@#$% Communism, Part Six.

That martian is having a bad day…being body slammed off of a nuclear facility into open flames.

Apparently, I think of dealing with foreign governments as a threat in the same way as professional wrestling. Which is just fine for a comics creator with the summer off, and not so great for an actual politician. Once again, this was mostly about postures and action, with the central focus being on Panel One. Rocket Red No. 7 really has beaten the daylights out of that Martian…and theoretically the other two super heroes up there.

It’s entirely possible that some of the other Rocket Reds contributed to that battle (since there was a crowd of them), but it’s all too clear that Cap shouldn’t have gone off on her own in the past few parts of “@#$% Communism.” The team didn’t do all that well in her absence. Live and learn, I guess.

Cap’s right though, in Panel Two. This situation isn’t that hard to figure out. Catch the Martian before he goes splat, and then beat up Rocket Red No. 7. I think that this is something that modern comics forget a whole lot of the time. If you’re a superhero, the FIRST thing that you do is save people, and then you try and deal with delivering consequences. I think that shift in values hasn’t always been good for our culture…it puts a really vast amount of emphasis on solving problems with punching.

I’m certainly not saying that I don’t like having action in my comic books and pop culture. Let’s not be crazy. It’s just that…a lot of the superhero stuff being produced now is entirely about physical conflict, and less about being kind to each other, and putting others first. That shift in narrative has been taking place for a long time, but it is very real.

With that said, it is entirely possible that tomorrow’s strip will have Cap giving Rocket Red No. 7 some kind of super beatdown. This isn’t an important psycho social experiment, it’s the summer issues of a web comic.

Gotta keep perspective, True Believers.

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@#$% Communism, Part Five.

Even with that titanium suit, that mega-hit is gonna leave a bruise.

Cap has really been taking her licks from these Russian Super People for the last week, so I’m glad that she is finally getting some licks in. That’s where comics are pretty excellent…they don’t have to follow the real world’s directives at all.

I figure that guys was leading the Rocket Reds. Makes enough sense to me. More than anything, I’ve been experimenting with dynamic composition in the last week, and this is very much about that kind of composition. Getting a feeling of motion, or action onto the page is pretty tough, and this is more about fluid form than anything else.

I also felt that Cap should start to light into these Rocket Reds and such, given their rough treatment of her friends. Granted, superhero battles go that way…but you step up to the plate for your friends. Cap pretty much has to bring the thunder here, in a narrative sense. It’s pretty much the rules of how super hero teams work, even if they are pretty impromptu team ups.

Comics are great, in that they give the creator, even the reader, a sense of power over forces that they can’t control. Am I seriously worried about Russian Oligarchs influencing American politics. Yep. Through the magic of comics, an irate super hero can put the smack down on the agents of Russian Oligarchs, and give the feeling that somewhere, in some way, things are going to be alright.

That’s the basic appeal of the average Silver Age Superman story. At the end of the comic book, things will be wrapped up pretty well, and Superman would have a smile and a wink to the reader. It was escapism through the promise of a better, fairer tomorrow, the promise of a better day. That truth and justice would win out over the forces of general Badness, because they sort of had to. It was just the story structure.

@#$% Communism, Part Four.

Panel One looks like it would really hurt…

There’s not a whole lot going on here besides the obvious. I wanted to draw the Rocket Reds (from the Fourth of July post) again, and wanted to have them doing something. In the previous post, they were really just a threatening crowd, and we didn’t have any idea how tough they were…except for Cap and the substitutes looking intimidated by them.

In this case, it’s pretty clear that the Rocket Reds don’t need to tolerate Batmen putting sleeper holds on them. What was he even thinking? How is a sleeper hold going to work on that guy anyway? His armored suit clearly protects his windpipe and breathing. Not a great plan.

Initially, when I was thinking of doing a color version of the July 4th post (still possible) I was considering having the team be mostly weird second string variants, hence their substitute league status. I still haven’t decided whether that would be Orange Batman (who has been in the strip because of a plush toy that often comes on vacation with me), or Pink Batman, who I just got a Dorbz Figure of. I feel like Cap would feel worse about it if it were Orange Batman taking that hit, but it’s hard to say really.

I’m assuming that Super Communist from yesterday flew off after lighting clone Castro’s cigar? That seems sensible, but let’s be perfectly fair…I’m pretty fast and loose with plot here. At least there has been a lot of action in the strip while I work out my existential dread of the News Cycle.

@#$% Communism, Part Three.

That guy clearly has Generic Silver Age Super Powers! Cap has had a rough couple of days…

So…at this point, I’m kind of done with being preachy about politics, and really just settling into a weird summer plotline. I went down the rabbit hole of Silver Age Cold War Comics, and really wanted to continue the weird trend.

That’s not to say that this one doesn’t have a heavy handed metaphor as well. Remember Puerto Rico? It’s part of the United States, and STILL not back to normal after the devastating effects of a natural disaster? It is pretty easy to forget about it, what with the CONSTANT dropping of new and scary news into our laps every day. In this case…I guess some kind of clone of Fidel Castro has teamed up with the various Bad Guys of the past couple of strips, in order to make some kind of…Super Communist Soldier? Sure, that seems right.

What does that have to do with Puerto Rico? Glad you asked. The news is so filled with constant worry about collusion with Russia…I wanted a Bad Guy from history that CLEARLY colluded with Russia. It’s the whole “Russia Investigation” that is constantly moving that distracts from the idea that maybe we should be giving more humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico. It’s part of the United States, after all. Maybe there should be more news coverage.

So…in terms of the “story” here…hmm. I guess that the rest of the Substitute League was dealing with those Rocket Red guys, right? Then that lady with the…telekinesis, I guess, rolled into the facility with another battlesuit guy (more A-list) to steal uranium and break voting machines. She ran away, and threw tanks at Cap…which allowed someone (a scientist, I guess) to use the uranium to give that guy super powers. That was their plan, I guess?

It’s no LESS hazy and weird, with misleading aspects and stuff left out, then reading the news on any given day.

While drawing, I was asked, “Why a clone of Castro, and not just Vladmir Putin?” That’s a good question, and the answer is simple. I’m saving Putin’s likeness for a different strip.

In addition, comic books clone Hitler all the time. Granted, he is perhaps the most direct shorthand for “evil” in all of history, so he obviously makes the cut as a Bad Guy. the thing is…if the technology to clone Hitler has been around in comics since the 60’s, wouldn’t you clone all kinds of world leaders? It just stands to reason that Castro would have had that covered.

See? We are starting to get more about comics, and less about politics. Whew. I think there may be a bit more to the “@#$% Communism” plotline, since there are just so many retro images rolling around in my brain. From a time when comics weren’t necessarily ABOUT very much, but instead told simple adventure stories with clear Good Guys, and clear Bad Guys.

Very unlike our modern world. I think that’s part of what growing up actually is.

@#$% Communism, Part Two.

This is obviously going on longer than I intended.

See today’s art? That’s what looking at the news is like in our current world of rotating crisis points, delivered in a twenty four hour news cycle. Just got your head around one thing that was hard to deal with, and crushing? Good, because it’s time to drop another crushing thing on you from an unexpected place.

This heavy handed metaphor is exactly what it feels like to just try and stay on top of current events in our current, topsy turvy world. On any given day, any number of really scary, giant things is just dropped from the sky. On July 4th, a bunch of Republicans going to Russia to enjoy the ballet, and NOT be up in arms about election tampering? Sure. The President of the United States mocking decorated veterans, Senators, and former Presidents, on Independence Day? Par for the course.

Even seeming WIN column ideas, like the resignation of EPA Director Pruitt…are few and far between, and overshadowed by worrisome other issues, like Supreme Court appointments.

Still…”Diplomatic Immunity” above is based more in the idea that we apparently have no interest in a government in holding Russia accountable to interference in the very practice of democracy, despite OVERWHELMING evidence. This seems…like a bad plan, but is the direction of our elected officials. The point of the art is more like a tone piece, the idea of how annoying and fatiguing it would be to have things just…thrown at you. All the time. While you are trying to do something.

That sounds grating. The idea that no one would be held accountable, or couldn’t be, for all of that nonsense…that would be even more grating.

I think I’ll work out these feelings on paper relatively soon. I hope so. For now, the “@#$% Communism” storyline is almost like a kind of therapy.

@#$% Communism.

Why are there voting machines in a nuclear facility? How do I know?

I guess I’m still feeling a little political here.

I think it’s hard not to, with so much happening in any and very twenty four hour news cycle. A whole lot seems to be hanging on the mid term elections that are coming up, but it’s not like we have done anything serious about actually securing our voting systems against tampering by any foreign powers. To be fair…there are MANY mid terms, so that alone is a bit of a defense. It’s not like the presidential elections, where a foreign power (like Russia) only needs to keep their eye on two candidates, for one position.

With that said, a huge amount of our system of checks and balances relies on the mid terms going a certain way. That’s a Big Deal, and more than a little scary. With that in mind, a foreign power DOESN’T have all that much to keep track of. If they were to be serious about any gains that might have been achieved in 2016, it would really come down to “make sure Republicans win,” in pretty much any of the mid terms.

Is that a real consideration?

Apparently, the Intelligence community has been bracing for it for months. Considering how important voting is to the entire process, the idea that our media might be slanted or biased from outside, or the machines themselves altered to report different results than our actual votes, is downright terrifying.

When I was young, I lived with the constant threat of Russia (the Soviet Union) engaging in nuclear war with the United States. It was one of the CENTRAL idea of the Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns, the DEFINING comics of the eighties. It’s amazing how much more subtle a fear this is…not the idea that America will be destroyed, but instead that the mechanisms that make it work, make it FAIR, might be literally undermined.

I sat down to draw, and wanted to make that weird fear into some sort of Silver Age comics, some nonsense that made it not as nightmarish. That’s where this came about, on the heels of yesterday’s retroblast page. I guess the plot idea here is that Cap has dropped back into the nuclear facility, to deal with these two? I guess the others are still dealing with the Rocket Reds? I didn’t think it out all that much, to be honest.

If you told me, a few years back that I’d be worried about conflict with Russia, unsecured voting machines, and nuclear war, I would not have believed you at all. The times we live in are just that…the times that we live in. Even with the idea that voting machines might be insecure, voting is still completely vital to the process.

Hopefully our mid term elections are so needlessly complex to understand, that they become secure by accident.

July Fourth, 2018: Retroblasting The Eighties.

Seriously…Russia and the worry of Nuclear Crisis…those are eighties problems.

It’s July 4th, and I typically state that I’m not all that good at the idea of patriotism. It think that’s basically true, in that I enjoy my freedoms, and the power to vote, but don’t really take an “America right or wrong” sort of view. In fact, in the past year or so, I worry that as a nation, we might have been wrong more than we have been right.

I don’t often get political on the blog, outside of how politics intersects with teaching and education in general. It is the Fourth of July, so for a moment or two, I’m going to be a bit political.

Yesterday, on the Third, a Republican led Senate panel backed up the idea that Putin and Russian Oligarchs influenced the 2016 presidential election. That’s a Big Deal. Voting is pretty central to the system, and the idea of a foreign power influencing the election of the highest office in the land….that’s Very Bad. This is Old News in terms of the actual findings of the Intelligence community…but if you remember, the House of Representatives basically said that they didn’t agree. The Senate’s bipartisan agreement that there was some sort of foreign influence shows a major turnaround in thought at the high levels.

With that said, I find myself experiencing eighties era problems once again. Russia is once again a major threat to our way of life. Nuclear War is something that we are constantly conscious of, and nuclear capacity is once again in the hands of unstable tyrants. Nuclear tests, and catastrophic accidents are happening. The President of the United States is under investigation for overstepping the limits of his authority.

It’s a scary time.

In college, I read a book for a Political Science class called “Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.” The author, Neil Postman, was pretty insightful. I still have the book, and am often reminded of this quote:

“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, the exchange images. They do not argue with propositions, they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”

It’s a strong quote, and very much on point with our times.

As I thought about July Fourth, this is the stuff that was foremost in my mind. It took ages to draw the art for today, but I rather like the finished product.

As relates to all of the problems in the world, I have only this advice. Be Excellent to each other, True Believers.