started to matter, and you took the whole thing seriously.

That said, it IS a short list. A few students have dropped out along the way, one was arrested. However, the short list includes three students in my Period One Class, one in Period Two, One in Period Four, and two in my last class of the day. I’m pretty proud of that group.

Obviously, that’s what the art was about today. Terrigenesis (in Marvel Comics) is the whole ritual where the Inhumans expose you to a mutagenic mist which unlocks your potential, and sends you into the adult stage of your life. If that’s not a metaphor for graduation ( DID use it last year), I don’t know what is.

I felt like Cap needed a hooded cloak for this sort of think…since bringing important messages in Science Fiction and Fantasy almost always involved the “reveal” where the hood is pulled back, and the message delivered. Alien Americans seem to LOVE that kind of thing…it’s a tradition of some kind.

Marvel Missteps.

Somebody has to have one of those shields, and not be crummy today.

Today I had the day off, what with it being Memorial Day. For those of us that get confused between this holiday and Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. A pretty big deal.

Marvel Comics took a whole lot of heat today, as a r4sult of their current “Secret Empire” plot line. To be completely fair, they kind of walked right into it.

You see, for Memorial Day, Marvel posted a featuring an image of Captain America. The tweet tastefully read: “Thank you to all the fallen heroes.” Seems pretty straightforward, and pretty much what you would expect Marvel Comics to do. Some thought that, in light of Captain America being revealed as a sleeper agent of the Nazi-associated Hydra, that this was a little insensitive. A “tweetstorm” directed toward @Marvel ensued.

This is just the latest in media problems that Marvel has had as a result of the “Secret Empire” plotline, which has been pretty continuously problematic. Sales are down, and the company keeps managing to anger a pretty vocal and loyal fan base. Arguably, the best solution for Marvel is to get through the story arc as quickly as possible.

Some fans in the tweetstorm suggested that the post be taken down, others suggested that they had used the Sam Wilson character, who is sharing the name of “Captain America” and is not associated with fascism and betrayal. Given that Sam Wilson is also African-American, I think that would have been a bold and very good way to go in the initial tweet…sort of representing the diversity of American heroes. We didn’t get that, we got traditional Steve Rogers Cap, standing in front of a flag.

As a result, I wanted today’s sketch to be more positive. I’ve had a nice day today, and met up with a few friends, and had a generally quiet time. Arguably, people have given their lives for me to have that privilege, and the freedoms that I enjoy on a daily basis. I wanted something that was positive, and friendly, and suggested that kind of quiet gratitude.

I’m never going to be a very good patriot. I do, however, think that the basic rights and values that the U.S. has been struggling to make real for everyone are pretty important, and pretty important to protect. Heck, a big part of my day job is attempting to teach my students the inherent value of their free speech rights, and what kind of legitimate power freedom of speech gives you. I think that I stand up for those things pretty decently, and certainly respect the people who are “dyed in the wool” patriots, and willing to go to war to protect the values and freedoms that I think are important.

So…it felt okay to have Cap wearing a dinged up old Captain America shield. There have actually been a few, so it’s not like she couldn’t have scrounged it up. It felt more okay for her to be sharing a drink with an aging veteran…I think we all lose sight of the fact that there are real people that had to do heroic things, as we go about our day to day activities.

I’m going to edit a bit, and hope that maybe I’m making Marvel’s point better than they did. “Thank you to all of our heroes.”

That’s what the company MEANT, True Believers.

Galactic Goalkeepers.

I’ve been reading a ton of manga this week.

Manga is a very, very different undertaking than Western Comics. The sensibilities are very different, and the concepts in storytelling cover a wide range of possible topics that Marvel and DC Comics simply never will. Right now, Marvel and Dc are both doing story lines that I am pretty @#$%ing uninterested in, and as a result, I had a friend recommend some Manga to me from the deep selection at Pulp Fiction Comics (in Culver City)!

That stuff was all in the “win” category. I have swallowed another volume of “Naruto”…which I can see its appeal, but it was definitely the weaker selection of the week’s Manga for me. Go figure…it’s the volume that I picked out myself. The second volume, which was far weirder and more interesting, was “Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer.” Pretty much had me at the title, True Believers.

The Premise of “Biscuit Hammer” is pretty odd. It’s set in a reasonably modern world, except for the idea that an evil wizard has constructed a giant hammer in space, that is invisible to pretty much everyone. It’s a @#$%ing planet sized hammer, people. The ensemble cast of the story needs to solve the problem…which involves defeating the wizard, and preventing the hammer from hitting the Earth, destroying it totally. IT seems straight forward enough, except for the weird monsters that attack the cast all the time, and the idea that the Princess has near Kryptonian scale powers…and wants to save the Earth just so that she can wreck it herself. It’s an odd book, and a whole lot of fun.

The BEST selection of this week was “Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun.” Pure Genius. Oddly, it is a situation comedy about young people in high school who make their own Manga. Completely random, and well executed. BEST selection of the week. Very funny, very entertaining stuff. It is done entirely in a horizontal, four panels per page format not unlike today’s art layout. Each page is its own “joke” or “gag” usually about writing or drawing romance comics. It is amazingly novel, and reads almost like a collection of newspaper strips.

The LAST panel, however, is more anime and video game inspired.

I finished playing “Fables: The Wolf Among Us” on my tablet. As a result, I freed up a ton of space on the device, and decided it was time to download a new game to play. I went to the Google Play store, and it had several suggestions. As always a few of them seemed kind of random, such as the choice called “Soccer Spirits: The Seventh Star.” I like soccer, so I clicked on it, and saw the following video, if you click here.

Mind…blown. I downloaded it immediately. If you didn’t click the link, you really missed out on something.

The game is about playing Soccer against Magical Aliens for the fate of the Earth. You know…exactly what the last panel of today’s art was about. In fact, this week’s art had it all: adorable creatures, magical girls in space, battling samurai, and then the beginning of a Cosmic Soccer Tourney with Dire Consequences, but no FIFA.

How does one say “Excelsior” in Japanese?

Just In The Nick Of Time…!

Drawn between classes today, in the style of Golden Age art.

This was pretty straightforward in the metaphor. This week has seen a whole lot of late assignments, which were a last ditch attempt by my students to save their grades. I was trying to figure out how to illustrate a last minute save of that kind, when it dawned on me what my problem had been, in terms of concept.

You see…I had been trying to draw the image of someone saving themselves. That was incorrect….it needed to be Cap saving someone at the last minute, when all hope seemed lost. Why? Because…it doesn’t matter if students turn in an insane amount of late work (they did). I still have to GRADE it all for it to matter, and that was a massive last minute super task.

On the first day of this week’s announcements of the “Drop Dead” for late work (which was Wednesday) I received 471 late assignments digitally. Tuesday and Wednesday, even more work came in. It has been a Herculean effort to grade all of that material, but in a few cases, students produced a save as spectacular as Cap’s bullet catch above.

Now…everything is graded, and we are basically done. A long weekend, leading to a wrap up week…and then the final week of minimum days. It’s the last Nine days of class now, very much the End Game.

Once I realized that Cap had to help with the save, I drew the pencils above, in homage to “Flash Comics No. 1”, in the early 1940’s. That’s why she’s losing Jay Garrick’s metal hat…I always loved that metal hat. Older readers of this strip might remember that Cap has raced both the Flash (Barry Allen) and the General Lee at the SAME TIME, demonstrating that she clearly has Silver Age Alien Superspeed powers.

As for how she got the hat…I didn’t think too hard about it. She seems to like older guys, so maybe she has one from a pretty inappropriate relationship with Jay Garrick. He loses them all the time, so maybe she bought it on eBay. I checked, you totally can.

This was tough to draw, on my clipboard between classes and standardized tests today, so I hope you all like it.

And now…the weekend!

You Only Live Once.

Farewell, Roger Moore.

A couple of days ago, Roger Moore, the actor who played James Bond in the largest number of films, passed away.

James Bond is no longer with us, in a world that maybe needs him more than ever. I’m not talking about the secret agent exploits that made Moore famous…I’m talking about what he did with that fame. After his last Bond film in ’85, her was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1991, Moore was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for “services to charity”.

Moore’s friend Audrey Hepburn had impressed him with her work for UNICEF, and consequently he became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1991. He was the voice of Father Christmas or ‘Santa’ in the 2004 UNICEF cartoon “The Fly Who Loved Me.” Moore was involved in the production of a video for PETA that protests against the production and wholesale of foie gras. Moore narrates the video. His assistance in this situation, and being a strong spokesman against foie gras, led to the department store Selfridges agreeing to remove foie gras from their shelves. That’s just a bit of what he did, but for a large portion of his life, he was pretty dedicated to helping kids, and making the general level of suffering less than it actually is.

Even the foie gras thing. That was really all about quality of life, and being a humanitarian.

Let’s be clear about how important that work was, and how important it was to him. On March 9, 1999, Moore was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and later promoted to Knight Commander of the same Order on June 14 2003. The citation on the knighthood was completely for Moore’s charity work, which dominated his public life for more than a decade. Moore said that the citation “meant far more to me than if I had got it for acting… I was proud because I received it on behalf of UNICEF as a whole and for all it has achieved over the years”.

That’s a pretty huge deal. If more people lived like that, this would be a better world to live in. He might not have had powers or gadgets, but Roger Moore was a real superhero.

With that said…I also feel like this is a world that could use James Bond, maybe more than ever. We have a president who gives security briefing data to foreign powers. Election tampering. Obstruction of justice with the FBI. Random terror acts. These are the kinds of things that at least in a fictional world, you call James Bond for.

And that….that’s why today’s art is what it is. I thought about trying to illustrate Roger Moore…but he’s done his part. He’s given the whole thing that he can give to us. Instead, it is actually up to us to carry on that work, as it were. To take down bad guys when we see them…no matter how big or small. To do our best to stand up for the little guys, wherever they might be. To be bigger and better than the outline provided for us, to transcend expectation and add good to the world around us.

That’s the lesson of Roger Moore.

I’m bummed that another one of my heroes has left us. There aren’t enough good guys left in the real world.

Shhh…! It’s Supposed To Be A Secret Empire!

Applejack seems put off by Hail Hydra Pony.

Just so it’s out there, I got a weird “Itty Bitty” Rainbow Dash from Hallmark. It’s oddly shaped, and kind of bloated, but sort of adorable. I slapped a Hydra badge on it, and now that is Hail Hydra Pony. Hail Hydra Pony stands for crummy things, but seems to be trying very hard as I haul it around everywhere. I try not to judge Hail Hydra Pony, even though it has a scary world view, what with being Hail Hydra Pony. I think there might be a message in that metaphor, but I’m not sure what it is.

It’s a Wednesday, so I’m going to talk Comics, instead of the Standardized Test that I have to administer today and tomorrow. Just so you have an idea about what me (and the ponies) are talking about.

Marvel’s “Secret Empire” crossover has been pissing off a huge amount of the internet for months BEFORE it even started. It has upset fans from its very first page inklings, due to the Captain America/Hydra Agent reveal that preceded the comic’s debut. It’s been a so called “game changer”, following the “everything you know is wrong” model. Everything we knew about the character of Steve Rogers, the American hero who has transcended comics through the Captain America film franchise, was WRONG and he was the ultimate betrayer. Like, Benedict Arnold wants lessons, you know? “Secret Empire’s latest issue — Secret Empire No. 2, released Wednesday — leans into that twist, while simultaneously blinking in the game of “chicken” with internet fans.

Huh?

Follow me, True Believer, and I’ll make it clear enough.

So…let’s make the internet fan rage clear here. For the past few months, Marvel and a faction of its fans have been sparring over the editorial decision to make Steve Rogers, (Captain America), a sleeper agent of Hydra. Many fans believe that move contradicts the character’s history (it kinda does, a whole lot). Also, since Hydra has ties to Nazi Germany in Marvel’s comic books, a huge amount of fan rage has to with that. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Captain America’s creators, as well as creators of a lot of other Marvel superheroes, were Jewish. ARE Jewish. So…there’s a feeling that this is disrespectful to them, at least in a very vocal ‘net contingent of fans.

That’s what that’s about. We are not done, yet though.

Marvel is in the business of selling comic books and presumably believes that the twist was editorially sound — that villainy, deaths, and bad things happening to characters people love are a constant in comic book storytelling. So…despite vocal ‘bet rage, they pushed forward with the Secret Empire Crossover, that we are now talking about.

The story we knew going into Secret Empire was that a Cosmic Cube became a sentient girl called Kobik (that was in “Avengers: Standoff”, which was very boring). Kobik was in turn influenced by the Red Skull (an old school Super Nazi)to turn Steve Rogers into a Hydra agent (a time thing) and restore him to his youth (in the comic books, Rogers was an old man).

I realize that was complicated. I summarized an entire crossover in two sentences. Bear with me.

There has also been a “reveal” in “Secret Empire” that during World War II, the Allies may have used the Cosmic Cube to change the outcome of the conflict — though depending on how you read the reveal, it could be another layer of lies implanted into Rogers’s brain or, more seriously, Marvel rewriting its own history. At the start of Secret Empire, Captain America, brilliant tactician and soldier that he is, was in charge of Hydra, and Hydra is in control of everything.

Except, now I have problems. Nobody knew how to MAKE Cosmic Cubes until the 1960’s. Also, Marvel…you need to decide here…are Hydra an ancient group that has roots in Asia, going back like a few thousand years, or are they Nazis? All of your stories waffle here…but you really went out of your way to make them NOT Nazis. I’m needing you to pick a side. I’m looking at YOU Marvel Editor In Chief…!

Anyway…The “mind-blowing twist” in Secret Empire No. 2 is that there’s another Steve Rogers running around the universe. I want to point out…this happens ALL the time, so my mind is not, in fact, blown. The issue shows us this “other” Rogers wandering in the woods, and ends with a cliffhanger where he says he just wants to get home.

The other Rogers is a BEYOND ripped, with silver hair, and he fights off the Serpent Society (a thing Captain America once did for Ronald Reagan). We don’t know where he is, other than it’s a wooded area. We also don’t know where “home” is — and while running around in the woods doesn’t seem like the most efficient route to get anywhere, if he’s on the run or in a different dimension or possibly displaced in time, maybe it makes a little more sense. I don’t know, I immediately lost interest.

We have already had Actual Evil Captain Americas before. We have had “time problems” where the Bad Guys win, and wreck the Earth. In fact, in RECENT Marvel History, that’s “House of M”, “Age of Ultron,” and “Secret Wars.” I’m not even trying, and those pop right out. In the last ten years, three summer crossovers have done almost the same thing. I’ve even had a Nazi Captain America before…in the seventies.

If there’s something I’m mad about, it is the repetitive content.

If I had my druthers, Marvel would back off from the editorially driven crossovers for a while, so that when one happened again…I cared a little. In order for it to be an Event, it can’t happen all the @#$%ing time, guys. Focus on really solid, interesting storytelling in shorter arcs, or contained, well developed arcs with “families” of books.

That said…I mildly respect Marvel for not cutting the wheel and hitting the brakes in the face of fan controversy. Captain America may or may not be a Nazi, but there is something beautiful about free speech there, on the part of the publisher. Publishers get free speech too, you know.

How much any given reader enjoys “Secret Empire” depends a lot on their views of the Hail Hydra reveal. Given the multiple Captain Americas, I can already imagine debates over whether Marvel “pulled a fast one” on fans, or mined the internet outrage cycle and fans’ very real feelings for sales figures (which have not been as stellar as DC Comics as of late). I’d also argue that this is what comic books do in the first place…the sudden twist, everything changes, crisis…and back to status quo.

‘Nuff said.

The Final Deadlines…!

Who knew that Kryptonian Dwalu Warriors were so needy?

Neediness is the basic theme of my days, right now.

It is the end of the semester, and the end of the school year. Suddenly, every single person in my life, at school, has their own deadline that I seem to bear some kind of personal responsibility for, at least in THEIR eyes. I have gotten literally hundreds of late assignments, as a last ditch effort is made by a significant number of people to redeem their grades. I have gotten over a dozen last minute requests for letters of recommendation—half of those requests from students, the other half from adults, who should know better. Administration has a last minute request for us to give a standardized test, which is in fact actually meaningless. Every single one of these things demands attention, with insistence, all at the same time.

It’s pretty hectic. However, it can only stay that way for a week, and then…grades are in. In fact, my last day for late work is tomorrow…so the flow of those items will slow dramatically.

Without the text.

I drew the huge Kryptonian Dwalu Warrior for a number of reasons. For one, he’s @#$%ing cool looking. For another reason, he’s super tough. Tough enough so that Superman feels way outclassed by him…in fact, by the general category of Kryptonian warrior that he is. It both highlights the significance of those demands on my time, while at the same time putting Cap in direct conflict with a similarly powerful Silver Age Alien. She rarely throws down with anyone in her category of Super Powers. In this case, she would definitely have to be clever…because that guy is a total bad @#$.

The Dwalu Warrior also has a key point of plot, that is metaphorically relevant here. In order to move on to the next stage of his (or her, I guess…we only see one) personal evolution, a Dwalu Warrior must be defeated. The easiest way to go about that is to somehow get that Xaka Sword away from them, and then subject them to its cosmic energies, hopefully disintegrating them. That liberates the Dwalu Warrior to move on to their next stage of life.

The same is true with the late work, and requests for recommendation letters. These are young people, even teachers, making a last minute move, to attempt to enter their next stage of life. Much like dealing with Cap in the art, they have to momentarily engage, or perhaps even be in conflict with me, to get what then need to move onward. It’s a lot like many of the Edu-Mountain’s “hyper evolution” metaphors, but more demanding and adversarial.

Sort of like my Monday was.

I always liked Gnmod, the Dwalu Warrior, who appeared in Action Comics No.495, and never again. I would have been okay of going back to the concept of an ancient Kryptonian warrior group, if anyone ever did…but no one revisited the concept.

At least my students are revisiting overdue assignments.