Unacceptable Comic Characters?

Things have been...bumpy this month. Horrorfest, my annual celebration of all things horror...hit a major snag in the form of all the things I wrote for it beforehand being deleted somehow. And I've been informed they may not ever be recovered. Over 40 articles are now gone. Poof. I should've talked about it sooner but the whole experience has left me rather depressed and angry. So, let's channel that into something. Bitching about other writers! Yes, but who am I griping about today? Frank Miller? Mark Millar? Nope, we're going to talk about Joshua Olivieri.

You and everyone else, Wally.

Yeah, he's not exactly a massive name. He's simply a writer over at CBR who has written some things that are basically Buzzfeed articles. I want to be clear here too, I have no issue with the idea of lists. A good list article can be very entertaining to read through. I had two that got deleted in the great Horrorfest purge. They can be challenging as hell to write because to write one well you should properly research the material beforehand, even if you're already familiar. Mr. Olivieri seems to disagree though, because his articles show little to know effort on his part. They're lazy and often times just seem out of touch. But why did I decide to latch onto him? Because he wrote an article about what he called "unacceptable comic characters" and I started writing a comment to it that was so long that I felt silly posting it...especially since CBR seems to be deleting any critiques of their writers.

Because who needs facts or research in journalism?

Let's take a look at his list and point out some things about it that could've been avoided. First, he talks about Typeface, a Marvel character, whom he says "doesn’t work is that it takes the PTSD one would experience from coming home and losing everything they love and turns it into some ridiculous supervillain name". A few problems here. First, there's the glaringly obvious to anyone who read the Civil War comics: Typeface isn't a villain. He's an anti-hero ala the Punisher, which is another point against Joshua. The Punisher is also a veteran that suffers from PTSD. No, there's no actual desire here from him to point out the portrayal of a veteran suffering from PTSD as bad. What this really is is a paper-thin excuse to mock the design of Typeface. And sure, it's a silly look but that's not what this list is supposed to be about. Thus far, Mr. Olivieri has shown that not only does he not know about the subject matter beyond a quick wiki blurb, he also doesn't care enough to talk about a serious issue in depth that goes far beyond the portrayal of a dude who uses letters as weapons. He's not a victim to the writer, he's a punchline, which actually goes against the supposed point of his little list here.

And trust me, as someone who read all of the Civil War stuff, Typeface is a victim. Mostly of bad writing.

Next up we have Black Fox, a character from Marvel's often forgotten mini-series The Lost Generation. It's actually a really interesting read overall, but can be daunting if you're not used to superhero stuff. What's Joshua's problem with him? Well, he claims he's a blatant Batman rip-off. Now, nevermind the fact that there are literally 50 far more blatant Batman rip-offs out there, this is a character that actually channels more from characters like The Blue Blade and Zorro, as he was initially a swashbuckler type hero. Not to mention that Batman himself could be called a rip-off of characters like The Spider or The Shadow. What could Joshua have done rather than cherry pick an obscure character with minor similarities to Batman that isn't even problematic? How about talking about Frank Miller's own rip-off character, The Fixer, who was racist, sexist, violent as hell, and generally a dark mirror to Miller's own mental issues. But nah, let's attack this character no one has heard of instead.

It's easier to pick on obscure heroes than it is to talk about actual problematic ones, after all.

Now, if there was any doubt that Olivieri knew anything about what he was talking about, this next one will cement that opinion for you. Ever heard of X-Statix? You know, the critically-acclaimed fan-favourite series from Peter Milligan and Mike Allred that showed celebrity superheroes and lampooned the idea of reality-TV culture? Yeah, that's the one. Well, Joshua calls it "a desperate attempt to create a comic series that would bring in the big numbers, the writers turned it into a satire based on the X-Men", just to remind everyone that he either has the worst taste in comics or is completely out of touch. Critically acclaimed comics are hardly acts of "desperation". An act of desperation is to shit out a list that's supposedly about how certain comic characters wouldn't fly today while turning around and not doing that at all, instead making an awful opinion piece that doesn't actually talk about or give clear reasons why these things are supposedly "unacceptable".

Just imagine if someone who actually read the comics talked about them.

What's so unacceptable about X-Force/X-Statix? Is it the social commentary about topics like toxic celebrity culture, prescription drug dependency, mental issues? Or maybe he found the multiple LGBT characters unacceptable? Nah, surely he doesn't have an issue with diversity. It's not like he'd ever attack the idea of a character existing to provide representation, right? Cue him talking about Orpheus, yet another obscure character with Batman connections, but that's not his issue. No, his issue is that Orpheus became a hero because he wanted Gotham to have a black superhero. He's not happy with this character because this character offers diversity. Now, sure, diversity hasn't always been handled terribly well, but that doesn't mean representation isn't important. To attack the idea that a man who wants to provide representation not only seems pretty terrible, it's honestly sounding more like an excuse to hate on a black superhero. I mean really, his complaint is literally about the creation of a brand-new character that offered diversity both in the comics and in universe. So, for all those people who cry out that companies should make new characters rather than legacy ones, here's a window into the apparent opposite direction.

And that outfit? Seriously stylish. Purple is the shit and not used enough.

Next up in Joshua Olivieri's escapades towards getting all comic fans to hate him, he goes after the Super Buddies. Who are they? Why, they're the Giffen era Justice League! You know, one of the most beloved comic runs ever full of fan-favourite characters not only being heroes but also having fun? He refers to them as "laughable, incompetent versions of the legendary gods that we read about", which highlights that he has never once read a single issue of the Giffen League run, meaning he just proved that he did zero research for his article that he was paid money to write. Me? I get paid nothing and I can tell you most of this stuff from memory, yet I still look it up first to make sure I'm not being a prat espousing nonsense. Excuse me for a minute, I have to go practice a Martian meditation technique I learned in the Giffen League books.

I'm hoping that if I do it hard enough, maybe CBR will hire some writers who actually read the stuff they write about.

Can he get lower than attacking beloved comic teams? Oh, I'm sure he can. Let's see...Doc Frankenstein. I remember that book. The Wachowskis wrote it and it was created by two very talented artists (Geoff Darrow & Steve Skroce). It was nominated for an Eisner and a very solid indie title, offering a story about the monster living on as a sort of pulp hero throughout history. It touched on political themes tied to its historical backdrop. I'd recommend the comic over the Matrix films when it comes to things the Wachowskis worked on. His issue with it? The political tone. Wait, hold up, he chose to attack an indie book for being political? Because I'm fairly certain that politics and comics are nothing new, even back in 2004 when the series began. Hell, a weird dream clone of Captain America just had to beat up an evil Nazified version of himself that Marvel pushed for 2 years.

Because Marvel finally realized Nazis are bad and not a good marketing gimmick.

Olivieri thinks that talking about evolution and Roe v. Wade is too political, but neither of those things are actually about politics. But then, I wouldn't expect him to realize that abortion and science are not about politics because our own politicians seem to not get that either. Next one is easy. Freakshow, one of the young mutants introduced during the Excalibur series set on Genosha (again, a pretty good read) is brought up. The issue is point blank his name. A name that the character literally chose for himself that accurately describes his power set. He doesn't see the name as an insult, so this is Joshua grasping to fill spots at this point. And again, notice he's trotting out and attacking another more obscure character, because he probably figures nobody cares enough to call bullshit when he gets details wrong. Does anyone care? Well, according to the comments section of that piece...yes, people care. Clearly I care.

I care enough to actually own the books and be familiar with the characters.

Will he ever make a valid point? I guess he'd have to at some point, right? See, look, here he is talking about how icky the incest thing between Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver was in the Ultimates books. I mean, sure, it's only mostly implied and there are far more blatantly terrible things in the books like racism, sexism, jingoism, cannibalism, rape, abuse...but implied incest, that's the thing to focus on. It's not like it hasn't been talked about for years or been one of the major talking points in regards to why The Ultimates is a book that turns off a lot of folks. Keep beating that dead horse, Joshua. I'm sure it has one turd left in it.

If you couldn't tell, I think The Ultimates was overall shit, like most of Mark Millar's work.

Next he attacks another character for offering diversity, meaning he's now repeating himself in the worst way and building a case against himself not being a racist piece of shit. I'm sorry, but if your only real critique is that a character offers diversity in an overall un-diverse market, you need to stop and reevaluate your argument. He tries to play it off, saying he's only got umbrage with the way Anya Corazon (Arana or Spider-Girl, depending on the point in time) was marketed. Personally, I'll take them pushing a big marketing campaign for a new character offering diversity over them pushing a big campaign of turning beloved heroes into Nazis. But he doesn't ever talk about that. He'd rather talk about "stunts" that involve positive things like representation rather than highlighting ones that are actually dangerous.

I'd rather highlight how much I miss her old look. I like functional/practical superhero outfits.

What's next? Oh no...he wants to talk about another obscure character that represents diversity. Good fucking lord, this is honestly giving me a headache now. DC has had numerous Native American heroes with spiritual powers & Joshua cherry picked the most obscure one. Also the least offensive one too. Good job, dude. You've saddled up on that shit-horse and damned if you aren't going to ride it straight to Hell. Night Eagle, a character I have very little memory of, was a Native American woman who dressed up and fought crime with owls. Eagles probably would've made more sense, but there you go. Guessing they designed her look with the owl motif first then realized they already had a character named Nite Owl. Two, actually. now, yes, the idea of a Native American character being a spiritual practitioner is overdone. It can be done in a very offensive manner too and has been. This...isn't particularly offensive at all. She's a minor character who has literally only appeared in two issues before disappearing. But I guess lots of people will Google her now. Overall, she's no more problematic than any spiritual Native American character.

Finding pictures of her is more problematic, because my search brought up more offensive Native American heroes.

Next we have Agamemno...hold on, I have to sigh loudly...alright. His gripe is that...he's basically the son of God. Agamemno is like a weird evil space Jesus with a beehive and that ridiculous sentence should illustrate just how nonsense this is. DC Comics literally published a critically acclaimed comic about God ;leaving Heaven, abandoning humanity, and being tracked down by a former preacher who has godlike powers. It has a TV show now. Spoilers: it portrays God as a dickhead. Agamemno is tame. Not only that, he's a forgettable space villain that I had honestly forgotten about. And bringing up the fact that it might upset Conservatives after previously attacking a comic for being political makes me have whiplash. It's a silly looking alien villain fro ma superhero book. If they get upset about Agamemno, clearly they're idiots who should be ignored.

Truly, of all the things in comics, this is what would upset Republicans the most.

Now, here's one he almost has a point with. Nero, a member of the Sinestro Corps. Mental health is a hard thing to cope with and a hard issue to tackle. In superhero comics, many characters actually suffer from mental health issues. The yellow Sinestro Corps rings are not attracted to evil, they're attracted to those who can instill great fear. You know, people like the Scarecrow, the Joker, Batman...hmm...I'm noticing a trend here. Not to mention the fact that psychologically most villains have always suffered from similar mental illnesses that Nero has. You'd know that if you read literally any Batman comic. I suffer from mental issues and let me tell you, people do find you scary when they learn about them. Mental health scares people. It always has, because it's not something easily fixed and can cause people to do horrible things. You want to get mad about a mentally ill character, Mr. Olivieri? You better stop pretending Nero is they first example of one then, because he's not.

Maybe Joshua just thinks it's only offensive when gingers are portrayed as mentally ill villains?

Now, let's not even bother with preamble here. How does Menace being affected by a formula that has literally driven everyone exposed to it mad and attacking her father translate to being racist? Really, this is the leap in logic he makes. She's a black woman who becomes a villain so it's racist, I guess? That literally makes zero sense. There are no racial connotations involved in her turning bad. She literally becomes a villain due to exposure to the Goblin formula and that's pretty much it. Olivieri, you're reaching for a ladder rung to a ladder that isn't even close to where you're trying to climb.

Maybe he meant she's racist against people in spider-themed costumes?

Back on the obscure train, he literally says nothing of value about why the character doesn't work in a modern setting or for modern audiences. All he does is talk about how disturbing he finds the character to be. Yes, it's awful when a normal person gets turned into a villainous monster. It's also something that has been done hundreds of times in books, films, and comics before Equus existed. It's not offensive except on a moral level, which is sort of the point. He's supposed to be monstrous. He's that kind of character. This has gone from vague attempts to justify what is supposedly unacceptable to just the writer talking about how a villain skeeves him out. Ugh. Let's finish this.

After I am done, I'll probably go toss Equus at Olivieri. They can work out their issues.

Now, I won't say I know everything. there's tons of things I still need to learn in life. Life is an ongoing learning experience. But, I've looked and I can't find anywhere where it's said that "peek-a-boo" has racial significance. It's a fucking children's game that is used for occasional quips or analogies. In the case of DC Comics Lashawn Baez, it's her costumed moniker for similar reasons. She teleports, thus the "peek-a-boo" reference makes since. Joshua thinks she is a racist allegory...I don't know why he thinks that, because I've seen literally no evidence to back that up, but he seems to think that. She's a villain, sure. Lots of black characters are villains in comics. They're heroes too. She's also written as a sympathetic villain who had originally wanted to be a hero. What's racist about that? A young person with powers turning to crime is racist now?

Not really, but I am definitely feeling racism coming off someone.

It's because she's black, yes? Except no, because her turn to crime has nothing at all to do with her background or upbringing. She's a freaking Medical school graduate student, for fuck's sake. This has gone beyond reaching and has now just turned stupid. This whole article about supposedly unacceptable comic characters is stupid. Joshua Olivieri writes shitty clickbait articles and, because I was in a mood, decided to dissect one of the stupider ones. I write because I feel passionate about certain things. Movies, comics, games, cartoons, sexism, racism, representation, these are all things I feel are worth talking about. But a writer should not write about something if they aren't willing to put in effort. Olivieri put in almost no effort. He wrote a badly researched list of obscure characters that didn't make logical sense and didn't even stick to the theme. I just felt like calling him out for being lazy, because I can. Probably also because I needed something to get anger out after the Horrorfest purge. In closing, don't read CBR list articles. They're terribly written dreck that aren't properly researched. Now I need to get out of this damn chair. Later days, bleeders.

Writing an article in one sitting is a terrible idea.