The Importance of Neurological Diversity in Media

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Over the course of the 21st century we have seen a slow but steady increase in the amount of diversity presented in various forms of storytelling, art and entertainment media.  The majority of the focus has been on things such as racial and sexual diversity though lately other types of diversity such a body diversity have begun to make headway as well.   I personally feel though there is another type of diversity of equal importance that often gets overlooked in the debate.  and that is neurological diversity.

 

 

While true many characters in various animated series, comic, films and television programs are given diverse personality types and some of these could be attributed to various neurological conditions or quarks, very seldom do we see such things actually addressed within the context of the work.  Though thankfully this too is slowly changing.  This year Sesame Street introduced an Autistic character named Julia onto their program to both reach out to young autistic children and teach other children from a young age that some children may act/behave differently than them and that’s OK and should not prevent you from wanting to become friends.  And while Autism like many things in the realm of human existence is a spectrum and one character can only cover so much, the character’s inclusion into the children’s program is a small step in the right direction.

 

Other then that we have seen many other television programs address unique character quarks but not all have quite tackled the issues head on.  The character Jeff from Clarence has expressed to his friends how he has his own way of doing things and how many things other kids do make him feel uncomfortable but outside of over exaggerations of typical OCD & Germaphobic tendencies the show hasn’t always gone too in depth towards Jeff’s neurological quarks from a serious perspective outside a few speeches by the character himself.  I am not saying  the character can’t properly represent neurologically diverse individuals, just that this type of teasing is noting new in animation.   Other then that many other all-ages and adult animated programs have also touched on or introduced characters with various neurological quarks as part of their character traits that while engrained in their character’s habits and personality are not always explored as deeply as they could be.  Steven Universe is a masterpiece in its emotional depth and maturity but even it like most other programs can shy away from the more serious psychological issues at time.  The cult favorites My Little Pony/Equestria Girls have characters like Fluttershy & Sour Sweet that represent conditions such as severe generalized & social anxiety and disruptive personality disorder but these elements are only used as obstacles to over come social issues & friendship problems more often then being something the character has to live and work to control on a daily basis.  Then of course you have Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burger’s who is also a very socially awkward character but her unique quarks are often just played up for cringe or laughs.

 

Now again I am by no means saying that these characters cannot be inspiring to viewers that share the same or similar unique neurological diversity to them, just that with media’s slowly increasing willingness to talk about so many other types of diversity and to talk about things like emotional maturity and true morality in a more refined, serious yet still easily digestable manner that it would also be beneficial to neurologically diverse viewers and society as a whole, as everyone has some sort of quark or imperfection that helps make them uniquely who they are, to discuss characters neurological diversity in a more open, casual and mature manner as we have seen other issues brought up within media over the course of the 21st century.

 

One example I think television could take some level of inspiration from would be comics.  In recent years we have had characters like Jessica Cruz pop up to many a readers delight.  Jessica Cruz for those that don’t know is the newest Green Lantern of Earth and is unique not just in the fact that she is the first female Green Lantern to hail from our blue orb but also because she is a character who has openly dealt with the trauma of extended bouts of sever anxiety and depression and was still able to over come these and become a hero.  The book doesn’t ignore the issue though and early issues show how even as a hero Jessica still is working to overcome and control her anxiety and that it is her true arch-enemy the same way the Joker is to Batman.

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This extremely open and human portrayal of Jessica is what helps make her work as a character and seeing her overcome her fears and anxieties to become a hero is an inspiring story for readers of all ages.

 

Overall I do think that the representation of neurological diversity is becoming more prevalent if not somewhat more slowly then its ethnic/sexual/physiological counterparts.  I just hope that our favorite cartoons and comics will continue to push the envelope so to speak and continue to add episodes and stories giving open dialogues about neurological diversity and neurologically diverse charters so young children and adult viewers alike can continue to be empowered and inspired by these characters that give us all the courage to dream.

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BUG! The Adventures of Forager #1 Review

Publisher: DC Comics608

Written By:  Lee & Micael Allred

Art By: Lee & Laura Allred

Letters By:  Nate Piekos of Blambot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever since last fall when DC Comics launched its new Young Animal imprint fans have been eagerly awaiting to see what would come from it once it expanded beyond its initial four premiere titles.  Well this week the fifth series and first mini to launch from the line has begun and it is a rip-roaring adventure through time, space and the Multiverse with the best hero you’ve never heard of Bug The Forager.  So get your mother boxes ready and let the journey begin.

 

The book starts out by giving us some brief flashbacks to Bug’s previous and supposedly final adventure before having the titular hero wake up and find himself encased in a cocoon inside of a basement.  He looks around and finds a mysterious talking teddy bear that is quickly snatched by an equally mysterious ghost girl whom he follows up the stairs until he runs into a group of monsters that he must fight off before meeting up with the girl once more in a room full of dominos that mimic a motherbox switchboard diagram.  The dominos drop and our hero is given multiple vision of other heroes in need of help throughout the Multiverse.  After this ordeal Bug is found by two more creepy creatures who happen to be servants of the silver age Sandman.  He explains there are here to find “The Dreamer” whom he believes Forager to be and that he needs BUG to wake up if he isn’t already dead that is.  The reason for this is because he needs BUG to help him find one of the rarest metals in all the Multiverse, one that can make dreams reality.  Shortly after being awoken the group is attacked by General Electric a mad scientist in search of the same power as Sandman & BUG.  The first issue ends with BUG stepping through a dimensional portal to parts unknown.

 

 

Overall in terms of story the book is the highly enjoyable retro surrealist kind of tale we have come to expect from both the Young Animal Line and Allred himself.  The book pays tribute to what has come before while still paving the way for something new while setting up an interesting story and mystery for the rest of the series to follow-up on.  The inclusion of lesser known characters like the Silver Age Sandman are a nice plus and really help showcase the scope of the DCU even when the majority of your book takes place in a dream house.  General Electric while a somewhat cheesy villain is introduced in a very fun and bombastic way and the magical McGuffins of the metal and dream whistles actually fit into the story quite well.  The art is also fantastic as it to features Allred’s unique form and style that manages to make the characters feel lively and dynamic and making each one feel unique while still being a working homogeneous part of the same story and world.  If there are any complaints to be had it would be the book does seem to jump around a bit but that only adds to the surrealist feel and style of the work.

 

Overall I would say BUG! The Adventures of Forager is a worthy addition to any DC/Young Animal fans collection.

 

Final Score

Story: 8.5

Art: 8

Overall: 8.5

FCBD Countdown Day 1!  Lists For Beginners: All-Ages Titles

It is five days until Free Comic Book Day 2017.  A day when comic shops nation wide give away free books to customers old and new alike!  On top of free books many other shops have sales for trades & back issues so this week I am working on master lists for different kinds of readers starting with all-ages titles for kids & parents wanting to give the books a chance.  Below is a list of titles suitable for readers of all-ages. 


-Adventure Time (Boom Studios)

-Archie (Archie)

-Archie Comics Digests (Archie)

-Babysittters Club (Scholastic)

-Backstagers (Boom)

-Batman Adventures (DC)

-Betty & Veronica  (Archie)

-DC Superhero Girls (DC)

-Disney Fairies  (Papercutz)

-Disney Princesses (Joe Books)

-Darkwing Duck (Joe Books)

-Descendents  (Tokyopop)

-Donald Duck (IDW)

-Drama (Scholastic)

-Duck Avenger (IDW)

-Goldie Vance (Boom)

-Gotham Academy (DC)

-Hero Cats (Action Lab)

– I Am Groot! (Marvel)

Jem & The Holograms (IDW)

-Jonsey (Boom)

-Josie & The Pussycats (Archie)

-Jughead (Archie)

-Looney Tunes (DC)

-Lumberjanes (Boom)

-Mickey Mouse (IDW)

-Mickey X (Papercutz)

-Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur  (Marvel)

-My Little Pony (IDW)

-Nimona (Scholastic)

-Over The Garden Wall (Boom)

-Legend of Zelda  (VIZ)

-Loudhouse (Papercutz)

-Miraculous  (Action Lab)

-Monster High (Papercutz)

-Powerpuff Girls (IDW)

-Princeless (Action Lab)

-Regular Show (Boom)

-Scooby-Doo: Where Are You!? (DC)

Scooby-Doo Team-Up (DC)

-Smurfs (Papercutz)

-Sonic The Hedgehog (Archie)

-Spongebob Squarepants (Bongo)

-Squirrel Girl (Marvel)

-Steven Universe (Boom Studios)

-Stitch! (Tokyopop)

Strawberry Shortcake (IDW)

-Supergirl: Adventures in The 8th Grade (DC)

-Superman Adventures (DC)

-Superman Family (DC)

-Superpowers (DC)

-Super Mario Asventures (VIZ)

-Teen Titans Go! (DC)

-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures  (IDW)

-Tiny Titans (DC)

-Uncle Scrooge (IDW)

-Walt Disney Comics & Stories (IDW)
 And there you have it a list of notable all ages titles to enjoy this Free Comic Book Day!

Rant: The No Good, Very Bad, Ugly Problem With Marvel Comics

 

 

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As many of you in the comics community are aware of by now Marvel has come under fire as of late for what by many have arguably viewed as fairly poor choices.  And I feel now is the perfect time to take a look in full at these bad choices and practices that have led the once prestigious publisher down such a dark and disturbing path.

 

  1. Never Ending Events:  This one is pretty self explanatory.  While it is true DC & Marvel have done event comics off and on for decades Marvel comics has become increasingly dependent on these big event comics over the course of the 21st century.  We have gone from having just one big event a year to two, to three to six.  After the success of events like House of M & Civil War Marvel comics became obsessed with event comics and over time their addiction has only gotten worse.  It has gotten to the point where one event will bleed directly into another without giving the reader or the cast of characters active in the event any time to breath or recover.  This is bad because not only can it lead to many a reader easily getting event fatigue which can make them lose interest in the books they are reading, but it also interrupts the natural flow of many titles narratives, new characters are thrown into events just to trick readers following set characters book into following the event and can cause readers of these newer characters to become angry or discouraged that the adventures of this new hero or heroine have been pointlessly interrupted to plug a big event which can lead into a drop of sales for a book some of which never recover their previous sales after event tie-ins.  The never ending events are also a strain on readers wallets as Marvel seems to ignore the fact that most comic book readers don’t have an endless well of finances made solely to spend on comics, we aren’t all Bill Gates you know!

 

2. Holding Stores Hostage: One of the most down right insulting moves by Marvel is how they hold stores hostage with their event comics.  No matter how much fans or retailers complain about the never ending events all Marvel says is “if you don’t want em, stop buying em” which is a flat out ridiculous and crude statement as Marvel very well knows that with them being one of the big two publishers along with DC they are half of what props up the industry, comic shops can’t just afford to stop selling Marvel comics, doing so would be a sure fire way to make a store go out of business, so stores are forced to put up with Marvel’s bullish attitude and order the bare minimum of each title for that crowd that will follow the publisher no matter what so they are able to continue to keep their businesses afloat, even if a good chunk of the books they order don’t sell and end up in the dollar bin or the trash.  The sad fact is even with the rise of popularity of indie publishers, DC & Marvel are still the companies that keep comics going and help stores stay in business, Marvel knows that and they take every advantage they can to abuse that fact, which for me makes them no better then a gang going into an old mans store and asking for protection money.  Its a flat out dirty tactic that is a complete mistreatment of the men and women’s who’s stores have been selling your products for decades.

3. Overshipping: Marvel has a bad habit of overshipping titles to stores at a rate anywhere as low as 10% or as high as 30%.  They do this to purposely artificially inflate their sales numbers and maintain that #1 spot to help make it look like they are doing better than they actually are.  like with the previous tactic this also hurts shops as it can have them stuck with even more books that won’t sell than beforehand.

4. Lack of Returnability:  Admitingly this isn’t solely a Marvel problem other publishers make their books none returnable at times as well, however this is even more damning for Marvel given as previously mentioned they severly overship books at times which makes the lack of returnability even more annoying to shops.

 

5. Everyone is To Blame But Me!:   It is not uncommon for an individual or corporation to look for a scapegoat to blame their failures on, however when it becomes a constant habit to blame everyone but yourself at every turn and deny or dismiss any wrong doings or criticisms it becomes unwearyingly unprofessional and unfair to those who have followed and supported you in the past.  Marvel will never admit they are wrong they will blame everyone else, the stores, the fans, the artists, diversity, critics, social media, everything and everyone except the man in the mirror.  It also doesn’t help they seem to encourage their writers to do this as well, as people like the highly infamous Nick Spencer has displayed this attitude quite frequently over the past year and especially over the past month!

 

6. The Disney Effect: No I won’t come in here and start screaming about how Disney is evil or anything like that, Disney like any corporation is not inherently good or evil and is only as much to either affect due to the people working at the company.  The problem with Disney and how it relates to Marvel is how the corporation has functioned for most of the 21st century.  The sad fact is that for better or worse Disney have become I.P. Hoarders between buying out Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012 the corporation has become determined to collect as Many I.P.s as they can to get even more of that sweet sweet easy money as they ride the pop-culture & nostalgia waves straight to the bank.   From a business perspective this may make sense, however the companies Disney buys out often end up floundering in one aspect, their ability to be patient!  Disney is a company that is used to being on top, they are used to being #1 and they are used to seeing quick results.  This however is not how every company defines success or how every company is able to achieve it.  Disney weather they wish to accept it or not has an unrealistic and short sighted view of success, they and many of the companies they own, Marvel included are far more focused on the short term than the overall long term success of a product.  This mindset has arguably caused an already impatient Marvel comics to become even more so over time, not only due to their own bad habits, but to please their parent company Disney.   Look in comparison to how companies like Warner Bros. & Turner do things.  Warner Brothers which is DC’s parent company like Disney has been around the block for quite awhile, they have had their highs and lows and known the sweet taste of being at the top as well as falling down and eating dirt.  Overall over the past 20-30 years WB has become accustomed to being in second or even third place in the never ending race of entertainment, because of this their various branches as well as their own parent Turner have learned to adapt, experiment and find out what does and doesn’t work for them, overall they are much more focused in what they can do to maintain a stability long term as opposed to short artificially created bursts of success to keep them up top.  Don’t get me wrong, they to can and have gotten greedy and impatient and we have seen the negative fallout from this, but for the most part places like Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. & DC Comics have learned to play it safe and maintain stable steady growth which is a model one could argue Disney, Marvel and the like have not become accustomed to practicing.

 

7. Lies, Lies, Half-Truths & More Lies:  Marvel Constantly lies & misleads readers on their plans or intentions with their books and characters.  While I can understand misdirection to keep readers intrigued or to not reveal an important surprise or plot-point later on in a storyline,  Marvel utilizes this practice far to often which gives readers much less reason to trust them.

 

8. Re-Re-Re-Relaunches and early cancelations:  Over the past 5 years marvel relaunches or releases new books from issue #1 so often that a first issue has become meaningless and the traditional ongoing format has become all but dead to them, this creates instability in the staying power of titles and many readers young and old alike especially those new to comics that Marvel is claiming to go after can easily become discouraged and flat out annoyed by this practice.  when a book you read is going to get canceled or relaunched after just five or six issues you don’t really have much reason to stay with it or trust the publisher to make a book that will be around long enough to find a steady reader base in the future either.

 

and finally…

Lack of Respect:  Marvel comics does not respect anyone or anything, while many companies are accused of it, they are obviously one that does indeed only care about and worship the almighty dollar!  They don’t care how many creators works they ruin, they don’t care how many groups of people they insult or harm with their books, they don’t care about the negative real world implications of their actions, weather it is turning Captain America into a Nazi in a time when fascism is on the rise all around the world thus giving actual fascists the ability  to use a symbol meant to oppose them as one to support them, or marginalizing and attacking already oppressed divers groups when their books don’t sell or attacking and cannibalizing the very industry they along with DC, EC and the like helped create.  Marvel will happily step on anyone and everyone just to make a buck, and it is this mindset and practice that makes them a truly horrible comic book publisher.

 

In closing, I know by now a lot of you will attack me and accuse me of just being a jerky DC fan boy who is trying to besmirch Marvel’s good name however I assure you that is not the case.  Growing up I didn’t care if a cartoon, comic or movie was DC or Marvel, I just wanted to enjoy my time with the heroes, I loved watching Spider-Man & X-Men just as much as Batman & Superman,  and the first superhero comic I ever bought wasn’t a DC book, but a Marvel one, an issue of Captain America in the late 90’s.  I don’t know what drew me to it, I knew nothing of the character back then, but over Batman or X-Men I chose an issue of Cap, and while it didn’t entertain me as much as the cartoon counterparts of superheroes at the time it did make me realize that superhero comics were still alive and well and from then on aside from the kids comics I already bought I would also get books like Justice League, Flash, Spider-Man and later on Teen Titans, Infinite Crisis, X-Men, etc.   And that is why this bothers me so much, DC & Marvel are the creators of heroes and the custodians of modern mythology they have an obligation to use their power for good but lately, it seems all they are doing is using it for evil.

 

And that my friends is why I for one cannot forgive Marvel comics for what they have done as of late whether it is the bastardization of Captain America by turning him into a Nazi/Fascist power symbol or the unfair blame put on diversity and crappy practices of the publisher, there is just to much dirt in the pie to make it worth eating.

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