Monday, February 27, 2017

Black Superheroes: Shard

Is that hair part of her mutation or because of a good salon?
Name: Shard Bishop

First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men Annual #17 (1993)

History: Shard Bishop was born roughly eighty years in the future. In her time mutants were rounded up into concentration camps and branded. It is in one such camp where she was raised. Once mutants were emancipated she found herself on the streets but was always looked after by her older brother Lucas. When Lucas joined the Xavier Security Enforcers, a mutant police force, Shard followed suit becoming the youngest graduated in the organization’s history. While on a mission Shard was killed in action by a group of vampire-like creatures known as Emplates. However her brainwaves were saved into a holographic projector that Lucas kept on him at all times, including when he was later trapped in the present. Eventually, during an accident, the projector was destroyed but Shard ended up being reborn as a being of living photonic energy. Now with a new lease on life Shard went on to join the government sponsored team X-Factor in a bid to make her own way outside of her brother’s shadow.

Beta Says: Here we have yet another character who has come back from the future to present times. Its weird how often that sort of thing happens in comic books, especially with X-Men related characters. Anyway the ridiculously named "Shard Bishop" obviously also hails from her gun toting brother’s bummer timeline but it seems that history has been less kind to her. While Bishop’s character was assassinated starting in Messiah Complex where he became depicted as a lunatic hell bent on murdering a child he has since been more or less redeemed and still has a few ongoing and limited solo comic series to his name. Hell, he was even in an X-Men live action movie once. Most comic book fans know who Bishop is, even if they aren’t familiar with his history. But Shard, on the other hand, is a woman who never gets talked about when discussing X-Men and, honestly, doesn’t come up all that often when discussed by other characters. Perhaps it was because she was never a member of the X-Men proper, or perhaps it was that she was only active for about seven years. Or maybe, just maybe, it was because she’s been dead the last seventeen years with no signs of her ever coming back. Yeah, that will definitely hurt your visibility.

More on this time displaced hologram woman after the jump.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Black Superheroes: The Blue Marvel

Blue is the new black!
(Also, black is still black)
Name: Adam Brashear

First Appearance: Adam – Legend of the Blue Marvel (2008)

History: Adam Brashear was a naturally gifted man. A brilliant scientist, a college football star and a decorated soldier; his accomplishments somewhat unrecognized due to the racism plaguing the United States at the time. Nevertheless, during the early 1960s, Adam was the team lead on a science experiment to try to harness antimatter. The experiment ended in disaster when the Negative Reactor that had been built exploded, bombarding Adam and his best friend, Conner Sims, with antimatter mutating them both. Conner became both physically and mentally unstable, and soon donned the villainous persona of Anti-Man, while Adam became a perfect, living antimatter reactor. Armed with superhuman strength, durability, speed and flight Brashear became the Blue Marvel and dedicated his life to fighting crime. For a about a year and a half the Blue Marvel was America’s greatest hero until his final battle with Anti-Man revealed him to the public as a black man, thus destroying the general populations trust in him. With racial tensions at an all-time high President John F. Kennedy personally, though reluctantly, requested that Blue Marvel retire. Out of patriotic duty, as well and genuine fear that his presence could start a nationwide race war, Adam agreed.

Forty-five years later Anti-Man returned to wreak destruction yet again, defeating the Avengers in the process. Iron Man came to Adam, still fit and vibrant due to his powers, asking for help. They succeeded in defeating Anti-Man once and for all and in the aftermath Brashear decided that the time was right to don his costume once more. The Blue Marvel lives again!

Beta Says: I feel I need to make sure this is clear; the Blue Marvel is NOT a character from the 1960s but a new character created in 2008 whose background was retroactively added to Marvel’s history. This isn’t out of the ordinary; both Marvel and DC have created characters that supposedly existed in decades past. Amazing-Man (a character who we’ll get to one day) is in a lot of ways DC’s equivalent to Blue Marvel as he was a character created in the 1980s who supposedly was a hero in the 1940s. However because Blue Marvel is an obvious Superman analogue the character that I assume he would draw the most comparison would be the Sentry. The Sentry is a goddamn garbage character whom I hate with the fiery passion of a million exploding suns. And yet I think Blue Marvel is pretty darn cool. Am I hypocrite? I mean, in addition to all the things I’m already hypocritical about.

More on Black Superman after the jump.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Black Superheroes: Mal Duncan

I think this is "Herald" but I CANNOT  keep these names straight
Name: Malcolm Duncan

First Appearance: Teen Titans #26 (1970)

History: Born in raised in the inner city, Mal Duncan had a chance encounter with the Teen Titans where he saved their lives. Impressed with Mal's fighting skills the team offered him the chance to join their ranks despite his lack of superpowers. While Mal often felt out of place due to not having super human abilities (and occasionally because of his race) he proved to be a vital member of the team for years. During his tenure as a superhero Mal adopted several identities including Guardian (after donning an exoskeleton granting him enhanced physical stats), Hornblower (after earning a magic horn that, when blown, evens the odds of any fight he is in), the Herald (where he had a technological horn rather than a magic one) and more recently Vox (gaining sonic powers due to cybernetic enhancements). In addition to being a Teen Titan Mal has been a member of Doom Patrol and is in a long time relationship with fellow hero Bumblebee .

Beta Says: Well friends, it's time for me to eat a little crow as I was a bit short with Mal in my write-up for Bumblebee a few years ago. The fact is that Mal Duncan is not only a very important figure in Teen Titans lore he is, historically speaking, one of the most important black characters in superhero comics. While I can’t find specific confirmation for this, Mal might be DC's first successful African-American superhero creation, predating both John Stewart and Black Lightning! Despite this Mal doesn't get anywhere near the recognition he deserves (i.e., no recognition). Even if you discount his historical significance you can there is still at least one reason you need to respect this dude: one time, fairly early in his existence, he is killed but then subsequently challenges Azrael, the Angel of Death, to a fist fight for the right to come back to life...and wins! Mal may be greatest comic book creation in history!

So why then has Mal Duncan drifted so far in though the background when he should be considered on the same level of importance as the likes of Storm, Black Lightning and Black Panther? I'm sure there were all sorts of factors but politics and racism seem to be at play. What a refreshing change of pace for 1970s comics.

More on Guardian/Hornblower/Herald/Vox/Mal after the jump.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review in Progress: Countdown #51 - #41

In 2007 DC Comics was bringing their critically acclaimed, yearlong limited series 52 to a conclusion. I hadn't read a single issue of that comic and it killed me. The reviews were great and what I had glimpsed of the story was epic. As luck would have it in those final weeks and months DC begun releasing teasers for a follow-up called "Countdown" which would also be a yearlong/weekly series. Knowing how well received 52 had been I promised myself that I would buy every issue of the comic without fail so I could capture what I had missed out on during the previous twelve months. And, sure enough, I kept my promise.

It was the single biggest blunder of my comic book fandom.

Countdown sucked, plain and simple. When it was over I had never felt so grateful to be done with a comic book in my life. Once it was complete I tossed the books un-bagged and un-boarded on a bookshelf in my rented house and never thought of them again. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Nearly ten years later, during a move, those same comics came back into my possession having been bounced around un-read through a few houses of friends of mine. They were mostly undamaged. Initially I thought that maybe I should just toss them out to make space but then I thought it might be more fun to revisit them. After all it had been a decade. I'm older, I'm wiser and perhaps I might be able to appreciate the comic more. Perhaps I was too hasty in my judgment back then. And what's the point of revisiting such an epic comic if you don't document your thoughts and stick them on the internet?

So here's what's going on: I will read every issue of Countdown and talk about it in a "Review in Progress". This will be several parts, with each post looking at a batch of issues (this first one looks at the first eleven issues). I probably won't be releasing them super regularly but the plan is to have the entire run reviewed by the summer at the latest. We'll see. If you would like more information regarding background story information feel free to check out my previous blogs "Countdown to Countdown Parts One Two”.

Countdown #51 to #41 after the jump.