A Defense of Nick Spencer From Someone Who Loves Captain America and Hates Hate

Yesterday morning I was mad about a thing that is becoming way too common in the comic book world: mainstream media and social media ganging up to spoil the hell out of new comics before they even hit the stores. Not one, but two books that were released yesterday, DC: Rebirth and Steve Rogers Captain America #1 were both liberally spoiled all over the place well before I had a chance to read either. I hate it when publishers send press releases to the media about their “events” because it means the surprise becomes a headline, and people who don’t read comics can complain loudly about it, and people who do read comics don’t get to discover the surprise they have devoted months, probably years, earning by reading the longer story leading up to it.

I know people have no respect for comic book readers. I know, to most people, I may as well say I really enjoy reading take-out menus. But the truth is I love comics more than any other entertainment medium. I buy lots of them every week. I spend probably twice on comics what I do on cable, movies and “real” books combined each month. The stories matter to me, and sometimes I kind of resent that the non-readers get the pay-off without the...well, I don’t want to say work, because reading comics is not (usually) a chore, but y’know.

It just sucks.

So that’s what I was mad about yesterday morning. But then something much, much worse happened.

As everyone on Earth, and probably on the space station, knows by now, the big final panel twist in Steve Rogers Captain America #1 is that he seems to now be an agent of Hydra. This reveal is many things: upsetting, shocking, intriguing, daring, confusing, and, dare I say, exciting? Because it is exciting. It’s exciting because it’s interesting. Do you know how many comics I read every month where almost nothing of note happens? A bunch, guys. A BUNCH!

It’s a shocking revelation because Steve Rogers is (obviously) the LAST person on Earth who should be Hydra! It’s the opposite of everything we know about Steve! How can this be?!

I have no idea. No one does except the creators, Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz, the editors, the higher-ups at Marvel and a few other people who understand and love the character of Steve Rogers. It is their actual jobs to protect this character’s integrity while also using him to tell an interesting story that people will enjoy reading. If you think Marvel as a company has no interest in preserving the legacy of Steve Rogers, you are not thinking straight.

The reveal, by the way, is not the much, much worse thing that happened.

When these sorts of things happen in comics, it usually sparks fun debates and discussions about how this crazy thing could possibly have happened. I expected people yesterday to offer their theories as to what was going on, to predict what would happen next, how the other characters will react to this shocking revelation, and to go back and try to find clues in past issues that may have tipped us off. That’s the sort of thing you usually do when a big crazy twist happens in your comics (or show, or book, or radio serial). It’s what makes being a fan of fiction fun!

That is not what happened yesterday (and today, and probably for a while after today). What happened was many, many fans went, for lack of a better word, berserk. I could not believe what I was seeing yesterday on Twitter. It was the kind of hateful, ignorant flaming that is typically reserved for a creator who dares to make a hero anything other than a straight, white male. The kind of hatred you might aim at, say, a black Captain America, a female Thor, a gay Iceman, or a team of female Ghostbusters. Just insane, ignorant (and I do mean ignorant because I would say a lot of these people were lacking good information) and, in some cases, threatening bile being spewed over a story that hasn’t even happened yet. Guys, we have NO IDEA what this story is going to be about.

Here are some things I saw.

1. Nick Spencer, Marvel, and anyone who defended Nick Spencer or Marvel (myself included) being accused of being anti-Semitic, racist, misogynist, or a white supremacist.

Guys. Come on. I shouldn’t even have to explain this, but you know we’re not supposed to be rooting for evil Hydra Steve Rogers, right? He’s a villain in this story. He works for Hydra (a fictional allegory for Nazis in the Marvel universe). Or does he? We don’t even know! But I lost count of the number of people who were outraged that Marvel would bastardize the creation of two Jewish creators and make him an evil Nazi (Hydra). I saw people tweeting at Disney, demanding that they fire the anti-Semitic writers at Marvel. Accusing Nick Spencer of being anti-Semitic, or racist or a misogynist, because he is writing a story where Hydra are the bad guys and somehow they have their greatest opponent on their side is JUST AWFUL. And DUMB.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the Jewish creators of Captain America who are being pointed to as the real victims in all of this, were not afraid of sensationalist storytelling. No comic book creators are. Because that’s what superhero comics are. They are cliff hangers and crazy twists and upsetting revelations and an unending battle between good and evil. You are making a LOT of assumptions here, fans, if you think Simon and Kirby would be in any way offended by this story.

2. Nick Spencer being accused simultaneously of “ruining Captain America forever” and of being a hack writer who was using recycled storytelling methods designed to “trick” readers.

Which is it? Either he’s just telling another dumb comic story that won’t matter at all, or he is a horrible monster who hates Steve Rogers and just wants to ruin him for everyone forever. OR...wait! I have thought of a third option! Nick Spencer is a very good writer who wants to tell an epic story he has been planning for over two years. Maybe he...loves the character of Steve Rogers? Maybe with this story, as Spencer says himself, “our intention and our hope is that in its own unique way, it reinforces what everybody already knows about Captain America, which is his power as a symbol and what that means. We are approaching it from a different angle, but I think it illuminates the character in a way that we’ve never seen before.” (source)

And this whole argument about Hydra Cap being a “trick.” A trick is a weird word for it. I saw a lot of people who were using this word, as in, “we KNOW it’s just going to be a trick and he won’t be evil forever. That’s not the POINT.” By “a trick” they mean the story will eventually bring us back to the Steve Rogers we all know and love. That’s not a trick. That is storytelling. That is a journey that a writer takes readers on. That is the very reason to read comics.

3. Other comic book creators and fans being harassed because they dared to defend Nick Spencer (or at least suggest that people wait a few issues before getting angry).

This was really hard to watch yesterday.

People were tweeting at Ed Brubaker, begging him to return to writing Captain America. Flattering, sure, but also very, very weird. Brubaker has not written for Marvel, or written a superhero book, in five years. Yesterday on Twitter, in a desperate attempt to get people to please stop barraging him with hate tweets about his pal Nick Spencer, he said he doesn’t even read superhero comics anymore.

Also...you guys know...that Ed Brubaker...reintroduced a beloved WWII Marvel hero as an evil assassin right? It was pretty controversial at the time. A lot of hate was directed at Brubaker over it. But it turned out to be a pretty excellent story told over several years. A really fascinating read with lots of twists and turns! Good stuff!

People were tweeting at other Marvel creators, informing them that they are dropping their (unrelated) books as an act of protest over this Captain America comic. That’s like not watching television anymore because Arrow sucked this season (note: it really sucked this season).

People were tweeting at Chris Evans for chrissakes! CHRIS. EVANS. As if he gives a shit! That guy does not read comics. This is mortifying behaviour, guys!

I love comics and the people who create them. I do not love all comics or all of the people who create them. There are a LOT of characters I love whose comics I, at various times, wasn’t reading because they didn’t interest me for one reason or another. These characters include Superman, Batman, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Daredevil, WINTER SOLDIER, the Avengers, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, The Flash, Green Arrow, the X-Men, and, yes, Captain America. And every other character. I really can’t think of a character where I have bought every issue of their comics uninterrupted. Still love those characters, though!

here are plenty of comics for everyone! It’s ok to not be into a storyline. It’s not ok to harass the writer/artist/editor of a story you don’t like, especially if the story has only just begun. It’s also not ok to harass people who liked the comic, or at least don’t like people harassing the people who made the comic. And it’s not ok to liberally label people as racists or misogynists. There are plenty of actual racists and misogynists out there who are just waiting for your hate!

4. #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend being somehow linked to this whole Hydra thing

This was maybe the most puzzling thing? The argument seemed to be that Marvel has insulted the fans by dismissing the idea, which had been trending on Twitter the day before this comic was released, that Steve Rogers should have a boyfriend (in the movies, I think, is mostly what people were looking for).

I was an active participant in that hashtag two days ago. I don’t think it would surprise anyone to learn that I think Steve and Bucky are crazy in love and should make out all over each other on screen. I have also long believed that comic book Steve is a self-loathing closeted homosexual and there is a lot of evidence to support this belief. So when people heard there was a big change coming for Steve Rogers in the comics, they started a fun hashtag. But, I mean...people know that comics aren’t made the day before they come out, right?

I saw people imply that “Marvel” had told fans that Steve Rogers couldn’t be gay or bisexual because that would tarnish his character (or something). “But he can be a NAZI (Hydra)??!!!” fans cried.

I don’t think Marvel said anything like this, by the way. Not two days ago while that hashtag was trending. Homophobic comic fans on Twitter? Sure. Yeah. Probably. Lots of them. But not Marvel. And anyway, there is no actual link between that hashtag, or the very real problem that there is almost no queer representation in mainstream superhero comics, movies, television shows, etc., and Nick Spencer’s Captain America comic. This Captain America story has nothing to do with any of that. It also has nothing to do with the movies, but that’s a whole other thing.

5. Quotes and scenes from the movies being used as evidence that this comic is ALL WRONG.

The movies are not the comics. The movies are separate from the comics. The comics have their own arcs. The comic characters are very different from the movie characters and have their own histories. Movies are self-contained stories. An issue of a comic book is one tiny part of an epic, serialized story.

It doesn’t really matter to me if this is the first comic you’ve ever read, or if you have been reading comics your whole life. I saw a lot of people on “my side” of the argument yelling about dumb new comic fans not knowing how comics work. That was maybe my own knee jerk reaction, sure, but I’m not an elitist who thinks people should read comics from birth or shut their dumb mouths with their uninformed opinions, and it would be very hypocritical if I was.

I don’t think people should come to a medium that we all love and explain how things should be done. I likened it yesterday to someone buying a condo next to a loud rock club and then complaining about the noise. Welcome to the cool neighborhood! We are happy to have you! But things get crazy here sometimes and we like it that way!

 

And this brings me to the thing that really broke my heart yesterday.

I love that the popularity of these movies has created so many new comic fans, and fans of the characters. I love that a LOT of these new fans are female. I’ve been pretty vocal about how exciting this is. I joined Tumblr last year and have been having a really nice time hanging out in the Captain America/MCU/Stucky fandom. I had found my tribe! If you’d told me ten years ago that one day I would be able to share my love of Winter Soldier with hundreds (thousands?) of (mostly) women on the internet in the near future I would have started building a time machine because that sounds awesome!

And I have been greatly enjoying the fanfic and the art and the gifs and the photos and the delightful nitpicking of every detail of the Captain America movies. I could talk about those movies all day! Sometimes I do! I understand the importance of fictional characters! I really, really do! These characters matter to me. Probably more than they should. You can ask my poor, exhausted husband.

And this is what was really heartbreaking about yesterday. What I saw was GamerGate levels of flaming and harassment, MRA style ignorance and blind hatred...and it was mostly coming from women.

I’ve been asking myself why this whole situation is bothering me so much. I’m good at ignoring drama on the internet. I’m used to comic fans being jerks online, quickly forming into an angry mob. But this time it was my people. My fandom. My gender. My tribe.

It was not a good feeling. I felt like Steve in Captain America: The Winter Soldier! I thought I had found a nice, supportive, loving fandom but it turns out a lot of them are not very nice people at all. I do not get in bed with belligerent, hateful people who spew threats at human beings. I am getting the hell out of this bed.

Nick Spencer has earned my trust. Sam Wilson Captain America, Standoff, The Fix, Superior Foes of Spider-Man (I haven’t read his Ant-Man comics yet. I should. I will). These are all great comics. If a writer I didn’t like had announced they were going to make Steve Rogers a villain for awhile, I might not be as thrilled. But I also probably wouldn’t buy the comic. And I would probably just be quiet about it. Because that’s what I do. ALL THE TIME. But usually I try things first, unless I just hate the writer based on their past work or personal behaviour.

Which brings me to my final point: Nick Spencer seems like a good dude. If you follow him on Twitter, you will see that he is very informed and vocal when it comes to American politics and current events. This makes him a pretty excellent fit for a Captain America series (or two). He also is not, I am pretty sure, a racist, a misogynist, an anti-semite, a homophobe, a right wing bigot, or a guy who hates Steve Rogers as a character and just wants to take him down. Here he is answering a question about Hydra as an allegory of some of the more current hate groups that exist in America today:

“We’ve obviously seen a lot of growth in white supremacist organizations and extreme nationalist groups in the U.S., certainly over the last eight years. And so I had to do the ugly research of what’s drawing folks into those groups. What’s driving recruitment?” (source)

What. A. Monster.

All I’m saying is, you have a choice to trust in Marvel and Nick Spencer and everyone else who is excited to bring readers this story and come along for the ride, or you can choose to ignore it and read something else. But the choice to loudly suggest that the creators of this book, or anyone who likes it, are advancing a white supremacist agenda (actual argument I saw repeatedly yesterday), or hate women (still trying to figure that one out...I mean, there is a lot of very real misogyny in comics. I’m not seeing it in this particular comic), or don’t love or understand Steve Rogers as a character (look, you can call me a racist or a misogynist, but do NOT come in here and suggest I don’t love Steve Rogers)...that is not the right choice.

That is being a bully. And Steve Rogers hates bullies.

Podcast - Epsiode 46: East Coast Comic Expo

It's the first ever Living Between Wednesdays road trip! Destination: Moncton, New Brunswick!

Ok, it wasn't much of a road trip. For one thing, we went on separate days in separate vehicles. For another, we really only hung out on Saturday night, after East Coast Comic Expo was over. But still!

This is a very chill episode, via Skype, because I was too tired to leave my house again after getting back. We talk about the many, many spoilers that have hit the internet for DC's Rebirth. We talk about Wonder Woman: Earth One, because we both finally got around to reading that this week. We talk about the first issue of Future Quest by Jeff Parker, Doc Shaner and Steve Rude (quite a line-up!). And this week sees the return of an organized This Week in Winter Soldier segment, in which I am amazed by Bucky's abilities to test the ripeness of plums with his metal fingers.

First of all, I feel like a complete ass because I forgot to mention the awesome Black Widow that Liz Mac drew for me at ECCE. Here is a slightly blurry image of it:

So cute!!!!

And here is the amazing Winter Soldier drawing that Andy Cotnam did for me! What an awesome surprise!!!

Here's Dave with the super rad Joe-Luis Garcia Lopez Wonder Woman piece that Nick Bradshaw scored for him:

So, yeah. We had a great time. Nick Bradshaw puts out a great spread!

Confession: Eating lobster is just an excuse to consume dinner rolls.

Confession: Eating lobster is just an excuse to consume dinner rolls.

It was nice meeting everyone. Check out Kelly Tindall's work here, and Riley Rossmo's work here

Thanks for listening! Next week Dave and I are going to endure that X-Men Apocalypse movie for you.

Podcast - Episode 45: Darwyn Cooke

They say you should never meet your heroes, but I think I can speak for both Dave and myself when I say that we consider ourselves very lucky to have been able to spend the time we did in Darwyn Cooke's company.

The news of Darwyn's death this week was absolutely devastating, not only to those who knew him, but those who love his work. And there are a lot of people who love his work.

I was certainly not close with him, but he was always very warm and friendly and generous to me and I loved every opportunity I got to talk to him. I am very sad that I won't have that opportunity again. He was an unparalleled talent in the comic book world, and he was a tremendous presence here in the local comic book scene in Halifax. He was a lot of fun, and he will be dearly missed.

In this episode, Dave and I share our own memories of him, and we look back at his incredible body of work. The news of his death is still very fresh, and we are very sad, but we laugh a lot throughout the episode because the stories about Darwyn tend to be pretty funny. And we prefer to laugh than cry. 

We talk about Darwyn for the first part of the episode, but we decided to still include some of our usual content in the second half. Mostly because I needed to talk about something else for a little while. So we end with some fun comic news stuff (and talk about Civil War a little more). 

Here are some of the sketches Darwyn did for Dave that were mentioned:

We mention that Darwyn was handing out rough pencil pages from New Frontier at his Absolute Edition signing at Strange Adventures. Because he is crazy generous. Here is the one that Dave got:

And this is the one I got:

I've always wanted to get that framed together with the finished page, but I can never bring myself to cut up a copy of the comic.

Here is a sketch of Batman Darwyn did for me:

And this is what was written in the copy of his DC art book that he gave me on the last day I saw him:

And here is the clip of Darwyn talking about Nathan Boone's short film, Arty, while on a panel. Because he was supportive and nice.

I'm sad, guys. This is really, really horrible, and I am truly sorry for his close friends and loved ones, especially Marsha.

I'll leave it there. I'm not going to link to the other dumb things we talk about. Please buy Darwyn's books if you don't own them all already. And if you do own them, re-read them. And consider making a donation to Hero Initiative or the Canadian Cancer Society in his memory.

Oh, and I was not kidding about Mitchell being terrible at drawing Venom:

Podcast - Episode 44: CIVIL WAR!!!!!! (with J.Bone)

OHMYGODIT'SFINALLYHERE!!!!

We are joined once again by our pal J.Bone to discuss the movie that we've all been, um, looking forward to, Captain America: Civil War (or, as I like to call it BUCKY! BUCKY! BUCKY! BUCKY!).

Look, I'm not even going to write that much this week. Because this episode is LONG. We joke at the beginning about going two hours, but guess what? We completely did. Longer, even!

I cut as much as I can, and the rest, I am sure you'll agree, is solid gold.

Here's the thing though, guys. I got so caught up talking about the actual plot of this movie that I forgot to mention how scorching hot Winter Soldier is in it. And so did J! Like, what was this episode even for?!

So here are some things I forgot to mention in this episode:

  1. Bucky is crazy hot;
  2. Like, so hot;
  3. Like, I could not CUSTOM BUILD a hotter man;
  4. He's so beefy and scruffy and those eyes are so sad but also so smouldering;
  5. I wish he had been shirtless;
  6. What a god damn waste of a jacked Sebastian Stan. I mean, come ON!;
  7. Not for, like, the whole movie, but maybe just an extended shower scene?;
  8. The tank top was nice;
  9. He looked good in white;
  10. I love him and I am in love with him.

So yeah. That's important.

Hey, here's a supercut of that Late Late Show episode clip where Sebastian Stan flirts hard with Sharon Stone until she flirts back with him. Then he turns into a giggling mess. It's VERY CUTE!

I wish that video wasn't edited so heavily. You can probably find that whole episode online somewhere. I would recommend. Zach Woods is very funny. At the end of the episode Sebastian turns to him and says "we should be friends!"

Anyway, enjoy the episode. We had fun recording it. I shouldn't speak for everyone. I had fun recording it, even though it went way past my bedtime.

Now let's start the countdown to the next Avengers movie! 2018! YEAH!!!!

Podcast - Episode 43: Free Comic Book Day/Civil War Countdown

HAPPY CIVIL WAR WEEK EVERYONE (in North America)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Holy smokes. Are you excited? I'm excited! I haven't been able to sleep, guys. I am not exaggerating. My whole life has been leading to this movie! I can feel it!

In fact, I made a top ten list of Civil War press tour moments. Here are some reference images and links:

RACHELLE'S TOP TEN MOMENTS OF THE CIVIL WAR PRESS TOUR
(in no particular order)

1. Spider incident

On stage at a Q&A session in Beijing, Chris Evans noticed a red spider on Sebastian Stan's thigh (because he was staring at Sebastian Stan's thighs). Clearly not a fan of spiders, he pointed it out, making a nervous joke about how Sebastian is about to be turned into Spider-Man. Sebastian calmly picks up the spider, like some sort of witch, and gently places it on the arm of his chair. It skitters away. Chris never stops looking for it on the ground.

2. Stray hair incident

I am not making this one up, guys. This happened. On stage during a Q&A in London, Chris Evans just casually reached over and pulled a stray hair off of Sebastian Stan's face. He then tossed it on the ground and said "friendship!" To me, saying "friendship" very loudly after doing something like that in front of a giant audience sounds a lot like covering something up, but ok.

3. Mackie & Stan's "hatred" of Tom Holland

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan had a running joke in interviews that Tom Holland is a complete asshole. That is a great joke. In general, Mackie and Stan were great together on this press tour.

4. Mark Hamill and Sebastian Stan

Mark Hamill and "lookalike" Sebastian Stan finally met at the London premier and it was so cute!

Finally.

A photo posted by @imsebastianstan on

5. Elizabeth Olsen shutting down dumb questions

It's not easy being one of two ladies on a press tour for a movie with 5,000 men. This is the year 2016, and Elizabeth Olsen and Emily Van Camp are still being asked if the men had to watch their swearing around them. Seriously. At least these ladies are badass and shut this shit down. And Sebastian's reaction to the dumb question is the best.

6. Exhausted or maybe hung over Chris Evans forcing himself to endure a round of "fun" questions

Look, it's hard to feel sorry for these hot millionaires who play pretend for a living, but I almost cried for Chris watching this interview. But I will never not laugh at how desperately he is trying to cool off that tiny coffee.

7. Chris Evans hugging RDJ

Sniff. I have something in my eye.

8. Sebastian Stan hugging Chris Evans

A fan in Singapore asked them about Bucky and Steve being best friends, so Sebastian "proved it" by walking right over to Chris and giving him a big ol' "brotherly" hug. I honestly don't know which of them I am more jealous of.

9. Sebastian Stan holding hands with Winter Soldier statue

Guys...

Apparently he was talking to "him" too. Telling him everything would be alright. Come on, Sebastian. I'm just barely keeping myself together over here.

10. Chris Evans saving Sebastian Stan's life when a woman trips in their vicinity

Guys. I can't. Come on.

Alright. that wraps that up. 

Well, here's a bonus gif:

 

Phew. That was a lot of work.

If you want to read Dave and my thoughts on the first two Captain America movies in detail, you can check out the posts we did about them last year:

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Make sure you visit your local comic book shop this Saturday for Free Comic Book Day! And buy something, too! And be nice. Don't be greedy. And don't be an asshole. 

Thanks for listening! Follow us on Instagram! Rate us on iTunes! Leave us a comment! 

CIVIL WAR!!!! IT'S HAPPENING!!!!!!!!

Podcast - Episode 42: Vertigo and Shelly Bond

What a god damn week, huh?

We thought we'd talk about Vertigo Comics this week, with the announcement of DC's "restructuring" of the imprint and the firing of CEO Shelly Bond. Because seriously, DC. What the hell?

We also talk about one of my least-favourite people on Earth, Eddie Berganza. Who is STILL EMPLOYED BY DC!!!!

I posted the super dumb DC Nation column he wrote in 2007 on Twitter this week. Here it is, in iPhone photo format:

Cool stuff, E.

So anyway. That guy sucks.

I wrote a post on this blog about the Minx comics line when it folded back in Sept 2008. It expands on some of the things I mention on this episode. If you like there is also a little interview I did with Mariko Tamaki about her Minx book, Emiko Superstar. Shelly Bond gets some love in that interview. And here is a post that Dave wrote in 2009 about the Vertigo Crime line.

But enough about things we wrote. Let's instead talk about shirts Chris Evans wore. In particular, this one, which he wore in Singapore:

I'm just saying a sudden downpour would not have been unwelcome.

Also important this week, Chris hugging Sebastian:

Sebastian holding hands with Winter Soldier:

And Chris Evans full on checking Sebastian Stan out. On stage. In front of everyone:

The flirting between those two, and between Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie, was out of control this week. On next week's episode I will tell you the story of how Chris Evans reached over in the middle of a press conference and removed a stray hair from Sebastian's face. Because he did that. That is a thing that happened.

CIVIL WAR, guys!!! IT'S ALMOST HERE!!!!!