Monday, February 26, 2018

On Basic Income and the game of Monopoly

I said on Facebook,
Crusaders against things that people do when they're desperate--theft, sex work, abortion--should support #BasicIncome.
Alex Ugur commented,
Even the archetypical model of capitalism, the game of Monopoly, has basic income (when you pass Go) as the main driver. It's like the fuel in the car that makes the engine go! Unfortunately, even that isn't enough: invariably the game collapses, because the wealth has migrated to one person, leaving everyone else destitute. I think we can safely say that the same goes for the entire capitalist order, as now it's down to only 8 people holding the same wealth as the poorer half of the entire global population (last year, it was around 60 people holding that kind of wealth, so the game is indeed speeding up and nearing its conclusion, whatever ills that might bestow on us).

Basic income is great and I support it wholeheartedly, but it won't solve capitalism's problems -or socialism's for that matter-, as it doesn't do away with the injustices of debt or ownership, two social tools that make possible the ownership and control of both people and our natural habitat.
The last point is why capitalists should support Basic Income—it does nothing to threaten their position at the top of the pyramid. It only makes the game at the bottom a bit more fair.

That's also why socialists should support it. Eleanor Marx, speaking about bourgeois feminism, said, "...has not the Communist Manifesto taught us that it is our duty to support any progressive movement that benefits the workers’ cause, even if this movement is not our own?"

Earlier: How to play Monopoly, American-style

Possibly of interest: Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’ - The New York Times

And here's a short video of Penn Jillette giving the Libertarian argument for Basic Income:

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Nighthawks at the Diner - the nerdiest comics thing I've ever made

Anyone who recognizes all three should be treated with awe or fear, because the third is extremely obscure. I'll identify them from right to left:

1. In the cowboy hat: Nighthawk (DC Comics)

2. In the yellow mask: Nighthawk (Marvel Comics)

3. In the green trunks: Night Hawk (Chesler) | Public Domain Super Heroes

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Red Son Superman versus Sovietman! plus their suits for Poser and DAZ

I read Superman: Red Son too long ago to remember why it disappointed me. I suspect I wanted to either read a fun story in an alternate world or a profound commentary on capitalism, communism, libertarianism, and authoritarianism, and I didn't get either.

When I decided to recreate the character's costume, I realized something else. While I admire the Red Son Superman's design, I know it reflects US propaganda in the most heavy-handed way. The color scheme is more appropriate for Hitler's Germany than Stalin's Russia. If the Soviets had designed a superhero costume that suggested authority, they would've chosen their military colors, green and red. But what's most likely is they would've used the colors of their flag.

So I've made two costumes for the free Uzilite Super Hero for Poser and DAZ's Michael 4. The first is for the Red Son Superman, which, I am sure, is thoroughly trademarked by DC. The second is for a character I call Sovietman, who I am placing in the public domain for anyone to use. The logo is my creation, but DC's lawyers could claim the design is too close to Superman's because of its shield shape, so use it at your own risk.

At ShareCG: Red Son Superman & Sovietman for Uzilite M4 Suit

At Renderosity: Red Son Superman and Sovietman for Uzilite M4 Suit

Waku, Prince of the Bantu, Marvel's first major black hero

I've noted often that in the 1960s, Marvel was better with race and DC was better with gender. Marvel was better with race in the 1950s too. Their first black character to win cover status and an on-going series was Waku, who appeared in Jungle Tales:
One regular feature in Jungle Tales, "Waku, Prince of the Bantu", starred an African chieftain in Africa, with no regularly featured Caucasian characters. Marvel Comics' first Black feature star,[3] he was created by writer Don Rico and artist Ogden Whitney, succeeded by artist John Romita Sr. Waku, who predated mainstream comics' first black superhero, Marvel's Black Panther, by nearly a dozen years, headlined one of four regular features in each issue. It would take a decade for the first African-American series star, the Western character Lobo, to appear, and nearly two decades before the likes of the Black Panther, Luke Cage, and the Falcon would star in solo series.
Image via Eric Wilkinson-Gilyard 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

On the public domain Superman, plus a free Fleischer Superman for Poser and DAZ

Max Fleischer made Superman fly—literally. Before his Superman cartoons, Superman was limited to running faster than a speeding locomotive and leaping tall buildings with a single bound. But animating a jumping character requires a lot of drawings, so Fleischer chose to make him fly, and the comic books imitated him.

After the cartoon rights reverted, DC Comics failed to renew the copyright. The Fleischer cartoons are now in the public domain, which is why many companies sell them on VHS and DVD.

But Superman’s trademarks are still owned by DC Comics. If you try to use the Fleischer Superman commercially, DC’s lawyers will use trademark law to come after you.

And the only person who can defeat a superhero is a lawyer.

The Superman suit for Poser and DAZ's Michael 4: Uzilite Super Hero.

My Fleischer variation at ShareCG: Superman - Fleischer - for free Uzilite M4 Suit. And at Renderosity: Superman - Fleischer - for free Uzilite M4 Suit.

Credit for the Max Fleischer Superman logo that I used: MachSabre on DeviantArt.



Superman, Superdad, and the Limits of a Trademark Parody Defense |

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Are Mickey Mouse's spats and gloves racist? The argument against.

I love Ty Templeton's comics, but I think he and the people he's siding with are wrong about Mickey Mouse's spats and gloves coming from the minstrel tradition.

Here's the comic: The Gloves are Off Bun Toons!

And here's the condensed version of my argument in the comments:

1. Mickey Mouse was created in 1928. One year earlier, Cole Porter wrote Puttin' On the Ritz, which opens:
Have you seen the well-to-do, up and down Park Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare, with their noses in the air
High hats and Arrow collars, white spats and lots of dollars
Spending every dime, for a wonderful time
Spats were popular for a decade after Mickey was created.

2. When Mickey first appeared, he did not wear shoes or gloves. Walt Disney claims,
We didn’t want him to have mouse hands, because he was supposed to be more human. So we gave him gloves. Five Fingers looked like too much on such a little figure, so we took one away. That was just one less finger to animate.
Now, it's possible Disney was revising his past when he said that. The man was antisemitic, he refused to hire women for years, and the kindest thing you can say about Song of the South is that it has some great songs and a remarkably clueless approach to the portrayal of black folks.

But if you look at the earliest appearances of Mickey in black and white films, you should notice that his hands are less distinct than in the later ones with the white gloves. Once the gloves were established, the studio kept them.

You can see how Mickey evolved at Mickey Mouse Through the Years.

3. I haven't found Mickey's first appearance in spats. He only seems to wear them when he has an occasion to dress up. But I can say this: if Mickey was created to make fun of black people, the problem is greater than gloves and spats.


4. In early cartoons, black characters spoke in an extreme southern black dialect. Mickey Mouse did not.

5. Mickey, from his first appearance, was remarkably scrappy and clever. If he was intended to be black, he should be seen as more admirable, not less.


From Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks. Steamboat Willie. 1928 | MoMA:
So strong was the audience demand for Steamboat Willie that two weeks after its premiere Disney re-released it at the largest theater in the world, the Roxy in New York City. Critics came to see in Mickey Mouse a blend of Charlie Chaplin in his championing of the underdog, Douglas Fairbanks in his rascally adventurous spirit, and Fred Astaire in his grace and freedom from gravity's laws.

Steamboat Willie

Fred Astaire - Puttin' On The Ritz from Evgeny Demchenko on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Four and a half Golden Age female superheroes in modest costumes

The most famous female superhero of the Golden Age of comics, Wonder Woman, shows a bit of skin. Perhaps the next most famous, the Phantom Lady, shows even more. But just as costumes for men ranged from Namor's speedos to Batman's almost full-concealment, so did those for women.

The Woman In Red could be the superhero for any very conservative religion:

Nelvana was fully covered and had a skirt for a little extra modesty:

Miss America took the same approach:

Liberty Belle rocked jodhpurs:

And the Black Orchid started off modestly:

Though she tended to lose clothes as she fought:

Related: Power Girl vs. the Slut-shamers of Skiffydom: on cosplay and feminist pulchriphobia:

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A guide to my posts on public domain superheroes of color

I made the following posts thinking there would only be a few of them, so I didn't try to organize them. Now that I may be done with them, I recommend reading them in this order:

On servants, sidekicks, and partners, or why I don't put Lothar, Kato, and Tonto among the first superheroes of color

The Bronze Terror, a forgotten American Indian superhero. Plus Starlight? Bonus: Johnny Fox

There are enough native North American superheroes from the Golden Age to make a team. In addition to the Bird Man, Buckskin, Mantoka, and Freezum, there's the Bronze Terror:

Bronze Terror: "Returning to his reservation after law school, Apache Jeff Dixon discovers that his father, Chief White Falcon, has been framed for murder. He dons a costume to fight for his father and later for the rest of the Apache Nation against those who would oppress them. He has no powers but is capable in hand-to-hand combat, horseback riding, archery, and is in excellent physical shape from his time as an athlete in school."

For the backstory on the character's creation, his first story, and a discussion of the racial imagery in the context of its time, see The World’s Scariest Lawyer – Daredevil Comics #2.

The Bronze Terror was probably inspired by the Black Terror. The Bronze Terror was created soon after the Black Terror and has the skull imagery that the Black Terror probably got from the Phantom. The "bronze" may be a reference to his race, but it was also used for black people--the Bronze Buckaroo was a black cowboy. If I revived the Bronze Terror, I would give him some degree of invulnerability to justify his name.

I haven't found any female Native American superheroes from the Golden Age, but if you came up with an excuse for time travel, fun could be had with Starlight the Warrior Maiden.

ETA: In my search for examples of Native American superheroes, I've been focusing on characters in the 20th century. But there were comics characters set in earlier times who could be called superheroes. See Five Native American Superheroes of the Old West - Mark Carlson-Ghost.

ETA: Johnny Fox doesn't have a costume or a secret identity, but his ability to turn invisible puts him in superhero territory:
Johnny Fox was a member of the Seminole tribe of Florida who became a US government investigator and took on missions around the world. His office was in New York. In addition to being an amazing fighter and athlete, Johnny's grandfather gave him invisibility pills, derived from an ancient Seminole secret, which allowed him to turn invisible for several minutes at a time. He also flew an amphibious craft called "The Flying Gator."

Friday, February 2, 2018

More Asian and Native American public domain heroes: the Green Turtle, Fu Chang, Dr. Fung, Mantoka—plus villains!

The Green Turtle and Burma Boy

Green Turtle: "A true mystery man, the Green Turtle aided the Chinese in guerrilla warfare against Japanese invaders. He wore a green cloak with an enormous turtle-shell design and had a sidekick, Burma Boy, a young beggar he'd rescued from execution by the Japanese army."

Fu Chang

Fu Chang: "Fu Chang was a Chinese American living in the Chinatown district of San Francisco. While he dressed like a modern American outside his home, he dressed in traditional Chinese clothes at home. He was also a devout worshiper of the ancient gods and because of this was given a set of magic chessmen by the elderly magician Sing Po, a direct descendant of Aladdin. These chessmen possess the same magic of Aladdin's lamp and can be brought to life to serve Fu Chang. He uses them to help him fight crime in San Francisco. He is also aided by his sweetheart Tay Ming."

His first adventure: Pep Comics #1 (Archie / MLJ) - Comic Book Plus

Highly recommended: Gene Luen Yang on the illustrious and superlative fu chang.

Dr. Fung

Dr. Fung: "Dr. Fung was an old, scientific detective who traveled the world solving crimes, with the aid of his young American assistant, Dan Barrister. ... Dr. Fung was a brilliant detective, versed in the sciences of both the east and the west. Although an older gentleman, and usually relied on Barrister for muscle, Dr. Fung proved useful in a scrap and handy with a gun."

Golden Age Heroes: Friday Frightfest: MOTHER HUBBARD & DR FUNG!


Eric Wilkinson-Gilyard described Mantoka as
A magic, shape-shifting Shaman, who could alter himself (size, density, become animals) and the physical world. 

He only made two appearances, but I'm sure that given time, he could have been comparable in power to Stardust, Fantomah, The Sorceress of Zoom. A sort of anything goes character.
More: Cole's Comics: Mantoka - Cole's Indian Shaman Hero (1940)

Two villains who could be revived as villains or heroes

The Great Question

Great Question: "The Great Question was a member of the Council of Seven at the lamasery in Tibet where Amazing Man was raised and trained. He was the lama in charge of interrogations. With his incredible telepathic powers he could project his thoughts across the world and hypnotize all but the strongest mind. Great Question was able to use his resources and abilities to create a world-spanning criminal organization."

Nang Tu

Nang Tu: "Nang Tu was a sorceress and high priestess who guarded "The All Seeing Eye," a fist sized diamond on the forehead of the giant Khotan Buddah statue, located in the hidden "Temple of the Man-Eating Spider," somewhere in the Himalayas, a few days climb from Kathmandu. Nang Tu appeared to be killed in personal combat with Merlin when he came looking for the All Seeing Eye. The extent of Nang-Tu's power is unclear, but she was immune to Merlin's magical spells, and Merlin was forced to call upon the strength of 10 men in order to subdue her in combat. She had razor sharp claws and fangs, and carried a double pointed metal spear. She commanded a team of female archer warriors. She may have also controlled the giant spider Angor."


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Butterfly is the first black female superhero—but don't ignore Torchy Brown, Mummy Begum, Merciless, or Bubbles the Dew Dilly

The Golden Age of comics had a few superheroes of color, but none that I've found are black and female. The first female black superhero appears in Hell-Rider Magazine in 1971:
Outfitted with a jetpack for flying and a costume laden with incredibly bright strobe lights to blind her enemies, Marian Michaels is a Las Vegas cabaret singer by night and the crime-fighting Butterfly by even later night.

Yes, she should've been called Firefly. Many superhero names make no sense if you think about them. She's in the public domain, so she's available for anyone to use today.

There are a few earlier characters that deserve a footnote in the history of black women in comics:

Merciless the Sorceress

Merciless was written as a villain, as her name suggests. She was the...
...ruler of the land of Volcano People. Her enemies included Captain Bob Darlington, his assistant "the Professor," and his pilot "Happy" Jack Smiles. Her powers included transforming men into animals, being bulletproof, disintegration, flight, and numerous other powers.
Like Fu Manchu and the Yellow Claw, Merciless was the title character for her stories, though she never had a comic of her own. Turning her into a hero defending people of color from Europeans would be easy. She's unquestionably a black woman in her first appearance in All Top Comics (1944) (Fox Feature Syndicate).  In later stories, she appears to be white or Asian. The likely explanation is the publisher had second thoughts about running a series with a black woman in the title, but that's easily retconned: why shouldn't a sorceress be a shapechanger?

Bubbles the Dew Dilly

All-Negro Comics mostly has male characters, but Eric Wilkinson-Gilyard pointed out the potential for a female:
She was a "Dew Dillie", a type of mythical, elusive being.
Specifically, she's a water-dwelling, mermaid-like spite, and is related to all water-dwelling creatures. She doesn't have a costume, but can breathe underwater as well as exist (seemingly for extended periods) on land.

Mummy Begum

Mummy Begum comes close to qualifying as a superhero: she has a stage name and the ability to see into the future.
Torchy Brown

Torchy Brown appeared in newspapers with black audiences in 1937. She wasn't an action hero—she was a black woman who went to Harlem to perform at the Cotton Club—but she should be known to anyone interested in black women and comics.

And you have to love her name.



Voodah: the first black jungle hero and another candidate for first black superhero

...was a jungle character featured in Crown Comics. In his first adventure, he saves his tribe, N’risi, and his girl, Jano, from an escaped prisoner named Blake and his albino monkey, Deem.
If you think a jungle hero is a superhero, Voodah wins the title of first black superhero. He appeared a year before Lion-Man.

You can read his first story here. The art is by the great Matt Baker. Voodah's opponent is a white guy. The only way the story would be better for its time would be if Voodah's girlfriend got to be more than the damsel in distress.

Undoubtedly for commercial reasons, Voodah becomes white as the series continues. Two issues after his first appearance in the comic, he is white on the cover, though in the story inside, he is still the same color as the Africans. But in his following adventures, he is as pale as Tarzan, except for one (in #10) in which his skin is golden, halfway between the brown of the Africans and the beige of the Europeans.

Perhaps amusingly, an inversion of ism-logic occurs: when he become a pale guy with a pale girlfriend, she becomes sufficiently capable to save him when he's trapped.