Sunday, January 01, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 1: That time is now

"What chance do we have? The question is, what choice? Run, hide, flee, scatter your forces! You give way to an enemy this evil with this much power, and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!" — Jyn Erso, Rogue One

Well, let's try this again.

About halfway through each year I begin brainstorming for what the following year's "365 Days" in comics will be. This year had a few strong front-runners (I really am going to subject treat you to 365 Days of Gwen Stacy one of these years) but inside my little brain full of oatmeal flakes and pins and needles, celebrities in comic books won out for 2017.

The process after decision: I start researching, hunting down and savings instances of celebrities in comic books: picking ones I'd thought of off the top of my head, brainstorming searching for celebrity names in the invaluable Grand Comicbook Database (without which I couldn't do this blog, much less this feature, and I don't toast them enough), and asking pals o' mine to keep their eyes out for celebrity appearances between the pages of a four-color comic.

By the beginning of January, I had a few hundred ideas and beginnings to populate this feature (and I always add many more throughout the year). I've got a folder on my desktop labelled "365 Days of Celebs" containing 332 files totaling 115M, marked with notes like Rock Hudson, Orson Welles, Robin Quivers, Jay Leno, Ed Sullivan, Geraldo Rivera, and Grant Morrison. I've found comic book appearances of Brandan Behan and Fidel Castro and Rin Tin Tin and that time Herbie Popnecker met Mao. Remember when Pat Boone sang a song of Superman? Remember when Miracleman told off Margaret Thatcher? Remember when Star Brand killed John Byrne?

But before January had barely finished, I realized my heart wasn't in it. You may remember I spent most of November in a dresser drawer with some socks before I finally found the courage to come out again. But I didn't much like hiding, and it didn't make the problem go away. Instead, it got worse.

Look, I've been in depression much of the time since the election of Donald Trump and I'm obviously not very happy about it. But what can a little stuffed bull do? In this big terrible mess we're deep in, does a little stuffed bull really matter? Well, judging by the kindness and encourage and support of all my friends, I guess I do. And my heart only gets more fluffy and shiny thinking about that.

So, my point (and I think you'll be glad to know I have one) is that maybe this isn't the year to hoist celebrities in comic books up on our shoulders when there's the closest thing to a real life Lex Luthor with the manners and subtlety of a Solomon Grundy in the White House. This should now be 365 Days of Defiance.

I hinted at this abrupt early-stream change and hinted at it on Twitter, comparing it to turning a battleship under full steam around on a dime. It took me a while to get my figurative ducks in a row, though. And what becomes of 365 Days of Celebs in Comics? Well, if you glance at it now, you'll see that it's become A Month of Celebrities in Comics. And if you start on New Year's Day and work your way forward, you'll see that I've retroactively populated the blog with Defiance for each of the days of January. Please click on the tag and explore January 1-29 to see what's up now, and keep on following me for one more act of defiance a day.

But what form does Defiance in Comics take? Well, some of it will be Nazi-punching (or fascist-punching, or evil-slamming), some of it will be triumphs against self-doubt, some of it will be busting free from captivity, some of it will be vowing to fight a never-ending battle, some of it declarations of "Okay, bub, you took your best it's my turn!" It's all dedicated, in my own little stuffed way, to speaking the greatest truth to power: that we as a people will stand up to injustice. Even though it's all just dots on paper in the end, I hope it inspires you and animates you into words or action.

And listen: I'm not fooling myself or pretending that posting pix of Captain America knowing Nazis' noggins is in any way a significant or serious part of battling against the actual horrible reality of our times. (I'm doing other things to protest, too, but I'll keep those out of this blog.) But I hope you'll be both inspired and informed by 365 Days of Defiance, to find that spark of heroism, courage, and will-not-take-this-lying-down of our comic book heroes: social justice warriors, every one of 'em, and I proud that they are. i (and you) probably will never get a chance to rip a rubber mask off the face of a corrupt government official and discover that they're the Red Skull. But I hope this feature encourages and reminds you that this is a never-ending battle. Discover your own boldness and fortitude and vow to ponder: what would Captain America do? What would Wonder Woman do? What would Princess Leia do? What would a hero do?

F'r instance, let's start out this series with perhaps the most iconic image of comic book defiance in history. Ask yourself "what would Captain America do?" He'd do this.

Cover of Captain America Comics #1 (Marvel/Timely, March 1941), pencils by Jack Kirby

Note that date of the first Captain America comic book: March 1941. Nine months before Pearl Harbor, before America was in a formal war with Germany, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon already knew Hitler was our enemy and they would not put up with this. Neither would Cap. There's a lesson in there somewhere: that your own sense of right shouldn't be influenced simply by what the government tells you. Steve Rogers was made a super-solider by the American Government, but he is Captain America because he loves what out country stands for and what it can be. (Um, let's momentarily ignore the comics' current anti-Cap as a temporary story trope; by the end of the year we'll look at him again and see what's goin' on in that Hydra-warped brain of his.)

Yes, this is serious stuff at heart. But that doesn't mean it won't be a little silly sometimes. You'll still see some goofy post titles and hovertext, for instance. We live in dark times but we still should laugh. Self-care is very important in days when you feel at your lowest. If a cup of tea or a silly comedy movie or a comic book or cuddling a little stuffed bull makes you feel a little comforted, I highly recommend it.

And if you have any suggestions as to scenes or moments of sheer defiance in comic books, please send 'em to me and I'll try to feature them at some point if I have or can get my hands on the comic! We're all in this together!

Oh, and those celebrities in comic books I didn't get to? Well, I'll cover some more of them periodically throughout the year. After all, I still have to spotlight the time The Avengers appeared on Late Night with David Letterman.

There's a poem by Maya Angelou that gives me comfort and strength in days of fear:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops
Weakened by my soulful cries

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
It's also been turned into a heartlifting and inspiring dancepop theme for hope within the gay community, and I think its words and rhythm speak to all of us.

Rise. Rebel. Defy.


Elayne said...

Wow. Just wow. Wonderful idea, and rest assured you're at least lifting one person's spirits with this decision.

Lucien said...

Thor #362 - Skurge at Gjallerbru. You gotta, you just gotta.

Delta said...

On the Simonson tip, I could also go for some Ragnarok #2.

Delta said...

And possibly Hulk #367.

Sean Murphy said...

Marvel Two in One Annual #7
Superman Vol 2, #75
X-men Annual #4 (Colossus frees Kurt in Hell)
Crisis on Infinite Earths – 7, 8
Batman 244
Captain American 250
Any number of scenes from Neal Adam’s Green Lantern / Green Arrow
Planetary / Batman: Night on Earth
All Star Superman 10
Amazing Spiderman Vol 1, #33
Daredevil Vol. 1, #163

Sean Murphy said...

Thor 343
Hitman 60
Authority Vol. 1, #12
Thor 362

Green Luthor said...

You've already done Amazing Spider-Man #33, whose inclusion was pretty much a given for this. And I'm certain Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 was already on your list, but I'll add another mention of it anyway.

Daredevil #7 (Daredevil vs. Namor) deserves a mention (Namor kicks the living hell out of Daredevil, as one would expect, but DD just won't give up, until Namor decides that DD deserves too much respect to continue fighting him!).

(I'm also sure Micronauts has to have some good moments - a good portion of the series was the fight against a dictator, after all - but I'd have to dig up a lot of old issues to find specific moments.)

Blam said...

Go Bully!

Bully said...

Thanks guys -- these are great suggestions! I have a few of them already planned, but the ones I didn't think of will be coming up too!

EAG46 said...

Bless you Bully and John. Keep up the fight.

Delta said...

Also possibly: Secret Wars (1984) #4 (cover scene), #9 (RR's decision), #12.