The 90s were a cesspool for the comics world. If you were around back then, and by “around” I mean reading and purchasing comics, you already remember it as such—if you have any sort of discerning taste at all, that is. If your taste is lousy you probably recall the decade as a golden era. It was, however, a golden era that almost destroyed the entire industry. The birth of Image led to a deluge of books offering style with no substance, the viewing of comics artists as rock stars, their names on covers guaranteed to sell millions of copies sans writers or even coherent storylines; this in turn led to the speculator phenomenon which, when it imploded, threatened to take the medium with it. In the 90s it was all about money, with no thought given to history, to quality, or to the fans. Image pandered, while Marvel started publishing an excessive number of titles in an attempt to glut the market and put all the small presses out of business. It worked and they did—but it also bankrupted the company! (Also, there was that Spider-Man clone thing.)

DC wasn’t immune, either. Remember when DC essentially purchased its own exclusive distributor, also in an attempt to kill off the little guys? Remember the stunts? Replacing Batman—twice—and killing off Superman. The latter, though, despite being a stunt, ended up being a decent story. (The one that followed it, however, the Red Superman/Blue Superman fiasco, made up for this oversight by sucking as badly as anything any of the other companies had done.) I don’t cringe when I recall the “Death of Superman/ Reign of the Supermen” storyline. I wouldn’t mind seeing it revisited, as DC plans to do—IF they handle it properly. And if they never mention Red Superman/Blue Superman again, ever. Like, EVER.

Amid reports that extensive reshoots of the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE movie had resulted in Zack Snyder’s film essentially being remade before it was ever released comes news that Snyder is stepping away from the project altogether. Snyder’s daughter, we have learned, committed suicide in March, and Snyder has stated that he and his family need time, space, and privacy to cope with the tragedy. To hell with all the online trolls who are celebrating, or taking advantage of this family’s pain to hurl insults. I commend the man for taking care of his family first and extend to him my deepest sympathy. Only a truly evil person would find it impossible to dredge up some compassion for a father who has lost a child.

As far as the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie goes, though, there is good news. The man who will be stepping in to oversee the project from here on out is none other than Joss Whedon. You know, the guy who did a little movie called THE AVENGERS. Oh, and THE AVENGERS 2. And BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. And a shit-ton of other cool stuff. Yes, the League is in good hands. And, as the decision to bring in Whedon was Snyder’s, the latter deserves the credit for taking care of the project and not just dropping it, which would have been completely understandable given the circumstances. Kudos, Zack. And thank you.

It’s the most controversial comic book story to come down the pike (as opposed to the “pipe,” which I often see used in its place; this latter is incorrect; in the 19th Century, a “pike” was a road, hence the expression; Sorry. Self-admitted grammar nazi, here) in years. It raised hackles as soon as the first issue of the new Captain America series hit the stands, revealing that Cap had always been a secret sleeper agent for Hydra. Honestly I didn’t understand the hubbub. I said to myself immediately, “Oh, it’s that Cosmic Cube creature messin’ with Cap’s history.” Seemed obvious to me. (The sentient Cosmic Cube was revealed in the earlier series, the one where all the supervillains were being brainwashed and held prisoner by SHIELD in a makeshift Mayberry; I forget the name of the place. It was the storyline in which Cap, an old man at that point, devoid of the Super Soldier Serum, was made young again by the powers of the Cube.)

SECRET EMPIRE has been good so far, a kickin’ story. The bitchers will bitch, as that’s what they do, but it has thus far been a good read. The thing that really tripped me out occurred in the Free Comic Book Day offering, wherein the now evil Cap was able to lift Mjolnir. Those Cosmic Cubes don’t play, y’all. When they warp reality, they REALLY warp it. Anybody got an Infinity Gem handy?

This will be more of a commentary than a review. It’s not like, any of you, really need a review, anyway, right? I’m fairly certain 95% of the people who are going to see this movie, which equates to 95% of EVERYbody—excluding, possibly, those weirdoes who only like chick flicks, My Little Pony, and Woody Allen, which are all tantamount to the same thing, if you want to get technical about it—will have already seen the flick by now, as I sit typing this article. The other 5% will see it NEXT weekend, which may well already be past by the time you read this, in which case EVERYbody who is going to see this film will have already seen it. Ergo, no review is necessary. You don’t need me to tell you that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Volume 2 is a flawless film, an instant classic, possibly better, if such a thing is possible, than the first one. You already know that it achieves the perfect mixture of hilarity and heart, pathos and poignancy.

What I don’t get is those people—I’d say roughly 5% of the packed theater when I saw the film—who got up and left during the end credits. Are they so clueless that they don’t know there are more goodies to see? Or do they just not care? You all, having seen the movie by now, know that there are FIVE after-credits scenes to enjoy. For those rare few, is it really more important for them to get out of the parking lot before the rush hits that they’d forego those extras? Maybe they’d already cheated by finding those scenes online? Maybe they all just really, really needed to pee?

If you’re one of those people bitching about Marvel making Captain America into a Hydra agent, you need to realize that, by generating publicity, you are doing Marvel a big favor. You are encouraging the company to keep pulling just such stunts as this. Publicity generates revenue, and it all comes down to sales. Your bitching is putting money in Marvel’s coffers.

Still, Marvel does care enough about the feelings of its faithful—or at least pretends a sham concern—to address all those Twitter comments and blog posts. Their message to the fans: “At Marvel, we want to assure all of our fans that we hear your concerns about aligning Captain America with Hydra and we politely ask you to allow the story to unfold before coming to any conclusion…What you will see at the end of this journey is that his heart and soul — his core values, not his muscle or his shield — are what save the day against Hydra and will further prove that our heroes will always stand against oppression and show that good will always triumph over evil.” In other words, Cap will overcome. Cap will return to his status quo. Is there anyone out there dense enough to seriously believe Marvel would LEAVE cap as a Nazi?

Listen, people. It’s a Cosmic Cube, okay? The Cosmic Cube that made cap young again? Remember that? Cosmic Cubes warp reality. The Cosmic Cube turned Cap into a Hydra agent. And Cap’s inherent decency, and the strength of his character will shatter that reality. Cap’s goodness will turn out to be stronger even than reality itself. It will all be okay. Breathe.

It was easy to predict. As reported a couple of weeks back, news that Marvel’s sales were down, and that this slump was being blamed on, in part, Marvel’s forced diversity, its habit of removing prominent characters from circulation and replacing them with minorities and female characters just for the sake of having more female and minority characters, heralded a return to a more classic Marvel, the return of those aforementioned prominent characters to their prior statuses. Wisely, it doesn’t seem that Marvel is doing away with all those new characters, which would have been a PR nightmare, had they done it, but is going to offer readers both the classic and new characters—which is what it should have done in the first place.

Let’s look at that teaser image for LEGACY. Sam Wilson is back as the Falcon. (Making him Captain America just to have a black Captain America was a bonehead move to begin with.) Steve Rogers is back in his classic costume. The Hulk is back, as is Iron Man and Thor. But included are the faces of the “new” Thor, the “new” Wolverine, the Totally Lame Hulk, Amadeus Cho, Miles Morales (who will always be stuck playing that OTHER Spider-Man, unless Marvel gives him the proper respect and changes his name), and Ms. Marvel. Marvel’s readers, it appears, will now get to choose between these flavor-of-the-month newbies (along with the occasional new characters that could actually become permanent fixtures) and the established icons. About time, Marvel.

If you’re going to pull a tacky stunt and hide hate speech in the panels of the comic book you’re drawing, be man enough to admit to it when you get pinched. Don’t try to make the world feel sorry for you by claiming you were motivated by “love.” That is a classic sociopath behavior and strategy.

You’ve probably all heard by now about the fracas over Marvel’s X-MEN GOLD #1, wherein artist Ardian Syaf hid anti-Christian and anti-Jewish references. Maybe he didn’t expect to get caught. Maybe he figured others who felt the same way he did would pick up on the hints but no one else would. If so that was unbelievably naïve of him. He got busted and he got fired. Now he laments, “My career is over…” Ya think? Really? It’s a shame, too. He is a talented artist. He had a job that many would dearly love to have, have worked years to achieve. And he threw it all away to take a couple of impotent potshots at a couple of belief systems he hates. Oh, my mistake. He said repeatedly how much his actions were motivated by “love.” Yep. That’s it, alright. Love speech got him fired. Sure.

Hopefully there was too much market saturation for the issue he drew to become a collector’s item. A comic shouldn’t go up in value over something so ugly.

Continuing the conversation from last week: So people are “incensed” that Marvel blamed “diversity” for its current sales slump? Too bad! Marvel is right, so the PC crybabies need to deal with it. While I don’t think anyone with a brain is going to argue that this is only one factor among several, and no one with a conscience is going to suggest that diversity is a bad thing, the fact remains that Marvel’s move in recent years towards FORCED diversity has alienated many of their longtime fans. I am one of them, so I know of what I speak. To break it down for those not with-it enough to grasp the concept: diversity is good. FORCED diversity is bad.

We can lay the blame for the brouhaha not on Marvel’s VP David Gabriel, who spoke ineloquently, but on the PC police who inferred something from his statement that wasn’t there. (PC buffoons are good at that.) Here’s what he said: “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity…I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.” The statement is a generalization, non-specific, but factual. Marvel has forced diversity and sales are down. Are the two linked? That would appear to be the case, but even Gabriel said he doesn’t know if it is “really true.” Marvel should take the time to find out, and the best way to do that is to ask the fans. Unfortunately no one can hear the fans right now because the PC wankers are squealing like a herd of gutshot hogs because they perceive that someone called into question the company’s kowtowing to their agenda. Shut it, feebs. No good is going to be accomplished, here, if Marvel keeps using a shoehorn to try and make us accept new minority and female characters—and you are only hurting your cause by giving them hell for realizing it.

IS Marvel slumping? Is the company experiencing a sales slump? I was under the impression that the entire industry was going through a slump, not just the Big M, but I admit I haven’t kept up with it that faithfully. I’ll take their word for it. The author of this linked article is careful not to assign blame himself as to the specific reason for Marvel’s lackluster sales as of late, but he sure quotes from plenty of people who DO assign it. The consensus seems to be that Marvel is overdoing the “event” series, and I would have to concur. The recent CIVIL WAR II was disappointing. It could be that if they do too many of these type series, too often, then there really isn’t enough creative steam to go around. In the past Marvel made the mistake of putting profit over the quality of its books. I’m afraid it is doing so again, not learning from the mistakes of the past, the mistakes that led the company to bankruptcy. Disney ain’t gonna put up with that, Marvel people. Better get yourselves sorted, pronto, lest the House of Mouse does it for you.

One thing with which I must vehemently disagree is the assertion that Marvel’s forced diversity isn’t in any way hurting their bottom line. Fans ARE sick of having this shoved down their throats, not because more diversity isn’t needed or even wanted but because it feels so artificial. I dropped IRON MAN, for example, once they replaced Tony with a (minority) teenage girl. This new “Iron Girl” could become a viable and valuable character, but you can’t shoehorn her into prominence like that. I know for a fact I’m not the only longtime reader who feels this way about Marvel’s mandate for forced inclusiveness, who has been driven away by it.

Tip of the hat to DC, for figuring out a way to give fans on both sides of the argument what they wanted, to let them have their cake and eat it too. Superman can be seen as a perfect depiction of the larger DC universe, and of the reactions of the readers to the comic line’s relaunch, the New 52, which some loved and some despised. (As time progressed, more and more hopped the fence and congregated on the “hate it” side.) Then DC killed off the New 52 Superman and replaced him with the pre-New 52 Superman, the married Superman (who now has a kid) with all the history. Some fans cheered the move and a smaller number howled in anguish.

By revealing that the New 52 Superman and the original post-Crisis Superman were not, after all, two different characters, but different facets of the same character, and by rejoining those two separated halves, DC made a move that should satisfy both camps. Superman also gets a new costume that looks a lot more like his old costume—minus the red briefs. (I’ve argued in the past that the entire New 52 movement was all about getting rid of the red underwear.) Welcome back, Superman! A fully restored Superman, at that. And extrapolating from the thought processes that led to the reunification of the character, which suggests that the same “fracturing” is true of ALL DC’s characters, might we see a “fully restored” Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. and etc. in the coming months?