Ruby Nation

Ruby Nation
Ruby Nation: The Webcomic

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Matt Fraction And Nathan Fox Give Bin Laden A Taste Of Fear Itself

Go Here For The Story

Yesterday gave comics a surprising boost of notoriety when GQ published a comic strip version of Bin Laden's final moments. The comic was written by Matt Fraction, one of my favorite comic writers, while the art is by comic artist Nathan Fox. The two previously collaborated on Invincible Iron Man 500, where Fox illustrated the parts of Fraction's dystopian future where we saw Tony's son turned into a literal War Machine, under the control of the Mandarin.

This story is an extremely intense piece of comic storytelling, and effectively chronicles the Seals' raid on Bin Laden's final hiding place. What's most interesting about it isn't the portrayal of the Seals, but of Bin Laden himself. Here, the mastermind behind Al Qaeda is almost a sympathetic figure. He's the most infamous mass-murderer of the current century, his organization responsible for the deaths of thousands including both American and European citizens as well as his "fellow" Muslims. But in his final moments, he's just a sick, scared old man who's been hiding in the dark for years, thinking in clipped, frantic captions as he awaits the inevitable.

In the annotations, Fraction denies that he wanted to get into Bin Laden's head, for obvious reasons; what person, of any respectable political affiliation, would try to excuse this monster's actions? But Fraction isn't excusing anything Bin Laden did. If anything, he and Nathan Fox are using their chosen medium to make Bin Laden the concept see the errors of his ways. In the end, Bin Laden only brought misery to the world, and that includes his own kin. The look Fox put on Osama's face as one of his grown sons runs out to protect him and ends up dead says a lot; is Osama simply scared, or is there a hint of remorse for the fact that his child died for his own sins?

Some may interpret this as propaganda for the US, but it's really a great piece of storytelling that combats the ideals for which Bin Laden caused so many deaths. Bin Laden may have wanted to be a martyr who inspired an even greater wave of suicide bombings. But if Fraction and Fox's comic is his legacy, then everything Bin Laden did just led him to an undignified, pathetic end.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Read My Review, Then Buy This Game

Published by the fine folks at

I'm sorry I've neglected this blog, though between my new real world job, my online game writing job, and my work on Ruby Nation, you can probably see why. Still, it's easy enough to link to my review of the collected glory that is the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Jeph Loeb Drinking Game

Note: Do not try this at home. This Avengers: X-Sanction preview alone will get you completely plastered.

--When a fight scene erupts for no clear reason other than to have a fight scene, take a shot. (Avengers vs. Lethal Legion)

--When a bunch of heroes or villains are assembled in an "iconic" arrangement, take a shot. (The Avengers are Marvel's Big Five-- Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk by way of the Red Hulk-- joined by the Falcon, presumably as a token. The Lethal Legion are veteran Avengers foes Living Laser, Grim Reaper, Whirlwind, and Radioactive Man. The latter of which hasn't been a conventional super-villain in a long time, instead acting as a loyal soldier for China).

--When a character makes a quip with the same amount of wit as a schoolyard taunt, take a shot. (Spider-Man: "Why is there never a jailbreak on nice, pleasant, warm nights in New York?" Wolverine: "Why is it you never shut up?")

--When a character goes into heavy-handed, mopey first-person caption narration, take a shot. (Cable's internal monologue about being a soldier).

--When the conflicts are revealed to be the acts of an ubermensch villain manipulating events with far more capability than they should be able to have, take a shot. (Not seen here, but with Loeb's history of using villains like Hush, Romulus, Ultimate Doctor Doom, The Intelligencia, and others, there's often a mastermind with unconvincingly extreme mastery).

--When a character is brought back to an "iconic" state in a way that defies everything previously established, take a shot. (This series is about bringing Cable back from the dead. Even though his absence wasn't exactly derailing the Marvel Universe.)

Now excuse me as I go into the ER for alcohol poisoning.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ruby Nation Begins! Stuff You May Have Missed

Well, I've finished the prologue of my new webcomic, 13 pages total. It's complete with a new domain name, at . Similar to its predecessor, chapters will be followed by text pieces, so the next few weeks will see the start of the "Ruby in Therapy" interview series.

I designed the prologue to start the series with a bang, to go with an action sequence so readers immediately want to find out what's happening. If you don't understand the entire story and didn't read Ruby's World,, it'll reveal itself That said, there are some things that aren't immediately apparent from the pages, so I'll offer these useful notes;

1.) The characters wear superhero costumes now-- kind of. Ruby's dressed similarly to usual, but wearing a utility belt with the Ruby Nation Insignia on the buckle, while Jiro has a spy catsuit with a ninja scarf and combat webbing. These are designed more as custom military uniforms than superhero costumes, as I honestly hate spandex-- it's too often used as simply flat colors with no texture, rendering superheroes as nudes in body paint. Here it's more like stylized body armor, adding a bit of self-conscious fashion and accessorizing(since these are teenaged characters, looking cool is important to them, and is one of the few things they have left).

Think the paramilitary superhero look of the Ultimates and Metal Gear Solid, mixed with the individualized bling of Tetsuya Nomura (designer for Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts).

2.) The post-human antagonist her is named Moray. The name comes from the moray eel, a type of serpentine-looking fish with strong jaws and sharp teeth. I absolutely love animal motifs for superhuman characters, especially more obscure animals. Since Moray's ability involves columns of nanofilament bursting from his hands and enveloping/shredding everything they catch, it seems appropriate. As for more about him and his'll have to wait and see.

3.) There will be new characters on Ruby's side, as well. One of the strongest themes of the Ruby Saga is the challenge of maintaining one's ideals in a fallen world, to be optimistic despite all evidence to the contrary. The prologue sets up the inherent fatalism of the world, where there are no options for the characters that don't involve someone dying and someone grieving. This will be further examined in the coming chapters, because while it may be the way things are, is it necessarily the way things have to be?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

5 Ways to Magically Cure a Disabled Character, Part 1: Conspicuous Assistive Technology

In the comments section of my Batgirl review, it was asked why Barbara never used the DC Universe's supertech or magic to fix her spine. This is a question that comes up often around this issue, and is valid. Granted, it's a slippery slope towards removing any sense of dramatic urgency from the world, when you can just Phlebotnium any infirmity away, but it stretches disbelief a bit too far when characters bemoan their tragedies but don't go for the genre solutions right in front of them.

Of course, as another comment noted, supernatural injuries would be treated by supernatural medicines, and every medicine has its side-effects. So I'm doing this series of blogs to examine the ways in which these magic cures can be used to further the story and explore issues of disability, rather than simply swipe them under the rug and pretend they don't exist.


This might stretch disbelief as well, because if the universe has technology sophisticated enough to replace a lost limb with a superhumanly strong prosthesis, it could go just a little further and replace it with one that looks human as well. However, it's a good symbolic way to show that even though the character has regained their mobility, they remain affected by the experience. It also makes the notion of "fixing" a disability less appealing, because disability is a social construct. This is a reason given for why Barbara Gordon never asked her pals in the Justice League to make her a walking exoskeleton; a wheelchair is hardly as conspicuous as a clunky robot suit that gives the wearer enough strength to crush a man like a paper cup.

BEST EXAMPLE: Cyborg of the Teen Titans. Victor Stone's life was saved from a life-threatening injury by replacing most of his body with metal parts. However, Vic wasn't very happy about this, and the fact that his father did the operation further intensified his daddy issues. He was kicked off of his high school football team, was abandoned by his girlfriend, and basically got cut off from society. It wasn't until he met the Teen Titans that he found a purpose to live again, fighting alongside other outsiders, saving lives, and taking out his anger on people who had it coming. But he was still mostly robotic, his human parts limited to half his face and bits of his torso.

What's also worth noting is that even though Victor's new body let him be a superhero, it also had a spectacular downside; it ruined his ability to be an athlete. When Vic was human, he loved football, and trained intensively so he could get stronger and stronger. But his cyborg body was not only superhumanly strong, but limits were built into his mechanical muscles. Several stories touched on the fact that he didn't like how he was robbed of the ability to improve himself with exercise. An episode of the cartoon even had this as the central conflict (though it ended with Cyborg beating the villain through the power of determination, presumably because his meaty bits gave him a boost of strength....somehow).

Other Sci-Fi/Fantasy Examples:

Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 4; The much-loathed replacement Snake from MGS2 got a major upgrade in MGS4, becoming a Cyborg Ninja. But he looked even less human than any of the other cyborgs, with claw-like hands, cloven feet, and the lower half of his head replaced by metal. At the ending he gets his combat limbs replaced with more realistic prostheses, but you can see all the seams. Raiden's most human appearance since his cyborganization still makes him look like a Ken doll.

Robotman from Doom Patrol: Poor Cliff Steele is an even greater extreme of the "disfiguring prostheses" trope; he's a brain in a jar, attached to a robotic body. Not only is he treated as a freak (even despite his heroic exploits; the Doom Patrol are some of the most Marvel-like characters in DC), but the amount of everyday human sensations that he's lost is profound. Cliff's described his predicament as phantom pain for his entire body.

Barret from Final Fantasy VII: The JRPG analogue to Mr. T lost his hand when being shot at by Shinra goons, the same goons who destroyed his hometown and killed his wife. The replacement for his hand was a huge cannon he used in vengeance. This is an odd version because Barret intentionally chose an intimidating weapon instead of a prosthetic hand, not caring about much beyond killing all of Shinra. In the Advent Children animated movie, he mellows out and gets a regular prosthetic, a metal hand that's conspicuous but actually functions like the original limb.

And again, you could just invent perfect replacements, but if it's a perfect transition, where's the story? An amputee might be pitied, but a cyborg is more likely to be feared and hated. It's a good metaphor for the way the experience of such trauma changes a person; once it's there, you can't be the same person you were, and others will pick on that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Newsarama on Batgirl: Excerpts from Yours Truly!

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Vaneta Rogers of Newsarama regarding the Batgirl fiasco. I have hardly been quiet about this series of unfortunate events, but I was honored by the request. Vaneta's piece is up, which also includes quotes from Denny O'Neil, John Ostrander, and Professor James B. South.

It is a high honor to be quoted alongside these industry legends. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New 52 Batgirl #1 Review: Wasn't That Paralysis Just A Hassle?

The new Batgirl comic is finally out, and it's simultaneously not as repellent as I expected, yet still inherently repellent.

In all fairness, the story is still unfolding, and it's well-told. I'm not objecting to the abilities of Gail Simone as a writer or Adrian Syaf as an artist. It's the fact that the team involved is so talented that makes this book so galling. They should be able to do something better, and avoid the pitfalls.

Because at this point, it looks like the new Barbara Gordon was still shot in the spine, but got better. She says that she was in a wheelchair for three years after the Joker attacked her, but then " a miracle" happened. We don't hear what that miracle is, and I imagine we'll find out. But I don't see how it could be anything more than a quick Phlebotnium fix. The way Barbara's narration frames the miracle, it sounds like she spent the three years without her mobility just sitting on her ass moping in a dark room, but then she found this cure and she's back in the game.

Credit should be given to Simone for at least making Barbara's "recovery" believable, in that she's not recovered from the psychological aspect. She still knows what it's like to have been in a wheelchair, and finds herself bothered by ablist remarks people make without thinking ( such as the whole "being in a chair is worse than death" bullshit). She still has nightmares about the shooting, and she's very nervous on the battlefield after the incident. The cliffhanger even has Barbara freeze up and fail to save someone thanks to a PTSD flashback from a criminal pointing a gun at her just the way the Joker did.

However, the fact remains that Barbara can walk now, and she's used that opportunity to go back to being a more famous character's distaff counterpart. The theory that she wouldn't be able to walk without her new armored costume is debunked by the images of Barbara walking around in her civvies. Perhaps the costume helps her with mobility, since her legs would've atrophied in the three years of paralysis. It could be similar to Old Snake's Octocamo suit in Metal Gear Solid 4, adding a slight boost in strength to help with her impairments but not actually making her superhuman. Of course, wacky textures on costumes are everywhere in the rebooted DCU, so it might just be Barbara jumping on this "HR Giger meets Victoria's Secret"* bandwagon.

The disability aspect is present, but it's a past-tense motivator, a handicap used to make her able-bodied self look stronger. But the things Barbara accomplished as Oracle, without leaving her chair, were much more impressive and meaningful. The comic is interesting enough and well-written enough that I'm going to keep reading it for the time being, but I sincerely hope the representation of disability goes beyond "Origin Story Tragedy". It's a deeper handling than most writers would attempt, but it's not enough to compensate for the semiotic ableism inherent in "fixing" Barbara Gordon.

* A description I saw in a ComicsAlliance comments thread, which seems especially apt when looking at the new Batgirl.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ruby Nation: New Webcomic, Same Great Continuity!

After several moons' absence, the story that began in Ruby's World finally returns. Ruby Nation picks up three months after the end of World, with Ruby and her team actively working to build their super-soldier refugee state while having to maintain their morals in light of the circumstances (and what they'll be forced to do)

If you didn't read Ruby's World, you can do so any time you like, but you don't have to. The purpose of this "reboot" was as a jumping-on point for new readers. The prologue hits the ground running, but all the details should become apparent in the coming weeks for those just coming to the party. As a longtime reader of superhero comics, I'm aware both of the richness that an established history can bring, and the downsides that come with its misuse. When the history becomes too prominent, it keeps new readers from being able to understand what they're seeing. And even if the continuity is explained, it's like being told about a great story secondhand, rather than actually seeing the story. I'd rather not subject people to my personal nostalgia (except for the Halloween cosplay sketches).

There is a middle ground between having a past and being enslaved by it, however. Many of the greatest series I've read/seen/played have clearly defined backstories. The X-Men didn't become popular until the International team debuted in the 70's, keeping parts of the original iteration but forging a new path. Buffy, the greatest fantasy show ever, was based on the backstory of an utterly terrible movie attempt. And Metal Gear Solid's postmodern mastery has its roots in the plain old Metal Gear games for the MSX, before the series had extensive cutscenes, horribly tragic fates, and homoerotic subtext bordering on actual text. Wether intentional or not, it seems like all these series had a rough start that nevertheless allowed them to grow and change into something great. Stories, as well as their storytellers, have to learn by doing.

TLDR; Ruby Nation will be to Ruby's World what Metal Gear Solid is to MSX Metal Gear.

Anyway, I'll be delivering more of these musings as the series progresses, as the simple act of creating a piece of art and putting it out there is an act of ego, so I might as well take it further and show you my process as well.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Batman 80 Page Giant: Batman Fights Autism, Strikes Blow For Sentimentality

The recent Batman: 80 Page Giant makes the unlikely intersection between Batman and autism. In the story written by Joe Caramagna, a nonverbal autistic boy is reading a Batman comic when his mother takes the book away from him. She's bitching about how he can't differentiate between fantasy and reality (apparently unable to get her stereotypes straight, as most of these morons say that autistic people are too literal to be imaginative), while his father talks about how comics are just harmless fun. After getting upset by the bickering, the boy looks out the window, and either has a fantasy that he sees Batman and Solomon Grundy fighting, or actually witnesses Batman and Grundy duking it out. But in the end, this enables the nine-year-old to say his first word, to the delight of both his parents; "Batman".

The story is slightly better than most fictional representations of autism, in that the autistic by is the actual protagonist instead of a plot device to make his parents sympathetic, and the "warrior mother" stereotype is as much a pompous blowhard as a tireless champion for her child's development. The story isn't exactly deep, but given how it's a back-up strip in an anthology magazine, we can't expect too much. On the other hand, this is the only place where we'd see the autism "issue" in a Batman comic, and it's used in a revoltingly sentimental fashion, right down to the "everything's going to be okay" ending. And if the kid can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality, he's got problems that are far more debilitating than the autism spectrum-- it's Sucker Punch all over again..

But the problems with the book are severely exacerbated when you take This Article into account, in which Caramagna tells his local newspaper about his creative process. I'm sure that Caramagna is well-intentioned, but those intentions are expressed in a very condescending manner towards autistic people. Because autism is such a horrible fate, the language surrounding it tends to focus on treating (if not outright curing/erasing) the disorder. In fact, Caramanga talks about how he designed the story to potentially "unlock their imagination"

I wanted to tell a story where comics can make a difference in someone’s life and get their creative juices going. I don’t want to make it sound like if you give a kid a comic, he’ll be cured. But I think they can be used as part of a creative therapy or artistic therapy. With autism, no one knows what might be the thing that unlocks their imagination.

I totally agree that a Batman comic can unlock a child's imagination. Because it's BATMAN. He's already a character with near-universal appeal, evidenced by the fact that he maintains a transmedia presence stronger than pretty much any other comic hero, and has his backstory etched in the public imagination. Using him as an autistic kid's fantasy/delusion isn't going to stir those creative juices any better than a straightforward Batman story. In fact, it's probably going to be less effective, because A.) people who buy Batman would likely rather read about Batman than a "special needs" sob story stereotype, and B.) the autistic character might outright offend some of us on the spectrum.

Aside from that one comment, Caramagna doesn't say anything too infuriating. Most of the problem is the way the interview frames the comic, as "fighting autism". Of course, these articles never see autism as part of an autistic person, the neurological identity that shapes them into who they are (albeit with a lot of trials along the way, but the trials of the autistic individual are rarely dealt with as something that causes THEM suffering; it's usually shown as the burden on their families); they treat it as a bogeyman, a Jokeresque villain that steals a normal child's soul.

Coincidentally, there is quite a bit of the Batman mythos that relates to autism. Bruce Wayne isn't on the spectrum because he's too multi-talented in his masteries, but the drive in which he trained at martial arts/criminology/invention/breathing in space definitely resonates with Asperger's-style obsessions. The villains he faces are often tragic figures, prisoners of their own madnesses, and can be sympathetic to those who have difficulty controlling their emotions. Hell, there are two characters that may well be on the autism spectrum (albeit by fantastical circumstances) -- Cassandra Cain, the former Batgirl and current Black Bat, has tremendous martial arts skills but struggled with basic language and literacy. And Bruce's artificially-conceived son Damien Wayne may also fit; he was built to fight, he was never given social skills, he's extremely temperamental, and while he wants to do good he has little to no idea how to do so.

Of course, this all requires critical thought, and stereotypes are so much easier to digest.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How To Write A Fear Itself Tie-In comic

Step 1.) Check the comic you're writing to see if there's an overarching story in progress. If there is, put it on hold until the end of the summer.

Step 2.) Find an existing character (one who isn't necessarily connected to the comic) and give them a magic hammer with a merchandise-friendly redesign attached. Don't worry about wether or not the character will actually be merchandised.

Step 3.) Give that character a new name along the lines of "(Name), Breaker of (Thing)". The first name should be something punchy, even if it doesn't make sense in any known language. The second should be something that sounds ominous.

Step 4.) Now that you have your (Breaker), have them start randomly killing (Random Civilians). Don't worry about giving them a credible motivation, the (Random Runic Dialogue) should make them seem ominous enough to compensate.

Step 5.) Have the comic's existing (Hero/Heroes) drop everything they were doing to try and stop the Breaker of Something.

Step 6.) Show how no matter what powers the cast have, or what strategies they use, the (Hero/Heroes) do anything against (Breaker). At the same time, NEVER have (Breaker) inflict any lasting damage upon anyone who counts, beyond (Random Civilians)

Step 7.) Between the action scenes, intersperse talking heads of (Hero/Heroes) whining and crying about how they can't beat (Breaker). If you wish, you can connect it to some sort of larger sociological point about the economy or the war on terror or whatnot. Don't go too far with this point, lest you get away from the Formula.

Step 8.) Resume your comic's normal storyline after the Fear Itself event is over, hoping your existing readers haven't gotten totally sick of this shit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Follow the Horrors of Spider-Island

E. Wilson is a regular follower and friend of this blog who always has good insights about comics. I'm going to repay the favor by directing you to The Horrors of Spider-Island, his admirable quest to read and review every issue of the current Spider-Man crossover. Excellent reading, and an impressive commitment.

I'll be following the main comic as well, even though I'd stopped reading ASM once I realized that Dan Slott's interpretation of a twentysomething person doesn't go much further than rollerball and drunken tattoos and the hippin' and the hoppin' us darned kids do so much. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed Slott comics in the past, Humberto Ramos' art is perfect for such an over-the-top story, and if Carlie Cooper ends up getting herself killed after her apparent regression to the intellect of a 14-year-old fangirl with anime cat ears, I will be very relieved.

(And yes, this is probably the first time I've WISHED for a superhero's girlfriend to be stuffed in the fridge, but the major sin was in making the character so shallow and obnoxious that she actually interferes with her boyfriend's saving lives.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dan DiDio Talks Accessibility and Diversity at SDCC 2011

In Response To A Very Valid Point

This is a really feeble attempt to justify the return to Barbara Gordon Batgirl. As for the attempts to diversify... I will quote a great Master Jedi and let him respond...


Oh, and the comment about "accessibility" just ground salt into the wound.

Cripz the Webcomic: A Bullet in the Spine of Bigotry

Cripz, a webcomic written by Jeff Preston and illustrated by Clara Madrenas, is to disability rights what the Boondocks was to issues of race-- a wonderful comic strip that not only takes a stand against the negative stereotypes, but takes them into the basement, chains them to a plastic chair, and works them over with power tools. It's not subtle about the way it addresses ableist inequities, and probably not for the easily offended. But some points need to be made with sledgehammer force, and Cripz obliges with the might of Mjolnir's uru head.

The comic follows two high school boys in wheelchairs; Rhett, a sensitive hyper-intellectual whose idealistic discourses tend to fly straight over peoples' heads, and Griff, a hyper-masculine rap enthusiast who milks his disabled status for all it's worth. They're eventually joined by a third character, an able-bodied girl named Katie who likes Rhett (though probably not to the same extent that he likes her) but finds Griff an obnoxious tool and doesn't take his handicap as an excuse. Griff is easily the funniest of the three, and flies in the face of the "inspirationally disadvantaged" stereotype. His innocuous look belies a wildly manipulative and borderline sociopathic mind, and were he not pitied for his disability, he would likely end up in juvenile hall. At times he seems like a male, paralyzed Sarah Silverman.

The art style seems very crude, as it has the characters as sketches on lined notebook paper pasted onto colored backgrounds. However, it works for the strip. It helps establish the otherness of the protagonists, and draws immediate attention to them. This is a talking-heads social commentary strip, so the cinematographic perspective derring-do of adventure strips isn't necessary. It works especially well in the "At the Movies" strips, where Rhett and Griff imagine themselves in movies that typically eschew the handicapped. (The Captain America spoof is especially funny, as Griff imagines that the super-soldier serum leaves Steve Rogers permanently crippled by accident, but allows him to stay out of the draft, so he can fuck all the women at home while the other men go overseas to die in battle. Yes, really.)

If I had a complaint about the strip, it would be the somewhat narrow way disability is perceived. Preston and Madrenas address the issues faced by the wheelchair-bound first and foremost, and they do touch on blindness and deafness. However, mental disabilities are not addressed, despite presenting very similar challenges. This is especially bothersome when the school janitor appears, who embodies most of the delusional deranged veteran cliches. It could easily be extrapolated that he qualifies as disabled via PTSD, yet he remains a subject for the main characters to mock. This is disappointing when you consider that Rhett and Griff are just as limited as him, even if it's their bodies and not their minds that give them the societal stigma.

But I hope that the creators will address this, because if they do, this will be one of the greatest humor comic strips ever made. Early on it captured my heart with its parody of Glee, specifically the horrid stereotype Artie's dreams of walking. Rhett's fantasy is not the ability to walk, but the possession of a pimped-out multi-story wheelchair stacked with hot chicks. Given my somewhat partisan opinion about Glee (i.e. that it's a horrible show that sits at the peak of self-aggrandizing Hollywood leftism, preaching equality but never actually taking any risks with its Benneton ad stereotypes), I immediately bookmarked the comic.

You can read all of Cripz Here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dammit, DC Comics, Stop Infecting My Dreams/Other Fandoms

I had a bizarre dream that only a mind as obsessive about pop culture as mine could come up with unconsciously. In a dream, I was looking through a game store and saw a new game called "Metal Gear Solid: Rebirth". The front box had series hero Solid Snake at his proper age, as opposed to the prematurely elderly state we saw in MGS4. The back explained that Snake was healed by nanomachines, and that he was on a brand new adventure. If I recall correctly, Meryl was by his side; apparently she had dumped her new, kind-hearted (if uncomfortably incontinent) husband Johnny Sasaki for her teenaged crush.


This came as a surprise to me in the dream, because MGS4 clearly ended with the implication that Snake was as good as dead. His body was continuing to age due to the breakdown of his cloned physiology, and while he wasn't going to turn into a Foxdie WMD as previously expected, he still had only a few months remaining. Hideo Kojima intended MGS4 as the end of Solid Snake's story, and possibly the entire Metal Gear saga as well. All the subsequent games have been prequels or remakes, and the rest of the supporting cast either got a happy ending or were killed off. Unless Konami goes behind Kojima's back (which is unlikely, as the success of Metal Gear has been based heavily on its creator's artistic vision), this is not going to happen in reality, and it would be terrible if it did. It would be a slap in the face towards the original games, the members of the audience who actually understood Kojima's vision, and even towards game makers with new ideas. All in the name of trying to preserve nostalgia, rather than creating new games and properties that create future nostalgia.

Perhaps this dream was influenced by the news of the DC relaunch, as the other half of the American comics industry's Big Two has a stiff one for regressions and repetitions. While they have hired great creators and allowed them to take several franchises in interesting new directions (most notably with Batman and Green Lantern, in spite of the latter bringing back Hal Jordan as the star), they've become obsessed with a constant, Nietzcheian return to the same. Even before the relaunch was announced, Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash who died way back in 1987, came back from the grave and shuffled his successor Wally West back to the sidelines; we saw this in a mini-series called Flash: Rebirth, by the same creative team as Green Lantern: Rebirth (which did the same for Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, albeit in a superiorly executed fashion). Similarly, the Green Lantern: Secret Origin story by Geoff Johns that updated Hal's backstory for modern continuity was followed by a Superman: Secret Origin, also by Johns. Secret Origin was followed by J. Michael Stracynski's Earth One OGN, another re-telling of the Man of Steel's early days.

The pattern repetition continues in many facets of the company's superhero publishing. The relaunch itself is a more drastic variant on One Year Later, the Post-Infinite Crisis event that had every book jump ahead one year and give their characters a new status quo. In the DCNu (as it's become known), Aquaman will have his third revamp since 2003, the second being the One Year Later run by Kurt Busiek-- if you count Aquaman's return in the Brightest Day maxi-series as another relaunch, this marks four for the character. Ditto for Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The Flash will be getting his fourth relaunch in that time, which includes the abortive Bart Allen Flash, the Wild Wests family, Barry Allen's return, and the upcoming series. This isn't even touching the unfortunate racial implications of these relaunches/regressions; for example, Ray Palmer coming back as the Atom following the death of Ryan Choi, or Wally West's multiracial family being supplanted by Barry and Iris Allen, who'd look totally appropriate at a country club.

On an individual level, many of these series were good, and many of the DCNu titles will assuredly be good. On a larger level, though, this shows an obsession with trying to preserve the same properties, continually trying to bring them back while using the minor status quo variations as the illusion of change. Maybe DC will never get any great new characters, as their star franchises are those swindled from their creators many decades ago-- today the industry is developed enough that original properties are kept by their creators. But can they at least not take those properties in an endless circle?

The Metal Gear Solid 4 analogy is especially appropriate given that game's revelations about the series at large. The Patriots, the shadowy organization responsible for all the ills of the world, are revealed to simply be super-computers. Everything they do fits into their programming, and they're stuck in a recursive loop. This explains why the Metal Gear sequels all follow the same pattern; Snake is always called upon to fight rogue super-soldiers trying to liberate the world from the Patriots (unfortunately for the world, this is planned via nuclear holocaust). Snake will always be assisted along the way, once by a FOXDIE virus covertly implanted into his body, and again by a mysterious Cyborg Ninja with a Patriot-designed exoskeleton. MGS4 is filled with subtext about how the Patriots' methods (re: sequels) are driving the world (and video game franchises) into the ground; the Beauty and the Beast Corps that Snake fights are grotesque mergers of previous bosses, with the animal names from MGS1, the weapons from MGS2, and the personalities from MGS3. All with a bit of too-disturbing-to-be-arousing T&A underneath.

In other news, have you seen the new Harley Quinn costume? Perhaps the Patriots have moved to reality, except they're interested in superhero comics instead of the military-industrial complex. At least Snake gets to rest in peace.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Our Love is Real by Sam Humphries and Steven Sanders; Funny as Chris-Chan, But Intentional!

"Five years after the AIDS vaccine....plantsexuals riot in the streets for equal rights. Humans fall in love with dogs. And crystals are more than just jewelry. A chance encounter on the job changes a riot cop's life forever as he finds himself caught in a bizarre love triangle that blurs romance, crime, and lust beyond recognition."

That summary should've sold you on this mini-comic, but if not, hopefully my recommendation will. Utterly hilarious stuff, provided you're not squeamish. Find out more Here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fear Itself #4: Taking a (Cold) One for the Team

While I've been entirely neutral about the main Fear Itself book, Marvel's once-again-obligatory crossover event gave us a great Iron Man scene yesterday. This is no surprise, as Fear Itself is written by Matt Fraction. However, Fraction gives Tony the opportunity to shine by having him stand up both to Odin the All-Father and his own alcohol addiction.

The scene is particularly bizarre, as it's technically Tony petitioning Odin for help saving the world. Since Odin is much more powerful than any of Earth's heroes (even Thor, the Odinson himself), this is a wise decision. But since Odin is so arrogant and has so little regard for humans, it was unlikely he would risk his own hide to help mortals, and might only do so if they showed complete submission.

So what does Tony do? Grabs a bottle of booze, sacrifices the sobriety he's kept for years in a single swig, and demands Odin help them now that he's shown the requisite loss of dignity.

Of course, Tony isn't actually submitting to the All-Father. He's making it clear that he has no respect for Odin and is only asking out of utter necessity. Instead, he's prodding at Odin's pride, even calling him a bully. The sacrifice of dignity is Tony jumping through the kinds of hoops Odin expects of everyone else, all the while satirizing Odin's need to bring others to his knees.

Tony also isn't sacrificing much by taking a drink. If anything, he's confronting what's been one of his worst Achilles' heels. There are many alcoholics that are able to overcome their problem to the point of being able to drink again in moderation. Tony isn't one of those, and even though he's been willfully* sober since his 1980s uber-binge. Yet the policy of complete and utter abstinence hasn't worked too well for him, as writers have taken every opportunity to show how he still thirsts. Fraction himself addressed this in the .1 issue, showing how Tony compensates for his alcohol addiction by indulging in his sex addiction. At least Tony can't crash his Iron Man suit into a bus load of school children under the influence of having blown his wad, but he's still maintaining an addictive personality and feeding his alcoholism through total abstinence.

it was only a matter of time before Tony relapsed, given his thirst; Obadiah Stane ruined Tony by prodding at this weakness, and Justine Hammer sent Tony a bottle through mail in the hopes of repeating this plan. But though Tony may be drunk now, this doesn't mean he's off the wagon. In fact, it may mean that he'll be able to control his addiction, rather than simply deny it. Just because he's not submitting before a higher power (Literally!) doesn't mean he'll once again be a hopeless drunk.

Well played, Mr. Fraction.

* Excluding instances where he was supernaturally forced to drink, such as when the AI VOR/TEX stole his body

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Oh wait, you're not kidding.

Look, I'm no stranger to having fan preferences and making online complaints when those preferences aren't met (though I try to distinguish between what's personal preference and what's genuinely a loss of depth in the comics, and only act on the latter), but trying to organize a live protest? As in, people dragging their asses to SDCC to whine about DC changing "their comics" while thinking themselves as important as the Tiananmen Square Tank Man?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Holy Terror: Frank Miller vs. The Islamic World

More Of Frank Ruining His Legacy

I like this quote;

“My guy carries a couple of guns and is up against an existential threat. He’s not just up against a goofy villain. Ignoring an enemy that’s committed to our annihilation is kind of silly. It just seems that chasing the Riddler around seems silly compared to what’s going on out there. I’ve taken Batman as far as he can go.”

Does it really matter if he's using sub machine guns, Bat-Shark-Repellent, or poison-tipped Batarangs (a la All Star Batman and Robin)? It's still blunt physical force, and it's still largely irrelevant against what Miller himself calls an existential threat.

This isn't in any better taste than publishing a graphic novel right after 9/11 where the actual Batman fights Al Qaeda. Just because you filed off the Dark Knight's serial numbers and gave him handguns doesn't mean you're doing anything more than one-dimensional propaganda.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

RIP Gene Colan :(

Legendary Marvel artist Gene Colan passed a couple of days ago, at the age of 84. I met him briefly at San Diego ComiCon in 2001, when I was still a punk teenager. He was a very nice man and seemed pleased that I was aware of his artwork on Iron Man. Though I imagine most 16-year-old boys wouldn't have been aware of those classic old issues, it would be years before I became aware of the breadth of his career.

Gene Colan had one of the most illustrious careers in comics, starting back when Marvel was still called Timely. At Marvel, he helped bring their fledgling superhero universe to life. His contributions included the early Daredevil comics, the creation of the Falcon (one of the first African-American superheroes, and a mainstay in the universe to this date), a large part of Steve Gerber's Howard the Duck series, and the entirety of Tomb of Dracula. All of this was drawn in his sharp, fluid, value-intensive style.

What I want to focus on, though, is his final Marvel work; a flashback WW2 Captain America story written by Ed Brubaker. When I saw this, it didn't look like the Gene Colan comics of which I was familiar, due to the unique mix of graphite and watercolor. But it was just as beautiful as any of his earlier works. It was a dark, atmospheric style suited to a dark, atmospheric story involving Captain America and Bucky being besieged by vampires. Not only was Colan an extremely talented artist but he was able to continue learning, growing, and reinventing himself, even as he approached his final days.

God bless you, Gene, and rest in peace. :(

Thursday, June 23, 2011

TVTropes Gives Me Bigoted Backhanded 'Praise'

Every day I go to TV Tropes, and every day I look to see if there've been edits to the Ruby's World page. Usually there aren't, so I was excited to see that somebody had catalogued some new tropes in relation to my comic. However, some of the the tropes added were offensive, and not for their dismissal of my talents. I quote directly from the YMMV section;

"Better Than It Sounds: Anybody who's trolled around the internet for long enough is no stranger to mentally handicapped people doing stories revolving around their aspie fixations with art that looks like it was done by somebody in grade school. That such a thing could be well-written, even thought-provoking and emotionally moving, is something else altogether."

Putting aside the insult towards my art (which I don't think is fair, because unlike Chandler I don't plagiarize and actively work to improve my draughtsmanship and my visual repertoire), I find the comparison between me and Christian Weston Chandler to be appalling PERIOD. This is the webcomics equivalent of Godwin's Law. And I've been compared to the being of unfathomable patheticness because A.) I am also on the autism spectrum and B.) also do a webcomic. The praise at the end is a backhanded compliment, because it suggests that I shouldn't be able to write anything good because of my apparent mental handicaps.

Given how much of Ruby's World is about the value of the individual experience due to the way the individual uses the hand life deals them (no matter how crappy), and given the explicit anti-ableist references I've made in the comic, it seems the person who added that trope didn't glean anything from my work. Apparently the value to my comic is in spite of my neurology, and is not informed by it.

Jesus, people, if you want to say "Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad" to me, say it. Don't insult everyone on the spectrum in doing so, and FOR GOD'S SAKES DON'T USE CHRIS-CHAN AS YOUR STEREOTYPE OF AUTISM.

X-Men First Class Movie Review: Magneto Roolz, Charlie Droolz

X-Men: First Class was easily the finest Marvel movie I've ever seen, and probably the finest superhero movie (eclipsed only by Dark Knight, but at least First Class was unmolested by Christian Bale's goofy-ass growling) ever made. The difficulties with the film's production allowed director Matthew Vaughn and his crew to create a Marvel movie liberated from almost all of the cliche hollywood narratives, and gave us a superhero movie that actually had something important to say.

At its heart, the film is the story of the how X-Men's two key philosophers met,i.e. Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) and Erik "Magneto" Lensherr (played by Michael Fassbender). As expected from a movie about Xavier and Magneto, the story shows them drifting apart as their ideologies prove incompatible. But while the comics and the previous movies left the Xavier/Magneto equation as a matter of good vs. evil, X-Men: First Class shows us that Xavier is just as flawed as Magneto, and both men are equally victim to their hubris.

No punches are pulled in showing how different--and better-- Charles' youth was from Erik's. While Erik grew up in Auschwitz and saw his mother brutally murdered, Charles grew up in a mansion, and met a young mutant girl (Raven Darkholme/Mystique, played by Jessica Lawrence) to relieve him of his poor little rich boy angst. And while Erik spent his young adult hood hunting down Nazis in a quest to find the man who shot his mother, Charles went to Oxford, used his telepathic powers and knowledge of mutation to whore around, and kept the admiring adult Raven firmly in the friend zone (which he claimed was due to their childhood together, but was more likely motivated by his repulsion at her true, blue form; unlike Raven, Charles has no struggle trying to pass). Charles got the advantages of being a mutant without the drawbacks, and he didn't even appear to have the telepathic angst caused by stray thoughts.

The two men eventually meet when they end up facing a common enemy-- Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon), who not only was the Nazi doctor who killed Erik's mom in an attempt to trigger his powers, but is using his Hellfire Club connections and mutant posse to try and heat up the Cold War. From there the two men instantly bond, and with the help of the CIA and agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne, playing a much different character than the comic version and her Scottish brogue), they start assembling young mutants. Of course, the more they get to know each other, the more they end up drifting apart, and the conclusion is tragic (though inevitable, given that this is a prequel).

Shaw makes an excellent villain because of the singularity of his vision and the lack of morals getting in his ways (as he did ally himself with the Nazis). But though neither Charles or Erik are as outright evil as Shaw, they both fall victim to their singular perspectives without trying to consider the other one's opinions. Note that the founding of the X-Men could not have been done without Erik-- Erik pushed to keep the CIA out of their affairs (while Charles would have cooperated), and Erik got Xavier to train the students for combat (Charles would've just taken them back to their homes, even for the ones whose homes were jails or strip clubs). Also note that Magneto doesn't become truly powerful until he embraces Xavier's motto that true focus lies between rage and serenity. When the two men cooperate, they can achieve virtually anything because they compensate for each other's weaknesses. It's when they become enemies that both end up being a detriment to mutantkind.

That's right, I said both. Vaughn's movie and McAvoy's performance give form to an idea that until recently many X-Men writers have simply danced around-- the idea that Xavier truly is holding mutantkind back. As we see in the movie, Xavier's idea of peace means teaching mutants to pass for human. He encourages Raven to maintain a regular blonde, Caucasian appearance, cooperates with government agencies that clearly want to enslave and/or terminate mutants (even if it's just starting as registration, as Erik points out), and advocates Erik against killing the former Nazi Shaw. He will use his powers to brainwash when necessary for survival, but that just makes him hypocritical. For Charles, the goal isn't "mutant and proud" so much as "you're a mutant? I hardly noticed".

Magneto's actions are similarly misguided, and definitely more destructive due to his extremist bent. Yet he's still more sympathetic than Xavier, because he actually knows what homo superior will have to face. Similar to Mystique, the audience finds him more appealing because he's fighting not just for mutantkind's survival, but also for mutantkind's individuality. Chris Rosa of Meltdown Comics got me excited about this film by telling me that Fassbender played Erik similar to Big Boss/Naked Snake of the Metal Gear Solid games, and the comparison is apt. As corrupted as both characters would later become, we see exactly what traumas put them on this path and sympathize with their perspectives, even if we can't condone their actions.

In many ways, this is a spiritual prequel to the modern X-Men comics. Grant Morrison's X-Men tried to resolve a dilemma similar to the one posed in First Class by having BOTH Xavier and Magneto prove obsolete. The way he portrayed Magneto's decline was a bit less subtle (if you can call getting high on drugs and genocide subtle, though I'd argue that it was a necessary point), but Morrison also demonstrated Xavier's impotence by having all the mutant cultural revolutions happen outside of his control. Keep in mind that the Xavier who outed the X-Men was actually his evil alien twin using his body; once the real Xavier returns, he finds himself a mere observer to a world far more complex than he could imagine. Yet that world was there all along, when the X-Men were playing superhero to appeal to the human masses while retreating to the gilded cage that is Xavier's Mansion during their off hours. This makes the X-Men's Utopia an inevitable response to a multicultural world*, allowing the new culture their own space to create their own society.

I could go on about the other details of the film, such as the specific actors' performances or the bizarre choices of characters, but the overall story was so great that complaining about small details** feels like a fanboyish waste of time. Highly Recommended.

* No matter how much of a douchepocalypse their president-for-life may be.
** I will note without reservation that the treatment of Darwin was angering, reducing one of the most charismatic of the new recruits to minority cannon fodder.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Learning Social Skills with Solid Snake

Metal Gear Solid is infamous for its many repeated quirks, including rampant fourth wall breakage, high proportions of cutscenes, rampant homo-eroticism, and coaxing tears out of even the most masculine gamers' eyes. One of the most prominent quirks is protagonist Solid Snake's tendency to echo whatever is being said to him, repeating the most significant proper noun of the previous statement as a question. The most obvious example occurs whenever the titular Metal Gear robot is mentioned, in which Snake will say, "Metal Gear?!"

This can be annoying, but it's also a valuable conversation-maintenance tactic that can be applied to real life. By repeating the subject of the other person's conversation, Snake demonstrates that he was listening to what they were saying. He also fills in what otherwise would have been an awkward pause had he not spoken up. And by phrasing it as a question, he shows to the other person that he's interested in what they're saying and wants to hear more. Since almost everybody likes to be asked questions, they won't scrutinize the fact that Snake isn't contributing much to the conversation himself (unless he's making some poetic speech about the battlefield, in which case you listen because it's Snake).

Snake is not only a master of CQC, but he demonstrates with elegant simplicity an uncanny understanding of the dynamics of conversation.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dear Rebooted Superman

You've got your costume on inside-out. The trim goes on the inside. A Man of Tomorrow should be able to figure this out.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gail Simone Talks Batgirl, and why Able-Bodied is Better

In light of the online controversy regarding the new, seemingly able-bodied Batgirl series, Gail Simone gave an interview with Newsarama blogger Jill Pantozzi (who wrote a wonderful essay about the importance of the paraplegic Oracle's merits, as an inspiration for her own life and physical challenges). Simone was nice enough to respond to Pantozzi's article with an interview; however, while Simone was limited by her inability to divulge spoilers about the new title, she made comments that betray her responsibilities not only to represent people with disabilities, but to tell a good story respecting the intelligence of the readers.

While Simone remains civil in the Interview, her arguments for the able-bodied Barbara Gordon Batgirl use the worst tendencies of modern DC Comics as an excuse for retconning Barbara's spine back-- in other words, saying that "everyone else is jumping off a cliff, so I might as well too". She mentions various resurrections and magical "healings" as reasons why erasing the spinal damage done by the Joker's bullet should be acceptable...

"For newsworthiness, well, I just took a look the top sales charts for Marvel and DC, and it's unavoidable...the stories that the readers support in large numbers are nearly all in the middle of storylines that were considered completely unthinkable at one point; Hal Jordon replacing Kyle Rayner, Bucky returning from the dead, Jason Todd returning from the dead, Johnny Storm dying, Dick Grayson as Batman, Bruce Wayne dying, Barry Allen returning as the Flash, on and on and on. To some, these are all stunts, but they have been executed brilliantly and I strongly suspect many will be among the best-remembered stories of their respective runs.'s open to strong debate wether or not these are brilliant stories. Even the ones that were executed brilliantly have their problems; for example, having Batman's death be explicitly temporary from day one undermined what little drama superhero comics retain. But as Simone continues to dodge the issue, she tries to give plot-related reasons to remove Oracle that sidestep the disability issue...

"A lot of readers and a lot of editors had a story problem with Oracle, in that she made for such an easy, convenient story accelerator, that we missed the sense of having characters have to struggle to discover, to solve mysteries. Famously, it helped make Batman less of a detective and more of a monster hunter."

So don't use her as a convenient story accelerator. Just because you can use a character's skills as a deus ex machina doesn't mean you have to. And it gets especially more damning when she tries to divide the opinions of PWD advocates...

"But I want to get this out really quickly, it's about the myth of monolithic opinion. It's been sort of simply accepted that there's this block of disabled folks who are against this idea, en masse, and I do have to say quickly that that's not the case. There has always been a vocal minority of PWD [people with disabilities] who wanted to see Babs healed and out of the chair, always. It started out a tiny minority but it did get larger as the years went on. Again, I don't want those people to be forgotten. Even with some PWD advocacy groups, the response has always been mixed. I feel like I have to represent that group as well, here. It's a much smaller group, as far as I can tell, however. "

I've encountered people, even people with disabilities who want to see Babs healed and out of the chair. I tend not to see them as people whose opinions are worth acknowledging. Their opinion is rooted in escapist wish fulfillment, trying to imagine a world where disabling injuries can be magically healed. That's all well and good, but if you find your own challenges such a curse, escaping in the adventures of a character who does get her legs back isn't going to solve shit. It's just a soma that, instead of letting you contextualize your own experience through fiction and receive a greater understanding, simply gives you a brief distraction from reality.

A major reason many people (myself included) like Oracle is because she's one of the few superhero characters who is legitimately handicapped with no tie-in superpowers. She doesn't have super-compensating senses like the blind Daredevil, or super-powered artificial limbs like the disfigured Cyborg. She is in a wheelchair, and all of her activities have to be done from that chair. The way she negotiates life and ethics from a place of severe physical and societal limitations is inspiring, and as Jill Pantozzi expressed, serves as a role model in the best ways.

But then, this is the straw on my metaphorical hump...

"Role model or not, that is problematic and uncomfortable, and the excuses to not cure her, in a world of purple rays and magic and super-science, are often unconvincing or wholly meta-textual. And the longer it goes on, the more it has stretched credibility."

Of course it's meta-textual, it's a fucking story. If you take continuity literally, you can use said purple rays and magic and super-science to solve all problems. You just pull out whatever deus ex machina you want and erase the conflict, thus erasing the drama. Again, this makes fiction into an escape, not a catharsis. Instead of creating a world to reflect and better understand our own, you're just creating a virtual reality that people can cower to when actual reality is too hard.

Simone goes on to talk about how she's always loved Batgirl, and how she's always wanted to write Barbara as Batgirl, and how being shot by the Joker was her motivation for starting the Women in Refrigerators project. She also says that she was impressed by the writers who made Barbara stronger person from being in the chair, and didn't want to take away the character she became through that adversity. But that appears to be exactly what she's doing, otherwise she wouldn't need to get on the defensive. No matter how great the character became in Birds of Prey, under the hand of Simone, Dixon, and others, it means nothing because the nostalgia for the character in the less-than-serious 60's show is paramount. Yes, Barbara's transition to Oracle came from a Fridging in The Killing Joke, where she was shot by the Joker just to make him look more evil. But does that mean the 20 years of the character since then have been for nothing?

Simone has become an excellent writer not just for her skills, but for her acknowledgement that the world of superheroes is full of perspectives beyond the majority, just like our own. This feels like a betrayal, because it sure sounds like she's erasing one of those perspectives to go back to a fantasy FROM the minority.

It doesn't matter that this is Barbara's first solo ongoing series, because if her mobility is fully restored and her experiences are washed away, she's just yet another supermodel in tights, and tights borrowed from a male character at that. When you remove the adversity, you remove the conflict, and you remove the meaning gained.

Monday, June 6, 2011

DC and Batgirl Walk To The Bank?

As part of DC's latest attempt to solve their continuity problems via increasingly convoluted reboots, Batgirl returns in a new series written by Gail Simone (who handled the character for years in her excellent Birds of Prey run). It's been confirmed that the new Batgirl is Barbara Gordon, who originally had the role but gave it up after being shot by the Joker, which left her in a wheelchair (and prompted her to become Oracle, Batman's tech-guru, founding member of the Birds of Prey, and a much more interesting character).

I don't want to jump to conclusions, so I'm hoping the speculation that this is Barbara Gordon in a high-tech Batgirl armor that gives her prosthetic locomotion is correct. In that case, it's a progression of the character, putting her back on the frontlines but still making it clear that she's disabled, and still has to cope with the physical and psychological challenges posed by her handicap (especially since she'd still have the memories and associated PTSD of being gruesomely shot by the Joker, one of the most horrifyingly sadistic villains in fiction). Walking via robot suit isn't a substitute for having working legs, especially since Barbara wouldn't be in the costume 24/7. She'd lose the symbolism of being DC's full-time wheelchair character, but if there was a compelling reason for her to take up crimefighting, it could work.

However, if this is just rebooting Barbara back to being an able-bodied superheroine (albeit an inferior distaff counterpart to Batman, with the patronizing codename "BatGIRL" despite being over 18 years old), then it's incredibly insulting. It's insulting to readers with physical and/or mental handicaps who can't retcon away their challenges. It's insulting to readers who enjoyed seeing the character progress into not only a prominent disabled character, but a genuinely interesting character thanks to the way the experience shaped her (as while Barbara was a super-genius, she was also capable of manipulating her friends for the greater good, a character trait that doesn't have anything to do with her handicap). And it's insulting to fans of Gail Simone to see that she doesn't respect the meaning fans drew from her work with Barbara, such as having the character appear to be magically cured only to have it be little more than the return of feeling to her toes (which Barbara coped with marvelously, choosing to be grateful for the little message that her limbs were still there).

Please let it be the former.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Toys R Us Devalues The Meaning Of Heroism

If you've been to Toys R Us in the past couple of years, as a parent getting something for your kids or as an adult collector getting toys for yourself, you've probably seen the Autism Speaks promotions they're doing. This pro-cure organization, the organization that takes money largely for abstract research and pharmaceutical studies** over helping actual people, asks TRU customers to donate to help "solve the puzzle". Thus, the experience of the autistic people themselves is marginalized, as we are just a puzzle to be solved, a weird disorder to be put before AS' metaphorical Dr. House so it may be cured and the normal person within us can be freed.

It always bugs the crap out of me when I'm asked to donate at the register, and since they've started doing their "be a hero for autism" advertising, it's especially aggravating. Because, as a fan of the superhero comics that have led me into the store even beyond the point when it was "age-appropriate", I tend to think that the hero label should be applied to those who undertake difficult tasks for a noble cause. Raising an autistic child, especially a severely handicapped one, is a difficult task, but it's how the parent copes with the task and treats their child that determines their heroism, not the simple fact that they have the burden. (Lord knows I've seen plenty of parents of autistic people who are assholes, as well as great parents like my own). And putting down a dollar when going to a toy store means absolutely nothing. You're not sacrificing anything by giving your pocket change to a faceless "nonprofit" so they can do the work for you while you hold onto a glimmer of self-aggrandization.

And the worst part is the fact that the cashiers who ask me these questions aren't to blame, because they're just doing their job. Otherwise I'd prepare for the inevitable "do you want to be a hero for autism" question by putting on my best Solid Snake voice, and growling, "I'm no hero. I'm just an old aspie brought out of retirement for some new transformers."

* Me being in the latter category, obviously.
** Yeah, I'm getting vibes from the third X-Men movie here. I SAY WE ARE THE CURE!!!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

You Will Believe A Nine-Foot Cyberneticized Irish-Jewish Girl Can Fly

By directing her generated energy downward, Ruby can propel herself into the air, sort of like a techno-organic counterpart to Iron Man's boot jets. She hasn't done this in canon until now, but I've been waiting to show this moment for a long time, and have even teased it in some of the images in my gallery. it.

I started out simply intending for Ruby to be big and strong, but that wouldn't have been enough power to make her the game-changer on the world stage. Hence the perpetual motion abilities lend themselves to a very diverse power set. That, and I think the pink energy is a cool visual.

In conclusion, I'm not just pulling new powers for the protagonist out of my ass.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Heroic Age And Its Discontents

One year ago, Marvel's big thing was the Heroic Age, returning to a place of heroes being heroes and villains being villains after years of Civil Wars and Dark Reigns. Today, this is giving way for Fear Itself, which so far has the Marvel Universe public returning to their usual state of apocalyptic panic and incompetent xenophobia. The age of the bright, cheery shared universe status quo is ending, in favor of Mighty Marvel chaos and trepidation.

And I, for one, am relieved by this development.

The Heroic Age reminded me of Civil War in the sense that the only good titles published under that banner were rebelling AGAINST the basic premise, wether intentional or not. When Civil War was going on, the framework set up by Mark Millar was so shoddy that every other writer ended up contradicting the original intention, as seen in stories where Iron Man is portrayed as an outright villain (which, to be fair, is the only thing you can do with the creator of Clor) instead of one of two morally relative sides, or stories where the heroes' attempts to capture actual wrong-doers are hobbled by bureaucracy and petty in-fighting. The Heroic Age doesn't suffer from the same problem in the sense that it's not a poorly built world-- the premise is pretty straightforward. The problem with the Heroic Age is that the setup is anti-dramatic.

Marvel's marketing of the Heroic Age was the kind of "everything's going to be alright" optimism seen during Obama's inauguration, and lost after reality set in. Because the Marvel Universe is fictional, the authors could convincingly sweep the recent past under the rug and move forward, as seen by Cyclops dodging any and all penalties for his sins in X-Force. But by the same token, peace and prosperity is NOT ideal for a fictional universe. Conflict is what motivates good drama, but the Heroic Age moved the Marvel Universe into a peacetime state, with the conflicts largely regressed back to isolated supervillain fisticuffs.

If this meant a return to books that were relatively self-contained with shared universe compatibility becoming optional, I would be all for the Heroic Age. But Marvel launched it as the new status quo for all the books. The new Director of SHIELD, a job whose occupant is required to appear in every Marvel book, is Steve Rogers. Since his reputation makes Abraham Lincoln look like a child pornographer, he'll never be caught doing the kinds of morally dubious things Nick Fury and Tony Stark had to do (and which gave Norman Osborn a hard-on). His Avengers are basically every hero under the sun, pro-registration and anti-registration alike (though that issue's been removed). And his enmity with Tony Stark was resolved in Avengers Prime, which amounted to an Asgardian adventure making Tony beg for forgiveness (despite having a good case for pro-registration, random acts of evil like Clor aside), and Steve forgiving him.

The X-Men's DeciMation dilemma was resolved, but in a half-assed way that swept the issue of the limited mutant population under the rug and exonerated Cyclops for unforgivable sins-- note how Steve Rogers doesn't seem to know about X-Force, the Legacy Virus strain in Secret Invasion, or other war crimes. Their first Heroic Age story basically ignored the hard questions and had them fight vampires, offering little more than inconsequential fight scenes and Twilight-bandwagoning*. Daredevil's descent into fanaticism would have been justified by what he'd been through and what the heroes had conveniently forgotten, but it turned out that it was just a demon using him as a meat-puppet. And the Secret Avengers' first mission (not sure about their later ones) hardly fit the tone that black ops requires, instead having them fight villains on Mars. As Ellis put it (IIRC), it's secret because nobody cares.

The books that have been genuinely compelling in the Heroic Age have been the ones questioning this optimism. Avengers Academy is the best example, because it deals with the kids traumatized by Norman Osborn's experiments, and has them counseled by the Avengers with the most baggage of their own. Captain America has made a big deal about how Bucky can't escape his past, especially when standing next to a living Steve Rogers. And the new X-Force, with Wolverine leading a team of hardened anti-heroes instead of child soldiers, openly acknowledges that some situations will require resolutions that can't be seen in the Heroic Age. Of course, these are all stories going against the nature of the Heroic Age's naive optimism. They're saying, don't let the bright marketing fool you-- the life of a hero still casts shadows.

What's been the most interesting example of the Heroic Age's tension is Stark Resilient, the first post-lobotomy story by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca. Thanks to erasing his brain (and the Registration Database with it), Tony doesn't remember any of his Civil War-era sins. But he's pieced together what he's done, and has almost completely stepped out of the military-industrial complex that informs modern superhero stories. Not only has he retired from his role as all-seeing police chief a la Major Zero**, but he's given up trying to engage in conflict unless provoked. His goal is to win wars preemptively by eliminating reasons for conflict, be it with the repulsor batteries threatening to replace oil, or by creating new jobs in the rebuilding of Asgard. Unfortunately, his engagement with the bad guys has gone beyond self-defense and towards an obstructive pacifism, as he simply tries to avoid conflict rather than resolving it (as seen by his show of faux-groveling in the Doc Ock story). He'll have to once more learn that sometimes force is a necessary solution, and that some enemies can't be coaxed with the promise of an improved quality of life.

Still, it's preferable to slugging vampires.

*Thank God Jubilee lost her original mutant powers, otherwise she'd be a Sparkling Vampire.

** If you've played Metal Gear Solid 4, you know just how well this comparison fits.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sonichu Episode 15 Critical Review Part Two: Compulsory Monogamy

Let's Do The Time Warp Again

As if the Family Guy "Skitch" wasn't terrible enough, here we have Christian Weston Chandler's adventure through the "glory days" of high school, joined by his "sweet friend" Megan and his plagiarism prototype Bionic the Hedgehog. And if there's one thing that comes of this voyage through time and space, it's Chris-Chan's ability to play matchmaker for his forgotten electric hedgehog, while lamenting his own isolation.

At the opening of the chapter, Bionic has been on a date with Megan's furry companion, Megagi La Skunk. Megagi, a creation of the real Megan Schroeder, is distinct from any of Chandler's hedgehogs; not only is she a different species, but she has a punk-influenced look that sets her apart from Chandler's hyper-feminized Rosechus. Of course, the pink stripes and spiked bracelets don't keep her from being dragged into Chandler's interpretation of adult relationships, where things progress in a linear fashion that invariably results in sex on the third date. Megagi ends up just as obsequious as the other Rosechus, with any potential for individually stripped away so none of Chandler's hedgehogs "feel"* alone.

But this mechanically depraved form of cartoon animal sex is what Chris-Chan desires, and he whines over the fact that he can't get with Megan. She sees him about to cry and offers some moral support, which immediately perks up his mood. Megan is impressed by Chris-Chan's 180 degree mood shift, even thinking to herself that he has a "Goku-get-'em" attitude. Yes, she actually says that under Chandler's pen.

You know how many great writers recommend that aspiring authors listen to real people's conversations? Christian Weston Chandler's dialogue proves the merits to this statement. Because of Chandler's infamous contempt for anything outside his own experience, he gives everyone the same awkwardly melodramatic and childish lines. They make references that come out of nowhere and often don't fit the character-- even if Megan is an anime fan, it's highly unlikely she'd make a DBZ reference in her inner monologue about her feelings (however made up) for a man. Humor is infused so randomly that it doesn't even reflect what people might actually find funny. And nothing is ever dishonest or understated, because every character wears their heart (at whatever level of shattering) on their sleeve.

If we were to consider Sonichu as an intentionally terrible work, though, this would fit into the world's magical realism. This is a voyage into the mind of a depraved man-child, raised almost exclusively by television and video games. Everyone, even the designated antagonists, speaks in his over-the-top, reference-saturated vernacular. And if Sonichu is intentionally terrible, then it's a masterpiece on the level of anything to come from Alan Moore's wooly head.

Oh, and there's some plot about time travel and making sure that history stays on track, but clearly Chandler didn't care enough about it to have the plot make sense. So why should we?

* And it's documented that Chandler actually believes that these characters are real people, albeit in an alternate dimension a la Roger Rabbit. His concern for their welfare overrides any interest in making them interesting to the audience.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sonichu Critical Review, Episode 15 Part 1: OWWW, MY AXELS

Lucky There's A Family Guy

I'm breaking up the Sonichu review again because as the comic gets worse and worse, there's more to talk about. In this case, I'm discussing the Family Guy "Skitch"* he single biggest failure in Sonichu from a craft standpoint. There are plenty of sequences that are more unoriginal, pathetic, and/or outright depraved. However, Christian Weston Chandler's Family Guy Skitch fails hardest at what it set out to do. While most of Sonichu can be classified as drama that is unintentionally hilarious, this is Chandler's attempt at comedy-- and it fails miserably.

In the middle of Chris-Chan's adventure through his high school years, our protagonist says "I feel as silly as the time I temporarily gained weight, became stupid, and went to watch TV at Ghost Command". He then gives Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane a sketch involving Sammy, a man with Peter Griffin's corpulent frame** but Chris-Chan's clown-striped wardrobe. When looking for the bathroom at the headquarters for the Filmation Ghostbusters (not related to the Ghostbusters people actually remember and care about), Sammy apparently falls down an elaborate chute, goes through a sequence that's omitted for being "too gross and silly", and falls on the Ghost Buggy, who screams "OWW, MY AXELS" in pain.

Okay, where do I begin...

1.) When Family Guy's humor works, it works because it happens so swiftly***. Without any meaningful narrative structure or coherent character arcs, MacFarlane's show relies on one wacky joke after another. The "remember the time I" vignettes take you completely off guard, making them feel more humorous due to their random nature. Chandler, on the other hand, takes several pages setting the joke up. He makes clear distinctions between him and "Sammy", makes it clear that he's pitching this to MacFarlane, and has several panels which are just Sammy walking down the halls with no apparent comedic value.

2.) Family Guy has become famous/infamous for obscure references, but even its most arcane joke doesn't go further than cult classics. The Filmation Ghostbusters is a show that is all but unknown, lingering in the dollar DVD bins of department stores, and only seeing the light of day when a parent needs to shut their child up for cheap. The Ghostbusters movies, and their subsequent cartoons, are the ones people actually remember, and actually have been spoofed by Family Guy. Of course, Chandler's fanboyism leads him to stick to his "Real" Ghostbusters when the rest of the world has moved on, even if it makes his joke irrelevant.

3.) If you say "Scene Omitted, Too Gross and Silly", you're telling, not showing. This only works if you have some kind of clear suggestive imagery, giving the audience something to go on. Chandler just uses this blurb because he can't be bothered to draw what's gross and silly, and because he assumes that we'll take his word for it.

4.) "Oww, My Axels" is....I don't even know what it is, just that it's not funny.

5.) At the end of the skitch, Sammy convenes with Chris-Chan, asking his creator if he can keep his new wardrobe. Chris-Chan approves, and lets Sammy know that his medallion is not the original Sonichu Medallion, and has special writing on the back to clarify it as an officially licensed variant. Why Chandler is so hung-up on maintaining copyrights to his work is a mystery, given how all his work is plagiarized. Furthermore, it's another case of Chandler assuming that the rest of the world cares about the same things he does, even though he has little to no interest engaging with the rest of the world.

If you were trying to create a method of child raising that would result in Christian Weston Chandler (and you'd have to be a complete and utter monster to do this), using his influences is only part of the story. You also have to consider everything he's willfully ignored, and keep that from the subject. The Skitch is a Family Guy-style gag filtered through Chandler's limited experience, without any knowledge or interest in the outside world and what they find funny.

*Chandler not only doesn't bother to spell sketch right, but he mangles Seth MacFarlane's name, the very guy to whom he is allegedly pitching this sequence.
** And yes, Sammy is a closer approximation to what Christian Weston Chandler actually looks like than his svelte author avatar. Or to put it the way Audiobook Narrator dethchemist did, "We see that Chris is indeed fat and stupid".
*** He's also become fond of absurdly long and repetitive gags, a fondness that seems increasingly exclusive to MacFarlane himself. But even those are more focused than Chandler's writing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Thor's Discs= Kirby's Genius

After blogging about heavier subjects, I wanted to talk about something a bit more enjoyable. So let us discuss one of the omnipresent visual markers of one of Marvel's most beloved characters; the discs on Thor's shirt.

If you were asked to describe the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby interpretation of the Norse God of Thunder, the first things that might come to mind would not be those shiny discs on his manly chest. You'd certainly mention the hammer, the long glam-rock blonde hair, the winged helmet, or the cape. You might even discuss the symbols of his mortal identity, how his hammer turned into a gnarled walking stick when used by his mortal self of Dr. Donald Blake. But you probably wouldn't think of the discs. They'd come in last in your description, if at all.

Yet the discs have been included in every major iteration of Thor. Not only did the original costume endure for three decades without a change, but all the major updates* include these circles. This includes the Heroes Reborn look, the King Thor costume, the current Coipel costume, and the upcoming movie outfit. Even Ultimate Thor, who discarded or modified every other piece of Marvel Thor iconography, kept the discs on his leather outfit.

The late Jack Kirby had a simple, clean style, but his costumes tended to be ornate and unusual. It is a testament to his genius that his characters looked impressive instead of silly. This was especially noteworthy in his DC titles; Mister Miracle had his red-yellow-and-green ensemble, OMAC mixed bright blue and orange with the world's mightiest mohawk, and Darkseid hosted a short skirt and long boots worthy of a schoolgirl hentai. But none of them looked stupid under Kirby-- his stylings were so dynamic and energetic that he made the costumes work. And he also gave us characters of elegant simplicity like Black Panther, Silver Surfer, the Thing, and Captain America.

Thor, however, is more the former than the latter. The discs on his shirt serve no clear purpose; they're not even a clear symbol like the Superman "S" or Captain Marvel's thunderbolt. There's already a "T" symbol on Thor's belt, which under most artists would be enough. But the discs provide a nice disruption of the monotony; their shiny nature contrasts well with the black of Thor's tunic. And the six discs are arranged in perfect symmetry. It's both aesthetically comfortable and impressive, and served as the perfect look for an Asgardian Thunder God.

The discs become the kind of iconography that seems so perfect that you think you should have thought of it. But you didn't. Nobody did except Kirby. It's yet another proof of his unparalleled ability.

* Excluding the short-lived leather look from the Messner-Loebs run, which most of us would likely rather forget.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Black Panther The Unfulfilled, Brain-Damaged Badass: Guest Post By Omar Karindu

(The latter is taken with permission from Omar Karindu, who wrote this during one of our PM exchanges at Alvaro's. Since it is both a great essay and ties well into the blog's overall themes, I asked if I could share his work.)

I've probably said this before in one of our exchanges, but the mentality at the IM board can also be found at the Black Panther and (especially) Superman boards. There are also a few Batman fans around the world who behave the same way; some of them even seem to end up writing at DC. Certain kinds of characters seem to come from a place of privilege -- framed initially as physically or mentally "unbeatable," with high-status jobs or massive wealth -- and that attracts a type of fan who wants an unreflective power fantasy. This is especially unfortunate for Superman, given the wonderful way his early adventures positioned him as a genuine hero of the underprivileged with a very progressive agenda for the times.* The superhero at its inception is a utopian fantasy, even if we need to deconstruct that fantasy in order to get real meaning and social value from it.**

Our discussion at the IMMB also made me turn back to to Priest's Panther run, partly because the board's reaction to T'Challa briefly outwitting Stark smacked of not only what we've been discussing, but a host of unfortunate implications tied to American forms of white privilege. Looking at it now, I wonder if Priest's run deserves even higher estimation than I gave it at the time it was first published: prior to issue #50, when Executive Meddling derailed the title, it's actually a striking example of the deconstruction you mention -- T'Challa behaves like the omnicompetent, stoic, and secretive superhero type who is always ahead of the curve.

It doesn't bring him easy victories and a life of luxury. Instead, he pays dearly for it; when he decides to behave like an ubermensch, beyond the morality and concerns of his friends and allies, he doesn't get the easy forgiveness Bruce Wayne endlessly receives. Instead, he suffers serious, lasting physical consequences and, more importantly, loses his moral compass entirely and ends up butchering a teenaged girl in what amounts to a political misunderstanding. One of the running themes is that T'Challa fears this --at one point, Storm tells him his ill-considered reliance on stoicism threatens to turn him into another Magneto -- and by the end of he essentially has turned into a well-intentioned extremist/knight templar like Magneto because of his desire to control everyone else for their own good, and his refusal to show what he considers human weakness. The run as a whole is a sort of sideways commentary on the Batman-as-living-god take on "characters of privilege.****

Running that arc with the Panther does have some of its own Unfortunate Implications, of course. It may have worked better when Charlie Huston did it with Moon Knight. But Hudlin tended to make the character into little more than a race-lifted imitation of the fannish vision for white privilege characters I mentioned above, and I really don't think that's a solution any more than, say, the resort to forms of anticolonial violence that mirror colonial uses of violence has ever been a solution to colonialism.


* I may never forgive Whitney Ellsworth for his refusal to let Lois figure out the secret and react appropriately, maturely, and even heroically as Joe Siegel intended. 60 years later, that somewhat more egalitarian premise for their relationship been proven to work quite well.

** Boring, condescending lecture I give freshmen on utopia, please skip : not a road map to utopia, since super-powers don't really exist and simple force doesn't really work, but rather a fantasy image with which one can codify and express the values that we, in our world where eutopia is outopia, should aspire to more pragmatically. The vision of utopia is unattainable, but it also provides license to benign and progressive aspirations, license I think is necessary. Western culture's loss of the utopia as a genre -- almost none have been written since the early modern period -- is not necessarily a good thing. Utopian visions do need to be interrogated fiercely, however; part of their value is also that they invite such critiques, that utopian narratives require dystopian responses, which in turn require reconstructive utopianisms. in other words, dialectic. (Freshman lecture is now over.)

*** I can't remember if you'd already cited it, but if not you should add Priest's Panther to your list of characters who defy neurotypical norms; the character ends up with a brain aneurysm late in the run as part of the title's deconstruction of superhero tropes. In this case, it's a realistic consequence of the standard "underdog" superhero fight where Our Hero rallies from a savage beating and wins in the end.

***** David Foster Wallace did this so much better than anyone else. I miss him.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hal "Otacon" Emmerich, Metal Gear Solid's Autistic Hero?

Fictional characters on the autism spectrum are hard to find, and good characters in that category are almost non-existent. As autism has become more prevalent, we've seen it portrayed more often in the media, but those portrayals too often fall into the stereotypes, such as the damaged, volatile child unwittingly tearing apart his supportive family, or the emotionless polymath sociopath who can do horrible things without seeing a problem. There are very few autistic protagonists, or even supporting characters of a positive nature*.

Thus, many autistic people have found themselves speculating on which of their favorite fictional characters fit the spectrum, following the completely understandable need to see inspiring figures to fit into their own narrative world. Sometimes these fictional diagnoses are simple wish fulfillment that don't describe the diagnosed character at all, such as claiming that Severus Snape of Harry Potter has Asperger's Syndrome**. Others are much more accurate, such as Grant Morrison's in-universe speculation that Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four is autistic, and could (and should) be incorporated into canon.

An example of the latter is Hal "Otacon" Emmerich, Solid Snake's tech-guy sidekick in the Metal Gear Solid series of video games. Otacon's spectrum traits go beyond simply being a nerd, and put him squarely in the neuroatypical category. If you don't believe me, here's the evidence...


1.) Otacon's interests are (or were) so obsessive and insular that he missed the harsh realities attached. When he was introduced in the PSOne game, he was designing a Metal Gear unit because he wanted to make robots like he'd seen in anime. He was attached to that utopian sci-fi narrative, the kind where fantastical machines keep people safe. He was also completely oblivious to the fact that his creation was being used as a platform for nuclear missiles, until Snake bluntly spelled it out for him. Otacon's code-name is short for "Otaku Convention", and his desk is covered with little toys and posters. In another series, he might have been able to play out his fantasies and help the world with his giant robot fixation. In Metal Gear, of course, he became instrumental in the creation of the world's most devastating WMD.

2.) Otacon is extremely literal-minded. This is used with hilarious effect in the Snake campaign of Metal Gear Solid 2, where the good doctor tries to read Snake ancient words of wisdom upon saving his data (the way Mei Ling did in the previous game). Unfortunately, he completely misses the point of those famous quotes, and comes up with extremely bizarre interpretations after taking them at face value. The phrase "It's better to be first among roosters instead of last among bulls", according to Otacon, means that it's better to be a chicken because cows are subjected to alien cattle mutilations.

3.) Otacon is TERRIBLE at understanding his relationships. The extent to which he does not comprehend others' intentions (or his own, for that matter) leads to some of the most tragic scenes in a series known for its depressing tone. In MGS1, Otacon falls for Sniper Wolf, a bloodthirsty sniper and one of the terrorists holding him hostage. It is unlikely that she reciprocates beyond a show of basic decency (as he helped feed her dogs), but Otacon takes this mercy and uses it to fuel his childish crush. It's touchingly pathetic how fast-- and how hard-- he falls for Wolf, especially after her demise at the hands of Solid Snake. And we see it happen again in MGS4, when the morally ambiguous Dr. Naomi Hunter seduces Otacon so she can get data needed for a larger plan. The ease with which she manipulates him, saying all the right words about atoning for the sins of her science to create a quick emotional bond, is disturbing to watch when you know what she's up to.

The is explored in MGS2, where we learn about Otacon's past-- he was always socially isolated, and his sole companions were the family his father married-- his step-sister and step-mother. He became strongly attached to the former and even played house with her, despite the fact that she was five years old and he was a teenager (though Otacon had no salacious intentions spending so much time with the little girl-- he just wanted to experience family). Unfortunately, he was also "seduced"*** by his step-mother, which led to his father's suicide and Otacon subsequently running away from home. We don't hear much about the details other than Otacon's words (which are words of contrition, blaming himself for all of this), but it's unlikely that he understood what was going on at that point-- his inherent lack of social awareness facilitated all these tragedies.

There's also the fact that by far Otacon's strongest relationship is with Snake, as the two men work and live together, and even end up adopting a child in MGS4. The homoerotic subtext is so thick that it basically ends up as text, but it's not exactly clear if Otacon's feelings for Snake are romantic. He likely doesn't understand what he feels for Snake, other than the intensity of the connection. The sensitive nerd and the dour super-soldier end up having quite a bit in common, as seen in the "bad" ending**** of MGS1. Both are profoundly isolated human beings, even if Otacon's loneliness is more internalized than his lab-grown, shell-shocked veteran partner.

4.) Most importantly, Otacon is a complex and sympathetic character. As I said before, when autistic characters are shown in most fiction, they're shown in terms of stereotypes and plot devices. But Otacon grows and changes over the course of Metal Gear Solid, and provides a vital pillar of strength. He's the most genuinely decent character in the entire series, surpassed only by The Boss from the prequel MGS3. And The Boss is the series' messiah figure, so it's not really a contest.

When we first see Otacon, it's as a messy-haired, badly-dressed, bespectacled little dork . His first appearance is hardly auspicious, as he's wetting himself in terror when confronted by a crazed cyborg ninja. But he shows tremendous courage later in the game, taking full accountability for his part in Metal Gear's creation and risking his life to shut it down. In the second game, he's Snake's tech-guy and half of the anti-Metal Gear organization Philanthropy, working to destroy those robotic WMDs despite the risk to his personal safety. He's also become more attractive and well-dressed, though still a bit dorky looking. And by MGS4, Otacon has developed a rugged handsomeness that puts him square in Hot Scientist territory. Poor hygiene is a common trait in autistic people, but it's not an insurmountable habit-- Otacon proves this.

But most importantly, Otacon is by Snake's side during all these ordeals. Snake is the action hero of Metal Gear Solid, the one putting his life on the line at every turn. But Snake couldn't be anywhere near as successful without Otacon's support. In MGS4, Snake has prematurely aged due to his cloned physiology breaking down, and has only a few months left to live. Otacon's tech is the only thing allowing Snake to survive on the battlefield; the strength-boosting Octocamo suit was Otacon's invention, as were the vision-enhancing Solid Eye and the helper robot "Metal Gear Mark 2" (redeeming the machine's tainted name). But Otacon's greatest act comes at the end of the game, when the still-dying Snake is wondering what he has left to live for in the new world, and Otacon promises to bear witness to Snake's final days. Otacon refuses to let Snake die alone and unloved.

I doubt Hideo Kojima created Otacon with autism in mind, but if the autism label is attached to the character, it not only fits him but helps eradicate many of the negative stereotypes.

** There's no evidence for this in the books, other than Snape being a thoroughly repulsive human being-- and that's just proof that he's a repulsive human being, even if he didn't prove outright evil.
*** Otacon's words. But it's a clear case of rape, and one of the few instances where female-on-male rape is shown to be just as bad.
**** In which female love interest Meryl doesn't survive, and is replaced by Otacon as Snake's symbolic reason to keep on living.